Thursday, December 23, 2010

Review of World's Fair Podcast Episode 22

Am just listening to Episode 22 of the World's Fair Podcast, which Urso and I recorded a few weeks ago, interviewing 'World's Fair Magazine' founder and editor Alfred Heller.

This was really a great podcast, interviewing one of the 'greats' in World's Fair's living legends.

I first came across World's Fair Magazine when I was working for the Press Center of the Taejon International Exposition in 1993 (Korea) and the latest issue had been distributed there, with much excitement.

I remember being fascinated by this microcosm of World's Fair commentary - which gave an in depth critique and insight into the Korean Exposition.

We have to remember that this is way before the internet, Facebook, online blogs and the so, so most information was distributed through print newspapers, or the TV news, or with regards to the Expo itself, the job of the Press Center was to make available in many languages press materials about the Expo for the visiting Foreign Press Corp and/or visitors to the Expo.

At the conclusion of the Expo, I made a point of collecting as much of the official pamphlets and reports as I could, as a legacy of the Expo, knowing that most of it would be relegated to filing cabinets out of the public's reach.

And in the midst of this, my copy of World's Fair Magazine, survives omnipresent, as an extra special souvenir of the Fair.

World's Fair Magazine unfortunately would only continue until 1995, but that 1993 issue of the magazine still held a lot of special memories for me - as a recognition of the special world of World Expositions - that I too - as veteran of three World Expositions - shared.

Alfred Heller went on to write the seminal publication "World's Fairs and the End of Progress" and as the internet age came of being, it seemed logical that should take over the role that World's Fair Magazine once held.

And from the resources held on the 1988 page of, I decided to establish a comprehensive website for World Expo '88, which ultimately is now hosted at

One of the talking points of the interview with Alfred Heller was the much maligned (by US nationals) USA Pavilion at Shanghai World Expo 2010.

As a non-American that visited the Pavilion - actually on the last day of the Expo - Sunday 31 October 2010 - I have to say that I disagree with the overall negative commentary of the USA Pavilion and actually agree with the more upbeat USA State Department survey of the Pavilion - which showed the Chinese nation the innovation, warmth, and soft power of the World's greatest superpower.

The Student Ambassadors - which engaged humourously - and in fluent Chinese - with the Chinese audience - the pre-show which followed on with the theme focusing on every-day Americans attempting to say "Welcome to the USA Pavilion" in Mandarin - gave a further snap shot of American society, and the first show with it's welcome by Hilary Clinton and clincher with Barack Obama highlighted American youth and environmental innovation by American enterprises, followed by the main show "Urban Garden" where once again an American youth took centre stage to display her journey in creating a garden space for her apartment block's dilapidated and vacant corner block.

The Student Ambassadors engaged with the audience at the beginning of each presentation, telling the audience where they studied Chinese, where they came from, details of their family and pets, as well as sharing a joke or two in Mandarin (or Shanghainese) - much to the audience's delight.

I compare this to the Australia Pavilion perhaps where much was also made of the bilingual Australia Pavilion attendants - however - in the Australia Pavilion's case they were largely reduced to giving directions and telling people to wait a few minutes more before the next presentation started - there was no introduction of the attendant's background or where they came from - just like perfunctory lift attendants they did their job - "Next floor - Manchester, China, Haberdashery"....

Although I will give more time to the Australia Pavilion later on....

Also much criticism was made of the "brash" corporate presence at the USA Pavilion - however I found this quite muted - and with the exception of the final corner ante-chamber of the Pavilion - where there was advertising from the sponsors, I found the overall presentation of the Pavilion was an enthusiastic demonstration of the corporate innovative spirit of the American people - and America's economic success is integral to the story of modern day America, is it not?

I leave you on this point....

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