Vancouver Olympics 2010 – Closing Ceremony

April 18, 2010

My recent neglect of my blog was due to the fact that I had paid a visit to Vancouver to witness the Olympics in action!  Coming back from the trip required a lot of catching up with work so my sincerest apologies for the delay. 

Although I was only there for the latter half of the Games, it was probably the more exhilarating half as all Canadians were ecstatic when they won gold in hockey and ended the Games with a bit of seemingly magic in the air!  If you are a devoted fan like me, I’m sure you’ve watched every bit of the Games.  Therefore, instead of talking about what may have already been shown on television, I’ll share one personal behind-the-scene experience.

I attended the Figure Skating Gala and the Closing Ceremony.  The Closing Ceremony was a bittersweet experience as while I was excited about the show, it signified that the Olympics have finally come to a closure.  While watching the Closing Ceremony, you may have noticed that the audience members were wearing light-colored paper ponchos and that there were occasional flashing lights in the sea of darkness out in the audience. In fact, each audience member was given an “Audience Participation Kit”.  This was accompanied by a “rehearsal” and training session prior to the start of the show and all throughout the entire show an “audience leader” gave us instructions about which props were needed for a particular segment.  Therefore, besides the actual performers, the audience was also involved!  In fact, we were constantly “busy” switching props and juggling them with our cameras. We were first asked to put on a light-colored poncho made from paper, which served as a canvas onto which an extensive display of lights were shown with messages and flags of the participating countries during the parade of athletes and entrance of the flag bearers on stage.

 

The culture of the host city, Vancouver, was exhibited with larger-than-life-sized hockey players, Canadian Mounties, and a distinctive array of animals like the beaver, bear, and the moose. The audience was asked to wear a moose antler hat during this period. In fact, despite its silliness, the audience was excited about wearing them as everyone was jubilant about the Games and Canadians were especially proud of their country after their hockey win. We also clipped on a red or white blinker onto the antlers, which explains the continuous flashing of lights in the audience.  At the end of this portion of the show, the entire stadium was then showered with red, orange, and yellow maple leaves made from tissue paper.  It was a very pretty scene!

 

During the handover of the Winter Olympic Games to Sochi, Russia, the audience turned on a snow globe with a miniature replica of the mountains of Sochi with words which say “See You in Sochi” and lit up BC Place Stadium in red, blue or white, or the colors of the Russian flag. 

 

The amount of time spent and the amount of people whom were involved with the Closing Ceremony are impressive.  It must have taken a lot of effort to make sure the kits were placed appropriately to create the desired effect.  Some digging into this matter unveiled that there were a total of 289 different possible combinations in the 60,000 kits in the audience!  Amazing!  Therefore, the organizing committee took time to thank the many volunteers who helped put together the event and made the Olympics possible with a flower tribute and gave them freebies like a set of postcards with the words “Thank you”.  Each kit contained a colored card in pink, purple, or yellow which formed one of the many petals in the one of many possible flower formations in the audience.  Known as Smurfs, as they were dressed in blue, there were a total of 18,500 volunteers at these Olympic Games. 

 

As a keepsake and for ease of transport, the props fit nicely in a suitcase-like cardboard box decorated with graphics from the various Canadian provinces

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Word list

(International Phonetic Alphabet included, following the pronunciation of American English)

accompany (verb) /əˈkʌm.pə.ni/ – to go with someone or something

antler (noun) /ˈænt.lər/ – a horn that looks like tree branches which grows on the head of a moose

array (noun) /əˈreI/ – a large group of things or people

bittersweet (adj) /‘bIt.ər.swit/ – to describe feeling sad and happy at the same time

blinker (noun) /ˈblIŋ.kər/ – a light that turns on and off quickly

Canadian Mountie (noun) /kæ’ney.diən/ /ˈmaʊn.ti/- slang for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police dressed in a full red serge outfit, boots, and a hat

canvas (noun) /ˈkæn.vəs/ – a piece of clothing, board, or other display area

catch up (phrasal verb) /kætʃ//ʌp/ – to do something that one should have already done earlier

closure (noun) /ˈkloʊ.ʒər/ – an end or stop in something

desired (adj) /dIˈzaIrd/ – something that is wanted

devoted (adj) /dIˈvoʊ.tId/ -to describe someone who is loyal and passionate about something

ease (verb) /iz/ – to make or become less difficult or unpleasant

ecstatic (adj) /Ikˈstæt.Ik/– extremely happy

exhilarating (adj) /IgˈzIl.ə.reI.tIŋ/ – very exciting

extensive (adj) /Ikˈsten.sIv/ – covering a large area or having a great range

flag bearer (noun) /flæg//ˈbeə.rər/ – someone who holds a nation’s flag

freebie (noun) /ˈfri.bi/ – something given with no cost to it for promotional purposes

host (noun) /hoʊst/ – someone who has guests

impressive (adj) /Imˈpres.Iv/ – special, admirable

jubilant (adj) /ˈdʒu.bI.lənt/ adj– feeling or expressing great happiness

juggle (verb) /ˈdʒʌg.l ̩/ – to handle two or more things or jobs at the same time

keepsake (noun) /ˈkip.seIk/ – a souvenir or present to remember something or some event

moose (noun) /mus/- a large deer with antlers which live in the forests of North America, northern Europe, and Asia

neglect (noun) /nIˈglekt/ – state of not giving enough care or attention to someone or something

poncho (noun) /ˈpɑn.tʃoʊ/ – a piece of clothing made from one piece of material with a hole in the middle for the head

prop (noun) /prɑp/ n- an object used to support something

province (noun) /ˈprɑ.vIns/ n– an area which is governed as part of a country or an empire.  Just like America has states, Canada has provinces.

put on (phrasal verb) /pʊt//ɑn/ – to wear

replica (noun) /ˈrep.lI.kə/ – a copy of an object

segment (noun) /ˈseg.mənt/– a part of something

silliness (noun) /ˈsIl.I.nəs/ n– the act of being silly or funny

Smurf (noun) /smərf/ – a small blue cartoon character with a white stocking cap and pants from the cartoon “The Smurfs”

stadium (noun) /ˈsteI.di.əm/ – a large closed area of land with rows of seats around the sides used for sports events or musical performances

tribute (noun) /ˈtrI.byut/  – something that you say, write or give which shows respect and admiration for someone  

unveil (verb) /ʌnˈveIl/ – to reveal or show something

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California Adventures

August 8, 2009

I recently had a chance to visit California Adventures, a theme park owned by The Walt Disney Company and uniquely situated only in Los Angeles.  Not surprisingly, the park is divided into five areas, each reflecting the landmarks, culture, and history of the state of California.  However, while the park cannot be found anywhere else in the world, the rides at the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area could be found within Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Miami, Florida. 

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Besides Hollywood, the state of California is also known for its year-long sunshine and moderate climate, natural parks and hiking spots, and an extensive coastline.  These are represented by the three areas “Sunshine Plaza”, “Golden State”, and “Paradise Pier”, respectively.  In the ride “Soarin’ Over California”, you are able to fly over these various landmarks on a simulated hang glider tour, equipped with special effects such as sound and smell!  In addition, as bugs are feared by many children, “a bug’s land” is a kid’s paradise with rides and a show giving kids a perspective of the world from the eyes of a bug.  This part of the park is actually quite cute, with a train ride through blown-up versions of a watermelon and a garden bed to a 3-D show with animated talking bugs!

My personal favorite ride is the Toy Story Midway Mania, an interactive 4-D ride allowing you to try your luck at shooting targets on a screen.   If you have seen the cartoon, you must remember Mr. Potato Head, a toy that transcends generations and a ‘must-have’ for any American child. 

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As the boom of California could be attributed to its suitable climate for the growth of oranges, a huge replica of an orange is situated in the middle of the park!  The “Orange Stinger” is a ride with swings.  Unfortunately, it will soon be replaced by another ride sometime this year.

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Now, isn’t this statue of a grizzly bear a bit intimidating?  Towering above the “Grizzly River Run”, a ride replicating the extreme sport of whitewater rafting, this grizzly bear is dressed in vest and helmet, all ready for the ride!

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A bear is also crafted on Grizzly Peak!  Can you pick out the shape of a bear? 

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 And, lastly- California’s Hollywood has always been a wonder of fame and creativity, the essence of Disney itself.  At the “Hollywood Pictures Backlot”, “Muppet Vision 3D” is a three-dimensional show giving a made-up behind-the-scenes glimpse of movie production.  How about Miss Piggy as Lady Liberty?  Isn’t that creative or what?!

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Word list

(International Phonetic Alphabet included, following the pronunciation of American English)

 

animated (adj) /’ænImeItId/- describes drawing, movies, figures which are lively or cartoon with characters which appear to be alive

attributed to (phrasal verb) /ə’trIbyutId tuw/ – result of, causes

behind-the-scenes (adj) /bI’haInd ðə siyns/ – not happening in public, happening without others knowing

boom (n) /buwm/- a period of sudden growth

bug (n) /bʌg/- a small insect

coastline (n) /’koʊst,laIn/- where the ocean meets a land form

crafted (v) /’kræftId/ – manufactured

creativity (n) /krieI’tIvəti/ – originality, imagination

essence (n) /’esənts/ – an important quality

extensive (adj) /Ik’stensIv/ – covering a large area

fame (n) /feim/ – recognition due to achievements or skills

garden bed (n) /’gardən bed/ – an area of a garden where flowers are planted, also called flower bed

glimpse (n) /glImps/ – a sight lasting for a short time, a glance

grizzly bear (n) /,grIzli’ber/- a large grayish brown bear from North America and Canada

hang-glider (n) /’hæŋ,glaIdər/- a large kite-like machine without an engine where a rider hangs from while it descends to the ground

interactive (adj) /,Intər’æktIv/- a system or program that involves the user (i.e. game or computer)

Lady Liberty (n) /’leIdi ’lIbərti/- another name for the Statue of Liberty

made-up (adj) /,meId’ʌp/ -invented, created

Miss Piggy (n) /mIs ’pIgi/- a character in The Muppet Show produced by Jim Henson

moderate (adj) /’mɔdərət/ – average, not extreme

must-have (n) /’mʌst ,hæv/- something that one must possess or have (informal usage)

perspective (n) /pər’spektIv/ – view, a way of looking at or considering something

reflecting (v) /rI’flektIŋ/ – representing, expressing, exemplifying

replica (n) /’replIkə/ – a copy of something

replicating (v) /’replIkeItIŋ/ -copying something

simulated (adj) /’sImyʊleItId/- looks real but is not real

statue (n) /’stætʃu/ – object made from stone or metal to look like a person or animal

target (n) /’targIt/ – object that is fired at or shot at

transcend (v) /træn’send/- to go beyond

whitewater rafting (n) /’waItwatər ’ræftIŋ/ – a sport or activity where a raft moves quickly through strong river currents


Taiwan trip

August 2, 2009

Taiwan1

 

As I mentioned in a couple of entries back, a free magnet given by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau during the Lunar New Year festival in Los Angeles reminded me of my trip to Taipei a couple of years ago.  I know it’s been a while ago (2004…hehe) but still wanted to share some of my thoughts about the city as it was first time there.  (For those interested in reading about my stroll to the Chinese New Year festival, please see the entry on July 27)

Taipei is a very crowded urbanized city, like many capital cities.  However, defying the apathetic reputation of modernized cities, its people are very warm and welcoming.  Being unfamiliar with the place, as my friends and I have never visited before, we had to ask locals for directions many times.  Yet, all the people we asked, of varying ages and gender, were very informative and wanted to help. We were very impressed. 🙂

Another fascinating aspect of Taipei is that even though it is a large rapidly- developing city, land seems to be more plentiful as compared to other modern cities in the world.  There are large plazas and squares in front of important monuments and around the city which make the city seem less claustrophobic.  It was very pleasant to see families out enjoying some kite-flying and times together!  Thus, even though our trip lasted for less than a week and we were constantly on the go, it was a relaxing and pleasurable trip.

Towering above the rest of the city, Taipei 101 was an amazing feat even though in 2004 it was not yet entirely opened to the public.  Sometimes I wonder how such tall buildings could be built!  It is not a shocker that it is considered a wonder in the world of architecture and modern society.  Despite such rapid modernization, ancient culture is preserved.  What amazing masks!

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As an urban planner, I also like to pay attention to the infrastructures in place wherever I go.  Having a separate bike lane and pedestrian walkway could prevent accidents and perhaps encourage bike riding.  Car drivers, biker riders, and pedestrians could all share the road, which I think is a great idea! 


Lunar New Year street festival

July 27, 2009

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(This post was originally posted during Lunar New Year in February.)

Well, this is the first time I’m writing about myself here but just wanted to share some of my experiences in Los Angeles with you.  For these, I’m going to stick with writing in English as it is a good way to practice reading English!  I’ll try to provide the Chinese to more difficult words. 

Last weekend I had a chance to visit the Lunar New Year street festival held in Monterey Park.  Even though I go every year, I’m always amazed at how they are able to block off several blocks on a rather busy Garvey Avenue for several days!  Walking on the street definitely gives an entirely different perspective than when one is driving on it.  The street seems so much wider.

Compared to those in Asian countries, I’m sure this street festival was not as grand.  However, I do appreciate the City’s effort to bring a little joy to those who do celebrate the lunar New Year.  I’m sure not all American cities have something similar- maybe just the ones with a significant Asian population (i.e. San Francisco, New York)?  They also plan it months in advance.  While in high school, I had the opportunity to work with the City to book some game booths to fundraise for our school club.  At the time, I was afraid when the time came around as manning the booths were physically demanding and exhausting!  However, when I was walking around last weekend, I was on the lookout for any signs of my alma mater but unfortunately did not see any.  Something just wasn’t the same. 

Here in Los Angeles, there are at least three other local cities which put up something similar- Alhambra, Rowland Heights, and Chinatown.  Usually, local vendors, government departments, local colleges, tourism bureaus, and overseas vendors set up booths to promote their products.  I remember getting many freebies when I was younger but nowadays, the quantities have been reduced and more products are for purchase only.  I’m sure the economic tsunami also has an adverse effect on this.  Nonetheless, I’m happy with my loot! 

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Seaweed Sesame Eggroll from a bakery in Hong Kong!  I like the seaweed taste to them as they remind me of Japanese hand rolls.

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A free magnet from the Taiwan Tourism Bureau which says, “Taiwan- Touch Your Heart”.  I have more to say about this, later in another post, as Taiwan lived up to this and touched my heart when I visited.