It’s Eurovision’s time to shine, starting with number 1 position in our Top Five stories from around the web this week. Plus Trump’s peace prize, rent-a-family, a great video from hard-rockers Mastodon and a little bit of mindfulness to round things out.
What’s making us hit a high note: something to read
Mamamia, here we go again. There’s less than 10 sleeps left for Australia to join in on the world’s biggest party, the Eurovision Song Contest. With its wind machines, sudden key changes, and cheesy reveals (which are technically crimes against fashion), it’s become a permanent entry in our diaries. From Finland’s ‘Hard Rock Halleluiah’ to Germany’s ‘Satellite’ sung by the pixie-like Lena, the competition has been diverse and eclectic year-on-year. The fact is, you never know what you’re going to get. One thing you can be sure of though is that there’s always an unexpected trend in store – be it all white attire, dancing nannas or bare-feet singers. Aussies have been obsessed with all that Eurovision has to offer since SBS first started broadcasting the contest here in the 1980s, set to the mocking tone of Terry Wogan. And since then, the whole event has spurred on drinking games, costume parties and trivia competitions. It’s all just harmless fun. But don’t be fooled, there’s also a sinister side to the all singing, all dancing action – there’s politics at play amongst that sea of flags. Dedicated fans will know about bloc voting – this is when neighbouring countries vote for each other – no matter how bad the rendition. But there’s more to the political game playing than simply patting your neighbour on the back. There have been times when politics has taken centre stage at the contest. Remember the time the Georgian delegation were disqualified from the race after their catchy, ‘Put In Disco’ and the refrain ‘We don’t wanna put in’ was said to sound a lot like, ‘We don’t want Putin’. And this year our Australian entrant Jessica Mauboy has been dragged into the political spotlight too, after agreeing to put on a show in Israel. She’s been accused of painting oppression with hearts and rainbows.
What’s spooking us: something to read
US President Donald Trump has been formally nominated for a Nobel Peace prize in what Republicans have labelled, “his tireless work to bring peace to our world.” According to his 18 supporters who championed his nomination the recognition would be for Trump’s direct efforts to solve the North Korean nuclear tensions. How quickly they must have forgotten about the President’s inflammatory tweets and verbal outbursts, calling Kim Jong Un, ‘Rocket Man.’ And the fact remains that despite the spectacle and smiles, the USA has previously failed on disarmament deals with North Korea, so who’s to say this will be a success. And it’s not only North Korea we need to worry about. By May 12th Trump will also need to make a decision on the outcome of the 2015 deal struck to curb Iran’s nuclear programme. And then there’s Russia at play. The cold war may be over, but the limits on the nuclear arsenals of Russia are set to lapse within three years. The Economist writes that we’re living in a time where complacent, reckless leaders have forgotten how valuable it is to restrain nuclear weapons. It may be time to start investing in bunkers.
What’s intriguing us: something to read
Would you ever consider a rent-a-family? It’s not quite the same as renting a fridge or a car, but it would serve a purpose – making you feel less isolated and lonely. And don’t for a moment think this is some hypothetical I’ve dreamt up – it’s actually a reality happening in Japan right now. There are a number of agencies in Japan that rent out replacement relatives – they are services engineered to satisfy a person’s intrinsic need for a family. You can hire a mother, wife, daughter, father, son. Your family is planned according to your emotional need. And what follows is family dinners around warm fire places, long walks together, picnics and so on. The impersonators or actors are intended to substitute or fill in the gap of an existing relative – perhaps the real relatives have passed on or just moved away. It’s a titillating concept, but one which we think opens up a whole new conversation around the psychology and ethics.
What’s making us rock out: something to watch
“There’s no cause to be alarmed. And no reason to escape from us. There’s no illness and no pain. Have not found any suffering,” declares Mastodon in their new song, Clandestiny. Just as the words indicate, there’s nothing gentle about this song, so don’t expect a soft touch. However, the repetitive drumming and chant-like singing will have you air-guitaring. Putting the music and lyrics aside, the real star of this track is the music video. Produced by BlinkMyBrain, a designer and animator living in LA the video has an Alice in Wonderland feel to it, complete with old school robots and random acts of violence – a sort of warning to humanity.
What’s inspiring us: something to read
As we’ve taken a deep dive into Mindful in May, we’re discovering a myriad of ways to quiet the chatter of our brains which seems to be permanently in overdrive mode. One of the takeaways from neuropsychologist and New York Times best-selling author, Rick Hanson is to be mindful of the things around you and be grateful for those things. If you were to simplify his message, it would be to make sure you make time to smell the roses. He says even acknowledging that the pavement you walk on is smooth and that you’re not surrounded by rubble or mud or worse, is a powerful way to rewire our brains to stop and ‘see’ all the positives around us. This is a theme also picked up in Lorin Clarke’s column for the Big Issue. She’s the daughter of satirical legend John Clarke who passed away unexpectedly on a hiking trip not so long ago. Lorin urges us to focus on the small things – put BIG thinking aside, and just enjoy a hot drink or hold someone’s hand. Both Rick and Lorin reminded me of the Sunscreen song from the 90s. As the lyrics of that song aptly declared, “Sometimes you’re ahead, Sometimes You’re behind. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.”
Aren’t toddlers just the funniest. That’s pretty much all we have to say on that matter and here’s why.