The opinions of the opinionated. Let's take a look at food, cinema, fragrance, baby products, legal decisions, booze, cars, and whatever else catches our interest.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Listen To The Music: Bread and cheese


Welcome to Listen To The Music, an occasional feature in which I'll puzzle out the lyrics of the songs we know and love.

Peaking at #4 on the charts in 1971, Bread's "If," written by group member David Gates, has some lyrics worth a listen.

Question: If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can't I paint you?
Answer: You can, just use water-based paint so I can shower afterward.

Declaration of Committment: If a man could be two places at one time, I'd be with you/ tomorrow and today/ beside you all the way.
Analysis: Dude, tomorrow and today are two different times, not two different places. You can be with her tomorrow and today, so long as she's not still mad at you for getting paint all over everything (see above).

Two-Word Reviews: Coco Rico Coconut Soda


Needs rum.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dear Julie


My friend Julie has a blog, too. She shares stories of her family moving from Washington to Southern California, and her kids' difficulties and triumphs in adjusting. I love her writing and her humor. A recent post was an unabashed love letter to Disneyland and how she loved introducing her kids to it. What started as a comment on her post became an email, and as it grew longer, a post on my own blog.

Dear Julie,

I really loved your post about Disneyland. I think it's funny that you and I never went there together, maybe some summer in college, because I've always felt the same way: Disneyland is important! When I was a kid in Tucson, we would go as a family every 2 or 3 years, and I remember it being such a big deal, almost like a holy pilgrimage. I think the my parents' attitude about it rubbed off on us, since they were both big fans, too. They'd taken long road trips as kids in the 50's to visit Disneyland when it was new, and they've been going ever since.

There were some things we all loved as a family, particular things my dad taught me to love. Though it's gone now, the Penny Arcade on Main St. had all those beautifully restored and maintained mechanical orchestras, arcade games, 3D photo viewers, nickelodeons, and the thing that shocked you when you grabbed the handles. Dad would give me a bunch of change and we'd walk around trying everything. He loved the mechanical orchestras, and I did too, and what a weird coincidence that I married a man who is crazy about them as well. Dad had one favorite area in Pirates with one drunk pirate mumbling to himself, and I love going back and seeing him still mumbling away. Mom took me on Storybook Land while Dad and Sandee rode the Matterhorn.

We rode Adventure Through Inner Space first. We always visited Pirates and the Haunted House twice each.

I must have been about twelve or thirteen, certainly old enough to handle disappointment, when a family trip to Disneyland had to be canceled. I remember walking casually away from the dinner table into the kitchen so nobody would see that I'd unexpectedly burst into tears. Dad noticed and I could see his surprise. I remember explaining to him that Disneyland meant so much to me, and that I was embarrassed to be crying, but I couldn't help it. He was taken aback, but I think he understood.

When my husband and I started our lives together, one weekday morning when we were both between jobs, I asked if he wanted to go to Disneyland for the day. Within hours we were walking down Main St. grinning like idiots. He called his mom and asked "Guess where I am?!" while I sang "Small World" loudly in the background. We've since been back probably a dozen times in eight years, together and with friends. When none of us was making much money, we discovered that splitting lunch making duties made for a great mid-afternoon break in the picnic area outside the park. Disneyland food has never been much good, so sitting down to Brooke's tuna salad, my homemade butterscotch cookies, cheese, crackers, fruit salad, chips and salsa is a great improvement on Tomorrowland's rubbery hamburgers.

I am a worrier and always have been. Even on vacation, stray thoughts of work sometimes keep me from losing myself in the moment. A vacation in Puerto Vallarta was less fun and less relaxing for me because another resort guest reminded me of a client with a very difficult upcoming trial. Every time we settled under a palapa on the beach, I would see my client's unintentional twin stroll by with an umbrella drink. My client was back in California in custody, but I felt like he came to Mexico with me. Kind of a downer.

I can lose myself in Disneyland, especially an uncrowded off-season weekday. (Hint: go in February on a Tuesday or Wednesday. No lines!) I still over-analyze everything, but I have fun thinking about how California Screamin' takes off so fast (magnetic induction) and how Walt's vision of a riverboat trip still feels complete when the Mark Twain comes back around the Tom Sawyer Jack Sparrow Pirate Huck Finn Johhny Depp Merchandising Island.

Criticisms abound about Disneyland and the unfocused and disappointing California Adventure park. Two websites in particular, the Reimagineering Blog and Mice Age are worth a read. Disney walks along fine lines between what should be restored or replaced, where money should be spent or saved, and how much merchandising the visitor can stand. The Disneyland of my past won't be the Disneyland my son will see. I'm disappointed that I'll never ride Adventure Through Inner Space again, and I think the addition of Disney cartoon characters to Small World is appalling. Tomorrowland is a confused mess, and the Paradise Pier area in California Adventure is barren and uninteresting.

Star Tours doesn't belong in a Disney property, based as it is on a story of a totalitarian state overthrown by violence -- how un-Disney can you get? Funny that Disney never licensed the Star Trek stories and chose Star Wars instead. Roddenberry's vision of the future was more in tune with Walt Disney's, less about epic space battles and more about how progress and open hearts and minds can shape our destinies.

But I love it. The castle still looks great, and some of the new stuff, notably Soarin' Over California, It's Tough To Be A Bug, and the gorgeous undersea-themed carousel are new favorites. It's great to ride the submarines again. The Honda Asimo robot show, tucked into the Innoventions building, reminds me of Walt's original idea for Tomorrowland and Epcot in Florida -- an optimistic glimpse at our future.

Though there's a little too much Pixar-themed merchandise for my taste, I gotta shout it: To Infinity and Beyond! Disneyland will always be a part of my life.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

New Car Smell

Stinkum Review: Mustang and Mustang Blue

My 2008 white Ford Mustang was a gift to myself as my 40th birthday loomed near. I snapped cel-phone pictures of it and sent them to friends under the caption "The Midlife Crisismobile." It's been a fun set of wheels, especially for my long highway commute, and my only regret is that getting the baby seat in the back is a pain. It had that "new car smell" at first, mostly plastic and rubber. Come to think of it, perhaps new car smell is like mixing Claiborne's Lucky You (plastic) and Bvlgari Black (rubber) together? Sounds like a vicious combo! After a mishap with a broken bottle of Disney's Mickey Mouse -- yes, there is a Mickey Mouse cologne -- my car smelled like soap bubbles and cookies, the notes of a cologne aimed squarely at toddlers. Luckily the makers of Mouse anticipated spills and overzealous sprayers and it faded quickly.

Turns out Ford licensed the Mustang name to Aramis/Lauder for scent branding, two scents to be exact, both sold in drugstores. I got a bottle of Mustang online for US-$12.50 and tried the second release, Mustang Blue, at the local Rite-Aid.

The bottles are hefty curved rectangles with machined metal caps, and the logo is right off my car. The both come in padded tins, for no good reason but another opportunity to show the galloping horse, enbossed and chromed on the tin but just printed on a sticker for the bottle. The caps are strong design -- matte dark metal with three "speed lines."

Mustang isn't special or surprising, but it isn't bad -- the topnotes are as expected, mostly citrus and lavender. The lavender stays strong throughout the drydown. The base is supposed to be cedar, tobacco, and patchouli, and though I'm new to the fragrance game, I know patchouli when I smell it, and the dreadful Berkeley oil of my college years isn't present. Thank heavens! Someone with a patchouli oil habit had a locker near mine at the rec center, and I would hold my breath when I went to get my swimsuit and goggles. So no patchouli, just woods at the end of Mustang. I would call it a barbershop kind of fragrance, clean and classic but not very pretty. My own tastes lean toward spices and vanilla, so I don't see making this a regular morning spritz.

Mustang Blue is a different story. Clean it ain't. Downright dirty. Too dirty for me. The topnotes are herbal, but more importantly, mechanical. Burning oil, rubber gaskets, and hot metal join pine, basil, and mint, all sharp herbal scents. It's one of those novelty scents like most of the Demeter fragrances -- Demeter offers funny stuff like jelly bean scents, Play-Dough, Gingerale and Bonfire (both favorites), and now Mustang Blue brings us HOT REVVING ENGINE.

Mustang Blue is downright assaultive. I had to wash it off.