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Eurovision Entries 2017

This year's Eurovision song contest features a ridiculously large number of videos with very gloomy visuals, some justified, some not. Over half were filmed with a very limited grey or brown color palette, many in full darkness with limited lighting. Some of those were even happy songs, such as Greece's, which is in grey with some color highlights. So, so gloomy that anything outdoors or with much color was a highlight for me.

Presumably this is in part thanks to the angsty - if beautiful - 1942 winning the contest for Ukraine this year. There are lots of songs about broken relationships. There is lots of long hair being flipped about all over the place, not always pleasantly. Key changes are rarer than usual.

Best overall song (again!): Australia Isaiah, "Don't Come Easy"
Happiest song: Romania Ilinca ft. Alex Florea, "Yodel It!"
Best overall video: France Alma, "Requiem"
Best atmospheric: Belgium Blanche, "City Lights"
Most haunting: Finland Norma John, "Blackbird" (content warning: suicide)

Minor trends
Songs blatantly about lust: Sweden, Montenegro
Drowning women: Malta, Finland

News headlines widely report that Italy is odds-on favorite to win, but I find their song too offensively orientalising to support this year.

The Eurovision 2017 videos, reviewed....Collapse )

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The start of goodbye

I wrote this for a four-year-old, trying to minimize the amount of challenging vocabulary incorporated. Perhaps someone else out there would like something like this for their small person.

*

Today, now, our country is part of a group of other countries.
We can go live and work in any of them.
We can bring back a car full of toys from any of them. (If we want to, which your parents do not.)
The group helps make the water clean. It is now easy to buy food from the other countries. It is now easy to use our phones in the other countries. The group of countries is called the EU.

This week, our country says goodbye to the group. It will take two years to leave. This week the leaving starts. Leaving needs lots of paperwork. Lots and lots of paperwork.

There will be lots of meetings. They will be tricky meetings. The other countries do not want to say goodbye. Our country still wants to buy a car full of toys, but not be part of the group.

We do not know what will happen. We worry a lot.

Here are some of our worries.
Phones may cost more to use.
Food may cost more to buy.
Clean water may not be as safe as now.
We may only be able to bring back a few toys.
We may only go live and work in the other countries with lots of paperwork.

This week, our country says goodbye. In two years, our country leaves the EU. Whatever happens after, there will be lots of paperwork.

Pancake races

Apropos of an Oxford Reading Tree book...

Poll #2063417 Pancake races

Have you ever participated in a pancake race?

Yes
11(27.5%)
No
16(40.0%)
It's complicated (see comment)
1(2.5%)
What is a pancake race?
12(30.0%)

Have you ever watched a pancake race

Yes, in person
15(35.7%)
Yes, on some sort of media
6(14.3%)
No
8(19.0%)
It's complicated (see comment)
0(0.0%)
What is a pancake race?
13(31.0%)

What kind of pancake?

Leavened (US/Canada)
5(7.6%)
Unleavened (crêpe)
19(28.8%)
Wheat flour
12(18.2%)
Buckwheat flour
2(3.0%)
Tef flour
1(1.5%)
Rice flour
1(1.5%)
Other flour
2(3.0%)
Savoury
9(13.6%)
Sweet
10(15.2%)
No pancakes.
5(7.6%)

Not a real post

I keep wanting to post things but can't currently make non-public posts. The interface won't let me.

At Dawn

The Italian version of "Let it go" always seemed a little wordy compared to some of the others. It's called "All'alba sorgerò". At dawn, I will rise up.

Tonight, Grouting was talking about never going to sleep, which inevitably led to "Nessun dorma". Only as we got to the end did I suddenly realize the parallels in the songs have to be deliberate.

"Nessun dorma"
* Is sung to a fairly inaccessible princess in a tower
* The princess is in a cold room. ("fredda stanza")
* The singer knows lots of people will die because of the subject he's singing about.
* The song is, in part, about the dangers of telling the truth.
* Ends with "all'alba vincerò", at dawn I will win.
* Use of the verb "tramontare", to set "tramontate stelle", set stars


"All'alba sorgerò"
* Is about a queen in a fairly inaccessible tower
* The queen is in an ice palace. Cold. ("da oggi il freddo è casa mia")
* The singer is unaware that lots of people will die/their lives will be threatened by the subject she's singing about
* The song is, in part, about the dangers of having lied in the past and telling the truth in the future.
* Includes the line "All'alba sorgerò", at dawn I will rise up (where the English is "The past is in the past.")
* Use of the verb "tramontare", to set - "come il sole tramonterò", how the sun will set

Eurovision 2016

This year features lots of long curly-haired singers and very little scruffle, so that's good. Lots of outdoors cinemetography, and even more people inspired by last year's winner to do something with VR interactions, to variable success. There's a sad lack of dancing in the videos overall this year; hopefully the stage shows will do better.

The best overall song: Australia Dami Im "Sound of Silence"
The happiest: France Amir "J'ai cherché"
The cutest: Austria Zoë "Loin d'ici" Far from here
The one with the excessive video budget: Russia Sergey Lazarev "You Are the Only One"
Best dancing: Belgium Laura Tesoro "What's the Pressure"
Best ghosts: Iceland Greta Salóme "Hear Them Calling"
Most sweetly amusing for the right reasons: Sweden Frans "If I Were Sorry"

The first semi-final is tonight! The UK gets to vote in the second semi-final on Thursday.

2016's Eurovision entry videos...Collapse )

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Such Stuff as Dreams are Made on

I went to my first immersive theatre performance on Friday, a combination of trusting the parameters of something based on The Tempest and supporting a friend. It turns out that immersive theatre, at least this instance of it, is everything I hoped for from LARPs but never quite found there. I loved it. I loved it enough that I went back again, and would go back still more, but the run is only on for two weeks, ending this Saturday, and I can't fit another trip in.

"Such Stuff As Dreams are Made On" is an exploration of the island of The Tempest from many angles all at once, with the original plot underlying it, to give it structure and pacing. Each audience member explores the world as they wish, lurking in the corner of rooms or chasing after specific actors, often with the added challenge of crowded corridors. There is no way to see everything happening, and that gives depth to the world. What were those distant cries? Where are those people rushing? Who is that character?

The set is lushly realized with a satisfying deep level of constructed reality. There is real sand and origami boats, the scent of herbs and the glow of colored glass. And there is the lushly complex soundtrack tying all of the spaces together.

My favorite moments were the intimate ones. Just three of us and an actor. Just me and an actor. All parts of the story braid cohering the island into an atmosphere, into placeness.

Sedos is a long-running amateur theatre company; the "amateur" is why the work they have put into this experience is so transitory. They all have day jobs.

It's too late to buy tickets - they're all sold out - but when I showed up at 6:15 yesterday to queue for returns (cash payment only, £16 full price), I was only the second one there and we all got in.

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Nutcracker

We had tickets today to go see the Nutcracker, the English National Ballet at the London Coliseum.

Back in December, in preparation, we checked out a copy of Ella Bella Ballerina and the Nutcracker from the library, the story of a girl who joins Clara in experiencing much of the plot. We've been reading it (by Grouting's request) on a near-daily basis. This last week, I showed her videos of specific pieces from it, and then the whole of the first act. (Just as well so she could start processing the scariness of the mice.)

Today, we joined naxos and friends in going to one of the few under-5-friendly performances of it. It was, on the whole, very nicely done, with some truly spectacular dancing and good minor variants on the plot in the first act. The second act, alas, had even less plot than usual.

The audience was chockful of children, and Grouting commentated and questioned the whole way through, but all topically and in a quiet voice. All that preparation paid off. (And no one shushed her, unlike the fairly quiet but unfortunate-in-neighbors two-year-old in our group.)

In case any of you are going and care: SPOILERS FOLLOW.

1. The mouse king survives until the second act, which is great because he's funny and engaging and mischievous, and hitches a ride on a rope dangling from the hot air balloon. The best way to have gotten more plot from act 2 would have been to let him survive EVEN LONGER. But then Clara doesn't kill him or even really injure him; the Nutcracker does it single-handedly. So, Clara loses her best bit of agency.

2. The death is the introduction to the Drosselmeyer Show (aka dance of the National Stereotypes) which follows. He's come along with the hot air balloon for transport to the land of the Stage Show in act 2. Each dance is revealed by a stage within the stage, in echo of the puppet show of act 1. As a result, the Sugar Plum Fairy shows up exactly once in act 2, for her solo number. She's not the host of the land of sweets. And so she loses all her agency.

Dear English National Ballet: Why did you have to make all your plot changes at the expense of your erstwhile female protagonists?

The night of bad jokes

My sister tells me that telling jokes to earn one's treat for Halloween is a Des Moines thing. People in the DC area don't do it. Really?

Poll #2026710 What do they say on Halloween?

Do children/people tell a joke for a treat on Halloween, in the area you currently live in?

Always. Make them work for it (but not very hard).
1(2.6%)
Sometimes.
0(0.0%)
No, they just say "Trick or treat".
20(51.3%)
No, they just expect a treat without saying anything.
2(5.1%)
No. No one here goes trick-or-treating.
6(15.4%)
I don't know - no one comes to my door.
6(15.4%)
I don't know - I never answer the doorbell on Halloween.
1(2.6%)
Other, to be explained in a comment.
3(7.7%)

Do children/people say "trick or treat" when they come to the door on Halloween, in the area where you currently live?

Always
11(52.4%)
Sometimes
10(47.6%)
Never
0(0.0%)

What's the best joke you've heard this Halloween (if any)?

Tasting chocolate

One of the highlights of going to the Chocolate Show today was a panel called "Judging the Judges".

The award winners of a raft of major chocolate awards were announced this weekend at the show; this panel was intended as a light-hearted way of letting some award-winning chocolatiers get their revenge by reviewing chocolate created by the people doing the judges. The confections were all created fairly last-minutely - not works of long love and labor the way the real competition's entries are.

I learned that chocolate competition judges
* recalibrate their palate periodically by tasting the same non-competition chocolate they started with and comparing their current tasting notes for it with what they noted at the start of the day
* they refresh their palate by eating little cubes of plain, unsalted polenta
* when judging the World Chocolate Awards, a jury has to taste and assess about 80 chocolates over about 8 hours, every day
* A judge I spoke with longed for salty foods at the end of a day of judging.

Particularly wonderful comments, by chocolatiers, assessing the real judges' creations:
* "This chocolate tastes like three things I put in my mouth by accident."
* "It's an idea. It should have stayed as an idea."
* Host: "What was your favorite part of this chocolate?" Chocolatier: "The polenta." (palate refresher afterward)
* Host: "What was your favorite chocolate from the tasting?" Chocolatier (likely the same one): "The breadstick."
* "This has a particular blandness which is hard to achieve." (an actual judge from the audience)
* An anti-Belgian chocolate chocolatier from Belgium: "We use Belgian chocolate for biscuits, not for production."

In an interesting moment of historicity, the session's host told us that Nutella originated as a Napoleonic war product. (Instead of the WWII product that it is.) There's a very long tradition of people assuming/arguing things are older than they actually are. It was nice to document one in the wild.