January 18, 2017

Thinking About Sting

Sometimes an artist has just been away too long. It's certainly the case with Sting- and it is not to his advantage. Love the man's voice, songwriting skill and all around talent, but this album does not reflect his best work.  Part of this assessment comes from years of listening to the man both solo and in various groupings where he continued to shine. 

The new disc, his 12th solo album and his first true rock and roll album in an amazing 13 years- yes, 13 years!- isn't a total fail, but it's close.

The opening number, I Can't Stop Thinking About You, is a catchy, frothy, Police worthy tune. Yet, it's downhill from there and rather quickly. One Fine Day is the best of the rest, leaving a collection of mediocre songs to round it out. Cherry pick these couple of cuts from i-tunes and move on.

Perhaps it's time to put on his still excellent Ten Summoner's Tales or even the later Brand New Day disc and remind myself of the good old days. 

January 17, 2017

A Gleaming Golden Spaceship Earth

EPCOT Center! Say it again. It rolls nicely off the tongue. Here's the iconic Spaceship Earth in concept art, gleaming in the midday sun, sitting right at the front of Future World

Guests came into the park by the thousands long before the character invasion of recent years. They couldn't wait to be entertained and educated by Walt's amazing Imagineers- and they were not disappointed. The World of Motion, Universe of Energy, The Land, joined the incredible Journey into Imagination.  

And then there were the charms of World Showcase. Oh, well- what used to be! Perhaps the future will be bright one day.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 16, 2017

MLK: The Right Time

"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."
                                                                        Martin Luther King Jr.

As a follower of Jesus, this incredible leader still makes an impact. I believe the only hate we ever saw in him was his hate of injustice. 

 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.  Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.  But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
1 John 2:9-11

Faith deeply rooted in God's love was the driving factor in all he accomplished. That was his legacy. What will be yours?

January 14, 2017

Vog Has Its Uses...

So I decided to head down to Diamond Head late afternoon to try and photograph the sunset. A lot of my photographer friends have been posting amazing images with intense colors shot at both sunrise and sunset. The reason is the volcano on the Big Island is very active, spewing tons of lava into the ocean. It's always amazing to see God's handiwork in action, witnessing the creation of land mass and island expansion. The downside is having to deal with vog...a form of air pollution that occurs when sulfur dioxide and other gases mixed with the oxygen in the air. It can be especially difficult on senior citizens, young children, and people with asthma or allergies. The upside is the incredible colors produced during the sun's entrance and exit. If there are clouds in the sky, it's an added bonus.

It's been a pretty rough week (which I'll cover in a future post), so it was nice to get away and enjoy some quiet solitude. Just me, my camera, and the sunset. Oh yes, there were a few tourists...and a couple of local fishermen...and some nude sunbathers...but otherwise, quiet solitude.

Have a blessed weekend I & S readers!

  (Photo copyright Len Yokoyama 2017)

A Little Fan Help Requested

Ok, Disney theme park fans and historians. Tell me, won't you, is this a legitimate Disney Imagineer designed attraction poster or a piece of excellently done fan art for Tomorrowland's Astro Orbiter attraction? Whichever the case, it certainly captures the excitement of New Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom!

Notable and Quotable: Andy Knuth

"Without God’s presence, the might of His people was nothing more than a mirage in the desert, and without God’s presence our churches will be just the same. They will taunt the lost with life, but never impart it. "
                                        Andy Knuth
pastor of Undone Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado

January 13, 2017

Smelling A Rat(atouille) in Epcot

Here's an interesting tidbit of news that is sure to delight some, dismay others, and one that will certainly be met with all kinds of fan speculation: According to an insider on the great WDWMagic site, a new attraction is being planned at Epcot for the 50th anniversary celebration of Walt Disney World

The good news? It should be an incredible, people pleasing attraction. The winning Disney film property is either Beauty and the Beast or Ratatouille in the France pavilion in World Showcase. Regardless of how loyal EPCOT Center fans feel, the character invasion is taking hold of the park. But let's be honest, this park needs a facelift with new attractions, greater capacity, and a clear focus. Something it hasn't had since the 90's.

The once planned Audio-Animatronic show for Paris. 
Now turned into an exclusive Mystic Manor type attraction for Tokyo Disneyland.

The downside? Seems that the rather weak and undernourished Walt Disney Studios Paris will be losing one of its few original attractions. It's still a dismal little park. More bad news? It also seems Tokyo Disneyland will remain the only home of the greatest Beauty and the Beast attraction ever. Could they place it in the Florida Magic Kingdom and expand the New Fantasyland? Yes, they have the room. Will they do it? Probably not.

This concept art (above) shows an Audio-Animatronics show for Disneyland Paris that was never built, as that style of Disney attraction has sadly gone the way of the dinosaurs. (See article here.)  

Beauty in Tokyo: A vast improvement over Frozen Ever After!

Tokyo's super "E Ticket", perhaps even an "F Ticket" is a castle tour filled with all the best the Disney Imagineers can do. Music, mystery, adventure- and a family friendly people eater to boot. Imagine exploring Beast's Castle along the lines of an excursion through Hong Kong's Mystic Manor or the Haunted Mansion. Cool, huh? You'll just have to go overseas to do it- a disturbing trend of placing groundbreaking, breathtaking attractions in other countries, one that continues on with Shanghai Disneyland

Discarded French attraction concept.

(By the way, if you want to explore all the ways Beauty and the Beast has impacted the Disney world, check out my mega-post here.)

Anyway... Frozen Ever After is bringing in the crowds even if it is a rushed remake of the old Maelstrom attraction in Norway and uses only a slightly altered boat route adding about 30 seconds and one new show scene compared to its predecessor. But suits at Disney have taken notice. And fans that did not experience the great original park are all too happy for more characters to invade- or they are just so desperate for attractions that they have to wait for this one. 

Personally, Ratatouille is my absolute favorite Pixar flick, but I'm rooting for Beauty and the Beast, my favorite classic Disney animated film. The Rat might be a better fit, but who wouldn't love the Tokyo version-  an attraction that will be the envy of the West? Aren't we tired of getting cheaper second rate attractions at Epcot instead of those that are truly world class? I am- and at least from reviews and film I've seen, Remy's adventure in Paris is not as good as it should be. Good? Yes. Great? No.

If the Imagineers and suits expand France as they did Norway, to bring a brand new attraction, I'm ok with that. There should be room at the top right of the pavilion towards the U.K. showcase. However, if they get rid of Impression de France, I will be very angry. I'm not getting my hopes up. The track record for what the suits have done with Epcot lately is not good. That's what really stinks.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 12, 2017

Seeing Double

Due to operator error- let's just call it what it is- you dear readers have been seeing double if you've come to us from the Disney News Central site. The post you want regarding the addition of the Ratatouille attraction to Epcot's France pavilion will appear tomorrow. In the meantime, browse the blog for all the articles you come here for: Insights and Sounds on a variety of topics.

January 11, 2017

What Disney Overlooks in Shanghai

The pursuit of money is a driving force for any business that wants to be successful. That makes total sense. But there is also a solemn responsibility to make sure that people are living in healthy environments and are treated fairly. These type of human rights issues are vitally important. But are they important to Disney?

In a couple of highly credible annual reports, China's human rights violations continue to astound. When the areas of religiously motivated violence in the spheres of society are examined, the home of the newest Disneyland cannot escape being viewed as a source of continual persecution. The country does rank lower than much of the Middle East, Africa, or even a good portion of Asia. China's ranking when it comes to persecution of Christians is Number 39. Sure, it's far below Number 1- that dubious "honor" goes to North Korea. All this according to the World Watch List 2017, from Open Doors an organization which has been monitoring this inhumane activity since 1955.  

A whole new world of accepted persecution.

Keep in mind, most Chinese Christians and their churches are underground, so more comprehensive statistics may be difficult to come by. When you add the unfortunate reality of forced family size restrictions, things are about as rosy in China as the skies of Shanghai. (Top image from Theme Park University.)

Another watch dog group, International Christian Concern, reports there are 215 Million persecuted Christians in the world- one in 12 people on the planet, with new countries being added to the list.

The United States of America has now made that list- as shown in the photo above. See the article here

Definitely what we experience in the States is no where near what is experienced elsewhere in the world. I have personally listened to believers in other countries share first hand stories of beatings, losing family and career, and more, all because they chose to follow Jesus. Persecution in the States just happens differently, and it is growing.

In this country, no sane person with an honest and open mind can be convinced that free speech infringement and limiting public expressions of faith are not a form of persecution in our society. It's happening everywhere. Pastors are being scrutinized for their sermon content, having to turn over their sermons to the local authorities.  It's happened recently in Georgia and a little further back in Texas. 

Look what happened when an LGBTQ bully- the new thought police- went after HGTV's Chip and Joanna Gaines. Thankfully, a writer who identifies as gay- wisely and bravely- came to their defense. (My article here.) Think you won't be the next victim? Think again.

Hefty fines for Christian business owners who cannot in good conscience offer services when their religious beliefs are in conflict with what is requested is another effective method used to force a community to bow to modern thinking. Public bullying seems to be accepted to make Christians submit to an ungodly way of living and thinking. Often this thinking is in direct contrast with how God tells His people to live. Isn't He the One we must first answer to? If you call yourself a Christ follower, the answer should be obvious.

When our current administration refuses persecuted Christians from other countries access into ours but allows many Muslims in, what does that communicate. A good friend of mine traveled overseas to serve both Christian and Muslim refugees, and he heard this first hand. He was in the outlaying countries surrounding this hotbed of activity. The stories he has relayed about this kind of persecution and even within the camps themselves would make you cry with anger and disgust. Man's inhumanity to man. Man's sin nature gone wild. There is no other explanation.

Who will speak up in all this? Which Christians will be brave enough to stand up for what is right in a world gone crazy? Who will support the persecuted worldwide church? (You can go here if you're interested in doing so.)

The current state of our world reminds me of the incredibly famous but tragic poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). With regard to the choice of intellectual German society not speaking out against the Nazi rise to power as they oppressed and exterminated various groups, he wrote:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

January 10, 2017

Eating in Mars at Tomorrowland

Any guest to the Disneyland Resort (or any reader of internet sites) understands almost immediately that the last Tomorrowland revamp was poorly done. It's a victim of severe budget cuts from the get go. The ill-executed Rocket Rods should have been a smash, but the suits cut the budget to the point of making it an ongoing operational nightmare. Point being, when the budgeteers slash the funds beyond something reasonable, this makes it impossible for even the most gifted Imagineers- such as Tony Baxter - to turn out an excellent product. (Full confession: I know I'm in the minority, but I thought the copper Space Mountain was beautiful!)

Back to Tomorrowland. The retro / vintage vibe did not age well. Add to this a hodge lodge of attractions disconnected in theme, and it's a real mess. The entire area badly needs a fresh focus and look. Hopefully that is coming once Star Wars Land opens. Here's a piece of concept art for the idea to have guests eat inside the old Mission to Mars building. An entirely different result than what stands there now.

It should have been a better experience than what we find currently. And, may I ask, what is that? Honestly, the existing restaurant with old attraction posters is a not so subtle reminder of the great Tomorrowland revisioning of the late 60's. A fantastic look at the future, an era when the Peoplemover sailed above the land, guests could Adventure Thru Inner Space and spin on a fully functioning and forward-looking Carousel of Progress. Bluntly, this restaurant is a constant reminder to guests of the greatness that came out of Imagineering under Walt's first generation artists... and one that hasn't been seen in Disneyland proper since the Indiana Jones Adventure decades ago.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 9, 2017


Dinner tonight with some very special family!

How to Get to Disneyland in the 1950's

Take a look at this great vintage Disneyland billboard! Beautiful in all its retro glory! The park was an out of the box success, as Walt Disney had spent a year or so promoting it with the money men and the general public. Orange County took on an all new importance as home to Walt's first kingdom, forever changing the landscape and the prices to live there!

The photo comes from this Private Los Angeles Tours post.

January 8, 2017

Happy New Year (Hawaiian Time)

Hawaii is known for its laid back pace and "Hawaiian time". This tongue in cheek phrase refers to locals always arriving to parties, graduations, birthdays, etc a little after the actual start time. This delay could range anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours. It's my way of segueing into this rather admittedly late post marking the first photographic shoot for 2017. Even that is not totally honest. I had hoped to get out New Year's Day to Sandy Beach, but it was pushed back until the 2nd. It was a state holiday, so it still felt a bit "new yearish". 

I dutifully set the alarm for 5:00 am and after that inevitable battle between wanting to stay in bed and shooting sunrise, I downed a cup of coffee, got in my car, and headed to the east side of Oahu.

Sitting in a dark lot, parked near a seedy looking white van always makes me question the sanity of these early morning shoots. But as the sun slowly begins to peek over the horizon, the thrill of setting up for a shot, knowing that I have a short window to photograph the "golden hour" always makes it worthwhile. 

After getting the shots I needed, I switched out lenses in case I found some people who wouldn't mind me taking their photo. I was lucky and found a bunch of cool folks who were gracious and kind enough to pose for me. Hawaii's diverse mix of races and cultures is always a strong reminder of the incredible creativity of our God. I can't imagine a day where photographing this island's landscapes and people would grow old or stale! May the good Lord bless everyone in 2017!

                     (Photographs copyright 2017 Len Yokoyama)

January 7, 2017

Home to the Magic

Admittedly, this is a difficult thing to say, he said tongue totally in cheek! I have never seen the front gates or the outside of the Walt Disney Company

Thanks to "Forever Anna" on the WDWMagic discussion boards, now you can see it too. The building above is a pretty famous one. Built during the 20 year reign of Michael Eisner, it was a time from creativity was at an all-time high as far as park expansion. We all know Robert Iger is more interested in purchasing intellectual property vs. development of them. It hasn't been an unsuccessful decision, but it is a very different one that what the focus of Walt Disney himself and the company he founded for decades.

So, there you have it. Now you've seen the "Home to the Magic".

(Photographs copyright "Forever Anna".)

January 6, 2017

Shanghai'd in China

Have Disney park fans been Shanghai'd in Mainland China? I think so. Roaring Rapids is closed indefinitely, food is over priced for the market, and there are too few truly people-pleasing attractions aside from an award winning Pirates of the Caribbean and a much too short Tron Light Cycles Power Run

Park capacity continues to be an issue. There have not been any new attractions announced to help with that issue, but I would anticipate that the Chinese government is hot on Disney's wheels to make sure something happens soon. Perhaps the proposed and needed expansion of the Hong Kong Disneyland resort will up the ante. 

In reality, the investors may be the only real winners here. Disney has used the park to open the Mainland China market to other possibilities- and it says quite a lot that the government ruled in favor of Disney over a locally grown rip-off of the Cars franchise. But that does not help park fans who are victims of over-crowding, broken attractions, and overpriced food. At least this time, Disney doesn't have to contend with overbuilding hotels on the property which bled the Parisian resort to the very brink.

Like the concept art? It's a pretty rare piece- along with a couple others posted recently...

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 5, 2017

Chris Pratt Talks About Jesus

Chris Pratt puts it pretty bluntly: A man came up to him and said, "Jesus told me to talk to you". And so begins the story he recalls of how he was - in his own words - "saved". It's a pretty interesting read and tells the tale of a man who does his own thing, not being swayed by Hollywood or by the church in America.

The full story is here. Go there- really!

Worshiping Jesus in Pakistan

These photographs are incredible! What you're seeing is a worship service in Pakistan, where people are worshiping Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. The only perfect payment for my sin and for yours. The only way to heaven.

The First Orthodox Church in Pakistan.

This is what heaven will be like! People from every nation, even tribe, every culture all over the earth- believers from every corner- worshiping Him as the One True God and enjoying friendship together for eternity.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

(The vision of John of people worshiping Jesus)
Revelation 7:9

January 4, 2017

Honolulu City Lights (Because You Want More Christmas Photos)

I know the Christmas season has passed, but I wanted to share these photos of the Honolulu City Lights display with readers of Insights and Sounds (It's no secret that Christmas is my favorite time of the year, so maybe you should brace yourselves for holiday posts throughout the year...LOL!). Started in 1985 by then mayor Frank Fasi, this annual event has become a holiday tradition for many of the kama'ainas (locals). New scenes and figures are constantly being added, updated, or retired throughout the years.

My favorite is Santa and Mrs. Claus, with good ole' Saint Nick giving the classic 'shaka' sign (a strong indication of its Hawaiian roots). While it pales in comparison to any Disney scenario, or heavyweights like Rockefeller Center, it's uniquely our own and we gladly embrace it.

If you're ever in the islands during December, make sure to pay a visit to this Hawaiian celebration in downtown Honolulu. It's free to the public and open 24/7!

(Photographs copyright Len Yokoyama.)

Design Detail: Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain

Disney theme park fans rightly rave about the amount of detail found in the parks. Until more recent years with Universal's Harry Potter expansion, this trademark seemed to be the domain of Walt's Imagineers. We fans hail the smallest pieces of design in Disneyland, the gorgeous Disneyland Paris, the astounding Animal Kingdom and the most hailed of all- Tokyo Disney Sea

Today's sweet photograph comes from Cory Disbrow, a terrific fan and  MiceAge / Chat photographer that covers Walt Disney World. The resort 's Magic Kingdom is a place chockful of touches I am only beginning to see in my last trip, so I do not know if this one has been around for awhile or not.

A wanted poster for Splash Mountain's Brer Bear, found on a tree in the queue for the iconic Frontierland attraction. Never before noticed it! Did you? I've ridden the attraction dozens of times. It's one of my favorites in the park, but it's always been out of my sight.

Perhaps its the beautiful Fantasyland Forest that has made me look at the park with fresh eyes. The recent addition finally brought charm to what should have been filled with it from opening day. Yet, Fantasyland suffered from the lack of it, something akin to the first Imagineers not being able to give Disneyland's Tomorrowland its best due to the budget being blown. That expansion / enhancement, even though it did not bring a new "E Ticket" to that part of the park, did bring a beauty (and a beast!) never before seen. In effect, the new area made me look at the park in a new way. This is something great Imagineering work should always do.

Thank you, Imagineers, for stuffing the parks with all the eye candy! And thank you Cory, for being my eyes in Florida until I return myself someday soon.

(Photograph copyright Cory Disbrow.)

January 3, 2017

A Tale of Two Puppies

Aloha and Happy New Year from Hawaii!

As most readers know, Mark has kindly allowed me to post on his blog with stories and photos from my ongoing life. Since Mark gave you a general background on me, I'm going to avoid the obvious introduction post and delve right into current events (this will save you from having to read my biography and me from writing it).

This first entry actually appeared on my Facebook page, but I decided to repost it here:

                Sue gets ready to take home Sitka

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

Charles Dickens famous opening line from "A Tale of Two Cities" is an appropriate description for the story I'm about to tell. Some of my friends on FB will remember me posting a photo of my wife Sue and soon to be newest member of our household...Alyeska. This Siberian Husky puppy was still nursing with her mom so it would be a few weeks before we would actually take possession of her. This past weekend, I received a message from Karissa Struba​, owner of For The Love Of Pomskies​ with terribly sad and tragic news. Sweet Alyeska had passed away from causes unknown. Reading the words, I was in initial shock, not understanding what the message meant. After a minute or so passed, I came to realize that Alyeska was never coming home with us.

     Our brief time spent with Alyeska

The next hardest thing was telling my wife. Like me, Sue was initially in disbelief, but the grief and tears came very soon and sudden. As hard as it was for us, we knew it was worse for Rissa and her family. After a couple of days passed to deal with the emotional loss and pain, we made contact with each other and Rissa offered us a refund on our deposit or the opportunity to take home Alyeska's sister (the last remaining pup from the litter). What's funny is that Sue was initially drawn to Sitka (which we ended up naming her), but  as she began to squirm and bite her toes, we began to have doubts. All pups are biters as they begin teething, so that's not a problem. The squirming and Rissa's acknowledgement that Sitka was a bit more "independent" made us opt for the more mellow Alyeska. Before driving out to Ewa Beach, I asked Sue that we not make a decision when visiting Rissa, that we wait to get home so we could talk and pray on this decision. Sue had been honest and told me her mind was made up...that the puppy needed a home. Nonetheless, she agreed to wait. Once at Rissa's beautiful home, it was obvious that Sitka was coming home with her. To see the smile and happiness on my wife's face was all anyone could ask and hope for. As it so happens, Sitka is turning out to be a sweetheart, very affectionate, and open to intense belly rubs.

It's been said that a dog is but a chapter in a person's life, while for the dog, the person is the entire book. We were able to spend maybe 45 minutes with Alyeska...a small chapter in her life. Now she's writing a whole book of joy and happiness in heaven. As for us, we're beginning a new chapter with her sister Sitka. Looking forward to an amazing tale for sure!

                 "What kind of trouble can I get into next...hmmmm"

              "I call this brown tasty stuff...brown tasty stuff!"

(Photographs copyright Len Yokoyama.)