Friday, April 30, 2021

If I Were Disney CEO - DisneylandForward

There's a great big beautiful tomorrow...just a dream away... 

(c) Disney

Disney has been in the news for several different reasons of late, but DisneylandForward is one of the most interesting from my perspective.  It's part blue sky imagineering, part local political intrigue, and all shrewd business.  DisneylandForward represents an interesting long-term planning strategy for the Disneyland Resort.  

The Disneyland Resort was always in an awkward position regarding future expansion, given its nature of being the first resort built.  At the time, Disney was simply a single park, parking lot, and eventual hotel.  Because of the park's overwhelming success, businesses began popping up as close to the park as possible, with many being directly across the street.  This started boxing Disney in regarding future expansion.  

The company does own a larger parcel of land near the resort, currently used as an additional parking lot, which has been previously earmarked for a third theme park, but there are several logistical issues regarding this location.  It's physically separated from the other two parks, directly across the street from the Anaheim Convention center, and nearly 0.75 miles from the current park gates.  There would need to be some sort of transportation system needed to get back and forth between the new park and the existing parks, and that system would need to cross at least a couple of major thoroughfares.  

More recently, the complicating factor has been the Disneyland Resort Specific Plan, a subset of the Anaheim Resort Area Specific Plan.  These two documents coordinated with the city of Anaheim, govern much of what Disneyland can do with the resort area land.  It governs the number of hotel rooms that Disney can build, the number of timeshare rooms it can build, which parcels of land can be parking, which can be hotel, which can be theme parks or shopping, etc.

This more than anything has been the greatest complicating factor for Disney's plans and has actively derailed some of the company's most recent attempts to revitalize the resort.  The resort plan combined with an Anaheim city council that was less friendly to Disney led to the cancellation of the Eastern Gateway Expansion, abandoning plans for a large parking structure on Disney's eastern side as well as a pedestrian bridge to the park's gates.  It cancelled the planned four-diamond hotel expansion of the Disneyland Hotel into the previous Downtown Disney space, leaving much of that section still vacant.

Things began to turn around last November for Disney in Anaheim.  The election brought a more favorable city council to Anaheim.  And while the pandemic has closed the resort for a little over a year, with it only opening a few days ago, the importance of Disney to the success of Anaheim has been brought to the forefront of everyone's mind there. Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu summed it best.  “This is a monumental day for Anaheim.  We have all missed the joy of Disneyland, and we’re so glad to have that back. But this means so much more to working families, small businesses and our city. The impact of having the theme parks closed for more than 13 months due to the pandemic has been devastating. This begins our economic recovery and brings hope back to Anaheim.

So, it is in this environment that Disney released DisneylandForward on March 25, 2021.  DisneylandForward contains no specifics, no detailed plans for expansion, but rather presents possibilities.  All of the concept art, all of the diagrams, are designed to curry public favor for the expansion, so that Disney can take greater control of the Disneyland Resort Area.  So that Disney can control what it places where, how many hotel rooms it adds, where new attractions can go, and so on.

That's what makes the concept art above so intriguing.  One pitch by Disney is to expand both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure into the parking lots surrounding the Disneyland Hotel and the Paradise Pier Hotel.  An unprecedented mixture of hotel and theme park.  Disney would then rely on its two current parking garage, as well as a new parking garage in the Eastern Expansion.  The proposed third park location would become a spot for a new hotel and shopping/dining area.

You can see the concessions Disney will likely make to Anaheim as well.  The change in designation of the proposed third park location from theme park to mixed use hotel and shopping/dining likely means Disney will agree to split their land in two in order to allow the expansion of Gene Autry Way from the Convention Center to Angel Stadium.  The push for expansion toward the hotels, likely means an improved Eastern Gateway Bridge from the city's perspective.  

It's a shrewd business move, particularly in a depressed economy. With the friendlier city council, it will be likely something Disney can accomplish.

I'm particularly interested in watching its development, because it ticks several boxes that I suggested in my If I Were Disney CEO - Disneyland Resort blog.  Expansion of Gene Autry Way.  The use of the proposed third park location for parking and hotels.  A greater expansion of Downtown Disney.  The likely need for buying the Anaheim GardenWalk as a connector to the space.

I'll definitely be keeping my eyes and "mouse ears" on this one.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Information Management

This morning I had a first in my new job here in Indiana.  I had to present as part of our world-wide attorney call.  To put it in perspective, once a month, we have an hour and a half call with all 100+ legal personnel to discuss issues affecting our function in the company and for a couple of members of the team to share areas of interest for that month, specific teaching topics for the rest of the legal function, etc.  

My topic for this morning was on Information Management.  Specifically, on the retention and destruction of records.  

Retention and destruction is a topic that nobody really likes.  It's an obligation and a need, but not something exciting.  Everyone can recognize the need to get rid of old material in the abstract, but when it comes to your documents, your records, etc. then those are absolutely necessary documents that must be kept.  Plus, it gets complicated when there are legal and regulatory requirements governing retention, not just business use or need.

This is an area that I am less experienced in.  The area that I am still exploring and still learning.  The eDiscovery portion of my job, while utilizing new technologies was very familiar.  The Information Management portion, that retention, deletion, and protection of data/documents is the stretch.  There is a lot in this area, balancing legal requirements, system capabilities, and expected user action, compounded by the complication of addressing multiple countries and jurisdictions at once.

To say I was nervous, would be an understatement.  I think I ran through the presentation 3 times in my head as I woke up at various times in the night.  

Thankfully, the presentation went well.  It was definitely the hot topic for discussion, as I was peppered with questions throughout.  Nothing like a bit of cross-examination from your fellow attorneys.  But all questions raised were good topics for further exploration, and hopefully beneficial for the overall discussion.

So, all in all, a good day.  I still feel like I'm getting my feet planted firmly underneath me, and this was a big part of it. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

National Superhero Day

I couldn't pass this one up.

Today is National Superhero Day.  Created by Marvel Comics in 1995, it has become a day to celebrate our favorite heroes, both real and imagined.  As a life-long comic book fan, this makes today pretty special.

I still love superhero stories.  I love their power to convey simple and complex morality tales.  A place to retreat where we know that good will always triumph over evil.  No matter how dark it looks, no matter how much has been lost, right will prevail.

Superheroes are our modern myths.  They provide ideals that we aspire to and convey larger than life stories of struggle, triumph, perseverance, and hope.  Like any good science fiction, they are allegories through which the pressing issues of our times can be explored (Watergate in the original Secret Empire in Captain America, racism in Weird Fantasy #18 by EC Comics).

Plus, comics have an unlimited budget.  Movies are just now catching up, but comics can still beat them in terms of mind-blowing visuals.

And the end of the day, superheroes entertain me and inspire me.  I've read many bad ones, and I've read many excellent ones.  Those that have stuck with me throughout my life.  I've cut back on the number that I read and I am definitely enjoying being able to have them on a tablet (though I do miss the tactile feel of holding a comic book).  But I keep coming back and am looking forward to passing that love on.

I love that pop culture is just now starting to catch up with these myths.  If you had told me at 13 that there would be a different comic book inspired superhero television show on nearly every night of the week, that Marvel would be on track to release 35 big budget tentpoles for which it had creative control, that Comiccon would be as big of a pop-culture event as it has morphed into, I wouldn't have believed you.  It's a great time to be a fan.

It's also a great time to recognize the heroes around us.  The first responders that put their lives on the line for us and those that have increasingly difficult jobs with the pandemic and the civil unrest that have emerged.  The people that we have relied on for strength just to get through these trying times.  

If you can say thank you to someone, it's time to do so.

So enjoy this superhero day.  Read a comic, watch a great superhero movie or show.  And thank someone who is being a hero each and every day.


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Oscars, in the time of COVID-19

Sunday night marked the 93rd Academy Awards.  The ceremony was definitely impacted by the ongoing pandemic in more ways than one.  The location had changed from the traditional Dolby Theater in Hollywood to the Los Angeles Union Station.  A much smaller gathering of those nominated filled the limited space that they had, separated at tables by groups.  There were other "hubs" for Oscar nominees at theaters in locations like London for other nominees to be able to virtually appear from.  Still, several nominees were not able or comfortable attending at any location.

The production of the ceremony was likewise off.  They showed very few clips of the films that were nominated; those that were shown seemed random and sporadic.  There was no live orchestra, just QuestLove serving as DJ.  That meant no live scores, no live performance of the songs nominated, no live performance for the in memoriam montage.  

For the third year, the show had no single host, just a passing of the baton from presenter to presenter.  This was particularly noticeable with the poorly conceived "name that tune" bit asking if songs had won the award, were nominated, or were neither.  Given how little the ceremony ran over time this year, had they cut the "name that tune" bit, it would have landed right on time.

Most curious, the order of the ceremony was completely upended.  Best Director, which is usually awarded closely before Best Picture at the end, was awarded first.  Best Picture was not the last category awarded, but rather followed by the acting awards.  Even there, they forwent the tradition of last year's best actress giving the Best Actor award and vice versa.  This year, the previous winner in each category gave the award for that category.

This last bit seems to have garnered the most attention and controversy.  It seems to many that they were building to the Best Actor award as the finale, expecting a posthumous award to Chadwick Boseman for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.  Instead, Anthony Hopkins was awarded for The Father. Hopkins had not attended. He had asked to stream in from his home but was denied.  So, the Academy accepted the award on his behalf, causing the ceremony to close with a whimper. 

I can’t subscribe to the rumor that the choice was deliberate, in the expectation of the posthumous award.  For one, there have been posthumous awards in the past and ones that have come so closely to the actor’s death that the impact was still being felt.  Heath Ledger’s posthumous award comes to mind.  And in those instances, the order of the proceedings was not altered. 

The rumor I have heard and lend more credence to, is that Joaquin Phoenix was running late. In an ordinary ceremony, he would have presented the award for Best Actress.  With him running late and not being present, they would have delayed both the best actor categories, as they usually go in pairs. This would explain the seemingly rushed Rita Moreno presenting Best Picture early and the visibly uncomfortable Phoenix who completely eschewed the format that had been established for presenting. 

A stage manager issue, as opposed to a producer issue. 

The result made the Oscars incredibly underwhelming. The lack of real surprises , the unconventional format, the weird structure issues, all made the broadcast land with a thud in a way that it has not done so before. 

The viewership numbers were not a surprise. The ceremony dropped below 10 million people for the first time in a long time, with viewership down 57% from the past year. This has led some conservative commentators to claim a Hollywood backlash finally paying off. As if America was finally done with Hollywood once and for all. 

The reality is a lot more mundane.  Despite this years films being largely more accessible to the general public through early access video on demand and streaming platforms, the individual films nominated were not that well known.  Unless you were following the award seasons and buzz, it is very likely the average American would jot have heard of any of the nominated films, much less have seen them. 

It’s a problem that has been plaguing the Oscars for years. Gone are the days when blockbuster films like Rocky or Star Wars are nominated for Best Picture. The films of today are still largely niche films primarily released in the late fall and early winter.  Oscar bait films. Until that changes, viewership of the ceremony will also remain a niche event. 

I still wish they’d just embrace it. Lean into the niche aspect of it and make it a true celebration of Hollywood and film. Bring back a host that makes it an even longer and grander celebration. Own what it is. 

Or at least do something interesting and make the Muppets the hosts, complete with running commentary by Statler and Waldorf. 

Whatever it is, next years ceremony just can’t be this dull. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Happy Birthday, PapaRock!!

A happiest of birthdays to the best father, best grandfather, the best mentor anyone could ask for.  The hardest part of the move has been in not being there for celebrations, but we make the most of it when we can.  We hope you enjoy your day to its fullest and hope you appreciate the little bit of Indiana we've sent your way.  We especially look forward to getting to celebrate with you in just 33 days from now.  

I've taken, over the past couple of years, to using an older colloquialism for birthday greetings - Many happy returns of the day!  I love the sentiment of it.  Not only wishing that the person would have a great day, but that it would occur over and over and over again. 

We love you and can't wait to see you soon! May the blessings of this day spill over, and over, and over again.

Happy birthday, Dad!

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Why I Love My Church CPCC 2: Community Garden


"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat..."

Matthew 25:35a

I haven't written in this series a lot recently and wanted to pick it up again to write about our new church home, Connection Pointe Christian Church in Brownsburg, Indiana.  The series was started to write on special Sundays and outline reasons I love the church we are attending.  

It can be very easy to focus on the negative in anything we do.  To point out everything we would change, every little problem we have.  Everything that doesn't make us happy.  All too often, we focus on those aspects to the exclusion of all that we have been blessed with.

And please do not misunderstand me, I love a lot of things about Connection Pointe.  I love the staff, I love the intentionality that everything is done with, I love the biblical foundation, I love the people.  The foresight to start an online ministry a year before the pandemic.  Everything listed probably does not get enough recognition.  

But this series will not initially focus on those aspects.  To start this series is going to focus on those really unique, standout things our church does, including a few things that I would love to see other churches do as well.

Today, I learned about Connection Pointe's community garden.  And I think this is an amazingly great idea for any church.  The church campus has the blessing of size and of land, so a portion of the land in the northeast corner has been set aside as a community garden, to grow food to donate to local schools, food banks, and elderly care.  

I've seen the space in the back and thought it was likely for a garden, but never knew its impact until the bumper today.  Such a great opportunity for everyone to serve, whether they have a green thumb or not, by pitching in and literally helping grow the food that can have such a tangible impact on the community.  

Community gardens have existed for ages, and have had their surges in popularity, from the Victory Gardens during the world wars, to the current resurgences helping to offset America's "food deserts."  It's so inspiring to see a church joining in that effort.  To not only provide food, but to provide fresh food.  Fresh fruits and vegetables.  

Such a simple but profound way to demonstrate God's love to a community by meeting such a basic need.  "Isn’t this the fast that I have chosen:  to break the chains of wickedness, to untie the cords of the yoke,  to set the oppressed free and tear off every yoke?  Isn’t it to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your home, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?"  Isaiah 58:6-7.

And it's such a great idea that aligns with the interests and service areas of most churches.  In most rural suburban churches, I guarantee that you can find people with the time and the interest that are already gardening in their spare time, that would be perfect volunteers for such a community effort.

All it takes is someone to take the charge and lead it.

If you are looking for a church home, to find a place to truly connect and dig in deeper, you can find out more about Connection Pointe here.  We have a great online presence and people joining in from across the country, so it is a great way to start a connection to a church.

If you have a church home, I would ask you what you love about your church.  Could you list the things that you feel your church is really strong in?  And are there areas that you recognize you are being called to serve in?

Saturday, April 24, 2021

High on Pixie Dust

(c) Disney Parks Blog

I haven't written about Disney in a while, despite their being a few topics that have piqued my interest recently (like Disneyland Forward).  So, as the start of a few entries on the topic, I thought I would start with a recent editorial column from the Orlando Sentinel.

I love Disney World, but wokeness is ruining the experience.

In the column, self-proclaimed Disney superfan, Jonathan VanBoskerk wrote of his struggles in strongly rethinking his family's commitment to Disney (a very interesting way to put it) because of what he characterized as the company's change in values.  VanBoskerk pointed to Disney's recent updating of their company keys to success in cast member training to include Inclusionthe relaxation of cast member appearance policy to include "gender-inclusive" hairstyles, jewelry, costumes, and make-up, as well as allowing some visible tattoos, the replacement of Splash Mountain with a Princess and the Frog themed flume ride, and changes to Pirates of the Caribbean and the Jungle Cruise.  In perhaps his most telling quote, VanBoskerk reveals how he can not separate his enjoyment of the park from the nostalgia inherent in him experiencing the park as he believes he should.  "The next time I ride Jungle Cruise I will not be thinking about the gloriously entertaining puns of the skippers, I will be thinking about Disney’s political agenda. That’s a mood killer."

Look, I'm one of the biggest Disney Parks fans that you will ever meet.  I've been going to Disney parks since the early 1980s and have seen a lot of changes come and go through the parks.  Some for the better and some for the worse.  The original Journey Into Imagination ride has yet to be matched and the ride that exists in its place is a tragedy.  I will gladly join the chorus and bemoan the loss of things like Spectromagic, Horizons, The Great Movie Ride, and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

This article however, is patently ridiculous.  Just because you might be blind to how something may be grossly offensive to a sizable population of the visitors of the park, does not mean it is not offensive.  There are definitely cringe-worthy caricatures and stereotypes that are visible in the parks.  Pirates of the Caribbean had a cringe-worthy Asian pirate caricature, addressed long before they ever removed the bride auction.  The bride auction is amazing that it lasted this long and while the new scene isn't handled as deftly as the previous one, with a little adjustment, the bride auction would not be missed.  The Jungle Cruise has always had imperialist, racist caricatures of natives in the ride.  Again, this isn't something we should be saddened by their loss.  From the concept art for the replacement scenes, they look to focus more heavily on animals, and to continue the humor that has become part and parcel of the ride experience.  That's a good change.  And while I've always maintained that Song of the South is more boring than it is problematic, the change to Princess and the Frog will be a welcomed one (especially in Disneyland, where it fits much better), though the animatronics may be a down-grade.

Have we become that self-centered, that narcissistic, that our nostalgia matters more than our empathy?  Have we become that hardened, that we turn a blind eye to whatever doesn't offend us?  VanBoskerk labels himself in the article as a Christian and conservative, making his rant even more troubling.  As Christians, we should be the first to consider the feelings of others and to desire to make them feel included.  To love our neighbor as ourselves and to put them before us.  That is quite literally Paul's entire point in Romans 14.  "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification."  In that passage, Paul in his liberty knew there was no food that was unclean to eat, but put aside his freedom to make sure that his brothers and sisters did not stumble because of his actions.  

And that is in a situation where Paul knew he had the freedom to do so, as did his brothers and sisters in Christ.  He just wanted to protect their consciences.

How much more should we act when we know there are things out their causing our brothers and sisters real offense and hurt.

At the end of it all, it will still be a theme park.  One of the best in the world.  It will still be a place to escape from reality into fantasy, tomorrow, and adventure.  It will still be a place that is the "happiest place on earth."

These changes can just make it a little happier for everyone who visits.

Friday, April 23, 2021

One Bad Apple

There's been a whole lot of use of this phrase going around.  A sentiment that people want us to remember.  I've seen posts that desire to remind us that the vast majority of cops aren't problems, the vast majority of people aren't racist, the vast majority of politicians want what is best for the country (actually no, no one has made that last point).

The sentiment is valid and comforting.  It is true, there is more good out there than there is bad.  It's comforting to remember, that as a whole, people try to do the right thing.  That there are more helpers than there are hurters.

We cling to it especially in times when we witness the actions of bad actors.  When we see the actions of people like Derek Chauvin, abusing their power and authority.  

The problem, is that the sentiment is incomplete.  Like many aphorisms it has been shortened, to its detriment.  Take for example "curiosity killed the cat".  It's used to say that sticking your nose in where it is not welcomed can get you in trouble.  The full phrase had a rejoinder, though.  "Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back."  A reminder that curiosity can get us in trouble, but that it is an itch scratched by completion, by knowledge.

The same is appropriate here.  After all, the full phrase is...

"One bad apple spoils the whole bunch."

The point being, if we suffer one bad apple, one bad party, it doesn't stay contained.  It contaminates.  Bad company corrupts good character.  "If you lie down with dogs, you're going to get fleas."

Where we suffer one bad officer, there is a department that becomes corrupted by their silence and inaction.  Look at the Chauvin case.  In that matter, we didn't have other officers in his department speaking out against him, at the outset.  We didn't have other officers trying to stop him in the moment - instead the aided him in his efforts.  The initial police response to the death mentioned nothing about Chauvin's actions and it took four days for him to be charged.  An inexcusable amount of indecision and inaction.

We demand accountability, we pursue action because we have to display, by our words and our actions, that which cannot be allowed to continue.  We speak out against the one, to show everyone else that it's not acceptable.  We point out the bad apples, so the whole bunch is not spoiled.

So if you're going to raise that maxim, at least please follow it through to its conclusion.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Earth Day 2021

Today is Earth Day.  The first celebrations took place in two thousand colleges and universities, primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States.  It now is observed in 192 countries, and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network, chaired by the first Earth Day 1970 organizer Denis Hayes.  According to Hays, Earth Day is now "the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year."

Hays created Earth Day in response to the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, which spewed more than three million gallons of oil, resulting in an 800 square-mile oil slick he viewed by plane.  The day is to demonstrate our commitment to environmental protection.  Our commitment to be good stewards of the Earth.

Through the pandemic, we have seen the impact that we can make in that regard.  How our actions (or in this case inaction) can impact the world around us.  And improve things for the better.

While we were in quarantine, we saw truly remarkable reports of environmental improvement around the world.  Our Earth is getting wilder - and cleaner.  Compared to the previous five years, March 2020 air pollution was down 46% in Paris, 35% in Bengaluru, India, 38% in Sydney, 29% in Los Angeles, 26% in Rio de Janeiro and 9% in Durban, South Africa, NASA measurements show.  Smog stopped choking New Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world, and Indians had views of the skyline that they have not seen before.  Nitrogen dioxide pollution in the US northeast was down 30%.

The Earth improved because we were not out in it.  Think about that for a while.

I know people who have thought that God sent COVID-19 to slow us down, to get our attention, to put families back together.  What if he sent it to heal His creation?  To fix the damage we have done as poor stewards of His creation?

Our challenge this year, as we can hopefully start seeing the end of this pandemic, is whether we can continue to improve things for the better, or whether, in our haste to return things back to "normal" go back to our past of taking the earth for granted.  Can we bring the positive aspects of going back to normal - human interaction, social gatherings, smiles and hugs - while also keeping the aspects that have had such a positive impact on the environment around us?

On this Earth Day, we should remember that we can make a difference.  We're seeing it all around us in this time.  What kind of difference we make when this is over is up to us.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Guilty, On All Three Counts

Former Officer Derek Chauvin, guilty on all three counts.

Yesterday, a jury found Chauvin guilty on the charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter for his actions in the arrest and resulting death of George Floyd.  The jury had deliberated for 10 hours and was unanimous in its verdict.

Chauvin's actions in placing his knee on the neck of a handcuffed and subdued Floyd for nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds reignited a national movement regarding race relations in the country and police brutality and accountability.  Thanks to a cell phone video taken by a brave teenage girl, the entire country witnessed in excruciating detail as Floyd pleaded for his life under Chavin's knee.

It's hard to ignore the symbolism of the event yesterday.  It's exceedingly rare that a case against a police officer for abuse of their authority would go trial in the first place.  It's even rarer that a jury would find against the police officer.  Juries have a tendency to defer to the police in the exercise of their authority, even in cases of clear excessive force.  That the jury would find Chauvin unanimously guilty on all three counts indicates a clear recognition of the need for police accountability.  Especially when this case was merely the lynchpin of a dialogue that has been increasing over the past several years, resulting from several similar cases, that just seem to keep piling up.

A history of cases.

The cases of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

The case of Daunte Wright, stopped for an expired vehicle registration and shot by an officer who claimed they were reaching for their taser.

Even more disturbing, the case of Ma'khia Bryant, a 16 year old girl, shot by the very Columbus, Ohio police she called 9-1-1 for  assistance.  Shot on the same day the Chauvin verdict came out.

If you can't see the problem, you aren't paying attention.

There is a definitive difference in how police interact with the white and black populations.

There is a problem with the militarization of our police and the increased use of force by its officers.

There is a distinctive problem with a lack of police accountability.  Unions fight against any attempts at an increase in accountability.  Our justice system largely shields them from being held accountable by the public they serve.  Even their own internal efforts to police themselves are often inadequate.  

Think of how often Internal Affairs is played as the bad guy in fiction.  Internal Affairs is never presented as a good part of the police organization; they are always depicted as standing in the way of good cops enforcing real justice or as an inept bureaucracy or as a corrupt organization in and of themselves.  

We've embedded in our fiction that accountability for police action is inherently bad.

That has to change.  Hopefully this verdict is a symbol of that change.  There have been signs to that effect.  There are leaders that are determined to make real and lasting change in this area.

Because that is what this is about - accountability.  

We have accountability because a seventeen year old girl was brave enough and strong enough to film the whole incident.

The question that should haunt you now, is what about the ones that were not filmed?


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Mitchuation Update - All Over the Place

It's been a while since I've done one of these, so I thought it might be good to pass along a little update about what's going on in our lives.  Especially as the world starts to see the light at the end of the tunnel, regarding this pandemic and how that is impacting the world around us.

I think the last one I wrote in this vein related to an update at the year mark in Indiana.  Since that time, we've traveled back to Texas for a couple of weeks for Spring Break to see family (one thing I love about Indiana schools - two week spring break, two week fall break, two weeks at Christmas/New Years).  Jamie and I have both gotten our first vaccination (I got the Moderna vaccine, Jamie got the Pfizer vaccine).  We're trying to settle back into a routine for these last few weeks of school.  And we got to take our first get away since the pandemic started that was not back to family.  We made a quick weekend trip to Michigan to see tulips and to step in Lake Michigan.  That one was our first trip since moving to Indiana, our first trip that was just the four of us, and our first since the pandemic.

So there will be a new traveler's report coming up with photos from that little getaway.  There will be a few posts this week on the news that has broken today, the celebrations of the week, and prep for the Oscars this weekend.  

In looking over the last year plus of posting, it's also made me realize I have left one part of our story off the blog and I look to correct that - our adoption journey.  We're nearing the completion of our homestudy for domestic infant adoption, so I want to share that story too.  And that will let me talk about why this weekend was so stressful.  That story will come far in the future when I've taken enough anti-anxiety medication to put it behind us.

Lot's to look forward to and lot's to share.   Hopefully can be a little more diligent about sharing it going ahead.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Cinerama Dome

My photo from across the street for the 2012 TCM Film Festival

Another grand movie theater is shuttering as a result of the pandemic.  The Arclight Cinerama Dome will be closed, as a part of the closing of all Arclight and Pacific Theaters. While the loss of the other theaters in their chains sting, the loss of the Cinerama Dome is particularly hurtful.

The Cinerama Dome opened November 7, 1963, as a venue specifically designed for widescreen Cinerama films.  Cinerama used three projectors to create an 86 foot wide image on the arced screen.  The screen begins to wrap around you and the resulting image cannot be recreated on our modern equivalents.  When they have tried, like in the Blu-Ray for How the West Was Won, the resulting image is shaped to resemble a smile.  That's the only way to preserve the whole picture.

When I wrote about the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, I talked about the special theaters I've been to.  The Cinerama Dome is up there.  I've had the great pleasure of seeing How the West Was Won and It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World there as part of TCM Film Festivals.  How the West Was Won had an interview with Debbie Reynolds before the film, and It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World had a panel with Marvin Kaplan, Karen Sharpe Kramer, Barrie Chase, and Mickey Rooney.  While those interviews definitely color the experience, there is no question that I have yet to experience a theater screen that immerses you in the film like the Cinerama experience.

We're fortunate that the building was declared a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument in 1998, but there is definitely something lost by not having films on display.  That's my fear in this pandemic recovery and how it has affected Hollywood - not that the megaplexes will not reopen, but that we will instead lose the small, the classic, the unique theaters that truly make the movie going experience magical.  I know the Royal here in nearby Danville has changed management due to the pandemic and has not yet announced a reopening date.

Hopefully we're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  I'm ready to light the lights and to share the theater experience again, both for live theater and for great film.  I'm ready for that communal experience that happens with a full theater and a great film.

I just hope we have unique and beautiful places to see them in once this is all done.

To the Cinerama Dome, may you soon return.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Ramadan 2021

Last night marked the beginning of Ramadan, a month long period of reflection, fasting, prayer, and introspection for the Muslim faith.  The month commemorates the revelation of the Qur'an to the prophet Mohammed.  The month is marked by fasting from sunrise to sunset and a devotion to prayer, the reading of scripture, and to charity.  In many ways, it is comparable to the Christian period of Lent. 

To any readers who may be observing Ramadan this year, Ramadan Mubarak. May this Ramadan clear your understanding and Judgement between right and wrong.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Shot #1

One down, one to go. 

I received my first dose of the Moderna vaccine today. Now scheduled for my second on May 6. 

I’m glad to join the ranks of the at least partially vaccinated. Indiana opened up vaccines those 40 and over while we were back in Texas and I signed up as soon as I could possibly do so.  They dropped the age limits even further during our stay and Jamie was able to get scheduled for next week. 

No real side effects to mention. My arm is sore, but so far, I’m no worse for wear.  So far the microchip isn’t even noticeable. 😉

But seriously, get vaccinated. I know for those in Texas, there aren’t too many limitations on who can get vaccinated - just an unwillingness to do so. 

Stay safe, wear your mask, get the shot. Let’s really beat this thing. 

Monday, April 5, 2021

Resurrected Monday 2021

Easter is now officially over.

The question is, what now?

The Resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.  If Christ is not resurrected, then what hope do we have.

"But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is worthless, and so is your faith.  In that case, we are also exposed as false witnesses about God.  For we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead but He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If our hope in Christ is for this life alone, we are to be pitied more than all men."
1 Corinthians 15: 12-18

The greatest hope of the Resurrection is not that Jesus was raised once.  It's that He remains alive.  He is alive and omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.  He is alive and at the right hand of the Father.  He is alive and reigning on high.

And that is something we can and should celebrate each and every day of the year!

For too many people, Easter is the one time of year that the Resurrection is given any thought.  It may be one of only a couple of times the enter the church, likely as a responsibility to family.  It's the only time they hear the story of Jesus' death and resurrection.  And with the Monday after Easter, everything is back to normal.  Easter is over.  The obligations are complete.  Reality sets back in.

Sadly, I think this is the case for far too many Christians as well.  

Oh, they can quote the verses.  They sing "My Redeemer Lives," "He Lives," and "Resurrecting."  They are in services every week, and they would say they believe every word of the Easter story.  They believe in Jesus' death and literal resurrection.

They just don't live like it.

For far too many Christians, the Resurrection is brought out at Easter and then celebrated, but then Jesus is put back in the tomb or back on the cross.

Others may only be celebrating this one time a year; gathering with family for the annual obligation.  Without being able to gather this year, what happened to that obligation?  Did many still view a service out of habit?

Jesus on the cross is marketable.  It's fashionable.  It can be worn on t-shirts and jewelry.  It can be put on Bible covers, hung on walls, and be used as an easily recognizable symbol.  And when Jesus remains on the cross, when he remains a savior that died for our sins, then we have been saved and our present obligation ends.  Likewise, with Jesus in the tomb.

The resurrection is something different.  If Jesus not just rose again, but is alive today, then we have obligations to him.  We have to recognize him as Lord.  As the ruling King of Kings.  And we have to live accordingly.  Jesus as Lord requires more of us.

"For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake.  For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death works in us, but life in you."
2 Corinthians 4: 5-12

Leaving Jesus in the tomb or on the cross misses out on the power that He can demonstrate in our daily lives.  On the mission that He has for us today.  Now.  On the blessings, the comfort, and the LIFE that only He can provide.

This seems to be a great part of why the early church did not use the iconography of the crucifix.  The cross was too recent, too painful, perhaps too close to the reality of what the crucifix did.  It was seen as the instrument of torture that it was.  

Instead, the imagery was focused on the Good Shepherd.  Jesus with a lamb resting across his shoulders.  Jesus with the shepherd's crook.  

And to me, that really re-centers the focus of the Christian life.  Don't get me wrong, the crucifix is still powerful imagery and represents the greatest victory that we have.  There is, however, also a tendency to treat it as a one-time historical event, both in the life of Christ and in our lives.  It's too easy for us to leave Christ on the cross.  To stop at our salvation and not pursue sanctification - to just get "fire insurance" and that's it.  To treat Jesus as just Savior and not Lord.

Focusing on the Good Shepherd reminds us that He is still watching over us.  He is still guiding us and protecting us.  And that we are still required to be listening for His voice.  To follow His voice and His voice alone.  To go where the shepherd guides us and to graze there.   To lie down in good pastures, to drink still waters, to graze along the Paths of Righteousness.

It reminds us that the Good Shepherd is and should be a part of our daily lives. 

So don't let your celebrating end.  Don't let Easter be the end of your remembrance and celebration of the Resurrection of Christ.  Don't keep Jesus in the tomb.

He's alive!


Now let's live like it on more than just Easter Sunday.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Easter Sunday 2021

"Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.  But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb.  Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.  Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but is risen!  Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.'"

Luke 24:1-7

Today marks the greatest celebration of the Christian life.  The greatest news that could be shared.  He is not among the dead.  He's alive, He's alive, He's alive!!  I'm forgiven, Heaven's gates are open wide!

We have hope because He has won the victory over death and the grave.  No matter how dark Friday was, no matter how difficult the waiting on Saturday, it's Sunday and Christ is victorious!

May the joy and grace of the Easter season be on you and your family!  If you do not know the reason why we celebrate, I pray you find yourself surrounded with friends who exemplify the good news and are overjoyed to share. There are plenty of online opportunities today to join a celebration.

God’s blessings on you today and continuing through this year.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Holy Saturday 2021

Here the whole world (stars, water, air, and field, and forest, as they were reflected in a single mind) like cast off clothes was left behind in ashes, yet with hopes that, in lenten lands, hereafter may resume them on Easter Day.
-  C.S. Lewis - 

This year, I've been looking over a post from a couple of years ago on Holy Saturday.  The day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  That period between death and resurrection.  The period between the event that causes suffering and the event that brings deliverance.  The eternity between sorrow and joy.

In the Easter week, Friday is definitely a difficult day.  It's the infliction of pain.  It's the day where the death occurs, the suffering is inflicted.

But to me, Saturday, that next day has to be the worst.  It's that period of waiting.  Of reality setting in.  The shock wears off, and everything is real.

On Friday, they were experiencing everything as it was happening, perhaps holding out hope for a miracle to completely change their circumstances that day.  Perhaps in complete shock through the whole experience.

Saturday is the day everything sharpens.  Jesus died.  And for all the disciples know, he is not coming back.  It's that period we all find ourselves in, where all we can do is just wait in our suffering.  And I do not know about you, but I'm terrible at waiting.  I want solutions. I want action.  I want to change things, now.   And the fact always remains that you cannot rush this time.

We're all in the waiting now.  With rolling state-wide and nation-wide stay at home orders, lockdowns and shutouts, everyone is waiting on a change.  Waiting for this to end.  Waiting for hope that this too will pass.  Some of us are adjusting better than others, but we are all struggling to adapt.

The good news is that we know it does end.  It does get better.  "Every storm eventually runs out of rain."  Especially, for those that follow the Way, for those truly living the life He has called us to, we know the end.  Even if we do not see the victory here, we know who holds it in His hand.

It's Holy Saturday.  But Easter is Coming!

Friday, April 2, 2021

Good Friday 2021

"It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away.  But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
The Burial of Jesus

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God.  Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body.  Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.  It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it.  Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

Luke 23: 44b-56

Today, for those of faith, represents the darkest day in human history.  The day where it seemed all hope died.  Good Friday remembers the day when Jesus Christ, Son of God, was crucified by the Roman government and died a criminal's death.

He suffered through the mockery of a trial, in which the prosecution presented trumped up charges to a judge who found no fault but still sided with the mob and gave into their demands.  He was beaten, tortured, and jeered.  Stripped and dressed in a costume designed to mock the charges against him.  He was forced to carry the beam of his cross in a walk of shame through the city where the same people who cheered his arrival now gawked at the parade of criminals as they worked their way to the site of their execution.  He was then nailed to that beam, in both his hands and feet, raised between two criminals and left to die.

Crucifixion was one of the most cruel forms of death that humans have ever created.  It was public and designed to dissuade its witnesses from perpetrating similar crimes.  Victims were sometimes left on display after death as a warning to any other potential criminals.  The death it provided was particularly slow and painful, leading to the term excruciating, or literally "out of crucifying."  The person executed was usually attached to the cross by a range of methods including rope and nails.  The executed could be tied to the cross such that the ropes would cut into his skin.  To support the weight of a body, nails would be driven into the arm just above the wrist, between the two bones of the forearm.  Nails would also be driven into the feet, also to support the weight of the body, usually without the foot-rest or the seat that is placed on our decorative crosses.  The entire weight of the body would be placed on those nails as the body would continue to pull downward in gravity, keeping the person in continual pain.

When the whole body weight was supported by stretched out arms, nailed to that cross, the typical cause of death was asphyxiation.  The executed would have severe difficulty inhaling and would have to draw themselves up by the arms, leading to exhaustion and pain at the nail sites.  This process could be sped up by the soldiers breaking the condemned's legs, preventing them from pushing up, leaving them to die choking for air.  The executed could further suffer cardiac rupture, heart failure, hypovolemic shock, sepsis, acidosis, arrhythmia, and pulmonary embolism.  The scourging before the crucifixion would exacerbate the potential for sepsis.  Add in dehydration and you have a slow, agonizing death on display for all to see.

And Jesus willingly chose that path.  He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, willingly going to cross to redeem his creation.

To his followers, this day marked a feeling of hopelessness.  It was the day hope died.  Their hope in change for the future.  The possible hope for revolution.  They saw everything they had hoped for vanishing in an instant.

For Jesus, this was also an unprecedented day.  The day when Jesus, the pure, spotless lamb would bear the sins of the world, past, present, and future.  It would be the one time Jesus was completely separated from His Father.  Where God would turn His back on him, for he could not see his son stained with sin.  Eloi; Eloi; Lama; Sabachtha.  My God; My God; Why have you forsaken me?

The first time Jesus experienced despair.

Many of us today on this Good Friday might be experiencing despair.  Might be feeling hopeless.  The physical isolation.  The loss of a job.  The loss of income.  This might indeed be the darkest night.

But we - we know dawn is coming.  We celebrate that Friday is not the end of the story.  Things may look at their absolute darkest, but morning is coming.  Friday may be death, but Sunday is resurrection.

No matter the outlook, it gets better.

It's Friday, but Sunday is coming!

Praise the Lord!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Maundy Thursday 2021

"On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’”  So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.  And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.  The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered, “You have said so.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Matthew 26:17-30

Today marks Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday.  The fifth day of Holy Week, it is truly a day of remembrance.  Remembering Jesus' service.  The way he prepared for his sacrifice.

By washing his disciples feet.

By breaking bread and sharing wine.

In service and in fellowship, with those closest to him.

With all we've gone through over this past year, we long for those larger gatherings.  To enjoy a meal together and to break bread.  There are those with servants' hearts that are longing to get back out and be a blessing to those around them, helping in any way they can.

Remember this feeling.

Just before the darkest hour of his life, Jesus valued service and fellowship above all.  He spent time with those closest to him and showed them how much he cared for them by stooping down and washing their feet.  He took care of his friends.  And what he asked of them, was to remember him.

To remember him when they drank.  To remember him when they ate.  To remember him when they were gathered together.

That's our duty today.  To remember Him.  To remember His sacrifice.  Partake in your own Lord's Supper at home.  Do it in remembrance of Him.

And then, serve in every way you can.  Serve remotely and virtually.  When we can get together, serve physically.  Put that remembrance into action.  Follow his new commandment, from which we get Maundy.

Make the day count.  In remembrance of Him.