Articles Misc

Name Calling

What mental image comes to mind when you
read the name Antonio Díaz? What about Eduardo Alonso? Forget the fact that
they are coincidentally the same names as the FREE! editors, but concentrate on
the subconscious photo-fit that the names conjure. Are they handsome or are
they ugly? Are they muscular or are they wobbly around the edges? Are they
somebody you would like to meet for a coffee or would you rather snub their
ugly wobbly faces?

Names are the real first impression that we
make of people, since they walk a few paces ahead of us on class registers,
passports and job applications leaving us at the mercy of somebody's mental
interpretation long before we make a physical appearance. I know because
countless people in Finland and online have made the gender mistake with Asa,
but I guess my parents made the error first – it's a girl, Mr and Mrs Butcher!

Asa is both a male and female name
depending upon the country, yet in Sweden Åsa is only a female name, which is
why the gender confusion occurs a little more often here in Scandinavia.
Despite countless people asking about my weird name, to which I always say,
"Unique!", it has served me well, with people remembering me over all
the Johns, Roberts, Michaels and Williams. A teacher once caught me running in
the corridor during my first year and he then caught me doing something else a
few years later, so he unfairly said, "I've spoken to you before,

There are certain names that are
intrinsically burned into our minds as only one person, for example in Robbie
Williams' biography he writes that some of the members of his rehab group
complained about constant namedropping, so they asked him to only use first
names: "Well, Elton and I…" There is really only one Elton in the world,
there will only ever be one Elvis, there is only one Clint and there is
definitely only one Harrison. 

"Hello, my name is Adolf!" isn't
really going to get you invited to many Bar Mitzvahs, even though over 50 boys
in Finland were christened with the name over the past seven years. The names Adolf,
Osama, Saddam, Idi, Fidel and Pol all have a slightly tarnished reputation
thanks to just one user and that's all it takes. Why do we think that somebody
christened Adolf or Osama will actually turn into Hitler or bin Laden? Don't we
realise that it took a great deal more than their first name to turn them into
monsters? Or did it?

Can the ladies imagine moaning Johnny, Albert or
Donald during the throws of passion?

We do rely heavily upon the associations
made with names and it is something that has been embedded in our psyche from
our nickname days at primary school. How can you be considered cool with a name
like Nigel, Norman or Gerald? Can the ladies imagine moaning Johnny, Albert or
Donald during the throws of passion? Dwayne, Melvin and Ralph are, well, do you
really need me to explain? I know this is purely personal and you are probably
foaming at the mouth in anger, but I'd guess your name was featured in that

The Finns among you are breathing a sigh of
relief at being ignored, but, then again, you are all named Juhani, Johanna,
Tapani, Maria, Tapio, Mika, Marko, Petri or Minna, so it doesn't really matter
– hello to Jussi too! It was refreshing to read in the Finnish media recently
that the European Court of Human Rights had overturned the Finnish authority's refusal
to allow the forename Axl Mick, which is a real rock and roll name. The days of
boring first names should come to an end and with it a new dawn of how the hell
do you spell that?

Articles Misc

I’m not sleazy!

If you don't believe me go and have a look here.
Am I right? Those of you who don't know my regular charming good looks may be
fooled into thinking that this is my daily appearance, but you would be way off
the mark. I am not a bad looking bloke, even if I do say so myself, and have
managed to dig out the best of my genetic code and handed it on to my beautiful
young daughter – lucky gal!

Naturally I haven't always felt reasonably
comfortable with my appearance, like most teenagers, I wished for a fairy
godmother to wave a magic wand or, at the very least, a paper bag that didn't
dissolve in the rain. Acne, lack of height and a lengthy period wearing
spectacles, not glasses, but spectacles left me dangerously named and exposed
in nerd territory – I even liked Star Trek, which didn't help my dress sense

Medication cured the acne, a painful growth
spurt brought me up to average height and contact lenses were a gift from the
gods, but there were still issues. As I approached my 18th birthday my mum
asked what I wanted for a gift, but when my mind went blank she jokingly
suggested a nose job. Years later, the topic of the nose job came up and she
was shocked to discover that I, Cyrano de Bergerac, hadn't taken it as a joke.

My life had increasingly more
self-conscious moments as the years rolled on, especially on a weekend to Paris
that was destined to become the "Will you marry me?" trip. My future
wife and I were strolling along the Seine when a persistent caricature artiste
captured her in his chair and his cartoonist friend then grabbed me. After a
few minutes of scribbling and colouring they proudly show the childish result
and announce an outrageous fee. Following some angry negotiation, my artist
angrily declares, "Well, I could have drawn your chin bigger – you have
big chin!"

A big nose AND a big chin! I felt as though
my face was swelling up like it had an allergic reaction to a bee sting – at
least they weren't the only big things on my body that were large and swollen.
Anyway, finding shoes to fit by large and swollen fit proved tough on occasion…
what part of my body did you think I was discussing? The whole body image thing
is tiring and even though my wife casually pointed out that my stomach has
become larger the other day I desperately try to ignore it all.

You know the worst part? As time passed by
I have discovered that it isn't just physical attributes that attract attention
from vicious observers. Every week I co-host a live radio show with a Greek
friend and it was due to this show that my voice came under fire from a forum
user: "The Greek certainly came across better, the Brit sounded a bit
smarmy and false." What! Smarmy and false… come on! I do not sound slimy,
but then if you pair the slimy voice with the sleazy photo on FREE!'s front
page there's little left for me to do, except become a lawyer.

Articles Misc

July’s jewels

July is a beautiful time of the year and
would be a strong contender if I had to choose a favourite month, although
December's not bad either. However, this year July is packed full of special
personal events that have made it one of the most anticipated Julys of recent
memory and is set to give the remaining months self-esteem issues that will
result in countless visits to the Seasonal Shrink.

The very first day of July marks the fifth anniversary
of moving to Finland in order to begin a new life away from the hustle and
bustle of the UK. In fact after five years I have yet to see any hustle, let
alone bustle, in Helsinki, so I can safely proclaim, "Mission
accomplished, so far." Personal landmarks, such as these, encourage the evaluation
of life and the progress of lifestyle decisions, but if you think I am going to
bare my soul to you guys and girls then think again you emotional vultures.

Okay, I'll throw you a bone. Upon my
arrival in Finland I was asked by my wife's family if I wanted a name day
because I continually complained that everybody had one, except yours truly. The
name 'Esa' was closest to mine and was celebrated on July 6th, a Finnish flag
day, so everybody pencilled it into their diaries, but the so-called luck of
the seventh month decided to bestow its fortunes upon somebody else: my

July 6th 2005 was the day my daughter made
her debut into this world and now my name day has been relegated behind her
birthday and Eino Leino Day, which really isn't poetic justice. After two years
of being ignored I have returned to the cynical opinion that name days are a
waste of money and are merely invented by card companies and florists. Call me
bitter, call me petty, but I really don't care, although I will convince my
daughter in later years that the flags are flying just for her.

July is month number seven, a lucky number
and, thereby, a lucky month to some, as I mentioned earlier. This year the
month is particularly auspicious due to an avalanche of sevens, with July 7th
2007 inspiring our imaginations far more than the horror associated with last
year's June 6th 2006 (666). 7/7/07 is also special to me because it is the day
my little brother has chosen to tie the knot with his fiancée and requested a
Best Man speech from me. Nerves, second thoughts and sickness will be on my
mind, but then again I can't worry about the feelings of my brother's fiancée
all day.

A family wedding, my daughter's second
birthday, an ignored name day, five years away from England, an aunt's 50th
birthday, my wife's uncle and his wife both turn 80, plus a good number of
barbeques with the prerequisite burgers, sausages and ribs washed down with a
few ice-cold bottles of lager, are all pencilled in my July 2007 diary… the
aroma of grass is also welcome.

Articles Misc

Make mine a half

in one of my first columns I warned you to enjoy each day at a time and try not
to look too far into the glittering future? Well, here is another wake-up call
for those still snoozing on an airbed floating along the river of Time.
WAKE-UP! It is June, the longest day has you frozen in its headlights and after
that we are back down into the store to get the bag of winter clothes.

the half-time whistle is blown in a game of football and the manager has given
his stirring motivational team talk, the players (hopefully) return to the
pitch with a sense of urgency and fight for the remaining 45-minutes before
conceding a last-minute goal like my team usually does. I am your manager
giving you the dressing room talk and am reminding you that the sand in the
hourglass is vanishing one grain at a time – how philosophical.

are very few events in life that actually remind you that you are halfway, even
films no longer have an interval. You would probably take – here comes my
favourite subject – sex far more seriously if a buzzer went off when you were
halfway, although for some the buzz would come very, very early…prematurely
early. Ok, the buzzer would get on your nerves, but it would encourage you to
savour each of the remaining seconds with your partner.

a moment to think about what has happened in your life since January. Have you
maintained your resolutions? Have you lost that excess weight? Have you taken
that dream holiday? Have you decorated the kitchen? Have you told the girl at
the local R-Kioski that you love her? Have you even defrosted the freezer or
turned the mattresses this year? Stop procrastinating!

do it tomorrow!” is the scourge reply of mankind and should be consigned to the
language bin of history along with “How old do you think I am, darling?”,
“Trust me, I know what I am doing!” and “Do you love me?” A bit cynical, but
how much good has ever resulted from any of those, plus we don’t have enough
time left in 2007 to have pointless arguments.

must hold my hands up and admit that this column was going to be written
yesterday, but I never said that I actually practice what I preach. Anyway,
please try to live each day to the full and satisfy those dreams before it is
too late – at least defrost the freezer because it will save you electricity.
Now I have to go, the buzzer just went off and my wife wants me to concentrate
for the remaining time we have left…

Articles Misc

Miniature cups of coffee

My first social visit in Finland was becoming a success, although I really was bemused by the miniature cups. I actually started to become excited over the brewing coffee because in my worldly experience the best things always came in small packages. Take caviar, take diamonds, take DNA, this Finnish coffee must be potent stuff if it demands tiny servings to avoid any caffeine overdoses. In an act of bravado and also wanting to show off my Englishness, I requested a larger cup, "Darling, forget these cups. I feel as though I have Mickey Mouse hands. Bring me a mug!"

Cupboards were searched frantically in order to oblige the foreign guest, eventually one was found out on the balcony – it was being used as a vase. After a rinse and a scrub, it was set before me and filled with Finland's liquid black gold, a splash of milk and two heaps of sugar. My lips quivered in anticipation of my first taste of home-brewed coffee, the saliva sloshed over my tongue and the pupils dilated to the size and shape of sugar cubes. My excitement calmed and, with shaking hands, I picked up the mug and took a sip, wash it around my mouth and swallowed.

"Darling, did you clean the vase properly?" She began to laugh, but then noticed I was serious so she reassured me every effort was made to clean it thoroughly. I nodded thoughtfully, "That's a shame because it may have improved the taste." I stared down at the swimming pool of Finland's liquid brown mud sitting in my mug and suddenly realised the real reason for the small cups, although if I had my way they would have been even smaller…say, the size of thimble.

Thanks to the presence of fresh pulla to disguise the bland taste assaulting my sobbing taste buds I was able to reach the bottom of the well. I excused myself and used the bathroom, but upon my return I suddenly felt my eyes fill with tears because somebody had refilled the damn thing to the very top. The famous English stiff upper-lip began to quiver and shake, probably due to the side-effects of the so-called coffee now stagnating in my stomach.

As a bead of sweat began to form upon my forehead, I recalled the often-repeated statistic that Finns drink the most coffee in the world, which is an average of 450 millilitres per day, and assumed that, like the gradual intake of some poison, you slowly become immune to its deadly effects. I could only think that Finland has gone for quantity over quality, but before I could ask if this was true or start drinking the second bucket of coffee, we were leaving. After we bid her aunt goodbye and had left the building, my future wife turned to me and said, "God, I hate my aunt's coffee!"

Articles Misc

The Church of Chocolate

year Eastern and Western Christianity are united with the occurrence of Easter
on April 8th allowing a joint observation of the festival by both camps. As
many of you are surely aware, Easter signifies the day that Jesus Christ died
for man’s sins, but as a non-Christian and lacking the skills of a theologian I
don’t understand why I am still paying for the sin of stealing my wife’s last
chocolate egg last year – she has already mentioned it twice this week. 

for her, my dad (more guilt), my brother (even more guilt) and others (combined
guilt), my religion is chocolate. I have less self-control than a baby’s
bladder, with my conscience drastically weakening in the presence of the cocoa
god and his sweet minions. As a child, my dad would joke that I would eat dog
poo if it had a chocolate coating, but I could never defend myself against this
allegation because I was salivating too much at the very thought. 

chocoholic disease is particularly worse at Easter when the glorious
commercialization of another religious holiday means more chocolate than a
Willy Wonka wet dream could ever fantasize. In the UK there are supermarket
aisles stacked to the ceiling with chocolate Easter eggs from all the
individual brands and others featuring characters from children’s television
shows, such as Bob the Builder. The usual selection includes two bars of
chocolate and a chocolate egg about 10cms in diameter and 20cms in height.

the true chocolate connoisseur does not care for these eggs at Easter because
there are two truly desirables. The first is a Cadbury’s Crème Egg, which is a
thick chocolate shell filled with a gooey centre and the second is already
making my mouth water. Cadbury Mini Eggs are, are, how can I do them justice
with mere adjectives? Simply, they are small chocolate eggs covered in a crispy
shell, but they are the most deliciously addictive sweets in the world. No

is not all fun and games. My nemesis is the so-called Easter Bunny, who,
inexplicably, hides decorated chocolate eggs around the house and garden for
children to try and find. I personally believe this to be a waste of energy and
time, not because my brother would always find far more than me, but because it
is inexcusable torture to a young chocoholic. I did once try to convince my
brother that the rabbit droppings in our garden were from the Easter Bunny and
would taste like raisins – he didn’t believe me for some reason. 

has been a new experience for me at Easter with its delightful Fazer Mignon
eggs presented in real eggshells and the tradition of children dressing as
witches on Palm Sunday going door-to-door basically trick or treating. The
first time I experienced this tradition it was a little girl ready to say her
‘virvon varvon’, but was terrified by the sight of a confused hungover
Englishmen wearing a dressing gown in the afternoon. Sorry again, little girl! 

year I shall be joining her in my hope of claiming some free sweets, so if a
grown man dressed as a witch knocks at your front door then throw him a bar of
chocolate and he will leave quietly after drooling a grateful thank you.

Articles Misc

Year of the Pig

{mosimage}Here I am knocking at the door of sex in
the opening paragraph and even bringing pigs into the equation. I am confident
that there is an official name for people who are sexually aroused by pigs, but
we’ll stick with ‘pigverts’ for now. Swines, boars, hogs, pigs or whatever you
call them are helplessly connected with erotica and it was the human mind that
created intercourse euphemisms such as ‘making bacon’ and ‘to pork’, plus
twisting the meaning of, “Do you want to nibble my sausage?”

It goes on. Have you ever received that
email forward that lists unknown trivia, one of which includes the fact that a
pig has an orgasm that lasts for thirty minutes? Believe it or not, this
factoid is true; the pig has a developed ejaculation method that boggles the
mind and will change the way you look at Porky Pig forever, plus brings new
meaning to his catchphrase, “That’s all folks!” – I guess I’d be stuttering too
after thirty minutes!

My heart goes out to the unfortunate Kermit
the Frog…that poor, poor puppet. It is no wonder that Miss Piggy regularly
flies into violent rages when she has experienced a thirty-minute session in
her life and unreasonably expects the same performance from a frog. Kermit is
accustomed to tadpoles and pondlife, while Miss Piggy is demanding a marathon
romp in the mud. I am no psychologist but even I can see her violence stems
from sexual frustration, perhaps she should spend a night with Gonzo and get it
out of her system.

Did you also know that a pig doesn’t sweat?
This means that not only is he pumping away for half-an-hour, but he also won’t
need a shower or apologise for any embarrassing buttock sweat stains on the
bedding. It was ten years ago that scientists cloned Dolly the Sheep, but it
seems to me that they should be focusing upon DNA from pigs. Forget Viagra
pills and deodorant, an injection of pig hormones will put the pork back into
your sausage.

The more information I uncover about pigs,
the more I am beginning to think that insults, such as pig-headed, male pig,
eat like a pig, are bordering on compliments. Pigs are the third most
intelligent mammal, after man and dolphins, and are one of a few mammals to be
prone to sunburn, which explains why you rarely see them on package holidays to
the Mediterranean.

As I write this column on the unlikely
topic of pigs and mating, a number of clearer understandings have struck me,
such as the reason why Piglet is so nervous, what drove Napoleon’s tyranny in Animal Farm and why two of the Three
Little Pigs couldn’t be bothered to build strong houses. Anyway, I hope this
will be one of the stranger articles inspired by the Chinese New Year you will
read over the coming month and I also think it is a shame that China isn’t
hosting the Games this year because they could have renamed them the

Cinema Interviews

Kristina Schulgin’s candidates

{mosimage}The series of Mexican films came about
through one such happy coincidence. The organizers of Mexican DOCSDF contacted
DocPoint to ask for help in setting up their first documentary film festival.
“I knew there had been a strong tradition of filmmaking in Mexico, and I
had seen recent documentaries that were excellent,” says Schulgin. She returned
from Mexico City
with her bags full of films, as it were. 

As the festival “considers every film the
festival winner”, Schulgin is hesitant about naming personal favourites.
However, she can’t help praising the carte blanche selection by Ilkka
, who was awarded with the Apollo prize for his work for Finnish
documentary film. Schulgin also can’t help but highlight Mexican Juan Carlos
’s In the Pit, about a massive highway construction site in the
heart of Mexico City,
intended to drive people underground and lift cars high into the air.
Schulgin’s Danish favourite is the IDFA-festival winner Monastery by Pernille
Rose Grønkjær
, a funny yet deep film about an eccentric gentleman farmer
who wants to build a Russian Orthodox monastery.

“What is special about this year’s
selection,” Schulgin says, “is that we are screening so many funny
documentaries. We have brutal films, but surprisingly many feel-good