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Those Darn Cats Book Club: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

20 Apr

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory DoctorowThis week on Those Darn Cats (the podcast I co-host with BFF Lisa):

We’re very excited to present the first ever Those Darn Cats book club meeting! And in fact, we do believe we’re the first Disney podcast to publish a book club episode, and we expect to see others jump on the bandwagon soon.

Our first book club session is a discussion of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow, which you can download in many formats here, plus audio book here. This book is distributed under a Creative Commons license, and all the versions linked to from this page are free.

Download the episode here, or subscribe via iTunes or RSS

Turns out we were wrong, though . . . some lawyer from New Jersey published a book club episode yesterday. But hey, we’re still proud to be on the leading edge of the trend.

Recent Highlights from Those Darn Cats Podcast

27 Sep

Happy days!

In the interest of shameless self-promotion, here are a few highlights from recent episodes of the Those Darn Cats Podcast, which I co-host and co-produce with my BFF Lisa:

Now, don’t be fooled by the fact that my 13-year-old son sometimes joins us on the podcast….it is often not family friendly, and I don’t advise listening to it with kids around.  Especially that one with the Scurvy Monkeys.

You can find us on iTunes or Podcast Alley, or subscribe via RSS feed.

Epcot London or Real London?

3 Jan

Listeners of the Those Darn Cats podcast know that I have a tiny little bit of an opinion about the difference between Epcot pavillions and their corresponding real-world locations. So, can you spot six differences between these pictures of me in Epcot London and the real London? And can you tell which one is which?

London One

London Two

(Heya Danielle, since you took one of these pictures, no fair cheating!)

What I Did On My MouseFest Vacation

23 Dec
Trace Jennings, the Disney Dude

Dancing at Port Orleans Riverside. Photo credit: Trace Jennings, the Disney Dude

The great thing about solo travel is that one can try new things with abandon. Usually, I’ve got my kid’s needs to consider, and I often hesitate to try something new when my 12-year-old son is along for the ride. Plus of course, there are some things that one simply can’t do with a 12-year-old in tow, unless one has an outrageously precocious child, the right connections to fake ID manufacturers, and a willingness to completely forgo parental responsibilities.

Pleakly gasping at TomorrowlandThis was the first time I’d spent more than 12 hours at Walt Disney World without my kid, so I enjoyed a measure of freedom that’s rare for my vacation time. I’m also fortunate to have plenty of solo business travel under my belt, so I’m accustomed to independence…just not when that independence is strictly about having a good time hanging out with buddies old and new! So, this month’s trip to MouseFest 2008 gave me a chance to try a few new things at Walt Disney World. Many of them I’ll do again…and some, well, I’m glad I had the chance to try them, because now I know they’re just not my thing.

Trace Jennings

Those Darn Cats' "Fish Are Friends, Not Food, Meet." Photo credit: Trace Jennings

I will start by saying that I hope to be able to make it to another MouseFest someday, and I’d gladly travel solo to Disney again! But, well, maybe not real soon. As great a trip as this was, family travel remains a much higher priority for me, at least for so long as I’m spending time on the road for business, and for so long as my kid’s living at home (which, shockingly, might only be another 6 years). Given that vacation days and dollars are sometimes scarce commodities, I’ll still be spending most of mine with the family.

And I also gotta say, isn’t it kinda cheat-y of me to call MouseFest a solo trip? Yeah, it was a solo trip with 952 of my closest friends! I’m not sure I would have enjoyed 5 days at Disney World truly solo, without 30 friends to dry my eyes after Finding Nemo: The Musical, without pushing a recalcitrant Jon onto the Haunted Mansion, without Steve showing up in drag at 9AM on a Sunday morning (hey, that was indeed quite new, even for me!). I do think I would have been lonely had I truly been there alone for 5 days.

Stitch reading a bookBut all that being said, and all aspersions of cheatyness set aside, what else was new for me this trip? Well, this was the first time I’d left Housekeeping oversized tips and shameless pleas for towel animals, which I’ll surely do again. Yes, I have an embarrassing fondness for towel animals, and I did bring home a whole menagerie…but it wasn’t just the need for new trinkets. It was also the pleasure of knowing that I’d put a couple extra dollars in the pocket of  a Cast Member who is surely underpaid, and the fun of knowing I’d find something new and amusing when I returned to my room each night. Maybe Stitch would Towel animalbe curled up with a book (The Contortionist’s Handbook,
for those of you playing along at home, which of course is available from my Amazon Store). Or maybe he’d be watching TV…. or maybe a strange swan/reindeer hybrid (sweindeer?) would be atop my television, or some strange creature looking like she’s just emerged from the day spa. But either way, it was fun to feel just a little bit pampered, even (or especially?) at my low-rent Value Resort.  Of course, since I enjoyed this special attention so much, I did in fact practice what I preach, and sent an email to Guest Communications after my stay to let them know what an important part this Cast Member played in creating the Magic, and how much I appreciate their great work.

In Pixie Hollow

Inside Pixie Hollow

I’d never been to Pixie Hollow before, and would recommend it though I don’t feel the need to do it again. The Fairies meet-and-greet is very well done, not only because the Fairies themselves are well-played but also because of the theme-ing. As you enter the Fairies’ domain, you’re sprinkled with pixie dust, represented by occasional electronic sparkles along the walls. As you move down the hallway towards the Hollow, the trees and mushrooms around you grow larger, symbolizing the pixie dust’s having shrunken you down to the Fairies size…and apparently, making it possible for you to understand the Fairies language. It would have been nice had a Cast Member explained this as we were waiting, as these details would have been lost on me were I not an overly-researching Disney dweeb (and had a friendly Tomorrowland Cast Member not talked me into visiting the Fairies by waxing enthusiastically about just this sort of thing).  And yes, once you get into the Hollow the Fairies are every bit as playful and friendly as one would expect from Disney characters. Tink was in fact rather sassy, not the sexpot Tink who shows up so disturbingly in many Disney pins.

Trace Jennings

Nancy, Bob, Ray, and myself. Photo credit: Trace Jennings

I am not generally a piano bar fan, so I approached Yee Haw Bob’s show with some hesitation, but I enjoyed it immensely and would definitely go again….if I were with friend, or bringing my kid. Bob Jackson is a tremendous, and tireless performer, Lisaproviding audience participation par excellence. My BFF Lisa and our friend Trace had secured the front table, so I was able to sneak in at showtime with friends Angel and Julio, and we all had a blast. Of course being at the front table meant that we were called upon for more audience participation than some, and I’m sure Lisa’s hand-made “Yee Haw” shirt didn’t hurt matters either!  Bob Jackson’s a good enough comedian to get you to play along with the corniest jokes, and laugh until your sides hurt. And yes, some of us enjoy dragging unsuspecting MouseFesters into a conga line from time to time. It’s all very family-friendly, and I hope to take my kid there before he’s too cool to enjoy it. Or if we miss that window, maybe I’ll take him later on, when his kids can enjoy it too.

Alas, I can’t honestly say I want to go to Jellyrolls again, the other much-vaunted Disney World piano bar experience. It wasn’t for lack of good company…I arrived with my friend Danielle (after a fabulous time at the Studios Central Fantasmic Dessert Party), sat for a while with Steve Barrett of Hidden Mickeys fame, and then hung out with Bryan Ripper and others at the All About the Mouse Singalong Meet. So what was my problem? It might have been the general aesthetic….despite my eclectic tastes in music, they just weren’t playing anything that made me wanna sing, with the exception of a rousing rendition of good ol’ Rocky Top. The audience participation just wasn’t as orchestrated (some might say forced) as Bob Jackson’s, and I never felt pulled into it. But perhaps my friends hit the nail on the head when more than one of them told me that Jellyroll’s is just more fun when you’re hammered.

Earlier that day, my friend Danielle had introduced me to the Animation Academy, which I’ll do again every visit, perhaps even every day! Located in The Magic of Disney Animation at the Studios, this 20-minute experience always looked like a bore, especially since I have no talent whatsoever at the drawing board. But in that 20 minutes, I was able to draw a recognizable Jimminy Cricket, suitable for framing! In this day and age of “interactive entertainment,” this low-tech experience is immensely engaging, and I’d recommend it to people of all ages, even if they’re not hammered.

dscn2853I’d never stayed at one of the All Stars Resorts before, and I’d do it again…if I’m staying onsite, and if Pop is booked. Yup, that’s a lot of if’s, but I mean it. I often stay offsite to have more room for fewer dollars (especially given easy access to family timeshare weeks), and I do prefer Pop to the All Stars. But All Star Movies really wasn’t so bad, and my location in the Mighty Ducks building meant that I could choose the Movies or Music buses depending on which was to my advantage. Plus, the towel animals were fantastic, and the low rent meant I could sign that credit card slip with a clean conscience.

And on the higher-rent end of things….I will absolutely eat at Boma’s again! I’d thought about trying this restaurant before, at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, when my son and I had been staying at Saratoga Springs Resort on our Free Dining trip in August of 2007, but had balked because I hate taking Disney buses between resorts. Next time, I’ll just take a cab – it’s worth it for this fabulous dining experience! The roast pork was succulent, the fufu divinely spiced, the pineapple cheesecake worth the trip itself. My only complaint was that the zebra domes didn’t live up to the hype I’d heard in the Disney Digerati, being a rather well-ornamented chocolate mousse rather than the cure to all that ails you. But how could they have possibly lived up to that reputation? I shall dine again at Boma’s at the first opportunity, and will allow myself even a bit longer to linger in the lobby, maybe even grab me a pair of those night vision goggles I keep hearing about, for watching the wildlife outside the window.

I don’t know when I’ll get back to Walt Disney World…right now, the next Disney trip on my agenda is a few days next August at Disneyland Paris, in my estimation the prettiest of the Magic Kingdoms. As much as it would be great to be headed to Florida again soon, I’m also glad I’ll be giving it a little time, so that next time I visit I’ll be able not only to revisit these new favorites, but try out whatever new stuff they’ve cooked up in my absence!

What I Believe

13 Oct

Mr Broke Hoedown (aka Collateral Damage, aka the author of The Ministry of Culture) tagged me in a blog meme this week: What are five things you believe? So, I believe that:

  1. we ultimately do not choose who we are, we can only choose whether to embrace or resist.
  2. I do not know how the story ends.
  3. pleasure and joy are important parts of the spiritual journey.
  4. it is not in my child’s best interests to be sheltered from every possible frustration.
  5. love is not enough, but it is in fact an essential ingredient.

And now, I must tag five people! Lisa, Dani, Bonnie, Doc Terminus, and La Pixie.

And hey, while I’m mentioning Mr. Broke Hoedown, I cannot resist shamelessly plugging this week’s Those Darn Cats, which features a discussion with Mr. BH about the World War II propoganda and entertainment videos in the DVD Walt Disney Treasures: On the Front Lines.

Miley Cyrus Getting the Boot from Disney?

22 Sep

I’m sure there are a million web sites where you can follow the rumors about Miley Cyrus possibly getting fired by Disney. And I’m absolutely the wrong person to speculate on the potential veracity of said rumors! I can barely spell her name without checking the Google. But I can tell you that if you have a tad of the bitchy queen in you, you should read the commentary in The Superficial, which my friend Geoff Carter pointed to in his RSS shared items.

Oh and hey, while I’m thinking of Geoff, that reminds me that this week’s Those Darn Cats will feature Geoff’s reminiscences of the Adventurers’ Club, scheduled to close on September 28 (oh yeah, gotta finish up that show, now don’t I?). We also interviewed Geoff a couple months back, talking about Disney’s California Adventure (MP3).

Minnie’s Country Home, and Feminism 101

10 Sep

Meeting Minnie, en route to her Left Coast Country Home

Just yesterday, I stumbled across a fabulous new blog: Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog, which features a feminism FAQ. Why is this so fabulous? Well, before this site, I wasn’t aware of any resource where I could send people for those Frequently Asked Questions about feminism, and any tech support folks out there (or computer geeks who end up doing tech support for their loved ones and random cocktail party strangers) know how useful it is to be able to point people to some basic information and assumptions, so that conversations and debate don’t have to be derailed by going back to review first principles. And also, how tiring it is to re-tread the same basic ground over and over again.

Or, to quote from their “Why was I sent to this blog?” page:

AKA: I asked some feminists a question, and instead of answering they sent me here. Why?

Your question probably covered ground they have gone over many times before, and they didn’t want to derail the interesting discussion they were already having. [1]

  • People find questions that do not further the current discussion frustrating. Questioners find being ignored at least as frustrating, and such mutual dissatisfaction can totally disrupt a discussion. By sending you here the feminists hope to avoid such disruption, yet are also not completely ignoring your question(s). [2]
  • Maybe you didn’t ask a question at all, but asserted/argued a point that denied the factuality/importance of the topic being discussed. Nobody cheers at the thought of trying to run another through reams of introductory material before that person gains the grounding to argue a topic knowledgeably.

Either way, educating you on the basics would derail the discussion about the actual topic the feminists are interested in, just for you. That’s an awful lot to ask of people on the net who don’t even know you, isn’t it?

This blog exists to give you a few pointers to places you can find more information to answer your question (although we’re only in early days yet, FAQs will continue to be added until the basics are covered). Once you are better informed you will be able to contribute to lively feminist discussions productively, armed with facts and theory, even if/when you don’t end up agreeing with feminist opinions.

A casual breakfast with my girlfriend Minnie, at the Watercress Café Character Breakfast

A casual breakfast with my girlfriend Minnie, at the Watercress Café Character Breakfast

So, why am I peppering this post with pictures of our dearly loved rodent girl? Well y’know, I just happened across the Feminism 101 blog at just the right time! Because this week’s Those Darn Cats podcast (MP3, show notes) once again delves into political analysis of a well-loved Disney Parks tradition, Minnie’s Country House. And while I know that many of our listeners are already quite well-versed in answers to questions like “I’ve got nothing against equal rights for women, but we’ve got that, so isn’t feminism nowadays just going too far” and “But men and women are born different! Isn’t that obvious?” and “Does feminism matter?“, I figure an additional resource for these answers is never a bad thing, and might even be useful for those folks who are new to the conversation, including those who are not feminists but would like to better understand the basic philosophy and ideology.

And hey, if any of y’all reading this have podcasts of your own, or interweb radio shows or any other such project (perhaps Disneyphile, perhaps not)? My BFF and partner-in-crime Lisa cooked up a short MP3 promo for us, grooving on a Laverne and Shirley vibe. You can hear it at the end of TDC#17 (MP3, show notes), and I’m happy to email you the promo as a separate MP3 file.

Magic Meets Roll Call!

16 Jul

I’m so excited about heading down to Magic Meets this weekend! I’ve been hanging out in the Disney online fan community for a few years now, and this is the first time I’ll be attending a major fan gathering. I’ve been to a few smaller ones, informal meets organized on the DISBoards, and it’s always been fun to meet up with people who are as crazy as I am, at least when it comes to Disney stuff. (Sometimes there’s more overlap too…online or in-person, I have in fact met people who also share my passions for roller derby (hi Geoff!), anime conventions, and queer liberation.

Lisa and I ramble on a bit about MagicMeets on this week’s Those Darn Cats podcast, and throw in a few other odds and ends as well.

So, are any of y’all heading to Camp Hill, Pennsylvania this weekend for the big event? MagicMeets Roll Call!! And hey, if you’re there please don’t be shy, come over and say hello…ye shall know us by our furry little ears, and we’ll have some little buttons to give away.

Latest Episode of Those Darn Cats

17 Jun

Yes, Lisa and I keep on podcasting…whether anybody wants us to or not! Cuz hey, we’re having a blast and that’s the real point of this thing, y’know? I’m not exactly planning to become independently wealthy by blabbering on about Disney to unsuspecting random strangers. (Though I did have quite the pleasant conversation this afternoon with a colleague who said he’d heard I was going to Disney soon, and mentioned he was going next month…and got way more info than he’d probably bargained for!)

Anyway…our episode this week is about my Pal Mickey’s fashion requirements, and some ideas for fun (and sometimes maybe just a tad subversive) t-shirts. And oh yeah, I think there might be a little tangent about Olivia Newton John at some point. Ya never know.

There have also been a couple other episodes since the last time I posted about the podcast on Broke Hoedown, and we’re planning to keep morphing this thing into a slightly more structured show. You can keep up with us by subscribing either through RSS or iTunes.

The Continuing Adventures of Those Darn Cats

19 May

My BFF Lisa and I have been busy lately! We’ve been releasing a few “lost” Those Darn Cats episodes (previously recorded for but not released on MouseGuest Weekly), and we had a super lot of fun talking about Star Wars with Bryan and Jonathan on the All About the Mouse podcast last week. And how cool is this: Apparently there is some sort of special magic about being a guest on AATM. Lisa complained on the show that she couldn’t go to Star Wars Weekends . . . and the very day after the show was aired, she found out she could! So yeah, you’re gonna have some TDC trip reports, I’m sure.

Tonight we released a slightly different kinda thing . . . a fresh new recording where we debate the acceptable limits of “public displays of affection” at Disney Parks, and argue where the line should be drawn. Everybody has their limits of course, and she and I disagree pretty strongly.

I’ll resist the urge to post about every single episode here, since I know many of y’all subscribe to our podcast RSS feed already, but I’ll continue to post here from time to time as things develop. We’re releasing segments pretty sporadically right now, but plan to get a bit more formalized over the summer (well, to the extent that either one of us is ever predictable!). And hey, if any of you podcasters out there want to give us a plug . . . Jonathan Dichter recorded an awesome promo for us! You can download it here . . . please let people know they can now find us at thosedarncats.net. Thanks Jonathan!

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