Kev’s Thoughts On… Olympics & Media, four years forward

Posted: February 23rd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Thoughts On... | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

I generally try to stay away from saying the ‘O’ word as much as I can, mostly in fear that I will preemptively overkill what is guaranteed to be the most saturated subject in my life for the next 6 to 9 months. But I had to comment on what we are likely going to see this Olympic round that will be vastly different than Athens ’04 or Sydney ’00.

Media is playing a whole new ballgame this time around folks. I don’t know if people (the Olympic committee, the Chinese government, passive on-lookers like you & me) truly realize how media’s growth from ’04 to ’08 will change the way we experience the Olympics from here on forward.

Household names like Facebook, Myspace, Youtube, Twitter, and the big one – blogs – were non-existent or in their infancy during Athens ’04. How many people walking into the Beijing Olympic village this year will have cameras in their cellphones ready to record anything out of the ordinary? And I am not just talking about scandals or infractions on Human Rights or political protests; I’m talking about pictures and videos of athlete’s ‘off camera’ reactions before/after their competition, or fans’ antics. There are more media recorders going in, and more media outlets coming out. Beijing ’08 is in for a totally new experience.

Recent events remind me more and more that we’re going to be seeing a whole new side of the Olympics. January’s Olympic scandal during an Olympic – CCTV (China’s National TV Broadcaster) press conference kicked of the new year with a viral bang. The press conference was interrupted by the wife of the Olympic/CCTV announcer coming on camera and telling everyone her husband was a cheater and that China’s culture was all backwards. You can read an article about it here or try to watch the actual video (caught on someone’s cellphone camera) here. Unfortunately for everyone in China who’s late in watching this video, its all been blocked by that great firewall of China, although I’m sure if you did a little more digging you’d find it somewhere.

Then, just as things were starting to settle down, the Edison Chen scandal hit just before Chinese New Year in late January. Edison, a famous HK movie star had sent his laptop in for repairs, and when the technicians were rummaging inside Edison’s hard drive, they found a treasure trove of pictures and home videos of Edison with the many, many, many celebrity women that he has been with. These pictures and videos of course were leaked everywhere on the internet for all to see. The aftermath continues to today, with Edison announcing his ‘retirement’ from the film business. You can read about it here or here or here or here. After thinking about it, I have decided not to put links directly to the pictures of videos on my blog, but they really aren’t that hard to find.

I digress. But maybe that’s kind of the point. In 2 months we’ve seen two of the biggest scandals in the Asia Pacific region, and both were captured, and perpetuated by new media. This will be the first time the Olympics will be exposed to this type of coverage. What does that mean, and is everyone prepared for it? Everyone used to be glued to their TV sets watching the medal counts and coverage from highly editorialized broadcasters. Will that be the same, this time around? Four years forward has meant a lifetime of change for Olympic media coverage.

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Kev’s Thoughts On… Sovereign Wealth Funds

Posted: February 12th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Thoughts On... | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

I am sure many of you have been hearing over the past year about China’s newly-created, $200 billion National investment fund; money that they’ve split off from their ballooning current account surplus.  I am guessing that you’ve also heard how in the last few months the fund has been making waves in the international community because of the anxiety and concern the Chinese Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) causes politically as it tries to invest in other nation’s assets.

Its an important issue.  SWFs are powerful players on the global financial scene, and they do pose serious influence over systemic risk because of the concentration and liquidity of the capital movement.  And for nations like the US, where national security is ever paramount, the clash between financial and political motives in Foreign Direct Investments is something to be watched and monitored closely.

I’ve found a great article in the Jan/Feb 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs Magazine entitled “Public Footprints in Private Markets”, written by Robert M. Kimmitt, the Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Treasury.  The essay succinctly dispels SWF misconceptions floating around today’s media, it describes the real issues at stake, and outlines recommendations for policy-makers moving forward of how best to engage SWFs.  I highly recommend you have a read if you want to understand in a little more depth, what are SWFs and how they are changing our world.

The article can be found here.

This issue of Foreign Affairs Magazine was entitled “Changing China” and has about a half-dozen essays written by China & Foreign Policy experts on the issues facing China and the world today.  A must read for anyone interested in China-Foreign relations.

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Kev’s Music Review: The Bad Plus ‘Prog’

Posted: February 8th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Music Review | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

The Bad Plus ‘Prog’ Album Cover
There are few other jazz groups I am as excited about as The Bad Plus. What can I say about them? I am oftentimes left speechless. Perhaps the most creative band out there, they are redefining lyrical and melodic expression and cohesiveness while throwing you in a merry-go-round of tempo and rhythmic exercises.

The Bad Plus is most definitely the tightest band out there. I have never ever seen a group as syncopated and in-tune with each other as these three. If you don’t believe me, have a listen to my favourite song of their’s, ‘Physical Cities’.

This group is a composer’s dream. The trio, made up of Reid Anderson on bass, Ethan Iverson on piano and David King on drums are all well established and highly individualized composers, each contributing their own works to the large body of work that is The Bad Plus. Each song is uniquely different, painting completely different landscapes, or exploring distinctly different worlds of contemporary jazz.

The Bad Plus built their name and reputation by taking pop standards from rock, funk and other genres and reinterpreting them in the Bad Plus language. I find this strategy is a great introduction for newbies into the contemporary jazz scene, and TBP does it very well.

‘Prog’ has a good sampling of pop standards, but you’ll hear a larger component of the group’s original works. I find it a really good balance of education and exploration. Educating new listeners what is the Bad Plus sound through pop-standard extrapolation, and exploring their own creative prowess with their original compositions.

The balance between the piano, bass and drummer are brilliantly matched. There is not one track on this album where any one player is forced to be subdued. They each bring their unique flavour, but the combination of the three personas is what makes The Bad Plus so memorable.

Billboard magazine had this to say about ‘Prog’: “A gourmet 10-course meal of the sublime (a gorgeous take on Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”), the rowdy (a raucous ride through the original “Physical Cities”) and the eclectic (Iverson’s “Mint,” Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”). Easily the most likable and listenable jazz album of 2007.”

I first saw The Bad Plus live in concert in 04 or 05, when they opened for Joshua Redman at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Back then I was struck mostly by the obtuseness of their effort. It was nothing like I’d ever heard before. Especially David King on the drums, who, during that performance used the skeleton of an umbrella, coat hangers, and other found objects to augment his drum kit. It was the most bizarre spectacle, but they managed to get a foothold in my memory. And that is something to be said, since they opened for Josh Redman during his Momentum album tour; arguably the best concert I’ve ever seen.

I next saw The Bad Plus live in May of 07, when they opened for Roy Hargrove in Toronto during his ‘Nothing Serious’ tour. The Bad Plus stole the show. For me they were stratas above Roy Hargrove that night. What impressed me most again was their tightness, their precision, their decisiveness. I was absolutely awe-struck witnessing ‘Physical Cities’ live.

I may have gone long with this review, but hopefully it will convey to you how extremely impressed I am with The Bad Plus. Check out their website here and hopefully you’ll get hooked on their music as I have. Given, they are not exactly new to the scene; they’ve been around since 2001, but they have a long and bright road ahead of them.

I for one will be with them every step of the way, anxiously expectant of the wondrous twists and turns that await.

Keeping an ear to the ground,

Kev.

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