June 26, 2014

Dumping Disney

Well, I said I was going to do it, and I did. 

We took our vacation dollars and decided to leave Disney and its worlds behind to go somewhere else.

Europe, specifically Switzerland, France (not Disneyland Paris or Ratatouille at the Disney Studios), and a side trip to Italy. These  were our destinations for almost two weeks. It was incredible! I'll come back soon with lots of pictures and stories.

And I'll be back with good reasons why you, too, should dump Disney to go see the world... when my laundry gets done.

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

June 25, 2014

One Million Posts

Yeah, ok. It's an exaggeration, but I have so many ideas going on for future posts. There's just not enough time. So you tell me- what would you like to see?

June 24, 2014

Mowma and Friends

Sometimes the sweetest things in life are the most simple of pleasures. In this case, "Mowma" with two of her many grandchildren. A nice summer day at dusk, a newly hung hammock, and two sweet buddies make for a photo moment.

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

June 20, 2014

For Die Hard Fans of Karen Carpenter

Karen Carpenter. She and brother Richard made some of the most beloved and hated music of the 1970s. As Carpenters (no "The"), the music flowed until 1983, when she died of complications of anorexia.

Arguably, one of their best albums was the A&M Records classic, A Song For You, containing five hit singles. The title track is a Leon Russell composition which no other singer has been able to perform as warmly or as convincingly. The disc is almost a greatest hits on its own as it also holds Top of the World, Goodbye to Love, and Hurting Each Other. Along with minor hit It's Going to Take Some Time, written by Carole King, and I Won't Last A Day Without You, the album was another smash, the third platinum release for the duo.

The photo session for the upcoming album included this shot- a beautiful portrait I had never seen previously. Enjoy in full size by clicking on it.

Each Carpenters album holds its treasures. Want to read about each one and their impact on this writer? A series going album by album, with musical history, tons of photos, and insights, can be found starting here. 

June 19, 2014

Two More For the Books: Four Generations

A rare gift! With my parents in town, it was time to gather the family and take a couple of photos. My two daughters and their children with me and my parents. Four generations all together... all too rare.

June 18, 2014

Man's Best Friend

... is sometimes a cat! I'm not saying dog lovers are wrong or one is better then the other. But in our house, this little orange tabby is my buddy. Yes, Milo (named by my oldest son, can be a pain in the you-know-what, but on those snowy days when I'm home reading a good book (or the Good Book), he loves to sit on my lap and keep me company. Everyone here knows he's "Dad's cat". Kind of funny, as he picked me out as the one to attach to. You'd have to know me to get it.

June 16, 2014

Herb Ryman's Look at EPCOT Center's Horizons

 Here's an old favorite of mine. When it comes to concept art, Imagineer Herb Ryman was one of the first and best. The first to do Disneyland at the request of Walt Disney himself and his go-to man for the most elegant of renderings for the incredible, original EPCOT Center. Nowadays, only the premier projects get beautiful pieces like this. It's really too bad.

I left this one large for a good reason- just click.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 12, 2014

Da Mouse Does Harambe at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Aged to perfection. The most recent addition to Walt Disney World's mostly neglected Animal Kingdom theme park is so photo worthy. Almost on par with New Fantasyland over at the Magic Kingdom, the Harambe expansion shows what Disney can accomplish in little time when they want to do so. 

The new area houses The Festival of the Lion King, which belonged in Africa from the beginning, but was placed in Camp Minnie-Mickey to spread out the crowds. Now with Pandora / World of Avatar / Avatarland coming, the show got the boot.

There have been many photographs of the new area on many sites and blogs. I have to say Da Mouse provides one of the most detailed, comprehensive reports and with sharp commentary. Go to the link.

Imagineer Joe Rohde should be very pleased with this addition to arguably the most beautiful Disney theme park on US soil. Perhaps there is life after all- and a good one- for this long neglected gem.

(Photograph copyright Da Mouse.)

Unidentified Imagineering Art

Ah, the mystery of Unidentified Imagineering Art! Found this piece in my achieves. Unfortunately, not labeled at all, and now I really want to know more about it.

Perhaps a bit of the future for Tomorrowland? Instead maybe a concept for EPCOT Center? With a Peoplemover type track through the piece and 60's elegance as the attire, I could see it being either for Florida's second park- a taste of Future World to come-  or perhaps a remodel for Disneyland

It's times like this that I am thankful for the very knowledgable fan community. Please do let me know.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 11, 2014

Rare Karen Carpenter Photo

Here it is. People seem to love this sepia toned photo of Karen Carpenter. (I have to admit, it's my favorite too.) It gets downloaded quite a bit from this blog. But I had posted it in smaller size. Now, here it is- as large as I have it.

Anyone familiar with their work will recognize this as part of the photo shoot for their 1976 disc for A&M Records, A Kind of Hush. This particular shot appeared only in a music book titled Anthology. Appearing in sepia, you can tell it looks just as terrific in black and white. Thanks to photoshop. Enjoy!

June 9, 2014

Rare Art for Tokyo's Mysterious Island

What do you get when you take a classic Jules Verne story, put it into the hands of Disney's world class Imagineers, toss in a seemingly endless budget, and built it at the Tokyo Disney Resort known worldwide for being the epitome of upholding Walt Disney's standards? The 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction found in Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea!

The top piece of Imagineering art is pretty rare- and it was quite the find when I stumbled upon it. Can you imagine what is "in the vaults" for the Tokyo parks and all the things that haven't been built? At least for now... but back to the attraction.

With a unique "dry-for-wet" presentation, the guests ride in submarines which never actually go under the water. Not only is this a thrilling and beautiful attraction, it operates as any other dark ride,  keeping maintenance crews and park accountants very happy- in stark contrast to the problems encountered by similar and very wet attractions for both Disneyland in California and in Florida's Magic Kingdom

Of course, since this is Tokyo and the money comes from the Oriental Land Company, Disney just didn't design a beautiful attraction, they placed it in an incredible setting at the near center of the park. This enclosed, premier location almost guarantees the attraction will have a long life span. Think of it just as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Disneyland Paris

My business and pleasure travels have not taken me to Japan for several years. That may change soon. You can rest assured that Tokyo Disney Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland, and soon Shanghai Disneyland will one day be my destination. 

Until you can travel there yourself, Robb Alvey's Theme Park Review has one of the best on-line videos to be found of the attraction. Watch it below and be on alert for wanting to spend the money to take off for Tokyo!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 6, 2014

Hong Kong Disneyland's Glacier Bay: The Concept Art

The brilliant old school excellence of Mystic Manor. The Newfangled blend of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Expedition Everest found in Hong Kong Disneyland's recent Grizzly Gulch's Runaway Mine Cars. The upcoming Iron Man attraction. A new evening show, "Disney Paint the Night", with shades of California Adventure's incredible World of Color. What will be next for Hong Kong Disneyland?

How about something old? Something discarded? Something that was planned once upon a time by the Imagineers and cut due to budget restraints of the budgeteers. Let's call it "Glacier Bay", an icy wonderland perfectly designed to cut through the heat of Asia.

Far beyond the ordinary fairground mentality of the bland Toy Story Playland, the beautiful Glacier Bay would be home to a roller coaster, jet skiing, and more.

Is it my imagination or does Glacier Bay remind you of Tokyo DisneySea's futuristic Port Discovery? Regardless, all this work was done for a proposed but abandoned part of the Hong Kong park done by Favilli Studios, one of the relatively new players in the theme park business. 

With nearby Ocean Park ramping up the competition for tourist dollars and Shanghai Disneyland within a couple of years of opening, the suits in Hong Kong are looking for ways to keep the guests coming in. Be it the inevitable second park or a Downtown Disney buildout, my bet is that they look backwards to what was once planned- and give their guests a wintery excuse to get away from it all.

(Art copyright Favilli Studios.)

June 4, 2014

Jesus is the Only Way to Heaven- Who is on Your Throne?

The last several weeks, I have been thinking about who I put on the throne of my heart. I think I am doing alright, then I realize how selfish I really am. What I want to do, what I want to be, what I want to think and to say. Let's be honest, we all do this to some degree.

In many ways, the answer to that question, "Who rules?" determines how we will live our lives. But the answer also determines who we will become as men and women.

For me, it boils down to this: "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus' question of Peter (Matthew 16:15) is one He also asks of all people. It is one all people must answer eventually.

Jesus is the Only One who can forgive sin- but He is more.

If the answer is Jesus is Savior alone, He is only an expensive form of "fire insurance". If Jesus is Lord and King of our life, He becomes our purpose, our passion, and our desire. In this role, we then become defined by whom He says we are- falling right into His perfect plan for us- instead of a pale imitation created by following our own wishes. (And if the answer is "none of the above"- watch out! Hell is full of those with that answer!)

All the way back to the Garden of Eden, God's hand has been at work in creating man and determining his purpose. In His goodness, He has clearly communicated His desire for relationship with us as well as His desire to bless us. When Adam fell, taking all men with him, God himself provided the perfect sacrifice for sin, in sending His Son Jesus Christ. He is not some distant, detached, disinterested, deity. The Lord is a Good Father, one who loves His children, wants to save them, and has great plans for them! The Bible is full of these promises to us.

When God is the focus of our lives and when He reigns on the throne of our hearts, our desires become His, and we begin a lifelong process of becoming all He has intended. Only in this way, can we truly be fulfilled in life. He created each of us unique, and He alone knows what is in His heart for us. He will reveal his plan to us as we pursue Him. Of course, if we choose to live out our lives apart from Him, or only give Him a small part of it,we eventually end up in a trap of our own making. Life becomes frustrating or dull, mundane or fruitless, instead of vibrant, rich and hopeful. The choice is ours.

Jesus is the only one who saves us- the Only One who can forgive sin.

So, the question remains, "Who do you say that I am?" Everyday, I am challenged to live my life in accordance with my answer. The challenge is before you as well.

Wayne's World (of Fitness!)

Today, I'd like to introduce to you my good friend Wayne.  

Not only is he a great guy, but he is quite knowledgeable in the area of fitness. As you read his article (below), I think you'll discover fitness can be fun as well as rewarding. Enjoy!            
Wayne's Fitness Tips and Tricks

May 2014  Volume 3,
Issue 5

For Runners: The Joy of Running

         We all learned to run shortly after we learned to walk, and we loved it!  So why do some of us stop running?  Several reasons: cars, the internet, raising a family, and desk jobs.  Then, if we try to resume running, it hurts!  And, as adults, we tend to sabotage the joy of running by setting goals.
         How can we rediscover the joy of running?  First, make goals much less of a priority.  When you go for a run, try leaving your watch at home.  I met a woman recently who has done the Pike's Peak marathon 17 times.  She trains from home on a five mile loop “although I'm not sure it's exactly five miles because I've never really measured it”, she told me.  She doesn't know what her normal running pace is because she doesn't time her runs.
         Second, run playfully.  Stop and enjoy the scenery if you are running a trail.  Pick your training runs by what sounds like fun, instead of by how long it is.  Break out of your routine by running someplace new and different.
         Finally, find a different way to get in some miles.  Take a hike instead of a run.  Or ride your bike, especially if you haven't ridden one in a while.  Rollerskate or rollerblade or try skateboarding.  These different self-powered modes of locomotion will also work leg muscles you don't use as much when you run, and that's a good thing, too!
         If you run, you know that you feel better after the post-workout shower, food tastes better, and you sleep better.  You manage stress better.  Like toddlers, you know the pure joy of simply running...

Everything In Moderation...

         I am going to do something this issue that I haven't done before, and I apologize ahead of time: I'm going to indulge in some sarcasm...
         Recently, my wife called me into her home office, “Would you like to see something really depressing?”  That should have been my first clue to run the other way!  She had pulled up on article on the internet entitled, “The Worst 20 Things You Can Eat And Why”.  (If you like being depressed, here is the link: http://healthyliving.msn.com/nutrition/the-20-worst-things-you-can-eat-and-why#21 )  Her parting comment was, “Doesn't that just take all the fun out of eating??”  By the way, for some reason, bananas didn't make the list!  (See the March newsletter...)
         So here's the sarcasm: “Wayne's List of 8 ½ Things You Should Not Eat And Why”...

         1. Rocks.  Although high in essential minerals, rocks are extremely difficult to chew and digest.
         2. Lumber.  High in fiber, and low in fat, but there is a very high risk of getting splinters.  In extreme emergencies, the cambium layer of trees, just beneath the bark, can be eaten.  (True!)
         3. Air.  There is absolutely no nutrition in air.
         4. Bricks.  (See “Rocks” above)
         5. Automobiles.  Full of artificial ingredients, and gasoline is toxic.
         6. Bugs.  People in other cultures actually do eat bugs, but in this country, habitual bug-eating will cause you to lose all your friends.  Besides, the furry, leggy, squirmy ones tend to stick in your throat...
         7. Aliens.  Never ever, under any circumstances should you eat an alien!  If you've seen the movies, you know what happens, and it's not pretty.
         8 ½.  Elephants.  Even half an elephant has way more calories than you'd need in an entire year.

Seriously, here's a simple guide to healthy eating:

         1. Don't eat too much junk food.  A little bit of fast food occasionally is okay.  McDonald's for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is not okay.
         2. Everything in moderation!  Water is essential, but too much can literally kill you.
         3. “Variety is the spice of life.”  Eating a wide variety of foods pretty much guarantees you will get all of the nutrients you need.  If you feel you need to, take vitamins and/or protein supplements.
         4. Personally, I would avoid restaurants as much as possible.  My wife and I stopped going out almost completely when the recession hit.  Now that we go out occasionally, I am shocked at the size of the portions!  I almost always take half of my food home to eat later.
         5. Eat your bananas!

         As we age, we tend to lose muscle mass, and the fitness industry even has a term to remind us of our unavoidable physical decline: sarcopenia.
         Is loss of muscle inevitable?  Probably, but it can be slowed considerably through exercise, especially resistance training, and proper amounts of dietary protein.  Here are some suggestions for maintaining/gaining muscle mass:

         1. Lift weights.  Just one day a week of resistance exercise will help you maintain muscle mass.  Even 90-year-olds have tripled their strength in 10 weeks by lifting! Basic guideline: three sets, 5-10 reps on each set.  If you can do more than 10 reps, use heavier weights.

         2. Keep track of your protein intake.  If you are exercising without adequate protein, you will not get stronger because your muscles cannot rebuild themselves. Basic guideline: at least ½ gram of protein per pound of body weight daily.

         3. Include some aerobics/cardio/endurance exercise to balance out the strength training.  Basic guideline: 30-45 minutes of cardio at least three times per week.

         4. Finally, do some isometrics.  Full-body muscle tension builds strength and keeps muscle groups balanced, and you don't need a gym or equipment to do isometrics.  Basic guideline: 5 minutes of isometrics three times a day.

Quote of the Month

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”


Yours for better fitness,
720-628-2009 (voice/text)

Some of my favorite places on the 'net:

General fitness:
                        Snap Fitness: www.snapfitness.com/gyms
                        Livestrong: www.livestrong.com
                        Wayne's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/WaynesFitnessTipsAndTricks

                        Susan Drake's nutrition: www.I8Gr8.com
                        Food and exercise journaling: www.myfitnesspal.com
                        Information on glycemic index: www.glycemicindex.com
                        Good eating: www.yesiwantcake.com

Running websites:

                        My free race website: www.wayneruns.weebly.com
                        Shoes, running gear: www.roadrunnersports.com   
                        Racing calendar: www.racingunderground.com
                        Marathon training: www.jeffgalloway.com            

June 2, 2014

Blue Sky Disney and DCA "Time Bombs"

Back in the day, MiceAge was the ultimate Disney fan site if you were looking for what was to come at the Disneyland Resort. California Adventure was a pitiful mess, and Disneyland was slowly being left to rot, one attraction after another. Site owner Al Lutz became a fan favorite for holding Disney's feet to the fire by using the media to expose the plans of mice and men.

Years later, Honor Hunter's  (gotta love the name!) "Blue Sky Disney" came on line. His information was usually dead on accurate. As proof, here's a copy of his post from October 23, 2007:

Time Bombs...

"Are we there yet?"

"Are we there yet?"

"Are we there yet?"

You know the questions we get when kids become impatient about where they're going...

We all know after hearing the rumors for the past few years that many Disney Geeks/Fans will be asking a similar question:

"When will it be done?"

Well, I guess it's time to show you a preliminary guide to the divisions of work to be done in "Phase One". Now, some of these could change depending on construction delays, weather and other factors but you can pretty much use this as a guide to the coming construction and which projects will go before others.

I call these phases "Time Bombs"...

Weapons of creativity to fend off the mediocrity of a generic theme park. These things have already had their timer set. Once they go off they're going to explode these areas and the results will be a decimation of the bland and boring with the plastering of rich, lavish theming all through the park.

These Time Bombs are set to go off at different places at different times and the results will be nothing short of being visually stunning. Four and a half years from now you'll walk through DCA(don't get used to that acronym) and not realize it's the same park... sure some areas will be familiar, but overall you'll have never been to this park before.

Shall we get started on our bombing run? Good...

Time Bomb 1

Paradise Pier and the surrounding area has been under construction since 2005 so it's had a bit of a head start. The Pier with its richly themed heavy D ticket will be through with construction in July. Actually, it'll be done mainly by April, but there will be tests and previews all the way through July, which is when it is tentatively scheduled to open. The surrounding midway with its rethemed games will be open as well. Basically everything between the Carousel and Maliboomer will be finished by next summer. All the additions in the pier will be installed early next year so as to not interrupt the view of that new section. The Sun Wheel is currently scheduled to be completed around this time as well, although construction on it may drag a bit. Mickey's Fun Wheel should be done by the end of 2008 unless the current plans change.

Time Bomb 2

The transformation of Sunshine Plaza to Walt Disney Plaza is supposed to get started in fall of next year. Once the temporary entrance is done expect bulldozers to start rolling and construction to be completed on this visually extravagant set-back to the late 20's/early 30's by late 2009 or early 2010. The construction will probably be done in two phases with the front section being done first and then the courtyard with its trolley, restaurants and shops going up after that part is done.

Time Bomb 3

The retheming of this section of Paradise Pier and the absorption of Route 66 will start in late 2009 and continue through late 2010 or early 2011 to be finished around the time of the tenth anniversary. The shops and beer garden will layer the area in a bygone era... while "Goofy's Sky School" will stick out, but be a much more immersive and lavishly themed coaster that doesn't resemble the Mulholland Madness kiddie coaster of today. The Maliboomer should be removed around this time and the work on the Orange Stinger and the surrounding area will begin as well.

Time Bomb 4

The Little Mermaid attraction and area will start to arise when the Golden Dreams building is removed in early 2009 and the construction of an elaborate show building is constructed. Work on the expanded viewing area should start in late 2008 so that the area will be available for use in late 2009 when "Disney's World of Color" is tentatively scheduled to make its bow.

Time Bomb 5

The areas atop where Ariel's Grotto and the surrounding stores should start to see work begin on them in early 2009. The plan is to have construction done by the time DWOC debuts and the lower levels are supposed to get enclosed so as to not get any paying diners wet. This area should be done by late 2009 should no delays come up.

Time Bomb 6

The final and largest part of the expansion gets underway in late 2009 when planning for "Cars Land" turns into overdrive. By early 2010 the area will be a hive of activity. The construction walls and signs will point to the great new addition that takes up 20 percent of the park and will change the skyline and theming once done. The area around "Bugs Land" that people see when walking by that exposes the outside of the resort (hotels, power-lines) will disappear by the time this expansion opens up in 2012.

By the time DCA has its tenth anniversary the entire park will be remade and look brand spanking new... the only thing that won't be open by the tenth will be "Cars Land", but it will be ever-so present... with the construction of those giant mesas looming overhead Disney Geeks/Fans will be running about the new park, most likely with the new name all giddy. Peering over their shoulder at the final jewel, the final present of "Phase One" to be opened in the summer of 2012.

If by that fall the clicks are starting to edge up to the 9 million mark...

Iger will give the official nod to "Phase Two" and you can expect some form of announcement at the end of that year or the beginning of 2013 talking about even more goodies. John Lasseter and Bob Weis have a few surprises up their sleeves that are expected and at least one that will give the faithful a reason to have faith.

A LOT of faith...

(end of article)

Now, isn't that amazing? Where is Honor and when will Blue Sky return?

On the East Coast, we thankfully have Steve over at WDWMagic and frequent poster WDW1974, an industry insider that shares the dirt on the Walt Disney World Resort.. and more worldwide. It's rarely good news these days, but at least it's news. While Universal gets ready to unveil Diagon Alley at the Studios, Disney seems content to flog a remake of Epcot's Maelstrom into a Frozen attraction while they putz around with MyMagic+. Sure, Avatar is coming to Animal Kingdom, but how much excitement is that really generating? Star Wars at the Studios will happen years from now, but in the meantime, Epcot sinks to new lows. 

It will be great fun to see what the future holds for both US resorts, and one day, I'll be looking back at old posts from these insiders, reviewing their predictions.

Now about that Phase Two for DCA...

(Art copyright Blue Sky Disney.)