What Did You Say??

I was watching a Hallmark channel love story this past week – one of their typical “June wedding” movies.  And as I usually do, I had the captions on because, having the attention span of a gnat, I don’t always catch the dialogue of t.v. shows and the captions help. Usually. But in the case of this destination-wedding themed bit of escapism, the captions let me down. Big time.

I can’t be the only one to have noticed. I mean, I realize these movies cater to a very particular niche, but nonetheless, I’m sure they have a somewhat broad audience who, like me, partake in the weekly guilty pleasure. You’d think with the revenues generated by the romance industry, especially considering it’s Hallmark of all people, that there would be a higher quality of closed-captioning available. Well, you would be wrong.

Now, I realize that most captioning is mechanized these days and with automated translations come massive translation fails, especially when the actor on-screen is speaking a language the captioning program doesn’t understand.  I’ve seen some very good, high quality movies or shows where the caption states “Jane Doe speaking Vulcan…” or “John Smith speaking in High Valyrian,” which demonstrates an obvious programming flaw, but at least in those cases, even the caption program realizes, hey, I need to be respectful here even though I can’t make heads or tails of whatever it is they’re saying. If we’re really lucky, the movie’s internal production system kick in and the translation appears via subtitles built into the movie. Sadly, that’s not always the case, as proven by my foray into the wilds of Hallmark movies previously mentioned above.

So, as I said, the plot was centered around a destination wedding set at a resort in Acapulco, Mexico, complete with white sand beaches, turquoise water, the obligatory romantic tension between completely dissimilar people, and Spanish-speaking locals…you know how they do…in Mexico. With such a heads-up as to the setting of this movie, you’d think that a strategy would’ve been put into place to cover and possibly translate any oh, I don’t know, Spanish dialogue. But there, you would be wrong again.

I’ll set up one of the scenes in question for you – zoom in on a beachside table at which sits the starring couple, who just happen to have perfect teeth and great tans, and who also just so happened to be in love years ago though it didn’t work out because they were completely unsuited for each other and who now reluctantly find themselves thrown back together while planning the wedding of a friend and whilst doing so forget that they’re completely unsuited for each other and eventually fall in love all over again – but, BUT before they realize they are once again besotted with each other, it is time to try out different foods for the dinner aspect of the aforementioned wedding they are planning – hence sitting beachside, surrounded by food. Enter one Spanish-speaking local who, apparently flustered by the couple’s nitpicking at each other, does his nervous best to describe the food he has prepared – and the results are these impressively awful captions.

 

 

I don’t think that means what you think it means…

I pretty much had the same look of utter confusion, though admittedly my teeth aren’t nearly as perfect. So. Yeah. I’m hoping before Hallmark releases another movie with bilingual dialogue that they sort of up their game on the whole captioning thing — on so many levels. One can only hope, but in the meantime, I won’t hold my breath.

 

Midsomer Lifestyle

Have any of you ever seen the show Midsomer Murders? It a great show from England about two detectives, The Barnabys (first there is Tom, played by the incomparable John Nettles, who lasted for 14 seasons and then Tom’s younger cousin John, played by Neil Dudgeon, who takes over when Tom retires) and their varying Sergeants who assist in their crime-solving routines. If you haven’t seen it yet here’s the basic premise: Set in the fictional county of Midsomer, the Barnabys take on and solve murder cases, which are never in short supply given the area’s shockingly high murder rate. I. Love. This. Show. I’ve been binge-watching (or rather, re-binge-watching) this week to my daughter’s dismay.  To say she isn’t into languid, picturesque British detective shows is an understatement.

the cousins Barnaby

The villages of Midsomer — many named Midsomer something, as in Midsomer Florey or Midsomer Worthy, or perhaps something as delightful as the jaunty Badger’s Drift — are so tranquil and charming that I don’t see how anyone would be angry enough to commit murder there. But murder they do, and the perpetrators never seem satisfied with just one, either – more often than not, there are multiple per show.  It’s like potato chips with these people. There was only one episode in the history of the series that had zero murders, and from what I understand, fans were outraged with that singular murder-free storyline…go figure. Who knew there were such rabid viewers addicted to rampant violence running amok amid an idyllic backdrop?  If you’re a fan of fun crime dramas this is for you. There’s no shortage of material. The show started in 1997 and as of right now 19 seasons have already aired.

If you’re a fan of breathtaking English countryside, this is also the show for you. The locations in which they shoot are always beautiful, historical, and quaint little hamlets. They’re so quiet and comfortable-looking that I’ve daydreamed about buying a little cottage in one of these villages and living that Midsomer country life. You may be asking, “But what about, you know, all the murders that happen there?” I’ve thought about it and while it would be a disadvantage if my neighbors were getting iced all the time, it just might be worth the view. These towns are REALLY pretty. And you know, the violent crime rate does give everyone something to talk about down at the local pub. So there’s that.

Amazingly enough, while from the outside, these locations seem about as far away from modern technology as one could be, everyone (in the later episodes of course) have a laptop and a smart phone. Flip phones were all the rage in the earlier shows. It’s not just the “old-money” rich, either, in their truly opulent homes, and who seem to outnumber the middle-class residents of the area by a landslide. No, everyone from the farmer down the lane to the Lord who renovated that castle up the street have electronics that make me envious…and the data to back it up, despite nary a cell tower cluttering up the landscape. I mean, I can’t even get service in my local grocery store, let alone when travelling between towns on our rural backroads.

Outside of the steady flow of homicide, I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to live in Midsomer. If it existed, that is. With the lovely to-die-for (ha!) scenery AND the possibility of unlimited data, I think I could ignore the rampant carnage.

Seriously though, how is Wi-Fi not an issue in Midsomer? That’s the real mystery I think the Barnabys should spend some time investigating.

A Very Nerdy Day

On two different occasions today, I had the opportunity to geek out – not an easy feat in my small town with a populace of well, shall we say, non-geeky residents. But today…today my nerdy little heart was simply skipping with joy.

star-trek-stamps

live long and correspond

The newest stamps at the local post office!

strong women rule!

strong women rule!

 

Annnd…obviously a smart driver.

tardis-license-plate

wonder if they’re looking for a companion?

That’s Entertainment

The following gives you an inside view on Sarah and I deciding whether to watch a movie or not.  Cause I know you guys are eaten up with curiosity over just how we manage to come to such an important decision.

Sarah: That movie looks sooo weird!  Even for us.

Me (*gleefully*): I know, right!?

Together: Let’s watch it!

The Lost Art of Low-Tech Entertainment

When most people think of amusement parks, they think of Disney World (Florida) and Disneyland (California).  They think of rides – roller coasters, merry-go-rounds, bumper cars – and maybe even water parks.

As a matter of fact, I think today it’s pretty difficult to find any amusement park that doesn’t have high-speed rides or virtual reality booths as an integral part of its attractions.  What they offer to kids is speed and high-tech fun…an adrenaline rush…and that’s it. I don’t think many of them actually stimulate a kid’s creative thought processes…not like The Enchanted Forest did.

What is The Enchanted Forest, you ask? (If you need to ask, you clearly haven’t seen the John Waters film Cry-Baby, starring Johnny Depp!)

The Enchanted Forest was a nursery-themed amusement park located in Howard County, Maryland. A blast from my past. It opened in 1955 – a month after Disneyland opened – and delighted children and adults for 34 years, until it closed in 1989. It was reopened briefly in 1994, in another location, but closed again for good in 1995. It’s finally got a new life now on a farm, in 2015…well…kind of.

The Gingerbread Man who refused to be dessert, a somewhat fierce dragon, Snow White and her dwarf buddies, Old Mother Hubbard, Alice in Wonderland along with the Mad Hatter and the Dormouse, The Crooked Man with his equally crooked house, and just about all of the other various icons of the park have been moved and restored once again, this time just for nostalgia’s sake I believe. Only a few structures were lost to age and vandalism, worn beyond repair, among them were Cinderella’s Castle and the Gingerbread House of Hansel and Gretel fame. Not too bad I suppose, all things considered.

What was great about The Enchanted Forest – what was unique about it – was that it was just a low-key park, based around characters from books and fairy tales. Yeah, that’s right. Books. *Gasp!* Oh no!

Oh, there were a few rides – but they weren’t truly mechanical rides, not like what you’d see at Six Flags or Wild World or even Dutch Wonderland. There was a tea-cup ride along with a tugboat and swan ride in a pond – those were pretty much the exciting draws as far as rides were concerned – and believe it or not, they were.  “Exciting draws,” I mean.  People loved the place. Kids and adults alike. People came from miles around to visit.

I certainly loved it, even though I have to admit the start of my fear of water came from The Enchanted Forest. There was a “wild safari” jeep-pulled trolley ride that was supposed to simulate the jungle with elephants, gorillas, a hippo (all fake of course)…well, it also had an alligator lurking just below the surface of a deep marshy water area, and that alligator used to scare me to death. It certainly wasn’t high-end on the animatronics scale or anything like that – but, still…whew! Captain Hook’s tick-tocking crocodile had nothing on this one!  However, to give credit where credit is due, it was really my seeing the movie Jaws at an impressionable age that really sealed the deal on that little phobia.

I tell you what though, before I posted this entry, I found a video on YouTube that someone had posted of their home movies of The Enchanted Forest from a trip in 1975 and it even had a clip from the “safari” ride – I showed that video to my daughter and she agreed with me, that alligator is freakin’ scary! Of course, she may have just been eagerly going along me ’cause she’s sweet like that, but I’m serious.  That thing is scary.  It is.

But I digress.

Here, let me share with you a few paragraphs from a site dedicated to the history on The Enchanted Forest.

Howard Adler, a local designer … [built] imaginative creations of papier-mache, cement and fiberglass [that] would give the Enchanted Forest its whimsical, enduring appeal.

The sturdy brick house of the Three Little Pigs, for example, was decorated with a wolf skin rug on the floor… The house of the Three Bears not only had three bowls of porridge and three beds, it also had three chimneys a pipe-shaped chimney for Papa Bear, a purse-shaped chimney for Mama and a bottle-shaped chimney for Baby Bear.

The eight-acre Enchanted Forest, with figures and storybook settings nestled among woods, a stream and a small pond, was deliberately low-key compared with Disneyland in California….

“There are no mechanical rides in the park,” [owner] Howard E. Harrison Jr. told the Baltimore News-Post in an article that ran on the Enchanted Forest’s opening day, Aug. 15, 1955. “Instead, we hope that the children will enjoy the make-believe figures that are before their eyes. I say children, but actually, we think that many grown-ups will enjoy seeing the famous old figures that they knew when they were children.”

Do kids these days even read the old fairy tales? I think they get started with their smart phones and tablets at an extremely young age, not to mention watching TV, and all they ever see are the glossy characters of Disney, or shows like Spongebob Squarepants and things of that ilk. Stories are spoon-fed to them these days through high-tech graphics and cartoons and on-screen games rather than through the pages of a book, and when they go anywhere, they expect their entertainment to be spoon-fed to them as well. It’s a fast paced world, especially for kids, with no time for imagination.

Whereas, with The Enchanted Forest, all they had going for them was their knowledge from nursery rhymes and fairy tales and their imaginations. Lots and lots of imagination.

I remember The Enchanted Forest with so much fondness, not the least of which because my mother used to take my brother and I there and we’d spend the day – so those are good times I remember with my mother, as well as all the things we would see and do.  For anyone who wants to see pictures (not mine), there is a gallery here.

My favorite parts were these little houses you could go into – they were like life-sized dioramas – showing scenes from various nursery rhymes and fairy tales like Snow White, the Gingerbread Man, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel. My mom’s personal favorite was the teacup ride.

gingerbread house

teacup ride

safari ride

The Enchanted Forest was great because everything was truly interactive – and by that I mean you walked, ran, played, climbed…there was no waiting in line for an hour for a two-minute ride or sitting in a chair oblivious to the world around you while playing with a virtual reality system. Kid’s today are “inter” – while we were truly “active”!

I lament the “lost art” of low-tech entertainment. We simply don’t have these kinds of places any more – places where kids have to use their own imaginations to conjure up fun instead of having it, as I said before, basically spoon fed to them.

Yeah, it’s great that we’ve progressed the way we have with technology. Don’t get me wrong – I think a lot of good has come from technology.  It has encouraged tremendous vision and has given us so much (speaking on strictly an entertainment level: 3-D movies, virtual reality games, amazing interactive rides, 3-D printers, etc.), but our children have lost so much in return – the ability to play or enjoy things just by using their own imaginations and creativity.

Not to mention the wholesomeness of nursery-rhyme stories (okay, well, once you clean up the original Grimm stories) and books like Alice in Wonderland, instead of the glitzy, overly grown-up, in-your-face, kids’ characters that are pushed on young children today. I know, I know, it’s not surprising that I go back to books.  But come on, anything that’s oriented around books cannot be a bad thing.

Books and imagination.  It’s a combo we need to nurture more in kids today.

Extreme Sports

Many of you probably saw that the Westminster Dog Show recently crowned its top pooch but how boring is that? They walk around in circles, they have their teeth checked, they try desperately not to pee on the Astroturf lest they lose the title they don’t even understand. Have you ever wanted more from your dog competition? More flair, more color, more X-tremeness? Well, lucky for you other people have had the same idea and now our world has this in it:

click photo for slideshow link

click photo for slideshow link — I dare ya’

It’s called Extreme Dog Grooming and, yes, this is a thing. One photographer called it “detestable” and I can’t say that I disagree. Look at some of those pictures. It’s one thing to keep your dog clean. The coat is shiny, the nails are trimmed, the slobber is contained. That’s well and good for me. But coloring your dog with a portrait of Popeye and Bluto? Plastering on eyelashes so it can resemble a My Little Pony? Cutting their hair to look like a punk rock legend? Dousing it with dye so it can resemble a cheetah? I’m sorry but this has just got to stop.

I’m afraid that their owners are forgetting that these are real, live animals. I highly doubt these people realize how ridiculous they look, but even if they are oblivious, doesn’t it factor in at all that dogs (and cats) shouldn’t be treated as blank canvases? It’s not like these are stuffed play toys… they are sentient beings.

if the first one wasn't enough, click this photo for another slideshow link

if the first one wasn’t enough for you, click here for another slideshow link…you won’t be disappointed

Do these owners have nothing better to do with their time? It seems like they could find something else to do that would keep them from looking at their dog and thinking, “You know what, you’d look a lot better with cartoon characters scrawled across your body and your hair moussed out to there! To the barber shop!”

What’s even sadder is that people actually show up to these “sporting” events to see what “works of art” these owners have created. The fact that people are doing this to their dogs is bad enough, but please don’t reinforce the behavior by giving them the satisfaction of an audience. It’s degrading not just to the dogs (and again, cats as well), but what does it say about our society that this is now a form of actual entertainment?