Sunday, January 29, 2012

2012 Aussie Open: Rafa in the Finals

(Not the winner, but always a champ!)

So I'm not distraught and I'll tell you why. Nadal could've lost this match in the fourth. Easily. He was down to sets to one. He was struggling. He was serving down 3-4 at 0-40.  One more point to Djokovic and it would be 5-3 for Novak to serve it out and that would've meant lights out and a very disappointing loss for Rafa. But then suddenly Rafa fought back. He won the next 5 points to hold his serve. He then fought to 6-6 and a tie break. Then he was down 5-3 in the tie break! Still he fought back again and won the 4th set! The 5th set was really incredible. Very impossible to predict who would take it. It became the longest match in the Aussie Open record books at 5 hours and 53 minutes. In the end, that Djokovic magic came back and got past Rafa at 7-5 in the fifth. It's sad, of course. I wanted Our Hero to win, my friends, but I'm not devastated because here he really competed like a champion.

(I think the dish is still a nice piece of hardware. Also don't you want both pairs of those rad shoes??)

I hope he takes away a lot of positive things from this tournament, even though it is admittedly a seventh straight Final loss to Novak. The past two years Rafa crashed out of the Aussie Open in the quarters and this year he made it back to the Finals. Even though he didn't win, I feel like he had to have reached a place in the 4th set where he mentally believed he could win and that he was not just going to hand Novak a 4-set victory.  He would be aggressive and take it to him and fight like hell against whatever odds. Again, maybe it didn't quite work out at the very very end, but I liked what I was seeing from Rafa in those 4th and 5th sets in terms of fight, not to mention his mental and physical toughness shown in his quarterfinal and semifinal wins earlier this week. I feel good for Rafa heading into the rest of the season. I believe he will eventually get another win against Djokovic. He still holds a 4-game cushion in their lifetime head-to-head match up, so hopefully Novak can't go 11-0 through this year against him.  Gotta give credit to Novak too. That guy just finds a way to win. When he should be over and done with. You can talk to Roger Federer about that too the last two times he faced Novak in the semis of the US Open. Novak should not have one those matches being double match point down. But he did. What can you say on the day besides, "Too good"?

Hopefully Rafa can now take a little bit of a rest on the tour before jumping into the next big tournament. There's about six weeks or so before the tour heads to Indian Wells and then Miami. And then the clay court season begins. As always I'll be wishing Rafa the best. VAMOS!

And of course the tournament wouldn't be complete if Rafa didn't flash us some skin. Thanks for reading! See you next tourney!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

2012 Aussie Open: Rafa in the Semis

(Rafa increases his lead in his head-to-head record with Fed to 18-9. 
Now if only he can reverse his head-to-head trajectory with Novak...)

Our Hero, Rafael Nadal, will be playing in his second Australian Open Final after beating Greatest Rival of All Time Roger Federer 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-4. It was a hard fought and convincing victory. Federer had been playing at an amazing high level and had not lost a match since his semi-final in the US Open back in September. Rafa found a way to get the job done. He has been physically fit and mentally strong. I'm so happy for him that he's gotten back to this place so early in the season.

Of course, the guy he'll face on the other side of the net is stinky ol' Djokovic who just refuses to lose ever. Ugh, how I'd ever so hoped it would be Murray instead! Murray had a 2 sets to 1 lead but just couldn't get it done. Rafa has now lost 6 straight finals to Novak. It would be so great to put last season behind us, and start 2012 by breaking the streak. Is it possible? Yes. Rafa is playing well enough. Djokovic does not seem invulnerable this tournament. But will it happen? I don't know. I'm nervous. I also gave the edge to Federer in the semis though, so goes to show what I know.

I am pretty sure the Final starts at like 3am tonight EST, and I won't be up to watch it. I just can't throw off my sleep schedule that much, even for Rafa. I'll go to bed wearing one of my Nadal t-shirts and say my prayers (not that I think God is seriously paying attention to a tennis match!) and hopefully I'll wake up and see that Rafa secured an easy three set victory! That's probably the least likely of all outcomes, but this Final does have the feel to it like anything could happen. Whatever the score, I'm hoping that my final Aussie Open blogpost will feature a picture of Rafa biting into the Championship Trophy. We're almost there! VAMOS!!!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

2012 Aussie Open: Rafa Quarterfinals

(Shout, shout. Let it all out. These are this things I can do without. Come on. I'm talking to you, Chair Ump. Come on.)

Our Hero, Rafael Nadal advanced to the Semifinals earlier in the week with a  6-7 (5), 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-3 win over Tomas Berdych. This was a hard fought win. Nadal almost lost the first set serving at 5-6, but then fought off 4 set points to force the tie break. Then he got a totally bogus call from the chair ump that set up a set point on Berdych's serve and he lost the set. SO BOGUS. But Rafa pressed forward and took the next three sets with increasing ease and confidence as Berdych wore down. Good! I didn't like Berdych's attitude in his 4th round match against Almagro anyway!

Next up is Fed. Oh, boy. They should play their match sometime this evening or late night or possibly tomorrow morning. Their matches are always great. They have only played against each other in Australia once when Rafa won the final and Federer cried. Surely, you remember?

 (they look so young! it was only 3 years ago!)

That was a rough day at the office for Roger.I think Federer has the edge this time around though. He has just been dismantling all his opponents the past week and a half. Del Potro could do nothing against him. I thought that match would be way closer. Still you never know. Rafa knows how to play against Fed and win. He knows what it's going to take. I think he's at a place where he can bring his best. I can't believe this is the first time they've been in the same half at a Major since 2005! There was no other option for much of that time since they were always ranked 1 and 2 in one order or the other.  Now at 2 and 3 times have changes just a little bit. I hope whoever wins here wins the title. And of course I hope even more that it's Rafa. Vamos!

Monday, January 23, 2012

2012 Aussie Open: Rafa Round of 16

(Rafa's feeling the heat Down Under, but not the pressure as he rolls to another straight set win.)

Our Hero, Rafael Nadal, is into the Aussie Open Quarterfinals for the sixth straight year after beating Feliciano Lopez in straight sets 6-4. 6-4. 6-2. Rafa continues his winning ways despite having more and more body parts wrapped for protection. He started the match with a taped right knee, and then added a left ankle strapping during the third game of the 1st set. After that, he played fine and said he felt good. The last two years Rafa has had to withdraw due to injury during his quarterfinal match, so hopefully that won't happen again this year.

His next opponent will be Thomas Berdych who received boos from the Aussie crowd after his win over Almagro, because he refused to shake hands with Almagro following the match. Berdych was upset because he felt Almagro intentionally tried to hit him with the ball on an earlier point. It wasn't a point that determined the match and Almagro immediately apologized for it, but Berdych wasn't satisfied. Hopefully the Aussie crowd won't forget this show o disrespect and be fully supportive of Rafa in his quest to make it to the semis! Vamos!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kelly Clarkson: My Rock Star Muse Takes Radio City By Storm!

Last night I got to see My Girl Kelly Clarkson blow the roof off of Radio City Music Hall. Luckily it stopped snowing earlier in the day, so performing sans roof was not a huge inconvenience for the sold-out crowd. I went by myself, because no matter how many ways I tried (online advanced sale, online regular sale, actually going to RCMH box office during Christmas Spectacular madness) I couldn't get two tickets together. Clearly, no one else there had this problem, as perhaps I was one of the only solo-seaters in the joint. No matter, as Kelly would tell us in powerhouse vocals, "Doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone!"

I have always loved me some Kelly Clarkson. Has it really been 10 years since the first season of American Idol? She and I were much younger then. I think we are both much more awesome now. I actually wrote most of the early drafts of my show, "The Timing of A Day" while immersed in her 4th studio album, "All I Ever Wanted" and did lots of my revisions to my new show "Vestments of the Gods" while listening to her latest album "Stronger." There's just something about her voice and her music that I find artistically and creatively inspiring. She is my rockstar muse. And she genuinely seems like a cool chick to hang out with. So maybe she does like Ron Paul's limited government stance on politics. You know when Election Day rolls around she's voting Obama. :)

Anyway, I hadn't seen Kelly perform live since her Addicted Tour, which was like 3 albums ago. I was very excited to see what she would perform at Radio City now that she has 5 albums in her catalog. Would it mostly be stuff from the last album? She has so many older hits to cover to please the fans. How would she balance it? I was very curious.

Radio City was a great venue for her. She said at the beginning it was her first time ever being there and her excitement was obvious from start to finish. Oh, before I get into the show, I should share my experience being in the space. I got frisked on the way in! I looked so unassuming and didn't even have a bag with me! I guess the guy chose me because i was alone so he was only delaying me going in and not a group of people. But for serious, it was the metal-scanning wand and I had to open my coat and then one of my very top pockets on my left shoulder had a tube of chapstick in it. The guy was like "can you remove that please from your pocket?" I did so with a pleasant smile, but I couldn't quite hide the incredulousness from my tone as I said "It's just my chapstick." I mean, what did he suspect it was? A blow dart for when I try to take out Ms. Clarkson from my seat in the second mezzanine? I mean, come on now. Anyway, my view of the stage was great. I sat next to the most reserved gay couple I have ever seen in my whole life. They hardly reacted to anything and almost never stood up the whole time even when everyone around them was standing and there was no way to see the stage otherwise. C'mon, guys! Loosen up! Get into it! Feel the beat! The couple on my other side was not much better. At least the row of girls behind me was really into it and the couple in front of me as well. People, get up and dance! It won't kill you. It will make you stronger.

The show itself was a very straightforward delight. They had the required laser light show going on the whole time that fits her style of uptempo pop songs, but there otherwise weren't a lot of bells and whistles on stage. No big dance numbers or set pieces or costume changes. Just great music and really strong versatile vocal performances. She sang for about an 1 and 40 minutes straight (Matt Nathanson did about 45 minutes of an opening set and was a good appetizer while we waited for the delicious main course) and what she gave to us I like to characterize as "Kelly's American Sampler". She sang basically all her hits over the past 10 years, with a few covers and some new album songs also in the mix. She sang 25 songs! It was a taste of everything she could and everything she's known for. I left feeling very satisfied. This was the set list. It's sub-divided into four acts and the encore so you get a sense of where the beats were where Kelly could run of and down a liter of water before she kept going. :

Dark Side
Behind These Hazel Eyes
Since U Been Gone
You Love Me

Heavy in Your Arms (Florence + The Machine Cover)
My Man (Funny Girl - Broadway Tune Request)
I'd Rather Go Blind - Etta James Tribute
Medley: Kelly Albums Through The Years
The Trouble With Love Is -Walk Away - How I Feel - I Want You

I Know You Won't  (Carrie Underwood Cover)
Don't You Wanna Stay (with Jason Aldean - who was seen onstage as a Jolly Green Giant-sized projection)
Let Me Down
I Forgive You
Already Gone

You Still Won't Know What It's Like
What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)
My Life Would Suck Without You

Never Again
Because of You
Mr. Know It All
Miss Independent

The only big song left off the list was "I Do Not Hook Up" and I didn't really notice until the concert was over. Since U Been Gone came VERY early. I think, as a crazy screaming crowd, we were expecting it later. All the covers that came during the 2nd quarter (as I've divided them) were really solid. I'd Rather Go Blind was a stand out. As was her cover of I Know You Won't, which might be one of my favorite songs Kelly's ever done. She first covered it on her Unplugged Special and I'm really glad she threw it into the mix tonight. It was an unexpected delight.) People who were not me recorded them and put them on YouTube, so here's a sample of the awesomeness. I apologize for the shaky-cam on their behalf.

The Encore was really nice. She sang a really stripped down version of Never Again. She dedicated Because of You to Reba, who was in the audience. And then rocked out through to the end. I have to say it tat while ending on Miss Independent made sense thematically, it was one hit that most of the audience couldn't sing all the way through. Most people (me included) really only know the parts that go "WHAT IS THIS FEELING TAKING OVER??" and "WHAT HAPPENED TO MISS INDEPENDENT?" and the rest of the song is just fun to jump around to. As opposed to say "Breakaway" or "My Life Would Suck Without You" or "Since U Been Gone" which everyone there knew by heart. Still the band rocked Miss Independent really hard. You can't fault them their own little rock out at the end. :)

The night was a total treat. So happy I got to go. I left feeling energized and inspired. Thanks, Kelly! You are the best. Keep on rockin'. I'll keep coming back for more.

Friday, January 20, 2012

2012 Aussie Open: Rafa Round 3

(Is Rafa casting this towel aside, or summoning it to himself with x-men-like mental capabilities?)

Our Hero, Rafa Nadal has made it to the Round of 16 following his win in straight sets over Lukas Lakko 6-2 6-4 6-2. It was a quick match - under two hours - but it took 15 minutes to complete the first two games, which featured long rallies and two breaks of serve. After that though, Rafa took over for good. 

Rafa's right knee seems to be in fine working condition and his serve is very strong. His attitude seems to be very positive (for Rafa, at least) and he's getting the job done without having to use all his intensity. It looks good for Rafa to at least make it to the semis. But first he'll meet fellow countryman Feliciano Lopez in the next round. It's not a gimme of a match by any means, but if it's a good day at the office, Rafa should get through without too much drama. With Filo making it through, that means there are no more American men left in the draw, an at my time of writing this Serena is the only American female left in the draw either. C'mon, America! We can do better than that! Tough luck this year, I guess. We do have some talented young guys and girls coming up the ranks.

Looking at the competition ahead Rafa and Murray have much easier paths than Novak and Fed currently do. Novak is currently demolishing everybody in his path, but still to come is the tricky Raonic (provided he gets past Hewitt, which he should) in the Round of 16 and then most likely Ferrer in the Quarters before Murray in the semis. Fed in comparison has Tomic on his plate and then likely Delpo. Who does Murray have to face? LLorda? Monfils? not til Tsonga in the quarters should he really be challenged. And once Rafa gets past Filo his biggest threat in the following round is Berdych. That's not so bad. I'm very interested to see if the top 4 can make it to the final 4 again. But mostly I just want Rafa to keep winning. He's always the main focus. Vamos!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Aussie Open 2012: Rafa Round 2

(Swinging his way through Round 2)

Nadal got through his second round match in fairly straight forward fashion (was it yesterday? the day before? tomorrow? who can tell with the time zone difference), beating Tommy Haas in straight sets 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. It looked initially like it was going to be a much quicker match than it was with Nadal ahead 5-1 in the first with a break point/set point on Haas's serve, but then Haas stormed back and won the next 3 games to close within 5-4. Nevertheless, Our Hero got the job done closing out the set on his next service game. The writing as pretty much on the wall from there.

It's still early in the tournament and Rafa is not playing his ultimate best, but he's playing well enough to get the job done in straight sets. Next up in Round 3 is Lukas Lacko from Slovakia. I love that guy's name. He shouldn't provide too much of a problem for Rafa. There are some other really interesting 3rd round match-ups shaping up throughout the draw. I'm interested to see what happens with Tomic vs. Dolgopolov, Fed vs. Karlovic, and Hewitt vs. Raonic.I'd also like to see Isner beat Fee-Lo, but then that puts him in line to face Rafa in the 4th round, and then he'd have to fall. Sorry, Americans! It's already kinda rough out there with Fish and Roddick gone early. Before Nadal-Isner becomes a reality to stress over, first we gotta get through Round 3...  which might air tonight here and be happening on Friday down there? Gah, time zones! Vamos!

At Disney World, Every Day is a Marathon - Day 1

(The Journey Begins...)

Ahh, Disney World in Orlando. Always a great vacation spot. I have been 7 times in my life. So I average a trip about every five years. Within that time there is always something new that's been built or revamped. I've gone with different assortments of friends and family, and it's always a unique experience. I really love it. This time would be extra special for two reasons. 1) I would be going with my dad and my two sisters, and I honestly don't think we've all been on the same vacation together in 25 years. We weren't really big vacation people growing up. So this was gonna be our big family trip as adults  - 10 people total including my brothers-in-law and nieces and nephew. It would be the youngest generation's first trip there. Very exciting! Also exciting? Reason 2) I was running the Disney World Marathon. Why was I doing this? I honestly have no idea. I decided I wasn't running the 2011 NYC Marathon and then immediately needed a NEW marathon to run. Disney seemed like the most fun. I got to run through the parks! And then go on rides! My family thought it sounded more fun than crazy and decided to make a whole big trip out of it. So here I was in the beginning of January 2012 getting my bags packed for Orlando. The thing is, every day at Disney is a marathon. To illustrate this fact, here's a blow-by-blow of my time there, with helpful hints sprinkled along the way for all you people who may be planning a Disney trip in the not-so-distant future!

It's Wednesday night. I leave early in the morning. I'm nervous. I feel like I have not really prepared enough for this marathon as opposed to others I've run in the past. It's a new course. I'm not sure what to expect. I'm hoping I just make it through in a decent time. I'm trying to focus on packing, but I'm paying more attention to Breaking Bad which I've been streaming endlessly for the last few days. I'm almost done with Season 3 but I'm not gonna be able to completely finish it off until I get back. There are just so many hours in a day and I have to get at least a few hours of sleep before the plane ride in the morning. The plan for the trip goes like this My sister Nancy and her family got in on Tuesday night so they will be there when I get there though I don't know what specific park they are going to that day. My other sister, Ams, and family and my Dad are getting in late Thursday night and I'll see them Friday. We are all staying in different hotels, because anything else will be way too much coordination for my family. But perhaps it's nice we're not all on top of each other. Disney Planning Tip #1: Factor in breathing room. Disney can be overwhelming! I make sure I have my boarding pass and room reservations all printed out and ready to go and get to sleep around 11:45pm. I'm gonna get about 4.5 hours of sleep tonight. Let's see how this goes...

(Airport to Hotel to ESPN WWoS to Hotel to Hollywood Studios to Epcot to Hotel)

4:15am - Wake up. Shower and shave. Watch an episode of Breaking Bad as I pack the last of my things. I have slept a surprisingly solid 4.5 hours. Having done much of the packing and watching of Breaking bad the night before, I get the last little toiletries together and head down to my pre-arranged taxi only about 10 minutes late. I somehow manage not to leave anything important behind! A miracle!

5:35am - I arrive at LGA. Go through security. They examine my bag for what seems like forever. Perhaps most people do not pack a dozen protein bars, 3 hard-boiled eggs, four packets of grapes and sliced apples. But ti's not liquid so they let it slide. Disney Hint #2: Outside food is allowed. Bring snacks from home! It will save you a bundle on out of pocket expenses!

6:35am - I board the plane. I'm always nervous that by sitting toward the front of the plane the overhead bins will be full by the time I get on and my carry on will have to be checked. Since my carry-on only fits some plane models sideways not long-ways, the chances are greater than I like. Luckily the bin above my row is not taken when I make it inside. Score!

(You can fly!)

7:00am - Take off. We'll be down there in roughly 2 hours. There is no inflight entertainment during this flight. There is, however, complementary drink service and snacks! Hooray! It is apparently still barely above 30 degrees outside in Orlando at this time. the hell? It shouldn't be THAT cold! Everyone in the plane is shocked. The Pilot assures us that it's still not sunrise there and it will warm up. Hmm. That sounds like a lie. I decide to read a little of All The Kings Men to pass the time on the flight and.... zzz....

7:30am - I awaken to find that the young lady and her mother sitting next to me have snacks and drinks. And the snack cart has moved away from our row. WTF? The girl next to me couldn't nudge me or something? Do I LOOK like I'm going to want to pass up free food?? I hate her. They are certainly not as nice as the Tisi's were heading to Rome. The people next to me now are such bad seat mates. I bet they would try to steal my oxygen mask in case of a loss of cabin pressure! Luckily, we don't have to find out. Instead, I wave the flight attendant down and get myself an apple juice, bag of mini-pretzels, packet of lightly salted peanuts and a breakfast cookie. Hooray! So many treats! After that, more reading and dozing continues.

9:00am - We being our decent, and my ears start to pop. This is usually a very painful problem for me. I took a mild decongestant before the flight which helps, but I realize now I have no gum in my coat pocket. The girl sitting next to me has a pack of Trident. She gives a piece to her mother. Do they offer me any, even as I desperately eye the package? No. I'm seated next to she-demons, I tell you.

(Orlando International Airport. Missing from photo: Construction and improper signage.)

9:45am I'm off the plane and away from those odious gum-hoarding banshees. The Orlando Airport is a bit messed up. There are a million signs telling you which direction not to go and only one small sign pointing the right direction to freedom. Meh. I make it to the Disney Express Bus and they ask for my bus voucher. Bus voucher? I don't have a bus voucher. What's that? It's in the coupon book Disney sent me that I thought was garbage and left at home? Damn. I guess I did forget something I needed. Helpful Hint #3: Bring everything that they send you in the mail with you on the trip. It will serve some purpose! Ah well. they printed me a new pass pretty easily. I'm ready to get to the hotel, unpack, get my race package stuff and head to the parks!

10:05am The bus driver tells us it is a 35-minute drive to get to the Disney All-Star resorts. No! My day is already slipping away. Every minute in transit is a minute not on real rides!! I take this time to call my sister Nancy who is already in the parks. I find out she is in Hollywood Studios. She does not have park hopper passes and has to be in Hollywood Studios all day. Helpful Hint #4: Go for the Park Hopper Passes. I haven't checked what the difference in price is and I don't care. You might find you like one park better than another. You might not need a whole day in one of them, or you might miss a ride you really wanted to go on one day. Park Hopper gives you more flexibility to see what you want to see as much as you want to see it. So I have a Park Hopper but Nanc's family doesn't. That means I'll go see them in Hollywood Studios in the afternoon before heading to my special Marathon Weekend Pasta dinner that's being held in Epcot that night.

(All-Star Movies Resort, Here we come!)

10:40am. I get to Disney All-Star Movies resort, my home base for the next 5 days. A tackier decor you could not imagine, but it was within my budget and is on Disney grounds and is certainly nice enough for me, so there you have it. It takes FOREVER checking in, because the people in front of me have a million problems with their reservation. Helpful hint #5: If you can do online check-in in advance of getting to Disney, take that option.  After 10 minutes, I finally get through, get my room key and get on with it. I ask the check-in person about my Pasta in The Parks dinner but he can't tell me where it is in Epcot. Only that it is in Epcot. "Maybe it's the whole park?" He offers. "The WHOLE PARK?" I say back, with a skeptically raised brow. Later today, I'm going to have to pick up my race bib and goodie bag at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Maybe when I get to the registration expo, someone there will know.

(Look through my window, yeah, to the street below...)

10:55am - I get to my room in the Mighty Ducks section of Disney All-Star Movies. Everything about the building is encased in giant-sized Mighty Ducks iconography. It makes it look more like it belongs in the Disney All-Star Sports Resort, but what can you do? Maybe Mighty Ducks was really popular when they built this place. My room is totally fine... except for a few strange things. My bathroom has no bathtub. Just a curtain and a drain in the floor.
My brain is so rattled from the lack of sleep and early flight that I can't make sense of it. It takes my wonderful friend Suki to explain to me over FB that I'm in a handi-cap accessible room. (note: I don't have internet access in my room for the trip. it's 10 bucks a day, and. with internet already on my phone, I say F-That. I can go without using internet on my laptop for a couple days.) The handicap accessible revelation makes me a little anxious. Am I supposed to have the handicap accessible room? Have I been placed here incorrectly? Is this like stealing a handicap parking spot? Is someone else who really needs it going without? I am concerned. But I'm losing precious minutes of my Disney Day that I simply can't afford, so I just go with it. I quickly unpack and freshen up, and head out to catch the shuttle to the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex to get all my official race stuff for Sunday.

(Race Registration Time!)

11:15am I'm on the bus to ESPN Wide World of Sports. I had to wait a little while for the shuttle and I was very impatient. I realize I need to chill the eff out. Helpful Hint #6: Breathe. You are on vacation.  Things in the South move slower than I like them to move. There will be some unavoidable waiting in line this weekend. I think I'm feeling extra nervous right at this moment because I feel unprepared for the marathon and don't actually know how I'm going to get through it three days from now. I hope that once I get all my race stuff in order, that will at least be one weight off. I should mention at this point that it is NOT a warm day. The sun came up so it's not in the 30s, but MAYBE it's in the high 50's? MAYbe. Anyway, ESPNWWoS is a very nice facility, but one I don't feel the need to spend more time at than necessary, mostly because there are no rides here and I want to go on rides. I walk as fast as I can without running to the Field House to get my packet. It's a ginoormous place. I find where i'm supposed to go and they ask me for my Release Form. Release Form? Damn, two things I left without! At least they were things I didn't know I needed to have, so it's not like I "forgot" them. Luckily Disney assumes people will show up with nothing they need and has every contigency plan at the ready. I go to an "I forgot my shit" computer station and print out a new form and sign it. They give me my race stuff. I ask them where the Pasta In The Parks dinner is. They have no clue. They suggest I go to information. Information doesn't know where it is either. They tell me when I get to Epcot, someone there will know. MAYbe.

(The crowds say, "Buy! Buy! Buy!" Owen says, "Bye, bye bye!")

I head over to Josten's Center to get my Race Shirt and Goody bag. The place is a mad house. People are buying all sorts of Disney marathon race gear. The check out line is at least an hour long. Fools. You are wasting your entire Disney Day on a line that only leads to a register and not a ride? This is folly. I grab my goodie bag and weave my way through the hordes to get out of there as quickly as possible. On my way out, I notice a station that will allow you to send text messages to spectators so they know your split times on the course. I figure this will be useful for my family to know since I have no idea how long it will actually take me to run the marathon. I put all their cell phone numbers into the system and head out, but as I'm leaving I notice that I do not have my folder with all my important trip receipts in the bag. I must've left it at Registration when i was looking for my Release Waiver. Gah! I make my way back through the Field House. The people thankfully still have my folder. I also realize that I have not gotten any info on the Race Retreat I paid for. Race Retreat is basically VIP treatment before and after the marathon. The nice registration lady shows me where the Race Retreat table is. So even if I had not left my folder here, I would've needed to come back here anyway, but possibly would've realized it too late. Good thing I was going fast enough to trip myself up into realizing I really needed to slow down.

(I took a picture of the Directory to help me remember things and then never went to Champion Stadium. D'oh!)

11:45am. Okay, I've got all my stuff and I'm ready to get to the Parks. Only I can't go directly to the parks. I have to go back to a hotel and get on another shuttle that goes to the parks. Helpful Hint #7: Know your shuttlebus route ahead of time! UGH. Fine. I wait for nearly 20 minutes for a shuttle back to All-Star Movies. I also brazenly cut a few dozen people in line when the bus finally arrives, but whatever. I'm one person and everyone else is traveling in groups of 4's and 5's it seems. I'm hardly noticeable and taking up very little space. I need to get on with my day. My cutting winds up really amounting to nothing anyway as another All-Star Movies bus follows directly behind the one I got on. Back to the Hotel and then off to Hollywood Studios!

(Nothing screams Hollywood like a giant Magician'a Hat!)

12:15pm. I get to Hollywood Studios! My first park of the vacation! There is the giant Sorcerer Hat in the middle of the main walkway. Originally the iconic symbol of this Park was the Water Tower with the Mickey Ears (back when the Park was called Disney/MGM Studios) and you can barely find that thing on the map now. I make my way toward Tower of Terror and Rockin' Rollercoaster. Nancy and her fam are in Beauty and The Beast Stage show right across from that area. The lines at those rides are already too long and the Fast Passes are far far later in the afternoon. Helpful Hint #8: Make the Fast Pass System Work for you! It's Free. No line is worth waiting on longer than 25 minutes. Suddenly as I'm walking, I feel woozy and a bit of a headache is coming on. It's been a long day already. I need food. And not protein bar-type food. Something that's been cooked. I get myself a hot dog with pulled pork and coleslaw on top from a food station. It costs 9 dollars and tastes amazing. As I'm finishing up, my sister, brother-in-law and two kids find me after their show lets out. Those kids are the cutest and the best! Nanc got me a fast pass ticket to Tower of Terror for later in the day. That rules! In the meantime we go see Muppets 3D and a Disney Junior Stage show. The Disney Junior stage show has no seats. You just sit on the ground, or in my case you lie down on the ground and try not to visibly be asleep. The show is very cute. My 6 year old niece and 3 year old nephew ADORE it. I feel kinda bad for the one human dude in the show because he has to be SO high energy and the audience is giving him nothing. I mean they enjoy it, but it's all very little kids who are mostly shocked and awed into silence. So it's him doing this show all day long with a bunch of puppets backing him up. I feel for him. I hope he is happy. He did a good job. I feel like we should be tipping him on the way out.

(Photo op time with Pooh Bear!)

5:00pm after several trips around the park and several photo ops with different Disney characters My sister and her family head of to their dinner at the Brown Derby while I go off to figure out where the hell my Pasta in the Parks dinner is in Epcot.Helpful Hint #9: Each Park has a buffet meal option. Seek these out. They are the best value for your dollar and the food is great, plus dessert and unlimited drinks are included  But before I leave Hollywood Studios, I decide to go on the Great Movie Ride. This ride is kinda... I don't know, dated? It's not very interesting, but it's the rare instance where the ride is much longer than the line and you get to sit down the whole timeand you can kinda take a nap if you need to. So I get on the ride and it's this big boat of a vehicle that has to be able to hold at least 60 people. The tour guide is all "Ready for a trip to the MOVIES?" I'm like "YEAH!" the 40 other people on the ride are like "eh." Don't worry, Tour Guide Lady. It's me and you. We'll get through this together!

 (Epcot: After Dark)

6:00pm  I get to Epcot via Shuttlebus and ask the guy at the security check point where Pasta in the Parks is happening. He tells me it's between Canada and the UK in the World Showcase. Great! Finally some answers. By now, it's pretty dark out. The sun has set. And because Epcot is set up for maximum fireworks awesomeness all the outdoor lighting is set very low to the ground. As I weave in and out of stone sculptures by the giant globe I feel like I'm gonna get mugged. I'm not. I mean, it's Epcot. But that's how it FEELS. Figuring it's just after 6pm and dinner lasts until 8pm, I decide there's plenty of time for me to go on Journey Into Imagination starring Figment the Dragon. The ride, and Figment especially, are favorites of mine from my childhood. They have revamped the ride since then, and it's not as good as it once was in my opinion, but it's always great to see Figment again and to sing the Imagination theme song. The woman operating the ride could tell I was gonna be a total weirdo about it (my overly wide eyes and giant grin were perhaps a tell) and she tried to set me up in my own car so I could geek out without disturbing anybody, but then these two stupids who were behind me in line didn't listen to where she instructed them to go and they got in the back row of my car anyway. Helpful Hint #10: Listen to where your ride operator tells you to go, and ollow instructions! Whatever, fools. You get to see me clap and sing along for the next 5 minutes as the ride goes by. I'm not dialing down my glee for your benefit.

(Two tiny wings, eyes big and yellow. horns of a steer, but a wonderful fellow!)

6:30pm. So happy to have seen Figment, I head off to dinner. Have I mentioned I'm exhausted? Because I totally am. My feet are so tired and I've notice that the sole of my shoe is coming off and the sneakers I brought are not going to last me another day. Hmm. What to do about that? Dinner first. I find there's this giant event space tucked discreetly away down a side path between Canada and UK. Never would've notices it otherwise! These Disney folks sure know a few things about design. I go to walk in, and this very nice lady is all "where's your wristband?" I'm all "What wristband?" Then I see all these people walking in wearing wristbands. How did they all get wristbands when nobody i talked to all day could even tell me WHERE in Epcot the dinner was? Luckily I have something just as good as a wristband - a RECEIPT OF PURCHASE! I show the lady that I bought my Pasta ticket, and she checks her printed records because as I mentioned before, Disney works on the assumption that you will have forgotten everything you need for your stay. So I'm finally given an entry wristband and allowed in.

(Food! Glorious Food!)

The space is very cool. It's HUGE. there is a buffet with really delicious food and unlimited drinks. It was totally worth the price of admission which was only like 40 bucks or something. I had several kinds of pasta, salad, bread, chicken and desserts. Yum yum yum! I talked to a bunch of random runners who were sitting at a table that had an empty seat for me. I learn that several of them had been at Disney for almost two weeks! How could this be?? I honestly couldn't imagine staying at Disney for that long. Not that there isn't enough to DO at Disney to spend two weeks on, but it still seems like a very long time. Also I found out that several people were doing the Goofy Run. This is a specific challenge where you run the Disney Half Marathon on Saturday Morning (picking up a Donald-shaped medal for your efforts) and then running the FULL Marathon the FOLLOWING DAY! That to me is insanity! Who would do that to their body? I honestly can't imagine it. You do get a Mickey-shaped medal from completing the Marathon and then a special Goofy-shaped one for completing both races. I have to admit a Goofy-shaped medal is pretty enticing, but I still can't imagine myself ever doing it. Still, knowing that I "only" had a marathon ahead of me to run, made me feel better about my prospects of finishing not last on Sunday. It was also at this dinner that I got to take a picture with Goofy - in the classic back-to-back pose (i have several like this from other trips) and one hugging. I accidentally hit him in the face while saying goodbye and he definitely let me know how he felt about it in Goofy antics. The cast members who play Goofy are the best. They have so much personality. Logically I know it's weird to hug an adult in a Goofy suit so fervently (especially since there's a good chance he's probably like 10 years younger than me now... yeesh) but I don't really care. That's what Disney's about. Goofy hugs! 

(Me & Gooy!! Birds of a Feather)

8:00pm - I should go home after dinner, because I'm barely on my feet, but I do not go home. I go on rides. I go on Spaceship Earth - which had this whole new interactive computer component I'd never experienced before. Besides showing me the animatronic history of the world, it showed me a possible future in which I had a cartoon ginger boyfriend and we vacationed in space and I looked very thin and happy. Very progressive, Disney!

 (I'm so happy there is travel in my future!)

Then I went on Destination:Space which simulates the g-forces of space travel. There is a green lightweight version and an orange heavyweight version. I went with Orange. Gary Sinise was narrating what we were supposed to do but it was really late and I was tired and not paying attention but then he was like "You have to press the right buttons when I tell you to or maybe everyone DIES!" and then I, along with the strangers next to me started getting nervous. We were also instructed that if we started to feel sick we should not lean forward, look down or try to shut our eyes. The ride was equipped with barf bags. They were not ornamental. This ride was really intense. I was so happy when it was done. Now I was ready to go back to the hotel. There's fireworks after 830pm around the World Showcase, but I can't even deal. Disney is never short on fireworks.

(Home sweet home. Note the Mighty Ducks artwork on the wall, in case you forget which hotel you are in.)

9:15pm -  I get back and get myself organized for the next day. I feel totally wiped out. Today was LONG. What with the flight and the back and forth to ESPN and then two Disney parks. I had two more days of this to go before the actual marathon. Before I completely collapsed I sent a message to my Dad and other sister who were coming in that I would be headed back to Hollywood Studios in the morning (Still had to go on Star Tours and Rockin' Rollercoaster!) and then over to Animal Kingdom in the afternoon.

10:00pm Blissful Sleep... until 7am Wake up call!

Next Time: Hollywood Studios Redux! Plus, Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Some Song Like You

 (this song hates to show up out of the blue uninvited, but it couldn't stay away it couldn't fight it...)

Listen, I love my girl Adele just as much - if not more - than the next person. I thrill at her success. I'm glad her throat is healing fully after surgery. She's having a strong start to the year - "Set Fire To The Rain" is currently #2 on the iTunes singles charts and her album 21 is still amazingly at #1. She'll probably win a bunch of Grammys next month. And that's all great! But I need to call a seasonal moratorium on radio play for "Someone Like You." It's way too cold outside and gets dark way too early these days to be dealing with this song right now. It wasn't so noticeable in late November through December because the airwaves were monopolized by Christmas carols. But now it's full-on Winter-minus-the-Wonderland time, and the song is back with a vengeance. I hear it at the supermarket, at the drug store, in corner cafes - even at the gym! "Someone Like You" is not a song to which you want to run on the treadmill or lift weights. Not even the dance remix of the song. (Also? There should not be a dance remix of this song. Yet there are several.)

"Someone Like You" is a great song, sung beautifully by a great artist, but if the sun is still setting before 6pm and the temperature is hovering around freezing, it's just not the right time for it. We're all fighting against Seasonal Affective Disorder as it is. Winter Wipeout can only do so much to raise the human spirit in these dark and depressing times. This song ain't helping the cause. How about radio stations take a break from playing it for awhile? Definitely through Valentine's Day and probably on through mid-March. We can reconvene and reassess at that point. Okay? Thanks y'all. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

2012: New Year, New Challenges

(Cheers, to the new year! Rafa's marching orders for 2012 are to live - and drink - responsibly.)

Okay, so getting those few first awards shows and sports shows out of the way, time to turn the spotlight/magnifying glass/microscope back on myself. 2012 feels like it's going to be a year of transition. Closing doors and opening wisdowm. Perhaps giant earthquakes and floods and volcanoes. Perhaps just a progressive increase of climate change. But it's definitely a time of stripping away that which is not needed and nurturing new ideas and opportunities so they can flourish.

What to challenge myself with after the Year Without Cookies? I must say I have enjoyed the opportunity to have a cookie and the occasional soda again these past two weeks. Amusingly, now that I CAN have them again I find I've developed a strange psychological aversion to them. Now that I can choose to have them, I find myself turning them down anyways, or consuming them in much smaller quantities. Which is where I really wanted to get to really, so I guess we can score last year as a success!

This year, I decided to give up my cable. I haven't completely given up TV. I wouldn't be happy doing that. I enjoy some of my programs. But I increasingly felt I was searching the upper reaches of the cable channels to watch things simply because they were on. I don't want to do that anymore. SO I've got my basic networks (yay parks and rec! yay wipeout!) and the other basics (yay downton abbey!) and that's fine but I also had to say goodbye to MSNBC (Chris Hayes! Rachel Maddow!) and ESPN (sports!) USA, TNT, AMC, Bravo and all the rest. It's better off this way. More time to write. That's the focus now. If I really need a fix of something new I can check out any of the many series that are available on Streaming Netflix I thought I never had time for in the past. For instance; Breaking Bad. I never watched it before New Year's Weekend and then floored through it's first three seasons. What a fantastic show!Seriously, y'all. If you haven't yet done so, check it out.

So the focus this year is on increased creativity, mobility and simplicity. Remove the clutter. Explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations. To Boldly Go Where No O Has Gone Before.

Also I need to take a yoga class and finish reading Name of The Wind because I've been telling myself I would do both those things for the longest time and still have not scratched them off the list. 2012, baby. 2012.

Aussie Open 2012: Rafa Round 1

(Rafa's back in action!)

Well, here we are barely two weeks into the new year and already the tennis season is back in full swing with the first of the Grand Slam events underway. I swear, it's like the season never ends. It's just the years that keep changing.

Anyway, Rafa here is seeded No. 2. His quarter is not so bad. He is in the same half as Federer so they could meet in the semis. Novak's quarter in the top half seems like a more difficult road, but if he makes to the semis you'd have to favor him over pretty much anybody on that side, especially Murray. We'll see! Should prove an interesting tournament these next two weeks.

First things first; First round! Rafa won pretty handily against American Alex Kuznetsov 6-4, 6-1, 6-1. What could prove troublesome is some right knee pain that Rafa experience after a tendon tightened on him in a strange way while he was lounging in a chair in his hotel room the night before last. Hopefully he continues to feel better and can get treatment during his day off before facing Tommy Haas from Germany in the second round. None of the prognosticators are really picking Rafa to win the tournament or even make it very far, given his nagging injuries and mental vulnerability of late, but I'm sticking with him for sure! Don't call it a comeback! Vamos!

Tommy and the Pats

 (I miss your long hair, Tommy, but you're still my guy. Thank you for ridding me of Tebow.)
I was filled with joy this Saturday Night when my boy Tommy and his team of Patriots took down Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos in such an authoritative way. I haven't been a fan of Tebow. Some people find him inspiring. I'm not counted among their ranks. I don't begrudge people their faith, and I understand the concept of praying for strength and focus and no one getting hurt before a sports competition. And also hoping for a little luck. But it annoys me as much when people think God cares about them winning in the NFL as it does when people think God really cares about them winning reality game shows. Sure, there's genocide and famine around the world but I'm sure God's true priority is you holding the Vince Lombardi trophy so you can then tell more women they shouldn't have access to family planning. Ugh. I can't take it! I'd like a lot less Focus on the Family, and a lot more Focus on My Gameplay with my pro-football viewing. Thanks.
In the lead up to the game between the Pats and the Broncos, almost all the attention was on Tebow and not on my Tommy. I'm not saying Tebow can't become a great quarterback, but let's not compare them as if they are on the same level. They are not. Yet. So after a total pummeling with the Broncos losing 45-10, all the crazy Tebowing, the new version of St. Elmo's Fire and all that other stuff can finally be retired for the rest of the post-season. Thank goodness. Smell ya later, Tebow. My team still has some football to play. And the fact that a Giants-Pats Super Bowl rematch is still a possibilty is very exciting to me. Although, I'm sorry  you lost, Packers Fans. I know what it is to have an almost perfect season ended by the Giants... it's tough. You'll get though this. I promise.
In the meantime, I figured if Tebow could have lyrics of an oldie re-written for him. I could rewrite some lyrics for my guys as well. I think Sir Elton John would approve. 
Tommy and The Pats
Hey kids, 
shake it loose together
The spotlight's hitting something
That's been known to change the weather
We'll kill the fatted calf tonight
So stick around
You're gonna hear em shouting "Tommy!"
Solid walls of sound
Say, Tebow and Foxie, cannot beat them yet!
Oh! Cause they're so spaced out!
T-T-T-Tommy and the Pats
Denver is gone and it's wonderful!
Oh Tommy, he's really keen
Wes Welker's coming through, Gronkowski too!
Scoring 6 touchdowns in a play-off gaaaame! 
T-T-T-Tommy and the Pats.
Tommy! Tommy! And the Paaaaaats!
Say, Tebow and Foxie, have you seen them yet?
No! cause they both crashed out!
T-T-T-Tommy and the Pats
Broncos are through and it's wonderful!
Oh Tommy, he's really keen
Wes Welker's coming through, Gronkowski too!
Scoring 6 touchdowns in a post-season gaaaame! 
T-T-T-Tommy and the Pats!
Tommy! Tommy! And the Paaaaaats! 
Tommy and the Paaaaats!

2012 Golden Globes - Not Enough Blood, Sweat or Tears

 (JTL sums up my thoughts on the night in one word. But I'll keep writing about the awards anyway.)

Why, hello Blog! It's now 2012. I haven't posted at all yet in the new year. Today will change that, as MLK Day has been dedicated as a writing day, so all the odds and ends of posts will finally make it to "Published" status. There is much to talk about, but we will start at the most recent and work backwards and then jump forwards. I have always been a fan of non-linear stories.

So the Globes! Usually a fun awards show uniting our Hollywood favorites from TV and the silver screen. The last two years with host Ricky Gervais their was a heightened sense from the audience that any sort of nasty or offensive joke could be hurled their way, which put the room on edge despite all the alcohol they were consuming. This year's telecast just didn't have much sparkle for me. Jesse Tyler Ferguson photo-bombing Eric Stonestreets's nomination Wile E. Coyote-style with the word card, summed up my experience with the Globes. Lots of expected winners. A couple of frustrating headscratchers (Kelsey Grammer over Bryan Cranston???). But having just watched 10 hours of Downton Abbey this weekend, I was primed for more drama or intrigue than was actually on hand. At least Gervais, Madonna and Angelina speaking in British accents was a comfort. But Gervais didn't really bring that much to it this year. I wanted him to go for the jugular, have the audience nervous. I wanted the winners to be more over-emotional in their speeches. It just didn't happen. I think also part of the problem was that I just haven't seen many of the nominated movies this year. In 2010 and 2011, I had somewhat organically seen almost all of the nominated films from the previous year, but this time it feels like the only one I've seen is The Artist. There aren't a lot of giant crowd pleasers in the mix.  Still even if the awards were a little sleepy, and the movies not well-known there were some highlights.

Christopher Plummer Wins Best Supporting Actor! How can one vote against Captain Von Trapp? One cannot. One should not. I love him. I have not yet seen Beginners, but it makes me happy that he is getting recognition for the role. Dude has been working in the industry for 7 decades. I hope he takes home the Oscar next month.

 (the man of the three-plus hours.)

George Clooney rules all. Clooney should host next year. Everyone loves him. If George Clooney told a joke at your expense in front of your peers and for millions of people watching at home worldwide with that trademark twinkle in his eye, you would first say "Clooney knows my name!" and then, "Thank you, sir. I'd like another!" Between his joshing of Brad Pitt by taking to the stage with his cane, trying to convince David Fincher to hand Meryl Streep her forgotten reading glasses, and giving a tip of his hat to Michael Fassbender's endowment during his own Best Actor acceptance speech - I'm telling you Golden Globes, Clooney is your man.

Madonna wins? I am confused as to how "Life's A Happy Song" from The Muppets was snubbed in the Best Song category. I'm expecting the Academy to correct this mistake. Instead Madonna won, and I guess she said something about something (I vaguely recall her saying she was too busy being a writer-director-producer-British Person to POSSIBLY write a song for the movie... until she did!) but the part I liked best was when she was talking and someone dashed across the back of the stage in full view of the stage. Sadly, they were not streaking, and the moment of intrigue quickly faded.

Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy harmonize for the nominees. These two singing a little ditty to the Best Supporting Actress nominees was cute and attention-grabbing and graciously in-tune. Well-played.

Presenters Behaving Badly. It was certainly better banter than we got from Rob Lowe and Julianne Moore when their prompter broke and they had to read a print-out verson. And THEN they didn't even have the good manners to stand still while the creators of Downton Abbey gave their acceptance speech for Best TV Miniseries/Movie. They kept making faces at someone in the front of the audience until someone must have told them they could be seen in the wideshot and then they (sorta) behaved.

Amy Poehler, Robbed Again. Look, I don't watch that HBO show with Laura Dern. I'm sure she's fantastic. I like Laura Dern just fine. But Parks and Rec is the funniest thing on TV. And Amy deserves to win for it. Do right by her next year, Emmys. For serious. SAG Awards? Aren't you coming up soon? Take the lead, here.

 (Puppy POWER!)

Wins for The Artist mean that cute-ums dog can take the stage! If I've only really seen one nominated film this year, I'm glad it's The Artist because I think that's a fun and fantastic film. A win for Score seemed inevitable. A win in Best Actor was a little less expected since Jean Dujardin says practically nothing the whole film and you'd think the "talkie" films might have an edge. But the win for best Comedy/Musical meant the whole gang got to go up on stage and that meant the little dog too. Uggie is the best, and certainly an important element of the film so I'm glad they let him join in the on-stage celebration.

So that's basically it. I would also say that the order the awards were given out this year felt especially disorganized. No wonder stars sometimes leave for the bathroom during their category, it's almost impossible to follow along as they jump between movies and tv, supporting actors and lead actors, you barely have any idea what's left to hand out once you're two hours in. But in case you are interested in seeing the full list of winners, here they are in reverse order of how they won. It wasn't the Best of Globes, nor the Worst of Globes. But Jessica Lange DID win for her supporting work in American Horror Story, so we can all walk away happy.

Best Picture (Drama): The Descendants
Best Actor in a Movie (Drama): George Clooney, The Descendants
Best Picture (Comedy or Musical): The Artist
Best Actress in a Movie (Drama): Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Best Actor in a Movie (Comedy or Musical): Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Best TV Series (Comedy or Musical): Modern Family
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Best Supporting Actress in a Movie: Octavia Spencer, The Help
Best Actor in a TV Series (Comedy or Musical): Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
Best Actress in a TV Series (Drama): Claire Danes, Homeland
Best Foreign Language Movie: A Separation (Iran)
Best Supporting Actress - TV Series, Miniseries, TV Movie: Jessica Lange, American Horror Story
Best Screenplay: Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen
Best Animated Movie: The Adventures of Tintin
Best Supporting Actor in a TV Series, Miniseries, or TV Movie: Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Best Actress in a Movie (Comedy or Musical): Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie: Idris Elba, Luther
Best Original Song: “Masterpiece,” W.E.
Best Original Score: Ludovic Bource, The Artist
Best TV Series (Drama): Homeland
Best Actor in a TV Series (Drama): Kelsey Grammer, Boss
Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie: Kate Winslet, Mildred Pierce
Best Miniseries or TV Movie: Downton Abbey
Best Actress in a TV Series (Comedy or Musical): Laura Dern, Enlightened
Best Supporting Actor in a Movie: Christopher Plummer, Beginners