Monday, June 10, 2019

Is Disney Being Smart?

Those of us who grew up watching the classic Disney animated films ask ourselves why they keep putting out live action remakes. Sometimes they're fun, but wasn't it more fun when, for instance, the first Pirates of the Caribbean came out? (That was based on a ride, but it still counts as original.) We decide that, well, they know we'll go to see the movies, anyway, so that's why they keep making them.

But I just realized that it may be something else: they're keeping the beloved stories relevant.

Since we grew up on the old films, we think they're relevant. And they are. But anyone who spends time around kids or people who have kids knows that the reality is usually different. I remember Jennifer Oakes on YouTube mentioning that her children don't like the classically animated films--they only like the newer animation. And I know someone who's said the same thing. So that cuts out Snow White, Bambi, Peter PanCinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, etc. Maybe when they're older they'll rediscover the old classics, but kids these days are watching the new stuff: Tangled, Frozen, and Coco. And yet because Disney isn't just a film studio, they want to find a way to keep kids' interest in the old classics.

They can certainly use Frozen and Coco in the theme parks and for merch. But they still want to keep all that they've built up on the old stories. So how do they do that? By making new films that are a little different but mainly still just the same thing, reworked in a new way that children today will watch today. They don't need to win over the parents to love the new movies and say they're the best thing ever: if the parents just buy a copy at the store when it becomes a low-priced DVD or they turn the movie on at home through Netflix, then the kids are the ones getting to see the story and getting to form a connection with it just like their parents did before them with the animated films. They'll both love the same story, even if they made a connection to it from a different source.

It makes enough sense that I'm sure Disney must have been thinking this all along and I don't know why I only just realized it now. (That is, maybe I had to a lighter degree, but I hadn't quite made that connection with the whole kids-don't-like-old-animation thing before.)

Friday, June 7, 2019

Wild Ophelia: Chocolate Dipped Strawberry

It's complicated, my opinion on strawberries. Usually I can only eat a little at a time, in slices (that is, small, thin bites), or I'll put them in the blender if I'm going to be able to finish off a basket by myself while they're still fresh. And while chocolate dipped strawberries are supposed to be such a luxury, I find them anything but. Usually they're quite bad strawberries without any flavor and quite bad chocolate full of oil that go into chocolate dipped strawberries--not luxury at all. But the concept is nice, I suppose.

This second bar from Wild Ophelia is the Chocolate Dipped Strawberry; it comes with that same fun, cute, Instagram-esque look for the younguns. It fits especially well with the concept of chocolate covered strawberries, too, eh?

Inside, the chocolate smells like chocolate and like strawberry, like in a shake or a spread or something of that sort. It has that intoxicating, vanilla, confection tone to it.

And the flavor once more, like with the Bananas Foster bar from Gnaw a couple months ago, reminds me of Duvalin candy (the Mexican candy that's a creamy paste in a little tray with a plastic spoon). Creamy chocolate and strawberry flavor. Only, you know, a little more real. There are pieces of strawberry in here, which do mess with the texture somewhat (though that might be mainly because I'm thinking of Duvalin). But they're quite tiny and only affect texture in a minuscule way, so they're acceptable. They're freeze-dried, though their small size means that they don't give that usual freeze-dried texture, which is appreciated. They start releasing most of their strawberry flavor towards the end, as the chocolate fades and they're able to let their specific flavor come through.

The chocolate has that hint at rich milk chocolate, but mainly it's all creamy and chocolate and strawberry. Duvalin up a notch (or a few notches, honestly, why do I say I dislike Nutella because of cheapness but I like Duvalin? I'm strange). It tastes just like the packaging looks: cute and fun. An extremely edible chocolate confection in a chocolate bar.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Shifting Sands

In dark, there is light.

"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." Isaiah 9:2. You are cared for.

In fear, there is hope.

"Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." Joshua 1:9. You are never alone.

Sometimes life is like shifting sands. You will never be one thing forever. Your mood will change. Your perspective will change. Your circumstances will change. Sometimes you will be happy and sometimes you will be sad. Sometimes you will soar, and sometimes life will be rough. But try to remember that all of this will shift. So when sometimes you can't see past a haze, just remember that it's just a haze caused by events or even chemicals . . . and it, too, will shift. I don't mean to say that things will get better; I mean that things will shift to a different angle and then back and then to a new place and then back again.

Sometimes remembering that is all can do until we're ready to start moving back into positivity.

"Light House" by The Word Alive can start to set the stage, start working you in. And then "My Lighthouse" by Rend Collective brings your focus back to what the light really does mean, to what stays constant through the shifting scenes.

Monday, June 3, 2019


While my deeper investment with Beauty and the Beast (both the 1991 film and the story in general) probably increased my criticism of that live-action remake, I don't have the same connection with the 1992 film. In fact, I really didn't have any memories of watching it growing up--so I really didn't see it until college. That makes watching a live-action remake easier, I'm sure.

As far as the live-action remakes of the princess films go, Aladdin seemed to settle on the ground that Beauty and the Beast was unable to. Beauty and the Beast was like they were just recreating scenes--and not as well--and with additional scenes that changed the pacing or theme too much to go along with the rest of it. (Cinderella, by the way, I thought was wonderful--there they did a subtle tweaking that adjusted the plot/theme just slightly to modernize it.) Aladdin kept the familiar things like the songs or certain moments but did everything different--and to a different theme.

We know that it's all going to be different not from the Genie story framing but from meeting Jasmine right away in the marketplace. We see her first from Aladdin's perspective, which is fitting because the film is named for him, after all. So we see the events of the story unfold differently than they do in the animated version.

And they did a great job at modernizing the theme here, too. Less subtle than with Cinderella, here it was a complete reworking. One of the things I've criticized about the animated film is its reliance on the same old marriage plot, despite being a modern film. So here they just reworked that and made the point being rulership of the kingdom. Jasmine has to marry because she can't be sultan. Her words in the film focus not on wanting to marry for love but on her love for her kingdom. And the final "success" is her father making her sultan. As sultan, she can choose to marry who she loves (Aladdin), but that becomes secondary. It is more important for Jasmine to have her place than for her to marry Aladdin.

They also more greatly stressed Aladdin's character here. Yet they also managed to do this without overdoing it. They didn't make him this greater-than-life, perfect man. He's just a guy. He does some nice things and he does some selfish things and he does some awkward things. He's just a guy, but a good guy. And he went along this journey with his wishes, where he had the opportunity to fall in with temptation but in the end he does honor her values and relationships by choosing to free Genie.

Genie. I don't like Will Smith's vocals for the opening "Arabian Nights," but his style fit well for Genie's songs. For these songs, they also found a way to make them feel live-action with CG and not just like animated sequences in a live-action film (looking at you, "Be Our Guest," in the aforementioned other film). So it all worked. Speaking of music, I didn't care for Jasmine's new songs. One, because there were all of those shifts to keep the story from Aladdin's perspectives--yet the songs stressed Jasmine's perspective. Two, because they felt too staged even for a Disney film. In fact, this would be a good time to mention that overall this film felt much like watching a better-than-usual, bigger budget, made-for-TV movie. It had that cloying quality to it. Not necessarily a bad thing, just an observation.

The use of dance was great, though. They went for almost a 1950's or 1960's era musical style, with all of the grand choreography. If you're going to make a musical, right? (And maybe this style was also why those songs where Jasmine was just walking towards the camera and singing felt out of place with the rest of it all.)

So it was an entertaining movie to watch. Enjoyable, family film. I wouldn't call it anything more than that--but that's okay.

Monday, May 27, 2019


I spend much time around this wonderful, wondered Victorian home sitting in the middle of Downtown Phoenix. The third family to live in this home were the Higleys; their youngest son was named James (and he was the only son of Jessie Higley, as the oldest son was from Stephen Higley's first wife). There is a picture of Jessie, her young daughter Jessie Jean, and her little baby James. James is smiling, just a perfectly happy and cheery baby. So much more natural of a smile even than we tend to be used to seeing in old photos.

And then skip forward to the other picture of James, as a young man in his Army uniform. James died in France during WWI.

The beautiful, happy baby. The mother's child. The pretty little girl's little brother. Grown up only to barely grow up and then die . . . under what circumstances?

I used to have this great interest in Laura Ingalls Wilder geology. I enjoyed looking at her family tree, seeing her siblings and her parents and her mother's siblings and their children and her grandmother's siblings and so on. I also very much liked the modern-written Little House style series that focused on Laura's mother Caroline.

Being old enough to know what the Civil War was came at around the same time that I was looking at all of this geology--and seeing that Caroline's brother Joseph died in the Civil War at the Battle of Gettysburg. It was a heartbreaking link that I would always be able to take with me, to know that this boy I had met as a fictional character, this boy who was based on a real person, was a real person who died there on that field. He was Caroline's older brother. How did she feel when she learned he was gone? Did she think about him sometimes when she was with Laura? When they were on the long wagon rides or surviving the relentless cold of the famous long winter?

Real people with real lives. Real pain and real loss.

Memorial Day is to remember them . . . and not all of them died so many years ago.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Wild Ophelia: Hazelnut Cocoa Toast

While I'm not entirely sure if this bar from Wild Ophelia is new, it was new to me, so I snatched it up, along with another that I'll probably get to next week. And then I kept looking at it and it kept looking at me and I said, haven't we met before? It seemed so familiar, as did the bar for next week. But no, turns out I've reviewed neither of them.

Maybe it's just the concept that sounds so familiar. Hazelnut and chocolate are a standard flavor combination, though a lovely one, as well. And the name Hazelnut Cocoa Toast is reminiscent of Theo's Bread and Chocolate, which I reviewed, oh, probably eight to ten years ago. The card box's design is simple and fun. It has that cutesy/trendy side to it that makes it very young and Instagram-y looking; maybe that's why, while I like the look, I'm also feeling a slight disconnect from it.

Once you open the packaging, the chocolate comes out with a great, fudge aroma--or perhaps it's more like fudge spread specifically. You'll want to chew this chocolate a little because it has teeny little crisped "bread" pieces in it to represent the toast. They're fun, with a texture slightly similar to crisped rice--or maybe more like itty pieces of wafer. That would in fact be the better comparison given that the ingredients lists them as "crushed crepes dentelles biscuits." They do in fact give just the right texture to the chocolate without detracting from or overwhelming the other elements; they just make it fun.

Obviously, of course, we have the welcome hazelnut flavor going on, though it comes along with more chocolate flavor than you would normally find in spreads. This is, after all, the fairly high cocoa content (for milk chocolate) of 41% and Wild Ophelia also has decent quality chocolate, so of course you'll find some better chocolate flavor in here than in a cheap spread (I like chocolate hazelnut spread, but as I've said before, not Nutella because Nutella is just oil).

Let's get back to the bread for a moment. The toasty biscuit pieces bring with them a touch of salt and almost a butter flavor, which help to bring even more of a feeling of toast. It's quite a nice effect. I wish I had Theo's Bread and Chocolate to provide a comparison of the two--though I suppose that isn't really necessary. I enjoyed that bar and I'm enjoying this one, so that's sufficient.

While some of Wild Ophelia's flavor combinations can sound more fun to try than they actually end up being to eat, this one is great fun both ways. A little new and different but mainly familiar--all brought together in a way that is very much for munching.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Apache Trail

Well, you know I was just going to visit the Lost Dutchman Museum. I figured Lost Dutchman State Park would have to wait for another time, but I could go ahead and visit the museum. This was the closest I had been to the mountain that I usually only see from far off. It's an imagination-sparking piece, that's for certain.

Four Peaks

I went to the museum. It's basically a little room with lots of reading material and some collections of artifacts and antiques. In fact, there is enough reading material to fill quite a decent-sized museum, so I definitely recommend going ahead and reading as much as you can while you're there. History about the area, some geology, stories from various Native American tribes about the Superstition Mountains, and stories of all the searches for the Lost Dutchman Mine (they all end tragically, just adding to the "superstition" of it all). Outside, you can visit the church and a couple of other buildings left from the old movie filming location. When the weather is nice, they do have other events and things going on outside. Mainly, though, it's just a nice little spot to visit. Lots of books in their gift shop (a fact they even advertise on their website--and it is true).

That one's Lost Dutchman

It was a nice visit, but I am, as I mentioned earlier this week, so burning alive right now that I couldn't stop there. I was like an addict, like, I can't just sit here and drool at this awesome volcanic thing jutting from the earth and then turn around and be home in half hour. I need more. So I thought, well, maybe I can drive up a little bit more, just to get a taste. But then, you know, I was looking at the map and thinking of all those stories of the people who walked all over this land looking for that mine and I thought, I want to see it all, so why don't I just make the circle around and then go by way of Globe and Superior back to Apache Junction and then back home? (For those unfamiliar with the area, this route starts Southeast of the Phoenix area, continues east and north and then goes back south and west again. A true circle. It is Arizona's first historic highway, the Apache Trail.)

Twists and winding shapes brought me to Canyon Lake, this beautiful body of water surrounded by cliffs. Picturesque, yes, especially after driving through volcanic, crusty, rocky desert (beautiful volcanic, crusty, rocky desert, yes, but quite a contrast to a body of water). That brings you pretty soon to Tortilla Flat, which is a gift shop, a restaurant, an ice cream shop, and a (literally) walk-in-closet-sized museum. A place to stop and take pictures and look at the view.

I kept going and where there had been other cars, suddenly there were done. Where there was pavement, suddenly there was none. When the pavement ended, so did my normality. I got out of the car, just randomly on the side of the road because there was no one there, so why not? Oh, all the rocks and plants, all the colors and textures, they were at their height, more beautiful than anything. My soul stretched across the land and I declared my love for the beautiful of it all.

I got back in the car and kept going. Now, um, I may have not quite realized that the whole unpaved thing was coming until I saw it on the signs. I could have turned around, but it was all too much fun--even getting more than I'd realized I'd been getting myself into was fun. An unpaved, steep road through canyons means driving at fifteen miles per hour. And forty miles of road means, well, I'll let you do the math. The simple fact: longer than I'd expected. I drove more that day than I've ever driven in one go before, so it was kind of exhausting. But completely worth it.

All of the winding quality meant that there were gorgeous views around every corner (and there were lots of corners). It was like adventuring and exploring without getting out and walking. It was almost like off-roading (can you tell I never go off-roading?). The road is so old and so steep and windy that many sections are also one lane. So, you know, if you do meet someone coming in the opposite direction, you both must be careful. And given all of the turns, you have to be extra slow and careful at every turn. But everyone knows this and there weren't too many other cars, so it was all fine. Do, though, make sure you only make this drive with a car that's in good condition and with plenty of water (other supplies are always good to have, too, just in case). Even if your car is fine, you could end up stuck behind someone else whose car breaks down. It's the desert and kind of far from aid, so just be careful.

Knowing all of this just made me enjoy the drive all the more, though. I had music on and I was making loud declarations of all sorts there in my car. A wonderful time for self-reflection.

You can just see the road I'd just come down in the middle of this picture

By the time I passed the sign mentioning that there were ten more miles to the 188, I was getting exhausted from driving on all those curves. So the lookout point over Theodore Roosevelt Lake and above the dam was a welcome stop. After climbing those cliffs and seeing the river flowing through, it was like a reward up on top to find another huge body of water, this time with the crazy bridge running over it. This water was much bigger than the first--and also more open-feeling because it was above the cliffs instead of in their midst.

I've never been so excited to see pavement, too, I might add.

After this, the drive felt more like civilization. Technically this other half of the circle is still part of the Apache Trail, but mainly people use that name to describe that unpaved stretch. The second half was more just a usual, scenic drive. Great views of the mountains. A swing by Globe and a drift through Miami (this little town really caught my eye; I want to learn more about the history of it), then on through to Superior. Rocks and a tunnel and then back through past Boyce Thompson Arboretum, which I talked about on Monday. It was nice to be back in that newly familiar territory I'd so enjoyed about a week earlier. Then back to the city.

A scenic road trip through nature and history. A touch of the past, a touch of the trail. A full immersion into thrilling isolation. That was a fantastic unplanned trip of mine.