Loves me some Eurovision, 2017 pt 1: first semi-final

Eurovision is a glorious, overblown, one of a kind mutant cultural spectacle. I love it more than words can say (though usually the songs are crap and I almost never agree with the results).

Anyhoo, I’d been thinking it was getting to Eurovision time and was meaning to check the schedule but was caught be surprise when I stumbled over it during random channel surfing.

Podobny obraz

Underwhelming motto and image….

I missed the first few songs and only paid scant attention to the ones I did, but here are my first impressions… (with some help from youtube)

The whole thing…. god, I love the internet…..

Sweden – Typical Swedish entry, bland, catchy pop, blah. It will doubtlessly place very high but you forget it two seconds after its over (and the performance is also kind of…. okay)

Georgia – A bit overblown (which is good), but lost between standard issue anthemic Eurovision and hermetic screechy lady weirdness to make too much of an impression, you need to pick one and go with it. The excentricity seems a little forced .

Australia – The singer looks like he has some Aboriginal ancestory which is more interesting that the song, which is….. okay? kind of MOR song that might edge into the top 40. I totally approve of Australia’s participation in Eurovision but not so convinced with this.

Albania – As often happens with Albania, itust misses having an anthemic beat and ends up being kind of a sprawling mess, also as happens often with Albania the singer looks very young.

Beligum – Okay song, kind of poppy and maybe even catchy, but the singer clearly has no gay friends, she seriously needs a makeover as she manages to look frumpy and tired even though the announcer says she’s 17.

Montenegro – The song is crap but the performer has a little of that old Eurovision craziness, beginning in a large blue skirt that gets ripped away to reveal sparkly skin tight pants and he spends a lot of time twirling his very long pony tail braid. This is more like it!

Finland – The singer sounds like she’s auditioning for an early 90s Disney animated movie, the song sounds like it didn’t quite make the cut for the final soundtrack…. pass.

Azerbaijan – Don’t care about the song, but there’s a guy in a suit and a horse head balanced precariously on a ladder! He has a horse head! And he’s on a ladder! But…. nothing comes of it, he takes of the head and then carefully climbs down….. Azerbaijan! I’m very disappointed in you! Do not lead me on like this!

Portugal – About every other year I love Portugal’s entry but they don’t have the backing to do very well. This is not one of the years I like Portugal. He gets full credit for not singing in standard Eurocrap English but the song is too low key and I could see myself getting tired of his wide-eyed manchild shtick very quickly….

Greece – Kind of Euro-disco-y and almost has a hook, it will probably do well but I’m not convinced. It does have guys splashhing around in shallow pools of water for absolutely no reason so it’s got that going for it but overall too tasteful for my tastes

Poland – Another singer with no gay friends, her outfoot looks like she’s hoping for a wardrobe malfunction (maybe the only way to get people to pay attention). The problem is that Polish people generally have very weird musical taste that is both bland and terrible (not quite sure how they manage it) and so they always send something misguided that doesn’t appeal to anyone else.

Moldova – Funny looking guys with the lamest signature dance move possible that brings attention to their terrible shoes and then bopping around like goofballs. One is playing the saxophone while hopping around like a maniac so I’m impressed (I used to play saxophone and it’s really easy to loosen your teeth if you move around too much). I’m on board with this!

Iceland –  Really? Scandinavians (sensu largo) usually take this pretty seriously so I’m not sure what’s going on here. Just nothing very interesting, the song is kind of bland the singer is good but not great and the performance just misses and goes nowhere. Nope.

Czech Republic – Pretty good song with a very good performance. Nothing that weird except that she has an odd shiny thing that looks like a cross between overalls and…. no it just looks like overalls. Some vaguely homo-erotic projections while she’s singing but nothing crazed

Cyprus – Pretty good, it has an identifiable hook and is anthemic without sounding too much like vote-whoring. The pefromance was generally too tasteful for my tastes (I say that a lot) like he’s really wanting to make it through on musical merit alone. Cyprus, that is not how you win my heart

Armenia – This is More! Like! IT! Cliffee likee! Crazy lady singing her lungs out while dancers do strange pseudo-Egyptian posing. Song? Who cares about the song? The singer has a dangerous, unbalanced vibe that suggests that if you don’t vote for her she’ll follow you home and cut you up! Thumbs up! Georgia? THIS is how you carry the crazy lady vibe off!

Slovenia – The song is not bad, sort of catchy but the singer has a sleazy lounge singer vibe crossed wtih pool boy who keeps the wife happy when the boss is not around if you know what I mean (and I think you do) he smiles and winks at the camera in a way that makes me want to shower off in kerosene and then light a match.

Latvia – Clearly trying for a “We’re so random!” vibe and just missing. I think it’s because the lead singer (wrapped up what looks like, but isn’t, old movie film with mid 80s Nina Hagen hair) keeps smiling in a nice and sincere way. To pull the look off she either needs to sneer or smile in a way that makes it clear she’s imagining the audience in a large pool of blood…
As for the results, my top ten (based on song and weirdness of performance combined) would be…

Beligum
Montenegro
Azerbaijan
Portugal
Greece
Moldova
Czech Republic
Cyprus
Armenia
Slovenia

The real top ten (with pluses for my picks and minuses for my non-pikcs)

Moldova +
Azerbaijan +
Greece +
Sweden –
Portugal +
Poland –
Armenia +
Australia –
Cyprus +
Belgium +

That’s seven out ten, not too horrible (or very horrible depending how you look at it).
I’ll do more Eurovision between now and Sunday – you have been warned….

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Neoliberalism, Sterility and the Hollowed Out Center

Quick theory on why Neoliberalism is doing so badly and why it’s not going to get better (hardly any of this is original, but I’m too lazy/busy to list all the sources.

Neoliberalism causes sterility.

Societies that accept neoliberalism therefore have to begin the mass imporation of people to make up for the fertility sink (it’s hard to call this ‘immigration’ which implies the newcomers will actually join the local society).

The people have to come from places that have not accepted neoliberalism to any great extent. This also guarantees cultural values clashes with the local population.

The inflow can’t be slowed down or the arrivals could also be infected with neoliberalism too, and a steady stream of new arrivals keep traditional (as opposed to local) values strong in the ghettos they create.

Since they don’t have neoliberal values most of the new arrivals cannot really succeed in a neoliberal society and they grow to resent the locals who lock them out of their closed circles of prosperity.

The locals resent the foreign values and the lack of success of the newcomers.

Before you know it the political scene fragments into two extremes:

At one extreme there is a coalition of the winners in the human capital game who suffer none of the negative consequences of neoliberal politices and reap the benefits of the increased consumer base. Their primary concern is to keep being winners and to marginalize all the losers. The newcomers they’ve brought in tend to side with them because they’re all that’s keeping a crap ton of angry locals at bay.

At the other end are the local losers who turn to more and more extremes in hopes of regaining something of their lost position.

You can see this most clearly (at varying stages in the US, the UK and now France) and there’s a lot of other European countries where the situation is getting worse and not better.

This is bad, among many, many other reasons, because the center is where effective policy is made and hollowing out the center is not a recipe for progress but for war. Sometimes the missing center is blamed on large scale immigration alone but this leaves out the reason large scale immigration exists in the first place.

For now, I’m fairly sure that Macron will win and this will be heralded as a triumph over populism and nationalism.

In reality, that just means that the loathesome Le Pen will be followed by an even more loathsome populist. This is not a genie that can be held in the bottle indefinitely.

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More Holidays than Strictly Necessary…

A total of four and a half days of my classes are cancelled at my institution between Maundy Thursday and May 10 (aka Sports Day*) and three more days (that I don’t have classes on) get the chop as well. That’s seven and a half free days in less than a month.

The main reason is that once Polish people have a holiday they are very loath to let it go. One of the holidays is May 1, which has communist connotations and therefore isn’t “celebrated” in any meaningful way by…. anyone. Then there is May 3, Constitution Day in honor of a forward looking (but ultimately doomed) constituion. That constitution was important in Polish history and so of course the communists stripped it of its holiday status in 1951. Turning it into a holiday again in 1990 was part of sticking it to the (now out of power) communists and was all in all a good idea, but there’s just one problem… people don’t celebrate it either (besides not going into work).

The rational thing to do would be to turn May 1 into a normal working day and then transfer the holiday to May 3 and create some traditions that would make it a festive occasion. But they don’t do things that way in Poland and May 2 turns into a weird quasi holiday so now there’s this giant black hole in the schedule around the beginning of May every year. It’s absolutely at its worst when the two holidays fall on Tuesday and Thursday which turns into a week long desert.

Sometimes I can use the holidays to travel but that’s not happening this year (went around Easter instead) so it’s stay home and plan lectures.

And like all free days it’s accompanied by a frenzy at supermarkets as most people rush to buy eight months worth of food to tide them over for the two holidays (trauma related to shopping that was born in the communist period has mostly been worked out…. but traces remain and that’s one of them). The shopping trauma is probably why periodic attempts to make stores close on Sunday are doomed to failure.

*A floating institutional holiday somewhere in May, where I am its always on a Wednesday

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Good Poison!

Recently in Malta as I was getting to my room the first time (in an addition to the main building) a middle aged and robust looking maid was waiting to use the small elevator as well. It was very small so I was going to let her use it first and then get to my room but she energetically gestured that there was enough room and proceded to toss my suitcase on the cart full of clean towels she was moving (okay, there was a plastic cover, but still…).

I have a habit when staying in a hotel of leaving tips for the maids that clean the rooms, usually between one and two Euros a day. So that they know they can take the money I leave it with a note saying ‘thank you’ or whatever (usually in the local language).

Around the second day I noticed the maid had left a message too (very rare). I had written merħba! (hello in Maltese) and she wrote “marhba bek!” I assumed the maid wasn’t Maltese and somehow got it into my head she might be Turkic and ‘bek’ was a dialectal variation of ‘pek’ (very). She added her first name as well (I’ll use Anna as a pseudonym).

Anna was not the most efficient maid I’d ever come across –  she didn’t always leave the right amount or type of towels and the way she made the bed was very unimpressive (though the way the bed was in a narrow kind of alcove made it more difficult that usual) and there were other shortcomings. Still, I kept leaving money wondering what fractured answer she would make up next. Her penmanship was such that I had the idea that she was not used to the Roman alphabet and realized that ‘bek’ was probably a phonetic rendering of ‘back’. I didn’t know whether Anna was the maid from the elevator since for various reasons I left each morning after breakfast and didn’t get back until late afternoon.

My next to last day was Easter Sunday and not long before I was set to leave the hotel for the day there was Anna, the maid from the elevator. She wanted to say goodbye since she had the next day off and she wanted to thank me for being so polite and kind and spontaneously shook my hand and hugged me. I didn’t ask her where she was from or how she ended up where she was though I was curious about both (I’m a natural born snoop). That day I left a couple of Cadbury eggs with the tip and wrote Happy Easter! When I got back she had written what looked like” Good Poison!” on the note. Well, actually I figured out it was probably meant to be “good person” (or at least I hope so).

Some people just have a…. life force that makes an impression. I’ve met and forgotten many people in my life, some might be intensely important for a few months or years and then later can barely bring any distinguishing features to mind. But whether this person continues doing her slapdash job at the hotel or moves on to something else I wish her well. We interacted face to face for less than two minutes  but I don’t think I’ll forget Anna anytime soon….

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Overheard on a bus in Malta

I just got back from Malta yesterday though it will probably take a day or two to get back into posting. But for now a funny interaction overheard on a bus, between two young English women (apparently working in some kind of gym or spa).

Life’s struggles continue, even here…

There was a rundown of various co-workers and a subtle struggle for bragging rights between the two with one clearly the more dominant (we’ll call her Marcia) but the other doing what she can to chip away at her armor (let’s call her Jan).

“What about Arthur?” said Jan.

“He’s a strange old prick!” said Marcia in an exasperated voice.

“Yeah, but I rather like him…”

“I love him!” said with a firm nod and “end of discussion” tone of voice.

Game and set – Marcia.

 

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I’m Still Standing (just not better than I ever did)

Haven’t been posting cause I’ve been busy catching up on some work and preparing for a trip to a Mediterranean Isle (leaving very soon for a week or so). I’m bad at posting and running so I put this last on my to do list. Anyhoo, I’m off but will resume sometimes after the Easter holidays.

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Mirror, Other Mirror….

On the surface of it, large scale immigration to Europe from Middle Eastern and North African countries doesn’t make a lot of sense. They haven’t been economically necessary since the 1970s (or 1980s at the latest) yet the numbers keep rising. Their academic record is poor, their economic contribution is modest and offset by the enormous costs that they run up though welfare and imprisonment. They tend to be poor at meaningful integration as even those born in Europe often show less than native mastery of the language of their new countries. There is no outmarriage and they only interact with the local population when they can do so entirely on their terms.

Hiring someone ‘with an immigrant background’ from the Middle East or North Africa is liable to be headache as they’ll start agitating for special concessions to the dress code or work schedule (so most people find reasons to not hire them). A rational immigration policy would start looking to turn off the faucet but they still keep coming. They’re obviously doing something that important people want, filling a niche that locals don’t.

Then it hit me. One reason (there are others) European governments are keen on continuing Muslim immigration (despite their generally terrible track record) in because they provide a handy, domestic Other (yes, partly replacing Jews in that role). Europeans of different countries may hate each other historically, but they can and do commiserate with the hopelessness of their Muslim immigrant population and the headaches they cause (I’ve seen it happen).

Self and Other

Both at the individual and collective level human interactions have their own specific algebra that is all about equations and keeping things in balance. There is no way to make everybody closer without making anybody more distant. More allies in one direction means more enemies (or at least non-allies) in another. One way of making old enemies friends is by creating a new common enemy.

Rather than create an international dynamic with an enemy country which could lead to war, importing a minority to be a constant thorn in the side of the native population is perhaps a sound strategy (as long as the numbers are kept reasonably low). A population which has been notoriously unsuccessful of any kind of organized political opposition in their own countries is seen as unlikely as challenging the established political order. What could possibly go wrong?

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