Man In A Suitcase

Honolulu, Hawaii

Normal people visit Hawaii for fun. I go there to work. My first three trips to Hawaii were part of a project for CINCPACFLT at Pearl Harbor during my AI days. (Nice work if you can get it.) I managed to do some touring while I was there, in contrast to my colleagues who worked round the clock. Here we see the Iolani Palace, which is a lot smaller than it appeared in the Hawaii Five-O credits.

I've traveled in a lot of different contraptions, but this was a first: a submarine ride off Waikiki beach. The unfortunate thing is that there isn't a lot to see down there, aside from bits that the sub company has planted themselves. But wandering around a hundred feet below the surface has its rewards anyway, including the weird things that happen to color the deeper you go.

Orlando, Florida

To most people, Orlando means one thing: Disney. Which I guess makes me part of most people. When I had to go there recently to visit our sales office, my first thought was that I'd take a day for amusement parking. Having been to Disneyland and Universal Studios in California, I decided to opt for Disney-MGM Studios. Here you can see the Hollywood Tower Hotel, which is part of a Twilight Zone ride. Although the sky looks calm now, it didn't take long for it to start threatening some serious rain. Which held off just long enough for me to get through the major stuff at the park. (The Jessica Rabbit picture on my mysteries page was a souvenir of this visit.) After that I repaired to the nearest outlet mall to do some serious damage to my credit rating.

I've been a Muppet fan almost as long as there have been Muppets. (Anybody else remember the Land of Gorch from the first season of NBC's Saturday Night? Which couldn't be called Saturday Night Live because Howard Cosell used the name for his variety show!) And I have a particular fondness for Fozzie Bear. Fozzie and I have a lot in common: a desperate need to entertain and to make people laugh; a sense of our own abilities that's somewhat in excess of other's sense of our abilities; and a determination to persevere even when the audience wishes we wouldn't, sometimes expressed loudly and unequivocally. The Muppetvision show at Disney-MGM is the best thing there, reminding me of just how much I miss Jim Henson and the gang and their weekly half hour from that tacky little theatre in London.

Disney's simulation of reality takes on a subtly different form at the Studios. At the Magic Kingdom the intent is to make everything believable and seamless; but at the Studios the idea is to create a movie form of realism. Case in point: the Imperial Walker in the forests of Endor at the entrance to the Star Tours attraction. (Never refer to something at a Disney park as a ride. It upsets them.) If we were in the Magic Kingdom (as in Disneyland in Anaheim), the illusion would be perfect. But because we're in a movie studio, where the illusion never needs to go further than the camera sees (and where extending the illusion beyond the camera's range is unnecessary expense), the Walker and the trees are all backless. So by being less realistic they're actually more realistic. Obvious, isn't it?

Most everything at Disney World is larger than life. Each of the hotels has a theme. I chose the Wilderness Lodge, in part because the presence of a Rocky Mountain lodge in the flat center of Florida seemed so improbable. But the illusion holds up pretty well, down to the phony frost on the windows. (What kind of people, I wonder, stay at the Contemporary Hotel? And what's its theme supposed to be: charmless apartment block out of George Orwell?) And you have to admire the way Disney turned Sleeping Beauty's Castle into a monster of a birthday cake for the park's anniversary. Although you think they'd know that you're supposed to light the candles, not the cake...

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 Comments to: Hank Shiffman, Mountain View, California