As a boy, few things captured my imagination like my family’s frequent visits to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. My grandparents lived in the nearby town of St. Cloud, and whenever my family went to visit, we naturally had to make time for a few days at America’s favorite fun land. During my visits in the 70’s and 80’s, I fell in love with the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center, and the various hotels, especially the Polynesian and Contemporary Resorts. It’s no wonder then, that to this day, I have a fascination with all things Walt Disney World. Influences from my vacations have creeped into my art, and others have led me to new friends who share a simlar love for retro Disney.

One such friend is a talented designer and illustrator named Greg Maletic. I first met Greg online while I was doing research for my EPCOT Network Nodes icon set. Greg is a huge retro Disney fan and has produced several astounding, faux attraction posters including If you had wings…, Disney’s Swan Boats and Tomorrowland. Greg recently made these posters available as downloadable PDF files that you can print and hang on your own wall. All he asks in return is a picture, so head on over and check out his amazing free artwork. Greg has done “official” poster art for Disney as well, and hopefully one day he’ll be able to make these prints available for public viewing. I share Greg’s love for Disney’s attractions, both current and extinct, and he recently told me he has plans for several new posters. They can’t come soon enough!

Greg’s work inspired me to attempt my own retro Disney attraction poster, and the result was my 20,000 Leagues desktop picture that I originally released over at the Iconfactory a few years back. With the site redesign of 2006, the desktop got lost in the shuffle, so I’ve decided to make it available on the new Goodies page. The desktop comes with a compaion for those with multiple monitors and captures the feel of the original 20,000 Leagues attraction that was sadly closed in 1994. Many rides and attractions have come and gone over the years at both the Magic Kingdom as well as EPCOT. Imagine my dismay when I vacationed in 2001 only to find that EPCOT’s Horizon’s was no more, and changes had been made to The Universe of Energy and Communicore.

I understand the need to keep rides at the park fresh and interesting, but a big part of me misses these attractions that will never be experienced again. There are sights, smells, music and narration to these rides that the children of today will never know. Fortunately, a successful online company called Extinct Attractions has specialized in DVD’s of Disney’s lost rides. I’ve bought several of their documentaries, and they are great for trips down memory lane. My friend Louie was recently at EPCOT and told me that they had closed Spaceship Earth for renovations. I can only hope it doesn’t eventually join the extinct attractions club, it is one of my all-time EPCOT favorites.

For many of us who visited Disney World as kids, our memories will forever be filled with laughter, fun and wonder. Visiting the park is like meeting an old friend who picks you up when you need it most, but is a little different with each encounter. As artists, I think this is why we try to re-capture some of the Disney magic of days past. It’s a small way to connect with others from our generation and look back fondly on our childhood. Every time I walk into the Polynesian Resort Hotel, or even just look at its mascot, the kid in me smiles. I’m sure Walt would say “That’s the whole point.” Indeed.

UPDATE: A hat tip once again to Cabel for pointing me at these ultra-cool retro ad posters for PIXAR’s upcoming film WALL•E. They have that same feel as the classic attraction posters of days gone by. Some of these would make really great desktop picts.

I’ve read on some local Greensboro blogs that GOP presidential hopefuls Rudy Giuliani and to a “lesser extent” Fred Thompson are pretty much unbeatable. Wow, evidently one of these two men will be the next President of the United States, no ifs, ands or buts about it. I guess us scamps on the left should just pack it in now, huh? I mean why wait a whole year wasting time raising funds, holding primaries and actually listening to people’s concerns when Fred and Rudy are guaranteed shoe-ins? And just imagine the political juggernaut they’d be if they combined forces into one, super-duper conservative über-candidate! No one would have to bother going to the voting booth again until at least 2020, or whenever their conjoined pacemaker finally gave out… whichever came first.

The funny part is however, someone might want to clue these two, old white men in on the assessment. The way the headlines have been flying lately, you’d think they were trying to sabotage the “irresistible force” that their respective campaigns represent. What with all the staff departures, questionable associations and lackluster fundraising going on, maybe the Democrats should just admit defeat now and save us all months of pain and suffering. Naaaaah! I say let’s find out just how unbeatable “Frudy” really is. Yeah, let’s.

UPDATE: Freddo’s so-called “campaign” is in worse shape than was originally thought. Seems as though there is a bit of confusion about who’s pulling the strings behind the scenes. Mr. Unbeatable himself, or his bewitching wife.

Smoked Donkey

July 24, 2007

Excuse me while I take a moment to rant about a pet peeve of mine… chefs who smoke. What’s with all the people in the culinary field who smoke? It is me or is every single person on a reality cooking show addicted to nicotine, turning their teeth yellow and deadening their palates? I’m not kidding here, can someone please answer this question for me because it’s all I see.

Last season’s Hell’s Kitchen was bad enough with Keith, Virginia, Garrett, Sarah and others chain smoking after every dinner service, but this season it seems like everyone smokes, everyone! And it isn’t just Hell’s Kitchen, but Top Chef and Next Food Network Star as well. I know that aspiring to be a world class chef is stressful, but these are smart people who should know better. How can anyone be serious about becoming a five-star chef when their palate is coated in carbon and their taste-buds are all but dead? How can they expect to cook a Michelin Star meal when they need to cut out in the middle of service for a “drag”; their fingers stained brown from puffing?

Needless to say I find the entire affair of smoking and eating, quite disgusting. Smokers choke the air of diners all around them, simply so they can “relax”. It’s selfish, unsanitary and rude. Unfortunately, living in Greensboro, NC makes this problem almost impossible to avoid since we’re in the tobacco belt. When my wife and I go out for sushi, we always try to arrive as early as possible to get in and out before the smokers arrive. I know that in Japan, cigarette smoke is part of the sushi experience, but that doesn’t make it right. Call me crazy, but the last thing I want to taste with my fresh salmon sashimi is Camel Joe’s butt. So when it comes to those who prepare food for a living, I would think a desire to properly taste your creations would override addiction. Evidently not.

So does anyone know why so many chefs smoke? Is one of the pre-requisite classes in culinary school, “Nicotine and You”? Do kitchen supply companies have secret kick back programs with the tobacco industry? Perhaps the scores of U.K. chefs kicking the habit can help shed some light on the subject. Inquiring minds (and stomachs) want to know.

The Real Thing

July 22, 2007

Notice anything different on the soda aisle of your local grocery store? Fans of Coca-Cola and graphic design in general may have recently noticed a change in the packaging for America’s favorite soda pop. Gone are the superfluous swooshes, bubbles and halftone tints that have been creeping onto Coke’s cans these last few years. In their place is one of the strongest treatments of the company’s brand I’ve ever seen.

The can is now a simple field of red with the Coca-Cola logo popped out in white. No drop shadows, no fake drops of water, nothing. In addition, the soda’s “Classic” text has gone from a formal, stuffy serif treatment to a modern, simple sans-serif face that expertly compliments the new logo. Over at his blog, Creative Director Jon Berry wonders how such a straight forward design ever made it past the suits in Atlanta. However it happened, he likes it and I have to say I whole-heartedly agree. The new design is wonderfully simple, clear and feels extremely retro. Maybe others will take a cue from the Coca-Cola company and remember to KISS. Lord knows some companies can use all the help they can get.

Requiem for Farscape

July 17, 2007

Straight from the “Hell yes I’m still bitter, what about it?” department comes news that the Sci-Fi Channel plans to resurrect its long forgotten, genius child, Farscape. Before Scapers get their galactic panties in a wad, it should be noted that the series is only being revived for the web, not as a full blown TV series. In their never-ending quest to missmanage valuable TV properties, Sci-Fi has elected to give Farscape a hollow relaunch of 10 “webisodes”.

Some die-hard fans will be glad to get a hold of anything new that has Crichton, Aeryn and D’Argo attached to it, but not this Scaper. I remember all to well what happened when they canceled Farscape. Bonnie Hammer flipped what many considered to be, the best show on television, a royal Hynerian bird to pay for another season of Stargate SG-1 and Tremors the Series. SG-1 fans will think that was just fine, but Farscape always did kick SG-1’s ass up and down the universe, no two ways about it.

It’s not hard to figure out that the big wigs saw 2008’s upcoming loss of Stargate and Battlestar Galactica and decided to raid their chest of popular properties in a half-hearted attempt to draw old fans. Well, I’m not falling for it. Farscape used to be my favorite television show. It used to be a lot of people’s favorite television show, and the idiots at Sci-Fi abandoned and cancelled it without warning. The attempt at story closure that became the Peacekeeper Wars had to be made. The fans demanded it and so Farscape’s creators fought the suits and produced it. Make no mistake however, the Sci-Fi Channel’s announcement about Farscape is nothing more than a transparent attempt to generate buzz and save face from yet another collective ass whooping from their fans.

On a personal note, I am growing quite tired of the freak show that is the Sci-Fi Channel. Management masquerades as an honest to goodness television network, while at the same time stomping on the fans that helped make them a success. If there was another place I could watch new episodes of Doctor Who (legally, I might add), I would gladly do so. I have no desire to watch Crichton & Aeryn’s “webisode” adventures so long as Sci-Fi dangles it like a carrot in front of our collective noses. Then again, I have been known to cave from time to time. Damn it…

In a blatant attempt to compete with Craig for the virtual linking affections of John Gruber, I am pleased to present the Contact Icon Tutorial for iPhone. This short video shows off a quick way that you can make use of desktop icons on your new iPhone with a little help from Pixadex and the groovy new Dine-O-Matic icon set from the IF workers.

If you don’t know what Dine-O-Matic is, head on over to the widget’s home page to learn all about this fun, free Dashboard widget for the Mac. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled in the days ahead for version 2.0 that incorporates some exciting new, and heavily requested features, coming soon to a factory near you. Enjoy!

UPDATE: Kate reminds me that this process will work in conjunction with any Apple phone that can be synced with Address Book, not just the iPhone. Thanks Kate, I was temporarily blinded by my iPhone’s sheer coolness. :-)

In Case You Forgot…

July 12, 2007

Today the White House released its “Initial Benchmark Assessment Report” regarding the situation in Iraq and whether or not progress is being made there. Unsurprisingly, Bush says things are going just great. Although less than half of the benchmarks were rated by Bush as “satisfactory”, they are touting it as a sign of real change in Iraq. Think Progress has the truth about these claims, if you care to read it.

In the meantime, one benchmark no one is talking about is the fact that Osama Bin Laden remains at large. Yes, the man who financed, planned, organized and who is ultimately responsible for the deaths of over 3,000 Americans on September 11th, remains free. America is without a doubt, the strongest, most capable nation on Earth, but apparently, the combined intelligence forces of the CIA, NSA and FBI can’t find this one guy hiding in a cave somewhere in Pakistan. Yep, a man who needs constant medical attention, and who releases videos more frequently than Lindsay Lohan, has somehow eluded capture for almost six years. I’d be pissed too.

Now come reports from Bush’s own government that al Qaeda has regained strength and just might be planning a summer attack. All this while brave men and women fight and die in a country that had nothing to do with Bin Laden’s monsterous attacks. As we move towards the sixth anniversary of 9/11, we should all keep in mind who has truly failed their oath to serve, protect, and defend America against its enemies. We need change. Soon.

Back in March I wrote about Gainax’s upcoming retelling of the cult hit anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. This 4 film series will be hitting theaters in Japan this September, and someone has caught the official trailer YouTubed it. Look beyond the the covert, camcorder quality and Eva fans will see some all-new shots that are sure to shock and awe. I especially love the apparent new CGI-ish fifth Angel, Ramiel. Check it out here.

Update: Being the good friend that he is, Talos has cued me into where you can pre-order some of the toys from the new Eva movies. Eva Unit Zero’s new paint scheme is neat, as is the all new Eva 01 Type-F. It feels like 1996 all over again!

Long Winded = Good?

July 9, 2007

This guy uses 2,200 words, 41 paragraphs and 3 über-spiffy graphs to tell us that long, thought out articles are better than short, snarky nuggets of blogginess. I agree.

A Tale of Two Veeps

July 8, 2007

This is a story about two men, one a former VP of the United States, and the other the current Vice President of the United States. Although their position of power gives them commonality, there are no two individuals in government who are so diametrically opposed than Al Gore and Dick Cheney. One fights to protect environment, the other fights to rape it. One realizes that it’s possible to work for change to make a better world for our children, the other can’t see beyond the narrow confines of the Middle East. In every way, these two men respectively represent the heart of the progressive and conservative movements, and I find it absolutely fascinating.

When Al Gore lost to George W. Bush in the 2000 election, many in Washington, and indeed around the country, wrote him off as just a footnote of the Clinton era. The man was perceived as a boring, know-it-all who was prone to wild claims. In contrast, Dick Cheney had been an intergral part of the first Bush administration and when W. came to power, Cheney was seen as the man who would help the administration compensate for Bush’s lack of foreign policy experience. Cheney lent Bush credibility, and many in the GOP thought he would be one of the most admired VP’s in American history.

Time changes all things.

Today, Al Gore is the one who is widely admired and respected, not only in America, but around the globe. He started teaching, devoted himself to the problem of global warming, wrote a best-selling book and won an Oscar for his work on An Inconvenient Truth. Where ever he goes, he attracts huge crowds who draw strength and hope from this self-professed “geek with a slide show” and they secretly hope that he will decide to run for President again.

Dick Cheney has spent the last seven years in the Bush administration amid firestorms that he, himself helped to create. He has been deeply involved with some of the most egregious acts of government in recent memory, including the death of Habeas Corpus, illegal domestic wiretapping, leaking classified CIA identities and avoiding oversight whenever and however possible. Cheney’s popularity is even lower than that of the President himself, and now those in his own party seem to have had enough of him. Whispers of impeachment have resurfaced as well, although I doubt they will solidify.

This weekend, the Live Earth concerts were performed on all seven continents and drew the attention of over 2 billion people to the ever-growing problem of the climate crisis. Thanks to Gore’s involvement, this concert series was the greenest ever produced and involved dozens of artists performing for hundreds of thousands of people. Gore intends the Live Earth concerts to kick off a 3-5 year campaign to help fight global warming and judging by the enthusiasm that was generated online and in cities around the world, I’d say he’s off to an excellent start. People are ready to act, and Al has given them the rallying point they are so desperately searching for.

Al Gore and Dick Cheney have made decisions that effected all of our lives. Some say that Gore did not do enough while in office for the environment. I wasn’t paying attention to politics back in the 90’s, so I can’t speak to this criticism. I do pay attention now however, and what I see in Gore’s post-government service gives me hope for our country and our world. Watching Cheney makes me sorry for the conservative movement. His supporters believe that might always makes right, and liberty must be sacrificed for security. Terrorism is indeed one of the most pressing problems of this generation, but Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush’s reaction to it has made us less secure, globally isolated and exhausted our military and treasure. History will eventually write the final chapters for these two men, but I think many of us can already see who will be required reading, and who will be just another footnote.

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