Diary of an Expat, Part 84
I'm a vision? No, Eurovision >:[
So anyway "Arrested Development" launched its fourth season on Netflix last week, which is how as an expatriate you get to deal with the beautiful wonder that is region-locking content.

Content distribution doesn't always happen the way that you think it would. For example, as I said, I saw the new Star Trek well before it was available in the United States — nor did I see it on opening day. But as an American living abroad, you get shoved headlong into the fact that many companies feel the need to restrict where you can watch something.

The truth of course is that content itself is not region-locked. Paying for content is region-locked. If you choose to say "we're sorry, [x] is not available in your country," all you're actually saying is "we're sorry, we won't be getting any money from you for [x]." Arrested Development has already seen high piracy.

The other option is that you get a proxy service and hope it's fast enough to handle streaming video. I presume that Netflix officially frowns on this, although it's with a cheerful whistle and their grubby paw slipping into your wallet so, you know. They can deal.

This is tougher with ebooks, if for no other reason than that the piracy market is a little less developed there, and it's tough to proxy a Kindle. There are a couple of times when I've taken advantage of a transfer at London Heathrow to pop onto the WLAN and download a book that was, for arcane reasons, only available in Great Britain.

This is something that you don't really think about when you're in the United States, because most content is created for you and, therefore, available for you. Most bullshit restrictions on things in the US are things (DRM, limited rental times, etc.) that are also on their non-American counterparts.

It could also be, of course, that Europeans simply don't export as much culture as Americans do, and what culture we do export is... ah... hmm.

Myself and a Brit were trying to explain Eurovision to an Ami coworker of ours a few weeks back and it was hard to get it through. She said: "Well, we have American Idol," but, no.

Eurovision, for those of you who are not familiar with it, is a song contest entered into by the countries of Europe, and both "song" and "contest" are used extremely loosely in this definition. There is formal judging, but most of the voting is done by the residents of Europe, who can express their jingoistic pride by voting for their own country.

On the worst songs ever made.

Eurovision does not generally come to the United States (ABBA being a notable exception) outside of as an object of ridicule because it is a concerted attempt to overproduce the most terrible music that has ever existed. It borders on trolling, but Europeans eat it up because...

... Actually I'm not certain. I think in part it's because Europeans like camp, and Eurovision is extremely camp. For practical reasons, the songs need to be inoffensive, which means they are pretty indistinguishable. I say "the worst" but I really just mean the most bland, conventional, lowest-common-denominator expressions of whatever was extremely popular at the time. For maximum camp, these are often performed by washed-up musicians; the UK turned in a 2nd-to-last performance in 2012 by reanimating Engelbert Humperdinck.

Actually, the advancement of Eurovision music stopped in around the mid-90s, so modern Eurovision does not by and large incorporate hiphop or electronic music, and still sounds like something from that period or before. It is, in fact, a glorious throwback; Russia's 2013 entry is straight-up Bette Midler circa 1989. So the music is ridiculous, but in an inoffensively fun way, and it all pretty much sounds the same.

As a result you find people differentiating in performance, which means wearing the most ridiculous costumes and dancing what I can only refer to as the "Eurovision dance," which can only be performed in the background and consists of leaping into the air like a startled deer in perfect coordination to the beat.

What Eurovision therefore becomes is an opportunity for Europeans to cheer for the most deliciously gay music outside of Electric Six, and then to engage in furious partisan bickering over the results and the voting, which as in most years produced another scandal this time, something about Azerbaijan? I guess? Azerbaijan lost handily, so to hell with them.

Even as a good German, I have to point out that our 2013 entry, a tepid Cascada number, was terrible and netted us a well-deserved 5th-from-the-bottom place. For my money, I think Ukraine should've won. But no. Better luck next year, I guess.
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