Sports & Entertainment (but not in that order)

March 30, 2009 at 7:40 pm | Posted in School, Travel | Leave a comment
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In the Pictures

After a day spent in the clutches of heavy mining and petrochemical companies, our next day of business visits turned to somewhat lighter fare: the local market-leading purveyor of entertainment, Globo.

A modern day Brazilian equivalent to the great American media empires of img_destaque_home_vendas_offyore, Globo’s reach extends to the populace through TV, newspapers, magazines, cable, and internet. Unbelievably, the average Brazilian consumes over five hours of television a day (the only country with higher TV consumption than the US), and thus the majority of Globo’s efforts are focused here.

Their PR representative, overflowing with energy from what I believe to have been at least seven cups of Brazilian high-test, explained that Globo’s dominance was so complete, so absolute, that advertisers need not bother with viewer segmentation data before buying ad time on their network, because you have all the demographics watching all the time.

When you have a staggering 56% market share amongst all TV networks, you can say things like that with a straight face. It really is a sight to behold.

She went on to explain how the Telenovela’s were produced, really more of an entertainment factory than entertainment art, with a staff of writers, actors, and actresses kept on salary throughout the year and mixed and matched in different programs at the studio’s discretion.

The writer’s bungalows were on site, mere feet from the sets, all hearkening back to the 1950’s Hollywood studio system that brought us the mega-musicals and westerns of old. TV and movies being churned out as product rather than portrayal, waiting patiently for the Brazilian Spielberg or Scorcese to arrive and smash the entire system to bits.

We were toured throughout the sets, all well-made static images of contemporary domestic bliss. Being Americans, we, of course, instead took this opportunity to use the various props to depict acts of aggression and violence.

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Everyday Low Prices, part two

Next up was the now required, after the incredible experience of China’s equivalent, visit to Wal-Mart. A note on that: once you’ve seen the absurdity of foreign Wal-Mart, China particularly, you will, I’ve found, be overwhelmed with the desire to visit Wal-Mart whenever you visit a new country or state, just to see if they can top that.

dsc04684Brazilian Wal-Mart was, well, it was pretty much just like American Wal-Mart but with different brands. Large and sprawling, clean and calm, it felt a bit like coming home. Home to buying in bulk, paying less than things are worth, and the homogenization of brands and products. Ahhhhh. Delicous.

Full disclosure, one of the Wal-Mart grocery clerks was wearing roller skates. I admit to never having seen that in America. Leave it to Brazilians to find a way to blend athleticism and fitness into the act of stocking grocery shelves.

Gooooooooooaaaaaallllll!

We capped the night off with a visit to a local soccer game in a very, very large soccer stadium full of very, very rowdy Brazilians. By my estimation, one particular section of the crowd sang one song for fifty minutes straight.

dsc04697Soccer isn’t usually my game of choice, but it was a fun night nonetheless. I took the opportunity to explain to my fellow travelers that if they just made a few slight changes to this game, it’d be a lot more enjoyable. Start by dividing the field into ten yard increments, elongate the ball a little, put all the players in full pads and helmets, and allow them to crash into each other at high velocity and, you know what, I think they might have something here.

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Great Indeed

November 23, 2008 at 3:22 pm | Posted in Travel | 1 Comment
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I Never Inhaled   

Shocking as it may be, the pollution  problems that we all read so much about during the 2008 Olympic games were, in fact, grossly understated. Our professors informed us that the air quality today was the worst that they had ever seen during their many trips to Beijing. I’m not sure that it’s adequately captured in the shots below; all I can say is this: that is not fog.

 

Throughout the morning there were complaints of shortness of breath and sore throats among the group; we have all fallen victim to a condition that we have coined “black boogie syndrome.” I think you can discern it’s symptoms from it’s rather eponymous name. I cannot fathom how these people exist in this environment on a daily basis. I try to remind myself that New York in the 1900’s or London in the 1860’s had similar problems with coal pollution, but actually wandering through these free floating particulate clouds yourself brings a whole new color to those stories. 

This is a national crisis that will soon develop into a global one. This problem will need to be addressed in the near future, and when it is, the solutions have to go beyond CFL’s and windmills. This will require amassive cultural shift. When the time comes, and I hope it will come soon, I’m just not sure that Captain Planet cartoons and Al Gore documentaries get it done over here.

Had a Great Fall

The fact that this country constructed a monument where the ability to be viewed from space was an unplanned, ancillary benefit, speaks volumes about the scale in which these people think. The Great Wall lived up to its name in every regard, and was a welcome relief to the crowded, polluted streets of Beijing. We split into two groups, the more adventurous of the two choosing to tackle the steeper, more aggressive section of the wall.

This turned out to be a better idea at the beginning of the hike than at the end, but an ultimately satisfying one nonetheless. We managed to make it to the “finale” of the section we were exploring, where, after having braved walls, winds, and inclines, we were turned back by a very polite little sign. No Visitors. 

We also made the decision to abandon the dragon motif of yesterday and instead focused on capturing recreations of famous album covers. This began with “Abby Road” but ultimately degenerated into various stagings of mock boy band covers. We are all clearly very pensive yet very distracted at the same time. By the by – behavior like this in a foreign country will eventually gain you quite the following. At the end of the affair we weren’t even posing for our own cameras anymore. I guess the truly bizarre part is that we kept doing it.

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Everyday Low Prices

We visited one of the new Beijing Wal-Marts as part of an assignment / contests between our teams. 

Goodness. 

Black Friday – that singular day, that retail extravaganza that American businesses look forward to all year? That’s basically a Tuesday here. It is shoulder to shoulder people spread out over three floors of the most bizarre groupings of products you have ever seen. As the store is full of brands that are all only a few years old in this country, companies have resorted to more of a “ground game” than you are likely to experience in the states. 

Every single aisle end-cap had a woman doing product demonstrations on everything from the very banal to the outlandishly obscene. I actually witnessed a young lady offering up sample of Cheerios not three feet away from a different woman teaching a crowd of people how to remove a turtle from its shell. Using live samples. I kindly offered up my advice to one woman that I thought the Cheerios to be a better choice for breakfast.

I don’t quite know if this video does the experience justice; I have tried to capture the noise and the pandemonium but will admit to being slightly unqualified for such a task. Asking me to express the full breadth of this to you with a three year old digital camera is a bit like asking James Cameron to re-shoot Jurasic Park with a pack of matches and some sock puppets.

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