Eurovision Shows Acceptance of Bearded Woman

In case you hadn’t heard, this year’s Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst, of Austria, created quite the commotion.

Conchita Wurst-Creative Commons

Conchita Wurst-Creative Commons

You may be wondering what is Eurovision? I did not know what it was until last year when one of my European friends introduced it to me with this awesome music video. Eurovision is a annual singing competition. Each country in the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has their own selection process and then sends one act to perform at the Eurovision competition.

Austria chose Conchita Worst for the 2014 competition. Conchita is the first bearded woman to compete. She also won.  Now you might be wondering what gender does Conchita choose to identify as? Paris Lees from the Guardian explains it well

Conchita is a clue as to what this gender diversity might look like in practice. “She” is actually a boy called Tom. Conchita is his lady persona, a strangely compelling mix of Katy Perry and Jesus, but it’s female pronouns, please, when the lashes are on – and male ones when they come off. Confused? This is gender fluidity and you’d better get used to it.

This means that she is a girl when she is Conchita and a boy when he is Tom. Conchita explained it as

It’s obvious for example that when I am Conchita, I use the female toilet, and when I am Tom, the male toilet. I can assure you it’s never a problem for women, they love it.

Now that you understand who Conchita is, we can move on to the contest, where she took first place with her song Rise Like a Phoenix.

It is a very fitting song that not only represents the romance aspect from the song, but also her own personal transformation and all she’s dealt with on the long road to winning Eurovision 2014.

Although she was able to overcome her struggles and ultimately win, it was not without controversy.  As you might imagine there were some conservative countries that were less than pleased with her entry into the competition. Russia, Belarus and Armenia protested her entry. Russian politician Vitaly Milonov even wrote to the Russian Eurovision selection committee asking them to boycott her entry by not sending Russian contestants to this year’s competition.

Despite their governments displease, the citizens were not dissuaded from supporting the Austrian contestant.

Eurovision Infographic I compiled the above map from the Eurovision Finale voting. As you can see all of the yellow countries, which include the three countries mentioned above, rated Conchita much higher than their Jury voters. It can be expected that the Jury voters would be under more pressure to vote how their government expects because they can be identified. The Televoters can be expected to vote how they feel because it is anonymous.

This shows just because people live in a conservative nation does not mean they necessarily feel the same way. Hopefully, this is a sign that Europe (along with the rest of the world) will become more accepting of all people, bearded or not.

Banlieue 13: Ultimatum

The Only Sequel That Should Ever Have Been Made

Out of all the movies I’ve seen in my life, there has never been a sequel I liked more than the original.

I may have liked the third movie better than the original, but never the second movie. Sequels always seemed forced to me. Why did they have to create another story when the first one ended so nicely?

That was before I saw Banlieue 13: Ultimatum, the sequel to Banlieue 13.

Banlieue 13: Ultimatum

Banlieue 13 is French and translates to District 13. It is set in the future during a time when a district of Paris becomes too violent and is walled off from the rest of the city. Inside the walls of District 13 crime is everywhere, and even the police cannot create order. A drug lord named Taha controls everything.

The first movie sets up the conflict between the separate worlds through the two main characters. Leïto, played by David Belle, was born inside District 13 and is fighting to stop crime with his bare hands. From outside the walls of District 13, Captain Damien Tomaso, played by Cyril Raffaelli, is also fighting to stop crime, but on the side of the police.

In Banlieue 13: Ultimatum, District 13 is now under attack by five different gangs fighting for control of the district. Something happens and it seems like one of the gangs killed some police officers without provocation. This quickly escalates and the President of France is forced to make a drastic decision on whether or not to wipe out District 13 for good. You’ll have to watch to find out what happens.

The second film did a much better job of showing the interactions between the different groups and the city outside the segregated District 13. It showed nuances of how people deal differently with conflict and what can happen if there is no order in a society. This makes the story line more intricate and separates it from your typical action movie.

Besides a storyline that has more depth to it than most movies in its genre, the Banlieue 13 series incorporates Parkour, an extreme sport that only uses the human body, partially invented by one of the stars, David Belle. The term Parkour, comes from the French word Parcours, which means course.

The idea of Parkour is to get from point A to point B in the most efficient way possible. To do this, you use the momentum of your body and the obstacles around you. Check out this awesome example to get an idea of what it looks like in action.

You can see how David Belle utilizes walls, stairs and anything around him to give him momentum and get him to where he wants to go.

These movies were written and produced by Luc Besson, a French director, writer, and producer. He’s worked on films including Taken, Taxi, The Transporter and The Fifth Element.  Besson comes from an interesting background with little knowledge of “classic films” or formal cinematographic schooling. He was denied from French Film school after citing “Scorsese, Spielberg and Milos Forman” as his favorite directors. The blog, Film Art Point writes,

Considered by some as the most American of French film directors; his films are stylish modern society insight, often dealing with contemporary themes – absence of family, frequent violence and unusual emotional relations; his childlike heroes come from social margins or imagined worlds.

You can tell these are Luc Besson films due to the visual style, high action, and interesting take on our expectations of the characters’ motivations.

If you enjoy fast paced action, an interesting storyline, and don’t mind reading subtitles then you should check out the Banlieue 13 movies. You can watch them on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Feel free to comment to let me know if you liked Banlieue 13, or the sequel Banlieue 13: Ultimatum better.

Les Trois Coups mixes street performance and comedy with their music.

French Busking Band is a HIT at T/F Film Fest

Les Trois Coups (a French busking band) recently visited the U.S. to perform at the True/False Film Fest in Columbia, Missouri.

Press play to watch a slideshow to learn more about Les Trois Coups. There is also a video of them performing and links to their social media pages below. Enjoy!


Here is a short video I created about one of their performances during True/False.

To learn more about Les Trois Coups feel free to check out their Bandcamp, Facebook, and Blog.

To learn more about busking, check out my last blog post, The Art of Busking.







One man band

The Art of Busking

People do it in the street. People do it alone. People do it together.

Some use one instrument. Some use many. Some even combine all of their instruments into one mega instrument.

Performers go by many names. Street performer. Troubadour. Minstrel. Traveling musician. Busker.


One man band

One man band

Busking is something that has gained popularity recently, but that doesn’t mean it’s something new. Street performance has been around for a long, long time (I’m talking back to ancient Rome old). However, street performance did not gain the name busking until 1857.

Paris, France, a city known for its music, is one of the best places in the world to busk (it ranks number 4 in the world according to this list).

And if you’ve got some kind of talent and want to busk in Paris there many helpful websites out there.

This is an 8-step guide to help you get started. This blog gives helpful tips such as places to do try your hand at busking, such as the metro–but warns not during rush hours. It also gives motivation to just go out and try your hand at busking.

If you’re interested in becoming a busker but not quite ready to get started, or you’re like me and do not have the talent to busk, there are resources for you too.

Check out this blog which uses a narrative to discuss busking. It is written in a way to help aspiring buskers pick the venue that is right for their performance. As someone who has never (and probably will never) busk, it was an interesting read because I was able to experience what it is like to be a busker, without having to actually perform.

Musicians in the Latin Quarter of Paris.

If you are interested in experiencing street performances, but do not have the ability to visit cities where they perform, there are now alternative ways to see buskers from around the world due to technology.

World Street Music is a site I particularly enjoyed using to discover buskers and watch performances. As the name suggests it has a variety of performances from around the world! You can search by country, type of instrument, or anything related to street performances.

Today busking is not just on the street. Technology has made it an art form that can be enjoyed anywhere.

 Look for my next blog post where I’ll focus on the busking band Les Trois Coups.


King (or Queen) For a Day–Recipe Included

General Tso’s chicken, Fajitas and King Cake may not be as authentic as we have made them out to be.

We claim these foods are Chinese, Mexican and French.

However, they are not authentic in the slightest.

America has a habit of taking foods from other cultures and putting its own spin on them—also known as “Americanizing“.

mardi gras

American version of King Cake

Since Mardi Gras is this weekend, what better time to discover the true origin of the king cake! This is the king cake that anyone who is familiar with Mardi Gras in the U.S. would recognize. There is a baby figurine baked inside, and the person who discovers it in their slice is king (or queen) for a day.

According to tradition, they also have the task of hosting the Mardi Gras party the next year. However, you would find nothing of the sort in France, where the king cake or la galette des Rois originated.  The King Cake that the French gobble up is much flakier and has an almond filling inside.

La galette de Rois wasn’t even meant for Mardi Gras. It was created (and is still sold for L’Épiphanie, which isn’t even in February.

galette des rois

French version of King Cake
“Galette des Rois”

Similar to the American version, la galette des Rois has a fève (figurine) hidden inside and the person who discovers it is king or queen for the day. In order to keep the distribution of slices fair, a child hides under the table as the cake is cut. Without looking at the cake, they say who gets each piece. Check out this video for a more in-depth look at the tradition (and learn some French while you’re at it!)


If you would like to make an authentic version, here is a recipe I translated from French. Enjoy!

Ingredientsgalette des rois recipe game of thrones style

  • 2 rolls of puff pastry (premade)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup almond powder
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 egg for glaze
  • 1 small figurine


  1. Place sugar, almond powder, 2 eggs and almond extract into bowl. Mash in the butter.
  2. Use electric mixer to cream.
  3. Spread puff pastry in design of your choice. Usually a circle, but this recipe chose to use a rectangle.
  4. Mix egg for glaze. Line the edges of the dough with part of the glaze, but leave some for the top.
  5. Place almond filling on top of one of the puff pastry dough pieces. Place small figurine on almond filling.
  6. Place the second puff pastry piece on top. Seal with your fingers.
  7. Use a knife to create a design along the edge and center of the dough.
  8. Use a knife to create a hole in the middle of the top to allow steam to escape.
  9. Brush the remaining egg glaze on top to help the crust brown.
  10. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Click to enlarge this awesome pictogram of the recipe done in the style of Game of Thrones—because it’s a king cake!



Burn Baby Burn

Let’s say you had some extra cash sitting around and decided to buy a painting that had not been authenticated.  20 years later, you decide to find out if the painting is real or fake. After finding out your painting was in fact a forgery, you then find out it’s going to be burned according to an ancient French law meant to protect the rights of artists. This is what happened to a man named Martin Lang.

“Nude” from 1909-1910 was recently discovered to be a fake Chagall painting on the show “Fake or Fortune”. (Telegraph 2014)

Lang was recently part of the reality show Fake or Fortune, which investigates  “lost masterpieces, forgers and Nazi looted art” (TVO, 2014). They want to discover the story behind works of art. After much research, the only way to have Lang’s Chagall painting authenticated was to send it to France, which is where the problems began.

A committee consisting of two of Chagall’s granddaughters and other authenticators determined that Lang’s painting was a “very bad copy“, which means they have the right (and it is customary in France to use this right) to destroy the painting.

This brings up an interesting point. When it comes to property, who decides what gets to be done with it? The artist (or their descendants) who create the art? Or the people who buy the art? In the UK, the person who buys the property, fake or not, has the final say with what happens to it. Unfortunately for Lang, in France, that is not the case.

In an article written by Philip Mould, one of the hosts of Fake or Fortune, he lists several alternatives to destroying the painting. Instead of destroying it, the painting could be donated to an art museum to help identify other forgeries. He also makes the point that once a painting is burned, it is gone forever. So if future technologies are created that could verify the authenticity of the painting, it would be too late. The descendants of the artists could have destroyed an actual piece created by their relative.

Turner PaintingThis actually happened on Fake or Fortune. Three paintings by J.M.W. Turner that were believed to be forgeries inthe past have recently come to be regarded as originals through investigation. (,2012) What if they had been burned?

I understand where the law is coming from, but to me it just seems so permanent. The law is meant to protect the rights of artists and discourage people from forging their work. However, it seems to me the people who are being hurt by this law are not the forgers, but the patrons of fine art.

I definitely support the UK standpoint of when you buy a painting, it is yours to do with as you please. Why do descendants of artists, who may or may not have been trained in the artistic style of their relative have the right to decide what happens to the painting? Wouldn’t it be better to label the work of art as a fake, but allow future generations to interpret the work as they will?

What do you think? Do you think a French law should let artists (or their descendants) burn paintings that have been determined as forgeries? Or is it the right of the person who bought the painting to decide what they get to do about it?

Martin Lung Petition

If you disagree with the ruling, there is a petition you can sign here.