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Renaissance Man's Potpourri

A wide group of diverse interests are spotlighted.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

I just returned from two days in Wisconsin where I was the guest of Bill Young, the webmaster of the World's Fair website I've gushed about so much and showed in class last Wednesday in my presentation. On my way up, I stopped at the Golden Rondelle Theater in Racine, WI which was the Johnson Wax Pavilion at the 64 Fair. The theater is currently being renovated, but I took part in a tour group of the nearby Frank Lloyd Wright-designed administration building of Johnson Wax, which started from the theater.

Yesterday, I went all the way up to Nellesville, WI with Bill to see the rotunda of the Wisconsin Pavilion, which now houses a radio station, WCCN. The main level sells typical tourist and Wisconsin fare (cheese). The upper level has the original model of the rotunda from the Fair and the lower level has some of Bill's memorabilia that's been donated. A display outside the rotunda recalls how the Pavilion displayed the "World's Largest Cheese" at the Fair in 1964. Definitely fun, and fascinating for me to have been at the Fairgrounds in NY just four weeks ago and that we parked at the very spot where this rotunda now located in western Wisconsin sat.

I will not be in class for the final session as my teaching starts tomorrow but it has been an enjoyable experience and to those who had kind words about my blog and my presentation last Wednesday, thank you very much!

.: posted by Eric 6:13 PM

Sunday, June 22, 2003

My newest contribution to preserving the legay of bygone attractions at Disney World can be found at Walt Dated World with this transcription of the "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" sub ride that I did, using several different video recordings of the ride I have. If I actually had one of these web sites myself and had the ability to constantly upgrade it, I'd probably never stop! :)

.: posted by Eric 7:35 PM

Saturday, June 21, 2003

It doesn't look as though I can have my feature on the Illinois Pavilion on-line by next week, but for my class presentation I have managed to do the crudest of HTML experimentation and come up with five pages of material that I think should satisfy the requirements for the class. Photos and links play a part in it. That part of HTML I understand, but figuring out how to do different columns to get a better look overall is where I'm still in a fog.

Next Friday, my World's Fair history tour picks up on my May visit to the Fairgrounds in New York with a trip to Wisconsin for the weekend where two Fair pavilions were moved afterwards. First, the Johnson Wax Pavilion, which is at their corporate headquarters in Racine and continues to show movies as the original pavilion did on a large screen. Then further north, the Wisconsin Pavilion rotunda now houses a local radio station with some Fair memorabilia.

Copyright issues take on an interesting thing for me, with the availability of the softward MIRC, which once installed allows one to hook up to something called "Internet Relay Chat" and there are many forums for downloading files that all but take the place of old Napster files etc. I've found almost all the Disney park soundtracks I was looking for!

Orrin Hatch is the kind of politician I usually agree with on just about everything but his comments the other day about destroying computers from afar that violate copyright is one of the most idiotic things I've ever heard in my life. Glad he had to back off from that!

.: posted by Eric 12:32 PM

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Getting those CDs have led to more dividends in the World's Fair collecting front. I was first able to trade a set for a complete eight CD set of World's Fair photos that have been professionally assembled, and looks like I can save a bundle on other Fair memorabilia through trades too.

Shifting to a slightly related topic, I received from ebay purchases, some professionally assembled DVDs of Disney World and Disneyland home videos. They've become a great way to help me re-experience the attractions I remember so vividly from the 70s and 80s that are now sadly gone from the parks. I really don't like the trend Disney has gone in in the last decade as far as their rides and attractions go.

These are the ones I loved most that are now gone from Disney World and EPCOT.

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1971-1994)
-The great submarine ride. Okay all the fish outside the window were plastic and robots, but looking at the different videos I have today, it's still impressive to see that kind of underwater display mounted even if the fish weren't real. The real disgrace though isn't that this attraction was closed, it's that the sub lagoon has been empty and unused with no new ride since 1994!

If You Had Wings (1972-1987)
-Tomorrowland attraction that was a nice leisurely ride through film tableaus of the Caribbean, New Orleans, Mexico etc. and the most infectious theme song of any Disney ride I can remember. Check the great website Widen Your World to learn all about this great ride and other lost Disney World attractions.

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (1971-1998)
-This was the only Fantasyland "dark ride" (car ride in the dark) that I really enjoyed as a kid and sadly it's the only one gone now. Where else could you go on a wild jaunt through England where there were two separate rides on two tracks (and at the middle you came out in a giant town square converging with the other track suggesting a traffic tie-up), and then at ride's end get the illusion of a train running over you (caused by a shining light in your face and the sound of a train whistle) and ending up Hell? :) Disneyland still has its version of Toad but it's not identical to the now gone Florida ride.

The Hall Of Presidents (1971-1993)
-Technically this is still there, but it's a radically altered program from the one I grew up with, and unfortunately now has a script that presents a far more PC interpretation of American history (and in one instance, this attempt to PC leads to a depiction of the Constitutional Convention debate that can only be called dishonest). Also, this makeover saw the original Abraham Lincoln speech that always moved me considerably replaced by a less effective one.

World Of Motion (EPCOT) (1982-1995)
-I miss this leisurely, whimsical ride through the history of transportation. Now the pavilion houses an attraction called "Test Track" that uses the demonstration of being a crash test dummy as an excuse to give us another nausea-inducing "thrill" ride that Disney prefers today. The teenagers might love that kind of ride, but I'll take a slow moving ride that let you get lost in the visual experience any day of the week (plus your whole family, even your grandparents could ride along).

6-Horizons (EPCOT) (1983-1999)
-The theme of this GE sponsored ride was looking ahead to the future. Another great set of visual tableaus and AA figures, culminating with some stunning use of big-screen filmscreens for a surrounding effect.

Honorable mention also for the Skyway from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland and back. In the dumb tradition of the sub lagoon still being empty after nearly a decade, the empty Skyway station is still in Tomorrowland like a derelict. Derelict buildings I could understand at the old World's Fair site after the Fair, but not at Disney World for goodness sake!

Favorites that are still there:
-Pirates Of The Caribbean
-Haunted Mansion
-The American Adventure (EPCOT) (though the closing film montage has now been mucked up)
-Great Movie Ride (Disney-MGM Studios)

.: posted by Eric 8:21 PM

Friday, June 06, 2003

More goodies for a World's Fair buff! Today, I received in the mail copies of a CD project that Disney had been preparing to mark the 40th anniversary of the Fair next year by featuring original music and audio tracks from the four Disney Pavilions (Ford, General Electric, Illinois and Pepsi Cola), but the project alas was cancelled. Needless to say, this didn't stop determined people from getting hold of some of these, and now I have the four CDs and they sound magnificent! Ever wondered where the song "It's A Small World" started? The Pepsi pavilion at the Fair in a ride that was later transferred to Disneyland after the Fair. On the CD devoted to "Small World" there are raw music outtakes and a 20 minute mix of all instrumental tracks one would hear in the boat ride (thankfully the lyrics are left out in that mix since 20 minutes of that would be quite tiresome!).

On Illinois, the original "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln" program is presented and I could finally make out portions of the track that I could not hear on a 1964 live recording I had been using to make the transcript for the website project. Big help there! On Ford, we hear Walt's narration of the "Magic Skyway" attraction and also outtakes of Walt flubbing the narration and going through retakes.

History at its best for me. :)

.: posted by Eric 7:46 PM

Thursday, June 05, 2003

I took a trip into Chicago today to visit the archives of Moody Bible Institute for information on the "Sermons From Science" Pavilion that was part of the 1964 World's Fair. There were two boxes of material and some interesting folders of press releases, brochures and clippings that will ultimately help create a good feature story on the pavilion for the World's Fair site, albeit not with the inside details I was able to do for the Billy Graham Pavilion a year ago. I had a nice chat with the archivist too about the job market for those emerging from library programs that was also helpful and may or may not lead to a helpful contact later on as I finish the program at Dominican.

When I was done I decided to have dinner at Gino's Pizza East, which I don't think I've been to in about 20 years when my sister was still going to med school at UIC. Because I hadn't eaten all day I mistakenly thought I was hungry to handle a medium pizza. Wrong! Those are so big that a small is the only size any single person can take. They're delicious, you just have to take it in the right dosage. People who live nearby have the luxury of taking what they can't finish home in a box, but because I had to walk back to Madison Street Station and then take a Metra train home, that really wasn't a viable option for me.

.: posted by Eric 7:18 PM

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

A funny thing happened today that shows how the infinite areas of diverse subjects on the Internet can sometimes cross paths in unexpected ways. The other day I had taken some of my souvenir LPs from the World's Fair to the Wheaton College Library to dub them to cassette (where facilities are available to do it for nothing if you furnish your own blank cassette) and one of them was the souvenir record of the Continental Insurance Pavilion which featured an animated film called "Cinema 76" and seven songs about numerous figures from the Revolutionary War (done in a folk song style that today's audiences would not latch onto easily). History teacher that I am, I decided to surf the net to find out more about the seven people profiled (only three of which I was familiar with. Others included Deborah Sampson, a young woman who enlisted in the Continental Army by passing herself off as a man).

Imagine my surprise when one of my searches ended up at a page about the Texas Boys Choir, which in 1974 had performed this obscure collection of songs from the Continental Insurance Pavilion. The site even had the full concert available for downloading! However there was no mention of the fact that these songs had originally been done for the World's Fair and the impression was left that they had been "commissioned" specifically for the choir (in anticipation of the Bicentennial).

I left an entry in the guestbook explaining that the songs originally had been done for the Cinema 76 program at the Fair, and later the webmaster replied to me explaining that he had passed on my entry to the former director of the Choir who confirmed what I'd said but that the composer (whose name is Ray Charles, but who in later years had to start billing himself as "The Other Ray Charles" to avoid confusion with the singer) had done some revisions in the arrangments to suit the needs of a Boys Choir and full orchestra so that the effect had been that of a new commissioning altogether. The composer had not objected to the use of the term "commissioning" being used in the programs for the concerts at the time. Nonetheless, the webmaster said he would be revising his page eventually to acknowledge the Fair's role in creating this program of songs and will eventually link the World's Fair site to his. Since he was unfamiliar with the fact that these songs had been commercially released before on LP, he asked for a copy of the Fair album and I will be sending him a cassette dub tomorrow.

A very interesting example I think of the infinite threads of the Internet coming together if one searches hard enough! :)

.: posted by Eric 9:33 PM

While the 1964 New York World's Fair is really the only fair I've studied in-depth (and the 1939 New York World's Fair, held on the same site to a lesser degree), there are other historic World's Fairs worth learning about on the Internet. Here's a guide to some sites about other famous World's Fairs.

1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition
1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition (second site)
1933 Chicago World's Fair
1939 New York World's Fair
Expo 67 (Montreal)
1974 Spokane World's Fair

.: posted by Eric 9:41 AM

This is the tentative structure of my feature on the Illinois Pavilion from the 1964 World's Fair which will either be presented in the professional final form or in my first-ever HTML experiment.

"The Lincoln Photo Exhibit" (illustrated feature on the giant exhibit of all extant Lincoln photos at the entry point of the Pavilion)

"Building Mr. Lincoln" (reprint by permission of The E-Ticket Magazine, a quarterly journal on Disneyland history, an interview with Marc Davis who helped build the talking Lincoln figure first unveiled at the Fair)

"Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln" (transcript of full program with illustrations)

"Vocal Talent" (profiles of actor Royal Dano, the voice of Lincoln for the program, and Paul Frees who narrated. Frees incidentally was a very famous voice actor, who among other things was the voice of Boris Badenov in the Bullwinkle cartoons and the original Pillsbury Doughboy)

"The Gettysburg Address Exhibit" (feature of the original manuscript of the Gettysburg Address in Lincoln's own handwriting, which was on loan from the Illinois Historical Society)

"Mr. Lincoln Goes To Disneyland" (feature on the history of "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln" after the Fair at Disneyland, where it ran in modified forms of the original program until 2001, when it was replaced by a completely new attraction "More Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln."

.: posted by Eric 8:50 AM

Went back to some more HTML experimenting and finished one of the pages for my multi-page Illinois project, albeit it was the shortest of them. I need to go through "Web Pages For Dummies" to get a better sense of how to get these to look just right in case the project has to be presented by me, rather than how it will look professionally on the web at the World's Fair site.

.: posted by Eric 3:30 AM