Monday, July 28, 2014

A Day At Sea

Travelzoo had a deal they emailed me a while back which offered a cruise on the Victory Casino Cruise out of Port Canaveral. $27 for admission, buffet, 2 drinks and $10 for the slots. Not bad, I thought, so I bought it and redeemed it today. I remembered the last casino cruise I'd been on and thought it was a decent enough deal for a day on a boat. And this time I got free drinks and a little bit of gambling money.

The weather was great, nice and sunny, although quite hot. Well what do you expect in Central Florida in the middle of summer. As you can see it the pics below, there was a little threat of some rain as a squall passed nearby but it avoided us and we stayed dry. Good thing for this fair weather too since, as usual, I was almost immediately bored with any type of gambling.

I played my voucher card with the $10 at a $1 slot machine which I couldn't really figure out. Pretty much lost it all in two "spins." Some of these touchscreen LCD newfangled slots are so confusing. They look so pretty and have lots of stuff going on replete with appropriate "exciting" electronic sounds. I think it's just to make hapless people think they have more control over the odds of their winning. Or maybe it's to further dazzle them into a distracted stupor so they don't notice how much money they're losing. I actually overheard some old bird complain that the machines let you win a little but never as much as you're putting in. Wow lady, you just figured that out now!?

Like all casinos, the stuff many people find fun just doesn't do it for me. I overheard a couple of guys talking excitedly about some game they were playing and one of the guys had a "system" like counting cards but based on the numbers he was talking about and how often or not some "came up" I think he was talking about roulette. He had a piece of paper where he'd taken notes of all the numbers that came up. My science-based mind is perplexed at this. How could tracking the sequence of numbers that hit on a roulette wheel be of any use? Isn't it totally random? Counting cards in blackjack...yes, I understand that there is the use of statistics and diminishing odds in that, but roulette is just a little ball spinning into a rotating wheel filled with numbered slots. Beats me. But the thing is, even if they're just fooling themselves into thinking they know better than the actual facts (ie. that every game in a casino have odds overwhelmingly in the house's favor) they're getting enjoyment out of it, so at least that's something. For me, I'm to much of a realist. I feel like I'm just giving my money away and getting nothing in return when I'm gambling. And I don't think it's going to a worthy cause. Casino owners are certainly not in need of my charity.

So despite the heat, I opted to spend the majority of my time on board on the top deck, soaking up some much needed Vitamin D. Maybe a little too much from the look and feel of it as I glance down at my sunburned arms and legs.

Here are some shots of the pretty water and the awesome-looking rain squall directly over Cape Canaveral Air Force Base and Kennedy Space Center.

There was a lot of excitement from passengers on the deck as this passed by. It's a submarine.

Here's a zoomed-in shot of it. I assume it was going out to patrol since there's a Delta IV rocket launch scheduled for this evening. Don't they need submersible vessels to retrieve separated stages and such? But where's a sub going to put that shit? Don't mind me, I have no idea why it was there.

Finally here's a shot, and video of a huge cruise ship passing us on her way out to sea as we were returning.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

California AND Bust!

Title's a little play on the old westward-bound battle cry "California Or Bust!" What with the dough I've already committed and a quick perusal of the prices of tourist attractions and such there, it looks like the little four day vacation I just booked for early September WILL bust me!

Actually, I don't think I did too bad. It's just that I'm such a cheapskate, especially when it comes to vacations, that I'm already dizzy thinking about how much this is going to cost. "Going to" BTW, is the operational phrase of course, since everything's on credit cards so it isn't what I paid today, it's what I'll be paying off tomorrow.

Virgin America had a deal for non-stop Orlando to Los Angeles (a zippy 5 hour flight) for $199 each way. Not bad, huh? Never flew Virgin America before but it looks swankier than the low-budget airliners like Southwest or Spirit and with this sale, at about the same price point. Cool.

The hotel booking wasn't as joyous since everywhere I looked rates in the heart of Hollywood are crazy, which is really where I want to stay since I'm not intending on getting a rental car and want to focus primarily on Tinsel Town as opposed to all over the LA area. Even the Hotel Capri style places run well over $100 a night anywhere near, say, Hollywood and Vine. Oh they get a bit cheaper the farther east on Hollywood Blvd. you go, into Los Feliz, but then you not only get the Hotel Capri style no-tell motel drug-dealer/crack whore specials, but the neighborhood is more fitting to these seedy venues as well.

So I decided to book what I hope will be an amicable compromise. I'd checked this place out last time I was putzing around with the idea of a Hollywood vacation and eyed its quirky visage with a slightly skeptical stare. Though the reviews are mixed, I seem to get the feeling that a lot of the negative reviews are people too square to be hip.

The place is called the Hollywood Dream Suites Hotel and it's basically an old 1920's or so (I'd guess) flop house, supposedly lived in by early Hollywood starlets and other assorted aspirants back in the Golden Age. Now it's owned, apparently, by some Greek immigrants, undoubtedly proud of their heritage (al la the multiple decorations adorning the building's facade commemorating things like the Olympics and Alexander the Great) and in possession of that commodity so visibly abundant in Hollywood: gaudy faux-drama. It looks either like a quintessential artsy uber-trendster locale or a 21st century neo-hippie/borderline homeless squat. Guess I'll find out when I get there. At just $62 a night, and in walking distance (though a smidge of a hike I guesstimate by Google Maps Street View) of the nexus of Hollywood's tourist areas, looks like the best deal out there.

As for the miscellaneous stuff, it looks like the same shit that goes on here on I-Drive in Orlando for our hapless tourists. Bus tours (expensive), kitchy "museums" (overpriced) and even a West Coast mini-version of Universal (but obnoxiously at about the same rate as here...what?!) Oh but I'll be doing some of it despite my fiscally-conservative side's cringes. I'll be on vacation, dammit! YOLO!

As you can read about in this FLASHBACK post, I've been to LA before but it was just that one time so this trip will mark my triumphant return to La La Land after 31 years. I wonder if anything's changed? I think it has. Who cares! I'm still gonna bop out to Duran Duran first chance I get.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hello Again?

One of the odd ball things about getting older is sometimes you stumble across something that triggers a long lost memory, in some cases, a memory of a long lost love.

I was searching for both a quotable quote and a weird picture for my previous post "Outta Whack" and I found a YouTube video of the song "An Affair at the Soiree" by Tuxedomoon.

The name of the band didn't jump right out at me and listening to the song didn't spark the memory, but it was a creepy and disjointed little ditty and I loved the lyrics, quoted in the aforementioned post, spoken/sung at the end. It summed up my weird dream I described to a tee.

Doing a bit of research I spied the band's very late-seventies/early-eighties new wave stylized logo of their name and listened to what was said to be one of their most memorable songs: "No Tears"

Sometime in the uber-early-eighties when I was a late-teen, head-boppin' frenetically to my fav band then (and now) "The B-52's", someone (I think one of the cooks during a HoJo's "choir practice.") turned me on to Tuxedomoon and I immediately fell in love. I made a mental note to look for them the next time I visited a record store. But, for some reason (too much partying, perhaps?) I forgot. And in a flash, a band whose music was "right up my alley" went unremembered for decades.

Until now.

I'm "catching up," as it were, on the fascination of the musical genius of this band. "No Tears" had me almost "in tears" as I listened to it (again?) just a while ago. The insanely-screamed-staccato lyrics, the disjointed crazy electronic Moog synth sounds and the fucking on-point drumming, oh that drummer is just incredible! I'm groovin' to these dusty old tunes and I feel young again. I may even buy some of their stuff. Though now it'll be digital mp3s instead of the vinyl it would have been had I made good on my determination to visit that record store sometime circa 1981.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Outta Whack

The streets strangely empty and forbidden
Your home more a cage than a shelter
Machines replacing repetition, science dissolving in bliss
Mystery and archaic sensation
The end of night and day
I think that says it all

An Affair at the Soiree - Tuxedomoon

I've traditionally marked the end of Koyaanisqatsi as January 1, 2005 when I came back "home" to Florida and accepted Ric's offer to stay with him. But there have been many times since, present included, where I think I may have been a bit too hasty, or, too narrow in my definition of Koyaanisqatsi. Here I am, looking down the barrel at what will, in just a few months now, be the tenth anniversary of that "momentous" date. And I can't help but I really out of it?

I just woke up from another toss-and-turn "night" of in-and-out sleep. My back's been aching me and it seems I just can't find the right position anymore. Newly-added weight, I suppose, or worse-than-usual posture sitting at the computer(s) (home and "work"). The near-constant low-level tinnitus reminds me I'm months outta whack with the quantity and quality of sleep hours. The pattern's all off too, sometimes I sleep in the morning into afternoon and other-times afternoon into night. Occasionally, more and more actually, on my off days I tend to drift into a "normal" sleep pattern, like the rest of humanity...all at night. This makes it even more difficult to get "back on track" during the work "days."

As I woke up just a while ago, around 9:15 pm, just before the alarm, I remember my dream.

I was in yet-another location dream, this time though, it was as if it were a deliberately suggestive set decor like in avant-garde theater where the staging is purposely played down in an overt attempt to stress that the audience should focus on the acting instead of the set dressing.

I'm in a bed, trying to fall asleep. I see a cute guy sitting on a bench across the street from me. There's no wall to my room, I am just a few feet away from him on the street. Then I notice another cute guy sitting next to him. I blink coyly, pretending to go back to sleep and then, suddenly, they're off...walking down the street to the bottom of a hill. There I spot two older ladies trying to fix a broken shutter on their house. They laugh and chat as they go about their task.

I get up and try to arrange things in my room, tidying up items on a shelf unit and putting a plastic-wrapped bunch of wilted limp celery stalks onto a storage table near the "door." A guy I recognize, not in RL but in this dream or sequence of dreams just before it, is in my room. (By now I'm beginning to become aware I'm dreaming. Not fully lucid, but a dawning awareness of my real consciousness as I'm observing the goings on.) I make eye-contact and tip my head in acknowledgement ever so slightly. As I do this, my real consciousness thinks that I don't do this in RL, which is true. I tend to avoid eye-contact as a general rule.)

He walks over to the (my) shelf unit and reaches onto a shelf for something. As he retrieves it (what it is eludes me) he "accidentally" knocks over a decorative glass and it falls to the floor, shattering. I'm distraught over this and his lack of any kind of apology since (in the dream world) I love this glass and it was special to me (it doesn't exist in RL).

He nonchalantly walks away and I get up to clean up the mess. I look down and I see I'm attempting to sweep up shards of broken glass and I have nothing on my feet. Fearing I would cut myself, and also feeling dejected about trying to keep "my" room clean and tidy in the first place, I just go back to bed saying "Fuck it!"

I fall asleep (in my dream) and start to dream (in my dream...yeah, how fucking "Inception" is this!) and in this dream within a dream, I am in a white-tiled bathroom and I'm feeling a strong urge to pee. I see a little boy standing in the corner, pull out my penis and piss all over him. As I'm deluging him, the boy just stands there, a blank expression on his innocent-looking face which is getting hosed by my piss stream. I think to myself "This is so wrong!" (Which "I' am I talking about? My dream-pissing-self, my dream-sleeping-self or my real-life-sleeping-self...I don't know.) I can't help it though and I continue to drain my bladder all over this kid until I'm done. Then my pissing dream breaks and I am awake again, in the 1st level dream, back in the strange room with no walls.

Now I'm much more conscious of my dream state and I'm starting to think RL thoughts and they're influencing events in the dream, so next, as I'm trying to go back to sleep in the bed in the weird room, I hear voices, music and smells of people and their food around and near me. I wake feeling frustrated (still in the dream) and a phone rings.

I excitedly look for a clock, fearing I may be late for work. Not finding one, I pick up the phone and it's my old Motorola KRZR and it's just as sticky, dusty and dead as it currently is in real life. I put it down and reach for the "correct" phone which is an odd morph of an old 1980's Western Electric handset, a 1990's cordless, a 2000's clamshell and a 2010's touchscreen smartphone. It's ringing in a dialtone-style I've never heard before, like it was coming from inside my head (maybe a 2020's style phone?). It feels weird. I then hear (through the phone itself) a cacophony of voices like an old style party line. Everyone's talking over everyone else, no one dialogue is discernible. It gets louder and louder until it's so loud I can't take it anymore and I hang up the phone.

Then I wake up. For real this time.

I guess.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I'm A YouTube Criminal!

According to YouTube, the Diagon Alley video I recently posted to my YouTube channel has copyrighted music. So I guess I'm gonna be thrown in the slammer!

Well, not really. But they did send me this "friendly reminder" with the ominous "don't worry, we won't delete your channel" statement. Translation: "Do what we say or we WILL terminate your channel, peon!"

So what do I do? Remake the whole 20 minute video, this time with some really awesome music provided by a royalty-free, creative commons composer. So take that UMPG Publishing! Which is Universal, by the way. So Universal is bitching about background music played over their own PA system at their own theme park on an amateur video showing fan love of their shit which could entice some viewer to book a vacation to see their attraction bringing them money!

Here's the new-and-improved version. It only took one hour re-editing, half-an-hour rendering and three hours uploading. Ugh! But, at least it gave me the opportunity to edit it a bit tighter, including correcting the aspect ratio:

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

'Twas The Night Before The Grand Opening...

I decided to go to Universal Monday night since there were tons of sources that indicated that the new Harry Potter expansion - Diagon Alley was open under a "soft opening" status. Basically they open it up for the park guests at 7pm and everything in the new "land" would be available...all the stores and eateries, even some shows and the Hogwart's Express train (for guests with dual-park access), except for the Gringotts roller coaster ride.

As you'll see in the video below, I set out towards the park at 7:30. Once there, saw a large crowd but luckily they were headed OUT. Got to King's Cross station in "London" and the wait time for Hogwart's Express was only 10 minutes!

Hogwart's Express was okay but nothing exciting. After experiencing it once, I think I'd only go on it again as a lazy way to move from one park to the other. The queue was about 10 minutes but once seated it took about 5 minutes for it to get going and then the slow moving train took another 10 minutes or so for you to arrive at the other park, during which you watched, through the fake window, the English countryside roll by as you made your way north to Hogsmede.

Once I arrived at Hogsmede (aka the back side of IOA) I decided I'd make it faster back to the original park and Diagon Alley (on the back side of that park) on foot. It took me about 15 minutes total and I got a bit of a power-walk workout as well.

By now it was about 8:30, it was getting dark and I had about an hour and a half left before the park closed. Let me tell you, like I say in my outro on the video, Diagon Alley is awesome at night. Of course this was my first time here so I couldn't say for certain, but based on videos I'd seen of it during the daytime, the magic of the place really stands out at night, IMHO. The attention to detail is astounding. Everywhere you look there's something to see. What spectacle! And the fire-breathing dragon? Wow!

One sad side note: Though Gringotts wouldn't be open 'till morning, I tried out a test seat. Not good. I don't think I'd fit. Oh shit, here we go again. It took me 3 years before I could fit on the other awesome HP ride, Forbidden Journey. How long for this now?