Grant and I were dressed for the part. Grant is wearing a Pirate Bay Party t-shirt, while I am wearing a Swedish football team t-shirt.

Eurovision Song Contest

There was a time not so long ago when I used to host an annual Eurovision Song Contest party. A whole bunch of us would gather together. We had score sheets. We had trophies. We had snack food based around different European cuisines. We revelled in the trashiness of it all. We constantly tried to outdo each other with smart-arse, bitchy comments. As the years went on I felt less inclined to hold these parties. There was a certain sameness to it every year. The longer the contest, the more difficult it became to go to work on the Monday morning. But the killer for me was I started to take Eurovision seriously.

I started to see through the “trashiness” of it all, what I call the “Woganification” of Eurovision, to see something really worthwhile and enjoyable, that you could enjoy without the need to trash it. I used to love Terry Wogan’s commentary, but over the last few years I’ve begun to realise the really negative impact he’s had on Eurovision in the UK directly, and in Australia indirectly. In the UK, his constant trashing of the entries (with a heavy dose of UK-centrism and some degree of xenophobia) has indirectly led to a situation where the contest isn’t taken seriously, and why they keep putting up such awful acts, in my view. Indirectly, the years of his commentary being shown in Australia has led to something similar: a situation where Eurovision is defined in the public discourse only through the glitter, the camp, the trashy.

I’m not denying the glitter, the camp, and the trashy (as they’re elements of Eurovision I really love), but I’ve become increasingly disenchanted with the half-arsed lame, sledging comments on places like Twitter. Every many (with a Twitter account) and his dog watching Eurovision seems to think they’re the funniest new comedian or bitchiest new drag queen on the block. I’m also completely sick and tired of the SBS coverage where it’s become the Sam and Julia show. The killer for me, this year, was during the second semi-final when they actually began making comments OVER the song.

So this year I decided to avoid all of the shenanigans of a Sunday night watching the delayed SBS commentary. Instead, I got up early yesterday morning and watched the live coverage from SVT. As it was in real-time I didn’t have to worry about the stupid all day Sunday media blockout, avoiding the results. I also got to enjoy a coverage which was amusing and with affection, and where the commentators didn’t speak over the top of the songs, nor over the top of important parts of the show, and where it wasn’t all about them.

With that rant out of the way, these were my Top 3 this year.

1/ The Winner – Conchita Wurst : A great song, performed with passion, and with a great novelty act.

2/ The Wooden Spoon – Twin Twin : Despite the fact this song finished last, I thought it was great fun, had a good tune, and I really loved the fact it was the only song in the final not in English. This is the video version, by the way, since their live performance was rather dull, and out of tune.

3/ Sweden (of course) – Sanna Nielson : I actually think the song is rather boring, but when you support Team Sweden, you have to support the team.

Having been to Melodifestivalen (the Swedish finals) on a couple of occasions over the last few years, where the Swedes take it seriously, where they genuinely try to compete with a great song and a great performance, and where the public really looks up to those who enter the contest, I’ve begun to realise there’s another way of seeing Eurovision. It’s the difference between laughing WITH them (which is what the Europeans do) rather than AT them (which is what the UK and Australians seem to do).

Ice on the beach near the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon in southeast Iceland.

Travel Thoughts

Once again my thoughts have turned to travel. I think it’s the end of daylight saving that’s brought it on. Whereas last week I was still arriving home in daylight, it’s now well and truly dark by the time I walk in the door. That means only one thing: winter is on the way.

I’m not averse the cold, as lots of photographs on this site attest. In fact, I really love snow, and a year ago this week I was visiting Iceland where I experienced four seasons in one day. What started off as a bright sunny day turned into a fairly heavy snowstorm on the beach.

In contrast, winter in Sydney is very mild, and I shouldn’t complain. But there’s something about the long stretch from April until the end of July that causes me to become a little grumpy, and a little reclusive and make me want to head somewhere a little further north.

I’m heading to China for a couple of weeks in May, and so hopefully that will help. Deep down, though, I’d like to do something in the cold heart depth of July.

The wunderlust hasn’t been helped by the fact a close colleague is now counting down the days to her three months of long service leave. To make matters worse, she’s actually going to Sweden at the end of July. To the far north of Sweden, in fact, in what looks like an incredibly beautiful area, to attend a wedding of another colleague of ours. I’ve been invited to the wedding also, and at the moment, I’m erring on the side of financial caution, though I might assess my finances after China, and you never know, as the wedding is just days before Stockholm Pride. Hmmm…


Welcome To Sweden

For a few years I’ve toyed with the idea of living in Sweden for a year or two. However, there are a few reasons which have stopped me. Money is, of course, an issue. The fact that I’m 48 years old is also an issue. But there’s also been a fear it could all turn out to go terribly wrong.

I’ve read blogs and have spoken to a number of people who’ve told me it’s not as easy as it seems on the surface, even if I could overcome some of those issues. Although Swedes speak exceptional English, there are lots of cultural subtleties and a lot of unspoken cultural barriers which means it’s not always easy for someone from another country to settle there.

Or maybe I’m just over-thinking things?

So it’s with some interest that I’ve watched the first two episodes of “Welcome To Sweden”, the new TV4/NBC program which has commenced. Curiously, the program is based around the life story of Greg Poehler (brother of Amy from Saturday Night Live). Bruce made the decision to move to Sweden a few years ago, and has made a career doing stand-up. The fact his sister is Amy (and she was the program’s producer) undoubtedly helped pitch the idea of a program about a bloke who moves to Sweden both to Swedish TV and to NBC. I’m sure it also helped with guest appearances by the likes of Will Ferrell.

But all of that said, it’s also a very funny program. I’ve watched the first two episodes so far and have laughed out loud on many occasions. Having a knowledge of some of the quirkiness of Swedish culture has definitely helped. Noticeably, the humour is affectionate, as the lead character called Bruce learns about Swedish character.

Hopefully, the programme transcends the Swedishness of it all when it makes a debut on NBC later in the year. That said, there’s a lot of Swedish language in the program, which undoubtedly will be eliminated when it appears on American TV. I can imagine there’ll be the occasional word or phrase here or there, but the Swedish version of the program contains probably far too much (requiring subtitles) for a mainstream US audience.

Grace Jones

Walking In The Rain

I first heard/saw the song “Walking In The Rain” when the video clip of Grace Jones performing the song was first played on Countdown. I was about seventeen years old at the time and was completely blown away by the clip. In particular, the strong androgynous imagery of Grace Jones echoed by the song line “Feeling like a woman, looking like a man”.

For me, Grace Jones’ version has always been the definitive version, even though it was first performed (and written) by the Australian group, “Flash & The Pan”. But today on the radio, I heard Doc Neeson’s version. I’ve never been a big fan of Doc Neeson and his band. “The Angels”, but this version really stood out. It has a Nick Cave feel about it. Also a later Johnny Cash feel to it. I love the brass, I love Doc’s deliberate style.

So, I thought it would be worth sharing these three versions (that I’m aware of) with you.

1979 – Flash & The Pan

1981 – Grace Jones

2014 – Doc Neeson