Friday, January 26, 2007

On the Phenomenon That Is Disney...

As I prepare to launch into the planning of yet another vacation to Walt Disney World, the question that keeps coming to mind is "Why?"

Why WDW?
Why a place I've been to repeated times* before?
Why some place I know, a place I've nearly memorized my way around?
Why a place that some say is 'just for kids'?
Why spend my vacation money sustaining a huge (some even say immoral and brainwashing) corporation?

I've been asked those questions and, admittedly, have definitely asked them of myself more than once before.

So, now to try to address them in writing - mostly for myself, but in part to hopefully give my friends some sort of a semi-logical explanation.

I think I'll start with the short answer of what Disney gives me:

  • 1) Fantasy
  • 2) Escape from reality
  • 3) Unmitigated fun

Now the long answer.

1. Nostalgia

I was raised in a JW household (and I will get into the full implications of what that means some day, I promise). The point is that Disney was an intrinsic part of my childhood - and probably that of a lot of JW kids.* The first movie I ever saw in a real movie theater was the re-released Cinderella. (I loved it.*) My memories of movie watching with my sister in our family basement include countless viewings of "old" Disney classics like Robin Hood, Lady and the Tramp, and Peter Pan.* As we grew up and stopped watching Disney movies at home, this transitioned to Disney movies being one of the basic ingredients of family events. Our large, Ukrainian, all-JW family would get together at one of the aunts' homes for a big family dinner. With six kids and their spouses and children this usually meant a pretty large dinner party. And of course, no family dinner was complete without perogies, cabbage rolls, and don't forget - KFC chicken. After dinner there would almost always be a Disney movie (or The Princess Bride!) on in the background for the little kids to watch. The grown-ups would sit in the dining room talking over their cake and coffee, the teen age cousins would be in the basement playing video games and the two groups would drift back and forth, in and out of the family room where the little ones would be watching The Little Mermaid for the umpteenth time - catching bits and pieces of it, pausing for a funny part, stopping to see the ending yet another time.


Moving along...

When I think back to my childhood between the ages of 5-10 years, I remember two incredibly cool things in particular that my parents did for my sister and I. The first happened one summer when my mom had taken Karina and I out to the cottage at Grand Beach. We were eating supper one evening when my dad pulled up in the car outside, having driven out for the weekend from the city. We ran out to greet him and there, hiding in the back seat, were our cousins Wade and Candace! They'd come down for a visit from Ontario with their family. Since they only came out to Winnipeg once a year their visits were pretty important to us all. And the fact that my dad had surprised us with them, when we hadn't even known they were coming to Winnipeg, was such a huge deal to us at the time - the thrill! the excitement! There was much fun and sand castle building to be had that weekend...

The second cool thing was a trip to Florida which included a visit to Disneyworld. They told us about their plan right in the dead of winter (always the best time), showing us the brochures and a video about the Magic Kingdom. I remember by the time they were through discussing it with us we were so excited we printed off little calenders and taped them to our bedroom wall; each night we would X off a day that had gone by, counting down to the day we'd leave.

That first trip is mostly a blur now (I remember toting my raggedy old teddy bear around everywhere with me so I must have been quite young). We evidently had fun though because when we got back we started planning another vacation to WDW - this time with our grandparents coming along. All in all, we made (as I recall) 5 trips to Disney as a family. Sometimes just the 4 of us, sometimes with our grandparents or an aunt, uncle, and cousins coming along.

Of course, the family trips stopped when my sister and I stopped being JWs.

So in 2005, we made our own solo trip there. Just the two of us and one of our best friends. It was pretty neat to go to a place we'd only been as children, now returning as adults (*cough*) with all of the freedom that entailed. There was some sadness of being in a place with so many memories, but in a way I think we made that trip to start over with some new memories.

Okay, sorry, enough nostalgia!

*phew!* Its after midnight, I have a paper due (mine is on Gandhi), a UNICEF training session tomorrow, and a birthday sleepover party for lux to prepare for!

Next up - Disney's amazing ability at creating escapism (a.k.a the fantasy of the American Dream).

To Be Continued...*

* Trip #7 commences May 5, 2007
* The basic reason behind this being that Disney movies met the high standards JWs have for entertainment - they were G-rated, 'wholesome,' family movies, usually with little or no violence and certainly no promiscuity or profanity. Of course, they were almost always full of magic - a fact that was usually ignored by most JW families. (And this from a religion that was anti-Smurf!)
* In case you were wondering, my all-time Disney favorite is Beauty and the Beast.
* However, as a true PP fan, I don't view the Disney version as the real deal.
* Yes, I know - I've said that before and then forgotten. I offer up the following in my defense: "I have read but little lately. Experience has overshadowed prose." (Emily Dickinson)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

I'm kinda excited about this:

Hilary Clinton launches presendential bid

P.S. Never eat onions for breakfast - BLECH

P.P.S. Sorry for the lack of posts. I had the flu this past week.

Friday, January 12, 2007

i carry your heart...

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

e.e. cummings

(for my sister)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Claw is having a CD give-away draw! This is his second contest of the sort.

I didn't win the first one.

However, I'm determined to win this one! You can click here (and scroll down) to read my application.

You see, long ago when Elliot had not yet discovered blogging, he was a member of Eunoia* - an online community that I created 4 years ago for ourselves and our fellow XJW friends (and admirers). In its finest hour, Eunoia had over a hundred messages being posted a day. We'd discuss everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to whether Jesus was divine.

We'd also do running stories where one member started us off with an idea and then any member who wanted to participate added on to the story as they liked. As you might imagine, the plots were always fantastical and extremely convoluted. Rarely did we actually finish up a story properly... Instead we'd often lose interest and move on to the next one. As a result of the fact that anyone could participate, our stories are quite hilarious (for us) to read now.

Anyhow, I digress. At one point Elliot posted an idea he'd had for a 'movie of the far-future' which would be called The Storm-War of the Wise with the Hidden Moon. He posted the opening scene of the movie as well as the soundtrack he imagined it would have. The movie begins with the narrator speaking this, rather cryptic, line:
It was either a high-church service or a savage's war-feast - I could not discern which.
I'm not going to post the rest. I'll let Elliot do that if he wishes.

* It means 'happy thoughts'; it's the shortest word in the English language to contain all 5 vowels; I stole the idea from the title of the book the boy I was seeing at the time was reading.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Lovers are not at their best when it matters. Mouths dry up, palms sweat, conversation flags and all the time the heart is threatening to fly from the body once and for all. Lovers have been known to have heart attacks. Lovers drink too much from nervousness and cannot perform. They eat too little and faint during their fervently wished consummation. They do not stroke the favoured cat and their face-paint comes loose. This is not all. Whatever you have set store by, your dress, your dinner, your poetry, will go wrong.

from THE PASSION by Jeanette Winterson

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Quite a few people liked Apocalypto after all, which I think justifies my growing desire to see it!

Among them, one critic made the interesting point that Mel Gibson always makes movies about cultures/civilizations on the brink of extinction. Which I think is a pretty neat theme to tackle from a movie vantage point. Some days I wish I was a film student...

Anyhow, it seems that directors who repeatedly make movies with similar themes are called auteurs. (And the fact that 'auteur' was a word I didn't know again leads my mind on another dumb tangent of wondering how large my vocabulary is supposed to be by now and whether I'm ahead or behind... )

Of course, as it goes with the Net, one link leads to another and soon I was reading about Leni Riefenstahl who created documentary propaganda films for the Nazis and is still renowned as a director despite the extremely controversial nature of her work. At one point, she was accused of using concentration camp inmates - who some claim were later killed - on her sets. She was brought to trial in France but professed her innocence and naivety and, ultimately, the accusations against her didn't stand up in court.

I'm not exactly sure how anyone in such close contact with Hitler could convincingly profess their innocence in not knowing that the Nazis were up to something that was purely evil or at the very least, not good. Especially this coming from a woman who sent Hitler the telegram:
"Your deeds exceed the power of human imagination. They are without equal in the history of mankind. How can we ever thank you?"
The Wiki article concludes that "Riefenstahl suffered from a deep denial of her actual culpability, to the point that she even began to believe her own lies regarding her innocence."

I find that extremely disturbing - the points to which we can go in deceiving ourselves, I mean. It seems like self-deception should be a contradiction in terms and therefore impossible.

I think I'd have to argue that in almost every case (except perhaps cases of extreme mental... illness? but maybe not even then), an individual always knows what they are doing and always knows their own motives. Whether they'll acknowledge that they do is another story, but that doesn't change the fact that the worst should always be assumed.


Now for something that made me laugh, check this out.
Basilectically speaking...

Sometimes I wonder whether other people have to wonder as much as I do about speaking, before they speak. Thinking before they speak, I mean. Oh, you know what I mean.

For example, today I was in the car with my sister and we were listening to 'oldies music' - you know, music from the 50's and 60's on AM radio. Anyhow, a song came on and the guy singing used the word "ain't" instead of "isn't" - probably in a sentence like "ain't it a shame" or "this house just ain't no home anymooooore" (which makes me also think about how often song-writers overuse the same old tired phrases). But anyways, hearing the word 'ain't' made me start thinking about how rarely we use it in conversation - you usually only hear it in a song. If you heard someone actually say ain't out loud in a sentence you wonder about their education level or you assume they're doing it to be amusing. But if you hear it in a song, you just think... well, you either think nothing of it because you're not overly analytical or maybe you think "Wow, this guy can get away with bad grammar because he's so cool." Or whatever.

Then I was thinking about how maybe singers prefer the word ain't instead of isn't because isn't is such an ugly sounding word - I mean, say it out loud and it sounds scratchy like sandpaper. And also, ain't is only 1 syllable rather then 3! So it would probably suck to have sing the word isn't over and over again.

The point is - this was just one of those stupid little conversations you have with yourself in your head in the span of about 3 seconds. And usually you keep them to yourself because they're so trivial. But sometimes when I'm tired or feeling extremely giddy (usually due to caffeine overload) I actually have to question whether sharing the thought I had about the word ain't would be wise or not. I mean, would my sister go, "Wow! I'd never thought about that! Thank you for enlightening me!" Or would she just stare at me blankly and wonder about my IQ...

I think this is a case for Calvin & Hobbes.

Too bad they took the decade off. *sigh*

Thursday, January 04, 2007


As I play FFXII (12), I'm reminded a lot of Guy Gavriel Kay - especially his style in A Song for Arbonne and The Lions of al-Rassan. The essential components seem to be: an intricate plot revolving around political intrigue, fighting between multiple factions, a lush Mediterranean-esque setting, with high romance and adventure carried out by intensely passionate and beautiful people (all of the FF characters are stunningly perfect physically - just like those in a GGK book *sigh*) who dash from one kingdom to another on their quest to save the realm of [insert name of the main character's homeland].

Reasons I'm in love with FFXII:

1 - The graphics: I'm spoiled. You know those diehard fans of FF who started playing at FFI and think that it was just grand? Well, I'm not one of you. I get no pleasure out of playing a game - a game that involves hours and hours of sitting and staring at a screen - that is not enjoyable to look at. The graphics in FFXII are colorful, rich, and full of detail. The designers traveled to the Middle East and the Mediterranean in their search for inspiration and it certainly tells.

2 - A major leap in dialogue quality. FFXII seems to be trying for a semi-Victorian formality in its language. I don't care if its a historical rip-off - its still extremely refreshing to hear the characters speak using a creative vocabulary.

3 - Ivalice is 'a fully realized world': For the first time, I feel like I am playing in a book. A very good book.

4 - The characters are unique and intriguing. You wonder about their relationships with each other and want to learn more about them. They're not caricatures; they possess little quirks and mannerisms that endear them to you. I'm particularly curious about Balthier (that's him to the left). He's a "rakish sky pirate" with a sarcastic wit whose partner in crime (no pun there) is Fran, a lovely Viera. The Viera are (from what I can tell, and this is going to sound a bit funny but strangely it works quite well graphically) a half-woman/half-rabbit race that - like Tolkiens' elves - have an amazingly long life span and are bound to the Woods they live in. Fran is a Viera-exception since she left the Woods to travel with Balthier and in doing so broke her ties with the Wood's Voice and thus is shunned by her sister-Viera. Fran and Balthier's relationship with each other is hard to decipher - they're extremely close and he's very protective of her but are they together romantically or just close friends? Fran is hundreds of years old, while Balthier is only twenty-two so it would be quite an odd romantic relationship I suppose...

Anyhow, I'll leave off in my silly speculations and instead direct you to a fantastically written review of the game which probably describes things much better then I ever could (although I disagree with the writer's description of Fran's voice acting - I think she is supposed to sound subdued considering her age and background).

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

On the failure to act

"I know this well, that if one thousand, if one hundred, if ten men whom I could name - if ten honest men only - ay, if one HONEST man, in this state of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, were actually to withdraw from this co-partnership [with the government] and be locked up in the county jail therefore, it would be the abolition of slavery in America. For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once done well is done forever. But we love better to talk about it..."