Eurovision! The best thing ever.

Live blogging while watching the Eurovision song contest 2011 from my computer. Oh America, I wish you would embrace the goodness that is.

Finland: His face could fit in a thimble. It's disturbing. Apparently he is going out to save the planet because he doesn't want to be da da dum. Hmmm. So this is what earnest looks like without hipster facial hair.

Bosnia + Herzegovina: Sort of love the gray fox leading the troop. He is back in the competition after 12 years and wearing a 15 year old jacket. Hot.

Denmark. A young Brad Pit with Val Kilmer hair in leather pants leads a band of Aryans in a very heartfelt singalong: "Come on boys, come on girls, in this crazy, crazy world, you're the diamonds, you're the pearls, let's make a new tomorrow. Come on girls, come on boys, its your future, its your choice, and your weapon is your voice, let's make a new tomorrow. Today"

Lithuania: Hoping for extensions from Evelina. Aaaaaand....I can't even focus on her hair, as her dress seems to be infected with a black spore outbreak of some sort that is eating her mid-section. I REALLY hope the Fug girls are watching. Oh my. She's signing the lyrics and smoke is now overtaking the stage. But not enough to cover the unfortunate mermaid cut of the non-spore area of the dress. Going for more wine...my poor heart can't take this much.

Hungary: Kati Wolf is the singer...short skirt but the most amazing ring I believe I have ever seen. I wear big rings to distract from my face, and seemingly, so does she. Sort of an Anna Kolter look alike, but the song is a definite contender. Tom and I are dancing in our seats. The back up singers and dancers' costumes are lit up, highlighting their amazing hats and well cut suits. Very impressive.

Ireland: Already won for best hair and costume. They are called Jedword. Oh how I wish you could see this. Apparently these guys came in 6th in the UK "X Factor," but the kids are bringing the theatrics...and not much else. Now I understand why James Joyce was a drunk, if he had to deal with annoying kids like this.

Sweden: Never fail to bring the homoerotics. This time we have leather clad men performing synchronized dances, singing a bad Glad-inspired song about wanting to be popular. Big moment is when the dancers wheel over glass panels, making a box around the lead singer, only to have him BREAK the glass and break out of the box. Get it? He will be popular!

Estonia: With a name like Getter, it's got to be good. I have my extensions, but, disturbingly paired with a Minnie Mouse dress. I was prepared for flowing chiffon, but not Lolita. I can honestly not close my mouth for the jaw-dropping weirdness of it all. Apparently the song is about Rockefeller Street, where very strange things happen in neon colors.

Greece: Globalization has some unfortunate side-effects, like Greece having an Emenem sound-alike start their song. And the juxtaposition of him, with the main song being performed by a cute as a button young man singing all HUGE in Greek, makes me think I am being served spanakopita in a hip-hop club.

Russia: The first "Do you feel my heart beat Europe?" rhetorical question of the night!!!! Third boy band dancing and singing in harmony. Remember how Russian gymnasts in the 70s and 80s always looked sad and at least 15 years behind the times in their blue eyeshadow and bendy barrettes? And how we thought, since there are things like music television, that kids would be all caught up and current by now? And we were sort of sad about the sameness of it all? Take heart. In Europe, it's 1995 and the boy band still reigns supreme.

France: What happens when you use too much molding mud.I love that he is singing in a giant French operatic drama tenor fabulous voice, but am distracted by the sweat on his top lip and matteness of his hair.

Italy: Back in the competition after 13 years. Oh Italy. You could have done so much, but your version of Michael Buble is not good. Over-cooked pasta and watery tiramisu not good.

Switzerland: Very nice and very forgettable. Just like Switzerland.


UK: The same band as last year. You may know them as the group that the old singer beat out for the Christmas #1 in "Love Actually." Blue. They are the archetypal aging boy band and just so sad. Note to self: sell those tickets to the New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys show at the Meadowlands.

Moldova: Girl in fairy costume on a unicycle. Tall pointy hats and costumes that can only be called gnome inspired. If gnomes were on acid. The lead singer resembles Vin Diesel, and is wearing a monocle. The song is called "So Lucky" and indeed I am, to live in a world where Eurovision is delivered to my computer. Nothing on television is EVER as good as this.

Germany: Lena, last year's winner, and the reason I had to sing "99 Luftballoons" loudly in public, is performing again. The brilliant thing about Eurovision is that you cannot vote for your own country, so you really have to have a great song in order to garner votes from other countries. Especially if you're Germany. This song isn't so great. And she's lost the cute factor.

Romania: Contender. Cute lead singer, simple lyrics, catchy tune, horn section, very entertaining. Could this be Norway 2009 all over again?

Austria: The other big theme of the night is people living in peace and changing the world...God I miss Europe sometimes. She is wearing fierce platforms, matched by an equally fierce voice. Apparently the secret is love, by the way. I can totally imagine Rachel singing this song in a very special episode of Glee. Big props to anyone who can belt out the big notes on 6" heels.

Azerbaijan: Just when you think the Eurovision song content has gone soft, a J-Lo lookalike comes along to restore your faith in hair extensions and wind machines. But even they are...innocuous. Where is my rocking violin player and lycra-clad dance troop? If not Azerbaijan, then who??

Slovenia: Et tu, Slovenia?

Iceland: Six men, in jeans, waistcoats and ties, sing another Buble-inspired tune. 2011: all about the Bube. They seem like very nice boys, just like MB.

Spain: I have always liked that Spain sings in Spanish. The lyrics don't really matter, because the lead singer's eyes speak the international language of crazy. She freezes my soul with her yearning for a boyfriend, marriage proposal or baby.

Ukraine: Come on Mika -- please bring it. We have live sand painting on stage, projected behind the singer, which is a promising start. But, alas, they are earnest angels wearing crystal white, and cannot bring the fabulous. Though the angel wing shoulder pads get some points. Not everyone can carry off that look.

Serbia: OK. Now we are talking. 60s-inspired girl group singing in Serbian. Super cute! And a successful chord change!

Georgia: Going for the rocking option tonight, which has been missing amongst the boy band and Buble. Mixing it up with a little rap as well...perhaps the Georgia version of Black Eyed Peas? The overabundance of black eyeliner on the men is, again, a 1995 throwback. Oh USSR blue eyeshadow. You were never gone, merely hiding out for a few decades.

My picks:
#1 Romania
#2 Hungary
#3 France

Tom's picks:
#1 Moldova
#2 Ireland
#3 Germany

Now we wait for the votes to come in. 43 countries vote, and each one announces their points, so this can take a very long time.

The best line of the voting portion, from the German contingent: "Hamburg is flipping out!"

Final results:
#1 Azerbaijan
#2 Italy
#3 who knows...

Clearly I am not a student of the subtleties of European politics when it comes to block voting. SO much to learn. But once again, the best thing on television by far.

Until next May. x


The first revelation of 2010

Did I ever write about my salvation brought on by blooming lilacs last May? It happened one morning when I was walking Rabito in Westerpark and involved the spirit of my dear cat, Waldo, absolute knowledge that I (1) wasn't alone in my journey, (2) was held tenderly in the universe's hand and (3) had always been, and, finally, an overwhelming sense of calm. It was life altering and reset the course for all things, with ascension as the goal. Up! Up! Up!

Strangely, I must have thought that my moment of salvation and subsequent upward angle was it. I got the message, evaluated my reality, changed my path and BOOM! My work here is done. Time to put it on cruise control and relax.

Turns out that isn't the case. I am struggling lately with negative vibes -- letting things get to me and drag me down despite my simultaneous overjoyed glee at being in New York, in an apartment I love, with the man I love, successfully freelancing and feeling good about my work, soaking it in and grinning most of the time. Despite all that, there is a dark shadow in the corners and I think it means I need to let my spirit go on walkabout to find the next staircase. The next level I need to get through. And after that level, there will be another.

It is a little bit scary to think that ascension is infinite. That hadn't occurred to me until now. You go up! up! up! and there really isn't anywhere to stop, unless you allow yourself to fall back down. You can't stay stagnant and you can't stop working. Finding peace seemed accidental, but retaining peace is nothing but intentional. How strange to realize this now and how fascinating it will be to go seeking in this new place, where calm is in short supply.


Friday night art excursion

"It's an Andy Warhol!"
In a whisper loud enough to hear three paintings away.
Standing in front of Cy Twombly's akimbo canvas,
I try hard to rise above but fail.


Full Circle

Today at work I had a conversation with a super great kid who is working on my big World Cup project. It came from nowhere, but when he asked, "I heard you said you were leaving advertising. Why?", some gems showed up.

Why? Because if you grow up a certain way, with college and fall back jobs and expectations of white collar, then the jobs you choose are means to an end. And the end is a house, kids, husband, car, shiny bbq, vacations that are nice but not too fancy, blah, blah, blah. These are the expectations of a child, but it is amazing how strong they are. Going to work in a vintage store post-graduation would not have been acceptable, at least in my mind. Not important or work attire needed enough!

But now I know better. After riding my bike everywhere, I don't want a car. After not buying clothes for six months, I don't need ennui-inspired trips to Target to scratch the novelty t-shirt itch. After post-house apartment living, I sort of like the shared walls with a landlord who takes care of business. After trying so hard to have kids (without REALLY committing to the idea), I wake up at 10am on a Saturday after working 14 hour days for a solid week, I clapped when saw the time and relished the late hour. And the travel...So why stay in a job, in an industry, that was great for a time but not my cup of tea any more.

After 20 years of advertising, it is time to do what I want to do. How rocking will it be to go to work in a vintage store now!!! I can not wait for the day when I finish this chapter and start the book of brand new start. It is going to be good...


Patara Elephant Farm

Today I was reminded how important this blog is for capturing moments and sharing adventures. It has been too long, but I am writing again. And I have the best subject matter ever!

Exactly four weeks ago today, Tom and I landed in Bangkok and started a 16 day vacation. The entire trip was absolutely amazing and I have subject matter for months, but one day in particular was pure magic and a giant check mark on the "to do" list of life. Elephants!!!

After talking with other travelers at Secret Garden outside of Chiang Mai, we decided that Patara Elephant Farm was the best place to spend the day. It was destined to be touristy, so it was important to pick a place where the elephants are treated well and there is more purpose than profit. Patara Elephant Farm's mission: Patara Elephant Farm is a 100% Thai owned and managed farm focusing on health-care and breeding management for friendly, beautiful and special elephants to produce healthy elephants to live on Earth for long term elephant conservation.

We were picked up early in the morning and driven about an hour and a half outside the town. When we arrived we met the other 20 visitors (all they accept per day) and our host Teerapat spent about 30 minutes telling us the history of elephants in Thailand and more about the mission of Patara. We could see the elephants in the distance, but it still seemed fairly zoo-like. Teerapat divided the group in half and, after learning the signs that signal a good, receptive mood and donning official trainer shirts, we were led to meet "our" animals. I was first to go - I think because I looked the most nervous/excited.

My elephant, Nui, is a 10 year old female who is pregnant with her first baby and very sweet and funny. We each fed our elephants a basket of bananas, sugar cane and tamarind by hand, getting more comfortable with their giantness and their gentleness. Her mouth was strong! It was like putting your hand in a vacuum cleaner with gums. After feeding, we learned how to judge whether or not the elephant is healthy by checking for tear tracks and dirt on their sides (proof that they slept lying down on their side), sweat on their toe nail cuticles (you have to bend down and run your finger across their nail, while keeping the other hand on their leg so they know you are there) and finally, lots of things to check in their poop. And then we performed mini physicals, including the poop check, which, because elephants are vegetarians, wasn't bad at all. Once our animals were deemed healthy, we got them to lay them to lay down and we brushed them with brooms made from tree branches to remove the lose dirt and leaves from the back and head...and then we fed them the branches, which rocked. After that we led our elephants to the river by the ear and gave them a proper bath. Nui loved filling her trunk when my back was turned and spraying me in the face when I turned back around. I was soaked but laughing the entire time. We had baskets that filled with water and little brushes that we used to clean all over - the tail, along the legs, ears, face, amazing. Tom was right next to me, washing his elephant too.

After a brief break, we got on our elephant's backs and rode them up to a waterfall about 30 minutes up in the hills. The clean water is important. Saddles are not - bare back!! I was terrified for a few minutes because it is high up and you sort of rock back and forth without anything to grip, but after a while, and several deep breaths, I got the hang of it and relaxed. You have to sit way up on the neck, with your bare feet right behind the ears, which is a cool sensation on its own. The real trainer/mahout was never far away, making sure everything went alright. All the mahouts come from the Karen hill tribe known for working with elephants, and a portion of all profits from the farm go back to the tribe (and the shirts we wore were made by the women in the tribe). At the waterfall, we got off the elephants and they went into the water to cool down and drink...and then we actually got to swim with them. Fantastic in a million ways. Getting on an elephant in the water is very, very difficult. Who would have thought they were so slippery? Also, they seem to love spinning back and forth under the water, so you have to hold on tight and balance carefully, which is a feat unto itself, considering my natural grace. I laughed and laughed like a little kid. So nice.

We were lucky because our group was great -- a wide variety of people from all over the world. Everyone had a really happy attitude and I think the nature of the program makes guests open and respectful, which made for an excellent atmosphere. We all went into the waterfall before lunch and had this beautiful moment sitting under the water in the middle of the jungle, fresh
from riding these incredible animals and it just didn't get any better than that. We ate under a canopy of palm fronds and then got back on our elephants for the ride back. This time we went over a small mountain, with steep grades going both ways and a sharp drop on the right. At one point I just stopped looking around and trusted Nui to find her way...and she did. Once down the other side, we were back in the valley, traveling into the back of the farm, passing the sleeping quarters of the mahouts and elephants just hanging out. There are so many elephants that each one only goes out with tourists once a week, so there is lots of time for standing.
We let our elephants rest for a while and eat once again and went to go meet the twin 16 month old twin males who wander around looking to eat anything and everything and playing in the water. They were mischief makers. The last bit of the day was spent with Tom and I riding Nui along the river through (what can only be described as) verdant jungle. I rode the way Thai ladies ride, sitting on the very top of her head with my legs down her trunk. Tom, by this point, was a monkey and able to climb up the trunk and settle in anywhere, while I was a clumsy as ever and fairly frightened again when I had to ride in a new position. Laughter trumped fear after a few minutes and enjoyed the intense beauty of the experience. When we were done, we said goodbye with trunk kisses and sad face. It was absolutely amazing.


repeating over and over

What annoys me about others are traits I dislike in myself. What annoys me about others are traits I dislike in myself. What annoys me about others are traits I dislike in myself.

But man...if I talked as much and listened as little as the monotone voice girl in my office, I would hope someone would hit me in the face.