Thursday, September 30, 2010

Disney World Part 1: Hollywood Studios

Last Wednesday as soon as I got finished with school, Robert and I rushed to the airport. Needlessly it turns out because even after a leisurely dinner at the airport Ruby Tuesday that included TWO orders of crab cakes (because the first ones fell apart? I said don't bother, but the manager insisted.), our plane was delayed. We spent the extra hour sitting in the rocking chairs and watching take-offs until Delta got there. Then we had to literally sprint through the Atlanta airport to catch our connecting flight. So much for no marathon training on vacation!

After landing safely at the Orlando airport, we caught the Disney's Magical Express straight to our hotel at the Disney Caribbean Resort. Super easy, but it was so late. We were exhausted by the time we got to the hotel complex, then we had to wait on a second hotel shuttle to take us to "Jamaica" where our room was located. It was a long day for sure. 

Our room was decorated like Nemo! And no matter how comfy our beds were and how worn out we felt, neither of us slept much because we shared the room with my Mom and Dad who snore like bears. It was at least nice to lay in bed listening to my music on full blast and staring at the ceiling. I'm being sarcastic if you can't tell.

At 6:20am I couldn't take it anymore. I got up and went exploring. Took a bunch of pictures of the hotel complex, watched some resort cranes poking around the sand, and took advantage of the lovely sunrise in a hammock swing. 

We headed to breakfast two hours later once everybody else was up. We got the Disney dining plan for the week, and the food was good. I'll talk more about it on a separate post, but we sure didn't go hungry! Brant and the rest of the gang were really excited to see us, and we were happy to see them too! I just wish they hadn't been sick so I could have cuddled with them more. 

When we were ready to go, we found out my family had rented two minivans (guess we didn't have to wait on that hotel shuttle after all...); we piled in and drove to Disney's Hollywood studios. When we got to the parking lot, we got to see some sky-writing evangelism! :) This was only one of several things the plane wrote, and it was really cool to watch. Brant was fascinated of course!

Here's the entrance to the park. 

We couldn't resist a picture with the famous Tower of Terror! Robert refused to ride it with me (he hates going up and down), but I grabbed a fast pass for it anyway because I knew someone would go with me later! Fast pass is such a genius system. You grab a ticket with a time, and as long as you come back after that time, you get right on the ride. Hardly any waiting in line!

After grabbing fast passes for the Tower, we headed over to the new Toy Story Ride. We actually waited for this one because Brant was so excited about it. (We were too, so I can't blame it all on him.) It was an awesome ride! Like a mix between a 3D ride and an arcade game. You had a little space-like gun thing that you had to point at big screens and shoot different objects for points. I know that's probably incredibly descriptive, but I hope you get the picture. Robert scored higher than I did at the end, but I was trying to help poor Kenleigh who was too short to even point her gun at the screen properly. By the time I realized she didn't care, I was too far behind to catch up. 

Mr. Potato Head entertained us in line, as did the decorations to look like Andy's room from the movie. Could I photoshop my face on this poster? Is it sad that I want to?

Outside the ride, some of the Toy Story characters were gearing up for a mini show! They grabbed a line of about 15 kids and taught them some Toy Story Physical Training. Ha! Brant and Kenleigh doing push-ups and pretending to pose with bazookas was really entertaining. This army man was actually doing an impression of Justin Bieber when I took this picture. Spot on, eh?

Hollywood Studios is full of special effects, including life-size areas of San Fransico made of optical illusions. This street wasn't actually a street at all. It may have been 100 yards, but it seemed so much longer. 

Here's Ang in front of a famous San Fran Hill, Golden Gate Bridge included! Pretty cool and convincing, right? That "hill" is entirely two dimensional though!

After playing around in the streets, we went to one of the places I actually remember from the last time I went to Disney at 6 years old- the "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" playground! Brant and Kenleigh really liked the film canister slide, although I'm not sure they know what camera film actually is...

 Lunch was at Mama Melrose's: a sit down table restaurant next to "Pizza Planet." 

While Robert and I waited for all 15 of my family members to reassemble and be seated at our table, we went exploring in the muppet stores. He got cozy with Kermie...

and I fell in love with the most adorable mouse ears ever! I would have come home with these if they hadn't been $18.99. Disney- you are expensive!

After lunch, we managed to all stay together and head to the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Extravaganza! Really cool, even if I still haven't seen the movies. (I know! I know! It's on the bucket list ok?) After this, we went to the 3-D muppet show and explored some sets.

After that we went to one of Disney's famous street parade block parties. The parades were so cool! I honestly think they were one of my favorite parts of the trip. We parked ourselves under Mickey's Wizard hat to munch on chocolate covered frozen bananas and watch bugs dance. 

Then, it was finally time to go to the Tower of Terror!!! I have been waiting for this ride since I first saw the commercials as a little kid, and I loved EVERY SECOND! It was so much fun, and Ang and Kenny rode with me. I adore the feeling of my tummy in my throat, but it makes poor Robert sick. He had promised me a roller coaster though, and he ended up surprising me by riding them all! The Tower was the only thing he refused. I'm so proud!

We regrouped again, and headed to one of their newer shows. It was a car stunt show that was really cool, but nerve racking in my opinion. I have an irrational fear of automobile collisions, so watching them chase and jump and skid had me on the edge of my seat... but not in a totally enjoyable way!

Character sighting! Hey Mike Wazowski! Love your work! Monsters, Inc. is quite possibly the best Pixar movie ever made. (Next to UP! anyway. Unfortunately, no parks featured anything from that movie surprisingly. No Wal-E either.)

We detached ourselves from the May family masses to head to what Bobert had been slightly dreading all day... the first roller coaster of the trip. As you can see, it turned out great! This would be my awesome husband after he conquered Aerosmiths' Rockin and Roller Coaster! He actually really enjoyed it!

Since it was just the two of us at this point, we grabbed dinner and then set off exploring. Loch Ness Lizzie anyone?

"I'd like to thank God and my family and all my fans for helping me receive this Academy Award. You love me! You really love me!"

He says Bill is his "homeboy."

And while neither of us are fans of reality TV at all, we did stop to watch the finalists in the American Idol type show they have here. You can actually try out and compete, then the winners from all six shows compete to be Hollywood Studio's American Idol during the finale. A middle aged man in boots and a cowboy hat named Jerry won after he sang "Boot Scootin' Boogie." We were definitely pulling for him to beat the cookie cutter teenage pop stars he was competing with! Jerrrr-ry! Jerrrr-ry! Jerrrrr-ry! Such originality, but unfortunately the girl in this picture is not him. If you couldn't tell.

 At night, the parks get even more beautiful. Disney has a fireworks show every night in practically every park, and my family wanted to stay for the show "Fantasmic." However after realizing we would have to stand in line for two hours to go to the late show and remembering that none of us even liked Fantasia to begin with- we opted out. I grabbed one last shot of Mickey's Magic Wizard's hat all lit up and beautiful, watched the kids while Ang and Kenny rode the coaster, consoled a distraught Brantley after he epically failed at the claw machine in the Pizza Planet arcade, and then headed back to our Nemo room to sleep like babies despite the logger competition happening one bed over. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

You're getting Sleepy...

...Very sleepy. And truly- I am. But I'm going to put off bed for just a bit so that I can keep my promise to update more often and tell you about the hypnotist show that was over a week ago at this point. (Take a deep breath from that huge run-on sentence.) 

So, truth be told, I have ALWAYS wanted to be hypnotized. The comedic hypnotist that came to William and Mary every August was my absolute favorite special event, and the idea of hypnosis fascinated me. (Probably because he kept saying it felt like 6-8 hours of sleep, and really- it does.)

I was the absolute last volunteer that was called to come up. I had to jump up and down and practically stand on my head to get him to pick me, but so be it. I have no shame anyway which makes me perfect for a show where a stranger commands you to embarrass yourself in front of a crowd. There's me. Back right, rocking my VT gear after our first win of the season.

He began to do his thing. I honestly don't remember much of what he said, but I know he told me to think of a place I loved and let my body relax. I thought of the monkey hammock on our porch on a cool evening and made my tight, anxiety prone muscles chill out. I was really nervous, because I knew hypnosis doesn't always work. There was a reason he pulled twenty people up on the stage; some of us were not going to get it. As we became more and more entranced, the lady next to me dropped her head onto my shoulder. I didn't care. I was in my hammock swing. But it did make it a little awkward when he told me my "arm was light as a feather and would begin to float up." It did. And apparently I snuggled the ladies hair a little bit. Ha ha! Clearly I was under, so here we go! Let's have some fun kids! 

At this point, the hypnotist came to me said "when I wake you up, you won't remember your name," and proceeded to snap at me to get my attention. My eyes fluttered open as he said "Hi! What's your name?" I blanked. I'm not even kidding! Take a look at my face there. I had no clue. I knew I knew my name, but I just couldn't think of it. Like song lyrics you're trying to remember from a tune you loved as a kid. It's there... but it's not there. My confusion was obvious. He praised me, pushed my head down, and commanded "Go to sleep." I did. 

And sleep we did. On our neighbors. On ourselves. Completely limp. Completely listless. It was a wonderful, beautiful thing. 

Until he gave us our first command. "Every time I say the word 'Knoxville', you will believe the person next to you farted and it smells awful! When I say 'Tennessee' You'll believe that I farted. And it smells even worse." Here he is telling the man in the yellow hat how much he "loves Tennessee." See my reaction. Now I know you're all probably wondering if I was hallucinating a smell. I wasn't. I didn't actually smell anything, but my body automatically reacted like it did. Because that's what he told me to do. And I had long since decided in my subconscious that everything he said was the truth. I know in the back of my mind, I knew I was on a show; however, it's hard to describe the way you feel. I really felt the way he told me to feel. I'm sure I could have broken my concentration and walked off the stage at any point, but as long as my mind wanted to stay hypnotized, it did. 

He pulled certain people out to do funny skits like "be Garth Brooks" or "dance like Lady Gaga." I wasn't one of those, but here are some of the things we all did together. At this point he told us to imagine that we are watching a movie, and it is the funniest movie we have ever seen. My subconscious replied with uncontrollable, gut busting laughter. I was gripping my seat and rocking back and forth I was laughing so hard! (Sorry the pics are blurry- no flash was allowed. It would have broken our trance like state.)

Almost immediately after our funny movie, he changed it to "the saddest movie we'd ever seen." I cried real tears. I sobbed so hard. I practically choked when he said a "puppy just ran out in the street and got ran over." (Cruel, cruel man. I know.) "Lady Gaga" in the pink hat to the right and I cried together, and every fiber in my being was absolutely distraught. Even though I knew it wasn't real. 

To cheer us up from crying, we danced to the Sponge Bob theme song. I'm really good at that, because I do it without being hypnotized. ;)

Then, as the show was coming to a close, he put us back to sleep and told us that when we woke up we would realize that we hadn't actually been hypnotized. The hypnosis hadn't worked and we had actually paid $1000 to be on stage. (Not true at all. I only paid $9 and that was for my fair ticket.) He told us we were going to be upset and disappointed and angry with him, but that we couldn't be aggressive. When he woke us up, this is what I did... TICKED. I say that word describes my look. I can think of another similar one that starts with a P, but this is a family blog and that's a questionable word in some circles. 

He took us one by one and let us give him a piece of our mind. Here is me thinking about how I've ruined our lives by spending $1000 to do something that didn't even work. I was thinking of our trip to Paris this spring and how 1000 bucks was a plane ticket that I had just wasted. I felt like a moron, and I was on the verge of tears again. 

Then he woke me up for the last time. And told me to remember everything. As realization dawned on my face, I can't really describe how I felt. Swim-ey is the best word I can come up with. Like after sleeping 6-8 hours and waking up not quite refreshed, but awake none the less. I slept like a rock that night and continued to be relaxed for about 48 hours. Amazing. Loved it. I would do it again in a heartbeat. 

Now do I believe in hypnosis? Yes. But I think it's something you have to willingly surrender to. No one can control your mind without your consent, but when you give them access to your subconscious you can feel it. You react to it. Bizarre things occur. Well worth $9. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fairs can be sketchy...

I fully intended on blogging while at Disney, but Robert didn't bring his computer! Blame him! Ha! I have a ton of catching up to do, so I'll start where I left off. I just finished up the fun part of the fair, now I wanted to get into the questionable bits. 

I love animals. I love everything about them. I love to study them, I love to pet them, I love to look at them. I just don't really like to eat them, and I especially don't like to feel like they aren't treated with a little dignity. As a biologist, I know it's natural for people to domesticate and eat animals, but cruelty is cruelty no matter what species you are. 

It started out so innocently with show goats, happily munching on straw. I didn't feel bad for them, because I knew their pens at the fair were temporary. 

Then we got to the Ponderosa Petting Zoo exhibit, which I had been looking forward to. However, when I got there I was horrified by what I found. There was a really large pen in the center with goats, and sheep, and a couple tortoises. Again, I didn't think anything was wrong with this because they had so much room and the people were feeding them. They seemed like they liked it. They are domesticated after all.

However, around the outside of the larger pen were much smaller pens filled with animals you don't typically find on a farm. Like these south american cavvies and the two silver foxes below. 

Their cages were just too small in my opinion. The camel (un-pictured) and zonkey looked absolutely miserable. You couldn't get close to them because they would bite you, and it was just so sad. 

This was a little duck pond they had where the ducklings were taken up a hill on a conveyor, crowded on top to try to get food that was dangling just off the edge, and then systematically pushed over the slide by their pond mates to start the cycle all over again. It's the closest thing I've come to seeing the infamous dancing monkey on a leash, and I just didn't see a point. I would have enjoyed just watching the ducklings swim, so I felt like they were being tortured for our entertainment. Again- sad. :(

This is the zonkey. He's half zebra, half donkey, and they had him in a cage where he could barely turn around. No one could interact with him because he was so stressed and miserable, he would have bitten you instantly. All the joy of seeing the animal was ruined at the sight of his inadequate care. I only hope that they treat him better at the permanent petting zoo. 

Lastly, we went to see rabbits and chickens that were for sale/show. The rabbits were cute and seemed content, but I thought the bird cages were a little cramped. Luckily I don't think they spend their time in cages that size for very long. They are actually very lucky compared to factory farm chickens that don't even have room to stand up. It made me thankful that I was a vegetarian.

I don't mean to be a Debbie Downer; it was just something that Robert and I discussed a lot. I don't enjoy seeing animals that aren't appreciated by their owners, and I figured discussing this difficult topic could help shed some light on why I choose not to eat these animals. I promise the next entry will be a happy one though, because it will be about the hypnotist. Then I'll talk about Disney!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fairs can be fun!

It's amazing how during the week I have NOTHING to blog about, and then at the end of the weekend I'm so swamped with footage I have to split up the posts! This weekend will be coming to you in three parts, fyi. 

Last night, Mary, Thomas, Robert, and I went to the state fair at Chilhowee Park. The fair comes every year, but this was the first time Robert and I have gone. I imagined that it would be a lot like the Salem Fair back home, but it was a lot bigger. Here are some highlights, and I'll try to keep it mostly pictures because there are a lot. 

They had show goats on display for you to see and pet. It was fun to see all the different breeds. 

This is an odd ear-less goat. Apparently it's a type of breed though, because he wasn't the only one without ears. Weird looking though...

Robert and I got to try out "American Gothic" in honor of the farm theme for this year's fair. (Bert looks more like an elf than a grumpy old farmer...

Here's us overlooking the rides. We didn't actually ride anything because it costs too much money. We were looking for two things- free entertainment, after admission of course, and fried oreos. (Eeee... Check out how sunburned my legs are! More on that later...)

Mary and I of course wanted to go in the Discovery Center and play with all the science-y stuff. The displays were out-dated and mostly broken, but we did find some gems. Here's Robert performing the "money shot" in the space ship/black light room.

The cosmic arcade was a really cool demo of how we can collect sound and radio waves from space. You stood at two dishes across the room and whispered to each other; it sounded like you were standing right next to the other person! Really cool.

There was a petting zoo that I'll post more about in the Fair Pt. 2 post, but I wanted to show you this funny picture of the goat standing on the tortoise.

Finally found our fried oreos! Yum yum!

I hate to say it, but almost everything is better dipped in pancake batter and deep fried. I stuck to my plan though and only ate one. Didn't plan on the several bites of Mary's funnel cake that I stole, but hey- you only go to the fair once a year.

Near the end of the evening (before the hypnotist show that I will post about separately because I actually got to participate!), we stumbled across a "Bedazzle your Bra for Breast Cancer Research" contest.

They were crazy! And very fun to look at.

This cow one was really cute! Bobert wanted me to stand behind it like I was wearing it, but the coat hanger got in the way. Ha!

Here was "Best in Show." Really cool and very creative!

Speaking of breast cancer research, if you'd still like to donate to our October 30th Race for the Cure 5k, you can do that here

Arrrrgh Mateys! Hope ye be enjoyin yer annual "Talk Like A Pirate" Day! If ye don't? T' davey jones' locker wit ye! Swab the deck and shiver me timbers!!!!