The Awesome Year of 2010

December 30, 2010 · Posted in Caving, Diving, Life, Making Movies, Urban Exploration 

I once heard someone say that when you are 35, you should be on the high point of your life, professionally and otherwise. I don’t put much weight on comments like that, but then again, looking back at this year I have to say that it has probably been the most interesting and activity filled in my whole life. There have been very interesting work trips, even more interesting holiday adventures, after a ten year pause I’ve written some fiction and got it published, and so on. It has also been a year of extremes in many ways, not so much good without something bad.

“Adventure!” “Meh…” (photo by Ville Päivätie)


Älymystö on the Road

This year started in a very good mood. Susi and I had just spent the Christmas holiday at the Red Sea, diving and relaxing. When we returned to Finland just in time for a New Year’s party, I was literally feeling like a new person. My very pleasant job at the National Library of Finland had ended and my work on Iron Sky was about to begin. I had a few days of working from home and nearby cafes, and trying to recuperate from a mildly upset stomach (apparently accidentally swallowing some water from Egyptian ports is not good for digestion) before it was the time to leave for an Älymystö band tour in the Baltics to promote our new EP, 19:38:00. The band trip started from Tampere and took us to Estonia and Latvia. The trip was again awesome yet taxing, in the way these band trips usually are. The illegal Latvian underground club Elektra was probably the most awesome underground gig place I’ve ever been to.


Work Trips & Movie Business

The trip back from the Baltics was somewhat painful: I got a total of two or three hours of sleep in an extremely hot room, before I had to drive from the backwoods of Latvia to the harbour of Estonia, from where we took the ferry home. At home I had just a few hours to unpack and repack, and to get a little bit of sleep, before it was the time to leave for the first Iron Sky work trip to Germany. I swear that when the alarm went off at three in the night and I had to get up, I thought I’d die of a heart attack right then, right there. The trip was mostly about location recce, which meant spending several days packed up in a large van and driving around the Berlin and Frankfurt areas visiting interesting shooting locations.

Iron Sky really kept me on the road for the first half of the year. On February it was the time for the second work trip, this time attending the Berlinale film festival. I was running a little bit of fever, but managed to plough through the event and to get us some coverage in trade papers. We also managed to arrange an awesome fan meeting in a club called c-base.

The third work trip of the Spring was the Cannes Film Festival, where the new trailer of Iron Sky was published. I spent most of the festival in our office, hammering out press releases and generally tending the online visibility of the movie. Didn’t end up seeing a single film, but had an interesting time nevertheless.

The third work trip was the best one in my opinion: in May I heard that I’ll be spending two weeks in Australia, where we are going to film a half of the movie. I had  relatively little warning time about the trip, but luckily I hadn’t booked anything critical for the first two weeks of June. This might sound like an awesome holiday trip, but it was work through and through. Well, we did have one free day for recuperating from the jetlag, which we spent doing some shopping and cuddling some Koalas. Otherwise it was spent doing recce around the Australian countryside, doing casting for a few bit roles and one of the main roles, and taking part in Supanova Pop Culture Expo.

Writing Fiction & Making Music

During the spring I managed to find something that I thought was lost for me forever. Back in the day when I was younger, I loved to write a lot of fiction. Then came the university and finally the work as a professional journalist, and with them a massive writer’s block that lasted for about ten years, all the way to the last spring. I had this stupid notion in my head that what I should write is a novel, or at least a novel’s worth of short stories, which of course is a huge undertaking.

My attempts at a novel have been ongoing for a few years now, and I was more or less stuck with it, when I got introduced to flash fiction. Expertly goaded by Ripa and a certain Will from Whitechapel I took my laptop to the corner bar on a couple of evenings, hammered together two stories and sent them to two competitions. The first one of them was HiLoBrow’s recurring flash fiction competition, the other was a slightly bigger thing, a competition called Campaign for Real Fear, where the aim was to avoid horror cliches and write something that reflects the life of the 21st century.

So, here were the first two pieces of fiction I completed in ten years, and the first of them got chosen as a finalist and published on the HiLobrow website, and in Campaign for Real Fear the other story got chosen into the top-20 which got published in the horror magazine Black Static, and which will maybe be included in an audio book compilation. Two out of two. This was of course incredibly rewarding and motivating.

This year also gave me a rather surprising musical achievement. Last year I played in Tuska metal festival with a Finnish black metal band Enochian Crescent. The guys liked my theremin tunes enough to ask me to record a theremin track for their remake of the song Muisto Sorkasta for their new album NEF.VI.LIM, which I gladly did. This was my first quest appearance on a published album – and the next thing I heard about it was that it was on the first place of Finland’s mid-price top-10 list. Felt pretty nice to have taken part, even a small one, in something like that. And yeah, in Finland we get (black) metal on top-10 lists regularly.

The Year of High Adventure

In addition to the work trips I managed to cram in a surprising amount of holiday travel as well. The first trip was a week spent diving in Cyprus, in the wreck of  Zenobia – which is basically like a theme park for wreck divers. It was a very pleasant week, which was topped by us getting to be ash refugees when Eyjafjallajökull decided to fart and fuck up the air travel over the whole of Europe. We happened to be extremely lucky, since our travel agent Finnmatkat handled our trip back to Finland expertly. If we had actually stopped to think for a moment, we could have given our places to families with kids or something and extended our stay, but we didn’t think of that until a bit too late.


Yes, that truck is hanging on a wall.

Almost right after the Cyprus trip we got our first taste of very limited cave diving in Finland, in a flooded quarry in Kaatiala. Going into an underwater cave without having proper equipment or certification for cave diving is one of the easiest ways to get killed when scuba diving. We have our wreck diving certification and took the calculated risk of using those skills to take a 10 meter peek into the cave, using both our own line and the fixed one on the walls. Maybe not the most dashing adventure of cave exploration, but nevertheless our first time under 30 meters of water and solid rock, and both very interesting and exciting for us.


Some of the stones looked almost like movie props.

The summer in Finland was murder, the weather was positively sweltering. Air conditioning is a real rarity in Finnish houses and double glazing is a standard, and our house is an old piece of shit that’s freezing in the wintertime and hot even in a mild summer weather. On June we escaped the +36C indoor temperature to Wales and went to explore some caves with Dare and Taina. Neither Susi nor I had ever tried caving, so getting to go and explore the limestone caves of Ogof Ffynnon Ddu was the first for us. It turned to be a very interesting three days, which left us sore but happy, and bitten by a caving bug that’ll make us  schedule at least one caving trip every year from this on.

Traversing a Chasm

There’s quite a drop there – I’m not sure how much, because we couldn’t see the bottom of the chasm.

The main event of the summer for me was our trip to Chernobyl and Pripyat. I’ve been dreaming of doing that since I heard that the place is actually accessible to the public, even in a limited way. We had two days to explore that place, the first day with a larger group, but on the second day it was just us and our guide. For me the trip was quite unforgettable in many ways. I’ve always found it corny when someone says that he’s left part of his soul or mind somewhere, but that’s more or less what happened to me. I spent quite a few insomniac nights in the summer and in the autumn reading more about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and other such events, reading the forums and blogs of the former Pripyat inhabitants and watching documentaries made about the disaster.

Chernobyl Power Plant

Here it is – the exploded reactor four and the sarcophagus is on the left, the reactor three that functioned the better part of the day after the explosion on the right.

The last adventure of the summer was a diving trip to Åland. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t on our side, so we ended up spending most of the trip on one wreck, but managed to do a very interesting space marine dive in the end of the trip. It was a great way to cap the summer, spend some time with friends and to get ready for the autumn.

The lighthouse with the wrecks of Caskelot and Nederlander close to it.

Mastering the Dive

This year Susi and I also decided to take our diving to a new level, which means that we started our Divemaster training. In the PADI system the divemaster is the first professional certification, which means that there’s a corresponding leap in how hard and demanding the training is. Basically you need to know most of the stuff in all the previous courses, and to be able to demonstrate it so that it looks both easy and fun to do. The course involves a lot of theory and practical training, plus assisting in diving courses. What the DM certification opens is a chance to work as a dive guide in a resort, run some lower level courses and so on – practically what it does is it makes you a better diver.

Susi and I started doing our DM early in the summer when we finally got our DM Kits. We didn’t get attached to any one scuba center, but our aim is to try and get to work with many instructors and get a bit of a wider view of the field. The course really hasn’t been easy, but it’s been very, very instructive. Before I had to leave to make movies, we had several sessions assisting in both basic level Open Water Diver courses, and in the much more demanding Rescue Diver lessons. My aim is to get the certification next year, the main obstacle right being the stamina test. I’m not a slob, but I’m not in a superbly good shape either – and I’ve never been a good swimmer. The stamina test requires swimming au naturel and with flippers and snorkel, towing a fully kitted diver and floating – and I’m one point away from passing it. The in-water skills and so on are just a matter of learning and concentrating, but with the stamina, there’s nothing to do but to exercise.

After we get our certifications, a career path unlocked: if we get pissed off at our current situation, we have the option of packing up our stuff and fucking off to some warm locale to guide some tourists for a season or two.

Almost into Politics

On 2005 I managed to cause quite a lot of noise over the new, extremely crappy copyright law that was going through the Finnish parliament. There was an e-mail campaign that jammed the parliament computers, some officials flew to Brussels to get further information and copyright stuff was in the new for quite some time. The law was passed, with some rather toothless amendments, but at least people got aware about the law’s problems. Even then a lot of people suggested that I should run into Finnish parliament, but I wasn’t that interested about the idea. It was fascinating proposition for sure, but the idea of that much publicity made me feel uncomfortable.

Finland is facing a new parliamentary election this spring, and in 2010 I almost agreed to run for an office. I got a direct request from one of Finland’s parties to join them and be one of their candidates, and there was some talk with two other parties. It was a hard decision, but in the end I opted for privacy. Being a parliament member, or even a candidate means that you get ripped apart with all the morons online who frequent the newspaper forums and other such places, and you are also under the eye of tabloids, which I hate and loathe. It’s a shame that stuff like that is a deterrent for running for an office, but that’s the reality. Nevertheless it was flattering to be asked, and to get positive response to the idea from several different places.

The Autumn and the Frankfurt Shoot

Compared to the rest of the year most of the autumn was quite uneventful, and quite annoying and frustrating in ways which I’ll just leave unspecified. The interesting point was my chance to work as a trainee on Iron Sky costume department, doing costume components and props. Getting to do something with my hands, even relatively simple stuff like cutting leather straps out of  a big ass pelt of leather, fastening buckles and d-loops to them, and breaking them down so they look old was damn rewarding and fun.

Cutting, sanding, painting and letting the mind wander.

Then, of course, it was the time to leave for Frankfurt to shoot the first half of Iron Sky. The trip taught me several things, among other things the fact that I really do enjoy living out of one suitcase and wouldn’t mind doing that for a few months every year. There’s a good blow-by-blow of the trip in the Iron Sky blog, but damn – it’s maybe not the most interesting stuff I’ve ever done, but definitely the most interesting job I’ve done. Even with the trip ending in a slightly negative note, it was a great experience both personally and professionally.

On a rooftop in Frankfurt, casing out a shoot location.

Christmas and the New Year

Susi’s and mine original plan was to spend the Christmas holiday somewhere warm. My original plan was for me and Susi to fly to Australia a week or so in advance of the shoot starting there, and spending some time just diving and relaxing. Since the year has been heavy on the wallet and neither one of us is actually made of money, we first tried downgrading the plan to diving in Spain or some other cheaper location, and then ended up ditching it altogether. So, after a pause of a few years, a traditional family Christmas it was: plenty of food, sleeping far too late, saunaing and eating some more.

These things are an invention of the gods. The air: -16C, the water: +37C. Candles, log torches and beautiful yard lights. After an hour of this you are ready to just melt away.

What can I say about 2010 as a whole…  First of all, I feel lucky and thankful that I managed to cap this rather spotty decade with a bang like this. I guess all those years of effort weren’t for nought, and it’s great to see that arranging your life like this is not just a pipe dream. Of course, there were individual parts of the year which fucking sucked, but the parts that shined awesome and wonderful did more than compensate for the bad stuff. In the end it’s the good stuff you have to keep your eyes on, and moreover the bad stuff has been both bearable, and often educational and excellent fodder for personal growth.

It was a year of travel, adventure and accomplishments, which all in all is not a bad trio at all. I got my writing going, and coincidentally my interactive fiction programming also. My first game is about 2/3 done, and the only thing why it’s not finalized by now is the fact that the 9am to 1am work days in Frankfurt didn’t leave a whole lot of time for game coding. Publishing my first proper game is something for the next year, then.

Tomorrow it’s the New Year’s Eve. My plan was to grab Susi and go to our cabin amidst the insane mounds of snow of this winter. Sauna, smoked fish, skiing, sparkly wine and just enjoying the nature and some time together, just the two of us. Unfortunately Susi managed to catch some horrible throat rending flu bug during the holidays, so a new year in the city it is.

Finishing a great year with some good pals, maybe? Or just relaxing at home? Well now, I certainly don’t hate the sound of either of those options.

Happy New Year for everybody!



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