Jani Ylinampa's photo of northern lights over a small river in Lapland, Finland

Lapland safari guide Jani Ylinampa’s Northern Lights photos are out of this world

Jani Ylinampa's photo of northern lights over a small river in Lapland, Finland
Jani Ylinampa works as a safari guide in Lapland. But on the side, he’s a photographer who’s developed quite the following on social media, in part thanks to his stunning shots of northern lights. We saw it fitting to feature Jani’s work and ask him a couple of question on his work and lifestyle.

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Colleen Terrans 18 and Dawn Miller 21 riding on the bonnet of the leading car of the South Glamorgan campaign to Keep Britain in Europe.

14 incredible photos of Britain’s 1975 vote to stay in the EU

Back in 1975, Britons had their first chance to ditch membership in a European Economic Union in favour of an isolationist policy in an already international world. Sane heads prevailed in this first-ever national referendum and 67% of the votes were for remaining in the Economic Zone.

Staying in the EEC was no obvious choice for the then ruling Labour minority government. Concerns over the EEC included the price of wood within the EEC as opposed to trade within the Commonwealth, the government’s ability to sovereignly practice “socialist” politics et cetera. The whole process is very much worth a read on Wikipedia.

However, let’s take a couple minutes for a photographic look back at the political season leading up to the 1975 referendum.
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Aurea borealis over cottages in Lapland, Finland

Arctic #nofilter: 15 Instagram snapshots that show why Lapland’s the crown jewel of the North

Aurea borealis over cottages in Lapland, Finland

Free pro tip: too much Instagram at bedtime will mess with your sleep. On the other hand, if you open Instagram first thing after your alarm rings in the morning, your phone’s screen will help you wake up. Put simply, Instagram can be a fantastic infusion of beauty into your day when you need it the most.

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Burning street car in Helsinki during USSR air raids, 1944.

Photos of bombed, WWII Helsinki mashed up with prosperous modernity

Burning street car in Helsinki during USSR air raids, 1944.

During WWII, Finland was twice involved in military confrontation with the Soviet union. For the capital, Helsinki, the most intense air raids and bombings occurred in February 1944, a campaign which is usually referred to as The Great Raids Against Helsinki. These amazing photographs, created by the Finnish Defence Forces Combat Camera unit, mash up haunting photos of wartime destruction with modern pics from a couple years back, in nice black and white plus colour images.

The USSR was under the impression its bombing campaigns were more successful and expected Helsinki to be pretty much gone by the end of the war. The Soviets didn’t learn of the relatively limited damage until after the war when Allied Control Commissioner Andrei Zhdanov visited Helsinki.

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Legal vintage Mercedes Benz W 115, operated by Tero Takamaa

Vintage Mercedes rides: Finnish man hacks taxi regulation, grows non-licensed, legal “Vintage Taxi” company

Legal vintage Mercedes Benz W 115, operated by Tero Takamaa
 

One Finnish man got inspired by an interesting loophole in the very strict regulation of the Finnish taxi market. Succeeding where Uber is in legal trouble, Tero Takamaa from Jyväskylä decided to start driving cars with a museum status. But real story here is that he manages to do so without a Taxi permit.

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President Donald Trump's face photoshopped onto photo of Queen Elisabeth II

The internet photoshopped Donald Trump onto the Queen and it’s scarily convincing

President Reagan and Queen Elisabeth II riding horses in 1982

Known rapist and US President elect Donald Trump behaves like a caricature of a monarch from Game of Thrones. So, naturally, someone saw it fitting to deal with this ordeal placed upon us in the form of the “leader of the free world” by giving Mr. Trump the full royal treatment.

The “royal treatment” is an open ended concept. In this instance, it refers to photoshopping Trump into full drag as Queen Elisabeth II. Because why not.

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This guy may be overdoing it a bit

Getting down with start-ups: 11 signs you’re taking Slush a bit too seriously

This guy might be overdoing it
The way the Slush startup conference brings capital and mindshare to the Helsinki tech startup scene is well established and undisputable. As someone who works for Finnish tech companies, I have nothing but praise for how Slush mixes geeks with business people in different stages of their careers. If you’re into business, you should attend and just feel the magic of Finnish people turning talkative and creative.

At Ink Tank, we’re strictly anti Jante law, which is to say we don’t subscribe to the old Nordic small-town norm that believing in yourself is next to a deadly sin. However, at some point, everything becomes a cliche. For the past couple of years, the media circus around Slush has turned annoying enough to warrant a friendly slap every now and then.

So, we’ll help you navigate the awesomeness of Slush with a guide that points out just how to know you’ve been slurping a bit too much of that sweet, refreshing tech buzz Kool-Aid.
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We’re not done yet: LGBT rights in Finland aren’t perfect

helsinki-pride-2015-senate-square-alejandro-lorenzo

For the entirety of last week, Helsinki was flooded with diverse expressions of sexuality and gender thanks to Helsinki Pride. Arranged annually by HeSeta and partners, Helsinki Pride is easily Finland’s largest event for sexual and gender minorities and takes place the week after Midsummer, with an attendance of tens of thousands.

For an onlooker observing the culmination of the week, the parade through Helsinki on Saturday, it’s easy to feel joy and solidarity over how far Finland and many other countries have come in respecting basic individual rights. After an exceptional tear gas attack on the Helsinki Pride parade in 2010 by perpetrators with ties to neo-Nazi groups, the popularity of the event has only increased.

Major urban areas in Finland appear to be pretty good places to openly live as an LGBT person. History is far from rosy in this regard, though.  We could do worse than to remember that Pride parades enjoy a very recent past as demonstrations for basic human rights, rather than leaning towards a smiley-faced opportunity for institutions to remind us of their open-mindedness.

As we will learn, the present is also far from perfection for LGBT people in Finland. The situation remains deeply flawed for transgender and intersex individuals in particular.

But first, read on for a selection of milestones in Finnish legislation relevant to LGBT issues. We’ve sourced these from Seta, Finland’s main LGBT rights organization.

Demonstrators in Helsinki on Kansalaistori near the Parliamane on 28 November 2014, before and right after the passing vote of the Tahdon 2013 marriage equality bill, based on a citizen initiative.

Demonstrators in Helsinki on Kansalaistori near the Parliament on November 2014, before and right after the passing vote of the Tahdon 2013 marriage equality bill, based on a citizen initiative. Photos by Thomas Nybergh (1 & 2) .


 
 

Stockholm was the gay utopia

Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1971, with “promotion of homosexuality or homosexual acts” (similar to the British ‘Section 28’) remaining illegal. The classification of homosexuality as a medical condition was abolished a decade later.

Many older people remember the post-war years of an era when Stockholm was a promised land. Indeed, Finnish tabloids cultivated the idea that all Swedes must be gay, ever since homosexuality was decriminalized in Sweden in 1944.

In Finland, discrimination based on sexuality was prohibited in 1995 and discrimination based on gender identity or expression thereof in 2005.

In legal recognition of life partnership, civil unions, or “registered partnerships”, were introduced in 2002, granting access to limited rights similar to marriage. Rights were amended to include adoption of the other partner’s children (to ensure legal custodianship) in 2009.

The debate over gender-neutral marriage dragged on seemingly forever after the 2011 parliamentary election, with one disappointingly downvoted bill. The new system of citizen initiatives was put into play, resulting in 167.000 citizens signing a petition which resulted in approval of the bill in November 2014.

So, what are the problems then? We’ll explore a couple of them in broad strokes, but we acknowledge that this is merely scraping the surface of systemic discrimination inherent in a binary view of gender.

Tove Jansson and Touko Laaksonen

Two 20th century icons of Finnish culture, Moomin author Tove Jansson and Touko Laaksonen (Tom of Finland) managed to pull through as apparently non-heterosexual people long before it was cool, let alone legal. (Images: Wikipedia (1 & 2)).


 
 

The confusion over sexuality vs gender vs anatomy

In itself, the term “gay rights” isn’t a very inclusive affair. While mainstream culture around the western world seems to be increasingly accepting of the presence of homosexual behavior as a fact of life, many issues related to gender minorities are still clouded by ignorance.

As a complicated topic worth exploring further, it’s necessary to point out that the appearance of someone’s body isn’t always very indicative of their gender; especially when many cultures insist on a binary where gender corresponds to, and is determined by, one of two “acceptable” sets of reproductive organs.

But this is simply not the case. Put briefly: each day, intersex babies are born all over the world with visible or invisible ambiguity in their gendered anatomy: reproductive organs, hormones, chromosomes, etc.

Each day, doctors make random choices and, to put it bluntly, mutilate many of these children. The intention is to produce genitalia that conform to the prevailing norms of what boys and girls look like. Oftentimes, these alterations to infants’ bodies cram them into a set of expectations of gender that may end up being wrong at some later point in their life.

Oftentimes, such mutilation is performed in utmost secrecy; in recent history, parents and doctors have kept this information hidden even from the child well into adulthood, denying them the opportunity to explore the actual reality of their gender.

This is by no means a strictly Finnish problem, but some doctors defend this practice. Yet, such a level of guesswork seems amazingly lax for the scientific standards we otherwise expect from the medical profession.

Helsinki Pride 2014 post-parade Park Fest in Sinebrychoff Park.

Helsinki Pride 2014 post-parade Park Fest in Sinebrychoff Park. Photo by Tuomas Puikkonen

 




 
 

Finnish transgender rights are dented by punitive bureaucracy

One alarming omission in Finnish human rights can be found in the treatment of transgender or non-binary persons; individuals who identify as the opposite of the gender they’re assigned at birth, or who find neither of the available categories correct. This also includes intersex individuals whose gender has been misassigned at infancy, often through surgical mutilation.

Some individuals who wish to reassign their legal gender to the other of the two available categories feel comfortable with their options; for others, the other position of the gender binary can be just inoffensive enough to be the less mismatched one. Again: two genders based on reproductive anatomy is far from adequate. (And gender isn’t tied to sexual preference either.)

Here comes the crazy part of the Finnish system: the process of reassigning one’s legal gender requires a doctor’s diagnosis. This is more hair-raising than it may sound, because people expressing too much gender non-conformity, or with comorbid conditions such as depression (itself often just a symptom of untreated gender dysphoria), are routinely denied diagnosis and care.

After this diagnosis, the person can apply for a differently gendered name and receive new ID papers. Only, the ID papers are prescribed to the same gender as before. One consequence of this is that people are legally forced to carry ID papers that may involuntarily expose them as transgender for at least an entire year before they may have their gender marker changed; information which may be exposed in countless systems that needlessly file people by gender, causing endless everyday inconvenience, and worse.

Shots from the Helsinki Pride 2016 parade and Park Fest at Kansalaistori.  Photos by Thomas Nybergh.

Shots from the Helsinki Pride 2016 parade and Park Fest at Kansalaistori. Photos by Thomas Nybergh.

 
 

How would you feel about being sterilized to get a new passport?

For a transgender person in Finland to be a candidate for the final, actual legal gender reassignment, a second doctor must confirm their ‘diagnosis’. Before 2015 people with one of the two possible diagnoses (which roughly correspond to ‘transgender’ and ‘non-binary’) were even completely ineligible for legal gender reassignment, but recent activism has made it possible, albeit difficult, to choose the “less incorrect” option even with the ‘non-binary’ diagnosis.

Only, that’s not all: the individual must also be proven to be infertile. This usually achieved as a byproduct of hormone replacement therapy, which many transgender people choose to alter their bodies – and brains.

However, not everyone who needs to change their legal gender wants hormonal therapy or is able to access it due to medical concerns. So, in effect, Finland is practicing forced, or coerced sterilization of transgender individuals and other gender minorities. The price of not conforming to certain expectations about fitting into a gender binary is to be bereft of reproductive ability.

Trasek, Transtukipiste and Amnesty International provide more information on transgender and intersex rights in Finland, in Finnish.

Title images (1 and 2) by Alejandro Lorenzo




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These magical photos show what it’s like to be at sea at minus 28 degrees

Helsinki ice smoke

In the last few months, the consequences of climate change have hit different parts of the world with a mad vengeance. Here in Finland, that took the form of the warmest December on record leading many people to bemoan the lack of snow. As an Englishman who’s experienced many a Finnish winter, I instead wallowed in the balmy temperatures confident in the knowledge that we had three more months of sub-zero, beard-freezing hardship to come. That was demonstrated, in fine Arctic style, this week when temperatures plummeted as low as minus 28 in Helsinki. One surreal consequence of this uncannily fast freeze was an awe-inspiring phenomenon which makes the sea look as though it’s cloaked in smoke. Both beautiful and bizarre, it literally took my breath away.

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Discover how one Finnish photographer makes the everyday look out of this world

Penttinen 1

 

Miemo Penttinen is a man of many talents. As a freelance designer and startup entrepreneur, he has plenty of experience in bringing his creative ideas to life. But it’s his photography that initially caught our eye: sharp, symmetrical shots of architecture with clean, modern colors. Penttinen’s latest series Tau Zero [ Supersymmetry ] is sure to satisfy lovers of both symmetry and sci-fi.

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