Trump, the Scandalist

I once read that one meaning of scandal, lost in English but retained in some other languages, is roughly “uproar in the theater”. This might be due to star feuds or controversial staging or slipshod performance or messy personal lives of stars or other aspects of show business. This is still the primary meaning in Polish where skandale are usually about entertainment. (cases of government incompetence or malfeasance receive the name afera (affair)).

One derivative of this usage is the term skandalista, which refers to someone who builds a career in entertainment by pushing boundaries of taste and excess and pulling the public’s chain. There may or may not be talent there too but the foundation is not talent (except for generating publicity). I can’t think of an especially good equivalent in (American) English. Madonna is a scandalistka (feminine form) but I’ve never heard her described as a type beyond ‘controversial’….

This describes Trump to a T and once I have the word at my disposal (anglicized as scandalist) I understand why why resistance to him is so misguided and doomed to fail. He has a talent for turning American scandal into theatrical skandal. He doesn’t care if he’s getting bad publicity, he thrives on it and only emerges stronger from it.

His natural milieu is the rough and tumble world of high stakes business so of course he’s never going to walk away form a fight.

If I wanted to plan effective resistance to Trump it would revolve around calm and rational dialogue with no hint of hysteria or confrontation. It would be impersonal and bureaucratic and would not respond to anything outrageous he does or says. You don’t finish a scandalist by confontation, you finish them by making them boring to their target audience….

I don’t expect anyone to follow this advice, ineffective carrying on is much more satisfying at the personal level than is actually getting something done (which relies on steady plodding more than grandstanding).

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Trans-X

Well the difficulty comes when race and culture (mostly) coincide as is the case of US blacks. Black might be a racial category on the census form but at ground level I’d argue that it’s also a cultural category that some racially Black people in the US do not belong to (and some non-Blacks arguably do).

US blacks (regardless of social class) follow different socio-cultural norms from social interactions, to gender norms to dress to food to religious observance in ways that wouldn’t be expected if Black were only a racial term…

But the kerfuffle about Dolezal seems very weird because it seems that there are those who simultaneously want race to be an entirely social category with no biological basis but simultaneously want rigid biological boundaries drawn around it.

That makes no sense especially when compared to the CW about sexes which simultaneously manage to be non-biological and essentialist… well technically the attitudes about both race and gender are simultaneously based on non-biological essentialism but with totally different results. Not only that, but of the two they have exactly the wrong order: They say that gender can be changed but race cannot?

This is highly counter-intuitive since sex differences are essential in ways that racial differences aren’t. A mono-racial por non-racial human society is quite possible, a mono-gendered or non-gendered human society is not. Human beings, to use gender activist terminology, are a cishetnormative species. Humans would die out in a generation without cishetnormative sexual reproduction – any other reproduction is artificial, expensive and based on not always reliable technology.

If anything I’m more likely to accept Dolezal’s self-identification as Black than Bruce Jenner’s claim to have become Caitlyn. I have no problem with the transgendered in theory – if anything I admire the way they prioritize free well and human self-fulfillment over the arbitrary biological fact of birth. But one  personal pre-condition for accepting Caitlyn is accepting the existence of Bruce (as Jenner themself does) another pre-condition is that I have to be able to accept the self-designation by Dolezal (and Shaun King) that they are Black.

All told, the behavior of US academics in the Tuvel case is beyond reprehensible, those who are afraid to speak out are placing social conformity over truth and lying to themselves which is the quickest way to hell possible. If they want to create torment anddamnation for themsleves then fine, but they are also making it easier for the enemies of education to raze the universities as irrelevant – because they are making universities irrelevant.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Loves me some Eurovision, 2017 pt. 5: Grand finale and wrap up

The Songs with a Bye

This year more than ever showed how wrongheaded giving some countries a bye into the final is. Let’s take each one in order of appearance.

Italy – Italy is very good at producing grand sweepingly melodic pop anthems so I’ve always wondered why they don’t send any to Eurovision. They finally followed my advice. The song is pretty good melodically and the singer, looking a little like a mafioso apprentice, gives a committed but still fun performance. The song apparently is a cataloguse of pop culture and/or spiritual references and the singer is cavorting around on stage with someone in a gorilla suit… Eurovison….. Italians…. whadderyougonnado?

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania eurovision 2017 final italy

In context, this moment from Italy makes perfect sense (it makes no sense).

Spain – Spain has (still?) a thriving pop music scene with its fair share of memorable songs and talented performers. But they almost always send something to Eurovision that’s just kind of terrible (not just true of Spain but they’re the worst offender this year). The singer is trying for a surfer dude vibe but ends up with a skeezy beach stoner-who-does-porn-on-the-side vibe. The verses of the song (sung in Spanish) aren’t too bad but he does the chorus in English and his English is terrible, listenting to “Doo eet fore yore lohvair” repeated 20 times makes me want to ally with the IMF in crushing Spain. Too harsh? Yeah, but Spain always seems to lose all gracia when it tries to be international.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania eurovision 2017 final spain

Spain’s entry slowly coming to grips with how terrible he is…

United Kingdom – Generic female power pop ballad (which is far better in terms of material and delivery than the dreck that the UK usually sends). There’s lots of sparkly gold in the projected imagery and the audience is really into it as if by supporting her they could somehow undo Brexit… The singer weirdly seems like she’s lecturing the audience with a bunch of odd didactic gestures….

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania eurovision 2017 final uk entry

The UK demonstrates… something?

Germany – Oh Germany, as clueless and tactless as ever. On paper the song isn’t that bad, and the performance by a barefoot woman with short blonde hair, amazon looks and wearing a stray costume for Star Trek: The Next Generation does a very good job with it. But it seems like some anti-materialism anthem and the punchline (roughly) “That’s what you call a purrrr-feckt LIFE!” seems like cruel mockery delivered, as it is, in a country wracked with conflict and corruption and in the middle of a long and painful social transition. Not to mention that about five or six of the other countries participating are being systematically destroyed economically by German monetary policy with no hope of ever recovering… Hey Deutschland! Feck Dich Du Arschloch!

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania germany eurovision 2017

Germany mocks poor countries being destroyed by German economic policy!

Ukraine – Earlier, one of the greasy, smarmy hosts had promised that one of the songs would feature “A giant hat!”. About halfway through Ukraine’s entry with a giant 3d head (why? Eurovision! That’s why muthafucka!) I realize he was trying to say ‘head’ and not ‘hat’ after all. Anyway… the less said about this the better. Undistinguished rock in poor English by guys dressed in dystopian sci fi outfits. This is what countries do when they want to make sure they don’t win (hosting Eurovision is an expensive business and often countries seem to choose songs that are doomed to fail on purpose).

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania ukraine eurovision big head

Ukraine goes that extra mile to keep from winning…

France – Somebody on the technical side hates France or the French side has suicidal tenencies. A pop dance song that’s better than most French entries but the projected visuals start spinning around in a way to guarantee seizures in anyone so prone. The singer is dressed in what should be a cute mini-skirt but it’s ill fitting and manages to make her look hulking and ungainly. Attempts to walk like a model look like a sailor’s first moment on dry land after six months at sea one moment and a cowboy bellying up to the bar the next…

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania eurovision 2017 final france

France attempts to sexily stroll around the stage… succeeds in stomping

Voting

They keep trying to speed up voting, now the representatives of the juries only anounce their 12 point picks. But the deadly dull small talk with the hosts is just agonizingly bad and infuriating. They should totally announce the jury results the same way they announce the popular vote results (in ascending order from least to most points).

I was gratified that the two worst songs with a bye stayed firmly in last place through the jury voting and popular voting. If they had to qualify like other songs they wouldn’t have made it and two better songs (by some defintion of ‘better’) would be there instead. Ukraine also probably wouldn’t have made it which is rougher but at least they could relax and enjoy rather than worry about scoring.

Portugal took an early lead and never relenquished it with Bulgaria trailing not too terribly close. I was gratified that Romania did very well (better in the popular than the jury vote!) and Austria’s “Why are you so awful when I’m so cool?) entry (boo) was stiffed in the popular vote.

A very tall elf wins Europe’s heart…

Portugal also won the popular vote (by a large margin!). I’m surprised that fewer people are noticing the coincidence of Portugal winning the first time ever and the 100th anniversary of Fátima observed the day before by the Pope…. I’m not religious but…. hmmmmm

I’m glad Portugal won (especially over the thoroughly unoriginal Bulgaria) and especially glad that they won singing in Portuguese… but I still don’t quite get the charm of the song or the performer. He took his sister (who wrote it) on stage for the victory lap and they sang it together. I would have like her version better but I don’t think she would have qualified…

Languages and lyrics

Originally the idea of Eurovision was that the lyrics were an integral part of the song and juries were provided with translations of all the lyrics (not idea but better than the alternatives). Once language was freed up most countries choose to do songs in English whether or not the lyrics make any sense or if the performers can peform well in English (many, many, oh so many….. can’t).

Nowadays the problem of sending a song with lyrics that are about something is that audiences at home doesn’t get it. Most the English lyrics are really kind of vapid or nonsensical but audiences understand just enough to respond.

It would be great if they could manage subtitles in the original with local translations for each entry. Given the technology that they’re capable of that shouldn’t be too problematic. It would encourage better lyrics and discourage doggerel like Spain’s “doo eet” this year…

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Intonation and Meaning…

I went to a monthly outdoor fleamarket today. There was a musician busking at the entrance (playing the trumpet over taped backing). I usually toss a couple of zloties to whoever’s busking. As I did so he stopped playing a second to say (in a heavy Russophone accent) ‘dziękuję serdecznie’ (sort of ‘thank you kindly’)

It sounded funny though because if you impose Russian intonation on Polish sentences it always sounds wrong. In this case it was something like ‘diekuje syrdeeecznie’ and a combination of the lengthened vowel and drop in pitch on the stressed syllable (characteristic of Russian but not Polish) made it sound hilariously sarcastic.

I’m assuming it was unintentional but it was then it’s no big deal, busking is not an easy way to make a living.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Loves me some Eurovision, 2017 pt. 4: second semi-final notes and songs with a bye

General second semi-final notes

As I predicted the sound quality was a lot better for the second semi, I’m hoping it stays like that for the final. I usually don’t watch the opening numbers or non-competitive song parts but they did a nice medley of a few recent winning songs but in a Ukrainian folk style which was a lot better than it sounds on paper.

The hosts are still irritating me with the obsequious and phony smiles (you’re Eastern Europeans for Godsake, can’t you muster a snear or two?). I’m not sure if I’ve sufficiently processed their embroided suits enough to write about them…. no, I haven’t, I may never have processed that enough.

I’m puzzled by the absence so far of the first Ukrainian winner, Ruslana…. maybe she’ll show up in the final (or maybe I just missed her).

Bye to songs with a bye

I should cover the other six songs that didn’t have to make it through the semi-finals… but meh, don’t wanna. At first I thought the semi-finals were a bad idea but now I often like them better than the final. And the songs that make it through without the ordeal of the semi-finals the songs from the previous year’s winner and the “Big 5” Germany, the UK, Italy, Spain and France (who pay a lot into Eurovision) seem like legacy admissions who wrangle their way in by connections rather than merit. Occasionally there’s something good there (Itay’s L’essenziale from 2013 is that rare thing – a Eurovision song that I listen to for itself again and again) but often they’re just kind of…. blah. They should totally make all songs go through the semi finals with just 24 in the the final.

What’s worse is that since semi-final songs get heard twice they have the songs with a bye performed during the semis two which looks like even more non-merit based favoritism. This turns me against them and so I cannot maintain my exquisitely impartial standards…. I’ll review the performances in the final, that should be enough.

War by other means

The whole original idea of Eurovision was to help create a sense of solidarity between different European countries after WWII in a non-media saturated era and two add another low stakes friendly competition for countries (like soccer) to encourage people to not engage in high stakes unfriendly competition like wars and invading each other.

Of course now we’re living in an all media enviornment all the time so something like Eurovision isn’t that necessary beyond the purposes of fun but oddly enough it still serves as a proxy vehicle for diplomatic hostilitiy. Russia proposing a singer that it knew Ukraine would not allow is just that kind of nasty shit that is still preferable to escalating military conflict. I’m not sure if Russia has completely withdrawn or will it still be able to vote during the final and if so will they use the few seconds they have to try twist the knife in. It seems that Russians distrust the very idea of voting that they try to subvert any occasion of the act, no matter how trivial.

Different Eurovisions in Search of an Audience

There are times when I regret my smart ass cynicism. I love poking fun at Eurovision’s excentricities and absurdities but it makes me feel bad when I realize that for some (former Iron curtain) countries it still maintains a kind of… civilizational cachet. Ukraine is a country struggling to emerge from Russian despotism into European civil society and winning and hosting Eurovision is actually a big cultural deal. I remember that even if that isn’t the aspect that I choose to stress as I bliss out over overblown and/or misguided spectacle.

Down with the ESC

My Eurovision aesthetic (how pathetic is that?) can be summed up in three words that (helpfully) mimic the initials of the Eurovision Song Contest (the offical name of this shindig).

ETHNIC, I like music that sounds like it’s from a specific place and not something that could be made anywhere, that’s why I like yodeling and folk songs in Belarussian and am bored out of my skull for slick and lifeless products. I’d love it if they said no country could sing in English.

STRANGE, it’s Eurovision, if you can’t let your hair down there and look silly then what hope is there? I even liked the universally reviled UK entry in 2007 just for the variety show vibes, it surely wasn’t like anything else that evening.

COMMITTED, Give me committed and overdone over plain old competence any day of the week. The song may be weak and choreography misguided and the costumes ludicrous but if they seem like they’re giving it their all I’m on their side.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Loves me some Eurovision, 2017 pt. 3: second semi-final

I stopped watching after the perfromances so now I will do a rundown of the songs with my personal picks for the top 10 (based on song, performance, weirdness, other intangibles) before checking out which songs actually qualified.

Serbia – What’s going on? Between them, the ex-Jugoslav countries usually manage to produce at least one song I really like, but this year so far? Nuttin’. Kind of generic Eurovision song without enough stage trickery to distract from the ordinariness of it all… It might have a chance if it appeared late in the evening after a disaster or two, but first? Dead in the water. Like my interest (is that too harsh? yeah…. that’s too harsh).

Austria –The song is pleasantly poppy enough but it has two big strikes. He starts off standing in large crescent moon that looks like it was carved out of a mirror ball. For one magic second it looks like he’s going to…. I dunno, defy gravity and walk around the inside of the crescent or stay standing while the moon lifts up into the sky but nothing like that happens… And the combination of the “I’m okay but you need work!” lyrics and his smug demeanor make me hate him beyond all rationality. This is my current anti-favorite (song whose success fills me with dispair)

Macedonia – Jugoslavija is batting 0 for 4 this year. The song from the Former Republic with too long an official name is forgettable song and weak vocals and no choreography beyond inept attempt to walk like a model that comes off more like a stripper struggling to walk a straight line. But now I feel bad because the announcer said the singer works with disabled children and the film before the performance indicates she might be pregnant. Hey Macedonia? Boo! Boo for making me feel conflicted!

Malta – Maybe its the nostalgia from my trip there a month or so ago but I like this. Malta is one of those countries that bizarrely takes Eurovision very seriously and they often punch well above their small population weight. The song is an old school ballad (but in a good way) and the performance is committed and strong. I’m all for it but I’m skeptical about its chances.

Romania – THIS IS WHY EUROVISION EXISTS DAMMIT! Where else in the world will you get cannons on stage, and an okay pseudo hip hop song decorated with a bunch of           YODELING(!) thrown in for good measure? Nowhere else but Eurovision, that’s where! It’s a plus that the yodeling is women into the song in an organic way and is actually very good (which hints darkly at forbidden passions on the part of the singer). And the singers are really committed – that’s the only way to carry somethnig like this off – full speed ahead and damn the consequences! It’s moments like this that make me think there’s hope for Europe after all. I will be crushed if this doesn’t qualify….

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania eurovision 2017 semi final romania

Romania yodels its way out of the Balkans and into my heart!

Netherlands – Three sisters who have very good harmonies and the song is good enough I guess, but I worry that their musicianship and professionalism might hold back more oddball performances and so that makes me not like them so much.. The way they’re dressed makes me wonder if the greater acceptance of homosexuality in the Netherlands means that gay men aren’t disproportionately represented in show-business. That’s a long way of saying it looks like they have no gay friends and they should hit some  drag clubs (if Kiev has any) between now and the final and get some tips on tarting things up.

Hungary – There’s a singer in a toy soldier outfit singing a folkish thing in Romani and then rapping in Hungarian and occasionally playing what looks like a milk can like a bongo while a young Romani woman dances around and looks like she’s in romantic despair, occasionally a blonde violinist pops up. Hungary you had me at the toy soldier outfit, all the rest is just making me love you more.

Denmark – The beehive’s internal structure is a densely packed group of hexagonal prismatic cells made of beeswax, called a honeycomb. The bees use the cells to store food (honey and pollen) and to house the brood (eggs, larvae, and pu…. oops! sorry my mind wandered for a moment because BEEHIVES ARE MORE INTERESTING THAN THIS SONG! I guess that both the song and performance are competent enough but they fail in arousing any interest on my part. I’m sure it will do well but I am very uninvested in it….

Ireland – My first thought is that the singer looks like a young K.D. Laing and then I’m confused because the announcer is talking about a “he”. “His” voice is thin and girlish and I keep thinking he’s going to switch and pull out the big guns which he does…. for about two seconds and then it’s back to the thin colorless sound… He sings in a balloon that unhelpfully stays on stage rather than floating up and exploding like the Hindenberg (why wouldn’t it float up and explode like the Hindenberg?

San Marino – It sounds like the 80s and has a guest German performer and was written by a German hired to write a Eurovision song for San Marino. A bunch of songs this year written by Swedish or German hired guns (apparently there’s a bunch of Eurovision for hire writers out there). I wonder how “Author of 17 failed Eurovision songs” looks on a resume but by the time they agree to become a Eurovision songwriter I suppose dignity and pride are no longer part of the career equation.

Croatia – The singer is apparently a big deal in Croatia and the hosts and Polsih announcer lead me on by saying he has “two voices”. My thought is that he sings with overtones (like Asian throat singers). My brief excitement is crushed. He simply alternates singing in a high, thin almost falsetto voice in English and a not terribly convincing baritone voice in Italian. His suit looks different on each side (which I figure out toward the end). Whatever, it’s different, but lacks the commitment that makes _my_ heart sing.

Norway – He sings about killing the voice in his head which leads me to wonder about killing the voice in my ears…. The band members have disco-hockey masks on but don’t do anything with it and the lead is workmanlike and not committed. Just kind of there as if he’s already performed this hundreds of times and is counting on audience energy to get through it…

Switzerland – The song is just okay and the staging is journeyman like but there’s something about the lead singer’s…. presence that is intriguing. She’s ethnically Romanian and she has a look that suggests that she is the keeper of a century’s old family curse. There’s something…. lupine about her and now I want them to qualify in the vain hope that there will be a full moon during the final and she’ll transform into a werewolf or giant vampire bat. My hopes and dreams may be modest…. but they are my own.

Belarus – This is all very Freudian. They’re dressed in virignal white and standing in a boat (female sexuality!) but the boat has two large fans in back that give it a phallic appearance. They frolic around in the small space of the boat and she makes chirping sounds and even ululates at one point and the audience is super into it with many singing along. The song is in Belarussian which is always fun. If this doesn’t make it into the final I will. be. devastated!

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania eurovision 2017 belarus boat

More conflicting sexual imagery than any one country should produce…

Bulgaria – It’s all very sad. The guy can sing but it sounds like he’s been listening to way too much Adele and not much of anything else. That he’s dressed up like a whiny goth doesn’t help. The song itself is Eurovision boilerplate… There’s real talent on stage but it’s being funnelled in a very bad and evil direction.

Lithuania – I’m reminded of Latvia (can that ever be good?). The singer is doing her best to create a Bjork-like manic-pixie-girl vibe but it’s all too studied. And her vowels are off (too much emphasis on unstressed vowels). That won’t bother most listeners but it does bother me. Best moment: She looks into a moving camera and it looks like she wants to make an I-LUV-U gesture but it starts to move away and she looks pissed and kind of flips the camera off.

Estonia – They seem like Estonia’s Sonny & Cher! But… does Estonia need its own Sonny & Cher? My answer would be a thoughtful…. no. What will Europe say? The song itself is an indirect Romeo and Juliet reference. Their performance is endearing and committed but I don’t think the material is strong enough to carry them through.

Israel – The song is generic Eurovision dance-y anthem but who cares about that? There are bigger fish to fry here. In recent years I’m getting the idea that Israeli performers don’t know how to dress, a couple of years ago it was weird shiny shoes and this year it’s a mesh sleeveless t-shirt. What??? The singer himself is an odd case. I’m reminded of the phrase “good looking but not hot in any way”. He’s kind of like a big asexual puppy flopping around on stage.

My top ten (chosen without knowing the results)

Malta
Austria
Romania
Netherlands
Hungary
Croatia
Switzerland
Belarus
Estonia
Israel

The real top ten (with pluses where I was right and minuses where I was wrong)

Bulgaria –
Belarus +
Croatia +
Hungary +
Denmark –
Israel +
Romania +
Norway –
The Netherlands +
Austria +

Again, seven out of ten, I’m very happy that the two I liked most (Romania and Belarus) made it through (and Austria… ooooh I hate Austria this year!)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Loves me some Eurovision, 2017 pt. 2: first semi-final notes

Just a couple of notes on the semi-final and on Eurovision in general.

Logo
The logo is kind of blah and the slogan “Celebrate Diversity” sounds old and tired. It might be needed in Ukraine at this particular time, but… still. That was all they could do? They haven’t explained the different circles yet (or I missed it) are they beads? Easter eggs? Something else Ukrainian? Random?

Eurovision Weirdness is Back?!?

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania eurovision 2017 azerbaijan horse

Welcome back, my old friend!

Hopefully there’s a return to the weirdo eccentric Eurovision that I love. The absolute last thing I want from Eurovision is good songs that are competently and tastefully performed. Give me ethnic weirdness or horribly wrong-headed high concepts or terrible gimmicks with off-kilter vocals every time. Recent years have been getting blander and blander but the first semi-final had some pleasantly strange weirdness going on so I’m hopeful there will be more.

The Semi-Final Show
The announcers (missed their names) seem kind of uninterested and flat. I think they’re being too cynical for their own (or the audience’s) good.

The sound quality was very bad, blanching out many singers’ voices and making them sound thin and toneless. But this has happened before during semi-finals and gotten fixed by the final. We’ll see how the second semi goes.

They are including Verka Serduchka!

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania verka serduchka

The perfect symbol of Eurovison, my girl Verka!

I have no idea what the character represents to Ukrainian or other Russian speaking audiences in general, but I agree with Camille Paglia, who back in 2008, wrote that Verka “seems to have fused Carmen Miranda with Harvey Korman’s Mother Marcus, the town yenta in the soap opera parody “As the Stomach Turns,” on “The Carol Burnett Show.” The mad Rabelaisian imagery and rhythms of all of Verka’s videos make one want to eat! drink! dance! What a tornado of ethnic hedonism!” The More tasteful and restrained my roll their eyes, but Verka is the perfect symbol of Eurovision, loud, weird, unapologetically ethnic, combining artifice with yet more artifice for an uneven and wild carnival ride, like a shaky roller coaster with some of the railroad ties missing….

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment