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2 2210

A Really Bored Gorilla at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Last Friday, while in Florida, I visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You know, the fourth big attraction on the Disney property after the Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, and MGM Studios.

The admission for me and my wife was $159.76. No matter how you slice it, that’s a lot of money.

And for that kind of money, I expect some top notch entertainment.

I didn’t find it.

In fact, the “adventure” was soured even before we entered the park…

See, the person we purchased the admission from was very pushy with the up-sell.

“Well, a ‘Park Hopper’ pass will allow you to go to a different park within the Disney resort.”

“Yes, I’m aware of that. I just want two adult tickets for Animal Kingdom, thanks.”

“Are you sure you don’t want a multi-day pass? They’re valid indefinitely and,” blah, blah, blah…

I said, “No. Just one day, one park, thanks.”

She went on and on and on — holding on to my credit card and passes so I couldn’t just walk away from the pitch.

“Where y’all from,” she said.

Odd that she worded it that way — her name tag said she was from Syosset, New York. I’ve never in my life heard a Long Islander use the term “y’all”.

“Connecticut,” I responded impatiently…

Then, as if Connecticut was local (a mere 1200 miles away), she suggested a year-long pass…

Sigh… “Two adults. One day. One park. Thanks.”

I’ve always found it funny that their tickets are valid for so long, but they’re still just a flimsy piece of cardboard. I actually have 1 day remaining on one of those “passes” from 1997, but the cardboard has all but disintegrated in my wallet since then…

Even up here, a season pass for Six Flags comes on a laminated plastic credit card type of thing — they even put your picture on it. At Disney, it’s cardboard. Go figure.

Anyway, the experience of purchasing tickets was invasive and uncomfortable. She was just prying for an opening to toss another sales pitch my way. What, am I buying a car here? Certainly not very Disney-esque…

Then, as I’m sure many of you know, you get your finger scanned as you enter the park — otherwise the turnstile won’t turn. What is up with that?

Every time I go to Disney, about once every 5 years, I conveniently forget about that, as I’m sure most other visitors do too.

But I’m sorry, they’ve got my credit card number, my address, my signature, and my finger print.

That’s the exact same amount of information I provided to get my green card.

Think about that.

It’s a freakin’ theme park?! Disney has more of my information than the Department of Homeland Security.

What does Disney need all that for? Imagine what they use it for?

Considering how many people claim to be worried about identity theft or big brother watching over you, well, I’m surprised so many people continue to visit the Disney parks.

The TSA doesn’t even take a finger print at the airport?!

Anyway, once inside the park, it screams Disney. Other than the overpriced knick-knacks, that’s a good thing.

Great landscaping, it’s nice and clean, and it looks and feels like you’re guaranteed to have a wonderfully memorable day.

Then you notice that there aren’t any animals. Anywhere.

This is “Animal Kingdom”, right?

I see a big concrete tree. Oh, and a fake concrete mountain off in the distance too…

Oh! There’s the ever elusive Mallard duck. Finally, some wildlife!

But we have those in Connecticut. You don’t even have to pay to see them.

So we immediately head over to the safari ride. Rafiki’s Rover or some such silly name.

They have this thing now where you can get a “Fast Pass” by swiping your ticket in a machine. It’ll spit out a time later in the day when you can come back. The idea is that you won’t have to spend the day standing in line.

So I walk up to a vacant machine and stick my ticket in. It spits it back out.

Nothing.

I tried my wife’s ticket. The machine spits it out too.

Seeing that I’m having trouble, and I’m not alone, a Disney employee tries again for me — like maybe I’m a moron and I’m putting the ticket in upside down or something.

Same problem for her. This is what she says:

“Yeah, did you have this in your wallet? Sometimes that can mess up the mag-strip so the machines can’t read them…”

Are you kidding me?

Where was I supposed to put my cardboard tickets that are apparently valid until the end of time? The woman I purchased it from made it out as if it was one of the most valuable things on earth — I put it in my wallet for safekeeping.

What if I had run through the mist machines a few times on the way here? Or gone on the water ride? I’m pretty certain the ticket wouldn’t have survived anywhere but in my wallet. I couldn’t believe it.

And by the looks of those around me, most people were keeping their tickets in their purse or wallet. Um, Disney? You might want to make a design change…

After three or four tries on each ticket/card, it eventually worked. We were to come back in about 3 hours. Fair enough.

We walked around some more and eventually stumbled across a few tigers (sleeping, of course) and the obviously bored gorilla pictured above.

Okay, those are two pretty impressive animals to have in the collection, but you can see those at nearly every metropolitan zoo in the country — usually for admission of around $20 (or FREE in Chicago!).

For more than three times that amount, I want to see something, well, let’s just say that if I’d gotten to see a polar bear fight a gorilla, I’d say that I got my money’s worth.

Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

They didn’t even have a polar bear.

Somehow three hours pass — mostly just walking around nicely landscaped swamplands looking at birds just like the birds that lined the highway on the way there. Seriously, those stork looking things look pretty much the same when you speed by them at 70 mph.

We head back to the Safari ride and, well, stand in line.

So much for a “fast” pass.

Seems everyone uses the fast pass so the line at 3 o’clock is the exact same line that would have been there at noon. I’m not sure the whole idea is working as planned.

So we drive out into the “wilderness” (I use the term loosely) with an over enthusiastic Disney employee having a pretend conversation with a recording blabbing about poachers in the area or something.

I’m not knocking it, I mean, I realize they’re trying to add a little excitement to a rather boring truck ride, but sometimes I wish they’d tone down the Disney-ness of things.

The concrete ostrich eggs left out in the open didn’t need to be displayed…

Or the showcasing of the “upside down” tree that apparently took 2000 years to grow — again, obviously made of concrete and fiberglass.

And how about those phony termite hills?

On the ride, we saw some alligators (also available on the side of the highway in much of Florida), some giant horned gazelle things, a giraffe, a couple of different kinds of rhinos, and some elephants.

No doubt, some pretty decent stuff. But we waited three hours for that?

At a traditional zoo, again, with an admission 3-times less, we could have seen all of those things in the first hour?!

In the end, I felt ripped off.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando can’t compare to any of the zoo’s I’ve been to in the past few years.

The Bronx Zoo has more gorillas. The Brookfield Zoo has more tigers. The Toronto Zoo has orangutans and gorillas. The Lincoln Park Zoo has FREE admission (and more animals). The Pittsburgh Zoo has more stuff for kids to do.

The only thing Animal Kingdom had was more employees and a HUGE fake tree. Oh, and a pushy sales pitch.

So *NOT* worth a $75 admission fee.

1 1720

Yellow Size Medium Hat

Yesterday, while at the second hockey game of the season, I decided to purchase some fan gear…

Twenty-two dollars later, I was the proud owner of this hat. It’s the most bizarre shade of yellow. Ugly, even.

While I could go on and on about how odd the colour is, the actual purchase process is what I want to talk about.

See, I picked it off the rack and took it to the counter. Swiped my credit card, and then the saleswoman asked if I’d like a bag.

“Nope, I think I’ll wear it…”

She proceeded to remove and discard the cardboard insert (that kept it upright on the shelf) and then went to cut the tag off. Nothing too crazy, right?

Then she stopped and looked at me — sizing me up, I’d assume — and asked if she should leave the size sticker on.

“Excuse me?”, I said in total confusement.

“Do you want me to leave the sticker on?”

Not really picking up on what she was talking about, sometimes I’m slow when faced with questions out of the blue, I stammered out a, “Um, yeah, sure…”

Then when she handed me the hat, I peeled the sticker off and put it in my pocket. (Yes, the photo above is a re-enactment of the actual event…) She kinda gave me a “whatever” kind of look as I pulled it on to my “medium” head.

As I walked back to my seat, and my wife gave me a disapproving smile (the yellow totally clashes with my skin tone), I contemplated what had just occurred…

What was up with that line of questioning? And that weird look she gave me? And then it hit me…

See, when I was in university, that fad of leaving the tag on a baseball cap started to gain momentum. I never took part — I mean, what better way to get stopped for shoplifting that wearing your clothes with the tags still attached?

Not only that, it looked ridiculous. No one in my clique ever did it. Thinking about it, no one ever would.

Nowadays, it seems that look has faded, which is probably why the saleswoman so abruptly and instinctively cut the tag off for me. The college-age kids she deals with day-in and day-out don’t sport that look anymore.

But the “look” that has replaced it, I’ve noticed, is to keep the sticker on the brim — usually a perfectly flat brim. You’ve seem them — young kids at the mall with the big round gold sticker either under the brim or on it…

Yeah, don’t ask — I’m too old to understand it, but fashion conscious enough to notice it.

Again, it looks stupid to me.

I mean, why would you do that? Does everyone need to know that the hat is officially licensed merchandise? Or, worse yet, that I have a size medium head? Does anyone even care?

What’s next? Are we going to start leaving the sticker on the leg of the jeans too? Yeah, that’s right, look at that, I’ve got a 34-inch waist. You like that? Yeah?

Too bad — I just peeled that sticker off of four new pairs of jeans…

    1 1987

    Wicked Huge Mushroom

    Well, it rained on my parade this weekend. Literally.

    I really had plans to be at an actual parade today.

    And yesterday, the plan was to hit my final agricultural fair of the season.

    But, as I said, it rained.

    But one neat thing comes from any heavy rain this time of year — wicked huge mushrooms.

    It doesn’t matter if you’ve got the nicest lawn on the block or the worst, this afternoon, you’re going to have a few mushrooms in the lawn.

    If you’re really lucky, you may even have a few pennies

    So, while my photo this week may not be as exciting as I’d originally hoped, I hope you appreciate this photo of the biggest mushroom in my backyard.

    It just felt like something I should share.

    And now, staring at it on my monitor, I’m really tempted to go back outside, take a running start, and kick it…

    10 4272

    Barack Obama House

    I took this picture over the weekend in my home town here in Connecticut.

    It’s been one of my favorite houses since I was in high school — though, back then it didn’t have its latest decoration.

    I try not to get too political on here — I think politics have come up maybe once or twice over the past year — but there’s no sense in hiding who I’m going to vote for.

    No one. That’s right, I won’t be voting this November.

    I can’t vote in the election because I’m not an American citizen.

    But that isn’t to say that I can’t support one candidate or the other.

    Obama’s my guy.

    And it appears that he’s the guy for most people my age — which likely has to do with his stance on war, the environment, gun control, abortion, stem cell research, immigration, health care, the economy, taxes, etc…

    That is why I’d vote for Obama if I could.

    It’s also why I’ll encourage those who can vote to vote for Obama.

    Watching both conventions on C-Span (without any pundits or random talking heads swaying my thoughts), the one thing that was blatantly apparent was the difference in each parties approach and delivery.

    The Democrats talked about all the great American things that had happened in the past and that could happen again in future.

    The Republicans, on the other hand, spent most of their time talking about all of the things we should be afraid of if we don’t vote McCain.

    It’s just a different strategy. And I understand that.

    But like my Biggest Loser post — I prefer to be inspired rather than threatened. That’s what motivates me and makes me feel good.

    That, and combined with Biden (who seems like a regular Joe to me), the Democrat ticket is just a lot more relatable… More like, well, typical Americans… like I pretend to be, even though I’m not.

    John McCain is definitely qualified to be President. I’m not sure anyone out there has ever said otherwise — he’s been around forever, it seems.

    I have always found it odd, though, how he’s been supported by the religious right (which I can’t understand — just cause Huckabee drops out, they support the next guy?). I mean, Senator McCain has demonstrated quite well, in the past, that he lacks morals.

    I love how people were so quick to pile on John Edwards for infidelity when John McCain did the exact same thing (worse actually). I mean, you’d think the bigger story would be on the guy who’s actually a nominee…

    Blame it on being a POW — sorry, I’m not buying it.

    I’ve also seen quotes where they say that end of his first marriage was because he was turing 40 but acting like a 25 year old. I dunno, I’d like to think that a potential President of the United States would’ve grown up long before turning 40, but maybe that’s just me.

    And seriously, how’d he bury the whole Keating Five thing? I mean, in the grand scheme of national politics, that was a pretty big blunder.

    Have people forgotten that too?

    McCain can take a great deal of credit for the recession of the early 1990’s. In today’s financial climate, I dunno, I think that’s kind of relevant.

    And you’d think a scandal that big would disqualify you from running for President. Apparently not.

    Wrapping Cindy McCain into the picture, and again, it’s tough to relate to John McCain. No one in my family is a gold digger and no one has a trophy wife (with a serious painkiller addiction) either.

    How about your family?

    And I’m still not sure why his poor health isn’t a bigger issue. I mean, remember all the hoops the media leaped through with Dick Cheney and his bad heart?

    McCain has had pieces of his face removed this calendar year and there’s barely been a mention… Last time I checked, skin cancer on a 72 year old was a pretty serious issue.

    The part of McCain’s platform that makes me laugh out loud every time is when he says the US economy is strong. He justifies it by saying that the US worker is the hardest worker in the world and that’s why we have nothing to worry about.

    I’m sorry, but has John McCain ever been to Walmart? Who is he kidding? Unfortunately, these days, it seems that the average US worker is more interested in taking cigarette breaks and talking on their cell phones than actually working.

    As for Sarah Palin, well, maybe it’s just me, but Alaska is pretty, well, meaningless. I mean, who are they kidding? That’s like saying that if it weren’t for South Dakota, the country would fall apart. It’s just not true. She “changed” Alaska. Honestly, does a changed Alaska mean much to the lower 48?

    Sure, in the Senate, all 50 states are equal. That’s why there is also a House of Representatives, and there, Alaska is irrelevant with just one seat. One. I have nothing against Alaska, or any other small state (Connecticut included), but to claim that any of them greatly effect the US as a whole is just ridiculous.

    As for her family life, well, again, I can’t relate.

    I’m sorry, the campaign can claim that her family is the “typical American family” but is it really to the point where it’s typical for Mom to have kids within a few months of their daughter?

    “Hey, meet your uncle Trigg… Sure he’s only 3 months older than you, but that’s how it is in the typical American family of the 21st century.”

    Um, not where I come from…

    Oh yeah, I’m not American.

    We don’t fire semi-automatic weapons on the weekends either…

    Remember when Bill Clinton was deservedly raked over the coals by the RNC for lacking “Family Values”? Conservatives were all over him.

    In comparison, can you believe the Republican ticket in 2008? It’s unreal.

    That said, I’ll still say that Sarah Palin was a much better pick than Joe Lieberman would have been and he’s supposed to be the guy representing me in the Senate. Grrrrrrr…

    My parents are Republicans — at least my Dad is, for sure.

    I attribute this to the fact that he shook Bob Dole’s hand back in 1996. Bob Dole’s left hand, I assume. But had it been Dick Gephardt or, gasp, even Bill Clinton, I think he may have been swayed the other way. On second thought, maybe not, he listened to Rush Limbaugh an awful lot too…

    I listen to Rush too, though… Who knows?

    But this election is different, I think.

    In 1996, the first election that I would have been old enough to vote in, I’d have voted for Bill Clinton. No doubt in my mind. Bob Dole was a disabled old dude, and Jack Kemp was a crappy quarterback. Hey, I never said I had a good reason for not wanting to vote Republican…

    In 2000, I’d have reluctantly voted for Al Gore. He just seemed a lot more likeable to me than George W. Bush. Though, had he won, I have to wonder how far he would have gone with his whole “going green” mission.

    In 2004? Probably George W. Bush — though now I’m embarrassed to admit that.

    Most presidents are terrible in their second term.

    In fact, in my life time, all of the second terms have been less than stellar, but GWB has taken it to a new level.

    Really, what I’m saying is that I can’t claim to support one party over the other.

    The Governor of my state is Republican. And terrible. Just terrible.

    The Mayor of my city is a Democrat and he’s bumbled things up far worse than his Republican predecessor…

    I’d vote to oust both of them if I could…

    But I have noticed something about this year’s presidential election — if you’re over 45 years old, you tend to lean towards McCain. Under 45, you lean toward Obama. Party affiliation doesn’t seem to matter so much.

    Sure, there are exceptions, but just comparing “groups” on things like Facebook (where the demographic is primarily under the age of 45), Obamaholics outnumber McCainiacs by huge numbers. As of today, 1.8 million to 537k. It’s not even close.

    Problem is, will those young people vote? Probably not…

    In the end, I can see a repeat of 2000.

    John McCain will win the election but Barack Obama will easily have the popular vote. Americans will again fail to understand the dynamics of their own government and through a few supreme court nominees, McCain will set the US up to be left in the dust of other countries (as if we haven’t been left in the dust already…)

    Okay, I think I’m done now…

    I’d originally just wanted to put the picture up (cause I thought it looked neat) and move on but now I’ve rambled on with a poorly worded, enormously unconnected, disjointed, and somewhat politically motivated, rant-a-thon-a-saurus…

    I didn’t even spell check. That’s dumb.

    Clicking ‘publish’….. now!

    0 2074

    With the weather being not so nice this weekend, we decided to take a week off from attending an agricultural fair.

    I dunno, there’s just something about the combination of livestock and rain that I don’t find terribly appealing…

    But of any week, this was the one to skip — the best entertainment around was Peter Noone and I’ve seen him at least three times in the past…

    He’s alright, but once you’ve seen him once, well, let’s just say it’s as if he’s been doing the same show for the past two decades…

    Instead, on an unseasonably balmy day, I went to our local arena to take in my first hockey game of the season.

    The temperature (and humidity) difference once I entered the building was enough to fog up my glasses. I love when that happens.

    Mite Hockey

    Sure, the players aren’t not pro. They’re probably not even 4-feet tall (in skates), but they try their hardest and put on a pretty good show.

    The hits these kids throw, well, let’s just say it’s as good as anything you’ll see in the NHL. Okay, maybe they’re not that great… but there’s nothing quite like the sound of two face cages colliding at full speed. That’s something you don’t hear at the pro level.

    Best of all, it’s free.

    The funny part about last night was that the league that the players play in tried to hire me — on the spot?!

    “Hey, who do you shoot for?”

    “Freelance — I usually shoot pro…”

    “Cool, do you hire out?”

    “Nah, sorry, I’m not really looking for work right now…”

    That’s too bad, we’ve got a showcase coming up in a few weeks and we’re looking for an action photographer…

    Weird how when you’re not interested in making extra money, it practically falls at your feet, but when you’re wondering how you’ll make the next mortgage payment, any extra income is impossible to find…

    1 3252

    Gerry Beckley of the rock band America

    This is photo I took today of Gerry Beckley from the rock band America.

    We saw them today at the Hebron Harvest Fair for $10. Yes, that’s two dollars less than it cost us to see Smash Mouth last week.

    For the younger set that may have never heard of the band America, well, guess what? They’ve been ripped off by Janet Jackson, used in the video game Grand Theft Auto, and in a recent Vera Wang commercial for Kohl’s.

    Guaranteed, you’ve heard their stuff — you probably just didn’t realize it. And no, it doesn’t suck.

    Janet Jackson sucks.

    I mean, who resorts to a “wardrobe malfunction” to generate press?  Who does that?  Seriously…  That’s bush league…

    Anyway, America’s show was much, much, much better than that of Smash Mouth last week, even being a member short — founding member Dewey Bunnell wasn’t on stage due to a “medical problem”.

    No worries for me though, my favorites by the group are all sung by Gerry Beckley and he was great.

    Being that I’m not really old enough to have heard their original hits when they first came out, my personal favorite is from the 1980’s.

    You Can Do Magic” from 1982 still holds up. I don’t know why, but for me, it does.

    Watch the video. I mean, it doesn’t get any cheesier than that. It just doesn’t.  Five guys facing forward with silly smiles on their faces.   Cheezy but great at the same time.

    Remember when all videos were like that? I do.

    Surprisingly, they opened the show with one of their bigger hits, “Ventura Highway“.

    At first, I was a little worried that that might mean they’d fill the next half hour with a bunch of new stuff that I wasn’t really interested in, you know, “Here’s a cut from our upcoming album…”, but they didn’t disappoint.

    I’m not much more than a casual fan, but they only played one or two songs that I hadn’t heard before. They had that many hits.

    Sure, these days the only place you’ll hear them in their entirety (and not just a few bars sampled by some talentless rapper) is at the dentist’s office or in line at the grocery store, but there aren’t too many bands that can play for well over an hour and fill the time with songs even the casual fan knows the words to.

    They closed the night with “Horse with No Name” which, unfortunately, was only so-so because Dewey Bunnell usually sings lead on that one. As I said earlier, he wasn’t there.

    The high point that really got the crowd going was an extended version of “Sister Golden Hair“. It’s another of their big hits and Gerry Beckley (the guy pictured above) was full of energy and sounded exactly like he did on the original recording some 33 years ago.

    Anyway, great show at a great price.

    Up next for us is the Guess Who in a couple of weeks. I’m not feeling real great about that show — I’m pretty sure the only real members touring with them right now are the drummer and the bassist. Neither one sang their hits.

    That’s the case with a lot of bands from the 60’s or 70’s (even the 80’s and 90’s really). You know, you run the risk of seeing a band full of a bunch of replacement members touring under the name of a popular band. A great example is Journey. I’m sorry, but without Steve Perry singing lead, you can’t call yourself Journey. But they do.

    America, to a degree, is no different in that respect. But the two lead vocalists are still around and the drummer and guitarist we saw today are the same two guys in that “You Can Do Magic” video from 1982…

    That was 26 years ago.

    Not much of a rotating line-up, which is probably why they still put on a pretty good show.

    3 2511

    Steve Harwell of the band Smash Mouth

    This is Steve Harwell, the lead singer for the band Smash Mouth.

    We saw him yesterday at the 148th Woodstock Fair and I took this picture.

    For the record, he can’t sing. He was terrible. The rest of the band wasn’t so great either.

    I like this band. I thought I liked this band.

    Actually, now having seen them live — I like them less.

    The played all of their hits, which was good, and a ton of Van Halen for some reason, which wasn’t so good.

    Actually, the guitarist actually seemed to know what he was doing on the VH songs, but once they broke into “Walking on the Sun“, well, I could have been playing guitar up there. Very strange. Had it not been for the bassist staying consistent with the bass line, the whole thing would have fallen apart.

    They finished up the show, expectedly, with “All Star“, but Steve’s voice was totally worn out at that point.

    He was flat for the entire show, beginning to end, and worn out for the last few songs.

    Often Smash Mouth is criticized for being a campy 60’s cover band and, now, having seen them up close, well, they almost sounded like a cover band of themselves.

    The criticism is well deserved.

    Thankfully, admission was only $12 each and we got to pet cows, sheep, chickens, and other things too…

    We also saw a number of bearded ladies and even a few one thousand pound men too… Though they all probably paid twelve bucks to get in too…

    4 3277

    Camera Equipment — Before it was catching dust…I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it in the past before on PIAC, but since I quit my photographer position last November, I’ve had around $30k worth of camera equipment essentially collecting dust in the corner of my, ahem, jersey room.

    While the lenses and the lighting equipment hold their value, the actual camera bodies certainly do not — and they make up for at least half of that $30k total. Definitely a depreciating asset…

    So, having noticed a blog that my wife frequents regularly has a “daily photo” section and that I’ve got tons and tons of expensive camera equipment doing a whole lot of nothing, well, I thought I’d start doing “picture of the day” posts here too!

    It probably won’t be popular.

    It probably won’t be nice to look at.

    And it probably won’t generate any comments either but I can’t fathom selling the equipment off and it hurts to watch it go un-used.

    Maybe I’ll even use January 2007’s “Dumbest Purchase”.

    Not sure when I’ll start…or even if I’ll start.

    It’s just an idea at this point.

    Can You Dig It?

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