One of the highlights of our year is watching the Eurovision "Song" Contest. For those outside Europe it is an annual competition between countries that has been going on for eons and includes an expanded Europe such as Turkey and Israel. Each country has their own method of selecting who will represent them; some by popular telephone voting, some by TV executives. The final winner is now determined by votes from each country that are based upon telephone voting within each country; you cannot vote for your own entrant.

We first started watching when we moved to Ireland in 1996. At that time winners were determined by a panel of judges. Ireland was then a frequent winner. This year their entry was an embarrassment and probably a protest against what is politely called "tactical" voting. For instance Cyprus always gives their top points to Greece. This year Greece finished third despite a mediocre entry. The U.K. finished dead last despite a very good entry. The winner was Russia; there was no doubt it was a good song and sung by one of their top professional performers. The winning country hosts the extravaganza the next year. Which, by the way, always has very high ratings despite being considered blasé and kitsch.

This year we watched the first semi-finals on Tuesday night; missed the second on Thursday and watched the whole finals on Saturday--although I did fall asleep during the voting. We enjoyed the entertainment and appreciate that different people like different styles, also that our taste is not that of the young, music-buying market. Still, it is very disappointing to see that musical ability and quality is less a factor in winning than regional voting blocks.

I do wonder if this is a glimpse into the European future now that the EU has expanded by 10 eastern countries with more to come. There are many parallels if any one would like to comment.

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