It’s That Time Again!

I am about athletic as a pile of rocks, but that does not stop me from getting excited about the Olympics. In truth, it’s not the sports of the Olympics that excites me, it’s the over-the-top opening ceremonies. Maybe it’s the advances in technology and audience participation, but I don’t remember them being quite so elaborate when I was kid. I remember it being during the day (I think), lots of “Up With People!” type of choreographed group dance numbers, random celebrities and bad lip syncing. Sort of like a sports-themed Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Now, it’s at night.

I loved the Torino ceremony in 2006, mostly because I had absolutely no idea what was going on. Parts of it were really lovely, like the ballet dancers suspended over the arena floor. But there were quite a few times that I said, “What exactly is happening?” There was techno music, disinterested ballet dancers, an albino punk with his circulatory system on the outside of his body, a race car doing donuts and then Sophia Loren and Susan Sarandon brought in the Olympic flag. Think I’m joking?

But in 2008, along comes Beijing with their visually stunning ceremonies that went off without a hitch and raised the bar for all opening ceremonies. People (me) were saying things like, “Poor Vancouver. Anything they do will pale in comparison.” Well, people (me) were wrong! Vancouver was great! It had just the right blend of awesome, random celebs, and WTFness to make it memorable. Unlike the other games, they actually have their entire opening ceremony online. So if you’ve got 3+ hours to kill, you can see for yourself. If not, I’ll recap the highlights for you. I am not making any of this up. I’m going to skip the very beginning, because it’s mostly the parade of nations and it is loooong. The real show starts about an hour and a half in, if you are watching You Tube.

There is a bright light at one end of the arena and a man walks out. Then all these other people walk out. It looks like the end of Close Encounters of The Third Kind when all the people abducted by the aliens come out of the spaceship. They wander around waving at each other. A three story polar bear made of lights appears, there is much rejoicing and now their clothes light up. For some reason the first guy out breaks apart the ice, the people freak and scatter to the ice flows. The ice is projected on the floor of the stadium and it is very cool (haha! my mom will like that joke).

Okay, now is the coolest thing in the entire show. Somehow they turn the entire floor of the stadium into an ocean and killer whales “swim” across the “ocean” in three dimensions, complete with with their fins out of the “water”, they splash and blow water. It is so incredible that I don’t even want to know how they did it, because it would ruin the magic of it. If you are fast forwarding, this is at 1:38:45.

Sarah McLachlan sings a pretty song that doesn’t guilt us into adopting 50 abused animals while a bunch of hippies dance around big fake trees. Then the rapture comes and a bunch of ballet dancers are lifted into a big sparkly gold cloud that triggers a full moon. A post-apocalyptic fiddle player in a kilt and his hair made into horns floats in front of the full moon in a glowing blue canoe. His shadow is projected on to the moon and he interacts with it. It starts all new-agey with a harp player, then all of a sudden it changes to a celtic punk wild west renaissance fair tap show. This part is high energy and incredibly fun. Oh and towards the end, there is fire! WIN.

Then it’s time for their tribute to beat poetry. A guy wearing a beret and odd facial hair performs a poem about what it means to be Vancouverite? Vancouverin? Vacouverino? It’s really nice and he does a great job. If I were a Vancouverino, I’m sure it would have made me cry. Then it’s time for speeches, AKA go to the bathroom and/or look for snack portion of the show. Of course, Wayne Gretzky is the last one to get the torch (was that surprising to anyone?) and he looks either very moved or very cold. There are fireworks and everyone heads for the parking lot.

I read an article that tonight’s London opening ceremony will be…..different. It includes real grass, 30 sheep, a mosh pit, maypole dancing, a 27 ton bell, a cricket team and Paul McCartney (who better not sing anything made beyond 1969). I really don’t know what to expect, especially since they released their ghastly logo and mascots, but as long as I’m entertained (and Lord knows I am easily entertained) and there are a few shots of David Beckham, I’ll be happy. But I am pretty disappointed that NBC has chosen not to live stream the opening ceremonies, therefore subjecting us to their horrible sports coverage. If history tells me anything, it’s that at least the first hour will have absolutely nothing to do with the opening ceremonies and there will be way too much Matt Lauer.

In other news, I can’t believe it, but I only have 2 more sessions of my summer class. Where has this summer gone? In a month I’ll be back in school for fall semester. Time really does fly.

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Behind the (semi) creative scenes!

I’m about halfway through my summer typography class. I don’t love it, but I do have a new appreciation for type. Our last assignment was to come up with three type-only print ad for a well-known product. I picked Lipton Tea.

Can I just take a second and say I hate this kind of assignment? Not the creating ads or typography, but the super broad, “Pick something!” sort of assignments. Yes, it’s nice to have that freedom, but it also leaves me feeling like I’m floating in space without any direction.

My sketchbook. I’d say “ignore the messy coffee table,” but the slinky, bandaids, neosporin, earrings and rubber band are pretty representative of me.

The first thing I did was go to the Lipton website and see their current strategy and then Wikipedia to read their history and take a bunch of notes. Their current focus is on the health benefits of tea, so I started there, too.

But nothing was working. I didn’t really like any of the layouts and I didn’t really have a message or goal to communicate. So, I turned the page and wrote at the top, “What is the story I want to tell? What is the story of the tea?” and I just wrote whatever. What came out wasn’t about physical health. It was about mental health and how taking even a short break can recharge your day. 

Aha!! Now I had a goal. I revised and revised and revised my copy, came up with a layout, revised some more, came up with a new layout (the first one looked like a circus poster), revised again, another new layout (now it looked like a circus poster from the 1980’s), showed it to my teacher (who didn’t like it), came up with another new layout, ran out of time and had to turn it in. Then, I revised it a little bit more this morning using the comments from the class critique. 

I think they came out okay. I’m not thrilled, but I don’t hate them. Using only type in an advertisement is very difficult. “A picture is worth 1,000 words” is a cliche for a reason.

After turning these in, I went to the gym and did my regular hour. On my way home I thought, “If anyone told me two years ago that I would be capable of doing anything I did today, I would have thought they were crazy.”  I believe we are capable of more then we realize, sometimes we just need a giant shove from the universe to get us started. I’m thankful everyday (okay, most days) I finally got started.