…But I’m a 90s Bitch

About a month ago, I was at the gym shaking my butt, shimmying and body rolling in my Zumba class (as I do). Between songs, I was having a breathless conversation with another Zumba friend who I hadn’t seen at class in a while.

“How was your birthday?” she asked as we gulped down water.

“It was great,” I said, dabbing my sweaty neck and forehead. It was an exercise in futility - I was just going to continue sweating until my shirt darkened to a different shade of blue.

“How old did you turn?”

“Twenty seven,” I responded. “I’m an old man now,” I added jokingly.

“WHAT? You’re TWENTY SEVEN??” she exclaimed. “You look really good!”

Before I had time to say anything, the next song started again and I willed my old bones to fall in to rhythm and dance.

It wasn’t until later that I thought about what she had said. I look good for twenty seven? I mean, thanks? But, but, my brain screamed at her as I replayed our interaction again in my mind, twenty seven isn’t old!

I know that she was just being nice. She’s only twenty herself, after all. The chasm of difference between how I was when I was twenty and who I am now is staggering. But this encounter brought to light a fact that a lot of people don’t like to really think about: I’m getting old(er).

It’s not that big of a deal, really. Not the kind of life-altering epiphany that will cause me to run out and buy a motorcycle or a sports car or a boat. Lately, though, I’ve been noticing things that really emphasize the fact that myself and my peers are becoming those people. 

The other day, I was in the supermarket with my mother and ‘Better Off Alone’ by Alice Deejay came on over the loudspeakers.

“Oh mannn!” I exclaimed as I began dancing behind the cart I was pushing. “This is a CHOON!”

My mom laughed and said, “Someone told me once: ‘You know you’re getting old when you think the supermarket plays good music’.”

I waved her off and continued playing the iconic synth progression on the handle of the cart – daa daa daa daa daadaa daa DAA DAA daa daa.

But it isn’t just the supermarkets that are playing good songs, it seems. As I continue to go out to bars and other places where people (roughly) my age gather, I notice this trend of playing 90s jams. Last night at bar trivia, we were serenaded by one-hit wonders and other awesome tunes from the 90s. Songs that evoke fond memories.

Speaking of music that speaks to fond memories I have, I’ve recently fallen in love with the very talented Canadian singer-songwriter Kiesza – specifically her song Giant in my Heart. The song has SO MUCH GOODNESS in it and transports me through a nostalgic tunnel of love. I think that, although her 90s-esque sound can be seen as a gimmick, it’s well-done enough to where it works: evoking a warm, tingly feeling in my heart.

What doesn’t leave a tingly feeling in my heart, though, are the tactics that advertisers seem to be using these days. They are clearly catering to my age group by using the powers of nostalgia. This can be seen in the entertainment industry, especially.

In the following years, we are going to see reboots of SO MANY 90s classics: a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, a live-action JEM and the Holograms movie, a new Jurassic Park movie and maybe even a Captain Planet movie.

They might even reboot…Reboot!

Old TV shows are also being rebooted like nobody’s business: Netflix is bringing back The Magic Schoolbus. LeVar Burton succesfully completed a record-setting kickstarter to bring Reading Rainbow back. The Powerpuff Girls will be back on Cartoon Network in 2016. And the Disney Channel recently premiered Girl Meets World – a spin-off that takes place fourteen years after Boy Meets World ended.

All of these things seem to happening around the same time and I don’t think it’s coincidental. Call me crazy…but it’s almost as if companies have figured out that nostalgia is a quick way to cash in on something without actually making an effort to produce a quality product!

I get it, my generation is growing up. We’re still at that age where we’re young enough to remember how great certain things from our childhood were and get excited about them. But it seems like the collective excitement and novelty of something from our heyday takes precedent over whether or not a shiny new reboot is actually any good.

My good friend wrote a fantastic piece on the Sailor Moon reboot and nostalgia that I highly recommend! In it, she discusses how nostalgia can cloud our vision and hinder our critical perception of something. “Because nostalgia inflates the inherent value of something within our mind, it also inflates its importance to us.” she writes. “Our loving of something like Sailor Moon, something that we discovered in the heady and idealized days of our youth, ties it intrinsically to our very selves.”

It seems that Girl Meets World isn’t living up to the expectations of fans of the original series. As Kevin Fallon writes in his post Boy Meets World Fans Will Hate Girl Meets World. “…the series Disney Channel made isn’t for [us]. Instead, and logically, it’s for the Disney Channel audience, a group as young as we were when we first watched Boy Meets World and who may not even have any idea what Boy Meets World is.”

So what are we to do? This trend of catering to a new generation of adults is most likely only going to continue. It’s just like the generation before us being marketed things that were flashbacks from the 1980s.

By not giving in to the obvious ploy of appealing to us in that way, we can better critically receive new shows, TV etc. If ad agencies and studios see that endlessly remaking things that appeal to our nostalgic sides isn’t working, maybe they’ll focus on creating quality original content.

I think we can all agree that it’s something we need more of.

What do you think? Is this something you’ve noticed as well? Do you think this kind of thing just happens naturally as different generations grow up? Is it smart marketing or just lazy? Are you excited about any of the planned reboots? Upset about any?

Rain and Rainbows, 雨と虹

 

ビショビショだね〜

ビショビショだね〜

 

As a child, June always began with a rush of excitement. School was on the brink of letting out for the summer, my birthday was right around the corner and the air seemed to buzz with the promise of adventures waiting to be had.

In Japan, however, I learned to my dismay that school was still in session during my birthday month. Schools in Kumamoto did not get out for summer vacation until mid-July or so. And even then, their summer break was only a couple of weeks long.

I remember the chorus of shocked “EHHHHHHH”s and resentful “IIIII NAAAAA”s when I told my sixth graders that Americans get three months off for summer vacation. The homeroom teacher threw me a scared look and then cast a wary glance at their class; I’m sure she feared an uprising of Japanese children who demanded a longer break from school.

“WHAT DO YOU DO FOR THREE MONTHS?!” they screamed incredulously.

“…forget EVERYTHING we learned.” I said, only half-joking.

The month of June, it seemed, was incredibly different in Japan. There, the air grew heavy with moisture and dark clouds covered the entire country. At night, the rice field directly behind my apartment came to life with hundreds of frogs croaking loudly from within.

Days later, as if responding to the amphibian rain orgy, the skies would open and torrential rain would begin to fall in sheets for days at a time. It was so unrelenting that the rice field would routinely flood and I would often find myself opening the curtain to lakefront property.

IMG_2835

Without fail, the calming pitter patter on my window would put me back to sleep so I always had to set at least four different alarms to make sure I got up. When I eventually rose, whatever motivation I had had for the day would sink down through my chest and disappear somewhere into my body.

I would make my way downstairs slowly and see my living room and kitchen bathed in gloomy gray light instead of brilliant sunshine. The intense humidity gave my walls a sheen of moisture, causing the posters to crinkle sadly. Sometimes they would simply give up and detach themselves from the rubber cement that held them in place.

I had to learn to consistently check for and clean up everyone’s least favorite guest during rainy season: mold. It sprouted everywhere, looking as if a tree sprite had run gaily through my apartment. During my first miserable rainy season, I was horrified to find it all over my floor. It stretched from my bathroom to the front door in a massive carpet. I hadn’t known that it was mold. I hadn’t even noticed that my floor had darkened.

Or maybe I had noticed and just didn’t care. Contrary to the feelings of excitement and opportunity that June gave me in the US, Rainy Season brought with it an overwhelming sense of melancholy and listlessness. I wanted to do things, but the onslaught of never-ending rain dampened any kind of desire I had.

Whenever I did venture outside my apartment, it was only to go to and from work. Wrapped in a poncho and rain pants that did little to keep me dry, I would hop on my wet bike seat, and ride to school – ignoring the rain that stung my eyes and blurred my vision.

This was my face most mornings.

This was my face most mornings.

When I finally arrived at school, I threw my soaked shoes in my cubby and padded barefoot through the hallway to the staffroom, leaving a wet trail behind me like a slug.

“Ohayou gozaimaaasu”, I would say as I entered. I always tried to be as cheerful as I could, but some days were harder than others. Especially during rainy season.

“Ohhh Ian Sensei,” a teacher would call out to me. “今日、自転車?” they would make an exaggerated bicycling motion and rock back and forth as they looked at me.

“Yes,” I would answer them in Japanese. “Today, bicycle. Every day, bicycle.”

After the fourth or fifth time of explaining to all of my teachers that my bicycle was indeed my only means of transportation, it got harder and harder to be patient with them.

“Ohhh,” they would say some mornings. “ビショビショだね〜”. You’re soaked, aren’t you?

“ちょっとだけ!” I would respond, my hair hanging in front of my face in wet spirals. Only a little! My sarcasm never translated well and they would always giggle innocently as I resisted the urge to wring my hair out over their desks.

ビショビショだね〜

ビショビショだね〜

Aside from the weather, another huge difference between June in Japan and June in the USA is the celebration of Pride.

Before I went to Japan, I never really saw Pride as something worth my time. I figured that it was just a bunch of drunk white people dancing around and sporting garish, risqué clothing while riding giant inflatable penises down the street.

I went to a Pride once when I was 17 or 18 in Las Vegas. I remember being underwhelmed and not really ‘getting’ it. Since then, I’ve never really had much of a desire to participate in or go to another one. Even though San Antonio Pride is a big deal, and even supported by the mayor, I’ve still never made the trek downtown for it.

This year will be different, though.

In Japan, the topic of being gay rarely came up – if ever. I would constantly be asked questions like ‘Do you have a girlfriend?’ and ‘What’s your type?’ and ‘Do you like Japanese girls?’.

I would answer these questions vaguely – not giving any more information than I needed to. No, I definitely did not have a girlfriend. My type? Nice people (never stating a gender). Yes, I liked Japanese girls, they were very nice. I had several girl friends who were Japanese.

The longer this went on, the more frustrated I became. Coming from a country where I was out to everyone from my family to my coworkers and classmates, it was torture to dance around these issues and be so vague. I wanted nothing more than to answer honestly: that I didn’t have a girlfriend, but rather a boyfriend who was Japanese. I wanted to tell them how we’d been dating for two years and how he was great and how being gay is nothing like the ridiculous caricatures that are paraded across Japanese television.

But I didn’t. Instead, I kept my mouth shut, rolled my eyes and bit my tongue harder and harder as I answered the same questions again and again.

It was tough for me because as much as I wanted to be the cool openly gay American ALT in my city, I knew I wasn’t prepared to take on the responsibility of such an announcement. There were too many uncertainties – how would the students react? How would the teachers? My board of education? If a problem were to arise, CLAIR (the organization behind the JET Program) would surely have my back…but was that really something I wanted to dive in to?

The questions and constant assumptions of my heterosexuality were annoying and difficult to deal with some days, but it was the price of choosing what I did. I’ve known openly gay ALTs (GAyLTs, as I lovingly say) who have had great experiences and were completely accepted by everyone. For me, the risk of outing myself and possibly changing my entire experience in Japan was just not worth it.

Now that I’m back in the US, though, I’m reminded this June about what it means to be LGBT. With marriage bans being struck down left and right, the president officially declaring June as LGBT Pride Month and emerging conversations and education about trans* issues, it’s an exciting time to be in the United States.

 

Things that I had taken for granted before living in Japan are once again readily available to me: Being able to go to gay bars without having to go to a different city. Being around other openly LGBT people. The ability to bring up and discuss things like LGBT rights in public without feeling like I’m committing an enormous faux pas.

And, of course, the fact that it’s SUNNY.

As Pride events pop up throughout the city and I meet other people who share a common thread with me, I find myself feeling very different about Pride than I have in years past. I feel an appreciation for my local community, proud of how far the LGBT rights movement has come and optimism for its future. This must be what Pride feels like. And I’ve missed it.

While I miss Japan and the life that I had there every day, I am grateful to be back in the USA (for the time being) to experience this. This is my first June since coming back and I’m so happy to be experiencing more Rainbow than Rain.

Schadenfreude: D’y’all wanna go again?!

When I first moved to San Antonio, my little brother Vaughn and I went to Six Flags Fiesta Texas. We were super excited to have an amusement park in such close proximity to us.

The morning sun beat down on us as we entered the gates to the park. My hair was not yet used to the wet heat of Texas and responded by turning itself into a massive ball of frizz. I was already sweating and my orange shirt was starting to cling to my body.

Within minutes of entering the park, we were stopped by an employee with a camera and asked to pose. I did so happily while Vaughn stared awkwardly at the cameraman from behind his Harry Potter glasses. To this day, I still receive emails from Six Flags trying to sell me this picture. One day, I’m going to buy it and send it to my little brother – it’s possibly one of the worst photos of us ever taken.

We rode all kinds of rides, bought overpriced food and zoinked ghosts on the cute Scooby Doo ride. All in all, it was a great day.

One of the strongest memories of it, though, was when we were standing in line for a ride. It was in the boardwalk area of the park; the wood released the heat of the sun in a massive, smothering wave.

After some research, I’ve discovered that it’s called ‘The Frisbee’.  It looked super intimidating. It was a large circular disc that had seats lining the outside. Sticking out of the middle of the ride was a large pole of sorts that all of the seats were facing. It looked a bit like an old toy top.

When the ride started, the outer rim would begin to spin. After a minute or so, the pole would move the entire thing back and forth and swing it like a pendulum. All the while, the seats would continue spinning.

The Frisbee

My brother and I watched with a mixture of excitement and hesitance. This ride looked fun…but also pretty intense. Judging from the laughs and screams of the other riders, it couldn’t have been THAT bad.

As the ride came spinning to a stop, we were able to see the faces of the riders more clearly. Most of them were laughing and smiling, some looked a bit sick. Immediately, my eyes were drawn to one woman in particular.

Her brown hair was styled in a way that made me think she was a mother with two kids in junior high that were on the soccer team. She wore sunglasses over her eyes and a sunburn on her face. I imagined that she smelled like sunscreen mixed with a bit of BO and that she carried a massive floral tote bag. She seemed to be the type of mom who could produce anything from antiseptic spray to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to frozen water bottles wrapped in paper towels.

I watched the riders as the spinning slowed – laughing face, laughing face, laughing face, Sickly Woman, laughing face, laughing face, laughing face, Sickly Woman. Eventually, it came to a stop and I could see her in plain sight.

Her body was slumped in the seat and she was shaking her head back and forth. She looked as if she had seen better days.

Suddenly, I heard an excited female voice ring out through the speaker. It was the ride attendant.

“D’y’all wanna go agaiiiiiin?”

A cheer rose up from the riders. Laughter and whooping from all sides. All sides except one.

“Wha? What? No! No!” I saw the woman’s mouth form words as she slowly realized what was going on.

“I saidddddd,” the ride attendant said, louder and more excited this time.

“D’y’all wanna go agaiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnn?!?!”

Again, cheers and laughter sounded from the pit of seats below her.

“Noooo!!!” the woman was yelling now. She waved her arms clumsily, impeded by the bright yellow harness. Her clunky jewelry danced up and down her wrists and sparkled in the sun. I watched her sunburnt face turn a darker shade of red as she used all her strength to project her clear disapproval at this turn of events. “NO NO NO!”

“Alriiiight!” the ride attendant squealed. “Let’s go again!!!!”

The sounds of pistons and gears clicking in to place filled the air as the circular row of seats lurched into motion and began to spin slowly.

My eyes were locked on the protesting woman. Even through sunglasses, I could see her face morph in to one of horror and defeat. Over the din of the ride and the crowd cheering and laughing, I could just barely make out what she was saying.

“NOOOO” she was screaming as she spun out of my vision.

I saw her again on her way back around: “-OOOOOOO”.

On the third trek, I saw that she was still raging:  “AHHHH! GOD DAMMIT NOOO”

and so she went again…

I eventually lost sight of her as the rotating disc picked up speed began to rock back and forth. My brother and I devolved into laughter at what we had witnessed. It was schadenfreude at its best: There was nothing good about being trapped on a ride that you had no desire to ride again…but watching it happen to this poor woman was just so funny.

After a short time, the ride slowed once again and we watched to see how the woman had fared. I caught sight of her and saw that she was slumped even more in her seat and looked absolutely miserable.

When the gates opened for us, my brother and I rushed forward to experience the ride for ourselves. As our harnesses locked in place, I looked out and saw that the sunburnt woman had apparently composed herself enough and was now yelling at the ride attendant. She clutched her huge tote bag angrily with one hand as she waved her other finger in the girl’s face.

Perhaps the attendant deserved it, perhaps she didn’t. After my brother and I got off the ride, we both felt like were going to throw up. I can’t imagine having ridden on it twice.

Reflecting on it now, I think that this could be a nice analogy for life. Sometimes you’re stuck somewhere and, although you desperately want to get off, you find that you don’t really have much control over the situation. Even though it makes you feel sick or less-than-pleasant, you don’t have much of a choice other than to just go around again. During or after, you can yell at the ride operator or take it out on other people, but it won’t really do much good.

The most important thing is how you handle it. If anything, you’ll have a funny story to tell at the end of it all.

And thus ends this babbling, introspective story. Thanks for reading!

Tackling the JET Program (Part 7): Placements!

 

Hey new JETs, it’s that time of year again! After what feels like months of agonizing silence, you’ve finally gotten your placement!

I love this time because the internet explodes with curiosity, excitement and uncertainty. New friendships are formed as leaving JETs get in contact with their successors and vice-versa. The staying JET community is flooded with excited gossip about who’s coming next, where they’re from and what they look like (Yes, I’m serious. I dare anyone to argue with me about this).

This is a super exciting time as it means that you’re one step closer to moving to Japan! Having an assigned prefecture/city/town/island makes it all the more real. Ahhh!

Here are some tips that I found helped me when I first got my placement in the wonderful Kumamoto prefecture.

 

 

  •  Reserve your judgmenet about how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ your placement is

When I googled Yatsushiro City, the only thing that came up was the depressingly barren Wikipedia page. I actually don’t think it’s changed at all since I last checked it three years ago. I learned about a giant pommelo fruit (banpeiyu) that is grown there, a festival in November…and the main shopping area that is ‘in decline’.

To be honest, I was a bit bummed. Where was this strange place that I was going to? All my other friends who had been accepted to JET were rejoicing in their placements that were only a couple of hours from Tokyo or Osaka. I felt as if I had kind of been exiled to Kyushu – far away from my friends and the big cities that I associated with being ‘REAL JAPAN’.

When I actually arrived in my city, however, I found it to be so much more than I ever expected. There were two giant malls, a gorgeous mountain range to the east and a port to the west. There were ample hiking opportunities, I was super close to a train station and they were actually building a shinkansen (bullet train) stop that was to be completed within the next year.

My point is: don’t put full faith in whatever you happen to scrape together about your placement on the internet. There’s really no way to know how much you’re going to like or hate it until you are actually there. Don’t be discouraged! It’s far too early!! 

 

  • Don’t compare yourself to other JETs and their placements.

I touched on this briefly in the last bullet point, but it’s important. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Especially those who think they know all about their placement. I had people at Tokyo Orientation practically bragging to me about being placed in X Y Z prefecture and how they were going to be so close to A B C and how they were going to do D E F every weekend.

Coming to Japan is exciting, it really is. I think that some people get so caught up in the excitement of it, though, that they start to fantasize they’re already living the life they’re dreaming about. It might sound great to be located only three hours from Tokyo. The reality, though, might be having to drive/take a bus 50 minutes through the mountains to get to the nearest train station in order to hop one of two daily trains that head that direction. Not quite as glamorous as it sounds.

If you compare yourself to other new JETs who are bragging about their placements before even getting there, you might start to feel unnecessarily bad about your own awesome placement. Pay them no mind. Just nod politely, maybe give them the ‘wow, cool!’ that they so desire…and then forget about it.

 

  • Start connecting with people ASAP!

I am a very social person. As such, I immediately began to scour Facebook and other social media when I received my placement. I discovered the AJET page for Kumamoto, joined it and announced myself. I was met with an incredibly warm welcome and instantly found myself put in contact with other JETs in my city or nearby. I then got to ask them all of my noob questions and, in the process, became even more excited about going.

I found in my time in Japan that, as a whole, the JET community is amazingly supportive and welcoming. Take advantage of this social network. In my experience, JETs in your prefecture are just as excited to meet you as you are them. Trust me :-)

 

  • Reevaluate your expectations.

Surely, if you’re moving to Japan, you’re prepared for things to be different. But knowing your placement can solidify things you had been wondering about. Maybe you’re going to have to get a car and you didn’t think you would need one. Maybe you’re going to be a high school ALT and you really really wanted junior high/elementary. Maybe you’re going to be the only person in a village of 3,000.

I think that, applying to JET, many of us have expectations about what it could be like. When you get your placement, however, these expectations could shift slightly or be totally obliterated. If you were planning on being super close to Hiroshima because you studied there once…only to be found out that you were placed in Northern Hokkaido, you might have to reevaluate your expectations.

Like I said before, don’t get discouraged because things turned out different than you had expected/wanted. It’s important to keep an open mind and roll with the punches. Not only is it required almost every day as a JET, it’s quite possible that you will grow to love your placement more than you ever thought you could.

 

And that’s about all the advice I can think of at the moment! As I said, this is an exciting time and it’s a step closer to the reality of moving to Japan! Enjoy the time you have left while you prepare for your adventure!

If you’re a JET, where are you headed? If there’s anything else that I could maybe help with, feel free to leave a comment! And, if you’re headed to Kumamoto, congratulations!! :D 

An American’s picks for the Eurovision 2014 Final

Okay, Europe, this is it! Tomorrow is the night countless Eurovision fans from all over the world have been waiting for – The Grand Final. 

 I will be tuning in with two friends in the afternoon and we will be watching in glee as the finalists take the stage and sing, dance and whistle their hearts out to win the coveted douze points

 I must say that I was shocked that Israel didn’t qualify for the final. I was then enraged to find that Belarus out of all the acts made it through. Seriously, one of the WORST SONGS (in my opinion) made it through while the amazing Mei Finegold sashayed away. Europe, what happened? I was also surprised that San Marino and Slovenia both qualified. I had written them both off completely. 

 That’s what makes Eurovision exciting, though, isn’t it? The curveballs, surprises and ‘WTF’ moments. As an American, I am largely free from the mess of political hullabaloo that comes with a Eurovision Song Contest. Sure, I know that the Balkans all vote for one another, as do the Scandinavian countries. Countries like Spain, Portugal, Greece and Cyrpus always give each other 12 points and all the ex-Yugoslav nations give beaucoup points to Russia. I get all that. 

 But because I’m all the way across the pond, I don’t pay too much attention to the gossip and the bookies’ picks. I find it makes for a much more enjoyable experience :) 

 Anyway, here are MY Top Favorites for the Final tomorrow!


 

 (In Alphabetical order)

Armenia

Austria

Greece

Hungary

Italy

Malta

Montenegro

Poland

Switzerland

The Netherlands


Now, while I would love to be right about them all, I know that I most likely won’t be. I think that Sweden is a pretty strong contender as well as Iceland. I also have a sneaking suspicion that Slovenia will do better than anyone thinks it will. I hope I’m wrong though. 

 Ultimately, I think that either Austria or Armenia will will tomorrow night. Other possibilities are Greece, Hungary, Switzerland or The Netherlands. 

 Ahhh I just don’t know! I’ll be watching tomorrow with excitement! Thanks for putting up with my Eurovision babble! 

 

Eurovision Flops 2014

Every year, I fanboy about Eurovision to the point that my friends and family begin to avoid me. I can see it in their faces when I start to bring it up, ‘Oh jeezus,’ their eyes practically scream. ‘Here he goes talking about that godforsaken song contest in Europe again…’.

It is true, though. When Eurovision season hits, I’m oddly obsessed with it. I always get the album and jam out to it for a solid month during and after the contest. I think that, cheese and glitter aside, Eurovision produces some great music that crosses language and geographical barriers.

But…sometimes it doesn’t. Every year there are a handful of songs that I just can’t get in to. Some of them are just generally forgettable, but sometimes they are just so BAD that I wish they were able to be expelled from my mind.

This year, I’d like to devote a list of what I think are the

 

 Flops of Eurovision 2014

 

I can’t stop seeing the Tolmachevy Twins as Children of the Corn…

 

Russia – This song is terrible. I would be willing to overlook the incredibly original title ‘Shine’, but there is just so much wrong with this. The Tolmachevy twins are surely nice people, but they are just a bit…boring. And is this song really about promoting love? Like…Russia, really? Are we just going to pretend that your country doesn’t have an abysmal track record when it comes to human rights? ‘Make a brighter day’? For who, Crimea?

I’ve asked this question before but nobody seems to be able to answer: Does anyone think the whole thing between Russia and Ukraine going to be reflected in the voting this year? I’m genuinely curious.

Regardless, it’s a terrible song.

 

Georgia – Speaking of countries that Russia has invaded, wtf at Georgia’s entry this year? Seriously. It starts out okay enough, but then it’s almost as if the acid that they’ve all ingested kicks in and it just completely devolves into a bizarre mess of a song.

I’m a native English speaker and the lyrics are nonsensical as fuck. ‘Star Jam? Sky divers? Space Jam? Space Jump’? ‘All their wives? All their whys’??? I’m seriously at a loss of words for this song. I think it’s probably best if Shin and Mariko keep orbitting whatever psychadelic planet they’re on.

I SWEAR I hear ‘Space Jam’ in this song.

 

Lithuania – ATTENTION! Oh! okay, what?! ATTENTION! what?! what do you want from me?! I think it’s a shame this song made my list – the singer seems like a really sweet person. I think that the message, female empowerment (right?), is a good one. But the delivery is so frantic and the dancing is so all-over-the-place and jerky that I don’t know what to make of it. “I’m gonna make you fall, down d-d-down down on your knees!” What?

Ireland – I hate that Ireland ended up here, I really do. I always love the Irish entries! Last year, ‘Only Love Survives’ was actually my top pick. It then ended up in dead last and I felt so bad for poor Ryan Dolan.

The Irish entry this year just bores me. And…that’s about it. Sorry, Ireland. I still love you.

 

Latvia – Latvia has always been a joy for me to watch. I mean, their pirate entry in 2008 was amazing and I generally like what they send every year. But this? I think they’ve been sharing the same drugs that the band from Georgia has been using; only it seems they’ve baked them into a cake. This song is catchy, I’ll give it that, but I just can’t take it seriously. I can’t even enjoy how ridiculous it is. At least with Pirates of the Sea, it was fun ridiculous. This song is just…bad.

 

 

Belarus- The second Eurovision song this year to be about cake…go, Belarus. It’s as if they plucked the beat from a shitty karaoke version of a 90′s song. The poor vocalist is trying to be Robin Thicke, which is in and of itself pretty upsetting. The cheesy lyrics, bad instrumentals and obvious lack of chemistry between he and the poor girl forced to dance with him is painful to watch. Sorry, Belarus.

 

F.Y.R. Macedonia – You know, I think I’ve always kind of liked the Macedonian entries over the years, but this one? Hot messssss. Seeing her lip-sync (poorly) to this song when she won the national selection was cringe-inducing. She dances super awkwardly and kind of looks really uncomfortable on stage. When she fist-bumps, I just want it to stop. It’s a pity because the song itself isn’t terrible…but her stage presence is.

 

France – France seriously, what the hell? It literally sounds like they just blatantly copied Stromae and then added in some Major Lazer winding sounds a la Pon de Floor. It’s a shame because this song would be great if it weren’t so obviously ripping off another well-known French artist. Pour quois, France? Pour quois?

I had the same reaction, Stromae!

 

Germany – Gurl. This song makes me really uncomfortable. Maybe it’s the creepy accordion? It gives me a weird carnival vibe that I don’t like. It’s nothing that we haven’t seen before in Eurovision and I find it quite boring, to be honest. Germany is lucky that it’s already advanced to the final. If it were to try to compete against the other countries with this song, I don’t think it would qualify.

 

Now, I don’t doubt that, in order for these artists to make it to Eurovision, they had to work incredibly hard. I really respect that they are all representing their countries and the hard work that it’s taken to do so. That being said, these are just my opinions.

 What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Have another country that you think qualifies as a ‘Flop’? Leave a comment and let me know!

An American’s picks for Eurovision 2014

 

As I’ve said before, Eurovision Season is always a bit lonely for American fans. Here in the US, few people know about the contest. Even when I try to explain it, it’s hard. I’ll talk about how much I like the Maltese/Moldovan/Cypriot/Armenian entry and I find myself met with a blank stare. Not everyone knows where these countries are, much less that they even exist.

Everyone likes to poke fun at Americans for not knowing about other countries and I was no exception to this stereotype. In our defense, though, I will say that having to keep track of 50 states and a handful of territories gives us a lot of news as it is. Although some people don’t care one way or the other.

Admittedly, I was the same when I began watching Eurovision. But as I watched it, I learned so much about geography, international relations and politics and even history. Whoa, Moldova was a country? Azerbaijan too? Why can Turkey and the like participate? It was exhilirating and I felt like I was learning so much and connecting myself to Europe in some way.

Regardless of it being a bit lonely, I love following Eurovision every year. The past few years have been a bit difficult for me to watch because I lived in Japan. Last year, I commandeered my poor boyfriend’s computer and forced him to watch it with me. Needless to say that he did not enjoy it as much as I did.

I think that, being an American, I am somewhat out of the loop of the whole political side of Eurovison. Sure, I know about bloc voting and how X country always gives Y country 12 points etc. But I don’t invest myself too much in this and I think it makes for more of an objective viewing. I mostly just care about the performances and songs.

And so, here are my picks as an American looking in on this wonderful annual event!

 

MY TOP TEN ACTS FOR EUROVISION 2014

(in no particular order as of yet)

 

 Greece – Ever since that old guy danced with those gogo boys in 2010 (OPA!), I have been a fan of the Greek entries. Last year their song was catchy and fun and this year they’ve brought that same energy with the catchy EDM-infused ‘Rise Up’. I wonder if he’ll actually sing the super-fast repeating part, though? “Ri-ri-ri-ri-ri-ri-riririririririririririr”. Nevertheless, I hope Greece does well.

 Israel – Another country that always puts out great songs. Israel’s song this year is a definite contender for the trophy, I think. Mei Finegold’s voice is powerhouse in both English and Hebrew. The song definitely grabs your attention and keeps it. I don’t know what everyone else is saying, but I’m betting that Israel is ranked pretty high on winning this year.

 Malta – Year after year (at least as far as I’ve been watching the contest), Malta has sent some solid acts to the world stage. Year after year, though, they never seem to do very well. I really feel for this little island, though. They’re the underdog that I like to root for. I loved their entry last year and I hope to see them do well this year. They deserve it.

 Hungary – This song is pretty damn heavy for a Eurovision entry. Maybe that’s why I like it. It’s something different, the vocals are strong and although I didn’t like the beat at first, it’s grown on me. I don’t know how it will do, but I’d like to think that it will make it far. The topic of child abuse might not appeal to Europe and the judges, though.

 Poland – I love ridiculous entries. The Polish entry this year is just that. At first, I was a bit horrified by how bad this song sounded in English but I think it’s mostly in Polish. I think the oversexualization of it is intentionally comical. Overall it’s a fun song and I find myself liking it the more I hear it.

 Switzerland – The song is cute and the whistling gets stuck in your head for days. The band is seemingly composed of male models, which I’m completely fine with. I wonder if they’re going to be able to do the whistling gimmick as effectively when they perform it live.

 Armenia – Armenia is another country that I find consistantly sends good acts. This year’s act is pretty great as well. Although it takes a while for the song to get started, Aram Mp3′s vocals and the epic instrumentals effortlessly guide the audience to the wub wubby climax. I’m definitely not a fan of dubstep, but I’ve grown to accept a wub here or there. I dig this song for a number of reasons and I think it could do well.

 Italy(!) – My god, I really love the Italian entry this year. Emma Marrone is fantastic. I love her voice, the instrumentals and overall badass-ness of this song. After watching a live performance of this song, though, I’m a bit scared of seeing her in the final. Italy just recently re-joined Eurovision after a long period of not participating. I think a win for Italy would be great but…I don’t know if Europe feels the same way that I do.

 Montenegro – I don’t know why but I really like this song. I’m not one for ballads, but this song just really appeals to me. It’s beautifully sung with a gorgeous instrumental. I don’t understand it at all but, for me, that’s not necessary in order to enjoy a song. That’s actually part of why I was so drawn to Eurovision – songs in different languages. I have no idea how this song will do, but it’s in my Top Ten because I think it’s very pretty.

 Austria – Conchita Wurst is badass. I’ll say it right now. The fact that she is performing in drag is not anything that Eurovision hasn’t seen before (Verka Serduchka, I’m looking at you). What is unique, however, is that she’s not doing it as a caricature that mocks the LGBT community. Her striking appearance has earned her a lot of publicity, both good and bad. Russia, Ukraine and Belarus being the bastions of acceptance and tolerance, have petioned the EBU to ban her performance. Luckily, it seems to be against the rules of the ESC to censor or ban any part of it. Her fishy body with full-on beard plus the empowering song have no doubt made her one of the most talked-about acts this year. Putting herself out there and promoting tolerance is an incredibly brave thing for her to do and I hope she does well.

Honorable mentions:

Denmark – I don’t think that Denmark will win (has any country ever won Eurovision two years in a row?) but I quite like their entry. It’s catchy as hell, the dance is cute the whole thing reminds me of The Jackson Five and Bruno Mars.

Netherlands. 2013 was the first year that the Netherlands qualified for the Final in seven years. This year, their song is nothing incredibly special, but I find myself really liking it. It reminds me of Fleetwood Mac and it’s very calming and emotional.

 

 What do you think?! Agree? Disagree? Are you an American who likes Eurovision as well? Let me know I’m not alone! Thanks for reading and, as always, comments are welcomed!