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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Blogaround

Leia orders Han, "Into the garbage chute, flyboy!" as she tosses her blaster away. Image source.
1. White Feminism & The School To Prison Pipeline (posted 2015) "If you are a school-aged black girl, and unexamined internalized racism makes your teacher perceive you as a threat when you act out in the same way as a white classmate, what is your recourse?"

2. How Christians overcome the scandal of a baby God (posted December 24) "What becomes uncomfortably messy is if Jesus is somehow actually revealing God’s true nature when he’s covered in undignified filth."

3. She Killed Her Abuser Before He Could Kill Her-- Then Served 17 Years. Now She's Taking on the System. (posted December 16) [content note: domestic violence]

4. In the Beginning… Shit (posted December 24) "God’s whisper was lost in the roar of humanity gone mad, the long scream of pain from the beginning of time till now, the endless cry of almost-hopelessness against the dark."

5. This is not leaked footage from the Mulan remake. It's better. (posted December 23) Nice!

6. The Toxic-Masculinity-Destroying Magic Movie We Need Right Now (posted December 6) "Men cry a lot in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them."

7. Germany moves to atone for 'forgotten genocide' in Namibia (posted December 25) [content note: descriptions of genocide]

8. Wall-E and the Meaning of Christmas (posted December 25) Biblical allusions in "Wall-E." Cool!

9. America's Holocaust (posted November 21) "Why don't Americans see the Confederate flag the same way the Germans view the Nazi flag?"

10. How Christianity Stunted My Relational Growth (posted December 26) "I did what Jesus taught us to do and I learned to hate my own life, giving it up for the needs of everyone else, even to the point of ignoring and squelching my own needs in my marriage. It didn’t do what he said it would do, though. It didn’t bring life, it brought death."

11. Interlude: Farewell to a Princess. (posted December 28) "Without Princess Leia, perhaps there wouldn’t have been a Marion Ravenwood, an Ellen Ripley, a Sarah Connor, even perhaps a Katniss Everdeen. She paved the way for unconventional heroines who were capable in their own right."

12. North Carolina is no longer classified as a democracy (posted December 22)

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HEY I THINK I FIXED THE COMMENT SECTION! For the past month, the comment box has not been visible, but I reset some settings today and it seems to be working again. (Please send me a tweet and tell me if the comment box is not visible for you.) I've really missed reading comments from readers in the past month. If you have things to say about any of my recent posts, please go ahead and comment on them. ^_^

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Shanghai Disneyland

Shanghai Disney opened in June 2016. I got the chance to go there recently and it was great! I am a huge fan of Disney. LET ME SHOW YOU MY PICTURES.

First, rides. They had a Dumbo ride:

Here's one where you sit in a honeypot. In other words, it's a teacup ride.
The blue honeypot in the foreground has the word "蜂蜜[fēng mì]" which means "honey." A pink honeypot that says "hunny" is also visible in this photo.

Here's Jetpacks, a ride which is pretty much the same as Dumbo, except it's fast and for adults:

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is a roller coaster that looks like a train and reminds me of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney World (Florida). Except that the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train included a section with very impressive animatronic dwarfs singing "Hi Ho" in Chinese while they mined. [Oh okay, a quick google search reveals that Disney World in Florida also has a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which opened in 2014. Last time I was there was 2008.]
七个小矮人的矿山图 Seven Dwarfs Mine Map

The fastest roller coaster in the park was Tron.

To ride Tron, you sit on bikes like this. It's a pretty weird design for a roller coaster seat.

Here's the track for Tron. Part of the track is outdoors, over the area where people can walk, and part is indoors.

My FAVORITE ride was Pirates of the Caribbean. It was a ride all about special effects. You sit in these big boats that float along from one scene to another, past animatonic people, giant movie screens, boats shooting cannons, and more. There was an animatronic Captain Jack Sparrow and Davy Jones, speaking Chinese. And at the parts with the giant movie screens, the image on the screen made you feel like the boat was moving really fast through the water.

Here's where people get on and off the boats for the pirates ride.

At the Star Wars Launch Bay, we saw a lot of cool Star Wars stuff and met some of the characters:

Han Solo frozen in carbonite, a hologram, and a statue of Boba Fett.

You can sit in the cockpit of the Milennium Falcon! So cool! When I sat there, I was like "NEVER TELL ME THE ODDS!"

The C-3PO is an actor in a costume. The R2-D2 is just a object that sits there all the time.

This girl brought a three-blade light saber to meet Kylo Ren.
So for all the characters in costumes, you can wait in line and then get your picture taken with them. I was SUPER-EXCITED to meet R2-D2 and C-3PO (because I work in robotics), but I don't really like Kylo Ren because he's a bad guy. But I went to meet him anyway because there was no line, and I was a little scared but I told myself "it's not real, it's just an actor in a costume." So I went up to him and said "HI!" but he was totally in character and started ordering me (in Chinese) to stand here or stand there or make a fist and pose for the photo.

The point is, I guess you're not supposed to go up and hug Kylo Ren like you do when you meet Disney princesses. (To clarify: I did not try to hug Kylo Ren.)
"Star Wars 星球大战:创造属于你的光剑 Build Your Own Lightsaber."

There was a maze full of scenes from the 2010 "Alice in Wonderland" movie:


There were also a lot of shows going on. Here's one with Baymax and Hiro, from "Big Hero 6":
I love how Hiro just looks like a totally normal guy. Like if you were walking around Disneyland and saw him, you wouldn't be like "OMG it's Hiro, we must take a picture with him."

There was an area called Camp Discovery which included a big waterfall and a ropes course:

There was a Marvel-themed area with a bunch of cool stuff:
Captain America poses with some fans.

钢铁侠 [gāngtiě xiá] Ironman

I also happened to see Stitch:

And a few characters from "Zootopia":


Here's the Disney castle:

Inside the castle, they had beautiful mosaics showing scenes from various Disney princess movies.

In the afternoon there was a big parade.


Green army men danced in front of the "Toy Story" float.


"So what's your job at Disneyland?" "I'm Slinky Dog's butt."

Look at how these guys jump! This was part of the "Tangled" section of the parade.


Seagulls that danced in front of the "Finding Nemo" float. They kept saying "我的 [wǒ de]" (which means "mine") over and over and over.

Dancers for the "Frozen" float.



The "Mulan" float was so Chinese.

Mulan

It's hard to tell in this photo, but the two women playing the drums are wearing safety goggles. Because small bursts of fire would shoot up every few seconds. Very high-tech.

They just stuck a bunch of unrelated characters on the last float. Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, Captain Hook, Marie ("The Aristocats"), Stitch, and Pinocchio.

Overall, Shanghai Disneyland felt very authentically Disney. For one thing, all the Disney employees are called "cast members" ("演职人员"). There was a huge variety of stuff- fast rides, slow rides, characters to meet, cool scenery straight out of movies, performances, etc. Each attraction had signs (in Chinese and English) clearly telling you where to wait in line and how long the wait would be. The areas where we waited in line had interesting stuff to look at, and the lines generally moved fast. When you get to the front of the line, there's a cast member there to ask how many people you have and to assign you an exact place to wait or a seat number, so that people aren't all pushing each other to get a seat on the ride. (Like we do on the Shanghai subway, ya know.) Disney pays attention to all those little details and it really makes everything run smoothly.

And there were tons and tons of cast members EVERYWHERE. If you have a question for them, it's pretty easy to find one and ask them. They all seem really dedicated to making sure customers can have a good experience. (One of them even told me, in English, "have a magical day.") Very Disney.

At the same time, the cast members were VERY STRICT about rules. If you try to walk in through an exit, they stop you and direct you to the entrance instead. If you walk on the wrong side of the rope they set up for the parade, they tell you you can't walk there. If you want to wait in line to get your picture taken with Minnie but she is leaving, there will be a cast member there to tell you don't get in line, we're done here. When you have so many thousands of visitors in the park, you really do need to be that strict about crowd-control things like that. But everything is clearly marked and set up to naturally direct the visitors to the right areas where they should be, so most of the time it's not even necessary for a cast member to tell someone they're in the wrong place.

One particular aspect that felt "very Disney" to me was how the park was divided up into different areas which each had their own theme.

深险岛 [shēn xiǎn dǎo] Adventure Isle

梦幻世界 [mènghuàn shìjiè] Fantasyland

明日世界 [míngrì shìjiè] Tomorrowland

宝藏湾 [bǎozàng wān] Treasure Cove

In the center of the park is an area called "Gardens of Imagination" ("奇想花园 [qíxiǎng huāyuán]"). It has pretty gardens, bridges, benches, and a nice view of the castle. I heard that this was included in Shanghai Disneyland because China has a huge population of older people who like to go to parks. (Not sure if that's the real reason or not, but yes, I can confirm that China has a huge population of older people who like to go to parks.)

One really cool, very Chinese thing in the "Gardens of Imagination" is the mosaics of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. (You know, like how this year is the year of the monkey? There's a 12-year cycle. 12 animals in all.) Each of the 12 mosaics featured a Disney character which was that animal.



Several times throughout the day, there was a performance on the stage in front of the castle, featuring several different Disney princesses and their associated songs. Here are some photos from that:

Elsa and Anna and the song "Let It Go."

Performing the song "Prince Ali" from "Aladdin."

At the end, they all danced together, along with Mickey and Minnie.
The most MIND-BLOWING part was how Mickey's voice sounded EXACTLY LIKE Mickey's voice, EXCEPT HE WAS SPEAKING CHINESE.

So here's something I was wondering before we went to Disney: would they have white actors playing the white Disney characters, or what? Captain America (who is in one of the photos earlier in this post) was a white American- Hendrix and I shook his hand and we were all like "IT'S GREAT TO MEET YOU" and he was very friendly. But for the princesses, who are cartoon characters, it's possible that a ton of makeup can make a Chinese actor look like a white character. So I looked very closely...


Can't really tell from these pictures, but I concluded this Rapunzel was actually a Chinese actor.

Can't tell from this photo AT ALL, but I concluded this Snow White is a white actor.

Disney songs were played everywhere all day, and it was very interesting how sometimes the songs were in English and sometimes in Chinese. For example, the dwarfs at the "Seven Dwarfs Mine Train" sang "Hi Ho" in Chinese, but the dwarfs in the parade sang it in English.

 The only thing that did not feel "authentically Disney" to me was the food. Most of the food options were along the lines of Chinese fast food- black pepper beef with rice, kung pao chicken with rice, that sort of thing. I can't really complain though, because it was also pretty easy to find hot dogs, hamburgers, corndogs, and popcorn. But then in the afternoon when I wanted something chocolatey but not an ice cream bar, we had to walk all the way back to Mickey Avenue to find a bakery. So that was kind of a pain.

(Obviously, it makes sense to have Chinese-style food at a Disneyland in China. I'm not trying to say that was a bad thing. It was just the one thing that felt different from other Disney parks.)

Since we went there just before Christmas, there were a lot of holiday decorations, including this big tree:

They lit it up real nice at night.

This band played in front of the Christmas tree.

There were also Christmas songs being played throughout the park- both religious and non-religious ones. And some of the Disney characters had super-cute holiday outfits:



Outside the park, there's an area called Disneytown, with restaurants and shopping. (You guys. There is a Cheesecake Factory there.) And also this theatre which is showing "The Lion King" musical in Mandarin Chinese.


Let's talk about culture a little bit: In the US, we have "Disney World" as a cultural concept that almost everyone is familiar with. It's "the happiest place on earth", it's got a huge variety of things, it's very unique as far as theme parks go. Chinese culture doesn't have that concept. So Chinese customers at Shanghai Disneyland don't necessarily have the same expectations as customers at the Disney parks in the US. Also, for me (and lots of Americans) Disney cartoons have a big nostalgia component. That's not the case in China. Based on the anecdotal evidence I've gathered, it seems that most Chinese people my age have seen "The Lion King" and are vaguely aware of who the Disney princesses are, but that's about it. It's not like, the cornerstone of their childhood. But in the past few years, Disney has been doing way more marketing in China, probably with the goal of creating that kind of nostaliga in the generation of Chinese who are currently children. Oh my goodness, so many little girls here love "Frozen."

Shanghai Disneyland was great! There's so much cool stuff there, we weren't able to do it all in one day. There were some rides we weren't able to do because the wait times were really long in the afternoon, and we didn't end up seeing any shows. And I totally wish I had time to line up with all the little girls and get my picture taken with a Disney princess. (Getting a picture with Kylo Ren is... just not the same.) I really really want to go again. Hopefully I will next year.

Here's one more shot of the castle. They light it up at night. So pretty.

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