Change is a Foot!

Still tinkering under the hood, but I finally purchased a new theme for the site and have posted it under the Trip Diaries page and I am continuing to learn how to use it and make changes to the existing content over there to make it more a) eye catching and b) closer to the vision of how I wanted to present the Trip Diaries over the years. Still fluid in my thinking about how that section will end up, but the amount of output generated in the last two weeks compared to the previous 5 years is staggering.

Even though I am focused on the Diaries section now, I am still doing background work on the rest of the site so when I push the new templates to the other two installs then it will look like they belong together. Diaries will likely be a little flashier since I am committed to adding at minimum a feature photo to each entry. I won’t be going that to What’s New or the Daily Update since most of the entries are like this one.

Part of me does wish I had a cabin or something I could go sit in for a week to bang out the rest of the content I need to write, but alas I will make do with what I can and live with the distractions. In my previous post I mentioned I was going to work on the Asia 2015 diary, but I wandered off cause and finished the Caribbean Cruise 2017 and Utah 2013 (OMG can’t believe I did this one) before even looking at Asia.

Just promise you won’t fall off your chair if I actually end up publishing the Japan October 2004 one!

30 Days to the 25th Anniversary

It’s getting down to the wire as my deadline to refresh the site and add more content before the 25th anniversary in June. Today I finally published my Japan 2017 Travel Diary which was amazing since I hardly had any notes from that trip and didn’t think I would ever publish one. I wasn’t sure what happened, but I think I must have been procrastinating about something to make me veer off course and write it down.

Part of my inspiration was cleaning out the Trip Diary WordPress installation. Like I did for the last couple of weeks with the main Daily Update, I went through and reformatted the entries to try and make them more universal with spacing and re-read a few to see if there were any glaring typos. I am sure I still have some or at least some grammar nightmares around, but they are actually looking better than ever.

For the Japan 2017 diary, I relied on my photos and some quick day highlights to serve as the foundation. Honestly, I think I remembered most of it but there are a few things I can’t remember what day they happened. Leslie and Daniel also have sketchy memories of the details of the trip, so I am actually glad I wracked my brains to commit to writing before its gone forever. I also discovered locked away on my phone – a mostly written Caribbean Cruise 2017 Trip Diary that I must have done during the trip. It falls apart over the last two days, but honestly I think I can recreate most of it.

Also with good notes is a trip I am now referring to as Asia 2015 which is when Daniel came to visit me in Shanghai and we went to Tokyo and Hong Kong. Again, I have brief notes on my phone from the trip which really help out a lot. I am hoping to get both Asian and the Caribbean Diaries up before the weekend.

One thing I tried out for the Japan 2017 diary was adding a photo for each day. Just something to break up the endless text scrolling. When I get my new template purchased and configured, I will work on adding some more.

Seven Years is too long

While rummaging around the dark dusty corners of the site in my effort to spruce the place up, I realized that today, May 25, is the 7th anniversary of this design for my site. My intent when I converted to WordPress was to be able to change the site design easily and for one reason or another that never happened. So disappointing in some regards, but I am very particular and fussy about my web site and if someone’s template doesn’t appeal to me or doesn’t fit the what I want, then I can’t be bothered to do it.

However, I am really, really, really working on getting a new design together that will unify the Daily Update, Club House, What’s New and hopefully the Jarre and Trip Diaries sections as well. Trip Diaries as usual is a pain in my side that I really don’t know what to do. I have lots of ambitious plans (literally pages of notes and sketches dating back 20 years) for this section that never materialized. If I am ever going to overhaul and move that section forward, this is the time.

The site anniversary is looming ahead on June 28 and its a race between finishing the redesign and plussing up the content and going back to my day job. At the very least, I am motivated to fix the bones – new templates and fixing existing content and then moving forward with adding the new stuff.

Godzilla – Shōwa Era

Third in the series of the self-isolation media consumption catch up..

One of the things I have always wanted to do is sit down and watch all of the Godzilla movies in order. I have seen most of the films over the years on cable or DVD or in theaters, but the Godzilla mythology never made much sense to me as it all seemed to be random movies that didn’t really relate to each other. Spoiler alert: That is mostly true for this first era of movies. The Godzilla eras are named after the emperor’s era that they are in – in this case Showa refers to Hirohito’s reign which lasted until the late 1980s.

As the year started, I began watching the movies. I will be honest, in this viewing I have skipped three Showa era movies – Godzilla Raids Again, Mothra vs Godzilla, and All Monsters Attack. I have seen Mothra and All Monsters within the last few years so I felt I could skip them and not miss out (same will be true of Godzilla vs Biollante which I saw last year). When I get to the Millennium series I will watch all of them since it has been 10 years or so since I watched them all, although Godzilla Final Wars I have seen several times, I still want to watch it with a fresh set of eyes having seen all of the movies recently. I will try and watch Godzilla Raids Again too, as its the lone remaining black and white movie I have not seen.

Overall, this era of movies are the ones I remember from my childhood that made me a Godzilla fan. I always like the Godzilla saving people and fighting other monsters (really started in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster in 1964) vs the Godzilla as the enemy of Japan. Also, to be honest I am totally here for the camp wrestling matches between the monsters. In terms of overall movies, my favorites include Godzilla (1954), Destroy All Monsters (1968), Godzilla vs Hidorah (1971 – mainly for its groovy music and eco message), and Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975). I give Terror the edge over the first Mechagodzilla movie because it features the original Godzilla theme music. Also I felt King Caesar deserved more screen time.

When you watch the movies in a row as I have done, the re-use of stock footage really starts to get noticeable in the later movies. I think that’s part of why I like Destroy All Monsters more than others – lots of original footage! Also interesting is the lack of monster screen time. I think the classic movies show just as much Godzilla action as the latest Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019). There probably is a line somewhere of too much Godzilla in a movie, but I really haven’t gotten there yet. The kids are fun, but can be overwhelming. My favorite is the two played by Hiroyuki Kawase in Hidorah and Megalon (it wasn’t until later I realized they were different named kids…)

I’m looking forward to getting into the Heisei era next. First up, I remember seeing what was called Godzilla 1985 in the theaters with my grandfather, and I am pretty sure I have not seen the Japanese version “The Return of Godzilla” ever. After I get through this era of seven movies, I’ll be back with more comments..

The Untamed

Second in the series of the self-isolation media consumption catch up..

Before the world changed in March 2020, one of my television obsessions was the 2019 Chinese series entitled The Untamed. I was scrolling through Netflix one night while Daniel was working on his homework and remember thinking that the name sounded familiar. I think some random people I follow mentioned the series but I really hadn’t given it much thought. While I as scrolling, I was intrigued by the mini-trailer and figured I would give it a go. I was a little intimidated at first because it was 50 episodes and all in Chinese. Subtitles don’t scare me, but I was worried the translations would struggle to convey the true meaning of the original.

After the first two episodes, I was hooked. I was very confused at first, but I did some research and was prepared for the 30 or so episode flashback that was coming. I also needed help keeping all of the characters straight at first because so much comes at you at once. As the episodes kept playing, I became totally invested in the characters and the plot of the series. It had been a long time since I binged a TV show but I found myself watching 4-6 episodes every night just to get to the meat of the plot.

When all was said and done, it took me about 2 weeks to plow through the entire series and I was so glad I stuck to it and watched it. I was incredibly moved by the story – particularly revolving around Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji. Their relationship was complicated to say the least (especially the whole dying and resurrection part 16 years later) but the emotions the two conveyed has to be complimented. Chinese broadcast standards required a lot of toning down of the original source material, but I felt the way the production honored the original source was excellent. Sure, a western production could have shown everything, but really I don’t think it needed to be. Some of the effects were pretty cheesy – especially the stabbing, but like most good shows (think classic Trek and Doctor Who), the effects are just the icing and its the acting that really helps the story along.

After finishing the series, I went back and watched the first couple of episodes again and boy – do they make a lot more sense now!! One of the Asia TV networks, WeTv showed omnibus versions of the episodes (20 eps instead of 50) in chronological order with a few longer scenes here and there. I have not seen it, but fans seem to like both versions. I was tempted to rewatch more of the series, but I have a difficult time rewatching some series after the first time (especially so soon). I tend to remember a lot of the original watch so it gets boring to me easily. I am currently having this issue with Deep Space Nine. I intended to rewatch the series, but I am stuck at the end of season 1 and it feels like I just saw it, even though I haven’t seen most of them in 25+ years.

If you enjoy good dramas with a mix of fantasy, martial arts, comedy, and romance (subtext and overt) you will enjoy this story of family, loyalty, drama, soulmates and more.. I cannot recommend this series enough. You do have to pay attention, which I know for some is difficult in the era of smart phones (I struggled at times..), but if you can manage it you will be greatly rewarded.

The Return of Star Trek

The Enterprise meets the Discovery in the Season 1 cliffhanger of Star Trek: Discovery.

In my revisit to the Daily Update archives, I noticed that I used to muse long and poetic about media that I was consuming. It slipped my mind that I used to even write e-mail movie reviews. I regret that I have no idea what happened to the backup files for my mid to late 90s web site. Due to that loss, those reviews are lost for good. The trip down memory lane has reminded me that I have been remiss in posting about shows and movies I have watched over the last few years, so I figured I would catch up.

First up is the long-awaited return to the small screen of Star Trek! The last time I wrote about Star Trek on TV was this awesome post from 15 years ago on the end of Star Trek: Enterprise. It really summed up my opinions on the modern Trek series and it really hasn’t changed much since then. In the meantime, we were treated to three new movies in the ‘Kelvin’ timeline which while exciting, never really felt like real Trek. One could argue forever online about what is real Trek and what isn’t. It really is real Trek, just a different flavor that never really sat well with me. Most of my issues with the Kelvin timeline were certain decisions made that really undercut what for the most part were actually good stories. Interestingly enough, the second and third movies (Into Darkness and Beyond) felt more Trek-like to me, addressing universal issues like the series, and those were the ones less successful to the general public. Star Trek really thrives in a small screen environment and occasionally thrives on the big screen when the stories and consequences are BIG. I’ve ruminated before many times on my belief that Trek movies should only be BIG stories and not like a TV episode.

Which in a roundabout way brings us to this new era of Trek TV shows. Gone are the days of the mid-90s when we had 2 Trek shows at a time, now we have numerous shows in production that started with 2017’s Star Trek Discovery. At first, I was skeptical because of the mixed success of the last show Enterprise dealing with the “before Kirk” times. Before it premiered, I made sure that I approached the series with an open mind. I think part of people’s issues is that they need to compare everything with old canon and previous series and don’t let a show stand on its own. In some ways, this show is a reboot of the universe – certain things are re-interpreted in a modern sense, but still honor the original series. This really was highlighted in last year’s Season 2 which saw a reimagined NCC-1701 Enterprise onscreen with Captain Pike.

The first season of Discovery took some time to get going – like most Trek series – but I have to say, I was really glad that they took chances, mixed things up and twisted things around when you least expected it. One thing I really liked was Michelle Yeoh as Captain Philippa Georgiou – I am a big fan of hers and was glad to see her in Trek. I am also glad they found a way to keep her around after her character met her demise in the first episode. The big twist of Season 1 was the only thing I wasn’t 100% on board with (trying not to spoil it) but kudos to the team for really thinking outside the standard box of Star Trek.

Season 2 was really when they won me over 100% with the great casting of Anson Mount as Pike. I think he really brought the crew together (after the issues with the first season captain) and really made the show fire on all cylinders. The season long thread was a bit of a chore, but the payoffs were worth it and I really enjoyed the season. I am looking forward to season 3 which comes out later this year and I hope that without Pike, the crew will be able to keep going. They have no constraints thanks to what happened at the end of the season (again no spoilers) and hoping they take full advantage of it. I also am glad that there is a new Star Trek: Strange New Worlds series now in development with Pike and the crew of the Enterprise. Super interested to see how that goes.

Finally, Star Trek Picard premiered in January of 2020. I was also excited about the return of Captain Picard, but a bit wary since it was the first time in new modern Trek we were revisiting The Next Generation. Thankfully, the show was great – most of the Cast were great (only two that I truly didn’t care for) and the cameos of 90’s Trek was great (Riker, Troi, Seven, and Hugh). Honestly my complaints about the series are minor – I felt some of the middle episodes were padding and I really wished more of the TNG crew were able to appear (Geordi, Beverly, and Worf specifically) and hopefully next season they will make them appear. The new Cast also had the high points – for me it was Picard’s Romulan caretakers at the beginning of the series, Raffi (Picard’s contact and former co-worker), and Rios (and hologram versions) who captains the ship Picard uses in the series.

Overall, I am super stoked to see the direction that Star Trek is taking currently. There are several other series in the works including a new animated series as well as a spinoff with Michelle Yeoh. Not sure of the timeline on those series, but I will keep an eye out for now. Hopefully in another 15 years I can look back on this third golden age of TV Trek in the same way I am looking at it now! (Granted I will be close to retirement age by then, hopefully I can see anything at all!!)

Mount St Helens – 40 Years Later

I wrote a quick link post six years ago about Mount St Helens and I won’t repeat post the links (especially since I just validated them). However, I will present more of a personal story about this volcano.

Mount Saint Helens exploded when I was 7 years old and I remember it vividly. Even though we were living in Southern California (I think – it gets hazy) I remember being low-key terrified that the mountains around us were going to explode. I remember learning some time later that the only real active volcano threat was Mt Lassen in Northern California and I remember being relieved. It wasn’t until much later in college that I learned about the Long Valley Caldera and the risks to Southern California. Oh and of course earthquake hazards. I truly think that Mount St Helens was a contributing factor to my interest in all things natural disasters.

Another thing that I have noticed is that in this time of pandemic emergency in the world in May 2020, Americans are acting just as they did prior to the eruption. People not wanting to listen to scientists and being generally PO’d that their way of life was disrupted. The UGSGS Volcanoes Twitter account (@usgsvolcanoes) has been cranking out great tweets highlighting the weeks leading to the eruption and its up to the user to figure out the parallels. Personally, I think it will go over a lot of peoples head.

Updating 20 year old links is a pain..

Spent the better part of a week going back through the Daily Update in an effort to update the Flickr links as I am getting ready to delete my old account and host the files locally. There are still a few large Flickr posts I skipped over (especially in the Flicker heavy mid 2000s.) that I need to go back and redirect to the new Trip Diary galleries.

In the editing journey I also started hitting any link that was in the old update entries. Not surprisingly, most of them no longer worked and went to either domain squatter sites or just error pages. I also tried to remove some old photo links that went to random files on the server and instead host the files within WordPress. I figure this gives me better ability to move things around without worrying about breaking things. If you happen to be visiting the olden days and find something broken, please let me know.

I also did some editorial work, trimming entries and removing links that were no longer there. In an effort to remain transparent, I did do some minor editorial changes to a few entries that were personal to people as well as one that was related to work. I shared way too much information (some would argue there is still too much detail about my life as a ride operator) but I tried to keep the spirt of the entries while removing some details. This editorial process was something of a change for me as I am used to just letting things sit there for years, but as we change our opinions and beliefs change. I know for sure some of my opinions on movies that I reviewed a long time ago have changed for sure.

I also finally fixed the spacing and some weird text coding issues that were legacy from the pre-Movable Type site. Really. Errors sitting there for 20 years lol. I can only imagine if I had more than 1800+ entries how much more difficult it would be.

Last night I had trouble sleeping and I came up with some good blog posts to do over the next week or so, but of course I didn’t write them down. In the trip down memory lane, I miss posting about my media consumption. While it has significantly reduced over the years, I enjoyed the memories that those entries stirred up. So I will try and post some updates on media that I have consumed in 2020 pre and concurrent with the pandemic.

Progress – Diaries Update

In the list of lockdown things to do, I finally crossed one off of the list. I was able to finally get the Europe 1996, 1997, and 1998 photos uploaded, edited, added captions, and keywords to my new local photo gallery. With that, everything from 1996-2010 is now hosted locally. I still need to go through remaining galleries that were imported and add some additional keywords and descriptions (I noticed Australia is a bit lacking). I haven’t decided if I will post the link now or wait until I have added the other galleries I want to post.

I am very happy to have the assistance of Google Maps, especially for the older photos, as it has allowed me to identify some mystery buildings that I took photos of in Bruges while I was sick with the flu.

Next up is to get the 2011-2014 trip photos uploaded with captions and then work on writing and adding 2014-2019. Don’t have to worry about 2020 that much do I? It is crazy to think that there is a good chance I won’t travel anywhere in 2020.

Salzburg, 1998

One of the re-scanned photos that are going to debut in the new Trip Diary photo gallery. This was taken of Salzburg Castle after we finished the Sound of Music Tour and were waiting to go back to Munich.