Thursday, January 25, 2018

Samsung: It's Now Apropos to Download PyeongChang 2018 Mobile App

Fresh from the PyeongChang 2018 home page, Samsung is encouraging free downloads of the Games' new mobile app.

Interpreting the Korean/English promotion, I gather this new app -- which took about 10 minutes to upload to my Galaxy 3 purchased after a slick demo during Sochi 2014 -- is free now through January 31.

It's unclear whether the app will then be available for a buck, er, won or two during February (make that 1,000 or 2,000 won).

Upon launching the app, I found it easy to navigate and fairly basic, likely to become expansive and delightful in ease-of-use during Games time when daily activities, venue updates, results and transportation items are all the buzz of many an Android and iPhone.

Very handy: weather updates on the home screen (in Celsius -- it's minus 12 in Korea as I write this post). A finger click on the weather plus sign (+) expands the to a venue-by-venue page and list including temps and icons indicating snow, sun or other current conditions across the Olympic region.

The home screen also dons Omega's Olympic Games Countdown clock followed by sections for news and a series of boxes in Korean that I suspect may become the advertising/promotional nod.

The list icon at the top left of the home page expands to two core sections for Games and Spectators, with schedules, sports, venues, cheering/fan, official partner/sponsor and links.

In these app sections, I simply LOVE the link to the 2018 Olympic Torch Relay in progress (great calendar, maps and photos).

Also LOVE the section for the Cultural Progamme. Did you know the Korean National Ballet will perform "Anna Karenina" at the Gangneung Art Center, for instance? And I just bought my ticket for the Jarasum International Jazz Festival on Valentine's Day, also in Gangneung, via the app. Music to my fingers.

Rounding out the Spectator section: Explore Korea, Tickets, Transportation, Accommodations and Store links to official merchandise.

The only thing silly I found about the app is the image created to promote it. Is the guy in the over-sized red sweatshirt supposed to be Korea's answer to illusionist David Seth Kotkin?

Samsung's 2018 Olympic app -- apropos for any Korea-bound traveler for next month!

Images via PyeongChang2018.org

Monday, January 22, 2018

Final Push Toward PyeongChang

Two weeks from now (Feb. 4), this blogger will be aloft on a Delta Air Lines flight half-way across the Pacific. Destination: Seoul, and a couple of days later via rental car, PyeongChang and the 2018 Winter Olympics.

It's exciting this countdown to the Games, my fifth consecutive snowy Olympiad and 11th overall trek to a new host city.

This will be a first-time adventure in South Korea, and I'm as pumped about exploring the historic 1988 summer Games sites in the nation's capital as much as experiencing the shiny and new venues in the mountains and on the east coast of the Korean Peninsula.

Photo via KoreaHerald.com
As with prior travels to Olympic competitions at destinations deemed "unsafe" (Rio with Zika), "un-secure" (Athens w/terrorism) or "scary" (Sochi or Beijing and "being watched"), friends and family already inquired about the outlook for PyeongChang safety and the Olympics' proximity to potential aggression from North Korea.

Honestly, since 2016 I was always more hung up on the potential for a Rio-repeat (abysmal and frustrating fan/volunteer logistics) than ever concerned about the Communists a few mountains away from the snow venues south of the 38th Parallel.

Photo by Amy Sancetta/AP
Fortunately, North Korea's pro-Olympic stance announced on January 1, and subsequent friendly conversations involving International Olympic Committee top brass and diplomacy from Korea's North- and South-based leadership, put many folks' (and my own) further at ease that peace will reign in PyeongChang. Will a Nobel Peace Prize result from this? Maybe.

It's historic and exciting to read about the unified team, individual athletes from both South and North, and the delegation crossing the border in just over 21 days. I'm definitely going to try to score an interview with some North Korean athletes or fans (wish me luck).

Let's just hope The White House avoids mucking up things in the next 18 days to the Opening Ceremony and the 16 Games-time days and nights that follow!

Thankfully (sort of), the Team USA delegation leader-designate is Vice President Mike Pence -- what thin ice will he manage to skate and create next month? We'll see.

Blog and PyeongChang mascot image by Nicholas Wolaver; ski jump photo via KoreaHerald.com; Torino 2006 Opening Ceremony photo via Associated Press.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Director Aaron Sorkin Deals Audiences A Club Flush With Olympic-Tethered Film "Molly's Game"

While exiting the theatre after "Molly's Game" -- a new Olympic-tethered film penned by director/screenwriter Aaron Sorkin -- I wished for better recall of a Winston Churchill quote used toward the film's end in scenes on the slopes of a 2002 winter Games qualifying event.

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."

Or was is, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts" or similar?

The perseverance quotation, spoken by Jessica Chastain -- in the film's title role portraying Salt Lake Olympic hopeful Molly Bloom moments after a dramatic, career-ending crash on a Deer Valley ski course -- are just a few of the many apt cultural and literary references served in this delightful drama that delivers as much excitement, speed and anticipated jolts as the toughest moguls line. 

Key to skiing success, as stated by Bloom's father Larry (Kevin Costner) in opening scenes: "Check your line." 

There are a number of fine lines and risks that could have taken Sorkin's storytelling out of bounds, but each time this viewer thought the story was gonna veer off course, it came right back to center for a flawless run. 

And though in trailers the "Molly's Game" marketers do not mention the title character's five-ringed aspirations, from the opening shot Olympian-level successes are at the core of Sorkin's writing and in Bloom's autobiography on which the film is based. 

Perhaps underscoring the marketing team's obliviousness (or disdain?) for Bloom's Olympic dreams, not one publicity photo for "Molly's Game" pertains to the ski incident. 

As with Sorkin's other outstanding projects like "Newroom" or "Malice" and "The Social Network" or "Moneyball," this film provides a fun and challenging game to determine the smartest person in the room because everyone's brilliant and one-up-man- (and woman-) ship through intelligence is celebrated. 

Not surprising, Molly Bloom often may be the smartest on screen, holding her own with tycoons of business, technology, Hollywood and other fields. Her Achilles' heels eventually show up, starting with the unfortunate twist of fate that left her unconscious and bloodied on a Utah ski slope.

After the ski accident and during a soul-searching break to regroup and consider law school aspirations, Bloom stumbled into a secret world of high-stakes poker. 

While her brother Jeremy Bloom became a two-time Olympic skier later drafted by the NFL, Molly channeled her superior intellect and business acumen into what became "the most exclusive high-stakes underground poker game in the world" (the partial title of her book). 

Through flashbacks during interactions with her New York attorney, who is crafted with originality by Sorkin and superior acting chops delivered by Idris Elba, Bloom takes her lawyer and viewers through the often glamorous though treacherous world of high stakes gaming.

Sorkin expertly delves into the lingo, the statistics, the excitement, the losses and intrigue as though tying in the best of "The Cooler" and "Let It Ride" or any other poker-faced film. 

Sidebar: I kept looking for Ricky Jay to make a cameo or show up as a consultant as many scenes evoked his work in "House of Games" and "Deceptive Practice."

I liked how Sorkin wove in Olympic-level near-misses also tied to the Berlin 1936 Games, describing how baseball legend Jackie Robinson's older brother Mack set a world record in the 200m athletics competition only to later become a janitor (he came in second to Jessie Owens by less than four-tenths of a second). 

Also enjoyed several cameos that brought together favorites from previous award-winning films. 

Graham Greene (previously with Costner in "Dances With Wolves") appears as a federal judge. 

Michael Cera finally appears against typecast as the darker "Player X" at the poker table. 

And Chris O'Dowd provides some comic relief as a drunk poker player turned unwitting Trojan horse in taking down the operation. 

A nice surprise from "Molly's Game" is a look at the psychology of father:daughter dynamics. At the risk of divulging moderate spoilers, some of the best scenes involve Costner as the elder Bloom leveraging mental fitness in nudging his daughter to greatness. 

Later scenes introducing Elba as a star attorney involve his mentoring of a teenage daughter reading "The Crucible" assigned to her as literal "home" work out of the classroom. Some of these conversations are brilliant. 

One line for which to listen (more about iniquitous gambling): "You just don't want to break the law when you're breaking the law!"

A friend who informed me of "Molly's Game" and its Olympic connections asked whether I plan now to read Bloom's book, which was new to me (somehow missed the publicity machine when it debuted and on the run to the film's release). Not sure the movie will inspire me to invest that time. 

But for those looking for great screenwriting, acting and poker-centric drama, "Molly's Game" is a winning bet. 

Photos via MollysGame.movie. Sorkin/Chastain photo by Chris Young of The Canadian Press. 


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