Wednesday, October 28, 2009

To tide me over...

...till the next Disney trip...whenever that might be. (None are currently planned.)

The view across the lagoon...



This last one is at the China pavilion, looking out from the back. (Thanks to George Taylor for the correction in the comments...)


Monday, October 26, 2009

Scientific American - Vertical Farms

The recent (November 2009) issue of Scientific American has many interesting articles,but the most interesting of them to me was one titled "The Rise Of Vertical Farms". This was not the first time I'd heard of this concept; in fact, I mentioned it in this blog entry from last October, when I saw the concept at the Museum of Science and Industry.

The article lays out some basic ideas, including the author's estimate that "a one-square-block farm 30 stories high could yield as much food as 2,400 outdoor acres, with less subequent spoilage." The article also suggests that this sort of farming could reduce fossil-fuel emissions and could begin to treat wastewater as a resource to provide the necessary water rather than a by-product that necessitates disposal.

Most cities have areas that such a project could be built. The use of such facilities would allow farmland to return to "its natural grassy or wooded state", and that this would be "the easiest and most direct way to slow climate change." (I'm sure the farmers will be thrilled to allow all their land to be unused except for returning to woods and prairies, but that's a separate and different issue.)

Up-front investment would be costly, but so it is in most new applications of technology. Is it the sort of thing that should be looked into? Invested in with tax dollars? Why not, if it helps our environment, and us, in the short term? The other issue is whether there is a will to do something like this. A lot of the research has been done, much of it by NASA. IIT in Chicago is apparently working up the details of a plan for the city of Chicago at this time, and other cities are interested also.

The author describes three main ways to grow the food: drip irrigation, hydroponics, and aeroponics. Hmm. Where have I seen these in action, sort of? Oh, yeah! The Land pavilion at Epcot! Even some of the pictures in the article look vaguely familiar, since I've seen those plants hanging in mid-air getting a mist blown on their roots, or being grown in tanks of water.

Could this be a very interesting theme for The Land pavilion, which could really use some upgrading? With Soarin', a renovated Livin' With The Land, and perhaps more up-to-date exhibitions of current, cutting edge land use concepts, I think people would be plenty entertained and educated in that pavilion.

Monday, October 19, 2009

One year and 10 days...

Hey, I missed it!

I started this blog last October, on the 9th to be exact, so I've now been writing entries for the titular amount of time! This is the 71st post! I went back and re-skimmed some of the posts from that first month (I especially liked my posts on Tomorrowland Direction, and on Tomorrowland and Pessimism in Science Fiction.) I've had some clunkers, and perhaps more than my share of off-topic entries on subjects other than Disney-related material.

I had one post back there where I mentioned that I was still trying to "find my voice", and not surprisingly, I still really haven't found that one single topic where I can write (and write often) passionately about. I learned how to post photos at some point, and a few posts ago, I scanned in (and posted) six pictures I took while in WDW for my first time in or about 1975. I've had a couple posts about various Midwestern attractions we've been able to visit.

I'm no closer than I was in my first post to actually designing my own theme park, though I do have a few more ideas. I find that I'm a below-average artist, and can't really render the visions I have in my head into any sort of attractive concept art. But I'm still dreaming about this particular subject.

We probably won't be getting back to Walt Disney World until late 2010, so I'll have to content myself with other blogs (especially the ones on the left of this page) and my Disney book collection.

So concludes post number 71. I (if no one else) look forward to the next 70 or so posts...

Friday, October 16, 2009

A few more House on the Rock pix...

Here are some more photos from our visit to House on the Rock in Wisconsin:

This one is of an old dental office. The chair is pretty old; the instruments are not. (Trust me, this one I know about...)

There are "music players" spread out through the exhibits, ranging from small machines to room-sized displays. You can plug tokens into these players and listen to them. This was one of the big ones.

These photos are from the area called either "Streets of Yesterday" or "...Yesteryear". It was a quaint walk through an old-time Main Street of a small town. It looks better in person than it least when the camera is in this photographer's hands...someone who has no huge talent for photography... Main Street, USA, anyone?

The last one is of the "Japanese Gardens" which you can view on your way from the Visitor's Center to the attraction, and then again when you are returning from the attraction to your car. Very pretty, lots of detail.

It's a unique attraction, very interesting to walk through.


Monday, October 12, 2009

House on the Rock photos

We visited House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin, over Labor Day. For those who are unfamiliar with this attraction, it is a unique home designed by Alex Jordan, incorporating the natural surroundings into the house itself. The House features several interesting rooms and is highlighted by a cantilever room that extends over the wooded land below. Then there are the collections, housed in warehouse-like buildings around the House, where odds and ends are amassed in several rooms. Visitors tour the facilities, buying tickets to three separate areas of the attraction, and then walking through, reading about the various collections in the handouts provided. Not all the items are authentic, but it's an interesting journey.

One of my favorite rooms is the "Organ Room", I believe it is called. It is a dark room evoking steam-punk imagery, with different organs placed throughout the tour. Here are a few pictures of this room.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

First Disney visit, circa 1975/1976, photos

Before I had a family, I had only been to a Disney theme park one time, and that was during my sophomore year in high school when I visited with our high school band. Of course, at that time, the only park in Florida was the Magic Kingdom, and my memories were pretty sketchy. I remembered riding on the overhead tram. I remembered doing Space Mountain. I recalled the WEDWay Peoplemover. I had some memories of 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, but not of riding on it.

Yesterday, I came across these photos from that trip. I quickly (and badly, as you can see) scanned them, and though the quality is pretty poor, I think they're sort of cool, looking back in time like this.

Here's why I guess we didn't go on 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea: It was closed, and drained. They must have been doing maintenance.

Tomorrowland, with the WEDWay PeopleMover sign, and an America the Beautiful sign evident.

The last two were shots from the old Aerial Tram (what was it called?) that terminated in Tomorrowland, I think. I'm really not sure. As I've said before, I remember more about what the girls from the high school band from the New England area looked like than I do about the Disney experience, much to my disappointment today. But there they are, imperfect shots that they are. They're all I have of that vacation.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Thoughts on Giroux's book

I am the first to admit that I am sort of a Disney apologist in that I want to view the company in a good light. I am realistic in that I understand and accept that the first and main goal of the Walt Disney Company is to make money for its shareholders, and that some of the biggest shareholders are the board members and senior management. This arrangement is good and bad, I suppose, in that it rewards the decision makers (disproportionately, perhaps) for making the decisions that determine whether the company makes money, and thus whether the shareholders' value increases and their dividends are paid. On the other hand, perhaps it places too much a premium on making Disney a "growth" stock, with the emphasis on increasing share values, instead of an "income" stock, with the emphasis on providing a steady predictable dividend stream.

But I wasn't writing here to debate the pros and cons of the direction the Disney Company is taking, with respect to their business decisions. I was thinking about the subtle abuse of their "trust" that Giroux is alleging in his book THE MOUSE THAT ROARED. Specifically, I've been thinking about some of the evidence he puts out there to suggest that Disney has an agenda which includes promoting a specific set of values, including a rather sexist take on things and even a racist take on the world.

I returned the book to the library, so I may have some lapses in memory, but if I recall correctly, one of his main points to show that Disney was (in the 1990's) using racial coding was examining the movies ALADDIN and THE LION KING and looking at specific characterizations, especially vocally. He suggests that all the "bad guys" in ALADDIN speak with heavy Middle Eastern accents, and that the bad guys in LION KING speak sort of "ghetto" English, accented toward either African-American dialect or Hispanic dialect, while the good guys speak with English or American accents.

At first glance, this would seem to be true, especially when you consider that Whoopi Goldberg and Cheech Marin voice the bad hyenas that do Scar's bidding. But then you look a little deeper, and you notice that Scar himself doesn't speak with this sort of accent, and no one's "badder" than him. Maybe they're given these voices in an effort to be, oh, say, maybe funny? Maybe less threatening? It would seem logical that they wanted these figures to be funny since they hired as voice actors a prominent African American comedian and a fairly prominent Hispanic comedian. And the accents distinguish these characters from others, give them their own persona. It's unfortunate that it can be taken as racial "coding", but if they made them all sound like Simba, what would set them apart?

Okay, so you could argue that maybe they should have reversed the accents. They could have given Simba the African American voice and the hyenas the "white middle class" voices. I suppose that might have worked, but Disney does know their audience, and Giroux is on target when he points out that "white, middle class" probably describes the main audience. Remember, this was in the 1990's, too. I can't counter the argument, except to say that perhaps they figured the hyenas wouldn't be funny enough to not be overly threatening with that vocal characterization.

And in ALADDIN, it might be true that many characters in the movie speak with Arabic accents, while Aladdin, Jasmine, and the Sultan do not. (Neither does the "bad" bird, Iago - though we might wish he does after listening to enough Gilbert Gottfried.) Then I thought, does Jafar have a heavy Arabic accent? I admit it's been a while since I've seen the movie, but I thought he had a more cultured, almost British snob, accent. Am I wrong?

As for the rest of the characters, I just don't remember that many other "bad guys" in the movie. The guards? I don't remember what they sounded like, to be honest. But I probably wouldn't be surprised to listen to them and hear an Arabic accent, since they are, well, ARABS! Again we go to the fact that Aladdin doesn't speak with this same inflection. Again, I would suggest that they want to make him identifiable with their target audience.

Giroux points out early, and then reiterates throughout his book, that his is but one reading of these Disney texts, and others are possible, and not everyone will get this out of the movies. He also is careful to point out that he doesn't consider Disney to be some sort of "evil empire". I was sort of shocked (?) after reading some of his analysis because it was so far from my own experiences when watching (and enjoying) these two movies. He also discusses POCAHANTAS, MULAN, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, but his criticisms are not painted in the same racial brush. He accuses Disney of sexism in its portrayal of it's females through all of the movies, even Mulan, but in that I can more or less see his point. I even agree with it, even though I attribute their use of it in telling the stories they tell to something less sinister than trying to influence the values of their viewers. I figure it's got more to do with marketing the kind of stories they want to market, and tell the kind of stories they know how to tell.

All in all, it seems it's a lot of analysis to tell us something we already know: Disney is/was trying to sell more tickets, more home videos, and more merchandise, and is/was targeting the audience that they thought would give them the most of their hard earned money.

Giroux also analyzes PRETTY WOMAN and GOOD MORNING VIETNAM, and if I can come up with anything coherent about them, I'll write it up. (Not that this little essay was totally coherent...thanks for suffering through it if you got down here...)