Search Box

Links to Culture Cafe Episodes!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day Today: Steve the Pegasus

It seems the hills upon which I graze never bear grass greener than my own eyes. As I look towards yonder knoll it is most always better.

In other words: I'm always making new segments! This one I've just come up with hopefully covers all manner of things that are not so easily classified within the bounds of my normal posting categories, hobbies, and leisure activities. Today I bring to you the segment of my blog that covers the nonsense, the silly, the horizontal, and the vertical. These are the stories of my day, today.

 Today's "Day Today" finds myself and a Pegasus figure walking the aisles of Michaels, a craft store in the area. I think I've decided to tell this one as the story of a hard-boiled detective named Steve. As he hunts down the elusive the Price Slasher, known to strike yearly around summertime. To accompany this piece I will of course provide some ambiance which you can find right here.

Business had been slow for weeks. Naturally, I perked up when not more than a hour ago I received a hot tip from the dame at the cafe down the street. Apparently some egg dumped a bucket, engine still running, in front of this craft store up the road a piece. I rubbed the stubble of my chin, mulling it over as she spoke. The details were sketchy but I needed the work and the only one thing she did worse than make coffee was tell a lie. I high tailed it to the store, hoping to beat out the buttons before they flashed their tin like they owned the joint.

I stopped across the street and made a quick scout of the area for anything out of the ordinary. I walked to the abandoned crate and noticed the glove compartment was busted open, papers scattered across the floor. A rook might've thought he was looking for something hidden inside. 30 years of this job teaches a guy better than to be bumped off so easily.  He knew exactly what he wanted, and took it with him.

I readied my gat in case I was to finally meet the infamous Price Slasher. 
No one knew what he looked like, or even if he was a he

I perused the aisles full of mundane people, going about their mundane lives. No idea of the terror that may have befallen them today. I tipped my hat along with my head and continued through the shop.

Tell me your secrets

Then I spotted it, an eye in the sky. I thought for sure I could rustle up the managers for a peek at that footage. At the very least I could rule out a few of the plugs around me. I moved through the shop and found myself in the literature section of the establishment by this time.

 Towards the back. I picked up one of their selections and made like I was knee deep within the world of the fiction. I made my way towards the door marked 'employees only' keeping the act up when out of the blue, two lugs whizzed past my head, damn near clipping my wings in the process.

Even though I was trying to catch me breath, I thought the resemblance was uncanny

What a damned fool! I'd been made! I dropped the newly carved book (along with my heat) and dove head first into the florals down another aisle. By now the clientele had erupted into a riotous screaming and started fleeing the store. Well, at least it would be easier to tell who from who now. I did my best to keep a low profile while crawling through the brightly colored brambles wishing to god I hadn't pulled such a sap move, dropping my piece. 
Thank the man for the greenery

Luck was on my side that day though. I somehow managed to work my around around the perp and despite having nothing but the legs which walked me here, I leaped from the foliage to give that palooka a taste of the ol' hooves firsthand. 



and Steve

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Wedding And A Seminar

It's feeling more and more official

Well there are two things to talk about, as the title of this post alluded to. Friday was my sister's wedding and I'll try to get some pictures of that up here in the event that anyone wants to see me look uncomfortable in a suit. The very next day after that was the Pre-D Seminar for JET where I got to meet many of the LA area participants for this upcoming year's program.

I'll probably talk about the wedding more through pictures than my words, but to sum it up: We all had a fantastic time. We arrived at the hotel way in advance of the actual ceremony wearing regular clothes. It was supposed to be quite hot that day and we planned on changing into suits as late as possible, which we did after lounging about for a few hours while the girls got their hair and makeup done.

Quite a history to this place
The ceremony took place at the Church of Reflections, which is a wonderfully modest and humble church. The landscaping also made for a pleasant experience. It was relatively short, and after that we all hopped back over to the hotel for the reception. There was food, drink, dancing, and more drink as you'd expect from that kind of festivity. I ran into an old friend too (one with whom I went to Japan for the first time with in 2007, hey Steve!) and we chatted for a while catching up.

Looking back at the walkway leading up to the church

Those are real apples but we couldn't eat them
I couldn't stay too late though because the very next day was the first meeting for JET. I think we left about midnight, or just shortly afterwards; I got home and did my best to sleep off the energy from one day and the excitement for the next.

I really didn't have time to take any pictures of the meeting so I'll have to paint a picture with words. Wish me luck. I arrived at the Westin Hotel right around noon, which was a little bit early to make sure I could find everything alright. As soon as I ascended to the second floor I signed in and received a few documents. Immediately to my left I saw a hand in the air waving at me, and though my eyes fail me more and more as the years go on, this particular appendage was that of the inimitable Yeelly! I was elated at having found a friend already from amongst the crowd, and walked towards her to have a seat. Yeelly and I met at UCI and had a number of classes together, she was also the champion of our waving contest (which is exactly what it sounds like) and now fellow JET compatriot.

Shortly into our conversation it was announced that they'd be starting the Visa process. Yeelly and I got up, walked to the theatre entrance, where a table was set up to collect paperwork of various kinds. I don't think anyone really listened when it was first announced because Yeelly and I simply walked up there and handed paperwork in (and our passports) then sat down in the theatre. No one else was coming for a few minutes so we got back up to make sure we were in the right place. By now the entrance walkway was crowded and perhaps 5 or 6 lines formed since we finished with at least 10 or more people in each one. People then started walking back into the theatre, and so we returned as well. This is when I met Brianna, who will be placed further up north and quite a bit away. In any case, Brianna you were very cool and super sweet. I was glad to have met you. I also noticed a few people that I saw during my interview session, which was very exciting to me. Hello to you, Morgen! I wish you the best of luck in Hiroshima! I know I'll be stopping by one day, so look out for that. John Murro was another UCI alum I ran into after one info session. We both felt like we had seen each other on campus before, but couldn't place it. As soon as I got home I remembered quite quickly that he and I had taken a class called Golden Age Comics together. As a side note: that was one of my favorite classes, completely outside my major and completely worth every second there. If you happen to be going to UCI and see that class by Professor Amiran don't hesitate to take it. There were a handful of UCI graduates at the meeting, in fact.

So, I mentioned info sessions earlier. We had signed up beforehand for our choice out of 5 particular topics, I believe. We were to each be assigned three of them. The day started with opening remarks from former participants, heads of various societies and post-JET associations. We were then treated to tax information that I furiously took notes on so as to avoid fudging up something at a later point. After that there was a break and we dispersed to our half-chosen, half-assigned "breakout" sessions. Brianna, Yeelly and I had the first two together, John and I were at the last one. Having been in relative proximity to the program, there was a lot that I had become familiar with, but there were still some salient points to absorb from each session. As the day winded down, we all gathered together in the theatre once more for some traveling information, how to pack, rules and regulations, and so on. This was something I really didn't need information on. Not to sound arrogant but having gone a couple times already (and once for a prolonged engagement) I knew exactly what I could afford to NOT bring.

Lastly, we ended with another speech from a former participant now in a leadership position through one of the post-JET associations. We said our goodbyes to the new people we met, and then parted ways, at least for the next month. We'll all see each other once more at the dinner and goodbye party the night before we all fly out, and then again in Tokyo for a little bit.

I came home quite tired that day.

A wedding, a seminar, and now: relaxation.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Music: The Year So Far

We made it. Or at least I did. We're halfway through the year, if you can believe that. That having been said, I think it's high time I posted concerning music that's been on my radar up till now. Many of them have secured a place as year end favorites already, but the die is yet cast and nothing would make me happier than to have too many great choices to pick from. I should also mention that this is in no particular order. It's just a giant list of stuff that I've listened to and some thoughts. Almost all of it is stuff I liked but December is when I'll put together a top 25 for the year.

So, here's what I've been listening to so far:

All Hail Bright Futures by And So I Watch You From Far Away

Well right off the bat, we've got a mouthful. I really enjoyed this album but it makes for tough conversation. People get bored of listening to me before I finish saying the band's name and (god willing) album title. If anyone out there is of the Math Rock persuasion I think this would definitely be up your alley. Hailing from Belfast, Ireland, these guys have tagged their music rather underhandedly as "alternative instrumental rock Belfast" via their bandcamp page. It's much more than that! I wouldn't go so far as to say experimental, which is what you'll get from Wikipedia. All in all, it's a pleasant mix of instrumental shredding and high spirited choral backings with enough variation to keep it engaging and fun along the way. Check out "Rats On Rock" for a taste.

Anxiety by Autre Ne Veut

In what appears to be an age of R&B reinvention, we've slowly been receiving excellent output from artists such as Frank Ocean and The Weeknd (Not a typo). Autre Ne Veut picks up in a similar vein but exhibits a slightly more electronic vibe than the former artists. The result is just as enjoyable however. At certain points we're treater to frantic, and quivering synths. Other times it scales back and slower sweeping melodies dictate the mood. Even the moments of bouncy synths matched with a slight twist of eccentricity somehow line up extremely well with the soulful vocals. One highlight for me  would have to be, "Gonna Die". If you're only going to youtube one song from this recommendation, make it that one.

Cerulean Salt by Waxahatchee

Apart from having a fun artist name to say, Katie Crutchfield AKA Waxahatchee, seems to have crafted a grungy summer album that feels like a slightly melancholic surf rock record. At times this album has the spirit of a laid back Pixies album, crossed with the sound of Best Coast. Regardless of what it "sounds" like however, Katie definitely maintains an introspective attitude throughout the entire piece. The whole work altogether might be a bit slow and I can totally understand how that puts people off an album that I've described as being "summer", but that shouldn't be a reason to prevent you from hearing this album out in full. A personal favorite would have to be "Misery Over Dispute".

Comedown Machine by The Strokes

Nope. Okay it's not that bad as Angles, but I was hoping for a Strokes comeback rather than a letdown. I'll still keep the faith for more good work in the future. "All The Time" sounded promising. The single "One Way Trigger" felt like cover of Aha's "Take On Me" for a minute. . . I don't know if that earns or loses points.

Desire Lines by Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura definitely played it safe with this release. It doesn't go too far in either direction, and comfortably fits within the rest of their catalog. It'll probably go mostly unnoticed but perhaps that's just what a decent record does. I think I'm pretty sold on Tracyanne Campbell's charming vocals and lovey dovey lyrics. Even if this isn't Camera Obscura's best record it maintains the bar all the way throughout. I'd say this is a great record for some easy listening to, especially if you're doing some work and need something to casually listen to. It sort of reminds me of that scene from High Fidelity where Barry accuses Belle & Sebastian of being "sad old bastard" music. While I'm not really either of those three yet (we're all getting older) I can still sit down and enjoy this record without being blown away. Maybe you will too. "Do It Again" is probably the most derivative song from album's mold of slow and steady wins the race.

Dreaming In Key by Applescal
This one is a purely electronic work, so if that scares you, go ahead and skip right along to the next entry in his list. For anyone interested, this album doesn't thrash about in its digital execution. It carefully establishes moments of synthetic droning that are slowly expanded upon as each song runs its course. This probably seems like standard fare for something that could be describe as a "techno" album. In practice though, I would say it plays out much more sensibly than that, and never treads the waters of bombarding the listener with far too much to hear. Rather, playful harmonies dance along the wayside as the repetitious sequences develop the deeper into each song you go. Altogether the collection of songs on Dreaming In Key reminds one of the way a single lightly salted cracked only pushes the desire for another. "Thanks For Fun" demonstrated this appeal well. It's a song that so desperately wants to give you more, but holds back knowing you'll stay the whole way waiting for it.

Endless Fantasy by Anamanaguchi

Though the name of this New York based band can be tough to sound out, the music is decidedly easier to swallow. Anamanaguchi is likely one of the only bands flying under the "chip tune" flag that can be said to have slipped into more open, noticeable territory. I hesitate to say the dreaded "M" word, because mainstream they are not, and mainstream chip tunes (as a whole) is not. There's a really easy way to tell if you're going to like this band and its output: First, did you play video games as a youth? Second, did you like the music? If you answered yes to both then chances are you'll have a pretty good time with this album. Utilizing actually modified video game consoles essentially in place of effect pedals, Anamanaguchi creates music that thrives in the real of digital bleeps and bloops but has the sensibilities of rock/pop that might surprise you upon listening.

II by Unknown Mortal Orchestra

I honestly thought I was going to have a bit more psych stuff on this mid-year "what I've been listening to" list. Even if the psychedelic scene isn't your deal I'd say that this album is at the very least a pretty interesting listen. It's far more rock oriented than something like The Flaming Lips' latest, The Terror. Most often relaxed throughout the listen, there are occasionally bursts of more engaging moments such as the 70s inspired funk licks on "One At A Time" and even changes pace a bit with the fuzzy, distorted riffs from "No Need For A Leader". On the whole, there's a lo-fi quality mixed with the psychedelic tinges at work on every song. The result is extremely enjoyable.

Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend
This album was so damned good that nothing so far has shaken its current spot as my number one pick so far. Check out my in depth analysis of this work here.

Wondrous Bughouse by Youth Lagoon

This one caught me off guard. It's taken a bit of time to fully appreciate in the way that I admired Trevor Powers' first album but this one is certainly not without its fascinations as well. The Year Of Hibernation fits slightly better into the formative genre known -quite aptly I believe- as Chillwave. Lo-fi sensibilities, glowing, radiant textures that are accompanied by soft dissonant vocals. This album is distinctly psychedelic. At first I didn't know how much I would've liked that. I love psych music, but I was such a huge fan of his original album that I was worried I would just be prejudiced towards the music because there was a concerned effort to not replicate himself. I suppose I cannot be upset about that, especially when he demonstrates that there's plenty of talent in his mind left to be tapped into. Even as the album dips into areas that sound more like acid trips to the carnival such as "Sleep Paralysis" everything just seems to fit in place.

Bankrupt! by Phoenix

What an uphill battle these guys have had. You don't just come back from an album like Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix with any old collection of songs. I almost feel bad because after having written that, it was hard to imagine that it would get any better. Sadly, Bankrupt! is not 'better' but it's not horrible. It's chock full of great songs and it still has all the whimsical pop, textured synths, and lofty vocals that make their work so accessible. It just feels like a Phoenix album, which is perhaps the best compliment I can give. If this album had come out before Wolfgang, then it would be considered fantastic, and then Amadeus would be the crowning achievement. As it stands, this albums plays out as the younger brother living in the shadow of its towering older sibling. It's not fair, but you can do your part by giving this album a chance and discovering that it's quite good by yourself. Also, "Bourgeois" is a song that feels like it came right off of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, it's amazing.

We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic by Foxygen

I will excuse the unbelievable length of this album's name because of how fun it to listen to. This album has influences flying all over the place. At first you might be keen to accuse these guys of ripping off former acts, but I find that this album sounds rather like a humble expression of what they themselves must have enjoyed. "No Destruction" starts off with a drum that almost gives an impression of early 60s R&B them quickly pulls out sounding a bit more country/folk and maybe even a little bit Dylan with the vocal work, but later jumps to a more typical rock beat. The album describes itself as both an homage and tribute while changing pace enough within each song itself to feel fresh and original. A personal favorite off this album has to be "San Francisco".

Random Access Memories by Daft Punk

The hype machine was cranked up to 11 in the weeks leading up to the release of this album. There's definitely more to be said than I'm attempting in these short paragraphs. Perhaps the easiest way to define this album is to say that rather than making a pure electronic or even dance album, they enlisted the help of former greats of the 70s, utilized antiquated recording techniques, and brought a few current surprise artists along for the ride in order to create a modern day disco/funk record. Quite a gamble for a group that had a pretty solid image working for them already. The good news is that it totally paid off, and we now have a meticulously crafted, tremendously intriguing album with great depth and what I believe will be a lasting quality. "Touch (feat. Paul Williams)" is perhaps the greatest song on this album. Just wait for that instrumentation to explode all over you. 

Untogether by Blue Hawaii

A relatively new band, Blue Hawaii's debut LP has fast become a favorite of mine. Created from members of the band Braids, Untogether is largely an ambient album scattershot with otherworldly vocals that feel like spiritual transmissions. I can only hope that this project continues and produces even more fruits of this kind. The album is at once minimalistic, playing with gentle harmonies, and at others slightly droning, swimming in dark undertones that course through the prescribed atmospheric illustrations. It remains curious enough throughout the whole listen to keep your attention. "Try To Be" is my recommendation.

Obsidian by Baths

Baths' first album was a bit of an welcomed obscurity when it was first released in 2010. It was an electronic album that contained elements of downtempo leanings, trip-hop structures and had shifted between popping enthusiasm to moments of warm, relaxing melodies. While Pop Music/Fale B-Sides was technically the second release from this LA based musician, it was a sort of intermediary work composed while on tour, rather like Gorillaz's The Fall right after Plastic Beach. Obsidian is a much more focused work dramatically expands the scope of what Will Wissenfeld is capable of producing. Very little of the album contains maximalist composition, having been replaced with darker, moodier, and more methodically paced songs replete with a heavier focus on lyrics, not the just content, but actually putting more focus on the words themselves as well. It feels almost as though it is the emotional 'night' to Cerluean's 'day', and is worth at least a listen, if only for that.

Monomania by Deerhunter

Another album that was a tremendous change of pace from its previous iteration which no doubt has created a polarizing attitude toward it. Whereas Halcyon Digest was at times ethereal and more dreamy in its soundscapes, Monomania is without a doubt far much more of a noise rock album that screams and punches at every turn it possibly can. There's still a bit of that HD Deerhunter on this album, but most of those moments are pushed into the background rather than being the point of the work. I can definitely understand the trepidation towards this one, especially if you were as big a fan of the last album as I was. I think there's plenty to find in this album though. It might not happen on the first listen, but it definitely has its merits. You can certainly feel the effort to put a specific aesthetic into this album based off track titles referencing Americana such as leather jackets, junkyards, and even the motorcycle fading off into the night on the title track "Monomania". It won't give you much insight as to the rest of the album but, "T.H.M" is a good one.

The Island Come True by L. Pierre

This will probably be the most obscure of all my mid-year suggestions, but I'm sticking to it. Aidan Moffat formerly of Arab Strap has worked for several years under the moniker of Lucky Pierre (L. Pierre) creating sample based, electronic music. This side project apparently got its start because of a challenge that former band mate Malcolm Middleton set out against Aidan to release solo material. Moffat definitely did and ventured far away from Arab Strap's indie, alt-rock sounds which were very respectable and formative for the indie scene in Glasgow after their years. The album (The Island Come True) defines itself within the aesthetic of washing up along the shores of a clandestine locale. At times the album creates a storybook effect with magical textures and an increasingly lo-fi quality as it moves deeper into the tracks. As the album closes with "The Kingdom" all of the lo-fi overlays drop out completely and leave the listener with a jungle-like soundscape, as if to bring us both to reality and fantasy at once.

Pedestrian Verse by Frightened Rabbit

I think Frightened Rabbit has become one of those bands that doesn't let me down. Whether it be because of how purely talented they are, or just an alignment of my own tastes is something that I might not ever know. Lyrically, the album was still written entirely by Scott Hutchinson but the duties of composition were split across all the members of the band. Even with this being the case it never fails to feel like a Frightened Rabbit album, which might be attested once again to the contents of the lyrics covering all manner sorrowful subjects. Probably most easily discerned is the breakup up Hutchinson experienced during the course of this records creation. There's plenty of emotions to be experienced if you give this one a shot.

Lady From Shanghai by Pere Ubu

Okay I know I said I was only going to drop a single obscure one. But Lady From Shanghai is worth putting up on this list. It's probably the biggest stretch that I'll ask anyone to make so far. Despite having labels like ' Experimental Industrial Rock' and even having reported influences from ideas such as 'Musique Concréte' I think they are a tremendously listenable band. And I'm not trying to take the band down a peg, or anyone for that matter, because of their musical tastes. I think like any field of art, members of a particular group can provide various levels of accessibility, and no matter where said acts fall on this spectrum they are all just as important and necessary as the others. I realize I haven't talk about the album yet! It's extremely varied, and from track to track you'll get the industrial, almost Krautrock-esque vibes, and then on the next you'll run into New Wave influences, but while also dropping that Musique Concréte (noise, basically) into the mix to create a blend that is something else altogether.

Trouble Will Find Me by The National

I think I'll stop here with the short reviews. There's just too many and this post is taking me quite a while to put up! The National. What can I can say? They've got great music; the lyrics are both emotional, full of power and occasionally humorous. The instrumentation has never been an issue with these guys, once again being a generally high quality band. There's not much room to go wrong with this one. Give it a shot.

Wow, this post is getting really long. From this point on I'll trim off the writing and just post pictures of stuff that I think you should consider.

Heartthrob by Tegan and Sara

Drifters/Love Is The Devil by Dirty Beaches

Like Clockwork by Queens of the Stone Age

The Man Who Died In His Boat by Grouper

mbv by My Bloody Valentine

Optica by Shout Out Louds

Push The Sky Away by Nick Cave & The Bad seeds

Volume Three by She & Him

Silence Yourself by Savages

The Terror by The Flaming Lips

Ultramarine by Young Galaxy

Even with all of that I still have more albums to listen to....

Can't really be upset with that though, can I?


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Viewfinder: Moonrise Kingdom

For this post I thought I would try something a bit different.

Viewfinder is a new segment I'm starting on my blog wherein I take a scene from a movie that I particularly enjoy and break it down into the interstitial pieces to try and answer why I like it so much.

The attention to detail is through the roof in this film

On the menu today is Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom". The sequence in question can be found here.

Moonrise Kingdom is the kind of movie that is improved by knowing the director's prior catalog. It's already a pretty solid film but in this case, Wes Anderson seems to have culminated the combined efforts, stylings, and experimentations with his previous films to create a pastiche of his own devices. Heightened though his worlds already may be, even the stop motion film, "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" provides a few influences on how he handled Moonrise Kingdom. One such demonstration of this can be observed in the first seconds of the clip I've provided.

Cutaways to set pieces are a classic staple of Anderson's work; for this film, maps are animated with colored beads and strings along with the appropriate foley of either sonar or morse code transmissions. This provides a rather pleasing visual effect for travel/communication which is perfectly in keeping with the storybook aesthetic that the film thrives in.

Next we are greeted by a low light shot illuminating our narrator Bob Balaban with the subtle glow of dusk as he releases a weather balloon into the sky above. He approaches the camera, flicking a light on in the process, then proceeds to expound on the weather conditions that we as an audience already know will develop into a storm (in three days time as a matter of fact). Immediately this calls back to Alec Baldwin's turn as a narrator in "The Royal Tenenbaums". The key difference here though is how much bolder Wes Anderson seems to have become with his use of this device. In "The Royal Tenenbaums" the narrator is neither a character that we meet or know much about, other than that he seems to have a thorough knowledge of the family. Bob Balaban however, lives simultaneously outside and within the film. We even learn that he was one of Sam's teachers at a certain point. As he explains the circumstances of his location and weather conditions the camera subtly swings with him as he changes position on the rocks. It is a rather commanding gesture that seems to metaphorically illustrate that he is unquestionably in command of the movie, as could be argued by how he turns the lights on and off for this particular scene. The lighting also seems to be a reference to stage performances, wherein a character, during an expository scene, will be spotlighted only to fade out, or even back into the scene from whence they came, as needed.

And indeed, our narrator does just that. As he finishes up his forecast, he returns to the light, clicks it off and silently walks off screen. The switching of the light tells us that we have now been returned to the story, the exposition is over, and just beyond our view, the canoes of the young Khaki Scouts making their way to Fort Lebanon row ashore.

It is a masterful scene within a masterful movie. 



A few weeks ago, I was invited to go to Disneyland along with a slew of family members, most of whom have annual passes.

My mom and sister -who have passes as well- must have gone more times than they have digits to count by now. I, on the other hand, had only gone twice before this most recent time. The first was when I was too young to remember much of anything. I've been told that I screamed and cried a lot, so that's good. The second time was about 12 years after that with the string orchestra during high school. On neither of those occasions did I go to California Adventure; I'm pretty sure it wasn't even built when I first went. As much as Disneyland might seem like a place only for children I was pretty excited to go because the bits I could recall were indeed memorable.

I wonder how much it costs to get a hexagon in your name?

As a heads up: most of this post will likely be just photo dumping. But I think you're okay with that.

I think being told you're a Kevin is worse than a Skunk, honestly

Comedian Patton Oswalt had a segment on his most recent standup album where he mentioned a particular attraction at the California Adventure park called the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. It really is meant for children, but my brother and I couldn't pass up an opportunity to visit the spirit cave. Most of it is modeled after Russel's Wilderness Explorers group from the Pixar movie "Up" and there's plenty of things to for the young ones from rope climbing, to tire swinging, and rickety-bridge-walking. The spirit cave itself is really just a small cavernous space. After about a 20 foot walk into the cave you'll find an impression of a hand on the walls that upon pressing your hand to a little light, sound, and general Disney magic goes off to reveal on the monitor/cave wall, your spirit animal. I found out that mine was a wolf and my brother was told that he was a bear. When we checked the sign you see up above, my brother made me laugh when he stated quite plainly: Yeah, that sounds right.

First time riding Star Tours! Woo!

You have to admit, they really know how to decorate the place up

This is not one of the rickety bridges

Getting to Cars Land
I need to interrupt the picture dump here to make a note of how amazingly well done this section of California Adventure is. I could go on about how nicely designed it is utilizing all manner of useless adjectives and sycophantic gesturing, but instead I'll just say this: It feels like you're walking through the damn movie.
The Cozy Cone! A place to park it!

My sister and cousin rode this NON-RIDE

My brother and I walking down the main street

Heck yeah

So by the end of the day I manged to ride (in chronological order):

The "Cars Ride" where you race each other at the end (I don't know the name of it but I won so it's okay!), Soaring over California, Star Tours, Little Mermaid (don't ask), Buzz Lightyear, which despite being a kid's ride was way fun for the blaster zapping action. Later on we did Winnie-The-Pooh's Acid Trip (with my nephew), Alice's Teacups (with my nephew), The Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, and Space Mountain again because that's what any reasonable person who rides Space Mountain for the first time wants to do after riding Space Mountain.

Indiana Jones was pretty fun because of how it happened. Being the ever popular ride that it is, there was quite a line by the time we meandered by it. So we each picked up one of those fast passes, which reserves a time slot for you later in the day that lets you into the shorter line. Only when we returned we discovered that the ride was being suspended. We watched the last of the riders funnel out as our group sat there pondering where we'd go next. After maybe a minute it suddenly opened up and we all dashed for the entrance. I don't know why we were so pumped, but the lot of us raced through the weaving lines, being applauded by the staff in the pandering way that they do, but enjoyed it non-ironically all the same. We all squeezed into one car (room enough for the 10 of us) and were the first people to ride it after being started up again.

It's pretty funny how the togetherness of familial bonds can stem from the most obscure of places. And as I sit here, thinking back on that moment, I can say without reservation that it was unabashedly fun. Maybe it's a bit silly to say that I felt close because of an amusement park ride, but if it's sincere, why not? Perhaps we're all just wandering souls amongst crowds of people from all over the world. Aimless and alone, we seek to to establish a connection between one another. Sometimes it comes about out of crisis or turmoil, and other times it happens while you're all on an automated ride escaping a giant rock while the likeness of Harrison Ford rappels down a rope helping you to escape almost certain doom. But not the Temple of Doom. That was the worst one.


Hey, why not? Have a bonus picture of myself and my brother kicking ass