Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Star Wars: Special Edition arrived 10 years ago today

It was ten years ago today, on January 31st 1997, that the cinematic re-issue of Episode IV: A New Hope kicked off the arrival of Star Wars: Special Edition in theaters.

To say that this was a big thing when it came would be a severe understatement. I don't think even we die-hard Star Wars fans were expecting what happened starting that day in the winter of 1997. It was truly a wonderful time whether you were an old-timer fan or a newcomer to the series (and there were more than you might have thought). The Special Editions were such a huge event that I felt it was worth commemorating here.

George Lucas first said in 1994 that he was considering re-releasing the first Star Wars movie with "upgraded special effects". It wasn't long afterward that word came that before he started working in earnest on the prequels, that he was going to give this "enhanced" treatment to all three of the original movies for a theatrical re-release in time for the Star Wars 20th anniversary.

The hype for what would become known as the Special Editions started to crank up in the spring of 1996. This in itself would be important to note because I can't help but think that how word on the Special Editions came out really did become the model for how info about movies gets dispersed across the Internet. First came a series of pilfered photos from the upgraded version of A New Hope showing the newly CGI-enhanced dewbacks (those lizard things that the Stormtroopers rode on) and it wasn't long afterward that the public got a look at the computer-animated Jabba the Hutt, for a scene that was cut from the original release of the first movie. Then a list of some of the forthcoming changes got leaked. I think the one that really whetted the appetites of a lot of die-hard fans was the news that the final scenes from the re-issue of Return of the Jedi would show celebrations all over the place, including on the galactic capital planet Coruscant: a place that had been written about but never shown in a Star Wars movie. Every time something new came out it was all good.

It went on like this throughout the summer and then fall of 1997...

...and then it got out that among the changes that Lucas was implementing was making Greedo shoot first.

Then all Hell broke loose.

There's no way I could describe the furor this caused and do it any justice. And it absolutely has to be mentioned in the context of talking about the coming of the Special Editions. A lot of fans said Lucas had no right to change his own story like this. Some started leveling the charge that Lucas was "raping our childhood". My take on it? If Lucas was doing all of these other things to enhance and make better his legend, I didn't have any problem with it. Having Greedo shoot first actually made a lot of sense to me: it didn't make Han out to be such a cold-blooded killer. Although how Greedo could have shot and missed from that close-by is still something I struggle with cognitive dissonance about.

January 1997 arrived and the public hype machine went full-tilt wacko. Pepsi led the way with its gonzo promotional product tie-ins: something that everyone got to see in a big way with this commercial that ran during Super Bowl XXXI...

Finally, five days later, the Special Edition of A New Hope came out. I was spending a few days with my parents after the end of winter term at Elon so that Friday morning I drove back to campus, picked up my friends "Weird" Ed and Gary, and we went to the Carmike 18 in Greensboro. There was a pretty long line waiting to go in when we got there (but nobody in costume: that's something that in these parts wasn't "cool" to do for a Star Wars premiere... at least not yet). Finally they opened the doors and we got our tickets and found our seats and showtime came...

...and we had to sit through at least fifteen minutes of trailers for upcoming movies! It might have been closer to twenty. There were so many trailers that by the time a new one started up most of the people in the audience were groaning "NOOOOO!!" (as one guy screamed out "We've waited twenty years for this!").

Well, at last, there was that 20th Century Fox intro. Then the "new" Lucasfilm logo: the fancy one that turns into gold or bronze or whatever (instead of the plain static blue "old" logo that was regular text). Then the "A long time ago..."

When that honkin' big yellow Star Wars logo filled the screen I went pure nuts. Ed and Gary had to hold me down. Lord help me, I was in tears...

We watched the movie, and were "oohing" and "ahhing" every "new" little thing that we could spot. One funny thing that happened was the scene where Luke is playing with the model of his T-16 Skyhopper: as soon as he did that someone's arm stood up out of the audience... holding the real-life toy of the T-16 and started playing with it along with Luke!

We had a great time watching A New Hope Special Edition. I saw that one four more times in the theaters while it was out. Three weeks after A New Hope's re-release came the Special Edition of The Empire Strikes Back, and then three weeks after that (it was originally going to be two) it was Return of the Jedi's turn. So for a month or so after that, all three of the original Star Wars movies were playing in theaters simultaneously, with some theaters running all three. Counting all three movies, I saw the Special Editions fifteen times during their theatrical run, most of those times with people I knew.

Well, there's not much else I know to add to what's already been said except that I naturally went a little nuts for the merchandising, like the soundtracks for all three Special Editions and more action figures 'course. My favorite piece of Star Wars memorabilia that I bought during that time is still the Darth Vader cap that I bought at the Air and Space Museum in Washington while we were there for a winter term class a few weeks before the Special Editions debuted.

It was an amazing time to be a Star Wars fan: one that I don't know if the release of the prequels even approximated. Maybe in another ten years or so, for the 40th anniversary, and after there's been plenty enough time since a Star Wars movie was shown in a theater, there could be something like this happening again but with all six movies. I don't know if it's possible to capture lightning in a bottle again, but it would sure be fun if it did happen.

So let's hoist aloft our glasses of blue milk and raise a toast to Star Wars: Special Edition on the occasion of its 10th birthday as we remember how it brought a legend fully back into public consciousness... and this time, to stay.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The zampolits have come to America

This isn't becoming very much of a break from blogging, is it? This is the third post I've made since I declared last week that I would be refraining from my usual blogging routine. But as with the previous two, if it wasn't severely important then I wouldn't be making it at all.

I've said once or twice on this blog that the way things are going in America, that we owe an apology to the leaders of the old Soviet Union. At least they were honest enough about having one-party rule instead of trying to fool the people into thinking otherwise. In the past few years I've watched this country adopt so many marks of that regime: warrant-less searches, seizure without hearing, suppression of reasonable dissent, refusal to respect the right to privacy...

...now comes something that I never, ever expected to see: the coming of zampolits to America.

A zampolit, in the days of the Soviet Union, was a "political officer" assigned to units of the Soviet military, to ensure loyalty to the party and to make sure that party decisions and policies were carried out. The zampolit was a member of the party and not the military... but he had the authority to over-ride the command of military officers and remove them if he so wished. The zampolits were one of the big mechanisms in place that kept the armed forces from overthrowing the Communists. They were part of the system that kept the dictators in power for so long.

"Political officers" aren't a good thing, for obvious reasons.

So please forgive me if I'm being irrationally alarmed by this article from The New York Times:

Bush Directive Increases Sway on Regulation

By ROBERT PEAR
Published: January 30, 2007

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 — President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.

Maybe there is a substantial difference between these "political appointees" and the zampolits... but they certainly do seem downright similar in function. Namely, that being to increase the power of a central figure.

How is that possibly a good thing?

Just something I felt led to take note of, for future reference.

Monday, January 29, 2007

In loving memory of Edna Manning

Yeah, still on sabbatical from regular blogging. If you see me posting here during times like this it's only because whatever I'm writing about is really important. It also probably means that it's something that I really didn't want to write about... and unfortunately this is going to be one of those times.

Last Wednesday night Lisa's grandmother, Edna Manning, passed away at the age of 80 (that's Lisa and "Granny" together at our wedding in 2002).

I'll never forget the first time that I met her, not long after Lisa and I had started dating. This was in late 2000, and I was still reeling from the loss of my own grandmother the previous March. Immediately I was struck at how much alike Lisa's "Granny" and my "Granny" were: Both loved to cook. Both loved music and to sing. Both were feisty as heck. And both fine women were loved by many, many people.

I came to love Granny a lot. Maybe a lot more than most people will ever know. A month ago Lisa and I were in Georgia to spend Christmas with her family and I really wanted to see Granny. But then I fell sick with an infection of mycoplasm - one of the nastiest things I've ever been hit with - and spent practically the entire trip in bed, only able to get up an hour for Christmas Day. I missed seeing Granny during that trip because I was so sick and because I didn't want her to catch what I'd gotten. I really wanted to see her then, and I promised myself that I would see her the next time we came and that I wanted that to be soon... but I never got the chance.

Well, she knew that I loved her and as much as she used to joke with me, I know that she loved me too. If there's just that much going on between people, that is plenty enough already. Makes you wish there was more of it in this world. Well, Edna Manning AKA "Granny" had it in spades.

Lisa has written a much better tribute to Granny than anything I could do here. Until I read hers, I had no idea that Granny was such a deep and talented person. So I felt led to "break my fast" again not just to write my own thing about Granny, but to point other people to Lisa's. I for one would definitely appreciate it if you took a few moments to read about her grandmother on her blog.

I'd said when I broke off from blogging last week that some real-life things had come up that demanded attention. This was one of them. There are quite a few still on the plate right now. I'll be back blogging in full again once those are out of the way. Until then, take care and God bless.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ron Price: "I've learned who my opponents are..."

Normally I wouldn't break my "blogging fast" for anything, especially this soon into it. But since this is a story I've been covering for the past two months here, I might as well post about its conclusion.

As was reported here two months ago, Ron Price, one of the sixteen candidates - including myself - who ran for Board of Education here in Rockingham County this past November, was caught stealing campaign signs belonging to U.S. House incumbent Brad Miller on the night before the November 7th election. The story only got out about noon on Election Day and it wasn't very well known until that evening, well after most people had gone to the polls. Price admitted to Reidsville Police that he had stolen the signs. He even went on live television that night and admitted that he did it. And then he wound up coming in fifth place in the election: enough to get a seat on the school board.

You can read up on the case if you go through the posts from November and December 2006. A lot of people, and I was one of them, called for Price to give up his seat: Price is too morally tainted to sit on the board and set an example for the children. He was sworn in along with the other new members on December 11th (click to read how I addressed the issue that night in my own unique way).

Well, today the legal case against Ron Price apparently reached its conclusion: the charges were dismissed. Ron Price, admitted thief, walked away free and clear.

Here's the story that's being reported at The Reidsville Review.

So unless the petition to the state school board that's currently circulating around the county has some effect (which at this point is highly doubtful), Price is going to continue serving on the school board.

Somebody told me over a month ago that if and when he got off the hook - and I think most people expected that to happen - that Price was going to consider himself "a double winner" because he not only won a seat in the election, but he "beat the rap". And then he would really pour on the cockiness.

Doesn't look like it took very long for that to happen. From the above-linked story at the Review website:

Price said he has learned from the sign incident.

"I've learned who my opponents are and who will work with me," he said.

"I've learned who my opponents are and who will work with me"...?

I have never heard an elected official in this county say anything with the condescension and egotism that Price has done here.

Jesus taught us to "love your enemies". Ron Price, self-professed "Christian", has now boasted that he's keeping an enemies list. I'm assuming that my name is toward the top of the roll. Especially after all the creative ways I came up with to poke fun at the absurdity of the situation, like "The Rockingham County Star Chamber" and "But Mommy it's okay to steal...".

Price is right though: I wouldn't work with him. Because Ron Price is part of the rot at work in the timbers of this country. I count myself as one of those working to keep things in this land from completely falling apart, however daunting that task seems. To work with someone like Price, now that I've seen him for the kind of person he really is, would disgrace and destroy the efforts I've made in my dedication toward those ideals.

I think it's now pretty safe to openly state that Ron Price and Christopher Knight are at diametric opposites so far as what it means to serve other people.

I do not hate Ron Price. I would wish no harm to come to him. But I now take it as a badge of honor that he considers me to be his enemy.

That's all I really know to say about this. For now I'm going back to my sabbatical from blogging, so that I can focus on several other things going on in my life right now. It was only because I'd written so much about this case already that I felt obligated to return here and post about what looks to be the conclusion of the matter.

In spite of all this, I still intend to be a regular attendant of the school board meetings.

Who knows, I may even have more to say during the public comments portion of the meetings...

Taking a break

Every now and then - even though it's been almost a year since the last one - I take a break from blogging. Sometimes for a few days and others, over a month. For Lent last year (even though I'm not Catholic) I gave up blogging, and I think it was a good thing in retrospect.

Since then I've gone through a lot of things, including the school board campaign. Well, the past day or so some things have happened that have made me decide that I need some time away. Factor in something else that's going to be demanding my attention this next week, and opting to take a respite is looking even more attractive. Besides, everyone needs to step away and get refreshed from the routine craziness of life every so often.

So this is going to be my last post for awhile. Probably not for more than a few weeks though. As always, expect a somewhat different Chris Knight (but hopefully not too different) to return to this page.

'Til then, take care and God bless :-)

Birth of the OSS REBEL RUNNER

Fellow former school board candidate and all-around great guy Eric Smith is making good on a vow he made during the campaign: that when all of this had ended, that he was going to start building a boat. I can't wait to see the finished product: for the life of me, I can't remember seeing up-close a boat that I knew was hand-built.

But there's another reason why I'm eager to see the O.S.S. Rebel Runner come to life...

A promise I made to myself was to build a boat after the campaign. Well now the dust has settled and I started today. I am going to name the boat "Rebel Runner" after co-candidate Chris Knight who is probably the biggest Star Wars fan I have ever met. He ran a good campaign and certainly gave a different perspective in the race.
A boat in my honor? Wow... I really don't know what to say about that. That's quite a thing.

I'm going to reciprocate this by saying now that I've been working on a part for Eric to have in my upcoming full-length feature Keys. Look for him to make his big-screen debut sometime in 2008 :-)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

"I have a penis."

It took 25 years but real-life soap operas have finally caught up with Tootsie...

Egads, what else has been going on with All My Children all these years that we didn't know about?!

(Thanks, I think, to Shane Thacker at The Phantom City for this... thing.)

Wow, Jim Webb's response to Bush's State of the Union speech tonight...

...was one of the best speeches by an elected official I've heard in a real long time.

Colorful, articulate, spoke on the level of everyday people... as opposed to Bush's speech which tonight - as it does all too often - was in a dreary monotone that sounded too much like an illiterate speaking.

I don't necessarily agree with Webb on everything (he' supports No Child Left Behind apparently) but listening to him was quite refreshing.

Plus, I just found out that he's a filmmaker too. And he used to live where a lot of my family on my mother's side comes from.

Anyhoo, after too many years of Bushes (and now threatening to have more Clintons, God help us), Webb is someone I feel like I could probably cast a vote for and not feel ashamed about it afterward. And that's a good thing.

12:37 AM 1-24-2007: Looks like I may have spoken too soon: apparently Webb is one of those favoring amnesty for illegals.

That's a major strike in my book.

Atlanta suburbs mulls seccession: Maybe America should consider it too

Part of Fulton County, a suburb of Atlanta, is threatening to split off and form its own county. Charges of racial motivations are flying because the possibly-future Milton County would be white-majority and more economically affluent than what would be left of Fulton County.

Reading this and doing a little more research into the situation, I can't really see where race is a factor here. It seems more like one part of the population is tired of waste and mis-management and is wanting more accountability over how its tax money is being used. I could see a very strong argument being made on those terms for the return (it originally merged with Fulton in the 1930s) of Milton County.

Maybe this should be a model of what we could be doing nationwide.

No, I'm not talking about succession from the United States. But I am suggesting that the more government is localized, the more efficient it is and the more answerable to the citizenry it becomes.

America is too centralized a country. The more power and money that has flown into Washington, the weaker this nation has become as a result. It has made us corrupted, and it has made us vulnerable. A smart terrorist would detonate a small-yield nuke in the vicinity of the Capitol building tonight while President Bush is delivering the State of the Union speech, with the Speaker of the House and Vice-President right behind him (aren't these people supposed to be kept away from each other during things like this, all because taking those three out in one fell swoop would wreck havoc with the Presidential chain of succession?). With those killed along with a full joint session of the House and Senate, not to mention the Supreme Court justices... well, to say that this country would be running around like a chicken with its head cut off would be putting it mildly.

I hope something like that doesn't happen. But if it does, this country would be in trouble, all because we have invested too much of our strength and leadership in the federal core. And it's taken our nation's vitality with it.

What's the answer? Maybe confederacy.

Give each state its own unique identity back. Quit sending so much money from the states and into Washington. Rescind the 17th Amendment so that once again it will be state legislatures that elect the Senators. Abolish federal departments like Education.

Centralized directing of a country's path inevitably leads that country into rot and stagnation. Consider what happened to the Soviet Union, and Rome before that. The only cure for corruption from power is to be willing to give up that power.

The state and local governments should be what hold most of the power in this country, not the federal government. Federal government is only really useful for national defense and not too many other things.

I'm not saying we give up our identity as Americans. That can not happen. Being an "American" is not dependent upon what form our government exists in.

But the quality of being an American certainly does.

The major political parties will not like this idea. They want the power to be centralized in Washington. That's what makes it so easy to seize power and then take more power. Neither will members of the mainstream press: they like the current power structure, because they love the role they have in maintaining it. Most Americans currently will not want this, because they have grown too comfortable with being wards of an all-encompassing State.

One day, it will all topple. It may even be starting now...

"The avalanche has already started. It is too late for the pebbles to vote."

(Ten bonus points to whoever can say where that quote is from without Googling it.)

We can either let it fall, probably sooner rather than later... or we start spreading all that excess weight around before the whole thing collapses in on itself.

The people of the once-and-future Milton County in Georgia may be doing a very wise thing, indeed. Perhaps the rest of us should be paying some keen attention to them.

Tom Cruise is "the Christ" of Scientology

So say leaders of the bizarre cult.

So does this mean Tom is going to be Cruise-ified for the sins of the world?

Monday, January 22, 2007

If Chris Knight came to South Park...

...I would probably look like this:

Turn yourself into a South Park character! Thanks to Shane Thacker for the find.

Our first look at the Thestrals!

Darth Larry found some great new pics at The Leaky Cauldron of new Harry Potter merchandise. Look at this one: to the best of my knowledge, this is the very first good look at what the Thestrals look like:

What are Thestrals? Well, if you only know Harry Potter from the movies and haven't read the books, you have seen these creatures already... kinda. Harry doesn't actually behold what Thestrals look like until Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Luna Lovegood assures him that he is not losing his mind. It takes a particular sort of person - someone who has had a certain kind of experience - to see these grotesque yet magnificent animals. They're probably one of my favorite magical creatures in the Harry Potter series. Expect to see them play a fairly big role in the upcoming movie adaptation of Order of the Phoenix.

Once more, pro-lifers played for chumps on ROE anniversary

Today is the 34th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Which does not mean that abortion was something morally justified 34 years ago today. It merely means that it was allowed by law.

Given enough time for the timbers to rot in a culture, and anything can become allowed by law. Still doesn't mean that it's right though.

As they do every year on this day, thousands of pro-life supporters had a rally in Washington D.C. President Bush called them, and told them that he's opposed to abortion and will work to end this barbaric practice.

Except, he won't. He really, really won't.

As I said here a few days ago, Bush could do away with abortion in a single moment. But the Decider has apparently decided that this is something that is beyond even his "mighty abilities". Either that or he really doesn't give a flip about abortion.

People who believe in ideals do something to uphold them. If they do not do the right thing when it is presented to them, then it can't be said that they have ever demonstrated that they really did believe in doing the right thing at all.

Do you know what abortion really means to George W. Bush, and to a lot of others in government and "public policy" positions, especially those who consider themselves "conservatives"?

Lean your head this way, I'm gonna tell you...

Abortion is just something to keep millions of poor saps happy and voting on the Republican plantation.

If abortion was to really be done away with, the "religious right" - those self-professed "Christians" who abuse the name of Christ to achieve worldly power - would not have the vast numbers backing it that it does. And without that, the GOP doesn't have a solidly committed bloc that will keep automatically voting straight-ticket "R".

It goes beyond the confines of a political party too. Too many "pro-life organizations" have a vested interest in wanting - even though they'll never say that - abortion to stay legalized. If abortion went away, there would be no more money flowing into the coffers. Indeed, opposing abortion is a multi-million dollar full-time industry. If there were no more abortion, then people like James Dobson would have to let go some of the staffers in order to keep a healthy profit margin.

I can't believe that I very nearly went to work for that guy at Focus on the Family...

...which is a story that I may or may not share someday. All I'll say about that is: I'm damned glad that God had other plans for me.

I really feel sorry for those who deep in their hearts, honestly do believe that abortion is evil and is one of the things that is most destroying this country. I feel sorry that they have pinned their hopes on politicians and "righteous men" who are exploiting their sincere efforts for worldly gain.

The abolition of abortion will not come by trusting a political party, or a wealthy group of evangelicals.

The abolition of abortion will only come when we look to God, and not to men, to give us the resolve to stand tall and say "no".

Until that time comes, abortion will continue to be what it actually is to the thousands of people who rallied against it in Washington:

A measure of control.

Were a plucky Droid and a scruffy Wookiee the REAL heroes of Star Wars?

I found this through Shane Thacker (who found it on Diane Duane's blog). A fellow named Keith Martin has written one of the most original and well-written essays about Star Wars that I've ever read.

In "A New Sith, or Revenge of the Hope", Martin lays out the case for how the true heroes of the Star Wars saga were Artoo-Detoo and Chewbacca. You have to wonder: how, in a galaxy so big, do all of these characters keep running into each other? Well, this is the most plausible answer to that question that I've yet found, in addition to answering a few other issues.

Whether it came about by design or accident, I'm sort of inclined to agree with this theory, because Chewbacca and Artoo seemed to have always been George Lucas's favorite characters. Kinda makes sense that those two are the master link that keeps this entire story together.

Over 130 and rising fast

And in the last little while the rate has jumped: I'm now getting about 2 or 3 new ones every fifteen minutes. And that might be accelerating too. I might have over 300 by midnight tonight.

This is going to take awhile to go through.

What is it? I'll be tipping my hand to what that is within the next month or so. But I thought it was something significant enough to "memorialize" here on the blog while it's happening all the same.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

I'm a candidate for President... in 2016!


My fellow Americans,

After a great deal of prayer and contemplation and consulting with those closest to me, it is with great excitement and joy that I officially announce that I am now a candidate for President of the United States... in 2016.

Why am I announcing my candidacy for that far-off race instead of for one much sooner? There are several reasons. The most obvious being that per the Constitution I am currently not old enough to run for President. Second, nine years is a plenty long time to continue growing and maturing as a person. I wouldn't be ready to take the job now or even in the next few years... but almost a decade from now, I might have the understanding and wisdom needed to execute the office as best as I possibly can.

Third, I'm no fool: I'm a political independent, unaffiliated with any major party. I wouldn't stand a snowball's chance in Hell of getting elected anytime soon. The two major parties have long colluded with each other to quash any outside threat to their mutual kleptocracy. And their allies in the media are not only too lazy to challenge the status quo: they are too comfortable with being part of the status quo. Right now a "third party" candidate has slim-to-no chance of getting any face time on television or the newspapers. That's right now though. Given how the Republicans and Democrats are fast running out of vigor (which is why they can only field lackluster people like Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush as candidates) and how many Americans are becoming disillusioned with both of them, I'd say it's altogether possible that an "outsider" could challenge – and beat – the Two Party Beast in another decade.

Fourth: I have a life that I want to live and enjoy before committing to something that will define it within a very narrow spectrum for the rest of my days. There are things that I want to do and enjoy first, with my wife and with any children that God might give us. Winding up the most powerful man in the world wouldn't be worth losing out on all those potentially wonderful experiences. I want to take those with me into eternity, not a job – that would strip me of that freedom – that lasts, at most, eight years.

Why am I offering my services as President? Because I want to do my damndest to make sure that my children – who are not born yet, but I love them anyway – will get to live in a better world than the one I grew up in. And if it takes making a sacrifice of time and possible career in something that I would rather be doing instead to achieve that, then I'll do it.

Look, I don't even really want this. Seriously. But if 2016 or sometime after that rolls around and someone else wants me to do this, I'm letting y'all know what you can expect of me. So here goes...

Taxation
There should be no more income tax.

The income tax is the chain that has made serfs out of the American people. It's time to break that chain. Destroy the income tax and the American people will be more free than they have been in a hundred years.

We need a national retail sales tax.

A national retail sales tax is fair, will not unduly violate the privacy of the citizenry as the income tax does, will be unavoidable, and will be one element that forces the federal government to live within its means instead of anticipating how much from the public treasury it can expect to spend.

Taxation in its present form is slavery. I will come to free the slaves.

Abortion
Previous self-styled "conservative" Presidents were too afraid to touch Roe v. Wade. They either feared a political backlash if they did attack it, or they were loathe to destroy one of the few issues that has faithfully kept a block of the electorate loyal to the Republican party.

I don't give a flying rat's butt about either.

Mother Teresa once said that "The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion, because if a mother can kill her own child what is left for me to kill you and you to kill me? There is nothing between." And indeed, the allowing of the killing of the unborn has done more damage to our culture than any other issue. If we cannot say that we cherish the value of the life of the most helpless of innocents, then there is no moral reason why we should cherish the value of those we see every day.

The allowing of abortion – and the continuance of abortion for political gain – has been the single greatest scar from our slide into national decadence. That must end now.

If elected, I will sign an executive order calling for state and local authorities to no longer enforce the Roe v. Wade decision.

And I will invite Congress to pass legislation against my measure if it feels led to do so.

Let's see who among us is truly for protecting innocent life.

Some will say that I would be over-riding the will of the Supreme Court. No: I would be invoking a seldom-used power of check and balance against a Supreme Court decision that many of its defenders even admit is "terrible legislation". I intend to make Roe v. Wade an un-enforced decision until Congress and the states pass an anti-abortion amendment. One has been promised to the American people for long enough: now it's time to deliver on it.

National Defense
The men and women of the United States military have sworn an oath to serve the people of this country and their Constitution, not to serve its government or its leaders. American armed services personnel were never intended to be used as expendable assets for political or other personal gain. I believe in a strong national defense and to give those in our armed forces the support they need to protect our country. But I do not believe in taking lightly their choice to serve their country in this capacity.

Gun Ownership Policy
There is but one reason why the Founding Fathers included the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights: to make clear that the American people have the ability to launch an offense against the government if that government gets out of control.

That is not an invitation to anarchy. That is an assertion of cultural self-control.

I believe that each person has the right to self-defense without government oversight. Existing gun laws are redundant and unnecessary: the Second Amendment gives each American citizen all the authority he or she needs to bear a firearm. Furthermore, I support concealed-carry laws.

Education
The job of education belongs to the governments at the local and state level, not the federal government. Thus, I believe that the Department of Education should be done away with, and legislation such as No Child Left Behind and Goals 2000 be revoked.

Illegal Immigrants
It is right to help your neighbor. It is not right to let your neighbor live off your own efforts without giving anything in return. The Christian thing is to encourage him to look after his own house, instead of raiding your own.

Illegal immigration is sapping away at the economic resources of this country. We can either provide for our own people, or we can provide for a people who do not legally belong here... but we cannot do both. Harsh as some will claim it to be, as President I would have no recourse but to opt to make provision for the rightful citizens of the United States.

I propose building a fence along the border with Mexico and defending it with an adequate number of both Border Patrol agents and members of the United States military. And it will be intended to remain so defended until such time as Mexico has demonstrated that it will stop the influx of its own citizens north across the border into our own.

Iraqi-style Nation Building
"Spreading democracy" is a policy that has failed. Time has shown that this endeavor is really a thinly-veiled effort to accomplish what used to be called "empire building". Well, the American Empire must end now, and let American sovereignty bloom anew. If we are to want other nations to respect the right for us to determine our own destiny, we must respect other nations' right to do the same.

Property Taxes
There should be no property taxes. You are supposed to own your home. If you have to pay a "user's fee" out of fear of forced removal at the point of a gun, then it is not really your own home. This goes hand-in-hand with...

Private Property
The Supreme Court erred horrendously with the Kelo decision. If it takes a Constitutional amendment to reaffirm the right to own property in this country, then I'm not against taking it that far.

Social Security
...was a bad idea from the start. But, we're stuck with it. I don't believe that the federal government should be running it anymore though. It's high-time to privatize this thing.

Judicial Restraint
All too often, ridiculous legislation comes not out of duly-elected public representatives that are accountable to the people, but from appeals courts whose judges are appointed for life. It needs to be re-asserted that the role of the courts is to interpret the law, not to rewrite it.

Marriage Amendment
The Constitution of the United States does not need an amendment "protecting traditional marriage".

Marriage is a concept that has been instituted by God, not by man. It is the most time-honored and respect state that exists between two people. "Marriage" per its strictest definition is the joining of two different things into an entirely new product: in the case of human marriage, this being a man and woman come together in a new identity. This has been understood by cultures throughout the world since time immemorial. Indeed, marriage is perhaps the one contract between two people that is legally recognized by all nations.

There is nothing we, as carnal men and women can do, that can do through legislation that will either protect or enhance what God has established. I believe that creating a "traditional family amendment" should be recognized as being a reactionary move at most, and one that, like the promise of ending abortion, is being used to exploit the fears of certain members of the voting public.

Make no mistake: I believe that homosexual behavior is wrong. But a "traditional marriage amendment" is not the right way to address that.

Exportation of Jobs
I believe that corporate taxes should be lowered and that tax incentives be given to companies that maintain domestic production, instead of shipping the work to be done overseas. I also believe in imposing stronger tariffs on goods imported into the United States, to provide an economic incentive to stimulate American manufacturing.

Energy
We need to wean ourselves off of dependence on foreign oil. And we need to stop defining our energy policies according to the desires of a handful of oil companies that put profits before responsibility to others.

If elected, I promise ...
... to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America to the best of my ability and understanding.

... to take with me into the White House the best people that I know of for my staff. And I mean the best people regardless of which political parties they might happen to belong to.

... to abolish the Department of Education.

... to abolish the Internal Revenue Service.

... to privatize Social Security.

... to not use the State of the Union as a bully platform for my own agenda, but instead use it to reflect upon what it's intended to be about: the state of the union. Additionally, there will no longer be an annual set State of the Union address, but a series of both occasional speeches before a joint session of Congress and formal letters describing the national condition as such needs arise.

... to not attack another country unless the country I have sworn to serve is attacked first.

... to revoke "Most-Favored Nation" status with China.

... to cease overly-cheerful diplomatic relations with countries that engage in gross violations of civil rights, such as Saudi Arabia.

... to make neutrality the official position of the United States government in regards to disputes between Israel and the Palestinians. Although I personally believe that the Israelis have sole claim to the lands they occupy, the behavior on both sides is such that I am led to believe that this is something the Israelis and Palestinians should hash out between themselves, without outside involvement.

... to remove America from involvement in the United Nations until that organization has proven that it can exist beyond the influence of corruption (which will probably be never).

... to make myself available for press conferences at least twice a month.

... to give media outlets beyond the "mainstream press" unprecedented representation in the White House press corps.

.. to not keep those protesting me out of my sight. In fact, I promise to go to extremely reasonable lengths to hear them and their concerns.

... to make the White House the people's house again, and not an armed fortress out of the people's reach.

... to take no vacations that last more than two weeks.

... to do whatever I can to enable the active involvement of third parties and the unaffiliated in the American political system, including the ultimatum that I will not participate in presidential debates unless they involve at least two other "third party" candidates.

... to fire from employment in my administration anyone found to be violating the Constitutional rights of a fellow citizen.

... to serve no more than one term, unless there is without question some substantial and demonstrated desire from the American people that I should serve a second.

... to introduce within my first month of office: a Constitutional amendment that outlaws abortion, a Constitutional amendment that abolishes the 17th Amendment (thus returning election of Senators back to respective state legislatures), and a Constitutional amendment that ends "anchor baby" citizenship status to children born of illegal immigrants.

... to set forth policy among the United States military that armed services personnel are to swear loyalty to the Constitution of the United States, and not necessarily to the government of the United States or to the President of the United States, if the government or the President demonstrate that such loyalty is not owed to them.

Given the inordinate amount of time leading up to the 2016 election, don't be surprised if I wind up addressing some other issues before then.

Another Bert and Ernie classic

Yet another big of comedy gold from the good old days on Sesame Street. This is the Bert and Ernie "dripping water" sketch...

"G'NIGHT!!!"

A question for every pro-life Bush supporter

I'm working on something for the blog right now and just had a thought while working on it:
If President George W. Bush has no problem with violating the United States Constitution...

...and if he is supposed to be against abortion...

...then why hasn't Bush brazenly violated Roe v. Wade and ended abortion in this country once and for all?

Well, why hasn't "the Decider" chosen to do that? He's definitely shown that he has no problem with abusing power and authority after all... so why not abuse it for good?

Could it be that Bush just doesn't care about abortion?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A pizza made with love

Lisa had a very special dinner ready for me when I got home from my shift at the station tonight...

Can you see what it is? It's a pizza... with the pepperonis arranged to look like a heart!

I did this for her about six years ago when we were dating: at the time I was terrified about doing real cooking (long story about how that came to be) but I overcame my fear and made pizza at her apartment one night with the pepperonis done up like a heart.

Anyway, I thought this was a really sweet touch for her to do. And, the pizza she made was excellent!

Dipping some more from A BUCKET OF BLOOD

Earlier this afternoon here at the station we aired Roger Corman's 1959 movie A Bucket of Blood.

Well, I've got it playing off the Tivo right now... for the second time since it first ran today.

This movie has already gained a hideous hold on me. I can't believe I've never seen or heard about this before (especially since it stars Dick Miller). This is the kind of weird/funny that's sooo up my alley!

I might have to add A Bucket of Blood to my DVD collection sometime.

EDIT 10:33 PM EST: Watching it again. There's a 2-hour block of programming that we've been running on repeat since 7 tonight, and all I'm really doing is waiting to hear from any church cancellations that might happen 'cuz of the winter storm we're expected to get hit with later tonight. Those haven't come in yet... so once more, to kill time until the end of the shift, I've got A Bucket of Blood running again. Think the funniest part is where Dick Miller kills Bert Convy with the frying pan :-P

Playing right this minute on WGSR Star 39...

...is Roger Corman's 1959 classic A Bucket of Blood, which is something about death and Beatniks.

This should be running around midnight instead of the middle of Saturday afternoon, because this movie is coming courtesy of Cinema Insomnia "with your horror host Mr. Lobo". I'll forgive that though 'cuz this movie features Dick Miller: character actor extraordinaire! There's already been one pretty cool scene where Miller accidentally stabs his cat to death.

Anyway, looks like it's gonna be one of those nights here at the station...

A heavy example of pro-government press bias

A few days ago I wrote about Ed Brown, a New Hampshire man who is defying the federal government on the isuse of income taxes. A jury just found Brown guilty in absentia, and he's currently barricaded himself at his home. I wrote at the time that this probably won't end good for Ed Brown, because the government doesn't like independent-minded folks and it's stacked the deck against them by employing more than enough "ninja-suited" SWAT types: the sort that never learned to restrain the "id" thing within and consequently would love nothing more than to kill people.

Here's an updated story on Ed Brown published by the AP. I want you to read this very carefully, because I believe this is a startling example of how the mainstream press has become a mouthpiece for bigger government, instead of standing as a bulwark against it...

N.H. Tax Evader Prepares for Raid

Jan 19, 5:44 PM (ET)

By PHILIP ELLIOTT

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A former militia man convicted of tax evasion prepared for a government siege Friday at his fortress-like home, but U.S. marshals gave no indication they were planning to confront him.

Ed Brown said he was ready for a swarm of federal agents to descend on his property to execute an arrest warrant issued after he failed to appear for the end of his trial. He and his wife contend that they did not have to pay income taxes, and his supporters say a conflict could be violent.

"If Mexico came up on my land and tried to take my land, would I not fight?" Brown said. "The United States is the same exact thing as Mexico in this state."

Brown, 63, and his wife, Elaine, 65, were convicted Thursday of plotting to conceal their income and avoid paying federal income tax. They argued the tax is illegitimate and they are not required to pay it.

U.S. marshals said negotiations with Brown continue and they have no plans to attack Brown's Plainfield home or act quickly on the arrest warrant. He has been holed up in his home with armed supporters for much of the trial.

"He wants attention. We're determined to keep this very low-profile," U.S. Marshal Stephen Monier said.

Brown said he has a stock of food and supplies and that his home can run on wind and solar generators.

"It's all set up for me to stay here forever," Brown said by phone.

Elaine Brown, a dentist who earned most of the couple's income, was staying at her son's home in Worcester, Mass., pending the couple's sentencing in April. She said she had no plans to return to Plainfield, where she fears there will be a violent confrontation.

The Browns' case has found support on the Internet from militia members to libertarians and anti-tax groups.

Rick Stanley, a Denver-based Web radio host and a militia leader, urged listeners to join Brown at his home.

"We are continuing to ask patriots to surround Ed Brown's property and life with a ring of armed Americans with firearms and video cameras to protect a fellow American," he said. "This is the flash point. This is the time of raised pitchforks."

Take a look at the words that are selectively used in this story...
"A former militia man..."

"...at his fortress-like home..."

"They argued the tax is illegitimate and they are not required to pay it."

"He has been holed up in his home with armed supporters..."

"The Browns' case has found support on the Internet from militia members to libertarians and anti-tax groups."

And from the earlier story...
"Ed Brown denounced the government and noted a handgun tucked in the front of his pants."

"The Browns haven't paid federal income taxes since 1996 because they don't think the law requires them to pay. They argue there is no law requiring individual income taxes."

"The large home has a circular tower affording a 360-degree view of the property, which sits off a rural road. Brown said the home's walls are made from 8-inch concrete and if marshals cut his power lines, he can run his home from generators, solar and wind power."

" In a tirade against the government, the media and global warming..."

" During the past few decades, Brown has claimed membership in several anti-government and militia groups..."

There's all the right buzzwords that Those With Power want for people to associate with this guy: "militia", "fortress-like home", "handgun", "holed up", "tirade"...

Ed Brown has been tried and found guilty in the court of the press. Exactly as the media's masters want him to be. I don't agree with everything this man is saying or believes in, but I also don't believe that he ever had a fair chance going into this. The Powers That Be have determined that he is that kind of American that cannot be tolerated: an independent thinker. Because if he is free to think on his own, there may be more. And so an example has to be made of Ed Brown.

So The Powers That Be call in their attack dogs in the Associated Press and other big media outlets. They're told to paint Ed Brown as a kook, to make it impossible for the average American to think of Ed Brown in any terms other than "nutcase". That makes it all the easier to take him down without Ed Brown engendering much sympathy. An example is going to be made of Ed Brown... and as I said in my earlier post, the vast majority of Americans will watch with indifference and be glad that it isn't them who is being targeted before going on to watch more TV or get drunk or get laid or whatever.

I hate what has become of this country.

I hate what has become of us.

In a sane world, a sorry lot of politicians and their willing enablers would have been shoved up against the wall already.

I hate feeling torn between the need to be Christ-like in spite of everything, and the carnal desire to see something bad happen to these people. Because Lord only knows they don't have remorse for how they've been raping us without lube for all these years.

Is anyone else getting mad yet?

Okay, well what are we going to do about it?

Yet more reason why America is practically finished

Hillary Clinton says she's definitely running for President.

real tragedy of what the American political process has turned into is that inane, shallow people like Hillar Clinton, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, John Edwards, John McCain, and more others than I care to name will be pimped as serious contenders by their parties and the press, while the really interesting candidates with some measure of principles - like Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul - will never get a fair shake.

Face up to it if you haven't already: our "leaders" are picked for us. We don't pick them. The party bigwigs and their suck-up shills in the media determine who it is that the American people will think about - and how they will think about them - for elected office.

Until we tell "them" to "go to Hell", we'll never be a free country.

Nobody who desperately wants to be President, deserves to be President.

And anyone who would even consider voting for a Clinton or a Bush anymore should be dragged out into the street and shot.

Stuff I noticed while watching DEAD MAN'S CHEST tonight

Yeah, up at a late hour: working on something that I'll probably be talking more about soon on this blog.

I haven't really admitted it here as much as I really should, but I will now: the Pirates of the Caribbean movies have become one of my most favorite film series ever. I love, love, love everything about them. Well, earlier this evening Lisa and I put in the DVD of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest that I gave her for Christmas (here's my review of it from when it first came out last summer). A few days ago we watched the first movie The Curse of the Black Pearl so we'd be freshened-up on everything about Captain Jack Sparrow, Will, Elizabeth and all the rest.

So I'm watching Dead Man's Chest for the second time and this go-around I noticed some things...

- What did Sparrow give Tia Dalma in exchange for the compass? Well, why are all of Tia Dalma's people standing with lit candles in honor of Sparrow's memory toward the end of the movie? A theory suggests itself: it's been stated somewhere that Sparrow used to work for the East India Trading Company but was kicked out... because he refused to transport slaves from Africa. I'm thinking that Tia Dalma and all those others were intended to be the slaves that Sparrow would not send into bondage. He gave them their freedom... and Tia Dalma gave him the compass in gratitude. That's just a theory though.

- When Sparrow and the others first visit Tia Dalma, he gives her Jack the monkey. I totally missed this when I saw the movie in the theaters, but when Tia Dalma releases the monkey from its cage, it runs into the adjoining room where there's a bed... and someone lying atop it. All we see of this person is his boots. Who could it be and why would Jack the monkey run to it? The very last shot before the credits roll answers that question.

- Davy Jones has a musical locket he keeps atop his hideous pipe organ. A locket shaped like a heart. It is said that whoever has Davy Jones's heart - the one he ripped out of his own chest and hid on Isla Cruces - controls Jones and thus controls the world's oceans. But what if that's not the real heart that the legend speaks of... but it's his locket instead?

- Speaking of lockets, I thought I saw one that looked a lot like Jones's in Tia Dalma's place (is this woman more important to the story than we yet really know?).

- When they meet in Tortuga, Norrington tells Gibbs that his life is just like Gibbs, just "one chapter behind". Maybe that's how Gibbs went from being in the royal navy at the beginning of The Curse of the Black Pearl to being a pirate: did he get thrown out of the navy too?

I'm probably going to watch Dead Man's Chest at least a half-dozen more times between now and May, when the next chapter At World's End comes out, so this list may wind up growing some (or a lot). And when At World's End does come out... what y'all think: should I go to the theater dressed as a pirate? :-)

Friday, January 19, 2007

More signs that America is in trouble

No, not in "trouble". "Trouble" is a factor working to the detriment of a situation. This situation is so far gone screwy that I wonder if it's possible to get any more detrimental.

Yesterday I made a post about a few things that, to me anyway, indicate that America as an idea is probably beyond hope. More than a few times since then, I've wondered if I was being perhaps too harsh (and no doubt used too much harsh language) in my assessment.

Tonight, sadly, I must report that I was probably not harsh enough.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to consider the appeal in a case that gives the legal right for developers to extort landowners for their property via the high court's abhorrent decision in Kelo.

And then, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says that "There is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution."

From Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution of the United States of America:

"The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it."
There has been no invasion. And neither, for that matter, has there been any rebellion...

...but at the rate Gonzales and the rest of The Most Corrupt Administration in American History are going, there sure as Hell should be one.

A sure-fire way to tell if it's going to snow

As I mentioned yesterday morning, we had the first winter storm of the season yesterday. The snow was just starting to come down at a good clip by the time I arrived at the station at 6:40 a.m. The rest of the day I watched it keep falling, then turn to sleet and rain. It wasn't much of a storm at all but it did prompt most of the schools around here to close early, so that gave us something to do all day, what with posting cancellations and all.

Even if it was a pretty minor storm, it did still snow. Which once again validates something that I heard years ago and thought it sounded rather silly at the time, but I've watched this happen so many times since then that I'm starting to wonder if it's a law of nature.

One night in the winter of 1993, when I was 18 years old, we heard some thunder at our house. Dad, sitting in his recliner, said that thunder in wintertime means it's going to snow 10 days from now. I was like "yeah right" especially 'cuz in 1993, our part of the country hadn't seen a real snow in three years: some younger children had never even remembered what snow is supposed to be.

Well, lo and behold, exactly ten days after it thundered, "the Storm of the Century" hit. That it started precisely ten days after we heard the thunder was something I thought of a lot during the next few days as we were trapped inside the house.

And ever since then, whenever I have heard thunder during the winter months, it has snowed almost precisely ten days (a couple of times nine days) later. The same thing happened in December of 1996: I was driving around Elon College with a friend and we heard thunder. "Geoff", I told him, "it's going to snow ten days from now." Geoff had never heard of that before either. But it snowed ten days later exactly and he went around saying "hey Chris said it was going to snow and..." A few years ago during our first winter since getting married, Lisa and I heard thunder one night in early December. Yup, ten days later we got an early snow. I don't think we heard anymore thunder during that winter but it sure snowed plenty enough.

Well, Monday night of last week we heard thunder here in Reidsville. Sure enough, ten days later we get the first snow of the season.

So now you know how to know for certain if/when it is going to snow. If you hear thunder sometime during the winter, it will snow ten days later. You can practically wager money on it. It works here in north-central North Carolina anyway. There may be some regional variation... but give or take a few days and it's something that will probably work where you live, too.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Art Buchwald has passed away

Darn. He was definitely an original. The local paper used to carry his column several years ago and there's no telling how many mornings I'd be cracking up laughing reading his stuff during homeroom in high school.

Here's one of the many stories about the man that came out today. Among his final wishes, Buchwald wanted his funeral to be "there, on the island, where I'd have a Blue Angel navy plane fly over the site. I would be cremated and my ashes would be dropped all over every cocktail party on Martha's Vineyard."

Last but not least, here is his final column, to be published after his death.

I'll go ahead and say it: America is dead

A New Hampshire man has barricaded himself inside his house while being tried in absentia on federal tax evasion charges. Ed Brown says he wants the federal government to show him where it states in law that he must pay something outside of his state and local taxes.

This is something that a lot of "tax resistors" have asked over the years. Funny thing is, nobody in the federal government has ever come forward to show where paying taxes to the feds actually is required by law.

Call me a kook for stating that, but that's a fact. Whenever a petition of grievance has been presented to the IRS or some other department of the federal government, that petition has been rebuffed without fail. On this, the feds do not answer to the little people.

You know what's going to happen to Ed Brown? He's going to be found guilty, without the jury even being told what precise law it is he is breaking. The law enforcement officers surrounding his house will get an order to "go in and get him". If he's lucky, Ed Brown will be arrested and his wife won't become a widow. That's if he's lucky. Because the "law enforcement" surrounding his house is probably made up of the ninja-suited "rack 'em and stack 'em" thugs that have a carnal desire to unload some lead into some poor shlub. They will probably go in and kill Ed Brown. And just about everyone else in this country is going to look at Ed Brown and nod their heads and quietly acquiesce to the government and just won't give a damn that one of their own got murdered for nothing more than daring to question the power of this God-damned government.

Yes, I said "God-damned"... and if I ever use that particular phrase, you better know that I'm serious, because I literally mean that this government is God-damned.

Want more? How about this: two Border Patrol agents yesterday started serving prison terms that will last more than a decade. Their "crime": shooting at a Mexican drug lord who had crossed the border into the United States. They shot and wounded the drug kingpin. The Bush Administration then had the illegal Mexican drug lord testify in court against the two Border Patrol agents and they were found guilty. Thousands of pleas for pardons have poured into the White House. Legislators have called on Bush to do the right thing. But the most evil, conceited, inept man to ever occupy the Oval Office has Decided that the two agents will stay in prison.

The President of the United States, who has sworn an oath to defend this country, including its borders, sends two of his own citizens to prison for doing the job that he refuses to do. And defends a criminal who wasn't supposed to be in this country anyway. All the while letting millions of illegals cross the border.

Once again, I defy anyone to defend, in any way shape or form, this damaged little man in the White House.

Somebody tell me: could God honestly bless this country, given how far we've fallen?

Is it at all possible for us to turn off the American Idol and put down the Xbox controller and stop drinking the beer and finally give a damn enough to tell Those In Power that "to this point and no further"?

When a government's sole preoccupation becomes the perpetuation by force of more government, then that government has lost all authority and the people under it are no longer morally beholden to it at all.

What do we owe the American government?

I'm not asking "what do we owe America?". I'm asking "what do we owe the American government?"

Why the hell should we do what "they" tell us to do?

Oh yeah, because they have guns and they aren't afraid to kill you. They will kill you if you don't do what They tell you to do.

There comes a point where disobedience to man is utmost obedience to God.

We fall prostrate all too readily before a god of money and metal and mindless pageantry. And we give nothing to the God of Heaven.

I know some Christians who actually think it's their moral duty to vote straight-ticket Republican.

As their brother in Christ, I can only say: "What fools they are!"

This country has been sold out by a gang of total bastards. And damn us for letting them get away with it.

Yeah, I'm more than a little bitter about some things...

So how does knowing all this make you feel?

And what are we going to do about it?

Winter weather finally arrives

Fox 8 WGHP is showing live footage of snow starting to fall here. We're supposed to get snow, sleet and freezing rain starting this morning and into this afternoon. The schools will probably be closing early today.

Now that we have the weather for it, it's time to come inside, throw some wood on the fire, snuggle up next to the one you love, and watch a timeless winter classic on the DVD player...

(Yes, I'm eeeee-vil :-P )

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Happy Birthday to the Greatest

Cassius Clay - better known to the world as Muhammad Ali, is 65 years old today.

"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!"

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

AMERICAN IDOL Season 6 tonight

At this point I'm not even going to try to avoid it. For the past few years I've said that I wouldn't watch American Idol again, only to take a curious peek at the vocal train wrecks in the first round of auditions and then getting sucked in for the rest of the season's run. But at least last year we got some real class with winner Taylor Hicks.

So I'm already saying that I'll be watching the two-hour season premiere tonight at 8. Which I'll admit it is pretty fun to listen to the bad ones then call up my parents to hear them laugh about them too.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Do we REALLY need a Martin Luther King holiday?

EDIT 6:01 AM 1-18-2007: I've decided to take this video down. Have been watching it a few times and... well, the delivery could be a lot better. I still have a lot of beliefs about this, and why this holiday is really doing more harm than good.

There's one thing that came from making this video that I'm glad of, that I didn't realize until now: that some people in our society really are keeping the younger generations from finding its own leaders... and we direly need those.

But I'm going to withdraw this one for now. There's a better way to deliver this same message, I just know it. But until I know what that should be, this one is going to go back to my hard drive.

Ouch!

Saddam Hussein's half-brother was decapitated during his execution by hanging.

The guards in charge of the execution used rope that was too long, was the problem. There's actually a mathematical formula that executioners are supposed to follow that takes in the condemned person's weight, height etc. and from that it spits out how long the rope should be. Too short and the guy dangles there and slowly suffocates. Too much rope and it takes the poor sap's head clean off. Ideally, the drop is abrupt enough to violently break the condemned's neck so as to bring about unconsciousness as quickly as possible.

There are some things you learn in history class that you can't "unlearn", if you know what I mean...

"Mass hysteria!": Net going nuts over alleged GHOSTBUSTERS game

In the past few hours Ain't It Cool News and quite a lot of other web outlets have passed on word about this... thing, that may or may not be a new Ghostbusters video game. Below are several videos credited to a company called ZootFly, that show the alleged game in action. It could be a fake though: some are saying that the below videos look somewhat like Gears of War for the Xbox 360. If this is something fan-made, an awful lot of effort must have gone into making this. It could also be a conceptual thing to sell the idea of a Ghostbusters game. But based on early reaction I'm seeing in a lot of places, this is something that many people are wanting to see happen.

Here's a piece of concept art that's making the rounds on the 'net right now:

And here's one of the videos (you can watch some more at the Ain't It Cool News link):

If this Ghostbusters thing is a real honest-to-goodness game coming out for the Xbox 360, that and Halo 3 alone would be enough to make me want to go out and buy the system (but I'll still wait to see if the "upgraded" Xbox 360 with HDMI port and 60 gig hard-drive materializes). I'm especially digging that this game - if it's a real game - is updating Ghostbusters to be gritty and hard-edged for the 21st century like this artwork is indicating.

Well, let's keep our fingers crossed (but don't cross the proton streams!) and maybe we'll see this. In the meantime if you've got an older game system or emulator software, you can always try to track down the Ghostbusters video game by Activision that came out twenty years ago. Even on the Atari 2600, it was a classic.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Robert Heinlein, Dick Cheney and the concept of sacrifice

Ever since I read Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers six years ago, I've thought that there was a lot of sense about the concept of government in that book. The movie version touches on it a little bit, but you really have to read the novel to fully appreciate the beauty of it. Heinlein posited in Starship Troopers that the responsibilities that come with governing and even the simple matter of voting belong only to those who have demonstrated that they are willing to serve and sacrifice for the greater good. Thus, only those who have served a minimum of two years in the military are allowed to vote and hold public office. As a result, the decision to engage in war is decided upon solely by those who fully understand the full risks and consequences of sending young men and women into battle.

Which brings us to the matter of Vice President Dick Cheney, who said this today...

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President
Dick Cheney said on Sunday the United States must show it has the "stomach" to win in
Iraq or it will confirm al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's view that Americans can be pressured to leave.

U.S. allies helping in fighting terrorism -- Pakistan,
Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Egypt -- must have confidence that the United States will stay until a successful outcome, he said.

"If the United States doesn't have the stomach to finish the task in Iraq, we put at risk what we've done in all of those other locations," he said on "Fox News Sunday."

A man who received FIVE deferments from draft service during the Vietnam conflict, telling America that it's obliged to have "the stomach" to keep sending its sons and daughters into a war with no clearly defined goal.

Dick Cheney does not understand sacrifice. Those are not his children that he's sending to fight in his war. Had he actually served in the military, he would perhaps have some moral basis on which to stand... but he doesn't even have that.

How the hell does Dick Cheney get off telling Americans that they must possess "the stomach" when he's always lacked it to begin with?

This war is being perpetuated upon us by a bunch of old men who never had the will to fight for themselves, but also have no qualms about sending young men off to die for their own selfish purpose.

Well, somebody has to say it...

About 24: It. Is. A. TV. Show.

Here's what Drudge Report is flashing as breaking news tonight...
XXXXX DRUDGE REPORT XXXXX SUN JAN 14, 2007 18:17:05 ET XXXXX

IS FOX SET TO BLOW THE NUKES ON '24'?
Sun Jan 14 2007 18:14:34 ET

As Washington continues to raise concerns about terror threats on The Homeland -- a recent CIA report outlined a scenerio of possible "series of explosions using 'low charge' nuclear weapons" -- Hollywood and FOX-TV are set to up the ante with the new season of 24!

Few outside of the 24 set know the exact details of the new season unfolding, but studio sources claim producers are pushing hard to take it radioactive this time -- and keep it there.

"Time to wake the country up!" a top FOX source told the DRUDGE REPORT over the weekend. "I do not think there has ever been TV done like this, the viewer is going to be completely riveted."

The source claims executives are prepared for any fallout from local municipalities that may be on the receiving end of plot turns and twists. How many cities 24 puts on 'nuke alert' is unclear.

FOX has set a highly-controversial espisode of 24 to air Monday night, opposite NBC's GOLDEN GLOBES.

In 2002, White House officials questioned the timing and release of PARAMOUNT's action movie SUM OF ALL FEARS -- a movie which depicts a nuclear bomb unleashed on an American sporting event!

One senior Bush official, who spoke to the DRUDGE REPORT at the time, claimed the movie crossed over the line of civic responsibility and commerce.

Developing...

Good grief... it really has come to this point, hasn't it?

I mean, the line now between real-life and fictional entertainment has become so blurred, that the possible use of nuclear weapons on an hour-long TV drama rates as serious breaking news. Worse, the producers are said to be "prepared" for the outcry from the cities they plan to wipe out. On the show. Not in the real world. Just on teevee. Which is fake...

And to think that some people thought that the whole "Who Shot J.R.?" thing was too much.

I tried to get into 24. Honest. I missed the first season except for the finale where Kiefer Sutherland shot Dennis Hopper about 5,348 times in the space of six seconds with that gun and thought that maybe I should give it a try the next season. That came along and I watched for about three episodes before it lost my interest. That's not to say 24 is a bad show, just that it's formula never caught hold with me. I've always thought that Kiefer Sutherland is a great actor, too (my favorite performance of his is probably in Flatliners). Maybe I'm missing something by not "getting" 24 and this really is supposed to be a big deal. But for what might happen on the new season of 24 to rate as serious news over everything else that's going on in this world... well, that says something about where our sense of priorities are, in my humble opinion.

But if anyone is willing to write me and tell me personally that I should give 24 another go and that this is something I could definitely dig, I might be willing to check it out again.

Bush Administration is violating the Bill of Rights... again

This time the government is examining the bank records of Americans "suspected" of having terrorist links.

How are we supposed to have faith that the government is not also examining the records of people who have come out with open disagreement about what this administration is doing? How can we possibly believe them that they have only the best of intentions at heart when they do things like this?

Well, how can we?

Amendment IV of the Constitution of the United States:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
So where are the justly-issued warrants in these searches?

Or is it that in the name of fighting "the terrorists", that things like that don't have to be adhered to any longer?

Why do "they hate us for our freedoms" when we don't really have freedoms to begin with anymore anyway?

Why should anyone believe that the America that is going to result from what these people are doing is going to eventually be an America worth defending at all someday?

What's going to keep another presidential administration from really abusing these powers sometime in the future, and probably sooner than later?

How can anyone, with a clear conscience, defend what the people in this administration are doing to this country?

Lend me your ear: ROME Season 2 starts tonight on HBO

At the end of the finale of the first season of Rome, Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) was holding the body of his wife and we saw Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson) holding hands with his ex-slave... who seemed to have already forgiven Titus for bashing the brains out of her fiance. Meanwhile the corpse of Gaius Julius Caesar (CiarĂ¡n Hinds) was starting to attract flies on the Senate floor.

Presumably, tonight's opener for Rome's second season will have the funeral of Caesar and the beginnings of the seizing of the empire by Mark Antony (James Purefoy) and Gaius Octavian (Max Pirkis), who is going to wind up becoming Caesar Augustus.

The first season of Rome was like The Sopranos B.C., and some of the most brutal yet captivating storytelling I've seen on television in recent years. Season 2 will hopefully bring more of the same. Enjoy it while you can though: word is that HBO won't be funding any more Rome beyond this season because of the production's high cost. Meaning that Rome is probably going to be like Carnivale: another HBO show that was ended before it could live up to its potential. Sic transit gloria mundi...

The revels begin again tonight at 9 p.m.

Friday, January 12, 2007

This little droid does everything but holograms

Rolling out from Nikko Home Electronics is the R2-D2 DVD Projector.

It projects DVDs up to an 80 inch width onto walls or ceilings with apparently really good image quality. "Artoo" also boasts an iPod port so you can play music through him, as well as playing standard music CDs. He also moves around with motorized wheels in his legs, and you control it all with a remote control shaped like the Millennium Falcon. He may not be able to project real holograms and he probably doesn't have any stolen plans for the Death Star inside him (or maybe he does, who knows?) but this still seems like a pretty snazzy toy for any Star Wars fan willing to pay $2000 for it. Thanks to "Weird" Ed for this great find and sending it this way!

2160p HDTV gets unveiled at CES

Westinghouse this week at the Consumer Electronics Show revealed their new HDTV technology: a 52" screen showing pictures at 2160p!

I don't know if the last two Star Wars prequels were even shot at resolution that high. It might even be something that rivals an IMAX image. Westinghouse is saying this new HDTV technology is meant for "high-end" uses like industry and medicine... so it'll probably be a while, if ever, that we see something like this in our living rooms.

Incidentally, the new set we bought a month and a half ago is a 37" set with 1080i HD resolution. A lot of people have told me that unless you are watching on a set bigger than 50", no one is able to tell the difference between a 1080p image and one at 1080i. I've been watching ours for any tell-tale flicker and so far I haven't seen any. So I'm expecting this set to last us several more years to come before we buy either a 1080p set... or one at 2160p :-)

HD-DVD versus Blu-ray: Let the pornographers decide!

The format war for what kind of high-definition DVD player you might be buying may have been won already by HD-DVD. Blu-ray, the high-def disc being pushed by Sony, is shying away from being used by creators of pornographic movies... which is leading them to adopt HD-DVD as their standard.

This is almost beat-for-beat what happened in the early 1980s between VHS and Betamax. Back then the porn industry chose to go with VHS, partly because of Sony's policies (Sony also made the stupid decision to only let their consumer units record about an hour of stuff, thinking that "nobody would want to record anything longer than an hour"). The result was that a lot more VHS players were bought as opposed to those who bought Betamax. A quarter century later and Sony is doing almost the same thing. You wouldn't think that something like porno would encourage that widespread an adoption of technology... but I guess enough people wanted VHS instead of Betamax just because of that.

I'm sort of hoping that HD-DVD will bear out in the long run, but not because of this. It has to do with the name: "HD-DVD" just sounds like the natural progression of DVD, where a lot of people will be told about Blu-ray and wonder "what's that?"

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Fish 'n Flush toilet and aquarium

This is the second post in a row that has to do with toilets somehow: weird trend, that. The Fish 'n Flush has a standard toilet tank core surrounded by a transparent aquarium. Among such uses for this novelty, "Some people think we're nuts but other just love it and parents are using it to help their children with potty training." For $300 you too can have a school of fish swimming around the family throne.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Crapshoot #1: Responding to the Iraq speech tonight

Yes this is what it's come to ladies and gentlemen: sitting on a toilet while laying down some smack about what needs to be said...
In this first (last?) edition of what I'm calling "Crapshoot with Christopher Knight" I'm responding to President Bush's speech tonight about the Iraq war. Among things getting discussed are why American involvement in Iraq was doomed from the start, why Iraq is currently incapable of sustaining "democracy", and the hypocrisy of Bush wanting to protect Iraq's borders while doing nothing about our own.

This is a much better video than my first video blog post that I did yesterday. Think I've gotten into a good groove now when it comes to speaking into a camera for an audience of... what, four or five? :-) Some friends provided great feedback on that first video, that I'm trying my best to take to heart. Anyway, here's a new one. Enjoy!

George W. Bush has become John Kerry!

I'm following my usual custom with political speeches like this: listening to the TV, without actually watching it. That way I can home in on what the message really is, without being distracted by visual imagery.

So I'm laughing at Bush right now because the man has very obviously become John Kerry...

John Kerry in 2004: "I have a plan."

George W. Bush in 2007: "This plan can work!"

How did America get to the point where someone this shallow and disattached from reality could become President?

EDIT 9:32 PM EST: Bush said that "...our policy should focus on protecting Iraq’s borders..."

When is he going to get around to protecting OUR borders? You know: the borders of the country that he swore an oath to uphold and defend?

Good lord, we really do have a deranged man in the White House, don't we?

Finally beat MARVEL ULTIMATE ALLIANCE

This was by far one of the most satisfying videogame experiences I've ever had. I've been hooked on this game and the other two that I got for Christmas. The Godfather: The Game is an incredibly deep and immersive work of art that I've gotten a bit into but wanted to give myself a lot more time to explore and really "get involved" with it. Call of Duty: Finest Hour is kicking my butt: I still can't get past that first Stalingrad mission.

So I've been playing the heck out of Marvel Ultimate Alliance and a short while ago finished it, with just less than 30 hours put into the effort. I used every character at least once except Daredevil, who I couldn't unlock until late in the game. For the final battle I used Spider-Man (wearing the Stark Armor), Wolverine (in Classic costume), Deadpool (in Assassin gear) and Thor (wearing Asgardian Armor). It's a very tough battle involving not just Doctor Doom - who now has god-like powers - but multiple evil duplicates of the Fantastic Four. By the end of the fight only Deadpool and Thor were still standing and fittingly enough I was able to use Thor to deliver the finishing blow.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance delivered what may be the most awe-inspiring moment I've ever beheld playing a videogame. Last night I got to the missions on the Skrull planet. As soon as I saw Galactus walking in the background I was like "Daaaaaaaammmmmm..." The guy is positively huge! We're talking as big as a mountain. And then he finally takes notice of you and when he starts coming after you... well, let's say that I'm keeping the saved game from just before that point, just to show anyone who comes over so I can see their eyeballs get all bugged-out. When you finally engage Galactus, you are in for one of the coolest videogame sequences in the history of anything as the Silver Surfer zips all around the world devourer's head. Just simply amazing. This was from the original Xbox version: if/when I get an Xbox 360 I can't wait to see what this scene looks like on that.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance is one of the most epic games I've ever played, and the ending sets itself wide-open for a follow-up that might be just as staggering. Yeah it has a number of bugs (that I hope will get ironed-out in the sequel) but those are easily overlooked for how fun it is to play. Definitely recommended no matter what platform you happen to own.

Closing out the books

Five months after its inception, a little while ago I closed out the Knight for School Board 2006 Committee. So legally I am no longer a committee and can go back to being an individual :-)

Today was the deadline for the fourth quarter reports, which if you miss it then it becomes a $50 a day fine up to $500 until you do file it. Which I'm not really a procrastinator: I just like to make sure EVERYTHING is in order before turning it in. There wasn't much to report: between the last report I made a few weeks before the election I had only made one expenditure - which was $250 for the newspaper ad - and no contributions. So while I was there I turned in the paperwork that officially closes out the campaign.

'Twas a heckuva neat ride, in spite of not winning a seat. If I could do this all over even knowing that I wasn't going to win a seat, I would definitely have still done it. Who knows: I might just go for it again next year :-)