Friday, December 31, 2010

30 Days of [Figure] Skating: Day Four

Day 4: Up and Comer you're most excited to see...

No question, that goes to Alaska's own Keegan Messing. I've watched him climb the ranks for the last six years or so, and couldn't be more proud of all he's accomplished. While others see some of the results and think him mediocre, I'd like to point out that Alaska's figure skating scene is... well... nearly non existant. They get very little support from teh state, very little notice from the USFSA, and their expenses are multiplied due to the lack of training rinks, general airfare to get to competitions, and the inflated local economy.

Keegan is a techinical wizard who is slowly working on his artistry. He's got a lot of energy and flair... and I love his sense of humor. He made a lot of buzz in 2008 and I heard a few remarks about how much he reminded others of a young Scott Hamilton (the height probably has a lot to do with it).

He's skating as a Junior internationally, and a senior at nationals. He's part of the next generation, and I have no doubt he'll be in the mix in no time. Definitely my top pick for most exciting up and comer.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

30 Days of [Figure] Skating: Day Three

Day 3: Favorite Spectatorship Moment

I have so many. I've been fortunate enough to watch Keegan Messing over the years skate in local events, I saw some wonderful Fairbanks talent this summer both of which makes my heart swell with pride seeing Alaskans excel in the sport I have loved watching for most of my life (and certainly all of my adult life, which I know is only five or so years but still. It sounds cool when I say it).

However I think the one that stands out as my favorite is watching two very special people take to the Olympic ice for the first time in 2006. Melissa and Denis were so deserving of their spot on the US team, and I was so happy for them! I was able to see them make the team at the 2006 Nationals and the butterflies still come just thinking about it. I ended up having to sit away from their family during the free dance because it was so well attended that we had to sneak seats elsewhere, but we were still front and center to see them skate to silver.

Then February came and I sat in front of the TV watching every moment of the US Olympic Figure Skating Team's moment... and when Melissa and Denis took to the ice for their Compulsary Dance there was a lot of joy. Nerves were gone, because for them it wasn't about a podium placement, it was about the moment. I don't think I've ever seen them skate freer (though their Free Dance the next season is their best ever IMO).

So that's my favorite moment as a spectator... it's all summed up in that one skate.

What I did on Christmas Vacation

Christmas was spent in Anchorage. After working all day on Thursday I drove my truck behind my dad. Duane rode with me as I was incredibly nervous driving in the dark on winter roads. It wasn't too bad, but we were definitely driving on ice in parts where I hated it.

Christmas was great. The family was all together and we had a lot of laughs and food. I love getting together with the whole gang. Louisa and Jim came down and Louisa's mom was up visiting from Washington so it was crowded, which made it even better. Christmas Eve Haille and Juanita came into town so it was one big happy family in Judy and Gaylord's small little house. Couldn't have been happier.

Christmas day was at the G'parents. It was great, and once again it was full! Carolyn and her friend came by so it was just like old times. Lots of new memories for the kids, and lots more laughter for the rest of us.

Then the day after Christmas the fun ended. We were on our way out of town, going to stop by the g'parents to say good bye and I ended up wrecking the truck. Duane, Yuka and I are all fine, no worries there. I hit a patch of ice going way slower than the speedlimit and I was able to correct the car out of the spin but not out of the slide and I ended up crunching the driver's front fender... and the tire blew... and now they're finding tons more wrong with it so it looks like the truck will be totalled and I'll be out of a vehicle. Because my life sucks like that right now.

So the four of us plus three dogs rode home in Dad's truck. Monday mom drove her van over and so I am driving that for the time being, but we can't have that forever. So who knows what's going to happen with that. More expenses just keep piling up and I have no way to pay for any of them! UGH! Tuesday mom's car wouldn't start so my boss had to come rescue me and take me into work... and my best friend found out she needed surgery. To say this week has been a crapfest would be an understatement.

So that's how I spent the last week. How was yours?

Finally back among the digital!

It's been a battle trying to get internet set up at my house, but we finally have it. Oh, how I've missed the information highway! I have felt incredibly disconnected - especially when it comes to figure skating. I've missed several huge events (Japanese nationals sounds like it was awesome. So bummed I couldn't read up on it as it happened!)

Anyway, I'm catching up on my photography pages and what not, but I will be updating on here, soon! This week has been horrible and I will be expanding on that in posts coming soon.

Friday, December 24, 2010

First week on my own…

Well, kind of. My parents are about 20 minutes away (if they drive slowly). Moving down on the 12th was bittersweet. I’ll admit it, I cried when I drove away from Judy’s. A lot of good times (and frustrating) were had there. Judy cried when we said goodbye, but I was fine until I hit 6th and then it was all over. Spent some time with my grandparents, which was nice, I have a feeling I know what I’m getting from them for Christmas this year, normally I get a fair sum of cash from grandpa, but I think this year I’m getting bed sheets and kitchen gear. Grandma was asking about what I needed for my house. Personally? I want the cash!

The drive down was uneventful. Dad drove his very loaded down truck and I drove mine (also completely loaded). We made good time and got to the house earlier than we thought considering the packing up took very little time (Gaylord was overly enthusiastic on getting stuff loaded). Then we hit a snag – the keys wouldn’t work. Apparently the locks were stripped or something so the only key that would work in the lock was the original. That has been fixed, now, as we have new locks on the doors, but it was pretty frustrating all week having to hide the key so that my mom could continue getting the house in order while I went to work.

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, the first night went fairly well, we moved all of the boxes and furniture in and then I just zoned. Mom went and got pizza and Dad tried to get keys made that would work (they didn’t) and then we just basically watched TV and talked about a game plan. Mom was awesome and had my bed made in no time, and she cooked the pizza. Dad was my hero coming up and getting me and moving in some incredibly heavy items (books are heavy, just so you know).

After they left it was all me and Yuka. Yuka was –shockingly—more freaked out than I was. I felt so bad for her that I nearly wanted to cry. It didn’t help that I had my picture of Haille staring at me from the mantle on the fireplace. If there’s one person I’m “homesick” for it’s that little goon. I love her and it still kills me that I won’t be right there anymore to see her grow up. I still think her mom should move down here. LOL

Sleep came easier than I thought it would, but I was exhausted. Having not slept well the last couple of nights due to stress/packing, I pretty much passed out in my new room. My room is pretty great for what it is (a bedroom for one) the furniture is a little off, for me, but it’s free so I can’t complain too much. I can look out on the river from my bed, and I have had to pee so much more since living here. That’s the power of running water I suppose. The couple of complaints I have is that my room gets SO HOT at night (have to keep the temp in the house at 70 per the rules) and my downstairs neighbors are LOUD (and smokers) so I can’t open my bedroom window. I tried it the other night and it just doesn’t work. Sucks.

Sunday I basically did nothing all day, just slept and then set up a few little things in the living room, but for the most part I didn’t want to do anything. I was still feeling incredibly uneasy about the whole thing and kept asking God “what was I thinking? I’m not ready for this!” but He just let me vent. I did have a couple of meltdowns, and then I hit a turning point. I don’t remember what made me change my mind, maybe it was when my parents got here and we started moving things around. Duane came over Sunday night, too, and we watched the NFL channel and had a good time.

Monday was the get your rear in gear and get moved in. Mom and I broke down quite a few boxes worth of stuff and it was really feeling like home, which was great. We got all of my books in the bookcase (okay, well, MOM got all of that stuff up) and we moved my camera equipment into my spare room (I have a room that is for rent, if anyone is interested. Rent is $600 a month and that includes internet, phone, all utilities, cable tv, snow removal, etc. You’d be renting a room and have complete use of the kitchen, bathrooms, etc. But I’d have full use of the spare room). Then we went shopping at Fred Meyer’s and picked up a few essentials. It was feeling really homey and I was so thankful for all the help. My mom enjoys this kind of stuff, but at the same time she took a lot of time out of her schedule to do all of this for me and I really appreciate it. The company was great, but so was the work she did. Even if she did argue with my dresser for about a half hour trying to figure out where the drawers went.

Tuesday I started work over at AlaskaUSA’s Soldotna branch. Come to find out one of my childhood friends had moved back and is working there, too. That was a neat surprise. All last week while my mom was at the house finishing up the decorations for Christmas and moving my stuff in, I was in training at the branch. I’ve pretty much hit overload when it comes to the training, it’s a lot of reading and computer tests and what not, but I feel like I’m fitting in.

Once mom and I got my stuffed moved in – especially my books and my DVDs – the house started to feel more like it was mine. That it’s home. Yuka has settled in, and we’re doing pretty well. I’m a “big girl” now and it’s actually feeling pretty cool. Still, I’m stressed out with the rent issue – I need a roommate –and there are things about my job that bum me out. Sure the fact that I don’t normally get two days off in a row means I get more money to compensate for it, but I do enjoy having two days strung together to do things. It will make getting up to Anchorage that much harder. I’ll figure it out, though.

The other thing that became a huge snag was the internet. I am now looking at a phone bill that’s close to 140 a month. Why? Because ACS (and really all companies) stick it to the Peninsula. I live not even a minute away from the phone company and they couldn’t even guarantee I can get the internet, explain that to me? I had to get a phone-long distance-internet package, there’s no other option. It’s insane, but it’s something I needed, and they knew it. So very frustrating; top it off, they don’t carry modems there at the store down here, so I had to wait for one to be mailed to me. It’s just stupid.

Christmas is in Anchorage and I thankfully got Christmas Eve off (it just made it easier for my training I guess to give me Friday off). Going to be weird going back to Judy’s, and I have a feeling Yuka’s going to be REALLY confused, but I’m excited. Though, really, it’s going to stink because I don’t have gifts for anyone, and the small things that I do have are cheap little gifts from Disney. I might have to brave the stores on Friday in Anchorage and pick up a few things, depending on what the fundage looks like at this point. I don’t know when my first paycheck is being deposited. I think it’s Friday, but I am not sure.

On Friday of last week we did our traditional family picture. It wasn’t as painful as it could be, and we used my fireplace for our background. Poor mom has a horrible head cold, though, so she looks a little stuffed up, but we had a lot of fun doing it, actually. I also shot a few pictures of a friend of my parents’ and then after he left Duane wanted pictures of just him and me, so I let my dad try his hand at shooting. He did okay; we actually have a couple that I really like. I still can’t get over how Duane will be sixteen next month. It’s just crazy.

Other than that not much is going on. I will be sharing photos on my photography blog from the Christmas photo shoots soon. As you can imagine, with all of the time away from the internet I am completely backed up from all that I normally do on here. Going to have to play catch up for a week or so! Thankfully I’m able to check email from my parents’ house and work, but other than that I haven’t done much but read facebook and golden skate forums on my phone, which is incredibly limiting.

Well, I’m starting to wig out because I’m tired. It’s not even 9:30 but work is just making me braindead. I think it took me two hours to just type this all up! Insanity! Hope you all have a very merry Christmas!

Friday, December 10, 2010

30 Days of [Figure] Skating: Day Two

Day Two: Favorite Pairs Program

I think anyone who "grew up with the sport" in the 90s feels a special connection to the iconic pair of Gordeeva & Grinkov, and I was no exception. They were considered perfection personified. Can't really argue with that, though I never saw them skate live. There was a magic quality about them that so few pairs seem to have.

My favorite program, then, is naturally one of theirs. It's their Vocalise Program (also known as the Rodin Number). It's exquisite.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

30 Days of [Figure] Skating: Day One

Day One: How Did You Get Into Skating

Pretty much anyone online who knows me knows this answer. The simple answer is Disney on Ice 1989. Scott Hamilton was the guest star, and they were here in Anchorage, Alaska. We don't get a lot of figure skating programs up here, so when my great aunt found out about the show she snagged tickets.

Auntie Marge was my very best friend when I was little. She took care of me while my parents worked. She could swear twice as good as any sailor, chain smoked, and was drinking her beers by 9. This was the 80s, before childcare became so full of rules and regs ha ha! She crochetted all day, loved her soaps, and was extremely opinionated (gee, that's shocking).

I loved her (still do) and looked up to her. She loved to watch figure skating, so long as it was AMERICAN skaters winning. She really liked Scott Hamilton, and so she used me as an excuse when he came to town. "The baby" (as I was often referred) needed to see Mickey skate. I didn't really know what skating was - I vaguely remember watching the 88 Olympics - but I was into Disney and they all told me it'd be fun, so what the heck, let's go.

I could not have been more bored if I were watching paint dry. I remember next to nothing about the show other than being bored... and the Mickey Mouse flashlight that we got at the door. It was blue and if you shook it the light would spin around. It had Mickey's face on the top of it. No joke, that thing was awesomeness squared. I remember jumping from lap to lap and wondering when the show would be over.

And I remember a man, with a radio and a chair on center ice. It was Scott Hamilton, and he was getting ready to skate to his Georgia On My Mind program. He talked to the radio, in my mind that meant this guy was different. What kind of adult talks to the radio? And then he began skating. For whatever reason I was mesmerised by this thirty something, balding, skater. His back flip sealed the deal. After that, there was no looking back. I watched all the professional skating shows, and managed to catch the olympics as well.

I didn't get involved with skating until 2000 when I found the world of internet message boards. A board known as Skate Forum became my safe haven away from high school stresses and I made some of my closest friends through there (and other boards). A couple of friends began working on official websites and let me "tag along" and by 2005 I was meeting "real skaters" at the US National Championships. I don't work on official websites these days (who has the time???) but I do stay involved with those skaters and I do continue to obsess over the sport (and I am a moderator at a very popular message board). I go to events when I can afford to (Disney is cheaper than skating these days) and shoot thousands of pictures.

And before I log off here's that program that started it all:

Since I lost interest in the 30 Days Of Me...

...I will try to finish that marathon posting... but I want to start another one that seems to be a bit more fun for me. So, it's 30 days of Skating!!!!!! This should keep my interest much more easily!

The list is as follows:

Day 1: How you got into figure skating

Day 2: Your favourite pairs program

Day 3: Favourite figure skating spectatorship moment

Day 4: Up and coming figure skater you are most excited for

Day 5: Your favourite Dance program

Day 6: Predict - gold medalists at 2011 Worlds

Day 7: Your favourite Mens Program

Day 8: Your favourite Ladies Program

Day 9: Code of Points - give your opinion

Day 10: Last competition/show you attended

day 11: Your top 5 favourite male figure skaters

Day 12: Top 5 ladies figure skaters

Day 13: Top 5 pairs teams

Day 14: Top 5 dance teams

Day 15: Predict - gold medalists in 2014

Day 16: Your dream 2014 Olympic medalists

Day 17: Least favourite skater

Day 18: Favourite figure skating music

Day 19: If you could marry any figure skater, who would it be?

Day 20: Your favourite Olympic moment

Day 21: Team Johnny or Team Evan?

Day 22: Favourite & least favourite commentator

Day 23: Skater everybody loves but you don’t

Day 24: Skater you love but nobody else does

Day 25: The quad. Give your opinion.

Day 26: Saddest figure skating moment

Day 27: Your favourite figure skating moment of all time

Day 28: Favourite & least favourite costume

Day 29: Your favourite figure skater of all time

Day 30: Why you love figure skating

In other news, packing is nearly completed. I just have to bag up my stuffed animals, bag up board games, and break down my bathroom... yay! And in even BIGGER NEWS.........
I GOT A JOB!!!!!!!! I'm working at the Soldotna, AK branch of AlaskaUSA! So excited!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Saturday! Saturday!

I've been silent on my blog lately as I've been packing and working hard to get ready for a move to the Kenai Peninsula. I'm moving to a house I leased on the Kenai River in Soldotna this saturday. I've been stressing out about money and the fact that I do not have a job (still am freaking out about that) but over all I'm pretty excited for the next chapter.

This move is not coming without a lot of regret. I hate that I'm leaving Haille Rae. I know, I know, she's a little kid and she'll survive and I know I have to do this move for me. But i love that little girl. She is very much an important part of my life and the fact that I won't get to see her often just kills me. I've spent many hours crying over this one issue. Over thanksgiving it just broke my heart. All during dinner she was my little buddy. Wouldn't go anywhere or do anything without me, and then when she spent the night she gave me the out of the blue "I love you" moment. Taking her to the movies and having those moments with her were a joy but telling her that I was leaving was hard. I had Judy do it because I just couldn't get out the words (I'm crying about it right now). Haille was fine with it, but honestly I don't think she understands. I won't have a chance to see her before I leave, and that makes the hurt come back full on, but at the same time I honestly don't know how I'd be able to say goodbye.

I'll miss the people at ABT, too. Granted I wasn't full on outgoing or anything, or very active, but I met a lot of wonderful people there - especially the kids I taught. It bums me out that I won't get to see them grow and mature over the years, but I do have facebook and am friends with many of the parents, so I can watch them through that, it's not the same though.

I'll miss being able to order take out from just about any type of restaraunt. I'll miss the no tax, and everything being cheaper...

I'll miss my aunt. We don't always agree, or get along, but we've had a great time together - or at least I have. I know she wants out of here in the worst way, now, but we shared some great memories. She's so happy to have my room back as hers, though, so I guess it's for the best. But wow, I'll miss her.

So I guess I should get back to packing.

Ryan Bradley at US Nationals?

Bradley during practice at Worlds in 2010
Photo (c) Rueters
Rumors began circulating in late November that Ryan Bradley was going to make his way to the US Figure Skating national championships when he added some suggestive tweets on Twitter. This week several fans on skating message boards reported on his strong skates in a Dallas exhibition in which he hit triple axels and quads in practice and the shows.

Bradley has been the talk of many skating fans as far back as 2000 when his charm and skating ability was noticed as a junior. His boy next door looks didn't hurt his fandom either. Still, his journey into the senior ranks was rocky, filled with inconsistency and "lack of polish." What made Bradley unique was also hurting his chances for climbing the ranks - he was all about showmanship at - apparently - the expense of the technical difficulty.

That all seemed to change during the last quadrennial with Bradley taking the silver medal at the US National Championships in 2007 - right out from under former US Champion Johnny Weir (who barely hung on to third). Still, it was an up and down end to the season when Ryan reached Worlds, and he did not make the team in 2008 when he finished fifth. 2009 he was, again, fourth, and during the Olympic season his short program kept him from the Olympic team even though he had the second best long program (he once again came fourth).

But with his tweeting at the end of October asking "Is it possible to make a comeback if you don't take a season off?" and then a few days later updating his twitter with "Almost done with the short. Contemplating a new long" fans began to get excited at the prospect of Ryan making a bid for US Nationals. He tweeted closer to sectionals that he would be "coaching at my own event." And then nothing on the subject. Bradley went on to participate in several shows (Scott CARES and Improv on Ice) during the fall, while living life (he tweeted from football games, and family events).

The rumors began flying again this weekend when reports from a Christmas show in Dallas, TX had Ryan Bradley looking more fit than he had before hitting his triple Axel and attempting quads. One fan reported on FSU that she had heard "from sources" that Ryan had said he would be competing at nationals.

So, will Bradley be at nationals? With the US men's team failing to make the Grand Prix final, and basically having a lackluster season, it's quite possibly Ryan could see himself on the podium. While he doesn't get the high PCS, he can normally make up for it with his quads - and if his triple Axel is truly back he might win on that alone. With audiences bemoaning the lack of individuality, Bradley's "return" could give viewers what they want.

The 2011 US National Championships are just a month or so away, guess we'll wait and see.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Movie Review: Disney Animation's Tangled

Disney Animation's latest CGI film came to us this Thanksgiving with the story of Rapunzel. As with all of the classic Fairytales, Tangled presents the story with a few Disney twists. This is also, reportedly, the final Disney Princess film according to recent articles quoting the Company's head - John Lassetter - as saying they were going to go in a different direction.

If Tangled is to be the final Princess film, well, then Disney did not disappoint. In a decade filled with hit or miss films, the company has ended on a high note with their latest animated films (Princess and the Frog, Bolt, and now Tangled). The story is timeless, the story seamless, and CGI animation -while not Pixar standards- is spot on.

The story itself is familiar. Rapunzel (voiced by singer-actress Mandy Moore), a princess, is wisked away by an evil old woman to live in a tower where her hair grows long and - as Disney tells it - has magical powers that keep her captor young and beautiful. Rapunzel knows not that her "mother" is really the villian, or that the lanterns she sees from her tower window every year on her birthday are for her.

Meanwhile, a local fugitive - Flynn Rider (voiced by "Chuck" actor Zachary Levi) - has a bit of trouble on his hands when he finds himself in possession of a stolen crown and is now persued by the King's army. While escaping, he finds himself facing a hidden tower deep within the forrest. Naturally he climbs said tower only to find himself face to face with... a frying pan. The frying pan, naturally, is wielded by our heroine who decides to "hire" Flynn to take her to the lanterns so that she can see them in person. This is her only birthday wish, and at age 18 she feels she is more than deserving. So she lies to her "mother" and sets off on an adventure.

The young duo find themselves at odds almost immediately. Rider is more interested in the crown - which Rapunzel has hidden in order to get him to take her to the lanterns - and tries to convince Rapunzel to give up the notion and go back and forget the whole thing. Rapunzel, herself, is at odds with her decision to leave - feeling guilty for lying to her "mother" - but curiousity wears out... as well as begins a love story.

By the end of their journey, our duo finds themselves completely infatuated with one another and with life lessons learned. Flynn reveals truths about himself that he's shared with no one else, and Rapunzel lets down her guard to share her hair's magical gift. This charming love story is easily believable and enjoyable to watch unfold. Even though the viewer pretty much knows it's going to happen, you're still pleasantly surprised to find that you were right in your assumption.

The plot quickly turns dark as Rapunzel's true identity is revealed to her, and the climax has a couple of twists you wouldn't expect from the Disney storyline. It departs dramatically from the original telling the further along you go in teh story, but is brought 'round right by the end.

Many Disney purists have been skeptical of the CGI films over the years. Some - including myself - believe that the medium should be left to Disney's partner company, Pixar. Other's don't seem to mind the medium so long as the story is good - which Disney has been hit or miss with since the early 90s. However with the change of command in Pixar's John Lassetter, Disney has seemingly made it's way back to the light with classic stories being told - and being told extremely well. The Disney Magic is fully evident in the 50th feature animation.

A couple of criticisms: the music was lacking, this is very disheartening considering Alan Meinken was at the helm and he's produced many classic scores over the years for the animated features. There were too many "small" songs that just seemed to be there because the director thought "it's a disney film we need a song here, and here, and one here, and oooo this is probably where one goes, too." The songs lacked a bit of heart, though some of that may be due to Mandy Moore.

Also, throughout the film I found myself wanting this movie to be done with the classic 2D animation that all other princess films had been done. Again, this goes back to personal preference, and the fact that compared to Pixar, the animation just doesn't come close, but no where in the film did the CGI seem to stand out as something that could only be done with computer graphics. You could possibly argue the lantern scene, but then they could have Beauty and Beast styled the movie and let that scene be part 2d and part CGI. Still, the computer animation was sound, and very few scenes seemed unfinished to my untrained eye.

Over all this was an enjoyable addition to the Disney family. It's a great family film - my nearly five year old neice enjoyed it - and surprisingly does not talk down to the audience at all (which I found even Princess and the Frog did). There's slapstick humor, very little potty humor (if any), and it is - of course - clean. Parents worried about the magic aspect will be happy to note that it's minimal and at the end is done away with entirely.

In true Disney form this story is a keeper.