Christmas Letter 2012

20121222-225731.jpg

Seasons Greetings, Letter Recipients!

So here we are again, me writing a needlessly rambling and (allegedly) amusing recap of the year along with seasonal well-wishes in place of sending Christmas Cards; and you, [Your Name Here], rolling your eyes/skimming through it briefly/hunting out any fodder it provides to respond mockingly (Delete as Appropriate).

As you can see, the letter is mildly customisable this year, so…You know…enjoy that, I guess.

2012 sure was intense. I for one was concerned we’d all had it when that plane with John Cusack and Amanda Peet on it was engulfed by the pyroclastic flow from that volcano…

Wait that doesn’t uh…That doesn’t sound right…

That was the movie wasn’t it?

Crap.

Ummmmm…2012 the year was the one with the South Korean bloke dancing weirdly on YouTube, right?

Well that was pretty good too. And in an added bonus, in the year we all get to live, and not just the people who made it to the comically oversized and suspiciously well-hidden ships like in the movie.

And living was worth it, because we got to see Wiggo, Andy Murray, Jess Ennis, Mo Farah et al make this pretty much the best year ever for British Sport. If you’re from some other country you probably care less about that. I on the other hand thought it was awesome and I am clearly objective (he wrote, shamelessly wearing his Team GB London 2012 Tennis T-Shirt).

But if the very British Olympics is what caught our viewing attention this year, our musical tastes were captivated by some very different styles. There was the aforementioned fit of global insanity, Gangnam Style. To paraphrase a great movie, a million record sales isn’t cool. You know what’s cool?

A BILLION YOUTUBE VIEWS.

Oh mankind, your priorities are amazing.

But it wasn’t just crazed Koreans. There was the year’s other ear worm too, the anti-Friday, proving that if 2011 was a year of cynicism then 2012 was going to be about boundless, unashamed joy (perhaps because we were all pretending to believe there was even a tiny chance the world would end in December even though the reality is nobody’s actually that stupid).

Yes, Canadia have finally made up for Bryan Adams (For whom their government has apologised on a number of occasions) with Call Me Maybe. Which seemed perfect fodder for a One Hit Wonder, but then Carly Rae Jepsen did that song with Owl City and we all went “huh, I guess she’s sticking around after all…I’m okay with that.”

Yeah, it was a good year. The Newsroom debuted this year, The Dark Knight Rises AND Avengers Assemble came out over the summer and now we’ve got The Hobbit.

Myself, I turned 21. Which is…Weird. And I also finally made it to Walt Disney World, which is basically like heaven if you’re me, so…Yeah. Good times.

I was a bit worried things might have been taking a turn when the Yellowstone National Park Super Volcano erupted in Woody Harrelson’s face, but it all worked out.

Wait.

That was the movie again, wasn’t it?

…Uhhhh…

Never mind then.

So anyway, here’s to a great year, the year that was (and – for a little while longer, I suppose – still is) Twenty Twelve. I had a blast, so hopefully you did too.

Looking ahead to the new hotness of 2013, I have to go find an actual job using my training in TV Production and my particular skill in drawing attention to myself when in front of a camera.

…Oh boy, 2013 is going to be tricky, huh?

Eep. Well, anyway, to you my family/valued friend/casual acquaintance/random person reading this by mistake (Delete as Appropriate), I wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

And, in the interests of multiculturalism, Feliz Navidad.

Hah, you thought I was gonna say something politically correct like “Happy Holidays” or “Have a Happy Hanukkah; Kwazy Kwanza; Solemn, Dignified Ramadan etc.” or something like that didn’t you? Well I didn’t, instead I worked in a way to shamelessly add that I started learning Spanish this year for no adequately explored reason.

…And then I wound up saying all those politically correct bits anyway, huh?

Meh.

Your Pal/Relative/Acquaintance/Fellow Human Being – whether you like it or not (Delete as Appropriate)
Paul Douglas

I leave you with these very important parting words:
¡Por favor, manténgase alejado de las puertas!

CCi LIVE 19/10/2012

Student Super Savers, a broadcast for CCi Live focuses on the financial strains of students and advice that can be given to them, to make sure that stay clear of financial hardships. Student finance advisors have been interviewed to give advice to students on how to stay on top of their finances and which precautions they can take to maintain a healthy bank balance. The show also focuses on how to save money when food shipping, joining the gym and gives advice on how to get a job. There is also a showcase by Dimitri Papazachariou

http://vimeo.com/ccitv/191012

CCi LIVE 12/10/2012

It’s the third CCi Live of the new Academic Year and we’ve packed it with a look at how the University promotes itself to new students, a look at some of the great work being created by students around the University, tips on enjoying your time in Portsmouth, an introduction to a brand new course on offer in the CCI Faculty and of course your weekly dose of the latest news and goings on!

http://vimeo.com/51288445

Eurovision Song Contest 2012: Semi-Final 2 Thoughts

It’s that time again! After giving my thoughts on Tuesday’s Semi-Final, it’s now time for me to feedback on Eurovision Song Contest 2012 Semi-Final 2, which took place last night. If you want to remind yourself of context and so on, check out the introduction to the Semi Final 1 Post. You might even want to check out those thoughts before looking at these if you haven’t already red the other post.

Now, before we get to the actual competitors’ entries, I’m gonna go ahead and say that last night’s show was much better than Tuesday’s. There were two reasons for this. First, but less importantly, the BBC’s production was much smoother yesterday. Tuesday it seems as if the talent and production team had turned up five minutes before air and had no idea what they were going to be doing more than five to ten minutes in advance. Last night flowed much more smoothly, it felt a lot more planned & considered.

They also made sure Sara Cox was rarely without Scott Mills to balance out her irritating quirks (Cox is much more agreeable playing off Scott Mills than she is trying to be funny on her own).

Secondly, and most importantly, Azerbaijan’s Semi-Final 2 played host to one of the coolest Eurovision interval acts I have ever seen – I’m almost disappointed they wasted it on the Semi, it easily would have been at home in the Final proper. They got the most recent five winners of the ESC onstage together to perform a medley, including the relevant winning five songs and then a fantastic group cover of Waterloo.

It was awesome. The winners put in standout performances, it sounded great and as a Eurovision nerd it was simply cool to see. Plus, it means Lena was at the ESC for the third successive year.

And it’s no secret I adore Lena, having voted for her on both occasions of her entering the Contest. She’s lovely, and I was pleasantly surprised and delighted to find out she was back again.

Anyway, with that out of the way, on to the finalists!

Serbia

Serbia kicked things off with a rather mournful ballad – which frankly set the tone for what wound up being a fairly ballad-heavy semi. Serbia have won with a ballad before, but I’m not really sure it’s gonna work twice. The entry’s not awful, but it didn’t exactly ignite my passions. It did, notably, innovate. Yes, rather than falling into the “pretty lady with a violin cliché…

TWO pretty ladies with violins! Multiple nice-looking women playing lovely sounding string instruments! GENIUS!

Macedonia

I…Wait a minute…

Yep, it happens that quickly. Macedonia went second, and they too put on a mournful ballad (Albeit one which was a little bit more rousing towards the end) with a pair of pretty ladies paling violins. The similarity of the two acts first onstage is frankly hilarious. Luckily they’ve been separated a bit in the Final.

Not much to say about these two if I’m honest. They’re not really to my taste, I’ve only occasionally liked Eurovision ballads (Molitva deserved its win against the finalists that year in my opinion, though Salvem El Móm was the best song in the Contest overall). Still, there are worse songs than these two in the contest. In fact there’s worse songs in the final.

It’s Albania. I’m talking about Albania. That song is baaaaad.

Malta

I was slightly concerned this wouldn’t get through. It’s very good; and it has a suitably epic feel (Definitely plays well as a stadium performance, put it that way); but despite it’s catchy, poppy style it also flirts heavily with the rock music aesthetic. And as we know, rock songs have a history of being streets ahead of other songs in the contest and being left in the Semis anyway (Like Salvem El Móm).

Fortunately for Malta, it appears the maltese entry’s pop music stylings saved it from the rock music curse. It may have helped that there was another entry with more overtly rocky stylings to absorb the curse…More on that later.

Ukraine

Ukraine have been known to send some bizarre acts (Dancing Lasha Tumba? That was the Ukraine entry that year. Yeah), and it seems to work for them. Be My Guest continues that proud tradition:

And indeed, this is a particularly strong example. The song is actually pretty damn good, which always helps make a novelty act worth our attention, the singer is fairly easy on the eyes and the entry as a whole is very Eurovision. Definitely earning a spot in the final, I noted at the time that there was no way this song was failing to make the cut.

Sweden

Behold, ladies and gentlemen, the out and out favourite to win:

Euphoria, Sweden’s latest effort, leads the bookies’ odds and the buzz in the hardcore Eurovision crowd is that this is in with a really good chance of stopping the Russian Grannies (The number 2 seed, buoyed by the novelty factor).

And it’s…Actually not bad. It’s not my favourite song in the contest, but I do like it, despite initially not taking to it. I kind of felt like the verses were a bit incomprehensible last night though. It’s possible, however, that this was a technical thing and not related to the song, so it might sound better on Saturday. At any rate, not my pick, but I’d not be upset at it winning.

Unless it narrowly beats Denmark. Then Sweden can go to hell.

Turkey

Turkey sent a novelty act. Hahahaha, we get it, they made their weird costumes link together in the form of a boat around him. Isn’t that marvellous?

Not especially, no. Annoyingly, the song is actually alright. The problem, as I see it, is that the singer is not…What’s that word…Good? He’s maybe passable. But not good. The song has a relatively catchy hook, but I constantly felt the lyrics and the music were on keys which were not only quite far apart, but also so far apart it seemed unlikely the two had ever met.

Not great, might do well anyway though. Not especially bad either at least.

Estonia

This is an entry which elicits a “meh” from me. It’s in no way bad, but it’s not really my cup of tea (it’s another soppy ballad). THere was some amusement to be had with its singer though, who is Estonia’s answer to Zac Efron (He played Troy in Estonian High School Musical) and perennial nobody Chris O’Donnell.

So it’s a good looking guy singing a ballad eh?

And so it came to be.

Norway

More hilarious lookalike fun to be had here. Take a look at Norway’s entry:

It could also be that this guy is the magic offspring of Kutcher and Taylor Lautner.

Joking aside, Norway put in a solid effort. Nothing much to complain about here. Competent entry, decent enough song, no surprise it made the final. It’ll probably do quite well. I didn’t like it early on in the performance and felt like it might go out, but by the end it had flipped me and I was approving, though slightly concerned about what the judges would do with it. Concerns were ill-founded, since it made it in.

Bosnia And Herzegovina

Bosnia & Herzegovina sent Romana, one time Lord President of the Time Lords (Snark snark her costume is preposterous oh that Bosnia and Herzegovina etc. etc.) to perform an example of my least favourite Eurovision entry type, a weeper – a particularly soppy, miserable and downbeat ballad.

Not a fan, but apparently Europe is because it got in along with…

Lithuania

Who also sent a weeper – though at least theirs became a bit more rousing toward the middle and back half. Still not one of my favourites, and I certainly would;t have been sorry to see it go out. It capped off what turned out to be a very ballad-heavy Semi Final, and I have to say I strongly disagree with the sentiment of some other Eurovision geeks (At least ahead of Semi Final 2) that Semi Final 1 was the weaker Semi. Only a few good songs if you ask me – and precious few of those made it from Semi Final 2 to Saturday’s Final (More on that below).

Lithuania did provide me some amusement though, as 24 year old Donny Montell (4 years my senior) looks about half that age.

Anyway, with the Finalists out of the way, it’s time to move on to the unlucky eight who are going home early (Well, metaphorically speaking).

The Netherlands

See, I’m not sure if Joan Franka realised 120 Million+ People watch this thing. Because it certainly seemed as if she thought it was a little thing down the pub. Her jaunty little love-themed ditty wasn’t awful, but it was by no means good. It sounded weird and she looked high most of the time she was onscreen (She even seemed under the influence in the Green Room).

Still, the netherlands did decide to keep up the theme of innovation with violins from the two acts before them, by changing things up in a crazy new way:

Note for the record though that a male violinist did win for Norway in 2009. He was also the lyricist though.

Belarus

Belarus overturned the result of the national tele-vote to pick their entry because their country’s leadership agreed with the population’s sentiment that the vote had been rigged to prevent this entry from winning.

Well, you know what Belarus? You should have let BTRC rig the result. Lightspeed’s effort was incredibly mediocre. Another bloody Eurovision Song about succeeding against long odds, with clichéd boasts of presumptive triumph thrown in? Jeez, guys, 2007 called, they want their semi-finalist dropouts back.

No surprises this went to, and no huge loss to the Contest.

Portugal

The first big scalp, at least if the hype was to be believed. If you ask me though, a lone woman in a showy dress in front of a crowd of barely moving backup singers (take a shot) singing a ballad? Yeah, like we needed another one of those. Portugal sent a particularly uninspiring effort at a style already being overused, so they were always going out.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s entry had a lot of hype behind it because it had one of the least worthless gimmicks of all the gimmicks entered this year (And there’s quite a few of them, as per usual). You should check it out, because it’s actually not bad – in fact I had it pegged as probably getting through, though I did imagine it would endure anonymity in the final. I guess Europe had other ideas.

Slovenia

For my money, the biggest scalp of the night, was this rather enchanting entry from Slovenia failing to make it into the final.I really liked it, and it seemed like a lock to me:

But it seems Europe didn’t want that much variety in the finalists tonight (We’ll get to that) and so they decided the only song tonight which successfully took the “get a lady to sing a song” idea in a direction other than “make it a ballad because real art is sad!” should be shown the door. Kind of a big loss. This was a good one. One of my top five for sure.

Yes, it starts off as kind of a ballad, but unlike the others it quickly builds to something anthemic. The others stick pretty stubbornly to downbeat balladic themes. This one reminds me of Molitva, in that it becomes very powerful and catchy as it builds.

Also, she’s quite pretty.

Croatia

Croatia’s entry opted for an…Ahem…Innovative approach to preparing for the Contest.

Yeah…So that was weird. And not worth it because it didn’t go through. No huge loss, it merely joined the throngs of songs last night which were mournful dreary ballads sung by women. In fact, this one really took the cake:

Still, it did have one thing going for it, the most obvious example of an old friend to all Eurovision fans:

And yes, the Eurovision key Change did lead to it being a bit more upbeat, but enough of it was dreary and miserable that it failed to excite me the way Slovenia did.

Georgia

Baffling. Just baffling.

Not awful.

Just…Baffling.

Not a huge loss, though not abysmal.

Mostly? Baffling.

Slovakia

Simultaneously the biggest scalp of the evening (Semi Final 2’s best song – hands down) and the one I was least surprised was forced out. Slovakia, failing completely to heed my repeated warnings about rock songs frequently being among the best songs in the Contest and yet still going out in the Semi because apparently Europe hates rock music now, entered “Don’t CLose Your Eyes” and…Just listen to it:

How can you not want to rock out to that!? It’s fantastic. This is exactly the kind of song which would be played all over University Campuses.

I voted for it, despite knowing full well it was probably a waste of effort. I had to try. Andorra going out still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth (As you may have noticed). Alas, the curse struck once again, and so another of the top five songs in the entire contest has gone out at the first hurdle.

This was the dog with the best chance of unseating Denmark was my personal voice for winner. But Europe hates rock music, and so Slovakia’s chances are down the drain.

So then, I leave you with this:

Go Soluna Samay Go! Vote Denmark!

Eurovision Song Contest 2012: Semi-Final 1 Thoughts

Ah, the Eurovision Song Contest. Music as sport, with hilarious campiness and snark added for that little extra spice. As you might know, I ADORE it. I watch it every year and blow up Twitter with my ongoing commentary on everything that happens. And now, I’m blogging about it too (Ahead of having a mini Eurovision Party on Saturday for the first time!)

Here then I will be writing up my thoughts on Semi Final 1. I’ll do the same on Friday for Semi Final 2, and Sunday for the Final. Naturally, during the shows, my usual Twitter service will be in full effect. Saturday’s should be fun, as I’m going to be drinking Beer and playing a Eurovision Drinking Game and there’s nothing funnier than drunken live tweets. Now, for context, I take a semi serious approach to ESC. I treat it as a serious competition of musical performance but I’m entirely okay with it being light entertainment. And the fact is, if you take the show slightly seriously, it makes the campy nonsense even funnier to snark about.

With that in mind, I tend to favour serious entries, by which I mean heartfelt genuine efforts to produce a genuinely good song and performance, over the deliberately absurd gimmick entries – though if the song is good, I can appreciate the gimmick. I do, however, have a preference for more upbeat tracks. That said, I’ll support something more akin to a ballad provided it’s catchy enough or what have you.

With that out of the way then, here’s my thoughts on, first, the ten lucky entrants who will join the Big Five & Our Hosts (Azerbaijan) on Saturday.

Iceland

A heartfelt ballad duet song by a pretty girl and a handsome guy. Okay, first of all, take a shot. Take another because the pretty lady has a violin. Second…Meh? There’s almost always a song like this, and I can’t for the life of me recall it winning…Except, last year. Yes, that’s right, Iceland have turfed up as both this year’s cliche storm entry and the entry flagrantly ripping off last year’s winner (Another thing which also always happens – oh you better believe you should take a shot). It’s inoffensive enough like, so it was always getting through, but I predict (and hope for) relative anonymity on Saturday.

Greece

What’s that? Greece have sent a pretty girl with a sexually suggestive song who dances around provocatively giving us a good view of her legs and the occasional panty shot? Take another shot, and I hope you weren’t planning on driving tonight because you’re already wasted. Greece have pulled this exact stunt several times, as have other countries with admittedly less frequency than our cash-strapped Olympic inventing friends. Their best effort in this regard was 2008’s Kalomira, who at least seemed like a lovely girl on top of being pretty (it was also probably the best song they’ve sent with a pretty girl dancing suggestively, which helped). I doubt Greece are going to score big with Eleftheria and her “Aphrodisiac” (Subtelty has gone out the window incidentally), still the girl’s nice to look at.

Albania

Albania’s entry sucks. It just flat out sucks. This is an awful “song”, in a horrible style sung by a woman with what appears to be the weirdest hairdo in ESC history – think about that for a moment. How hard would it be to be that weird? She managed it. It’s mournful, a-melodic screeching and I’m frankly disgusted it got through. I have to imagine the judges are responsible for that (out of some pretentious belief that it’s artsy) because if Europe voted in droves for this dreck, I despair for humanity in general.

Romania

Another meh here. This is a song which left very little impression on me. I predicted at the time it would get through, as it had a distinctly inoffensive blandness, but I’d be amazed if it breaks the top ten in the final. Not much to say really. It’s okay, I guess.

Cyprus

Here we have Cyprus copying Greece’s signature play, which if you think about it is all sorts of hilarious given the relationship between the two nations. Yes it’s a pretty girl dancing about and singing a relatively catchy pop song. But, interestingly enough, it seems Cyprus may just have beat Greece at the latter’s own game. “La La Love” is undeniably a better song than Greece’s entry. And Ivi Adamou, whilst perhaps not quite as overtly sexy as  Eleftheria, is probably prettier than her Greek rival – and pretty girls tend to be more likely to succeed in ESC than simply sexy ones.

Denmark

Speaking of pretty girls doing well, Soluna Samay is very pretty. Although her fashion sense is a bit suspect, as noted in response to me by @SLomasSCFC1883:

Anyway, Soluna has entered a catchy acoustic pop song called “Should Have Known Better”. This song is fantastic. It’s a wonderfully pleasant listen. It’s technically a bit sorrowful if you listen to the lyrics, but it’s composed in a delightfully hopeful manner. This, for me, is the standout song of the Semi, and it’s my favourite so far (I’ve heard all the songs barring those in Semi Final 2 and the UK’s entry, which I usually wait until the final to hear unless there’s a public vote to pick it). I love this song, and Soluna is well on her way to getting my vote at this rate.

Russia

I’m in two minds about the infamous “Russian Grannies” entry. On the one hand, it is delightfully silly and genuinely endearing. Plus, it is appealingly catchy. After all, it’s a cheesy pop song. They tend to be catchy. On the other hand, it’s the Russian entry. This isn’t going to make sense to you if you’re not a Eurovision nut like myself, but we really don’t need or want to be going back to Russia, and the bitter taste of their last victory is still in my mouth. Unfortunately, this could be a lock. It’ll play well with the casual voters Europe-wide. The judges will take a dim view, but that could well not be nearly enough to keep this from winning. Apart from anything else, I’d like to keep it from winning precisely because it’s goofy. As noted above, I prefer genuinely good songs to win. Like “Should Have Known Better”.

Seriously, Soluna is this year’s Lena, I swear.

Hungary

Hungary’s was another entry which had “heading on to certain obscurity in the final” written all over it, with the the added bonus of being another example of those entries which seem to make an appearance every year (Yay for generic entries I guess?):

So, yeah. Not a lot to be said. It wasn’t awful, but I doubt it’s contesting the win.

Moldova

I’m a little disappointed this got through. I mean it’s not awful. And there were worse songs which were deservedly left behind. But I could have done without it (Though, given the choice, I’d pick it over Albania’s shameful waste of a slot any day). It’s a predictably absurd entry from the Moldovans, and I’m starting to wonder if they’re not a bit unhinged. From the weird costumes to the slightly bizarre song itself, it’s just a smidge too goofy for my tastes. And the fact it’s not even full on goofy makes it worse. It’s almost a normal entry. But with absurdity smeared all over it for no apparent reason. I’m not a fan, but it could possibly do well.

Ireland

Yeah, it’s Jedward. Back for another go. Funnily enough I actually like Waterline more than last year’s “Lipstick”. It’s a more sincere effort at a song. And the theatrics onstage with the fountain were pretty great actually, made a nice change to the usual fireworks and props stuff. Biggest mistake? Jedward’s needless shiny spacesuit outfits. Completely out of place with the song and just generally stupid. I know they’re supposed to have this quirky stage persona, but I just think it doesn’t fit this song and it’s possibly hurt their chances.

Incidentally, I’m not sure why, but the press (Or at least, the BBC) seemed baffled by the word “waterline” and kept asking “what is a water line?” of Jedward. The boys were equally baffled by the question. But I would suggest this was not, as it may have seemed, because they didn’t now, but because they weren’t prepared to be asked such a moronic question. It’s the surface of a given body of water. The metaphor, equally, is pretty self-explanatory. I really didn’t understand where the confusion arose from. But there you are.

Anyway, those are our ten qualifiers. Let’s take a look at the eight acts which have crashed out of the contest for the year now.

Montenegro

Montenegro it seems did not make a sincere effort, with their entry coyly describing his attendance at the contest as a “mistake”.

I’d have to assume this is because they don’t want to pay to host the contest next year  – fair enough, other nations have done the same thing. I do wish they had chosen to simply enter something which would just “never win” rather than this abomination of a time waster. I think it was supposed to be funny. But it wasn’t. It was just genuinely bad. Which is not a substitute for funny.

Latvia

Yes Latvia’s bizarrely staged “Beautiful Song” turned heads for the oddly broadway-esque style of its opening moments and the “vaguely attractive in an ugly sort of way” looks of is performers. Unfortunately, the heads turned were treated to an ironically bland and forgettably mediocre ode to a beloved and memorable song (Presumably it was supposed to be shaped like itself. It was not.)

Switzerland

Switzerland made two mistakes. First (technically second, but I’m addressing it first) of all, their lead singer was squinting distractingly in one eye as the song began. The effect was incredibly bizarre and unsettling. Second (really first), they entered a rock song.

And so it proved, as Switzerland became another example of a rock song failing to make it out of the Semis. Personally, I think it’s a shame, I’d like to see more rock songs in the final, even if just for the sake of variety. But alas, the trend continues. Still, at least it wasn’t as disappointing as 2007, when the best song in the entire contest (Andorra’s “Salvem El Móm”) didn’t make it out of the Semis having fallen victim to the rock song curse (Amusingly though, the contest was held in Finland that year because the previous year Finland broke the rock song curse by combining it with a gimmick – the oldest Eurovision trick in the book – in the form of Lordi, the monster make up performers).

Belgium

Belgium had a sweet entry, with 17-year-old Iris rivalling Soluna for prettiest girl performing. The entry was perhaps held back a bit though by the fact that it was a bit boring. The song started off seeming as if it was building to something which never really came. It could have done with an uplifting chorus, final verse or even middle eight to lift things. Instead it came across as a wee bit mournful. This and Switzerland’s efforts though, by far the least deserving of being ejected. I myself would have swapped this in for Albania and Switzerland for Moldova. But that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I originally thought the judges might save it, but it would seem not.

Finland

Finland have fallen a long way from winning six years ago. This year’s entry was a blandly uninteresting cliche storm, which I’ll let my Tweets summarise:

I guess they were trying to do an Iceland, but their effort fell flat. It was never getting through.

Israel

Hooray! Israel knocked out in the Semis! I really am sick of Israel turfing up to these contests and trying to make a mockery of proceedings. This year’s acid trip of a clanger was no exception, and I was not in the least bit sorry to see it go. It ranks in my bottom four alongside alongside Albania and our next two evictees.

San Marino

San Marino tried to enter a song called “Facebook (Uh Oh)” but were politely reminded commercial messages are banned. They renamed it “The Social Network Song” and inflicted it on us anyway. It stank. It’s bad. It’s terrible. It’s musically pathetic, lyrically awful and it falls into the “You’ve Got Mail” trap hard. Some of its apologists are pointing out that it’s meant to be satire. And, okay, yeah, it’s satire. Fine. That doesn’t excuse the fact it’s awful. It’s horrible to listen to. You wanna write a satirical song, go right on ahead, but make it a good song. San Marino’s crime is identical to that of…Ugh…Dustin the fucking Turkey.

Thankfully, like Dustin, this atrocious act of parody was shown the door in the Semis.

Austria

Austria just weren’t trying. From their TV-unfriendly artist name (Trackshittaz is clearly a corruption of Track Shitters, whether you admit it or not, BBC) to the pole dancing, to the awful lyrics to the douchebaggish nature of the assholes performing the song, Austria apparently sought to make a mockery of the contest and were promptly shown the door. Eurovision may be campy and ridiculous, but you will never get far trying to take the piss out of the Contest like this. Didn’t work for Dustin, didn’t work for those idiots who ‘sang’ “We Are the Winners (Of Eurovision)” and it didn’t work for this pair of assholes.

That then is Semi Final 1. I’ll be back Friday with my detailed thoughts on Semi Final 2 (And you can see my Tweets live during the show @TVPaulD). In the meantime, I leave you with my thoughts on the Automatic Qualifiers:

France: Good

Germany: Good

Spain: Okay

Italy: Very Good

United Kingdom: SIGH, I really wanted us to send something with a chance of winning this year, but we did not

Azerbaijan: Meh

Christmas Letter 2011

Season’s Greetings Friends, Family & assorted hangers-on!

It’s that time of year once again where many people choose to send each other nice simple Christmas Cards – short, sweet indications that they’re thinking of you at this, the most wonderful time of the year. And, as has become tradition, I am instead wasting your time with this, my annual Christmas Letter, in which I reflect at unnecessary length on the year that was and, of course, the festive season.

So here I am, sitting in the glow of the unnecessarily large Christmas tree in my bedroom with my (infamous, and only partially accurately named) Xmas in Pompey 2 Spotify playlist filling the room with the sounds of Christmas cheer. Which sounds incredibly cheesy, but I’ve always said* it’s not cheesy if you can think of something either as cheesy, or more cheesy, which is also less appropriate for the given situation. And I have:

A Margherita.

Now, with that out of the way, on to the reflecting on the year. And frankly I think nothing this year says more about our modern era than the way that godawful “Friday” song by Rebecca Black infected every facet of our lives over the course of about a month earlier in the year – and it already feels like it’s ancient history.

Either the years are getting longer or we’re finding more ways to do stuff in them. Luckily, Mark Zuckerberg has come up with a way to find out in Facebook Timeline, whilst Twitter continues to give us an avenue to voice our every trivial thought (And say bitchy things about the way candidates on The Apprentice choose to dress). And I for one welcome our new Social Media overlords. I’d like to remind them that as a trusted (Ahem) TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.

Speaking of TV, the has been a great year for TV and I can prove it in just ten words:

The Simpsons has been renewed through its twenty-fifth season.

There have of course been some downsides though. The X Factor has unfortunately not been canceled yet, Big Brother was (Unfathomably) brought back and the BBC decided to hand over half their F1 (More on that in a moment) coverage to Sky Sports, which was probably not the best idea considering that they did so right at the same time as the entire country was furious with Rupert Murdoch, News Corp & Sky over the flagrant corruption & use of phone hacking. As own goals go, the BBC pulled off a belter there.

Oh and while I’ve got you, I still say Germany should have won Eurovision again. Yeah, I’m still bitter about that. And what?

Anyway, I said I’d say something about Formula 1. Ignoring the fact Vettel made the whole season rather dull with his overpowered Red Bull car (I really don’t think it’s fair that he gets a car which gives you wings), this was still a cracking year with some all-time classic races, including the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix, the longest race in F1 history (A record it will hold forever as the rules have now been changed to prevent races running as long as that one did).

Also, over the two-year period since Jenson Button joined McLaren, he’s outscored Lewis Hamilton. At the risk of saying I told you so, I TOTALLY FRIGGING TOLD YOU SO.

Ahem…Anywho, I suppose I should say something about some other sports for the sake of balance, but they’re going to have to be eternally true platitudes because I barely pay attention to most of them so er…Manchester United are evil, cricket is dull & tedious, Rugby is vaguely homoerotic etc. etc.

Also if I don’t mention video games, the citizens of Giant Bomb (dot) Com will probably shoot me in the knee with an arrow. I don’t fully get that joke because I never played Skyrim (Too busy playing The Legend of Zelda IN THREE DEE on my 3DS), but they make references to it all the time on Reddit so I guess it must be pretty funny. The biggest thing in games this year for me was probably the return of Pokémon. Oh god how I played a lot of Pokémon.

So then, with that all out of the way, I leave you with this topical reference to both 2011 & 2012 in the form of a brain teaser:

If you ask Siri to schedule “the end of the world” for December 21, 2012, does that make you God if the world does end then**?

Have a
Merry Christmas,
Happy Holidays,
Helluva Hanukkah
Perfect Pancha Ganapti***,
Delectable Dies Natalis Solis Invicti***,
Dignified Quaid-e-Azam’s Day***,
Marvellous Malkh-Festival,
Kwazy Kwanzaa,
And a Happy New Year,

Your Pal,
Paul Douglas.

* Not true. I’ve never said that.
** No, no it doesn’t. That would be stupid.
*** Look it up.

Some Cliched Jokes And Why They’re Supposed To Be Funny (Or Never Were)

COMEDY! Now that I’ve got your attention, we’re gonna talk about…Well…Comedy…Um. Yeah. Anyway, as you may know, I am (Technically) a comedian. Note, I did not saysuccessful comedian. Technically, I am an internet comedian, otherwise referred to as “the lowest known form of life”. Nevertheless, I am taking it upon myself to take you through ten jokes which are totally played out and explain why they’re funny, why they’re supposed to befunny or, most likely, why they really aren’t.

“…And what’s the deal with airline food?”

Ah the airline food joke. The stereotypical last refuge of the hack standup comedian. You’ve probably seen this joke used more frequently for ironic purposes than as an actual joke itself. You all know the bit, there’s a comedian on the stage and the characters on some sitcom are watching him tell unfunny jokes, then he pulls out “And what’s the deal with airline food?”. It’s the quintessential cliched observational humour joke, the kind of thing you expect Jay Leno to come out with.

In fact, this joke is so famous amongst the comedy circles for sucking out loud and basically summarising everything wrong with hack observational comedians, you’ll frequently see it used (Again, ironically) in response to an example of an unfunny joke or standup routine – particularly on the internet.

But honestly, have you ever wondered, what are the comedians who originally started making this joke even getting at? Well to start off with, let’s name the guilty. It was Seinfeld. Jerry Seinfeld. He made this joke famous. Now, admittedly, when he told it, it was pretty funny. But that’s just because he’s Jerry Seinfeld.

The reality is, it’s a pretty lame joke even if it hadn’t become such a cliche. “The deal with airline food” is that it sucks. That’s literally the entire premise of the joke. This is an example of failed observational humour. The idea behind observational humour is, really, to notice something absurd and/or something we can all relate to but might not think about. Airline food…Yes, it sucks. We know.

Now yes, I know, technically this is just the setup to the joke and you’re supposed to go on and recount a story about how much airline food sucks or something. But answer me this. Is there a single person who is going to hear this story that isn’t going to be able to guess the punchline before it even starts.

NO! Because the punchline always boils down to “Airline Food sucks”. There’s no payoff to this joke! Speaking of which…

“You ever noticed that a white guy does X and a black guy does Y?”

Oh god, now we’re into the dregs. This my friends is the quintessential racial joke. Almost every hack comedian with a racial theme to their comedy will make a joke using this exact formula – and it’s (For some reason I cannot possibly fathom at all, no way no how) especially common if the comedian in question is black.
An example of this joke being mocked which you’ve probably seen is when, on The Simpsons, Homer watches a black comedian on TV pantomime how white guys and black guys drive. The black guys drive like they’re in a movie, the white guys drive like dorks making “dee-de-dee” noises. Similarly, Homer himself tells a very poor example of this joke in the episode where Mr. Burns is trying to make himself popular:

“You see, white people have names like Lenny, and black people have names like Carl!”

The sad part is, that’s about as funny as these jokes get. The problem here is the joke is playing off a pretty well-known stereotype – black people are cool, white people are dweebs. And yes, there’s an element of truth in it.

But the fact is, it’s just not that rich a vein for comedy. I think at this stage, just about every contrasting stereotypical mannerism of white people and black people has been hauled onto a stage by some hack comedian standing in front of a faux-brick wall. Oh don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of great racial comedy still to be harvested, but this formula is just dull.

There’s plenty of ways to make fun of white people without resorting to this tired old joke. Look at Deon Cole, one of Conan O’Brien’s crack team of scribes, for an example of innovation in this field.

“Did you know Rap Music used to have a C at the beginning?”

Okay, now this joke is just straight up dumb. This is obviously just idiots trying to be clever and take the piss out of rap music, but it just comes across as idiotic. We get it, Rap Music is divisive. Could you honestly not come up with a funnier way to express that? I mean, seriously.

All you have to do is read out the lyrics to most rap songs in a deadpan voice, with no rhythm, and it’s automatically funnier than this.

Also, Empire State of Mind is one of the greatest songs ever recorded and 8 Mile is a fantastic music-themed motion picture. So FUCK YOU rap haters.

“How do you get Pikachu on a bus? Poke ‘im on!”

Oh haha, very funny. This is possibly the lamest pun in the history of the universe. Unfortunately, it’s spread like wildfire. It’s a corruption of the same humour found in the favourite joke of maths students the world over:

“Why is six afraid of seven? Because seven eight nine!”

Now that joke’s legitimately funny. And so is the Pikachu Joke…At first. But unlike the Seven Joke, the Pikachu Joke has no staying power. Once you’ve heard it, it stops being funny, and it becomes more unfunny the more you hear it. The problem? People tell it all the time. It’s a safe bet no comedian would ever bother pulling this out on stage, but unfortunately non-comedians use it at every opportunity.

The Seven Joke enjoys the same ubiquitous status, but is somehow timeless. Much like South Park’s “Funniest Joke In History” candidate:

“Would you like some fish sticks, sir? What? You would? What are you, some kind of gay fish?”

Get it? Fish sticks sounds like fish dicks!

…It’s funnier out loud.

“So a bear walks into a bar…”

There are a lot of jokes which start in a similar manner. The infamous “A priest, a rabbi and a Scot” (And variations thereof) have ascended to the heights of “most overused premise for a joke ever”. Everyone has made up a joke using this premise. And almost all of those jokes involve either a bar, a genie, or god. And the punchline is always the third guy coming out better than the other two.

But there’s another version of this joke, which usually goes a lot like this:

“A bear walks into a pub holding a newspaper. He saunters up to the bar and takes a seat whilst the other patrons, terrified at the sight of him, edge slowly towards the door. He lays his paper on the bar and orders a beer and a packet of crisps (Chips to you Yankee Doodle Dandies) and the terrified barman charges him £10. The bear sighs, lays down his money and begins reading his paper. Tentatively, the barman observes ‘we don’t get many bears in here…’ to which the bear sighs, laying down his paper, before replying ‘Well at these prices I’m not surprised!”

This version of the “people walking into a bar” joke is infinitely funny and has unlimited scope for re-purposing. Family Guy ably showed it being used as a joke on a sitcom. The great thing about this version of the joke is that the humour is one, seemingly innocuous, detail and not really the “elephant (Well, bear) in the room” which you expect it to be.

Another great version goes thusly:

“A man walks into a bar and sits down, ordering his drink. He sits there, drinking it, then he suddenly hears it…A small, squeaky voice telling him how good he looks and what a great guy he is. He looks around for the source of the voice and is surprised to discover it appears to be coming from the bowl of peanuts. Unnerved, he heads to the toilet to splash some water on his face. Once there, he hears a gruff voice hurling abuse at him. To his (Semi) amazement, the voice is coming from the hand dryer. He heads back to the bar and the barman asks him if he’s okay. He reports these oddities to the barman who responds, easily ‘Ah, yes, well…The hand dryer is out of order, but the peanuts are complimentary.’”

Technically, that’s just a cheap double pun. But the execution is what sells it. All that buildup really bulks up the payoff. So, next time you wanna make a “some guy walks into a” joke, use the premise for something a bit cleverer than “these two kinds of people are idiots and this other kind of person is smart”.

“Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side!”

It’s a crying shame that so few people get this joke. Because it’s actually really really funny. When I was first told it, it was framed as “the first joke ever told” and had an additional punchline tacked on – “I guess people used to be a lot easier to please”.

But this joke is actually exactly the kind of humour which is popular these days. The problem is, it became so ubiquitous so fast most people stopped thinking about why it might be funny and began fixating on the fact that it’s supposed to be un-funny.

So, would you like to know why this joke is so funny?

Because of course that’s why the chicken crossed the road. What other answer is there to that question? Millions, literally millions, of idiots have spent years trying to re-write this punchline to “make it funny again” (“to get away from the KFC”, “because he saw a black guy coming” – seriously, someone’s made that one, “because Oprah told it to”, “because the duck did it first and it wanted to fit in” ). It’s not necessary!

The joke is, the person asking is asking a stupid question and your inability to supply the simple answer makes you looks silly. Here’s the reason so few people got it: it’s on the listener! “Why did the chicken cross the road?” is one of the earliest and best examples of making the audience the butt of the joke in an entirely good natured way, as opposed to, say, this next gem.

“A moronsayswhat?”

Not being a moron, I couldn’t tell you, however, mumblemumblemumble.