October 2009 Archives

I sell, therefore I am

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Hello Kitty in costumeThe Cute-Little-Red-Headed Girlfriend and I have the flu, so we haven't been going out very much lately. Because we've been hunkered down, which we missed the start of the Hello Kitty 35th Anniversary Exhibition happening at Royal/T Artspace. It's a three week long event commemorating Hello Kitty's birthday on--mark the date--November 1. It seems Hello Kitty is 35, which means I must be 102.

I wish I could have gone to the VIP Gala opening event, so that I could causally drop it into conversation. "You were at the L.A. Opera last night? No, I couldn't attend. I was at the Hello Kitty VIP Gala." Although I couldn't attend the opening, I have been able to see much of the artwork online.

Among the pieces I particularly like are the figure pictured above, which shows Hello Kitty wearing a toasted marshmallow costume. I thought it was very appropriate for Halloween. It's actually part of a series of figures depicting Hello Kitty in various marshmallow regalia. You can view more here. I also like the below portrait of the Bigfoot family showing the heartwarming role Hello Kitty plays in their lives.

Bigfoot family with Hello KittyThe first time I encountered Hello Kitty merchandise was in a department store. I remember being confused by it because I didn't know where the character originated from. I thought I must have missed some new cultural manifestation, like a series of Hello Kitty children's books, or a Hello Kitty animated television show--something that gave birth to the character. It took me awhile to understand that Hello Kitty exists purely in reference to her own merchandise.

A Celebration of Free

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Miniature vintage disneyland signFor my birthday this year, the Cute-Little-Red-Headed-Girlfriend and I went to Disneyland for the day. We considered attending the annual unofficial Gay Day at Disneyland earlier in October, which we had attended in the past. But the park is running a promotion this year where guests receive free admission on their birthday, and this persuaded us to make a mid-October birthday trip instead.

It had been several years since my last trip to Disneyland. Many of my favorite rides were closed for rehab work the last time I went, and several attractions were looking downright shabby. I have not always been a fan of Disney's rehabs, but I'm happy to report that nearly every attraction I visited had been thoughtfully renewed. The clarity of the audio on the rides was outstanding, and the Pirates of the Caribbean had been restored to a state of glory.

The Girlfriend and I had a good time dining in and outside the park. We began with a breakfast of pancakes at the River Belle Terrace in Frontierland. For lunch, we ducked out to the Storytellers Cafe at the Grand Californian Hotel. The wait staff served me an adorable strawberry cupcake, pictured below, and sang to me when they discovered it was my birthday.

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While walking along Main Street U.S.A., I was excited to run across the Disney Gallery, which showcases archival Disney artwork alongside newer artwork and merchandise created by contemporary artists. We saw, for example, several original pieces created by Shag to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Haunted Mansion.

We had been on the Haunted Mansion ride only an hour earlier. In anticipation of Halloween, the mansion was decked out with a Nightmare Before Christmas overlay. Although I had seen the overlay before, I left with the impression that the decorations were different and better this year. This impression was later confirmed through a visit to the DoomBuggies forum, where I found Haunted Mansion fans offering similar observations.

Miniature version of teacup ride

My favorite part of the Disney Gallery was a section containing marvelously detailed miniature versions of various attractions, including the old Disneyland entry sign, seen at the top of this post, and the Mad Tea Party ride, pictured just above. Since miniaturism is already built into many Disneyland rides and attractions, the effect was redoubled in some of these sculptures.

Once the Girlfriend and I left the gallery, we found ourselves back on Main Street U.S.A., where a parade was in progress. In keeping with the birthday promotion, the parade was called "Celebrate! A Street Party." An announcer encouraged guests to join in the spirit of this "celebration of you" while costumed performers danced down the street.

Continuing the shameless pandering, the announcer called out to all the guests who had come to Disneyland for their birthday. This had been on ongoing theme inside the park. When I entered Disneyland that morning, I was given a huge button to wear that read "Happy Birthday, Teresa!" All day long, I was greeted with "Happy Birthday" by every ride attendant, food worker, shop keeper and cleaning staffperson I encountered.

In other times, I might have removed the button, embarrassed by all the fuss. I'm usually not the type that likes to receive that kind of attention. In fact, I had had concerns about going to Disneyland prior to our visit. With unemployment and underemployment in California at 23%, I wondered if Disneyland might feel empty because few people could afford to attend. I worried the trip might seem too frivolous and maybe I wouldn't be able to enjoy myself.

But that wasn't the case. The park was wonderful and filled with people. I cherished each "Happy Birthday!" I heard. I thrilled at the rides. I celebrated me. I firmly put aside the fact that the country is now held hostage to corrupt business interests hell-bent on squeezing the lifeblood out of everyone I know and care about. For this one day, I forgot about all the problems looming and enjoyed my goddamn cupcake.

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