Monday, August 29, 2022

I see the beast, but where's the beauty?


I have kind of a love/hate relationship with Disney and their parks, hotels and stores. Despite their continued business model of squeezing ever last dollar out of visitors to the Happiest Places on Earth, I continue to grumble and book trips to the Magic Kingdom. And I'm joined by millions of others who flock to the parks daily to consume their churros and turkey drumsticks as they shuffle off to a ride.

The question is why? I have never been to Disneyland when it wasn't crammed with miserable looking people desperately trying to get to the next ride that has less than an hour wait. And the infamous lines that wind around like a snake swallowing it's own tail continue to get more elaborate and deceptive. The replaced fast pass kiosks with a Genie Plus App that you have to pay $20 a day per person to use to join the rebranded "Lightning Lane" on select rides. The catch is, if you can actually figure out the app (and it is working) you can only use it once per select ride per day and once you use it on one ride you can't use it on another ride for a few hours. 

The Genie Plus also isn't good on the most popular rides like Star Wars Rise of the Resistance, Spiderman Academy or the Radiator Springs Race. You have to pay an additional $15 to $20 to get in the Lightning Lane. 

Then you have to hope the ride doesn't break down before your window of time to use the Lightning Lane. Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean broke down several times while we were there last week.

Consumption at the parks always blows me away. Despite astronomical food prices (like $7 for a soda served in a small plastic grenade in Star Wars Land) people move through the park like locust munching on high priced popcorn and Disney branded snacks. If you are lucky enough to get a reservation at a restaurant like the Blue Bayou you can plan to spend $29 for a Monty Cristo sandwich. I bought my son kid's chicken meal for $10 that included one thin strip of chicken. We asked for another two strips of chicken on the side so he wouldn't starve. Each additional strip cost another $10.

The thing that has always baffled me about Disneyland is the hordes of people who flock there despite the expense and crowds, just to try and carve out a piece of the promised dream -- a fantasy world of magic. And I know it sounds hypocritical because I'm one of them. Part of me harkens back to that kid in me who one day dreamed of going to that place Walt Disney hyped on television promising to bring a carousel of color to my black and white world.

But the only color Disney seems to promote is the color of money. I'm sure they have huge teams of people calculating algorythms that keep the crowds moving and consuming just out of reach of the dream. 

I did note in this last trip to Disneyland that despite the outrageous cost of going there, it isn't a place for the rich and beautiful. It attracts the want to be rich and beautiful. And no matter how bad you feel about how you look, all you have to do is go to Disneyland and discover that maybe, compared to the unwashed masses, you don't look so bad or fat as you thought.

This is one of those posts that you start writing without a real point and then you find you've tapped into some bottled up bile and resentment. It got twisted in with all of the stress of travelling after almost three years of pandemic induced isolation. Mix in the stress, expense and the cold I got when we returned home (I've tested negative for COVID four times so I've concluded I just have a bad cold) and you get a pretty negative review of Disneyland.

But I'll bet you we eventually go back.

Monday, August 22, 2022

So happy I could cry


I have written several posts about crying at the self-proclaimed Happiest Place on Earth, Disneyland. So after going there yet again last week to celebrate my son's 14th birthday, I decided to do a photo series I call, "Crying at the Happiest Place on Earth." This is me crying on the first day in the park after walking about 30 miles in sandals and rubbing my feet raw.

This is me crying in the hallway outside our room in Disney's Grand Californian. It is a beautiful hotel decorated in Mission style furniture on a grand scale that awes you when you walk into the lobby. It also features premium priced (but not premium quality) food that will bring tears to your eyes (like $20 chicken strips and a $25 dollar pepperoni pizza).

One cool aspect of staying at the Disney Grand Californian is that you have your own entrance into the California Adventure Theme Park. This is me crying in line waiting to go on the Grizzly Bear River Run where they promise you will get wet and probably soaked. There is also a huge probability that you will get queasy on the spinning river raft and another huge probability that the ride will break down after you have waited in line 45 minutes to get on it.

One of the more exciting rides in California Adventure is the Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout ride. It used to be the Tower of Terror Ride with a spooky Twilight Zone theme. They switched it over to Guardians of the Galaxy when they bought the franchise. This is me crying in front of the tower after losing control of several bodily functions during the third or fourth free fall elevator drop. That is me in the back row left.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

You stream, we stream, we all stream...

I finally cut the cable and rely completely on streaming content for my television consumption. I got sick of paying for cable that kept increasing in cost without increasing the number of channels I had access to. I was down to basic cable that was basically useless. Other than allowing me to access a few local channels (which I rarely watched anyway) it offered me nothing.

So now my cable bill only includes high-speed Internet and phone land lines. I would get rid of the phone, but my wife insists we need it for emergencies and to receive countless robo calls offering me extended warranties on my car and alerting me that someone is buying expensive things with my Amazon account.

The only down side to streaming versus cable is the number of apps I end up paying for to get premium content. I have Amazon Prime, Netflix, Apple TV, Disney +, HBO Max, Peacock, Paramount, Showtime and PBS.  It still is cheaper than basic cable and I only have to watch commercials on Peacock.

Unlike cable, which was a cultural desert of crap channels, I find myself with almost unlimited choices of things to watch. I have binge watch tons of great original content. The downside in discovering some new series and watching all of the available episodes is waiting for a new season. And sometimes they never come because Netflix or Amazon decides not to continue with the series. But even when they do come, it is sometimes after so long that I forget the plot line of the previous seasons.

What I really like is that, unlike watching premium channels on cable, I can watch a movie or series from the beginning anytime I want. I'm not at the mercy of tuning in at a specific time. And who needs a DVR? DVD's have also become obsolete. Everything is in the cloud waiting to waft down to your on demand.

I remember writing posts in the past about the marvels of DVRs and being able to pause live television. And I remember bitching about having too many cable channels and not enough good content. Who would have dreamed we would eventually be able to stream just about anything we want and any time we want. 

I can't even imagine what and how we will be watching content five or ten years from now. Maybe all we will have to do is close our eyes and content is streamed into our brains.

If that happens I know what I'll be doing at staff meetings in the future.

Monday, August 08, 2022

Picture me, if you will...


I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time experimenting with filters on Snapchat. I don't ever actually send any messages on Snapchat. I don't have a clue how it works. But I do know how to capture photos of my face with odd filter effects. It takes less time than Photoshop.

If you don't know me (which applies to just about everyone), you'd think I like my face. On the contrary, I am appalled by it, especially as it ages. I struggle with selfies to try and hide the double chin and sagging flesh. Filters at least hide some of the flaws.

Ironically, I hate having photos taken of myself. Inevitably, I look huge. And photographs always seem to capture me in the most unflattering poses with my mouth have open. Selfies with filters remedy some of that.

They also help me indulge in role playing fantasies. For example I think I would have made a pretty good cowboy.

Though I don't think I could pull off being a clown.

I find it quite horrifying, actually.

But overall filters makes me smile (in a genuine way, of course).

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Old man, look at my life


Old man, look at my life
I'm a lot like you were
Old man, look at my life
I'm a lot like you were

Lullabies, look in your eyes
Run around the same old town
Doesn't mean that much to me
To mean that much to you
I've been first and last
Look at how the time goes past
But I'm all alone at last

Rolling home to you 

--Neil Young 

 I have always liked the song, Old Man by Neil Young. I can't say the lyrics ever made sense to me other than a young man telling an old man that he was young like him at some point in his life.


Actually Neil Young was writing the song to an old man who was the caretaker of a ranch he bought in Northern California when he was 25. Apparently the old man had lived on the ranch for a long time and couldn't believe a 25 year old could afford to buy it. So Neil Young wrote the song to rub his face in it.

Well he said he wrote it to tell the man that they weren't that different than each other. He just had got rich young by playing a guitar, smoking weed and singing in a weird falsetto voice. The old man on the other hand was taking care of the young man's cows and mending fences for what I imagine was minimum wage. 

I'm a lot like you were....NOT.

I can tell you that when I was 25, I wasn't imagining I was anything like old men. I didn't want to think about getting old. And at that age I was thinking 40 was old. Now 40 seems pretty young to me. I do remember being depressed when I turned 25 because I'd let a quarter of a century go by with out much to show for it. I'd like to go back in time and slap my 25 year old self a few times.

 Speaking of getting old, I've been watching Virgin River on Netflix (don't judge). In addition to young, attractive actors, the cast includes Tim Matheson and Annette O'Toole as an aging couple. If you don't remember who they are, Tim Matheson starred in the 1978 movie Animal Shack. If you really want some trivia, he was also the voice of Johnny Quest in the 1964 cartoon. Annette O'Toole was in lots of movies and series in the 1980s and 1990s. She was Lana Lane in Superman III. She was also in a 1982 remake of Cat People that I panned in a review in my college newspaper. My review headline was "Cat People belongs in the litter box." Anyway she was pretty hot back then.

But Virgin River shows what happens to all of us when we age. Matheson, once a heartthrob, plays a crotchity old country doctor. O'Toole plays his very unlikeable wife. Even when the doctor begins losing his eyesight and his wife suffers a brain injury, it is difficult to like either character. And the challenge for me is that I keep picturing them the way they looked in the early 1980s. 

Time is not kind to any of us. 

Now lest you think I am age shaming I must remind you that I am pretty much in the same boat (which could desperately use a new coat of paint). It is just a bit jarring to see these actors who I picture in their iconic young roles, growing old. It's like going to your 40th or 50th high school reunion and wondering who all the old people are.

Now that I am in this hole, I am going to stop digging.

Oh man, look at my life.