Hewing to a Theme

Today’s collection of news articles all has to do with theme parks, or places akin to theme parks, that have been in the news lately:

Music: Dueling Banjos (Eric Weissberg & Marshall Brickman): Pony Express


Lost and Found

A few lost and found notes:

  • Found: My keys. Kudos to the United team at DSM (Des Moines), who found my keys from the flight, correlated them with my email, and fedexed them to me. According to my wife and daughter, the fob works on my car, so it looks like the correct set. For all we complain about UAL, it’s nice to be able to complement them when they do something right.
  • Lost: My daughter’s month-old cell phone, on the river rafting ride at Disney’s California Adventure.
  • But Found: My daughter’s month-old cell phone, when they rode the ride a second time and asked the attendant if a phone had been found. Even more amazing (although I haven’t see it myself) is that my wife and daughter report the phone is undamaged (and with no water damage, even).

Wednesday Link Chum: Delis, Shamu, Universal Studios, Helen Keller, Fresh & Easy, and other Nonsense

It’s been a busy day, but not so busy that I haven’t got some chum for you, my, umm, chums….

  • From the “Do Not Make a Stingy Sandwich, Pile The Cold Cuts High” Department: The NY Times has an interesting article about a dying breed of restaurant: the Kosher-Style/Kosher Deli. They have fewer customers, especially as folks become more health conscious. I should note that even the NY Times mentions our local deli, Brents, in the article. Anyway, I have noticed the clientele becoming leaner at our local faves… and I hope this is an institution that doesn’t fade away. So what’s your favorite deli?
  • From the “Shamu and Beer” Department: St. Louis Today is reporting that Busch Entertainment has been sold by AB In-Bev to Blackstone Group. If this doesn’t mean anything to you, let me translate: the corporate parent of Seaworld and Busch Gardens is no longer owned by the beer company. To me, Busch Gardens will always be the one that used to exist in Van Nuys.
  • From the “Valley Theme Park” Department: Speaking of San Fernando Valley themeparks, the Daily News is reporting that Universal Studios is getting a makeover. It doesn’t look like it will touch the themepark, but will touch most of the area around the studio, including some new roads between Burbank and US 101.
  • From the “But Could She See It” Department: CNN is reporting that Alabama is replacing one of their two statues in the senate with a statue of Helen Keller. Keller’s statue will replace one depicting Jabez Curry in the Capitol Gallery. Curry was a Georgia native who served as president of Howard College, which later became Samford University in Birmingham. They are keeping the statue of Joseph “Fightin’ Joe” Wheeler, a Confederate general during the Civil War who, three decades later, volunteered to serve in the Spanish-American War at age 62 and attained the same rank in the U.S. Army. He was the only one of 425 Confederate generals to do so.
  • From the “Fresh and Easy” Department: One market that we have grown to like is Fresh and Easy, which has a nice selection of gluten-free foods. Alas, the LA Times is reporting that they are still losing money, to the tune of $259M in the last fiscal year. Ouch!
  • From the “Be A Clown” Department: Lastly, for you silly folks out there, the NY Times is reporting that nonsense can sharpen the intellect. So do something nonsensical every day. Narf.

Come Saturday Morning, I’ll Chum Away With My Friends…

The wife’s at the CDF Conference, and my daughter’s off at her middle school helping with the lighting design for their next musical… so I’m home alone to clean the house and skim the papers. A few items for your enjoyment:


People In The News

Today’s news chum is about people in the news. So, without further fanfare, some items noted whilst perusing the news over lunch…

  • From the “Walt Disney” File: The Los Angeles Times is reporting on the updated plans for Disney’s California Adventure. As they say, “This time, for sure”. The general approach is to theme the area and entrance to reflect Walt Disney in 1920’s Los Angeles, just as the entrance to Disneyland reflects Walt’s boyhood in Missouri. The equivalent of the castle will be a recreation of the Carthay Circle theatre where Snow White premiered. The Red Car trolley that recalls the old Pacific Electric Railway will rumble and clang along Buena Vista Street, conjuring up the bygone era and winking at Walt’s love of trains. Paradise Pier will take on a nostalgic seaside amusement park vibe, with glittering lights and new boardwalk games incorporating a mix of such classic and contemporary Disney characters. There will be a World of Color nighttime display of water effects, lighting and music to bring new energy to the pier, together with a new Little Mermaid ride, and of course, a Cars-themed area. You can see an updated map here.
  • From the “Thomas Kinkade” File: Of course, the “World of Color” brings to mind Thomas Kinkade, the self-titled “Painter of Shite”. According to the LA Times, Kinkade has made ArtReview’s List of the Power 100. True, he’s number 100 out of 100, but if being 844 out of 899 in his Naval Academy class is good enough for John McCain, being 100 out of 100 should be good enough for Kinkade.
  • From the “Carmen Rocha” File: The LA Times is also bringing news of the death of long-time El Cholo waitress Carmen Rocha. El Cholo is one of the oldest Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles (started in 1923), and Rocha is responsible for the introduction of that signature dish we all know and love: Nachos.
  • From the “Joe the Plumber” File: The SF Chronicle brings us some more information about that debate favorite, Joe the Plumber. However, it seems that Joe is really Sam; he isn’t a licensed plumber; he wouldn’t be seeing a tax increase for his plumbing business; he actually owes back taxes and has tax liens; and he’s a registered Republican, having lived in both Arizona and Alaska.
  • From the “Barack Obama” File: Alright, I can’t resist. There are a number of significant endorsements of Barack Obama out there: Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Playing Tourist in Los Angeles

Today we had some dear friends down from the Bay Area, so I did some work from home in the morning, and then burned a few vacation hours to go to Universal Studios with everyone. The park wasn’t at all crowded, and it was quite fun. We did the obligatory studio tour (the tour guide, as usual, was quite good). We did the Waterworld show, which I always enjoy because the actors have such fun with it. We did Jurassic Park (my first time on it), and it was actually quite fun (more like Pirates but with a bigger drop at the end). Lastly, we did the Backdraft attraction, which was quite good but should be avoided if you are sensitive to kerosene. Quite fun, and things like this make the annual pass worthwhile (plus Versailles at Citywalk for lunch)

I’ll note that work is proceedings on the Simpsons ride (opens May 17); the Nickelodeon wet zone is now Curious George themed, and the I-Love-Lucy walk-through in the lower park appears to be gone (apparently it is being replaced with a Universal Museum, opening in April).

I still miss the days of the old stunt show with the western actors, but I guess kids these days don’t understand from westerns. I still have fond memories of the old days of the studio tour, and the plaza with the giant pencils, the McHales Navy set, Ma and Pa Kettle Farm, and walking through the bungalows. I could swear that Frank was bigger then.


And The World Gets Smaller, and the Corporations Get Bigger

As those who have been to the House of Mouse lately know, the Small World ride is closed for renovations. An entry in the LA Times travel blog today indicates that this renovation is starting to raise concerns — not anything weighty — but more content based. It appears that (according to rumors) there are plans to introduce some Disney characters (reportedly Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Peter Pan, Belle, Simba, Nemo, Lilo and Stitch) amongs the multi-ethnic children, and to replace the Papua, New Guinea, rain forest scene with an American tribute. There are evidently details on this at both Miceage and Reimagineering (a very good blog on Disney Park design).

Now most of us avoid Small World when we go to the park, if only to avoid the infamous Sherman and Sherman earworm. But Small World does represent a particular idealistic vision of its original designer (a vision, alas, well suited to Fantasyland, given human nature as it is today). It would be a shame if that vision was lost or bastardized to the great god of character marketing or jingoism.