Friday, February 23, 2007

Rap Cat Gets a Bad Rap

Let me preface this blog entry by saying that I am against animal abuse in any way, shape, or form. All three of my cats have a traumatic backstory (and Tooncinator alone proves my devotion to my pets...being feral, he has bit me to the bone at least twice, but we still let him live his Howard Hughes-like existence hiding under the bed 90% of the time counting toenail clippings). I am paying the board on a 30-year-old retired horse because I believe that animals are a lifetime commitment. My bird, Bradley, roams the house wild and free because I believe that caging 100 percent of the time is cruel.

But with all that being said, I just couldn't get myself fired up about allegations from Hillsborough Animal Services that the Rap Cat cat-in-a-bag promotion is cruel and a potential felony.

Yes, those yahoos actually believe that putting a paper sack on your cat is a felony! So do people who force Fifi into one of those lame pink doggie ballet outfits get the death penalty in Hillsborough?

Basically, what Checkers/Rallys is doing is printing a Rap Cat jersey on their bags, with instructions on how to cloth your kitty. Then, you take a photo or video and send it to them for possible inclusion on their website. Cute idea, right? I mean, cats crawl into bags on their own all the time, and if they get pissed at the prospect, the flimsy paper "jersey" is going to rip.

But the publicity-hungry folks in Hillsborough apparently crafted a press release that piqued a lot of interest among a media tired of the ongoing Anne Nicole circus of the bizarre. Click here to read the story in a new window; the video coverage was much more pathetic. It featured clips of pissed-off cats ripped off directly from YouTube. Pretty sad when the National Enquirer puts more effort into their research than Fox Orlando and its brethern.

We have wars, starvation, and poverty among humans, and cases of real animal cruelty where helpless critters are starved, beaten, dragged, shot, and God only knows what else. But in Hillsborough County, apparently their biggest cat-related worry is that some sick-minded felon to be will actually cloth Kitty in a paper sack. Appalling! Hang the bastard! And God forbid, don't force your cat into a flea bath or cram it into a carrier for a trip to the vet. If a Checkers bag is so abusive that it makes the national news, those things are probably grounds for an immediate lynching.

And what about me? Am I living on the edge of lawlessness with my own kitties? I most definitely would cram them (well, not Tooncinator) into Rap Cat costumes, save for one tiny detail: Checkers sacks don't come in Extra Portly Feline size.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

The Return of Rap Cat

When you move 1200 miles from your original home state, there are many things to get used to: climate changes/weather differences, the absence or abundance of different plant, animal and insect life, driving laws, accents, and various forms of culture shock.

For me, some of the biggest were: learning to deal with sweet tea (pre-sweetened iced tea), which is a Southern staple but which I cannot stand; I receive it at restaurants roughly 50% of the time, even when I emphatically order unsweetened; preparing annually for hurricane season; becoming indifferent to the abundance of mini frogs and lizards (the true mark of a tourist is shouts of, "Oh look at those cute little things!!"; and learned to say, "We don't have roaches. Those are palmetto bugs."

But another big adjustment lies in new brand names and regional advertising. I have learned to accept Publix supermarkets and Race Trac gasoline, but I am still adjusting to some of the more unnerving examples. The worst is Appliance Direct, a local chain of appliance stores. They run both short and infomercial-length commercials which consist mostly of shouting their name while galavanting among a forest of fridges, stoves, washers, and the like.

I guess their advertising is effective in an annoying and brain-searing sort of way; we bought our washer and dryer there and were actually quite pleased with our experience. But still, their ads induce a primal survivial instinct in most Central Floridians; I, too, have learned to drown them out automatically.

It's not any worse here than in Chicago, where veterans of the late 70s/early 80s will surely remember Timmy of Long Chevrolet fame. This urchin newsboy from Hell heralded all their commercials with an annoying cry of, "Extra, Extra!" while wielding a shief of phone newspapers. Usually he yelled a headline like "Long Chevrolet announced big sale!" or some other such brainwashing drivel. He horrified an entire generation of Chicagoans until he finally got his day the headline was "Kid gets pie in face," and the climax of the commercial was annoying little Timmy getting a big, creamy one in the puss.

Here in Florida, we're subjected to the likes of a bull terrier named "Mr. Incredible," advertising Toyotas (I think), but unlike Timmy, he just sits there quietly on the hood of a car while the huamns blather.

There is one regional ad that made the move to Celebration worth it all on its own: Rap Cat. Actually, the rapping feline isn't limited to Florida; he's featured on Checkers and Rally commercials, so you can see him in a variety of states. He burst onto the scene last fall, fascinating me with what was apparently a rap version of the Meow Mix catfood song. If you'd like to see what I'm talking about, click here to open Rap Cat's MySpace profile and view his commercial in a new window. Be patient, as the good part doesn't come till the end.

Rap Cat drives my husband insane, but to me he's one of those things that's so annoying that you just have to embrace it, sort of like those hamster-looking things that used to sing shrilly in praise of Quizono's pepper bar.

Rap Cat was absent from the airwaves for a while, but now he's make a triumphant return. Checkers is putting together a website,, although most of it is still under construction. It looks like they're going to have merchandise and ringtones, so I expect to soon have a Rap Cat doll and to have my cell phone chant "Meow meow meow meow..." rhythmically whenever I have a call (hopefully to the horror of all those around me).

I don't eat at Checkers myself (any inkling I might have had to do so ended with a brutal murder a couple years ago at the Checkers just outside of Celebration...instead of bacon cheeseburgers, the chain brings me visions of a poor, innocent grandma being shot through the drive-through window). But from what I've seen on YouTube, their current bags double as Rap Cat costumes that you can put on your cat; if you videotape its performance, you can send it in for possible fame on their website. Maybe I'll have to overcome my aversion temporarily in order to get some "clothing" for Stitch and Farquaad.

If you come from an unfortunately state where Rally's and Checker's don't have a presence, be sure you fit some TV time in around your trip to Disney World. I promise you, once you see him, you will never get his trademark rap out of your head.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Is This Illinois or Florida?!

Lately, the weather here in Central Florida has been pretty darned close to winter in Chicago. We've had freeze warnings several nights this week. Yes, freeze warnings, i.e. the temps. have been dipping below 32 degrees. Brrrrrr! I never want to hear the words freeze and Florida uttered in the same sentence, unless it's in the context of "Freezes never occur in Central Florida."

But sadly, those words are not true, and my thinned-out Floridian blood has been causing me to shiver and pile on the layered clothing whenever I go out at night. I have a couple of jackets, but nothing thick enough to ward off temps. in the 30s and 40s. I know that I need to buy one, but I am stuck in some sort of stubborn denial. Perhaps I should buy one; for all I know, I'm the reason for all this freezin'. After all, I've learned through trial and error that I can ward off rain simply by carrying an umbrella with me. If I leave it in the care, telling myself, "Those dark clouds don't mean a thing," I'll inevitably get caught in a downpour. If I grab the umbrella, it will stay dry as a bone, even if the clouds are pitch black.

Following that same theory, maybe I just need to buy a winter coat. If I buy it, no doubt I'll never need to use it, and that would definitely be worth the investment.

The really sad thing is that I'm not only hearing the word freeze but also that obscene phrase wind chill. A wind chill here in Celebration?! Has the world gone mad?! But supposedly we've got one in the 20s tonight...again, something more suited for Chicago.

Of course, I was foolish enough to buy a few flats of flowers two weeks ago. I lovingly planted them around Duloc Manor, thinking that I was in the clear. Now, I've been out for several nights straight, covering the ones in the flower beds and hauling in the others that I planted in pots. So far they've all survived, but they're in for another round of freezing tonight, and I don't know how much more their delicate constitutions can take.

My husband proved that he is certifiably insane the other night...he actually suggested that we go into the hot tub!!! Worse yet, I am probably crazier than him because I took him up on it. We've both been so busy with work that we haven't made it out into the bubbly, therapeutic water in ages. Finally we had a quiet evening, so he enticed me out into the yard, wrapped like a mummy in a robe and towel. I unwrapped my cloth "bandages" and sprinted into the hot tub in record breaking time. Once you're in, the hundred degree water negates the cold outside. Problem is, there is a physics rule that states: What goes in must come out. Ugh!!!!

After putting off the inevitable as long as possible, I lept up from the water, launched myself down the steps, and galloped into the back door like an Olympic sprinter. Yes, the soak and jet message was worth it...but just barely.

Over the next week the temps. are supposed to slowly but surely climb back up to normal. In the meantime, I am tolerating the deep freeze by repeating my new meditation mantra: "Chicago is single digits...Chicago is single digits..." That mantra never fails to remind me that freezing is all a matter of perspective.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Spontaneity is the Spice of Life

One of the pitfalls of living in Celebration, i.e. within spitting distance of Disney World, is that you don't visit the theme parks nearly as much as you'd think. When you move into town, eyes wide with wonder and pixie dust and brain reeling with the fact that Mickey Mouse is your neighbor, you tend to vow, "I'll be at the Magic Kingdom nearly every day!"

But something so close tends to be neglected as the rhythm of everyday life and responsibility takes hold. Now, I'm lucky if I get over to the theme parks once a month (although hubby and I usually make it to the restaurants more frequently).

Last night, inbetween my work, I was perusing a Disney World website. Reading about the parks soon sparked a tugging at my heart. Here I was, sitting eight miles from the Magic Kingdom toll plaza. Unlike most of the people posting on the forum I was reading, I could partake of the magic virtually any time I choose. I began to feel a longing that I knew wasn't going to disappear until I'd had my WDW fix.

I still had plenty of work to do, but one of the advantages of working from home is that you can take a little break (even tho' you pay for it later by working till 1 a.m.). I hollered upstairs to hubby, "Hey, want to go to the Magic Kingdom tonight?" For him, there's only one answer to that question, so shortly thereafter we were piled into the Family Truckster and heading down World Drive.

I wasn't sure how bad the crowds would be, but from the looks of the parking lot, I figured they were relatively minimal. It was already after 7, so a goodly chunk of exhausted guests had already bailed for home. While I enjoy visiting Disney at any time of the day, nighttime is particularly special. There's nothing like the sight of the castle, bathed in colored lights and sillouhetted against the black velvet sky, to spark a sense of wonder and magic.

We took the ferryboat over, and I admired the view of the three monorail resorts (the Polynesian, Contemporary, and Grand Floridian). For me, they will always be the icons of Disney World, no matter how many additional hotels are built. When I made my first trip, they were the only three hotels (not counting Downtown Disney), and the Swan and Dolphin were under construction. Now, in no particular order, there is Boardwalk, the Yacht and Beach Clubs, Port Orleans and PO Riverside, Saratoga Springs, Coronado Springs, Caribbean Beach, Pop Century, the three All-Stars, Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and whatever else I may have forgotten.

Over the years, we've stayed in most of the others, and I dearly love the Wilderness Lodge, but the Contemporary will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first Disney World hotel. It sparkled like a jewel with pinpoints of light punctuating the A-framed structure in the distance. The Poly and Floridian sat on the banks of the lake, giving off a homey, inviting glow to the boatloads of weary tourists heading back from a long day at the Magic Kingdom.

There were only a handful of stragglers aboard the ferryboat with us, and no lines to get into the park. Despite the moderate crowd, I did cringe at the sudden realization that there was some sort of cheerleading event going on. The majority of the humanity surrounding us was blonde, perky, tall, teenaged, and skinny to the point of bullemia. If you had hollered, "Hey, Buffy!", 100 pony-tailed pom-pom bearers would undoubtedly have yelled, "What?!"

I've read many stories of the Cheerleading Hoardes disrupting pre-shows with cult-like chants and performing spontaneous acrobatics on Main Street, but thankfully we were spared any such antics. Actually, we had to perform some acrobatics of our own, as we arrived just in time for the Spectromagic parade. Trying to make any headway into the park at parade time is like trying to swim backwards through a pit of quicksand while wearing a 50 lb. lead swimsuit.

We managed to make our way to Adventureland, where hubby was eager to gain his first taste of the new and improved Pirates of the Caribbean. I heartily approve of the new ride, since it features three guest appearances by an Audioanimatronic Johnny Depp (and the waterfall effect is very cool, too).

There was no wait, so we breezed through the queue line and right onto a boat for our trip through the pillaged village. Afterwards, we decided to see if the line for Big Thunder Mountain was manageable. It was only 20 minutes...a bit long for my taste, but worth it for a night ride. BTM is fun at any time of the day, but the lighting makes it a special treat after dark.

Little did I know that we were in for a special treat. Just as we boarded the runaway mine train and headed out onto the tracks, the Wishes fireworks display kicked off. It was a little taste of Heaven to barrel around the mountain while the sky above lit up with a panoply of multi-colored explosions.

There was only one small problem...I have hyperacusis, and noises at a certain pitch cause me pain. Unfortunately, fireworks are right at that pitch. I solved the problem as I normally do, by clamping my hands firmly over my ears. But that meant that I wasn't holding on, so I was pitched back and forth like a ship weathering the stormy seas. It added quite an interesting aspect to the ride!

At the end, we hurried to the exit to watch the rest of the fireworks show. Then we headed off to the Jungle Cruise, which was walk-on, and ended our day at the Haunted Mansion after a quick stop for a Dole Whip. We hiked over to Tomorrowland, but we didn't have quite enough time to slip in a ride on Space Mountain. I didn't mind too much, as I love visiting Tomorrowland at night just for the lights and decor. Much of it is a retro-futuristic Art Deco style, and there are multi-colored lights everywhere. It's my favorite area of the park at night; I love to ride Wedway (or whatever they call it these days) just to revel in the scenery below.

As we took the ferryboat back to the parking lot, there was one more piece of magic in store. It was time for the nightly water parade! We hurried up to the top deck and enjoyed the lighted "floats" as they danced and changed to the bubbly music. As I leaned on the rail, watching the light show below, I reminded myself that spontaneity is the spice of life. Sure, it's important to attend to responsibilities, but you have to break free every once in awhile. That little two-hour Disney fix was more energizing than a hundred cups of coffee (and much better for my soul!). I am one of the very lucky people who lives next door to Mickey...I never want to take that for granted. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and spontaneous enjoyment is all the more fun.

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