Eurovision 2022: Grand-finale: Booty don’t lie!

Due to work considerations (meaning I had to get up early Sunday morning) I didn’t hang around for the entire event and turned off the TV after the last entry was performed. So I’ll just go through the songs with byes…

France: After a third place finish last year, France was scared and decided to make very sure they wouldn’t win by sending a Satanic mass disguised as a techno dance number sung in Breton (meaning no French language entries after finishing 2 and 3 last year). I kept waiting for the human sacrifices to start and I’m fully expecting this to show up in an evangelical video about Satanic influence in popular music (as if Eurovision counted as ‘popular music’).

Back to the pits of hell with you, foul demons!

Italy: Italy has done well in recent years because the use the San Remo contest (a model for Eurovision itself) as their elimination. This year, to paraphrase someone else, they decided to not actually send a song but rather an overwrought argument between two drama queens standing outside a gay night club at 3 in the morning while they’re waiting for the night bus to show up. And I kind of love them for it. One of the performers seemed to miss an entrance but the audience didn’t care.

Bitchy, romantic love-hate disguised as a song….

Spain: Anyone remember Iris Chacón (aka the Dolly Parton of Puerto Rico)? I think she’s the animal spirit of Spain’s entry this year. She was born in Cuba and apparently decided that the way to work her way into Europe’s heart would be to dress like a stripper matador, hump everything in sight and wave her massive Caribbean booty in the air like she just don’t care. And boy did it work! Just a massive crowd reaction the biggest of the contest so far. Iris was clearly onto something…. booty don’t lie.

Spain, playing demure and hard to get….

Germany: Germany is still hurting over their 2010 win and is taking no chances whatsoever…. The stage is set up like a living room and/or recording studio and the singer goes into gloomy angry teen mode for the whole song, becoming more insufferable by the second. Teens, your supposed to be angry and frustrated on your own or with your friends, no one else has time for that shit. And if you’re no longer a teen and acting like that means you need to be slapped…. hard.

UK: Something has gone horribly wrong in the UK selection process… they inexplicably decided to send something that wasn’t complete crap. Quite the opposite, this is probably the best thing the UK has sent in over 25 (or more) years including the last time they won (which was kind of…. not…. good). A popish, soaring ballad with real sweep and really well performed. Will heads roll or is Brexit working?

Post-mortem: No one was skunked this year with nil points (though Germany and France were last and last runner-up…). The top seven in ascending order Moldova, Italy, Serbia, Sweden, Spain, UK and Ukraine. All in all very credible. See you next year….

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Eurovision 2022: Second Semi: I wish I knew how to quit you!

The thing with Eurovision is that it doesn’t set trends (beyond the contest itself). And the thing about popular music in general is that it’s stopped changing and evolving and is simply cannibalizing itself. I haven’t heard anything really…. original in popular music in well over 20 years. This is a roundabout way of saying that this years second semi-final for Eurovision was heavy with musical déjà entendu

So… on with the… show…

Finland: Supposedly a famous group… I hate it when famous groups appear here…. Kind of a rock thing with a heavy 1990s vibe. Next.

Israel: I’m shaken. The singer is apparently openly gay and singing about it. Is Eurovision ready for a gay performer? Anonymous dancey thing with lots of bitchy posing.

What unspeakable rite are these people taking part in?

Serbia: What’s up with Serbia… lots of crazy people there, not in harmless cute ways but kind of disturbing like they wouldn’t give a second thought to skinning you and wearing you as clothes. This might have made more of an impression had she been mic’ed properly. I… appreciated more than enjoyed it.

Azerbaijan: Generic male Eurovision ballad. Not feeling it.

Georgia: Absurd and wonderful. Musically this owes a _lot_ to New Wave (around 1980 give or take a year). One of my favorites this year but the audience is not so… impressed. I fear for the worst.

Willy Wonka and the Eurovision Song Contest…

Malta: This was…. okay…. Kind of generic Eurovision anthem about being yourself….. okay….

San Marino: The performer is a bit of a scandalist known to the audience and he wore a black see-through glitter cowboy outfit and rode a pink mechanical bull…. This is everything I want from Eurovision. Audience goes crazy. Musically it sounds like early 1970s British glam rock but turned up to 11. Thank you Eurovision for giving us this gift.

San Marino casts pearls before the swine of the Eurovision televoters (or juries)….

Australia: I’m shaken. The singer is apparently openly gay and singing about it. Is Eurovision ready for a gay performer? Generic male ballad belted out with a jeweled veil type thing and some conviction. Pass.

Cyprus: Generic Cyprus-Greek type dancey thing with a stage prop that suggests manatees, somehow.

Ireland: A fun enough girl-with-attitude number singing to an ex…. but the performer has no gay friends (or her mirror broke before she got on stage). Surprisingly joyless…

Macedonia: Kind of dreary ballad that starts nowhere and goes nowhere….

Estonia: Guy has terrible, incomprehensible English diction (I was wondering if he was singing in Estonian or Russian at first…) and he couldn’t be arsed to really pretend to play the guitar… So much wrong with this, but… I kind of love it. Strong spaghetti western vibe and the best anthemic song I’ve heard this year. I’m all in.

Tip for pretending to play the guitar… make sure your fingers actually touch the strings.

Romania: I’m shaken. The singer is apparently openly gay and singing about it. Is Eurovision ready for a gay performer? Parts of this dancey thing with lots of…. mincing… are in Spanish for some reason (I know there are lots of Romanian speakers in Spain, but…).

Poland: Kind of generic male ballad that’s high in the betting pools, for some reason. Powerhouse vocals but a bit generic.

Montenegro: Anonymous generic ballad type thing and for some reason she has a large plate type thing attached to her butt, but she doesn’t do anything with it.

Belgium: Anonymous slightly (very slightly) R&B flavored ballad. I cannot wait for it to end….

Sweden: Perpetual jury favorite Sweden with a Swedish sounding up tempo power ballad. Well done for what it is.

Czech Republic: Two members of the group are from Norway…. what can I say? A Scandinavian sounding up tempo power ballad. Well done for what it is….

Summary: Not a distinguished night (beyond Georgia, San Marino and Estonia).

Results: Israel, Georgia, Malta, San Marino, Cyprus, Ireland, Macedonia and Montenegro fail to make the cut… I’m gutted and hate Eurovision and the world on the behalf of Georgia and San Marino… I’m almost ready to declare that I’ll boycott the finale, but… who am I kidding?

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Eurovision 2022: First Semi: Where have all the crazy ladies gone?

I’ve got some deadlines to attend to and other urgent work… but Eurovision just started so…. gotta do that instead.

Opening: Split into two sections, a kind of lame film with a craftsman in his workshop making a drone and then cuts to the live stage show which was very…. Italian. Lots of lights and dancing and a sense of excess that has been sorely missing from recent contests. A waterfall at the edge of the stage makes me fear/speculate/hope that someone might fall in…

Lots of electrical equipement and lots of water…. what could possibly go wrong?

Albania: A folkish performer which should be good (Albanian folk is totally my jam as young people no longer say…) but she’s badly dressed the number kind of goes nowhere.

Latvia: Begins with the immortal line “I don’t eat meat, I eat veggies and p-ssy!” (he didn’t sing that he let the audience do it). A cross between Iceland’s last two entries and the Moldova’s “Hey Mamnma“ from 2017. Lots of energy but there’s not much there there.

Lithuania: Kind of relaxed yé-yé energy with a Mireille Mathieu bowl cut. I’m in.

Switzerland: Kind of whingy, whiny ballad about boys crying. His voice isn’t terrible but I can’t wait for it to be over.

Slovenia: A glorified high school ‘jazz club’ group whose lead vocalist reminds me of Mike Flowers. He struggles to find his voice and it’s kind of painful. Ouch.

Ukraine: The heavy favorite, probably as much for political as musical reasons. A folk-hip hop mix they do put on a good show though it doesn’t quite have the unhinged energy of last year’s entry.

Bulgaria: Dinosaur rock that looks more 1970s and sounds a bit more 1980s (Bon Joviesque). Not. My. Kind. Of. Thing.

Netherlands: Atmospheric and minimalist with echoes of Belgium’s 2017 “City Lights”. Sung in Dutch, which is nice (I’m a big fan of Eurovision in national languages rather than International-Crap-English).

Moldova: A contemporary folkish song in Moldovan (aka Romanian) about a night train from Chisinau (formerly Kishinev) to Bucharest (one country or two)? They looked like they were dressed by their worst enemies… in the dark… while drunk. And the song was dead last in betting odds. But the absolute highlight of the night. Crazy amounts of energy and great audience reaction, especially to the accordions.

Whoever dressed these guys should be shot. Multiple times.

Portugal: Subdued female group (badly dressed…) but nice harmonies. Mixed English and Portuguese (would have been a lot better if it were entirely in Portuguese).

Croatia: Where are the Eurovision crazy ladies this year? Very anonymous song with anonymous staging. Entirely too sane.

Denmark: All female group with a 1970s visual vibe but anonymous Eurovision chorus that sounds like 20 different songs from the past.

Austria: Kind of manic 1990s high energy number… but I’m just not feeling it. Bring back the accordions!

Iceland: Three sisters singing and playing guitar in Icelandic an embodying different years in the 1970s.

This performance brought to you by the years 1974, 1978 and 1971.

Greece: A Norwegian singer (Greek ancestry) and at last we have a crazy lady. But not fun, happy, dancey crazy lady but rather the far more dangerous waifish, intense will-burn-your-house-down crazy. The song’s even called “Die Together” and she sounds like she means it.

Norway: A pure novelty number in yellow wolf masks and singing about bananas. Okay. I’m very accepting of this.

Armenia: Nice… kind of… folkish pop…. what does it have to do with Armenia?

Summary: The song ‘Living in the Past’ keeps coming to mind. Lots of 1970s style outfits and music (sometimes more the 1990s version of the 1970s than the real thing but….). Hardly anything felt really new musically. What did feel a bit new was the… messaging. From Latvia’s manic yet joyless didactic environmentalism to Norway’s dada-esque disengagement. Not sure what to think about that….Results: Albania, Latvia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Austria are all out. All the songs I wanted in made it. I’m pretty happy with the results.

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The Worst Stories in the World #46 “The Girl on the Deck”

Based on this picture.

She was there and then she was gone. She had disappeared so quickly that Mara couldn’t actually be sure she’d seen the girl at all. But deep down, she was sure she had. It wasn’t just a trick of the light but a real little girl standing on the deck.

She tried to push the awareness away by focusing on the house itself. A bit morose looking with dark colors, severe angles and dark wooden walls. It wasn’t at all what she wanted. She had tried to tell Shelley, from the real estate office, what she was looking for. She wanted something bright and friendly. Not this dark fortress. Shelley just told her it was a tight market and with her budget there weren’t going to be so many options.

She frowned looking at the front of the house. The only brightness here were a couple of flags awkwardly planted along the path to the door, remnants of the last tenants, refugees from some conflict in Eastern Europe. The government subsidy to house them had run out and so the owner had run them out and was now looking for tenants who could pay on their own.

The girl had been on the deck for a moment staring directly at Mara as she was getting out of her car. But when she closed the car door and looked back toward the deck she was gone.

At first she thought maybe she was behind a tree or had slipped around the corner. But she was nowhere to be found when Mara went to look, walking around the house before looking inside…. or would she look inside? She didn’t like anything about the house and was considering simply driving back and telling Shelley, that she didn’t like it, maybe inventing a reason when Shelley gave her that look again. She wanted brightness, she needed brightness after the darkness of the last few months.

She didn’t want to be a difficult customer and she was sure that Jacob would accept any house she chose for this six-month research visit. The location was convenient enough for the university library he’d be spending most of his time in. But the thought of spending so much time here by herself, tied to her computer, spreadsheets and never-ending zoom meetings. She couldn’t take that, she just couldn’t.

“Hey there!” she called out wondering if the little girl was hiding from her. “Wanna talk? I’m friendly, I promise” she continued walking behind the house looking in all directions and even underneath the raised floor.

The girl reminded her a little of Beth. She knew that made no sense, her hair had seemed blonde, not dark brown and she was wearing a coat that she knew Beth would never consent to wearing (she had hated dark colors as much as Mara herself) but… something about the way she stood and looked at her…

She tried to push those thoughts out of her mind and when she failed at that she tried to be rational. “She reminds you of Beth because all little girls remind you of Beth.” She imagined Jacob saying that to her in his I’m-trying-to-be-patient voice and at some level she knew it was right, but…

She ended up walking around the house three times. A time or two she thought she saw movement from the corner of her eye or a flash of the indigo of the coat going around the corner ahead of her or slipping behind a tree that was too narrow to hide a person, even a little girl.

Finally she made her way up to the front door and put the key in the lock. But she stopped before opening the door and returned to the car instead, sitting there for a moment after she started the engine.

She would take the house.

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Billboard of the Times

Support for Ukraine against the Russian invasion is as close to a non-partisan issue as I’ve ever found in Poland. The only ones against are (maybe… they’ve been pretty quiet) the proto-fashy types who might like to return Poland to the Russian ‘sphere of influence’ represented in parliament by a rag-tag coalition of sub-groups that hate each other but joined together for elections and maybe a few welfare leeches that are worried about the amount of their handouts….

In that spirit I saw this on a busy streetcorner a few blocks away from where I live.

Russian warship, go fuck yourself!

Interestingly, many under the age of 50 or so would not be able to read it. After the collapse of communism Russian (a previously required subject) was dropped from the curriculum and most now don’t even know the Cyrillic alphabet. So this was probably put up in support of Ukrainians living in the area (of which there is no shortage).

I have no idea who paid for it. If I’m on foot in the area I might see if there’s small print somewhere.

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The More Things Change…. (the more they change)

Happened to run into one of the few Americans I know here the other day.

“You know” I said “It’s very odd to be in Poland now looking at news pictures of empty shelves in American stores”… I was obviously thinking of the 1980s where bare shelves in Poland and other Eastern Bloc countries were a news staple.

Before long he mentioned that despite being a news junkie he can’t stand the news from the Old Country these days. I should mention that so far (knock on wood) disruptions to the local supply chains have been relatively small and a few things are harder to get but nothing like what I see coming out of the states.

I then mentioned the idea of ‘elite failure’ that is, the country is being run by people who are clearly not up to the job. Incompetent and stupid and, what’s worse, blind to their own incompetence. What’s worse, both parties are similarly rotten through and through. It’s not like electing a bunch of establishment Republicans would make anything better. They’re just as bad (in a different way) than the unholy trinity of Biden-Harris-Pelosi…

I mentioned Ron De Santis as a potentially good Republican candidate which is a huge change. I’m so used to Florida being run by incompetent and/or corrupt boobs that the idea of it having a competent governor with a possible national future still seems hard to hold on to. He mentioned Tulsi Gabbard (the only democrat I would trust an inch at this stage though she’s been frozen out of the establishment).

My dream ticket at this stage for 2024 is De Santis/Gabbard. Trump is played out (he played a valuable role but… it’s time to move on) and no one else seems to have enough brains to pour piss out of a boot (with instructions printed on the sole).

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The Plague and I and Die (or not….)

I got vaccinated back in February-May with the Astra Zeneca vaccine for a number of reasons (a risk factor or two and it wasn’t whatever those mrna things are).

Then in mid November, at an outdoor event I started feeling too… cold. The muscles in my back were uncomfortable and so I left early and went home. That night was pretty uncomfortable the muscle aches weren’t terrible and I wasn’t coughing or short of breath though I did have a weird, intermittent headache unlike others I’d had (like a vertical slice between the front and back of my head) but it was hard to find a comfortable sleep posture and I kept going back and forth between the bed and an armchair that I sit in when I have trouble sleeping (not hugely rare).

The next few days continued those symptoms, I didn’t produce much mucus or cough much (at last after the morning) and didn’t feel especially bad, was never short of breath and didn’t have much of a temperature (I don’t think it got above 38 C using an under-the-arm thermometer that’s standard here).

I contacted my institution and said I was cancelling class due to cold-like symptoms. A few days later a close friend (who’d also been at the same event) came down with the same symptoms and ended up getting a covid test and it was positive.

I called my family doctor (this was five days after the first symptoms which were becoming weaker by the day) and explained the situation and he gave me a referral for a test for the next day. Unfortunately it was in an awkward location to get to by public transport and I ended up walking 20 minutes to get there and a similar time afterward to get to another stop to go home (this was the first time I’d left home after symptoms started ).

The test came back positive the day after that and I was hit with a 10 day stay at home order (from the day of the results not from the day of the test).

The irony was that getting the test probably prolonged the symptoms a couple of days but by two or three days into the stay at home order I felt worse (mentally) than any time during the symptoms.

The friend in the meantime had a bit of a worse time (including noting some potentially troublesome symptoms) and was in the hospital for just under a week. I met him on the day he got out (and my quarantine had ended) only to find out they gave him a 10 day stay at home order… Not sure of what that meant for me I called up my family doctor who suggested I call the agency that gives out the quarantines. I didn’t want to do that because they’d called me early after the positive result and it was clear that they were overwhelmed (I think the person I’d talked to was a student hired part time to make such calls following a script).

I eventually found a government site that those who’d officially recovered (as I had) were not subject to quarantine after contact with someone who was. But I still played it relatively safe while not exactly following quarantine (no details will be given here).

The whole thing felt like a stupid waste of time more than anything else. If I hadn’t gotten the test I probably would have been back in class after missing one week. As it was, between the various isolation orders I missed three weeks of class.

Just the other day I was talking to a student who was worried that they’d missed class during their own covid adventure (and totally understood when I said the stay at home order was more uncomfortable than the illness).

Did the vaccine make any difference? Would I have had a worse experience without it? I dunno… maybe.

Interestingly, when I went to Malta in December they wanted proof of vaccination (ora recent negative test) but did not recognize post infection immunity. So to get in I showed that had been vaccinated (and didn’t mention that it hadn’t actually worked….).

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The Genesis of Praxis

On my recent flight to Malta, the airport (not so busy now overall) had three different flights leaving in the span of 10 minutes. One to Malta, one to a large German city, and one to a Ukrainian city (let’s say Kiev). There didn’t seem to be that many passengers for the flight to Germany but the other two were full (or close to it).

Before the safety announcements, there were repeated announcements in English and Polish.

The English announcement (pre-recorded by the airline from the sound of it) was roughly: “This airplane is flying to Malta, if that is not your destination, please inform a flight attendant as soon as possible.”

The Polish announcement (by a member of the Polish flight crew) was slightly different: “This airplane is flying to Malta. If you are flying somewhere else, for example to Kiev, please tell the flight attendant now.”

I still wonder if that was a one off or standard operating procedure now…

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Vacation in a Time of Cholera

I decided to spend the Christmas holidays in Malta and it was a great decision overall. Nice Green Christmas weather of the type I remember from my childhood (sunny and about 16C). Great views of the Mediterranean, nice food. It wasn’t intended to be too active, especially since I was in a kind of remote location at the Northwest tip of the island – the country is tiny but it takes a surprisingly long time to get around do to lots of old narrow streets and mountains.

I felt a little bad at the pretty large hotel I was staying at because it was obvious that lots (and I mean lots) of people had cancelled. Meal times (breakfast and dinner/supper) were not many people in a very large dining room and servers restlingly looking around for things to do and ways to be helpful. I’d stayed at the same hotel for the holidays in 2019 (they were closed in 2020) so I had something to compare this year with and it was slim…

Travel was a bit easier as the bus only took an hour to get to the capital Valletta (rather than the previous hour and a half) and it was far less crowded than in the past (the buses are mainly used by tourists, foreign workers, the very old and very young).

Things picked up closer to the holidays as it’s apparently a Maltese custom to spend a day or two in a nice hotel for the holidays (and I think the government was giving out vouchers to encourage that). Before that I could recognize lots of particular guests and a pretty high percentage seemed to be from Central/Eastern Europe. A probably gay Polish couple, an ambiguous Hungarian couple (I could never work out whether they were father and daughter or Sugar Daddy and Sugar Baby, any signal one way was cancelled out by others), a German family (didn’t ask but they definitely seemed like they were from the old East Germany)…

Getting there was a bit of a hassle as two separate covid documents were needed (despite Malta being in Schengen) and before the final exit into the arrivals area they checked both (with a photo ID).

Coming back to Poland, a passenger ahead of me held out one of the documents (an EU ‘travel locator’) and the border guard snapped “What the hell is that?” before looking at a vaccination certificate for about a half a second without checking any kind of ID and waving the passenger through.

I’m so glad I went. The Powers that Be clearly hate recreational air travel and the tourism industry so I want to support it as much as possible.

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Not Such a Small World Anymore

An odd side effect of the covid… phenomenon…. is that while it was fueled by globalized processes national responses have shown countries being more like themselves and less like other countries.

Some examples:

The US: No national response, but rather chaotic localized responses reflecting local concerns and political leanings.

Canada: Meek and polite people becoming ever meeker and more polite in the face of government overreach, perhaps silently hoping that compliance will show how futile the policy posturing is.

Japan: A society based on the concept of in-groups and out-groups drew up the drawbridge becoming one big in-group against the rest of the world.

Germany: Paternalistic condescension toward the citizenry becoming ever more strict and disciplinary as the considered and rational and logical policies fail.

Israel: Unrealistic collective action mobilized in a pseudo-war effort.

Russia: The government covers up large numbers of civilian deaths (due to government incompetence and/or malfeasance) and the serfs just…. take it as they always have.

UK: Devolved local responses as the national (English) government improvizes throwing anything it can at the wall to see what sticks (most people don’t realize how ad hoc and spontaneous much of British politics are) and then getting stuck in a dysfunctional tradition (more jabs that don’t work because… it’s what one does).

France: Imperious pronouncements on policy by an out-of-touch government that ignores popular discontent.

Sweden: Mårching to the beät of their öwn drummer and finding a third way (which is actually pretty traditional and conventional).

China: News blackout with increased centralized despotism with no concern at all for the citizenry.

Poland: Surface compliance covering mass levels of civilian disobedience (often joined by lower level authorities as well).

I’m sure there are more examples…

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