The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Friday, May 26, 2006

quaint European customs - Eurovision

I've recently had the good fortune to be in Europe, specifically Spain, for two major events on the European competitive calendar - the European Cup* and the Eurovision Song Contest.

Watching the songs was bizarre - mostly Shania Twain or Celine Dion wannabees, with a few weird combinations of Robbie Williams and Justin Timberlake, some adding in an authentic local touch such as some old guy wailing or a funny looking ethnic instrument from their neck of the woods. Then there were the risky, edgy performances - the Finns** put in an entry called Hard Rock Halleluja, delivered with high energy, fireworks and by a band entirely decked out as either Klingons or Orcs; Lithuania had a band of Right Said Fred types belting out We Are The Winners (Of Eurovision), which was my personal favourite as it actually had some lyrics that were quite clever. Ireland's entry was neither risky nor edgy - it was clearly an attempt to be Ronan Keating, by the male singer, but delivering a painful love song that could just as easily have been a happy clappy evangelical christian tune. Like I said - bizarre.

If watching the songs was weird, the voting was even more convoluted and time-consuming than STV. How it seemed to work, from what I could discern through the Spanish commentary over the English-speaking hosts, was that all over Europe people could phone vote for their favourite song, but they couldn't vote for the song from their own country. Then the hosts worked through each country in Europe, with a specific host in each capital who delivered the votes by ranking them (the most popular song in Country A would get 12 points, the second 10 points, the third 8, the fourth 7, and so on down to 1). These were then all added up to give the final results, but it just took so long, it seemed to go on forever with some MTV type young man or woman popping up from each country and commenting the main hosts on the great show and how wonderful they looked, etc.

At first we thought the votes must be decided by the diplomatic core, rather than the phone votes, as the big numbers would invariably go to a close neighbour, eg Andorra's 12 went to Spain. But then the cracks became apparent as Russia, Finland, Lithuania and Bosnia-Herzegovnia raced ahead. Israel didn't do so well. I didn't even know they were part of Europe, but I guess they don't get to take part in many Middle Eastern song contests. Only France voted for them, giving them 4 points to end up second to last.

The voting wasn't without some political controversy - when Cyprus voted their host said "hello from what is Europe's only divided capital", and he then proceeded to give no votes to Turkey. He finished up with a real performance about who Cyprus had given their 12 points to, as "we Greeks only know how to say 12 in song."

Many of the individual country hosts gave their results in the local language, but all used English as well, showing that it really is the language coming to dominate Europe, probably more because of the influence of the internet and American popular culture than England itself.

In the end Finland was the clear winner, 50 points ahead of nearest rivals Russia. Have a Google search to hear their masterpiece, but be warned, its probably not what you'd expect...

*Barcelona 2 Arsenal 1 - an exciting night to be in Madrid, but a little frustrating in terms of trying to find out any other news for the next two days, as the news sources followed the European Cup's trip to its new home.

**NB: Not Tim & Neil

Sunday, May 21, 2006

So what have I missed?

A plea to my readers here, in fact to NZ´s political bloggers in general.

Currently I´m on a mini OE, right now I´m in Spain. I hear it´s cold in NZ. It´s not cold here. It´s 33.5 C here, and that´s at 5pm in the afternoon.

But I digress.

Being overseas means not having much internet access. NZ news isn´t exactly on the front pages over here on the continent (even when they are in English). In fact the only NZ news I´ve seen was in Russia, when Russell Crowe´s smoking on stage stunt made the briefs of the St Petersburg Times.

So what I´m asking for is for you (yes, you) to nominate, in the comments section or on your own blogs (and please post a link in the comments here so that I can find it) the following:

Your top three NZ political/political blogging events since March 26th, each described in TEN WORDS OR LESS.

Time is money, and internet time is big money. I´ve paid up to $20 NZ an hour just to read the NZ Herald online (a pitiful experience - are weather and Dancing with the Stars the only news in NZ?) so I´m relying on you, dear readers, to come through for me. I unfortunately don´t have time to surf around the blogs on the occasions I do get online, so please take pity on me and feed my news addiction here instead. Extra points for brevity.

PS Can someone kindly explain, preferably in one sentence, this rumour I vaguely hear about Russell Brown and Murray from Silent Running being the same person?