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!"

Articles Misc

One big family!

But we are animals after all and have a strong need to belong to a group. Luckily there’s a solution to this. The communities and families have been replaced by the celebrities! They make us feel the safe sense of belonging! They are all ours to share!

In the good old days we used to peek from behind the net curtains to see what the neighbours were up to. Nowadays we peek into the media. Oh, how we yearn to know what the prime minister likes to cook for his beauty or with whom a TV-presenter went on holiday. The celebrities have become the family we all share. We love to hate them and simply can’t live without them. But unlike with family we can choose them. We can elect whom we want and whom we don’t want as our nearest and dearest. Ah – such freedom!

Kimi Räikkönen is the village boy done well. We are all happy for his successes as long as he doesn’t forget his humble roots. Susan Kuronen (does anybody remember her?) has become the equivalent to the outrageous aunt who dances on the tables at the family weddings and snogs anyone she can lay her hands on. The Idols contestants are those cute kids who perform at the county hall and we admire in them the innocence and courage we once all had. We also have Britney, the wild girl of the town. She was such a nice girl but don’t know what’s happened to her lately. And hasn’t Victoria lost an awful lot of weight? I don’t think all is well between her and David, oh no…

A couple of summers ago I decided not to read any yellow press ever again. All went really well at first. I felt pure and elevated above all things common and base. But soon I was to notice that I could not take part in an idle chit chat as I was not up to scratch with my media gossip. So I’ve resorted to taking an occasional look at the mags when at the hairdressers and I read the headlines spread out in the windows of every shop.

But now I’ve taken a step even further though. I’m entertaining the idea of moving to the country and returning back to the small community of my childhood. As I gaze into the eyes of my beloved underneath an apple tree outside of the farmhouse we could one day live in, I’m quite sure I could be happy to view the world through my net curtains and gossiping and being gossiped about in the market square. I’d happily leave the Britneys and Susans to the city dwellers with freedom and individuality. I’d be content at being blissfully ignorant. Or would I?

Articles Misc

Sonic vs Mario

The Atari 2600 was forgotten and a new era started with… the incredible 16 Mega video console Sega Mega drive (…Applauses…).

And Sega’s new baby was really a beautifully designed console. Nothing to do with the grey Nintendo 8 bites, that was the most popular video console at that time.

The Sega Mega drive was the closest step to the promise land of reaching the technology and graphics that could only be enjoyed in the arcades (where I and my friends were burning our free time and weekly pay, since we were not old enough to go to clubs or pubs).

And together with the video console, I discovered the sensation of the videogame world: his name was Sonic, Sonic the Hedgehog.

This blue creature was the fastest thing you had ever seen moving on screen in the videogame world. One of the funniest challenges when playing was to advance to the next stage in the shortest period of time. And even girls loved to play it!

Sonic was promoted as a sensation by the Sega marketing people: blue coloured (the same as the logo of the Japanese company) and a direct attack on their main competitors: the legendary Super Mario Bros.

It was no longer a battle between Sega and Nintendo, it was a battle between Sonic and Mario. And yeah man, I was on Sonic´s side. I mean, how could you compare a fat Italian plumber with a moustache, whose best feature was having a hot blonde girlfriend (remember my friends, that I was a kid – nowadays I would pay more attention to the blonde girlfriend’s part of the story), and who shared the company of his twin, Luigi, to a sharp and fresh animal: fast as a flash and full of new tricks!? Nobody had seen a damned hedgehog moving like that before; and nobody had experienced a platform game as cool and addictive before Sonic burst onto the market. It was the year 1991 and Sonic was the new Lord of the Rings.

Later on, Nintendo counter-attacked with the new video console Super NES. Now, looking back, I must admit that Nintendo’s one was probably technically much better, and had a much wider catalogue of games. But well, when you are a kid, defending the honour of your favourite videogame’s developing company is like defending the honour of your mother. And everybody has only one mother – no space for secondary love: if you were pro-Sega, you were against Nintendo.

Other sequels of the games came, other amazing advances had to be played; but in my heart the first Sonic videogame remains the one that changed the conception of home entertainment.

Articles Misc

The Church of Chocolate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Articles Misc

Year of the Pig

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

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

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

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

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

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

Articles Misc

Art makes the world go around

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. 

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.

Articles Misc

Finnish cinema reaches abroad

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.

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
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

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.

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

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!

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

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…