Saturday, December 30, 2006

More on Stars Wars Stuff in Rose Parade

Kenneth Todd Ruiz of the Pasadena Star-News covers some preparations of the Star Wars Stormtroopers for the Rose Parade:

The 200-strong detachment of stormtroopers from the 501st Legion, a global network of "Star Wars" fans, practiced the fundamentals of soldiering at Maranatha High School under the scrutiny of a real-life multinational force of military trainers.

"For a group without much marching experience, these guys are marching much better than any 18- or 19-year-old recruit," said Cpl. Anthony Toledo of the U.S. Army Reserve, who barked sharp orders, mostly consisting of the time-tested "lefts" and "rights."


There are pictures and video, too.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Star Wars Stormtroopers in Rose Parade

Janette Williams of the Pasadena Star-News tell us the details:

Louisiana's Grambling State University Band in "Star Wars" costume, two floats and the stormtroopers - 200 enthusiasts from 35 states and 22 countries who are actually good guys raising money for children's charities when they're not being stormtroopers - will make up the parade's "Star Wars" spectacular, Holman said.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Television For the ADHD Folks

Have you noticed how much reality TV is filler? If a show is an hour long, they might start with 10 minutes recapping previous episodes. Then, before each break, they tell you what's coming up after the break. Then, after the break, they tell you what happened before the break... like you have NO MEMORY. Then, the final ten minutes is "Coming up next week..." If they were honest, that would continue... "we'll spend ten minutes repeating this episode you just watched!"

Somebody behind "Texas Cheer Moms" on TLC has made an art form out of this. Bless them... they took about an hours worth of content and streched it out over a whole season.

Now, I know what you're saying... "Ken, what are you doing watching that show instead of watching a Strawberry Shortcake DVD?" Well, my wife watches the show. And if I want to spend any time with her, that means I see the show too.

Anyway, at my prompting, my wife timed how much original content there is in a 30-minute "Texas Cheer Moms" episode. Seventeen minutes. SEVENTEEN MINUTES. Now, it is typical to have eight minutes of advertisements, so that means in 30 minutes, there are FIVE WHOLE MINUTES of recapping/previewing what happened last week, what will happen next week, what will happen after the break, what happened before the break. That means you see the same whine from a high school cheerleader 27 times throughout the season!

And you know what? This is cable, which means we pay for this. And there are still advertisements.

As for the show itself... I keep expecting Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy to appear. I swear this looks like Guests' work, only he wouldn't repeat the same content to death... unless he was making a point about reality shows!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Los Angeles Times Checks in on South Pasadena

A New Era in South Pasadena - Los Angeles Times
Change has found its way into a city long known for guarding its small-town, historic charm. Not everyone is on board with revitalization efforts.
By David Pierson

Quotes:
>>South Pasadena is the kind of town that takes its history seriously — a place that's proud of slogans like "South Pasadena — where the past is the present" and "South Pasadena: 1888 with all the modern amenities."
[snip]
Long averse to any change, South Pasadena has embraced an aggressive redevelopment strategy that has brought loft condos, high-end restaurants and trendy shops to a city that has prided itself on a Main Street USA feel even though it's less than seven miles from downtown Los Angeles.

City Hall is pouring millions of dollars into upgrading crowded intersections and repairing an antiquated water system.

The biggest project, however, is a proposed redevelopment of the city's downtown along Mission Street that could bring in dozens of new residential units, new storefronts, underground parking and perhaps a bowling alley.

There is even talk of acquiring the dilapidated Rialto Theatre — a jewel in the eyes of historic preservationists — from private owners in hopes of making it the centerpiece of a spruced-up city core.

The revitalization effort marks a turning point of sorts for South Pasadena, which for decades has focused much of its attention on blocking the extension of the 710.
[snip]
So far, officials have promised to build slowly and to approve only those designs that blend with the city's architecture. And most important to many, officials have said that no large chain stores or restaurants will be welcomed into the new South Pasadena.
[snip]
Fear of overcrowding is one of the reasons there was an outcry over a new housing development in the southwest corner of the city named the Ostrich Farm. The so-called live/work building with its concrete-colored interior and showrooms filled with midcentury modern furniture is being offered to tenants who are supposed to work out of their loft apartments.

Some council members and residents feared that the 53-unit building would bring in too many new residents and possibly burden the school district and overload city streets, which have been kept in a notorious state of disrepair over the years. The mayor also questioned whether residents were actually working in their homes.
[snip]
Some have called for the city to enact an ordinance that prevents chains from opening downtown. Others have expressed concern that the new town center will also add more pressure on the police and fire departments, which are understaffed, forcing the city in recent times to explore contracting with the county for services.<<

I suppose everyone tends to think their hometown is something special, but when major metropolitan newspapers do stories like this, it backs up that notion.

Monday, November 13, 2006

More Evidence?

KB Home CEO Leaves After Options Review - Houston Chronicle
ALEX VEIGA AP Business Writer

Quotes:
>>The resignation of KB Home Chairman and Chief Executive Bruce Karatz in the wake of a stock options scandal leaves the company without the man who built it into one of the nation's top homebuilders during the past two decades.
[snip]
Karatz, 61, was the latest corner-office victim of so-called backdating of employee stock options without properly accounting for the maneuver.
[snip]
The situation also prompted the company to fire the head of its human resources department, Gary A. Ray. Richard B. Hirst, executive vice president and chief legal officer, resigned.

The inquiry revealed that Karatz and Ray had selected the grant dates for the stock options, and no other senior executives had a role in establishing incorrect grant dates.
[snip]
KB Home refused to comment further on Monday.
[snip]
Still, the loss of Karatz came as KB Home and other homebuilders are struggling through a housing market slowdown.<<

I know someone who interviewed to work with them.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Using A Touch-Screen At The Local Fast Food Joint

Jerry Hirsch of the Los Angeles Times tells us about fast food eateries using computerized touch-screen kiosks to take orders.

Devices such as touch-screen ordering kiosks — whether in the drive-through lane or inside the restaurant — promise many advances for quick-serve eateries, analysts say.

"It cuts down on labor, ensures accuracy and is often faster and easier for people to use," said Darren Tristano, a restaurant industry analyst with Technomic Inc. in Chicago.

Yum Brands Inc.'s KFC is testing indoor self-serve kiosks at three locations in Florida. Elsewhere in the state, McDonald's Corp. franchisee Gary Moulton has spent more than $100,000 to install two or three touch-screen systems inside each of his six restaurants.

The investment is paying off. Moulton said customers using the kiosks spent an average of 20% more per order than those who ordered at the front counter.

"The kiosk will always suggest an item like a drink or a dessert if it is not ordered," he said. "Front counter servers don't always do the same."

Paul Knight, who sells such machines for NCR Corp. of Dayton, Ohio, notes another potential advantage for restaurants.

"Anonymity encourages people to make larger orders," he said. "They are not embarrassed to super-size something because they aren't doing it face to face."


I remember ten years ago or more that the Taco Bell by Cal State Fullerton had touch-screen ordering.

Chains including Yum Brands-owned Taco Bell have experimented with touch-screen ordering, but the companies haven't expanded the programs, citing problems with the software or insufficient customer interest.


Yup, see. I was right. This technology can also help get people around language barriers. I would think raising the minimum wage and the increasing costs of employing people would also contribute to the use of these machines. Instead of several employees taking orders, one employee can service the machines at various locations to work out bugs.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Plans Revealed for Mixed-Use in South Pasadena

Cortney Fielding of the Pasadena Star-News tells us about plans for South Pasadena:

Visions of stucco high-rises and chain restaurants were laid to rest at the Community Redevelopment Commission meeting when Torrance-based Decoma unveiled its vision for a 145,000-square-foot Midwestern-style development comprised of small boutiques, high-end dining and second floor office space and condos surrounding a public town square.

Heavy on brick and plaster, the project spanning three city blocks from Hope and Oxley streets to Fair Oaks and Mound avenues will house 18 existing downtown businesses and add an estimated 15 new shops and restaurants to a city desperately searching for new sales tax revenues.


I think this town will always hold a special place in my heart, whether or not I ever live there again.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Wendy's Sells Baja Fresh

Stories about food chain sales, openings, and closures interest me. Gee, I wonder why.

Nancy Luna reports in the Orange County Register that Baja Fresh has been sold for $31 million.


Quotes:
>>David Kim is the key investor in the deal, which includes other private stakeholders. He runs RD Restaurant Group in Anaheim, which operates and franchises hundreds of Sweet Factory, KaBloom, Cinnabon and Denny's locations.

Wendy's bought Baja Fresh for $245 million in 2002, making Kim's deal sweet, say analysts.<<

Wendy's bought for $245 million and sold for $31 million? Sounds like a dot.com deal.

>>Baja Fresh operates 300 restaurants, including 23 in Orange County.
[snip]
The sale comes as Wendy's looks to shed its secondary brands to focus its energies on reviving sales at its flagship hamburger chain, interim Chief Executive Kerrii Anderson said.
[snip]
When Wendy's bought the Thousand Oaks-based Baja Fresh in 2002, it was one of the hottest concepts in the growing fast-casual segment. The chain caught the attention of health-conscious consumers with its "fresh Mex" fare and self-serve salsa bar.<<

I love the salsa bar. If they get rid of that, I'll never forgive them.

>>Wendy's bought Baja hoping to put some muscle in its own earnings. But, soon after the acquisition, rival chains with similar strategies and faster service began winning the attention of diners, including Chipotle and Jack in the Box's Qdoba Mexican Grill.<<

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I Was Quoted

Jennifer McLain of the Pasadena Star-News (and sister papers) quotes me in a story about "garbage collection":

Quotes:
>>"We're going to be doing this all over the county," said Ken Pellman, spokesman for the county's Department of Public Works. "Rowland Heights and Hacienda Heights will be among the first to get this."
[snip]
The board is expected to vote by the end of the year, Pellman said.<<

I won't have the chance to speak for Public Works for very much longer. I'm on the move.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Pasadena Shakers Closing

Pasadena Star-News - Shakers Movin' On, Landmark Eatery to Close

Staff writer Kenneth Todd Ruiz talks about the closing eatery, where I ate with a couple of my buddies on the night of my bachelor party... eh, get-together.


Quotes:
>>Sunday is Shakers' last day at the corner of Arroyo Parkway and Cordova Avenue.
[snip]
Most patrons say Shakers' convenience, comfort and the people on both sides of the counter account for its appeal. Many enjoy the food, but it's not the first thing that springs to mind.

Manager Lupe Garcia Woodward - who said he met his wife more than 20 years ago while employed at the Shakers in Glendale - hopes all the customers and employees make the move around the corner to the Central Park Grill on Raymond Avenue when it opens under the same ownership.
[snip]
Shakers will live on in name at other locations - owners Henry Yost and his son, David, own one in South Pasadena, two in Glendale, and Wild Thyme in South Pasadena. They are also part-owners of Beckham Grill in Pasadena.<<

Pasadena has seen condo building rising everywhere, and other new development that crowds the long-established streets.

Monday, October 02, 2006

"Weird Al" Yankovic Shakes My Hand


Or, maybe he's just trying to get me to wake up, or we're going to thumb wrestle. A kind soul took this picture at the recent signing and e-mailed to me. Holy cow I'm white & nerdy.

Yeah, that's really "Weird Al" Yankovic under that cap and hair.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Another Negative Story I Could Have Been Faced With

A Pasadena firm that interviewed me and didn't hire me has negative news to deal with.

It's just uncanny how these places get hit with bad news after I get turned down in favor of someone else.

Of course, the way the mind works, I wouldn't have noticed if the same kind of bad news was happening before, or happening to places that didn't interview me at all.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Went to the "Weird Al" Yankovic Al-bum Signing

In case I haven't told you a billion times before... I'm a huge fan of "Weird Al" Yankovic. His latest Al-bum, a dual disc work, was released today. Al announced a couple of weeks back that he'd be doing a signing at the Virgin Megastore in Hollywood.

Great... I figured my buddy Craig and his wife and I would all go there like we did last time, only this time my wife would be there, too.

Since it is a busy time at the office, I wasn't going to take any time off. My plan was for my wife to drive up to the office to meet me, and then we'd go from there.

Craig and his wife couldn't make it, so Craig asked me to pick up a copy of the Al-bum for him. Kori wasn't feeling cheery enough either, so she declined to meet me at the office and told me to go it alone.

So, I slogged through traffic to go to the Virgin Megastore on Sunset in Hollywood. I hadn't been there since Al signed his previous al-bum there.

The problem was, the signing was actually at the company's Hollywood & Highland store. This, I didn't discover until after I had picked up the al-bums and the DVD set of Al's Saturday morning TV show.

Horrified, I slogged through more traffic and parking adventures and made my way to the end of the very long line in H&H Virgin Megastore. Then someone told me I was going to need a wristband. Yeah, like last time, when I went to pay for the al-bum days in advance and got a wristband that meant NOTHING as I waited in line behind many people who didn't have wristbands? Like that?

Well, apparently this time they really meant it. You needed a wristband. To get a wristband, you had to buy the al-bum in the store. Fortunately, I showed them my receipt from the other store and explained my situation, and they gave me a wristband.

I was in line behind two animation students from CalArts, so we started to talk Disney after they saw me pick up a paperback copy of Disney War.

The line snaked through the store as monitors overhead showed either a live shot of Al at a table getting carpal tunnel syndrome, or video from the dual disc. The music from the al-bum played on a loop.

At one point, the line snaked right past the fully-accessible "Adult" section. Yeah, considering half of Al's fans are kids, that was really well thought-out.

Many times, staff went down the line, telling everyone they needed wristbands and that they can only have ONE thing signed. Many times they did this. Many, many times. If that was going to be the case, Craig would have to go without.

Heck, as we approached the heavily-guarded signing area, the staff wanted to see exactly what it was that was going to be signed, and the wristbands were taken away - presumably to keep us from getting back in line to get a second item signed.

I opened the little lyric/credit booklet to page I thought best, and I slipped Craig's copy directly underneath it so it looked like just one booklet. I slipped in my business card with Craig's surname on the reverse side.... just in case.

Sure enough, when I finally reached Al, he signed the first booklet to "The Pellmans" and signed the second one, which he did not hesitate to sign (Al is very, very nice and patient with his fans), to Craig's family. I was so concerned about violating the "rules" that I didn't enjoy the moment as much as I should have.

Al shook my hand, I thanked him in general, and I thanked him for turning me on to Ben Folds.

Having had two items signed, I turned around to see the security staff glare at me like I had just released 27 rabid wolverines in their store. But hey, they had slipped someone to the table between me and the guys from CalArts, who graciously agreed to take my picture when I was with Al, so if they can do something like that, why can't I get two items signed?!?

Upon exiting the store, I bumped into Kevin, who remembered me as the Disney guy... Like me, he's gotten married since we last met. It was nice to see someone I recognized besides Al.

I made my way back to my car and drove the long drive home. The signing had started at 7pm, I had gotten in line before 7:30, and it was about 10pm when I got out of there.

Al is my favorite performance artist, and I'm glad he manages to be so cheery, patient, and friendly as he spends time with fan after fan after fan after fan.

Okay, time for my "nap" before I have to return to the office in the morning.

Friday, September 22, 2006

KB Home Facing Slowdown

Scott Reckard and Annette Haddad of the Los Angeles Times tell us that waning home sales are taking a toll, and that KB's revenue growth has slowed.

Westwood-based KB said it was releasing only limited financial results for its fiscal third quarter because of an internal probe of its stock option practices. Other companies caught up in the growing option controversy have had to restate earnings after similar investigations.

KB said revenue rose 6% to $2.67 billion in the period ended Aug. 31. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial had expected revenue to come in at $2.61 billion. A year earlier, revenue soared 44% from the same period in 2004.

KB Home also said home orders in its U.S. and French markets plunged 43% from last year's third quarter. On the West Coast, orders plummeted 58%.


This kind of news seems to be happening to companies a certain someone interviewed with and was subsequently not hired. It's getting eerie, like this person was being protected from being a new hire facing a layoff.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

My Latest DVD Reviews Now Online

Go to LaughingPlace.com to read my reviews.

This time, I review two DVDs featuring Disneyland Park. Each one is presented as an OAKFAN Production, meaning they aren't official Disney DVDs. They are from the "Bringing Disneyland Home" series - "A Sights & Sounds Home Video Tour of the Happiest Place on Earth" and "The Golden Horseshow Shows Edition".

Some of these enthusiast-made DVDs are excellent, some less so. You'll have to go to LaughingPlace.com to find out about these DVDs...unless you've seen them already.

-Ken

Monday, September 04, 2006

I Was Quoted

New Signs Aim to Reflect Identity in Unincorporated Areas
By Jennifer McLain - Whittier Daily News Staff Writer

Quote:
>>Rowland Heights and Hacienda Heights are the next in line to get upgraded street signs, Los Angeles County officials said.

Although a timeline and cost have not been finalized, Ken Pellman, the county's Department of Public Works spokesman, expects the signs to be installed within the next year.

"These signs are part of a larger effort to recognize and distinguish communities that are in the unincorporated areas of the county," he said.<<

There's a lot more. Good article.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Hometown Company Does Good

Walter Hamilton of the Los Angeles Times updates us on how Trader Joe's is doing in Manhattan. Until recently, they were headquartered in South Pasadena.

Quotes:
>>Since opening near Union Square in March, Trader Joe's has caught the fancy of finicky New Yorkers.
[snip]
Though its stores have sprinkled the East Coast for a decade, Union Square marks the Monrovia-based company's first toehold in New York City.
[snip]
Privately held Trader Joe's won't divulge financial information, and company officials declined to be interviewed about their Greenwich Village outpost. But analysts estimate that the store is probably one of the highest grossing in the 256-store chain.
[snip]
Because of a quirk of New York law, Trader Joe's must run the wine store separately from the main market, and grocery employees are limited in what they can say about it.<<

I wish there was one closer to where we are living now.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Hometown Girl Brings Down Powerful Molestor

Victim's Resolve Brings Down a Star of Science
By Peter Y. Hong - Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

The girl set the showdown for the oak-shaded lawn in front of the South Pasadena public library, a lovely spot for an ugly encounter.

She was a high school student with a painful secret that surfaced on her wrists, scarred where she had cut herself.

He was William French Anderson, world-renowned scientist, the father of gene therapy and a martial arts expert with law enforcement connections from the FBI to the chief of his hometown police department in San Marino.


Pillar of the community.

Without children of their own, the Andersons had long taken on what they called "surrogate children," guiding nine through college and in some cases medical school.

In Los Angeles, the girl became Anderson's next protege. Like him, she had early speech problems, talking only to her more outgoing twin sister in their own language.

The girl learned English in school but continued to let her twin speak for her. She had few friends and had been acting up at school.


I've cut out some of the sick details.

The girl lived with her family in a simple hillside house in South Pasadena, a short drive from Anderson's much grander residence, a spacious Cape Cod on a row of mansions across from the Huntington library and gardens. The twins built a treehouse in Anderson's backyard and had their friends over for get-togethers. Anderson bought the girl her prom dress.


It's quite an article. Check it out if you have a moment.

Friday, August 18, 2006

I Was Quoted A Bunch of Times

Well, actually, in some cases, just cited.

Tour Buses Anger Residents
By Jennifer McLain Staff Writer - Whittier Daily News

Quote:
>>Ken Pellman, spokesman for the department of public works, said the new resolution - which also applies to six other unincorporated areas - simply addresses commercial vehicles that don't belong in that neighborhood on an ongoing basis.

"The thing about tour buses is if they are there momentarily, it's not the same type of problem as trucks parking there overnight," Pellman said. "If there are too many cars from people who aren't residents, that is a separate issue."<<

Depending on the conditions in the area, they can aske for "no parking any time" restrictions.


County Panel to Study Energy
By Reina V. Slutske - The Signal Staff Writer

Quote:
>>Certain departments have already taken steps to aid energy efficiency. Ken Pellman, spokesman for the Department of Public Works, said projects such as implementing light-emitting diodes for traffic lights and solar panels for bus stations are on a smaller scale to help.<<

Public Works is also involved because we use a lot of vehicles (some hybrids) and because we are involved in street lights, promoting recycling, and we can use energy-efficient designs for constructing County government buildings.


County Acts on Impromptu Car Lot

Quote:
>>COVINA - Help is on the way for unincorporated Covina residents itching to rid their streets of used cars for sale, officials said Wednesday.

The county Board of Supervisors has approved restricting parking on Shadydale Avenue near Badillo Street and Sunset Avenue, said Ken Pellman, county Department of Public Works spokesman.

Residents said the impromptu used car lot hits especially hard during the weekends.<<


Official: No 'Blanket Solution' for Parking
By Serena Maria Daniels - The Signal Staff Writer

Quotes:
>>An effort by the county Board of Supervisors last fall to decrease traffic congestion along a section of Lost Canyon Road has led to what some are calling a vandalism zone.

While the number of reported vandalisms is not considered a trend by local law enforcement, county Department of Public Works officials say that if residents are concerned about existing parking conditions they need to bring them up so that the department can investigate their needs.

"There can't just be a blanket solution that we feel is right," said Ken Pellman, a spokesman for Public Works.<<

Meaning... we need the input of residents with the understanding that if a change is possible and is made, it is likely to change other things as well, like speed limits and traffic conditions.

>>Pellman said that any issue involving parking on private property cannot be dealt with by the county, rather it must be taken up with the homeowners' association.

Kulikowski and Nunnery both said they were not successful in reaching representatives from their homeowners' association and want answers as to what they can do about the situation.

"I deal with the same thing," said Pellman of his own neighborhood. "If there's not enough parking in a complex, it becomes tough as to where someone is going to park."

Pellman suggested that residents who have an issue with parking conditions in their neighborhood can bring it up with Public Works, which conducts studies to determine the best solution for those types of problems.

"We measure things like traffic volume, traffic speed," said Pellman, adding that the stretch of Lost Canyon Road is a relatively new area, with a speed limit of 35 mph. "If there's something that people aren't happy with, that's something we'll look into."<<

I think now would be a great time to remind anyone reading this that this is MY personal blog, written on my own time, using my own resources, and so I'm certainly not speaking for anyone other than myself.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Checking in on My Hometown

South Pasadena Busy With Upgrades to Facilities
By Cortney Fielding Pasadena Star-News Staff Writer

Quotes:
>>After decades of stagnation, major public construction projects have begun sprouting up throughout South Pasadena. Designed to both revitalize the city's appearance and accommodate increasing demands on its infrastructure, everything from streetscapes to sewers are in line for revamps.
[snip]
When the Grand Reservoir was built in 1882, South Pasadena was home to almost as many ostriches as people.

Last spring, workers began the $6 million teardown of the decaying reservoir, followed by the installation of two steel tanks estimated to hold 1.25million gallons each.

In September, a completely new Grand Reservoir in the city's northwest corner will come on-line, complete with up-to-date technology and electrical systems.
[snip]
Other projects in the works are designed to alleviate traffic congestion, particularly in the areas affected by gaps in the 710 freeway. But the city will be spared the bulk of the $16 million price tag - almost 90 percent of funding will come from federal money secured by former Rep. James Rogan.<<


It's a very nice place and there seems to constantly be production of feature films, television shows, and television ads there.

Bygone Aquarium

Aquarium on the Pacific
Hermosa Beach's ultramodern aquatic zoo gained wide attention during its 10-year run.
By Andrea Sudano - Daily Breeze

Quotes:
>>These days, sharks and piranhas stalk Pier Avenue only at bars on Saturday nights, but they had a permanent home in Hermosa Beach in the 1950s.

Octopi, sea horses, giant turtles and the like once filled the giant glass-fronted tanks of the Ocean Aquarium just south of the pier and west of The Strand, drawing nearly 2 million visitors in its nearly 10-year run in town.
[snip]
The underwater zoo clocked about 1.8 million visitors, including more than 25,000 group tours from the Boy Scouts and other youth and school organizations.

Kids and adults alike were fascinated by the daily animal feedings, suitable for viewing and participation.
[snip]
In its time, the giant fish bowl was considered one of the largest and most modern aquariums in the country. Other tanks tried to replicate its "modern appointments," the Breeze wrote.
[snip]
While Marineland of the Pacific -- a descendent of Hermosa's aquarium, according to a book detailing Hermosa Beach's history in pictures -- entertained tourists on the Palos Verdes Peninsula for more than 30 years, the Ocean Aquarium wasn't nearly as lucky.
[snip]
An apparent squabble between McBride and the city over a 40-year lease calling for the development of a new pier caused both parties to hire lawyers in January 1956.

According to a Breeze article, the city was offered the aquarium's land and several nearby parcels for $85,000 in June 1958, and bought the land several years later.<<


I love reading about the history of lost attractions, especially about ones in southern California.

Friday, August 11, 2006

I Got Quoted Due to Terrorism

Tight Focus on Security Changes Rules For Travel
Article Launched: 8/11/2006 12:00 AM
By Fred Ortega, Pasadena Star-News Staff Writer

Quotes:
>>The disruption Thursday of a plan to blow up airliners en route to the United States from the United Kingdom has suddenly and radically changed the way people travel - in some cases, perhaps, permanently.

Within hours of the arrest of 24 suspects in London - believed to be about to smuggle liquid explosives hidden in household containers aboard up to 10 transatlantic flights - authorities had gathered at Los Angeles International Airport to announce the stringent new travel restrictions. They include prohibitions against bringing any liquid in carry-on baggage onto any commercial flight originating out of the United States.
[snip]
At local general aviation airports such as El Monte and Brackett, things remain the same as they have been after the Sept. 11 attacks, said Ken Pellman, a spokesman for the county's Public Works Aviation Division.

"We are telling pilots to be on the lookout for anything unusual, making sure our fencing is in good repair," said Pellman. "General aviation is a different animal than commercial airports. These are small planes that people look after much as they would their own cars, so we are just asking that they take the same precautions as always, making sure they are locked up."<<

The paper has extensive coverage, including graphics of what can be carried on to commercial flights and what can't.

I've Joined The Disney Blog

Yes, I didn't have enough to do, so now I'm also contributing to The Disney Blog - http://www.TheDisneyBlog.com. If you bookmark The Disney Blog and LaughingPlace.com and visit them both frequently, you'll be up to speed on everything that's happening at The Mouse, why it is happening, and what it will mean for the future.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Dubai Digs

Man-made Island Nears Completion
By JIM KRANE, AP Business Writer

Quotes:
>>With 14,000 laborers toiling day and night, the first of Dubai's three palm-shaped islands is finally about to get its first residents.

The Palm Jumeirah, a 12-square-mile island group, is part of what's billed as the largest land-reclamation project in the world, the product of five years of brute hauling of millions of tons of Persian Gulf sand and quarried rock.
[snip]
When fully complete by 2010, the Palm Jumeirah will be an offshore city, with some 60,000 residents and at least 50,000 workers in 32 hotels and dozens of shops and attractions, Nakheel said.
[snip]
The $14 billion project is a key part of this booming city's ambitions to rival Singapore and Hong Kong as a business hub, and surpass Las Vegas as a leisure capital.
[snip]
Nakheel's two copycat Palms, the Palm Jebel Ali and Palm Deira, have also been delayed by design changes and other factors, Kazim said. A nearly finished fourth Nakheel archipelago, shaped like a map of the world, has attracted few buyers and remains mostly unsold.
[snip]
Meanwhile, laborers living in a cruise ship moored offshore are scrambling to finish enormous concrete houses that are crammed together on the palm island's 17 "fronds." The fronds are narrow peninsulas as long as a mile, attached to the island's main trunk. Nakheel will hand keys to owners of 1,350 homes by Nov. 30, Kazim said.
[snip]
The 1,500 room Atlantis Hotel is already under construction by South Africa and Dubai-owned Kerzner International, and is expected to be finished in 2009. The hotel will be similar to its Atlantis hotel in The Bahamas.

A redesigned Trump Hotel and Tower on the island is also expected to open sometime in 2009, Kazim said.<<

Can Disney be far behind?

The 'Nigerian' Scammers Keep Going

Nigerian 419 Scam is Back, With a Twist
A 'buyer' sees your house advertised online and makes a nice offer. But first, you're asked to send some cash.
By Gayle Pollard-Terry - Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Quotes:
>>When real estate agent Jennifer Caveness decided to sell her Huntington Beach town house recently, she listed the two-bedroom, two-bathroom property in the Multiple Listing Service, the traditional method of attracting sellers. She also advertised it on two popular websites, CraigsList.com and MySpace.com.

She quickly became the target of a new twist on an old scheme — the Nigerian advance-fee scam called 419 after the number of the West African nation's criminal code that prohibits this type of fraud.

For years, con artists have sent e-mails offering to share millions of dollars if the recipients would pay to cover the transfers costs, administrative fees, customs or bribes they say are needed to get the money out of the country. Or the e-mails promised big international lottery winnings after the payment of upfront fees.

Of course, the payoffs never materialize.

In the fraud's latest incarnation, home sellers are being targeted.
[snip]
Caveness canceled the deal and reported the incident to the FBI's Internet-crime complaint center. The agency, which is working with the Nigerian government, will look at names and similarities to determine whether a pattern exists and if these individuals are part of a larger scheme. The FBI, which receives 20,000 Internet-crime complaints a month, advised The Times against revealing the names of the men who contacted Caveness in case there was an investigation already underway involving them; also, Nigerian criminals have been known to threaten their online victims.

Peter Brust, former chief of the cyber-crime division at FBI headquarters, said that the new versions of the 419 scams are increasingly more believable. "It's not like they offer you millions of dollars," he said. "They read the newspapers and they know what's possible on the Internet, like the social-networking sites." The scam artists not only work out of Nigeria, he said. Other top spots include the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and South America.
[snip]
Where to turn for information on cyber scams:

• Internet users who suspect they are victims of cyber crime should go to http://www.ic3.gov - The Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership of the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, collects complaints, develops information and, when necessary, refers the allegations to the proper federal, state, local or international authorities for investigation.

• The FBI also recommends a consumer-advocacy website, Looks Too Good to Be True (www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com), for prevention tips, victims' stories, a test to determine how vulnerable you are to Internet scams or to order free fraud-prevention DVDs produced by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, one of the sponsors of the site.

• Complaints can also be filed at http://www.ftc.gov - the online site of the Federal Trade Commission.

• Information from the federal government and technology companies on how to protect yourself online is available at onguardonline.com/crossborder.html.<<

Stay vigilant. For research and hilarious entertainment, I recommend you check out http://www.419eater.com/

Saturday, August 05, 2006

In-N-Out Burger Matriarch Passes Away

Ailing leader of In-N-Out Burger Dies
Esther Snyder, 86, and her husband founded popular Irvine chain.
By NANCY LUNA - The Orange County Register

Quotes:
>>Esther Snyder, the ailing matriarch of In-N-Out Burger – one of Southern California's most popular fast-food chains – died Friday. She was 86.
[snip]
Snyder met her husband, Harry, while she was working as a manager at a Seattle restaurant in 1947. Harry, known as a stickler for neat attire, sold baked goods to the restaurant. The two moved to Baldwin Park, married and founded In-N-Out in 1948.

From the beginning, the Snyders' strategy was simple: Serve fresh burgers in a clean, customer-friendly environment. She kept the books, while her husband ran the day-to-day operations of his unique "two-way speaker" drive-through concept.
[snip]
Up until the end, she was passionate about that tradition. In a rare video message made for employees late last year, Snyder – dressed in a blue smock – said she still made spot checks on eateries to ensure workers were preparing meals correctly, and with a smile.<<

Sad news. I hope the place doesn't change. Without them, I might actually be a healthy weight.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Preventing Pollution

Click HERE to see a "vidcast" about preventing runoff pollution. I have a short appearance in the short video, which was made by the City of Bellflower.

-Ken

I Was Quoted on Parking

Truck Parking To Be Limited
County ban aimed at commercial rigs
By Jennifer McLain - San Gabriel Valley Tribune Staff Writer

Quotes:
>>Semi-trailer trucks that have plagued some area residents soon will be prohibited from parking on certain streets in unincorporated areas, county officials said Tuesday.

"This is just about commercial vehicles that don't belong in some neighborhoods on an ongoing basis," said Ken Pellman, county Department of Public Works spokesman.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday adopted a resolution that prohibits parking of commercial vehicles in the unincorporated areas of South Whittier, Rowland Heights and Altadena. Pellman expects it to be enforced as early as September.
[snip]
In several weeks, Pellman said he expects signs to be posted in the affected areas, including Nogales Street in Rowland Heights, Marengo Avenue in Altadena, and Meyer Road in South Whittier.

Signs also will be posted that prohibit parking in certain areas from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.<<

Be careful where you park.

Friday, July 28, 2006

I Was Quoted

Builders Allowed to Start Water, Work Flowing Again
By ALISHA SEMCHUCK - Antelope Valley Press Staff Writer

Quotes:
>>Suspension of construction water resulted from a severe decline in District 40's storage tanks. Ken Pellman, a spokesman for Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, said the district has 40 water storage tanks throughout its service area, which can hold a total water capacity of 45 million gallons.
[snip]
Though the storage tanks weren't overflowing at full capacity, Pellman said District 40 deemed it safe to furnish water to developers at this time.

"We were waiting for (the tanks) to get to 60% or 70%," Pellman said, meaning at least 27 million gallons of water was replaced. "We were satisfied with that. So we restored construction water."
[snip]
"We still ask people to conserve," Pellman said. "Sensible conservation really won't take much effort.

"We're trying to keep service levels functioning properly. We don't want (water) pressure to be lost. If need be, (construction gets) turned off. Our priority is to serve existing residents and businesses."

L.A. Water Works urged Antelope Valley residents to conserve water in a news release issued July 12, around the same time developers were asked to find an alternate water source.

"It's not an ideal situation," Pellman said. "We don't want to interrupt construction. At the same time, we want to ensure that people have water to drink, and for their other needs."<<

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Another Send-Off

My friend Marina has left the office for another corner of the County. We had her Happy Hour after work today. She's going to be missed!

-Ken

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Guess What? I Was Quoted Yet Again

County Overhaul of Trash Service Could Boost Costs
By Jennifer McLain - San Gabriel Valley Tribune Staff Writer

Quotes:
>>For the county, this allows it to deliver more uniformed services to its residents, plus reduce the amount of haulers that currently drive through the streets, said Ken Pellman, public information officer for the department of public works.
[snip]
"The county is currently reviewing the proposals. The proposals are evaluated on the basis on seven criteria including price. The waste hauler who scores the highest will be awarded the contract subject to the Board of Supervisors approval," Pellman said.
[snip]
"Cost of trash services may or may not go up," Pellman said. "The franchise agreement has provisions that controls rate increases."

A request for proposal is also being developed for other communities such as Hacienda Heights.

"We will be doing this for the different coverage areas we serve in the county," Pellman said.<<

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I Was Quoted Again

It's Crunch Time For AV Water Users
By ALISHA SEMCHUCK - Antelope Valley Press Staff Writer

Quotes:
>>"We had people working on (interconnections) around the clock," said Ken Pellman, a spokesman for the Department of Public Works.

"It's now operational," he said Thursday, though developers were still left dry.
[snip]
"These days, with that hot weather, we've had demand as high as 90 million gallons per day," Pellman said. "That's our absolute peak. Summer usage is three times as high as winter. In winter, we might use 25 million gallons per day."
[snip]
Pellman said between AVEK and District 40's wells, they should have about 75 million gallons of water per day. Yet, AVEK is grappling with its own issues right now.
[snip]
Meanwhile, Pellman said, although they would like the storage tanks to reach 100% capacity - a combined total of 45 million gallons - right now they would settle for somewhere between 60% and 70%, a minimum of 27 million gallons, in order to "reinstate construction use."<<

She did a lot of research on this article.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I Was Quoted

In three recent newspaper articles:

'This is not a used car lot'
For-sale vehicles provoke resident backlash
Ruby Gonzales Staff Writer - San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Quotes:
>>COVINA - Shadydale Avenue residents are fuming because a nearby street corner has become a mini car lot for people who sell used vehicles.
[snip]
Two residents have collected signatures from 78 percent of homeowners who want parking restricted, said Ken Pellman, county Department of Public Works spokesman.

He said the proposed parking ban will come before the county Board of Supervisors on Aug. 1.

He said the county received complaints from two residents in April or May.<<


Major Road in Val Verde Set for an Upgrade
By Kristopher Daams - Signal Staff Writer

Quotes:
>>County public works officials originally intended to reconstruct a section of deteriorated pavement in June on San Martinez between Neuraschel Street and Parker Avenue near Val Verde Park.

"We've held off for the sake of a more permanent solution," said Ken Pellman, spokesman for the county's Public Works Department. "The potholes along this roadway are largely due to spring water flows from Val Verde Road, so we're now looking at extending the storm drain in San Martinez."

"It's something our crews could easily see for themselves," Pellman said about the large collections of water that would accumulate during rainy seasons.
[snip]
The project should be completed by early fall 2007.

"In the meantime, we have been doing repairs to specific spots on the road since we wouldn't be reconstructing the entire stretch until after the storm drain work," Pellman said.<<



Local Activist Wants County to See the Light
By Kristopher Daams - Signal Staff Writer

Quote:
>>Another traffic study of the same intersection is set for September and the results will be looked at by the same officials the following month, said the department's spokesman Ken Pellman.<<

My Latest DVD Reviews Now Online

Go to LaughingPlace.com to read my reviews of "Jeff Lange Remembers Disneyland's 40th Anniversary" and "Jeff Lange Remembers Disneyland's 40th Birthday", two fan-created DVDs.

-Ken

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

KB Home Wants of Slower Sales

KB Home Warns of Slower Sales as Inventory Grows
From the Associated Press - Los Angeles Times

It's still not too late to reverse the bad news trends by hiring a certain job candidate.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Jackpot-Winning Ticket Sold in South Pasadena

Pasadena Star-News - $110 Million Jackpot
Lotto lowdown: $550,000 to merchant, but where's the winner?
By Cortney Fielding Staff Writer

Quotes:
>>It was California's largest jackpot in four years and the sixth highest in state history.

The numbers drawn were 2, 9, 12, 20, 34 and Mega number 16.

Until Wednesday night, no one had won the top prize in the twice-weekly game in 23 rounds, setting a new state record.

Standing behind the counter of Foremost Liquor Market as reporters peppered him with questions, Sidhu was all smiles.
[snip]
Sidhu has owned the store for three years; it's been in the neighborhood for three decades.<<

I really hope the winner is a resident of my hometown.

>>If the ticket holder chooses annual payments, they will begin at $2.75 million and graduate to more than $5.6 million by the 26th year, before taxes.

If the cash option is chosen, the winner will receive a lump sum of roughly half the jackpot amount, or about $57 million, according to Lottery officials.<<

Yeah, but what will it be after taxes? $30 million? Peanuts!

Happy Ending After a Vicious Murder

A Love Lost 'A Lifetime Ago'
Kristin Burt's husband was gunned down 10 years ago this month in Fullerton. Since his death, she's given birth to his son, raised him alone, and worked hard to find a new best friend.
By NANCY LUNA - The Orange County Register

Quotes:
>>A few years ago, an allergy attack left Kristin Burt gasping for breath, her face swollen.

She called for an ambulance. Then, during the ride to the hospital, it happened.

The paramedic stared at her. "Kristin Burt. Kristin Burt," he chanted, trying to make the connection.

Burt calls it the JFK syndrome - the moment when her name or face (even her face bloated by an allergy attack) becomes unmistakably familiar to strangers. The medic finally remembered she was married to Don Burt, a rookie CHP officer gunned down 10 years ago this month in Fullerton. Kristin Burt was seven months pregnant at the time of the killing, which made headlines for weeks.<<

I was living literally across the screet from the murder scene. I remember that evening... I was on the phone, talking to a friend, and I heard a series of pops. I joked about it being gunshots and the neighborhood going down the tubes, but I figured it was fireworks.

And then I heard sirens.

And more sirens.

And more sirens.

I finally went outside to see more black & whites in one place than I'd ever seen before, and I watched as an ambulance passed by, carrying Officer Burt.


>>He was shot in the head and neck by gang leader Hung Thanh Mai after a traffic stop. Mai was sentenced to death four years later.<<

Too bad he'll probably live a long life in prison and die of natural causes.

>>Then, when she wasn't looking, she met Aussie-born Russell Cooper. The two were attending a gathering of mutual friends at TAPS Fish House & Brewery in Brea in early 2001.
[snip]
After hours of talking, the strangers didn't seem so strange. Both were adopted. Both were born in 1967. Both were single with one child. His daughter was Emma, the name she had wanted for Cameron if he had been a girl. And both were tired of "going nowhere" relationships.
[snip]
Recently, Burt gave Cameron a quilt of his dad's clothes - square patches pieced together of Don Burt's favorite plaid shorts, shirts and wool CHP uniform. Burt also gave her son his father's old hairbrush and watch. He clings to each memento - treasures of a father he's now getting to know.

On Feb. 1, 2003, Kristin Burt and Russell Cooper married at TAPS in front of 40 friends.<<

It's a great story. Check it out. I'm so glad things are turning out well for her and her child. Officer Burt gave his life protecting a stretch of freeway I still use all of the time, and I'm glad his murder hasn't murdered the souls of the family he left behind. Russell Cooper sounds like a good guy.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Being the Guy = Exterminator

I don't know if it is the hot weather, or what, but we're getting a lot of insects and bugs and the like. There was an ant trail outside by the front door. I slew a couple of large spiders in the bathroom. There have been little flying bugs, I think originally attracted by bananas. Yesterday, I came home, my lovely wife greeted me at the door, and then she exlcaimed that a wasp or some similar stinging flying thing was in the corner of the doorway, building what must be a nest. Looks like something that Shelby could have squeezed out in the backyard. This nest, or whatever it was, was between our screen door and our regular door. Clearly, the screen door is more for security purposes than to keep the critters out.

Being the guy, it is apparently my job to slay these foul crawlies, or otherwise get rid of them.

Ahhh, the joys of being male.

Goodnight!
-Ken

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

My Latest Column Now Online

The first part of the latest edition of Kenversations(TM) was posted today at http://www.LaughingPlace.com

In this multi-part column, we go back to 1990 Disneyland, when the park was celebrating "35 Years of Magic".

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I Was Quoted

Park Coming After 12-Year Wait
BY EUGENE TONG, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Daily News

Quotes:
>>The board is expected on Tuesday to vote on the Pacific Crest Park project, which would install $843,000 worth of lawn, trees, parking and other improvements to the lot next to Mountainview Elementary School in the 22200 block of West Cypress Place, where officials promised a park a decade ago.
[snip]
"It's a good sign when you see us requesting bids from contractors," said Ken Pellman, spokesman for the county Department of Public Works, which is heading the construction.
[snip]
Officials said it took time to raise the required funds from park fees paid for by developers. According to county Public Works, the county only completed acquisition of the park site in March 2000 from Pacific Bay Homes, which built the surrounding subdivision.
[snip]
The proposed park's features are less than those of parks operated by the city of Santa Clarita, which include swing sets and even wireless Internet access. But Pellman said the county could improve the park later.

"There's always a possibility we will go back and do more to it," he said. "Improving parks is what we do. But we're working for county (Department of Parks and Recreation). It will be up to them."<<

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Keeping Busy

I've been keeping busy, and so blogging has suffered. Lots to say. For now, though, I wanted to say that while the wife was working last night, I took off for a work-related event at the Ritz Gardens Banquet Center in the Whittier area. If was for the 6th Annual Community Awards Banquet, presented by the Whittier County Community Coordinating Council.

I was a guest of Supervisor Gloria Molina, and was there because of my involvement in getting the South Whittier Shuttle launched...more precisely... getting publicity for the launch.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Voyager Spacecraft Greatly Exceed Expectations

Pasadena Star-News - Voyager Spacecraft Greatly Exceed NASA Expectations
By Elise Kleeman Staff Writer

Quotes:
>>They have visited four planets and 48 moons, and in another 10 years both will pierce the boundary of the solar system.
[snip]
The Voyager spacecraft are now rushing away from the sun at almost 1 million miles a day.
[snip]
In December 2004, Voyager 1 passed a boundary in the solar system known as the termination shock.<<

Fascinating reading. My father and other members of my extended family once worked at NASA's JPL in Pasadena, so I have always taken an interest.

Friday, May 12, 2006

I Was Quoted

I was quoted in a recent article that appeared in several sister newspapers. It's a good article with great pictures online.

Whittier Daily News - San Gabriel Dam Being Cleaned up
By Ben Baeder - Staff Writer

Quotes:
>>The dredging is needed to clear the area behind the dam that filled up with dirt after the Curve and Williams Fires of 2002, said Public Works spokesman Ken Pellman.

Without plant roots to hold it down, mud flowed down hillsides into the river and collected behind the dam, Pellman said.
[snip]
"The contract calls for the removal of 5 million cubic yards of dirt," Pellman said. The sediment-removal project kicks into high gear each spring when the storms stop and the San Gabriel River's waters subside, he said.

"Each year, before we release water, we have to give everything that collected behind the dam a little time to settle," he said. "Waiting for the settling keeps us from gumming up our system and it makes it so we let cleaner water go down stream."

The released water is siphoned into spreading grounds along the San Gabriel River near Pico Rivera, where it percolates into wells and is pumped up for use, he said.

The money for the dredging came from funds designated for flood control and water conservation, Pellman said.<<

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Things They Never Taught Us in School

TIMES PAST
The principal who resorted to a gun
Los Angeles Times
May 6, 2006

Quotes:
>>May 6, 1940: Soon after learning that he would be fired as principal of what was then South Pasadena Junior High School, Verlin Spencer pulled out a gun at a board meeting and shot six colleagues — five fatally.<<

I grew up in South Pasadena, attending the public schools, and I lived there for a while again in my adult life. My nephews currently attend the schools there. Things have calmed down just a tad.

>>Cornered in the empty school cafeteria, Spencer shot himself in an attempted suicide, the newspaper said.
[snip]
Spencer pleaded guilty and was given five life sentences. He was paroled in 1970, on the condition that he leave California.<<

Wow! That's what I call history!

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Mouse Needs People

Disneyland Resort Goes Intern-Shopping
The park's ever-growing staff needs have inspired a new program that awards college credit. The low-paying service industry is competitive.
By Dave McKibben - Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
May 5, 2006

They'll do anything to avoid raising wages, because the costs of employees rise a lot more than just the pay, when you factor in all of the other costs employers have when they employ someone.

Quote:
>>Faced with the perennial challenge of filling about 4,000 jobs for its busiest season, the Anaheim theme park has turned to a staple of white-collar industry — the summer internship — to lure young people such as Rook amid stiff competition from other low-paying service jobs.<<

And yet I had to quit because working Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and any holidays all summer was not enough for them. They'd rather have people like me 0 days a week instead of 3. That makes sense, right? The low pay was not a hinderance to me, because this was a job I had on the side just for fun.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Eerie Coincidences Continue

Parsons' Plans Lie Among Ruins of Iraq - Los Angeles Times
Pasadena-based Parsons was to rebuild the health and security sectors. But poor work and U.S. lapses leave many goals abandoned, sources say.
By T. Christian Miller - Times Staff Writer
April 29, 2006

I know someone who interviewed to work for them. This kind of thing often happens to companies who interview this person but don't hire him. Strange.

Ontario's A&W Drive-In Closing

A&W Drive-In Closing - Los Angeles Times
The Southland's last A&W with carhop service is calling it quits. Today's eat-and-run crowd prefers drive- through windows.
By Susannah Rosenblatt, Times Staff Writer
April 29, 2006

Today is the last day.

Quotes:
>>Ontario's A&W drive-in, the last root beer stand in Southern California with carhop service, is closing Sunday.
[snip]
For 46 years, the curbside servers at A&W — on and off roller skates — have delivered their signature root beer floats in frosty glass mugs right to your driver's seat.
[snip]
"There's not many mom-and-pop places left," said Larry Roan, 64, who has run the stand with his wife, Sherrill, since 1971. After 3 1/2 decades of seven-day workweeks and diminishing sales, the Roans are ready to retire.
[snip]
Four of A&W's roughly 100 remaining drive-ins are in California, all in the Central Valley. The chain was founded in 1919 in Lodi.

Most of the company's 1,300 locations are conventional fast-foot restaurants, said A&W spokesman Rick Maynard. But the company, owned by Louisville-based Yum! Brands Inc., which operates Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell and Long John Silver's, has opened two drive-ins near Orlando, Fla., since 2004.<<

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Mail From the Mouse



Stuff like this postcard I got in the mail makes me scratch my head. I never wanted to stop being a Disneyland Cast Member in the first place. It was an extra job for me. I did it for the fun of it. Since I wasn't relying on it for income, it wasn't stressful for me. I enjoyed interacting with the guests, and passing along traditions to those working with me who hadn't been there as along as I had.



For many years, I got away with working Saturday, Sunday, and holidays (and Fridays, if needed), even though everyone was officially required to be available work full time in the summer season, the winter holiday season, and spring break. I think Cast Scheduling's definitions of those seasons are now as follows:

Summer: Sometime in May to sometime in September
Winter Holidays: The weeks containing Christmas Day and New Years Day, and a week before or after that block.
Spring Break: Three of four weeks.

Never mind that college students would have classes much of that time, even if they didn't take any summer courses. And, of course, a great many cast members have at least one other job.

But after years of "getting away" with working only my days off from my "real" job, the demand came down that I (and others like me) work as cast members 5+ days a week in the summer. Considering my "real" job paid me considerably more, the choice was easy enough to keep my real job and be forced out of my term as a Disneyland Cast Member.

Now, as the summer season approaches again, I get this invitation to apply to come back... with no seniority or any of the things I had grandfathered into my routine there... like having my own costume locker.

Is Casting hoping that I've lost my "real" job and have been unable to find a comperable position elsewhere? I mean, unless they are now willing to let me stick to working weekends through the summer, what would be the point of me calling that hotline?



As the postcard says, the perks are pretty sweet if you or your family are into Disney or the Disneyland Resort. Of course, if you worked for In-n-Out Burger, you could be doing the same kind of work and the difference in pay could more than cover the costs of buying yourself an Annual Pass, admission for friends, and the regular (instead of discounted) merchandise and food prices. Still, if you're really interested in being a Disneyland Cast Member, read this first before you call that hotline, and go for it! There's no place like it.

MastersFX's Horror and Sci-Fi Creations

Fulfilling a Boyhood Dream of Making Gore for Fun and Profit - Los Angeles Times
With body parts, slimy creatures and ghoulish effects, Todd Masters leaves his mark on films and TV shows.
By Richard Verrier - Times Staff Writer
April 23, 2006

Quotes:
>>Inside his shop of horrors, not far from three naked, bloated bodies propped against the wall, Todd Masters proudly displays his latest creation: an impaled head.

For a scene in the upcoming horror flick "Snakes on a Plane," Masters and his colleagues have rigged the silicone head with a giant syringe that will pump a blood-like corn syrup mixture through the ear canal.
[snip]
When it comes to creating gruesome physical effects — as opposed to those created on a computer screen — few have an edge on MastersFX, the company Masters founded two decades ago.
[snip]
Their numbers have dwindled over the last 15 years, falling from about 30 companies to fewer than 10 as filmmakers have relied more and more on digital effects.
[snip]
Masters' warehouse contains countless boxes of foam and silicone body parts. There are dismembered torsos, intestines, skulls, noses, leg stumps, human hair, even brains — leftovers from an operation scene in Stephen King's TV miniseries "Kingdom Hospital."<<

David W. S., if you're reading this, e-mail me. My e-mail address is at the end of my columns.

When I was a teenager, I really got in to all of this stuff along with my partner-in-crime, Francisco M. (Hey, Francisco, if you're reading this, I want you to e-mail me, too!) Francisco and I made stop-motion films in junior high school that featured comparitively crude versions of this kind of work - in clay. They were titled, descriptively enough, "Laserfight" and "Laserfight II". Todd helped us out on the sequel. We also did the annual Halloween thing of applying bloody make-up effects to ourselves to give the kids a show as they came to my house for trick-or-treating. We coined a term for our art, but I'm not publishing that here yet.

Alas, writing and theme park design had more of a hold over me especially in high school, where we didn't have filmmaking classes. My family home ended up being sold and Francisco went back to Chile with his family, so I had to find new places to help out on Halloween.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I Had Lunch With Betty White

I had lunch today with Betty White. And Johnny Grant. Betty White!!!

Well, me and hundreds of other people.

Damn, she made me laugh as Rose when she did those shows.

Seems like a sweet lady.

-Ken

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Ken Quoted

Flooded Road Reopens to Public
Official says there’s no timeline for permanent bridge.
4/6/2006
Kristopher Daams / Signal Staff Writer

Quotes:
>>"This was the most challenging effort resulting from last year’s storms for this area," said Ken Pellman, the spokesman for the county’s Department of Public Works.

While the road was under repair, a pilot car would have to escort a dozen or so other vehicles at slow speeds through the road during rush hour because a portion of it ran on a bridge with only one lane.

"It was just to get these people through who depended on that road for their commute, because otherwise they would have quite a detour and that would have increased traffic on other roads," Pellman said. "This is an important link between Santa Clarita and the Antelope Valley."

A two-lane temporary bridge was completed and opened March 15, Pellman said, and the road had to be completely shut down for two weeks during its construction.

"The road is done until we go and build the permanent bridge, which we don’t have on a hard timeline yet," Pellman said.
[snip]
Pellman said he expects traffic to be able to flow on San Francisquito Road during most of the construction of the permanent bridge.

"The important thing is that we wanted to get two-lane traffic," Pellman said.<<

Stay Out of the Washes, Channels, and Rivers

From the Los Angeles Times
2 Girls Rescued in Pacoima Wash
From a Times Staff Writer
April 9, 2006

Pacoima Wash sounds like a coin-op laundry. It's not. It is part of the flood control & water conservation system in the Los Angeles area. Thanks to recent storms, there are high flows of water in the system.

Quote:
>>Firefighters rescued two girls who fell into a flood-control channel Saturday in Sylmar and were carried more than two miles by a 20 mph current.

The girls, who are cousins ages 16 and 11, were playing near the Pacoima Wash when they fell into the channel and were swept away, said Brian Humphrey, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department.
[snip]
Had they not been rescued at that point, the girls would have entered a more dangerous part of the channel and probably drowned, he added.<<

The water is cold, turbulent, and often full of nasty stuff. It's very easy to die when swept away in part of the flood control system. The swiftwater rescue crews are awesome, but there's only so much they can do.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

My Letter to the Editor

Pasadena Star-News Printed My Letter on eHarmony Lawsuit

Quote:
>>If this suit gains any traction, it will be a sign of just how absurd we're getting about discrimination criteria. Being married is not a trivial thing, and eHarmony is right to require people to be unmarried to use certain features of the site.<<

Friday, March 31, 2006

Disney Buys The Gap

For the record, this was an April Fools Joke. Thanks for playing along.

Quality Family Entertainment and Consumer Products Leader Acquires Retail Clothing Trendsetter
BURBANK, Calif. & SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Apr. 1, 2006--The Walt Disney Company

• Paul Pressler Named Chairman over combined Disney, Pixar, and Gap Brands
• Cynthia Harriss Named Chief Store Operations Officer
• Byron Pollitt Named Chief Financial Officer

Furthering its strategy of finding new applications for its creative content, Robert A. Iger, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company, announced today that Disney has agreed to acquire retail clothing trendsetter The Gap, Inc. in an all-stock transaction, expected to be completed by this fall.

Under terms of the agreement, 0.67 Disney shares will be issued for each Gap share. Based on The Gap's fully diluted shares outstanding, the transaction value is $16.24 billion (a).

This acquisition combines The Gap’s talented executive leadership, preeminent retail resources, location presence, brands, clothing, and accessories expertise with Disney's unparalleled portfolio of world-class family entertainment, characters, theme parks and other franchises, resulting in vast potential for new landmark retail output and brand extension that can fuel future growth across Disney's businesses. With an impressive 3,000-plus stores worldwide, including throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and Japan, The Gap's exceptional executive team and 150,000 employees generated USD$16 billion in revenue in 2005.

"With this transaction, we welcome and embrace The Gap’s unique brands, which include the Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy and Forth & Towne names, including GapKids, babyGap and GapBody, which are some of the most fashionable worldwide. The talented Gap team has delivered outstanding retail sales coupled with compelling brands that have clothed customers of all ages worldwide and redefined the industry by setting a new standard of excellence," Iger said. "The addition of The Gap significantly enhances Disney Consumer Products, which is a critical financial engine for driving growth across our businesses. This investment significantly advances our strategic priorities, which include -- first and foremost -- delivering high-quality, compelling creative content to consumers, the application of new technology and global expansion to drive long-term shareholder value."

Gap President and Chief Executive Officer Paul S. Pressler will serve as Chairman of the new Disney, Pixar, and Gap Worldwide Brands reporting directly to Iger. In addition, Gap brand President Cynthia Harriss will be Chief Store Operations Officer, where she will provide her expertise in retail branding and operations to operating all Disney-owned stores worldwide, including those inside Disney's theme parks, as well as all Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Forth & Towne stores, reporting directly to Pressler. Gap, Inc. Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Byron H. Pollitt, Jr. will be named Chief Financial Officer of The Walt Disney Company.

"Disney and Gap can now collaborate on strengthening brand names, expanding store operations, and distributing Disney content," said Pressler. "Disney shareholders will regain a presence in the mall and shopping center market."

"At Gap, our brands are about building compelling stories - ones that our customers see themselves in, are passionate about and want to be part of," said Pressler. "That's very much in line with Disney. Also, Gap's executive culture has its roots in Disney. We are excited to bring our additional clothing, accessories, retail, and outlet experience back to a magical company," said Pressler. "Gap brands will have access to Disney characters and content, and, in turn, Gap clothing and accessories can supply the clothing needs for Disney's Resort Guests as well as the costuming needs for Disney Resort Casts and Disney stage, television, and cinema productions."

The acquisition returns to Disney the talented managerial team behind the Disneyland Resort and Disneyland Paris Resort expansions, who will now be involved in the nurturing and expansions of these properties and others. Paul Pressler joined Gap Inc. as President and Chief Executive Officer in September 2002 after 15 years with Disney, including the roles of Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, President of The Disney Stores, and Senior Vice President of Disney Licensing. Cynthia Harriss joined Gap Inc. in February 2004 as President of Gap Inc. Outlet after many years with Disney, including roles as President of the Disneyland Resort and Senior Vice President of Stores for The Disney Store. Byron Pollitt assumed his position as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Gap Inc. in January of 2003 after 13 years with Disney, including the role of Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

As Chairman of the new Disney and Gap Worldwide Brands, Pressler will oversee all Disney, Pixar, and Gap-branded products, services, and operations, including Walt Disney Pictures, The Disney Channel, Toon Disney, Radio Disney, Walt Disney Feature Animation, Pixar Animation Studios, Disney Consumer Products, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, Disney Vacation Club, Walt Disney Imagineering, Disney Cruise Lines, Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Forth & Towne.

"We are always looking to partner with other entities, and leverage synergistic opportunities to increase shareholder value with strategic executive recruitment," said Iger. "Returning these executives to Disney, acquiring the Gap properties, and aligning Disney and Gap segments accordingly will provide worthwhile integration of both talent and content. With Paul Pressler overseeing the Disney, Pixar, and Gap brands, I will be able to confidently concentrate on growing our other brands, including ABC, ESPN, Touchstone, Miramax, Hollywood, Hyperion, and the Muppets."

Doris and Don Fisher opened the first Gap store in San Francisco in 1969 as a place to buy blue jeans. Today, the company has expanded into several brands. Gap is about fresh, casual American style. Banana Republic is an affordable luxury brand. Old Navy brings fun, fashion and value to the whole family. Forth & Towne is a destination offering a new shopping experience for women. On March 2, 2006, the company reported net sales of $865 million for February. On Feb. 23, 2006, Gap reported that fiscal 2005 earnings per share were $1.24. Net sales for the fourth quarter were $4.8 billion, net sales for the fiscal year 2005 were $16 billion.
The Boards of Directors of Disney and Gap have approved the transaction, which is subject to clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antritrust Improvements Act, certain non-United States merger control regulations, and other customary closing conditions. The agreement will require the approval of Gap's shareholders.

The Disney Board was advised by Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Bear, Stearns & Co. The Gap Board was advised by Credit Suisse.

(a) Based on Disney's closing share price of $27.89 as of 3/31/06.

About The Walt Disney Company:
The Walt Disney Company together with its subsidiaries and affiliates, is a leading diversified international family entertainment and media enterprise with four business segments: media networks, parks and resorts, studio entertainment and consumer products. Disney is a Dow 30 company, had annual revenues of nearly $32 billion in its most recent fiscal year, and a market capitalization of approximately $53.7 billion as of March 31, 2006.

Investor Conference Call:
An investor conference call will take place at approximately 2:15 p.m. PT / 5:15 p.m. ET Monday, April 3, 2006. To listen to the Webcast, turn your browser to www.disney.com/investors/presentations or http://www.gapinc.com/public/index.shtml.

If you cannot participate in the live Webcast, re-plays will be available for domestic callers at (888) 286-8010 (PIN 56666399) and for international callers at (617) 801-6888 (PIN 56666399), or at www.disney.com/investors/presentations until 4:00 p.m. PT on Tuesday, April 18, 2006. An .mp3 version of this Webcast replay will also be available approximately 24 hours after the Webcast concludes at www.disney.com/investors/presentations.

Posted: April 1, 2006

Monday, March 27, 2006

Ken Quoted

LA Daily News - Some Bridges Still Need Retrofits
By Troy Anderson, Staff Writer - Daily News

Quote:
>>"The six bridges the county is committed to upgrading in the unincorporated areas are mostly in rural areas, and as such are awaiting regulatory and environmental approvals due to the location of the bridges," Public Works Department spokesman Ken Pellman said.

The remaining 49 bridges are waiting for local funding match commitments from the cities where the bridges are located.<<

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ken Pellman's Latest Column Now Online

The moment you've been waiting for is finally here!

The latest edition of Kenversations(TM) was posted today at http://www.LaughingPlace.com

In this column, Ken reminisces about the expanding winter holiday season at Disneyland Park. He also reviews a DVD featuring video of the holiday happenings at Disneyland Park this past season.

Check out the column and tell Ken what you think by using the feedback form at the end of the column. Talk about the column with others by following the link at the end of the column to the discussion boards. Then, spread the word. Thanks!

-Ken

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Ken Pellman Quoted

LA Daily News - Parking, Stopping Banned on Widened 'Hamburger Hill'
By Eugene Tong, Staff Writer

Quotes:
>>"It's going to be 'No stopping any time,"' Ken Pellman, a county Department of Public Works spokesman, said Monday about the new signs. "It was one lane in each direction. Now it's two lanes in each direction, so there is no room for parking. The restriction against the trucks was redundant."
[snip]
"It's basically a traffic flow situation," Pellman said.<<

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Ken Quoted

Wireless Hookup Will Let County Adjust Traffic Signals
By Alison Shackelford Hewitt
Copley News Service - DailyBreeze.com

Quotes:
>>The signals -- near Del Aire, Hawthorne, El Segundo, Athens and Gardena -- are the first to be connected to the county's new traffic management center. Signals in other unincorporated areas with heavy traffic, including Marina del Rey, will eventually follow, said Ken Pellman, a spokesman for the county Department of Public Works.

"These signals right now are timed, and most of them are synchronized ... and the only variation (in how long they stay red or green) is caused by detectors in the pavement, which are triggered by the cars passing over them," Pellman said.

"We're going to equip these signals so that they can be controlled and monitored," he continued. "We can change the timing to alleviate some problems, and we can respond to malfunctions faster because we'll be able to see what's going on from the traffic management center."
[snip]
"If there's an accident, and one intersection is blocked, we'll want to change the timing on nearby intersections to clear up traffic. Or if we need traffic to go straight through for an extended period of time -- maybe for a presidential motorcade -- we can put the cross streets on red for a longer period of time," Pellman explained.<<

The technology has been proven elsewhere, and it will save County money, so it is a very good thing.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Pictures From Movieland Wax Museum

As I blogged earlier, Kori and I had been at the last weekend of the museum. Here are some pictures taken by our friend Frank. Our friend Rick is there with us.



The first picture is us outside of the musuem, with handprints and signatures in the concrete blocks.



The second picture is of us in a library scene, and some of the books were removable.



The third picture I included because... well, because I like it for some reason. Hmmmmm...

Ken Pellman Quoted

SGVTribune.com - County of Los Angeles Switching to Franchise System For Trash Collection
By Shirley Hsu - Staff Writer
San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Quotes:
>>ROWLAND HEIGHTS - A proposed trash franchise system for Los Angeles County's unincorporated areas has some residents worried about higher rates and limited choices.<<

In reality, what we've seen in the "free market" system is that residents in unincorporated areas are paying more for the same or fewer services than their neighbors in incorporated cities mere blocks away, because the city is negotiating in bulk rather than family by family, and expecially in more remote areas, smaller waste hauling firms are being bought up so that only one company serves an area.

>>"We've left it up to the free market, but it hasn't worked out in a free-market way. We've seen monopolies. ... What we're trying to do is switch over to a system much like many cities have," said Ken Pellman, spokesman for the county's Department of Public Works.

"It's better for us to negotiate as representatives of the public," he said. "We want to make sure residents in unincorporated areas are getting services and rates that are competitive."

Under the proposed system, the county can require that the haulers they contract with separate recyclables from trash, Pellman said.
[snip]
Pellman said he doesn't know how rates would change because the county has not yet put out a request for bids.<<

Movieland Wax Museum Auction

At Wax Museum, the Ending Is Bidder-Sweet - Los Angeles Times
About 400 fans turn out to make offers as the defunct Movieland in O.C. holds an auction featuring star figures, props and memorabilia.
By David Haldane -Times Staff Writer
March 12, 2006

Kori and I went for the final weekend.

Quote:
>>Daniel Roebuck showed up at Buena Park's Movieland Wax Museum on Saturday with one major goal.

"I want their Frankenstein to live in my house," said the 43-year-old Los Angeles actor, writer and monster collector.

Roebuck was one of about 400 movie fans who came to bid in the daylong "Everything Must Go" auction at the museum, which closed last Halloween after a 43-year run. Owners attributed declining attendance to rising competition from nearby amusement parks.

The auction, which featured about 500 items, happened simultaneously over the Internet.

Items included movie characters with their sets, props and a collection of cinema memorabilia dating to 1963.<<

More Southern California Traffic Hell

Pasadena Star-News - Interchange Weave Becomes Real Snarl
By Ben Baeder - Staff Writer

Quotes:
>>One engineer calls the traffic-weaving interchange between the San Gabriel River (605) and San Bernardino (10) freeways "The Autotopia" - after Disneyland's wacky car ride.

That nickname is as good as any for the delay-ridden interchange.

One thing that engineers do agree on: the crossing of two of the nation's busiest highways desperately needs an update.
[snip]
The Baldwin Park 10-605 interchange was designed in 1964 and was supposed to accommodate traffic until 1984, according to Caltrans spokesman Dave White. Even though it's about 22 years overdue for an update, no major changes have been undertaken there since it was built.

An average of 438,000 cars use the interchange each day, making the intersection the 19th busiest in the state, according to statistics from Caltrans.<<

I think, in general, the engineers at Caltrans do a great job and public service. It is just that the transportation systems of the area haven't kept up with the population, and that has to do with a lot of factors, including funding and NIMBY issues. Although I think it will be hard to every beat the personal automobile for customization of your trip and door-to-door delivery, I think some of the traffic could be reduced if a private company was allowed to build and operate a regional monorail system.

Where We Get Some of Our Place Names

Founding Families of South Bay Left Their Mark on History
The legacy of the Carson, Del Amo, Dominguez and Sepulveda names extends beyond road maps.
By Stephanie Walton
Daily Breeze - DailyBreez.com

This kind of local history fascinates me. I strongly suggest clicking on the link and reading the full story.

Quotes:
>>Dominguez: Juan Jose Dominguez received the 75,000-acre Rancho San Pedro land grant in the 1780s in appreciation for many years of military service to the Spanish crown, according to The Rancho San Pedro by Robert Cameron Gillingham. The sweep of the grant extended from western Long Beach to Redondo Beach.
[snip]
Del Amo: Dr. Gregorio Del Amo became part of South Bay history when he married Susana Dominguez, whose inheritance included a parcel of land in the heart of present-day Torrance, where Del Amo Fashion Center and Del Amo Financial Center now stand. Oil was later discovered on their land.
[snip]
Carson: George Henry Carson's influence on the local lexicon also came through marriage to one of Don Manuel's daughters, Maria Victoria.
[snip]
Sepulveda: Juan Jose Dominguez's executor, Manuel Gutierrez, moved onto the ranch after Dominguez's death and allowed the family of Don Jose Sepulveda to graze cattle and build a family home on the Los Palos Verdes portion.

Sepulveda refused to leave although ordered to do so by Spanish authorities in 1822 and died in 1824 during an Indian attack at Mission La Purísima Concepción.<<

Friday, March 10, 2006

Disney Shareholder Meeting - Ken's Report

The Walt Disney Company Shareholders Meeting 2006
Friday, March 10, 2006

Fridays are the first day of my three day weekends after working long hours Monday through Thursday, yet Kori and I got up at 7am (her with very little rest) to make our short drive to the Los Angeles Pond of Anaheim.  I wasn't going to miss the first shareholder meeting in Anaheim since Michael Eisner faced everyone after Mike Ovitz left and got scores of million of dollars for his year with the company.  For some reason, the meetings seemed to stay away from the traditional Anaheim and Orlando locations after that.

Registration was supposed to start at 8, seating at 9, and the meeting at 10.  We arrived shortly after 8am, and were able to go right in and get our seats, which was good, being a chilly day for Anaheim.

Outside, there were "free speech zones" with nobody in them (I had been told that cast members were going to make a showing), LOTS of Disney characters, and a merchandise tent.

Guest Relations cast members were everywhere, and every person through the door was getting a single-day passport.  Copies of Enviroport and the Shareholder Report were available.

I was surprised to see many families (or at least parents) with small children in attendance.  These events have to be horribly trying for a young child.  The crowd was also full of elderly folks.  Scanning the crowd is a reminder that American shareholder corporations are owned by you, me, and your grandmother, and when you hear someone saying that we should "make corporations pay", they are really talking about making these people pay… some of whom rely on their investment income to survive.

Chairman, Senator George Mitchell got moderate applause when he started off the meeting.  I'd say about 75% of the available seating was full, maybe less.

Mitchell's mention of Steve Jobs got applause.
Roy E. Disney got hearty applause.

There was a video shown about all of the wonderful things Disney is (I think the score was from "Curse of the Black Pearl").  There would be several videos throughout.

President & CEO Bob Iger was not introduced; he simply walked out and started talking.  He really seems like a nice, sharp guy, but also kind of plain – which could have had to do with the task at hand.  He's at a shareholder meeting, not a dinner show.

Iger got applause at the mention of the meeting being in Anaheim for the Disneyland 50th Anniversary.  He talked about acquiring great storytelling, wanting us to think of Pixar, but he was really talking about Oswald, which got some more applause.  He said that every part of the company was focused on three things:

Creativity & Innovation
Application of New Technology
Global Expansion

When he showed a video of what is going on with the theme parks, there was no mention and very little emphasis (images) focusing on Disney's California Adventure or Disney Studios Paris.

The mention of Tim Allen got scant applause.  "The Shaggy Dog" was released today, and "The Santa Clause 3" is coming.  So, Allen is staring in yet another Disney remake, and yet another sequel.  That could have been the reason for the lukewarm reaction.

Iger insisted that Feature Animation is "top priority", pointing out what we all know – that from Feature Animation comes most of the rest of the company's products.  Brining up Pixar and Steve Jobs got applause, and the mention of John Lasseter was strongly applauded.

John Lasseter was very well received when he was introduced, and was the most engaging speaker of the event.  He mentioned that attractions and films should be developed simultaneously to capitalize on the success of the films.  As much as I agree, I also see the risk if the film doesn't do well.  The attractions must be able to stand on their own as great attractions.
He showed a new "Cars" preview trailer, and then a scene from the film.  We also got a bit of the 2007 Pixar film, "Ratatouille".  Both were well received.  Lasseter talked about being a cast member and when he first worked for Disney in animation, and going to work for Lucas.  He talked about Jobs buying the operation from Lucas in 1986, and how they lost a lot of Steve Jobs' money over the next ten years before things started to take off.  He told us that Bob Iger is a great guy.  It is interesting that someone who is "new" to the company would be the one who made us feel better about our own CEO, but we know that Lasseter is an old-school Disney guy.

Tom Staggs took the stage to talk about the financial performance of the company, and told a cute story about his son.  Since the "entertainment" was through, a lot of people left.  Mitchell returned to conduct the formal business of the meeting and then host the general questions from those in attendance.

The questions (paraphrased) and the gist of the answers along with some comments from me, not necessarily in order:

We should buy/build our own factories in China.  This was more of a suggestion, not a question, so I don't recall there being a response.

Disneyland cast members should get better contracts.  Two different cast members brought this up (since negotiations are at a head right now).  Iger's response was that other cast members have accepted similar terms (perhaps he's referring to the Foods cast members, who have departed in huge numbers?) and that Disney is competitive in this area.  I thought Disney is supposed to be better, not just competitive, but I do understand his point that it is not typical for a company to provide benefits to people who work only 30 hours a week.  What wasn't mentioned was that just about all of the people who are only "required" to work 30 hours a week in fact work 40+ hours a week most of the year, and are required to work 40 hours many weeks out of the year.  As Iger noted, health care costs are high.  On the other hand, I know how hard it is to attract and retain good hourly cast members at the Disneyland Resort, and how the pay rate doesn't go very far in southern California.

Why isn't there more classic programming on the Disney Channel – stuff for the baby boomers? My wife Kori had thought of the same thing earlier… why not have a Disney version of TV Land?  Iger said there was no plan to change the programming strategy of the Disney Channel to bring back Vault Disney and the like.  He encouraged people to buy the home video product featuring classic programming and that he himself enjoys the "Spin & Marty" stuff on DVD.

Why don't you release Song of the South on home video? This got considerable applause.  Iger said he had viewed the film recently and that he and others were not comfortable with everything in the film, even considering the context, and that he thought it might not be received well by the general public, which may not even consider the context of the production, and that he's rather protect the image of the company from such a risk than make money on releasing the film on DVD.  So, the answer for now is "no" but it may change in the future.

With the success of the Haunted Mansion overlay, is it true that we may lose Tim Burton's cooperation and talent?  Iger didn't know, but Dick Cook assured people that Disney is on good terms with Burton.

Is Anaheim going to get a third theme park?  Iger said there are no plans in that area right now – that DCA needs more help first and there are things to do with Disneyland Park.

After the Anniversary celebration at Disneyland Park, then what?  What's going to keep people coming?  Iger referenced an earlier video and said there are things coming our way, included the new version of the submarine attraction.  No mention of a new E-Ticket.

What about hand drawn animation?  Iger took the opportunity to talk about new technology Glen Keane is using for "Rapunzel Unbraided" where the animators draw by hand into a digital tool.

An advocacy group brought up the topic of banning smoking in the films.  Iger stated that he hates for smoking to be glamorized in films and that they are working to reduce it in Disney-label films, except for certain period piece depictions.

Can't Disney have a Hall of Fame to recognized and publicize the people who have given their entire careers to the company -  but keep Michael Eisner out?  Iger referred to the Disney Legends ceremonies and annual service anniversary ceremonies that the company conducts.  As for me, I think something could be set up, especially with the space at Walt Disney World Resort, complete with a Walt Disney Archives and perhaps even a display of select "extinct attractions".  As I like to say, nostalgia is very powerful.  As for Eisner, that's ridiculous.  Michael Eisner and Frank Wells preserved the company and had a good run.  After Wells' life was cut short, Eisner did a lot of things that were not successful and/or were not well received, but that doesn't erase the fact that he left his mark on Disney in many positive ways as well.

Someone asked why cameras weren't allowed at the meeting.  Mainly due to the video presentations, including some of which had not ever been shown in public before.

Are there plans for Disney's California Adventure?  Yes.  Iger says he likes the park.  His mention of Soarin' Over California got a lot of applause.  He does NOT come across at all like a DCA apologist, however.

Will the entrance of DCA be changed?  There are some plans, but they are a surprise.

Are there plans to spin off more parts of the company? That's always a consideration, as are acquisitions.

Does Disney accept unsolicited submissions?  Iger said everyone from the person who does his hair to the person who does his teeth pitches ideas to him, but that no, Disney does not, because it is a legal liability.  Often Disney is already considering something very similar to what people want to submit, and doesn't want to be accused of stealing those ideas.

Someone complained about lack of nighttime lighting at Disneyland Park.  Iger noted that many cast members were in attendance and he was sure it would be taken under their consideration.  I really don't like questions like this as I do not think it is the time and place for such topics, unless it is brought up in the larger context of a lack of upkeep, but even the person asking the question said the park looked great in the daylight.

I think the same person as above asked about avoiding the problems in China by making the Disney products in the U.S.  After all, when you charge $25 for a t-shirt, surely a profit can be made with American-made t-shirts.  Iger talked about the realities of international trade and that these other countries are also Disney consumers, and Disney does do business domestically as well.  The question, in my mind, showed a lack of understanding about economics.  Yes, the shirt can still make a profit if made in America, but not nearly as much of a profit.  Yes, the shirt is expensive, but if people are willing to pay it, why should Disney charge less?  Also, as Iger touched on, these other countries also buy American products (especially American entertainment).  If they do not develop their own economies and a consumer base with purchasing power, how will the people there ever be able to buy Disney products or travel to our resorts?

Will the Disneyland monorail be extended to other locations in the area, and will Downtown Disney be expanded?  The answer was no to both – at least there were no plans to do so.

The meeting was adjourned some time after noon but before 1pm.

Concluding…

All in all, Mitchell and Iger handled the questions well.  At one point during the meeting, cast members in the audience were asked to stand up and received applause.  That was nice touch.  If there was anything lacking that I really wanted to see more of, it would have been more recognition and promotion (and thereby demonstrating a commitment to) Walt Disney Imagineering, but then there was a lot that wasn't mentioned because the meeting was only so long and the company is huge and diverse.  Specifics about the future were a little sketchy and scant as well, other than that there are some films coming our way over the next couple of years that we already knew about.  Although the Muppets briefly appeared on screen, they were also glaringly absent in mentions of the past and the future.

Bob Iger stressed that keeping "status quo" is not an option, but also noted that as much as Disney is embracing technology, he knows that technology is not a substitute for good storytelling.

The overall mood was light.

We saw Doug Marsh and we also saw my friend Dale, and bumped into current cast member JVW.  Another current cast member I chat with about Disney matters in general stopped by to talk with us where we were seated.  Other than that, we didn't have interaction with familiar faces.

After the meeting, we returned home for a nap.

[Edit - Kori reminded me of how she asked, when they mentioned that the Pirates of the Caribbean attractions were going to be updated with stuff from the films: "What, are they going to stick in half a Johnny Depp figure into the one at Walt Disney World? Heh.]

-Ken Pellman
©2006 Ken Pellman, all rights reserved.