Monday, April 30, 2007

Ron Price channels spirit of Trotsky in latest show of cockiness

Where is a good icepick when you need it most?It finally dawned on me today: Ron Price really is, unequivocally, a neo-conservative. And "neocons" are the most loathsome political movement in American history, without a doubt. These are people who believe in "the noble lie": that it is perfectly okay to deceive people if the goal in mind is political power. As was proudly boasted in National Review recently, neo-conservatism is an off-shoot of the teachings of Leon Trotsky, who helped bring communism to Russia along with Lenin. Well, neo-conservatism is Trotsky's beliefs in absolute power without apology... coupled with excessive narcissism and feeling of self-importance without regard for others.

Sounds just like confessed thief and disgraced Rockingham County Board of Education member Ron Price, who is now violating his oath of office by suing his opponents for practicing their constitutional rights.

Well, as considerably more than one person told me months ago would happen, Price is letting his sense of power go to his head. Today on his blog he lashes out at local media for spending "a disproportionate amount of time on rumors and gossip". Here's more from his post:

In order for Rockingham County to climb out of its pattern of decline, the attitudes and concerns must shift to an emphasis on creating wealth and away from an emphasis on gossip.

As one looks around the county it is apparent to me that there are organizations in the media that concentrate on emphasizing the negative and even exacerbating the negative to the point of senseless and useless ridicule and cynicism. All the while they are doing this they are pulling attention away from creating wealth and directing it towards gossip and failure.

As we move forward we must all concentrate on the goal of wealth building and allow those organizations that don’t to die out from lack of support. Some of these groups and people are on the wane but may regain strength if the county loses its focus on creating wealth.

Henry County, one of our sister counties to the north in Virginia, share some of the same economic conditions and a common TV station problem as well.

"A common TV station problem as well." That says it all. Price hates WGSR-Star 39 in Reidsville for helping to keep his "sign incident" toward the forefront of most people's minds around here.

He can't own up to his wrongdoing, so once again he's lashing out at his "enemies".

But this time he's attempting to spin this as if those who have tried to hold him accountable are now a threat to the community! According to this latest screed by Ron Price, stations like Star 39 and "independent" media like the Neely Chronicle (and this blog, no doubt) are economic and cultural liabilities that are holding back development in Rockingham County.

Really, Mister Price, I think you are seriously attributing too much power and influence toward me!

This thing about "creating wealth" that Price harps on troubles me. If you were to believe Ron Price, the only thing that we should be concerned with is materialism. He completely glosses-over such matters as simply doing what's right. There are things you can't put a price tag on y'know... like principles.

By the way, in case Ron Price is wondering: I don't like to brag about it, but I am doing my darndest to cultivate a real filmmaking industry in Rockingham County. Something that everyone in this community can have and take pride in. I grew up here. I have real love for this area. It's not like I'm some carpet-bagger from Florida who only blew into town a year ago and hasn't done anything toward promoting the local economy.

Dear Lord, has there ever been a politician in the history of Rockingham County who has tried to frame so much in reference to himself as Ron Price is doing now? Does Ron Price actually believe this is all about "Me Me Me"?!

"The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end."

-- Leon Trotsky

Ron Price really is a student of Trotsky, isn't he? I mean, he can't win any other way, so he's trying to rile up the "proletariat" so that they'll revolt against his political enemies. And if he has to lie and deceive and obfuscate everyone so that he can get his way... well, he doesn't think there's anything wrong with that, does he?

I swear, people like Ron Price make me sick. They're part of the cancer that's eating away at this country. The "SCREW YOU I GOT MINE JACK!" mentality is destroying America, and right here in our own backyard we see it personified in Ron Price.

Why am I so opposed to this man? Because we either do our damndest to stop people like him now, or else we have to tell our children that we didn't stop the bad things from happening when we had the chance. We have to, as Barney Fife so eloquently put it, "nip it in the bud!"

In the meantime, "Ron Protsky" wants to incite revolution. Let us hope that he doesn't get exiled to anywhere that has a surplus of icepicks.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

"Gandalf 3:16"

Was flicking through channels and saw that tonight TBS is running The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Which reminded me of something that I don't think I've ever mentioned in this space before...

On the night of December 18th, 2001 - just less than a month after we got engaged - Lisa and I went to the Beechwood 11 Cinema in Athens, Georgia for the movie's midnight premiere. It was the first time that Lisa had ever done a "midnight showing" of a new movie. Well, a few months before at Dragon*Con in Atlanta, the good folks at TheOneRing.net had given us these nifty t-shirts from their website. We wore them to the theater that night, and I brought along a sign that I'd made before we left Lisa's apartment:

Here's a pic that Lisa took of me waving the "Gandalf 3:16" sign around while we were waiting for the show to start:

And here's some folks who came to the event in costume:

Here's the photos, along with an after-action report, I made for TheOneRing.net (you have to scroll down a bit to find it). Incidentally we saw Fellowship of the Ring twice on its opening day. We got back to Lisa's apartment about 3:30 a.m. and caught some sleep (I crashed on her couch) and then saw it again about 12 hours later that afternoon. Not completely as crazy as what I did when Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace came out (saw it twice on opening day all before 6 a.m.) but that's another story.

Anyhoo, I saw that the movie was on TV tonight and thought it'd be fun to share that lil' anecdote and the pics :-) It definitely was one of the best movie experiences I've ever had in my life.

Ron Price makes good on "enemies list" threat - Lashes out with "silly" lawsuit - Openly violates oath - The Knight Shift expected as next to be hit

Ron Price, disgraced member of the Rockingham County Board of Education ("I don't have anyone to hold my Bible for me" he lamented meekly when he was sworn-in this past December), has filed a lawsuit against fellow former school board candidate Richard Moore and Moore's wife Debbie in retaliation for the Moores trying to hold Price accountable for his stealing campaign signs on the night before last November's election.

Here's the story that's being reported in today's Reidsville Review.

In filing this suit, Ron Price is grievously breaking the law - and subsequently is violating the oath he took when he was sworn-in to serve on the Board of Education - by attempting to "punish" others for practicing their rights under the Constitution.

And good money sez that The Knight Shift blog and Yours Truly will be getting hit soon too, as the supposedly "Christian" Price lashes out against those on his "enemies list".

If you've been reading this blog for awhile now, you know the details. Here's the first post about it along with my open letter calling for Price to step aside, on the grounds that he was no longer morally fit to serve on the school board. If you look through the archives from November 2006 through today you'll find several items relating to what Price calls as "the sign incident" (unlike Ron Price, I haven't "scrubbed" anything about this from my blog). You'll also see that I couldn't help but openly mock Price and his insistence on being on the board ("The Rockingham County Star Chamber" and the "But Mommy..." graphic most come to mind).

Price's lawsuit against Moore mentions "several other Defendants to be named at a later date". Because of that and in realizing that I did wind up having a somewhat prominent role in taking Price to task in public for his stealing ways, I'm more than expecting to be next to get slapped with a lawsuit...

...because after reading through the suit that Price has filed against the Moores, I wouldn't put anything past Ron Price (Richard Moore currently has all 8 pages of the lawsuit up on his site for public viewing). Among other things Price is suing Richard Moore for wearing a t-shirt to a school board meeting, for having criminal charges filed against Price (even though Ron Price admitted on live televison on the night of the election that he had stolen the signs), and for assisting with the petition drive - that was signed by I don't know how many Rockingham County citizens but it was several hundred at the very least - to have the State Board of Education look into Price's suitability to serve on the board.

If there weren't grounds enough to petition for Price's removal from the Rockingham County Board of Education, there sure are now. Ron Price is now openly attempting to deprive others of their First Amendment rights: namely, the right to free speech and the right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances".

Now, what kind of example of citizenship does Ron Price possibly think he is setting for the children of Rockingham County by acting as if the Constitution is not much more than a mere piece of paper?

How does "conservative Christian" Ron Price reconcile this lawsuit - which in the past few days several people have told me is "silly" and "the most bizarre thing I've ever read" - with 1st Corinthians chapter 6? If we as believers are instructed not to sue each other, how much more are we not to file frivolous suits against anyone else? We are supposed to be establishing a good witness for Christ with all of our actions. Throughout this entire matter, from the moment he chose to steal the signs, Ron Price has acted as anything but a Christian... and much less a "conservative" one.

What I would especially like to know is this: every day, school teachers throughout the country have to put up with a lot worse in their own classrooms than anything that Price has "suffered". How dare Ron Price expect us to have any more sympathy for him when those teachers have done nothing wrong and Price has done nothing right throughout this situation?

If Ron Price can't take the heat, he shouldn't have run for the seat in the first place. Price definitely shouldn't have broken the law - of God if not of man - by taking what was not his.

There's more that I could say about this... and there is likely going to be a lot more that I will be saying... but for sake of brevity and because I lack the time this morning, I'm going to hold off on those thoughts for the time being. I've little doubt that a deputy sheriff will be arriving at my doorstep in the near future with my own lawsuit, and when that happens I'll scan and post the pages of that for your mirth and merriment.

In the meantime, I have this message to Ron Price. Ron, if you are reading this, I have but one thing to say to you, in addition to how much more I and many others are laughing at you for this latest stunt...

To quote the great philosopher Thanos: "Come and get me!"

Saturday, April 28, 2007

New product: The "Shoot Them Both" Anti-Republican/Democrat t-shirt

Want to show the world how honked-off you are at both the major political parties? Have we got the shirt for you!

The "Shoot Them Both" Anti-Republican/Democrat t-shirt! Let everyone know that you don't fall for the two-party fraud. Make a bold statement about your independent streak! Let's face it: we all know the system is headed toward collapse because of the criminal conspiracy that is "bipartisan politics". Show everyone that you're ahead of the curve by wearing this shirt (and even if you don't wear this shirt, show it to everyone anyway, however you can).

$14.99 through CafePress, click here to order.

AMC is running PSYCHO II right now

Funny story about that movie...

It was like early 1987 or so and one day at the video store my sister and I rented Psycho II (actually we got Mom to rent it and she said the original Psycho was a good movie but they didn't have that one). So Anita and I popped it in the VCR and watched it. Even without seeing the original, I was able to understand Psycho II pretty well.

So the movie ends and Anita and I are getting up from the floor and walking down the hallway and just as she's passing by the bathroom I point and scream out "BLOOD'S COMING OUT OF THE TOILET!!"

My sister screamed like you wouldn't believe. To this day, I don't think she's ever forgiven me for how bad I scared her like that.

It was late and I was hungry ...

Working late on a few things, and I had to go out for a bit. This was like at midnight. And I was feeling both that I needed a good nighttime drive, and that I was feeling hungry. How many places for good food are open at this time of night though?

So 20 minutes out from home, just before 1 a.m., I stopped by Sandy's Subs and Italian Grill at Elon. This was a place I loved to eat at when I was a student at Elon. Well, Thursday through Saturday nights they're open 'til 4 a.m. I got a foot-long ham and cheese and brought it back home. And it was dee-licious!

Sandy's Subs is on Haggard Avenue not far from campus (if you're on Williamson Avenue coming through from the direction of I-40, turn left and it's just a short distance on the left, near the Domino's Pizza). Well worth checking out if you're ever in the area.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Making martial law easier

You know what? At this point, I'm starting to just not care anymore. America seems so hell-bent on its own destruction that nothing your or I can do would do anything to stem it. I don't even know if anyone can make the case that this country is worth defending anymore, because what is there to defend? So much has been taken away already.

The American Conservative has a sobering article about how much easier it has become for President Bush... or any ensuing president... to declare martial law. And how it seems that our elected officials are completely indifferent to it. And the likelihood of this new power to be abused.

And it will be abused, no doubt about it. Politicians can not resist using power, if they know that they can get away with it. And there is really nothing left to stop them from doing it (Fred Reed writes about this better than I can).

It's funny: President Bush has done things to the Constitution that, if Clinton had done this 8 or 9 years ago, the "conservative Republicans" would be ready to storm Washington with torches and pitchforks. But these same people turn a blind eye to Bush or anyone else claiming to be a "good Christian" (see Chuck Baldwin's new article for an especially good read about that).

Some people cheer for "our President" getting this new power now. How joyful will they be when the next president, or the one after that, uses the powers they gave this current one to come after them. And it will happen. It is the nature of the beast that is unregenerate human nature.

This is why I have come to believe that widespread gun ownership is vital for the survival of liberty in this country. It's so you will be able to kill them when they follow their orders and come for you.

Call me a kook if you like, but I just know from history how these things tend to wind up...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Three words

Falwell v. Flynt.

To whom it may concern:

Bring it on.

Latest LOST theory (about the lists)

Okay so we've heard that of the castaways that the Others took at the end of last season, that Jack "wasn't even on Jacob's list". That means that Kate and Sawyer were on the list, with Hurley only there to be sent back to the castaways' camp to tell them not to come looking for their friends.

Then last night we find out that Sun conceived on the island, with Jin, and it was because the island gives men five times the sperm count than they would have anywhere else, so Jin's impotence was cured (chalk it up to another healing miracle that the island did).

Did Ben have Kate and Sawyer taken and put in the circumstances of their imprisonment, for the sole purpose of having them come together sexually, as another experiment by the Others? Juliet did say something in her report to Ben about how she was going to attempt taking a sample from Kate soon... so is Kate pregnant now?

Are "the lists" made up of those the Others think are genetically ideal for something?

It sort of makes sense. I've been trying to figure out why Kate and Sawyer would be on "Jacob's list" but not Jack, and what those two would have in common, and that's the only thing that really comes to mind.

I've only got one thing to say at the moment

It's too dark in here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Live blogging about tonight's LOST

10:17 PM EST: In this first act we have learned two things. One is that some people die on this island. The other is that some people don't stay dead on this island.

10:26 PM EST: Jin knows kung-fu. So far, good episode.

10:40 PM EST: Well, now we know where all that stuff went to when the ladies visited The Staff, right?

10:51 PM EST: This last act epitomizes everything that makes Lost the best show on television right now, and perhaps one of the best ever. So much mixture of joy and grief in just the last two minutes of it... wow.

It was enough to make me momentarily forget about the "five times" thing: holy crap!!

11:01 PM EST: The whole episode, especially the last five minutes, is best summed up by the very last thing said in the episode, by Hurley:

"What?"

Something screwy going on...

Seems to be some gremlins in Blogger's works tonight. This is more or less a test post. Gonna see if it works and hope they'll fix it soon.

The Rebellion Begins: New U.S. ORDER OF THE PHOENIX trailer


Hot on the heels of comes the domestic trailer for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix... in awesome Quicktime!

See that pic up there? That's from the scene that the Potter fans have been slobbering to see the most in this film: the scene where Fred and George basically tell Umbridge that she can shove her damned rules straight up her ass, before unleashing indescribable mayhem as they flee Hogwarts.

Two things I hope we have learned from the Harry Potter books. Number One: Do not fear death (a lesson I think the books have done beautifully). Number Two: Government f**ks everything up so bad that you... yes you... have to do it yourself. From the looks of this trailer, the Order of the Phoenix movie might do a handsome job of making that point loud and clear for everyone watching it.

And gotta love the tagline: "The rebellion begins".

Rumor: BioWare making a NEW Star Wars MMORPG...


...and it might be set 4,000 years before the time of the movies.

Here's the story at TheForce.net and it's breaking out in quite a few other outlets right now too. The full scoop is that, allegedly, BioWare is creating a massively-multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG for short) based upon Knights of the Old Republic, their 2003 smash hit which is widely hailed as the best Star Wars game of the past several years. Knights of the Old Republic broke away from the traditional "Rebels versus Empire" motif of just about every previous Star Wars game and went into bold new territory: a time four millennia before the rise of Emperor Palpatine.

I loved Knights of the Old Republic (it equals TIE Fighter as my all-time favorite Star Wars game). It's an extremely beautiful and well-crafted game. And it's setting in Star Wars history is lush with untapped potential.

I hope BioWare is really doing this. Heck, I hope BioWare is making any Star Wars MMORPG. The already-existing one, Star Wars Galaxies, has devolved into a glorious mess because of incompetence on Sony Online Entertainment's part. Star Wars deserves better than that. Maybe BioWare will be the company that finally does this right.

How's that for a story, ya meatbags?

Is it really good news when the Dow breaks 13,000?

Once upon a time, this may have been news of interest to the average American. Today, I doubt there are very many barber shops across the country that this is going to come up in as a topic of discussion.

If America still had the manufacturing infrastructure that it possessed 20 or 30 years ago, I could see this as cause for celebration. But as I'm seeing a lot more layoffs and plant closings (usually to relocate overseas where the employment is cheaper) I have to wonder how much of this "profit" is coming at a cost to the middle class. Curious, that it seems there is a correlation between the number of workers who lose their jobs in this country to how their respective former companies seem to only gain financially.

A robust economy cannot be long sustained when its foundation is primarily service industry.

Among the things that are ruining the United States economically are rising debt brought on by easy credit, and the delusion that we can have employment that is both good and cheap. That last one has driven too many companies to either relocate their manufacturing overseas, or to hire illegals at lower wages.

Eventually, the lust for more material goods and the lack of a strong domestic (and legal) workforce are going to collide. And it won't be pretty when they do... even if the Dow were to reach fifteen or twenty thousand along the way.

LOST tonight promises to continue the streak

I'm hearing extremely good word about Lost tonight. This week's episode, titled "D.O.C." (for "date of conception") looks to be dealing with two big things. First, the woman parachutist who fell from the sky in last week's show and was found by Desmond, Charlie, Jin and Hurley (she seems to have been looking for Desmond because she had the photo of him and Penny among her effects). Second, this is going to be a "Sun and Jin"-centric episode and it's fairly well known that the thing about Jin's pregnancy - and how no pregnant woman lives long enough to come to term on this island - is going to be the driving plot of tonight's show. But what's really got me stoked is that, apparently, tonight's episode sees the return of Mikhail a.k.a. "Patchy" (played by Andrew Divoff) who didn't die when Locke through him through the fence after all.

Speaking of Lost, I've heard some weird rumors in the past few days about Jacob and who will be playing him when we finally get to see him. This past weekend the story was that Ron Perlman would be Jacob, but the producers shot that one down (though it looks like Perlman might have some kind of role on Lost yet). Then on Monday I heard that Angus Scrimm (the "Tall Man" from the Phantasm movies) is going to be Jacob. Me? I've thought for awhile that when we finally meet Jacob that it'll be Peter Coyote playing him, since Coyote does the narration of all the Lost "retrospective" shows. But I gotta say: Angus Scrimm as Jacob would be pretty wicked cool.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Astronomers discover the planet Krypton!

The first extra-solar Earth-like planet - complete with warm temperatures and liquid water on the surface - has been discovered by astronomers.

It orbits a red star and is 12,000 miles in diameter as opposed to Earth's 8,000 miles... meaning that it has heavier gravity than Earth.

Just like the planet Krypton!

In other news, scientists have discovered kryptonite deep inside a Serbian mine.

This has all put me in the mood to watch Superman Returns later tonight.

Seriously though, the planet is about 20 light years away... which is just around the corner so far as cosmic distances go (though getting there is a little problematic). Maybe Project Daedalus can be brought out of mothballs and sent off to investigate.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The international trailer for HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX

The movie of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is supposed to be the shortest of the film adaptations to date. You wouldn't believe that after watching this trailer, because it looks like the most epic by far of the series...

Politicians exploiting Virginia Tech in the name of mental illness

"President Bush says he has directed federal officials to conduct a national inquiry into how to prevent violence by dangerously unstable people."

He can start with those who want the war in Iraq because as Einstein put it: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".

For me, the red flags started going up yesterday when Senator Charles Schumer from New York said that he wanted mental health workers to report to the federal government on who is "mentally ill" for the express purpose of the feds denying them the right to own a gun.

For one thing, this is a knee-jerk reaction. For another, the existing gun laws are adequate already... maybe too adequate. For yet another, no matter how much law gets passed, eventually someone is going to break it and cause something like the incident at Virginia Tech to happen. Sorry to say this, but there can be no guarantees in life and you certainly can't expect... and shouldn't even want... the government to try to protect you from everything.

But most of all: should we really want politicians to be the ones defining what "mental illness" is? Seung-Hui Cho certainly had problems that should have discouraged him from having ready access to firearms. But I've come to know many people who although they have to take anti-depressants and other medication to function day to day, they are as healthy and fit as you or me (okay, I'll admit that some have questioned my own soundness especially after my first school board campaign commercial, but I digress...). A lot of these people show much more sense and compassion than many who have never had to take medications for depression and other conditions. Are they going to be denied a permit to have a gun for self-defense because just on the basis of being prescribed these drugs, the government declares them "mentally unfit"?

And if so, then where will it stop? Where can it stop? Because if government has the power to deny a basic right because it has the authority to declare someone a "mental invalid", then there is nothing to keep it from defining that condition in any way that it sees fit. Would political dissent be grounds for branding someone mentally unstable? Hell, there are apparent cases where dissenters have been denied the right to travel in this country: why wouldn't the federal government stop there and insist that they not be allowed the means of self-defense, either, because it declares these people's "behavior" to be symptomatic of mental illness?

What Bush and Schumer and too many other politicians are suggesting in the wake of the Virginia Tech slayings, is a potential start on the road to the gulags. Remember how back in the day in America we heard about how dissidents were declared "mentally ill" and sent off to Siberia for "treatment" for the next forty years? Apart from physical relocation (for now), how was that different from what a lot of politicians here are wanting?

Think that federal government wouldn't ever practice such gross abuse? Remember: President Bush wants mandatory mental health screening of every schoolchild in America... to say nothing of his wanting to medicate them against the wishes of the children's parents and physicians. This was apparently being promoted at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry: the same industry that talked Governor Rick Perry into mandating an uncertain cancer vaccine on every girl in Texas. That came soon after after the vaccine's manufacturer Merck gave Perry a substantial political contribution. If they can sell out principles for money, they can sell them out for power, too.

It's like this: if the government can declare huge portions of the population "mentally unfit" to own firearms, then there is nothing preventing the government from defining "mental illness" in whatever way it believes necessary. Anyone and everyone can be deemed mentally "unsound" for the most ridiculous of reasons. Inevitably, a person will have to produce official documentation showing that he or she is sane, instead of it being determined that they are unhealthy based on prior behavior. So it will be that only the "super sane" will be authorized to own firearms by the government. Anyone want to take a guess at how many of those there will be?

Well, it won't be very many. And they will be far too few in numbers to be an adequate bulwark against the government deciding that it needs even more power.

Tell me again how this doesn't sound like we're headed to Siberia, comrade.

ConcealedCampus.com

There's a new website called ConcealedCampus.com. It's advocating the right of college students to carry concealed firearms as a means of self-defense. Needless to say, I am 100% in agreement with their position.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The "Garter Incident" from Chris and Lisa's wedding

Our wedding was almost five years ago and people we know still giggle whenever the crazy stuff that happened during it comes up in conversation. I've started ripping some video clips from our DVD of it and here's the first: the now-infamous "Garter Incident". Keep in mind that this is a stunt that I had been waiting for fourteen years to pull off...

Harsh but true insight from the Virginia Tech tragedy

You'll have to read Kathy Shaidle's commentary about the Virginia Tech thing for her complete thoughts on the subject: I'm not going to summarize it here. But I do believe she is making a good but sadly seldom-considered point.

Thanks to Jenna Olwin for the find.

This blog's policy on presidential campaign banner ads

See those ads for John McCain that pops up every now and then? I didn't put them there. Didn't want them and don't ever want them. In a few hours they should hopefully go away for good.

This blog will not be used to promote any presidential candidates. Unless there is one that really, really impresses me with sincerity, humbleness and ability. But that will not be John McCain or Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or just about any of the other "front-runners" we're supposed to buy into.

Up 'til now, the ads that have appeared on this blog, I really didn't give much thought to them. That's changing starting now. If there is an ad for something that I don't approve of that's appearing on here, it's going to get zapped off the site.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Change is in the air

If you're a regular reader you've no doubt noticed the new title graphic. I thought I'd shamelessly capitalize on getting recognized by The New York Times a few months ago for my school board campaign, and on what more people are telling me that I might have a pretty strong case for being the first known blogger with proof of it. This site gets tons of visitors each day, mostly because of only a handful of articles that have been here for awhile. So yeah, I'm trying to increase my regular readership :-)

Anyway, that won't be the only thing changing around here. The next few days are going to be spent playing around with the layout and other elements on this blog. That new title might not even last for very long. Since the last time this blog got a new look over a year ago, so much has happened in my life that I really don't feel like "that Chris" at all. So the blog's new look is going to reflect more on who I am now: still enjoying life, but a lot more serious too about things. You might have noticed that coming out in the posts of the past few days, especially.

So if this place seems messed-up at times, that's just me working behind the scenes. This place will be fixed-up good pretty soon. Just mind the holes in the meantime :-)

Ham sandwiches are now a hate crime

Be careful when putting your Quizno's sub on a table: it might be investigated as a hate crime. Here's the story from Boston.com:
Police investigate ham incident at school

April 19, 2007

LEWISTON, Maine --Police are investigating as a possible hate crime an incident in which a ham steak was placed in a bag on a lunch table where a group of Somali students were sitting.

Such an incident would be offensive to Somalis, who are Muslims and consider pork unclean.

A Lewiston Middle School student was suspended after the incident, which happened April 11.

Superintendent Leon Levesque said the incident is being treated seriously and police are investigating. The center for the Prevention of Hate Violence is working with the school to devise a response plan.

The incident is the second of its kind in Lewiston in recent months. Last summer, a man rolled a pig's head into a mosque in Lewiston, which has a large Somali population. A court later ordered the man to stay away from the mosque.

This past week I've gotten the sense that this country has completely come unhinged from the locomotive. When the location of a ham sandwich is found to be "offensive" by some people and turned into an issue for law enforcement, you know we've gone over the edge.

I'm thinking of starting my own religion. It's called Knightiology. And one of the tenets of Knightiology is that mayonnaise is an affront to my faith. If anyone brings a sandwich with mayonnaise near me, I'm going to scream about how insensitive I'm being treated and have the police investigate it as a hate crime.

Now, wouldn't that be the stupidest thing, if I really did that?

Isn't it the stupidest thing that we have to be careful with our ham sandwiches now for fear of "offending" someone?

I wonder what would happen if I had some pork rinds shipped to the local mosque...

Digital filmmaking's fight against entropy

A sobering read from Variety, especially for folks like me who are into digital filmmaking: the problem of archiving digital footage. Think that tape and recordable DVDs can store the products of our work forever? Nah-uh! The problem is two-fold: life expectancy of storage media, and current methods of storage being unable to be read by future technology. The current best solution is to "migrate" older material to new media every so often, but for the time being there is no reliable long-term storage.

What this is going to inevitably mean is that the work of a lot of people is going to be lost forever, eventually. Especially for the "indie" filmmakers and other artists. Which is especially horrifying to me because I've always thought that every person's creative work has merit. Whether we actually like it or not is a whole 'nother thing, but we should at least be appreciative of others for following through on a vision from their own unique perspective. But now, unless adequate and economical solutions to the storage problem are found, it will be as if a lot of those people's work never existed at all.

So far as filmmaking goes, the other alternative is to work with real film... but that's hideously expensive. And film can fade over time, just as tape will.

Isn't thermodynamics a wonderful thing? /sarcasm

Friday, April 20, 2007

The "ARMED STUDENT" t-shirt

Shortly after posting about Bradford Wiles, who called on Virginia Tech officials this past summer to allow students to be able to defend themselves, I had an idea. Police wear badges and carry guns as a visible detterent against committing a crime. Maybe it's time for civilians to start boldly doing the same...

The "ARMED STUDENT" t-shirt. Whether you actually choose to carry a firearm while wearing this shirt is entirely up to you. Imagine just a few dozen students walking around campus wearing these shirts and the effect it would have on someone contemplating another shootout. Now available for $8.99 at CafePress. Firearm not included.

Virginia Tech student pleaded for school to allow guns

Virginia Tech grad student Bradford Wiles pleaded with school officials to allow students to be able to defend themselves by having guns on campus. To say that Wiles has considerable frustration with the Virginia Tech administrators would be putting it mildly...
Would my wife and family, knowing how much I have written and spoken about allowing me my most basic right of self-defense on campus, feel any comfort in the policy that supposedly protects me?

Larry Hincker, associate vice president for university relations, in response to a column I wrote in August asking that the university change its policy forbidding law-abiding concealed handgun permit (CHP) holders from carrying on campus, wrote the following in The Roanoke Times: "Guns don't belong in classrooms. They never will. Virginia Tech has a very sound policy preventing same."

Do you still feel the same way about your policy now, Mr. Hincker? Will your faith in that policy provide comfort to any of the victims' families?

Very powerful essay that's definitely recommended reading. Thanks to Chaplain Geoff Gentry for finding this article and sending it this way.

On honor

Too many people in this country believe they're honor-bound to follow the orders of other people... who never gave a damn about honor in the first place.

Fred Reed - master of the fine art of curmudgeonry - has a surgically precise piece about the concept of honor. I dare not excerpt anything from it here: it really is best to take this one in whole. Suffice it to say, I think it's one of Reed's better pieces... and they all tend to be good.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Pornography of the Real

Paul Harrill talks about the media circus at Virginia Tech this week, before NBC did or did not do a wise thing in releasing the video and photo material so soon after the shootings. What makes Harrill's voice one to pay heed to is that he is not only an independent filmmaker, but a teacher at Virginia Tech. Thanks to Shane Thacker for finding this.

Town with mandatory gun ownership celebrates 25 years without a murder

A couple of days ago, I wrote here that the Virginia Tech massacre proves that gun laws don't work. And that a civilized society needs more decent people with guns.

Now comes an article proving my point: WorldNetDaily has a story about Kennesaw, Georgia: a town where there are not only no anti-gun laws, but it's mandatory for every home owner to have a gun. And in the quarter-century since enacting this law in 1982, there has not been one murder in Kennesaw. Also worth bearing in mind that in 1982 the population of Kennesaw was 5,242: at last count, the present population is 28,189... but the crime rate has dropped significantly since passage of the law.

Sounds like a nice place to live.

Finally some justification for an 80 GB iPod

Russia wants to build the world's longest tunnel under the Bering Strait, connecting Siberia to Alaska.

I suppose that when this is finished, and if a highway can be built across the Darien Gap, it will theoretically be possible to alternately drive and take the train from Tierra Del Fuego all the way to London. Which may be enough time to listen to all the songs on a fully-loaded current-edition iPod at least once.

Now if only those things had easily replaceable batteries like spares for a cellphone...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Standard Wednesday night reaction to LOST

Fairly good episode this week. Not as heavy or revelatory as the previous several episodes. It had a pretty heart-pounding opening though. And a very strong ending that already has me impatient for next week.

I thought that Desmond's time as a monk was rather interesting. And that priest said something that I really liked, something about "you've been so busy running away that you haven't realized what you're running toward", and how God had something bigger in mind for Desmond than being a monk.

Was that the weird jewelry woman who told Desmond all that stuff about the universe from "Flashes Before Your Eyes" in that photo on the priest's desk?! It sure looked like her. Won't know for sure until I go back and watch "Flashes Before Your Eyes" again (which is still on our DVR). But I immediately caught that little detail tonight.

Loved Sawyer's comment about how they have to play ping-pong.

Okay so... she fell from the sky. Who is she? I'm intrigued more about this parachutist than I was about "Patchy".

Any other Lost fans get the sense that we're seeing the pieces being put on the board right before our eyes, but we still have no idea what kind of game it is that is being played?

This has been one of the most amazing seasons of a television show I've ever seen. Definitely some of the most compelling storytelling in any medium I've had the pleasure of enjoying. Let's hope the showrunners can keep this up.

EDIT 11:27 PM EST: Where did the helicopter come from? I don't think even the best of them could carry enough fuel to cross over a large expanse of ocean like that. It must have come from a ship or another island in the vicinity. Who knows, maybe Penny is rich enough to have an aircraft carrier out there looking for Desmond...

Revealed: what Galactus will look like in the FANTASTIC FOUR sequel

You're not going to like it.

Philip, I know you're definitely not going to like this one bit, brother.

Want to know what Galactus, the devourer of worlds, is going to look like in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer?

Here's the scoop from Ain't It Cool News...

Wanted to let you know what Galactus is going to look like / be represented as in the FF2 sequel:

A storm cloud.

Yep.

That's it. That's the solution from the creatives.

(clears throat).....pretty lame.

Think Superman/Silver Surfer flying through clouds with Galactus / Jorel VO.

THAT IS THE DUMBEST PIECE OF %#&$ I HAVE EVER HEARD OF IN THE HISTORY OF COMIC BOOK MOVIES!!! Galactus as a massive storm cloud...?!

We could have gotten a beautifully CGI-rendered Galactus standing amid a ruined landscape like how he's depicted in the Marvel Ultimate Alliance game. THAT is how I envisioned a feature-film version of Galactus.

Instead we are getting... well, V'Ger from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

This is going to make Malebolgia from the Spawn movie look like inspired art, in comparison.

Fighting the Guild Wars

For the past few weeks I've been playing Guild Wars a lot. If you don't know what it is, Guild Wars is an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) with, at last count, about 2 million active players. But it's different from most MMORPGs out there, like World of Warcraft. For one thing, there are no monthly fees you pay in order to play the game: you buy the software and create your account and that's all the money you'll ever have to plunk down. It's not an entirely game-wide "persistent" world though: you can meet other players from around the world in places like cities and outposts, but once you leave those the game is an "instance" created just for you and your party of fellow players (if you want to play alone though you can hire "henchmen" from the cities to follow along and help you). It's also different from most MMORPGs in that there is a considerable amount of backstory and active plot that is at work in the game while you play. The biggest of those is the Searing: the first part of the game is played in an idyllic "fairy-tale" setting that lets you get used to gameplay. But once you choose to participate in a certain mission, an event called the Searing takes place and the kingdom you're in is turned into a desolate landscape. The story then picks up two years later and it's only then that the real game begins.

I first bought the original Guild Wars game - the one now referred to as the Prophecies campaign - almost two years ago: several of my friends had gotten into it and had recommended it. I played with it a bit, thought it was a lot of fun... and then some real-life stuff happened and I totally forgot about it. Since that time I've seen the two new "chapters" - Factions and Nightfall - hit stores, and a few times I wondered what I'd been missing by not fully exploring the original.

Then a few weeks ago I read about the upcoming expansion to Guild Wars called Eye of the North. Then next year will be Guild Wars 2, which is said to be a true MMORPG-style persistent world while keeping the traditional Guild Wars elements (including no monthly fees to play). Reading about them intrigued me enough to start playing the original Guild Wars again, this time creating a new character from scratch so that I could re-acclimate to the game. Real-life circumstances have also led me lately to make myself "relax" a bit more: the past few months I really have been going full-tilt nonstop. It's time to slow down just a bit...

Well, I'm glad that I gave Guild Wars another shot, because I'm enjoying it a lot more this time than I did when I first bought the game. It seems like a lot more people are playing it too, and it's always fun to hook-up with live players when it comes to tackling a mission. I'm probably going to play the original Guild Wars: Prophecies and then move on to Factions, which is the second chapter of the story (Prophecies and Factions and Nightfall are each stand-alone games, but if you have the others then they "interface" with each other so that you have a much larger world in which to run around in).

The original Guild Wars sells for about $25-30 bucks in most stores. Well worth picking up if you ever wanted to experience a MMORPG without having to worry about paying fifteen bucks a month and then feeling committed to play: with Guild Wars you play at your own pace. Maybe this game can be what we eventually use to wean hardcore World of Warcraft players off their addiction... :-)

Supreme Court upholds ban on partial-birth abortion

Some good news out of the high court, for a change.

But the Supremes still insist that there is a "constitutional right" to have an abortion.

Partial-birth abortion is one of the most stomach-turning things you could ever imagine. I'm glad that this ban is being upheld. But abortion is still legal. And I don't know if Roe v. Wade will ever be overturned in the foreseeable future. As I've noted here before, there are too many people on both "sides" of the abortion debate who have too much to lose if abortion simply "went away". The so-called "right to choose" is one of the things keeping "feminists" attached to the Democrat party and opposing abortion is one of the the few things that have the "evangelical Christians" maintaining a tenuous connection to the Republican party.

You know, abortion and the war in Iraq have something in common: in either situation, politicians use it to maneuver themselves in power and bicker pointlessly, while letting innocent people die for no reason.

Maybe that's one of the more long-term affects of abortion: it's made us come to see our fellow man as an expendable commodity, not as a precious soul.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Bush at Virginia Tech

I remember, back in the day, when people in some quarters would lash out at President Bill Clinton for "crashing" a solemn occasion like the memorial service for those killed in a senseless act. And, they were right to do so. Clinton had to show up and be in front of the camera and become the focus of attention at a completely inappropriate time. It was all about "me me me" to Clinton.

I watched practically the same thing happen today. Just a different President is the only thing notably different. And this time I'm hearing many of those same people swooning over how this President is "wonderful" and "is so compassionate".

This President won't even attend the funeral of any service member who has died in his war. But he will show up - with a speech that he most likely didn't or couldn't write on his own - at a somber moment for a photo op.

Look, if we are going to condemn Clinton for this, then we'd darn well better be ready to condemn George W. Bush when he does the same thing, if we're concerned with anything like consistency.

In my opinion, Bush should have stayed away. This is a time for the Virginia Tech family to come together and comfort each other. The rest of us should not be like "Job's comforters", especially if we want to be there just there for sake of "being there". Right now the people of the Virginia Tech community need our thoughts and prayers more than anything. This is not something for outsiders to exploit for their own selfish gain.

Mandating school uniforms demands civil disobedience

Last night the Rockingham County Board of Education voted 8 against 4 to implement "standard mode of dress" at Reidsville Middle School and Reidsville High School next year. In other words, there will be school uniforms at those schools this coming fall.

There was quite a turnout at last night's meeting. More than there's been at any meeting since I started attending regularly last summer (I've only missed one meeting during that time and that was last month, on the night that Mark Childrey asked me to fill in for him on Monday Night Live). Several students of Reidsville High School rose to speak during the public comments portion of the meetings. I thought that they were considerably more passionate and articulate in their arguments than most of the "grown-ups". When the vote came, at least two of the girls who spoke broke down in tears.

Steve Smith was one of those who voted against "S.M.O.D." His belief was that unless the heart of the parents and students and faculty was fully invested in this, that it wasn't worth pursuing. Steve Smith wanted to postpone the vote but board chair Elaine McCollum said that because of procedure that a vote had to be taken during the meeting. When the vote came only Steve Smith, Amanda Bell, Celeste DePriest and Lori McKinney voted against implementing the uniforms. All the others voted to enact it, except Herman Hines who abstained because he felt that unless this was something being considered for all of the students in the system that he couldn't conscientiously take part in the vote.

To say that I am disappointed in several members of the board would be putting it lightly. I told Elaine McCollum – someone who I have known and respected more than she'll ever know quite a lot over the years – that this was not right. I told her that if evoking a sense of spirit and pride at the schools was the goal, then that can't be something that's created from the top-town. It has to inherently be there to begin with. The board can't mandate this "sense of belonging" into being. McCollum told me that by roughly a six-to-one margin, she heard many more parents tell her that they did want the uniforms than parents telling her they didn't want them. And she told me that "you know me Chris", that she has never been a person who would have wanted anything like uniforms. I've known Elaine McCollum for enough years to trust her on that. That still doesn't mean that I can approve of how she voted on this though. Or that I can be approving of several others who voted for this, for that matter.

McCollum stressed that this was going to be a pilot program. Meaning it should be considered a "trial run" at Reidsville Middle and Reidsville High. There are going to be reports made every few months about how well it's working. I have to wonder how much the rising seniors of Reidsville High were considered. This next year is supposed to be the best of their high school career... and the school board is going to play games with it. Would the members of the board who voted for this have enjoyed recollecting how their own high school senior years were diminished because they were forced to wear a school uniform?

By the way, Ron Price voted for the school uniforms. He spoke in favor of them a few times during the meeting: something that met with considerable sniggling from members of the public ("Oh the irony," I told fellow former school board candidate Penny Owens).

When I was running for school board, I made no secret about being a proponent for a strong dress code. I still believe that. If a thing enforced, the dress code is more than adequate. Enforcing a uniform will fix nothing. It will not do anything that wasn't already there waiting to be done in the first place.

As we were leaving the meeting last night, I met with a few of the students from Reidsville High who spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting. And I told them something: "Remember Thoreau."

So here it is: I am going to go on record as stating that last night's vote dictates a little "civil disobedience" on the part of any parents and students of the affected schools who do not wish to adhere to this uniform code.

To the parents of every student, and to every student at Reidsville Middle School and Reidsville High School: the school board has voted to make you wear school uniforms.

Now let the school board try to enforce it.

I wouldn't ordinarily advocate something like this in defiance of people... well, some of them anyway... who I happen to personally know and believe are good and have the best of intentions in mind. But no matter who is in charge of it, if government is wrong then it becomes a duty of conscience for the citizens to protest with due diligence and force if need be. Indeed, I believe that there is not only a moral duty to defy government in such circumstances, but a dire Christian one also.

You don't have to do what government tells you to do simply because government takes a vote or makes a threat. And this particular body of government has neither legal force or the moral authority to back up any threats it may make, either.

Defy the board. Adhere to the dress code that is already in place. Within those reasonable limits, wear what you want to wear at Reidsville Middle and Reidsville High. Encourage your friends to violate the new uniform code too, if they also believe it is wrong. Don't buy a single piece of prescribed attire.

Make a show of public force about it. And then dare the board of education to do something about it. Tell the board that if it wants to have you wear a particular outfit to school, then you will be glad to do so... provided that the board foots the bill for it. But until it does so, tell the board to stay out of your bedroom closet.

What's the board going to do? Suspend or expel every student who doesn’t adhere to the new uniform rules? How much teaching do they expect to be done at Reidsville Middle and Reidsville High if even 25% of the students are suspended because they don't dress as monotonously as the board is dictating? How much teaching would they expect to accomplish if 50 or 75% of the students refuse to adhere to this unreasonable demand of the board?

I don't think that there would be very much teaching that would be done at all. And the board would be forced to back down on this empty threat that it has made.

It's like this: we can either meekly accept this decision by the board and thus go on to teach our students that they must do whatever government tells them to do. Or we can choose to defy the board and demonstrate to our young people that there is still such a thing as freedom in America if we choose to have it.

In this situation, as best as I can understand it this is definitely a case where disobedience to government is obedience to God. And if there is going to be an America worth handing down to our children, then we the citizenry must make that America come about ourselves, instead of trusting those in government to make it happen.

That even applies to such things as decisions by the local school board.

Virginia Tech massacre proves: we need more guns

I'm absolutely damned serious about that.

Or let me put it another way: a situation like this proves that we need more citizens walking around who are carrying guns.

No, I'm not advocating all-out anarchy here. But how far would Cho Seung-Hui (that's the name of the Virginia Tech killer in case you haven't heard) have gotten if just one other person in the vicinity had a gun yesterday morning?

I hate to be the one to break the news about this, but: we live in a hopeless, broken world. Man's efforts to make it a perfect place have utterly failed. It's impossible to achieve the "utopia" that some dream of. Yes, it would be wonderful if we could all get along and be kind to one another and not be hurtful or exploitive of our fellow man. There are some of us who do believe that. But there are also plenty of others who don't consider the lives of others with that kind of sanctity. Cho Seung-Hui seems to have been one of them.

What do we do about them, if the law has proven incapable of reigning them in?

If law and government is no longer sufficient in maintaining a civil order, then it falls to regular citizens to enforce that civility.

Three things are needed on the part of those citizens. First: a good conscience, particularly a good conscience before God. Second: the will to act upon that conscience. And third: the means to enforce the right to conscience while itself being reigned in by conscience.

In other words: a model citizen must be one who realizes that he is empowered to carry deadly force, who actively does possess deadly force, and also understands that with this right comes terrible responsibility. So much so that he or she will not actively seek to employ it.

Now imagine a large segment of the population that believes in such a thing as absolute right and wrong, and understands it well enough that its individuals are willing to carry firearms as a last resort against acts of evil.

Wouldn't those who contemplate evil be a lot less likely to carry out their actions, knowing that they stood a far greater chance of being killed before they could accomplish their goals to the fullest?

How many people would Cho Seung-Hui have been content to kill if yesterday morning he knew he would probably be taken down that much sooner by someone with a gun?

There are going to be some who will scream for more gun control laws, in the wake of this tragedy. Tell me: how much gun-related violence have gun laws prevented? The people who use guns to carry out these evil acts don't give a damn about gun laws. If they want a gun, they are going to be able to find one no matter what.

The only thing that will stop evil people with guns, is to have a lot more good people with guns.

Maybe if there were more good people with guns, then this country and its government would not be as screwed-up as it is.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech shootings

Unbelievable. I visited Virginia Tech a few years ago and thought it was one of the most beautiful campuses I've ever seen. Hard to comprehend that something this horrible could happen there.

Don't know much else to say except that my thoughts and prayers go out to them.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

You know those peppers that Papa John's puts in the boxes along with the pizza?

Well, I just ate one.

DAY-UMMMNNN are those things hot!!

If you ever wondered what they tasted like, and had the temptation to try one, brace yourself: they will make your taste buds blister.

I kinda liked it though. Maybe next time I'll ask them to pack a few more of them in along with the pizza.

The hottest pepper on Earth is said to be the Bhut Jolokia, which I've heard is so hot that it'll burn bare human skin on contact. Most companies that sell it have you sign a waiver stating that you understand the danger that comes with handling such a thing.

So of course, I'm hoping to try it for myself someday :-)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

World's first blog... or world's first slog?

Shane Thacker has coined a whole new term. Yesterday I reported here how Knight's Corner - maintained by yours truly starting in the fall of 1994 - might have been the world's very first real blog. Which would in effect make me the world's first real blogger, if this counts. Shane brings up the point that Knight's Corner, although it had all the functions and features of modern blogging, started out on a BBS (bulletin board system).

So... if it wasn't a weblog ("blog") because the Web wasn't readily available at the time...

...was Knight's Corner really the world's first and only-ever BBSlog, or "slog"?

I think Shane is right: Knight's Corner was definitely a slog. But since it migrated to the web as soon as could be managed (which included the same photo of me by the way) it counts as a very early blog also.

Maybe Knight's Corner was a loglarva, or "logl", that grew into a real blog.

Great new word, Shane. Thanks. We wondered 12 years ago what to call Knight's Corner, and now we have a name for it: "slog" :-)

Just watched UNITED 93

Tonight was the night that United 93 premiered on HBO. If you have HBO-W it'll be coming on again in another hour or so. We watched it in full glorious high-definition.

This one is going to be haunting me for the next few days, I just know it.

United 93 was the plane that was hijacked on 9-11, that the passengers fought back before it could hit its intended target (presumably this was going to be the Capitol building). Instead it spiralled into the ground in a field in rural Pennsylvania.

This was the first movie about 9-11 that I've ever seen. I'll almost certainly be picking up the DVD for this soon. United 93 is one of the finest historical movies that I've seen, and it captures the intensity of that horrible day... I don't want to say beautifully, but it does resonate strong if you were watching it happen, wherever you were that day. The reactions from the characters are made all the more authentic when you realize, during the credits, that most of the real-life air traffic control and military staff on duty that day played themselves in this film.

This was just... wow.

I don't know if I've seen any other films by Paul Greengrass before, but I'm definitely going to find out about what else he's done. I'll strongly recommend United 93, but be mindful that this is one of the more intense movies to come out lately.

How Bill Clinton helped ruin childhood innocence

This morning reminded me once again why Bill Clinton was one of the worst Presidents in American history: because he single-handedly destroyed Saturday morning cartoons.

It was back around the mid-1990s that he did the deed. Clinton decided that children's television programming wasn't "educational" enough: kids were enjoying Scooby-Doo and Papa Smurf way too much for their own good. So Clinton handed down a decree through the FCC: a high percentage of children's programming had to be "educational" in nature. Which was just the Clintons' way of saying that they were going to expose children to more of their screwball propaganda. So we got a helluva lot less of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show and a lot more @&$%-ing crap like Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Lord how I hated that show. Whoever's responsible for putting it on the air should have been dragged out into the street and shot. And there was a lot of other #&$@ that wound up on the air because of Clinton too.

Do you understand what I'm saying here? That Saturday morning, which for so many decades was understood to be "the children's time" of the week, and something even considered sacred, was destroyed by Bill Clinton because he wanted to put his own greasy stamp on that and everything else. This is what he wanted his "legacy" to include. He didn't give a damn about the children. Clinton only thought of himself, just as he did with everything else. He destroyed Saturday morning for children.

He destroyed it for everyone else too. I'll never forget the first time I fully understood what he had done. It was one morning in September 1997 and "Weird" Ed and I were waiting for the premiere episode of The Weird Al Show on the local CBS affiliate. Instead we got this s*** called Wheel of Fortune 2000. I called up the CBS station and they said that because of Clinton's mandate for more children's "educational" programming, that they had to include Wheel of Fortune 2000 and because they had their local morning news show, there wasn't time to put The Weird Al Show into their Saturday morning schedule.

All it took was one man to destroy something pure, innocent, wonderful and fun. And what's more, Saturday morning television has never recovered. What Clinton did, he did to the next few generations of young Americans, and quite possibly it'll be more than that. I don't see Saturday morning programming returning to the way it once was anytime soon.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Was Chris Knight the world's very first blogger?

This isn't something to be making a post about unless there was serious documentation backing it up. And I wouldn't be claiming to be this for "bragging rights" either. Rather, it's purely for the sake of history that I would want to come forward with this and add it for consideration in our dialogue about such things.

But I will admit: when it dawned on me yesterday about what I was doing over 12 years ago, and how that has now become such a routine part of life today when at the time it was pretty unusual, I did feel a little bit of pride at the prospect. A guy can be afforded that much, can't he? :-)

So here's the tale about how your friend Chris Knight may have started the world's very first blog... ever.

How do we define "blog"?
Something needs to be addressed first though: how exactly do we define what a "blog" is? CNET News.com published a story last month about blogging turning 10 years old, and the story traces the history of online personal publishing. It began with .plan files that you read using the "finger" command with the Unix user prompt (something that I had on my account at Elon when I was a student there). Those weren't usually accessible through the World Wide Web, unless the .plan was made visible on a webpage via a CGI script or somesuch. When it comes to web-based publishing, the story cites Justin Hall and his Links.net page which Hall started in January 1994, and Carolyn Burke's online "Caroline's Diary" which began in January 1995 as the first online diary. The earliest true "blog" as mentioned in the story that is still active today is Dave Winer's Scripting News, which dates back to April 1st, 1997.

But in the modern sense, what exactly constitutes a "blog"?

In my mind, a "true blog" is an exercise in individual creativity and commentary, as expressed through the enabling of publication in an electronic medium for a wide audience. That's what makes a blog different from a diary: a blog is intended for publication. But as opposed to most publishing done in the modern era, there is no "gatekeeper" in place to control or edit the information that the blogger is sharing, where trying to share the contents of a written diary would have to pass muster with a number of editors.

A blog could be considered only truly a blog if it is not only an online log of information, but information in the form of thoughts and ideas coming unfettered from the mind of the blogger. At least, that is what "blogging" as we have come to understand it is considered to be. As such, it should be expected out of the blogger that he or she is actively producing new content from his or her unique perspective.

And in early October in 1994, that is exactly what I began doing...

Meddling with a modem
I got my first real computer for Christmas in 1993. It was an AST brand, 25 mhz 486 processor with 4 megabytes of RAM and a 170 megabyte hard drive... which back in those days was plenty, until Wing Commander III came out a year later and I found myself salivating for an upgrade. But for its time, it was a really nice thing to tinker with and learn from and actually doing stuff with like writing papers for college classes (at least, until the night that Johnny Yow brought over Doom and there's no telling how many hundreds of hours I've wasted on that game since).

It had a 4800 baud fax modem in it too. And I got to use it to send faxes to a number of places and it came in quite handy whenever I had a letter to the editor to submit to the News & Record in Greensboro. We'll come back to that in a bit, 'cuz my op-ed letters to that newspaper helped to germinate quite a bit the idea that I eventually had.

Well, I wasn't content to just send faxes with it. I wanted to use my computer as a real communication tool: something that I could actively engage in ideas with. At the time there were online services like CompuServe and America Online (which wasn't strictly an Internet provider per se at the time) and Prodigy and a few others. But those cost monthly fees to use, not to mention that to dial out from Reidsville, North Carolina to the nearest access number would have incurred long-distance charges. And yet, the desire to "go online and do something" wouldn't leave me alone.

Enter the NEXUS
I'd heard tell that there were smaller, privately-run versions of the bigger online services. These were the "bulletin board systems" or BBSes you've probably heard mentioned over the years. Just out of curiosity, I started asking around to see if any of those were in this area. One night I called my friend Mark Comer, who owned a computer store in town, and asked him if he knew of any. It turned out that Mark actually had his own BBS. He called it The NEXUS. He gave me the phone number and I dialed in from the computer. The modems did their "handshake" and for the first time in my life, I watched ASCII characters rain down from the top of the screen to form the welcome page for The NEXUS BBS.

From that moment on, I was captivated by the online world.

Mark had a few message boards and some files available for download, including Doom. Not long after I first found The NEXUS he added FidoNet connection to the board, including the Star Wars Echo, which for a lot of "old timers" was the very first time we could connect electronically with fellow fans of the saga.

I found The NEXUS right at the time when a lot of other people were either looking for BBSes to dial in to with their new computers, or were starting their own systems up. For rural Rockingham County, this was the most 'netting that we could have for awhile. Looking back, I think it's safe to say that there was an active and happy online presence, in spite of lacking a real Internet connection. It seemed like every week a new BBS was going up based in the county, usually from Reidsville or Eden and there was at least one good one in Stoneville. Every time word of one got around, I fired up my modem (and usually had to wait until I didn't get a busy signal 'cuz somebody else was using the BBS... which more often than not used only one phone line) and dialed in. Which sometimes let to some pretty funny stuff: one night I tried dialing in to what was supposed to be a new BBS in Eden. It was a non-existent number. So I changed one digit in the number to make it another Eden-based number, thinking that maybe I'd been given a mis-printed number. Well, imagine my shock when it turned out that I had dialed straight into the Eden branch of NationsBank (now Bank of America).

I was having loads of fun with the local BBSes, especially The NEXUS, which sort of became "home base" for me. And it wasn't long before an idea came to me...

Knight's Corner
I was 20 years old when all of this was happening, and "full of vinegar" as they say. I started writing letters to the editor of the area's big newspaper when I was 17, but it was when I was 19 or 20 that I really started to hit my stride. The thing is, the News & Record had (and still has) a policy: each person could have only one letter printed every 30 days. Any more than that wasn't allowed. Every time I saw one of my letters printed in the paper, it was like I felt a rush: knowing that people were reading my stuff and talking and more importantly thinking about it... that was a really good feeling! I would have submitted a lot more to the News & Record if I could. I was bursting at the seams with stuff that I wanted to write and talk about. But there was that pesky 30-day rule...

It was like a junkie going through withdrawal. I had to publish a lot, and I had to publish bad.

That's when a really crazy notion hit me.

I wanted to ask Mark if he would assign to me a special section of The NEXUS, that anyone in the public could read but only I would have the access to write to it. With that section, I would have free reign to write and post about whatever it was that was on my mind. Since I strongly considered myself to be a political conservative at the time, that would be a viewpoint that I would be bringing up for discussion and since this being 1994 and the big "topic" apart from O.J. was Hillary Clinton’s "health care reform", I could use this section to talk about how wrong I thought her ideas were (does this mean that I am the world's very first conservative blogger? Eat your heart out Powerline and Little Green Footballs!).

Or, I would use it to talk about anything else that was on my mind. It would be wide-open for me to use.

Mark loved the idea. And even though it was his BBS, Mark trusted me enough to not abuse the privileges he was giving me with it.

And it wouldn't be just about posting stuff with that being the final word about it either. Mark set it up so that whenever I posted something, other registered users of The NEXUS could leave comments about it.

We called it Knight's Corner.

For all intents and purposes, it was exactly what today could be called a blog. With new, original content that I wrote and posted at least 2 or 3 times a week and sometimes much more than that. And we started it up early in the month of October in 1994.

Those first few weeks, I wrote a lot about the upcoming November elections: the ones that wound up seeing the Republican party gaining control of the House and Senate for the first time in four decades. I don't think looking back that I was trying to be exactly "the online version of Rush Limbaugh", but using Knight's Corner to talk about ideas and issues was something that I did feel a great deal of satisfaction in doing. Some of the posts that I did sparked riotous debate. I remember one in particular that spiraled into how a Republican-held Congress would be disastrous for the country, because of the gridlock that would come between it and President Clinton. 'Course with me being a rock-ribbed Republican at the time, I thought that anything that would stifle the Clintons would be good for America.

I wrote a lot of other things to it, too. One night not long after the elections, for whatever reason, I shared my "secret recipe" for turning frozen pizza into a true gourmet delicacy: pour Paul Newman's Olive Oil and Vinegar Salad Dressing on top of it before putting it in the oven. Then there was my rant against airing hemorrhoid relief commercials during dinner hours, which apparently made a lot of people who read it laugh, gauging by the comments that were posted on that one. A few times I wrote reviews of movies that I had rented from Action Video, like Gettysburg and Monty Python and the Holy Grail (I was 20 years old before I saw that movie... pretty sad huh?).

Knight's Corner even had its own opening page and logo. It was something I whipped-up one night with this ASCII-art program that Mark had me download. It was a crudely-drawn stylized "Knight's Corner" in dark red font against a black background (the text of the rest of Knight's Corner was bright white). A few months later when Mark added RIP-scripted graphics, we made a new version of the logo with a RIP-drawing program too, for people who used dial-up programs that could handle RIP.

Would you like to know what the guy behind Knight's Corner looked like? Not long after we started Knight's Corner up, I got a handheld black and white scanner. I scanned a photo of myself and uploaded it to Mark's system and we told people where they could download it from (with either "x modem" or "y modem"... gotta wonder how many people reading this will remember those). So if Knight's Corner was the world's very first real blog, then that might have been the very first blog "profile picture" too.

The more I think about it, the more I feel confident in calling Knight's Corner, if not THE very first real blog, then certainly one of the very first. 'Course, the word "blog" didn't exist at the time. Neither Mark or myself knew what exactly to call Knight's Corner. We mostly referred to it as my "thingy".

What else can I say about Knight's Corner? It was a hoot to do. I had so much fun doing it, that my writing letters to the News & Record started to slack off big-time. And then the News & Record itself got wind of what was going on up in Rockingham County...

"Welcome to the Virtual Neighborhood"
The NEXUS BBS was becoming such a success, that I told Mark that maybe it was time to tell others outside of the county's "computer clique" about it and the other systems that were around. He agreed. I guess I did have an ulterior motive in suggesting this: the more people who used the BBS (which Mark had added quite a few number of phone lines to it), the more who could potentially read Knight's Corner. Which would make running Knight's Corner all the more fun :-)

So I used my handy-dandy fax modem and sent the News & Record a letter about The NEXUS and what we were doing with it and about how there were all these other systems around that were offering a taste of the online world to those who didn't have full-fledged Internet yet. Staff writer Susan Ladd got in touch with me and Mark and a few other people who were active on the BBSes. Her story ran on page D1 – the front page of the Life section – on January 21st, 1995. Her article, "Welcome to the Virtual Neighborhood", had a graphic of a cork bulletin board with Post-It notes and papers pertaining to BBS activity tacked to it. One of them said "Barney's Bulletins", which was a humorous reference to Knight's Corner. It was a great story with a lot of personality injected into it.

Here's part of Ladd's article that talks about Knight's Corner...

Knight maintains an area on the NEXUS board called Knight's Corner, with recipes, a humor column, even a photo. He also enjoys the debate forums.

"The topics change all the time, and since most people use an alias, you can say whatever you want," says Knight, who lives in Reidsville. "The topics are everything from health care reform to hemorrhoid commercials airing at dinner time - I started that one myself."

That weekend and the next few days, I noted that quite a few new users started using The NEXUS, and I heard from some of the other BBS operators that they saw a jump in new users, too. I made a post to Knight's Corner that welcomed the new arrivals, then commenced to writing even more about stuff that was on my mind. Some people liked what I had to say, others took issue with me. One article I wrote that particularly comes to mind had to do with abortion and why I thought it was wrong. Over a year later, I used many of the same arguments in that Knight's Corner article for my first op-ed piece in Elon's student newspaper, The Pendulum (which aroused quite a lot of reaction too, but that's a story for another time).

So there it is: documentation from a major newspaper that I was actively engaged in what can only be called "blogging" as early as late 1994. Pretty cool, huh? :-)

Behold... the Internet
I kept at Knight's Corner for the next several months. And then when a company called Interpath brought the very first Internet connection to Rockingham County in spring of 1995 and I discovered the Netscape browser, my interest in keeping Knight's Corner going started to slide considerably. I'll always have a lot of fond memories about the time when BBSes were king and my role in actively creating content for it... but when the Internet came, it really was like going from a bicycle to a Ferrari. Suddenly there was so much more wide-open possibility to explore and use.

But I didn't abandon Knight's Corner entirely. Not long after I started classes at Elon I took part in a 2-hour session about writing HTML and uploading them so that we could have our own homepages on Elon's server. The night after that lil' class, I was working on my homepage in the computer lab in the Alamance building. That’s when Ed Woody came in and asked what was I doing and I told him. I'll never forget the look of astonishment in his eyes as he saw that I was creating a real, honest-to-goodness webpage: "I thought you had to have special software to do that!" he exclaimed. I immediately began sharing with him all the tricks that I had learned the night before. We spent the rest of the evening merrily working on our homepages. And that was the start of the partnership between "Weird" Ed Woody and Christopher Knight :-)

But like I said, I didn't totally forget about Knight's Corner. Whenever I wrote a new piece to post on The NEXUS, I first did it in Microsoft Works (which came with the computer), then looked it over and then I had to laboriously type it in again into the BBS through my account. What this meant was, I still had the text of the Knight's Corner postings. I created a separate page off from my main homepage that I copied and pasted the text of a lot of those into, and linked to it from "Chris Knight's Eclectic Emporium" (yes that was the title of my VERY FIRST web page). I didn't bother with transcribing all the comments that my stuff on The NEXUS had received though.

So now Knight's Corner had a real live presence on the World Wide Web. I wrote a few new things to it every now and then, but by that point my creative energies were devoted mostly to unlocking the secrets of the Internet and learning how to use them productively. The last thing I really posted to the Knight's Corner "blog" was my column about abortion from that issue of The Pendulum from March of 1996. I received quite a bit of e-mail about it, and added those to the article just under the main piece, complete with dates received.

What happened after that? Well, in July 1996 came the movie Independence Day and I went nuts for that movie and created the "Chris Knight's Unofficial ID4 Homepage" to express my love for it, and it soon turned into the biggest webpage on Elon's servers. I even got a nice e-mail from Dean Devlin about it. It wasn't a question of disk space per se, but by that time I realized that keeping the Independence Day page up was really what my momentary passion was. I quit posting to Knight's Corner entirely.

When I re-designed my homepage a few months later (this time calling it "Chris Knight's Carnival of Coolness") Knight's Corner was gone completely. I'd become a regular op-ed writer for The Pendulum by then, and that's where I then focused my mind on serious matters. But I've still got floppies containing the original Knight's Corner articles floating around somewhere. Maybe someday I'll find them again and post them here.

Knight's Corner 2.0
When blogging started becoming big a few years ago, I couldn't help but remember doing Knight's Corner. In fact, I would definitely say that The Knight Shift blog is the spiritual descendant of Knight's Corner, if not actually being Knight's Corner 2.0. There aren't many times that I make a post here that I don't think back to how this was done in "the old days": using a terminal program dialed into a BBS to methodically type in text that was often slow – sometimes by several minutes – to show up in your window. It's so much easier now. In fact, right now I'm typing this up in Microsoft Word and will soon be copy and pasting it into the text window on my Blogger dashboard, just like millions of other active bloggers do on a daily basis.

Anyway, yesterday when the article about me and Schrodinger's Bedroom came out in goTriad, it made me think back over the years to all the other... stuff... that landed me in the newspapers. It's not that I've tried to draw attention to myself all this time. It's just that whether it's BBSes or desktop filmmaking, I've always wanted to point out the neat stuff to people so that they can take it and run with it and do something really cool with it, too. Everything I've done most of my life has been with trying to encourage people to do something good, or making them think a little more, or entertaining them in mind (and sometimes all at once, like what I did with my school board commercials). I remembered back to this article from 1995 that Susan Ladd did. And it was only then that it hit me like a hammer upside the head: that I was actively keeping a blog, with a lot of personally-created content, long before anyone else is on record as having done that. With documented evidence proving this, to boot.

So, there you have it: I may have been the world's very first real blogger (which would make Reidsville, North Carolina the birthplace of blogging). Or maybe not. I'm guessing probably not and that there might be someone else out there who was doing this already before the fall of 1994.

But regardless of that, it is a nice feeling to be able to say that you were definitely one of the pioneers in an uncharted territory that is today enjoyed by countless others worldwide. And more than looking back on what I might have done, I enjoy seeing what everyone else is writing and making with what is still our nascent sense of empowerment... and thinking about the things that are yet waiting to be accomplished with it.

This Don Imus thing is a joke

And I'm not talking about what he did either. I'm talking about the reaction to it and how this seems to have become this country's biggest priority, if you're going by either the "mainstream" press or the "alternative" media including the blogosphere.

It wasn't until late yesterday afternoon that I heard what Imus said exactly. Have I been that out of touch with reality for this past week? More like: there were other things... and more important things... for me to worry about. There should be a lot more important things for all of us to concern ourselves with instead of what words a talk radio host chooses to use. If Imus had said "let's round up all the (your choice of minority here)s and (your choice of harsh fate here)" then that might be something to take note of. But on the scale measuring calamities awaiting modern civilization, Don Imus doesn't rate anywhere.

I've started to wonder in the past few years, and this thing proves it: are we as Americans no longer capable of facing boldly the things that do truly matter? I have to wonder about that, because the only things that we seem to be zealous about anymore are "non-news" stories like what Imus said, or Anna-Nicole Smith or whenever Mel Gibson and Michael Richards go on a mad rant about Jews or black Americans. Years before that it was O.J. and some of the tabloid pablum about the JonBenet Ramsey case. Those things are banal at best, inappropriate at worst... but in no way worth so much waste of resources to harp on incessantly.

We are losing our rights, are over-taxed, are losing our manufacturing infrastructure, have a thousand more things that we should be focused on... and instead we willingly buy into the farce that Don Imus saying "nappy-headed hos" on live radio is a threat to all that we know and love. That's what Al Sharpton would have you believe anyway... and who the hell actually takes that guy seriously? Shouldn't the Tawana Brawley thing have wrecked his reputation for good?

If this is what we now fixate ourselves on instead of the things that will determine whether we have a country worth passing down to our children, well... it makes me wonder if America really is as good as we want to believe it is anymore. If it's still worth defending, even. Why should somebody enlist in the armed forces to uphold and defend a Constitution that is no longer adhered to by a people more interested in what Don Imus has to say on the radio? Would you be willing to die for such a people?

I sure wouldn't.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Delayed reaction to last night's LOST

I watched last night's Lost episode "One of Us" when it broadcast and again off the DVR. This show has been on an incredible hot streak for the past several weeks and last night's may have been the best so far from it. Lots of "mythology" questions were answered (I guess we finally now know how it is that the Others know so much about the passengers of Flight 815) but there's still plenty of others left and in true Lost form, plenty more were opened up. Once again, I'm most wondering about who "Jacob" is supposed to be. Obviously someone with a lot of authority. When will we finally get to see him? Hopefully by the end of this season.

Is it just me, or is Sawyer really becoming a nice guy after all? What Hurley did to him last week seems to have affected him for the better.

Something really, really bad must be going down next time, 'cuz for the preview of next week's show they used "Requiem for a Dream" for the background music. Anytime THAT instrumental piece gets used as a promo thing, brace yourself for bigtime wham.

goTriad has a story about me and SCHRODINGER'S BEDROOM!

I had no idea this was in today's edition of goTriad (which will be available throughout the area for all this coming week) until Kate from the Murphy in the Morning Show on 107.5 FM called a few minutes ago to ask if I would be up for an interview tomorrow morning, so I'll be on the air at 7:20 or so tomorrow morning talking about Schrodinger's Bedroom.

Here's the link to the story on goTriad.com. Sue Edelberg did a really great job with this write-up. And my friend Johnny Yow will no doubt enjoy how many times he's mentioned in this story :-P

20 years ago tonight came the ESCAPE FROM SOBIBOR

For one person to escape from a Nazi concentration camp was daring.

For three to escape was incredible.

For three hundred to escape was impossible.

Nothing is impossible.

So read the tagline of the full-page ad in the April 12th, 1987 issue of Parade that promoted that night's broadcast on CBS of Escape from Sobibor, starring Alan Arkin and Rutger Hauer.

Twenty years ago tonight came the premiere of what is perhaps the greatest movie about the Holocaust ever made. Escape from Sobibor is about the only thing of its kind that ever occurred during World War II: a mass escape by Jewish prisoners from a Nazi concentration camp. Sobibor was one of the primary extermination facilities in eastern Poland, with estimates ranging from as low as 250,000 to as high (according to one Sobibor survivor) as one million who were gassed to death there. On October 14 in 1943 several of the Jewish inmates, who had been making clandestine plans for months, secretly murdered most of the camp's S.S. officers without raising any alarm. What happened after that during the evening roll call could best be summed up by what Leon Feldhendler (Arkin's character) screamed to his fellow captives: "God is with you! Now let nothing stop you!" Over three hundred Jewish prisoners stormed the gates, killing many of the German and Ukrainian guards in the process, and escaped into the forests surrounding Sobibor.

It's a very good movie. Made all the more enthralling if you know, based on what the actual survivors who are depicted in this movie have said, that practically everything you see in this movie actually took place. Arkin's Feldhendler is the de-facto leader of the Jewish inmates, trying to encourage his people to keep their spirits up in spite of their surroundings. Several Jews make escape attempts early in the movie. After one such attempt, the Nazi commandant makes a declaration: for every Jew who escapes Sobibor, more will be killed in his place. Thus, if Feldhendler and his associates want to plan an escape, it must be one for every Jew in Sobibor. Everyone has to be given a chance. They are about to abandon any hope of escape, because to pull that off is, without question, impossible. After all, these are but simple people - with no training or experience - that would be setting themselves up against the most elite of the Nazi ranks. If they are to do this, then they are going to need someone with a brilliant military mind to make it happen.

Then one day, as if an answer to their prayers, a contingent of captured Soviet soldiers - all Jews - is brought to the camp. Their leader is Alexander "Sasha" Pechersky (played by Rutger Hauer), a man who wrote music before the war. Feldhendler tells Pechersky of the challenge facing them.

From that point on, Escape from Sobibor is not only an inspiring story about hope and defiance, but a classic tale about leadership in the most trying of circumstances. It is sheer pleasure to watch Pechersky delegate tasks to his fellow inmates ("Can you make knives?" "How many?" "As many as you can make.") in preparation for their day of liberation. When it's found out that the camp commander will be gone for several days, Feldhendler and Perchersky realize that if they are to act, then the time is now.

This is a brutal movie. Definitely a lot more so than most anything else made for TV at that time. Watching these Jews systematically butcher their Nazi captors one by one in various locations throughout the camp is to this day one of the most endearing things I've ever seen produced for television. There's plenty of investment into the story and when the point of no return comes, there's payoff in spades. Indeed, the escape scene may be one of the most thrilling ever put to film. Rutger Hauer went on to win a Golden Globe for Supporting Actor (Television) for his portrayal of Pechersky.

There are two versions of Escape from Sobibor: one is the "standard" edition but there is also one that adds substantially several more minutes to the story. I've seen both, and prefer the longer one more. But to date you can only find the shorter version on DVD. I'm hoping that someday, whoever owns the rights to it will release the longer cut on DVD. Of all the movies about the Holocaust that I know of, this is the one that I would recommend as must-see viewing in a college classroom... and many high school ones for that matter.

You can still find the "standard" edition on Amazon.com and a few other places though. And you can even watch the full movie online in a few places on the Web. Click here to watch Escape from Sobibor on CinemaNow. You must be using Internet Explorer for it to work, and hit "Yes" then "Play" when prompted. It doesn't cost anything to watch it by the way.