I was at this thing on Zoom the other day in a breakout room and one of those people that knows me from another thing was talking about something important to them, and slowly their grip on my attention started to loosen and my mind drifted away from the conscious reality of sitting there listening to them as my brain gently rose like a pretty hot air balloon ascending the heavens and gliding across a landscape of idle thoughts, while back on Earth my face was beaming onto their QHD+ screen in eye watering, razor sharp lifelike detail saying “mmm” and “ooh” and “really?” and occasionally arching its eyebrows like an actor in an advert who’s been asked to wordlessly indicate that his cough lozenges work.
As I gazed down at these idle thoughts, wondering which to toy with, I became aware of the fuzzy, trance-like state I was in – and realised that although I’d entered this state of reverie out of boredom, the experience of boredom itself was proving to be pretty interesting. In fact, it turns out that I don’t think “boredom” itself actually even exists. There’s no such thing as boredom, just varying degrees of fascination. We love this exaltation. We want the new temptations. It’s like a revelation. We live on fascination.
When I was 13 I was off school for weeks, bedridden. I couldn’t move, or walk, or run. And there was no internet or satellite TV. I couldn’t move my right arm without experiencing blinding pain, which meant most existing forms of entertainment that I was familiar with, from reading to drawing to gameboy games to self-appreciation, were out of the question. All I could do was watch terrestrial television. Unfortunately, my illness struck in the middle of a major non-stop televised bowls tournament.
There I was, forced to lie still and watch the bowls for hours. Did I lose my mind with boredom? No I did not. I got right into it. It’s easy when there’s nothing else to do. You pick a favourite player first – not consciously, it just happens. Maybe one of them’s quite slick, or you don’t like his glasses, or you imagine he’s a bit of a cad in the club who treats the bar staff with absolute disdain. So you root for the other fella. Then there’s the actual game itself, which consists of tantalising footage of bowls gently swerving to a halt as close to the jack as possible.
This struck me as at least twice as exciting as the climax of Ghostbusters 2 (which was prescient of me, since Ghostbusters 2 didn’t come out until the year after).
What I’m saying is the mind entertains itself no matter what. It’s a blessing. It means that I’ve become fascinated by Lithuania’s Monika Liu. One of Lithuania’s most popular and respected artists, after graduating from the University of Klaipėda, where she studied jazz, globe-trotting Monica spent time studying in Massachusetts, living in London, before then settling in Vilnius.
In 2004, she triumphed on an episode of Mažųjų žvaigždžių valanda (which roughly translates to Little Star Hour), performing Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why”. Jonas Narbutas, later of InCulto (ESC 2010) also competed on that episode.
That same year, she reached the winners’ concert night of Dainų dainelė (which roughly translates to Song of Songs), performing the gospel standard “Oh Happy Day”. She returned to the contest again in 2006, making the winners’ contest night once more. (She was a special guest performer at both the 2008 and 2010 editions of Dainų dainelė as well.)
In 2006, she competed on a season of Mažųjų žvaigždžių ringas (roughly translates to Circle of Little Stars), the competition that would become a funnel for Lithuania’s Junior Eurovision prospects the very next year.
And speaking of Junior Eurovision, though she was too old to enter by the time Lithuania began participating, she DID make an appearance at the 2008 national final. She performed a duet with Monika Linkytė, then the 3rd place finisher from the previous year’s national final. (Eurovision fans may best remember Monika Linkytė as one-half of the smooching singers that performed “This Time” at Eurovision 2015.)
Monika Liu‘s professional relationship with Monika Linkytė would end up paying dividends down the line. Eurovision fans may know that Monika Liu was a co-writer on Lithuania’s 2015 Eurovision entry, “This Time“, performed by Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila, but what fans may not know is that the two have collaborated on a Eurovision hopeful before. In 2010, Monika Liu was a co-writer on “Give Away”, the song Linkytė finished in 10th place with at the Lithuanian national finals. Watch the national final performance of “Give Away” here.
Since her debut in 2015, Liu has released three albums and plenty more singles. Her repertoire is so impressive that she’s been called upon to sit on the panel of two of Lithuania’s biggest talent shows: The Voice and The Masked Singer. Wowzers!
According to Monika, she has been considering making her way to the Eurovision stage for many years, and the time proved right for her now, upon the composition of Sentimentai, which was written and recorded in London.
So given all this, I tried, I really did, listening to her pretentious Eurovision entry “Sentimentai”. For well over six seconds I imagined that I was in a trendy bar in Vilnius, singing about being observed by others as if through a magnifying glass, as we search for ourselves in reflections of other people, in the public opinion, in gazes of strangers, and most frequently the image is incomplete, crooked – but when we gain confidence reflections become nothing but a game.
But then YouTube offered up one of those videos of a springer spaniel putting a softmint in a bottle of coke and it was all gone.