by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Television”

Vale, Richard Carpenter

Posted 28 February 2012 in by Catriona

Once, when I was very fragile and felt as though I’d lost myself in a dark wood and would never be able to find myself again, I watched Robin of Sherwood.

And it occurred to me that Richard Carpenter, who’d never met me and never would, had written Robin of Sherwood just for me and just for this moment. And all over the world, other people have had the same thought, in similar states of mind and in very different ones.

To do that, with so major a mythic figure—to make Robin Hood so important to people and so personal, so immediate and so alive—is the sort of legacy that most of us cannot even dream of. And it isn’t the only gift that Richard Carpenter gave us.

Vale, Richard Carpenter. You helped show us what television as a form and fantasy as a genre are capable of.

Live-blogging Eurovision: Semi-Final 2, 2011

Posted 14 May 2011 in by Catriona

Reminder: the Doctor Who live-blog for “Curse of the Black Spot” will be posted immediately after I finish live-blogging this semi-final, not after Doctor Who finishes airing.

This live-blogging brought to you by my abject failure to meet today’s marking quota.

Also brandy and lemonade.

Once again, Nick will be moderating the comments while I sit over here and bitch about the performers.

I like Julia’s dress! It’s tres funky.

I hope someone punches that male co-host properly this time.

I love the way they recognise the patriotism and the voting blocs. Just vote now! You don’t need to wait for the end or even until your country has performed! Vote! Vote like the wind!

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA: “Love in Rewind”, Merlin
Now, why are we mocking this man’s age when we could be mocking his yodelling?
Nick’s loving the guitar, but I’m actually a bit attracted this this song. It’s boppy and Euro-flavoured without being cloying. Just the way I like my Eurovision.
Also, I’d like to see more of the backdrop, because what I can see is intriguing.
I actually don’t hate this.
I know: I’m as surprised as you are.
We liked that. We’re voting for that, only not really.

AUSTRIA: “The Secret is Love”, Nadine Beiler
I’m automatically biased against anyone who just has themselves on stage.
Purely on the grounds that they’re less likely to have women rise out of grand pianos, or maybe ice skaters.
Disney lite, this.
But excellent legs, as always.
And “Disney lite” is a pretty damning inditement, given how light Disney itself always is.
NICK: I’m a bit worried about her eye shadow. From that angle, she looks like a Silent. So if we look away, we won’t remember what she’s singing.
ME: Let’s look away!
Key change!
Oooh, did she hit that?

Oh, whoa.
That hair should have a public health warning attached to it.
NICK: It’s times like this I’m pleased I’m bald.
I’m having terrible flashbacks to early high school. I swear I heard this exact song in 1989.
But I did my maths homework! The dog ate it!
I’m simultaneously bored and traumatised.

BELGIUM: “With Love Baby”, Witloof Bay
Wow, I’m bopping along to a song for the second time tonight!
NICK: He’s doing a bass line too! Crazy bastard!
The worst thing I can say about this is that the suits are truly, truly terrible. So is the hair, actually.
But the beatboxing is brilliant.
Two beatboxers! Okay, I’m loving these guys. I won’t remember the song in five minutes, but I’m loving them right now.
NICK: Bravo! I think the problem is that the presentation is hideous.

SLOVAKIA: “I’m Still Alive”, Twiins
So, they’re twins, right?
Hideous dresses, excellent legs.
Legs are to this year’s Eurovision what hair was to last year’s Eurovision.
NICK: They’ve got capes. Capes and boobs.
This seems a bit nasal to me, but then I know nothing about music.
Also? I really hate the modern fashion for Madonna partings and slicked-down hair.
NICK: I said capes and cleavage! Not capes and boobs! You’ll have to correct that!
We’re totally underwhelmed by this song. Even the fireworks aren’t winning us over.

You know what’s great? Brandy. Brandy and lemonade. I need more brandy!

Also? I’m been marking since 9 am. Hooray!

I want to go to tilt-shift Germany!

UKRAINE: “Angel”, Mika Newton
Ooh, sand painting!
I’ll be honest: I’m more interested in the sand painting her than in the song. The song is dull. The sand painting is incredible.
Nick’s digging the Cruella de Ville look on the sand painter.
I hope they get through so that I can watch the sand painting properly without having to type at the same time.
Seriously, how does she bring those subtleties of light and shade with just sand?
I paid no attention to the song at all.

MOLDOVA: “So Lucky”, Zdob si Zdub
I have no attention if I got that name right.
Wow, what’s with the wizard hats?
Is this actually happening, or is it a brandy hallucination?
There’s a unicycle.
This is definitely a brandy hallucination.
NICK: That girl on the unicycle looks a bit like Lucy Lawless. So I approve.
I would like this go through. We need psychotic gnomes in Eurovision.
That was insane.

SWEDEN: “Popular”, Eric Saade
We need that Viking to sing.
I would never have guessed he used to be in a boy band.
NICK: He’s got one glove! Oh my god: Dr Claw!
Well, it’s energetic.
NICK: This is well-aged Euro-cheese.
As Nick points out, it is good choreography, but the white sneakers are distracting.
Is that one dancer wearing braces but no shirt?
Now that would have been the perfect place for a key change.
NICK: I’m holding out for a key change!
Wait, was that a key change? Or even two key changes?

CYPRUS: “No chance I was going to catch that”, Christos Mylordos
Nick’s still singing the Swedish entry.
We’re pre-disposed in this entry’s favour, because they’re Cypriot Goths.
I ca’t even repeat what Nick just said about the set dressing.
Are they on wires? Or are they on foot wires?
NICK: It must be those foot braces. Like Michael Jackson used to use.
ME: No, he did not!
Wow. Ball-and-chain swinging.
This is a bit lacking in energy, but I really want them to go through anyway.

BULGARIA: “Na Inat”, Poli Genova
ME: Heidelberg!
NICK: Yeah.
ME: That’s where Hamlet was studying! That’s how old that university is!
I mean, I love my campus, but Hamlet never studied there.
Why don’t I remember Poland? Have they performed?
What? Bulgaria? Well, it’s not Great Uncle Bulgaria, that’s for sure.
NICK: Watching this making me realise how good Pink is at what she does. And I don’t even necessarily mean that sarcastically.
Nope, flames can’t save this. It’ll probably get through, though.

FYR MACEDONIA: “Russinka”, I’m sorry: I missed that
Ack! Underwater elephant!
NICK: Who’s he trying to gun down with that Telecaster?
ME: Capital T for Telecaster?
NICK: T-e-l-e-c-a-s-t-e-r.
ME: I know how to spell it. I just don’t know if it’s a proper noun.
This is not winning me over.
NICK: This is better than the last seven James Bond themes. Which it’s channeling.
Bored out of my skull.
Nope. Even an accordion can’t win me over.
NICK: Accordion and megaphone! Two most annoying things in the universe! In one song!

ISRAEL: “Ding Dong”, Dana International
Ding Dong?
Ding Dong?
That dress is incredible. I mean, it’s ugly. But incredible.
Her biceps are fantastic. Aren’t they?
Key change!
NICK: It’s a musical education. Before Eurovision, I wouldn’t have been so confident identifying a key change.

SLOVENIA: “No One”, Maja Keuc
Another power ballad? Oh no!
How can she even move in that dress?
Of course, she’s not moving much.
I read somewhere today that women over 35 shouldn’t wear knee-high boots. Screw that. But thigh-high boots are another issue.
This song is so boring I think it gave me cancer.

ROMANIA: “Change”, Hotel FM
NICK: You’re as cooold as ice!
NICK: Back-up singers are crying out for a costume change.
I think I once heard this in a hotel elevator. In 1986.
Then we decided we didn’t hate it.
NICK: I like the Han Solo vest.
ME: It’s tartan!
NICK: Really?
ME: On the back!
NICK: Well, Han Solo never had that.
I am bopping to this. But I am tipsy.
Aw, it’s just so cute. I can’t hate this.
Am I out of booze already?

ME: I know I come across as a drunken slapper in these.
NICK: No, you don’t.
ME: I try my best.

I will really cranky when SBS went commercial. Now I’m just deeply grateful for the toilet breaks.

I always figured that Jedward was what Bella Swan would name her child if she’d had a son.

Wow, lips on her chest. Subtle. Subtle.

ESTONIA: “Rockefeller Street, Getter Jaani
I may have mis-spelt the singer’s name there.
Again with the same hair! The centre part and the slicked-down hair! What is with this?
Did she just sing 1-2-7-3? She did!
I’m assuming that’s an address? Or a bus number?
Why am I over-interpreting this?
NICK: I once played a game of Sim City that was a bit like this. But I think I was on cold medication.
I can’t type without snorting on my keyboard.
Still, good to see she’s keeping Europe’s hair-extension makers in business.

BELARUS: “I Love Belarus”, Anastasia Vinnikova
Well, it starts well.
NICK: They start like they mean to go on. In fire.
Once again, truly exceptional legs.
I like the way the bak-up singers’ mic stands act as modesty panels.
NICK: Belarus. Only slightly hellish.
This does nothing for me, but, then, I’ve never been to Belarus.
ME: I don’t even know where Belarus is.
NICK: All I can think of is Donald Belasarius, creator of Magnum PI.

LATVIA: “Angel in Disguise”, Musiqq
He does look like Elvis Costello!
NICK: He’s playing guitar like Oliver’s Army is chasing him.
The music to this is quite interesting, but the lyrics are killing me slowly.
Now he’s rapping? Rapping Elvis Costello? That is not right.
I actually have no opinion on this. Someone could ask, “Should we kill the Latvian entry to Eurovision?” and I’d be all, “Who?”

DENMARK: “New Tomorrow”, A Friend in London
Okay, I went to a boarding school. Semi-boarding. You know which band came out of that boarding school? Human Nature. Let that be a lesson to you.
NICK: Some Dragon Ball Z haircuts in this.
What is with these hand gestures?
You remember I mentioned a song that was so boring it gave me cancer?
(I’m glad you remember. I don’t remember which song it was now.)
This is even more boring.
The hair is truly awful in this.
NICK: I’m not hating this. Maybe I should be, but I’m not.

IRELAND: “Lipstick”, Jedward
NICK: I think I might need to start following them on Twitter.
I am making no comments about sexual orientation, whatever the Internet says.
When did Ireland decide to stop trying to lose?
Seriously, though, there is no justification for that hair.
NICK: They’re wearing Judge Dredd shoulder pads!
Secretly, they’re kind of awesome, aren’t they?
Also, those legs are way too gorgeous to be on stage with teenage boys.
Oooh, acrobatics!
Okay, I declare myself pro-Jedward.

Oooh, break!

Back soon, I promise, for the results.

Remember: only fifteen minutes remain for woting.

Seriously, what is with these green rooms? Who makes them? What building on Earth has room for them?

I think I might regret all this brandy and lemonade we drank tonight, come tomorrow.

ACK! Underwater elephant again!

I still love Bosnia & Herzegovina. And I’m a lot less sober than I was the first time we watched them perform.

NICK: The Ukrainian singer is also pleasingly diaphanous.
ME: You’re a pervert!
NICK: Yes.

I hate this male co-host with the fiery fury of a billion suns.

NICK: The fiery fury of a billion suns? Shout out!

MALE CO-HOST: Two things that do not go together? England and penalty shoot-outs.

Oh, I hate him even more now.

But seriously? Classical music and break-dancing? Oh, you wacky Germans!

The acts in the breaks are way, way better than the actual Eurovision acts this year.

Okay, I’m a bit over the classical break-dancing now.

United Kingdom, please don’t get nil points. Everyone laughs at me at the Eurovision party, and it’s kinda hard to pretend I’m not embarrassed.

Oooh, results!

1. ESTONIA. Oh, really? Wow. I mean … wow.
2. ROMANIA. We liked him! Hooray!
3. MOLDOVA. Ooh, the gnomes!
4. IRELAND. No surprise there.
6. DENMARK. Oh, we had no opinion about them.
7. AUSTRIA. No, really?
8. UKRAINE. Sand painting!
9. SLOVENIA. Did we like them? I can’t remember. Oh, yes! Hooray!
10. SWEDEN. No surprises there.

Oh, I’ll be able to watch the sand-painting tomorrow night, without having to type. I am glad about that.

And that’s it for the live-blogging for Eurovision 2011. No live-blogging for the final. But I’m sure we’ll all be hoping that the male host gets repeatedly kicked in the shins tomorrow night.

See you here next year for Eurovision 2012!

Live-blogging Eurovision: Semi-Final 1, 2011

Posted 13 May 2011 in by Catriona

And here we are for the first of the Eurovision semi-finals! Well, here I am. I don’t actually know where you are. But I’m just going to assume you’re here; otherwise, I’d just be talking to myself.

In the interests of full disclosure, I’ve forgotten to write out the song titles in advance. Again. For the third year running. So there are bound to be a few songs called “Damn, I can’t type that fast.”

(Nick will be moderating comments while I’m typing, as per usual.)

I rather regret not watching this entire Eurovision doco now. The bits I’m seeing here are actually quite interesting—and disturbing, given the bit about the Russian police attacking that gay rights march.

Encouraging Nick to go and get a beer. He can’t abide watching Eurovision sober.

Ooh, I think we’re actually starting! Yep, this looks German all right.

I know this is probably unAustralian, but I miss Terry Wogan. Come back, Terry! All is forgiven!

As usual, Eurovision is being hosted by a staggeringly tall woman and a man with what looks like a handlebar moustache. Actually, that last one might be a bit new. I do like the swirly stage.

Ooh, look! The traditional Eurovision misogyny!

NICK: The banter is even more forced than usual.

I was really, really hoping someone would punch that host; I only hope someone punches him properly in a minute.

This misogyny schtick is wearing thin for me already. Punch him! Punch him!

(Wendy, Nick was trying not to make a German comedy joke. Thank you for taking the responsibility out of his hands!)

Punch him!

Punch him now!

Reverse sexism doesn’t make the misogyny funny!

Oooh, it’s all tilt-shifty! How lovely!

POLAND: “Jeslem”, Magadelena Tul.
Quoth Nick, “I’ve got to say; the new TARDIS control room is looking good.”
Oh, I see Poland just decided not to bother with pants. I suppose it saves them from the costume change.
Oh, wait: two are wearing pants.
NICK: Okay. Those two in the back better be taking their gear off.
This song is deeply, deeply boring, but the legs are exceptional.
Are we even getting a key change here?
And no, I don’t count those weird puffs of steam as proper fireworks.

NORWAY: “Haba Haba”, Stella Mwangi.
The Norwegians are singing in Swahili? Is that a Eurovision first?
The stage, despite those nice swirly bits, is really quite dull, don’t you think?
The song’s not grabbing me so far, but that dress is a bit wacky.
Oh my god: it’s not a dress. It’s formal shorts with a bustle.
Who said Eurovision wasn’t wacky this year?
Still, at least the front row can’t see up her skirt.
But it’s like her bottom is wearing a cape. It’s distracting, and not in the way a bottom is supposed to be distracting.

ALBANIA: “Feel the Passion”, Aurela Gace
Isn’t it strange how much Germany looks like Brighton?
Well, Albania seem to be doing something a bit more interesting with the staging than the last two acts tried to do.
Flamethrowers! That’s more like it.
NICK: Dry ice and flame? I mean, seriously. It’s got everything.
We don’t care so much about the actual music. You might have noticed that.
This sounds a bit like an’ 80s European metal band decided to do an album of covers of ’50s pop songs. But I like it more than the last two.

ARMENIA: “Boom Boom”, Emmy
I need a chair that looks like a boxing glove.
NICK: Lady Santa in a giant glove. I can think of at least three fetishes right now.
This is staggeringly awful.
I hope it gets through!
Believe it or not, the male back-up dancers are showing even more cleavage than the singer.
Nick hasn’t been commenting because he can’t stop laughing.
Where did that boxing ring come from? I only looked away for a second!
Oh, she didn’t hit that note. Not by a long shot.

Wow, the commentators are trying really, really hard not to be bitchy about that one.

I’m loving the tilt shift.

TURKEY: “Live it Up”, Yuksek Sadakat
I don’t mind the back drop and I love his gold fringy shirt and their whole-hearted commitment to flamethrowers.
Nick thinks it sounds like the opening to the Beverley Hills 90210 theme song.
They have a female contortionist in a sphere. That’s definitely something new.
This is not staggeringly awful, but to be honest, it’s a bit dull.
More than a bit dull.
And that contortionist in a sphere is worrying me a bit. What’s the purpose of that, do you suppose?
No, the wings don’t actually answer my question.

Oh, I cannot wait for Portugal!

They really didn’t get that Les Murray joke.

SERBIA: “Caraban”, Nina
Well, they’ve already won me over with the funky pink background and the funky dresses.
The orange back-up singer’s dress is a bit short, isn’t it?
NICK: That orange singer’s trying to hypnotise the audience! It’s … working.
I wouldn’t listen to this voluntarily, and the white tights are as wrong now as they were in the ’60s (and again in the ’80s). But the song’s cute. We haven’t had much cute yet.
This is definitely the liveliest thing we’ve seen all night.
Nick and I both liked that one. We want Serbia to go through.

RUSSIA: “Get You”, Alexej Vorobjov”
Okay, if I had to visualise a Russian stunt man, this is what I would have visualised.
NICK: Back to The Outsiders, Pony Boy.
Nick is fascinated by this one.
NICK: He has two George Michael impersonators and a Zac Efron impersonator!
That line “I lost my mind somewhere between your …” is a bit too risque for Eurovision, isn’t it?
I don’t know what’s happening here, but I wouldn’t mind watching it again on Sunday night.
There was a back flip? I missed the back flip!

SWITZERLAND: “In Love For A While”, Anna Rossinelli
Oh, dear: I hate this already.
In fact, I might hate the entirety of Switzerland for somehow managing to make a ukelele horribly twee.
This is like the musical version of blank verse: nothing seems to scan or fit the rhythm.
The back drop is gorgeous, though. I’m warming to this staging, after the boring first couple.
Don’t these songs go for about three minutes? They couldn’t stretch to writing the full complement of verses?
NICK: We’re getting short-changed on lyrics here!
I know, I know: I sound bitter. I just have a really low tolerance for things that are hatefully twee.

GEORGIA: “One More Day”, Eldrine
I really don’t want to think of Offspring and rappers at the same time, thanks.
They’ve got an interesting stage, too.
Nick’s fascinated by the dress.
NICK: Is she holding out for a hero?
We’re more impressed by the guitarist’s awesome jacket than we are by the song, which we’ve decided is like an Evanescence tribute band.
Okay, I’m rooting for them to go through.
The singer is single-handedly filling Eurovision’s hair quotient.

FINLAND: “Da Da Dam”, Paradise Oskar.
Moomins! Moomins!
Nick thinks the lead singer looks like Michael Cera.
I’m going to change my name to Paradise Catriona.

No, I’m not. Not now I see it in print.
Can’t type. Laughing too hard.
Oh, he’s so sincere, and he’s got such a cute accent, and it’s so bad.
I wish it were in Finnish. That would be better.
I hope he gets through. He’s so sincere and the back-drop is pretty.

MALTA: “One Life”, Glen Vella
I would like Malta to win. But only because they’ve never won before. This song itself is not grabbing me.
Why are the back-up singers wearing fetish gear and the singer’s wearing jeans?
NICK: More traditional national costumes should be in rubber.
I had no idea that the ’80s were back so … so … unironically.
Key change!
I’m a bit besotted with those two male back-up dancers. No, not for that reason. They’re just so cheerful!
They do look like Cate Blanchett in Indiana Jones!

SAN MARINO: “Stand By”, Senit
More dry ice. They’re really loving the dry ice this year.
Well, I hope there’s not a zombie attack. She’ll never be able to flee for her life in that dress and retain her dignity.
As Nick pointed out, there’s not much energy in this. Which is why I’m visualising zombie attack instead of blogging.
Also, fraught love ballads should never include the lyrics “if you don’t mind”.
Except for Canadian ballads, natch.
Oh my: that was dull.

CROATIA: “Celebrate”, Daria
NICK: Oh, they’ve got a prat in a hat!
ME: Nick, you have a hat just like that.
NICK: No, I want a hat just like that. There’s a difference.
The quality of legs in this year’s Eurovision is excellent.
The DJ looks like he’s from The Mighty Boosh. He also approves the legs.
Magic costume change!
The DJ is also a magician!
NICK: But the dress is longer! It doesn’t work that way round!
The song has made no impression on me at all, but they have a DJ-magician. I want them to go through.
And another magic costume change!
I vote for Croatia.

ICELAND: “Coming Home”, Sjonni’s Friends
I probably shouldn’t be bitchy about this one, should I?
I do wish it wasn’t in English, though.
I like the steampunky background.
This is cute and boppy. I could say some acerbic things about it, but then I’d feel bad.
I do like the way they slow it down at the end. Is there a word for that?

At last, a little breather for the fingers.

A very little breather for the fingers.

Oh, this Russian chap is fairly confident in himself, isn’t he?

Oh, no! Not more Finnish song! Please!

HUNGARY: “What About My Dreams?”, Kati Wolf
What does she have on her hand?
NICK: It’s a hand fascinator.
I had a Barbie with that exact dress, except in pink. You could unwrap the sleeve bit and wind it round her knees to make a fetching evening dress. I hope that happens here.
I’ll give it this much: it’s lively.
Also, she seems to have a ninja.
I’m not convinced she’s hitting all the notes, though.
I don’t like that asymmetrical skirt. It looks like her dress is tucked in her knickers.
She’ll probably go through, though.

PORTUGAL: I missed all of that, because I was trying to work out the accent over the “e”
I have to admire them for their whole-heartedness.
But I’m having horrible sympathetic acid flashbacks to a year before I was even born.
I’m sure I saw Sarah-Jane Smith in that outfit with the red beret.
I have a feeling I might engage with this song better if I had the faintest idea about Portuguese history (or Portuguese, for that matter).
It seems so chirpy for a song with so many placards and fist salutes.

LITHUANIA: “C’est Ma Vie”, Evelina Sasenko
NICK: It’s always “my life”. It’s always “It’s my life” or “what about my life?” or “oh, I left my life over there”.
Full disclosure: I’m automatically going to hate anything described as an “operatic ballad”. This is no exception.
NICK: She’s definitely got the chest of an opera singer. There’s no need to put that on the blog.
The sign language has won us over a bit, but apparently it was only relevant for that one verse.
NICK: They’ll be like “where’s the chorus? You just boned us out of a chorus!”
I hope someone bursts out of that piano. That would be the only thing that would reclaim this.
Too late.

AZERBAIJAN: “Running Scared” Ell/Nikki
Sam is being really unpleasantly bitchy about the women in this competition. He might be bitching out the men as well, but I’m really noticing it with the women.
Oh, there goes the hair quotient, up again.
With those skirts, they want to be a bit careful with the wind machine.
Does this one sound like an inexpensive Kate Bush tribute band to anyone else?
Oh, good: flaming rain.
She better watch her hair extensions.
They’re the favourites? Wow, I’m out of touch on Eurovision trends.

GREECE: “Watch My Dance”, Lukas Yiorkas feat. Stereo Mike
Yes, but can you sing?
A rapper and breakdancing?
I am partial to breakdancing, it’s true.
Wait, why are they all just standing over in the corner during the serious ballady bit of the song?
I have to say, this isn’t really working well as a single unified song.
I’ve warmed very much to the set design, though. I thought the sets were boring, but really it was just the first couple of acts who were boring.
Nope, even the fireworks aren’t winning me over with this one.
And wow: it just ended. I mean, just … ended. With no warning.
Oh, I didn’t think the genres came together well at all.

Back soon for the results!

The automatic entries:

FRANCE: Nick thought it was Benedict Cumberbatch for a minute there.
SPAIN: Oh god! Clowns! Or something!
ITALY: I’ve forgotten it already.
UNITED KINGDOM: Awful. But did you expect anything else?
GERMANY: Is that Lena again? Or just a Lena clone?

Is there a company somewhere that specialises in just making these Eurovision green rooms? They all look the same.

And why does everyone only have one sleeve?


1. SERBIA. We liked them: they were boppy and adorable.
2. LITHUANIA. Oh, the opera singer … and her chest.
3. GREECE. Really? I didn’t care for that at all. Anthemic? Really?
4. AZERBAIJAN. No surprises, but I wasn’t a big fan. Kirsty’s right: it’s a bit Twilight.
5. GEORGIA. We liked them. Hooray!
6. SWITZERLAND. Oh, the horrifyingly twee one.
7. HUNGARY. With the hand fascinator. It’s is a perfectly Eurovision song.
8. FINLAND. Paradise Oskar. Oh, well there’ll be more laughs on Sunday night.
9. RUSSIA. Nice to see the ’80s are still popular.
10. ICELAND. I bet it was Iceland, and (for once in my life) I was right.

I’m sorry not to see the giant boxing glove back, but, let’s face it, it was terrible.

Well, that’s all for tonight. I’ll be back here tomorrow night for the second semi-final. Pop in if you’re passing!

Improbable Things The Vampire in Moonlight Does

Posted 22 July 2010 in by Catriona

I don’t know what it is about vampires that makes just about all of their texts intensely cheesy. It reminds me of the first time that Bill takes Sookie to Fangtasia in True Blood, and she raises her eyebrows at the name: Bill tells her that vampires are very old and puns are an old form of humour, but we know it’s really just because vampires are a bit naff.

And none, honestly, are quite as naff as the lead vampire in Moonlight. (And, yes, I’m taking into account the first half-dozen episodes of Vampire Diaries, before the show unexpectedly and rather disappointingly turned into a much better programme.)

Based on the last few episodes of Moonlight, here’s my list of the most improbable things this vampire does:

1. Stays in the same city for the entire fifty years after he’s turned. No, wait: stays in the same city and the same profession for fifty years. No, wait again: stays in the same city and same profession for fifty years and uses his own name that whole time.

It wouldn’t matter so much if vampires were out in the open in this world, but every episode is predicated around the idea that no one, no one (except the cute blonde reporter) can ever find out about vampires. So, buddy, d’you think it might be a good idea to change your name occasionally? It’s not as though you were turned in the 1600s. You were turned in the 1950s. There are photographs of you out there. Photographs actually labelled “Mick St John: Private Investigator.” So don’t be surprised when people recognise you.

2. Goes by the name Mick St John. You might not think this is all that improbable, but then you’ve never had to listen to Nick’s non-stop Spinal Tap impersonations. It does sound rather more “1960s’ glam-rock guitarist” than is entirely fitting for a vampire, even one who . . .

3. Gets staked in just about every episode. Now, I have absolutely no problem with the fact that staking in this universe only paralyses a vampire. It does prevent me from making my favourite joke, ripped wholesale from Terry Pratchett. It’s not a concept unique to Moonlight: Claudia Gray, for example, uses the idea that stakes are paralysing as a way of negotiating her characters’ uncomfortable liminal position as sometime-vampires and sometime-vampire hunters.

But if this vampire PI has vampiric super-senses, how can he not tell when someone is sneaking up on him with a stake in their hand?

And if he’s not being staked, he’s being shot, or viciously beaten in a crematorium, or thrown off a roller coaster.

What price vampiric super senses?

4. Wears a Hawaiian shirt in flashbacks. Okay, that’s not so much improbable as it is really unfortunate.

5. Hangs around in sunlight. Again, I’ve no particular problem with vampires walking around in sunlight. In fact, the scene in Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula where Dracula’s wandering the streets in that top hat and the blue sunglasses . . . and the brown curls . . . oh, and that coat . . .


Where was I?

Oh, yes. The sunlight. I don’t mind vampires walking around in sunlight, but I am a bit surprised that he voluntarily carries out so much of his ordinary business during daylight hours. I mean, obviously, if you’re protecting a woman who is in the Witness Protection Programme and the police car you stole to escape in gets blown up by the gun-runners who are pursuing you in a helicopter, then you might need to walk through the desert until you’re almost dead.

I’m sure that’s happened to all of us at one point or another.

But is it still necessary to use the daylight hours to run basic errands? Nocturnal is as nocturnal does, Mick St John.

Live-blogging Eurovision: Semi-Final 2, 2010

Posted 29 May 2010 in by Catriona

So this is the second of 2010’s semi-finals—and the last live-blogging for Eurovision until 2011.

I’ve heard that this batch of performers are even less wacky than last night’s, which is a distinct disappointment to me.

Oh, and Norway? Where are the travelogues? The little snippets of Norway we’ve come to expect from Eurovision? The Moomins?

Okay, Moomins are Finnish. But there must be something almost as adorable as Moomins that you could show us. So far, we’ve had nothing but belching and women stepping in cowpats.

Admiring the new commercial for Zantac heartburn remedies: “Put out what you put in”. Don’t we all put out what we put in, sooner or later?

Oh, man: it’s the pink balloons again. I’m just not feeling the pink-balloon love.

Plus, there’s nothing about this that screams “Norway!” to me. The staging, the focus on low shots of buildings or the panning over the skyline—it’s all so generic.

Oh, good: Norwegian Josh Thomas is back. (Not my joke, but a good one.)

I’m not listening to the hosts—I’m too busy trying to work out what the people in the background are waving. I think one of them’s waving a wedding cake with a teddy bear on the top.

Or is it a kangaroo wearing a T-shirt and a lei?

LITHUANIA: “Eastern European Funk”
Oooh, interesting.
No, not the pants. The pants are terrifying.
NICK: They’re all wearing William Hartnell’s trousers.
Shame it’s in English, though.
I’m not hating this, but I my suspicions that it’s not quite Eurovision enough to do well. They might get through to the finals, but I don’t see them winning.
It’s slight, obviously, but it’s not making me scream at my television.
NICK: Oh, no. No. Don’t touch your crotches.
Does this qualify as a boy band?
Woo hoo! Costume change!
And what a costume change!
Changed my mind: I hope they win. They’re wearing sparkly swimsuits! They deserve to win!

ARMENIA: “Apricot Stone”
ME: Is that a recorder?
NICK: I think it’s just a stick.
That man’s dancing with an urn.
NICK: God bless the Wonderbra.
Fireworks! And what I thought at first was a monk. But I think he’s just a back-up singer. Shame, really.
Dear lord, that’s a lot of hair.
I’m loving the interpretive dance with the urn.
She’s quite stunning, and the song’s not as boring as you think it is when you actually listen to the lyrics.
I’m a bit creeped out by the giant apricot stone on the stage, though—it’s a bit flesh-coloured.
Key change!
NICK: This song has everything. Except a costume change, so far. I’m still thinking someone might burst out of the fleshy clam.

ISRAEL: “Milim”
So this one’s in Hebrew? It’s been a bit English-centric so far, I admit.
I have literally nothing to say about this song—except I have a sneaking suspicion I once heard the melody in the ’80s.
It’s not that it’s bad—there’s just nothing to talk about yet. He’s just standing there and hitting all the notes. It’s just not Eurovision, frankly.
I mean, he’s singing in tune, he hasn’t taken his clothes off, nothing’s burst out of the piano, he doesn’t have a flamethrower or back-up dancers dressed as trees.
Whither the bad taste, Eurovision?
I’d say this one’s going through.
NICK: He’s actually quite good.
If this is the way Eurovision’s going, then there won’t be much fun in it.

DENMARK: “In a Moment Like This”
Come on, Denmark. Weird it up for me!
Oh, dear: I seem to have hit my head and woken up in 1988.
NICK: Look out! There’s a shadow behind you!
The performance is working beautifully on telly, but it’s not going to be very dynamic for the audience.
Oh, hang on: now they’re ABBA.
Oooh, travelator! Sweet. Except now they just have walk all the way back across the stage to one another.
Oh, I don’t envy her those shoes.
This is pretty much ABBA meets Roxette. I rather like it.
Key change!
This semi-final’s really bringing the key changes.
Oh, and a wind machine.
Bless you, Denmark.

SWITZERLAND: It’s Raining Gold”
Not raining men? As the commentator says, raining gold sounds quite appealing, but in reality is quite dangerous.
Oh, our first gold suit of the night. And a beard! So terribly ’70s lounge act.
I see that jellyfish is back.
And I don’t know if those are fireworks or flames or just lights that keep springing up at emotional moments in the song, but they’re really saving it from the rather boring delivery.
Wind machine! But the song bores me so much, it took me a minute to spot his scarf fluttering behind him.
The commentator agrees with me on the boredom: “Sometimes, three minutes takes longer than other times.”

Oh, even the Danish singer thinks their song sounds like ABBA. He hasn’t mentioned Roxette, though.

SWEDEN: “This is My Life”
Oh, songs with the word “life” in them are usually rubbish.
Either she’s minuscule or that’s the world’s largest guitar.
This Eurovision’s really pushing the single-singer-on-stage motif. I don’t care for it, myself. I want nutty back-up dancers.
NICK: Given that’s she only miming, she should have just got a ukulele. It would have been easier to manage.
Hey, what happened to the guitar? I was just trying to remember how to spell “ukulele” and it vanished!
This is boring enough to be in an Apple advertisement.
This is what would happen if the guy from Travis and Chris Martin had a child and raised it in an emo commune.
At least we have some back-up dancers, even if she’s making them stand as far away from her as possible.
Terrifying vibrato at the end, there.

Another “power ballad,” apparently. Is this going to be another Disney princess, like Portugal?
Oh, it’s “Nothing Else Matters”!
No? Sounds a lot like it.
Why is she wearing half a Smurf glove?
See, the thing is that I’m just deeply, deeply bored by power ballads. Unless they’re by ’80s hair-metal bands. So, basically, I’d be more interested in this if it were “Nothing Else Matters”.
You smell like lipstick? Honey, I don’t think your lipstick should be noticeably fragrant.
If this woman has been working with Beyonce’s choreographer, she should ask for her money back. She’s just walking around! I could teach her how to do that, and I just fell down a flight of stairs.
Okay, but illuminated dress. That’s kinda cool.

UKRAINE: “Sweet People”
Oh, good: a wind machine. Now we just need a key change and a costume change.
And she could probably lose that hood at some point.
NICK: I [redacted] hate Druids.
Something needs to happen here: this is both over-wrought and under-baked.
Oh, wind machine!
Not enough.
But at least she’s finally taken her unstructured felt hood off.
The lyrics are fighting with the music here.
This would be vastly improved by some male back-up dancers dressed as Druids dancing around a tiny little model of Stonehenge.

THE NETHERLANDS: “Ich Ben Verliefd”
NICK: Carnies!
Oh, bless you, Netherlands. Bless you for these rotating circus folk.
NICK: The Celestial Toymaker has come for us!
Nick thinks the back-up singers could have been themed, but we’re both bopping along to this.
I’ve even forgiven the fact that it was written by the man who wrote the Smurf song. (Smurfs! I hate them! Cheery little sods. And how can one word be a noun and a proper noun, a verb and an adjective, even an adverb? It’s linguistically improbable.)
The song? Still bopping along.
This is very old-school Eurovision indeed.

ROMANIA: “Playing with Fire”
Duelling pianos? Don’t get my hopes up, commentators. If these performers don’t start smacking each other around with baby grands, I’m outta here.
Apparently, that’s not going to happen, but there are flames, a fake perspex piano, and back-up singers with ostriches glued to their bottoms.
I tell you, if Eurovision’s main export was hair, they’d make a fortune from this year’s performers.
Oh, wow: that’s a vinyl catsuit.
NICK: I think my glasses just shattered.
That was certainly a high note.
Nick’s voting for that one. Just for the song. The song. Not the cat suit.

SLOVENIA: Oh, I can’t type that quickly enough. Sorry, Slovenia.
This is a fusion of folk and rock, they tell us.
Oh, squatting!
Hmm. It’s not so much a fusion as just a basic alternation between the two forms.
Another accordion, though—our second of this Eurovision. And I do like the outfits—especially the boots.
It’s . . . interesting, but a little too gimmicky for my taste. There’s not a huge amount of difference between this and a singing turkey puppet.

IRELAND: “It’s For You”
Oh, speaking of singing turkey puppets . . .
Smoke machine.
The smoke machine doesn’t get an exclamation mark, because the song’s not exciting enough for exclamation marks.
I don’t want to say anything mean about this, because apparently the singer’s not feeling well. But this is just the sort of song that bores the living daylights out of me.
It’s not the song’s fault.
Lovely traditional flute in the middle there.
Key change!
Still bored.

BULGARIA: “You Are An Angel”
Oh, wow.
NICK: He’s the Eurotrashiest man they’ve had on in years.
And there are “angel” back-up dancers. The angels are in inverted commas because they’re scantily clad, wearing over-the-knee boots (well, the women are), and slathered in silver body paint.
Not so angelic, are they?
He’s seriously wearing a rhinestone motorcycle jacket.
The back-up dancers are energetic, though—although, as Nick points out, they look incredibly slippery. Maybe one of them will be dropped on the stage at some point?
I have absolutely no idea what the song’s like. Ask me in ten minutes, and I won’t even remember hearing it. I’m mesmerised by the back-up dancers.

CYPRUS: “Life Looks Better in Spring”
Their singer is Welsh? That’s a bit of a dodgy rule you’ve got there, Cyprus.
Oh, is that our first drum-kit of Eurovision? We’ve had drums thrown around by the back-up dancers, but not a proper drum kit.
Nick’s distracted by the fact that the drummer is really hitting his cymbals, despite the fact that you’re not supposed to play your instruments on stage. I suggest that the cymbal might be made of painted cardboard, but Nick doesn’t seem compelled by this argument.
Have I not mentioned the song yet?
That’s because it’s terribly, terribly boring.
It includes the line “Tell me about your feelings.”
To nick a line from Scott Pilgrim, if this song had a face, I would punch it.

Oh, now they’re interviewing Beyonce’s choreographer, and I feel guilty about being mean about him earlier. But only a little bit guilty.

CROATIA: “Lako Je Sve”
As with every song tonight, the opening bars sound like something I’ve heard before.
Oh, a park bench. That’s not something we’ve seen before.
That jellyfish is back, too. I don’t trust that jellyfish.
This is all a bit Victoria’s Secret, isn’t it?
If this translates as “Everything is Easy,” why is the delivery so overwrought? Is it ironic?
Back-up dancers in slinky catsuits, and lots of emotive arm-waving now.
Once again, Eurovision demonstrates its devotion to massive quantities of hair.

GEORGIA: “Shine”
NICK: Looks quite promising so far.
He’s only saying that on the basis of the flailing back-up dancers.
And the commentator’s right—lots of these singers are barefoot. That’s a bit casual, isn’t it? Especially given their fancy frocks.
Was that a dance move, or was she just trying to keep her bodice from falling off?
I feel a bit sorry for the female back-up dancer—she’s so often off on her own in a corner while the male dancers are dancing with the singer. Hardly worth putting on that much tulle, I would have thought.
Oh, good: flamethrowers.

TURKEY: “We Could Be The Same”
We haven’t actually had that many bands this year, have we?
NICK: Dude.
ME: What?
NICK: I think there are some Cybermen in there.
And so there are. Well, robots, anyway.
I do love the bands in Eurovision: I love watching them bounce around with their instruments when I know they’re not actually playing them.
Oh, now the Cybermen are robot dancing.
This is significantly less boring than most of tonight’s songs.
NICK: I think they’re lady robots.
Oh, and now the lady robot is angle-grinding herself.
No, that’s not a euphemism.
Good to see that Turkey is still bringing the madness.
And now the robot’s taking her kit off!
Is there anything that Turkey haven’t done?
Maybe no wind machine. They should have had a wind machine.

Okay, so that’s the semi-finals.

I’m taking a bit of a break, but I’ll be back for the voting, if not before.

Actually, before I go, I’ll list the songs Nick and I liked:
The Netherlands

We’d be surprised if Azerbaijan and Israel didn’t go through, but we didn’t care for either of them—Israel purely on the grounds that he was too competent.

Since we’re only really partial to six songs, surely at least some of them should go through? We’ll see, after about half an hour of filler.

We must be coming up to the results soon, because we’re running through the automatic entries, and they’re all as boring as I remember from last night—though I don’t recall thinking that the U.K.‘s entry was quite that auto-tuned last night. That does not bode well for a live performance.

And now, the results.
1. Georgia. Not surprised, but it wasn’t one of my faves.
2. Ukraine. Oh, dear: I didn’t want to watch that again. Too over-wrought.
3. Turkey. Oh, good! One of the ones we fancied.
4. Israel. No surprise there.

Nick and I are doing well with our guesses.

5. Ireland. Not one of the ones we fancied, but we’re not surprised. Very Eurovision.
6. Cyprus. We’re not surprised by that, but we are bored.

Now we’re doing badly with our guesses.

7. Azerbaijan. No surprise—again—but I wasn’t thrilled.
8. Romania. Oh, we liked them, though the catsuit was a bit disturbing.
9. Armenia. Oh, good! Nick really fancied her.

The last one has to be Denmark, surely?

10. Denmark! Oh, joy! I would have been so upset if they’d not got through.

So, no Lithuania? I’m not terribly surprised: the gimmicky ones don’t tend to do well. (Case in point: Slovenia.) Shame about The Netherlands, but that was a bit old-school Eurovision, maybe.

So that’s the semi-finals for 2010. With luck, see you here in 2011 for the next set of semi-finals!

Live-blogging Eurovision: Semi-Final 1, 2010

Posted 28 May 2010 in by Catriona

Well, let’s set up the live-blogging nice and early, shall we? And I say “nice and early,” but I’m actually less prepared than I intended to be: I was all set to have the song titles written out, so there wouldn’t be any of that embarrassing “And I didn’t quite catch the title on that, so just make it up” stuff, but I never got to it.

So if I miss any of the titles, just make them up, okay?

Or head over to The Memes of Production, where John has taken the trouble to type them all out for you.

Now, bring on the flying space dolphins!

I’m just going to get my biggest complaint out of the way right now: I miss Terry Wogan. It just doesn’t feel like Eurovision without Terry.

And on a similar note, I understand (from The Memes of Prodution), that this years’ competition has dulled down the frequently insane acts we usually get in Eurovision.

I disapprove of this. I disapprove strongly.

I want to see men in primary-coloured suits squatting over giant beetroots. I want to see brides from Bosnia and Herzegovina knitting for no apparent reason. I want to see Azerbaijani singers pouring goblets of fake wine on each other. I want fireworks and flamethrowers. I want wind machines. And above all, I want to see people get their kits off.

If there are no such things, why am I watching Eurovision and risking the sudden horror of a flying space dolphin?

Nick has charged his iPhone up in preparation for your commenting.

I hope Eurovision starts soon, because I’m tiring myself out shouting at these health-reform advertisements. Righteous anger: so tiring.

Hooray! Eurovision!

Nick just took a picture of his beer. That should sum it all up for you.

This one’s Norway—I loved the Russian staging last year. So, so beautiful. I hope Norway does us proud, as well. (I say “us,” but I“m not actually Norwegian.)

Oh, small children with pink balloons? Bad start, Norway. Bad start.

NICK: Oh, look! They’re sharing ear infections.

Seriously, what is with all these balloons?

Apparently, Norway’s holding their semi-final in a completely CGI concert hall. That’s certainly an innovation.

Oooh, lovely frocks. A big improvement on the Russian woman in lacy bicycle pants. Or was that 2008? (I’m with Sam Pang: I’m going to continue pronouncing it “Oss-lo.”)

John, is this new voting system an innovation? What does it mean for the show? Explain it to me!

NICK: Such emphatic hosts.

It seems the catchphrase is “Norway, are you ready to start the competition”. Not very catchy, is it?

And we’re straight into the songs, it seems.

Sweet! Fireworks!
NICK: Violinist on a lazy Susan!
Oh, poor girl: someone spray-painted her.
I haven’t seen saxophone playing like that since The Lost Boys.
She’s not going to be taking that outfit off, is she? There’s not really enough of it.
NICK: Man, this better [redacted] have a key change.
Uh-oh, the saxophonist’s back.
This is unbelievably boring. And I had such high hopes from the violinist on the lazy Susan. Actually, where did he go?
ACK! There he is.

RUSSIA: Lost and Forgotten
I like that this is Peter Nolich “and Friends”. It feels like watching Blue Peter.
Oh, I’m bored already.
And it’s in English, too.
I like the fake snow, though.
NICK: That’s why he’s wearing a scarf.
So far, Norway’s staging isn’t a patch on the lovely sets from Russia last year.
Peter Norich has expressive eyebrows, though—wait, is he singing to a sketch he just drew before he went on stage?
Never seen that at Eurovision before.
Okay, I need either a key change or someone to take their kit off.
No, that high note does not count as a key change, frightening though it was.
NICK: I think the wind machine’s scared of him.

I’m impressed already, just on the strength of that man’s purple and gold tie.
These guys are an indie act? Hmm.
NICK: Man, I think he glitters in sunlight. Fabulous jacket, though.
The back-up singers are preparing for a penalty.
Not seeing much indie here—it’s like an early Blur song.
It’s not that I’m not liking it, but I’m not much liking his wacky dancing.
Of course, I have run out of alcohol. That might be it.
I don’t really know what to say about this one, except that the camera work is making me seasick.

SLOVAKIA: Horehronie
Oh, no!
NICK: Wood elves!
There appears to be a jellyfish hovering above them.
NICK: They’ve got an Ent trapped in there.
Is that Gandalf the White over in the corner?
At least this one’s not in English. And I’m a sucker for enthusiastic back-up dancers.
NICK: What’s the Slovakian version of “Hey nonny nonny”?
I don’t think those boots are very Elvish. And her performance is a bit static and boring—I suspect she wore the boots for their looks, and can’t actually walk in them.
NICK: It’s actually sounding like the end-credit music for an anime.

FINLAND: Tyolki ellaa (I skipped the accents)
The band is called “Moon Whispers”?
Oooh, piano accordion! Piano accordion played by a puppeteer!
NICK: She seems to be standing on a stuffed, bleached Tribble, as well. It’s glowing!
Well, this is livelier than anything that’s gone before.
And you’ve got to respect the back-up dancers who are just there to make up the numbers.
NICK: She has a completely unironic relationship with her accordion.
Oh, the jellyfish is still there! Has it been there all along, and I’ve just not noticed it?
I have no idea what’s happening in this song, but I haven’t noticed a key change yet.
I suspect that if I want a key change, I’m going to have to put on some Bon Jovi.

LATVIA: What For?
So she’s just hanging around on the stage waiting, then?
No jellyfish for Latvia—just lots and lots of curtains.
NICK: That’s a Vulcan priestess’s dressing gown.
And it doesn’t go with those shoes.
NICK: She appears to be wearing weasel cages around her feet.
You weren’t reading this for a commentary on the actual songs, were you?
All I’ve learned from this song is that apparently her Uncle Joe is a mute, which seems tragic.
Is she singing about “Mr Guy” or “Mr God”? Neither makes much sense to me.
This seems oddly leaden for a song with such a jaunty beat.
And she didn’t hit either of those notes.
I think it is “Mr God.” That’s my final word on the matter.

Wow, these commentators are bitchy tonight.

SERBIA: Ovo je Balkan
Oh, what is that coat? What?
ACK! Shadow puppets.
NICK: Pull your belt up, lad!
He’s jaunty, but I’m hypnotised by his hair.
NICK: He may be the most bishonen performer in Eurovision history.
ACK! Robot dancing!
I’m so distracted by the belt and the hair and the back-up singers robot-dancing in their see-through tulle and sequin dresses that I can’t even judge the song. Not that I ever do.
Okay, I was fairly sure that back-up dancer was going to shimmy right out of her bodice just then.
And why haven’t we had a costume change yet?

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: Thunder and Lightning.
Very very frightening?
Oooh, smoke machine. Good start.
Shame it’s in English.
Well, this is less boring than the preceding songs.
I suspect the people in the front row are particularly enjoying the back-up dancers.
Oooh, fake guitar! And fake guitar solo!
(It might be a real guitar. It’s fake in an ontological sense.)
He’s smirking at me! I don’t like it when they smirk at me.
ACK! Squatting!
ME: What is he doing to that microphone stand?
NICK: I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure it’s illegal in Brisbane.

POLAND: Legenda
I have no idea what the commentators said about this one.
But I’m liking it already. Gotta love some national costuming.
A combination of ordinary fruit and high camera angles leads Nick to ask, “How about them apples?”
Hmm, it suddenly got a bit boring. Shame that.
The swirling skirts on the overhead camera shot are lovely.
This is such an odd mix of strong, aggressive choruses, and rather dull Michael Bublesque verses.
Woo hoo! Costume change!
Albeit a slightly creepy one!
And a key change!
And then, as the commentators point out, it just ends.

That’s the green room? That’s a horrible green room.
NICK: It looks like the bridge of the Liberator.

And is the host knitting a Polish flag?

BELGIUM: Me and My Guitar
I have no high hopes for this at all, just based on that title.
But, as Nick points out, it’s a terribly nice guitar.
Oh, dear: it’s in English.
I’m sure I heard this song on Triple M in about 1996.
Hang on, where are his back-up dancers? How is he allowed to be on stage on his own? Or are they just being obscured by the camera angles?
Am I misremembering the rules, or do you not have to have a minimum number of people on stage?
I would comment on the song itself, but I’m afraid of slipping into a coma if I pay too much attention to it.

Ah, so I am wrong on the rules. I don’t think I’ve ever seen just the one person on stage at Eurovision before, though.

MALTA: My Dream
More smoke machine!
Hang on, Nick seems to have accidentally flipped the channel to a Disney musical.
No? This is actually the song?
NICK: Unfortunately, it looks like the smoke is coming out of her backside.
This is a kind of music with which I have no patience whatsoever.
NICK: Use some more concrete imagery, girl!
ACK! She’s being attacked by a seagull!
NICK: She’s got wings coming out of her arse! And they’re not anchored to her spinal column!
ACK! She’s cloned herself!
NICK: Is she about to sing “I’m the goddamned Batman”? ‘Cause that would be awesome.

ALBANIA: It’s all About You
Albania are already more interesting than anyone else.
NICK: Oh hai, ’80s!
I was sure she was about to sing “It’s Raining Men” just then.
Those are crazy unflattering pants.
Violinist with epaulettes. Is he on a lazy Susan, though? No? Then I ain’t interested.
Those pants are honestly the most unflattering thing I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how they can fail to flatter so many parts of her lower body all at once.

Is that song title meant to be in caps? Oh, well: either works.
NICK: He’s just come from a rehearsal fro Reservoir Dogs, from the looks of him.
There seems to be a strong semiotic dissonance between the back-up dancers and the singer.
The back-up dancers, I think, are actually auditioning for So You Think You Can Dance, whereas the singer, Nick thinks, looks like a used-car dealer.
The song’s energetic enough.
ACK! Man with unidentifiable instrument! And drums! And a turntable!
Sorry: I’m easily startled by this point in Eurovision.
Oh, the song suddenly dropped into a ringtone. How odd.

PORTUGAL: Ha Dis Assim (Again, ignoring the accents)
Oops, the jellyfish is back.
NICK: Ironically, it’s actually a Portuguese man o’ war.
This is another . . . well, the commentators called it a “power ballad”: I’m sticking with “Disney musical.”
At least it’s not in English.
The singer does a head-flip on a high note, and Nick says, “She’s like ‘Oh, where did my vocal just go?’”
NICK: This is the song where the Lion King learns to be king of the jungle, or something.
It’s seriously boring, that’s what it is.
Oh my god! Where are those disembodied hands coming from?

I remember being really annoyed when SBS went commerical, but now I’m just pleased about the toilet breaks.

Why isn’t the host knitting another flag? That’s a bit lazy.

FYR MACEDONIA: Jas Ja Imam Silata
I like his sparkly brooch.
Well, that back-up dancer’s not going to be taking any clothes off. Not in a family-friendly show like Eurovision.
Oh, wait: the others managed to shed something fluffy and unnecessary. Somehow, the costume changes aren’t as exciting this year.
Nick thinks the back-up dancers are a bit listless, but luckily we’re distracted by a pointless rap performance.
NICK: That guitarist’s got no idea where he is.
Ah, another fake guitar solo. What, no wind machine? It’s coming to something when the fake guitarist has to flip his own hair around.

BELARUS: Butterflies
Okay, a woman better come out of that piano.
Especially since the song’s in English.
Nice harmonies, and lovely frocks. But still a bit boring.
This is like Boyz to Men, but with girls.
They haven’t co-ordinated their dramatic hand gestures.
ACK! Attack human-butterfly hybrids!
There was actual screaming in this living room at that point.
And why even have a piano if you’re not going to have a woman come out of it?

ICELAND: Je Ne Sais Quoi
Oh, a bit of electronica, is it?
Still in English, though. I’m a bit bored by the songs in English.
Oh, this is old-school Eurovision. Nick says this is what we’re here for, and it’s true—except I still need fireworks, flamethrowers, people getting their kit off, and key changes.
Not necessarily all in the same song.
I love her floaty skirts—nice and dramatic, without the sheer horror of, say, a human-butterfly hybrid.
This is the only song all night that I would have picked out of a line-up as actually being a Eurovision song.
Key change!
Nick has declared this his song of the night, just on the basis of the key change.

Why is that woman in the audience clutching a giraffe?

I have to say—no offence, Norway—that the actual staging has been a bit dull. Russia’s lovely staging last year has given me a false sense of expectations, perhaps.

They’re reminding us of the songs, which is handy, because I’ve forgotten them all already.

I hadn’t realised that one of Latvia’s back-up singers was Cher.

So, with about nine minutes left until the results are announced, I’m taking a quick break from the live-blogging. I’ll be back for the results, though.

Why didn’t I notice how horrifyingly tight the Belgian singer’s pants were the first time I saw that song?

You know, these repeats of the song are just reminding me how boring everything was. And I really don’t need to see that bit from F.Y.R. Macedonia again—it’s not as though they were leaving much to the imagination in the first place.

Speaking of horrifyingly tight, the cameraman might want to rethink his angle on Malta, as long as the seagull-man’s in shot.

I don’t normally live-blog the adverts, but I must say I despise ads that says the Socceroos have the “true Aussie spirit” because it’s “not over until the last minute.” Because, of course, most football teams just sit down on the field at the 66th minute and wait for the whistle to blow.

These announcers have a tendency to make the most pedestrian statements seem portentous: “We have heard seventeen songs from seventeen countries.”

Okay, so far this exploration of human song sounds like nothing so much as an anti-smoking campaign. Filler, filler—all is filler!

Seriously, why am I watching ten minutes of people wandering around historic landmarks and coughing? This could have been so interesting, but instead it’s just a bit abject and revolting.

See? Totally unnecessary cowpat.

That was the interval act? Dude, Norway: pick up your act!

Ah, the automatic entries!

SPAIN: Something Tiny.
Dude. Clowns.
That’s just not right.

NORWAY: Sorry, missed the title!
I thought this one was the U.K, it was so boring.

U.K: That Sounds Good To Me
Boring as always.

FRANCE: Missed it again!
I only listened to this thirty seconds ago, and I’ve already forgotten it.

GERMANY: Satelitte
Boppy but forgettable.

And now, the results!

1. Bosnia and Herzegovina. Oh, the man in the red jacket.
2. Moldova. The woman who’d been spray-painted?
3. Russia. Fake snow and scarves.
4. Greece. I’m frankly stunned by that, but I shouldn’t be.
5. Portugal. Oh, the Disney princess? Dull and more dull.
6. Belarus. Seriously? The human-butterfly hybrids? I can’t watch that again.
7. Serbia. No real surprise there, despite the hypnotic hair. Perhaps because of it?

The Belgian man and his perfunctory flag waving is killing me.

8. Belgium. Oh, he was dull.
9. Albania. I can live with Albania, as long as she picks new pants.
10. Iceland. Well, thank goodness. I would have been deeply annoyed if she hadn’t gone through.

So that’s our first semi-final: half an hour of performance and two hours of voting/padding.

Thank you, delightful commentators.

Let’s do it all again tomorrow night, shall we? Maybe we’ll get another violinist on a lazy Susan.

An Annual Eurovision Reminder

Posted 27 May 2010 in by Catriona

It’s time for The Circulating Library’s annual live-blogging of the Eurovision Song Contest’s semi-finals.

If you haven’t joined us for these before, 2008’s semi-finals are here and here, and 2009’s are here and here . . . just so you can see what you’re getting yourself into.

But, seriously, you should come over! Electronically! I get a bit tipsy and live-blog, Nick gets even tipsier, gets bewildered about how ’80s Eurovision is, and moderates your bemused comments. It’s just like a real Eurovision party, except that we can’t guarantee there’ll actually be anyone in the same room as you, and you’ll have to bring your own refreshments.

Semi-final one begins tonight at 7:30 pm on SBS, and tomorrow’s is the same (bat) time, same (bat) channel. You can catch up on the contestants themselves over at The Memes of Production here, here, and, for those countries who get automatic entry, here.

My Thoughts on Sanctuary Episode One, In Dialogue Form: A Follow-Up

Posted 8 March 2010 in by Catriona

I think I may have dialogued (for want of a better word) the wrong episode of Sanctuary, judging by what happened in episode two:

NICK: Wow, that was . . .
ME: I know. Did you see the bit where she admitted to voluntarily having Jack the Ripper’s baby?
NICK: Yeah. What’s a combination of “terrible” and “awesome”? Ter-some?
ME: That’s not really euphonious. I think we can settle for “craptacular.”
NICK: Yeah.
ME: You know, for a doctor, she had a really shaky grasp of genetics.
NICK: There was some mumbo [redacted] going on in that show.
ME: So she froze the foetus for one hundred years. What kind of cell degradation would happen in that time? I mean, you can’t even freeze chicken for more than three months.
NICK: Mumbo [redacted].
ME: And then she has Jack the Ripper’s baby because she thinks he’s gone for good by that point?
NICK: Yeah.
ME: That’s a crazy bad grasp of genetics right there.

My Thoughts on Sanctuary Episode One, In Dialogue Form

Posted 8 March 2010 in by Catriona

(This, by the way, is Sanctuary, if you haven’t come across it yet.)

ME: Does it have The Cult in the soundtrack?
NICK: I don’t think so.
ME: They had it in the trailer.
NICK: I think they missed a trick in the show.

ME: Oh, CGI city!
NICK: Yes.
ME: Wait, is that part of the episode or a logo?
NICK: I don’t know.
ME: It’s not a good sign when you can’t tell the episode from the logo.

NICK: Does this hospital have an interrogation room?
ME: Maybe the police station has a gurney?

ME: Oh no, it’s Voldemort!
NICK: Yes!
ME: Wait, maybe it’s Peter Garrett.

HERO: Who are you?
NICK (speaking for Amanda Tapping): I’m Batman.

ME: Wait, we’re twenty-five minutes through, and nothing’s happened yet?
NICK: The pacing is a bit flabby.
ME: It’s hard to tell because nothing has happened yet.
NICK: Of course, the humourlessness doesn’t help.
ME: Well, maybe there’ll be some jokes when something happens.

NICK: I don’t think that hat’s doing Amanda Tapping any favours.
ME: I don’t think it would do anyone any favours. I think it’s trying to evoke something, but I don’t know what.
NICK: Vampire Hunter D, maybe?

NICK: Let’s just walk across this completely empty soundstage.
ME: Completely empty soundstage with grand staircases.
NICK: Yeah.
ME: It’s all a bit Skydivers, isn’t it? “Walk, walk, walk: we shall start the scene here.”

HERO: You’re a doctor of what, precisely?
HEROINE: The actual discipline depends on the specific patient.
NICK: What?
ME: What?

HERO (faced with a mermaid): How is this even possible?
NICK: CGI. Lots of CGI.

HERO: What is that?
HEROINE: His exact classification is less important than his actual existence.
NICK: What?
ME: What?

HEROINE: He’s been relatively isolated since I first treated him.
NICK: Oh, the dialogue is so ponderous.
ME: Yeah.
NICK: “Relatively isolated.” It’s so flabby.
ME: And also? Most of it doesn’t make sense.

HEROINE: I’d like to offer you a place here.
HERO: What, helping you catch monsters?
HEROINE: We prefer to call them “abnormals.”
NICK: Oh, yes—because that’s much better.

HEROINE: I need someone who can see the world as it really is.
HERO: I lock up criminals, not monsters.
HEROINE: And you can’t see the irony in that statement?
NICK: No. Because there isn’t any.

HEROINE (talking about a child with a tentacle growing out of his chest): Such abnormal children are often adopted by well-meaning immigrants.
ME: What?
NICK: What?

HEROINE: What frightens you more, Dr Zimmerman? That frightened boy down there . . .
NICK: Or his disgusting tentacle?
HEROINE: What do you see when you look at him?
NICK: Apart from his disgusting tentacle?

ME: Even the end-title music is humourless.
NICK: Yeah, though I don’t mind it.
ME: Why on earth not?

Some Random Thoughts About Captain Jack Harkness (No Spoilers!)

Posted 10 July 2009 in by Catriona

Well, I say no spoilers. I’ll qualify that: nothing here counts as a spoiler if you’ve seen the Doctor Who episodes that have thus far aired on Australian television—which is to say, all of them.

1. If Torchwood were actually a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, Captain Jack would definitely be a rogue. Say you’re fighting the boss. Do you think Captain Jack would be standing next to you? Or is he more likely to pop up behind the enemy and stab him in the back for twenty-five points of damage? Sure, my base comparison there is more Puzzle Quest than Dungeons and Dragons, but the analogy still holds.

(If you prefer to play Fallout 3, I don’t think you’d have any trouble seeing Jack as the Mysterious Stranger. As Nick says when he’s playing Fallout 3, the Mysterious Stranger isn’t the most useful bonus you could enable, but when he turns up, it’s always awesome.)

2. And still on a Dungeons and Dragons theme, not only would Captain Jack be a rogue, he would absolutely be Chaotic Good. He’s the sort of character who has a basic good alignment, but is entirely unpredictable in how he manifests that.

As Nick points out, the Doctor is basically Chaotic Good, as well. Lawful Good is always by the book, like The Middleman. (And if you’re not reading that, or haven’t managed to see the excellent television series—now sadly axed—what are you waiting for? Who doesn’t want to watch something in which the hero says to his sidekick, “It’s bad apples like you that put J. Edgar Hoover in a dress”?)

But Chaotic Good has more of a mischievous side. And we’ve seen more of this with the Doctor in the last season or so—I’ve mentioned elsewhere on the blog that I’ve been disturbed on more than one occasion by the glee that the Doctor takes in chaos and disaster.

He hasn’t always been that way: I would argue that the fifth Doctor, for example, had far more of a Lawful Good alignment.

The touchstone episode, for me, is increasingly becoming “Warriors of the Deep.” I don’t know when this started, but more and more over the last season or two of Doctor Who, I’ve been drawing comparisons in my mind with that story and particularly with that last shot of the fifth Doctor and that last line: “There had to be a better way.” It doesn’t seem to me that the Doctor always looks for that other way, these days.

And Captain Jack doesn’t, either. Watch season two of Torchwood and tell me that he’s always looking for the better way. (Or, for that matter, let’s just think about the time he fed Ianto’s ex-girlfriend to a pterodactyl, shall we?)

3. And that brings me to my final point: Captain Jack is now basically the Doctor. Don’t mistake me on this: I think that’s fabulous. And now that Torchwood is increasingly—in Nick’s words—“grown up” television rather than simply being “adult” television, now that it has found its feet, we’re seeing this more.

True, Captain Jack is a fixed point in time, something that the Doctor fears rather than something that the Doctor is. But he’s directly analogous to a Time Lord, these days: though his regenerations come faster and always bring him back to the same body, he has the same distance from humanity now that the Doctor has always had. Like the Doctor, he will not age or die—at least, not by any means measurable by or conceivable to the human mind.

Captain Jack is the Doctor without a TARDIS.

He’s the Doctor trapped in a single location.

He’s the Doctor who can’t just leave after he’s reduced another planet to chaos.

He’s the Doctor, in short, who has to stay and clean up his own messes.

Poor man.

(Please, feel free to shred my Torchwood/Dungeons and Dragons analogy in the comments, but keep them spoiler free.)

Live-blogging Torchwood Season One: "Everything Changes"

Posted 19 June 2009 in by Catriona

Do you know, I completely forgot this was on tonight. And then Nick didn’t fancy watching it—and there’s still some avoidance behaviour going on with that, frankly—and then I had an incredibly complicated conversation with my mother about this show that basically ran around in these circles:

MAM: Well, we thought we’d watch it anyone.
ME: Oh, sure. I don’t think it will be your cup of tea, though.
MAM: Anyway, we thought we’d watch it.
ME: I’m not saying you shouldn’t. I just didn’t think it was your cup of tea.
MAM: Anyway, we thought we’d watch it.
ME: I’m not saying you shouldn’t . . .

And so on.

Anyway (as my mother would say), here we are, after all.

I’ll be honest, while Rob Brydon is talking on this show I’ve never heard of: I had some serious concerns with the tone of Torchwood the first time I saw these episodes. I’m wondering whether I’ll have the same reaction this time around—and, if I do, if I’ll have time to talk about them while live-blogging.

I also felt, the first time I watched this, that it didn’t really hit its stride until episode five, “Small Worlds.” So we’ll see how I feel about these early episodes on a re-watching.

On a slightly hysterical note, why didn’t I know that Being Human was on tonight?! Why am I so out of the loop?

Ah, here we go.

Pan over lovely Cardiff—lots and lots of pans over Cardiff, and down onto a body, lying in the street in the rain, surrounded by SOCOs and some uniformed policemen, including Gwen. (We don’t know she’s Gwen yet, but she is.)

Now SOCO is leaving the scene, and the police have to ask what’s happening. SOCO says Torchwood are coming in: special access.

And so they are: four of them, with Captain Jack (spoiler!) in the lead, in his World War II trenchcoat, coming up in their enormous black car, and walking straight over to the body, while Gwen and a SOCO chat about the lack of proper procedure these days.

But Gwen is annoyed: she runs up into the multi-story carpark that overlooks the alley in which the body lies, and peers down.

Jack is ranting about oestrogen in the rain: saying he loves this planet, because there’s contraceptives right in the water—he’s never going to get pregnant again, Jack says.

Meanwhile, Suzie (Indira Varma) is telling Owen that her mysterious gauntlet “grants her access” rather than allowing her control: Owen says that if he gets punched again, he’s punching it right back—just before the gauntlet starts moving on its own, and Suzie brings the dead man (John) back to life for three minutes.

They’re asking John who killed him, but they’ve already told him he’s dead, and of course he’s just freaking out the entire time they’re talking to him. When he eventually reveals that he was stabbed in the back (and therefore can’t help them catch the killer), Jack jumps in and asks him what it’s like to be dead.

What did he see? Jack asks. And John says he saw nothing. “Oh my god, there’s nothing!” And he dies again, freaking out about the nothingness beyond.

Well, that was cruel.

Jack knows Gwen’s watching and when he challenges her, she—freaking out, as you would after seeing a man brought back to life—runs. She goes home to her boyfriend, for a scene that seems designed to show the relative ordinariness of her life.

The next day, Gwen, in uniform, is serving mugs of tea to CID (after asking a colleague to look up Jack for her)—though the next scene is her helping to break up a bar fight, in which she’s slammed into what looks like a hardwood bar, which had got to hurt. So she’s not just a secretary!

This means she ends up in the hospital—where she sees Jack going past. Chasing him up the stairs, she comes to a section that’s sealed off. She asks a janitor why it’s sealed, but he says it was that way this morning when he arrived at work: he thought the police had done it.

Gwen steps through the plastic seal—and she sees someone standing at the end of a corridor, and approaches him, looking for Jack. But it quickly becomes apparent that it’s not a man, and that he’s not actually human. Gwen assumes he’s a man wearing a mask, but he’s clearly not. And when the janitor comes in and walks up cheerily to Gwen, chatting away, the creature grabs him and rips his jugular out.

Wow. That is as grotesque as I remember the first time around. Gwen looks a little freaked—well, more than a little. But she’s not vomiting. I’d be vomiting.

And as she’s standing in the street looking freaked, the Torchwood car comes screaming past, nearly running her down. She leaps in the panda to follow, leaving her colleague behind at the hospital.

While she’s in the panda, Gwen’s colleague comes through on the radio, and tells her about the only Captain Jack Harkness on record: an American, who disappeared in 1941 at the height of the Blitz and was never seen again.

Gwen, chasing Torchwood, is told off by a security guard for parking her car in the middle of a plaza: by the time she glances at him and back, the Torchwood personnel have vanished, even though there’s nowhere to go.

Yes, sorry: the man who was killed was a porter, not a janitor.

Gwen’s colleague, who has followed her despite her nicking the panda, tells her that all the hospital personnel are accounted for. He tells her she’s not well, and that he’ll take her home. At home, Gwen tells her boyfriend that she has to work (“Do you forgive me?” she asks. “Say you forgive me.” It’s presumably a refrain in their relationship, but Nick wonders how often she’s been lying to her boyfriend) and she’s straight back to where she saw Torchwood disappear.

She heads to a pizza place, where she asks about “Jack Harkness,” “J. Harkness,” or just “Harkness”—but no such deliveries. On her way out the door, she asks, “I don’t suppose you’ve got a Torchwood?”

“Oh, aye,” he says. “We deliver to them all the time. Good customers they are.”

NICK: It’s like UNIT. With their big sign out front saying “Secret UNIT Headquarters.”

So Gwen grabs a couple of pizzas and is buzzed into Torchwood’s secret underground base by Ianto. (We don’t know it’s Ianto yet, but trust me on this.)

I’ve always found the secret underground base—ack! Hand in a jar!—to be rather amazing. Very steampunky, though it looks as though it would be cold in winter.

And there’s Jack, in his suspenders and leather wrist cuffs—and as Gwen’s walking towards him with the pizzas, Tosh (spoiler!) suddenly bursts out laughing, and sets Owen off. And Suzie says that that didn’t last long. Of course, they’ve been watching her on the monitors, so they knew she was coming.

(In the meantime, Jack has been asking which idiot has been ordering pizzas under the name “Torchwood.” It’s Owen, for the sake of completeness.)

There’s some banter about what happened to the porter, and to John Tucker in the alley—Jack pushes Gwen to admit that she saw John brought back to life—and she’s clearly terrified (even before she sees the pterodactyl, and we’ll talk about the pterodactyl later). She keeps mentioning that she’s a police officer, as though it keeps her safe.

Jack asks if she wants to see the porter’s murderer? She’s does, sort of—and Suzie pushes her to go with Jack. They have the creature who killed the porter—they call him a weevil—sedated in a cell.

Gwen sits in front of the cell and stares into the weevil’s eyes while Jack tells her that it’s an alien, and provides some details about weevils’ lives in Cardiff.

Back upstairs, Jack introduces Owen, Tosh, Suzie, and Ianto—Gwen’s still uncertain about what will happen to her, and Jack tells her to come with him.

GWEN: I’m getting a bit tired of following you.
JACK: No, you’re not. And you never will.

They take the “scenic route” out of Torchwood. It’s a paving stone that rises up like an elevator right into the street. But no one can see or hear them: Jack says it’s a perception filter. People can see them, but don’t really pay attention to them.

There’s some techno-babble here that plays back into the TARDIS’s arrival in Cardiff in “Boomtown,” but Gwen’s distracted: “But there’s a bloody big hole in the ground! Don’t people fall in?”

JACK: That is so Welsh.
GWEN: What is?
JACK: I show you something wonderful, and you find fault.

Sitting in a restaurant, they talk about the other alien encounters the Earth has had recently—you know, the ones in Doctor Who. And they have this piece of dialogue, which I love:

GWEN: You catch aliens?
JACK: Yep.
GWEN: You catch aliens for a living?
JACK: Sure do.
GWEN: You’re an alien catcher?

During the discussion about what Torchwood does, Jack explains that no one is allowed to take alien artefacts off the base—and, of course, we cut to the other members of staff pulling various items out of their bags. Suzie, for example, has taken the gauntlet home with her.

Back in the restaurant, Jack is explaining that their only purpose in bringing John back to life is to test the glove. Gwen thinks they could help find the serial killer, but Jack says they’re busy. Gwen asks if their work is more important, and Jack says yes, it is.

GWEN: Well, that’s tough shit.

Of course, around about this point, Jack tells her that he’s fed her an amnesia pill (with a sedative mixed in) and she’ll have forgotten all about this by tomorrow morning.

JACK: Most tragic of all, you’ll have forgotten all about me.

Jack, is there anyone you won’t flirt with?

Gwen sprints home, and starts trying to write down the information about Torchwood.

Cut to Owen, trying to pick a pretty blonde woman up in a bar. She’s not interested, not least because he says he can’t be bothered with all the chat because he has to be up early. So he sprays something from the bottle he brought home in his mouth—like breath freshener—and she’s all over him.

I have problems with that scenario, but I’ll come back to that later if I have a chance.

Tosh, meanwhile, is using her device to scan books (by touching it on the spine) and download them to the computer. Suzie is bringing flies to life.

Owen is challenged outside the club by the woman’s boyfriend, and uses the alien mojo again—which results in the boyfriend deciding to join in rather than, as had been his original plan, punching Owen in the face.

Ianto, meanwhile, has shut Gwen’s computer down remotely, and she’s so groggy by this point that she hasn’t the faintest idea what’s happening.

And Jack’s standing on top of a building! Jack has some curious fondness for standing on the tops of buildings. Maybe he’s Batman?

The next morning, Gwen wakes up still on her keyboard—only she’s not in her study, she’s in the kitchen now. She can’t really remember what’s happened, and believes her boyfriend’s suggestion that she was out with her friend Diane. Similarly, she blows off the colleague whom she asked to look up Jack, because she can’t remember who Jack is.

Gwen wanders into CID, and sees an artist’s rendition of the murder weapon, an odd pronged implement that clearly resonates with Gwen somehow, though she can’t put her finger on it. But throughout the day, she keeps flashing back to the sketch. Two o’clock in the morning, she still can’t sleep, but now she’s thinking of a physical object. Has she seen it somewhere? Or is she projecting from the sketch?

Well, the answer to that becomes more apparent when she’s sees a brochure for Wales Millennium Centre (Torchwood is under the Millennium Centre) with “remember” written on it.

And when she heads back there, she does start remembering—especially as Suzie comes walking slowly towards her. She’s so beautiful, Indira Varma.

Suzie thinks that Gwen knows what’s going on—that the image of the knife has tripped the amnesia—but Gwen has no idea why Suzie has suddenly drawn a gun on her.

Suzie is freaking out: she says Gwen is the only one who can “make the link.” Well, the only one apart from Torchwood. She’s planning on running, but she doesn’t know how she can do anything else apart from working for Torchwood.

There are strong shades here of various speeches in Doctor Who—except there’s no Doctor here, just the monsters that the Doctor is, apparently, worth.

Suzie’s explaining what she’s doing—trying to get the glove to actually resurrect people—while Jack comes up behind her on the lift. But Suzie says the perception filter doesn’t work on her, and shoots Jack in the head. She draws the gun on Gwen, and Gwen’s freaking out, because she has no idea why she’s going to be shot.

But just as the perception filter doesn’t work on Suzie, guns don’t work on Jack. He rises up behind Suzie again, telling her its over and to give him the gun. And Suzie knows it’s over, and she shoots herself in the head.

That’s enough to counteract the amnesia pill.

And Tosh and Owen give Jack the alien devices they’ve stolen from the lab, before Jack locks Suzie’s body away in Torchwood’s very own vault.

And he and Gwen stand outside (on top of a building, from the looks of it), and Jack explains that he can’t die—not until he finds a doctor, the “right kind of Doctor.”

Gwen’s worried that she’s going to be fed another amnesia pill, but Jack offers her a job instead.

And, of course she accepts.

We pan back from the two of them—yep, they’re standing on a roof—past a pterodactyl (yes, a pterodactyl) and into a trailer for next episode. Until next week!

Live-blogging Eurovision: Semi-Final 2, 2009

Posted 16 May 2009 in by Catriona

While I’m waiting for the second semi-final to begin, I’m watching an SBS World News story on gorillas.

And being distracted—not in a good way—by the truly hideous outfit that the fashionista newsreader is wearing. What is that? Some kind of asymmetrical, rigid mesh vest over a heavily ruffled, collared, white blouse? Why?

Maybe it’s an homage to Eurovision?

I’m making sure I don’t start live-blogging too early this time, to avoid the strange rambling that preceded last night’s post.

Although I’m sure you’ll all be interested to know that now the weather is getting colder, my bad ankle—the one I landed on when I fell down the backstairs, and then never bothered to have treated—is really playing me up again.

Damn, I let myself become bored again, didn’t I?

But that’s all right, because now we’re back in Moscow for the second semi-final of Eurovision 2009, to find out who will be the last ten countries to go through to the finals.

Now, we’re starting with the national performances, but I have no chance of writing down the name of this group. Frankly, I’m a little distracted by the beards.

The clothes are fabulous, though—ack! And the giant babushka dolls!

And the fact they’re now playing ABBA on traditional Russian instruments.

Wait, now the babushka dolls are rotating, and showing images of merry-go-round horses. But, then, that’s not as strange as the women who’ve just come out on stage. Or, for that matter, as the fact that this performance is a medley of Eurovision songs.

And now there are bears dancing with each other.

Oooh, apparently they change the images on the babushka dolls by hitting them with sledgehammers! The staging really is lovely.

Did I mention the bears dancing with each other?

Oh, no. We have the same hosts as last night. I’m so sorry, guys: you are truly, truly terrible. Truly terrible.

For example: “Now, Natasha, I hope you have found common ground with the bears.” What? No, seriously: what does that mean?

But now we’re starting the performances!

CROATIA: “Liepa Tena.”
Oooh, one of them’s called Igor? Really? Cool.
Hmm, string instruments. And a man in disturbingly tight pants feeling up his back-up dancers.
Yep, this is Eurovision all right.
Well, now his back-up dancers are feeling themselves up, so there is that.
Nick points out that the women have flesh-toned microphone covers, so we’re hoping for a costume change.
Goodness knows it’s dull enough now.
Ah, and here’s the female singer the song is “featuring”—doing some kind of falsetto wailing while being stared at lasciviously by the male singer.
Am I being a bit harsh on Croatia? His voice is all right. But the song is frankly boring.
And no costume changes! Dammit, Eurovision!

IRELAND: “Et Cetera.”
Will this be better than Dustin the Turkey?
Ah, girl rock band. Girl rock band in insanely tight pants.
Seriously, insanely tight.
No, I’m sorry, Ireland. If I wanted to listen to this, I’d be listening to TodayFM. I doubt even Triple M would play this.
Fantastic staging, as always.
I’m still betting on my “dead billionaire” theory from last night.
Nick is bewildered by the fact that people buy deliberately laddered tights. I told him that that’s so fashionable right now it’s passe. I didn’t further break his heart by telling him they’re actually leggings.
Though he may not have my irrational hatred of leggings.
No, I know I didn’t talk about the song. But did you hear it?

LATVIA: “Probka.”
“Probka” means “traffic jam,” apparently.
I think someone just mailed the lead singer a complete set of The Young Ones DVDs. That’s the only explanation for his outfit.
Ah, vocal interlude. Fabulous.
This song is all over the place. Frenetic, now soft and . . . well, a little whingy, frankly.
And now we’re back to frenetic.
Does that guitarist on the left have his jeans rolled up to his knees?
At least it’s not in English.
Frankly, I hope this doesn’t get through. It’s giving me a headache and deja vu. Simultaneously.
Well, that was odd.

SERBIA: “Cipela.”
Hmm, “follicularly enhanced work,” eh?
And the shoes!
(NICK: They looks like Blackadder’s codpiece, the shoes!)
And the bride!
Oh, and the hair! The hair!
The afro is amazing enough, but what is going on with the accordian player’s hair? And his leather suit?
Oh, and now some random domestic violence! Fantastic!
Nick hopes these guys get through.
I do like the pixellated version of the lead singer’s face, I admit.
Oh, that poor bride! I don’t know what’s happening to her, but she seems quite affronted. I wish I spoke Serbian.
Yeah, I wouldn’t mind seeing them again.

POLAND: “I Don’t Wanna Leave.”
Oh, good start. Slow-motion people in white doing some kind of interpretive dance in the background.
And our first cape for the night! Admittedly, it’s an elbow cape, but it’s still a cape.
NICK: That top’s giving her quite asymmetrical cleavage.
Oh, Nick’s misbehaving tonight!
SINGER: It’s getting hard to breathe.
NICK: Certainly is, darling.
ME: Why?
NICK: I just . . . wanted to say it.
Key change!
The song itself is a standard Eurovision ballad. They’ll probably get through.
Nick’s singing the Aerosmith song from Armageddon, now. It is a little Steve Tyler towards the end.

NORWAY: “Fairytale.”
This guy looks like Brad Pitt? Oh, save me!
Oooh, high-kicking dancers! And a violin! And some drugs, I strongly suspect.
This is a bouncy little number. Has an oddly Romany feel to it, though I’m not sure what kind of Romany population there is in Norway.
I’m liking this, actually.
Except for the odd leap-frogging thing that’s happening in stage, now.
Well, the female back-up singers have turned up now, and Nick’s thoroughly in favour of this song making the finals. I hope they don’t have to lean forwards at any point.
Ooops, he broke his bow. It’s a good thing he’s not actually allowed to play that thing on stage.
But I’d like this to go through. I’m enjoying this one, especially the acrobatics on stage.
And fireworks! I’m a tart for fireworks.

CYPRUS: “Firefly.”
Right: I want spaceships. And space hookers. And Adam Baldwin. And Gina Torres. And a strangely inappropriate Western theme song.
I’ll be very disappointed, otherwise.
I think I’m going to be very disappointed.
NICK (singing): You can’t take my bra from me!
(Yes, I know. I’m thinking of muzzling him next year.)
Nick’s pointed out that the guitar part is very Coldplay. And we’re still waiting for someone to get kicked into a turbine.
NICK: You cannot muzzle me! I will not be silenced!
Is she wearing her rings backwards?
It’s . . . nice, I suppose. Some nice wavering in the vocals. Lovely stage sets. And she’s a beautiful girl.
But I just really don’t like Coldplay.
It’ll probably get through, though. She is terribly pretty. And they have those illuminated cube thingies, which are pretty awesome.

SLOVAKIA: “Let’ Tmou.”
This is a duet, is it? Hmm, in-jokes from the commentators.
Ah, that’s at least the second double-bass for this year’s Eurovision.
White grand piano! Do you think someone’s going to rise up out of that one, this year?
Gorgeous set. As always.
But—and I know this is unfashionable—the male singer, to me, looks as though he just shouted, “What do you mean I’m on stage in thirty seconds?!”
NICK: She’s going through notes no human should have to hear!
This is terribly overwrought, isn’t it? Both musically and emotionally.
I wish I knew enough about music to know if those are real notes, or not.
Remind me to drink out of plastic tomorrow night, if they get through.

DENMARK: “Believe Again.”
Ronan Keating helped write this song? Oh, please no.
What’s he sitting on?
Oh, no. We have boy band. I repeat: we have boy band.
You want to believe in love? I want to believe that this song will end soon. And also that the lead singer will one day be able to straighten his legs again.
And now he’s smirking at me!
NICK: It’s toe-tappingly terrible!
I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if this made it through, but I really, really don’t want to have to watch it again tomorrow night.
Ooh, fireworks!
Right, I’ve changed my mind.
I love fireworks.
And he didn’t quite make that last note.

Oh, dear: the hosts are back.

SLOVENIA: “Love Symphony.”
I’m worried about this song already—just based on the title.
Lovely, lovely staging once again. I’m partial to silhouettes on Eurovision.
Plus, I liked this song first time round, when ABBA performed it.
Wow, this is a long build up.
NICK: Is there an actual song?
The silhouette thing is getting a little old, actually, Do you think she’s coming out from behind that thing?
Nick’s waiting for Sutekh the Destroyer to turn up.
For the first time, the staging is completely (Ow! She didn’t make those notes!) overshadowing the performance.
Wind machine! Lovely!
Has anyone taken their kit off, yet?
That was terrible. That was terrible by Eurovision standards. Wow.

HUNGARY: “Dance With Me.”
What is happening with the back of of their skirts?!
Costume change! Finally!
NICK: Oh. Can they change it back, please?
Those trousers are . . . revealing.
SINGER: It’s written on your body as you’re putting up a fight.
That’s . . . really creepy, actually, singer.
As is your shirt.
NICK: He looks like he wishes he was the Irish contestant, actually. He has a kind of pervy leprechaun vibe.
The song itself—if you’re watching Eurovision for the songs—is pure 1980s’ disco.
Mate, you can wink at me all you like: I’m neither dancing with you nor making your body sway.

I loved, loved, loved Azerbaijan last year. I know there was some distaste for their performance, but it made my heart sing in a special way.
I’m betting this one won’t.
And turns out I’m wrong.
I love it already—just for the vaguely androgynous dancers in gold lame pants, purple chiffon, and corsets.
And I think we have a new contender for “shortest skirt of the competition.”
Nick’s right: this is the most purely Eurovision entry we’ve seen so far this year.
What is the female singer wearing on her knee?!
NICK: She’s got C3PO’s leg!
The song itself is rather boppy, though. It’s no Norway, but it’s not bad. And there’s some kind of steam machine behind the female lead singer—which is redundant, given she’s wearing a napkin.

GREECE: “This Is Our Night.”
Wonderful reveals? I feel a costume change coming on!
Why is everything so black and white this year?
NICK: Was that a Vulcan nerve pinch or a Tae Kwon Do move?
Ha! The leap off the stage is wonderful!
NICK: I’ve always thought Eurovision singer should be judged on the power of their thigh muscles rather than their singing.
Ack! And now he’s on a conveyor belt! Oh, I hope this guy gets through.
NICK: God bless you, Eurovision.
Key change!
This is pure Eurovision, too. Much, much better than last year’s Greek entry, which engendered homicidal fury in the ten-year-old boy I watched it with.

I’m starting to think no-one’s going to rise up out of a grand piano at all, this year.
Nick has named this singer “Twat-Hat Man.”
He really is a little sub-Freddy Mercury, isn’t he?
This is insanely dull. And perhaps a little creepy, judging from what little I can hear of the lyrics. There’s the odd little trilling effect to the chorus, which is rather sweet. But it’s too little, too late.
Ah, pefunctory key change. No point drinking for that one.
I’m not holding out much hope for Lithuania.
Did NOT see that coming.
NICK: I wonder if that was the rehearsal problem?

MOLDOVA: “Hore Din Moldova.”
Folk, eh? I’m hopeful already.
Ah, nice. I’m liking this already. Lovely, controlled, wavering vocals.
Cute, cute little costume.
Men in lovely national costumes doing kicky, twirly dances.
I like the kicky, twirly dances.
This is nice and bouncy—I’d like to see this go through.
And the stage set is one of the loveliest we’ve seen all competition, and that’s saying something. A stunning cross-stitch effect.
Right, Moldova are one of my new favourites.
Yep, “traditional but funky” about sums it up.

ALBANIA: “Carry Me In Your Dreams.”
Oh, dear. This is not starting well.
Nick thinks she’s Nikki Webster.
Pygmy. Vampire.
Bright green sequinned bondage gear.
Two pygmy vampires.
Break-dancing pygmy vampires.
And Nick and I are now convinced the sequinned bondage chap is only there to stop the singer from breaking her ankles in those heels.
Did I mention we have a winner for the shortest skirt in the competition?
And a wind machine.
I have no idea what the song is like. I haven’t heard a note.

UKRAINE: “Be My Valentine!”
Ah, unnecessary exclamation mark. I’m quite fond of unnecessary punctuation marks. In a kind of masochistic way.
What? The hell machine?
Oh. My. God.
Can’t blog. Laughing too hard.
Eyes up, cameraman! No, not that high!
NICK: Centurions! Battlestar Galactica style! But naked!
Still laughing too hard.
This is insane.
Strange bondage machines.
Strange bondage boots.
Now she’s riding one of the back-up dancers.
And now she’s drumming!
This is seriously (no other word for it) bat-shit crazy.
And I would say we had a new winner for shortest skirt, but that doesn’t even qualify as a skirt.
Words fail me.

ESTONIA: “Randajad.”
Oooh, nice trilling sound to this one. A little shrill, maybe.
I’m loving all the non-English songs this time.
John’s going to love this one—very, very Goth.
Well, we have a winner for lowest neckline.
Honestly, though: this has some lovely harmonies. There’s a nice rhythm to the lyrics. And the fact that I’m concentrating on the song should tell you how dull the staging is.
Wow, this is the Eurovision Of Violins.
Where are the fireworks? And the flamethrowers? And the wind machines? This is barely Eurovision, at all!

Oh, no. They’re talking to the audience. I hate that.
Ack! Disco-ball jacket!
“Love will make us glow in the dark”? I certainly hope not.
Wow, this is my primary-school song! “Let your light shine, let your light shine, let your light shine out for all to see!”
Well, close enough.
What on earth is that woman . . . playing? Does that qualify as playing? I can’t tell, because I don’t know what that is.
Hey, they’re actually disco-ball suits! Those must be uncomfortable to sit down in.
I really, really hope this doesn’t get through.
Key change!
Too little, too late, Netherlands. This is dull—and I don’t think you hit that last note, frankly.
Ha! And bitchy comment from the SBS commentator about how old they are.

Oh, dear: here are the Russian hosts, again. And the damn magic button again. Bring back last year, when they signalled the beginning of voting by hurling a basket of apples into the crowd.

MALE HOST: Are you ready?
FEMALE HOST: No, no, not yet.
NICK: Stop doing that to me, Andrey. You’re very unatttractive man.

And here we are with the recapping. Do you think we’ll get two sets of recaps again tonight?

Still seven minutes to vote: we’ve just recapped everyone, but I’m sure we’ll recap them again in a moment or two.

Actually, the painting montage was rather sweet. But what has the female presenter done to her hips?

And now we recap everyone again. I knew it! I knew it!

And now we’re back with hosts. But we still have thirty seconds to vote for our countries. If we’re in Europe. And have a time machine.

At least they’re counting right this time around, and not several seconds behind as they were last night.

These hosts are truly, truly terrible—but we have some sort of national performance, here. Apparently, they’re the “pride of Russia”—they seem to be a dance company. Honestly, I think Russia are doing a lovely job: the staging is brilliant and beautiful, and the national performances are fascinating.

(These are folk dancers from different nations, apparently.)

It’s just the hosts who are awful.

Ah, and the SBS commentators are being patronising again.

And now we have Greek folk dancing. According to Julia, you can’t not do it. I can, Julia. I assure you of that.

Now Russian folk dancing. Now, those are awfully pretty dresses. Yes, I am getting flashbacks to a couple of truly terrifying Russian fantasy movies (from the 1950s) that I’ve seen recently, but those dresses are so pretty. I would wear those to work.

The films weren’t deliberately terrifying, by the way. Have you ever seen old Russian fantasy films? Shudder.

Will we never run out of jokes about how old The Netherlands’ performers were?

We have to see these hosts again tomorrow night, don’t we? Oh, what a shame. But here we have the top five. Quick: stop Nick from grabbing the remote control this time!

FRANCE: As insanely dull as I remember. It is in French, but it’s still dull.
RUSSIA: As whingy as I remember it from last night. Maybe a little more angsty.
GERMANY: Did I say boppy yesterday? Did I add “slightly creepy”? And “unnecessarily retro”?
U.K.: Andrew Lloyd Webber? Kill me now. Please. But I hope we get more than zero points this time.
SPAIN: Typical vaguely disco Euro-pop.

And now we come to the results!

Wow! There’s more than one magic button? Kinky!

The results:
Azerbaijan! Well, I liked them. The androgynous dancers: we need more of them.
Croatia! Do you think it’s a coincidence that we saw a shot of them just before this result? They were a little waily and dull, for me.
UKRAINE! Oh, thank goodness. The naked centurions will be back.
Lithuania! The twat in the hat? Really? Wow. That was so, so dull.
Albania! Pygmy vampires? What is happening here?!
MOLDOVA! Well, we wanted them.
Denmark! Really? The boy band? I’m losing faith in your voting, Europe! Where’s Greece? And Norway?
Estonia! Dull, dull, dull. Greece now! And Norway! Okay, Europe?
NORWAY! Good. I liked this boy. He was sweet and peppy.
GREECE! Had to be. But I believe Julia when she says it’s not as random as they say it is.

Well, I’m quite happy with that. I didn’t want to watch The Netherlands again. Or (shudder) Hungary. Or Slovakia: so painful.

And that’s the live-blogging of Eurovision for 2009—at least as far as the Circulating Library is concerned. But we’ll do the semi-finals again next year. Of course we will! Where else will we find anthropomorphised bears and magic horses and such short, shirt skirts?

‘Til 2010, Eurovision!

Live-blogging Eurovision: Semi-Final 1, 2009

Posted 15 May 2009 in by Catriona

This live-blogging is brought to you by the fact that I think I might be a little in love with my new tracksuit pants. It doesn’t count as infidelity when the co-respondent (so to speak) is a item of clothing, right?

So here we are for the first of the two semi-finals for this year’s Eurovision. Since Russia won last year, I’m hoping we have a reprise of the completely random ice-skater from last year’s competition.

I would like that.

I’m easily pleased.

Aw, vale Bud Tingwell. I watched some “Charlie the Wonderdog” in your memory this afternoon.

As a warning, though, this is a two-hour broadcast—I can’t guarantee there won’t be typing errors before 9:30 p.m. I’ll catch what I can as I type, but there will almost certainly be errors. I only hope they’re humorous ones. Like “agast.”

Of course, now we’re stuck in the pre-programme limbo of advertisements. The problem with that is that I become bored, and then I begin blogging about anything that comes into my mind. I’ll be good.

Or I’ll sit on my hands until the broadcast starts.

Nick will be moderating the blog tonight, so please feel free to comment on the entrants—as here we go! Eurovision for 2009!

We have Julia Zemiro as an SBS host again, this year. I don’t mind her, but I’m also not an enormous fan. She didn’t irritate me last year, though.

You know what will irritate me, though? If we don’t have Russian travelogues during the broadcast. We didn’t have them last year, and it irritated me.

Wait, planets? And beasts and plants speaking to each other? And people learning how to fly? Well, girls: do you think that the flower knows how to fly? Really, do you think it does?

A magic horse? Wait, what? What is happening here? Still, at least the magic horse tells the girls that they should probably be talking to a bird. Do you think the girls should have figured that out, instead of talking to plants?

Now there’s a dragon?! I have no idea what’s happening now. But there are fireworks, so I don’t particularly care.

I’d love to know what this has to do with Eurovision, though.

I do like that firebird.

Okay, now the host has mentioned “the magic world of Russian fairy tales,” I feel a little guilty for making fun of them. No, wait: a song that gives people wings? Are we speaking literally or metaphorically? Why am I worrying about this?

Ack! Are those children dressed as brides?

Oh, no: awkward banter about whether the (fictional, exclusively on a video screen) dragon might or might not have eaten one of the co-hosts. Followed by an incredibly awkward moment where the female co-host froze while reading the cards. And then a James Bond joke.

Welcome to Eurovision!

MONTENEGRO: “Just Get Out Of My Life”
Well, he’s half-naked already! Nope, he’s put his shirt back on.
Her dress is terribly cute—I imagine the people in the front row are appreciative, too.
What are the lyrics here? “Just get out of my head”? Or “just get out of my bed”? And was that really “Get out of my cyst”? It can’t have been, surely?
Well, he’s taken his jacket off.
I’d blog about the dancing, but I can’t stop laughing. Come back, man in the white trousers!
I love it! I have no idea what the song is about, or even what the singer’s doing, but that man has made my day.
I hope they get through.

CZECH REPUBLIC: “Aven Romale.”
Super Gypsy? Seriously? Is he wearing a cape?
Oh my god, he is! He’s wearing a cape!
And flares!
The woman with the violin and the stripey tights is giving me Bosnia and Herzegovina 2008 flashbacks. Not good ones.
This singer’s moustache is rather fabulous, though.
I have to say, though, cape or no cape, I have a feeling there’s something interesting behind this song, whereas I’ve forgotten the last song already.
But the cape! The cape!
I’m loving the Pop Art backdrop to the performance, too.

BELGIUM: “Copycat.”
Let’s see what’s happening here. The singer has had a cold, they say? Well, that’s promising.
Oh, what?
John, I thought you were kidding when you said he was an Elvis impersonator?!
Gold lame jacket, greased-back hair, “Copycat” spelt out in lights—and a double bass, for no apparent reason.
I love the red bob on one of the back-up singers, though. I have a green wig cut like that.
Unfortunately, I can’t make out anything this man’s singing. He’s being completely drowned out by the music and back-up singers—and his own appalling diction. That might be the cold, or it might just be a poorly mixed performance. I don’t know.
Funky lights, though.

Congrats on the staging, Russia! It’s been pretty impressive, so far.

BELARUS: “Eyes That Never Lie.”
Oooh, eerie green lighting.
What the hell is happening now?
Okay, so we’ve opened to someone standing on a table with a white sheet over them and a wind machine aimed directly at them.
No, I’m not making this up.
It’s a coffee table, if that helps.
And the lead singer’s wearing a white leather suit.
No shirt, obviously. This is Eurovision.
I’m not actually minding this song, though. Even with the strange sheet-draped man—but, um, camera? You need to stop twirling around like that, okay? I’m going to be quite ill if you don’t.
Now they’re projecting flames onto the sheet!

SWEDEN: “La Voix.”
Sweden’s are combining pop with opera? Kill me now!
I swear I’ve heard this song before. John, have you already made a joke about Andrew Lloyd Webber writing this entry?
NICK: Wow. She’s incredibly white.
But, as he points out, she has unearthly black eyes.
Oh.My.Goodness. She’s a Stephenie Meyer-style vampire! And she’s hasn’t eaten in days! Run, back-up dancers! Run for your lives!
The song? No idea.
She does obviously have a well-trained voice. But the song itself is just slipping off my eardrums.
Ack! Except for that note.
And what are the back-up dancers wearing now?
Oh, I see: distract the vampire with shiny things. Good thinking, back-up dancers.
Ow, my eardrums!

ARMENIA: “Jan Jan.”
Hmm, a song and dance that has taken the world by storm? We’ll see about that.
Ah, our first dry ice of the evening! That’s a vote for Armenia.
Actually, I’m loving the costumes—as is at least one of the cameramen. They’re quite fascinating, especially as we swing straight into a terribly MTV-pop chorus.
I’m not seeing much evidence of a dance that could take the world by storm, though.
NICK: Ah, exotic priestesses with garter belts.
Sadly, the costumes are the only part of this that’s interesting me.

Aw, they’re interviewing the white-leather-suited chap from Belarus, and he’s singing for them. That’s rather sweet. And a little painful, on that last note.

I’m thinking that Belarus are my current favourite. That’s out of six countries, mind—so take it as you will.

ANDORRA: “Get A Life/La Teva Decisio.”
Didn’t the Andorran singer last year wear a breastplate? I seem to remember that.
NICK (singing): Because I’m profoundly in love with Andorra!
And, once again, there are people fervently offering up thanks for their luck in obtaining front-row tickets. That is one seriously short skirt.
Actually, let’s not mince words—that’s a belt.
She did just sing “I know I’m right“? It sounded like “I know I’m white“, but that can’t be right, surely?
Ah, no—it was clearer on the second chorus.
Okay—now I’ve stopped to listen to the lyrics, I just have some advice for anyone considering a romantic relationship with the protagonist of this song—RUN!
When did stalking become romantic?

SWITZERLAND: “The Highest Heights.”
Ah, Switzerland. Fill in the Swiss stereotype here.
Hey, it’s U2!
I didn’t know they were in Eurovision! And they seem to have lost at least one of their effects pedals.
NICK: I think they might be a little too good for this.
And, ten seconds later . . .
NICK: They look like the guest band on an Idol live-eviction show.
This is insanely forgettable. I expect it to reach number 25 on next year’s Hottest 100.
Oooh, nice mirrory backdrops, but this song is doing absolutely nothing for me. In fact, I think it may be borrowing a little nothing on advance from the next act—so if I’m unusually excited about Turkey, that’s why.

TURKEY: “Dum Tek Tek.”
There’s much shouting for this act.
And fireworks!
And bellydancers!
No, wait—the bellydancers are wearing knickerbockers. Knickerbockers that are slit to the thigh. That is the most awesome thing I have seen all night.
NICK: Oh, they looked better in silhouette! How disappointing.
Still, the advantage is that you don’t need to be in the front row for this one.
And the dancers are wearing gold cuffs around their ankles!
There’s an onomatopoeic element to this song that I rather like—and now we have a male belly dancer in a rather gorgeous moss-green silk skirt that I covet.
I wouldn’t mind them getting through.

ISRAEL: “There Must Be Another Way.”
Apparently, this is controversial. In Hebrew, Arabic, and English—an anthem for peace.
Me being me, this is reminding me mostly of the final line of the Doctor Who episode “Warriors of the Deep.”
Yes, I know I’m evil. And shallow.
I’d like to talk about the song (and it does have a nice rhythm, and makes the most of the switching between the languages) but I’m distracted by the pseudo-bondage outfits.
It’s all very “extras from Farscape.”
And now there’s random drumming. For about ten seconds. And it looks terribly fake. Which it is, of course—but that’s not the point.
Eurovision shouldn’t look fake.
No, wait: I’ve drunk too much. Or not enough. I forget how it works for Eurovision.

I’m not enjoying these travelogues. They’re not telling me anything! And there aren’t any Moomins.

BULGARIA: “Illusion.”
Wait, has anyone taken their kit off yet? After the jacketless man in the first song.
NICK: Oh, man. He’s on his way to a RenFaire and he got lost! He’s singing for his mead!
Seriously—this is a terribly straightforward pop song, sung by a man in a home-woven blouse and a cape.
NICK (singing): Gimme gimme gimme a joust after midnight!
And there are people on stilts.
If Bulgaria don’t go through tonight, I am so out of here.
Now one of the people on stilts is swinging the other one around by the stilts. I keep waiting for her to go flying off into the audience! Are those stilts glued to her?!
And the lime-green boots!
I love them.

These SBS commentators aren’t snarky enough. They’re boring me so much I’m just blocking them out now.

ICELAND: “It Is True.”
Wow, this girl looks familiar—who is she reminding me of?
This is insanely dull. I’m sorry, Iceland: I know you produce excellent detective fiction (but have you thought that, very soon, it’s going to be quite obvious who the murderer is? I mean, you could fit your entire population into one parlour scene) but this is crazy boring.
NICK: How do they breathe?
I think he means the dolphins, not the singers.
I’m sorry, Iceland, but you know how I feel about space dolphins.

I’m seriously digging on the stage set.

FYR MACEDONIA: “Neshto Shto Ke Osta.”
Oh, wow. It’s 80s’ poodle rock!
We don’t get enough of that in Eurovision.
One of them is even wearing a bandanna! And I mean around his neck! Not on his head! I haven’t seen anything like that since—well, since we went to see Spaceballs: The Musical at a local high school last night, but that’s beside the point.
Bog standard rock, this. Soft rock, too. Sorry, Macedonia, but it’s true.
Bring back last year’s Azerbaijan entry!
Oh, wow: synchronised overhead clapping.
Hmm, I might change my mind on this one for that alone.

Damn, that’s a lot of people watching! I had no idea.

ROMANIA: “The Balkan Girls.”
Another child prodigy, eh? The last one of those led us to a flying space dolphin, so let’s see . . .
I’m fairly sure that’s Holly Valance, actually.
And I think we have a winner for the night’s shortest skirt.
Now, this singer has a chair shaped like a tree and her back-up singers are seemingly dressed as nymphs and naiads.
So why is this song about clubbing?
For someone who debuted on the folk circuit when she was three, I was hoping for something a little more, you know, folky.
This is just MTV-pop. There’s been too much of that tonight.
And too few people taking their clothes off.

These SBS commentators are not doing it for me.

Terry! Terry! Terry!

FINLAND: “Lose Control.”
Oh, what?
Just, no.
Rapping? Backwards baseball cap? Well, there are teeny little dresses. And firedancers.
Okay, Finland: so far you’re halfway there.
I need the following: less rapping, more wind machines, and someone to take their clothes off.
And maybe some fireworks.
I’m a sucker for fireworks.
Wait, someone put an industrial bin on stage and then set fire to it? Wow, they have relaxed OH&S rules in Moscow. Apparently.

And we have an ad. break before the final three songs. And then the voting! I hope Finland don’t go through—I’ve forgotten all about them already.

Dear Melbourne,

“Discover how easy it is to lose yourself in Melbourne” is a remarkably stupid tagline for a tourism advertisement. You’re just going to have a bunch of semi-hysterical would-be tourists thinking, “But I’d never be able to find my hotel again! I’d be trapped! Trapped! Like that creepy vineyard advert. with the skipping butler.” Just a word of friendly advice.

Love, Me.

Ah! Czech Republic man in a cape again!

PORTUGAL: “Todas As Ruas Do Amor.”
So, the SBS commentators love this song, do they?
Let’s see about that.
I’m kind of liking this already, but not for a very good reason—I like it because it reminds me of a Bravia advert. that I always loved.
And here we go upbeat!
And a lovely, lovely set: it looks rather like Clarice Cliff pottery, but with sharper, more modern colours.
The costuming is gorgeous, too.
This reminds me rather of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s entry last year, but without the sequel, where I woke up in the middle of the night screaming, “The brides! The knitting! NO, NO NOT THE WASHING LINE!”
Yes, I like this. Very much. And I wish to own her shoes.

Russia? Whoever is staging Eurovision is a genius! How are you managing these displays? They are quite, quite stunning.

MALTA: “What If We.”
Hmm, Malta’s song last year was called “Vodka.” I’m disappointed already.
Um, SBS commentator? When you’re commentating for SBS, you might want to rethink statements such as “She’s due.” Or at least work on your diction.
Why, no: I haven’t mentioned the song yet. That’s because I fell into a brief coma.
No offense, Malta, but this is doing nothing for me.
And suddenly I feel like I’m watching a Disney movie.
And yet no one has taken their kit off. Or did they strip off while I was typing? I’d be very disappointed if that were the case.
Key change. But a very half-hearted key change.
No, I’m not putting my vote behind this one.

This better not be anything like last year’s performance.
“1950s’ Russian propaganda posters will come to mind, but enjoy it anyway.” I beg your pardon?
Oh, wow: this is like Eurovision’s version of The Cure’s “Lullaby.” The costuming is rather lovely. And, as with every single performance tonight, the stage sets are stunning.
Is it just me, or does it look as though sometime in the last year, a billionaire died and left his entire fortune to fund the staging and costuming of Eurovision? It seems so much shinier this year than last year. And I use “shinier” in both a strict denotative sense and a Firefly sense.
The song? I don’t know. I don’t hate it. But it seems as though the lead singer’s incredibly intense, slightly psychotic performance face is at odds with the rather jaunty (in a rather militaristic sense) song.
I wouldn’t mind it getting through, I suppose.

And now they’re pressing the “magic button” to allow Europe to vote.

Of course, we have a delayed telecast, don’t we? So haven’t all the decisions been made?

We’re having a flashback to the performances, now. I’m not recapping that, though. I need a breather before we head to the results.

We still have seven minutes before the voting closes, so there’s a little travelogue of some major Russian successes over the past few years. Frankly, I’m finding these SBS commentators rather patronising here.

But then the Russian presenters do an insanely sexist little skit about voting, and I forget it all.

And now we’re recapping all the performances again. Seriously, again? Can’t we just have the results of the voting? Oh, I see: not for another three minutes.


Sorry about that. I wasn’t going to comment on the recapping of the original recapping of the performances, but, well, it was a flying space dolphin. It took me by surprise. (Yes, the third time around. I’m easily surprised.)

So voting has closed for the first semi-final. And now we go for an ad. break. Seriously, SBS? Now? Why not ten minutes ago, when nothing was happening?

Ooh, I forgot: this is the television station that decided the best way to follow up on the Eurovision semi-finals was to show ABBA: The Movie. Again.

Of course, the longer we pause here, the more I’m remembering how much I’ve drunk over the last two hours.

Do we have the results yet? No, not quite. We have some Russian performers (and the same old James Bond joke all over again) first. I’d like to say who they are, but I couldn’t quite make it out. (Just quietly? The presenters? Not so great.)

Oooh, it’s an army choir! The Alexandrasov Red Army Choir and some other people whose names I missed because “Alexandrasov” is a difficult word to type. And I’ve probably spelt it wrong, too.

Some fabulous dancing, but there’s something wrong with the sound mixing, because the loudest sound by fair is the squeaking of the rubber-soled shoes against the floor. Ooh, but now we have some lovely Cossacks—beautiful, beautiful costuming. I do so like the national performance aspect of the Russian semi-finals.

Sword dancing! Fantastic. And the choir is singing all the way through—they’re lovely, really. I do like a male choir.

Wow! These drummers are fantastic! Sam, are you taking notes? They’re even playing each other’s drums! And I didn’t mention the hip-hop dancers and cheerleaders and flamenco dancers. (Or perhaps they were Romani?)

Oh, what? Do we really have to listen to t.A.T.u.? Even with the military drummers? Nick’s cranky, because the vocals are so heavily processed, and he thought that was against the rules for Eurovision. I pointed out that t.A.T.u. aren’t actually competing, but he didn’t seem convinced by that argument.

Now, the Big Five.

FRANCE: Dull. I passed out and hit my head on the coffe table.
RUSSIA: I missed half because of my fainting spell. The rest didn’t impress me. A bit whingy.
GERMANY: Boppy. But not terribly exciting.
U.K.: Oh, really not my cup of tea. I hope they get some points, though.

And I missed the last one, because Nick changed the channel. Don’t ask me why. I don’t think I’ve missed any of the results.

The results:

Turkey! Well, the knickerbockers didn’t appeal to me, but the song was rather cute.
Sweden! Ah, the vampire woman. Hmm. She’s also freakishly tall. I’m not so sure about that one.
Israel! No surprise there. It was . . . well, I’m not annoyed to see it go through.
Portugal! Now am I am pleased about that. Lovely little song, that was. And I hope it has the same set as tonight, because that was so pretty.
Malta! Malta? Really? Wow. I wasn’t the slightest bit impressed with Malta.
Finland! What on earth is happening here? Finland? With the firedancers in the bolero shrugs? Why, Europe? Why?
Bosnia and Herzegovina! I noticed, during the recaps, that the men in that were wearing pants, but the women weren’t.
Romania! The strange naiads. I thought during the recaps that the chorus included the line “Going to shag all night” but that can’t be right, surely?
Armenia! Really? The costumes were great, but the song becomes more boring every time I hear it.
And last place goes to Iceland! No. No! NO! The flying space dolphins!

But what about Belarus? Oh, and the chappie in the RenFaire gear? He didn’t make is through, did he? Who was that? I forget so quickly.

Well, that’s semi-final one. I’m off, because my back is killing me. But be here tomorrow for semi-final two, when Nick will only change the channel during a key moment on pain of death.

This Duck Says Sorry

Posted 14 May 2009 in by Catriona

No proper update today, because I have a pile of marking as big as my face. (And, yes: I know that simile makes no sense. But it’s evocative, no?)

But as well as being an apology duck, this is a promise duck.

Starting tomorrow night, we have Circulating Library’s Second Annual Live-Blogging of SBS’s Eurovision Semi-Finals Coverage (to be continued on Saturday night).

(If you didn’t join me last year, semi-final one is here and semi-final two is here.)

And if you fancy a sneak peek at the semi-finalists this year, head over to The Memes of Production here, here, and here.

I can’t promise that this year will bring us the semi-paralysed centaur and mysterious giants of yore, but come along for the ride anyway!

Some Films and Television Programmes That Fill Me With A Deep Sense Of Joy: A Possibly Ongoing Series

Posted 8 April 2009 in by Catriona

I’ve already mentioned how much I love watching old episodes of The Goodies, when they haven’t aged too badly (and make no mistake: some have). And it will come as no surprise that every episode of the original series of Doctor Who is dear to my heart. Yes, even “Silver Nemesis” and “Timelash.”

Here are some more programmes (and one film) that delight my heart.

In no particular order of importance:

1. Press Gang

Oh, Steven Moffat. My obsession with his writing started here—and this is one show that is just as enjoyable now as it was the first time I watched it. I’ll admit, the characterisation of Linda looks more ’80s now than I thought it did at the time (so high-powered business woman), but that doesn’t mean I love her any less. Or love Spike any less. Or love Linda and Spike as a couple any less.

In fact, any girlish romanticism in my nature (and there may be some, appearances notwithstanding) can be traced back to my teen obsession with this relationship.

On a slightly related note, I happily watched Doom (the movie, not the video game) once I realised it had half of Dexter Fletcher in it. (The top half, if anyone’s wondering.)

2. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

BILL AND TED: Iron Maiden? Excellent!

Enough said, really—though the fact that I didn’t even need to look that quotation up on the Internet probably speaks for itself.

3. Monkey

Seriously, this has to be one of the most surreal programmes ever to air. And that’s leaving out the blatant transvestism, which wasn’t limited to Tripitaka. We just watched an episode in which Monkey questioned the overall wisdom of Buddha: “He can’t even make up his mind whether he’s a bloke or not!”

Then there was that episode with the giant mushrooms—which I think were linked to some sort of Fungus King who, knowing Monkey, was called King Fungus. Or the episode with the unicorn who claimed that unicorns could rule the world “if we weren’t so nice—and mythical.” And the episode where Sandy and Pigsy became pregnant. Or the one with the teenage goblin who could cloud-fly, but his cloud had training wheels. Or my absolute favourite: the episode where Tripitaka believed that his other disciples had induced him to devour Pigsy, and he became possessed by Pigsy’s spirit and went to a disco where he danced to the Monkey theme song.

Sheer brilliance.

But there was also the aspect that never occurred to me as a child: for the late ’70s and early ’80s, this was hands down the least Anglo show ever to be a hit on Australian or British television. It may still be, for all I know. Voice acting aside, the actors are all Japanese, and the mise en scene (the costuming, the scenery, the mythology) is Chinese. Sesame Street always had African-American and Hispanic cast members (I don’t remember Asian cast members in my time), and there were other shows that played with issues of racial tolerance—the oddest example I can think of is Fraggle Rock, with its different races living in sometimes uneasy coexistence. But they were never anything like Monkey. It was fantastic for a child growing up in an intensely white town.



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