Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fake face behind the real mask

Viswaroopam - A movie that has been the talk of the tinsel town for the past few weeks.

Usually movies by Kamal are prefaced by controversies. But this movie has controversy written all over it. A movie that has highlighted the hypocrisy of everyone. A movie that has showcased the growing intolerance. A movie that has, once again, highlighted the callous nature of our government and a toothless system - be it judiciary or any government organisation. A movie that has brought to light the gnawing and growing divide between the lack of co-ordination and control between center-state form of governance. You can keep reading things, both in fine print and in obvious bigger fonts, but most of the events surrounding the movie are something that is not specifically attributed to the movie alone. Its too much even for the fame crazy Kamal.

When the initial trailer's were released, many people didnt had a favourable opinion about the movie. Soon came the bombardment of them. With every postponement of a release date, there was a "making of the movie" video followed by another mish mash of a trailer with few extra seconds thrown in. At one stage, with decreasing hope of the movie ever seeing the light of the projector, thought the entire movie would be released in trailer itself, another "first" of its kind in the entire universe ala universal hero style. Then came the DTH issue. Considering the power-cut setup prevalent in TN, everyone were wondering how the DTH setup will workout. Unless and until, the distributors announced, assured power supply till the time the movie was playing atleast, felt it was all set for fail. There were way too many spin offs happening at that time on how the movie would benefit/kill the movie theaters. It sounded like a path breaking approach to movie release and probably might've brought a genuinely original change to movie watching experience. But, as with any innovative attempts, it was thwarted again.

Then came the religious angle. I've always wondered, why most of our heroes, especially in South, despite having a muslim name, rechristine themselves with a hindu name or a name devoid of any religious undertones. This is not the case with Bollywood i guess. Atleast, they get to keep their names and at time even flaunt their identity. And not just that. There were hardly any movies based on muslims, their lifestyles and though i am sure there must've been countless tales to tell from their side too, the reason for ignoring them could just be attributed to their touchy nature? The minority card is something that trumps and triumphs over any logic or sense and has been used "religious"ly often. Another view point could be that the story tellers, be commerical or art genre people, cater to the majority of the crowd, the hindus. So the movie machine, going by the name of several woods from sandal to tolly to kolly, bringing disrepute to the flora, keep churning the same stories with different cast and crew, year after year and decade after decade. Even their sense of fashion is a wheel in motion, repeating itself every 3 decades.

The movie watching public have been brainwashed (mostly braindead by this time) into a setup, which they've almost grown to believe as real. The media, in all its entirety, had a huge role to play in perfecting this image. Couldnt be any more ironic that, an industry that survives on running images , have successfully negated reality. We have grown to see the same images and stories and articles repeated time and again that, most of us have grown immune to the content and its real meaning. How many of us even bother to read about bomb blasts on Iraq or Afghan or even Kashmir for that matter. Its just another blast, with different death count and venue (in all probability the venue would also be same considering that there are hardly any more place left to bomb in these regions) and unless the gore and inhuman nature of the kill is described in detail on primetime, no one even bothers to read them fully.  Its been understood that, if its news from these regions, then its expected to be of this kind. And the fact that, the all powerful western media moguls, believe in this doctrine, doesnt help either.

There has been literally hundreds of movies based on islamic terrorism. Its repeated to such an extent in our own gabtun vijaykanth and Action king Arjun's movies that, it had become a running joke and even that joke has become stale!! And the fact that most of those movies were blockbusters only goes to prove that it wouldnt have been watched and the performances (if not) applauded by audience from other communities alone. That is the only sore point which one can raise against the people protesting the release of Vishwaroopam. Had they protested for each and every instance of a similar depiction on other movies or content, this protest would've been understood, appreciated and even would've been supported widely. Its their muted response and silence all this while and sudden show of spirit to a movie, that is actually doing thriving business on the lucky hype it garnered due to the unexpected publicity. Goes on to prove again that there can never be such a thing as bad publicity!!

No one disputes a product certified by ISI (to be clear i meant the Indian Statistical Institute..not the infamous same name agency from across the border). Its supposedly the defacto authority on quality. Likewise, how much ever one debates it, the very purpose of having a central governing body like censor board, is to ensure quality and considering the power and clout of cinema over general public, especially Indian public, the role of censor becomes even more serious. Despite periodic slips, they've generally been a non controversial body almost scared of releasing anything that might create a ripple in the society. Many a good movies have been killed by the same board. When a state government, with blatant disregard for the apex body, decides to ban a movie, despite being issued a clean chit by the board, it only goes on to say the current equation on center-state governance, with the states blatantly ignoring the directives from the center - be it releasing movies or releasing water. Even the judiciary plays safe game, by delegating the verdict to out of court settlement. Cmon..who in their sane mind would want to have their families ghaeroed or house stoned.

Intha post start pannapovay ithoda "roopam" romba perusa therinjathaala rendu parta split panniten. Movie review on next post :D

Friday, January 25, 2013

Travel tales - MiamiGO

Before leaving for Miami, we managed to sneak a visit to Universal studios - Island of Attractions. Unlike Disney, there was hardly any crowd, the day we went. Probably because it was on a weekday and rain was forecast ed for most of the afternoon. Disney nyabagathula we applied for fast passes, despite crowd being thin only to realise that the pass was not free, for starters and were as costly as the original ticket itself!!! Irunthaalum, we opted for it. One good thing was, we hardly had to wait for more than 5 minutes on any queue, which even without the fast pass was max. half hour.

Amazing spiderman and Harry Potter were the two rides that were highly recommended for us and we started the tour with Spidey. It again was a 3D ride, which, even before you could realise and attach yourself to it, ended abruptly. Its just a 10 minute ride and you would need multiple trips to enjoy it more. Note: If you are going for fast pass in Universal, better opt for the multi visit per ride pass, which is just 10$ more than one trip pass. That way you can enjoy your favourite rides more. And another reason being, there were hardly any interesting rides in Universal. Barring a few most of them were either strictly for kids (adults not allowed!! enna vida maatentanga :(( !!) or really mokka piece.  And another important point to note is that, the famed Harry potter ride, doesnt come under any fast pass. You've to stand in the tirupathi queue to get potter darshan.

There was this Dr.Doom's fall, which my friend forced me into. Right at that moment, it started raining. I was happy that they would be cancelling it. But since we were already seated on the ride, they decide to make ours the last till rain stops. The concept of the ride is, its a 300 feet fall from the top, where in the ride will be doing hopping kind of act, going up and down all this from 300 feet!! Yeri ukkanthappo kanna moodinavan thaan..thiderrnu felt wind rushing against my face and my feet were dangling. Kanna thiranthu paatha avvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv....right at that moment they released for the fall and feet almost touched my head during the fall. Again, before the fear  factor could set in, the ride got over in under 5 minutes. Since it was raining heavilly and pretty chilly rain at that, we decided to break for lunch. And same bulb here also. No veggie inside the park and cheese pizza came to rescue. There were few other water rides similar to the one in disney and we marched on to HarryPotterworld.

There was this hippogriff ride, which is a miniature rollercoaster. They had most of the setup from the series but majority of them were like huge modle pieces and were not open for public. There was this Ollivander show for selecting wand. It took an hour long to enter the shop and was totally not worth it. There were 2 major roller coaster rides, which again were like overkill of rides. They had the hogwarts express train. But again a display piece :( Most of them were shops for getting souvenirs. Not wanting to miss out on the main ride, stood in the queue for Potter darshan. Believe me, the number of rows would push Tirupathi to second spot!!!  What would be 1 feet on a straight line had a dozen intertwining lanes!! Since i moved on to the single people queue, i managed to reach the ride much early. It was THE most thrilling ride i had ever went on that trip. Thrilling would be an understatement. Durationwise the longest also. Feels like you are flying with Harry inside the movie itself. Brilliantly setup.

We then moved on to Miami for the final leg of our trip. Friend had planned to attend the New year party from the shores of Miami. Since we went 3 days early, we spent some time on the beaches during the evenings and on a weekend squeezed in a trip to Key west as well. One word of caution for those planning Miami trip. Better scout much in advance for parking spots. Very very difficult to get parking!! especially on eve of any major holiday weekend. The ride to key west was one of the highly over rated rides. All of my friends were gushing about, how cool it would be to have sea view on both sides and zooming on the straight roads stretching in between. Firstly, the view point was not that great and after a while it becomes so boring!! Secondly, the road has stringent speed limits, for it has a deer sanctuary on the way and if you hit a deer..forget about your trip!!  The traffic was moving at snails pace during that stretch to add to the kaduppu. We went on a glass boat ride which took us literally to middle of the ocean. We were told that Key west as such was 140 miles into the ocean and the ride took us further 20 miles inside. They gave free snacks and drinks inside the boat and after around an hours drive, they stopped the boat in mid ocean. There were coral reefs which were pretty clearly visible from the glass bottom and we got to see lot of different variety of fishes too. More like what we see in Discovery channel, but in real time. There was adithadi crowd to get a vantage point to the glass bottom but soon one after another dropped off to the counter. Everyone were seen holding a paper bag to their face. OCla kedaikuthu sollitu chipsum pepsiyum adichathu resulted in sea sickness and ellam oray the vomits :) Another noteworthy thing to see on Key west is the milestone marker. It marks the southernmost tip of US and it seems Cuba is just under 100 miles from there. No wonder most of the people spoke Spanish first and English very little.

On New years eve we took a cab to the Bayside much early and roamed around till late night. Finally  secured a vantage view point. Just like Times square, NYC and their famed balloon drop, here they've Orange drop- A laser light show. Luckily for us, 2013 happened to herald in the 500th year of Florida state formation and there was extended firework display as part of the celebrations. It was fantastic and needless to say the best ever new year welcoming moment for me. Usually, i would be curled up in bed, watching some movie. This was the first time, after 10 long years, i attended a new year party :)  New year aarambichathum semma managalaraama irunthuthu. We couldnt get a cab back and for 3 hours were roaming the streets to get one. And when we reached hotel, our rooms wouldnt open for the battery on the doors had drained out. It took another hour, before the security could break open the A/C and i had to half crawl inside that opening to open the door from inside. Varusha mudhal naalay kathava udaichi entry :D blockbuster year thaan pola :D

The next day we packed out early and drove all the way back to charlotte. On the way, we halted at Jacksonville. Not sure if it was because my naaku was dead and buried on cheese pizza diet for past 10 days, the indian restaurant that we visited had an amazing buffet and the taste was awesome to say the least. As a letter of recommendation, i wrote to the owner to open an outlet in Charlotte at the earliest and he said he is already planning to open one soon :)) Having been used to driving all throughout the trip, makkal were super charged up and 30Mph routela kooda came at 90 :D nalla vela maama kitta maatala.

Ipdiyaaga, oru vazhia oor vanthu senthutom :)

P.S: 2 Kutti matter to this post. Happens to be the 600th one on this blog and during the course of this tour dairy series, Supershanki crossed 175K hits :D:D posts podathappo thaan neria padikaraainga pola :D:D

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Nethu "Neeya Naana" program paathavangaluku intha postoda reason velangirukum. For the uninitiated, yesterday's topic was a brand new one. Never before debated on Indian television. Avlo en..ulaga varalaatrileye muthal muraiyaaga intha topic was taken up nu kooda sollalam. Avlo pudusu. "Love marriage" for and against. Ithaan antha topic.

Tv thondri remote thondraa kaalam thottu itha thaanada pesitrukeengannu solreengala. Apdiyum ithuku oru result irukara mathiri therilaye. Clear pannama arrearsa poatu thallara Discrete Mathametics exam paper mathiri, epo intha topic eduthaalum show pichikitu poguthu. A topic, never bereft of controversies. And the latest episode was no vithivelakku as well.

But unlike all previous other times, in this one, the reason was out right in the open as to why people oppose love marriages. Probably and most possibly, the show was stage managed and ghost walked into the conclusion to get that "awe" effect. But that, it was true to a major extent is what was saddening. Majority of those who opposed love marriages came out saying, they might even accept such weddings if the bride or groom are from their caste or higher but never if the caste is lower. Especially SC's and ST's. At times, how much ever obvious the truth might be, when it is spoken out loud, it does have a shocking effect.

If cinema is a mirror to the society and considering the number of blockbusters based on love stories, year after year, generation after generation any alien person watching our movies, might mistake us for a very liberal society when it comes to love. Even till date, expressing love has been the single most embarassing, delicate, complicated and difficult thing to do for any guy (Multiply it manifold for gals). And add caste to the equation, you've a competitor that would give fractals a run for their complex design.

All said and done, the honest yet sad truth is, many people, in their heart of heats are casteists. More than the religious intonation, i feel it might trace back to early stages of cave people. Ours being predominantly an arranged marriage based setup, obviously, intially, people would've been looking for spouses within their groups (read castes). It could also trace back to our varnam based setup of yesteryears. Out literatures speak highly of  some of the cross cultural marriages at that time. So i guess, either the discriminations were hidden or started much later or on a positive note, those people of yesteryears were much more tolerant.  With foreign invaders and mix and match of their cultures and religions, the existing setup underwent dramatic changes and the resultant mix, rather than being a confluence of both, stood separaely like oil and water.  It has only added to the chaos and with growing exposure and information, it has now reached a boiling point. Rules retain their value, as long as people follow it and the moment unanswerable questsions are raised against them, they are bound to break.

There have always been a sense of groupism in all of us which is evident from the gangs we form right from school to colleges to workplaces. In all these places, its always the frequency that gels the group and very rarely would you see it based on caste. Honestly i've never seen one. Whenever there are people within the gang who are in love they obviously become the center of attraction mainly due to the courage with which the couple have realised their feelings for each other. There is always this misconception about people who are in love. The first thing that comes to mind is the physical aspect of the relation. Guess, that might be the real reason why so many are against it or afraid of it in first place. Castelaam kooda secondarya irukalam. But i wonder if there would be anyone who might not've had this thought.

 Be it movies or real life, its almost always the friends who are the guardians and protectors of love :) And looking at the direction in which the current society is heading, with nuclear families paving way to single parenting system, the day is not far when all the relations get bundled into friends. Guess, then, there might be less opposition for love. Oru ponnaio paiyanio paathu pudichiruku pudikalainu solrathu evlo kushtamaana matter. Athualayum ivlo criteria and prachanais thaandi elaam sumugama nadakanumna....mudiala saami. Love panna naadu kadathiduvennu oru aal spoke on that show. Pesama nejamavay oru naadu uruvaakida vendi thaan. If you are in love and if people oppose, intha countryku visa eduthu poidungannu :) 200 countries irukra intha olagathula lovekaga oru country irunthutu thaan poagatumay :)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Travel tales - The Joy inc.

Not sure if it was because we went on christmas-new year time or in general the park is set like that, there was a festive atmosphere all throughout. Christian missionaries need not break sweat in their conversion efforts. They just need to get a season pass for those people they want to convert and the Disney's "Once upon a Christmas" parade and the electric dance parade will take care of the rest. By the time we left Disney, "Rudolph the red nose reindeer" ,"Feliz navidad" and "Once upon a christmas" songs were ringing non stop on mind. They were so catchy and the setup so colorful, christmas sounded so cheerful and colorful and happy in Disneyland.

As mentioned in previous posts, a word on the management. AMAZING. They fit right into the description of clockwork precision. Whethere its lunch queue or rides queue or queues moving in and out of the park, the way the manage the entire setup is awe inspiring. Especially at the lunch counters, where tempers usually flareup as easily as Indo-Pak border tension. There was this lady, who was handling queue on both sides of her. The speed with which she took the orders and got the bill ready would put any robot to shame. There was this elderly couple who were standing beside me and they actually clapped at the speed with which she operated, much to her embarrassment. We tracked her time and in 4 minutes she cleared 5 orders!! She modestly said that, everyone of the counters is manned that way. And by the time i reached the food counter, my order was ready and steaming on the plate. Aairam thaan suda panni thara itema irunthaalum, it was super fast. And then came the place to sit. There was this dining hall, which was vazhinjifying from the vaai with koottam. There were 2 ladies who were guarding the entrance, managing the queue. As per rules, no one was allowed inside prior to hold any seat and seating was done only through them. And believe me, the crowd was moving with standing time no less than 3 minutes. Therer were half a dozen cleaners and signal guys inside, who, the moment a table got vacated, cleaned it and signalled the ladies at the entrance. Who in turn guided the correct count per table to the available one. Within minutes everyone were seated and it was motoring on continuously!!!

Another interesting concept on queue management is the Fast pass. For starters its absolutely free, unlike Universal where they charge 100$!! And when you take the pass, the time at which you can join the fast queue is mentioned. Also it restricts you to a certain amount of time from taking any further fast passes!! A simple yet brilliant concept, by which you will know when you can get into the ride and utilize your time accordingly!! May be this is how all the parks work. But for a first comer like me, it was amazing!! When we came out of the magical kingdom after all the fireworks, i was stunned to look at the ocean of people emerging out of the park!! From where i could see it was human heads bobbing up and down and the exit was no where on sight. It was like 10 times the tirupathi crowd let out in the open. We thought how can a place so organised in letting the crowds in be so sothapping in letting them out. We were in for a surprise. The ferries had tripled and the trip time was reduced much in length to and fro. There were mono rails every 3 minutes that were running in full packed capacity. The buses that were plying to the resorts were already there on the platforms and the security were manning them towards the buses pretty fast. And within matter of half hour, majority of the crowd dispersed!!

I was so thoroughly impressed with their skills that was in awe of them all throughout and was wondering if there is already a management lesson for MBA grads on Disney's crowd management. Later when we came back googled for crowd and Disney i was hardly surprised by the results. Going by google, the term crowd management and Disney were synonymous. Their command center infact was under the very castle where we were standing. It seems the monitor each and every ride from that place and give orders to the manager of the ride on the queue volume. Every ride had a waiting time clock and it was dynamically updating - courtesy these guys. And whenever a ride is full or a route is over crowded they give signal to the parade to change the course or the cartoon clad people to make a visit so that people dont get bored. For water rides, it seems they signal the manager to release more boats based on the volume it seems. Despite all this, on a 40 ride park, it seems the average number of rides a person can take, provided he uses his time optimally is only 9.5!! And as of last year, Disney had increased it to a perfect 10!! A very important and critical factor in all these were the crowd behaviour. Be it during the parade time or any time any where else, whatever the management staff requested, the crowd obliged. Else it would've been chaos and mayhem!! With so many kids and elderly people around, it would've been impossible for even the best practice in the world to have avoided a stampeded. And a word of caution for parents. If possible weld yourselves to your kids and family. Very Very Very difficult to keep track and in places the phone signal was not that great.

All said and done, i personally felt, it was THE most commercial place on earth!! Ofcourse, all the rides and characters bring happiness and joy not just to the kids and no one can deny a hearty laugh or cheerful smile or two when they are in the park. But the cost is way too high. Its one of the most expensive places and like everything comes with a price, so is joy and happiness in Disney. There were shops and shops and more shops all throughout EPCOT. Magical kingdom was not far behind when it came to souvenior shops, gift shops, toy and doll and what not. Every single square feet of land was commercially utilised to the core and in EPCOT we often felt like trapped in a huge multi country shopping mall!! Another thought that was running on mind was, how will Disney score in the future. From their candy floss cartoons to their current day Pixar products, they've come a long way. How much more will mickey mouse be the king of the castle? Will they reinvent themselves totally? How many kids these days even watch those cartoons? With the advent of chinese and japnese cartoons, i guess ninja hatori and doreman will score more than mickey and pals. Will Disney go on a buying spree and be the whole and sole of the cartoon world so that they've everything under their cloud? or will they keep building more parks with more and more rides? How much longer will their famed parade survive??!! Only time will tell. Till then, as the signboard near the park entrance says, Let the memories begin :)

Our caravan then moved from Orlando to Miami for the final leg of the christmas to new year trip :)

(Will conclude in next post)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Travel tales - Place where dreams come true!!

I forgot to mention an interesting ride in EPCOT. Its the soaring in the sky ride. Again, a ride hell bent on making you disoriented :) But the more such rides you take, the mind acclimatises to those jerky twisty movements and i almost enjoyed it. Its like your normal ranga raatinam kind of setup where instead of rotating at ground level, they take you around 30 feet high and not just rotate, it moves forward backward sideways according to the changing scenery on the screen which is omnipresent. The screen is so huge, you feel as if you are really flying over the golden gate bridge and other landmarks of California.

                                                                                                                                                            After EPCOT we had planned for Magical kingdom. The next day we reached around 9.30AM in the morning to EPCOT entrance to catch the mono rail to the next park. To our surprise, we saw a notice board informing Magical kingdom is closed!!!! When we checked with the security people, they confirmed the status and told that the park is operating at full capacity and for the security of the visitors they've stopped taking in additional crowd. But those who had taken disney special pass or staying on disney resorts, they were being allowed to go to the park!! We decided to go to Universal studios instead and checked with the guy if there are any transport available to take us there. He flatly refused for they were competitors!! He even offered to drop us at any other Disney park, but not Universal. And since Disney was as big as a city in itself covering so much area, we were quite far from the nearest public transport to take us out. We called up our friend to pick us from the park and went to Seaworld instead. Luckily for us, one lady, who had booked the tickets in advance and had too many cancellations at the last moment, gave her tickets to us at 50% rate :)

Seaworld was amazing in its own way. The Shammu dolphin show is a must watch. The way it pirouettes and jumps and splashes water and dances to the tune of the people who are riding them is a real treat. They are like naughty babies on water and its really refreshing to watch them in action.

There was this seal and otter show. The seal behaved almost as if it understood english!!! The way it timed its comic act would put any lead performer to shame!! There was a 3d show about life of a turtle. Believe me, after a while it becomes nauseatingly too much to view!!! the theater is shaped like a dome and the entire ceiling is the screen where the picture is played. You've to rotate you head all around to follow the turtle and that too in 3D!! After a while i removed my glasses only to find no one else was wearing them :) But it was a nice picture and the music was amazing.

The next day, fresh from the setback of the previous day, we started around 7AM and reached the gates much ahead of time. Or that's what we thought only to find that the parking was already full. We literally ran to the entrance and just managed to catch the ferry that was leaving to the magical kingdom. As the park approached we could see the castle towering over everything. It was a sight to behold. When we got down the first sign that greeted us was, "The place where dreams come true". It was a magical moment. All throughout i had watched their cartoons and comics and movies and tv shows and now, there i was, standing at the very place dedicated to all those mentioned above. As we stepped on to the park, we realised, it was actually the smallest of the lot and most of the rides were having queues already. There was this race car track where in battery operated race cars where there for us to drive. One request for Disney management - thayavu senju antha carsoda lengtha increase pannavum . Paathia madinju naan ukkara patta kasthtam enaku thaan therium (pikaali mathiri kutti pasanga vandila erittu ipdi oru requestaanulaam kekkapdaaathu).

I would recommend adventureland first for any visitors to magical kingdom. We made the mistake of visiting it late and couldnt get into few of the rides. There was this splash mountain ride and one another train ride, which splashes into water. I enjoyed wandering around Tom Sawyer island. They had caves and bridges exactly like how its described on the book and the underground abandoned mines are thrilling to navigate on your own, without any light. There was this bridge, constructed using barrels and ropes over artificial waterbody. It was awesome fun to walk on that bridge that was see sawing and swaying in all directions. Then we entered the space land section. There was this Buzz light year ride, which had a huge queue and since we had all the time to kill took a pass for late in the evening and went for another space adventure ride. Kooda vantha pissasunga paathila kazhatti vitutu they went on their own to some rides. I was super scared but having been on ride after ride for the previous two days, decided to test my will and took a single person ride. What happened next were the 10 most thrilling, scary ad amazing moments of my life. It was a indoor mini rollercoaster and without even realising what i was getting into, i got into it!! May be that saved some scares initially. It was as if the machine did its level best to throw me off my seat to which i had welded myself in. By the time the ride got over, i was confident that, i can get into any ride on my own without fear :) It was a major major achievement for a person, who is super scared of heights. Riding the confident wave, i ventured alone into another space ride, this one being the tallest in entire magical kingdom and took us over and above the tallest structure - the castle. With chill air rushing against my face, i could see the sun set over the castle. Camera velila edutha adikara kaathuku pichikitu poida poguthu sollitu edukala. But real reason was, hands were entwined on the control rail holding me :D

Another interesting and must watch item is the Monster inc. A..W..E..S..O...M...E show and never to be missed. It runs under 10 mins..but THE best show. I wouldnt spoil the surprise for anyone planning a visit. But definitely dont miss this one.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Travel tales - EPCOT

Since we had already taken the pass, we directly went to the queue. A word on the queues - awesome. Considering the huge..really HUGE..number of people who visit these parks from world over, i guess Disney would've invested as much in studying about crowd management as much as they spend on maintaining and updating the park. More on it in coming sections.

There were 2 queues. One for people carrying bags and one for those without, which incendetally was moving thrice as fast as the other queue. Why i mention this specifically here is that, if you dont carry any bags, you can actually save around half an hour. Considering that the park operates on a time schedule and the vastness to cover in a limited period, it really helps. But unless you are a bachelor carrying just a camera, its a highly impossible task to avoid any bags. It was predominantly  a ladies queue. There is a mono rail right at the entrance to take you to other parks. Since we were fresh from our NASA trip, we began with the future world setting.

In spaceship earth, we were taken through a intereactive video setup kind of a ride with optical illusions and motion controlled image replicas of events detailing the important landmarks in the history of mankind. Slightly mokka, but the video at the end makes up for it. They take photos of you when you enter and while the ride comes to close, there is a questionnaire asking you to pick your choice of future residence. Based on the answers you give, they superimpose your photo on a cartoon video of your future habitat. That looks fun. The way out leads you to an arcade kind of place with lot of games and leads you to Universe of Energy, which again is a video. Looking at how young Ellen DeGeneres looks in it, must've been pretty old i guess. Its again a fun video kind of mini ride, where the entire hall full of rows and rows of audience gets converted into a ride with dinosaurs and falls and forest kind of setup thrown in. Its actually  a ride inside a theater with multiple screens, where the entire ride happens within the theater. We went for the Advanced training lab, that again was something similar to the NASA - mission to Mars. Again i was super scared before i entered the unit. There were signs warning that if one is suffering from High pressure or heart ailments or motion sickness or pregnant or expecting mothers, they should restrict themselves from the ride. I felt all the symptoms barring the last two. Yet willed myself into it, basing my trust solely on the fact that its Disney and its meant for kids. So they would've maintained it well and should be relatively safer. I wasnt proven wrong and the ride was pretty much over even before the effects begin to set in. A major tip for people with motion sickness or disorientation problems - never close your eyes during the ride. Its always the vision which causes complications to the mind, for the eye always try to see straight while the view point changes dramatically. Brain takes bit more time to adjust according the motion of the ride and also searching for a static view point and it leads to disorientation and nausea. (Apdiye statuatory warning sticker padikkara mathiri irukka :D pona ridesla ellam instruciton manuala manapaada paguthi maathiri padicha ipdi thaan agum :D:D)

Then there was this star wars kind of game where in you have to point and shoot at aliens and based on your hit count your points will increase. More like a video game made big. The best of the lot was the Chevrolet race track, where they test drive cars. Not sure if this is how they really test the cars, but it was the best of the entire lot. The sound of the Vrroooming cars could be heard from a distance and as usual i was against going for that ride. As luck would have it, the time we reached there it was closed due to some technical snag. We roamed around the rest of the places and suddenly my roomie heard the vrrooms and he rushed us all back to the track. As we sat on the car i was praying to all the gods i knew and to the unknown as well. First the car trekked along slowly and they were taking us through the various simulated effects of how the car slides to halt on a rain splashed road, under snow covered places and sudden brakes, night effects and all and soon it came for speed test. Believe me, that turned out to be the best of the lot. WOW. The sheer power with which it rocketeed through the track was awesome. Had it been for few more minutes at that speed, my glasses would have flown off along with my head. The entire ride was under half hour but was worth ever single minute of it. As with all the disney rides, they had taken secret pictures of us at the scariest points and the way i was gritting my teeth, i could've crunched tungsten :)

We skipped the innovention plaza which sounded mokkai. "What if" lab promised much but again was a mokkai. Circle of life again was a mokkai ride. There was another ride about the types of trees or lands something which was another mokkai ride. The world showcase is nothing but shops, shops and more shops from a dozen countries minus INDIA :((  The chinese as usual stole the show with their acrobatic skills.
One word of advice for visitors to EPCOT. Be prepared to walk. Get good and more importantnly comfortable shoes for walking. It is a really really long walk and by the time we were done with the parks i felt as if my feet had reduced in size due to the wear and tear and increased in size at the same time with swelling!!
As i mentioned before, the crowd that keeps the parks running are predominantly Asians followed closely by Latin Americans. Kudos to the facilities in Disney, i could see large number elderly people on wheel chairs enjoying the park. Infact one paati standing ahead of us in a queue was telling her husband that she will skip one of the attractions this time and would visit in on her next trip!! And there were scores of pregnant women too!! Namma oorlalalam couldnt even imagine them moving outside!! There is a space reserved for wheelchairs and strolleys that is almost as big as the parking lot itself!!! That brings me to my favourite part of the trip..one that amazed me all throughout. The crowd management skills of Disney.

(To be continued)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Travel tales - Destination Disney

For those who grew up watching cartoons in the pre Cartoon network era, where like the news channels at that time, the toons were also limited to Mickey,Minnie,Pluto,Goofy, Tom n Jerry and it was a time when even the marvel comics superheroes were more decent in their appearance, with well combed hair and bulging biceps automatically implied physical strength. It was a time when all the cartoons and comics had a simple ending - happily ever after. It was a time when stories where mere stories and implied nothing more than triumph of good over evil. No one debated on why good was GOOD and bad was BAD and why not the other way round. The "why not" ers came in much late and before their advent, life was simple in its own unassuming way in toonland. Much before the march of the Japs into toon world, Disney had created a make believe setup, with their sugary syrupy symphonies and cute little characters. No one was ugly and even the beast was beautiful. Frogs turned into princes and damsels in distress always had their prince charming rushing to their rescue. The best part about Disney is that, they still manage to cling on to that make believe notion and continue to sell dreams to the tiny tots world over.

Disneyland - a mythical place of Utopian happiness. Surprisingly, when we asked for suggestions on the umpteen parks in the campus as to which one to visit the responses were more negative. We had planned for a 2 day - one park per day pass and wanted to know which of them is best suited for all age categories (for kids like me and for adults (read ride crazy-freaks!!)). Most of the people suggested EPCOT, the park that majority of them had not visited. Magical kingdom, the original and oldest of the parks, polled very few votes as they felt it was too kiddish even for kids and recommended Hollywood studios. We checked and checked and researched and checked some more and by the time we were done with our analysis, we were more confused than before as to which one to go and which to leave. EPCOT secured one spot on public demand, maybe people wanted to experiment with us to know if it was worth visiting and magical kingdom won the deal with the minutest of margins, just for the sake of the Mickey parade.

From Cape Canaveral it was another 4 hour drive to Orlando and we finally reached around 8PM. It was Christmas eve and the lady at the counter was working in all seriousness. The elevator in that hotel reminded of the horror movies. Made more screeching noise than our politicians screaming for publicity over the Delhi incident. Wait..Thats not possible. But..you get the point i guess. Romba chamatha, we had taken cooker, rice and stuff to cook and eat and even ensured the room had kitchen, only not even bothering to open the cover during the entire course of the trip. Had dinner at a Indian restaurant right next to our hotel. The waiter, even before taking our orders told us that there was only one chef available at that time and orders are running late by atleast an hour. Since my room mate had made up his mind to eat chicken biryani, he made us wait. It took one hour for the waiter to even give us water and another hour before the order was taken and finally when it did come, it was after a whopping 2 hours and 45 minutes. The only bigger thing was the bill we paid for the food. Way too expensive. The next day we started for EPCOT as planned. There was a shuttle arranged by the hotel to pick and drop us from Disney. It was like namma ooru share auto and stopped in allllll the hotels and resorts on the way and even when the bus was jam packed with no standing space the driver stuffed in as many people as he could and finally we reached the park.

As i started walking towards EPCOT entrance, it was a mixed feeling of thrill plus excitement plus weird. We were greeted by that giant pineapple kind of building synonymous with EPCOT.

(To be Continued)

Monday, January 07, 2013

Travel tales - Mission to Mars

2013 - the year that almost wasnt.

Of all the 30 odd years that i've been through, 2 years stand out. One is the year 2000, millenium year. The next one being 2012 - the superstar year of the doomsday. It had been in news from more than 2 years prior and as the day approached it would have been the most searched year in google history. In many ways, 2012 was year of dares for me. I stretched myself beyond my wildest dreams and ventured into things i never ever will do it again in my life. Apdi enna saaathichitennu kekareengala. Ellam vazhakkam pola sappa matter thaan still for me it was like !!!! As i mentioned before, the year started with conquest of fear over water rides, extended into kitchen and cooking and culminated in the mother of all vacations i've ever had in my life. Infact, if i sum up the number of days i ever went on a vacation it might still be slightly lesser than this one trip!!

Like "Thenali" kamal i am scared of everything. Especially the panja boothams of nature. I respect, in awestruck admiration, the unimaginable power of nature and like a humble servant in front of an emperor i shiver at very thought of an angry mother nature. My worst nightmares are often involving the forces of nature like me getting stuck in mid of an earthquake, surrounded by ocean everywhere in thundering rain, running away from volcanic eruptions and losing myself in a dense dark forest where trees are tall and thick enough to hide the sky. The top scare amongst all of them is place up above - space. When i read Tintin - Explorers on the moon and Destination moon, you wouldnt believe, for almost a week, i had trouble sleeping. I used to dream as if i was teleported to a place without gravity and me desperately trying to land my feet on the ground only to be left hanging in space. And i used to imagine space to be a place full of deafening noise, filled with sounds of rotating planets and comets whooshing across. A place, darker than pitch black with flashes of blinding light. And when i read about black holes in my physics, well universe and nuclear physics were the ONLY chapters i read with interest in physics, in all of my ten years of studying it, my nightmares only grew more in dimension. It was fascinating to say the least to read about birth and death of stars, supernova and the always mysterious black holes, which are so powerful that they suck in even light and are invisible!! At the time STAR TREK was on air in DD and i used to watch it on and off. The spaceships were fascinating and i simply assumed once you are inside a space ship, well, you are immune to these fears and will be safe and sound. Believe me, it was the total opposite.

The first phase of our trip, began with a visit to NASA's Kennedy space center on Cape Canaveral.
The excitement grew manifold the moment we stepped on to the causeway leading to the center. I couldnt help imagining SRK in "Swades" :) Since we had booked the tickets over phone, we got a 50% discount which was the only interesting factor that pushed my friends to making this part of the trip :) It began with a guided tour that was pretty mokkai. But it left us wondering whether we have anything similar in India by ISRO. I guess in our country these all come under the defence establishments and they dont throw it open for the public. Wish they come up with something similar. Like every other place we went after NASA, the main source of income for running these places came from tourists and not government funding and needless to say, majority of the crowds were Asians - Chinese and Indians to be precise. The only part of the tour that could've been interesting, was the trip to the main building of NASA from where the actual operations take place. They showed the building from around a 2 mile distance and were only explaining about it orally. That was a real dampener. But the buliding in itself was so majestic. There was a huge American flag painted on it and the driver of the tour bus explained that 2 buses side by side can travel on the "white" lanes of the flag alone!!! Then only we began to realise the size of that imposing structure. From a 2 mile distance it looked normal. But as the bus took a curve closer to the building we were awesturck in wonder at that sheer size of the building. It was HUGE to say the least.

I took the first of the many rides that set the tone for the trip. (Oru vazhia first rendu para la poatta mokkaiku link vanthuruchi :D)

There was a space simulator machine, akin to the mission to Mars shuttle, where in the setup would be exactly similar to what the astronauts encounter in their voyage. Atleast, that's what these guys said. There were 2 lines - orange for the not so brave and green for the daredevils. All my friends went for the green one and pushed me into it. Right till the doorstep into the simulator i was resisting and looking that a 5 year old kid went running into the machine next to ours defeated my struggle. And thus began our trip to MARS. Each of us were assigned a task and was the engineer of our ship. There would be voice over commands for the pilot, captain, navigator and the engineer and each of us had to press the button that glows at that time. After the blast off, the simulator shook so much that i thought my teeth will fall off!!! Felt some one was squeezing the skin out of my face and rotating me at the same time. Finally we "landed" on Mars. The entire trip didnt last 10 minutes but was one experience i am not going to forget in a hurry.

We then, visited the place from where the NASA guys guided the first successful trip to moon. They had the setup exactly in same way, as it was the day of the launch. That presentation was really wonderful. They had voice overs of the entire launch setup like a theme play with sound setup and all in place and when the actual blast off happened, the entire auditorium shook, just like how those guys would've felt then. It felt awesome, howmuchever one doubts the authenticity of their mission to moon. By the time we settled for lunch it was 4PM and that also set the tone for the kind of food i was going to get for the reminder of the trip. Howmuchever i searched for, the only veg item i could find was a cheese pizza - pizza with only cheese. NO other toppings!!! And that too, it was on the kids section!!! Little wonder they fight obesity as strongly as they fought aginst the communists during cold war.

We missed out on a few other events and attractions due to lack of time, but still left the place with the satisfaction of a time well spent. After another 5 hours of drive, we reached the next leg of our tour.

(To be continued)

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Whats in a name :)

New year, new post..Namma thalai style la oru post podalamnu thalaraparattai thanama trying :D

Varusha varusham ethachum oru varietyana newsku Iceland maatikarathay vazhakkama poachu. A 15 year old girl has sued the Iceland government. Ennada matternu paatha, Iceland government had left her nameless (YES..this is no grammatical error or something..she had been literally nameless for 15 years!!) Iceland has strict laws on how to name the kids and they've a approved list of names it seems. If your name doesnt fall into the list provided, then you would be addressed just as a guy or a gal. Poor Blaer, has been addressed all these years as "Stulka" or gal in every government document. Antha ponnu veruthu poitu ipo suing the government. The reason why the government disapproved her baptized name is that it sounds masculine it seems. Ithu theriama antha oor priest by mistake intha ponnuku paiyan perula baptize pannitaaram!! Icelandic naming conventions are even more funnier. Antha oorula neenga Catherine, Chelsea, Chandra intha namelaam paakavay mudiathu..enna icelandic alphabetla "C' kedayaatham!!!

Ithey mathiri rule namma oorula vantha...en pera thaan firstu thookuvaanga nenakren!! Original name ponnu peru. Ram nu pera mathikalam paatha peripherla device mathiri iruku solliduvanga. Anil na squirrel erkanavay antha name register pannidichinu prachanai varum. Pesama "Gils" aiye official namea register pannida vendi thaan :)

Wanted to start off with travel stories. But this one was too good to resist :D Hope you all had a great time into the new year. Catch you soon :)