Eurovision Songs You Need To Know (2006 – 2017)

 

It is that month of the year again. The Eurovision season has begun. I remember that ever since 2006 I have been watching this big ol’ European glitter party. When I was younger I used to beg my parents to let me stay up late during this one week in May and they did. You see, to you 2006 sounds like an oddly specific year, but to me a lot happened in 2006. Eurovision-wise; I don’t really remember anything else from 2006. It was the year Armenia[1] first participated and Lordi won by singing “Hard Rock Hallelujah”. It was also the year I got my first crush. Remember Dima Bilan? Maybe not, but I do. You might also wonder: why up until 2017? I like to be surprised during the semi-finals instead of knowing every song by heart already prior to those semi-finals. I have no clue about what this year’s songs are going to be like.

Let me guide you through the past 11 years of Eurovision. Not all songs I’m going to mention are necessarily good songs, but I enjoy them and they are kind of iconic. I won’t be able to discuss all the songs I consider gems, so I’ve made a playlist with hopefully all amazing songs from the past years. There is no particular order to this compilation. The headings will be enough to understand. Buckle up, because you are in for a ride.

Continue reading “Eurovision Songs You Need To Know (2006 – 2017)”

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Hapax Legomenon! ‘University Challenge’ and the Nerd Cult

Watch University Challenge on BBC 2 every Monday at 21.00 (CET).

On April 10th 2017 at 21.00 (CET) you may have missed the event of the year. After several months of weekly matches, people around Britain (and the world) sat down at home or in the pub to watch this match that was hyped with a Mayweather vs McGregor-level intensity. “I have never been this excited since Pacino and De Niro finally came face to face in Heat,” someone wrote on Twitter. It was the showdown of the century: Monkman vs Seagull. Continue reading “Hapax Legomenon! ‘University Challenge’ and the Nerd Cult”

Short story competition 2017 – Second place: The Elf in the Machine

The Elf in the Machine

By Casper Rudolph

ONE

I’m sitting beside her on the couch in our living room, and we’re drinking our evening tea.

“In the dream,” I tell her, “I was a child. I plucked a rose on an open plain at sunset, and watched it wither as the sun went down. Watched how the petals, the thorns, crumbled to dust in my hand as the sun’s crimson hues, like blades, cut the life from the wild flower. Then I heard a distant voice calling out to me, and the humming of a bird.” Continue reading “Short story competition 2017 – Second place: The Elf in the Machine”

Short Story Competition 2017 – Third place: Armadillo

Armadillo

by Frumingo Diaterdag

The sky stretched long over the prairie in a cloudless blue. Heat hung shimmering over the asphalt, and the air was filled with the smell of molten rubber. Twenty-yard skid marks led up to the wheels of a tarnished brown Camino, smoke gushing from the hood. The front of the car was rumpled like an accordion against a large roadside boulder; possibly the only thing a car could total itself on in miles. Yet, there it was.

Two figures exited the vehicle, and trailed past the zigzag tire tracks. They slouched by the tangles of tumbleweed which were sunbathing next to the road. The plants would have rolled, as would have been befitting to the scene, but sadly there was not the shyest of a breeze. But this was not the biggest disappointment Jim had endured that day, him crashing into a rock and all. Continue reading “Short Story Competition 2017 – Third place: Armadillo”

Short Story Competition – First Place: In Between Places

IN BETWEEN PLACES
By Charlotte Nijhuis

Hungaria

The bumping of the carriage on the railway could put me to sleep within minutes. Using my backpack as a pillow and the views flashing before my eyes as a lullaby, it was easy to drift off. Nights in hostel beds made out of little more than a card wood box helped, too. We’d been traveling little over three weeks when we figured out our rhythm: days were for coffee shops and museums; nights for hostel-cooked dinners and dancing; trains for sleeping.

Though we had long left August behind, the summer heat lingered in Hungaria, and even more so in Hungaria’s public transport. In each new place we visited we learned to say hello in the language and bought fruits at the market. This time it was Szia – easy to remember, sounds like ‘see ya!’ – and tangerines. She handed me the paper bag.
“Can you peel one for me? You’re so much better at peeling.”
I peeled while she took pictures. She bent down on the opposite side of the carriage to gain eye level with the seats, and playfully prompted me to look away. Outside, an endless formation of green hilltops unfolded, getting higher as we went on, while on the forefront small ranches alternated fields of cattle. Cows looked the same everywhere.

With her elbow resting on my leg she held up the camera.
“Look.”
I blinked my eyes open.
“What do you think?”
The image was skewed slightly to the left and a bit underexposed, but the composition wasn’t too bad. I showed her some settings – it was my camera she was using – and she got up to give it another try. To the sound of the camera clicking I finally drifted off, my cheek resting against the sunlit window, half a tangerine resting in my lap.

Bukarest, Romania

The small square in Romania’s capital was drenched in a faint morning light. The wind blew leaves up in a whirl; a miniature hurricane unfolding right in front of us. Minus the destruction. We were sitting in a café on the western side. Outside at first, until we had no tea left to warm our hands and decided to move to a spot by the window. We ordered another round – with milk and sugar, the lady decided for us. Personalized drinks are a Starbucks thing, not a Bukarest thing. We discussed bus timetables and laundry and how we should probably buy warmer jackets soon, carefully tiptoeing around the one thing neither one of us dared to address: this little bubble would pop sooner or later. The next stop was Bosnia.

Sajarevo, Bosnia

We first met in Prague. On the fourth floor, or maybe the third, of that club I didn’t want to go to in the first place. I asked her to dance – she was a ridiculous dancer, her head wouldn’t move in synchronicity with her body – and she told me she’d never seen a girl as pale as me. We exchanged formalities; where were we from? – Ireland, Mexico –, where were we headed? – Bratislava, anywhere –, what did we think of the Czech Republic?
“I love it here,” she yelled over a high-pitched Beyoncé song. “Don’t you?”
I left the next morning for Bratislava, slept my way through the six-hour journey. I hadn’t forgotten about the girl named Isabella with a uniquely high tolerance for tequila shots, but I convinced myself I would, soon. Two days later she walked into the kitchen at the hostel during breakfast time. A sign from the universe, she said. And: we should travel together.

Five countries later I still hadn’t asked her about jobs or plans or her idea of a future beyond backpacking. It didn’t seem to matter; the present kept us busy. Sarajevo was filled with history I had never found in my high-school textbooks, and architecture that called for elaborate photo shoots. It was here, in Bosnia, where I first realized how lucky I had been. How, maybe, us meeting again was a sign from the universe. Or maybe that was just her, and her almost childlike willingness to believe in miracles, rubbing off on me.

Hvala means thank you,” I read out loud, “and molim is please.”
I flipped through the Lonely Planet that we’d found lying around at the hostel. We were standing in line for the Jewish museum.
“How do you say ‘sorry’?”
“Let me see, I probably won’t pronounce this right … Sorry is oprostite.”
Oprostite.” She echoed.
We were silent for a while. I skimmed the history & religion chapter. Two more steps and we’d be standing in the sun again.
“I’m sorry.” It sounded like a question.
I flipped another page. “Do you think they list verbs in here or—”
“I am going home.”
It took me a few moments to understand she meant home home, Mexico home, not the hostel a couple of blocks down the road. The line moved forward.
Home home?” I thought I’d make sure.
She nodded. “I got this job, so I need to come in on Monday… I never thought I’d get it, to be honest.” She paused. “I am flying out to Brussels tomorrow, in the afternoon.”
I realized I was still holding up the Lonely Planet, open, with two hands. Closing it would mean I’d have to look up.
She placed her hand on my lower arm. “I really am sorry.”

I got on a train to Vienna that same night.

Vienna, Austria

It is a truth universally acknowledged that leaves change color before they fall. Autumn is a time embellished by warning signs: shades of red and orange where we first saw green. Winter may come sooner or later, and in the height of spring it may seem like it never will, but it does, and we always get a warning.

She is not a tree. She is quiet blue on one day and screaming pink the next. She turns from fiery red to sunflower yellow to the pale pastel hues that fill my mom’s closet. At night she’s dressed in silver; she wakes up in rusty crimson. She leaps from summer to spring to fall. And I never saw this coming.

Short Story Competition – Second Place: Old Devil Moon

OLD DEVIL MOON

By Luc de Vries

The spotlight is on us. The fallen night encircles the floor on which we sway, one foot to the other. Shadowed treetops crown my horizon. The stars are aligned in perfect structure: our diamond chandeliers laced with translucent clouds, drifting slowly. A tender step left, a hand on my side pulls me closer, and I abide. The moon shines down on us, and we are its children. Its light favors us, encapsulates us, follows us. We dance.

There is an audience, captivated by our every step. Every moment we almost kiss—don’t kiss. They sit at their tables, gowns stitched to the table cloths, caged like us in the moon’s iridescent gaze. Had the floor been coated to the point where we could see our own reflections once, it is now but rocks and dirt. We did not lose our footing, on the contrary. A finer waltz has not graced the earth.

My heels high, my lipstick a murderous red. His hands hard, his breath caressing my neck. The magic is lost on them. They, who sit around our hallowed grounds, our stage. Their thin hands jingling with jewelry as they point at us. The dangling glitter from their earlobes. All smiles and teeth. They don’t understand what is happening. But as the moon commands us, we sway. Again and again. Truth be told, I’ve yet to grasp the situation myself.

As our spirit wanes, the music appears. Each step adds a layer, each slide a touch. The earth is drizzled in the dew that reflects the faint glimmer of starshine, only to be broken and absorbed into the fabric of my dress, his legs. The perfect fourth sounds, there and back again. I lean in to him, and he leans in to me. The strings’ sweet lull harmonizes with his hums behind my ear. A chill shivers through my flesh like a nail on porcelain. A beat, a turn, back and forth. His gentle touch guides me.

At that moment, he throws me back; I let him. The music tumbles. The audience takes an empty breath. He catches me by the wrist, a grip of ice, and pulls me back towards his embrace. Dry, vacant sockets stare into my eyes. His lipless smile almost brushes my face. I return a smile of my own. From his fractured throat rattles a sweet nothing. I giggle, his skull turns to look sideways, we waltz on. The music returns, and nothing has happened. The bare toes of our feet touch, embracing each other. They won’t let go anymore.

*

My heart beats like a mellow drum, a melodrama. How I would wish for it to stop and leave me to live on. But it is a truth universally acknowledged that when the heart stops beating, life ends. It is a fact of life as troubling as the tide: it holds nothing until you give meaning to it. My reason is the person who holds me right now. He is mine, and I am his.

But this shared existence of a singular soul drifts uneasily on the tide. My heart hasn’t stopped beating, yet his has. Won’t someone tell me of my fate? What twisted pathway has been laid out for me that leads towards a free fall into nothingness? A pathway that intersected and intertwined with his, only to fade away like smoke from a gun. I can no longer see the outlines: they have shattered into countless fragments, and are spread among the sky like stars. My road ended along with his, yet I remain. Still, in his cold guidance. His chalk fingers intertwined with mine, our love undying.

*

The night is almost at an end. I see it, I can feel it. The moon slowly soars downward in galactic anticipation of the sun, and its pull lessens. Our graceful waltz devolves into a waggle, a slapstick struggle against gravity. Our toes have merged, and we cling to each other as we try to maintain balance. Where my knees buckle and touch his, the skin is graying. Cracking and popping, my shinbones splinter as they pierce into his. It doesn’t hurt, quite the opposite. The more I am absorbed into my love, the surer I am that we won’t be separated once the sun dispels our fateful reunion. I indulge in the bliss, lose concentration for a split second, and tumble to the ground in a sheltering embrace.

They laugh, how could they not? Beauty rots in front of their eyes, maggots gnawing through remnants of gray skin, their torn eyelids fluttering loosely in the bleak night air. They haven’t enough skin left to shape anything else but a ghastly grin. They try to rise for the applause; a rustle of hollow rattles and clinking rings and bracelets. They stumble; their clothes attached to their seating and their feet partway buried in cold ground. Some fall, some break, some laugh on. They’re heading towards us.

We scuffle to our coalesced feet, only to find that the bones in our fingers have vanished. His hand digs deep into my side, and my wrist now stops where his spine begins. The hand he guides me with is the same one I’m led by.

The music has long since stopped, and the skeletal fiends that surround us sing us a choir of malady as replacement. Their hands connected, yet not unified like me and my love: our bodies now share one pair of legs. Their screams are fearful, and they swell to the rise of the sun whose first rays color the sky. I no longer deem any part of me to belong to the sun. Its warmth has been replaced. Its light is unnecessary. I no longer need the illusion. I look up at my dearest. His faceless visage, that yet vessels our love, stares into me. The horror that fills me is at once invigorating. I dare not look down at our shambling, decomposing legs. Let this soon be over, my eyes beg him. There is no reply. A sweet, sweet nothing. I smile. Nothing is what I long for. Eternity lies within, hidden deep in those eyes.

Our ribcages connect through our clothes. Cackles drown out the ripping and tearing of my beautiful dress, now drifting downward. And it keeps falling: the ground below us has opened. The ground on which we dance sinks deeper, deeper, earthbound.

The audience leans over the rocky edges, their arms frantically waving towards us. Perhaps they are not yet satisfied with our performance. Me and my love only have eyes for each other. Always have. We’ve never been in it for the glory, all the glitter and the roar.

Our embrace deepens. The ground above us narrows. Our bodies are one, two necks upon a single shape. The cries are silenced.

The earth shuts.