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World’s Fairs – Part 2

January 3, 2011

The Setting Sun – The Rising Sun

In Part 2 of our World’s Fairs series we continue our exploration of the relationship between world’s fairs and the American Dream. We ask if the momentum of progress is shifting from the west to the east?

In 1964, the beginning of another turbulent era, New York City recreated an updated version of the 1939 Fair. Held at the same location but using the Unisphere as the symbol instead of the Tylon and Perisphere and a new theme to match the times.

The 1964 NYWF theme – Peace Through Understanding

View of the New York World's Fair from the observation towers of the New York State Pavilion; the Unisphere is at the left.

“The fair is best remembered as a showcase of mid-20th century American culture and technology. The nascent Space Age, with its vista of promise, was well-represented. More than 51 million people attended the fair, less than the hoped-for 70 million. It remains a touchstone for New York-area Baby Boomers, who visited the optimistic fair as children before the turbulent years of the Vietnam War, cultural changes and increasing struggles for civil rights.” Wikipedia

Or Peace Through Chemicals?

Merry Pranksters Visit the 1964 World’s Fair

Robert Stone

To Ken Kessey, America in 1964, World’s Fairs were still a hot number. As for polychrome buses, one loses perspective; the Day-Glo vehicle full of hipsters is now such a spectral archetype of the American road. I’m not sure what it looked like then. With Cassady at the throttle, the bus perfected an uncanny reverse homage to “On the Road,” traveling east over Eisenhower’s interstates.

Like “On the Road,” the bus trip exalted velocity. Similarly, it scorned limits: this land was your land, this land was my land- the bus could turn up anywhere. It celebrated sunsets in four time zones, music on the tinny radio, tears in the rain. If the roadside grub was not as tasty as it had been in Kerouac’s day, at least the highway grades were better.

Ken had had an instinctive distaste for the metropolis and its pretensions. He was not the only out-of-town writer who thought it a shame that so many publishers were based in New York, and he looked forward to a time when the book business would regionally diversify, supposedly bringing our literature closer to its roots in American soil.

But the raising of a World’s Fair in the seething city was to Kesey both a breath of assurance and a challenge. Fairs and carnivals, exhibitional wonders of all sorts, were his very meat. He wondered whether the big town would trip over its own grandiose chic when faced with such a homespun concept. Millions were supposed to be coming, a horde of visitors foreign and domestic, all expecting the moon. See full article…

06/14/2004 The New Yorker. Copyright �2004 The Conde Nast Publications.

The Prankster’s infamous psychedelic odyssey was gonzoed by Tom Wolfe in his best selling, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. This trip thru time, space and American culture on the cusp can once again be Experienced in a couple of new films scheduled for release this year. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test directed by Gus Van Sant and Magic Trip, by documentarian Alex Gibney.

Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Cool Place

Magic Trip will be available via Video On Demand beginning July 1st, with a theatrical release on August 5th.

See Magic Trip trailer…

There was also a bit of an homage to the event with the Kesey-like character played by Bono, in Julie Taymor’s delightful Across the Universe.

For more info, books, posters, videos and all things Kesey visit: Key-Z Productions…

Great site about the 1964-65, NY World’s Fair…

Stay on the bus for stories about Disney at the fair, my backyard and China.

Walt Disney the creative entrepreneur and his team of proto-Imagineers not only introduced audio animatronics at the 1964 NY Fair, they were contracted to design and build four major exhibits. Watch this cool video…

Disney the World’s Fair and the Making of Mr. Lincoln

“So true is it that man proposes, and God disposes.”

“But we can see the past, though we may not claim to have directed it; and seeing it, in this case, we feel more hopeful and confident for the future.” Abraham Lincoln

Robert Moses, the president of the New York World’s Fair, asked Walt Disney to takeover the fairgrounds after 1965 and turn it into some sort of East coast Disneyland. Walt passed on the idea of a park in New York, but he did take these World’s Fair attractions to his Anaheim, California park. Disney’s It’s a Small World was transferred to Disneyland, as was the Carousel of Progress. A second Abraham Lincoln animatronics figure became the centerpiece of the Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln show. Scenes from the Ford Magic Skyway were used in Disneyland Railroad’s Primeval World Diorama and the ride system was improved upon and used for the PeopleMover.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Peter Drucker

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” Buddha

The World of the Future is as Close as Your Back Yard

My small tribute to the 1939 World's Fair

The world is now too a changing place. America’s preeminent position as the industrial and military leader is being called into question. How long before we are surpassed by China, India or other countries? Is America in decline? Will we become a weakened giant joining other western empires, their greatness more the stuff of museums and history books than the dreams of the future? Nations who are just looking to get by, take care of their own, but subject to the bulling of stronger powers.

Some say America’s time is over. And good riddance to its brash and wasteful ways. It’s unsophisticated over-reaching  interference in the lives of others and damage to the environment. Imagine a world without America… Would it be a better place? I think not.

We need to renew our ideological and industrial strength. Renew our core values of liberty and freedom for each citizen and faith in the nature of men to do the right thing for themselves and their families. For each to be able rise up to their potential based on their ability and willingness for honest work to achieve that potential.

We need to recapture that enthusiasm we had in the 1940’s and 1950’s when were a can do nation. Yes we are older, yes we realize that science, technology and free markets do not produce utopia. But it’s getting better all the time. Not sure it’s true watch…

From an episode of BBC Four’s The Joy of Stats, watch as charming and animated Swedish statistician Hans Rosling runs through 200 years’ worth of augmented-reality data-visualization telling the story of economic development and health in 200 countries over 200 years in a mere four minutes.

Want more proof that science and technology have boosted the quality of life for a rapidly growing population. Take a look at a brief excerpt from,  “It’s Getting Better All the Time: 100 Greatest Trends of the Last 100 Years” by Stephen Moore and Julian L. Simon, published in 2000.

Here are just a few of the ways the human condition has improved dramatically over the last 100 years:

  • The average life expectancy in 1900 was 47 years. Today it is 77, and rising.
  • The infant-mortality rate has dropped from 1 in 10 to 1 in 150.
  • “Poor” Americans today have routine access to a quality of housing, food, health care, consumer products, entertainment, communications and transportation that even the Vanderbilts, Carnegies and Rockefellers could only dream of.
  • The price of food relative to wages has plummeted: In the early part of this century the average American had to work two hours to earn enough to purchase a chicken, compared with 20 minutes today.

Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be).” Doris Day

Back in the winter of 1996, fourteen years ago,  I was thinking about the future of the Surveying industry and was finishing-up a three part series for POB, the leading surveyors magazine in the U.S. The series was titled Surveying the Future and ran in the Jan-March 1997 issues.

What makes the article germane here is that I concluded the piece with a look back to the 1939 NY World’s Fair. Reprinted below are the final paragraphs that reflect my view on the importance of that fair to America. It seems still relevant today as the U.S. and our friends and competitors around the world are in a slow recovery from our present Great Recession. We today could use our spirits lifted on this holiday as we renew the dream of America.

Back to the Future

Surveying the Future

March 1997, Part 3 – What does tomorrow hold for us?

Jerry W. Saveriano

Back to the Future

I opened this series of articles with a disclaimer about the inherent risk in forecasting the future. Certainly, I believe most of the things I discussed in this series will come to be within the next decade or so, although some may be a stretch.

One of the seminal visions of the future of the United States was shown at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair, which featured the “World of Tomorrow.” It was one of the best ever and had really cool things like television and Elektro, the 7′ tall Westinghouse robot who could talk, tell jokes and smoke. He even had a pet, Sparko, the robot dog.

But the most popular exhibit was General Motors’ Futurama, which provided visitors with a peek into what the world of transportation would look like in the distant 1960s. The exhibit displayed sleek-looking cars zipping along ultramodern skyways over pristine-looking cities. No traffic jams, no graffiti; pollution-free air in the trouble-free world of the future.

GM’s vision of the future fell far short in many ways of the reality of what we now have in most of our cities. In many ways the company was overly optimistic in its forecast. But the crowds who jammed the exhibits were amazed and delighted at what might be. Many of the visitors were first and second-generation immigrants who just made it through the Great Depression. They were aware of the dark clouds of war over Europe, where some of their families would be suffering the horrors of man’s greatest inhumanity.

But, for this brief moment in time, looking at the promise of America, they could feel joy and hope. They believed that they and their children would be living in the wonderful world of Futurama. Americans have always been dreamers. They have an unbridled belief in the building of a better tomorrow. That is our pioneer spirit. I’m glad we’re still dreamers, and we continue to believe this country and its citizens are building a better tomorrow. I think we can face and solve many of our problems and make progress on even the most intractable ones.

And even though some of my forecasts are bound to be off-target and overly optimistic, I believe most will be realized to some degree in the time frame I have indicated. In any case, we know for sure that the technologies discussed in this series will be making dramatic changes in our professional lives.

I hope I have given you a sense of what kinds of changes we are likely to be facing and how we can go forward to our future with a sense of fun and adventure.

Who’s Sun is Now Rising?

“The 1984 World’s Fair is known by several names. The official name was the Louisiana World Exhibition, but is was also known as the New Orleans World’s Fair and, to some,  the Louisiana World’s Fair. What the Fair is really known for, though, is that it was the last World’s Fair held to date in the United States. It’s also sadly remembered as being the only World’s Fair that was forced into bankruptcy during its operating season.”  World’s Fair Photos

So the U.S.’s success at developing world’s fairs may be behind us and moved east to Asia. Attracting only 7 million visitors and a financial debacle the New Orleans World’s Fair of 1984 may have been the last of our attempts at developing and hosting a world’s fair. Hell with HD TV and the internet who needs fairs anyway?

China apparently does, the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai was called an “astounding success.” by International Exhibitions Bureau (BIE) President Jean-Pierre Lafon. The first of its kind staged in a developing country, the event attracted 246 participating countries and international organizations and 73 million visitors. Both figures are records in the history of expos, the first of which was held in London in 1851.

China Pavilion 2010 World’s Fair

This momentum eastward is confirmed by the recent reports that China’s students are trouncing the rest of the world in test scores.

The NY Times reports. “With China’s debut in international standardized testing, students in Shanghai have surprised experts by outscoring their counterparts in dozens of other countries, in reading as well as in math and science, according to the results of a respected exam.”

“We have to see this as a wake-up call,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in an interview on Monday.

“I know skeptics will want to argue with the results, but we consider them to be accurate and reliable, and we have to see them as a challenge to get better,” he added. “The United States came in 23rd or 24th in most subjects. We can quibble, or we can face the brutal truth that we’re being out-educated.”

Happy New Year, You Get Another Swing at the Ball…

Will America work hard enough to regain its lead in education, industry and world’s fairs?

We will continue to promote the lessons of history and the spark of renewal and innovation here at Innovational Musings. We know there are others who are concerned about our distressing decline. The question is, do we have the resolve and discipline to pull it off.

If we can turn it around, it will likely to be lead by recent immigrants. The good ones come with a hunger for freedom and the American Dream. I’m afraid the current U.S. citizen base is too spoiled and attached to entitlements to do the heavy lifting needed to restore the country to its leadership position.

“A generation which ignores history has no past and no future.” Robert Heinlein

End,  Part 2 – World’s Fairs


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