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Exit ArchiveArchive for June, 2006

Over at Joblo.com, one of its bloggers is actually — wait for it — defending Mr. Lucas. In part:

And the absolute, biggest gripe I have with people about this is when they blame George Lucas for “butchering my childhood”. No! Georgie-boy didn’t butcher, ruin, alter, change, destroy, etc., your childhood because he changed a few movies 20 years later. If all it takes to ruin your childhood is for some old guy you’ve never met to alter a freakin’ movie, then you must have had one f’d up childhood. Your dad on his death bed telling you “I never loved you” would be something that could ruin your childhood. Your mom telling you she was actually a KGB double agent could ruin your childhood. A director changing his own movie has absolutely no effect on one’s childhood.

Quite an interesting fan perspective on Star Wars.

I know that Steve has implied that the blogger over at Epcot Central has essentially the same arguments — namely, making creative changes that irrevocably changed an experience; tinkering with something good only to find it has been lessened.  And while I would never want to imply that Steve’s implications are implicitly wrong, I will say this: In sum, the substantive changes to the Star Wars movies total about, oh, five to seven minutes out of about 380 minutes of movie.  That’s about 1.8 percent of the movies that have changed.

Now, if only 1.8 percent of Epcot had changed substantially over the years, not only would it be hoplessly mired in early 1980s technology and information, but that would mean that about one-third of just one attraction had been significantly altered (if I’m doing my math right).  I think that the Epcot guy could probably live with that.  Too bad so many Star Wars fans continue to get up in arms over the fact that 98.2 percent of their movies have remained exactly the same (except, of course, for the 100 percent that was restored and remastered a couple of years back).

Ooh, I just love playing devil’s advocate.  :-)

I just have to pass this one around, like a platter of Loddiswell Avondale:

During the surprising lightning storm last night—as rare and marvelous a sight in Los Angeles as a woman with natural lips and breasts—Robb’s power went out. Unable to use his computer, he decided to write his blog out long-hand on lined notebook paper. It’s a hoot. Go read it now.

It reminded me of that letter I wrote myself from 1990. Robb’s humorous entry, which pokes fun at the kind of notes one would have written back in high school, made me realize how grown-up I was in 1990, a sophomore in college, because my simple smily faces were, thanks to the nascent influence of my higher education, newly infused with social commentary in the form of anti-nuclear protestations. (Don’t forget, the USSR was still around in 1990.)

And for your information, I did not misspell “smiley.” I simply decided to spell it as I used to in elementary school, when I had created my very own troop of smily faces, each with its own stats page in an illustrative guide. That would be something to scan and post, and if I ever wrestle that big box of my ancient drawings from my folks’ place in Grand Junction to my cramped apartment in L.A., I’ll do so.

But in the meantime, go enjoy Robb’s Grade A Fancy Old-Tyme Blog entry.

Walt Disney is constantly called a visionary, so much so that I have become numb to hearing it. I’ve never particularly had any reverence for the man, though I have admired much that he created.

Well, thanks to EPCOT Central, the blog that has nothing to do with the guy whose name I can’t mention, I saw something that got me truly believing that, had he lived even another 10 years, Walt Disney would have impacted the American cultural landscape in much more far-reaching ways.

I’m going to steal that link from Jo— er, Epcot82′s blog, though you can read the post from whence it came here. The link leads to Walt’s purportedly last movie… last movie he was in. (I don’t say “purportedly” because I doubt that it was his last film, I say it because I like to confirm things myself, and I’m not going to go off and research that now because I should be in bed instead of writing this.) Ah, so, the link…

Here it is: Walt’s Last Film [UPDATE: This link no longer works. But the film is available on YouTube. This one is in pieces, but has better audio than the full one. —Oct. 1, 2010]

The movie is Walt announcing and selling Disney World and, mostly, EPCOT, to potential partners in its creation. It’s an astounding, broad vision, the kind of thing no one in their right mind could even begin to dream of today because the world is simply too wrapped up in itself and in money to allow for the actual execution of such a vision. Not that it wasn’t a huge endeavor in 1967, but if you think about how expensive and slow it is today to even get a stupid, cheap block of condos up, imagine trying to create an entire city. In 2006, it’d be impossible.

The movie is 24 minutes, but incredibly engaging. First, there’s the dated announcer and pace of the film. A movie like this would, today, be no more than 9 minutes long, contain more fancy effects and editing than content, and ask more questions than it answers (to, you see, engage the audience!). So the luxurious but non-wasteful meandering of the movie is worth seeing. But once the film gets past the history of Disneyland and a bunch of stats and puffery, it delves into EPCOT. And, holy cow, if this thing had come to fruition… my God.

Sure, there’s something creepy about a planned society. Certainly, the Stepfordesque Celebration that Disney, the company, finally did end up creating in Florida creeped me out because it was not looking toward the future, but trying to re-create the past. Disney does not own Celebration any more. Were the same fate to befall a planned city with a futuristic vision, disaster might ensue were it left to fall into disrepair. Futuristic dystopias tend to be more frightening than old-fashioned ones. (Here’s one of my favorites: High Rise by J. G. Ballard.) If Disney’s current inability to maintain its properties to the same standards it once held is any kind of indication, an old, worn EPCOT would be a depressing tragedy. Such neglect would be entirely assured had Disney sold the city off at some point.

Imagine, however, what might have happened if EPCOT had been created to Walt’s standards. Even if the city was destined to fall into decay 30 years later, a brand-new, shiny, successful EPCOT would have created untold bounty in the realm of urban planning. This is where the trickle-down effect really happens. A successful EPCOT city would have brought technologies and styles and concepts to many, many other places around the world. On a smaller scale today, look at what’s happening with Los Angeles: Mixed-use complexes are going up everywhere. Someone thought it would be smart to put living and work and commerce together in the form of condos, apartments, offices, and shops. The Grove is sort of this way, though the mall and the luxury apartments are across the street from each other. Both have been so shockingly successful that a trend has begun. West Hollywood and Glendale have already started their mixed-use projects. Downtown will have its own version, located, almost ironically in this sense, next to the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The mixed-use idea is not new, just a re-hash of a very, very old practice that fell out long ago. EPCOT, too, is a version of the kind of planned cities envisioned by thinkers from long before Walt’s time. But Walt could have pulled it off. It would have been a huge kick in the pants, a jump-start for convenient, well-planned urban design.

And if EPCOT didn’t succumb to ruin and instead became what Walt described as an ever-evolving, always-updated, modern community? If Disney the company and its partners had stayed the course and continued to coddle and nurture and imbue EPCOT with attention, time, money, creativity, technology, and quality? Holy cow, that’s the thing that gets my mind going. That’s what gripped my imagination. That’s what made me wish that Walt had stayed on a while longer to show us things no one could have imagined. The Disney company today loves to toss around phrases like “beyond imagination,” but it’s all marketing. Walt might have been able to show us that you can keep reaching and challenging the norm.

Whether EPCOT worked or not, and whether or not I can buy into the unsettling notion of a community planned by a company, the fact that Walt had the dream and was poised and ready to go with it is as impressive a vision as I can imagine. I guess Walt was a truly unique visionary after all.

As I go through life, creating less and less and merely existing more and more, I stumble upon things I wrote anywhere from one to twenty years ago, and I always get this feeling that I am, somehow, merely existing more and more and creating less and less. It’s a crushing feeling. Until I remember that I have The Wren Forum, and the The Wren Forum is full of genius! (This is a form of faux flattery that gets me through the long, sunny California days.)

Exhibit A: A story I wrote on a whim in 1994, just a few months after I moved to L.A. and, by happenstance, also began working at Disney as the receptionist for BVHE IS, which was at the time situated in a warehouse in Glendale. I literally had nothing to do all day. Even when I had something to do, I still had to pretend I had something to do. As you’ll see.

I imagine this story is somewhere in the three-ring binder I created for all my new Disney friends sometime in 1996, collecting the best of our stories and e-mails from our two-year romp through the IS department. (Damn, we ranthat place!) I called the binder tome In the Company of Geeks, and it sits like a treasure in my still-doorless, drawerless buffet.

Here’s the story and its e-mail wrappings in their original glory. I only had a desire to change one tiny thing, but I didn’t. No, it’s not the misspelling of Lamborghini. A shiny new penny to the first person who can guess what it is I would have changed.

* * * * * * * *

Author: Steve Lekowicz at HVFS3
Date: 12/13/94 11:15 AM
Priority: Normal
TO: Carol Cichon
TO: Michelle Ferrara
TO: SANDRA KELLY
TO: Steve Rowley
Subject: A Clandestine Bamboozle
——————————- Message Contents ——————————-
The reason I’m typing this is because there are some people here waiting for
Lloyd, and I have to look busy. So let me tell you a little story…

There was a woman named Horace who, though her name was atrocious, was as
beautiful as her father was ugly. Her ugly father, Grant, was a collector of
rare promotional items, like Coca-Cola dim sum organizers and Filter Fresh
T-shirts.

One day, Grant decided to take a long journey in search of The Gilded Beer
Huggy, a very rare item originally given out by MCI to its satisfied customers.
(It was rumored that there was only one Gilded Beer Huggy in existence.) So
Grant set off, leaving Horace behind to watch over the condo.

Horace found her freedom to be delightful, and day after day, she pranced about
the condo in her bare feet, humming lightly-tuned Kenny G songs to herself and
eating Snack Wells fat-free Cream Cheese Delights.

In her third week of solitude, however, she became moribund. She lacked her
previous verve and delight in life. So she set off for the Alpha-Beta to find
adventure. There, in the snack foods aisle, she saw the most handsome man ever.
He turned and saw her. He held a box of Snack Wells reduced-fat Fudge Blops.
Their eyes connected (Horace’s and the man’s, not Horace’s and the Blops’.)

After a brief affair in the bulk foods section, Horace decided to run away with
Linda (for that was the man’s name) and live forever with him in his
rent-controlled bungalow in the Sierra Madres. Just as the two were leaving the
Alpha-Beta, however, a small, pitiful cry rang out from a dark, poorly lit
aisle. Horace was beckoned by name into the dimness, where she found herself
surrounded by Hostess baked goods and Simply Fruit multi-packs. She leaned over
the dark figure calling her name… it was her father, Grant, who had become
stuck in a mass of eucalyptus honey from a broken jar he’d knocked off the shelf
in his quest for the Gilded Beer Huggy.

Horace was torn. She so wished to help her father from the mass and tend to him
in his older years, but she equally wished to run away with the handsome Linda.
Her mind tossed like a salad with Bac-Os and those quaintly-sized Pepperidge
Farm seasoned croutons.

With blind confusion, she dashed to the back of the store. There, she met an old
woman who was gently fondling a package of bratwurst, and the woman said to her,
“Young lady, heed my advice. Care for your father, for it was he who gave you
life.” Just then, the voice of an equally old woman (thumping an olive loaf to
test for ripeness) said, “Follow your heart, dearie, for it will wither if you
do not.” The two old women glared at each other, then leapt upon one another in
a vicious fight. Horace could only watch in horror as the two old ladies
battered each other to death with meat products and newspaper coupons and,
inexplicably, court summons.

As Horace left the carnage behind her, a light dawned upon her. The light was
from the Store Directory, whose fluorescent light was on the fritz. As the
Directory flashed and buzzed, one thing on the list drew her attention the most:
FEMININE NEEDS.

With that revelation, Horace left the damn Alpha-Beta, her ugly father Grant and
the inaptly-named Linda, and bought a Lambourghini, in which she rode out the
rest of her happy years.

THE END

* * * * * * * * *

Well, those people have come and gone, but at least my story is done.

–Steve

* * * * * * * *

WELCOME BACK TO 2006. I see I still use rows of asterisks to separate text ideas. And it turns out I want to change one more tiny little thing. But not here. Oh, no. Here, the story remains pure. But a shiny new nickel to anyone who guesses the second change.

Pearls Before Swine Angry Blogger

I saw this video over at Darren’s site. (Direct link.)

[NOTE: The former link no longer worked. This link has more of the surrounding story. Note how the Fox lady colors every comment with viewpoint nstead of letting the story speak for itself.]

For just a moment, I thought Fox News was going to be doing an anti-anti-gay interview with this woman. That would be shocking, since Fox tends to be fairly anti-gay itself.

As you can see, however, the interview immediately degenerates into an immature shouting match, which is not too terribly surprising considering this is Fox. The anchor ends up counter-preaching the Bible to Shirley of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), and takes a pro-military, pro-America stance. Shocking. Though you can barely hear anything in the verbal melee, the anchor does provide a few choice Biblical counterpoints. Her arguments are no better than Shirley’s, though, because she’s just as bull-headed and argumentative, and she is the one who instigates the shouting in the first place.

A journalist is supposed to allow the person she is interviewing to complete her argument, or at least get a good way through, before calmly offering a counterpoint question or point that suggests the subject’s viewpoint may be seen as inappropriate or wrong. This bimbo (as Shirley calls her) is no journalist. She’s a mirror Shirley on the other side of the screen. The folks at Fox News know it’s good TV, if not good journalism, to attack so reprehensible an organization as the WBC. I find that in itself just as reprehensible.

Consider that this kind of interview plays perfectly into the WBC’s hands. The WBC gets fuel for their zealot fire, while Fox’s technique is indefensible as a successful exposé of the WBC’s nefarious actions and beliefs. Fox is unable to say that they provided a clean and intelligent forum for the WBC to hang itself with its own comments. They merely staged a Jerry Springer-like shouting match. Anyone can do that.

I’m certainly not supporting the WBC in any way. Just try to visit its website. If you can stomach it for more than a few moments, you will see what an awful organization it is. I would welcome a good on-air skewering of the WBC, but Fox does not have the talent, patience, intelligence, professionalism, or maturity to do so properly. Once again, where’s Edward R. Murrow when you really need him? (I know, dead, but still…)

Flower Hair

One of Molly’s hair creations, this time in public, at an Italian restaurant.

Xavier: Ear Plug Lunatic!

Jacob’s friend, Xavier, makes very good use of the free ear plugs at Sam Ash.

The Bar Mitzvah Crazy Kiddie Bus

Being the bus chaperone, I got to be on the crazy kids bus both before and after the party. Oy!

Testing a video post: John plays Ziggy.

UPDATE: Never mind. That really didn’t work. I took the video away. I shall make it up to you by presenting a premium collection of high-quality vowels.

E O I O A U E A U A

Band in a Truck

Jacob’s dad, John, plays drums in two bands. This one is providing today’s entertainment at the school.

Wilson School's Tiny Ferris Whee

At the 75th anniversary of Wilson School in Rockville Centre. This tiny ferris wheel is kinda like a little revolving prison for kids.

Many Minivans in Rockville Centre

Post-bar mitzvah suburban Long Island sight.

Dinner and drinks at The Algonquin with Marcy and Chuck. Michelle and Alan not pictured.

Apple Glass Cube Tech Mecca

You knew I HAD to come here…

(I also discovered my posts weren’t posting, so I’m fixing them on one of the black MacBooks in the store. Weee. Couldn’t you just wriggle with excitement?)

This plane to New York is bizarre… First and Business Classes take up two-thirds of the plane. Beyond the bulkhead toward the back of the picture lie three rows of first class and the cockpit. Only 36 seats total before you get to coach.

United P.S. Plane Front

Economy Class is tiny, and it’s all Economy Plus. The bulkhead at the back of this picture is pretty much the back of the plane. This whole change of format has got of spooked. And we get food! What freaky alternate universe is this?

United P.S. Plane Back

UPDATE: We also were on one of these planes on the return trip. Turns out this is a United P.S. plane. I think it means Premium Service, but who knows? It’s a special services between specific cities where they charge you more for legroom that used to be standard and service that also used to be standard. The weird layout is not standard, but it sure made disembarking the plane very fast. Somehow they let me use my normal 25,000 miles to book this flight for free. Strange.

Do Not Throw Foreign Objects Into Urinals

Off to NYC. This is my parting gift.

Did you know you could do this with Mentos and Diet Coke? No, me neither.

Go to that link and watch the video. It’s absolutely superb.

Thanks, Matt!

This post has derived from the discussion going on over at Thank Goodness This Didn’t Require a Senate Confirmation Hearing. You might wish to visit there to discover the origins of blinds, shades, whatever you want to call them.

What Matt is referring to is a little incident on our flight out to Oahu on Hawaiian Airlines in February. The sun was fairly low in the sky, but not blindingly low, and they had asked people to put their shades down to darken the cabin. (I call it a shade, not blinds, and thus my semantic confusion with Matt’s reference.) I didn’t shut mine because part of the deal with being on a plane is you get a wonderful view of the earth from way high up. Asking everyone to shut their window shades is horrible. See, instead of everyone being cooped up in their sad abodes watching crappy movies on their crappy TVs and ignoring the world outside, they are cooped up in a poorly-ventilated, flying cattle car watching crappy edited movies on miserably maintained LCD screens or projectors more crappy than their crappy TVs at home and ignoring the fact that they are FLYING VERY HIGH UP IN THE SKY! There should be no movies on planes. Only the Zen delight of soaring up over the landscape and clouds. It’s one of the only remaining delights of flying in this post-9/11-excuse world.

So I never close my shade on those rare occasions when I’m sitting by the window. I enjoy the sunlight and the view.

A stewardess (once again, the outdated title is deserved) came upon Matt and I to serve us food. Hawaiian Airlines is one of the very few airlines left that serves food on their flights, you see. Anyhow, as the woman came to us, she asked me, not politely but not rudely, to close my window shade. I said, “No, that’s okay. I’m using this,” as I pointed to the view of the ocean below. Her second, more horror-film-worthy personality surfaced without warning. She reached over and, slamming my shade down, said, “Just shut it!”

Wow. I was taken aback. I did not understand the vitriolic response. My only thought was that she was blinded by some kind of glare while trying to serve us and needed my window shut. If that were the case, she could have asked nicely and I would have done so. As it stands to this day, her actions were still uncalled for.

Just like the time back on a trip I was talking in the halcyon days of my youth, traveling with school friends. It was probably the national leadership conference thingy in Oklahoma City when I was in junior high. I do not think it was the high school trip to Europe, the one where we were on the TWA flight from Rome to Greece that, upon its return trip back to Rome, was hijacked by terrorists. This was the general belief on the tour bus the first morning after our flight, anyway, when we all found out about the hijacking. It may have been the same plane returning to Rome the next day, or it may not have been. I to this day believe it was the same plane because doing so creates a layer of mystery to my life that makes me prime meat on the dating scene. But this… this is simply too many digressions within digressions. Wherever it was I was heading as a young lad, I was a little upset that the best part of the meal on that flight was missing from my tray: the pickle. I asked the stewardess (no derision, for that’s what we were all calling them back then—though I guess that certainly is a weak excuse) if she could bring me a pickle since I did not get one. The look she gave reminds me now of a look Khandi Alexander might give as Catherine on NewsRadio. The stewardess said nothing, and walked away, leaving her withering stare behind to stir me into verbal rebellion with my friends. I do not have to finish this parenthetical by telling you I never got a pickle.

After Matt and I got our meals, window shade still smoking from the friction of being shut so quickly, my confusion was replaced by indignation. Screw this haughty air whore! I wanted my view! I put my shade two-thirds back up as soon as she moved away.

The sad thing about this is that, while I was in the middle of my little rebellious tiff and indignant fulmination, I was actually cowering inside, wondering if the polyester-enrobed sky harpy might return and some kind of altercation would ensue. Though I was ready to fight, I was cowering because I didn’t want to go through the nonsense of having to do so. Not on a flight to beautiful Hawaii.

The bitter vixen did not return, so I put my window shade all the way back up. The meal was abysmal.

So that, dear friends, is what Matt was talking about. In fact, this has turned into such a fantastic little essay, I’m going to give it a post all its own, an ancillary benefit being that the pathos of the original post won’t be sullied with tales of ill-tempered traveling termagants. (Yes, I had to find that word in the thesaurus.)

So typing in that annoying code before posting a comment was a pain in the ass part of the body. In fact, it was not enough to stop spam, so not long ago I added a vaguely fun (or not, for some people) math entry plug-in as well. Both of those, together, were enough to stop all the spam I was getting.

But I love convenience and ease of use, so I will be trying a few new services to automagically capture spam and do away with it. I do not know how well these supposedly transparent items will work, so if you notice anything strange or confusing or if comments don’t seem to be getting through, let me know. (I will still be able to see your comments if they are caught as spam, so do try.)

If the plug-ins don’t work, I will, sadly, have to bring the numbers back into play.

Thank you for your patience, understanding, and love of fine cheeses.