Whole Lot o’ Nuthin’

So, I took the test to see if I could be a member of the facebook thought police (they call it something more benign -nb I detest facebook with the heat of three thousand auto da fe’s). My score was an unimpressive 45%.  There was a certain trick to get this precise and objectively correct result… (see below the fold if you want to take the test without my simple hack).

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Fractured Column

As in many countries taxi drivers in Poland tend to be chatty… if you give them a chance, which I usually don’t. Most of the time I stare meaningfully out of the window and give short non-committal answers when they start up on their latest hobby horse. Occasionally it’s interesting but most of the time I’m got other things on my mind.

A friend of mine is not so close mouthed and is liable to engage them (sometimes a little forcefully as he got in an argument with one over a political issue in the middle of heavy traffic) For me, rule number one is don’t ruffle the feathers of whoever is driving until you’re getting out.

Anyway occasionally I regret my reticence as when he relayed an interaction with a driver a few days ago who was unhappy at the number of Ukrainians working in the country.

“How could that traitor government let them all in? They’re a fifth column! They’re just waiting on a signal from the Kremlin to rise up and take over!” (and on and on like that for the whole trip).

“He does realize that Ukraine and Russia are effectively at war, doesn’t he?” I asked.

“I didn’t think to mention that… I don’t think it would have made any difference.”

As I’ve said, Ukrainian labor migration to Poland is overwhelmingly a non-crisis, but there are some bumps, including people who are still living in 1982… (or 1968 or 1956).

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Eurovision 2019: Grand Prix du Randomocity

A bit late, but what the hell… Some final thoughts on Eurovision 2019.

Grand Prix du Keeping the Lid On: I knew there would be no security lapses like the Portuguese slackers who let some mentally ill person disrupt the UK’s entry. I imagine security and snipers were all over the place just waiting for someone to try their luck.

Grand Prix du Branding: When it comes to generating publicity no entry this year came close to Hatari who turned an unlikely song and style and a 10th place finish into a global launch pad. In retrospect everything they did was done in order to generate buzz.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania hatari eurovision

Are they dismantling capitalism or riding it for all its worth? Yes, of course!

It began with their techno Rammsteinish entry and the least Eurovision title ever (it translates into ‘Hatred will prevail’) and their pre-contest criticism of Israel. While in Israel they became known for their oddball interviews where they discussed dismantling capitalism and cleaning their bondage gear in total deadpan. And then there was their final ‘Fuck you! Hosts!’ when they held up Palestine banners in what they knew would be the last tim they had the cameras to themselves. Millenials can be annoying as fuck but they get branding down to their deepest depths of their souls. Well played little S&M captialism dismantling weirdos, well done indeed!

Grand Prix du Niceness: While Eurovision was meant to create common feeling of Europeanness, the actual contest and voting doesn’t do that. Except… while checking out various countries’ entries on youtube it was very heartwarming to find each and every comment section full of people from other Eurovision countries saying how much they liked the song and very little of the tedious bickering that informs much of the official results. Maybe it’s working after all?

Grand Prix du Stupid Assholes: Belarus jury, take a bow! These idiots talked about their voting (strictly verboten) after the first semi-final so they were not allowed anywhere near the Grand Final. Instead of the jury votes they used an ‘aggregated result’ by averaging the real votes of several countries that have historically voted in a similar manner to Belarus. Keep your traps shut Belarus jurors, you’re there to make dumb old-man votes and not be taken seriously.

Grand Prix du Total Fucknuts: If the Belarus jury members weren’t stupid enough, some nameless loser in the EBU managed to report the fake Belarus jury totals in a completely bassackwards way. So during the broadcast rather than the top 10 results the bottom ten in reverse order were given so that they pubicly award douze points to Israel (which it appears was actually in last place in the ‘aggregared result’.

Grand Prix du Just Shut Up!: Madonna, you’re not European and no one asked for you to be there and especially no one wanted your aging pop star solutions to intractable political conflicts. No. There is a thing called ‘aging gracefully’, you kind of ought to look into it.

Listen to this three times and try to not find yourself humming the tune.

Grand Prix du I Wish I’d Thought of That: In a hilarious turn of events, some Israelis fed hundreds of hours of Eurovision songs (melodies and lyrics) to an AI learning program. There was some human intervention in assembling the AI-generated results, but the final result is so glorious that I don’t care. It’s called “Blue Jeans and Bloody Tears” and they even enlisted Izhar Cohen, Israel’s first winner (1978) to sing the thing I’ve been listening to it over and over and unironically love it.

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Eurovision 2019: We Need to Have a Little Talk..

Well, that was an ordeal.. the final was four! frickin’! hours! long! which was at least an hour too long. My proposals for the runtime dilemma

No more than 20 songs should be in the final (would people have rioted with six less songs? no? then no reason to put the audience through them

No semi-final byes, four of the bottom six were from countries with byes which is not unusual at all. Twent songs that have all gone through the semi-final would be a much better evening.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania eurovision 2019 final france

This raises rather more questions than it answers…

The show: There was a lot to enjoy in the production, the opening with Netta piloting a plane to Israel was fun and seeing the nose of the plane on the screen as the artists entered was a nice touch. I was okay with the dancing postcards. Overall though, I prefer a lower tech orientation like Portugal’s more minimalist approach last year.

The montages from previous contests were okay but my favorite part of the show was when they had several high profile winners and runners up singing each others’ songs and I’m always happy to see Verka Serduchka.

There was no reason for Madonna to be there and the less said about that the better.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania eurovision 2019 finale verka

Maybe the nicest part of the show…

The songs with byes (boo! hiss!)

Germany: Two young women who don’t look like sisters sing and shout at each other about being sisters. It was a bit like overhearing a private conversation so full of inside jokes and references that you can’t understand anything…

Israel: A big guy who somehow reminded me of a friendly horse that’s a little shy. A nice ballad but nothing earthshaking though delivered with a lot of conviction. When he burst into tears at the end I felt bad because I was sure the results would not be that great. I was right.

United Kingdom: Run of the mill underpowered power ballad that went nowhere… not surprising it was dead last.

France: Well that was…. what was that, anyway? Mix of French and English lyrics and a performance by a singer who looks a bit like an albino baby ostrich and a very heavy dancer and a bit of sign language (not enough) thrown in. It certainly gave the audience something. to. think. about.

Italy: Italy has been doing well in recent years because they send the winner of the San Remo song contest. I’m less enthusiastic about this than some other San Remo songs (like last year) but very credible… except his shirt which looked like it was made of a gaudy plastic shower curtain.

Spain: I could see this being a summer beach hit but it’s not summer yet and it sounds a little too much like Alvaro Soler’s Sofia after being 3D printed and then converted into braille.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania hatari palestine banner

I’m not sure if anyone wants these guys as their public spokesmen…

The Results: The voting was mostly smooth and they did what they could to keep the notoriously gabby jury representatives to announce their twelve points and get off the air already. The most overtly political note was Iceland holding a Palestine banner during their last moment on camera (when their televoting results were being announced). I don’t know ho much that was sincere commentary vs punk pulling peoples’ strings.

The televoting results were announced by whoever was lowest on the leader board which emphasized the gaps between the jury and the televoting. Biggest televoting gain was Norway (gargle gargle) and the biggest losers were Macedonia (why’d the jury love it so much?) and perpetual jury pet Sweden. They tried their best to stir up suspense repeating over and over how many points Sweden needed to win… before announced they only about about a third that number. The Netherlands was a very credible winner with a great performance (better than the semi-final which was much better than the blah video).

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Eurovision 2019: My Heart Goes… Okay???

The second semi-final was…. better? more solid? more… competitive than the first?? Everybody is saying it was much stronger than the first and I guess that’s true but there wasn’t anything as ESC-ish as Australia in the first semi-final (my official favorite). Some songs seemed weaker or stronger in live performance than in the official videos I’d been watching.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania ireland eurovision 2019

Fun but all in vain…

Armenia: Competent with a crazy lady vibe (an Armenian speciality) but… too early to get excited about. The performer herself seems a little pissed about the running order.
Ireland: One of my favorites before the competition, a genuinely catchy pop tune delivered in a fun way by a singer who wasn’t taking herself too, too seriously. Word is she was dealing with illness which is why her vocals were a little underpowered and some weaknesses with the song were emphasized..
Moldova: Excellent vocal but the song is bland and the sand-painting gimmick is a little past it’s expiration date.
Switzerland: Supposedly one of the bookie favorites… hate it and the vocal performance was weak…
Latvia: Pleasant enough song that goes nowhere and takes its time along the way.
Romania: Lots of fire (the leitmotif of the evening the way bondage was the leitmotif of the first semi) but the song doesn’t do anything for me and bunch of busy production semi-vampires doens’t help that. Anything vampire related now just makes me think of What we do in the shadows (hilarious show after which it’s impossible to take Vampires seriously).

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania romania eurovision 2019

Romania the relentless… hey Romania! Relent! No?…. Okay….

Denmark: Lightweight pleasant little ditty that’s nice and cycles through four languages. She sounds best when she sings in French, then Danish, then English (close to a tie but when do you get to hear Danish in Eurovision?) and her German sounded kind of awful.
Sweden: Perennial jury favorite Sweden with another bookie favorite… that doesn’t go much of anywhere. It’s competently performed but misses being memorable by some distance.
Austria: Glum ballad delivered in a glum setting… Glum is the key word here.
Croatia: Young guy who can hit the money notes but hasn’t yet figured out that being able to hit the money notes is not the same as being a good singer. Pass.
Malta: I was watching Maltese news before my February trip when the performer was selected and they seemed to spend half the newscast talking about her. Malta takes this thing very seriously and this is their best entry in several years. The song is kind of a kitchen sink number but the singer gives it her all.
Lithuania: What to write about this? Do I have to? No, I don’t.
Russia: Fairly hated the video though the live performance was very good. The song barely rises to mediocre but the singer is a committed and skilled pro and he makes you believe in it while it’s on… but 30 seconds later I forgot all about it.
Albania: A folkish power ballad with a bland staging but she makes up for it in sheer commitment to the song and to herself. Supposedly the Israeli production managers weren’t delivering what the Albanians had wanted but she makes it work anyway.
Norway: Big, messy (but fun!) train wreck with three soloists one of whom is a large blad Sami guy whose traditional singing sounds a lot like gargling. Lots of northern imagery and ethnic pride. I’m all in!

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania norway eurovision 2019

He looks like Mr. Clean and sounds like Listerine!

Netherlands: The odds on favorite with the bookies. Another song that’s a lot better on stage than the video. Minimal performance but that works in the song’s favor.
Macedonia: It’s very creepy how everyone went from saying “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” to “Northern Macedonia” without missing a beat and with no overt reference to the name change… Very Soviet. Sorry Greece I’m not gonna play that stupid game. The song is a girl-power type thing that… yeah… whatever
Azerbaijan: Easily the best entry in the official video sweepstakes. Live, in a staging completely unrelated to the video the song is… pretty good but the weaknesses in the song come out a little more. It’s all just a bit too by-the-book by a Bulgarian whose written a total of eight Eurovision songs for five different countries including Malta’s entry this year. Sorry, Azerbaijan, you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
The only song I wanted to go through that didn’t was Ireland, and there wasn’t anything I really hated… or super liked. Kind of very polish meh’ness.
We’ll see how the final goes Saturday.
What I’d bet on… Netherlands, maybe Switzerland (huge audience pop), maybe Russia (on the basis of the Russophone diaspora)? Azerbaijan? I think Sweden will be a jury but not an audience favorite.
My favorite (and hope it wins): Australia! The only really magic moment so far this year.

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Eurovision 2019: Don’t You Break My Heart, Eurovision!

It’s Eurovision time, which would normally be a time of great joy, but I’m behind with some things (due to awkward holiday timing and procrastination). This year I started watching official videos about a month ago (not obsessively or anything but to get a feel for the songs. And…. I was not tremendously impressed.

As one of the few people in the world (I hope!) who has compiled their own guide to Eurovision aesthetics. I was not bowled over.

There were a whole lot of listless dance anthems and soulless power ballads and the stink of non-inspiration and vote whoring was heavy in the air.

So… a quick rundown…

Cyprus: Listless dance anthem in thigh boots and semi-bondage wear (two themes that will run throughout the night).

Montenegro: Kind of….. okay? But sung in awkward Euro English (which I hate, hate HATE).

Finland: Anonymous rockish kind of thing. The singer is wearing a combination of jeans and thigh boots… which is not interesting though infinitely more interesting than the song.

Poland: I had hopes for this one. I like the group which uses folkish elements (especially folk harmonies) and folk costumes in a contemporary way that doesn’t suck (harder to do than you might imagine). Most Polish people are completely alienated from the country’s folk traditions so this was a brave choice to send. They looked and sounded great but… traditional local culture is not the way to go far in Eurovision….

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania poland eurovision 2019

Folk costumes and flames…. what more do you want?

Slovenia: Sung in Slovenian which I would normally like, but there’s no real tune and it’s too slow and the singer has no energy and less personality than several blank pieces of paper I’ve seen.

Czech Republic: Fresh off the horror of the twerking white guys last year…. brrrrr (flashback trauma… activate!). But this didn’t suck. The sound is rather like an album cut of a pop R&B group around 1974 (it reminded me of ‘Walking in Rhythm’ but not in a sound alike way). The look was the bright primary almost day-glo look of some British groups around 1987 or so…

Hungary: Same artist as two years ago and maybe even a better song. But not so gimmicky (unless going barefoot and sporting a man bun count… which they shouldn’t). Sung in Hungarian which is always a plus.

Belarus: Listless dance anthem with outdated and oddly mechanical hip hop elements.

Serbia: Soulless power ballad that seems to confuse the performer herself…. Why?

Belgium: Lasts eight thousand years and I’m hating every second.

Georgia: The singer looks like a Romanian singer (Smiley) which is distracting cause the song is…. not. very. good. I want to like it because it’s sung in Georgian but I fail… I do like the fleeting moments of overtone singing, but not…. enough..

Australia: Finally! Something to root for! A coloratura soprano in a fairy crown warbling away while swinging around on a swaypole! Where else but Eurovision?! This restores my faith in the process.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania australia eurovision 2019

As long as things like this happen… Eurovision serves a purpose in this world.

Iceland: Sung in Icelandic? Cool! The Polish announcer described it as Depeche Mode meets Rammstein which is fair. Lots of bondage gear and odd dancing…

Estonia: You know that guy in college who’s almost kind of handsome and almost kind of friendly and almost kind of funny and who talks a lot about things he’s done and some great career he’ll never have? This year he’s representing Estonia… in Eurovision. Funy old world.

Portugal: The performer knows exactly what he’s doing and why. No one else in the universe might understand why he’s weirdly emoting and dressed in pseudo Kabuki bondage wear while another guy is dancing (actually spazzing out in time with the music) but the performer knows and I trust his judgement.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania portugal eurovision 2019 semifinal

I would not dare question any of these choices.

Greece: The singer has a nice, distinctive voice and the song is…. okay? The staging is odd with a giant ballon and a mock sword fight. Did I mention the singer has a nice voice?

San Marino: A guy with a Turkish name sings the most derivative song in the history of Eurovision derivative songs. I thoroughly detest it.

Songs I most want to go through to the final.

Poland
Hungary
Australia
Iceland
Portugal

Songs I absolutely don’t want to go through to the final

Cyprus
Belarus
Serbia
Estonia
San Marino

Songs that make it through to the final… (countries I want in bold, countries I didn’t want crossed through)

Australia
Belarus
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Estonia
Greece
Iceland
San Marino
Serbia
Slovenia

That’s rough… only two of my picks made it and all of the ones I most disliked made it. I hate you sometimes Eurovision!

But… I’ll be back after the second semi-final. Why can’t I quit you?!

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Amorphous Aphorisms

Conservatives long for a past that never existed.

Liberals long for a future that will never arrive.

Neoliberals reimagine the past and throw away the future to feel better right! this! minute!

 

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