Sunday, December 27, 2009

Walt Disney Animation Studios Part 6: Saludos Amigos

Series Intro:
Here's Part 6 of this multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors. They'll mostly be in release date order, save for those that aren't available on DVD at Netflix. (Numbers will be skipped to note missing movies)

Some background info (compiled from Wikipedia and imdb and my own knowledge of the movie).

Official Title: Saludos Amigos (in English: Hello Friends)
Release: August 24, 1942 (Brazil, just 11 days after Bambi!)
Running Time: 43 minutes (and I thought Bambi was short)
Estimated Cost: Can't find any figures but the whole cost was underwritten by the US government
Estimated Revenue: No info available, other than "highly successful"
Overall Rating: 1 stars out of 5

Plot Summary: We follow Walt Disney Animation Studios cartoonists as they travel throughout the South America. While we watch live action shots of the the cartoonists, a narrator tells us all about what we are seeing. Then the plot breaks away and heads to various cartoons depicting some of the places the cartoonists have been.

"Lake Titicaca" follows Donald Duck as he visits this mountain lake. Various Donald-esqu trouble happens.
"Pedro" follows Pedro, a mail carrying, child-like, airplane as he has to cross the Ande's mountains.
"El Gaucho Goof" follows Goofy as he is transformed into a an Argentinian Gaucho (cowboy).
"Aquarela do Brazil" (Watercolor of Brazil) follows Donald as he meets Brazilian local parot Jose Carioca and they dance the night away all around Brazil.

Aquarela do Brasil, Saludos Amigos and Tico Tico No Fuba

All wonderful for moving the plot along; but memorable... I think not. I can't even recall the lyrics or melody for the Academy Award Nominated song "Saludos Amigos"

Plot Rating: 1 stars out of 5

I understand that this endeavor was supposed to help relations between South American countries and the US, to help prevent South American countries from turning towards the Nazi Party. And if it was 1942, this film would be great propaganda for making me consider visiting South America. But the loose plot of connecting shorts based on animators going on a trip to make the movie... eh... not really a plot if you ask me. Also the shorts themselves don't really hold a strong plot. They are standard, one off shorts that could be told in a Looney Tunes, Merry Melody! Good for laughs, but not for depth and meaning.

Animation Rating: 1 out of 5

I felt like they really dropped the ball at WDAS! What happened here was a travesty to animation in American movies. The animation was television rate. In this retrospective (so far) this is the lowest and I can only hope that we will push beyond this "television-rate" animation. 

The Test of Time:

Considering this had only one re-release I don't think it has stood the test of time. The animation is campy, the music im-memorable, the "plot" illogical. Goofy seemed racist. Donald didn't appreciate the differences between his country and Brazil. As I child, I collected Disney animated movies (in the classics and masterpiece releases). When this was release, I was confused, I had never heard of the movie and never heard of WDAS doing shorts, but here it was, a 44 minute movie that does not fit in with all that came before it, and all the would come after it.

Again, I understand, that when Walt took on this project, WDAS was hemorrhaging money on Bambi, and the European market was closed due to WWII, but I just don't consider this a "Master Piece" or a "Classic." This is one movie that should remain in the Disney Vault, with Songs of the South.

Next Up:
The Three Caballeros


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Date-ability (Revisited)

So I thought it was time to revisit my series in Date-ablitiy.

I wanted to add some personality things to this list (the other list was a bit superficial).

So one thing a guy MUST have is self-drive and self-worth. He should be a self-starter. He has to know what he wants out of life and have a plan to get it. He should also be a generally happy person. This goes along the same lines. If he isn't making himself happy in life, how can he make our relationship a happy one. Also, I'm a generally happy person, and don't surround myself with people who are perpetually unhappy. My friends, despite the cards they've been dealt, make the best of what life has given them, and have fun with it! Unemployed, bad job, single, underemployed. We all make the best of it.


Shameless Self Promotion

So I'm just promoting the new layout of my blog! I designed it myself!

And the fact that you can now retweet, share on facebook or digg my blogs!


Monday, December 21, 2009




Walt Disney Animation Studios Part 5: Bambi

Series Intro:
Here's Part 5 of this multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors. They'll mostly be in release date order, save for those that aren't available on DVD at Netflix. (Numbers will be skipped to note missing movies)

Some background info (compiled from Wikipedia and imdb and my own knowledge of the movie).

Official Title: Bambi
Release: August 13, 1942
Running Time: 69 minutes (that's crazy short!)
Estimated Cost: I can't find exact figures, but most places say "Over $2,000,000" (1942) (Over $26,543,558.28 adjusted for inflation 2009)
Estimated Revenue: First Theatrical Release $300,000 (1942)(pitiful, I know)($3,921,356.80 adjusted for inflation 2008)
Overall Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Plot Summary:
The story opens in an unnamed American Woodland, with the birth of a deer (the young Prince of the Forest to be precise). Bambi goes on several adventures with his new found friends Thumper (the rabbit) and Flower (the skunk). They spend all of spring and summer playing. As winter comes, times get hard for the animals in the forest, but Bambi and his mother survive. Then, in a moment that changed American cartooning, Bambi's mother was shot and killed. Bambi's father, the Great Prince of the Forest, ushers Bambi into adulthood, with a few words of wisdom (more than a few words if we take into account the Direct-to-Video mid-quel Bambi II "Bambi and the Great Prince of the Forest). As Bambi and his friends reunite after the winter hibernation, they swear they won't be "twitterpated" (mate). But they do. Again though, things don't go as planned, for as Bambi and his newly won doe, Faline, are resting, the forest is once again invaded by man. This time, to more devistating effects - they let their fire rage on and soon a forest fire begins. Bambi meets back up with his father in the final reel as the two struggle to leave the forest. Many animals meet up at an isolated island, that is safe from the forests' flames. The final scene, an homage to the first, again brings new life to the forest, this time it's Bambi's fawns. The Great Prince of the Forest seems to retire and leaves the forest to Bambi.

 There is Life, First Sign of Spring, Through Your Eyes, Healing of the Heart, Bambi, Let's Sing A Gay Little Spring Song, Little April Shower, and Love Is A Song

All of these songs are beutifully scored, but are unmemorable. I might be able to sing a ditty from "April Shower" but nothing much. None of these songs moved on to become Disney classic songs.

Plot Rating: 1 stars out of 5

I've to say, "What plot?"  This movie was more like a nature expose than a feature animated movie (in fact it's too short to be feature length! - more on the length below in "Animation") In isolation, the adventures of young Bambi and his friends would have made excellent shorts (in the Loony Tune length), but there honestly wasn't enough plot to hold the movie together.

Animation Rating: 4 out of 5

Wow! Those animators at WDAS really brought their A game to this. They spend years studying real animals to make the movie as grand as it could be. Although they were fine drawing cartoon animals (such as all of the animals in Snow White), but Walt really wanted a sense of realism in this film. The same can be said of the art work in the backgrounds! WDAS animators really have a handle on the multi-plane camera, but that didn't make the drawing process go any faster. In fact, the drawing was so detailed and so exquisite, that the artists were only completing a half a foot a film a day! (or one second of film. (Previous releases were drawn at a rate of about 10 feet a day.) Because of the slow process and the grossly growing budget, Walt had 12 minutes cut from the movie!

The Test of Time:

Just like Snow, this had MANY theatrical releases; each one ranking in a lot more money for Disney. These re-releases in the theatre would actually allow Disney to recoup it's losses.

Bambi's test of time has to be started at it's release, during WWII in Europe! With basically the European market out, the release did pitiful. Domestically, it had a hard time too. Why would people want to see a movie in which PEOPLE were the villains! 

As time went on, more people accepted this movie and it's been highly rated on AMC's 10 best animated movies.

Personally, I never liked it as a child (I still don't like it now). Very little happens, and the few that do, I always felt personally responsible for, even though I've never hunted or even camped! This movie is a bit preachy, and there was never anything I could do to stop what it was preaching about.

Next Up:
Saludos Amigos

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Walt Disney Animation Studios Part 2: Pinocchio

Series Intro:   Here's Part 2 of this multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors. They'll mostly be in release date order, save for those that aren't available on DVD at Netflix. (Numbers will be skipped to note missing movies)

Some background info (compiled from Wikipedia and imdb and my own knowledge of the movie).

Official Title: Pinocchio
Release: February 7, 1940
Running Time: 88 minutes
Estimated Cost: $2,400,000 (1940) ($37,085,142.86 adjusted for inflation 2009)
Estimated Revenue: First Theatrical Release $39,000,000 (1940) ($592,538,580.24 adjusted for inflation 2008)
Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Plot Summary:
Papa Geppetto is a lonely word-worker who makes a wonderful wooden puppet, whom he names "Pinocchio." When completed, Geppetto wished upon a star (soon to be a major Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS) motive), that this puppet would be a real boy. That evening, the Blue Fairy visits the puppet, turns him into a living puppet (kid of creepy, I know), and assigns Jiminy Cricket to be the boys conscience. Once Pinocchio learns how to behave, he will be a real boy. Well, behaving doesn't come easy for Pinocchio as one misadventure (believing Honest Jon (the fox) and Gideon (the cat)) leads to another (being enslaved at a traveling puppet show) and another (turning into a donkey/puppet hybrid on Pleasure Island) to another (being swallowed by a whale!). Jiminy Cricket isn't that good at guiding Pinocchio on these adventures, and when Pinocchio lies to the Blue Fairy, his nose grows! In the end, after escaping from the whale, Pinocchio confesses to Geppetto and truly feels sorry for his wrong doings. The Blue Fairy makes one more appearance, and turns Pinocchio into a real boy.

I can't forget to mention Figaro and Cleo (Papa Geppetto's cat and fish), who add some comic relief at various points throughout the film.

Songs: When You Wish Upon a Star, Little Wooden Head, Give a Little Whistle, Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee (An Actor's Life for Me), and I've Got No Strings

"When You Wish Upon a Star" will later become a big theme in both WDAS and at the Theme Parks

I believe that the songs were more integral to the plot. Although "Strings' happens on a stage, it really mimics what Pinocchio is feeling about life, and is sung ironically because although he is a walking/talking puppet without strings, he's not free, but a slave to Stromboli (the puppet master). And who could deny the importance of "wishing upon a star" in future Disney endevours

Plot Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The plot moves much faster and more interesting than Snow. Pinocchio overs several sub-plots that help move the plot along. Pinocchio's naivete was more believable given the fact that he didn't have an internal conscious and that he was literally born yesterday  

Animation Rating: 3.5 out of 5

This movie was darker that Snow, both plot wise and the coloring. With this movie, WDAS showed it wasn't just a one trick pony and was able to create a "whole new world" that had more imagery and creativity than it's predecessor.

The Test of Time:

Just like Snow, this had MANY theatrical releases; each one ranking in a lot more money for Disney.

How did this movie effect me as a child? Well, I honestly only watched it a few times as a child, but my mother loved it. I did like that Pinocchio was a boy, and allowed me to have more of a relationship with the puppet. I could see how my conscious is an important part of my decision process and I could see what might happen (although to an extreme) if  I didn't listen to it.

Today, this movie doesn't have as much presence in pop culture as the "Princess" movies (thank you merchandising department at Disney for ignore the boys). He also doesn't have as much presence in the theme parks (where all my friends live!)

Next Up: Should be Fantasia and Dumbo, but both are currently in the Disney "Vault" so Bambi will be review next.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Walt Disney Animation Studios Part 1: Snow White

It's no lie, I believe that Walt Disney World is one of the greatest places. In my recent visit (August 2009), my friend over at Eric-Jost.Blogspot, decided he wanted to go back and enjoy the Disney "Classics" (as the mid-90's marketing team called their VHS releases). Well, he's inspired me to do the same.

So here's Part 1 of this multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors (mostly in production order, save for a few not available on DVD).

Some background info (compiled from Wikipedia and imdb and my own knowledge of the movie).

Official Title: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Release: December 21, 1937
Running Time: 83 minutes
Estimated Cost: $1,488,422.74 (1937) ($22,360,450.79 adjusted for inflation 2009)
Estimated Revenue: First Theatrical Release $66,596,803 (1937) ($988,490,962.11 adjusted for inflation 2008)
Overall Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

Plot Summary:
Snow White lives a happy life at her palace with the step mother (The Evil Queen). One day her life is turned upside down when she sees a prince (The Prince) and falls madly in love with him. But the best laid plans; when the Evil Queen asks her magic mirror about the fairest woman in the world, the mirror tells her Snow White is the most beautiful person in the world. So Snow White is forced to run for her life; she stumbles upon the tiny home of 7 dwarfs. They take her in and care for her; that is until the Evil Queen discovers Snow White is not dead and transforms herself into a old beggar woman and convinces Snow to eat from a poisoned apple. The dwarfs mistake her magiked sleep for death and entomb her, when who should appear but The Prince, whose kiss of true love revives Snow White. The Evil Queen is presumed dead when a rock - meant to kill the dwarfs - rolls onto her.

Songs: Someday my Prince will come; High-Ho; Whistle While You Work; along with several incidental songs.

"Someday my prince will come" will become a staple theme of 'princess' movies of Walt's time.

The songs in the movie was simplistic and really did not move the plot along like later movies produced by Disney animation. But considering that this a groundbreaking movie in a new medium, I'll give it some slack. The background music did however add to the feel of the movie to help the audience clearly follow the plot.

Plot Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Overly simplistic by today's standards; this plot was character driven, spending many of the 87 minutes with just how Snow reacts to new things. Although, some of her reactions are amazing (just remember the scary scene in the forest!)

Animation Rating: 2 out of 5

Again, it was new, but it was still overly simplistic. The faces of Snow and Prince were under drawn and almost unable to emote (due to the artist actually just tracing film strips of actors portraying the characters. Some artists, the one who worked on the Evil Queen, refused to do this, and when you re-watch this movie, notice how much more natural she can emote.) The dwarfs are also more lively and animated

Again though, props to the art department though, for the forest scene and the beautiful backdrops.

The Test of Time:

With MANY theatrical releases, I would say that this film has stood the test of time. Or was it just Disney pushing it down our throats and their cleaver "Disney Vault" to hide home releases for years at a time. Or was it the insane "Princess" that began sometime in the onset of the aughts (2000's).

Snow White's moral might not stand the test of time though. A woman is helpless without a man ("Someday my Prince will come"). She can't seem to take care of herself at all. Grant it, she is some young child (I guess between 12 and 16).

One of my biggest problems with this movie was that the Prince and the Evil Queen never get names! Walt was able to come up with creative names for 7 goofy dwarfs, but can't give two major characters names! As a child growing up, although I related to Snow, I really wanted to know more about the Prince. But just like Lady Macbeth, he was never given a name, and although he plays such a major role in the movie, he seems to live on the back burner (looking forward to getting back up to Peter Pan when we have a "Hero" instead of a "Princess")

Too Much Light Makes Baby Go Blind

Go check out Too Much Light Makes Baby Go Blind at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in DC.

This was a crazy play, or  more like 30 vignettes, that looked at different social issues from Gay Rights to what it means to be a father, birth, etc. All these 30 plays (some funny, some serious) took place in 60 minutes!

The crazy part is, that each show is slightly different. At the end of each show an audience member rolls a die and that is how many plays must be replaced for the following night's show!

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Black Community

So as the holiday season is upon us, Holiday parties are a must! And this weekend I've had two!

Both were a lot of fun.

Friday Night was with my gay family, with a lot of gay people talking about gay issues and gay pop references.

Saturday Night was with a friend from high school, she's black, most of the people at the party were black. At this dinner party we talked about a variety of topics, such as education, teen pregnancy, community, culture, oppression, sex, etc.

Now, here's what I see is the big difference between the black community and the gay community (based on the issues that as talked about at social events):

There is a black community. Literally. Most of the people at the party last night lived in the neighborhood and their goals weren't lofty affirmative action/civil rights; they want to better their community by bettering their neighborhood. The talk last night was about things to better the neighborhood. For instance, how can they keep their neighborhood clean with no trash cans!

But what is the gay community. We don't live in neighborhoods. We're not going to schools where most of the students are gay. This goes back to a previous post of mine about culture. When we define ourselves by just a single trait, what is the connection beyond that?

The wonderful people I met last night, are honestly trying to make the best for their community (by bettering their neighborhood, giving the people on their street the opportunities to make the right choices!)

Check out my new favorite blog at Congress Heights On The Rise to see some of the positive outreach and community growth the blogger is trying to do to better the residents of Congress Heights, DC.  Or my high school friend's Blog River East Idealist.  (Map shows highlighed section of DC, called Congress Heights)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Why I am Thankful

Today I'm celebrating Thanksgiving with my gay family my collection of friends from high school through adulthood. And just like with other families, we all can't be here today on this holiday... but in celebration of today I thought that I should write another Top Ten list:

Top Ten Things I am Most Thankful For:

10. Apple: The Apple Company made my computer and my phone and a few other products around my house. I love all my Apple products and wish I could afford more.

9. Work: In this recession, I have a steady job. And it's my dream job! How could it get better? (Of course more money to buy more Apple products).

8. Live Theatre: Musical or Straight, Classical or Contemporary: I love going to the theatre, it just pleases me a lot and I don't like when I go too long without going to see it.

7. Internet: What good is my computer and other internet enabled devices without the World Wide Web. I use the internet a  lot, it's a great way to communicate, hell, you are reading this on the internet.

6. Family: I like my extended family. I like them enough to see them 2 times a year, nothing more.

5. Literacy: I love reading. And would be very disappointed if I couldn't. I wouldn't be able to enjoy the internet or my job or Apples without being able to read.

4. TV: Don't need reading for this! Lol! My old friend (Actually my new friend, because I just bought a new, big screen!)

3. Erv: My car. It gets me to work. It got me to school. It helps feed me. etc.

2. Parents: My mom rocks! My dad's cool. They take care of me. They allowed me to grow to be an independent, well adjusted, young man

1. Friends: My friends are my family. And I'm upset that they all can't be here tonight to enjoy our time together.

Angels in America

Yesterday I was privileged enough to spend the entire day at the Forum Theatre in Silver Spring, where I just got to see Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on American Themes by Tony Kushner. This play (in two epic 3.5 hour parts) tells the story of Prior Walter's decent and accent to become a Prophet for the new Millennium and the trials and tribulations of those around him and beyond him in the mid-80s.

The whole play spans 8 acts and an epilogue. (Three in the first play Millennium Approaches and five in Perestroika).

Millennium introduces the main characters of Prior and his lover/boyfriend of 4.5 years, Lewis (over sexed, under paid, Jew, worrier, that can't handle change); the closeted, self-loathing, Republican, Mormon Joe and his Valium-addicted, hallucinating wife;  Roy Cohen, closeted, Republican, lawyer who after dialing 15 numbers can get the president's wife on the phone and feels like he can rule the world; Ethel Rosen (a ghost) killed during the McCarthy Trials - Roy had a hand in her death; Harper, Joe's Mormon mother; Belez, Prior's best friend from their drag days; and The Angel. Along with various other characters that are double and triple cast by the 8 actors.

Prior announces he has AIDS which sets off a chain of events that connects all the characters (Except Ethel).

This is such an amazing script. It talks about AIDS and AZT, McCarthyism, Mormonism, love, sex, drugs and father/son relationships. All this in 7 hours!

Watching the play yesterday was a trial, but worth it. The first part was too reminiscent of the movie (right down to casting and costuming) while the second part had more of the director adding his own ideas. The play was well acted. I believe that this performance was amazing. I hope to one day write a play that is as powerfully performed as this! 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Nightmare on Elm Street

dddI don't hide that the Nightmare On Elm Street Franchise is my favorite horror movie series. So, as I've spent this weekend catching up on my old favorites, I've decided to rate them for your pleasure...
So here it is, in my favorite order (although I always watch from 1 to 8, this is my favorites).

Starting at the Bottom of the List at Number 8!

8. A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge. Let's first start with what I thought of this movie as a child. I LOVED IT! It has not so subtle homo-erotic undertones as Jesse comes to terms with his inability to please his parents and his girlfriend so he goes running to his only male friend to tell the truth about the demon within him!

How did this movie drop spots to be at the bottom of the list many years later? Well when I was 7 (yes, I've been watching R rated horror movies since 7), I didn't care about the meta-story of the franchise. But in my more sophisticated tastes of adult hood, I need my sequels to be just one chapter of the whole story.

Although Jesse moves into Nancy's house and uses her diaries to help understand what is happening, this story is unconnected to any other movie. It also broke a lot of the rules. Jesse wasn't a child of someone who killed Freddy, so why haunt him? How did Jesse turn into Freddy in the real world? Why kill the coach and all those random people at the pool party?  What is Freddy even doing at a pool party anyway?

Oh, and of course, how can I forget the staggering body count of 2 major characters (and about a dozen pool party guests that I couldn't care less about).

7. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child had a cool concept, but bad follow through. What gives it the leg up over Freddy's Revenge is that it is directly connected to the previous movie and added more to the mytho's of Freddy's beginnings, by correlating Alice's pregnancy to that of Sister Amanda Kruger's (Freddy's mom) - who was locked in an Insane Aslyum over a holiday weekend and raped hundreds of times.

Alice and Dan, after surviving the events of Dream Master, make a new group of friends and apparently a baby. For the plot of Dream Child revolves around Freddy trying to take control of Jacob's (Alice and Dan's child) dreams and turn him against his mother. After being held at bay for a few years by Alice (the Guardian of the good dream gate), Freddy has discovered that she can control her own dreams but not her unborn child's!

A plus for this movie is that all the returning characters were played by the same actors from Dream Master.

What keeps this movie from the higher spots? Well Jacob is annoying! I honestly just can't stand the child playing him. And if I were an 18 year old high school graduate, pregnant with a child that an evil dream monster was trying to turn against me so the monster could kill again... do you know how fast I would have a abortion?

And again, a low body count. 3! (Although the deaths are more elaborate!) Aren't sequels supposed to have more deaths that then original.

6. Freddy vs. Jason, I hesitate to include this in the list because it is technically not part of the Nightmare franchise, nor the Friday franchise but a bastardization of both. But I did include it because it does have my favorite horror villain, Freddy.

Except for disregarding the fact that Freddy's Dead is supposed to be the end of the series, FvJ does a good job adding to the mytho's and being directly connected to the previous movies. Hypnosill and all! But this movie lacked a certain "Nightmare" aspect and felt much more like a random slasher flick like Friday where you almost didn't care for any of the characters and just wanted to see Freddy kill Jason (or the other way if you are a Jason fan).

This movie did fail though in offering a reasonable explanation for what happened to Alice (Dream Child) or Maggie (Freddy's Dead). Actually it didn't offer any explanation.

Now it did have a high body count (I can't remember how many though, but I think it's one of the highest for a Nightmare movie, but pretty average for a Friday movie.

5. Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (A Nightmare on Elm Street 6) is when the list starts a more positive spin. This movie jumps to "10 years from now" and the town of Springwood has quite literally gone insane because of the homicides committed by Freddy. There are no children at all.

Well, when a boy is returned to a boarding house with no memory except a need to go to Springwood he brings along 3 teens and a psycologist (who just happens to be Freddy's long lost daughter - I know a bit cheesy, but Fred Kruger was a man before becoming a monster). More elaborate deaths but a small number (if I recall correctly only 3 - which seems to be the magic number for a Nightmare movie).

Here though are the four biggest problems with the movie.
1. Some of it takes place in 3D and it's not enjoyable for me.
2. Maggie (not a Gate Keeper) is able to manipulate her dreams (this was something that was unique for Alice).
3. They recycled the finale from Nightmare 1, by bringing Freddy into the real world to kill him.
4. It is never explained what happens to Alice and Jacob from Dream Child. I personally like to think that the John Doe in this story is Jacob and that his mother (Alice) died right before the events of this movie in her constant pursuit to keep Freddy at bay.

4. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Master picks up right where Dream Warriors left off. Kristin believes that Freddy is returning, and instead of believing her, the survivors from Dream Warriors are killed (this connection was a little more sloppy as the actress who played Kristin, the ingenue in Dream Warriors, didn't return for Dream Child, but the rest of the actors did.) Kristin retains the power to call people into her dreams and as a last ditch effort to once and for all trap Freddy in her dream (because she is the last of the children of the parents who killed him) she accidentally calls in Alice. Alice, who learns she is the guardian of the good gates of dreams (dream master), gains a special talent from each of Freddy's victims (starting with the ability to call people into her dreams from Kristin). This has a larger body count (3 survivors from Dream Warriors and 3 new characters = 6!)

Has everything a sequel needs: It continues the plot through from the previous movie onto the next movie; has a higher body count; doesn't change the mythos' but adds a new twist (dream powers being transferred to the Dream Master). The coolest part of the power transfer is how Kristin uses each power to transform from the meek girl at the first part of the movie into a power house that can believably take on Freddy!

3. Wes Craven's New Nightmare (Nightmare on Elm Street 7) is another film in the franchise that I'm hesitant to compare to the rest, but again my favorite serial killer is in it, so here goes.

Heather Langenkamp (Nancy Thompson in the meta-series) returns for a 2nd time (3rd movie), but this time she isn't playing Nancy, but herself. This whole movie takes place outside the reality of the movies and in our own reality, where Heather is an actress who played Nancy and has lunch with Wes Craven. But as Heather is leading her life some strange events start happening and her son is going insane over the course of the movie.

Freddy returns with a new look as fear itself. And Wes says it's chosen the form of Freddy because it is a familiar form! Throughout the movie, Heather and her son are haunted by Freddy until he forces Heather to return to Nancy so he can finally defeat her in their original battle.

What makes this movie stand out the most is, that although it completely disregards the previous movies, it adds a whole new depth to the series. There are also dozens of throw-backs to the previous movies.

Body count = 4 (3 credited to accidents and 1 out right slasher/Freddy style murder).

2.A Nightmare on Elm Street (1), marks the first appears of all my "friends" including Heather Langenkamp as Nancy and Jonny Depp as her boyfriend Glen.

Nancy and her friends are being haunted in their dreams by some nightmare villain. About half way through the story, Nancy finds out that Freddy was a child molester from several years ago that her parents (and a bunch of other parents) burned because he was found innocent (someone didn't sign the arrest warrant in the right place). So to enact his revenge he haunts their children's dreams; and if you die in a dream, you die in real life.

How scary this movie must have been? I've seen it too much to be frightened by it now, but at age 7 I was scared shitless. Freddy was a silent killer in this movie (no one liners about death like in the sequels) which made his even more scary. And although the effects were simplistic, they really got their point across.

Death count is 3 teens and 1 adult = 4! Much fewer than any of the Friday films of the time, but because of dream aspect of these killing, it made it all the more frightening.

And number 1!

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is closely linked plot wise to Nightmare 1. This story picks up 6 years after the first and marks the return of Nancy. She's now a dream psychologist and wants to help a bunch of teens survive their nightmares, despite being locked away at Westin Hills Mental Institute. With the help of a fellow psychologist, Nancy and the teens try their best to take down Freddy. Kristin (who returns for Dream Child) begins to learn how to use her dream power of pulling people into her dreams. And the other teens also begin to realize that in their dreams, they do have some control. But all this is for naught as they are ill prepared to use it.

How could I possibly pick a sequel as the best? Well, it was just the one I had the most exposure to as a child (again I was 7) and the idea that these teens could finally fight back in their dreams seemed to offer me a little hope (although their efforts were futile). This movie also adds to the mythos of the meta-story and directly connects to Nightmare 1 and Dream Warrior. Also this movie has a higher body count (6 - - 4 teens, Nancy's Father and Nancy!) What more could you want in a movie? BTW this is actually my favorite movie of all time and I LOVE watching it!

That's it, that's the list of the

Friday, October 23, 2009

What is Culture?

Today I had a Professional Development workshop and we were asked to define the culture of our school...

Well in order to define the culture of a school, we first have to define what culture is: I wrote down the following notes:

"What is culture?
  • people
  • holidays
  • places
  • moral values (beliefs)
  • celebrations
  • rituals
  • handling crisis 
  • family? or just a connection or oppression? 
And of course I couldn't think of anything else for about 20 minutes. What is culture? (Wikipedia had several definitions if you'd like to check it out.) Is it a group of people who have shared beliefs? The easy answer is yes, one is part of a culture because of how one thinks, or what one thinks is right and moral. Then I started thinking about the "gay culture." And first I had to decide what is the gay culture. And there are very few things that link us together. Unlike a Native American tribe we have no ritualistic dance (although dancing is a stereotype in the "gay culture"). Unlike Jewish people, we have no linking religion that we all share (although Diva's again are that stereotype). We don't have holidays (Maybe a pride march is the closest we get). We don't have a location that we all come from (for instance Lesbos Island). So what keeps us together.

Sex. Oppression. Crisis. That's what I came down to.

The gay culture is a counter culture, while it can easily be found in any other group of people, we are all connected by our lack of fitting into the norm of heterosexual acts (although Bisexual people and Str8, men on the DL and other exceptions are the rule). As a gay man, I have an automatic familial connection to some one who is gay! I route for them in movies (hell if there's a gay character in a bad movie, it automatically makes is a good movie). We are connected by our sex and that's it.

Because that is our strongest connection to our culture, we unite under times of oppression and crisis when our rights to express our culture are denied. When Mathew Sheppard died because he liked to have sex with men, we united. This crisis took great story telling and helped create a stronger awareness of the crisis the gay culture faces all the time.

These crises are because of oppression! We are oppressed because we are gay. Because we are "counter" the heteronormative  culture we are deemed less. We have our rights stripped away and are looked upon as second class citizens because of who we have sex with!

When discussing culture today, my colleagues talked about shared values and a history of likeness and traditions and foods and dance and stories. Not once did they mention sex. Not once did they mention oppression. They looked at the positive aspects of culture, and I can't seem to stop thinking that culture is just one of those social constructs put into place by the old, rich, white men to help give them a sense of superiority and reasons to oppress those who are different.

What is culture? Culture is a social construct used to connect people. So they will be able to check off a little box on some survey. (Photo credit is actually me!)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Theatre Ketchup

So this weekend I saw a lot of theatre! And it's time to play "catch-up"

Thursday 10/8: A Flea In Her Ear presented at Source Theatre. This French farce was hilarious! All because of a pair of suspenders, one household in France is thrown upside down as one spouse thinks the other is cheating! The show was great, I saw a Pay What You Can. The space is awkwardly long, so some of the action was far from me, but because of the intimate seating, I could deal with it. The acting was great too!

Friday 10/9: The Alchemist by Ben Jonson at Shakespeare Theatre Company. I have a subscription to the Shakespeare Theatre Company this season, and so far, I'm enjoying it. The Alchemist is about two swindlers who's plans unravel as the play draws to an end. This was my first show by Jonson (A Shakespearean contemporary) and was very enjoyable! The acting was superb and I really enjoyed the show (other than sitting next to a woman who thought the show was WAY more laugh out loud than it really was).

Saturday 10/10: Mike Birbiglia at Warner. This man is so funny! I love him, he quickly became my favorite comedian! But I did have some problems with the show as a "Show." I see a lot of theatre. But I've never seen a show start 20 minutes late! That was crazy. Then there was a crappy singing comedian who performed for 20mins! I expected some sort of warm up act, but this guy just never made me laugh. Then there was a 15 min intermission! (Which seemed like a waste of time. )

Monday 10/12: Laramie Project Epilogue presented locally by Arena Stage. Is a look back at what Laramie is like now. This play was presented in 150 cities across the world last night (free). The actors/actresses were amazing as was the script. It still asks the tough questions of what is life like after a hate crime; what can we do to make life easier for GLBT people all over the world. I was in complete tears the entire first act!

Sunday, October 4, 2009


If anyone wants to breed this dog in a miniature version, and then give it to me, I'd happily accept.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Three Hour Tour...

Ok, so I don't hide it... I love driving! I love tanking up my car, burning the fossil fuels and traveling at 70 miles an hour to some desitination. I love taking back roads and using my high beams.

But what do you do for the hours on end. Here's my usual run down.

Gas the car before the trip (or usually to a half tank to get me out of the city and to the cheaper gas).
After about 30 minutes into the trip I stop for a bathroom break, gas if needed, and coffee (with only one good eye, driving is a bit of a strain).
During that first leg I usually jam out to musical theatre.

Now it's the second leg. The shoes come off, and podcast comes on (right now always about Disney). Set the car in cruise control and "play games;" my favorite being that once I'm in cruise I pick a lane (center if its a three lane road, right if only two) then I try to stay in the lane without breaking (so I have to time the lane switching for passing) Childish I know, but it keeps me amused.

About 1 - 1.5 hours later, time for a stretch break. More coffee (if needed) but definitely some sort of food. This break is usually signifies a state crossing (usually just before or just after Delaware: see Delaware rant lower). Then it's time to listen to an audio book. God these things are amazing! In the past five years, I've probably read just as many audio books as regular books.

Finally I'm getting antzy and am ready for another break, but am so close to my destination I just push through. When I arrive I use the restroom and am so jonesed up on coffee that I can't even sit down for about a hour!

It's soooo much fun...

DELAWARE: I hate driving through Delaware. I've been driving on 95 in Delaware for 7 years. I always hit traffic. 95 in Delaware is 5 miles long. It usually takes 30 -45 minutes! I HATE DELAWARE!!!!!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dear Kirk Cameron

In response to my friends blog I have decided to write an open letter to Kirk Cameron.

You might want to check this out first, for context of this post:

Dear Kirk Cameron,

Back in 1990, when I was 6 and you were on Growing Pains I had a weird crush on you and Tracey Gold. I wanted to be a part of the Seaver family. It was a great show that was exciting to watch and always could offer a laugh.

Time goes on, and TV shows disappear and you and Tracey moved from the limelight of my 6 year old eyes into the recesses of syndication.

19 years later, and I've discovered that you are crazy as a loon! Here is a list of my several problems with your video:

1. I'm an agnostic. I have been since YEARS before college! My top 100 university professors did not teach me how to be agnostic. My high school teachers didn't teach me to be agnostic. The Catholic Church taught me to be agnostic. I spent 14 years of my life trying to believe the "word of the lord." But it just didn't make sense to me. How could there be fossil evidence of dinosaurs when the Bible said the world started with Adam and Eve? How could Jesus have been the son of god (yes that is lower case) when god is incorporeal? And hundreds of other questions that didn't make sense: Most importantly, how could the church hate like it does, when Jesus loved everyone.

If we take for a fact that everything in the Bible is true, than Jesus was a miracle worker, he kept company with prostitutes and beggar and lepers. Basically the slums of the people of the time. He preached love, tolerance and acceptance of these people, not total disregard for who they are. He taught everyone to love all of god's creations. Not HATE! (Like you and the Christian right are doing). How could a religion based on the teachings of this "saint" be promoting bigotry and intolerance? That's when I left Catholicism.

When I understood that I was gay, and that god no longer accepted me, I realized that religion wasn't a place where I would find solace and acceptance, just hate and ignorance.

2. I believe there is a higher being, for some of the same reason that you mention. There is no scientific proof that on what actually created the universe (whether some sneezed and we're the by-product on it, or god needed to be created and in the process the big bang happened, but until we have a reason for the big bang, I have to agree that something started the whole thing). But I do hold the believe that that is where it ended. God isn't part of my life, he doesn't control my choices, he isn't holding a scale to weigh my heart against my sins. He's just not around. Where's the proof?

3.  I'm a teacher. I teacher Kindergarten. I allow my students to read whatever they want. I allow them to talk about whatever they want. And as long as they are talking pure and unhurtful words, I allow them to say whatever they want. When they ask if I believe in God, or if I go to church I answer truthfully, and say "Yes, I believe in a god." And "No, I don't go to church. Do you?" And if they ask religious questions I always defer with "This is a question to ask your parents." I don't push an agenda on them, I just help them be tolerant of EVERYONE!! (not just who the religious right think we should be tolerant of).

4. You are a loon! And you and the religious right need to rethink your scare campaigner. Us on the left won't put up with it for long. Even you said that Atheism and Agnosticism are on the rise. You loose more and more people when you preach hate and intolerance (btw, how many modern scientists would agree with your statements, it's easy to pick names from the distant past to give credit to your argument. How many of those same people believed the Earth was flat!!!!!).

It's time to understand that the Bible is not the word of god, but a few men's stories.

"You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye." Matthew 7:5



Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Gotta Sing, Sing..." Why Musical Theatre is the best...

Ok, so I know that I'm pretty gay, but this is one stereotype that I'm proud to have!

Musical Theatre, particularly American Musical Theatre, has changed my life.

Let's begin as a child. I watched 7 movies over and over as a child. 6 of which were musical theatre: Mary Poppins, Hello Dolly, Grease, Grease 2, and Wizard of Oz (and Saved by the Bell Hawaiian Style is the non-MT one). (Look soon for a post on Saved by the Bell). Musical Theatre encompassed a lot of my life.

I would watch these movies over and over and over again. I love the way these movies would make me feel and how I could easily relive the movies by just thinking of the music. As I grew older, you know, like 5, Disney reached it's Animated Renaissance with Little Mermaid, and I found out something important about musical theatre (particularly the Disney genre): Ariel wanted something, she needed it, she had to have it, and she went for it (as with the other movies above). I've since come to realize that my love for Ariel has come from my homosexuality, because she wasn't excepted by her family for the person she loved. I can empathize with her, because I'm ostracized from some of my friends and family because of who I love. So as a young boy I saw myself reflected on the screen in a female mermaid!

Then there came other movie musicals. Best Little Whorehouse! OMG. MAN ASS. That's not the only reason I loved it though. I found this musical by the time I was 6. Again, I found something in the musical that I wasn't getting from the rest of the movies I saw: Adult themes and exposure to things that would matter later to me in life (like female prostitution).

Gypsy came next. We never had this on tape, but I saw this on AMC once and loved it. Mom and I stayed up past midnight to watch it all. Again, this musical was about being something that you're not. Changing who you are and why you do what you do. Louis was being forced to be her sister (which younger bother has never felt like that). And once she found something she was good at (stripping) she finally became confident.

Then I rediscovered Grease and Grease 2. This time, it was Grease 2 that really stuck on me. Just like the original, it has great music, but this time it was a male lead. And he hid in his "Charades" pretending to be the cool rider, while being the "nerd." By the end, after his reveal, he was some sort of combination of the two. Many years later, I auditioned for my high school musical theatre program with his song and little did I know that I had been playing in my own charades and it was only musical theatre that allowed me to confront those issues (discussed later). [BTW if anyone has a motorcycle and a leather jacket, I'd love to reenact the scene when Stephanie gets taken away from the gas station by "cool rider"]

Then something amazing happened! I went to see Beauty and the Beast on Broadway! That opened a new door. When I saw musical theatre live, I finally understood something. You can't lie when your in a musical. You can't lie when you sing. The need for singing comes from you soul and you can't lie from your soul (unless you truly believe what your singing). But look at RENT, despite all the deception that happens it's only when Roger and Mimi sing to each other, does all the truth come out. Sweet from Buffy the Vampire Slayer's musical episode even says something to that effect (and is the point of the episode that Buffy can no longer hide the fact that she is living in hell because she was in heaven)

My "charades": It was when I was performing in Little Shop that I realized I was gay. Because of the accepting environment of the cast of MT, I was able to accept myself for who I was, and just like Seymour, come to terms with who I am (I just hope I don't get eaten by a big plant).

Then came Wicked. Taking one of my most beloved stories from childhood (I had even dedicated the month of May as a child to the Wizard of Oz), and giving it a new twist. The musical explores the friendship of GaLinda (The Good, of the North) and Elphaba (The "wicked" witch of the West). I found this musical when my own friendships were being tested and tried! When I finally saw the musical, I felt like I could never be the same person, because the story was so soul searching, that I can't even describe yet how it has moved me.

Granted, some musicals are purely entertainment: Legally Blonde comes to mind right away, but most have truly struck something deep within me. And in the words of Ariel, "Watch and you'll see, one day I'll be, part of your world!"

(As Always, these aren't my pictures)

Monday, September 14, 2009


Dr. Horrible won an Emmy (although they don't air for another week, the ones that don't get air time have already been announced!) Although Buffy got shafted before Joss is being recognized for the wonderfulness that is Dr. Horrible.

If you haven't checked out Dr. Horrible, you should. Dr. Horrible is a great musical staring Neil Patrick Harris as the lovable Dr. Horrible who wants to rule the world and get Penny to fall in love with him. Captain Hammer, the "hero" of the story, stops the Dr. from only one of these.

Great songs.
Wonderful Acting.

Friday, September 11, 2009

More Reminiscing: 10 Toys I played with as a child

Here are the 10 Toys that I loved as a child (some as an adolescent) (again, none of the picture are mine)

10. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: I was a turtle foot all the way. In a previous post I talked about how I used to bring my indoor toys outside; well these were my favorite. I used to have them in a TMNT bag, and I saved the cards that were on the back of the figures' and vehicles' boxes. I had the Turtles, Splinter, Shredder, Craig (The Brain), Bebop, Rocksteady, Several Foot Soldiers, April, KC Jones and about a dozen other random turtles (like Shogun Leo). I had the Turtle Van and boats and pizza shooters. These were some of the few action figures that I would play battles with.

One random TMNT thing I had was a 3D Sticker book (and if you ever had one of these books, you know how amazing they were). But the most random part of it, was/is that I actually can't see 3D, but I would still wear the glasses and pretend I could!

9. Power Rangers. Ok, if you've been to my apartment, you know that I love PR. From 93 - 98 they consumed my life. I loved the idea of transforming and saving the day from Rita. I have almost all of the zords from the Zordon era (but stopped watching the show when the Ranger cast would switch each season).  I did not play Power Rangers with these toys though (at least not the whole time). Most times I would play house or the zords would have to solve mysteries that would require them to come together. (In addition to all the zords, I have all the Auto Morphing Rangers; the Collectible 3'' figures; some weapons, and the Command Centers (yep, both of them))

8. Pogs. They were huge in early middle school. What's really funny is my cousin, Tim (5 years younger than me) would usually introduce me to a lot of these things on my list. And after a visit with him I became obsessed! This is most true with Pogs. And this, I would play and battle and Win! These were so much fun, I probably had 1000 of them and would collect them from anything that they came "free" in.

7. Disney Toys. This was my big collection. I have/had toys from most of the major Disney cartoons. I have hundreds of them and every time a new movie would come out, my mom and I would got scouring the city looking for the versions I preferred. (I didn't like the rubber ones, nor the actual action figures, but rather hard plastic, non-movable ones with no seams!)

6. Stretch Armstrong. (Actually his dog). I went through like 5 of these toys! They were great.

5. Monopoly. Particularly with Tim, his brother and sister and my brother. Every time we got together we would play. We'd start right after dinner on friday night and then around 3 or 4 we'd close out! I don't think I ever won, because if you fell asleep, you lost!

4. Barbie. OMG I loved playing with Barbies. Luckily I had 4 girl cousins (The Penny Club) and we would routinely play with them. My favorite this was to dress them up in gaudy outfits and have them go "out" on the town looking for Ken (who was usually topless!).

3. Dolls. More "House" and dolls. Again, my cousins and I would get together and when not playing other make believe games like "work" and "school" or "traveling" we would play house. Most of the time we would pretend we weren't related (meaning I wouldn't have to be married to any of them), and all of our spouses were elsewhere at the time). I remember though, than many times I would be a single dad! I would also always choose the youngest Cabbage Patch Kids! (I know, I loath babies now, but I always wanted the babiest of the baby dolls). One of my Aunts had given me my own cabbage patch doll (she's actually my great-great aunt on my mom's side - her only living relative other than her brother).

2. Littlest Pet Shop. OMG, these toys would amaze me. I loved that they used magnets to make them work. I had the entire 90's collection, including the actual pet shop! I used to carry the petshop around like a brief case!

1. Ironing Board. I know, weird right. But I loved to pull the ironing board out and play all the toys listed above on it. It would be extend the counter space where I played and give me a 270 degree playing area while I sat on the kitchen stools!

0. Bonus. A toy I had but never knew why? Thundercats! I never liked this show, never really played with the toys. I think I inherited these from my brother.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

GLBT Round-up

It seems that the old Gay Marriage horse, hidden the past few months, is rearing it's head (ugly or not) again.

Here's a couple things I've come across:

First is a clip of a new anchor making a comment on how gay-marriage is actually promoting long-term marriage in Massachusettes; divorce is down.

And the second clip is an adorable Adge-prop (not sure if I spelt that correctly) from Ireland, following the story of a man who is seeking permission to marry his love.

I think that it's time for all this shit to give way, and just give every tax paying American the same rights. Enough with fucking taboos and the "institute of marriage." Like Blitzen said in The Eight Reindeer Monologues " by Jeff Goode "An institution doesn't feel./ An institution doesn't suffer./ An institution/doesn't have to look in the mirror/and see how pain has changed it's victim's face./The victim does." Why uphold an institution that has denied so many people so many rights for so long (Interracial Marriages) (hell even women in the Renaissance were just commodities!). It's time that the government got out of the whole marriage business and just issue Civil Unions to all!!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Poor Pluto...

So I love Outer Space! It's one of my favorite subjects to teach, so I was devastated when Pluto was demoted.
But life goes on and I've since come to expect that all books be changed. One series of books that I became really fond of, still marked Pluto as a planet, so I refused to buy it.

Short post today. Look for more tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Top 10 Things I miss from my Childhood

I've been reading a lot of lists today, so I've decided to make my own. This is a random list of things I miss from my childhood... spurned on by the fact that I'm broiling food for the first time in over 10 years!

They are counting down, but not in any order. (None of the pictures are from my childhood though)

10. Wall Oven. My parents' double wall oven with the broiler on the bottom. I used to make the best tuna melts in that thing!

9. The Front Stoop. Playing on the stoop. I had a few neighborhood friends (two next door and one across the street), and we used to play in front of our houses (despite me having a giant back yard and a pool and a basketball hoop). We'd bring out indoor toys (action figures, comic books, etc) and just play on my stoop. Now by stoop I mean two steps. Occasionally we'd play ball games and running games, and we had a strict limit placed by our parents (or at least my mom). We could go down to the corner (about 100 feet away) and up to just past the factory (50 feet).  Mrs. Broken was the house on the "corner" (not really a corner at all because the cross street didn't go through 67th but started on 68th (my block)), and her dog Penny! BTW, there was never adult supervision unless Mrs. Broken was gardening in her front yard!

8. The Penny Club. My grandma used to have a jar of pennies. HUNDREDS of pennies, so on rainy days she'd pull it down and we'd go into the hallway and build pictures. Giant, complex pictures. Art of pennies. My cousins and I now call ourselves the penny club!

7. "Sick Days" My mom was an awesome mom (still is). When we were younger, she would allow us to play hookie from school one day a marking period! We would have to let her know the night before and it just couldn't be on her day off AND it couldn't be a "test" day. These sick days were just great rest days.

6. Christmas. Now I know that Christmas is still around, but it doesn't have that magic like it used to. When I was 5, it took 1/5 of my life to get to the next Christmas. Now it's only 1/26 of my life. That's significantly smaller! So the magic of Christmas time (although it still brings me great joy) is lost because it seems to happen more frequently.

5. Weekend Trips. My mom used to take my brother and I on weekend trips! They were educational (Like Williamsburg) and random (like Caves in North Carolina) and fun (Day trips to the beach). Of course I still take weekend trips, but nothing will beat the red "Taurus" with Joey in the front (because he could read the road signs - he does have 4 years on me) and me laying in the back with my Highlights Magazines.

4. Movie Nights. My dad worked late hours often, but about once a month, I was allowed to stay up late and wait for him to close the restaurant. He'd call before he'd leave and ask what snacks I wanted (always a Cherry Coke). Then he'd come home and we'd watch a movie of my choice. (I seem to remember many showings of Mary Poppins).  Dad and I revisited these in High School on snow days (when we'd watch Sopranos all day).

3. Night Swimming. Again, my dad worked late, but in the summer, I could stay up much later. And when dad would come home, Joey and I would be in our bathing suits hoping Dad would want to go swimming. He'd pull our legs and pretend he was too tired, and we'd get disappointed, but then he'd run down the hall in his trunks and jump into the pool, with us trailing behind him!

2. Bergenline Avenue. When I was younger B-line was (and still is) a few miles long shopping district with discount stores. Mom, Joey and I (in a stroller) would start at 68th street (our block) and just walk down; generally to the 30th street bus depot (when the district would dissipate). If Joey and I were well behaved, on the way back Mom would let us buy one thing. We'd walk into the discount store and pick out a toy (usually under a dollar!) and be happy for weeks with these toys. (God I had hundreds of toy "collections" from these stores. I had so much fun with them!) (P.S. That is actually a pic of B-line, after the modernization with black street signs and that cool clock)

1. Gift Budget. On those weekend trips with Mom, we were always on a tight budget (this was before cell phones and atms) so mom had X amount of money and that was it. But no matter how tight the budget was, she had a rule (again as long as we behaved) that we had a gift budget of $5 a place! (She even used to say, she'd pay for the tax, so we could get up to $5). So at every place we visited (even if there were multiple places in a day, when we got to the gift shop we had $5 to spend! I remember I'd always buy post cards and maps and then any money I had left went to a toy or guide book (yeah I was a looser). Sometimes our budget would be extended, or we could carry over the $5 to another gift shop, but we were in charge of keeping track of how much was left in our budget.

So those are things that I miss from childhood.