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— DAY 5 —
Speaking of Nothing, Did I Mention...?
April 11

I am starting this update early today, at 7:00pm, while I have some down time. And what have I to say? Today is more boring than yesterday! How could that be?

Well, there's still dinner, and since there are no plans and everyone's getting punchier, I'm sure something interestingly worthwhile will happen before I finish this post. [UPDATE: It did!]

In the meantime, I shall waste valuable server storage space and high-speed bandwidth to provide some tidbits of this boring day.

Cup O' Flan

After experiencing the tastelessly sour splendors of Sveltesse that first morning at the hotel, I was not about to try this other cup-enclosed breakfast treat. Pre-packaged flan? I don't like flan anyway, but even if I did, I'm not too sure I'd trust this one. Besides, sloshing the insides around in their translucent plastic container reminded me more of phlegm. Nestlé Phlegmby! Eat it with a spoon or a straw! (More on straws later.)

The first nine hours of the day were spent fighting bugs in the A/V system, fighting with Microsoft PowerPoint, and sitting through some dry, dry run-throughs of Wednesday's presentations. Literally, I was dozing off at the keyboard. Not a good idea when you're running the show.

Chuck and I tried to keep each other awake with incessant banter on the headsets, but it failed after about five hours. When we finally piped down, I think the rest of the crew was grateful. They were so quiet on the cans, which I guess you're supposed to be unless you have something relevant to communicate regarding the show. I found their professionalism disturbing.

Speaking of raisins, I caught a few more fun quotes today. I take no responsibility for any throats damaged from groaning or eyes ruined from too much rolling.

* * * * * *

Me: "I'm gonna spread you across this crusty piece of toast like curdled butter. Um, can butter curdle, or is it already curdled?"

Chuck: "Yes, butter has achieved curdleness."

* * * * * *

Alistair (on Geppetto): "I always thought there was something wrong with a guy who would make a boy out of wood."

Chuck: "Better than getting wood out of a boy."

* * * * * *

WARNING: LANGUAGE!

Peter: "I worked on this one show of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that we hated. The crew started calling it The Cat, the Cunt, and the Cupboard."

* * * * * *

Really, has this travelogue turned potty mouth on me? Well, I tell it like I hear it. Or say it. Or think it. Maybe I'm just too worked out, tired, and sick. Never mind! On to pictures!

Crampy Booth

Here's the small space we have to work in for the ballroom portion of the show. That's Giles, Peter, Richard, and Zippy.

Oh, and that jumbled mass behind the table there?

Cables En Masse

HOI POLLOI!

It never ceases to amaze me, when I'm in a state of mind that allows me to comprehend nothing more complex, that we have yet to catch fire during these shows.

1:05AM: STOP THE PRESSES!
Carol at Caroll

Yes, folks, there is also a store named Carol. (Or Caroll, but who cares?) At the Mall (capitalization added to denote said location as being the same mall that was visited on Day 3), Tresa and Carol, our Carol, ran across this store. They said it was right around the corner from Chuck's. Guess we didn't explore the Mall enough.

Thanks for the pic, Tresa!

Now, what else happened after I worked on this entry in the office? Something profound!

Wandering back toward the ballroom after finding out the astounding revelation about Carol and Carol(l) and watching a video clip Chris found for us of the original The Muppet Show Mahna Mahna skit, it hit me that the longer I stay at this hotel, the less Disney it seems. Sure, everybody's perfectly dressed in some kind of cast member costume, and there are characters in the lobby every day (none so far have been very gropy), but it's peculiar beyond these façades. Like some kind of alternate universe. Dalt Wisney's Wisneyland Paris.

I mean, look how surreal this place can be! Big apples for New York is fine, I guess. But really, THIS big? And in the carpeting? And peach-colored?

Everything's slightly off kilter here.

Truly Big Apples

I had to sit through only a short bit of tedious presentation rehearsals before we finally got to break for dinner. We were confused. It was much too early for dinner. Who dines at 9:30?

Straws for Every Facial Orifice

Tonight, my fun, juicy drink came with one bendy straw bent down and one bendy straw straight up. This could only mean that the French use straws differently than we do.

I like to try to fit in and not look out of place in a foreign country, so I tried it. It was educational, as most culture shock can be.

Hey hey, it's only 1:40am, and I'm done! Aside from the proofreading, the re-writing, the posting, the RSS, and the search engine update. So I'll be in bed by 3:20.

Ha! Je kid.

Tiny Fleurs

— DAY 6 —
Time to Work
April 12

Frustration Close Up

What a day. We had to baby-sit a negotiations trainer from 8:45am to 5:00pm. We tried to get work done for tomorrow's big day, but were constantly interrupted by equipment malfunctions and interruptions of needy people.

In all fairness, the negotiation guy was very nice and interesting to listen to. He was not a problem today in the least.

And that was it! We worked consistently until now (12:20am) pulling tomorrow's show together. There were, of course, fun and/or jovial moments: Discussing U.S. and British politics with Giles and Alistair (we couldn't have a more British-named crew if they were all called Bloke or Lass); More headphone banter with Chuck; Telling Michael Rola (yes, that Michael Rola) that he looked drunk already when I knew very well he was terribly jet-lagged; and Chuck crowding me against an equipment rack while pretending to be Chris tasting a bottle of wine, then shouting in a very resonant and obnoxious voice, "Am I creating an awkward and uncomfortable work environment???"

Again, in all fairness, Chuck was not trying to talk like Chris. He was quoting our recent online corporate harrasment training. I think. Why am I trying to cover his ass?

FUN FACT: Chris has become our resident wine taster. For every meal where we have wine, the waiter (no waitresses so far) automatically goes to him to try the wine. Apparently, he's made some fine choices. I am comfortable not participating, relishing my kiddy fruit juice cocktails. The Alice's "Drink Me" was nearly quite delicious!

Of course, we missed doing the fun activity tonight: An hour of all-you-can-ride on the newly-renovated Space Mountain. You may recall that it was closed last year, which bummed me out completely. Turns out it's been revamped and was just re-opened. And I missed it again. Well, my one consolation is that I'll get to ride it at the end of the week when this work stuff is all over.

"My, how interesting this all is. Can I go now?"

Okay, you can go. But first, you will be subjected to this variation on the above pic, proving beyond any sort of doubt of any kind that these photos were anything but spontaneous.

A Little Corner of Heaven

 

Tiny Fleurs

— DAY 7 —
The Cave of Wonders
April 13

In the last two days, I have not set foot outside of this place for more than three minutes, and that was around 8:30pm today (it was still wonderfully sunlighty) to roll some gear from just outside the conference center doors. In becoming trapped in this surreal lodging, I have discovered that the Hotel New York is a Cave of Wonders.

Pas des puff puffs!

WONDER #1: A simple scene of repose. But there is mystery here, and expectations damaged... Something beyond the obvious until, upon discovery, it becomes the obvious.

If your mind is unable to solve the puzzle, just hold your cursor over the picture.

The Cave of Wonders is filled with many acts of this minor rebellion. One outlook clashes with another, and the stronger and more invasive tends to win. Is this Paris? Is this France? Is this life?

WONDER #2: Following today's cultural ritual comprising a congregation of people meeting in a large room to watch more important people speak on a raised dais in front of projected images, curious remnants were in evidence.

The ritual was a long-running, over-ambitious affair if we are to trust these artifacts. A bored people turn to their inner Tivos for entertainment, and their brains require varieties of sustenance to replenish energy wasted lavishing attention on wanting corporate stimulus.

Wonder Two: Artifacts

Wonder Three: Skyline

WONDER #3: The colors! The design! The décor! All of it—carpet peachapples to two-year-old Italian Disney Channel adverts in the elevators—bows low to the king of tacky: A plywood city skyline with working lights!

The outside is brought in, and stupor ensues.

WONDER #4: A late-night supper in the skyline room lacking in adventure, failing to sufficiently satisfy. It is often in these situations that bread works to provide volume to the empty digestive chambers while distracting the tongue with simplicity.

But the miniature loaves found in tonight's repast, though a charming model on the Gallic tradition, proved resilient to mastication. Holding the leavened object as if a knife, sharp, repetitive stabs on a tabletop were nearly the ruin of the furniture's stability.

Simon, ever resourceful in all matters of Barco bewilderments, chose practicality over waste, solving tonight's unique problem of sudden security of the doors by wedging them open.

Wonder Four: Utility Food

Food as nourishment, or food as utility? Situation provides solution, if consistency allows.

A Cave of Wonders, indeed! These are but four of the many already discovered and revealed in this travel treatise. As the work portion of the voyage winds down, I wonder: Will the Cave of Wonders travel back with me? And if so, will it reside in heart or liver?

Tiny Fleurs

— DAY 8 —
2 Ends, 3 Begins
April 14

Due to the unique and unconventional nature of yesterday's posting, I was unable to include some tidbits that I had intended to include. And having received only 1½ hours of sleep last night, I am fading fast. (The event is wrapping up at the very moment I type this.) [UPDATE: Yet here I am at 3:45am finishing this way-too-long entry! I'm crazy.]

I am eager to share those lost moments with you now. En-, as they say, -joy.

* * * * * *

Chuck (over the headsets during the show): "Shouldn't Tarzan 2 just be called T2?

Chuck and I (attempting to re-create the Terminator 2 musical theme vocally): "CH CHch ch chch. CH CHch ch chch."

Me: "The movie [Tarzan 2] would be great with Linda Hamilton. Linda Hamilton? That's wrong."

Chuck: "No, it was Linda Hamilton."

Me: "Oh, I was thinking Linda Hunt..."

Chuck: "Oh, yeah. Mike's mom?"

* * * * * *

Me (frustrated because Chuck would not give a reasonable answer every time I asked him what he wanted to hear from my iPod): "Okay, we'll play songs that have a specific word in the title. Give me a word."

Chuck: "Juxtapose."

* * * * * *

Thank you. And now on to today's interesting and worthwhile entry, added at our regularly-scheduled late-night time.

We begin with my recounting how Richard told me late yesterday evening that I should run the show today. I was surprised, but it was fine. I'd been doing it anyway. The only problem was that I wouldn't get to do yesterday's entry today, as I'd intended. That's why I stayed up all night instead, to make sure my rabid fan base (consisting entirely of two diseased dogs named Poochie and Fiddles, a fruit bat under that bridge in Austin, and a particularly froth-mouthed squirrel in a tree on Mary Gillian's lawn in Hoboken) got a timely entry.

I was most worried about our poor crew. They had been subjected to two days of ceaseless banter between Chuck and I, and now they were gonna have to put up with one more today. Sadly, I lived up to the challenge of remaining cogently verbose yet infantile, and I can not doubt that each and every one of the bunch thought us the most tedious loudmouths imaginable.

Following the major presentations, which were not nearly as behind today as they were yesterday, the attendees got to look at some pretty neat equipment we'd set up in the room late last night. Such goodies included four varieties of portable video player, a Media Center PC (ugh!), a TiVo (DVRs are still rare in Europe), a high definition-to-standard definition comparison, and an honest-to-goodness Blu-ray player. The latter four were hooked up to large plasma displays. While they do have a nice look, the general consensus among us true A/V geeks is that CRTs still look the best. Even on high-def material like Blu-ray, the limitations of plasma—and, for that matter LCD and DLP—are noticeable.

Don't even get me started on the crappy Windows Mobile interface and execution. Oh, nor the buggy and clunky Media PC platform.

Despite the cutting-edge problems with all this highly advanced technology, it all looked damn cool in the room!

Enthralled by Garner

After the room cleared out, little Chuckles McBangbang could be found watching an episode of Alias that just happened to be on the TiVo. He was enthralled, all alone in the huge room aside from us crew folk.

It was either pathetic or cute, but I was too tired to choose which.

QUERY: Ever felt like a tick on the fur coat of life? No? Well, I don't know if I have, but I thought it was a funny phrase.

I shall not describe the very last session. Nor shall I describe the equipment break-down process, because that is often uninteresting. Days of sleep loss make coiling cable and packing equipment a sometimes frustrating and always half-conscious endeavor.

I shall, however, describe dinner!

Stuck once again at Disney Village, and with the Chicago Steak House closed for a private function, we tried to find a place that was not a hideous American chain. It was bad enough to be at the Hotel New York, but to then have to eat at Rainforest Café or Planet Hollywood would have been torture.

Luckily, at the end of the fabricated shopping and dining experience district, we found Annette's Diner. It was another exuberant mimicry of American culture, but, like everything else here, it had an unsettling peculiarity about it. For instance, most of the menu item descriptions start out perfectly normal, but then someting goes horribly wrong. To wit: "Iceberg lettuce, tortilla strips, tomatoes, beans, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and a poached egg."

A POACHED EGG? ON A TACO SALAD? Yes, if pod people ever landed in the States, this is how things would start to go wrong.

Chuck, being Chuck, ordered the Big English Breakfast Burger. Here it is, in a delightfully faded '50s cook book-looking phone cam photo:

 

Burger Nausea

 

Beyond the glistening egg, you might be able to make out a frankfurter, bacon, and mushrooms. Where exactly the hamburger was is anyone's guess.

Luckily, the show crew, which was all from the UK, was sitting at a table nearby.

Chuck: "Is this what you guys do to your burgers?"

Simon (a man of some girth): "How do you think I got to looking the way I do?"

Chuck: "Pilates?"

Here, Carol displays the house dessert, "Elvis the King." Or something like that. (The quotes were part of the dessert name.) Underneath all that whipped cream and chocolate sauce was a pyramid of brownie and blondie bars, themselves enshrining three scoops of variously-flavored ice creams upon a chocolate chip cookie foundation.

Big-Ass Dessert

Rip. Mix. Wipe.

With all this messy food being inhaled, it was fortunate that the convenient napkin dispenser contained festively-imprinted serviettes.

We could not, however, come to a consensus on whether this woman was suffering from gastrointestinal rupture due to overuse of eggs in menu items, or if she is wielding some sort of martial arts skill to fend off iPod silhouette design infringement lawsuits from Apple.

The food in general at the resort has been a hot topic of conversation. Huddled groups of multi-lingual BVHE-I employees had much to say about it all, but usually the words "crap" and "crappy" were among the most utilized. [DISCLOSURE: I made this up. But not really. Everyone I talked to was not so very terribly happy with the food. Carry on...]

I guess you could add the food to the list from the Cave of Wonders.

It was raining tonight, so after the entire entourage wogged from Annette's to the hotel, we retired to the bar for beverages and, according to reports from verbiage on one drinks menu, "salted nibbles." Despite nearly falling asleep a few times during "dinner," I had to hang, too.

You see, the English crew that Andy Peat had hired for this show was fantastic. They were friendly, helpful, proficient, funny, and, despite my poking fun at them on a previous post, professional. But because us BVHE types had been working so many hours, we hadn't had the pleasure of simply socializing with them. This was our only chance.

We all got a great corner in the bar, which was actually the most atmospheric place I'd seen since moving in a week ago. The conversation was relaxed and fun. I don't know what it is about the English, but I always find them more amusing and personable on average than most Americans. Interestingly enough, Alistair was saying tonight how he thought the English were fairly unfriendly toward others and Americans are the ones who are so outgoing and nice. I suppose, however, these two views are different on premise. Perhaps the English are more friendly and socially adept once they know you, and Americans are, on average, more forward at first but then can be less well-rounded in the end.

This is all, I'm sure, a load of Dingo's kidneys.

Regardless of who's friendlier or funnier (don't worry, Zippy; you're still special!), I want to thank this crew. It was the most cohesive and relaxed I've ever worked with. Also, I found out they've been reading this site, so I have to cover my ass.

 

Bar Crew

 

A final thought: Today was the last day of work, aside from seeing our equipment off tomorrow morning. Or afternoon, since the French never seem to be on time. This trip now enters the third of what I have decided to predict is four stages. Each stage feels like a different trip entirely. Comme ça:

The first "trip" was Days 1 to 3, before we got too much into work. This felt like a semi-vacation, where we had come a long way to be in a new place but were only able to make some tentative forays out to interesting places.

The second "trip" was Days 4 to 8 (today), where we were working so hard we could have been anywhere. Paris? Anaheim? Orlando? Hoboken? They are all the same when creating a show such as this.

Tomorrow begins "trip" three, which should cover Days 9 to 11. I'll be able to relax, have some fun, catch up on sleep, and see the sights with a group of friends. We'll finally get to be tourists seeing amazing sights!

"Trip" four begins when everyone but me leaves and I'm here in Paris by myself. Days 12 to 14 will find me being able to do whatever I want on my very own. This means it'll be strange, a little lonely, but also exciting and completely unconstrained. I just have a feeling it will end up being one of those experiences I'll remember forever.

Sounds like a full plate, so I'm gonna go to sleepy land. Ah, sleep! Ah, sleep! Ah, slnpeeepnsan vbsbvsmkm mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm m m m m m m m m

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