The Eurovision Song Contest 2008
Getting ready

On a personal note...

On a personal note, there is unlikely to be any "thoughts from interactive media" this year. This is because my Digibox is finally on the way out. When I hook up the power, the majority of the time it will get to the part of the start-up when the screen flashes (after about 26 seconds). The "remote command" indicator blinks in response to keys pressed on the remote, but it won't come out of stand-by. If I unplug it and plug it in half a minute later, maybe twenty times, it will perhaps consider starting up. And there it will wait, informing me that "No satellite signal is being received".

I can still watch the contest, I have a little free-to-air receiver (that's a lot nicer to use and is a lot more reliable). The only thing is, the FTA receiver doesn't offer support for BBC interactive or videoteletext. It can do traditional teletext, but that service is quickly dying out.

It isn't all doooom and gloooom however. I have inherited a 450MHz Pentium III computer and into this machine I have inserted the video digitiser card that I used for last year's competition. Better software, a more responsive frame grabber (TWAIN thingy), and better PCI support all mean that images can be grabbed in full resolution.

To give you an example of what I mean, here is a rather topical picture from the Chinese broadcaster Phoenix CNE (programme "Good Morning China", 22nd February 2008 around 01h30 CET):

Trouble in Serbia


Lurking problems?

As the cartoon above demostrates, there are some rather unfortunate political problems in Serbia right now. A couple of years ago Montenegro split away from Serbia, and recently the Kosovo region has declared its independence.
I'm tempted to say "who cares?" While that may sound cold, I cannot see a Serbian person caring much about whether or not Scotland breaks away from the UK, or if La Belle Bretagne declares independence from France, or even if the Euskadi region decides it has had it with Spain and wishes to run its own affairs. It is a big deal for those involved, and this is no doubt a huge deal for Serbians and Kosovans.
But, for the average Dutch person? A Norwegian? Me? It was evidently a big enough deal to the British Prime Minister, Mr. Gordon Brown, who was quick off the mark to wish Kosovo well on their independence. It's a shame he has rather the opposite point of view with regards the possible independence of Scotland... but being a Scot running the British parliament (based in England), I suppose he would look out for his own backside first.

The reason this is a big deal is not because of Serbia. It is not because of Kosovo. It is because of America and Russia taking sides and using this as an excuse to go for the old Power Play. If it's not "Commies", James-Bond style poisonings, and Missile Shields then why not argue over a small region that I'd reckon a large number of people would need a map in order to say where it actually is.

Do I wish luck to Kosovo? Do I support Serbia? Neither. I don't know enough about the situation to have an opinion either way. I just really hope that politics stays the hell out of friendly competition; for a tragic event at the Olympic Games many years ago shows what happens when misguided political agendas get mixed up in things that should be free of such dross.

Want some politics? Here, read this:


And a note to Mr. Spielberg

I guess it was 'brave' of Mr. Spielberg (yes, that Spielberg) to create a fuss by resigning his position in helping set up the Olympic games as some sort of protest about the Chinese providing... what was it, armaments and weapons to the Sudanese?
While I would never support China's actions to supply weapons to another country, I feel that really Mr. Spielberg should have "put up and shut up". I know very little about China but I know the country has serious problems with the concepts of freedom and democracy. I also know that they wish to heavily censor stuff both internally and to/from the rest of the world, in terms of media and the Internet [a hint to the Chinese government: let it all in, if that doesn't make your citizens think we in the West are all crazy, nothing will!]. Sometimes the censoring works and nobody knows. Sometimes it is like that rocket that nosedived into a village, and we find out anyway. Whatever. These are just things we learn about places like China (and we have our suspicions about Russia too - given that the Litvichenko saga is playing out like something Ian Fleming might have written).
If Mr. Spielberg really wasn't aware of any of this, he must have grown up in a very protected environment. And if he was aware, why did he accept the job to then go and make a fuss and potentially embarrass the host nation?

Dear Mr. Spielberg. I have two questions to ask you in return.
#1 - as a Jewish man, would you care to comment on the American support of Israeli actions against Lebanon and Palestine? For extra merit points, please explain how this example is fundamentally different to the very objection that you have raised.
#2 - as an American man, would you care to comment on the actions of your home country in Afghanistan and Iraq? For extra merit points, please explain how both countries have benefitted from military incursion, how peace and stability has been restored to the regions, how the world is a better safer place now, and how military forces from the NATO countries were not obligated to be involved in the swift and concise action, so did not serve as cannon fodder.

Exactly. You should stick to what you do best - making spectacular movies and making grown men bawl their eyes out at the end of the ones like "A.I.". Leave the radical politics to Mia Farrow, and the real politics to a load of slimy people in expensive suits.

Was Kosovo right? Is China justified? I think you'll find that many people will have many opinions (some quite vociferously), but nobody is perfect. Nobody can stand up and say "I'm right and you're wrong". Even if I had a good idea of how to resolve the problem, I'm an outsider so probably won't fully understand the nuances of the situation, and I come from a country that has a colonial past and is actively supporting the US in their deranged foreign policy.

Well baby I'm not a saint, and neither is the country I'm from. All I could provide is a half-assed opinion, and rather than insulting the Serbs and Kosovans with that, I will use this situation and Mr. Spielberg as examples of why friendly international competitions and politics are obligated to stay the hell away from each other.

International venues, such as The Olympic Games and The Eurovision Song Contest try hard to stay clear of political quagmire. What matters is the performance and the song, or if Elena Sokolova gets a higher score than Sasha Cohen. Or if any of the current ski jumpers were even born when Eddie (The Eagle) Edwards took to the air. It doesn't matter where the performer is from, what their religion is, or whether they vote to the left or the right. In the act of doing what they do in their competition, none of that matters. And I hope that it will remain so for the Song Contest (and any other friendly contest) this year, and for future years.

Do I want to see some radical group (uninvited, I would assume) marching around the stage at Belgrade? NO!
Do I want to see Marija Ŝerifovič perform her winning song again, and then see if any of the forty-odd contenders have a hope? YES!


Hell has frozen over

I have said that "hell would freeze" before the French enter a song in English. This year, our bizarre weather could be explained by the fact that hell has, indeed, frozen. I wonder if Trinny & Susannah would have any success in talking the Devil into liking the new 'blue' colour scheme? ☺

What am I on about? The French entering their Eurovision song in the English language. They have done just this. Ohmigod, WHY!?

I'm not going to waste time writing a "vote here" PHP script. Of my Eurovision contacts, e-penfriends, Brits and Frenchies that I have spoken to about this, not one thinks this is a good idea. There was something both defiant and self-assured about the French sticking with their language; and now even they have succumbed to the idea of singing in English. Perhaps it is an idea to try to rescue them from the wrong and of the score table? Perhaps they have just given in to the tide of English-language entrants.

It was Joni Mitchell who said: something's gained and something's lost in living ev'ry day.
I might be included to revise it as: nothing's gained and much is lost in singing in this way...

Here's hoping for a return to French in 2009; and here is hoping more countries start to embrace their own languages. Marija Ŝerifovič won with a song in her own language (the English language version so misses the point). She received high points not only from the ex-Yugoslav countries (not helping the bloc-vote conspiracy!) but also from Austria and Switzerland and all of the Scandanavian countries. Of the 41 countries in the 2007 contest, 36 of them gave points to Serbia (the UK didn't); thus showing that the majority of Europe, who might not have had a clue what the words actually meant decided that it was a song worth voting for.


"Worldvision: An American Anthem"

Apparently one of the US networks has purchased the rights to a pan-American version of the song contest. We have countries, they'll have states. Frankly I'm surprised that this hasn't already been thought of, but then again South Today's previous weather forecaster, the lovely Alina Jenkins, made a world first by presenting her weather forecast, live, from a roller-coaster (at Paulton's Park, if I remember correctly?). You would have thought some network in California would have done this decades ago, but it seems not!

The current proposed title of their contest is that given above, which is possibly the worst title they could ever have hoped to devise. It certainly won't help the common accusation that the Americans think that "the world" is America, and nothing else is important. I guess somebody thought that they could one-up eurovision with worldvision? Isn't "Worldvision" some sort of Christian aid charity anyway?

I would like to suggest "The Great American Song Contest", which is slightly larger-than-life in a John Wayne sort of way whilst not telling a word of a lie and being totally descriptive.

When will this come to pass? Apparently there is some sort of legal problem (isn't there always in America? <giggle>). I hope this legal problem lasts exactly as long as it takes them to come up with a better name! Then? Well, if we in Europe ever get broadcast rights (and I don't mean in the middle of the night on CNBC or somesuch), it will be interesting to watch. America has a long list of musical styles specific to regions. Bluegrass, Country, Jazz, laid-back-rock, hip-hop... As you read those you're probably thinking Georgia/Virginia, Tennessee, Louisiana, California, New York (or similar). And, given the foreign element inherent in America, it may not be a surprise to hear songs in Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese, French...


Let's just hope nobody thinks of making a true "worldvision" song contest. Many years ago I remember CNN's self-promo saying that it was available in 210 countries and territories; and the number has risen since then. That would be how many semi-finals? (and just imagine poor Mr. Stockselius (& Svante's Little Helper) trying to keep track of so many global televotes!)


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Copyright © 2008 Rick Murray