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The line of democracy

The red
line is a symbol of democracy. On the 15th and 16th of
March of 1907, every citizen in Finland aged 24 and over was able to go to the
nearest village to put a red line in the box of their choice on a ballot paper.
It was the first time universal suffrage was enacted in the parliamentary
elections and was also the first time in Europe that women were given an
unrestricted right to vote.

In 1909, writer Ilmari Kianto dramatized these events in his social
drama Punainen Viiva (The Red Line). The novel became one of
the main stories in Finnish culture. In 1978, Aulis Sallinen premiered an opera
of two acts based upon it and became a great success in Helsinki, Savonlinna,
Stockholm, Saint Petersbourg, London and New York. It remained as one of the
greatest contemporary Finnish operas marking a period of opera renaissance in Finland.
At the time of its premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, in
1983, critic Donal Henahan wrote for the New
York Times
: “
To
be quick about it, Aulis Sallinen's The
Red Line
is the best new opera I have heard in many a year.”{mosimage}

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of those first universal elections
and the Finnish Parliament, the Finnish National Opera just premiered a new
production of The Red Line, directed
by Pekka Milonoff and conducted by Mikko Franck.

As Kianto’s novel, the libretto of The
Red Line
tell about Topi, a poor crofter that lives with his wife Riika and
his children in the bleak north Finnish backwoods.
They are beset by a marauding bear
and oppressed by an indifferent society. An agitator whips up support for
social democracy by telling people that if they draw a red line on a ballot
paper, they will be free from oppressed misery. But it is a promise that will
not happen and the bear will return.

Director
Pekka Milonoff describes the story as having relevance even today: “Rapid
changes, globalization, decision-making moving ever further away from the
people: all these things erode our belief in an individual being able to make a
difference.” Aulis Sallinen too does not think the opera is outdated: “Free
elections, self-evident here, are anything but self-evident in many places in
the world today. One of the main themes of the opera is the manipulating of
human minds. There are several spheres of power involved, vying for control
over the souls of men.”

{mosimage}Touching music

Without
sounding derivative, the music of Punainen
Viiva
combines different styles. The orchestra during these performances
will be conducted by Mikko Franck. It will be his final production as general
music director of the Finnish National Opera after he recently resigned due to
differences of opinion within the management. Franck, who is only 27, was the
youngest conductor appointed to that position. As a matter of fact, he was not
even born when Sallinen premiered this opera for the very first time.

“The last
scene is very touching”, admits Franck about The Red Line. “When that last scene comes, one wonders how this
tough guy can conduct the orchestra without crying.

As in 1978,
the main role of Topi will be played by Jorma Hynninen. He is one of the
greatest baritone singers in Finland. During the 1980s and ‘90s he made guest
appearances at many of the world’s esteemed opera houses, including the
Metropolitan in New York. Hynninen admits that, “It feels good to be in the
same role as it brings lots of memories.” However, he sees this new production
like a different approach to the story: “Different directors have different
ways and Pekka includes more happy and relaxed moments.”

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Cartes Flux vol 2

From 17th to 24th of April, Tapiola, Espoo.

{mosimage} 

 

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Is Gaia angry at us?

You have probably heard about the Gaia Theory, whose name was
given by the famous writer William Golding, but who is the man behind
it? His name is Lovelock, James Ephraim Lovelock and he happens to be one of the most controversial scientists of contemporary
times…

 

NASA's genius inventor

Lovelock was born on July 26th, 1919, in Letchworth Garden City in the
United Kingdom. His curriculum is quite impressive: He graduated as a chemist
from Manchester University in 1941 and in 1948 received a Ph.D. Degree in Medicine
from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In 1959, he also received
a D.Sc. Degree in Biophysics from London University.

{mosimage}
However, his major achievements began the following decade when
collaborating with NASA. “In 1961, having heard of these new detectors, NASA
invited me to join with the team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who were
developing lunar and planetary landers,” he explains. “Initially, the
invitation concerned the development of methods for analysing lunar soil but
soon I became involved with NASA's quest to discover whether there was life on
Mars.”

Lovelock has developed more than 50 patents of different gadgets, mostly
for detectors for use in chemical analysis, and NASA has even used some of his
inventions in different explorations. One of these, the electron capture
detector, was key in the development of environmental awareness, since it
revealed for the first time the ubiquitous distribution of pesticide residues
and other halogen bearing chemicals. It has also helped to discover more about
the levels of nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere. This
information enabled Rachel Carson to write her famous book Silent
Spring, a milestone in understanding and raising the awareness of
environmental problems in society.

His proposed approach to searching for life on Mars, based only on
chemical analysis of the Martian atmosphere, led to reflections about the
utterly different and remarkable atmosphere of our own planet. The stable
persistence in the Earth’s atmosphere of gases that quickly react with each
other could only be possible with some kind of ‘control system’, thus the Gaia
hypothesis was born.

 

From hypothesis to theory

So what is the Gaia Theory about? In Lovelock’s own words, “Gaia
is a theory about the Earth. It sees it as a self-regulating system keeping its
climate and its chemistry always comfortable for whatever is the contemporary
biosphere. Its major difference from older evolutionary theories, such as
Darwinism, is that it sees organisms not just adapting to the environment, but
changing it as well.”

Encouraged by Margulis, the theory was first publicly mentioned
in an article by Lovelock: Gaia as seen through the atmosphere in the Journal
Atmospheric Environment and was totally ignored during the first years
until publication in 1975's book The Quest for Gaia.

It is curious that the name of the theory did not come directly from
Lovelock, but from his good friend and neighbor, the famous writer, William
Golding. He commented to Lovelock that if he would have ever had a good theory
about the Earth, he had to find a suitable name and there was nothing better
than the Greek goddess Gaia.

 

Let’s go nuclear!

If you expect that Lovelock had softened his position and ideas with the
age, you could not be more wrong. Quite the opposite, the English scientist, now
in his 80s, has become even more aggressive in his words with the passage of
time. His most recent book The Revenge of Gaia, which offers quite a
pessimistic view of the heating process that the Earth has been suffering, is good
proof of his unwavering opinions.

Lovelock does not see much hope in a continuation of the balance on
Earth. Our planet will become more inhospitable during the next 100 years, and
natural disasters will lead to most of the human civilization perishing. However,
Lovelock sees this apocalyptical future as just a natural way, “Too little too
late? It may be too late to save civilization, but people will survive and
there will be another one.”

As almost the only solution, Lovelock energetically defends nuclear
power as the most effective way to solve problems, thereby following the French
model. He considers that people’s fears of nuclear power are unreasonable.

 

Controversial figure

Often, Lovelock’s theories are criticized and people are advised to
approach his theories with sceptism. For example, even though he invented the
machine that helped us understand the dangers of CFCs, he also dismissed those
dangers by arguing that they couldn't do enough damage to matter. Sherry
Rowland and Mario Molina received the Nobel Prize for continuing
their research and ignoring Lovelock’s lack of concern, highlighting the fact
that the science community does not take his theories for granted.

His thoughts have encouraged open debate and there are many recognized figures
who openly disagree with him, such as For Doolittle and even Stephen
Hawkins himself. One thing is for sure though, the Gaia Theory involves such deep and
controversial thoughts that it will continue to be discussed for many years to
comes…unless Lovelock’s worst predictions come to fruition.

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Meet Mr. Finland – the czar’s swedish-speaking spy

Baron Mannerheim is the man without whom Finland might have wasted decades
as part of the Soviet Union. He is the only
man ever to be named Field Marshal of Finland, but then, the Republic has known
no other Commander-in-Chief in times of war. In fact, Mannerheim’s bio reads
like a crash course in Finnish independence. He was there for it all. He led the
government troops to victory in the Civil War, united the nation in two wars
against the Soviet Union, and finally expelled
the German army from Finland
at the end of the Second World War. And saving Finland was something Mannerheim
only took up after retiring from the Russian Army at the age of 50.

 

Mannerheim: the controversial national
hero
Over the years, Mannerheim has inspired awe in many Finns and foreigners. One
of his ardent fans is Matthew Kirk, the former British Ambassador to Finland
(2002-2006). Now Vodafone’s director of external relations, Mr. Kirk still has
fond memories of the time he lived just down the road from Mannerheim’s house
in Kaivopuisto.

  
“One of my favourite things about Mannerheim actually
is the fact that he never owned his house, but rented it from the confectioner,
Karl Fazer, whose signature still appears on the famous Fazer Blue chocolates”,
Mr. Kirk says. Mannerheim's signature can be seen in many public buildings throughout
Finland,
but the only document on which these two most famous signatures appear is the
lease for the house in Kaivopuisto. The house, which was transformed into
a museum after Mannerheim’s death, still gives a very vivid impression of this
extraordinary man.

  
The many parallels between Mannerheim and Churchill
also fascinate Mr Kirk. Both were born into great houses, both were badly
behaved at school, and dropped out. Both travelled widely, and had military careers.
In the run up to the Second World War, both argued for rearmament against the
wishes of the political majority in their countries. Both smoked, and enjoyed a
drink or two.
 
An officer in the Imperial Army
Born in June 1867 at Louhisaari Manor, near Turku, Mannerheim was the second son
of a moneyed, Swedish-speaking noble family. (The family actually spoke a
different language every day of the week: Swedish, English, French, Russian,
German, and Portuguese. And yes, even Finnish.) While Mannerheim’s mother was a
devout Christian, a dutiful and loyal person, the Count passed on to his son an
appreciation of the good life, a love of beautiful women, good food, and the
fine arts. Indeed the Count was declared bankrupt and, taking his mistress with
him, fled to Paris
before Gustaf turned 15. The family home was sold, and the mother died of a
heart attack.
  
At the time Finland
was still a part of the Russian Empire, even if an autonomous Grand Duchy. It
was not exceptional for young men to seek their fortune outside their native
land, and in 1887 the impoverished young Mannerheim enrolled in the Nikolayevskaya Cavalry School
in St. Petersburg.
This was the start of what was to be 30 eventful years of loyally serving the
Emperor in the Imperial Army. Mannerheim was an ambitious man, but fortunately
he also turned out to be gifted, effective, and absolutely just as a military
leader. He demanded the impossible from everyone, including himself.
  
Maintaining a lifestyle suitable for a Cavalry Officer in Guard's cavalry was expensive.
In 1892 Mannerheim came into a great deal of money by way marrying a wealthy
Russian heiress. This, however, proved only a temporary solution, since after a
few unexpectedly happy years Baroness Mannerheim emigrated permanently to Paris with the couple’s
two daughters. This left Mannerheim free to pursue his career unobstructed, but
sadly out of funds. Already in 1911 he complained to a friend about his
financial situation: “I am forced to lead a very moderate life. All my money
goes to horses and beautiful women. There is nothing left for trifles!”

  
A great traveller

Being a soldier and a lover were not the only things
that defined Mannerheim. Among other things he was also a masterful rider, an
adventurous explorer, an accomplished photographer, and a skilful diplomat.
These at least were the qualities required of him on the two-year reconnoitring
(spying) expedition his Russian masters sent him on at the beginning of the
20th century.
  

Like many others, Mr. Kirk too is amazed by
Mannerheim’s journey. Under the cover of a Helsinki University
professor engaged in ethnological and biological research, Mannerheim travelled
from the Middle East to the eastern Chinese
coast during the years 1906-08. A fair-sized entourage accompanied him, but in
the end only two were there for the whole length (over 14,000 kilometers) of
the journey: Mannerheim and his horse. Mannerheim drew maps for 3,000
kilometers, took more than 1,350 photographs, obtained more than 1,200 objects,
prepared impressive statistics, and wrote detailed reports. Ironically, his
ethnographic studies are still of use today while the products of his spying
were soon buried in archives.
  

A man ahead of
his time

Mannerheim’s national importance to Finland is not
solely due to his role as the supreme wartime Commander-in-Chief. He was also a
political leader who twice assumed the role of Finland's Head of State. Straight
after the declaration of independence, Finland decided to become a
monarchy and invited a German prince to become king. In the interim, Mannerheim
became regent. The prince never came, and the Finns decided to become a republic.
Mannerheim became President of Finland during the war in 1944 in order to
secure peace with Russia.
As Mr. Kirk points out, Mannerheim was effectively both a royal and a republican.
He was a loyal servant of the Czar, advocated monarchy for Finland, and
ended up as the head up the Republic himself.
  
As a travelled cosmopolitan Mannerheim had a very broad field of vision, or the
rare gift of reconciling the national interests of a small, peripheral country
with those of the great powers. A man of many contrasts, paradoxes and
exceptional timings, Mannerheim was “cosmopolitan in a time of nationalism,
aristocrat in the era of democracy, and conservative in the age of
revolutions.”

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The subversive scientist?

Scrooge McDuck or Uncle Scrooge may be a comic book
character, but (Nils) Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld (1832-1901) is a very real
historical figure. Born in Helsinki, on Bulevardi 5, Nordenskiöld spent his youth
and childhood at Frugård manor in Mäntsälä, where he developed an early interest
in the natural sciences. Already as a child Nordenskiöld accompanied his father
Nils, the chief superintendent of the Finnish mining board, on various
mineralogical expeditions around the country. The boy's formal schooling began
at 13 with a false start, but two years later he was already at the top of his
class. In 1855, six years after entering the Imperial Alexander University of
Helsinki, Nordenskiöld had already defended a doctoral dissertation, published
several other scientific publications, and accompanied his father on a
scientific trip to the Urals.

 

{mosimage}A man of principles, or, banqueting
will do that to you

In November 1855 Nordenskiöld and a group of friends
from the University arranged a banquet to celebrate their birthdays and name
days. There was live music, singing, and a great deal of drinking and
merriment. Many speeches and toasts were made, some parodying the great
eastern, some the western powers. The party ended on the streets of Helsinki
with some of the guests singing the Marseillaise in Swedish.

Much to the misfortune of the revellers, these were
the years of the Crimean War (1852-56), and the resident Russian Governor-General
of Finland, the count Fredrick von Berg, was in no way predisposed to opening
space for public political dissent. In fact, Nordenskiöld and his friends had
already evoked Berg’s wrath by exposing one of the university students as his
spy.

The new incident gave von Berg the excuse he needed to
take his revenge. The speeches and the Marseillaise were construed as
subversive political acts, and von Berg had the University expel or detain the
involved students. Some of those punished left Finland for good. Nordenskiöld,
suddenly stripped of his academic positions, travelled to Berlin for further
study, but returned the next summer.

The following spring Nordenskiöld took part in a
formal degree ceremony of the faculty, and had the degrees of master and doctor
conferred on him. Two days later he was invited to make a farewell speech to
the Swedish guests. Nordenskiöld's chosen subject was the future of Finland, and
he spiced up the speech with phrases such as “the indomitable consciousness of
our right to freedom”. The audience responded with rapturous joy, but not
everyone was pleased. The Governor-General thought it near-treason, and gave
Nordenskiöld two options: to apologise, or to emigrate permanently. Nordenskiöld
chose exile, and never again returned to live in Finland.

 

Explorer of the Northeast Passage

Nordenskiöld settled in Sweden where he was soon offered
the chance to participate in an arctic expedition to Svalbard, an archipelago
lying in the Arctic Ocean. Between the years 1857 and 1883 Nordenskiöld
participated in and lead a total of ten scientific expeditions in the arctic
regions. He explored Svalbard, Greenland, and even attempted to reach the North
Pole, but it was the Northeast Passage that truly captured his imagination.

{mosimage}At the time all commercial shipping routes from Europe
to Asia or the west coast of North America circumnavigated either Africa or the
southernmost tip of South America. In theory however, the shortest maritime
route between Europe and East Asia was the Northeast passage, a passage from
northern Norway to the Pacific Ocean along the coast of Siberia and through the
Bering strait. Something like this had been mapped out already by Olaus Magnus
in his 1539 Carta marina map. But no-one had ever succeeded in sailing
through the route. Was it inevitable that all attempts should fail? Would the
passage always be blocked by ice, or could the arctic weather permit the
journey? Nordenskiöld was convinced that it could be done, and set out to prove
it.

In 1877 Nordenskiöld had secured the necessary funds,
and started planning and preparing for the voyage. For the expedition’s ship he
bought the Vega, a whaler with a powerful steam engine, and gathered her
a crew of experienced volunteers. The captain of the Vega was to be
Louis Palander, a Swedish naval lieutenant. Indeed, had it not been for Palander
and his exceptional navigational skills, the expedition might never have
succeeded, since Nordenskiöld himself was no arctic sailor. He was constantly
sea-sick, and according to contemporaries “no one has ever dreaded ice as much
as Nordenskiöld did”.

But Nordenskiöld had mastered the skill of preparing
well, and when the Vega weighed anchor on the 21th of July
1878, it had everything needed to weather an arctic winter or two. That is, if
the Bering strait froze over before they could pass through, the ship would
have enough coal, and the people enough warm clothes, food, and entertainment.

The journey started auspiciously enough with the
numerous scientists and officers aboard the Vega all carrying out their
specific measurements or research tasks. Hardly anything from the sea currents
to petrified prehistoric plants and local tribes escaped their attention.
Longitudes were measured, maps drawn, and everything was going according to plan.
But on the 28th of September, when the Vega was only two days
away from the Bering strait, the ocean froze around her. Had the expedition arrived
on the spot only a few hours earlier, it could have sailed through the entire
length of the passage in two months.

As it was, the Vega and her people were stuck
in Kolyuchin Bay for ten months of arctic winter. Thanks to Nordenskiöld’s
planning, however, the time was spent in relative comfort. While the
temperature outside eventually dropped to -46°C, inside the ship’s cabins it
was always at least +12°C. The scientists carried on with their research, and the crew’s
inevitable boredom was alleviated with a celebration on every possible
occasion. It turned out that the only thing Nordenskiöld had forgotten was a
Christmas tree, and even that could be rigged up from twigs and driftwood.

On 18th July 1879 summer finally reached the Vega in
the form of a break-up of the surrounding ice. Soon they were through the
Bering strait, and on their way home. Nordenskiöld had proved the Northeast
passage could be safely sailed through. The expedition’s success was a global
sensation, and the Vega was received with festivities in every harbour
it put into. From a first stop in Port Clarence (Alaska) the expedition
continued on to Japan, where even the emperor was curious to meet Nordenskiöld.
Hong Kong, China, Borneo, and Ceylon followed, and then, on the other side of
the Indian Ocean, Yemen, the Suez canal, the Mediterranean, and Naples. Twenty-one
months after the beginning of the expedition the Vega finally arrived to
a jubilant Stockholm on the 24th of April 1880. Nordenskiöld’s
voyage around the continent of Eurasia was complete.

 

Founder of the History of
Cartography

In the end the discovery of the Northeast passage did
not immediately reroute much commercial traffic, but it did provide excellent
fuel for the popular imagination. The true age of explorations was coming to an
end, but the fascination, the romance still lingered. After all, this was the
time when Jules Verne published his Voyages extraordinaires, and the two
books Nordenskiöld wrote about his journey were soon published in 11 languages.

With his royalties Nordenskiöld built up an extensive scientific
library of geographical history. He took a particular interest in early
cartographical literature, and in works describing voyages of exploration. Especially
the discovery of the New World fascinated him, and Nordenskiöld actually did go
to the Chicago Universal Exposition to promote his book "First maps of
America". It was a fitting occasion since the Exposition, also known as
the Columbian Exhibition, commemorated the 400th anniversary of
Columbus' journey to America.

Nordenskiöld had become a Swedish citizen, held the
post of Superintendent of the mineralogical department in the Swedish Royal
Museum from the age of 26 unto his death, and made all his great expeditions under
the Swedish flag. He had been created a baron, appointed a member of the
Swedish Academy, and received a place in the Swedish Diet, but in his heart he
always remained a Finn. After all, it was here, at Louhisaari manor, that he
had married the baroness Anna Maria Mannerheim, the aunt of another Finnish
hero. While during his lifetime Nordenskiöld had made his collection available
to other scholars by publishing a Facsimile-atlas of the most important maps, at
his death he wanted the collection, in its entirety, to be located in Finland.

Today The A.E. Nordenskiöld Collection, comprising
over 400 atlases and 24, 000 historical maps, is one of the greatest treasures
of the Helsinki University Library, and included in the UNESCO Memory of the
World Register.

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Hurraa for children!

The minimum age for audience members for one of the productions
premiering at the festival couldn't be much lower: crawling and walking age
children. Working group Anttonen, Nuotio, Davies
offers them Rapurytmikarnevaali, an
action-packed crab-crawl rhythm and salsa carnival with songs that will make
everybody want to swing.

{mosimage}Children over five can
enjoy Sammakkoprinsessa (The Frog
Princess), a mix of fairytale, opera and puppet theatre, based on classic
folktales. While one of the many acts for 7 to 12-year-olds is Klokbornin Jättiläisjamit (Klokborn’s
Giant Jam), a show that combines shadow theatre with a wide variety of music
styles and brings to life the giants Gargantua and Pantagruel, created by 15th
century French writer Rabelais. 

The oldest non-adults
are well catered for with Idiothello,
a joint production by the Åbo Svenska Teater and the Von Krahl theatre in
Tallinn. Directed and choreographed by Muscovite Sasha Pepelyaev, the show draws upon two classical masterpieces,
Dostoevsky’s The Idiot and
Shakespeare’s Othello. The language
used is Swedish, but the piece is performed in a physical way with little
speech. 

The Hurraa! Festival
offers children many fun and exciting experiences, but also takes up some
serious topics like bullying, the divorce of parents, a mother’s depression and
children’s rights and fears. Surkeus
& Kurjuus
(Gloom & Doom), for example, is a play for children aged
8-12 and broaches the fear after change and separation, plus how to conquer it.
Pikku Piru (Little Devil) is aimed at
the same age group and follows the story of a little boy who is bullied at
school, but whose parents are too busy to help him. 

The festival culminates
with the Näyteikkuna (Display window)
at the East-Helsinki Cultural Centre Stoa on March 16th and 17th, offering
non-stop theatre for children of all ages, even for babies. The events at Stoa
end with a workshop and seminar for makers of youth theatre with playwrights
Jeremy Turner from Britain and Maria Ines
Falconi
from Argentina. 

The Hurraa! Festival is
organized by the cultural departments of the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and
Vantaa in cooperation with the Finnish ASSITEJ centre, Helsinki’s Theatre
Museum and the cultural department of Kauniainen. 

 

 
The performances take place at cultural centres, youth
centres, multipurpose buildings and schools throughout Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa
and Kauniainen.

Tickets 4-5 euros, festival pass for all performances on
16th and 17th March at Stoa 20 euros. 

Full details on all the acts (in Finnish and Swedish, with
some summaries in English), locations and the festival programme: www.hurraa.org

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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
Olym-pigs…ouch!

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Finnish cinema reaches abroad

The
industry is suffering, however, as public funding has failed to follow the
production costs – not even the general inflation. Film production pays more
taxes than it gets in support, plus most of the budget is spent on human
labour. The audience wants the films, the process dynamically benefits the
society, but politicians have failed to react to this. I think it is a shame.

Lutheran
life attitude still affects Finnish politics. Art and cinema does not feel like
"work" or "real", even after the IT bubble popped it is
still relatively easy to fund things with words "mobile" or "digital"
in the business plan. I think it would be great national self-defence, a
patriotic act, to strengthen the story industry, even just for a fraction of
the cost of the, just as such important, support for technological development.

Films are
universal, eternal signs of our life and our time. Seeing films evokes
feelings, such as compassion, anger, anxiety, amusement and whatever else possible.
Feelings means being alive. Emotions can make people happy. Happiness is tax
money well spent! Therefore, making a film is a patriotic act.

Each film
producers, such as myself, looks abroad to solve a chicken and egg type of problem.
The budgets are becoming increasingly harder to secure, so we must find foreign
investors, buyers and audiences. However, how can we find those when our small
budgets make our films look old, slow and childish in comparision?

We must
spend more time making better films than whining about money.

Some great
victories have been achieved. Jade
Warrior
is an example of a film that will be at the disposal of hundreds of
millions of people. The new Rölli
animation has been sold to many countries a year before its official release. I
just sold an upcoming Aku Louhimies film to the most important arthouse cinema
broadcaster in Europe, ZDF-Arte. Perhaps there is light at the end of the
tunnel?

The
language of film is international, as is the craft of making films. Every
production company receives more and more job applications from non-native
Finns, although the odds for these applicants are not too good. They lack the
network of contacts built during years of filmwork and film schools. Making
English the production language can restrict some older members of the film
society from working on the projects. Still, these foreign people will bring
invaluable aspects and experiences with them to Finnish cinema.

Solving
their problem can be a part of solving the film export issue.
Keep applying and we will keep trying!

Categories
Articles Misc

Art makes the world go around

The
American producer had bought a super yacht with the revenue he made with his
last film. “What about the rest of the money then?” Biotechnics shares was the answer. 

The Greek
producer had remained silent and the other two turned to him and asked what he
had bought with the revenue from his latest film? “A tape recorder”, he
replied. “And what about the rest of the money?”, the other two asked. 

”My mom
lent me the rest”, the proud Greek said. 

You could
replace Greece with Finland and there would be no difference. Filmmaking in a
country of five million is business wise nearly as absurd as agriculture in
these freezing and dark latitudes. But it is a well-known fact that once you
have food, shelter and health, money has little influence in happiness. Greed
is not the strongest motivator in life. (I was once close to starting a joint
film production company with an Icelandic colleague – it would’ve been called Lust, Envy & Greed Ltd). 

It is
incredibly rewarding to work on something that feels meaningful. This explains
why nurses, teachers, policemen and many others keep on working hard despite
minuscule pay. Feeling of something bigger also motivates film workers, who
joggle their lives between short but exhausting 50-hour weeks and months of
unemployment without hope. 

Crews
working on commercials get better paid than when working on film – even though
it is the same people doing the same kind of job. But the absence of something
bigger – a meaning, be it art, innovation or just ambitious entertainment –
must be financially compensated for. 

There is
not much glamour in actual film life. In Finland, actors do not have vans with
Jacuzzis. They take public transport to the shoot and eat cold food on
disposable paper plates during lunch breaks. Of course, they feel mistreated
and underpaid, which is also true. But there is a lot of truth in the English
language – the verb play refers to both a child’s playing, and acting. What a
luxurious job it is to get paid for having fun! 

Some people
think that people working in the creative business are privileged. It is very
true. But it also true of everybody who knows that their work makes the world
just a little bit better – or at least more bearable.

Categories
Cover story Misc

Finnish design all around you

Finnish design has reached all kind of levels in our everyday life. You
can see it in the latest model of mobile phone, or carried in the form of a bag
by the trendiest teenager in a fashionable pub late at night.

{mosimage}Roots & wings

Marimekko is the leading Finnish textile and clothing design company,
which is also well known outside of Finland’s borders. They design and
manufacture high-quality clothing, interior decoration textiles, bags and other
accessories. Some of the greatest Finnish designers have collaborated with the
company, such as Jukka Rintala. He
started his career 30 years ago and is well known especially for the evening
gowns he designs. But they are not the only thing he does; he is a versatile
designer, and
he has done costumes for theatre
performance,
as well as
interior and clothing design.

Marimekko has been one of the most important Finnish success stories
over the decades, in fact ever since the company was established in 1951. Some
of their products and prints that you will see on the shelves of the shops
today are as old as company, but nowadays more in style than ever!

So, what’s new in Marimekko? Something very unique and interesting is going
on: the company has signed an agreement to start cooperation under license,
concerning the decoration of elevator car interiors. The agreement that was made
with KONE, a large Finnish machine manufacturer, provides an opportunity to
apply Marimekko design to elevators by decorating the internal walls of an
elevator car with a decorative laminate. “These two strong international brands
will strengthen each other and provide architectural planning with a new
dimension,” says Matti Alahuhta, the president of KONE Corporation. And
according to Kirsti Paakkanen, the president of Marimekko, “the agreement
reflects the goal of both parties to make design a part of people's everyday
lives”. And you can even change the laminate, so your elevator is stylish for
every occasion! You wouldn’t have guessed that the manufacturer of elevator
cars and one of the hottest clothing design company have anything in common, would
you?

 

Camping spirit

Finnish designers are very ingenious. If Marimekko designs interiors of elevator
cars, the designer of IVANAHelsinki gives the key of her apartment to her
customers. What is going on? Isn’t the regular shop enough? 

Wait, we have to go back in time first. The company was founded by
designer Paola Suhonen and her sister Pirjo Suhonen in 1998. There is a new
trend called Fennofolk, which is a mix of Scandinavian pure and simple lines,
and IVANAHelsinki represents this new style, which is a combination of modern
Scandinavian and Slavic style with a new twist. The style was born in Finland and the
oddness of the Finns is big part of it. That means that the clothes are a bit
absurd, in such a way that you will wonder if some part of the design should be
like that or not.

There is lot of going on in IVANAHelsinki these days. Paola Suhonen’s
designs are well known in Finland,
but also internationally. One country that particularly adores IVANA´s style is
Japan,
where the company has a huge market. Just recently, the Suhonen sisters paid a
visit to this oriental country to assist to several exhibitions of their
designs.

But one more domestic and slightly unusual promotion is happening here
in Helsinki:
Paola Suhonen opened her home to her customers! According to Paola’s sister and
business partner, Pirjo Suhonen, “the idea was to bring the shop into home,
totally the opposite to the normal way of thinking when home products are in a
shop”.

The apartment, or should I say home, is in trendy, but rough,
neighbourhood called Kallio, in Helsinki.
It is open for the loyal customers, who will get the key and can visit, spend
time and shop when they have time to do it. What makes this concept unique is
the level of trust. The idea is to make the customers to feel like they are at
home. There are 10 keys available and one of them could be yours for a month!

 

The bear is back!

Karhu, which means 'bear' in Finnish, makes sports gear, and much of
their range has remained unchanged from when it first appeared. The story of
the company was almost coming to and end when Karhu teamed up with an
advertising company and decided to do something: improve the marketing and tell
consumers about Karhu’s long journey. This is Karhu’s second success story.

The company was established in 1916 and the picture of a bear was
already used in the company logo. In the beginning, discus and javelins were the
most important products, but running and track shoes were also manufactured. In
the 1930s the product range expanded even more.

{mosimage}Due to the Helsinki Olympics (in 1952) Karhu became a significant sports
equipment manufacturer and earned its international reputation as the leading
manufacturer of athletic shoes. An interesting fact is that Karhu sold its
three stripes trademark to one – these days well-known – man, whose sport brand
also uses the same trademark. According the story the, price they got was two
bottles of good whiskey and about 1,600 euros. Over the next decades Karhu
became a well-known trademark for athletic shoes for top runners worldwide and
it developed the first air cushion system for its trainers in '70s.

Even though the design and quality were excellent, the marketing of the
products wasn’t very good and that is why the brand was pretty much forgotten around
the late '80s and '90s, until the beginning of the millennium when the Karhu
Originals collection was launched. The company co-operated with their advertising
company and they spent lot of money on marketing the trainers and bags and it
was worth every penny, because today Karhu is a big name in fashion; the
products have huge retro appeal and are extremely trendy nowadays. Karhu’s long
history and high quality are the things which attract the buyers today. Another
nice fact is that Karhu Originals are hand-made in Europe.

 

The plastic pioneer

Eero Arnio represents very well the innovative Finnish spirit. Born in
1932, he studied from 1954 to 1957 at the Institute of Industrial
Arts in Helsinki.
Not long after opening his own office, he designed the famous “Ball Chair”. The
fiberglass material and shape used supposedly a great novelty at that time. He
was and is also a pioneer in the way he works with the materials; for example,
he developed “rotation molding”, a particular method of working with plastic
(medium density polyethylene) that offers the same possibilities as fiberglass
in terms of quality, but at a lower cost.

 

Houseware magicians

The disillusionment at seeing the lack of creativity at the tableware section
of the Ambiente fair of Frankfurt led to former friends from the University of
Art and Design in Helsinki
Tony Alfström (1972 Finland)
and Brian Keaney (1974 Ireland) to found Tonfisk on December 17th,
1999. And no
wonder that the founders raise their glasses filled with Finnish vodka to mark
that day every year. Things are running smoothly for a company that
nowadays exports
their products to more than 30 different countries. This
dynamic and youthful
spirit appears clear when you take a look at their designer´s most creative
ideas
; they all radiate refreshment of ideas and a joyful spirit. If you have
the chance, take a look at the 'Oma' lemon squeezer by Jenni Ojala and Susanna
Hoikkola
, or the milk and
sugar “Newton” set by Tanja Sipilä.

And obviously, once
you start to transform your kitchen into
your own personal Finnish design museum, the experience can be fascinating. Shapes
that you would never imagine appear in concordance with the environment in the
design of small details to which you had never paid attention before. If not,
take a look to the curvy modern forms of Majamoo wooden trivets (
a three-legged metal stand for
supporting a cooking pot over a flame)
, trays or
chopsticks. The user may be tempted
to use their small beautiful
pieces to eat, or just to preserve them on the table as a timeless decoration
set.

 

125 years anniversary

But undoubtedly, when
referring to homeware design, special mention goes to the Iittala group, with
125 years of existence, which – apart from their own company
 also has strong presence through their brands
Arabia and Hackman. Its story dates back to 1881, when a glass factory was
established in Iittala, a small Finnish village north of Helsinki. Iittala has
25 shops around the world, highly concentrated in Holland, where you can find
10, and a new one was
recently
opened to the public in Amsterdam.

As a highlight in the
company’s history, there is the world famous Alvar Aalto vase, designed in 1936
and still widely produced

today
. Even with the passing of the years, his designs do
not lose importance
; rather the opposite, they
look more appropriate now than ever.
Even the
director of the Aalto Foundation, Markku Lahti, is invited in November to
a series of conferences around
the USA, an example of the respect and veneration that the
Aalto´s work generates all over the world.

And that is not the
only link in
North American with Finnish design. In Madison, Wisconsin State, in the USA, you
can find the headquarters of Fiskars, a company that creates quality tools. The
name comes from the city with the same name located in west
ern Finland,
where Dutch merchants established a blast furnace. Soon, the company gained
fame for the
high quality of their iron products, and that fame
has remained until the present day. The characteristic Finnish commitment
to innovation and ease of use can be found even in their gardening scissors.

You would think that Finnish design is simple and clean, but in fact it
can surprise you: Just take an elevator car ride, go to your favourite
designer’s home and chill out or take a walk in the trendiest shoes on the
streets. It is Finnish design everywhere!

Categories
Articles Misc

The First Time

Expectations run high, first impressions
are everything, the benchmark of quality must be set and now I am referring to
the column, not my sexual technique, which has thankfully improved a little.
Columns need to push the readers' right buttons, caress their intimate places,
nibble their earlobes, stroke their thighs, lick their…ok, this is getting
ridiculous and a touch uncomfortable. 

You'd agree that columns are usually
written by well-known personalities whose out-spoken opinions have garnished
them with notoriety or a comedic edge that translates well into text. I'm sure
you are wondering how any of these apply to me; well, allow me to explain. I am
eminent among those who know me and they will all vouch that my heart is in
comedy, although it rarely works once it leaves my mouth. 

There is no formula for writing a good
column (if somebody does have one, please mail me), with the words spilling
forth from the personality of the author and mixed together with a healthy
splash of opinion. Aside from that, there are no rules to column writing and
currently there have been no rules decreed by either Antonio or Eduardo, but
give it time, give it time. Cue maniacal evil laughter and rubbing of hands. 

January does have the habit of bringing out
the strange aspect of people's characters and it is no exception in my case.
However, it is also a month for resolutions, new diaries and Christmas presents
still shiny and operational, so what better time for Finland to celebrate the
arrival of a new English language culture magazine? We are all looking for
something different after the frivolities of Christmas and trying to ignore the
fact that Valentine's Day is peeking round the corner – there you go guys, a
year's subscription to FREE! for your loved one on Feb 14th. 

{mosimage}After losing your virginity (yes, we are
back to that again), you spend the rest of your life anticipating when the next
romp is going to be, which is similar to the way many of us approach the year.
We struggle to enjoy the immediate moment, always looking to the future to the
next celebration, the next birthday, the next wedding, the next graduation or
the next big thing, while life passes by unnoticed with our attention directed
elsewhere. Take some time out of your life this year to breathe and to absorb
what is going on around you because it will be another distant memory before
you know it. 

Serious time is over. We can now return to
normal programming…where was I? Oh yes, losing your cherry. Once you have that
haunting first time out of the way you can knuckle down and hone your skills,
so you can expect something a great deal kinkier and bursting with misplaced
confidence next time. The FREE! guys believe that I am the man for the job, but
why they stuck me at the back shall remain unquestioned…for now. 

To have made it this far into the magazine
and into my column means that you have been significantly entertained by the
team's efforts and you will now be counting the days until issue two is
published. However, I suggest that with issue two you start at the back and
read my next column first.

Make the most of 2007!

Categories
Articles Misc

Send me some of hi-tech lovin’

He told me about
it in Messenger.

I cannot even
remember how was possible to have a date and be at the right place at the right
time before owning a mobile phone. My first one was looking (and weighing) more
like a brick than like a phone, a huge Motorola, and I bought it when I was 18,
for work reasons. That was not so many years ago, but seems like ages.

This year, for Christmas,
I did not send any greetings letters. It was easier to send a general mail to the
entire contacts list. And I can hardly remember how it feels to have the mail
box full of envelopes that don't have to do with bank bills or advertising.

I am so used to
writing mails and documents using the keyboard (and I think I am pretty good
and fast doing it) that if I take a pencil and write for more than 10 minutes,
my hand hurts.

I have not played
soccer for ages, but just half an hour ago I scored a couple of beautiful goals
from out of the penalty area in my PS2 playing Pro Evolution Soccer 6.

I am not trying to
criticize the incredibly fast growth of new technologies. New devices make our
life easier, and offer a huge new world of opportunities for us, mortal users.
But I sometimes miss the human touch of bumping into a friend in the street,
and going on the spur of the moment to share a few of minutes of company, and a
hot coffee, instead of having to send an SMS to arrange a meeting two weeks
earlier.

I would like to
continue with my reflections, but it is time to stop. My virtual girlfriend
calls me via Skype. She is really angry because she caught me dumping her in a
dating chat yesterday. She used a different nick than the usual one to trap me…

Categories
Cover story Misc

Living in a virtual world, making real money

MMORPG or
massive multiplayer online role-playing is already one of the most popular
forms of entertainment on the Internet with more than 15 million users in 2006.
It is also a business opportunity whose revenues are expected to reach over a
billion dollars by 2009, according to recent studies.

{mosimage}Second Life
is one of the most popular virtual worlds. It has nothing to do with
interstellar wars or medieval battles. As its name says, Second Life proposes
an alternative life in a virtual 3D world where people (or avatars) meet and
chat, assist in lectures and concerts or do business, buying and selling land
and items. To enter this world one just needs to create a free account through
the website and download a small program. More than two million users have
already done it. The avatars can dress up prettily, flirt with each other or
walk naked in the nudist beach

Since its
launch in 2003, Second Life has attracted the attention of mass media. The BBC
and the New York Times have echoed every day’s happenings in this virtual world
and news agency Reuters has developed the Second Life news center. However,
among bloggers and analysts there is also criticism that has accused Second
Life of just being a hype, since a large percentage of the more than two
million residents do not actively participate in the virtual once the account
is created.

 

Doing business

Second
Lifers own the virtual goods they create and retain their copyrights. This way,
they can traded in Linden dollars (L$), which have a real world value: around 260
L$ equals 1 US $. Linden dollars are necessary to buy land or to get married (marriage
fee is 10 L$, but divorce gets more expensive, up to 25 L$). Some users are
starting to earn a living from working in the virtual world, for example
through virtual clothing design. The more dramatic voices have already suggested
that the Second Life world could be used as a money laundering centre.

The virtual
world has produced its very own millionaires who have become very wealthy
people in real life. Last year Anshe
Chung
(or Ailin Graef) became the first online personality to achieve a net
worth exceeding one million US dollars from profits entirely earned inside a
virtual world. The avatar even made it to the cover of Business Week last May.
Chung made her first stake of money as a virtual escort, and soon moved to
virtual real state. She buys up land in Second Life, develops it (building
houses, adding rivers, mountains, etc) and then rents it or sells it to other
users. It is a continent she named Dreamland.

But
entrepreneurs and corporations are not always well received in Second Life.
Recently Anshe Chung’s interview with CNET was interrupted due to an attack
with animated items. Some corporate events are met with protests by
placard-waving avatars and the Second Life Liberation Army fights for voting
rights for avatars.

This year
seems to be a milestone in finding out if big business operations in Second
Life can pay off, especially since it recently opened its source code.
Available under the GNU Public License any developer can legally modify the
software. A good bunch of add-ons and bug fixes is expected.

 

Media circus

Last
August, Suzanne Vega was the first
major recording artist to perform live in Second Life avatar form. Lectures and
cyberclasses are organized by professors and colleges. Newspapers are read and
video and music can be streamed while living in the virtual world.

The game
expands the community possibilities of the web. Gates between the real and the
virtual world can be created with SLurl, link that connect a website with a
location in Second Life. Movies made by second lifers and starring by avatars
are broadcast on popular sites like YouTube and film festivals are organized in
the virtual world. Whether the next generation of supermarket will be a 3D room
on the Internet is still to be seen.

 

Finland’s own virtual world

{mosimage}With less
hype other virtual world exists and even predating Second Life, in 2000 Finland's
Sampo Karjalainen and Aapo Kyrölä created Hotel Habbo, which has
been expanded to 29 countries already. Around 80% percent of its users are
teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18. Instead of complicated 3D environments,
Habbo uses simple cartoon graphics, creating a pleasant retro look. Users can
create their own character, their rooms in the hotels and even their own
virtual worlds to interact with others.

The rules
are strict in the Hotel Habbo. Conversations and comments in the community pass
through a filter before they appear in the screen. Swearing, racist and sexist
terms are not allowed.

In six years
online, Hotel Habbo has gathered 70 million registered users. Each month 7.5
million unique users visit the hotel and play. Some of these are pretty
popular. In 2005, the band Gorillaz performed a virtual world tour around twelve
Habbo hotels.

Categories
Cover story Misc

Uncovering the Underground

{mosimage}Conrad, born in 1940, was in charge of the opening concert at the Kiasma Theatre. In the early sixties he was a seminal figure in the art scene in New York, being part of the legendary Theatre of Eternal Music with John Cale and La Monte Young, among others. Projecting his shadow on a white sheet while playing, he offered an hour-long nonstop piece of improvisation with an electronic violin. His compositions are based on what is known as minimalistic music.

Before the musical performance, the festival showed two of most acclaimed films by Tony Conrad, who graciously chatted about them with the audience. The “structural” short film Articulation of Boolean Algrebra for Film Opticals (1975) is a hypnotic succession of six patterns of alternating black and white stripes imposed upon the full surface of the film strip. In Conrad’s words, the film “literally unifies the optical and sound tracks. Both are the result of a design that follows an algorithmic system of stripes. The scale of the six stripes on the film strip positions them in relation to screen design, flicker, tone, rhythm, and meter, all with octave relationships”. On the other hand, the amusing Cycles of 3’s and 7’s is a sort of musical performance in which the harmonic intervals that would ordinarily be performed by a musical instrument are represented through the computation of their arithmetic relationships or frequency ratios.

{quotes}The festival’s programme was also devoted to rescuing the history of experimental Finnish films and video art.{/quotes} Several screenings were organized all over the weekend to show an array of underground Finnish films since the 1960s. This series of screenings was presented under the name of Sähkömetsä (Electric Forest), which is also the title of an upcoming book from the Finnish National Gallery which aims to document this forgotten story of Finnish filmmaking. Special emphasis was placed on the work of Pasi Myllymäki who showed his experimental works during the 1970s and 1980s in the original Super 8 format.

Following the tradition of tape music concerts, sound reproduction equipment took the stage on Saturday to play original works of Jim O’Rourke, who was a member of Sonic Youth and is responsible for Wilco’s latest sound and success. The festival commissioned and premiered works of O’Rourke and German composer Ralf Wehowsky.

Categories
Cover story Misc

Playing Dress-Up

Embroidered panties on top of jeans. Treasures from great-grandmothers’ trunks. Japanese fashion designers. Fox collars. Lacy parasols. Glam rock hairdos and tight, tight jeans.

The Hel Looks exhibition is an off-shoot of a street fashion site that Liisa Jokinen and Sampo Karjalainen created in 2005. The mission of their project is to portray stylish, original and individual dressers from Helsinki. Currently the site features 400 photographs.

Jokinen says the idea for Hel Looks developed during her bike rides to work in the spring of 2005. The first photographs were taken in July, after a trip to Stockholm. “We realised that street fashion in Helsinki is actually much more diverse and interesting than in Sweden. {quotes}Stockholmians are fashionable, but in Helsinki people look more original{/quotes},” she says.

But why traipse around Helsinki streets and clubs, take hundreds of photographs and post them online? On their website, Jokinen and Karjalainen say that they want to encourage people to dress individually and create their own styles, and to promote emerging Finnish designers. However, the main reason is that Helsinki-dwellers look great, they say.

{mosimage}The staff at Jugendsali say that craft teachers particularly have taken to the exhibition. Not a day goes by without a group of school children visiting. Expect a new generation of stylish dressers! The Hel Looks exhibition is a source of craft inspiration indeed. Jokinen and Karjalainen’s subjects refuse to make do with what chain stores and fashion magazines offer them. They create their own styles with second-hand and vintage clothing, and have no fear of modifying and customising.

In her portrait, Anni, 14, shows off her revamped shoes. “I bought my shoes from a shop and decorated them with pearls. When you make clothes yourself or customize them, you get exactly the clothes you want,” she says. And who says boys don’t sew? “I bought a jeans jacket for 50 cents from the recycling center, cut off the sleeves, dyed it, added the patches and made this vest out of it. My mother bought the jeans for me and I took the seams in to make them smaller. I don't go to shops,” says 15-year old Heikki.

In the age of big clothing chains with even bigger logistics operations, you can buy the same dress or shirt in almost any major city in the world. However, you don’t have to, and Hel Looks showcases people who don’t. Small labels spring up from basement workshops and self-taught seamstresses create unique designs. Fashion is no longer created only in Paris. Tokyo attracts Jokinen more, however. In fact, Hel Looks was initially modelled after Fruits, a Japanese street fashion magazine by Shoichi Aoki. “You have to admire the sense of style of the Japanese, but both Japanese and Finns have their own styles and that is good – it isn’t obvious anymore, as mainstream fashion becomes more and more uniform,” Jokinen says.

At its best, dressing up brings a bit of art and whimsy into every morning. “Dressing up is entertainment for me. I never take it too seriously even if I can spend hours thinking about clothes. It is a hobby and lifestyle that I couldn't live without,” says Minna, 25. Jokinen agrees: “Dressing up means having fun, being creative and playing. I don’t want to take fashion deathly seriously. Lots of things can be fashionable right now, in their own way.”