Archive for May, 2012

Me, Mickey and The All Knowing I…

May 28, 2012

In less than two weeks I shall be in the air heading to Florida for a three week holiday. A bit different to the trip I took to China the same time last year, but one I am looking forward to just as much. The All Knowing I and I are off to celebrate our birthdays and we intend to do it with the same enthusiasm that 14year old boys do (rather than the 40 year olds that we will be, well he is turning 40 while we are there and I will be 41).

People always seem to ask me if we will be going down to the Keys or Miami Beach, let me be very clear about this, NO WE WILL NOT. We shall not have enough time after all there are too many theme parks and water parks to go to and they are generally rather BIG.

Disneyworld itself is circa 27 square miles and has its own motorways and infrastructure separate from rest of Central Florida. It’s made up of 4 main theme parks, 3 water parks, a great big entertainment area called Downtown Disney (shops, restaurants, cinema, shows, etc) and loads of other smaller things with sports facilities, golf courses, and every type of resort you could imagine basically.

We have made sure that we are staying about 15 mins drive away from everything!

And here is a little synopsis of some of the parks we will be visiting:

The Magic Kingdom: This is what people imagine when they think of Disney, it has the castle in the middle. It’s the most like Disneyland in California (but much bigger) and has a lot of the stuff you associate with Disney parks such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and all the fairy-tale rides.

EPCOT: Always a favourite, the name stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow and was intended by Walt (as in THE Walt Disney) to be a sort of permanent World’s Fair demonstrating technology, education, and innovation. What it turned into is the biggest of the parks, you need at least 2 days to see it all. It’s divided into 2 distinct halves; there is the Future World and World Showcase.

Future World is a bunch of rides and attractions based around science and it’s a series of huge pavilions devoted to different elements, each containing rides, shows and attractions. Hard to describe, but the pavilions are things like Universe of Energy (all about different energy sources), The Land (all about agriculture), The Living Seas (all about the oceans), The  Body (all about the human body), so educational and fun all at the same time. It also includes a big ride where you get to simulate what it would be like to be a crash-test dummy (Test Track) and the big-ticket ride which is a simulation of a space launch (Mission Space).

World Showcase is 11 pavilions arranged around a massive lake. Each pavilion is operated by a different country and contains shops / buildings / architecture / restaurants / shows / film presentations that represent that country. So you get to go through France, Germany, Morocco, Japan, China, Canada, etc, etc all in the same day. Also some of the pavilions have rides so cultural and fun at the same time.

Oh and not forgetting Epcot has a celebrated night-time firework show, called Illuminations which is a must-see.

The Disney Studios: This place is really good fun, it has loads of adult rides here (and seeing as we will be sans kids this is a plus), lots of white-knuckle stuff, all based on movies, such as the beloved Star Wars, Toy Story and Indiana Jones. The one I am most excited about and also most frightened of doing is The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, I get nervous just thinking about it.

There are also loads of shows and interactive stuff and a good studio tour, special FX demos.

The Animal Kingdom: The newest park and it is HUGE.  It is a sort of cross between a zoo and a theme park. Amazing state of the art animal exhibits, centrepiece being Kilimanjaro Safari, which is a complete replica of an African safari which you go around in an open-top vehicle through huge savannah, all plants from Africa, like the real thing (honest).

Oh and did I mention there are also some huge rides here, the biggest roller-coaster in Disney which I have yet to go on, getting nervous again.

And all that is just from Disney, outside of Disney, the main competitor is Universal Orland. This theme park is much bigger than Universal in LA. It’s made up of 2 big parks, there is Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure.

Universal is more grown-up than Disney, with wilder rides generally and it’s a bit more savvy and pop-culture-y. There are great rides such as huge coasters (nervous), great 3D simulators and amazing technology.

The studios, instead of being a tour like in LA is a series of separate rides devoted to big Universal movies (Jaws, ET, The Simpsons, The Mummy, Men in Black, Terminator, all the greats) all in a working movie backlot (you never know I might be spotted as the new talent on the block, I have done a spot of acting after all).

The Islands of Adventure park is VERY big (are you getting the idea that things are big there yet?). This park is basically a series of separate islands round a huge lake, each devoted to a different themed world. One being Jurassic Park (and it’s like going to Jurassic Park!) and one is devoted to Marvel Superheros and one is Dr Seuss stuff all with big rides in each. The hot ticket here is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter which will be new to me. It is the most visited park in the USA and apparently astonishing.

We will also be visiting Sea World, Busch Gardens, Aquatica and Busch Gardens.  Oh and we might squeeze in a spot of shopping while we are at it, I need some new trainers, jeans and hell why not get some more t-shirts while I am at it…..

With the legendary Engelbert Humperdink it has to be in the bag…

May 16, 2012

Surely this has to be the year for the UK entry to the Eurovision Song Contest to win!

After all how can it not, what with the legendary Engelbert Humperdinck singing a ‘soaring ballad” entitled “Love Will Set You Free”.  The song has some string credentials as well, it was produced by Grammy award-winning Martin Terefe, who has worked with artists including Mary J Blige and James Morrison was co-written by Martin and Sacha Skarbek, who has worked with Adele, Lana Del Rey and James Blunt.

At 75 Mr Humperdinck is one of the oldest contestants in the competitions history, but is joined this year by some equally mature contestants from Russia, Buranovskiye Babushki, a band made up of by six traditionally-dressed grandmothers. Their song is called “Party For Everybody”, very Eurovision indeed…

It’s been a while since the UK took out the top prize, 1997 in fact when Katrina and the waves won with “Love shine a light”. 2009 was the last time we were in the top 10 when Jade came in 5th with her song, composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, “My Time”.

Some other  UK contestants “what woz robbed” (according to Adam Armstrong) of victory  include:

1996 Gina G – Ooh Aah Just A Little Bit (8th)

1993 Sonia – Better The Devil You Know (2nd)

1992 Michael Ball(s) – One Step Out of Time (2nd)

One of my most memorable years was back in 2001, when Anna Kirk and I watched Estonia win with the song “Everybody”, making them the first former USSR country to win the Contest.

So here is wishing Engelbert Humperdinck all the best of luck come 26th May at the final will be held on Saturday, May 26th in Baku, Azerbaijan

The Gap goes gay….

May 11, 2012

Ok, I know I have harped on about brands targeting The Gay’s recently but the Gap’s latest ad got my attention for two reasons. One I like Gap, I have fondness for the brand that goes back over years, when I moved to Sydney I was sorry to discover that they did not have stores here. That was rectified recently with a new store opening here. Ok so it’s not the biggest store and maybe I am getting a little too old for Gap clothes, but that said I did walk out of there a few weeks back with three new pairs of jeans and an armful of t-shirts. And reason number two this ad got my attention was of course the fact it features two rather nice looking chaps (no not those kind of chaps, that really would be taking Gap down a new path).

As a brand it has always been popular with gay community so I wonder why it has taken them so long to do something  like this, if they have done it before please someone do tell.

Back in the 90’s the brand had a real vibe of being cool as the kids would say, however it is fair to say it has lost that edge it once had and I assume it is now trying to recapture some of that vibe again, I’m not 100% convinced this will do the trick but I applaud them for going with an ad targeting the LGBT community.

The fact that even Obama has now come out in favour of same-sex marriage, might encourage even more brands to take the plunge and start showing same-sex couples in their campaigns (the Pink dollar is not to be scoffed at).

There is no doubt that there still a lot of mainstream homophobic prejudice out there so I understand that brands will need to weigh up the pro’s and con’s of targeting the LGBT community, but how many of them properly research and understand just how loyal LGBT consumers are to brand that support and are loyal to them?

And by that I mean brands that don’t just make a token effort to appeal to the community but commit to them as a loyal customer base that just might have a significant contribution to make in their brand’s efforts to reinvigorate sales and enlarge its customer base.

One obvious example of a brand that has taken a brave step in this direction is JCPenney, under its new “Fair and Square” tagline, it has gone against conservative pressure groups like One Million Moms by partnering with Ellen DeGeneres (she is gay by the way) and making her the brands spokesperson. In addition to this they recently featured a lesbian couple and their daughter on their Mother’s Day catalogue.

These may be baby steps but at least they are steps in the right direction…