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From Infamy to Indignity? Never Ending ASECS: Celebrity in the Eighteenth Century.

Home | ASECS 2021 Online

I only have a week left to drink my fill of panels from the 2021 American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Conference before they all get taken down.

This morning, I enjoyed a great panel on the nature of “celebrity” in the eighteenth-century.

Chair: Brian COWAN, McGill University

  1. Meghan ROBERTS, Bowdoin College, “Fame and the French Enlightenment”
  2. Heather MCPHERSON, University of Alabama at Birmingham, “The Visual Arts and Modern Celebrity in Georgian England”
  3. Ted MCCORMICK, Concordia University (Montreal), “Fame and Celebrity in 18th-Century Science”
  4. Pascal BASTIEN, Université de Quebec à Montréal, “Infamy in 18th-Century France”
  5. Sydney AYRES, Institute of Advanced Study, Edinburgh University, “Contemporary Celebrity vs. Posthumous Fame in Britain, c.1790-1820”

Throughout the panel there was necessary discussion of a perceived distinction and maybe even opposition between “celebrity” and “fame”. Celebrity lives in the moment and belongs to the living whereas fame belongs to the “immortal” dead. Who would you rather be – David Cassidy or Nick Drake? Where would you rather be buried – Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s Cathedral?

These and other questions overlap with other concepts such as the celebrity attached to condemned criminals and the fascinating distinction between “infamy” and “indignity”. Who deserves “a good death” and how is the principal actor in the drama of execution to be foregrounded in times of rapid political change?

But the panel also looked further back, to the “lives” (e.g. Aubrey) of the seventeenth-century and the importance of injecting personality, quirks, anecdotes, into lives deemed full of incident and/or achievement. The ambivalence of celebrity in a medical context was considered. How often does a “famous” doctor partake of the traditional characteristics of a quack or a mountebank?

The study of celebrity cults and the theatre history have long marched hand in hand. We were reminded that Sarah Siddons sought to transmute her potentially transient celebrity as an actor into a more enduring version of fame via statuary. To have her most famous attitudes preserved in a resilient medium demonstrates how fame and celebrity continued to vie with one another in our period.

So celebrity remains contentious, as registered by the kind of emotional attributions attracted to those who are foregrounded as celebrities – particularly in a French language context.

The invention of the waxwork provoked particularly elegant reflection. The waxwork, unlike the statue, is soft, immediate and almost organic. Waxwork collections in Paris are notable for the fact that wax levels traditional categories and hierarchies within a communality of current celebrity. Current renown becomes the only criterion of juxtaposition and display. Rather wonderfully, waxworks illustrate the ephemeral quality of celebrity because they can be recycled – melted down and reforged. A waxwork display will vary from season to season as the sheer transience of celebrity becomes key to the nature of the attraction.

Andy Warhol, thou shouldst have been living at this hour.

It’s All Too Much. North Macedonia’s 2021 Eurovision Entry.

Welcome to North Macedonia. A nation that only finalised its official name after years of vexed negotiation with Greece over proprietary rights to the concept of Macedonia. Was Alexander the Great a Macedonian who was also a Greek? Or was he Macedonian first and Greek second? Or was he a Greek who lived in the Greek region of Macedonia? And so on and so forth.

The official video (though thankfully not the live performance in Rotterdam) gives Vasil the opportunity to talk beforehand about the pain and heartbreak of Eurovision being cancelled last year. He chokes up and wells up as he tries to articulate the sense of his beautiful dream being shattered in an instant. He clicks his fingers impressively in a way that would instantly enable him to pass the audition for the Jets New York street gang. (I’ve never been able finger click, so I’m instantly irritated.)

The overall effect cannot help but remind me of “Our Tune” by Simon Bates.

But then when cynicism starts to completely overwhelm me I actually look up Vasil’s backstory. And what a story it is. A child prodigy, plucked from the streets – caught up in the Kosovo war – growing up in the States – being deported from the States – dealing with homophobic prejudice and xenophobic hostility for much of his life – not least because of he “enjoys” joint Macedonian-Bulgarian citizenship. And then I feel bad about the Simon Bates crack. A bit bad. Not enough to delete it, obviously.

The ballad itself is a big ol’ celebration of resurgency – of getting back on your feet after disaster. The only lyrical problem I have with this concerns possible implications of the word “they”.

‘Cause baby, they all tried to break us
Not knowing it’s what makes us
This is how we found our way
Now here I stand
There’s no pretend
My walls are down, my heart’s in your hand
Unchain my wings
And the oceans of tears will fade to black
With the sum of my years

They all tried to break us
Tried to break us
Not knowing it’s what makes us
They don’t know
This is how we found our way
This is how we found our way
Herе I stand…

From Vasil’s individual point of view, the “they” is fine. We all know the kind of people who were horrible to Vasil, and very very nasty they are too. I’m only worried politically by the appropriation of the song to the whole 2020 lockdown and Eurovision canceling context. Who are the “they” who tried to break us? I hope this doesn’t empower conspiracy theorists who are applying themselves to COVID policymaking?

Why am I trying so hard to pick holes in this song and this performance? I suspect that the better angels of my nature are meeting some cussed resistance from the contrarian devil perched firmly on my other shoulder who bitterly resents me liking anything that I’m supposed to cheer for quite this much.

The truth is, that anyone who learns about Vasil will want to him to do reasonably well, and anybody who knows nothing about him will at least appreciate the pipes he has on him. Whether the song itself, somehow isolated from the story and the stylings of Vasil, has the legs to win the contest – is another matter.

I have thoughts about other 2021 Eurovision entries.

See below:

Albania

Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Albanian. Albania’s 2021 Eurovision entry. | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Australia:

Essays of Montaigne. Australia’s 2021 Eurovision Entry | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Austria:

Forever and ever? Amen. Austria’s 2021 Eurovision entry. | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Azerbaijan:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/03/20/she-was-cleopatra-now-shes-mata-hari-efendis-moving-on-slowly-azerbaijans-2021-eurovision-entry/conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Belgium:

Channelling Miss Havisham. Belgium’s 2021 Eurovision entry. | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Bulgaria:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/04/23/ah-last-years-was-better-but-growing-up-is-getting-old-is-still-really-good-see-also-iceland-bulgarias-2021-eurovision-entry/

Croatia:

Cyprus: 

Sympathy for the Devil? The 2021 Cypriot Eurovision entry reviewed. | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Germany:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/03/26/jendrik-doesnt-feel-hate-germanys-2021-eurovision-entry-reviewed/embed/#?secret=zgDI9OyOtf

Ireland: 

Running up that Hill. Ireland’s 2021 Eurovision Entry. | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Latvia:

https://wordpress.com/post/conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/40652

Lithuania:

https://wordpress.com/post/conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/40760

Moldova:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/04/21/unsuitable-for-diabetics-moldovas-2021-eurovision-entry/

Norway:

https://wordpress.com/post/conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/40382

Portugal:https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/04/26/spats-entertainment-portugals-2021-eurovision-entry/

Russia:

https://wordpress.com/post/conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/40772

Slovenia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/04/06/amen-not-hallelujah-slovenias-2021-eurovision-entry/

Sweden:

As the UK sends gunboats – thus turning into an Ian McEwan satire… “The Cockroach” – belatedly reviewed.

Ian McEwan's Political Satire 'The Cockroach' Offers a Reversal of Kafka -  The New York Times

As the British Prime Minister sends gunboats to politically escalate a fish-related dispute with France, is he aware or does he care that he’s replaying a decisive episode in Ian McEwan’s bitter satire, The Cockroach, published about eighteen months ago?

In this Menippean satire, the British Prime Minister exploits a tragic accident involving fishermen in order to build popular support to push through his programme. Today, May 6th 2021, is an election day, and the British PM is sending gunboats on an expedition that is all about “optics” that are entirely for domestic consumption.

Except of course that in McEwan’s satire, the Prime Minister is a cockroach in human form and so are most of his cabinet. The satire is beast fable that manages to combine George Orwell with Franz Kafka. Instead of a man who wakes up to find himself transformed into a giant insect, an insect wakes up to find himself transformed into Boris Johnson. It is as though current British governance is so estranged from any mammalian agenda and has appetites so alien to the warm-blooded that the casting of the traditional beast fable needs to be diversified.

The main issue with The Cockroach as a political satire is that it is impolitic. Does a work of literature have to be “politic”? That’s a very interesting question. One would normally say “no” – but if satire is to be coherent and “pointed” it is important to make sure that it is pointed in the right direction. McEwan will affirm many, repel many, and convert few. Then again, was Swift’s Modest Proposal politic? Perhaps some remote posterity will judge The Cockroach more generously.

Instead of “Brexit”, McEwan’s government of shape-shifting cockroaches is enacting a policy of “Reversalism” whereby the entire economic cycle is turned anti-clockwise.

“At the end of a working week, an employee hands over money to the company for all the hours that she has toiled. But when she goes to the shops, she is generously compensated for at retail rates for every item she carries away.”

Essentially, Reversalism consists of paying to do your job and being paid to go shopping. It’s a parlour game that got out of hand.

Of course, even the most devout supporter of the EU would have trouble asserting that leaving the EU represents the equivalent of “reversing” the economy in this way. But “equivalence” is perhaps not the point. You are allowed, in the context of Menippean satire, to describe illogic pushed to a point of extremity. If you believe Brexit to be pointlessly destructive then you, as a satirist, are allowed to think of the most pointlessly destructive thing you can think of by way of analogy. Satirical analogy has never had to be “proportionate”.

Has The Cockroach done “more harm than good” to its cause? Well I’m certain no champion of Brexit who has read it (a very small constituency) has been convinced by it. And its reported content doubtless fuels the lazy pens of the Brendan O’Neills of this world who postulate a sneery liberal elite who despise a body known as “the real people”. But what satire could be “proportionate” or persuasive in these extraordinary times?

Above all, it is important to challenge the idea that attacking a particular popular politician means you are attacking everyone who voted for them. This false reasoning would suggest that you can only attack figures who are unpopular – and therefore impotent. What sort of febrile invertebrate satire consists of shovelling otiose abuse on the discredited? (Actually quite a lot of indolent “satire” but never mind…) Doubtless plenty of people told Cicero that Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony were “very popular” and lots of ordinary people liked them. But his belief that these people was destroying the republican constitution of Rome sustained Cicero in his efforts. Sustained him until he was proscribed and decapitated of course. He lost. But he left some great Philippics.

It has to be possible (and profoundly necessary) to assert that Boris Johnson is a lazy, venal, treacherous, mendacious, abusive, squalid chancer who has never demonstrated any capacity for empathy or integrity in his entire life without the inference being drawn that all his supporters are lazy, venal, treacherous, mendacious, abusive, squalid chances bereft of empathy or integrity. You cannot enter the political domain without declaring that good people make errors of judgement at the polls. This is not the same sneering at them as dupes. Discursive democracy collapses without the ability to attack successful and popular figures.

The point of The Cockroach involves, meanwhile, the alienation of sympathy. It takes a novelist well versed in human nature to extract it so precisely. One can see what pigs get out of Orwell’s version of the Russian Revolution. One cannot see what cockroaches get out of Reversalism. But then pigs are mammals and their flesh is very similar to our own. In the final scene of Animal Farm, the distinction between human and pig is lost. In the final scene of The Cockroach, the cabinet resumes their insect forms, returning to their ancestral home – the Palace of Westminster. We cannot see what the “benefits” of Reversalism are for cockroaches because we do not have sympathetic access to the pleasure centres of an insect brain. Likewise, it is hard for many of us to consider what Boris Johnson gets out of such a destructive version of Brexit other than getting high off the energy of its momentum.

Gunboats are heading towards the Channel Islands. Political scandals and economic logic are suspended. McEwan’s anticipation of this scenario involves de-privileging human agency – or agency as it has been conventionally understood. Brexit is not intended to ever get “done”. It represents a state of permanent revolution and endless crisis. It needs to be performed with flags and gunboats over and over again if certain very strange appetites are to be placated.

I saw none of this coming, of course, because I’m a coward and an idiot.

Napoleon died 200 years ago today. Why I still don’t like him.

El Tres de Mayo, by Francisco de Goya, from Prado thin black margin.jpg

So Napoleon died OTD in 1821. Let’s be clear that I’ve every sympathy for French national consciousness and for tragic story arcs of all kind. I understand why generations of people have wanted to love Napoleon. But it ain’t me, baby. No, no, no.

There are specific reasons for disliking Napoleon that I’ve given some thought to of late. There’s the obvious matter of the millions of people across Europe from Portugal to Moscow who died during the Napoleonic Wars. What did they die for? Then there’s the betrayal of a revolutionary/republican ideal registered most eloquently by Beethoven’s rededication of the Eroica symphony. The former Jacobin bedecks himself with an imperial crown and many people must turn away in horror and disgust.

But in a sense these are relatively commonplaces disappointments. The former revolutionary who becomes a military dictator is a cliche of history. Edmund Burke predicted Napoleon insofar as he predicted that out of the exhaustions of anarchy – charismatic military tyranny must come. And Burke made his prediction on the basis of many historical precedents. The likes of Cincinnatus and George Washington are rarer than the Caesars and the Cromwells.

But my argument with Napoleon is more distinctive. Other empires have been “worse” than the Napoleonic one, but Napoleon’s poison has large theoretical consequences. Napoleon poisons the idea of progressivism to the extent that it becomes hard (though very necessary) to work hard to determine the exact point where a belief in “progress” becomes the justification for subjugation.

His armies were armies of liberation. He offered the peoples of Europe freedom from their rusty and crusty ol’ ancien regimes. He offered them spanking new legal codes. And he offered them relatives of his – to be enlightened guarantors of brave new worlds. He offered them what he called freedom at the point of a bayonet.

Napoleon in this respect really was the child of a decisive aspect of the French Revolution. The French Revolution was fiercely nationalist and internationalist at one and the same time. It demanded total loyalty to the state but also declared that the rights of Frenchmen (the rights of French women having been briefly discussed and largely rejected) were identical with the right of men (see above) everywhere. The liberation of humanity had a very specific “look” to it. The aesthetics of freedom were to be neoclassical and predictable.

Here’s the fundamental problem. If you believe that you and yours – your tribe, your leader, your “Napoleon” is somehow ahead of a developmental curve when it comes to making the world a better place – does this give you the right to chart every other society on earth along this same developmental curve and to legislate on their behalf? Does a notion of progress necessarily justify imperialism? And nobody typified the strange but logical embrace of progressivism and imperialism better than Napoleon.

Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm was somewhat Napoleonic in his British chauvinism. Having experienced the industrial revolution first, Britain was (for Hobsbawn) always ahead of the game (dialectically speaking). There were no short cuts.

Tom Paine, replying to Burke, argued that Burke’s conservativism represented the tyranny of the dead over the living – ancestor worship invoked to crush the hopes and dreams of everybody still possessed of a pulse. The Napoleonic legacy of progressivism arguably does the same thing from the opposite direction. It imposes a tyranny of the future over the present – the unborn over the living. If you conceive of yourself as an agent of progress – you can plant your flag anywhere you like and subjugate peoples in the name of a future version of themselves. It matters not whether this notion of dragging various peoples into the 19th, 20th, or 21st century is specious, self-serving, or sincere. It is efficacious. To travel in space is to travel in time and as an agent of progress you carry with you the decisive weapon of hindsight.

And yet, and yet, and yet… I can’t rid myself of the need to wake up believing that tomorrow can be better than today. Nor can I believe that the poison of colonialist subjugation is infused into that very moment of belief. The notion that things that clean running water and anaesthetised dentistry represent undeniable evidence that humans can improve on the ways of their ancestors seems to me unshakeable. The technologies of death do not negate the technologies of life. The fact that I read printed books made of paper should not subjugate my family to the authority of China for all eternity and nor should the spread of any other technology entail such dependency.

When does inspirational belief in progress calcify into the hierarchies of developmentalism? Somewhere between the sceptical relativism of Hume and the refined idealism of Kant?

In the meantime, Napoleon is regularly invoked by all apologist for New World Order. I will shed more tears for his victims than for the exile of Elba and St Helena. And his victims grow.

Struggling to find anything interesting or snarky to say about this one. Sweden’s 2021 Eurovision Entry.

Every year, I set myself the bizarre exercise of trying to review every Eurovision entry. It’s partly because I’m so painfully aware (and there are others to remind me) that my own writing can be very clunky and formulaic. If I’m to ever to even slightly improve as a writer I need some aleatory principle that forces me to address topics beyond my control. I don’t control Eurovision. It’s a competition full of songs I would never bother to contemplate, let along comment on, without this formal, annual, ritual excuse.

There’s a reason why Sweden is a Eurovision powerhouse. I mean, beyond the fact that very few nations in Europe make a point of hating the Swedes. The truth Sweden is remarkably efficient at understanding what most people want from a Eurovision winning song.

This lyrics are affirmative, sung in English, and mean absolutely nothing, which means that they can readily transcend national cultures. This song is so inoffensive it burns. But it’s exactly the sort of song that wins Eurovision.

There’s fire in the rain
But we’ll get up again
We’re thousand miles apart
But we’ll overcome
I’ll never let you down
World is turning us around
But I feel it in my heart
Let’s make a brand new start

Can’t stop us now, forget the haters
Get up and live and make it matter
There’s more to life so go ahead and sing it out

Can you hear a million voices
Calling out in the rain?
You know we’ve got a million choices
So go get out and let it rain

A million voices, voices
A million voices, voices
A million voices, voices
A million voices…

It’s an upbeat song about being upbeat. It talks about “overcoming” without ever specifying what, exactly, is to be overcome.

Oh, and the whole thing goes up a semitone for the final chorus. So there’s that. The official promo video looks very like the performance we’ll be likely to see in Rotterdam. It involves dramatic use of lasers and moving stages. But it’s also free of any obvious gimmicks. There are some backing dancers whose costumes are not stupid.

Tusse is just 19 years of age, and he’s already a Swedish Idol winner. He is fresh-faced enough to get away with platitudes. Something that I’ll never be again. Good for Tusse.

If Tusse wins Eurovision nobody will be surprised and nobody will be talking about it for very long either. “Voices” is precisely the sort of efficacious chorus that repels extended commentary.

I have thoughts about other 2021 Eurovision entries.

See below:

Albania

Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Albanian. Albania’s 2021 Eurovision entry. | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Australia:

Essays of Montaigne. Australia’s 2021 Eurovision Entry | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Austria:

Forever and ever? Amen. Austria’s 2021 Eurovision entry. | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Azerbaijan:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/03/20/she-was-cleopatra-now-shes-mata-hari-efendis-moving-on-slowly-azerbaijans-2021-eurovision-entry/conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Belgium:

Channelling Miss Havisham. Belgium’s 2021 Eurovision entry. | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Bulgaria:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/04/23/ah-last-years-was-better-but-growing-up-is-getting-old-is-still-really-good-see-also-iceland-bulgarias-2021-eurovision-entry/

Croatia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/04/25/wheres-me-jumper-croatias-2021-eurovision-entry/embed/#?secret=L0dTAi98er

Cyprus: 

Sympathy for the Devil? The 2021 Cypriot Eurovision entry reviewed. | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Germany:https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/03/26/jendrik-doesnt-feel-hate-germanys-2021-eurovision-entry-reviewed/embed/#?secret=zgDI9OyOtf

Ireland: 

Running up that Hill. Ireland’s 2021 Eurovision Entry. | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Latvia:

https://wordpress.com/post/conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/40652

Lithuania:

https://wordpress.com/post/conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/40760

Moldova:

Norway:

https://wordpress.com/post/conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/40382

Portugal:

Russia:

https://wordpress.com/post/conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/40772

Slovenia:

Three Men in a Boat and Soggy Ophelia

Reposting on the occasion of Jerome K. Jerome’s Birthday.

conradbrunstrom

 

Image

Inspired by a paper given 2 days ago by our resident Shakespearean.

An Editor’s Office 1889.

E = A generic editor.

J = “J” = Jerome K. Jerome.

 

J.             So  – did you think it was funny?

E.            Funny?  Listen mate, you have redefined funny.  You are OED funny.  This is enduringly hillarious, funny for countless generations as yet unborn.  Three Men in a Boat belongs to the ages.  I laughed and laughed and laughed.  Everyone in the office laughed.  Everyone at the club laughed.  Back home, Marjorie laughed.  And Marjorie hasn’t laughed in decades.

J.             So, which bits did you like best?

E.            Bits?  Ah, there are so many.  The fight with the tin of pineapple, the crazy old sexton advertising skulls, the murderous meditation on “No Mooring” signs… I could go on.

J.             So, you’ll publish it then?

E.            Oh for sure.  For sure we’ll…

View original post 653 more words

Why we loved Avon.

Reposting on what would have been Paul Darrow’s birthday.

conradbrunstrom

avon

We loved Avon because loving Avon was difficult.  We loved him because he didn’t need our love.  We loved him because the very thought of him maybe being able to tolerate us made us feel potentially special.  Avon was like a restaurant that it’s impossible to get a reservation at – hypnotically attractive.

We loved him more than Blake because we knew that Avon would never sell us any dangerous fantasies.  We knew that there was an honesty and an integrity to Avon’s cynicism.  Blake always over promised and under delivered.  Avon never promised you anything but would end up saving your life anyway.  And he didn’t need your thanks for doing it.  Stay close to Blake and you stand a good chance of getting killed.  Stay close to Avon and you’re likely to stay alive.

Avon is drawn into politics against his will, because he realises that it’s pointless…

View original post 384 more words

Red is the New Orange: Russia’s 2021 Eurovision Entry

Of course, it’s impossible to de-politicise Eurovision. The notion that such a contest can be decontaminated from global politics and international relations is naive to the point of fatuity.

And I must acknowledge that I feel some resistance to the idea of giving out points to anything that might be considered representative of Putin’s Russia right now.

Manizha appears on stage in a rather cumbersome idea of a vaguely Slavic national dress. But this is quickly cast aside and underneath she’s wearing what looks to me like a prison uniform. Is there any subversive intent embodied in the idea of her wearing a prison uniform while Russia’s most prominent opposition leader languishes in prison? If there is, then the state controlled Russian media does not appear to have spotted it. In any case, she retains her vibrant headscarf.

Pole, pole, pole, ya zh mala
Pole, pole, pole, tak mala
Kak proyti po polyu iz ognya
Kak proyti po polyu, yesli ty odna?

Zhdatʹ mne chʹyey-to ruchechki, ruchki?
A kto podast mne ruchku, devochki?

Ispokon vekov s nochi do utra
S nochi-nochi zhdyom my korablya
Zhdyom my korablya
Ochenʹ-ochenʹ zhdyom my korablya
Zhdyom my korablya
A chyo zhdatʹ?
Vstala i poshla

The lyrics describe a journey empowerment from being a mid-nineteenth-century serf standing in field to being an empowered adult women who resists stereotypes. Fair enough.

There’s a lot of energy behind this song and a deal of charisma as well. This sounds, for the most part, what you instinctively feel Russian rap ought to sound like. Manizha acts well on stage. She makes great eye contact and her facial expressions are rather wonderful. You want to like her.

The extent to which the red boiler suit represents a rejection of imposed notions of glamour is unclear. The fact that she appears, at from where I’m sitting, to be liberated by what looks like the costume of incarceration is fascinating and troubling.

I have some thoughts about other 2021 Eurovision entrants.

See below:

Albania

Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Albanian. Albania’s 2021 Eurovision entry. | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Australia:

Essays of Montaigne. Australia’s 2021 Eurovision Entry | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Austria:

Forever and ever? Amen. Austria’s 2021 Eurovision entry. | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Azerbaijan:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/03/20/she-was-cleopatra-now-shes-mata-hari-efendis-moving-on-slowly-azerbaijans-2021-eurovision-entry/conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Belgium:

Channelling Miss Havisham. Belgium’s 2021 Eurovision entry. | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Bulgaria:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/04/23/ah-last-years-was-better-but-growing-up-is-getting-old-is-still-really-good-see-also-iceland-bulgarias-2021-eurovision-entry/

Croatia:

Cyprus: 

Sympathy for the Devil? The 2021 Cypriot Eurovision entry reviewed. | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Germany:

Ireland: 

Running up that Hill. Ireland’s 2021 Eurovision Entry. | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Latvia:

https://wordpress.com/post/conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/40652

Lithuania:

https://wordpress.com/post/conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/40760

Moldova:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/04/21/unsuitable-for-diabetics-moldovas-2021-eurovision-entry/

Norway:

https://wordpress.com/post/conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/40382

Portugal:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/04/26/spats-entertainment-portugals-2021-eurovision-entry/

Slovenia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/04/06/amen-not-hallelujah-slovenias-2021-eurovision-entry/



Dance like Nobody’s Watching. Lithuania’s 2021 Eurovision Entry

Roop are back from last year’s abortive Eurovision. The rule applies that the same performers from 2020 can return but need to bring new material. Their song from last year is slightly better.

Apparently there are only two actual members of Roop. Like the Pet Shop Boys. However, Roop present themselves in a “V” shaped avian migratory formation of five. Three of them are essentially dancers to populate the stage. And they are all dressed in yellow.

This colour coding is sound enough in the context of a congested field. At the very least people will be able to remember “Oh year – Lithuania – the yellow people.”

The song itself is about simultaneously dancing alone and yet being at what is called, with studied archaism, a “discoteque”.

Roop can’t spell “discotheque”.

At least when Pulp sang about the discotheque back in the 90s, they were being nostalgic. This song isn’t about nostalgia but about a certain archness. If you say you want to go to a discotheque, then you are advertising your estrangement from the basic global nomenclature of clubbing over the past few decades. This is the sort of band that wants to enjoy a certain kind of dance music and yet prove that they are better than it – at one and the same time.

Lyrically, the song is based on the paradox of someone who wants to dance all alone simultaneously imagining themselves at a disco(theque).

It’s taking over me, it’s slowly kicking in
My eyes are blinking and I don’t know what is happening
I can’t control it, don’t wanna end it
There’s no one here and I don’t care
I feel it’s safe to dance alone (dance alone)

Dance alone (dance alone), dance alone (dance alone)
Dance alone (dance alone), dance alone (dance alone)
Dance alone (dance alone), dance alone

Let’s discoteque right at my home
It is okay to dance alone
Dance alone, dance alone (alone)
Dance alone (alone), dance alone (alone)
I got the moves, it’s gonna blow

Dance alone, dance alone
Dance alone, dance alone

The use of the first personal plural imperative “Let’s” added with the strained attempt to turn ‘discoteque’ into a verb at to the cumulative lyrics infelicities which go far beyond the deliberate unheimlich vibe that Roop perhaps only half-heartedly attempt to cultivate. Perhaps the whole thing would have sounded better in Lithuanian.

What else do they sort of sound like? A bit like Electric Six I suppose. But obviously without their range or their wit.

I have thoughts on other 2021 Eurovision entries.

See below:

Albania

Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Albanian. Albania’s 2021 Eurovision entry. | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Australia:

Essays of Montaigne. Australia’s 2021 Eurovision Entry | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Austria:

Forever and ever? Amen. Austria’s 2021 Eurovision entry. | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Azerbaijan:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/03/20/she-was-cleopatra-now-shes-mata-hari-efendis-moving-on-slowly-azerbaijans-2021-eurovision-entry/conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Belgium:

Channelling Miss Havisham. Belgium’s 2021 Eurovision entry. | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Bulgaria:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/04/23/ah-last-years-was-better-but-growing-up-is-getting-old-is-still-really-good-see-also-iceland-bulgarias-2021-eurovision-entry/

Croatia:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/04/25/wheres-me-jumper-croatias-2021-eurovision-entry/

Cyprus: 

Sympathy for the Devil? The 2021 Cypriot Eurovision entry reviewed. | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Germany:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/03/26/jendrik-doesnt-feel-hate-germanys-2021-eurovision-entry-reviewed/

Ireland: 

Running up that Hill. Ireland’s 2021 Eurovision Entry. | conradbrunstrom (wordpress.com)

Latvia:

https://wordpress.com/post/conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/40652

Moldova:https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2021/04/21/unsuitable-for-diabetics-moldovas-2021-eurovision-entry/

Norway:

https://wordpress.com/post/conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/40382

Portugal:

Slovenia:

The Biden Speech pondered.

I like to watch speeches. They are, after all, examples of literature. Indeed, political speeches have been considered literary forms for much longer than novels have been.

Of course, “objective” literary analysis is impossible in this case, although the theatre was objectively fascinating. Biden, very deliberately, kept saying how “grateful” he was to Congress for all their support. As the camera pans across the chamber, however, it is clear that nearly half those present do not want to be thanked. While Democrats stand up and applaud, Republicans remain stubbornly seated and in many cases keep their hands firmly clasped together lest they applaud by accident. Even when Biden says stuff like “everybody should have the right to vote” – the same sullen hostile pose is maintained.

In his official response to the Presidential address, Rep. Tim Scott repeatedly referred to the partisanship not only of the speech but of the whole Biden administration, pointing out that during 2020 under the Trump administration far more bipartisan relief bills were passed.

The idea that Trump was therefore more bipartisan than Biden is of course ludicrous. The credit for the cross party support for these 2020 bills belongs with those Democrats whose opinions about Trump were set aside in order to get help to people in a hurry.

Speed is of the essence. Biden himself knows well enough that if you don’t hit the ground running in politics, you achieve nothing. Mandates come with expiration dates.

Many people I know were very disappointed when Biden won the Democratic nomination. So much the insider, so much the conservative, so much the player, so much the known quantity – the inside man. Many of those same people are now startled at the ambition of his programme. Part of me thinks that his somewhat uninspiring prior reputation strangely liberates him, in the context of these strange times. Never underestimate the political power of playing against type and defying expectations. A programme that might look ideologically driven under the aegis of a President Saunders or a President Warren, looks like a programme that the times logically demand under the aegis of President Biden.

I was struck by the reference to trade unions. Here was a frank statement by Head of State of the world’s most powerful nation that trade unions are good. When he declared that trade unions built the middle class, he was affirming the fact that the kind of comfort and security that families naturally aspire to has been the product of collective bargaining. That can’t be said too often. He also declared that trickle-down economics doesn’t work. For decades, it seems, it’s been axiomatic that the short term economic interests of the very wealthiest has always been congruent with the fiscal well-being of the commonwealth. The idea that the interests of the very rich and the interests of most people might be at variance and that it’s necessary to choose to support the many rather than the few, feels like a breath of chastening nostalgia.

Without COVID, this agenda would not have been possible. The COVID response is a national effort comparable to a war, requiring concentration of resources on a larger scale than has been seen in decades.

Eighty years ago, when Hitler declared war of Roosevelt’s America, he did so in part because America’s military seemed so small. He (and others) totally underestimated how quickly and decisively the USA managed to convert industrial and economic might into military might. After every military endeavour of this scale, there is a natural human tendency to think “if we could do this – why can’t we do other stuff?” Dwight Eisenhower’s career charted an arc from organising a military economy, to building peacetime infrastructure, to warning against the military industrial complex.

The COVID victory makes other victories look attainable.

Why are we all so bothered? Why should I, as an Irishman who will never be an American citizen, care? Well, we all care about the USA because of its influence and its complexity. If a polity as perplexing as the USA can achieve such things, then so can others. If a nation vaguely assumed to be “constitutionally” averse to collective action, can embark on such a programme – then so can others.

Biden himself is not a natural orator. He fumbles and he stumbles. Some enjoy sneering at these hiccups as a sign of senility, Yet over the past year, Biden has managed to convert these weaknesses into strengths. His own rhetorical struggles help score the melodic line of setback and recovery. This is the great truth of speechmaking. There’s no optimal cadencing. There’s just an optimal way of owning your own cadencing.