Posted by: John | April 1, 2013

Andrius: A lesson in Eurovision progression

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Many people assume that Eurovision artists just turn up on the Friday do a few spot checks and go home on the Saturday having won or lost. Nothing could be further from the truth especially if you’re a country wanting to prove yourself.

First, there’s a semi-final to get through. For that there’ll need to be camera angles worked out with the participating broadcaster, choreography honed and lighting sorted. That’s without the performance checks themselves – any country really serious about winning will have people checking the tapes after and seeing if there’s anything they can do to perfect the performance.

Second, if you get through, you have to do the whole thing again including full rehearsals with all the other participants in front of a paying audience before the big night. Again, you can tweak the performance.

Before all that though there are tell-tale signs of `hunger` that the knowing watch. One of those signs is if an act actually takes on board criticism and advice from professionals or fans themselves.

Which makes it all the more astonishing that this took place A great indie-rock song and yes they were singing in English although you’d be hard-pressed to know it. Of course there were fans imploring them to either do it in their native tongue or change their diction. Alas, they decided against it and thus lost their chance to get into the final. When you have three minutes to make an impact you have to communicate DIRECTLY. Whatever you think of the song that obviously didn’t happen and they lost their place in the final by 7 points – 10 songs went through Sinplus came 11th.

Which is why I have higher hopes for the plucky Andrius Pojavis from Lithuania to get into the final.

This is his first video – i’m one of the least fashion-concious people there are and even I can tell that looking like an extra from an Abraham Lincoln film with corresponding over-acting would take away from the performance. That was a couple of months ago.

Then there’s this – at least he’s ditched the top hat for a more clean-cut look – but you must have noticed something? Yes, the eyebrows have been a source of amusement for weeks.

Finally we have this – although I think the next step would be to put more of Andrius into the performance he’s changed the image and performance to suit the song. In short, he’s putting the song first. Keep on working at it Andrius and you’ll be invited to the big night.

 

Posted by: John | February 2, 2013

Song for Finland 2013

ImageThe final to choose the Finnish song is nearly upon us. Last year’s entry was charming yet inoffensive and from the start (despite what others thought) unwinnable – the delegation were flying home to Helsinki before the big night.

Yet how Finland has stirred they seem to be the hungriest and most deadly since 2006 – there’s some interesting and dangerous (for other countries) music here:

1. Diandra – `Colliding into you` – minor magic and a simple traditional ballad the song reminds me of Adele and she looks confident and an individual. The one draw back are the tuning problems every so often – the Finnish final this year is more competitive and when votes for the winner pivot on a few factors….. let’s hope she can sort them to show off the song to best effect

2. Mikael Saari – `We should be through` – a  grand classical ballad – shades of REM. Whether it would be too hard to grasp in one listen for Eurovision voters is a factor – as are the tuning issues in a song that HAS to be sung perfectly to gain the full effect of its well-constructed core.

3. Krista Siegfried – `Marry me` – from the sublime to the ridiculous. A competent bit of kiddy trash pop that is out of its league in this company. If Krista goes through then it’ll be a sign of Finland dropping the ball.

4. Arion – `Lost` – a bit of classic scandi violin rock. Would stand out more if it weren’t for the competition.

5. Flags – Great wide North – Mumford & Sons meets U2 set in current times – this would be a quality addition to a Eurovision final line-up. Respect.

6. Lucy was driving – `Dancing all across the Universe` – PURE GENIUS. It’s 70s style Mott the Hoople as if they were writing music today transmogrified into what could be a classic hit. If Finland choose this they would be showing that they have decided to really fight for the trophy for the first time since since Lordi.

7. Elina Orkonova – `He’s not my man` – Country/Rockabilly plodding pop that will get you tapping your feet. The real problem with the song is that its one idea overstays its welcome. Now if they could cut the time of the song…..

8. Last Panda – `Saturday night forever` – Fun, friendly and derivative of old-style indie rock . Although it would be great to have their infectious passion in the final we have been here before in 2006. Yes, Anonymous should have gone through to the final – yet they didn’t and it might not happen with `Last Panda`. If Finland opt for them they would have to believe that they’re more professional singing style will pull out extra votes for the final. As an aside the lead singer’s voice DOES sounds a bit like Feargal Sharkey!

So Finland do the right thing and steer `Lucy was Driving` to Malmo, if not that then it has to be Diandra followed closely by Mikaael Saari and Great Wide North

ImageDenmark is becoming fashionable – Borgen, Noma, lego revivals, the Bridge. At the moment they can do no wrong. What of their Eurovision campaign?

They seem to have developed a niche for themselves a sub-genre of earnest MOR `sensible shoes` Pop that has a distinctly Danish sound. If they carry on down this route (see Soluna Somay) I’m yet to be convinced it’ll work for them and may do what the `Swedish formula pop` of the noughties (`Friends`, `Afro-dite` and `Fame` were sequential players) did for Sweden – allowed them to hover in the lower half of the left-hand side of the scoreboard.

It’s nothing to be sneezed at – I should know as a Brit. I hope that they don’t end up with a reputation of having songs of some sort of quality that manage to scrape you into the final then drop like a stone (see again Soluna Somay).

I sense that their final on Saturday 26th will be an indication of whether they can swerve that trap yet use the strong newly found Danish identity and sound for something that can win.

Let’s preview the songs (here’s the link):

I always knew it – Frederikke – starts off well and sort of becomes a serious kylie gone wrong song with an abrupt ending. Afterwards you can’t remember it.

Human – Brinck – Brinck had a very `Irish by numbers` ballad in the contest a few years back but this is much better. He has a great voice, a very accessible foot-tapping song and great instrumentation – they could do worse than have him as their representative.

I’m not alone – Kate Hall – I suppose this is the kind of restrained Danish dance pop that is expected in a kind of `poor man’s Katy Perry` sort of way – it’s fine yet you kind of think `i’ve heard it all before` but could be any forgettable danceable dance floor filler

Stand up – Louise Dubiel – if Kate Hall was at least danceable this is completely forgettable – it’s a hop-stomping bit of `Danish formula pop` that will be lost if it got into the final

We own the universe – Daze – Now we’re talking! Abba meets Swedish Schlager with a Danish twist. Simple and honest – this has fun and Nrg at its core. It could go all the way to the top 5 in the final let alone the semi-final.

Stay awake – Simone – another slice of Danish Schlager albeit slower and more plodding – another song that Denmark could  be proud of if sent to Malmo.

Invincible – Jack Rowan feat Sam Gray - If the song order is the same as on this posting then this will feel cliched and tired. It’s a sort of average anthemic dance number. You’ll be humming it the next day but won’t know why as you hadn’t voted for it.

Only Teardrops – Emmelie the Forest - think celtic think Marina and the Diamonds and you are someway towards the sheer originality and self-confidence of this piece of wonderment. Denmark should do the right thing and buy a plane ticket to Malmo for Emmelie.

Beautiful to me – Albin - After Emmelie this sounds quaintly dated. Like a Robbie Williams b-side he actually sounds like Rpbbie. I don’t think this stands out here. Perfectly pleasant.

Unbreakable – Mohamed Ali - a rich man’s Albin a bit like a male Rihanna a good effort and would not look out of place on a Malmo left-hand side of a scoreboard.

So for my money I’d give 12 points to Emmelie the Forest, 10 points Daze, 8 points Simone. 7 to Brinck and 6 points to Mohamed Ali. The rest is for the birds.

Posted by: John | January 16, 2013

The High Street – it’s all about TRUST!

The post-christmas culling continues with Jessops, HMV and Blockbusters going down the tubes. There seem to be three reasons why this is happening.

1. As Grace dent has said in the Indy the high street hasn’t kept up with social changes – particularly that of internet shopping.

2. You just can’t get the things you’d like anymore. So many times people have to travel to the nearest big city to find the things they want. This is fine if you have the time or inclination to go (for instance you can catch up with friends and/or go to that fantastic restaurant). Yet if you DON’T have the time and inclination why would you buy that particular CD or stove top coffee maker when you can get it online. The only way to keep things sustainable is for order and collect services. This stops the problem of not being in when the goods are delivered and the convenience of picking them up at your convenience.

3. The other serious issue that will face retail from now on is TRUST. Jessops was a trusted brand with a `blue chip image`. As was HMV. Now there are a number of consumers who have worthless guarantees or vouchers.

There is also a link in the guise of Trevor Moore, who was CEO of Jessops and then HMV, Needless to say there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between these two companies. Perhaps they were fighting a losing battle yet for someone who, after Christmas, may have now worthless HMV or Jessops vouchers/guarantees the following (from the huffpo link) will leave a bitter taste in the mouth ` Like HMV, Jessops entered into a debt for equity swap with the banks, leaving it heavily leveraged`.

I heard on the radio that someone who had bought a camera online from Jessops on the day it went into administration will have no rights unless she paid by credit card. A friend of mine luckily spent his birthday gift HMV voucher two days after receiving it. Luckily for him it was a few hours before it went into administration! This kamikaze aspect of retail experience is a challenge to the High Street that they don’t need. Why bother with vouchers when you can give an Amazon voucher?

New Laws needed?

Perhaps there should be a voluntary agreement or something in law that allows amounts up to a certain amount to be honoured by the administrators both for cash refunds on online sales and vouchers. Otherwise why buy retail vouchers at all and just go to Amazon that is part of `the problem` in the first place?

The real issue will come if the High Street has a `Northern Rock` moment – where no brand is trusted sufficiently with the resulting effects.

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Lithuania have a chequered history at Eurovision – yet outside of that arena they are so `up and coming`. This could change with young Andrius’s song – a tightening of performance, a projection of the voice and it might be `Vilnius 2014`

Posted by: John | December 21, 2012

Eurovision 2013: `When the saints go marching in`

heilsarmeeFive countries have chosen only two of whom have songs worthy of remark. The first is Switzerland who have chosen poorly over the past few years.

Their entry `you and me` by Heilsarmee – literally a Salvation Army pop group! It’s a chugalong pop to indie number – a cut above the rest.

There’s been a lot of controversy with the fans for whom the `sally army` is akin to UKIP marching up Hampstead High Street knocking on doors. Decide for yourself.

Posted by: John | December 15, 2012

Would UKIP relax gun laws?

After our own Dunblane and the horrors of Newtown, Connecticut it seems that Nigel Farage emailed to someone of the `Britain needs guns` campaign group in March last year the following We note also that the growing incidence of gun-crime is in direct proportion to the restrictions placed on the ownership, by respectable people, of firearms.`

I fully understand if they want to allow sport shooting practice in the UK (I don’t know what the sporting fraternity thinks of that- I’m just not with the the latter statement.

What does he mean by that?

Posted by: John | December 9, 2012

A bit of straight talking to all Australians

As a Brit I’m as surprised as anyone about my reaction to the death of Jacintha Saldana. Waves of anger and reflection have enveloped me over the past 48 hours ever since I heard the breaking news on the bus on my way home. I think there’ll be many Brits who might remember where they were `when they heard the news about Jacintha Saldana`.

I would like to add I have family in Australia including a beloved sister. I have been there too so it’s with a heavy heart I have to write this.

It’s curious to see the reflex actions of those on social media. First, there were many Australians who deplored the situation. There were also a number though who, I imagine in a set of reflex actions, started lashing out with all sorts of arguments.

The reflex actions I can summarise as:

1. `It was only a harmless prank – no one could have foreseen that someone would kill herself`

2. `She must have been unstable to have done that – it couldn’t just be about the prank`

and 3. `those whinging poms are at it again`

The problem with them all is that WITHOUT THE PRANK NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED. 

Those who plead the first reflex action I simply ask `give me your works number – I will give it to 2dayfm and they can prank you when you least expect it`. Funnily enough, the many Australians that say this, don’t take me up on the offer.

To those who quote the second reflex action I say ironically `Whom amongst us WOULDN’T phone up a hospital, pretend to be someone’s relative and then ask for personal details?` It’s like saying `there must have been something else wrong with you to get that depression after you suffered the burglary`.

The third assertion, of `whinging poms` is probably the most idiotic of all.

Let’s make it clear – for a Brit unless you have family in Australia or are particularly into certain sports or soaps you don’t think about Australia from one month to the next. You’re not alone – most countries, barring China and the States, are in a similar position. That’s why when these things happen you have to be very careful how you handle the situation.

Australia is perceived by many Brits as being a land of sunshine, straight-talking and bluntness. `Let’s get to the point and say what we mean and feel` is the kind of image that goes around.

I’ve always found that too good to be true and it is. Rather like those Big Brother contestants who swagger in saying `I’m gonna say it as it is not gonna lie` sure enough as soon as someone tells them some home truths about them  they suddenly start protesting. In reality it’s a big bluff – `I’m scared that’s why I’ll hide behind a boorish brash front`.

And so this whole perception, simply by one suicide, has been blown out of the water. The reaction is often the revelation. Brits have now learnt that Australians are as fragile and frightened as anyone else; the mask is gone and the game is over. I don’t particularly care how 2dayfm treats Australians and let’s be clear it’s pretty sadistic  yet the feeling for some Brits is this – you had the temerity to call a British hospital, pretend to be someone’s close relative, find out medical information and for a laugh broadcast it on the net. It wasn’t even any old person but a relative of the head of state. You then compounded this by waving about the brag as if it were a rabbit caught in the outback.

You then have the audacity to say `it’s only a prank`, `it couldn’t be the whole story` or `you’re just a whinging pom`. Fair enough – I wonder how you’d like it if some trashy broadcaster here called Julia Gillard’s relative in the same way and acted in the same manner. Then when the nurse committed suicide gave exactly the same excuses?

These two young people (goaded on by people who should have known better) have trashed your image and it’s time to make amends. The reaction by the radio station and Julia Gillard does you know favours. It’s not `messages of sympathy` that we want but apologies, resignations and effective demands from Australians to take 2dayfm off the air.

It’s clear that that isn’t going to happen – thus I will do the only tiny thing I have in my power and that’s boycot all Australian goods until I am satisfied that action has been taken to my satisfaction. So no usual Aussie bottle of wine for me this Christmas or indeed at any other time of the year. Is that blunt, frank and straight-talking enough for you?

Posted by: John | November 4, 2012

It’s all about Lake County

Following the US elections as I do I noted that Barack Obama visited Mentor, Ohio just two days before voting starts. It got me thinking – his strategists must have decided that in the frantic last 3 days of campaigning the town and its surrounding areas must be key.

Well it sure is – it’s in Lake County that according to Wikipeadia although the county may not go with the winner it is the one that most reflects the average votes of the two parties in the swingiest of swing states.

So, if Ohio is the key and no Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio – it might be wise to find out what’s happening in Lake Counties townships of Mentor-on-the-lake, Painesville and Willoughby. 
Have a look at Googlemaps for Mentor, OH – looks a nice place to live too!

 

Posted by: John | October 1, 2012

Are 38 degrees worrying people to death?

Like many people I’m getting tired of the opportunism of the 38 degrees website.

Lately, they seem to have majoring heavily on the NHS. Their ploy is very simple – it seems to find some issue, hyperbolise it and then ask people to say `don’t want this at all ever`. Or something like that.

The last email that people have received states: 

Members of 38 Degrees in your local area are sending local doctors a strong message: our NHS is precious. Already hundreds of us have signed the petition asking them to protect it. Before local members deliver the petition, can you add your name and help get hundreds more signatures?

Here’s the email from a few days ago in case you missed it: Dear Andrew,

The government’s plans to privatise and fragment our NHS are taking shape in your area.

Local doctors are forming a Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) for the area. They’re going to get new powers to decide what health services you and your neighbours are able to access and who provides them. Whether it’s treatment for diabetes, skin conditions, a broken arm or depression, profit-hungry companies like Virgin Care and Serco are circling, ready to bid for contracts by promising to slash costs. The doctors on your local CCG will be under pressure from the government to hand out contracts to private companies. That could put vital services at risk. [3] But the last thing most doctors want is to carve up our NHS for private profit. Plus, the new CCG has a legal duty to listen to local people. [4]

So right now, we’ve got a big chance to ask local doctors to use their new powers to protect our NHS, not privatise it. Together, we can make sure they hear from hundreds of local people as they make these crucial decisions.Can you add your name to the petition to your local CCG now?

And so it goes on asking people to keep the NHS in state hands.

I have no problem with internet campaigning but as far as I can see 38 degrees have made a major blunder: A lot of these emails have gone to Welsh recipients. And who is responsible for Welsh Health Services – you guessed it, the Welsh Assembly. Who runs the Welsh Assembly – let me see, ah yes, Labour.

So, it’s gone to people in Wales who will be worrying themselves silly about what the Coalition Government is doing over something that that Government has no control over. Are Scottish people receiving these emails as well?

Funny thing is that during the time since 38 degrees was established (according to Wikipedia 26 May 2009) I can’t recall them ever doing a campaign about Labour’s own NHS record. In fact, (according to Wikipedia) 38 degrees started churning out emails in October 2010. 

So, can I make a small suggestion. Given that there are articles like this http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2012/08/25/lack-of-doctors-in-wales-causing-nhs-systems-to-break-down-bma-warns-91466-31691597/ and this http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2012/09/25/carwyn-jones-we-will-help-health-boards-with-slightly-short-budgets-91466-31906777/ perhaps they’d like to do an email campaign `Doctors shortfall in Wales` or `Make the Welsh assembly fund the NHS fully`. Or something like that. Unless of course, they approve of this situation?

Now I’ve no doubt there’s a debate on healthcare to be had. Put simply, there isn’t a pot of gold for the NHS – the reality is people are living longer, the pharmaceutical industry is expanding its pills and potions and the NHS is fighting hard to keep up with the demand with spiralling costs. And let’s be honest Labour have no magic wand (particularly as they neither can come up with any discernible policies `not the right time in the Parliament` and won’t anyway as if they get in in 2015 they will be doing a `zero-based spending review`. 

I was simply asked to do this blog posting by Welsh friends who were concerned that there was undue distress caused to people in Wales. I would like to see an even-handed debate on the NHS and healthcare in general. I’d also like to hear 38 degrees come clean once and for all – are they an independent organisation or a Labour front organisation. 

Or is it a case of `lying back and thinking of England, oh, I meant Wales`. 

 

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