January 31, 2017

Running Away to Paris

Today is a day when I could gather up my wife in my arms and take her to Paris, France. Not only is it one of our favorite places, it's a place of many, many memories. This photo isn't mine, but it captures the heart of a place no one can ruin.

January 30, 2017

Gateway to the Magic Kingdom

On Walt Disney World's opening day, the real gateway to the Magic Kingdom in Florida was a boat ride or a monorail trip across or over the Seven Seas Lagoon. Back then in 1971, there were no over crowded busses - just dreams waiting to be built. Anything was possible.

For this California kid, being so used to the congested area around Disneyland in Anaheim, a visit to the World was eye opening from the moment we crossed onto the property. I just couldn't believe the Walt Disney Company had all this land!  

Hitting the parking lot was a bit of a tease. We could see the huge and beautiful Cinderella's castle above the treetops and across the water. But nothing could compare to walking down Main Street U.S.A. for that very first visit! Seeing it in real life was a treat that took four years from seeing it in magazines and on television to seeing it in person. The reality was actually better than what the hype machine built. And in many ways, it still is.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 29, 2017

Sunday in Switzerland

Let this photo of the Swiss countryside give you a taste of the peace  and serenity of heaven. The country's in some turmoil as always, but the eternal life Christians will live is one of joy, rest, and friendship with God the Creator, the lover of our souls. I took this photo a couple of years ago from high above the castle courtyard. Just lovely!

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

January 27, 2017

A Friday Special Not To Be Missed: Vintage Disneyland Art

Is there anything better than some great Imagineering concept art? Only when it comes from master artist Herb Ryman, probably my favorite of all the folks Walt Disney employed to create renderings for his parks. (His work for EPCOT Center is my favorite.)

Here's a very cool, vintage slice of the entrance to Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A. in super large resolution (just click). Discerning eyes will catch a few interesting details. The Opera House appears on the opposite side of where it was eventually built. Mickey Mouse doesn't quite appear yet in flower form at the front of the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad station. Lastly, the ticket booths look to be a bit away from the paths that go under those train tracks, creating a bit of a garden between the real world and Walt's. I love that idea!

Due to the fact that I get to Disneyland rarely these days, I mind myself zooming past Main Street to get to whatever is new or has been changed since last visit. When we lived in California and visits were more common, I loved to roam the street, walking in the shops, and just take in the atmosphere. Be it the Fire Station or the Market House and the party-line telephone, the first land guests see may actually be filled with the most amount of detail and even the most charm. 

There were a few advantages with the old "A" through "E" Ticket system. When you ran out of coupons (as they were called on the ticket themselves), you either purchased more tickets or your spent your time exploring. I'd go back to that in a heartbeat- and lose Fast Pass as well. Doing so would certainly redistribute the crowds and make for a better day in the long run!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 26, 2017

Vintage Tomorrowland- Late 1950's Edition

Sometimes an image captivates me- and such is this one, a vintage view of Disneyland right after the big expansion at the end of the 1950's. The majestic Matterhorn and its bobsled run was a out of the box hit, the first tubular steel coaster ever built. The monorail and skyway buckets sail over the world of Tomorrowland on the way to Fantasyland, while guests take a voyage through liquid space on the classic Submarine Voyage. Nearby, the Autopia lets drivers young and old test  their motoring skills on a freeway of the future. Want more retro Disneyland? Come back tomorrow for some vintage concept art.

The great folks on the WDWMagic boards have posted photos of the day on the Disneyland forums. If you want to see some great pics old and new, it's the place to go. And of course, the always excellent Daveland is full of retro goodness!

(Photograph copyright phruby on WDWMagic.)

January 25, 2017

Heaven Is Calling...

I posted this eulogy exactly two weeks ago on my Facebook page. I wasn't sure about publishing it here on Insights and Sounds (especially after sharing the passing of our puppy Alyeska), but Lohelani was such an important part of my life that I feel the need to honor her in whatever way I can...

Lohelani, which in Hawaiian means "to hear heaven's calling" was actually born in Honoka'a. Her owners were selling Lohe and her siblings out of a truck in the parking lot of the Parker Ranch shopping center. Having visited the Big Island regularly since 1987, it was inevitable that I would find my sweetheart in a place that is so special to me. I needed to purchase a small crate and an airline ticket to bring her back to Oahu, but her price tag of $25.00 made me feel like I got the deal of the century.

Lohe was super shy and she hid under the seat of the car rental all the way to Hilo. I stopped a couple of times on the road just to make sure she was okay. Back in Honolulu, the bargain puppy proved to be otherwise. I used my tax return to install an expensive wire fence to keep Lohe from uprooting my dad’s favorite plants. In the same week, she got stung by a bee giving her the look of a comical platypus (nothing a $300.00 vet visit couldn’t cure). Being a bachelor, Lohe and I spent much time and adventures together. On our first trip to the North Shore, the pup left a big pile of excrement on the back seat of my truck. It must have smelled bad to her too, because she came up front and stayed there for the entire drive. 

My girl took the arrival of a new woman to the house, my wife Sue, very well and somehow managed to transition into an inside house dog. She even took the arrival of puppy Juneau well, although the early adjustment period was tough for both of us. Being an only dog for the first seven years to having a little creature suddenly jumping on you every other minute was daunting. I slept on the kitchen floor the first night we brought home Juneau just so I could keep them apart. I remember going up to Lohe that night, kissing her on the head, and apologizing for bringing home another dog. She answered me with her soulful, quizzical eyes and the sound of silence. But I knew she would be a good sister to Juneau, and she was.

In the intervening years, Lohe was sometimes the neglected child due to Juneau being the princess of the family. She would defer to Juneau in all things, whether it be drinking from the water dish, or entering/exiting the house. One area Lohe still ruled was receiving hugs and treats from outsiders. Unlike Juneau, Lohe loved people and the attention.
In the past couple of years, Lohe began exhibiting lumps on her underside…fatty tissue that caused enormous swells. Although an exceptionally strong dog, the most recent surgery really took its toll on her health.
In late December (as most of my friends on FB know), Sue and I welcomed Sitka into our home. A rambunctious and rascally pup, Sitka immediately grew fond of Lohe and followed her around like the much revered older sister. I often wondered if Lohe thought to herself, "You're putting me up with another one of these things???" But as she was with Juneau, Lohe was extremely patient and enduring. Even in her declining health, she put up with lots of playful bites, jumping, and general annoyance that one expects from a puppy.

Lohelani went to sleep at 9:37 am on a Wednesday morning...having at last answered heaven’s call. She’s now young and healthy again, meeting her new sister Alyeska for the first time and getting a ton of treats and hugs!
There’s a debate I often hear among Christians about whether dogs (or any pet for that matter) go to heaven. The bible remains quiet on this subject, so anyone's guess is as good as mine. But I think it's incredibly clear to me that God, in His infinite wisdom, created dogs to bring a piece of heaven here to earth.

Until I next see you again my girl, always know how much happiness and love you brought into our lives...

Nov 2002 -Jan 2017

  (Photos Copyright 2017 Len Yokoyama)

Goodbye Mary!

Goodbye sweet Mary Tyler Moore! Back in the day when I couldn't get a date, you were the one I tuned into on the television. You will always be Mary Richards and Laura Petrie to me, but I know you were much more than that. Oh, all those great episodes with Dick Van Dyke and Ed Asner. You'll so be missed!

SHAG does Star Wars

The always great Josh Agle, otherwise known as SHAG, is a well known artist and lover of Disneyland. For the first time I can recall, he has produced a piece of Star Wars related art.

This could be a teaser for a whole line to celebrate the opening of Star Wars Land at Disneyland or Disney's Hollywood Studios or just a stand alone piece. Either way, it's a pretty nifty look at some major characters in the iconic film series.

Want more? Take a look at the latest (January 16) photo update from MouseInfo. You won't be disappointed.

Want more SHAG? He's on the Insights blog in other posts as well. Just do a quick search.

(Art copyright SHAG; photograph copyright MouseInfo.)

January 24, 2017

A Moment in Disney Time

Overpriced, mediocre food, and really hard to obtain a reservation for a table! Yes, that's the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, one of my very favorite places to eat at Disney's Hollywood Studios if not all of Walt Disney World.

Back in 1999, which was our last all family trip to Florida, I was able to secure for a last minute reservation. What a great time we had! When it was still Disney-MGM Studios, the park seemed to still have a cohesive focus even if it was still lacking, very small and rather underdeveloped. What were the big hits? With three teens, the clear winner was, expectedly, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rock N Rollercoaster.

A bit of a gripe: It didn't matter my kids were not familiar with the Tower's source material. All they knew it to be was a great original attraction with a terrifically creepy story. An instant classic alongside the Magic Kingdom's Pirates of the Caribbean and Epcot's Journey into Imagination. That ought to be enough for the suits to leave Florida's Tower alone. They've already screwed it up in California!

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

January 23, 2017

Cast Members of Disney Parks: Collect the Entire Series!

One of my favorite aspects of amateur photography is portraitures. Even more so than landscapes, taking people's pictures is always a highly rewarding and personal experience. There's almost an unspoken connection between the subject and the photographer, even if it's a total stranger. With the camera, I am preserving a person's moment in time in a digital image...a mythical, timeless realm where things always remain unchanged.

The Disney parks are my favorite place to snap portraitures, especially of the cast members (not talking about those who portray Disney characters). Although these people are playing a "role", it's not like they're pretending to be something or someone else. Yes, Bob or Phil of the Barbershop Quartet doesn't really live on Main Street USA, but I'm pretty sure they're still Bob or Phil when they go home after work.

And because customer service is strongly ingrained into the Disney culture, it would be hard for a cast member to turn me down when I ask to take their photos (there have been one or two who were unsure, but otherwise, everyone has been more than happy to pose for a pest like me).

I've decided to start a series of posts dedicated to featuring these fantastic workers from the various Disney parks. I 'll do maybe two or three a month and see how this series fares.

For the first spotlighted cast members, I turn to the Photo Supply Co located at the tail end of Main Street USA in Disneyland. There, I ran into a very friendly and charismatic group of cast members while redeeming my free 5 X 7 print. From left to right are Bella, Brenda, Marcus, & Ryan.

I initially asked Bella and Marcus pose, but she asked if I could get the whole group into the shot which I was more than happy to oblige. Thank you Photo Supply crew for really spreading the Disney magic and for giving this poor photog a chance to snap some pics!

         (Photos Copyright 2017 Len Yokoyama)

January 22, 2017

No Man's Land for Locals

Waikiki is one of the first destinations for most visitors and tourists. And understandably so. Its mythical allure was reinforced by Hollywood in movies and tv shows. Postcards and advertising also added to its status as a destination spot.

The reality is a bit different for local residents. While the city and county has done much to improve the area in the last 20 years, parking is still tight and costs a small fortune. Stores and restaurants are resort level prices, making it a poor value for a night out with the family. Even in my earlier years, the only time I would head into this tourist zone was to watch a movie (this was before multiplexes popped up on every corner).

But there is a lot to love about Waikiki, it's where Duke Kahanamoku rode the waves on his surfboard and the pink majesty of the Royal Hawaiian still sits elegantly on the edge of the shoreline. It's with this in mind that I decided to break my own rule and get out there to take some photos.

Hope everyone is having a blessed weekend!

              (Photographs Copyright 2017 Len Yokoyama)

The Donald, Disney, and Discipleship

Let's be honest here- the new President of the United States is not known for being nice. Donald Trump is often crude, often rude, and certainly not the type of person who will hide this thoughts and feelings from others. However, one thing I do appreciate is that he speaks his mind. You always know where he stands - or at least you think you do. 

It is amazing to me that hundreds of people who dislike these truths about him voice their opinions in a way that mirrors the very things they criticized him of doing. Just take a look at all the social media yelling about his election. I don't see too much difference, just a large dose of hypocrisy. 

Classy way to speak your thoughts, Nicole!

Kudos to folks like Nicole Kidman who has spoken her thoughts and opinions in a respectful way. We, me and you, could learn much from that gracious manner. 

So could the church in America! We have the other problem. The Christian church in America is dying from the disease of Terminal Niceness! Let that statement sink in for a bit before you keep reading. I'm not speaking of kindness here (which is a Biblical value) but niceness- being unable to speak the truth in a gentle manner which builds real relationship versus one which honesty and humility is not truly valued.

How did the organized church that follows Jesus get to that place,  so far away from Historic Christianity? A faith that served the people and turned the world upside down with a message of hope and eternal joy?

Let me throw some thoughts your way. First, “The Soft Gospel”. It says, "Come to Jesus and your life will become better." It's the Pathway to Prosperity, etc. It's a teaching that has taken hold in the United States for a few decades now. We have come to believe it is our God-given right to health and wealth. This mindset keeps us focused on our own needs- and ineffective in God's Kingdom! We don’t think about God’s priorities but our own! It is still “all about us”! 

Let me ask, did Jesus end up wealthy and healthy on this earth? No, and neither did the Twelve Disciples, and neither did the early New Testament church. Many were killed for their faith! Even today, true believers are not welcomed in our world. (Look at the latest statistics on Christian persecution here. And the facts are certainly one Disney ignores in China by the way. Read it here.) The latest martyrs- believers in the Middle East who are executed- certainly didn't end up with a life on earth full of money and comfort.

Joel Osteen preaches prosperity, not the Truth as found in the Bible.
It's NOT all about us. It's all about Jesus.

This thought is no better than any other philosophy, reducing Jesus’ bloody sacrifice on the Cross- and His Resurrection- to nothing. It reduces Jesus to just another philosopher instead of the Creator God who will return to Judge all Creation. Following this thought pattern reduces the Christian to another self help group, and we can fall into the trap about talking about Jesus and thinking about Him, intellectualizing Him, without actually following Him into a life of self-sacrifice and death... in exchange for eternal life. Ultimately, the church and the Christian faith looks like what the world offers but from a different slant! I read the Bible where Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me.” (John 12:26). On the way to his crucifixion, he asks Peter “Will you really lay down your life for me?” (John 13:38) The same question holds true for us today!

The second reason the church has been infected by terminal niceness comes from another incomplete piece of theology. “It’s All By Grace” – Yes, that is true, and I am thankful for Amazing Grace- but it does not mean nothing is required of us! The Biblical book of James was written for a reason. Faith without works is dead!

Work is an expression of, and a response to, the grace given us, an outpouring of our gratefulness toward Him who gave all for us. Jesus himself set this example in motion! To be Christlike is to also engage in the work the Father gives us. For His purposes and for his glory. If we never work, we become spiritually fat, lazy, and dull! We remain self-focused and immature, useless in God's kingdom, and we forget we as Christians are ambassadors to a dying world.

Is it more important to be nice or to be kind?

So, that begs the question- What Does Terminal Niceness Look Like? What are the symptoms?

1- We get Bored- and We look elsewhere for fulfillment! Be it entertainment, business, family, sports, money, leisure, outright sin, etc. Why? "Soft Christianity" doesn’t fulfill because it has no depth and no challenge, so we look other places.

It used to be the U.S. military appealed to patriotism to recruit. In the last few decades, when that no longer worked, they changed tactics and now appeal to a “Are You Man Enough?” approach. They realized we are designed by God to be about something bigger than ourselves. Playing to this truth appeals to thousands of man and women who want to make a difference in our world. This is partially why we "come alive" when serving others. For  followers of Jesus, that means missions trips and service projects! When we do what we are designed for, we come alive!

2- We get Frustrated and Cynical!
As people in the church respond to lack of direction and clear purpose, frustration continues, and in response the church becomes focused on making people happy and being nice- reinforcing the cycle!

3- Other Symptoms
There are plenty! Here's a few.

• We rewrite the rules to justify our personal weaknesses.
• We are fearful to confront sin. Truth tellers become the problem. (Let me remind you that we are called to tell the truth in love, not letting our delivery be abrasive. The truth can be abrasive, but we should never be.)
• Iron no longer sharpens iron- We got stuck in our disfunction- and we like it at one level as it requires no responsibility on our part.
• We become insincere as everyone must start to look good and be content or risk not fitting in. 

• We segregate ourselves from the outside world, or we begin accepting everything the world says as ok for Christians. We become useless salt. Think of how many people proclaim to follow Jesus but live in a way that displeases Him.
• We begin to protect the status quo in the church. At the extreme, we defend it to the result where good is labeled evil, and evil is justified away.

The church's call to Holiness, living a life that pleases God, is not legalism or simple narrow-mindedness - it is asking the church to be the church, the believer to be a disciple, the challenge to live as we say we believe. If we carry the name of Jesus, we should live like him! But we should also understand we will be treated as He was.

If we read the book of 2 Timothy, where the Apostle Paul addresses Timothy- who was young in the faith but set aside to pastor a church, we get our "job description" as a person who follows Jesus Christ. It's interesting to note that in this letter to Timothy, Paul is the one in prison, but he is encouraging the young pastor to stay the course!

“1 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (II Timothy 2:1-3)

Just some observations- We need to acknowledge God’s grace to live this life. We cannot rely on ourselves. Nor do we need to! The Holy Spirit empowering us. Secondly, we as Jesus followers all have work to do, and Paul was encouraging young pastor Timothy to endure hardship- knowing Timothy was already working hard.

Some authors, like the popular Christian author John Eldridge, believe the church has been feminized. This may be why men are dropping out of the church in record numbers, but I believe it is more than that.  

Lounging our way into being ineffective.

I believe we have been rendered ineffective by being pacified. We have become pacifists- but God calls us to something different. He calls us to be active in our world, making it better because we are in it, contributing to it.

Paul compares being a follower of Jesus, a real disciple, to being a soldier. But what are soldiers called to do? The job of a soldier is to: Defend, Protect, Free Prisoners, Advance Against and Break Down Enemy Strongholds.

General Knowledge from the Wonders of Life attraction,
Cranium Command at Epcot.

The book of I John tells us the whole world is under control of the Evil One, that is the devil. (I John 5:19-20). We know that he is like a roaring lion waiting to devour (I Peter 5:8). Yet, even without the Scriptures to remind us, we can see evil is winning battles in this world, although God has won the War. We are at war! Reality says “If you want to live in a nice world, go to Disneyland!” (Isn't that it's appeal, Disney park fans?)

Yet, look at Jesus’ words about this battle: "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force." (Matthew 11:12- New American Standard version of the Bible). What does this mean? The best explanation from the commentators is this: “The Kingdom of God Belongs to Those Who Contend for It!” Who will win? Not the nice guys! Hear me, I'm not advocating aggression or a victim mentality; I'm advocating perseverance and remembering our Biblical priorities.

Further in 2 Timothy 2: 3-4: “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs- he wants to please his commanding officer.” There's only two comments from Paul here. First, a reminder. Don’t get involved in civilian affairs In other words, remember your first priorities! Secondly, please your commanding officer – the bottom line! For the soldier, this priority remains job Number 1.

Unrelenting obedience is required. A full understanding of all the facts or circumstances is not necessary even if it is preferred. This is training in integrity, commitment, and perseverance. There's no excuses- you are in the military or you are not. Own what you signed up for! Soldiers train for battle, refined by their commander. Every person is under someone’s authority. Each has special skills which work together for the common good, and all of us in the battlefield of life must be able to rely on the other.

Maybe, but it's ultimately unproductive.

Sometimes, the Commanding Officer is blunt, direct and honest- preparing the platoon for things to come; not always liked, but he is respected, and he gets the job done. He's not your Mamma! We need Him to keep us from getting lazy and getting off on the wrong track. We need Him to remind us what Our Mission is!

Churches and people can forget their true mission! It's the Great Commandment, to love God and one another. And it's the Great Commission, to go out into the world, be it near of far, and share the good news that Jesus died for the sins of men to save them from an eternity in Hell. People who truly love risk by speaking the truth in love. They risk being seen as not nice. 

It's more than just understanding the truth. It's acting on it.

What challenges do soldiers face? Plenty- we must "Fight the Good Fight of Faith!" It should be a joy and a delight to work with God. At the least, it is exciting to be obedient, and see where that leads! The Lord will judge us for our deeds; He will forgive our sin, not our excuses! When we step out into obedience to Him, God gets the glory, and His name and His purposes become known.

We are human and we like to run from truth to justify ourselves. We let ourselves and others stay in sin and old unhealthy patterns- this is not good for the church and not good for us as individuals. We like having just enough Jesus to save us from Hell. However,  this kind of shallow satisfaction isn’t enough to give us deep freedom and healing. Only full submission to the One True God will do it.

Not only is the way to eternal life narrow, the path for a true follower of Christ is narrow. It’s a path that leads us to the cross as well! Choosing to die to our own desires and embrace His calling.

We stand at a crossroads every day. What will it be, our purposes or His? Obedience or sin? It's time we fight the disease of Terminal Niceness in our churches. Isn't it?

This teaching is one of my personal favorites, slightly revised for the season. I first posted this years ago, and the message still holds true today.

January 21, 2017

Saturday at Disney's Animal Kingdom 2003

Welcome to Disney's Animal Kingdom! It's a beautiful afternoon in 2003. The park is alive with excitement since the recent opening of the thrilling Expedition: Everest.

Although the park has changed somewhat since then, there are a few attractions here that are now extinct. The most famous might be the entire section of Camp Minnie-Mickey, a land quickly thrown together before opening when the budget had long been spent. The quiet forest hosted the popular Festival of the Lion King, an attraction that finally moved to Africa where it belonged from the beginning. 

The show Pocahontas and her Forest Friends has also gone away. This animal show has departed along with Tarzan Rocks! It's a very popular opening day attraction, a high energy, acrobatic theater show starring the swinging Lord of the Jungle. 

The boats circling the river have also departed. So has the name Countdown to Extinction from the incredible ride back into the time of the dinosaurs. That attraction has been renamed by the suits who felt the need for a synergistic tie in to Disney's movie Dinosaur. Such imagination!

Regardless of the changes, Imagineer Joe Rohde and team created a beautiful park, one of the most stunning ever built. Very short on attractions but a lovely way to relax. A mega Adventureland come to life!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 20, 2017

Taking a Position of Wait and See

New President of the United States, Donald Trump, delivered the following address immediately after being sworn in. As with every president before and after him, promises were delivered. I'm watching to see if he keeps them. Here are his words:

Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans, and people of the world: thank you.

We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and to restore its promise for all of our people.

Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for years to come.

We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done.

Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent.

Today's ceremony, however, has very special meaning. Because today we are not merely transferring power from one Administration to another, or from one party to another – but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.

For too long, a small group in our nation's Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.

Washington flourished – but the people did not share in its wealth.

Politicians prospered – but the jobs left, and the factories closed.

The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.

Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation's Capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

That all changes – starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.
It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America.

This is your day. This is your celebration.

And this, the United States of America, is your country.

What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.

January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.
The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.

Everyone is listening to you now.

You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before.

At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens.
Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves.

These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public.

But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.

This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

We are one nation – and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.

The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.

For many decades, we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry;
Subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military;
We've defended other nation's borders while refusing to defend our own;
And spent trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.
We've made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon.

One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind.

The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world.

But that is the past. And now we are looking only to the future.

We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power.

From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.

From this moment on, it's going to be America First.

Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.

We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.

I will fight for you with every breath in my body – and I will never, ever let you down.

America will start winning again, winning like never before.

We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.

We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.

We will get our people off of welfare and back to work – rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.

We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and Hire American.

We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world – but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.

We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones – and unite the civilized world against Radical Islamic Terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.

When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.

The Bible tells us, "how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity."

We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.
When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.

There should be no fear – we are protected, and we will always be protected.

We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we are protected by God.

Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger.

In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving.

We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action – constantly complaining but never doing anything about it.

The time for empty talk is over.

Now arrives the hour of action.

Do not let anyone tell you it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America.

We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.

We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.

A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.

It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.

And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.

So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words:

You will never be ignored again.

Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams, will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.

Together, We Will Make America Strong Again.

We Will Make America Wealthy Again.

We Will Make America Proud Again.

We Will Make America Safe Again.

And, Yes, Together, We Will Make America Great Again. Thank you, God Bless You, And God Bless America.

(Photograph copyright REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA)

January 19, 2017

The Unfinished Disneyland

Being a Disney park fan is a good thing. Being a collector is a good thing. Being both can bring large doses of headaches, frustrations, disappointments, and empty wallets.

Case in point is my Olszewski Main Street Miniature collection. A good friend of mine, who is an avid Disney fan, had first mentioned these exquisitely detailed replicas way back in 2002. She had showed me Sleeping Beauty Castle, and while impressive, it wasn't something I was keen to collect. Fast forward to 2007, and I'm at the Disney Gallery above the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in New Orleans Square. Amazed by the intricacy and craftsmanship of the soon to be released Haunted Mansion, the deal closer for me is three interchangeable diorama scenes where you literally pull out one and swap it for another (Gallery, Ballroom, and Cemetery with Hitchhiking Ghosts). The cost was close to $300.00 so I convinced myself that I would limit it to this one iconic piece only and be happy. No sooner had I formed that delusional thought, when at the corner of my eye, I see a six foot table with a huge plexiglass cover. Disney, flexing its sneaky marketing muscles. has the entire Main Street pieces displayed on a custom platform. Now I could resist purchasing any single Olszewski piece in hand, much like I can turn down whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. But throw 'em all together in a bowl and add chocolate syrup and chopped nuts, well, hasta la vista baby! At that moment I was determined to collect the entire series so I could have my own little Disneyland back in Hawaii.

I had a bit of catching up to do, but with time and patience, I eventually completed all of Mani Street. It helped that Robert Olszewski made it a point to rotate out of stock pieces back into production. With the success of the initial releases, Bob forged on to produce Fantasyland. As with Main Street, collectors could order an exclusive base designed to house the pieces. Popular attractions like Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland Tea Cups were issued as special commemorative issues earlier on, so Storybook Land and King Arthur's Carousel were the last two remaining pieces to be produced. Both were complicated and expensive, but crucial to finishing up the land. 

Somewhere about this time, Bob signed a new deal with Disney where they would handle all of the manufacturing, distribution, and sales of his products. I can see why this appealed to him as Olszewski (along with his dearly missed manager Travis Tokumura) did everything from working with the plants in China to helping box items up for shipping. With Disney handling the production/sales end, Bob would be free to work exclusively on the artistic/creative portion. In theory, this makes total sense, yet since the transition, exactly ZERO new pieces have been introduced. Not sure what it means for the health of the line, but each passing day brings me closer to the realization that my Disneyland may forever remain unfinished...

            (Photos copyright Len Yokoyama 2017)

Just One Happy Family

One of the cleverest commercials I've seen in a long, long time! Gotta love the fact that Gwen Stefani is back and replacing the obnoxious Miley Cyrus. Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, and Alicia Keys carry on with Carson Daly. Love The Voice's new season crew!

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, tune worthy of The Police. 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