Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Silver Side of Sears?

Channel surfing tonight, my eyes spotted on Chicago's WGN a brief segment about proposed color changes for the nation's tallest building.

Further inspection online yielded this Chicago Sun-Times report on possible LEED Certification for the tower (the related online poll shows a slight lead for "no" -- don't paint it -- votes as of this post's upload time).

The photo above, as well as the rendering, are from the Chicago Sun-Times site and credited to Brian Jackson/Sun-Times, Sun-Times Illustration.

The Windy City's CBS affiliate also did a decent segment on this topic.

Apparently the selection of silver has zero relation to Olympic medals (no surprise), but rather the LEED rating system. Considering the apparent price tag of up to $50 million -- for PAINT (!!!) -- the whole thing gives one cause to pause and wonder whether they'd be using NASA-engineered (and priced) paint, or that Willy Wonka paint that's flavored with chocolate and snozberries (in either and ANY case, they'd have to repaint every few years, which seems expen$ive and $illy).

I'd personally rather see some of that money go toward Chicago's Olympic bid (here's a thought ... in honor of the bid, how about painting the Sears Tower's top few levels with the colors of the Olympic rings, which could easily be touched up when the city wins the bid, or painted over for later non-Games activities).

But one can appreciate the need for the building to make improvements, and the LEED designation looks like a step in the right direction. Obviously, the discussion is getting some new ink and air time for the iconic tower, so kudos those who are telling the tale.

One of my Edelman colleagues, Tony Wilbert, blogs about real estate, so will have to ask him for his two cents on this later this week.

In the meantime, will be thinking about that scene from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" in which Matthew Broderick & Co. leaned up on the glass from the observation deck to state, "I think I see my dad."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Beautiful Winners

Now back in Atlanta from the Chicago volunteer gig and weekend in arctic Milwaukee, I've been busy in training classes while defrosting.

Perhaps it is just quirky Canadian coincidence, but within a couple of hours today at least three references to the Great White North arrived via e-mail or NPR broadcasts.

First, one of our recent Edelman client contacts at the Province of British Columbia sent a couple of fun updates on how things are going in Vancouver. Then there was an update on the U.S. curling team in the Rocky Mountain News (OK, technically this was not Canadian, but the sport of curling always will remind me first of the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics).

And tonight, driving to dinner, Terry Gross of NPR's "Fresh Air" was talking with someone (I did not catch the name) about an article in this week's New Yorker, so upon arriving home and turning the pages of the magazine I found some words scribed by Canadian poet Leonard Cohen.

Man, I think it would be really cool (though unlikely) for Cohen to pop up in Olympic circles in Vancouver next February. A brief Internet search yielded only one Cohen and Olympic connection (a brief reference to the Los Angeles street, Olympic Blvd., which apparently was near his home/studio during the 1990s).
I thought for sure Leonard the Great must have been engaged somehow with the 1976 Summer Olympic Games of Montreal, Cohen's home town -- VANOC has a golden opportunity to bring this Grammy winner to the Olympic stage this time next year.

If the 2010 Cultural Olympiad folks are reading, consider this my vote for Cohen to do a dramatic oratory from "Beautiful Losers" or to sing us a song at the Opening Ceremony -- or better yet, he could sing "Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye" at the Closing Ceremony, methinks. A duet with fellow Canadian crooner Joni Mitchell would be tops, too (imagine Cohen and Mitchell remarking on how they've "Seen the Olympics ... from Both Sides Now ...").

Until then, here's another link to one of my favorite Leonard Cohen tunes. And one from Joni for good measure (this tune could be the most appropriate for a five-ringed festival).

Friday, February 20, 2009

15 Degrees

Hello from Hoffman Estates, Illinois, site of the 2009 Tyson American Cup on Saturday.

While volunteering yesterday as a media quote taker, got to speak with a few of the athletes and coaches for tomorrow's competition (the USA Gymnastics site for the event includes notes from the experience). You can't make it here tomorrow? Check it out on NBC Sports and Universal Sports.

On site, spotted Olympians Bridget Sloan, Joseph Hagerty, Chelle Stack and Diane Simpson. The word is that tomorrow's event will include pre-competition autograph session with Nastia Liukin, Mary Lou Retton, Kerri Strug, Stella Zakharova, Elena Zamolodchikova, Tim Daggett, Trent Dimas, Paul Hamm, Vitaly Scherbo and Peter Vidmar -- should be exciting.

As hoped, the experience also helped learn more about the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid efforts and to meet a few fellow volunteers -- looking forward to seeing the bid booth on site at the event.

Only two "issues" on this trip:

American Airlines charged me $15 for a checked bag, and then they left it in Atlanta while I arrived in Chicago. Fortunately, a courier arrived overnight with my gear (problem solved, but about that $15 ...).

The other is the weather -- no surprises, but yesterday's 15 degree Fahrenheit morning temps were just brutal. Even the locals found it unpleasant.

Everything else is top-notch, from the Hyatt Place to the Sears Centre and even dinner in Milwaukee yesterday evening (yikes, it was windy and cold there, too).

Looking forward to walkabout downtown this afternoon (a day off) and tomorrow's day "on" at the Tyson American Cup.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Heading for Hoffman Estates

Fifty years ago, residents in a then-rural NW Chicago suburb voted to incorporate the Village of Hoffman Estates, according the the city's website. This weekend, this Sears Centre in the village's entertainment district will host the 2009 Tyson American Cup, which is one of the most prestigious international gymnastics events.

To contribute to the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid effort, I'm heading to Hoffman Estates tomorrow afternoon for a three-day volunteer gig at the Tyson American Cup. Should be a fun way to learn first-hand how the Chicago 2016 bid team continues to gain positive momentum toward the big vote IOC vote in Copenhagen this October.

This will be my first Olympic-level event experience since Beijing, and it will be fun to (hopefully) again see some of the athletes who succeeded in China while learning about the next wave of gymnastics greats who will compete. According to the organizer's press release with quotes from Bela Karolyi (last spotted at, of all places, the Water Cube just after Michael Phelps' eighth race in China -- see photo), there are bound to be surprises.

Hoping to post an update or two from the event. In the meantime, some notes from the Beijing gymnastics events are here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Olympic Toons

Over the holiday weekend, there was some rare free time to do a bit of cleaning and reading. Among the finds on my "desk" at home was a Reader's Digest "Last Laugh" cartoon torn out of an edition in which my Edelman boss' husband appeared last summer.

A few clicks later, I've learned that the illustrator in this case is Adam McCauley of San Francisco, and he has an interesting website and blog. I think some of his work also appeared on a San Francisco 2012 (versus New York and other cities) Olympic bid poster, but could not find confirmation online thus far.

McCauley's style is likeable and reminiscent of a Chicago-based favorite, Chris Ware, who I hope will get a commission from the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid folks (with Ware being a hometown guy and all -- hopefully his stuff is not too edgy).

Speaking of edgy, check out McCauley's take on popular Disney characters (hilarious!)

The whole searching thing got me started on Olympic cartoon finds in general, and the gem of that search was the discovery that there is an Olympic connection to "Tron" (yes, that Tron, the 1980s sci-fi film).

Turns out Tron's director, Steven Lisberger, was the guy behind the animated Olympic-inspired "Animalympics" features that were intended to air in conjunction with the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow (pulled by NBC due to the boycott, according to at least one source). Billy Crystal, Gilda Radner and Harry Shearer all contributed, as did Michael Fremer (he apparently did some sound mixing for "Animalympics" and "Tron" as well as "The Shining" -- who knew there was an Olympic connection to "Wendy, Give Me The Bat ... I'm Not Gonna Hurt You" and all?).

I still remember watching the winter "Anamalympics" broadcast on HBO or some other cable network at a neighbor's house in Oklahoma during the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics. I think it was around the time "Tron" came out on Beta at the rental counter.

Will have to keep searching for other Olympic cartoons later. In the meantime, will be studying McCauley's works and looking forward to "TR2N" (that's "Tron 2") one of these days. Could it be the next "Space Olympics?"

More from New York

A couple of weeks back, I started a post about a weekend in New York. Unfortunately, it was only today that the post was completed and made public. So please scroll down to the Feb. 3 entry for some good stuff.

Also, enjoy these recent Olympic headlines:

The Chicago Tribune's Philip Hersh reports on the Chicago 2016 Bid Book sendoff, with photos.

Chicago's NBC affiliate WMAQ-TV reports on the same.

A lesson in Olympic fonts is also online from Jonathon Berlin of the Chicago Tribune.

The Associated Press reports that Michael Phelps' wrists might be stinging from today's slap courtesy of South Carolina 5-0.

Guess I won't be able to enter Olympic boxing in the future, thanks to this headline.

Today's U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) news.

The West Island Chronicle (Montreal, Canada) reports on Bombardier's part in the 2010 Olympic Torch design for Vancouver's Olympic Torch Relay.

KENS-TV of San Antonio, Texas, reports that Josh Davis' "lost" Olympic medals were located and returned (will someone give that good samaritan a medal?!).

Thursday, February 12, 2009

One Year To Vancouver

It sort of snuck up on me -- only one year to go until the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony!

This morning The TODAY Show had some live segments from Whistler in British Columbia, and it is definitely Canada's spotlight for the next 365 days.

My colleagues at Edelman's Vancouver office have been dripping news and stories from the day, which included the Hudson's Bay Company (Hbc) unveiling of the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay uniforms, in conjunction with the newly unveiled 2010 Vancouver Olympic Torch! (disclosure: Hbc is a client of Edelman, the firm where I work).

First impressions of the torch: I love it! Within seconds of seeing the design, it first reminded me of a fiberglass competition bow (as in Robin Hood) minus the string, matching quiver and arrows. Then it sort of invoked memories of the Kryptonite crystal that Kal-El tossed into the Canadian waterways, building his arctic Fortress of Solitude in Richard Donner's version of "Superman: The Movie."

According to reports, the torch is three feet, er, one metre long, and the more I look at it the more I can't wait to see it crossing Canada. VANOC's online animation of the ignited torch is pretty sweet. What do you think?

The uniforms by Hbc are pretty snazzy, too. The striking "look of the Games" colors are going to really warm up the scene when the torchbearers are surrounded by snow-covered Canadian landscapes.

There are some good "one year to go" reports in the news, starting with the Associated Press' travel feature on Vancouver, which paints an accurate picture of the city and the Olympic host region. Jeff Lee at the Vancouver Sun did a great summary of the day's events (we worked with him in Beijing last summer and his coverage of the Games is very good).

British Columbia will be a magnificent backdrop -- have visited the city twice so far, and flying in to the airport there is similar to landing at Colorado Springs (those mountains and the downtown skyline are really something).

The countdown continues. Vancouver, see you soon!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

High Phlying, Adored

High flying, adored
What happens now,

where do you go from here?
For someone on top of the world
The view is not exactly clear

-- Tim Rice for the "Evita"
duet titled "High Flying, Adored"

It has not been long since posting the two-part series and videos about my colleague, friend and I racing across Beijing to see Michael Phelps' historic eighth victory race at the Water Cube in China.

Methinks this week's headlines about USA Swimming's golden child may have young Mr. Phelps racing to find P.R. counsel somewhere out there (so far he seems to have savvy response to the situation).

With tonight's CNN-posted report on the latest on this "very important story," it's clear now that two big camps are set on the Phelps photo phrenzy.

On one side, you have the "he made a mistake, he's sorry, move on" group -- this side includes the initial comments of the International Olympic Committee, U.S. Olympic Committee, a couple of sponsors and others who see Phelps' transgressions as "no big deal."

On the other side, you have some law enforcement guy who seems eager to take a stand (er, a microphone), and USA Swimming contributing a verse with a short-term official reprimand. One sponsor today made known their intention to join the "Phelps blew it and needs to pay with harsh lessons" end of the spectrum (I love how the Kellogg's website still has a Phelps poster offer online -- but I have the clock running and taking bets it won't be there much longer after they read this post).

The way I see it, since Phelps' actions did not cause any physical injury to himself nor others, and since he did not drive while under the influence, then a "no harm, no foul" attitude should apply. Let it go. Move on. Etc.

Should the South Carolina law enforcement eager beaver(s) pursue this Phelps case any further?

My answer is NO! ABSOLUTELY NO!

My thought here is that there are likely much bigger crimes and "bad guys" in the region where Phelps' bong photo was snapped, and these bigger crimes -- like drunk driving, burglaries, robberies, prostitution and the like -- should be pursued rather than milking the Phelps phfiasco.

Is anyone with that Carolina sheriff or prosecutor's office trying to go after the drug DEALERS in their community?

Paraphrasing coaches of a few Olympic team events, the instruction to "keep your eye on the ball, guys" somewhat applies.

As for CNN, I would like to see them stop reporting celebrity drivel and START reporting on real news items like the Bush-initiated $592 million U.S. Embassy (my nickname for it: the "abomination") that I suspect is one of the true reasons our nation cannot pull out of the Republic of Iraq (would you pull up stakes after investing $592 million in a new building -- the same price as a decent Olympic Stadium or the same price as thousands of improved schools and hospitals stateside?).

But don't get me started.

And as for Phelps, I look forward to the potential of a "natural high" that may come from witnessing him swimming again at London 2012.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I [Heart] New York

In honor of my girlfriend's golden birthday, the end of January provided great timing for a weekend celebration in New York City.

I think we crammed three days of tourism into 36 waking hours.

With thanks again to the communications departments at several major destinations, here's a rundown of what's going on in the big city:

As noted in previous post, the Guggenheim Museum just opened a new exhibition with Asian themes. The New York Times ran a rock solid review by Holland Cotter that really summed up the exhibition well. If you are heading to Manhattan in the next month or two, this one is really worth a look see.

This was the fifth or sixth time I walked Frank Lloyd Wright's ramp (sidebar: as a teenager viewing the VHS tape of "Someone To Watch Over Me" dozens of times, it was never imagined I'd actually visit this iconic museum more than six times in adulthood).

To walk those gorgeous galleries and then view them again on the silver screen in "The International" last week made the movie's scenes in the museum seem all the more "real" (though if Uncle Frank was still with us, I shudder to think what he'd have to say about assassins in his building, given Wright's personal history with mass killings back in Wisconsin).

One cool learning from the experience was absorbing the notion that artist Franz Kline -- whose work I often recognize but previously did not know was his -- was inspired by Japanese calligraphy to paint his broad-stroked black and white works. We saw a couple of examples at the Guggenheim on Saturday, and another on Sunday at the Museum of Modern Art, and it is my intention to study his work more in the days ahead.

Another exciting discovery in the Guggenheim exhibit was a film created by Jordan Belson. I was mesmerized by his work titled "Samadhi" as it played on a repeating loop in a little room about half-way up the gallery ramp. The eery soundtrack reminded me of the dark conclusion of "The Rapture" (hmmmm ... that's the second movie with Mimi Rogers in this post, as she was in "STWOM" as well). Belson's film was a prequel of sorts for "The Rapture" references to "the pearl."

The tunes also sent me scrambling to the Hearts of Space archive in search of more Belson titles.

We were more thankful than ever for gainful employment after viewing the performance art "Time Piece" project for which a time clock was punched on the hour every hour for one year by the same man (YIKES!). You have to see it to believe it.

Best Guggenheim moments also included viewing the Central Park Reservoir from the upstairs seating area (see photo), and getting in front of a Picasso titled "The End of the Road," which I first saw in 1994 in the Tannhauser Wing (it was never on view in all the Guggenheim visits from 1996 to 2006 -- THANK YOU, Guggenheim, for putting this one back on the gallery walls as it is a favorite!).

We listened all afternoon for the crackling of ice encircled by microphones (a work by Paul Kos) but heard not a peep from the melting blocks (made for a nice photo, however).

Down the road on the Museum Mile, we did not have as much time as we'd like at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In fact, unfortunately, it was more of a rest stop on the way back to our hotel and an evening at "Avenue Q." But I will say that the expansion and renovations at The Met seem to be going well, and we will make more time in this landmark museum (they loaned a few works to Atlanta's High Museum of Art for the 1996 Cultural Olympiad exhibit titled "Rings," and it is fun to spot the works back at The Met).

I'm kicking myself that we missed (by a day or two) the opening of what looks to be a fascinating exhibit from a donated collection of historic picture postcards titled "Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard" -- the New York Times had a nice write-up on this exhibit posted by Roberta Smith.

Another contributing museum to "Rings: Five Passions in World Art" (for the '96 Games) was the Museum of Modern Art, which we visited on Sunday morning. FABULOUS! Among many great exhibitions in progress, we noted "George Lois: The Esquire Covers" as a highlight.

Though not one but BOTH of my favorites -- "The Starry Night" and "The Persistence of Memory" -- were absent, on loan (said my girlfriend, "boooooo!"), we were awestruck by several works not seen on previous MoMA visits.

My girlfriend's favorite was the Jasper Johns work "Map" while Henri Rousseau's "The Sleeping Gypsy" captivated my attention. We both learned a thing or two studying "The Moon and the Earth" by Paul Gauguin (it reminded us of South America) and the room full of Picasso works left us wishing we had more time before our afternoon airport trek.

A few other thoughts from the big weekend:

Our hotel -- The Blakely in Midtown -- was a pleasant surprise (our Priceline-booked reservation at The Wellington was upgraded to The Blakely thanks to a large group that stayed an extra night), and some fellow guests taught us the phrase "Museum Legs" (legs tired from walking to and standing inside museums -- we later learned this is title of a book on a similar topic). We would stay again at either as they made treks to Time Warner Center, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, Times Square, Fifth Avenue and dinner at Il Tinello.

Time Warner Center has an interesting photography exhibit upstairs by the Samsung Experience. There are also some monolithic male and female bronze figures that provide a fun anatomical lesson for passersby.

After "Avenue Q" we rested our ML's in a taxi and at a midnight screening of "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" in the East Village at Landmark Theatre's Sunshine Cinema (the theatre offers midnight retro screenings, with "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" on deck this weekend).
Due to lots of traffic, we arrived just in time for the screening, so we did not get to explore the theatre. For anyone in or travelling to Manhattan in the next few weeks, I highly recommend a visit to the Sunshine to screen "Man On Wire," which is excellent -- getting goosebumps just thinking about it and the Cirque du Soleil "KOOZA" double high wire walkers we've been working with in Atlanta (disclosure: Cirque du Soleil is a client of Edelman, the public relations agency where I work).

Thanks again to the public relations departments at the Guggenheim, MoMA, The Met and Landmark Theatres for their hospitality while on what is arguably the greatest island on earth. We shall return!

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