Tuesday, March 18, 2008
For the first time since the big flood of June 2003, I saw a rabbit in my yard this evening!
Just before the flood, five days of torrential rain 24 hours a day, leaving my house an island accessed by kayak, I had seen a family of rabbits operating out of the shrubery and brush at the eastern side of my property as I stood on my back porch. As the waters rose over the days, I feared for their safety as they were being surrounded, but never saw what became of them. Just that I never saw another rabbit until today!
Maybe it's the Easter bunny???
Monday, March 17, 2008
ALWAYS CARRY A CAMERA!
In today's world, easier than ever, with compact digitals, and free shooting... I used to carry a Kodak Pocket 40- and shot a lot! Then I got a fancy SLR, and it became a pain, and too big to carry all the time...
Recently, I bought a litttle Sanyo on sale for 70 bucks at Wal-mart mainly due to its size, but also hoping to cash in on a lower shutter lag and higher rez than my Olympus Ultra Zoom- 10X optical! But the shutter lag is still there, and its pictures though twice the rez of the Olympus are half the quality... still, it is right there in my pocket all the time.
And that is good. Went over to Wal-mart this afternoon for some stuff, and as I was scooting into the store on my ECV, I noticed a rather unique vehicle in one of the handicapped spots. Bamm! Camera ready! Got the shot! I did wonder though if the handicapped placard in the windscreen was for the driver or the car...
Monday, March 10, 2008
A 3 DAY AT DISNEYWORLD
see pictures and video at
I headed down to Walt Disney World last Tuesday (2008 03 04) for a planned three-day visit. Arrived at the Magic Kingdom parking lot about 2, noticing as I drove in that it was virtually empty- a good sign! But, due to only one ferry running and a monorail problem, I didn’t get to the park entrance until almost 3. Checked out the new construction next to the Contemporary on the ride over.
As I scooted through the turnstiles, I glanced left and noticed that the view of the Main Street Train Station in the bright afternoon sun was looking particularly good, so went over to grab a shot. From there, I intended to head to the bakery on Main Street to get one of those nice gluten free chocolate chip cookies I had discovered during an earlier visit, but as I came out into Town Square, I saw the ropes up and the crowds gathering for the afternoon parade, so I quickly diverted into the stores and headed through those hoping to make it to Splash Mountain before I got cut off by the parade; but alas, I called it wrong, heading through FrontierLand rather than AdventureLand after passing the Crystal Palace, so did get cut off and the beginning of the Parade was already there. I found a decent location up a few steps near the restaurant in FrontierLand, and did get some good close up shots of the floats. As the “Evil” float went by, I held up my hands and crossed my forefingers at Cruella, and she reacted dramatically, hissing and clawing in my direction!
When the parade passed, and the rope people reeled in their lines- I was always impressed by that operation- I weaved through the throngs and headed over to Splash. The line was minimal so the Cast member, (CM) didn’t even pretend to make me go through it, and took me directly to the handicapped access area.
Headed carefully against the flow of the exit, and declining to make any particular seat choice, I ended up in the back seat. This is a good ride, probably one of the best, exquisite theming, and a simply delightful experience overall, an entertaining, pleasant ride with that one little exciting part of a 5-story plunge over the side into the Briar Patch. I sat back and enjoyed it, not shooting, just doing it, when, at one point, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw something. When we got to the end, I asked the CM if I could go again, telling him that I thought I spotted a Hidden Mickey! [A Hidden Mickey is something in the ordinary decoration that has been done in such a way as to simulate the ‘three circle’ silhouette of the classic Mickey head, such as a dinner plate with two smaller plates placed where the ears would be.] He asked where and I told him, and he said yep! He added there were a total of five in there. That surprised me- would have expected a lot more! But I re-rode, camera-ready, and got a shot of my newly discovered secret!
As the ride finished and we pulled into the loading area, a few sprinkles were falling and people were covering up as if getting wet was something to be avoided at all costs: funny thing given that the ride threatened a much greater soaking than the piddling rain.
Back on my scooter, I rode out, stopping to check out my picture on the TV preview, grabbed a shot of it, and headed over to Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road. Went in the exit, the handicapped entrance (this is one of the rides that does not move handicapped through the regular line at all, but simply uses the exit,) and asked for the back row, the best experience on this wonderful ride. BTMRR is like three coaster runs in one: none too wild, but good enough for most folks. Shot video of the whole thing.
As we did the third section, it started raining again, lightly, and by the time I hit the exit it was quite noticeable. I headed to the nearby smoking area, down by the River of America and as the area under the small roofed section was full- and with several very young children (I hate it when people bring children into the smoking area!) I stayed in the empty uncovered area and smoked under my official Mickey Mouse Poncho (Thanks Stef!)
After a while, I did see that people were smoking under the roof, and that it had emptied out a bit, so I moved over there as I was not yet quite ready to do another ride. I was able to get my scooter just in under the roof. It was still full, and thus I was more or less face to face with another guest, as were most people there. I was struck by her decorative ensemble, and after a bit, I openly stared. Her outfit was quite colorful and diverse, and in particular her T-shirt, at first glance a vintage Disneyland shirt, but something looked a bit off.
She noticed me staring after a bit, so I told her I was trying to read her T-shirt (always a challenging situation with a female) and she pulled aside her various lanyards and buttons and things and I saw that it was clearly intended to appear to be a Disneyland T-Shirt, though it actually read... Deadheadland!
[A “Dead Head” is a fan of the 60’s Rock and Roll group, the Grateful Dead, known for their particular dedication to seeing the band perform live. Various styles of decoration, such as tie-die T-shirts, and certain symbolism, such as the skull, have grown up around this group.]
As soon as I realized what it said, I said, “Ah ha! You were around for the 60’s!”
Thrilled that I had noticed, she replied, “For the end of it.”
To which I replied, “That is why you remember it!”
(Old joke, you young’uns!)
She exclaimed happily to the woman beside her that I was the first person to notice her shirt! She said I had to see the other side and turned around to show me: it portrayed what looked like a line drawing of a park map, but it was the shape of the classic Dead Head skull- and the “Lands” were not exactly Disney-named. One of the most well known lines from a Grateful Dead song were paraphrased across the top of the ‘park map’, “At least I enjoyed the rides!”
I told her I had to get a shot of this, and she agreed, and I shot both sides. She then introduced herself, Elyse, and her twin sister, Elena, and I me, and we started chatting. I noticed that though they appeared to be Disney-vets, that Elena was wearing a “First Visit” button: I inquired. They told me they were vets of DisneyLAND! The ladies had lived in LA their whole lives, near LAX, and as do some locals in Florida (moi) visited their Disney park frequently enough to assume the self-appointed, unofficial, role of Disney Ambassador for other less frequent guests and cast members. There, they had become known as ‘The Bubble Ladies’, in their frequent visits, wanting to spread some magic themselves, they started making little bottles of bubble soap and wands to hand out to people who needed a touch of magic!
Later, the internet Disney fan group they frequented, StupidGuestTricks.com, had decided that they needed to expand beyond DL and put together a fund to send them both to DisneyWorld!
Elena then told Elyse to show me, and they jointly dug into a big bag and pulled out a small bottle and presented it to me: one of their magical bottles of bubbles!
I then inquired as to their rather unique and wonderful Mickey Ears- if they had made them themselves, and yes they did, The basic shape was of twisted wire with some sort of shiny metallic material captured within the twists to create the classic outline- very decorative and striking. As was all their get-up! They both had nails with extreme paint jobs, including teeny Mickey silhouettes, and sparkles. Other various garb: buttons, hangings, decorations that delighted.
Noting here that I also was wearing something pretty special: my newly-gifted Beatles cap sent to me by my British friend, Bren, directly from the Beatles Museum in Liverpool! Throughout this visit, I received many admiring comments about it- more so than any hat since my original Goofy Hat!
We chatted on for a while- one of those talks where you keep promising this is the last thing, gotta go, but then go on anyway- but finally they had to go to meet someone on schedule. I told them that if I spent another hour with them I would have to do another book! They were going to Animal Kingdom the next day and I tried mightily to get convince them to do Expedition Everest. I think I failed, but who knows! All in all, this was a delightful meeting with a couple of unique and splendid ladies, and was the highlight of this visit!
And funny thing: I was there because a friend in California had bought me a new Annual Pass... whole circle of life thing happening here!
I headed out and towards Main Street, figuring it was now clear to get to the bakery. I got my cookie, a pricey treat. I did some shots of Main Street, and then had another guest shoot me with the statue of Walt’s brother, Roy in Town Square. I in turn shot them. I was feeling a bit run down by this point, so having heard that the first aid station had beds available, I decided to give that a shot versus returning to my van for a nap. This turned out to be true, and I asked if I could lie down for a bit- my back was killing me, and I was readily welcomed and asked to sign in.
Nice enough place, much bigger than I expected, and several partitioned spaces with a “bed” in each. I was shown to one, the curtain pulled and I was left on my own. I rested for almost an hour, but then was startled out of any rest mode by the unmistakable desperation screaming of a child in pain and terror. I got up and headed back to the entrance, and inquired of the nurse there, thinking this child must have skinned a knee or some other terribly painful event, but it turned out to be a bug bite: traumatic for him, but not any long term damage.
I thanked the nurse and headed back out, over to TomorrowLand, and still feeling a bit weary, decided to ride the TTA, the TomorrowLand Transit Authority, aka the People Mover, a seated relaxing slow moving tour of the perimeter and buildings of TomorrowLand. I took my shoes off and put my feet up and sat back for two runs.
When I exited that, I headed over to The TomorrowLand Raceway and took a spin around the track. Then headed over to FantasyLand hoping to catch Mickey’s PhilharMagic, (another thing I had told the Bubble Ladies not to miss) but by the time I got there, it was blocked off in preparation for the evening’s fireworks spectacle.
Forced to backtrack, I visited the Stitch store, then headed over to Main Street to view the fireworks, actually stopping short and finding a place behind a rock on the path that skirts the border of Tomorrow Land. Wasn’t the best view of the show, in that everything was off center, but I did see everything clearly. Great show, and got a good shot of the Fantasia imagery on the castle.I headed on out via the ferry and back to the motel.
On Wednesday, I headed to Epcot, arriving about noon: the parking lot was near full! This was not as predicted. I came in from the far left side, taking a couple of shots of the now naked Golf Ball. Through security, through the turnstiles, and continuing with my lazy theme for this visit, I headed straight to the handicapped entrance for Space Ship Earth- because it was there.
Hit it just right: they load the handicapped riders in shifts now, and they were just starting a load as I arrived. This attraction has just been completely renovated, though with actual minor changes, mostly in the technology of the presentation, taking it up to a level where that does not distract from the subject. The animatronics are better, the imagery is better, and the narration has been greatly enhanced with Dame Judi Dench now voicing the modified script. The actual tableau's do not change significantly until near the top, where, among other things, a certain young man sits in a garage working on this new thing called a personal computer... then on up to the wonderful climax at the top, the big night sky and the Beautiful Blue Earth in the heavens.
The return trip has changed completely- unfortunately losing the City of the Future, a personal favorite- now decorated entirely with a 3D grid of sparkle lights on a dead black background- as the touch-screen now in each ride vehicle begins its program of questioning, predicting and portraying your possible future, based on the multiple-choice answers you make.
It finishes its presentation as the ride comes to an end, and you disembark into the completely new and very futuristic looking post-ride room, featuring several interactive games and educational projects using computers and video screens. In the middle of this is a large globe of the earth, and various people’s images appear next to their home location as indicated on the screen by each rider at the beginning of the ride. There are also individual station touch-screens to search out your own picture and send a “postcard” to your own e-mail account. I couldn’t find my image, so sent the default “postcard”.
After doing the car-racing video game, I headed out, up the hill, and into FutureWorld, again, sticking to the plan of taking it easy, decided to check out Innoventions, noting first what appears to be new signage on the building entrance? Inside, I spotted a new presentation area, by Waste Management, on recycling trash, mainly as fuel for power generation. A very nice presentation, involving actually driving around small scale trash trucks- neat little things- always wanted to drive one of those. The CM’s kept wanting to drive it for me, seeing me on my ECV, and I told them, Hey! I learned to drive a truck in Boston, I can handle this!
To “play”, one first answers questions on a touch screen regarding your own lifestyle, and this generates an approximation of how much trash you generate. This is loaded into your “truck”. You then drive your truck to three stations in turn, docking them in each, and separating, recycling, converting, and landfilling your personal trash. At the end, there is again an option to send something to your home computer, a Certificate of Achievement: “Don’t Waste It!” presented by Waste Management at INNOVENTIONS at Epcot!
Just beyond this, there was another new exhibit, the “Test the Limits Lab” by Underwriters Laboratories: very colorful and intriguing looking, but basically little to do other than push buttons to activate demonstrations, and watch. But that test of the hard hat was rather intimidating...
Moving on, I noticed for the first time- I think- the end wall mural near the exit on the Test Trak side of the building highlighting several milestones in the Walt’s creative record. Nice picture of Walt there.
Scooted over to the smoking area near Test Trak and rested a bit, saw a nice photo op, good view, good lighting, took it, and then realized it needed the monorail in it, so waited for that and shot it again, then liking it so much, I hi-jacked a passerby to shoot me in it.
Headed over to Test Trak, single-riders line, pretty much walk-on, though after the presentation room it was backed up, so took us all a while to get out of there. Had a good ride- that ride is like a good shot of adrenaline. Whew!
Then over to Mission: Space, thinking I would only check out the store, but ended up riding. Orange side was walk-on. I paused in the queue to shoot the center of the big hub space station- has an interesting symbol on it- check it out next time you are there. Quick trip through three months of hibernation, a visit to Mars, and I don’t even remember how we got back. Looked around the shop a bit, love the ‘Mickey as astronaut’ statue in the shop.
Decided that was it for now, and headed on out, deciding I needed a steak, so parked my van back at the motel and took my ECV up the sidewalk toward a place I had seen that morning on the way in, The Colorado House of Beef. On the way, stopped and chatted a bit with a couple on a sidewalk bench- they were down for Bike Week and had come over for a break from the madhouse at Daytona. From Tennessee, they has also gone to St Augustine and thought that was pretty wonderful. Harley’s.
The restaurant turned out to be a bit more upscale than I had expected and I ended up getting a $25 filet mignon. Very good, but after tax and tip, heck, that was a day at the motel! But it was good. And corn on the cob! That was a special treat- I haven’t had that for quite a while!
Went back to my room and napped, awoke at 7:45, and headed back to Epcot for Illuminations, the closest thing I have to a “religious service”.
Having about half an hour to go before Illuminations began, and being near Canada, I buzzed into the theater queue and asked how much time till the next show. The CM said I had time to do it, so, not having yet seen the new show, I hung around.The new show is clean and sparkly, and has an entirely different "feel" to it. Hosted by Martin Short, it is flavored by his rather in-your-face manner.
And though some of the original 360 film has been consolidated into a segment at the end, for the most part, it is now a collection of varying images on multiple screens rather than a true 360 film: for one time viewing, good enough, but not something I will return to time and time again as I did for the original. It does stress multiculturalism a bit more than the original, but other than that I don't see that it has that different an editorial viewpoint than it, which was the alleged National complaint about it.
My opinion by a wide margin would be to go back to the original film. Some things don't really need to be tied to a celebrity. Nothing against Martin- I enjoy him on Letterman when he appears- but he doesn't strike me as right for this- or that any change was actually needed- or really significantly made.
At the completion, there was a smattering of applause, less so than I have heard before, and seeming a bit forced seeming to indicate that the rest of the audience shared my reaction.
I headed out and over towards Mexico to find a spot for Illuminations. Found it, waited, and watched! Fantastic as always! Love that show! Best thing in the World!
I tried my new small camera, a Sanyo, on the fireworks setting but I guess it wants a tripod- not very good.
After the show climaxed in a great crescendo of blinding burst and deafening roar, I hung around while all the other guests rushed to be crushed at the exit gate: if ever there were a place NOT to want to be first out of...
After the multitudes had passed my position- just on the Mexico side of the walkway from the baby care center meets the World Showcase- I headed in, intending to slowly cruise around the world and enjoy the place in virtual solitude while the soul-lifting theme from the former Tapestry of Nations Parade played over the park-wide sound system. I stopped to shoot a couple of countries in the night lighting, and a bit past Italy, I exchanged nods with a CM about my age, standing “traffic watch” as giant carts of supplies were “driven” out of a waterside private event. I commented as I neared that this was the best time of day here, to which he heartily agreed and we started to chat. Eventually, I noticed his name badge indicated a hometown of Holliston MA, and I told him I was from Revere, and we carried on about various things “Massachusetts” for a while. As we prepared to part company, he asked if I traded pins, I said yes, and he presented me with a special Epcot “Pins Around the World” pin!
I grabbed one of the young men pushing carts and had him take a picture of Art and me.
I continued on my World tour, snapping a shot of Morocco, and one of France, and a shot I really like- looking across the water to Germany.
I eventually found myself back at the front, spent some time at the fountain, and then buzzed over to see if I could get a nice night shot of Mission Space, but the pathway to it was roped off.
Suddenly my attention was grabbed by the very unusual sound of a big tower-type clock bell ringing out the hour- ten o’clock. I had never heard that before, here, and looking around, I noticed that the dancing fountain was going wild with each ring! I headed over and scooted to dead center in front of it to watch and it went into the most all encompassing presentation I have ever seen it do! I forget the music that came up with the ten o’clock chimes, but I do remember that I was simply blown away by the all out presentation of the fountain show! This was something really special! Wow!
Thursday was for Animal Kingdom, AK. My “go” button for the day was to get a front seat on Expedition Everest and re-shoot my video of the ride. I was out of the motel about 11:30 and at the park by 12:00. I was surprised and- a bit taken aback- as I drove in and saw a parking lot that seemed rather full: this day was rated a 5 out of 10 for attendance and AK was rated the best park for the day- didn’t look that way driving in. Another factor: the poor layout of AK is such that it is crowded even with minimal people there.
This got me thinking about the parks and I realized that AK has a very different feel to it, as does MGM- or as it is now known- Disney Hollywood Studios, DHS. After a bit of consideration, I realized that the difference was that those two parks- as opposed to MK and Epcot- were done without any input or concept from Walt.
As friend Melissa commented when I shared this with her, “I agree, the flow is all wrong. They seem haphazardly placed. MK and Epcot were set up very carefully with the views of everything; and the “show” is just right from almost every angle. Not quite so with AK and DHS.”Bingo! She nailed it! The Show! At Magic Kingdom and Epcot, the park itself is part of the show, the stage; and that didn’t happen at the other two- just a fitted-in collection of attractions... This was simply another special knack Walt had, and while it carried over in Epcot, it wasn’t an understanding that carried over to the planners of the later parks.
Of course, now that I have discovered and revealed this secret factor...
I unloaded my ECV, headed in and over to Guest Services to grab a birthday button for a friend, and asked about getting a Magical Gatherings button for myself- though I didn’t qualify, but I liked the design. Got the first, and the CM did a great job painting the name on it, but no Magical Gatherings button.
I headed straight through the very crowded pathways to Asia and Expedition Everest, and entered the single riders’ line, and upon getting to the front asked for the front row, but was informed that you could not enter the front row line from the single riders line! Drat! I rode anyway, several rows back, no filming, just enjoying the ride- which didn’t seem quite as intense as I had remembered- but maybe doing it without holding a camera up in the air changes things.
After the ride, I headed straight round to the regular line, which showed a 30-minute wait, but as I approached that sign, it changed to 40 minutes. While moving through the queue, I realized that the lines are actually an integral and necessary part of the attraction experience- they are part of it, and without it, you are only getting the “ending” of a story that you haven’t fully heard. Now I am not saying spending two hours in line is a good thing, but moving through slowly enough to notice a lot of the little details that the Imagineers put into the attraction is worthwhile. Pay attention!
After finishing “Run 2” with camera operating from the front row right, I shot other views from various points on the ground as what they call “B Roll” to later edit into the ride footage.
I then headed over to the Nemo show theater, but that didn’t start for half an hour, so I passed on into DinoLand and Primeval Whirl. I shot that, rode a second run, and noticed- magnified from trying to hold a camera steady- that this really is a fairly rough and jerky ride! I again shot some B Roll back on the ground.
Then I headed back to Nemo as it had seemed to be a light line as I went by- but now there was a big crowd being held back at the first rope stop. A CM called out that they still had three wheelchair spaces left and I went in, literally one minute before show time, and it turned out the space they had left for me was dead center: perfect! I found the show much more enjoyable than the last time I saw it: yes, it is long, and drags a bit in the middle, and I don’t think any of the music is particularly memorable, but it actually is a pretty good show as light entertainment. (Or maybe I have just lost my GREAT resentment at seeing THIS in my Tarzan Rocks theater?)
Coming out of that theater is always a madhouse, even for those not trying to drive a scooter through the crowds- and by the time I finally made it to an almost clear spot way out on the walkway, I was ready to let loose a scream of relief! But I restrained myself and continued on, over the bridge to Discovery Island, stopping at a smoking area on the side, primarily to look for a receptacle as my battery was running low. Didn’t see one, but again chatted with a Harley couple escaped from Bike Week!
Left there, feeling I needed a charge too, as in some food, and scooted down to the eating pavilions by the water. A CM cleaning down there helped me find an outlet- they are hidden- and I plugged in and then sat down and ate some of the snack mix I had brought. As I was relaxing, I noticed some rustling in the growth beyond the fence in front of me. When it happened several more times, I started watching and then spotted an armadillo hard at work grubbing in the ground looking for food! I went over and it was not disturbed by my approach- didn’t even notice me- and after getting several shots, I got bold and decided to touch it, having no idea how responsive or quick these mysterious animals were, So with great care and ready to leap back at the slightest indication of threat, I reached down and “patted” its back. It didn’t even notice. The back was armor- I mean shell-like armor! I patted again a bit more firmly and nothing! But it sure was interesting getting to feel that! Very hard! Fascinating! The CM returned and I pointed it out to her. I was feeling like, hey, this really IS Animal Kingdom!
I tired of sitting, but needing to let the charger run for at least an hour, I decided to walk over to The Tree Of Life and see It’s Tough to be a Bug. It was walk on- but we did have to wait a bit for the doors to open- I spotted a little out of the way area and I laid down flat on my back and that felt soooo good! A few minutes later the doors opened and I headed in and chose a row carefully, and ended up dead center about 3/4 back in the theater: excellent viewing!
This is a good show without any conditions applied! They really did do a great job it! The combination of animatronics, lights, sound, the theater interior, special physical effects, and the 3D movie are masterfully accomplished to create the complete immersion experience!
Oh! Funny thing! The girl next to me, maybe in her 20’s, typical good looking somewhat stylish type: when the cockroaches headed out, she literally leaped to her feet and looked down at the seat, frozen in horror!
After the show, I headed back to get my ECV. The parade had started, so movement was diverted through the stores, but I got it and headed to the exit. I stopped on the last bridge to have the PhotoPass Photographer take a shot of me in front of the Tree Of Life.
As I came to the front, I again headed into Guest Services thinking maybe during the day they had gotten the button I wanted in stock, but this time was informed that that particular button was only given out at the resorts: makes sense. But, as I headed through the exit turnstile, I mentioned it to the Exec type CM there, and he said wait a minute, reached into his bag, dug around a bit, and voila! There ya go!
And as I moved past the ticket booth area, I noticed a couple of characters were doing photo ops, and got in line for Mickey, but it was a long line, and then I heard right behind me that my favorite, Goofy, had just appeared, so I scooted over there and got a shot with the Goof Man! Then went back to the Mickey line, now diminished, but just after I got there the CM announced Mickey was going to go get some cheese cake and would be right back- in twenty minutes.
I left and headed home!