Politically correct Disney

This post originally appeared in November of 2011.

When you have a company that primarily caters to younger audiences, it isn’t too terribly surprising the people behind the scenes make sure the material presented to these young people is in no way controversial.  There is added difficulty when your company also happens to have existed for many, many years, and what might have been acceptable at one time becomes unacceptable in another.

Of the many films produced by Walt Disney Studios, the one you cannot get your hands on is an official release of Song of the South.  This despite the fact that the film features one of the more recognizable Disney songs ever created (Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah) and has a ride (Splash Mountain) based on the animated segments in the film.  It is the non-animated segments, however, that are -to put it mildly- a source of controversy given the depiction of African Americans in post-Civil War times.  But the movie isn’t a unique example of Disney studios going back and changing things that may be, in these modern times, deemed at best “touchy” and at worst “offensive”.

I’ve been going to Walt Disney World near Orlando for years, and it is curious to note the subtle and not so subtle changes to some of their rides.  The 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage ride has been completely done away with.  Two others have featured some notable changes.

The first is the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  With the success of the movie franchise, audiences have witnessed the appearance of an animatronic version of Capt. Jack Sparrow.  His presence isn’t all that bad, but it does change the focus of the ride from one of amorphous idealized pirates to a focus more in line with the movies.  What I found most intriguing was the way they changed one of the ride’s more elaborate jokes.  After we pass the “women’s” market (where a pirate group is selling women off to leering pirates, the joke being that the current woman on sale, a fat one, is of no interest in the buyers.  They have their eyes on the next woman in line, who is a knockout.  The way things are going, I suspect this particular joke won’t remain in the ride much longer!), we come upon a besieged town.  Originally the joke presented here was that we see one pirate chasing a woman around her house.  Then another doing the same.  When we get to the third house, however, the woman is far larger than the pirate and, instead of him chasing her, she’s chasing him around the house, swinging her broom at his head!

This joke was completely killed off for obvious reasons.  After all, what are the pirates doing chasing the women?  Because they are hungry and want the women to make them some breakfast or lunch?  Are they cold and want the women to fetch them a warm drink?

Clearly, this is not the case.  In fact, the “joke” presented here is that these women are in the process of being assaulted.  Once the pirates “catch” them, what follows can only be one thing.  The people behind the scenes at Disney, I’m quite certain, decided this “joke” was a little too risqué and nixed it.  Now, the first house has a pair of pirates running around in circles while carrying a (no doubt pilfered) treasure chest.  The second house has (I believe) a woman chasing away a pirate, and the third has the same big woman chasing a pirate.  The joke is officially expunged.

This last time I went to Walt Disney World, I noted another change.  If you go to the Haunted Mansion ride, in the preamble, you’re “locked” in a room with your fellow park attendees and listen as the narrator talks about the mansion.  The walls seem to move, and the lower parts of painted pictures reveal humorous “hidden” bottoms containing macabre jokes.  Toward the end of this segment, the narrator notes that the audience is trapped in a room with no doors or windows.  How, he wonders, are we to find a way out?  Our narrator then states that in a room without doors or windows, there is only one way out.  Then, you hear a scream and lightning reveals a hidden attic above us, showing…not much.

At least now.

Yes, there’s the sound of crashing and you see a ragged figure above you, but the whole conclusion to the narration makes little sense.  Why?  Because the original “way out” was clipped.  For the original “way out” was…suicide.

When the narrator says there is a way out, originally when you heard the screams and the lightning flashes illuminated the room above you, the ragged figure you saw was clearly hanging from her neck on a rope.  The implication was that in a room with no exit, the only exit is to kill yourself.  Not the most ideal of “jokes” to present little kids!  Now, the ragged figure does not sway on any rope, but is immobile, making the ending of this part of the ride rather confusing (although, granted, far more politically correct than showing the ragged remains of some poor forgotten soul who has committed suicide!).

Anyway, if you’re interested in more changes (some dealing with far less controversial material within the parks), I found this pretty interesting website that details some of those people have noted:


Apple vs. Android…

Fascinating, and brief, article by Dan Lyons for The Daily Beast regarding the Apple vs. Android patent war and the possible outcomes…


One of the most beautiful things about Captialism is that when companies fight head to head, the end result is usually a net benefit for consumers:  In theory, each company tries very, very hard to ensure their product is better overall (function, form, durability) than their competitors.  And if the products are comparable (or even identical), then consumers could also benefit from price wars.  After all, if the companies’ products are indeed identical, the only way to get consumers to buy one product over the other is by selling them for less.

With regards to computers and computer related products, unfortunately for Apple much of their technology -great thought it may be- was not created in a vacuum and it was only a matter of time before others would compete head to head with them.  Looking at Apple’s products, from my perspective the company has taken many common individual components (personal computers, touchscreen technology, cellular phone systems, etc.) and mixed them together to create their beautiful package.

The problem, for Apple, is that because the individual components are common, it is difficult to then turn around and say the overall package is somehow unique.  This is why I suspect Apple isn’t doing quite as well with their patent lawsuits as they probably hoped they would.

Then again, I’m far from some technological wizard and for all I know every bit of opinion presented above is dead wrong.  Regardless, I hope that Apple continues to make their beautiful products.  I also hope that the lack of success in their lawsuits against other companies encourages them to up their competition with the Android market and make even better products.

And I hope the Android makers do the same.

In the end, we the consumer will be the beneficiaries.

Top 10 David Bowie songs…

…at least according to Time magazine:


Can’t argue with their choices.  I love what was written at the end of their description for the song “Heroes”:

When U2 went to Berlin to make Achtung Baby,they were trying to make this song. The entire Arcade Fire catalog came out of this song.

Ok, I think I’ve done enough David Bowie related posts for now.  I’ll give it a rest…until his next birthday! 😉

Lincoln assassination witness…

I couldn’t find the actual post, but as I was thinking about posts from my old blog that I wanted to re-post to this new one, there was one that simply had to appear again.  The video below is from the Feb. 9, 1956 episode of I’ve Got A Secret, a game show involving celebrities figuring out, natch, what “secret” the person appearing before them has.

In the case of one Samuel J. Seymour, it turned out his secret was something both unique and quite incredible:  As a very young child, he was present in the Ford Theater the night that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

The fact that he could still remember some of the details all those years later is incredible.  I think it’s fair to say on the night of the taping of this program Mr. Seymour was the very last living person to have been present at the Ford Theater that tragic night.

Fright Night (2011) a (mildly) belated review

Count me among those who has a pleasant memory of the original 1985 version of Fright Night.  That vampire movie may not rank up there with the original Dracula or Nosferatu, and my memories of it may be hazy with time (I haven’t seen the film in its entirety probably since around that time!), but I recall having a few chills and plenty of laughs (intentional!) regarding that horror/comedy hybrid.

When I heard that a remake of the film was being made, I wasn’t terribly perturbed.  The original was hardly one of those movie “classics” one is incredulous the studios movie studios would dare consider remaking.  When I heard Jerry the vampire would be played by Colin Farrell and would feature David Tennant in the showy role of Peter Vincent (originally played by the late -and great!- Roddy McDowall), my interest in the film spiked.  I like both actors quite a bit and thought each could take their roles and push them toward interesting directions.

The 2011 Fright Night came and disappeared from the theaters rather quickly.  The reviews were generally pretty positive (on Rottentomatoes.com, the film has a 74% approval from critics and 64% approval from audiences.  Not bad, although the original film scored a higher 93% and 71%, respectively).  I remained curious to see the film.

Yesterday, I finally got to do just that.

The remake of the film follows almost the exact same storyline.  The first half of the film, in particular, is quite effective, leading to the film’s best sequence wherein Jerry first attacks, then chases down our protagonist, his mother, and his girlfriend.  That extended chase sequence, which concluded with a hilarious -then grisly- cameo appearance from one of the main actors in the original film, was the movie’s highlight and was suspenseful as hell.

At that point, I thought the film was a complete winner and couldn’t understand why audiences weren’t drawn in much more.

Alas, immediately after that sequence it became clear why.  Quite simply, the movie ran out of gas.  Colin Farrell’s Jerry became a one dimensional threat, stalking the protagonists but not really doing this stalking all that effectively.  Given his fearsome abilities, was it really that urgent for him to hunt them down like he did?  The fact is, he had all the time in the world to wait them out, and realistically they couldn’t go to the authorities to report a vampire without getting locked up…or worse.

After that brilliant chase sequence, we’re also introduced to David Tennant’s Peter Vincent.  In this incarnation, he’s a flashy Las Vegas magician with a past history, we find, with our vampire.  The introduction to Vincent is quite vulgar and funny, but, like Colin Farrell’s Jerry, his character rapidly becomes one note and predictable.  The movie flat lines, leading to a climax that wasn’t anywhere near as suspenseful as the chase presented earlier.

In the end, the first half of the film easily earns 3 stars. The second half, unfortunately, was a very mediocre 2 stars.  Because of that flat second half, I can’t recommend the film.  A pity.

Mystery find in Baltic Sea

I first heard about this fascinating story a little while back. When exactly I can’t remember, but this video from CNN is probably the best update (to now) of that particular story, involving a very mysterious looking shape -a UFO?- discovered by sonar at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

The most fascinating thing about the story -other than the odd shape of the object!- is its size.  That combination adds to the mystery.  According to the report, we’ll have to wait until at least May, when the Baltic waters become smoother, before getting a closer look.  I’m curious to hear what they find then!

Maim that tune

Originally posted on my previous blog, May 2009…

EW.com has a pretty fun list of famous, well known songs that are subsequently covered (and, in the readers’ opinion) destroyed by other artists:


I have to agree with many of their choices, and my personal least favorite is the Madonna version of “American Pie”.  Just baffling.  On the other hand, I don’t have as much of a problem with No Doubt’s version of “It’s My Life” or Tori Amos’ version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  To me, the former song wasn’t all that great to begin with (nor, I hasten to add, was it terrible), so I didn’t really mind the remake.  As for Ms. Amos, it certainly was dangerous (creatively anyway) to take on such a popular song and make her version.  I felt it was a decent enough job

Not included in the list is my least favorite remake coming from someone whose original music I consider among the best ever: David Bowie.  On the otherwise incredible album Aladdin Sane, Mr. Bowie does a cover of The Rolling Stone’s “Let’s Spend the Night Together”.  Mr. Bowie’s version is…well…bizarre.  I like the way the song begins, but by the time it reaches its mid-section…ho boy.  I suppose its not the worst thing Mr. Bowie’s ever done (in a career as long as his, there were bound to be ups and downs), but still.  Judge for yourself:

Moving away from the worst, how about some of the best?  Mr. Bowie may not have hit the ball out of the park (IMHO!) with “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” but his cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Waiting For the Man” is just as good -if not better!- than the original, again IMHO:

And the original Velvet Underground version:


Apple’s Cash on Hand

Yesterday Apple revealed the extent of their financial success during the past quarter.  And quite a haul they had:


The bottom line?  From the article:

The company posted a quarterly revenue of $46.33 billion and a quarterly net profit of $13.06 billion.

A net profit of 13.06…billion?!

What makes the above link worth clicking is that we’re offered 9 things you could pay for with this amount of cash.

Whether a fan of Apple products or not, there is little denying the amount of money the company makes is nothing short of staggering.

Anamorph (2007) a (mildly) belated review

One of the more fascinating things, after all this time writing this blog, is seeing what posts wind up being searched out by people and which aren’t.  Some post I was certain would get multiple views long after being posted…and didn’t.  Some I knew from the outset would be interesting for people for a limited time and were.  And some I wrote thinking they’d have a very short shelf life and was surprised to find they had staying power and people kept searching them out long after they were posted.

I’d like to think this happens because whatever I wrote was so fascinating, so blindingly unique, so intellectually challenging that of course people would come back to revel in my oh-so-brilliant analysis.

The cold hard reality, alas, is that I was simply very, very lucky stumbling onto a topic that people out there found interesting.  This then is one of those blogs that when I originally wrote it figured it would elicit some mild interest before fading away.  Today, nearly two years later, it still draws some interest.  From March of 2010, here’s my (mildly belated) review of a perplexing film called Anamorph.

So I’m feeling pretty damn sick over the weekend and, as the illness drains from my body and I’m feeling up for some light TV fare, I turn the television on and, on the IFC channel (or was it Sundance?!) a movie titled Anamorph begins.  Instantly I’m thrown…the title of this 2007 film sounds like it belongs to a kiddie TV show you’d find lodged between G. I. Joe and The Transformers on some lazy Saturday morning.  I watch on, realizing rather quickly that this movie is about as far from kiddie fare as you could imagine.

In fact, Anamorph turns out to be an ambitious, indeed overly ambitious film that can be accurately billed as something “inspired by” (or, if you’re less charitable ripping off) Se7en and Fight Club.  However, lest I sound too critical right off the bat, the movie does feature plenty of food for thought on its very own, even if the influences mentioned are there.

Anamorph features Willem Defoe as Stan Aubray, a NY detective who is at the start of the film presented as an introverted oddball.  He lectures at a school while (barely) still working at the Police Department.  Five years ago he was involved in the notorious “Uncle Eddie” serial killer case, and it now appears “Uncle Eddie” might be back.

But things aren’t always what they seem…

The short review:  The film is decent, well-acted, and keeps your interest through its run time.  However, there are so many elements to the story that ultimately are never appropriately resolved and, thus, confuse the viewer that I can’t unequivocably recommend it.  I suppose if what you’ve read so far has you intrigued, then give the film a whirl…just be prepared to not get tidy answers to all the questions posed.

Now, I’m going to get into the movie’s details, something I can’t do with giving a very clear…



Still there?

Ok, here we go:  I enjoy almost every type and genre of film.  Science fiction, fantasy, suspense, thriller, horror, comedy, drama…you name it and there’s a good chance I can offer an example of a film in said genre I’ve enjoyed.  Often, films in the various genres that make me think, or rather those that don’t spell everything out, are particularly intriguing.  2001: A Space Odyssey is a classic example of just that. There is little dialogue and much is left for the viewers to figure out.  The same goes for Mulholland Dr., perhaps my favorite David Lynch film.  I was absolutely confused by what was going on until we arrived at the audition scene.  Suddenly, I understood what Mr. Lynch was doing, and the film became, at least to me, absolutely fascinating.

With Anamorph we start with what appears to be your typical serial killer movie scenario.  Like Se7en, the serial killer is as brilliant as he is disturbed.  Our serial killer poses his victim’s bodies in increasingly bizarre “scenes” that he creates.  By making these elaborate scenes with the often grotesquely butchered bodies, our killer appears to be “talking” to his pursuers, bringing them into his insane world.

As mentioned before, “Uncle Eddie” first showed himself five years before.  Through the course of the movie, we find that a group of cops, including Defoe’s Stan, investigated the case until they thought they knew who the killer was.  They broke into this man’s house to arrest him and one of the cops, thinking the suspected “Uncle Eddie” was holding a gun (he wasn’t) shot him dead.  Despite this, the police are convinced they had the right man.  As if to prove the fact, the “Uncle Eddie” crimes suddenly ceased.

But, five years later, new victims appear and things become very muddy.  In public and before the media, the police department is certain these new killings are the work of a “copycat”.  In private, they appear less sure…Was Stan, the lead investigator in the original case, wrong in fingering who “Uncle Eddie” was?  Did the five year old raid kill an innocent man?  And if so, were these new killings the work of “Uncle Eddie”?  But can we completely discount the possibility that we are dealing with a copycat?  As the film moves along, there appears yet another question:  What exactly happened to the last female victim of “Uncle Eddie” some five years before?  Whatever it was, the young woman’s death and fleeting flashbacks the film shows suggest Stan and this woman had a very strong relationship.

What follows, in the present, are more victims, including one of the original officers on Stan’s group, and hidden messages in the scene of each crime.  The term “anamorph”, as we find, relates to clues left behind by the killer.  In this case, the killer is referring to old paintings that, when viewed head on, reveal an image.  When looked at from another, sometimes severe angle, a hidden image within the painting becomes apparent.  Our killer, as it turns out, is hiding clues in his artfully designed slaughters.

Given the hidden message concept, the viewer is thus clued in that we are dealing with hidden meanings in this movie, as well.

As the movie progresses, it becomes clear that Stan may have dirtier hands in this whole affair than is first apparent.  To begin, and as mentioned before, he has flashbacks to the events of five years before, from the raid to the last murder attributed to “Uncle Eddie”, the young woman Stan had some kind of relationship to.  In the flashback to that last murder, Stan arrives at the scene of the crime after the fact.  The last victim lies on a dock beside the water.  However, later in the film, Stan recounts to the woman’s friend that HE pulled her out of the water, that HE held her until she let out her last breath.  Yet clearly in his earlier flashbacks Stan arrives AFTER she is removed from the water and well AFTER she’s dead.  Adding further confusion to the whole thing is that later still in the film, Stan appears to have flashbacks of the woman being stabbed before falling into the water.  The flashbacks, up to that moment, were personal to Stan.  Were these flashbacks also Stan’s?  Did HE kill the woman?

That implication seems to be the case.  But where the film ultimately -and sadly- fails is that too much is left for the viewers to sort out, and details are left so vague that arguments can be made for too many alternatives.  For example, one could assume that Stan had an affair with this woman, and it went sour while he was investigating the original “Uncle Eddie” crimes.  Now (and I’m guessing here) it is possible, perhaps even probable, that Stan killed the woman and made it look like it was the work of “Uncle Eddie”.  After all, his police task force already had an idea who “Uncle Eddie” was and were closing in on the killer.  Stan, in this scenario, commits the “final” “Uncle Eddie” crime knowing the police (and he) will soon arrest the killer.  After Stan commits this crime and his group raids the suspected “Uncle Eddie” house, the man is killed, thus “resolving” the crimes without anyone suspecting that Stan performed that last murder.

Sounds good…except that if this was indeed the case, then Stan, to cover his tracks, has to be the one to kill the suspected “Uncle Eddie” in the raid.  After all, it is not in Stan’s interests that the man be taken alive.  If he were, there would be the very real possibility that this man might admit to all his crimes yet (of course) deny having anything to do with that last killing.  Once he does, and given Stan’s relationship with the last victim, wouldn’t the police begin to eye him as a suspect in that crime?  Thus and as mentioned, Stan has to be the one to kill the suspected “Uncle Eddie” in the raid.  He can’t just hope someone else does the deed.  But the fact is that Stan DOES NOT kill the suspected “Uncle Eddie”.  In fact, I didn’t even get the impression he was gunning for him during the raid at all.  If anything, he seemed to be hanging back.

So the mind wanders again…Perhaps Stan IS “Uncle Eddie”, and the man who committed these new crimes IS a copycat “Uncle Eddie”, albeit one that knows Stan was the original.  But that also doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  The crimes are so damn elaborate that it seems impossible someone could simply “copy” something so extravagant.  And, further, if Stan was the real “Uncle Eddie”, then wouldn’t he have figured out the copycat and his methodology a whole lot quicker?  Add to the mix at least one character, an art dealer, who may or may not be a figment of Stan’s imagination and you’ve got even more confusion.

Still, despite all these criticisms, I admit the film kept me watching until its (very vague) ending.  So, to reiterate, I cannot recommend this film to those seeking a movie that offers at least some sort of clear resolution to the plot presented.  If you’re still curious to see the movie, do so.  But this is one case where I can’t help but wish the filmmakers offered more solid clues as to what path they wanted the viewers to follow.