The blog's been quiet for a while, I know. I have been working very hard. Now I am relaxing very hard: soft-serve blackberry ice cream, lazy afternoons playing Catan on the porch, whiskey-ginger ale-maple syrup cocktails in mason jars, forays to community rummage sales and state parks, dance parties, even an hour-long massage I "won" (i.e. bought impulsively) at a benefit. (Totally worth it.) My small-town life has gone from teeming hive to sunny vacation lifestyle.
Today I spent the afternoon watching the Eurovision song contest with two Russian professors and an authentic Pole. Have you seen this show before? It is so ridiculous and campy. (America should have a 50-states version.) Musical representatives from the twenty-five finalist countries perform outrageously tacky songs; then the audiences in each of the 42 participating countries get to vote by phone, on the condition that they cannot vote for their own country.
• Since Russia won last year, this year's contest took place in Moscow. Earlier today, Moscow gays assembled a pride parade, at which the police promptly arrested 35 people. The towering Swedish (p)opera diva Malena--she of the four-octave range and arms that make Madonna and Michelle O look like saplings--declared in solidarity, "Today, I am gay!"
• Ukraine got shafted in the vote but was one of my over-the-top favorites. Granted, at first I guffawed at the bizarre hamster-wheels-from-the-future set, lit up in green and black like a commercial for an energy drink, the singer wriggling in her sequined-stiletto-knee-high-boots, and the men's tiny sex-gladiator outfits that really made them look like silver-painted Marvin the Martians. The song: "Be My Valentine! (Anti-Crisis Girl)." The lyrics make as much sense as the title.
But then a drumset appeared on the stage and Svetlana abruptly hopped off the gladiator she was mounting, took the throne, and pounded out several bars, and I loved her. It happens at 2:47 in this video.
• Albania, what on earth was this guy about? When he wasn't Krishna-ing behind the singer, he was doing elementary somersaults off to the side. Turquoise? Sequined? Full-face hood? And it's not even a unitard?
• The German guy wore skintight silver glittery leggings. Not even the gracious Dita Von Teese tickling her riding crop up his chest could salvage his heterosexuality. (If he ever claimed it.)
• The Danish "rock band" gamely made the most of their performance, which by venue seems inherently doomed destroy their rock credibility forever. The tight-trousered guitarists strutted like C.C. DeVille and swung their lank locks as if they were playing an actual rock show and not international karaoke camp. The drummer wore sunglasses. Someone had on a cowboy hat.
• The weird thing is that once it comes to the final voting, all the long-simmering rivalries instantly melt and an inexplicable, almost provincial neighborliness kicks in. Finland votes for Sweden; Bosnia-Herzegovina grants its highest score to Serbia; Ukraine's top vote goes to Russia; Cyprus loves Greece.
(Exception: Armenia gave not a single point to Turkey.)
• Norway won! It was a little ridiculous, this "Fairytale" song, and I wasn't into the Disneyish pink princess dresses--you can't wear that kind of thing if you're blonde, you just look tacky--but I liked that the little guy sang and played the violin and wrote the music and the lyrics. And he won by a landslide--387 points, with second-place Iceland at 218 points and Azerbaijan with 207. (Who knew Azerbaijan was Europe?)
Trivia: In Norway, they call the contest Melodi Grand Prix. I have no idea why.
More trivia: Alexander Rybak (the little guy) is originally from Belarus. He moved to Norway when he was four.
• Finally, what is a Eurovision recap without a nod to ABBA, who, as true scholars will know, got their big break in the contest with "Waterloo" in 1974. Agnethe's boots/pants combo is fab. Poor Frida, is all I'll say about her look.