Eurovision 2019: let’s talk about spreadsheets

I love Eurovision. I enjoyed last night’s show (the music, Australia’s bendy-poles staging, the drama when Hatari staged a mini-protest against the oppression of the Palestinian people.) I wasn’t surprised the UK came last (a song that would’ve done well twenty years ago, performed competently, but anodyne and ultimately basic.) I was pleased the Netherlands won.

One thing I did not like was the new voting system. The method used for determining the final scores was the same as it has been since 2016, but the phone votes were announced in a different order. As reported by wiwibloggs:

Scores will still be calculated in the same manner as the last three years. However, we’ll have to wait until later in the voting sequence to see if an act has flopped with the televoters. And should an act be battered by the juries, they’ll receive their televote boost much sooner.

This may make for ‘better television,’ but I don’t think it worked in practice. You may have done well with the juries, but terribly with the televote—or you may have bombed with the juries, and relying on the public to send you up the leaderboard. Under the old system, you would’ve at least been put out of your misery quickly: now, you’re left to stew, and believe you could still win.

I particularly didn’t enjoy John Lundvik from Sweden being strung along for five minutes, being told ‘you need two hundred and fifty-three points’—and ultimately only receiving ninety-three. His crestfallen face has already become a meme.

Similar things happened when Malta, North Macedonia, and the Czech Republic received their phone votes. The director presumably made the choice to cut to the acts’ disappointed faces. This was unnecessary, and compounded the feeling that the new system was unnecessarily cruel.

Ultimately, Eurovision is supposed to be an exercise in cross-cultural appreciation and togetherness. I don’t think X Factor-style cutaways were necessarily in line with that. I watch Eurovision for fun and to feel fuzzy about Europe—not to watch people’s dreams getting dashed before my eyes.

I would hope that the EBU and the Dutch producers revert to the 2016 rules next year. But who knows? The Netherlands is the country that gave us Deal or No Deal.

The Power, by Naomi Alderman

I’ve finished listening to the audiobook of The Power, narrated by Adjoa Andoh. I could write thousands of words about how she’s one of my favourite actors and narrators, one of the most exciting British creative voices working today, but I’ll just say she’s phenomenal and leave it at that.

I enjoyed The Power. Overnight, every fifteen-year-old girl on Earth develops the ability to send an electrical charge from her fingertips, generated in an electrical organ on her collarbone (the ‘skein.’) As the power spreads, and grows, the world order is upended. Rape culture is inverted. It’s a difficult read (or listen) at times, as the violence (some of it sexual violence) intensifies and plumbs ever murkier depths.

There were things I wish it explored more. There’s no real discussion of what happens to trans women or trans men. That said, we do see get to see a few men with a skein, including one intersex character (whom the book clumsily describes as having ‘abnormalities’ in his chromosomes.)

At times, The Power feels like a well-researched historical novel. This is intentional, and the framing device (I won’t spoil it) is supremely clever. The final passage is phenomenal, and ties up the novel as a masterwork of satire. This is a truly ambitious novel: as social commentary, as science fiction, as imagined future history, and as side-splittingly, piercingly, joltingly funny satire.