Mazel Tov, Mr. Dylan!

I procured the latest edition of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago’s news magazine at our temple when I picked up The Sprog from Hebrew school. Of course, this tidbit of information is not the most timely, but I love how its caption was basically my reaction almost verbatim.


I wonder if any of his relatives gave him a good quality pen for his endeavors.

The Vocal Stylings of Morrissey

Is that some sort of expression of pleasure?  “Morrissey” by Charlie Llewellin from Austin, USA – morrissey interview. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

I can’t expect everyone who stumbles upon this post to know who this guy is. Morrissey, born Steven Patrick Morrissey, was the frontman for the highly influential 1980s Manchester, England band, The Smiths. The Smiths are usually classified as alternative rock or indie pop with a 1960’s pop/post-punk fusion style and are known for their witty but depressing lyrics and Morrissey’s distinct warbling vocals. After their breakup in 1987, Morrissey has since pursued his solo career but also kept himself in the public eye with his activism.

For a good chunk of Americans around my age, The Smiths represented a cool, alternative band who spoke to our adolescent miseries and personal angsts with some catchy tunes. And Morrissey became cool as a by-product of being a Smith and with some of his solo work. But the music was not played on the Top 40 stations. It was like a well-kept secret.

However, let’s put The Smiths into context in their country in the 1980s. They were mainstream and were expressing their views on being an individual living in Thatcherite Britain. So they were part of the zeitgeist. The Smiths were also ubiquitous media-wise. That did not mean everyone was a fan though. The Boffin was watching the societal divisions on the telly as far as the miners’ strikes, the poll tax protests, economic inequalities, and other turmoil.  Let me put it this way.  The Boffin is a problem solver and spends his whole life trying to make things better for those around him.  Even as a child, he didn’t want to listen to a bunch of Dirge Weasels telling him how miserable they were when he already knew things were shite.  And he was far from the only one who thought that way.

Which bring me to Morrissey’s life after The Smiths and how he has become more known for what he does outside of the studio and off the stage. Morrissey’s main cause is animal rights, and he walks the walk with his veganism to the point of trying to make sure no meat is served at his concerts. However, instead of being measured in his activism, he is extreme and still loves to point out how crap everything is when things don’t go his way. He also loves to take down the Royal Family by verbally proclaiming about how horrible they are (even though their power really is limited). Google him, and you can see just how outspoken he is. Voicing his opinion issues matter more to him than people’s feelings, and he is still essentially carrying the same image that he had in his 20s. Even while maintaining a fiercely loyal fan base, a fair number of people in his native country have grown tired of his pontificating and complaining. Taking pot shots at him has become a British national pastime with that crowd.

Meanwhile, the Americans who learned to enjoy The Smiths and Morrissey without the baggage of the British social context and the decades of his whinging on the British media have become puzzled when people like the Boffin react to “Girlfriend in a Coma” deep sighs and eye rolls. Either that or the Americans understand the animosity but can overlook his obnoxiousness because they love his music so much.

So, if you know Morrissey, he is just one of those love him or hate him sort of guys.  If you don’t, you may be better off staying out of the whole thing.

Addendum: I just talked to the Boffin about this post. He said that at least Billy Bragg has a purpose. He would have rather have him round for dinner.

Why So Serious, Eurovision?

I am just going to say it.

Eurovision 2015 was a let down.

And my feelings have nothing to do with the U.K.’s getting just 5 points, although that doesn’t help.

I just want to know what happened to Eurovision’s sense of fun and quirkiness this year.

There were too many countries that were actually trying to win.  Why?  Delusions of grandeur on their parts, really.  Yes, countries are starting to break ranks with the voting, but they are not quite there in tearing down the borders just yet.  Germany and Austria didn’t even vote for each other and left each other with “nul points”.  That leaves the U.K. with bragging rights at least.

We were left with too many women singing power ballads in ball gowns with wind machines blowing into their billowing locks.  (The Boffin was trying to convince me that European women’s hair naturally does that.)  I had so much hope for Georgia’s entry, Nina Sublatti.  Here she was, the Goth Girl, going to belt out a song with the title “Warrior”.  YES!  Metal!  Guitars!  Heavy Bass!  Maybe there will be spears and axes involved? Cool!  But no, it was yet another sappy mess.  But she gained 51 points over Britain’s 5, so what do I know?

Just another in a long line of wind machine women.  Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Just another in a long line of wind machine women. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Actually, what I do know is that I am outlier when it comes to this Eurovision stuff. What I like is not what everyone else likes. Who did I think put in the best performance?  Serbia.  Watch.  Then I will tell you why.

That was Bojana Stamenov with “Beauty Never Lies”.  OK, the lyrics are cheesy.  The choreography leaves a lot to be desired, but they played it with a sense of humor.  However, Bojana is an incredible vocalist and brought down the house.  And it was obvious how much fun they were having, and their enthusiasm was infectious.  They embodied was Eurovision was all about.  Serbia only received 53 points.  If they were from a more popular country, they would have been in the top five.

Even the much criticized U.K. entry did not deserve just the mere 5 points it received.  The performance did need a more intimate setting, and the singers were a little off their game.  But there was a sense of jocularity and oddity about the electro-swing approach.  They was robbed.

This is not to take anything away from Måns Zelmerlöw and his song “Heroes”.  I give nothing but a sincere congratulations to Sweden and look forward to watching the contest coming from Stockholm next year.  As much as I question whether the public voted for the technical performance over the song, it did make its choice, and I respect that.

But like I said, what do I know?  I listened to Echo and the Bunnymen more than Madonna in high school.

The Highs and Lows of the U.K. in Eurovision

The United Kingdom first entered Eurovision in 1957 and has been a permanent fixture ever since. It has taken home the crown five times in its history

Much beloved and revered, Sandie Shaw took the top prize in 1967 with “Puppet on a String”. One of the most commercially successful female singers in Britain, she was known for singing barefoot, and people thought it was a gimmick. It was really because she had size 7 feet but could only find size 6 shoes, so she took them off when she sang. She was very much a 60s icon and deservedly so.

Lulu is another British household name. She is one of those celebrities who shows up in every variety and game show there is. You may know her voice from a couple of movie theme tunes: “To Sir, With Love” and “The Man with the Golden Gun”. Well, two years later in 1969, she gained Eurovision glory with “Boom Bang-a-Bang”.

This win from 1976 is a much debated one. The Brotherhood of Man’s song “Save Your Kisses for Me” provides an interesting twist at end.

You see, the subject of the song is the singer’s niece! Ah!

That leaves two camps. Is it a song sung by a devoted and loving aunt or uncle? Or is it a song sung by a pervy aunt or uncle? The fight has been continuing for almost 40 years. This is the Eurovision War of the Roses, folks. Which side are you on?

Next, Bucks Fizz and their less controversial tune of “Making Your Mind Up” struck the viewers’ hearts in 1981.  I am sure the dance routine involving the skirt ripping helped their cause too.  At least, that’s what most people seem to remember about the performance.

Katrina and the Waves, yes the “Walking on Sunshine” people, captured the title in 1997 with “Love, Shine a Light”. At least they finally made a song that makes Wagner’s Ring Cycle sound less appealing.  (My apologies, but, being a child of the 80s, “Walking on Sunshine” was an overplayed craptastrophy that, to this day, still sends me into eye twitches and aneurysms.)

I really hate to do this, but with the highlights have to come the lowlights.

The most infamous finish was the “nul points” Jemini received in 2003 for “Cry Baby”. By most accounts, the reason for this poor showing was Jemini’s performance being off-key, a general anti-British feeling for their involvement in the second Iraq war, and not having the right type of song for the contest.

Sometimes the judging is just unfair.  Andy Abraham came in last in 2005 with “Even If,” and I am still scratching my head why.

Sometimes, the song and performance is just plain awful. Come listen to Josh Dubovie’s 80s throwback last place finish in 2010. The out-of-tune background vocals add that miserable touch that leave you running to the bathroom with the dry heaves.

I could keep loading videos and have you miss important deadlines at work all day, but I will leave it here. Remember Saturday is the big day in Vienna. It starts at 9:00 PM Central European Summer Time. What does that mean in the States? If you are on the East Coast, that’s six hours behind, so it starts at 3:00 PM. That’s 2:00 PM in my neck of the woods. I even did the math. No excuses. Have fun!

Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa and One Step from Crazy

The Boffin is in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  He has a glamorous job working on natural gas technology, and his team is there.  That means every month or so he has to go down, eat barbeque, and discuss nerdly things with other people who actually use calculus.  I can’t begrudge that because it allows us to conduct the Great Social Experiment that we call our life.

When he took this job, of course, my thoughts turned toward Gene Pitney.  Yes, Gene Pitney.  It’s a natural connection.  And this should not be a surprise given that my neurons are awkwardly wired.  Think spaghetti on a two-year old’s head.

My thoughts also turned to Burt Bacharach and Hal David because it was their song, Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa, that Gene Pitney turned to chart success in 1963.  It peaked at #17 in the U.S. and #5 in the U.K.  I like Gene, I really do, but the music is very much of its time as you can hear when you play the video.

For those who couldn’t get past the twangy guitars or the fact that Gene is lip-synching in a motorcoach for the entire video, it’s a tale of a lad who basically fell in love with someone else at a rest stop while he was driving home to his lady in Tulsa.  Evidently, his being only twenty-four hours from his fair city was supposed to be some sort of consolation to the woman he dumped.

Let’s ponder that concept for a moment.

I put my thinking Ewok cap on.  Photo courtesy of Justin Goring
I put my Ewok thinking cap on. Photo courtesy of Justin Goring

Being almost home makes it so much better.

“Allie, I know I fell todger first into your sister.  But the pub was only round the corner.”

“Well, that’s all right then.  Come have a cuppa.”

So basically, this loser could not hang on for one more day until he got to the finish line.  Not one more measily little day.  Plenty of people have stayed faithful through entire deployments into war zones, and this yutz fell like a house of cards when he stopped to drain the lizard and have some sleep.  Not only that, he is willing to give up everything he has in Tulsa for the other woman. What a wuss.

Now I am wondering about the other woman too. She can’t be that much of a prize if she is willing to just latch onto a guy who would just up and leave his mate in Tulsa for her. Unless he lied to her about having someone there. Then she is gullible, and I feel sorry for her.

At this point is when you say, “Relax, Karen, it’s just a song.”

Of course, me being me, I expressed these thoughts to my husband.  You would think he would have told me it was “just a song”. But he didn’t. Oh, no. He indulges my insanity, usually by laughing. That only encourages me. The fool.  You would have think he would have learned.

I also pondered out loud about where this genius possibly could have stopped to be twenty-four hours from Tulsa.  The Boffin, being the Boffin, actually mapped it out using 24 hours at 50 miles per hour as a baseline.

24 Tulsa Map 1

Of course, being an engineer and not a lyricist, the Boffin created an additional map on the premise that it was probably 12 hours, since the guy was only resting.

24 Tulsa Map 2

Nevermind that the song says twenty-four hours.  It is more logical to take a break at night and do a full day’s driving the next day to reach home.  I love that man.

So, here we are…Mr. and Mrs. Overanalysis. And who says that’s always a bad thing?