Let me tell you about something tremendously stupid I did over the weekend. I flew to São Paulo, Brazil without a tourist visa, a document U.S. citizens are required to have if they wish to traipse around that beautiful country. Why did I do this? I was under the false impression an amnesty was occurring. During the Rio Olympics, Brazil waived tourist visas to encourage more traffic to the games. That was in June. I had no clue the policy had been reinstated in September. I thought it was relaxing until January 2017. It’s been a while since I’ve been this wrong about something so important.
I never blamed anybody but myself for this debacle. My brain just atrophied on confirming in the absolute anything beyond my passport. That said, the Brazilian pal who was picking me up from the airport Sunday morning also hadn’t been aware of or concerned with a potential visa problem. That made me feel better. Furthermore, as I was apologizing for my bold stupidity to the Latam employee who was helping me get back to the States, she countered: “No, it’s our company’s mistake. We should include this information in our booking procedure.” Couldn’t argue there.
So this is what happens when a U.S. citizen arrives in Brazil without a tourist visa: they let you stand around customs while they take your passport into a back room (where I imagine they run the numbers on the off chance you’re a known fugitive); eventually customs officials turn you over to a representative from the airline you flew in on, who makes you sign a document saying you understand why you’re not being allowed into the country; then, after going through security, the rep leads you to one of the gates so you can wait with some other airport official while the airline gets you on the next available return flight; once you’re rebooked, you may roam around the airport, thinking about what you’ve done as you wait for takeoff.
All I got to see of Brazil. Carnaval!
This entire episode stretched over six hours. Everyone I encountered at São Paulo–Guarulhos International Airport was as personable and professional as you’d expect airport folk to be in the sunrise hours of a Sunday morning when suddenly presented with an out of bounds idiot like me. The worst part, aside from the all-consuming embarrassment, was how badly I had to go to the bathroom while they were reviewing my passport in their office. To be honest, there’ve been far more dreadful mornings for me here in Florida.
So what happens now? Well, in the same breath as her apology, the Latam Airlines employee said the company would make up for their error by flying me back to Brazil for free once I obtain a visa. Fantastic, right? Getting this visa, that’s the new problem. Unless you want to pay exorbitant fees for the help of a third party online service, you must apply for and obtain a tourism visa in person at your local Brazilian consulate. Orlando got Disney, Orlando got the Magic, but Orlando ain’t got Brazilian consulate. The nearest one is half a state away in Miami. Good thing I love adventure.
Remember, friends, when planning a jaunt abroad, take a gander at a dot gov website or maybe this Wikipedia page to make sure you’re not about to fuckin’ bone yourself. Also, watching The Blues Brothers with Portuguese subtitles will not give you enough handle on the language to communicate properly with Brazilian customs officials. No one will care that you’re “on a mission from God” or that you “traded the car for a microphone.”
UPDATE: Following a week and a half of truly Grade F customer service, Latam informed me they would not honor their employee’s promise of free passage back to Brazil. The writing was on the wall before that, though—literally, on Latam’s Facebook wall, an endless stream of customer service complaints. Reading through them, I feel lucky. Some people have stuff in writing Latam won’t honor. Some folks have been waiting for hundreds of days for resolution. So, you know, fly with them at your own risk.
Would have dropped this update sooner but it kinda depressed me. Then I momentarily forgot what life was after the presidential election.
Recently I wrote a four part series for Orlando Weekly about the “Superboy” TV program they filmed in and around the City Beautiful twenty-five years ago. There was a lot of ground to cover, and one angle I had to leave out was the show’s handful of references to punk rock. There’s an episode in season one where Superboy goes undercover at a punk club to thwart a gangster (or is it a demon?), but everyone there looks more Sisters of Mercy than Sex Pistols—except Superboy, whose disguise is straight up Glenn Hughes from the Village People (complete with bushy facial hair).
There’s another instance where a character tells Clark he’s “taking the punk thing too far” because his hair is messy or his clothes are all torn up from fighting some evil, but the best of these moments can be seen in the still above. Wandering around town like a stray dog, the evil Bizarro makes his way to a shopping center where these extras from Dudes emerge from a store, take one look at him, and tell him his outfit looks stupid. That’s right, Billy; punk rockers are so crazy they aren’t even fazed by rampaging Superboy clones.
Yes, Bizarro is a clone in this series, not an alien. Clark also spends the last two seasons interning for the FBI. Listen, the producers of this show got off on tweaking canon. That male punk at the strip mall is wearing cargo pants, for the love of Christ!
Keep your eye on Orlando Weekly’s blog section, for I am now a daily contributor. It’s only been a week and already I’ve managed to work cape buffalo into a story. Cape buffalo, I say. Your draconian rules of alt weekly-ing mean nothing to me. You can’t tame this fire.
Related: I am now living in Orlando. Hey, I’m as shocked as you are.
But I digress. For a (more or less) complete history of my freelance writing career dating all the way back to that wild and wooly year of 2005, scroll down to the JG2 OFF-WORLD menu on the right hand side of this page. If any of the links direct you to some nonsense that isn’t stuff I’ve written, I apologize. I can’t configure every known website to best benefit me.
Jaws, the popular Universal Studios Orlando theme park attraction based on the 1975 film of the same name, will die on January 3, 2012, after over two decades of frightening tourists with a mechanical polyurethane shark. Universal announced the ride’s closure this morning, citing the need to “make room for an exciting, new attraction experience.”
“Jaws has been an amazing attraction and an important part of our history,” said the company in their public statement. “But we must always work to provide new, innovative, entertainment experiences for our guests.”
The Jaws ride and its surrounding Amityville area (modeled after the fictional town from the film) will last be open to curious theme park visitors on January 2, 2012. While there’s no word yet on what will replace Jaws, rumor has it Universal bosses plan on expanding their immensely popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction. Insiders claim the idea being bandied about would involve the construction of new Potter simulations in the current Jaws location and using a train system (the magical “Hogwart’s Express”) to connect it with the original Wizarding World in neighboring theme park Islands of Adventure.
Opened with Universal Studios Orlando itself on June 7, 1990, Jaws was an expansion of the brief Jaws segment added to Universal Hollywood’s famed Backlot Tour in 1976. Initially, Jaws was the most technically plagued ride at the park, so much so that it had to be evacuated nearly every day during its first summer. On September 30, 1990, Universal shut the ride down and sued the engineering company that built it for faulty design. Jaws limped along for the next two years as implemented corrections failed to bring the experience to life correctly. Universal eventually hired another contracter for a complete overhaul (removing complicated elements such as the robotic shark biting the tour boat) and reopened the ride in the Spring of 1993.
Jaws entertained Universal attendees after that without major incident until 2004. That year Florida was ravaged by several hurricanes in succession, inflating the price of petroleum and thereby making the gas-reliant seven acre shark attraction too expensive to operate on a daily basis. Universal closed Jaws that year but reopened it on a seasonal basis in late 2005 after a heavy cloud of fan protest. The complaints didn’t stop, though, and eventually the park relented by reopening Jaws full in February of 2007.
I’ve mourned various theme park attraction closures before, but this one really hits me where it hurts. Jaws has always been my absolute favorite non-science fiction film, and being afforded the opportunity to enter that world via Jaws the Ride—no matter how phony it kept looking to my ever-maturing eyes or how thick the malaise was through which all the teenage skippers read their lines—was something I truly relished in life. In 1994, when I was a mere lad of fourteen, my parents decided to move our family from New England to the greater Orlando area; part of the reason I didn’t throw a huge stupid sucky baby fit over this development was because I knew I’d be that much closer to Jaws. Forget oranges and the beach and goddamn Mickey Mouse. I needed that creepy shark recreation.
That Jaws the Ride will be murdered on my thirty-third birthday is just pouring salt on the wound. At least I’ll be down that way next month visiting my parents for Christmas, so I’ll ostensibly be able to putter around Amity Lagoon one last time before the Fake Shemp Bruces are carelessly tossed in Universal’s backyard to make room for Brand New More Popular Film Franchise Simulation. Not that I’m against progression. It just stings us old timers on occasion.
Paying my final respects to a robotic shark at Christmas. That sounds like a Beck lyric. I wish it weren’t real.
Star Wars Celebration V was held this past weekend in my old home base of Orlando, FL. Part of me wanted to fly down there and check it out because some of my friends were going, but then I remembered I’d have to pay something like $60 or $70 just to stand in endless lines with hundreds of Lucas Kool-Aid drinkers so I could hear someone like Anthony Daniels talk about what the “Droids” cartoon meant to him personally. Not too keen on that notion, I decided to stay in NYC and celebrate by watching the original Star Wars movies when they came on Spike TV Saturday, flinching every time some of that post-1997 CGI bull honkey flashed onscreen (“Jedi Rocks” still feels like a shower in Louie Anderson’s ball sweat).
The big news to come out of Celebration V is that the Star Wars saga is arriving on Blu-ray next year. Of course Lucasfilm is only putting the 2004 “Extra” Special Editions of the o.g. trilogy on these discs, because it would cost too much to find copies of Star Wars, Empire, and Jedi without all that shit they started adding in the late ’90s and restore them all digital-like just to appease a few hundred / thousand / gazillion die-hard fans. Seriously, that’s what they said. I guess we didn’t buy enough merchandise, guys. If we had all bought that one extra Stormtrooper figure back in the day, maybe George could afford to release the versions of the movies we fell in love with.
Orthodox SW fans might be enticed to purchase these Blu-rays anyway, as they’ll allegedly feature oodles of never-before-seen bonus materials. Yeah, we’ve heard that before plenty of times, but Lucas stepped to the plate at Celebration with the following deleted scene from Return of the Jedi in which Luke is seen constructing his lightsaber:
Pretty bad-ass, right? Well, some people don’t think so. In fact, some bitter Chewbacca jockeys instantly decried this footage as fake, nothing more than a quick scene cobbled together with computers and stand-in actors to give the fan boys a boner and move more Blu-ray units.
Is it possible? Is George Lucas that much of a dickhead? Certainly! Thirteen years ago he took three of the greatest movies of all-time and started making significant digital alterations. We now live in a Star Wars world where Jabba the Hutt left his dais to visit Docking Bay 94, the Ewoks never sang their immortal “Yub Yub” song, and Darth Vader’s ghost is a teenager. Lucas has proven he’s not above fucking shit up just for the sake of fucking shit up.
However, previous instances of bullshittery do not alone prove this newly released footage is fake. I’m hard-pressed to spot one instance in those fifty-six seconds that makes me say, “Ah HA! Trickery is afoot!” The film stock looks a little too clean and clear to be some throwaway shit from 1983, but they may have spruced it up a bit for the Blu-ray release. That’s definitely Mark Hamill and his cleft-ass chin. Doesn’t seem to be any CGI junk there (Mark personally confirmed this reel was legit, apparently, before it was unveiled at Celebration; what motivation would Hamill have to lie?). Besides, aren’t we looking at a YouTube clip of a video of a video? I imagine it might look a little better first generation.
I love a good conspiracy as much as the next nerf herder, and I’m all about adding more fuel to the Lucas-hating funeral pyre, but I don’t think this clip is worth going to war over. Still, I’ll do the world a favor and hit up my intel on the inside of Lucasfilm and see what they get back to me with RE: fake-ass Jedi shit. Grumpy Rappoccio may not be the greatest janitor in the world, but he was right about Howard the Duck coming to DVD!