Last week was Eurovision, always one of my favourite afternoons of the year. Lisa and I were honestly really impressed with the music this year, at least in the final (I didn’t watch the semi-finals)—usually Eurovision manages to turn up ten or twelve solid songs that I like, but this year I’d say it was somewhere around twenty, out of twenty-six entries. Even the UK had a strong song, and that’s not normally something I get to say.
That did mean there was a lack of gimmicky weirdness this year. The closest we came to that was the buxom, revealingly-clad peasant girls Poland sent onstage to churn butter and wash clothes during their song. But apart from that, every entry let its song do its singing. (Yes, that means Conchita Wurst won on the strength of her song.)
So in the absence of oddity, I guess I’ll just be highlighting my favourite songs this year. Well, I’ll start with Lisa’s favourite, which was Belarus. Here’s “Cheesecake” by Teo:
I really liked Iceland, though I did understand immediately that it had no chance of winning. Iceland has vastly different songs every year, but I’ve noticed that they pretty much always manage to come up with something that I like a lot. I was torn here whether to use the song’s music video or else use the live performance. I decided on the live performance, because I think it serves the song better, but if you like Aquabats-style low-budget enthusiasm, I encourage you to check out the video. “No Prejudice” by Pollapönk:
But my favourite song—hands down, in a year full of great songs—was Spain. I thought this was hauntingly beautiful, and honestly it had me from the opening chords. Again I had a tough time choosing which performance to put here. Ultimately I went with the live performance because I really liked the rainfall effect they created onstage (Boy asked if it was really raining inside the auditorium), but I did think that the dancing segments in the music video were pretty sexy. “Dancing in the Rain” by Ruth Lorenzo:
And one last word, on the interval entertainment, while voting was in progress and while the votes were being tallied. This is normally, you know, just something to watch for twenty minutes. And I have to say, I think Eurovision hosts have a pretty tough job: they have to banter in English, not their native language, and they have to do it slowly enough for an audience, many of whom do not speak the language terribly well, to follow along.
This year the interval entertainment was genius, and it was made so largely through the comedic abilities of the hosts, especially Pilou Asbæk (who, Wikipedia tells me, appeared in The Borgias in 2013, though it doesn’t say in what role). The Museum of Eurovision History skit and the ode to the number twelve were hilarious.
Until we meet again, in Vienna.
Normally when I post about the Eurovision Song Contest, I highlight my favourite songs each year, because I get tired of people slamming the quality of the music. (It’s not that I think people underrate how good Eurovision songs are; it’s that I think they overrate the product of the non-Eurovision, general music market by doing so.) This year, for the record, my favourites were Italy (who might have been represented by the ghost of Amy Winehouse), Cyprus (with a music video that’s pure Mirror Mirror/Snow White and the Huntsman meets weird Balkan surrealism–my favourite part is the giant plastic fruit), Turkey (bad in all the ways that Eurovision is glorious in its badness–that is, bad and catchy and fun) and possibly Iceland.
But what really stood out for me with this year’s Eurovision wasn’t the good; it was the goofy. So that’s what I want to highlight here–some goofy and good, some goofy and bad, but all goofy.
First, the goofy that everyone saw, because it came in second place–the Russian grannies singing “Party for Everybody”:
I’m saddened by the end of Borders. I’m saddened as a lover of books. I’m saddened, as someone who’s going to have my own books on bookshop shelves within a year, that there are now one third fewer major bookshop chains in the United States. I’m saddened as a former Barnes & Noble employee at such a vivid illustration of the decline of the brick and mortar book business–though not surprised, as articles from places like Publishers Weekly had been appearing on our break room wall since at least 2003 about the precipitous state of business at Borders.
My first job in the book trade was with the Borders Group, at one of those Day By Day Calendar Company kiosks you see appearing in malls during the last quarter of every year. (Er, though I don’t know if you’ll see them appearing anymore.)
The Gainesville Borders is where I met Clark Howard.
It’s also where I bought Lisa one of her favourite presents I’ve ever got her, an omnibus edition of Harold and the Purple Crayon.
I swung on by the Livejournal community for Borders employees this morning. Amidst a lot of anger, despondence, and descriptions of atrocious behaviour by customers, I came across one post by an employee who’s putting together a farewell in-store playlist for him and his colleagues to rock out to during whatever days and weeks they have remaining. That sounded like a little fun injected into this whole thing.
So here’s my list:
“The End” by the Doors
“The Final Countdown” by Europe
“There Goes the Neighborhood” by Sheryl Crow
“Yesterday” by the Beatles
“Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac
“Secondhand News” by Fleetwood Mac
“We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister
“My Life” by Billy Joel
“School’s Out” by Alice Cooper
“Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia
“Communication Breakdown” by Led Zeppelin
“Gudbuy T’Jane” by Slade
“Those Were the Days” by Mary Hopkin
“Bad Day” by Daniel Powter
“We Gotta Get Out of the This Place” by the Animals
“Bye Bye Bye” by N*Sync
and of course
“Closing Time” by Semisonic
So what do you think? Am I missing any?
3JS: “Never Alone” (2011)
Blue: “I Can” (2011)
Daria: “Celebrate” (2011)
Eldrine: “One More Day” (2011)
Ell & Nikki: “Running Scared” (2011)
Emmy: “Boom-Boom” (2011)
A Friend in London: “New Tomorrow” (2011)
Aurela Gaçe: “Feel the Passion” (2011)
Poli Genova: “Na Inat” (2011)
Hotel FM: “Change” (2011)
Vlatko Ilievski: “Rusinka (Russian Girl)” (2011)
Getter Jaani: “Rockefeller Street” (2011)
Jedward: “Lipstick” (2011)
Maja Keuc: “No One” (2011)
Lena: “Taken by a Stranger” (2011)
Dino Merlin: “Love in Rewind” (2011)
Musiqq: “Angel in Disguise” (2011)
Stella Mwangi: “Haba Haba” (2011)
Mika Newton: “Angel” (2011)
Nina: “Čaroban” (2011)
Paradise Oskar: “Da Da Dam” (2011)
Lucía Pérez: “Que me quiten lo bailao (They Can’t Take the Fun Away From Me)” (2011)
Anna Rossinelli: “In Love For a While” (2011)
Eric Saade: “Popular” (2011)
Sjonni’s Friends: “Coming Home” (2011)
Magdalena Tull: “Jestem” (2011)
Glen Vella: “One Life” (2011)
Anastasia Vinnikova: “I Love Belarus” (2011)
Alex Vorobyov: “Get You” (2011)
Witloof Bay: “With Love Baby” (2011)
Kati Wolf: “What About My Dreams?” (2011)
Yükset Sadakat: “Live It Up” (2011)
Jann Arden: Greatest Hurts (2001)
Jann Arden: Uncover Me (2007)
Duran Duran: Greatest (1998)
Rick James: “Give It to Me Baby” (1981)
The Jellybottys: “Peter Cushing Lives in Whitstable“
Kool & the Gang: “Celebration” (1980)
Lakeside: “Fantastic Voyage” (1980)
Suzi Quatro: A’s, B’s & Rarities (2004)
The Rolling Stones: “Start Me Up” (1981)
Rick Springfield: “Jessie’s Girl” (1981)
Squeeze: “Tempted” (1981)
Air Supply: “All Out of Love” (1980)
Ambrosia: “Biggest Part of Me” (1980)
Atlanta Rhythm Section: “Spooky” (1979)
Pat Benatar: “Heartbreaker” (1979)
Bloodhound Gang: “The Bad Touch” (1999)
Kurtis Blow: “The Breaks” (1980)
The Blues Brothers: “Soul Man” (1979)
Bucks Fizz: The Best of Bucks Fizz (2007)
Irene Cara: “Fame” (1980)
The Doobie Brothers: “What a Fool Believes” (1978)
Gloria Gaynor: “I Will Survive” (1978)
The cast of Glee: Glee, the Music: Journey to Regionals (2010)
Grandmaster Flash/The Sugarhill Gang: “8th Wonder” (1980)
I Was a Cub Scout: I Want You to Know That There Is Always Hope (2008)
Joe Jackson: “Is She Really Going out with Him?” (1978)
Michael Jackson: “Rock With You” (1979)
Journey: “Any Way You Want It” (1980)
Kiss: “New York Groove” (1978)
Kool and the Gang: “Ladies’ Night” (1979)
Nicolette Larson: “Lotta Love” (1978)
Lipps Inc: “Funkytown” (1980)
M: “Pop Muzik” (1979)
Willie Nelson: “On the Road Again” (1980)
Olivia Newton-John: “Magic” (1980)
Nichelle Nichols: “Theme from Star Trek” (1979)
Gary Numan: “Cars” (1979)
The Pretenders: “Brass in Pocket (I’m Special)” (1979)
Kenny Rogers: “Coward of the County” (1979)
The Romantics: “What I Like About You” (1980)
Diana Ross: “Upside Down” (1980)
Sister Sledge: “We Are Family” (1979)
Talking Heads: “Once in a Lifetime” (1981)
Anita Ward: “Ring My Bell” (1979)
The Scholar and the Concubine
Words today: 2557
Words total: 2557
Time spent writing: Midnight-1am; noon-2pm; 8pm-10.30
Reason for stopping: Quota
Darling: A monk of who did not pray. Hardly the unholiest thing of which an inquisitor could accuse him, especially tonight.
Words that boggled Word: moonflower, belltower
New words today: Well, all of them. But if this weren’t the first day, I’d include cloister, cassock, cowl and sibilant
When I think of my dad’s funeral, I smile.
Of course it was a horrible time. But what got us through it were the good moments. Like picking a funeral parlour because it had by far the largest capacity for the funeral, and then when the funeral came along so many people showed up that the overflow were crammed like sardines into the back of the parlour and spilling out the doorway into the hall.
(Seriously. I’ll be surprised if I have even half as many people at my funeral as my dad had at his.)
Or the laughter. Like when we picked music. There was some debate over that.
“His favourite singer was Harry Chapin,” my mum said. This was news to me; I would’ve thought it was the Rolling Stones. But he certainly liked Chapin a lot, and Mum new him better than I did.
“Well,” I said, “by far Harry Chapin’s most famous song is ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’.”
“Which one’s that?”
“It’s, er, about a dad who misses all the chances to bond with his son during his son’s childhood, so that by the time the son is all grown up, it’s too late and they’ve missed each other.”
(“Cat’s in the Cradle” is, as a friend of mine put it, “the saddest song ever.“)
“Oh, God, no,” my mother said. “No, we’re not having that. His favourite Harry Chapin song was something about ‘thousands of pounds of bananas’.”
“‘30,000 Pounds of Bananas’,” I said. “That’s, er, about a guy who’s killed when a big-rig freight truck crashes on the highway.”
(My dad, incidentally, was killed when his car collided with a big-rig freight truck on the highway.)
“Oh, bloody hell,” my mum said. “Right. No Harry Chapin then.”
We went with “Three Lions”, by Baddiel & Skinner and the Lightning Seeds. And now, I can’t hear either of those Chapin songs without laughing.
As I remind my readers every month, I’m in the process of assembling my music library for my iPod. I keep a list of all the songs I’ve yet to own, and every month I spend a certain amount of money getting songs from that list.
I used to do the same thing with DVDs. I have a list of all the TV shows and movies I want to have at my fingertips whenever I want to watch them, and every month I would buy two or three of them. But then I stopped.
I believe strongly that an artist has the right to be paid for the enjoyment of their art. “I want it but I don’t want to spend the money that costs” is not a sufficient justification to me for stealing that art.
But I’m only willing to pay a fair price, and it occurred to me that DVDs simple aren’t priced fairly. In ten years, they’re going to be as obsolete as CDs. It’s going to be as universal to download our movies as it is to download our music. (It’s pretty commonplace now.) So I’m no longer willing to pay $20 for a physical copy of a movie that should only cost me $10 to get online.
This doesn’t mean I download my movies now, either legally or illegally. One of the things about coming to a decision not to buy DVDs anymore was that it forced me to consider whether or not buying movies at all was worth the expense, and I decided that I really don’t watch any given movie enough to justify how much it costs to download it. And the thing about downloads is, if I decide there really is a movie I want to watch right now, I can just go get it instantly, rather than driving to the shop (and potentially having to wait six hours for it to open, since I’ve decided I want to watch the movie at 2AM).
The one exception is Doctor Who. I’ve started buying Doctor Who DVDs again, right now at the rate of three a month. This came from a trip to Barnes & Noble, where I came across all the Who DVDs that had been released since I stopped buying DVDs two years ago. Thumbing through them brought back to me how much fun it had been to watch all that Classic Who for the first time in fifteen years. And besides, The Boy and I have such fun watching the new purchases early in every month.
American Breed: “Bend Me, Shape Me” (1967)
Beirut: Guleg Orkestar (2006)
Beirut: Lon Gisland (2007)
Beirut: The Flying Club Cup (2007)
Cheap Trick: “I Want You to Want Me” (1977)
Delays: Faded Seaside Glamour (2004)
The Eagles: “Heartache Tonight” (1979)
Earth, Wind and Fire: “Boogie Wonderland” (1979)
Foo Fighters: “Everlong” (1997)
Jesse & Joy: “Esto Es Lo Que Soy” (2008)
The Knack: “Good Girls Don’t” (1979)
Cheryl Lynn: “Got to Be Real” (1978)
Melissa Manchester: “Don’t Cry Out Loud” (1978)
The New Radicals: “You Get What You Give” (1998)
Kate Rusby: “The Village Green Preservation Society” (2007)
The Streets: “Fit But You Know It” (2004)
Donna Summer: “Hot Stuff” (1979)
Toto: “Hold the Line” (1978)