Friday, August 31, 2007

And He Said it Couldn't Be Done...

Yesterday we went kayaking in a mangrove forest. In one of the open areas, yellow-tailed snapper were jumping out of the water. Judi raised her camera.

"You can try to get a picture of one," our guide said, "but you're not going to be able to. Lots of people have tried, and no one's ever done it."

Judi explained how, at the Butterfly Farm in St. Maarten, they had told us it was impossible to get a picture of one electric-blue butterfly with its wings open, and that no one had ever done it, but she did.

"Try if you want," said the guide skeptically.


Jumping Fish
caught in mid-jump

(click on the image for a larger version)

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Judi Took These Pictures Today

(Click on any for a bigger version)

Angel Fish


Sea Turtle

Blue Fish

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

From Bonaire

Well, we are here. Finally. We have traveled for two days and flown on four flights to get here. And every single flight was delayed in leaving. Every one.

We did this because the only direct flight from the US gets in at 9:00 pm, and the return flight leaves at 8:00 am, so basically an entire day is lost. This way we hoped to get in at 2:30 pm. What with the delays, we got in at 5:00 pm, so that didn’t exactly work out as planned. And, to add insult to delay, there were sundry ordeals. And, to add cost to insult, there were expenses.

But now we’re here. Sitting at the little bar on the edge of the water. Waves lapping on the shore. Sun setting in a spectacular red and gold show on the horizon. On island time.

Life is good.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Greetings from St. Maarten

Judi thinks it's cool that the airport in San Juan has a band that marches through the corridors of the terminal playing Puerto Rican music.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hiatus, the Sequel

I'm going to be travelling outside the U.S. for the next two weeks. I don't know how often I'm going to have access to the Internet, or the desire to make use of such access, so if you check this blog (which I guess you do, if you're reading this, unless you use RSS), you can probably slack off until after the 9th of September.

And if I read and sometimes comment on your blog, I probably won't be reading or commenting for the next two weeks, but I promise I will catch up on reading and commenting when I return.

And I hope to bring back awesome pictures....

Ta ta.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I heard on the radio this morning that one of the Orlando tourist attractions has closed. No, it's not Universal Studios, Sea World, or the Magic Kingdom. It's Titanic: Ship of Dreams, also known as the Titanic Experience.

I doubt any of you have even heard of this Titanic attraction. It was in a rented space in the quirkly little shopping plaza called Mercado Village on International Drive, near Ripley's Believe It or Not and the restaurant Cafe Tu Tu Tango. Apparently Mercado Village is being demolished to build a hotel or condos or something.

Titanic: Ship of Dreams opened in 1999, and Judi and I went to see it in, I think, 2003. We weren't sure what to expect. We bought our tickets from a replica of a steamship ticket window, from a clerk in period costume, and then waited to enter. We were in a group of six or eight. While we were waiting, we noticed that our tickets were each printed with a name -- a different name for each of us; a man's name for the male visitors, and a woman's name for the women.

We were admitted to a foyer and greeted by a woman in full period dress, including an elegant floor-length dress and wide-brimmed hat. She introduced herself as a famous designer and maker of ladies clothing, an American who owned high-end shops in both New York and Paris. She asked if any of us had ever been to one of her shops. Without missing a beat, Judi said, "I have!" and also without missing a beat, the woman smiled and gestured with her palm and said, "I thought I recognized you!"

The woman was, of course, an actress, playing the part of a real desginer and dressmaker who had sailed on the real Titanic, returning (as she explained to us) to her New York shop from her Paris base with trunks and trunks full of new designs. The actress stayed strictly "in role" the entire time, as she took us from room to room in the exhibit: We walked through a full sized replica -- everything was full-sized -- of a part of the shipyard where Titanic was built, and heard the story of her construction. We toured a replica of a first class cabin (fresh flowers were set out daily in each first class cabin -- the day-old flowers removed each day from first-class where transferred to the second-class cabins). We got to stand at the foot of the grand staircase (our guide explained that the purpose of the hours-long ritual of dressing for dinner and then dining was to give passengers something to do during the otherwise interminable evenings). Finally, we entered the wheelroom of the Titanic, and our couturier told us the story of the sinking -- from her point of view, as someone who had actually been there and seen it herself. Her lifeboat had pulled away from the ship only half full -- the ship's crew didn't believe the ship could really sink, and they would have to reboard all the passengers they put into the boats, so they made no effort to fill the boats to capacity. Our couturier's husband was left behind. Then she told us that one wall of the room we were in was kept permanently cooled to the temperature of the North Atlantic water that night, and we were invited to place our hands on it. It was bone-numbing.

Finally, we were told to look at the names printed on our tickets. Each of us had the name of someone who actually sailed on the Titanic. We were led to an enormous wall with two long lists of names: A list of those who survived, and a list of those who didn't. We were asked to search the wall to find our names, to learn our fates, and then our couturier left us.

Judi had the name of a cabin stewardess. She survived. I had the name of someone who worked in the engine room. I did not.

It was macabre. Tingles were running down my spine as we left.

Honestly, I'm not a Titanic enthusiast. I've never seen the movie. I can't get excited about it. The boat sank, get over it. But this exhibit, Titanic: Ship of Dreams, was really, really worth seeing. I'm sorry it's gone.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Boom, Boom, Boom

We just heard, inside my place of work, the triple sonic booms that announce the return of the space shuttle. Hopefully this means all is well.

Tuesday Haiku

Slats of morning sun
ladder the floor. Early hour,
day brims with promise.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Okay, here's the scoop

In case you were wondering what was up with my Tuesday haiku, Judi's little beagle Sunni (you can see a picture here) has an ulcer in her left eyeball. If it ruptures, she'll be permanently blinded in that eye. She's being treated with drops for the next week, and if they don't work she'll need surgery at the hands of a veterinary opthamologist. In the meantime, she has to wear one of those plastic cones around her neck so she doesn't paw at the eye and cause the ulcer to rupture.

Sunni is taking all this amazingly well. She doesn't struggle (much) when getting the drops, and she's very, very patient with the plastic cone. When it runs into things as she's walking, she just twists her head and pops it free. No big deal. She's taking it all in stride.

Mommy, on the other hand, is sometimes on the edge of coming unglued. The thought that something bad might happen to her beagles makes her mildly hysterical. We are trying to keep her reassured.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Haiku Tuesday


Possible blindness!
Beagle takes cone in stride, while
Mommy comes apart.

(Try to hang in there, Mommy.)

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Wherefore art thou, Dean?

The National Hurricane Center has just announced the formation of a new tropical depression, which, when it strengthens to a tropical storm, will be named Dean. Dean is currently projected to pass over St. Maarten on Sunday, and, if it arrives here, in Florida, probably as a hurricane, it will be around the weekend of the 25th.

Just when Judi and I are due to fly out... St. Maarten.

That would seriously suck.

(By the way, if they used my suggestions, it would be Hurricane Dionysus instead. No offense to people named Dean, but wouldn't Dionysus be so much cooler?)

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Coincidence Happens

Yesterday I was listening to the radio as I drove to Arby's to score lunch. Specifically, I was listening to a Christian station. I know, I know, I can hear you now: "Greg, what were you doing listening to Christian radio?" The truth is that sometimes I find it entertaining. For example, I'm awed when I listen to the Young Earthers, pretty much in the same way I'm awed by Cirque Du Soleil. Watching Cirque Du Soleil: How do they get their bodies to do that? Listening to Young Earthers: How to get their brains to do that?

Anyway, yesterday they were broadcasting a sermon that a Black minister was delivering to a Black congregation. I enjoy listening to the back-and-forth between the minister and the congregation in Black churches. It creates an energy that even I, a non-Christian, feel. The sermon went more-or-less like this (I don't remember it exactly):

"The Bible is the word of God, but the word doesn't come alive until you add faith. You know cocoa comes in those little packets, but it's not really cocoa until you add water. You can buy instant soup, but it's not soup until you add water. The word of God is the same way. Anyone can buy a book. Anyone can buy a Bible. Anyone can set a Bible on their nightstand."

Then, with rising passion: "But it's not until you add faith to the word of God that it comes alive. Just like you have to add water to cocoa. Just like you have to add water to instant soup. Just like you add water to instant gravy."

Then he cried, "No!", sharply. "Wait a minute! We don't have instant gravy!"

At this point some in the congregation laughed and others called out, "No! We make gravy from scratch!"

The idea of instant gravy made me smile, as did the horrified reaction of the minister -- he had obviously let himself get carried too far -- and his congregation.

So I arrived at Arby's, went inside, and ordered my sandwich (a Rueben). While I was waiting for it to be made, I watched an employee grab a shallow white styrofoam bowl off a stack, peel off the plastic lid, run hot water into it, snap the lip back on, and drop it into a bag. "That's odd," I thought, "what does Arby's sell that's instant? Oatmeal? Soup?" I scanned the menu board, looking for something that might be "add hot water and serve." And then I found it: The French Dip and Swiss Sub comes with au jus. And the au jus apparently begins life as a powder. Just add water.

Instant gravy.



Friday, August 03, 2007

Underdog is here!

Judi and I saw Underdog today. I think this is probably the only time in my life that I've seen a movie on its opening day. I can sum up my opinion thusly:

I can't wait for the sequel.

Yes, it was that great!

For those of you who shudder at the admittedly somewhat campy television cartoon, the live-action movie is very different. There is a campy moment or two, which I think is called for, in tribute to where the movie came from, but aside from that what you have is almost an hour-and-a-half of edge-of-the-seat action mixed with hilarious humor. Plus a generous splash of stomach-turning special effects. This Underdog dude, he gets a lot of really great lines, including a dogs-eye view of human frailties and quirks that sometimes hits uncomfortably close to home.

There are also a couple of dark and disturbing moments, involving danger and harm to animals. I was surprised by this, given that the target audience is probably tweens, but the movie doesn't shy away.

It's not Great Art, but then, how many movies are? If you want to see a thoroughly entertaining action movie that doesn't include people being eviscerated or having their faces blown apart by shotguns or their bodies being dismembered in car crashes -- and really, who needs to see that in a movie theater when we can get sick seeing the real thing on CNN? -- if you just want to spend an hour-and-a-half seeing a thoroughly entertaining action movie (that just happens, by the way, to feature a beagle as a star) -- see this movie. It's great.

I mentioned the Underdog television series above. Again, if you're one of the ones who shudders at that old show, this movie works in the original characters and makes some nods (Underdog, in his secret identity, isn't a Shoeshine Boy, but instead his name is Shoeshine, and the movie explains how that comes to be), but honestly, I think the movie owes more to the first Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve (which is the only Superman movie I ever saw), than it does to the Underdog television show. When you watch the movie, you'll notice the parallels.

James Belushi (the only actor whose name I recognized) has a really sweet part that he plays awesomely. I thought there was a touch of cosmic irony in casting the actor Peter Dinklage as the evil Dr. Simon Barsinister -- and he is truly evil in the movie. Dinklage does a great job with the part. The irony is that Barsinister is carrying out inhumane experiments using animals... while the actor, Peter Dinklage, is in real life a vegetarian who is devoted to causes that promote the well-being and dignity of all animals.

It still doesn't stop him from being a truly evil Simon Barsinister. Well played, Mr. Dinklage. Well played.

Update! Some more stuff:

Underdog is a bi-color beagle, but you can't help but notice that his ears are darker than the rest of his markings. Judi thinks this is an homage to the cartoon.

And there's a cat that has a minor role in the movie. The cat's character is, well, not entirely flattering. So if you're a cat person, and specifically the kind of cat person who's upset by things like this, you might want to give this movie a pass.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Building excitement!

The movie Underdog opens tomorrow!


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