She Bangs the Drums: Eurovision review (part 1)

Sunday 22 May 2005

Thanks to the Eurovision drinking game I was too hung over on Sunday to write anything meaningful about the event until now. Other, more complete analyses can be found here, here, here and here. For what it’s worth, the cloudy impressions of the night from the bunker were as follows. Quotes are from the performers themselves, taken from the official website.
Hungary
“Unfortunately, musical education in Hungary isn’t as important as it should be.”

They wear black and some red: I’m predicting we’ll see lots of dark colours after last year’s Night Of The Long White Suits. Let’s see, it’s a fake Turkish sounding song, with lots of banging on drums like the winning Ukranian song last year. In the middle they zorba around for a while and try to make it look a bit like Riverdance too. Tonight’s theme will be cultural appropriation, specifically of imitating recent winners. Are we seeing the end of the Eurovision we know and love, with batshit-insane ideas coming at us left right and centre? We might be entering an era of bland homogeneity: this song is neither good nor bad, in either a good way or a bad way, and I fear we have seen the future of Eurovision.
UK
“Obviously after ‘Popstars: The Rivals’ I was gutted”

Wow, red outfits and fake Turkish gyrating: there’s thinking outside the box! Three minutes later and Laplanders huddled round their candle-powered TV are thinking “Geez, that Holly Valance thing is so over!”
Malta
“The rehearsal went alright. We tested the stage and we tested the shoes and both were fine.”

The first ballad of the night, sung by the Maltese answer to Casey Donovan; and of course the ballad means we’re in for the first Dramatic Key Change of the night. For the DKC she gets excited enough to throw her arms out and slowly wobble from side to side. My god, she has seriously scary talons! Luckily, the ballad was more of an old-school Jennifer Rush dirge than the Celine Dion psychic torture.
Romania
“I must admit that we are very disappointed.”

A bi-curious lady wearing high heels for the first time in her life totters unsteadily around the shiny glass stage-floor with her Iron Curtain boob job almost falling out of her silver bodice. She is joined by the Carpathian touring production of Stomp banging on oil drums. The song descends into a tuneless mess, not helped by the struggling singer, who spends the last minute or so with her back to the audience pretending to bang on an oil drum. It’s hard to sound convincingly passionate when you’re standing next to a guy with hubcaps strapped to his feet.
Norway
“It’s been five days since we last played a gig. Normally we do two a day. We usually have enough explosive equipment for a couple of armies which we use to blow up the stage.” If they could invite any other country to join the Eurovision Song Contest, it would be Australia. “Then AC/DC could come over.”

Sheer genius: who’d have thought Norwegians had both a dead-on grip of pop culture and a sense of the ridiculous? Every guilty-pleasure rock cliche thrown piled on top of each other, it almost makes up for David Lee Roth leaving Van Halen. The best thing to happen to Eurovision since Alf Poier pogoing around yapping about bunny rabbits and his website in 2003. Should win, but probably won’t because rock never does so well at Eurovision. Much better than The Darkness. Of course there is a DKC, and don’t you want to pump your fist in the air and shout along?
Turkey
“It’s a Turkish drum and it’s my favourite instrument. I love all forms of percussion – it’s like a heartbeat.” She and her band gave a demonstration of their drumming.

We’re told this is the third Turkish Eurovision entry written by this guy and as They Might Be Giants once sang, he’s got two songs in him. Still, let’s have them banging drums too, that’ll make ‘em stand out from the crowd! The performers are left twirling around aimlessly in traditional-looking clothes singing “Rimi Limi Ley” or something over and over again ad nauseam, and by the end it sounds like even they’re getting jack of it. Anyone willing to bet there’ll be a single fake Turkish song next year?
Moldova
“She’s now a big star in Moldova,” said Roman. So what are Grandma Boonika’s favourite memories of Eurovision? “We don’t really watch television in our village,” she said.

More chicks banging drums, dammit! Is Sheila E. a superstar in Eastern Europe and if so, has she just died? For a change, this Eurochick is about 110 years old and spends most of the song happily sitting in a rocking chair to one side of the stage, like Yoko Ono on Top of the Pops. Given all the drumming going on tonight it’s a bit of a disappointment that she actually stands up at the end and pretends to start banging while looking very pleased with herself, like those Bulgarian singers in the 1980s around the time their fifteen minutes were up. Everyone agrees the band looks like the Red Hot Chili Peppers after a night of exquisitely expensive drugs, and for novelty value they will rob votes from Norway’s righteous rock cheese gods, but they will forever be referred to as That Band With The Granny.
Albania
“We thought it was important to sing in English because we want people to understand it.”

More @&*#$ drumming! At least it’s a bloke this time: he hops around in cricles tapping his drum, then every now and then he puts it down, jumps in the air, stops to catch his breath for a bit then picks up the drum and starts over. That’s his big dance routine. Is there a Eurovision rule that everyone has to do their own choreography? Everyone zorbas around unconvincingly for a bit in the middle, then goes back to waving their fake violins. This is the first song of the night to use scarves, which worked so well for Turkey in 2003. Here, they do not. Stretching out and spinning multicoloured scarves around the stage is impressive; wrapping yourself up in one at the end is not.
Cyprus
“I’m sure we’ll surprise a few people.”

First Ricky Martin wannabe of the night. And the first white outfits of the night. At first you think you’re safe, until you notice some oil drums sitting up the back of the set. But you reassure yourself it’s OK because there’s nothing they can hit them with. Then they produce these big white stick things from nowhere and suddenly it’s clobbering time again! No wonder this sounds like “She Bangs” run through Babelfish. And they fake-zorba for a while, just to add an extra layer of varnish to this turd. At least Eurovision can still present wildly uncoordinated backing dancers.
Spain
Son de Sol are three sisters: Lola, Espe and Sole. They think that Lola is the most responsible one.

Three mad chicks from a TV spinoff of an Almodovar movie gyrate around singing their bosoms out. This unshakeably reminds me of the Globos and I keep expecting to see Bob Downe prance onstage shaking maracas. Or banging a drum. Instead their bouncer ambles up and grunts a few lines, then wanders around cluelessly for the rest of the song. It was all OK but not enough oomph to go off the way it should have. The best I can say is that despite wearing sleeveless dresses there was no San Remo moment.
Israel
“I have to admit, I am impressed with the professional behaviour of the director and the crew because they were really straight.”

This is the traditional boring-as-shit song they stick somewhere in the middle so you can go stock up on more booze. Apparently she was the runner up on last year’s Jewish Pop Idol, so no surprise it’s underwhelming. I’ll go out on a limb and guess there was a DKC.
I need another drink…

News Flash! (Of interest to low-level druggies only)

Friday 20 May 2005

I was so distracted by Basil Brush’s Boom-Booms the other day that I didn’t notice something very important: British supermarkets stock Sudafed on the shelves! Wheeeeeeeee! Why don’t the Lonely Planet guides mention this?
This has brightened my whole day. I was about to post a rant about the difficulties of opening a bank account in the UK: basically, you need to present your passport, birth certificate, parent’s birth certificates, a personal letter of introduction from your local MP or Peer, a photograph of yourself shaking hands with a player in a premiership league football team, evidence of your income, and evidence that you are a customer of good standing at another bank – which you must then renounce by burning all your other passbooks and bank cards in a bonfire verified by three independent witnesses. On the other hand, considering that these are the same requirements demanded by jumped-up shampoo salesmen in Australian pharmacies when you try to buy Sudafed, it’s a swings-and-roundabouts kind of deal.

Not quite narcissistic enough yet

Thursday 19 May 2005

Six months since its inception, a freshly updated and expanded list of People Or Things I Have Been Mistaken For, Or Allegedly Physically Resemble, In Increasing Order Of Ridiculousness.

More about British cooking, deduced from the smells and sounds from next door

Wednesday 18 May 2005

“Kids! Dinner’s burned! Come and get it!”
“I’ve burnt your favourite tonight, love.”
“Mmmmm, burned to perfection!”
“Honey, I’m afraid I’ll be late home from work tonight.”
“Yes dear, I’ll leave dinner burning in the oven for you.”
“Ah, nothing like coming home and putting your feet up in front of a nice, cosy fire blazing away in the saucepan.”
“That was a beautifully burned dinner, dear. Now I’m going to spend the next hour playing Towers of Hammurabi with all the pots and pans.”

The centres of tradition

Tuesday 17 May 2005


After arriving in London, it didn’t sink in that I was living in another country until I visited the Tate Gallery. It wasn’t the vast collection of art that did it, or even the view of St Paul’s from across the Thames. It was the cafe, which prominently offered up a bain-marie of baked beans for the punters to dine on. Moreover, I was surrounded by tablesful of punters actually noshing down on beans, all making yum-yum noises. Clearly, I was not in an Australian art gallery.
It’s not that I have a problem with British food: any place where tea is plentiful and they like putting bacon on top of everything is OK with me. However, I suspect that some of their eating habits have a lot to do with the Royal Family, and I’m not talking about the “by appointment” insignia on bottles of HP Sauce. I’m talking about tradition for the hell of it. In the same way that you can be wandering down the street minding your own business only to find yourself barrelling into the arse of a Royal Life Guard in full uniform, ceremonial sword extended, so too can you wander into the local supermarket and find oldies that haven’t been seen in a Coles New World for decades and were long decreed inedible. Mutton – yes! Gammon – yes! And while I was fondling the pickled pork I overheard a couple saying “Must get some kippers for breakfast tomorrow.”
The down side is occasionally finding a product like this:

But back to the Tate: I was going to talk about the actual art they had hanging on the walls, but every time I stepped up to admire a picture Matthew Bloody Collings sprung out of nowhere, with lighting, camera and soundman in tow. He’s that bloke who presented This Is Modern Art on the telly a while back:

He was filming some new TV program with the working title Every Single Frickin’ Picture in the Tate that Ben.H Specifically Wants to See in his inimitable style, namely by standing squarely in front of the work and blathering on about the baked beans he’d just eaten in the cafe.

Le Royaume-Uni: Nul Points

Monday 16 May 2005

One of the things I was looking forward to on the plane to London was that I could finally watch the Eurovision Song Contest the way God intended it: with Terry Wogan snarking over the top and futilely barracking for the UK. More to the point, the show would not be nearly ruined by some idiot at SBS interrupting with lame jokes, fake wogs and drag queens in some ill-starred attempt to add “local content”. It was all more or less worth passing up the chance to hear the MSO play Feldman’s Coptic Light.
Now I hear from The Supermercado Project that SBS has (once again) repented for its affront to European culture and is showing the BBC broadcast straight! I go halfway round the world to avoid that idiot they had blabbing over the top of everything last time – all for nothing!
The Eurovision forum on SBS’s website is mostly taken up with discussion about the TV feed*, with the majority expressing relief that no-one from SBS will be involved.
Supermercado has excellent wraps of the superb 2003 event, and the decidedly average 2004 contest. Let’s hope this year is another corker of international atrociousness.
At short notice I’ve pulled a few people together into the Bunker for Saturday night’s Eurovision Drinking Game:

Phase One: The Performances

The Key Change. Whenever the singers dramatically change key during the final chorus. Additional drink for every successive key change in the same song.
The Buck’s Fizz. Whenever a performer sheds a piece of clothing. Finish your drink if the clothing loss is obviously unintentional.
Is That English? Whenever someone notices that the singers have switched from their native language into English in an attempt to win more votes. Two drinks if they try to dodge the language issue by *intentionally* singing gibberish.
The San Remo. Any occurence of visible armpits and/or pointing.
The Fine Cotton. Any appearance by mercenary singers flown in to represent a foreign country. Two drinks if they’re Irish.
The Tatu. Finish your drink if the audience boos (on telly, not in the living room.)
Don’t Mention The War. Each time the German entrant sings something about everyone being happy.
Phase Two: The Voting
The Wardrobe Change. If the female host is wearing a different frock after the songs have finished. Two drinks if the male host has changed his suit.
The Hurry-Up. Every time the hosts have to talk over the announcer from each voting country to ask “Can we have your votes please?” (i.e. shut the fuck up already). Finish your drink if the announcer tries to deliver a personal message to a relative watching at home in Murmansk.
The Gimme. When Greece gives twelve points to Cyprus.
The Old Europe. When the UK gets null points from France.
The New Europe. When the Baltic states all vote for each other.
The Sympathy Vote. When anything sung in French gets a point and/or the last country without any points finally gets off the mark. A special toast to any country left with zero points at the end.
The Sandra Sully. Each time an announcer fucks up the voting results. Finish your drink if they get so confused they have to start over.
The Master of Suspense. Any time an announcer realises that the pause for suspense only works if they announce the twelve points and then the country that has won them, not the other way around. (This may not happen.)
The “Viktor, You Very Unattractive Fellow.” Two drinks if the hosts speak in rhyme and/or pretend to flirt with each other. Finish your drink if the flirting is serious.
The wildcards
The first person who asks why Israel is in it, or why Italy isn’t, finishes their drink.
A toast to the first person who expresses dismay when they realise how long the voting is going to take.
A toast to the person who gets so drunk you have to secretly call a cab and persuade them they ordered it when it arrives.
* UPDATE: SBS has taken the forum down, even though there’s still a link to it on their Eurovision page. They still have last year’s forum, which is almost entirely filled with dozens of posts protesting against SBS adding their own useless talent, amongst hundreds of posts by bickering Greeks and Macedonians. Guys, it’s a web page, not a soccer match.

Filler by Proxy XVII: a labour-saving device we should all get behind

Monday 16 May 2005

At last, someone’s putting in the effort to piss away their intellect on obsessively dissecting Nick Hornby’s egregious failures in cultural fortitude. Of course, many have done this before, but not on a regular basis: the London News Review presents a recurring column, urgently titled Stop Lying Hornby!
This is a new feature dedicated to telling Nick Hornby that he has to stop lying. It’s possible that he’s just accidentally wrong, but it seems improbable that anyone could persist in making so many egregiously false statements in that matey, trust-me manner just by chance.

Three columns so far and counting. How wonderful: someone to hate him so I don’t have to!

The London Review of Books personal ad of the month, May 2005

Saturday 14 May 2005

Has been withheld. Perhaps because it’s now all too close to home (figuratively and literally). Perhaps because this month’s crop isn’t that great. Or perhaps I don’t want youse rootrats muscling in on all the sweet, wealthy, menopausal action to be had in this town.

Let’s get this over with

Saturday 14 May 2005

I hope you have all enjoyed my month’s holiday as much as I have. Just joking! Of course, I don’t take holidays. Ever. In fact, I’ve been hard at work parlaying my modest investments into some serious capital, so I cd spin this thriving internet concern into one those hateful yet lucrative insta-bookoids that clog up the shelves by the cash registers at Dymocks. The perfect gift for an infrequently-visited relative or workmate you have no real connection with. A show on Foxtel, too, was not out of the question.
Unfortunately, I had a “misunderstanding” with my “business partners” over some supposedly “misappropriated” funds in “brown paper bags” and a “racehorse”. Like any bold, forward-looking Australian entrepreneur I have fled the country and moved to London. To be precise, a cosy and modestly-priced bunker in the small, sleepy suburb of Robson Green, NW2.

Within these walls my empire shall rise from the ashes.
Bookworms: the Penguin on my night-table is Milne’s Mr Pim Passes By. The bookmark is a small, creased photograph of Julie Dawn Kemp.

We Are All Winners

Thursday 14 April 2005

This is a great day. Boring Like a Drill is now the Number One Google result for the terms “Austrian Flame” and “Julie Dawn Kemp.” To celebrate this momentous occasion, I have awarded myself several prestigious internet awards for web excellence.
Thanks to NetGuide, Excite and Magellan for the 4-star ratings, and especially to Point for listing me amongst the top 5% of all web sites – what an honour! Without your poorly-conceived business models sending you tits-up during the dot-com boom I would have had to make up my own meaningless awards graphics.
But most of all, I’d like to thank you. Not ‘you’ the readers; firstly because, in all frankness, without you I still would have conquered this search engine summit; and secondly because I seriously doubt I have any readers, and suspect that comments left here were actually written by me when drunk. Rather, I mean the people who set up and run the Google bots and Blogger, because otherwise I’d have to communicate this important information in the old-fashioned way: by pissing it in large, crudely-formed block letters against a wall or other similarly flat surface.
Which reminds me: BLAD is also the Number One Google result for “Peter Phelps is Fat.”

Killing him made him stronger than we could have possibly imagined

Wednesday 13 April 2005

The Daily Flute whets my appetite for something I can only crave, knowing I shall never be fulfilled: election night telly from the Vatican. But the Flute leaves out one crucial element:
MICHAEL KROGER: These are only early results, but at this stage it’s looking encouraging for…
KERRY O’BRIEN: Sorry to cut you off there, but we’re just getting in reports of white smoke coming from the Sistine Chapel.
ANTONY GREEN (pecking at laptop): That’s not what my figures are telling me.

The Interpreter: care factor?

Wednesday 13 April 2005

This movie plot sounds like something you’d find over at Query Letters I Love, except it’s actually been made. For 80 million dollars.

The Interpreter

Nicole Kidman stars as African-born U.N. interpreter Silvia Broome, who inadvertently overhears a death threat against an African head of state scheduled to address the United Nation’s General Assembly. Realizing she’s become a target of the assassins as well, Silvia’s desperate to thwart the plot… if only she can survive long enough to get someone to believe her.
Oh no! An African head of state’s life is threatened! The world has truly gone mad! No wonder no-one will believe her.
Our Nicole: Ossifer! Someone wants to kill an African head of state!
Guy in uniform: Pffft! Who’d want to do something like that? Africa is so politically stable.
Our Nicole: Exactly! Don’t you see? The killing of an African leader will have serious repercussions around the world, too horrible to contemplate!
Guy in uniform: My god, you’re right. We came so close to the brink of armageddon back when Ibrahim Bare Mainassara bought it.
Another guy: Not to mention Muhammad Boudiaf.
Guy in uniform: Or Cyprien Ntaryamira. Wall Street’s still got the jitters over that one.
Another guy: And Juvenal Habriarimana.
Guy in uniform: Then there was Melchior Ndadaye.
Another guy: Laurent Kabila.
Guy in uniform: Well, duh! How far back have we gone now?
Another guy: About ten years. Wait a minute, where’s Africa exactly?
Our Nicole: You don’t understand. This has special relevance for me, because I am also African.
Guy in uniform: You’re African?
Our Nicole: Well, African-born. I won’t confuse you by specifying a country.
Guy in uniform: So that’s why you’re talking with a weird accent that comes and goes at random.
Another guy: Now you got a cushy job in New York. Counsellor Troi is sensing White Guilt, here.
Guy in uniform: Enough with the frickin’ Counsellor Troi jokes, already.
Our Nicole: Anyway, he is African like me, and all countries on our continent are the bestest of friends. Besides, the people of his country will be devestated if their benevolent, competent, democratically-elected leader cannot serve out his full, corruption-free term in office before promptly calling a free and fairly-contested general election.
Guy in uniform: What country are we talking about?
Our Nicole: Monkeysflyoutmybuttania. Now are you gonna help me or do I have to call in Bob Geldof?
Guy in uniform: Alright, alright! We’ll help you stop this assassination plot you overheard.
Our Nicole: Well, it wasn’t so much of a plot, as such. It was more like a threat.
Gut in uniform: A threat?
Our Nicole: Yeah, this guy was all like, “I’ll kill that bastard, he’s eaten the last Tim-Tam!”
Guy in uniform: Never mind, we won’t let him get killed. Not until he’s safely on his home soil.
Another guy: Unless they just blow his plane out of the sky on his way back.
Our Nicole: Or he’s shot by his own bodyguards.
Guy in uniform: Welps, this calls for action. Who’s for donuts?
All: Mmmmmmmm, donuts…..
(Enter Monkeysflyoutmybuttanian ambassador)

!!! SPOILER ALERT !!!
Ambassador: I am authorised to say that my President has never heard of Johnny Farnham.

As the North Coburg tram crossed Brunswick Road

Wednesday 13 April 2005

HIM (slapping my shoulder): You happy?
ME: Yeah.
HIM: Do you think it’s funny doing that?
ME: What?
HIM: Making a girl disappear, just like that.
ME: Depends on the girl.
HIM: Did you have to pay someone to make her disappear?
ME: No.
HIM: But you had to build a castle first, didn’t you?
ME: Yeah.
HIM: But not here.
ME: No.
HIM: Not here. You know who you have to pay for that?
ME: No.
HIM: Ah. Someone will tell you!

Filler by Proxy XVI: I’m Enjoying the Sodomy, Though

Tuesday 12 April 2005

Random quotage to be found by the bucketload, at Overheard in New York (Note: one of these statements may in fact be something I said over the weekend):
Yo, that’s an oxymoron. That’s like saying ‘Peter picked a pail of pickles’ and he’s a vegetarian.
I want Gloria Steinem’s eyeballs in my fucking martini!
Yeah, deers aren’t that bad. You’re in trouble if you hit a cow, though. And even worse would be a moose, because if you don’t kill it it’s gonna kill you!
No, I am serious. Three is menage a trois, but after that it is just an orgy.

Unpopular for a reason

Tuesday 12 April 2005

Usually when I don’t post here for a few days I’ve either been having too much fun to be bothered writing about it, or recuperating from the after-effects of said fun. The past week has been different, HOLY CRAP BIG FUCKING SPIDER
Sorry about that. Jesus I hate it when they crawl over lightbulbs.
Anyway, I’ve been busy with complex and frustrating bureaucratic tasks which inadvertently led me to discover that the South Australian Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages keeps a list of last year’s baby names online. Amongst the one-offs are Aragorn and Boromir. Wonder if they’re twins? Or if both names were given to the one kid: less misery to share around, but no second name to fall back on, either. In any case, someone’s been sentenced to paying out playground danger money until graduation.
These are boys’ names, by the way. I was going to look up equally embarrassing girls’ names until I remembered there are no females in The Lord of the Rings. Because they’re icky.
SA has also been blessed with a little Rowdy, and baby Ja-Rule. That last one will go down well around the Noarlunga Centrelink twenty years from now.