Jun 30, 2007

Irvine - Friday PM - June 29, 2007

As I mentioned yesterday, we had free time today, so we had spent some time trying to figure out what to do. We decided against theme parks because we have all of the same places back home in Orlando. We decided to go to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. We had gone to the LBJ Library in Austin a few years back, and this sounded great. It tooks about 90 minutes to get there, but it was an easy drive and the landscape was beautiful.

The Library itself is very impressive. It sits up on a hill overlooking the entire valley. It is styled after a huge western ranch house. When you get in, you go through the story of Reagan's life, from boy to actor to Governor to President. I have always loved Reagan, so I though it was very cool. I had just purchased the Ronald Reagan Diaries book that has his diary from when he was President. Fascinating. The exhibits were cool, and then half way through, things got even better.

You go out of the first part of the tour into the second part, where they have an actual Air Force One Boeing 707 jet for you to go through. It is the actual Air Force One that all the Presidents used until September 9, 2001. It was loaned to the library, and now has been redone to reflect how it appeared in 1985 or so. There also is a Marine One helicopter from LBJ, a beautiful mural of the history of Presidential air flight, a full motorcade complete with limo and police motorcycles, and a F-14 Tomcat. It was amazing to walk through and around.

We had lunch at the restaurant there - and it was amazing. We ate out overlooking the valley and had sandwiches and cake. Then we visited the Gift Shop (of course) and the Memorial Garden. It was fun and tiring, so we decided to head back. We still had lots of time, so we decided to swing through Beverly Hills just to see what all the fuss what about. Well....

The ugly side of LA surfaced as we got caught in never-ending horrific traffic. We went to Bevery Hills eventually, but it was just a bunch of expensive shops - most of which we have in Orlando at some high end mall or center. We thought about going to Chinatown or Hollywood or Studio City, but the traffic was getting horrible. Finally, we ended up driving right through Downtown LA, trying to find some way to avoid the gridlock on the freeways. It was a pretty fruitless effort. The traffic was unlike anything I had ever seen, and it was compounded by the absolutely out of their gourd bus drivers they have here. It was like LA went to New York and asked for all the psychotic taxi drivers who had been forced out of the business for being "Too Frigging Nuts" and then turned them into bus drivers. They would whip in and out of traffic, switch lanes with no warning, and drift into the other lanes. It was insanity. One thing I can't stand is being clueless about where I am going and having to deal with traffic.

Amazingly, Navigator Heather actually got us out of the mess and back to close to Irvine. We ended up stopping a few miles away for dinner at a mall - we ate at a Ruby's Diner. It was very good and fun, and the mall was pretty neat. The entire trip, we have been talking about how hard it is to find restaurants around this school. It seems like they are hidden. Well, once we headed back home through this community, we discovered where all of them were - just in time for us to leave on Sunday. The day was eventful and fun. Heather zonked out as soon as we got back. I keep dozing trying to write this - so bear with any spelling or grammar errors. Tomorrow we plan on being "table dwellers" at the Defender table. Hopefully we find some good stuff out then. See you later.

Jun 29, 2007

Irvine - Thursday PM - June 28, 2007

Well, there wasn't a whole lot to do around here today after the morning session. It is hard because the breakout sessions do not apply to us a lot of the time. So, we decided to go hang out at the Irvine Center Spectrum. It is a HUGE outdoor mall type place. I know these are becoming more common. There is the St. John's Center in Jacksonville and Waterford Lakes Center in Orlando. This one was very much big, and it was a GORGEOUS day to stroll around. We don't go into a bunch of the stores because we don't want to be tempted to buy stuff that we won't have room to bring home.

We had lunch at Red Robin {the menu at the conference was not very attractive}. For those who have known me a long time, you have heard about Red Robin. This was MY restaurant growing up. There was one right down the street, and I picked it whenever I got to choose. What made it so great? My reasons were five-fold. One, they had the best cheese sticks anywhere. Two, they had seasoned waffle fries. Three, they had unlimited refills on Mountain Dew {not common back then}. Four, they had the Royal Red Robin burger - complete with a fried egg on top. Five, they had a Strawberry Tall Cake that was incredible.

Well, it closed and it was about 15 years before I found another one in Pennsylvania. One, they changed the cheese sticks to something similar to Arby's. Two, they only have steak fries. Three, they only carry Coke products, not including Mello Yello. Four, they had the Royal Red Robin burger - but I am allergic to eggs. Five, they don't have the Strawberry Tall Cake. It was a downer. This time my expectations were lower, and we really enjoyed it. I had a BBQ burger with fried onions on it and Heather had a BLTA sandwich {A=avecado}. We also got a half order of cheese sticks. And I had some raspberry limeade drink - which was great. It was fun.

Then we went and saw Live Free or Die Hard. I will review this on my Rotten Tomatoes site later. Suffice it to say, it was fun and stupid and awesome and dumb. Basically, it was perfect for the series. The only thing is that it was PG-13. I talked about this in my Alien Vs. Predator review years ago. If the entire series is R, leave the sequels R. I am not endorsing violence or vulgarity. But this must have been a late decision by 20th Century Fox, because the editing was horrible. I know that by telling you this, it will become obvious. But I found AT LEAST 10 times when you could tell the language and/or violence had been edited out at a late date. People would be talking and then it would jump to a view of another character right when you knew the F-Bomb was dropping. But, after Die Hard 3, a few hundred less F-Bombs was nice. I like Justin Long in the movie. And Bruce Willis was great. The stunts were incredible - unbelievable as all get out, but fun. That scene in the trailer where Willis takes out a helicopter with a car - yeah that was even better in context. And it was seriously rivaled for the best stunt in the movie by a couple other scenes. I thought it passed my sequel test: added to the story, stayed true to the general mythos, and if it was first it could have generated sequels. Good summer flick. Check your brain at the door and just get ready for an adrenaline rush.

After that, we wandered around, and ended up at Target. I thought it was weird that there was a Target there, but there was. We went in and looked around. Our first trip through, there were three guys standing with a cart and talking. When we came around a corner again, I noticed one of them had a shirt that said "Love Your Neighbor" on the front. But the back had some snarky comments about only loving them if they weren't of any "different group." The third time we went by them, I noticed they had a lot of stuff in their cart: water bottles, office supplies. They were talking about how they needed to have two lines for people - those willing to be photographed and those who aren't. {Please believe I wasn't snooping.} The last time, I got this really weird feeling. I said to Heather, "I don't know why, but I think those three guys may be the ones organizing the other conference this weekend." She looked at me and said, "Why?" I wasn't sure. I just had this feeling, between the shirt and the other stuff. Well, I checked their website and, lo and behold, I think I was right. If you go to www.soulforce.org, and check Staff under About Us, Bill Carpenter was definitely one of them (confirmed by Heather). Jeff Lutes may have been one of them. Either way, it was a good reminder of what else is going on here starting tomorrow. Pretty strange stuff.

We stopped by Marie Callender's for a small supper and dessert on the way home. Dang, that was good. Cornbread that was amazing, and I don't like cornbread. I had some chocolate cheesecake that easily rivaled Cheesecake Factory. Heather had a big ole chicken pot pie. Good stuff.

I ran by our table once we got back and lots of our materials had been looked over, the free stuff was about gone. That was a good sign. Apparently visitors in the Expo Hall are increasing. Tomorrow is a free day for most of the day, so Saturday is our last chance to get our name out there at the table. We are planning to be around the table a lot that day, just in case. This weeks has been a mix of exciting and boring - good and bad. I am still trying to figure out what God has planned out here, but He is much smarter than me, so I'll leave that up to Him. We have had a good time. At the very least, it was good for Heather and I to get away. Like I said earlier, tomorrow is a free day. There won't be a morning post. We are leaning towards going to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. That sounds fun to me - Heather not as much. Look forward to tomorrow night's update.

Jun 28, 2007

Irvine - Thursday AM - June 28, 2007

After a delightful breakfast outside with the cool breeze, we headed into morning session. Once again, I was just awestruck by the worship time. From the moment that the worship leader (Holland something or other) hit the first note, God's Spirit just filled the place. They started with a beautiful, more modern arrangement of Holy, Holy, Holy. I am always game for hymns with new arrangements. The whole audience was singing their hearts out and raising their hands. I started crying almost immediately. (Don't judge me) One of the verses really struck me. It says,

"Holy, Holy, Holy,
Though the darkness hide thee.
Though the eye of sinful man
Your glory may not see."

I don't know if you know it or not, but just about two miles away from Exodus Conference is another conference being held at the other university in Irvine, California. That would be the University of California at Irvine (UCI). UCI is where my brother Chris went for several years. {Chris is my brother - not my gay half brother. He lives in West Palm Beach. He is a Christian, single, awesome man who is not married - but wants to be. He has a Ph.D. and is an artist and surfs. Applicants for the position of wife are welcome.} Anyway, UCI is hosting a conference put on by one of the original founder of Exodus who went back to the gay lifestyle. This conference has marketed itself as being for people who have been rescued from Christianity and its efforts to "un-gay" them.

What struck me about that particular verse of the song is how at this conference, we recognize the holiness of God and the sin of our lives. But at the other conference, they are fighting to ignore those things. I asked Heather what exactly they were fighting to defend. There, the darkness is hiding God. There, the eyes of sinful man cannot see His glory. A lot of the flack about Exodus is that we try to tell people that they are sinning by being gay - when the world is telling them that they were born that way. The accusations is that Exodus tries to yank them out of their life and forces them to be "normal." The thing is, these people don't look unhappy. They are the most joyful bunch of Christians I have ever been around. They love God and they are truly truly happy. They are filled with His mercy. They are rescued sinners and they rejoice every day in that.

That was what made me even more convicted this morning, as I watched this and sang with these wonderful saints. The next song they sang was Here I Am to Worship. As we all praised together, and came to the bridge lines of:

"I'll never know how much it cost
To see my sins upon that cross."

I realized that I am an arrogant jerk. I try to be "comparitively good." I have managed to look at my own life and say that my sins are not as bad as other people's sins. I almost am proud BECAUSE of my sin, and how it is less heinous than others. I may have looked at dirty pictures, but they were at least of women. I may have a bad temper, but I don't get into drunken rages. I may have an ego problem, but at least I'm not a meglomaniac. The things about these people here is that they are VERY AWARE of just how lost they are. Their sin is right there and they don't sugar coat it. They don't try to shine it up, like polishing a turd. Everyone is more than willing to tell them just how sinful they are, so they understand perfectly well. Maybe that is why they are more into praise time. They have come from farther away, so their is more grace to be grateful for. I, on the other hand, seem to be able to convince myself I only needed Christ to die a little bit for me. Seems kind of stupid. I just kept on crying through the rest of worship time.

The testimony time is what I have come to love. Today, it was a man who lives in South Florida and is now an ordained Southern Baptist minister. (I was stunned too - Southern Baptists don't seem the type to be willing to do that.) He told of his childhood of abuse and neglect, how he craved the love of a man so much as a kid that as a teen he turned to homosexuality. He got saved at 21, but still spent years and years struggling, falling back into a sinful life, coming back, falling hard again, coming back. He even went so far as to admit his homosexual struggle at church on a Sunday morning during a sermon just to get it out there. The church loved him for it and he started a male accountability group there, which years later became the source of his greatest temptation and near failure. But at the point when he was ready to throw it all away again, God delivered him for good. He now has led his father, mother, sister, brother in law, and neice to Christ due to his changed life. His father got saved at 79, and one day during a men's group asked this man if he could pray over him. He prayed this immature simple prayer - a father's blessing. The man just broke down when it happened, finally feeling the love of his dad that he had desperately needed. The testimony ended with the report that he got engaged this past December to a wonderful lady from his church that he was co-teaching a Bible study with.

I am continually amazed at God's power. If you ever doubt just how big God is, go to an Exodus Regional Conference or the national one. You will never every question it again. Unfortunately, we didn't hear the entire sermon from the morning speaker. His name is Dr. Michael Brown. His group in Charlotte NC is on the front lines in the battle for our culture. I liked what he had to say, but he used so much of the "revolution" terminology. I agreed with his points, but some of the theme he was incorporating is what is used AGAINST groups like Exodus. It was one of those cases where the crowd there knew what he was saying, but others may see it as something entirely different. We had to leave because the chairs are so uncomfortable, my back went into the biggest spasm I've probably ever felt. It still is very sore - which is a good point of prayer for you readers. We heard most, but missed the last point. Hopefully resting will help it. I doubt that between it and Heather's pregnancy that we will be able to make it through the entire evening session, so we will see what happens.

Jun 27, 2007

irvine - Wednesday PM - June 27, 2007

We went to lunch and ate with our plane buddies - and two other couples. One of them, both husband and wife had been orchestra teachers. As Heather said, "No matter where you go, band geeks find each other." She hit it off with them. The wife still taught orchestra. The husband though, who was the former gay, was now in seminary. He was getting trained in youth ministry. What an amazing story of the transformative power of God. We had such a great time we hated to leave. But we had to get to our session.

I found out that they were recording the session for sale - they were recording every session, sermon, workshop. I had never had that done before, so I was a little nervous. We got our room set up, and the people came. About forty people showed up - married couples, college students, adults. We were teaching on "The Glory of Sex." The lesson is about what God meant sex to be - and how when it is incorporated into a married relationship, it actually reflects God's nature. I love the lesson because God gave it to me and I had never heard it before I wrote it. So, it is always exciting to share it.

The people there really enjoyed it. They were involved and seemed to really be blessed by it. At the end, there were some questions that I thought I fielded okay - including a couple on touchy subjects. I was able to incorporate my story with Sue into the opening - which everyone thought was awesome. At the end, a couple people came up and were very complimentary and said that they were very blessed. One student in particular gave me the best compliment I could get. He had asked some questions and grilled me before the class started on my theology. He said, "I was very impressed by your devotion to relying on God's Word for the lesson. I was very blessed and ministered to by that." You can't ask for more than that. If you want to, you can actually buy a copy of the CD of my lesson. Go to www.catapes.com. I'm not sure how to find it - or if it will be up before the conference ends on Sunday. You should be able to search Exodus and Staples or something. It costs $8. Just in case you want to get a copy.

We went back to our table, and decided to give away some of the extra student books for free. One guy came by and I started talking to him. He is from Oregon, and this is his second Exodus conference. He went to acting school and is an actor up there. You could tell that he had struggled with homosexuality. But it was such an amazing testimony. It is already hard enough to be a Christian in the entertainment industry. But to be a former-gay and a Christian? He must face so much hostility. If he doesn't already he will. But he just was shining the joy of God all over.

After a nap we went to dinner, where we ate with a Irvine cop who was here for security. He asked what the whole deal was with the conference. I said that it was a group that helped minister to gays and former gays. He nodded and said he had heard everything from "a bunch of gay haters" to "anti-gay" to whatever. He said he was a Christian and that he understood what recovery was and was glad that we were here. I told him what Defender did and he was thrilled about that too. What an interesting example of the misunderstanding about this issue in the Christian community. So many "Christian" groups do hate gays, and not just their sin, that the world assumes that is what they all do. And then you come to a place like this. I mean it feels like the entire place is just saturated with God's mercy and grace and love. And it amazing how much my own mind has changed in just one day. I really want to sit down and just ask some of these people to tell me their stories. I want to hear about God's awesome redemptive power. Those stories never get old. In fact, I am really beginning to wonder why God keeps on bringing this issue into my path. Is this something God wants us to do more with later? I am open if it is. It may take me a while to move past some of my stupid stereotypes, prejudices, judgments, and jokes. But I can't help but be moved by seeing this place. Instead of just a bunch of gays and former gays, it is actually a massive testimony of God's power and grace. What a great day.

Irvine - Wednesday AM - June 27, 2007

After waking to the disturbing linens, we go to eat breakfast. We feel so much better after sleeping. We decide that we are not going to let the hiccups of yesterday to trip us up. I am supposed to be speaking at 1:30pm today; we have our table; and this conference is so important that obviously Satan will be trying to mess it all up. We have a new look at life and a skip in our step. We look like Peter Parker walking down the sidewalk in Spiderman 2. Well, that was all a lie. The hills mean that we kind of shuffle along or limp up stairs. But we have a better view for sure.

I, however, am fighting a ton of stuff in my head. I have been around gay people. But I have not interacted much in my later life. I hadn't seen Sue in 16 years. I haven't talked to George in at least five - but those interactions are few and far between. I have all the typical Southern Baptist, southern male stereotypes in my head. I can't help but wondering who here used to be gay. When you see a married couple, which one is the recovering one? I also ask myself the question, "If they really are serious, why do they still act so, you know, gay?" There are a lot of guys who walk a little weird, or who wax their eyebrows, or who use a lot of hair product. I feel nervous - why I have no idea. I have a feeling I'm not exactly a prime lust source for much of anyone. I tell Heather about my thoughts. She shakes her head at my denseness.

After getting our table gussied up better and more suited for visitors without us there, we go to the morning worship service. We are about a half hour late, and the speaker is now a mother giving a testimony about her gay son. It was a heartbreaking story, and one that really drove home the entire conference purpose. This lady's husband had died at 46, and her older son had died three years later when he was killed as a cop in the line of duty. A few years later, he only other son shared he was gay. She shared how one day she was crushed and crying about the whole thing a few years later. God spoke to her and said, you know how hurt you are over that? That's how I feel whenever you sin. It really took her breath away. Heather and I looked at each other, both really hit by what is being shared.

Then the worship band came up and started a couple very worshipful songs. What happened next embarrassed me. The crowd was singing. They had their hands up. Their faces were raised. I was embarrassed and ashamed because of how passionate they were. Their hands weren't up for show - it was like they were trying to push their love for God up, and their hands got them that much closer. Their faces were glowing with love and joy. There was an older couple in front of us - the wife was so weak she couldn't stand up. The husband waved his hands in the air. And she had her one hand raised up a little bit, sweetly singing. I started to cry. The songs were about God's mercy and love and grace. I realized how these people - the same ones that I was sitting there judging and worrying about just an hour before - really knew God. They understood what grace and mercy was. They knew what it was to love God. Here I am, this teacher and pastor - writer of eleven books for other teachers and pastors. And I don't get it at all. I am so dense. I was floored. These people had already gone through a traumatic time of rejection and hurt when they came out about being gay. They were shunned and hated by friends, family, and church people. Then they went through it again when they turned from that life to become a Christian. And they again were shunned and hated by friends, family, and some church people. But they were standing there rejoicing and praising God.

By the time Sy Rogers got up to speak, I was already pretty humbled. Then he busted out more good theology in the first two minutes then I have heard in some entire years of my life. He was amazing. It was the first time I ever heard him speak - or his story. He had been gay - very gay - and even looked into becoming a woman. But God saved him. Now he's been married for 25 years, has a daughter who got married this spring, and he led his 79 year old father to Christ in June. Plus, he has a worldwide ministry. He talked about how God is bigger... He's bigger than our sin, our inadequacies, our pain, our history. Then he said God is bigger than our mannerisms. He said that he still gets asked by some people, "If you are so serious about this, why don't you butch up?" His answer is, "I Have! Am I wearing a dress?" My response was, OOOFFF. Yes he mentioned the same exact question that I had been asking just a little before. Through his sermon, I realized that these people have imprinted in their minds certain behaviors and mannerisms and believed they were normal and right. It was fed for years. And this is what they know. Some are able to change that, but others try and try and still have problems. And then he said that even if they keep messing up, even if we all keep messing up, they keep going back to ask for forgiveness until it complete.

We were just so blessed by the sermon and his points. It was so true about what Defender teaches, and what we deal with too. Everyone has things that will trip them up a lot. But God is bigger. What an awesome morning.

Irvine - Tuesday - June 26, 2007

We get to the campus of Concordia University at Irvine and register. We have to check in with the front guard gate. The security is tight tight tight. When you register, they tell you that you had better be wearing your lanyard or you get booted. There are police officers wandering around. The protestors haven't shown up yet, but they are supposed to be showing up. I hear that CNN is out at the gate for an interview. Wow. Talk about front-line ministry. We are getting very tired, and want to get our room. We check in at the housing office and then finally stumble in to our dorm room. It is hot and smells of gym socks. Must have housed male students. We are trying to get our stuff together. The linens that are supposed to be here are missing pieces (pillow, sheet, towel). It isn't cooling off and Heather is starting to cramp.

I call the housing office to report the air is busted. Here's how the conversation goes
Me: "Uh, the air is broken."
Them: "Oh, yeah, we don't have air on campus."
Me: {stunned silence}
Them: "Hello?"
Me: "Uh, what?"
Them: "We only have heaters - and the pilot lights need lit first."
Me: "My wife is six months pregnant. She is starting to cramp." {Thinking this would move mountains}
Them: "Hold on .... {long gap} .... Yeah, we don't have air. Make sure you open the windows."
Me: "Oh-kaaaaay"

This trip is going swimmingly. Again, I don't care how nice the weather is, no air in a room is just cruel. We decide to go check out our table and our box that we had shipped last week. The box is in, um, less than pristine shape. The outside box is shredded on the bottom. The bottom inside box is also destroyed. We had send some plastic sign holders in the box. They are not in one piece. They are in like thirty pieces. We try our best to get things set up, and realize we have to go to Target for both our room and our table. After grabbing dinner at the school, we go and get some stuff. When we get back, we notice something weird about expo hall. No one goes there. The exhibitors aren't there. The attenders don't come through here on a regular basis. Our plan of sitting at the table seems pretty dumb.

We are a little frustrated, a lot tired, and a little confused. Finally we go back to the room to crash. The linens have never arrived, so we make due - in our two twin beds set up loft style with about three feet of space under the bed. We did score a fan, though, at Target. Cool breezes await. Around 9pm PST we lay down. Around 9:05 we realize they may come with the linens, so I lock the door and put a chair up against it. (Don't judge me - I'm from South Florida) Around 9:30pm we hear noises so I jump out of bed to the front door. The housing manager has the door open up to the chair and is trying to tell us it is just the linen delivery. I explain that we are dog tired from being up for 21 hours. He has sympathy, gives us the linens, and doesn't ask why the chair was in front of the door. When we wake up on Wednesday, there are the original pieces we were missing on the couch in the living area in our room - so apparently someone else came in later to drop those off. Greaaat. California has taken a turn for the weird for sure.

San Diego - Tuesday - June 26, 2007

I have already written the second part of the FerreTV series. But, I was not able to post it like I wanted. I have been without internet access for this account in about four days. And, by the time I could have posted it, I was already in California. So, I will finish that series when I get back.

Right now, Heather and I are in California for the Exodus International Conference. Exodus is a ministry that works with homosexuals and recovering homosexuals. They do amazing work - and this is their national conference. We got invited to come and have an exhibit table for Defender, as well as lead a break out session. In our opinion, you don't tell Exodus no. So, we are here. You can check that more about Exodus at www.exodus.to. Well, I wanted to blog about the expereiences here, and unfortunately, was not able to get on the world wide webs to do so. However, I don't want to skip the first few installments just to catch up. So, I am going to fill in from each point. You can read each of these to catch up.

We go up at 3am (yup) to get to the airport to catch our flight to Atlanta. What kind of idiot books a flight leaving at 6am? Me, I suppose. Anyway, we stumbled through all the security stuff. Take off my shoes? Grrrrr. So, I get all the way through the Disney lines, the belt of mystery and reached the Arch of Shame. Here I am standing with my little white socks, walking through what could pass for a doorway in Star Trek: The Next Generation. The lady with the magic wand is in front of me doing the typical security, "Come on through." I pause - causing a ton of people to worry. The lady looks oddly familiar. I look at her name tag. "Susan Staples" That is correct, my friends. It is my sister. Well, she's my half-sister from my dad's first marriage. I haven't seen her in sixteen years. "Sue?!?" She looks at me and realizes, "DAVID? MY BROTHER!?!" Looked like one of those Oprah moments. "This is my brother I haven't seen in years." I introduce Heather and have to hustle off to get my bags. She had another guard bring me her phone number in Jacksonville. I didn't even know she lived there.

What a bizarre opening to the trip. But, what made it even more unusual is that my sister Sue is gay. She has been gay for about thirty years. My half-brother George is gay also. I have been around this lifestyle my entire life. And seeing her again was a good reminder to pray for her and to remember why we are here across the country.

We get to Atlanta and decide, you know, this next four and a half hour trip is going to be really cramped and long. So we look into upgrading. (Don't judge me.) We decided it was worth it. (Don't judge me) Well, the people next to us on the plane were perfectly delightful people. They were nice and funny - both wore crosses. In fact, they were going to a conference in San Diego. Heather was sure it was the same one. I was sure she was nuts. "There are tons of conferences in San Diego." Well, as we were leaving the housing office, there they were. Huh. That's weird. Turns out they are a lovely couple and we are having a great time with them.

Travel is never just easy breezy and fun. We landed in San Diego - which is the most awesome weather on earth. We waited for 30 minutes for our luggage. And then we had to ride to Hertz to wait for 35 minutes for it. I don't care how nice the weather is, waiting on a sidewalk for 35 minutes is not fun. Finally, we got our Hyundai Entourage and began the drive to Irvine. Traffic is INSANE. In Florida, traffic slows down during traffic jams. In California, they go faster. And we didn't see a Speed Limit sign for over thirty miles. My guess was that the limit was 100, since that was what it felt like everyone was going. It actually was 65.

At this point we were starving, since our stomachs thought it was 3:30. We saw a place off the interstate, but passed it and tried to get off. So we're driving through the ridiculous hills of San Diego trying to find this place. A couple times I was wishing I had finished my will before I left. The hills are so tall with no visibility. I'm used to land so flat you can see Miami from Orlando. We got back to the freeway (miraculously) and decided to drive to less crazy areas to find something else. We found a lovely Italian Bistro for lunch. I had a chicken pesto panini - seasoned chicken breast, pesto, roasted red peppers, buffalo mozzarella cheese, and huge ripe fresh tomato slices. Heather had a rigatoni with braised eggplant, buffalo mozzarella, and fresh sauce. It was joined by fresh hot rolls with balsamic vinegar and fresh marinara sauce. The balsamic was the most incredible we had ever had. California was starting off good and tasty - and dangerous.

Jun 22, 2007

FerreTV: Idols Dancers and Athletes

One of the biggest challenges for me as a blogger, and one reason I will probably never ascend to much more than a site read by more than a couple dozen people, is a lack of time. I always feel bad writing on here. I feel like if I have time to plop my lard butt down in front of my Apple and write about the evils of Billy Donovan and who is the better singer on American Idol, then I certainly should be using it in a more constructive manner. (This is the same reason I have not posted my Oceans Thirteen review.) So, I will go through these long periods of no posts, which I am sure frustrates the few people who actually wander on to this site.

That being said, I have had this series of posts on television that I have been wanting to post for a while now, but just have not been able to force myself to do. Part of that was the aforementioned time issue. The other problem is that I am not sure how much you fair readers care about television. But, I honestly don't know how much you care about anything else I have written, so I am going to go ahead and start this thing and see what happens.

The other day I was watching So You Think You Can Dance (or SYTYCD, as reflected on their new line of clothing). Well, this is the third year of this show. And I admit I am hooked. I don't know squat about dancing. My idea of dancing is leaning up against the railing around the dance floor and making fun of everyone else. When I try to dance, I look like a lumbering bear with a pulled hamstring. But I like the show. It is NOT because there is great dancing going on - there is, or so I assume. I wouldn't recognize good dancing from bad dancing. Honestly, some of what is raved about on the show looks like somebody got a couple bees stuck in their oversized sweatshirt and hot pants. The other day, there were TWO routines where dancers imitated birds. (Huh?!?) When my son runs around squawking and flailing his arms around I yell, "STOP THAT! PEOPLE ARE GOING TO THINK THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU!" I certainly don't go, "So, you think you can dance? Well watch this lumbering bear impersonation with jazz hands."

Anyway, I watch because of the drama - same as what drew me to American Idol. I remember reading a sports writer (I think it was Kornheiser) who wrote a few years back that American Idol was the new sports in America. You have favorites and villains. There are matchups that favor some competitors over others. You have judges and announcers and corporate sponsors. Well, I tend to agree with him. That is what makes these shows so entertaining. There is a sports element to it. When Sanjaya and Haley were scorching their way through AI this past year, I was screaming in agony at the television worse than when Duke was a powerhouse. When Melinda got knocked out, it was like watching the Dallas Mavericks get ousted in the first round this past NBA season.

SYTYCD is very similar. I have favorites (Pasha & Jessi, Hok, Dominic & Sabra) and un-favorites (Cedric, Shauna). I was horrified when bird couple Pasha/Jessi ended up in the bottom three. When Cedric made it through, I shook my head. It was like sports. Possibly this transfer has happened because sports has lost some of their attraction to me - and to many people. AI pulls in over 25 million people a week. The NBA Finals pulled in 6.5 million for the fourth game. Sports has become something that no one can relate to. Honestly, unless you are a genetic freak who is tutored and trained from an early age, you aren't going to play sports. It isn't like it used to be, where you could have a dream to make it into the big leagues. If you are still hoping for that, sorry to pop your bubble. That combined with free agency and the big business element of sports, and you have something that people enjoy, but are not as vested in.

Here's an example. When I was growing up, here was how I viewed sports.
NFL: My favorite was Dallas, period. I hated the 49ers, Dolphins, Steelers, Redskins. My dad like Chicago. My brother like the Redskins (of course). My mom like Denver (because of Elway).
NBA: I liked the Hawks. I hated the Celtics and Lakers. My dad loved the Celtics and hated the Lakers. My brother loved the Lakers and hated the Celtics.
COLLEGE: I loved the Georgia Bulldogs, hated Notre Dame, UF and UM. My dad liked UM and hated UF. My brother loved USC.
MLB: I loved the Yankees and hated the Red Sox and Braves. No one else cared.
NHL: I was not aware this was a sport.

Everyone had favorite teams and favorite players - FROM THOSE TEAMS. I cheered for Tony Dorsett and Herschel Walker (the perfect match of UGA and Dallas - until he got traded). I loved Dominique Wilkins. I hated Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, Roger Craig, Dan Marino, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, every UM quarterback. There was no cross-pollinating.

Well, then came Michael Jordan. Herschel got traded for 243 people, which helped Dallas win Super Bowls. The Hawks traded 'Nique and he ended up on the Celtics. I realized people like Montana and Marino had personalities. Charles Haley - of the 49ers - signed with the Cowboys. And that Rat Fish-Turd Shaq left the Magic for the Lakers. The whole thing got muddled. Now, I cheer for players more than teams. You can't get committed to a player through your favorite team because they won't stay there.

Now, my view of the sports landscape is this:
NFL: I like the Bucs and Jaguars - but hate Dallas due to their personnel decisions and approach to business. I also hate the Dolphins, 49ers, Broncos, and Patriots. When the Steelers won their title, I was happy for them.
NBA: I like the Magic, but also like good stories - like Golden State this year. I cheered for Michael Jordan. I hate Kobe, so I hate the Lakers. I still hate the Celtics, but they are so pathetic I can't beat up on them too bad. I like the Spurs' approach to basketball.
COLLEGE: I still love UGA. I love UCF. I follow USF and wish them well - except against UCF. I loathe UF beyond belief. I went through loving FSU and now hating them due to their thuggery. I can't stand Notre Dame, UM, BYU, and Duke. I also cheer for any team that is an underdog (unless I hate them) and any team that can wreck havoc with the Top 25, the BCS, or the Tournament. I cheer for any team who can advance UGA or UCF with a win.
MLB: I love the Yankees. I hate the Red Sox and Braves. I like the Giants - and have loved Barry Bonds. The overwhelming circumstantial allegations against him have started to turn me. I wish his knees would explode so we could stop hearing the stupid home run record argument. I don't like A-Rod, but I admire him and he's a Yankee so I have to cheer for him. I am starting to hate the A's, Angels, and Diamondbacks.
NHL: I was glad Tampa won a title. Does that count?

So, the sports scene is so crazy, I have turned to rooting on singers and dancers. I find myself more committed to catching those shows than sports - even playoffs. I watched part of 3 of the NBA Finals games. I turned off LeBron's 48 point masterpiece in the 3rd Quarter. I missed two entire rounds of the NFL playoffs this year. I also missed three rounds of the NCAA Tournament this year. I did not watch the UF National Championship game - either football or basketball. I quite frankly did not care. I watch no baseball until the playoffs. I watch a handful of Magic games, and try to watch the NFL on Sunday. But I DVR American Idol and SYTYCD and make sure I watch them. I even bought the complete AI collection CD this year - 76 songs (more on that in part 2). These shows hold as much interest for me - and for America.

Why? Because THESE are regular people. Phil is a Navy guy with a wife and kids from Jacksonville. His dad is a pastor. He's bald and looks like a cross between a vampire and Gollum. Chris Sligh is a worship leader who went to school with one of the administrative assistants at First Baptist Oviedo. Jessi on SYTYCD is from Florida, and works in an office and hates her job. We can relate to these people. We all sing. We all dance around. We all hate our jobs and want to see something amazing happen. That is what attracts people to these shows. Unfortunately, that is also where they are in some real danger - which I will get into in the second part of this series.

Jun 7, 2007

Update on the Enemy

I write that heart-rending post, pouring out all the anguish that I, as a Magic fan, feels. And then, when I wake up, the Orlando Slantinel - source of all things cheery and sweet - reports that the Magic have agreed to let Billy the Jerk out of his contract, and somehow we still managed to get Ron Jeremy to coach the team. So I wasn't so sad. But I still hope that Eddie Munster and the Gators get run out of town frequently.

Some other updates - if you are wanting to see any of my movie reviews, go visit my Rotten Tomatoes site. There is a link to the site on this page over to the right. I have reviewed Spiderman 3, Blades of Glory, Pirates 3, Stranger than Fiction and should be adding Oceans Thirteen this weekend. So far, the movie season is as record-breaking as I predicted.

We are planning on going to the Space Shuttle Atlantis launch tomorrow evening. It is amazing that I have lived in Orlando for nearly a decade and have never been to a launch. My son is a HUGE space fan (HUGE understatement). We have been promising him we'll go. So we are going to Space View Park to watch the launch from across the river. If I get any good pics, I'll post them here or on my MySpace or something.

Jun 6, 2007

My New Enemy

I have a new enemy, and his name is Billy Donovan. Now, I never was a big Donovan fan in the first place. First of all, he was a pupil of Rick Pitino - who I think is a total wanker. Second, he coaches Florida. And, anyone who knows me knows how I feel about the Gators. Third, he is a really good coach who has assured that cocky and arrogant Gator fans always have both football and basketball to crow about. Stinking Billy.

So, when he was looking at the Orlando Magic job, I was thrilled because it was going to totally stick it to the University of Florida. Their basketball program would have been decimated - losing their top seven scorers AND their coach. Plus, since I am not an idiot, I was thrilled that the Magic was actually going to get such an amazing coach. I tried to think back to when the Magic had a good coach. Hmmmm. Well, there was.... Uh..... Matt Goukas? Phll Daly, but he had no players to coach. That pretty much sums it up. The Magic coaching job has been one joker after another.

Well, that is a good description for being a Magic fan. I never wanted to like the Magic. When I went to college, I was not a basketball fan at all. I loved Michael Jordan and enjoyed him beating the tar out of people. The only team I liked was the Atlanta Hawks - since they were broadcast on TBS Superstation 17 when I was young. I like 'Nique. But I never really was a fan of any team. Then I got to Orlando, and the team was just so darn likeable. And they had these young guys - Shaq and Penny. And I got sucked in. Then they went to the Finals, and got trounced. And I was ready for a year-in, year-out pursuit of that weird trophy.

Then June 1996 happened. I was out at Disney MGM Studios with some of my friends. The Olympic teams were going to go through the park, and we went to see the whole process. Our Shaq was one of those stars. Sure, there had been a bunch of morons in the city who said Shaq wasn't worth the money. And some rumblings had happened that he may bolt for the movies of L.A. But I was sure it would work out. And when his car drove by, with him waving and saying, "Love you Orlando!" Well, we were sure it was all okay.

THAT SAME FREAKING DAY we heard the news that he was about to sign with the Lakers. It ripped your heart out. We lost Shaq - and didn't even get anything for him! How do you lose Shaq? Then Penny lost his dang mind. And then the Magic fell apart for good. Coups in the locker room. Dumb trades. We thought there was some light when we hit free agency back in 2000. We had enough to get Tim Duncan. He bailed on us, but still, we got Grant Hill and some guy named Tracy McGrady who was related to Vince Carter. Then Hill's foot fell off. T-Mac tried to carry the team by himself and then his heart fell out (which conveniently found on the way to Houston).

It has been miserable to be a Magic fan. You don't want to buy a jersey because you are afraid that the player will abandon you. We always seem to get nice guys - but they just get hurt and never play right. Then we luck out and win the draft lottery again and get Dwight Howard. What a freak that guy is (in a good way). Hope reigned. We got some players who are not horrible - and then we bring back Brian Hill as coach. I hoped it would make up for the way he got canned last time. Last year the team started off HOT HOT HOT. It had the best record in the NBA for one day at 20-4. Then the team collapsed. I had gotten tickets for four games for Christmas, and was disgusted by the horrible play.

But hope springs eternal. And somehow, we managed to talk Billy Donovan to come in and teach our team of "not bad players," along with one superhuman one. Sure, I would ordinarily trash Donovan for his abandoning UF just weeks after swearing he wasn't leaving. But I was willing to overlook that. Last Friday it was official, and the little guy came down here. He was all smiles. We were all smiles. Tickets were selling. Players were happy.


Stinking Billy Donovan. So we are stuck now as he tries to break his contract. Florida will obviously welcome him back and probably win the championship in three years. We tried to get Stan Van Gundy, whose main qualification is that he looks like adult movie star Ron Jeremy. But the Miami Heat decided to demand draft picks for him, while they didn't care if he went to Sacramento. So he is going over there. And where are the Magic now?

The look stupid. The local press - who for some unexplainable reason hate the Magic - have launched into full attack mode. How can you blame Orlando? They did everything they could. It was Donovan's lack of commitment, lack of heart, lack of a spine. It was his unbelievable wussiness. So we have no coach, and the prospects floating around now are ridiculous. All the good candidates are gone. We have nobody, no first round draft picks, lots of money to sign free agents - and nothing that would make anyone want to come. So, the hope I had is gone. We'll probably end up signing Chauncey Billups to some massively overblown contract (even though he hasn't done anything in three years), maybe add some other half-heart. Vince Carter will toy with us and then sign with the Lakers. And we'll end up with somebody like PJ Carlesimo as our coach. It's so frustrating I want to give up.

But, man, that Dwight Howard is good....