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Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Lost Colony, Cheesecake Factory, and "Perry Como's TRIUMPH OF THE WILL" aka THE POLAR EXPRESS in IMAX 3-D!

So the past 72 hours here have been... interesting. I'll be able to talk about it more in the next couple of days. Just wanna say for the record though, that I've been a busy dude toward the end of this past week. And I'm about to head out to create some more mischief.

But before I do, I wanna do a bit of a write-up about what happened yesterday, 'cuz it was full of some cool stuff that you've probably still got time to check out if you like.

Yesterday morning, my sister Anita arrived around 9:30. Lisa got in Anita's RAV4 and I followed in my new Camry and we headed out to Raleigh, to see The Polar Express in 3-D on the IMAX screen there (or as I call it, "The Big-Ass Screen").

This was something that Lisa had been wanting to see especially, so I got tickets for her (and then for Anita when it turned out she wanted to see it too). Me? I first saw it when it was released three years ago and since that time The Polar Express has become more... disturbing... in my mind. Everything is great and fun for most of the movie (and that this was Michael Jeter's last movie before he died makes it particularly poignant). But all the same: when they finally get to the North Pole, the movie becomes "Perry Como's Triumph of the Will": the Santa worship, the Stasi-ish way how it turns out Santa watches all the world's children, the Nazi-like field rally with the elves... Lisa and Anita keep telling me that I'm "over-analyzing things" but I can't help it: if you ever have seen Triumph of the Will then you'll probably see these things too. And really, isn't The Polar Express supposed to be a propaganda movie for Santa Claus?

Strangely enough, I had a blast watching The Polar Express in IMAX 3-D. The flaws in the movie as a story are still there (and I wrote about those in my initial review) but those are easily overshadowed by how much of a technical achievement The Polar Express is. And in 3-D, on a five-story movie screen... the most fun thing for me wasn't the movie itself, but how all those children who were there to watch it were blown away by the overwhelming spectacle of this movie.

So I gotta report: it was a great experience. And if you want to see it too, it's playing on a lot of IMAX screens right now but we saw it at the Wachovia IMAX Theatre at the Marbles Kid Museum (formerly named Exploris) in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. Right now it looks like it's playing on through at least January 10th, 2008.

After we got back to our cars, Anita went on and then Lisa and I drove a few blocks to the North Carolina Museum of History to check out something that I've been wanting to see since it started in October...

For more than 400 years, one of the greatest enigmas of American history has been that of the Roanoke Colony, more commonly known as "the Lost Colony". 116 English colonists had simply vanished when Governor John White returned to Roanoke Island with fresh supplies in 1590. The only thing left behind amid the ruins of their fort was a cryptic word "Croatoan" carved in a tree.

What happened to them? Were they killed off or did they move elsewhere or did they (as some believe) inter-marry with neighboring tribes of Native Americans... which raises the possibility that descendants of the Lost Colony are living among us today?

"Mysteries of the Lost Colony" is an exhibit of the British Museum currently on display at the North Carolina Museum of History. There's lots of good stuff about the Lost Colony itself, but the real centerpiece of the show is the large number of original watercolors by John White (whose daughter Eleanor would be the one to give birth to Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World). A talented artist by trade before he was appointed to be governor of the colony, White did many depictions of the natives and wildlife of present-day coastal North Carolina. A lot of them have been reproduced in history books over the years, and it was quite a thrill to be able to see the originals, made by White himself. Toward the end of the tour, there's an interactive video with one of the actresses of CBS's CSI shows that lets you vote on what you think was the fate of the colony. When we left, "Killed" had a slim lead over "Absorbed", which is what I've come to believe is what happened to them. Maybe in the next few years the Lost Colony DNA Project will be able to come up with some indication about whether the colonists did indeed become the ancestors of the modern-day Lumbee and other Native American tribes in the state. If you want to see "Mysteries of the Lost Colony", it's on display until January 13th, 2008.

After we left the museum, Lisa guided me to The Cheesecake Factory at Crabtree Valley Mall. I'd never heard of the place before and don't really care for cheesecake... but lo and behold it's also a fancy restaurant with a humongous menu to choose from. We ordered the buffalo wings for an appetizer and then the pepperoni pizza for the main dish. The wings were wonderfully spicy and the pizza looked and tasted like real Italian-style pizza. The place also had great atmosphere and decor. If you're ever in the area of Crabtree Valley Mall and if you like good food and great cheesecake (which Lisa says they do but like I said, I've never had a taste for the stuff), give The Cheesecake Factory a try.

And that was our day yesterday, other than a bit o' Christmas shopping that I was able to get in. Good movie, good history, good food: not too bad eh? :-)