Tuesday, January 15, 2019

One Bear's Opinion on: Withering-by-Sea

by Judith Rossell

This book jumped off the shelves at us while we were waiting for a take-away order. The cover was quick to draw prospective readers in, and the title Withering-by-Sea is full of potential.

I am pleased to report the book lives up to the potential. It was a fun read, full of suspense and intrigue, a bit of danger, and a satisfying resolution to the main mystery.

Stella is a likeable and relatable character, and one with whom I hope to have more visits. There is a bit of the classics in the story, with Stella being a orphan left to the care of less-than-caring Aunts, but even though the story draws form the classics, it is refreshingly original.

As the book is written for a younger audience, I found it an easy read and the illustrations were a pleasant addition. I like illustrations, even in books written for adults, they do add another element to the story.

On the whole, it was a great book, and one I came recommend wholeheartedly. I am anxious to find the next-in-series Stella Montgomery Intrigue.

One Bear's Opinion:  Five glasses of lemonade drunk on the boardwalk, with a bag of salt water taffy for later.

Happy Reading Everyone, 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

One Bear's Opinion on: Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart

Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt: The Story of a Daughter and a Mother in the Gilded Age
by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart

This book came into my library years ago, mostly on the basis of the cover and a visit to Newport which sparked a desire to know more about the people of the Gilded Age.

It finally came to the top of the To-Be-Read pile because of a mystery set in Newport just before Consuelo's arranged (some say forced) marriage to the Duke of Marlborough. It was important to have a real life account of the event that was fictionalized in the book. As it turns out, the fictionalized account in the murder mystery was fairly accurate. Sometimes, the truth is better than anything an author could ever begin to imagine. The mystery did take some liberties with timing, and introduced an element for the mystery, but the basic story was actually what happened.

In the end, it was good to have read this book. The author presents a mostly objective view of both Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt, who did far more things than just arrange a marriage that symbolized the ambitions of the mothers of Gilded Age society daughters. On the whole it was a very interesting and intriguing view of both women and the characters who populated their lives. Well worth the read, even if you never read anything about either woman again.

One Bear's Opinion:  Four cups of tea, served with watercress sandwiches in the gazebo at Marble House

Happy Reading Everyone, 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Eurovision 2018: Final

It’s Eurovision Final Night and Tigger’s back with his review of the Song Contest.
Hope you enjoy it,

Eurovision 2018 — Final

I’m back for the Eurovision Final. I’m pretty excited about it too. There were some really good performances during the Semi-Finals, and while I only managed to get half of my favorites through to the Final, I am hopeful that my favorites will do well. Because we watch a delayed broadcast, a couple of my housemates/friends have seen spoilers so they know which country wins, but they have been nice and not said anything to me so I will be surprised when the results are announced.

As is our tradition, we have some nibbles for tonight’s viewing party. And this year I got to plan the menu. My housemates had a big lunch for Mother’s Day, so they are not terrible hungry, but still want something to nibble on during the show. I’ve decided on popcorn as the nibble. It’s sort of healthy, especially since we use an air popper, though I think the butter & salt we add might negate most of the healthy aspects of the snack. But the real reason I like popcorn is that it bounces! I love things that are bouncy and popcorn is one of the bounciest foods I know. So we’ll have popcorn seasoned with butter and salt and after that, there are some malt cookies and cream-filled vanilla wafer style cookies.

This year the voting allows counties to award 12, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, or 1 points to their top 10 favorite entrants. I’m not sure why they decided on that arrangement but, I know at least part of it is to avoid countries being able to award Nil Points to their rivals. There is a very big political element in the song contest voting, no matter how much the Eurovision Committee tries to avoid it. I’m not getting into the political aspect of it; I’m just going to award 1 to 5 flags to each contestant and then rank my favorite 10 at the end. I think I know who my favorite is already, but there are 6 performers I haven’t seen, so that may change as the night goes on. I’m trying not to be biased, but it’s hard not to judge the other acts against the one that is my favorite so far.

I really do like how creative the graphics artists are with the flags at Eurovision. The representations in the coral is an imaginative way to being in the All Aboard water theme.

I wonder how much what we see at home is meant for voting. Obviously, the split screens and fancy effects are not as powerful in the auditorium. So I wonder how different seeing the performances live, in person, is from watching at home.

1. Ukraine, MELOVIN, Under the Ladder ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ This is a very strange opening. He reminds me of the Phantom from Phantom of the Opera. Yes, it is very strange choreography. Ohh, I do not like the fire, so much potential for things to go wrong. Definitely not a favorite of the night.

2. Spain, Amaia y Alfred, Tu Canciรณn ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ This is a new performance for the Final. Ohh, non-English performance, I always like those. This is a perfect song for couples to have their first dance at a wedding reception. It’s a bit plain for Eurovision, I think, but not a bad song.

3. Slovenia, Lea Sirk, Hvala, ne! ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ Another non-English performance. I like the poppy, bouncy feel of this one. It’s fun and there are parts that are great for singing as loud as you can and punctuating with bounces. One of my favorites.

4. Lithuania, Ieva Zasimauskaitฤ—, When We’re Old ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡น I don’t really like this one. It’s not a bad song, and the performer does a very good job. I wouldn’t seek it out, but I wouldn’t turn the channel either. It’s lovely background music for a cafe or shop.

5. Austria, Cesรกr Sampson, Nobody But You ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น It’s not a bad song. It’s singable, perfect for the car to shower. I’ll hold it in reserve for the Top 10.

6. Estonia, Elina Nechayeva, La Forza ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ช She sings beautifully and the dress is impressive, but it’s not one of my favorites.

7. Norway, Alexander Rybak, That’s How You Write a Song ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด There is a pop-music feel to this one, and it’s bouncy. I didn’t really like it in the Semi-Final, but it’s growing on me. Still not a favorite, but a fun performance.

8. Portugal, Clรกudia Pascoal, O Jardim ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡น Another new one tonight. I suppose it’s only fair the host country gets an automatic bid to the final. I like this one, but I liked it better before the music kicked in. It is better as a simple song with simple music.

9. United Kingdom, SuRie, Storm ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง This is the third new song for tonight. I like this one. I was prepared for England to phone it in, but this is surprisingly good. I feel really bad for her with the interrupted performance. I was going to give her 4 Flags, but the performance deserves 5.

10. Serbia, Sanja Iliฤ‡ & Balkaninka, Nova Deca ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ธ I don’t remember this one from the Semi-Final. Ohh, wait, yes I do. I remember it being a non-English performance. I gave it full points for that alone. Tonight, it’s good, but not good enough to be a Top Ten favorite.

11. Germany, Michael Schulte, You Let Me Walk Alone ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช The fourth new performance tonight. This is a goosebumps song. Definitely a favorite tonight.

12. Albania, Eugent Bushpepa, Mall ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Albania got full points for a non-English performance in the Semi-Final. I think I like the music better than the lyrics, but then they do work together. I’m only at performance 12 and I have 4 Top Ten Performances! How am I ever going to narrow it down?

13. France, Madame Monsieur, Mercy ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท The fifth new performance tonight. It’s a nice song and it was a good performance, but not a favorite.

14. Czech Republic, Mikolas Josef, Lie to Me ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ This is bouncy and fun. I do like this one and more than I did in the Semi-Final. The dancing is fun too. A Top Ten tonight!

15. Denmark, Rasmussen, Higher Ground ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ I know it’s surprising that this is my favorite, but it is. It’s a darker song and not really bouncy, but it really is my favorite. Number 1 Top Ten; Come on Denmark!

16. Australia, Jessica Mauboy, We Got Love ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ I feel I should put this in the Top Ten because of living in Australia, but it’s not really one of my favorite performances. It’s not bad, just not my favorite.

17. Finland, Saara Aalto, Monsters ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ She looks fiercer than the vikings from Denmark, but maybe she needs to because of the monsters. I like it it, but the performance scares me a bit.

18. Bulgaria, EQUINOX, Bones ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ It’s not one of my favorites. The performance was good, but something was missing.

19. Moldova, DoReDos, My Lucky Day ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฉ This one is so much fun. There needs to be a few fun performances, just silly fun. There weren’t enough silly fun performances this year.

20. Sweden, Benjamin Ingress, Dance You Off ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช There is nothing special about this song to me. It feels like a generic connect-the-dots boyband song. I feel bad saying that, but that’s how it feels to me - not terrible, not stand-out, just generic.

21. Hungary, AWS, Viszlรกt Nyรกr ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡บ This is an angry song. The sound of the words, the music, the performance, it’s all angry. There are bounces in the song and the performance, but they are angry bounces.

22. Israel, Netta, TOY ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ I know this is one of the overall favorites this year, but it’s not one of mine. I can’t really say what it is I don’t like about it, but I just don’t like it.

23. The Netherlands, Waylon, Outlaw in ‘Em ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ This performance seems far more like Billy Ray Cyrus than Waylon Jennings. the backup singers remind me more of Guns ’n’ Roses. It’s modern country music, not classic country. But it’s not terrible, and there is something fun about it.

24. Ireland, Ryan O’Shaughnessy, Together ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช This is a nice, simple love song. It’s fun to listen to and the music is nice. I didn’t really like it in the Semi-Finals, but it’s growing on me a little bit.

25. Cyprus, Eleni Foureira, Fuego ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡พ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡พ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡พ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡พ The announcers say this is a favorite. I don’t mind it, but I like other performances tonight much better.

26. Italy, Erma Meta e Fabrizio Moro, Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น The last new performance tonight. It’s another goosebumps song. It’s an important and powerful message. The graphics really help the impact.

My Top Ten Finalists, ranked in order

1. Denmark
2. Czech Republic
3. United Kingdom
4. Germany
5. Moldova
6. Slovenia
7. Italy
8. Albania
9. Austria
10. The Netherlands

Come on World, 12 Points to Denmark!

Thanks for enjoying Eurovision with me.
I’ll see you next year,

Friday, May 11, 2018

Eurovision 2018: Semi-Final #2

Another guest post from my friend Tigger
Join with him as he reviews Eurovision 2018,

Eurovision Semi-Final #2

Here I am back for Semi-Final #2. I am so excited. Unfortunately, I have not been able to completely avoid spoilers, but I only know one result and I’m going to try and not let that spoil my enjoyment.

I’m using the same rating system I used for Semi-Final #1, 1-5 flags with minimal comments. I’ll save most of my comments for the Final.

I do not mind the hosts, but I wish the script were a bit better. It’s just so bad it makes me cringe for the poor hosts that have to read it off. I understand why the hosts are there, but I wish there would be a better script for them. The other thing I wonder is, why is it always in English, even though English is often not the most spoken language in the host nation. It’s another sign of the creeping Americanization of the world - subtitles or overdubbing would be fine, I mean it’s used for international leaders who do not speak English. And frankly, whatever a world leader has to say is probably more important than the lame jokes the Eurovision hosts are making.

1. Norway, Alexander Rybak, That’s How You Write a Song ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด

2. Romania, The Humans, Goodbye ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด

3. Serbia, Sanja Iliฤ‡ & Balkaninka, Nova Deca ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ธ The night’s first non-English song, full points.

4. San Marino, Jessika featuring Jenifer Brening, Who We Are ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฒ The robots are interesting and fun.

5. Denmark, Rasmussen, Higher Ground ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ My favorite of the competition so far!!!

6. Russia, Julia Samoylova, I Won’t Break ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ

7. Moldova, DoReDos, My Lucky Day ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฉ A fun and bouncy number.

8. The Netherlands, Waylon, Outlaw in ‘Em ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ

9. Australia, Jessica Mauboy, We Got Love ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ

10. Georgia, Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao, For You ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ช This is truly beautiful.

11. Poland, Gromee featuring Lukas Meijer, Light Me Up ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฑ

12. Malta, Christabelle, Taboo ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡น

13. Hungary, AWS, Viszlรกt Nyรกr ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡บ Another non-English entrant. I’m glad they didn’t put them all on one night.

14. Latvia, Laura Rizzotto, Funny Girl ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ป๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ป๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ป

15. Sweden, Benjamin Ingress, Dance You Off ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช

16. Montenegro, Vanja Radovanoviฤ‡, Inje ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ช I do enjoy the non-English songs.

17. Slovenia, Lea Sirk, Hvala, ne! ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ I like the bounciness in this one.

18. Ukraine, MELOVIN, Under the Ladder ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ

Overall, there were more entrants I liked tonight, which probably means I’ll be disappointed because I never pick the right ones to move on to the Final. I really appreciated that the scheduling did not mean all the non-English songs were on one night and there was a mix of fun and serious performances each night.

My top ten choices to move on to the Final:
1. Serbia
2. Denmark
3. Moldova
4. Georgia
5. Hungary
6. Montenegro
7. Slovenia
8. San Marino
9. Russia
10. Poland

See you Sunday night for the Final,

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Eurovision 2018: Semi-Final #1

Tigger is back with his annual review of Eurovision!
I hope you enjoy Eurovision with Tigger,

Eurovision Semi-Final #1

It’s that time of year again! It’s Eurovision Time! I am so excited about this. I have heard nothing, and only know the name of Australia’s entrant, but nothing else. I have carefully avoided spoilers or any discussion other than times of Eurovision.

For the Semi-Finals, my housemates have other things going on, so I’m going to use a simple rating system of 1-5 flags, with minimal comments. But for the final, I’ll go more in depth for the contestants.

So here we are, Semi-Final #1. Ohh, I still miss Julia and Sam. I know Myf and Joel are good competent hosts, but I miss Julia and Sam.

We’re in Portugal. We’ve never been to Portugal. I hope they give us a bit of a tour in between the songs. I wonder what the country’s postcards will be this year. I loved the butterflies, but I really, really liked the year the contestants “made” their flags out of things. That was fun and creative. I particularly liked Hungary’s that year — it was made of Rubik’s Cubes!!

Apparently this year, Eurovision is being broadcast in the US. I’m kind of sad about that. The US does not need to be involved in EVERYTHING! Somethings should be reserved for places that are not the US. And well, if the US is watching, can their participation be far behind? Australia watched for years and years, and now participates. I just do not want the US to be involved. Daniela Ruah hosting does nothing to assuage my fears. I wonder if she’s there to make it more approachable to the American audience. Though, Wikipedia says she was in Portugal’s version of Dancing with the Stars, so it may be that she’s famous in Portugal as well.

Ohh, I really like the flags in the coral. Well, at least I think it’s coral. That’s what it looks like to me. Not quite as fun as when the contestants made them for the postcard videos, but still, very nice.

1. Azerbaijan, Aisel, X My Heart ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฟ

2. Iceland, Ari ร“lafsson, Our Choice ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ธ

3. Albania, Eugent Bushpepa, Mall ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Good for him for singing in his native language! I always like the ones who sing in their native tongue. Music should be universal, the ability to understand the lyrics should not matter for delivering the feeling and emotion.

4. Belgium, Sennek, A Matter of Time ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช

5. Czech Republic, Mikolas Josef, Lie to Me ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ Fun peppy song; I like the bouncy ones.

6. Lithuania, Ieva Zasimauskaitฤ—, When We’re Old ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡น

7. Israel, Netta, TOY ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ

8. Belarus, ALEKSEED, Forever ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡พ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡พ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡พ

9. Estonia, Elina Nechayeva, La Forza ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ช She looks like a Barbie Cake!

10. Bulgaria, EQUINOX, Bones ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ

11. F.Y.R. Macedonia, Eye Cue, Lost and Found ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฐ

12. Croatia, Franka, Crazy ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ท

13. Austria, Cesรกr Sampson, Nobody But You ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น

14. Greece, Yianna Terzi, Onoro Mou ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ท I wasn't really fond of the this song, but I have to give her full points for singing in her native language.

15. Finland, Saara Aalto, Monsters ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ

16. Armenia, Sevak Khanagyan, Qami ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฒ Another native language song. This year has more than I can remember. I hope they didn’t pack all the non-English songs in one Semi-Final.

17. Switzerland, ZiBBZ, Stones ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ

18. Ireland, Ryan O’Shaughnessy, Together ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช

19. Cyprus, Eleni Foureira, Fuego ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡พ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡พ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡พ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡พ

My top ten choices to move on to the Final:
1. Albania
2. Greece
3. Armenia
4. Iceland
5. Czech Republic
6. Estonia
7. F.Y.R. Macedonia
8. Croatia
9. Austria
10. Finland

See You on Friday Night for Semi-Final #2,

Monday, February 5, 2018

One Bear's Opinion -- Book Review

Imperial Requiem: Four Royal Women and the Fall of the Age of Empires by Justin C. Vovk

I have read a number of books on Czarina Alexandra, and there has been some discussion of Queen Mary and Empress Auguste Viktoria in those books, but only in connection with Alexandra, never in their own right. But none had as much detail as this one. And this book covered Empress Zita (de Bourbon-Parma), of whom, in all honesty, I had never heard.

This was a long, ambitious book, covering the lives of four women and spanning European history from 1852 to 1989. I have read reports that there was too much focus on the lives of the women and too little on world events, but the purpose of the book was to have an in-depth look at the lives of the women. World events shaped their lives, but other volumes covered the world events better. I did find toward the end of the book, the time period covered was much greater, with barely two pages spent on Queen Mary’s role during World War II. And from 1953 to 1989 was spanned in one relatively short chapter. But then again, the book was not designed to cover world events as such, just the lives of four women.

Overall, I think the book did a good job covering the lives of the women, and their worlds. There were new facts and new information about Czarina Alexandra and her role in her husband’s reign. I did wonder about some of the sources and the anecdotes, but overall it was an entertaining and informative book. And it has made me more curious about Empress Zita, who was the last Empress of Austria-Hungary and lived until 1989! I had no idea any of the major players in World War I lived that long. I knew there were some people who were alive during World War I in 1989, but I had no idea any of the deposed royalty had survived. Where were those facts when we were learning history?

This book was full of the kind of facts and tidbits that make you want to dig deeper into the history — for example, Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s sons were captured by Hitler and sent to a concentration camp, and it was only the intervention of other royals that saved them. Empress Zita was saved from a similar fate by President Woodrow Wilson’s invitation to immigrate to the US. At least three of Empress Auguste Viktoria’s sons sided with Hitler during World War II, disappointing their father, Kaiser Wilhelm II. These are the kind of things that would inspire more students to learn more. I have long thought that the way we teach history to children is the worst way possible. Forcing memorization of dates, places, and events is dry and boring. There is nothing interesting about that. Adding personal tidbits would engage students and encourage them to remember events. Also, tying the people, places, and events together in time is a good thing. History does not happen in isolation, people, even in ancient times talked to each other. News may have traveled much slower, but it did travel and things in one country had an impact on events in other countries. This book did a great job of keeping events in the women’s lives tied together in time; the chapters were periods of time, and had three or four sections in them describing the women’s lives during that period. That kind of structure helped connect events across nations, and it’s one of the things that many history books neglect.

On the whole, the book was very well done. It was enjoyable and informative and easy to read. You cannot make Czarina Alexandra’s life story good, the reality is, it was not, and certainly didn’t end in the peaceful way we all hope for our own lives. But the author did a good job of telling the real tale in a manner that did was not too depressing. It was not a novel-style, but the story was readable and enjoyable.

One Bear’s Opinion: Five Cups of Viennese Coffee, with a plate of delicious pastries

Happy Reading Everyone,

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Eurovision 2017, Semi-Final #2 -- A Review

I’m back again for Eurovision 2017, Semi-Final #2. I’m hoping this is the happy peppy, fun night as compared to last night’s festival of the same act. I have high hopes of at least one fun entry. I hope it lives up to my expectation.

We had dinner before the Semi-Final began, so I am ready to comment without interruptions or distractions. We had pizza for dinner, but I know there are some crรจme wafer cookies in the kitchen as well as a chocolate bar and some gummy frogs. I’m really getting excited and it’s getting harder and harder to keep my bounces in check.

I still miss Julia and Sam. It’s just not the same without them. SBS, bring back the good host team next year, please?

The Ukraine on-stage hosts are cheesy and silly, but I kind of like them. The opening act is interesting and fun, well-done and enjoyable. I hope the rest of the show lives up to it.

Tirana Bogiฤ‡eviฤ‡
In Too Deep
Not terrible, but not a favorite. It feels like a generic song on a Top 40 radio channel. The costume was interesting, again with the see-through skirts.

Nathan Trent
Running on Air
I kind of like this. It’s got a fun element to it, and he’s not showing off. This is my first Top 10 pick of the night.

F.Y.R. Macedonia:
Jana Burฤeska
Dance Alone
The commentators just mentioned that she’s pregnant, which might mean she’s not actually dancing alone, but I don’t think I’m supposed to be that literal. It wasn’t terrible, and it’s could be very popular with preteen girls. It’s not terrible, but I’m not ready to put it in my Top 10 just yet.

Just an observation, I think it's time Greece stopped pouting and let the country be called just Macedonia. How long does it have to be saddled with the F.Y.R. Greece, grow up and acknowledge other places can, and do have the same names.

Claudia Faniello
The commentators are right, this does have a Celine Dion feel. It’s not terrible, but not my favorite.

Iliac featuring Alex Florea
Yodel It!
I love this! It’s so much fun! Just what I watch Eurovision for, the fun, silliness. Top 10 right here. I suspect it will move on to the Final, but I will be truly surprised, and genuinely thrilled if it wins overall. The canons are an interesting interpretative element.

The Netherlands:
Lights and Shadows
I don’t dislike this one, but I can’t get excited about it either. It seems boring coming right after the yodeling. And I thought the name was a variation on orange, being from The Netherlands. I totally didn’t get the o-gene aspect of it.

Joci Pรกpai
Full points for singing in his native language. This gets a Top 10 vote just for that. Electric violins are fascinating to me. I wonder about how they work without a box to vibrate. But that’s just me.

I think music is a universal language and you can like the song and understand the emotions it is meant to evoke one if you do not understand the language of the lyrics; just think about operas. I will always vote for the entries that sing in their native languages over English. It’s hard to “Celebrate Diversity” when there is none.

Where I Am
This is a song was designed to win a reality competition and I can feel it. It’s not terrible, but not a favorite.

Yes, we get she’s from Australia and we get that we should vote for her just for that. Sorry commentators, I am picking my favorites based on my opinion of them.

Brendan Murray
Dying to Try
I like the balloon. He looks like a former boy-band member. It’s not a terrible song or a terrible performance, but I’m unsure of it. I’ll have to wait until the end to see where Ireland falls in my Top 10. Where’s the other singer? There was another voice on the track, but not on stage. Hmm.

San Marino:
Valentina Moletta and Jimmie Wilson
Spirit of the Night
This feels leftover from the height of disco. It’s not bad, though the lyrics distracted me. I had to look up St. Elmo’s Fire, and that led me to other things and thoughts and I missed most of this performance.

Jacques Houdek
My Friend
He’s not going to win. And that’s a shame, because he’s giving a great performance and I’m enjoying it, a Top 10 for sure.

Grant the Moment
Are the backup performers in the witness protection program? Or do they just not want to ever be identified with performing at Eurovision? The performance is a bit distracting, but I am enjoying the song.

She has feathers. It’s not bad and the similarity of “I follow” and “Apollo” in the lyrics is interesting.

Story of My Life
Native language! And a fun bouncy song, what’s not to like? The airboat is fun too. Yes, this is definitely a favorite of the night. I hope they go to the final.

Kristian Kostov
Beautiful Mess
There is nothing special about this performance to me. It’s background music, not objectionable, but nothing I’d seek out specifically.

Rain of Revolution
This is interesting, the the way that I do not understand it and cannot decide whether I like it or not.

Koit Toome & Laura
This feels like a movie theme. It’s not terrible, but I can definitely see credits rolling under this song.

I Feel Alive
It was not bad, but I’m not rushing out to by the cd.

Ohh, it’s going to be hard to round out my Top 10. There were a good number of just okay entries tonight.

My Top 10:
1. Austria
2. Romania
3. Hungary
4. Croatia
5. Belarus
6. Norway
7. F.Y.R. Macedonia
8. Lithuania
9. Ireland
10. Israel

The cooking segments were interesting tonight. I do like finding out about different cuisines. And the throws to the segments were better tonight.

The wedding proposal was sweet. Best wishes to the happy couple.

Actual Finalists
1. Bulgaria
2. Belarus
3. Croatia
4. Hungary
5. Denmark
6. Israel
7. Romania
8. Norway
9. The Netherlands
10. Austria

I won’t be doing a review of the Final because it’s on Mother’s Day here in Australia and we’re hosting my housemate’s parents for dinner. I’ll record the final and watch it later, but won’t do a blog about it. I’m sorry to not be reviewing it, particularly since I haven’t heard the automatic qualifiers’ songs yet, but I will watch it and I am sure to enjoy it.

Thanks for watching along with me,