The Eurovision Semis: What you missed.

Music Although I'm not the kind of Eurovision fan who knows the songs back to front before competition week but I do like to watch both semis which has been a frustrating experience in recent years because rather than show the whole of Eurovision's telepresentation, the BBC show has instead presented their own business with Scott Mills and whoever his co-presenter is (this year Mel Giedroyc) presumably designed to provide some background to the performers but I think draws away from the event itself.

Fortunately this year, the ceremonies were live streamed on YouTube and the sections not shown on the BBC snipped out and turned into their own videos. Here's the more prominent stuff worth seeing.

The Interval Act from the first semi final, a contemporary dance piece about the refugee crisis:

The Interval Act from the second semi final, in which humans dance synchronously with factory machines :

The Nerd Nation Part II (part one was in the first Semi but that's not on the channel for some reason)

And here are the whole live streams of both shows, should you want to enjoy the opening number for the second show again (which was the best Eurovision moment in years) and any numbers which didn't make it through to the final (and I'm sorry but San Marino was just depressing):

Click. Click. Click.

Art Last night, Liverpool hosted Light Night, the art festival designed to frustrate those of us who can't decide on anything by hosting some exciting sounding events simultaneously. As ever I decided to focus on just a couple of events, filling in the gaps between with whatever was on route. My evening began with a RIBA tour of the waterfront, followed by a glance at the morris dancers outside Tate, to the International Slavery Museum for their Afro Supa Hero exhibition focus on Black role models in popular culture (mainly a display of action figures), the Everyman to have my brainwaves tested by the Neu Collective Consciousness (after concentrating on a giant rotating shape I was told that my reaction meant I have a unique mind) (no, really) then to LIPA to investigate the Liver Bird breeding programme (large and placid... and stupid) and ending at Liverpool Cathedral to see No Worst, There Is None.

No Worst, There Is None was a special Light Night commission, as per the booklet "a large-scale immersive performance" inspired by the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem of the same name, which to the visitor amounts to numerous giant screens throughout the cathedral projecting a series of computer generated shapes accompanied by a minimalist score (composed by Bill Ryder-Jones) performed by the cathedral choir accompanied by a Salvation Army brass band.

Arriving about half way through the nine o'clock performance, to a packed cathedral, I decided to go buy a coffee and then grab a seat for the second run-through an hour later, heading up to the front as soon as the first show had ended. Sure enough my strategy worked and after some misunderstandings about reserved seats managed to sit right at the front on the isle seat in the optimal position. The seats filled up around me and twenty-minutes later, after some announcements it began.

Screens projecting, music begins, a slow abstract thrum which -


... is supposed to engender a sense of meditation and -


... concentra -


- tion in the viewer.

Within moments of the show starting, I noticed a photographer was sitting on the floor in the middle of the aisle at the front parallel with me, presumably positioned so he could take shots from a similarly great vantage point I'd scoped. Now that the show had begun, he was taking photographs. Loudly. Distractingly.

He clearly thought he was being discrete, and I don't blame the photographer, he was just being hired to do a job and follow the rules he'd been given by the client, but with a piece which was so clearly designed to beg the concentration of the viewer, this is incredibly difficult when you all you can hear, every fifteen seconds is ...

Click. Click. Click.

At one point he changed the lense. Clatter.

He wasn't the only photographer. Another was just below the front of the pews on the floor out of the way and although I could see her screen out the corner of my eye she was silent.

Do digital DSLR cameras still have shutters?  Or is this an electronic audio affection ala the smart phone?

Eventually the aisle photographer moved, but due to the way acoustics work in the cathedral, the sound of the clicking of his camera continued right through the first five minutes, all the while the band's playing, the choir's singing.

Then the clicks stopped as the photographer headed elsewhere.

At which point I just about relaxed. Apart from when the stranger sitting next to me decided to use his smartphone and take his own images.  Will he ever look at them again?  What are they for?

As we've discussed before, photography at events is an ongoing issue for me. I appreciate the need to officially record shows for posterity and future publicity purposes. But as I found at TEDx Liverpool the other year during the musical performances and various festivals, this should not ever be to the detriment of the thing which people have actually turned up for.

Was it just me who was distracted by this? Not sure. I did see a few eyes darting in his direction. The cathedral was busy anyway so there was noise elsewhere, but a background hum is less likely to impair your enjoyment of a performance than something at close quarters. Some people across the aisle began talking when boredom set in but they had the good graces to leave.

The performances ended, applause, and I sped to the door so as not to get caught behind the crowds leaving.  On reflection, I don't know what I made of the show or what it was trying to achieve.  Perhaps this wasn't the right venue for it anyway, too public, much more suited to a place where the sounds and images can wash over the viewer.

But: please event organisers, in future, try to consider the extent to which you're disrupting an event for the audience when organising photography and other ways of recording it.

Will McAvoy on Trump.

Politics It's with some irony that the very people who would be best placed to talk about Trump simply aren't there any more, although Ritchie episodes of The West Wing probably went some way to doing the job. Anyway, here's Will McAvoy from Sorkin's second best series going apeshit about the whole business [via].

As a bonus here's Jon Stewart being constantly interrupted by David Axelrod for an hour or so before the most uncomfortable Q&A moment in history.

Elizabeth Day on living out of a suitcase.

Life Oddly enough this sounds idyllic:
"I had no home, no partner, no children. There was no terraced house waiting to be populated by babies who I would watch grow into adults, before retiring and deciding to extend the kitchen. I had always thought things would turn out that way. But they weren’t going to.

"So I needed to be shown that there were other ways to live. I needed not to have the responsibility of fixing the boiler or buying pillows. I needed shelter in other people’s houses and I was fortunate enough to find it."
As I said yesterday (ahem), I'm easily distracted so I'm not sure I could write anything, let alone a novel, whilst sitting in a cafe unless I had loud enough music to drown out the sound of humanity.

Elizabeth Wurtzel on Augusta.

Nature On how adopting an abandoned puppy changed her life:
"She was consuming. She wanted to do everything. I was afraid she was going to want a subscription to the ballet at Lincoln Center. She was busy. She wanted to walk all the time, and once we started, she did not want to stop.

"She made me cry. Early one morning, I broke down. Work with me, Augusta, I pleaded. She did not care. She wanted to walk more.

"I discovered dogwalkers and dog daycare. I made friends with other dog owners. We worked it out. I cannot believe we worked it out. It is because I love her so much."
I always wondered what it must be like to own a dog. I'm allergic to cat hair, so that's out, but dogs. But I don't think I have the temperament. I'm already too easily distracted.

My Favourite Film of 1947.

Music The only David Bowie album I ever owned, or certainly owned on vinyl though I'm pretty certain I don't own any others is his soundtrack album to Labyrinth, bought from the Liverpool Central Library when it was having a clear out (having borrowed the same copy myself earlier).

 The key track, or at least the track most people seem to remember most, is Magic Dance.  It was parodied recently in the "outtakes" at end of the second episode of the brilliant BBC Four comedy, "The Life of Rock with Brian Pern".

Here's the scene from the film in which it appears:

Mainly people seem to remember it for the opening dialogue:

Bowie: You remind me of the babe.
Goblin: What babe?
Bowie: The babe with the power.
Goblin: What power?
Bowie: The power of voodoo.
Goblin: Who do?
Bowie: You do.
Goblin: Do what?
Bowie: Remind me of the babe.

Having listened to this blessed album incessantly as a child years before I realised (a) that Bowie was quite a famous musician and that (b) he'd done a few other things on top of playing the Goblin King, it's imprinted on my brain.

Shift forward to this evening during which I was entertained by Bachelor Knight (or The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer as it was called in the US), 1947 romantic screwball comedy starring Myrna Loy, Cary Grant and Shirley Temple (RIP) which is currently available on the BBC iPlayer after its broadcast on Sunday morning. For reason too complicated to explain here, Grant has been forced to date the much younger (and underaged) Temple and this scene in an attempt to overplay his hand in order to end his purgatory he's playing Jack the lad:

At which point I jumped out my chair as the years drifted away. There it is again. Slightly different but nevertheless:

Grant: You remind me of the man.
Temple: What man?
Grant: The man with the power.
Temple: What power?
Grant: The power of hoodoo.
Temple: Who do?
Grant: You do.
Temple: Do what?
Grant: Remind me of the man.

It's repeated in various ways across the film and colour me amazed as we find David Bowie influenced by this relatively forgotten Cary Grant film (though it's worth noting the screenplay written by Sidney Sheldon won an Academy Award). Hoodoo incidentally is "folk magic".

How did this happen?

Magic Dance's Wikipedia page merely acknowledges the reference as does the one for Bachelor Knight (or The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer as it was called in the US).

Google otherwise only turns up this Yahoo Answers conversation from eight years ago in which, as ever, no one has the faintest idea what they're talking about.

Clearly the answer is somewhere along the lines of "David Bowie was watching television one night saw the quote and thought "I'll have that." " Or was simply familiar with the dialogue from a familiarity with old Hollywood which also led to this.  Or that they're both referencing a different literary source which I've entirely missed.

I can't think of there being any particular thematic connection other than that Temple and Loy's besottedness with Grant is signalled in hallucinatory sequences in which Cary is shown dressed as a knight in full armour obscured by soft focus and that like Labyrinth its about a young girl ambiguously obsessed with an older man.

Either way, my goodness.  Any Bowie scholars out there who'd like to hazard a guess?

[Note: This was originally posted in February 2014 which is why some of you'll remember it, especially since I tweeted it a few times on the occasion of Bowie's passing. But it does feel like a proto-type for where this weekly column is heading and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer or whatever it's called in your territory is my favourite film of that year - at least because the repetition rule dismisses The Lady from Shanghai for obvious reasons.]

All-Purpose Marvel Movie Review.

Film Funny because it's true. But it's true because they're so good at what they do:
"I didn’t know if Up And Coming Actor/Sort Of Famous But Never Starred In A Blockbuster Actor could carry a Marvel movie, but as the strong/funny/self-deprecating Good Man, he does so brilliantly. By turns steely, vulnerable, tortured, sarcastic, and heroic, Good Man is the epitome of the modern Superhero/Alien/Normal Guy Thrust Into Unforeseen Fantastic Circumstances. His journey from nobody to savior grounds in heartfelt realism what is otherwise an action-packed blockbuster of extraordinary magnitude."
Oh my, Ant-Man.