Archive for May, 2010

Euro’s New Vision: A Satellite of Love

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Satellite

This week, everyone in Germany is probably wearing new blue underwear; or at least, they are singing about it:

I went everywhere for you
I even did my hair for you
I bought new underwear they’re blue
and I wore ‘em them just the other day

This is the best news Angela Merkel has had in weeks: Germany won. Not only that, it took the granddaughter of a former West German ambassador to the Soviet Union to bring home a prize.

Lena Meyer-Landrut and her song, Satellite, has won the Eurovision Song Contest. The recently-turned nineteen year-old, Meyer-Landrut was in the middle of taking her high school exams when the contest began. Thirty-nine countries entered a song, twenty-five made the final round, ten million votes were cast, and one hundred and twenty-five million watched Germany come out on top.

The contest, which is usually completely over the top in costumes and imbecilic songs, was started in in 1956 by Marcel Bezencon, director of European Broadcasting Union, to unify European cultural fans around a common event. The first Eurovision contest took place in Lugano with seven nations competing. (Switzerland won with Refrain by Lys Assia.)

Often, the stranger the act and the weirder the song title, the better the chance to win. After all, who can forget Boom-Bang-a-Bang (Britain, 1969), DiggiLoo DiggiLey, (Sweden, 1984); A Ba Ni Bi, (Israel, 1978) and Ding a Dong, (Netherlands, 1975), or Germany’s big hit a decade ago (2000), Wadde Hadde Dudde Da? Satellite certainly not only sounds better, but is a lot less embarrassing.

For a Euro-pride event, strangely enough, songs sung in English have won twenty-three times. Volare, originally Domenico Modugno’s Nel Blu Di Pinto Di Blu, is the most covered song in Eurovision history. Still, ABBA’s 1974 winning Waterloo, with glittering costumes, did more than anything to make this contest the go-to smirk-and-fun event that it is today.

For the high-minded, there’s the Venn diagram analysis in a scholarly journal article, Comparison of Eurovision Song Contest Simulation with Actual Results Reveals Shifting Patterns of Collusive Voting Alliances; for the ironically-minded, there’s the Hell Has Frozen Over greeting to Finland’s victory by Finland’s own national newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat.

Still, at a time when many American sports team crown themselves “World Champions”, even if they have only played against teams from 34 states and a few cities in Canada, Eurovision gives us a Euro Champion taste of pan-European culture - for better or worse.

This year, Germany gives us all a little pop - to our playlist and to our step. Given the Euro-economy, a little pop and Satellite love is probably a good thing.

Maybe, Chancellor Merkel will be singing to Greece:

I went everywhere for you
I even did my hair for you
I bought new underwear they’re blue
and I wore ‘em them just the other day

Love you know I’d fight for you
I left on the porch light for you
Whether you are sweet or cruel
I’m gonna love you either way

Love, Oh love
I gotta tell you how I feel about you
Cause I, Oh I,
Can’t go a minute without your love.
Like a satellite I’m in an orbit all the way around you
And I would fall out into the night
Can’t go a minute without your love

- Bill Reichblum

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Politics Beats Art: The Pakistani Government and Elvis Costello

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Elvis Costello

Photo by David Muir — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Some preach to the choir; others sing for freedom. The former is easy and common. The latter is hard and rare.

That’s why government leaders often choose the first. A perfect case in the point was this week’s decision by the Pakistani government to ban the use of Facebook because of anti-Muslim postings on the site. The offense was an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” page as a provocation for freedom of speech. The page has since been taken down, possibly by its creator, after receiving plenty of press and posts.

There’s no doubt that for the religious this page was an inappropriate and offensive act. There’s also no doubt that the page tested a national approach to freedom of thought and expression. Pakistani officials acted as expected.

We should expect more from our artists, right? After all, few expect moral courage and intellectual leadership from any government in our modern world. However, we do look to politically engaged artists to show us the light.

As we learned about Pakistan’s decision, we also learned that Elvis Costello cancelled his tour’s upcoming performances in Israel. Costello wrote to fans that “After Considerable Contemplation” he could not countenance performing in Israel. Why now? It appears his tour would not receive any money from the Israeli government nor was their any other apparent connection between his stage and their Knesset. Moreover, it was not clear how the situation had radically changed since Costello originally made the tour commitment. Costello posted how he arrived at his decision, concluding:

Sometimes a silence in music is better than adding to the static and so an end to it. I cannot imagine receiving another invitation to perform in Israel, which is a matter of regret but I can imagine a better time when I would not be writing this. With the hope for peace and understanding.

It is his music and his right to perform when and where he wants. Surely, we all hope for a new time of “peace and understanding.” However, given his own country’s tortuous relationship with Israel and its global constituents (see the new book by Anthony Julius), this appears to be more about wanting to preach to the choir than singing for peace. This isn’t about taking money from a government or a company that one disagrees with. That, of course, is totally understandable. If a government turns your stomach, why would you turn up your palm for a hand-out? No, this statement appears to be more about making oneself or one’s actions appear noble. After all, Costello makes the argument that “sometimes silence in music is better.”

Really? In the face of injustice is silence the right response? Wouldn’t it be more powerful to get up on stage and sing about one’s beliefs? Wouldn’t it be more helpful?

Costello had a stage platform to bring people together, but has chosen to use his online platform to separate people.

Governments bring about change by silencing opponents. Artists can bring about change by bringing people together in song, poetry — and politics.

Here’s hoping more artists are up to the challenge.

- Bill Reichblum

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Your Essential Festival Packing List

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Sherpas

Photo by Rémi Bridot — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

How do you make sure your festival experience is absolutely perfect? Here’s advice from the thousands of festival goers who come through KadmusArts every day.

Be prepared. Be the perfect packer.

You can’t control what’s on stage, what’s available to buy, or what the weather will be. However, you can make sure that you are ready for any condition, whether you are going to a one-day festival or sleeping over.

As in all great travels, the key is to travel light. Sure, there will be the dorky boy scout who will seem to have everything from a gourmet kitchen to a McMansion tent. Let him take the prize for carrying the most, worrying the most, and showing off the most. You are there to have fun.

Here is a short and simple list of twenty-one essential Festival items that cover all contingencies. All the items can easily fit into a small pack, or shoulder bag.

  1. Dress in Layers. As the weather changes, so can you. An outer layer of clothes can also be used as a pillow, as a blanket to lie on, or as a towel.
  2. A hat. Americans love their baseball caps. You want one that works for sun, rain, wind, tossed drinks.
  3. Rain boots. Rain and outdoor festivals are old friends. Having dry feet makes you more comfortable, and allows for a fashion statement, from colorful wellies to preppy Bean boots.
  4. If it does rain, prepare for the mud by wearing less clothing. A bit counterintuitive, but it is easier to wash the mud off of your body than it is to get the mud out of your clothes.
  5. Sunglasses. When it’s not raining, it will be sunny. Squinting all day is not fun. Moreover, when you meet someone new they appreciate that moment of intimacy when you remove your glasses and they can see your eyes.
  6. A cape. Really. The idea was posted on KadmusArts’ culture news, and it makes a lot of sense. Check out the original story here.
  7. Sunscreen. You don’t want to grow up looking like a lizard that drives around Florida and uses all the health care funds to take care of their skin cancer. Plus, there is nothing more miserable than trying to lie down when your back is burnt. And, you do hope to lie down, right?
  8. Socks. No matter how much you enjoyed wearing your funky but practical sandals during the day, at night your feet will be pleased that you thought to keep them warm.
  9. Bug spray. You never know. But why worry?
  10. First aid packet of insect bite cream, a couple of band aids in case of blisters or a silly cut, ibuprofen for sore muscles and helping to soothe the consumption of alcohol, and most importantly, Imodium. Can you think of anything that would ruin your time more than the river-of-pain that is completely stopped by the wonder drug of Imodium?
  11. Phone/camera. Try to imagine what Woodstock would have been like if everyone had mobile phones. The same — only better.
  12. Battery charger for your phone/camera. Your friends and parents will feel so much better knowing that you won’t run out of juice.
  13. Pen and Paper. You’re in the middle of a festival of creativity. Why not be creative, too? Make notes, write a poem, compose a love letter, let your future progeny know what it was like to be there!
  14. A book. Honestly. There is always down time, especially if you are staying over night. Need to avoid an awkward social situation, such as being abandoned by your best friend? Open your book. Travel to another place in mind and spirit. You might even get noticed and start a new friendship when approached — “Wow. You like Thomas Mann, too?”
  15. Flashlight or head lamp. It’s not silly. It’s totally practical. Not only used for reading, a flashlight can make a trip to the toilet safe, a search for your keys easy, and a beacon for all those who weren’t as smart as you to think ahead.
  16. Throat lozenges. Soothe your throat from all that cheering and singing.
  17. Breath mints. When your mouth feels clean, you feel clean. Plus, when you meet someone new, haven’t you tasted enough beer?
  18. Hand sanitzer/baby wipes. Very American. But USA’s contribution to global travel is more than baseball caps, shorts, and McDonald’s. Hand sanitizer helps you, it just does. Baby wipes have a thousand and one uses — from cleaning up spills to refreshing the back of your neck.
  19. Toilet paper. Enough said.
  20. Water. Water. Water. Ol’ Mick Jagger trick: drink two glasses of water for every one glass of alcohol. You’ll be able to strut all night.
  21. Smiles. Did you know that there are people who go through a whole day without smiling? Why in the world would you want to be one of them? Festivals are made to ensure that we all remember to smile.

- Bill Reichblum

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