Sunday, February 28, 2010

How Vancouver won the green medal

The Vancouver Winter Games have come to a close, and the Canadians did indeed "own the podium", just as they set out to do. Good for them.

The 2010 Games have been billed as a great success, probably the most-watched winter event in history (though die-hard Olympic skeptic Dave Zirin obligingly challenges the merits of this particular edition).

VANOC has also declared this to have been the "greenest Olympics ever", and they're probably right, even though I can't imagine the 1896 Games belched nearly as much carbon into the air as any modern iteration. Regardless, the notion of green Games doesn't really mean much these days.

Still, there were valiant efforts to reduce the Olympic footprint. The odd-looking, wavy medals are probably the best example -- they're comprised of gold from recycled e-waste, an innovative use of one of our most daunting environmental scourges. Have a look (via Motherboard.TV):

Whatever the level of green-ness at the Vancouver Games, you can be sure it will trump the next Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, where environmental degradation is already running rampant -- only one of many problems facing Sochi.

And speaking of e-waste and Vancouver, here's something from the J-school students at my alma mater, UBC, that is quite old but always worth knowing about. It's a Frontline investigation into what happens to the e-waste from North America after it leaves the continent (it goes to impoverished areas of Africa and Asia) as well as the potential national security questions the practice of exporting e-waste raises (not to mention environmental and human security). Watch the video here.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The only thing controversial about the Super Bowl was the music

One thing is obvious after watching the Super Bowl: Sean Payton has balls. The interception return might have been the play of the game, but the onside kick was the decision of the game, hands down, and was key in setting a second-half tone that allow the Saints to win. Awesome.

I watched the game at Chili's in Singapore (no baby back ribs or Dunder Mifflin staff that I could see). Shockingly, this and another place were the only venues that seemed to be showing the game on the entire island. The other place was booked solid days in advance, and there was standing room only at Chili's.

One guy I sat near was peeved that The Who were playing halftime. Not because they're washed-up has-beens -- he adamantly believed an "American band" should play the Super Bowl. He must have said it four or five times. It's a comment that's hardly even worth refuting. Never mind the fact that the game strives to attract a global audience, or that half the commercials are from non-American companies. "At least it's not U2," he said. Sigh...

Far more worrisome is the alleged plagiarism of a White Stripes song on an Air Force recruitment ad. The Air Force denies any intent to, as the White Stripes allege, "re-record and (use) without permission" the band's song Fell in Love With a Girl, saying an outside company was responsible for creating the soundtrack to the commercial (which has since vanished from the web, from what I can tell). It will be interesting to see what comes of this. Will the US Air Force be the new Men at Work?

As for the pre-game controversy over the Super Bowl ads, here are my thoughts.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

CBS's obvious double standard for a Super Bowl of irresistible storylines

Perhaps counter-intuitively, I watched more NFL games this year living in Singapore than I have any year I lived in North America. That's the power of a DVR and a night shift -- wake up and tear through three games in about three hours, all before work.

But even the casual fan can be excited about what's on tap for the Super Bowl this weekend. The storylines are innumerable and captivating.

The commercials, of course, are always part of the Super Bowl story, but this year the pre-Bowl hype has reached new heights. It all started with Tim Tebow's Focus on the Family spot. Lefties and women's groups were in an uproar that CBS would allow such a controversial message on the airwaves during the big game. Let us watch the game free of politics, they implored.

I don't really have a problem with athletes expressing their political beliefs(douchebags like Paul Shirley aside). For the most part, I think people in prominent positions should use their status to make the world a better place (even if I happen to disagree with their methods).

What I do take issue with is the obvious double standard CBS employed when deciding who and who doesn't get a piece of their precious air space. I wrote about it here, at the Straits Times blog.

(I will also say that I'm bummed I won't be able to watch any of these ads during the game. The stupid simulcast keeps the rest of the world locked out. Even Canada doesn't get to see the commercials. And there might be some good ones this year -- I've heard the Simpsons have a spot (Coke, I think) and I hear LeBron's McDonald's ad reprises the classic Jordan/Bird "nothing but net" spots. Sure, I could watch them online after the fact, but that just seems like a waste of time.)