Monday, 22 September 2008

Heard of the 'musical road'?

I stumbled across this story on the BBC site today, about a musical road.

Basically, it's a road that has been groved to "play" the Lone Ranger theme when a car drives over it at 55 mph. Sounds like a cool idea right? Shame the residents are begging for the groves to go, as apparently it's driving them nuts.

However, this story personally reminded me of one of the weirder (and most unknown) Disney stories I've heard in a while. It concerns the short-lived STOL-port just off the Transportation and Ticket Center over at WDW. This long strip of asphalt, that looks just like an airstrip, actually DID used to be an airstrip, a very long time ago. It hasn't seen any airplanes in years but apparently, this was the place where Imagineers experimented:

"What sort of experiment?," you ask. Well, the guys at WDI reportedly discovered that -- if you set up different raised areas of asphalt along a roadway at very specific intervals -- as you drove a wheeled vehicle in the right direction over this specially treated section of road, the vibrations that would then resonate inside the vehicle would almost sound like music.

As the story goes, the Imagineers allegedly used the 2000 foot long airstrip at the old Lake Buena Vista STOLport to field test this musical-speed-bump idea. And -- to this day -- I've had WDW bus drivers swear to me that they actually took part in the field trials of this project. And that -- were you to begin rolling down that old runway at at least 20 MPH -- the vibrations that you heard inside your vehicle sounded just like the opening bars of "Zip a Dee Doo Dah."


(from Jim Hill media)

So see - Disney got there first! It's a shame the experiment did not go any further because it would be very cool to drive up on World Drive and suddenly listen to "When you wish upon a star" or something. And the best parts - there are no residents to complain!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

A bit of controversy?

I didn’t think this could be controversial but apparently, it is.

As many of you know, I’m having a baby and due to deliver sometime in early Feb. Part of the preparation includes working out a plan. In my case, the plan is basically the same as last time – fly home a few weeks before, have the baby there, wait another few weeks while the paperwork goes through and then fly back to the UK with the baby. The idea is to book a c-section sometime in late January, and the boys will arrive a few days before that and stay for a couple of weeks.

It sounds complicated but it really isn’t and as I’ve done it once before, I know very well what I need to do, to carry, to organize and to work out. So these past couple of weeks I’ve been researching flights, documents, etc. I’m fairly confident it will all work out in the end and I’m pretty happy with the choice. I’ve checked it out with the airlines and it is all okay as far as they are concerned (just as it was 5 years ago).

However, every time I see a health professional here in the UK, it’s as if I’ve announced that shortly after the birth I will be sacrificing a donkey and eating it raw – they are horrified. Never mind that I did it before (and I don’t remember it being such a big deal) or that it’s my choice, they just don’t approve. Not that it matters, because there isn’t much they can do to change my mind, but the attitudes are infuriating. So far the pregnancy has been trouble-free and I am aware of the risks so why treat me like a child? Especially when they all take great pains to remind me that I’m an ‘older’ patient.

It’s not just the NHS though; I’ve had strange comments from people that think that if I live in the UK I should give birth to this child in the UK, for some reason. It’s as if the child’s “Britishness” is somehow affected by being born in a nice, clean hospital in another country. For the record, issues of nationality are not affected by the geography of the birth and he/she would have the same rights to British and Mexican nationality regardless of what country is listed as country of birth because it’s all done based on the parents’ nationality.

Other people consider my decision a snub on the health services – and to an extent I suppose it is. I basically don’t like the way childbirth is managed here and have decided to take my business elsewhere. But who does it affect? I’m the one that is paying taxes that eventually pay for the NHS and it is my choice if I want to ‘use’ that money or spend some more by going elsewhere. I could try to go private in the UK but it is extortionately expensive: between £7,000 - £10,000, compared to the roughly £2,500 it will cost me (including flights).

All this before we even get into the discussion as to why I’m planning a c-section already, how come I don’t plan to breastfeed for very long and how dare I be already planning when I’ll be returning to work!!

Is this all really that controversial or am I surrounded by naysayers?

Monday, 15 September 2008

Just another Disney fan answering questions

Yet another set of questions but these ones come from one of many Disney blogs I follow. Imaginerding have a series where eminent Disneyphiles answer these questions, which I thought was fascinating. I’m not enough of a Disney fan to feature in their blog but I thought it would be fun to answer them in my own blog! So, with thanks to Imaginerding here we go:

What is your earliest Disney memory?

I have vague recollections of Disney characters in my nursery when I was a baby – but these memories could come from seeing photos of what my nursery used to look like. I was apparently conceived while my parents honeymooned in Disneyland and my first trip to WDW was when I was very, very little: 2 years old. For the record, I was terrified of Mickey Mouse!

What is your single favorite attraction?

This is one of those questions where the answer probably changes daily but a trip to WDW doesn’t count if I don’t get on Spaceship Earth. I haven’t yet experienced it post-refurb but everything about this attraction is great: the music, the theme, the iconic structure… I also got a chance to tour it on my CM days, which was the icing on the cake.

What is your favorite Disney and non-Disney movie?

Favorite Disney movie is too hard! I will say Beauty and the Beast because it has a great story, the best heroine (who reads!) and some of the best animation of the latest crop of Disney movies. As for non-Disney movie, I really like “Singing in the Rain” but that is only one of the many movies I love.

What is your least favorite park?

Animal Kingdom. I think that it is because I know it the least and the one time I’ve visited the park was fairly new and didn’t have a lot of attractions open yet. I’m sure it is just as cool as the other parks, I just need to get to know it better. During the marathon I got the chance to see the park and it did look very different from the one time I visited, all those years ago.

What is your favorite park?

Hands down – Epcot. It is also the one I know the best, as I worked all over it for a year and grew to love it all, especially world showcase. These days when we go visit, we often only visit one Disney park and it is invariably Epcot. No other park feels so spacious and unique – there is nowhere in the world quite like it.

Who is your favorite Disney character?

It is a cliché but it has to be Mickey Mouse. Not only did it all ‘start with a mouse’ but there is something about this little mouse that just wins me over. So while I really like a lot of the Disney princesses and other characters, Mickey always wins.

What is your favorite Disney song?

I really can’t answer this. As some of my blog readers know, I love to collect Disney music, especially soundtracks to the parks and parades. So I really can’t choose among the hundreds of tracks of music I know and recognize as Disney but if there is one tune that makes me choke back tears, it’s those eight notes at the beginning of ‘When you Wish Upon a Star’.

If you could switch places with any historical or living Disney employee, who would it be and why?

If I could, I probably would switch places with myself in 1995 and 1996 where I was a cast member. It was not the most high-profile job in the World but I loved what I did, even on the days when I was tired and grumpy and hot. I would also really, really love to work for the marketing team in Orlando, the guys based in Celebration. That would be a dream come true.

What is your must eat food at WDW?

I don’t know if I have any ‘must-eat’ food but I do like trying out different things while we’re there. I used to love the hotdogs sold in Epcot, near the Fountain of Nations because they were huge and cheap and, if timed properly, I could eat one while listening to the fountain play some music. I haven’t seen them anymore, though.

Favorite place to stay at WDW?

I haven’t stayed in many of the resorts but I would love to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge someday. I also really like Port Orleans although I’ve never stayed there – the location is just so nice.

What is your favorite place to be at WDW?

Inside the parks! But seriously, it depends – if I’m with the family then anywhere in the parks where I can see my son enjoying himself. If I’m on my own, I love to wander around Main St, around World Showcase or just generally wandering around, soaking up the atmosphere. I also used to love touring the resorts but it’s something best done on my own as the family wouldn’t like it as much. I just love wandering around and feeling relaxed and happy. I don’t even have to be getting on anything just to feel happy!

What is your favorite restaurant?

I am very partial to the Yakitori House in Japan and also really like having lunch at the Cantina in Mexico (not the restaurant inside). I really enjoy the California Grill too and would love to have afternoon tea at the Grand Floridian again. But I would really like to try Boma because I have a feeling I would love it.

What is the first thing you want to do on your next trip?

I would love to visit the other parks, especially the Magic Kingdom as I think my son will love it. He’s only been to the Disneyland Paris one and that was popular! Personally I would just love to go back to WDW, it doesn’t really matter what I do while there, as long as it’s in Disney.

What is your favorite fireworks show?

No question about it – Illuminations. The old-style ones. The ones I must have seen nearly every night for over a year as I worked crowd control during the show – and I loved it every night.

Where did you develop your love of Disney?

I really don’t know. It was way before I was CM as I had already done a lot of university papers on the subject, I had begged my parents to take us back year after year and I already was bitten by the bug. Maybe it was all those books I had, beginning with a small booklet…

If you had to choose parks or movies, which would it be?

Parks. Anyone can do movies and do them well but I think only Disney can do parks really well, filled with magic and fun. Which character do you associate with the most?

Belle! I like that she is a reader, that she isn’t a blonde (a huge deal back when the movie came out) and that she is not a victim. I like to think that I could be like her – I already have the reading thing down pat.

Does any forensic evidence exist linking you to the Kennedy assassination?

I was born in 1971 so NO!

Would you make any major changes to the current design of any of the parks?

I believe that most of the changes introduced to the parks have a good reason for being implemented – even if it is a financial reason. So most of the time I accept change and look forward to the new addition. But if it was up to me I’d re-open the Wonders of Life pavilion as that part of the park looks a little empty and sad. I’d also try to make Animal Kingdom a little more ‘airy’ as it feels a bit cramped sometimes but that may be the intention…

What is the most significant architectural feature of WDW?

Spaceship Earth. There is only one geodesic sphere in the world and it is instantly recognizable, it sparkles like a jewel and looks amazing as the sun sets. Cinderella’s castle is pretty amazing too and will look magical in winter but Spaceship Earth is still very, very unique.

What is the weakest Epcot country?

For me it’s Germany. I am not a huge fan of the music or food of the country so there isn’t a lot to attract me. I also can’t walk past it without reflecting on all that wasted space backstage that was supposed to house a boat ride and is now used for storage and other mundane uses.
What is your favorite Disney guilty pleasure?

Buying silly things! I would also love to be able to walk around dressed like a princess (like little girls do) and not be stared at. I also love eating all that junk food and getting emotional with all the cheesiness.

Where do you spend most of your time online when in the Disney-sphere?

I read so many blogs it’s hard to keep track (if it wasn’t for Google reader) but besides Imaginerding, I am a big fan of Jim Hill, AllEars.net, Didier Ghez and Alain Littaye, If we can dream it, and a whole bunch of other blogs and a few podcasts. I probably should stop being so lazy and include the list of blogs I follow in here!

You are the CEO and you have to cut one division: film, animation, parks, music, ABC, or ESPN. Where do you start cutting?

ESPN has always felt a funny fit to me because I’m not a huge sports fan or a US resident, but I am aware that this division makes a ton of cash. I guess ABC would be the one to go, as the other divisions work together to create content that can be exploited in the other divisions so I would guess ABC would be it.

Do you have any money we can borrow or have?

If I did, I wouldn’t be in the UK right now but more likely somewhere in WDW!

What do you consider the most historically significant or defining moment in Disney history?

I guess it would be that day that Walt realized that parks should be places where families have fun together, and not places where dads sit on benches while the children play. This of course led to the theme parks and a whole generation of people now consider the brand to be synonymous with magical theme parks for the family.

How do you feel about Disney's stance to remove Song of the South and other period specific pieces from its association?

I can see why they felt they had to do it, but it is a shame as those pieces say as much about the times in which they were created as they do about their content. It has also meant that these specific items are now even more coveted, as they are ‘rare’ and perhaps are even more famous now than they ever were.

If you could change one thing about a Disney Movie, what movie would it be and what would you change?

If I could, I’d make it so that all those frankly awful Disney movies of the 70s and early 80s would disappear! I wish I could also re-make Tron so that the effects and storyline would resonate with today’s audience… oh wait….

Which Disney Hotel could you live in for the rest of your life?

The Yacht and Beach club because it’s only a short walk to Epcot and the Studios, it’s in a relatively quiet area but not too isolated and it is just beautiful to look at. I would also be very happy in the Grand Floridian of course but I think I would eventually get bored of the restaurants.

What is your favorite Disney book?

I have so many it’s hard to choose! I am currently working through the Disneyland Paris book: From Sketch to Reality and it’s is certainly one of the most beautiful books I’ve seen on any Disney park. I don’t even think that there is anything as close to this for WDW so right now this is my favourite book. Next week I will change my mind (depending on what I’m reading).

Thursday, 4 September 2008

First day of school

(It's not often I write something so personal so please indulge me - I'll be back with the regularly scheduled programming soon!)

My little boy started school today.

Ever since he attended his trial days back in June, he has both been eagerly awaiting the start of school and saying he doesn’t want to go. It’s normal I guess – it is a big step and very different from the nursery he’s been in since he was a baby.

So it was a relief to see him so excited this morning about wearing his school socks, his nice new black shoes (he doesn’t usually like new shoes so that was another triumph) and his gray trousers and blue school polo shirt. He looked adorable and was so, so happy to go.

He even asked me to take his photo because he was so proud of his uniform – and as a good scrapbooker of COURSE I took several photos!

As we were driving to school he kept telling me and Chango (his stuffed monkey and faithful companion) how he was now a big boy and was going to school and could get dressed all by himself and so on. It was adorable chatter and he was really, really excited when he saw the school: “That’s my school!” he said.

We got out of the car and as we walked in the quiet building, I could feel him put his little hand in mine and said “I’m not scared mami.” But the fact that he needed the reassurance of my hand was telling me another story. He was probably more than a bit nervous and shy but he bravely went in and put his things away before sitting down for breakfast. We talked about a few practical matters with the teachers and then left, but not without a backward glance at our little boy, sitting there eating quietly while listening to the conversations of the older children all around him.

He looked so small and so shy but I also knew that he was being very brave and that he will love his school. It was a big step for him but he took it very well and I am sure that it partially stems from the fact that he has been in nursery for so long. He is very sociable, knows all the playground basics (to share, to be kind, to be friendly, etc) and I know that a lot of that is stuff he learned at nursery.

I know that going back to work full-time when Samuel was 9 months old was mainly a selfish decision: I was going crazy being at home and craved going back to work. But I also know that doing that made me a better mother as I was able to spend nothing but quality time with him after work. He has also learned so very much from nursery and from being around other children since he was a baby.

Returning to work after having a baby is such a big decision and most of the time mothers get stick either way so I decided to ignore what everyone else thought and did what was best for me and my family. And seeing my little boy on his first day of school so shy yet so brave, I knew I made the right decision. I gave him the gift of independence.

PS. Yes, I cried as I was driving back to work!

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

On my soapbox...

I heard something on the radio this morning that made me cringe, something about “…John McCain’s campaign for President of America…”


President of America???


This is one of those issues that really, really grate my nerves. Why is it that the citizens of the United States feel that ‘America’ is just the name of their country, when in reality it is the name of a whole continent? The worst part is that it’s not just them, but the Brits that follow that convention too and constantly talk about going to ‘America’ for a holiday, when they really mean the USA or even just Florida. WHY?


It is no good trying to narrow it down to North America, because both Canada and Mexico are also part of North America. So I can truthfully say that not only am I Mexican but I am also North American – because I was born in Mexico, which is a part of N. America, and the same goes for Canadians (who probably get even more annoyed at being confused with those from the USA).


I guess the main problem is that the United States of America is technically a country without a name. We can’t call it America because that is the continent and although United States is more accurate, few people know that the correct and full name of Mexico is the United States of Mexico, but granted that is being petty. So I guess we can call it the United States and I'll be happy with that.


What does that make its citizens though? ‘Americans’? Well yes, in the sense that they are citizens of a country in the American continent, but Brazilians, Colombians, Canadians and Argentineans are all also ‘Americans’. The correct name would probably be something like ‘United Statesians’ but they are hardly ever called that (besides being a bit of a tongue twister). I personally like ‘Gringos’ but I am not sure they do… so what do we call them, to distinguish them from all other citizens of the American continent?


“Proud to be American” is a very common phrase. But what does it really mean – proud to have been born in the American continent, as opposed to Europe or Asia? Then a lot of people up and down the continent can say this phrase without being wrong or having ever even set foot in the USA. “God bless America” (besides being a bit of a weird thing to say, for all sorts of other reasons) should not be interpreted as meaning just the USA, really. “My fellow Americans” is a favourite of politicians – are they addressing the whole continent?


Isn’t it weird that one of the most powerful countries in the world doesn’t really have a name for itself or its people?

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