Tuesday, 22 April 2014

UK Eurovision Entry "Best in Ages"

Molly Smitten-Downes will represent the United Kingdom at the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen next month, with her anthemic song Children of the Universe. It is a major departure from recent offerings from the UK's Eurovision broadcaster, the BBC, which have centred around previously popular music acts that, although quality artists, were well past their time - none more so than Englebert Humperdinck.

This new song from a previously low profile singer-songwriter, Molly, was found via the BBC's own Introducing platform, where "unsigned and under the radar" artists submit their work in the hope they get played on Radio 1, or maybe be invited to play on the BBC Introducing stage at various events and festivals, including Glastonbury.

Molly's entry is modern and refreshing, giving a nod back to Katrina and The Waves' winning UK entry from 1997, but updating the genre for the 21st century. It feels different right from the beginning, with a rhythmic hand clap and call to listen from the backing singers with a cry of power to the people, Molly begins to sing over this hand clap as the music doesn't kick in until the first bridge in the song. When it does there is a soft but rapid build into the chorus, which is clearly the part which will be remembered by the people of Europe when it comes to voting. Molly reminds us that we're Children of the Universe, and we have control of our own destiny as we move into the future.

After a second verse, bridge, and chorus; we move into the middle eight which reflects on the recent past and how we've struggled recently (I doubt this was written with Eurovision in mind, but it does fit the UK's story quite well) before a moment of silence and powering back into the chorus for the final time and book-ending the song with another cry of power to the people which you find yourself mouthing as the song ends.

It's actually a classic love song, but there's no reference to a singular person that Molly is singing to. Instead the lyrics use the personal pronoun we (or we're), which could easily mean any one person, or group of people, listening to the song. This gives the song both a personal and universal appeal, perhaps a master stroke when trying to win the votes of the European public (and juries)!

Watch and listen below (and please ignore the strange vision editing by the BBC's work experience kid) ...

It is the UK's best entry in ages, with bookmakers putting the song in 5th place - slashed from the mid-field placing a few weeks ago. I'm sure my friend Jim Dickinson won't quite be so charitable when he comes to the UK's entry in his Eurovision previews blog QeleQele, but I hope that he'll be able to see that the BBC are going in the right direction with their selections in their song for Europe.

The Eurovision Song Contest grand final will be broadcast on BBC One at 8pm on 10 May, or on your national broadcaster at 21:00 CET.


Monday, 21 April 2014

2014: The Year of Big Changes

In a normal year you would expect the vast majority of things to be the same as they always were, and indeed many things have stayed exactly the same. The Queen is carrying on as strong as ever, the world is still annoyed with Putin, the weather is very British, and the government is still in power (because the revolution still hasn't come1). But this year, there has already been some big changes to what we might regard as normal.

Equal Marriage
Just last month, the first same-sex weddings took place, despite opposition from the self proclaimed Coalition for Marriage (or as I like to call them, Coalition of Homophobes). The sky hasn't fallen in (much to the disappointment of UKIP) and the legislation was brought in by a Tory (yes, Tory) prime minister. If that isn't a big change then I don't know what is!

Manchester United - need I say more. We knew that it would be a difficult season for the Premier League champions after the departure of Sir Alex, but it has been a real sea change at Old Trafford and they could be about to sack their first team manager in 20 years!

Don't forget about Formula 1 though. We now have hybrid engines, massive energy recovery, and a lot less noise. For the last four years, Sebastian Vettel has won the drivers' world championship, and the team he drives for, Red Bull, has won the constructors; but this year not only has Red Bull struggled with the new formula, Vettel has struggled within Red Bull, losing out to new driver Riccardo in the standings so far.

Changes can also come in the form of firsts. GB won their first ever Olympic medal on snow, the USA won their first ever Olympic medal in Russia (they had boycotted previous games in the former Soviet Union), and Russia hosted it's first ever Paralympic Games (the last time they hosted the Olympics, they refused to host the Paralympics).

The Future
Predicting the future is at best inadvisable, and at worst reckless, but there are a few things on the horizon that could change the future of the country forever.

Perhaps most predictably, the biggest potential change this year is the result of the Scottish referendum. There are only two outcomes of the referendum, but even if the Scots vote no (and I suspect they will) then the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK will be forever altered. Crimea, Scotland is not; but if Scotland aren't granted some sort of further autonomy within the UK, I'll be very surprised.

Will there be more big change this year? Only time will tell.


1 A little student politics/Russell Brand joke for you there.

Monday, 24 March 2014

God Created the Big Bang

You might be surprised to hear that the idea of a deity is not inconsistent with modern science. There are a large number of people in the world who think that modern science is nonsense, and believe in creationism, ie that God created the world in six days (and had a rest on the seventh). There are plenty who also believe that there is plenty more evidence for The Big Bang, and such evidence (along with the rest of scientific thinking) therefore disproves the existence of God.

As you might expect, each side picks out the flaws in the ideas of the other side in order to attempt to prove each other wrong; but science isn't a static thing, in fact the scientific parts of what was written in the Bible aren't terrible mistakes. They were some of the best theories we had to explain scientific phenomena.

The story of Noah's Ark contains a great flood and ends with a rainbow. The likelihood is that the rapid flood was a tsunami, and the rainbow was caused by the spray from said tsunami being caught in the sun's rays and refracting (note that rainbows are much rarer in the Middle East, as you tend to either get heavy rain - with no sun to create the rainbow - or no rain at all) hence the link between the two. Tsunamis don't happen very often anyway, but along the North African and Middle East coast the one that led to the biblical flood was probably the first that anyone in that region would have heard of. Therefore the theory that God was angry at mankind so sent a flood, but then promised never to send another great flood again after the event, was the best theory that we had at the time - which, don't forget, was around 4350 years ago!

This is the point though; the Big Bang theory is the best theory we currently have. It may be disproved in the future, or indeed extended (just like recent evidence about the events immediately after the Big Bang), but we still don't know why the Big Bang happened. I think we can lay to rest the story of the Garden of Eden and the world being created in situ; after all we have almost conclusive proof that the Earth is billions of years older than the human race; but that doesn't mean that we've disproved that God wasn't responsible for the Big Bang.

Those that believe in God usually also believe that God is in all things. They might be right. The Higgs boson, discovered at CERN in 2012 and confirmed last year, is a particle that could explain why some objects have mass where otherwise they would be mass-less. It has been called the God particle, because it could bring us closer to understanding the reason that life exists. Higgs himself doesn't like the term because it causes undue sensationalism - the logical conclusion being that he doesn't want to be compared to any god (or at least avoid the controversy of such).

The point is that belief in God doesn't mean the rejection of science, or vice versa. Science is not trying to disprove the existence of God, but instead trying to provide answers to what happens in the world and wider universe; which is exactly what the stories in the Bible were trying to do.

That's the best theory I have anyway!


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Blogroll Special

A special edition of Blogroll Update for you all today. Two old student hacks and friends of mine, Dannie Grufferty and Joe Oliver, have started a joint blog today called Book Worms and Political Bugs. This has prompted me to update my Blogroll (found on the right of the page) to include this new venture. Prepare for all things from the thoughtful to the surreal, from both Dannie and Joe - although Joe is probably going to provide the more surreal.

In other news, if you can't see any images in my blog items any more then please be assured that I'm working on it; and in unrelated advice, don't make the album containing your blog images private, because nobody will be able to see them after, even if you make the album public again.

Message ends.


Update: I've now fixed the image problem. Can I get a hell yeah?

Friday, 7 March 2014

Immigrants Create Jobs, Not Take Them

Question Time this week came from Barking; a place where the BNP used to have 12 councillors, and where now every seat is held by Labour. It is a place where the White British are in a minority (49.5% in 2011), and has been settled by a vast number of immigrants in the last decade or so. There are people in Barking who believe that the immigrants have been taking their jobs, but nothing could be further from the truth.

There isn't a finite number of jobs, and people who oppose immigration should remember that! More people working in the supply chain means more jobs created to service that supply chain. There are more people employed in this country than there have ever been before, and that's partly because of immigration. The jobless rate is still historically very low; the peak in 2011 of 8.4% was way below the peak in the last recession of 10.4%, and from 1975 to the mid-1980s the rate hardly ever fell below 11%. Unemployment is now marginally above 7%, and that's with 2 months after the end of controls on Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK.

There is no evidence to show that immigrants take the jobs of British people; they do the jobs that the Brits either don't want to do or don't do very well, such as picking fruit, which (for example) creates more jobs for those driving trucks that take the fruit to the supermarkets, who in turn hire more staff to stack and sell the fruit, perhaps twice the number of jobs that were available for fruit pickers!

I'm not saying there should be an open door. Immigrants should absolutely only be here to work, and not simply to live off benefits, but the number of immigrants who claim benefits is well below the proportion of British claimants, so as it stands there really isn't a problem.

Oh and to the man in the audience on Question Time who thinks that immigrants get free travel just for turning up in the UK, stop believing what the BNP tell you! The propaganda they put out is wildly inaccurate and completely fabricated. If anyone is stopping you getting a job, it's not immigrants, it's probably you!