What’s Wrong with Birnbaum’s Picture?

birnbaum-thumbs-downAs has been well-documented on this blog, I’m a big Disney Theme Parks fan. We go to Disneyland at least once a year and really enjoy our time there as well as in the sister park, Disney’s California Adventure.

DCA, as the park is invariably known, opened in 2001 and was met with overall lukewarm response. The park initially lacked the requisite number of “E-Ticket” attractions and the mix of attractions-restaurants-retail was skewed far too much in the restaurants-retail side.  The lack of tourist travel after 9/11 didn’t help either.

Nonetheless, the park expanded in the intervening years. The former Bountiful Valley Farm section of The Golden State district was carved out and expanded in 2003 as A Bug’s Land with four off-the-shelf (but well-themed) rides appealing to young children unable to ride many of DCA’s signature attractions due to height-restrictions.  Monsters Inc. replaced the poorly received Superstar Limo attraction in 2005. The park also added headliner attractions Tower of Terror in 2004 and Toy Story Midway Mania in 2008.

In other words, a lot has changed at DCA.

All these changes must be somewhat difficult to keep track of for the myriad guidebooks for the Disneyland Resort. But since there is always something new at the resort, the publishers are aware of the upcoming changes and are able to churn out yearly editions of most of the guidebooks (a yearly update is also an opportunity to sell a new book to someone who bought the previous edition).

The best Disneyland guide book is The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland. That book has detailed information about hotels, attractions, restaurants, and more. The book also has “touring plans” that guide you to go to certain attractions at certain times of the day to minimize waiting in line.  The main problem with The Unofficial Guide (besides the fact that it is really heavy to carry around) is that the maps are not very realistic and certainly lack the “magic” that Disney provides in the map/guidebooks you receive when you enter the parks.  No doubt, the fact that the book is labeled “unofficial” has something to do with not being able to license Disney’s drawings.

Enter another guidebook, Birnbaum’s Disneyland Resort 2010. Not only does this tome feature colorful photos, it proudly and prominently displays that it is “The Official Guide.”  Wow! The official guide? This thing must be the best. Or have the most up-t0-date info. Or at least have great looking maps. Right?  Wrong.

If you’ve paid attention, I went to great lengths to describe the substantial changes to DCA since opening. Unfortunately, a decade later, Birnbaum’s 2010 edition still features the a map of the park as it appeared when the park opened.  Yes, seriously. The park map hasn’t changed in ten years!

Let’s take a look at Birnbaum’s official product description (with my emphasis shown in bold):

This updated edition of Birnbaum’s Disneyland Resort, the most respected and well-known name in Disney guides, takes readers through Walt Disney’s first theme park with ease and flair. Since our guide is the only guide that’s official, this book includes the most accurate and current information on prices and attractions.
Here are just a few of the exciting new features of this year’s guide: There’s big doin’s at Disney’s California Adventure these days. We’ll deliver the scoop on all the new shows and attractions that are headed its way. Disney’s Grand Californian has undergone a growth spurt. Check here to see what the new neighborhood of (Disney Vacation Club) villas has to offer. And as always, we’ll include current coverage of Disneyland’s beloved attractions and a peek at what’s to come.

Our guide is also the only one allowed to feature Disney characters. And Birnbaum’s Disneyland Resort is the most comprehensive guidebook, offering complete information on the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s California Adventure, and Downtown Disney, as well as details about Anaheim area attractions, things to do in Los Angeles, and special driving routes around Southern California. This is the only guide to Disneyland that readers need, entirely updated every year.

Take a look at the map for yourself. Compare the 2007 map including most notably the Tower of Terror and Bug’s Land on the left side of the park, under the yellow “California Adventure” text.  And then compare the map show in Birnbaum’s 2010 guide. Those areas, added to the park in 2003-2004, are not even present!

Disney's California Adventure (2007 map)
Disney's California Adventure (2007 map)
Birnbuam's DCA Map for 2010
Birnbuam's DCA Map for 2010

There’s simply no excuse for this sort of woefully out of date information (the Disneyland Park map in Birnbaum’s book is also ten years old but the changes to that park aren’t as noticeable as they are with DCA.). What is the point of being “the official guide” if the maps are so far out of date?  And what else is out of date in the book when something as obvious and noticeable as the map is outdated?

Some might defend Birnbaums by reminding us that DCA is currently undergoing a major expansion and renovation where the Entry Plaza will be completely redone and a new Cars Land will be added. Maybe Birnbaums is holding off until that work is finished. Okay. But, that doesn’t explain why Birnbaum’s didn’t update the DCA maps in 2003-2007, prior to the announcement of this expansion.

I implore you to boycott Birnbaum’s guide until they update their maps. I will also be contacting the publishers of this “guidebook.”

“Illegal” Mashup Leads to $21 in Sales

kissbeyonceWe’ve all heard about the record companies’ claims that illegal downloads are costing them and their artists millions billions of dollars. I’m not going to say that “freebie” copies never prevent a sale but I thought I’d illustrate how an “illegal” mashup led to over $20 in sales for me personally.

I’m kind of a mashup fan. These are song that incorporate elements of different songs into one. Some call it an art form. The record companies call it ripping them off. In any case, the most popular of these mashups are “A vs B Mashups“, where the music of one song is used with the vocals of another. I used to hear a lot of these on Adam Curry’s Daily Source Code podcast before he dropped the show in early 2009. So, I hear about most of these now from Mashuptown.com.

A new Mashuptown track was recently released called I Was Made For Dreaming ‘Bout You [Beyonce vs. KISS]. The track from MadMixMustang incorporates the music from Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams” with KISS’ disco-era hit “I Was Made For Lovin You.”  Check it out. It’s a really cool mashup.

And here is where the record companies should be paying attention.

I was hearing the Beyonce hit quite a bit (especially thanks to those Kidz Bop commericals that run ad-nauseum on Nick), so I grabbed that track from iTunes for $1.29. It’s actually the third song from her recent album that I’ve purchased, which is kind of surprising since I’m not the biggest fan of Beyonce’s music (or her acting! Have you seen Goldmember or Obsessed? The defense rests).

Next, I was thinking I should explore the KISS back catalog a little bit. I haven’t particularly loved them or hated them over the years but I was twelve years old in 1979 so it was pretty hard to ignore them in their heyday. I also liked the bit of nostalgia for KISS on display in Role Models. Seann William Scott’s description of the “actual meaning” of the lyrics to “Love Gun” is the best bit of musical education since Quentin Tarantino’s spotlight scene in Reservoir Dogs! Of course, KISS’ “Beth” is used pretty well at the film’s conclusion.

So, I thought to myself, I ought to invest in some KISS music. I looked around iTunes at the various tracks that I knew I liked, and the collections available. Surprisingly, I found myself drawn to the 80’s era material without the makeup and with second drummer Eric Carr who had a more bombastic drum style. So, I ended up “splurging” for an iTunes collection called The Complete Collection: Kiss that includes 45 songs for $19.99.  Even if I don’t like half of these it still is a deal. But I’ve enjoyed hearing some KISS’ early raw stuff and exploring more from their misunderstood “middle period” as well.

I was thinking about the question every KISS fan is obligated to answer: “Who is your favorite member of KISS?”  It certainly isn’t Peter Criss, who has flat drum style that isn’t really in step with the rest of KISS’ music. Probably not Ace Frehley either, though it was cool his solo hit “Back in the New York Groove” made the aforementioned KISS collection. I think Gene Simmons is a cool cat and Paul Stanley is a great frontman. I’m certainly not picking any of the nameless guitarists from the 80s and 90s. So, I guess I’ll pick Eric “The Fox” Carr. Sadly, Carr died of heart cancer in 1991.

So, there you go. Over $21 in sales because a mashup got me interested in the artists involved.

Top Movies of 2009

Thanks to NetFlix and a list of critically acclaimed films that I actually wanted to see, I managed to see quite a few films in 2009. Here’s the list of every 2009 film that I managed to see, and listed here in order.  I’ve grouped them into several categories, in order to show that there were differences between the Very Successful group and the Disappointment group, for example.

Regarding my top tier, I’ve managed to see most of these a second time and they do hold up. I’d say that Inglourious Basterds is number one by a considerable margin, however. It was such an entertaining, thrilling, and suspenseful movie! It also featured my favorite performance of the year, Christoph Waltz.

The Best of the Year – Transcended their Genre:

  1. inglourious_basterdsInglourious Basterds
  2. Avatar
  3. Star Trek
  4. Up in the Air
  5. Up
  6. I Love You, Man
  7. The Hurt Locker
  8. Observe and Report
  9. Funny People
  10. Zombieland
  11. The Hangover
  12. Fantastic Mr. Fox
  13. Monsters vs. Aliens

Very Successful (within their Genre):

  • Anvil: The Story of Anvil
  • Taken
  • Year One
  • He’s Just Not That Into You
  • State of Play
  • Sunshine Cleaning
  • Management
  • The Blind Side
  • Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
  • The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard
  • Bruno
  • Angels and Demons
  • Extract
  • Julie and Julia
  • Paper Heart
  • Adventureland
  • Watchmen
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Duplicity
  • The International


      • Land of the Lost
      • 17 Again
      • Paul Blart: Mall Cop
      • Terminator: Salvation
      • Away We Go
      • Fanboys
      • The Girlfriend Experience

        Just Plain Awful:

          • The Marc Pease Experience
          • The Proposal
          • Obsessed (“very successful” if you view this as so-bad-it’s-good and love a good catfight)
          • Knowing (soooo sick of end-of-the-world movies)

            Top Songs of 2009

            The Top Songs of 2008 was the first post on the new Kevdo.com blog. Now, one year later, we’re ready to do the Top Songs of 2009. As with last year, this is based on iTunes play counts, not on other factors such as songs I heard on the radio, from CD, from ringtones, etc. Overall, I listened to 1431 songs at least once in 2009.

            When I listen to music I tend to listen to either specific albums or my “current music” playlists that typically hold recently purchased music. So, it’s no surprise that my top 20 is clogged up with Franz Ferdinand songs as their 2009 album Tonight was my favorite of the year (and, importantly, was released early in the year when I wasn’t listening to much else). Thus, the playcounts for this album are really high compared to a lot of other songs. So, rather than a top 20 I have a list of top 50 songs.

            Song, Group, Playcount

            1. noyougirlsPapillon, Editors, 61
            2. No You Girls, Franz Ferdinand, 54
            3. Twilight Omens, Franz Ferdinand, 51
            4. Turn It On, Franz Ferdinand, 50
            5. Send Him Away, Franz Ferdinand, 49
            6. Ulysses, Franz Ferdinand, 48
            7. Forget About What I Said, The Killers, 45
            8. No You Girls (Christian Vorbau Remix), Franz Ferdinand, 43
            9. Lucid Dreams, Franz Ferdinand, 42
            10. Bite Hard, Franz Ferdinand, 40
            11. You Don’t Know Love, Editors, 39
            12. Slow Poison, The Bravery, 36
            13. Decode, Paramore, 34
            14. What She Came For, Franz Ferdinand, 32
            15. In This Light and On This Evening, Editors, 31
            16. Live Alone, Franz Ferdinand, 31
            17. Can’t Stop Feeling, Franz Ferdinand, 31
            18. Losing Touch, The Killers, 30
            19. The Boxer, Editors, 29
            20. Lucid Dreams, Franz Ferdinand, 27
            21. Tick Tick Boom, The Hives, 26
            22. Spaceman, The Killers, 26
            23. Crushcrushcrush, Paramore, 26
            24. Love Etc., Pet Shop Boys, 25
            25. Robot, Stellastarr*, 25
            26. Shut Up and Let Me Go, The Ting Tings, 25
            27. Bricks and Mortar, Editors, 24
            28. Call Me (Live), Franz Ferdinand, 24
            29. This Used To Be The Future, Pet Shop Boys, 24
            30. Magnificent, U2, 24
            31. Go For It, Luccarelli Icardi, 23
            32. Like Treasure, Editors, 22
            33. I Am Your Skin, The Bravery, 21
            34. Human, The Killers, 21
            35. Did You See Me Coming?, Pet Shop Boys, 21
            36. Freak Out, Stellastarr*, 21
            37. Stand Up Comedy, U2, 21
            38. Helicopter, Bloc Party, 20
            39. The Spectator, The Bravery, 20
            40. American Soviets (Cameron Paul Remix), C.C.C.P., 20
            41. The Big Exit, Editors, 20
            42. Feeling Kind Of Anxious (Ulysses Dub), Franz Ferdinand, 20
            43. Kids, MGMT, 20
            44. That’s What You Get, Paramore, 20
            45. Beautiful People, Pet Shop Boys, 20
            46. Vulnerable, Pet Shop Boys, 20
            47. Building A Wall, Pet Shop Boys, 20
            48. We’re the Pet Shop Boys, Robbie Williams & Pet Shop Boys, 20
            49. Bat Fight (video version), Will Ferrell, 20
            50. Golden Rod, Blondie, and Barracuda, Chelsea Girls, and We’re All Criminals Now, Pet Shop Boys and Male Prima Dona, Subtle Sexuality, 19

            Some notes.

            As with last year, there’s a lot of focus on “neo wave” groups like The Bravery, Franz Ferdinand, Stellastarr*, and The Killers. Had The Bravery album been released earlier than December they surely would have showed up differently.  2009 albums from 80’s stalwarts U2 and Pet Shop Boys were quite good and as you can see did well overall this year.  You’ll even find some songs from vintage groups that I found time to rediscover (Blondie and C.C.C.P.). And, as with last year, a novelty hit from Will Ferrell made my (albiet extended) list.

            Including remixes and different song formats, my play counts for my three favorite songs of the year are:

            • Papillon: 87
            • Love, etc.: 58
            • No You Girls: 139