2015: A Brief Blast Back Through the Year Fantastical…

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2015: thanks and ta-ra to the Year Fantastic…

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2015! Whoa! Yeah, that happened. Way back on New Year’s Day I doodled up a unicorn and, with a hopeful spirit, hailed 2015 as the ‘Year Fantastical’. Turns out that it lived up to that title and then some. From my perspective, it’s been a pretty damn fantastic and quite incredible year.

So much happened in 2015 and I feel like I’ve done a lot, experienced a lot and learned a lot. Come the end point where we get all reflective and retrospective (it’s customary and inevitable) I’m struck by how ‘big’ and full of stuff this year seems. I’ve got so many memories of moments streaming through my mind and from all of them flow a multitude of thoughts and feelings. Some people say that I think and feel too much (tsk and hush, you people!) but, hey, I can be no other way. Plus, thinking and feeling are what make us human beings and what make us realise that we’re alive. The alternative is living on autopilot and if you’re living on autopilot you’re probably not engaging with life and consciously appreciating it. Hey! Life! Existence! Appreciate it!

So then, here I am thinking and feeling over 2015 and appreciating it before we say ta-ra. It’s been a year in which I thought and felt a lot. I smiled a lot. I cried a lot. (It was the death of Spock, the Norwegian Eurovision entry and Inside Out) I had triumphs and I also had some disappointments, but the good stuff far outweighs the bad bits. I’ll focus on the good in this brief personal look-back, ’cause there’s no point me dwelling on the crappy and/or grave bits here. (Though I will give a shout-out to several late, great cultural icons and my all-time favourite t-shirt which is lost somewhere in Italy. *sighs* I miss ’em all.)

Off the top of my head, here are some of the things I did and experienced that made 2015 genuinely awesome (as in they inspired awe and made me go “awwww!” or “awwww yeah!“): I got a tattoo; I levelled up as an English teacher by passing a CELTA course; I got to explore Dublin and Zürich among several other culture vulture trips; I took a train ride through the Swiss Alps; I saw what’s left of the Magna Carta; I got to enjoy la dolce vita over and over in bella Italia in places familiar and new (including Verona, Padova, Venice, hitherto unexplored sections of the Liguria coast and Emilia-Romagna to name a few); I went to the opera and enjoyed that experience in Verona’s ancient Roman arena; I became a hero to a whole new set of Italian children in Milano, Torino and the countryside near Padova; I composed the summer hit single that was ‘Pineapple Hands‘ and that became a minor cult phenomenon; I gave ‘Free Hugs’ on Valentine’s Day in the world’s most beautiful shopping arcade; I witnessed Italy’s biggest food fight – the all-out insanity that is Ivrea’s Battle of the Oranges.

I like this photo as an image to encapsulate the beauty, adventure and feeling of 2015...

Yeah, this photo sort of encapsulates the feeling and adventure flowing through 2015…

Throughout, I doodled like a demon and have spent most of the year with inky fingers. I also wrote some pretty good stuff and had a lot of fun working away at various creative projects. Daredevil , WiiU videogames and hanging with my family made home downtime a good time when I wasn’t off on (mis)adventures. Otherwise – turning to ‘important stuff’ and current affairs for a second – in spite of it all, there were progressive political and social moments in 2015 that gave me hope. The same goes for technology and science (there’s water on Mars!) and, sportswise,  I’ve been enjoying the Boston Celtics’ continued upward trajectory towards contender status.

Sonically speaking, my soundtrack to 2015 was mostly Dinosaur Pile-Up and Ghost and they gave me immense live shows to experience and brilliant new albums to crank to death. As for films, there have been so many superb movies released this year but my two favourites of 2015 were Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Mad Max: Fury Road. They beat all the rest for spiritual reasons, sentimental reasons and because they are stand-out supreme imaginative visions and masterpieces of cinematic storytelling.

I decided to close the year in suitable style by watching The Force Awakens again and that makes me even happier as I head into the future. Having had my nice nostalgia moment I’m now going to close this self-indulgent rear-view-mirror ramble. First though, before I hurl myself heart and soul into 2016, I’d like to hail all the human beings who shared the experiences and really made 2015 something special. I had a blast with both old friends and new friends this year and I’m grateful for all the energy, the companionship, the generosity and the niceness that people have directed my way over the past twelve months. It means a lot and I truly appreciate it. High-fives, hugs and ‘awww yeah!’s to everyone.

So, that was 2015 then, and thank you 2015. I say it’s high time we hit the New Year and moved on to the fresh adventures and experiences lying ahead in 2016. Awww yeah. I’m excited…

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Malmö Mysteries: The Big Questions of Eurovision 2013…

Saturday night television is a terrifying experience that bombards you with challenging questions and leaves you with minor cerebral trauma. This weekend wild rampaging question marks came flying thick and fast like crazy. The box baffles, bamboozles, bedazzles and brainscrambles you, blows your mind and and leaves you bobbing like a goldfish, open-mouthed, awestruck and only able to utter phrases that end in “?”.

You were watching BBC1 on Saturday night, right? (I watched Saturday night on Sunday morning on BBC iPlayer ’cause that’s how we watch TV these days ’cause we are Techno-Techno-backed Masters of Time and Audiovisual Space, awww yeah. *presses red button*) It was the series finale of Doctor Who and that was a shock of suspense and surprise that subsequently inspired the masses onto internet message boards to try and work out what it all meant. There are many questions and too few answers. Nonetheless, I’m not overly concerned with the Doctor Who enigmas. I’m mainly caught up in questions around Saturday night’s other epic televisual event.

The Eurovision Song Contest 2013, comrades! It is beautiful and baffling. I’m glad that this blast of kitsch theatricality and celebration of music and human spirit comes back every year. We need showpiece events like this to remind us of the important things in life (love, friendship that transcends all boundaries, artistic expression, zestful silliness) and watching Eurovision “feels like I’m flying, like if I had wings, like I am sailing on a sea of dreams…”

Even so, Eurovision is also slightly disturbing. It’s got this weird infectious energy and I think I’ve got it caught in my system to the point that several days later I can’t stop thinking about it and am still humming “Only Teardrops“. It’s also got me in the grip of anxiety and riddled with questions, more so than the Doctor Who climax.

Seriously, the secrets of the Universe may be harmoniously hidden in this whole mercurial shabang. There are subtexts and strange mysteries in every song – and the ceremony as a whole, in fact – and each individual entry probably deserves an academic essay of its own. I don’t have the time or energy to do that though (the contagion has exhausted me and I’m reeling) so instead I’ll simply raise a few of the riddles that really stand out from Saturday’s continental popstravaganza.

In case anyone else out there is similarly curious/infected or can provide theories or answers, here are some Eurovision questions that are driving me (literally) insane…

Ukraine: Where did the 7ft8in giant go? What became of this mighty titan and his feathery headpiece after he carefully set Zlata Ognevich down upon her spotlit rock?

Lithuania: Where did Andrius Pojavis get a pair of shoes called “Love” and “Pain”? Which one is left and which one is right? The wearing of these shoes appears to be significant and problematic in his love life so why doesn’t he just opt for different footwear?

Greece: Why is the alcohol free? Where are you getting the free alcohol, oh happy Koza Mostra men? Shouldn’t we be taxing this alcohol to try and stimulate the utterly-smashed Greek economy?

Romania: Cezar, can you bite me so I can became a Grand Opera Dracula as well?

Finland: “Whatchu waiting, whatchu waiting for?” Hey hesitant lover of the outstandingly desperate Krista Siegfrids! Where is her proposal? When are you going to marry her and allow her to fully enjoy her anti-feminist fantasy?

Malta: What happened to Jeremy (he works in IT and “likes his rigorous routine… risk assessment is his investment in a life of no surprise“) when he followed the oh-so-distant manic pixie dream girl (“she’s spontaneous indeed, uncertainty’s her creed, and she has always been neither black or white, just a curious delight“) into tomorrow?

Armenia: how did Tony Iommi – the Black Sabbath guitarist and thimble-fingered god-like genius who invented heavy metal – come to compose this thing for Armenia? Anyway, to the questions asked in the song itself (and it’s a song made out of questions): ” Who’s the one that starts a war? Who’s dictating what is less and more? Who can change the night and day? Who’s the one with clever face? That can tell us what is in the space?” Skipping to the chorus: “Lonely planet, who has done it? Who can save you? Who can stop it? Lonely planet, who has done it? Who can save you? Who can stop it?

Denmark: “Eye for an eye, why tear each other apart? Please tell me why, why do we make it so hard?” On to the chorus: “How many times can we win and lose? How many times can we break the rules between us? Only teardrops? How many times do we have to fight? How many times till we get it right between us? Only teardrops?

Russia: “What if I could change the path of time? What if I had the power to decide? What if I could make us unified? … What if we would open up the doors? What if we could help each other more? What if I could make you all believe? … What if we all opened our arms? What if we came together as one? What if we aimed to stop the alarms? What if we chose to bury our guns? Why don’t we always reach out to those who need us the most?

Dina Garipova believes that “the answer lies within our hearts and minds” but she only came 5th which was sad ’cause she was my favourite (Denmark was probably my third favourite though so I’m not unhappy with the end result). I just don’t know. Altogether, I’m confused and am not sure that I feel very well. I’m going to go and lie down in a dark, silent room until the earworms and impossible questions go away. Erm… see you next year in Denmark!