Friday, May 28, 2010

Movie Review: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

To listen to the audio version, click here

Memorial Day weekend. Besides a time to reflect back on those people who have given the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country (please make some time during this weekend to do so), it's also the unofficial start to the summer season. The studios gave us two choices this long weekend. Either the estrogen soaked Sex in the City 2 or the testosterone laden Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Funny how both take place in the middle east. I choose the latter. Good choice! It was a fun popcorn movie!

Being a Jerry Bruckheimer production, you know that there will be lots of action to watch. Given the epic backdrop of the movie and the gigantic scope, it needed a director who could handle such a big production. Mike Newel who directed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the third installment of the Harry Potter franchise was given the job of handling this big budget blockbuster.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Prince Dastan who wasn't always a prince. As a child young Dastan stopped an injustice and then tried to avoid capture afterward by bouncing around the ancient city using Parkour. He was plucked off the streets to be adopted into the royal family because of a spark that King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) saw in the boy. Jump ahead 15 years (insert time passing whooshing sound effect here). He and his two brothers Tus and Garsiv (Richard Coyle and Toby Kebbell) and Uncle Nizam (Ben Kingsley) decided to assault a city that the king did not tell them to attack. Why is it kids can never listen to what a good king and their dad tells them to do? It always makes things more difficult in the long run.

Although he didn't plan it, he wasn't after it and had no idea up front about it, Dastan ends up with a special dagger that when the gem on the hilt is pressed allows the holder to go back in time. Like all magical objects there is someone assigned to protect it (think Jacob and the island in LOST). That task falls to the lovely Tamina (Gemma Arterton) who will do just about anything to retrieve the dagger. Well, maybe not everything. With a PG-13 rating for intense sequences of violence and action she doesn't have to revert to the oldest trick in the book doing that with Dastan. She begs him to give the dagger back to her so she can safeguard the precious item. Tamina tells Dastan that the dagger can't fall into the wrong hands or it could mean that the end of their world via sand storm wiping their kingdoms from the face of the earth.

So let's recap shall we. Magical object in danger. The guys get eye candy with Tamina. The ladies get to drool over Dastan's pecs. Blockbuster director with Mike Newell. Big budget courtesy Jerry Bruckheimer. The Acting gravitas of Sir Ben Kingsley. Throw in lots of sword fights and the Parkour chase sequences. What else could you use? Oh yeah, some comic relief. That went to Alfred Molina playing a tricky rogue Sheik Amar who doesn't like the Persians because of their habit of collecting taxes. Ah, a character bringing to the forefront that if they lived today they would be a member of the Tea Party. Funny how that got worked in there. Let's not forget the whole situation about the world ending. That would be via the giant sand blaster, not due to exorbitant tax extraction. You put all these together and you have a fun movie.

While Carrie and her gal pals may be out playing around in the desert in Abu Dhabi they aren't going to give you the fun romp that the Prince of Persia: The Sand of Time will provide. Heck during the Sex in the City 2 trailer I would look at my watch wondering when the preview would end when I didn't once look at my watch during the 116 minutes that was occupied by the Prince of Persia. Enjoy your bucket of popcorn and soda; the summer movie season is about to hit full stride!

The Movie Monkey

To subscribe to the audio podcast of the reviews via iTunes click here. Audio versions are released the following Wednesday.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hawaii Vacation Recommended Must Do

Over the past two years I've had the opportunity to take in some parts of Hawaii that most people don't know about and take advantage of while visiting the Islands. There are a number of different gardens and arboretums across the islands that are just absolutely beautiful. I've visited the McBryde Gardens at the National Tropical Botanical Garden which also has the Allerton Garden on the Island of Kauai. On Oahu, Foster Botanical Garden, Lyon Arboretum, Koko Crater Botanical Garden in Honolulu and Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden in Kaneohe are locations I've enjoyed. Each offering views of unique flora and some spectacular scenery. Taking half a day of your trip if you're visiting or part of a day off if your local will create a memorable adventure.

Foster, Koko Crater and Ho'omaluhia are run by the City and County of Honolulu with Lyon Arboretum being handled by the University of Hawaii and Allerton and McBryde were formed under a Congressional Charter. Koko Crater and Ho'omaluhia are free. Lyon has a suggested donation. Foster, Allerton and McBryde have admission fees.

For all of the parks, wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for outside walking. Sun screen would be recommended and possible insect repellent might be necessary. For me, I remained repellent free and didn't have a problem at any of the locations. At all of the locations I've mentioned with the exception of Foster Gardens, you can do some hiking on paths that are a bit rough with root and rocks that could trip you up as you explore. Foster wasn't nearly as bad as the other locations. The reason being it's the smallest of the parks and is very close to downtown Honolulu being bordered by a stream, the H1 Freeway, Nuuanu Avenue and Vineyard Blvd while the others are pure outdoors insides craters or snuggled up against a mountain side.

If you go to Koko Crater, take extra preparations. They don't have regular bathrooms, only a port-a-potty and there is no gift shop selling any liquid refreshment. Hydrate before you go and make sure that you have access to water while visiting Koko Crater!

McBryde Garden on Kauai required a ride down on a shuttle trolley. The driver upon drop off would tell you her expected schedule and you could explore as long as you wanted. One part of my trip that I remember was being startled by a wild chicken. I approached this one tree and it jumped down from the crook of the tree squawking away the whole time. It remained close by but a safe distance from me. When I looked in the crook, there was a nest full of eggs. One trail called Spice of Life show plants that we use in the kitchen like all spice, cacao and more!

Koko Crater would surprise visitors. It is fairly arid inside the crater. Upon entering there are a number of HUGE plumeria trees and when blooming, the fragrances are intoxicating! To see these trees that had gotten so big that their branches were laying along the ground filled with the aromatic blossoms for me was exciting to see! There is a section dedicated to various species of cacti. I didn't know what we had any Baobab trees in Hawaii. I do now and they are inside the crater!

Ho'omaluhia Gardens are part of a system built by the Army Corp of engineers to help with flooding. At the bottom of the property is an earthen dam and a lake. From a bit higher vantage point looking down, it's very beautiful. We drove all the way to the end of the road and it's 2.5 miles from the gate to the furthest point in the park along the roadway. Ho'omaluhia is unique in that it allows for campers! The view of the windward side of the Ko'olau mountains is spectacular.

Lyon Arboretum is amazing nestled at the base of the Ko'olau mountains at the back of Manoa Valley. At the back of the property is 'Aihualama waterfall.. Depending on the time of year, it might be a regular waterfall and other times it may be a trickle. As you're walking around, you'll probably hear the now wild parrots that have made the area their home and if you're lucky, you may be able to see them. As you drive out of the park back down into the city, you'll get a nice view of the City of Honolulu laid out below.

Foster Gardens is probably the most accessible of all the gardens. I had some friends get married in the gardens a few years ago. A specialty for this garden is once a year in the July time frame they have A Midsummer Nights Gleam event where the park is open in the evening. They line paths with luminaria adding a nice touch while hearing the various musical entertainment options wafting on the air as you walk through the 13 acres. Make sure you check out the cannon ball tree and lipstick plants!

Each location is different and unique. Each location has it's own set of beauty. The views and vistas, the quiet, hearing wild birds or the wind as it rustles the leaves of the vegetation around you to take you out of the hustle bustle of the every day and transport you into an atmosphere of serenity. It is something that neither local resident nor visitor should miss in their explorations of Hawaii.

For each of the locations I have sets of pictures set up of flickr that will show you some of the beauty at each location. Click the links below to be taken to the appropriate set

Friday, May 21, 2010

Movie Review: Shrek Forever After

To listen to the audio version, click here

Dreamworks has given us the fourth and hopefully final Shrek in Shrek Forever After. You know that a series has run its course when they have to revert to the It's a Wonderful Life storyline. I stayed through the end of the credits and while there was no easter egg at the end, there were images recapping some of the escapades of Shrek, Donkey, and Fiona through the entire series. So unless someone can come up with a really good script, I think that all the air has been let out of this balloon or in the the world of Far Far Away, all the air has been let out of this frog.

The original Shrek was fresh and original. The pop culture references, the pop songs, the lampooning of Disney. Who can forget, "Please keep off of the grass, shine your shoes, wipe your....face, Duloc is.... Duloc is.... Duloc is a perrrr-fffffect place" with the dolls that look like they were imported out of "It's a Small World". The world of the fractured fairytale. We loved it.

With the fourth in the series, the shine has gone off this penny. The penny is still the penny, it has value, but it's just not as exciting anymore. Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas return giving their voices to Shrek, Donkey, Princess Fiona and Puss in Boots respectively. Julie Andrews and John Cleese reprise their roles as the Queen and King of Far Far Away. The new comers this time are Jane Lynch, John Hamm and Craig Robinson voicing Gretched, Brogan and Cookie, leaders in the Orge Rebellion. They are rebelling against Rumpelstiltskin voiced by Walt Dohrn who had some writing responsibilities for this and Dexter's Laboratory and Sponge Bob Square Pants on Nickelodeon.

The animation was solid. I saw the 2D version, not the 3D or IMAX 3D but it was pretty apparent where the 3D would be used mostly for the depth rather than coming out at you. I imagine that the chase scene with Shrek and the witches might look pretty good in 3D. Since the original there is more detailing in the textures. Skin and items like clothing had a bit more nuanced appearance. There were a couple of shots where it became really apparent that the computer is able to put in those details that most of the audience won't catch.

The movie opens with a brief retelling of the original Shrek with a Rest of the Story. Afraid that their daughter might not be rescued, the King and Queen go to Rumpelstiltskin to arrange for someone to rescue their daughter from the Dragon's Keep in exchange for them giving up the kingdom. As evidenced by the first movie, that didn't happen. Shrek ruined Rumpels' plan by saving Princess Fiona.

Jump to current times. Shrek has settled into the rut. Wake up, feed the three children, take out the garbage, fix broken things, you! He wishes he could go back to the old days when he was a feared ogre. In steps Rumpel who is down on his luck and offers Shrek the ability to get a day of the old ways by trading a day of his life. Shrek agrees and signs the contract. Things go back to the way Shrek would have liked it but he discovers that things aren't quite right. Witches are over running the place, Far Far Away looks like a dump, Donkey doesn't recognize him and there are wanted posters with Fiona's picture on them. Turns out the day that Shrek gave up was the day he was born. Insert hand hitting forehead sound here followed by a "Doh"!

To break the contract Shrek must obtain what the other fairy tales talk about. But how can he do this when no one knows about him and his past. The remaining 45 or so minutes of the one hour and 37 minute movie shows us how he intends to get his life back, if he can. Unlike It's a Wonderful Life where George Bailey gets his life back by wishing and wanting his old life back, Shrek must accomplish the task or disappear forever. You can't get more dramatic than that can you?

Fiona and Donkey
at Universal Studios Florida
There are some new characters, but most of the movie involves the old jokes that have been used before. I mean really, Pinocchio's running gag in all the movies of trying to get something by telling a lie and having his nose grow is a yawner at this point. Heck, they even put it into audioanimatronic form at Universal's Shrek 4D preshows in both Hollywood and Orlando. No sense in beating us over the head or poking us in the eye with that dead branch. As I write this, I have on my Angry Wig!

Kids will enjoy the action of the movie and the jokes. Adults will laugh but not as much as in the original or number two. If you see the movie in the theaters, I'd say matinee or you could wait for the Blu-ray. Like all other Shrek movies, this one has a PG rating for crude humor, brief language and mild action.

While there is no easter egg at the very end of the movie as I mentioned earlier, stay through the credits to watch those recap scenes; if they are as I hope, the end of the Shrek series, it's a nice way to recap Shrek's adventures. The idea that the credits are on a scroll of paper is cool too!

The Movie Monkey

To subscribe to the audio podcast of the reviews via iTunes click here. Audio versions are released the following Wednesday.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Movie Review: Princess Ka'iulani

The correct name of the Princess contains the 'okina or the glottal stop which is treated like a character within the Hawaiian language. For the Princess' name, it is between the a and the i. I don't have the correct font to do the Hawaiian language so for the rest of the review I won't be using any of the formal Hawaiian spellings for this formal Hawaiian picture. Why am I making this disclaimer? Because when the movie was shown at the Hawaii International Film Festival last year it was titled The Barbarian Princess and there was a big uproar within the Hawaiian community and I don't want that same uproar over my review for not having formal spellings of the Hawaiian names or places.

The movie Princess Kaiulani is not a documentary, but it attempts to convey some of the history of Hawaii's change from a Kingdom with its own sovereign rulers to that of an annexed property of the United States of America while focusing on the young ruler. Most Americans don't know about Hawaii's history like how the missionary families gained power in the islands or what led up to Hawaii being the last state admitted to the Union. Just last year we celebrated our 50th anniversary of the admission. I use the term "we" loosely as there were some people who protested what happened. Ultimately, President Clinton signed an apology resolution in 1993 for the part that the US government played in the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy in 1893.

In the movie, Princess Kaiulani (Q'orianka Kilcher) traveled from England to Washington DC after the overthrow of the Monarchy to talk to President Grover Cleveland. The problem was she had to do it as a citizen and not a princess. She made an explanation to the President involving salt, pepper and cumin. It was a brilliant way to explain the situation to an outsider.

What I found great about the movie is that they used the actual Iolani Palace here in Honolulu for the movie. I've been into the palace a number of times on Kaamaina Sunday where residents are allowed to take the tour for free. The floors are made of Douglas fir so you're required to wear these booties, kinda like surgical booties over your personal footwear to protect the floors.

They have some of the furniture that was in the Palace at the time of the overthrow and they have attempted to give you a feeling of what it would be like in the palace. The last part of the tour is the Throne Room where they describe how the windows would be open allowing people to walk in and out to the lanai or patio and the overall atmosphere during a royal gathering. To even see actors in period costumes on the screen brought a whole new meaning to me of the palace. There were a number of other exciting shots were shown in the movie including the room where Queen Likiuokalani was imprisoned where you can go during a palace tour, but also the Chamberlain's Office in the basement that you can't enter but just view through a Plexiglas door or Kaiulani walking up the grand staircase from the first to the second floor which you are NOT allowed to do at all.

The costumes for the movie were magnificent. I was reading where Kilcher had 20 some odd pieces that were made for the movie. Apparently many of the costumes were made not only to look like the designs of the time but also the material itself was that of the last decade of the 19th century. The one part that would make for a hard time would be the corsets. They were part of the time and were part of the requirements to be the foundation of the dresses. Several pieces of jewelry were reproduced to form the complete package to showcasing the style of the time. If you visit the basement gallery at the palace on display are the Crown Jewels of the Kingdom of Hawaii where you can see actual pieces worn by Hawaiian Royalty.

Something that non Hawaii audiences will be exposed to is some of the culture like the language and hula. Most people know hula as the smooth swaying of the hips called auwana but it didn't start out that way. Kahiko is the older style with strong forceful movements done to chants in Hawaiian olelo or language. Kahiko is generally not shown when there are tv specials coming from the islands. Audiences will experience the olelo both in chant and as conversational language. There is a beautiful scene while the princess walking on the beach, she's presented with a haku or woven lei with an accompanying chant. What was once a dying language has been making a come back. I'm glad this exposure is showcasing what a beautiful and lyrical language Hawaiian is.

The one part of the movie that didn't completely work for me were some of the transitions between segments of the movie. This wasn't the cinematic transitions with fades or wipes, but the abruptness of jumps between locations or situations. If there would be one recommended change, it would be smooth out some of those jumps.

Something that I do find of interest is about the choice of Kilcher as the Princess. A number of people complained about the original title. When it was suggested that Duane "The Rock" Johnson play Kamehameha the Great there were rumblings over a Samoan playing a Hawaiian. Disney is building a resort on Oahu and the Hawaiian community is saying they better get it right with their depiction of Hawaii. Yet strangely enough, I don't remember hearing anything about a non-Hawaiian playing the Hawaiian alii or royalty.

Audiences at the Hawaii International Film Festival sold out five showings of this movie as well as awarding it the Audience Award. It brings to people a great period piece shining a light on an undeserved portion of Hawaiian and American history while spotlighting Princess Kaiulani. If you can find this film at your local theater, I highly recommend checking it out. It is rated PG for some sensuality, brief language, smoking, thematic material and some violence and has a run time of one hour and 37 minutes.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Movie Review: Letters to Juliet

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Once upon a time there was a boy and a girl who loved each other very much. He asked her to run away and marry him. She agreed, but then she got cold feet and didn't show up at the appropriate time. Heartbroken she leaves a note for a fictional literary character who committed suicide over love asking for her advice. Fifty years later Miss Coldfeet's letter is found and acted upon by the Segreteria Di Giulietta or the Secretaries of Juliet. Sounds crazy, right? Maybe, but that is the basic outline of this week's movie Letters to Juliet starring Vanessa Redgrave as Miss Coldfeet and Amanda Seyfried as the advice giver.

Seyfried's character Sophie is in Italy with her finance Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal) on a pre honeymoon as Victor is about to open up his dream Italian restaurant in New York City where she works for the New Yorker magazine as a fact checker. He is more interested in checking out vendors and products for the upcoming opening than spending time with his love. While he's exploring a vineyard Sophie uses her time to visit the famed balcony in Verona where the story of Romeo and Juliet took place. This is where she discovers the Secretaries of Juliet and is welcomed in by the ladies who respond to letters left taped to the courtyard wall asking Juliet for love advice. Dear Abby and Ann Landers, eat your heart out!

After writing the response to Miss Coldfeet, actual name Claire, Sophie decides to hang with the Secretaries only to get confronted a week later by Charlie (Christopher Egan) Claire's grandson who is mad because Claire has come down from her home in England due to the letter. Sophie meets Claire and a decision is made to try to track down the lost love Lorenzo much to the chagrin of Charlie. This is where Sophie's skills as a fact checker come into play.

The three go gallivanting through the Italian countryside to try to reunite the estranged lovers. But what about Victor? Oh, he's excitedly off at a wine auction. He's so absorbed in the auction that he doesn't mind her traipsing around with the English grandma grandson team. They come to find out Lorenzo Bartolini is a very common name around Verona. Through their journey we get to see many, many beautiful views of the countryside. The Italy Tourism Bureau could use this film as a promotional piece showing off villas, vineyards, roadways and hillsides.

Three people trapped in a car for the better part of a week. Hmmmm....something's going to happen. You know the cars in Europe are generally smaller than their US counterparts. Either they are going to rip each other to shreds or they will become best buds. What will happen to our intrepid travelers? If you follow the breadcrumbs along the way you will know and in that way the movie was predictable. But, I still found the movie enjoyable. Can true love hold out for fifty years? Can Amanda Seyfried's eyes look anymore like Shrek's Puss-in-Boots' big eyes? How many Lorenzos will be contacted before the right one is found? Could the beautiful vistas of Italy be shown off any better? You'll have to watch for yourself. If not for the story, just the images shown alone are worth the viewing. BTW, if you saw the trailer you already know the answer to the BIG question.

The one part of the story that I found interesting was that while not known as the Secretaries of Juliet, The Juliet Club does exist. The idea of people writing to the character of Juliet for love advice is like people writing to Marcus Welby MD for medical advice (for those of you youngins who don't know, Marcus Welby was a fictional doctor on TV during the early and mid 70s). They have been doing this for a number of decades now as volunteer men and women respond to about 5000 letters annually from across the globe. They award the "Dear Juliet" prize on Valentines Day for the most compelling letter received the previous year and the "Writing for Love" for a love themed book. OK, so they must know something... If any of you have ever sent a note and received a response from one of the secretaries, I'd like to hear about it. I think after this film they'll be needing to hang out a help wanted sign to handle the influx of advice seekers sending Letters to Juliet.

The Movie Monkey

To subscribe to the audio podcast of the reviews via iTunes click here. Audio versions are released the following Wednesday.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

DC2CERUMA - Trip Wrap Up

It's been a week since I arrived home to Honolulu. I arrived at the Apt in Paradise with a guest, Jeff who founded the Disney Podcast Network and host of the Meandering Mouse audio podcast. With Jeff I got to play tourist for a few days after I fixed my washing machine which broke when I needed to do laundry from my 15 days on the road. Thank you Mr Murphy. Anyway, with Jeff I did some things I wouldn't have done on my own like go out to Kahe Point to go snorkeling and visit a couple of different restaurants. Yakatori is fun, but the cost can add up quickly! The whole time it was go go go! It was sad to see him go, but at the same time I was glad to be able to fully unpack and catch up on some things that I needed to do.

To give you an idea of how exhausted I was, I woke up this morning and did some work on the computer and then went back to bed for what I thought would be a short time. When I woke up it was six hours later. Uh OH! I'm hoping that my body has gotten the rest that it needs because I need to accomplish a lot over the next few days!

With the posts that I made here at the Tiki Outpost during DC2CERUMA, I started to reread them. If you managed to keep up with me, God bless you. I realized that with everything that was going on I didn't proof them very well and there were tons to typos and grammatical errors. I have cleaned up some of the posts and still need to complete the task.

When I made the decision that I was going to pack as much as I did into this trip I didn't realize how much it was going to take. Between trying to do activities hitting 10 parks, trying to get as many coasters as I could, trying to take pictures and video and blog about the experience, I'm surprised I got as much as I did and having Delta screw up causing me to loose a park day really didn't help. Would I do it again, definitely, but I would have to take a few other aspects into account to help reduce the stress. Surprisingly, the baby powder lasted!

I said this in a couple of posts and I'll repeat it here. Although I was traveling solo, I wasn't traveling alone on this trip. I was totally amazed at the people that I met along the way. First starting with Sean and Pam at Bob Jackson's entertainment, what were the chances of running into a west coast couple at Riverside? The Legend and Matt for taking time from their schedule to show me Universal Florida. Jim, my old trailer mate making the effort to travel from Venice to Orlando to spend just a few hours with me. Robert and Bob, 24 years after the college program, awesome! All the guys and ladies from the DPN who made DPN Westfest a total hullaballo. Fellow Skurvy Monkeys, it was a pleasure to meet you face to face after spending so much time chatting and recording with you. Lisa, it was great to meet you over at the Uva Bar. Black Jack Joe, thanks for taking me on your circuit there at Magic Mountain. Lastly, Asa, it was a blast spending time with you at Universal Hollywood. If I didn't call you out my name, please don't take it as a diss. Over the course of 15 days there were so many people who you all contributed to making my Disney Coast to Coast-er Universally Magic Adventure something that I won't forget.

I want to point out the five people who were awarded my Awesome Job cards. Marianne at United, Catalina at the Grand Floridian Resort, Ricky at the Kim Possible Adventure in Epcot and Noelle and Nari at Magic Mountain. You all stepped up to the plate and went above and beyond when it could have been easy just to tow the line. There were many people along the 15 days that were pleasant and nice but did just the minimum and had to be asked to move onto the next step. You all volunteered. What I found interesting is that I wasn't flying United but it was the substitute carrier person who went above and beyond and not the original carrier to try to solve my problem. Disney is known for their customer service and although I spent 12 days either in a Disney park or resort they got just as many Awesome Job cards as I gave out for just the one day at Magic Mountain. I don't know if your companies will recognize the cards that I handed out, but I do plan on sending each company a letter and is one of the tasks that I need to accomplish this week. Ricky doesn't even know that this is happening because I couldn't give the card to him back when I was in the park.

Fifteen days and ten parks later, I can say that I endured and prevailed! Only a couple of items went wrong but overall the trip was a major success. Thank you for following along and hope that you enjoyed the trip as much as I did!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

DC2CERUMA - Day 15-the final day

And so ends my Disney Coast to Coast-er Universally Magic Adventure. Day 15, time to pack, enjoy the Disney parks a little and then head back to Honolulu. I just tried to chill and relax. Once I get back to Honolulu, I have four full days with Jeff from Houston of the Meandering Mouse Podcast.

I was originally planning on getting into the park around 10am, but I took a while to get going between doing the DC2CERUMA Day 14 blog post, getting food, showering and getting packed. One of my habits that had me slightly flummoxed was that of my changes. Since arriving in Anaheim, I did like I do at home, I empty my pockets of change and here I put the coins into a Styrofoam cup. It was HEAVY! When I checked out, I tried to change it at the front desk. Nope, they wouldn't do it. So I went to the sundry store and bought a soda and gum and paid out seven bucks in coins. In the parks I got a desert and my freestyle coke mix and paid about eight bucks in coins. I got a meal and paid the amount above a whole dollar in coins. When I left the park I grabbed another soda and paid three dollars in coins. Almost 20 dollars in coins. And that was just from a week in Southern California!

I started in Disney's California Adventure slowly walking around, taking pictures and enjoying the atmosphere. Every chance I saw for a photopass opportunity, I took it. I must have had about a dozen stops total and not sure how many pictures total were taken. I asked around about the World of Color and couldn't find out anything about soft openings although several cast members did mention about the possible use of assigned tickets for show times. That would be a good test of the American public so see if they could handle some of the things that the Tokyo Disneyland Resort does! I also tried to find a propeller beanie hat with no luck. Dang! I didn't ride any rides in DCA before heading over to Disneyland.

In Disneyland, more of the same wondering around. Random shots of what ever. I did do one ride and that was Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin. With it I pulled a fast pass. No intentions of using it, but adding it to the collection. Different stores along the way asking about the propeller beanie. A number of locations within both parks commented that they had them several months ago and are waiting for more to come in. Wonder if Disney is realizing that they are loosing out on not having the propeller beanies! I did see one family wearing a set. I asked them where they got them only to hear they purchased on e-bay or something like that and they had brought them into the park. Bummer!

My last photo pass shots were by the Partners statue. I told the guy to make it a good one as they would be my last for the trip. He had me outstretch my arms and with open hands, I expect to have Tinkerbell placed in them. Cut last shots. The last shots on the camera where the small character statues in the hub. I had loaded up all the pictures and the number of pics that I took on his trip alone was 1618 total pictures. This is my still camera only, no phone camera, HD video cam or photopass shots. I know I'll be spending some time sorting them out.

My shuttle service with Super shuttle arrived a bit early so I'm writing up the blog at this time in Notebook. Internet service is not available unless I pay for it soooo, no biggie. It should make posting a bit earlier once I get some sort of internet connection. I'm hoping that since the flight is not full, the seat next to me stays empty and that I can get some sleep. I realized that I forgot to charge the i-pod and last used it for watching video. The battery has got to be low at this point.

I can feel myself nodding off and am afraid I'll drop the laptop, so I'll sign off for now!

DC2CERUMA - Day 14

Today was a relaxing day that had a couple of extra cool moments. It was a great way to wrap up my last full day of my Disney Coast to Coast-er Universally Magic Adventure by hitting the tenth park of the trip with an unexpected guest followed up with a a couple of activities that I had not planned on doing at all during the trip.

At my old job I had a hiring and firing responsibility. I hired Asa and about two months after I was let go, he was laid off too. He moved from Hawaii back to California and we've kept in touch. He took time out of his schedule to come over to my hotel and together we visited Universal Studios Hollywood. Along the way we stopped in Buena Park where I was able to get postcard stamps (note, I have to make sure I bring the stamps with me since I can't trust Disneyland or Magic Mountain or places where you BUY postcards to have postcard stamps!) and we did a quick drive by of Knott's Berry Farm.

I hadn't been to Universal in two years and for Asa it had been ten something so there was a lot new for him and for me it was the West Coast version of the Simpsons ride. I have to say, that the whole Simpsons attraction is one sharp witted and fun experience. Between the videos in the queue and the main attraction, they poke fun at so much! The little stints that Patty and Selma, Apu, Mole Man and grounds keeper Willie just before you get ready to board are wonderful how they bounce back and forth with banter. Yeah, a very good attraction!

The whole time was at a nice pace. The weather was warm, but not uncomfortable. The park had misters going all over the place to help keep it cool. There were no lines to speak of. The longest we waited was about 15 minutes for the Simpsons everything else was one or two vehicles. The Mummy was so light that when Asa asked to move from the second row to the first row, Amelia told him how to get back in line quicker. For the tram tour we lucked out; Wysteria lane was open. We had the chance to see the exterior sets used for the show Desperate Housewives. The last visit had the road closed. The one thing I didn't see as much as when I was over in Florida was characters. Only saw a few like Lucy, Groucho Marx, and Sponge Bob.

The end of the time in the park we were able to squeeze in Waterworld and Terminator 2: 3D. Recently I made comments about the relevance of Waterworld. After seeing the stunt show, having the movie tie is doesn't matter. It was a fun, action filled, VERY WET (at least for some of the lower seats) concise example to stuntman workmanship. The downed airplane landing in the theater...classic! When Waterworld got out we had to hustle over to catch the last show of the day with the folks of Cyberdyne.

Asa had suggested staying in the area a bit afterward to avoid some of the rush hour traffic. My friend Jeff had mentioned Griffith Park so we ventured up to Griffith Observatory. I'm so glad that the two came together. It was exciting to see a LA landmark plus the fact that I'm a science and math guy this place got me excited. The interior of the building was gorgeous. The exterior was just as beautiful. The vistas even with the smog were incredible. Watching the sunset was just one of those moments you go WOW! On the lawn there were two telescopes set up. One was trained on Venus and the other Saturn. It was incredible to see the rings through that little eye piece. With that we departed to make our way back down to Anaheim.

For dinner Asa suggested a place called Lee's Sandwiches on Harbor Blvd. He was very enthusiastic on the place. They had 10" baguette sandwiches for under four bucks. Not a bad deal. He suggested getting the jalapeno peppers too! This is the first time that I can remember getting a fresh sliced jalapeno, not one that had been marinating in some jar for months. To wash it down, a lychee smoothie. It was very tasty, the bread was fresh and you know you have a good jalapeno when your nose starts to run! Asa also treated me to a chicken taco from Alberto's. It was very good as well. Nothing like I get in Hawaii!

Asa was great company. Thanks for showing me some of the food choices here in California. They were far better selections that the burger and pulled pork sandwich from Universal! I want to mention Phil from Florida and say a big mahalo to him as he provided me with the tickets for the park.

Back at the hotel I was busy working on my postcards and in comes Jeff. He attended DPN Westfest and stayed at the Grand Californian during the event but has since moved hotels before flying out to Honolulu to visit with me for a few days. We got talking about his adventure of the day. Turns out we were both at Griffith Observatory at the same time. We have the same sunset photos! Looks like I was one level lower than him while taking the shots. Too funny!

In one way I'm glad the trip is coming to an end. I am tired. I already told Jeff not to expect a whole lot out of me on Thursday as I need a little recoup time. By hitting Universal Studios Hollywood, that makes ten parks in 14 days. Tomorrow will just be a little time in Disneyland before getting the shuttle back to LAX and then Honolulu. It will be nice to put my head down in the Apartment in Paradise once more.

Monday, May 3, 2010

DC2CERUMA - Day 13

Today was a fantastic day. Ever since I saw the movie Roller Coaster, I've always wanted to visit Magic Mountain. Today was that day. I was pulling into the parking lot after paying my $15 for that little slice of asphalt that would be called mine for those few hours I was visiting and while I was putting the car into park I got choked up. It was similar to how I felt when I stepped into Walt Disney Studios Paris completing my visiting all of the Disney parks globally. A place that I had seen and heard about for 30 years I was finally visiting there in Valencia!

The day started a little rough. I tried to use the complementary computer system in the hotel lobby to buy a package for the visit. I would have received a park admission, parking and a meal for $55. When I tried to order it on line, the computer didn't have the necessary software. They had acrobat 6 and the current version is 10. The result is that when I got to the park, I paid $55 for admission alone. But since the cost of a season pass was the price of a single day full price ticket, I opted for the pass. SO, I am a Six Flags Magic Mountain season pass holder even though I'll probably not be able to make it back while it is valid. The funny thing is when you order on line they in my opinion, distort the savings the list on line. They say to save $22 on line with a single day ticket and they charge you $5 on line processing fee so the savings is really only $17.

After entering the park I was approached by Black Jack Joe, he's one of the people who attended DPN Westfest. On his way home he stopped by MM since he's an annual pass holder. Joe took the time out of his day to show me the ropes of touring this Southern California landmark park. I really appreciate what he did as in the matter of a few hours we had done almost all of the coasters in the park. Luckily the day was DEAD in the park for numbers of people and almost everything was a direct walk on. If we waited, it was maybe one train. We spent more time putting our stuff into the available lockers per the instructions of the attractions than waiting for the coasters themselves. I kept all the receipts and $7 was spent , one dollar at a time, to secure our belongings while we rode.

The first ride of the day was X2. It was crazy! The trains are HUGE and it does take some time to load people. One of my concerns was would I fit. At Universal Florida, there were two coaster trains that I had to use "the big boy" seating. For X2, I fit. Actually, for the whole day, there were a couple of snuggy moments, and the attendants with a little effort got me into each of the harnesses when necessary but I didn't have any problems overall! Before Black Jack Joe left for the day to continue his trip to Northern California we had done all of the roller coasters except Revolution and Viper. I would be able to do those two on my own.

During the course of the day I was able to give out not one, but TWO Awesome Job cards! The first went to Noelle. Joe and I were walking by her whack a mole booth. I had my camera around my neck.
She stopped us to ask if we would like our picture taken. Normally you have to ask employees to do it, but she just volunteered. She took the shot then Joe and I went and rode Batman and Riddler before I returned to offer her the card. She was totally stoked. She even had her supervisor come over and be in the shot that I snapped with my camera phone!

The second went to Nari. We were riding the Canyon Blaster (Hey, it's a coaster credit!). The operator Nari asked it we wanted to go again. The riders said yes so she hit the button and we were off for a second time! We didn't have to get off or anything. it was cool. I laughed up a storm! So good going to Noelle and Nari on their Awesome Job cards! You both earned those little cards!

NOW, there was one person who shouldn't be in her position. She wasn't Doosh worthy, but the interactions should have been different. I went to SFMM Guest Relations to pass along my comments. Amanda listed to me talk about their team members and she did NOTHING to acknowledge what I was talking about. No excitement in her voice, no real acknowledgment, no nuttin from her. Something that I thought should be recognized is how many of the employees would recognize me as BJJ and myself or just myself would say "Have a Six Flags day" or some other words of acknowledgment. I know that in 5 star hotels, when you get within so many feet of an employee they are to acknowledge you. It was rather nice. Although, I wish they could do something about their uniforms that are the dayglo yellow/green that ask you to pick up your trash.

In the park I paid for water, not once but twice. The first time I was parched. The nearest water fountains were broken. I was dry in the mouth and sweating quite a bit. Similarly, I know that I complained about the cost of a 20oz coke at Disney with WDW at $2.55 and DLR at $3.03, but for that same bottle at SFMM, $3.75!! Only did one of those! I had a burger at Katy's Kettle. The burger was cold, but the onion rings were good! To make up for the bad burger, I stopped at In-n-Out burger in Fullerton and had the Double Double with fries and a large drink for dinner!

So as you can see it was a real good day. I got to accomplish a goal of visiting Magic Mountain, I gave out two Awesome Job cards and I got In-n-Out Burger. I don't think it could have gotten much better!

Tomorrow is my last full theme park day, it will be Universal Hollywood. I should only have to pay for parking and food! Day 14 will bring me to my 10th theme park in this two week trip. That info is just blowing my mind! I've done theme parks or theme park related for two solid weeks. Texting with an old employee who now lives here and it looks like I might have company to Universal. Whoo hoo!

So, there should be 3 more posts covering the full day, the partial day on Wednesday and then some sort of recap. For those of you who have followed along this far, thank you. I hope that I haven't bored you and provided you some entertainment!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

DC2CERUMA - Day 12

I need to make a correction to yesterday's post. I mentioned Thomas and Eric who are visually impaired people that I met. I got one name wrong. It was Matt and Eric. I wanted to correct that one right away!

Today was the final day of DPN Westfest along with a day of goodbyes and the day that I hit the wall. Today passed quicker than I would have liked. It signaled the end of the DPN gathering at Disneyland. I am sad to see it go. There were lots of good times over the past several days. At the same time, I'm on day 12 of the adventure with every day being a very fully day and today was the day that I hit my limit. After being up to 2:30am today, I once again decided to sleep a little. I was up at 7:30am and could have used more zzzz's but needed to be at the park for the 10am photo gathering. I was going to use my PhotoPass card!

What was more exciting than going into the park was spotting the Bat Day people in the esplanade even before they had a chance to enter either park.. Some just wore black whatever and some were dressed in outfits, costumes or attire that was simply stunning. There was this one couple dressing in a purple and velvet ensemble that was beautiful. I did ask to take a picture, but they said they were running for a meet and that if I ran into them in the park, they would be more than happy to let me take a shot. Unfortunately, I did not run into them again.

The photo meet went well I thought! With my photopass, I was grabbing an individual or individuals to pose with me with the photopass photographer and then they did one large shot and a bunch of smaller shots to get more detail. All went on my card. I can't wait to see ALL the shots I have taken. I was really excited getting a pp picture with the Skurvy Monkeys

More events, more people; after going to see the Lincoln we broke for lunch. I could feel it right at that time. I had hit the wall. I was growing impatient with people and events. I basically had lunch alone to try to keep myself in check and not bark at someone. I was going to head back to the hotel room to sleep, but I had made promises to myself about going to a couple particular meets and I wanted to make sure I kept those.

The Billy Hill and the Hill Billies is a fun event. Their highlight is when they fiddle to the Orange Blossom trail. They do such a great job with it. The sound is wonderful and the entertainment value is just as good.

Mike and Steve from the newest member of The DPN, Disney Park Hoppin' Party are such fun to be around. Their meet at the tea cups was a hoot. They had picked up new mad hatter hats marked like the new Mad Hatter as portrayed by Johnny Depp. I even won some of their materials for a couple of DVDs. I managed to get them in front of the photo pass while they were dressed up.

I watched the Tiki Room before I left he park for the day. I know that I have half a day on Wednesday but won't be able to get in a lot of rides before I have to leave to get the shuttle back to the airport. And again, I was/am cranky. I didn't want to unload on someone. This adventure between the different theme parks, which 2 full days and 2 parks to go has just wiped me out. I almost got into it with the guest relations because they aren't selling post card stamps. Something that I learned tonight is that contrary to popular belief, is that a ticket from WDW by policy it cannot be used at the Disneyland resort.

I'm looking forward to Magic Mountain, but need to cut this short. I am nodding off while typing in this report. I must first apologize to a lot of Westfesters in than I did not say good bye. There were some people to whom I wanted to spend more time or get photopass but it didn't work out. Maybe next time. They're all a great bunch of people and am glad that we had the chance to get together.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

DC2CERUMA - Day 11

Today had some interesting events unfold. Nothing major in impact to the big population, but interesting to me! The first was getting postcards. I was looking for postcards at Disney's California Adventure and they only had four different ones in stock and each was $2.00. When I asked the Cast Member behind the counter said that because of the billion dollar remodel they would eventually be switching stock. OK, but you didn't have some generic character cards that you could have been put in the store? The second part of that is that according to the same CM, the US Post Office came in and removed the vending machines for stamps. Huh, this organization that is struggling to generate revenue removed a source AND will not allow Disney to sell stamps at their guest relations? They allow 7-11 to sell stamps but not Disney. Weird.

Before the events of the day got started I met up with Design and Proud Monkey out in front of DCA. They were waiting for one of their party to arrive before going in. The use of facebook, twitter, texting, and mobile phones in general has very much changed the way that a visit to an amusement park occurs. How much it's used to convey reactions to events in the park as well as keeping tabs of people and what they are doing.

Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the Toy Story Mania event as I was running a special errand that I wanted to complete today before something else distracted me from the goal. The Corn Dog meet with Sarah, Jason and Jimmy, thank you for awarding me a small stuffed Heimlich from Bug's Life for travelling the furthest. Aunty Lo's Island Meet at the animation academy was a blast. The whole animation building is chock full of detail that most people miss. It was the first time in a couple of visits that I did the animation studio where I learned to draw a character. This time around it was Goofy! The parks are so full of detail at different levels and for most people it flies right over their head!

Dinner tonight was at Story Tellers in the Grand Californian. They had a good spread. But more importantly, the company was compelling. Lots of laughs. For the most part, people will ignore bad food when they are in the company of people who make them feel good and laugh. That was the case with tonight's dinner.

There are all sort of activites within the park and within the framework of DPN Westfest that could keep an individual busy, but it's the connections with people that is the most important. I had the chance to meet Thomas and Eric who are visually impaired. It was fun talking to them. Thomas has been out to Hawaii before and I tried to explain the new Disney resort, Aulani that is coming up in terms referencing what he knew already. I also got to share with them a fact about Tokyo DisneySea that would be very important to them in a future visit. They were excited and surprised about what I revealed to them!

There was no one that really shone above the rest for me to be able to give out an AWESOME JOB! card. Also discovered that the state side Disney doesn't give out rubber stamps for letters the same way that Hong Kong did. It helps personalize the letter/postcard to really embellish them. Oh Well!

Fantasyland at night is magic. Many times I have ridden the rides. I really love the dark rides. Pinocchio is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, Peter Pan always has a long line no matter what time of day or night!

Tomorrow is the last day of DPN Westfest. The main event for me is the photo shot in front of the castle. My Photo Pass should get a big workout tomorrow to help preserve the memories of the weekend. More than anything else, I think Disney is in the business of helping people make lasting memories. That's my story and I'm going to stick with it!