Thursday, 20 December 2018

The HOLS: how to survive

"Surviving the cave christmas" from Lucia - a christmas story (2008)

Plenty of people hate the HOLIDAYS, including many of my friends and me. But over the years we've learned to tap down the angst. And take Seneca's advice on how to celebrate Saturnalia: avoid crowds, eat, drink and be merry with a few old pals.

FOOD: In Finland it's luttefisk (cod cured in lye), baked ham and a bunch of side dishes that look like
baby food. In the US it's turkey with all the trimmings. Buck tradition. A couple I know in the US serve cold lobster, artichokes and champagne (or cava). Guests love to be invited.

PRESENTS: people go bananas and have a debt-hangover in January. Buy silly stuff and wrap it in an old newspaper (the Financial Times is pink and makes a pretty present). If the whole family gets together presents can be a big problem, if some cheap-out and others spend. In fact, obligatory gift giving is past its sell-by date. Kids are the exception. Do NOT give them electronic toys. Homemade wooden building blocks is a perfect gift for small children.

DECORATIONS: avoid anything fake. Pine Christmas trees, branches, fruit, even vegetables (red and green peppers). Americans spend billions lighting up the outside of their houses. Whole streets get in the act. If you're a hold-out you will be bullied into complying. Kids love decorating. It will keep them busy and out of your hair.

PARTIES: avoid stand-up parties packed with people. Impossible to talk or to hear. Hard to eat and to drink. Invite guests for a Christmas (or New Years) picnic. Try to find someone who plays the guitar and have a singalong of old favourites.  Print out song sheets.

CHRISTMAS CARDS: don't send. Instead get in touch with postcards. Riikka and Eki sent me a 'Merry Birthday' hand-written postcard. I loved it and copied the idea.

CHRISTMAS CAROLS: mostly an English and American 19th-century tradition that goes on and on. Okay if you sing at orphanages or hospitals. Practice before preforming.

MUSIC: the best part of the holiday season. Especially classical. Or try to catch 'Cinderella' or 'The Nutcracker' ballets. Take the kids and give them a culture treat that's fun.

ESCAPE: this is a great solution. A family ski trip. Or park the kids with their grandparents and have a romantic couple of days away from the everyday.  Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. But keep it simple.

Sources: Financial Times Weekend, personal experience

Next Week: HELP: I'm a DIGI-Addict

Note: Merry Saturnalia!


Thursday, 13 December 2018

Eki and I go toe to toe

Eki's principled (he turned down a 'True Finns' project) and my politics are white and black. I wanted to do a JEFF BEZOS Vote 2020 video. I thought he might be the one guy to beat Trump, if he runs. In last week's blog Eki trashed Bezos.  I came to the studio prepared. When he said, 'Hmm, I don't feel right working on this project.' I said, 'EEEEKKKKKKIIIIIII!”

He's a pro. So we sat down to work, but he wasn't happy. After while we fell into the old routine. I shut up. And watched the screen while he did his thing. Around eight hours later, not including lunch, the video was ready.  He said, 'This would be good if it was a VOTE 2020 video'. I said try it. He was right. The VOTE 2020 video (see above) is on our site. But he wouldn't put my Jeff Bezos version on it.  I didn't push him.

I sent a copy of the 'Jeff' version to Jeff Bezos and we dumped it in the YOUTUBE ocean.  Eki found it for me. But I tried the other day on my own and it seems to have drowned. Eki and I are usually on the same side. But he doesn't cave in. I'm more corruptible.

Source: personal experience

Next week: HELP, I'm a DIGI-ADDICT

Note: The True Finns (Perussuomalaiset) are the Finnish version of Trumpism, more or less. I've done pretty much anything under the sun, also for clients i disagree with strongly, or i do not share common values with (the latest example was a video for the Evangelical Church of Finland - and i'm as unreligious as they come).

But when i was asked by a production company to direct the election commercials for this arbeit-macht-frei-party, i realized i had reached the limit of what my conscience allows me to do. It was the first, and so far the only job i have completely declined to do, on moral grounds. But at least i did not participate on the proliferation of nationalist populism.


Tuesday, 13 November 2018

JEFF BEZOS: the guy who can beat Donald Trump

A cockeyed idea? Maybe not. Jeff Bezos is Donald Trump's worst enemy. T attacks Bezos and Amazon with barefaced lies. Bezos is smarter, tougher, younger (54), richer, self-made and has a compelling back-story: born in Albuquerque, Bezos started Amazon (like a lot of tech guys) in his garage in 1994, with 250,000 borrowed from his parents. The company is now worth a trillion and counting. Bezos is #1 on Forbes Richest list (Trump a humble #259 – that drives T nuts).

Eki pointed out that while Bezos was rich, but his workers got peanuts. True. But starting Nov 5, 2018 (just in time for the midterms) Amazon's 350,000 employees (including short-term) will get 15.00 an hour minimum. The company's policymakers are will lobby for all US workers to receive 15.00 dollars an hour. Bezos has made other about-faces. He ditched his frumpy- dumpy nerdy suits for lean and mean black leather jackets, black jeans, shaved head (or waxed?). Eki, don't grit your teeth, looks count: they say Nixon lost against Kennedy because on TV he looked like an escaped convict. Bezos laid the ground-work for a crack at the top job when he bought (and saved) the Washington Post. T, when he heard the news, told his base, at a rally, that he would give the new owner a lot of problems. Bezos has given the Post free rein. And the paper has published a critical piece about Amazon.

Bezos vsTrump would be the ultimate mano a mano. George Orwell said all games are war - politic is a blood sport. Especially with the Bully-in-chief. 2020 will roll in on us like a giant tsunami. The Democrats need a leader who can connect, not only with the two booming coasts and the young but with the poor, left-behind parts of the US. Make America more equal again.

Note: Oct. 1, the New York Times published a 13,000-word article on Trump's tax evasion and crooked business practices going back years, after inheriting (and losing) a fortune. The investigation took 18 months. It might change everything. But don't bet on it. T flaunts and floats above the law. So far he has got away with it.

Source: New York Times Style, Financial Times Weekend, the net

PS: Eki and I are working on a 30' commercial: JEFF BEZOS: we need you 2020

Note: This has been one of Maggie's ideas i have had a hard time supporting. So much so, that i convinced her to change the commercial to VOTE: we need you 2020. We did also finish the Jeff Bezos version, but at this point i really do not like to be associated with it in any way. Edited by: Alan Smithee.

As to why, well, to be honest, first and foremost my own ignorance. I do not want to support someone i actually know quite little about. That's the mistake many Brexit voters and Trump supporters made. But there's also the thing Maggy mentioned - i seriously do not think anyone should own more wealth than entire countries. That is simply insane. Making someone like that the President of an important superpower would be adding insult to the injury.

Then there is the fact that i do not think a person in that position would ever make decisions with the best interest of the average Joe in mind. I cannot see a person in such a position working towards reducing the repulsive grasp the mega-corporations have over the society. I cannot see a person in such position advocating for the super-rich to paying their fair share of taxes. You get the point.

I did not add a picture this time. Deliberately. That's my miniature protest against the blog post's premise.


Monday, 5 November 2018


One way to solve differences (Photo: Derks24/Pixabay)
Who cares. Everyone. At least they should. Because what's going on in the US affects us all. This midterm election is playing out like a John Wayne Western. There are the 'GOOD GUYS': Robert Mueller and his team, most of the media that is not underground and a majority of Americans. And the 'BAD GUYS': the President, cowed and cooperative Republicans (not all), the Alt-right, underground nut-ball social media (GAB, for example) and Trumpsters.

Trump is on a high, holding rallies in as many states as he can stuff in in before the midterms, Nov 6. Like and old-time 19C religious revival meeting, he's preaching, and selling, 'hell and brimstone' and whipping up the Base. The only thing missing is the snakes. But there are plenty of the human kind to take their place at his rallies.

One positive thing this crazy, but cunning like a fox, president has done is to whip up both Republicans and Democratic voters. The midterm election used to be a 'so what'. And most voters didn't bother. This year the early voting has surpassed the 2016 presidential election. A first. I told Eki, T has made me so tuned in, in how the US government works that I now know something about what the house, the senate, the supreme court and the presidential powers are. He thinks, or hopes, T will gets impeached. I said, 'No way'. Even if the Dems win the house (a good chance) and try vote to impeach him. It takes 67 votes in the senate to pull it off. Tune in on Wed. 7 Nov. to find out how this cliffhanger ends.

Source: personal experience

Next week: JEFF BEZOS: the guy who can beat Trump in 2020

Note: Actually, i don't have much to add to this... vote, people. Also here in Finland, we need to throw our own little Trumpsters out from the driver's seat, and voting wisely is the route to that.


Monday, 1 October 2018

FEAR: Bob Woodward's new Tell-all book about life in TURMP's fucking* CRAZYTOWN

When Donald Trump royally chews out his economic adviser, Gary Cohn**, Cohn offers his letter of resignation. T ignores it. Later John Kelly, White House chief of staff tells Cohn, 'If that was me I'd have taken that letter and shoved it six different ways up his ass.' Kelly also called Trump an idiot (I think he actually said 'fucking idiot'). His ex-Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, called T a fucking moron. Anyone who has access to media knows that Donald Trump is a fucking disaster. 

A cute kitten (Image: Ty Swartz / Pixabay)
What makes Woodward's book stand out from the rest of the tell-alls, is his access to the top players, his meticulous research and his methods. And he has clout. Insists that interviews are 'on-the-record' and taped - evidence in case he needs it. In the Financial Times Weekend review, 'Inside the devil's Workshop', Trump comes off badly. No surprise. But the shocker is, so does Robert Mueller, the special counsel. No explanation.  I read the line three times and got depressed. Mueller is our knight in shining armor. Our great hope that Trump gets trounced. 

Lots of people close to the president spilled their guts. Some of them denied it. John Kelly, said, 'Bullshit'. Steve Bannon, T's ex-strategist, blabbed big-time, calling Ivanka Trump a 'fucking staffer'.  She shot back, 'I am not a fucking staffer, I'm the First Daughter.' They swear a lot in Crazytown (John Kelly's name for the White House). Two of the biggest, and most important contributors were John Dowd, T's personal lawyer for years and the horse-whipped, Gary Cohn. Dowd talked for hours and hours. Guess it was some kind of catharsis. So did Cohn. I read that when T had his first staff meeting in the  White House, he said he wanted every day to be like a reality TV show. A promise he kept. The kicker is, Trump loves it all: the good, the bad and the ugly. He doesn't give a shit. 'Just PLEASE fucking talk about King ME.'

* Fucking: read in the health section of the New York Times that swearing is good for you. It hasn't seemed to help the Trump administration. But might keep the White House staff from going bonkers.

** Gary Cohn resigned on April 2, 2018.  

Source: Financial Times Weekend, the net

LittlemargieBLOG is on the road in October. Back November 1.

Note: Well, this time i do not have much to add. The next elections are really important, in the US and also here in Finland. Vote, people!

...and enjoy the kitten pic. Trumps looking at Trump's face.


Sunday, 23 September 2018

What EKI did last summer

Meadow Spittlebug (Philaenus spumarius)

For most of the year, Eki sits at his supercomputer and edits. Or he goes out on a shoot. But for two weeks in July, he works in the HALKKA family business: TVÄRMINNE – seven islands in the Finnish archipelago where his parents started their research around the time he was born, late 1960's. As soon as he could walk and begin to comprehend what was going on Eki joined in. Today he mostly takes care of the boat, collects insects and helps document. His brother Antti's whole family and his sister Sara work there too. When we were shooting 'El gaucho de Högsåra' he showed me the SPITTLEBUGS his dad Olli and mom Liisa were researching. It was the size of a small dot. For someone who jumps from job to job and project to project I thought, how was it possible to work on the same small insect year in, year out.

The crew gets up early and starts collecting insects. As many as 3000 a day. I saw a video of them working. Someone was swinging a white bag on a long stick back and forth.  You have to be dedicated to do that for many hours. Especially on a hot day when it stays light till late. His dad had a plastic tube holding a bunch of bugs and was dictating to someone who wrote down the info.

Eki has done helicopter shots of each island so the researchers can see the changes in the meadows. His mother also did a study of shrews in Eastern and Western Finland. And found they had a significantly different genome. The edge of the ice-age glacier can still be seen in the shrew's biology.

Scientists must be frustrated that more action isn't being taken by governments around the world regarding climate change. Eki says, as far as he knows the planet is in its 6th mass extinction. And this year the spittlebug population was smaller than last year. The US has gone backward since Donald Trump was elected. He not only took the US out of the Paris Climate Accords (the only country in the world to do so)   but appointed a climate change denier as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who has cut regulations put in place by President Obama. I heard (on the internet, so the info should be checked), that 1,600 scientists and other personnel have quit the EPA. Climate change news is bleak and the future looks bleaker. But the Halkka family go back to Tvärminne year after year. Now a third generation has joined the family business.

Sources: Eki, the net

Next week: FEAR: BOB WOODWARD's tell-all book should scare everyone who cares about international order

Note: We currently still study seven islands at Tvärminne Zoological Station each year, but that used to be many more. Only the core islands remain in the long-term follow-up study.

The video Maggy saw was from 2007. Since then, my dad who led the study has passed away, and my brother Antti has taken over the helm. My mother still has a big role too, i'd say she's still the co-captain of the ship. Also, Kaisa Roukka, my dad's spouse since my parents divorced in the 80's, still helps on the study too - and over the years, especially early on, there have been many others.

The Finnish archipelago has been in a constant state of change for thousands of years. During the ice age, there was a huge mass of the glacier pushing down on the ground, and we're still bouncing back from that. In the Baltic sea, the land has risen about half a meter per century since the ice age. So, the water level is now about 25 cm lower than when we started 50 years ago. The meadows, especially those that are low on the shores of the islands, were much younger back then, just been revealed from under the sea in the previous decades. Those meadows have matured during the course of our study - on some of them, there's not much of a meadow anymore - trees have grown, they have almost become young forests rather than meadows.

Due to climate change and the global rise in ocean levels, this glacier-caused land rise effect is about to be canceled, and the sea rise will start to win by the end of this century.

The health of the Baltic ocean has varied a lot over the years. Sometimes the water is clear and rich on oxygen, you can see the bottom many meters deep. In other times (like this year), it's like green porridge due to blooming algae. The algae are the result of hot weather, nutrient-rich wastewater from agriculture, combined with a lack of salt water influx pulses from the Danish strait lately.

Attributing this change to human vs. natural is hard, and so is telling whether there's a robust trend in the quality, or if it's just natural fluctuation. Likely both.

And to get back to the spittlebugs, the small catch this year was the result of unusually dry and warm weather - which also is a part of natural variation as well as an overall trend. The yearly variation is huge, and this year was a harsh year for the spittlebugs, populations were very small, but they are going to bounce back again for sure. If not next year, the year after that. The 6th mass extinction has not reached our islands yet.


Tuesday, 11 September 2018


donaldDONALD (2018)
A bombshell hit the White House. A WH staff member, or maybe a group, wrote an anonymous op-ed piece in the NEW YORK TIMES, reads like a John Le Carre thriller, about how they worked to keep this crazy president in check. Anyone who has watched Trump ranting at one of his rallies will know how 'out-to-lunch' this guy is. And how dangerous. The op-ed piece, for the first time that I can remember, was read out loud on CNN. It was chilling.

The Republicans have been either mesmerized or cowed, by Trump's bombast and threats. And they are in power. The mid-terms coming up in November might change the dynamics. But it's not certain. The Democrats aren't all that organized and have no knock-out leader. John McCain, one of the last of the old and principled guard, cast his last vote from the grave. The president was not invited to his funeral. He sulked and tweeted on the golf course.

Eki says T will get impeached. I hope to hell he's right. But what really is scary is how watchable, readable and engrossing this drama is. I'm glued to my mac. When laptop needed an update and was gone for 24 hours, I was chewing my nails and drank too much wine. Was on the phone with my US pals for NEWS and updates. No detail was too small or insignificant for a major discussion. We don't know the end of this Shakespearean saga. But we do know it's never happened before in US history. Let's hope it ends like one of Shakespeare's comedies. Then we can all clap instead of cry.

Sources: CNN, BBC, MSNBC, Financial Times, New York Times

PS: JASPER PAKKONEN was better in part as white supremacist supreme than Spike Lee's 'Black Klansman' I hope we see more of him in American movies. But Lee muddled up a good story (in the middle) with a message-y prologue and epilogue.

Next week: What EKI did last summer

Note: Not much to add to that. Wild times ;-)


Thursday, 30 August 2018


Ploggerbear (Photo: pixabay / npapaioannou)
PLOGGING (plucking trash while jogging) came first. Conceived in Scandinavia by Erik Ahlstrom, a Swede.  He had the bright idea to give bags and gloves to runners so they could collect trash along their routes.  Now plogging has a life of its own and has spread around the world. The concept is so simple, it's no surprise that it's one of the hottest sports trends of 2018. Races are organized with double goals: run the fastest and pick up the most trash. Doable and fun. All sorts of hair-brained ideas are floating around the internet to solve the garbage disposal. One eco-group wants to use the trash clogging up the oceans to make a habitable island. When I told Erkki I found research that stated by 2050 plastic will outnumber the creatures who call the sea their home, most of it from land-based sources, he said, 'No way'. Unless a lot of them die out. What trash needs is low-key practical solutions like PLOGGING or...(see below)...

TRACTIVIST  (trash-activist) is anybody who walks and picks up trash along the way. I got into it by accident after a heavy wine lunch and walked to the little park by the river to si it off. The place was a mess. Someone had unpacked flat-box furniture cartons  (IKEA?) and left them all over the place. I folded the boxes and stashed them by the trash bin, And came back in the afternoon armed with gloves and a bag to finished the job. It felt good and was fun. Bystanders sitting on benches were curious. A few came over to find out what I was doing. Now I pester my pals to PICKupTRASH. They seem to like the idea.

Cleaning up the outdoors gives outings purpose and improves the scenery. Big companies, such as Amazon, Ikea am other big-time trash producers should get in the act. So should tech titans,  (Mark Zuckerberg, Egon Musk, Tim Cook. Jeff Bezos). God knows, cities, countries, the planet needs volunteer army to pitch in to pick up (and dispose of in an eco-friendly way) the crap we humans casually pitch out. The most efficient garbage collection service can't keep up. Trash collectors are unsung, virtually unseen heroes of our time. Just go to any city where they're on strike to find out what life is like without them.  They need help. Ploggers are doing it. Now how about the rest of US?

Sources: Sharon Pettus, the net, personal experience

Next week: JASPER PAKKONEN in  Spike Lee's hot new movie BLAKCK KLANSMAN

Note: I think i found the source for the more plastic than fish claim, this article:

The article links to the source report, i haven't read it yet so cannot comment how robust the findings are...

- Eki

Thursday, 21 June 2018

The OBAMAS' 250,000M Netflix gig: new POWER BASE?

Obama's coming to town.

When the Obamas signed up with  Netflix for a wad of doe, my pals in the US and I bad-mouthed the couple for cashing in. The SHARK had a  different idea. She thought they might be setting themselves up for a new political base. They are both smart and must know that the Democratic party needs help. Hillary is a spent force. She can't stop blaming others for her loss. And Bill C. ain't much help. While touting his new book, The President is Missing (co-author James Patterson), he bungled questions about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.  And finally walked out.

The Obamas are the only Democratic Big Names who have the clout and the popularity, at least for now, to be de-facto leaders of the party. But the pompous, above-it-all name of their new production company, 'Higher Ground' is a wimpy first shot. Trump's vulgar, in-your-face, down-and-dirty bully-tactics are gaining. And now he's pulled off the ultimate media coup: hugging up to the world's Dictator-in-chief, who promises (word-of-honor), to de-nuclearize. Trump's famous takeaway from the tryst: ''I trust Kim'. But that just a throwaway. Only one rule counts: Dominate the media. King ME*. 

Still, the Shark may be on to something. The Obamas have been quiet since exiting office in 2017.  But they stayed in Washington D.C., unusual for an ex-pres.  The Netflix gig gives them a huge communication network. And it sounds like they have carte blanche to do what they want. Maybe a Dem version of Fox & Fiends? Amazon's founder and owner of the Washington Post, Jeff Bezos (on Trump's enemies list), is building a house in the same poshWash D. C. neighborhood as the Obamas.

Netflix, the liberal Post and the liberal New York Times* (both newspapers are good at sniffing outTrump & Co. skullduggery) would make a powerhouse backup trio for the Obamas. The 2018  midterm election should have been a slam-dunk for the Dems to win a majority, at least in the house. With less than five months till the voting day the Republicans, now known as the Trump party, are creeping up in the polls. Eki didn't think T would last out his term. I'm afraid he's on his way to a second. Unless the cavalry, led by Bobby Three Sticks (Robert Mueller III) rides to the rescue. Or the Obamas pull a rabbit out a hat.

*King ME: in case you missed last week's TIME magazine, the cover was a hoot. Trump looking in the mirror at himself in a royal robe and crown.

*New York Times: 'Fourth Estate', a four-part series about a year covering President Trump. Directed b Liz Garbus.   Produced by Showtime. Airing on the Finnish Broadcasting Company.

Sources: the Shark, CNN, Time Magazine, New York Times, Washington Post

PS: Eki and Riikka are celebrating a century 50/50. Cheers!

Littlemrgieblog will be on vacation until 15 August 2018

Notes: The idea of Obamas producing content sounds interesting. As a Netflix subscriber, i'll definitely give the shows a watch.

 I haven't seen that original Clinton interview, but i did see his comments on the Late Night show - which don't seem that unreasonable to me.

I still do not think Trump will last the first term. He will be impeached, if not else, as soon as the Dems get the majority - which might well happen in the midterms. He may also get jailed if the Mueller investigation's results are what i suspect them to be. There's already a lot in that front the investigation has accomplished (Trump's campaign manager already in prison and so on), and more is to come. Interesting times.

Oh, and as The Shark told you, Obama will come to Finland soon, to give a talk on a business forum.

Finally, thanks for the Cheers - it's actually a 110 party: 50+50 for our ages, and +10 extra years for the length of our wedlock so far. If stars align correctly, we will actually hold the party on our anniversary day.

- Eki

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Drowning in the YOUTBE ocean

When we finished 'ABE LINCON TWEETS' we watched it over and over. Then Eki did what he always does: posted it on YOUTUBE. And I said what I always say, 'Maybe this one will go viral'. Eki poked a hole in my balloon. 'If it does, it has to do it in the first thirty minutes.'  It didn't. What a contrast. Abe's common sense is like a cool glass of cool water on a blisteringly hot day. Compared to the Tweeter-in-chief.  Abe was cool under fire, in spite of having a crazy wife, scheming advisers and a war that cost more than 600,000 lives.

I visit ABE LINCOLN a lot. Sometimes to watch the video, but mostly to check the number of hits he's got: 110 by the last count, with one 'like' ('by contrast 'Abe Lincoln Mean Tweet' has 43,944).  With most of our videos we post them and go on to the next project. But I can't stop checking up on Abe. Youtube keeps track of my visits and tells me 'you've visited this page many times'. They note the last date. It's creepy. But Googles over-the-top 'Do No Evil' reassures me. Sort of.

I wonder what the percentage is of trash to good stuff in the YOUTUBE ocean. If it's anything like the rest of the oceans it is full of junk mixed up with some gems and treasure. If your brain is fried from junk- overload checkout what @abelincolnsez. And no matter how much google tracks me, I will keep visiting ABE. He 's like a well-worn, highly-polished pair of boots handed down from your grandfather.  Versus TRUMP, who claims to be the greatest president after Lincoln is the crystal-covered-plastic CROCS that were the shock-rage a couple of years back. The new hot must-have shoe is the ugly ZCOL.  Batten down the hatches, it could mean rough seas ahead.

News, views, boos
Next week: The OBAMAS' new gig: NETFLIX

Note to Eki: Well you were half right. But that other half...Thanks for the quick retraction so readers won't think I'm a complete idiot.

Note: Well, perhaps not in the first thirty minutes... but in a day or so perhaps. There's just SO much stuff that gets uploaded there. Some say, an hour's worth of new videos every second. If the thing does not catch attention right away, changes are, it never will. It's very cool that everyone has a worldwide platform for publishing video content now, free to use. The problem is just that everyone will thus compete with everyone else in the world for the 15 minutes of fame there. You indeed are more likely to drown than float in this ocean of media. It's a lottery of sorts. Your video is just one in billions (yes, literally), and every hit you get is a win.

- Eki

Saturday, 26 May 2018

HELSINKI: what's HOT, what's NOT

Helsinki today. Literally. (at the time of publishing this)

Getting there VS Getting on

HOT The city's fantastic network of buses, trams, and metros take you practically anywhere you want to go. They are clean, safe and efficient. I love Helsinki, especially in summer. Not only for its famous architecture, but because it's easy to visit the city's museums, restaurants, small boutiques, and just bum around. But wonder how they'll cope with the new ticketing system this summer(see below).

NOT Conductors will kick you off the tram or bus without a ticket. You have to have a 'pay' app in your smartphone or buy a ticket from R-Kioski, or some other place, before you board. A 17 ride card will set you back 30 euros. It will be a tourist nightmare this summer unless the city hires kids to sell tickets around town. And I wonder how many riders try to beat the system. The machines are so hard to use, they all have to be changed. Why can't the conductor sell few tickets? Human to human contact is good for people.

Talking VS Texting

HOT: LUNGI on Korkeavuorenkatu is a great place to hang out. A big leather couch and chairs in the window are an invitation to come in have a drink or something to eat and meet people. It's one of my go-to places in the city. I was having a glass of wine when a guy walked in with a cute dog under his arm. I asked him what breed it was. We talked a while and he asked If I wanted to have another glass of wine. His friend joined us. It was fun to meet a couple of Finnish guys spontaneously. Lungi is that kind of place.

NOT: In pre-texting days waiting to board a plane, or to pass the time in the air, you talked to strangers. Sometimes you even fell in love - I met my husband on a train between Nice and Paris. The Shark gave us the idea to make a cell phone video gottaGETinTOUCH. I shot people with their phone in four countries, on and off, for a year. After that, I went cold turkey. Now I read going cell phone-less is the new status symbol. User alert: your body and brain might freak out. Worse. You might miss the love of your life.

Authentic VS Trendy NOT

HOT Strindberg: This restaurant feels like it's been operating (with updates) since Gustav III. I never look at the menu. I always order the meatballs, they're the best in Helsinki. Lunch with a pal usually lasts till four, sometimes five or six o'clock. When we call it a day with a glass of champagne. Elegant without being stuffy, (green and white gingham tablecloths, wide, old wooden plank floors) or too serious. The menu is predictable. And I know that meatballs will always on it. The service is terrific but not fussy. Reservations essential.

NOT Le Brasserie Basque is one of those impossible-to-get-a-reservation in-places. But that's where the Bes and Wannabes wanna be. We did too. My sister-in-law finally landed a time: 7:30 – 9:30 on a Wednesday (there are three sittings starting at 5:30). It was empty when we arrived but filled up quickly. The music was loud and so was the crowd. The service slow and the food so-so (the polenta citron looked like a bowl of morning porridge). The main course (cod) was good but minuscule. We were running late and asked the owner if we could stay a little longer. He gave us 15 extra minutes. The 9:30 to 11:30 gang was waiting to be seated.

Nice surprise VS BIG disappointment

HOT Maxim cinema finally opened after what seemed like a forever renovation. Always upscale it has kicked it up a notch. On the second floor is a small bar with drinks and snacks. But it's the big comfortable individual chairs with attached tables that tell you this is the next best thing to having your own private screening room. The Shark and I saw a double feature: like being kids again. Only better. Instead of popcorn, we had wine with our movies.

NOT Academic Bookstore was not only a national treasure, it was one of the best bookstores in Europe. The first place my husband took me when I came to Finland. It made most bookstores look like amateur hour. Jut the books in English and the choice of magazines and newspapers made me want live there. And in an Alvar Aalto building to boot. When they installed Cafe Aalto the whole set-up was perfect. It still looks about the same, except a Starbucks is where the newspapers and magazines use to be. When I asked for two books: Umberto Eco's Chronicle of a Liquid Society and Phillip Pullman's Daemons Voice they come up empty. It made me sad for the good old days. And when I talk to friends about the Academic bookstore, it's like someone close to us has died. Amazon here I come. But not willingly.

Source: personal perspective

news, views, boos

Next week: DAY of the DEAD by l. Ron Chappell: big admiration spiked with a bit of envy

NOTE!! Ahhem... you didn't come to think of the obvious did ya? Like, buy tickets from the driver?? Because you can, you know, both on buses and trams ;-)

You are probably thinking about the trains. They got rid of conductors on the short commute train routes where the city area bus tickets are valid, and you indeed need to buy the ticket beforehand. The same goes for the Metro, you need to have a ticket before entering the station. But, as said, not buses or trams, which also haven't had conductors, well, ever. They did have separate cashiers though, but that was many decades ago.

PS: Maggy, i guess you recognize the bike in the photo? Yes, i'm still using it. Thank you!


Hey, you have to add something to the blog:  I DID GET KICKED OFF THE TRAM. The driver told me I had to go to an RKIOSKI.  It happened twice. The last time because my 30 euro ticket ran out. True Story.

- Maggy

Sounds to me like like a communications failure. Yes, you need to go to the R-kioski (which can be found almost everywhere), if you want to have more credit/time on your travel card, the driver can't do that. BUT he/she could have sold you a single ticket for that one ride. 

EDIT: I checked, and dang, you are right!! They stopped selling tickets on trams in February. Bus drivers still sell them though.

All this said, i highly recommend the phone app for the occasional traveler - that's what i use too. If you have your phone, you have a ticket.


Thursday, 3 May 2018


Spacewhale's Music Corner

When Erkki and I have a project ready to edit we go to his studio on Vattuniemenkatu 19 (translation: Raspberry Cape's Street 19). I love SPACEWHALE. It's like going into the belly of the beast – different than the regular world. It's a guy place that's friendly to women.  In one corner there's a hanging out place with couches, coffee table, frig, coffee maker.

The studio has a high ceiling and a green screen for shoots. At one end is a bunch of musical instruments. When Erkki and his pals have the time they come here and blast away. When we're working and Erkki needs a pause, he bangs away on his drums.  Against one wall are a couple of editing machines. They're old and take time to warm up. While we wait Erkki brags about the super-computer he uses in his home-office.

I like this project and come prepared. By mining movies in the public domain, I found one directed by the father of American cinema: D. W. Griffith. My jaw dropped. 'Abraham Lincoln' made in 1930 was in the public domain. I watched the movie six times and the Shark helped plan the story.  Also which scenes we thought would be good. It was Trump who gave us the idea. He said Lincoln was the greatest president and he, Trump, was the 2nd greatest.Whoa. Erkki and I decide to declare a tweet war. Pitch Abe's words of wisdom against Trump's trash.

We decided to update Lincoln to the 21st C. His quotes make as much sense today as they did in the 19th C. We downloaded the footage and went to lunch while we waited. Then Erkki designed the twitter bird and the opening. He had to concentrate so I had to shut up. But it was fun to watch the bird come to life. We chose the scenes from the footage and put them in the right order, then the music. We used the Civil War music (in public domain) from the film and Erkki laid different tracks over it. Lots of thump-thump percussion. We looked at it over and over and corrected anything we didn't like. We started at 10:00 am and finished at 9:00 pm. My brain was fried. But we both said, 'that was fun.' Check out 'Abe Lincoln Tweets'.

PS: D. W. Griffith's 'Abraham Lincoln' was voted one of the 50 worst films, but the crowd scenes are fantastic. And the production values, especially for the 1930s, are excellent.

Source: youtube films in public domain

Next week: HELSINKI: what's HOT, what's NOT

Note: This was a fun project, it's also been a while since i've made any loop-based music - quite refreshing. Also, i agree on the relevance of Abe's quotes.

One thing to mention, Maggy is the only client i let sit with me when i edit. That used to be the norm in the olden days when editing was done from tape to tape, and making changes to edits after the session was very, very complicated. Add to that the pretty steep cost of the editing hours (those tape machines cost a Mercedes Benz each), and every client wanted to supervise the edit, breathing on my neck.  Had enough of that back then. Nowadays i have an editing / 3D animation / audio workstation at my home office. All feedback from clients is done online - usually, i edit a full version of the project, which then goes to the clients as a simple link to a file on Google Drive, for evaluation and revision notes. Rinse and repeat. I prefer the modern way, but there was something very appealing in the old linear process - you needed to be committed in a completely different level when making edits, and what you have after the editing session was pretty much the final product because A) the client was there all the time to approve stuff as we went on and B) changes were so expensive and slow to make.

Finally, about the computer at the studio - it indeed is old. But back in it's hayday, it was the hottest thing in town. Also, was not cheap. 8 CPU cores, 16 GB of ram, SSD drive, and a Raid 0 array as the media drive, the best NVIDIA GPU of the time. Not bad for 2006 - and not that shabby even today, over ten years later. Which is like two or three eternities in computer speak. The hotness i have at home (16 cores, 64 GB ram, dual GeForce TITANS etc.) isn't that new anymore either, i recall i bought this machine in 2013 or 2014. It won't be THAT long until this one will go to the studio, and i will have yet another five-grand toy at home. The thing with this kind of higher end machines is - you really can use them professionally for years. And when it's time to retire them from the daily crunch, they still have a few more years of life in them as decent "normal" computers.

PS: Writing that last paragraph was fun - i enjoy thinking of Maggy reading the semi-jargon, trying to decipher what the heck i mean ;-)

- Eki

Sunday, 1 April 2018


A cartoon by Eki
Not some red-blooded communist but two true-blue capitalists asked themselves, what would Marx and Engels write today? They went back to the original Communist Manifesto and had a surprise.

About 73% or the original was relevant today. If the Financial Times is correct,1% of the world's population owns as much wealth as the remaining 99%. Inequality, especially in the US, has gone off the rails. The two author-archivists; Rupert Younger and Frank Partnoy, updated the other 27%. Marx and Engels packed quite a lot into a 37-page pamphlet. A friend in the US bought Activist Manifesto on Amazon for seven dollars A bargain.

The inequality Fixers should look to Scandinavia for ideas. Yes. There are rich people in these northern countries, but most would be considered small fry in the US. Forbes magazine's 'list of the world's richest people' will tell you who they are. But Finland, one of the most egalitarian countries on earth, was named the happiest country in a UN report. The skeptical Finns I know laughed and asked, 'Who, and where, are these people?'

Inequality is not the only big issue that needs fixing. The kids from Parkland, Florida, who watched their friends get shot and murdered while in school, decided to take on gun control. In less than five weeks they organized 'March For Our Lives' in 800 cities around the world. And they are just getting started. 

We wannabe activists should be inspired them and buy Activists Manifesto to read what Marx, Engels, Younger, and Partnoy have to say. We might also check out Fair Shot by Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook. He thinks that everyone below a certain income level should receive a base income and tax on the rich to pay for it. A friend in Helsinki told me Finland was already experimenting with this idea. The Shark thinks retirees should become activists. She's right. We have time and experience. And guess what, it might be fun.

Sources: Financial Times Weekend, the Guardian, CNN

Next month (littlemargie blog is on the road in April): NEW PROJECT: Erkki and Maggy make a political video

Note to Erkki: I saw 'The Post' and like it. tired of the low-lighting which seems to be the mode du jour. I would have liked more context. For instance, Nixon's aides, H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman were perfect villains. They must have been scrambling to do damage control. And how about a few more Washington D. locations. I wanted a little more show and a little less tell. But cheered when the good guys won.

Note: The current government here in Finland is the worst ever, or at least worst i can recall. It's Trump white house lite, really. If not worse. They are tearing down the social security, regulations, education and environmental protections built over decades. Slashing every public program they can, getting rid of every public employee they can - and when they can't they make laws to cut wages. And unemployment benefits. All this while attempting to privatize everything from health care to social security, disregarding our constitution and the advice of the relevant experts. They are doing a frighteningly efficient job at destroying our little Scandinavian paradise. And a scary high percentage of the population is blissfully ignorant and may well vote for the same disaster to continue in the next elections. 

The illustrations on this blog are different from usual, they are actually cartoons i made (just for fun) and posted on a closed forum group, on a discussion about our government's actions. These are now published for the audience at large for the first time, translated into English for your convenience. The first one (on top) was to counter the idea that employees that demand a livable salary are greedy, sucking the life out of the poor, job-creating company owners. The second one (below) is about our current government's "Community Agreement" (that's the sort of newspeak they use, BTW). When the labor unions declined the "agreement" to reduce salaries by 5%, the government just wrote it into law, among with some additional asskicking for the workers, like shortened vacations, as a punishment for not making a deal. It's a madhouse here, i tell ya!

-- Eki

Another cartoon by Eki

Sunday, 25 March 2018

WOODY ALLEN bakes a turkey, and it's not even Thanksgiving

Poor Woody. He's lost the plot. Some critics say his personal life has spilled over into his movies. Well, whatever. WONDERWHEEL lurches along from one cliche' to the next. Tedious is too mild a word. Kate Winslett, married to a schlump (Jim Belushi) should have won an Oscar for over-acting. Justin Timberlake at the hunky lifeguard floats through his part as her picked-up-on-the-beach lover. The rest of the cast is ho-hum. But the plot...

Wonder Wheel, New York (Wikipedia)
Older women married to a shlump falls for a hunky lifeguard. Shlump's unloved and unwanted daughter comes back to the family nest after escaping from gangster ex-husband. He shows up and wants her back. Schlump's ten-year-old kid is an arsonist who sets fires all over the place, including his shrine's outer office. Lifeguard meets sexy daughter and falls in love.  He wants to dump older woman. She ain't happy and gets revenge. She alerts gangster to ex-wife's whereabouts. The action takes place in a saturated-colored Coney Island. It never looked so sad.

But for some reason, we stick with Woody. Every year he makes a movie and every year a lot of his fans go. 'Wonderwheel looked like it was made on the cheap. Sill, it made me nostalgic for the old Woody. Especially 'Manhattan Murder Mystery'. When Diane Keaton and Alan Alda sat in the car and did a stake-out on their suspect, I wanted to jump in with them and get in the game. Well, those days are gone.  WHAAAAA.

Source: personal opinion

After watching those kids march for their lives, and hearing their sad stories, next week's post will be: ACTIVIST MANIFESTO: MARX & ENGELS updated for the 21C

Note on Erkki's comments last week about saturated fats: He'll be happy to know my go-to medical advice, site, MAYO CLINIC, agrees. And here's another bit of good news. A friend and I were having lunch with wine. She dropped a bomb: she said she'd read in a reliable source, that one daily glass of wine was enough to raise the risk of accelerating certain cancers. AAAAARRRRRGGHH.

Note: I must admit I haven't seen any of the late Allen movies. Perhaps I should, if not else, just to have something to argue with Maggy ;-)


Monday, 12 March 2018

HYPOCHONDRIACS UNITE: we have nothing to fear but AI and the NRT

Who could guess that asparagus, or at least the compound, asparagine, that give it its name could help spread cancer? At least that's what a plant-based scientist at Cambridge University claims. Not everyone is on the same page. Other scientists have found that asparagine, and other foods with an amino acid, helps to slow the spread of breast cancer. It seems a lot of the food we eat is dangerous to our health. French fries, for instance, pack a triple whammy: 1. potatoes are BAD for people with high blood-pressure; 2. cooking in oil at high temperatures is a NO-NO. 3. the overdose of salt. That goes for chips too. Sugar is verboten – it causes the insulin to shoot out of the pancreas at an accelerated rate. It is now being compared to tobacco in terms of dangerous. Happy to report that butter, cream, cheese have been taken off the 'AVOID' list. It's been revealed that the research was bogus.

Heart Attack Grill (Photo:
AI I am being touted as being the answer to the answer to health care.  People of a certain age talk about getting a robot caregiver when they are really old.  Don't count on it. They sometimes crap out. And who wants a 400 pound, 5-foot hulking bot stalking around the house. And besides, experts such at as Sherry Turkle, media prof at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), wrote at the end of her book 'Reclaiming Conversation', that AI is the next big threat to us humans.

ALPHABET, the omnipresent tech-giant has got into healthcare with CALICO (an acronym for California Life Company). Its mission: health, well-being and longevity. It's connected with several research groups including, the University of Texas Medical school and the Broad Institute at MIT.

According to their site they are using their core values to guide them on their journey.  Well, good luck. But then there's THERANOS, whose founder is Elizabeth Holmes.  A Stanford University student, she left before she graduated to start her revolutionary nano-blood-testing company. Instead of having to take vials of precious fluid it would only take a pin-prick to get a complete blood profile. Walgreens, the giant drugstore chain, sighed up. Her board consisted of rich guys, including Henry Kissinger, Warren Buffet and Elizabeth. Both the New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal wrote scathing article s about her and her secretive company.. Walgreens backed out.

So fellow Hypochondriac, my advice is do not go online to check your symptoms – you will find a dozen or more fatal disease that fit. And do not buy Merck's Manual of Symptoms – it scarier than any horror book.  But if you cannot resist checking, I recommend the Mayo Clinic site. It has a lot of common sense solutions. And be happy if you don't live in the US where they run medical commercials on TV 24/7. Cheery visuals show happy healthy looking people who must take some serious meds to stay looking that way. A soothing voice tells you how fantastic they are. Then POW. A dead serious voiceover tells all the bad side affects that could occur. They usually end with the disclaimer: in case of (whatever the side affect) or death call the company. Cheers.

Sources: the Net, Wall Street journal, the New Yorker, TV, personal experience

Next week: WOODY ALLEN bakes a turkey and it's not even thanksgiving
Note: poor Woody.  He got forgotten for a couple of weeks, but his last movie deserves to be trashed.

Note: If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Unfortunately, as far as I know, butter, cream, cheese and other saturated fats are not off the hook. Delicious as they are, they are still bad for you, increasing cholesterol and the risk of heart diseases. The research was NOT bogus. The science still stands, despite what you may have read somewhere, or worse yet, seen on the telly.

- Eki

Monday, 5 March 2018

New PROJECT: making the CASE

The Shark and I came up with a project idea and I pitched to Erkki. He had objections. And I could see his point. It's a political 'VOTE' video about American kids and we want to use old footage (in public domain) to illustrate it. Our aim was to be nostalgic,  cheerful and appeal to Independents. Erkki said that's what the Trumpsters (mostly, but not all, Republicans) want: Make America Great Again. He pointed out that life is better now. He's right. Most things are, but not everything. And negative news and views get attention.

Making America Great Again, 1948 (Wikipedia)
For instance, while the infant mortality has dropped in all wealthy countries, the US is at the bottom of a list of  20.On the other hand back then more than twice the number of American infants died at birth than the 6% per 100,000 today. American schools have fallen behind to 14th place from 1st place in the world-ranking - income-inequality is given as the major reason. Between 1950 and 1960 there were 12 children killed at schools compared to 246 children killed in schools between 2000 and 2018. Now the kids at the high school in Parkland, Florida want action on gun control. They created the Twitter hashtag #neveragai and quickly organized  March for our Lives in Washington D.C. The students also confronted politicians and came out on top. 

Michael Moore has just completed a new documentary (1'52”). He compares schools and culture in Europe to those in the US. No. He's not fair and balanced, but some things hit the mark. Our problem is how to make a 'get-out-the VOTE' video using old footage and not fall into the 'Make America Great Again' trap. When bad news gets attention and good news falls flat. Erkki, any ideas?

Sources: OECD school rankings, the Economist, Financial Time Weekend, the Net

Next week: HYPOCHONDRIACS UNITE: you have nothing to fear but AI and the NET
It was scheduled to be posted this week but got lost in my machine. Now the Mac doctor has to find it.

Note: After writing this, Maggy came up with a completely new idea that took my objections into account. It will be different, but i think something we can agree on. Cool. This is how things work out, bouncing the ball back and forth.

-- Eki

Friday, 23 February 2018

Fishing for FINANCING

A guy I met at a film seminar asked me what I thought was the most important thing about making a movie. I said, 'MONEY'. He thought that was so un-idealistic. By comparison getting a project commissioned was easy. Our editor at TEEMA, at the time, a division of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE). Our commissioning had a limited budget. We got 15,000 euros and the series was 100'.  The  Swedish-division of YLE gave us another 15,000. That meant we had to chase down more money. We started with EU Media, the European Union media funding group. But when I checked the application, I thought, 'no way'. And went back to the EU Media Finnish rep. She said to think of it as an elephant that you bite off bit by bit. It was a nightmare that went on and on... We got the grant: 15,000 euros.

We tapped the Swedish Cultural Foundation and got 5,000 - a couple of the architects were Swedish-speaking Finns. The Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave us another 5,000. We got to use the YLE's archive film at no cost, but that meant they had 50% of the rights. I felt like a small-time Hollywood hustler. The upside was we made a lot of useful funding contacts. Almost the number one job of a producer. Especially at a small company.

A random, unrelated chart (for business credibility).

Every time we got a commission it was the same routine. When Esa-Pekka Salonen agreed to let us make a doc about him I knew we would need a bundle. We filled out the 100-page application for EU Media funding and they turned us down. But they liked the subject and suggested we try again, with an entirely new concept. I let out a loud groan. But decided to have a go. The second time we got 15,000. I know, I know this money business is boring. But even big-time stars, for instance, Orson Welles, spend a lot of time trying to nail down financing. Sometimes it takes years to get a project off the ground. Small doc makers, especially, get burnt out after a while. They know the routine. And it ain't so much fun the nth time around. But making movies, videos, etc, can be addictive. And you have a Brilliant Idea... And...well you know the rest.

  1. PORTFOLIO. .Even for the smallest project make a portfolio. It shows you've thought the project from start to finish. It should have a synopsis (one page). A treatment (one page).A budget (one page). A team list with short bios (one page). If you don't have a project commissioned, try to get 'letters of Interest' from people who have expressed a serious interest. 
  2. CONTACTS. Send hand-written 'Thank up' notes to donors you have met in person (this sounds so last century, but it makes an impression).'Thank you' emails t online contacts. Write cheerful upbeat responses to 'rejections'. You might pitch another project to them later. 
  3. ACCOUNTABILITY. Set up a separate bank account for each project. Transparency is essential and often required. 
  4. UNANTICIPATED EXPENSES. Stuff happens. Add 7% to the budget...
  5.  IT'S A WRAP. Wait till the project is completed and delivered to break out the champagne. 

Sources: Personal experience. Film seminars, commissioning editors

Next week: HYPOCHONDRIACS UNITE: WE have nothing to fear but AI and the WEB

Monday, 12 February 2018

The Dreaded HOUR

Hour-long documentaries seem to be about 10 times tougher to make. But many commission editors want them. They fill the schedule and are often cheaper. Erkki and I have watched (separately) the two-hour-long docs we produced. Both of us came to the same conclusion – they should be cut by half. A lot of boring hour (and longer) docs are circulating, especially film festivals. I saw one (forgot the title) at the Woodstock film festival. It was about woman singers from the Middle East. I stayed for only 25 minutes because all the women did was talk. Not one song was sung. But I was impressed that they got the financing.

Chasing Esa-Pekka, 2008
When 'Chasing Esa-Pekka' (Esa-Pekka Salonen, at the time conductor of the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra) was commissioned we knew we had a hard task. Music (especially about a classical music conductor) is the worst. I mean, there's the orchestra (they almost all look the same) and the conductor waving a baton around, even though he is good looking and a celebrity. The Shark (LMP story editor) pointed out some pitfalls:

  1. Several docs had been made about Esa-Pekka and like other stars in their field who have been interviewed a lot, he tended to repeat himself. She told me not to fall in love with my subject. 
  2. Ask tough questions. 
  3. Find stories and make sure they connect. 
  4. Shoot in as many different locations as the budget will allow. 

That part was fun, because we decided to go to Los Angeles to film the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Milan, where Esa-Pekka studied, Stockholm, where he would appear with other famous music people. London, where his new piano concerto would be introduced by the great pianist Yefim Brofman. Along the way, we interviewed a lot of famous music people. In retrospect, too many.

Most hour, or longer, documentaries don't deserve an hour. But I saw an exception: 'The Music of Strangers: Yo Yo Ma'. It packed a happy wallop. First of all the 'strangers' were fantastic musicians and engaging characters. A couple stood out (Yo Yo Ma didn't take center stage. He was just part of the troupe). And gave other cast members more footage. They must have had a healthy budget, because the whole bunch, plus crew, went to all sorts of exotic locations. The documentary was relaxed and casual – like friends getting together for a barbecue and playing music. If you're planning to make an hour doc remember the Shark's three hard and fast rules:

  1. No long car driving scenes to eat up footage.
  2. No long conversations on the phone.
  3. Keep your 'talking heads' to a minimum. Unless they're like the doc that Erkki raves about where two scientists do nothing but talk for an hour and a half. But then he's a science geek.

Sources: personal experience

Next week: Fishing for FINANCING

Note on ROBOTS WAR: Erkki wrote an informative review of some of the new AI gear he's using and and a PS. But AI, and other tech advances, are also part of the problem. Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater, the world's largest hedge fund, and a billionaire, thinks the next financial meltdown will be caused by the rising income-inequality between the top and the bottom 60 to 80%. But kind of work will the bottom 60 to 80% do? Ray Dalio didn't have the answer.

Source: 'Lunch With' – Finacial Times Weekend

In addition to that scientist discussion series Maggy mentioned, i've been glued to the screen by a three hour long grainy VHS that consisted only of a screenshot of the Lightwave 3D animation software, with an occasional cut to the instructor guru's face (whom i later got to know BTW, thanks to the wonders of the Internet). The point here is not to take away from what Maggy wrote above, i definitely do agree with the rules of thumb, but to once again underline that the story is the king. And the despot can be a good one even if naked. The emperor's clothes do not matter much really, even the prettiest wardrobe will not help a tyrant. In other words, if you're truly interested in the subject, and you get the information you crave, all the filmmaking glitz is pretty irrelevant. You will still happily watch the whole thing, even if it's two hours. Or three.

- Eki

Friday, 2 February 2018

ROBOT WARS: San Francisco fights back

Imagine walking down Polk street in San Francisco and getting bumped from behind by a robot delivering pizza. That could have happened before then SF passed a law. Now a human being has to accompany robot deliverers. And only nine are allowed to be on sidewalks at any one time. Other robot incidents have set the city on edge.  A robot-guarding a mall fell into a fountain and drowned himself. It caused an outpouring on the web. But the topper is the robot who guarded a pet shop. He weighed 400 pounds, was 5 feet tall, wired to get lots of information, including photographs and videos He could also summon help if needed. It was offensive to this high crime neighborhood where homeless people camped out. At one point his sensors were cover in sauce and he was kidnapped. When the pet shelter got him back to (we don't know if they paid a ransom) the robot was returned to his tech-creators.

Robot Wars (© BBC)
And that's not all. The city has changed since the tech invasion. More than half the cars that clog the streets are either UBER or LYFT. AirBnB has caused enough problems that they now have to register with the city and have a license to rent out rooms. So do Uber and Lyft. Housing has become so expensive since the tech-boom that a lot of middle-class residents have moved. The center of the town has become more like other major cities:  the ubiquitous haute designer boutiques and expensive, trendy restaurants,.  So much venture-capital money is sloshing around SF that anyone who has a new idea and can sell it, has a chance to cash in. It's the 21st-century gold rush. Techies are swamping the city, home to four of the five giants,

The 19th century Gold Rush and the tech revolution have a lot in common. They both turned the town int the rootin' tootin' place to be. After the1906 earthquake, the city was re-built into one of the most, if not the most, charming, accessible cities in the US. Big enough to have an opera house, lots of museums, a first-rate orchestra and fantastic food. Lots of Europeans came to cook. Including the Basques, who became famous for their cuisine. They loved SF so much they opened a cultural center, which is still there.  The Chinese staked out a part of the town for their own.  Other ethnic groups settled here as well.  Europeans loved this city with its elegant hotels and graceful way of life. And then BAM. Silicon Valley arrived.  And it all changed. Unlike the gold barons who put money into rebuilding the city, many multi-billionaire tech-titans are known for their libertarianism.  And are buying secluded islands in Ne Zealand and preparing for the worst, worst. What do they know that we don't? We need a robot-spy.

Source: an article by Leslie Hooks in the Financial Times weekend.

Next week: The dreaded HOUR

Note: Erkki ate last week's illustration. Nothing goes to waste at Littlemargieproductions.

Robots are coming to our line of work, too. Unnoticed. The cameras have some artificial intelligence (hey, that's a face, let's focus on it!!), and they are often stabilized with active robot-like gimbals that have orientation sensors and motors to keep the camera level at all times. I use both techniques on almost every shoot without even thinking about it. I've been also looking into motion control, which is essentially using a robot to control the camera moves. It adds at least one axis of motion to the capabilities of the gimbal, with precision and repeatability. These systems have existed since the 80's at least, but have been extremely cost-prohibitive. Right now we're at the stage that affordable systems can be built in DIY fashion (yes, i'm making one), but commercial systems still are too expensive for smaller businesses.

- Eki 

PS: The über-rich libertarians know that the precariat is aware of their "greed is a virtue" philosophy, and are gathering their pitchforks. Viva la Revolucion, off with the head!

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Mining for MOVIES: Youtube GOLD

One night bored with Trump trash on CNN, I googled a movie I love: 'The 39 Steps', and '1939', 'movie', 'youtube'. A whole bunch of little boxes with a scene from the movie, the title, and the lengths popped up on the screen. Some were short previews, others were the whole movie. I clicked one. Pay-dirt.  And a sidebar of other choices. I watched this early Hitchcock movie with a glass of wine. And thought, WOW, I can see this again and again... After that, I found a whole slew of my favorite Hitchcock's, including 'Rear Window'.  When it got up to a triple-feature day, I thought it was time for rehab.

Searching for "Alfred Hitchkock"
Netflix and other sites have huge film choices, so I joined. Everyone told me I could find anything I wanted. Wrong. Most of my searches came back with 'alternatives'. I finally discovered that these film sites don't have licensing agreements with every country.That was my problem. I went back to youtube.  I don't always find what I want. Sometimes I try over and over to get a movie. And suddenly it turns up on the sidebar. But it's fun to search. Sometimes you stumble on a winner. Camilla (the shark) says if you want to work in media you have to watch all sorts of movies, documentaries, videos. Amazing to see the technical progress made between 1930 and 1935. I showed Erkki one scene from an English movie: 'Storm in a Teacup' (1937, Vivienne Leigh, Rex Harrison):  a horde of about 500 different breeds of adorable dogs invade a posh dinner party. They create incredible playful chaos for several minutes.  The human actors are helpless victims are helpless. I wondered how they could stay in character. And how the crew pulled it off. I love this scene. Even Erkki, who can do all sorts of computer manipulation, was impressed.

Now we're working on a new project: we plan to use film clips that are in the public domain. I found out a lot of new-ish movies available because they failed to renew copyrights.  When hen I search by genre, I get a list from A to Z. For most tech-savvy users this must sound like first grade ABCs. Or even kindergarten.  But for me who bangs away on my mac and gets into a mess, it's practically a bloody miracle.  By a lucky stroke, I learned how to find film (some classics) from the Golden Age (mid-thirties – mid-fifties).  And make new videos out of old movies. EUREKA!

Source: Youtube

Next week: ROBOT WARS; San Francisco Strikes Back

Monday, 15 January 2018


Unless you're a relative, a close friend,  famous yourself, or better yet, all three, making a documentary about someone who is even semi-famous, means dealing with their minders.  After 'Chasing Esa-Pekka'  (at the time conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic) and 'Frank & Alvar' (architects, Frank Gehry & Alvar Aalto) we said never again.  The Talent was fairly easy but the Minders were armed guards at the gate.  Nice, polite but fiercely demanding.  Esa-Pekka had a PR company guarding his image. They wanted him to see every foot of material before the edit – we had 51 hours.  And made us edit a great line.  I asked him if there were any rough spots in his charmed life after he replaced a conductor in London and got rave reviews. He said, 'There were girls, I was eating, drinking and fucking around.' Bing! But our commissioning editor kindly asked us t to delete it.

Thought I was cured.  But an article in the New York Times about the chefs of San Sebastian (in the Pays Basques hooked me. The town with 187,000 inhabitants in Northwest Spain has earned 16 Michelin stars, the most per capita in the world. It's become a foodie's mecca. What made the story land on the front page was an unlikely twist: instead of competing, the chefs were friends who helped each other. Led by two old hands – Juan Arzak and Pedro Sobijana. The Shark (LMP story editor) loved the idea. I made the reservation for three at Arzak. I told them we had a film company in Finland and were interested in making a documentary for YLE (Finnish Broadcasting Company) about the food culture in San Sebastian.  When we got to the restaurant they gave us the royal tour. The kitchen with its 30 chefs, the wine cellar, and the lab. Juan Arzak came out and gave us all a kiss on both checks and we took selfies. Then we went to lunch.

Art food (rye bread, sausages and ketchup). 

Lunch was six courses of edible art. We drank extra dry sherry and lots of wine. It was great fun and perfect film material. I called my contact at Arzak to thank her and told her I'd like to come back and do a short test film. She sounded excited about the idea and asked me to email a synopsis. The story we wanted to tell was how Juan and Pedro, after their three-star restaurants were a success, encouraged young chefs to get on board and make Basque cuisine famous. We wanted to include something about the Basque history, one of the oldest, if not the oldest in Europe. Then the ax fell. Arzak thought the documentary should be about them. Juan's daughter Elena is taking over from her father and has got lots of media attention. But one thing we've learned:  a one-hour documentary needs a ton of material.  One three star restaurant, no matter how great, would not do the trick. We passed. T.S. Elliot said, 'Between the idea and the reality falls a shadow.' That says it all.

Next wee: Mining for  MOVIES: Youtube GOLD

Re: AI SHRINK: Erkki thanks for the info about Eliza. But she's not a German Shepherd and I'd have to go online and blah-blah into the whatever-sphere.

Monday, 8 January 2018

What I want in 2018 is an AI SHRINK

What I want in 2018 is an AI SHRINK. Just think. Consulting and consolation on demand (panic attacks are infamous for striking at 3:00 AM). After the initial cost, no fees. And best of all. An AI Shrink would not nod off when I repeat myself for the umpteenth time like my human shrink did. When I asked him if he was falling asleep, he said, 'If I do, wake me up when you leave and put the money on the desk.'

This is how AI sees our studio (Deep Dream algorithm)
We had a pause for summer vacation. On the way to my next appointment, I was walking to the tram. A strong wind blew the tin roof, on a temporary structure and nearly decapitated me. A stranger, who saw what happen, came over and hugged me. When my shrink and I sat down, I told him what happened, and said, 'Did that wake you up?' He said, 'Well...' I asked 'Do you know I've been coming here for 17 years?' He said 'Now I'm awake,' and went and checked his records.

He retired. But we're still friends. Now we meet for lunch and he blabs too. He told me that anxiety was a worldwide illness. Even kids can't always cope with the hyper-connected digital age. The 12-year-old grandson of a friend came for a visit. One day, at breakfast, he put his hand on his head and elbow on the table and said, 'Grandma, I can't keep up. As soon as I learn a new system, it changes.' 

Lots of people give up trying. But that has a downside too. Now we have the next big jolt: Artificial Intelligence. When Erkki and I were working on 'GottaGETinTOUCH' we had the use a humanoid at the end. We found an eerie one interviewed by a scientist. She looked almost human but not quite. And the back half of her head exposed the wiring. She had a sing-songey pleasant voice. It was creepy. I heard her say, 'I could kill humans.' I freaked out.

Erkki told me this creepy feeling is called 'uncanny valley'. He explained that humans get this eerie feeling when the AI looks almost real but not quite. If the AI looks absolutely human we feel comfortable. EEEEEEKKK!

Sherry Turkle, author of 'Reclaiming Conversation' and media professor at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), warns that the next big threat in the digital age is Artificial Intelligence. But heck, they're here. Why not program AIs to be 24/7 Shrinks? Mine would not be a humanoid. It would be a replica of Sam, my favorite German Shepherd. He knew me better than I knew myself. He knew when I needed a walk. When I need to sit quietly and meditate (better than the 'meditation' apps on your cell). Meals were always regular and nutritious. So was bedtime and wake-up time. Just the idea soothes my agitation.

Automated technologies are the stars at CES, one of the world's largest technology conventions, (Las Vegas 7/1/2018 – 12/2018). AI will guard your house and send an alert to your cellphone if someone breaks in, turn on the air-conditioner, unlock your front door. Come on all you techies, give us s a tool that will soothe our psyches. Happy in New Year.

Sources: New York Times, internet

Next week: The TALENT and their MINDERS

Maggy, meet Eliza, your shrink:

Eliza was one of the first AI programs, originally written in the 1960's. It was installed on one of the early Macintoshes my mom had when i was a kid, so i've chatted with it, even. You can tell that she's not real, after discussing a while though.

This said, AI is very cool, and on the verge of an explosion. The area i have been following most closely is using AI for image manipulation. It's going to be a huge deal. We're not far off from a situation where we tell the AI in plain words to "make a picture of a man playing ukulele on the beach, with a parrot on his shoulder", and the computer will spit out a photo that is just that. I could go on, there's a lot of unbelievable examples from the AI neural network research in the last year or two.

- Eki