Archive for August, 2008

Disney, Days 5 and 6

Friday was a wonderful day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The park is only open from 9 am to 5 pm so it was a perfect park to hit on the day before Shabbat. The kids were less enthused about going to Animal Kingdom as there are no “big ticket” rides there.

We hit the Safari ride first. For those who have not experienced this, you get in a big truck and drive around on “safari.” The animals are real and the habitats similar to Africa. It is not real in that at the end of the day, the animals go home to their controlled buildings for the night. On our “trip” they had to stop the ride for about 15 minutes for some reason. During this time, we had a number of white Rhinos come pretty close to our truck. One was perhaps 10 feet from us!

The other highlight of Animal Kingdom was the parade that they have at the end of the day. The costuming and the “puppets” similar to what you see in the Broadway show The Lion King were amazing.

We got back and began preparing for Shabbat. We had a wonderful grilled chicken dinner. For the kosher consumer, there is a wonderful kosher butcher and restaurant in Orlando called Amira’s and we stopped there on the way down to pick up food for Shabbat.

Sat morning the kids went into the pool. Avi met a 7 year old boy from Michigan and spent a lot of our time at the resort playing with him. When we went to the pool that morning, Shayna also met that boy’s 3 year old niece and they had a great time together. All in all, Shabbat was a very relaxing time.

We mostly finished packing and now we are just relaxing before bed. Tomorrow we get on the train for our long trip home.


Disney, Days 4 and 5

I did not post yesterday, as when we got home and got the kids in bed, I collapsed in bed!

Wednesday morning we went for a character breakfast at Chef Mickey’s. This is the best character breakfast at Disney and the kids had a great time. Here is a photo.

Then we spent the day at the Magic Kingdom. Everyone had a great time, and we can sum things up with Shayna’s face on It’s a Small World.

Today, we went to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Our original plan had not had us going there. Last time we were here it was not the kids favorite. We had thought to go to Epcot a second day, since we only saw the future world section on Tuesday. However, we decided that the kids would probably not be ready for all of the countries and Mkm and I went back to Epcot that evening for a nice dinner at the Italy restaurant.

So Hollywood Studios was actually a great day. The two highlights were seeing the High School Musical show and the Toy Story Mania ride. The ride is really great. You put on 3D glasses and ride through this arcade setting. You shoot virtual balls at targets and try to rack up the points. You don’t win prizes, but everyone has fun.

As for High School Musical, we got there early and were in the very front, so Noam got to be in the show. It was definitely the highlight of his trip.

Tomorrow is Animal Kingdom and then a nice restful Shabbat.

Disney, Day 3

We started the day going to a sales pitch from our timeshare resort. We do them only because they gave us $75 to go. It took some time so we got to Epcot at 10:30. Epcot is a big place. We spent the entire day (until about 5:15) in the future world part of the park. We did not even try to venture into the world showcase. The kids had a great time and they are really looking forward to Magic Kingdom tomorrow.

Here are some photos from today.

Disney, Day 2

If you have never ridden on the Auto Train, I highly recommend this as a means of travel to Orlando. Costwise, it is not much different than any other method of travel. Driving is a little less money, but not much with gas at an all time high. Flying is just a little more and you need to rent a car. So this is now my preferred method of travel to Disney.

Yesterday, I wrote a short post from the train, so I will highlight a bit more here. As I said yesterday we got there at about 12:30. Check in was very smooth. We were in an SUV and because of the extra height and length we had to pay about $100 more for our car. We were told that we would have to take the roof carrier off and we fully expected to unload it, put everything inside and then do the reverse when we went home. Well, they let us sign a waiver and leave it on top. There were no issues with it when it came off, so we saved about an hour of time with that.

The train was 39 cars long, with 248 autos on board!

We went inside to get our boarding pass and we were asked to pick a dinner seating (5:00, 7:00 or 9:00). We chose 7:00 but on the way home will be take 5:00. They did not call the 5:00 seating until 5:30 and the kids were off the wall hungry (no matter how much snack they had consumed). Luckily for us, they had room for us at the earlier seating anyway.

The kids were pretty well behaved, thank God, so the ride was pretty easy. Our coach seats were wide and roomy, like first class seats on an airplane. They were showing Kung Foo Panda in the lounge car, but neither of my boys wanted to go see it.

We had a difficult time getting the boys to sleep, but they did eventually. My biggest problem with sleeping was “snore lady” who was a few rows back. I have never in my life heard snoring like that, and when I told a crew member about it in the morning, they told me that I should have told one of them and they would have dealt with it (if she could not stop, that would have meant they would have asked her to go to the lounge car for the night). I’m not sure if I would have been happy with their doing something, but I will keep that in mind for next time.

We arrived in Orlando about 30 minutes early and luckily for us (again) our car came off pretty early. We took a quick stop at Amira’s Kosher store in Altamonte Springs on the way down to get food for Shabbat and then got to our resort.

We own our timeshare week at this resort (albeit a different week) so we know the place well. After we unloaded, mkm and her mom went shopping for supplies while I took the kids swimming. Her parents are with us and they have a unit across the street from us.

When they got back we all went to Downtown Disney for dinner and some shopping. We spent a lot of time in the giant Disney store there and I took the boys to the lego store also. We had dinner at Wolfgang Puck Express. This is probably the best bang for your buck quality restaurant at Disney. The food is the same as at the main Wolfgang Puck place but it is semi fast food and a fraction of the cost. Yummy! Unfortunately it rained a bit, so I have no photos from today, but I hope to post some tomorrow from our day at Epcot!

Disney Trip Day 1

Thanks to the miracle of modern cell phone technology, I am able to blog from the Auto Train somewhere in northern Virginia. We frantically tried to get everything packed up last night, and we came very close. Our goal was to leave this morning at 7:30 am, and we pulled out at about 8:10 (which was my real goal!) We made excellent time and made it to the train station in Lorton at about 12:30. We easily checked in as there were very few people there and waited until about 3:00 when we boarded the train. So far so good!

More to come.

Covers day 5

We now reach the end of our trip through the wacky world of cover songs, and as promised, today I am revealing what I believe to be the best and worst covers songs of modern music. I say modern music, because in reality, Mozart and Beethoven are probably the most covered artists in history, but I am no classical music expert to pick out the best there (and most classical music today are covers!) It won’t surprise anyone reading my blog that both songs today come from The Beatles. As I have said, The Beatles are the most covered band in modern music and as such the chances of finding the best and worst are higher.

Let’s start with the bad and end with the good, shall we? I must ask forgiveness in advance for including the following cover in that, it is so bad, you will probably stop listening before it is through (I know I did).

I really like William Shatner. I am a big Star Trek fan and I even like the over the top stuff he does today. Is he a good actor? Probably. Is he a good singer? Not at all. In fact, he did record an album, The Transformed Man, which is more of reading of songs set to music, but I am considering them covers because of the music and that it was commercially distributed. On this album there is the infamous recording of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. When I listened on YouTube, I just kept saying to myself, why did he do this, and why did someone let him do this? Was it a joke? Were they all stoned? Maybe they were. According to Shatner, the concept was to read from famous poems and juxtapose them with their modern counterparts, pop lyrics. Whatever. When you listen, but remember I warned you!

Now for the good! I think the best cover of a Beatles song and of any song is Joe Cocker’s
With a Little Help From my Friends. The song is a great song to begin with. Cocker, or course, broke all of my rules! He changed the style and even some of the music. But it worked. And it became a bit hit. He sang it live at Woodstock and it has become his most famous work. Here are two clips of it, one from Woodstock and one from 2002 which shows that he still has it!


Covers day 4

I never realized when I began this that I would want to extend this as there are just too many bad covers out there. No fear, I am not going to go beyond this week, but I want to include an omission that was pointed out to me by a friend. Since I highlighted Dolly Parton yesterday, I have to add this horrible cover of (I almost can’t even type it, it is so horrible!) believe it not, Stairway to Heaven! Listen at your own risk.

Anyway, getting on to today’s entries. Does being a superstar entitle you to cover any song that you want? I don’t think so, but apparently, some do. I am not going to decided what defines a superstar, but suffice it to say, Madonna certainly fits the bill. She has been listed as the most successful female recording artist of all time, and she has sold over 200 million records worldwide. So it comes as no surprise that a star of her caliber would think that they could record anything they wanted.

In 2000, Madonna recorded a cover of American Pie by Don McLean. Now aside from being one of my all time favorite songs, this was just plain WRONG! Sure she can sing nice, but the song has a very specific meaning and although it was recorded for a film (The Next Best Thing) there is just very little way one can use this song out of context.

On the good side, I can easily look to The Beatles for a couple of good covers, Please Mr. Postman, Rollover Beethoven, and Rock and Roll Music, but that would be too easy. So I am going to Mr. George Michael. He has been cited as being the most played artist on British Radio over the past two decades. In 1991 George Michael did his Cover to Cover Tour where he covered a lot of songs. The biggest hit from this tour was Don’t Let the Sun Go down On Me by Elton John. They sang the song as a duet at the Live Aid concert in 1985 and recorded it together at a George Michael show in 1991. The song was originally recorded by Elton John in 1974 and was a major hit for John, but the 1991 recording was #1 on both the UK and American singles charts.

Tomorrow I am going to post what I think are the best and worst covers of modern music, so stay tuned!


American Pie by Madonna

American Pie by Don McLean

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me by George Michael (and Elton John)

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me by Elton John

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