Archive for the Florida Category

Ye Olde Impetigo + Hill Valley Courthouse burns to the ground!!

Posted in Back to the Future, personal, sickness, Universal Studios with tags , , on June 2, 2008 by Paxton

AmbulanceWell, as many of you may have noticed I missed a blog entry last week. It’s rare when I don’t come up with something to post. However, I had some medical issues the last few weeks that culminated in me being laid up on the couch pretty much all last week. You may not care, but let me give you the Cliff’s Notes (or Pax’s Notes, if you will) of my last few weeks. Don’t worry, I’ll leave out the grosser details.

In case you didn’t know, I run for fun and exercise. I guess I got a cut one week and it became infected and I had to go on anti-biotics for 10 days. The infection came back and I guess it kept getting worse. I finally couldn’t take the pain anymore so I went to the doctor and they thought it was a fungus. So I go on an anti-fungus medicine for 5 days or so and my face turns purplish-red and swells up to gigantic proportions. One of my eyes almost swells shut. I looked like Violet Beauregard from Willy Wonka after eating the blueberry gum…except I was purple and red. It was ridiculous. So I go back to the doctor to have him look at my new deformities and apparently, I’m now allergic to anti-fungal medication. Nice. So the doctor refers me to a dermatologist before he does anything else, just to be sure. Great idea in order to avoid any more allergic mishaps, but now I have to go to another doctor.

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Awesome finds at the Jacksonville Book Fair

Posted in books, Jacksonville, library, reviews with tags , on March 5, 2008 by Paxton

Book FairThis past weekend was the Friends of the Jax Library Book Sale. They hold it every year at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds. It takes place in a giant expo building filled with boxes and boxes of books that the library no longer needs. They sell them off on the cheap to raise money. Paperbacks were fifty cents, softcovers were one dollar and hardbacks were 2 dollars. Not a bad deal. When my wife and I went on Saturday afternoon I thought everything would be picked over leaving nothing but old cookbooks and Self-Help guides. Suprisingly, even though the sale started late Thursday and continued all day Friday, there was still PLENTY of books to be searched and picked through by late Saturday afternoon. I was very impressed.

I love going to book fairs and looking through old stacks and boxes of books. Old book stores, flea markets, garage sale stores, book fairs, you name it, I can get lost for hours (ask my wife). So for me, this book fair was a blast. I love seeing all the old, outdated manuals and reference books, as well as the cheesy romance and fiction novels that have become anachronistic. You can find awesome old computer books for machines that haven’t existed in at least ten years next to paperback novelizations of movies from the late ’70s. The wide spectrum is what makes it all fun.

While digging through all the boxes of books I came across some awesome finds. I bought some, took pictures of others. I thought I might share with you some of the most fun stuff. Let’s begin…

Beaches 2

Beaches II – I’m not surprised that the Jacksonville Public library is trying to sell off its back stock of this Beaches sequel. What does surprise me is that I only found one copy in the bins to be sold. I expected crates of this book to be trucked in and dumped in the corner, given free to anyone that happens to walk past. Originally published in 1991 as just I’ll Be There, this was Dart’s sequel to the tear-jerking, my mother loving, Beaches. It picks up right after the movie/book and gives us another 300 pages of sappy torture as CeeCee tries to raise her dead friend’s (and did you ever know? she’s her hero) daughter. Beaches II: I’ll Be There…now playing, in my worst nightmares.

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In Memorium: Back to the Future The Ride

Posted in Back to the Future, movies, reviews, Universal Studios with tags , , , , on August 11, 2006 by Paxton

It makes me very sad that I have to write this article. I’ve heard rumors for a while, but it was officially announced that Universal Studios Orlando was going to “phase out” the 15 year old ride for something newer, presumably a Simpsons ride.

I have a long history with Back to the Future. I saw it at the theater in 1985 when it was released. I remember my dad checking me out of school to go see an earlier showing (it was still packed). Then when the original was released on VHS, I had my dad (god love him for it) show up at Blockbuster the day it was released to rent it (we copied it). I remember losing my f’n mind when, at the end of the movie on VHS, there appeared the words TO BE CONTINUED… which didn’t appear in the theatrical release. I then eagerly waited the four years it took to release Parts 2 and 3. I bought all the magazines and books I could find. Click here to see my review of the Back to the Future novels. I also had the Back to the Future official movie magazine but it fell apart I read it so much. So, in 1999, when I was assigned to a project in Tampa, FL, I was beside myself thinking that I would be an easy 1 hour drive from Universal Studios Orlando and Back to the Future The Ride. I made several trips to Orlando to visit Universal studios and have ridden The Ride many times since then. I even got to ride it at Universal Studios in Hollywood. Everytime it takes me back to the feeling of watching the movie when I was a kid.

Now it seems that the studio brass feel it’s time to retire the ride. I hate to say it, but I agree. The ride was pretty shabby the last time I rode it. I love going to the ride and seeing the props and enviroments and the atmosphere, but the ride mechanism and IMAX dome screening always makes me motion sick. I would love to see it updated, but with the DVDs released a few years ago and no new movies or TV shows on the horizon, the prospects for the property have pretty much played out. It’s sad to see it go and I’m glad I got to ride it just a few weeks ago as the ride looks to be phased out by October.

Here I am outside the main entrance to The Ride at Universal Studios in Orlando in 1999.

Here I am outside the ride with a Doc Brown impersonator. We are posing in front of an actual Delorean model used in the movie. This is also from 1999 in Orlando.

Fun Back to the Future links:

1. Here is the video footage of Back to the Future The Ride. It’s the video you’d see if you were sitting in the ride, not the video while waiting in line. Very cool.

2. Bloopers from the filming of Back to the Future.

3. Did you know that Eric Stoltz was originally cast as Marty McFly? Roughly 30% of the movie was shot with Stoltz as the lead but the director thought he looked too old and played Marty too straight. Here are some pics of the legendary “Eric Stoltz” footage.

Take care BTTF The Ride, we knew ye well!!

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Crashing the House of Mouse for my Birthday!

Posted in Disney World, Florida, holiday, Orlando, personal, roadtrip with tags , , , , , , on May 14, 2006 by Paxton

Walt Disney World

This article has been over a week in the writing. Work has been slamming me so I’ve had to write it on and off over many days. Hope you enjoy it. It’s longer than usual so just bear with me.

I wanted to go somewhere fun for my birthday.  Since I now live in Jacksonville, FL, Walt Disney World is only two and a half hours away.  I hadn’t been since 1999, so I decided that is where I wanted to go.  When I went in 1999, my favorite park was Disney/MGM Studios because it had more of the rides and shows that I enjoyed.  To help seal the deal, Disney/MGM had also added a new ride, the Aerosmith Rock & Roller Coaster, since I’d been there last.  So on Cinco de Mayo we packed up the car and headed down to Orlando.

We stayed at a Courtyard Marriot in Lake Buena Vista.  It was, literally, a 5 minute drive to the park on Saturday morning.  We get to the park around 10:30am and immediately head to the first ride, The Great Movie Ride.  A great ride, not just in name only, it is made to look like Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, CA.  I have been to, and seen a movie in, the real Mann’s, and it’s a great replica.  The ride is a celebration of classic movies and showcases popular scenes from these movies with wax figures and small sets.  Very cool.  It’s like riding through a large Madame Tussaud’s exhibit.   A very cool attraction I like to ride whenever I’m at MGM.

Next we headed over to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.  The lines were getting a little longer, so we grabbed a Fast Pass at Tower of Terror and went to stand in line for the Aerosmith Rock N Roller Coaster.

  If you’ve been to Disney and haven’t done the Fast Pass, you are missing out.  You grab a ticket from an automatic dispenser and it tells you to return to the specified ride at a specified time, usually about 1.5 hours later.  So with Fast Pass in hand, we waited in line at the Rock n Roller Coaster.  

The ride itself was very cool. The environment while you waited in line was like you were in the lobby of a recording studio named G-Force Records.  There was a lot of musical memorabilia like gold records and concert posters. All of a sudden a large group of you are ushered into a room that looks out on a recording studio. It looks like Aerosmith is putting the final touches on a track and they notice you. They inform you that they are about to leave for a concert but they want you to come with them. The dialogue in this little drama…is BAD. Do you remember the SNL Wayne’s World sketch they were on when Tom Hanks hosted? The drummer spouts off a long diatribe about supply and demand that sounded unrehearsed and fake. That’s kinda how this sounded. They even throw in the line “Everyone knows how we feel about our fans.” I’m on the ride, I don’t need to be pandered to. Anywho, we are shuffled into the loading area where you load the roller coaster. The cars look like a stretch cadillac limousine. It’s nice. As for the ride itself, it’s very good. Fast, furious and lots of Aerosmith rock playing. The ride is a suped up, much more fun version of Space Moutain. It’s all dark except for neon street signs that keep the feeling of a high speed run to the Aerosmith concert. Lots of fun, but too short. I was having so much fun that it ended just as we got started. I realize that coasters nowadays are getting faster and shorter, mush like our attention spans, but COME ON!!! If you go to MGM Studios, definately get on this ride.

We got off the Rock N Roller Coaster at exactly the time our Fast Pass said to be back over at the Tower of Terror. So we head over and get in the Fast Pass line. We literally walked right up and into the ride. Maybe a 2 minute wait. That was nice. The Tower is a great ride. You walk through the basement of an old hotel, get in an old elevator and it takes you around the Twilight Zone until it drops you up and down in a random sequence. Very fun and thrilling. Another good ride.

Next we hopped back over to the other side of the park to visit the Star Tours gift shop. I had been on the Star Tours ride several times and so had everyone else. I didn’t see any need to go again as it is only a mediocre ride. If it wasn’t based on Star Wars, I would probably say the ride somewhat sucked. It seriously needs to be updated. While walking to the Star Tours gift shop, I noticed some things had changed since 1999. Outside the ride there used to be a life-size speeder bike you could get your picture with. Check out this cheezy pic from my visit to MGM in 1999. That is no longer there. And the gift shop, The Jawa Trader, has been upgraded tremendously. There is a lot more room and they built tatooine adobe builings around it. I guess they had to sell more merchandise. You think they would have upgraded the ride. This is what I bought at the gift shop. It’s a Star Tours passport to Florida. They never have my name personalized, so I gotta get the generic items.

From here we moved onto Muppet-Vision 3-D. This is an awesome 3-D show featuring the Muppets as they demonstrate their new breakthrough, Muppetvision. It’s pretty funny and the theater itself interacts with the movie. They even have balcony seats with Statler and Waldorf sitting in them yelling out insults just like the Muppet Show!! All of your favorite Muppets show up so it’s lots of fun. I love the Muppets so I love seeing this show everytime I go to MGM Studios.

Lunchtime, baby! We decided to eat at the nicest place in the park, The Brown Derby. It’s a recreation of a famous restaraunt in Hollywood, CA. It’s upscale and very nice. We had wine and I ordered strip steak and mashed potatoes. The food was phenomenal. If you go to MGM and don’t have a bunch of kids with you, this is the place to eat. Kids won’t like it much, but it’s a great adult place.

Lastly we hit the MGM backlot tour. It’s really short, and doesn’t compare to the Universal Studios Hollywood backlot tour, but it’s fun. In the beginning they show a special effects presentation featuring Pearl Harbour. They take members of the audience to perform. My group of 4 was chosen to be the participants. My wife had 900 gallons of water dumped on top of her and the rest of us stood on a fake PT boat and reacted to bombs going off around us. It was a lot of fun, but we didn’t get to see the performance. Apparently they take what we did and edit it into a short film that the people in the audience see. Since we were not with the audience and busy taking off our rain-gear we didn’t get to see the edited result and Disney said it gets deleted immediately. I was really disappointed to hear this. When we were “acting” on the PT boat, I really played it up. Running around and screaming like a girl, it was awesome. I totally wanted to see it edited together. Oh well. The rest of the tour took us on a tram ride to see a few abandoned movie props and an exploding movie set. Not bad.

By this point we were out of things to do at MGM, so we decided to park hop over to Epcot center. Epcot was in the middle of some Flower and Garden festival so it was all dressed up in pretty flowers. We first rode Spaceship: Earth which is a slow, meandering history of communication on Earth. It is housed inside the famous white “golf ball” that everyone associates Epcot with. The ride was okay, but it had been a long day and this was a welcome respite from the heat and walking. We then proceeded to the World Showcase and started to visit the countries. We went to Mexico and rode the River of Time. Another meandering “history of…” ride. The Mexican marketplace was cool, but boring. I did enjoy my “fiesta” margarita, as did everyone else in my party. We wound up drinking our margaritas while walking around Norway.

Of the countries we visited this time, my favorite was Norway…and not just because we drank margaritas next to the Maelstrom. The ride, the just mentioned Maelstrom, was fun and random, but the film they showed afterwards was a little on the silly side. Norway does have a cool giftshop where you can buy bad ass Viking helmets right next to not-so-bad-ass sweaters.

We finally stopped when I couldn’t walk anymore. I was so exhausted. We decided to hit a movie after leaving the parking lot. Well, for the next two hours we drove around looking for a theater and found nothing. The only theater we could find was the AMC at Downtown Disney, and there was no way we were getting a parking spot there on Saturday night at 8pm. Believe me, we tried.

So we went to eat at Buffalo Wild Wings and then crashed back at the hotel. This was one of the most fun trips to Disney I’ve ever had. I’m glad I got to do it for my birthday and with our friends, The Stars. It was a blast.

The drive home the next morning was an interesting event. We hit not one, but TWO crashes. The normally 2.5 hour drive back stretched into almost 5 f’n hours. I was so salty when I got home that I could’ve spit. My friend, Dave, slept probably 90% of the way. When we got back to Jacksonville he had no idea we had been stuck in traffic for like 3 hours.

None of this dampened the experience though and I look back on that trip with much fondness.

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