Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pondering Park City

About this time in 2002, travel plans gelled for my Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympic adventure. It seems like just yesterday (not 13 years ago) when I packed up for Utah and a week crashing on couches in a chilly Park City basement and Salt Lake apartment.

Listening to NPR's report on the Sundance Film Festival brought back some mountain village memories, and I do still intend to attend the movie event with ties to Robert Redford.

Scanning the 2013 Sundance site, it looks like this year's event includes three films with direct or indirect Olympic connections. The most direct: The Crash Reel, a documentary on the daredevil lives for elite snowboarders -- specifically Kevin Pearce -- who nearly died on the slopes in the months before Vancouver 2010. A preview clip on the film's official website features a family member's reaction when Pearce weighs post-recovery return to competition: "I don't want you to die." Looks good for a pre-Sochi screening, and if you're not wearing a helmet when you should, here are some big reasons to don skull protection even if snowboarding isn't your thing.

Another look at high-stakes elite sports comes from The Netherlands with the gymnastics short film "Magnesium." Though the trailer and official site feature only details in Dutch, looks like this feature follows the twists and turns of a top female gymnast who gets some career-changing news on the eve of big competitions. Could this be "Nadia meets Black Swan" on the big screen? Does the title allude to the brilliant light of burning Mg, or to the strength this element offers via alloys (as in prosthetics)?

And the third sports film entry, "Linsanity," may not feature a past Olympian, but I suspect Jeremy Lin may make a future team, so it might be worth a look-see.

The main Sundance entry getting press this year seems to be the covertly-filmed "Escape From Tomorrow." According to the New York Times report on this potential release, the filmmakers shot a lot of it on Disney theme park properties in Orlando and Orange County, Calif.

The brouhaha and buzz is whether this film will ever make it to the big screen outside of Park City, with questions floating around: When will Disney shut it down with with legal red tape? Will Disney comment on the film, only to add to the mystique of how it was created? Will any other studio dare to distribute "Escape From Tomorrow" and risk going up against Big D?

With my P.R. hat on: There are a lot of options for Disney with regards to this little film that could. The most interesting that came to mind so far is this one -- How about Disney buys the distribution rights, then puts it in mainstream release to celebrate the "small world, after all-ness" of the project (as a celebration of creativity, spinning the film as "another creative project inspired by and made possible via Walt's vision ... etc.")? In doing so, Disney would certainly stun its critics, and also Disney could learn how these filmmakers pulled off filming on property (so they could minimize the ability for future film crews to replicate the process). How about turning the crew into frenemies? In doing so, this might dismantle the "Goliath" factor to "Escape From Tomorrow's" David story angle. Or at least minimize it.

Looking ahead to future Sundance Film Festivals, here's hope that more features with five-ringed story lines will make it to downtown Park City. It's like to again visit the mountain resort and it's great, historic theatres, bars and shops. It's a small town, after all.

Photos via the film publicity shots posted to the Sundance Film Festival site

Reflections on London's Olympic Stadium Status

Scanning NYTimes.com this afternoon, I spotted a fresh article datelined London, noting the ups and downs faced to find new use for the 2012 Olympic Stadium. The article is good, in that it was an informative update as to the status and next steps for the venue, and comments are flowing in to their site, including one posted by this blogger.

My issue with this article is the multimedia photo gallery that accompanies the online text. Though I concur that many Olympic venues became white elephants after their glory days, today's article/slideshow left out a few success stories while also noticeably deleting iconic venues of late. While Beijing's Water Cube gets some clicks, where is the Bird's Nest? And what of the Atlanta success converting the 1996 Olympic stadium into MLB's Turner Field?

I also wondered why select Olympic stadiums -- such as Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Munich Olympic Stadium and Barcelona's venue, each with decades of non-Olympic use under their belts -- got omitted while the usual suspects Montreal and Athens got billing as Olympic boondoggles.

Though the London update was in order, it seemed a bit early to be crying or labeling things a failure; London staged a most successful Games, and there should be no doubt their success will continue in a post-Games afterglow, which I think is warranted for more than six months (let's give it, say, a year before tearing out finger nails and then pointing bloody fingers).

One of my favorite Olympic stadiums is Munich. Now home to rock concerts, sports and special events, and a zip line attraction, I love this centerpiece of Olympiapark. Here's hoping Germany again enters the Winter Olympic race with a Munich-centric future Olympic bid (sadly they lost for 2018). The LA Memorial Coliseum also remains a favorite.

I am optimistic London will find an appropriate tenant and use for the 2012 stadium, as will Rio de Janiero and other future host cities.

Photo by Nicholas Wolaver

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Dose of Denmark in New York

When passing through Racine, Wis., on road trips, a favorite stop is the I-90 gas station with the Danish bakery showcasing kringle, the delicious, buttery, flaky, fruit or nut-filled pastry associated with Scandinavia. According to this article, the southern Wisconsin town best known for Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings is also best known as the center of Danish culture in the U.S.

So with sweet kringle on the brain, on a recent New York trip I enthusiastically trekked to TriBeCa to visit a dear friend and and experience a taste of Denmark at Aamanns-Copenhagen, now open at 13 Laight Street, sharing a building with the Tribeca Film Festival office.

From the street, Aamanns beckons with huge black and beige signage highlighting culinary treats. They had me at pork, potatoes and currants.

Inside its glass doors, the restaurant's cozy dining room, white walls and tabletops, light wood fixtures and tea lights were warm and welcoming on a chilly December afternoon (come July the same dining room will feel cool and calming relief from sweltering summer temps).

My friend recommended the house specialty, smørrebrød. That's Danish for open-faced sandwiches, and at Aamanns, each served on rye bread. My first two smørrebrød, from the lunch menu, were the smoked cod and chicken salad. They had me at hazelnuts. My friend enjoyed the gravad laks and panfried white fish, which looked as tasty as my selections; both were filling, popping with spice, and best enjoyed with knife and fork.

The Aamanns menu also tempted with herring, pâté of pork, aquavit (a Danish libation) and smørrebrød of braised duck. I'm not much of a tartare fan, but for those who enjoy their smørrebrød on the raw side, the beef or fresh kale options may entice.

I was so swept up in conversation and savory smørrebrød, I did not notice whether kringle made the menu (it did not, as Aamanns is an authentic Denmark restaurant in the U.S. not a "USA version" of an upscale Denmark restaurant), though looking at the online menu now, Aamanns' fresh Danish cookies, honey cakes and a sweet rice-infused (though not pudding) desserts look to be great treats for my next visit.

Another bonus about Aamanns is their pricing. Whether enjoyed in the dining room or for takeaway, their food is a filling and great value for a Manhattan lunch or dinner. I envision many an Edelman colleague (offices one block north), or film festival patron, enjoying Aamanns for a quick midday bite or an after work/after film treat. It was worth the trek from the Guggenheim, and from Atlanta, to experience Aamanns-Copenhagen, and I hope the folks in Racine will take notice and fly east for a taste of the real deal (rest assured, kringle also remains as real a sweet treat).

Heading to Aamanns, I had no idea that Copenhagen cuisine enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, earning Michelin stars and drawing chefs from around the world. A great New York Times article by Julia Moskin, who also wrote the first (and glowing) review of Aamanns, gave me a better background on the rise of Danish cuisine. I wish this came to my attention when Chicago, Rio, Tokyo and Madrid were duking it out, for the 2016 Olympics hosting duties, at the IOC Session in Denmark in 2009

To Aamanns-Copenhagen, skål!

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver; Brian Harkin/New York Times; Marta S. McAdams/ms-takes.com/Tribeca Citizen; HonestCooking, Snackish, and via Gloobi

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mikaela Shiffrin = Crazy Good

Catching up on some New York Times articles this evening, it was fun to read about rising U.S. Ski Team star Mikaela Shiffrin. Bill Pennington's report introducing readers to Shiffrin filled almost two full pages of all the news that's fit to print.

This high school student spent the last few weeks racking up three World Cup victories, earning her, among other accolades, the status of "crazy good" from Olympic Champion Ted Ligety in this post later quoted in the huge Times story.

Scanning Shiffrin's results online, the U.S. Ski Team site includes good video of the recent wins via Universal Sports. It will be fun to see another Mikaela excel on the lead-in to Sochi 2014 -- let's just hope Shiffrin can do it sans "not impressed" distractions of other athletes by the same first name.

Photo via this link by AFP/Samuel Kubani

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sochi Threads The Needle

The new year launched with surreal family and friend news. Happy to celebrate my mother's 70th birthday last week, yet sad to learn of close friends' first child born is in urgent need of a liver transplant. Oh, and my sister's next door neighbor in Oklahoma City was shot and killed in front of their houses. The icing: Volvo's due for another round of repairs. Sheesh!

So today's news from Sochi -- the unveiling of the 2014 Winter Olympic Torch -- brought some much needed comic relief. Some questions filled my brain in the initial moments viewing the design:

-- Were the designers eating candy canes?
-- Did they employ a former seamstress on the design team?
-- Were they high on Maria Sharapova's new "Sugarpova" candy?
-- Are they looking for Sochi Olympic Torch Relay runners to play lacrosse with snowballs?

In spite of my sarcastic inquiries, I do like the design. It's sleek and stylish, and reminds me of the curvy and cool contraption used for the Torino 2006 Olympic Torch, designed by auto engineers with a Ferrari mindset.

I think the Russians picked a winner that will stand out in the Olympic Museum torch trophy cases for the ages. And the red and white design is clean and warm.

I was careful not to read other reviews of the torch design, but it won't surprise me if it takes a few negative hits. It will be interesting to see the flame exchanges and how the soot licks the "eye of the needle" that tops the design (for some who carry the torch, the soot is like a fingerprint for the runners few moments in time carrying the flame).

Looking at the official press release, it appears the shape is inspired by a feather of a firebird from Russian folklore. Interesting.

Please post comments -- what is your take on the Sochi Olympic torch design? With the massive Olympic Torch Relay route set for Sochi, a lot of people are going to see it. Which one is going to get their snow ball through it first?

Photos via Sochi.ru

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