Thursday, November 30, 2006

88 posts for the month of November 2006

I think that might be a record high. The election stuff definitely was the bulk of the articles posted here. I'm probably going to be "indexing" them for convenience sometime in the next week or so.

Ron Price appears in court: Round 1

The latest news from the ongoing scandal of elected school board candidate/admitted misdemeanor larceny offender Ron Price.

At 9 a.m. this morning Price showed up for his first court appearance in district court in Wentworth, stemming from his stealing the seven campaign signs from incumbent U.S. House candidate Brad Milller on the night before the election a few weeks ago. Based on reports I've received, not a whole lot happened. Price just had his attorney recognized by the court. He's next due to appear in court on January 25th: presumably then he'll have to answer to the charges.

So this doesn't change the fact that Price is probably going to be sworn in on December 11th... but without this thing having a quick resolution, it's going to be hanging around his neck like the proverbial dead albatross. And everyone is going to know it. He may legally have a seat, but Price definitely won't have the prestige and confidence from others that the rest of the candidates who were just elected will be enjoying. He's going to be a pariah and I really don't know if he's going to be able to make up for it. He should have pressed for a quick end to this thing. Instead it'll be hovering over his head every time he enters the school board meeting room.

As always, I'll post more on this story as it might develop. But with the next court date being January 25th it may be awhile...

SUPERMAN RETURNS: "Back to Krypton" concept art

I got the Superman Returns 2-disc Special Edition DVD on Tuesday afternoon. I absolutely love it: it's a great movie with an excellent transfer to DVD (although as I stated in my review of the movie back in July, Lex Luthor's plot in this movie is still the dumbest criminal plot of all time) and the extra features make this disc set well worth the price over the standard release. I especially liked all the deleted scenes - about fifteen minutes worth - that were included.

But I was very disappointed to find that the much-discussed "Return to Krypton" scene wasn't one of them. As you know if you've seen the film (and if you haven't seen it then you really really should 'cuz it's an awesome movie) Superman returns to Earth after being gone for five years while investigating what astronomers told him were the remains of his birth-world Krypton. Well, the scene where Superman arrived at what's left of Krypton was produced, but it didn't make the final cut of the movie. Hopefully we'll be able to see it someday in a director's cut or something.

But if you are aching to know what Superman's visit to the site of Krypton looks like, Ben Procter - one of the concept artists on Superman Returns - has posted some of the artwork for the "return to Krypton" sequence on his website. I wish more than ever that this scene had made it into the movie, 'cuz this would have truly been a staggering thing to behold on the big screen... and especially in an IMAX theater. Check this scene out of Superman's crystal ship arriving at the scene...

And look at this one. It sorta reminds me of the shattered Kilrathi homeworld you see at the beginning of Wing Commander: Prophecy...

There's plenty more where these came from, including a Quicktime video of some test footage with the ruins.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Review of STAR WARS: DARTH BANE: PATH OF DESTRUCTION


Darth Bane speaks with the voice of Clancy Brown. That's what I kept hearing in my head as I read Darth Bane: Path of Destruction by Drew Karpyshyn, the latest Star Wars novel. If George Lucas ever spends an episode or two of the upcoming Star Wars TV show delving into the ancient history of the saga, he absolutely must hire Clancy Brown to play Darth Bane... provided that he can get Brown to shave his head 'course. I just had to say that before I did anything else in this review because if you know the kind of characters that Clancy Brown has played (Kurgan in Highlander, Brother Justin on Carnivale, Kelvin on Lost, voicing Lex Luthor on Justice League just to name a few) that will totally have you "getting" the kind of character that Darth Bane is.

In the movie Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace as we are "introduced for the first time" to the Sith, we are also told that there can be only two Sith at any one time: a master and an apprentice. Only if you had read the movie's novelization did you gain some more back-story on the Sith: it turned out that a thousand years ago the Sith were legion in number. But because of their own internecine struggles for power and the efforts of the Jedi and Republic, the Sith were almost completely wiped out... except for one. This last Sith realized the faults of the previous regime and re-created the cult so that ever afterward it would only persist in two individuals: one to hold the power and the other to lust after it.

The Sith Lord who re-established the order, according to the Episode I novel, called himself Darth Bane. It was Bane who first forged the ongoing chain of master-and-apprentice that would stretch across the millennium until it culminated in the one who would finally bring to fruition the revenge of the Sith: Darth Sidious.

We know how the Sith reign ultimately ended. And in the past few years we've had a few glimpses of Darth Bane's history (mostly through the Dark Horse comics). In Darth Bane: Path of Destruction we at last get the full story of how the Sith we've come to know and hate began in earnest, starting with the Sith Lord who's visual depictions have run anywhere from the powerful to the ridiculous (I'll never, ever forget that "cabbage head" thing from the very first released picture of Bane).

Darth Bane: Path of Destruction takes place one thousand years before the time of Emperor Palpatine: an era when the Sith were not two in number but thousands, if not millions. At this point in Star Wars history the Sith exist as perhaps a few hundred Force-users who owe their allegiance to the Dark Side, and who command a vast army of soldiers. The Sith are engaged in a galaxy-wide war for domination against the Republic and the Jedi that serve it. It's a conflict that is sapping countless star systems of both natural resources and young people who are being actively courted for recruitment by both sides.

Amid this chaos we find Dessel, a young miner of cortosis (a mineral so resilient it can stop even a lightsaber blade) on the desolate world of Apatros. Dessel has known nothing but misery and suffering all his life: first from a violent and abusive father and then the never-ending toil of working the cortosis mines. But rather than be broken by his situation, Dessel turns his loathing and rage inward, making them something he draws strength from. His afflictions harden his spirit just as the rough work and terrible conditions in the mines build him into an imposing physical figure.

After being temporarily relieved of duty in the mines following a savage fight with another worker, Dessel finds himself in a high-stakes game of Sabacc (a high-tech card came in the Star Wars universe that is something of a combination of blackjack and poker) with several Republic naval officers. Aided by his yet-discovered Force ability, Dessel wins the full pot... and finds himself ambushed by the bitter Republic personnel on his way back to the barracks. Dessel slays one in self-defense, but he knows the circumstance makes no difference: he's still looking at a stretch of hard labor in prison. Knowing that Dessel has nothing but contempt for the Republic – which is thought of as distant and indifferent toward the plight of those like the miners of Apatros – an acquaintance tells Dessel that if he wants to escape both prosecution and life on Apatros, he can be smuggled off-world and sent to join the Sith. Dessel sees that he has nothing to lose, and agrees.

A year later, Dessel is commanding a troop of Sith soldiers in a campaign against the Republic. When he commits mutiny by attacking and countermanding the orders of his superior – and displays more of his nascent talents with the Force – Dessel attracts the attention of the Dark Lords of the Sith order. Recognizing the enormous untapped potential in the young soldier, the Lords take Dessel to Korriban: the ancient homeworld of the Sith and location of the order's most high-level academy. His masters offer Dessel the opportunity to train under them and finally learn to use the Force to the maximum of his abilities. Dessel accepts, and casting off his old identity as a miner and soldier he chooses a new name, one taken from his father, who had often referred to Dessel as "the bane of my existence". And so, Bane of the Sith is born.

Bane soon throws himself more into his training than any other student at the academy. He is not only an apt pupil of the Sith masters, he spends much time in the academy's archive: studying ancient records and texts spanning the entire history of the Sith. Over time, Bane comes to realize that the Sith order that he is part of has strayed from the path of the true Sith. During the rest of the story – which involves rivalry with other students, an inter-cult battle for supremacy, and the galactic-wide war between the Jedi and the Sith – we watch as Bane searches not only for the heart of the Sith philosophy, but for his own identity and what he must be if he is truly to be dedicated to the Dark Side of the Force. By the end of the story, we can definitely see the Sith that we saw represented by Sidious, Maul and Vader come into being as Bane – who has at this point taken the long-proscribed title of "Darth" as his own – institutes the Rule of Two, having cleansed the corrupted "Sith order" and found his own apprentice.

Darth Bane: Path of Destruction reminds me an awful lot about the movie Conan the Barbarian. The central theme of that movie was the philosophy of Nietzsche: "That which does not kill me will only make me stronger". That certainly describes Dessel/Bane and the experiences that shape him from being a lowly blunt and vulgar miner into not only a formidable warrior but a leader with far-sighted wisdom. Throughout the novel we watch as Dessel is confronted with conflict, and is often beaten down and broken from it: sometimes viciously so. But from each defeat Bane comes back stronger, harder, more cunning... and more dedicated to the Dark Side. He takes the road less traveled from his fellow students, who trust their masters all too much. And in the end, when there is nothing else that he can learn from the "Sith" who took him in, Bane does with them as he has done with everything else in his life that has held him down: he casts them off and grinds them into the ground, having become a force too powerful to be contained by either other people or outdated dogma.

I liked Darth Bane: Path of Destruction a lot. I mean, a whole lot! For one thing, it's a well-structured story that proceeds at a brisk pace involving a wide variety of characters and locations... exactly as a Star Wars story should be. For another, even with last year's Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader in mind, this is the first novel to come out of the Star Wars saga that deals with things, for the most part, from the Sith perspective. I liked Dark Lord a lot but that book was far more devoted to Vader's initial struggles with his new Dark Side persona (and his costume) than it was to the Sith itself. Darth Bane: Path of Destruction is the first purely Sith book that's come out so far. I'm looking forward to reading many more (especially the forthcoming novel about Darth Plagueis that James Luceno is currently writing for publication in 2008). For a first-time Star Wars novelist, Drew Karpyshyn has done a remarkable job in adding an immense amount of rich material to the saga's mythos. He also uses a lot of pre-established stuff to wonderful effect here, like the origin of the "Darth" title and using some really wicked locations like Korriban and Rakata: both of which you would know if you ever played the Knights of the Old Republic videogames. But even if you've never played the games or have no other previous knowledge of Star Wars "ancient history", you won't get lost because of a lot of obscure back-story that it would be assumed you already know: Darth Bane: Path of Destruction is a wonderful enough read that you can readily comprehend even if this is your first time delving into the centuries prior to the rise of the Empire.

I think that Darth Bane: Path of Destruction also stands solidly alongside Timothy Zahn's Outbound Flight (read my review of that book here) as a novel that "reconciles" a lot of things that have been introduced into Star Wars lore but have otherwise conflicted with each other. This is a unique period that the saga is in right now, coming immediately on the heels of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, the final Star Wars movie to be produced. There are now some established limits in place on things that in the past few decades were left to conjecture: some of it wildly so (killer green space rabbits, Bela Lugosi as the Emperor, steam-powered starships, and sentient planets are some of the more... unusual elements to be thrown into the Star Wars mix). In Outbound Flight, Zahn "retconned-out" several problems that had arisen in continuity between his earlier Star Wars novels and the prequel trilogy. In Darth Bane: Path of Destruction Karpyshyn does just as magnificent a job at using his novel to reconcile the Sith as we understand them from the movies with the earlier incarnation of the Sith that was first introduced in the Tales of the Jedi comics that Dark Horse put out in the mid-Nineties. The fact that Karpyshyn was the writer for the amazing Star Wars role-playing game Knights of the Old Republic for Xbox and PC certainly helps matters here. Darth Bane: Path of Destruction stands as something like a "Book of Acts" for the Sith: bridging the gap between the "gospels" of Exar Kun, Naga Sadow, Darth Revan and the rest of the 4,000-years earlier period from the comics and videogames to the later stories involving Sidious and Vader.

My only big complaint with Darth Bane: Path of Destruction is that, for my tastes anyway, it figures in some things that I would have rather be left out of how the Star Wars saga is evolving post-prequels. The whole thing on the planet Ruusan could have been reworked, 'cuz that's mostly there to "work in" the central plot element from the computer game Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II... and I always thought that whole "Valley of the Jedi" thing was pretty hokey to begin with. It doesn't need canonizing like this. But Darth Bane: Path of Destruction has too much else good going for it to condemn the book on this point. So I'll overlook it the way I overlook everything else I don't agree with in the saga: by reminding myself that Star Wars is more than anything else a legend, and one as protean as the rest of them.

Darth Bane: Path of Destruction was nothing but a pure delight to read. Definitely one of the most satisfying additions to the Star Wars body of literature that I've ever taken the time to take in. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone else who's a Star Wars fan, and especially to those who find themselves more than a little infatuated with the Sith and all that other wonderfully wicked Dark Side stuff.

EDIT 11:45 PM EST: Earlier I mentioned Darth Bane having a "cabbage head". Well, here is the pic: the very first look we ever got at Darth Bane...

When we first saw this back in early 2000 or so, a lot of Star Wars fans assumed that Darth Bane is not human: maybe humanoid but not full human. It turned out that he is human after all. His "cabbage head" in his pic is actually a helmet that he comes to wear during the latter part of his life.

The story is this: Darth Bane wound up on the moon of Dxun and was attacked by barnacle-like parasitic creatures called orbalisks. The orbalisks attached themselves to Bane's body. In the end, Bane let the orbalisks keep sucking on his body's life energy while he used the orbalisks as very tough built-in body armor: a really sick symbiotic relationship. The helmet he's wearing keeps the orbalisks from spreading to where they cover his face and head (click on the pic at the left to see Darth Bane in his full orbalisk-covered glory).

The PREACHER is coming to HBO

Geez, am I conflicted about this one.

The Washington Post is reporting that HBO is now going to be making a television series based on DC's Vertigo comic Preacher (actually as dark as Preacher was it's probably better to call it a "graphic novel").

Preacher was never something that I really "got", but I read a few issues and I generally thought that the tone of the series was pretty unique and arresting. I thought its use of the old west motif was especially clever. It's just that a lot of how it tackled issues pertaining to the Christian faith didn't really appeal to me. Like, I really can't believe that God would just up and walk away from His creation simply because something went screwy with it (namely an angel and a demon copulating and having a child). Preacher's idea of Christianity never reflected my own at all... but if anyone else can read and enjoy the series without it negatively affecting their faith, I've no problem with that.

It's just that if HBO is going to make a series based on Preacher, why couldn't they have let Carnivale continue? No doubt a lot of people are going to be asking that in the days and weeks to come, given how much alike Preacher and Carnivale are to each other. I thought that show had an incredibly deep mythology that was never allowed to come into its own like it should have. It also had - and still has - a loyal following of fans that are hoping that HBO might yet let the story continue somehow (according to the show's producers, there are still two "books" of two seasons each that Carnivale had left to it, that would have brought the story to 1945). I'll check out Preacher when it premieres and decide from there whether to invest any more time watching it... but it just seems like the sensible thing that HBO should have done if they wanted to do something in this vein was just fund a third season of Carnivale and then have seen how things went from there.

Or if HBO really wants to impress on the comic book front, they should somehow snag the rights and produce a twelve-part adaptation of Watchmen: that's the ONLY way that story is ever going to be told on the screen and have it done justice.

ROCKY BALBOA has a good right cross?

Very interesting story - as in this is an angle I never considered coming from the franchise - about Rocky Balboa on Citizenlink.org. In "The Gym of the Soul", Sylvester Stallone discusses how this final installment in the Rocky series is very much a Christian film that reflects the spirituality he's returned to in recent years after spending most of his career flirting with what Stallone acknowledges were worldly lustings. Here's an excerpt:
He first explained that he felt compelled to write the first film, and he believes that drive came from above. He said the character of Rocky was meant to reflect the characteristic nature of Jesus.

"It's like he was being chosen, Jesus was over him, and he was going to be the fella that would live through the example of Christ," Stallone said. "He's very, very forgiving. There's no bitterness in him. He always turns the other cheek. And it's like his whole life was about service."

But, Stallone confessed, his own life didn't follow the humble example of the boxer who made him a Hollywood star.

"I was raised in a Catholic home, a Christian home, and I went to Catholic schools and I was taught the faith and went as far as I could with it," he said. "Until one day, you know, I got out in the so-called real world and I was presented with temptation. I kinda like lost my way and made a lot of bad choices."

No joke, said all the subscribers to People magazine.

But, Stallone added, he's been going through a change in his life. He's realized that he was wrong to place his career and fame ahead of his family.

"The more I go to church," he said, "and the more I turn myself over to the process of believing in Jesus and listening to His Word and having Him guide my hand, I feel as though the pressure is off me now."

Rocky Balboa is a witnessing tool? Apparently, it's very much so. There's even a website called RockyResources.com devoted to the Christian message of the movie.

Can't wait to see this movie: it's on my real short list of flicks to see this holiday season :-)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

More weirdness from my TV station

I think it's safe to say that WGSR Star 39 is fast developing a reputation for showing anything no matter how offbeat/wacky. There was the first commercial from my school board campaign last month. And now there's this: a music video by Martinsville singing sensation Cindy Price called "Throw Away The Key"...
"This video is about the recent scandal of the Henry County (Virginia) Sheriff's Office, in which the sheriff and 12 current or former deputies were arrested for a racketeering conspiracy that included the distribution of illegal drugs, theft of drugs and firearms under the custody of the Sheriff's Office, money laundering and obstruction of justice."
Can't forget that it was WGSR that had the world premiere of The Baritones a few months ago either, can we? The longer I work at this place, the more it really is starting to feel like Channel U-62 from the movie UHF :-)

Monday, November 27, 2006

I watched HEROES... in glorious High-Def!

I've said it before: when it comes to television, I'm only slightly more liberal than the Amish. It takes a really impressive show for me to want to invest my time into watching it. The number of shows that I've actively kept up with during the course of my life could be counted with both hands.

Well, "Weird" Ed has been swearing to me that this new show Heroes on NBC is terrific. I've heard from a few other places also that it's supposed to be pretty good. So tonight I checked it out for the first time. And tonight's episode of Heroes has the honor of being the very first thing that I've watched all the way through in full beautiful high-definition since the guy came to install the HD box this afternoon (it also has a DVR build in... which Lisa has already fallen in love with :-).

And in HD, Heroes is awesome! Even in standard I'm sure it's really great too. Except... I have no idea what's supposed to be happening on this show! All I really got out of tonight is that the little Japanese guy is "unstuck" in time and space, and the cheerleader chick has Wolverine's healing powers. And somehow this one guy flew. Ummmm... guess I need to hit the ol' file torrents and download the first few episodes so I can get caught up. Anyhoo, looks like "Weird" Ed spotted another winner, 'cuz I'm prolly gonna be checking this out regular for awhile at least (and now that we have the DVR I can just record Monday Night Live to watch later :-).

THE RON-FIRE OF THE VANITIES: Price scandal reflects darker motives of the mainstream press

In all honesty, I'd thought that this election would be something I would have already put behind me. It was a great three months from the time I filed to run until the night the votes came in. I still haven't felt a moment's regret in not winning a seat: 4,648 are just too many votes to be anything but ecstatic about.

But yet here I am: still compelled to be writing, this time about things that never should have happened because of this election. Or at least in a sane world would have met with some accountability already.

Maybe that's one of the reasons why God led me to run: to chronicle not just what happens in the life of a political candidate, but to observe some of the things that are wrong in our system... like when an elected official is caught breaking the law and when a sheepish media is complicit – whether it realizes it or not – in letting him get away with it.

Quick recap for those who don't know what's going on: the night before the election Ron Price – one of my fellow school board candidates – stole signs belonging to the campaign of U.S. House incumbent Brad Miller. He picked up seven of them around Reidsville and along Highway 14 and put them in the trunk of his car. The story he told later was that the Miller signs were illegally placed, so he was taking them to the local DOT in Wentworth. What he still hasn't bothered to explain is if the Miller signs were put in the wrong place to begin with, why did he replace with signs from the Vernon Robinson campaign, which he was working on.

Well, Price was caught red-handed by Miller supporters, and started being followed in his car by someone who was reporting his movements to the Reidsville Police Department. Price later said he thought his life was in danger, so he drove to the Reidsville P.D., turned himself in and admitted to taking the Miller signs. The following night Price won a seat on the school board by coming in fifth place in the election.

Since then, a lot of people – including myself and several others who didn't win a seat in the election – have called for Ron Price to turn down his elected seat. He committed a criminal act, then tried to cover it up and play it down. It would be a terrible example of morality to be setting for the students of this county if Price is sworn in on December 11th. Price is insisting that he's going to be sworn in though: this crime that he’s committed hasn't bothered him at all. What's more, he's actually said to at least one person that what he did was okay because "I was elected".

But I'm not writing about Ron Price this time. I've already posted what I think about the Ron Price situation, and I still believe he should step aside.

This time, I'm writing about the media coverage of the Ron Price scandal.

Since almost immediately after the election, the local press has not been so much interested in the wrongfulness of Price's actions as it has been with the reaction from the other candidates. If what you know of the Ron Price situation only comes from the local "mainstream media", I could almost guarantee that you would come away with the impression that this entire thing is being driven by a handful of candidates who are resentful that they didn’t win in the election. And also that we are chomping at the bit to maneuver ourselves into a position to get Price's seat.

Oh okay, let's be succinct about it: the local media desperately wants this to be about bitter ex-candidates who are venting their frustration on Price so that they can fight tooth-and-nail for his seat.

They couldn't be more wrong. I've spoken with a lot of the candidates who didn't win, and not one of them has expressed – in any way, shape or form – a desire to be the one who gets Price's seat. They are interested in seeing the right thing being done in this though.

That's not good enough for the local media though. They are so resolute that this should be a bare-knuckle brawl over Price's seat that they’re throwing the semblance of journalistic objectivity right out the window. They are doing what they can to force this into be perceived as being nothing but a massive bout of jealousy.

It's like something out of Tom Wolfe's brilliant novel The Bonfire of the Vanities: the media is determined to cover the story that the media wants to be there. And it doesn't matter to the media that the story they insist on being there, isn't there to be found at all.

Take the News & Record, for example. I reminded reporter Gerald Witt over a week ago that it was inaccurate to describe those who did not win a seat as "losers", as he did in an article. We were "unsuccessful", certainly... but "losing" is something that happens because you are less skilled than another in a game. And public service is anything but a game.

We had what I thought was a vibrant exchange about the matter, with Witt even writing back to me and said that I had made a good point. I felt assured that he had taken it to heart. And then this gets published a few days ago in a set of reports to which Witt contributed:

Signs redux

We're two weeks removed from Election Day, but in Rockingham County there's still quite a bit of chatter about yard signs.

According to a Reidsville police report, Ron Price, Rockingham County school board member-elect, stole campaign signs belonging to Congressman Brad Miller a day before Election Day. The county's Democratic Party chairman didn't press charges that evening.

Since then, losing school board candidates have peppered the Internet with complaints about Price, including several entreaties calling for him to step down. That appears to be unlikely.

Look for this to get sorted out "Law and Order" style after Thanksgiving. The Rockingham County Sheriff's Office has delivered a summons for Price to appear in district court Nov. 30 to answer a criminal complaint filed by the wife of Richard Moore, one of the losing school board candidates. The independent newspaper publisher is arguably leading the way in blogging about Price.

Is it that hard to substitute "losing" with "unsuccessful"? I don't know if Witt was responsible for how this short blurb came out, but whoever it was, they seem pretty bent on casting this as an "us versus them" thing. If the only bit of info about the Price scandal was this one scrap of newspaper, how could you not think that this was about nothing but the sore "losers" going after the guy who won?

Well, whoever wrote it, I thought the wording in this excerpt was crass and purposefully inflammatory. To say nothing about how, to an objective mind, it harps on the "losing" candidates far more so than it does the seriousness of the actions that Price has admitted committing. Pointing out the severity of the crime is far graver than the crime itself, if you were to believe the tone of this article.

Then there's the local Media General newspapers in Rockingham County, including the Reidsville Review. Some people have told me in the past few days that it seems that Jennifer Williams of the Review was intentionally painting me as being a "religious whacko" in her story this past week about the candidates – including some of those who won seats – who are now questioning Price's credibility.

I've made no attempt to hide the fact that I try to follow Christ as best I can. I've done that throughout my campaign and it's something I try to do in my daily life. And I did cite some scripture to Miss Williams: about how I sent the letter to Price first and gave him the opportunity to respond. But he didn't do that, so it then fell to me to openly publish my letter for everyone to see.

But to the best of my recollection I don’t know if I ever said that Ron Price "sinned against" myself. He did do wrong though in stealing the signs. If he did wrong against me, it was that he deceived me with his words of being a "conservative" with "Judeo-Christian values". From this experience I've learned that I should "test the spirits" more from now on instead of taking someone's claims about that at face value... but that's still not "sinning" against me.

(And by the way, I may not have won a seat... but I do have the satisfaction of knowing that I didn't try to deceive people into believing I was anything other than the person God has made me to be. If Price has a conscience about the matter, it should bother him greatly that it took the practice of deception to get him elected in the first place.)

Again, I have to wonder about how the Media General papers are portraying those who are calling for Price to step down. I'm already down on record as having nothing to gain by pursuing this issue though. It was important to me to try to win a seat by popular election. No other way would satisfy me. I'm not interested in being appointed to fill a seat and I'm going to turn down any nomination that I might do so. If I choose to go after a school board seat again it'll come via election: either for a district seat in two years or when at-large seats open again in four.

The only one who might gain something out of this is Richard Moore, and even that is doubtful. Price is almost certain to be sworn in on December 11th. If he were to step down before then, it's my understanding that Moore would get the seat since he received the next highest number of votes. If Price leaves or is forced out after getting sworn in, it falls to the Board of Education to send a list of nominees to the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners. It would be they – not the school board or by popular election – who would vote on who fills the seat. And let's be honest: the probability that this Board of Commissioners would choose to put Richard Moore in a school board seat are galactically slim.

So... why is the local media so fixated on making the candidates who are calling for Price to step down look like they're so bitter and resentful?

I realized a long time ago that the mainstream press is not interested in simply reporting the news, and letting things fall where they may. The mainstream media is, first and foremost, a business. It thrives on covering conflict. And sometimes it thinks there's nothing wrong with going out of its way to instigate a lil' conflict to get people to pay attention to the media that much more: because that translates into more readership or viewers (i.e. more money).

But even money is not the real driving motive of the corporate-owned press in this country. The unprofessed first priority of the mainstream media is to maintain the status quo of society. Remember the Agents in The Matrix? At one point Morpheus refers to them as "the gatekeepers": also one of the more common monikers of the mainstream press. And just as the purpose of the Agents was to keep things under control within the world of the Matrix, the corporate-driven media is driven to focus the attention span of average Americans on meaningless pageantry... because that's what keeps the American people in line.

Why does major news media obsess on news like O.J. Simpson or the Jon-Benet Ramsey case? Why are we inundated with meaningless drivel about Britney Spears breaking up with her husband via text messaging? Why should we be confronted with the racial tirades of Mel Gibson or Michael Richards when they really have no impact on our daily life?

Because it's easy, that's why. It's a far less difficult thing to play to people's raw emotions than it is to actively engage them to think about the world that's really around them. Because if more people did get motivated to think on their own, they would start doing things about what's going on wrong around us. And if they started doing that... why good heavens, the journalists in the mainstream press would actually have to go out and work to cover real news stories!

Some of the so-called "third party" and independent candidates wonder why it is that the press doesn't give them the coverage afforded the Democrats and Republicans. Some believe that on some level it is a "conspiracy" of sorts between the two major parties and corporate journalism... but I've always thought that mostly it has to do with the mainstream press both being too lazy to pay attention to anything other than the status quo, and doing what it can to keep society in a "manageable" form. And also for the journalists' own selfish sake: right now a lot of reporters enjoy access and privilege that comes with being "in the know" with the right politicians. What would come of their luxury if suddenly a set of unknown variables – in the form of independent elected officials – was throw into the works? No, the mainstream press has a vested interest in wanting to keep things "they way they are", and they're not going to be inclined to tolerate changing the rules on that anytime soon.

Here's the dirty secret of modern journalism: the mainstream press does not appreciate people who are out to "rock the boat". They are far more respectful of people from whom they know what can be expected. All the freak shows that you see on the evening news about the cult of celebrity and how people are beating each other up over the latest new videogame system are there to distract you from having to think – or even knowing they're there at all – about real ideas and choices and consequences.

Why is it that the Ron Price scandal is not only being treated with kid gloves by the local media, but also that those calling attention to it are sublimely being referred to as "sore losers"?

Because the quality of journalism in America has deteriorated to the point that it's too much hard work to do serious investigation anymore, and because it's a lot easier thing – and it sells just as many newspapers – to render incredulous in the public's mind those who have only simply sought to do what's right.

I realize that in the scheme of things, this is a very small thing to be picking over. But in a lot of ways, the local media's treatment of the Ron Price scandal is symptomatic of what's wrong with most of American journalism. It's not so much interested in reality as it is enforcing pre-conceived notions and prejudices. Or to be more accurate about it: our media is too engrossed with crafting its "ideal" version of reality to be bothered with merely reporting about the "real" reality.

In all seriousness, I wonder if it's the least bit possible for the local media to comprehend that most of the people calling for Ron Price to step down are only doing so because they believe it is the right thing to do, for its own sake and not because there might be something to be gained from it (which there isn't).

Or if they can comprehend that, I have to wonder if they possess the desire to understand it at all.

Wii need cables, and lots of 'em!

Last week Nintendo launched its new gaming console, the Wii. And Nintendo played a much smarter game than Sony did with its PlayStation 3, 'cuz what money that Sony would otherwise have plowed into their fiasco of a marketing campaign, Nintendo has used in production. There may now be about a million or so Wiis on the shelves here in the states by the end of the year: if you direly want one enough, you should be able to get one (and this is one gaming system right out the gate that I would love to have!).

But alas! All is NOT well at this hour with the Wii. It seems that Nintendo vastly underestimated the demand for the component cables that are used to hook up the Wii to a high-definition TV set. What Wii component cables are out there are now going for around $150 and even more on eBay. Last week, on the day that Lisa and I bought our first HDTV, I ran out to the local Wal-Mart to get a component cable to hook up our DVD player to the set. I also tried it with the standard A/V cable and there is a HUGE improvement when using the component (which is very much like a standard RCA plug but its used to deliver separate channels for red, blue and green for output, sorta like a 3-CCD camcorder). Since the Wii doesn't have any dedicated HDTV capability, the Wii's component cable has become a must-have thing for a lot of Wii owners (if you want to see what Wii graphics look like with component cable versus standard AV look here and do the mouse-over on the graphic). A third-party component cable industry is starting to rise to fill the need, and for those Wii owners who are feeling particularly daring instructions have started appearing online on how to create your own Wii component cable.

The reason I'm posting about this is that I find it rather fascinating. I've never seen people go so crazy about new video game systems before... and now they've gone ape over a relatively inexpensive cable, of all things. I remember when the big craze was over Super Mario Bros. 3 and the original Mortal Kombat and then the Nintendo 64 (even though I never owned one) but what we've seen going on this past week or so between the PlayStation 3 and the Wii dwarfs them all.

And I have to wonder: as sophisticated as video game systems have become, with their realistic graphics and depictions of real-world situations and physics, what's going to be the next big video game fad? How much more "real" than real can a video game get? And will we always be this mad to get on the bandwagon for the latest system?

Lord only knows. But I'm going to be VERY interested to see what kind of video games there are when my children start playing them some years from now. I just hope that I haven't lost my gaming skillz by then :-)

Friday, November 24, 2006

What to be thankful for

Last year for Thanksgiving, my life-long best friend Chad wrote a really neat article about the things he was thankful for. He said then he was inspired by writers like Furman Bisher at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who make a yearly ritual of this. And yesterday Jenna Olwin posted a really nice note about Thanksgiving.

They've made me realize that I've never really done anything like this... in spite of having a LOT to be thankful for. So although this is something pretty new to me, I'm going to make an earnest attempt to pull this off.

I'm thankful for...

...my beautiful wife Lisa, who really is everything that I had hoped and dreamed and prayed for in a wife. There's not a day that goes by that I don't thank God for putting her in my life. And for all the stuff that she has to put up with me on (like ahem the recent campaign) she really is the most amazing woman I've ever met.

...my parents, who have been there and supported me throughout the years and have bestowed upon me a lot more ability and wisdom than they will probably ever know.

...my sister Anita, who never ceases to astound me. That the little sister who used to run at the sight of a tiny spider would grow up into a skilled professional who deals with gross things like internal anatomy and musculature and whatnot has been one of the most remarkable transformations I've ever witnessed.

...having some of the best friends that a guy could possibly hope for. Way too many of them to try to mention here and do them any justice.

...new friendships made this past year. Especially the one Lisa and I have struck up with Jenna Olwin... who has already become a very dear sister in the Lord to us.

...having a pretty wacky place to work in, that is anything but boring.

...having been able to run, for the first time in my life, a campaign for public office. And one so unique that it landed my photo in The New York Times, the News & Observer and the News & Record among other places.

...and I'm very thankful (and still stunned) that I received 4,648 votes in the election.

...for new opportunities that God has recently opened up, that I'm looking forward to seeing what becomes of them.

...for the people in our church, who are more inspiration for me to seek out Christ all the more than they will probably ever know.

...that I was able to make one short film and three pretty neat commercials in the past several months, in spite of some things.

...that Lisa and I got to drive down to Charleston, S.C. in May to watch Ed, one of my best friends, tie the knot with his lovely bride Olivia.

...that we got to have some pretty neat adventures away from home during this year. Sometimes in places we hadn't even intended on going to.

...that in spite of a very nasty beginning of the year, that God has brought us a lot further than we thought we would be at.

...for discovering an awesome new barbecue ribs place (Pigs R Us in Martinsville).

...that "Weird Al" Yankovic released Straight Outta Lynwood, one of his best albums ever.

...that a few months ago I was able to drive the entire length of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, after wanting to do this for 14 years.

...that I was able to read a lot of books this past year, including The Chronicles of Narnia for the first time in my life.

...for being able to say that I'm thankful to begin with.

I know, it's not a perfect list and I've no doubt left some things off. But the important thing is to just be thankful at all, right? Maybe next year I'll do it better :-)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving 2006

This was probably the least festive Thanksgiving Day that I've ever had in my entire life, but I still wound up having a pretty good day. I was at the station at 6:45 this morning: it's automated so that it runs Shepherd's Chapel on its own from 6 to 7, and then we run an hour of what we call "news reel" straight from an iMac. I made sure that was running smooth then locked up the place and drove down to the nearest convenience store to get "breakfast": a Snickers bar to go along with the Mountain Dew I brought. After news finished running at 8 I was then scheduled to run the tape of this past weekend's Reidsville Christmas Parade for about two hours. Then a live call-in "swap post". Then an informercial. Then a Thanksgiving Day parade from Detroit. Followed by the only two regular TV programs that I had to keep an eye out for commercial breaks. Then run the hour-long tape of the Layne's Brothers pharmacy show and then the Reidsville parade again. Fortunately about 1 p.m. my friend Johnny dropped by the station and he stuck around for an hour or so: it was great to have some company to break up the monotony. When I left at 3 I already had the Thanksgiving episode of The Beverly Hillbillies ready for my relief to run. And I think they've run the Reidsville parade at least twice more this evening. Anyhoo, didn't get to be at the family Thanksgiving dinner but Lisa brought me a plate home.

And right now, we're having a quiet evening still oggled by "the Behemoth" (the HDTV we bought yesterday). I'm considering driving to Greensboro in a little while so I can be at Four Seasons Town Centre when they open their doors for "Black Friday" at 1 a.m.! Maybe just to take pictures for the blog. I know: they're CRAZY to be doing that. It's materialism run amok. I used to enjoy going out the day after Thanksgiving just to watch the people and look at the new stuff in stores: it's maybe been 3 or 4 years since I've done that though.

Anyway, that was more or less Thanksgiving 2006. Next year I'm going to fry three turkeys, just to more than make up for not getting one in this year!

"Hey, why aren't you getting ready to fry some turkey??"

A few of my friends have noticed something conspicuously absent among my posts this week: namely, that I'm not writing about frying a turkey for Thanksgiving like I've done for the past few years (click here to see how last year's bird came out). Well, the sad fact of the matter is: I won't be deep-frying a turkey today, for the first Thanksgiving since I started doing it in 2002. I've got to work most of the day at the TV station so frying a bird for the family's usual dinner is out.

Plus, I really haven't had time to properly prepare a turkey. To do it right takes about two days or so of working with the bird: thawing it, doing the "water trick" to determine how much oil to use (VERY important to do this so you don't put too much oil in the pot and risk an overflow), washing the bird thoroughly. And then the biggest (and most fun I think) part of preparation: injecting the turkey full of your choice of marinade. If you want it really juicy throughout you should start injecting at least 36 hours before putting it in the fryer to give the marinade time to saturate the meat. I usually inject more marinade every 4-6 hours in the meantime... and also rub in plenty of Cajun seasoning. You could get away with prepping the bird early on Thanksgiving morning to fry around noon... but to me, this is a work of art that I'd rather not do at all than do a rush-job with it.

So no turkey this time. But I might buy at least a breast tomorrow when they're on sale and start work on it to fry maybe Sunday. But I'm still going to miss frying one on Thanksgiving Day this year. Between the satisfying blast of Cajun-scented steam that rises out of the pot after you put it in, and the fun that comes with picking the right music to have playing while I work, and the sheer rush of adrenaline that comes with performing one of the most dangerous forms of cooking known to man... there's a lot to regret missing this time. But I'm sure that I'll at least make up for it come Christmas :-)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

"Farewell My Lovely"... and Hello the Behemoth!

I want you to take a good long look at this...

This Zenith television set was the one that Lisa had in her apartment when she was a grad student at the University of Georgia. In other words, from the very beginning of our dating relationship, this TV set has been there. On weekends when I drove to Athens from Asheville to visit her (which was practically every weekend) we almost always went to Hollywood Video and rented a movie, or I would bring one from my collection. Just off the top of my head, I can remember us watching M*A*S*H, Lady and the Tramp, A Clockwork Orange, The Wizard of Oz (that was the weekend in January 2002 when I wound up buying Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and we rented Oz just to see if that "alternative soundtrack" thing works... which it really does!), Tron, bunch of others. The one I'll always remember is the weekend we rented Deliverance, not long after we'd done this rafting trip: Lisa hasn't said anything about doing another raft/canoe trip since.

After we got married, Lisa brought this TV set from Georgia to our new home in North Carolina. It's been a faithful fixture in our living room ever since. We've watched more DVDs on it than we care to remember. It's had a Gamecube and an Xbox hooked up to it. A few weeks ago Lisa watched me live on TV during the televised school board candidates forum on this set. It started out with a set of bunny ears that barely picked up reception at times, to having digital cable service.

To say that this TV set has seen us through a lot in the past six years would be an understatement.

Well, this isn't "goodbye" at all, because we've decided to move this set into a spare bedroom and it'll no doubt see more use for some years to come. But for awhile now it's been messing-up when showing a lot of red on the screen, and the upper-right of the screen has this permanent "dirty" look that is really obvious when it's an overwhelmingly white image. The only movies that I've been able to watch on it for the past year or so without any noticable loss of quality has been the Matrix flicks: guess 'cuz those are either very green or very blue hued.

Long story short: as trusty as this TV set has been to us, Lisa and I decided a while back - and we felt we deserved treating ourselves to something after all the stuff we've gone through lately - that it was time for an "upgrade".

I've spent the better part of the past five days immersing myself in as much material about high-definition television as I can find. Until this past Sunday I'd never even heard or cared to know about "HDMI". Neither had a lot of things having to do with choosing between a plasma screen and an LCD set entered my mind until this week. There's probably two-dozen sites dealing with HDTV that I've bookmarked in my Mozilla browser in the last few days. Phone calls were made. Friends consulted. And in the end, Lisa and I headed off toward Greensboro early this afternoon to do some comparison shopping... and possibly even come home with a new HDTV set.

We visited Circuit City and Best Buy (we've also done a little bit of looking at the local Wal-Mart Supercenter). From the beginning we'd thought of getting, at most, a 32-inch set. Well, after seeing some sets we liked and comparing some things and steadily whittling down the candidates, we found one that we really liked a lot. So we pulled out the checkbook and bought the thing...

...and it wouldn't fit into my car! We'd driven my Corolla to Greensboro 'cuz it's been really cold and rainy today and it heats up better (I think anyway) than Lisa's Oldsmobile Cutlass. Well anyhoo, we tried but there was no way to get the thing in. We drove to my parents' house to see if we could borrow Dad's truck: but he's got this huge toolbox in the bed of it that would leave absolutely no room for an HDTV box. We headed back home, got Lisa's car, and made a return trip back to Greensboro to make another attempt at transporting it. This time we were able to squeeze it into the back seat... after removing it from the box (which was broken down and stowed in the trunk).

It was about 6:30 when we got home this evening. I watched a little bit of TV on the old set of the live news (and tonight's edition of Political Soup) coming from the station I work at. Then I unplugged everything from the wall and the TV and the digital cable box and the Xbox and the Gamecube and the DVD players (yes, plural: one of them doubles as Lisa's karaoke machine), had a heaping big mess of cables and such in the floor, and then commenced to figuring out how to set up this thing.

An hour and a half later after beginning the operation, with the new set sitting on the TV stand, I pulled the protective foam wrap off of the HDTV. I think Lisa and I both gasped at how big the thing was. And in that moment of awe, I gave it a name...

Behold: the Behemoth!

Thirty-seven inch LCD screen high-definition television set, manufactured by Sylvania. With HDMI and more input/output plugs than I've ever seen on a single appliance in my entire life. Incredible picture. Awesome sound. "Larger than life" would describe it pretty well: I swear, Robert on Everybody Loves Raymond looked twelve feet tall when we first tried out the thing. The picture I took does it no justice: that's a scene from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on standard HBO, and in real life it looks terrific enough. We're due to get the HDTV hookup from the cable company on Monday, and I can't wait to see how that's supposed to be even better.

This thing absolutely dominates the living room. You can be standing on the far side of the kitchen and see everything with stunning clarity. It's like that "Weird Al" Yankovic song "Frank's 2000 Inch TV" come to life.

All things considered: I think Lisa and I may have made a wise investment with this HDTV set. Something I told her this afternoon when we'd stopped for pizza at Pie Works (we'd already bought it but this was after our first failed attempt to bring it home): this is going to be the TV set that our children grow up watching. Ain't that cool??

Well anyway, that was our big adventure today. And now I'm going to go see if I can use the component cables that I bought a short while ago to hook up our DVD player to it and give that a quick whirl: can't wait to see how The Fellowship of the Ring looks :-)

EDIT 12:32 AM EST 11-23-2006: The last time I saw The Fellowship of the Ring this good, it was almost five years ago in the theaters. I also put my DVD containing The Baritones and Forcery in and other than some artifacting with Forcery (which may be relative to the bitrate it was encoded at to squeeze onto the DVD) they look pretty darned good too. It's definitely the biggest screen that I've ever seen my own movies on :-)

Dad in his knife shop

About 3:30 this afternoon Lisa and I went to my parents' house. Dad was out in his knife shop. I walked inside and found Dad in the following pose amidst all his tools and just so happened to have my digital camera with me...

Here's some of the stuff he's been working on lately...

Update on "The funniest graphic I've ever made"

Just over a year ago, I posted here about a graphic that I had made. And I said that this was "hilarious". I even went so far as to say that this was the funniest graphic that I'd ever produced. Unfortunately I also said that I couldn't publish it then, because if I did "it would - not 'might' but 'would' - cause a helluva lot of confusion that I would be scrambling to clarify". In closing out the post I said that I would probably release it for everyone to see "sometime in 2006".

Well, I just wanted everyone to know that I haven't forgotten about this. The graphic is still safely tucked away, waiting to be used... and I soooo want to use this!! Unfortunately things beyond my control made it so it couldn't happen in 2006 after all.

But given how well things have been going lately on this end, 2007 is starting to look very promising.

Lord willing, this next year is going to be just full of surprises that I'm working on to share with you all. Pray that one very wonderful one especially gets to happen. And then, the laughter will commence... :-)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tom Cruise has 66% of my face

First it was Jenna Olwin who did it. Then Darth Larry ran the thing on himself. Lisa did hers too but she hasn't posted it to her blog yet. So I thought that I might as well try out the MyHeritage facial recognition gimmick that figures out who you most look like. I used the photo we took of me wearing my "I is a school board candidate" shirt on election night.

And, here's what it spat out...


So Tom Cruise and me share 66% of our facial characteristics. I also somewhat resemble Oded Fehr (the guy who played Ardeth Bey in the recent Mummy movies), Michael Jordon, Jeb Bush... and Alanis Morisette?! Well, you should see who it said Lisa looked like... but she'll kill me if I spill it here!

I was darn positive this was going to tell me that I looked like Ralph Fiennes, William H. Macy and Steve Buscemi because plenty of people over the years have told me that I look like those guys, especially Fiennes. The site encourages you to try other photos, so who knows who else I might resemble.

EDIT 12:12 AM 11-22-2006: I did it again, this time with the photo we took for my campaign's newspaper ad. Some surprising results this time...

So now I look like two well-known race car drivers (Jeff Gordon and Alex Yoong), a Playboy supermodel (Rachel Hunter), a legendary tough-guy actor (James Coburn), the guy from Hostel (Jay Hernandez), the Rev. Billy Graham, all-time football great Joe Montana, and Captain Jean-Luc Picard/Professor Xavier himself Patrick Stewart. Still no Ralph Fiennes. That's one weird assortment of characters to resemble though...

PlayStation 3: People are either really desperate...


...or really dumb.

Check out this auction on eBay:

Playstation 3 System Lots of INFO!!! CHEAP GOING FAST!!

System Spec:

· 60 GB Playstation 3
· CPU – Cell Broadband Engine
· GPU – RSX
· Memory – 256 MB XDR Main Ram, 256 MB GDDR3 VRAM
· Hard drive – 2.5” Serial ATA (60 GB)
· Input/Output – Four USB 2.0 ports
· Memory Stick/SD/Compact Flash
· Communication – Ethernetm, Bluetooth 2.0, Built-in IEEE 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi
· Controller – Wireless Bluetooth (up to seven)
· Resolution – 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p
· AV output – AV multi-out, Digital optical, HDMI
· Disc drive – Blue-Ray/DVD/CD player
· Sound – Dolby Digital 5.1 (games), Dolby TrueHD (Blu-ray movies)
· Bundled with the hit movie, "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" in Blu-ray (Sony may change it)

Sensational Controller:

New gamers intuitively move the controller while playing, even though that movement has traditionally had no relation to what's going on in the game. Sony has picked up on this tendency and is using it to bring a new level of control into the PS3. Inside the controller is a high-precision six-axis sensing system that accurately detects fine movements in pitch, roll, and yaw, as well as three dimensions of movement, to control games. This means that future PS3 games will be controlled by the movements of your hands rather than just your thumbs. For example, you might be able to steer a car by holding the controller like a steering wheel.

This is only for information to buy a ps3, you will not actually receive a ps3 from winning/buying this auction, all you will recieve is information on where to obtain a $400.00 PS3.

In other words: you are not bidding $400 for an actual PlayStation 3. You are bidding on the secret information that this guy will give you once payment is secured on how to obtain a PlayStation 3... for another $400.

And if anyone considers this to be a wise investment, I have some beautiful ocean-front property in Wyoming to sell.

"I can't hear ya!"

One of the all-time funniest clips from Sesame Street:
There was also a "sequel" to this where Bert finds Ernie, again with a banana in his ear. Bert asks why Ernie has the banana in his ear and Ernie replies "To keep the alligators away". Bert says that there are no alligators on Sesame Street. Ernie doesn't miss a beat: "You see, it's working!"

Petition is afoot and state statutes: The latest from the Ron Price fiasco

There is now a petition being circulated throughout Rockingham County (note: file is in Acrobat format) calling for the removal of Ron Price from the school board.

And Penny Owens, one of the unsuccessful candidates for school board, has found what is apparently the North Carolina statute calling for removal of a school board member on grounds of immoral conduct:

§ 115C‑39. Removal of board members; suspension of duties by State Board. (a) In case the State Board of Education has sufficient evidence that any member of a local board of education is not capable of discharging, or is not discharging, the duties of his office as required by law, or is guilty of immoral or disreputable conduct, the State Board of Education shall notify the chairman of such board of education, unless such chairman is the offending member, in which case all other members of such board shall be notified. Upon receipt of such notice there shall be a meeting of said board of education for the purpose of investigating the charges, and if the charges are found to be true, such board shall declare the office vacant: Provided, that the offending member shall be given proper notice of the hearing and that record of the findings of the other members shall be recorded in the minutes of such board of education. (b) In the event the State Board of Education has appointed an interim superintendent under G.S. 115C‑105.39 and the State Board determines that the local board of education has failed to cooperate with the interim superintendent, the State Board shall have the authority to suspend any of the powers and duties of the local board and to act on its behalf under G.S. 115C‑105.39. (1955, c. 1372, art. 5, s. 13; 1981, c. 423, s. 1; 1995 (Reg. Sess., 1996), c. 716, s. 5.)
Click here for more info.

Not long ago someone suggested to me that maybe we are making too much of this, because - and this is something I was entirely unaware of for the past few weeks - many of the signs that Ron Price was picking up were in close proximity to the Teamsters hall on Highway 14. And that if he did have malicious intent in mind, that Price should have known it would be insanity to attempt to sabotage a Democrat candidate's campaign in sight of the Teamsters (who were without any exception that I know of pulling hard for all the Democrat candidates).

Here's my thing about that though, and Ron Price is far from the only one I would level this charge at: all the same, Price did put the priorities of furthering his political party over principle (i.e. doing the right thing and having DOT take care of the problem). And I have extremely little patience and tolerance - maybe even none at all - when it comes to people who think of their party first and being considerate toward others second.

Maybe that's just incumbent to the political independent in me, and maybe this isn't how things work in "the real world"...

...But nonetheless: There is right, there is wrong, and it isn't that hard to tell the difference between the two.

Monday, November 20, 2006

HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX teaser hits online!

Do you realize that a few days ago was the fifth anniversary of Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone coming out in theaters? That's five years of Harry Potter movies we've had so far. And I'm really looking forward to the next one. Click here for the Quicktime trailer of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Five years ago today: "The Proposal Stunt"

It was at 3 p.m. on November 20th, 2001 that I did this... thing. Readers of TheForce.net went to the site that afternoon to check out the latest news on the Star Wars Episode II front. Instead they got a cryptic headline at the very top of the page titled "Lisa McBrayer, Please Click Here" with the sub-heading "Your boyfriend has something he'd like to say to you ...". When they clicked on it, there was a passage of scripture from 1st Corinthians, followed by something of a "poem" from Yours Truly. And then below that, this graphic:

Here's the link to the original article, although the image itself went missing when TheForce.net site got upgraded a few years ago. But the text is still there if you want to check it out.

The thing that still amazes me about it is how fast Lisa said "yes": I was down on one knee by the point she read that on the screen (and I was wearing the same outfit as in the pic) and she said "yes" less than a second after I asked her.

There was much more to it than what everyone else saw that day though. When she came into my apartment I had candles lit all over the place, and I sat her down on my sofa and read to her the part from Ephesians about husband and wives serving the Lord together. Then I removed her boots and socks and washed her feet with a basin of water I had hidden under the chair nearby. It was while drying her off that I told her that "I've got something to tell you, but I'm not good at making speeches so you'll have to read this..."

This thing had been six months in the works, since like May of that year. The original plan was for me to do it in either a Jedi costume or a set of Stormtrooper armor (thus being her "Knight in shining armor") but I couldn't secure either for it. In the end, it was just plain ol' me proudly wearing a sweatshirt from my college, with a lightsaber and the engagement ring. Then we went out to celebrate, meeting my sister at the Cracker Barrel in Asheville for dinner. After that we got back to the apartment and soon headed off for the three-hour drive to my parents' house to spend Thanksgiving together. This was the same day that the soundtrack for The Fellowship of the Ring came out, and I'd bought two copies (including one for her) about 8 that morning at Wal-Mart but I saved listening to it until Lisa and I could do it together. We put it in the car's CD player just as we were hitting I-40 heading east.

It was one of those days where you can't help but remember every tiny detail, but I won't bother sharing all of them. It's just that I can't believe it's been five years already. Some people thought I was crazy to do it like this. But I wound up doing it for two reasons: one, to make it extra-special and memorable for both Lisa and me... to make it something neat to tell our children and grand-children someday. And second, a reason that definitely wasn't in mind when I first conceived it: this was coming just two months after 9/11. It was a time when we all needed something to laugh at and cheer us up and affirm that in spite of the worst of tragedies, we still have to go on... because in the end, that's how we really win. Someone even sent me a nice e-mail in the days following the proposal and said this was a really uplifting thing that I'd done. If just one other person out there got a laugh and some hope out of it, then it was well worth doing.

Anyway, that was five years ago today, and for me it really is something worth commemorating on this blog. It was definitely, bar-none, one of the bigger stunts that I've done so far in my life...

...but the biggest is yet to come.

It's waiting, boys and girls: sitting on my hard drive for the right moment to be set loose. It's coming to this blog, and perhaps sooner rather than later.

Be afraid :-)

(BTW, special thanks to a lot of good people who in whatever way helped make that day five years ago that much more fun, especially Chad, "Weird" Ed, Josh, Deborah, Maggi and Helen, and "lowbridge"!)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

2006 Reidsville Christmas Parade

Last night at about 6:30, the 2006 Reidsville Christmas Parade - the first-ever night-time Christmas parade in the city's history - kicked off. The parade organized in the Pennrose Mall/Turner Drive part of town and progressed down Scales Street toward the downtown area. And Lisa and I were there to watch it all. Actually since it was WGSR Star 39 - the TV station that I work at - who was in charge of the parade this year, I've been able to watch everything behind the scenes about it for the past few months now. I spent a few hours yesterday afternoon helping with getting floats situated in the staging area. And I could have taken part in the parade... but I chose instead to watch it with Lisa.

Okay well, on with the pics!

This first pic is of Ken Echols, co-host of WGSR's popular Monday Night Live. Ken should not be confused with his neer-do-well brother Fred Echols who is sometimes heard on the radio...

Here's Lisa. Now I wish that I'd gotten her to take my pic too while we were there. Since it was cold and some headgear was called for, I wore my fedora to the event.

Ken Echols and Mark Childrey - the hosts of Monday Night Live - perched atop the scaffolding from which they were doing live TV commentary about the parade. The WGSR crew was up 'til 5 a.m. Saturday morning, then got a few hours sleep and was soon back at it later Saturday morning getting everything ready to televise the parade live. I've never seen a city street covered with so much cable. Anyway, Ken and Mark were in fine form as usual last night.

Looking down the street toward the direction the parade would come in from.

The man who put it all together: WGSR Star 39 General Manager Charles Roark. Charles had been working for months getting this parade together. He was running one of the cameras down on the street last night.

It was sometime after 7 when the parade reached the downtown area, headed up by a police cruiser followed by these JROTC cadets.

Calvin and Lisa Phelps, the Grand Marshals of the 2006 Reidsville Christmas Parade. It was Calvin Phelps who bought and re-opened the Chinqua-Penn Plantation... something that a lot of people around here thought would never happen again.

Local singing sensation Cindy Price. That car looked hot! Cindy doesn't look too bad herself :-)

The Reidsville Senior High School Marching Band. Conspicuously absent was the Rockingham County Senior High band: believe it or not the administration of RCSH (my alma-mater) wouldn't let their band perform in the parade this year... because they believed it wouldn't be safe for the kids to be out that late at night! I'm not going to comment any further on how ridiculous a thing it was to keep the RCSH band out. But the RSH band played well.

A pack of Cub Scouts.

The Rockingham Theater's float. After the parade the Rockingham Theater (which is located just across the street from where were were standing) had a free showing of It's A Wonderful Life. We didn't go watch it though. Sometime I need to check out the Rockingham Theater again: the first and only time I've ever been in there was when Alien 3 came out in 1992. Maybe if/when my next movie is finished we can premiere it there :-)

Layne's Brothers Pharmacy had their entire flotilla of delivery vehicles scattered across the length of the parade. Alright all together now: "What time is it? IT'S TIME FOR A LAYNE CHANGE!" The brothers never fail to deliver that pun every time they're in the studio doing their show :-)

This next photo requires some explaining to those not from around here. This is part of the Williams-Trull entry. Williams-Trull is a business in Reidsville that sells tractor parts and lawn mowers. This sign - the one saying "MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE FAMOUS SIGN" - has been outside their location for a long time. Well, earlier this year the City of Reidsville started fining them a ton for having an "illegal" sign. It caused quite an uproar, especially when other businesses started getting fine notices in the mail too. Oddly enough, I inadvertently got pulled into the mess when The Baritones premiered and a lot of people noticed that the City of Reidsville had, per their own rules, placed an illegal sign at the Farmer's Market! Well anyway, I think it got resolved somehow but the folks at Williams-Trull couldn't resist making everyone laugh at the city for how it acted during this whole thing.

More of the Williams-Trull float.

Play Paint, a local paintball company. Its marchers were all wielding paintguns and doing fancy moves with them. I was reminded of the "Legitimate Businessman's Association" marchers with Fat Tony and the other Springfield mobsters in the parade from that episode of The Simpsons a few years back.

WGHP Fox 8's Brad Jones, talking to WGSR's Jessica Robinson.

Knutson Landscaping received First Place in the competition for best float. Among other things their float featured a mechanized reindeer pulling Santa out of a chimney.

I forget which dance troupe this is. But you see Charles in there with the camera? My pictures do it no justice: Charles was really boogying with the dancers last night!

The First Congregational Christian Church float.

I forget who had this float. It was really pretty though.

These guys were kewl! It was a group of skateboarders that marched in the parade. They stopped in front of the dignitaries and TV cameras and did some pretty amazing skateboard stunts. A few of them came close to wiping out and eating pavement... but all the same they amazed everyone watching with their tricks.

Cheryl's Dance Center, another dance troupe.

The Wentworth PTA float. I think they earned Third Place in the floats competition.

Ahhhh you knew these guys had to be in there somewhere: its them wacky Shriners! Some years they've come marching in playing band instruments and swinging swords. A few times they've driven carts. This year... they were on mini-motorcycles! They were definitely quite a crowd-pleaser.

More of the Shriners in action.

The Care Kids entry with a mounted group on horseback following close behind.

The High Sheriff of Rockingham County, Sam Page. He's looking pretty sharp on horseback with that Santa hat perched atop his cowboy hat.

Remember a few weeks ago when my photo appeared in The New York Times? Well, I'd been asked to be part of this float but I respectfully declined: I really did want to spend the parade watching it with Lisa instead. But the other two local school board candidates feature in the article - Richard Moore and Eric Smith - came in costumes from their respective commercials on the Neely Chronicle/Political Soup "Big Bad Political Car". The "motif" of this float was "Chosen NY Times Favorite School Board Candidates Who Don't Steal".

And here's another shot of Richard Moore as the "Big Bad Political Car" drove past.

And finally, the grand finale of the parade: Santa and Mrs. Claus! This was the big float that WGSR was sponsoring and I hadn't seen it until the actual parade last night, but I gotta say that's one of the fanciest floats I've seen in this town.

Here's a close-up of the Clauses.

And with that, the 2006 Reidsville Christmas Parade drew to a close. Mark Childrey echoed a sentiment shared by many there last night when he said that this was probably the best Christmas parade that Reidsville had ever put on. It was definitely the most unique in that it was at night, and there were some people wondering how this was going to work out... but when all was said and done, this parade was a rousing success!

Special thanks go out to Charles Roark, Matt Smith, Lori Martin, Debbie Moore, Jimmy DePalma, Jessica Robinson, Mark Childrey, Ken Echols, Tyler Richardson, Bobby Martin, Brandon Lantern, and everyone else who worked behind the scenes to pull it off.

And very special thanks to a lot of good people who I got to meet last night who told me that they'd voted for me :-)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

School board election: 4,648 is the new 4,584!

According to a story just up at the Reidsvile Review, with the canvass of votes for Rockingham County now in, it looks like I picked up some votes. For the past week and a half I've been proud of the 4,584 votes that was the "final tally" on election night. Well, after the canvass, it turns out that I got 4,648 votes.

Thank goodness I didn't go ahead with getting 4,584 tattooed on my chest like I've been threatening to do... :-)

Just got back from the 2006 Reidsville Christmas Parade

This was by every possible stretch the best Christmas parade that Reidsville has ever put on... or at least the best one that I've ever seen. For the first time in history the parade this year was at night! I'll be uploading pics from it hopefully by sometime tomorrow.