Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Blogging the Eurovision Song Contest

Saturday night in Germany, time to watch the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest. This is the format:

1.) All the songs are performed with breaks for little skits that show life in the host country, Finland (1 hour, 45 minutes). The skits have tiny plots, some of which I would swear are plots from porn movies, and on the whole make life in Finland look cold and scary. There are 24 songs (I won't go through all of them) and there are no commercials.

2.) Everyone votes (15 minutes).

3.) The results for each country are very slowly presented (1 hour). And for some reason, Santa Claus shows up ... no, really, it was very odd.

I tuned in a couple minutes late and missed the first two songs, but dutifully watched the rest of the show. For comparison, BBC News describes and handicaps the acts.

The winners:

The winner was Serbia. Straight up power ballad, but the singer has a nice voice. What's up with the backup singers with Farrah hair? All in all, not bad:

The first runner up was Ukraine. Yes, that's a man in drag. Entertaining, but I'm not sure if it qualifies as a song.

Third place was Russia. Not good or interesting. Are those singers wearing 'slutty nuns' costumes?

The absurd:

U.K. What?!

France. Hilarious and highly entertaining, especially the bald guy with the fake cat around his neck who seems to be channeling Andy Dick or Andy Dick impersonating William Shatner.

And some of the rest:

Belarus. Terrifyingly bad. Pre-final speculation put this song close to the top and I saw one comment that said it sounded like something that would appear on the U.K. pop charts. I weep for the U.K. Commentary does rightly point out that it sounds like the theme song to a James Bond movie. It also has staging out of the David Copperfield oeuvre.

Greece. The Greek Ricky Martin, but dressed like someone's homemade Tin Man Halloween costume. Seriously, dude, you should have stuck with some basic black.

Armenia. He sings in English, but not like he knows how to speak English, which makes the song seem like bad karaoke.

Moldova. Electronic violin. Hold me, I'm scared. And, really, shouldn't this be the theme song to Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome or something (not that I want to bring down the wrath of Tina Turner on me).

Finland. The Finnish version of Evanescence.

Sweden. Glam rock, but not really fun enough. The refrain to the song is "Baby, I'm the worrying kind." That's not right. An act like this should have a fun song, like the Fratellis "Chelsea Dagger" (not that they're a glam rock group).


Saturday, May 12, 2007

On Choosing a Name for Your Indie Band

I was going to blog about the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest, but I'm waiting for clips of the performances to show up on YouTube. In the meantime, I thought I'd offer some advice for budding musicians: don't name your band after a historical figure unless you're sure that you're going to be more famous than whomever you're referencing. The key is the first result on a Google search of the name. One one hand, Franz Ferdinand. On the other hand, Cotton Mather. (You do better by adding "music" to the search, but why ruin a perfectly good blog post with logical thinking?)

Cotton Mather is/was (are they defunct?) an Austin power-pop (and, no, I really don't know what power-pop is) band. I'm familiar with exactly three of their songs (admittedly all from watching the TV show Veronica Mars). And, you wouldn't know any of this from Wikipedia (why have you failed me, Wikipedia?). They have exactly one song available on iTunes. So, as a public service (one of their CDs would make an excellent present ... you know, to me), this is what I've collected from the internet on Cotton Mather:

You can hear some of their songs on a myspace page (put up, I suspect, by fans and not the band), including "Lily Dreams On," available on iTunes off Veronica Mars (Original Television Soundtrack) (it's the song that plays over the incredibly awesome dream sequence that is the second-to-last scene of the first season).

The two songs featured in the most recent episode can be found here and here. You can hear the actor Paul Rudd sing the first of these songs, "My Before and After," on this myspace page. If you're listening to the second of these songs, "Payday," and want to find the lyrics (and guitar tabs! hee!), I've tracked them down to here.

If you're too lazy to click on any of the links, let me say that "Payday" is an awesome song, a cross between the Beatles and Squeeze if they sang in the mid-90s, "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" for Generation X:

They don't have a future but they do have a wage
Cause a job's not one of those things that gets better with age


Monday, May 07, 2007

Wedding Stuff

Between being stuck at the Columbus airport on Friday (the 27th) and arriving back in Bonn on Monday (the 30th), I went to my sister's wedding.

On Friday, I flew into Chicago at 3pm, went to pick up my dress, check into the hotel, go to the rehearsal, go to the rehearsal dinner, and hang out with a friend and some cousins. Now people are always surprised that my sisters and I do not look very much alike. In fact, my friend Sarah -- upon meeting my sisters -- remarked that a random woman she's saw once on the train looked more like me. However, we do have one thing in common: the Chen smile.

How can you (too!) look like a Chen? It's simple. You take a regular smile, then drop your lower lip a little bit. Voila! Mazel tov. By the way, if you're looking for a place to have a rehearsal dinner in Chicago, the Maggiano's downtown seems like a good bet -- I've now been to two rehearsal dinners there.

The next morning, we all trooped down to Chinatown and got hair and makeup done, then back downtown to change and start taking pictures.

Both my other, non-bride sister and I had hairdos which I would describe as vaguely Wonder Woman on Paradise Island-esque, but it's possible that my memories of TV shows I saw as a kid are inaccurate.

The wedding was at the Palmer House, and there were some very nice flowers.

I've been to plenty of weddings, but this is the first for my family and it was pretty cool to talk to so many different people, some of whom traveled pretty far to come to the wedding: the groom's family, my sister's high school and college friends, my parents' friends and colleagues, and relatives from both my Dad's and Mom's sides of the family. My Mom is one of eight siblings and on that side of my family (my Dad is one of five, so that's a whole other story), I'm one of 3 cousins who were born in the same year (there's another cousin born within 8 months of me, but in a different year). The other two were at the wedding and both, of course, are doctors.

Some more family quirks: the man we refer to as "Uncle Harry" is my grandmother's cousin, making him my second cousin, once removed my first cousin, twice removed [10.05.07: clearly, I've haven't a clue] -- if I understand how that works in English (feel free to correct me in the comments). The man we refer to as "Peggy's father, ... no not that Peggy, the other Peggy" is my grandmother's brother and my great-uncle.

The wedding was lovely and went off without the hitch and the reception was very nice also. Congratulations, Jo and Darin.

The groom chased around a bunch of my little second cousins (all between 4 and 6 years old), who took a shine to him very quickly. And my parents danced to Black-Eyed Peas, "Let's Get It Started" (What is it with me and that song? And, no, I don't have a good photo of it, although I tried. And, yes, props to my sister's oldest friend, Wendy, who must have some magical persuasive powers.).

When it was all over, I pulled 26 bobby pins out of my hair, which didn't effect it as much as you might expect, resulting in me looking rather Medusa-like (my hairdo's industrial-strength powers extended to the shower, where the water just bounced off of it).


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Well, I'm Back

In less than 5 weeks, I've been on 16 different flights, gone 12 time zones in one direction and 8 in the other. I've been to 9 airports and 3 continents. I took four flights in 36 hours. The longest I went without going to to the airport was 10 days. I'm pretty sure that if I were a test rat, I'd be dead.

I got back to Germany at noon Monday and kept myself busy with errands until 9pm on the theory that I should reset my internal clock as soon as possible. I guess I underestimated how sleep deprived I was. I slept for 15 hours, and only dragged myself out of bed when I realized that it was past noon. Sean had already sent me a worried email since I had told him that I would call him when I woke up and there was no way even a champion sleeper like me could have slept more than 14 hours.