Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Little Bit 'O' Nostalgia

Hey Folks-

I had dinner with an old friend tonight, and she got me thinking about days gone by. Where I come from. How I've become the person I am. Any sort of in-depth examination of that kind of thing for me will inevitably turn up the origins of my Disney obsession. Please forgive the following ramble. I don't know where it's gonna go.

In the Summer of 1993 my Dad, step-mom, and I went to Florida. I'd never been before, and we went for a good long time. We went to Jacksonville to visit Dee Anne's brother. I still remember that vacation as the best vacation I've ever taken. The centerpiece of the vacation was a 4 day excursion to Walt Disney World right smack in the middle. I remember getting off of I-4 for the first time by the Magic Kingdom, and seeing that sign...

I just remember being so excited. I don't really even know why. It's not like I was a huge Disney fan before then. I remember the EPCOT Center commercials where Mickey stood on top of Spaceship Earth, waving. I remember hearing stories from Dee Anne about how much fun it was. I'd always heard of Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean and Hall of Presidents, but really I was pretty much a noob. (Looking back, it's hard to even imagine not knowing anything about the place past those little snippets.)

I just remember being excited.

We stayed at Dixie Landings, which has since been absorbed into what is now Port Orleans: Riverside. It's this sort of Anti-Bellum style hotel on Disney property. It was the coolest place I'd ever stayed. I'd never been to a themed hotel. I'd barely stayed anywhere but a Holiday Inn. The place was just so detailed and so... theatrical. I think that's really where Disney got me. Not just with the hotel, but with everything. There was this perfect "Theatricality" to everything about the place.

I remember that we went to Magic Kingdom first. Robert (Dee Anne's brother), my Dad, and I all raced to Space Mountain. I admit that I was absolutely terrified, as I hate roller coasters, but I still went on. Same with Big Thunder later in the day. I remember waiting in line for Pirates the first time. And riding It's a Small World with Dee Anne (and being more terrified on that thing than any roller coaster. I still am, actually. Good lord.).

The thing about Disney World is that it's timeless. Updates are made all the time... There's been something new each time I've ever gone. But there's still the People Mover, which has been there since the beginning and makes me do nothing but smile and think of Dee Anne. There's still Rio del Tiempo.

I could go on and on about that first trip, but it's really just the start of the story. That trip started an obsession that has grown with every year and every return. In 1994 Dee Anne and I started our tradition of going to Alfredo's (sadly, that tradition is just a memory. Alfredo's closed this year and was replaced with a new Italian Restaurant.)
1998 brought Downtown Disney and The Rainforest Cafe (and the China Island Chicken Salad)
2000 brought Disney Christmases and the beginning of my greatest obsession, the pins.

Ever since then it's been like a snowball down a hill. I've been several times since then, and I've seen new things like Philharmagic and Everest and Festival of the Lion King and Soarin'. I've learned more about Walt Disney himself. I've developed a sense of the details that still astounds me to this day.

Basically... And I know I could go on forever.... Disney World has housed my favorite memories. I know it has more in store. The following are a few pictures from my recent visits. Things that make me smile and that make Disney so magical for me... Please enjoy.

The Muchacho with Mickey

They made Mulan right here.

The Muchacho with the Chipmunks. Totally sweet.

My all-time favorite Hidden Mickey on the floor of the Polynesian Hotel

The amazing Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom

Disney Christmas is the best kind of Christmas there is.

The Muchacho with an Old Pirate at Downtown Disney.

The beautiful nightime at Epcot.

Dad and Briana in front of Everest. Pretty freakin' awesome.

The Muchacho with a Muchacho.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A "63" is Good... Right?

Hey Folks-

I've been rolling a metaphor around in my head for a couple of weeks. Today, I will try to break it down for my you... my readers.

First a little background. My buddy Dave and I have been known to go to Don Pablo's and talk about all kinds of things, but inevitably the subject would come around to the perplexing world of women. Sometimes it'd be relaying the story of a bad date. Sometimes it would be about something generally frustrating we've experienced in our quest for love (awww). Often the subject of women births a new metaphor. One day dating is like doing laundry is some obscure way. One day it's like grocery shopping. Usually these metaphors are solid but flawed. There's a huge exception or a loophole or it just eventually falls apart entirely. It's mostly off the cuff and just entertaining to ourselves.

Then, about a month ago, something magical happened. I won't take credit for it, because Dave is the lone author of this particular metaphor, but it's so perfect. So... specific that I honestly feel that if he wrote it out in book form, and expanded on it... he'd be rich like those "He's Just Not That Into You" bitches. The following is my interpretation of Dave's Metaphor. He's more than welcome to adjust it if he likes.

Basketball or Golf

In the world of dating, men and women are always playing one of two sports. Basketball or Golf. And of course, even if they'll play both, there's one they naturally gravitate toward. A Golfer may occasionally play a game of pick-up with their friends and a Basketball player might head to the local links to play a mellow 18, but at the end of the day they'll gravitate toward their natural sport.

Let's talk, for a minute, about the differences...

Golfers are generally low maintenance, but even more specifically, they don't want a lot of attention. Essentially... the lower the score the better you do. The fewers shots the better. Female golfers don't want flowers or calls 5 times a day.

Basketball players are the opposite. The more points you put up, the more likely you are to win against other basketball players. The point of the game is to score points. Flowers, candy, texting, 5 dates a week. These are all things that basketball players want. It's more aggressive.

So the trick is really to make sure that you are playing the same sport they are.

If you're a basketball player, by nature, you're going to be tossing up 3-point love letters and laying down the text message press, and the flower free throws. Every play is designed to put up more points. That's great if you're playing with a fellow basketball player, but what if the girl you're after is playing golf?

Wouldn't she prefer you to measure your putt twice and putt just once? It's all about getting the maximum result out of the fewest amount of strokes.

Same goes the other way... What if you're a golfer by nature, and your lining up that chip shot and she slam dunks on your face?

The Dominique Wilkins Correlary

Within this metaphor there are side bars. For example... The people who get laid every weekend are almost always basketball players. They aren't looking for a relationship, so they play the game differently. They play like Dominique Wilkins, "The Human Highlight Reel". 'Nique was one of the greatest pure scorers in NBA history. He probably had the tools to be a great player overall, but his focus was putting the ball in the hoop. He wasn't a great teammate. He didn't play much defense (all parts of successful, long-term basketball success). He wasn't really ever a threat to be on a contending team.

That same sort of mindset can be applied in the world of Men and Women. There are the people who go to the bar on a Friday night and say... I'm going to put up as many points as possible. I may win and I may not, but I'm leaving having played full court, up and down basketball from whistle to whistle. I don't even care if my team loses in the end, as long as I get my triple double, I'm good. These people will get laid more than the average person. They'll make the Top Plays on Sportscenter more than average person, but at the end of the season, they're sitting at home watching the Finals on TV and someone else is playing for the ring. (Ohhhh...The RING! That's good.)

80 Ain't Bad

A question I had the first time I heard Dave's metaphor is: "Is there a score that is good enough on both axises that you'll be successful most of the time no matter which sport you're playing?"

I think there is. My argument is that unless you're playing at the highest levels, and let's be honest and say that if you're even concerned about this shit at all, you're probably not playing at the highest levels, there's a certain score that probably is good enough on either sport that you can kinda hedge.

I say that score is 80.

As a golfer, unless you're on the PGA tour, if you're averaging 80 for 18 holes you're considered to be a pretty good golfer. You may not win every time you and your buddies play, but you're gonna always be in the hunt.

As a basketball team, unless you're in the NBA, if you're averaging 80 points a game, you're a damned good team. In fact, in College Basketball last year, if you averages 80 a game, you'd be 19th in the country in scoring. You'd lead the Big East or the Big 10. You'd be in the mix for sure.
Basically, this is the goal...for me. It probably should be important to know if the person I'm playing with/against is playing the same sport as I am, but I don't think I'm there yet. My goal is to mix in enough layups with chip shots and free throws and drives (flowers, aloofness, cutesy e-mails, ambivalence) that I can put up an 80. If I put up an 80, it's my theory that I'll win most of the time whether I'm playing Golf or Basketball. Sometimes, sure... I'll look like a total idiot when I'm lining up my putt near half-court, but there will be just as many times when I guess correctly and that's all I care about.

I'm not a starter anyway.

Oh...and by the way... I hate golf. I don't get it. Both in life and in this metaphor.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Week 8 Football Picks

Hey Folks-

Clearly my blogging discipline is falling apart. I've been busy, what can I say...

Anyway, here are my NFL picks for the week.

Tampa Bay @ Dallas

Washington @ Detroit
PICK: REDSKINS (The Redskins fuck me over often, but this one feels at least a little safe)

Buffalo @ Miami

St. Louis @ New England
PICK: PATRIOTS. (I know their schedule is light, but it's still pretty impressive what with losing Brady)

San Diego @ New Orleans

Kansas City @ New York Jets

Atlanta @ Philadelphia

Arizona @ Carolina

Oakland @ Baltimore
PICK: RAVENS (I still hate the Ravens more than almost any other team. Except the Colts)

Cincinnati @ Houston
PICK: TEXANS. (Gotta say... The Bengals aren't very good.)

Cleveland @ Jacksonville

New York Giants @ Pittsburgh
PICK: GIANTS (Fake it till you make it, right?)

Seattle @ San Francisco
PICK: 49ers

Indianapolis @ Tennessee

Last week I went 9 - 5, bringing my overall record to: 59-44. Getting a little better.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Format Changes

After some evaluation, "Trekkin Tuesdays" will be changed to a once-per-month feature. I'm in the process of thinking up a weekend replacement. If you have any thoughts, please feel free to suggest them.

The next "Trekkin Tuesday" will most likely be on Tuesday, November 11th. The day after I return from Rome. I imagine I'll have a lot to discuss.

Tune in tomorrow with Thporths Thurthday.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Week 7 Football Picks

It's almost 5 in the morning, and I just remembered to put up my picks. I figure...may as well.. I've only officially missed 2 blogs in the last 2 weeks.

So here are the NFL Picks. Last week I was a robust...8 and 6, bringing my overall record to: 50-39. Blech

Here we go...

San Diego @ Buffalo

Minnesota @ Chicago

Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
PICK: STEELERS (The Bengals are just so sad. It's not even funny anymore. It's just sad.)

Tennessee @ Kansas City

Dallas @ St. Louus

Baltimore @ Miami

San Francisco @ New York Giants

New Orleans @ Carolina
PICK: SAINTS (Seems like this might be the start of a rough patch for Delhomme. Well.. last week was the start.)

Detroit @ Houston

New York Jets @ Oakland

Indianapolis @ Green Bay

Cleveland @ Washington
PICK: SKINS. I thought I had the Skins figured, but after last week...fucking back to the coin tosses.

Seattle @ Tampa Bay

Denver @ New England
PICK: PATRIOTS. Damn that's tough.

I promise to get back to real picks starting next week. My show had closing night tonight, so I'll be back to having free time.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Hey Folks-

It's another Wednesday with Walt.

Annie asked for another 2 weeks to post her Disney Scandals blog, and since I'm all about not rushing folks, I'm going to pinch-hit with a Disney Blog from the hip.

Walt Disney, I've said many times, was the most influential figure in Entertainment of the 20th Century...possibly ever. Like many of my pronouncements on the subject of Disney, and anything else that I might make a pronouncement about, it's possible to not delve into deeply into the comment, and I'll probably be mostly correct. Though, I usually don't have a lot of examples or reasons behind these things. Usually these comments are based more on feelings or interpretations... This one, however... I have reasons, and those reasons are this blog.

Here we go...

The Biggest Reasons why Walt Disney was the Most Influential Figure in Entertainment in the 20th Century (possibly ever).

Mickey Mouse.
"Even in China. Children there, next to the Great Wall, who had never seen Mickey Mouse responded." -- John Hench
There are a lot of reasons why the creation of Mickey Mouse is part of the elaborate fabric of my argument. 1) Mickey is the creation of Walts that made every other creation possible. He was the breadwinner. If it hadn't been for Mickey hitting it huge the way he did in the late 20s, there wouldn't have been revenue to do Snow White. Without Snow White, there wouldn't have been the capital to create the new studios. And so on... 2) Walt did the voice of Mickey and thus had an even more specific ownership of him than he did the characters that came before. He protected the image of that mouse (some would argue too much, eventually necessitating the creation of Donald Duck who represented the Id.) I think it's a good thing, though. Walt paid special attention and something special resulted. 3) The arrival of Mickey couldn't have come at a better time for America. America was plunging into the Great Depression and Mickey symbolized, in many ways, Hope. Between him and "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf", Walt created two of the greatest icons of perseverance in an era when people were desperate to hang on to something. 4) Mickey was arguably the most popular character/most recognizable character on the planet. That's all because of Walt.

Multi-Plane Camera
As with a couple of the other items on this list, the Multi Plane Camera is an example of an innovation that was carried out by many, but that I give Walt credit for. Here's why, and I apologize for the digression... Thomas Edison had hundreds of people working for him in Menlo Park, but he was the inventor. Walt had hundreds of people at Hyperion or Burbank but he gets the credit because he understood the applications for these advances better than anyone. The multi-plane camera, when left in the hands of lesser people could have no existed at all.... So it's the vision about how to use the innovation that's as important as the innovation itself... (digression over). Anyway, Disney developed the multi-plane camera to help add the illusion of depth to animation. The first famous application was in a short movie (a Silly Symphony) called "The Old Mill". The machine essentially created several layers of depth by stacking glass planes and placing them at varied levels and moving the animated cells at different rates. It's brilliant. It helped create the notion that animation could be more than a diversion, but could instead be art. Without the Mult-plane, we wouldn't have Snow White, The Triplets of Belleville, or Spirited Away. In fact, most hand drawn animation of any quality (relative, of course) probably uses a MP camera itself, or at least the concept.

Fully Integrated Theme Parks.
We all are aware of my obsession with Disney World. Well, Disney World is more of a riff on an idea that Walt didn't invent, but definitely started to perfect with Disneyland, which opened in 1955. There are so many innovations to the whole "Amusement Park" concept that I could, and probably should write a whole post just on that. I'll just name a few. 1) The concept of "Amusement Park" itself was fundamentally changed. Prior to Disneyland, Amusement Parks were designed almost entirely for children. They rarely had a connective theme between rides. They often were dirty and seedy. Walt created a park with a cohesive theme. A place that was clean and safe. A place where adults could have fun as well. 2) The Wheel and Spoke design. Walt had noted in a park in Europe how easily visitors could navigate between areas when each area was built around a central hub. He incorporated this in to Disneyland. 3) The very idea of detail-oriented theming was a foreign concept prior to Disney. He wanted to make sure that the vistors were immersed in the experience. He created themed "Lands" and he laid the groundwork for character operated attractions. The best example of this is Haunted Mansion, where the cast members aren't just loading the rides, but are fully in character. It's an awesome thing to see. It's because of Walt that this type of Amusement Park is THE WAY now, and Coney Island has become a relic of nostalgia... a place fun to see for the "way-back-when" feel, but not a destination. Disney Parks occupied the TOP EIGHT spots in attendance in 2007, worldwide.

Sound Sync and Color Processing
This could be such a minor thing, but really it changed everything. Most people think that Steamboat Willie was the first Mickey cartoon, but it wasn't. A silent cartoon called "Plane Crazy" was the first. Why are most people wrong? Because really "Steamboat Willie" gave Mickey his voice, and essentially started a sensation. They did it using a sound syncronization process called Cinephone. Cinephone was already being worked on, so I'm not saying that Walt invented it. What he DID do, was find this process, and contract it out so that Disney Animations would have exclusive rights to the process for 3 years. This was by far the best sound technology in the market at the time, and by having such a long time being the only company allowed to use it, it created a HUGE market share for Mickey and the other animations that followed. He did the same thing with the use of color processing Technicolor. Technicolor was the first 3 strip color sound processing, and Walt had exclusive rights to it for 2 years. This deal was eventually extended to 5 years. Eventually both of these processes would become industry standard, both for Animation (in terms of sound syncronization) and all film in general for Technicolor.

Television as advertising
Walt Disney was the first person to recognize the full power of the "new" medium of Television. In the early 1950s, Walt was doing everything he could to raise money for Disneyland. One of his biggest investors was ABC Television, who was looking to fill their programming schedule. Walt agreed to do a TV special for ABC called One Hour in Wonderland and it was a special promotional program for the upcoming feature animation Alice in Wonderland. The response to this program was so evident in the box office figures for the film, that Walt shortly thereafter created the weekly program, Disneyland. The primary goal for this program was to promote the upcoming opening of the Disneyland Park and then after that new attractions. While this turned out to be an amazing marketing tool, they also created several crazes with the program itself, including the Davey Crockett craze of 1955 where millions of dollars in merchandise was sold. Subsequent programs like The Mickey Mouse Club and The Wonderful World of Color continued to capitalize on their free advertising for new films and new technologies. Essentially creating an infomerical for the Disney company and it's products. This is the greatest marketing coup of the 20th century, as far as I'm concerned.

There are, of course, other people partly responsible for almost all of these things. Ub Iwerks helped develop the Multi-Plane camera, and was in charge of Mickey animation upon his return to the company. Walt didn't create the medium of Television or the color and sound processes. He didn't invent the theme park. The thing Walt Disney did that made him so important is that he had the vision and the inventiveness to incorporate these innovations of others into his work. He had the foresight to understand how to use these advances that were mostly theoretical and implement them in concrete ways that no-one else capitalized on.

And it goes without saying, but this list could be 5 times as long.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Now Pitching...

Hey Folks-

I'm a little bummed that I didn't get to my sports blog this week, though I admit I have no idea what I would have written about. My show has me getting home pretty late and I can't really blog from work (which... you know... is a reasonable expectation on their part.) In any case, I figure that since I've got a couple of hours this morning, I'd come up with something fun on the fly. Or at least fun for me.

Today we're gonna do the Disney Character Sports Round-Up. This idea has been jostling around in my head for a while, though it really stems from one thing, which I'll get to later. The general idea is that I'll be taking certain Disney characters and deciding what sport they'd be best at.

Let's get underway...
Cruella de Vil, NASCAR. Yeah, yeah.... I know that I dogged Cruella (haha) pretty badly in the Villains tournament, but I think she'd be a great stock car driver. She's insane. She's aggressive. and most importantly, she's the most reckless driver in the Disney Universe. C'mon... look at that car! She'd make Tony Stewart pee her pants.

Nemo, Water Polo (Special know...cause of the fin.) Yes, an easy joke. Sue me. In any case, Nemo obviously is a great swimmer, because of the whole being-a-fish bit, but I was most impressed with his "ball control" with that pebble that he shot into the filter. If that's not a Croatian-level Water Polo move, I don't know what is.

Aladdin and Jasmine (Pole Vault). Doesn't it seem like in a lot of those small countries that are represented in the Olympics that there are like... 2 team members and they play the same sport and they're married to eachother? Well... maybe not A LOT, but I've seen it. That's how I picture this... somehow this tiny (but wealthy) country from the Middle East has 2 world class pole vaulters, and they happen to be a happy couple. Jasmine is a medal threat, but Aladdin would also do his country proud.

Stitch, MMA. It was tempting to give make Stitch a surfer, but that seemed too obvious. Here's my argument for Stitch as the World's Greatest MMA fighter. First, he's a total badass in general, so it makes sense. Second, he'd be the first small fighter to ever shirk the notion of weight classes. He'd kick Kimbo Slice's ass just as easily as he would some tiny dude using the Brazillian Jiu Jitsu. Third, I think he's got this whole "Lulled into a false sense of security thing going" due to his crazy adorableness. It's impossible to see that he's a killing machine. Fourth, he's so freakin hilarious. It's probably the only thing that'll get me into MMA after the whole burst cauliflower ear fiasco. That was disturbing.

Hercules, Decathalon. Okay, it's probably cheating to assign anything to Hercules due to his being a part-god and whatnot, but I don't care. It fits too well... The guy is Greek (like the decathalon!) and he can do whatever. He's got strength, speed, excellent hand-eye coordination. It's the perfect event for him. He'd set the world record for sure. Not that anyone can follow that insane scoring system. He even demonstrates most of the things within the movie. (Plus, it gives me an excuse to post one of my favorite screen shots.)

Tarzan, Gymnastics. Can you imagine the upper body strength needed to swing around on those vines all the damned time? I figure it's pretty similar to the strength needed to perform a solid still-rings routine. He also seems kind of idiosyncratic like a lot of those gymnasts. A little flaky. I am sure that in Tarzan's case, that mostly has to do with the whole "raised by gorillas" thing and the occasional "fight a leopard with his bare hands" thing. I wonder what Rav Bhavsar's excuse is.

Captain Hook, Baseball. I'm telling you right now... I have no reason for this other than the fact that "Captain Hook" would be the coolest nickname for a curveball pitcher ever conceived. This is actually the entire impetus for this blog entry. I started thinking about what characters would play different baseball positions, and it just seemed so natural that Captain Hook would be a dominant curveballer. In fact, if Barry Zito had a cool nickname like Captain Hook as opposed to Reefer Face or Ganja Daddy or whatever it is that he's going by these days, I bet he'd be a lot better these days. A name like that bolsters a guy. So I'm convinced that had baseball been around during Captain Hook's day, he'd have made sure he knew how to drop the hammer. (By hammer I mean "His curveball.") Alternate sport: Bowling. Same reason.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Week 6 Football Picks

Hey Folks-

Here are the picks for this week. My show is killing me right now, so I may not get a Thurthday Thporths up at all. Sorry about that. I'll blog something good this weekend to make up for it. Perhaps my Disney Character baseball line-up or something. I dunno.

In any case, last week I was 8 - 6. My season total now stands at 42 - 33. Not that good.

Chicago @ Atlanta

Baltimore @ Indianapolis

Detroit @ Minnesota

Oakland @ New Orleans

Cincinnati @ New York Jets

Carolina @ Tampa Bay

St. Louis @ Washington

Miami @ Houston

Jacksonville @ Denver

Dallas @ Arizona

Philadelphia @ San Francisco

Green Bay @ Seattle

New England @ San Diego

New York Giants @ Cleveland

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Oh the Places I'll Go (Some day)

Hey Folks-

I've long felt a pull in many directions... I've wanted to live many places and do many things. Work in Disney World. Live in Hilton Head. Denver. Vegas. Those are always there. On my mind. In the back of my plans. I have recently grown more intent on making one of those (or another) happen.

Those are the big things though.

In the meantime, there are so many places that I've never been. Places I'd just like to see. Not necessarily entire towns. Sometimes just a landmark. Sometimes an event. I've got a long list. Here are a few... (Non-Disney edition). I'd love to hear your suggestions too...

The Pacific Coast of Oregon.

I really don't know anything about it, but I've seen many photos. Especially since I started working where I do now. Just pictures and word of mouth basically, but from what I've seen it's one of the most beautiful places in America. I'm unaware of any particular place. I don't have any goal while I'm there. I just want to see for myself if the pictures are true.

Atlantic City

AC seems exactly like my kind of place. Not so much with the gambling and hotels, but because it's a perfect combination of fast paced, wacky, and ridiculously cheesy. It's almost what I expected Graceland to be like (minus the fast-paced) and turned out not to be. Don't get me wrong, I loved Graceland. Still... is there a single place in America that is a more perfect embodiment of a big gold chain with a giant gold dollar sign swingin' from it. There's something so beautifully un-self-aware. You rock that velvet liesure suit AC. I'll get there someday.


There are a ton of reasons I'd like to visit the tiny Greek island. Many believe it's the remnants of Atlantis...(Well... not MANY, but some). It's considered by many to be the home of the World's most beautiful sunset. The architecture appeals to me. The food appeals to me. The people too. Just seems like an amazing place.

Bangor, Maine

Two Words: Lobster Roll


Some places, like Yankee Stadium, are powerful because of the great athletes to have played there. Some places, like Gettysburg, are powerful because of the great battles fought there, or the people who died there. And then there are the places that are powerful because of the ideas birthed there... Ireland is in that group. If you think about all of the great writers, poets, actors, playwrites and other artists to have found their footing in Ireland, it just feels almost like a pilgrimage.

Forest Lawn Memorial Park

Okay... so not entirely Disney-free. Walt Disney's resting place is a place I'd really like to visit. Forest Lawn is not just the resting place of Walt, but also about a milllion other Hollywood Legends. George Burns, Clark Gable, Sam Goldwyn, Clara Bow, Errol Flynn... I mean.. I could go on. It's where Old Hollywood hangs out now.


I'm totally into the idea of spending more than just a short visit to Japan. There seems to be a huge amount of things to experience. Do I want to see the Imperial Palace? Do I want to check out the Cherry Blossom trees? Mt Fuji? Japanese baseball? Yes to all of those. It's an extremely diverse place in terms of terrain, climate, and culture. I wanna see it all.


Well, it's a good thing I'll actually be there a month from today, because I figure it's about time to check some things off the list. The Vatican... Trevi Fountain... St. Paul's Statue by Raphael. The Spanish Steps. The Colosseum. Really pretty much the whole of it. It's the base of the greatest empire the world has ever known. It's the center of world culture (Fuck off Paris).

I'll let you know how it goes...

Delayed for a Good Cause

Hey Folks-

You probably noticed that there wasn't a Trekkin Tuesday today. Well... that's because I'm on-call for work and also because I went and played Trivia tonight with my trivia team "The Unflappable Wong". We kicked ass and won by 15 points!

Anyway, a Trekkin Tuesday will appear tomorrow at some point. It'll be about the landmarks I'd most like to visit.

Take care.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Week 5 Football Picks

Hey Folks-

Today's picks are going to be abbreviated, as it's 2 AM the day OF the games, and I'm exhausted from doing my show.

Last week I was a sad 7 - 6 (thanks to a few HUGE upsets. At least huge to me.). Bringing my overall record to: 34 -27

Kansas City @ Carolina.

Chicago @ Detroit

Atlanta @ Green Bay

San Diego @ Miami

Seattle @ New York Giants

Washington @ Philadelphia

Tennessee @ Baltimore

Indianapolis @ Houston

Tampa Bay @ Denver

Buffalo @ Arizona

New England @ San Francisco

Cincinnati @ Dallas

Pittsburgh @ Jacksonville

Minnesota @ New Orleans

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Lease Options

Hey Folks-

Friday Flicks is tough to get in on time when I'm in a show. I'll have to write a few and have them in the hopper, I guess.

Anyway, I went last week to see the movie "Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway". Basically, they filmed a few performances from the final week of the run of Rent and edited them into one show video. A very well made one. I was moved watching this film as much as I'd ever been watching the actual show. It occured to me that as powerful and well crafted as this particular film was, is exactly how lacking in power and craftsmanship the 2005 movie version is/was.

"Why is this?" I thought to myself. "Why does the same exact material feel so real and honest in one case and so fake and contrived in another?"

I have a couple of theories that maybe are applicable elsewhere, but definitely are focused on this particular case.

Theory 1) Age.
I honestly believe that the biggest mistake they made in making the 2005 film was bringing back the original 1996 Broadway cast for the majority of the roles. I think, largely, that the play is about living the life of the young. There's a sharp contrast made between the adults and the heroes, and I think that's undermined when Maureen is 35 instead of 25. At 25, her attitude of rebellion is pretty inspiring in places, and sort of endearing. At 35 you kinda want her to get over herself. Not that Idina Menzel isn't great, but the ages are important.

The character of Roger, to me, is the best example of this. Roger is infected with AIDS, and his whole "thing" is that he's trying desperately to make his mark on the world before he dies. I think that whole scenario wields more power if he's tragically young. Not that AIDS is ever NOT tragic. That said, my point is undercut by the fact that Will Chase, who plays Roger in the good movie version is actually a month older than Adam Pascal...

Actually wait... I have a better way of explaining it. It's neat to bring these people back, but for me, bringing these same people back, who at the time were all fresh faces and have all moved on to other things... they've been spoiled. On some level the play is about people struggling in their youth, so having these unknowns really adds a level of freshness that was lost when they brought back the original, now successful, now recognizable people. The greatest thing about Rent when it came out was that these people were so real. They were largely unaffected theater outsiders. I liked that.

Theory 2) Style.
Here's the thing... I don't think movie musicals work well. They used to. West Side Story is one of the top 20 movies of all time, in my opinion. The problem now, is that movies in general now strive toward more realism in general, unless they are SUPER stylized (Eternal Sunshine and Across the Universe are both examples.) In 2005, they could have done Rent in a super stylized way and they'd have been more successful. In fact, the play itself is very stylized, so why go from that to creating a "realistic movie with people randomly singing". It's like... Chicago was successful both commercially and artistically because that show is already so much about style and Rob Marshall held on to that. Instead you have Angel singing "Today 4 U" on a Subway train and Mark riding his bike and singing "Halloween" and I just can't deal. It's a contrivance. The "Filmed on Broadway" version was so good because they didn't have to change the stylistic concept. It works already.

Theory 3) Reality.
The movie musicals that best work today are the ones that are about show business or performing or music already. (Hairspray, Dreamgirls, Chicago). They have these built in excuses to sing or dance or whatever. It aides the audiences along with their willing suspension of disbelief. The most common criticism of movie musicals from those not used to that genre is "Nobody just starts singing. How do they all know when to join in?" and shit like that. Movies have the implied responsibilty to be more realistic, and it just isn't. On stage, there's a much greater willingness on the part of the audience to suspend their disbelief. The line between actors and characters is a little murkier. The person in the balcony may not have any clue that Roger is 38. It's pretty easy to tell in HD on the big screen. Angel and Collins singing "I'll Cover You a nebulous "nowhere" place in the show doesn't set off alarms. Angel and Collins doing the same thing on a REAL subway train does set off alarms. When you can see the lights and the scaffolding, you accept that you're not in a REAL place.

There are more theories, certainly, but I guess the main point overall is this...

Rent was a show created to be dirty and unhomogenized and real as a musical can be. By glossing it up and taking away it's organic, chaotic quality, it loses it's power. It's anarchic bent that makes it safe for Collins to rewire an ATM machine or for them to break into apartment buildings.

If you've never seen Rent before, do anything you can to see the new "Filmed on Broadway" version. You won't regret it. Then see the other and see if you agree.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Evil is their Middle Name

Hey Folks-

Welcome to another Wednesday with Walt.

What makes a great villain? I'd argue that there are several characteristics that define villainy, and today I'm going to determine in my own pseudo-scientific way the greatest of the Disney Villains...

First, the criteria:

1) Evilness. Clearly the most important characteristic in a villain's repertoire is their level of Evilness. If they aren't evil, it's arguable that they aren't even a villain at all.

2) Motive. Depending on the circumstance, a villain's motive for being the way they are may make them more or less villainous. Still... Motive, either way, is important.

3) Comic Relief. Normally, this isn't an important factor in a villain at all, but we're talking about Disney here, not Saw. These movies are satisfying for everyone, because they are designed for everyone.

4) Ability. A bumbling villain isn't an effective villain. The more capable they are, the more dangerous they are.

5) Evil Acts. A villain is ultimately judged by their most heinous acts. It's up to me to decide if 101 pretty evil acts is more or less heinous than 1 truly terrible act. So... here we go.

Now? The candidates...

Over the past week and a half, I've conducted an informal little Villains tournament. I'll be using the winner of each category (known as Fan's Choice) plus the 2nd place nominees in the 2 closest races.

Here we go...

Syndrome (The Incredibles)
Winner of the Pixar Villain Division.
Short Synopsis:
Syndrome was a fan of Mr Incredible as a youngster, and was rebuffed by Mr. Incredible one to many times.
Evilness: Syndrome hated the notion of anyone being "Special" so he worked hard to kill any of the "Supers". Killing humans is a good way to earn points on the Evilness Scale. He also is guilty of kidnapping on several counts. Robbery too. He's pretty evil.
Motive: Syndrome is motivated by a childhood embarassment. He was humiliated by Mr. Incredible and decided that the best way to get even was to prove that his human-made gadgets could replace the powers of the Supers. He even plans to sell his inventions, because "When everyone's super, no one will be."
Comic Relief: Syndrome is funny, mostly in appearance. He's got clever dialogue that will appear to the adults in the audience, and his demise with Jack Jack is definitely hilarious, but for the most part, he's not particularly funny.
Ability: Syndrome has a ton of aptitude for villainy. He's been successful enough to get himself a giant private evil island. He was inventing rocket packs when he was a kid. He invented the Omnidroid, a veritable killing machine.
Evil Act: Syndrome unleashed the Omnidroid on Metroville in order to stop it himself, thus becoming the hero he'd always dreamed of being. Not really that evil. He killed some supers. Very evil. I'd give him a 6.5 out of 10.
Fan Factor:
SKULLS: 3 out of 5. He's all over it in Ability, Motive, and Evil, but he's not funny and his evil act is pretty weak overall.

Hopper (A Bug's Life)
Runner Up Pixar Villain Division
Short Synopsis: Hopper, the grasshopper, is the leader of a grasshopper hive... er...clan...or whatever. He's basically made the ant colony into his indentured servants. He requires them to gather grain and seeds to feed his group, most importantly at the expense of the ants, whom he terrorizes.
Evilness: Well... on an evil scale, terrorizing innocents is high on the list. Having slaves is also high. Enjoying having slaves is even higher. Hopper is not a nice dude in any way. He's cruel to his brother. He's cruel to the ants. He's cruel. Very evil.
Motive: His motive is a little weak, I'd say. He's basically evil just because he's bigger than the ants, and because he's lazy. He doesn't want to gather the grain himself (not that he would even if the grasshoppers were), so he's used his imposing strength and stature to enslave a whole colony. Not cool, but not some sort of higher evil purpose either.
Comic Relief: Hopper is NOT funny. Not at all. In fact, Annie (Who will hopefully be providing a Guest WWW column in 2 weeks) thinks he's too scary. I know for a fact his animatronic doppleganger at Disney World is absolutely terrifying to children. (which IS hilarious, but not the kind of comic relief I'm talking about.)
Ability: Also kinda low, to be honest. He's duped a couple of times by a rag-tag group of circus bugs. He's not brave. He's a bully, and that's pretty much it. An effective one, but just a bully.
Evil Acts: Again... Slavery is pretty evil. If you have to pick one especially bad thing, he does try to strangle Flik at the end of the film before he's snatched up by a bird.
SKULLS: 3 out of 5. He's really mean and scary, but lacks a lot in the Motive and Comedy departments..

Ursula (The Little Mermaid)
Winner of the Hand-drawn Animated Female Villain Division
Short Synopsis: She's a creature known as a cecealia, or Sea Witch, who lives under the sea (har har) and basically acts as a "Devil" of sorts. She magically gives mer-people their desires in exchange for their souls.
Evil: Well, first off, she steals people's souls in sucker deals. Not cool. She's deceptive. She really, and I mean really hates King Triton (and by extension his offspring). She's got no qualms about killing, lying, cheating or doing whatever she needs to do in order to get her way.
Motive: Her motive is very similar to Malificent's (who came in last in the poll). She was once part of the kingdom, but was banished by King Triton (For unspecified reasons). Her entire purpose in life is to get revenge on King Triton and the Mer-world. Her biggest catch would be the soul of Ariel, Triton's daughter (and the title character).
Comic Relief: Ursula is truly an awesome character, and one of her strengths is the balance Disney found between her being pretty mean and evil and her being funny. She IS funny. Her song "Poor Unfortunate Souls" is full of puns and humor. Great stuff. Also her appearance was modeled after the famous Drag Queen, Divine. How could it not be funny?
Ability: She's a pretty adept witch. Over the course of the movie, she makes Ariel a human. She makes herself a human. She steals Ariels voice. She makes herself a giant. She creates a huge storm. Basically, she's got skillz.
Evil Act: Hard to pick just one, so I'm actually gonna go with her general enjoyment in setting the mer-people up to fail in order to get their souls.
SKULLS: Ursula gets a solid 4.5 out of 5. She's evil, funny, able, and has performed the deeds to back them up. The one downfall is that I think she's maybe her mark (Ariel) is a little too easy. A gullible teen, essentially.

Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmations)
Runner up Hand-drawn Animated Female Villain Division
Short Synopsis: A rich old woman who wants to turn dalmation puppies into a fur coat. That's...about it.
Evilness: Well... She wants to kill puppies for her own fashion-forwardness. That's pretty bad. Also not entirely different than your average dog-eating person in real life. It's only evil because we westerners have made dogs into something more than cows. I dunno.. obviously, I'd prefer for her to not kill puppies.
Motives: Fashion? Eh... I dunno. It's lame.
Comic Relief: Well, she's not particularly funny either. She has Horace and Jasper as her sidekicks, and they are pretty funny, but she's probably the most...absentee of all the villains in this poll. Not there much= not funny much.
Ability: Well... Um... She drives like a maniac, but she also wrecks them. She's fairly intelligent, I suppose, but more manipulative than anything.
Evil Acts: Again... she PLANS to kill some puppies for coat-making purposes. That's about it.
SKULLS: 1 out of 5. I honestly think Cruella wouldn't even be this beloved if not for the animation itself. She's mostly along for the ride.

Scar (The Lion King)
Winner Hand Drawn Animated Animal Villain Division
Short Synopsis: A character modeled after Claudius from Hamlet. He's the brother of the king, he plots to kill the king and succeeds. He takes over the kingdom.
Evil: Gotta say... Killing your benevolent brother who cares about you more than you deserve is pretty evil. Pinning it on your innocent nephew? Really evil. Making an unholy alliance with Hyenas? Just plain evil.
Motives: Weak, I'd say. He wants to be king. It wasn't good enough being the well fed brother of the king. That's pretty much it. Simple jealousy. Kinda boring.
Comic Relief: Some would say that Scar isn't funny, but his lines and Jeremy Irons' delivery are both so perfect. I think he's hilarious. I especially love his dry dealings with Simba and Zazu both.
Ability: Well, he's a great strategist (in the short term) but he's severely lacking in foresight, knowledge of the ecosystem (I in the hell did the Pridelands get so barren so fast? C'mon Scar!), and he's definitely not an adept fighter. Damn he's smart though.
Evil Act: The aforementioned murder/frame-up plan. Pretty much as evil as it gets.
SKULLS: 4 out of 5. Very evil. Very funny, but sort of lacking in the Motive department, I'd say.

Captain Hook (Peter Pan)
Winner of the Hand Drawn Animated Male Villain Division
Short Synopsis: A pirate captain, stranded in Neverland, who really hates him some non-growing up Peter Pan.
Evilness: Who hates kids? I mean... c'mon man! Actually... he's mostly just bored, and he just wants Peter to leave him the hell alone. Not that evil really... more crotchety. He does, on many occasions seriously try to kill a bunch of kids which is pretty evil, I'd say.
Motive: Again... boredom and the want to be left alone. Also, he's got himself this whole notion that as a pirate, he's obligated to act like a pirate. In this case, killing and pillaging.
Comic Relief: Here's where Hook takes it over them all. He's funny because he's got that dual quality of being both mean and a pretty big coward. He's hilariously terrified of Tic Tock Croc (not that you can blame him). He's a dandy. He's a fop. He's the archetype of several different comic antagonists
Ability: He's obviously got some pirating skills, as he's been the captain of a pirate ship (without mutiny) for what can only be many, many years. He is a manipulator, and he's educated, and he's not a bad swordsman...especially for having just the one hand.
Evil Acts: Probably his worst act was either trying to bomb Peter (and at the same time loop-holing Tinkerbelle in the process) or the many, many times he tries in earnest to kill Peter, the Lost Boys, Wendy, Smee...Everyone.
SKULLS: Well.. He gets a 4 out of 5. The Motive is weak, at best. The comedy is as high as it gets, though, and really I think he's got a lot of evil in him. It takes someone evil to choose piracy to begin with.

So... based on this, Ursula The Sea Witch comes out on top. I'm a little surprised. I expected Hook to coast to a victory. I was tempted to add criteria to make it end up that way, but that would be an empty victory. I can say that Hook won his poll by the largest margin, so I can have that little victory.

In any case, he may not be the best on paper, but to me he's second to none.

Until next time.