Eurovision Drinking Game 2015!

It’s that time of year again, so get your drinking hats on and sit down in front of the cheesiest night in the European calendar. Before we start, there are two things that are completely irrelevant to this game:

  • If you like Eurovision music.
  • If you dislike Eurovision music.

Since that is out of the way, the following is a list of situations and directions where you must drink an alcoholic beverage of your choice while watching the live Eurovision broadcast. This is an updated version of a post from last year, which was itself a version of this. Enough chat: to the rules!

For those unfamiliar with the Eurovision: The Contest is split into two parts, The Performing Round, and The Voting Round. Phase 1 deals with the performances. Unless otherwise stated, you must drink whenever……..

PHASE I: THE SONGS

  1. Every instance within a song:

I.A.1 The Dramatic Key Change. Or, as Louis Walsh used to refer to it: “Stand up for the key change”. The song starts slow and restrained, but is clearly heading towards a dramatic key change into the chorus. Unsure of what a key change is? Here’s a primer.

I.A.2 The Bucks Fizz. Whenever performer(s) sheds a piece of clothing – once only for every instance, whether executed by an individual or as a group. Finish your drink if the clothing loss is obviously unintentional.

  1. Once per song only:

I.B.1 Is That English? Whenever someone notices that the singers have switched from their native language into English in an attempt to win more votes. Two drinks if the pronunciation is far from perfect.

I.B.2 The Fine Cotton. Any appearance of mercenary talent flown in to represent a foreign country. Two drinks if they’re Irish.

I.B.3 Las Ketchup and the Waves. A country drags a legitimate, real-life, one-hit wonder out of obscurity in the hope that name recognition can buy them some points. This is additional to I.B.2.

I.B.4 The Cultural Rainbow. Every time an entrant blatantly rips off last year’s winning performance. Finish your drink if last year’s winning country rips itself off.

I.B.5 The Wandering Minstrel. Unless it’s a solo guitar or piano, Eurovision insists on backing tapes. It’s in the rules, so don’t accuse some entrants of cheating; but take a drink if performers pretend to play a musical instrument in a blatantly fake way, as part of the choreography. One drink per fake instrument!

I.B.6 The Greeks (formerly The TaTu). Finish your drink if the audience boos (on the telly, not in your living room.)

I.B.7 Don’t Mention The War. The German entrant sings something about everyone being happy. This is a legacy rule, as in recent years it has largely been supplanted by…

I.B.7a Don’t Mention The Wall. The Israeli entrant sings something about everyone being happy.

I.B.7b Putin’s Gamble. Russia sings about hope, peace and happiness.

I.B.8 We Blew Our Load Too Early. The performers lack the energy to go for it in the crescendo, and the performance peters out a minute early. They may scream and enlist help from the audience to clap and ‘make some noooo-ii.zzzzze’, but everyone knows the game is up.

I.B.9 The “Fire At The Disco”. Pyrotechnics. Any type of fireworks display.

I.B.9a Gene Kelly and Jerry the Mouse. Since this year there is an advanced background and floor to the stage, drink whenever the act interacts with the animations of the stage. You will know it when you see it.

I.B.10 The Hurricane. A sudden gale of wind engulfs the stage, forcing the performer to valiantly struggle against the elements. I mean a wind machine, of course.

I.B.11 The San Remo. Any occurrence of visible armpits and/or pointing at nothing in particular. Two drinks for a hairy armpit.

I.B.12 The White Suit. Self explanatory. You’ll know it when you see it; and you’ll know it again when you see it again, and again…

I.B.13 Break It Down. The performance includes a rap segment.

I.B.14 We Can Dance If We Wanna. For any instance of ethnic dancing within a performance. Three drinks if the dancers are elderly women.

 (There is an intermission here of about 30 minutes. Perhaps drink some water? The next round can be brutal.)

PHASE II: THE VOTES

II.1 The Wardrobe Change. Each time the female host changes frocks. Two drinks if the male host changes suits. So yes, during this game, each and every one of you will have to individually decide whether Conchita is male or female, and imbibe based on this choice.

II.2 The Gimme. When Greece gives at least 8 points to Cyprus.

II.2a The Gastarbeiter. If Germany still gives at least 8 points to Turkey.

II.3 The Old Europe. When the UK gets nul points from France.

II.4 The Sympathy Vote. When anything sung in French first gets a point, and/or the last country without any points finally gets off the mark. A special toast at the end to any country which did not receive so much as a single vote.

II.5 The “Viktor, You Very Unattractive Fellow.” Two drinks if the hosts speak in rhyme and/or pretend to flirt with each other. Finish your drink if the flirting is serious.

II.6 The “We’re going Digital Next Year”. A voting countries broadcast feed is of noticeably lower quality than those which have gone before.

II.7 The Hurry-Up. Every time the announcer from each voting country is politely asked by the hosts to move it along (i.e. “Can we have your votes please?”).

II.8 The Curse of the Green Room. Each time an announcer reads the voting results wrong. Two drinks if they get so confused they have to start over.

II.9 The Sally Field. Each time they show contestants backstage during the voting looking genuinely surprised and pleased with themselves when they get the same politically-motivated votes they get every year.

II.10 The New Europe. When the Baltic or Balkan states all give each other twelve points, or a former Soviet republic gives Russia twelve points. Do not attempt without medical supervision.


THE WILDCARDS

W1 A person must finish their drink if they ask:
W1.a why Israel is in it;
W1.b where the hell is Moldova (or any other participating country, for that matter)?

W1.c Who won last year?

W1.d Which country’s flag is this?

W2 Drink to any display of national resentment or self-pity related to the current Eurozone crisis. Pay close attention to Greece.

W3 A toast to the first person who expresses dismay when they realise how long the voting is going to take.

W4 Players must drink during the entire duration of any technical difficulties that plague the broadcast

 


RUSSIA, YOU ARE BAD!

CC1 The “Please Don’t Invade Us”. A country that borders with Russia gives Russia more than 8 points.

Participating Russian Border Countries: Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Georgia, Azerbaijan

CC2 The “We’ve Had Enough, Mr. Putin”. Finish your drink if Russia gets NUL POINTS from a former Soviet Republic. (Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia)


 

Instantly Disposable Rules for 2015 Edition!

I’m going to divide this into three sections: Conchita, Australia, and 2015 Wild Cards.

Conchita

2015.1.a Daahling! Yes, you must drink whenever Conchita says the word ‘darling’,

2015.1.b Smooth Segway, Connie! Conchita is buzzing around the greenroom, and she bridges the gap between interviews by making a reference to the song title of her next victims as she walks towards them.

2015.1.c Your English Is Just The Wurst! Conchita’s interviewees don’t understand her question.

2015.1.d Wardrobe Malfunction. THREE drinks if Conchita is wearing the same clothes in two consecutive appearances (must be at least a five minute gap between appearances). Don’t worry, you won’t be needing this rule.

Australia

2015.2.a International Homonyms! Someone says Austria instead of Australia, or vice versa. FINISH YOUR DRINK If it is someone from Austria or Australia. (I am warning you, this happened in the first semi-final when the main hostess interviewed the Australian act).

2015.2.b Good Morning Sydney. The Australian voting studio has Sydney Harbour (Opera House) in the background. Two drinks if the Austrian hosts banter about there being no kangaroos in Australia.

2015.2.c Balkan Dream. Australian immigration since the 1960s has been pretty Balkan heavy, meaning that Australia really can be interpreted as just extra votes for the Former Yugoslav Republics, along with Albania and Greece. Two drinks for EACH and every one of the following who don’t get votes from Down Under: Greece, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Cyprus, Albania. That’s right, it’s four drinks if two of them get null points from the Aussies.

2015.2.d Pleasure O’ her Majesty. We will finally get to see how Australia treat their former colonial overlords, the British. One drink if they give them anything. Finish your drink if it’s 12 points to the bloody PoM’s.

2015.2.e It’s an occasion. Since Australia are a special entry, and won’t be returning unless they win, a toast to Australia whenever they are awarded points.

2015 Wild Cards

2015.3.a geNOcide .Two drinks if a Turkish flag is shown waving during Armenia’s performance.

2015.3.b #VoteYes A toast if the winners give Ireland a shout out because of the marriage equality referendum result. Finish your drink if they don’t.


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Everybody Needs Good Neighbours: What Eurovision Televoting Can Tell Us About European Relations

Whatever your opinion of the Eurovision Song Contest, there is absolutely no doubt that it is a truly unique event in the European calendar, and like it or not, it is unfortunately a fundamental part of the shared European culture. It is a stupid, silly, old-fashioned contest that has little to do with music, but does offer a bizarre introduction to hidden parts of Europe that we never knew existed. Who knew Azerbaijan is in Europe, for example, or that Israel belongs with the European elite, fighting for her chance of Eurovision glory? The flamboyant, over the top musical acts are one point that make it unique, but another aspect of the contest that makes it truly unique is the manner of how a winner is chosen. For 50 years, the winning entry of the Eurovision Song Contest has been chosen through a round-robin system of voting, where each individual country assigns points to other entrants (it is not possible to vote for your own country), and the entry with the highest points tally at the end of this process wins the contest. Before 1998, these points were awarded through specialist judge panels in each country, lending a degree of legitimacy and arguably musical relevance to the proceedings. However, since 1998, the point allocations have been aggregated through phone-in ballot in each country. This process is what makes the Eurovision so unique, as it is one of the only events in the world where the population of a country ranks other countries in the region, and can award or punish based on preferences of music (or other intangible aspects). What makes this fact extremely interesting from a data analysis point of view is that all point allocations are declared publically, and this means that the Eurovision voting process since 1998 gives us a rich, detailed, 16 year database of a single European country’s preferences for another European country.

One of the big criticisms of this voting process over the past 20 years is that the new post-Iron Curtain Republics who joined the Eurovision in the mid 1990’s simply disregard any aspect of music and just vote for their former Soviet friends. This was popularised in the UK as a way to explain their own country’s persistent failure to win the event. The theory sounds extremely ignorant, as anyone with even a casual history of Central and Eastern Europe would probably imagine that their shared history of constant warfare and mutual atrocities against each other over the past few centuries wouldn’t translate well into publically liking each other’s horrible songs just because they can. However, since there does seem to be something going on in Eurovision voting that has little to do with musical integrity, and the fact that we have the data to investigate it, we really can get some decent answers about what is more important in Eurovision voting: the quality of the music, or the nationality of the singers?

I have seen a few studies on this topic, such as the prominent one on the voting blocs of Eastern Europe, yet I am approaching this from a different viewpoint, based on my years of research in the field of discrimination. I offer a simple hypothesis, coupled with early high school levels of analysis: you don’t need to know anything about statistics to follow this. My hypothesis, simply stated, is that all other things being equal, over time, average points awarded to border countries of any individual country should be less than the average votes awarded to the final top 10 ranked countries at the end of the voting process each year. I chose this metric as the first group (bordering countries) is static, and has not changed much in the time period of reference (1998-2014). Montenegro is the only nation to be added to the Eurovision Song Contest in this period, meaning that for all other countries apart from Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania, borders have remained intact. So votes for this first group are weighed against votes awarded to what have emerged to have been the best 10 songs in each individual Eurovision Song Contest. If music was indeed more important than giving votes to neighbours, the latter group would emerge victorious over time. If not, we can probably make a case that the Eurovision is a big love-in for our neighbours.

Before getting into it, I need to explain how a country awards points in the Eurovision Song Contest. In the time period under analysis (1998-2014), an average of 25 countries competed in the Eurovision final. After each song has been performed, the voting process begins, and residents of each nation phone a specific number to cast their vote. These votes are aggregated, and the top 10 countries voted for by a country are awarded points. Each country awards the following points, in ascending order of vote rank: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12. Therefore the 10th ranked entry for each country is awarded 1 point, while the poll winner in each country is awarded 12 points. We assume that the best song will emerge from the tally of every countries points allocation.

 To The Data

I ran an analysis based on my hypothesis on a selection of European countries, and the Chart below reports the results.

image001

From a first reaction, probably the most relevant observation from these results is the disparity of neighbourly love in all these European countries. While each country gives 6.1-6.9 points to the eventual top 10 in each Eurovision, some countries like their neighbours more than others. Germany and Russia have the most borders in Europe, but the two appreciate their neighbours very differently. Germany will give a bordering country an average of 4.7 points per Eurovision, while Russia will grant a generous 6.8. Austria will award 5, while Switzerland, which borders both Germany and Austria will grant a dataset high of 7.2. I can tell you right now that they rarely vote for France at all, meaning there is a great disparity in neighbourly relations amongst the German speaking nations. Another interesting takeaway are the results for Ireland and the UK, who each have only one border: each other. More light is shed on this relationship in the chart below, which also gives the likelihood of each country voting for a neighbour in any given Eurovision. The likelihood of voting is calculated by averaging the amount of bordering countries present at any Eurovision, and the average number of these bordering countries that are awarded points in that Contest.

image002

So, Ireland is 81% likely to give the UK 6.5 points, while the UK is 90% on to give Ireland 6.7 points. Non-island nations rarely do so well, as they have many border countries to choose from. The least likely country to vote for a neighbour is Germany, whose bordering countries can only expect some points 42% of the time. Russia spreads around its love a lot more than others, which is impressive given that it can count on 7 of its neighbours being present in any given Eurovision.

From the first chart above, I feel my original hypothesis is supported: most countries do allocate more votes to the objectively ‘good’ songs in each Eurovision, however the difference between countries and the love for their neighbours is interesting, and worthy of further investigation. It begs the question, are all borders equal? The chart below investigates this for Germany. The likelihood metric is calculated by averaging the amount of times each country is present at a Eurovision in the time period and the allocation of points by Germany.

image015

No, all borders are not equal. France is not favoured at all by the German public, and can only expect one point from their Eastern neighbours for every four appearances at the Eurovision. Poland on the other hand, can generally count on at least five points from their former invaders. Denmark also scores high, yet the allocation is far from certain. At least Austria can expect a meagre points allocation to a reasonable degree. Before you start counting, the Czech Republic have never appeared in the Eurovision Finals. Now let’s compare this with the identical information for Russia.

image016

There is a lot of love for Azerbaijan in Russia, that’s for sure, and the same can be said for Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine. While low points awarded to Finland are not surprising, Latvia does emerge as Russia’s least favourite Baltic country. Spare a thought for Poland however, who have never received a single point from Russia. Perhaps the size of the border, in the tiny isolate enclave of Kaliningrad is somewhat to blame, however when we compare this for the love show to Poland by Germany in their voting history, all things are arguably in balance.

 What Now?

This is all interesting, but I have realised that I have gone off topic since I confirmed my border theory was relevant, yet not water tight. Borders are obviously important, since average votes to border countries in most of the nations analysed were quite close to the objective quality of the final top 10, yet perhaps regional clusters are important too. The next chart compares selected former Yugoslav republics votes to each other and the objective top 10.

image003

FYR countries: B-H, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro, FYR Macedonia.

I will say right now that the average of five data points will most likely be higher than the average of 10, yet the results above are still impressive. I didn’t put the likelihoods in, but the lowest one (Serbia) was 87%. Interesting also are the low average scores for the songs that eventually ended up as the 10 highest ranked in each competition. For balance, here is the same chart for the Scandinavian countries

image004

Scandinavian countries: Denmark, Sweden Norway, Iceland, Finland (I’m sorry, but you guys just are)

They all favour their own cluster of course, yet there is more of a sense that the Scandinavians (and Finland) are more in line with the European mainstream than the FYR countries, as the average votes to the eventual top 10 are somewhat higher. If you are interested in who are the most in line with the Eurovision, it’s Germany.

table

On average, Germany will allocate almost 80% of its 58 available points on the countries that will eventually rank in the top 10. So in any Eurovision voting process, pay very close attention to what the Germans have to say.

But What Now For Europe?

There’s a lot of interesting things that came out in from the Eurovision dataset, yet does it really mean anything? We discovered that everyone hates France, yet we knew this already. The fact that the UK are slightly more favourable to Ireland than vice-versa is no shock to me as an Irishman, nor would be Russia’s favouritism for its former Soviet satellites of Azerbaijan, Belarus and Ukraine. Russia’s distaste for Latvia I did find surprising, as well as Switzerland’s status as the most generous German speaking country. I am not going to try and explain why some countries vote for certain countries over others: many of you reading have already concluded that it is due to immigration and cultural ties or people from one country simply running across the border and voting for themselves, and they are all valid points. The question remains whether we can say anything about the general state of neighbourly relations in Europe from the results gleaned from analysis of voting in the Eurovision. I’m going to put myself out there and say yes, as at the moment this database is the best resource in the world in informing us on intra-Europe attitudes to each European country, even if it does make us choose between voting for our dear neighbours or for our favourite ultra-camp, terribly performed song that if you heard on the radio you would switch channels immediately. Maybe, just maybe, we use the Eurovision as a way to show our neighbours how we really feel about them, and it just so happens that these feelings are not always positive. In any case, for the performances and the voting process, it really is quite a show.

The Great Disconnect

I once watched a documentary about Julio Cu Camara, a Mexico City civil servant who is tasked with a daily dive into the open sewers of the overcrowd metropolis in order to remove whatever debris is clogging up the system and thus preventing the free flow of excrement and waste through its natural course. While Camara was preparing to submerge, the documentary makers joked that a tradition should exist whereby once a year, the mayor of the City should be required to perform this task of swimming through the citys waste, lending a degree of enforced humility and groundedness to the entrenched political elite. In truth, this idea is a pretty decent metaphor for the peak of an election cycle, where politicians, particularly in parliamentary democracies, are forced to jump through any and every hoop that voters and media alike may cast in front of them in a bid to earn a job for the next pre-determined number of years. Election campaigns in European-style parliamentary democracies are far from the self-aggrandising egomania of a US presidential election where two candidates strut around from place to place, entering like a rock star to adoring fans in tightly scheduled rallies. No, in parliamentary democracies, everyone in parliament loses their seat at the same time, so everyone must go back to where they came from, and account for what he/she hasn’t done since he/she won the last election.

This is the average voters time to shine, as politicians who are blamed for all our problems are paraded out in the open, seemingly begging to have mud thrown at them, clean up, and then beg for more. We drag them through the mud, we blame them for everything, we call them every name we can think of, and they take it all, because in the end, they know that most people will vote. Yes we complain, we drag them through the mud, but in the end, we still give them exactly what they want, because voting is all they want us to do, and we do it because freely electing leaders is a privilege that relatively few people in history have ever had. There is good reason to be depressed about this vicious cycle, yet in truth, we are really just getting the leaders we deserve. This is because, largely as a result of our own doing, there is a fundamental disconnect between what we expect from a modern politician and the actual job of adequately running a country.

PaperArtist_2015-05-06_23-48-18
A politicians primary goal is to preserve their position for as long as possible, and if possible, in the meantime, to perhaps achieve some progress for their constituents in the process. This is all most people do in their jobs, so we can’t really judge anyone else for this mindset. However, think about how a politician goes about keeping their position, and compare it to other occupations. For most of us, simply performing our tasks to expectations is enough to get a contract renewed. Yet for politicians, performing adequately is not enough, as they are plucked away from their posts which deal with policy and negotiations, and are required to go kiss babies and have their photo taken with members of every religion and race in order to reinforce how good an official they have been, or are going to be. An election decides who makes the decisions that run a country, and election results are based often on the success of election campaigns, and there is absolutely no relationship whatsoever between the ability to campaign well and being a competent leader.

Thus we have a disconnect in skillsets between what would make a good leader, and the type of person who could actually gain a position of leadership in this system. A good, dependable leader is informed, open, intelligent, honest and good at making decisions. An electable leader has to be somewhat likeable, has to pretend to know absolutely everything, and be able to absorb as much shit thrown at them as possible through an exhausting election campaign. The skillsets of these two types of leader do not overlap much, and therefore we primarily get leaders from the latter category, and often without ticking all the boxes. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the UK, where David Cameron and Ed Miliband embody the perfect examples of the modern, drearily electable, surprisingly passable leadership candidates. The UK is an interesting example to use, as it has used my earlier declaration that politicians primarily exist to win elections as dogma ever since the first New Labour term back in 1997. Tony Blair was big into data analysis, and had teams of pollsters conduct never-ending surveys on what people liked and didn’t like, about absolutely everything in modern life. They would then use this data to construct sound bites for the next election campaign, thus giving the people what they wanted, and giving the impression he was reading people’s minds, doing a good job, and in-tune with the mindset of his people. It worked in multiple, successive elections.

Fast-forward almost two decades later, we have Cameron and Miliband, who are nothing more than empty vessels filled with survey data from their research teams, pumped full of policy ideas that tear acutely at extensively focus group-tested split hairs of the middle ground of the political spectrum, and whose every gesture at televised debates appear directed by a PR guru, just as an actor is instructed by an overly-obsessive theatre director giving instructions from backstage. These aren’t politicians, they are regurgitators of the median opinion of whatever sample group their research team analysed, desperately hoping the average British person exists out their somewhere, and not only in their data results. Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror episode “The Waldo Moment” captured this perfectly, as it showed a cartoon character running for election, voiced backstage by a team of analysts. The only difference between that piece of fiction and the election this year is that Waldo was actually charismatic.

While the use of data in political analysis is necessary given that political parties need to know what their voters require from the state, its overuse in places like the UK are dangerous, as it creates a system of purely reactive politics, with politicians like Miliband and Cameron merely clinging to whatever they are advised their constituents desire. There are no political stances, there are no ideologies, there aren’t even plans, just merely datapoints instructing careful positioning for the next election. Politicians change based on what they think you want, gleaned from opinions of people who they think are like you, which wins them an election, and once you learn to hate them, they have realised from a focus group how to appear likeable again, just in time for the next election. It’s foolish to expect change in any modern election, because you, your expectations, and the average opinion of people deemed to be just like you are part of the problem, feeding into an iterative circle of perpetual dissatisfaction. But you can’t really blame anyone for this, as it is everyones fault, for we get the leaders we want, the ones we can drag through the mud, the ones willing to dive down deep into the electorates excrement in order to cling onto power for just one more term. Thus these are the leaders we deserve, the ones who would say anything, and consequently absolutely nothing, in order to rule ineffectively, treading water until the next election comes around. There is of course a need to hold politicians accountable for their actions and to expect them to adequately communicate their ideas to us on a regular basis, however this must not be at the expense of effective leadership or even having ideas about how the country should be run, rather than just spewing out how their analysts think we think it should be.