Culture


So I went to see Deadpool. After midnight, because there aren’t any children making noise after midnight. You shouldn’t bring your children to see Deadpool. Unless your children are over 16 and then it’s OK. Especially if your children are over 16 and you’re OK with sitting next to them while some guy in a lycra suit on the screen occasionally makes genital jokes. If that’s what you like then you should totally bring your over age 16 children on a family trip to see Deadpool at an hour of your convenience.
 
Because I am a good boy™, I usually like to be tucked in bed before midnight on weekdays. Yes, I said tucked. This is a family show after all, unlike Deadpool, which is not suitable for your under age 16 children. Because I like to be nicely tucked in bed before midnight, I fell asleep in between the funny bits and the ass-kickings. Kickings. It’s risqué, not risky. This meant that I slept for about six minutes of the movie’s 108 minutes. That’s rather good. I slept for five hours during the English Patient, which is longer than the movie.
 
So, to summarise, Deadpool is a lot of fun, suitable for your over age 16 children (assuming you are not running for the Republican nomination for president) and you should see it. Twice if possible, because he’d like that. Sure, the jokes are occasionally puerile but you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few fingers. The most important thing is that Deadpool definitely doesn’t suck. But he’s fine with it if you do. You should see it where other people can see you laugh.
James Joyce statue in North Earl Street, Dublin

Joyce's Dublin statue. Usually referred to as "The prick with the stick"

To commemorate Bloomsday (which is today – well, pretty much yesterday now), you could take weeks out of your life to read Ulysses and marvel at its, erm, craft and the importance of where Leopold Bloom goes for a wee-wee. You could go to a public reading that has been pre-approved by Stephen Joyce, executor of the Joyce estate. You could wait until next year, when the book has left copyright protection and organise your own public reading, complete with balloon-making clowns and elephants.

You could ferret your way through the great novel as you wander from pub to pub to recreate Leopold’s day-long adventure. Try a walking tour of Dublin to see all the old haunts that Joyce fondly remembered and sent his hero to drink in, get sick outside or urinate behind.

Why bother. I’ve read it for you. Here’s all you need to know:

James Joyce's Ulysses told by the stick man

The stick man always sticks it to the man. This time, it's James Joyce's Ulysses.

You can click the image to get the larger version if squinting at the screen isn’t your thing.

A continental travesty in two parts

Part 2: Eurovision 2011 semifinal 2.

Moldovan hats are always cool

They say that if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing. I’m applying this to my intro for the second Eurovision 2011 semi-final. That was my intro for the second Eurovision 2011 semi-final. Straight to the songs then.

You’ll see something like Bosnia-Herzegovina‘s effort down your local pub after about 11pm when they’ve officially stopped serving beer and grandad finds a guitar behind the jukebox. He’s wearing an awful suit and gets all of his grandchildren up to sing a nonsense ditty with him. EVen the slightly slow stoner teen. As grandad (main artist Dino Merlin) was born in 1962, he’s aged beyond his years. He’s been stealing spliffs from his stoner grandchild, hasn’t he…

Austria has sent a J-Lo clone alled Nadine Beiler. With a better haircut. It’s one of  those sickly ballads about a small dog overcoming adversity to return himself to his family after a long voyage across the continental US. Or it might be about love and getting some nookie. I prefer to think it’s about a train-hopping dog though.

Every year there’s one entrant who looks like the sort of person who’s been legally barred from going within 500 metres of a school. This year it’s the lead singer from 3LS, representing the Netherlands. Appropriately enough, the song is called “Never Alone”. He’s got a Kevin Bacon lookalike playing the guitar and grinning like someone with a hidden supply of sweets. Personally I’d check them all against Interpol’s database of sex offenders.

Last year, Belgium sent a chap called Tom Dice with a guitar to perform a self-referential song caled “Me And My Guitar”. This year, they’ve abandoned any hopes at winning by sending an acapella group caled Witloof Bay. There’s some beatboxing in the middle. Heaven knows why. They sound like time travellers from about 1990. If they weren’t 21 years out of time, they’d be clear winners. In 1990.

Slovakia‘s entry consists of two tone-deaf twins. In a clear case of double standards (see later views on the Irish entry), they should win the semi-final, win again in the final and then perform across Europe. Preferably starting outside my window. Really though, they can’t sing.  Or at least one of them certainly can’t – ever time she opens her mouth, the backing singers suddenly start singing louder to mask out her efforts. Not trying hard enough, ladies.

Ukraine‘s contribution this year is a girl making drawings out of sand. The sand drawings are top class. There’s also a statuesque blonde caled Mika Newton singing in the foreground but no-one’s paying her any attention as the sand drawings are great. SHe can sing, sure, but who cares. More sand drawings please.

Silly hat time! It’s Moldova! Zdob şi Zdub are some sort of ska meets circus band. The song’s pretty awful for the most part but they’re wearing giant pointy hats while a girl zips around the stage on a unicycle. They’re the band you most want to see when you’ve drunk seven bottles of wine. Moldova should win. Their song means nothing, they have silly hats and they have a girl on a unicycle.

Sweden‘s song consists of a group of teenagers singing “I will be popular” over and over. No, you won’t. You’ll be beaten up in the schoolyard as soon as you get home.

The band from Cyprus manage to pull off this year’s most homoerotic display as an opener – a group of black-clad young men hanging around and singing together in a misty landscape. Adding a wailing girl, standing on her own a full fifty yards away does nothing to dispel the appearance. Unfortunately, they can’t sing either.

What is it about Eastern Europeans and their sometimes-ridiculous haircuts? Or specifically, Bulgarian Eurovisionentrants and their blind barbers? You’d be forgiven for thinking that Roxette are back but no – it’s just that 1990s hair fashion has finally hit Sofia.  What begins as a perfect opportunity to go to the kitchen for a cup of tea gets better when it turns into a Roxette song as well. No-one will vote for it but it’s not actually all that bad.

Macedonia should have borrowed some of those silly hats from their Moldovan neighbours. Even though the song is half in English, you can’t tell what it’s about. I think it’s describing the steps involved in gutting a goat. The backing dancers spend the entire song doing a freestyle dance interpretation of chasing the goat, grabbing it by the  ears and then slicing its head off. Before doing a traditional folk dance. It’s terrible shit.

Dana International is back for Israel, singing a song caled “Ding dong”. Isn’t that a bit ironic? Unfortunately, while “Diva” was a great song and a worthy winner in 1998, she might as well be singing the periodic table of the elements in Hebrew. It tries to be a dance song but isn’t a dance song that anyone would want to dance to. It wouldn’t sell 12 copies in a flea market.

Slovenia‘s singer has the most impressive thighs in the universe. They could crack a nut just by looking at it. Unfortunately her backing singers appear to be tone-deaf. The song sounds like the sort of thing you’d expect to hear in a dodgy Ljubljana strip joint. While Maja Keuc can sing, she needs a better song than this one.

Romania‘s David Bryan is originally from the UK and moved to the country to help build an orphanage. It’s possible that he wants to be the Romanian Cliff Richard. He’s got all the happiness of a Butlin’s red coat performing the night before those miserable residents finally go home. I managed to count his teeth during the song. He’s had his wisdom teeth out by the way. If you liked Cliff Richard during the Summer Holiday era, you’ll probably like David Bryan and want to have his babies.

Estonia‘s entrants (Getter Jaani) may as well be performing on one of those awful shows where the winner gets to appear in the backing chorus of an Andrew Llowd Webber musical. Scarily Prozac kids with that High School Musical look about them. They’ve got a few small city blocks erected on the stage during the song, which just reinforces the idea that they’re just your local dance troupe after accidentally finding themselves on a giant stage. It’s called “Rockefeller Street”. Nowhere near skanky enough.

It’s rare that a Eurovision song tries to hypnotise the audience into visiting Minsk and buying a few trinkets but that’s just what Anastasia Vinnikova from Belarus appears to be doing. The song’s called “I love Belarus” and that’s also the main chorus. Tourist chiefs in Belarus almost certainly sponsored this song and will use it for years in advertising campaigns. They also bribed the stage hands to give Vinnikova all of the pyrotechnics available for the entire night as they have every sparkler, firecracker and explosive device they can get their paws on and no other act has any.

Latvia‘s entry seems to be some sort of quickly-assembled karaoke band, singing together for a bet and  who’ve had a few to many happy pills before clambering on stage. The chap playing the guitar looks like Elvis Costello. The singer looks like John Barrowman. Then they rap. Yes, they rap. They shouldn’t.

Denmark‘s entrants describe their musical influences as Justin Bieber and Radiohead. The song appears to be about the difficulty of getting over depression if you’re a duck. For some inexplicable reason, he’s wearing a backless shirt. I don’t think you want to see it.

For some reason, Jedward haven’t been shot and are representing Ireland. Dressed as camp Romulans. I’m not entirely sure they’re doing the singing – the volume for the backing singers appears to have been turned up dramatically. It might be because the Irish twins are not known for being able to sing in tune. If there’s any justice, a large truck will drive into them at 80 miles an hour. There being no justice, tone-deaf children from across Europe will probably spend their pocket money on voting for this pair.

As usual, here’s a convenient video with “highlights” of the 19 semi-finalists:

Qualifiers:

Bosnia-Herzegovina
Austria
Ukraine
Moldova
Sweden
Slovenia
Romania
Estonia
Denmark
Ireland

Here’s a quick look at the five songs that go straight through to the final for being from countries that insist that they go straight through to the final:

Returning for Germany, Lena Meyer-Landrut is out to defend the title she won last year. Lena can’t sing without judicious use of autotune. Unfortunately for her, the song she’s brought this year is instantly forgettable. She’s lucky that Germany qualify automatically for the final. Let’s try to ignore that the song is called “Taken By A Stranger”, which sounds like something quite unfortunate that happens down a dark alley.

Blue are representing the United Kingdom with a song called “I can”. While all four members of Blue can sing, you really wouldn’t think so from this song, which falls into the age-old Eurovision trap of lacking a good chorus. Sandie Shaw would have them for breakfast.

Amaury Vassili is representing France with a song in Corsican. Which means that only a few thousand people have the slightest notion of what the song is about. Vassili is supposedly the youngest professional tenor in the world. He’s following in the tradition of other tenors by performing a song that would work best as the theme for World Cup coverage. Needs a chorus though. It sounds quite like Whitney Houston’s “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”. I’m sure that’s totally, like, a coincidence.

Italy got sense years ago and dropped out of the competition. This year they’re back with a little jazzy number called “Follia d’amore” sung by Raphael Gualazzi. It’s very Italian. It’s very Harry Connick. It isn’t actually all that bad. I’d listen to it more than once. I’m probably the only person that would do that though.

Lucia Perez is here for Spain with a song called “Que me quiten lo bailao”, which means “They can’t take away the good things I’ve lived”. It’s not all that bad. It’s not particularly good either. It;s not really her fault – she’d be popular on the karaoke circuit for a night. Portugal might give it a few points. Or not.

Who should win? Moldova obviously. They have silly hats. And a girl on a unicycle. All they’re missing is a dancing bear.

A continental travesty in two parts

Part 1: Eurovision 2011 semifinal 1.


Again it’s time for the annual unilateral surrender of music to people who shouldn’t really be allowed to listen to it, let alone play. Ne’e’rtheless, Eurovision exists, it’s happening and we might as well have some sarcastic fun with it.

The slightly sad thing about recent contests is the increase in the use of Autotune to turn bad singers into less-bad singers. The most striking example from last year was winner Lena Meyer-Landrut, whose studio track sounded rather peppy and nice, but sounded completely tone-deaf when singing it live. Odds are good that most people who vote for Eurovision entries don’t even listen to the music though. After all, Ireland has sent freak-clone twins Jedward to this year’s event.

The Dusseldorf hall is big enough to hold a giant political rally. Now I know what you’re thinking. But I’m sure Angela Merkel draws a crowd of thousands when she turns up to talk about fiscal rectitude and financial responsibility. Probably as large as the former Irish queues for buying apartments based on plans sketched with crayons on toilet paper.

Like last year, there are three hosts for the competition in 2011:

Judith Rakers is tall, blonde and says that looks don’t matter. She would say that though, wouldn’t she.

Stefan Raab describes himself as a German entertainer. Which could make him a porn star, who knows. Scott Mills describes him as the German Vernon Kaye. Which probably means he’ll diddle one of his co-presenters by the end of the night. Knowing Vernon Kaye, probably the blonde one who says that looks don’t matter.

Anke Engelke is a “German comedian”. She’s probably the only German comedian. Unfortunately, she isn’t funny. She bounces up and down in a continuous curtsey though. Perhaps that’s funny in Berlin. She describes the voting as “so easy even a man can understand it”. Which presumably makes her the female German Jimmy Tarbuck. Hilarious. In the 1970s maybe.

Enough! To the lifeboats! Or, well, the performances…

Poland‘s entry is a Steps knockoff band. The song features lines like “Everyday you try to conquer me anew”, making it the perfect anthem for mountain climbers. Or people with short-term memory loss. They’re dressed totally in white, with two of them wearing swimsuits. Presumably to deal with the water from the “tears your world is turning around me”. And there’s a sixth chap standing on the edge of the stage so that no-one falls off. They simulate sex with the floor anyway. That’s how they got through the Polish rounds I expect. It certainly wasn’t for song quality.

Norway has sent Stella Mwangl singing a song called “Haba Haba”. That’s Swahili by the way. The song’s in English though. Stella Mwangl oozes hotness and has probably stopped trains. Haba haba indeed. Unfortunately her voice doesn’t ooze anything more than flatness. A limited range means that she’s straining even to sing the verses. The entire chorus is “Haba haba kujaza kibaba” (“little by little, fill up the measure”). This song should be awarded zero points, the songwriter neds to be strangled with his own intestines and we all need to listen to more a-ha as a reminder that not all Norwegians are tone deaf.

Albania‘s song is called “Feel the passion”. The singer follows the Eurovision tradition of singing out of tune and out of time to the backing music. Someone should tell her that doing your best to combine the look of Annie Lennox and Lene Nystrom is well and good but if you can’t sing, don’t bother. She’d be marvellous in Eastenders as the new manager of the Queen Vic.

Armenia has sent Emmy, one of the most famous Armenian singers. Yeah, I know you’ve never heard of her. The song’s called “Boom boom”. While they’re making an attempt to give it a boxing theme, she’s dressed as Santa Claus until she drops the Santa suit and reveals herself to be wearing the traditional almost-not-there dress. Singing is not her forte. Standing there and looking good is. She should stick to that.

Turkey‘s effort is a group of Right Said Fred clones. They’re singing a song called “Live it up”, which has a backing track that sounds freakily similar to the old theme tune from Beverly Hills 90210. They deserve credit for entering a rock song though, which automatically makes it better than most of the other entries. Not by much unfortunately as the song is terrible shite. In the background there’s a spherical cage containing a girl who puts her ankle behind her head. They should have put that act front stage where we could all see it. It would have been worth an extra hundred points. Which would give them a hundred points.

Serbia‘s entry features four sixties chicks hanging around on stage singing about their man. Or something. It would have been totally at home in the Eurovision in the late 60s. Actually, it’s possible that it was. Someone should check. She can sing better than the song permits. That’s a shame.

Russia‘s song has a chorus that sounds like it’s a ripoff of the backing track from Lady Gaga’s Just Dance. It’s a real pity that the rest of the song didn’t do likewise. The four carefully-coiffed jacket-clad band members toss out lines like “Girl you blow me away”, “I’m gonna get you” and “I’m gunning for you”. It’s obviously a Mafia warning sung by four tough Moscow Teddy boys.

Switzerland gets extra points for using a ukulele. Then loses them all for having a song that’s performed with all the feeling of a six year old child reciting poetry. It’s like “Sleepy Jean” with all the good bits removed. She’s the best singer so far. Shame about the song.

Georgia‘s singer Eldrine is wearing a tasteful outfit that appears to be made of what happens when a tracksuit and a warning sign mate with one another. The song does its best to sound like Evanescence and dramatically fails.

Finland has sent a dude called “Paradise Oskar”, singing a song called “Da Da Dam”. He looks like a grinning Patrick Kielty wearing a girl’s blouse while strumming a guitar. The song is about a guy called Peter who sits under an apple tree before becoming an eco-activist. Just the sort of song that you expect to see on Blue Peter for the little ones. Don’t forget, it’s good to save the planet. With a guitar and an apple.

On to Malta. Glen Vella has entered the Eurovision four times before. Which presumably means that his previous four songs were worse than this one. The song sounds like what you’d expect an old b-side by Blue to be. He’s used all of Malta’s hair spray to stop what’s on his head from moving a millimetre. And he’s got really, erm, interesting eyebrows. Worryingly, I think he’s also sporting an erection. He screams “I love you all” at the end of his song. Anyone who’s noticed his crotch already knows, Glen.

San Marino‘s entry is a song called “Stand By”, sung by a girl called Senit. She’s apparently a musical veteran, having performed across Europe, including a performance in the Lion King. Judging by her hair, she played the Lion King’s mother. The song is there for anyone who’s been put on hold in a call centre as she sings about the time passing by while she stands by. Actually, it sounds a bit like “Circle of Life”. Not in a good way. It’s mostly sung using three notes.

Daria Kinzer is representing Croatia. Scott Mills introduces her by saying “she’s a big girl”. He means that she’s tall. Really tall. Legs up to her ass and maybe beyond for all we know. The song’s called “Celebrate” (though it sounds more like “Salad Day”). “Nothing can stop you now” “Join us and have a good time”. “The party of your life”. Now I know what you’re thinking – it’s about some sort of group  sweaty sex session. Nope. It’s about Croatia joining the EU. Do these people watch the news? She’s got all the singing talent of that drunk girl who was dancing in the corner of the nightclub last time you went, bellowing out all the words she remembered to Poker Face.

Iceland‘s song apparently commemorates an Icelandic songwriter who died earlier this year. It’s the sort of music that your granny might like. Assuming she’s a big fan of Morecambe and Wise. It’s just the kind of thing that they performed at impromptu comedy nights but at least they realised that they weren’t doing what did for the music. It’s rare that you see a Eurovision song that sounds like it was made up during the performance but after this, we’ve all seen at least one.

Kati Wolf, representing Hungary, came sixth in their 2010 X-factor. Yes, five people finished ahead of her. She’s wearing a giant blue ring, big enough to use as a door stop. The song seems to be about a self-conscious worried woman who doesn’t get enough attention. And can’t use long words either. “What about my life, what about me”. For some inexplicable reason, she’s got three Beastie Boys impressionists in the background. It’s utter Eurovision pap. Which is to say, it should be in the final for not actually being rubbish.

Portugal has sent a “comedy group” called Homens da Luta. They’re singing a song about unemployment in Portugal. It’s called “The struggle is joy”. They’ve come as a modern-day village people, including a guy dressed like Fidel Castro. In Portugal’s dictatorship days, they’d have been shot before leaving Lisbon. They’ve brought protest signs, a megaphone and they’re ready to start the revolution. Which, judging by the music, will hopefully not be televised.

Evelina from Lithuania uses sign language half-way through her song. Now everyone in Europe knows how to sign “tribulations”, which is useful. Or perhaps she’s signalling “I’m only doing this for the money”. The song sounds like something sung by Eponine in Les Miserables just before she’s about to die. When someone writes a musical called “The Young Thenardier Girl” they’ll slot this ballad in at the end and people will throw pennies.

One listen to Azerbaijan‘s entry and you’ll find yourself scrabbling for the remote control, happy to watch that show where golfers talk about their favourite shoes. It’s probably supposed to be one of those tender pre-sex songs that you put on when the object of your affections comes over for tea. It’s about as sexy as a wet sock.

Greece mixes Greek folk music with hip-hop. It’s called “Watch my dance”. It may be a contender for the worst song you’ll hear this year. And, having sat through eighteen other Europvision entries this evening, that’s something of an achievement. One guy does the hip-hop bits with all the swagger of Eminem and all the talent of the fat kid who lives down the road. As for the folk parts, if this is representative of what Greek folk is actually like, I never want to hear it again.

Short on time but for some reason want to see all of the above? Never fear…

Qualifiers:

Serbia
Russia
Switzerland
Georgia
Finland
Iceland
Hungary
Lithuania
Azerbaijan
Greece