Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cast Member Tributes

I found out today that some fans have come up with nicknames for the individual cast members who play Alice and the Mad Hatter.  It sort of goes against the official "there's only one Mickey" rule, but I like the idea of paying tribute to hardworking and creative cast members.  I suppose this all started with Maynard?

Of the Alices with nicknames, Gingersnap, Malibu, and Demure seem to have the greatest online presence.  A Google search of each of them (in quotes) finds results in the thousands, including videos, fan art, and even Facebook pages for two of them.

Does anyone happen to know how or where this started, or if it's also a "thing" in Disney World?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Week In Paris (by a mediocre tourist)

This week, I've been re-thinking my thesis topic's field work location.  After talking with a professor, I've more or less come to terms with the impracticality of going to Australia.  There are numerous reasons why Australia would be ideal; however, the main problem is financial.  It's difficult to get grants for M.A. research, and I would seriously need a backup topic in case that fell through.  With a lot of work already ahead of me, forming two research proposals simultaneously (just in case), would be too much.  Also, none of the Anthro faculty has a background specifically in that region.  And so, I'm turning my attention back to Disney World.  Financially, I can most likely work as a cast member again (having done it twice); and from a research point of view, I've already done enough work to form a solid foundation for my thesis work there.


Today, I turn my thoughts to Paris, and what it means to be a "good" tourist.

When I recall my week-long trip to Paris in 2009, I first think of the marvelous opportunity I had to see the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Versailles, and Disneyland Paris (perhaps not as important to most American tourists, having seen Disneyland & Disney World, but it was important to me, anyway), and of the wonderful people I befriended during my stay at a particular hostel.  Following this, I can’t help feel a bit of regret about the things I didn’t see – or just see properly.  Perhaps because I was on my own, I didn’t feel the same urgency to follow a schedule as I might on a family vacation; and unfortunately, my tendency to stay awake late affected the time I would have otherwise spent in a productive, worthwhile manner, e.g. visiting the Bastille and the Père Lachaise Cemetery (nearly did – I arrived shortly after its gates closed for the day), exploring numerous patisseries & fancy shopping centers, or re-visiting the Eiffel Tower during daytime. 

When I woke on my first full day, I was alarmed to find it was already the middle of the afternoon!  The day was wasted. I spent the remaining daylight absentmindedly exploring the surrounding neighborhood; as night fell, I purchased a street map from a bookshop, and sought out some of the more famous arrondissements, making my way over to the Eiffel Tower.  To be sure, it was a worthwhile experience.  It reminded me of the first time I saw the Yosemite Valley; in the car with my mother and sister, we passed through the long tunnel just before – the music loud and appropriately gaining speed in anticipation (we were listening to the “Pink Elephants” song from Dumbo) – and suddenly, greater than I could have imagined, the whole of Yosemite Valley appeared before us, mile-high monoliths and all.  In a similar way, I emerged from the underground Metro tunnel and walked along the sidewalk by a large stone building; turning a corner and reaching the top of some steps, the famous Eiffel Tower glowed before me, and for the first time, the iconic form – memorized through photos, films, illustrations, and every other imaginable form of media – collided with reality.

I encountered numerous famous, enchanting, and characteristically Parisian things during that week; I even had a couple unintentional adventures – e.g. being locked in the Versailles gardens after-hours, encounters with a few rather forward Parisians (or maybe I'm too prudish), and getting lost after 2 AM & remaining on a bus all the way to the depot (without a common language, I mimed my confusion to the bus driver, who gestured for me to stay on the bus while he went on his break).

On the whole, I felt like a mediocre tourist.  There are certain things which I suppose are expected of each successful tourist, and my choice to “wing it” didn’t work out as well as hoped.  By not doing extensive reading and planning, I had hoped to experience Paris a little more naturally, at my own pace.  I expected the unexpected, preferring to follow a loose plan organized more or less by whim.  Instead, I slept in and didn’t cover as much ground as I would have liked.

Monday, September 19, 2011

"Pics or It Didn't Happen"

Today I reread parts of a paper I submitted for Anth 424 last year; its topic was ghost tours in Los Angeles, so chosen because it was both appropriate for the particular class (anthropology of the supernatural) and could feed into the research for my thesis project.  Its background goes into defining tourism and some particular aspects that apply to both general, mainstream tourism as well as ghost tours. 

After reading, I came up with a few general concepts which I may wish to further explore when re-exploring tourism’s defining characteristics:

Types of Tourism (may overlap):
- Adventure
- Luxury
- Escape
- Consumption

Requirements for Tourism (not all apply to every type):
- Comfort & safety
- Varying degrees of organized activity; or, activity with a purpose
- Expected highlights (landmarks & activities)
- Documentation

Comfort & safety – Especially in adventure or eco tourism, this differentiates tourism from other, non-touristic instances of travel (though the boundaries may blur a bit).  There is an understood sense that tourists will remain safe and relatively comfortable.  Tourist services are first and foremost businesses, and as such need to follow certain legal & ethical constraints; when things go wrong, businesses are liable (unless legally-binding consent forms are involved).  Landmarks have signs all around them – signs of warning, or guidelines to lead the visitor across the proper path, attempting to minimize incidents of injury or death.  These signs are placed to maintain the safety of its visitors as well as its associated workers.

Organized activity/activity with a purpose & expected highlights – Tourists visit places with particular goals and generally attempt to maximize their time; some places/activities are of a higher priority.

Documentation – In my personal experience, before leaving on any vacation, my friends & family always tell me to take lots of pictures.  While photos & videos are the most common way of documentation, other forms include text-based updates in real-time, through Facebook, Twitter & other blogs/social media websites.  It’s my impression that there is an overwhelming sense that a vacation didn’t really happen unless it was documented.  There’s a common phrase that is often used for any kind of unusual situation (at least in my generation), and applies here as well: “pics or it didn’t happen.”

These are just a few thoughts... If anyone reading this has an idea or two to contribute (or completely disagrees!), I'd love to hear from you.

*BONUS QUESTION* – What are some instances where the boundaries between tourism & non-tourism are a bit blurred?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Kindle and a Guilty Conscience

By next Thursday, I will have a Kindle.

As a professed bibliophile, in a sense, I’m a little ashamed of myself.  Though the choice was not entirely my own (it was my father’s idea), I can admit, with a little guilt, that I’m excited by the shiny-new-toy-ness of it, and that perhaps the novelty will tempt me to pay a bit more attention to my courses’ reading assignments.  (Not that I’ve fallen behind, yet… There’s just SO much, this semester!)  And I did also get a fancy leather cover, with a built-in light!  (This way it also looks like a book, when closed.  It was important that my Kindle could still visually represent a traditional book.)

All things considered, having a Kindle will be a practical choice for a few reasons, such as:
  • Having a full library of course books, available all at once
  • Better readability for eBooks than presently available on my iPhone
  • Note-taking, in a searchable, non-scribble form
  • Long battery life and lots of study time/entertainment for travel use

Admittedly, I still like the margin-scribbling approach to note-taking, but the other qualities have won over, in general.

Now, do I still feel just a little bit like I’ve sold my soul?  Erm… Yeah, a little.  But you won’t catch me boxing up my book collection any time soon.  At present, my book collection takes up a considerable amount of visible space in my bedroom (and out of view as well – in an old toy box, in light-proof boxes, and even stuffed in corners of my bed frame), as well as in the living room, and in the garage (mostly books from childhood there).  Some of my most prized possessions are a few ancient tomes.  I love the looks and styles of books, the scent of old and new books (used bookstores may well be perfumeries), and their very tactile nature… The promises they hold, the excitement of browsing a bookstore and pulling a new title off the shelf… Every bit of it. 

I love books, in their physical form.  But I don’t feel that my choice to use a Kindle will take those experiences away.  Even more than my love for their physical qualities, I prize the ideas held within books.  And so, I will live with both methods of reading.  I am a consumer of books – now of both traditional and digital means. 

"Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life." (Mark Twain)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Co-Curating an Exhibition ("Images of Haiti")

With the campus officially reaching its dormant period between Spring and Fall semesters, now seems to be a pretty good time to tell you about the exhibition I co-curated at Cal State Northridge (CSUN).

This spring, I was part of a museum studies class that was given full reign of the exhibition space in the Oviatt Library’s lobby area. Dr. Polk supervised, and provided us with the theme and collection materials, but ultimately it was my name as well as those of my classmates that were credited with its creation and installation.

The exhibition is titled “Images of Haiti: Selections from the Dolores Yonker Collection,” which sounds pretty self-explanatory. More specifically, it features art by Dolores Yonker, a former CSUN art history chair, who passed away in 2008; it also includes art and ceremonial objects from Haiti, illustrating Yonker’s own interests in Haitian Vodou and everyday village life.

With about twenty students responsible for one project, I'm sure you can imagine how chaotic the process was; and yet, only a handful really put some time into it. Personally, I worked with two other students in reading all of Yonker’s journals (so much of it too colorful and/or personal to include in the exhibition), as well as being part of the object selection process and designing all the graphic designs used in the exhibition (e.g. title poster, ceiling banners, web art, and brochure). It was a lot of work, but it’s extremely satisfying to see it all on public view, in the end. I’m proud of the result that the class and I put together, and I hope you (gentle reader) will find the time to witness it.

About getting there:

CSUN is located at 18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge, CA 91330.

If you are unfamiliar with CSUN’s parking situation, basically you have the choice of parking on campus ($6) or on the street, anywhere nearby. During the summer, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding street parking.

Once on campus, head for the Oviatt Library, located in the center of CSUN. There are some maps along the pathways if you get lost, and once you’re anywhere on the center lawn, it should become pretty obvious. Just head up the stairs, and the exhibition will be on the left side, as well as in the room where the “down” escalator ends. (Note: You can begin viewing its contents at any point, but it technically begins near the Reference Room end.)

Some links to further illuminate:

Please let me know what you think, or if I can answer any questions!

UPDATE: I noticed there are no longer any informational brochures at the exhibition. I can provide a .PDF of it, if anyone asks.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

To Bennington & Back Again

In anticipation of my thesis project, I've been taking pictures of tourist centers, collecting brochures, noting word uses in travel articles, and gathering other bits of information here and there, over time and while in the middle of vacations, family excursions, day trips, and other situations that take me to any place remotely touristy. This has been going on for a few years, actually - before I was even certain I'd be working towards an M.A.

Late last Monday, I got back from Bennington, Vermont, where I did very little of all that. I was visiting to attend my sister’s graduation at Bennington College, and when we weren’t attending graduation-related events, we were mostly packing or killing time in-between.

The last time I visited (about two years ago), we spent a little time in traveling. In two days, we visited Hildene (President Lincoln’s son’s home in Manchester), Boston, and Salem. We also went out of our way to find a small cheese shop, which required driving on a dirt road for almost an hour to find an almost microscopic town (we got there ten minutes before closing). We explored Boston by foot, at night; and Salem was an illuminating encounter – never before had Halloween seemed to extend past October so successfully. Our experiences ranged from historic to whimsical and cheesy. At the time of my visit, I was part of an Anthropology seminar on Witchcraft, and I used my time in Salem to talk to a couple shopkeepers in a pagan shop. When I returned, I had a little more information to add to a paper I was working on, and I also used some photos from the day to present to the class, showing how Salem uses its history and pop-cultural status to create an identity that is presented to visitors. (Perhaps I'll share those photos, later.)

During my visit, and while I was compiling the photos for class, I started to seriously consider how this sort of identity formation in places could contribute to my future research.

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Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say for now. Between the previous paragraph and this one, I drove to LAX and back, and now it’s late and I’m too tired to go on, so I’ll leave it at that. More on those points later.

(For now, here’s a picture I took looking down from the top of the Bennington Battle Monument, which rather looks like a miniature scene. After that: an actual miniature scene, from a display case on the first floor of the Monument.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Big Presentation

A couple weeks ago, I presented a research paper for the AnthroExpo at CSUN. I did my research for a seminar class about festivals, pilgrimages and Victor Turner; the resulting paper was about twice the length it needed to be. At the end of the semester, I was invited to present it to the Expo, but I needed to shorten the paper to about a third the length. It was tricky (and occasionally heartbreaking!), but I finally condensed it to a 15 minute speech.

The topic: Disneyland & Secular Pilgrimage

Perfect topic, right? It combined two things I love: trips to Disneyland, and anthropology.

After spending a lot of time editing, revising a new PowerPoint, and reading aloud with a timer, at last the big day came. I had never presented something like that outside a regular classroom setting, so it was a pretty big deal to me. My mom and uncle came to see the presentation, too. And as there were some friends who wished they could attend, but couldn't, I asked my mom to record a video. The quality wasn't professional (it was recorded on her iPhone), but I've edited in the slides, as an improvement.

And now, for your illumination... Here's my presentation:

What did you think?