Sunday, December 30, 2007

December Moments

December promise you have unto me... December whispers of treachery... December clouds are now covering me... December songs no longer I sing... "December" by Collective Soul

No reason for the song lyrics, just thought it would fit being December and all. Don't know of any tunes for January, or that have January in them... since I havent blogged for real in a while, I thought I would just throw out some randomness to end the year.

Sitting here at the Campbell's home, the parents of the lovely Steph Leann, having eaten all weekend, whether it be ham or turkey, or strawberry pretzel casserole, or green bean casserole, or sweet potato cassorole or whatever, probably gaining about four pounds... such is Christmas.

Currently, Alabama is barely holding on against Colorado in the Indepen... excuse me, the Petro Sun Independence Bowl. You have to think that the announcers get so irritated now that they can't just say "Independence Bowl", because I'm sure its in the contract that Petro Sun gets a mention everytime the bowl is said aloud.

Of course, I guess its better than being a commentator of The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. I wish I could make that up.

Its important to remember, though, that we can never have a college playoff in Division I... um, the Football Bowl Subdivision... because we must protect the integrity of the bowl system, like the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, or the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl or the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl... or my favorite, the Brut Sun Bowl. I will now go punch myself in the face.


I just heard the announcer say "You know, you hear people clamoring for a playoff in the college game, but today in the NFL, they dealt with 'do we sit starters?' and 'do we play hard or rest our guys?', plus there were several games today that were throwaway games... do we really want this in college football?"

The answer? Absolutely. There is no reason why you can't have a playoff bracket in college, and that guy should be kicked in the nads just for saying such a stupid argument. We know its about money, and honestly, the only reason that the playoff isn't being considered is the PAC 10 thinks their Rose Bowl is so special, they don't want to disrupt the tradition. And thats stupid too. Absolutely stupid. I'll stop before I get angry.


My nephew Benjamin got Transformers for Christmas. I remember when I was younger, 6 or 7 or 8, and I got a few Transformers for Christmas, and they had like, maybe four or five motions. You can roll the car, and as you're in motion, do the quick five movements and you can keep going with the Transformer, your war against those pesky Decepticons continues.

You think its easy going from an ambulance to this? As I was doing it, four pieces fell off. No, I'm not kidding.

Now? It has an instruction sheet that looks like a floor plan, and it plays out like an algebriac formula. I've tried to transform three of these things this weekend, and was successful only once. I imagine you keep rolling with your ambulance, and suddenly, the action stops for twenty minutes while you figure out how to make him a robot. You need more than better instructions, you need a sedative and a room.

Some of my favorite Christmas specials include "The Grinch that Stole Christmas", "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", and of course, the "A Charlie Brown Christmas", which truly is not only the best Christmas special, but by far the best Charlie Brown special.

Not only did CBS hate it originally, one of the execs actually said "You can't read the Bible on network TV!" For some fun reading material, here's the full story.


Here's a list of Fifty Nerdy Things to Do Before You Die. Let's see... 48, 42 and 7 is all I got. Though I could have done #31 while at Downtown Disney. I'm serious. Next time, I'm doing it.


My Christmas haul this year? I got the latest in the Complete Peanuts series, which I am excited about. I have probably mentioned this before, but its a book series which is printing, in chronological order, every Peanuts strip Charles Schulz ever drew. Each book contains 2 years, starting with 1955-56. I think there is supposed to be around 27 or 28 books in the series, with one coming out in the spring and the fall of every year. I've managed to get them from the beginning, and I'll pick up the new one in April when it comes out.

Also obtained, Transformers on dvd, Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix on dvd, some iTunes money, a great A Christmas Story ornament from Steph, a series that I think I'd like to start collecting every year, and Stephen King's "It", in hardcover. They don't make it in trade paperback, so I got the big monster book.


In the last week, I've been able to see "National Treasure: Book of Secrets", "I Am Legend" and "No Country for Old Men"

"I Am Legend" is good. Its not great, but its good. Will Smith does a great job of carrying the film, a la Tom Hanks in "Castaway", and its in a film that not many could carry. What gets me is the zombie things. I don't know what else could have been done, but when it goes from a creepy, isolation film to a zombie film, it loses something. The book, written by Richard Matheson, is supposed to be far superior, and reading the plot line on Wikipedia, it sounds like it. But still, it is a good film.

"National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets" was also not great, but just good. However, I wanted this movie to be better. It is, at its heart, a re-hash of the first film, and suffers from the Jurassic Park complex. Let me explain... Jurassic Park, like the first National Treasure, was original, with lots of "wow" and "that was awesome!" moments. The concept was original, the plot was entertaining, and its one you really could just jump into at any time. When Jurassic Park 2 came out, it wasn't as good. It was like, "Okay, you've shown me dinosaurs, so give me something else", only to be given more dinosaurs.

Anytime your movie is just "eh", you can throw in a hot chick and make it better. Of course, she's no Amy Adams, my nominee for the Hottest Chick of 2007 Not Named Stephanie or Ashley Judd.

With "National Treasure: Book of Secrets", you think "okay, you've shown me innovative clues and historical plotlines, now give me something else", only to be given more clues and historical plotlines. Diane Kruger does add to it, mostly because she's smokin' hot, and the appearance of Ed Harris is kind of cool too. (For a really good Nic Cage/Ed Harris duo, check out "The Rock") However, the more I think about NT:BoS, the more I don't know that I'll like it if I watch it again. Unlike...

"No Country for Old Men", which was absolutely amazing. Featuring Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem, it is, on the surface, a drug-deal-gone-wrong chase movie. But at its heart, its interesting, its fascinating, and its rough. Javier Bardem is a creep on the level of Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs, not just killing, but killing based on principal. Truly, the star of the movie is Tommy Lee Jones. He's an old school sheriff, and the entire movie, you can tell it just pains him to know what the world is coming to, even though the movie is set in the early 80s. I'd like to see it again, just to catch anything I missed. Is it great? I think so, but you need to call it. I can't call it for you. It wouldn't be fair.


So, remember KITT? Because the owner was murdered, you can now buy the original car to help satisfy his debts. That's almost creepy.


Starbucks tends to get busy around this time of year. Our store's manager, Meredith, left two weeks ago for 12 weeks of maternity leave, leaving me the keys and the reins to the whole shebang. Right during Christmas... but hey, bring it on. I can handle it.

Of course, it would help if our customers were smarter sometimes. I mean, if its Sunday, and Christmas Day is Tuesday, please don't get upset if you come in and we don't have gift card holders. This year, the little holder that you put the card in is a cute, red little mitten. But when you load up almost $18,000 in gift cards in a week, like we did, you tend to run out. Its really not my fault if you wait until the last minute to get one, so please don't get mad at me. Be creative. It doesn't destroy the pleasure of the gift card if you don't put it in a little red mitten.


Had a lady come to the drive thru, one that comes through a lot. She's a little odd. Okay, a lot odd, but still...

Anyway, she pulls up to the window, parks her car, gets out and rambles on about how her window is broken. She then pulls out almost her whole purse onto the drive thru plane to find the $3.48 to pay for her drink, not to mention during a rush.

She gets her beverage, she rolls away, we roll our eyes, and the next lady pulls up. I hand her her drink, and say "Sorry about that wait. The customer before you was taking her time", and the lady looks at me and says "Oh my gosh... I was watching her from behind here in the line, and that lady is freakin' crazy!!"


Of course, I'll take crazy people over customers who... order an iced green tea, and ask for it to be blended. In the blender. Have you ever blended ice water? The same thing. You have to dip it out with a frakkin' spoon. And typically, the lady orders it during our busiest times.

Another lady likes to order a venti iced latte... and have it blended. We just make the drink, then toss it in the blender. Not as annoying as the green iced tea blended, but still... its annoying.

Then again, I really can't stand people who work the system to save 20 cents. Like, ordering a grande americano, in a venti cup, and please just fill the rest up with milk. Um... thats not a grande americano. That's a 3 shot venti americano with 1/4 milk. But, to save 20 cents, you're going to order incorrectly. Cheapo.

The worst are what we call ghetto lattes. That's when you order three or four shots over ice, but ask for the cup to be filled up with ice. Then you take your drink to the condiment bar, and use our milk we set out for coffee, empty the container to fill up your cup with milk, and get a venti iced americano for the price of a triple espresso. This is wrong, people. Don't do it. This is called cheating. I'm going to get fired one day for calling people on it. Kinda irritates me.

Speaking of "breaking out of prison", if it worked for Andy Dufresne....


For some light reading, here's an analysis of what went wrong with Howard the Duck. I know you were wondering, and for Mikey Nipp, it has lots of pictures.


It's the end of the year, and of course, there are tons of lists out there... the best of 2007, and the worst of 2007, covering books, movies, music, theater, websites, people, sports, teams, whatever, so on and so forth. Coming up in January of 2007... the THIRD annual Coolest Things About the Year list. That's right, I've been doing it for three years now. Amongst contenders to make this 2007 list include: Paula Maddox, The Purple Onion, PhilharMagic, Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix movie, Rush Limbaugh's smackdown on Sen. Harry Reid, Colbie Caillat, Grey's Anatomy, Nikki Brown and even more.

Working on it now.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

My Disney Vacation, Q to U

My Disney Vacation, A to E
My Disney Vacation, F to L
My Disney Vacation, M to P

Q is for Queue Lines
Sometimes, all you can do is stand in line, Fast Pass or no. Cause they don't make Fast Passes for every ride, you don't have Fast Passes for characters (see B for Beast), and, well, like any theme park, you are in a forced community for a period of time ranging from 15 minutes to over a hour. The longer you wait, the more you get to know those around you.

Typically, at most theme parks, be it Six Flags or Alabama Adventures, you make jokes about how long the wait is, or what condition the rides are in, or how the day is going in the park. At Disney, you open up much more. You talk about where you're from. You talk about how long you've been here. You talk about things you've done, things you've seen, and give pointers to other people.

It was in a queue line that I learned about the pin books at Guest Relations (see P for Pin Trading), it was in a queue line that we passed on wisdom about some of the events and happenings, it was a in queue line (for Beast, no less) that we met a lovely couple who was taking their young daughter to Disney World for the first time... and on the Peter Pan ride, she lost her digital camera, which contained hundreds of pictures, including the one of her kid's face when she entered the Magic Kingdom for the first time. Poor woman. We saw her the next day at MGM, and she said she'd given up hope for the most part.

R is for Rides
My favorite rides, in no particular order...
Mickey's PhilharMagic (Magic Kingdom)... a 3D show that sees Donald putting on Mickey's Fantasia hat. Suddenly, the magic goes awry, as Donald is catapulted into different Disney moments, including Ariel's grotto, Aladdin and Jasmine's magic carpet ride, and Simba's "Just Can't Wait to Be King" animal parade. I thought this was so freakin' fun, and ended up on it twice.

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PhilharMagic is nothing but sheer 3D fun

Everest (Animal Kingdom)... we've covered this one already
The Tower of Terror (MGM)... the whole atmosphere is part of what makes this great. Everything from the line, to the lobby, to the elevator to the ride itself... even Cast Members get into the act. And instead of dropping just once, twice or three times, the ride dropped FIVE times. We thought it was anomoly, but the second time we rode it, it did it again. Awesome.
Mission: Space. (Epcot)... this ride rocks my world. Its a centerfuge, and any ride that not only provides vomit bags on the ride, but has cots laid out as you're exiting to lay down on is a ride that I want to be on.
Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin (TomorrowLand)... Who doesn't love the Buzz ride? You get it, you fire at aliens, you rack up points, its all brightly colored, its a hoot. Steph and I have ridden it about five times over two trips. I've beaten her once. Its a terrible thing.
Some of Steph's favorite rides? Pretty much the same, thought she does love Festival of the Lion King (MGM), and Peter Pan's Flight (Magic Kingdom).

And, of course, we both loved...

S is for Soarin'
We'd heard about this ride all over the place, from queue lines to websites to idle Disney chatter... we had to go on Soarin'. So, on Wednesday, the family headed to the parks for Epcot day, our bus driver informed us (which was kind of hit and miss with the bus drivers... we met some that talked and gave good park info the whole time, we met others who didn't say a word other than 'thankyouforusingdisneytransportationpleasegatheryourbelongings andchildrenandwatch...", usually just like that) that Soarin' was currently the most popular ride in Epcot, and that we needed to get Fast Passes early. Upon hearing that, we made our plan to do just that--get Fast Passes for Soarin', whatever that ride was. I honestly didn't have a clue what the ride was all about, only that it was based on a ride hugely popular in California.

The ride queue is just packed, completely. Fast Passes are for an hour or so later, but the ride currently has only a 15 or 20 minute wait--probably because its 8 in the morning, and the part has been open for about 2 minutes. Located in The Lands, it's around the corner from Living Off the Land, (which I refused to go on, for fear that they would end up saying something about erosion and man-made global warming, and it would ruin my day), we all filed into the long hallway, and quick enough, we were in the lobby part of the ride, where you get ready to "board".

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The Lovely Steph Leann, right before we went Soarin'

We were told to make sure we got in the front row, so when I asked the Cast Member for that spot for our group of 8, we stepped aside, waited another five minutes, and then went into the ride. As I walked in, the path was between seats, three rows on each side, all facing a huge IMAX-like screen. We walked to the front row, and strapped in. I couldn't even see the top of the screen without craning my neck painfully. It was a big, blue screen, one that you'd love to watch football on.

The room darkened, the canopy came down slightly, and suddenly, without warning, we were lifted high into the air. Remember, this is in a big dome like room, and I have no clue how high we are. The screen came alive, and all of a sudden, its like we're hang-gliding. We're soaring over panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains, over the ocean, over orange groves (to which you could smell citrus), through the woods (to which you could smell pine), and the seats are slightly moving. You truly feel like you are flying.

The music is set perfectly, and its easy to get lost to the point where you are lifting your feet up everytime you fly over a low branch, or duck quickly when the guy on the golf coarse "below" hits a shot that flies right by you. The ride lasted about three minutes, but its one that you don't want to end. It's the perfect ride to go on first, as it makes your day. It just sets you up to be happy... magical even. And in the land of the Magic Kingdom, isn't that the point?

T is for Tyler
When I'm writing my final blog at age 88, or at least dictating it to my great-great granddaughter Glory, I'll probably consider Tyler Campbell to be on my list as one of the 100 Coolest Things About Dave's Life. He's just a cool guy.

Tyler comes into town on Wednesday night, and hangs with the family on Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, he and Papa Ron are headed to Universal Studios theme park, and to Universal Islands of Adventure, but while he's in the Magic Kingdom, he's having a ball. Whats fun about Tyler is that he's not "too cool to ride the kiddy rides", and he was actually pretty giddy about riding Peter Pan's flight and It's a Small World.

Even after a day at Universal, he commented, "It makes you appreciate Disney." We got several pictures with Tyler and characters, and it was fun to hang with him during dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern. Minnie Mouse loved her some Tyler that night.

One of my favorite moments of the trip was when we rode Big Thunder Railroad. Steph and I were in the front, with Tyler and nephew Benjamin right behind us. I held up my camera, faced it back, and snapped about 15 pictures. And really only one turned out... but its this one:

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...of which I'm very proud of.

U is for Unlimited Refills
The first day at the All Star Movies Resort food court, we had breakfast. And during breakfast, we used one of our Disney Dining Plan meals, a counter service. And with that counter service, we got a breakfast entree, and two beverages, like a chocolate milk for now and a water for later. Or, you could get two waters for later... if you splurged on The Cup.

For $13.49, you could purchase this 20 ounce handled mug, and you'd get free refills for... well, I say for your visit, but I just thought, who's to say I can't take the cup back when we go again in 2008? I figured with regular prices it would take 12 refills to make the cup worth it. With Disney prices, it would take about 7. I refilled 11 times that week.

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My new mug

Remember, we're leaving early (where I got at least 5 or 6 refills heading out), and coming in really late (where I only got a few as we walked back in--I can't drink Sprite right before bed), so I didn't get all the refills... though I possibly could have. When the Lovely Steph Leann and I had dinner at The Polynesian Resort on Saturday night, I discovered they were selling the same cups. I love this stupid cup. It's kinda ugly, its clunky, but besides the essentials (money, camera, pins), it was truly the only thing I carried with me all week.

Finally... the end of Disney A to Z... coming soon

Saturday, December 01, 2007

My Disney Vacation, M to P

My Disney Vacation, A to F
My Disney Vacation, G to L

M is for Mater
As in, Tow Mater, and Lightnin McQueen. We saw they were taking character pictures on Monday, our first day in Disney-MGM Studios. The line was long, but we thought, "Hey, get in line, maybe we'll get lucky". Unfortunately, there was a Cast Member at the end of the line, telling us they closed the line... and we didn't even see Mater or Lightnin'.

So, when we went back on Saturday to MGM, we planned our day around the heroes from Cars. We saw on the Times Guide, the little slip of paper updated daily to tell you when shows will be performed, where characters will be at what time, and any other fun events around the parks, that Cars would be on the Streets of America around 330ish, so we showed up around 245 to find a few people already there. The PhotoPass people (the park photographers that take your picture in front of various Disney monuments, ie the castle, Spaceship: Earth, other scenic locales, and hand you a PhotoPass card that allows you to go online and view and buy your pics) were there taking pictures of the San Francisco backdrop.

We had our picture taken, then helped form the Cars line with three or four other families. By 320, ten minutes before the Cars appeared, the line was around the corner, and barriers had been put up to prevent people from just hopping/skipping the line and the line was probably closed. The Cast Members were great, as they were like Nazis in keeping the line in order. They informed the audience that anyone could come up to the barriers to take pictures, but only those in line could go closer, and get with the characters.

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And then, we heard the roar of the engines as Lightnin' McQueen and Mater appeared, rolling slowly around the corner. Steph and I were like little kids, giggling at the sight of the two, and marveling at how cool they really looked. And they looked cool. Naturally, they didn't have the mobility and movement that animation lends them, but their eyes moved back and forth, and Mater's engine rocked back and forth. It was absolutely cool.

The other fun thing to watch was how people were walking up randomly, and even trying to merge into the opening of the barriers, where people who had waited patiently for 45 minutes were going to get in to get pictures. One guy walked up, kid next to him, and hollered back to someone, "Hey, those Cars cars are here! Come on!", and then he actually tried to step in front of me. I simply said, "Hey man, the line is right here, and starts waaaay back." He turned around, frowned at me, and stepped back.

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So, finally, we got up and go to get our pictures. Add them to the collection of cool photographs we have from the week.

N is for No Sleep
That's the truth. In an average week, I probably get... I dunno, 45 hours of sleep. I figure an average of 6 hours per night, maybe one night I only get 4 1/2, another night I sleep late and get 8 or 9, but I figure 42 to 45 hours. This week, I think I got about 30.

O is for Overeating
Holy crap, there was so much food. When you go on your weeklong Disney vacation, you'll want to do the Disney Dining Plan. It gives you a certain amount of "counter service" (walk up, order food, get it and sit down), "snack" (usually yogurt, fruit, ice cream, something you can eat while you go) and "table service" (a sit down meal, typically with a server) meals. As a rule, I've found that the character meals are table services.

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The Campbell clan after finishing Thanksgiving at Liberty Tree Tavern in the Magic Kingdom

My favorite meals include:
**The Cinderella Storybook Dinner at the Grand Floridian's 1900 Park Fare Restaurant, starring a very toothy Cinderella, Prince Charming and Lady Tremaine. Buffet style, it featured a fantastic prime rib, and Steph Leann's much heralded strawberry soup.

**Planet Hollywood, in Downtown Disney. Good stuff. We ate their our first night in the area, and I had a big, fat mushroom & swiss cheese burger.
**The Yak & Yeti, in Animal Kingdom, which you'll read about later.
**And my favorite, Le Cellier, in EPCOT's Canada Showcase, which you've already read about

P is for Pin Trading
Oh, how we love the pins. Here's the story... Disney has always had pins for sale and trade. In DisneyLand, in California, they started trading them as a hobby, but when it hit Walt Disney World in Orlando, it took off full force.

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Our pin board, after the trip. I would say our collection was probably 70% overturned.

You typically have to start by obtaining a lanyard and some pins for trade, usually by buying them. Ours was given to us as part of our honeymoon package in 2004. You wear the lanyards, and when you see other people with pins on, wearing the lanyards gives you the right to ask about their pins. If you want, you can offer a trade. Perhaps they are trying to complete a set of pins that you happen to have one of, one that you'll know you'll never get a set of, but they have a great Goofy pin that you like. Offer the trade. Sometimes they'll take it, sometimes they won't.

Cast members wear two types of lanyards. The first, a blue lanyard, means that you can trade for whatever they have, provided they don't already have the one you are trading. This is an excellent way to pick up rare pins, pins for sets and such. The second, a green lanyard, means that they only trade with kids. However, sometimes you'll find a Cast Member who will trade no matter what... as long as you are nice about it. Sometimes not, though. I found a great Frozone pin that was on a green lanyard, and she wouldn't trade.

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The "Topiary" pins Stephanie was collecting. She got the entire collection this week.

A great little story.... we were just outside of Buzz Lightyear, and a Cast Member had a green lanyard, with a "safety pin". The Safety Pin Series is a 12 or 13 pin set featuring Timon and Pumbaa, doing the safety rules, like "keep your paws behind the yellow line" and "don't sit on the rail" and such. Anyway, this guy had one that Steph Leann, who has been collecting them since 2004, didn't have. I ask the guy if he would be willing to trade with a "kid at heart", and he said it was only for kids. Now, my other option is to ask Madeleine, 10, to come in and trade for it, though that seems kinda low. I figure I'm just going to tell Steph about it, and let her figure it out.

Ruth, Steph's mom, announces very loudly, "Well, why don't you get Madeleine to come in and get it?!?" I sigh, and the Cast Member perks up, suddenly on alert. I walk outside where Madeleine and some of the family is. I don't know if I told her, or Ruth told her or whatever, but Madeleine disappears, and a few minutes later, the Cast Member comes out with the Safety Pin, and a couple of 1 Million Dreams Tinkerbell Pins, asking me if I could give this to "the little girl who came in looking for the pin." Then he gives me this look of disgust, like I'm the scum of the Earth, for a pin that I didn't want, Steph gets the pin, Madeleine gets the special Tinkerbell pin and I get an angry Cast Member. Them's the breaks.

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Somehow, I managed to get Tinkerbell pins, and somehow, I managed to find them cool. And yes, I'm totally straight. Everyone, including Cast Members, asked me about the one in the upper left corner, cause its hard to find.

Some pin trading tips... its okay to buy pin sets to break up and trade. Steph Leann and I did that several times. However, pay attention to what's on lanyards. The "baby mickey" pins were all the rage in sets, and I bought one of those sets, only to find myself in a situation where I wanted a pin from a Cast Member, but he had all the "baby mickey" pins I had, so I had to give him another one.

Also, in each park, go to Guest Relations and ask for the Pin Book. They don't advertise it, but it's a big book behind the counter featuring pins that sometimes are hard to find. You are allowed to trade up to 2 pins per person.

"Hidden Mickey's" are the new thing. "Cast Lanyard Pins" pins are pins you can't buy, given only to Cast Members for trading. The story goes that people were complaining because it was hard to find Cast Lanyard Pins, which is stupid because The Lovely Steph Leann and I both have tons of them, so a year or two ago, they released Hidden Mickey pins, to help people find Cast Exclusives. You can buy a few Hidden Mickey's, but its only one pin in a set, like the Monorail Hidden Mickey Pin--you can purchase one. You have to find the other 7.

Personally, I could care less about Hidden Mickey's. I like Hercules pins, Incredible pins and somehow, I've managed to collect a bunch of Tinkerbell pins.

Its can be an expensive hobby, but its tons of fun. In every picture you'll see of The Lovely Steph Leann and I, you'll see our lanyards, and from one picture to the next, our pins change.

Coming Soon... S is for Soarin', U is for Unlimited Refills... and Why Disney is Better than Six Flags

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Disney Vacation, G to L

For those of you who missed the beginning, here's the start of my 2007 Family Walt Disney World vacation A to Z... you can scroll down or you can click here to read A to E.

F is for Fast Pass
How in the world did we ever do a vacation without a fast pass? I mean, its like the miracle paper of the park. You walk up, toss your card/ticket in the machine, and out pops a little slip of paper telling you when you can come back to ride a particular ride. Some rides, like Stitch's Great Escape, never really needed one... others, like Test Track and Soarin', you had to have one to avoid a 100 minute or longer wait.

We decided to hop onto Everest, the first ride we were on on the first day in the park, and skip the fast pass, as we were there upon opening, and immediately headed to Everest (like nearly everyone else). Ditto for Soarin', when we went to Epcot on Tuesday. But we needed them in the Magic Kingdom on Sunday, when Peter Pan's Flight suddenly took 90 minutes to get to. Who the heck wants to wait an hour and a half for freakin' Peter Pan? I'm just sayin'.

The true test of the Fast Pass came in Epcot on Tuesday. As soon as Soarin' was over, I grabbed cards and ran over to get passes for Mission: Space and for Test Track. Within the next hour or two, the line for Test Track was out of the building and at least 30 or 40 yards past the opening of the queue line. We got them early, because by 11am or so, the Fast Pass tickets were good for 7pm to 8pm, and by noon or so, the passes were all gone. So after 11ish, or whenever our passes came up, we got in the Fast Pass return line, waited about 15 minutes, and was done with it.

When we returned to Epcot, I grabbed the Lovely Steph Leann's card and headed to The Lands, to get passes for Soarin'... and it took me forever--you'll hear that story when we get to "S".

A little trick... just cause it says 105pm, to 205pm. We're in Germany or Morocco or wherever, and realize our passes are going to expire in about twenty minutes for Soarin'. So, we high tail it across the entire park, past at least five of the countries and two bridges, through the crowds and get in in just the nick of time... only to have the Cast Member say "oh, these would have been good until at least 5 o'clock!". Tell that to Steph's swollen ankles.

G is for Genie
Loved this guy. So, at Epcot on Friday, we're in line for pictures with Jasmine, Aladdin and Genie, and we're near the middle or back. Jasmine and Aladdin leave for a break, leaving only the Genie, and they announce "Whoever wants to get pictures with only Genie, you can come forward. Those of you who want to get Jasmine and Aladdin, please step back." Well, lucky for us, we've already met Jasmine and Aladdin, the night before in the Magic Kingdom, so we come forward, right behind these two high school chicks.

So High School Chick 1 and Chick 2 both step forward to get their pictures, and Genie grabs High School Chick 1 for a hug. And then he just stands there, blue fuzzy arms wrapped around her. She hugs back, but he doesn't let go. He stands there motionless, in a hug, for at least 30 seconds, causing all of us to laugh. Then, just as fast as he grabbed High School Chick 1, he lets go and grabs High School Chick 2. He hugs her, and just stands there. Steph and I, and by now, High School Chick 2, think its hilarious.

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Oh, that crazy Genie...

Suddenly, he lets go of High School Chick 2, and races over and grabs Stephanie for his long lasting hug. Keep in mind both Chick 1 and Chick 2 are still waiting for their picture. I laugh, and he gives me the thumbs up, still in an embrace with my wife. He finally lets go, then holds a hand out to shake. I start to shake his hand, and he grabs me and hugs me. Meanwhile, the Moroccan band Mo'Rockin (get it? clever, though at first I was hoping Mo Rocca was doing some sort of Middle Eastern stand up show) is playing in the background, and Genie is dancing. One of the most fun characters we got to meet all week.

H is for Holidays at Disney
You gotta admire the fact they go all out at Disney. Seriously. Lights everywhere, music everywhere, everything from lampposts to big statues and structures are all decked out in mistletoe and holly and lights and ornaments and garland and ribbon and gold and silver and green and red and snowflakes and more lights and wreaths and trees and Santas and angels and stars and shiny things and so on, all with a little Disney touch.

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Epcot lights, with the Spaceship Earth in the background

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I know, I know, it looks like the crowd from 2002's Its a Wonderful Deuce Christmas, but actually its Main Street in the Magic Kingdom

I'd never been to Walt Disney World during the holiday season, but I'd like to go back soon enough.

I is for Incredibles
Everyone has their favorite characters, and their favorite characters they like to meet. I think Steph really liked meeting Piglet, and both of us were giddy for Mater and Lightnin' McQueen, but for my money, when we had a chance to meet up with Mr. Incredible and ElastiGirl at Disney-MGM on Monday, it was just cool.

Right before us, another girl came up, being pushed in her stroller by her parents. The girl was a special needs child, you could tell just from looking at her, and we gladly gave our turn to the family. It was great to watch Mr. Incredible and ElastiGirl get on one knee, both giving her tons of attention, stroking her hair, holding her hand and such. That's what you're supposed to do.

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And it made for a great picture with us.

J is for Jokes at the Laugh Floor
This show was just funny. As you might recall, in Monsters Inc, the city of Monstropolis needs children's laughter, not screams, to keep power and energy flowing. So, the theme of this Tomorrowland (Magic Kingdom) "ride", or show is we're all hustled into the auditorium, the Monsters are doing stand-up, and we are all laughing to fill a Laugh Canister. The Monster of Ceremonies is, naturally, Mike Wazowski, the one eyed green monster voiced by Billy Crystal in the movie. Appearing with Mike Wazowski is Roz, the scratchy voiced, spectacled supervisor (haaaa haaaa haaaa).

The trick of the whole show, though, is that its interactive animation. On the screen, they talk to the audience, ask questions and even use jokes submitted by the audience. You can tell the mouths of the characters don't quite match all the words, but its still close, and remarkable all the same. The first time we went, I got to talk to them, and the second time we went, they used one of my jokes ("Didja hear about the mushroom who had no friends? He couldn't understand it... he thought he was just a fun-gi"). Even though I knew some of the one liners, the show was just as good the second time as the first.

K is for Kilimanjaro Safari
Located in Animal Kingdom, in Africa, its hit or miss with this ride. When the Lovely Steph Leann and I went in 2004 on our honeymoon, we went early in the morning, and got an upclose and personal picture of a giraffe, and a few others. This time around, going a little later in the day, it started slowly, but we got lucky to have our safari vehicle stopped by two rhinos crossing the road.

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The mother rhino, protecting her rhino kid... cub... youngling... whatever

I've always heard to go early in the day, maybe mid-morning, because the animals are up and feeding. Mid to late afternoon is harder because most of the animals are being lazy... unless you're the lions, who I think are always lazy, laying on the rock. We got a great view of the elephants as well as several good views of the bird life. The hippos were hidden by the water.

L is for Le Cellier
Simply the best restaurant in all of Walt Disney World. Okay, so, I have only been to about a dozen of the billion (okay, I don't know how many, but here's a list if you want to count them), but I know its got to be at the top. Located in the Canada area of Epcot, its a steak and seafood place that the Lovely Steph Leann and I fell in love with on our 2004 honeymoon. We insisted that the family go this time around, and it didn't disappoint.

From the Le Cellier menu, I had Canadian Chedder Cheese Soup (featuring smoked bacon and Moosehead beer), for my entree, I went with the 14 ounce New York Strip steak, complete with roasted Yukon mashed potatoes (with a side of delicious oven-roasted wild mushrooms), and for dessert, I indulged in the Vanilla Creme Brulee. Some of the other food items on the table were the Prince Edward Island Mussels (Ron), the Mushroom Filet Mignon (Ruth), the Chocolate Whiskey Cake (Steph).

The only problem? Too much food. I tried to eat it all, I really did... but the food just kept coming, and my stomach was only so big. The service was fantastic, and it was a great way to toss down a $108 meal for the two of us... being on the Disney Dining Plan, though, it didn't matter that much. We'll get to that.

Coming soon... M is for Mater... Q is for Queue Lines... and Y is for Yak & Yeti

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My Disney Vacation, A to E

Since it would take me about 10,000,000 words and three weeks to blog each day, I thought I would break down our sensational vacation to Walt Disney World in 26 steps. One for each letter.

The set up... The Lovely Steph Leann and I traveled with Steph's parents, Ron & Ruth, in the big Yukon SUV. To heck with global warming. Traveling behind us was The Lovely Steph Leann's sister Angie, Angie's husband Randy and their two kids, Madeliene, 10, and Benjamin, 6. So, in a recap of 26 letters, here's our Disney Vacation, 2007.

A if for All Star Resorts
I love the All Star Resorts There are three, the All Star Music, the All Star Sports and the one we stayed in, All Star Movies. As nice as I'm sure the Animal Kingdom Lodge is, and we've seen the lobby portions of the Polynesian, the Contemporary and the Grand Floridian and assume they are awesome too, Disney rooms are mostly good for one thing... sleep. As long as the bed, the shower and the sink is clean, why spend a fortune on a room that you'll only spend perhaps six hours a day in, and you'll be asleep then anyway? At least for us, that's what we did. Spent all day in the park, sometimes late into the night, came back to the All Star Movies, room 5853, collapsed, and dragged ourselves up sometimes four hours later.

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The All Star Movies is broken into several sections, including Toy Story, 101 Dalmations, Herbie the Love Bug and where we stayed, Fantasia. No the movie, not that obnoxious screechy voiced American Idol chick.

B is for Beast (how not to get a picture)
The Lovely Steph Leann and I love character pictures. So, naturally, when we saw that Beast was with Belle, we got in line. Having already taken a picture with Belle at a breakfast a few days before, we were excited because I don't know that we've even taken a picture with the Beast. Here we are in line, we get a few families from the front, and its announced that Beast is going to be leaving, but will be back in 30 minutes, and Belle will stay. So we made the decision to not stick around, and walked down EPCOT.

A little while later, we hopped back in line for Beast, knowing that he had a few more minutes to return. He did return, in all his hairy, thick, probably sweltering costume splendor. And again, we got a few families from the front--two, I think--and it was announced that Beast would be leaving again to return in 30 minutes. Sigh. At this point, we couldn't wait around, because we had fast passes for Soarin', a ride that's very, very hard to get into, so we left the line again. And never got our Beast picture.

C is for Cast Members
The people who work for Disney don't work on the "floor", they work on a "stage". The backroom is not a "backroom", it's a "backstage". And employees are not employees, they are "Cast Members", who are putting on a show on "stage", be it as a character, or a show performer or a cashier. The Cast Members are awesome. All are informative, all are fun to talk to, just about everyone took an interest in pins that The Lovely Steph Leann and I had on, and we have many conversations about them and other things. There were a few that were in a hurry, or you could tell were having a bad day, but they were few and far between. You can tell they love their jobs, even the bus drivers, even though the pay isn't all that good.

D is for Digital Camera
Last summer, I saved up my bonus, and went to Best Buy to get me a camera. You may remember me chronicling the event in the column Amberly & the Digital Sell. And it worked just like I wanted it to... I wanted a camera I could carry in my pocket, load pictures onto a computer, take multiple snaps of the same thing and get rid of the ones that don't work. And my Sony Cybershot was perfect.

Random story... the first night we were there, my battery was dying, and I couldn't remember if I had packed the battery charger. When we arrived at All Star Movies, I opened up the luggage, and felt around, and couldn't find it... which meant the Lovely Steph Leann and I decided to go to Best Buy to get another one. I mean, what, $30? $40? And Best Buy was right up the road, right? We just passed a shopping center with Target, Best Buy, Kohls and more. So while the rest of the family went up to Planet Hollywood at Downtown Disney, we hopped in the Yukon and was going to Best Buy. And we got so lost. Seriously.

We thought it was right up the parkway, then take a turn on the right and down that way, but as we went 'down that way' a little farther than we thought, we realized we didn't know where we were. It took us several minutes to even figure out which direction we came in from... the area map we were given didn't help us none, and after stopping at two Wal-Greens, plus about 5,388 turn arounds, we found it. I spent $65 on a Sony 3x Charger, the only one available for my camera. And then we discovered if we had gone straight, right on Osceola Parkway, we would have come across it quickly.

Then, to add insult to lost-ness, after dinner at Planet Hollywood (which was really good), I found my charger under some shirts in my luggage. Thankfully, I had not opened the new one, but we lost the receipt over the course of the week. Yahoo.

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Working the settings on my camera, I was able to take great shots of various things, like the castle.

E is for Everest
Its the newest ride in Animal Kingdom, called Expedition: Everest. On our first full day in Walt Disney World, it was Animal Kingdom we went to first, and we, like most everyone else, headed to the land of Asia to get on Everest. One of the great things about Disney is the theme and atmosphere they set up for the ride, this being a large mountain where a giant Yeti lives and terrorized climbers and visitors.

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Everest looms large, as we approached it. The ride is in the mountain and around.

We were actually near the front, and the ride was so-so for the first part. It trundles through a few twists and turns, and then hits a point where it stops, right before a big piece of track that is all mangled and ripped up. I'm thinking we're about to plummet forward, but we don't... we go backwards. And fast. The ride takes off backwards, then goes forward again later, and rips through the mountain at all sorts of banks and speeds. In a word, Awesome.

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On the ride. That's Ron Campbell in the front, arms outstretched, as we are about to enter the mountain.

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There was supposed to be a big animatronic Yeti who swoops down over the coaster, but we heard it wasn't working. Instead, we got the shadow. This was taken in the middle of the ride, right as its about to go forward again.

Coming soon... F is for Fast Pass... L is for Le Cellier... S is for Soarin'... and W, for Why Disney is Better than Six Flags

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Off to Disney!!

Well, after knowing the trip was coming for at least seven or eight months, tomorrow myself, the Lovely Steph Leann, Ma Ruth, Pa Ron, and Steph Leann's sister's family, Randy, Angie, Madeleine and Benjamin, will all head to Orlando, Florida. Brother in law Tyler joins the family after classes let out on Wednesday.

With that comes the unknowing future of blogging over the next week. It might be the day after Thanksgiving, and you might still see this message... or it might be the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and you might see three posts... I'm going to try to blog from Disney, complete with pictures, but we'll see what happens with the internet access down there.

So, if I can, I'll talk to you shortly. If I can't, then expect a full update the last week of November!

Friday, November 09, 2007

High Maintenance in the Starbucks World (and other frivolities of the life of Dave)

You know, if you're in a Starbucks, be aware of your surroundings.

Case in point... yesterday afternoon, we were busy. It's getting colder, Christmas time is in the air, and more and more people are coming to Starbucks... here's why:

Maintenance. When its hot, and you want refreshment, you come to Starbucks for a frappuccino. Or Brusters for ice cream. Or Smoothie Planet/Tropical/King for a smoothie. Or Sonic for a Sonic Blast. Or Dairy Queen for a Blizzard. A ton of choices, which is why most sales go down during the hotter months.

But when its cold, where do you for hot chocolate, lattes or something to keep you warm? Starbucks. Oh, I'm sure there are other places to go as well, but Starbucks is one of the best places to go.

So, we're busy... three of us on the floor, I'm running the front register, but I need to hope over to help out in Drive Thru, because four cars just pulled in at the same time. I figure I'm just going to get these next two customers at the register and then I'll jump over to DT and save the day.

"Is that peppermint mocha good?" asks the old lady at the register.

"Its really good. I hope you like peppermint, though, because it is... well, pepperminty," I replied with a smile.

"Well, then I'll take one of them in a grande size. And give me one of them pumpkin breads out of the food case here," she asks.

"Alright, thats a grande peppermint mocha and a piece of pumpkin loaf," I said, "and that will be [ringing up] $5.91"

"5.91?? Why is it $5.91??" she stammered.

"Well, it's $3.48 for the peppermint mocha and $1.95 for the pumpkin loaf, plus tax," I replied, getting a little anxious. In the background, there's a woman and her son. The woman is picking up mug after mug after mug. Her son is picking up the stuffed bears, "Bearista Bears" they call them, out of the basket and piling them on a table.

"Well, I'll just take care of it then," she said, opening up her billfold. When she opens up the pocket, I see the glisten of coins. Lots of coins. Being with this company for five years, I knew what was coming next... I cringed as she said, "I'm just going to get rid of some of this change here."

She began to count out five dollars and ninety-one cents in various coinage pieces. Meanwhile, Kelly is in the drive thru getting killed. And the bar person is going to down in flames.

Finally she gets all of her change out, and I snap it up, handing her the pumpkin loaf and smling as I let her know her drink will be ready in a moment. Immediately, the lady behind her hands me a tumbler. "Here, hold this. Your a man, you can tell me how it feels," she says as she quickly turns back to the wall shelves to grab another.

The kid's bear pile is becoming quite high by now, nay, almost admirable. The beep is a constant sound in the headset in my ear, signifying another car, then another car, then another car in the drive thru.

The lady comes back to the counter with three tumblers. "What do you think?" she asked.

"Well," I answered, looking at the fat tumbler in my hand, "I like this one, but my issue with is that it won't fit into a car cupholder, so it depends on what he'll be using it for."

"Yeah, you're right," she says, standing there with four cups, looking at each. Remember, all of this has happened in the span of about five minutes, where I could normally shoot through about twelve customers or more.

I smiled, nod towards the pyramid of stuffed bears, and said, "Your son is quite the architect there." She looked over, sighed, and said, "Put those back." Her son obeyed, and put... two back. She grabbed on, grabbed a small stuffed penguin, piled them on the counter and said, "I'll take these."

I rang up all four tumblers, a small stuffed penguin and the Bearista Christmas Bear. "That'll be $74.03," I said, running the credit card she handed me. I bagged everything up, handed her the bags, thanked her and she was on her way. And just like that, the rush was over.

Now, what have we learned?

When you come into a Starbucks, its okay to take your time. It's okay to be in a hurry. We have customers in both catagories. But, be aware. Life does not revolve around you. You are given our full attention for a very brief time, so when you get that attention, don't take it for granted. Cause, there are lots of other people around who also want our full attention.


I get to go give blood this morning. My buddy Ryan, and my buddy Rad-a-Tad too, works for the Red Cross, and anytime they have a big event, I try to go give. Lifetime, I've given two gallons and three pints, so I'm working towards three gallons lifetime.

Everyone has their blood donating horror stories... the first time I gave, it was in the Samson High School gym. We had blood races, with the guys pumping their fists on that hard plastic tube to make it flow faster. I never finished higher than 2nd.

My veins are pretty big. Nurses see them, they start drooling, then stand on the other side of the room and toss the needles in my arm. My worst experience? Well, two...

1) I was giving at Troy State, upstairs in the Adams Center student building. The line was really long, and I was running late for my freshman journalism 101 class, so as soon as I was done, I grabbed a rice krispy treat and ran... yes, ran... out the door.

For those of you who know Troy State, this is not a good thing. I dash down the stairs, out the Adams Center back doors, and then up the hill leading to Wallace Hall. Then, I run down the hill to the Wallace doors, then up three flights of stairs. I dashed into class at the last second, and sat down behind Miranda. Then the fact I just lost a pint of blood hit me.

"Whoa..." I whoozed. Miranda turned around, looked at me funny, and said, "You don't look so good."

2) I was giving on one of those mobile blood RVs, and the nurse had stuck the needle in. When she did, a little blood spurted out and got on the sleeve of my white shirt. "Oh dear," the nurse said, grabbing a little cloth. Then she started rubbing the blood spot on my sleeve, but as she did, her hand kept knocking the needle protruding from my arm. As it moved back and forth, stuck in my arm, it kinda hurt. "Um... uh, don't worry about the blood on my..." I stammered.

Not paying attention, she was talking to some other nurse, all the while, actually moving a needle that was sticking out of my veins. Not good times. Bad times, bad times.


Sitting here watching "While You Were Sleeping", one of my favorite films. Yes, it will appear in the Dave100 somewhere along the way, once I get to it. And no, I haven't forgotten about the Dave100. Its a list that will make its way over the next few months.

Anyway, my little sister and I watched "Speed" the other night. We actually watched "Muriel's Wedding", which I was hoping I would like, and I did, but before either of us could move, or I could kick her out, "Speed" came on, and we were sucked in. We had a discussion about Sandra Bullock, who had her big breakout in this movie. Remember when both she and Meg Ryan were the absolute cutest things in the entire world? Back in the early 90s?

Well, "While You Were Sleeping" came on, and it reminded me of just how much I used to like Sandra Bullock. She has a Sydney Ellen Wade performance here, because there's not one time in the movie she doesn't look absolutely gorgeous. I had a friend in college named Jennifer Davis who smiled like Sandra Bullock. I think thats why Jennifer Davis was so hot.


Speaking of hot chicks, I read in Entertainment Weekly that there's another sequel to "Gone With the Wind". The book, not the movie, but the book is coming. Anyway, the literary sequel is called "Rhett Butler's People", written by Donald McCaig.

I only mention this because they actually are planning a movie version. Apparently, in a poll, The Goddess is the most popular choice to play Scarlett O'Hara, narrowly edging out Rachel McAdams.

Now I have an issue... would I have to watch this movie? I mean, its associated with Gone With the Wind, which is normally something I don't associate with. But, I'll watch anything Ashley Judd in it. I mean, she's Ashley Judd. She's The Goddess. And she's been in some terrible, terrible movies. This might not be any different.

I guess Ashley is to me what Colin Firth is to The Lovely Steph Leann. Colin is president of the "Guys That Steph Wouldn't Leave Me For, but Would Hesitate Before Saying No" Club (who boasts members like Bradley Whitford and Patrick Dempsey). I guess Ashley is my own president, over members like Debra Messing and Kate Winslet.

Of course, none are Steph Leann. And like I tell Steph.... "I'm with you, not Ashley Judd, so what does that tell you?"


Just got a message from my friend Tiffany Abbott (McCauley, or something like that, who knows), who was to Troy what Julie Wise was to high school. She tells me of the bathroom conditions at the Georgia/Troy game, which Georgia won... by only ten points, mind you.:

Georgia is in such a drought that they basically had signs posted at the football game bathrooms to the effect of "if it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down." There were employed restroom attendants whose job is was to do the flushing.

I laughed hard. Talk about your potty humor.

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Can you believe that after knowing Tiffany Formerly Abbott for twelve years, this is really the only picture I have? So, I figured I would post it just for comedic effect.


And finally, if you're in Tuscaloosa and you want some BBQ, don't go to Dreamland. Go to Archibalds. I was helping train new Starbuckians for the new store in T'town last week, and decided to visit my brother-in-law Tyler on campus, and his roomdawgs, Trey, Jonathan and Stephen. After killing time and watching two or three episodes of "Family Guy", we were hungry. I suggested Archibalds.

I don't know where I'd heard it, but I had heard it was really, really good. It was later I realized that I had seen it on ESPN's College GameDay, where Todd Blackledge has a weekly segment where he visits local restaurants and such.

Anyway, after Tyler drove us around in circles for 30 minutes, we found it. It's this hole in the wall restaurant, where Archibald, this large, old black man, serves BBQ out of the pit that's actually in the wall. The building itself is really not bigger than a regular trailer.

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Stephen, Jonathan, Trey, Archibald, myself and Tyler. Oh, Archibald is the big black man in the middle.

But the food was cheap. And FANTASTIC. For just over 8 bucks, I got a big plate with four ribs and a BBQ pork sandwich, and a 20 ounce Mountain Dew. None of us, not me, nor Stephen, nor Jonathan, nor Tyler, nor Trey said much as we chomped our food.

Seems the place has been around for at least 47 years, when he took over for his daddy. He laughed heartily, and seemed to enjoy the fact we were a bunch of young bucks--even me--eating in his restaurant. A good time was had by all.

And I was full. And it was nice.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Golden Compass preview

I'm naive to think all of my readers, the dozen or two they may be, are Christ-followers, and in fact, some of the following may be music to some of your ears. But, I am a believer in Christ, so I figured I'd give you the following info about a great looking Christmas movie coming up.

And no, its not a copy-and-pasting forward--its all typed out by my own ten fingers.

So, there's a kids movie coming out called "The Golden Compass", starring Nicole Kidman, that looked like it would be pretty good... so, while we were sitting here watching "The Amazing Race", and the trailer/commercial for the movie came on. The Lovely Steph Leann, sitting next to me, just pipes up and says "You know the guy who wrote those books is like, an athiest, and the books that the movie is based on is totally anti-religious and anti-Christian." (this is paraphrasing, but you get the gist)

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Doesn't this look like a great movie? Maybe not.

Anyway, I went onto, which is a great resource for rumors and such, and here's what I found...

Essentially, the book "Northern Lights" (which was relased as "The Golden Compass" in America) is written by England's Philip Pullman, a hardcore athiest, and is the first in a trilogy called "The Dark Materials". He's a guy who professes that he doesn't think its possible there is a God, and, in an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, said, "My books are about killing God". Christopher Hitchens, who wrote last year's best selling "God is Not Great", has said that the Dark Materials trilogy is a rebuttal to CS Lewis' Narnia series.

There are some religious leaders, such as the Arch Bishop of Canterbury, has said that Pullman's negative portrayal of the church is really an attack on dogmatism, and other Christian authors (Kurt Bruner, Jim Ware) say that despite his best efforts, Pullman's books "also uncover spiritual themes within the books, which, like shafts of light, break through an otherwise gloomy universe—despite Pullman's best efforts to keep them out. In the end, the authors argue that Pullman offers an unwitting tribute to the God he intended to discredit.".. ie, (what the enemy intended for evil... you know the rest)

From what I've read so far, I've figured out that the movie's writers have taken lots of the anti-Christian rherotic out of it, so as not to offend the ever larger Christian family market (and their money), but you know what happens when people love movies based on books? Many times, they want to read the book. And in this case, any book written about killing God is not a book I'll want my kids to read.

Here is the link for the article I'm basing this on... here is Phillip Pullman's Wikipedia page to read about the author... here's the synopsis of the book "Northern Lights", (that was made into "The Golden Compass")

In case you don't want to read all of the book synopsis, just know that " the trilogy, a young streetwise girl becomes enmeshed in an epic struggle to ultimately defeat the oppressive forces of a senile God. Another character, an ex-nun, describes Christianity as "a very powerful and convincing mistake." In the final book, characters representing Adam and Eve witness the death of "God" (who turns out to be an upstart angel, rather than the creator)."

Finally, here's an article from Peter Hitchens (no relation to the aforementioned Christopher, I don't think), who claims Pullman is the "one athiests would have prayed for, if they prayed"

Anyway, I'm not telling you to NOT go see this movie, or write letters to your congressmen or protest whatever, you guys can decide for yourself and your family as to whether you want to see this flick.

I just thought it might be good to have an idea of what you were putting your family and kids in front of. I have a feeling that Steph and I will put our hard earned money towards something with more meaning, like "Fred Claus".

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Raw Diaries

Hey, I'm back! Its been over a week, and I was trying to figure out what to write about tonight, since the longer you go without blogging, the more likely you are to lose your regular readership, so...

Tonight... its The WWE Raw Running Diary! Thats right, the Monday Night Raw wrestling event, as it happens!

8:01... it just came on, as usually we're treated to an opening segment with big stars like Shawn Michaels & Randy Orton challenging each other, typically resulting in the main event being set... tonight?

8:03... the WWE Divas are coming out, one by one. Honestly, I'm not a fan of the Divas, cause they really aren't that good looking, and most are plenty fake. I'm a real guy. So, tonight, we have a Diva battle royal. The way a battle royal works is, you toss 'em over the top to eliminate them.

8:04... if I had a favorite, which I don't, but if I did, it would probably me Mickie James, only because she looks just dorky enough to be hot. No one will ever top Stacy Keibler. She's the Ashley Judd of the wrestling world, though Stacy retired years ago to pursue acting. How's she doing now? Well, have you heard of her, besides wrestling? Exactly.

8:07... this is stupid

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Stacy Keibler. Posted only for Michael's sake.

8:08... Kelly Kelly is the winner. And here comes the Women's Champion, Beth Phoenix, who is a flippin' horse. At least, with some of the Divas, I could consider them mildly attractive. With Beth Phoenix, there's nothing attractively redeeming about this chick. Dude. Whatever.

8:10... So, last night was CyberSunday, which was October's Pay-per-View.

For the uneducated, let me enlighten you. The WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) used to be WWF (World Wrestling Federation) until the enviromental group WWF ( World Wildlife Fund) sued to get the rights to the acronym WWF. They won, so the WWF I'm watching became the WWE.

Anyway, they used to do four pay-per-view events per year, which was SummerSlam (August), Survivor Series (November), Royal Rumble (January), and the big one, which is like WWE's Daytona 500 and Super Bowl and Paula Maddox's 42nd birthday party all rolled into one, WrestleMania.

Some years ago, they added more and more Pay-per-Views until there was one each month, with names like No Mercy, Vengeance, No Way Out, Great American Bash and so on. Think of a name that could have doubled for a Steven Seagal movie and chances are good that it is, or at least was at one time, a WWE monthly event.

Anyway, last night was CyberSunday, which is where the fans can go online and vote for the match participants.

8:16... and live, from Philadelphia, we're back! And here comes one of the all time greats, Shawn Michaels. He's in his early 40s by now, he made it big as half of The Rockers back in the early 90s with Marty Janetti, and he's been on his own for a decade or so. He recently came back from back surgery (his back as always been an issue with him), but the great thing about Michaels is, he's a Believer, and he even discusses it on the show sometimes. His language is always clean, he does nothing with the Divas (he has said he always wants to honor his wife), and his autobiography is pretty good.

8:19... Michaels signature move is "Sweet Chin Music", a roundhouse kick to the face, one that he's used on Randy Orton, the reigning WWE champion. Randy Orton is a bad guy, a "heel" as they call it in wrestling. Shawn Michaels is a "face", short for "babyface", which means a good guy. When Randy Orton turned to the bad side some odd years ago, he "turned heel".

8:20... Shawn Michaels is calling out Randy Orton, but here comes the theme music to Mr. McMahon, who is the chairman of the WWE. Vince McMahon, in his 60s, owns the WWE, inheriting it from his family back in the 80s, but inserted himself in the late 90s as a heel character, and has been awesome ever since.

8:22... I feel like I'm explaining Lost.

8:23... McMahon and Michaels actually don't really get along in real life, but McMahon knows how valuable Michaels is to the company, and so there's a respect there. Of course, in the ring right now, McMahon and Michaels are staring each other down, and McMahon is baiting him. Vince is tossing out Scripture, the "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" scripture to get Michaels to admit he wants revenge on Orton (who, in the WWE kicked him in the head and knocked him out of the league, but in real life, it was due to the back injury).

8:25pm... By the way, "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" isn't a "I'm doing what he did to me!" verse... it actually was written in the law to keep judges from being too leini...

8:26... Shawn Michaels just layed out Vince with Sweet Chin Music. Where was I? Yeah, to keep judges from being too light or to harsh on sentences. As in, don't execute someone for stealing some bread, but don't go easy on a murderer. Figured this out this weekend in Sunday Sch... er, Life Connection.

8:29... Just saw a commercial for "Just For Men Hair Color". Ya know, people have asked me before why I don't color my hair, since its about 1/4 to a 1/3 grey by now. First of all, I don't really care that much, since grey is not a bad thing. One some women it looks great too. One of my friends moms used to have a grey streak that looked really, really cool until she colored it. Anyway, if I colored my hair, there would be way too many people that would notice that my hair wasn't grey, then I'd have to answer for it. I just don't care that much.

8:31... The first real match, 30 minutes into the show, features Hardcore Holly tagging up with Cody Rhodes, son of the legendary American Dream Dusty Rhodes. Or, as Dusty would say it, Amewican Dweam Duthty Rhwodes. Anyway, Holly and Cody are teaming up against Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin.

More WWE/wrestling education. Haas and Benjamin are what they call "Jobbers". This means that they have names, they have characters, but they are really there now to win or lose matches based on whatever story line is going on. As in, they are supporting characters in the story line, but its not about them. Cody Rhodes is getting what they call "A Push", which means storylines are written in his favor to "push" him up the popularity chain for the fans. And, jobbers like Haas and Benjamin are "pushing him over", as in, agreeing to lose to him to make him seem better for fans. This make sense?

Like any other company, it gets real political... some jobbers don't like being jobbers, and some don't like pushing other wrestlers over. A great example of this was a few years ago when Hulk Hogan was at the end of his career in the WCW (World Championship Wrestling, a great faction that folded when the people who actually owned it didn't have a clue what they were doing). Hogan refused to "push over" anyone, which causes resentment and bitterness in the locker room. For anyone who thinks its ALL scripted, I give you the infamous Montreal Screwjob.

8:41... Yes, wrestling is fake. However, the injuries are real... like the injury to Candice Michelle last week, when she fell off the top rope, and pretty much landed on her neck. She actually broke her collar bone in two places. I think they're featuring the Divas more tonight, because tonight is the end of the "Diva Search", one of those fan vote things to determine... well, who the next Diva is. But, alas, no Stacy Keibler. Come back, Stacy.

8:45... An exchange between the tag team champs Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch. Unfortunately, there aren't any good tag teams now. Back in the day, we had The Rock & Roll Express, The Hart Foundation (Bret & Jim the Anvil), the British Bulldogs, Demolition (Ax and Smash. Crush didn't really exist), The Midnight Express, the Rockers, the Steiners, The Road Warriors (Hawk & Animal)... now? We have Cade and Murdoch. And thats it. No rivalries. Sad, really.

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The Hart Foundation, back when tag teams were really cool to root for

8:47... To describe a storyline, you'll hear the word "Angle". I say this only to tell you that I refuse to comment on the Hornswoggle angle, other than to say this is one of the worst angles ever. Ever. I can't write anymore.

8:53... Does anyone else think the burgers on those Hardees commercials look revolting?

8:54... For weeks, they've been showing this video clip with random bits of binary code, random numbers, a scripture from the book of Revelations and other fun stuff. The rumor is that Chris Jericho, also a Believer, is making his return. Jericho, or also called "Y2J", walked away two or three years ago to play music, act, appear in random "I Love the (fill in the decade)" Vh1 shows and so forth. It would be cool to see him come back.

8:55... Jonathan Coachmen is taking on Hornswoggle. Again, I refuse to comment.

8:56... however...

8:56... Mick Foley just came out as the "Special Guest Referee". Mick Foley, like Stone Cold Steve Austin, is a fan favorite, but due to serious injury, he's regulated to making appearances, doing well orchestrated, low impact wrestling moves and coming out as referees in matches I otherwise would not watch.

901... Hornswoggle wins, with the assistance of "Little Socko", courtesy of Special Guest Referee Mick Foley. Sigh. I won't say anything else about it.

902... Triple H is up now. This guy is so freakin' big... he's like, 320, 6'9... imagine Wookiee, but with long hair and nothing but muscles. He was one part of Degeneration X, along with Shawn Michaels, but he also was out since January (until August) with a knee injury. By the way, where to almost all the wrestlers comes for their orthoscopic surgeries and rehabs? Birmingham, Alabama, to Dr. James Andrews.

904... Triple H was originally called Hunter Hearst Helmsley, a character created to rival some other WCW...

...sidebar. To understand this statement, you have to know that from 1995 to 1999, there existed "The Monday Night Wars". It was WCW, which was on TBS and TNT cable channels, taking on WWE, on USA. For a while, WCW won the Monday Night Wars, with their premiere program, Monday Nitro, regularly beating WWF Monday Night Raw. But, as stated before, actual management, along with bad planning and terrible events and angles led to the utter demise of the WCW. I could go indepth in this, but won't for fear that right now, Alissa Kelly is yawning and about to go find something on Google. You can read about it here, which is actually a fascinating story of business, power and ego as much as it is wrestling.

...character that I don't remember. So, Hunter Hearst Helmsley was shortened to HHH, then to Triple H, and has been a dominate force since then. His theme music is Motorhead's "The Game", a kick guano song if there ever was one.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Here's some of the bigger stars of the WCW. On the left is Diamond Dallas Page, with Goldberg next to him. Goldberg was an animal, but again, was mismanaged. On the far right is then Booker T, one half of Harlem Heat, another great tag team, and the blond guy is Scott Steiner, or Big Poppa Pump, one half of the Steiner Brothers. He was also awesome... on steriods, but still. In the middle is the superstar of the WCW, Sting. Sting, also a Believer, refused to sign with the WWE after the WCW folded (even though everyone else in this picture did at one time or another). Sting said that he didn't like how raunchy WWE had become, and citing his beliefs and family, he walked away. WWE has since toned down their content in the last few years, which is why I started watching it again.

9:08... Paul London and some other guy that I can't remember are taking on Cade & Murdoch. I think they are trying to push London and the other guy... Brian Kendrick... but its not working because no one cares. Earlier, Cade and Murdoch were actually arguing, so its a possible "break up" angle, but again, no one cares.

912... And here comes The Highlanders, a face team when they first came in, and they were terrible... however, they turned heel over the summer, and they're actually a fun team to watch. They are still terrible, but a fun terrible.

916... Just saw the trailer for "The Mist", based on the Stephen King short story. An excellent story, by the way... the movie almost looks a little hokey, but its directed by Frank Darabont, who did both "The Green Mile" and "The Shawshank Redemption", which, along with "Misery" are the finest King movie adaptations. I'm intrigued.

918... Jeff Hardy, the current Intercontinental Champion, enters the ring. This guy is so all over the place... flying through the air, acrobatic, talented. He's being teamed with DH Smith, who is the son of the late Davey Boy Smith, one of my all time favorites, of the aforementioned British Bulldogs. So DH is getting a push too. They'll be taking on Carlito, who really had a chance to be big, but it didnt seem like he was angled very well. Carlito is joined by Mr. Kennedy, who I can't help but like. He usually does this microphone thing where he yells "Miiiiiiissttteeeerrrr Keeennnnaaaadddddeeeeeeeee!!!!" Its kinda cool.

922... Not having anything to do with Kennedy, Hardy, Carlito or DH Smith, but I'm wondering if they'll reunite Shawn Michaels and Triple H? Triple H is one the bad end of a 1-on-2 handicap match, taking on not only Randy Orton but also the Samoan Bulldozer, Umaga. Michaels and HHH, being the former Degeneration X before one, then the other got hurt, would be a great tag team again. Of course, they could feud, especially if one of them wins the championship.

930... The Lovely Steph Leann just came home from her Creative Memories meeting. Did you know its more than just pasting pictures in a book? There are dozens of ways to preserve your memories, including digital options, and digital scrapbooks! Makes great gifts for Christmas, and its a great hobby and lifestyle to dive into! Just click here for more information!

932... This is actually not a bad match. Lots of techinical wrestling, and by that, I mean actual moves and holds and such, not just flips and slams. Of course, Jeff Hardy just laid Carlito out using the Swanton Bomb, which has Hardy leaping from the top rope, flying through the air, doing a flip and landing with the upper back slamming into the head of the opponent.

938... Here comes one of the worst characters ever, Santino Morella. I liken this guy to Doink the Clown from the 90s. This guy is that bad, seriously. What's worse is that he's joined by Maria, supposedly good looking because she's a Diva, but she looks like she swallowed about six Atomic Fireball Sour Candies.

943... And its good that the Lovely Steph Leann is home... the winner of the Diva Search is next!

950... Eve wins it. Steph Leann was pulling for Brooke, I know, but Eve is the winner. Brooke actually looked better, I must admit.

951... Another mysterious code video.

952... Here comes the WWE champ Randy Orton.

sidebar... there are only a few belts in the WWE, the WWE Championship (Randy Orton), which is on Raw, the WWE World Championship (currently held by Batista) which is prominent on WWE"s other show, SmackDown! on Friday nights. The ECW on Tuesday night, also owned by WWE, has the ECW title belt. Each show, SmackDown!, Raw, and ECW, also called "Brands" has a title belt and a tag team belt.

One of the issues with WCW was the fact they had, from the best I remember, a WCW title, a World title, a World Tag Team title, a United States Tag Team title, a Cruiserweight title, a United States Title, a TV Title, a North American title... and this is on ONE show. And the belts changed hands in what seemed like every week, so no one knew who was what champion. One of the things I've liked about the WWE lately is that you keep a belt for a while. John Cena was the champion for the better part of three years, only giving up the belt due to a major shoulder injury that he ended up having surgery on (in Birmingham, by Dr James Andrews!) a few weeks ago.

Why the brands, and not just one big show? Well, its allows more superstars to be superstars, instead of all of them fighting on one show. They do interchange brands some times, as in, you'll see Rey Mysterio from SmackDown! take on someone from ECW on Monday Night Raw, but typically they are seperate. You do see all of them in the pay-per-views, though.

958... Its Umaga! His real name is Eddie Fatua, or something like that, but Umaga is this big, fat, face painted dude from "Samoa" who yells and screams alot, and has a finishing move called "The Samoan Spike", which causes him to ram his thumb into someones throat.

959... TIME TO PLAY THE GAME!!!!!! I am the game, you don't wanna play me, I am control, no way you can change me, I am your debts, no way you can pay me, I am the pain, and I know you can't take me... I am the Game and I want to play....

1001... Its The King of Kings... The Game... Triple H. Yeah, I kinda had an issue with "The King of Kings" too, but I figure if Christ Follower Shawn Michaels can deal with it, then I can too.

1002... HHH's signature move is called The Pedigree, and its slamming a guy's head, face down, between your knees, folding his arms behind his back, and picking him up and slamming him down back first. So, now, Umaga is taking it to HHH, while Orton circles and stomps. Of course, though, its the end of the show, so something will happen. This won't end just by a pin fall.

1003... SHAWN MICHAELS!! I KNEW IT!!! HBK is here!! (that's "The Heartbreak Kid", by the way). HHH and Michaels!!!! Michaels cleared the ring, Umaga tossed out, Orton tossed out....

1005... The parting shot has Mr. McMahon saying next Monday night, one night only, the return of Degeneration X.

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Triple HHH in back, Shawn Michaels in the front, its DX.

1008... Alright, thats enough for one night. Green Bay is leading Denver 13-10 in the 4th, I have to pee, and this blog has gone on long enough. Good night kids.