Thursday, April 16, 2009

DisneyJoy at DisneySea

It rained the entire time the 8th Grade was in Japan. The entire time - EXCEPT for our day at Tokyo DisneySea, which was insanely beautiful. Check out this weather!

Yes, that's the actual Pacific Ocean on the other side of the wall. DisneySea is on the coast, and the water that flows through the park is ocean water.

As my brother can attest, I have a severe case of DisneyJoy - that is to say, I am irrationally predisposed to like something because it is connected in some way with Disney. I think it's genetic. My mother's father has always said his dream was to die on a ride at Disney World, and he once rode It's a Small World so many times in a row that they put him on his own boat.

But you don't have to have DisneyJoy to love Tokyo Disneysea. It's just that lovable. Look at how much fun I'm having!

Also, I am hypnotized by Disney's skill in merchandising and branding. In the US, I'm given to understand, Disney's major merchandise items are connected to the Disney Princess line - Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, etc. In Japan, they love the animals. Now, DisneySea is distinct from Tokyo Disneyland (which is basically just the same as all the other Disneylands), and Disneyland may have more princesses. But at DisneySea, when we went past the spot to meet Ariel, she wasn't even there. But check out the crowd behind us for meeting this guy!

With me here is Naomi Sensei, APIS's Japanese teacher, whose DisneyJoy may be even more severe than mine. Donald is her favorite. And this is not merely Donald, but Donald from The Three Caballeros, a defining film of my childhood. In my family, each of the kids got to "be" one of the birds. My sister was Donald, my brother was the rooster Panchito Pistoles, and I was the parrot José Carioca.

Face to face with my childhood icon? That, my friends, is DisneyJoy.

DisneySea, like all Disney parks, is full of weenies. Here's the first one:

No, the weenie in question is not the APIS math teacher, Shelby, who joins Naomi Sensei and me here. Rather, it is Mount Prometheus, DisneySea's iconic volcano. "Weenies" is apparently the term for landmarks, at theme parks or in video games, that define an area and draw the guest/player towards it. Examples include DisneySea's American Waterfront and the Tower of Terror, or the Magic Kingdom's Cinderella Castle on Main Street, USA. The word "weenie" may or may not be related to the fact that most of them are, yeah, somewhat phallic. DisneySea is brilliantly designed so that all the weenies aren't visible at once. It keeps the park feeling fresh and exciting, because you never know what to expect around any given corner. As you walk towards the volcano, for instance, all you see is the volcano. But once you walk through it, you're greeted with the spire of King Triton's castle.

They're also meant to make you stop and take a picture. We fell for it!

Most days of your life have some kind of problem. A great morning you pay for with a lousy afternoon, a day that would have been perfect if it had been a bit warmer, fun activities but nobody to share them with, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. There are not many days you can point to and say, "Yeah, that was just about perfect." Maybe it's the DisneyJoy talking, but for me, this was one of those days.

Rock on, DisneySea. Rock on.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Google vs. South Korea

Check out this article (via Slate's The Big Money) on Google kowtowing to South Korean net police.

The ROK just started enforcing a new law requiring all websites with more than 100,000 members to store detailed ID confirmations for use in future investigations of "misconduct" (do be defined, of course, by the authorities). In effect, this means anonymous posting of any sort has been banned.

Of course, any mention of this new law has been scrubbed from English-language media in South Korea. It's still unclear whether or not this will have a similar effect on Blogger. (Google has basically shut down YouTube in South Korea--you can view videos, but you can't post comments, post new videos, or even, in some cases, log into an account to create playlists.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Singapore: The Language(s)

(This is one of a series of posts about our recent trip to Singapore. You can find other posts by clicking the "Singapore" tag below.)

It's not only the cuisine that makes Singapore a melting pot.

English is the official language of Singapore (though the locals speak a quirky creole known affectionately as Singlish, and the designated "national" language is Malay) thanks to the decades the island spent under the British. Many old historical markers, street signs, etc are entirely in English, written in a typeface straight out of London.

(After that murtabak, I was a little afraid to cross!)

Modern official notices, however, are posted (from top to bottom in the photo below) in English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil (which is the majority language of southeastern India, where most Singaporeans of Indian descent hail from).
Though some use a more universal language.
Private businesses tend to combine English and the ethnic language of the proprietor and/or target patrons, regardless of neighborhood. The signs below can be found in Little India; Chinese on the top, obviously, and Tamil on the bottom.
But there are many more linguistic curiosities to be found. The restored headstones from the old cemetery, now embedded in a garden wall in Fort Canning Park, include examples of German, French, Italian, Dutch, and Portugese, as well.
Plus, ahem, a few bad puns.

And even in Sinapore, it seems, Chinese poses the most difficulties for would-be translators and transliterators. (Is that even a word?)Was there no one in Singapore who could point out how silly these signs sound?