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Hey friends, I hope you're well. A good few people have joined this past week; you are all, of course, very welcome. If you'd prefer to be addressed personally, simply update your details so I know your name. Right, let's crack on.

Darkness descends. The arena murmurs in hushed anticipation. As if from heaven, distant horns cry out the joyful prelude to Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Te Deum. Yes: prime the smoke machines πŸ’¨, fuel the pyrotechnics πŸ”₯ and crack the glowsticks 🌟, it's...
 EUROVISION!  Come on, you knew I'd do a bumper Eurovision one. This year more than most, the song contest's apolitical stance is at odds with events surrounding it. As soon as the wonderfully strident Netta Barzilai lifted the trophy for Israel, it was clear the geopolitics of this year's contest would begin long before the voting.

The fact is, hosting Eurovision is expensive. You need to be an EBU-member broadcaster (with a news division) and have about €50 million spare. Few do, so they turn to their governments for help, and then the fun begins. Prime Minister Netanyahu loathes Kan, the public broadcaster, but has relaxed pressure to break it apart so that it remains eligible to host the contest. Meanwhile the Tourism Ministry, having already tipped millions into Tel Aviv's attractions and facilities, has flatly refused to pay a share of the security bill. As late as last month all production had stopped; it took a strongly-worded warning from the EBU to Netanyahu for the government to put up the money.

Israel isn't spectacular at holding massive events, so this is definitely the year to be amongst the 200 million watching from home. More than half of the 10,000-seat arena is consumed by the stage, a neon Toblerone ziggurat, plus organisers and performers. So there'll be only 4,300 hardened, flag-waving audience-members, all of whom have endured a ticketing shambles and sky-high prices.

Choosing Tel Aviv over Jerusalem, where the contest has been held twice previously, was certainly geopolitical. The show will bolster Tel Aviv's reputation as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, but has also drawn allegations of 'artwashing'. Arguably, perhaps inevitably, the contest has further exacerbated Israeli-Palestinian relations, with rockets flying one way and air-strikes the other. Political protests are likely, and it's a fair bet that at least one of the 41 acts will grasp at the opportunity to comment on the matter. πŸ”₯πŸŽ€πŸ’¨
πŸ‘Ί Snap Camera brings Snapchat lenses to your desktop; good if you worry you don't look quite silly enough while video-conferencing.

🦈 In Memory of the Englishman Who Kept a Shark on His Roof: I've always loved the 25ft fibreglass shark apparently crash-landed into roof of a bucolic English terrace home.

πŸ¦” Sonic the Hedgehog movie to be redesigned after criticism of trailer: it's sort of amazing how far from Sonic they've managed to make this look. It's as if it's an unauthorised thing. Fortunately the fans are digging in; some even going so far as to rework the character design themselves. Of course, you needn't wait for the film: watch my dear-departed hedgehog Cicely doing her thing.

πŸ’Ώ Streaming is changing how music is made: Pop has always been shaped into the restrictions of the formats that carry it. So you might expect, now that the physical limitations are a thing of the past, that songs would get longer. Not so.

πŸ“š This week I devoured New Dark Age by James Bridle. It's a richly-argued dissection of solutionism-by-default; not every problem can be reduced to heaps of computing power and lakes of data. A brilliant work. Available via Amazon or your local book shop.
 But what about the songs?  Oh yes, the songs. There'll be 41 of them: everyone from last year except Bulgaria, for financial reasons, and Ukraine, where political tensions spilled over into the song selection process.

Modern Eurovision defaults to an 'anthem' sound; this pushes entries in an earnest direction. Fine on their own, but a little wearing in succession (the UK will fall foul of this, Again). A special mention, then, to Denmark for bucking this trend and fielding a thoroughly happy old-fashioned Eurovision ditty. Hurra!

The recent pattern is for entrants to emulate last year's winners. This year, though, the overarching style is a sort-of slick, urban electronica; think crowdsourced Disclosure. There's a few noteworthy ones that avoid this, though: I quite like this year's Adele derivative, from France (which never happens!) and Icelandic electopunk Chumbawumba is the most stylistically interesting, if a little contrived.

There's a few four-to-the-floor club tracks of various quality. The good: Cyprus have fielded a thumping summer strut worthy of a Love Island overdub. The bad: Finland are sending Darude (yes, as in Sandstorm). The ugly: Norway's Eurotrifle madness is both awesome and toe-curling: a proper six-songs-in-one Eurovision wonder.

Overall, the worthy winner is Italy, I'd say, but I expect it'll be muscled out by the two skygrabbing megaballads from Russia and the Netherlands. I can't call myself a Madonna fan but the interval show might be interesting. Or at least lavish.

The biggest disappointment for me is Australia, who for the first time made the crushing error of selecting their entry by public vote. So of course they've gone for opera soprano atop a 30-foot dress accompanied by a gymnast up a stick. This will be time to make tea, or put the bins out, or test the smoke alarms or something.

The first semi-final is Tuesday. So, figure out how to turn on subtitles on your TV, learn how to tell the Dutch flag (πŸ‡³πŸ‡±) from the Russian one (πŸ‡·πŸ‡Ί) and settle in. Last year I missed the final by ending up in just about the only place it wasn't available: a non-stop flight from Australia to the UK. This year I'll be back to tweeting at @bureauvision throughout the Saturday-night show, just like everyone else. ✊
 Finally : Expect a major asteroid strike in your lifetime says the head of NASA, who is obviously concerned that you're sleeping too well these days. β˜„οΈ

Man alive, we've reached the bottom of the email. More for you next week. Do you know someone who likes interesting things? They can join in too at momorgan.com/blast. πŸ’Œ

Have you found something you think I'd like? Is there something you'd like to see more of? Or anything else; I'd love to hear from youβ€”hit reply! Meanwhile all back-issues are in the archive.

πŸ’₯BLAST! · c/o relating.to ltd. · 160 City Road · London, EC1V 2NX · United Kingdom. Pyros! πŸ”₯

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