Everything you need to know about Saturday's Eurovision final

On Saturday night, Europe will grind to a halt to mark its annual celebration of the cheesy and the saccharine: the Eurovision finals. This year, the singing competition is being held in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, and the field features the typical collection of over-the-top Europop, earnest acts, and strange sub-plots (the bassist in the Swiss act is 95 years old). 

The competition was first held in 1956 and conceived as a way of bringing Europeans together around an entertainment program. That hasn't exactly happened, and every year the competition is riven by petty national rivalries. The Scandinavian, Balkan, and former Soviet countries vote for each other, and the Greeks and Cypriots refuse to vote for the Turks.

Politics also tends to rear its head outside the venue. This year, for instance, there were calls to boycott Israel's inclusion in the contest. And last year, controversy erupted when Azerbaijan, that year's host, arrested a group of 50 anti-government protesters hoping to use the competition to draw attention to government abuses.

This year, the hottest political story involves a lesbian kiss in the Finnish act. Finland's parliament recently decided not to take up a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, and Krista Siegfrids plans to kiss one of her dancers on stage as an act of protest (her song, "Marry Me," seems at first blush to be about a woman desperate for a proposal from her boyfriend, but she's now conveniently turned it into a more subversive message).

But let's face it: The real draw isn't politics -- it's the outlandish performances. Without further ado, here are the 10 best (or worst, depending on your perspective) acts this year.

Denmark: One of the favorites to win this year. Note the totally earnest, totally awful tin whistle in the opening (thanks to reader FranzLiebkind for identifying the instrument).

Ukraine: Being carried onstage by a giant is certainly one way to start a performance.

Montenegro: Techno-dubstep astronaut rap, where have you been all my life?! Sadly, the act didn't make the finals.

Ireland: Embodying every bad trend in European music, complete with shirtless, tattooed drummer-dancers.

Latvia: These guys didn't make the finals, but I love them.

Macedonia: Is this the most unlikely looking duet in the history of Eurovision? I'm not sure, but I find it rather endearing.

Greece: Ska lives!

Norway: One of the other favorites to win this year.

Finland: Providing the hot political story of the year via a lesbian kiss protest.

Albania: Just the worst.



It's official: America's mental-health professionals are getting more culturally sensitive

You may not have heard of koro --  a mental syndrome in which a person has an overwhelming belief that his or her genitals are disappearing -- or zar-- a condition that generates dissociative episodes characterized by intense laughter and singing -- but that doesn't mean these are any less universal than, say, anorexia.  At least that was the theme of a fascinating article by journalist Ethan Watters about "the Americanization of mental illness," published in the New York Times Magazine in 2010.  

One of the primary points Watters makes is that the Western mental-health practitioners behind the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-4) problematically placed "culture-bound" disorders -- like those mentioned above --in their own section at the back of psychiatry's most definitive diagnostic guide, implying that these syndromes are somehow affected by culture in a way that predominantly Western illnesses are not:

Western mental-health practitioners often prefer to believe that the 844 pages of the DSM-IV prior to the inclusion of culture-bound syndromes describe real disorders of the mind, illnesses with symptomatology and outcomes relatively unaffected by shifting cultural beliefs. And, it logically follows, if these disorders are unaffected by culture, then they are surely universal to humans everywhere. In this view, the DSM is a field guide to the world's psyche, and applying it around the world represents simply the brave march of scientific knowledge.

But Watters disagrees with that approach. "In the end," he concludes, "what cross-cultural psychiatrists and anthropologists have to tell us is that all mental illnesses, including depression, P.T.S.D. and even schizophrenia, can be every bit as influenced by cultural beliefs and expectations.... [M]ental illness is an illness of the mind and cannot be understood without understanding the ideas, habits and predispositions - the idiosyncratic cultural trappings - of the mind that is its host."

The American Psychiatric Association (APA), it seems, is heeding that advice. The organization is unveiling DSM-5, the long-anticipated (14 years, to be exact) new edition of its manual, over the weekend during its annual meeting in San Francisco. And based on preliminary information, the task force that wrote it appears to have been more sensitive to the nuances of patient care across countries.

"Rather than a simple list of culture-bound syndromes," reads one statement on the APA's methodology, "DSM-5 updates criteria to reflect cross-cultural variations in presentations, gives more detailed and structured information about cultural concepts of distress, and includes a clinical interview tool to facilitate comprehensive, person-centered assessments."

What exactly will this look like? Instead of relegating cultural expressions of mental disorders to the back of the book, the manual will incorporate these throughout the text. The example the APA provides is for social anxiety disorder. In the new manual, "fear of 'offending others'" will be included in order to reflect "the Japanese concept in which avoiding harm to others is emphasized rather than harm to oneself."

Another example: A preliminary version of the DSM-5, which the APA released for feedback last year, updated the criteria for dissociative identity disorders so that professionals won't need to diagnose practices like shamanism as a mental illness. In the new manual, practitioners are told that if the so-called "disturbance" is actually "a normal part of a broadly accepted cultural or religious practice," then it does not technically constitute dissociative identity disorder.

Changes such as these are definitely a start. But all the medical anthropologists out there need not worry. With ambiguous words like "broadly accepted" and "normal" peppered in the DSM-5, there's certainly still room for criticism.