Posted in Anxiety, Creative Writing, Deep Thoughts, Reflections, Spirituality

Who are we, and where will we go?

who are we, and where will we go
is this reality, or our mind’s eye’s show

are we dust & bones, mere atomic energy
or are we something more that science can’t see

are we figments of another’s imagination
some sort of outlet – an emotional creation

are we pre-destined to do great things
even if we’re crippled by the pressure that brings

who am i, why am i, and what do i matter
some days when I think of that, i only feel sadder

can’t help but wonder – do I only exist to you
or is it to you, and you, and all of you, too

if i only exist in your mind, and you in mine
then i will live my days with love; for my friends & for me, that will be fine.

Posted in Collection, Disney, Disney California Adventure, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort, Epcot, Geek, Magic Kingdom, Music, Park Audio, Park Maps, Pin Trading, Walt Disney World Resort

Disney Parks Collection

I’m a huge fan of Disney Parks. If you know anything about me, you know that.

Both Walt Disney World Resort, in Florida, and Disneyland Resort, in California. I think there are both amazing places to visit, and I believe every.single.person should experience them, at least once in their life.

There’s just something about Disney that can’t compete with any other theme park in the world. The theming is beyond spectacular. The individual areas of the park paint a picture for you, the visitor. You actually feel like you’re in the jungle, on a mountain, in a specific country, or even in the fantasy world where your favorite animated characters are real. They achieve this through endless techniques – forced perspective for buildings, scents near restaurants and shops, background music to establish time period and walking pace, carefully planned sight lines to hide buildings, pathways with hidden turns, and so much more. All of the techniques Disney Imaginears utilize treat your eyes and ears to the fantasy that unfolds in front of you.

The most common question I hear from my friends is “which resort do you prefer?” There are hundreds of blogs, articles, and opinions ad nauseam over which resort is better, but frankly, I don’t give a damn. I love both resorts, including all 6 parks. There are pros and cons, for sure, but I’d love to be in any of the 6 parks at any given moment, rather than living my regular life.

*Side note: I haven’t visited any of the international parks, yet. Some day.

Obviously, I can’t live at Disney ALL the time, so that’s where my Disney collection comes in. I have so many items that have allowed me to bring a piece of the Disney experience home.

I just have a true collector’s personality. For me, it’s part of the chase. My husband says I’m a hoarder, but I vehemently disagree. It’s that I love having in my physical possession reminders of the things I’ve done, experienced, and the memories I’ve made. It just feels good. And, like I’ve mentioned with Christmas houses, my collection allows me tangible connection to moments in my life that I have cherished.

When it comes to Disney, it can be expensive. I’ve shared previously that I collect Disney pins. But, my collection is so much more than that. I collect some expensive items, many inexpensive items, and lots of free things – whatever speaks to me and helps me remember the experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have in my life.

Follow these links to check out mini blog posts about the different aspects of my collection, Disney PinsPark Maps, and Park Audio.

Do you want to read about more? Let me know in the comment section!

Posted in Collection, Disney, Disney California Adventure, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Park Maps, Walt Disney World Resort

Disney Parks Collection: Maps

This mini blog post is a stub from my Disney Park Collection Post. Check it out here.

My first, and perhaps favorite, Disney souvenir are the park maps. Yes, like I mentioned before, these “souvenirs” are free. And free is good. Let’s face it, Disney is expensive. I’m not complaining, and I do think it’s “worth it”, but yes; the fact is Disney is expensive. Park maps are free when you walk into the park. They are full color, fold open brochures with attraction highlights, evening entertainment schedules, and the best part – the map.

I have Disney park maps from every park I’ve visited from the summer of 2000 through today. And what’s really cool, when my friends visit the parks, they bring me back maps, too. It’s a free souvenir that means a lot to me.

I love to see the way the parks have changed over time. Since the maps are animated, the changes in the park over time are really interesting. When an attraction closes or a path is re-routed, the map is updated and it’s as if the attraction/path/activity never existed.

An awesome example is the expansion of Fantasyland. When Disney decided to expand Fantasyland, they demolished Mickey’s Tooontown Fair. Today, Mickey’s Toontown Fair is completely gone from the map – as if it never existed.

Another awesome example is from Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Formerly Disney-MGM Studios)

This one is a little harder to see. *cough* the maps got wayyyy smaller over time *cough*. I snapped the newer one upside down so you could see the changes in the park more easily. You may click the link to open the picture in its full size if you’d like. Disney’s Hollywood Studios has had way more than a name change – the back of the park is entirely different! I also like how “Rock’n Roller Coaster” says “coming soon.” Hard to imagine the park without that attraction, isn’t it?

For this reason, I love keeping my collection of park maps. Like I said, it’s free, they are small, I keep them in a small box on a bookshelf and can reference them whenever the Disney geek within me wants to play. 🙂

Do you like the maps? Let me know what you think in the comment section below!

Posted in Collection, Disney, Disney California Adventure, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort, Epcot, Geek, Magic Kingdom, Music, Park Audio, Walt Disney World Resort

Disney Parks Collection: Audio

This mini blog post is a stub from my Disney Park Collection Post. Check it out here.

A hugely important aspect of Disney’s legendary theming is music. As you walk into each area of the park, your mind is taken somewhere else. To a certain time period, a location, a country, or an intangible idea. And music helps make that illusion all the more real.

Disney has been hit or miss when it comes to releasing the audio they feature in the parks. Sometimes, it’s unavailable in the “real” world altogether. Other times, they feature some on their sporadic park official soundtrack releases. I have a small collection, but here it is:

Since I suffer from a tiny bit of OCD, the releases are organized by the date I purchased them, starting at the bottom. The first CD I purchased was the official soundtrack to the “Main Street Electrical Parade”. I saw the parade during my first visit to the park, and I just had to own that infectious song.

Each year, and visit I made to the parks, I would always check and see if there was a new release. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the timing, but when they came out, I purchased them. They have a sense of exclusivity to them – you can’t just purchase tracks on iTunes, or through Google. Most times, these tracks are only available on the disc for purchase inside the park.

Frustratingly, but understandably, the official soundtrack is often filled with repeat music and 4-5 new tracks. Of course, collectors and park aficionados like me want all new, but Disney has to appeal to the casual or first time visitor.

Thankfully, there are special releases like the 40th Anniversary Haunted Mansion release which has a new ride-through. Or the Event Party album which features the awesome Happy Hallowishes audio. They also released a standalone album of the now-retired Wishes fireworks show. It holds a special place in my heart because that’s the regular show that played when I worked there during my Disney College Program days. Sigh.

Some of my favorites are the highlights of the “Main Street USA” background music, Soarin’s musical score, Cinderella Castle Medley, Epcot’s Illuminations soundtrack, Space Mountain soundtrack, fireworks and other evening entertainment score… the list goes on, and it just feels good to listen to. Sometimes, my coworkers come by my desk and they give me that look that says “what the hell are you listening to?” as I just smile, bobbing my head happily.

Yes, Disney parks soundtracks are mixed in with the “normal” music I play regularly. Am I weird? Yes. Do I care? No. Weird people are cool.

Posted in Christophe Beck, Film Score, Hans Zimmer, James Horner, John Williams, Music, Score, Television Score

Film & Television Score

Have you ever noticed the background music in your favorite films or television shows? I’m not talking about music with vocals, I’m talking about the instrumental mood-evoking music.  Sometimes that music is so buried in a scene that you don’t even consciously notice it, you just feel it.

Think of the classic “Flying Theme” from E.T. when Elliot takes off on his bicycle. It’s one of my absolute favorites:

Or what about the Imperial March from Star Wars?

These tracks are so beautifully powerful, and add a level of “realness” to the story you’re watching unfold. It’s hard to imagine the scene and the music separately, isn’t it? There are so many, many, many hugely popular and familiar tracks, that if you heard them you’d instantly know.

Think of the Jaws theme, or the Halloween horror movie music. It’s all so iconic. The haunting humming in Titanic, or the Bagpipe music from Braveheart.

I’ve been a fan of score since I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, back in 1997. Christophe Beck is one of my favorite score composers, and I have collected as much of his work as possible. His score to the star crossed lovers, Buffy and Angel, was absolutely beautiful. Here’s a sample of another one of my favorites:

Another more modern TV favorite is The Handmaid’s Tale score:

The Handmaid’s Tale is set in such a disorienting world. It’s like ours- only different, more controlled, more prison-like. The music has that distorted odd “something isn’t right” feeling.

Once I realized how much I loved score, I branched out. Of course there are big names I mentioned earlier, like John Williams (Star Wars, E.T., Jaws, Indiana Jones, Home Alone, Jurassic Park), James Horner (Titanic, Braveheart), Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, Inception), all with phenomenal music. You can get these hugely popular themes via download or on soundtrack albums.

I also fell in love with less famous composers. Not as well known, but I think the score from the movie “Pleasantville” is amazing. Not only is the movie unsung, I think the score is as well. Listen to one of Randy Newman’s cues here:

Another favorite is the music from “Great Expectations” by Patrick Doyle. Check this cue out:

“Castaway” featured little score, to accentuate the feelings of loneliness and isolation the character felt on the island, but check out the amazingly gorgeous closing theme by Alan Silvestri. I think this one may be my favorite piece:

Another of my absolute favorites is Michael Giacchino’s score to the television series Lost. The music so eloquently captured how each character was “lost” in their own special way. Check out Locked Out Again:

Are you a fan of movie or television score? There are literally thousands of cues out there.

What do you think? As you can see, I have a lot of favorites. I started this post thinking I would share my top 5, and honestly that’s just too much of a challenge for me. Music is everything for me. I listen to score when I write- it helps me feel inspired. I also listen to it after a bad day, to calm my emotions and help me find my center. I think if we lived in a world without music to help us express our moods, we’d be a lot worse off. Music is a beautiful thing.

Posted in Buffy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Christophe Beck, Empowerment, Fantasy, Film Score, Geek, Sci-Fi, Television Score, TheWB, Vampires

Buffy

I remember that night like it was yesterday.

It was March 10, 1997. I was in 7th grade, turning 13 in just 10 days. I was working on my homework at the computer in the basement family room, where early evenings were dedicated to the mindless sitcoms Channel 11 offered. I watched “Growing Pains”, “Who’s the Boss?” and “Mad About You” reruns regularly between 5-7PM – they made a great soundtrack for my adolescent homework time.

“Mad About You” was coming to an end as I was finishing my homework. It’s funny how specific moments stay with you forever… I’ll just never forget how it happened. As the credits finished rolling, The WB programming began. The creepy-voiced narrator teased the premiere of a new show, and said “Virginia, 1866.  The frequent disappearance of Civil War Widows shocked an already grieving community. These events ended when Lucy Hanover arrived in town… 41 bodies were found near Union Station but shortly after the arrival of this young woman, the murders stopped… now, in 1997 it’s starting all over again… something strange is happening in Sunnydale.” His creepy monologue was intercut with spooky scenes of mysterious activity, murders, and other creepy stuff, and the slogan “For every generation… there is only one slayer” appeared on the screen. I was intrigued.

After some exciting action-y cuts, a young woman said “if we don’t find her… there’s gonna be one more dead body in the morning.” My pre-teen self thought “Ooh! Mysteries! Vampires! Excitement!”, and I closed my books, threw myself over the couch, and prepared to watch the 2 hour premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I’m so glad I randomly watched this show. To this day, I’m still a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes; Buffy. Yes, I know it’s a show with a silly name. But it’s actually incredibly smart. The writing is clever. The acting is quality. The show was and is a real treat.

The first season aired on Monday nights for 12 weeks. It was a short season, a mid-season replacement, and I can remember recording the episodes on my parents’ VCR when I wasn’t going to be home. [Yes, I’m aware that’s dating myself with a VCR reference.]

The main story arc of season one was the Master Vampire trapped underneath Sunnydale and his desire to get free and fight Buffy. There were also other great “monster of the week” style episodes, a subtle subplot of Buffy coming to terms with who she was, and a slow build romance between Buffy and Angel, the vampire with a soul. What made me love the show so much wasn’t necessarily the vampires, monsters & other supernatural elements (although I did love those things!), it was the empowerment. I could feel it. Even as a 12 year old geeky kid. Buffy, and her friends, were social misfits. They certainly were not the “cool kids” from school, and even they made a real difference in the world. They went unnoticed by the rest of school, but they mattered. And they made it cool for me to be different. As an adolescent misfit myself, that was key in my development and confidence. Buffy helped shape me, and give me the confidence, be myself, enjoy my weirdness, and eventually, come out as a gay man. It’s hard to believe that a TV show can have that much of an impact on someone’s life, but it can.

The big finale of season one aired on a night I wasn’t home. I have such a clear memory of watching the taped finale with my sister, sitting in front of the TV later that night. I even remember being a little scared! The Master Vampire was free and was Buffy was destined to die.  The show came to it’s big finish and I was enthralled. Yes, he bit her and Buffy died, briefly. But, fortunately she was revived. She would live to slay another day. I cheered in excitement and anticipation of her future adventures.

Over the course of the show, not only did I fall in love with the story, I also found another great love of my life, musical score. Some of the most beautiful pieces of musical score are featured in Buffy by one of my favorite composers, Christophe Beck. I recently bought an amazing album of his, and other composers’ works, and I absolutely love it. 20 years after the show began airing, and they are still releasing material from it! My interest in his work led me to discover the world of score. Today, I listen to a wide variety of score… but that’s a tangent for a whole ‘nother blog post.

I also became a huge fan of sci-fi/fantasy and mystery, especially reading. I have so many interests that I can directly attribute to Buffy. The Fever Series, Lost, The Giver, The Man in the High Castle, The Handmaid’s Tale, Mark Edwards, Anita Blake, Donnie Darko… the list is endless.  All future blog post ideas.

I watched Buffy religiously for seven years and 144 episodes. It spawned an entire generation of “TheWB” teen-focused dramas. Buffy launched the highly serialized sci-fi/fantasy programming that we take for granted today. It was a big deal. A trendsetter.

I own all of the episodes on DVD and still regularly watch them. It’s also streaming on Hulu. Buffy is the perfect the “I’m having a bad day” show, or the “Rainy Sunday afternoon” show, or the “Just because I freaking feel like it” show. And I love it. Always have, and always will. If you haven’t seen it, you absolutely must check it out.

In future blog posts, I’d love to write about some of my favorite episodes, and feature my Buffy collectible memorabilia. Do you guys love Buffy? Would you like to see and hear more?

Posted in Anxiety, Creative Writing, Deep Thoughts, Reflections

He Allows Himself to Fall Apart Nightly…

The routine has become so mundane.
The process so common it’s now effortless… meaningless.

If it no longer has meaning – does he?

He allows himself to fall apart nightly, just to feel again.

// First, his fingers break off with such a familiar sound.
It reminds him of fresh popcorn cooking on the stovetop at grandma’s.
The fingers pop one by one like kernels as they break off of his hand.
Next, his arm firmly pops out of the socket with the familiar hollow popping thunk.
His knee unhinges with a squeak and then pries itself from his upper leg.
Finally, his ear un-velcros itself from the side of his head. //

Sudden movement pulls him out of his daydream.
Is that me in the mirror?

He watches himself brush the style from dark shaggy locks.
Is that my hair?

He watches himself remove his contact lenses from piercing dark eyes.
Are those my eyes?

He watches himself in the mirror as hands unbutton his shirt.
Are those my hands?

He removes everything, shyly revealing his vulnerable nakedness to himself.

There is nothing left.
He is nothing more.

Posted in Christmas, Deep Thoughts, Department 56, Reflections

Collecting Villages – What is my why?

It might be the cool rainy weather – it just seems like Christmas is coming. Ready or not! I know it’s only the first week of October – but my brain runs wild with imagination and planning, this unusual combination of whimsy and attention to detail. That fun stuff occupies such a large percentage of my brain. It’s probably the same stuff that makes many of you roll your eyes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, for my personality type, it’s a super exciting, creative, and electrically charged time. I’m on the cusp of something I LOVE to do.

[Side rant: I know it’s not time to decorate yet. I know there are holidays in between now and Christmas. Stop whining to me about it, or about the commercialization or Christmas, or that the stores already have Christmas decorations for sale. That’s not my fault, and I don’t care. This is my blog. End of mini rant 🙂 ]

Like I’ve written about before, I love planning out each year’s display. I’m a hyper-organized person when it comes to my collection, so I have a spreadsheet of which houses I have and which accessories coordinate. Am I a little crazy? Yes. But I didn’t earn the nickname “Professor Obsessor” for nothing. My Christmas village is just something I love to collect and plan down to the tiniest detail.

Besides being a collector, I’m also a “why” person. As in “Why do I love it?” I spent the weekend by myself and did some deep thinking while Jim is out of town. There was no distraction – just me, the cat, and a whole lot of quiet.

First off, I think I love collecting Christmas villages because collecting checks so many items on my list. You know what I’m talking about, right? That inner list of things you love for no apparent reason? We’ve all got one. For me, collecting satisfies and “checks off” the collector mentality (the “I’ve gotta get them all” thought process), the Christmas fan in me (obviously), the detail guy (how/where do I plug them in?, how will I hide the cords?, what scenes work well together?, etc…), the home decorator in me (I want to be the host with the warm cozy home), and lastly, collecting satisfies the unique aspect of who I am. I want to have something a little different, and a little extra special about me. It just feels good to achieve that.

When I set up my display each year, I let my inner child run wild. I’m fascinated by a made up world where the only rules are the rules I set. I imagine it’s a similar feeling to the people that collect train sets. They build train stations, have neighborhoods, bridges, tunnels, and a variety of other scenes. They became the mayor, the master developer, the rule setter, and decider of detail. In my world, I get to be all of those things. I ponder “How does this little town work?”, “Where do the elves work?” and “Is there a social hierarchy?” (haha!) I like to believe in my fictional world that all of my residents work together in harmony… composing a symphony of happiness. And happiness is something we could all use more of.

When it all boils down, I think we should all emulate these fictional characters and work on being happier people. I think, ultimately, that is the final reason I love collecting the houses. My final “why” check mark. Plainly and simply, it just provides me, and the others that view it, with unbridled child-like happiness.

Posted in Fiction, Louise Voss, Mark Edwards, Psychological Thrillers

The Blissfully Dead

Aren’t cool fall/winter weekends the best for cuddling up under a blanket with a good book? Jim is out of town visiting family, so I’ve had the house to myself this weekend. Lily (my cat) and I have been incredibly lazy, and it has been exceptionally glorious.

I’ve been reading a novel called “The Blissfully Dead” by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards. Isn’t it funny how you start a novel, and read a little bit here and there until the halfway point – and then BAM, you suddenly fast forward, reading every free minute you can find, through to the suspenseful finish? No, just me? This novel was quite a ride!

Set in the London, this new series follows Investigator Patrick Lennon as he investigates serial murders and other oddities in the city, and also navigates his complex life with his sometimes estranged wife and their daughter.

“The Blissfully Dead” is the second in the series. This edition focuses its attention on the murders of several members of a boy band fan site. Think One Direction teenage hysteria multiplied by lies, manipulation, and murder. This book serves as a bit of cautionary tale: don’t let your online presence define your life. “The Blissfully Dead” leaves a lot of clues for the reader to help you determine who the killer is, but features enough twists that the book isn’t ruined early on. You will keep hanging on until the last chapter, I guarantee it.

Lovers of suspenseful and fast paced mysteries, this book series is for you. Check it out!

Posted in Anxiety, Creative Writing, Deep Thoughts, Reflections, Sleep

he lies awake

he lies awake
reflecting on the day

he lies awake
wondering who he is

he lies awake
examining how he was. was he good? is he?

he lies awake
anticipating tomorrow’s stress as a sense of subtle, quiet doom builds inside

he lies awake
allowing the anxiety to wash over him, replacing all that he is

he lies awake
ceasing to exist

he lies awake
staring at the ceiling as the fan gently weaves a pattern of light and dark

he lies awake
enjoying, somehow, the dance of the shadows

he lies awake
allowing the darkness to call to him. to comfort him

he lies awake
realizing the circular dance of the fan mirrors the dance of the day

he lies awake
understanding the balance, momentarily

he lies awake
accepting that without fear there is no calm

he lies awake
trusting the quiet of the night

he sleeps.