Saturday, June 30, 2018

Toys "R" Us Kid

I don't wanna grow up
I'm a Toys "R" Us kid
There's a million toys at Toys "R" Us 
That I can play with
From bikes to trains to video games
It's the biggest toy store there is
I don't wanna grow up
Cause maybe if I did
I wouldn't be a Toys "R" Us kid

A sad day for kids of all ages.  Toys "R" Us is officially no more.  The last store has closed its doors.

Going to Toys "R" Us was always an exciting day.  A whole store devoted to nothing but toys!  Even if you couldn't get anything, just to walk up and down the aisles and dream of the adventures you could have.  To see the giant playsets that you would never have.

Their flagship store in Times Square was even a great experience to visit as an adult.  An indoor Ferris wheel that could be used to move up floors.  A life-size Barbie Dream House.  A Willy Wonka candy store.  That great mix of wonder and nostalgia.

In it's closing, Toys "R" Us shared this message:

Play On!

Thanks to each of you who shared your amazing journey to (and through) parenthood with us, and to every grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother and sister who's built a couch-cushion rocket ship, made up a hero adventure, or invented something gooey.  Promise us just this one thing:
Don't ever grow up.  Play on!

So in honor of Toys "R" Us today and all the wonder of childhood, do something silly today, just because you want to.  Do something fun, just because it's fun.  Draw.  Color.  Dance.  Sing at the top of your lungs your favorite song.  Tell a story.  Find something that makes you laugh.  Make someone else smile.

Aging is a certainty.  Getting old is not.  Getting old is a state of mind.  We have to mature, we should learn and grow wiser.  But we can maintain a bit of that wonder.  A bit of that sense of adventure.  A bit of that silliness.  A lot of that faith.  And even a bit of that naivete.

I'll always be a kid at heart.  I hope you can too.

"Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again."
C.S. Lewis

Friday, June 29, 2018

The End of Moderation

And so an era ends.

Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced that he will be retiring this summer.  And while the name of the Court has changed over his tenure from Chief Justice to Chief Justice, the court has largely been in Justice Kennedy's hands.  Particularly from 2005 to date, ruling from the center.

Justice Kennedy is/was the court's wild card, its conscience.  The all important swing vote necessary for the all-too-common 5-4 decisions that have typified modern Supreme Court rulings.   A role that makes him both admired and condemned.  He has sided with a more liberal approach to gay rights, abortion, and the death penalty, but remained conservative on voting rights, campaign finance, and gun control.

To me, Justice Kennedy's departure represents the end of something that is sorely missing in this country:  moderation.  The ability to decide a case based on the facts and merits of the case as it is brought before the court.  Not to walk in with an expected set of values that will be upheld or to arrive at a decision aligning with political ideology.  To evaluate the case placed before the court, and potentially arrive a decision that may be surprising. 

And while I've couched this in terms of the Court, it is missing nationally in a much broader context.  We are living in an era in which everything is filtered through a set and regimented ideology.  Our news feeds are even now self-selecting to ensure we only receive the information that aligns with our view point.

It seems our Court will likely head in that direction now.  President Trump and the Republicans are moving fast to appoint a successor, hoping to do so before the mid-term elections.  The prevailing thought is that the court will now be solidly 5 conservative, 4 liberal with little swing.  [An upside would be that it makes this period of Constitutional Law a little more straightforward - little guesswork].

I pray for the days of more swing votes.  For more Justice Kennedys.

We need moderation now more than ever.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Golden Door Is Closed

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Sometimes a delay works out for the best (at least for this blog).  This was supposed to go up last week, but now it has a particularly new relevance.

Though our current crisis at the border has been averted for now, one thing has become clear in this administration's language and policies: the golden door is closed.  Immigrants need not apply.  (Unless your rich.  Different rules always apply to the rich.)

The push to end many family visas by narrowly construing the limits of a family.  The refusal to accept refugees, stating a policy number half the historic average, but actively driving that number far lower.  Ending asylum for domestic violence and gang violence, and effectively ending asylum based on a "credible fear of persecution."  Stopping migrants from reaching our border, lying to them and telling them that the 'port of entry is at capacity and we cannot process any more asylum claims'.  This latter point creates a particularly nasty 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' scenario, as we have a zero-tolerance policy jailing anyone who would enter illegally and try to claim asylum, but we are stopping them before they get here and telling them to come back later for those who want to enter legally and claim it.  As a result, there are applicants camping out for days on end just outside our borders.

And now our highest court has affirmed the imposition of a travel ban to the United States from certain countries.  The Supreme Court in Trump, President of the United States, et al. v. Hawaii et al., 585 U.S. _____ (2018), reversed the appellate court that stayed the ban, remanding the case for further decision in the lower courts.  The opinion is a very sausage-making heavy opinion regarding the statutory construction surrounding the authorization of the President to limit immigration into the country.  In doing so, the court recognizes the very, very broad powers the President has in invoking such a limitation, bypassing any potential Establishment Clause issue by focusing solely on the printed text of the proclamation and not the ample evidence of motive and interpretation by the administration surrounding it.

It sends a clear message.  Immigration to America, even legal immigration is done.

Ironic for a nation that is 99.1% immigrant.

Think about that.  Only 0.9% of Americans can trace their roots back to indigenous people.  Everyone else here immigrated at some point.  And for nearly 100 years, we did not have immigration laws as we would think of them.  If you could get here, and stay here, you could become a citizen (with the unfortunate time period appropriate caveats).  Beyond that, it took us 150 years to put caps on the total number of immigrants a year.

We have to fix our immigration policies and we have to do so soon.  It's fundamental to who we are, or at least who we were.  If we want to make America great again, why don't we remember that part.

"Bartholdi's gigantic effigy was originally intended as a monument to the principles of international repblicanism, but 'The New Colossus' reinvented the statue's purpose, turning Liberty into a welcoming mother, a symbol of hope to the outcasts and downtrodden of the world."
Paul Auster

I feel the Lady now weeps.

"I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind to whatever nation they might belong."
George Washington

"Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists."
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 13 - The Walt Disney World Resort - Hotels

A hotel or campground right for everyone.


The Walt Disney World resort has over twenty distinct hotel and resort properties within its boundaries, offering a wide variety of accommodations.  Motel style rooms.  Family suites.  Wilderness cabins.  Three bedroom treehouses.  And a variety of multi-room villas.

Currently, resorts are grouped by price point. Value, Moderate, Deluxe, and Villa.  The company is likely switching to a location based grouping, with price points reflecting the proximity.  Magic Kingdom resorts, EPCOT Resorts, Disney Hollywood Studios Resorts, Disney Animal Kingdom Resorts, and Disney Springs Resorts.

The company is also going through an impressive expansion in its hotel offerings.  The construction of the new tower and general expansion of the Coronado Springs Resort.   The construction of the Riviera Disney Vacation Club Resort adjacent to the Caribbean Beach Resort.  The immersive storytelling Star Wars Resort.  There's even the new non-Disney, but Disney property C2 hotel going in among the Swan and Dolphin.

That does not even begin to address the rumors of further hotel expansion.   The Project 89 work at Fort Wilderness, likely for a new resort complex there.  (Addressed in the previous entry to this series).    And the EPCOT entrance hotel.

Accordingly, there is a lot of anticipated growth in the hotel and resort segment of Walt Disney World.  Once these additions, are complete, I believe there are just a couple of additional remodelings and expansions that should be undertaken to fully flesh out the resort.

Primary Goals:
  • I want to make sure that a balance is maintained regarding the mix of types of amenities and price points.  Between hotel and DVC units.
  • There should be a return to unique and thematic architecture and interior design.  Recent additions to the resorts are getting very structurally similar, with just the details left as unique. Compare the Coronado tower and Riviera Resort renderings above and then compare that to the difference between the Contemporary and Polynesian.
  • I would want to further group the resorts by transportation type.  Beyond location specific, there should also be the Monorail resorts, the gondola resorts, the boat resorts, and the train resorts.  Unique and appropriate offerings for the particular location grouping.

Rather than discuss every resort and potential additions, I'm going to focus on the specific additions and changes that I would make.  Most resorts function well and just need periodic refreshing of the decor and interior design.  There's no need for me to discuss each of those instances.  Instead, I want to focus on larger construction needs and potential new resorts that should be added.

Magic Kingdom Resort Area:
Generally, the hotels of the Magic Kingdom resort area are the stalwarts of the Walt Disney World Resort.  The Grand Floridian, The Polynesian, The Contemporary.  There are just a couple of additions that I would propose to really cap off this area.

First, I would add a second tower to the Contemporary Resort area to balance the Bay Lake Tower addition.  This would take over the Garden Wing section and should be either a circular copy of the Bay Lake Tower or a new complimentary geometric shape.

New Contemporary Tower
Second, I would add a fourth resort to the Seven Seas Lagoon.  This hotel should be Fantasy themed.  Disney's Magic Kingdom Hotel.  This is to complete the theme.  The Grand Floridian reflects the past like Main Street, Liberty Square, and Frontierland.  The Polynesian represents adventure.  And the Contemporary looks to the future.  There is a need for a fantasy resort.

A place to sleep in a palace.  Tokyo is adding a new fantasy resort in its addition to DisneySea, and while I would not copy that architecture, I feel a similar resort here would be a very big draw.  For the architecture, I would look to French design.  Versailles.  Loire valley chateau, like the John Horney  concept art below.

Existing concept art to dust off and put to use
This hotel would be a great location for a royal table princess character dining meal and a third Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique location.

The only question with the resort is where to put it.  There have been several plans for additional resorts along the Seven Seas Lagoon/Bay Lake.  Particularly the Venetian, the Persian, the Asian, and the Mediterranean in the old Venetian location.  The Asian location eventually became the Grand Floridan, but the Venetian/Mediterranean and Persian sites are still open.  Both locations have been deemed suitable for development (or at least marginally suitable), but evidence shows the Venetian/Mediterranean plot may be more expensive than desired due to the swampy condition of the land.

Magic Kingdom Area Hotel Plots
I would propose an alternate location for this fantasy resort.  The land north of the Grand Floridian also shows to be suitable (or at least marginally suitable) for development.  I would look to add the fantasy resort here.  This would keep it on the monorail line, would allow for a greater possible expansion plot, and would help continue a sidewalk/jogging path all around the Seven Seas Lagoon.  This would leave the Venetian/Mediterranean and Persian plots available for further development.

In those previously identified locations, I would actually propose alternate uses.  The Persian plot would make a good second location for another 360 immersive hotel like the upcoming Star Wars hotel.  It is a good isolated location that could be more tightly managed to keep the entire experience in the hotel immersed in the particular story to be told.  Good immersive themes for this hotel would be a Haunted Mansion resort or even an additional immersive princess/royalty experience (Renaissance on steroids with a Disney flair).

If the Venetian/Mediterranean plot can be developed, I think it would be much better served as a mixed use facility than strictly a hotel resort complex.  Something like the Boardwalk or Disney Springs lite.  Disney Center Port/Pier.  Shopping and dining on the first floor, hotel rooms on the second and third.  An option to relieve the crowds at Disney Springs and also to allow guests to come out of the Magic Kingdom and into one of the restaurants there.  Ticket and Transportation parking would be sufficient.  Arguably, this could be a part of the revitalization of Ticket and Transportation, bringing it out of the dated 90s look and into an integral part of this shopping and dining district.

Wilderness Lodge/Fort Wilderness Area:
I've previously discussed the potential hotel at Fort Wilderness.

Fort Wilderness Hotel
I feel these would be a good addition.  What I would add is the previously discussed narrow gauge train connecting the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness.  This has been long proposed to connect the two resorts, as well as to serve as a guide through the passage of time between the two settings.

Potential Train
I would dub this train the Wilderness Express and would seek to expand on the property in between these two locations.  There had been plans for a Wilderness Junction/Buffalo Junction Hotel in the middle.  This would be a great location for a more boutique hotel or even for another immersive hotel, themed to a wild west town.  Similar to the Hotel Cheyenne at Disneyland Paris.

Wilderness Junction Hotel
EPCOT has a proposed new hotel for the entrance to the park.  Rumor has it that the hotel could completely envelop the entrance, so that you would pass under the hotel to enter the park, or it could flank the entrances. Another possibility is that it would be located in the current bus drop off area.

EPCOT Entrance Hotels
I'm partial to the hotel spanning the entrance.  I like how this has been done at other Disneyland resorts (Paris and Tokyo) and feel that with the appropriate design, the hotel could complement the view to Spaceship Earth very well.  This would require an accommodation for the monorail, but that could only serve to increase the hotel's popularity.  I can envision the hotel looking a lot like the design for the new Disneyland hotel.   For simplicity's sake, I would call this the EPCOT Hotel, especially given the proximity to the entrance.

The Yacht & Beach Club and Swan and Dolphin hotels are all well developed as is.  The Boardwalk Hotel is as well, though I feel there are additions that should be made to the actual boardwalk itself.

Proposed Boardwalk Additions
The Boardwalk needs more things to do. For a boardwalk, it is really uneventful. There are seven restaurants, one dueling piano bar, and a dance club.  The latter two primarily become cast member hangouts.  I would propose to add two attractions to give the boardwalk like.  A carousel in the garden behind the main entrance.  (It's a shame that a resort that has so much carousel theme does not actually have a carousel.)   And a Ferris wheel.  The Ferris wheel does not need to be the biggest or oversized like the Pixar Pal-Around at Disney California Adventure. This can be something a little closer to traveling fair size.  Especially as it will be a pay to use ride, with a necessarily lower capacity and likely lower demand.  I think these two attractions would go along way to giving a little vitality to the area, particularly at night.  The midway could be moved further around the boardwalk, opposite the Ferris wheel.  If desired, another carnival attraction, like the swings, could be added on this side.

This is also a good place to talk about the upcoming gondolas, as the end result is connecting a lot of resorts to EPCOT and Disney Hollywood Studios.  The current plan will connect the Art of Animation, Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, and Riviera resorts to both parks.

Current gondola plan (L) with proposed extension (R)
I would propose an extension of the gondola from where it turns to go the International Gateway at EPCOT.  This extension could connect it to the Coronado Springs Resort and potentially the new Swan and Dolphin extension.  This would at least tie the Coronado Springs Resort to a specific resort/location, as it is a bit isolated now.

Disney Hollywood Studios Area:
The main hotel in the Hollywood Studios Area will be the Star Wars hotel.  An immersive experience where you will be living Star Wars for your two or three night stay.

Star Wars Hotel Location identified above
This area does need a Disney Hollywood Hotel.  Disney has used Art Deco glitz and glamour for its Disney Hotel New York in Paris, Hollywood Hotel in Hong Kong, and Ambassador Hotel in Tokyo.  An Art Deco Hollywood Hotel would be a great addition to the park and would be a great opportunity to connect and create a Hollywood Studios Area.

There are a few options for the location.  I've indicated them on the map below.

Hollywood Hotel Options
I lean towards options one or two as they would help provide a bridge to a Hollywood Studios area with Caribbean Beach, Pop Century, and Art of Animation (the latter two would tie especially well with Disney Hollywood Studios).  Either location would work.  Ideally, there would be a park specific shuttle, perhaps like a stretch limo, to give guests of the hotel direct access to the park.

Disney Animal Kingdom Area:
The Animal Kingdom lodge and villas are beautiful resorts.  They may be two of the most beautiful resorts in all of Disney property.  Their only downside is their distance from other locations.  To keep the grounds for the animals on the savanna, their is a needed distance from everything else, which comes with the price of seclusion.  It is definitely worth the stay, but requires a car for ease of access (I would never tell anyone to rely solely on bus transportation here and the cost of uber or the Minnie Vans can add up quick).

One thing that could go a long way in easing the disconnected feel would be a transportation system connecting the lodge to the Animal Kingdom park.  Here, I would go with a train, like proposed Fort Wilderness and the Wilderness Lodge.  The Wildlife or Wildebeest Express. I can envision two different paths for the train.  One connecting you to the main entrance.  This would likely also require the reworking of the bus pick-up and drop off locations.  The second would be to connect to the Africa section of the park.  This in many ways makes the most sense to me.  It creates a unique perk for the resort and thematically ties the resort to the specific entrance.  This would require a security checkpoint and ticket gate at the lodge, but Disney has a history of this kind of transportation (the Disneyland monorail).

The Wildlife or Wildebeest Express proposed routes

Disney Springs Area:
The Disney Springs hotels all work and do not have a lot of room for expansion.  Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter, Old Key West, and Saratoga Springs all offer different themes, tied together by the water.  All connected to Disney Springs by the boat transportation system, they each serve their purpose well.

As discussed in the Disney Springs post, the only thing I could add that I feel would make particularly the Saratoga Springs resort better utilized, is a night time entertainment show on Lake Buena Vista for Disney Springs.  Ideally the particular show would be visible from both sides of the lake.   My favorite option is still updating and moving the Electric Water Pageant to these waters.

ESPN Wide World of Sports Area:
The Wide World of Sport complex generally shares the All-Star Resorts (All-Star Sports, All-Star Music, and All-Star Movies).  These are the go to resorts for the various competition groups that are competing at the Complex.

The two could be better coordinated by creating a direct path from these resorts to the Complex.  I've envisioned a new path from the center of the All-Star resorts to the Complex.  I've included a new stadium pitched in the Olympics post with new parking, which could help serve as a new entrance complex.  I can see either dedicated mini-buses or vans running this route.  "Team shuttles".

All-Star Wide World of Sports Connection
Further, within the All-Star Complex,  I would add large capacity golf carts for intra-Resort traffic.  Like the kind that are used in Studio tours (all-star movies) or for sporting events (all-star sports).

We've used these at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour and they would work great for getting around between these three properties.  Tying them together to feel like a greater whole.


With this, I think the Disney resorts are well situated for the years to come. And in light of all the additional hotels, motels, and non-Disney resorts just on the edge of property, there will be no shortage of rooms in the future for every price point.

Next time, general thoughts about the future of the Walt Disney Resort including thoughts on park number five.  Thanks, as always, for reading.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Space Force

In lighter political news, President Trump has announced the creation of a new military branch, a "space force", to protect the United States interests in space.

Surprisingly, I'm generally okay with this decision.  While I'm not at all for the general militarization of space, it does seem like a very future thinking decision for the development of our military and general defense.

I do not understand the concerns from the Air Force about separating this out into its own function.  After all, that would seem to be a little ironic given their own history.  There is room for both, though they may have slightly overlapping jurisdictions.  We have branches that have to work under this arrangement now.

The best argument I've heard for the creation of this branch relates to the training and preparation of a dedicated group of space professionals.  "The most compelling justification for an independent service for space is on the personnel side," said Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  " A grooming of a space cadre of space professionals ... that's where the Air Force has not offered much in the way of reform."

Indeed, even if this development just meant that NASA would once again be fully funded as a Research and Development Civilian wing, it would be a victory.  NASA  has indicated it "strongly supports the White House's continued bold direction in forging a sustainable and focused space policy that strengthens American leadership."

And I know everyone wants to make the Star Wars jokes, but to me, I'm just wondering if this is the beginning of the Federation.

The development still has to go through Congress, and if approved, the details still have to all be worked out, but this is an actual exciting development.

We should have never stopped reaching for the stars; never stopped pushing the horizon.

We need that perspective again.

"There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world."
Carl Sagan, on the Pale Blue Dot

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Natural Solution

The post below was drafted for a flash-fiction contest.  The entry was to be a thousand word or less piece of fiction regarding cities of the future and how humanity would interact with them.  I took it on as a quick writing exercise, creating something less a full story and more a hopefully compelling start.  Reprinting now that I have the all-clear to do so.  Particularly relevant as I start focused adaptation of Pgymalion this week.


From the private journal of Sanador Malato
April 13, 2099
42 years after the conflict

They said that utopia could not exist and yet here it stands.  The shining city on a hill that explorers and conquerors had searched and died for.   The city of gold.  Arcadia.  Shangri-La.  Cibola.  El Dorado. 

It was impossible.  And yet they have succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

It took several months to nail down this exact location.  The Segredos have done an incredible job in maintaining the secrecy of their final city, Isso.  For the other eleven, they had worked with existing infrastructure, rebuilding and fortifying key locations across the globe.   With each of those, the greater challenge was in the journey there; upon arrival, each search ran fairly smoothly.

Here, they have found a way to build deep into the Amazon, near the Alto Tarauacá in Acre.   They must have reached some agreement with the Isolados, for they have truly transformed the region (though you would not know it from first glance).

The city is so well integrated into the biosphere that it takes a direct approach to find any entrance.  They have patterned the entire urban design after a redwood biome, laying out the entire area in a precise grid-like fashion.  At the intersection of every line, there is a slightly conical tower, reaching skyward and topped with a solar structure emulating fronds.   These solar fronds radiate outward from the building edges, capturing and following the sun as it traverses through the sky.  The towers themselves are seemingly skinned with all sorts of vegetation.  Hanging gardens and vertical landscaping, fed by the sunlight that slips through the solar fronds and misters integrated into these superstructures.   An apparent perfect grid of giant biomechanical trees.

Each tower is connected to the others at varying levels via skybridges.  These skybridges are apparently used for additional urban gardening, lined with various herbs and small plants, creating a green, vine-like appearance.   This vine network links the entire city, creating miles of additional walkways for the residents.  I have heard that these towers house all of the office and housing space within the city.  Some inhabitants say that it is possible for one to never truly touch ground here.  Aimi would love it here; she always dreamed of a treehouse.

Under this canopy and vine structure, there lies a bustling network of single and two-story buildings at the base of the towers.  These structures provide stability for the towers, like the roots of a tree, each serving a unique and necessary function within the city.  Utilities and civil services, shops and cafes, all line the pathways around the buildings, like they once did everywhere. 

I haven’t seen a single vehicle since I have arrived, not that many work in the first place.  Without vehicles, there are no true streets throughout the entire space.  Only well-manicured green lawns between the buildings.  It’s as if the entire city sprang up in Central Park.

It’s self-sufficient too.  All of its power is supplied through a combination of sources.  What they cannot cover through the solar structures creating the canopy, they have offset through innovations in geothermal energy.  Water is obtained from reclamation projects, initiated from the many surrounding streams.  All needed food is either grown within the city structure or sourced from within a two mile radius.

Truly a marvel!

From what I understand, following the conflict, the Segredos were able to gather remaining innovators in energy, urban planning, agriculture, and architecture to design this dream city.  They promised a fortified Eden, one that would stand for the ages.  All who found it were welcome to stay and contribute, so long as they agreed to the cities structure and requirements.  John Galt would be proud.

And yet, it works.  I keep expecting to expose some dark underbelly to the system or to uncover a growing dissention among the people, but I have not.  In all my searching, through the people I have encountered, leads to the conclusion that they have found whatever secret formula is required to maintain this delicate existence.  They have created a well maintained ecosystem in an urban jungle.

They have also created a hybrid government system combining a near fully democratic vote, with an oligarchic council to act in check on mob rule.  The council is comprised of elected representatives who serve terms limited only by their desire and performance.  Periodic reviews combat abuse.  They must have had several innovative government experts to help them develop this system, though I’m told this was not their first attempt.

I don’t know how they did it, but I’m glad they did. 

I have finally obtained the identity of the lead biochemist, one of the initial twenty who founded Isso twenty-eight years ago.  Dr. Antonio Vitale.  National Medal of Science recipient, Nobel Award winner Dr. Vitale.   This is the break through that I have been searching for.  His work in nano-biotechnology started this entire quest and has lead me literally across the globe.  He disappeared several years ago and every clue to his existence had been destroyed.  The only question now is whether he has been able to create a viable sample.

I pray that Anjali is correct.  Her sources have so far been right on the money, I just pray they continue to pan out.

There are no other options, for each prior location proved a dead end.   If it exists, this must be the place.

The cure must be here.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Red Hen

Another piece in what seems to be a political week.

Friday night, June 22, 2018, the current Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked to leave The Red Hen restuarant in Lexington, Virginia.  Ms. Sanders was dining with her family, a party of eight.  The staff had apparently apprehensive seated Ms. Sanders and her family, and had started serving them.  In the background, they had also called their owner to ask what to do.  The owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, wanted to come to the restaurant to verify and handle.  Once their, Ms. Wilkinson asked her staff if they would like Wilkinson to ask the Sanders' party to leave, and they affirmed.  Ms. Wilkinson then asked Ms. Sanders to step out on the patio and then asked her to leave.

Ms. Wilkinson has stated she believed it was important that Ms. Sanders had not been denied service.  That she had been allowed in the restaurant and served, and was then asked to leave. "I would have done the same thing again.  We just felt there are moments in time when people need to live their convictions.  This appeared to be one."

This is not the first time a Trump staffer has left a restaurant in response to the patrons or staff.  Earlier in the week the Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was heckled until she left a restaurant.

Now, I am no fan of the current administration, but this is ridiculous.  We are losing civility in this nation.  At some point, Sarah Sanders and Kirstjen Nielsen are doing the job they were asked to do.  Whether or not they agree 100% with what they are being asked to do, they are serving in a White House that has been tumultuous in turnover to say the least.  It cannot be an easy work environment.  They serve at the pleasure of the President and are executing his vision for the term. 

I understand and respect an owner's right to refuse service to anyone, but to me this reflects a troubling trend in America to create windtunnels.  To surround ourselves only with things we agree with or that affirm our worldview.  Anything incongruous, anything slightly disagreeable is sought to be removed. 

We need to be able to serve and to exist side by side with those we disagree with.  After all, there is a good chance that whatever you believe, there is a large portion of the country that disagrees with you. 

We're so divided right now.  We cannot keep fostering it.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The 28th Amendment?

On May 30, 2018, Illinois became the thirty-seventh state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United states designed to guarantee equal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex.

The text of the Equal Rights Amendment states:
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.  

For a proposed amendment to become a part of the Constitution, one method is for it to be ratified by three-fourths of the states.  Or thirty-eight states.  It would seem that if and when one more state ratifies the Equal Rights Amendment, it becomes the Twenty-Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Here, though, is where things get interesting.  First, the Amendment initially came with a built-in deadline for ratification, initially March 22, 1979 and extended to June 30, 1982.  That deadline has obviously passed without the requisite ratifications, so there is some thought that even with another state ratifying, the Amendment would not go into effect.  The Supreme Court, in Coleman v. Miller, 307 U.S. 433 (1939), has ruled that the supreme authority to determine whether, by a lapse of time, a proposed amendment lost its vitality before being ratified lies in Congress.  Put another way, the decision regarding whether the deadline is controlling is in Congress' hands.  And there have been several proposals on the floor over the years to revive the Equal Rights Amendment and to remove the deadline.  It's also important to note that the deadline was passed in a separate message, not included in the proposed amendment itself.  Given those circumstances, the deadline itself may not even be constitutional.

Secondly, four or five states that initially ratified the Amendment have rescinded their ratification (with South Dakota's being most questionable).  The Constitution is silent on whether or not a ratification can in fact be rescinded.  And while the Supreme Court has heard arguments on the validity of a rescinding, it has not ruled directly on their validity.  The issue in NOW v. Idaho, 459 U.S. 809 (1982), was decided on procedural grounds.

It presents a very interesting situation. Should another state ratify the Amendment, it arguably should be the Twenty-Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  It will result in much debate and political maneuvering to achieve such a result.  There will be constitutionality cases, there will be great political theater.  Likely, you will see those that support it act like it automatically becomes a part of the Constitution and those that oppose it pretend it does not.  It will be fascinating to watch.

Something to keep an eye on.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Autocrat Speaks

Now for a change of pace to a different unsettling development...

President Trump achieved a major milestone in his presidency this past week through his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.  Perhaps this is the main cosmic reason for his presidency; after all, if only Nixon could go to China, perhaps only Trump could go to North Korea.

Had he been able to remain silent, he could justifiably rest on his laurels.  Direct communication with the North Korean regime is a historic and potentially very beneficial event.  Sadly, this was not meant to be.

President Trump had to describe his meeting to the press, praising one of the benefits of being a dictator to a Fox News reporter.  "He's the head of a country, and I mean he's the strong head.  Don't let anyone think anything different.  He speaks and his people sit up at attention.  I want my people to do the same."

Again, this should be alarming to anyone who is paying attention.  He knows that the North Korean people sit up at attention because they have a justifiable fear that if they don't they will be jailed, exiled, or executed, right?  And Trump wants to enforce that here?

This might be excusable as a one off slip if President Trump did not have an unfortunate habit of praising dictators.

On Saddam Hussein - "We shouldn't have destabilized Saddam Hussein, right?  He was a bad guy, really bad guy, but you know what he did well?  He killed terrorists.  He did that so good."

On Vladimir Putin - "He's running his country and at least he's a leader, you know, unlike what we have in this country."  I think our country does plenty of killing, also."

On Kim Jong Un - "If you look at North Korea, this guy, I mean he's like a maniac, okay?  And you've got to give him credit.  How many young guys - he was like 26 or 25 when his father died - take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden ... he goes in, he takes over, and he's the boss.  It's incredible.  He wiped out the uncle, he wiped out this one, that one.  I mean this guy doesn't play games.  And we can't play games with him."

On Benito Mussolini - "It's okay to know it's Mussolini.  Mussolini was Mussolini...It's a very good quote.  It's a very interesting quote... what difference does it make whether it's Mussolini or somebody else." (after quoting "It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.")

On Moammar Gadhafi - when asked if he believed the Middle East would be better today if Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein were still in power - "100 percent," "it's not even a contest."

On the 1980s Chinese Communist Party - "I was not endorsing it.  I said that is a strong, powerful government that put it down with strength.  And then they kept down the riot.  It was a horrible thing.  It doesn't mean at all I was endorsing it." (calling the Tiananmen Square protesters a "riot" and the People's Liberation Army strong in suppressing it)

Perhaps Fox was really right when it referred to the meeting between Kim Jong Un and President Trump as the meeting of "two dictators."

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Why It Matters

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, - That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Unalienable.  It's a funny word.  One that most everyone has memorized, but likely give little thought to its meaning.  "Incapable of being alienated, surrendered or transferred."  "Unable to be taken away from or given away by the possessor."  A right that belongs to a person that cannot be destroyed.  Regardless of gender, age, race, color, creed, orientation, or nationality.  Something imbued in the person by God that man cannot diminish.  We recognize these are not rights of American citizens only.  They are by nature human rights.  They are part of that great moral code that supersede every country and law.  The higher authority we answer to.

We recognize certain additional human rights that belong to children, for we appreciate the vulnerable state they are in. As citizens of the world, we have codified these in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a human rights treaty setting out the civil, political, economic, social, health, and cultural rights of children (any human being under the age of eighteen, unless the age of majority is attained earlier under national legislation).  The United States played an active role in drafting this Convention and signed it on February 16, 1995, but has not ratified it.  We are the only United Nations member state that is not a party to the treaty.

This distinction is important because we are committing a human rights violation under the Convention against children at the border by separating them from their families.

Article 9
1. State Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child.  
4. Where such separation results from any action initiated by a State Party, such as the detention, imprisonment, exile, deportation or death (including death arising from any cause while the person is in the custody of the State) of one or both parents or of the child, the State Party, shall, upon request, provide the parents, the child or, if appropriate, another member of the family with the essential information concerning the whereabouts of the absent member(s) of the family unless the provision of the information would be detrimental to the well-being of the child.
{emphasis added}

We are separating babies and toddlers from their families to send them to a "tender care" facility.  A TrumpCamp. 

Children separated from their families are ending up in Michigan, clear across the country.

Children have been forcibly injected with medicine and force fed pills, with the children saying they were "held down and injected" with drugs that "rendered them unable to walk, afraid of people, and wanting them to sleep constantly."  One child's prescription cocktail included Clonazepam, Duloxetine, Guanfacine, Geodon, Olanzapine, Latuda, and Divalproex - medications used to control depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, mood disorders, schizophrenia, and seizures.

A former head of ICE has warned that if families are not reunited soon, there will be potentially hundreds of children that will never see their families againRead that again carefully.  If we do not reunite them soon, the United States government has played a role in creating orphans.

This is far bigger than a political issue.  This is a moral issue.  And we as a nation failed by instituting this policy in the first place.

Thankfully, as of this writing the President has "found" the authority to put an end to this practice and to end the policy of separating families.  It seems we have a lot to thank our living first ladies for, including the current First Lady, Melania.

There is, however, still work to be done.
  • Write, call, email, pester, hound your Congressmen and women to let them know this policy was unacceptable and that laws should be enacted to prevent it from ever occurring again.
  • Let them know we should ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.  
  • Let them know we should remain a part of the Human Rights Council.
  • Let them know the value of asylum.
  • Donate to Kids in Need of Defense.
  • To the ACLU.  Here.
  • To The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES).  Here.
  • Volunteer with the Texas Civil Rights Project, particularly if you speak Spanish.  Here.
  • Foster.  If you are able to offer a foster home to an undocumented child caught up in this process, find out from your state authorities about how to become licensed to do so.

The enforcement of this policy may be ending, but the battle is not over.

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."
Desmond Tutu

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out - 
Beacuse I was not a Trade Unionists.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me."
Martin Niemoller

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Be Superman

Fox News Finds A New Low - Internment "Summer" Camps

Pushing next Disney blog back to next week.  To much to discuss this week.


Just when you think they can not dig any deeper, they find a bigger shovel.

If you ever had a doubt that Fox News presented a very biased agenda, you need look no further.  Fox News host Laura Ingraham had to weigh in on the Trump administration policy of separating immigrant families at the border as part of its "zero tolerance" enforcement of immigration law.

"More kids are being separated from their parents and temporarily housed in what are essentially summer camps, or as The San Diego Union Tribune described them today, as basically looking like boarding schools.  The American people are footing a really big bill for what is tantamount to a slow-rolling invasion of the United States." {emphasis added}

Oh yes.  I remember summer camps where we were kept inside chain-link cages and were heard wailing for our parents, but not allowed to be comforted.  I remember summer camp in a tent city in west Texas summers.  And I remember going to summer camp and being away from any family when I was under 2 as well.

It seems a lot of people supporting this issue have forgotten the maxim, "it is better to remain silent and let the world believe you a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

Ms. Ingraham did, at least, partially correctly quote the San Diego Union Tribune.  They did report that the Casa San Diego facility for immigrant children has "classrooms, a play area with soccer goals and a medical clinic with superheroes like Wonder Woman, Superman and the Hulk on the walls."  She apparently though suffers from the same lack of reading comprehension that Jeff Sessions has shown.  Had she continued, she would have noticed how the paper also described the prison-like setting.  "On closer inspection, details about the California-licensed child care facility run by Southwest Key Programs reflect the situation of the children it serves.  It's surrounded by fencing that is backed by privacy netting, and a sign at the gate warns visitors that it's under video surveillance 24 hours per day.  If someone opens the front door of the facility without first swiping a badge, an alarm blares through the hallway, warning of a potential escape."

I know they get their marching orders from the administration and are given the thankless task of trying to put as much spin on the effects as possible.  But you would think they might choose their words a little more carefully.

At some point this has to rise above party.  Above the liberal and conservative divide.

At some point, this has to appall everyone at a basic human level.

We can debate immigration policy.  We can even disagree on approaches.  But everyone should recognize that this is inhumane.  NO OTHER COUNTRY has a policy of separating families of those seeking asylum.  Crossing our border illegally is a misdemeanor.  This is the equivalent of arresting a person for a speeding violation and sending the driver to jail and their children in the car to a "detention facility" across town.

Even worse, we are most often doing this to people seeking asylum.  Seeking refuge.  Are we that xenophobic and/or flat out racist that we are going to turn away people in need?  In need of protection from gang violence in their native countries?  In need of protection from domestic abuse that goes unprosecuted in their native land?  We're that callous as to reject any claim of a "credible fear" for their lives in their previous homes.

Is it because they are brown?

I'm seriously searching for justification as to how this can possibly be okay.  And the only thing I can come up with is that we have determined that these immigrants don't matter.

If your justifications are butwhatabout sputters (what about Obama, what about..., etc.), it's still a bad policy.

If your justifications are that they broke the law, again, it's just a misdemeanor.  It's usually a fine and turning them away (as a whole family).  It's still a bad policy.

If your justifications are that this is the Democrats' fault, that they are the ones who left the administration with the law in the first place, then you should remember that YOU ARE THE ONES IN THE BEST POSITION TO CHANGE THE LAW NOW.  Seriously, Trump administration, you cannot use an excuse of being saddled with this law when you have control of the executive, legislative, and a majority of the judicial branches.  You can change the law.  That would also require such a law to actually exist, which it does not.  This horrible incident is occurring because of instructions regarding enforcement of the policy, which are completely within the control of the executive branch.  If you are using it as a bargaining chip to get your wall built, get over it, change the enforcement of the policy, and then focus on building the wall.

Because right now, we're just continuing to try and justify our actions while thousands of children and families are being traumatized, humiliated, and degraded.

All this while we are withdrawing from the United Nations Human Rights Council.  Yeah, really.

We're better than this.  At least we should be.

There is a meme going around that posits "If you ever wondered what you would have done in 1930s Germany or during the civil rights moment, congratulations: you're doing it now."

I don't know that we're there yet.

But we're getting closer.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

On Our Current Internment Camps - Until Its Heard

"On Sunday, a day we as a nation set aside to honor father and the bonds of family, I was among the millions of Americans who watched images of children who have been torn from their parents.  In the six weeks between April 19 and May 31, the Department of Homeland Security has sent nearly 2,000 children to mass detention centers or foster case.  More than 100 of these children are younger than 4 years old.  The reason for these separations is a zero-tolerance policy for their parents, who are accused of illegally crossing our borders.

I live in a border state.  I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel.  It is immoral.  And it breaks my heart. 

Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert of El Paso.  These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.  We also know that this treatment inflicts trauma; interned Japanese have been two times as likely to suffer cardiovascular disease or die prematurely than those who were not interned.

Americans pride ourselves on being a moral nation, on being the nation that sends humanitarian relief to places devastated by natural disasters or famine or war.  We pride ourselves on believing that people should be seen for the content of their character, not the color of their skin.  We pride ourselves on acceptance.  If we are truly that country, then it is our obligation to reunite these detained children with their parents - and to stop separating parents and children in the first place.

People on all sides agree that our immigration system isn't working, but the injustice of zero tolerance is not the answer.  I moved away from Washington almost a decade ago, but I know there are good people at all levels of government who can do better to fix this.

Recently, Colleen Kraft, who heads the American Academy of Pediatrics, visited a shelter run by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement.  She reported that while there were beds, toys, crayons, a playground and diaper changes, the people working at the shelter had been instructed not to pick up or touch the children to comfort them.  Imagine not being able to pick up a child who is not yet out of diapers.

Twenty-nine years ago, my mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, visited Grandma's House, a home for children with HIV/AIDS in Washington.  Back then, at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, the disease was a death sentence, and most babies born with it were considered 'untouchables.'  During her visit, Barbara - who was the first lady at the time - picked up a fussy, dying baby named Donovan and snuggled him against her shoulder to soothe him.  My mother-in-law never viewed her embrace of that fragile child as courageous.  She simply saw it as the right thing to do in a world that can be arbitrary, unkind, and even cruel.  She, who after the death of her 3-year-old daughter knew what it was to lose a child, believed that every child is deserving of human kindness, compassion and love.

In 2018, can we not as a nation foster a kinder, more compassionate and more moral answer to this current crisis?  I, for one, believe we can."

We, the United States of America, are creating a growing humanitarian crisis at the border.  To crack down on illegal immigration and to apparently curb any use of claims of "asylum," we have implemented a zero-tolerance policy where everyone who is caught goes to jail.  No exceptions.  Since it has been determined that we cannot jail children, we are forcibly separating families who are caught, sending the adults to jail and sending any children to a "detention facility."  An internment camp. Customs and Border patrol have pulled a nursing child away from her mother's breast.  A father has committed suicide after his 3-year old son was taken from him.  Nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May.  The number could be 30,000 by August according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

And of course, our leadership continues to dig in its heels.  President Trump blames the Democrats for our current situation.  "He's (Jeff Sessions) following laws very simply that were given to us and forced on us by the Democrats.  I want the laws to be beautiful, humane but strong."  According to President Trump, "I say it's very strongly the Democrats' fault.  The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility.  Not on my watch."  Apparently the President believes that children "are being used by some of the worst criminals on earth" as a way to enter the United States.

Just following the law or enforcing the law has been a recurrent theme.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen rejects any criticism accusing her department of inhuman and immoral actions.  "We are doing none of those things.  We are enforcing the laws passed by Congress."  Don't forget, there were many German's who were just following orders too.

Tellingly, there are no specific law governing this type of enforcement.  This particular method of enforcement, in separating children from their families and interning them, is devised entirely by the Trump administration.

But this shouldn't come to a surprise to anyone who has been watching the Trump presidency.  This is simply another step in what everyone feared from his campaign.  This was always part of the plan for immigration.  Stephen Miller, the White House senior policy adviser key in the travel ban, was instrumental in convincing the president to enact the policy.

The worst and most stomach-churning part of this farce has to be the perverse use of the Bible to justify the new enforcement.  Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated it was "very biblical to enforce the law."  Jeff Sessions cited Romans 13 as justification for this enforcement.

"Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.  Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority?  Then do what is right and you will be commended.  For the one in authority is God's servant for your good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason.  They are God's servants, agents of wrath to bring your punishment on the wrongdoer.  Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.  

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing.  Give to everyone what you owe them:  If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor."
Romans 13:1-6

This section of scripture has been invoked throughout history to justify many atrocities over time.  The British Royals used it to chastise rebellious American revolutionaries.  Slave owners in early America used this as one of the verses to justify the institution of slavery.  Nazis in Germany used it to justify genocide.  Supporters used it to justify apartheid in South Africa.  Not company that I'm sure we would want to be in.

This passage has been terribly misunderstood to require blind obedience to every authority, no matter the character.  The passage actually speaks of what the character of a godly governmental leader would look like and what Christian obedience to those government leaders should look like.  The leadership should act like Christ, if they're going to claim to be appointed by God.  And this passage is particularly unwise for a leader who has the power to change an unjust law to quote.

Perhaps Jeff Sessions should read a little more of his Bible.  Then he might get to
"Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless."
Isaiah 10:1-2

He might be surprised to discover the true sin of Sodom and Gomorrah (hint, it was not homosexuality).
"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy."
Ezekiel 16:49

That sounds a lot like America today, doesn't it.

Shoot, maybe he could have just finished the chapter in Romans.
"Love does no harm to a neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."
Romans 13:10

Maybe he might pay attention to the actual need for asylum and then he might rethink his changes.  To put back in protection for domestic violence and gang violence victims.  To understand that 'credible fear' should be determined by a judge, not a screener.  That such a claim should be taken seriously and weighed heavily.

For asylum and sanctuary are policies that are biblical.  Asylum is a theme throughout the entirety of scripture.  Jesus was an immigrant and a refugee.  His genealogy includes to immigrant heroes in Rahab and Ruth.
"You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way.  Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt."
Exodus 22:21

He might even get more concerned when he reads about the care that should be given to children.
"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
Matthew 19

"It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble."
Luke 17

"Whatever you do to the least of these you do to me."
Matthew 25

We have a lot to answer for.

After all, who do you think Jesus would side with?  The fellow immigrant seeking shelter and asylum, or those that had no room at their inn.  The "leper" or the "untouchable," or the one deeming them so.  Those abused by power, or the one abusing its power.

I'm with our former First Ladies. This isn't political.  Truth goes far beyond that.  We can and should do better.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Movie People

Jamie and I are movie people, and we're raising little movie people as well.

We bonded quickly over classic films and have sought out different experiences in movie presentation.  We've watched them in 3-D (and believe it or not, one of the most impressive movies in 3D was Disney's original, hand-drawn Beauty and the Beast).  We've gone to the drive-in (and love it).  We've watched movies in classic movie houses like Grauman's Chinese Theater, the Egyptian, and the El Capitan.  We've watched two movies in Cinerama on the Cinerama dome (How the West Was Won and It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World).  We've done and miss the TCM Film Festival, where it was great to see great introductions and interviews before each showing.  We've seen Psycho with the Dallas Symphony performing the score.  And that doesn't even count the quote-alongs and movie parties at the Alamo Drafthouse (it's tough to top a pie fight busting out on Sixth Street with oncoming traffic after the Blazing Saddles quote-along).

Don't get me wrong, movies at home, on the couch are great, too.  But there is something magical about seeing a movie on the big screen.  As it was intended to be seen.  In a shared communal experience.  I cannot tell you what a difference this made for Casablanca.

This weekend, we celebrated our anniversary and Father's Day with another great movie experience.  Jaws on the Water.

For this event, the Alamo Drafthouse rents out the Volente Beach water park on Lake Travis in Austin for the show.  A pop-up screen is installed, visible only from the water.  Meaning to watch Jaws, you have to be on your inner tube in the lake.  No beach watching allowed.  During the show, scuba divers are in the lake to goose you at appropriate times and there is a fireworks finale for the destruction of the Orca.  Guests get to keep their inner tube and get access to the water park before the show.

The movie was fantastic, as always, and the experience of being in water definitely changes the viewing.  They had the Amity signs up and a giant shark sand sculpture.  There was also a tent sent up where you could get shark bite/attack body painting.   My foot was grabbed once by the scuba divers and I had them surface right at my feet twice.  Jamie's inner tube was bumped up twice, like a shark bumping into the boat.  They had an added bit where the scuba divers would light a red light under the water, simulating I guess blood in the water.  Beyond those little bits, the cordoned off section was so jam packed with people, it was truly inner tube to inner tube in the lake.  We made friends really fast, especially as we had to play telephone to pass drink orders back and forth from the dock.  Overall,  it was a really fun night and something that would be a great amount of fun to do with a group.

We are always on the lookout for new experiences.  We will be getting tickets to Jurassic Park, Star Wars, and The Little Mermaid with the symphony this year.  And we'll be looking for any new experiences and locations we can find.   I'd love to find a William Castle showing that pulls all his old tricks.  We've even talked about trying Independence Day on Independence Day at the Stunt Ranch Cinema with fireballs and fireworks at all the appropriate explosions.  (Maybe next year).

Something fun.  Something exciting.  Something magical.

To the movies!

Sunday, June 17, 2018


"A father acts on behalf of his children by working, providing, intervening, struggling, and suffering for them.  In so doing, he really stands in their place.  He is not an isolated individual, but incorporates the selves of several people in his own self."
Dietrich Bonhoffer

Lot of love in this picture
I love you Dad! Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Could Walt Disney World Host the Summer Olypmics?

Here me out...

In researching the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for the previous If I Were Disney CEO blog, I came across an interesting news item.  Orlando will host the 2022 Special Olypmics at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.  And it seems this is not the first time Disney has hosted a large, multi-event games at the Complex.  In 2016, Disney hosted the Invictus Games, Prince Harry's international sporting event for wounded, injured and sick service personnel.

And that got me thinking.  Could Walt Disney World host a Summer Olympic Games?

I think the answer is yes and it's not as crazy as it first sounds.  It's very unlikely to happen, and it would likely require shutting down the resort to all but guests of the games, but I think the games could be something very much within Disney's wheelhouse.  Here's why:

Disney is already uniquely suited to handle the crush of crowds:
The Walt Disney World Resort is 40 square miles, or roughly the size of San Francisco.  As a whole, the resort handled over fifty-eight million people in 2016.  Between the four theme parks, the resort could handle around 300,000 guests at a single time.  That's just in the theme parks.

Guinness has the largest attendance for an Olympics on record as the Atlanta games in 1996.  8.3 million tickets were sold, averaging out to roughly half a million guests each day.  The more likely scenario is that the resort would essentially be at New Year's Eve levels for the duration of the games.  Not ideal, but something Disney has experience dealing with.

Disney already has the bones for the infrastructure in place, including many athletic venues:
Just at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Disney has five baseball diamonds, four softball diamonds, four flex baseball/softball spaces (can be used for other field events), seventeen well-manicured fields to host field events, a track and field complex, ten tennis courts, and three indoor facilities (including one that can have four basketball or volleyball games going simultaneously).  That's just at the Wide World of Sports, which could cover the basketball, gymnastic, volleyball, track and field, badminton, baseball, field hockey, football/soccer, rugby, softball, and tennis events.

The entire resort also has four world-class golf courses for the golf events, beach volleyball courses at various resorts for the beach volleyball competitions, several lakes and rivers for the sprint canoe events, and five large convention centers which could house the wrestling, boxing, fencing, judo, karate, table tennis, taekwondo, and weightlifting events not housed at the Complex. 

Fort Wilderness would be perfect for the equestrian and archery/shooting competitions.  Disney is already adept at hosting marathon length running events through the property with its runDisney events.

And for the sailing events, Disney has its own resort on the beach at Vero Beach roughly two hours away, or has connections at Cape Canaveral one hour away with its Disney Cruise line.

Disney also has a transportation fleet of 486 buses, 12 monorails, 3 ferries, 34 other boats, and 28 parking lot trams.  Thousands of hotel rooms to house visitors.

That is not to say more would not need to be built.  There is a clear need for swimming and diving venues.  A sport climbing venue.  A BMX venue.  A skateboarding venue.  Fort Wilderness will need venues created for the Equestrian events.  Even an artificial canoe slalom path would be needed.  An additional track would also be needed, and likely a grand one that could serve as the official Olympic Stadium.

But, unlike other cities, I see this need as a positive.

Building new facilities can be more easily monetized by Disney than other cities:
Each new facility built by Disney represents a potential new revenue stream for years beyond the Olympics.  Construction of a swimming and diving facility could lead to continued swim competitions of all levels held at Walt Disney World.   Construction of a skateboarding venue and a BMX venue would be beneficial to bringing the ESPN X games to the Wide World of Sports Complex.  A sport climbing venue could be used for future events and for amateur recreation.  The equestrian venues could be designed to be used on a regular basis by Fort Wilderness.  The artificial canoe slalom could be used for a whitewater rafting experience for resort guests.  Even the grand Olympic Stadium could be constructed in a way that would have multiple uses including American football games, soccer games, track and field events, etc.   The build out of the Complex could only benefit increased use of the Complex for a variety of sporting events in the future.

The complex will also need a great amount of additional parking and dining options added.  Again, both would be long term benefits the complex.

Thankfully, Disney has a lot of available land to work with in building out the complex.

A lot of land
I've zoomed out fairly far so you can see the available land.  This does not even include the large parcel available to the south.  There is enough room to expand the facilities and parking (garages) and build an Olympic Village to house the athletes.

Even the Olympic Village could be turned into a guest resort following the games.   If not a guest resort, Disney is always in need of housing for the College Program cast members.

The Olympics at Walt Disney World could also be a part of a larger bid to televise the games on ABC/ESPN:
While expanding the facilities for events and guests, it would also be the perfect excuse to build a large facility for ABC Sports/ESPN production coverage.  This is one of the scenarios in which complete integration could be a wonderful thing, enabling a better finished product.  Disney constructing the venues with their sports coverage in mind.  And again, something that would pay off for future events held in the space.

Disney has a history with the Olympic Games:
Walt Disney left his mark on the Olympic games when he served as Chairman of the Pageantry Committee for the 1960 Winter Olympic Games in Squaw Valley, California.  During his time, Walt organized the Olympic torch relay and designed the games' medal ceremonies, produced the opening and closing ceremonies, introduced corporate sponsorship to the games through the sponsoring of the 30 flag poles placed throughout the valley, had his artists design the statues in the Avenue of the Athletes and to design a new Olympic torch which is still the base today.  Disney brought in a mass of entertainers to perform for the Olympic athletes.  The IOC chair would go on to say that the 1960 Winter Games were the "greatest games ever staged."  A reported for the Los Angeles Times proclaimed that "It is my conviction that you'll never see anything of that kind so well done in your lifetime."

The Disney team would also contribute to the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles by designing the mascot Sam the Eagle.

It would be fitting to bring the games to Walt Disney World, to show what a full, modern Olympic Games presented by Disney could be.  Imagine the opening and closing ceremonies using all the techniques and technologies they have at their disposal.

If I were CEO, I would at least run that feasibility study.