Category Archives: Culture

America The Littered

For this Independence Day, we returned to the Esplanade in Boston for the Boston Pops concert and fireworks.  We did it differently this year, showing up around noon and being content with being able to hear the concert by being near a speaker station and being right on the riverbank for a great view of the fireworks.

After a great day and a fantastic fireworks display (that was unfortunately clouded by a lack of wind that kept the smoke in the way of the fireworks), we turned around to see the field where we were and discovered that our fellow concert-goers had shown their love for their country by leaving their trash all around it.  Add not just cups and napkins, but towels, a deck of cards, pizza boxes, and bottles.  It was so disappointing to see all this trash ruining a beautiful city park on a the river after a day of celebrating our country.

It is beyond me that people can have such feelings of self-importance that they feel they can just leave their garbage on the ground for others to clean up after them.  I know that it was a lot of younger people that did this, since it was where those groups were that the biggest messes were left, and it is particularly disappointing since with all the issues in this country involving pollution and the environment seem to be having some sort of an impact on people, but then something as simple as picking up after yourself is too much for them.  

Nostalgia Algorithm

Very interesting and funny article from Wired magazinethat talks about predicting the popularity of nostalgia entertainment.  I agree that while I’m excited for a new X-Files movie, I’m not quite sure if the timing is right – it hasn’t been quite long enough for me to truly yearn for another movie, and with Lost on the air, that is fulfilling the freaky sci-fi conspiracy show void.  After Lost finishes up would be a perfect time – people would be looking for a similar thing to fill that void, and looking to old DVDs of X-Files and Lost would be a great segue into a new X-Files movie.

That ‘Ol Disney Magic

For this week, most of my blogging activity will be happening over at The Johnson Family Vacation Blog, which is part of the overall Johnson Vacation web site.

However, I did have some thoughts while walking about Disney’s Animal Kingdom this afternoon – how could a Pop Culture Gangster not after all? – and wanted to share them before they snuck out of my poor tired little brain.

It has been about 10 years or so since I’ve been to Disney, and since then I’ve been fortunate enough to travel many places and have a great number of experiences: from dancing in a New Orleans parade, to attending a Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica; from walking the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles to strolling along the streets of Vancouver.  Whether I’ve traveled for work or business, I’ve sought out authentically local experiences, from food and drink to culture and pastimes. 

When you go to Disney, they try very hard – and succeed mostly – to give you a taste of a different world.  It may be weird mix of Dinosaurs and Americana as is the case in Dinoland in the Animal Kingdom, or the very cool Tibetan/Asian vibe that the area around the Everest ride has.  That was probably my favorite part of the park – I thought they did a great job with the decor and extras, as well as with the smells of the food and little touches in the waiting lines that gave you a taste of the country that you’re supposed to feel like you’re in.  Not that I’ve ever been there, so I guess more appropriately, it feels like what I think it is supposed to feel like.

Which brings me to my main observation: Disney is incredibly good at creating remarkably realistic imaginary tableaux that make you feel like you’re elsewhere, but when you turn around from that, you’ll still surrounded by vendors selling Coca-Cola and McDonald’s fries, ice cream carts and souvenir stores every ten feet.  It is a delicate line that they tread: educational vs. fun, experiential vs. simply being an amusement park.  I think it is that attention to detail and Disney’s unique ability to take the harsh Nepal terrain and make it family-friendly that drives so many to their parks.

However, like anyone else who looks at these things with a critical eye – and Disney certainly has their fair share of critics and analysts – one hopes that it doesn’t REPLACE the real experience, or that it forces the real thing to become more Disneyesque to meet the false expectations set by the fake thing.

I’m not going to give you any big insight here, partially because it is 1:00 A.M. and I’m pretty friggin tired.  But because I haven’t quite figured it out.  Tomorrow is Epcot and its pavilion of 13 countries.  Maybe that will help me pin it down.  I know that it isn’t a complaint, but it is something that makes me want to experience the real thing; to see a trading post in Nepal, to see a 60’s-style roadside Dinosaur exhibit or eat Chinese food in China.  It makes me appreciate how realistic they make the Disney experience but yearn for the real thing.  Maybe I’ll be able to answer why by the end of the week. 

Technology Update

Among friends, family and co-workers, I have gained a reputation as a tech-savvy person; someone who is always in on the latest gadgets and technologies.  I admit that I do like technology and I tend to be pretty comfortable with it, and I do like gadgets, but I’m hardly an "early adopter" or obsessed with technology.  Most of the time I just want my computer to not crash, my laptop to start up within a reasonable amount of time and the GPS unit to send me to the right hotel.   Other than that, I’m not all about upgrading everything every year. 

However, in the last few months, I’ve acquired a few pieces of technology that have greatly impacted my life and my entertainment options.

First was an iPod.  I know I"m a few years behind on this one, but I’ve always put it off for a few reasons: first it was because of price and because the iPods weren’t big enough to hold my music collection.  Then their storage capacities got bigger and it because an issue of price and being frightened by how long it would take for me to rip my music collection (1500+ CDs) to iTunes.  But I always wanted one, and finally I was given one for Christmas and I haven’t stopped using it since.  I use it on planes and in hotel rooms while traveling and listen to it nearly all day long in my office through a small speaker system.  And even with XM Satellite Radio and a CD player in my car, I find myself using it there as well.  I knew it would have a major impact on my music habits, but even I underestimated how much the brilliantly simple device would change how I "consume" music.  I’ve listened to a wider variety of bands than I have in years, since I don’t have to haul around so many CDs.   Getting all of my music collection onto it continues to be a daunting task, but I am picking away at it and enjoying getting to reacquaint myself with old albums that I had forgotten about.

Shortly after the iPod came the Nintendo Wii.   Let me start off with a little context: up until last spring, the last video game system I bought was the original NES.   Then after a little taste of Guitar Hero, I found myself in possession of a PS2.  However we never moved any further than Guitar Hero – in fact, with one exception of about two hours when a neighbor brought over a Spider-Man game, I don’t think any game other than Guitar Hero has ever seen the inside of our PS2.  So basically, it is a Guitar Hero console.

Then this past Christmas came when we got to try the Wiiat my fiance’s family’s house and after about 30 seconds of playing with the controller, we made the decision that we had to get it.  It ended up being a present to us, and it has become a true entertainment center for us: from playing games to creating Miis, it has quickly become part of our regular routine and a primary "entertainment option."   Super Mario Galaxy is the best video game I have played in years and nearly each game we’ve played on the Wii makes use of the Wii remote and/or Nunchuck in such an intuitive manner that just about anyone can quickly pick up a new game and start having fun with it.  I recently read an article where a Nintendo marketing executive said that the major insight for the Wii was that there were more people out there who DON’T play video games (Nintendo’s Blue Ocean Strategy) than those who DO, and the Wii is designed for those who aren’t hard-core gamers, which I was never one (at least not since Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out).  They wanted a FUN, easy-to-use video game system, not one that could render the splattering of blood in Call of Duty 4 with the greatest realism. The strategy worked: its fun and we’re hooked.

The most recent technological development – one that is only a few days old – is TiVO.  Yeah, I know, I’m even more behind on this one – the iPod came out in October of 2001, the Wii in September of 2006, but the TiVo launched in March 1999!  Nearly 8 years later, I feel like I wasted a lot of time running around with VCR tapes and actually trying to be home when a TV show is actually on.   If you don’t have a TiVoor a similar DVR, and you watch more than 2 TV shows on a fairly regular basis, you really need to get one.  Just last night, we were able to clean up after dinner while the Simpsons were paused and then come back and catch up with the show after we were done. 

So that’s my tech update.  Check back with me in anywhere from 2 to 7 years to see if I’ve jumped on the Blu-Ray bandwagon!

Great Tool for Bloggers, Emailers and People Building Pages on

After a frustrating day trying to get looooooong MapQuest URLs to work in’s web page builder interface, I discovered a great free service called TinyURL that shortens ridiculously long URLs.  If you you’ve ever tried to figure out how to email a really long URL without it getting cut off, this is your solution.

Enter a long URL to make tiny:

It made the difference in being able to create the page I really wanted to have, with all the information needed for our guests.   As I said, I can see TinyURL being great for emailing and blogging as well.

Who The Smurf Knew?

While watching the weather this morning, trying to decide whether I was going to be able to make it into work or not, I saw something go by in the scrolling news at the bottom of the screen that I was puzzled by.  Today is the 50th anniversary of The Smurfs.  As far as I knew, that made NO sense, since the Smurfs were the creation of some corporate cartoon making machine back in the 80’s.  I watch the Smurfs.  I had Smurfs Colorforms and a huge collection of Smurf Cards (which I gave away to some girl I was crazy about back in high school… stupid, stupid, stupid!).  I know my Smurfs.

Or at least I thought I did.  Apparently they HAVE been around for 50 years.  Back in 1958, they started off as secondary characters in a cartoon book.  They then became toys and the figurines became popular in the US and then they created the cartoon series that ran for 256 episodes! 

The official Smurf website has a guide to The Smurfs, and it explains why there’s only one female Smurf.  I didn’t know she was a creation of Gargamel and was made into a hottie by Papa Smurf.  What a dirty old man.  Bet he didn’t consider what would happen when she was dropped into the little all-male community of Smurfs who hadn’t seen a female in 500 years.  The web site avoids the whole question of how they survived without females, or where the hell they come from.

Fun With Hyperlinking

You gotta love the way that the Web works, especially the joy that is Wikipedia.

This afternoon at lunch I was doing my usual reading of comics online and The Comics Curmudgeon, when I read this post from Sunday.  In the discussion of the Curtis comic, a link to Omphalos theory was provided.  I had to follow it, since I had never heard of it, and felt… well…. stupid.

Turns out it is a pretty heavy duty theology theory that can be basically boiled down to the question of "did Adam and Eve have belly buttons or not?"  What really caught my eye was in the "See Also" section of the article however, which provided a link to an article on the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which turns out to not be a reject from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, but a brilliant and hilarious religious parody.

However, I am clearly a little late to the game (though probably still ahead of most people), since there is already a Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and, of course its own web site

The best part about this?  It lead me to a "scientific" report on Pirates vs. Ninjas.