Special Friday Bonus Post: Eurovision 2014

It’s Eurovision time again!!!

The first Eurovision was held in Lugano, Switzerland in May of 1956 and it included just seven countries- Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Switzerland.  This year is the 59th year of the Eurovision contest, and 37 nations are competing.  Last night was the last semi-final, and the final competition is on Saturday, the 10th of May.

My first exposure to Eurovision was in the 2012 Eurovision song competition., the year of the Singing Grannies and Jedward.   The spectacle is quite amazing, and I was hooked. In 2013, I missed all the singing parts and only managed to catch the very last section where they do all the vote counting.  That bit was dull as toast points.

This year, the competition has been mildly interesting.  A lot of very similar sounding solo vocalists, with a handful of standout acts.  Here’s some of my favorites from the competition so far, and I haven’t even seen the five that were pre-qualified for Saturday’s final.

Sweden – Sanna Nielsen – Undo – Good song, polished singer, and catchy enough to get lots of radio play.

Russia – Tolmachevy Sisters – Shine – There were a lot of audience boos for these two, not because they were bad – they weren’t.  They were quite good, but the Russia-Crimea-Ukraine politics bled into the mood of the audience.

Ukraine – Mariya Yaremchuk – Tick – Tock – The running man was a neat visual.

Belgium – Axel Hirsoux – Mother – This guy has a decent voice, but he’s not “pop” enough to win this competition. (He didn’t make it to the finals.)

The Netherlands – The Common Linnets – Calm After The Storm - I like the sound of this band, actually.  This song has a little bit of “Every Breath You Take” in it, I think.

Belarus – Teo – Cheesecake – A Belarusian boy band!

Ireland – Can-Linn (featuring Kasey Smith) – Hearbeat - I liked this, but I’m predisposed to enjoy anything with a good fiddle in the background. They didn’t make it to the finals, though.

Poland – Donatan & Cleo – We Are Slavic (My Slowianie) - Poland’s answer to the Spice Girls?

Austria – Conchita Wurst  – Rise Like A Phoenix – Austrian drag queen with a killer voice.

Iceland – Pollapönk – No Prejudice – These dudes are totally my favorites to win, even if they do dress like the Wiggles.  Plus I dig their dance moves at 1:42.

Will you watch the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 finals tomorrow night?

The Regensburg Classic Car Meet

CCM-regensburgOn the first Friday of each month between May and October, there’s a Classic Car Meet here in Regensburg.  People with vintage cars bring their wheels out to see and be seen, and a different Rockabilly band plays each month.

It was still a little chilly for the May outing, but that didn’t stop people from coming out with their cars.  There were a handful of right-hand drive vehicles, and a few European makes and models.  For example, this marvelous golden Lotus Esprit.

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There were also some really neat old utility vehicles like this Jeep, which was for sale.

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For the most part, though, a fairly large majority of the cars I saw were vintage American cars.   Here’s some pictures to give you an idea.

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A pink Cadillac convertible.  I so want to drive this down Route 66, stopping at all the roadside attractions along the way.

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This taxi-hearse cracked me the hell up.  It’s got a brilliant paint job.

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Naturally there were a few tv and movie themed cars.  For example, there was a KITT modification on this one:

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…and there was the obligatory DeLorean DMC-12.

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Naturally, this one has a Flux Capacitor between the seats.

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One of the few right-hand drive cars I saw.

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Have you ever been to a classic car meet?

Like a shark.

I’ve heard it said that the first person you meet when you go abroad is yourself. I’ve found this to be kind of true for myself. I’ve learned some things about myself that are no surprise at all, but some of my epiphanies are… not what I expected. Here’s a few of them:

I learned that music keeps me sane.

I already knew this to a point- I knew that music is hugely important to me. I have a freakishly diverse taste in music and most of my friends will agree that if the tv is off and I’m awake, I pretty much always have music running.

What I didn’t really grasp fully was that without music, I get cranky. Really cranky. When my mood is very very high, it can settle me down. If my mood is very very low, it can bring me up.

I’ve commented before that music is often the impetus for a new trip for me, so it serves to keep me exploring as well. Between now and the end of the year, there are four concert trips on my calendar, with another two on my “thinking about going” list.

I’ve learned that I’m pretty relaxed about public transportation.

I haven’t driven a car since last November, and I’m pretty ok with that. I’ve really enjoyed the planes, trains, and bus rides that have made up my experiences in Europe. Even when I’ve gotten turned around, misdirected, delayed, and mildly lost, I’ve kind of had fun.

In addition to that, I really love riding on the rail system here. I’ve been on ICE trains hurtling along at speeds upwards of 250 kilometers per hour- it’s fast, quiet, and very comfortable. There are power outlets on the train, so I can watch a movie or read or listen to music without worrying that I’ll run out of battery before I reach my destination. Most of the trains even have a little cafe/restaurant car called a Bordbistro where I can get a drink, a snack, or a full meal. And best of all, there are no flight attendants telling me that I can’t get up to use the restroom when we’re leaving the station.

Trains are good.

I learned to spot more things that give me headaches.

I’ve had headaches at a mild migraine level for as long as I can remember. I’m always looking for new triggers because having headaches this often sucks royally. I knew that McDonald’s french fries are typically a trigger for me. I think it’s the high sodium, but I’m not positive of that because other french fries don’t necessarily affect me the same way. I learned very recently that Currywurst has the same effect on me as McDonald’s french fries- a near instantaneous spike-in-the-eye-socket of a headache. I’ve also had headaches triggered by the weather patterns that come off the Alps, but I’m not sure whether it’s low pressure or high pressure or both that does it. Speaking of pressure, I’ve learned that any ICE train ride of more than about three hours will trigger a massive headache that makes me useless for most of the rest of the day.

I’ve learned that I’m a pretty adventurous eater… to a point.

When I was in Hong Kong a few years ago, I tried Fugu (blowfish), kangaroo meat, jellyfish, and Thousand Year Egg. None of them bothered me in the slighest, but as soon they brought out the duck with the head and neck still attached, I got pretty squicked out.

On a recent trip to Berlin, I tried the Pferdfleisch pizza. That’s horse meat. It was a little like salty bacon, to be honest- it’s not a flavor I would seek out, but it wasn’t bad. Two days before the horse meat pizza, however, I was at Dult with Jenny and Robert for dinner. Robert purchased a cooked and breaded fish for his dinner, but the thing was still mostly intact. It had a head, a tail, and a spine. That just grosses me out.

I’ve learned that I have to keep moving.

This was a difficult realization for me. I’ve always felt like I was more or less comfortable in my own skin, but then I started to notice certain patterns in my own behavior. If I don’t have very specific plans- somewhere to go, something to do, or someone to see- I tend to isolate myself. My personal inertia can easily keep me stuck in the apartment for a day or an entire weekend. I might be able to peel myself out for an hour or so to get some food, but that’s it. If I don’t have plans, I won’t go anywhere. When I feel like that, I don’t get anything useful done at home either. Homesickness and loneliness can be insidious that way.

I read once that sharks have to keep swimming or they’ll sink to the ocean floor. Without the forward motion to keep water flowing over their gills, some species will even die. That’s kind of how I feel these days, like I need to keep moving or I’ll sink.

I tried to stay put for the month of August, and I made it one weekend before I made plans to leave town again. Two months ago I thought I had locked in all my travel plans through my end-of-the-year US trip, but since that time I’ve added four more small trips, and I’m considering several more.

My friends back home, commenting on the near-constant traveling that I’ve been doing for the last six months, often rave about how awesome my life must be and what an amazing experience I’m having. On paper, they’re absolutely right. Compared to many people, I have a pretty amazing life. Hearing it said just makes me feel worse though. Makes me want to go somewhere else.

Yup, gotta keep moving.

starlight03

Nobody can do it like a Dampf Lok!

It would be fair to say that a great deal of my musical taste was formed in the 1980s.  Brian, my best friend at the time, was constantly sharing music with me, and I absorbed it and ran with it.   He introduced me to diverse artists such as Kraftwerk and Mannheim Steamroller, both of which I still love to this day.  Then there were the musicals.   I’m an unabashed and admitted musical theater geek, but I wouldn’t be if Brian hadn’t had musicals in the collection.

In 1984, he got the soundtrack to a new Andrew Lloyd Webber show that had just hit Broadway called Starlight Express.  The show is about toy trains come to life in the mind of a small boy, and it’s a spectacle-  the actors portraying the trains perform on roller skates.  I wanted to see it badly.

The original Broadway run was only a few years, but the UK show was on the West End in London for years- over 7400 performances.   In the early 1990s, I found out that another friend of mine, Chris, had been to see it in London.  He told me that he fell asleep during the show because he was jet-lagged, and I never quite forgave him for that blasphemy.

In 1992, the London show was heavily revised as “The New Starlight Express,” and a new cast recording was released.  I didn’t care much for the revisions-  they removed a villain character who I always felt was vital to making the plot interesting.  They also dropped a few songs that I was particularly fond of, and added a bunch of new songs that I didn’t think were as good.  I still wanted to see it though.

(Editor’s Note:  If you’re interested in a  detailed breakdown of the changes made in the 1992 version, the Starlight Express Wikipedia article contains more information than anyone will ever need.)

About two months ago, I was perusing a list of live music scattered around Germany.  Concerts, musicals, and the like were all represented, and I saw that Starlight Express was in Bochum.   A quick map check showed me that Bochum is easily reachable by train,  and I put it on my list of “I’d like to do that sometime” jaunts.  It’s a pretty big list.

Continue reading

Concerts

This is not, strictly speaking, a post about Europe,  but it ties together.  With the Jazz Festival in town this weekend, I’ve been getting to see a lot of interesting bands, which got me thinking.

I love live music. I love all music, really, but live music is especially fun for me.

Much of my travel to a new city happens because of  a concert.  It starts when a band or artist that I’m interested in seeing announces a show.  If they’re playing within an hour of me, I’ll usually just hop a train to see the show but if they aren’t playing a venue within an hour of me, the concert becomes my next trip.

I saw Frankfurt because Thomas Dolby played there.  I saw Kempten because VNV Nation played there.  I’m going back to Berlin again in October because the Scissor Sisters are coming.  (Edit: It was cancelled.  ::sigh::) I’m thinking about seeing Covenant in Hamburg and Muse in Munich.  You get the idea.   I pass up more concerts than I actually select, despite the fact that I want to see them all.  There just isn’t enough time and money to see them all.

It’s nice to look back at what I’ve seen though, because I’ve seen a LOT of concerts, and sometimes I forget just how actively I’ve followed the music.  What follows is a list of every concert I’ve seen (that I can recall), including some well known comedians.  I’m not including musicals, broadway or otherwise, but that would add another dozen or so names to the list.    An asterisk (*) means I’ve seen them more than once.  I plan to add this post to the navigation bar on the blog and keep it up to date moving forward.

I’ve always thought you can tell a lot about a person by the music they listen to.  Judging by this list, I either have really good taste or a deep and fulfilling psychosis.

  1. Air Supply
  2. The Alan Parsons Live Project
  3. Tori Amos*
  4. And One
  5. Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull
  6. Apoptygma Berzerk
  7. Fiona Apple
  8. Augustana
  9. Bad Company
  10. Baskery
  11. Bauhaus
  12. Ben Folds Five
  13. Big Electric Cat
  14. Lewis Black
  15. Black Tape For A Blue Girl
  16. The Blue Man Group*
  17. Jimmy Buffett
  18. Capitol Steps*
  19. George Carlin*
  20. Carrot Top
  21. Eagle-Eye Cherry
  22. Eels
  23. Chicago
  24. Christian Death
  25. Peter Cincotti
  26. George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars
  27. David Copperfield
  28. Counting Crows
  29. The Cranberries
  30. Sheryl Crow
  31. The Cure
  32. Das Ich
  33. Depeche Mode*
  34. De/Vision*
  35. Dennis Deyoung
  36. Thomas Dolby
  37. Erasure*
  38. Faith & The Muse
  39. Florence + The Machine
  40. Freezepop
  41. Front 242
  42. Funker Vogt
  43. Gin Blossoms
  44. Glasperlenspiel
  45. Dana Gould
  46. Ellie Goulding
  47. Buddy Guy*
  48. Hayseed Dixie
  49. Ichor
  50. Imperative Reaction
  51. Indigo Girls
  52. Inhouse*
  53. Eddie Izzard
  54. Jars Of Clay
  55. Eric Johnson
  1. Howard Jones
  2. Kansas
  3. BB King
  4. Chantal Kreviaczuk
  5. Cyndi Lauper*
  6. Legendary Pink Dots
  7. Lisa Loeb*
  8. Lonestar
  9. Bill Maher
  10. Malign
  11. Marilyn Manson
  12. Sarah McLachlan
  13. Meat Loaf
  14. Melotron
  15. Mesh
  16. The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones
  17. Mika
  18. The Mission UK
  19. Alanis Morissette*
  20. New Edition
  21. Nine Inch Nails
  22. Gary Numan*
  23. The Nylons
  24. Billy Ocean
  25. Patton Oswalt
  26. Owl City*
  27. Luciano Pavarotti
  28. Pet Shop Boys
  29. Emo Phillips
  30. Primitive Radio Gods
  31. Prince (as “The Artist”)
  32. Project Pitchfork*
  33. Rasputina
  34. REO Speedwagon
  35. Bob Saget
  36. Jerry Seinfeld
  37. Vonda Shepard
  38. Ashlee Simpson
  39. Sisters Of Mercy
  40. Slip and the Spinouts
  41. Lindsey Stirling
  42. Stomp*
  43. Styx*
  44. Sunshine Blind
  45. Switchblade Symphony*
  46. Tegan & Sara
  47. They Might Be Giants
  48. KT Tunstall
  49. U2
  50. The Village People*
  51. VNV Nation*
  52. Voltaire
  53. Wallflowers
  54. Welle:Erdball
  55. Winger
  56. Weird Al Yankovic*