patriotism Tag

north korea, mass games, ariang games, pyongyang, may day stadium, photos (7)
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North Korea and the ‘Greatest Show On Earth’

The Mass Games It is, in some ways, misleading to call them ‘The Mass Games’. The enormous, grandiose, colour-drenched, epic performance has nothing to do with competition or playfulness. It is a 90-minute orgy of coordination, talent, dancing, acrobatics, music, patriotism and propaganda. The setting – in Pyongyang’s May Day Stadium – is impressive enough. It is generally accepted to be the largest stadium in the world, holding about 150,000 people. Although it has been used for football games, official functions and executions (yes, you read that right), its main purpose is as the home of the Mass Games. For each performance, there are more than 100,000 people involved. About 20,000 of them are children who sit in the stands and, by holding up signs, form a colossal picture background for each scene. Meanwhile, the rest of the performers appear on the stadium’s grass and gradually tell the story of two star-crossed lovers,...

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19 November
queen elizabeth, diamond jubilee, public relations, rejuvenation of the monarchy (4)
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The rejuvenation of the crown

Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee It wasn’t so long ago, I recall, that the Royal Family was a bit of a joke. An entire generation of them seemed unable to keep their private lives out of the tabloids with their adulterous, gaffe-prone, toe-sucking scandals. And the response to it all from the top left the public wondering why these people should be representing them. Oh, what time, a bit of clever public relations, and a lot of pageantry can change! To see the crowds in the mall and around Buckingham Palace this afternoon – more than one hundred thousand of them – shows how far the monarchy has come in the past decade or two. To see a gathering of such size, flags waving, is a rare sight for a head of state in a western democracy. When they cheered in unison, three hip hip hoorays, there was a genuine warmth, love and admiration...

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06 June
paraguay, itaipu dam, what to do in ciudad del este, biggest dam in the world
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That’s dam big!

Itaipu Hydroelectric Dam Paraguay When you think of Paraguay (which, admittedly, doesn’t happen often), you don’t necessarily think of engineering wonders of the twentieth century. But there, tucked away in the east of the country, is a marvel to rival some of the most famous constructions in the world. It is, though, as controversial as it is magnificent. Itaipu Dam – the world’s second largest hydroelectric project. Just the name is a source of pride for the Paraguayans. The enormous construction stretches across the Parana River to Brazil and is shared by the two countries. But it’s Paraguay that gets the most from it, both economically and in patriotic satisfaction. About 80 per cent of Paraguay’s energy supply comes from the dam. It is quite literally the country’s source of light. In a nation as poor as this one, it is seen as an accomplishment that has been unparalleled since it was opened...

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02 February
Texas state fair, dallas, fried food, ferris wheel, pig racing, state fair of texas
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Grease 3: The Texas Fair

Fair food at Dallas, Texas Just when you thought pizza couldn’t get any unhealthier, they gone deep-fried it. Not that it seems out of place at the Texas State Fair in Dallas. Deep-frying the food is pretty much mandatory at the food stalls, which could give you a coronary from just reading the menu. Deep-fried cookie dough, deep-fried salsa and even deep-fried beer are all on offer. The fair’s annual food awards recognise the art that is dunking something perfectly edible into a huge vat of oil until it tastes just like batter and grease. This year the best taste award went to the buffalo chicken in a flapjack while the most creative gong was given to fried bubblegum, which narrowly beat the deep fried pineapple upside down cake. “Oh, it’s just fair food”, people tell us. “You only eat it once a year”, they insist. It seems reasonable until you glance at...

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19 October
washington, national mall, US politics, economic problems, white house, lincoln memorial, washington monument
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Is the sun setting on America?

Sunset at Washington DC On a visit to Washington DC, I was reminded of that old phrase, “the sun never sets on the British Empire”. Walking down the National Mall, the sun was setting behind the Lincoln Memorial, casting an orange glow before darkness fell over America’s seat of government. It may seem a little bit tacky but the symbolism of the sun setting on the United States couldn’t be ignored. There’s a strong argument to be made that the superpower’s influence around the world is waning as the US finds itself powerless to tackle within its own borders a deep inequity that calls into question the fundamental standards on which it has stood for so long. I promise this will be the last of this series of political essays (and I know those of you who want more stories about restaurants that serve penis will be pleased to hear that). However,...

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11 October
JFK, John F Kennedy, Barack Obama, library and museum, Boston, Massachusetts, politics, analysis
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JFK – before he was an airport

JFK Presidential Library, Boston There’s a moment on a tour of the JFK Presidential Library that brings on tears. Around me, as I stood there, some people sobbed. I could even feel that slight sting in the eyes myself. The moment comes right at the end of the exhibits in the room dedicated to that fateful day in Dallas. Unlike the other rooms before, there were no glass display cabinets or typed explanations. It was just a room painted completely black, a date on the wall – ‘November 2, 1963’ – and television screens with that infamous broadcast of Walter Cronkite informing a nation they had lost a president. The sadness comes not from the act of the assassination itself, which is now a part of history rather than a pain in the national consciousness, but from the realisation of how great and inspirational a president can be. At a time in...

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07 October
boston freedom trail, history, politics, massachusetts, famous buildings in boston, how america's history has shaped it
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It’s time to grow up, America

The Boston Freedom Trail It’s in Boston, the city sometimes described as ‘the cradle of America’, that we pick up this story of ‘America, the resentful adolescent’. You see, to stick with this metaphor, the USA has been a rather spoilt child over the years. It was born into privilege with rights it feels are indisputably intrinsic. But as we’re about to find out, it might be time to pack away the cradle, to not rest on its birthright, and to make a name for itself as the adult it could be. Now, just before we go on, there are two things I need to say. The first thing is that I’m going to drop the silly child metaphor from here. And the second thing is that this is not a politically-motivated story and is not taking aim at either side of the ideological debate. What you’re about to read is an...

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06 October
Occupy Wall St New York, protest, demonstration, Wall Street, US, NYC
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Occupy Wall St

Not far from the New York Stock Exchange, which now has more barriers around it than a fortnight ago, protesters are still occupying a park as part of their campaign to… to… well, to do whatever they’re trying to do. The hundreds (and, at times, thousands) of people who have been gathering are committed to a cause. The problem is that it’s not necessarily a common cause – and it’s a cause that they have trouble enunciating. In theory, the campaign is based around the distribution of wealth, regulation of large companies and universal welfare. You wouldn’t necessarily know that on quick glance, though. The mainstream media has been giving the demonstration limited coverage and a lot of the independent journalism seems to have been fairly nonjudgmental, as if supporting the cause somehow makes them more in-touch than other media outlets. So I thought I would head into the financial district myself...

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30 September
"I'm just going to casually stand on the top of this mountain, if that's ok?"
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The US Imperialists started the Korean War

North Korea news In bookstores across North Korea, there’s quite a collection of literature for sale. The musings of Kim Il Sung seem to be quite a popular set of books. Kim Jong Il shares some pearls of wisdom in a few volumes as well. And then there’s everybody’s favourite paperback: “The US Imperialists started the Korean War”. It’s a title that’s about as subtle as it is accurate and pretty much sums up the propaganda that is served up daily to locals and tourists in North Korea. This isn’t just a whitewash of history – it’s a full white laundry service with some drycleaning thrown in as well. Again and again during our tour of the country, we’re told how the United States and their South Korean ‘puppet government’ ruthlessly invaded the north in 1950 for a variety of evil reasons – including to get the US out of recession (try...

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13 September