#28 and the end of a cinematic era

Will there ever be another movie series as broadly popular as the Harry Potter movies?  I would guess not.  For this level of box office you usually need powerful source material, and these movies have been so successful primarily due to the book series that came first.  Without that foundation… I guess 007 would be a worthy competitor, but that series hasn’t had the same guy playing the lead for more than six entires (I know Moore did seven, but A View to A Kill was so bad I’ve erased it from my personal library), nor were all the books in the series written by Mr. Fleming, for that matter.

Item #28 on the list is to attend four midnight premiere screenings, one of which would be Potter #8.  I love going to genre movies on these premiere nights; there’s a special breed of fan who will make time to be the first to see a movie, and it’s always fun to be in their company.  With the Potter movies, multiply the fan craziness many times over.

Those who know me are well aware that I’ve sipped the butterbeer-flavored Kool Aid for a few years now, having attended the final three midnight book premieres and visiting the Wizarding World at Universal *twice* in it’s first year of operation.  So, after a glass of homemade butterbeer (thanks again, Mr. Hansen) and a Harry “Pot-luck” dinner — ripped off from a Wilderness Lodge waitress called Oopsy Daisy — we were off to Celebration Cinemas in Grand Rapids for the fun.

Celebration was showing the movie on all 20 of its screens, and all 20 sold out. Their IMAX screen was screening for 24 hours straight, and there were several 3:30, 4:30 and 5:15 AM shows added.  As Eric and Scott saved my place in line I walked around to chat up some of the other obsessives in line.

We arrived around 8pm, but there were many who came before us.

These folks were first in line for Theater 1 – the biggest at Celebration – at 6am.

Even more impressive were the kids in line at the IMAX screen — they staked their claim to geek glory at 12:30 pm the previous day!

So… all around me, lines and more lines.  A good mix of adults and kids in costume, or perhaps special T-shirts for the occasion. But just about everyone had big smiles on their faces as they anticipated the final installment… even though probably 99% of them knew exactly what was going to happen as far as plot went. It didn’t matter to them; it didn’t matter to me… I think it was this sort of communal geek-worship opportunity that doesn’t come along in this magnitude very often.

We got into our auditorium about 9:30 or so, which was great. The three of us watched Part One on my iPad in our seats, so I was representing on not just one but TWO geek/fanboy platforms.

The crowd was loud and boisterous during the previews, but as soon as the film started, you could hear a pin drop. After all, we were in church, likely for the last time as this particular group of parishoners.

The film itself?  Great. A fitting send-off to the series. Sure, there were a couple of things I’d have changed tonally, but those are really quibbles in the grand scheme of things.

It probably is too cliche to say it’s about the most fun one can have at the movies, but I guess I just did.

Cross-dressing witches were hardly out of place.

As the auditoriums emptied their throngs of the faithful, geeks young and old gathered in groups to discuss and share, not unlike the atmosphere at the book sales, where a few rushed to read the first chapters just outside the store on a balmy midsummer’s night.

As we left, we saw these guys in line for the 3:30 AM screening. A dawn premiere is always nice...

The next midnight premiere I’ll probably aim for will be the next Star Trek movie due next June. Maybe there will be another film to capture midnight-screening worthiness, but it’s unlikely any will have the magnetic wizard-powered pull that Harry Potter has on so many of its fans.

Well, until the first Hobbit movie arrives in December of 2012.

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Sorta #49: My night with the Emancipation Proclamation

Last night my friend John Cady and I went to go see the Emancipation Proclamation — the original — which was on view last night at The Henry Ford — as part of a special Civil War exhibit, created with the National Archives. Now, as a member of The Henry Ford, I’ve been there many times, but this traveling “Discovering the Civil War” exhibit is brand new, so…

The EP — which is normally kept secure deep inside the Archives in DC — is only on view for a total of 36 hours per calendar year, due to damage and degredation caused primarily by light.  We were told that typically it’s shown for special events — 6 hours here, 4 hours there… but only for a total of 36 hours in a given year.  Since this special Civil War exhibit was going on, The Henry Ford was fortunate enough to get all of the EP’s 2011’s hours allocated for the Museum.  It won’t see the light of day anywhere else this year.

So… The Henry Ford set up this free, vigil-like 36 hour window for folks to come and see it — started Monday at 6pm, and ended this morning at 6am.  The museum was open round the clock for that time, for free — and you could tour all of the museum exhibits if you so desired.  The only previous time the museum was open for 24 hours or longer was when Henry Ford himself lay in repose sometime in the 40’s.

And people showed up.  In droves.  News reports yesterday afternoon said that some people were waiting three hours or longer to see it.  I have waited for an iPhone for seven hours; I figured if I couldn’t wait for the EP for three then there’s something wrong with me.

So, John and I figured we’d check it out; after grabbing dinner we headed over to the museum and made our way in around 9pm:

We were told that the wait was approximately SEVEN hours.  Figuring that to be a case of overestimation, we got in line anyway, figuring that it probably wouldn’t be much longer than four or so hours… after all, people wouldn’t wait that long, would they?

The line snaked around much of the museum.

A little while after we had been in line, the estimate was increased to eight hours. At 10:30pm the line was closed, so that everyone in line might be able to see the document, ’cause once 6am came — no matter who was in line — the EP would be removed and returned to its blackened vault.

It was like one of those amusement park lines that just keeps on going… after one huge zig-zag that took three hours to complete, there was a long straightaway…

… and another zig-zag… about the same size as the first one.  That above shot was snapped around 1:30 or so.  I was amazed at the makeup of the crowd.  Old folks in wheelchairs, little kids no older than seven, all races.  The group behind us were two african-american couples, the folks in front of us were a white family reading a Sarah Palin book they had brought to pass the time.  At one end of the space, Ken Burns’ The Civil War was showing on a big screen; we joked that they had ample time to run the whole series like three times.

Luckily, I didn’t have any pressing work for the morning, and John was able to reschedule a 10am meeting, so we committed to the duration.  iPhones and iPads were of great diversionary value.

We got to this point – the EP is just around the corner in this room, surrounded by cops — about 3:45 in the AM.Once inside, photography is prohibited — no surprise there — and after a brief orientation, people could spend as much time gazing on it as they wished, mere inches away from the EP in its glass case.  There was no real need to read the document — everyone was given a copy of the text as they entered the museum, anyway — and since the original was double-sided, we only saw two of the actual faces of the document. Apparently they rotate document faces from engagement to engagement… so in actuality, the document is exposed to direct light for 36 hours every two years.  The other sides were presented in facsimile copies, nicely done.

The best part was that of the actual sides we saw, one was the signature of Lincoln, along with Secretary of State Seward, and the official seal which was embossed with ribbons — sort of in advanced decay — embedded in the seal.It might have been the hour, but one couldn’t help but get slightly verklempt upon viewing this very important piece of American history.

And here’s a shot taken at 4:06 or so… with at least two hours of people left in line.  Note the folks passed out on the couches!

All in all, very cool, a neat event for the museum, and worth the time.  I got home by 5am and passed out in seconds.

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First run at #44

OK, it’s been a while since I have updated this blog; but fear not, the updates will start to come more regularly.

That said, a couple of months ago we had a late-season snowstorm followed by a nice sunny day, so I figured it would be a great time to run over to the Detroit Zoo and see what the polar bears were up to.

The Detroit Zoo is typical of many older zoos — it has lots of old-school exhibits that are slowly being replaced by newer ones.  One of the best new additions — truly a world-class exhibit — is the Arctic Ring of Life area that opened a few years ago. It’s the largest Polar Bear attraction in North America, and when it opened was the largest in the world. You can see arctic foxes, seals and, of course, the bears… who on this day were happy to be playing in the snow, rolling around and the like:

Construction has started on the expansion to the Lion exhibit.

More images here at Flickr.

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Prep for #86: Solar Decathlon walk-throughs

The 2011 Solar Decathlon — a solar home competition in Washington, DC among some 20 colleges and universities — takes place from late September into the first week of October. In a nutshell, entries have to have at least 800 square feet of space, provide accommodations for a family of three, and be heated, cooled, and powered completely by the sun. This includes operating a TV, kitchen appliances like refrigerator, laundry and a computer.  Some items have to be powered continuously for 8-hour shifts, just as they would be used in a normal home.

It’s a lot of fun to tour the homes, which are created at each school and then disassembled and reassembled on the National Mall (this year’s competition is unfortunately off the main mall, and over by the FDR memorial in the West Potomic Park area). The homes are typically open for a two-week period. During the exhibition, the homes are graded and tested by folks from the DOE, and winners are announced at the end of the competition.

Part of the design process involves creating an animated walk-through of each home, which is the first real chance to get a look at what the kids have come up with. While all are modular in nature, some are more traditional-contemporary — the University of Maryland’s entry (above) looks pretty cool, while some are, well… off the map (just wait until you see the Team California entry!).

The YouTube playlist with all 20 schools’ walk-throughs can be seen here.

I’ll be there in the fall checking ’em all out. I went to the competition in 2009, and slogged through the event in pouring rain. Here’s hoping for better weather this year.

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The start of #41: New restaurants begin with Organic Pizza.

Silvio’s Organic Pizza, that is. Just off the main Diag on North U. Good menu, pizza had great crust, although be aware that the onions are sauteed rather than fresh chopped. That threw me a little, but otherwise it was a fine pie. It’s earned praise from the Michigan Daily, as well:

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No. 22 and a bonus quest is revealed…

OK, so #22 involves seeing six sporting events in six venues that I’ve never been to before. Sure, I’d like some of those to be Wrigley Field, Fenway or the Rose Bowl, but they all can’t be legendary, can they? So, I figured I’d start a little closer to home, and on Saturday the 12th it turns out that U of M’s Mens Gymnastics team — ranked 6th in the nation — was entertaining the #3 Illini team. Never seen a gymnastics meet before, and more importantly, I’ve never been to Cliff Keen Arena, which is home to the Men’s team at Michigan. So there you go.

Now, at a maximum capacity of 1,800 spectators, Keen barely equates a single section of the massive Big House, which is just a block or so away. This opens the door for many comparisons in the world of big-and small-time collegiate sport. For example:

Color? check. Big? check. Gold leaf? check. And a bargain at just $59 face value.

Five bucks admission for a generic "Athletic Event." At least it says U of M on the front!













With a capacity approximately 1.5% of Michigan Stadium, Keen is also decidedly more, uh, intimate:

Probably would be nice to say that it was half full, but there was a basketball game going on at the same time.

Much more of a party at The Big House. Plus, 40 times more food concessions and infinity times more luxury boxes.








So… yeah. Football rules in college, and it makes money for the other sports. Who am I to complain? Anyway, the gymnastics match was interesting. Michigan needs to up its game a little in terms of PA speaker quality; it was all but impossible to hear what was going on. Fortunately, due to the small venue, it was relatively easy to understand what was going on by just watching the action. Guys stick their landing, big cheer. Guys fall off, hushed harumphs.

Did I mention that Michigan is the defending NCAA Champion?









In the end, after six rotations — which took about two hours total — Michigan was victorious by a narrow four-point margin over Illinois. I learned that the Michigan-Illini rivalry has grown to be rather intense in the last five or so years. Who knew?

Here’s a short clip showing you the scene, plus the team captain on the high bar—but you gotta view it on Posterous…

At the end of the clip you’ll see John Cady, who I dragged along to the match. John is a UM Women’s Volleyball booster– so I’ll go with him to a game next fall, and well, why stop there? We think we’re going to try and hit every Michigan home venue in the space of a calendar year, give or take a month. Can we do it? Can we make it through a Women’s Indoor Track meet? We’ll see!

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No. 60: An easy one…

Balmy, especially at 8:30 pm.


Vacation. Fun times, especially when there is a 73-degree difference between home and the vacation location. Royal Oak wasn’t quite as cold, but the concept still holds.

Some of my best friends are plastic.




Many more pictures here: John’s Posterous

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