I don’t keep a personal journal, but I wanted to remember this very odd thing I saw the other night. I’ll probably find some way to eventually preserve these posts for my future amusement and maybe reading back on this in a few years will give me a laugh.
The yearly event is called the Eurovision Song Contest and it is one of the most surreal things I have ever seen. Chizzy watched it last year and thought it was great TV so I had to watch some of it this weekend to see what the buzz was all about. I really won’t be able to do the spectacle justice with words so try to catch it if you ever have the chance. It is essentially a song contest for all the countries in Europe. Chizzy likes to remind me that ABBA were once the winners of this prestigious award as if that makes it beyond criticism, but criticize I must. The production itself is top notch. They set up an amazing stage with every light effect and pyrotechnic trick you can imagine. It is viewed by millions and millions of people and it is obviously a huge deal to be crowned the winner.
I have never much thought about why American music seems to prevail here in Europe, but I’m starting to get a better understanding of why after watching that show. The variety of music represented in the contest was fairly diverse, but it isn’t like they are playing traditional music from their country. They are playing questionable pop and rock. The winners this year were from Finland and they were a ‘death metal’ band that dresses up like monsters. The song was called “Hard Rock Hallelujah”. GWAR they are not. Don’t think I need to say anymore about them.
Russia finished second with a ballad from a pretty-boy and is really upset about the voting scandal. They feel they are being picked on by the other European countries.
The highlight of insanity though, came when Lithuania took to the stage with this song:
We are the winners
We are, we are!
We are the winners
We are, we are!
We are the winners of Eurovision
We are, we are! We are, we are!
We are the winners of Eurovision
We are, we are! We are, we are!
So, you gotta vote,
Vote, vote for the winners
Vote, vote, vote for the winners
It was sung by a bunch of dudes wearing suits in a style that pretty much matches what the lyrics make you think. It was just a kind of playground-style taunt with one dude shouting “We are the winners” and the rest of the group backing him up with “We are, we are!” Watching it made me feel really sad for the people of Lithuania who possibly didn’t realize these guys were really embarrassing their fine country. But when they ended up finishing highly (6th) in the rankings I felt like the only sane person on the entire planet. I was Mugatu struggling to understand Blue Steel and Le Tigra.
Another fun moment was, once again, the refusal of France to participate in an international setting using the international language. It’s fantastic if you sing your song in your own language, but when the entire show is being conducted in English by everybody else, you look like a whiny little baby when you refuse to speak it to the hosts who are talking to you in English (which is not their first language either). You look doubly childish when you finish almost dead last. You know you know it.
Speaking of English, we watched on some British station and they were carrying the show live, but they had a commentator who just talked over the top of it. And it wasn’t like a play-by-play guy who is filling you in with stats and information. It was like a color-commentator who chimed in with the most ridiculous things. The hosts would be talking to somebody and the guy would just interject, “can we get on with the show?” He was really bitter about the voting process when geography seems to play a more important role than the actual songs. He would say things like, “Oh big surprise! Sweden gives Finland the top score. What a shocker.” It really added to the whole amazing experience.
It seems like a lot is going on, but there really isn’t. I guess that is the feeling you get when you have a lot of stuff planned out. We pulled off the quick Paris trip this past weekend without a hitch. We did virtually zero sightseeing this time; only stopping at Sacré Coeur since we hadn’t been there before. We were warned to stay away from the little tourist area behind the church where the portrait drawers were very aggressive, but we are proud tourists and would never be able to resist something that has been described to us as touristy. That isn’t to say we actually get our portraits drawn but it is fun to see the scene. My new thing is to just babble incoherently to people who approach me. Not a big difference, I know.
We spent one evening at apartment of co-worker with a small group of his friends. We were told to bring some wine. We’ve been getting a little bit more into wine, but we still might only be on par with the average 5 year old in France for wine knowledge. When Chizzy asked what type of wine to bring the dude replied that he was pretty easy but he preferred wine from ‘the south’. Forget Spanish, Italian, or Australian wines here. We also knew the boyfriend of the sister of the co-worker fancied himself a bit of a wine connoisseur so the plan was obvious… ask the apron clad owner at the local wine shop. He was disappointed he had to break out his English, but ended up being very helpful and led us to some bottles that he said were very well respected and famous in France and that we would be the hit of the party. I wouldn’t go that far. The first thing the boyfriend did after examining the bottles we brought was to pull out a huge map of France to find the location of the vineyards. I don’t mean to give the impression that he was being a jerk about it. He wasn’t. He was just continuing his wine education and my theory is that there are just way too many wines in France to know them all. We drank a lot of wine that night. And to continue in true stereotypical fashion, the cheese plate was introduced into the fray at some point. This actually ended up sending a massive shock wave through the apartment because the host didn’t have any bread. Not only did he not have any bread, he declared he doesn’t even normally eat bread with his cheese. I tagged along with one of the guys for a late-night bread run, which I was really fascinated by because I wanted to see how people deal with food emergencies in a land where everything closes early. I thought his first instinct was absolutely hilarious. He could only think to try the ‘tourist’ bakery that was really popular with the visitors but loathed by the locals. Of course it was closed. It isn’t like French people don’t own and run the place. That must have been his last instinct as well since he had no other ideas for bread, but figured we might as well get some more wine while we were out which did end up being pretty easy to find.
I also am pretty sure I saw my first celebrity sighting on this trip. I didn’t get 100% confirmation with an approach and confront, but if the dude sitting in the café outside the apartment was not Tim Roth it was his identical twin.
Chizzy finally got her wish and we spent a decent portion of Saturday actually shopping around Paris. She was on the hunt for a business suit and found a very nice one at the monster Printemps department store.
In other news, Tobin has come through in a big way with those World Cup tickets and I am now joining him, his lovely wife Paty, and Reid (another Seattle soccer buddy) to see the US vs Czech match on June 12th in Gelsenkirchen. We are making base camp in Cologne that weekend leading up to the game. Very exciting. Very, very exciting.
But the next trip is actually just around the corner where I have been invited to meet up with Mr. Piro in Dublin for a weekend. He is there on business. It took some creative travel plans by Chizzy to find something reasonable, but it’s officially on. I suspect Piro will just want to walk around and take in some art museums and stuff. I don’t anticipate he will want to check out any pubs.
I’ll also randomly throw out that I went to an Iggy Pop concert here. I know nothing of him or his music. The solitary bit of information I had in my head before going was that I thought of him to be shirt-averse. That turned out to be true. He doesn’t strip down as the show progresses either. He just comes out shirtless from the start. The show was really great in a small venue. If you have any Iggy Pop information you want to share, I’d be happy to hear it.
What is Chizzy doing while I have all this fun, you might be asking? Working, of course. At least she got a new suit.
Chizzy's company announced it got bought yesterday. No real details yet about what this means for the Zurich office, but the initial information is that it would take AT LEAST several months for the new company to make any drastic moves. More promising news is that the sales territory in Chizzy's company that she supports is larger and stronger than that of the company that bought them. There is a high probability that all summer plans still have the green light. At this point, they include:
- Paris the weekend after next
- Amsterdam and Einhoven in early June
- Potential weekend somewhere in mid-June (Tobin?)
- World Cup in late June
- Visit home in late June/early July
- Chizrents coming out in early Aug. for Ireland and Italy
- Bergomery's coming out in Sept for London and Switzerland
Update: I missed all the action.
Last year we accidentally stumbled into the Labor Day festivities here in Zurich. We were ignorant of the significance of the holiday outside the US and when we were out that morning we couldn’t figure out why the place had turned into a ghost town overnight. A ghost town with a large parade going through the center of it. More like a march, actually. The socialist and commies were out marching for the little people and opening peoples’ eyes to evils of “the man”. I guess these marches have some history of getting a bit out of hand and people generally stay indoors all morning until the crowds have dispersed a bit.
This year, I was more prepared and I went down there with my camera to get some snaps. It was much more crowded this year and there were tons of people just out walking around and taking the whole spectacle in. I still don’t read the language, so I only got the general idea of what a lot of the groups were about.
This was the front of the march. I think this translates to something like, “Justice is not a dream”. As in, “not a pipe dream”.
If anybody was looking for trouble, it would have been the youths. Here is a disenfranchised and marginalized group of them now. Something like, “Capitalism divides us. Class warfare unites us.” Kids.
I think these guys were playing the role of “the man”. They were signing this song to the tune of “Oh Christmas Tree” and it seems to be a song about how the worker has no rights to strike and all their hard work just ends up in the pockets of the corporation.
They are widening the sidewalks on Limmatquai. It’s going to be a real pedestrian treat when they finish. You should really come and check out the new sidewalks when they are done.
Ohh… I think I see pop culture’s favorite revolutionary son in that sea of flags.
How many miles must we march?
I understood exactly what this group was about. They were chanting “Ahmadinajad ist ein Terrorist.”
Same group. If I translated their banner correctly, this was a group of Iranians who have fled the country and don’t much care for the leadership there. Something like, “Iran is not a safe/secure country”.
The police were everywhere and nowhere. They were not along the parade route at all, but if you went down a side street or a few blocks over you could find groups of them. Good job.
It really was a nice day!