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Columbia Pavilion

Columbia Pavilion

THEME: Columbia is Passion, The City is Activity

PAVILION: The exterior of the Pavilion is decorated with butterflies and butterfly motifs, adding a tropical element to the exterior of the Pavilion.

Columbia Pavilion

EXHIBIT: The Pavilion is divided into the various regions of Columbia, from the Pacific to the Caribbean, the Andes to the rainforest. The Pacific area has the calming sound of waves lapping against the shore. There is also a small theater where an introductory video of Columbia is shown.

Columbia Pavilion

The main exhibition hall of the Pavilion is a kaleidoscope of activity. Sumptuously decorated with special lighting effects, palm trees, a representation of a Mayan temple and everywhere touch screen video displays to inform the visitor of the various regions of Columbia, this is the heart of the Columbia Pavilion. A gondola car hangs above the floor, representing the world-class Columbian ski resorts. Sacks of Columbian coffee beans are piled in one corner, ready to be shipped around the world. Behind the Mayan wall is the interactive zone where visitors can learn more about Columbia’s economy and her exports.

Columbia Pavilion

CUISINE: A Columbian-style café is located at the Pavilion’s exit. Here, visitors may sample for themselves the world famous coffee of Columbia, as well as native juices and snacks.

SHOPPING: Along one wall of the Pavilion is a large and comfortable gift shop full of Columbian products and Pavilion souvenirs.

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Music and Meaning

I love music but I hate music. That may sound contradictory and of course it is. What I mean to say is that I’m passionate about music but I hate music that wastes my time. Lyrics that are shallow, music that is mass-produced with little soul – these are a few of my un-favorite things.

I also have a loathing for “American Idol” and such programs. There is a reason for that – and it’s not just because it’s so popular, although I grant you that the underdog-lover and music snob in me make that true, but the reason I really hate it is because it is symptomatic of society as a whole.

My biggest issue with music in general is that it has become a cult of personality – it’s all about the singer and not the song. In other words, what is being communicated has become less important than who is doing the communicating. That drives me bonkers. We see contestants on “American Idol” in trying to put their own spin on a song add all sorts of vocal gymnastics and blue notes in order to sound more “soulful.” They also very often adopt styles like the flavor of the month, be it Mariah Carey or Christina Aguilera or Garth Brooks.

I used to be a big fan of pop music – I love the melodies, the harmonies, the hooks that were part of the pop music essentials. Unfortunately, there is less and less music that is popular that I can get behind. Sure, there are exceptions – there always are – but for the most part, when I hear a Grammy-winning pop hit there is nothing that grabs me or touches me.

That bothers me. Music is a very personal thing and what touches one person may not affect the next in the same way. I am also well aware that to say “one song sucks” or “this genre sucks” is lazy and stupid – because music is so personal, it is impossible to say “Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’ sucks” because one person may find some meaning in it; to say the song sucks is to say that person’s life sucks.

The fact of the matter I that there is a lot of great music out there but it generally receives less attention from both the mainstream media and the general public. And while I do have a loathing for “American Idol,” I recognize that plenty of people love it and some of them are touched in some way by the songs that are sung.

My objection is to what “American Idol” represents, placing more emphasis on the singer. It is symptomatic with what’s wrong with American society, the emphasis on the individual. It’s all about me, me, ME in modern society and the rest of the world can stick it where the sun don’t reach.

That is a catastrophic way of thinking.  It has led our planet into ecological and economic disaster. It’s the kind of thinking that allows the very rich to feel entitled to more than their share of the wealth, that allows businesspeople to think that profits comes ahead of people and politicians to feel that getting re-elected is more of a priority than getting things done. Conscience has become an endangered species in our world.

The truth is it is about the song, not the singer. The world is our song, the creatures that live in it the singers. Our voices rise in a single choir, although lately we have been discordant in our song. The harmonies we used to have are lost in each of us trying to sing our own song louder than the rest.

The singer is the least important part of the equation. In music as in life, the singer is but an instrument in a larger orchestra or band. The singer is a conduit for what is truly important – the song. Whether the purpose of the song is to express some sort of insight into life or love, or merely to move you to dance, the singer is mute without a song (while it is true that a song is mute without a singer, there are always musical instruments that may substitute).

We cannot go through life thinking that we are more important than the rest of the people inhabiting our rock. Our needs are no more urgent than those of the person next to you. While courtesy and compassion are lost arts in the miasma of today’s cultural landscape, they need to be re-addressed. We need to change the tide from “all about ourselves” to “all about each other.”

The planet is our birthright and our song our responsibility to it. When we become callous and self-centered as a species, it means the rest of the world suffers. Every time we put ourselves ahead of everybody else we murder the world a little bit. It doesn’t mean you have to be a Buddhist monk, nor do you have to be Mother Teresa.

It’s not about giving your life to service, only to not putting yourself on a pedestal and worshipping your own awesomeness. We’ve made a culture of self-image, placing an emphasis with our children of building it. Unfortunately, we’ve done too good a job. Instead of boosting the ego, we’ve made it the be-all to their world view.

Music needs to have meaning and none more so than the music of our souls. We cannot afford to put the emphasis on the singer any longer; it is the song that needs tending to. If we were to harmonize together, how sweet would it be? Unfortunately, the discordant mess that we have created threatens our economy and our very planet. When will we realize that only through that harmony can we accomplish anything? Truly, the music we could make together could make a song our children and our children’s children would be proud to sing.

San Marino Pavilion

San Marino Pavilion

THEME: San Marino: The City-State

PAVILION: The Pavilion uses as an architectural model the ancient temple with a central hall, and alcoves along the side with various displays.

San Marino Pavilion

EXHIBIT: The Pavilion’s central hall is dominated by a Statue of Liberty, similar to the one in New York but in reality a copy of the one that stands in Liberty Square in San Marino, one that was built ten years before its famous American cousin. The video wall and illuminated globe features a two-minute presentation realized as a television advertisement with 3D motion graphics and images of monuments and landscapes in San Marino. A tourism alcove presents information on tourism in San Marino as well as photographic displays that serve to entice visitors to plan a trip to San Marino for themselves!

San Marino Pavilion

In the History of the Republic, San Marino’s standing as the oldest and smallest republic on Earth will be emphasized with short videos, artifact displays and other memorabilia. The Country-System Setting explains San Marino’s economy and the efficiency of her economic system. The Reigning Captains Setting is a video wall projecting random images of San Marino and the Pavilion.

San Marino Pavilion

CUISINE: There is no dining area listed for the Pavilion.

SHOPPING: There is a gift shop at the Pavilion’s exit.

Note: This Pavilion was located in the Joint Europe Pavilion I

Iceland Pavilion

Iceland Pavilion

THEME: Pure Energy – Healthy Living

PAVILION: The Pavilion exterior is meant to resemble an ice cube with its square structure and blue and white colors. The exterior is covered with a backlit printed fabric whose markings resemble that of glacial ice. The exterior walls on the main gate are made of rock lava, giving the entrance a three-dimensional appearance. The temperature inside the Pavilion will be kept at 21-22C, which is the average summer temperature in Iceland. The aroma of wildflowers, common in Iceland, will waft through the Pavilion.

Iceland Pavilion

EXHIBIT: Video display screens will convey information about Iceland, its economy and its use of green energies (such as geo-thermal energy) in everyday use. On the inside, visitors will make their way in past a reception desk behind which a cloth screen will show pictures of natural Iceland. Visitors will then go into the main exhibit, a room filled with projectors displaying scenes of glaciers, volcanoes, geysers and hot springs, all common in Iceland which is the most volcanically active country in Europe. Short films and amazing full room photographic displays will immerse the visitor, giving them the next best thing to actually being in Iceland. Throughout the Expo, musicians from Iceland will perform in the Pavilion. Icelandic musicians are justifiably gaining notoriety on the music scene worldwide in a variety of idioms, including rock, folk and classical. Icelandic music is typically heavily influenced by our natural surroundings.

Iceland Pavilion

CUISINE: There is no dining area listed for the Pavilion.

SHOPPING: There is no specific shopping facility listed for the Pavilion.

Austria Pavilion

Austria Pavilion

THEME: Austria – Feel the Harmony!

PAVILION: The outer skin of the Pavilion is red and white porcelain, symbolizing the “china” plates imported to Europe from China, now being returned to China with the red and white of Austria’s flag as well as the lucky Chinese color red to entice visitors.

Austria Pavilion

EXHIBIT: Visitors will enter past the calm waters of a pond that surrounds the Pavilion. Each portion of the exhibition will recreate some of the natural environments of Austria to display how the natural interacts with the urban in order to make a better life for those who live there. In the entrance area, the visitor is shown a powerful visual reminder of the similarities between Austria and China as the Huang Pu Bridge in Shanghai morphs into the Viennese Reichsbrucke, the Shanghai government building into Vienna’s City Hall and the Oriental Pearl Television Tower into the Big Wheel. The tour begins in the Mountain region, where visitors will get to touch “real” snow and feel the sensation of cold that is part of the Alpine life.

Austria Pavilion

The next stage of the tour takes visitors into the Austrian woods, where the scents of the forest and the sound of birds chirping transport the visitor into the Alpine forests of Austria. From time to time a mischievous squirrel might be seen playing at your feet! The next stop takes visitors into the lakes and rivers of Austria, an important aspect of transportation, drinking water, recreation and hydropower, all of which make the Austrian lifestyle possible. Finally, we look at the Austrian city itself, with Vienna the focal point, examining the Imperial Vienna with its timeless music and architecture to the vibrancy of modern Vienna, on the cutting edge of research and technology. In the city section the music of Mozart and Falco blend and transcend time and space to create an amalgam of past, present and future that shows the continuity of Austria along with her respect for all three. Animated wall installations throughout the journey illustrate various points about Austria’s economy, ecology and technology.

Austria Pavilion

CUISINE: There is a restaurant on the second floor of the Pavilion. Schanigarten will serve a variety of specialties from the various regions of Austria in an open-air environment. Some of the dishes served are Bretiljause (a snack platter of cheeses, sausages, mustard and gherkins), Wiener Schnitzel, Gulasch and world-famous Austrian pastries, all under the auspices of Chef Ewald Porsch of Ewald’s Restaurant and Café in Shanghai.

SHOPPING: Alongside the restaurant, the Pavilion shop is located on the second floor and will carry Austrian-made products as well as Pavilion souvenirs.

Cote D’Ivoire Pavilion

Ivory Coast Pavilion

THEME: Cohabitation of Diverse Cultures in the City

PAVILION: The Pavilion looks a bit like a mushroom, filled with whimsical and playful elements to make the experience a more entertaining one. The colors of the national flag correspond to each of the three exhibition galleries.

Ivory Coast Pavilion

EXHIBIT: The Pavilion is divided into three exhibition galleries. The first concentrates on the Social, in which the historical heritage of the Cote d’Ivoire is displayed. Examples of the protection of our heritage are given, while the story of the collision and eventual blending of different cultures is played out on video screens and in photographs and physical displays. The rich tourism resources and handicrafts of the region are also on display. The second gallery, Economy, will proudly display our main exports of cocoa and coffee and reveal the agriculture-based economy of the Cote d’Ivoire, as well as examine the growing shift to a more urban economy which will become a priority in the 21st century for our nation. The third and final gallery, Environment, will display a model of a rapidly developing urban environment contrasting with scenes of the oceans, forests and lagoon plains of the Cote d’Ivoire, illustrating our commitment to maintaining our environment and the importance of the harmonious co-existence of the human and the natural in our evolving culture.

CUISINE: There is no dining area listed for the Pavilion.

SHOPPING: There is no specific shopping facility listed for the Pavilion.

Note: This Pavilion is located in the Africa Joint Paviliion.

Defending the President

Taking potshots at the president is as American as fast food franchising. Regardless of the party of the Commander-in-Chief, whoever is in office can be assured that those on the opposite side of the aisle are going to find fault with whatever he does, no matter how beneficial it may be. The only exception is in cases of national tragedy, when solidarity is the word of the day – and the politically astute thing to do.

After all, the office of President is fundamentally a political office, although in many ways, it is becoming more and more of a business than an office. Think about it; another way of referring to the president is as the Chief Executive. In every way, the president is the CEO of America, Incorporated.

I am all for criticizing the actions and policies of the president; in fact, it is one of the basic rights of this country, one which separates us from a lot of other countries on this rock where criticism of the person in charge can land you in a very nasty prison cell for a very long time. Here, that kind of thing can get you a talk show on Fox News.

As far as our sitting president is concerned, I am not fully satisfied with the job he’s done. I truly believe that he has compromised too much and tried to win friends on both sides of the aisle. He’s bent over backwards to try to give concessions to the conservatives, who have responded basically by blockading all of the legislation he wants enacted.

The president’s job is not to please the other side of the fence; his job is to get things done, to make the country a better place for its citizens. How he goes about doing that as well as his definition of a better place has more to do with his political philosophy – that’s what we vote on. It’s also what we expect him to act on once he gets elected, and my main criticism of President Obama is that he hasn’t gotten the job done on really anything; yes, some groundbreaking legislation has been passed but the reality is that the healthcare plan he put in is a mishmash of compromise and concession that pleases nobody fully, although it is better than nothing. I didn’t vote for him to give us better than nothing.

Likewise, the economy remains in shambles. His jobs bill has helped but he obviously has a long ways to go; people are still hurting. The economy needs stimulation, and the best way to do that is to promote new technologies. Alternative renewable fuel sources and environmentally friendly products would seem to be the way to go right now; incentive programs for businesses and universities to research and develop these things should be a major priority.

I do like some of the things he has done; I believe ending the combat mission in Iraq is the right thing to do at this time. We have been there long enough and further military presence there seems to me to be non-productive. It is time for the Iraqi government to stand on its own two feet and begin the business of being their own country; not that we shouldn’t render them the assistance they need in terms of resources or manpower to restore their infrastructure, but I think that the Iraqis need to be on their own to develop their nation the way they see fit. It’s like a teenager having their parents looking over their shoulder; they act differently when we’re around than they do on their own.

I also agree that the commercialization of space should be the way to go rather than funneling everything through NASA. NASA should be all about exploration and science; getting business up there will further stimulate the economy and give us new products, new technologies and most importantly, new jobs. I’m hoping within the next quarter century we’ll start seeing significant commercial presence in space, from manufacturing facilities to research and development labs to hotels for tourists.

So I guess it’s fair to say that my opinion of President Obama’s performance so far is mixed at best. However, I must say that my blood boils when I read posts from people talking about him being a Muslim as if that should disqualify him from the presidency. That kind of thing is just American ignorance. Folks, let’s get one thing straight – the people who want to tear this country down are the entire Islamic faith, just a few hotheaded extremists. There are plenty of Muslims on this planet who are believers in peace and prosperity for all. Not everyone who believes in the Koran wants to put women behind veils and party like it’s 999.

There are people who talk about the deficit like it is entirely the doing of Barack Obama. Once again, these are people who apparently slept through the Bush presidency (the second one). George W. Bush had a major surplus when he came into office; when he left we were nearly $6 trillion in debt according to the Office of Management and Budget. Ahhh, some conservative political pundits might say, but in Obama’s first year of office alone the debt soared to $7.5 trillion and is expect to near $10 trillion this year.

Let’s understand a few things about that debt. One of the biggest contributory factors to the debt was the war in Iraq. It was the largest single expenditure that the government was making. Let’s not even get into the spurious reasons that we got into that war in the first place, the phantom WMD and the excuse for Big Oil to raise their prices through the roof; that was a war that Obama opposed and that Bush initiated. That aspect of the debt is all Bush’s, even that which was spent during the Obama presidency. Many of the bail-out programs that also contributed significantly to the debt were initiated by the Bush presidency as well.

Of course, Obama could have acted earlier to stymie both of those hemorrhagic costs, but he didn’t and so spending went through the roof. Now, he has a healthcare system which is due to take effect in 2014 that will be a major expense; however, I put it to you that I’d rather spend money saving lives rather than taking them. I’m kind of funny that way though.

Some people are downright psychotic when it comes to Obama, on both sides of the fence; Obamanauts who think he can do no wrong, and their opposition who think he can do no right. The truth is somewhere in the middle; he has done some good things, some not so good things but in the end I tend to support his viewpoints more than I did Bush’s which I thought were ruinous to the economy and tarnished our image around the world. Can we ever take the moral high ground again after we willfully tortured prisoners from Iraq? That didn’t happen under Obama’s watch, my friends.

There is certainly some who are judging the current President based on the color of his skin. I don’t think disagreeing with President Obama makes you a racist; however, it can also be said that some of those who disagree with the President are racists. In fact, there is no doubt about it; the vitriol of the hatred directed at him indicates to me that these people are the same sorts who in years past would have worn a hood and burned crosses. Maybe some of them still do.

But I wouldn’t tar everyone with that same brush. Some Obama-haters do so because they really think his policies are ruining this country and turning us into a socialist state. Frankly, I think that after years of rampant capitalism to the point of abusiveness, we could use a little socialism to balance out the big business gone wild kind of atmosphere we have now. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the individual citizen who needs protection from the excesses of corporate greed that helped start the economic meltdown in the first place. My problem with Obama is I’m not sure he’s been the protector of the citizen I would like him to be; big business needs to be reined in and regulated since they have proven beyond any doubt that they cannot regulate themselves, and the President hasn’t shown any signs that he’s willing to do that. If he doesn’t, conditions will pretty much continue the way they are indefinitely.

To think that Obama is in some sort of conspiracy to destroy America is absolutely ludicrous and absurd. There is absolutely no evidence of that other than the sorry manufactured factoids that rightist bloggers and pundits have formulated, scare tactics to alarm those who are looking for an excuse to find fault. I wonder if we had elected a white president with the exact same policies would we be hearing the same types of things. Probably to an extent we would – as I said, taking shots at the President is an American tradition, but I bet that there would be no Hitler comparisons on billboards if he were white. That’s just disrespectful, not just to the man but to the office. At least let’s agree that if you don’t like the man, you respect the office and act accordingly.