July 24, 2014 § Leave a comment
It’s Babe’s city, and it’s the setting for one of the best cross-cultural films ever made—Babe: Pig in the City. When Babe and Esme Hoggett travel from their English farm to big-city USA, it’s not just Europe and the Americas colliding. There’s all sorts of collisions between species as well, with—to name a few—humans, dogs, cats, apes, mice, a duck, and, of course, a pig.
A wide shot of Babe’s city shows a wonderfully crowded skyline of landmarks from around the world. There’s the Chrysler Building, Big Ben, the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower, Christ the Redeemer, and more, all brought together in one metropolis.
Babe’s city was first revealed in 1998, and now, years later, it looks as if several skyscrapers have been added to its horizon. Not only that, but Franklin Templeton Investments has joined the neighborhood. The evidence is the Franklin Templeton commercial “Global Perspective,” which shows the additions of Burj Khalifa, the Petronas Towers, London’s “Gherkin,” and the list goes on. Of course, development comes with a price, as it seems that several structures had to be razed to make room for the new arrivals (Christ the Redeemer’s outstretched arms are nowhere to be seen). Makes sense. Rarely do you have enough real estate available to put in your own Mount Fuji.
So where exactly is Babe’s city? Well, in the movie, it looks as if it’s on the East Coast. And in the commercial, we can narrow it down to an area above Ben Franklin’s left eye. If that doesn’t make sense, you’ll need to watch the ad—and while you’re at it, see how many landmarks you can identify.
Brian Stokle at Urban Life Signs has analyzed the Franklin Templeton commercial and shows some pretty good evidence that the city has been built up on Downtown Vancouver. But I’m not convinced. To my knowledge, Babe has never set foot in Canada. (Visit Stokle’s post, “World Skyline,” for a rundown of the landmarks in the commercial, as well as a shot-by-shot description and other “geeky analysis and research.”)
“Global Perspectives” has been around for a couple years, and I may have seen parts of it before, but it caught my eye two weekends ago when I saw Taipei 101 sporting Benjamin Franklin’s face. That’s not as far-fetched as it might seem: According to a recent China Post article, Franklin Templeton Investments occupies office space in the Taiwan skyscraper. No word yet on when Ben’s face will actually adorn the facade.
April 29, 2014 § 2 Comments
When I wrote “8 Maps and Globes That Will Change Your Perspective of the World,” I decried the lack of an upside-down globe and suggested that Bellerby & Co. Globemakers might be able to help out. Peter Bellerby read the post and commented, “An upside down globe was actually in future planning!” and added, “Pictures to come soon, just been working on finishing the design today!” Well, five months later, Mr. Bellerby, true to his word, announced in his blog “Exactly Why We Made an ‘Upside-Down Globe.’” He also included a link to an article from Al Jazeera America, “How the North Ended Up on Top of the Map.”
In this month’s issue of United Airlines’ Hemispheres Magazine, Chris Wright tells of his visit to Bellerby and Co., where he saw a bespoke upside-down globe, commissioned by a Brazilian law firm. Rotating and repositioning all the place names, says Mr. Bellerby, was “a challenge.”
Even trickier, perhaps, was coming to terms with the way the new world looks. “It’s crazy,” Bellerby says, his nose inches away from the upward-pointing Cape of Good Hope. Also, unless you approach the globe on your hands and knees, a lot of the interesting stuff is hidden away.
“There’s so much going on in the Northern Hemisphere,” says Bellerby, pointing to a barren expanse of blue. “Even the Antarctic, which is amazing, is just a lot of white.”
I had checked on Mr. Bellerby’s progress after a comment a few days ago from a reader named Lori: “I, too, have been searching for an upside-down globe! I am amazed that nobody has made one. The world is waiting for this.”
Well, Lori, the wait is over, because the upside-down globe is here, not just for a law firm in Brazil but for all of us.
Well, actually, for most of us, the wait continues. Take a look at “The Upside Down Curve,” and you’ll see that it’s an impressive—and expensive—piece of art. Even the base was “designed by the team who made the accommodation pods for the British Antarctic Survey” and is “brought to life by heritage technicians from Aston Martin.” So with its price of £14,950 ($25,000), I’ll still be waiting for quite some time . . . for the exchange rate to collapse or for a dramatic increase in my disposable income.
Mr. Bellerby tells Wright in his article, “The idea of selling a globe with a mistake is my biggest horror.” That must mean that his studio is filled with not-quite-perfect attempts at perfection. So if I could get just a small piece of a discarded upside-down gore, that would be enough for me. I would frame it and display it proudly. Oh, Mr. Bellerby, that would make the minutes go by more quickly as I anticipate a complete upheaval of the global economy or a million-dollar inheritance from the secret rich uncle I’ve never met.
I can dream, can’t I? And I can wait. And I can think.
When I originally wrote about an upside-down globe, I closed with the phrase, “It’s got me thinking.”
I’m still thinking. This time, I’m wondering what would happen if a typical globe and a reversed globe were placed side by side. Would the result be something like this?
(Chris Wright, “Up Is the New Down: A Master Globemaker Turns the World on Its Head,” Hemispheres, April 1, 2014)
April 15, 2014 § 3 Comments
No peanut butter? Why, it seemed downright un-American. And not only that, but it was nothing less than a betrayal of my upbringing.
An American Staple
Writing in the Pacific Standard, Karina Martinez-Carter quotes Jon Krampner, author of Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, The All-American Food. “Peanut butter,” he says, “embodies the raw primordial heart of American childhood.”
PB&Js are so fundamental to our formative years that, according to the National Peanut Board, the average American will eat 1,500 before graduating from high school.
Peanut butter is part of what makes America America. Even those from outside our borders know it’s so.
While it’s not nearly so popular around the world, once people arrive in the US, they are pulled in by the gooey spread. After giving us another quotation from Krampner—“immigrant kids tend to take to it as a part of their Americanization process”—Martinez-Carter tells of her own experiences:
My father is a first-generation Mexican immigrant and my sister adopted from China, and our cupboard reliably contained a jar of peanut butter we dug into daily. Much like how my sister’s English as a Second Language class teacher screened the classic Disney movies for her kindergarten students to catch them up on cultural references, developing a taste for peanut butter is a component of the acculturation process in the U.S. It is sustenance for understanding America.
Peanuts have their own story to tell about immigrating to America. According to the National Peanut Board, Europeans first came across peanuts while exploring Brazil. Later, Spanish explorers brought peanuts back home from their excursions into the “new world.” From Spain, they were introduced to Asia and Africa. And finally, in the 1700s, Africans brought peanuts to what is now the US.
But it wasn’t until 1884 that Canadian Marcellus Gilmore Edson received a US patent for creating a peanut paste, which he used for making a type of peanut candy. In 1895, John Harvey Kellog invented his own version of peanut butter, a year after he and his brother invented corn flakes. And peanut butter got it’s public debut at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, when C. H. Sumner sold it at his concession stand.
Now, back to my can’t-find-the-peanut-butter dilemma. I’d already spread my jelly, and I had to eat. So I did what I had to do . . . and used Nutella instead.
The Hazelnut Alternative
I don’t know where it had come from.
Well actually I do. It had come from all over the world.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD), Nutella is such a good example of the “global value chain” that the group used the chocolate-flavored hazelnut spread as a case study for one of its policy papers.
Here’s the globality of Nutella: Ferrero, the Italian company that produces Nutella, is headquartered in Germany. The ten factories that make Nutella are located in the European Union, Russia, Turkey, North America, South America, and Australia. As for the ingredients, a list with their origins includes
- hazelnuts mainly from Turkey
- palm oil from Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and Brazil
- cocoa mainly from Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, and Ecuador
- sugar mainly from Europe
- vanilla flavor from the Europe and the US
Put it all together and you have a product that’s sold in 75 countries. OECD even made a map to show Nutella’s main suppliers, factories, and main sales offices.
Invented by Pietro Ferrero in the 1940s, Nutella has become the self-proclaimed “number one spread in Europe.” And while it hasn’t yet become a major competitor to peanut butter in the US, it does have it’s devoted Stateside fans.
Take, for instance, the students of Columbia University. Last year, the Columbia Daily Spectator, the school’s newspaper, launched headlines around the country when it reported that in just the first week Nutella was added to the menu at two dining halls, students went through $5,000 worth of the spread. Dining Services said that students were consuming up to 100 pounds of Nutella daily. And by “consuming,” I mean eating it for meals and stealing jars to take home. It was what one student called “all you can eat, and all you can hide.”
If that rate held up, noted the Spectator, it would cost the dining halls $250,000 a year.
But, alas, the numbers didn’t quite hold up. Another article in the newspaper two days later reported that the first week’s Nutella demand actually cost Dining Services $2,500, not $5,000, and the amount quickly faded to $450 a week after that. But even with the revised numbers, that’s still a lot of hazelnut spread.
I guess I can see the appeal. Nutella isn’t necessarily my thing, but I’m sure I would have liked it when I was in college. My mother never let me eat chocolate frosting by the spoonful when I was growing up, but at college, with no Mom looking over my shoulder, I could have eaten all the frosting . . . uh . . . Nutella I’d wanted.
Well, my college days are now long behind me, and I have new voices in my ear (many of which sound a lot like Mom’s). I don’t think I’ll ever develop an extreme taste for Nutella. I do like a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich, though. You really are what you eat, or at least you are what you ate when you were a kid. And I sure did eat a lot of PB&J sandwiches.
PB&Js. What a strange thing, my friend from Asia once told me. She had never seen one, but she’d heard about them. Why, she asked, would Americans want a sandwich made from peanuts, butter, and jelly. Strange indeed.
(Karina Martinez-Carter, “As American as Peanut Butter,” Pacific Standard, February 14, 2014; “Fun Facts,” National Peanut Board; “History,” Peanut Butter Lovers; Koen D. Backer and Sébastien Miroudot, “Mapping Global Value Chains,” OECD Trade Policy Papers, No. 159, OECD Publishing, 2013; Cecilia Reyes, “Nutella in Ferris Booth Costs Dining $5,000 per Week, in Part Due to Dining Hall Thievery,” Columbia Daily Spectator, March 5, 2013; Finn Vigeland, “University Says Nutella Cost $2,500 in First Week, less than $500 After,” Columbia Daily Spectator, March 7, 2013)
March 27, 2014 § 2 Comments
I can still see the container delivering our furniture and household goods as it shuddered around the street corner on the back of a truck in our Taipei neighborhood. It looked so very, very big, and in a single moment, we had become the rich Americans that we didn’t want to be.
If we were to move to Taipei again, we’d plan on buying most things there, since, through the years, we ended up replacing most of what we took over anyway. But this isn’t a post about what was in our container. Rather it’s about the containers themselves. In fact, it’s about 18,000 of them.
Containers look a lot smaller when they’re stacked up at a dock or on a ship—like multi-colored Lego blocks locked neatly together. And nowhere do they seem smaller than when they’re sitting atop a Triple-E.
18,000. That’s how many 20-foot containers that a Triple-E, the world’s largest ship, can hold. The Triple-E is class of container ships built in Korea by Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering for the Danish company Maersk. When production is finished, there will be 20 of these giant ships in service.
Just how big is the Triple-E? It is 400 meters (nearly a quarter of a mile) long, 59 meters (194 feet) wide, and 73 meters (240 feet) tall. Not counting ballast and cargo, it weighs about 55,000 tons. According to The Telegraph, it has enough space to carry 36,000 cars or 111 million pairs of shoes. It’s too big for the Panama Canal and no US port is large enough to receive it.
While the Triple-E is the largest ship in service, it’s not the largest ever built. The Maersk website World’s Largest Ship states that that title goes to the Knock Nevis, a super tanker that measured 458 meters (1,500 feet) before it was scrapped in 2010. And the Triple-E won’t hold the “biggest” distinction for long. Scheduled to begin service in 2017, the Prelude is being built by Samsung Heavy Industries for Shell. This “ship” won’t travel under its own power but will be towed to a location off the coast of Australia where it will be anchored, serving as a “floating liquefied natural gas platform.” The Prelude will be 488 meters (1,600 feet) long and will weigh over 600,000 metric tons.
But for the next few years, the Triple-E will reign supreme. Here’s a clip from Discovery’s series on the ship.
And this video is a time lapse of the Triple-E being built.
And, oh yeah, remember that comparison to Legos? Here’s another time lapse. This one is of someone putting together Lego’s version of the Triple-E (which can be yours for $149.99)
(Paul Kendall, “The Biggest Ship in the World,” The Telegraph, July 30, 2013; “The World’s Largest Ship,” World’s Largest Ship (Maersk); “Shell’s Record-Breaking Prelude Takes to the Water,” BBC News, December 4, 2013)
[photo courtesy of Maersk]
March 1, 2014 § Leave a comment
Speaking of films, there is that Academy Awards thing tomorrow night. I’m predicting a sweep for Frozen in its nominated categories: best animated feature and best original song.
If you haven’t heard “Let It Go,” the nominated song from the Disney film, then you 1) haven’t seen the movie, 2) don’t spend much time on YouTube, and 3) don’t live with a seven-year-old who’s memorized all the lyrics.
And if you haven’t heard the original, then you probably haven’t heard the version dubbed into 25 languages. Even if you have heard it, it’s worth another listen.
The English version of “Let It Go” is sung by the Tony Award winning singer and actress Idina Menzel, who voices the movie’s character Elsa. She’s the one singing the English at the beginning of the multi-language video. But even though the rest of the song sounds as if it is sung by her, believe it or not, it isn’t.
So who in the world was tasked with finding all those talented songstresses? Look no further than Rick Dempsey, senior vice president of creative for Disney Character Voices International.
“In a lot of cases I think we fooled some people into thinking that it’s Idina in all those languages,” Dempsey told NPR. “And that, of course, is the goal, to ensure there is character consistency and the voices are all very similar around the world.”
But all that work isn’t a one-man show. Dempsey told The Hollywood Reporter, “We have 76 people around the world in 19 offices that oversee films in 55 languages. Our goal is to make every audience feel like Frozen was made in their country for their people.”
The Los Angeles Times reports that the array of voice talents in “Let It Go” include Gisela (Castilian and Catalan), Serena Autieri (Italian), Willemijn Verkaik (German, Dutch), Takako Matsu (Japanese), Carmen Sarahi (Latin American Spanish), Marsha Milan Londoh (Malay), and Anna Buturlina (Russian).
And the impressive work of Dempsey’s crew on Frozen didn’t end with the only 25 versions of the feature song. While most stories report that Frozen has been dubbed into 41 languages, a Disney UK tweet puts the total at 43.
(“‘Let It Go': A Global Hit in Any Language,” NPR, February 24, 2014; Tim Appelo, “‘Frozen’ Composer Robert Lopez on the Perils of Translating ‘Let It Go,’” February 25, 2014; Rebecca Keegan, “‘Frozen': Finding a Diva in 41 Languages,” Los Angeles Times, January 24, 2014)
February 18, 2014 § 3 Comments
For those of you caught in the whites and greys of a brutal winter, know that the bright colors of spring will be here soon.
But until then, just to tide you over, here are two reminders of how colorful our world can be.
If Your City Were Covered by Post-it Notes
When I use a Post-it Note—usually canary yellow—it’s most often to remind me about something I need to do, such as make a phone call, pick up a gallon of milk, or schedule a doctor’s appointment. But with the introduction of its “Colors of the World” collection, 3M wants to remind us of places we’d like to be.
Each grouping of five complementary colors—sort of like those chips from the paint store—represents one of four cities from around the globe: Bangkok, Mykonos, New York City, and Rio de Janeiro.
As reported in a 3M press release, fashion stylist Brad Goreski, serving as Post-it Brand’s “color ambassador,” says,
Trends in fashion, design and pop culture are taking on more global influence, and of course, one thing that’s always in style is color. I am consistently inspired whenever I travel, and I love seeing how the Post-it Brand Colors of the World collection brings the hues from four very chic destinations to life, offering a color scheme inspired by the energy of these places.
It’s an interesting idea: What colors would your city be?
For a chance to win a trip to New York, enter Post-it’s City Escape Sweepstakes. Just create a name for one of the colors in the collection and write a short essay telling what it means to you in relation to the city it represents (or you can submit a photo or video instead). If I’m reading the rules correctly, the trips will be awarded by a random drawing, but the best entries can also be used in future promotions.
If Color Grabs Your Camera Lens
For another colors-based contest, go to Project World Colors. It’s a photo blog started and curated by world travelers and bloggers Naomi Hattaway and Anne Lowrey. Each month they announce a new color, share their own images, and invite other bloggers to craft their own posts based on that hue. Then, near the end of the month, they pick a blogger to feature (that’s the prize—sorry, no trip), and they also share a post from a guest contributor.
For instance, this month the color is red. The post from the featured blogger is at “Project #Worldcolors 2014, a Red February” at It’s Lynny Kansas. The guest contributor is Annie Griffiths, award-winning photojournalist and founder of Ripple Effect Images, which “document[s] the plight of poor women and girls around the world and highlight[s] the programs that are helping to empower them.”
PWC offers guidelines for participation and shares the following enthusiastic invitation:
We invite you to participate in a photo blogging collaboration that celebrates the places that color shows up in our lives and across the web. . . . The goal is to delve into the texture, the beauty and the diversity that color can bring in different parts of the world. Come play with us!