Tag Archives: bueno favorites

Jentasmic! Does This Wheelchair Make Me Look Fat?

10 Sep

Nobody wants to get sick, and especially not on vacation. But stuff happens, and life goes on, and sometimes you gotta get around however you can.

My idea of a medspa vacation seems to be sneaking off for a chest X-ray in between Epcot and Raglan Road. I thought I’d recovered from a recent bout of flu before leaving on vacation, but when I spiked a fever in transit from Boston to Orlando, I knew I had a problem. I managed to get my teenage son and myself safely to our resort late that Saturday evening, and in the morning visited a nearby urgent care clinic for diagnosis, medication, and the assurance that I didn’t have anything highly contagious. The secondary infection needed treatment (and would warrant a second urgent-care visit later in the week), but I could continue my vacation.

I thought a day of bedrest would get me on my feet. Then I thought two days of besrest would get me on my feet. Then I decided it was time for a wheelchair.

The rest of the story’s over on StudiosCentral . . .

Jentasmic!: Ryan, Race and the Red Kilt

13 Jan

One might not expect a simple shopping expedition for High School Musical merchandise to require discourse on race and childrearing. But nonetheless, it does. I explore all this and more in last week’s Jentasmic! column at StudiosCentral.com. Here is how our journey begins:

I’ve learned a bit about our world in December, while shopping for High School Musical merchandise.

The first thing I’ve learned is that America might not be ready for a boy doll in a skirt. At least, that’s the only plausible explanation for the fact that no matter how many brick-and-mortar stores I check, I can’t find the HSM3 Ryan Graduation doll, in which our young hero is inexplicably dressed in a kilt and schoolgirl-style knee socks. (I would think this was some sort of strange interweb hoax, were it not for the  pictures of that same doll featured on the back of the other HSM3 Graduation dolls, which I did in fact find everywhere.)  And no, Ryan doesn’t wear that outfit at any point in the film; I watched carefully, both times.

[update 12/17/09: Since the original column is no longer online at StudiosCentral, I’m reproducing the whole column below:]

Ryan, Race, and the Red Kilt

I’ve learned a bit about our world in December, while shopping for High School Musical merchandise.

The first thing I’ve learned is that America might not be ready for a boy doll in a skirt. At least, that’s the only plausible explanation for the fact that no matter how many brick-and-mortar stores I check, I can’t find the HSM3 Ryan Graduation doll, in which our young hero is inexplicably dressed in a kilt and schoolgirl-style knee socks. (I would think this was some sort of strange interweb hoax, were it not for the  pictures of that same doll featured on the back of the other HSM3 Graduation dolls, which I did in fact find everywhere.)  And no, Ryan doesn’t wear that outfit at any point in the film; I watched carefully, both times.

I scoured stores at Walt Disney World for days, looking for Ryan in a kilt, until a friend suggested that perhaps the stores weren’t stocking these dolls because they just couldn’t explain why he was wearing a skirt, since he never wears that outfit in the movie (and, she added, if he were going to wear a kilt it would be a far more fashionably-cut piece, perhaps by Gauthier or D&G rather than the JC Penney look he’s sporting). It had never occurred to me that stores might not be stocking it because they couldn’t explain it….but it is much likelier than imagining that they’ve simply sold out. And somehow I can’t bear the notion that they might have pulled the dolls from the shelves, so let’s not even go there.

I learned, too, that the sales staff even at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is not likely to know HSM3 as well as the aforementioned friend and I. A charming and helpful Cast Member looked for a Ryan doll, and it quickly became clear that not only was he unfamiliar with Ryan, he could not differentiate between Chad and Zeke, even when said dolls were packaged along with their prom dates (Taylor and Sharpay, respectively). After we showed him a picture of Ryan in the kilt, he speculated that perhaps the boy’s “just really in touch with his culture.” I don’t think he meant that Ryan was Scottish, so I agreed.

But those Zeke and Sharpay dolls bring me to the second thing I’ve learned: While racism in America is far from over, there may be hope for us yet, and I’m not just talking about our next President. You see, Sharpay is white, and her prom date Zeke is African-American, and shoppers don’t seem to be batting an eye. I’m only 42 years old, but I do believe that in my entire life I have never seen an interracial couple packaged for mass consumption in this way. It was always assumed that white Barbie would go to prom with white Ken, and that their African-American counterparts would not only date amongst themselves, but also lack name recognition. After a lifetime of this mono-racial imagery, seeing Sharpay and Zeke together on the shelf is a very small thing, but it gives me hope. (I also find it interesting that my spellchecker has no problem with biracial, but none of the references I checked could find me an antonym, so I had to cobble one together myself.)

The toys we as a society choose to produce, and in turn the toys we as individuals choose to put in our children’s hands, tell our children what they should expect the world to be. A mother recently wrote into the Boston Globe to say how grateful she is that her 5-year-old son will grow up taking it for granted that an African-American man can be President of the United States. I hope my kid takes it for granted that he can date whomever his heart chooses, and select his wardrobe with similar freedoms. And if he wants to wear a kilt, I just pray it’s not from JC Penney.

Finding Nemo: A Lesson in Parenting

1 Dec

Sometimes I think FInding Nemo is the only source of parenting advice I’ll ever need.

My kid has a lucky fin. No, not really….but if you’ve seen the movie, you understand. He’s not your typical kid, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But bottom line, there are certain challenges that come with parenting a kid who’s so uniquely blessed, and they’re not limited to the logistics that come with extra doctors’ visits, medications, and diagnostics. It’s always hard to let go of kids as they grow up; I’m just living it through a differently-colored pair of glasses

Many days, I feel like Marlin. I don’t want to let my precious child swim out on that field trip near the edge of the reef. I want to call out to him, remind him to be careful, not get in past his depth. But that’s just the sort of thing that pushed Nemo to take risks recklesssly, to swim out to the big boat, and led him into the way of the diver’s net.

Marlin: Nemo! You’re gonna get stuck out there and I’ll have to go get you before another fish does. Get back here! Get back here now! Stop! You make one more move, mister…
[Nemo lifts his fin]
Marlin: Don’t you lay a fin on that boat! Don’t you dare touch that boat! Don’t you…
[Nemo touches the boat]
Marlin: Nemo!

And as much as I want to protect him, I also don’t want him to grow up in fear. I want him to explore this big blue world, to know that he is capable of great things. I want him to choose what risks to take not out of rebellion, but out of courage and joy. I cannot protect him from every danger in this world, and it wouldn’t be in his best interests for me to try.

My BFF is a self-described Dory, and reminded me this morning to just keep swimming, just keep swimming. She’s right. In the movie, Dory also reminds me none of us are alone:

This is the Ocean, silly, we’re not the only two in here.

I find myself thinking that parenting is like a ride on the EAC, except that any given day can seem to call for Squirt’s exit advice:

We’re gonna have a great jump today. Okay, first crank a hard cutback as you hit the wall. There’s a screaming bottom curve, so watch out. Remember: rip it, roll it, and punch it.

How many days must I really spend on that screaming bottom curve? Sometimes I’m tired of ripping and rolling.

I want to learn from Gill. He’s sure not perfect, but he does help Nemo learn a little bit about self-reliance.

[Nemo is stuck in the filter intake. The others are about to help him out when… ]
Gill: Nobody touch him! Nobody touch him.
Nemo: Can you help me?
Gill: No. You got yourself in there, you can get yourself out.
Deb: Ah, Gil…
Gill: I just want to see him do it, Okay? Keep calm. Alternate wriggling your fins and your tail.
Nemo: I can’t. I have a bad fin
Gill: Never stopped me
[Turns to show Nemo his broken fin]
Gill: Just think about what you have to do.
[Nemo wriggles out of the filter]
Gill: Perfect.

I’ve got a bit of a broken fin myself, not quite like my kid’s but certainly I know what it is to walk around in this world with what some might consider imperfections. Maybe I can show my kid that my lucky fin never stopped me.

And really, Marlin’s got a bit of a broken fin himself, though it doesn’t show on the outside. He’s still struggling with love and grief, having lost most of his family in what my spouse refers to in an 9/11 allegory at the beginning of the film. His heart is broken, and he truly believes the only way to stay safe is to live in fear, to never let go.

And of course, when all is said and done, Marlin eventually learns to let go, to trust that Nemo knows how to save the fish caught in the net in the film’s climactic scene, and we see that Dory’s right, that we’re not the only two fish in the ocean, that we can do together what none of us can do alone.

I hope I can keep learning that lesson too.

Disney DIY Duds: Re-constructing and Re-purposing Jeans

27 Feb

During the last batch of major reductions at Disney Outlet online, I succumbed to the allure of a couple pairs of jeans. I’d had an eye on them for a while, but hadn’t ventured out to my local Disney Store to try them on . . . and this was, in fact, a mistake. The waist was super-high, and the seat/hips super-baggy. I refuse to call them “Mom Jeans” because I find that an unnecessarily demeaning term, but I think you know what I’m talking about, right?

Instead of dealing with the return/exchange shipping and all, I considered it a $25 investment in craft and sewing materials, and an opportunity to experiment a bit. I’l share these experiments here, including things that didn’t work too well. Either one is a fairly simple project, and could surely be improved upon.

Reconstruction: Shorten the rise

I simply removed the belt loops and waist band, then sewed the belt loops back onto the jeans, leaving the raw edge relatively unfinished. The jeans came out okay, but the rise is still a bit too high, and the seat a bit too baggy. Here are the steps I took, and what I’d do differently next time:

  1. I removed the belt loops with a seam ripper.
  2. I removed the waist band using a seam ripper. Next time, I’d simply re-cut the rise with a good pair of cutting shears, and customize the rise and angle based on my own measurements.
  3. Using special “jeans” thread, I reinforced/finished the new “waistband” the same way one would finish the edges of raw fabric after cutting out pattern pieces: I sewed right on the edge, using an overlock stitch. I did two rows of overlock stitch, partly because denim unravels easily but also because I wanted more of a visual contrast.
  4. I reattached the belt loops to the waist of the jeans, and called it a day.
  5. Next time, I’d do a little reading on pants construction, and see if I could take in the seat a bit, in addition to recutting the waist.

Re-purposing: Denim handbag, with pockets

This one was a little trickier, but no more time-consuming. I’m much happier with the results, and have been carrying this bag nearly every day.

I’d been poking around online at various jean purse projects, and was inspired by an electronics pouch I saw on Instructables. I changed the approach significantly, but was inspired by the basic shape of the bag, and the leverage of existing pockets. I wanted to include the front pocket as well as the back, because I really like the embellishment on the front of the jeans. It’s also turned out to be very handy; the watch pocket is perfect for keeping track of my lip gloss.

  1. I ripped out the center seam (ie, crotch from front to back). This basically splits the pants into two completely separate legs, only one of which was used for the purse.
    1. In retrospect, I could have just cut it, I didn’t need to save that extra 5/8″ of fabric.
  2. I took the pant leg that I wanted to use for the purse (in this case, the leg with both front and back pockets decorated). I split that pant leg open on the inside seam (ie, the seam that would have run down the inside of my leg).
  3. Measuring carefully, I cut a rectangle from the top of the pants. I was careful not to accidentally cut through the front pocket, since I wanted to keep it intact. The size of the rectangle could vary, depending on the size of the pants (mine were a 12) and the dimensions of the purse. I chose to cut the bottom of the rectangle about 2″ below the bottom of the back pocket.
    1. Special note: Because jeans are not rectangular, the hip seam will likely not be the side of your purse.
  4. Using special “jeans” thread (in this case, I used the “denim” color thread rather than the gold), I finished the edges with an overlock stitch, since denim loves to unravel.
  5. I sewed a zipper into the waistband, to be able to zip the purse closed. This was the trickiest part, and an experienced seamster would do it way better than I did! Basically I bought a 7″ zipper, and sewed first one side, and then the other, to the inside of the appropriate sections of waistband.
    1. In retrospect, I should have shortened the zipper, because it’s a little too long and creates a little bulge on one end. Or, if I didn’t want to learn how to shorten zippers, next time I’d err on the side of putting the extra length on the bottom of the zipper (ie, the part that’s always closed).
  6. I folded the rectangle in half, right-side to right-side, and seamed the side and bottom, using 5/8″ seam allowance on the side and 1.5″ on the bottom. I then stitched the bottom a second time, 1/4″ into the seam allowance, for extra strenth.
  7. I’d had all kind of fancy ideas about making a shoulder strap from another piece of denim . . . but it didn’t work quite right. So, I poked around the house a little and found an old piece of clothesline. I cut three pieces, of about 1.5 times the length I wanted the strap to be. I braided the clothesline, and then tied it onto a couple belt loops to make a strap. It’s held up better than I’d expected!

All In This Together: Goths, High School Musical 2, and Growing Up Gay

20 Aug

applescruff’s blog at Progressive U comments on being a Disneyland Cast Member during Bat’s Day at the Fun Park (aka Goth Day):

At first, I didn’t realize that some of my fellow cast members were frightened of these guests. Something about their black makeup and reputation made the Bats crowd intimidating, I suppose. I really didn’t notice. In high school, I had stepped out of my comfort zone and made friends with a few goths, to discover that, more often than not, they were far nicer than the “normal” people. It might have been because I was a misfit myself, but I believe they would have opened up the same way to anyone. As for the Disneyland guests, they came to have fun, same as anyone else. It was annoying to me that I had to initiate contact with “scary people” because…well, they were scary. Even after one of them managed to talk with one of the goths to discover that yes, I was right, they can be very nice, the cast members seemed very nervous about them.

Apparently, despite having it drilled into our heads from the time we are old enough to watch our first episode of Sesame Street, most people do not remember not to “judge a book by it’s cover.” It doesn’t matter that this particular event took place at Disneyland, because I see it all the time. I’ve been a victim of this kind of thing for as long as I can remember. I come from Long Beach, so I’m automatically into drugs, rap, and because of the high school I attended, I’m possibly mentally unstable, part of a gang, and prone to violence. It doesn’t matter that people get these ideas from poorly researched television programs and films, it must be true because that’s what they know. I’m also preppy because I’m intelligent, and therefore I must have good grades (niether of which is entirely true). I am supposedly a hippy, therefore (again) a druggie, because I like to listen to sixties and seventies music. The list goes on and on. Worse, because I have an uncommon and not-very-phoenetic name, people tend to think I’m weird anyway without even learning more than my name.

And while we’re being asked not to judge books by their covers . . . I’m reminded of a post I saw earlier today on the QueerSighted Gay Blog, discussing whether High School Musical 2 is “chock full of gay:”

Perhaps disturbed by the gay subtext [in High School Musical] that was pointed out to them by homosexuals with agendas, Disney attempts to butch up High School Musical 2, removing all traces of queer allegory and metaphor and amping up the heterosexual love triangle. Even so, this sequel (which exists in a parallel universe where the high school experience is so watered down that it might as well be clear) is perhaps even gayer than the first movie.

I must say, it did occur to me that the “I Don’t Dance” scene was as laden with coded references and knowing glances as any Hays Code-era Hollywood blockbuster. Ryan’s the pitcher, eh? Not surprising at all, to those of us who’ve spent a good bit of time wearing the pink hats ourselves. And did anyone else think it was odd that Troy could even pretend to be jealous when Ryan slung his arm, with platonic affection, around Gabriella’s shoulders?

It would seem we’re confronted with a post-modern dilemma: Do we choose to view Ryan’s fabulous, fey mannerisms as thinly-veiled references to his homosexuality, or do we embrace the notion that hetero men should also be free to love show tunes and camp it up? Either way, Ryan saves the day, so does it matter? Not to me. I’m a big fan of both gay rights and gender aberration, so either way I’m all for it.

But more to the point . . . maybe Ryan’s sexual orientation does matter if you’re a gay teen growing up today, watching High School Musical 2 and thinking maybe, just maybe, it’s okay to be who you are. Could it be possible that we really are all in this together?

Merchandise Review: Pal Mickey vs A Plastic Cup

29 Jul

After much internal debate, and not a small amount of sheepishness, I’ve bought my first Pal Mickey. My descent into the Dark Side seems to be complete.

But Pal Mickey isn’t the only adorable souvenir that accompanied us on our flight home. At Club Cool in Epcot, my son created his own custom slushie cup, which immediately took on a life of its own as Princess Stitch, and pal’ed around with Mickey for the rest of the day. All hail the power of a child’s imagination!

Now, in my family we’ve never encouraged sibling rivalry. But watching these two side-by-side for the rest of the visit, I couldn’t help but wonder which was the better investment. So, I provide here a comparison, across multiple categories:


  • Pal Mickey: About $61, with my Annual Passholder discount at the World of Disney store.
  • Princess Stitch: About $8, filled with Frozen Coke.
  • Advantage: Princess Stitch


  • Pal Mickey: Soft and plush, like you’d expect any plushie to be. The metal casing for his electronic innards is mostly well-covered, with the exception of his disturbingly hard and rectangular tushie.
  • Princess Stitch: Hard and smooth, like you’d expect any plastic cup to be. It’s hard to tell the difference between Princess Stitch cozying up to you for a cuddle, and Princess Stitch whacking you in the bicep. And isn’t that just what you’d expect from Princess Stitch?
  • Advantage: Pal Mickey


  • Pal Mickey: Disney sells a few outfits for Pal Mickey, plus there’s a great big beautiful world of teddy bear and doll clothes which either fit Pal Mickey, or can easily be altered to do so (um, am I really suggesting here that Pal Mickey needs a tailor?). PalMickey.net has an excellent page on sources of Pal Mickey attire. Plenty of Pal Mickey fans also seem to be rather handy with sewing machines.
  • Princess Stitch: Extremely limited. If you need a new pair of shoes you might luck out; when our Princess Stitch lost his adorable blue mid-heel pumps, I found the Cast Member in Club Cool was kind enough to give me a replacement, gratis (though he certainly did look doubtful when I told him my son had lost the princess shoes cup item). I’m sure any number of cup cozies could be let-out to accommodate Princess Stitch’s impressive circumference, or easily whipped up with a sewing machine, but there just isn’t much available ready-to-wear.
  • Advantage: Pal Mickey


  • Pal Mickey: While a cuddly plushie can win my heart any day, Pal Mickey’s real selling point is his interactivity. He’ll give you tips on short lines for attractions, current locations of nearby character meet-and-greets, or entertain you while you’re waiting in line. Of course, you might look a little silly doing all this if you are a forty-year-old woman, touring the parks alone . . . but Pal Mickey theoretically should be useful. And here is where Pal Mickey’s design point as a toy for the under-8 set was most clear. Only once in nearly 20 hours of use did Mickey offer a tip about a short waiting line for an attraction (Winnie the Pooh, Thursday night right around Wishes). The rest of the time he was a needy child with a short-term memory problem, constantly buzzing on my hip and wanting to tell me the same joke over and over . . . and over . . . and over. (In this category, I definitely found myself wishing for a Pal Len, as described by one of the listeners of the WDW Today podcast. Pal Len would shame you for missing rope drop, bully you out of Fantasyland when the lines were getting too long, and pester you into taking an afternoon break no matter what. Pal Mickey, on the other hand, just wanted to ask me yet again whether I knew the second line to “it’s a small world.”)
  • Princess Stitch: Doesn’t offer any Disney Parks touring tips, doesn’t play any games, but is perfectly designed to hold a frosty beverage.
  • Advantage: Pal Mickey, by an adorable shiny little nose.


Setting aside price, Pal Mickey takes it in a walk. But if I figure in the price, it’s a tougher call, because then I need to think about the long term. Will Pal Mickey end up gathering dust on a shelf, just as I suspect will happen to Princess Stitch? Will I tire of his corny jokes and incessant buzzing? Or will I really make that costume I’ve been thinking about, for Pal Mickey to wear to the Pirates and Princesses Party next month? If my son lobbies for a matching outfit for Princess Stitch, it will truly give me reason for pause.

Sanrio Puroland: My Favorite Non-Disney Theme Park

23 Sep

Astute readers may have noticed that I go by the name Kitty-chan, which is the way the Japanese refer to Hello Kitty. And yes, there’s a story here. In addition to being a Disney fan, I’m a bit of a Sanrio geek as well, which has also had some impact on my family travel agenda.

In June of 2002, my extended family and I spent two weeks in Japan, splitting our time between Tokyo and Kyoto. The trip was amazing, truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We visited temples, rode the bullet train, found the Toho Studios’ Godzilla statue, visited the truly amazing Arashyama Monkey Park, and visited plenty of other places both on and off the well-beaten tourist path. (Note: images below are all thumbnails — click on them for larger image.)
Night on the Ginza
My son, then five, in the Ginza

But the attraction that spurred my interest in visiting this beautiful and varied country in the first place? Sanrio Puroland, a five-story indoor theme park dedicated to Hello Kitty and her friends. I’d seen a commercial for the park at the end of a Hello Kitty video my brother-in-law had brought back from Tokyo for me, and I was hooked.
Sanrio Puroland is located in Tama City, about 30 minutes outside Tokyo. You can take the subway there, if you don’t mind traveling through a good number of stations where the signs are written only in Japanese and Chinese characters. Luckily, I had a Japanese friend in Tokyo who gave me excellent directions, and my then-five-year-old son and I found our way there with little difficulty (the rest of the family decided to spend the day in Tokyo rather than visiting Hello Kitty’s homeland . . . gee, I can’t imagine why!).

I didn’t see any signs for Sanrio Puroland when we exited the train, so we just started walking and hoped we’d see the place. I will never forget the moment we turned the corner and saw the building, coming over the horizon looking like a sickly-sweet birthday cake.

Sanrio Puroland

We stumbled around for a bit looking for the entrance, and when we finally found it, we were greeted warmly but not without confusion by the cashier, as I fumbled my way through basic Japanese to buy tickets. I understood her confusion once we entered the theme park: it was populated almost entirely by Japanese women and their very young children. My son, even at 5 years old, towered above the others, and of course we were both quite obviously gaijin. But no matter, I was entranced, and part of the appeal for me was to have a thoroughly non-American theme park experience (I was saving Tokyo Disneyland for later in the trip).

Once we’d recovered from the initial shock and excitement, we grabbed a bite to eat (no easy feat, given my lack of significant Japanese language skills), and then hit the arcade to play a few games. I was glad to see that my favorite Sanrio character, Badtz-Maru, was well-represented.

Badtz Maru Basketball

Badtz Maru and Friend

Another Badtz Game

We then moved along to the feature attraction, the Sanrio character boat ride. Oh. My. God. Every Sanrio character you can think of, and then some.



Pom Pom Purin! (Surrounded by the pleasantly strong aroma of baking cake, no less!)

Bad Badtz Maru
And the infamous, the well-loved, Bad Badtz-Maru!

But was the day over? Oh no no no. It was time for the afternoon parade! Now, being an indoor theme park, Puroland can darken the room at 2PM and hve a “nighttime” parade. The costumes were stylish, the choreography strangely stunning. We sat on the floor, surrounded by people who no doubt wondered what on earth these gaijin were doing here, and watched enrapt as Hello Kitty and her various dancing friends came through.

Hello Kitty
Hello Kitty!

Dear Daniel
Dear Daniel!

Badtz and Friend
Bad Badtz-Maru, and an attractively-dressed friend!

And alas, as the parade ended, so did our energy; jet lag was taking its toll, as was the contact culture shock and excitement of visiting Japan. So, it was time to head back to the subway. But not without a hug goodbye for a new friend.

Hello Kitty's Grandfather

Now, you might think that our little adventure at Sanrio Puroland would have quenched my thirst for all things Sanrio. You, dear reader, would be wrong. I haven’t been back to Japan since that trip, but when I do return, I’ve got a new destination in mind. Sanrio Harmonyland is located in Oita prefecture, in the southern part of the country where many Japanese vacation. There’s footage of Harmonyland in that same commercial that got me hooked on Puroland in the first place. Since Japan is such a beautiful and welcoming place to visit, how can I resist?

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