Tourist Trap Road Trip!

I have been planning all my vacations for 2018 and it got me thinking about some of the vacations I took in 2017 that I didn’t write about here. One of my favorites that I did was in September, with my friend Caitlin. We both love Gravity Falls, and it was kind of inspired by that. I found a lot of this stuff here on Roadside America.

We called it our tourist trap road trip. Over Labor Day weekend we drove from WA through Oregon into California and back around, visiting fun tourist traps and Crater Lake National Park (which is currently my favorite National Park! It’s so compact and pretty!)

Day 1: We left very early in the morning and drove to Salem, Oregon to see the Enchanted Forest Theme Park. I’ve seem the sign for this place from I-5 for years, every time I drive on some big trip through Oregon, and I always wanted to go! The sign looked so kooky (it is a castle with Humpty Dumpty on it). This was the first time I’ve ever been and it was so worth it! It is a sort of creepy, larger than expected group of impressive semi-home made seeming rides and attractions. There is an old west town, and a story book village walk, and of course, rides. We went on the log flume ride, the haunted house walk-through, and the Challenge of Mordor laser tag-type challenge.

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It was very fun and I recommend it as a stop if you are ever driving through Salem.

After we left the Enchanted Forest we kept driving over to Crater Lake National Park. We got there on the late side – it’s an 8 hour drive from Seattle – and we were a bit worried it was closed because of fire. We’d been driving through lots of smoke all the way through Oregon, they had quite a lot of wild fires that Summer. When we got into the park, we saw fire crews a couple times, sitting on the backs of their cars literally watching fires (we saw so much smoke!) making sure they weren’t spreading in a dangerous way. So, the park was smokey, but open.

We stayed at the lodge that night, and because of the fires there were lots of cancellations, so we were able to upgrade to a nicer room. We had dinner on the patio and looked at the lake (the smoke cleared enough that the view was very good!)

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Day 2: In the morning we explored the park. We did the rim drive, stopping at lots of points of interest. It was smokier on day 2, which meant we didn’t want to do any hikes (the air quality was not good) but we still got to see lots of cool stuff. Crater Lake is small enough that its really pretty easy to see it all in one day. After seeing the last thing on our list (the Pinnacles) we left the park and drove to Gold Hill, Oregon to see the Oregon Vortex! It was my favorite thing of the trip!

It is a cool place where things that are straight look crooked and things that are short look tall! MYSTERIOUS! I really want to go back someday, it was neat.

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We camped that night, it was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit if I remember correctly (too hot!).

Day 3: The next day we drove to the Trees of Mystery, which was cool. I mostly liked the giant statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe out front. They have an employee actually voice Paul, so he calls out people walking around out front, it is cute. The trees were…redwoods. I liked them, but they weren’t necessarily anything I haven’t seen before. I did buy a cross-stitch kit from here of Paul and Babe that I’m excited to do and display in my apartment. I’ll post about it when it’s done.

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We left the Trees of Mystery behind and were headed to the Prehistoric Gardens but on the way, we stopped to do a hike and stretch our legs. A co-worker who did a similar road trip earlier in the year with his family suggested I make a stop at the Stout Grove, he said the trees were amazing there. He was right! They were the biggest trees I’ve ever seen. It was a fun detour, we drove for awhile on unpaved roads with little signage, we weren’t sure we were even going the right way, but eventually we made it and it was worth it.

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I definitely need to visit this grove again. After our fun interlude, we kept driving to the Prehistoric Gardens, in Port Orford on US-101. We were the only people there, and it was amazing. It’s a bunch of huge dinosaur statues out in the woods. I loved it.

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I think I’m just easily impressed by large amusing statues. They give you a map of the garden (it is pretty tiny, maybe 10 or so statues) and I kept the map and framed it. It was all so cute!

We camped again that night and made smores. Again, it was really, really hot out.

Day 4: On day four, we drove home! it took all day. We stopped for breakfast but I think that was the only stop. We listened to the entire STown podcast which was great but depressing.

We did so much driving on this trip but everything we saw was amazing. And we did everything so fast! Only four days! I would definitely do this again in a heartbeat, and highly recommend all our stops to anyone interested in quirky cool stuff.

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Pumpkins!

We carved some pumpkins! They are stranger things inspired in honor of season two. We were supposed to go do a corn maze but there was a rain storm so we vetoed that plan. Here’s mine:

And here are all of them:

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Puerto Rico (30th Birthday!)

It occurs to me that I haven’t said anything about my fun trip to Puerto Rico that I took this March!

My friend Nat and I went to Puerto Rico for our birthday. We have the same birthday, if that wasn’t obvious. Popular day apparently, I also share it with my Grandfather.

Without further ado, here are some random excerpts from my vacation journal!

Day 1: Flew to Atlanta…our hotel was creepy and people were running and laughing all night next to us. Airport Gypsies? Got maybe one hour of sleep.

Day 3: Nat drove us to Farajo. It took like an hour and was out in the middle of nowhere…went to our airbnb, made drinks, changed and walked to a beach. Lots of people there, turned out they were kayaking groups that had been bused in for the bio-luminescent bay! We tried to sneak into a group without signing up/paying (we had been drinking a fair amount) but our evil plan was discovered so we paid cash and got to go anyway. Kayaked through some awesome mangrove tunnels for a long time. It was hard work, very windy out in the open but once we got into the tunnels it was quieter. The luminescence was cool but faint.

Day 4: Drove to El Yunque rain forest in the morning. It was very rainy. Did some drives and then a long hike to El Yunque peak. It was so cloudy and rainy that we couldn’t really see anything except clouds, and we were essentially hiking through waterfalls/rivers the whole time (because the trail had flooded). But at least the constant rain kept the mosquitoes away!

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Day 5 (our birthday!): Drove to the Pork Highway in Guavate and ate at El Rancho Original. It was great! The ribs were very tasty and the pork (sawed off a whole pig) was super salty and good. The food on this trip has been great so far, so much pork and fried food and deliciousness. We also had pig skin but it was kind of too hard and there were some bristles still on it which…was not so appetizing.

Day 6: Took a looooong drive to Rincon. Ate at a great fish place for lunch – we had fish tacos and grouper skewers and mojitos then chilled on a surf beach for a couple hours. Then we drove 3 hours back to Jayuya to our airbnb. Got more then slightly lost on the twisty mountain roads and of course our phones/gps didn’t work. We ended up driving down this one super dark and scary road. We were both literally leaning forward in our seats white knuckling the steering wheel/dashboard as we crept down this terrifying one lane road in the pitch dark, since of course there were no street lights. We drove past a semi-truck that had crashed into a telephone pole that night. The pole and wires were down and draped across this giant truck that was partially blocking the road…it was crazy. But we made it back eventually and calmed our frazzled nerves with alcohol.

Day 7: Saw the Arecibo Observatory (a James Bond movie and also the film Contact shot there).

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Day 8: Woke up and packed. It is so sunny! Nat did a run down the beach trail we walked last night. We ate breakfast at the airbnb, which was fresh eggs from the host’s chickens that he owns and tomatoes from his garden. Nat made a scramble out of them (so good!) and I did the dishes. Then we drove to San Juan and met our next airbnb host. She showed us the house which was small and cute but had no doors for either bedroom and the shower was in the kitchen. Also there was no AC =/. But that was fine! It was right on the water, and in a cute/scary part of old San Juan outside the city wall. Nat and I packed beach bags and returned the rental car, then met our friend Amber and her friend Vanessa and walked to Condado Beach. We rented chairs and had some drinks and chilled, and it was amazing. The waves were really big!
Day 9: Saw cool old fortresses!

Day 10: We did a walking tour from our travel book and stopped at a super fancy hotel (El Conventio) for breakfast. It used to be a convent! The food was delicious! The walking tour took us all over, we saw a cool church where Ponce de Leon is burie, and a cat sanctuary, and walked around to the port where the cruise ships come in. Near the port we had a snack at a cool cafeteria (cheese flan and a ham and swiss sandwich with powdered sugar) . Then we walked a cool path around the city walls to Castille Morro (which is near our airbnb). For dinner we walked to La Guerita for tacos and margaritas. It was a good last night!

Day 11: The water was out for all of San Juan, but the airbnb owner let us shower at her other hotel (they had a backup water reserve I guess?). We had a leisurely breakfast then headed to the airport.

So yeah. Great trip! We were there 11 days and had a great time, ate great food and chilled on amazing beaches, and saw cool nature things. I’d totally go back but the fight is way too long.

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Oh God, Art School – Breathless and Jules and Jim

Another film class essay!

Can I just say this – OH GOD I HATE FRENCH NEW WAVE. Nothing makes sense or is even necessarily real. And people are eccentric for no reason other than to be cool and unique. They are ultra-hipsters before they even knew that was a thing.

And we had to watch, like, SEVERAL French New Wave films in class. It was work, let me tell you. I was in a state of simmering rage for all of it. And when (SPOILERS FOR JULES AND JIM – highlight the text to read it) Catherine kills Jim at the end of the film, I was all “Why did I even watch this?!”

I understand that directors/film makers were experimenting with new ways to present narratives in film, and trying new things is great, this style was just not for me.

I don’t have much to say about the essay. Thank goodness this one was about the techniques used in these films and not something less technical, because this essay could easily have been a rant. I probably would have just written “Stop trying so hard to be cool” over and over until I’d filled two pages.

Jean Luc Godard (Breathless) and François Truffaut (Jules and Jim)

By Megan Koznek

  1. Voice-overs are most often examples of non-diegetic sound. Voice-over allows the story to move quickly over action without needing to show the viewer everything, like in Jules and Jim where the narrator tells us what is happening when Jules draws a girl on the café table, and tries to buy it. Trying to buy the table is told, not shown, so it doesn’t take up much time, but provides a cute, irreverent aspect of Jules’ character, which is important to the film. In Breathless Michael talks at the camera (and thus the viewer) in the beginning of the film, providing a strange on-screen narration/voice-over.
  2. Jump cuts can draw the viewer’s attention to specific moments and make them really stand out as important. Jump cuts also provide the viewer with a jolt of energy regarding the film’s pace. In Jules and Jim, a noticeable jump cut occurs when the title duo are looking at slides and see their statue, and then we jump to them suddenly visiting the statue in real life. In Breathless, an interesting jump cut occurs after Michael steals the car and finds the gun; he mimes shooting it, and we jump to a view of trees, and the sound of gunshots.
  3. Jim and Jules breaks the fourth wall in the scene where Jules tell Jim, “Not this one, Jim.” The words appear as text on the screen in addition to being spoken. The text exclusively addresses the audience. This highlights the importance of the moment and its meaning for the audience. In Breathless, the fourth wall is broken when Michael talks to the camera when he is driving down the road.
  4. The aspect ratio in Jules and Jim (2.35:1) allows the viewer to see that the film has encompassed the three main characters, noticeably in the scene where they are all riding bicycles. In Breathless the aspect ratio is 1.33:1, and it is suited well to all the close-ups we see in the film. A wider aspect ratio would not allow for the closeness this film calls for so often.

Works Cited:

http://www.dvdjournal.com/reviews/j/julesandjim_cc.shtml

http://www.klaxson.com/essays/JULES_AND_JIM-A_film_review.pdf

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Oh God, Art School – The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari

Look what I found on my hard drive! Old school work. So exciting. When I was at DigiPen for my one year of art school I took a couple film classes. Film was my favorite subject, aside from the hand-drawn animation classes I took. The teacher was a director, he did music videos and commercials I think, though I can’t quite remember.

I thought it might be fun to look over them and see what my brain was like four years ago. Sounds like I was pretty smart and slightly pretentious! For insights into my art school brain, read on! Present-day comments in Red!

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The Mise-En-Scene of the Cabinet of Doctor Caligari

By Megan Koznek

Movies are outward expressions of our inner selves. When people make movies, they’re sharing a part of themselves with the audience: their world-view, their struggles, their triumphs, the paradigms of the place and time they live in.

I do not believe this can be said of all movies, especially now, in the age of the mass produced summer blockbuster, (oh past Megan, you could not imagine how much worse this has gotten) but in Germany in the 1920’s this was certainly true.

Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer conceived of the original story of Caligari. The  story could, perhaps, have been written by different men, in a different time and place, but postwar Germany in the early 1900’s was fertile soil indeed for the germination of an idea for a revolutionary film where “reason overpowers unreasonable power, insane authority is symbolically abolished” (Kracauer).

Caligari (as originally intended by Janowitz and Mayer), is a revolutionary tale.

Themes of revolutionary spirit and a distrust of authority are present throughout the film, in both subtle and unsubtle ways. For example, many of the chairs in the film are very tall and stylized. A set of long, winding stairs leads to Doctor Caligari’s office in the asylum (the position of his office on the top floor indicating his position of authority there), and there are many steps leading up to the police station, the policemen themselves being guardians of authority.

And of course there are the revolutionary themes present in the plot. Francis, the protagonist, reveals the horrific truth of the crimes committed by Dr. Caligari, a man in a position of great authority. By revealing Caligari’s devious exploits, Francis “exposed the madness inherent in authority” (Kracauer) and defeated him.

The revolutionary nature of the film is irreversibly changed, however, by the two scenes book-ending the main plot of the movie. Despite vigorous protest by the authors of the film, scenes were added at the beginning and end of the film by Wiene, the director, which turned “a revolutionary film…into a conformist one” (Kracauer) (weird upending of the traditional narrative, where it is the studio interfering with the director and ruining movies) by transforming the main story into a tale told by Francis, who is revealed in the framing story to be mentally deranged and in the care of Dr. Caligari, who is, in fact, a kind doctor and not the evil mad man Francis sees him to be (SPOILERS!).

The French coined the term “Caligarisme” in response to this film. The term refers to a postwar world “seemingly all upside-down” (Kracauer).

German expressionism is a striking aesthetic which, when applied to the sets in a film, perfectly echo the reality of the chaotic condition of postwar Germany.

Expressionism in German cinema during the postwar period represented a retreat into the self of the German filmmakers, and indeed in those people who patronized expressionist cinema. By constructing the whole of their film’s reality, right down to the villages, streets, mountains and meadows, Germans were able to feel as though they had control over their situations (at least in the illusionary world of film).

Three expressionist artists constructed the world of Caligari. They were Hermann Warm, Walter Rohrig and Walter Reimann.

Hermann Warm believed that “films must be drawings brought to life” (Kracauer). This formula is very present in the construction of the world of Caligari. This film presents its mise-en-scene so forcefully with its completely constructed reality that the viewer is entirely immersed in the reality of the film. The viewer sees nothing, experiences nothing, which the filmmakers do not wish them to.

The jagged edges present everywhere, the painted shadows which exist in disharmony with actual lighting effects, the zigzag delineations which efface all rules of perspective, the way that space in the film often dwindles down to a flat plane…all of these things enhance the aura of madness, of the fantastical, which are present in the film. Some reviewers at the time the film came out presented the expressionist sets as “nothing more than the adequate translation of a madman’s fantasy into pictorial terms” (Kracauer).

I would venture to say that the expressionist elements of the film do not merely represent a mad man’s reality, but the reality of the authors of the film, the director, and the people living in Germany in the postwar era. To many people of that time, their everyday reality must have felt much like the nightmare of a madman.

Citations: Kracauer, Siegfried. From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film. 1947. Print.

I don’t have much to say about this essay! I think I wrote this pretty well. Full disclosure, I did very well in this class. The teacher said at one point that I was his best student (not to brag).

For anyone considering watching The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, it’s a good movie, but it is black and white and silent (with speech cards), and that is a tough style for modern day sensibilities to handle. The production design is super cool, as you can see in the screen shot at the start of the article the backgrounds are completely man-made, and are meant to look like it. It does set the mood pretty well, and sets the film apart from modern movies that want to look real. The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari embraces it’s falseness and that is refreshing.

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Oklahoma

Three friends and I recently planned and executed a trip to Oklahoma to surprise our friend Gogarty for her 30th birthday!

It was really fun and a total surprise.  We were actually worried at first, because when we popped out in the living room she looked upset-surprised, and not happy-surprised. There was some crying and sitting down in shock. I guess that’s how you know it’s genuine though. And she recovered after like, five minutes.

It was a great trip! We all took Friday off and flew over together. We were all sitting in the same row which was really different, lately all the air travel I’ve been doing is for business, so I sit all alone and have to make small talk with other bored business travelers. Not this trip! I got to chill out with a friend who works for Boeing and talk about airplanes and cool stuff.

When we got there Gogarty’s husband Matt picked us up from the airport in a limo. He’d said he was going to get us in a hearse (he works at a funeral home) but I guess that fell through. The limo was cool though.

Then we surprised Gogs! She was so shocked! I honestly thought she had suspected something, we’ve been planning this for literally months and if I were Matt I definitely would have spilled the beans by the time we’d gotten there. But he hadn’t! I was impressed.

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We ate a bunch of good food and the next day we went to the Fair and ate more good food. Special shout out to the Poncho Dogs.

It was a really great trip in general. It felt like being in high school again, just hanging out with friends all day, watching movies, playing cards and MASH, going out for food. Very relaxing. My friend Aquila said it best (I am paraphrasing): It’s awesome to know you have friends who are never going anywhere. And it’s true, we’ve all known each other since elementary or middle school, and we are really more like family at this point. I’m very lucky to have all of them.

Happy birthday Gogs!

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Home!

We made it home alive (last week. I am late writing, as per usual). Total mileage: about 2,380. It was a fun trip, though Yosemite was much too hot. It was about 100 degrees every day we were there. We ended up coming home a day early because we couldn’t stand it!

And it was a ton of driving on I-5, which is boring.

But I love the Aquarium in Monterey, and the mountains in Yosemite. It was nice to see them again. But it is also very nice to be home.

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