New Emissary

Loving the Big Picture

Thirty-one Kim Jong-ils and a peek into China’s new ‘capital of cool.’

Time and time again The Boston Globe’s ‘The Big Picture’ blog delivers—with its sets of attention-grabbing and timely images from around the world from various sources, including often Reuters and AP. This week, I feel particularly grateful for the Globe’s Alan Taylor, who has compiled a couple compelling collections from Asia, allowing us inside looks into two fascinating and relevant worlds we might otherwise not have access to.

The first, ‘On the Spot with Kim Jong-il,’ is a series on the elusive North Korean leader—who happens to be one of my favourite subjects in this blog. Note how in all 31 shots, despite these being official images released to the Korean public over months, Kim wears only 2 outfits. Also interesting is the Dear Leader’s use of just one arm throughout, whether holding up various bottled goods or fondling fruit (making his reported health ailments due to a stroke all the more likely true). But I was particularly startled to discover upon a closer look at images 14 and 31, that there do not seem to be keyboards accompanying the PCs that the employees are using…

The second compilation, ‘Shanghai prepares for Expo 2010,’ released yesterday, reminds us of the major upcoming event to hit Shanghai in just under 2 months—expected at this point to draw 70 million visitors. Whether intentional or not, it’s the theme of large, new, monumental constructions contrasted by tiny human workers that is remarkable here—hinting at the sheer size and significance the event’s impact will be on the already booming city. The ways the images are framed remind me a little of illustrations of the pyramid-construction days in Egypt I’ve seen.

A travel piece in the San Francisco Chronicle this week called Shanghai China’s new ‘capital of cool,’ with the writer pointing out that in recent years, the formerly ‘dreary’ and even ‘really dull’ city has really come into its own. And, according to an article on the Brunei news site, the hype is already having some effect on prices: room rates have gone up 20 percent just in the past 2 months, in effect actually turning off potential local visitors from visiting any time soon. We’ll be releasing a more in-depth feature later this month on this monumental event by one of our on-the-ground correspondents—which for me personally, will be a perfect accompaniment to these photos.