Reading B2

Eurovision 2021 – did you notice what happened?

Did any of you watch Eurovision last Saturday? It was unique.

Not only because it was the first European entertainment event held in front of a live (negative tested) audience of 3,500 held during the pandemic.  But also, I would say because it was difficult to choose the winner. There were so many well-written songs and talented singers who performed incredibly professionally. There were several countries I found who rightfully deserved to win.

Is that a good or a bad thing?  And why would I even ask such a question?

First, of course, it is a good thing.   I am guessing the reason the standard was so high this year is the accumulative effect of the many TV talent shows and song contests like “Got Talent” and “The Voice” which have been syndicated around Europe (not to mention the world) and have become ubiquitous. Each country has their own version.  Hundreds of people are pushing themselves now to win these highly competitive contests from all over Europe.  The Swiss entry, Gjon’s Tears, had competed in 3 of them starting at 11 years of age. And don’t get me wrong – he was my favorite!

Yet, why do I feel somehow disappointed when watching Eurovision?

One of the main reasons is that I find it a shame that so many entries sing in English now. Did you realize 1998 was the last time that all countries sang in their national language?

Also, because I miss seeing quirky, funny acts that take you by surprise.  It boils down to “Vanilla-ism”.  And – no, that’s not a real term.  “Vanilla-ism” for me is what Hollywood has done over the years, creating movies that sell by following a formula rather than taking a chance on something new.  “Vanilla-ism” lacks vulnerability, I guess. 

Less vanilla – more spice

And yet, I believe my sentiment was echoed by the way people voted.  And the way the jury voted, too. In lockdown, especially, I feel we crave for something different.  Something not so “vanilla”.  Uniqueness and vulnerability somehow feed our souls. So, with all the acts that sang so professionally, the best way to stand out was to sing in your own language.  And those were the ones who caught our attention.  Those are who everyone voted for most.

So, I see hope. These performers could have probably sung in English but instead chose to proudly take the risk of singing in their own language. It showed, quite frankly, singers who bet on the right horse and won.

A new development

There is yet another reason why the 2021 Eurovision signals a turning point. And that is, it was the first time that neighboring countries did not vote automatically for neighboring countries. 

Politics, perhaps, still had an influence, Russia for maybe the first time didn’t get so many votes.  And the Brexit factor to vote against UK continued.  However, I truly believe the Eastern Block vs. Western Block voting divide seemed to disappear. The votes seemed to be cast based on merit rather than sticking to expected, polite political norms. And that can only be a good thing.

P.S I do tip my hat to Gjon’s Tears for being vulnerable and true to himself.  For those who have not seen his music video for “Tout l’Univers”, I do invite you to watch this moving clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpM6o6UiBIw             

And to take a look back in time, I invite you to watch the following Eurovision final recaps of:

1998 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvDuGipUP3Y

2008 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CANdu63BEo 

2018 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-g5UAE-tmA

And this year’s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJ5j3FuHCxA

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bitcoin

Cryptocurrency back in the news

Author Philip Inman wrote an online article for “The Guardian” in February 2021 soon after Elon Musk invested nearly $1.5 billion in bitcoin.  Here is a link to this article entitled: 

“Bitcoin surges through key $50,000 level in European trading”.

What do you think of bitcoin?  Is it just another Ponzzi scheme?  Will it only be a matter of time that the system will crash?  Or is it something that will become more secure over time?

We used this topic as the focus of one of our Hangout in English sessions and created a Vocabulary Quiz based on words found in the article related to the stock market.  Maybe you may find this also useful?   Or if you wish to read more about 

We hope you may consider discussing such a topic and others with us at an upcoming Hangout hosted by The Boston School soon! 

 And if you’d like to get the answers to the Vocabulary Quiz, click here:

Stock Market Vocabulary Answer Key:

 

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Spotlight on Talent: Kevin Wieser

by Kevin Wieser

When I was little, I didn’t like to read books. Instead, I looked at many graphics like comics or cartoons. In the library, I would always head to the comics corner. Especially the comic series Tim and Struppi (The Adventures of Tintin) by Hergé inspired me.

In time, I would begin making cartoons myself and discovered I really enjoyed it. Word soon got around school that I liked to draw. With my cartoons, I quickly made teachers and classmates laugh. I liked making people laugh with my cartoons and still do today. With the advent of tablets and digital pens, it has allowed me to now draw professional cartoons.

I have been publishing single pictures in social media (kevinwieser /Instagram) for some time now but always had the dream of publishing my own comic book some day. But I was missing the inspiration for it.

One day, it came to me that my best friend, Steve Schild, actually would be a perfect comic figure. If you read about what he has already done, there is probably  no one better suited to fit the role of a comic figure.

Steve Schild is extraordinary and has had a fixed goal since childhood: He wants to go to Mars. And while on his way of making his dream come true, he has already experienced many adventures. Just to name a few: he has broken two unusual Guinness world records: pushing a shopping cart around for 24 hours in circles and also doing the most ski-rope jumps in one minute.  But that is not all. 

He is also one of the last 100 remaining candidates worldwide under consideration  to qualify for the Mars-One Project; a one-way mission to Mars.

if that wasn’t intriguing enough, Steve also used to be a member of a secret order and has written several sci-fi books. He is currently a finalist for the Swiss Men’s Award and continues to train daily for his dream to go to Mars.

In collaboration with Steve, we have now turned his adventurous life story into a children’s book. The book is entitled “Steve träumt vom roten Punkt am Himmel” and we hope it will serve as an inspiration for all children and also adults to stick firmly to their dreams.  In 76 pages, the readers will become involved not only with various funny, sad and cheerful cartoon pictures about childhood memories and landmark events in his life but the reader will also be asked questions about their own thoughts, ideas and interests along the way. 

We have received feedback from many readers saying that they have never seen such a unique and interesting book before.

I would be very happy to also have you as a reader of my children’s book. So, If you are wondering how I met Steve, please check out the book.  Have fun!

You can find more information about “Steve traümt vom roten Punkt am Himmel” in German and purchase options through this link: https://www.kevinzechnet.ch/buch

And if you are interested in learning what it took to publish such a book, Kevin will be hosting the Zurich Networking Group’s free Zoominar held on 24 September 19:00-20:15. Be sure to register for this unique opportunity here.

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The man who lives in uncertainty

written in May 2020 by K. Dhungana,  Katmandu, Nepal / edited by Rose N. Travers

The COVID-19 lockdown has changed our normal lives in Kathmandu. If the situation were normal right now, I would be attending a class at the American Language Center. But I, instead, have been confined to my apartment for the past 70 days, doing nothing worth mentioning. I had been editing and writing news before May 14 from home. On May 15, I found myself editing a long feature written by my colleague, Laxmi, which ended my 28-month long “NepalKhabar’s” editorship journey.

I went to market this morning for grocery shopping. The grocery stores open in the morning only at 10AM now. I bought a mango, about a kilo of apricots, 3.5kgs of watermelon and a liter of yoghurt. I was searching for some mushrooms but couldn’t find any today. I’m not the only person who’s facing this type of difficulty. It is a similar story for over 4 million lives in Kathmandu.

This lockdown story began in Nepal on March 24. Yet my personal experience during the lockdown, though, is a little bit different. In fact, lockdown started for me on October 10, 2019 when I was seriously injured in a road accident in the middle of a pedestrian crossing.

When I awoke 15 days later from a coma, my wife, doctors and nurses say that I spoke with them.  But to be honest, I can’t remember saying a thing.  I think my some of my memory files may have been deleted, so to say.

Altogether, I spent 1 month in hospital and 3 months of bed rest at home to recover. It was definitely the most traumatic experience in my life. I was feeling so low at that time that ruminations of death began roaming around in my head.

Despite my previous recall difficulties, January 13th is the day that will remain indelibly imprinted on my mind for a very long time. That was the day doctors successfully completed my second brain surgery within 4 months. Yes,. that fine day was January 13, 2020. I had been gradually resuming my normal daily life activities. I began eating, walking and talking  Yet, mysteriously, the outside world seemed to be going in reverse and very rapidly so.  I could witness abnormal scenarios playing out in this outer world. The diagnosis was clear. It had contracted an illness:  COVID-19.

I remember that when I had gone to hospital for my follow up health check 3 months before, I wore everyday clothes like a pair of pants, a shirt, smart watch, and shoes. Checking myself in the mirror, I looked okay. But my doctor didn’t allow to me go outside. He instead recommended wearing a mask, gloves and goggles to protect myself from COVID-19. I followed his medical advice.

I live in a historical town called Kiritipur in Kathmandu. There is a Buddhist monastery, meditation center and also a temple situated here. A hospital and meditation center is nearby and I can look out at them every day from my rooftop.

I love visiting the nonsectarian meditation center but it is closed now due to the lockdown.

The government solution to the problem seems to be using lockdown as a “Corona Vaccine without a Roadmap”. I believe that when they experience the side effects of this substitute vaccine, defiantly they will change the Nepal lockdown. I have clearly seen that health, education, business, and economy are all sectors facing uncertainty.

A soft voice inside of me finds a way to offer encouragement to my disturbing thoughts. It says to me: ‘Don’t worry. This, too, shall change.’

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