2016 Review: Israel

2015 saw the return of Israel to the final after four straight years of non-qualifications. Since the formula worked, IBA kept the national final “Rising Star” and eventually selected Hovi Star…with “Made of Stars.” (Yes, that’s a lot of stars. Just make sure they’re not falling like Moldova…)

Given that matter can’t be destroyed or created, then yes, we are all made of stars. In our case, most people believe that the Earth and the rest of the solar system were formed from matter flung out when the sun (a star) was forming. And if we’re all made from the same stars and earth, then we are all equal at a certain point. In Hovi’s case, he’s talking race/ethnicities/sexualities/genders: While yes, we do have these labels to (self)-identify, humans are human.

Drones on the other hand, not so much…

“Made of Stars” one of the few ballads in the competition this year along and one of two with Poland in the second semifinal, so it should stand out. While Poland’s entry seems to be at the same emotional level despite constant movement, Israel’s entry starts out small and rises to a climax (where €18K worth of pyros and fireworks will be released on stage). While I like the song, I think I like it because a) I’ve listened to it multiple times, and b) Hovi’s interviews are glorious and he seems like a really cool person to hang out with. If I had only heard the song once, I would have said that it’s a song suited for the dentist office, since it’s calm enough for patients to not scream when needles/cotton balls/epoxy/dental drills go in their mouths, but it’s got some movement for the patients to focus on so they don’t fall asleep.

(In that case, what would happen if someone played his interviews while getting a filling?)


Alive after a Chi-Squared Test

I hate exam week. All the stress gets to me, and all I end up doing is breaking down or doing something that’s not class related. Instead of studying how carbohydrates get metabolized, I metabolize way too many carbs. Instead of working on a paper, I’ve been typing up random crap onto Word in order to get my thoughts out.

And then there’s stats class. Instead of working on a project analyzing the possibility of bots or working on homework, I’ve broken down and binge watched South Park or YouTubers or ESC/NFs or whatever. It’s been like this the entire semester, and I’ve kept telling myself, “I’ll start doing the homework once I feel better and/or find my textbook.” Then again, that wasn’t a very good idea since I ended up finding the book 3 weeks before finals. And when I opened up my email to look at the homework assignments, I took one look at the assignments and gave up. There were way too many problems and I wasn’t going to be able to complete anything. Screw this, the Melodifestivalen artists had just been announced, and I wanted to be ready in February, so I spent 1.5 hours painting a t-shirt with the new Mello logo.


Took a while, but I’m still happy with the results since it’s a first attempt.

And then I went back to the 25+ way overdue problem sets and forced myself to finish maybe 60% of one assignment before getting overwhelmed and having a meltdown start kicking in. Eventually I slipped back to watching South Park instead of going to class because it turned mentally exhausting to even try to go back.


Anyways, my professor Dr. R noticed something was probably wrong and tried emailing me, which I ignored because I didn’t want to talk to him and/or because I absolutely despised the class and/or I hate it when I have to dig up old bones and talk about it. I couldn’t avoid talking to him today since we had a written exam though, and he offered to write me a new exam to make up for the homework that I had missed. I’m not sure if he figured out that I was dealing with the daily brain chemical disaster (whatever it is), or maybe he had to do something similar with previous years’ students, or maybe he has experience with his kids, but I’m feeling really grateful for Dr. R for offering a second chance. And since he made the offer while I just finished answering a question involving Chi-Squared goodness of fit test, it’s probably a good time to say I’m still alive. At least for the weekend when I’m supposed to be studying for other finals and not wandering aimlessly in Ikea again…

Safe space for everyone?

RFSL, one of Sweden’s most prominent organizations for LGBT+ rights, is suggesting a “pride park” safe space in Stockholm during Eurovision season. While I’m not opposed to the idea, it could mean worse traffic issues in the city (not that hosting ESC ever meant great traffic conditions anyway). Given all the political issues and locational bias towards participants and fans, I also wouldn’t be surprised if someone (outside of RFSL) put a sign by the park excluding fans from much of Eastern Europe.

We don’t want this happening.

Ever since Dana International’s victory in 1998, the Eurovision Song Contest has been viewed as a haven for the LGBT+ community. It’s as normal to see a rainbow flag in the audience as it is to see other countries’ flags, and Alexander Rybak called the contest the “world’s biggest pride parade.” However, the community isn’t equal in its treatment towards participants in the contest, and the contestants are still judged by the country they represent. For an LGBT+ friendly country, the artist is usually welcomed with open arms, until a tiny incident results in negative press to reject them. For a less LGBT+ friendly country, the artist has to prove themselves to the community, though any incident is simply blamed on the conservative country’s influence.

Prior to winning Melodifestivalen 2015, Måns Zelmerlöw said (while possibly drunk) on a TV show in 2014 that LGBT+ people were “avvikelse” (deviant). Though he apologized multiple times for the incident in Sweden (and most parties accepted the apologies), the incident was dug up by the press again after his victory at Friends once the bookies claimed he would win Eurovision: How could someone singing about childhood bullying and being a hero say that LGBT+ was unnatural? The press claimed that he could be a homophobe based off the one minute of drunken speech on TV and the YouTube commenters immediately followed, claiming that they weren’t going to vote for him anymore. Even while he was in Vienna, the press kept bringing up the incident, ignoring that he had also performed at prides and hosted the 2014 QX Gaygalan. After his victory either based on the song/staging/claiming a week before the contest that he would date a guy if he woke up one day and felt attraction to guys (logic class people: that’s a conditional statement written as “q if given p”), the negative press against him suddenly disappeared outside of a few angry audience members on social media.  Once again, he was viewed as a hero and an ally.

On the other side of the Iron Curtain, the non-LGBT+ press doesn’t really do anything.  During the first season of X-Factor Adria (for those people in ex-Yugo countries), Željko Joksimović made openly transphobic statements at Fifi Janevska, a transgender woman, during her audition (e.g. using the term “trandža/tranny,” questioning why she used female pronouns when she used a male name in audition paperwork, then using plural “you” to refer to her, saying that “there are two of you”). He and the broadcaster Channel Pink later claimed on Twitter that no apology was necessary and that he was entitled to his own opinion. However, this incident was pretty much ignored outside of raging LGBT+ groups within Serbia with only minor coverage from international LGBT+ sites and Eurovision news sites. Despite Željko Joksimović’s participation as an artist/composer/host in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2012 (note: all after 1998), the ESC press did not dig up the incident when he re-appeared in the contest to compose Knez’s entry in 2015. Instead, the press simply noted that the ex-Yugo region was still much more conservative with gender/sexuality minority rights and chose not to bring up the incident. Both acts related to him (Macedonia (FYR) and Montenegro) didn’t have very high chances of winning the contest either anyways.

The X Factor incident isn’t even written on his Wikipedia page, while MZW has a section on his page specifically about the TV show incident.

For Russia, Polina Gagarina was dealing with a double edged sword. Due to the Kremlin passing the law against “LGBT+ propaganda,” and the state-owned Channel 1 internally selecting her to sing another “ironic peace song”, she was booed simply for representing her country, even when she made it clear on social media that she herself didn’t represent the government’s policies and appeared to be an ally. The media might have enjoyed her performance, but after the 3 minutes they returned to side-eying the country’s participant, especially after she took on a lead in the voting: if Russia won the contest, the contest’s reputation of being a safe haven for LGBT+ could be damaged. Even during the performance, members of the audience silently protested by waving rainbow flags, blocking her performance on camera. At the same time, she was criticized in by members of the Russian government, as politicians in Moscow voiced concern about her posted images of her and Conchita Wurst.

If RFSL’s plan for a safe space/pride park does go through with SVT and the city of Stockholm, then the safe space cannot discriminate people for country of origin or their country’s LGBT+ unfriendly policies. Though politics and bookie statistics might mar the contest’s “neutrality,” SVT can at least try to keep most of the issues out of the city during Eurovision Week.

BTW, I’m ace…

Eurovision 2011, 2nd semi-final: With the final version of “Ding Dong” I was nearly certain that Israel wasn’t going to win the semi-final; maybe with her name alone she would come in 9th or 10th. Obviously she didn’t, but Dana International’s not qualifying wasn’t going to stop me from enjoying her song (Or at least the original version where she won Kdam). Audio-wise, there’s nothing wrong about a person singing about her coming out story and sharing the moment of what it feels like to know your identity.

I’m over a week late for National Coming Out Day, but it turns out that there’s no problem: this week is Asexual Awareness Week. And yes, I’m asexual. No, I don’t like cake that much. I blame working in the bakery this summer. And even if I worked there, I’m definitely not an Ace of Cakes. That’s Duff Goldman.


From my last day at work in the bakery

It’s been a little less than a year since I started identifying as ace, but as of so far almost everyone I’ve told has taken it well. (Except for one guy. If you’re that one guy and you’re reading this, you’re an asshole. Also I’m not a plant.)

And for anyone else…


Gender PSA

It’s already a bad idea trying to read YouTube comment wars, especially when the wars are obviously started by some troll who wanted to see drama. It’s also really annoying going through the comments on Dana International or Conchita Wurst, and finding that over half the comments are about their genders and not about the music. So let’s go back to the basics:

Lithuania was represented this year by Monika Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila. As far as the media’s concerned, there aren’t any issues with how the two should be referred. The person on the left is female and can be referred to as she/her/hers, while the person on the right is male and can be referred to as he/him/his. Now let’s move on to the next photo.

Dana International, the person on the left, represented Israel in 1998. She identifies as female and is referred to as she/her/hers. It doesn’t matter that she is transgender (despite this taking up 80% of the media); she is female.

Conchita Wurst, the person on the right, is the drag character of Tom Neuwirth. When the person is in character (e.g. in the photo above) as Conchita, people refer to the character as she/her/hers. When the person is out of character, people use he/him/his to refer to Tom.

Just as a PSA to everyone, if you don’t know how to refer to people, just ask. Because they know themselves better than other people or the media ever will.


And the winner is…Sweden!

I was going to post this yesterday, but congratulations to Sweden and Måns Zelmerlöw for winning the 60th Eurovision Song Contest with 365 points!

It’s also Sweden’s 6th win since ABBA in 1974.


1. Sweden- 365 points
2. Russia- 303 points
3. Italy- 292 points
4. Belgium- 217 points
5. Australia- 196 points
6. Latvia- 186 points
7. Estonia- 106 points
8. Norway- 102 points
9. Israel- 97 points
10. Serbia- 53 points
11. Georgia- 51 points
12. Azerbaijan- 49 points
13. Montenegro- 44 points
14. Slovenia- 39 points
15. Romania- 35 points
16. Armenia- 34 points (Tie Break)
17. Albania- 34 points
18. Lithuania- 30 points
19. Greece- 23 points (only 8 of which came from Cyprus)
20. Hungary- 19 points
21. Spain- 15 points
22. Cyprus- 11 points (And Greece only gave Cyprus 10 points. Death and taxes are still guaranteed, but Greece and Cyprus exchanging 12 points isn’t anymore.)

23. Poland- 10 points
24. United Kingdom- 5 points
25. France- 4 points
26. Germany- 0 points (There were points somewhere in the split voting but they disappeared)
27. Austria- 0 points



Thoughts on Semi-Final 2

I got to watch all 17 performances without any interruptions today! (That is, if you don’t count the constant video lag and re-buffering from SVT Play mobile app), and overall it was a really good show. The three hosts Alice, Mirjam, and Arabella seemed less awkward than in the first semi, and Conchita was a great green room host like on Tuesday.

Predicted qualifiers (in participation order):
Lithuania, Montenegro, Norway, Czech Republic, Israel, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Iceland, Sweden, Slovenia

Actual results (in participation order):
Lithuania, Montenegro, Norway, Israel, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Sweden, Cyprus, Slovenia, Poland

After hearing the results, I get why Czech Republic and Iceland didn’t qualify: After seeing pictures of Marta taking off her heels and throwing them on the stage, I thought it was going to happen during the climax key change. Instead she took them off before. Instead of looking like “Eugh, I hate these shoes and I’m getting rid of them and changing everything” like I imagined, she looked more like, “Meh, I don’t feel that comfortable in these heels. Let’s just take them off right now. Oh well, I can pick them up later.” Hopefully they scored higher than their previous entries (in both points and rankings), otherwise Czech Republic’s not coming back if they came last with 5 points.

“But you said the director told you it was okay to chuck my shoes off!” “Not so it would look like you did it for no apparent reason!”


Later when I listened to Iceland, I was wondering whether the sound was off due to Maria’s performance or due to SVT Play having issues. Before I wondered whether Frozen fans would give their points to Russia or Iceland. Now they have no choice but to vote for Russia (and probably wave a few more rainbow flags as well). The background and golden footprints were pretty nice, but she did look a little awkward with nothing else but a golden pool of water on the floor.  I guess Iceland and Denmark are probably going to select something less formulaic next year.

Maria’s annoyed that the Israeli delegation left a bunch of gold paint on the floor and it’s staining everything.


There’s probably going to be major partying in the Baltics this week (especially in Latvia), since for the first time since 2002 all three Baltic countries qualified for the final, and Latvia finally broke its 6-year streak of not qualifying.

Aminata thanks the Eurovision gods for allowing Latvia into the final


My favourite random moment in the semi was during San Marino’s performance, when everyone yelled “No” (the first lyric of the song). And obviously Michele ended up singing a “chain of farts.” Fortunately (or unfortunately) there was no pyro involved in their performance, and it was extremely safe for the two who only recently turned old enough to drink.

“Don’t worry! We’ll come back next year (and possibly the year after) with a better song…”

I can’t wait for the final on Saturday. At the same time, I’ve got work until all the performances are over. Thankfully I’ll be able to watch most of the voting… So bring on the final Vienna!