Wreck-It Ralph’s Message

wreck_it_ralph_gold_medal_a_lIt’s no question that to an old video game enthusiast as myself that Wreck-It Ralph was an appealing movie long before I ever went to see it.  So I went in to see it with exceedingly high expectations.  Perhaps higher than when I went to see The Avengers – the difference, I didn’t really know what to expect going in, whereas with Avengers I knew the story going in.  For Wreck-It Ralph, I had my own ideas about the movie based on some trailers and a few songs that they used for music.  And I was not disappointed.

What I got was a movie that speaks to me on astronomical levels.  It’s hard sometimes in your day to day existence to understand or follow your lot in life.  Who am I? Why am I here? Why do I do the things I do? etc.  It’s perfectly normal as we go through life to question these very things.  But to see a video game character brought to life questioning his own life and his place in the world of video games.  To realize that Ralph is really just a guy stuck in a job he doesn’t like and who strives to be the ideal of the “Hero”… it’s something everyone should relate to.

What he gets thrown back at him are the voices of experience telling him that he can’t change who he is and that he simply must accept himself as he is.  Instead Ralph heads off to challenge the notion, and his journey toward realization begins.  In the world of video games the rules are simple, the Hero is the guy who gets the prize… or in Ralph’s eyes the medal.  So when he hears about a medal in another game he sets off on what is really a shortcut attempt at the glory that he seeks.

In typical Disney fashion, found in movies like The Princess and the Frog, what Ralph thinks he needs isn’t at all what he really needs.  A medal that says your a Hero may get you stuff but as we learned with Hercules acting the part of the Hero doesn’t make you one – being a Hero is about the “measure of a man”.  Meaning its what’s inside your heart that counts not your outward appearance.  Early on in the movie this is summed up by the Street Fighter character Zangief, “If I am good guy, then who else would crush man’s skull like sparrow’s egg between their thighs?”

Over the course of his journey Ralph comes to learn that fame and glory isn’t everything there is in the world.  And he comes to understand that Zangief was right and the words of the Bad-Anon motto suddenly make sense to him, “I’m bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me.”  And suddenly his world makes sense to him, and he’s able to shine.  In that moment he truly becomes the hero he so desperately wanted to be.

Overall, if you’ve been avoiding this movie because you expect it to be a simple kiddie marketing free-for-all… well okay it is a marketing free-for-all as it was designed to be completely ripe for it.  But that doesn’t matter because the message that the movie delivers is pure, honest, and true.  The more emotional movie goer might want to bring along a box of tissues.  They’ll likely need it.  I can’t say enough good things about this movie.  See it, look beyond the cartoon aspects of the movie, and win the medal that it’s presenting to you.

Avengers Assemble!

theavengers2012posterIt probably comes as no great shock to anyone taking the time to read this that I was raised on comic books.  Some of my earliest childhood memories are wrapped up in theses stories of good versus evil.  And I’ve been reading stories involving the Avengers for quite some time.  Consider that the Avengers were created in 1963, and the stories about them have continued in one capacity or another on a roughly monthly basis (sometimes less, some times a lot more) since then.  This means that roughly 50 years later all that rich story material has to somehow feed back into the movie Marvel’s The Avengers.

The Avengers were created as Marvel’s answer to the Justice League by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.  And elements in this movie trace back to that very first issue of the comic book.  You have a group of heroes who aren’t quite ready to work together as a team, but learn that they can to bring about a greater good.  That’s really the entire point, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  If you look at each character in the other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies you’d think there’s no way that they can work together, but when they are brought together in this movie…  magic happens.  If I was to decide why it works, it’s because of the ties that bind.

The movie doesn’t just spend time with superheroes up on the screen bashing each other and their enemies (though I promise there is plenty of that), but rather it takes the time to develop character interactions that seem genuine and real.  This is very important, because for a team to work there has to be a mutual respect among its participants, and when that isn’t there the team will fail.  Much of the movie is spent driving this point home, showing that personal agendas, pettiness, and secrets are getting in the way of making this team work.

In fact, just as the movie is bringing these characters together you start to see the problems inherent in the group.  Iron Man is too tied up in his “greatness”.  Bruce Banner (Hulk) is to introverted.  Thor is too lofty.  Captain America is too righteous.  Hawkeye… well okay his issues are part of the plot.  Black Widow has red in her ledger.  Nick Fury is too controlling.  It is these issues that Loki uses against them in the movie, and as a result he is able to bring them to their lowest moment in the movie.

From there everything changes.  We see each character transform in very interesting ways because from their lows they all get up, dust themselves off and start to shine.  In fact, it is said that Tony Stark’s heart grew three sizes that day.  Banner learns that he has people who do understand him and his “condition” and that he can call friends.  Thor learns (again?) that it is better to stand with others than to stand above them.  Captain America learns that things aren’t always as simple as black and white.  Hawkeye comes clean… literally.  Black Window sets a higher standard for herself.  Nick Fury stops trying to control all the “children” and lets them go.

What happens next is amazing.  You get what is without a doubt the greatest most cinematic battle scene that has appeared on screen ever.  But in this scene you realize that these characters have come together and truly overcome their differences and have bonded into a team.  As Hulk, Banner doesn’t smash his friends… save one.  Hawkeye shines in a way that he’s never done in comic books – his abilities and insight come through and really make the team successful.  Iron Man becomes a true hero.  Thor stops just acting on impulse and starts playing well with others.  Black Widow steps up… literally.  Captain America takes his rightful place as their leader.

At this point you realize why the Avengers work as a team, and why Marvel’s The Avengers works as a movie.  It’s easy to write a movie about a single hero and tell his origin as 2 to 3 hours is plenty of time for that.  However to take so many big budget movie stars, stick them in a movie together, and tell the origin story of a team of heroes?  And not have these actors walk all over each other?  And to be successful at it?  While it had been considered before, and even attempted with movies like the Fantastic Four or Watchmen – it had never worked so well or been so successful.

So go now, see Marvel’s The Avengers, and remember while doing so:

DO NOT BLINK!

Additional reading:
Avengers Reviews – SPOILER FREE – by Ryan Kilpatrick and Todd Perlmutter
Get Ready for Avengers – What Do You Need to Know? by Ryan Kilpatrick

And get ready for the upcoming May 14, 2012 release of the Disney Film Project Podcast’s Episode 71 where you can listen to Todd, Ryan, Briana, and Cheryl geek out majorly on The Avengers.

Todd Perlmutter is a co-host of the Disney Film Project Podcast, and a blogger for TouringPlans.com

So what are the “Flash Sideways” in Lost? (a theory)

Right now everyone is focused on only one part of what’s going on in Lost and it all revolves around the “Man in Black” (a.k.a. “Man in Locke”, “Milty”, “Black Smoke”, etc.).  They’re so caught up in what’s going on in this battle between Milty and Jacob, that they’ve forgotten about the other major mystery introduced in the final season of Lost.

Note up front, I’m not going to be spoiler free here about anything that has already shown on Television.  There will be no hidden text, and I will not hold back on things we know, now, today – based on the regular Lost United States programming schedule.  I will presume you have seen every episode to date at least once.  So read on at your own risk.

For the first few seasons of Lost we were provided back story for characters in the form of “Flashbacks”.  Little snippets of their past interspersed with the main story and often tied heavily to it so we could understand the motivations of the characters in their current predicament of being stranded on the Island.  These flashes presented a fantastic story telling mechanism, and one of the best selling points of the show overall at the time.

Then things changed and we learn that somewhere along the line the Flashes changed to “Flash Forwards”.  Suddenly the roles of the Flashes and the on Island parts of the show are reversed, and what we’re seeing on the Island is suddenly driving the goings on in the Flashes.  It was one of the most clever mechanical twists on a television show ever.  It kept the show fresh at a time when many were giving up on Lost.

And now the mechanic has changed again.  We’re now presented with a series of Flashes that look like the presentation of an alternate reality for our Losties.  Jack has a son and is divorced.  Miles and Sawyer are cops.  Charlotte works for Miles’s dad at a museum.  The island is under water. etc.  The big question is this,  “What’s going on here?

One key theme on the show has always been that of redemption.  Once a character finds it, they seem to get their release and reward through death.  Charlie, Eko, etc.  There are many examples of this.  Many seem to think these new Flashes are the Losties receiving their just rewards for their time served.  After all the entire purpose of many religions is to seek redemption – this is why they tend to focus in a large part on repentance.  You must be absolved of sin to receive redemption, at least according to scripture.

And I am not going to deny that theme of the show.  It’s there, it’s strong, and it’s obvious.  But I am going to say flat out that what we’re seeing in these new Flashes is not the redemption of the Losties.  It’s not alternate reality.

I’m going to tell you that the “Flash Sideways” are what happened to the Losties who were at the site of “The Incident” between the time the nuclear bomb went off and the time we saw them wake up on the Island near the destroyed hatch at the beginning of this season.

Why do I think this?  Well there is some very  information that has been presented to us in prior seasons.

For starters, lets look to Miles and Hurley.  Both characters have been written in a way where they seem to both relate more to the viewers then any other characters on the show.  They think what we think, and react how we react.  And most important, they very often ask the same questions we’re asking.

Last season they had a conversation about time travel.  And while there was a lot of humor in the conversation, one thing rang true.  They producers gave us, in a small, neat, little package their theory of time travel for the Losties, by presenting for us the basic rules.  Time is linear in terms of perception.  Most of the time you move forward through time, but sometimes you don’t.  And when you don’t, what you perceive is still your “present”.  Little Ben can’t die because Big Ben gives them all hell in the future.  They can all die because despite that they come from the future, 1977 was their present.

This is proven true by the deaths of Charlotte, Faraday, and Juliet.  And well the death and resurrection of Sayid.  Each of them was bouncing through time, and each of them died somewhere along the way.  It did not change all that they’d already experienced, even though it happened in the future.  Their lives all ended in their current time, their present.

Now lets look at Desmond’s own brand of time travel.  His very much resembles that of Billy Pligrim in Slaughterhouse-Five.  Like Billy, Desmond is, or rather was, unstuck in time.  During his travels we learn that his consciousness is bouncing through time at different points in his life.  He is able to experience things over again, but we also learn that despite the chance to “put right what once went wrong”, we learn from Ms. Hawking  that “the universe has a way of course correcting“.  So this is not Quantum Leap.  What Desmond has already done once, will happen again, despite his attempts to change things.

Here’s the thing.  What caused Desmond to travel through time was the implosion of the electromagnetic anomaly at the heart of the Swan hatch.  We had already learned from the show that this anomaly was caused by “The Incident”.  Of course, we learned that our very Losties who were stuck in 1977 were the once who caused “The Incident” by trying to follow a plan laid out by Daniel Faraday to use the nuclear warhead from a bomb named Jughead to destroy the electromagnetic anomaly that brought down flight 815 in the first place.

Yes that’s right folks…the failsafe key when turned by Desmond let loose the explosion of Jughead that caused the implosion of the Swan hatch.  And that propelled him through time.  At the heart of that same explosion, though separated by 27 years, were the Losties that were stuck in 1977.  And I propose that the same explosion also threw them forward through time as well, with a brief stop in 2004.

But the universe was course correcting 2004 as per Ms. Hawking.  So we find the Island was under water.  Flight 815 landed, etc.  Jack has a scar from his appendix which we know was removed on the Island, but his mom says was removed when he was a kid, but he doesn’t remember it.  Sawyer who in 1977 was “the sheriff” of Dhamaville along with his deputy Miles both became cops in the course corrected world.  A dying on the outside Sayid, died on the inside to save his brother’s life.  Jin who still hadn’t found Sun, is separated from Sun at the airport.  Kate gets to do what she went back to the island to do, reunite Claire and Aaron – in a fashion.

What we’re going to see in the “Flash Sideways” going forward is that the universe is still trying to course correct.  Because the Losties did go to the Island, and the Universe has to figure out how to get them back there.  And somehow it will, and they’ll all end up right where we saw them in beginning of the season – all lying somewhere around the Swan hatch.

Ode to Jay and Jack, that’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it.

Thoughts at 5 days into C25K

First let me say, “Whew!”

I simply can’t believe I’m running.  I’m 41 years old, and while I’ve done a lot of walking (30-60 mins almost every day since 2004) and hiking in that time, I’ve done very little running.  Even when I played sports, I was defense and there was still little running.  However, this is the first time I’m sitting down and doing running for the sake of running.  Had you asked me if I’d be running a year ago, I’d have said, “No way!”  But here I am doing it.

Simply put, I’ve been inspired to do this back in January when I [p2p type=”slug” value=”cheering-adventures-at-the-disney-half-marathon” text=”watched friends run the Disney Half Marathon”], but I really didn’t realize it until more recently.  On that very neat, and very emotional day, I caught a bug, only it took a few months to settle in and take hold.

And with discussion, some coaxing, and a recommendation by my good friend Katie, I downloaded the C25K app for my iPhone. And here I am, running.

My first observation is that running isn’t as easy as it looks.  I sort of figured that mind you.

My second observation is that running sucks.  Not in a bad way, mind you.  But there’s really no other word I have to apply to it yet.  It makes you feel really good, but not until after it’s over and you’ve come down from doing the actual running.  I figure this will shift and change as time goes on.  But right now, to me, running is an evil beastie.

My third observation is that the C25K app is brilliant.  It’s based on the Couch-to-5K running plan, and it’s designed completely with human psychology in mind.  And it trains you in a way similar to how you train a dog – release & reward.  The walks, at least right now, are rewards for completing the runs.  The bells are Pavlovian in nature.  It’s genius, there should be some sort of reward for that cunning a design, seriously.  I completely know that the program is playing me like a fiddle, but I buy into it and just push myself to complete it.

I’m in the middle of week 2 right now.  That’s a 5 minute walk, followed by 6 90 second runs separated by 5 2 minute walks, then a 5 minute cool down walk.

When you reach that cool down you feel so good.  The walks in between are a mixed bag.  Right now for me runs 1 & 2 are great.  3 blows completely.  4 is when the adrenaline starts to kick in.  I completely forget the 5th run.  And the final run my mind is simply going “Gedderdun!”

I will stick to this plan as some day I’d really like to be in a Disney race even if it’s only a 5K.  That is my plan.

And for you doubters out there, if this 41 year old, overweight, desk jockey can do it, you can too.

Goodbye, ExtraLife Radio, My Old Friend

This past Friday I feel like an era ended as Scott Johnson, creator of the ExtraLife webcomic, announced that the ExtraLife Radio podcast (ELR) would be shutting its doors.  Ordinarily, there’s not much cause to write about a podcast that was or has gone away (a.k.a. podfading), but that’s not what happened here.  The show was still, even in its more recent highly irregular schedule, as entertaining as it ever was.  However, I really felt the need to mention that this podcast was not just one of my all time favorites, it was one of the ones that carried me through so much change in my life.

In 2004, my wife and I moved from Massachusetts to Orlando, Florida.  A cross state move can be a harrowing, stressful, thing, and on top of that I’m a very obsessed individual who stresses constantly about everything especially change.  And with packing, moving, and all the things that came with it – including the 2004 hurricane season in Florida, I needed something to calm me down.  On top of that, I had decided that with my move that I wanted to start doing better by myself physically.  At this time I weighed close to 290 pounds.

During  a brief trip back up to Massachusetts at the end of the summer to visit our old Temple for High H0ly Days, we stopped at a store in New Hampshire and I got my first iPod – I was convinced that this was to be a key factor toward my starting to loose weight.  I’m an infonaut, so I was instantly drawn to podcasts, and ExtraLife Radio was one of the very first I’d come across – yes I was probably one of the first listeners.  And with that I started walking.

Now, I’m still walking (5K+ at least 5 times a week), I’m 50+ pounds lighter than I was then, and I was still listening to ELR whenever a new episode appeared in iTunes.  However, when I pushed play on ELR this past week, I had no idea that it was to be the final episode – I didn’t learn that until Scott tweeted a link to a blog post about it from his @extralife Twitter account.  Checking iTunes, I found a recorded reading of the blog post (it also included an extended dance remix version of the ELR theme song). Reading and listening, it surprised me, but I completely understand where Scott is coming from in his farewell – a full moon is always more exciting than a waning one.  Going out on top is the right choice.

So I just wanted to write this post to thank Scott Johnson, Brian Dunaway, and Obsidian for all the time I’ve spent with them these past years.  Every minute was worth it.  Dean Cain forever.

TouringPlans.com Lines: Consumption, Contribution, & Gaming

For those that don’t know, TouringPlans.com is the website for the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World (*ding*).  “The Guide” is a favorite among travelers to Walt Disney World, and the Disney online community, especially fans of the WDW Today Podcast.  The greatest asset of the book and the site is the sheer amount of data that sits behind them.  This is not stagnant data taken years ago that is only somewhat correct, or worse, mostly incorrect.  Instead this is a very up to date set of data that is constantly being tweaked, finely tuned, and analyzed by their team to bring to us, the consumer, as accurate an experience as possible.

Back in November of 2009, TouringPlans.com  announced a new web based application for the iPhone called Lines.  Since that time it has grown to include versions for Android, Palm, and Blackberry devices.  At it’s core, it is a means by which, from your smartphone, you can access what is generally the most coveted of all Disney Theme Park knowledge, “How long am I going to have to stand in this line?” Continue reading “TouringPlans.com Lines: Consumption, Contribution, & Gaming”

Cheering Adventures at the Disney Half Marathon

Recently Walt Disney World held it’s 2010 Marathon Weekend – a 4 day event consisting of Mickey’s Marathon Kids’ Fest, Disney Family Fun Run 5K, Half Marathon, Marathon, and Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge (Marathon + Half Marathon yields 3 medals).  I’d chosen not to attend as a runner, but rather to go and cheer on two of my newest Disney friends Katie (kidanikatie) and Ed (superedo) as they ran in the Half Marathon.  To do this I signed up to be a member of the ChEAR Squad which earned me some swag that I have [p2p type=”id” value=”212″ text=”previously posted about”].  And I just wanted to take some time to tell you about my adventures on the day of the 2009 Half Marathon.

My goal was to do as much cheering for Katie & Ed as I could manage (you can read about their journey at Katie’s blog), with some cheering thrown in for many other runners along the way.  In addition to a booklet giving me a rough idea of where I could view runners from, there was an online tool that really helped me gauge how to do it.  After talking with another Disney friend, Bonnie, I decided that I would be at the start of the race in Epcot, then head on over to Main Street in the Magic Kingdom (Bonnie had promised to hold me a space for viewing), and then back to Epcot for the finish.

Disney and CIGNA provide a way to track runners via text messaging and/or email alerts.  They look like this:

Skippy McRunner @ 5K in 00:40:04 (NET). Pace: 12:53. Predicted: 2:49:03. presented by CIGNA, Disney Destinations LLC

Thinking that this would be an invaluable tool to me throughout the day I had chosen both, but I’m really glad that I didn’t rely on it for a two reasons:

  1. The alerts were not working quite right until the race was more than half over.  What’s supposed to happen is that when the runner passes certain checkpoints their shoe tag will trigger the alert.  Texts did not happen until the 10k mark.  Emails did happen at 5k.  Neither happened at the start of the race.
  2. The alerts should be occurring far more often than every 5k to be truly useful. Marathon information tells a spectator (or runner) that Main Street was roughly the 8k mark on the trail, and that the TTC (Transportation and Ticket Center) was roughly where the 5k mark was.  That leaves a huge gap in time as to when your runners might be upon you while standing on Main Street.  And while the texts mention distance, they don’t mention where the runner is.  For example, I’d rather have been told Katie & Ed were “Entering TTC at 5k” then “Reached 5k”.  And then right as they enter Magic Kingdom a message of “Entering Magic Kingdom” would indicate that it’s time to get your camera out.  Context would make the alerts much more useful.

Overall, it’s a system that Disney and CIGNA need to work on to make better in the future.

Other than the cold, snow, sleet, and rain that runners and spectators had to endure there was nothing else that I would claim as wrong with the event (except that I should have worn two pairs of socks).  Being a spectator was a lot of fun, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to experience a Disney Marathon without actually being a runner in the marathon itself.  Keep in mind that you don’t have to go as crazy with this as I did, you can simply be at one spot, cheer, and then go about your day.  There are no stipulations, the amount of cheering you do is completely up to you.  Now let me tell you about my day.

While spending the prior week enduring insanely cold weather for Central Florida, I managed to adjust my body clock so that I could go to bed early enough Friday night to be able to get up on Saturday January 9, 2009 – the day of the Half Marathon at 2:15am.  You really have to get up early because you need to be at Epcot before they start closing off the roads for the Marathon, which usually happens around 4am, but they start closing around 3am.

At the Start

To make sure I didn’t delay myself in the morning I did some important prep things the night before: shave, dig out my scarf and gloves (not worn in 6 years!!!) and pack my park bag.  Knowing that  it’d be a cold wet day, so I made sure that the things inside my bag were all separated out into ziplocs.  The contents of my bag included a Disney poncho (never had to use it), a few hats to swap out as they got wet throughout the day, a bagel pre-smeared, some snacks, my ChEAR Squad swag, and my Zagg Sparq so I could charge my iPhone as needed throughout the day.  I also laid out my clothes.

After waking up (2:15am), I showered right away and got dressed.  It was very cold, but I was prepared, wearing 3 shirts with my ChEAR Squad shirt being on top, and the middle layer being thermal.  I actually ate a bowl of cereal and I think this helped a lot during the day.  Afterwards I synced my iPhone one last time, threw on two jackets (Floridians don’t really have winter coats), and I headed out the door.

Epcot Parking

The drive over was uneventful as I listened to Trust Agents, at least until I hit Disney World.  Taking my normal exit for Epcot, I discovered that Epcot Center Road was already closed.  Freaking a little I got off on to Buena Vista Drive, past Epcot, to World Drive and came in from the other side.  Eventually parking in the Explore lot.  As I always suggest I took a picture of the Row as the first shot of the day so I could find it easily later.

Spaceship Earth

There I am at 3:30am, standing in the parking lot at Epcot, and before me there is one of my favorite sights: Spaceship Earth all lit up. Unable to resist, I went over to take some photos.  There was a throng of people arriving in Epcot, that it was impossible to cross for a closer shot than the ones I took.

Who's Inside?

On my way back to my car, I spotted a vehicle that based on it’s markings could only contain one person as sprawled across it was “We wants the Redhead!”, “WDW Radio Racing”, and “Disney or Bust!”.  Inside was none other than Lori, someone who I first met at MagicMeets in 2007, and have seen many times since.  We chatted briefly, and then I wished her luck knowing that she had a grueling day ahead of her with a leg that was massively taped up with kinesio tape as evidenced by a picture she had posted on Facebook from the night before.

Race Entrance
Costumed Runners

After a quick stop back at my car, I headed into the “Family Reunion Area” as it is where the runners were all gathering before they headed off to their corrals.  Inside there were a lot people milling about, clearly dreading the cold – at the time it was about 30 degrees.  But there were many runners dressed up in costume, which is a common occurrence for Disney Marathons.  In addition to the pictured Mr. Incredible, “Petra” Pan, Green Army Man, and Wonder Woman, I also saw a few Elvises, a bride & groom, Stitch, several Jack Sparrows.  In addition those running the Goofy Challenge tend to have Goofy incorporated into their costume, and there was one fellow who had apparently stolen Goofy’s clothes.

Ed & Katie

Somehow, in the large group of people, I managed to find Katie & Ed, and along with Mike from the Be Our Guest Podcast.  I don’t honestly remember everything that was said, but I do remember trying to be both light hearted and encouraging – after all I was there to support them.  And despite the cold they were positive, excited, and ready to go.  It was about this time that it started to snow.  Seriously, snow right here in Central Florida.  And let me tell you it was weird, as a Florida resident, I’d not seen snow in about 6 years.  The only thing I could really think to mention at that point was that if it was snowing, then it’d warmed up a few degrees.

Snow!!!

I escorted Katie, Ed, and Mike to the entry way as far as a non-runner was allowed to go to the starting point of the race.  I said good-bye, wished them all luck, gave them all hugs, and told them I’d see them at the finish.  From there I really had no idea what to do or where to go.  I’d never done this before.  And somehow the DJ must have known this because he made an announcement about a sign that would lead me to the start of the race at the edge of the parking lot.

Path to the Start

Making my way to the starting spectator area, I got to do something really cool… well okay really cool to me anyway… walk through some Disney woods and get to stand on a Disney road (Epcot Center Drive).  By this time the snow was changing over to sleet, so I threw my hood up and prayed I wouldn’t catch pneumonia.

Epcot Center Drive

Standing there, waiting, I did what I generally do when standing in a crowd with a bunch of strangers: make friends.  We were taking pictures of each other, chatting, and telling stories about “our” runners.  I helped the couple to my left cheer on their brother, the lady next to me cheer on her husband, and made some room so a little girl could see her mother.  It was cold, bitter, and nasty outside as we were getting pelted with sleet, but we made it fun and had a great time.

Fireworks!

Before we knew it the race had begun.  The first wave of runners are actually those in wheelchairs.  After the first round of fireworks, they sped by us in these fabulous contraptions that were a cross between a wheelchair and a bicycle.  You wouldn’t think they could go as fast as they were, and it was glorious.  I screamed.  I cheered.  I used my ChEAR Squad clapper – which came in very useful that day considering I had on gloves and was trying my best to take my usual array of both terrible and surprisingly good pictures.

Runners at the Start

After that there were four waves of runners.  It was explained to me that the first 2 waves of runners contained people who were placed based on their times from prior Marathons, and that the 3rd and 4th waves were everyone else.  I was also told that there were supposed to be 5 waves of runners that day, but they dropped one due to people not showing up – due to the weather I imagine.  And then it struck me, while I knew Katie & Ed’s numbers and their corral, I had no idea which wave they were in. And I had a sinking feeling that I’d never spot them as we’re standing on the opposite side of Epcot Center Drive from the runners who are effectively 4 lanes away from us.

In order to spot Katie & Ed, my plan was to scan the crowd looking for a runner with an orange hat (Ed) paired with another runner with pigtails (Katie).  It was dark, I was cold, and it was a crazy idea.  That day was for them, and I was determined to find them in that crowed.  As time drew on, I became concerned that maybe they had already passed me or that I’d just never spot them.  Then, suddenly, there they were.  Side by side, and probably equally cold and miserable.  I screamed their names as loud as I could.  And a miraculous thing happened: they heard me.  I saw them slow down, and look around.  I waved.  I jumped up and down.  I clapped my clapper. And I shouted again, “Go Katie and Ed!” And they did.

For me, the start of the race was over, so I said my good-byes to the people I had met, and headed for the monorail – it was time to go over to Magic Kingdom.  On the way over I got to see the first of the wheelchair marathoners cross the finish.  The monorail queue was not nearly as crowded as I’d have expected, but it was 6am.  Now, I’d been on the monorail hundreds of times before, but this time it was different.  Special.  A whole new sort of magic.  Below me, the still dark World Drive was full of people.  Not in cars like they normally are, but running.  Ordinary people performing this great feat together.

As directed, I met up with Bonnie and some others in front of the watch shop on Main Street.  I can’t thank her enough for doing that for me.  I’m a short guy, so being able to walk right up to the rope like that and see the runners was amazing.  On the sidewalk opposite us were Disney castmembers dressed for life on Main Street, posing with runners, cheering them on, etc.  I knew there special moments along the marathon route for the runners, but I didn’t think I’d get to experience them and I really appreciated it.

Sunrise on Main Street

Getting to experience a sunrise on Main Street was very cool, and something I’d not gotten to do before. It was really hard to get good pictures with everyone so close, so I took to scanning the crowd for Ed & Katie.  I was also watching the runners as they stopped for pictures, etc.  And then, all of the sudden, in a really dense group of runners, this face with an orange hat comes flying at mine shouting “Todd!!!” I remember screaming back “Ed!!!” And then running along with them for a short bit cheering them on.  It was for me one of the most memorable moments of the day.

I turned around to thank Bonnie again for the spot and behind me is standing Lou Mongello (@loumongello), but he wason the phone.  Wanting to head back to to Epcot for the finish, I briefly said hi, shook his hand, and then said my good-byes – figuring I’d see Bonnie and Lou at his meet later.  I took a quick pit stop, then headed off to the monorail, while noshing on a bagel I had brought with me.

Monorail Green Broken Down

What I found was that the express monorail was not opened, and that meant taking the resort monorail.  This meant sitting through an extra stop at the Contemporary before getting back to the TTC.  While heading up that ramp I got to see the monorail tow car in the process of hooking up with a broken down Monorail Green.

Once I was seated on the monorail, I texted Matt Hochberg (@studioscentral) as we had been planning to meet up at the finish line to watch Katie & Ed finish – he is after all Katie’s BFF.  Conveniently, Matt was just parking at Magic Kingdom and we agreed to meet at the top of the ramp to board the monorail to Epcot.  Despite a crowded monorail, we got seats.  We talked a bit about iPhones, chargers, how the marathon was going, and that I’d actually seen Ed & Katie at both view points so far.  From the monorail we could see the runners heading back down World Drive toward Epcot.

One thing about standing on Main Street vs standing out in the parking lot at Epcot is that on a cold day its a lot colder in the parking lot.  The reason is because the buildings on Main Street block the wind.  You’re a lot more exposed in the open space of the parking lot, and being wet and cold wasn’t helping any.  Unlike Matt I had gloves and a hat, so I was a bit warmer – I did offer both to him, but he stuck it out without.

We got off the monorail, and found a nice viewing location at the 13 mile marker to watch for Katie & Ed at the end of the race.  This was a real win because again, I was right up at the rail.  My grand plan had been to earlier, on Main Street, take note of other easily identifiable runners that came before them in order to try to judge when they were coming at the finish.  That was an epic fail moment really, because they had really shifted we were back to frantically looking for them in the packs of runners.

While waiting, I took to cheering for any and all runners as they passed by.  There was “Team Purple”, “Team Diabetes”, “Brazil Guy” who had run the race carrying the Brazilian flag, and many more.  There were people walking in to the finish, and others sprinting.  Some were looking up, and others were looking down still watching their footing.  Many stopped for a photo opp at the 13 mile marker sign.

Standing there, at the end of the marathon, I learned something watching the runners go by.  For so many, the finish of the marathon was an incredibly emotional experience.  Some were so excited they were working the crowd for cheers.  Others broke down crying right there as we cheered, and the spectators coached them on, told them they were “okay” and that that they were “almost done”.  Many smiled and laughed, letting their accomplishment run over them.  And, while I can’t speak for the other spectators, these emotions washed over me, and I gained a respect for runners and running that I did not have before.  Even now, thinking about it, writing this, I well up thinking about it.  The emotions and memories I have tied to this moment is are strong, beautiful, and pure – I hope to carry them with me always.

Katie & Ed Arrive
Katie & Ed at the Finish

After about 30 minutes or so of freezing in ways that I had not felt in six years, there they were, Katie & Ed.  Ed was very calm and collected, and Katie was all smiles.  They passed us by and I cheered, and shouted their names, congratulations, and that they were winners.  My pictures of this are them could be better, but I’ve got them and the memory to hold on to.

Ed's Medal (taken by Ed)

And once they were past Matt and I regrouped, and had the same thought – move and get warm.  So we headed back over to the reunion area to meet Katie & Ed.  We spotted them in the crowd, and waited a short bit while Mike interviewed them for his podcast.  Then all three headed out of the post finish line area, and out to meet us in the reunion area.  We spent some time finding Katie’s parents who fortunately had a backpack with some Gatorade that Katie was craving.  Katie told us all that they never stopped, and they showed off their medals.  It was a very happy moment for them both, and I was honored to be sharing it with them.

Sadly, my time as a marathon spectator was over.  I said some quick good-byes to Katie, Ed, and Matt – I knew I’d see them soon as there was a WDW Today meet in Magic Kingdom later that day.  I was still cold and needed to warm up, so I quickly ducked into Spaceship Earth.  Afterwards, I took the monorail back to Magic Kingdom, arriving there a short bit after 10am, and it occurred to me that this was my third monorail trip between Epcot and Magic Kingdom that day.  Which was scary because my day wasn’t even close to over as I was planning on staying it until after dinner that same evening, and my car was still parked at Epcot which meant one more trip back.

Next year I’m going to have even more friends running, and I plan to cheer them all on – though this time I think I’ll be staying on property.  If you’re planning on running the Half Marathon in 2011, and are looking for people to talk with and maybe run with, there is a Facebook group that has been started by my good friend Kelly (@kchristine).  Kelly is also looking for team and/or charity suggestions as she wants to be able to turn her run into a giving moment as well.

Also, some of the “box people” from Lou Mongello’s WDW Radio podcast may have seen me talk about being part of the ChEAR Squad briefly on his live streaming event later in the day.  And I remember that there was some interest shown in the chat room about the ChEAR Squad.  If you’d like to ask me any questions, please do so and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Unboxing: Disney Marathon ChEAR Squad Swag Bag

Tomorrow I’m going to do something that I’ve never done before, and it sounds like a ton of crazy fun.  I’m going to go cheer on some friends who are running in the Disney Half Marathon: Katie (kidanikatie) and Ed (superedo).  It’s always nice to have a new Disney experience after close to 40 years of Disney in my life.  As such I signed up to be a part of the Disney Marathon ChEAR Squad.  This comes with a simple swag bag that I picked up last night at the Milk House at Disney’s Wide World of Sports.  And I just wanted to present for you a few shots I took of the swag.

But before I do, a little motivational announcement for Ed & Katie.  They’ve already seen this last night on Twitter, but here’s the shot of the message Cheryl and I wrote for them on the Marathon sign in board last night:

Message for Katie & Ed
Message for Katie & Ed

And now on to the swag…

ChEAR Squad Swag Bag
ChEAR Squad Swag Bag
ChEAR Squad Swag
ChEAR Squad Swag
ChEAR Squad T-Shirt & Clapper
ChEAR Squad T-Shirt & Clapper
ChEAR Squad Clapper
ChEAR Squad Clapper
ChEAR Squad Seat Cushion & Keychain Fob
ChEAR Squad Seat Cushion & Keychain Fob

Just in case you missed the fob in your pack, it’s the piece that pops out of the seat cushion that has a hole in it.  Just thread the little chain found in your swag bag through the hole and viola a keychain fob is all yours.

ChEAR Squad Swag Bag Headphone Port
ChEAR Squad Swag Bag Headphone Port

Note: iPhone barely fits into the carrier pouch inside, certainly not good positioning for the headphones.  Made for a smaller device like a nano.

Movie Review: Avatar

Rating: ★★★¼☆ 

For my last movie of 2009 I opted to see Avatar.  It is the latest in line of what are considered to be some of the best cinematic experiences of all time by Writer/Producer/Director James Cameron.  And Avatar succeeds in continuing that line.

It’s not because this movie has a great story, because it doesn’t.  No this story is one you’ve seen many times before.  It’s a comfortable story, one you know, one with few surprises.  And that’s because if this movie had a complex story that you actually had to focus on, you would not be able to appreciate the splendor and beauty of what you’re seeing before you on the screen.  And that is the entire point of this movie: eye candy. Continue reading “Movie Review: Avatar”

Movie Review: The Spy Next Door

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Jackie Chan's House
Jackie Chan's House

I have to be honest with you up front, I’m a huge Jackie Chan fan.  I’m not just talking the modern day “American” movie star Jackie Chan that has come about with movies like Rush HourAround the World in 80 Days, and The Tuxedo.  No, I’m talking about classic, pirate fighting, Project A Jackie Chan.  I’ve even included the picture on the left to show that I’ve whizzed past the man’s house at 30 mph on a Hollywood tour bus just to catch a glimpse.  And I confess all this to you because while the cinema student in me says that this movie was only 3 stars, my appreciation for all things Jackie Chan has required me to give it an extra half star – just on principle. Continue reading “Movie Review: The Spy Next Door”