Saturday, March 20, 2010

Super-Awsome Find of the Week, installment 12

As a former Blockbuster employee, I fully support this message.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dumbo: A Tragedy in Three Acts, part III

Act III: Redemption?

As usually happens, time went on, and that fateful autumn day receded further and further into my past. I began to outgrow my affinity for all things Dumbo and moved forward to more important things, like elementary and (subsequently) middle school. In fact, I would dare say that at this point in my life, I had forgotten all about the heartache I had twice experienced in southern California.

There was one slight hiccup in my thought-repression, however. At the end of middle school, as was the custom at the time, all 9th graders got to take a day off from school and go to Lagoon. For the uninformed, Lagoon is an amusement park in Utah that prides itself on being the most-visited amusement park within a few hundred miles; they fail to note, of course, that it is also the only amusement park within a few hundred miles. Pride-by-default notwithstanding, "Lagoon Day" was something most 9th graders looked forward to, if only for an opportunity to rub it in the younger classmen's faces. As I had not been to Lagoon (or any other amusement park) for quite some time, I explored every nook and cranny of the park, determined to get the most out of my trip. Because, you know, that's what cool fifteen-year-olds do.

Pictured: one cool fifteen-year-old
In my exploration, I discovered something that struck an all-too-familiar chord with me: a ride whose cars spin around in a circle and can ascend/descend at the rider's will. Had I accidentally stumbled into a wormhole and been transported from Lagoon back to Disneyland? Upon closer inspection, I realized I hadn't; for you see, the cars at the Lagoon ride were helicopters, not flying elephants. While it may have offered some solace, I knew I would not only be lying to myself by riding it, but I would feel a degree of guilt—much like someone who marries a girl's younger sister when she shuts down his proposal... twice. I realized that no, this was not the time nor the place for me to settle. It was Dumbo or nothing.

Pictured: nothing
When I was in my early twenties, my father surprised me with the most interesting news I had heard in quite some time: that winter, we were going to Disneyworld. Perhaps he had had his fill of Anaheim, or perhaps he wanted his grandchildren to have the Disney experience at its fullest. Whatever the reason, a few months after the announcement, this supposed "Magic Kingdom" was the destination of my family—including my nieces and nephews, a whole new generation of younglings ready to be hewn down by the lightsaber of crushed hopes wielded by none other than Darth Disneus.

Star Wars metaphors, anyone?
Much to my surprise, Disneyworld was actually pretty fun, even as an adult. Actually, perhaps it was because I was an adult that made it so enjoyable. After all, a child wouldn't have received the same degree of enjoyment that we did after convincing the operator of Splash Mountain to break the rules and let us go twice in a row; nor would a child have found the humor in Snow White's Scary Adventures completely shutting down because our cart—full of seven fully-grown adults—weighed too much and caused a malfunction in the driving mechanism.

After we were asked to leave Snow White, we were debating what ride to visit next; while we were in mid-discussion, I glanced across the walkway and saw something whose beauty surpassed anything I had ever seen: Dumbo the Flying Elephant in all its remodeled glory. The center turning machine had been outfitted with gold beams and brass filigree. There were sixteen elephants instead of the original ten. And the best part of it all: a line of children were standing in front of it. A line meant proper operation! Nearly two decades after my original encounter, I finally reached my destination.

Or so I thought.

As I neared the ride, I realized that the line was slowly dissipating. I quickly maneuvered my way upstream through the dispersing crowd and reached the operator. His back was turned, so I desperately tried to get his attention. He was busy working on something and paid me no mind. Just as I was about to start throwing things to get him to turn around, he walked away from what he was working on. While I was racking my brain, trying to figure out exactly what was going on, he was busy posting...

...a sign announcing that Dumbo the Flying Elephant was closed for repairs.

the sign, as I remember it
Le sigh.

It has been over four years since that day, and I have yet to return to a Disney park; a man can only take so much punishment, after all. Will I ever go back? My initial thoughts were akin to "not in a million years". However, with the recent announcement of Fantasyland getting an expansion and makeover—including an entire area devoted to Dumbo—I may be forced to once-again swallow my pride and venture forth again in a few years. Perhaps the fourth time will be a charm?

It looks good, Lou. But we really need to convey the feeling of despair children are going to have...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dumbo: A Tragedy in Three Acts, part II

Act II: Despair

After I returned from the ill-fated trip, life went back to normal. That is to say, as normal as one's life can be after having one's dreams obliterated by an uncaring rodent juggernaut. My friends would ask me how my trip was, and I would respond that it was as good as could be expected. This, of course, was just a façade, put forward for appearances. In reality, the trip was anything but fine; yes, Disneyland was still fun and I had an enjoyable time, but deep on the inside, I was a broken man.

A GoogleImage search of "melodrama" brought up this picture.
As time went on, my wounds began the healing process. After a few years had passed, I had buried the incident deep down and had gone on with my life. Then, one day at school, we were discussing past American presidents and their various quirks. When we got to Harry S Truman, my first thoughts were that he was a champ; not only did he seal the deal on WWII for America, but he also was too cool for a middle name. These thoughts of adoration quickly ended, however, when I was told the following tidbit: when Truman visited Disneyland in 1957, he refused to ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant because he didn't want to be seen with the main symbol of the Republican party.

What an f-hole.
Much like in the Manchurian Candidate, a few simple words had triggered a reaction in my head. Images and feelings of heartbreak and sorrow from the past filled my mind. These images were joined by a new-found disdain for the 33rd president. He had the chance—nay, the privilege—to ride Dumbo and he blew it off? Korea may have been forgivable, Mr. Truman, but not that.

For those confused about that last comment, this is an f-hole.
A few short weeks after Truman, with one single act, secured the "Worst President of All Time" position in my young mind, my mother surprised me with the best news I had heard in the past three years: that fall, we were going to Disneyland. While all my siblings were excited about the newly-built Splash Mountain—and, I'll admit, there was interest on my part as well—I knew there was only one ride that called my name. And to make matters all-the-better, we were going to visit the park for two days. Two whole days! This time, nothing could get in my way. There would be no one to stop me this time.

The cold, hard look of determination.
The air was crisp that cold, autumn morning. The cool sou'wester that frequents southern California caused the temperature to be almost perfect. And, due to Utah's habit of coinciding the fall school break with the opening weekend of the deer hunt, we were there on a Thursday, which meant the lines would be at a minimum. My parents suggested that our first stop be the aforementioned Splash Mountain. I didn't object; after all, there would be plenty of Adam/Dumbo time later.

As the day drew on, I grew more and more impatient. Finally, when the rest of the family was taking a breather after a particularly nausea-inducing spin on the Mad Tea Party, my mother agreed to escort me to Dumbo. As we walked, we saw Timothy Mouse—the ornament resting atop the center of the ride—emerge above the treeline. I started running at this point, for I was only a few feet from my destiny. Only a few feet from my white whale. Only a few feet from...

...a sign announcing that Dumbo the Flying Elephant was closed for repairs.

I was crushed. Had I really been snubbed twice by a ride that I had showed nothing but love, compassion, and ultimate devotion towards? My mom put her hand on my shoulder in an effort to console me. While I appreciated the effort, the damage had been done, and was far too deep. I sulked back to my family and back to Utah. It seemed that Dumbo would be forever out of my reach... until the fates would once again intertwine my life with my big-eared friend's, 2500 miles and 16 years later.

the sign, as I remember it
Coming up next time: a final chance at redemption...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Super-Awsome Find of the Week, installment 11

The lament of a video game villain.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dumbo: A Tragedy in Three Acts, part I

Act I: Disenchantment

When I young, my parents revealed what was at the time the best news I had ever heard: that summer, we were going to Disneyland. Like many kids growing up in Utah, I had never been to this Californian Shangri-La and had only heard legends and tales of it from two sources:

  1) My parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents/other old people who talked about how great it was when they were kids; and
  2) The occasional spoiled kid at school whose families made a tradition of going on a complete California vacation every summer, and who would always brag about his trips and suggest that perhaps this most recent one "wasn't as good as last year's". (Incidentally, these kids would grow up to be the same d-bags who have license plate covers that say things like "My other car is also a porche.")

Given the aforementioned circumstances, you can understand how happy I was to hear the news.

me, circa late-1980s
It also needs to be noted that at this particular point in my life, my favorite Disney movie was Dumbo. (While I'm at it, it also needs to be noted that at the current point in my life, my favorite Disney movie is The Emperor's New Groove. You simply cannot beat lines like, "I'm kind of hard to fit: I wear a 66 long and a 31 waist.") There was just something about that flying elephant that struck a cord with the little version of me. So when my parents told my siblings and me that we were going to the Land of Disney, I was overjoyed; but when my mom told me that I would be able to go on a ride called Dumbo the Flying Elephant, I nearly died of excitement. An entire ride dedicated to my favorite flying pachyderm? Truly, this must be heaven.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant, circa late-1980s
The road-trip to Anaheim was long, and it felt, what with two adults and four children piled into a 198something Corolla hatchback, longer. And for those who have made the drive, you know that the scenery from Salt Lake to SoCal doesn't make the trip much better. But it all became moot the moment we saw the spires of Sleeping Beauty's castle jutting up from the suburban wasteland, hailing all who saw to take refuge within. We had arrived; I was home.

a Toyota Corolla hatchback, circa late-1980s
I practically ran across the miles of parking lot to the front gate. After years of hearing about it and weeks of dreaming about it, I was only a few hundred yards from what was sure to be the end-all/be-all of my (admittedly short) existence. Being the youngest—and, by definition, the most likely to cry when things didn't go my way—I was granted first choice when it came to rides. I already knew my destination and plotted my course.

Taking the helm, I led the family to Fantasyland. We passed the Enchanted Tiki Room, sidestepped the Jungle Cruise, and completely ignored Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Those could all wait, for there was only one ride on my mind. Come hell or high water, I was taking my family straight to...

...a sign announcing that Dumbo the Flying Elephant was closed for repairs.

I could not believe my eyes. Surely there had to be some mistake. After all, Dumbo was my ride. How could it be closed during my weekend, after I had traveled 700 miles just for it? But no amount of pleading or reasoning would avail; the sign stood firm. After coming to the understanding that no matter how many other rides were available, Dumbo wouldn't be, I hung my head in sorrow. Much like Dorothy thought about Oz after discovering the man behind the curtain, I had been brought to a somber realization: perhaps Disnleyland wasn't so great after all.

the sign, as I remember it
Coming up next time: a second shot at glory...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Super-Awsome Find of the Week, installment 10

I always knew geography was awesome.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

NUance 1

(Every so often, I will present to you a NUance of my own creation.)

Who's the leader of the club...?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Utah - H*ck Yeah!, part 2

  Land of the mountains high, Utah, we love thee!
  Land of the sunny sky, Utah, we love thee!
  Far in the glorious West,
  Throned on the mountain's crest,
  In robes of statehood dressed, Utah, we love thee!

While my feelings towards the Beehive State aren't as fervent as those portrayed in the official State Song, I do happen to think Utah is a pretty cool*. Why? Let me show you.

*Johnny Utah is pretty cool, too.
Naturally, the first topic of discussion when talking about Utah always religion. "But Adam," people say, "isn't Utah a hyper-religious autocracy filled with zealous Mormons?" While it is true that a large percentage of the population in Utah is LDS, in a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life, Utah came in (a somewhat unexpected) 12th place when ranked among states whose residents feel religion is important to them—a mere 10% above the national average. (For those interested, last place was claimed by the twin coalition of New Hampshire and Vermont, and first place was proudly taken by Mississippi.) While this statistic may be a bit distressing for those who actually want Utah to become a hyper-religious autocracy (of which I can only hope there are only a handful), it may shine a different light on the state to others.

Although something tells me the Hindu population of Mississippi is not as prevalent as this sign would have us believe.
Brain Health
Recently, Dr. Michael Roizen and his colleagues evaluated "the 50 U.S. states... on 21 brain health indicators in the areas of diet, physical health, mental health and social well-being". He then ranked the states according to the brain health index. In said index, Utah ranked at a mighty number 15, just five short of the top ten. While I don't understand science very well, I think that means that Utahns are fairly smart—or at least their brains have the capacity and ability to be so. And while Dr. Roizen says that "Utah residents... should be eating more of the state fish – the rainbow trout", perhaps Dr. Roizen should be using more of the internet to find out what Utah's State Fish really is.

Whose brain is healthy now, Doc?
Admittedly, Americans in general have a different perspective of "safety" than a good majority of the world. While America is by no means the safest country on Earth, it is far—and I do mean far—from being the most dangerous. That being said, a recent study placed Utah as the 17th safest state in America. When I discovered this, it came as no surprise to me, as Sandy (my hometown) had just posted a billboard on the freeway using safety as a selling point.

We're number 34! We're number 34!
What did come as a surprise to me, however, were the states that took the title of "Safest": that cursed duumverate of New Hampshire and Vermont. This is the second time in three lists they've appeared, and both times they've been at each other's sides. Whatever is going on over there, I don't like it.

They're up to something. I can feel it.
Sure, Utah may be just-the-right-amount-of-religious, brain-healthy, and safe, but what about overall well-being? According to a study called the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, in 2008 Utah was #1 when it comes to overall well-being. What does that mean, exactly? The study gathered surveys from each state in six categories: life evaluation, emotional health, physical health, healthy behavior, work environment, and basic access. They then averaged the scores and ranked them accordingly, creating what is essentially a ranking of the happiest states. "But," you might say, "that was in 2008. What about 2009?" Well, I saddens me to announce that last year, Utah was bumped to 2nd place. And what state did the ousting? Oh, only a state that is described by virtually everyone who visits there as "paradise"—Hawaii.

Taking into consideration the unfair advantage the island has (i.e. Hawaii is prime rib and Utah is... weird brother of prime rib), I'd say Utah did pretty well for itself.

Yeah, I'd be happier there too.
Now, I am fully aware that Utah has its fair share of problems. Utahns rank first in per capita porn consumption, and Utah is the only state that not only still uses a firing squad, but allows guns on college campuses. However, Utahns also have one of the highest life expectancies, have the lowest per capita alcohol consumption, and Utah is the fastest growing state in the nation.

So, when it is all said and done, Utah is by no means perfect. However, if you want to life in a place that has some pretty impressive statistics—and not to mention four distinct and awesome seasons—then allow me to quote Robert "the Sundance Kid" Redford: "Because, you know, you're in Utah... and if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere."

And that dude knows what he is talking about.