Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: July 2006

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Church and Moralizing

Allow me to take a quick break from my Disney vacation entries to quickly comment on an article I just read concerning the words of a Minnesota pastor.

Apparently, Greg Boyd, pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, MN has lost over 1000 church members for firmly letting his congregation know that his sermons are not going to be political in nature, nor are they, or the church, going to rally behind moralizing issues. Boyd has gone on record saying that the church should "give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming America as a 'Christian nation', and stop glorifying American military campaigns." Basically, Boyd is saying that the Church has no business dealing with issues of politics and needs to stay clear of aligning the church and it's purpose with that of American issues.

I agree, in part, with his comments. It does seem that we have confused the cross, and the point of Christ's ministry, with a set of morality rules. It is an interesting parallel that I sometimes get told how great of a job I am doing in youth ministry because the students behave so well during church. What? Are my church members judging my ministry and it's purpose on how well the teenagers sit in a church service? Or are they judging it on how aware they are of their relationship with God, and if they are glorifying Him with their lives. The Bible is not a morality book folks. True, we find through it's message a path we should take and paths we should not. But the message is all about Christ, His blood which saves us, and our worship of Him with our lives.

Boyd says that he was sitting in a "megachurch" during the 4th of July service and at the end of the service, a video was played of American fighter jets flying over the cross. He said “I thought to myself, ‘What just happened? Fighter jets mixed up with the cross?’” Interesting to think about.

Back to Universal Studios. We just ordered room service. See you tomorrow.

Disney Vacation Entry #4

Yesterday, Friday July 28th, we spent all day at the Magic Kingdom. It was great, and my favorite day at the parks. There is just something that sets apart Magic Kingdom from all other parks. Maybe it is because you have to park away from the park and ride to the Magic Kingdom. Maybe it is because the tradition the park brings with it. Maybe it is because of the classic rides. Whatever the case, I could just sit in the middle of Magic Kingdom all day and do nothing and be happy.

We started the day off with a ride on the newly refurbished Pirates of the Caribbean. I was not very happy at all about the recent addition of Jack Sparrow to the ride. However, apart from the ending of the ride, the additions really did not change much of the ride. My favorite parts of the ride, "we want the red head" and "here kitty kitty kitty" were still the same. There is actually a very neat new effect at the beginning of the ride with a visit from Davey Jones. This is still one of the best in Magic Kingdom.

I was very happy to get a visit from Andi and her best friend Yvette. It is always a terrible thing to be away from Andi for any reason, and at Disney I keep seeing things that spark a "hey, Andi and I would love that" reaction. She has been in Orlando visiting Yvette while I have been with Rex, so yesterday we hooked up for a little while. We rode my favorite ride at Disney, The Haunted Mansion, and it was Andi's first time on the ride, which was a neat thing for me. Apparently, her friend Yvette got a real charge out of mine and Rex's detailed and thorough reviews of every ride in Orlando, and I think maybe she is wondering what Andi sees in me. It is not every person who has a spiritual moment before entering the doors of the Haunted Mansion. We all had a good time together, and Rex wasted no time, about 1 hour, before unleashing what could only be described as a risque comment on the Tomorrowland Transport after a bird's eye view of Chip and Dale. I'm sure this just solidified Yvette's opinion of me, my brother, and family in general. Oh well.

Today, we are back at our home away from home, the Royal Pacific at Universal Studios. We have already hit Islands of Adventure today and will be at the park until 10:00 pm. We have plenty of d-nuts and M-Dew on board, so things are looking good.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Disney Vacation Entry #3

Tonight was a great night. Rex and I enjoyed the "magic hours" at Epcot, which is where guests who stay at the Disney Resorts can stay inside the park 3 hours later than everyone else. It is really a completely different experience after the sun goes down, and in The Beast's opinion, it is a much better experience. I love the lights, the feel and the laid back nature of the park at night. We were able to hit the rides we didn't get to earlier in the week and also enjoyed the inspiring Illuminations fireworks finale.

Earlier this morning we were at the front gates of Animal Kingdom before the park opened, a major accomplishment for me, a guy who can sleep till 2 pm everyday easy. After two more rides on Everest, 2 more rides on Dinosaur and a ride on Kali River Rapids, we headed toward the Lodge, a nap and then the pool.

Tomorrow, we hit my favorite park, Magic Kingdom. We plan on pretty much spending all day and night there, hitting the classics such as Haunted Mansion (The Beast's favorite), Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, Snow White, and Splash Mountain. We are getting up super early, so I better get some sleep.

By the way, last night we ate at a restaurant that probably ranks in my top 5 enjoyable meal experiences of my life. It was called "The Boma" and it was an African style buffet. Sounds kind of gross, I know, but my goodness it was good. We are heading there tomorrow for their breakfast buffet.

By the way, Spaceship Earth is still the best ride at Epcot.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Expedition Everest Review

Rex and I have been waiting for months to finally get the chance to ride the new Disney roller coaster, Expedition Everest. Below is my review of the ride. **warning: there are some mild spoilers to the ride in my review.**

Before I get into the actual review, the reader needs to understand my Paw Rating for amusement and theme park rides. The number of "paws" is not limited to just one aspect of a ride. It is not just the speed, the thrill, the type of ride, etc, that gives a particular ride it's rating. It is the overall enjoyment of the ride for what it is. The overall themeing, how well it delivers based on the kind of ride it is, etc, is what delivers the paw rating.

Here are some example Beast Paw ratings that I have given in the past:

Ride: Spiderman
Park: Universal Studios Islands of Adventure
Paw Rating: 4 Paws

Ride: The Beast
Park: King's Island
Paw Rating: 4 Paws

Ride: Jaws
Park: Universal Studios
Paw Rating: 3 Paws

Ride: Kali River Rapids
Park: Disney's Animal Kingdom
Paw Rating: 1 Paw

Anyway, the themed area of "Asia" in Animal Kingdom is impressive. It is clear that the Imagineers have done their homework here. The detail is overwhelming, and if it wasn't for the steaming 93 degree weather, you would think that you were right in Nepal. As Rex would say "its a steamer."

The queue for Expedition Everest is also impressive. Photos and details of past expeditions, along with plenty of warnings to respect the legend of the Yeti are plastered throughout the line. Those of you who follow The Beast's Lair know that I follow the real expeditions on Everest in March, so this was right up my alley. The line moved steadily and it wasn't long before we were getting into the train.

From that point, the ride takes a little jaunt before climbing the incline which takes you through a neat little building where a tribute to the Yeti is looming over you. From there, the ride goes downhill, both literally and figuratively. There is basically one well done part, where your train does a backward thrust that takes you through total darkness, and it really gets your stomach. But other than that, the Yeti is never really seen until the very end, where you kind of ask yourself, "did we just past the Yeti?" There are just not enough "twists" in the ride. For all the detail the Imagineers put into the queue and the area, the ride itself comes up simple and short.

Theme park enthusiasts have been asking the question, which is better, Everest or The Mummy at Universal. For my taste, The Mummy delivers more in the way of developing the theme in the ride, unexpected turns and downright thrill. Expedition Everest is a fun ride to be sure, but not what it could or should be.

The Beast Paw Rating: 2 1/2 Paws.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Disney Vacation Entry #1

The time has come for The Beast and Rexwilder to enjoy our annual vacation to Orlando, FL. Typically, we spend our time at Universal Studios. This year, however, we have decided to spend the week at Disney and explore all that the Disney parks have to offer.

I am currently sitting in our Animal Kingdom Lodge room on the 5th floor, where literally 50 feet from me are giraffes, zebras, gazelles, and impalas. We can watch them from our balcony, which is really pretty awesome. The resort is the nicest I have been in I think (except maybe for the Portofino Bay Resort at Universal).

Yesterday, Rex and I headed over to Disney/MGM Studios where we were able to ride the Tower of Terror and Star Tours and eat at the Sci Fi Theater. (see picture above) Right after those things, a big time thunderstorm came in and absolutely drenched us. (see picture of Rex below) So, we decided to head back to the room, change clothes, and wait out the storm.

We then made our way to Animal Kingdom, where we were anxious to ride Expedition Everest, the new Disney roller coaster that has a Himalayan theme where you come face to face with the Yeti. I will make a separate post about my review of the ride.
We were also able to ride Dinosaur, primeval Whirl, view the Lion King Festival and Tough TO Be A Bug. Dinosaur is I think perhaps the most underrated ride in Orlando. This bad boy is flat out scary, especially the last 20 seconds, where Disney beautifully combines total darkness with quick bursts of light and your mind and your eyesight work together to create an atmosphere of fear.

So basically, we are off to a great start. I will try to make an entry every night of that days activities. Until then, don't forget, it all started with a mouse.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Beast is moving.

Just a quick word to let everyone know I will be moving to Louisville, KY the first week of August to finish my Master of Divinity degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I have stepped down from my position as associate pastor at Grace Baptist Church, which has been an emotionally draining experience. After 4 years at Grace, a very strong relationship has been developed and although I hate to leave, this is a call that is definite and I am excited to take the next step in my ministry and career. Your prayers during my transition are appreciated.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Eli Roth and Hostel

Eli Roth is a writer and director who has brought us the two horror films Cabin Fever and the recent Hostel, presented by Quintin Tarantino. Cabin Fever was a major disappointment and I have yet to see Hostel. However, some interesting debate has been brewing concerning the latter film and Roth has made a quote that I am dumbfounded by.

Here is the deal. Hostel is a movie that has a clearly heterosexual guy who is friends with a guy who is apparently struggling with his sexuality. Throughout the film, the word "fag" and "faggot" are used, as I read from one fan, 5876 times. The seemingly exaggerated use of the word has brought some heat and some questions raised to Roth, who wrote and directed the film. Supporters are saying that the terms tie into the plot and the very nature of the film itself deals with the struggle these two guys are having and the homophobic nature of the heterosexual. Others are saying that it has nothing to do with the plot, and even if it did, that it is just simply overkill.

When I read Roth's response to these questions, in two parts, I was confused to say the least.

Quote #1 (these are not verbatim) "The term "fag" is no longer used as a derogatory word toward homosexuals, but used by teenagers to mean anything that is weak, stupid or needs strength."

Ok, so from that quote, which is just simply not true, Roth is making the point, whether he realizes it or not, that the word does not play a developmental role in the film. If he thought it did, he wouldn't justify it's use as a being a word that doesn't mean what it used to. He would instead explain how the word was important in the development of the characters, their tension with one another, and the overall plot outline.

Quote #2 "What I don't get is how people who watch a man's face being burned off and blood flowing like a river can raise so much fuss over this one word."

Oh my goodness. Here is a quote from a man who sadly doesn't understand his own film. Horror fans, and I mean true horror fans (if you have seen Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer and think you are a horror fan, think again) will be floored by this quote. George Romero, Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, and the list goes on, would never say such a thing. There is good horror and bad horror. Just because a film has a bunch of blood, torture and violence does not make it good. In fact, it can make it terrible. The proper use of gore is sometimes essential to tell a story, and those who have a talent for it can stun us with visually disturbing pictures that are needed to connect with the plot and understanding of the message. I can list movies that are successful largely due to their gore and movies that are terrible largely due to their gore. So, to think that Roth views horror fans as being hypocritical for being disgusted by the needless use of a derogatory word because they appreciate properly used gore demonstrates a real shallow understanding of not only the genre, but also the fans.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Pastor Scott talks about the SBC

Click below and head on over to the Burr in the Burgh to read Pastor Scott's take on the SBC resolution on alcohol. It is well written and clearly presents his view. Most importantly, he does it without belittling the Convention or those of us who abstain from alcohol altogether.

Although Pastor Scott and I differ a little on our take on alcohol, we pretty much arrive at the same conclusion concerning the resolution. Make sure you read my comments on his post. I was going to go into detail here, but pretty much said what I was going to say there, so just go check it out.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Dollywood Announces "Mystery Mine"

This was brought to my attention by my sister and after doing some research, I am pretty much completely pumped up about the current direction of Dollywood. First, a little history. . .

I have always been a Dollywood supporter. I remember going to "Silver Dollar City" back in the day and riding my favorite ride at the time, "The Flooded Mine." My heart still hurts when I take the time to reflect on how they gutted the Flooded Mine for a new Log Flume themed ride. For those who don't remember, The Flooded Mine was a dark ride on water with great atmosphere and a terrific ending. I really miss that ride.

However, everything changed for the better when my sister, Melissa (or Missy, my name for her since I was born), dragged me onto "The Blazing Fury" assuring me that "there are no drops on this ride." Well, there were drops, three in fact, and the last one was a pretty big one, at least when you are 7 years old. Nevertheless, I fell in love with the ride and both Dollywood and The Blazing Fury have forever been etched into my being as classics that are unbeatable.

Recently, D-Wood has really stepped up into the big leagues with their "Thunderhead" wooden rollercoaster. This bad boy rivals any wooden coaster out there and it is simply a blast. Then, I read about this. . .

The Mystery Mine. Heck yeah. I want to think that D-Wood engineers remember the beauty and power of the original "Flooded Mine" and wanted to bring a "mine" theme back in a big way. Whatever the case, this looks like the real deal. A dark, eerie mine with a haunted past that sends riders on 95 degree drops, 2 vertical lifts, heartline rolls and inversions. Over 17 million D-Wood is spending on this ride, making it the largest expansion project in the parks history.

As you already know, I am super pumped about riding Expedition Everest in a few short days. WORD! Rex and I leave on the 24th for our Orlando run. I am excited about Everest. But I have an even deeper satisfaction for the guys over at the small little D-Wood park that are making some serious noise.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Halloween and Rob Zombie

The press release has been issued, Rob Zombie, musician and filmmaker, will be writing and directing a new Halloween film, the 9th in the franchise. The film is being called a "re-imaging" by Rob, meaning that it is a pre-quel of sorts and a remake tied in one. Since John Carpenter's original 1978 Halloween film is by far The Beast's favorite film of all time, I have been getting asked my thoughts on the upcoming Zombie interpretation.

First of all, I like Rob Zombie. I was a fan of his original White Zombie album that was released in 1992 and have followed his music ever since. I also have enjoyed both of his films, House of 1000 corpses and The Devil's Rejects. The former, I believe, was the superior film, but they both had something offer.

So, as he enters the world of Halloween, I am optimistic. However, the standard has gone way up. He is entering dangerous ground now. Even long time Rob Zombie fans like myself who are also hardcore Halloween (John Carpenter) fans will see any attempt to "remake" Halloween as a major threat and hostility will begin to rise fairly quickly. I have already read on the Halloween message boards the fans of Zombie who just wished he would have never agreed to the project.

Zombie says he wants to put away the current direction of the Halloween sequels and begin with a fresh start. Apparently, he is going to take a closer look at the problematic beginnings of Michael Myers, before he murdered his sister Judith on Halloween night. Now, I have nothing against the concept. The last two Halloween films have been failures. I am a fan of parts 4 and 5, but even they fall tremendously short of the original. (just for the record, I like Halloween 3, which has nothing to do with Michael Myers. The film gets a bad rap. Dan O'Herlihy plays one of the most sinister villains of all time, and delivers one of the greatest horror movie lines of all time in the process.)

I did read tonight that Zombie was quoted as saying he was not going to touch one frame of Carpenters classic. That is good news. I am hoping this film will be similar to the Ultimates in the Marvel comics universe. Everyone knows they are not the original deal and the writers don't try to copy the original. Just the opposite. They take a classic superhero and give them a new beginning. Those have worked very well for Marvel and have started a new generation of comic fans, while not doing away with the veterans who enjoy the classics. I think the same thing can happen here, just so long as Zombie minds his p's and q's.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Beast reviews: Superman Returns

I'm a Christopher Reeves fan. Anyone who knows me will tell you that it is very difficult for me to accept or enjoy a film with a new actor who assumes the role or identity of a character who I love or has special meaning to me, especially in the horror genre. Therefore, I went into Superman Returns with very low expectations.

After the first 5 minutes of the film, I was already excited and thrilled that the film makers had not abandoned all that made the previous films so great. The title sequence at the beginning was reminiscent of the previous films and was thumping the classic John Williams Superman theme. A major plus in my book and things started off on a good note.

From that point on, the film just worked for me. I enjoyed Brandon Routh's portrayal as Superman. And contrary to most reviews of his performance, I thought he did a terrific job of blending the Reeve's Superman and his own Superman. What I was most pleased with is that he did not try too hard to completely re-invent the character. He was pretty laid back, soft spoken and willing to let the character of Superman speak for himself. He gave us enough Reeve's to let us pump our fists with old school, but was clearly a 21st century guy.

The plot itself was simple, but engaging. There are, in fact, some interesting comparisons to the Superman story and the Christian story. One of Andi's friends had mentioned the similarities to her, so I was interested to see them myself. At one point in the film, Lois Lane writes a story entitled "why the world doesn't need Superman." She goes on to tell him that she wrote the story because "the world doesn't need a savior." In one of the better scenes, he flies Lois above the city and asks her what she can hear. She replies that she can't hear anything. He tells her that he can hear everything, and they are crying for a savior. The truth is that whether we realize it or not, whether we want to pay attention to what is out there or turn a deaf ear, the world needs a Savior. We can write all the papers we want on "why the world doesn't need Christ." It won't change the fact that we do.

Finally, in what made the film an ending success with me was the last frame. In the classic Christopher Reeves films, at the end of the movie he would be flying high above the earth, kind of just looking things over. He would then give a little nod like things were ok for now and glance at the camera and smile, just before flying out of the frame and the credits roll. Superman Returns ends the exact same way, and Routh pulls it off beautifully. You can't beat that my friends.

The Beast Paw Rating: 3 out of 4 Paws.