End of an Era

Image result for great movie ride

This past weekend Disney held its annual D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, where they as always made a slew of big announcements regarding upcoming projects  from every division of the company.  It was revealed, for example, that over at EPCOT the Ellen’s Energy Adventure pavilion would be getting a complete makeover into a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction,  They also informed us all that a Tron roller coaster would be built next to Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom.  They shared sneak peeks at footage of various upcoming film projects, including Mary Poppins Returns and Avengers: Infinity War.  The one that hit me closest to home, however, was the confirmation of the recent rumor that the centerpiece attraction of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, The Great Movie Ride, would be closing down.  The plan is to replace it with a high-tech Mickey Mouse attraction.

I’m saddened by this news.

The current and former Walt Disney World cast members who work and have worked at The Great Movie Ride (GMR) make up a very close community and call themselves MovieRiders.  Their go-to slogan is “Once a movie rider, always a movie rider.”  They have been all over social media the past couple of days since the announcement, pouring out their emotions and sharing their memories of this attraction, their home, and the fellow people who worked there, their family.  It is a difficult time for them, but they are strong and are there for each other, and they reluctantly accept this event over which they have no control.  I am a part of their Facebook group, and have been right there with them as they go through this, but I’m neither a current nor former cast member.

My dad was.

Dad worked at a data processing company in downtown Chicago for many years until the company chose to outsource his entire department, forcing them all to take severance packages and clean out their desks.  Dad and Mom decided to move to Florida, and the first thing he did when he got here was apply to work at Walt Disney World.  He was always a Disney fan and loved WDW from vacations past.  He also was a huge movie aficionado and thought that GMR was one of the greatest attractions in all of the Disney parks.  When he went for his interview, he told me, he didn’t specifically say that he wanted to work at that ride, because he knew he’d be happy just about anywhere at WDW, but he did mention his love of movies.  Apparently his interviewer was good at reading between the lines, because when he was hired that was exactly where they put him — Tour Guide at The Great Movie Ride, at what was then Disney/MGM Studios.

After he’d been there for a while, Dad once told me that even though he could have gotten a job working with computers and data processing like he’d done for so many years, where he would have been making a heck of a lot more money than he was making at this hourly theme park job with co-workers the majority of whom were half his age, he truly believed that he’d probably put ten years back onto his life by being there.  There, at GMR, in the happiest place on Earth.

Of course with my father working there I and the rest of the family rode The Great Movie Ride far more often than we might have otherwise.  We had helped him learn his lines when he was training early on, and we got to the point where we knew the script almost as well as he did.  Whenever we were on it and there was even the slightest mistake by the Tour Guide or Gangster or Bandit on that particular show, we caught it and would smile to each other knowingly.  My kids liked to go on the ride when they were little and they knew that their grandpa was working, although we made sure not to go on it when he had to play one of the “bad guys.”

He worked there for several years, first as Tour Guide and then eventually as Gangster and Bandit, and even became a Trainer.  The GMR cast hosted their own awards night regularly for a few years, and Dad won Best Male Tour Guide and Best Gangster a couple of times while he was there.  As a trainer he was popular among the other cast members, and I was told by one of them once that everyone knew if Keith was reviewing their performance they had to make sure to give a really big “Ta-da!”  Unfortunately, as he got older, the part of the job where he had to run up and/or down the stairs in the Temple of Anubis scene started to bother his back.  And so after a bit Dad reluctantly transferred out of The Great Movie Ride and over to Walt Disney World Transportation.

As much as he insisted starting work at GMR added ten years to his life, I have to say that leaving GMR turned out to be what led ultimately to those years being taken away.  In Transportation, Dad worked on the boats, ferrying guests back and forth between resort hotels and the theme parks across Disney’s various networks of lakes and lagoons under the beautiful Florida sunshine.  He died in September 2015 after contracting melanoma, skin cancer.

The outpouring of emotion from former coworkers at GMR after Dad died was really amazing.  I heard from and met people whose names I had heard Dad mention in conversation about work years before, and more people than I could count whom I hadn’t heard about at all.  I never realized just how much my father meant to so many people at Disney.  Many of them he hadn’t seen or spoken with in years.  “Once a movie rider, always a movie rider,” as they say.  Many of these people I am now friends with myself through Facebook, and I am glad for that.

The Great Movie Ride has gone through a few changes over the years.  The cast got new uniforms, which I think took a bit away from the original concept of the ride.  The script changed a few times, often not for the better in my opinion.  Some of the mechanics of some of the animatronic figures stopped working and didn’t get repaired.  Newer, snazzier, thrill-inducing rides opened up in the park and the crowds were drawn there instead.  There came a time where it was obvious that this attraction’s days were numbered.  It’s a shame, really, considering what it used to be.

Despite all of that, I’m sure that if his back hadn’t started bothering him, my dad would not have left GMR to go drive boats in the cancer-causing sunshine.  He would have stayed there and worked through the frustration because of how much he loved the place and the people.  He would have grumbled and complained about the things that were going downhill, but he would have kept on doing his best job, knowing that every guest deserves the best show he can give them.  He would have learned the new scripts and gone along with them because that was his job and he had to,  but he’d also stubbornly hold onto hope that eventually TCM’s sponsorship deal would end and they’d go back to the old script, which made a lot more sense and told a much better story.  As crazy as this might sound, The Great Movie Ride would have kept my dad alive.

But of course that’s not what happened and there’s nothing we can do to change that.  Dad passed away much too soon for any of our liking, and now The Great Movie Ride is following suit.  As I said earlier, I’m saddened, because for a lot of years, this ride was part of my family, and after Dad passed the people that worked there with him showed me that they were, as well.  I hope that everyone still working at GMR finds happiness at whatever new adventure they move on to after the closing.  I also genuinely hope the new ride being put in its place turns out to be a successful one.

Hopefully I can make it out to the park one more time before the end of the day August 13, 2017.  That’s the day that will mark the end of an era for Disney Hollywood Studios, and for the MovieRider family as well.

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NaNoWriMo Wrap-Up

Well, National Novel Writing Month is over. I’ve been away from my blog for much longer than I would have liked, but it was well worth it. I did it! I successfully wrote an entire novel in 30 days. This is a first for me, and although it still has plenty of polishing to be done before I’m ready for it to see print, I must say that I’m pretty darn proud of myself.

The goal for NaNoWriMo was, as you probably remember from my earlier posts, to write 50,000 words by the end of November. I hit that goal a few days early, then used the remainder of the month to complete the story. I wrote the words “The End” on the final day.

Overall it was an interesting experience for me. I didn’t really utilize any of the helpful tools that the official NaNoWriMo website provides, like sharing ideas and motivation through forum posts or writing buddies, or like meeting up for “write-ins” with other authors. I’ve always been better at writing when alone, so none of these social devices were going to be of any help to me.

The thing for me that actually was helpful and that I definitely made use of was the daily word count entry, which charted your progress and provided interesting statistics, such as what your average daily word count was and what your estimated date of completion would be. This helped me stay accountable to myself, and it got me to force myself to make time every day for writing. Honestly that has always been my downfall as a writer. It’s way too easy to let laziness win.

The next step is, of course, to go back over this entire first draft and make adjustments, revisions, and even some total rewrites of certain passages. Some of this will be incredibly easy, since I made some changes to the plot as I got further into the book. Certain things I’d written earlier conflict with these later changes, so I’ll need to alter them to fit. Not a problem, really. The hard part will be when I get to points where I find myself having to change or completely delete segments that I really like. I don’t want to leave anything good on the cutting room floor, so-to-speak, but I know it is probably inevitable. That, I think, is what I’ll find most difficult during this process.

I’ve seen and been told that the self-publishing process these days is incredibly easy, if that’s the route I choose to go. But to be honest, I’m not really comfortable with that idea right now. I’d really like this novel to have the opportunity to become something big (not that I’m conceited enough to think that it definitely will, but I want the possibility to be there). I’ve been told that for that to even have a chance I’ll need an agent, an editor, and a publicist. Now we’re getting into completely unfamiliar territory for me. If any fellow writers out there who have done this already have any words of wisdom on this subject to share, I’d be eager to hear them.

Outside of all that, as you can clearly tell I have made it back to the blog. Hopefully I can get back to a regular rhythm of a new post every three or four days, but with this being the holiday season it may be a challenge to do so. Thank you all for reading this far. I’m glad to have you here.

“Most writers have totally unrealistic concepts of how publishing works.”

“So Here’s the Thing…” Episode 2

“So Here’s the Thing…” is a recurring column here on Scott’s World in which I address a particular topic that is either a source of frustration for myself, a controversial subject in society, or a current event on which I have a strong opinion.  Let me stress again that if you won’t be able to handle my occasionally-polarizing commentary then you should probably skip these posts. Today’s column is on:

THE NFL’S P.A.T.

We’re just about halfway through the 2015 NFL season and I cannot resist putting in my own two cents about this new extra point system. For those of you not familiar with what I’m talking about, let me get you caught up:

In American football, when a team scores a touchdown it is worth six points, and the team is given a bonus opportunity to score one more point – called the “extra point” or P.A.T. (point after touchdown) – by kicking the ball through the goal posts. Traditionally the kick was made fairly close to the goal posts, with the line of scrimmage being placed at the 2 yard-line. For the most part, these kicks were extremely easy for professional kickers, and it had gotten to the point where they were virtually automatic. This season, however, the NFL changed the P.A.T. rule to place the ball at the 15 yard-line, making those extra point kicks a little bit more difficult.

Many people like this change because it gives the extra point play some significance. Whereas before they might as well have eliminated it completely and just made a touchdown worth seven points instead of six, now there is a genuine possibility of teams missing the kick. The extra point has been made to truly be an opportunity for one more bonus point rather than just a freebie. While I agree with this concept on this fairly basic level, I think that there is still a problem with doing it this way, and I’m going to use today’s blog post to discuss my thoughts.

See, the entire goal of a team’s offense each time they get the ball is to move forward by at least ten yards, earning first downs and continuing forward with the ultimate mission of getting a touchdown. The basic idea of the extra point is that it is a reward for making it into the end zone and getting that touchdown. It’s a reward. Keep that in mind while I make my next few statements.

When the offense fails to get a first down and finds themselves on fourth down, they are faced with a dilemma. If they do not get the first down on that play, then the other team will take over on offense from that same position on the field. Alternatively, the offense can choose to punt the ball downfield to the other team, effectively admitting that they do not believe they will be able to get the first down on that fourth down play, and giving the ball to the other team’s offense at a spot on the field further back than they would have been. Lastly, the third option for the offense is that they can bring out their kicker and try for a field goal. This is also admitting that they don’t have confidence in their ability to get a first down, but they believe that they are close enough to the goal posts that their kicker can get the ball through them. The field goal is basically the same play as the extra point, except that it is not done from the 15 yard-line but rather from whatever yard-line the line of scrimmage is currently on for the fourth down play. This kick through the goal posts earns the team three points. Again, for emphasis: the team has failed to earn a first down or a touchdown, and has decided to settle for only three points. The field goal is essentially a consolation prize.

Now here is where I have an issue. If the extra point is a reward, and the field goal is a consolation prize, then why is the field goal worth more than the extra point?

This is where most people will argue that the field goal is usually from further away than the extra point, and so it is more difficult, and logically it should be worth more. This is reasonable and in fact was true nearly 99% of the time, back when the extra point was kicked from the 2 yard-line and not the 15. With the extra point kicked from further back, there are plenty of times when a team is closer for a field goal than the 15 yard-line.

My argument here is that the extra point and the field goal are executed identically by the offense, and so the value of a more difficult kick should not be lower than that of an easier kick. Of course, nobody would want to change the standard value of field goals to only one point, and nobody would want to change the standard value of the extra point to three or more. The only way to solve the problem I just defined would be to return the extra point to the two yard-line like it was before. That then brings back the frustration people had with it being too easy and a wasted play.

“Well, then, Scott,” you say, “how can we possibly solve all of these problems at once?”

Here’s my proposal, and feel free to share this with anyone in the NFL front offices, because I really feel this is a great idea all around:

We make the value of a kick between the goal posts vary based on what yard-line the line of scrimmage is at the time of the play. Let’s say kicks from the 1 to 10 are worth one point, from the 11 to the 20 two points, from the 21 to the 30 three points, from the 31 to the 40 four points, and anything further is worth five points. Not only does this then award teams based on the difficulty of the kick, but it may in fact encourage teams to try field goals in certain circumstances where they might otherwise have simply punted the ball away, and conversely they might choose to go for it in circumstances where they might otherwise have just kicked a field goal. The distance-related values on kicks will have the added benefit of making the game more exciting for fans.

As for that 15 yard-line extra point, my proposal also includes a change to that as well. Since the extra point, remember, is a reward for the scoring of a touchdown, how about this:

After they have scored a touchdown, the team gets to choose where they want to kick the extra point from.

Yes, you read that right. The team can kick from anywhere they want. This truly makes it a reward because they don’t have to kick it from one particular place and receive a pre-defined number of extra point(s). They can take the easy shot from the 1 yard-line and get one point, or they can take a chance and kick it from, say, the 31 and get four of them. It make the extra point play into a strategic decision, one of risk-reward for the scoring team. This again, makes the play more interesting for the fans, as well as putting more of a value on having a quality kicker. Additionally, making this change keeps teams “in the game” longer than before. Now a team still has a realistic chance of winning a game even if they are losing by nine points with 30 seconds left. A touchdown can become as much as an 11 point play, in effect. Again keeping fans interested longer and stopping them from leaving the stadium early or changing the channel.

Now, although I don’t like this new 15 yard-line extra point, I love NFL football and I will continue to be a fan until the day I die. This will not change no matter what goofy changes they make or stupid rules they come up with (looking at you, “excessive celebration” rule). But I really feel strongly that this proposal makes a lot of sense, because kicks really should have a value relative to their degree of difficulty. I hope you all agree with me. Let me know with your comments.

“Baseball is America’s pastime, but football is truly America’s passion.”

“So Here’s the Thing…” Episode 1

“So Here’s the Thing…” is a recurring column here on Scott’s World in which I address a particular topic that is either a source of frustration for myself, a controversial subject in society, or a current event on which I have a strong opinion.  Let me stress again that if you won’t be able to handle my occasionally-polarizing commentary then you should probably skip these posts.  Today’s column is on:

DRIVING

It’d be easy for me to fill pages and pages with the things that bother us all about traffic and specifically other drivers. I’m not going to do that. We’ve all been through those things a thousand times already when we complain to our friends or family about some idiot who cut us off on the way home from the office yesterday. Instead I’d simply like to clear up a few things for everyone, because I honestly feel that one of the biggest problems we have in the world today is that people simply do not understand the “why” behind many of the things we do. If we could really get everyone to truly comprehend why they are expected to do or not do certain things, then life would be much better for us all. Here’s my first example:

I am constantly amazed by how something as simple as the turn signal can be the source of so much trouble. Drivers are regularly not using it at all or using it at the wrong time. Let me explain how this is supposed to work. The purpose of the turn signal on a vehicle is to let other people around you — those in another vehicle and those on foot — know that you are going to be slowing down and turning soon. Again, to let them know that you are going to be slowing down and turning soon. One more time, for emphasis: Going to be slowing down and turning. The turn signal is not necessary in order to make your vehicle capable of changing direction, it is just there as a device to inform others of your intentions out of basic courtesy and in the interest of safety. So, if you put on your signal after you have already pressed the brake pedal and slowed down to turn, then you are doing it too late for it to make any difference. The guy behind you has already had to slam on his brakes because your turn is taking him by surprise. If you put on your signal after you are already in a turn-only traffic lane, then you are wasting your effort to even bother because everyone can already see that you are going to be turning. If you put on your signal while you are already in the act of turning your vehicle, then, again, you are far too late and there is no point in even bothering to do so. And one of my favorites — if you put on your turn signal three blocks back from where you are actually planning to turn, then it is like the old story of the boy who cried “wolf.” Each potential turn that you come to will have everyone around you thinking that is where you are going to turn, and eventually they will not be prepared when you actually do make the slow down and turn. So please, everyone, remember: approach, then signal, then brake, then turn.

And for those of you who don’t bother to use the turn signal at all, I’m just going to say right now that you’re a moron. Other cars need to know what you are going to be doing. You can’t read their minds so why do you think that they can read yours? When you get rear-ended because the person behind you did not realize that you were going to be slowing to turn, you have no right to be angry at that driver. Frankly, you deserved it and they didn’t.

The next thing I wanted to vent about here is speed. Some of you are going entirely too fast, and some of you are not going nearly fast enough. For those of you in the former category, the obvious problem is that you are breaking the law. The speed limit is not a recommendation. It is the law, which is why you can be pulled over and ticketed for violating it. But I’m not about to preach about staying under the speed limit, because really that isn’t the point I want to make here. The point is that if you are driving at a speed far faster than the majority of other people on the road, you are endangering everyone. Let’s say that everyone on the road is speeding along at 75 mph. When you come flying from behind and pass everyone at 95 mph, you not only run the risk of crashing into another vehicle that might move inadvertently into your path, but you also could cause others to crash as they try to get out of your way.

For those of you who like to drive slowly, thinking you’re being safer by doing so, the same reasoning applies. As others catch up to you and want to go around, your slowness can create accidents. Particularly frustrating and dangerous are those of you who are travelling slower than other traffic and are in the left lane. Newsflash: The slower the vehicles are going compared to other vehicles on the road, the farther to the right they are supposed to be driving. If there are cars going slower than you, you should be to the left of them, and if there are cars going faster than you, you should be to the right of them. This is basic Driver’s Ed stuff, people, and yet I see drivers every single day who do not seem to understand this.

Whether traffic is moving fast or slow, the best and safest strategy is to drive at relatively the same speed as everyone else. If you think some other driver is a jerk who is driving too fast, just get to the right and let him go by. Stubbornly staying in the left lane while going slower than others is only creating more of a risk of car crashes around you.

Third I’d like to discuss Stops.  You should stop at all Stop signs. You should stop at all red traffic lights. You should stop when the gates are down at a railroad crossing. I’ll tell you where you should not stop — in the middle of the freaking road! If the road ahead of you is clear and open and there are no traffic devices directing you to stop your vehicle, then you need to keep moving. Sure, it’s awfully nice of you to stop to let that guy on the side street who’s trying to turn onto this street come in, but it is also very dangerous. The people behind you are not expecting someone to stop when there’s no directed reason to, so you are just asking to get smashed into from behind when you do that. Your act of kindness could actually kill someone. Yes, it sure is sad that the poor guy trying to turn might have to wait a while longer, but that is the way the rules of the road work. The straightaway has the right-of-way. This same discussion can be had over all of those intersections that do not have four-way stops. If you don’t have a Stop sign facing you as you approach the intersection, you need to keep moving. That Mall entrance without a Stop sign or that Wal-Mart entrance without one are both places where you should not stop. Stopping where there is no Stop sign or traffic light can cause confusion among the other drivers at that intersection, and that can lead to accidents. Sometimes I think they need to put up Do Not Stop signs in those spots and then maybe people will follow them.

What all of this really comes down to is that when you are driving you really have to keep in mind that you are not the only one on the road. You can’t just do whatever you want to simply because it is convenient for you at the time. Every time you perform any action with your vehicle without considering how that action might affect nearby drivers you are creating the possibility of a traffic accident. That means if you are in the far left lane of the interstate and you realize that you’re about to miss your exit, you don’t whip your car to the right across four lanes of traffic to try to make it in time. It means if there’s a traffic jam and you are late for work, you don’t just drive on the shoulder to get around everyone else. It means if you realize a couple minutes after leaving that you forgot something at home, you don’t just stop and do a U-turn in the middle of the street.

Please, people — follow traffic laws and be considerate of others while driving. It will make the roadways easier for all of us.

(P.S. I know you were all expecting me to include the whole texting-and-driving thing in this post. Don’t worry, it’ll have it’s very own post some time in the future.)

“Drive carefully. Think of the impact you could make.”