Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Tuesday, October 30, 2012

10-30-12 What we seek

What we  seek
in the end
is not unconditional love
but a love
for which we,
in all the world,
meet all the conditions.
~Robert Brault

10-30-12 October Full Moon

Monday, October 29, 2012

10-29-12 Cloud Atlas Review

Samantha and I used a couple of free passes to see Cloud Atlas yesterday. I've been mulling it over since last night and, with a bit of thinking and an attempt not to over-think, here's a review, because I actually quite enjoyed the film and yet it felt as though it were trying to do too much or spread itself too thin.

I have not read the book, so my take is purely on the film itself. I try not to see films after I've read the book if I love the book. It always ends badly. So I'm free and clear here.

A quick synopsis, insofar as anyone could do this plot justice. The book, I've read, was pronounced "unfilmable" because of its structure, based on the same movement of the symphony/sextet structure that one of the characters writes. He has six different narratives, the first half of the first five are told sequentially, leaving the reader hanging at each midway point. The sixth narrative is told in its entirety in the center of the novel, and then descending, plot #5, plot #4, plot #3, plot #2, and plot #1's second halves are concluded so that we end where we began in 1849. The film, however, does away with such structure and intersperses all six, quickly cutting from a few minutes of one story to another and without any clear pattern. (Or maybe there is and I just wasn't quick enough to spot it.) It opens and ends with the last time period, as a tale told around the campfire.

The six narratives, in chronological order:

1849 young lawyer Adam Ewing is sent by his father to the South Pacific to procure a lucrative deal in the slave trade. He witnesses the savage beating of one of the slaves, Autua, before falling out from the heat. Dr. Henry Goose (Tom Hanks) "treats" him by slowly poisoning him to steal his gold. They set out to return to San Francisco and Autua manages to stow away in Ewing's compartment. There is a great moment between the two about how he knew they would be friends. Ewing, still ailing, reveals Autua's presence to the captain, but Autua's skills as a sailor (before becoming enslaved) saves him from being thrown overboard (barely). Autua, of course, saves Ewing from Goose's final poisoning and Ewing returns to burn the contract he procured for his father and leave with his wife, Tilda, to fight for the abolitionism cause. His journal, kept throughout the voyage, is published and read in...

1936 as young composer Robert Frobisher works as an amanuesis for an old composer, Vyvyan Ayrs, and composes his own work late at night, high in the tower of the old man's house, The Cloud Atlas, a work in six parts, which Ayrs intends to take as his own once it is finished. His story is told in letter-form to his lover, Rufus Sixsmith, who is at Cambridge studying to be a scientist.  Frobisher undertakes an affair with Arys' wife, Jocasta. When he attempts to leave the house with his unfinished work, Arys steals it and, in a scuffle involving the old man's gun, Arys is struck but survives. Arys has told the young man he will ruin him so that his symphony will never be heard by anyone.  Frosbisher flees and finishes his work in hiding, writing to Sixsmith throughout, who attempts to find him. Frobisher bribes the innkeeper (Tom Hanks) who figures out who he is. Sixsmith finds Frobisher seconds after he has puts the gun to his own mouth and pulled the trigger.

1973 young San Francisco reporter Luisa Rey finds herself trapped in an elevator with an elderly Rufus Sixsmith and he develops a rapport with her that leads him to call her to give her a report on the cover-up happening regarding the nuclear power plant that big oil is intentionally setting up to leak. He is killed before she arrives but she is able to retrieve the love letters from Frobisher in his room and follows what few leads she has to the power plant where she is befriended by another scientist, Isaac Sachs, (Tom Hanks) who falls in love with her and is promptly blown up in his plane after handing over the same report that Sixsmith was trying to get to her. She is driven off the road by the hitman, but survives and is befriended by the plant's security officer, who served with her father in Korea and owes him his life. The picture of her father is identical to Autua's. She has also found a rare copy of the symphony in record form at a shop whose keeper bears a striking resemblance to Frobisher.

2012 old publisher Timothy Cavendish is both horrified and delighted when he awful gangster client writer (Hanks) throws a critic out of the penthouse, killing him, on the eve of the book's publication. The book is an overnight sensation, and Cavendish goes wild with spending, until he must flee his life to escape the mobster's gang who wants far more money than he has left. Seeking help from his rich brother, he finds himself locked up against his will in a nursing home as revenge for the affair he had with his brother's wife many years before. The nursing home was once the composer Arys' home. This section of the narrative is the only one written with humor and does much to lighten the rest of the film. He is also reading the book version of the 1973 story. Cavendish returns to the home of his first love and finally reunites with her, and writes the tale of his woe as his own book which is made into a film.

2144 young clone ("fabricant") Sonmi-451 is liberated from Neo-Seoul, Korea, more specifically a fast-food establishment, where she has spent her entire life enslaved, by a young rebel who shows her the reality of her world and inspires her to record an Orison in which she reveals to the masses the truth of their dystopian society, before being captured, watching her savior killed, and interrogated before her execution. Some really creepy Slaughterhouse type of stuff in this one, as she learns that the "freedom" granted to fabricants after their period of servitude is up, is that they are executed and ground into food for the other fabricants. YUCK. At some point they also watch the film "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish." There's a very funny scene where Cavendish starts hollering to the befuddled residents watching him try to escape the nursing home, "Soylent Green is people!" but it's not so amusing here.

22?? in post-apocalyptic Hawaii, middle-aged Zachry, a goat-herder and a member of the Valleymen tribe, worships Sonmi, who has over the intervening era of destruction, become a goddess of myth. The rival Konas tribe regularly raid and kill his people. Meronym, from a race called the Prescients who are technologically advanced and dying of their own plague attempt to infiltrate the Valleymen, hoping to find a guide to take her to the top of the mountain where the tribe believes the devil resides in an attempt to understand the origins of the apocalypse as well as the plague that is wiping out her home now. (Edited to add: the preceding sentence is about as convoluted as the entire movie!) She shows Zachry the recordings that survived of Sonmi-451 as they roam the observatory that is littered with skeletons at the top of the mountain  (what?). Oh, and the devil keeps popping up telling Zachry to kill her instead of listening to her lies. They return to the village to find it wiped out, Zachry's wife killed, but his daughter hidden away. He kills the Kona warrior, but this alerts the other Kona who almost kill them both before Meronym rescues them. They make it to the Prescient ship where Zachry agrees to stay with her as they seek a new place to live. At the end of the film, we end where we began, with a very, very old Zachry telling these stories to his grandchildren around the campfire and pointing out the star in the sky known as Earth, before retiring with Meronym, his wife. This whole story is written in some gibberish dialect that made it very hard to follow. I desperately needed subtitles.

The main problems I had with the film, which, remember, I actually quite enjoyed, are these:

1. The heavy-handed platitudes. If these are in the book, then it's the fault of the author. If they are in the film only, then the screenwriters can take the fall. Really, we don't need "when one door is closed another is opened" or the continually repeated "from womb to tomb we are all connected" droned on. (Yes, womb to tomb rhymes. Stop it.) The real interest, at least for me, is the interweaving of the stories from one generation to the next. Each one not only happens, but is recorded in some form, which is picked up by the next story. Let it be.

2. The post-apocalyptic speak. Subtitle this or write it so the audience can follow the interchange. It made me nuts. Edited to add: Yibberin the True True

3. The impossibility of doing good makeup to make a white actor appear Asian or a black or Asian woman appear white. It felt a little like black-face in places. Did Jocasta, the old Jewish wife of Arys really have to be played by Halle Berry? Did Ewing's young wife Tilda really have to be play by Korean beauty Doona Bae (Sonmi-451) in freckled-white face with red hair? Hae-Joo Chang, the young liberator and lover of Sonmi and the Interrogator of Sonmi, are played by Jim Sturgess (who is Adam Ewing originally) and Hugo Weaving (who has great fun doing drag as Nurse Noakes, Cavendish's nemesis.) Both men, in Asian makeup, look alien.  The fun the actors must have had taking on six different roles not withstanding, and I get that they wanted six actors to play six different parts each, in keeping with the numeric repetition, but still... jarring and odd.

4. This is a complaint only for the theater viewing, but thanks to the very quick pace of switching back and forth through the stories, there was absolutely no way to make bathroom timing work. I usually pick a fight scene and make it back without missing anything I care about. Here, I picked a chase scene but I knew I'd miss something else. Luckily, it was only one something else, which turned out to be back in the post-apocalyptic jungles when they weren't making much sense anyway.

5. Lastly, and maybe I'm asking too much, but I really wanted the Cloud Atlas to be some amazing work I had to run out and buy on CD. For a $100,000,000 budget? Where's my real composer?

One last edit: good spoiler discussion here, including the comet birthmark thing I didn't even attempt to discuss here.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

10-28-12 The Hat

Ah, you try and find a hat song that would work as a little ode to my dark brown, tried and true, finally working itself into holes, didn't hold up to the rain, sweet hat.

Behold, the new addition to take its place was acquired this weekend.

I still haven't decided whether or not to move my blue bird feather over or leave it on my old friend who hangs on a place of honor on the wall by my bed.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

10-27-12 Easter 1976

At Mom and Dad's this weekend and we fired up the old Super 8 projector tonight. I filmed with the HD camcorder. Here's the first bit without any additional editing. That yellow leisure suit of Dad's is worth the price of admission! Easter, 1976 on Kirkdale and, as Mom said, "dressed up and hating every minute of it." Note the lack of enthusiasm doing the catwalk in the Easter dress. My socks did have fluffy pom-poms on them (instead of having to wear hose, yeaach!) 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

10-25-12 The Aurora

10-25-12 The Mountain

10-25-12 Southwest Skies

10-25-12 View from the ISS

10-16-12 Carthay Circle Dining Review

I woke up Tuesday morning, thinking about how much time we would have to waste in the evening staking out a spot for World of Color, and decided that since we'd only eaten at one table service restaurant the whole vacation, it was time to do something spontaneous.

I called the dining line at 10:00 asking about lunch seating for that day and they had an 11:50 open.

The restaurant is designed as a smaller scale replica of the Carthay Circle Theater on San Vicente Blvd in LA during the golden age of Hollywood. It opened its doors in 1926 and hosted the world premier showing of the very first movie-length animated feature film, Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (as well as Gone with the Wind). It was demolished in 1969.

Some pictures:

The exterior with neon sign, like its namesake.

The interior lounge area. Stairs to the left lead to the dining room.

We were seated in the center of the room. The mural was painted in the style of the backgrounds of Snow White. The chandeliers had an iron heart hanging from the center.

The pattern in the wood of the table hides the Evil Queen's silhouette.

I should have ordered what Samantha chose. It is a Udon Noodle Bowl, with red Thai curry broth, shrimp, and mussels, shitake mushrooms, bok choy, diakon, mint, cashews and fresh coriander. $19

Instead, I went for the Angus Burger with Tillamook Cheddar, black pepper bacon, grilled onions, and house made pickles. It was the pickles that tricked me. Two very lame burger slices that were not particularly tasty or crunchy.  $22 (Bob got the same)

To get the preferred seating passes into World of Color, everyone must not only order an entree, but also a dessert or an appetizer. In hindsight, probably should have tried some of the appetizers. The desserts run $12-$15 each and are.... tiny.

This is Bob's face when he realized this was the Fried Banana Split Monte Cristo Sundae. $15

I loved the flavor of mine, just not the portion. This is the Toasted Lemon Pound Cake with marinated blueberries, lemon curb cream, and tahitian vanilla chantilly. $12

This is Samantha's Simple Scoop of Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream. The "chocolate cookie croutons" are, for us mortal folk, brownies. $12

The walls were filled with great old memorabilia of the theater's heyday and of vintage Disney photographs.

Overall, after discovering entry in to the "preferred" area landed up directly behind a very large light pole, although we did have a spot along the upper rail, we still couldn't see the surface of the water and had to camp out an hour ahead of time here anyway, I'd probably not do this one again. Seeing the interior of the place and dining here was nice, but not worth the $150 tab once you added in drinks and tip.

10-25-12 Fall-ing

Falling fast

Thursday morning 10/18/12

Thursday morning 10/25/12

The tree had not even turned golden when we left Saturday and was almost totally turned five days later. The leaves were gone, save a few staunch hold-outs you can see see peeking through the snow covered branches this morning.

Monday, October 22, 2012

10-22-12 Howard Johnson Disneyland Review

So one of the big things about trying out Disneyland instead of our usual Disney World is that you have much more competition for hotel rates since Disney does not own miles and miles of property around its parks. 

We joked that the walk from the HoJo to the front gate was about the length of several of our walks from the resort bus stop to our rooms at WDW.

When we first started going to WDW, in 2000, we scored the best room rate ever, which was about $144.00 a night for a top of the line view at the Wilderness Lodge under a state-employee discount rate they discontinued the next year. To stay in that room on those dates this December, the cost is $537.00 a night not including the 12.5% tax. Even with an amazing discount, that's highway robbery for a room that is 340 square feet.

So the idea that we could snag a bigger room, less than a 10 minute walk away from the front gates, for $135.00 a night was pretty appealing. Add to that air fare being cheaper to California than to Florida and it was Disney on the cheap (relatively.)

The room with two amazingly comfortable queen beds, flat screen, fridge, etc. with private balcony.

View from said private balcony at night.

And the Matterhorn peeked in the window in the mornings from the bathroom mirror.

A few downsides:
1. The internet connection was LOUSY
2. There weren't enough accessible plugs for laptops, camera batteries, and cell phones
3. My personal pet peeve: no creamer. And they charged .35 cents each for the tiny little single servings in the shop. Better than the sunscreen we forgot. That ran us more than $20! We started comparing costs of things in sunblock -- breakfast at IHop for all three of us was than than 2 sunblocks, etc.

But overall, great room, great location, clean, with very friendly service. We'd stay here again. We'd just remember the sunscreen, creamer, and power strip next time. 
Sunday, October 21, 2012

10-21-12 Thanksgiving practice

So, we're back from the Disney trip, which was the requirement before I would start talking about Thanksgiving, and here we are.

We've made the move back to butter and whole milk, as well as organic and cage-free eggs. I keep wishing I lived on a farm where I could have my own chickens and milk cow, but alas, this is as good as it gets for now.

In the vein of more natural, we've also been trying to get away from meals with so many ingredients, especially preservatives, so I was keen to try a few recipes that didn't rely on so many canned goods for the Thanksgiving feast.

Tonight we did a trial run of a green bean casserole and a sweet potato bake. Both will be making the cut for the big turkey dinner.

The sweet potato dish was so good. Canned sweet potatoes have had almost every nutrient killed during their processing, with additional preservatives pumped into them to keep them from "turning".
Yechhhh. Don't get me started on the marshmallows typically plopped on top with their gelatin and corn syrup. It was time for something a little fresher.

One big sweet potato, peeled, cut, and boiled to soften, whipped with cream, butter, sugar, vanilla, cinnammon, nutmeg, topped with a brown sugar, butter, and flour mixture made the most amazing dish. It was so simple and so.freaking.good.

The green beans were fresh, so I'm still learning how long to cook them. Tonight's trial run they were still a little crunchier than I wanted, but honestly, look at a can of green beans and compare it to this:

And instead of a can of mushroom soup, a cream sauce that was really delectable: butter, milk, flour, with bacon, garlic, and onion sauteed and mixed in with sharp cheddar. You could make one heck of a soup out of this stuff.

So, add a turkey breast and voila -- Thanksgiving practice #1 gets a grade of B, for too crunchy beans and, obviously, not having any of Dad's spiced apples!

10-21-12 Vintage Walt Disney World

From the out-of-print Walt Disney World: The First Decade

Roy O. Disney, dedicating Walt Disney World on opening day.

The first family to ever enter Disney World on Opening Day October 1, 1971: The Windsors

One thousand and seventy-six instruments are in the band led by "Music Man" Meredith Willson as part of the Grand Opening parade. And yes, there are 76 trombones leading the big parade.

Over 5000 performers and 500 doves join in the Grand Opening celebtration and dedication ceremonies, October 25, 1971

The Central Hub, with so many trees

Christmas at the Magic Kingdom, including fireworks from Bay Lake and the Candlelight Processional creating the living Christmas Tree at the Railroad Station. "The Night Before Christmas" was read by such celebrities as Cary Grant, Rock Hudson, and Perry Como.

The 1976 Bicentennial Parade

Main Street in the 70s

 Long gone River Country water park

That's Amy Carter, 1978

Left, the Mission to Mars show. Right, underneath the Kingdom and behind the scenes in the utilidors.
On October 22, 1979, Kurt Miller of Maryland becomes the 100,000,000 visitor to the Magic Kingdom.