Friday, May 27, 2005

New Sci-Fi

I saw a much-anticipated new SF film this week, and it was great!

We got home from Florida Sunday night at around 6:30. I knew that everyone at work would be asking me about the new "Star Wars" movie the next day (not to mention numerous emails would be waiting for me about it), so I figured I'd better get right out to see it. I went to the 9:45pm show of "Revenge of the Sith" Sunday night.

My complaints about the last two "Star Wars" films wasn't that they were bad movies... they weren't, I liked them both in a casual way. They were beautifully made, and told great stories. They just didn't tell the stories well, being very dispassionate with very little emotion to them and very poor character development.

The first third or half even of "Sith" impressed me much the same way. Yes, yes, very nice, but I don't feel anything watching this, I'm thinking. But somewhere in the middle of the movie it seemed to find itself! I need to see the movie again, as I noticed at the time that one particular scene clicked really well and it seems it held that level from that point on. I just can't recall exactly which scene it was now!

But from that point on it seemed to play out much more passionately, and the characters actually started to feel alive for the first time. This movie also did a much better job - from the beginning - of establishing a real relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan. The second film failed miserably in setting up the friendship that was supposed to exist between the two. This one recovered that fairly well so by the time of the inevitable "falling out" (to describe it with a slight understatement!) the betrayal felt by Obi-Wan felt real.

Spoiler in the next paragraph....


The infamous "Noooo" scene... oh good grief. As Mojo said, this was inexcusable. The only way I would see that working would be if the charred Anakin, lying on the table but not yet in the helmet, asked about Padme and heard the news. A "Noooo" while strapped to the table, and as the helmet then came down to seal him into the suit, might have worked well dramatically. But once Vader rises from the table he needs to be Vader... Anakin must be totally gone at that point.


End spoiler! Overall though I was very happy with the movie and I'm really looking forward to seeing it again.

Yup, as mentioned I saw a great new SF film this week. Character-driven, clever, exciting... I saw it Thursday night and it was called "Serenity"!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

WDW Trip Wrap-Up - Intro

I've finally got a chance to get the rest of our trip logged here, and there's actually a lot of it! So in fairness to folks who ain't gonna read any of it, or who might prefer to read it a little at a time, I'm going to post it here in multiple parts broken down by day. That way you can chew and digest it a little at a time, or even just ignore it. (Awwww....) In typical blog style though I'll post it oldest day first, and this intro will be at the top of the last (and most recent) blog entry, so scroll down the page and read the older entries first if you want the right chronology!

A Toast in Mexico!

WDW - Thursday 5/19

Thursday was to be our check-out and go home day.

But it wasn't... by Tuesday we had decided to stay an extra day. Unfortunately there was no more room in the inn... our hotel didn't have availability to stay the extra night, so we transferred over to the All-Star Music resort, right next door, for our one last stand. Despite a brief snafu with our new room (they checked us into a room that hadn't been cleaned, so we were moved to a better location) this was painless; C & I spent a couple of hours at the new hotel pool while The Momma caught a nap. Then we went to Epcot for our last night; Epcot was open until midnight for guests staying in WDW hotels that day so we got there around 5pm and stayed through closing. I rode Mission: Space once more at 11:45pm, coming out right at midnight.

C spent a few minutes running through a fountain and we started to head out...

...When we realized we had left a bag in the Mission: Space play area. (I'd bought a neat new nicely Bismo-themed Tiki shirt that day; it'll show up for its first public appearance at Shore Leave in July!) We went back over but found it had already been turned into Lost & Found so we had to wait for it at Guest Relations in the middle of the park. It took quite a while to get there (apparently someone collects all this stuff from different areas and brings it back there) so by the time we were leaving it was about 1am.

Leaving Epcot at 1am... sweet!! We were certainly about the last ones out of the park; they'd even asked what gate we would leave through so they could keep it open for us. There were about half a dozen not completely happy looking cast members waiting for us as we finally strolled out... a fine way to end our vacation! We were on the road around noon Friday afternoon.

So that's about it, if you've stayed with me through this lengthy trip (and with many details not even mentioned here of course). As good a vacation as we've had and it has left us all in a fine mood. It did us all a lot of good, and C actually showed a lot of much improved independence and personal initiative during the trip, a developmental improvement we greatly welcome. We're already back to the grind at work, at home, at the various doctor offices and at homeschool, but with many warm memories that has us all smilin'. Hail the Tiki!!

WDW - Wednesday 5/18

Wednesday was my special day, my long-anticipated early morning (well, 9:30am - very early for me) Segway tour at Epcot! They take you into a (surprisingly small) room and spend about 45 minutes getting you used to riding a Segway... mounting/dismounting, starting/stopping, simple movements, then slaloms and ramps. Then it's out into the World Showcase for about an hour of zipping around the different country showcases! This was really, really fun and I'll recommend it to anyone. I thought the $68 price tag wasn't too unreasonable, though that's a AAA rate; I believe it's $80 without AAA so a noticeable discount.

The coolest thing about this tour is that although they do have the guest Segways regulated to a top speed of only 5-6mph, they really do give you a chance to play with them. They take you into most of the countries and around some of the coolest walking paths like through the side gardens in China, or up over the bamboo bridges in the multi-level Japan gardens. They even had us slaloming through the pillars fronting the main building in Italy... this was fun!!

The tour also gave me an excuse to do something I hadn't done in many years, show up at the park in time for the "rope drop". When the parks open each morning they let folks into the front a little early, and they have a rope (okay, more like that police tape stuff) strung across the front of (in the case of Epcot) Spaceship Earth. A busload of characters comes out on the other side of the rope and they have a big countdown with the crowd, and then Mickey cuts the rope and you're in! A small ceremony but it's really fun to be there for it.

C & The Momma slept in that morning and then we all met at Mission: Space at 3pm that afternoon. This gave me the chance to enjoy a few hours alone in World Showcase after my tour ended at 11:30am; first stop of course being the Rose & Crown pub in the united Kingdom showcase, where I was happily the first bar customer of the day... tee-heee!! Then I wandered the rest of the way around the World Showcase lagoon just enjoying being there, before heading back to the front part of the park to meet the family. I rode Mission: Space, a great ride simulating a flight to Mars, at 2:45, coming out into the play area at exactly 3pm where the family was waiting for me.

WDW - Tuesday 5/17

Tuesday was the Big Day - C's 8th birthday!! This was to be a Magic Kingdom day, which thus far we'd only spent a couple of hours in on the night we arrived. We got there fairly early by our standards - around 12:30pm - and went straight to "Town Hall" to get C his large white "TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY" pin. All day Disney cast members would shout out "Happy Birthdays" to him, even from some distance away, when they saw it! He also got a nice free desert at the lunch counter, which I ended up eating; it was yummy! But he thought it was great.

The best birthday moment was while we were buying some batteries (for The Momma's electric fan/water bottle thingy), the cashier saw C's pin and asked if he'd had his birthday call from Goofy yet. Saying no he called C over and told him Goofy had been trying to reach him. He handed C a phone from the desk and dialed a number, and C's face lit up as he (reportedly) heard Goofy singing a very silly birthday song to him!

This moment was made even better as we left the shop (in MK's Town Square). Just as we came out the front door, a side door opened and out came Goofy himself, on his way to a character greet! Pure coincidence? C yelled Hello at him and thanked him for singing him his birthday song, and the Goof gave him a quick high-five!

Soon we were on our way to the day's "main event", dinner at Chef Mickey's (a character-filled buffet restaurant in the Contemporary Hotel). This place is great for seeing the "classic" Disney characters (Mickey and his immediate friends), without having to deal with lines or heat as they come to you, visiting from table to table. C had a special peanut butter sandwich they made for him using this really - interesting! - rainbow-colored bread, and he couldn't have been happier. We had a grand time here, and C was recognized (along with a few other kids) for his special day. Mickey came over to the table and helped C blow out the candle on his birthday cupcake... great fun, and many smiles for everyone!

After dinner we went back to the Magic Kingdom, and our now 8-year-old son announced he was ready to try Splash Mountain, one of the bigger rides there! Once again he had mixed reviews... it's a very tall water flume ride, and though he said he didn't like the drop down the flume, he liked the rest of the ride and was glad he'd ridden it. Still, Winnie the Pooh, Buzz Lightyear, Pirates of the Caribbean and Small World remained his favorites at the MK. The whole day was great and a birthday I hope he'll long remember.

WDW - Monday 5/16

Monday was our day for the MGM/Disney Studios, and this day it was just C & I. The Momma used this day for her own WDW tradition, afternoon tea at the Grand Floridian Resort. Though she wasn't feeling that well later in the day she enjoyed her peaceful tea very much.

C & I had a great day as well, with C really enjoying the Great Movie Ride and the Backlot Tour (featuring "Catastrophe Canyon"). He also tried "Star Tours", and though he didn't really enjoy it that much, still a bit intense for him, he said he was very glad he'd tried it because he liked the idea of it. He's growing up! No Rock'n Roller Coaster for me that day, though, as I didn't have anyone to watch C and it wasn't worth making him wait at the loading area for me to ride alone. Too bad as that remains my overall favorite Disney ride, but I was there in September so I can't complain!

WDW - Sunday 5/15

Sunday then we packed up from the wonderful La Quinta Inn, and as we were up "early" anyway (checking out at 11am) we used that day to go to Disney's Animal Kingdom, which doesn't stay open late. We really like this park, though I know it's not a favorite of a lot of people. It was one of our few tougher days though, with The Momma not feeling that well and it was one of the few days that was hot and humid. (We had great weather on this trip, with other hot days, but most days humidity wasn't a big problem.) So we didn't really last too long there but we enjoyed most of our visit.

We had a nice Disney Moment during lunch though. We weren't able to find anything there that C would eat, so we had a Pediasure for him to drink. (A nutritional supplement that he uses to boost his caloric and nutritional intake.) But in our haste of packing up that morning we had forgotten to pack straws in our backpack, and the AK is the one park where they don't stock straws (for animal safety concerns)... we were aware of that but simply forgot to pack appropriately! And C has issues drinking Pediasure without a straw, although he was doing his best (though only with some severe prodding).

Still, being Disney, I asked a passing cast member, busily cleaning the restaurant, if anything could be done. He returned a few minutes later with a large plastic straw from some souvenir drink cup that was available... C could not have been happier and we were very appreciative!

Michael saved the day by finding a simple straw!

After leaving the AK we moved on-property to Disney's All-Star Movies Resort. It's Disney's version of an Econolodge (or a La Quinta Inn, I guess!), and it's a very nice, clean property with some fun amenities but more limited than the more upscale resorts. The rooms were also notably smaller than the La Quinta... also, the La Quinta had offered free broadband internet and had a decent-sized fridge in the room, and a coffee maker, none of which the All-Stars offered. (Though small fridges and coffee makers can usually be had on request... we didn't really need them though.) So a fine place to spend our next four nights, and there are always service perks when staying in a Disney hotel, but in some ways it was a step down from our week at La Quinta... which was less than a third the cost thanks to our deal!

WDW - Saturday 5/14

As planned we met up with some old friends on one of our "off" days from park-hopping, and our dinner with Leslie & Admiral Dave last Saturday (the 14th) was terrific. I must thank them for unexpectedly picking up the tab (something I'd been thinking I'd offer to do myself but Dave beat me to it)! We still harbor some hope of making another trip to our condo in the fall (though iffy, as we certainly spent the vacation budget on this one!), and if so we promised to try and visit them where they live in Tampa.

Saturday night I returned to the Adventurer's Club for the night, solo this time and not getting there until later (around 10pm), but I had another fun time even so.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Back Home at Last!

We're home! We returned Sunday evening after leaving Orlando Friday early afternoon. On the way down we drove basically straight through, in about 22 hours. Coming home we kept a more leisurely pace, no need to get all knotted up after our vacation! So we made overnight stops in South Carolina and in Maryland (at the Delaware border) on the way home.

After arriving home around 6:30pm Sunday, and taking a bit of time to settle in, I went back out myself to catch the 9:45pm showing of "Revenge of the Sith"... I knew I wouldn't be able to read my email or show up at work the next day unless I'd seen it first! I very much liked it, though I still was skeptical during much of the first half. But it finally found some passion and an emotional core during the second half. More on this in later posts most likely! (I still haven't seen the last few episodes of "Enterprise"... I'll catch up on that next weekend!)

I wasn't able to do any further blogging while we were still at Disney after we checked out of the La Quinta Inn. Our great, $29/night hotel offered free internet access; our very nice, but $99/night Disney hotel did not of course! Just as well, as we stayed pretty busy that second week down there.

I'm writing up some more entries to cover the rest of our stay, with more photos to be posted. So stay tuned (if you care, that is)!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

WDW Update - Saturday

G'day, and Welcome to Day.. uh, day... 6? I think!

All is very well, today (Saturday) we're taking another day off, this one much needed after a lot of running around! Wednesday, Thursday and Friday the 13th were all Epcot days, as we all enjoy that park the best down here. (Why three days? We're late sleepers and saw no need to change that because we're on vacation! So we tend to get to the park around 2pm most days, and take everything pretty slowly with lots of food/drink stops.)

We're collecting flag pins and books for C as part of his home-schooling, and that's made the World Showcase countries very enjoyable for him, though he got tired out on us yesterday evening. We've only spent a little time in Future World so far but will be back later in the coming week to remedy that. Last night I made a return trip (solo this time) to the Adventurer's Club on Pleasure Island, and though nothing is as much fun alone I had a great time there... Hoopla!!

This evening we're getting together with some old friends, Dave & Leslie, for dinner at Giordano's, a Chicago-style pizza restaurant we really like down here but haven't been to in several years. (Coincidentally enough our hotel is almost directly across the street from it!)

Then later tonight we've got to pack up, as tomorrow we change hotels and move into Disney's All-Star Movies resort for the rest of our stay. Sadly this does mean waking up somewhat earlier than we'd like tomorrow, but as we haven't been to the Animal Kingdom yet and that closes early, we'll combine getting up early for check-out with going to the AK (waking at the ungodly hour of 9am, heh-heh!).

Tuesday is C's 8th birthday, and we'll be dining at Chef Mickey's restaurant that day (chock full of charactery goodness and fun!). Gotta make a few arrangements for that still too....

Finally, some more photos to share today. Here's an obligatory character shot, C & I with the Goofster -

Here's C outside one of our favorite restaurants, and home to my favorite meal in all of Disney, Le Originali Fettuccine all'Alfredo... fettuccini Alfredo at Alfredo's Restaurante!

C & The Momma enjoying a peaceful break in the gardens of the Japan Showcase -

And lastly, The Momma & I enjoying some delicious Chinese Wine in the China Showcase (photographed by C)!

That's all for today... Kungaloosh!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Proud Adventuring Papa!

Just a very quick entry (to hopefully be embellished later) for those who understand... C was the hit of the Adventurer's Club tonight, not only being sworn in as a member (along with everyone else) but making his own mark with the cast there, drumming, yam-handling and representing Massachusetts! He earned his own Club membership pin (not available to everyone else), presented by curator Fletcher Hodges, for services rendered! (For those who don't understand, well, again with luck I'll embellish in a later entry!) Kungaloosh!!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

WDW Update 1 - Mon.PM, 5/9/2005

G'day from Disney World, eh!! We left home in central MA Thursday night, hitting the road at 10:45pm. 10:30 Friday night found us patrolling the strip at Daytona Beach, and by 11 we'd settled on a Travelodge mini-suite location (Ocean Jewel or some such!) that we scored for about $53/night. We stayed there for Friday and Saturday overnights, giving us all day Saturday to rest up from the drive in Daytona. Slept nice and late, then played in the surf the afternoon and evening before going to bed early... a very nice transition day!!

Sunday morning hit Denny's for breakfast, one of The Momma's favorite restaurants, to start our Mother's Day, then headed SW down I-4 to Orlando. Checked into our Kissimmee hotel, the La Quinta Inn Lakeside, around 2pm Sunday afternoon, and such a deal... thanks to HotWire we scored this place for $29/night for the next 7 nights, and it really is as nice as its website makes it look! At least as nice and maybe even nicer I'd say than Disney's All-Star Resorts, where we'll be moving next weekend, though of course there are many perks involved with staying "on property" that we're looking forward to with that final part of our trip.

Once settled we set out for the 2-mile pilgrimage to the Magic Kingdom, and after pausing to pick up a Pal Mickey for C, we paid our respects to the Enchanted Tiki Room (Hail the Tiki!!). The Tiki Room ain't what it used to be, but Faith is Faith so respects must be paid. C liked it - and I don't hate it, I just miss the religious purity of the original rites there :-) and we left with some true Tiki blessings... tail feathers from one of the resident Tiki birds themselves! (Okay, it was from Iago, kind of an interloping Tiki bird, but a resident none the less!)

We also managed a couple of rides on Aladdin's Magic Carpets, another one C really enjoyed, and of course Pirates of the Caribbean which we all love.

As we didn't get to the park until after 4:30pm that was it for rides Sunday, but it was all bonus... our real reason for going to the MK Sunday was for The Momma's Mother's Day dinner, 7:50pm reservations at Cinderella's Royal Table, a fairly upscale restaurant inside Cinderella's Castle. We had a wonderful meal with a truly terrific server, Gustavo... truly terrific servers are not a rarity at WDW (Walt Disney World), but that doesn't make them any less appreciated. C had his pirate hat and sword ("swag") that he appropriated after the Pirates ride, and Gustavo made a great show of trying to take our order from several tables away when he noticed C was holding the toy sword at the dinner table.

The food was great, the service awesome (C even was able to eat there, and none of what he ate or drank was on the menu, it was all courtesy of "The Fairy Godmother"... according to Gustavo!). But the timing was perfect, as we'd hoped....

The nightly fireworks show, "Wishes", started at 9pm. Our 7:50 reservations had us leaving at precisely 9pm... the clock was just beginning to chime as we came out into the (closed-off) castle passageway. We walked down the (closed-off) front walk, were let through the rope that had closed it off just as the clock struck the final chime of 9, and able to sit down on the ground of the castle fore court at the very front of everyone as the show started... spectacular, and very special!! A beautiful ending to Mother's Day and our first WDW day.

Today (Monday) was Blizzard Beach day, probably C's favorite destination (and hence our second stop!). I've always liked the water parks here but it's much more exhausting with C, as we of course focus on activities for him and it takes a lot of management for water, food, sun... oh, and he can't swim, so safety! But we had an overall great afternoon (with a few crash and rest moments mixed in). After that it was over to Downtown Disney and dinner at another of C's favorite places, the Rainforest Cafe. A great dinner, then some early souvenir shopping before coming back to the hotel tonight.

So tomorrow I'm thinking it's my turn... EPCOT! But C now is announcing that he wants a day off... sigh! We certainly do need to build a few of those into our almost two-week long trip so if he still feels that way in the morning and The Momma agrees I likely won't worry about it, we've got time. But there's a Bass Ale waiting for me at the Rose and Crown pub, and some sake at the Matsunoma Lounge... well, it'll still be there Wednesday! And I haven't made it to the Adventurer's Club yet, a morning of sleeping late might make tomorrow a good night for that... it's all good!

Signing off for now... Hail the Tiki, and KUNGALOOSH!!