Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Happiest Place on Earth

Today was Father's Day, so, naturally, I spent the day with my old man. We did the usual father-son bonding things: played a few games of Ping Pong, ate some junk food, teased the dog, and, of course, watched a lot of television. Tonight's viewing was a fascinating two-hour look at the creation of Walt Disney World.

I haven't been to Disney World since 1991, the summer after I graduated from high school. I went with a buddy of mine and his parents. The trip was pitched as a celebratory vacation, like "Yay! We're out of high school!", but the more I think about it, the more I realize I was just a tag-along on a family vacation. Whatever, I got to stay in a condo in Florida for a week for free. I'm not complaining.

Disney World is a bizzare place. When I went there they only had two thrill rides, Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. (The water thrill ride that is now there - Splash Mountain - was not built yet. Obviously someone in Disney's planning department thinks mountains are frightening.) Everything else was technically interesting but oddly frustrating. Like those damn Tiki Birds. It's cool the way they were built and the theatricality of the show was fun, but if I had to hear that damn "In the tiki tiki tiki tiki tiki room" song one more time I was going to pull one of those robot birds off its perch and destroy it. And don't even get me started on the Pirates of the Carribbean. You're in a boat. There are pirates. And...what? This is what I waited 90 minutes to see?

In 1991 Disney World was still operating as if it was 1965. The Mission to Mars ride was still there but was laughable in its depiciton of space travel. To believe Disney, when you go to Mars, your seat will vibrate. And that's it. I remember a lot of immature jokes about the vibrating seats, probably the same jokes I would make today if the ride was still there.

My friend had an unnatural obsession with the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride and demanded we ride it at least five times. I hated that thing. You were supposedly in a submarine, but you could look up through your porthole and see people waiting in the queue line. The ride didn't get any better if you looked straight ahead at the "underwater adventure". Basically, we're talking plastic fish on metal sticks. Add into that the cramped quarters of the submarine - inevitably I would get seated next to some stinky sweaty guy - and it's no wonder the ride was torn out a few years ago.

It's a Small World, that's another one that baffled me. You get in a boat and go through all these lands of culture, but it's so cheaply done that its message is rendered moot. Not to mention that song. Oh, that song. Someone make it stop!

I loved The Jungle Cruise, though. And the spinning teacups. And pretty much all of Epcot and MGM Studios.

Watching the special, I was unaware how much the place had changed since I was there 15 years (!) ago. For example, they now have thrill rides that have nothing to do with mountains. And the majority of the rides at Epcot that are part of my memories have been removed. Remember Figment? That little dragon thing that asked me to use my imagination about 6,000 times? Yeah, to hell with him, he's gone. So is Captain E/O, which is no big loss. Michael Jackson dancing in space with an elephant...how did that even get green-lit in the first place?

The friend I made the 1991 trip with recently asked me to go back there with him this summer. I turned him down. For one thing, it was odd enough for two 18 year-old guys to go there; two 33 year-olds would just be creepy. Besides, he'd probably spend the majority of his time crying at the drained 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea lagoon, shaking his fists to the sky and screaming, "Why? WHY?!?!?!?" I suggested that if he wanted to drop a grand on a pointless vacation, we should go to Vegas. After all, Vegas is like Disney World, only with more alcohol and strangers handing you porn on the street.

Walt Disney World fact: When ol' Walt was purchasing the swamp land that eventually became Disney World, he did so under false company names so that the price of the land would stay low. Isn't that illegal? Family values, indeed.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I Love iTunes

I went a little crazy yesterday and spent some serious money on iTunes. Not a lot - $40 - but enough to give my iPod a jolt of new music. Let's look at some of my purchases:

"Spinning Wheel" by Blood, Sweat and Tears was one of the first tracks I downloaded. What a great freaking song. While I've always loved it, I've never bought one of that band's CDs because, let's be honest, an entire disc of Blood, Sweat and Tears would be painful to listen to more than once. But that song? Pure pop perfection.

I also bought "Soul Finger" by the Bar-Kays. "Soul Finger" makes me laugh uncontrollably. Not because the song is funny, but because I think of Spies Like Us every time I hear it. (Side note: Spies Like Us gets no respect even though it's one of the funniest comedies from the 80's. Even the theme song by Paul McCartney is underrated.)

While I was at it, I downloaded the latest Billy Joel live CD. See, it only cost $1 more than Target's sale price, but it was offering two exclusive bonus tracks! And God knows I needed another copy of "Honesty" in my library, so I had to have it. Too bad the album's not that great. Billy, I think it's time to retire to your mansion and 23 year-old wife.

"Wooly Bully" by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs was another purchase. Is there not a better party song than "Wooly Bully"? I don't think so. Plus it also flags another 80's movie reference in my brain: Splash.

To relive my youth, I downloaded a song I loved as a small child: "Take Me Home, Country Roads" by John Denver. Sure, Denver hung out with the Muppets a bit too often as well as had an unnatural fascination with the phrase "Far Out!!!", but he was an underrated songwriter.

"A Girl Like You" by Edwyn Collins. Remember that one? From 1995? I did.

The Coors' and Bono's cover of Ryan Adams's "When the Stars Go Blue". Great song, great cover, MINE!

High School Memories: "Groove Is In the Heart." I could have grabbed "The Humpty Dance", too, but I thought only one cheesy dance song per shopping session should be allowed.

"Ain't That Pretty At All", the Pixies cover of a Warren Zevon song because, well, The Pixies are awesome and I have to have everything they've ever recorded.

"She Blinded Me with Science" because what other hit song can boast an old man screaming "SCIENCE!!!" throughout the majority of it? None, that's how many.

I also bought the Rabbit Fur Coat album by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins. No one knows who she is, but the CD is wonderful. Trust me. Buy - or download - it today!

While poking around, I discovered a hell of a lot more stuff I need to purchase in the future. Like the Talking Heads rarities that appeared out of nowhere. Or the two discs of Frank Black b-sides. Or the British Invasion set that had a lot of cool rock songs from the 60's that I have never owned. Or The Pixies live CD exclusive to iTunes. Or...all right, the list never ends. That site is a danger to music fans like myself.

I'm off to listen to another of my iTunes purchases: "Always Something There To Remind Me" by Naked Eyes. Ah, 1983. Michael Jackson. The Police. Duran Duran. And Naked Eyes.

SCIENCE!!!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire

We had a "surprise" fire alarm this morning. It wasn't much of a surprise, since the fireman in charge of the drill was standing directly outside my office talking loudly into his cell phone, saying things like, "I'm at the library. Don't send a fire truck. It's just a drill." Plus my boss came in about one minute before and told us to get ready.

The alarm went off, we acted shocked for the fireman, who just so happened to be blocking our assigned exit door. He had an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper in his hands with the word "Fire" scrawled on it. For a brief second I thought he was looking for a person named Fire - he looked like a limo driver at the airport - but then I realized he was throwing a wrench into our escape route by simulating a fire with a scrap sheet of paper and a red pen. You'd think the city of Carmel would have some kind of sculpture or something to represent a potential fire, but I guess times are tight and there's no room in the budget for that kind of thing.

The "fire" unfortunately broke out next to my boss's office. Had it been a real fire instead of a lame sign, he'd be dead. He's in the corner of the building, there would be no way out. And then I'd have to take over the department. And then the world!!!!!!

Had I not known about the drill, I would have more than likely ignored it. I have a history of doing that when it comes to fire alarms. Some examples from my past:

* College dorm. I remember the alarm going off at least twice, both times when it happened to be freezing outside. After the second night of standing outside for an hour at 10:00, freezing your nuts off, you just ignore it. I always figured if it were a real fire, I'd have enough time to jump out my window. We were on the second floor overlooking a grassy area. The worst that would have happened is I would have broken some bones.

* Vegas. 3:00 in the morning. Brand new hotel. I had just fallen asleep. Fire alarm goes off. I jump out of bed, but not to get the hell out of the building. No, I immediately began covering the alarm speaker with my hands, hoping that would silence it. Eventually this worked, and, after a P.A. announcement explaining that the hotel was still working out the kinks with its system, I went back to sleep.

* Elvis Costello concert. Midway through the trippy "When I Was Cruel", strobe lights began flashing throughout the auditorium. Wow! Cool effects, E.C.! After the song, though, the strobe lights continued. And Mr. Costello was flagged down by a Murat Theatre employee, who told him to make an announcement that we needed to evacuate the building because the fire alarm was going off. He left the stage immediately, leaving an entire audience wondering what in the hell to do. Should we leave? No one was making us. So we all collectively decided to stay put. Granted, this was before the Great White inferno. Had it been after that, we all would have been running for our lives. When it was revealed that an overflowing toilet caused the alarm to trip - something about errant water pressure levels - we all sat down, waiting for the show to resume. When it did, Elvis proved he had a sense of humor by ripping into "Accidents Will Happen."

Don't worry, I have a smoke detector in my house with fresh batteries installed. And if I ever want to test the alarm, all I need to do is cook something. Totino's Pizza + Crap on the Bottom of my Stove = Guaranteed Fire Alarm Tester. I really should clean my oven.