Confronting my Clone Daddy -- Interface granularity in PTA
Time to get back into roleplaying, after not doing it for several months!
There is a Star Wars PTA (Prime-Time Adventures) game that I'm playing. I'm a wookie jedi fighting for independence for Kashykk! My father, a representative to the galactic congress, has been kidnapped and replaced with a clone who is loyal to a rival political faction, in order to keep Kashykk under the Republic's thumb. (We're playing the Clone Wars, except that we're pretending the prequel trilogy was never made. We're treating only the original trilogy as canon, so we get to decide for ourselves what "Clone Wars" meant. In our game, it's not a war fought by clone troopers: It's a war started because of the discovery that key political figures were really clones.)
Chris has been doing a great job of GMing this (he talks about it on his blog), throwing out really stellar Bangs and then freestyling the rest. I really like roleplaying with him because he has a knack for figuring out the PERFECT situation to hit a character with; things that put the character on the horns of a dilemma while advancing the plot AND resonating thematically. Like Sushu's character's superior officer ordering her on an ethically dubious mission for the greater good. And my fake clone daddy guilt-tripping me about the death toll that Kashykk's rebellion is causing. Later, getting ambushed in a dark alley by my own clone, armed with my own stolen lightsaber-claws. These are the kind of things that make us yell "you BASTARD!" at the GM, but the whole time we're grinning and loving it.
Some observations about playing PTA:
In general I like it but I feel like it moves a little fast for me - it's great that you can get a whole lot of satisfying plot progression done in 3 hours but I always feel like I'm a little rushed, like we skimmed over some stuff that would have been interesting to explore in more detail.
There's a lot of story brainstorming openly going on at the table during the game (this is the same as my previous experiences with PTA). It's common for the producer(GM) to literally ask you "What do you think should happen next? If you don't have any ideas, I've got one..." A couple of possibilities for a scene are thrown out and round-tabled before one is chosen.
It's a constant reminder that we are all making up a story together, which also serves as a reminder that I'm not really my character and that the GM doesn't know The Secrets Of The Universe any more than I do. It makes character immersion hard (in stance terms, you're almost always in Director Stance, seldom in Actor Stance). I like character immersion, but I also like collaborative storytelling. So it's an acceptable trade-off; some games are good for immersion, others aren't.
Giving and receiving fanmail feels really good! What feels bad is when you want to give fanmail but you technically can't because there's no spent budget yet this session. Another bad feeling is realizing that even though there was some amazing scene that deserved it, everyone forgot to give fanmail for it and now it's too late. (I sometimes find myself thinking "Oh no, the producer only has 2 budget left, this episode is going to end too soon unless we burn more fanmail..." Is that bad?)
The card flip resolves the main conflict of the scene, so there's always a lot of discussion about what's really the main conflict of the scene (or if there is one at all). Getting this right is important, but it's also tricky. E.g. I'm in a burning, rapidly collapsing starport and I'm trying to lift some spaceship wreckage so some engineers can escape. The conflict is not "can I lift the wreckage" (of course I can, wookies are strong) or even "do I get out of the starport", but rather "Do I rescue anybody" - because my character's issue (right there on his sheet) is "Morality of war?" and the way that's being expressed in this episode is that I'm trying to find out whether I can be a warrior who saves lives instead of a warrior who kills people. And if I can't rescue anybody, that's going to be a big blow to my idealism. Mis-identifying the conflict can really ruin a scene in this game, by breaking the connection between the scene and your character issues.
The card flip resolves the main conflict of the scene, AND it tells you who narrates (most red cards wins conflict, but highest individual card narrates). That means that you know the outcome first and then, while narrating, you decide the specific events of the conflict that led to that conclusion. This retroactive narration can feel a little bit anti-climactic because when you say e.g. "I shoot one of the police aircars with my grappling hook gun and whip it around a lamppost so it goes off course and crashes into the other one" you already know it's going to work because you see that king of hearts on the table. You're really just showing off with a cool description at that point, it doesn't actually matter what you say.
There's very little in the way of rules about what you can and can't narrate. Generally anything other than the resolution of the main conflict is considered incidental details up to the imagination of the narrator. Technically that means you can have a planet explode as a side-effect of two people having a conflict over who's going to make breakfast; only your sense of story logic and fair play prevents it. Generally people don't go that far, but there's a lot of grey area where it feels like you're cheating a little by getting free stuff as incidental narration details.
When we're playing PTA, we're constantly saying things like "And then there's a close-up on my face so you can see the burning starport reflected in my eyes, and one little tear rolls down my face". It's totally visual description, using the visual language of TV. We describe close-ups, slow-motion, flashbacks, what the background music sounds like, and whether a scene transition uses a wipe (Star Wars is so in love with wipes! It's crazy.) Sometimes we even talk about how cheap our props look, or that you can tell an effect is done with blue-screen because you can see a fuzzy border around the spaceship! All this stuff is, again, kind of the opposite of immersion -- but it's really fun, and it gives you "permission" to be silly and self-aware and abuse TV tropes.
Sushu describes this as "a cheat" - an easy way to get all the players on the same page and give them a common vocabulary for describing things, to keep things flowing smoothly with fewer mismatches of imagination. Even when you're playing a genre that some are not real familiar with, like playing a space opera with non-science-fiction-fans, everybody knows what a TV show looks like and how characters talk on TV so you can sort of fall back on that. Some RPGs, especially ones with weird settings, have trouble getting that level of shared understanding; it's why I've never been able to get into Exalted - I just can't grasp what it's supposed to feel like. I've had a similar problem with Sushu's Jiang Hu game, so of course she's looking for possible solutions.
The scene where I fought my clone was so great. (Speaketh my fake clone daddy: "You'll serve us one way... or another." SO GOOD.) He didn't have my years of Jedi training, so he was fighting with brute force - I knew the weaknesses of my own fighting technique from the beginning of my training and used that knowledge to defeat him. He was at my mercy; after a minute of indecisiveness I decided to kill him rather than leave him alive to cause trouble later. It was a pretty major character development moment: I had played my guy as having some anger management issues and a hatred of clones, but this was my first ever murder-in-cold-blood. Could it foreshadow a turn to the Dark Side? (BUM BUM BUUUUM!)
But right after that scene, this weird thing happened that I want to talk about. I think it illustrates some deeper role-playing issues.
So I was on Corsucant and I had just killed my clone. The obvious next move, in terms of story progression, was pretty obvious -- it was time to track down Fake Clone Daddy in the Senate chambers and confront him, maybe see if I could unmask him publically somehow, maybe issue him an ultimatum.
But I didn't do that. Instead, I stopped to think logically about my situation.
Alone, outnumbered, in the heart of the enemy capitol, with no idea how to locate my fake clone daddy, let alone a plan for getting past the defenses that he would obviously have, or how to prove to the rest of the Senate that he was an impostor? Meanwhile my enemies know where I am? Dude, that's a terrible situation. I started worrying about having a plan that made logistical sense and getting everything done in the right order, A to B to C - I have to find a ship to get offworld and round up some contacts from the separatist movement who can help me create a distraction while I look up my mother who is a deep undercover spy and get information from her about where I can ambush Clone Daddy...
Of course the game ground to a screeching halt while I ran through all this stuff in my head. I kind of killed the great momentum we had built up.
I'm still not sure why I got into this strange mood where I was all worrying about the logistics. Part of it was that feeling I described earlier, that we were speeding through things that would be interesting to play out in more detail; so I wanted to play a little slower and more thoroughly. But part of it was also that stopped thinking about "what would be cool to see on a TV show" and started thinking "What would I really do if I was in a realistic version of this situation."
I ended up doing a couple scenes where I went off-planet to round up support and then had to sneak back in. And then I ended up confronting my clone daddy in the Senate chambers anyway, and it was an awesome scene! But the thing is, it's exactly the same awesome scene as if I had just gone straight there immediately.
PTA is, to put it mildly, not a game that rewards logistical thinking. It's not like you get bonus cards for sound tactics in this game. I think Ben Lehman sa id something about it working well when you "take seriously the idea that it is about good TV, and don't try to play it like GURPS Lite".
In GURPS, if you said "I want to confront my father's impostor" would be a request for a year-long character-specific sub-quest that would get addressed with occasional scraps of a clue whenever the GM remembered to include one. If you ever did find and confront him, it would be as a result of executing thousands of individual actions involving skill checks and attack rolls and movement. Because the interface of GURPS (along with D&D, etc.) requires that you execute your desires at that level of granularity.
In PTA, "I want to confront my father's impostor" is a scene request. You get a turn to request a scene, and the Producer generally gives you what you request. Something that would take many, many sessions in a crunchy, GM-driven traditional RPG like GURPS is effectively a single turn in PTA.
Because that's the level that PTA's interface works at. You name a place for the scene; you don't have to justify exactly how you got there, or how you knew where it was, or how long it took you, or that you had the right items in your inventory, or that you had enough spaceship fuel, or anything like that. It's TV: you're just like "External shot of the Senate building in Coruscant, night time; then cut to inside, and I'm descending from the ceiling on my grappling hook gun..." and everybody's like "Cool".
PTA and GURPS are more or less on opposite ends of a scale, here. I don't know any games more granular than GURPS or less granular than PTA (with its single-resolution-per-scene). There's a lot of room in between.
It might be a useful thing to think about, in game design: What kind of interface does your game have? What level does that interface operate at? What are the "basic moves" in your game? Is it like a text adventure, where basic moves are very concrete and physical - "Go west; light torch; poke statue with stick" ? Or is it like a TV show, where the basic "moves" are scenes and character confrontations and dramatic choices? Or something else?
And when you know what the interface of your game should be, how do you communicate that to your players? I don't think most games do a good job of explaining their interfaces. I'm remembering the time my mom tried to play D&D and she was confused -- like "I don't understand what are the things I can do in the game; is there like a list?" When I was getting logistical in PTA, I think that was an example of me playing to the wrong interface.
Shanghai World Expo 2010
In America we don't hear much about the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, but in China and many other parts of the world it is A Very Big Deal Indeed. About half a million people have been attending per day. It's a continuation of the grand tradition of World Expos, the spiritual descendant of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair that brought us the first Ferris wheel among many other innovations. It's also a chance for Shanghai to show off its might as an up-and-coming Global City of Tomorrow and not coincidentally, a chance to one-up its rival city Beijing for hosting the Olympics.
(Above: fast clean shiny new subway built for the expo.)
Sushu and me spent a very full week there and had a lot of fun. Even in a week, we only saw a tiny part of the expo. It would take months to see everything.
The Expo is going on through October, so you still have a chance to plan a trip there, if you are going to be in China for some reason or if you have the money to fly there. My general advice if you're going to the Expo is:
- Plan on spending at least a week. There is a LOT to do. They sell multi-day passes, which are a good deal, and also lower priced evening passes for when you don't want to stay a whole day.
- Eat before you go. The food sold at the expo is uniformly overpriced and mediocre. Each pavilion sells some food from its own country, and they make it look really good on the menu, but then they give you mostly plain rice or noodles and really skimp on the meat and vegetables. It feels like a cheat, especially when Shanghai street vendors sell such extremely awesome food (all kinds of fried dumplings and steamed buns) for very, very cheap.
- Bring water bottles and a wide-brimmed hat. The Shanghai summer sun is very hot; you'll want shade and you'll get very thirsty. There are free water bottle refill stations.
(Just remember not to twist or beast the faucet!)
- Leave your swiss army knife at home. They have airport-style security rules and metal detectors. I lost my Leatherman because I didn't know better. |:-(
- If you want to get into the popular countries (the G8 countries, approximately), be prepared for multi-hour lines. Bring a book, a parasol, and a portable folding stool to sit down on. You will get to know your line neighbors. See my pictures from The Line Of Doom, below.
- You can get into the less popular countries (Lebanon, Uzbekistan, Angola...) without waiting in barely any line at all. But they're less popular for a reason -- their pavilions are not as cool. It's up to you.
Each participating country (which is almost all of them) has a national Pavilion. The architects for these pavilions pretty much let their imaginations go wild. It looked like a fleet of colorful alien spaceships from all over the universe had descended on downtown Shanghai.
There are lots of other things to do besides the national pavilions, like seeing kung-fu shows, dances, industrial invention showcases, etc. There was even a "Hall of Oil".
But we didn't make it to any of those. The national pavilions were more than enough for one week.
The supposed theme of the Expo was "Better City, Better Life". Whatever that means. China wanted to have some sort of dialogue about sustainable urbanization and quality of life and stuff. Few countries had anything interesting to say about this topic, in their pavilions anyway. Many paid lip service to "Better City, Better Life"; some ignored it; others turned in the equivalent of an essay penned by a high school student who skimmed the reading the night before it was due.
The dialogue I'm used to hearing about globalization puts America at the center of the universe -- it's either about McDonalds opening up in Mecca or about American manufacturing jobs being lost to countries where they can make sneakers for pennies. But despite our power and influence we are not, in fact, the center of the universe, but just one country among many. So it was an interesting change of perspective to hear what the conversation is like when America isn't the center of attention, in fact when it's not part of the conversation at all. What side of itself did each country choose to put forward, how did it want to portray itself to an audience of mainly Chinese people? (Sure, people came to the Expo from all over, but so many Chinese people attended that the number of non-Chinese was a rounding error.)
I noticed there were three things that pretty much every country wanted to brag about:
- Our Vibrant Cultural Diversity!
- Our Commitment to Green Energy Technologies!
- Our Long History of Mutually Beneficial Cultural And Economic Exchange With China!
(Above: They had these electric buses running around the grounds because of how much they are totally into Green Energy Technologies.)
Apart from those three things, though, each country took a very different attitude towards its pavilion. Some were informative, museum-like, full of plaques and exhibits. Others were experiential, non-verbal guided tours, like something you would take in between rides at Disneyland. Still others were like strange art exhibitis.
Let's explore them one by one!
Australia's pavilion was glossy and high-tech, but also avante-garde, surreal, and confusing. It was kind of like one of those fancy commercials that shows you all sorts of cutting-edge film techniques and then leaves you scratching your head because they didn't actually show the product.
You have to walk through an ascending tube of brown plastic. It's like being squeezed through some creature's digestive system. You squeeze through a forest of upright digeridoos, look at an upside-down city on the ceiling, see some random infographics, and then watch a nonsensical movie about three big-headed mutli-ethnic Australian children projected onto a retractable rotating cylindicral LCD screen while disco lights flash and creepy voices chant "BUILD A BETTER LIFE BUILD A BETTER LIFE BUILD A BETTER LIFE"
It was, um... OK, Australia, I'm not really sure what you're trying to do here but it's weirding me out a little.
Most Educational: Indonesia
Indonesia was one of my favorites. They had live music and cool architecture: an open-air zig-zag path that wound several stories upwards and then back down again. Theirs was the "museum" approach, showcasing Indonesia's amazing biodiversity, cool musical instruments, traditional crafts, weapons, languages, religious pilgramage sites (Borobudur is amazing! Why have I never heard of it before?), its rapid modernization and quickly growing Internet usage, its historical role in the spice trade as the native home of cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and nutmeg; its awesome natural wonders and its really cool shadow puppet theater. Totally made me want to go visit Indonesia and hear a live Gamelan orchestra performance.
Most educational, runner-up: Morocco
Morocco also did the museum thing, and their architecture was very classy. They had a whole fake Moroccan style street bazaar set up on the second floor.
Best Party: The Philippines
The Philippines was just a dance hall. There were some perfunctory exhibits around but mostly everybody was there for the DJ, who was spinning some pretty righteous beats. Rock on, Philippines. You know how to party.
Most Pretentious: China.
They made this enormous inverted pyramid which they call, I am not making this up, the "Oriental Crown". It towers over everything else, and they require special tickets to get inside it, over and above the tickets you're already buying just to get into the expo in the first place.
Everywhere you went, people were posing for pictures in front of the China pavilion. That was, like, the number one activity at the expo. People would climb to the top of the Nepal pavilion just to get a better angle for photos of themselves in front of the China pavilion.
It's hard to appreciate from these pictures just how enormous that thing is unless you get up close to it and see how small the people are. Each one of those legs is like an office building. In all these pictures it's much bigger and farther away than it looks.
We didn't go in because we didn't want to wait to get the extra special tickets. But that's OK. I hear the China pavilion is going to be left up permanently after the expo ends, so we can go there next year or something.
Most Disappointing: USA
That "USA Diner" looks so legitimate, doesn't it?
The USA almost didn't have a pavilion, since it wasn't in the national budget (we're broke). Hillary Clinton went around at the last minute getting a bunch of corporate sponsorships to pay for it... so the USA pavilion is basically the Hall Of Corporate Sponsors. Appropriate, maybe? But it still sucked.
You go in, they make you sit and watch one movie (it's a cringe-inducing one where a bunch of random Americans try to say things in Chinese and fail), then shuffle you to another theater for a second movie, made by Chevron, about how Children Are The Future, and then shuffle you to a third theater for a third movie, about a girl who wants to turn a vacant lot into a neighborhood garden, set to crappy alternative rock.
Note to movie theater designers claiming "4-D": Throwing water on the audience is not a "dimension".
And then after the 3rd movie they dump you in the Hall of Corporate Sponsors.
It's like, come on USA, we can do a lot better than that. We got upstaged by freakin' Angola, OK?
Most Randomly Amusing: Pakistan
Most of Pakistan's pavilion had that "report done at the last minute" quality, as if nobody in Pakistan knew anything about Pakistan until they looked themselves up in an encyclopedia to make some quick plaques with random factoids for their expo pavilion.
But then you get to the Mango of Friendship.
Apparently Pakistan once gave Chairman Mao some mangoes, and he really liked them or something, and now the mango is the symbol of friendship between Pakistan and China. Or at least, it is according to the entire wall that the Pakistan pavilion devotes to the GLORIOUS MANGO OF FRIENDSHIP.
Silliest Name in Chinese: Portugal
As I'm sure I've mentioned, the Chinese written language deals with foreign words by assigning them a set of arbitrary characters that sound similar; the normal meaning of the characters is ignored, but sometimes it's just too funy to ignore. Like, the characters for "Portugal", pronounced "Putaoya", literally mean "grape tooth".
Creepiest: North Korea
North Korea and Iran are right next to each other. I knew it! They are an Axis of Evil! Where's Iraq?
Inside, North Korea was about as creepy as you would imagine. It was mostly devoted to giant monuments, pictures of giant monuments, and models of giant monuments that you could pose in front of. A giant chorus sang the Dear Leader's prasises on giant video screens.
Even weirder, there was almost no writing anywhere except for a giant sign on one wall that said: "A PARADISE FOR PEOPLE!" People named Kim Jong Il, maybe.
And for some reason they were selling books of the Dear Leader's thoughts on... operas?
Longest Line: Saudi Arabia
I'll pass thanks.
From the Internet, it seems that the big draw is that Saudi Arabia built a spherical Omnimax theater. You can stand in the center of it and be surrounded, 360 degrees, top and bottom, by movies about, I don't know but I would guess something to do with the glory of Islam.
Stupid Saudi Arabia, upstaging everybody with your petro-dollars.
I wonder if some of these lines feed on themselves. Like if people see that a pavilion has a two-hour line, and say to themselves "Well I've got to see whatever is so amazing that all these people are standing in line for it for two hours" and so by the next day the line is up to three hours, and then people think it must be even more amazing, and so on.
Best Free Swag: Slovenia
Slovenia designed their pavilion like a library, and gave away copies of a book by Slovenian philosopher (whats his name?). The book itself is an impenetrable mass of neo-Marxist jargon about dehumanization, so that was a little disappointing, but it was still better swag than anybody else was giving away. The Slovenian pavilion as a whole was a small but very pleasant diversion that definitely left me with a positive impression of a country I otherwise know next to nothing about.
Best Smashing of Stereotypes: Mexico
Mexico's pavilion is actually built underground, beneath this hill covered with odd umbrella-tree things.
If the Philippines was a dance hall, Slovenia was a library, and America was a movie theater, then Mexico was a fine art gallery. They showcased the work of Mexican painters, sculptors, and philosophers on the theme of "disappearing cultural memory" and how urban development erases the physical records of the past, like Mexico City paving over Tenochtitlan. They had some cool multimedia exhibits, like interactive touch screens about ecological science and water usage, and this room of masks that you could look through to see scenes of everyday life in Mexico.
It was pretty much 180 degrees away from all the stereotypes of Mexico that we get here in the States.
Biggest Missed Opportunity: Iran
I felt like Iran could really have used their pavilion to smash stereotypes of their country, showcase their youth culture as well as the millenia-old epic grandeur of Persian culture...
but instead it was mostly rugs and pictures of the Ayatollah. Blah.
They did show off Iran's first satellite. That's kind of cool.
Biggest Missed Opportunity, 2nd Place: Malaysia
Malaysia is probably a fascinating country and I would have loved to learn more about it. But I didn't learn anything from its pavilion, which felt like a mall - just a lot of shops and advertisements for Malaysian products (e.g. condoms made from Malaysian rubber trees).
Most Orcs: New Zealand
Well OK they actually only had one picture of an orc. New Zealand's pavilion is a dark and slightly spooky maze on the inside, that eventually opens out onto to a cool rooftop jungle.
Most Puzzling Architectural Choices: Japan
Japan, what were you thinking? Not only did you decide to make your pavilion in the shape of a giant organic mound with protruding tubules, you also apparently decided to paint it with Games Workshop "Tentacle Pink" paint?
Supposedly Japan's pavilion was designed to evoke a "silkworm pupa", representing one of the many crafts that ancient Japan learned from ancient China. But to me it kind of looks more like a Hatchery halfway through being upgraded to a Lair.
I heard the roof has integrated solar panels, and the energy they collect is used to slowly raise and lower the roof over the course of hours, so the building gradually pulsates. Yes. It breathes.
We had to know what was inside that cocoon. Even if it meant waiting in a...
Four and a half hour line.
We were prepared, though. The expo is quite good about warning you how long lines are before you get in them. They have electronic billboards and announcements that tell you the state of the lines, like a traffic report. So we knew exactly what we were getting into.
We brought two folding stools, purchased for 10 RMB each from a man on the street the night before (who must have been making a fortune.) We brought a lunch of KFC and grapes, an umbrella to keep the sun off, fans, water bottles, and books to read. We made a day of it.
Mercifully, they installed water pipes over the main line areas, to periodically spray us with a cool mist. Like we were vegetables at the grocery store.
I'm not going to give up on this line. Not even if I have to go to the bathroom. I have to know what's inside the cocoon!
Eventually we got to know our line neighbors. There was a whole elementary school class in matching uniforms who were on a field trip from Anhui province, some 7 hours drive to the west. They were not shy about wanting to practice their English so we chitchatted with them a little bit.
Like Japanese kids, the phrase "Oh my God!" is apparently one of the first English sentences that Chinese kids know. They said they learned it from the TV. Then they were all "Do you like NBA?" cuz they wanted to talk about Kobe Bryant. They were real disappointed when I said "no".
Then of course it was "Do you like Michael Jackson?" followed by a grainy cell-phone clip of Beat It. I did my best "Billie Jean" moves. Hey, everybody in the line was bored, might as well give them something to watch.
Sushu and me took turns reading out loud from our book ("Napoleon's Buttons: 17 Molecules that Changed History", the chapter about dye molecules). The schoolchildren were, like, totally amazed that we could read English so good, and kept coming over to peek at the pages and shout out words they recognized.
Oh hey it's time to go in! Those three and a half hours positively flew by.
The contents were kind of cool, but three-and-half-hours-line worth of cool? Not really.
The inside starts out with a lot of the typical "Japan's four seasons" tourist crap. I love how Japan always includes images of geisha in stuff like this, despite the fact that the number of active professional geisha left in the whole country has gotta be, what, like twelve? In the double digits. It's not exactly a popular career choice these days.
Then they showed us a lot of tech demos, including a robot that plays the violin, some high-tech camera action, and tiny personal-pod cars made by Toyota. Then they made us watch a movie about the Crested Ibix which was almost extinct in Japan but then bred in captivity and re-introduced to the wild as part of some kind of Japan-China joint conservation program.
Then they put on a super weird play, ALSO about Crested Ibixes. It combined elements of Noh with elements of Chinese opera. A dude in a Noh mask drove one of the tiny Toyota pods around the stage, warbling about the Crested Ibix, while black and white animation played on a screen behind him.
If you were wondering what's Japan's answer to the Pakistani Mango of Friendship, now you know: it's the Crested Ibix.
Puzzling Architectural Choices, 2nd Place: Macao
Macao is a Chinese island province with partial self-rule, like Hong Kong. Its history is similar to Hong Kong's, too, except instead of recently getting it back from Britain, they recently got it back from Portugal.
Hong Kong and Macao both got mini-pavilions standing in the shadow of the overbearing China pavilion. This was a pretty clear message to Taiwan's pavilion across the street: "Hey Taiwan, don't think that just because you've got a pavilion that means you're an independent country. You're just another wayward island province like these guys..."
Anyway Macao made the questionable decision to put a giant rabbit head on top of their pavilion. Huh?
Most Creative: the UK
What is that giant sea-urchin thing? Oh, it's the United Kingdom pavilion.
Instead of using their pavilion to show off The Greatness Of British Culture as most other countries did, the UK was just like: "Here, we made a cool thing for you. Enjoy!" It was very laid-back.
This was about a 90-minute line, which seemed like nothing after Japan's line.
Called the "Seed Cathedral", the UK pavilion is a giant sea urchin shaped thing. The spines are made of clear plastic and slightly flexible, so they sway in the breeze.
An opening leads to a single room in the center of the structure. There, all of the spines come together, and at the inner end of each one is encased the seed of a different plant. Some 80,000 plant species in all.
I guess it's supposed to be a statement about biodiversity or something, but whatever. Mainly it was just a cool thing to check out.
Around the back of the Seed Cathedral was a pleasant little Astroturf-covered park-like area, with the Beatles' greatest hits piped in; a place to relax away from the chaos of the crowds and lines outside.
One I'm saddest about not seeing: South Korea.
It was a big one with very cool architecture based on letterforms, and they seemed to be doing some kind of traditional drumming show on the bottom floor, which I would have liked to have seen.
But it was another 4-hour line, so, um, no.
India had a super high tech display technology that projected 3-d holograms onto the empty air in the middle of a cube, but unfortunately they used it to show an amazingly bullshitty movie analogizing the functions of a city's infrastructure to the different chakras of the body.
Nepal recreated a religious pilgramage site, complete with prayer flags and stupa etc. (They should have made the line wrap around the stupa seven times; that way people could achieve salvation while waiting in line!)
Angola had a dude lurking behind the curtain next to the door. As people walked in blinking from the sun he would jump out and spray them with a squirt gun. Scared the shit out of people. They would jump like a foot in the air. It was fun to watch.
I really like Angola's statues, especially the expression on the woman's face.
Angola's was small but pretty informative, with some well done video presentations about their environment and major industries. One of their plaques acknowleged the history of the slave trade and the toll it took on the area, which made Angola the only pavilion I saw at the whole expo that didn't completely blot out anything negative from its own past.
In American media, Africans are usually portrayed as 1. helpless victims that need aid, or worse 2. savages. So it was cool to see how they portray themselves when they're in control of their image. A lot of the African pavilions were like "Hey! We're Nigeria! We're awesome! Our economy is growing really fast! Come invest in our businesses!"
Humans, our most prized posession! I'm way too amused by this sign. A questionable translation makes it sound like they're talking about slavery.
Venezuela had lots of videos of how great Hugo Chavez is, a statue of Simon Bolivar, and a nice area with hammocks that visitors could relax in. They live band playing cha-cha-cha type music, who dragged a random Chinese guy up on the stage and made him sing the chorus with them.
Did you know Luxembourg (above) is the only remaining Constitutional Monarchy? And it has a population of only 500,000. So probably more people have been to the Luxembourg pavilion than have ever been to Luxembourg.
Pavilions We Didn't Make It Inside Of:
(Above: Taiwan. The giant glowing orb is a spherical LCD screen that projected constantly changing colors and images.)
Phew! That's a lot of pavilions. And a lot of walking - by the time we got done, the blisters on my feet had blisters, and those blisters also had blisters.
Thus concludes our trip to the world expo. Next up: the Japan part of our summer trip!