Saturday, 29 May 2010

Sharing The Moment (ESC 2010)

We're getting ready for the greatest European cultural event of the year: EuroSong 2010. True, most songs in this competition are incompatible with my personal musical taste. But you don't have more fun than what you create on your own.

During the two semifinals a lot (but not all) of the rubbish was wiped out. But I think a couple of the songs that didn't make it all the way deserve an honourable mention. For instance, I kind of liked Estonia's song. It had a certain character that appealed to my alternative heart. Besides, I think Sweden's song were one of the better ballads.

Ok, then we're off. I really ought to watch the ESC final at a shabby hotel room with half a bottle of whisky on the table. (I've done it once, and consequently it's a tradition.) But it's ok watching it in the comfort of one's own home, too.

01. Azerbaijan: Safura: Drip Drop
Nothing special. The verse is rather vapid, and the chorus lasts for four seconds.

Spanish circus melancholy. It's ok, although I'm not really that crazy about sawdust and trapezes. And as we all know, when the laughter has stopped and the spotlights have died, the little clown goes home and weeps...

The most boring ballad Céline Dion never sang. What a personality! What a charisma! Yes, I'm being sarcastic. I'm pretty sure our national broadcasting company won't have to book Telenor Arena for the next year.

I don't fully catch this up-tempo pop tune. Terrible stage show. And much too much sax.

Neat and proper guitar based ballad from the isle of Aphrodite. Pretty dull in my ears.

06. Bosnia & Herzegovina: Vikasin Brajic: Thunder And Lightning
Guitar based again. Electric guitar this time. Rather rocky. It's ok, I guess.

What? Do Cyprus play an encore of their guitar ballad? No, it turns out it's another song after all. Just almost as boring. It reminds me of James Blunt or Savage Garden or various other artists whose names I don't even bother to remember.

Balkan trumpets at last! I don't quite catch the verse. It's a bit too exotic sounding for my ears. But the chorus kicks ass. The choreography is also pretty cool! A clear favourite so far.

09. Belarus: 3 + 2: Butterflies
Bel canto from Belarus. And look at those pretty butterfly wings! Pure euphony, and I have a thing for stuff that's sweet and sticky. I love chocolate. But sometimes I eat a bit too much. And then I have to vomit.

"Grand", "beautiful", "Irish" ballad. I'm sure this is good handiwork. And I'm sure this is a nice experience for those who like this kind of stuff. But it doesn't move me much. Besides, I think tin flutes have become the new pan flute.

Ageing Greek surrounded by rutting testosterone bombs. I get an urge to cover my nose. And to give them one on the kisser.

12. United Kingdom: Josh: That Sounds Good To Me
The song Rick Astley refused to record in 1988. Now Stock/Aitken/Waterman have warmed up the stew again, 20 years later. I think you can imagine what it tastes like...

Pretty much the same as their neighbouring country Azerbaijan (see above). My brother just sent me an sms: "Kate Bushism!"

Some kind of nu metal? Not my favourite genre, but I don't mind a bit of rock'n'roll in between all the ballads.

It appears things have changed in Albania since the days of Enver Hoxha. This is modern and catchy pop with a punk rocker on violin and three Albanian Supremes. Quite good, actually.

90s disco with trance influences. Hera is as statuesque as the Statue of Liberty. Unfortunately, she's also as stagnant (although she occasionally raises her hand and at some point even walks three steps to the left). But the song itself isn't that bad.

17. The Ukraine: Alyosha: Sweet People
Not quite sure what to think of this. It's definitely "different", and that's often a good thing. Soulful in a rock'n'roll kind of way, sort of. But of some reason I also associate the song with "heavy metal ballads" à la Scorpions, and that's definitely not good!

Catchy rhythms from the Colonies. Lots of rump shaking and acrobatics. France's contributions are often quite original. But I suggest they save this one for the Football World Cup.

This is music I really shouldn't like at all. Pure pop. And a lady by a grand piano inevitably generates associations to Alicia Keys. But I have to admit this gets me going. Regardless of the final results, I suspect this is a song we'll hear a lot of in 2010.

Bloody hell, what a lot of whining! I hope this is meant as a joke. But in this case my sense of humour is overruled by my taste in music. Or... maybe not? I've heard this song a couple of times by now... And it may be a bit better than the first impression. In any case, this is a song it's hard to be indifferent about.

A 6 ft 5 beauty with a hair almost equally long sings about an apricot stone from the motherland. Oriental tones and catchy thythms. Not bad at all. But I don't like her stressing ApriCOT.

22. Germany: Lena: Satellite
Bouncy pop and Sprechgesang in an imaginary accent. This is really swinging. Yet another favourite.

Nice, little ballad, performed by a very pretty, young lady. Moreover in Portuguese, which I find a very "musical" language. Hard not to like, although I guess poor Portugal will end up in the 15th position, as always.

24. Israel: Harel Skaat: Milim
Lots of Hebrew plurals here. Although ballads isn't my favourite genre, I'm actually touched by this song. A strong song with strong singing.

He looks like Sting. He sounds like Sting. And he sings a song that's almost identical with a song Sting once wrote. When they finally get to the chorus, and the "Every Breath You Take" bass movement is toned down a bit, it gets downright boring.

Well, all the songs have been presented, and now it's time for the interlude. Madcon and all of Europe dancing. Impressive. I always get a bit worried when Norway's about to arrange big events. Will we manage not to make fools of ourselves? Well, watching the ESC final actually made me feel a bit proud. Not because of the Norwegian contribution (on the contrary!), but because the NRK have pulled off a great production. Thank you, Nadia, Haddy and Erik. You're good, fun and pretty.

Ok, we've come to a conclusion: Next year's ESC final will be in Germany. I can definitely live with that. And the best thing of them all: The UK ended up in a well-deserved last position!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Seven Hours In The Meeting Mire

Wednesday started ok with the daily highlight; teaching my morning class. With fun students like these the rest of the working day is bound to be an anticlimax.

The comedown started as soon as I returned to the staff room. Once again we're approaching the date for the national exams. The students have just got their confirmation letters, but several of them have been signed up for the wrong exam. I've tried to contact the people in charge, but they just say that it's too late to make any changes now - even though it's probably they who have f**ked up! The arrogance! The disrespect! Grrrrr!!!

Wednesdays are generally the big meeting day, and this time the activity was particularly extensive. Firstly, there was a joint meeting for the whole staff, during which our new headmistress was introduced. That was actually rather nice, and the woman made a good first impression.

In addition, our union had summoned a meeting this afternoon. There were lots of (probably just) frustration. It seems like we're fighting on two fronts: On the one side against our employer (which is ok, I suppose). And on the other side against an unsupportive federation (which is not ok). In any case, after three consecutive hours of meetings I really thought enough was enough.

But it wasn't. In addition I had to attend the general assembly of the housing cooperative the same night. Bloody hell, what an exercise in futility! Most of those rising to speak were either morons, windbags or foreigners with no understanding of this country's rules of order. Usually all of the above. After four hours (!), the assembly had finally gone through all of the agenda, and I staggered into the fresh evening air, praying that I'd never have to go through a similar marathon of meetings again.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Workers Of The World, Unite!

For several years I worked at the worst workplace this side of Auschwitz. Already on Day One I felt that something was wrong. It's hard to say exactly what. The students were nice, and my collegues seemed ok. But all the same I sensed a vague humming of evil (like the low-frequency, hardly audible drone from an electric transformer). It took a while, but gradually I localized the evil humming at my boss' office.

The other day I met a former colleague, a sweet and cheerful lady. But her eyes were crackling when she told me about the conditions at my old workplace. Since I left, it seems things have got worse than ever. The admin cynically execute their Machiavellian divide and conquer policy, and no one dares to speak out, fearing that they'll lose their jobs. My friend referred to her boss with the same adjectives I most willingly use myself. It's too bad that it's got to be like that, but at the same time it's liberating to know that I'm not the only one who's had traumatic experiences with this b*tch.

Strictly speaking, I guess this stuff doesn't really concern me any more. I now work at a place where I'm more than happy with almost everything. But I must admit I get very provoked by the fact that a boss can continue recklessly like this, with no one interferring. Everyone knows what she's like. All the same, the department still let her continue taking the joy out of her subjects' life. The union also appear like a bunch of whimps. They've got at least one case going between her and one of their members. But they don't get anywhere.

It's things like that which make me want to become a revolutionary. Not really one of those ardent, communist revolutionaries from the October revolution or the '68 revolt. I'd let capitalists and the bourgeoisie keep their heads. I rather become a revolutionary of the old school, one of those who'll guillotine the aristocracy and throw homemade bombs (with a fuse!) at the Czar. Let's crush all useless dictators suppressing the people with their irrational whims and commands!

These words may seem harsh. But sometimes I want to rebel against all of the despots great and small that we experience in our daily lives. Although we generally live in a safe and egalitarian society, there are still some petty kings and queens that ought to end up at the scaffold!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Pythonesque Anarchy

Due to reasons I'll get back to, I've recently started to wonder about what the term "anarchism" actually implies. Some may associate it with "revolt", "chaos" etc. I guess that's why I've never really identified with this concept until now.

Right from my first day at school, I guess I've been a "nice and conformal boy", with no strong inclination to confront the establishment. (I guess he closest I ever got to becoming a punk, was when I attached a safety pin to my trousers in 6th grade.)

Also during my studies and at work I've seldom felt a great urge for anarchistic rebellion. Although various bosses and authorities have proved incompetent, I've seldom been subject to any real supression. (But at the same time I must admit that I generally do have a problem with bosses who obviously have less intellectual ballast than me and my colleagues...)

At any rate, it might actually not be political anarchy I have in mind. I'm sure people who know more about this stuff than me, would be able put anarchism into lots of impressive eco-political models. But personally I'm not very interested in that kind of stuff.

More than "theoretic" anarchism I guess it's rather "practical" anarchy that recently has caught my interest. According to my (probably extremely simplified) understanding of the term this simply implies not following any rules. Or creating one's own.

Recently our national television has been showing a documentary about the British comedy troupe Monty Python. Of course, I remember their Flying Circus series from the 70s, but it's only later on I've realized how ground-breaking their comedy actually was. Some might even call it - yes, exactly - anarchistic!

(The same weekend as the first episode of the Python documentary was broadcast, I also incidentally watched Lindsay Anderson's dark public school movie "if...." (1968). And it was not hard to understand how such obdurate environments might generate anarchistic ideas. Instead of running amok with a machine gun from the roof, luckily the Pythons chose comedy as their weapon.)

Monty Python's anarchistic approach gave a free rein for creative madness and absurd ideas. In retrospect one might claim that two thirds of their skits are pretty bad. But on the other hand the remaining third (and that's what you remember!) are timeless classics.

In addition to the Flying Circus series, the Pythons also made three great feature films. The best one is perhaps "Life Of Brian". (It was in fact so good that it was initially banned in my home country. Bloody Norwegians!) But my personal favourite is "The Holy Grail".

I'm not entirely sure what I think of anarchism as a political ideology. But it can obviously generate amazing results in the service of comedy. Personally, I think humour is more vital than politics. And I guess that's why anarchism's total disregard of rules and traditions has a certain appeal to me.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

In Wind And Weather

The school's parking lot on 4 May.

On Tuesday our school arranged spring's most beautiful event: Our annual excursion to the local lake. I was in the excursion committee, preparing colourful posters with questions about the fauna and flora of the area, to hang up along the trail.

Last year's excursion was an unconditional success. Students and teachers enjoyed the beautiful spring weather while solving questions and having luncheon on the grass.

This year things were tougher. In the early morning there were snowflakes in the air, and when the excursion committee arrived at the lake to hang up their posters, the weather had got so bitter we decided to shorten the trail to one third.

Despite the awful weather quite a few students turned up, and we all went in a body from the school to the lake, while the storm gradually developed into a true blizzard.

After a while a bunch of wet and cold - but sporty - students were gathered down by the lake. Some had a go at our shortened trail, and a couple of them even walked the whole round! But most of them - understandably - decided to return to the school after first base.

As a substitute for the rest of the excursion day we showed a nature documentary in the auditorium. The crew's hardships in the snowy wilderness weren't much more impressive than the one's our brave students had to endure that day...

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