Friday, October 30, 2009

From Timberlake to Gay Backup Dancers--More Favorite Music Videos

Here's another few vidoes in my effort to give you my favorite 20 videos of the decade... you can find #20, "Fallin' For You" by Colbie Caillat, in this post from a few days ago...

There is a tie for the 19th favorite video of the decade... actually, it's two. It truly speaks to, as a Christ Follower, what we should enjoy and what we should be bothered by. Truly, it all boils down to knowing what I believe, knowing why I believe it, and knowing my weak points. Rap videos are not my weak points, and after seeing them, I'm typically not tempted to go find me a 'ho and smack her up.

That being said, I'm aware that this site is linked on several other websites, including the webpage of my church, Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship). You came here for music and music videos, not for a spiritual lesson (though really, shouldn't our day to day life be one spiritual lesson?)... so with that, I'm only going to tell you that tied for #19 are Ludacris' "Stand Up" and Eminem's "Without Me", two hilarious videos that really have nothing to do with the usually debauchery that you'd find in such artist's videos and lyrics. The former is just about a big party, the latter is... well, kind of narcassistic. But both are excellent, very well done, creative and funny. And if you want to see them, you can go to YouTube. I'm not going to give you the resources to put such filth in front of your faces. Sinner.

Moving on.

At number 18 for the decade, its Part Two of one of the biggest "Screw You!" moves I've ever seen. This is for K-Dub (not directly to K-Dub, but for K-Dub)

Actually, truth be told, in "What Goes Around... / ...Comes Around", Justin Timberlake never expressly said this was directed at Britney, but its always been rumored as being such. I was never a huge fan of this song until I saw the video, which put a whole different perspective on the song.

Yes, that is Scarlett Johansson in the video... and she's actually a singer in her own right. She just released an album of duets with Pete Yorn, and I'm loving one of their latest--you'll hear me talk about it on the year-ending 100 Coolest Things of 2009 coming in January.

This is just the short version... there is actually a 10 minute mini-movie version you can see it by clicking here but I couldn't find the link to post it on Clouds... you can see it by clicking on this link (warning--though not bad, I don't know that I would deem it Emmy Turnbow safe).

At #17, here's one from Brandi Carlile. The song itself actually was actually the 32nd Coolest Thing of 2007, but there's a video that goes with it that I just love. Here's what I said about her then:

Brandi Carlisle, is a up and coming singer songwriter who has the benefit of getting a song on "Grey's Anatomy", which is pretty close to instant success. Actually, she's managed to get three or four songs on the show, but this one is the one I really like, as it was released in video form, containing clips of the show set to the music.

For someone who loves the show, it is great when a video just gets it. Nothing flashy about it, I just really like the way its done. And I've said this before--when I die, I want this song and "What a Wonderful World/Over the Rainbow" by the late Israel Kamakawiwo'ole played, showing video clips from my entire life. Don't have any video clips? Better get some. I'm in my mid-30s by now, you are missing tons of stuff.

And finally, for today, here's #16, which unfortunately I can't show you--something about copyrighted property, and trademarks and me not owning the rights to show it and all that crap...

It's "Say It Right" by Nelly Furtado, and there a few things I love about this video... first, at least for me, its one of the few times I think Nelly Furtado actually comes across as attractive. Never been a huge fan, not really sure I am now, but this song entrances me. Its just... well, its just cool.
Secondly, Timbaland is awesome. I don't know who's idea it was to do close ups of Timbaland saying "Hey" over and over, but it works. Somehow, someway, the only job this guy has is to make goofy faces, whisper in the background "you don't mean nothing at all", scat a little bit and say "Hey" a thousand times. Fantastic. He's the best part of the video.


Finally, see those guys in the background that do that shoulder swivel move, using their legs? It happens around 2:43 in... its like Patrick Swayze doing that side-to-side aisle dance move at the end of "Dirty Dancing", and it looks so incredibly easy... but its impossible to do. Or impossible to do and still look as cool as the ones who are doing it. Perhaps it helps that they look as gay as a four dollar bill--the background dancers, not Patrick Swayze.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dismantling America

Every now and again I come across something that is just awesome. Its written like I wish I could write, sharing ideas and ideology in a way that I wish I could get across. Just a note--the video is my own addition. As featured on

Just one year ago, would you have believed that an unelected government official, not even a Cabinet member confirmed by the Senate but simply one of the many "czars" appointed by the President, could arbitrarily cut the pay of executives in private businesses by 50 percent or 90 percent?

Did you think that another "czar" would be talking about restricting talk radio? That there would be plans afloat to subsidize newspapers-- that is, to create a situation where some newspapers' survival would depend on the government liking what they publish?

Did you imagine that anyone would even be talking about having a panel of so-called "experts" deciding who could and could not get life-saving medical treatments?

Scary as that is from a medical standpoint, it is also chilling from the standpoint of freedom. If you have a mother who needs a heart operation or a child with some dire medical condition, how free would you feel to speak out against an administration that has the power to make life and death decisions about your loved ones?

Does any of this sound like America?

How about a federal agency giving school children material to enlist them on the side of the president? Merely being assigned to sing his praises in class is apparently not enough.

How much of America would be left if the federal government continued on this path? He Who Must Not Be Re-Elected (my title, not his-d$) has already floated the idea of a national police force, something we have done without for more than two centuries.

We already have local police forces all across the country and military forces for national defense, as well as the FBI for federal crimes and the National Guard for local emergencies. What would be the role of a national police force created by Barack Obama, with all its leaders appointed by him? It would seem more like the brown shirts of dictators than like anything American.

How far the President will go depends of course on how much resistance he meets. But the direction in which he is trying to go tells us more than all his rhetoric or media spin.
Barack Obama has not only said that he is out to "change the United States of America," the people he has been associated with for years have expressed in words and deeds their hostility to the values, the principles and the people of this country.

Jeremiah Wright said it with words: "God damn America!"

Lest you forget, here's the man that led the church attended by He Who Must Not Be Re-Elected for six months. Wait, it was more, right? I meant a year. What? More? Okay, five years. But he didn't really know him, right? Uh... what? More? How many? TWENTY YEARS? He was our president's pastor for TWENTY YEARS? But... but... He Who Must Not Be Re-Elected didn't really know him. Right? Right.

Bill Ayers said it with bombs that he planted. Community activist goons have said it with their contempt for the rights of other people.

Among the people appointed as czars by President Obama have been people who have praised enemy dictators like Mao, who have seen the public schools as places to promote sexual practices contrary to the values of most Americans, to a captive audience of children.

Those who say that the Obama administration should have investigated those people more thoroughly before appointing them are missing the point completely. Why should we assume that Barack Obama didn't know what such people were like, when he has been associating with precisely these kinds of people for decades before he reached the White House?

Nothing is more consistent with his lifelong patterns than putting such people in government-- people who reject American values, resent Americans in general and successful Americans in particular, as well as resenting America's influence in the world.

Any miscalculation on his part would be in not thinking that others would discover what these stealth appointees were like. Had it not been for the Fox News Channel, these stealth appointees might have remained unexposed for what they are. Fox News is now high on the administration's enemies list.

Nothing so epitomizes President Obama's own contempt for American values and traditions like trying to ram two bills through Congress in his first year-- each bill more than a thousand pages long-- too fast for either of them to be read, much less discussed. That he succeeded only the first time says that some people are starting to wake up. Whether enough people will wake up in time to keep America from being dismantled, piece by piece, is another question-- and the biggest question for this generation.

Written by Thomas Sowell, former Marxist, reformed Conservative, author, economist and professor at Stanford University.

"I don't care. This is racist. You should respect our first black president. This is a bigoted piece written by some white bureaucrat who never knew a hard days work in his life!"

Oh yeah, Sowell is also more black than He Who Must Not Be Re-Elected, 100% certified.

Music and Magic

Okay, so does anyone else but me realize that in about 2 months, the end of the decade is upon us? Like, the actual end of a ten year period, that happening where not only do we change the last digit in the year, but the third as well... and no one is talking about this!

At Starbucks the other evening, my shift, Tracy, made the point that ten years ago at this time, we were all preparing for the end of the world with Y2K coming up, and everyone was stocking up on beans and rice and water and batteries... but in 2009? Nothing. Haven't heard a single "Best of the Decade" show on the radio, haven't seen a "Top ## of the Decade" show on TV. But, this is Clouds in My Coffee, and since you are all aware about how much I loves me some countdowns, I figured I would start the ball rolling.

I put a call out to a couple of friends of mine discussing the best movies of the decade, so hopefully, they'll get in on that topic. I've got a spreadsheet open right as I type with a list of my favorite songs of the decade. As far as TV goes, I'll probably pick my five or seven favorite shows... but I figured I'd start tonight with my favorite videos of the decade...


...The NBA season has started (I just completely jumped topics, but I will return to "...of the decade" in a moment). Back in March, I discussed my sports affections (and listed my absolute failure of a March Madness Bracket) and mentioned my love for both the San Antonio Spurs and the Orlando Magic, loves that date back to high school. Don't believe me? I've got pics where I'm wearing hats for both. Just ask Wookiee. He'll tell you.

I mentioned that I thought I'd try just tossing myself into the NBA season, following it some as long as the NFL and college football was going on, then really follow it when that's all over. As of right now, both teams are 1-0, and both teams are expected to win their divisions (Orlando in the Eastern Southeast and San Antonio in the Western Southwest... though asking me who is in what division beyond that is like asking me, or anyone else for that matter, to tell you who is in the Atlantic and who in the Coastal in the ACC. It can't be done.) and from all I'm hearing, there are five teams that are expected to make serious runs at the NBA title this year...

That would be The Lakers, the Celtics, the Magic, the Spurs and the Cavaliers. The Spurs have another good season or two with Tim Duncan before he falls completely apart, and they are a team that typically has the Lakers number... the Magic acquired Vince Carter, someone who hasn't played very well in his entire career, but has been on mediocre teams for his entire career with no supporting cast. Now he's got Dwight Howard, among others, so hopefully he'll make a difference, because the Celtics, while great, have a Big-Three combined age of something like 344, and have a Big-Three combined games played of about 17,877... and the Cavs? I think Shaq is going to kill them this year. Terrible trade.

Anyway, I really don't know much about what I'm talking about and... hey... who said, "how is that different?" I heard that!... so we'll see how the season goes. I plan on even watching a few games here and there when I can find them.

Alright, back to the Decade stuff.

By the way, how many of you could have sworn that the title of this blog was about The Happiest Place in the Mall when you saw the word "magic"? See, you can never assume what we'll be talking about here on Clouds, can ya?

I have compiled my own list of the Top 20 Music Videos of the Decade. Now, let me be clear... this is a list of my own favorite videos. My. Own. Favorite. Videos. I did some Googling around, and I found that crazy White Stripes song where the entire video is done in Legos and such, and I thought the video was awesome... but the song is... well, its pretty terrible. Crappy song plus cool video doesn't make a cool video. It makes it a cool video with a crappy song. Make sense?

Conversely (I love that word. I feel so algebraic when I say it) a good song can be made better with a good video... and I found 2o songs that I liked, who's videos made the songs just that much better.

Music videos are such a lost art... my favorites of all time include "Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel, "Take on Me" by a-ha and "Sabotage" by The Beastie Boys, but all were pre-2000, so they didn't make our list.

Oh, don't worry, I'm not listing 20 videos on a single blog post... I'll break it up. And for #20, its a cute little song that was actually from this year--I would almost be willing to call the video "Dorks Win", because it gives hope to dorks everywhere. The 20th favorite video of the decade is "Fallin' For You" by Colbie Caillat, from her latest album "Breakthrough".

Here's what I love about this video... its just fun. And sweet. And nice. She's pretty, he's a nerd, yet she totally digs him. Its like The Lovely Steph Leann falling for me all over again, only without the surfing and the trailer. And the ending of the video is just precious. Yep, I said precious.

#19 video of the decade to be included in an upcoming post.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Gil Grissom Will Never Be Furious Styles (and other random thoughts for your weekend)

Here are some random thoughts that have crossed my mind in the past few days... something to read for your weekend..

I walked out of Hallmark today, and towards a Mercury Sable that was parked there. I was almost to the car before I realized “Wait… not only is this not my Sable, I don’t own a Sable… and I’m parked over there…” Old habits die hard.


Why did it take TLC so long to just say, “Okay, okay, Kate and Jon and their 8 kids have given us enough money. Let’s call it.”?

Speaking of, when was the last time The Learning Channel actually gave you something worth learning? Not that I don't enjoy those repo shows, but I don't really learn how to get a car at 2am from a deadbeat buyer...


I laid in bed one night recently, and heard a beep. While I couldn’t figure out what it was, The Lovely Steph Leann informed me it’s a fire alarm. I mentioned that we didn’t have any batteries, and that I would have to go get some, and she informed me that it wasn’t our fire alarm, it must be one of the empty houses across the street.

So, from the empty house, through the closed doors, across the small street, through our walls and into my room comes the beep of a dying fire alarm. Apparently, the neighborhood group had them changed, cause I haven’t heard it lately. However, as The Lovely Steph Leann and I were returning home from dinner and getting out of the car tonight, I heard the beep. My eyes instantly locked onto a hammer sitting atop the toolbox in the corner.


Funniest video clip of the year. First saw it when Tyler, Trey, Lenning, Jon and myself were getting readyfor a day at the Happiest Place on Earth, when it came on, in its full form, as an actual commercial...

It freaks me out when I feel my leg twitch because I think my phone is vibrating, and when I check my pockets, I realize my phone is sitting across the room on the kitchen table.


"Paranormal Activity" looks like a fanastic movie. I, however, will not be seeing it, as I'm already scared of the dark as it is, and want to sleep at some point.


Someone got my memo. I went into Wal-Mart tonight to pick up some milk (and ended up with milk, a pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, a Banquet Salisbury Steak TV dinner and Colbie Caillat’s new CD, “Breakthrough”… ah, the joys of Wal-Mart late at night). Anyway, the point is, when I go to Wal-Mart, typically its two registers open and about 12 people lined up at each one, and it’s a guarantee that one of the register lights is blinking due to a price check, or a customer issue or you name it. Tonight, though? About six registers were open, no more than two or three at each. I’m guessing some member of the Walton family reads Clouds in My Coffee.


By the way, Colbie Caillat's new CD is excellent. She's got this great, peaceful sound, like a cute chick sitting on a stool, playing a guitar. Its what I'd expect from my friend Laura DeG or Stephanie Nipp.



When I am driving around and spending the day with Lorelei Addison and/or Campbell Isaiah, I'm sure that I'll see something, or hear something or come across something mentioning He Who Must Not Be Re-Elected, and I'll going to casually mention that that particular something "sucks". And I'm terrified that they will look up at me and say "Sucks what, daddy?". I'm not sure I even know the answer to that question.


I'm now old enough to be classified as "my mid-30s". Even now, when I'm differentiating left and right, I still hold up both hands, index fingers, thumbs pointed in. There's the L! That must be left!


The Lovely Steph Leann and I split up the chores, though to be fair, she does most of it. Part if it is that she wants to make sure its done to her specifications and satisfaction, so she just figures she’d do it… and part of it is admittedly being a lazy bum. Laundry is my deal, though . Has been since we first started shacking up together five years ago. And I don’t have a problem doing laundry, I usually stumble when its time to fold it.

Usually I’ve got neat stacks of shirts to be folded, pants to be hung up, socks to be matched and put away, but as the actual laundry day gets farther away, until suddenly its laundry day again, there’s a tipping point of my pile of laundry where I finally say, “Yeah, I already have a bunch of dirty light clothes, and my pile of clean light clothes is kinda slim now… so I’ll just wash lights and fold them all together.” Maybe its just me.


Second funniest video clip I've seen this year... its an actual commercial, and Robert Lee is a guy I want to meet.


When I leave The Happiest Place in the Mall, often, especially in colder weather, I will have on a different shirt or sweatshirt as I’m walking through the stage. That means that unless you are a regular guest, you won’t know I work there. Which makes it all the more strange when I unconsciously say “Hi”, “How are you?” and “Welcome to Disney!” to people as I’m walking through.


I'm watching "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" with The Lovely Steph Leann. I am not sure we've seen an episode together in the entire run of the show, we've always watched it on DVD, via Netflix.

My favorite has been Warrick Brown, played by Gary Dourdan... he's just awesome--and, he's dead. Sara Sidle, played by Jorja Fox, has left the show. Never was a huge fan of Sara, but she was a part of the team. And now, William Petersen's Gil Grissom, one of the finest characters in all of TV history, has left.

Laurence Fishburne is a fine actor. He's made many a fine movie, including playing Furious Styles in "Boyz in the Hood" and of course, Morpheus in the Matrix trilogy (which, in a short sidebar, I can honestly say I've never met anyone who has told me how much they liked the 2nd and 3rd movie over the 1st... for all the people I've talked to, its how revolutionary and amazing the first one was, and how visually impressive, yet utterly terrible story-wise "Reloaded" and "Revolutions" are). Heck, he was even Cowboy Curtis on the fun-when-you-were-little-but-it-seems-a-little-creepy-now Pee Wee's Playhouse!

Where was I?

Ah yes, CSI. Anyway, Fishburne is Ray Langston, who joins the team after Gil left. And I like Langston. But he's just not Gil. Don't know if anyone is, or can be. Its almost as if the show is a different show now... the cases are the same, Nick (George Eads), Brass (Paul Guilfoyle) and Catherine (the getting-better-with-age Marg Helgenberger) are still there, but the show just has a different feel to it. Not better, not worse, just different.

The Lovely Steph Leann and I are already invested in the show, so we'll see it to the very end, season by season on DVD, no matter what happens... though I would love to see Gil make a reappearance.


But William Petersen could never be Furious Styles.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Peace Amongst the Nemos

Wondering how would it be to breathe in deep. I guess I need to be careful when I ask for a drink (just might get what I ask for). And I know just what You'd say to me, that's why I don't ask you. What would I ask you? I'm like a bullheaded boy these days crying my toy's gone...You're shiny and new -- "Close of Autumn", Caedmon's Call from "Caedmon's Call"

Sometimes the Magic can be a little much. Well, let's rephrase that... for the guests, it should always be Magical... for those of us that provide the Magic, it can be a little much.

But today was a good day. I didn't even have to use my AK... ooh wah ooh... (hmm... unsure how many of you out there can recall that's an Ice Cube lyric, so I'll move on)

Today started out as a not-quite-as-good day. Today started out as a hectic day, in fact. I arrived later than usual, after two solid days of work. I arrived 30 minutes later than I should have and faced an already mounting sort of issues. The types of issues that, when faced singularly, are not much to worry about, but when tossed together in a big pile, can seem a bit overwhelming.

Lots to do, lots to do, starting mostly with a change over. Halloween stuff moves to the back of the store, new toys and Christmas merchandise begin to fill the front of the store. Two weeks before Halloween, we gotta get rid of the costumes...

SIDEBAR RANT... And just for the record, please, for the love, don't get mad at me when, 10 days before the actual day of Halloween, we don't have any more Peter Pan Costumes in stock. Seriously. They've been out on the floor since mid-August. You've had over 2 months to come in and purchase... yes, they didn't go on sale for a long, long time. But you know what? I'd bet you'd pay that extra $12 for the right size of the Buzz costume now, wouldn't ya? I'm sorry we don't have anymore. We had billions. You were just playing the odds that the right size would still be here late in the game, on the cheap, and you lost. Oh, where can you find them? Um, how about Just sayin'....

...and the costumes are on sale, but Snow White was just released on DVD, so we have an entire selection of apparel and toys featuring the first princess, and the newest princess, Tiana, is coming out on December 11th, via The Princess & the Frog, which is supposed to be feeee-nominal, so we have a wall of her, and don't forget Tinkerbell!

And I need to fill the Cars wall because we've sold through so many Maters already and, wait, there's the phone, yes ma'am we do have Minnie Costumes in red and pink and what size? Okay, I'll check on that for you, no I'm sorry we don't have any 4T, they only come to 2T in pink, but we do have a 2/3 in the red and sure we can hold it for you, and let me look on my sheet, and I've got to re-ticket some of these costumes with the white ticket gun, it should be in the closet and its not in the closet, this is bad and yes sir we are hiring, here is an application for you (thinking the oily truckers cap plus the gruff, nonchalant way you asked for an application to add to the 30 you have in your left hand might just ensure that not only will you not get a job with us, you probably won't get an interview) and just fill it out and come back later and oh, the phone rings again, no ma'am, Spongebob is not Disney, no ma'am, I'm not sure where to find it in the mall, but Toys R Us is across Highway 31, and that white ticket should be in the closet, its always in the closet, and welcome to Disney yes ma'am, we do have Jasmine costumes, and yes, they are on sale but don't have prices posted yet because all of our costumes are on sale but not all are ringing up correctly so you will have to check back and yes sir, we do sell tickets, okay a 6 Day Base Ticket (thinking who would want a Base ticket? for 3 days maybe, but I couldn't do 6 without a park hopper) and that will be $266.47 and oh no, the ticket activation system is not working properly, ma'am I'm so sorry you'll have to come back later and where the heck did that white ticket gun go, this is bizarre and somewhat frustrating and that Rosetta costume that you picked up from the rack with the 9 other Rosetta costumes is actually $29.99 right now, just like it says on the sign directly above the 9 Rosetta costumes and yes I know we have other costumes for $19.99 but if you'll look ma'am you'll see that those costumes are not only clearly marked but they aren't even near the also clearly-marked-with-a-different-price Rosetta costumes so no they aren't the same price and its okay that you don't want it, but did you really have to just stick on the $19.99 rack and walk away when the $29.99 rack that you got it off of was about four more steps away and no ma'am we don't have any more Captain Hook costumes besides what is right there on the wall in the 2/3 size and sure, I'll check on some Nemo Costumes in the back and...


I slowly walked backstage. Head spinning, wondering how I was going to get it even done. Too much stuff to do, inhibited by the fact I'm an assistant and I'm allowed 40 hours per week and that's all. I pull out the small step ladder and place it directly under Pooh and Nemo. They are toddler costumes, hanging from a chain that hangs down from the ceiling and someone wants a 12 Mos size.

I unfold the ladder and step to the top. I reach, stretch, pull a little, plant my foot on a nearby shelf making sure I don't fall, and get the 12 month size I need. And then I stop for a few seconds.

"God... we don't spend nearly enough time together. Really. I mean, not that we spend a day or two here, or an hour or two together and I need more, I mean, we really don't spend enough time together. This is a silly request... just help me today. I've got too much to do. In the grand scheme of things, it will all get done, I'm sure, but help me figure this out. That's all."

I stood for another few seconds, took another breath, and as I stepped down the ladder onto the tile, it was... well, it was a peace that surpassed all understanding. I certainly don't understand it. It was if a big rock with the label "TUESDAY" on it was resting on my back, and somehow, a gracious, powerful and somewhat loving Hand just flicked it off.

Things started to click. I would say "somehow" but I know the "how". The costumes started ringing up correctly. The ticket activation system kicked in, and when she called back, I took care of her ticket and got it to her. We didn't get a ton of shipment in today, which means I could concentrate on other things. I managed a couple of fixtures before I left. I scheduled a couple of interviews for the end of the week--sadly, Trucker Hat Guy didn't make the cut.

And that's the thing, ain't it? Its so simple, its just as easy as a "Hey God... little help here", ain't it? Doesn't mean it will all be perfect... heck, when I left, I still had a ton of stuff to do (and have to do tomorrow) and people were still irritated at me when I told them that we don't have any more Peter Pan bow & arrow sets...

"Well, can you order them online?"
"I am sure you can find them online, if they are available, ma'am, but we don't have the capabilities to order them from our store. You'll have to go on yourself."
"Well, can you get it shipped here, and let me pick it up here?"
"No ma'am, you'll have to have it shipped to your home, we cannot get it here for you to pick up."
"Well, I can't believe you don't have any more boys accessories."
"Actually, ma'am, we do have more in the back, but we are holding onto them because you're obnoxious and we won't sell them to you..."

...but all in all, the outlook was different. Just that quick nudge to Him, not even a full out prayer, just an acknowledgement of dependence and need and want was enough to have a sweeping feeling of contentment and grace and... yep, peace. A peace that truly surpasses all understanding, so sez Philippians 4:7, so we live out. I don't understand it, never will.

Reminds me of my favorite Caedmon's Call song, "Close of Autumn", one of those "this song changed my life" kind of songs, when it says: When I'm cold and alone, all I want is my freedom, sudden gust of gravity. I stop wailing and kicking just to let this water cover me, cover me, only if I rest my arms, rest my mind, You'll overcome me, swell up around me. With my fighting so vain, my vanity so fought, I'm rolling over. And in just the same way, the streams become swollen, swollen with cold up over the ground. When my heart draws close to the close of Autumn where your love (your love) abounds.

I was going to finish up the trip review to the Happiest Place on Earth, but I ended up having a day like today, and thought I'd share the Happiest Place in the Mall.

And my greatest fear... was that you'd leave me here... a long time back my feet could touch the bottom...

Now where is that stupid white-ticket gun?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The College Boys' Magical Journey (Part I)

So, at some point in late July, I had just gotten back from a quick three day venture ot The Happiest Place on Earth with Rev'rn Ty, Amy Mc and Tommy Mc. I was sitting with Tyler, The Lovely Steph Leann's younger brother and by law, my brother-in-law, and we were discussing said trip to Orlando, and he mentioned something about Fall Break at The University of Alabama.

I, out of the blue, half joking, kinda serious, said, "You want to go to Disney on Fall Break?" He stared at me, and said, "Are you serious?" I replied, "Sure. I mean, I'll have to ask The Lovely Steph Leann what she thinks about it, but yeah, why not. Bring the roomdudes."

Tyler texted his roommates, and within a few days, it all came together. On Wednesday, we would leave out around 8 or 830pm, drive all night, arrive at All Star Movies (where five of us would stay in a four person room) and hit the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom for three full days, and some on Sunday before heading back.

I had two conditions... 1) I didn't drive a vehicle that is parked at The Cabana. This is not to say I wouldn't drive at all, but Toni Rocki Honda wasn't built for five--its barely built for three--and I knew darn tootin' well that The Lovely Steph Leann was not about to let me take her car to Orlando. 2) I got a bed. I figured I'd sleep next to one of the guys, and I did, but I wasn't doing the floor. I'm too old to do such things. Other than that, let the magic reign.

So I figured I would post a few highlights and some pictures with myself, Tyler Campbell, Jonathan Lenning, Trey Cartledge and Jon Thompson and our weekend adventure to Disney World.


We left Wednesday night, with Tyler and Trey coming by The Cabana to pick me up, then swinging by Jonathan Lenning's home to pick up he and Jon, whom I'd never even met. Jonathan's sisters are Brittney and Scotty, but to be honest, I'm not sure I have ever spoken to either--even though they are my friends on Facebook. That's how it goes.


Traveled through the night, took turns driving, took turns sleeping, arriving at All Star Movies around 645 in the morning. We made Jon get lost as we checked in, because really there were only supposed to be four in the room. After getting the room keys, we walked to the 101 Dalmations building, got into our rooms and agreed to just take a two hour nap... I took a shower, then as soon as I laid down, I was gone.

We made it to the Magic Kingdom by 11a, and tackled Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Mickey's PhilharMagic, The Haunted Mansion, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, Stitch's Great Escape, The Monster's Inc Laugh Floor, Pirates of the Caribbean... okay, just about everything.

Tyler insisted we do Small World (which I ended up nodding off to once inside) and Lenning sheepishly asked that we do Peter Pan's Flight ("Like, I rode it when I was a kid, and I... well, I kinda want to ride it once..."), and I made sure we did the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. And all the guys wanted to see the princesses.

We looked kinda funny in line, with us being five guys surrounded by families with a bunch of kids. And when we got to Aurora, she asked us what kingdom we were from. We told her "Birmingham", and she asked the names of our horses. That led to this exchange:

Lenning: Traveler
Trey: Apples
Jon: Strider
Me: Buckley
Tyler: Uh... um... um... Mason
Lenning, Jon: Mason?
Trey: Mason?
Me, laughing because Apples is a sillier name than Mason, but because its Tyler, Mason becomes the goofy name.

From the left, there's Tyler, Jon, Jonathan, Sleeping Beauty, myself and Trey. For the record, this wasn't my idea. I'm not opposed to it at all, I like the princesses there, but this was one of the guys ideas.

As we walked out of the County Bounty, the big gift shop that also housed the Princess areas, more than once Trey asked, "Okay, which one asked us about the horses?" "Sleeping Beauty," Jon would say. And then Trey would ask, "Oh, right. And which one was in the yellow?" "Belle," Tyler would say. "Right. And Cinderella was in the pink?" Trey would ask.

Strangely enough, the beauty of the princesses are never consistent, because I cannot remember the last time I got a good looking Aurora, the Cinderellas are hit and miss, and sometimes Belle is disappointing, other times she's beautiful--the last few times I've gone, though, its been the latter. Mary Poppins is the only one that is consistently pretty.


On the way down, we stopped in Auburn to visit Alan the Facebook Stalker. He is a Disney nut as well, and he lent us Trey the book of Hidden Mickeys.

A Hidden Mickey is a Mickey Icon that's... well, hidden. It consists of two smaller circular shapes sitting atop the larger one, and is placed somewhere in the park, be it on a ride, an attraction, a restaurant, or just in the scenery, that isn't obvious. Trey pointed me to one in front of The Haunted Mansion that might be one of my favorites:


We also managed to spot four or five on Splash Mountain alone, a couple in The Hollywood Tower of Terror and a few other select attractions.


Speaking of Hollywood, we hit it hard on Friday morning. We raced to Toy Story Mania first thing... just like everyone else in the Hollywood Studio World.

If the park opens at 9, they will start letting people in around 840a. The guests move up the street a bit to a certain point, where a rope keeps them from going any further. This is A) to build excitement for opening and B) to keep the crowds from extending from the gates to far back close to the lots.

The Cast Members wait, and when the rope drops, a few of them hold another rope up that they allow you to follow behind. If you would rather go to Aerosmith's Rockin' Roller Coaster or The Hollywood Tower of Terror, then just take a right and take off. But, if you are going to Toy Story Mania, then you have to follow the moving rope barrier. If you run past the Cast Members, they pull you aside and make you wait, helplessly watching a hundred-plus other guests race by.

We got there pretty quickly, got some Fast Passes for it, then hopped in line. We didn't like the ride... we loved the ride. I had ridden it before, and I think maybe Trey had as well, but the other guys had not, and it was awesome. Toy Story Midway Mania is one of those rides that you get really excited about taking other people on.



We were working our way to The Sci Fi Cafe for lunch when we passed by The American Idol Experience. One of us piped up to Lenning that he should try out for it. He said no, and another of us said he should, and still he said no, and finally we all pushed him towards the entrance. Of course the Cast Member at the front was trying to convince Lenning as well.

I said, "Okay, okay... if you will try out, I'll try out." Lenning looked at me, still unconvinced. Then I said, "Okay, not only I will try out, TYLER WILL TRY OUT!" This, of course, came as quite a surprise to Tyler, who, after the initial shock, said, "Uh... yeah! I'll try out!"

Essentially, it breaks down like this... you can audition for American Idol in Hollywood Studios. You sing for one of the producers, and if they like you, they send you down the hall to another set of producers. If those producers like you, you become one of three people booked on one of the shows. There are typically seven shows per day, from about 11a, each hour, until about 4p, maybe 5p.

The audience votes on a winner for each show. If you are a show winner, you come back for the daily finale, at 7p. Again, the audience votes, and if you win THAT one, you get a special golden ticket... that golden ticket allows you to go to ANY American Idol audition in the country and go straight to the front of the line and get special VIP treatment for your entire visit.

A CM was telling us that some people have come back and reported that after trying out for AI with their golden ticket, they are given special VIP treatment, backstage passes, special meetings and such for their entire visit.

So, anyway, we went into the AI building, and because I am a Cast Member, not only could I not participate, I could not even audition. Technically, neither could Tyler, being my brother-in-law, but we weren't really that concerned with his winning the show. They could only take one person in the audition room with them, so Tyler took Jon. Jon later said that Tyler sang, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", complete with hand motions and movements. He didn't make it.

Lenning, on the other hand, took Trey with him. I stood in the lobby talking to a CM for a little while, when I learned that Lenning had made it to the next round. I went out to The Sci Fi Cafe and told them to hold our reservations, because we were with the Next American Idol. Tyler and Jon were sitting outside, waiting on the results of Lenning's second round audition.


I stood and chatted with Paul, the CM recruiting potential Idol'ers. We discussed the parks and the attraction, and he learned I worked for The Disney Store. Then he said something that made me want to punch him in his unmagical mouth.

"Oh, The Disney Store, huh?" he smiled. "So you guys are like, semi-Cast Members, right? I mean, do you get any benefits?"

What I said: "Oh yeah, we are full fledged Cast Members. We don't get some of the free admission perks that you get, but thats because you work here on-site, but other than that, yes, we are Cast Members just like you."

What I wanted to say: "'Semi-Cast Member'? 'Semi'? Listen friend... not only am I a full Cast Member, and probably more so than you are because I'm one of 17 people who work in an enviroment that provides Disney Magic in a city where there is nothing else, especially not four theme parks, two water parks and a shopping and club district that employs 55,000 people onsite. Plus, Paulie, I make more than you do, and I don't have to stand in the hot sun wearing that gay little vest you've got on. I got your 'Semi' right here." Then I would do the D-X Crotch Chop after I dropped him with a RKO.


Tyler texted Lenning's dad. His text read something like, "YOUR SON IS GOING TO BE ON AMERICAN IDOL". A few minutes later, Tyler gets a text. He reads it, and says, "Crap! Mr. Lenning trumps again!" The text read something like, "IN SOUTH AFRICA. DINNER WITH DISNEY VP."


Lenning made it. He came out wearing a number and a yellow card on a lanyard. We went nuts. The producer came out, and wanted to get some video of him celebrating. They got a great shot of us doing high fives, and Jon chest bumping Lenning. He did some interviews on camera, and finally, an hour and ten minutes after our reservation, we had lunch.



Lenning had to be back at 2:50 for make up, rehearsal and a few other re-show things for the 4pm show. The guys and I had enough time to run and do Star Tours and a couple of other things, then we had to meet up at 3:30p for the VIP door.

(Random Sidebar... does anyone else watch Survivor, and six weeks into it, you are still seeing people in the opening credits that make you say "Who is that guy?!" and "I didn't realize someone named Mick was on the show?" Or is it just me. Its on right now, and I'm trying to figure out who Mick is. And apparently, there's a Ashley too. Can you say "uninteresting cast"?)

The family and friends of the other two that made it were also at the door when we got there, and soon enough, a CM led us to our seats, close to the front on stage-right side of the theater. Each seat has an arm rest with two sets of buttons number 1-1o, which you use to vote on your favorites. As we walked in, the first contestant was finishing up his practice song, which was "I Like It" by Tim McGraw. The guy singing, Billy Cox, was a country bumpkin kind of guy, and sounded decent enough.

Lenning was singing "Sweet Home Alabama", which was a blessing and a curse. He sounded great, but I dearly hate that song. Always have. Makes me feel like I should be driving a 4x4 truck, covered in mud, a tennis ball hanging off the long antenna I have and a big Confederate Flag in the back window. Under the gunrack, of course. So, it makes me feel like I'm back in Samson. Yee-haw.

Lastly, Jada Davis, a big sista', got up and sang "Respect". As she sang, I looked and Tyler, who looked back, and we both looked up at Jonathan on stage, who saw us. We all shook our heads. Jada was tearin' it up... and we knew it was over.

The little girl sitting next to me was the daughter of Billy Cox, and she looked up at me and said, "She's really good." I nodded, and said, "You know, if you accidentally hit 2 on your buttons there, instead of 1, then its okay." She smiled and said, "And if you hit 1 by accident, its okay too." I heard Tyler say, "Touche."

The show started, the judges came out--one is like Randy, one is like Paula, and one is like Simon... go figure. Billy Cox sang his song, and again, sounded pretty good. The judges said their stuff, then Lenning got up there... and again, sang well. The Randy-Judge told him that he needed to be more animated, the Paula-Judge said, "You are so cute! You look like you are 12 years old with your fuzzy little legs!" You know those moments when something happens and you just know that this will stick with you for a long, long time, and you are going to hear about it a whole heckuva lot? That was this moment with Jonathan Lenning. Trey, Jon, Tyler and I just about passed out in our seats with laughter.

The Simon-Judge told him that "I once carried some frozen peas and that was slightly interesting than your performance."

And Jada Davis got up, sang awesome, and the judges loved her. The Cox family next to me had a little baby girl who started crying, and the daughter next to me had to take her out, leaving her buttons unattended. So when it came time to vote, I hit "2" for Lenning... then I hit "1" for Billy Cox, cause that is what Cox the Daughter would have done.

Who won? Tell you in the next post, this weekend...

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Just a Smidge of Happy Times

So, like, sometimes we have fixtures at The Happiest Place in the Mall that we put clearance merchandise on. And sometimes, its the same type item, but due to the fact they are different styles, or different characters, one might be $7.99 and one might be $9.99. And sometimes we mark it with a sign that says, clearly, "$7.99" and directly under it, in print that isn't quite as big, but still very legible, it says "And Up", denoting that yes, some things on this rack are $7.99... and up.

It never fails. A guest brings me something marked $9.99 and ask why they can't it for $7.99, because "that rack over there says $7.99!".

"Yes sir, but it does say 'and up' under it, so some items are $7.99, some are more."

"Well, thats stupid. Can't nobody read that!" then they hand me the item, or take it with them across the store to tell their spouse that I'm stupid, the store is stupid and that sign marked (clearly) "$7.99... and up" is misleading. Then they leave the item draped across the Plush Mountain.

However, I guarantee you anything that if we hired one of those guys you see on Ripley's Believe or Not that paints the Mona Lisa on the head of a pin to write the words "buy one get one free" on any sign, the guest would see that, bring their free one up to the register and expect to get it. Ah, happy times.

Whatever. I'm going to Disney. See you on Sunday.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Four Stories and a Crossing of Paths

To read The Encouragement Beginning, the intro to this series, click here.

“Four Stories...” is probably one of my top two or three favorites that I’ve written. My friend Amy had just come back into my life after our friendship had taken a year long hiatus, and I had no idea what God was up to. However, with our friendship being rekindled, it reminded me of God’s plan and purpose, His infinite tapestry that He weaves. So as a gift to her, I sat down and let God write the encouragement I’m sure He planned four thousand years ago to write on this day in 2000. (Introduction from "The Crucifixion Lifestyle: Random Emails of Encouragement Volume II")


I have a couple of stories to tell you, so bear with me.

Story #1
About three million years ago, God placed a rock on the side of a mountain. It wasn't a very big rock, about six or seven inches around, not very high. That rock stayed in place, half embedded in the Earth, half not, for millions of years, as houses, grass and settlements went up around it. The rock remained, until...

Story #2
A young man was cleaning out some thick brush by a small creek. The man who owned this land had hired the youngster to take his blade and cut the briars away. Wearing rags around his hands to prevent nicks and cuts, he picked up the briars to take them to his cart, where he would go on to haul them away to be burned later. He piled the brush high and then patted his donkey as a signal to begin pulling the cart away. About four miles down the road, the cart hit a rock embedded in the road, one that had been in the ground for millions of years. The cart jumped a little, but not enough for the man to be concerned to stop his donkey. It was, however, just enough to knock a couple of fresh briar stems and brush onto the grass. The fresh stem lay there on the grass, soon taking root. Years later, it grew into a thick patch of briars and brush, a patch that remained mostly untouched until...

Story #3
A rabbit sat beside a little spring, nibbling on leaves as rabbits do. The bunny had been relaxing most of the day, when to her surprise, a ram came into the clearing. Not knowing if the ram was friendly or foe, the rabbit decided it would be best to move to another dinner location. The ram saw the white rabbit taking off, and in an instant, decided to give playful chase. Over the spring and through a little patch of woods they went, until the rabbit came into another clearing, this one by a road. Coming down the road was a human, carrying what looked to be another human. Rather than run towards the human, the rabbit decided not to chance it, turning toward a briar patch that had grown quite large over the last few years. The ram entered the clearing, still giving playful chase, and charged at the rabbit. The rabbit darted into the brush, and the ram, suddenly realizing he couldn't stop fast enough, skidded into the briars. Puzzled at first, the ram tried to pull away, only to realize his horns were caught in the thick briars. Panicked and desperate, the more the ram fought the briars, the more tangled his horns became.

Story #4
Abraham carried his son to the altar. It pained him to do what he was about to do, and he didn't understand any of it. All he knew was that God was expecting a sacrifice, and He had asked that it be Abraham's son. As Abraham lifted his knife to kill his son, an angel appeared, stopping him. "Don't do it!" the angel cried. "Look in the clearing! There is a ram caught in the briars. There is your sacrifice."

I haven't a clue of the validity of the first 3 stories, I can only vouch for the 4th, as the Bible tells us its true. The Bible doesn't give us insight to the events leading the ram to be caught at that exact place and time, and it doesn't really have to. What I do know is that God controls everything, and He does it with unexplainable sovereignty. For everything that happens in His perfect will, He had a plan to make it happen. God could have just snapped his fingers and BOOM, there is a brush patch, and POW, there is a ram in the brushes, but I just don't think so. I think He had a plan to get that animal there at just the right time. Who knows, He could have very well placed a rock in the side of a mountain, knowing that millions of our years later He knew that in time, it would lead to a chain of events that would test a great Biblical leader and encourage millions of His children to follow.

This piece was inspired by a friend of mine who is going through a rough time of it right now, but through everything, she keeps telling herself--and reminding me--of the all knowing sovereignty of the Father.

I have come to recognize that He doesn't just say "this is going to happen" and then leave it to chance. He says, "This is going to happen and it will happen because I've been planning it since before you knew the concept of your human time." We forget so easily that He knows the numbers of hairs on your head and any God that knows that much about us must have a plan for our lives. And not only for our future, but for the present.

Just thinking about this makes me excited... its so important to realize that the Christ-Following Life isn't a chance happening, its God's Will in action! It's God's plan happening all around us as we speak, as you read, as I type this! Right now, there is something or someone God has set in motion before the beginning of time that will end up crossing your path tomorrow to help fulfill His will for you and for His Glory.

He knows who needs to cross your path at what time in your life, and He knows how to get that person there. He knows what paths you need to cross for someone else and He knows how to get you there. There is a book out there called "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff", and I agree. You shouldn't "sweat" the small stuff, because God has it taken care of... but taking that idea further, know that God is all in the small stuff. Big Guy is all about some details.

I look forward to some path finding.

--written October 18th, 2000, #37 in series.

The Encouragement Beginning

Way back in the day, I used to write stuff called "Dave's Random Emails of Encouragement". From 1999 to 2002, I wrote well over 100 essays, stories and short pieces about... well, things that happened in my life that gave me encouragement, and I wanted to pass those things along to other people. In its heyday, I had 125+ people on my email list, and over the course of those years, I would get tons of responses from people telling me they understood, or they felt the same way, or they needed to hear it, and yes, the occasional "dude... shut up."

I even semi-published... well, not really published, but printed out, gave small intros to each one, and put them in a 3 volume set that I gave copies to to a few people (I think McQ got a set, but beyond that, I have no clue).

Here's what I wrote at the beginning of Volume One:

There was Allyson Guy, Amy Alexander, Amy Valdmanis and Amy Worthy. There was Beth Sentell, Daina Richards, Hillary Kelly and Rebecca Glassco. There was Lara Smith, Mary Ann Crittenden, Misty Estes, Nathan Tutor, Shelby Logan, Stephanie Nipp, Sybil Johnson and Tad Roose. There was Tom Johnson, Ty Coffey, Wendy Brobst, Sharon Dobbins, Julie Haynes, Meredith Brazzell and Melanie Jackson. Kay Nichols. Jeff Herring. Chris Fulaytar. Alyssa Guy. Season Chappell. Amy Wible. They were there in the beginning.

September 1999, I wrote up an email called “Stephen”, because I had heard a guy by the name of EJ Smith speak at this Bible Study I had been attending for about two months at this lady named Sybil Johnson’s house. I thought EJ’s lesson was cool, and I wanted to share it with some of my friends. I got lots of response to it, and a few weeks later, I wrote another essay and mailed it out, adding a few more names to the email list upon request. So, from then, every time I went to a Bible Study, retreat, conference, Church service, or if God just taught me something cool, I began to share it over email. The first several emails were adapted from other essays, I just transferred the message from the original author to you, but as God began to mature me in Him, suddenly I found my own words... well, words inspired from God, not from other authors. I used other works to base my essays on, particularly songs, but I love to do my own personal take on the meaning of those songs.

Where is all this going? Well, I figure if I've got a blogsite, and its my words and writing, what a great way to share--actually, in September of 2005, when I was still unsure of what I was even doing (and sometimes I still don't know... ha!) I posted the first Email of Encouragement I'd ever written, as mentioned above.

Now, after all this time, I think its time to post them again, to let you, the Coffee Drinkers, read them, or re-read them, and maybe get a little encouragement of your own.