Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Aloha from Hawaii - Day 1

It's about 7pm Hawaii time, which means 10pm for you folks on the west coast, and my goodness, 1am for anyone crazy enough to be reading this who lives on the east coast. Hey, I don't exactly know how far this blog reaches, every day I'm constantly amazed that people I never knew knew my blog existed were avid readers.

Anyway, it's been a long day. I left my house at 6:30am this morning to head to the airport (that's 3:30am Hawaii time). The flight was about 5 1/2 hours long, but overall went by pretty quickly. I had a bit of a headache building throughout the second half of the flight, due probably at least in some part to a lack of sufficient food, lack of sufficient sleep, or the complimentary mai-tai at the beginning of the flight after a lack of sufficient food and sleep. Whatever the case, the flight was done and all is well.

We collected the stuff and fetched rental cars. Annie and Adam got one rental car, and I got a car with Carley, Chad and baby Maija joining me. We made our way from the airport to Costco, though in a nod to primitive research, my car was the one that made it there without getting lost. :) After stocking up on food for the week, in an effort to save in the long run by not eating out much, we made our way along the coast up to Laie. The trip was all of about 30 miles, and of course took at least an hour to get there. But fortunately we're feeling the Aloha spirit now and not worrying too much.

As we pulled up to the rental house, flashbacks to the opening sequence of Magnum, PI. Though my red Chevy Impala does no justice to Tom Selleck's red Ferrari. Oh well, I'll get some pictures posted and you can see for yourself. This house is huge, I believe you could have one heck of a party here if you really wanted to. We'll suffice to hang out on our own and be lazy.

We stepped out the back door, out the gate in the back yard, and but a few white sand steps away was the ocean. Warm water, white (well mostly) sand beaches, who can argue with that? We grabbed a few boogie boards from the house and went down and played in the ocean. After I had had enough salt for one day, we made our way back to de-sandify before heading to the local grocery store to pick up those things we didn't need egregious Costco quantities of. In hindsight, we should have just picked up massive amounts at Costco, as we severely underestimated the inflated costs of groceries on the island vs the mainland. $9.00+ for a gallon of milk... enough said.

We're currently sitting around the dining table trying to figure out what to do tomorrow. It sounds like the current plan is to head down to Diamond Head, through Honolulu to Pearl Harbor, before making our way back up here for (probably) a luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center. The consensus is that we may be a bit overzealous in attempting to do everything on one day, and that we'll probably make a second trip down to Waikiki sometime later in the week.

We'll see how long we survive... I don't think any of us are motivated to immediately adjust to Hawaii time, but we'll see what happens. It's currently about 10 till 8 and we're all falling asleep. Just wait until we wake up at 5am... maybe...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Local News Close to Home

All over every major Seattle news outlet today, but as KOMO puts it "Newborn Baby Abandoned at Federal Way Church".  Early this morning, a baby just hours old was left on the doorstep of the church.

Why it's interesting to me is... that's my church!  Well, the one I grew up in anyway, and my parents still go there.  Interesting seeing the bizarre stuff hit so close to home.

Obviously there are worse places you can leave a baby than a relatively protected front door of a church on a Sunday morning, but still... I guess it's hard to find logic in anything connected to abandoning a baby in the first place.  

Amazing Race 13: The Race Begins

Here we go with another season of Amazing Race!  Thank goodness they resisted the urge to make this a 2-hour episode, because nobody really needs that... especially me. 

Los Angeles, the popular start for the race that served as the starting point for AR4 and AR12, is the starting line for AR13.  As usual, the adrenaline rush and enthusiasm typical of the first leg of the race is present again.  Save some of it for later folks, it'll be much more useful later.  Being the first team to the airport is NEVER essential in the first leg of the race.  Sure you might get a slight advantage, but there are far more important ways to use your energy later.  And they're all on plans to Salvador, Brazil.  Brilliant.  

And already we have a talker.  Andrew and Dan, frat boys from ASU, already become the people who think they can talk their way out of any situation.  Should prove interesting, and if history has shown us anything, it's that big talk will get you far... at least a few legs before you get eliminated.  

The first alliance of the game is formed between Nick & Starr, brother and sister, and Ken & Tina, separated couple attempting to renew their marriage and win $1,000,000, but quickly dubbed "mom and dad" are creating a "loose alliance."  What is a "loose alliance" exactly?  I'd say it's an alliance of convenience, enforcible only until a better offer comes along.  

Kelly & Christy, the divorcees, seem to insist on dressing alike in all situations, but seem to have a bit more going on upstairs than this seasons blondes (doesn't every season need a blonde team?) Marisa & Brooke.  

My early money is on Nick & Starr.  Brother and sister groups have had good success in the race, and from personal experience, I can guarantee they'll be a force to be reckoned with.  

Terrance & Sarah are first to the mid-leg overnight stop, with the 9:00am departure the next morning.  Not too exciting at all.  This is more of a "meet the teams" episode as usual.  Though as it was noted last season, I gave up halfway through and stopped watching.  Hopefully this one keeps my attention.  

Detour:  Hard Way Up, or Soft Way Down.  Climb up a staircase on your hands and knees then answer a question, or go to the top of an elevator then go down a cargo net 200 some feet.  Hmmm... normally I'd say take the hard one because it's faster... but man this one seems like I'd take the soft way and plus it'd be much more fun. :)  Nick & Starr make it to the soft way first and take the lead.  The Talkers seem to be the only ones who took the hard way, making it up all the stairs to find out that the question is "how many stairs did you climb?"  Ouch.  I guess I would have expected that, if I had thought.  

"Nick & Starr, you're team number 1."  Ah the magic carpet looks as nice as ever... and the travel gnome sponsors the first place prize as usual.  Last to arrive, the hippies, who get their one and only mention now.  Meh.  

Well, the teams seem interesting.  Should make for a good race, but we'll see what kind of creative things we can do in Brazil next week.  For now, the DVR is set and we'll see what we can do.  

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Mildly amusing site of the day:  www.graphjam.com

Some selected graphs...  

song chart memes
song chart memes

song chart memes

song chart memes

song chart memes

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Swingin' with Marvin

Last night I attended the first Pops concert of the Seattle Symphony's season.  It definitely did not disappoint!  This season we're lucky enough to have Marvin Hamlisch as the symphony's Principal Pops Conductor.  The last several seasons have each featured one concert conducted by Hamlisch, which usually was one of the best concerts of the season, and now we get him all season long.  And what a ham he always is too.  As usual, the concert would evolve into a stand-up musical comedy routine, with still outstanding music to go with it.  

The music was top notch, with a collection of jazz and swing standards as the theme of the concert.  The featured guests were the US Army Jazz Ambassadors, an outstanding group of Army musicians who performed with the symphony.  We were also treated to several young musicians from the Seattle area, including a jazz quartet, and an amazing clarinet player who's a senior at Garfield HS.  

The featured vocalist was a 14-year old singer from Canada named Nikki Yanofsky, who was absolutely amazing.  Keep your eye on this kid, you'll be hearing a lot more from her in a few years.  

Featured in the concert were tribute medleys Irving Berlin, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington among others.  Marvin's interactions with the audience were of course a highlight, as he managed to heckle one person in the 2nd row who had binoculars, and invited them to move to the front row if they were having trouble seeing.  Just before intermission, he also questioned the audience "what exactly do you folks DO during intermission anyway?"  

Looking forward to the Holiday concert.  

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What Will YOU Celebrate?

I was all ready to post a poignant rant about the current state of the economy, and how unfettered corporate greed over the past decade has brought upon us the sorry financial world we are now trapped in... but then I found something much better to write about...

Today Disney is announcing their new marketing campaign for 2009, replacing the 26-month long "Year of a Million Dreams" that has been running since October 1, 2006.  Coming in January, the question on everyone's (or at least Disney's) mind will be...  What will you celebrate?

As any good marketing campaign needs a gimmick, Disney took the novel approach of celebrating the one thing that everyone in the world has:  a birthday.  Everyone who shows up at the park on his or her birthday gets in for FREE.  That's right, Disney is actually giving away something worthwhile for nothing... or so it would seem.  

As I always like to do, let's break down the numbers.  Based on current reports (Disney generally keeps actual numbers a secret) the average daily attendance at Disneyland is 40,000 people.  Assuming an even distribution of birthdays (~1:365.25 people having a birthday on any given day), on any given day at Disneyland about 110 people are celebrating their birthdays.  Letting those 110 people into the park for free isn't so much of a cut into the bottom line, and the reality is, most of these people aren't going to be celebrating their birthday at the park alone.  They'll bring their friends, their families, plenty of other admission-paying guests which should well make up the difference.  

Furthermore, those who travel to Disney for a vacation are rarely going to be staying for just one day.  They'll make a multi-day vacation out of it.  So if the incentive of a free day in the park convinces people to take a family vacation to Disneyland who wouldn't have done so otherwise, Disney's making out like bandit on the deal!  

Disney obviously thought it all out too, as the free One Day/One Park pass wouldn't be too appealing to people who are coming to buy a multi-day park hopper pass, and have alternatives available.  Choose from a "Birthday Fun Card" which seems to be nothing more than a Disney Gift Card loaded with the cash value equivalent of a One Day/One Park ticket, which can be used anywhere in the park for merchandise or extra-cost activities (but not food or drink), OR instead choose a Birthday FASTPASS giving you and up to 5 guests a fastpass for up to 4 attractions in your day, OR a One Day/One Park pass usable only by you anytime until your next birthday.

All of these options seem to encourage more people to come to the parks, and for a longer time, which can't be a bad thing for Disney.  But I definitely like the idea, we'll see how cheesy of commercials Disney's marketing folks can come up with.  

Of course this begs the question, "What will I celebrate?"  Seriously folks, have I ever needed a reason?  :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Phantom of the Opera

Avid readers used to my reviews of great musicals you've never heard of will appreciate the refreshing change as last night I went to one of the most popular musicals of all time, Phantom of the Opera.  It may come as a surprise to some that I've actually never seen Phantom on stage, though am very familiar with it through all of its pop-culture ties and of course the movie that was made a few years back.  

Since most everyone (at least anyone who cares) knows the general idea of the show, I'll spare a lengthy review and instead evaluate this production, with the caveat that I have no past productions to compare it to.  

As expected, another theatrical spectacle.  This one even more so than most, as it seemed the scenery extended into the entire theatre.  The Paramount actually made a spectacular accompaniment to the on-stage sets, both having similar architectural styling.  The famous chandelier fit perfectly into the theatre's decor.  I must say there was almost a fluid quality to the production, as rarely was there a moment something wasn't moving on stage, whether the scenery or props changing or stuff appearing and disappearing off stage.  

And of course, Andrew Lloyd Webber's score with so many songs that have become ingrained in the popular music genre.  We were treated (some might disagree) to one of the understudies performance as The Phantom, which was an amazing performance nonetheless.  I was not disappointed.

Not much more to add, so on to the ratings:

Cast: 4 stars - Just because.
Script:  4 stars - "From the messed up mind of ALW..."
Technical: 5 stars - This is the kind of show that makes a Broadway musical...
Music:  5 stars - Too much good music not to be pleased.
Overall: 4 stars - This is a great performance.  I'd see it again, but I'd also choose other musicals over this one.  

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Shrek: The Musical

The latest show to make its World Premiere in Seattle before heading to Broadway is Shrek: The Musical.  The show has been running at the 5th Avenue Theatre since August 14th in preview performances to work any kinks out and fine tune the show in response to audience feedback, with the official opening set for September 10th.  

The show seemed pretty solid, though had a bit of a slow start to me.  Towards the end of the first act it was really up to speed and the second act was outstanding.  

Make no mistake, this is a true Broadway spectacle, beyond all measure.  

Just stepping into the theatre, the entire stage, as if by magic, had been transformed into a swamp.  Dramatic set changes, brilliantly vivid scenery, and everything else you'd expect from a first-rate Broadway production were present.  For this alone, the musical is worth every penny.  

You needn't look far to find the humor in this production.  From Lord Farquad's hilariously diminutive depiction, to the jokes interjected in nearly every line of the script, you'll be laughing from beginning to end.  Though I could have done without some of the cliche one-liners scattered throughout, there were plenty of fresh and appropriate lines to make up for it.  Additionally, as has become a standard in animated films, you'll find plenty of adult humor that will go right over the kids heads, which is a good thing because there were far more young people at the performance than most I attend.  I especially enjoyed the subtle references to other recent Broadway musicals, including "Wicked", "Avenue Q", and "The Lion King".  No doubt there were others, but these three were unmistakable if you've seen any of those shows.  

The music was, well, unmemorable.  While there were a few distinct tunes, well-performed by the cast and the surprisingly large orchestra, the overall music seemed rather flat.  In fact, I don't recall any siginficantly showstopping numbers that one might expect in any musical production.  Yet somehow that didn't significantly detract from the quality of the show.  The music was still very appropriate to the theme of the show, integrated well with the dialogue, and didn't interfere with the rest of the production. 

I have no doubt that this will make a huge run on Broadway and probably get several Tony nominations.  As for my ratings:

Cast:  4 stars - A great collection of proven Broadway stars.
Script:  4 stars - Hard to argue with a proven formula, but well adapted to the stage.
Technical: 6 stars - A rarity that I would exceed my 5-star scale, but there's no better way to describe it.  The lighting, scenery, and entire package was nothing short of spectacular.  
Music:  3 stars - But don't be disappointed by that. 
Costumes:  5 stars - Adding this category, because it deserves special mention.
Overall: 4 stars - I would definitely give this my highest recommendation for the first time seeing it, but it doesn't have the repeatability that I would demand from musicals that receive my coveted 5-star rating.  

Shrek plays in Seattle through September 21st before starting previews on Broadway this November.  Definitely worth seeing while it's here.