Friday, July 29, 2011

Vacation in Orlando, part 2

Okay, now I'm going to finish telling all of you how my vacation in Orlando went. The last park we went to in Orlando was Universal's Islands of Adventure. I know that's strange considering the previous day we went to Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately not even the Glenn Family can go to three parks in a day. Fortunately there was a lot of attractions we wanted to go to at Islands of Adventure, so we were all happy.The first place we went was (of course) Jurassic Park. Sorry, but we didn't get a picture of us by the gate. Maybe next time. We had to wait a while to get on the ride, but we all managed to get on. We rode in the third row the first time, so we did get a little wet. Everyone enjoyed watching the dinosaurs, but then a Parasaurolophus changed our course and we drifted through the raptor pen. We saw the T-rex just as we took an 85-foot drop. That was the scariest part of the ride, but it was so much fun!
We tried to get into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter next, but it was too full. We had to wait a while. We searched in vain for a ride in The Lost Continent, which had an Ancient Greek theme. We did ride the Seuss Coaster in Seuss Landing, which allowed us to look at the attractions based off of the famous author's works. Once we got to Marvel Superhero Island, Jonathan and Michael rode the Hulk. I wasn't brave enough for that. We got lunch in the Fantastic 4 Cafe, then looked around at some of the attractions. I saw the characters of Green Goblin and Dr. Doom greeting some kids (earlier I saw Captain America, Wolverine, Rogue, Cyclops, and Storm).Finally we were able to get into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We all wanted to get wands from Ollivanders, but they were $30.00 each. We didn't have enough money for that, so we decided to leave wands for another time. Jonathan, Michael, and I did go on Flight of the Hippogriff while we were there. It wasn't too high, and went fast enough for an enjoyable ride. We then looked around Hosmeade and looked in some of the gift shops. Afterwards we went back to Jurassic Park River Adventure twice! However, the last time we went on the ride stopped before we got to the T-rex. Once they got us down and off the ride, we learned that a storm was coming and lightening had been seen. Rides were being closed down everywhere. We decided that it would be best to leave the park. I think it's possible that we might go back in the future.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Vacation in Orlando, part 1

Hey everyone, I had a really fun week in Orlando, Florida. So much happened. Not sure how much I can blog about, but I'll do my best.
When I first entered the gates of the Magic Kingdom, I felt like that I had wandered into a magical land. Main Street felt like a kingdom marketplace, with lots of people going about their business. Unfortunately we were only going to be able to stay for one day, and we had a lot to get done. Luckily my family is used to cramming in a lot for one day.
Our first stop was Adventureland, where we decided to set sail with the Pirates of the Caribbean ride first. I saw a lot of references to the film series on that ride, and saw Captain Jack Sparrow three times. I also got a picture by Goofy.What's funny was that one picture wasn't enough for him. He had me pose for a second photo. Guess he likes all the attention. I can't complain. He is a celebrity after all. The next ride we went to was The Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square. I've got to admit, they had some imagination with that ride. I didn't get scared at all (though the moving sidewalk beside the Doom Buggies caught me by surprise). I have to say that for me the freakiest thing that the ride had was when a hitchhiking ghost switched mine and Mom's heads (probably just some holographic video thing, but still unsure of how they could've done it. Nice illusion anyway). Michael was given a beard by another ghost. It made him look slightly like Gimli. Sorry that I don't have photos available. No flash photography was allowed on the ride.
We then went on a roller coaster ride called Thunder Mountain in Frontierland. Mom did not join us for this ride because she hates roller coasters. We had to wait in line for a long time to go on it. I had to sit alone because there was only room for two people per car, and we went as a group. The funny thing is, I didn't scream on this ride. I laughed. Don't know why. I was having a good time.
While we were heading over to Fantasyland, we were stopped by a parade. Not just any parade. The Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade. That was something I did not expect. I was able to meet Donald Duck in that parade. I told him that I had been looking all over the park for him, and he came over and shook my hand. That was really cool. Here's a photo of him in the parade.He's ready to party. I took some video of the parade, but I'm not showing it to be respectful. I will say that they had a lot of characters that I did not expect to meet in the park. I saw Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket, Aladdin, Mary Poppins, and many more. I deeply enjoyed the song that was sung during the parade.
We had lunch at Pinocchio Village Haus (basically an Italian restaurant where I was able to get some pizza). We then went to find more characters to meet in the park. The only one we got in line for was the characters from Tangled. The wait was long, but finally they began to let people in. Only Rapunzel was there though. When I asked where Flynn was, she said that he was off with Maximus chasing the Stabington Brothers (the two thugs from the movie). She mentioned how they still didn't get along, that Flynn and Maximus still get into fights with each other. To me they sound like brothers.
We decided that the next thing we would do is the Jungle Cruise. The boat we got on was the Amazon Annie. I remember seeing a video where Walt Disney said he wanted to use real animals for the ride, but he wasn't able to. Animatronics had to be used instead, like on his other rides. I have to admit, they were lifelike. Our guide had a sense of humor, because she kept making jokes at all the stops. At least there weren't any unexpected drops on the ride.
Our next ride was It's a Small World. The line wasn't too long for that (people were waiting outside the building when we got lunch). I'm still not sure why Walt Disney made that ride, but it's probably to celebrate the entire globe. I did see one of the dolls not moving their legs with the other. Guess they'll have to go in and fix that. Still, it was cool to see so many different parts of the globe in one place.
The last ride we did at the Magic Kingdom that day was Space Mountain. That was the longest wait we had to endure. We waited in line for over 110 minutes to get on the ride. Luckily they had these video games as a way to pass the time, to serve as "training" prior to the ride. Mom decided that she couldn't go on this ride either and left. Waiting was extremely painful, but this was the first indoor roller coaster any of us had been on. It was so dark in there, but they made it seem like you're blasting through some fictitious galaxy. No Star Wars planets or starships, but a lot of screaming and laughing (from me). My jaw was shaking afterwards though. We made sure to get a copy of the picture of us on the ride.
As we were leaving Space Mountain, we saw a cool light show on Cinderella Castle. They made it seem like bubbles, balls, and pictures made up the castle, then flew off. Everyone was impressed with what they saw. We waited for a bit for a light parade to start. That was really cool. They had the floats made out of lights, and some of the costumes were lit up. Some of the characters I saw on that parade that I didn't see elsewhere were Tinker Bell and Pete from Pete's Dragon. I have to say, that was one super cool parade. We did eventually have to leave, but not before I met Mickey and Minnie.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Legacy of Harry Potter

It has finally come to an end. One of the greatest fantasy tales of our time has been finished. For over a decade people across the globe have been following the adventures of the boy wizard known as Harry Potter. His story was the classic retelling of good versus evil, in a world that lies hidden from us.
The first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in the UK) is literally the film that started it all. It tells of how Harry Potter, an orphan living with his cruel aunt and uncle, learns that he is a wizard and is admitted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to learn more about magic. Here, he makes friends and enemies, and has to stop a dark wizard from obtaining an item of great power. I just loved this movie when it came out. After reading the book, I felt like that the people who made the movie took what I saw in my mind and brought it to the big screen. The effects were so incredible that I believed they were real.
The second film in the series brings Harry back to school after a terrible summer back home. However, Hogwarts is not the same as Harry remembers. Someone has opened a place of legend within the school, and students are mysteriously being petrified. With accusations coming from everyone, Harry must uncover an ancient mystery of the castle and stop the evil that lurks within the Chamber of Secrets. This movie built up from the first film, adding more to the magic of the series. The creatures in this movie looked so real it was like they were going to come off the screen and into the theater. Again, I was captured by the magic.
The third film in the series was clearly a big success. This film reveals more about Harry's past as a criminal escapes from the most secure prison in the wizarding world, Azkaban. The wizard-in-training (or in this case, studying) is believed to be this man's target, as his parents were betrayed by him. However, unbeknown to everyone, there lies a traitor among the friends. This film completely changed the landscape of Hogwarts. Hagrid's hut is moved to the bottom of a hill, the Whomping Willow is not so close to the school, and we get a glimpse of the town of Hogsmeade. Harry's hair is more messed up than in previous films, and students don't stay in their school uniforms all the time. The director also added stuff in from Mexican culture, like the eagle versus snake statues and the candy skulls in Honeydukes. My impression with this film was that they made it more realistic. This movie starts to move more into the darkness of J.K. Rowling's world. At Hogwarts the students are joined by the schools of Durmstrang Institute of Magical Learning and Beauxbaxton's Academy of Magic for the Triwizard Tournament, which has not taken place for a century. Each school is represented by a champion chosen by the mystical Goblet of Fire, but things go wrong when Harry is chosen as the Fourth Champion even though he is underage. While competing in the tournament, Harry and his friends must find out who put his name into the Goblet of Fire, and why. It was cool to see other magical schools in this world and the characters continue to feel like their literary sources. However, I was disappointed when they took the magical creatures out of the maze and just made it a bunch of creepy hedges. I was really looking forward to seeing the Sphinx. Still, I enjoyed the movie's story and how they brought the Triwizard tournament to life.
The fifth film in this series takes a more darker turn as it shows the imperfections of the Ministry of Magic. Harry is put at odds with the rest of the Wizarding World because Cornelius Fudge has been running a propaganda against Harry and Dumbledore because they claim that Voldemort has returned. What's more, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher refuses to teach them magic because she works for Fudge, and she tortures Harry and his friends for telling the truth. Harry and his friends band together with the other students of Hogwarts to teach themselves how to defend themselves and uncover the truth of why Voldemort tried to kill Harry all those years ago. This movie was kind of disappointing to me. It seemed to be more focused on the newspaper headlines than the actual story. The film doesn't really show the effect of the undermining Education Decrees, but it makes it perfectly clear that they usurp the school's power and authority to Umbridge. Harry's hair was also too short in this movie. Nevertheless, this movie is important to the series because it shows the true strength of Harry and his friends.
Quite literally the beginning of the end. This movie shows Harry and his friends continuing their education while Voldemort and his Death Eaters terrorize the Wizarding and Muggle worlds. While Harry's friends experience complications with their feelings to one another, Harry is determined to prove that his rival Draco Malfoy has become a Death Eater and is planning something terrible. Dumbledore shows Harry memories of a boy known as Tom Riddle, who eventually became Voldemort. Dumbledore is determined to get all memories pertaining to him as they could hold the key to the downfall of Voldemort. I can see that they really tried in this movie to have a perfect equilibrium of romance and action in this movie, but they didn't quite make it. The movie felt like it leaned more towards the romance than the action. Still, they should get an A for effort (or A for Acceptable, as grades at Hogwarts go).
One of the most eagerly awaited movies yet. This movie was the part of the finale to the epic tale. In this film, Harry, Ron, and Hermoine have to leave their families behind to find the horcruxes, which are keeping Voldemort alive. Unfortunately they have no idea what these items are, because they could be anything. Another complication arrives when they realize that they have no way to destroy the horcruxes because every spell they cast does nothing. Meanwhile Voldemort has taken over the Wizarding World, and has made Harry the Number 1 Undersirable (basically the World's Most Wanted). Old faces return in this movie and the race for the fate of the world does not look good. I was glad when they split the movie up into two parts because that meant that they weren't going to try to cram everything into one movie. They did a good job in this movie with bringing the book to life. The Anti-Muggle move felt depressing like it should've and the acting felt real. I was pleased with the results of this film.
We have come to the end of this tale. This film is the conclusion to one of the greatest series ever told. Harry and his friends are continuing their quest for the horcruxes, but have to return to Hogwarts as Voldemort is on his way there. One of the biggest battles of the millennium begins as Death Eaters and the people of Hogwarts clash to decide the fate of the world. I don't want to reveal too much because the movie only came out today, but I will say that the battle is epic and not one you want to miss.
I went to the midnight premiere of this movie, and the lines were extremely long. There were crowds outside just waiting to get inside, and the inside was packed tighter than a can of sardines! I saw that several people had dressed up as characters from the movies. I saw several Bellatrixes, a couple of Fawkes (through they looked more like yellow chickens), a Hedwig, a Dobby, Hermoine, Harry, Draco, Umbridge, Mad-Eye, even Voldemort! It was incredible at how much of a fandom the series had. I probably would've dressed up as Harry if I had time, but I didn't. I just had to grab a stick to use as a wand. It was so good to be able to be there as soon as the movie came into theaters. Now I doubt anyone knows what's going to happen. I think it is clear that the world will always love Harry Potter.
My overall impression with this series is amazing. This was one of the biggest projects I think any movie company has ever taken. They managed to adapt every book in a series and turn them into films which have done incredible at theaters. Most companies wouldn't have gone the lengths Warner Bros. did to bring every book to life. They succeeded to create an epic series that many people across the world have grown up on. I don't think any movie collection would be complete without the Harry Potter series. Of course, it's sad to know that there won't be any more films in this series. Oh well. That means that now we can look for the next epic series to follow. I'm sure that many people will be content with this series, but should someone attempt to do a reboot, they have their work cut out for them. I don't think that such a project will ever happen, but only time will tell.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Through Heaven's Eyes

I know I'm behind on blogging, and I apologize. To make it up to you, I've attached one of my favorite songs from a great movie.

This song, from The Prince of Egypt, is a movie from Dreamworks that was released in 1999. This movie is a retelling of the story of Moses, who in the Bible freed the Israelites from the power of the Egyptians. This song here is where Moses learns that things most people consider important, like money or power, are not that important in life.
What I like about this song is that it shows that some of the stuff we take for granted, like food and water, are more important than fame or wealth. I've been raised on the lessons that what we do in life and how we treat others is far more important than having a lot of cool gizmos. I feel like this is one song I will never forget.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Myths of Dymos Study Questions

Okay, I was told that usually it's a good idea to have study questions for a book. Study questions allow readers to think more about what they've read, and sometimes apply it to themselves. I've read a few books with study questions, and I like how they were done. So, here are the study questions for the first book in the Myths of Dymos series.

1. In the story, Josun and his friends work together to save their home from the forces of the Magic’s Bane. How can friends support each other in accomplishing their goals in our world?

2. Bovern, Honetee, and Gyntor blame Josun for every problem they have. How do we sometimes blame other people for our problems? Why is it important that we take responsibility for our actions?

3. Dymos is home to many creatures that are now extinct here on Earth. What plant and animal species face extinction, and what can we do to try and save them?

4. All of Josun’s friends used their skills and talents to help each other reach their goals. What talents do you have, and how can they be used to help others?

5. When Saurina learns that she is a husaur, she doubts herself and doesn’t feel like she knows herself anymore. How can we let something about us keep us from doing our best? What can we do to overcome these obstacles?

6. The Roomar Vulture told Saurina and Josun a lie to get them to despair. How can lies cause us to doubt ourselves?

7. Queen Arias did all that she could to save the life of her daughter. Why do you think parents care so much for their children?

8. When crossing the Maze Reefs, Josun and Saurina were fascinated by the exotic wildlife they saw there. What are some of the most incredible places that nature created, and why is it important to make sure nothing happens to them?

9. Saurina was able to give Josun confidence when he doubted his worthiness to wield Vedion. What can we do to give our friends confidence to believe in themselves?

10. The sword Vedion has the power to give people another chance to choose good over evil. How can our words and actions help others to change their lives?