Articles Misc

Finland Wold Champion 2011 In Ice Hockey

Believe me, there are not many sunday nights in Helsinki or any other Finnish city where you can hear people screaming all over the streets and cars honking. Tonight is one of those nights.

Finland has won the Ice Hockey World Cup 2011 a few minutes ago. And it has done it against their eternal rival and enemy: Sweden. The final score was an amazing 6-1 for the Finns!

There are not many things that Finns take totally serious, a country that is used to have their feet on the earth. Leaving the door of the sauna open is one. And Ice hockey, especially if it is a World Cup final against Sweden, is another.

Finland champion 2011

I put you an example, years ago I was in Madrid drinking with a group of Finnish friends, who invited a common friend, a player of the Finnish national team, Tommi Santala, who later went to play to USA and is nowadays playing in Switzerland. The evening went great until I mentioned the painful defeats of Finns agaisnt Sweden in ice hockey. A tense silence of 10 seconds took place, until my Finnish friend changed the topic of conversation and we made a brindis. Trust me, they were some of the longest 10 seconds of my life; you do not want to make angry a professional Finnish 120 kgs ice hockey player…

Although Russia is probably the most hated and feared country for the Finns for historical reasons, when it is about ice hockey, the public enemy is Sweden. Swedish are like those big brothers who dress better, get smarter grades at school and end up dating the girl you dream about. The exception to the rule was in 1995, when Finns were able to defeat the Swedes at home to be winners of the World Cup for first time in history… until now in 2011. 16 years in between with a long story of painful defeats against Sweden, to the point that most Finns had become totally fatalist when foreseeing a defeat against their Nordic neighbors.

This victory is a catharsis for the country. I know very well the feeling, last summer Spain experienced something similar being the winners of the football World Cup. I am sure that more than one worker is going to arrive late to the office tomorrow involved in deep celebrations at the local bars ;)

Congratulations Leijonat! You have finally showed that beating the Swedish at an ice hockey final is not just an exceptional event that happens once in the history!

Articles Misc

Looks matter in Scandinavia too!

Text by Sasha Raduntceva

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening”, – has Coco Chanel once said. And maybe that’s why fashionable clothes and accessories are always urgent. Actually vogue is something like a merry-go-round of life. But we always add to trousers from 70’s earrings from 80’s and so on. That’s why the social network, where fellows and ladies from all over the world have an opportunity to post their own looks, has great success.

If you open this site, you’ll see that the most popular partakers of it are Scandinavian youth because of their unique style with a bit snowy notes, cold charisma and smell of cinnamon. Three of them consent to talk about them, fashion and of course

1) Explain your motivation posting on
2) Describe your style.
3) What’s your profession?
4) Why fashion is always fashionable?


Gustav Marklund from Piteå (Sweden).

1) I think that lookbook is a fun and inspiring webpage. I love to see all the looks and I also like being a part of it.

2) I don’t really have a specific style. Sometimes I wear all black, boots and chains, but in some cases I wear a lot of color. I dress in the style I feel like. It also depends if it’s spring, summer, fall or winter. In winter I rarely wear color, but in summer I love wearing color.

3) I’m a student. I study economics and I’m also an aspiring stylist.

4) I don’t believe that fashion is always fashionable. You shouldn’t always count on the new trends. Find your own style but get inspiration from fashion.


Amanda Brohman from Umeå (Sweden).

1) Because it’s such an inspiring site for fashion bloggers like me, it’s almost like a working community for us. You can showcase your own looks and promote your own style as well as get inspired by other people; there are so many stylish girls and boys out there!

2) My style consists of a lot of vintage and layers. I guess it’s a combination of big city street style and Scandinavian nature.

3) I’m a high school student, in my freshman year. Right now I’m majoring in subjects such as drama, costume design and social sciences.

4) Because fashion always changes, it’s never the same and it’s endless. Fashion will always be and has always been a big part of our lives, because it’s something you wear. And fashion is not, at least not for me, just about the latest trends – I see fashion as art, the best kind of art because we it’s the only art form we can actually wear.


Jacob Julian Antonsson from Stockholm (Sweden).

1) Lookbook is a great way to make an expression through a picture showing a sense of style on an individual you actually perhaps never met, to make an impression and inspire, to get inspired and to get feedback of course. Clothing and style are more than just fabrics and hairdos, It says a lot about the human being as an individual.

2) My style’s spontaneous and quite personal, as I only dress up in options – that’s me.

A mix of expensive designer clothing and vintage stuff to get a fun balance between individuality and trends.

3) I work as a store manager on a well known multibrand store in Stockholm, photographer and model.

4) Fashion is always fashionable because it gets old and unfashionable in just a matter of weeks, months or hours. There will always be a chase for the latest item, fabric or color and that’s why it never tends to get boring,

Articles Misc

Call a doctor

There must
be something wrong with me. Maybe I should go to the doctors. Or have a
lobotomy. I’ve often suspected it but now I’m quite sure that something is not
quite right with me. Or then there’s something wrong with everybody else.

The reason
for my pondering lies in the fact that I hated The Producers musical yet it is
one of the most popular musicals of all times. Why, oh why? Why does everybody
like it so much? I’m obviously missing the point. There must be something wrong
with me.

I saw the
opening night at the biggest theatre in Finland, the Helsingin
Kaupunginteatteri and that’s all I have to base my opinion on. I haven’t seen
the film, which I hear is a masterpiece in satire, my favourite form of comedy.
The stage production didn’t make me laugh at all. Not once.

In my
opinion The Producers should only be performed at the theatre museums as a cute
relic from the good old times. Why should the tragedy of Nazi Germany still be
given so much time and money on stage when there are tragedies happening at our
doorsteps this very moment?

And don’t
get me started on the way The Producers portrays women. Bloody hell. The long
legged blonde lead is drooling all over any man that cares to show interest in
her. And they all do as she’s well proportioned and giggles happily when the
men call her intelligent when she can answer the phone correctly. The army of
horny old ladies on the other hand chase the men as fast as they can with their
walking frames. They are to be ridiculed and taken an advantage of. They are
happy to depart from their hard earned cash in return to some silly sexual
favours by the leading men. The gay men are promiscuous, superficial and they
all seem to have weak wrists but strong lips. How ever so inventive!

I found The
Producers frightfully tedious and old fashioned. First I suffered from a severe
attack of theatre narcolepsy. It hits me quite often as soon as my bum hits the
red velvet cushions and normally lasts through the whole show only to be helped
by a refreshing walk during the interval. After a while The Producers didn’t
let me sleep though. It was slapping me in my face with its world view that was
not in focus. I simply couldn’t stand it and sneaked out before the end. I went
to the loos to squeeze the mighty pimple throbbing on my chin. Obviously that
was a big no-no as the gods of theatre punished me by making the pimple
infected. The morning after I woke up with a red crusty area the size of an old
man’s ego on my chin. Serves me right for not liking the Producers. 

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

Acting out and about

When I tell people what I do for a living they
are filled with suspicion. A person who acts and writes is to be handled with
care. They can never be quite sure when I’m acting or playing a part. Or
perhaps I’m observing them for material? I probably carry a raw onion in my
handbag should I wish to shed a tear. And the sincere sounding laughter is
possibly nothing but a breath taken to the correct corner of my abdominals as
taught at drama school. Anybody who lies for living should not be trusted, I’m
told. But I defend myself by saying that acting is all about being truthful. 

I can’t lie
to save my life but sometimes I do get tempted to use my acting abilities
outside the stage, often in most dubious circumstances. Like once when I was
chilling out in a London park with a friend. I saw these twins enter through
the iron gates and the urge to act came upon me. They wore identical dark suits
that had seen better days, and, as proper English gentlemen should, sported oak
walking sticks. The choice of the colour purple for both their hair and their
socks suggested an eccentricity I’m hopelessly weak for. With rhythmical steps
they headed towards a park bench and sat down. 

I was
mesmerised. I had no other option but to talk to them. I grabbed my friend’s
camera and walked up to them. I put on my most innocent face and rolled my r’s a bit to create the air of a
foreigner not used to the social code of the British Isles. I told them I was a
photography student from Finland making a project about twins and I asked if I
could take a photo of them. Without hesitation they posed for me in a way that
immediately betrayed a background in show business. 

An hour
later when kissing the twins goodbye I had heard stories from the set of Wizard
of Oz and from singing for the troops in the World War II. They showed me the
steps of the musicals they’d performed in and reminisced about the good old
days with Lawrence Olivier. Before hugging me the very last time they told me
I’d make a lovely actress but advised me to stay well clear of the show
business. ‘It’s a rotten business, it is.’, they said in perfect harmony. 

I did feel
guilty for my deceit. But then again we all enjoyed the little encounter and no
one was harmed during the scene. I think these delightful gentlemen had
pleasure posing for the photographer played by me and I have the photos to
prove that I once acted with these kings of show business, even if the stage
was grass fringe.

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

Acting out and about

I can’t lie
to save my life but sometimes I do get tempted to use my acting abilities
outside the stage, often in most dubious circumstances. Like once when I was
chilling out in a London park with a friend. I saw these twins enter through
the iron gates and the urge to act came upon me. They wore identical dark suits
that had seen better days, and, as proper English gentlemen should, sported oak
walking sticks. The choice of the colour purple for both their hair and their
socks suggested an eccentricity I’m hopelessly weak for. With rhythmical steps
they headed towards a park bench and sat down.

I was
mesmerised. I had no other option but to talk to them. I grabbed my friend’s
camera and walked up to them. I put on my most innocent face and rolled my r’s a bit to create the air of a
foreigner not used to the social code of the British Isles. I told them I was a
photography student from Finland making a project about twins and I asked if I
could take a photo of them. Without hesitation they posed for me in a way that
immediately betrayed a background in show business.

An hour
later when kissing the twins goodbye I had heard stories from the set of Wizard
of Oz and from singing for the troops in the World War II. They showed me the
steps of the musicals they’d performed in and reminisced about the good old
days with Lawrence Olivier. Before hugging me the very last time they told me
I’d make a lovely actress but advised me to stay well clear of the show
business. ‘It’s a rotten business, it is.’, they said in perfect harmony.

I did feel
guilty for my deceit. But then again we all enjoyed the little encounter and no
one was harmed during the scene. I think these delightful gentlemen had
pleasure posing for the photographer played by me and I have the photos to
prove that I once acted with these kings of show business, even if the stage
was grass fringe.

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

The divine divide

For an
English thespian, the so-called graveyard
still in use in many Finnish theatres are simply beyond their
comprehension. An increasing number work as freelancers, but many theatres
still employ people on a lifetime contract: till death do us part. Sounds very
cushy, yet the reality is often far from it: a very tight schedule of
rehearsals and shows, which would squeeze the juice out of any artist.

philosopher Pekka Himanen talks about the Finns being suspicious about anything
new. We Finns say a definite no to anything we are not sure about – just in
case. Everything in Finland grows slowly: potatoes, blueberries, friendships,
and tolerance for anything new and different. That seems to be true of theatre
as well.

here tends to be quite traditional: it’s good and well made, as it should be in
the land of Nokia. And it’s reliable, like the granite we stand on. Most of the
time when you go to the theatre you know exactly what you will get.

repertory theatres have a simple formula: they must get bums on seats. So the
shows must be accessible. They are custom made to serve busloads of middle-aged
women. There’s nothing wrong with that I suppose, it’s just a bit…blah.

There are
certainly people pushing the boundaries as well. There are companies making
theatre in odd places and others starting international groups: ambitious
enterprises with fierce artistic drive.

Sanomat has been criticised for the limited publicity they give to small-scale
productions. Artists are frustrated with a lack of resources. The system seems
to be stuck in the mud, like in the popular theatre game of the same name. In
the game you need someone to rescue you, so you can carry on playing.

In London,
the National Theatre rescued a financially struggling company that was doing
very experimental shows in the unused tunnels 
of the London underground. The shows still take place in this rough and
exciting location, but now the funding, and the much needed publicity, come
from the National. That way, both the experimental company and the National
reach new audiences. The two divided worlds meet: the margin and the
mainstream. And the benefits are plentiful.

National also hosts an outdoor festival every year, where they bring in an
array of international street theatre. Again, the old institution opens up to
the new possibilities.

I yearn for
a time when this kind of open-mindedness will rule in Finland: when the rusty
structures are crushed, and forward-looking theatre practitioners get the
opportunities they deserve. Then I’ll be excited about going to the theatre

Articles Misc

All our lines are busy…

Why, why,
why? Tell me why! Why do we have to go through this torture every time we call
a customer service number of a big company or institution? If they do not have
enough personnel to attend the incoming calls, why do they not hire more staff?
Is this a worldwide Machiavellian plan to get on our nerves?

My second
favourite experience is when I call customer service numbers and they throw
recorded messages into your ears with a wide range of possibilities in three
different languages (I have to wait to for the English, which follows the
Finnish and Swedish explanations since I still do not have a mastery of this
beautiful Mikael Agricola language. So again, time to prepare coffee…).

 “If you want to consult your account
movements, press 1”. (this doesn’t make sense) “If you want to listen to the
last hockey match, press 2” etc. Most times you have to choose the last option
(“For other Inquiries”) since there is nothing that suits the simple question
you want to make. These are only the first steps of a tortuous ascent that,
usually, leads to the operator not understanding your enquiry, and you end up
being transferred from one department to another like a ping-pong ball.
Meanwhile, you pray that somebody with some common sense will attend to you.

So, my dear
friends, it cannot exactly be said that customer service culture in Finland is
highly developed. I still consider it a huge abuse to pay 2,5 euro in whatever
cafeteria of a city when I have to grab my cup, fill it with coffee, be careful
not to drop the milk jug and hunt for the sugar at the counter, while the
waiter/waitress’s only task is to hand you your bank card receipt to be signed.
Shouldn’t they be paying me for serving myself?

It is the
same when you try to purchase a train ticket at the station. Basically, the
customer service is there to make it more complicated when you want your money
back because you missed the train by a couple of minutes, or you buy a wrong
ticket because you do not understand the instructions in Finnish in the ticket
machine. Is it a part of the same worldwide Machiavellian plot that, with no
variation, half of the staff at the counters of railway stations cannot speak
proper English? No matter if it is in Helsinki, Beijing or Rome, the staff is
carefully selected and placed in customer service positions to make
communication more complicated. It is really a mysterious thing. Maybe Osama
Bin Laden is behind the recruitment processes for customer service positions
all over the world in order to create chaos and destruction.

Maybe, it is
just that I am getting old when I start to miss so many things from the good
old times: simple things such as making a phone call to ask a simple question,
and be greeted on the other end of the line by a real human being!

Articles Misc

Monkey business

Within the
film or show business in general, actors are often considered a different
breed. They look like normal people but behave differently. Many of them seem
to fast-forward their lives, being greedy to consume marriages and ideologies.
They experiment with social masochism, seeming not to care about other people’s
reactions. The wild, eccentric and unpredictable actors. Drunk, filled with
lust, spontaneously jumping into anything that might provide a new dose of

stereotype is unjustified, of course. I have friends who act. There is a vast
amount of actors I have worked with – good hard-working and reliable people.
There are intelligent actors. There are actors who live in balance with
themselves and people around them.

But still,
there is something in the profession. I think performing publicly strongly satisfies
one of the most basic human desires, the need to be seen and recognized. Many
actors consider themselves shy, and their choice of forces them towards the
greatest fear: fear of exposure.

The need
for exposure and feeling sick about too much attention is sometimes almost

Tola, a very bright and talented young actress and photographer made a book
about acting (Miksi näyttelen – Why do I
). The book contains interviews with other actors and short comments on
the subject. It becomes obvious to the reader that especially for those new in
the profession, life can become really hard. Tearing themselves open publicly,
with the possibility of cruel criticism, can be sometimes too much for a fragile
soul. And we are all fragile souls.

An actor is
a professional who uses himself or herself as a tool – all the fears, hopes and
memories are material to work with. Building a fictitious character is not
(only) about pretending to be someone, one has to actually become someone else. Imagine becoming a serial killer, a victim of
gang rape or Adolf Hitler – starting to see the world through their eyes and
living their lives. It can be psychologically consuming.

This is
obviously true of any storyteller, even a writer, but nobody is as directly and
as completely in the game as an actor. A writer can write happy ends to all of
his life traumas (or kill the ones he loves most), but an actor follows the
lines drawn by the writer like faith itself – ending up in death or misery, or
glory, without being able to influence the course of events. (This is a cliché
but aren’t we all actors on the stage of life?)

Acting is a
challenging profession. I used to think that they were pussies, whining for
nothing and using cheap show tricks to get attention for themselves. Not
anymore. With great admiration I follow those who have the calling and talent
to change themselves – and come back.

Articles Misc

Knut, the cute Polar Bear

Everybody seems to be delighted by the appearance of such a lovely creature that will be contemplated in future time in the German zoo. For me, I just can feel pity. Knut is not the first animal who becomes a symbol of a zoo, or even of a nation. To my mind come the names of the Panda bear Chu-Lin in Madrid zoo, or the exceptionally white gorilla Copito de Nieve (Snowflake) in Barcelona zoo. In these three cases, the species belong to the black list of animals under the risk of extinction.

As far as I understand, the justification of the existence of zoological parks, those should serve for having a glimpse of what you can find in the real nature, more than as last hope of survival for species that are annihilated in their natural habitats. Knut, Chu-Lin or Copito did not have any other choice than living inside a cage, because most probably they will be dead if belonging to their natural habitats.

Days ago a new report by the UN was published where it is affirmed that the change of climate can lead to the disappearance of 30% of the present existing species if things continue the way they are. My god! Almost one-third of all the species existing on our planet are at serious risk of perishing forever, which has huge negative consequences for humankind. And what is humankind doing meanwhile? Watching Idols on TV!

Would you allow somebody to attack your children while playing in a park? So at what point do the human race became so passive when facing the imminent tragedy that will devastate our future generations? How much do we have to wait before asking for real measures to save the world? Until it is too late? This same discourse has been told by the ecologists for decades, but now the scientists are undoubtedly telling us that the time is running out, and we still prefer to look the other way.

What amazes me is our capacity to continue drinking our coffee and turning the page to the following piece of news, instead of instantly breaking into tears contemplating the tragedy of our mother Gaia, provoked by none other than ourselves. Saramago, the Literature Nobel Prize winner, in his recent visit to Finland, said that he could not understand how we were so worried to send spacecrafts to Mars when at the same time millions of people were dying of starvation on Earth. But Saramago, at his age, seems to still have faith about humankind. I am starting to lose mine.

Knut, my cute polar bear, I just hope a long life for you in Berlin zoo, and I just also hope that the day when the flame of your existence disappears – and let’s expect a long healthy life for you, my dear teddy bear – you will not be remembered as the last one of your kind.

Articles Misc

Dark people make dark films

My next film is about the civil war. It will not be exactly hilarious.

A darkish undertone exists in a large number of Finnish films, although lighter subject matters are made into film too, there is often something very artificial about them, like a forced smile. After all these years of Americanisation, genuinely positive films are few in Finland – you might point out that ”genuine” positivity is rare in the US too.

Are we a dark people? To some extent the answer is yes. Slavic, Finnish and Icelandic people very often find each other due to the same dark sense of humour. An Icelandic colleague once asked an international crowd what does a used condom and the M/S Estonia (a ship that sunk with 800 passengers about 10 years ago) have in common? They are both full of dead se(a)men. I laughed as well as the Russian guy, but the others stared at the Icelandic lady in anger.

A dark sense of humour means laughing at death, at the fragile and temporary nature of human existence, but I think it is vital to distinguish that from cynicism. Acceptance of irreversible death does not mean that there would not be hope in the world. There is.

Paha Maa (Frozen land) was a very unlikely box office hit, proving once again that depiction of sorrow can be appealing to audiences. This year’s best film so far, Miehen työ (A Man's Job), is also very dark, but not at all without hope.

I think a lot depends on skills and the quality of thinking. Telling true stories where good prevails is not easy. Just like simplicity is one of the most difficult things to achieve in storytelling.

So, if too many Finnish films are depressing, it needn’t mean that we all are – maybe we just need to learn about filmmaking. Keep in mind the golden rule: 95% of the films in the world are crap. Look at the 5%.

I am a keen Marxist in two senses of the word, the other being an admirer of the late comedian Groucho Marx. In his autobiography he wrote about a deeply depressed man who went to see a doctor. The doctor tried various things but nothing seemed to help this poor man. Finally the doctor suggested that the man would go see the circus, he had heard that there is a clown called Delaney who is absolutely outrageously funny. I am Delaney the clown, replied the patient.

Yes, we are dark people and there is no need to change that. Let’s make dark films then. But they can still be enlightening, optimistic and amusing, only if we become good enough storytellers.

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!"