Eurovision 2013: All Of Europe Under One Roof

eurovision
Alex Robertson Textor

Launched in 1956, Eurovision is a Europe-wide music competition held every May under the auspices of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). Participating countries select their representative songs over the course of the preceding winter and spring. Some countries – like Sweden – make their selections via televised heats held over several consecutive weeks. Others – like the U.K. (this year, at least) – make their selections by internal committee.

Eurovision is a major event in Europe, with a remarkable 125 million viewers.

Nowadays, Eurovision lasts for almost an entire week. With the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there are now so many participating countries – 39 this year; even more in recent years – that two semi-finals are required to winnow down contestants to a manageable tally for the grand final. After semifinals on Tuesday and Thursday, this year’s final will be held later today in Malmö, Sweden. (Sweden won Eurovision last year, and with its win came the right to host this year’s contest.)Eurovision is not generally considered to be a showcase for serious music, and few global stars emerge from it. One very notable exception is ABBA, who turned their 1974 win with “Waterloo” into enormous international success. In lieu of musical seriousness, the event unleashes a kind low-impact skirmish of muted patriotisms and a massive gay following.

For many countries, participation in Eurovision is a rite of passage, a sign of progress. An Israeli friend once told me that in the late 1970s her family would dress up to watch Eurovision in their living room. This symbolic appeal of Eurovision remains especially strong in some Eastern European countries and the Caucasus today.

All members of the European Broadcasting Union can participate in Eurovision. This fact explains Israel‘s participation. Other EBU members beyond the borders of Europe include Morocco (who participated just once, in 1980) and several countries that have never participated: Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Tunisia. True Eurovision nerds will tell you that Kazakhstan, Kosovo and Liechtenstein have all submitted applications for EBU membership.

So right, tonight. The odds have Denmark‘s Emmelie de Forest, Norway‘s Margaret Berger (with likely the strongest straight-up pop song, a little piece of driven magic titled “I Feed You My Love”), Ukraine‘s Zlata Ognevich, Azerbaijan‘s Farid Mammadov and Russia‘s Dina Garipova at the top of the pile.

In addition to these, Hungary, Romania and Greece have emerged as fan favorites. ByeAlex, the Hungarian entrant, sings a lush, quietly earnest song called “Kedvesem.” The singer looks like a quiet, earnest Mission District hipster; he distinguished himself in the press conference for the second semi-final winners on Thursday night by quoting Friedrich Nietzsche. Romania’s entry, sung by a countertenor opera singer named Cezar, is an instant Eurovision dance classic with a particularly over-the-top choreography. The Greek entry, by Koza Mostra featuring rebetiko singer Agathonas Iakovidis, combines folk, punk and rebetiko themes.

For those who follow Eurovision obsessively, the event itself is a kind of quasi-religious experience. The line between fandom and evangelism is imprecise for this tribe, many of whom attend Eurovision regularly. This week in Malmö, the Eurovision tribe is everywhere, sharing the gospel of playful but somehow meaningful pop music. The photo above, taken yesterday, gets at some of the gospel’s magic. It’s simple and interpersonal. Koza Mostra’s lead singer, Elias Kozas, has swapped flags with a German Eurovision fan. No negotiations. No conflict. No international frustrations. Just a snapshot of a moment within which flags don’t matter much.

Preferred Pride hotel program caters to LGBT travelers

preferred pride hotelsNearly 100 preferred hotel group members have joined together to create Preferred Pride, a network of independently owned and operated hotels that cater to the needs of the LGBT community. In addition to being “gay welcoming”, these hotels offer equal opportunity employment and are active in their efforts to support the LGBT community.

Certain requirements exist for hotels to be able to join Preferred Pride. Hotels must be either TAG Approved (Community Marketing’s Travel Alternative Group) or be a member of IGLTA (International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association).

The Preferred Pride program was created in order to bring together a diverse group of hotels from around the world who are committed to the LGBT community, as well as a way to learn more about what this community needs in order to have a more enjoyable travel experience.

“Mona Lisa model” to be exhumed

Mona LisaScientists are opening the grave of a nun to see if she was the model for Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

The 16th century tomb of Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo is being explored in the hopes of finding her skull. With modern facial reconstruction techniques, it’s possible to tell what she looked like, and this will confirm or deny a popular theory that she was the model for the famous painting.

Archaeologists are using subsurface imaging to probe the area under a crypt and staircase they’ve uncovered inside an old convent where the women is presumed to have been buried. They believe that several tombs lie at the bottom of the stairs.

Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo was the wife of a wealthy merchant and when her husband died she became a nun at the convent of San Orsula in Florence, where she died in 1542. It was common in those days for women to join a convent when they were widowed. One has to wonder what Sister Del Giocondo thought of being the subject of the most talked-about portrait in history.

The Mona Lisa has been argued about for generations. Some researchers say the model was Da Vinci’s gay lover, while others say it’s Da Vinci himself in drag.

The lower tombs will be opened in the next few days. Stayed tuned to see if the team finds Mona Lisa’s celebrated head among the remains.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Lesbian couple sues hotel after being denied double room

lesbianA lesbian couple is suing a hotel in England after being refused a double room.

Rebecca Nash and Hope Stubbings say they tried to check into the Brunswick Square Hotel in Brighton but were refused a room because the hotel only gives rooms to couples.

This is surprising for a number of reasons. First, it’s illegal in the UK for hotels to refuse rooms to gay and lesbian couples. Second, Brighton is England’s most popular gay and lesbian seaside town and surely the Brunswick Square Hotel has had to deal with gay guests before. And third, a court fined a bed and breakfast for refusing a room to a gay couple earlier this year.

In the earlier case, the hotel owners were defiant, saying homosexuality was against their Christian principles. In the Brighton case, it’s a matter of “he said, she said.” The manager says the couple hadn’t made a booking. The lesbian couple said the manager got angry and told them “no two boys, no two girls” in the rooms before kicking them out.

[Lesbian flag image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Court fines hotel owners for refusing gay couple a room

gay, GayA court in England has fined hotel owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull for refusing a gay couple a double room, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy tried to get a room at the Chymorvah Hotel, near Penzance , in 2008, but were turned away. The judge ruled that this was discrimination and awarded the couple £1800 ($2,863) each in damages.

The Bulls are Christian and say they object to giving any unmarried couple a room. The judge ruled that since Hall and Preddy are civil partners they have the same rights as married couples. The BBC has filmed a statement by Hall and Preddy.

[Image courtesy Ludovic Bertron]

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