Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas Day at EPCOT

I was going to write a long, involved entry about spending Christmas day at EPCOT Center in Florida, but it would just degenerate into a litany of complaints about unruly children, uncooperative weather, sore feet, and the margarita stand in the Mexico pavillion being a spectacular gift from God. Also, I posted almost a hundred pictures to my flickr page and there's no way to talk about them all, so instead I give you my EPCOT on Christmas Day version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas".

Feel free to sing along at home.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas Walt Disney gave to me...

TWELVE kinds of Pocky:

wall of pocky

ELEVEN different countries:

Mexican pyramid

stave church

o, canada

I'm calling Britain!

paris in the rain

Moroccan gate

Japanese gate


venetian tower


the China pavillion

TEN dollar Nemos:

a thousand nemos

NINE pounds of lemon:

nine pound lemons

EIGHT hairy legs:

canadian bagpipers

SEVEN different flavors:

margarita stand

SIX Moroccan columns:

Moroccan courtyard

FIVE Lego dogs:

Lego dogs

FOUR Chinese kites:


THREE Roman men:


TWO waving guys:

my future (1)

And a gigantic Disney Christmas tree!

Epcot Center Christmas tree

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and I'll talk about the rest of vacation later. In the meantime, any one of those photos will take you to my flickr page, where there are a lot more to see.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Destination: Horror!

Bryan, Kristin, and I were supposed to go on an entirely different trip today. I had planned out a whole adventure in North Carolina, but it turns out that the main place I wanted to go to operates on a seasonal schedule, and won't be open again until the spring. Somehow this didn't come up in my planning, and after I apologized profusely earlier in the week Bryan decided that he would pick us up anyway and would drive toward Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg and just stop wherever we saw something interesting.

Interesting for Bryan and interesting for Kristin and I are two different things, as Bryan had his eyes on the majectic beauty of the Smokies, and Kristin and I had our eyes on something directly in front of them:

largest as seen on tv store

The World's Largest "As Seen on TV Store", which we expected to be a magical wonderland of Snuggies and giant cupcake cake pans and juicers and choppers and Sham-wows. We did see all of those things inside the store, but we saw so many other, more terrible things, and eventually just kind of fled.

Things started going downhill as soon as we walked in, when we were confronted in the vestibule by a Santa statue.

"He's sort of creepy," Kristin said, and I immediately noticed why.

"Where's his mouth?"

"Let me look."

mouthless santa

He didn't have one. There was a lot of beard hair, and underneath a blank, featureless chin. What kind of biological nightmare produces a human being with no mouth?

Probably the same kind that produces flying killer whales:

flying killer whale

I've never seen one of those on TV, by the way, but that seems to be a theme at the World's Largest "As Seen on TV" store. In between the food dehydrators and jugs of C.L.R., you see things like this:

bun & thigh doer

I've never seen a commercial for the Bun and Thigh Doer. I realize the name "Thighmaster" is already taken, but the best word the marketing department could come up with instead was "doer"? Usually when someone around me mentions doing someone's buns (like the ones drawn on the seat around the word "bun") they mean a whole other form of exercise. After looking at it, I wasn't really sure what it was supposed to do to your buns and thighs, and there was no one around to ask besides the Obamas:

barak and michelle

The "As Seen on TV" store, for unknown reasons, carries a large number of cardboard celebrity standups, and displays them all over the store. Jesus was hanging out in men's t-shirts, Glinda the Good Witch hovered over the discount books, Chris Pine as Captain Kirk watched over a display of discount coffee mugs, and John Wayne looked vaguely shocked at being there:

John Wayne, possibly confused

There didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to the placement of the standups. If I was running the store, for example, I'd have Jesus over by the display of religious license plate tags:


On the other hand, it's possible that they didn't want it to appear that Jesus condones unauthorized use of licensed logos:

possible infringement

For shame, "As Seen on TV" store.

Then again, what's a little infringement when you're peddling open racism? Since I've moved to Tennessee I've heard more than once that the Confederate flag:

rebel flags

is a symbol of proud heritage that I, as a liberal Yankee, can't really understand and that it has nothing to do with racism, but how else do you explain this?

racist bumper sticker

Not only are the makers not ashamed to print and sell this, but they're actually proud:

printed in dixie

Right about then is when we decided we'd seen enough, and left the store. Not having a real destination in mind, we drove through to Gatlinburg, walked around, and saw things that were just odd and bizarre, rather than openly offensive.

Wait, day-glo plastic Buddhas might be offensive:

neon plastic buddhas

I'm not really sure what the rules are for Buddhism.

Caramel apples, on the other hand, are never offensive:

caramel apples

Neither is taffy:

taffy pull

I was going to say that neither is bacon, but the bacon flavored lip balm leaves me uncertain:

bacon balm

Could this finally be a way in which bacon is not wonderful? Or would tasting someone's bacon-flavored lips lead to the kind of makeout session that Aaron Samuels and Regina George enjoyed in "Mean Girls" after he discovered that her face smelled like peppermint? Until someone tries it, the bacon balm is simultaneously wonderful and horrible, a Schrodinger's tube of lip balm waiting to be revealed. It's a question for greater minds than mine to ponder.

There's no question, on the other hand, that chum flavored candy has to be disgusting:

chum bucket candy

Almost as disgusting as the grammar on the side of the buffet we ate at:

your almost there

No one who works there has ever noticed this? Do they not have schools in Gatlinburg, or did they tear them down to build a school-themed minigolf instead?

Either way, it was a fun day, even if I do feel like a little bit more of a hillbilly every time I visit:

I'm a hillbilly!

Christmas, 1975

Long ago, in a distant and faraway land known as West Germany, my parents brought an unplanned, "surprise" baby into the world. That baby was me.

Two weeks later, they dressed their older child in a pair of plaid pants that were incredibly stylish at the time, and took the children together to see a Santa Claus who, based on his glasses, appears to be a poor hapless private from my dad's platoon forced into doing this at the company Christmas party.

Obviously, I hate Santa:

Christmas, 1975

No wonder I never got that GI Joe aircraft carrier for Christmas. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and clearly I made a bad one on Santa.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Everyone loves a parade

It snowed!

red ribbon

That's the most snow that we've had since I moved here, and I was totally ready for it after standing outside in the cold for hours on Friday night. I was outside because Bryan invited Kristin and I downtown for the Knoxville Christmas Parade, dinner, and a quick stop at a gallery showing because someone he knew had photographs in the show.

I was downtown a few weeks ago when the city was setting up their holiday decorations:

undecorated tree

but last night was the first time I've been down to see them lit up:

decorated and lit tree

Thousands of people came out for the parade, and we ended up finding a spot almost fourty five minutes early because the street was so packed. Eventually, though, our patience was rewarded, and the parade began:

police parade escort

beneath the shining Christmas star on Gay Street:

star over gay street

It was pretty typical for a parade. There were floats:

christmas float (1)

christmas float (2)

and bands:


and the trolley (which we missed when we needed to head back home because we stopped to talk to Gavin when we ran into him at Soccer Taco, and we had to walk):


and... Santa's boat?


And also a truck full of the... uh... Vikings of the Smokies?

Sons of Norway

What the hell? How are there Vikings in the Smokies? Did they pilot their big dragon-prowed Viking ship up the Mississippi and then the Tennessee River until it ran aground in the mountains? No mention of Vikings in the Smokies was made when I toured the Hillbilly Village museum in Pigeon Forge, but I did kind of get the impression that they weren't being a hundred percent factually accurate there. I think everyone standing around me was as confused as I was, because the only thing that got less applause was the car for the Knox County Democratic Party:

knox county democrats

Toward the end of the parade we decided that we were cold enough, and went to go get dinner on Market Square before everyone else at the parade could decide that they were cold and hungry, too. On our way to Soccer Taco, where I had mediocre flan, we passed by Reruns and I saw the Boozehound Gandy Dance performing their hobo cabaret in the front windows:

Boozehound Gandy Dance (2)

Boozehound Gandy Dance (3)

I had to leave to go to our table before the end, so I don't know how the show went, but it seemed to be going well, and I left a donation in the pizza box in front of the window.

Anyway, we had a good time at the parade and dinner, and then Saturday morning when I woke up there was snow! At first, listening to the emergency vehicles go by about six times, I wasn't sure I wanted to leave the house, but when I went out on the porch I realized that it was so warm that the snow would soon be gone. I headed to the university gardens to take as many pictures as I could even as the snow dripped and melted around me:

snowy benches

snowy bridge

You can tell how warm it's been here by how many flowers were caught completely off guard:

snowy geraniums

snowy roses

snowy rose

We've only had one really hard frost so far this year but now, finally, we've had snow.

And I'm totally ok with us not having any more.