maanantai 11. heinäkuuta 2016

Movie Review: Hammer of Ukko


I recently bought Hammer of Ukko for myself. It is a first documentary ever made from Finnish traditional paganism (Finn Belief) and it's roots. 

I consider myself quite well-read what it comes to Finnish mythology and folklore. Still there was things mentioned in the documentary I hadn't thought that much before. Narrative is singer and songwriter A.W.Yrjänä. There was many people interviewed in the documentary. Professor Juha Pentikäinen, members of Taivaannaula , several archaeologists and folklorists

When I was younger I read some books written by Juha Pentikäinen. I like the way he pointed out the differences between the "new" and "old" Kalevala's. New Kalevala is the one majority of the Finns know. Still it is only Lönnrot's take on Finnish here-epic and mythology. Lönnrot's Kalevala is also monotheistic unlike ancient Finns worldview that was animist-shamanist and more polytheistic/pantheistic. 

Lönnrot's Kalevala appeared in the end of 19th century with more attempts to rise and form national identity so it was written to serve politically than anything else. In the end both old and new Kalevala are just tine fractures of the universe of Finnish mythology and folklore.


All the most important deities were mentioned in the documentary. Ukko, Akka, Tapio, Tapiotar (Mielikki), Annikki, Ahti, Vellamo and of course the Bear. Also the way Bear worship has changed when ancient Finns turned from collective culture to hunters and later on to agriculture. 

Big part of Finn belief is the concept of three souls. This was also mentioned in the documentary. The way Itse-soul (self) could born into a same family. Also the importance of spirit world. The way everything in nature has their own spirits. They all belong to the four elements water, earth, air and fire. Each spirits having powers of their own. Faith to different spirits still lives in Finnish modern-day culture. Especially during different festivals and cultural habits.

There was also lots of talk about the way our nature connection has changed dramatically within past decades. Overall majority of the Finns have very good nature relationship (at least compared to many other western countries). However our nature relationship has changed the same way as lifestyle has changed.

I really like the visual look and style of documentary, especially these mystical cover photos. There was only tiny glimpse of a city scenery in the beginning of the film otherwise it is all about beautiful Finnish nature. Naturally there is Kantele playing and occasionally shaman drum.

A.W.Yrjänä's deep voice is quite relaxing. He looks a bit like a bear himself so I thought he was pretty good narrative. Stories of the deities were told with animations. Animation style was quite minimal and I think it fits well with the style of the documentary. 

I recommend this documentary to anyone who is interested on Finnish mythology and folklore. You can get English subtitles to the film as well. I watched this together with bunch of my British friends last week. They liked it. 

Official web-page for Hammer of Ukko http://www.helomedia.fi/ukonvaaja/

I also made a review on this to my YouTube channel






perjantai 8. heinäkuuta 2016

Midsummer Solstice Flower Girl Chalk Pastel Drawing


Drawing I did during the Midsummer Solstice.

Materials used:
Windsor & Newton Fints Pastel Paper
Seawhite Soft Chalk Pastels

Art (c) Niina Niskanen

Music: Niina Niskanen (playing Kantele randomly) 

Wonderful model my friend Janna: http://kuoma-stock.deviantart.com/

keskiviikko 6. heinäkuuta 2016

Fantasy & Eco Art workshop


Learn to paint fantasy landscapes, fairies, mermaids, dragons and other magical characters in the Fantasy & Eco Art workshops. You'll also find out how to use every day & recycled materials to give that extra touch to your paintings.

First workshop takes place in Friday 8th of July (5pm-7pm) and the second workshop is Thursday July 15th 2016. 
Course fee is £10 with materials included (feel free to bring your own as well if you wish).
Course fee is £15 if you sign up for both days. To confirm your place. please e-mail niinaniskanen@gmail.com

Discounts for those in need :D

You can find us from Glyndwr University Student Guild in Wrexham

Niina Niskanen is an artist and illustrator specialising in fantasy art and creative use of sustainable materials.
http://www.facebook.com/FairychamberArt

torstai 30. kesäkuuta 2016

Pinocchio



I watched Pinocchio in the spring. It was perhaps fourth or fifth time that I watched Pinocchio. This was first time in English. Pinocchio is second Disney classic movie and it premiered in February 1940. Pinocchio wasn't financially successful. Part of the reason is believed to be in  the Second World War and american not going to the movies that much at the time. However what it comes to development of western animation Pinocchio is remarkable film.

What it comes to Disney animations Pinocchio hasn't ever been one of my favorites. Later as an adult I have learned to respect it more. Often I like to compare animations to their original sources. What it comes to Pinocchio I have read some scenes from Collodi's book and also analyzes from fairy tale anthropologist Jack Zipes. Zipes has done lot's analyzes from Disney films. Some of them are quite insightful then some or pretty far-fetched so I am quite critical what it comes to them.

Pinocchio's creator was Carlo Collodi. He was Italian writer and a journalist. Originally Pinocchio was published as serial story in Italian children magazine Giornale per I bambini  between 1881-1882 and completely book in 1883. I have only read pieces here and there from the original book. I doubt I'll ever read it completely. Stories are pretty creepy and disturbing. Pinocchio in the book is really mean child.  Jiminy Cricket only makes short appearance in the story. Pinocchio actually kills him by stepping on him. In the end of the book Pinocchio is hanged for being a trouble maker.

I much more prefer the Disney version. 

Pinocchio


In the movie my biggest problem is with the main character. In the book Pinocchio doesn't regret his bad behavior.  In the Pinocchio has developing morality.

What's a conscience! I'll tell ya! A conscience is that still small voice that people won't listen to. That's just the trouble with the world today...




I think this sentence summarizes the whole movie pretty well. Disney's Pinocchio is about morality and the way human learns to separate right from wrong. Greatest power in the film is Gepetto's strong love and trust for Pinocchio. They don't have that much time to spend together quite early in the movie Honest John and his helper seduce Pinocchio to Stromboli and the world of theater and later to Pleasure Island. In the movie transformation to real boy is reward Pinocchio receives from well behavior. 

First scene where Pinocchio starts to understand Jiminy's words is the scene where Stromboli throws him in to the cage and threads to make fire woods out of him. When Blue Fairy arrives Pinocchio regrets his actions but is however too ashamed to admit that which is why his nose starts to grow.

By the end of the movie Pinocchio has developing morality. When he gets message that Gepetto has been eaten by a whale his first unselfish action is to go and safe them. Second one when Pinocchio saves Gepetto's life by pulling him to the cave away from the whale Monstro. In the end Pinocchio does become a real boy since he has proved himself to be brave an unselfish.

Biggest reason why I never really liked Pinocchio's character is that he doesn't know how to say no but is easily manipulated and each time follows the person who he happens to be around. However when I last time watched Pinocchio I got a revelation and understood why he behaves this way. When Blue Fairy makes wooden puppet a living puppet Pinocchio has no understanding about being a human. He is sent to school when he is 1-day old. Straight away Honest John seduces him to theater. Next day he is captivated by Stromboli and next few days in the pleasure island. Can I assume that wooden boy that has only lived for 4-5 days to have perfect judgement of human behavior? No I can not relate myself to the character situation even if I'd like to. 

Jiminy


Jiminy has always been my favorite character in Pinocchio. He climbs the social ladder when Blue Fairy makes him Pinocchio's conscience. Jiminy becomes found of Pinocchio and he want's the help him the best way he can. However for me Jiminy is most familiar from "All of us to all of you". Disney's Christmas special that as far as I know hasn't been aired in the USA since the 70's but is aired in Finland and all Nordic countries each year around Christmas. Hosted by Jiminy Cricket and each year there are clips from up-coming Disney films as well. I also like the way Jiminy was portrayed in the Once upon a time -series as a psychologist. I think it was very fitting for the character. 

Gepetto, Cleo and Figaro


Gepetto represents unconditional love of a parent. He is a bit silly old man but he is very good-hearten. This can be seen the way his pets care for him. After Pinocchio has gone missing and Gepetto has prepared dinner Figaro is really mad when Gepetto tells him not to eat the fish. He is really mad but still respects Gepetto's wishes. 

I also love the scene where Gepetto tickles Cleo's stomach. Both pets are very found of Gepetto. He also has very playful sense of humor. You can see this in the scene where he dances with Pinocchio and makes him kick Figaro's but. One can also see his playful character in the music boxes and clocks he has carved. Figaro gets little bit jealous for Pinocchio just because he gets so much attention from Gepetto. Figaro's and Cleo's relationship is like watching brother and sister. Cleo is angelic sweet and Figaro is rebel. Both are still very found of each others.


Pinocchio you have a tail!

Disney's Pinocchio is way less creepy than Collodi's original story (and many other animated movie Pinocchio). Still Disney's Pinocchio is considered to be one of the darkest Disney animations ever made. There is big amount of bad guys. Puppet theater owner, violent Stromboli. Leader of the Pleasure Island creepy Coachman.  Honest John and Gideon are also crooks of the story but more characters that start the unfortunate events. I always thought creepiest scene in whole movie is the one where Lampwick turns into a donkey. Pinocchio has lot's of psychological horror.

I really like the Pleasure Island Game Hall design. I think it was quite clever to make it as an 8-ball. There Pinocchio drinks bear, plays pool and smokes cigars with Lampwick. I find the whole concept of Pleasure Island pretty absurd. It is like trauma-therapy for young boys since they get to break everything. 

Pinocchio also includes lot's of sociological themes like child labor. Little boys are seduced to the Pleasure Island. When they turn to donkeys Coachman is planning to sell them as "free labor" to salt mines and circuses. Scene where little boys/donkeys are send to the boat trip is heart breaking. 

I don't know what other people think. When I was watching Pinocchio I hoped that there had been some kind of magical interfering (Blue Fairy perhaps?) who could have saved the lost boys. Pinocchio is such dark film. Who knows maybe story team thought about it but it didn't fit into the film.

One thing that I have noticed in Pinocchio is the episodic feeling. This also links the film to Collodi's original story. In many ways the bad guys in Pinocchio remind me of Disney's early animation episode characters from Silly Symphonies.



Little wooden head

I had forgot that Pinocchio also begins with a story book. Jiminy is the story teller. Beginning of the film is fun when camera work goes through eyes of jumping cricket. One of my favorite things in the film is Gepetto's workshop. Every time when I watch Pinocchio I can't stop admiring the amount of details and funny looking clocks. Quality of animation is very much advanced compared to Snow White. Another beautiful scene is the underwater scene. I find under water scenes and battle with Strombo actually much more light hearten than the anxiety driven scenes in the Pleasure Island. Probably because family is back together no matter what happens.

One of the things I do like in Pinocchio are the songs. Hi Diddle Dee Dee is very deceitful song. I think it's hilarious but of course gives very unrealistic image of actor's life. 
When you wish upon a star - is actually a Disney song that for me is pretty much the same as  Christmas Carol. No doubt because  each year it is included in "All of us to all of you".
I've never liked the character of Stromboli  but I've always liked the song I've got no strings and the puppeteer performance. Especially different dolls that represent different nationalities Russian dancers, Dutch dancers and French can can dancers. I also like the songs "wooden little head" and "give a little whistle" during those two songs viewer is introduced with Gepetto's workshop and the main characters.

There are many scenes in Pinocchio that I like. When Pinocchio finally finds his family in the belly of the whale Monstro Gepetto accidentally hugs and kisses a fish. I also love the end scene. Figaro is so happy when Pinocchio becomes a real boy he jumps into Cleo's tank and gives her a kiss. One of my favorite scenes happens right before Blue Fairy arrives. Gepetto has so many ticking clocks on the wall Jiminy has troubles getting sleep. Then he shouts "QUIEEET" and all the clocks get quiet.
                                                                     
                                                                 Voice acting

Majority of the Disney films I have ever watched I have watched them in Finnish. Last time we watched Pinocchio in Disney society. That was first time I watched it in English. I usually prefer Finnish versions (Finnish animation voice overs are usually very high quality). But because Pinocchio hasn't never really been my favorites I didn't mind watching it in English. In fact Pekka Lehtosaari who has directed most of the 90's Finnish Disney voice overs got orders from Disney to find voice actors matching with the original voices. They indeed are very much alike (Finnish of course being completely different language compared to English). Wonderful Finnish actor Matti Ranin who passed away few years ago (he also worked as director for Disney's Finnish voice overs) did voice of Gepetto. I thought it was quite funny because Ranin's appearance was very similar to English voice of Gepetto Christian Rub and in fact Disney animator's used Rub as physical model to animate character of Gepetto.

Pinocchio may not be my favorite Disney animation I still highly recommend any Disney fan to watch it at least once or twice in their life.

maanantai 27. kesäkuuta 2016

Finland's Brits in shock over Brexit

Shared from Finnish news

Finland's Brits in shock over Brexit

Britain voted on Thursday to leave the European Union, and now 65 million British citizens are working out what the result means for them. There will be a difficult negotiation over terms of separation, but that might not even start right away—PM David Cameron has resigned and his successor will not be appointed for months.
UK citizens, however, are already making contingency plans. Before the referendum we spoke to several Brits based in Finland about their hopes and fears and, most crucially, how they intended to vote. Originally a supporter of the Leave campaign, Andy Patel actually changed his mind on Brexit after he was interviewed by Yle News before the referendum.
"When you last talked to me, my inner conspiracy theorist had discounted the very idea of the Leave vote happening," said Patel. "So much of the establishment were against it. I figured it just wouldn’t be possible. One way or another, the vote would be close, but it would go to Remain. I get a feeling a lot of people felt that way, too. Perhaps I was indifferent about the whole thing based on the fact that I wasn’t able to vote myself."

"I feel a lot less British right now"

Other Brits were always staunch Remain supporters and are in shock at the result. Chris Moore is head of Growth and Operations at Helsinki startup Sportsetter, and he says that the vote puts further expansion in the UK into the balance—although the falling pound could make operations in Britain cheaper. The main change for him, it seems, is psychological.
"I feel a lot less British right now," writes Chris via email. "I've been away from the UK for five years and lived in Sweden also. I've grown up being a European and mixed with many different Europeans growing up. It's a completely different mindset and openness people have compared to what I've experienced with Brits."
Like others, Moore felt a disconnect from Leave voters—even those in his close family. He echoed a common complaint—that the media had failed to inform voters properly about the choice they were making.
"I was quite disappointed my parents voted to leave the EU, knowing I've been away for so long and will grow our family in Europe," said Moore. "They were more concerned with immigration and having to 'bail out' Italy. Unfortunately they've been misinformed by the media and now will regret that decision."

Identity conflict

Graham Watts, a Scot living in Helsinki, offered another gloomy assessment.
"I consider myself to be Scottish, British, and European, and I feel like all of those identities are now in conflict with each other," writes Watts.
"I honestly cannot see any positive that can be taken from the result: our savings are worth less than they were, my future status as a British citizen in Finland feels uncertain, and the world feels like a bigger, more insular place than it was 2 days ago.  I have Finnish friends in the UK who are also worried about their future status."

Citizenship plans

Cai Weaver was one of the British migrants we interviewed before the referendum, and he was always a staunch supporter of the Remain campaign.
He shared many Brits’ anxiety about their status in Finland, and he plans to do something about it as soon as possible.
"This has substantially accelerated my plans for citizenship, what was a nice idea now seems to be a necessity," says Cai. "I would rather be a citizen of an EU country than of a fading power! I enjoy the benefits of EU membership way too much to want to give them up. The U.K. is no longer a country I would want to move back to. I've built my life in Finland and this is now my home. Let's hope it isn't threatened by this week’s tragic outcome."

Internal Tory fight

There is some anger at the politicians who called the referendum in the first place. David Cameron and the man likely to replace him, Leave campaigner Boris Johnson, both went to the same exclusive, expensive private boarding school along with many other senior figures in the Conservative Party.
"My country has made the wrong decision in a referendum that was held because of internal fights amongst people who come from very privileged backgrounds," said James Mathews, an engineer from Scotland who lives in Espoo with his Russian wife.
Mathews moved to Finland from Russia one year ago because as an EU citizen he was able to move together with his wife. If they had moved to the UK, he says the couple would have had to spend nine months apart while the paperwork was processed.
That option could soon close for future British migrants looking to make a life for themselves in Finland, or elsewhere in the EU.
Sources
 
Yle

perjantai 17. kesäkuuta 2016

Witche's birds: Eagle


I started new series to my YouTube channel about witche's birds. First one is the eagle. In Finnish mythology there are stories of the Thunder Bird the mighty eagle who forecast the arriving of thunder.