across a sea / internal voyage / ghosts of Tallinn

None of the usual reasons directly applied in the case of a trip such as last week’s Saturday trip to Tallinn in Estonia. There was no compelling goal, no exhibition opening, no special lecture at some research institute, no direct need to go there – at least in the usual sense.

Yet I booked tickets for a day trip from Helsinki. The week-end had some intense work to be done, in connection to the main reason of my visit to Finland (being the opponent of a doctoral thesis) and several other projects (mathematical and now also philosophical) together with colleagues and friends there – but the need for a kind of freedom to be attained through boat travel on that day – plus the chance to actually work in a nice café in (then unknown to me) Tallinn ended up triggering that day trip.

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harbor station, 7 am – about to board the Tallink

(The boat on the way over was quite cheesy – Estonian-owned; glimmering casino-like features, people half-asleep, unedible food and dysfunctional common areas – I had expected the Silja/Tallink boats somewhat different. I managed to secure a spot and work a bit, though.)

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9:30 am – December in Tallinn

Arrival mid-morning, with mist rising over the Baltic. Heart pounding. The emotion of boat travel overtakes me.

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Entering the Old City

Slowly waking up – Saturday morning of a wintry day in the Old part of Tallinn. Not expecting too much…

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A store with lots of old Soviet time medals and paraphernalia – attended by an older Estonian woman who must have seen a quite different Tallinn

I always wonder for how long can they continue selling this sort of “Soviet vintage” in places like Tallinn. How many military (or sports or…) medals? How much interest can this still arise in people?

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By a music store

The porches and side-streets do seem to have a different character. Here, a music store that was closed in the morning hours. Later I had the chance to stop there. I was not disappointed.

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Tallinna Raekoda

Technically, the Town Hall. It could well have been one of the churches of Tallinn.

I still hadn’t found a “place” to sit that didn’t look too touristy – the only two places that had attracted my attention till then were the Soviet mishmash store and the music store that was closed.

But close to this tower I did find a fantastic cafe where local hipsters (not tourists) seem to hang out.

I continued my morning of work in that café.

 

 

 

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Eel Soup. One of the best meals I have had anywhere!

A gem of a restaurant – found by recommendation of Boban. They were nice, seemed to experiment with local ingredients. Here, a creamy smoked eel soup with leeks and various kinds of onions. I also had elk with wild berries.

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Part of the Estonia Museum houses the collection of Adamson-Eric. His work was vaguely reminiscent of Xul Solar’s in Buenos Aires. He was banned from his position at the Art Academy of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Estonia by the Soviet authorities, accused of being “a formalist”. This sort of accusation apparently was extremely serious. He seemed to take refuge in an extremely playful internal world – with sculptures, ceramics, paintings, weavings – an extremely rich and varied output that seems to do homage to older traditions of Estonia but mixed it with early twentieth century modernist influences.

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A small detail of Adamson-Eric’s work

I slowly started – after the seriously good espresso in the café, the very good meal, the Adamson-Eric exhibition – to sip the pace of that part of Tallinn. Full of corners that seem to hold voices of some distant past (Teutonic Knights? Swedish Riddar? Peter the First’s armies? Local Estonian defendants? German merchants?) the ghosts of a marvelous city started to appear. Was it the misty atmosphere? Was it the echo of swords in the Toompea castle – of Germanic, Slavic tongues invading? Was there a real Finno-Ugric resistance?

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mist
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ghostly
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ghostly Tallinn – by the upper part near the Castle
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as expected – but lonely, snow-dusted, and very eerie

Rising to the tower was crucial for me to see a bit of the city from above. Not extremely high but still a nice ascent… to the mists.

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in the back, barely visible, the Soviet era town

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And then walking back to the entrance of the Old City, the music store was open. In a third floor, following arrows, the space felt oddly non-commercial, out of somewhere. Not sure where from.

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Inside the Music store – a must-see place (the collection of music, on the other side, is quite nice). The atmosphere of the store feels more like a person’s apartment.

In low window sills of course Nativity scenes – some of them quite original. Dozens of them, all different.

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a random window

The KuMu Museum (Museum of Art of Estonia), located somewhat faraway from the Old City, in a very beautiful park (I read later the park was commissioned by tsar Peter the Great – a whole area of the city called Kadriorg), is a serious contemporary art museum. Their main exhibition was on Die Brücke, on German Expressionism – and its connections to Estonian art. They also have interesting collections of twentieth-century Estonian art – I took a long series of that. One of the parts of the exhibition that called my attention was Response to Soviet politics. There is a kind of formalism that seems to have been an intellectual response to the obligation of subjects, to the imposition of collectivism.

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In other European countries the (re-)construction of a national identity after Independence (from Russia in the case of Finland, from the Soviet Union in the case of Estonia, others from the Austro-Hungarian Empire) seems to have been deeply interlinked with painting or music (or some other artistic manifestation). My visit to Tallinn was too short to really capture how this happened. I am sure composers such as Arvo Pärt must have been part of that consciousness – but I am not sure in the case of painting.

 

Capilla de Kamppi / silencio

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Hoy de mañana fui a la capilla de Kamppi. Nunca había ido, extrañamente. Kamppi es el centro centro de Helsinki. El arquitecto Juhani Pallasmaa lideró hace unos diez o quince años un proyecto grande de reforma de esa zona: la estación de buses quedó subterránea y por donde uno pasa hay mezcla de espacios comerciales, plazas públicas, vivienda (apartamentos que se ven muy bien). Es un lugar que conecta la zona de la Estación Central de trenes con la estación de buses y barrios del centro (y atrás, el puerto occidental).

Había visto muchas veces al pasar (a pie, en tranvía, en bicicleta) el módulo (como un barco o un huevo gigante) de la capilla pero no sabía qué era y nunca había entrado. Esta semana leí que es una capilla (sin denominación – para cualquier religión o no-religión) y que el punto principal es el silencio.

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Esa combinación (silencio, arquitectura de madera, espacio de recogimiento) resulta irresistiblemente atractiva para mí y decidí pasar apenas pudiera. Hoy iba camino al museo Amos Andersen y decidí parar ahí. Fue una experiencia hermosa y fuerte.

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Fuerte porque el silencio en nuestra sociedad repleta de ruido es una propuesta radical. Los arquitectos (estudio K2S, Mikko Summanen, Niko Sirola, Kimmo Sintula) incluyeron el silencio como parte fundamental del espacio. De alguna manera logran aislar la capilla, ubicada en una de las zonas de mayor tráfico y tránsito (de todos los modos que hay) en la ciudad, un punto por el que pasan miles y miles diariamente.

Los materiales son maderas locales (abeto, aliso, fresno). No sé con qué aislaron la capilla del ruido – leí en unas notas que usaron una placa de escayola – no tengo ni idea de qué puede ser eso.

Pensé mucho en nuestro apartamento de Bogotá, tan desprotegido del ruido (como casi todo en todas partes). Pensé en el estado de meditación del sauna en Finlandia (los materiales de construcción son casi los mismos aunque obviamente las dimensiones no y tampoco la forma curva).

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Pensé en la irreverencia fuerte que en todo caso hay en hacer un espacio altamente no comercial, sin nada para la venta, en plena zona de tránsito. Lo único que ofrece el espacio es la posibilidad de meditación, de silencio, de búsqueda interior.

Hay una cruz casi invisible (Finlandia, al igual que los demás países nórdicos, es país luterano – aunque no es un lugar religioso y mucho menos fundamentalista, sí está ahí la presencia de esa forma de cristianismo). La cruz es delgada, de plata. La puede encontrar si busca bien en una de las fotos de arriba. Pero no más. Hay un lugar para poner velas (algo común a muchas religiones).

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La única iluminación proviene de esa ranura en el techo. Es ampliamente suficiente (y seguramente necesaria para la insonorización). La vista global, con las bancas sencillas de madera, el altar, la madera y esa luz, da una idea del recogimiento (agregue el silencio para imaginar este espacio que podría estar al borde de un lago de Carelia si no estuviera en pleno centro de la capital).

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El silencio es un bien impresionante, como el agua pura, como el aire puro. La música funciona como su contraparte, pero la música que sabe escuchar el silencio es la que ha ido quedando. La que sabe que no es más que una fluctuación de este. En nuestro mundo repleto de ruidos de horror (en todas partes – un poco peor en países como Colombia pero esencialmente igual de horrible en todas partes), el silencio es como un lujo increíble. No debería ser así – podría suceder como pasó con el aire viciado de humo de cigarrillo que la gente tomaba como algo normal hace veinte o treinta años, y que de alguna manera aprendimos como sociedad a reubicar para poder respirar. Si pasó con el cigarrillo, ¿por qué no puede pasar con el ruido?

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Los cojines de la iglesia son esas piedras – en realidad cojines cómodos para sentarse si uno prefiere su suavidad a las bancas de madera – o simplemente para llevarlos a las bancas de madera. Parte del diseño es esa forma de piedras amontonadas, que evocan el kivas de los saunas.

Unity and Diversity of Logic (Kossak, Villaveces)

We wrote the following essay on the Unity and Diversity of Logic, together with Roman Kossak, a few months ago.

It appeared as a mathematical introduction to the book we edited (also with Åsa Hirvonen and Juha Kontinen) Logic Without Borders (with essays by S. Abramsky, J. T. Baldwin, J. Burgess, X. Caicedo, Z. Chatzidakis, C. Di Prisco, M. Dzamonja, C. Franks, P. Galliani, L. Hella+J. Väänänen, W. Hodges, J. Hubicka+J. Nešetřil, T. Hyttinen, R. Kaye+T. Lok Wong, J. Kennedy, J. Kontinen, S. Lindell+H. Towsner+S. Weinstein, M. Malliaris+S. Shelah, I. Niiniluoto, J. Paris+A. Vencovská, S. Shelah and J. Väänänen.)

A couple of months just spent in Helsinki, with various conferences since May and many mathematical encounters, convinced me more than ever of the importance of the Unity of Logic viewpoint.

Here is the first paragraph of our essay:

What is mathematical logic today? How does it connect with its historical roots? How does it continue to serve as foundations of mathematics, and how does it impact mathematics in general? Does it continue to serve as the foundations of mathematics at all? What distinguishes advanced areas of mathematical logic from other branches of mathematics? What parts of mathematical logic should be considered philosophy, and what parts evolved into independent subdisciplines of algebra, analysis or computer science? The article by Juliette Kennedy in this volume addresses some of these issues directly, as does Jouko Väänänen’s personal account of the development of his interests in mathematical logic. Other articles in the volume might be construed as providing partial responses to these questions, of course not necessarily in a direct way, but through the connections and links they explore, both internally within logic and externally between logic and other disciplines.

You can download the essay from here.

Addenda: Javier Moreno has now read our essay. He seems to find it interesting (he suggested the topic is good for a book!) but found it too short, too dispersed and lacking a unified voice. (All of this I lift from a twitter conversation…)

To this I have to say:

  • first of all, thanks Javier for reading!
  • second, I agree it is too short (but as it was the introduction to a quite long volume, we didn’t want it to become like another article – it should somehow open up the question of unity versus diversity in logic today – but should not have the weight of the real papers collected – we are editors, not authors!)
  • furthermore, I agree: it lacks unity! As it is the product of two minds, of two voices, of two points of view, it has a combination of both. Although we speak quite a lot with Roman (on logic, math, art and many other things), in the subject of our introduction there are points of disagreement (or different perspectives). At some point, the essay was going to be a conversation but it felt a bit overacted – we ended up doing write-and-rewrite of our own sentences, crisscrossing ideas. The result is bound to be pointing in at least two directions… I kind of like it that way at this point…
  • there is a long essay, somehow on the same topic, and definitely recommended to anyone interested in the topic, by Jouko Väänänen, in the volume itself. We asked him to write his own statement, his own “manifesto” on why logic (and not a part of logic, or as is so fashionable, seeing logic as some part of geometry). The text he wrote is a superb piece of intellectual understanding of what logic is today, and may be.
  • finally, I have been writing a longer piece for a volume for the Simplicity meeting – now almost finished. And Roman has written longer pieces on subjects connected to this (and we both have to write the mathematical parts of our joint project with artists Wanda Kossak and María Clara Cortés).

Jueves

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Korundi House of Culture – Finland
Architectural Project: Juhani Pallasmaa

Ha sido una semana de aprendizaje impresionante. Los ojos se van abriendo. Pero estoy agotado. Es jueves y parece viernes. Solo que sigue mañana… : ) Consigno al vuelo temas:

  • El teorema de Désargues (sobre geometrías planares) no se puede demostrar sin pasar por el espacio. Hilbert demostró este hecho usando ideas de Beltrami (sobre rectilinearización de geodésicas). Arana explica esto. Etienne Ghys observa que se deriva directamente de considerar un plano con una métrica riemanniana no constante.
  • Désargues implica Pappus. O al revés. No se sabe aún qué conjuntos finitos admiten geometrías proyectivas. (Baldwin debe saber mucho sobre el tema – Zilber de pronto también). Ghys ve geometrías proyectivas en juegos como Set. Es una maravilla ir hablando con él, y ver cómo pasa de temas sofisticadísimos a temas elementales.
  • Szeméredi aparece en dos trabajos mencionado esta semana, y es mucho más interesante de lo que creía yo. Por algo tanto los geómetras como Malliaris-Shelah le ponen atención. Sospecho que aparecerá algo sobre el tema por ahí.
  • En conversación tarde en la noche, Wolfram observa que han observado usando ideas estilo Szeméredi para el grafo de facebook que el crecimiento de clusters es lineal entre los 13 y los 22 años. Luego se detiene.
  • Kate Shepherd habla del rol de los juegos al hacer arte. Sospecho que no sabe que los juegos son super importantes en matemática también. Me emociona escucharla.
  • Las historiadoras del arte finlandesas Riikka Stewen y Hanna Johansson hicieron presentaciones bellísimas en el panel. Me pusieron a leer a Merleau-Ponty.
  • Juliet Floyd y Juhanni Pallasmaa me dejaron intrigado con la obra de Sandback. Qué lástima no haberla visto hace un mes en Bogotá.
  • María Clara señala la conexión que hace Pallasmaa con vida y muerte en la arquitectura, y nos pregunta a los matemáticos si eso existe en nuestra obra. Grigor contesta que tal vez no.
  • Curtis Franks en su lectura de Brentano, de muchos otros autores, da hondo en el clavo del rol de la simplicidad. Va directo a Gauß, como debe ser. Luego me aclara que Henkin llega a la Completitud vía la Incompletitud, como a Jouko le gusta presentar a Gödel.
  • Sarnak pasó de Gauß también (reciprocidad cuadrática) a trabajos recientes.
  • Mañana: el pánel matemático.

PISA – índices de desigualdad educativa

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Variación en PISA según el medio socioeconómico del colegio, por países.

No sorprende ver a Estados Unidos con ese porcentaje tan brutal de variación en resultados en PISA según ambiente socioeconómico del colegio – y ver a Finlandia y Hong-Kong ahí abajo. Supongo que Colombia estará aún mucho peor que Estados Unidos en ese tema.

Para ver el artículo (en Education Week) donde aparece todo esto, dé clic en el diagrama de barras.

http://www.tumblr.com/audio_file/andresvillaveces/25306037012/tumblr_m5rylhj6Li1qa73qh?plead=please-dont-download-this-or-our-lawyers-wont-let-us-host-audio

Lokki – Annikki Tähti.

La canción Lokki (gaviota), aparentemente un romance ruso pero aquí en versión finlandesa, juega un papel importante en la película de Kaurismäki “El hombre sin pasado”.

Aquí la canta nada menos que la gran Annikki Tähti (que actúa y canta en la misma película la canción Muistatko Monrepos’n – canción de nostalgia por la Viipuri (Vyborg) finlandesa perdida.

Redgate Confusion – Roman Kossak & Wanda Siedlecka, some time ago.

This album of 1986, with Kossak (electric recorder, harmonics) and Siedlecka (voice, electric guitar), together with a mysterious bass player, is in the same (funky) class of the weird and unique one-shot album La inocencia de las edades impares reviewed by Iozef Parunak for Alfil Blau in the early 21st century (with the then-famous now semi-forgotten Campos fracturados del mediterráneo, the first version of the well-known Bifurcaciones espinosas and a weird take on the infamous Libérate de tus generadores by Toreros Muertos). In the latest reissue, Kossak and Siedlecka add songs from the Satmar in Fleischmann’s, NY, resampled and rearranged – they also include Pinhole Music, recorded with pinhole devices all over the world, an interview to an interviewer in Sammatti, Finland, and the famous Apollos Mahler Heimweh and Satie howls. They complete the album by the odd and somewhat incoherent inclusion of Scottish Music: Rain in St Andrews/Miss Janice’s Reel/The Sands of Lewis.

Miinan laulu, by Värttinä. More “Retro” Finnish music. These _are_ women’s voices.

(Of course, this photograph seems incongruent with the music. The music comes from deep Finland, the photograph is at the cutting edge of Helsinki, with the Baltic in the back, toward the south, and the close-to-midnight light of the longest day of the year.)