Posts Tagged ‘eurovision song contest’

Quote of the day: GIBBERISH

July 24, 2010

GIBBERISH

Eurovision English [is] an exquisite tongue, spoken nowhere else, which raises the poetry of heartfelt but absolute nonsense to a level of which Lewis Carroll could only have dreamed. The Swedes are predictably fluent in this (“Your breasts are like swallows a-nesting,” they sang in 1973), and the Finns, too, should be hailed as early masters, with their faintly trouble back-to-back efforts from the mid-seventies, “Old Man Fiddle” and “Pump-pump,” but the habit continued to flourish even during those periods when the home-language ruling was in place, as cunning lyricists broke the embargo by smuggling random expostulations into their titles and choruses. Hence such gems as Austria’s “Boom Boom Boomerang,” from 1977 (not to be confused with Denmark’s “Boom Boom,” of the following year), Portugal’s “Bem-bom,” from 1982, and Sweden’s “Diggi-loo Diggi-ley,” which won in 1984. The next year’s contenders, spurred by such bravado, responded with “Magic, Oh Magic” (Italy) and “Piano Piano” (Switzerland). Not that the host national relinquished the crown without a fight, as anyone who watched Kikki Danielson can attest. Her song was called “Bra Vibrationer.” It was, regrettably, in Swedish.

By and large, philologists date the golden age of gibberish from the collapse of the Communist bloc. This brought a surge of fresh, unjaded contestants into the fray, hitherto unexposed to the watching world and avid to make their mark. (Of the thirty-nine contenders this year, eighteen did not exist as independent entities when the contest was first held.) I tried to interview Alyosha, who was in Oslo to sing “Sweet People,” for Ukraine, and hit a wall. She could learn English phonetically, and howl it convincingly into a wind machine, but speaking it one-on-one was another matter. Run your eye down the first semifinal of 2008, and you find what Donald Rumsfield used to call Old Europe being gate-crashed, in style, by Ukraine (“Shady Lady”), Latvia “(Wolves of the Sea”), Lithuania (“Nomads in the Night”), Bulgaria (“DJ, Take Me Away”), and Belarus (the ambitious “Hasta La Vista”). How could veterans like Turkey (“Deli”) or Switzerland (“Era Stupendo”) compare with that? My overriding concern, of course, was that 2010 would mark a hiatus of calm and common sense in this ritual massacre of the English language. I needn’t have worried. From the moment that Aisha took to the stage, for Latvia, in the first semifinal, with a hostage-to-fortune special called “What For?,” I settled down to enjoy a vintage year:

I’ve asked my Uncle Joe

But he can’t speak

Why does the wind still blow?

And blood still leaks?

So many questions now

With no reply

What for do people live until they die?

That is a good question. And even better was Aisha’s answer:

Only Mr. God knows why

(But) His phone today is out of range.

— Anthony Lane, writing in the New Yorker about the Eurovision Song Contest

In this week’s New Yorker

June 23, 2010

Three items of special interest:

1) Nicole Kraus’s haunting short story “The Young Painters,” continuing the New Yorker’s series spotlighting young writers, “20 Under 40.”

2) Ariel Levy’s profile of 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, delivered with Levy’s usual light touch, detailed reporting, compassion, and unerring bigotry-sensor. To wit:

One afternoon in Jerusalem, while Huckabee was eating a chocolate croissant in the lounge of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, I asked him to explain his rationale for opposing gay rights. “I do believe that God created male and female and intended for marriage to be the relationship of the two opposite sexes,” he said. “Male and female are biologically compatible to have a relationship. We can get into the ick factor, but the fact is two men in a relationship, two women in a relationship, biologically, that doesn’t work the same.”

3) Anthony Lane’s laugh-out-loud hilarious account of the Eurovision Song Contest, which you have to be a subscriber to read online. But it’s worth chasing down and reading in full, perhaps aloud, to catch the gems that Lane tosses out on the run.

Whether you’re presenting, performing, attending, or watching at home, alcohol is essential for getting through the Eurovision Song Contest, and the Norwegian pils served at the concession stands, as weak as fizzy rain, was simply not up to the job. How else could one face an opening band, from Moldova, who rhymed “We have no progressive future!” with “I know your lying nature!”, and who had taken pains to insure that their violinist’s illuminated bow matched the bright-blue straps of the lead singer’s garter belt? A deranged Estonian pianist smacked his keyboard with one raised fist, like a butcher flattening an escalope of veal. A pair of ice-white blondes, one with a squeezebox, decided to revive the moribund tradition of oompah-pah — or presumably, since they were Finnish, oom-päa-päa. A Belgian boy came on to croon “Me and My Guitar,” otherwise known as “Him and His Crippling Delusion.”



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