Saturday, September 27, 2008

An Old Friend

I'm housesitting right now, and have access to HBO "On Demand". Because there was nothing really good on the networks tonight (aside from the debate) I decided to watch an episode from Season 1 of one of my 2 or 3 favorite shows of all time, Six Feet Under.

It's as amazing as I remember it. Maybe moreso. If you have the chance to watch it from the beginning, please do. Even tonight, one episode turned into 3 and here I am at one in the morning, thinking about it.

Just like old times.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wait 'til Next Year

Hey Folks-
Welcome to "Thporths Thurthdayths"

I'm really not sure how to out and say this, so I'll just do it....

I hate Adam Dunn.

I know it's irrational, but I hate him. I think he's overrated. He's lazy. He's attrocious in the field. The worst base runner on the Reds. A clubhouse cancer. Oh.. I know he's loved by teammates, but he's also the worst possible role model for any young, promising player. Just ask his best friend Austin Kearns.

I know he's productive (mostly) at the plate. I know he walks a lot and scores runs. I get that. I don't care.

We're free. The great city-wide nightmare is over. And now... much as the citizens of San Francisco had to figure out how to rebuild after the earthquake, we as a city, as a baseball team have to figure out how to rebuild after Adam. For once, though, we have reason for hope.

Well, I am but a humble fan, but here are my suggestions...

-- As of Sunday evening, when the season ends, there are no guaranteed jobs for next year. None. I'm sure that Bronson Arroyo has a gig to get to somewhere in his beloved Boston, but he's gonna have to show up next Spring pitching like he has for the past 2 months. He's clearly a capable pitcher, but I question his desire to be here, and I don't want that on my team. Players should want to be here. Should TRY every time they go on the field. They have to know they're ALL replaceable.

What did playing the old, comfortable stand-bys get us? ZERO winning seasons since 2000. Ken Griffey Jr. is one of the greatest players ever, and I do think that it means something that he took less money to play here... well...that favor didn't matter once he stopped being a contributer (about... well... was he ever really?) Adam Dunn? Same thing... I have always driven Alan crazy about Dunn, because he insists that he's exactly what should be expected of him. That's fine and well and great, but I really think there's something about him that is a vacuum of desire. I recall, a couple of years ago, when Homer Bailey was still in low A ball, and Alan said he worried about Bailey because Homer said he'd rather go fishing than play baseball. I used to disagree that this was a problem. “A job is a job” I said. If you did your job, who cares if it's your passion... Well... I was wrong. Baseball is a mental game. Just ask Ted Williams. When a pitcher who doesn't care faces a batter who wants nothing more on Earth than to crack one up the middle... who's got a better chance in this game of millimeters? More than every strikeout drove me insane. More than every botched fly ball made me irate... The thing I hated most about Adam Dunn was that he knew he was safe and had a job every day no matter how he played, and he played just like that.

-- Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, Phillips... These guys are the future. Let them play evey day. Let them work out their kinks. Let them go through their growing pains. Let them bond through their shared traumas. Look at the Tampa Bay Rays. They lost 96 games last year, but they sent the same young team out there every day to take their lumps. This year, they're playoff bound. They're exciting. The 2003 Marlins were the same way. The 2002 Angels.

The best Reds team of the past 10 years was exactly the type of mix I'm looking for... A lot of young, hungry guys with talent (Aaron Boone, Sean Casey, Pokey Reese, Mike Cameron) mixed with a few strong veteran leaders (Barry Larkin, Greg Vaughn). I'm convinced that it's the only mix that can work for a team with a limited budget. The Yankees can afford to pick off all star players from other teams. The Mets will make at least one big free agent signing every year. The Reds can't. They need a little creativity, and I honestly believe that now that Griffey and Dunn are gone we've got a chance to see what can happen.

-- They may not be able to do it every year, but the Reds do need to get one big, really good free agent. If I had my way, it'd be either a shortstop or a third baseman. Sadly, it looks like both positions are pretty light this year coming up. The only guys I'd consider picking up at either position are David Eckstein (The lead-off guy we need) or Casey Blake... not really an improvement over Edwin (though... ideally, Edwin moves to first.) The other position we need is starting pitcher. I don't think the Reds have enough clout to pull a #1, but maaayyybe Ben Sheets could be affordable because of his injury history. I know it's a risk. Sabathia is out. Maybe bring back Dempster. I dunno...

The point is... the fans need a reason to be fired up from the start. The energy is always electric for opening day, but there's often a let down afterward, because...well... what's the point if there's no one new? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So... give us something new to look for.

Here's my ideal starting Lineup for opening day 2009

1) CF- Chris Dickerson. I like him. He's not going to be as great as he's been since they brought him up, but he's the fastest guy on the team. He doesn't swing at the first pitch. He gets on base. The closest thing we may have to a lead-off least for now.

2) 2B- Jerry Hairston Jr.. I'm not convinced that he's durable enough to be here permanently, but he's proven to be a spark plug for this team. He gives effort like Ryan Freel. Unlike Ryan Freel, he's got actual ability to back it up.

3) RF- Jay Bruce. The guy is the logical choice for the glamor spot in the order. He's the new star.

4) 1B- Edwin Encarnacion. Has 35 homer power. Has never consistently had men on base in front of him. I am convinced that he's the biggest head case on the team, and by moving him to first will greatly reduce that inevitable connection between his mental errors in the field psyching him out at the plate.

5) LF- Joey Votto. Yep. I moved Joey to left. In this spot in the order he protects Edwin. He hits for average. He's got experience playing the outfield from the minors. He's quickly becoming my favorite Red.

6) SS- Brandon Phillips. He's bound to have some struggles at the plate as he adjusts to playing shortstop again. That's okay... He's going to win his first Gold Glove at 2nd this year. It'll look great next to his 5 or so from Short that he'll have when he retires. Plus, with Joey Votto and Edwin hitting doubles left and right in front of him, Phillips may not try to do as much as he does hitting in the 4 spot. He can be a consistent 25/30 guy.

7) 3B- Casey Blake? A good fit for this team's new profile, and maybe the best 7 hitter in the NL.

8) C- Ryan Hannigan. A space-filler for 2 more years while Devin Meseoraco works his way up. I'm okay with that. I like Hannigan well enough.

9) SP: Edinson Volquez. Don't get me wrong, I like Aaron Harang, and I don't think his issues this year have all been his. He's consistently the most tough-luck pitcher on the team. Still..he's getting older and Volquez has earned his stature as the number one. I'm all for giving him the ball on opening day.

So... hopefully things this past month have been a harbinger and not a mirage. I like the Reds right now. I'll always love them, but it's been a while since I've liked them. Even Dusty isn't bugging me right now.

Wait til next year.

Week 4 Football Picks

Hey Folks-

Later today, I'll be posting my first Thporths Thurthdayths blog, but here's my football picks for Week 4.

Last week I went a decent 10 and 6, bringing my overall record to 27 - 21. Getting better.

Here we go:

Cleveland @ Cincinnati
PICK: Gotta say... The Bengals weren't a total disaster last week. Frankly, I think that means nothing in the long-run. They may win 4 games as opposed to 2, but it won't make a big difference overall. However, I do think they'll beat the Browns at home. In 3 weeks the Browns have gone from being a team that scares me to a team that I think the Bengals should look forward to playing. BENGALS

Minnesota @ Tennessee
PICK: Well...the Titans are undefeated. The Vikings pose an interesting test for them. I can't imagine Gus Frerotte being the answer for anyone. For god's sake... LEFT HANDED. I'm sorry... Adrian Peterson apparently makes up for a lot. A LOT. At home, though, I think the Titans take it. TITANS

Denver @ Kansas City
PICK: The Broncos fans recognize this... Seems like Denver often gets off to a huge start and then collapses somehow. It won't happen this week though, as the Chiefs suck. Mark my words, however, and note that I'm saying the Broncos don't win 12 games. BRONCOS

Arizona @ New York Jets
PICK: Favre is still a good player, but I think it was foolish of people to assume he'd be able to step right in. He's been in the same system his whole career. I can't imagine how hard it'd be to learn a whole new one at his age with as little practice at it as he has had. The Cardinals are not good, but they're dangerous. CARDINALS

Green Bay @ Tampa Bay
PICK: I continue to be right about Aaron Rogers, and wrong about the Bucs. So... I don't know which way to go with this one. I think I'll take the Packers, just on a hunch. PACKERS.

Atlanta @ Carolina
PICK: Well... Alan was right. Delhomme may be going into one of his down streaks, as he is the very definition of streaky. It's not the best time for that to happen, I must admit. Also, the Falcons confidence has to be pretty high right now (even though it was just the Chiefs). I hate going for road teams in the I'll say it's gonna be close, but the Panthers win. PANTHERS

Houston @ Jacksonville
PICK: Eh... The Texans have been disappointing, and it's not gonna help their cause when they run up against the Jags on their annual upswing. JAGUARS

San Diego @ Oakland
PICK: This is always a fun game to watch. Too bad I'm in a show. The Raiders put up more of a fight than they have any business doing, but thanks to Darren McFadden they have immediately become unpredictable. I'm thinking the Chargers are going to get very lucky officiating for a few weeks though, and that may be the difference. CHARGERS

Buffalo @ St. Louis
PICK: Good lord... The Bills have a lot of pluck don't they? They're scrappy! Resilient! I enjoy them a great deal actually. And the Rams are a nice potential break for them after last week's nail biter against the Raiders. Going 4 and 0.... BILLS

Washington @ Dallas
PICK: The Cowboys will not go undefeated. It'll be close though, and this game isn't a factor in that. COWBOYS.

Philadephia @ Chicago
PICK: I just don't buy the Bears while they have no quarterback. I wish I could, because they're likeable, and as I believe I've mentioned before, I have something of a sports crush on Devin Hester. I just learned my lesson with Grossman. A great defense is only so effective. The offense does still occasionally have to score. The Eagles, on the other hand, don't seem to have this problem. EAGLES

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh
PICK: Man...the Steelers looked bad last week against the Eagles. I think they'll pull it together this week. STEELERS

San Francisco @ New Orleans.
PICK: Maybe... oh god.. Maybe it's me! Maybe the fact that I am a fan of a team guarantees them to season after season of failure and collapsed expectations. I'm sorry Saints fans. I have to root for someone. Fortunately, the Niners are dangerous, but probably not deadly away from Candlestick or wherever they play now. SAINTS

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hide and Seek Adventures

Hey Folks-

Welcome to Trekkin' Tuesday, the day where I talk about traveling and travel. For my intial entry, I thought I'd discuss my favorite Out-of-the-Way locations I've encountered in my own personal travelogue.

There are different reasons I like different places, and certainly this is a pretty personal know? Like...for me, a guy who best loves 2 of the most "in-the-way" places imaginable (Orlando and Las Vegas), there's a whole other draw to these places. Character, kitsch, charm, history, attraction... So anyway, in no particular order, some places that I highly recommend visiting at some point.

Cooperstown, NY.

Now, I never said they were unknown. Just less traversed locations. Cooperstown is one of my favorites for a lot of reasons. First, I love baseball...and it's the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I've visited Cooperstown twice, both during their busiest week (Hall of Fame induction weekend), and while it was crowded, I still loved it. For any sports fan, this place has to be on the list. That said, there's a lot of other things to recommend the place... there are all of these little art stores and book stores (where I bought these 3 great antique maps!) and the town actually restricts the building of chain stores and restaurants. It's impossible to get a Big Mac, (even the ball player!) but you can get a hand made plate of barbeque. It's on a lake. It's in Northern New York, which is a beautiful location (near the finger lakes). Just go.

St. Augustine, FL.

Okay, so again... not an unknown place, but there aren't a lot of folks making vacation plans to go there either. St. Aug is one of those "Day Trip" places where you go when you're visiting family in Jacksonville or Savannah. That's a shame, because the place is really effing cool. First, it's the oldest city in the United States. The history is evident in almost every building. There are drawbridges. There are castles. It's an old Spanish settlement and the evidence of that history is everywhere. It's also considered to be one of the most haunted cities in the U.S., so if that's something that you dig, I highly recommend it. Oh...and there are some pretty amazing beaches.

Wall, SD

There's really only one reason to visit Wall, South Dakota, but OH What a reason. Wall Drug. It's hard to express what that is, and that's mostly because it is everything and nothing all at once. It's a town with a drug store. A drug store that has mechanical cowboy bands, and life-sized T-Rex replicas, and free ice water. Well...that's how it all started. When the highway was begun, there wasn't much out there. An industrious drug-store owner put a sign up on the dusty road that the Wall Drugstore was giving away free ice water during the long Summer months, people started to stop where they hadn't before. Now, the place takes up a whole city block (or two) and defies description. In fact that's part of it's charm and mystery. You have to just see it for yourself.

Yellow Springs, OH
(Graffiti in Yellow Springs)

There are hippy, art communities all over, but perhaps none as so hippy as Yellow Springs, Ohio. The place is the home of Antioch College...also known as the place that instituted the "Verbal Consent" rule.
"Hello... I'd like to hold your hand." "I consent to the hand holding."
"I'd like to rub your thigh." "I do not consent to the thigh rubbing."
If you're in the market for any of the following, you should plan a visit to Yellow Springs.
-- A "tobacco" bong.
-- A cool Native American themed tattoo.
-- A vintage pulp novel.
-- A great slice of pizza.
-- A walk in a beautiful, little-known state park.
I dig Yellow Springs. It's cool.

Colorado Springs, CO
(A panorama I made of pictures I took from the top of Pike's Peak)

I'd actually probably just say "The towns that are NOT Denver, but are within 2 hours drive FROM Denver", but that's not a particularly catchy place name. I love Parker (and it's proximity to my fam). I love Boulder (and the Leanin' Tree museum and Celestial Seasonings Factory and the University of Colorado). I love Colorado Springs (and Garden of the Gods and Pike's Peak and the big Air Force chapel.). There're are tons of amazing things to see there. Beauty and art and nature and good Mexican food (who knew?). I could spend a whole post on how great my Colorado experiences have been, and maybe I will. All I can say is... The place is gorgeous and you understand why people went that direction from Kansas. Seriously... Kansas is boring.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Disney Villains Tournament

Hey Folks-

So, I made a bold statement in my "Wednesdays with Walt" column stating that Captain Hook is the greatest of Disney villains. I stand by that comment, and on October 1st, in the next "Wednesdays with Walt", I'll make my argument.

Still, I thought it'd be fun to see what you all thought, so I'm gonna do this tournament style, and see who comes out on top. I've divided the villains into different categories. The winners of each bracket will face off in a final four, and then the overall winner will be chosen.

Here we go:

Best Pixar Villain
Randall, Monsters Inc.
Hopper, A Bug's Life
Syndrome, The Incredibles
Skinner, Ratatouille free polls

Best Hand-Drawn Villain, Male Division
Jafar, Aladdin
Captain Hook, Peter Pan
Stromboli, Pinnochio
Gaston, Beauty and the Beast free polls
Best Hand-Drawn Villain, Female Division
Cruella, 101 Dalmations
Maleficent, Sleeping Beauty
Ursula, The Little Mermaid
The Queen, Snow White free polls

Best Hand-Drawn Villain, Animal Division
Scar, The Lion King
Shere Khan, The Jungle Book
Si and Am, Lady and the Tramp
Prince John, Robin Hood free polls

Go to Town!

** Villains image shown above by Robert de Michiell

Saturday, September 20, 2008

To Adapt or Not to Adapt

Hey Folks-

Off to a rockin' start when I'm already falling behind after only one entry. So, today is going to be a delayed "Friday Flicks".

As many of you may know, I have a B.A. in Drama. This, by no means makes me an expert on anything, but I do have a pretty extensive base of knowledge about certain things, and Shakespeare is one of them. I took several Shakespeare classes. I've been in several Shakespeare plays. I've directed, critiqued, analyzed, read, and otherwise plunged myself into the world that is Shakespeare. I only say this all to preface this particular blog...

If there is one thing I hate AND love most about Shakespeare's plays, its the flexibility of them.

By "flexibility", I mean that they lend themselves to a lot of "out-there" interpretations. "Hey! How 'bout we do The Merchant of Venice, but instead 1500s Venice, we set it in 1930 and make them all gangsters." or "What about doing A Midsummer Night's Dream...ON THE MOON!" Like I said... I love this and hate this.

I believe in making Shakespeare accessible. It's beautiful language. The stories are pretty timeless (mostly because they were borrowed by Shakespeare too). Still, the language and the froofy costuming alienate teens or people who feel that it creates a barrier between them and the story. I can see that and respect that, which is why I have no problem with setting a play in a new time or location to break down that wall. It's really when the new thematic 'overlay' doesn't do anything but add a gimmick that I have the problem.

This brings us to today's list...

The Top 5 Modern Shakespeare Films

5) Love's Labour's Lost (Branagh again). I actually don't love this movie, but I do think that the updated theme is one of the most interesting, and this a good fit for this list. Branagh takes one of of the lesser known Shakespeare plays and puts in squarely into the 1930s and films it like a Hollywood musical. It wasn't great. It wasn't spectacularly received. It was you know... a movie. Still a really fun idea. it goes.

4) 10 Things I Hate About You. What's that you say? That's not Shakespeare? Well, actually it is. I mean... it's his plot. It's The Taming of the Shrew, made modern and teeny-boppery by Heath Ledger's dreaminess and Julia Stiles's shrewishness. First, let me just say that on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being as close to Shakespeare's original vision and 10 being so unrecognizable that he'd be all "Hey...this is vaguely familiar...Did Chis Marlowe write this?", this movie is at about an 8.5. There is no remnant of Shakespeare's original dialogue (aside from some winks to the bardophiles.) It's set in modern day California. Still, if you know the original play, I really think that the movie does a great job of keeping the same sort of playful feel while being completely and totally perfect for the MTV generation. It's not a great movie on it's own, but it does exactly what it set out to do. Good enough for 4th place on my list.

3) Hamlet (the Kenneth Branagh version). On that same scale we're looking at a solid 1.5. I mean...not even a standard deviation. He didn't even cut any of the dialogue, which is pretty much done in every production of Hamlet anywhere. The thing is 4 hours long, for pete's sake. I have some general criticisms of this movie in general... for example, I think Branagh is sort of condescending to the audience, in that he sometimes skips over trying to act in the speeches and just does them as quickly as possible, as though the viewer will not care about the meaning and just be impressed at the dexterity of his tongue. That said, I think his bringing the setting into a slightly more modern, militaristic age freshened up the prose jjuust enough to make the list. Plus, the performances as a whole are phenomenal.

2) Titus. Julie Taymor makes me uneasy. She's an undeniable talent. She's one of the more creative folks in the film/theatre industry. She's also a crazy narcisist who makes me want to not watch her movies, just because her whole "I'm a big artist" vibe drives me nuts. Her adaptation of Titus Andronicus, "Titus", is really spectacular. It's not, you of the most deep plays in the Shakespeare canon. Many folks consider it the most inane of all of the tragedies. It's an excuse to chop people up, basically. It's the Shakespeare version of Saw, or Hostel. Torture porn. BUT it's good. And Taymor's take on it, as though it's coming from the imagination of a child, where the periods are a little skewed. It's like they took fascism and sort of.. smeared it. There's a little of a lot of different styles, but it's all internally consistent. It's a little hard to quantify, but Taymor makes violence compelling in a way that Eli Roth can only dream about.

1) Romeo + Juliet. Well... It was inevitable that this movie would show up on the list. I like it enough to place it at #1. In a way, it's almost shocking in the adaptation. The dialogue is the same, the plot is unchanged, but the setting makes it so... shockingly different. Romeo and Juliet is arguably Shakespeares most familiar work. It's read in every high school. It's performed in every community theater. Everyone knows it, and yet Baz Luhrman made it so new with just a change of setting that I think there's no other place it could even POSSIBLY appear on the list. Courtyards become beaches and arcades, and swords become guns, and suddenly the same tired story is brand new. It's also really entertaining, and that counts for a lot.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Week 3 Football Picks

Hey Folks-

So yeah... this season hasn't started well for the Muchacho. After several excruciating losses last week. (Saints and Vikings and Eagles) I went from seeming like a guy who watches football to one of those monkeys they're trying to get to recreate Hamlet.

Last week I went 8 - 8. That brings my season total to 17 - 15. Sad.

Here we go...

Kansas City @ Atlanta
PICK: 2 bad teams. Oh..and when I say “bad”, I mean really, really bad. I guess you just go with the home team. Oh yeah…and Tyler Thigpen is starting for the Chiefs. Who? Yeah. FALCONS

Oakland @ Buffalo
PICK: Man… I actually like the Bill’s pluckiness already. It pains me, because I’m not a fan of the Bills on general principle, but they’re not bad. Darren McFadden is good, but I’m not sure he is ready to have 2 huge games in a row. BILLS

Tampa Bay @ Chicago
PICK: I was glad to be right about the Bears this past week, but I was dead wrong about Tampa. I haven’t heard if Garcia is going to be back this week or not, but the Bears defense is strong. I don’t hate Orton either. He’s not “good” but he’s not Grossman either. BEARS

Houston @ Tennessee
PICK: You know, 2 weeks ago I’d have picked Houston, but Tennessee has looked good (against, granted…bad teams) and the Texans have got to be a little tired of all the damned traveling. TITANS

Carolina @ Minnesota
PICK: Jake Delhomme is born again. And also he’s having a good comeback season. (RIMSHOT!). None of that matters as the Vikings are placing their season in the not-so-ambidextrous hands of Gustopher Alvin Frerotte. Good luck with THAT. PANTHERS.

Miami @ New England
PICK: The longer teams go into the season without taking advantage of Matt Cassell’s inexperience, the worse they’re going to feel. Don’t give Big Bill a chance to scheme. PATS

Cincinnati @ New York Giants
PICK: I honestly never thought I’d see the day when I’d prefer to have a Manning at QB over Carson Palmer, but as I was saying to Alan…I think CP is heading down the rabbit hole, and that’s a long way from where you wanna be. GIANTS

Arizona @ Washington
PICK: Every year the Redskins are my worst team, predictions-wise. So… I’m bring back the ol’ “Redskins Coin Flip”. Actually.. no. I’m not. I’m picking the SKINS.

Detroit @ San Francisco
PICK: Yikes. I guess I’ll pick the Lions here, since the Niners are frightening. I love how the Lions briefly made this great comeback last week, and then just absolutely fell apart. Where’s your god now, Kitna? WHERE IS HE NOW? LIONS

St. Louis @ Seattle
PICK: I’ve been hearing nothing but how the Rams are the worst team in football this year. Usually the worst team doesn’t pull it together for a close win this early in the season, so… SEAHAWKS

Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia
PICK: This may be the best game of the weekend. I really like the Eagles this year (as a team..not as in… I root for them) and the Steelers are predictably solid…again. The Eagles have the dreaded “Short week” and they also had a really intense loss on Monday, so I’m picking the Steelers, as much as I hate them. STEELERS

Jacksonville @ Indianapolis
PICK: I don’t know what to make of this game. As a Colt hater, the season was looking delightful up until the last minute of last week. Now… I don’t know what to think anymore. Stupid Peyton Manning. I hate him. Factor that in with the fact that the Jags seem to be having trouble putting it together, and I’m going COLTS at home.

Cleveland @ Baltimore
PICK: I have nothing to say about my 2 most hated teams. RAVENS

Dallas @ Green Bay
PICK: Now this? An interesting match-up. Aaron Rogers is doing his best to make Packer management look like geniuses for casting aside the Hall of Famer Who Shall Not Be Named. Tony Romo continues to prove me wrong about him being overrated. I still think he struggles in the big pressure games, but my argument grows more and more feeble. COWBOYS

New York Jets @ San Diego
PICK: I predict a Cromartie touchdown in this game. Sorry HOFWSNBN. The poor Chargers need to catch a break. I think they will this week, though LT is hurt, apparently. I just think he’s a baby. A little. I still like him. CHARGERS

New Orleans @ Denver
PICK: Wow.. my new favorite team totally blew it last week, and is really missing Marques Cholston. Denver, also, is very good. Eddie Royal? Seriously? Awesome. Sadly, I’m going BRONCOS

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"God, I love little fishes. Don't you?"

The Little Mermaid changed everything.

When I say that, I don't mean like... “In the world”, but it did change everything. For Disney, a company on the brink of irrelevance. For me, a kid who...well... had it pretty good, so it's not like The Little Mermaid, or Disney “saved” me from anything, but it opened my eyes to an art form. That counts for something. A lot actually.

Disney, the animation company, was at an all time low in it's history. Of course, there'd been some low times before. The sagging success of most of the features post-Snow White up through the war. That was certainly bad, though those movies have all come to be considered classics. Many consider Pinocchio to be one of the greatest achievements in hand-drawn animation. Fantasia speaks for itself. Bambi. I could go on.

Even in the darkest times for Walt, his movies were spectacular. The same can not be said for the period we like to call “most of the 80s”. There were 5 animated features released by the company in the decade of the 80s and I dare you to name the first 4. They aren't BAD movies. In fact, The Fox and the Hound is pretty good. After that, though, we have 3 of the least loved animated features ever released by the Disney company. The Black Cauldron, The Great Mouse Detective, and Oliver and Company.

There are people who love these movies, but none of them have the same timeless feel as it's predecessors, and really...that's what Disney banks on. They rely on the sale of DVDs and the re-releases, and the introducing of new generations to the magic of Disney. I never saw any of those movies in the theater. I never watched any of them on VHS. I was a Mary Poppins fan, sure. I was loved The Jungle Book and Peter Pan and 101 Dalmations. A whole young generation (mine) was deprived of it's own classic, and Disney was fading.

Who knew a film prominently featuring fish would turn things around?

The Little Mermaid was released on November 17, 1989 and pretty much blew everyone away. Disney'd finally returned to the formula that had made them great. Phenomenal music, humor, mind-blowing animation, and memorable characters. The movie made over 170 million dollars. More than the other 80's Disney flicks combined.

It was a return to a full musical, a tradition that had lasted for 40 years but hadn't really been pursued since the 70s.

It was the first adapted fairy tale since Sleeping BeautyIt won an Oscar for Best Original Score and had 2 songs nominated for Best Song.

The post-Little Mermaid success for Disney is well documented. The animation department went from employing 300 people in 1988 to almost 2500 by the year 2000. The years that followed provided Disney with the Academy Awards, and HUGE financial success of almost every movie they've released since then (sorry Treasure Planet and Atlantis). They've created the relationship with computer animation company Pixar. The last 20 years have been so successful that the era is known as “The Disney Renaissance”.

As for me... it's a little more mushy. The memories are more personal and the connections are more ethereal.

As I said, The Little Mermaid was the first classic for my generation. I watched that movie at sleep-overs, and at my grandparents. I sang the songs in Theater Camp (yep.. ). I acted out “Le Poissons” at my buddy Matt's house (.... yyyep.) Hell... I even made out with a girl (when I was 12) while it played in the background. (I'm...not proud). I remember reading the Audio-Book to my sister when she was barely 3 or 4. She loved it when I'd dance to “Under the Sea”. I wonder if she remembers that.

More than anything else, it made me anticipate every Disney movie since then. It made me excited, when I was 13, to be going to Disney World. I am certain that my first visit to Disney wouldn't have been as meaningful as it was, had The Little Mermaid not set me up to love the place.

Here are the 3 most important things to me about The Little Mermaid

1) My on-going joke about Prince Eric at Disney World. I've long argued that the role of Prince Eric in “Voyage of The Little Mermaid” is the greatest single role in live theater anywhere in the world. He barely says a word. He knows his show isn't going to be closing any time soon. His sole responsibility is to run out on stage, shout “Ariel!” and then kiss her. 8 times a day. Perfect gig.

2) “Kiss the Girl” is one of the 5 greatest Disney songs. There's not much to say about that. You have Sebastian being all sexy and being all “Wind. Wooords.” The soft steel drum. The effing hilarious Buddy Hackett as Scuttle. It's a classic. I want it to be the first dance at my wedding.

3) The return of the great Disney Villain. To me, Villains make the story. If there's not a good villain, there's no stakes. There's no danger. There's no conflict. I have always been mostly drawn to villains. Disney has had some great villains in it's time. Captain Hook is obviously the greatest (I'll elaborate on the next Wednesdays with Walt). After that there's a whole gaggle of other great ones... Scar, Jafar, Cruella, Hades... There are tons of them, and Ursula the Sea Witch brought it all back. She's scary. She's funny. She's got the GREAT song “Poor Unfortunate Souls”. She returned the Disney Villain to glory. I love her.

So... Watch it again. I guarantee it'll be as good you remember. That's why it's the movie that saved Disney. It's the first classic of my generation.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Hey Folks-

So the great musical, "Rent" closed on Broadway last week after a 12 year run. This show means as much or more to me as any other, and my cousin reminded me of a blog that I wrote a couple of years ago, as the movie was coming out. I read through it... I still think it perfectly sums up my thoughts, so... thanks Abbey.

Here's that original blog.

Here it is so that you don't have to click. From October 29, 2005.

I've decided to write about Rent, the movie, the musical, the music...not in the prepared way I've been working on for a week, but just kind of from the heart, which may make for bad writing, but who cares?

My grandmother bought me my first copy of the soundtrack for Rent. I was 16. That was December of 1996, and the show had already won Best Musical and the Pulitzer Prize. I remember a lot about that night. First, it was Hanukah, and the first one that the family had in my grandparent's new condo. They had lived in a small suburb called Roselawn since 1962, and they decided to move, because the once ethnically diverse neighborhood was falling into ruin, and they had had too many neighbors have their homes violated. They didn't want to be the next ones.

Anyway... I loved that house. I had many great moments there. I saw the Reds win the World Series there. It also housed almost all of my most precious times with my grandmother. I'll never forget the smell of that place. I'll never forget how much I looked forward to off-days at school when I was a young teen, and looking forward to the spoiling I'd have at the hands of my gramma. I loved her immensely. It's because of her, that I gave Rent a chance.

I was absolutely against it at the time it came out. Not because of any reason that was any good. Just because it was popular, and trendy, and I was 16 right? So..screw trendy. When she gave me that double disc soundtrack, I smiled and hugged her, and was kinda disappointed, I said..against it. Still, there was something inherently wrong about not giving a gramma gift a chance, so I did. I've never heard a single soundtrack...hell...a single song since then without thinking about how it compares with the way I felt the first time I listened to Rent all of the way through.

Rent makes me think of my Grandmother Marilyn. When she died in January of 2000, I lost a great deal. I think about her every time I listen.

When I hear Rent, I think about the Summer before my senior year of high school, and being in the show Big River, and how listening to that album with a few of the coolest people I'd ever met, made me feel cool for the first time. People like Andy Hare and Justin Schwartz and Heidi Deuter. When I hear Rent, I think of Heidi. I also think about that night when I stayed out too late with those same folks, and got myself kicked out of my mother's house for good. I was 17. I think about sitting in the car with my friend Charlie, and just raging away at "Living in America" as loud as we could, and I think about how I had a hard time with the high notes then. That Summer was amazing, and it was framed by Rent.

When I hear Rent, I think about riding up to Wright State for my audition with my dad, and talking to him about how great it would be to go there. I think about the first time I sang in front of people as a full fledged WSU Musical Theatre major, when a group of the us sang "Seasons of Love" for a fund raiser. I think about being asked to leave after my freshman year. Maybe that wasn't so great, but I still think about Rent.

I think of the few good times with my roommate Ian, who really isn't such a bad dude.Whenever

I hear Rent, I think of the best first date ever, and how at that moment, I believed that I could achieve happiness again after a long bout with sadness.

I think about the friendships I've gained (and occasionally lost). I think about people who've gone away.

Rent makes me think about all of those things, and yet...I don't know if any of those matter as much as this: Whenever I hear Rent, I think about how much can be done when you push and drive and search and fight for what you love and believe in. I am not a songwriter like Jonathan Larson. I am not a playwrite like Lee Blessing or John Guare. I am not an artist like my friend Paul, or an author like my uncle[s]. I don't know exactly what I am. I do know that whenever I hear Rent, I feel like there's got to be more for me. There's a hope that fills me, that tells me my life will be remembered after I'm gone. I know I've got plenty of time, but there's never more of an aching than when I hear Rent. I think Roger says it best: "One Song. Glory. One song before I go. Glory. One song to leave behind."

The first time I saw the new Rent trailer, and heard the voice over guy say "The musical that defined a generation", I laughed. It's exactly what those guys always say., I'm not sure it's wrong. The more I think about it, the more I realize that whether or not it defined my generation, it's definitely defined me, and I owe that to the late Jonathan Larson, and my Gramma.

Coming tomorrow, the first Wednesdays With Walt.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Disney Blogs Past

Once upon a time, in a long blog ago, I did a 35 day countdown to a trip I was taking to Walt Disney World. This became one of the more ridiculous excursions I've made down the blog tunnel, and I feel the need to share the links with you.

The premise was that I was posting one thing per day of things I love about Walt Disney World, in preparation for my triumphant return. Plus, it's a fun way to see my old writing and compare and contrast with the writing of today. Maybe not that much different...I dunno. Oh... this was 2005.
Nov. 10 -- Seeing the Tree of LifeNov. 11 -- Journey into Imagination
Nov. 12 -- Mexico BoatNov. 13 -- Haunted Mansion
Nov. 14 -- Disney MerchandiseNov. 15 -- Costumed Characters
Nov. 16 -- Hidden MickeysNov. 18 -- Rainforest Café
Nov. 19 -- Test TrackNov. 20 -- Japanese Restaurant
Nov. 21 -- Wacky Disney PeopleNov. 22 -- Tea Cups
Nov. 23 -- Space MountainNov. 24 -- Giant Turkey Legs
Nov. 25 -- Sunset Boulevard AreaNov. 26 -- La Nouba

Nov. 27 -- Hall of Presidents

Nov. 28 -- The Weather

Nov. 29 -- Disney Hotels

Nov. 30 -- Adults acting like Kids
Dec. 1 -- Entrance SignDec. 2 -- Spaceship Earth
Dec. 3 -- Downtown DisneyDec. 4 -- Splash Mountain
Dec. 5 – MonorailsDec. 6 – Parades
Dec. 7 – Star ToursDec. 8 – Enchanted Tiki Birds
Dec. 9 – Top 5: The Great Movie RideDec. 10 – Top 5: Kilimanjaro Safaris
Dec. 11 – Top 5: Mickey’s PhilharMagicDec. 12 – Top 5: Pirates of the Caribbean
Dec. 13 – Top 5: Disney Magic…

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Week 2 Football Picks

Hey Folks-

Welcome to my NFL Picks: Week Two (Electric Buga... What? It's a tired joke? Oh... )

So last week, I was a weak 9 and 7. That places my season record firmly at um... 9 and 7

Don't have much to say by way of a preface, so let's get to it...

Tennessee @ Cincinnati
PICK: Well... The Bengals are truly putrid. I mean.. really effing bad. The O-Line is offensive. (har har). The D-Line is weak. The pass offense seems totally out of sorts. There's nothing good I can say about them. The Titans, on the other hand, beat a pretty solid Jaguars team. Of course... Vince Young has gone, literally, insane. So he's out for the week, and the Testaverdian Aged Kerry Collins is in. This bodes OKAY for the Bengals D, sadly...the Bengals D can't continue to be the only side of the ball scoring points. TITANS

Green Bay @ Detroit
PICK: Nice to see Aaron Rogers have a good week. Nice to see that God still cares just as much about Jon Kitna as I've always suspected. Nice to see that the Bengals Model of Management has stayed true to it's pattern... Bad GM=Bad Team. Sorry Millen. Sorry Detroit. PACKERS

Oakland @ Kansas City
PICK: Wow...I have truly no idea who to pick. Both teams are really, really bad. I think the Raiders, in a vacuum are better, but it's not so disparate a match-up that I ignore the home field advantage. CHIEFS.

New York Giants @ St. Louis
PICK: The Rams are not so good. The Giants ARE good, even with the injuries on defense. Based on related logic as the previous match-up, this one IS disparate enough that I ignore home field. (Were I a betting man, I'd for sure take the Rams, because I think they'll cover, but not win.) GIANTS

Indianapolis @ Minnesota
PICK: Not sure what to do here. I may have been happier about the Colts loss on Sunday than I was about the Bengals win. Harrison is getting old. The Colts run D isn't great. The Vikings are at home, and their strength is the run. VIKINGS

Chicago @ Carolina
PICK: Man... some interesting games this week. I really think both teams played well and beat good teams last week. I think this week, though, the lack of Steve Smith makes a bigger difference against the defensively stout Bears. That combined with the birth of a new "Game Manager" in Orton, and I'll go with the PANTHERS. (Fooled you didn't I? Sometimes a game goes a certain way no matter what factors are at play.)

Buffalo @ Jacksonville
PICK: You have to believe that the Jags will rebound after their sad showing last week. I'm a huge Lee Evans fan, and I think the Bills are on the verge of being decent, but I just think that the Jags will be too much at home, with the added motivation of the previous week's loss. JAGUARS

San Francisco @ Seattle
PICK: J.T. O'Sullivan is the 49ers QB. That is all. SEAHAWKS

Atlanta @ Tampa Bay
PICK: So... a week ago I call this one laughable. You NEVER pick the Falcons on the road. You bet on Jeff Garcia. Then... The Falcons ran all over the Lions like Michael Turner was "Video Bo". The Bucs played well, but now Garcia is out and Brian Griese is in. Don't get me wrong... I've always felt BG got a bum deal in Denver, but I'm gonna go with the FALCONS

New England @ New York Jets
PICK: I really have no idea what to do here. A week ago, this is another laugher. The Jets are okay, maybe a little above average with Lazarus Favre. The Pats were....The Pats. Then Brady's knee explodes into a million pieces right there on the field (like the dude in "Once Upon a Time in Mexico"). I... Can't believe I'm saying this, but... JETS (Not to say that Cassell won't eventually pull it together, just not this fast.)

Miami @ Arizona
PICK: The Cardinals were the hot team to pick last year, and I fell for it. I'm... more skeptical this year, but I do think they win this game. CARDINALS

San Diego @ Denver
PICK: This has the potential to be the best game of the weekend. The Chargers are certain to be looking for a big rebound after blowing it last week. The Broncos, though, I think are the real deal, despite the shitty competition last week. BRONCOS

Baltimore @ Houston
PICK: Well.. Joe Flacco is apparently the second coming of Jesus himself if the game against the Bengals is anything to go on... It isn't. Mario Williams records at least 1 sack and at least 1 forced fumble. Oh... this is weird though... The game was postponed to Monday night to accommodate Hurricane Ike. TEXANS

Pittsburgh @ Cleveland
PICK: Gotta say... I think I'm gonna agree with Alan (Elijah Price in Blog form) about the Browns...Maybe not so scary after all. STEELERS

Philadelphia @ Dallas
PICK: This is the other option for Game of the Week, in my opinion. Did anyone look better than McNabb last weekend? I'll answer for you... No. The Cowboys are so, so solid on offense, but I don't think their defense can stop the I'm gonna pick the Monday Night Upset and go EAGLES.

New Orleans @ Washington
PICK: Everyone take a moment to welcome the Saints into the pimp Pick Spot on my blog for the remainder of the season. I've adopted them as my favorite team so that I don't have to suffer with the Bengals any more. In any case, Drew Brees is my favorite NFL player (along with Devin Hester). I think the Chargers guaranteed they'd never win the Super Bowl during the L.T. era by getting rid of Brees. The Saints being good and the Skins being bad makes this one easy. SAINTS

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Some Blog Business.

Hey Folks-

Today I start a new feature here at The World's Beefiest Blog, in an effort to be more focused in my topics. Based on some guidance from Gregg Fraley, a Creativity and Ideation Facilitator... (seriously...check out his blog. Good stuff on creativity and innovation ), I've decided to theme my blogging. Different days will have different themes. The implementation will not be complete immediately, as I work out the kinks in the themes. The themes may even change as I focus my...focus. I hope to have the themes in concrete (at least for a time) by the end of 2008, and fully in rhythm heading into the new year. I may even try to post a podcast or 2 at some point.

The general idea is to force me to ramble less, write more concisely, and also to keep on a schedule. Oh..and hey... maybe I can drum up some readers who really want their Wednesday "Disney fix" or their Friday movie industry chat.

The themes I'm currently tossing around in the ol' melon:

** Trekin' Tuesdays. Tuesdays are all about travel. Places I've been. Places I'd like to go. Comments about airports to avoid. Reviews of airports and hotels. Attractions... you get the idea.

** Wednesdays wth Walt. Clearly, there's no way I couldn't theme a day around my obsession for Disney. This can be about collecting, the parks, the movies, the Philosophy of Walt Disney...

** Thporths Thurthdayth (Hosted by Daffy Duck). Sorry... I haven't thought of a name yet, but basically Thursdays will deal with sports. Any sports go. I can easily see a podcast of Alan and I discussing the Bengal's terrible offense, or why Orlando Pace should or shouldn't have beaten out Danny Wuerffel for the Heisman.

** Friday Flick Time. I am a huge movie buff, and I can talk about them all day. Now I just need to talk about them on Fridays.

This'll be starting on Monday, so... if you have thoughts or adjustments, please let me know. It's imperfect thusfar, and that's okay. Also... I won't be posting in every theme every week. It's probably more realistic to go for 2 a week, and the weeks will alternate (though I'll still post my NFL picks during the football season.)

Week A:
-- Wednesdays with Walt
-- Friday Flick Time

Week B:
-- Trekkin Tuesdays
-- Thporths Thurthdayth (I'll work on it.)


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hole-y Crap

Hey Folks--

It is now my new mission to see a full episode of the new Fox game show "Hole in the Wall".

Once I have, I promise a full report.

Just so you all know.

Monday, September 8, 2008

I'll Annoy Birds Whenever I Like, HAWAII.

Hey Folks-

I decided to try a writing exercise where I asked for a blog topic and tried to come up with something coherant without preparation.. I'm not sure how it'll go...we'll see.
So...the suggestion:

Where would I live if I could live anywhere, if I break it down and decide by categories?

Places (in America) Dan Would Live...

Based on Signature Food
Let's assume I could eat what I wanted for the purpose of this exercise. There are a ton of foods I love. I love barbeque, so I could easily find myself settling in Kansas City or Memphis or North Carolina. I love mac and cheese so I could see myself living in Wisconsin. Tex Mex is fantastic so San Antonio would make sense. Chowder? Boston for sure... For me though... the choice is easy. There's nothing more delicious, to me, than a good Chicago style pizza. Pizza is great in any form, but the deep and gooey Chicago style is my favorite. Pizzeria Uno or Giordanos...damn it's good. A large pizza could easily feed 4 people, and probably shouldn't feed any fewer... Chicago gets bonus points because they also have a signature hot dog that happens to be my favorite dog iteration as well. (Dog, Mustard, relish, onions, pickle spear, tomato slices, celery salt.) Good on you Chicago...Good on you.

Based on Funniest Law
This is a tough one... I'd love to go to Honolulu, but I'd clearly be arrested immediately, because it's illegal to annoy any birds in Honolulu. So...Hawaii's out. I have some friends in Hollywood, but it'd be hard for me to move in there, because it's illegal to drive more than 2000 sheep down Hollywood Boulevard at one time. I can tell you I'd never move to Newcastle, Wyoming, because it's illegal to make love in a freezer. In Pinecrest, Florida citizens can't tow a sled behind their bicycles. Here in my home state of Ohio it is illegal to get a fish drunk. No no... While all of those places are very appealing to me, despite their laws, I clearly would move to Colorado where it is officially LEGAL to tear the tags off of pillows and mattresses.

Based on Sports Teams

Basically, what I'm saying here is that the Bengals and Reds are an embarrasment and I want live in a city that isn't the perpetual doormat that Cincinnati is, athletically speaking. Clearly, Boston would be the best choice. The Red Sox are great. The Celtics are great. The Patriots are great. But seriously...where's the fun in that? I mean... if I was from there, it'd be one thing. I'd have earned the success. There are a few places I can't live.... Indianapolis. Peyton Manning is probably the devil. New York and LA also have athletes whom I despise. (Kobe...A-Rod...I'm talking to you.).. No no... I think I have to go with New Orleans. The Saints are a likeable team with a likeable star (Drew Brees not Reggie Bush). They do all of the things the Bengals don't *cough* Sedrick Ellis *cough*. And then there's Chris Paul and the New Orleans Jazz (Hornets). The biggest drawback is that there's not baseball very close by, but it's not like there is here in Cincinnati either *Rimshot*.

Based on Night-Time Activities

This clearly isn't a choice, right? Isn't the clear answer here Las Vegas?

Based on Day-Time Activities
Much like the last one...this one is a no-brainer without any real second choices for me.. Orlando for sure.

Based on Educational Experiences
Well, I suppose it's sort of dependent on what you consider educational experiences, or what educational experiences you consider valuable... Do you value the proximity of educational institutions? Well, then Massachusetts is the place for you. Do you like going to museums? Washington D.C. may be the way to go. If you like actual historic sites, maybe Philadelphia. I'm definitely a Washington D.C. guy. There's soooo much to see. The Smithsonians. The monuments. The memorials. The infrastructure of government. In fact, I've been wanting to go back again. I haven't been for a while.

Based on Scenery

Another one that is dependent on the meaning of the category... If you're into cleavage and the pretty ladies maybe Malibu or Miami Beach is right for you. For the record, this is not the scenery I'm referring to. I am referring to nature's scenery. Maybe you go in for a rushing river... in that case Montana might be right. Or a beautiful beach... Malibu again? St. Augustine? Hilton Head? Rocky coast line... Maine maybe.. Oregon? I personally like mountains and prairies, which puts me squarely in the Jackson Hole, Wyoming camp. Just feast on the vistas... Sigh...

Hmm.... Any other categories?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

"Keep Moving Forward"

Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
-- Walt Disney

Hey Folks-

As I've alluded a couple of times, I've been working on a Disney related list. In fact, it's a Disney related list that may be considered a little controversial coming from me, considering the Disney Kool-Aid that I clearly mainline on a daily basis. I even asked my friend Annie (another Disney kook) to help me come up with ideas for it. She said she felt guilty even suggesting things. I know exactly how she feels. But then I remembered the quote by Walt Disney that leads off this blog. "We keep moving forward." If there was anyone who kept his finger on the pulse of the times, who looked for ways to always improve his product, to keep from irrelevancy, it was Walt Disney.

So...with that I give you:

Dan's Top 5 Things Disney World Needs to Change, Remove, or Improve

5) Make The Contemporary Contemporary.
This one comes directly from Annie, and I thought about it a lot before adding it, because I wasn't sure if I wanted to consider the hotels, but clearly...that's silly. It's part of WDW, so it's fair game. Here's the thing, there are some really cool things at the Contemporary. Chef Mickey's has one of the best Character Breakfasts in WDW. California Grill is one of the highest rated (and priciest) restaurants in the Kingdom, and let's not forget the totally bad-ass Monorail Station (that goes through the middle of the building. These are all features that could easily appear again in the new iteration. Let's be honest though... the place (though currently going through interior refurbishment) doesn't LOOK contemporary anymore. It looks like it was one of those buildings built in the 70s to look "Futuristic". I actually think it's bordering on kitsch at this point. Now...I don't know if it just needs to be knocked down, and rebuilt. I don't even know if that'd be feasible, what with the monorail needing to go that way and whatnot. Still, there has to be a way to make it look like a sleek, modern building, while keeping the Disney charm.

4) Swiss Family...who? this is where I'm gonna start getting people riled. You know what? That's alright. I say it's time to get rid of the Swiss Family Treehouse. I know...I know... you loved it as a kid way back in 1981 or whenever. It's classic from Disneyland. There'd be protests like there was with Mr. Toad. I know all of those things. But let's be many kids today read the book (written in 1877) let alone have religiously watched the 1960 film? May as well call it.. "Treehouse" and it'd mean the same. I'm not saying that kids SHOULDN'T read the book or see the movie, but they aren't. On a practical level, the "attraction" takes up a shitload of space in Adventureland, and could so easily be used for other things. Or hey... How bout keeping the treehouse theme and make it "Tarzan and Turk's Treehouse" or "King Louie's Treehouse" or "Rafiki's Treehouse". I'm just sayin... there's better ways to utilize the space.

3) Witness...The Magic of.....Zzzzzzzzz
I am an on-the-record lover of Epcot's World Showcase. I think it's awesome. Easily one of my favorite features in the varied tapestry of WDW. That said, there's one thing that doesn't have much repeat value to me... The movies! The stupid, boring country-promoting movies. Of the 11 countries represented, 3 have these movies. (It used to be 4, but Norway wisely stopped showing theirs, which was probably the worst of them all.) These movies are boring. They aren't particularly interesting visually. They take up giant theaters that could be used for more things like Rio del Tiempo or The Maelstrom. Worst of all, they are dated. I actually would be totally cool with checking out a new one of these movies every time I was there, but it's been the same damned "O' Canada" movie every time I've ever gone to Epcot. That's now a time span of 15 years... (wow...15 years). Same with France. The worst part is that the people who work in these "Pavilions" are from these countries, and you feel like you're insulting them if you don't sit there and applaud for their country. Norway was the worst. You would ride the Maelstrom, and they'd make you...THEY WOULD MAKE YOU sit through their movie afterward. Ohhh the looks on the faces of those hurt (though buxom) Norwegian girls when you'd walk straight through the movie theater to the exit before the film started. Come on Disney! Save us all from an international incident. Please.

2) Safaris are ALREADY cool.
Kilimanjaro Safari at The Animal Kingdom is already one of my favorite attractions in all of WDW, and yet... there's thing nagging thing that's always bothered me. take a look at the picture from the ride up above... see that leathery creature with the long trunk? That's a real, live elephant! Why is this anything special on a safari ride? Well... because one of the things that Disney can probably be fairly accused of is... souping up things that don't really need souping. This ride/attraction has tons of real animals doing their own real why? WHY did Disney feel the need to create a manufactured, somewhat ridiculous storyline about saving "Little Red" the baby, animatronic elephant from poachers? WHY? I know that somewhere in there, there's a good message about conservation and protecting the protected species of our world and whatnot, but there's a strange dissonance that occurs when one moment you're seeing real, honest-to-god lions and elephants doing their real, honest-to-god thangs, and in the next moment you're listening to the vaguely offensive game-warden Wilson talking about catching poachers. It's just dumb and unnecessary in an attraction that is awesome in so many ways all on it's own. GET RID OF THE STORY!

1) Oh no! It's the Wicked Witch of the.... Line?"
The Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios (FKA MGM Studios) was my first "favorite ride". When I used to dream about working at Disney World there were 2 places that I wanted to work more than any other place... Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (no idea why) and The Great Movie Ride. See... it's a ride that involves actors! I thought that was the absolute, coolest thing ever. There's the Ride Car Conductor and the Gangster who busts out of that James Cagney movie and hijacks your car for a while. Then, as you're going through the Indiana Jones set, a "High Priest" gets rid of the Gangster and saves you. Then it's revealed that the High Priest is really your old Car Conductor! It's awesome. I've always thought it would be the most fun thing to do. I still do, actually. The problem is... well... the actors suck now. Maybe they always did, but they REALLY suck now. It's not like... you know... complicated. (I could recite all of the lines for you after the 3rd time I'd ridden.) It's fully automated, so it's not like it's different every time. Maybe that's the problem. You do it 25 times a day, and it's bound to get a little stale, but still.... Come ON. You're supposed to be creating movie god-damned magic here! I've noticed that the Gangster is usually the weaker of the 2 characters, and perhaps that's because the pool from which to choose is smaller (the other role can be a man or a woman), but it's still not hard, and you can ad-lib with the people a lot more, and it would be FUN. So please... please Disney... Please cast better actors for these parts. I'm begging you.

Some Honorable Mentions:
-- How bout some love for the new age of Disney? Hannah Montana? High School Musical? Jonas Brothers? These are the first giant stars of Disney since the late 50s with Annette and Cubby. Maybe a pavilion, or a ride for them.

-- Please do something better with Tom Sawyer Island. Please.

-- Update the movie scenes in Great Movie Ride.

-- Update the movie in Soarin'. Currently it's the same as the "Soarin' over California" ride at Disneyland. How 'bout a Soarin' Over America version?

-- Newer, more advanced animatronics on Jungle Cruise.'s gettin pretty stank.

-- Go back to the old Tiki Room. The effin' thing has been "Under New Management" for like...10 years now. Plus, the old one was better.

So....there it is. I didn't design it this way, but each of the 4 parks are represented as well as the hotels. I think changing these things would only make the greatest place on Earth just that much greater.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Week 1 Football Picks

Hey Folks-

So, I apologize ahead of time. I'm sure that nobody aside from Alan will care at all about these, but the time has come for making my NFL picks.

Alan and I have done these for the past 3 years. He won the first 2 years, and we have no idea who won last year, because well... we both kinda flaked out before the end. No clue.

I'd like to give a shout-out to my true favorite football team, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats. Enjoy Oklahoma.

Washington @ NY Giants: I picked the Redskins about 30 minutes before the game, so sadly... I have to stick to that. SKINS

Detroit @ Atlanta: Kitna and Rudi...reunited and it feels so good. Oh...and Tatum Bell robbed Rudi on his way out the door. Delicious. LIONS

Seattle @ Buffalo: I have no faith in Losman in the long-term, but I do like him well enough, and I LOVE Lee Evans. BILLS

NY Jets @ Miami: The Dolphins should start showing marked improvement this year. Jake Long is a HUGE pickup for them. Ted Ginn may turn out okay too. I'd like to see Favre fuck up really badly, but I think this isn't the week. JETS

Kansas City @ New England: I don't see another undefeated season for the Pats, but I do see 14 wins. This'll be one of them. PATRIOTS

Tampa Bay @ New Orleans: Okay... I'll probably explain a little more later, but the Saints are now my favorite team. In fact, starting next week the Saints game will take the place of honor as "Last Game Discussed". I have no faith in the Bengals. They bum me out. Also, I refuse to mention hurricanes.... oh... damnit. SAINTS

St. Louis @ Philadelphia: Don't know much about either team really... The Eagles are presumably decent as always, and the Rams are presumably going to fuck me either way I go (as always), so... EAGLES

Houston @ Pittsburgh: Is this the year for the Texans? ehhhhh Maybe. Will it start this week? Doubtful. Fucking Steelers making the best first round draft picks this year... STEELERS

Jacksonville @ Tennessee: The veneer of Vince Young continues to dull. JAGUARS

Carolina @ San Diego: I love Jake Delhomme. I want him to do well. I hate Philip Rivers. I want him to fail. Aside from these 2 things, I generally dislike the Panthers and like the Chargers, and I think that my general likes/dislikes will win out. CHARGERS

Arizona @ San Fransisco: I feel bad for Alex Smith, but the Cardinals might actually do something this year. CARDINALS

Dallas @ Cleveland: I am truly afraid of the Browns this year. They could end up being really good. The Cowboys already are. COWBOYS

Chicago @ Indianapolis: I don't know if Manning is playing or not, but I assume that he is because the media hasn't had a collective heart attack about it. That in mind, I really don't care who wins. I just want to see Peyton Manning's leg literally fly off during this game. I'm counting on you Urlacher. COLTS. (side prediction...>TD for Devin Hester)

Minnesota @ Green Bay: I am rooting for Aaron Rogers more than I am rooting for any other individual player this year. I think he'll play well. I don't think it'll be enough to counteract Peterson. VIKINGS

Denver @ Oakland: This game doesn't have the luster it once did. The Raiders suck, but I'd like to see Russell throw the ball 85 yards on the fly. BRONCOS

Cincinnati @ Baltimore: I love the Bengals. They are my team (next to the Saints obviously). I want them to win, but I don't wanna encourage the idiots in charge. I'm talking to you Marvin Lewis and Mike Brown. (May as well throw in Bratkowski too, though idiot may be too kind). Here's the thing... I don't think the Bengals will absolutely, necessarily suck. I actually think they'll be Juuuuust good enough to keep stupid Marvin in town for another year. This game will not be pretty though, especially considering it will show how bad the defense can be by giving up actual points to rookie Joe Flacco. RAVENS

Coming Saturday: Top 5 Things Disney World Needs to Change

Monday, September 1, 2008

Are Ya Scared?

Hey Folks-

No, the title doesn't refer to the very real possibility that Sarah Palin will be our next Vice President . (Though, it easily could refer to that very real possibility. Frankly, it's a little too real for me.)

No no... instead, I'd like to talk sports.

Yesterday, I was watching the very enjoyable "Rocky Balboa" and I came in right before the training sequence (awesome) and I watched through the end. I actually thought that the movie was great, except I was a little bummed at the final fight. I DID like the outcome, but I thought the fight was almost too realistic. I want Drago. I want Clubber Lang.

It was during this fight sequence that I noted that Rocky and Mason "The Line" Dixon were both wearing black gloves. I kept thinking about the gloves. So much so, in fact, that I came up with a blog entry related to the color of boxing gloves.

Without further ado, I bring you:

Dan's Top 5 Sports Intimidation Techniques (Both real and fictional)

Honorable Mention A):
This one doesn't get into the top 5, because of 2 reasons... 1) It's only happened once that I am aware of. 2) It's more likely to intimidate your own teammate as opposed to the opponent. In any case, there's a story of the time Red's Hall of Fame Catcher Johnny Bench was catching a younger pitcher. Bench was calling for a breaking ball, and the pitcher shook him off wanting to throw a fastball. Bench basically tells the guy his fastball is sucking, so he should stick with the breaking ball... The pitcher insists and throws the fastball anyway. Bench CATCHES IT WITH HIS BARE HAND. I'm sorry...but that is awesome. I think if that could be verified with an actual video or original story, it would definitely make the list, even though he showed up his teammate. I LOVE that story.

Honorable Mention B)
This one makes it on if I wasn't so entertained by #4 on my list, thus allowing fictional circumstances. Anyway, Ronnie Lott was so tough. So crazy about getting back on the field, that when he dislocated his pinky finger he elected to have it CUT OFF instead of missing any action. Seriously...the guy decided to just amputate his pinky finger after it was crushed in order to avoid injuring it any more, but still get on the field faster. I love that.

5) The coolest way to wear white after Labor Day. Why does the color of boxing gloves matter? (you ask) Well... because when you're wearing white boxing gloves, your opponent can see their own blood. I don't know about you, but if I'm in a fight, the last thing I wanna know about is how much I'm bleeding.

4) A day at the beach. FICTIONAL. Okay, so I've never seen this happen, nor do I think it ever would, but wouldn't it have been effing sweet if Michael Phelps had shown up to his first race of the Olympics with a full, bushy beard and wearing baggy surfing shorts. How would you feel as an opponent of his when you've just spent the last 3 hours shaving off all of your body hair and squeezing yourself into a skin-tight suit and Phelps shows up looking like a beach comber. Like... He may as well be swimming in a sweatshirt.

3) Chair? What chair mother fucker? Another boxing one (Courtesy of Alan)... Picture 2 boxers in a 12 round championship fight. The 10th round just ended. It's been a battle. Too close to call on the cards. You're spent. You head back to your corner and you slump onto the stool and let your corner men do their work. As your trainer is yelling out instructions, you find yourself glancing over to your opponent, hoping to see him bleeding. Instead, you see that he's standing 3 feet away from his corner. Arms crossed. Waiting for your pussy-ass to get up and fight him some more. What's that tapping? Nails in your coffin.

2) Get that shit outta here. I love this one, and it's only not #1 on the list because it's so much better in person than it is on TV. It lacks the universal quality the others have, but otherwise, it's really intimidating. There is nothing...NOTHING like a really emphatic blocked shot in basketball. So many awesome variations of it... The "Pin the ball on the backboard". The "Catch the ball out of the air". The "intentional goaltend where the guy comes up THROUGH the rim". The "point guard stuffing a power forward". The "swat into the second row and then scream like an insane person". Just awesome, and if done early in the game, it can really be a pretty great way to get the momentum.

1) have ice on your face. This one is legendary. I've heard of this happening a few times, but I think quite possibly the most famous example of it is a Bengals example...and thus is my favorite. In January 1982 the Bengals played the Chargers in Cincinnati in the AFC Championship game. The temperature? -59 degrees. I don't know if you know that, but that is fucking cold. Just so we're clear... if you CAN spit in that temperature, it would freeze before it hit the ground. Of course, your body dehydrates at something like 17 times the normal rate, so you can't spit. Or sweat. In any case, the Bengals offensive lineman came out and played the entire game (thank you Alan and Wikipedia for verifying the specifics) without wearing sleeves. They were so crazy and so tough that were all "Screw frostbite. I wanna scare some Chargers." And it worked. Sadly, they played the 49ers indoors the next Sunday, or maybe the entire future of the Bengals would have been changed. Still... No sleeves or "warm weather clothing" in general in super cold weather is hardcore. People still talk about that 27 years later.