Life

Life

Lockdown Life


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Lockdown and social distancing continues here in Helsinki and all over the world. Now that my business with the marketing company wrapped, I’ve dug out the pile of scripts I’ve been working on and started to set some goals, deadlines and making some work plans on how to get them finished. Because, well, there’s nothing else there to do. Of course, I’ve applied for grants, temporary government and other organization “quick help” funds to help my family ride through the shitstorm that’s COVID-19, but we are looking at some pretty grim times ahead, I can tell that already.

Yet, it’s funny to see how, once you start setting up your day based on all the work that kinda needs to be done but nobody’s paying for it, the calendar starts filling up, and quickly. It’s probably in some way nice, people really *want* my time, only, nobody’s really willing (or able) to pay for it. Ahh, being an independent artist truly has its’ perks! But simultaneously, being able to set my mind on projects I actually am feeling enthusiastic about, one can’t put a price on that. Well, one should, but I was never the money guy anyway, right?

Ah well. When looking it from this perspective, it kinda looks all a bit depressing, but at the same time, at least I have this special position of being able to do movies, which gives me kind of a never-ending well of possible work to be done, which may or may not turn into something actual one day. If I was to work for somebody else, or at a service industry, I’d just have to sit at home and hope this all blows over. So yeah, at least I’m keeping myself busy, although it might be currently more like fighting the windmills.

One way I’m keeping busy is a documentary I’ve been producing with Tero. It’d directed by Tuomas Tuppurainen, our trusty in-house editor slash graphics guy slash director slash quite a lot of other things – a Swiss army knife on two legs, practically. The story is that Tero told him a few years back to start going through all the material we’ve been filming and putting it together into a documentary and as he started doing that, the story started to come clearer: it’s not a documentary about filmmaking as much as it actually is a doc about being an entrepreneur in this crazy business. Tero rose out to be the central figure of the story and it’s quite an honest and straight-shooting documentary, unlike many making-of -docs and the sorts tend to be. Remains to be seen what people dig of it, but I personally find it actually quite great. We’re putting it out on Friday this week, the trailer is here:

Anyway, I’m keeping my spirits up. I’ve been doing this 100 Days of Horror -thing on my YouTube channel, where I set myself on a journey to watch 100 horror films during the quarantine proceedings. First 8 or something is done, but I found watching a film a day rather taxing, and instead of being too religious on this one, I allow myself a few episodes of The Wire now and then, and few days off, too. But anyway, that’s a good way to keep myself using the time I’m not doing anything else by watching films I should’ve seen a long time ago.

I’m also catching up with reading. Currently, my Kindle is loaded with a lot of stuff, but the one I’m digging into the history of Soviet Union, having just finished One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich, a fictitious but very detailed account on a day of gulag prisoner’s life, and am currently reading Orlando Figes’ Revolutionary Russia, 1981-1991, an account on how the Soviet Union came to be and undone.

Weeks go by in lockdown mostly sitting in my son’s room that I turned now into my office, as he’s not here, then exercising and making food and watching films and TV. On weekends, we share some wine with my wife and watch movies (just ran through The Godfather trilogy) and talk about the world, our kids and our lives. We’re trying to make the best out of the time, and manage to do it rather well.

Having said that, I’m not envious of any parents who need to be home-schooling the kids, in addition to working from home. If nothing else good comes out of this Corona crisis, at least I trust the respect for school teachers, kindergarten teachers, and nurses, doctors and store personnel should go up. But who am I kidding, it’ll never do that. We’ll learn nothing out of this mess, as such is human nature.

Life

Walls Closing In


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Some companies and for example film productions here in Finland still keep operating like nothing’s different and their business is above everyone else’s safety and health, which I think kinda sucks. Everyone knows that if you stick an office full of workers on a daily basis (while the key operatives of the company are doing work from out of home in the meanwhile), or stuff 40-50 people in a hot room that’s full of camera equipment, sweat and way too little space to move about without touching each other is exactly what the government has been telling us not to do. Not everything needs to have a governmental shutdown order, we’re still free to use our own fucking heads here, people…

Anyway, I’m just ranting since I’m stuck here at home and it’s getting pretty shitty I must say. It’s the little things that start to annoy: why does that PS4 have to be so damn loud. Nope, I don’t want to do the dishes exactly now, I’ll do them when I feel like it. Nope, I don’t want to watch that show, let’s watch this movie instead. When your living environment subsides, the small things become extremely relevant, and vice versa – simultaneously, I find myself caring less and less about international politics, and more if my damn bike I just bought is gonna make it to the store before they close it, or do I have to wait for the quarantine measures to ease up to get it eventually one day – possibly not before the end of summer.

And really, it’s just been, what, two weeks? Something like that. I have to plop my head out of my ass and see the world for what it is.

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Greetings from the Quarantine
Life

Terve!


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When Finns greet each others, they say “terve!”. It means – “healthy”, and it’s an ages-old tradition, coming probably from “terveeksi” and “terveydeksi” – to your health! These days it means mostly “hi”, although “terve” has a bit more formal ring to it – it’s the most appropriate way to greet the older people – to wish them good health.

I think it’s quite a nice tradition, and hope that during the Corona epidemics, it would find its’ way to youth vocabulary as well, but in a statement telling your approximate health to the person you meet. So, in the future when we see each others, we say “terve” – “healthy”, claiming that we are good for approaching, shaking hand or whatever it is in the future we do when we meet each other.

Well, that’s the deepest thought I have had the entire day. Mostly, I’ve been trying to figure out my home studio setup for podcasts. Now, my son’s room is full of random video gear and I did manage to do one YouTube stream but I had no idea what it was actually doing. Luckily, some friends online told it seemed pretty fine, so my dreams of becoming the next Joe Rogan are one step closer to reality. Many more steps to follow, though.

Anyway, I’ve been healthy, been going outdoors (not among people but by myself) for walks, runs and training, which is good as it keeps the mind active and body healthy. I find myself enjoying sauna more, watching more TV, eating (and drinking) a bit more unhealthy and watching my overall state of health a bit more intensively.

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It’s interesting to see how the politics work these days. The opposition, who is in no kind of charge of things that are going on in the country at the moment try to seize the moment by pressing hard-line restrictions. We all know those restrictions might very well be coming, but those losers like Petteri Orpo and the True Finns party try tagging them first, and when they get implemented (after health professionals, scientists and politicians who actually make the call), they say “I’m happy they followed *my* predictions”, and after this all blows over, they’ll keep tooting their horn how they were right all along. It’s like calling “first” on comments field, and just as admirable.

 

Life

All Together Now


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Truth is, world is changing dramatically as we speak, and decades later we who lived through this time will be scrutinized by the actions we took during the time of the crisis – and right now, best we can do is do as little as possible outside your house, preferably nothing.

After about one week in lockdown, the dullening starts to set in. The plan to work out, eat well, watch interesting movies, catch up with things I’ve missed on TV and read, read a lot, is a rather fat joke, very remotely attached to reality. Also, everything you see around you is kinda crazier than what the entertainment factory can offer – and, simultaneously, way less dramatic. Outside, the world seems like after a nuclear disaster or zombie holocaust – there’s nearly nobody anywhere, and there’s something in the air, a virus that has halted the whole world for the first time in history in this level.

I’m taking some comfort reading about the Soviet revolution in Russia. The end of 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, the world was in turmoil. Things changed, from the perspective of someone reading it 100 years later, very fast, but probably from the point of view of those living the daily life, they – well, those who realized something was going on in the first place – probably felt the same. It’s not panic or anything spontaneous and aggressive, it’s this underlying, nauseating feeling that things are going to be pretty damn bad. I felt it first time in my life when 9/11 happened, the second time when Trump got elected, and now, even stronger.

But I’m trying to keep a level-headed approach to things. Right now, mostly everyone is. We’ll see how long they are willing to play along. But for now, my four rules are:

  1. Listen to Sanna Marin.
  2. Wash Your Hands.
  3. Go nowhere.
  4. Figure out how to make a living.

My friend Tiia even made an illustration on this:

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On the last part, I’m starting to crunch out a bunch of scripts that have been lying around and figuring out a way to fund that process. I’ve also been thinking about setting up a podcast of some kind, now that I have time. I’m not yet 100% set on what actually it should be about, but I’ve already hoarded some gear up from Verkkokauppa and Iron Sky Universe’s storage. Let’s see what’ll come out of it. Oh, and we’re putting out a pretty cool Iron Sky documentary in few weeks time, more about that later.

 

Life

What of the Children?


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Oh boy, the longer we go into the quarantine, the more the fact unfolds that we are very, very unprepared as a country, or as a society, to face the pandemic conditions. While the at-risk group, the elder folk, are the ones taking the physical brunt of the virus, the mental brunt goes to the children, who are torn off from the schools and expected to follow their curriculum at home, at their own time, guided by either the parents, or teachers over the Skype, or classmates – nobody really knows who, and as there’s no general guidelines that the schools follow. Each teacher has their own method of teaching, some share the homework at Wilma or similar school systems, some through Whatsapp, some using Teams; some prefer distance learning, some have video sessions… It’s all a big mess, and no wonder – the whole school system has had to reinvent itself in less than a week, but one thing is already clear: those who suffer, are the kids. Too much is expected of them and their parents, who are by no means teachers or have any pedagocic skills, leading to even deeper mess – and conflicts at home, too. This generation will be remembered from the fact that our kids come half a year behind everyone else, if even more.

The quarantine requirements are slowly sitting down in my head, too. While few days ago I was still defiant, ready to challenge the guidelines and thinking they really apply to the big masses, not individuals, I’m starting to realize it really means each individual. This also means, my son won’t be traveling to see me to Helsinki from Tampere any time soon most likely, which sucks big time. We do keep contact over Skype but well, it’s like I’m in China and he’s in Finland, like it used to be few years back when I was shooting The Ark.

At work, we’ve been working hard trying to find digital solutions to physical plans we have, and have succeeded with some cases. President’s words – when we distance socially, we need mental proximity more than ever – work in many levels. We humans can’t be expected to stay away from others for too long, and while we Finns are pretty well known for our preference of isolation, there’s only so long we can really practice that. Thus, we need encounters, and while we can’t have them physically, luckily we do have the Internet.

Many others have noticed this, too. All kinds of co-working space software – Teams, Skype Pro and many others – are barely holding up the traffic. Just a few months ago I hadn’t even heard of Teams, and look at it now, how important it is not just for companies doing work from home, but also to kids studying, and more.

And boy, streaming services must have their servers overloaded these days. When there’s nothing else to do, that’s where we turn to and yeah, I’ve been catching up with loads of horror films I’ve missed and TV shows I’ve neglected. Not sure what kind of world we crawl back into in a few month’s time when this all starts to (hopefully) blow over, but I’m sure we’re going to really want to meet others.

While the response to everything is pretty rigid, and some instructions from higher up are conflicting (I still don’t know can we go to gym or film theater or not, have a birthday party or not, etc.), so far I think the current government has done the right moves. Having said that, we also know that this is most likely just the beginning of the lockdown – some suggest this all is gonna take at least another 188 days before things start to ease up.

Luckily, we are living in these times, not say 25 years earlier – nowadays, we have Netflix, Internet and multiple online communication methods, 25 years ago it was nothing but MTV3 and puzzles.

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Better cut it now while they are still open; next up, YouTube how-to videos on hairdressing on the menu…
Life

The Winners of Corona


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The purpose of a company is to generate profit, year after year. But when the crisis hits, all that profit seems to evaporate in thin air – the idea, that the company would produce negative profit for a couple of months *because* the workers have done such a great job for the past years, paying back for their contribution, seems to be a completely unimaginable situation. Looking at how many companies are doing major layoffs two *days* after the prime minister called in for crisis maneuvers is ridiculous. This I understand in small companies who struggle day-by-day to get by, but sizeable airlines, state-owned railway companies, and the likes – where is that profit when it’s actually needed for the good of the workers? What Corona-virus does it exposes the ugly side of capitalism for us all to see and observe and experience.

But there are those who are winning, thanks to the virus. The obvious ones – streaming services, the company that eventually comes up with the vaccine and online gaming companies rake in the profits, but again, capitalism reels its ugly head as the bottom-feeders march to the front line.

Take quickie loan companies, for example; now, that people are getting laid off, or want to stack up, or small businesses who struggle to stay in business, – nothing easier than selling a quickie for a bunch of panicking, desperate people who’ll pay whatever interest to get by.

Or what about telemarketers? They’re in seventh heaven: working from the confines of their quarantine, one thing they can be sure of: they’ll never catch anyone at a bad time, as nobody is doing anything, nor do they ever have a lack of common topics to start off their sales pitch – the virus and the social distancing unite us. But even worse, the people are thirsty for communication, especially the elder folk, who are locked in their homes – and as we know, the elder folk are easy prey for magazine salesmen. All the old and lonely, and possibly even scared want is to talk with somebody, and boy the telemarketers take advantage of that. And after talking a couple of minutes with someone, saying “no” to a very nice offer is very hard.

But there’s also something good in it. Finland has been struggling for low birth rates, but now that the people are at home – and bored – this side of things should be fixed in say 9 month time.

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Greetings from the Quarantine.
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Iron Sky meetings look these days like this. Work from home, stay healthy, lower the curve, #socialdistancing and all that.

 

Life

[Lockdown Sequence Initiated]


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Well, things got serious really fast here in Finland. From “well, let’s just not go to China for a while” to “close the borders” in just one month – but starting Wednesday, Finland is in full lockdown mode. The borders are closed, most of the government establishments are down, recreational spaces are closed, all sports are out and any gathering of 10 or more people is forbidden. Yeah, these are very peculiar times, every time I open the newspaper website, it’s like history is being written in front of my eyes. Yet, it’s strange how human mind works: instead of people panicking and going crazy – yeah, some do, but they are still a very small percentage amongst us all – we keep it calm and carry on.

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The Rust of March in Lauttasaari

The prolonged lockdown, including social distancing and all the other measures that are being taken by the Finnish government do create a unique situation: instead of us being able to go bascially anywhere, we need to stay put, in our homes, go outside as little as possible and try to cope with ourselves – with our immediate family and all the demons inside our heads. Suddenly, the parents stay in, instead of heading out to work every morning; the kids stay at home, instead of going to the school, or even play with friends. Suddenly, we have to face our family, day in, day out, with nowhere to run. While hopefully for the most people, this is good news, it’s also bound to unearth some pretty nasty things, too.

For sure, each country copes differently in the face of the crisis – interestingly, Finland seems to cope by hoarding wine boxes and toilet paper. Not really sure what to think of that… But what the full lockdown means for me is more home-time, more movies (I’ve started my Horror Quarantine month, more of that later) and a lot more walking in the Lauttasaari nature, now that there’s really nowhere to go. I’m pretty lucky for living in such a beautiful plot of land – there’s a lot to explore here. Also, my gym started to post home WODs (Workout Of the Day) online, so we can keep fit without risking spreading the disease all over.

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Working from home, the most important thing is to choose a good outfit. I go with full-on onesie and woolen socks. Comfy, warm and you can even run to the store in it, if the need arises.
Life

To Neptunus And Back


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While the coronavirus is and will remain to be a huge, worldwide health and economics challenge, I’m also sensing a slight bit of relief from many of us churning the daily treadmill – wake up, take the kid to school, go to work, get back from the work, make dinner, take the kid to practice, go to gym, get back from the gym, make evening snack, watch Netflix, go to bed. Coronavirus breaks this rhythm up and offers a much-needed relief from all this. While we all hope this will soon blow over, I bet a lot are happy to have a chance to spend few weeks at home, with the family, without the constant pressure of the modern world that demands you to do something, whether professionally or recreationally.

I find myself suddenly taking long walks in the nature, watching a long list of films I’ve missed and writing scripts I’ve forgotten about now that there’s no office to go to, film theaters are a bit out of question, too, bars and restaurants are either closed or empty. There’s nothing anywhere, but your own circles and somehow it feels like I’ve suddenly sat down after a long walk to catch a breather.

Today we went for a long walk around Lauttasaari and the rest of the islands outside Espoo with my friend, long-time collaborator and partner-in-crime Pekka Ollula. He’s one of a kind of a guy, man who has gone through quite a lot and came back out alive. His point of view to things is always valuable to me, and I’m super happy that he now lives also close by so even during quarantine time, it’s easy to reconnect.

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While traveling out of the country has been strongly advised against, you can do a tour of the solar system without leaving Helsinki. We found Neptunus, quite by accident.

With Pekka, we’ve been doing quite a lot of projects together. We hired him originally to work as an intern at Energia Productions, after meeting him in Berlin when we were promoting the first Iron Sky (long before it was done, maybe in 2008), and he sort of stuck around in Iron Sky universe, working as a marketing manager, community manager and event planner throughout the years. He also created few businesses of his own, and even a film festival to Huhtamo, his home town (Huhtamo International Film Festival). We’ve been even thinking about setting up a film theater here in Lauttasaari, if only we were to find a good place, but wouldn’t that be fun! We even have a name for it – Lautta-Kino, according to the classical old cinema now long forgotten in Huittinen.

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Huhtamo International Film Festival is held once every two years in Huhtamo, showing films at Huhtamo church, Huhtamo Youth House and several other venues around the village.

I’m currently working on four different scripts I’m hoping to produce into a movie, in addition for finishing The Ark for the Chinese release. There’s two interesting franchises I’ve been working on, both of which would turn into a great film if the stars were to align right, a script I’m developing with my wife, and two TV-shows, a sketch show and one for my German producer Oliver Damian. All this, plus I’m also reading shitload about Communism, because of the subject matter of the next Iron Sky. Still hard to predict what will move forward, and when, but now is the perfect time to push these productions forward, as there’s nothing else much to do.

Anyway, I’ll keep on blogging since I have nothing better to do, and it’s a good way to re-organize my thoughts – and probably worth something, coming back to these strange times years from now.

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Huhtamo International Film Festival gathers together the folk from the village and visitors from much further away – actually, all the way from New Zealand!

 

 

Life

Going Viral


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So, the all-out pandemic is true. Just a few weeks ago, it all felt so far away, but today, it’s quite tangible and real. Everyone takes in the situation differently, I find myself bearing this constant feeling of impending looming somewhere above me, not really scared but observing everything with a bit of a worry in my mind, probably because I’ve seen way too many zombie/pandemia scifi movies in my time.

I’m also starting to feel the impact of things to come and things that are happening around us. Personally, the company I work for now has sent everyone home to work out of office for the next two weeks. I’m doing experiential event production gig currently, and you can imagine it’s not a business that’s really taking the whole Corona too well. Many of the events we’ve been building for the last few months are cancelled, many more will be.

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At least the weather is nice.

At home, my son’s school is also shutting the doors down – not completely, but enough so that the kids get to choose whether they study from home or show up at the school. One can imagine what the most choose – at least at this point. Few weeks at home, I think they’ll be happy getting back to civilization, though.

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Lauttasaari, where I live in, offers some pretty beautiful sights on this pre-spring time.

In my film work, the impact is quite strong. My film, the Chinese one “The Ark” has been delayed due to our VFX company not being able to work. Nowadays, they are slowly getting back to work, but it’s still far from really moving along, all the films in China have been postponed, so to even start finding a release date at this point is impossible – there’s quite a long backlog of things to release before “new” ones come out.

Another film I’m pushing to get off the ground has also been halted, the reason being that it’s impossible to get insurances to film crews and films at this point, so no films are really being shot. Netflix and Disney just shut down all their productions (hats off to Netflix for paying the crew nevertheless), and I assume quite a many films get pushed, rescheduled – and quite probably some even cancelled due to scheduling problems.

So, I’m staying home for the next two weeks. It’s great time to focus on writing something new, which I’m *planning* to do – although truth be told, most likely I’ll just watch Netflix shows instead, emerging out of the quarantine time like a troll with long hair and beard and completely alienated from the society.

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Blue skies ahead!
Life

Fourty years today. Wow.


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Turning 40 today, I feel like taking a quick peek back at how my life was back 20 years ago.

The year was 1999 and the biggest topic was y2k. Everyone was sure that when we turn the digits from 99 to 00, systems reset, data gets screwed up and everything will be shut down. Spoiler alert: didn’t happen. But the world was quite a different back then. 9/11 hadn’t happened and Leonardo DiCaprio was still the annoying brat from Titanic. That’s about as much as I can remember from those times from the top of my head, but let’s do a quick Google 20 years back, at the year 1999.

Not one but two of the most influential presidents of the time were going through the impeachment process in their countries – Boris Yeltsin of Russia and Bill Clinton of USA both had their troubles, but neither of the impeachment processes was successful. The war in Kosovo had started – and recently ended, with war criminals either on the loose or getting caught and dragged to trials. Columbine mass shooting sparked the first big gun debate across the USA that I can remember personally.

So the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In my own life, I had recently moved in with my then-girlfriend, the to-be-mother-of-my-child, and I was working on a film I didn’t know would end up changing my whole life. Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning, the sixth installment of a long series of scifi comedies created by Samuli Torssonen, had recently released its’ first teaser, which claimed the film would come out in the year 2000 (or with some luck, even a bit earlier!), and I was signed up as the director. Little did we know, it would take another 6 years before the film would be finished, and almost none of the footage we had shot by then would end up in the movie (if I’m not mistaken, there’s one clip, the bit where Info calculates the probability of the losses, which made it to the final film).

I didn’t have personally any dreams or hopes of becoming a filmmaker back then – as you can see from the teaser above, Star Wreck became much more serious only after the release of the teaser, which prompted us to revisit the VFX and the material we had shot.

Having said that, prying back into my head 20 years ago is much harder than one would think. What was important to me back then? I loved metal music, I had just recently discovered David Bowie, I enjoyed roleplaying games back then. My operating system was Windows NT, phone Nokia 3310 and I loved Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. I was working at a telemarketeering company, I think I was still in high school. My brother was still alive.

Nowadays, well, he’s dead. I miss him. I know I would have invited him over for my birthday bash, we would have talked about things 20 years ago. He would’ve remembered how I was a dumb kid back then. I would have said the same of him. He would’ve commented I’ve gained some weight. He probably would still be the skinny old him. We would have laughed, he had a very infectious laugh. I can hear it now in the back of my head.

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My brother Ville in 1999. Photo by Erkko Vuorensola.

Since twenty years, I’ve made a bunch of movies which I’m proud of – I’ve made some use of my time, I guess. I’m still working at marketing – when not making movies, or marketing them to either financiers or the end users, I’m working at an advertisement company, doing ads for other products. I enjoy it, it’s fun and creative enough to keep my mind busy. 

Health is one thing that takes a hit. Twenty years ago, I wasn’t in a great shape, but I wasn’t hurting. Now, my left knee and ankle both hurt and I need to take three different kind of pill every morning to keep my blood pressure in check. I try to do sports few times a week, but it’s not always possible.

Nowadays, I’m running a Macbook Pro with Catalina operating system. My phone is Huawei, I play God of War, I’ve sold all my CDs I was so proud back then after Spotify came onboard, but find myself collecting LPs today instead. I have a wife now and I love her. She’s the funniest dumbass I know, and I can’t spend one day with her without her making me laugh out uncontrollably. And I have a son, he’s 14 years old, turning out to be a charming little champion.

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That’s my wife. 

 

And just like 20 years ago, the vibe of the upcoming decade change is anxious. Twenty years ago, I used to play roleplaying games, a hobby I sadly have forgotten since then. One of my favorite games was R. Talsorian Games’ Cyberpunk 2020 (released originally in 1990). It painted a picture of the future in my head, one which has stayed etched there clearly.

In Cyberpunk 2020, cars were flying, supercorporations running the world and everything was grimy, dark, sexy and dangerous. People had mini cellphones, everyone was toting an arsenal of guns with them, the techies were jacking on to the Net and mechanical chrome additions made bodies better, stronger – and prone to cyber psychosis.

Image result for cyberpunk 2020 cover

They didn’t hit that far off the mark; guns are a huge problem in the US, Internet is everywhere, cars are not flying but Tesla  (with their new Cybertruck – remains to be seen if it actually sticks or not) is definitely headed that direction and the supercorporations are getting more and more powerful, extending their grasp into governments like never before. Cellphones rule our world, our eyes are glued to their screens day and night, the real-life cyber psychosis is going on all around.

I’m looking forward for my next 20 years with the same anxiety as 20 years ago. I have no idea what’s coming up next. Will I make more films in the future? I bet I will; I was down that road 20 years ago, although I wasn’t that serious about it back then. But me, looking back at me 20 years from now will probably have just as hard time getting really into my mindset as I have when remembering myself 20 years ago.

The bluescreen gang. Antti Satama (Info), me and Samuli Torssonen (Pirk) 20 years ago.

Today, I’m 40. It’s been quite a ride so far, looking forward for the next 20 years!

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Me, some 35 years ago, combining two of my favourite hobbies: music – and movies. Photo by Erkko Vuorensola.