Disneyworld Day 2: Blizzard Beach, Epcot, Boardwalk

  • The free intra-resort bus service has pretty good thus far. In some cases it’s been faster than an Uber, since the buses can usually get closer to the actual entrance of the park. But on average, I think the buses are about 10-15 min slower than Uber, which is not bad given the savings. My main wish is that more stops would have ETA boards; some places do, most don’t.
  • Blizzard Beach was a lot of fun! Sure, the competition isn’t strong, but this has to be the best watermark I’ve been to. There’s a great range of slides, everything is clean and well-signposted, and all the staff were friendly. We’d read that on park opening you should run to the tallest slide, Summit Plummet, to avoid queues, but the entire park was very quiet. The longest we waited was about 15 minutes, and most slides had barely anyone at all in front.
  • FYI, while I like near-vertical drops, Summit Plummet wasn’t worth a second ride, whereas Toboggan Racers and the Purple rides were.
  • Epcot shouldn’t work as a theme park, and yet it does. It’s educational, but not as educational as a museum. It’s fun, but not as fun as the other parks. It’s got miniature versions of other countries… and yeah, those are pretty unique. I don’t say this to knock Epcot – I’m just amazed that Disney keeps it running. I guess the scale helps soak up a lot of visitors, and a lot of the capital expenditures have already been made.

  • Had lunch at the Moroccan quick service restaurant, Tangerine Cafe; tasty and fresh.

  • Living with the Land was a bizarrely dated slow ride, combined with a bizarrely interesting look at Disney’s in-House experimental farm and hydroponics lab. I’m not clear what their level of seriousness is here, but I guess they haven’t shut it down yet…
  • Soarin’ is breathtakingly good, although I preferred the quieter California-centric show in Disneyland from a few years back to the bombastic, CGI-laden highlights of every country here in Disneyworld. It would be great if they could rotate the shows, but perhaps that’s more logistically challenging than it seems
  • We almost skipped Turtle Talk with Crush, but I’m glad we saw it because it’s an amazingly successful example of using human-driven CGI-characters to interact with a live audience. Basically, the audience can talk with Crush, and Crush can see the audience, which is a fun trick – powered by (I’m guessing) pre-rendered CG sequences that can be easily chained together, plus cameras. I wonder how many people power it behind the scenes. I imagine similar things at the upcoming Star Wars hotel.

  • Finding Nemo is not worth it.
  • Who knew that Epcot had a decent-sized aquarium? People seemed to be more interested in taking selfies with the countless divers, though.

  • Spaceship Earth was a fun slow ride about the history of communications technology. Reasonably educational, and has bonus Judi Dench narration.
  • Gran Fiesta Tour really needs to get replaced by a proper Coco ride.
  • Disney Boardwalk… eh.
  • One of the fanciest restaurants at Disneyworld is Flying Fish on the Boardwalk. Decent, with city prices to suit. You can really see the power of Disney’s economies of scale by the fact that Flying Fish doesn’t have its own toilets – rather, it shared them with the nearby bar.
  • Day 1 bonus: The Hall of Presidents has one of the nicest panoramic screens I’ve ever seen, with truly impressive animatronics. I don’t think I was imagining the uneasy silence in the room when the haggard-looking Donald Trump model started talking, though.
  • The audio mix on many slow rides is off; it’s often hard to hear environmental audio vs narration from nearby speakers. I’m not sure if there is an easy solution hear, but with more storytelling and atmosphere being reliant on complex audio, a solution is needed.

Disneyworld Day 1: Magic Kingdom

  • The Magic Kingdom Park is a lot more crowded than I expected, and slightly unpleasant to get around. Perhaps this is because it was Presidents Day in Monday, but I’d hate to see how busy it gets during high season.
  • I don’t know how anyone puts up with waiting for 30+ minutes in line. We’ve used Fastpasses for everything so far and it’s still annoying to wait in line for things like Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • Speaking of which… Pirates was my least favourite ride. I get the nostalgia factor but they really need to update it: slow loading, questionable scenes, etc. Some of the animatronics are on point though.
  • Haunted Mansion was great. Really impressed with how seamless the visuals were. I was worried that the hyper-efficient train of slow cars would detract from the immersion, but surprisingly not thanks to the limited FOV, pivoting viewpoint, and good audio. The main problem was that the staff had to shout repeatedly at guests to move along, get inside, make room, etc. This is where the crowding problem really interferes with immersion.
  • The Happily Ever After fireworks and projection mapping was very impressive, both in the quality and vividness of the projection, and the sheer Disney power in mashing up all their most famous songs. Kids were losing their shit at this.
  • Jungle Cruise was our final ride. We had a great guide, people were desperately trying to join our full boat after hearing his jokes. Still, I’m not happy about the stereotypical savage Africans/ruined Buddhist temple stuff. Also needs updating, please.
  • Day 2 will be Blizzard Beach, Epcot, and Boardwalk

Frank Chimero on the struggle between the commons and commerce of the internet, and the spirituality of technology:

Most of our dream worlds are dystopias. One reason for this is that we feel technology is only producing commercial possibilities while neglecting or distorting the other essential parts of us. It’s not being very library-like. People have an easier time imagining how technology’s influence can go wrong. Our imaginations have a negative flair, and it’s always been this way.

I don’t quite agree with everything he says (the Center for Humane Technology’s survey methodology is worthless) but otherwise the essay is thoughtful and quietly optimistic.

Alex Pareene on the link between the profitability and ethics of newspapers in the Columbia Journalism Review:

In retrospect, it seems inevitable that American journalism’s professional norms around fairness and ethics emerged at a time when newspapers and magazines were good investments for normal financial reasons. Safe investments attract safe corporate investors. Corporations like clear standards of conduct and don’t like offending huge numbers of potential customers, which is how Yellow Journalism gave way to “All the News That’s Fit to Print” and the mainstream media as we knew it. The market played a big role in determining content. A big city paper could lean a little to the left or the right, but it couldn’t go full–John Birch or all–in Yippie without losing the thing that gave it power: monopolistic access to the eyeballs of the city’s literate adults.

China’s Social Credit Score, and the distraction of Black Mirror

Adam Greenfield has a good introduction to the scope and folly of China’s new tech-driven social credit score in The Atlantic. On Metafilter, he also remarked on how he was disappointed by constant responses of “it’s just like Black Mirror!”:

It makes me really sad that so much of the response to this piece has been, “Gee, it’s just like an episode of Black Mirror.” (The same thing happened with the new Boston Dynamics video the other day.) It’s really made me rethink the role of that show in the culture: how it works, what effects it has, what it does. It seems to me to be dulling our capacity for preventative disgust, in that we see something like social credit, or a military robot capable of operating in domestic environments, and nod and say, “Yeah, that’s some real Black Mirror shit right there, huh?” and go back to the thing we were doing before.

And that doesn’t, you’ll forgive me, seem like a superhealthy response. I’m not accusing anyone here if doing that, necessarily, just noticing how often the show is invoked as a kind of palliative or preemptive gesture of learned helplessness.

I don’t know that we can blame Black Mirror for learned helplessness, but a couple of episodes notwithstanding, the show’s utter dystopian nature combined with its outsize budgets and outsize audience has meant that we’re lacking in stories of hope and optimism.

Perhaps Black Mirror was an antidote to the techno-utopianism of the early days of Twitter and Facebook, but now we need an antidote to Black Mirror.

Hit me up with your Disneyworld recs! I’m going there – and Kennedy Space Center – in two days time…