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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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US Election 2020: The Stakes are High

The election of our lifetime

It is soon time for US citizens to vote – not just for who will lead the country for the next 4 years as President and Vice President but those responsible in Congress.   In fact, there are 33 out of 100 senators seeking re-election for another 6-year term. The Senate, the upper house of Congress, is currently controlled by the Republican Party by a close margin.  

It may feel like eons ago but can you remember? Trump had been convicted on impeachment charges passed by the lower house: the House of Representatives, led by a majority of Democrats. There was plenty of powerful evidence of his abuse of power and the Republicans didn’t deny it in the end. Yet they continued to back Trump to keep a united front. In their point of view, Democrats represented the enemy.  Not the Russians.  Not corrupt politicians.  Not Donald Trump.  So they acquitted him.

When will enough be enough?

And then came the mismanagement of the pandemic, the authoritarian use of power during the racial protests ignited by George Floyd’s broadcasted murder.  Along with the unresponsiveness of politicians to seize the moment to pass a law banning the choke hold used by police officers.  It could have been a positive step forward in fighting police brutality, which could have satisfied the emboldened protestors.  But it didn’t happen. And let’s not forget, the tictoc debacle and Trump’s humiliating drop in the polls.  

You would think you were asking Yankee fans to root for the Red Sox in the final inning of a World Series!  But treating political parties like rival sport teams is very dangerous, indeed. It’s really okay to switch sides.  From sports we should keep in mind: “It’s not winning or losing but how you play the game that counts”.  

Small cracks, which had begun forming prior to all those events, have been growing much larger within the Republican party itself: between Republican conservatives and right-wing Trump supporters. So large in fact that lifelong Republicans are stating publicly and on social media that they will vote Democrat for the first time in their lives. 

But will it be enough?  The stakes are so very high.  And it’s not just all about Trump.  It’s about the average American – Democrats and Republicans, who have drawn a line in the sand, who refuse to speak to their neighbor because they side with “the other team”. 

Will Americans reconcile with each other?

Reconciliation between parties not only has to happen between elected officials but between the people they represent. Family members, neighbors and co-workers have to do their part. Can Americans, who have been trolling and throwing ugly insults at each other for years now, finally say “enough is enough”? Can those who refuse to speak to one another pick up the phone and start with a clean slate?

Whether Trump wins or loses this coming election, there will still be a need for Americans themselves to change their tone and make every effort to unite.   If Trump convinces “his base” that the Democrats cheated to win or the Democrats have proof that Trump abused he helped rig the election, who will believe whom?  

Will there be a peaceful transfer of power in America? 

This is what everyone fears to say out loud but we’re all thinking it. But basically, unless people stop blaming Trump, the Clintons, the supposed Deep State, the FBI, CIA, the US Postal Office or whatever other institute: real or made up, the problems that plague the country will continue to mount.  The promise of a more united union will be harder to deliver on if regular everyday people don’t start to have real conversations with each other. 

Freedom vs. liberty – there is a difference

Will it be Americans desire for individual freedom to not wear a mask, eat as much junk food as they please and buy as many guns as they wish that will trump all? Individual freedom to do whatever you want could win over a deeper sense of duty to one another as a country whose Constitution values liberty and justice for all. What kind of lessons will children be learning from that?

If there is no sense of duty to do right for one’s neighbor – whether they love them or not, then it looks like after all these years, the Communists will be proven right.  The USA may be on its way to becoming yet another country ruled by a large authoritarian figure head and not “for the people, by the people”, after all. 

Ironically, the Republicans call Democrats often “Socialists”.  Yet, it will be the acts of the Republicans that may turn the USA into a country run by a dictator: by Donald Trump, who may never leave office.  Or perhaps spur on a second civil war.

America these days seem to be addicted to drama.  But let’s hope they still are seeking a “they lived happily ever after” ending, too. One not just for the cameras but in real life.  Their own lives.

 

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Serving customers in times of crisis

I came across this insightful article on the website: Help Scout.  It’s an article entitled “Crisis Communication Tips for Customer Service Teams” written by Matthew Patterson at the start of the Coronavirus outbreak in March 2020. 

Hope you find this helpful in managing customer service calls during difficult, stressful times.  I have chosen 25 words from the start of the article and created a B2/C1 level Quizlet vocabulary set.  

Perhaps this article on how to adjust to working from home  might also interest you?

It would be wonderful to hear from our readers. What advice can you give others at this time? Do you have a story to share?  We’d love to hear from you.

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