As anyone with a heightened sense of irony already knows, tomorrow the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest Finals will take place. For the poor few out there who aren’t keyed into this annual event of epic nationalist absurdity, basically, this is Europe’s version of American Idol, but with even shittier songs (impossible, I know!), weirder costumes, and no Ryan Seacrest. Every year, each country gets to put up one song for the competition, and then over two-days of semi-finals, the final 25 countries are chosen to compete for Eurovision winner.
And by “winner,” I’m just going to point out that previous winners include ABBA and Celine Dion. That is all.
I really don’t give a shit about the voting rules or the crazy politics behind this event. What I am jacked about are the weird, disturbing videos and the fact that 90% of the entries sound like songs that I heard on easy rock stations back in the 80s while I was interning in offices. (And before anyone questions my elitists tendencies, yes, I realize that secretaries deserve music too.)
Anyway, I’ve gone through a ton of this year’s videos, and, since it’s officially summer—which you can tell, because the St. Louis Cardinals are in first place, kids are graduating and being told to seize the day, and I smell like bike sweat—it’s the perfect time to break out of all this “book” stuff and bring you some Euro culture in the form of questionable music videos.
First up is my prediction for the 2011 Eurovision winner. I don’t know about this song, or anything at all about this performer, but I like the breaking glass, and she’s pretty hot. And pretty hot—in a sophisticatedly sexy sort of way—is what brings together nations. Which, if I understand correctly, is the purpose of the Eurovision.
The other country that I think has a pretty good chance is Spain. Infused with that Spanish warmth and joy, this totally has a beat you can dance to. Which is also what I believe Euro culture is all about.
But back to that breaking glass motif for a moment . . . Enter Sweden, whose totally misguided take on NKOTBSB (and not to digress much, but WTF? the whole appeal of boy bands like the New Kids on the Block is that they’re slightly too old for the junior high girls who long after them, and just old enough to provide afternoon fantasies for mothers of these fans. Now that their in their late 30s and move with the stiffness of one too many nights at the bar, they’ve lost that certain something . . .) features both a waredrobe designed by a Euro-Midwestern Michael Jackson and more shattered glass. Apparently, becoming “Popular” is somehow tied to destruction. And yes, the opening lyrics really are “Stop, don’t say that it’s impossible / cause I know it’s possible.” (Have you caught the Eurovision fever yet?)
With The Sugarcubes, Sigur Ros, and Múm all hailing from Iceland, I had some high hopes for this enchanted island. But . . . well, it’s not that this song is bad, but Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy it’s not.
One thing that was very disappointing about yesterday’s semifinal was the total lack of appreciation for Belarus’s self-congratulatory “I Love Belarus” rocker. Seeing that most of these songs are from washed-up boy bands (I’m looking squarely at you, United Kingdom) or soft-rock ballads (really, France? Have some self-respect), it’s nice to see someone rock out just-a-little-bit, kind of like she’s Joan Jett, but a bit more angular . . . and about 10 years after Joan Jett sort of peaked . . . That said, I dare you—dare you!—to listen to this entire song without getting “I LOVE BELARUS!” jammed into your mind . . . (And once again with the lyrics: “I love Belarus / Got it deep inside” sort of sends a secondary meaning to the English-speaking world.)
One other eliminated band worth mentioning: Portugal. What happened to you, Portugal? I just can’t fathom what you were thinking when you sent this huge pile of crap to Dusseldorf to embarrass your country in front of the world. You have art, architecture, cathedrals, good wine, nice football, and this? Really? It’s as if these people just stumbled home from a bar around 8am and were all, “So, you wrote the Eurovision song, right?” “Wait no, I thought she . . .” “Do we at least have some ridiculous costumes that will distract everyone? Something that will invoke memories of godawful high school plays maybe?” “I like to dress like a plumber!”
Since this post is dripping in sarcasm and bad jokes, it’s probably best to end on something upbeat and life-affirming. Or, as acerbic intern Kaija put it, “a song that makes me want to gouge my eardrums.” Yes, Finland, it’s your turn to change the world through song and melody and lyrics like this:
When Peter is nine
his teacher tells him that this planet is dying,
that someone needs to put an end to it all
and so when Peter comes home
he tells his mom:
I’m going out in the world
to save our planet.
And I ain’t coming back
until she’s saved.
I’ll walk my way to see
the King and parliament.
If they don’t help
I’ll do it by myself.
I don’t wanna be
Da da dam, da da dam
da da da da da da da
Remember, the finals are tomorrow. Three pm East Coast time. And yes, you can watch it live online and share in the joy and irony. Just don’t forget to buy a few gallons of booze and to bring your snark.
Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .
Like any good potboiler worth its salt, Fuminori Nakamura’s The Gun wastes no time setting up its premise: “Last night, I found a gun. Or you could say I stole it, I’m not really sure. I’ve never seen something so. . .
Heiner Resseck, the protagonist in Monika Held’s thought-provoking, first novel, This Place Holds No Fear, intentionally re-lives his past every hour of every day. His memories are his treasures, more dear than the present or future. What wonderful past eclipses. . .
If you’ve ever worked in a corporate office, you’ve likely heard the phrase, “Perception is reality.” To Björn, the office worker who narrates Jonas Karlsson’s novel The Room, the reality is simple: there’s a door near the bathroom that leads. . .
I recently listened to Three Percent Podcast #99, which had guest speaker Julia Berner-Tobin from Feminist Press. In addition to the usual amusement of finally hearing both sides of the podcast (normally I just hear parts of Chad’s side. . .
Let’s not deceive ourselves, man is nothing very special. In fact, there are so many of us that our governments don’t know what to do with us at all. Six billion humans on the planet and only six or seven. . .
“Rambling Jack—what’s that?”
“A novel. Novella, I guess.”
“Yeah, it looks short. What is it, a hundred pages?”
“Sorta. It’s a duel language book, so really, only about… 50 pages total.”
“And this—what. . .
Many authors are compared to Roberto Bolaño. However, very few authors have the privilege of having a Roberto Bolaño quote on the cover of their work; and at that, one which states, “Good readers will find something that can be. . .
In Josep Maria de Sagarra’s Private Life, a man harangues his friend about literature while walking through Barcelona at night:
When a novel states a fact that ties into another fact and another and another, as the chain goes on. . .
César Aira dishes up an imaginative parable on how identity shapes our sense of belonging with Dinner, his latest release in English. Aira’s narrator (who, appropriately, remains nameless) is a self-pitying, bitter man—in his late fifties, living again with. . .