Saturday, July 16, 2016

I Make Fun of State Quarters: Georgia

I'm going to start by playing the free association game. Let's see some of the terms I come up with when I think of Georgia:

Millions of peaches
Peaches for me
Millions of peaches
Peaches for free

OK, I'm getting a little sidetracked. And the Presidents of the United States of America aren't even from Georgia, they're from Seattle. Let's try this again:

Jimmy Carter
The Walking Dead
Sherman's March to the Sea
Gone With the Wind
Stone Mountain

So when it comes to putting something on the state quarter, what should Georgia go with? There's the Union Army's path of utter destruction through the middle of the state, and the book about the spoiled Southern belle it inspired. And that giant mountain carving of the military officers of an army for a country that no one ever recognized. And the President who was attacked by a rabbit. And TV shows featuring redneck cephalopods and zombies.

Hmm, what could the Peach State possibly choose to be on its

Yeah, it's a peach. Right smack in the middle of the state, as if Roald Dahl's gigantic magically enhanced fruit had crashed down in the Empire State of the South instead of the Empire State Building and squashed millions of people beneath its fuzzy flesh. Or maybe President Frank Underwood stole a bunch of money from FEMA and built a Peachoid that's visible from space.

Peaches have been part of Georgia agriculture for a long time, but didn't become especially prevalent until after slavery was abolished. After everyone whined a bit about the "Lost Cause" and having to pay people to work, they opted for something that could be grown without quite so much manpower. Despite its designation as the Peach State, Georgia is actually fourth in the United States in peach production and recently has transitioned to blueberries as a more prevalent crop. But Georgia is no doubt going to cling to their designation on the argument that their peach varieties taste the best, dagnabbit.

"And our peach sculpture is way uglier than the Peachoid, too!" (Source)

Georgia's state quarter also includes a few other state symbols, but not so many that it makes it seem ridiculously crowded (ahem, Arkansas). There are live oak sprigs on the edges and a banner featuring the state's motto, "Wisdom, Justice, Moderation."

Overall, it's a perfectly functional, perfectly boring state quarter. However, it's unique in that there was a bit of controversy concerning the shape of the state. Some of the initial designs had the state shaped correctly, while others lopped a bit off the upper left corner. Eagle-eyed observers noted that the final design opted to circumcise Georgia, neatly removing Dade County.

This may have been a nod to the county's odd history. Dade was supposedly "sick and tard of Georgia's shillyin' and shallyin'" when the southern states were deciding whether to secede or not, so they opted to secede on their own from both the United States and Georgia. The "Free State of Dade" continued to proclaim its autonomy until World War II made insistence that you weren't part of the country a bit of a bad idea, and the county formally rejoined the U.S. on Independence Day in 1945.

The Dade County website insists that it never went rogue and that it's all a legend, probably because being among the most vociferous proponents of leaving the country to preserve slavery isn't the best legacy to celebrate. There have been suggestions that the quarter's exclusion of Dade County was a simple mistake, with the artist perhaps working off a map that didn't include this section of the state.

Wikipedia includes a section on the "controversy" surrounding the design. I haven't seen much about bruised feelings in the most northwestern section of Georgia over the snub. If they were really offended, maybe they should have thought twice in 1982 before raising the proposal of seceding from Georgia and joining Tennessee.

And Dade County knows what I like in scenery, so I'll leave them be (Source)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Honeymooning in Hawaii: Highlights from Kauai, Oahu, and the Big Island

I got married back in October, and my wife and I decided to start our honeymoon right away. We had discussed a few possibilities in Europe, but ultimately settled on an island hopping excursion in Hawaii. It seemed like heading halfway around the world to a tropical climate would be a nice reprieve from the cooling temperatures in New England, and we wouldn't even need to update our passports.

We planned out much of the trip through the archipelago in advance, but made a few impulsive stops as well. It was an unforgettable experience, and the destinations I'm highlighting here are only a fraction of what the islands have to offer. But if you're planning a Hawaii trip, any of these places are sure to leave you with happy memories.


Grand Hyatt Kauai

My wife and I got an offer to start a Hyatt credit card and earn two free nights in a hotel. We jumped on the opportunity when we realized that this perk could apply to this luxury resort in Poipu, which will normally run you several hundred dollars a night.

If you stay here, the key thing to remember is that you don't want to spend all your time at the resort. After all, it's possible when your hotel includes a beach, several pools, a surprisingly swift water slide, a couple of lagoons, fire pits, several restaurants and shops, a golf course, a spa, musical performances, and an atrium with tropical birds. We managed to enjoy most of these amenities when we got back from a daily excursion. There's also a coastal trail to the east which gives a stunning view of the sunrise.

Allerton Gardens

This botanical garden was formerly the grounds of a private home, so it had more variety than you would see if you were just walking through a typical natural area. Several beautiful water features and interesting structures are spread throughout the grounds. Allerton Gardens has also been used for a few films, most notably the enormous Moreton Bay fig trees that appear in Jurassic Park. We signed up for a sunset tour, which took us on a guided walk through the gardens and a dinner at the usually inaccessible homestead. Definitely a good way to start out the honeymoon.

Little Fish Coffee

We went to this little shop in Hanapepe for a much needed meal after our sailing trip to the Na Pali Coast was canceled due to heavy surf. Located in a small artsy village, this place had a huge selection of healthy meals. I went with a towering fruit bowl which included frozen dragon fruit, pineapple, kiwi, blueberries, macadamia nuts, and coconut. My wife was introduced to taro in the best possible way, as it was mixed with granola and honey and other tasty ingredients. This is definitely a nice place to stop for a meal out.

Waimea Canyon

The canceled trip to the Na Pali Coast also gave us a chance to explore this natural feature, which is nicknamed the "Grand Canyon of Hawaii." It's perhaps the least verdant part of the Garden Isle, although the red canyon walls are covered with enough green vegetation to present an interesting vista. You can also spot some towering waterfalls from various vantage points. It's 10 miles along a winding road to get to the main lookout, but you can find plenty of places to pull over and take in the view or check out the trails along the way.

Kauai Island Brewery and Grill

Craft breweries have been popping up all over the place, and Hawaii is no exception. This one had a nice relaxing atmosphere and a staff that was accommodating in every way. The samplers they offered were enormous (giving you a chance to try something like eight of their beers), and they also had some great sampler plates. An upper level includes a line of classic pinball machines if you feel in need of a diversion.

Kauai Coffee

Given that coffee accounts for a large portion of Kauai's economy, and that Hawaii is the only state where coffee can grow commercially, and that I'm a bit of a coffee fiend, a visit to a coffee farm was practically a given. And man does this place appeal to coffee lovers. While people are waiting for a guided tour to start, Kauai Coffee puts out dozens of carafes to let you try a variety of roasts and flavors. There's also a palpable sense of humor throughout the place, which makes for quite and enjoyable visit. My favorite was the sign declaring a special on the Big Bradda blend: "Buy two Big Braddas, and pay for them both!"

Spouting Horn

This natural feature works in the same way as Oahu's more famous Halona Blowhole: crashing waves send water through a seaside lava tube, causing geysers to shoot into the sky every few seconds. We had much better luck at the Spouting Horn than we did at the Halona Blowhole; the sprays were much more impressive, and the place wasn't mobbed by tourists. A flea market also sets up here regularly, giving you a chance to shop for some local goods.

Wings Over Kauai

Helicopter tours abound in Hawaii. It seemed like one came by every few minutes in Waimea Canyon, both above and through the gorge. We were pleasantly surprised to find that Wings Over Kauai was cheaper, offered an extensive tour, and had a perfect safety record. This was the smallest plane I've ever flown in, but it was an impressively smooth journey (except for a few turbulent points, at which point out pilot was quick to explain what was causing the bumps). Seeing the Na Pali Coast, Waimea Canyon, jungles, waterfalls, and other sites from the air was breathtaking. The flight also expertly combined the pilot's narration with a soundtrack piped through headphones, including the appropriate movie music when he pointed out places that appeared in Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park. Wings Over Kauai deserves all the praise they can get.


Hawaiian Airlines

I'm not sure how many options you even have for traveling between the islands, but Hawaiian Airlines really does deserve a mention. They provided a smooth ride and took a route that let you enjoy amazing views along the way. Soothing music and misters in the cabin added to the comfort. One guide joked that Hawaiian Airlines is the only exception to the concept of "island time," since they have an impressive record for departing on time and coming in ahead of schedule. So make sure you leave enough time to get to your gate if you're flying with them.

Hula Grill

After the laid-back and sparsely populated experience of Kauai, our hotel clerk warned us that Oahu was going to seem like someone dropped a chunk of Los Angeles into Hawaii. Indeed, the clusters of similar hotels and choking traffic of Honolulu and Waikiki were probably the ugliest sights in the islands. We also got a sense of how densely populated the area was when we tried to go to the highly recommended beachfront restaurant Duke's and found that it was packed to the gills, on a Wednesday night, in October, at 8 p.m., with up to an hour's wait.

Thankfully, they directed us to the Hula Grill, a nearby sister restaurant. They got us in right away, had a tasty menu, and offered us a few Kona beer samples to help us choose which one we wanted. Perhaps most importantly, they also had the famous Duke's hula pie, a Matterhorn-shaped pile of ice cream and fudge.

Turtle Tours

We looked at a few options for tours that bring you around the island, and Turtle Tours was definitely one of the most unique ones. The guide offered an interesting narrative during the drive, and the tour managed to squeeze in stops at several beautiful overlooks, the Dole plantation, a macadamia nut farm, and a surfing competition.

The tour is so named because it brings you to a beach where you go snorkeling and looking for sea turtles. This, unfortunately, was the most underwhelming part of the tour. The beach was distinguished by shallow water, somewhat rough waves, and a lot of sharp coral. After blundering around for a little while, getting a few painful cuts, and spotting a grand total of one sea turtle (on the beach), we had to give up. The "circle island" portion of the tour is very well-done, but the main feature could use a better beach.

Top of Waikiki

We stopped for a quick jaunt in Seattle on our way home, but opted to check out a few places other than the Space Needle. At any rate, we'd already had a nice experience at this revolving restaurant. Watching the glittering towers of Waikiki pass by out the window was certainly an interesting backdrop to our meal, and it looks like you get a great view of the ocean during the day. The quality of the food and service was also fantastic. It is fairly expensive, though, so be prepared to dip a little farther into your wallet.

Nature Tours "Jurassic Park Waterfall" tour

The name of this tour is a bit misleading. You're not going to see the waterfall where the helicopter landed in Jurassic Park, since that's on Kauai. But Manoa Falls is a pretty good facsimile, and both the guide and tour were excellent. You take a not quite leisurely but not quite strenuous hike through a large tropical rain forest that has been preserved from the Honolulu sprawl. You'll learn about the local plants and wildlife along the way, and be delightfully caught off guard when the falls suddenly become visible around a bend in the trail.

Kualoa Ranch

This active cattle ranch has long attracted filmmakers, and is famous for a beautiful green valley. We took a tour that brought us through several places that were used in the TV show Lost, both on the ranch and in nearby areas. It also stopped in areas that were used for certain films, most notably Jurassic Park and the still present footprints from the 1998 Godzilla movie. Our guide brought along a tablet to match scenes with the location, showing how easy it was to frame a new location by simply turning 180 degrees or taking a few steps to a nearby grove. It was also quite interesting to see some TV and movie shoots going on during our visit, including an episode of Hawaii Five-O and a set for the upcoming King Kong movie.

Buho Cocina y Cantina

A Mexican restaurant in the middle of the Pacific Ocean may seem like the recipe for a disaster, but this one hit all the high points. We chose it in part because of its rooftop location (a perfect place to check out Honolulu's weekly fireworks display) and in part for the intriguing menu of Mexican and Asian fusion. The food was incredible, with generous portions at a fair price. The staff was also exceptionally accommodating; when my wife let our waiter know about her shellfish allergy, he went out of his way to make sure the chef took all necessary precautions.

Pearl Harbor and the USS Missouri

We booked a tour with E Noa Tours, which took us to both Pearl Harbor and the battleship Missouri. It covered some additional ground as well, swinging through the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The stop at Pearl Harbor gave us enough time to wander around on your own for a bit, allowing us to see the submarine Bowfin and an informative memorial on submarine losses in World War II. The tour also included a trip out to the wreck of the Arizona, and it was a moving experience to see this memorial and the respect paid to it. The Missouri included a surprising range of information, on everything from the ship's history to naval life. All in all, this was a very inclusive tour offered at a very affordable price.


Arnott's Lodge

Whether you're trying to travel the islands on a budget or have a bit of money to throw around, Arnott's Lodge can accommodate you. This site has a nice open layout, including picnic areas, open air lounges, and a 24-7 central visitor's booth. The cheapest option is to camp on the grounds, but you can also stay in a dormitory, get a private room, or opt for a larger suite. It was a great place to relax, with a very helpful staff. Arnott's Lodge also runs tours, including the ones we took to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Mauna Kea.

Cafe Pesto

The Hilo side of Big Island seems to draw fewer tourists than the Kona side. Still, there's a booming restaurant and retail space near the shore, and Cafe Pesto had a terrific atmosphere, friendly staff, and a great food and drink selection at fair prices. They started out in pizza, but the other options are delicious as well; I think I ended up going their poke, paired with a sampler of local beers.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

There are plenty of tour options to see this park (we got one through Arnott's Lodge), as well as helicopter trips to see the lava flows from overhead. You can choose to go with one of these or try the more open-ended way of driving through the various roads and checking out the trails.

There's nowhere else in the United States to see landscapes like the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, so this is not a place to be missed. There are several places to explore, including overlooks of vast craters and calderas; enormous fields of lava, frozen where the flow cooled and hardened; the Thurston Lava Tube, a cavern large enough to comfortably walk through; and numerous steam vents. Our tour ended with a long walk around the Kilauea crater and a visit to the Jaggar Museum, which includes a great deal of information on the geology of the islands. Visiting during the evening always provides an impressive sight, with the crater's glow becoming more pronounced as the sun sets.

Kaimu Beach Park

This was a more popular beach before it was hit by a lava flow in 1990, but the tidal processes are helping to slowly bring back the black sand. Don't expect to go swimming here, as there aren't any lifeguards or other amenities, but it's a good place to walk and reflect. We weren't sure at first if we could enter, since signs claiming the territory as sovereign Hawaiian land mingled with others welcoming visitors; just remember the rule about treating Hawaii with respect and presumably you won't have a problem.

MacKenzie State Park

We didn't know about this park's less than stellar reputation when we visited. When you Google it, the top terms include "haunted" (it's supposedly populated by the ghosts of the prisoners who were recruited to do manual labor here) and "murders" (at least four people have been killed here). The most unpleasant thing we encountered was the fact that there seems to be no parking aside from a few spaces reserved as handicapped spots; we probably missed a larger lot somewhere else.

MacKenzie State Park includes old lava flows and sea cliffs, where you can watch the waves crash into the shore and throw up huge sprays. It's well worth a visit, but you'll definitely want to make sure you stay a safe distance from the ledges. Over the years, several fishermen and other visitors have been caught off guard by rogue waves and swept into the sea.

Lava Tree State Park

It's a relatively quick walk through this small park, where several trees were preserved in a Pompeii-like fashion by a centuries-old lava flow. There's some information at the entrance about how these were formed, and you can peer down into the cavern of a large lava tube in this area. That's also why you get plenty of warnings to stay on the boardwalk during your visit; you never know where you might plummet into a chasm. This might not be interesting enough for you to make a special trip to see, but it's worth a stop if you happen to be passing by.

Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation

Getting to this site in Hilo involves a drive through a vast plantation of macadamia nut trees, though it's easy to schedule a stop here without taking too much time out of your day. Some observation windows and a few short videos at the factory give you a look into how the nuts are prepared and packaged, and the gift shop is very generous with the samples. There are also a few other attractions here, including a small grove of various Hawaiian plants and a small ice cream parlor.

Rainbow Falls

I'm a sucker for waterfalls, so this beautiful site was a must-see. It's easy to stop by during a day trip; the falls are pretty much located right next to the parking lot, but there are still a few walkways that let you see the river and cascade from a few different angles. If you visit on a sunny day, you can keep an eye out for the spectacle suggested by the name of the falls.

Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea commands attention as soon as you first glimpse it. The enormous shield volcano, studded with telescopes at the summit, is an impressive sight as you come in for landing. It seems most rental car companies don't look too kindly on people taking their vehicles to the summit, but there are plenty of tours that will do this task for you. That lets you marvel in the view of nearby Mauna Loa rising above the clouds, or the brilliant colors of the sunset, or the breathtakingly clear view of the stars and Milky Way at night. Like the volcanoes, this is something you simply can't miss if you're going to the Big Island.

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

This proved to be a pleasant stop on our drive from Hilo to Kona. The gardens nicely balance history and botany, paying tribute to the people who converted the tangled jungle into a diverse mix of plant life. There are several trails to explore, including ones that take you to overlooks of crashing waves and waterfalls. The visitor center is also very interesting, presenting a history of the valley and various artifacts collected by the land's former owners.

Akaka Falls State Park

This impressive cataract requires a bit of a drive from the main road and charges a modest parking fee, but it's well worth a visit. Akaka Falls is twice the height of Niagara Falls, and offers a gorgeous spectacle amidst the gorges and forest in this area. The trails in the state park take you on a vigorous but manageable walk past other sights, including the audible but not quite visible Kahuna Falls.

Big Island Brewhaus & Taco Tako Taqueria 

With a name like that, how can you not stop in? We took the winding, scenic northern route from Hilo to Kona, and ended up stopping at this place in the small town of Waimea for lunch. It's a small operation, but has a good variety of their own beers on tap as well as a delicious menu of local foods offered at unbelievably low prices. It almost seems like one of those places you want to keep secret so it doesn't get overwhelmed with tourists, but at the same time it's too good not to support. Check it out if you're up that way.

Two Steps

Special recognition goes to Kona Boys, a business in Kealakekua that caters to snorkelers and kayakers. My wife was keen on doing some snorkeling (which we were originally scheduled to do as part of the Na Pali Coast sail) and we stopped here to try to schedule a last minute trip. They weren't able to book us for that day, but loaned us some snorkeling equipment and gave us a few recommendations on places to go.

We opted to check out Two Steps, a popular site located near the Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park (or City of Refuge for those who broke the island's sacred laws). This oceanfront site is named for a natural ledge, part of an old lava flow, that gives you an easy way to get into the water. It was fascinating to see the coral and tropical fish swimming below, and snorkelers have also reported seeing creatures such as turtles, octopuses, and even dolphins. The lava is slippery when wet, and sharp if you fall, so be careful getting around.

Kona Brewing Company

While there are a few brew pubs that have put down roots in Hawaii, Kona Brewing Company is probably the only one that's well-known in the continental United States. Even here in southeastern Connecticut, Kona brews are readily available and a few bars include its neon sign outlining the Hawaiian archipelago. It turns out the brewery has a partnership where their recipes are brewed on the West Coast for distribution in the United States, so the only way to get a true Kona beer is to go to Hawaii. The brewery tour includes several samples and a small gift (we got key chains with a wooden cutout of Big Island), and you can also stick around for a terrific lunch and dinner menu.

Donkey Balls Chocolate

Because when you drive past a storefront that says "Donkey Balls Chocolate" on it the first time, you laugh and keep going. But when you see it again, you think it might be worth a stop. And that was definitely the right choice. This small confectionery has plenty of samples to try out, and shelves full of chocolates with names like Frosted Ass Balls and Dingle Berries. Even if you're not one for juvenile humor, you'll forgive them for looking so delicious you want to buy up half the store. There's also an observation window giving you a nice look at how they create these treats.

Captain Cook monument

The place where Captain Cook died is pretty isolated, so the only way to get out there is by boat. We opted for a kayaking trip through Kona Boys, with a guide telling us the story about how Cook annoyed the Hawaiians enough to bring about his death. The guide book we used says two-person kayaks have been nicknamed "divorce boats" for their propensity to cause squabbles among couples, but we managed to paddle across the bay without developing any irreconcilable differences. In addition to the beautiful scenery, we spotted several spinner dolphins in the area.

The monument itself is a fairly standard monolith. There's a more subtle marker showing the actual spot where Cook was killed, while the monument includes both tributes left by various visitors and the remnants of attempts to deface the language about how Cook "discovered" the islands. You don't come all this way just to gawk at a slab of stone, though; the site is great for snorkeling, with calm waters and huge schools of fish.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Independence Day: Resurgence - A Trailer Play by Play

Independence Day is one of my biggest guilty pleasures. There was plenty of anticipation when it first came out, fueled by the early teasers showing aliens effortlessly destroying the Empire State Building and White House. These scenes instantly became iconic, and remain so even after the 9/11 attacks offered us a terrifying real world analog.

The film got a fair share of criticism both at the time of its release and in retrospective view. The characters in particular were seen as thinly sketched or stereotypical, and there are some scenes that are undeniably cheesy. Independence Day makes an admirable effort to show that the entire world is affected by the alien invasion and joining together to fight back, but there are still some jingoistic overtones as the United States makes all the breakthroughs and turns the tide of the war on our own federal holiday.

But the movie essentially marks one of the high points in the sci-fi and disaster genre. It was by turns terrifying, exhilarating, and amusing. The 90s were full of forgettable popcorn flicks putting the planet, or maybe just New York City, in peril. I know plenty of other people who view Independence Day with the same nostalgic fondness I have for it. Do you see the same love for Daylight, that Sylvester Stallone flick about a bunch of people trapped in a tunnel under Hudson River that came out five months after Independence Day? Of course not.

So it's no surprise that there was a lot of excitement when a sequel to Independence Day was confirmed, and it only ramped up when the first trailer dropped.

The first movie was fairly self-contained, but Independence Day: Resurgence makes a reasonable enough case for a real-time sequel. The action is picking up two decades after the first movie, which only makes sense considering all of the returning actors are now 20 years older. There's also an incredibly in-depth official site that offers plenty of tidbits on the extent of the first fight against the aliens and what's happened up until this world's present day.

So without further ado, here's some commentary, wisecracks, and predictions:

The trailer starts with a convoy of United Nations vehicles cruising through the desert. Perhaps the near-annihilation of humanity was enough to spur the nations of the world to cooperate and treat the UN as a sort of world legislature. Or maybe they're still just tooling around ineffectively and trying to bring some sense of order while angry Americans rant about its New World Order chemtrail conspiracies.

"We found something out here," a voice with an Australian accent says. The desolate ground is littered with alien skulls, which the UN team inspects. Several of them are perched on poles in a shrine-like manner, accompanied by some horns that look like they may have come from an African antelope. Oh great, perhaps some new religion has popped up around the Smashy Smashy Sky Gods.

The only person who might understand this? Jeff Goldblum, aka David Levinson! He's hanging out with some dudes with red berets, so he could be in a hell of a lot of areas. But a peek at the official site suggests that they're in Congo, where a group of surviving aliens set up shop for awhile after their friends suffered an explosive beatdown. David gives the same "Oh my God" he delivered upon seeing the alien ships come in over Central Park and then...

When the Australian lady said, "We found something," was she referring to this gimongous thing? Because it seems like that's something that's just there for all people to see. You're looking at it from miles away, for crying out loud. Do you also gaze upon the Himalayas and mysteriously say you've made a discovery?

What we didn't! President Whitmore specifically mentioned that the entire Jerkhole Alien civilization packed up in the mothership like some intergalactic RV and went planet to planet, sucking up whatever natural resources they found. David and Captain Steve Hiller took out the mothership, Earthlings knocked out their other ships, and boom! Justifiable genocide, hooray! There's no more of this particular kind of alien on its way, right?

Levinson does a voice-over about how he's worked for two decades to keep Earth safe from another attack, using the alien tech to do so, and we see that Thor's brother is filling in for Will Smith in this particular film. A wave of hover-fighters departs from some massive military base, and both the engines and a nearby flak gun appear to use the defeated aliens' shiny blue-green alien goo. The logo on the plane looks like it might be the Earth or solar system or something like that.

Levinson laments that the preparations aren't going to be enough as a shadow fall over the Moon and a clearly doomed military team enters a smoky room to find overturned chairs and a dead body. Despite being armed with what looks like the Overwatch rifle from Half-Life 2, a soldier is whisked away by some unseen force.

The voice-over has changed to presumably former President Whitmore, who has been plagued with nightmares about the alien invasion. He's sporting a hermit beard and looks like he chills out in a mountain cabin somewhere. "They're coming back," he says. Perhaps this is a callback to that telepathic connection Whitmore made in the first film. But again, we couldn't cross the Jerkhole Alien species off our planet's enemies list after obliterating their space Winnebago?

It's a conspiracy! Anywho...

A shadow falls over the ocean, covering an oil rig and liquefied natural gas carrier. So we got to play with super-advanced alien technology for 20 years and we still use fossil fuels? Way to go, Texas oil lobbyists. I guess Whitmore owed you something for nuking Houston.

David's father has taken to a life at sea, or he just happens to be on a small boat off the coast of some non-destroyed city. He hightails it out of there as a massive alien spacecraft makes its way into the atmosphere, wreathed in fire and smoke.

By this point, a tinny recording of Whitmore's rousing speech from the first movie is playing. We get a quick look at Dylan Hiller, who is all grown up and part of Earth's defense force. It looks like some alarms are going off.

There's a radio telescope or laser gun or some kind of installation on the Moon. It looks like an enormous alien snowplow is about to take it out.

Hermit Whitmore is decked out in a red tie and an American flag lapel pin, so I guess the post-invasion future still has Republican primaries. A young woman, presumably his grown-up daughter, bangs on a glass window before Whitmore is engulfed in steam. I just finished reading Hugh Howey's Shift series, so my mind is immediately going to nanobots.

A couple of quick shots of the futuristic fighters and their pilots and then...hey, it looks like they rebuilt D.C. after the attack! That's definitely the Mall over to the right. It's a shame that the Jerkhole Aliens are apparently just crashing a giant ship into Georgetown and ruining all that hard work.

Some projectiles rain down on the Moon, propelling an astronaut into the non-air, but his companion catches his foot before he can be launched into space. Some soldiers race down a hallway with atmospherically sparking lights. A group of bigwigs (including a woman who has an American flag lapel pin, and therefore must be the President) is hanging around a swanky Situation Room, which has apparently had its power cut. The door opens and a few guards immediately open fire with non-Combine weaponry.

Three old school helicopters take off from a rooftop; I guess we need those fossil fuels after all. One of them is labeled United States Army, so nationalism is alive and well, too. There's some smoke in the distance, as well as a colored smoke signal, and the woman waving at them (hey, it's Hiller's widow!) seems to be trying to convey some kind of warning.

The Moon building is a laser gun, though it doesn't seem to be doing any good. Perhaps this tiny complement of space fighters can help.

Dylan orders his fellow pilots to fall back during a fierce dogfight, which appears to be taking place over the alien ship as it heads toward Earth. One of the fighters certainly bears a resemblance to the original design from the first film, and it manages to take out a human jet.

The mob bank manager from The Dark Knight is a military officer. Some kind of Futurama-like drone takes off ahead of the destruction on the Moon as Thor's brother helps David aboard. Apparently there's a Hollywood rule now that all disaster movies need to have a scene where a school bus full of children is in peril.

Soldiers with Overwatch rifles fight back against a raid by alien fighters. It looks very similar to the attack on the El Toro base from the first movie, though one of the red beret dudes is there as well. Maybe he and all of these guys are mercenaries in the Congo war, with their fingers on their triggers, knee-deep in alien gore? Anyone? It's "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner," look it up.

Whitmore's speech is still going on, and he gets through "Today, we celebrate our In-" before the audio suddenly goes to static. Luckily the title is there to remind us what day we're celebrating.

The enormous alien spaceship enters Earth's atmosphere. David and Thor's brother watch from the Moon, and an unnerved David comments on how it's bigger than the last one. Indeed, it looks like the alien plan this time around is to just drop a new kind of mothership to the ground and swarm the planet from there. A few lighted areas are visible, including a large city.

Then we get the invitation to pay our respects for the War of 1996 by visiting the official website. David speaks at some kind of TED Talk about alien technology, which apparently gave us the iPhone. Also, Las Vegas is no more but Europe's major leaders managed to survive the first attack.

Looks interesting, and hopefully it won't suck! Right now, Independence Day: Resurgence is scheduled for release on June 24.