Freelining with Mike Freeman: Quiet ways to celebrate the season


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ORLANDO – Maybe it’s nothing more than the inevitable process of getting older, but I find that I increasingly appreciate the smaller, quieter things in life.

Or maybe it has to do with living here in Central Florida, where every day in December we get television ads trumpeting all the ducky things we have to do to get into the holiday spirit.

Having just taken in a sneak peek of what Sea World is doing this year, I can tell you that yes, there’s a lot of fun holiday stuff to absorb at our theme parks.

Sea World's Ports of Call gets into the holiday spirit with this seasonal decoration.

But for me, I recently pondered the sublime pleasure of something else entirely: Light Up UCF and Rudolph. But first I had to figure out why.

Light Up UCF is the University of Central Florida’s gift to the holidays, and it won’t remind you of what the theme parks have to offer. It’s a modest event, with a flashy and colorful light show in the UCF Knight’s Plaza, an ice skating rink, a 100-foot ice slide, a merry go round, ferris wheel and Santa choo-choo train. The big neon flash of “Season’s Greetings” lights welcome you upon your arrival, although the music blasting from the skating rink ranges from Christmas favorites to country and even rock and rap.

I got there on Thanksgiving night with my sister, and noticed one thing right off: we didn’t spend a whole heck of a lot of time fighting the crowds. In fact, we almost were the crowd. There were no intimidating-looking lines at the rides, although the skating rink had attracted a decent number of folks and the kids were taking on that ice slide with gusto. My sister and I rode Santa’s train, feeling for all intents and purposes like we had left our childhood behind just a day or two ago, rather than the many long decades that have passed since we’d routinely beam with excitement at an event like this. 

The lights shine brightly at the University of Central Florida's Light Up UCF

Summed up that way, Light Up UCF must sound quite drab, a letdown for those who brave the lines at Walt Disney World or Universal Studios for the big stuff. But for me, it wasn’t dull at all. Granted, I didn’t spend hours at what essentially took me less than a half hour to enjoy. But enjoy it, I did. And as I said to begin with, I think I found myself appreciating the quiet solitude of Light Up UCF – no long lines to crawl through, no waiting an hour to hop on a ride, no pushing and shoving through mobs of tourists and locals. We strolled across the university campus like it was our own backyard.

The same was true last night when I sat down on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate and watched the annual showing of “Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer,” the 1964 animated show with Burl Ives narrating the story of Rudolph, Hermey, Yukon Cornelius, and the rest of the gang as they save the day when it looks like Christmas might get cancelled due to a blinding snowstorm.

Seen today, the animation in “Rudolph” seems primitive. Computer-generated animation is so sophisticated by comparison that it seems limited only by the imaginations of the designers and artists. I hadn’t watched “Rudolph” in years and have no clue what convinced me to check it out again this year. But even if it makes the likes of “Shrek” seem monumentally artistic and creative by comparison, I found myself hopelessly caught up in a Rudolph nostalgia binge. There I was, quietly anticipating certain moments that proved to be alternately scary (how many times as a kid did I hide my face in my parents’ couch as the Abominable Snowman chased poor Rudolph and Hermey?), sad (remember those misfit toys that nobody wanted?) or perfectly capable of tugging effortlessly at the heartstrings (Clarice doesn’t care if Rudolph’s nose glows or not – awwww!). Maybe I loved the movie as a kid because I empathized with Rudolph and Hermey, and felt like I, too, was something of a misfit – but then again, didn’t we all feel that way as kids when we thought we didn’t fit in with the crowd?

In any case, I stayed with “Rudolph” to the very end, before “NCIS” came on and the holiday entertainment ended. It took me back, just briefly, to a happy time many holiday seasons ago … and so did Light Up UCF. 

Santa's Train is running at Light Up UCF

But as I said, maybe I just wanted the quiet, simple nostalgic buzz I got from that 1964 movie and that quaint little college festival. Not everything we do at this time of year has to be big and splashy and designed for massive crowds. Sometimes it’s the little things that really put you in the mood to celebrate the season.

Light Up UCF continues through Jan. 2, and tickets for the rides are $12. To learn more, call 407-823-6006.

Contact Mike Freeman at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

From hair styling to charitable work and Awapuhi treatments, Lunatic Fringe does it all


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Lunatic Fringe opened at the Uptown Altamonte mall in March 2009.

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS – Lunatic Fringe, the upscale salon at the Uptown Altamonte mall, is known for their “Fringe Trims,” hair coloring, facial waxing and more.

Now the salon has also devoted one day to giving something back to the community – in particular, to the parents of children who are undergoing a painfully difficult and challenging time.

On Nov. 21, the staff from Lunatic Fringe – nine stylists altogether — were at the Ronald McDonald House at Alden Road in Orlando. Their aim: to provide a service to the parents of these seriously ill or injured children.

“We’re going to give haircuts to the families of the children there, to the moms and dads,” said Jennifer Flores, manager of Lunatic Fringe. “This is a free service.”

 The mission of Ronald McDonald House Charities is to create and support programs that directly improve the health and well being of children. As the charitable organization’s Web site notes, it would be much harder to promote their central mission — focusing on the critical needs of children – without the help of the “staff, volunteers and donors who make them possible.”

That includes volunteers like the staff at Lunatic Fringe, who were at the local Ronald McDonald House to lend their skills with scissors, clippers and other hair styling tools to the parents of the children staying there.

“We just wanted to give something back,” Flores said. “We’re a salon that likes to give back to the community. That’s something in our culture, the Lunatic Fringe culture.”

Lunatic Fringe first opened its doors in 1999 by husband and wife team Shawn Trujillo and Angie Katsanevas in Salt Lake City, Utah. They were successful enough to expand to three local salons, a school and a beauty supply store, and eventually to new salons in Central Florida and Boise, Idaho. The Altamonte Springs salon opened in March 2009.

Part of their mission, Flores said, is to be players and contributors in their local community.

“Paul Mitchell has the kind of culture where we give something back, where we’re friendly people,” she said. “We’re all about opportunity. A lot of salons do stuff like this, and in the Paul Mitchell culture, they always do this.”

That includes the Altamonte Springs salon, which has already been involved in the Children’s Miracle Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and improving the lives of children by raising funds for children’s hospitals.

“It was one of the biggest charity events here in Florida,” Flores said of the event that took place two years ago. “It was a big

The staff at Lunatic Fringe is like a family.

experience. We got to touch people’s lives. We see these kids going through tough times, and it’s very hard. But we’re here to give them support and make them happy.”

That also extends to touching the lives of the parents of those children.

“We’re basically there giving them our time, and helping them out,” Flores said.

Flores also credited her staff,  a group that the salon culture often refers to as “artists” –who, Flores added, are happy to be on this mission.

“We’re a team,” she said. “We’re not a staff, we’re a team. We work together as a team. We’re constantly getting educated. We treat each other as a family, and when people come here, they feel that.”

Lunatic Fringe offers Paul Mitchell products in addition to scissor work, stylist work, coloring, and textures that include perms and straightening, make up, brows, and eyelash extensions. Flores said her staff has cultivated a loyal customer base because they go the extra mile for their guests.

“We have great customer service,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons we have the guests that we do. It’s all about the guest experience here. We give them everything we have.”

New to Lunatic Fringe this holiday season: Awapuhi, imported to the Altamonte Springs salon from the Paul Mitchell Systems Awapuhi Farm.

Awapuhi Wild Ginger is a Keratin Intensive Treatment concentrated protein blend, designed to provide strong, healthy hair. Paul Mitchell Systems notes that it’s ideal for hair that is naturally dry and brittle, sun-damaged, and lightened or chemically treated. It’s created from the fragrant juice of the Awapuhi ginger plant, which Hawaiian natives have used for centuries to moisturize skin and hair. Each plant is harvested and processed by hand to preserve its special hydrating properties.

Lunatic Fringe Salon is at Uptown Altamonte, 293 E. Altamonte Drive. To learn more, call 407-862-HAIR (4247) or log on to www.lunaticfringesalon.com.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

Sharks — the ones in the water, not the courtroom — deserve stronger protections, environmental group says


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COCOA BEACH – It starts with that ominous music by John Williams, as the woman swimming across the waters off the Massachusetts coast never senses what’s zeroing in on her, ready to attack … a classic cinematic opening that helped “Jaws” terrify audiences around the world.

Souvenir shark toys can be cute, but Shark Savers insist these items should be face a boycott until sharks get better protections.

That movie and others portraying sharks as deadly to swimmers may be good box office entertainment, but they also promote some very bad stereotypes about sharks, says Hannah Medd-Rutzen, who thinks people – swimmers and boaters included – should switch their motto from “Sharks are Scary” to “Sharks Need Friends.”

“When you say the word ‘shark,’ people flip out, but obviously not all sharks are dangerous to people,” said Medd-Rutzen. “When you talk about sharks, it brings to mind this media craze,” and she cited “Jaws” and other sharks-that-kill movies as prime examples.

“It’s fueled by these movies where the shark is actively hunting people, which is incredibly false,” she said.

Medd-Rutzen is a marine biologist with Shark Savers, a group founded in 2007 with a simple mission: to protect sharks that, Medd-Rutzen insists, are in far greater danger from humans than they ever will be to the people they get portrayed as preying upon.

Hannah Medd-Rutzen is a marine biologist with Shark Savers, a group founded in 2007.

Shark Savers is focused on promoting education about what people can do to help sharks, and raising awareness of the positive benefits of having them in the ocean.

Medd-Rutzen noted that sharks act as an “apex predator,” or the lead actor in the story of any natural habitat. The apex predator governs the balance of all species below it by keeping other species of fish in check, and ensuring that certain species don’t grow uncontrollably. The loss of an apex predator, she said, could leave behind havoc in an ecosystem that used to depend on it.

“Sharks keep the oceans healthy, and we really do need the oceans healthy,” she said. “Unfortunately, lots of shark populations around the world are in serious trouble.”

This shark lives in a tank at a Cocoa Beach resort.

That’s because sharks have what hunters – and, as it turns out, consumers – are looking for. Sharks make up a good source of the meat for expensive restaurants in Asian countries, she added.

Finning, or selling sharks’ fins, is a $500 million black market industry, Medd-Rutzen noted.

“Shark fins are extremely expensive,” she said. “It’s another form of caviar. Why are we killing 100 million sharks a year? Basically for a bowl of soup. It’s basically a status system, to provide you with a bowl of Shark Fin Soup, which is mostly sold in Asia.”

Hunters don’t even have to be targeting sharks to hurt the species, she noted.

“Fishermen say, ‘I’ll get a swordfish permit,’ so they go out fishing and catch one swordfish – and 40 sharks,” she said. “Sharks take a long time to mature. If it takes you until (age) 14 to get pregnant, you may or may not be able to replace yourself in the population.”

Shark Savers is fighting back, armed with education as their main tool. They’ve launched a “Just Say No To Shark Fin Soup” campaign in China and other Asian nations, and Medd-Rutzen said there are ways that Floridians can help sharks as well.

“Don’t be a shark consumer,” she said, and that includes buying anything containing shark fins, meat, or teeth, including jewelry and other souvenirs.

“Speak up for sharks,” she noted, by, among other things, urging your state lawmakers to pass legislation that protects the species in state waters.

“Make smart seafood choices,” she said, and learn more by getting Shark Savers’ Seafood Watch Card. The organization’s web site is http://www.sharksavers.org/.

“During the time it took me to speed through this presentation,” Medd-Rutzen said, “6,000 sharks were killed.” Her presentation lasted about 45 minutes.

And what about if swimmers find themselves in a “Jaws”-like situation — if you’re deep sea diving and come face to face with a shark? Medd-Rutzen said her best advice, interestingly enough, is to act casually.

“If you don’t want to be prey, don’t act like prey,” she said. “Keep eye contact, and remain calm and keep low on the reef – become a part of the reef. And just don’t look edible, basically.”

More importantly, she said, it’s better to try and confuse a shark than antagonize one.

“The advice they used to give was if they attack, hit them on the nose,” she said. “But think about it – if you miss, your hand goes straight into their mouth.”

A better option: blow bubbles in their direction. 

“If it’s in an area where they’re very used to divers, they may be used to bubbles,” she said. “But it’s worth trying, because blowing bubbles is not something they normally see.”

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

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