Eurovision 2021

I honestly didn’t think they were going to have it this year, so I didn’t bother checking weeks ago to see when the performers were finalized and the official music videos were released. Evidently, things have settled down enough in Europe for them to have the “battle of the bands” this year.

I hope I don’t have to explain what this is – just look for the posts with the “Eurovision” tag. This year’s event details are at the usual place – https://eurovision.tv/

The official “recap” of the music videos for the entries:

I haven’t had enough time to decide which ones I prefer.

Look, if you still think Verka Serduchka is the standard example of a Eurovision entrant, that’s like saying Arnold Schwarzenegger is the standard example of a state governor. Yes, they count as one, but in no way are they typical.

And we all know the real point of following the contest – making fun of the entries. Eurovision doesn’t take itself too seriously, so why should you?

I wish I could watch the actual competition here in the US (the semi-finals are May 18 and 20; the Grand Final on May 22). Even if it wasn’t happening during working hours here, I don’t think any cable network is carrying it. And for some reason, you can’t easily stream it online.

But if you can watch it, give it a look. There’s almost always going to be something fun, cool, goofy, or downright awesome.

(Yes, I know about the Will Ferrel movie on Netflix. No, I haven’t seen it. It’s a comedy spoof (at least it’s supposed to be), and should never be taken as a serious and accurate depiction of the contest.)

Movie Review: Primer (2004)

This film, created by Shane Carruth, has a reputation in the science fiction world for being one of the most complex and interesting movies about time travel in the entire genre. I’d wager that no other movie has had more “explainer” material written about it. Indeed, if you want to untangle all the loops and loops within loops, you pretty much do need a cheat sheet of some sort.

But those analyses have come to dominate all the reviews so much that people seem to have forgotten they’ve been watching a movie, and one should spend at least a little time going over its cinematic aspects.

Primer is the first of (to date) two films by Carruth, an indie (obviously) filmmaker from Texas. One usually wants to “be kind” with new works from aspiring artists and give them a large benefit of the doubt, but one also doesn’t want to be unfair to potential viewers.

So, with that in mind…..

 

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Movie Review – When Women Lost Their Tails (Italy, 1972)

It’s fairly common to turn any film genre into a comedy. Romantic comedies, horror comedies, action comedies…. Combining one specific type of comedy with another film genre isn’t that common. You can’t just shove jokes into the script; the comedic subtypes have their own rules that must be followed. A “sex farce” must have jokes about sex, and silly romantic situations. Combining it with another film genre isn’t going to be easy. Especially when you’re trying to combine it with something serious, like a satire of capitalism……… Continue reading

Reparations

At the end of the Great War, the victorious allies wanted to really punish Germany for everything they had to endure in their victory. In addition to the loss of territory, the Treaty of Versailles contained a statement where Germany apologized and took all the blame for the war, and they were forced to pay some 132 billion gold marks (about $33 billion in 1919 dollars; over $500 billion today) in reparations. After a lot of refinancing (and another war sparked – in no small part – by the perceived humiliation of the reparations), the last payment was made in 2010.

In that next war, Finland wound up on the losing side due an alliance of convenience with Germany after Finland was invaded by the Soviet Union. Finland not only had to let the Soviets keep the territory they grabbed, but give them even more land and some serious cash payments. After the payments were made, a new bit of Finnish currency featured some nude figures (seen from the back) gazing at a sunset over an ocean. The joke was that it represented the Finns watching their last reparations payment going off to the Soviets.

Now there’s some serious talk – again – about reparations payments to African-Americans to atone in some fashion for slavery.

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Book Review: The Man Who Ended War

The Man Who Ended War
by Hollis Godfrey
1908
Feedbooks edition
https://www.feedbooks.com/book/6626/the-man-who-ended-war

At a press conference by the Secretary of War, someone asks about a strange letter that the government got earlier that day. The writer of that letter claims that the world has been too long in conflict, so he’s going to put a stop to it by destroying the navies of the world unless everyone agrees to disarm. They’ve got one year.

Everyone dismisses it as the work of a crank, but intrepid reporter Jim Orrington (our narrator and protagonist) isn’t so sure. He asks to see the original letter, and spots something a bit odd. He is able to persuade the government to allow him to bring the original (!!!) to Tom Haldane, a scientist friend of his, where they accidentally discover a part of the letter was erased and written over. That erased part gave a list of dates and times when battleships would be destroyed. It also happens that Tom noted some odd behavior of a piece of his lab equipment on occasions, and, musing on how one might destroy a battleship from a distance, they wonder if it could be connected.

When the USS Alaska disappears off the eastern coast of the US, at the same time that equipment exhibits its strange behavior again, Jim and Tom – and Tom’s sister Dorothy (a fair scientist in her own right) – manage to conjure up a device that acts as a locator for the source of whatever it is that vaporized the Alaska. Using Jim’s Washington connections, they get the OK from the president (!!!) to go ahead and track down “The Man” responsible.

As more battleships vanish, it’s a race against time to find “The Man” and put a stop to his doings.
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Are You Ready For Some Baseball?

It’s that time of year again – and this time even more hope is springing eternal in the human breast. A full 162 game season of major league baseball is approaching!

Fans will be allowed in the stands – at limited capacity to start, certainly. But there will be games, and there will be fans present.

The season looks to be a real barn-burner (admittedly, that can be said about every season – but so what). The Dodgers have a really good chance at repeating as World Series Champions – though the Padres are going to have something to say about that. While the Yankees stand a good chance of ending their pennant drought, the Twins are hoping to just win a playoff game. The Pirates are hoping that Ke’Bryan Hayes will be enough of a reason for people to care about them.

Speaking of rookies, there’s the usual crop of young studs that bring excitement to every game they’re in. Juan Soto. Fernando Tatis Jr. Randy Arozarena. Francisco Lindor. Shohei Ohtani. And the veterans that are always worth watching. Are the Angels good enough to get Mike Trout to the playoffs? Can Jacob de Grom win a third Cy Young Award? How good will Clayton Kershaw be now that he’s off the “can’t win in the playoffs” schneid? Will the tweaked ball have any effect on Aaron Judge’s power output? When will Miguel Cabrera hit career home run number 500?

I suppose I should make some predictions, er, best guesses.

The Dodgers and Padres will fight to the last day of the season, but Los Angeles will emerge as division winners. The Braves will come out ahead in a crazy scramble in the NL East. No one cares about the mediocre NL Central. The depth on the Dodgers’ roster will enable them to return to the WS again.

In the AL, the Yankees and Twins will be the teams to beat – and they will face each other for the pennant. The Twins will have already ended their streak of playoff futility, but they will still lose to their October nemesis.

Dodgers and Yankees in the World Series is as far as I want to go here.

Anyway, I’m hoping I’ll be able to get to a game or three this year.

Play ball!

Movie Review: Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935)

When watching movies “of a certain age”, one has to keep in mind the old saw that “the past is a foreign country”. Social and cultural attitudes were quite different in the past, and those attitudes will be reflected on the silver screen. Not just the way people behaved in general (the casual smoking and drinking, for example), but the way people of other races were depicted.

The “Charlie Chan” movies were based on a character created by mystery writer Earl Derr Biggers, who was inspired by newspaper accounts of Chinese-Hawaiian police detective Chang Apana. Chan would appear in six novels, and became so popular that Hollywood would make over three dozen “Charlie Chan” movies.

In this particular film, Chan has been sent to Egypt by a French archaeological society to find out why goods from an excavation they’re sponsoring have been winding up in the hands of private collectors. This quickly turns into a multiple murder investigation, but for our purposes, there’s another question to investigate:

How many ethnic stereotypes can you cram into one movie, without pushing it over the line into blatant offensiveness?

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Fixing the Olympics – II

Less than one year from now, Beijing is set to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Needless to say, there’s much talk about boycotting them over China’s miserable human rights record.

There’s been the usual suggestion of a boycott, but we all know that doesn’t work. It only harms the athletes who don’t get to participate, and the host country gets to control the narrative as well as get bragging rights from winning all the medals.

Mitt Romney, who organized the Salt Lake City Olympics, so he has some experience in these things, suggest we should participate – but counter all the Chinese propaganda by telling and showing the truth about what they are doing in Hong Kong and with the Uighurs.

But that isn’t a permanent solution to the problem. The scale of hosting the Games means that more than likely, a totalitarian state that can ignore the cost will wind up as a host. Some suggest moving the Olympics to a permanent site, but that just places the costs onto a single country – and the same country every time.

There might be a better solution.

Spread the Games out.
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Cancelling Characters

It started with the news media misreading a press release from Hasbro about the rebranding of one of their toys. Then an announcement from the publishers of the Dr. Seuss books that they would let a handful of the titles go out of print.

The right wing news media grabbed that and went bonkers over the libs “cancelling” childhood icons. They grabbed more fuel for their fire when Warner Brothers sent out some pre-release updates to the forthcoming remake of “Space Jam”.

Naturally, the general news media had to cover this “outrage”.

And now we’re forced to rehash the old arguments over offensive stereotypes and censorship.
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It started with the news media misreading a press release from Hasbro about the rebranding of one of their toys. Then an announcement from the publishers of the Dr. Seuss books that they would let a handful of the titles go out of print.

The right wing news media grabbed that and went bonkers over the libs “cancelling” childhood icons. They grabbed more fuel for their fire when Warner Brothers sent out some pre-release updates to the forthcoming remake of “Space Jam”.

Naturally, the general news media had to cover this “outrage”.

And now we’re forced to rehash the old arguments over offensive stereotypes and censorship.
Continue reading

Happy Videos

Because we can always use something to make us feel good….

Matt Harding was a video game designer who decided he needed a break from making games were the goal was to kill things. So he traveled the world, and put together a clip reel of him doing a goofy little jig in interesting places. It went modestly viral, and was seen by someone at Stride Gum. They approached him with a marketing idea: “How about a second trip? We’ll deal with the logistics and permissions, you just be there and do that dance, and stick our logo in your video.” He agreed (hey, more travel to interesting places!), and that video went even MORE viral. Fans commented that they would have LOVED to dance with him if only they had known about it. So Harding asked the people at Stride if they’d be interested in sponsoring another trip – this time with other people dancing, and a blog where people could follow the journey. Stride said, “OK, sure!”

A few more videos followed. FIFA helped him make one for the World Cup in South Africa. He returned to game design, editing, and writing. Presumably, he and his family are doing fine.

It helps if you know how long Cubs fans have been waiting for this, but you don’t really have to know much about baseball to feel the sheer joy on display here. This has got to be the Best Reaction Video Ever. I double-dog-dare you to find a better one.

By the way, if there are any other videos (no cute animal ones, please; those are too easy) that you’d like to share, give the link in the comments – and I just might add it!