Thoughts on weddings and Disneyland while I get myself back in the game

content_DisneylandSorry for the silence today. We got home from our trip late last night and I’m never at my best the day after a trip, even a short one. The occasion for being out of town was a wedding in the family, followed by a trip to Disneyland. I have a few thoughts about both.

Regarding the wedding, it was, of course, lovely. The bride and her mother, both thoughtful women with very good taste, had put a great deal of effort into the wedding and it showed. It was a beautiful and gracious experience. The setting was lovely, the food delicious, and the company congenial. Family and friends came, not just from all over the country, but from all over the world. I really enjoyed seeing everyone.

It was especially great to see that, as my nieces and nephews leave childhood further and further behind, they continue to be truly good and decent people. I’m very fortunate to be part of a family that’s produced such a great generation of young people.

By far the nicest thing about the wedding was the bride’s face during the ceremony. Of course, she was beautiful, because she’s a beautiful young woman and her dress suited her to perfection. But it wasn’t the dress or the lovely hair or the makeup that stood out. It was her beaming smile throughout the ceremony. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a happy bride. And to his credit, the groom (whom I don’t know that well) seemed to appreciate her happiness and to be deserving of it. I can’t think of a better start to a happy life together.

Since the wedding was in the south-land, we naturally had to spend an extra day at Disneyland. I happen to be very fond of Disneyland, and that’s true despite the fact that I dislike Disney’s corporate ethos a great deal. It’s not just its little habit of firing all its American workers to get cheap foreign labor. That was a business decision and one can debate the morality behind it. What I really don’t like is its stealth advance of Leftist values and its denigration of family in its Disney TV shows. I have other issues, but I won’t address them here.

Having said that about the Disney company, I just love the Disney parks, and that’s despite the fact that you can easily go bankrupt at them, whether because of $99 admission tickets, $14 cafeteria food, or the endless merchandise shoved in children’s faces. Disneyland and Disney World are just wonderfully thought out places.

I love how immaculately clean Disney parks are.  I love how there is no detail too small to get the Disney magic touch.  I adore the clever crowd control, which starts at Disneyland with the best-designed parking lot I’ve ever seen. The parking garage can hold 10,000 cars, but is so perfectly executed that you will park faster there and leave it more easily at the end of the day than you ever would in a smaller (much smaller) lot. In the morning, the cars are funneled effortlessly into their spaces, one after the other, second by second. At the end of the day, no matter which floor you’ve parked on, a single ramp will take you all the way down and out of the garage, in the direction of the freeway. Talk about Disney magic.

Once in the Disney parks, the way Disney uses zigzag lines to keep people constantly moving (because people get restless only when they’re standing completely still) impresses me too. And because of Disney’s constant attention to detail, while you’re standing in line, you can admire how the ride’s theme is carried out everywhere — in wall decorations, music, the ground surface, clever vignettes, instructional videos for slightly complicated rides, etc.

It was while standing in line waiting for the Indiana Jones ride that both kids said to me, “That’s really good music.” This is the music that quite suddenly appealed to them:

Had I tried to get them to listen to Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade,, they would have run for the hills. Listening to it in the “set” of the Indiana Jones ride made the music natural and appropriate, so they were able to enjoy it.

The other thing I love about Disney is the people watching. I should preface this by saying that I never wear logo wear. My feeling is that, if I’m a walking billboard for someone’s product, that someone ought to be paying me. Disney guests, however, sure like their logo wear.

By far the greatest number were wearing Disney logo wear (some of it very creative and attractive), but people were also advertising their favorite schools, sports teams, bands, unions, life philosophies, foods, athletic events, etc. Americans seem to have a real yearning to use their clothes to tell the world about the things that matter to them. Perhaps I don’t simply because I’m hyperverbal and have a blog. I’ve already told enough people too much, right?

Watching people also makes one aware what an extraordinary cross-section of people want to spend a day in Disneyland. By rights, one would think that a Disney theme park would appeal primarily to families with children, but the attendance roster goes far beyond that. Biker types, gang-banger types, Muslim types, overtly Christian types (including a young married couple with the bride and groom looking about 17 years old), cool teens, dorky teens, newlyweds, workplace colleagues, older family groups with no young children, elderly couples, gay and lesbian couples (always in matchy-matchy outfits and always making a point of public displays of affection), high school and college friends — they were all there.

Languages? I heard Spanish, German, French, Tagalog, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, and a whole host of other languages that I couldn’t immediately identify from the mere snippets that came my way. Disneyland’s attraction may not be universal (I didn’t hear any Martian or Venusian), but it certainly covers the globe.

My favorite ride at Disneyland is It’s A Small World. I’m crazy about its 1960s design sensibility, which starts with the exterior that dominates a huge, sunny plaza:

Small World Ride

Could anything be more 1960s than that? I also adore the smell of wed wood, wet cloth, paint, and chlorinated water, which reminds me of the water shows I was in when I was a kid in — yes — the 1960s. And that brilliant fluorescent paint used on the figures inside! It’s just so, so . . . 60s.

The Small World ride reminds me that Walt Disney had an unshakable faith in the future, something about which I’ve blogged before. Despite the Cold War, Walt truly believed that Americans had the ability to make the world a better place through their intelligence, ambition, creativity, ingenuity, and good will. I think I was one the last of that optimistic generation.

Today’s kids are being raised to believe in a completely apocalyptic future, not because of the scary reality that we’re facing off against an apocalyptic faith, but because of the provably false doctrine claiming that our earth is going up in flames. They don’t view the future with hope, they view it with fear — and for all the wrong reasons. If they’re going to be fearful, at the very least they could worry about ISIS and Iran, rather than hot weather.

Oh, and there’s one more thing I love about the Small World ride: That song. I think there must be something mentally wrong with me — maybe some dementia or other organic brain problem — but I never get tired of that song. I’m the one in the ride singing along to it, over and over and over and over and over and over. . . .

And that’s what I did on my weekend vacation and it’s why I haven’t blogged more today.

Conservatives should take a page out of the Islamists’ book and disavow bad actors marching under their banner

Mia TalericoA friend tipped me off to the fact that a few deranged individuals have been sending hate mail and threats to an absolutely adorable five-year-old girl who stars on the Disney Channel’s show Good Luck Charlie.  The trigger for this behavior was an episode in the show that saw Disney decide to peddle same-sex marriage to the kindergarten crowd:

On January 26, the Disney Channel made a gentle stride into a more progressive era by featuring its first-ever same-sex couple on an episode of Good Luck Charlie, introducing two lesbian moms who bring their child over for a playdate, then show everyone they’re just like normal parents by not scissoring or establishing a golf pro shop in front of the kids.

Unsurprisingly, conservative groups objected to Disney’s tactic, proving that they’re a bit slow on the uptake here.  As the friend who notified me about the kerfuffle pointed out, Disney long-ago stopped being family friendly, meaning that it no longer stands for the family values in which Walt Disney believed and that were once normative in America.

In the last couple of decades, Disney has been responsible for an incredible amount of brightly colored, highly polished, cheerily-presented trash being streamed into America’s homes.  Small wonder that so many former Disney stars have embraced drink, drugs, and very public sexual misbehavior.  (Hey, Miley!  Is that you?)  Indeed, to discredit once and for all any hint of Walt Disney’s old-fashioned values, big name stars such as the ubiquitous (and, to me, increasingly dull) Meryl Streep have resurrected the old Leftist canard — unsupported by any evidence — that Walt was a rabid anti-Semite and someone so sexist that, even by the standards of the day, he stood out.  All of which is to say that nowadays Disney is just another corporate Hollywood institution staffed primarily by the entertainment world’s Democrat Party fanatics.

But getting back to the hate mail the show engendered.  To the extent people felt the need to protest Disney’s right to preach gay marriage to the toddler set (something protected by freedom of speech, but perhaps not wise as commercial speech), they should have done so by writing to Disney’s corporate office and (a) politely explaining their objections and (b) equally politely say that, because of those objections, they would henceforth delete Disney from their child’s playlist.  Most, I’m sure, did.  At least one person, however, followed the path of derangement:

Now police are investigating some voices who have been making death threats aimed at the show’s star, Mia Talerico. By the way, Mia Talerico is 5 years old.

TMZ first noted that Talerico began receiving death threats on her Instagram feed last month, right around the time the “controversy” broke. According to police reports, these included messages such as “Die Mia, Fucking die in hell! Kill yourself, you deserve to die.” That same suspect also reportedly sent a photo of Talerico’s head covered by a bloody fist and the message, “Yes, kill you stupid bitch.” Again, Talerico is 5 years old, and the star of a Disney show about an adorable little girl that had lesbians on it one time.

My friend commented that there are few things worse than stupid conservatives.  I agree, although I think there are two other possibilities here:  (1) the person who sent those vile threats isn’t politically motivated but is, instead, solidly insane and dangerous; and (2) it’s a false flag operation, run by a Leftist seeking to discredit conservatives.  This is not as wacky as it sounds.  In the past year, I’ve been aware of two instances in which Leftists sent hate-filled material to themselves, once at Oberlin and the other at the University of Wyoming, in order to discredit conservatives and to satisfy their histrionic personality disorders.  (Here’s a list of other anti-conservative hate-crime hoaxes.)

On the off-chance, though, that this really was someone spewing insults and threats against a five-year-old in the name of conservativism, I have the perfect response. Conservatives need to use the Islamo-defense mode. You know how it goes: Some guy hollering “Allahu akbar” blows himself up in a crowd. Lots of people begin to say, “Gee, these Muslims sure are violent.” At which point the apologists in the Muslim community say, “If they’re violent, then they’re not real Muslims.” By saying that, the Muslim community disavows responsibility for the act and, by extension, disclaims any obligation to look at its teachings to see if they could be modified so as not to be an inspiration to perpetual and murderous outrage.

If conservatives were as media savvy as their ideology is realistic and intelligent, their defense here would be, “Anyone this stupid, vicious, twisted, violent, and generally hate-filled, is not a real conservative.”  Right now, we have a habit of demanding that bad actors who label themselves as conservatives should be punished for their bad acts, but it doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone in the conservative front lines to say “That person is not a conservative.”

Doing things the Islamo-defense way means that one never has to look at the ideologies underlying the bad behavior to determine whether the actor is in harmony with the ideology (“Muhammad is God’s apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another”) or acting in opposition to it (“hate the sin, love the sinner”). Indeed, it’s this type of blessed ignorance that allows people to declare that the 9/11 terrorists who killed 2,996 civilians on a sunny morning were Freedom Fighters indistinguishable from the American Revolutionaries who battled the British King’s troops.

Movie Review: Disney’s “Frozen”

FrozenI’m really good at reviewing bad movies.  They’re fun to review because they give me a chance to express the venom that builds up in me as I watch a movie that assaults my intelligence or my values.  I have the opposite problem with good movies.  All that I can think of as I watch them is “This is a really, really good.  This is a really good movie.”

Disney’s Frozen (which has been out for more than a month now, showing  how often I go to movies) is a really good movie.  More than that, it’s a really, really good movie.  There, I’ve said it.  Now let me try to drill down a bit.

Plot?  The plot is very imaginative.  It’s loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, the story of a boy who gets an ice shard in his heart and is then rescued by a girl who was his childhood friend.  In Frozen, two princesses grow up in a sunny Nordic kingdom.  What the younger princess, Anna, doesn’t know is that her older sister, Elsa, has in her hands the power to create snow, frost, and ice.  Because the young Elsa doesn’t know how to wield the power, her loving parents make the decision to close up the palace and lock her away from everyone in order to protect Elsa from herself, and everyone else from Elsa.

When the parents die and Elsa eventually becomes queen, the palace is opened for the first time in years for the coronation.  Anna meets a charming prince, Elsa objects to their planned engagement, and all heck breaks loose.  Without giving too much away, a handsome, but awkward, young ice cutter and his lovable reindeer eventually figure in the plot too.  The ending is imaginative, unexpected, and delightful, and I can’t tell you any more in case I ruin it.

Visual quality?  Gorgeous.  This movie is a visual treat.  In a lot of computer animated movies, the animators become obsessively focused on motion — high-speed motion — which just tends to make me dizzy.  This movie,  however, gave the animators the opportunity to play with fractals and snow storms, and wind, and light.  I just sat back in my theater seat drinking in the beauty.  Did I say it was gorgeous?  Let me just repeat that:  gorgeous.  (There was also a clever visual reference that wonderful moment in Cinderella when the Fairy Godmother waves her wand, and Cinderella’s rags change into a sparkling silver gown.)

Music?  Pretty darn good.  My daughter has a semi-photographic memory for melodies and has been singing the songs all evening — and it hasn’t driven me nuts.  One song, sung by a goofy sidekick, is especially strange, whimsical, and clever but, again, I can’t tell you about it, because I’d be giving away one of the movie’s clever and delightful surprises.

Moral?  Just nice.  It’s all about love, of course, but it’s not mixed in with any horrible political correctness.  If anything (and I’m sure the movie’s makers didn’t mean to do this) the movie’s plot was a reminder that global cooling is much less pleasant than global warming.  Oh, and it also has a good message about . . . .  Wait.  I can’t tell you that either without giving away an essential plot element.

Message:  I care.  Oh, never mind.  That was George Bush, Sr.’s message.  My message is:  If you get the chance, see this movie.  It’s truly a delight — and I would tell you more but for the fact that giving away anything is really giving away everything in this intelligent, lovely movie.  And if it’s already left the theaters near your home, definitely rent the DVD — preferably in Blu-Ray so you get the full effect of the beautiful visuals.

Phineas and Ferb: a Disney show I highly recommend

Generally speaking, I am not a fan of the Disney Channel.  Parents think the teen-oriented shows are innocuous, because they are free of references to sex and drugs.  That’s true, but what they have in bushel-loads is attitude, bad attitude.  Whether you’re watching Hannah Montana (mercifully out of production), the Suite Life of Zach and Cody (or the Suite Life on Deck, its sequel), or Pair of Kings, or the Wizards of Waverly Place (another show that is defunct), you be assured of a few things:  inept, absent parents; humor that’s premised on one-liner insults; appallingly bad acting, with the teen stars pausing after every woodenly delivered one-liner to give the laugh track a chance to kick in; plots and camera work that cater to one-minute attention spans; and relentless Disney product promotion, since the shows are really just extended commercials for the teen stars Disney grinds out at its studios.

Put more succinctly, the shows are frenzied in pace and mean-spirited in tone.  If your tween or young teen is giving you attitude, you don’t have to look further than the Disney channel (or its evil twin, Nickelodeon) to figure out where your child learned those techniques.  It’s small wonder that so many former Disney stars have crossed to the dark side.  Aside from living in the artificial, sycophantic world of Hollywood, stars such as Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, and Demi Lovato, all of whom have had drug or mental health issues, have also been carefully taught on the Disney lot that adults are idiots, that the only people who matter are their peers, and that morality is defined by feelings, with every person’s own navel being the ultimate moral arbiter.

Even Selena Gomez, who has just slipped free of the Disney studio, seems to be moving towards the dark side, as her costumes become sleazier and sleazier.  Sleazy costumes were pretty much the canary in the coal mine for other troubled Disney stars.  In other words, breast- and thigh-baring were the first outward manifestations of the actress’s imminent physical or moral collapse.

And yet, in this darkness, there is a little bit of light:  Phineas and Ferb.  The only thing that Phineas and Ferb has in common with the other Disney shows is that the parents are absent and clueless.  I forgive the show, though, for that conceit, because it allows the main characters’ lights to shine so brilliantly.  In a TV world defined by jaded, sarcastic, bored, trouble-making youth characters, Phineas, Ferb, and their friends are distinguished by boundless enthusiasm for and interest in the world around them, and a complete absence of cynicism.

The premise is simple.  Phineas and Ferb are stepbrothers who have the perfect bond in their shared genius and their intellectual curiosity.  Their friends admire their brilliance, and enthusiastically participate in their ideas.  The ineffectual counterweight to their manic genius is their shrill older sister Candace, who talks on the phone endlessly with her best friend, and spends most of her energy trying to attract Jeremy, the laid-back teen dude who is unselfconscious, kind, and clueless about Candace’s crush.  In every episode, Candace tries desperately, and without success, to make her parents aware of Phineas’ and Ferb’s escapades.  The show also has a subplot with an evil genius and a platypus, but I pretty much ignore that part, which is just silly.

The show’s introductory song pretty much sets the tone.  It describes an exciting world, with endless interesting things to see, do and learn.  It urges children to participate wholeheartedly in life:

That theme song reminds me of another nice thing about Phineas and Ferb, which is the music.  Every show has a song.  Musically, the songs range from tolerably bland to surprisingly sophisticated.  Take for example the song from “Ferb Latin.”  Although the lyrics are nonsensical, it is a remarkably sophisticated example of counterpoint, a technique that takes two apparently incompatible songs and weaves them together into a single, successful melody:

It’s been done before, of course (see here and here for nice examples), but one really doesn’t expect it, even a minute and thirty seconds of it, in a half hour Disney children’s show.

So if you should ever find yourself in a room with a kid who is watching Phineas and Ferb, don’t change the channel or leave the room.  Sit down, instead, and get a very rare glimpse of delightful children’s programming.

The Princess and the Frog — Disney’s gift to American blacks

I just returned from seeing Disney’s latest release, The Princess and the Frog. Looked at purely from an entertainment standpoint, the movie is a delight.  The hand drawn animation is imaginative and, at times, exquisitely beautiful.  When the Bayou lights up at sunset with fireflies, every little girl in the audience emits a rapturous “oooooh.”  The music, which Randy Newman composed, is a high energy blend of New Orleans jazz, Cajun zydeco and friendly pop.  You won’t leave the movie theater being able to sing any of the songs (those types of songs seem to have been banished from movies forever), but your brain will definitely be happy with the melodies that zip around, lighting up various synapses.

As for the storyline, that’s where the real magic lies.   But to explain just how magical it is, I need to back up a little bit.  In pre-1960s America, the black community was sorely beaten down.  I don’t need to recite here the insults, indignities and limitations that came with Jim Crow.  Even outside of the South, black opportunities for economic advancement were limited, and blacks were routinely subjected to demeaning treatment.  Unsurprisingly, in the first half of the 20th century, American blacks beat out white Americans in every negative indicator:  compared to whites, black communities had more crime, more illegitimacy, more illiteracy and much, much more poverty.

Despite these severe, externally imposed limitations on the American black community, throughout the early 20th century the story of American blacks was one that showed an upward trajectory.  (Although, thinking about it, maybe that resilience isn’t a surprise.  Just as the body strengthens only when it is exposed to resistance, it may be true that a community often finds strength if it must push back against hardship.)  The Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and the Chicago Renaissance in the 1950s revealed a black community that had a ferocious pride and intellectualism.

Economic opportunities were also opening up.  For example, a job as a Pullman Porter provided an economic pathway to the middle class for those black man able to make the sacrifice of being on the road all the time.  Between decent (for blacks) salaries and good tips, the men who held those jobs could provide for their families.  The same job allowed blacks, formerly blinkered by geographic limitations, to see larger possibilities, both social and economic, in the world around them.  Blacks were also leaving an indelible musical mark on American culture, one that elevated their status amongst young whites, who were the up-and-coming generation.

Looking at the strides blacks were making, in education, in employment, and in culture, it is obvious that the Civil Rights movement didn’t appear out of nowhere.  It was the logical trajectory for an increasingly educated, empowered, sophisticated American black community.

One of the bizarre legacies of the Civil Rights movement, however, wasn’t the continued economic and social ascendancy of American blacks.  Instead, the Civil Rights signaled the reverse, which was the destruction of many sectors of the African American community.  I don’t say this to denigrate the important rights the movement affirmed belong to all Americans or the benefits that flowed to all of America from the recognition of black civil rights.  American law now properly ensures that blacks (and all races) have equal access to every available opportunity America has to offer.  Blacks, rightly, cannot be denied food, shelter, education or employment because of their skin color.  The same movement, however, that affirmed that all men are indeed created equal, also cheated blacks in ways no one anticipated back in 1964.

In the wake of the 1964 Civil Rights bill, well-meaning liberals fanned out throughout black communities and told black people that, rather than working, they should take government handouts.  As they explained it to blacks who had clawed their way up the first few rungs of the economic ladder by relying on self-reliance and community pride, these government funds weren’t really handouts at all.  Instead, they were an appropriate form of retribution for the free labor blacks provided in America for hundreds of years.  By making this pitch to blacks to give up self-reliance and become dependent on the government, blacks were first introduced to, and then embraced, the notion that, since slavery was work, all work is slavery.  Work was no longer the measure of a man’s (or a woman’s) worth.  It was a symbol of oppression, and therefore to be avoided.

The same held true in the world of education.  In an effort to jumpstart the black community on the path to professionalism, the guilt-ridden white middle class skipped the obvious, which was to focus its efforts on family, culture and early childhood education.  Instead, it decided that the best thing to do was to give adult blacks a free-ish path to the best educational institutions in America.  In the short run, it seemed like a brilliant idea, since we all know that a Harvard degree opens doors.  In the long run, it was a disaster.  As I wrote in my post about Barack Obama’s affirmative action presidency:

[I]f you set the standards lower for one racial group than for others, three things will happen:  First, the race that has the lower hurdles will stop trying as hard.  After all, humans are rational creatures, and people working toward a goal are wise to work only as hard as they need, and no harder.  Why expend energy unnecessarily?

Second, those members of the race who are fully capable of competing without a handicap will also behave rationally and conserve their energy, because it’s the smart thing to do.  This means that the lower hurdles will deprive them of the psychological opportunity to stretch and prove themselves.

Third, a lot of people who would not normally have been in the race at all will bob up to the top, thanks to that handicap.  Worse, if there is a critical mass of mediocrity floating along on this tide of affirmative action, those mediocre people will inevitably, through sheer numbers, become representative of the racial group.  In other words, if you give enough mediocre people in a specific racial group a head start so that they win, it looks as if all the winners from that particular racial group are mediocre.

The above realities mean that you end up with two dire situations for the racial group that affirmative action is infantilizing:  First, an enormous number of useless people become very poor representatives of their race.  And second, people who are genuinely good and deserving of recognition end up being thrown in the hopper of useless beneficiaries who achieved high status without ability or effort.

So, in a generation, American blacks went from being a community that was forced at whip’s end to give away its labor for free, to one that was assured that there was true virtue in getting money for nothing. Likewise, the American black community that was for so long denied the opportunity to educate itself, learned that it could now get the degrees without bothering with the education.  Inevitably, America ended up with a black community that, at the thickest part of the bell curve, is averse to expending any effort to make money or learn.  Why bother, after all?  Common sense tells American blacks that money and meaningless degrees will come their way regardless of effort.

The result of post-Civil Rights liberal meddling is 40+ years of learned helplessness in the black community, and the profound sense of inferiority that goes along with that kind of helplessness.  Blacks can talk about “Black pride,” and celebrate Black History month, but the savvy ones know it’s a sham.  Their wings have been clipped.  Pride comes from effort and achievement, not from largesse handed out by guilty white liberals.  (Incidentally, if anyone is getting the wrong idea at about this point, I am not arguing that blacks are inferior.  I believe that blacks are in every respect equal to whites, or any other race.  I am arguing that the legacy of the American Civil Rights movement is a black community that has been trained to be helpless and that therefore views itself as inferior.)

And that’s where The Princess and the Frog comes in.  Early Disney fairy tales assured young girls that if they were very meek and worked hard to serve others, they would succeed.  (Snow White and Cinderella, for example.)  At least one movie emphasized sleep as a useful virtue (that would be Sleeping Beauty).  In recent years, girls have been encouraged to be feisty and to rebel against whatever it is their life happens to be.  (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and Mulan spring to mind.)

While the more recent movies have a much less passive message than the old ones (and I’m not knocking the old ones; I love them), they still don’t offer much in the way of life advice.  Rebellion, pretty much for the sake of rebellion, is not a useful tool.  This is especially true for the black community, which has locked itself in a victim mentality that routinely sees its members cutting off their noses to spite their faces, just to make the point that the white establishment can boss them around.  The relentless push for ebonics education, a sure way to keep blacks mired in the ghetto and out of the money jobs, is a perfect illustration of this reactive, rather than proactive, tendency.

The Princess and the Frog, however, offers an entirely new message:  Find your talent, pick a goal, and work really, really hard.  Oh, and find support in your family values and your community.  And also . . . don’t rely on other people.  You are responsible for your own success.  If obstacles stand in your way, don’t give up.  Keep going . . . and going . . . and going.

It’s rather embarrassing that this obvious life lesson — find a goal, work hard, and stay focused — had to come from a paternalistic white corporation.  Regardless of the source, however, the lesson is an important one for all people.  And, sadly, it’s an especially important one for youngsters in the black community, all of whom have been told for more than forty years that they way to get ahead is to be first in line at the government hand-out center.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Government versus private business — and the dictatorship of one

In several posts over the last few days, I’ve commented about Disney efficiency.  Thousands of people are fairly painlessly shuffled from place to place; Fast Passes are a think of beauty, especially if individuals handle them well; everything is immaculately clean, including the overused bathrooms; the equipment functions superbly well considering the demands made upon it; and the people who work there are pleasant and handle their jobs with competence.  The whole place is a testament to corporate efficiency.  Many, however, think corporations are bad things (Obama, anyone?) and, if elected, assure us that they will see to it that the government will manage more and more aspects of our lives (healthcare, anyone?).

For those of you who think this liberal vision is a good thing, I’d like to give you a little example of how the government handles things, along with the added bonus of some insight into how disability advocates view society’s obligations to them:

Where else but San Francisco City Hall could a 10-foot-long wheelchair ramp wind up costing $1 million?

Thanks to a maze of bureaucratic indecision and historic restrictions, taxpayers may shell out $100,000 per foot to make the Board of Supervisors president’s perch in the historic chambers accessible to the disabled.

What’s more, the little remodel job that planners first thought would take three months has stretched into more than four years – and will probably mean the supervisors will have to move out of their hallowed hall for five months while the work is done.

“It’s crazy,” admits Susan Mizner, director of the mayor’s Office on Disability. “But this is just the price of doing business in a historic building.”

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick said Tuesday that the issue went to the heart of liberal guilt that often drives the city’s decision making. He also choked on the price tag, and asked that the board take some more time to come up with an alternative, like maybe just getting rid of the president’s elevated seat.

The root of the problem dates back to when City Hall got a $300 million makeover in the 1990s that made just about every hallway, bathroom and office accessible to the disabled. The exception was the board president’s podium, which is reachable only for someone who can climb the five steps from the chamber floor.

The understanding was that the room would eventually be made fully accessible. But no one worried about the podium until 2004 when Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who uses a wheelchair, joined the board.

City architect Tony Irons and representatives of the state Office of Historic Preservation – which had to be consulted to make sure the city was sensitive to the building’s designation as a state landmark – were called in to take measurements.

Then preservation architects from the San Francisco firm Page and Turnbill worked up no fewer than 18 design options – at a cost of $98,000 – with ideas ranging from an electric lift to abandoning the president’s lordly podium altogether.

No one could decide which design to use, so after a year of arguing, the Department of Public Works was ordered to make 3-D computer models of all the options.

The ramp won, which means lowering the president’s desk, which means eliminating three of the “historic” stairs and tearing out Manchurian oak panels that are no longer available, which in turn will mean finding a historically correct replacement.

And because the ramp was going to encroach on the room’s sound equipment, officials decided they might as well use the opportunity to upgrade the board chamber’s entire audio-visual system, to the tune of $300,000.

Here’s what else is going into the million-dollar ramp:

— $77,000 for the city’s Bureau of Architecture project manager, design and construction fees.

— $455,000 for the actual construction, plus asbestos removal.

— $28,000 for a construction scheduling consultant.

— $3,500 for an electrical consultant.

— $68,000 for the Bureau of Construction Management to oversee the construction and various consultants.

— $12,000 for Department of Technology and Information Services oversight.

— $16,500 for permits and fees. (Yes, believe it or not, the city charges itself.)

— And as much as $65,000 for bid overruns.

All for a total of: $1,123,000.

And counting.

The supervisors considered signing off on the work Tuesday but put it over for another week. Even if the board gives its final blessing, however, construction of the ramp won’t be completed before the end of the year – midway through Alioto-Pier’s second and final term.

“I deserve equal access to every part of the chamber,” Alioto-Pier told her colleagues, adding that ending discrimination is worth the $1 million.  [Emphasis added plus this point:  One million in taxpayer money, that is.]

Incidentally, I am not unsympathetic to the hurdles the handicapped face in this world.  It’s also true that many handicapped access ramps and bathroom stalls extend an unexpected benefit to moms with strollers.  However, as I’ve blogged before, there has to be some cost/benefit analysis before we give over huge sums of public money, not to benefit all or most of the handicapped, but to benefit one person (as in Alioto-Pier, the only wheelchair bound supervisor ever) or, as is often the case with relentless bureaucratic initiatives, no persons at all.


DQ has been doing such a spectacular job, I feel a little silly writing in, but I’ve got a few moments, so here I am.  Pardon any typos.  I’m  on a micro keyboard, and am having a little bit of a problem getting my fingers on the right keys.

We’ve now  spent two days at Disney World, and I have to say that, as I always am at Disneyland,  I’m completely impressed  by Disney’s  relentless attention to detail.  We spent yesterday at Disney/MGM, which is meant to remind visitors of Hollywood, circa 1930/1940. Every facade is a perfectly scaled replica of a classic Hollywood building from the golden era.  The only exceptions to this rule are the parts of Disney/MGM  that are meant to look like backlot replicas of New York and San Francisco.

I also appreciate how immaculate the parks always are — no litter anywhere.  It turns out that the Disney designers studied how people behave with garbage and discovered that they’ll carry the garbage for only so many feet before giving up and tossing it on the ground — so garbage cans are spaced at intervals that encourage people to dispose of things properly, rather than just dropping them.  It’s  that kind of attention to detail that just delights me.

I wasn’t that thrilled with the Disney/MGM rides or shows.   I don’t  like “drop” rides, so Tower of Terror was all terror and no fun.  Even though I didn’t like the ride, however, I was still impressed by the “theming.”  I’ve actually been in the old Hollywood hotel on which the ride is modeled, and  the Disney designers matched it perfectly — except on a much smaller scale, of course.  The wood and tile work were just perfect.  As for the Aerosmith ride — well, the kids  loved  it.

The kids liked the shows too, but I found them too loud for pleasure.  At the last show, too, the water show, we had the bad luck to sit behind a thuggish British family that seemed to go out of its collective way to ensure that the people sitting behind them were interrupted by their standing up, flashing cameras, and wearing huge hats.  I mention “thuggish” and “British” in connection with them, because we were actually scared to ask them to change their behavior.  They really did look as if they thought they were at a British style football game, and could turn the whole  thing into a bloody brawl given any provocation.  I’m  still trying to figure out if the behavior was unique to that family, if it was a class thing, or if they are yet another face of the profound changes in Britain.

Today was Epcot, and we loved every minute of it.  To begin with, it’s so charmingly retro in its vision of the future.  The present  would  have looked so much more attractive if the Disney designers could have been in charge of where we ended up!

The rides are also superb, from  the Test Drive, which was lots of fun without being too scary; to the Space ride (I prefer the easy version);  to Soarin’, one of the most innovative, beautiful rides I’ve ever experienced.  I’d done Soarin’ years before, in  LA, but had  forgotten had great it was.

We also loved Epcot’s international area, although we spent only a short time there.  We’re going  back in a day or two, so I don’t feel  cheated.  Venice looks truly Venetian; Japan is perfectly Japanese;  and we had a fantastic lunch in Morocco, complete with belly dancer.

While there, we watched a very inspiring,  patriotic movie/animatronics show  about American  history in the America section.  Mr. Bookworm, the liberal, made two interesting comments about this show when we walked out.  First,  he  said  that he learned a lot of his American  history from Disney and didn’t unlearn  it  until college.  I   noted that Howard Zinn is very popular in college.  He pointed out, accurately, that we didn’t read Zinn back then, but I could have  responded with   the fact that we were still learning  from Marxist historians.  His  other point was that the video was very Republican.  When I asked him  why,  he couldn’t  answer, but I suspect it was  the patriotism that  earned that adjective.

A few hours after that, we watched a Lion King  show  about  environmentalism that I would have classified as “Democrat”:  it was all about pure  animals and third worlders, who do not despoil  the environment and  the  Westerners who selfishly ruin it for everyone.  At the end, Simba noted that we’re trying  to do better now, but it was quite an indictment of the West.  I  also found  it very amusing  coming from Disney, which must be one of the all time  great energy hogs!

I’m  getting too tired for coherence about now.  I’ll try to check in later, but don’t count  on  it.