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Nul Points! May 25, 2003

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You'll have someone's eye out with those if you're not careful.
Greek entry Mando: careful, love. You could have someone’s eye out with those.

Regular readers will remember our piece about the Eurovision Song Contest. Well, it was last night, and a vintage example of the show it was too. In the same way that people in the US have Oscar parties, we have Eurovision parties, where, for one night a year, the straightest, least racist and most PC people can be gay, sexist and bigoted. I know this, because the wine was flowing here at Monkeyboy Acres.

You can find full tracks, videos and info on the songs at the official Eurovision site, but highlights included the German entry, a mature woman with dayglo red hair singing a chorus that went “let’s get happy, let’s get gay”; the truly cavernous cleavage of Mando, the leather-clad Greek entry; Alf the Austrian, a stand-up comic in his own country (think Cosmo Kramer off of Seinfeld); the Belgian entry, a folky number sung in an entirely made-up language; the Israeli entry with backing dancers’ comedy striptease; Poland’s song for peace, sung by a guy in a red wig in a suit covered with doves, which included the line “He may forget about his stupid megalomania/ And instead of talking/ Will start to live again”… and t.A.T.u.

Ich Troje.
Poland’s Ich Troje: rails against stupid megalomania.

Except… t.A.T.u. were really bad. I mean, what was that, girls? You produce some of the most electrifying pop music for years and you pull this out for Eurovision? What gives? You weren’t even trying.

I should say a few words about how the voting goes. Twenty-six countries entered, and each country broadcasts the show. When the last act has done, every country has either a phone poll (which is what the UK does) or a professional jury (like Russia, still not a nation predisposed to democracy). They choose their ten favourite or most popular songs in reverse order, giving them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 and 12 points respectively. And you can’t vote for yourself.

The thing that makes the scoring electrifying is (well, apart from UK broadcasting legend Terry Wogan’s acerbic and hilarious voice-over commentary) is the way that no one votes for songs on merit. The Netherlands and the UK, nations not known for taking this seriously, often give points to the daftest songs. We gave 8 points to Alf the Austrian (our party voted for him).

Alf the Austrian
Austria’s Alf Poier: striking a blow against “Eurovision conformity”, apparently.

Cyprus and Greece always, and I mean ALWAYS give each other 12 points. Belgium will give France 12 points, but France will not reciprocate. Turkey will not give Israel everything. Balkan states vote for each other. Sweden and Norway will give each other maximum points. In theory, this levels out, meaning that with all the political voting, it’s the country with the astonishing, amazing, infectiously catchy song that wins (like the 1974 winner, ABBA’s Waterloo). Either that, or something which was frankly pretty mediocre.

Bellydancer From Another World.
Eventual winner Sertab Erener: Bellydancer From Beyond.

Like this year, where a small Turkish woman in a belly-dancing costume who had a bumpy forehead like an alien off of Star Trek stormed the polls and just beat Belgium and Russia to victory.

t.A.T.u. missed coming second by a margin of only three points, notwithstanding their appalling I-don’t-want-to-be-here-mum performance and the enthusiastic booing of the audience. Which they deserved. Julia, Lena, I love you with all my heart, but you disappoint me. You really do. If you had been ANY GOOD AT ALL, you’d have won, girls. Or if you’d done some of that on-stage snogging thing.

So how did the UK do, I hear you ask? Our entry, a duo called Jemini, got nothing. In the words of the French (and it has to be half in French solely because the French refuse outright to do anything in English) we got “nul points”. Zero. Zip. Nada. Nothing at all.

Nul points!
The UK’s Jemini: Not to worry. You’re only going to carry the stigma of “worst ever performance” for the rest of your lives.

For the first time in more than a decade, someone got no points at all , and that someone was us. Was it because we were indescribably crap? No – while we were rubbish, we were still better than t.A.T.u. And Israel. And Estonia. And Latvia. It was our worst ever result (the previous worst ever having been 28 points, I think).

Political voting? You work it out. Let that be a lesson to you: don’t enter Eurovision in the year you illegally invade someone. You’ll get nothing.

Did I call her a cryptofascist? Maybe I was being too soft. May 17, 2003

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Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | An appalling magic – an article about straight-talking, hard-thinking, racial-hatred-inciting right-wing pundit Ann Coulter from a British viewpoint.

I found this bit particularly disturbing:

But above all, Coulter is thriving because America itself is changing. The country is shifting rightward, the more so since September 11. The Bush administration is not a freak of nature; it enjoys wide public support. Its belief, put crudely, that the US is number one on the planet and that anyone who stands in its way is either a terrorist or an appeaser of terror, is not on the wacky fringes but commands broad endorsement. And Ann Coulter gives it a voice.

Come on, Americans, tell me it ain’t true. Please.

A question for you… May 14, 2003

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Will the real Hussein please stand up?