The Eurovision Camp Factor – II

Well, another Eurovision has come and gone. Portugal’s Salvador Sobral won everyone over with his passionate love song, “Amar Pelos Dios”.

But of course, no one watches it for the songs, right? You all want to see wacky staging and crazy costumes!

A few weeks ago, I posted a “Eurovision Camp Factor” scale, setting up scores from 1 (a basic, straightforward performance) to 10 (way over the top in everything). How did the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest turn out?

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Cinco de Mayo

I haven’t been seeing much in the way of advertising this year for any Cinco de Mayo festivities or promotions. Perhaps it has to do with the current socio-political environment, or maybe I just haven’t been looking in the right places.

Be that as it may, the holiday is in effect “Mexican-American Day”, just as “Juneteenth” and “Columbus Day” are “African-American Day” and “Italian-American Day”.

Those gringos who think it marks Mexican Independence Day are way off. That happened on Sept. 16, 1810, when – taking advantage of Spain’s preoccupation with Napoleon – Fr. Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla made the first cry of revolt against the hated Gachupines (native Spaniards) in the village of Dolores. Eleven years later, the Treaty of Córdoba (signed on August 24, 1821) completed the War of Independence.

This holiday actually commemorates the Battle of Puebla in 1862. A weak Mexican government found itself heavily in debt to European countries. Britain and Spain negotiated a settlement plan, but France decided to invade and seize control of the country. Outnumbered by roughly three to one, the Mexican Army dealt the French invaders a stunning defeat.

It’s not so much an “independence day” as it is a “coming of age” celebration (a Quinceañera, if you will) for the country, as it marked their first real victory over a foreign power.

So share some tequila with your friends and neighbors (and friendly neighbors), and and celebrate how much of what makes America great is that we’ll welcome anyone, especially if you bring something to the party.

Presidents Barack Obama (US) and Enrique Peña Nieto (Mexico) enjoying tequila in 2013. Photo by White House Photographer Pete Souza

Eurovision: The Camp Factor

Another Eurovision approaches, and commentators here in the US are, if they talk about Eurovision at all, will often bring up the “campiness” of the proceedings, and go on in a snarky attitude about how silly the whole thing is.

While it’s true that the show has been campy in the past (thanks in part to scoring rules that tended to favor spectacle), and still gets there occasionally, the acts you see are more like those who would appear as the musical guest on a late night talk show. The performances aren’t really different than what you’d expect to see for an act with a similar career arc (a few years in the business with an album or two under their belt) at a similar venue.

If you insist on watching the show for the campiness and not for the great number of fine performances, here’s a handy 1 – 10 scale for judging the Camp Factor of a performance (with examples from the past five years of Eurovision). There’s no “zero” score (or “nil points”, to use the Eurovision term) for campiness. Simply by association, you get a bit of campiness rubbed off on you.

(lots of embedded videos after the jump)

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Science Fiction Short Films

I’ve been a science fiction fan since high school. Not involved in “fandom”, but just a person who appreciates the story-telling potential of the genre. I also enjoy a good short film, as I have already mentioned here.

Science fiction is one genre that a lot aspiring filmmakers work in when they try out their skills. Sometimes, it leads to actual fame. Neill Blonkamp’s Oscar-nominated District 9, for example, was adapted from his short film “Alive in Joburg”.

Two years ago, award-winning animator Don Hertzfeldt released “World of Tomorrow”, a sixteen minute look into a strange future. When it came out, reviewers weren’t just calling it one of the best short films of the year, but one of the best films of the year in general. It was nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Animated Short”, but lost to the more family-friendly and “multiculturally correct” “Sanjay’s Super Team”.

Well, there are awards specific to the science fiction community. Perhaps it won the Hugo Award for “Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form”. I looked. It wasn’t even nominated. The nominees for 2015 were all TV episodes.

The Hugos are given by fans, so it’s possible not enough of them saw it. Hertzfeldt released it as a “pay per view” item, and I suppose not enough fans wanted to bother coughing up the $3.99 to see it – assuming they even knew about it.

Well, I’m going to a local science fiction convention this weekend. I’m making it my mission to promote the incredible amount of wonderful work being done in short films, that can be seen (for free!) online. Instead of trying to remember names and URLs, or be so crass as to make a handout, I’d do a blog post and then just refer people here.

I don’t want to clog up your monitor, so I’ll give a list of films showing the quality and variety available after the jump.
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On Pitcher’s Wins – II

With baseball season beginning next week, it’s going to be a great relief to have something other than politics to talk about in everyday conversation. Now I could use this opportunity to discuss my picks for the Divisional Champions (Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, Indians, Astros), but I really haven’t been paying attention to how Spring Training has been going. There are a divisions where things should be interesting (AL and NL East, AL West), but it will probably come down to which team stays the healthiest over the season. And of course once the playoffs begin, it’s almost impossible to predict an outcome.

So what else is there to talk about?

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The Worst Presidents

Another “Presidents’ Day”, and another couple of days of work for Washington and Lincoln impersonators. Usually, we only pay attention to the best presidents at this time; in addition to Washington and Lincoln, there might be some nods to Jefferson and both Roosevelts.

But I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about the presidents at the other end of the scale, at least accorrding to the people who rank them. Andrew Johnson (#17) only got the office after Lincoln’s assassination; he wasn’t elected to the job. And there was going to be a brutal fight over Reconstruction anyway. So we can give him a charitable nod and move on. George W. Bush (#43) often comes down near the bottom; I will be charitable as well and say that he’s too recent for us to have a proper historical perspective. And he did manage to serve two full terms…

That leaves Franklin Pierce (#14), James Buchanan (#15), and Warren G. Harding (#29). Why are they at the bottom of the list? What did they do – or fail to do – that lands them among the Worst Presidents?
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The World Series MVP – Before the Award – II

Going back over all the World Series like this reveals a few fun bits of trivia. For example, from 1919 through 1921, baseball tried out a best-of-seven series. The Cardinals had a pretty good dynasty in the early 40s.

But picking a World Series MVP like this can also be a bit frustrating. Which stats are important? Runs batted in are downplayed these days, as being more the result of opportunity than of talent. But what about the World Series, where every run scoring opportunity takes on vital importance? What do you do when (as in 1950), it’s a short series and no player stands out? How about when the best player is on the losing side? In 1944, George McQuinn led everyone with a .438 average, seven walks, and five runs batted in – but for the losing St Louis Browns….

I guarantee if I do this list again in a few months, I’ll pick an entirely different set of MVPs.
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The World Series MVP – Before the Award – I

It’s that time of year. After the Hall of Fame results have been announced, but well before Spring Training begins. There is practically nothing going on in the world of Baseball.

What’s a fan to do?

Back in 1995, SPORT magazine decided to give out an award to the player in the World Series who had the greatest impact on his team’s performance in the series. Johnny Podres won it that year, thanks to complete game wins in Games 2 and 7. It’s now decided by a group of broadcasters, sportswriters, and officials at the end of the last game, and the winner gets a new car in addition to the trophy.

But the World Series started in 1903. What if you went back and chose MVPs for all those earlier championships?

One could, thanks to the wonders of modern statistical analysis, simply choose the player with the greatest Win Probability Added, or some other goofy stat. That’s no fun at all. Here’s my entirely subjective list.

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2016 in Review

Well, I managed to keep this thing going for another year!

Sixty-five posts in all for 2016 – still better than one per week.

There were a total of 1,434 page views from 817 visitors (and 65 “Likes”)

The Most Viewed posts in 2016 were:

Movie Review: A Chinese Ghost Story (1987) 80
Expanding Major League Baseball – 2 75
Movie Review: Russian Ark (Russia, 2002) 39
Book Review: Mars Girl by Jeff Garrity 28
A Christmas Mix for You – 2016 23
A Holiday Message from Our Sponsor – 2015 23
Indiana Jones and the “Top Men” 20

If we just count the ones that I actually posted in 2016:

Expanding Major League Baseball – 2 75
A Christmas Mix for You – 2016 23
The Olympic Team to Root For 14
Movie Review: Killdozer (TV Movie, 1974) 13
Eurovision 2016 – The Predictions 12
On Donald Trump 10
Our Long National Nightmare 10
Book Review: The Book of the Dead 10

Of course, posts added late in the year (like “Our Long National Nightmare”) suffer a bit from not having enough time to collect views…..

The countries that got me the most visitors were:

United States 897
Brazil 131
Canada 74
Germany 59
United Kingdom 40
Italy 25
Australia 14
Indonesia
10

 

I have to wonder why I’m so popular in Brazil….

Can someone from that fine country leave a comment? Thanks!