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Sketch for Eurovision linked data

I’ve been looking around to see if Eurovision data exists as linked data, or openly in any format. I can find relatively little, mostly just data about one of the recent contests, or about UK performances. None of it is RDF or linked. I suspect that some linked but not open data of this sort may be held by the BBC or the EBU, but can’t see any trace of it.

In some ways I am not disappointed as it means I can have a go at playing with the idea myself, both for fun and as something to learn from. The idea would be to do something similar to what I have done with this Sandy site, preferably also with a Sparql endpoint if I can figure out how to set one up. It would have the twin benefits of being a larger pool of data than I entered in the Sandy site but also reasonably finite: there are only so many contests and so many entrants each year. It would also be of interest to a somewhat wider group of people.

There are two main differences that make creating the new site more tricky: the data needs to be modelled a little more rigorously; and, I am looking at creating my own elements and properties, although I will use existing ones where possible. Below is a sketch of a simple Eurovision Song Contest linked data (escld:) model with the data types I would need to establish. My main aim is to record songs, artists, countries, positions, and total points. Links out can enrich this too. Recording the individual voting scores (who gave douze to whom) is not my immediate concern although I wouldn’t want to rule it out. I’ve therefore had a stab at how it could be done. I think it would need something clever like blank nodes. The purpose of the sketch is to get an idea of structure rather anything like an  exhaustive list of possible relationships to be included.

Any comments or suggestions on this set up would be most welcome!

Entities:
<contest>
<country>
<song>
<artist>
<composer>

Relationships:
<inCity>
<performedBy>
<composedBy>
<representing>
<position>
<score>
<receivedPoints>
<pointsFrom>
<noOfPoints>

Example triples (lazily punctuated and laid out) using namespace escld

<escld:Eurovision Song Contest 2010>
  <dc:date> "2010"
  <escld:inCity> <dbpedia:Oslo>
<escld:Germany>
<escld:Satellite>
  <escld:performedBy> <Lena Meyer-Landrut>
  <escld:composedBy> <Julie Frost>
  <escld:composedBy> <John Gordon>
  <dc:date> "2010"
  <escld:representing> <Germany>
  <dc:title> "Satellite"
  <escld:position> "1"
  <escld:score> "246"
  <escld:receivedPoints> _:rP1
    _:rP1 <escld:pointsFrom> <UnitedKingdom>
    _:rP1 <escld:noOfPoints> "12"
<escld:Lena Meyer-Landrut>
  <foaf:name> "Lena Meyer-Landrut"

<escld:Julie Frost>
  <foaf:name> "Julie Frost"

<escld:John Gordon>
  <foaf:name> "John Gordon"

Eurovision 2010: post mortem of the United Kingdom entry

Just before the results started to be announced during Saturday’s Eurovision Song Contest, I made a couple of predictions:

I wonder if Greece might be a good compromise candidate. I’ll say Greece. Possibly Germany. Null points could well go the UK– sadly the performance was weak- I know Josh could do it better, but we still wouldn’t deserve it. I think France are possibles. Russia would be too if it wasn’t for all the bloc voting.

Although I got Greece wrong (they came 8th), I was almost right in going for Germany and was on the money with the United Kingdom coming last, which was depressing. Below is my view of what went wrong (all Facts are from the various excellent Wikipedia entries):

Song. The song was a weak example of a Rick Astley song from over 20 years ago. Although Eurovision has traditionally been behind the times, it has rarely been twenty years behind. What depressed me most about the song was the backing soundtrack which really was stock Stock Aitken and Waterman. Perhaps that’s all we should have expected, but I thought Mr Waterman might at least have been able to come up with a tune and updated the backing. The song basically had nothing to make it stand out, either in terms of stupid gimmicks or the way the song was put together. The 2009 and 2010 winners could both be characterised as quirky and interesting but by no means loony, fairly traditional but still contemporary: this year’s German winner was even number 1 across Europe. Maybe if Kylie Minogue had been singing one of Pete Waterman’s songs it would have made sense, but then even she has moved on since the days of Charlene and Scott: Can’t Get You Out Of My Head might have won, although even that is getting on a bit now; I Should Be So Lucky wouldn’t have been so lucky. Back to the trains, Pete!

Performance. Sadly Josh’s performance was not the best, which was a real shame. This has happened before with United Kingdom entries and I’m not sure if it’s just bad luck, nerves (the same as England’s penalty shoot-out syndrome), or the fact that one feels more acutely the weaknesses of something you are supporting. Perhaps someone with a good deal of stage experience is needed, especially as the stages are generally competitively huge recently.

Staging. There is also something about the way the United Kingdom stages its acts which is somehow lacking. So many of the good acts seem to have a real presence and fill the screen. The last three winners make the point. They seem to fall into one of two categories: the small intimate acts and the larger more ostentatious or flamboyant ones. Russia in 2008 with the mad skater on an impossibly small rink made a so-so song quite compelling; Norway in 2009 had a larger set with movement and interest; Germany in 2010 was in theory suicidal: a small singer with dark hair on a large dark stage wearing largely black with not much in the way of backing singers or dancers. But it worked because the camera focussed on her and she filled the screen and was suitably bubbly and attractive enough to make that a good thing, even though her performance was not actually as good as it could have been (I think she looked uncomfortable in high heels and, judging from her embarrassing half-way point interviews, quite nervous). One of the other lamer entries for 2010 (I forget which) also featured a male singer, but the staging was simple and the camera was mainly filled with him so you knew what was what. However, the United Kingdom entry was too flashy (with all the big squares and ladies with cloaks) for Josh to be the focus of it, yet not nearly interesting enough (compare with Turkey which had The Stig’s wife and the Ankara branch of Kwik Fit all flouting fire and health & safety regulations) to stand out from the rest. The cubes and cloaks seemed to be merely a sop to the idea that “we need to do this kind of thing” without thinking it through or really going for it. Ideally, we need something like Lordi where the song, artist, and an eye-catching show are bound together from the start and where all three elements suit and complement each other rather than being bolted together as an after-thought.

Geopolitics. In 2004-2008, Eastern European countries achieved 3 out of 5 first places and 4 out of 5 second places; 3 of the 7 top two places went to Ukraine, and 2 to Russia, the two most powerful and best-placed countries to benefit from bloc voting. Norway’s win in the 2009 Contest demonstrated that geopolitics and bloc voting could be overcome. It also showed that ill will towards the United Kingdom because of the Iraq War, language-dominance, or whatever, was no longer an excuse, as Jade Ewen came in 5th. However, the United Kingdom does have no natural allies to at least scrape them off the bottom: I can’t see Ukraine, Greece, or Cyprus ever getting less than 12 points. Portugal and Spain always throw each other something. Although this level of support is not necessarily going to guarantee victory- Cyprus has never won- it is certainly a good bedrock on which to build: in 2010 Russia still came 11th with 90 points despite a woeful song, with the help of 12’s from neighbours Moldova, Estonia, and Belarus, a 10 from neighbour Latvia, and an 8 from neighbour Poland. We haven’t got any decent marks from Malta in recent years and we seem to doggedly hang onto the idea that Ireland are our natural friends. Interestingly, Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s attempt, at least as televised, seemed to involve a great deal of pre-contest publicity, including a surreal interview with Vladimir Putin; this, and the pre-contest splash made by Germany’s entry this year, would suggest that some kind of international effort before the contest even starts is probably a good idea, replacing static alliances with dynamic diplomacy and publicity.

What next? I think the problems basically revolve around selection. I agree with Nick: we need electoral reform. On the one hand we need wisdom from someone who understands the necessary balance between song, performer, showmanship, publicity, and politics; on the other we need something that has a broad mandate as we can’t really give up the public selection now we’ve started. The problem is that, like the British electoral system, the current public selection show is way out of date. It was radical to be given a choice in the late 1980s but since then little has changed in the format, which is still normally one show or a couple of shows over a few weeks with many decisions, such as song or composer, completely taken out of the viewers’ hands. Compare this with what is really possible through the X-Factor and its various clones. These make real stars and sell real records. They create the buzz and publicity I referred to above. They also test the mettle of the stars we send, their genuine popularity, and their appeal on a big stage on a small screen; they also give the performer some practice doing exactly what they’ll doing in the Eurovision final. Something like that would be a better outlet for the BBC’s talent show department than advertising Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s latest restaging of some ancient classic musical. It would promote talent that appeals to the contemporary taste. It is also precisely what Germany did for the 2010 competition, and they won.

Thoughts on Eurovision 2010

A good year, although some good songs, especially the Dutch entry, didn’t make the final.

Anyway, my vote goes for Germany. My anti-vote goes to Israel: it was better performed than the semi-final but still makes me want to wince. I would also like to see Turkey and Greece do well, and Serbia.

I find this one a hard one to predict. I have a horrible feeling Ireland are going to well but I can’t really see them winning. I wonder if Greece might be a good compromise candidate. I’ll say Greece. Possibly Germany. Null points could well go the UK- sadly the performance was weak- I know Josh could do it better, but we still wouldn’t deserve it. I think France are possibles. Russia would be too if it wasn’t for all the bloc voting.

Some thoughts on Eurovision 2009

Out of the Eurovision semi-finalists, I liked (three from each semi-final):

  • Montengro: Boney M’s Rasputin in Eurovision form, although not as good as that should sound.
  • Iceland: a proper song and a rare naturally attractive singer.
  • Bosnia: interesting song. Hard to say much more, which is unusual.
  • Greece: just for the enteratinment value of the box thing with flag and the travellator and some good leaning by the backing group and the song wasn’t bad.
  • Moldova: very catchy folky song with a man with some bizarre pole thing.
  • Estonia. Atmospheric song and show.

Of these, only Montenegro didn’t go through, which is perhaps not unreasonable. It was the first one I scored, so I perhaps overrated it in my enthusiasm.

Conversely, some utter rubbish did make it through. Romania’s was appalling, as was Finland’s senseless attempt to re-create Daz Simpson (although it wasn’t so bad when he stopped his monotonous pretence at rapping during the chorus). Thursday’s semi-final was worse generally and maybe this explains why Lithuania and Albania made it through. Looking at my notes, there wasn’t actually too much that was better that didn’t make it through: Cyprus possibly.

Worth particular mention are the two Irish entries:

  • Ireland. Luckily Carol Voordeman’s lame efforts came to naught, etc.
  • Denmark. Sadly Ronan Keating with a mask on did make it through. It sounds like a Mr Keating song, the man sort of looked like Mr Keating, and his voice sounded like Mr Keating. None of these are good.

I haven’t really had a good enough listen to any of the Big Four’s songs, or that of Russia, although the French one looked intriguing. The UK entry is disappointing to say the least. I’m not his greatest fan, but I did think Mr Lloyd-Webber could come up with something better than the repetitive My Time:

It’s my time, my time, my time, my time, myyyyyyy time, my moment, this is my perfect moment…

I can see why he got Mr Rice to write the lyrics. Jade seems to be able to belt out a tune, however, although I still think we should have gone with the twins. I do have my doubts about putting Andrew Lloyd Webber on stage. Unless Europe is positively star-struck by his eminence, I wonder what his presence will add compared to Ukraine’s take on pole dancing (ladder-dancing inside large metal wheels) or the fire which probably got Finland through.

One more thing: there were a couple of strange trends. First, key changes are well down this year, which is very sad. Very sad, indeed. Second, the second semi-final had a weird glut of people playing cellos standing up with the cello off the floor with the big metal spiking waving everywhere (lots of violins and such like generally this year too). Maybe the Russians have less stringent Health and Safety rules. Very odd.

Prediction: Sweden. Although I am probably underestimating Norway. Both at least are from Scandinavia, which has been bloc voting since the before Eastern bloc emerged from behind the Iron Curtain. Greece might be in with a chance but I don’t think they are in a politically useful area. A few hundred miles north might have made all the difference. I’d be happy with Sweden (for the song) or Greece (for the show).

Corruption in Bedfordshire elections?

I don’t think the Bedfordshire on Sunday quite meant what they wrote when they published the following paragraph about the upcoming Central Bedfordshire local elections (my emphasis):

The runners and riders for June 4 Central Bedfordshire Council elections have been announced and all potential councillors are being offered the opportunity to sell themsleves [sic] to voters on the internet.

I wonder if it would be an eBay-style format. That would indeed be a scandal to put the expenses controversy to shame.

Thoughts on the Eurovision 2008 second semi-final

The second Eurovision 2008 semi-final was somewhat disappointing after the first one. It got off to a reasonable start with Iceland’s stock Eurovision entry and, after the inexplicably popular Swedish entry, seemed to be getting strong with Turkey’s very good contemporary guitar-based indy nonsense, and Ukraine’s very entertaining men in boxes. However, it was downhill from there: Lithuania got the man from the IT Crowd who lives in a cupboard to sing theirs, which seemed to promise much, but there were no ridiculously gothic dancers to back it up, no actual guitarist to put his hair in the way of the ubiquitous wind machine during the guitar solo, and no explosions of unnecessary fireworks to accompany the last chorus. Shame.

After that, Albania was just plain disappointing: the 16 year-old clearly came from the Christina Aguilera school, but not a in a particularly good way (I expect she gets on well with the Greek entry (who was better)). Switzerland’s song “Era stupendo” (“It was wonderful”) was flatly not wonderful. Nothing much to report after that really. The only bright spot was Malta, and that wasn’t too bright as spots go.

Even the Latvian entry was a complete missed opportunity: all dressed as pirates singing an entertainingly piratish song:

We are robbing you blind,
We hope you don’t mind.

This was promising but it was just rubbish: the song was rubbish, and they could have done so many more piraty things than hire costumes and put a ship’s driving wheel (whatever it’s called) on stage: where were the parrots, hooks for arms, treasure chests with scantily-clad backing singers leaping out? If you want to see this done properly, watch the Lazytown pirate song: the song itself is stronger and the visuals are more entertaining, and do remember how irritating Lazytown is.

One temporarily bright moment was Hungary’s entry: Hungary had a (dismal) song called, in English, “Candles”. So, they put candles on stage, which is only fitting, except that they all went out. Ha ha! I blame the wind machine.

We voted, vainly as it turned out, for Malta, partly on grounds of quality, and partly on realising the need to engage in political voting ourselves: Malta are always nice to us, so we should do the same. Somehow, though, the dreadful Georgian and Portuguese entries made it through instead. Tellingly, given the above comments, the first six, not including Lithuania, went through.

I predicted last year’s result correctly, so the pressure’s on again. I think Ukraine will win: they have good block-voting credentials, have done well in recent years, and have a moderately good song and stage presence. I think Finland will also do well: Scandinavia is a not often talked-about bloc, but one which is important, and Finland stand in the middle of the Scandinavian and Eastern blocs, which is partly why I think they did so well with Lordi. This song isn’t as good, nor is their stage presence, but it is not bad. I’ve probably written some “diva” off, like Sweden, but I really can’t see it, except perhaps for Portugal, which seemed strangely popular and has some passing similarities to last year’s winner.

I hope Finland or Azerbaijan win, preferably the latter as I think they worked harder on all the blood and everything, although I would really like to hear the songs again properly.

Thoughts on the Eurovision 2008 first semi-final

Some thoughts on last night’s Eurovision 2008 first semi-final in Belgrade which was, generally, very interesting.

The outfits made a fairly strong showing, especially with leather worn in a scantily-clad style, although Slovenia decided to be more chaste with all-over leather, with ropes to ensure the dancers couldn’t escape and be naughty. Or something. That was the first half anyway; the second half seemed to favour almost elegant dresses or traditional ridiculously short skirts. Ireland, of course, had a turkey with a man up its arse; we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see if Turkey have a man with an island up his arse. Or something. More encouraging were Israel’s demons, Azerbaijan’s angels and demons (if I write Dan Brown Dan Brown Dan Brown I might get some inadvertent hits), the Polish lady’s fake (God, I hope so) tan, and Bosnia&c’s four meringuèd brides.

The quality of the songs wasn’t bad either, I thought. I am usually a fan of the traditional Eurovision song, but there were a number of attempts that I did think were a little too boring: e.g. Slovenia again, or Armenia’s shouty entry (which somehow got through); the Netherlands was OK; Greece, however, did it very well. Finland did metal again: although it wasn’t up to the standards, either of song or costume, of Lordi, it was certainly one of the best songs on the night. What is weird about both these Finnish metal entries is that despite the genre and the obvious gimmick they are both comparatively strong songs in terms of the competition. However, they were certainly out-gothed this time with the operatic, metal-ish, over-costumed brilliance of Azerbaijan, which had blood and everything.

Two entries stood out for originality: 1) Belgium, mainly because they made up a language (Ishtarian: sadly no Wikipedia page as yet) to sing in, which neatly side-steps the political aspects of which language to perform in. They also had an original, very slightly bizarre, but thoroughly charming and floaty sound, with no drums and little in the way of backing. Sadly, they didn’t make it to the final. 2) Bosnia&c, who also had a quirky though more upbeat song. It would have been a good song anyway, if you could concentrate over the aforementioned quartet of brides, the washing line, “strawberry” dress, and the strange strange poses of the lead singer. Luckily, this one got through.

A further note on the Irish entry. It was shit. It should and could have been funny, but it was, instead, shit. The lyrics were well put together but the song was just chanting interspersed with a few dance beats. And there was a hoarse turkey (not a horse turkey) on the stage. I’m all for novelty, me. But this was shit.

Oh, and they didn’t show the episode of Top Gear where Richard Hammond mated with a hobbit, but it must of happened because the result was singing for San Marino.

My favourites (with 4/5 points) were Azerbaijan, and Finland, both of which you can see on Saturday. My next favourites (3/5, but not all so scoring) were Belgium (out), Bosnia&c (in), and Greece (in). However, how Poland, Moldova, Armenia, and Romania got through I don’t know. Although some non-Eastern bloc countries got to the final this year, thanks to the revised semi-final voting, it is noticeable that the poorer entries that got through are Eastern bloc: both the Netherlands and Belgium deserved to beat any of those four by far.

Thoughts on the Eurovision 2007 final

See, I said Serbia would win. It was a strongish song and right in the middle of a voting bloc. The entry from the Ukraine- the favourites before the final- was bonkers and entertaining but not good. Novelty will not, however, win on its own: Lordi were novel- both in the sense of having silly costumes and in terms of genre- but they also had a good song. Moreover, they benefited from both Scandinavian and Baltic votes. Anyway, the Serbian entry was so-so in my opinion, my main thoughts being for the poor singer, who seemed to be suffering from constipation at several points, with a red face reminiscent of the expression and hue that babies pull when they are about to fill their nappy. I got really quite worried when she won and had to sing it again. Maybe she should try singing the theme to the OC.

Overall, I thought the quality was high, without there being many exceptional ones. Marking out of five, I only gave two fours: one to Belarus (see previous posts), and one to the UK, partly because once you’ve heard a song a lot, it grows on you, partly because it was the UK entry, but mainly for the innuendo (would you like anything to suck on sir? and all that business with the exits and inserting seatbelts). Their performance was not great on the night- they seemed nervous and lost in the big set- and much of it was lost. While we’re on the subject, it was a bad song, but it wasn’t that bad that it deserved to get almost nul points, which is a pity. Again, we return to the bloc voting, which means that the UK will probably never win again, although even with bloc voting, you still need a strong song and we haven’t had one in years.

Among other entries, Russia should just have left fliers in Helsinki telephone booths, Finland thought metal would do although a bad Evanescence-style song was not strong enough, France had a very catchy song and cracking routine which wasn’t too wierd; and Sweden were also almost normal and weren’t too bad. A couple of noteworthy entries were Germany who went for swing, Hungary who went for blues, and Romania who went for what was essentially a multilingual cabaret act which tried, a bit like the UK entry’s many flags, to appeal to lots of nations. All three rubbish.

However, the very worst, to my mind, were Ireland, Turkey, and Armenia. Ireland’s entry was just cod-Irish crap, which deserved to come last. One of the funnier moments of the evening was Ireland dumping themselves in last place by giving the UK 7 points. Turkey’s song was just a stereotypical Turkish entry, which was catchy in the way Turkish entries are. I can’t believe the UK gave it 12 points: I can only think it was because Terry Wogan kept mentioning that the belly dancers were actually British and that the British public thought we might at least win something that way. Armenia’s was the worst by a long way, which made it astonishing how it did so well. Dull was the wrong word for it and I can only imagine that bloc voting lifted it a little this time.

The big question is with bloc voting and how can the UK (or Spain, France, Germany, etc.) ever win again? I think the problem is not a myth anymore and is a serious* problem, going way beyond the traditional Cyprus/Greece mutual 12 points and the Scandinavian friendship society. The Eastern countries did it comprehensively and rigorously, there being so many other neighbouring countries that there weren’t many slots left for musical votes; other blocs, such as Scandinavia, also seem so much more solid now. It was so easy to predict some of the scores, even in non-traditional areas, such as Turkey’s 12 points from Germany. The Big Four’s privilege of not qualifying now looks more like a sop. The semi-final saw no Western European countries go through, even the much favoured (although very pants) Switzerland. Some solutions:

  • Allow the British nations to compete separately: England, Scotland, Wales (should do well), and Northern Ireland. Can’t see the other Big Four going for this.
  • Allow former colonies to take part. This would replicate the situation with Russia, say, and her satellites, or Serbia and the other former members of Yugoslavia. I’m not sure India or Jamaica (that would be interesting) would really be loyal or anything, but it would dilute the other blocs a bit.
  • Have regional qualifying rounds like they do for the football world cup. The present system enters the bank-rolling big-four, the top ten from the previous year (mostly Eastern European), and a further ten based on the semi-final. The semi-final this year put through only Eastern European entries. If this happens next year, the final will be even more bloc-oriented. A regional qualification would force more variety in the final, would deal more effectively with the large numbers, and allow more winners as the UK could at least stand a chance of winning the NW European Song Contest if not the Eurovision crown itself.

Roll on next year!

*As much as Eurovision can ever be serious.

Eurovision 2007 final

My thoughts before the voting starts:

  • Vote for Belarus
  • Serbia will win
  • Armenia to get null points

Where oh where are Israel?

The influence of Lordi

Watching the Eurovision 2007 semi-final, the influence of Lordi, last year’s winner, is clear. No one dressed up as monsters or dabbled in the dark side (bar Switzerland perhaps, although they smiled too much), there are:

  • Too many guitars: Croatia have three, Iceland have four, five more than strictly necessary, which makes it look like an air guitar competition.
  • Drumkits. In the good old days, you had the house band and a guest, named, conducter. Even last year you rarely got a drumkit. Now many entries (in the semi-final at least) have something approximating to a band.
  • General wierdness. The range of entries is quite refreshing, from the Israeli mental entry, Switzerland’s Vampires are alive, Belgium’s 70s nonsense, Austria’s reasonable rock song with bonkers incongruous backing singers I can’t really describe with any justice, and Latvia’s version of Il Divo. That said, Portugal did an Iberian-style entry (poor), and Turkey did a Turkish-style entry (OK).
  • Estonia’s chorus bears, in my opinion, more than a passing resemblance to the chorus of Lordi’s Hard Rock Hallelujah.

There were a couple of other curious themes: fans (as in paper and feather fans for dancing with), opera, and the that thing where people stand behind eachother and wave their arms (or fans) in such a manner that it looks as though the front person has lots of arms. That kind of thing.

My thoughts so far are Israel to win for audacious wierdness, catchiness, alleged political controversy, and the singer’s attempt at auto-dj’ing. Ace. I would like to see the four guitars of Iceland go through in the hope that they’ll add some more in the final. Finally, the Belarussian dance routine was easily the best.

Update: Belarus through: Yay; FYR Macedonia, so so classic Eurovision; Slovenia, “opera wierdness” my notes say; Hungary, not bad bluesy thing; Georgia, swordsmen, can’t remember the song; Latvia, more opera: the Il Divo nonsense; Serbia, like, whatever; Bulgaria, bizarre drumming thing, only a drumkit though a humdinger of a drumkit; Turkey, a Turkish song [one place left and still no Israel!]; Moldova: I can’t even remember it and made no notes about it. No Denmark (poor version of Dana International), Israel, nor Switzerland (one of the favourites). Ah well.