Monday, March 31, 2008

More classic SESAME STREET: "Four People Fooled!"

It's been awhile since I've posted some vintage Sesame Street clips. Here's a short one, but it's ranks up there as one of the all-time greats: Ernie and a little blue "Anything Muppet" in "Four People Fooled!"

So today's my birthday...

How old am I? Heh-heh, well, I'm not quite halfway to 70. Not yet anyway.

But it's funny: in the past two weeks I have been mistaken for a college kid twice and a high school student once! Lord only knows how much longer that will last.

I wrote here last year about why I don't like having a birthday, and it has nothing to do with "getting older" at all. That's still something that time hasn't fully shaken off of me. For some people, birthdays are already a reminder of one's mortality and to have one like that is harsh enough to rock you for a lifetime. So I still don't care very much for birthdays.

But as Lisa told me this morning: "It beats the alternative, doesn’t it?"

Suddenly, it didn't seem so bad :-) Gotta love having a wife like that.

Lots of people my age and even much younger – I know of a few who had this happen to them in their teens - already start to feel what some people call "middle-age crisis". That's something that I never understood, and as I've gotten older I still don't understand it. I guess it has to do with how I grew up.

Yeah, I had people my own age to associate with. But I was also very blessed to have considerably older people in my life too. And not once did I think of them as "old" or "middle-age" or even my contemporaries as "young". I still don't. They were and are just "people".

Just as I've honestly never understood the whole thing about race or differences of religion. I grew up surrounded by white people, black people, people of various other stripes and creeds. Focusing on "the young" or "the whites" or "the Methodists" was something that never became instilled in me. We were all just one big bright and wonderful tapestry, and I was going to have to find out on my own where I belonged in that. More than thirty years on I'm still trying to find out, but I digress...

And even the ones that were chronologically more mature than I was, they were never bothered by age at all. These were people who had done remarkable things with their lives and were still doing remarkable things. I'll never forget the day that "Mr. Henry" as we called him, 70-some years old, taught me the art of dowsing. That's the arcane technique of detecting subterranean water sources while walking around on the ground above. I was eight years old at the time. There we were out in a field with his dowsing rods and some branches that he had found that were suitable for the purpose. In today's worldview we would be termed "a pre-adolescent and an elderly man" together, but I never saw it that way and I don't think Mr. Henry did either. The difference in our ages didn't matter to us. I never saw it figuring into anything then and I still don't see age difference figuring into anything today. Later that afternoon I started teaching my Dad what Mr. Henry had taught me. And it didn't occur to me until years later that it must have looked strange for someone as small as I was to be demonstrating dowsing to his father.

Ya see how much more fun life can be when you don't worry about things you can't control?

And don't give me that crap about "being too old" to enjoy some things, either. One of my friends has a boyfriend and both of them, and his parents all play World of Warcraft together. Aside from the two lovebirds, everyone else is 50 or more. That doesn't stop them from going around slaying orcs, or whatever they do in World of Warcraft.

And hey, one of the gnarliest Myspace pages that I've ever seen belongs to my 72-year old aunt. She designed it herself. Her page looks better than mine! She's cool as all get out :-)

"Ageism", "fear of aging" and everything that comes with it, there's no doubt that it comes from our culture. But ever wonder about why that is? It occurred to me a few months ago: American society has become too engineered toward allocating resources for material comfort rather than unleashing personal liberty.

That was without a doubt the worst thing that resulted from Social Security and the rest of the New Deal: that it imposed, by force of government, a definition on the quality of life, instead of letting individuals choose to define that quality for themselves, as it should be.

Think about it: most people in this country work and slave most of their lives to save up for their retirement. And it doesn't leave them time or passion to do anything else with their life! If we didn't have this damned Social Security and everything else that comes with socialized spending and "womb to the tomb" government involvement, the quality of life for everyone across the board would skyrocket. I’m not talking about "comfort" here, either. Government cannot guarantee a comfortable existence, and it's foolish to look to it for that to begin with. What I'm talking about is having the freedom to make of your life what you want to make of it, instead of just being a cog in the machine.

There is the cause of yer so-called "mid-life crisis" right there: realizing what you only think is too late that that your time on this Earth has been for you to be a slave to altruism, with nothing left for yourself.

But it's never too late. And I don't care how old you are, or even if you are one of my worst enemies (and you know who you are). You can always turn around, and go a different way. And start finding your own purpose in this world, whatever it is that God has for you.

My all-time favorite musical is Children of Eden. Elon's drama department did a production of it almost ten years ago when I was a student there. It's one of only two musicals that I own the soundtrack CD from. The final song of the show is "In The Beginning". Part of it goes like this...

Our hands can choose to drop the knife
Our hearts can choose to stop the hating
For ev'ry moment of our life
Is the beginning...

There is no journey gone so far
So far we cannot stop and change direction
No doom is written in the stars

It's in our hands...

We cannot know what will occur
Just make the journey worth the taking
And pray we're wiser than we were
In the beginning
It's the beginning
Now we begin...

Every moment of our life is the beginning, of something wonderful. It's in our hands.

I guess what I'm trying to say with all of this is: there is no young life, or old life, or even "middle" life. There may be younger or older, but those are just relative terms, and not even empirical values.

There is no bad life, or even a good life.

There is just life.

And it is for you to make of it what you will, however or wherever you are on the journey. So long as you have breath in your lungs, you always have a choice as to what to do with it.

I should already be dead, more times than I care to count. It was a miracle that I even made it out of the hospital after I was born. By age 20 I had skirted fate way more than necessary. By 30 I seriously wondered why was I still alive or even sane (if that can ever be said :-). I've been shot at, poisoned, almost blown to smithereens, nearly decapitated, and some stuff that I still haven't a clue how to begin to relate on this blog.

Considering that past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future returns, I'll be very very fortunate if I'm not pushing daisies by 40.

But you know what? If I die by then or thirty years from now or whenever, it’ll be okay. 'Cuz I'm just trying to make the most of my time now, as best that I can. I try to live each day for God first. That means, as the quote at the top of the page by C.S. Lewis says, I have to "die" to myself so that Christ within me can live that much more. I only wish that I had really understood that much earlier, because it is the fullest life that I have ever known.

Besides, it's much harder to worry about getting older when you've no idea if you're even going to live to see tomorrow. That's a lot more fun that it sounds! :-)

A friend put it to me best a few months ago: "People like us were never young to begin with. Why should we worry about getting old?" Indeed.

But as another friend told me a few days ago: "How can you ever grow old when you don’t stop growing up?" Which echoes the epitaph for Arthur C. Clarke: "He never grew up and did not stop growing." I like that one too, an awful lot.

So the things on my plate that I'm going to try to do in this next year: finish a book (that's already well-underway), make another movie (maybe more than one), build up my business, be the treasurer for a friend's political campaign... and, Lord willing, become a father. If I can have just that last one, everything else will be right with my world :-)

In the meantime, I'm off to enjoy my birthday. I think that Lisa might be getting me Guitar Hero III for the Xbox 360...

Michael Giacchino talks about release of "Roar!" overture from CLOVERFIELD

Not long after Cloverfield came out in January (read my review here) this blog received word from a reliable source (and still a reliable one in spite of things) that Michael Giacchino's "Roar!", the one bit of original music score for that movie, was going to be release "soon". Obviously this did not happen and we are still waiting for it.

Well today Ain't It Cool News is pointing everyone to a video at Film Score Monthly Online wherein Giacchino addresses the high demand for "Roar!" and the problems that have come with it. Nobody foresaw that a single piece of music like this would become so sought-after, Giacchino says. He also adds that the complete track is 13 minutes long and that when (not "if" but "when") "Roar!" comes out it will be the full piece.

So sounds like it's coming after all, just that they've had some legal stuff to sort through first. My bet is we'll see it on iTunes around the same time that Cloverfield comes out on DVD in a few weeks.

New Facebook group: "I'm NOT Voting For ANY Candidate Who Runs A Negative Ad!"

This morning I started a new group on Facebook. It's called: "I'm NOT Voting For ANY Candidate Who Runs A Negative Ad!"

It's exactly what it sounds like: a group for people who are sick and tired of negative campaign commercials from political candidates.

The genesis for it came this morning, as I watched a seemingly non-stop torrent of commercials from this state's gubernatorial candidates. I can't recall any of the ads having anything upbeat and substantive to say about the candidates running them. They were all aimed toward tearing-down "the other guy".

That's when I decided that I wasn't going to vote for anyone in North Carolina's governor's race. Unless there's a candidate who hasn't run any negative ads. And even then, I'd have to seriously study him or her before I could give my support. But if they've run a single negative commercial, that's an automatic disqualification. By doing that they've only shown that they're more interested in the power that comes with the office than in using the office to serve others.

So I'm now vowing not to give my vote to any candidate who tries to destroy his or her opposition with negative ads and "dirty tricks". Which will severely limit who I can vote for. But I don't care. The line has to be drawn somewhere and this is it.

That's what this Facebook group is all about. It's for those who are likewise frustrated with the politics of personal destruction. It is not a partisan group. I'm not interested in one party or any other getting elected, and this group isn't meant to be a vehicle for that at all. It's just to promote honesty, integrity, and competence among our elected officials.

So if you're on Facebook and this sounds good to you too, you're invited to join the group. Oh yeah, it needs a good logo: something that really conveys the essence of our frustration with the way things are. If anyone has one that you'd like to have considered for use on it, shoot it over this way via e-mail!

EDIT 11:00 a.m. EST: I just whipped-up a graphic for it. It's on the group's page now, but if anyone else has a better idea, go ahead and submit it :-)

Eat your heart out Bobby Flay!

This pic of Richard Moore's grandson Jack is way too cute to not share with others...

On Richard's site, that pic links to the website for My Home Kitchen, hosted by Richard's wife Debbie and broadcast locally on WGSR Star 39. Check it out for recipes for some good eats!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Johnny Robertson of the Church Of Christ In Name Only still doesn't get it

Although to be fair, a lot of other Christians don't get it either...

(Yes, I admit that I'm watching Robertson's show tonight on WGSR, 'cuz more than a few people suggested that after the video I posted in response to last week's show, that he might use it tonight. So far I haven't seen it.)

Mr. Robertson, God does not care which "church" we belong to! God is not interested one bit whether we are "Church of Christ" (I'm going to start calling the bunch that broadcasts on WGSR Star 39 as "Church Of Christ In Name Only" or "COCINO" for short to differentiate it from the real Church of Christ, the independent congregations sincerely trying to serve God that most people have heard of) or Baptist or Pentecostal or Catholic or Methodist, or any other denomination...

God does care about whether or not we are seeking for Him, whether we honestly want Him. And that seeking for God is not dependent upon which doctrine we follow or how strenuously we adhere to it.

As I said in my original post, we are saved by the grace of God. And I haven't heard Robertson touch on that at all.

And God doesn't give a flip about what we wear to church either. If things were the way Robertson was claiming tonight, nobody would get into Heaven! What Robertson was arguing is, in effect, "conditional repentance".

There's another wrong aspect of what Robertson said about one's attire in church: it's as if the church building itself is imbued with some kind of power. More shades of Gnosticism there, as was mentioned in the earlier post.

Talk about hypocrisy: Robertson spent a good part of his show tonight condemning some churches for buying expensive buildings. When he and his bunch spend several thousands of dollars a month to broadcast... well, hatred toward other Christians. Robertson even publicly offered $1,000 last summer to anyone who could meet his challenge on something or other (I forget the exact details at the moment).

One last thing: Johnny Robertson, if you are reading this...

Miracles still happen.

Regardless of who won, we were all "Witness" ...

... And it'll be a long time before the Jayhawks can forget how much they had to fight for this one.

Congrats to the Wildcats of Davidson College for their awesome run in this year's NCAA Basketball Tournament!

Fair warning to any other "soul winners" who come to my door

Before you even think of knocking, please know this ...

- "King James Version-Onlyism" is not only bullcrap, it is a doctrine bordering on heresy. I'm not talking about using the King James Version as a personal preference. I use it myself a lot of times. And no doubt always will. But to suggest that I'm a "lost sinner" because my main preference is the New International Version or some other translation is a lie from the pit.

- If you are doing this for your church or your pastor, you've already messed up. You're supposed to be doing it for Christ.

- Yes, I have a "home church". It is a real home church, in every sense of the term. If you believe that a "church" must have a building and a pastor, then you don't understand what church is to begin with. And it's not my problem if you can't comprehend that.

- If you don't even know why you are asking me "Are you saved?" then don't waste your time asking at all. Because I've been around the block enough to know that practically every time I get asked that, it's from someone who doesn't give a flying rat's butt about me or my salvation at all. They just want to know if I'm "of the same mindset" as they are and more to the point they want enjoy having a smug sense of superiority.

- If I tell you a story about Thomas Aquinas, it's only because I want you to think about it and if you understand the gist of it, then I hope you'll take it to heart.

- It's hard for me or anyone else to tell you that we're going to Heaven if it's too obvious that you are not sure if you are going to Heaven to begin with.

- I'm not interested in building up "your church". And I don't want to be bothered by people who are trying to grow a church either. I would much rather be visited by people who are sincerely interested in building the Kingdom of God.

- If you tell me that your church is "fundamentalist", keep on walking. Because you do not want me as a member.

- Understand that you are paying a visit to an irreligious follower of Christ, who is not interested in "religion" at all.

- I can spot the people who are witnessing for the sincerely right reasons a mile away. If that ain't you and you come here with the wrong motive, I will know.

- Realize that you are dealing with a guy who is fed-up with how a lot of Christianity is "playing games" and "putting on a show" more for our own sake than for God's.

Sorry I have to do this folks, but after what happened yesterday here, I'm compelled to post a notice to anyone else who may come a'knockin'. I'm thinking of making a sign of it for my front door too.

Popcorn Sutton out of jail, for now

Marvin Sutton, known far and wide throughout the country (and the world?) as Popcorn Sutton, has been released from jail after posting $20,000 bond, two weeks after a raid by federal revenuers on his moonshine operation in east Tennessee.

I'm assuming that Popcorn has a second home or some other accommodations in Tennessee, because in addition to the bond he also cannot leave the state until at least a hearing next month ... that could send him to jail once more. He also must wear an electronic monitoring bracelet, submit to drug testing (and cannot imbibe of his or anyone else's "likker"), and agree to have his property searched at any time by federal agents.

I'll say again: Popcorn made a bad move by running a still across state lines in Tennessee, when if he had stayed home in Maggie Valley he could have remained in business. The man should have known better. But all the same: it doesn't look like the federal government has anything better to do than harass a legitimate American folk hero, and someone who is keeping alive some of the proudest traditions of Appalachia. It's funny: our government won't do anything serious about millions of illegal invaders, but it does have the will and resources to pursue a regular citizen who's just minding his own business and not hurting anyone else.

More details about the Popcorn Sutton Saga will be posted as they develop ...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Google fumbling around in the dark with silly "awareness" campaign

If you go to Google today this is what you'll see ...

Google, which for various reasons is a company I otherwise have lots of respect for, has blackened its page for "Earth Hour" today. According to the material at the link ...

On Saturday, March 29, 2008, Earth Hour invites people around the world to turn off their lights for one hour – from 8:00pm to 9:00pm in their local time zone. On this day, cities around the world, including Copenhagen, Chicago, Melbourne, Dubai, and Tel Aviv, will hold events to acknowledge their commitment to energy conservation.
So by asking everyone to turn out the lights for an hour, this event's organizers believe that this will accomplish something meaningful?

Ha!

This whole thing is a stunt. As is everything motivated by "awareness" pretty much. A year from now it will barely be remembered at all. I do believe in being responsible with the environment, as wise stewards and custodians over it. And I certainly believe that mankind's activity over the past two hundred years has had an effect on the Earth: how could it not?

That said, Earth Hour is still just another one of those "flashes in the pan" intended to let people feel good about themselves and delude them into thinking that they just did something that "really matters" when in fact they haven't done anything at all. And I hate that kind of thing. Along with so much else it distracts us from taking hold of our own lives, and belittles us into thinking we have to "join the group" in order to make the most of our time on Earth. And we get so pressed to "help the cause" that we don't stop to look at who is leading this movement or to where, exactly.

I've watched this sort of nonsense ever since Earth Day in 1990. Enough to say with utter conviction that darn nearly all of the "environmental movement" is driven by politics and not about sincere concern for the Earth at all. And that's why I refuse to have anything to do with radical environmentalism: it is an inherently corrupt movement that creates more problems than it solves.

Besides, as I wrote on this blog more than 3 years ago, humanity can not destroy the Earth. It is absolutely beyond our technology.

In the meantime, I wish Google would go back to their white scheme: some people are complaining already about the pitch-black look.

"The Surge" fails: U.S. uses air support as it takes sides in Iraqi civil war

In case I haven't articulated it already: I think that people who support George W. Bush's "Surge" in Iraq are, for the most part, idiots.

So for the past year and more we've been hearing "The Surge is working! The Surge is working!" I'm reminded of how some passengers on the Titanic actually believed beyond all rational thought that the ship was coming back up to the surface just before it took its final plunge into the Atlantic.

Those who believe in "The Surge" (sounds like a Michael Bay movie) don't care about the reality of what's going on in Iraq. If they did, they might be outraged to know that whatever success "The Surge" has boasted doesn't come from an increased U.S. military presence nearly as much as the fact that the U.S. government has been BRIBING Sunni militants to "switch sides" and not shoot at American forces.

Some of us knew it was only a matter of time before this mercenary operation failed. I just didn't expect it to happen so soon.

So in case you haven't heard already, Iraq in the past few days finally began collapsing into full-blown civil war. And the United States government is becoming actively involved on the side of the Iraqi government that it installed. Which is something that no sane leaders ever do with another country's civil war. Bush was a fool to step in and Iraq's prime minister Nouri al-Maliki was a fool to have accepted the aid, if Bush even offered it. Because if there's one thing that history has proven about civil wars, it's that outside interference always turns a bad situation into something far nastier. It will come back to bite us in the rear sooner or later.

But here's the thing about American involvement in the Iraq civil war: the U.S. is using air strikes against the Shia militias. This is pretty much equivalent to an official statement by the Bush Administration that "We admit that the Surge has not worked at all." Calling in air strikes is a very clumsy, ham-handed way to deal with a ground-based rebel force. For the faction using air support like this, it basically means that you don't care to broadcast wide and clear to your enemies that your own ground-based forces aren't up to snuff and can't win.

So George W. Bush has not only given many Iraqis who had so far been "on the fence" a damned good reason to take up arms against American personnel, he has also let it be known that "The Surge" has failed, and that the capabilities of United States military - the mightiest armed force in the history of the world - are now significantly diminished.

This past week might finally prove to be the point where it can be said that the Iraq War, at last, was the worst foreign policy fiasco of the previous quarter-century, if not longer. Because nothing has been gained, and everything conceivable has been lost because of it: innocent life, countless resources, and now the last shreds of respect for both American diplomacy and military prowess.

I don't know if we'll ever recover from this mess. Maybe we don't deserve to.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Popcorn Sutton gets a musical tribute

Earlier this week this blog reported the arrest of Popcorn Sutton: perhaps the very last of the original Appalachian moonshiners and an American living legend. As of this writing Popcorn is still in jail in east Tennessee after a raid that caught him with almost a thousand gallons of still-brewed booze and many hundreds of pounds of unfinished mash.

Since his arrest, Popcorn Sutton is gradually gaining support for his cause. I've heard that a legal defense fund has been established, and I'm trying to find out more details about that. Someone is even selling "Free Popcorn" shirts on CafePress. And now a couple of musicians have done a short song in honor of Popcorn. Enjoy!

How much is that doggie in the Wii-ndow?

For Christmas I got Lisa a Nintendo Wii. Had to camp out all night during cold rain in front of a GameStop store the week before to get it (this was when they had the vouchers thing going, and I wound up getting a Wii for Lisa and a Wii voucher for my sister, who got hers a little over a week after Christmas ... am I a great husband/brother or what? :-)

Along with the Wii I bought a card worth 2000 Wii Points, to spend on extra games or whatever through Nintendo's online store for the Wii. And until now we hadn't used it at all (guess we've been having too much fun with everything else on the Wii). So yesterday I loaded up the points and "went shopping", and even though it cost 500 points I thought it would be neat to have the Internet Channel installed. This is a version of the Opera browser customized for the Wii, that lets you surf the web (kinda like WebTV).

The Internet Channel for Wii is pretty neat. The first thing I went to was this blog (of course!) and then Lisa's and a few friends' sites. Then I went to Flickr. Why? Because I wanted to see if there were any new pictures of a certain girl...

A year ago I discovered Taci, an unbelievably cute cocker spaniel whose owner Kalen loves to take pictures of her and post on Flickr. Taci looks almost exactly like Bridget, our cocker spaniel who sadly passed away way too young some years ago. Kalen is quite a talented photographer and she's captured Taci in so many sweet (and often funny) poses and expressions. The pic above is one of the latest that Kalen has taken of Taci. So I zoomed-in with the Wii Remote and took this photo of Taci's face on a 37-inch high-definition television set via the Wii! Kalen thought it was hilarious (and hopefully so did Taci :-).

By the way, that might be the last photo that I post on this blog of our high-def TV: the one that I've been referring to as "The Behemoth" ever since we got it a little over a year ago. You can't see it in this photo but there's something wrong with the screen that looks like it's been a manufacturing defect (that's not a reflection on the company that made it by any means, these things just happen every so often). We tried to get it fixed but it's not really feasible, so next week the retailer is giving us another high-def television, one that might be even better. Thank goodness we got the service plan for this thing. But still, I've grown quite fond of The Behemoth. So before it went away I wanted to post a photo of it displaying something beautiful for a change, as opposed to, say, Gears of War :-P

And if you want to see more of "Taci the Wonder Spaniel", scamper over to this link!

Darvaz: "The Door to Hell"

That's one helluva carbon footprint ...

Near the small town of Darvaz in Uzbekistan is a place that the locals call "The Door to Hell". Thirty-five years ago some geologists were drilling for natural gas there and hit upon a cavern. Poisonous gas was detected down in the hole, so the excavators ignited it in the hopes that it would "burn off" and clear out the air so that they could explore further.

It's been burning ever since, non-stop, for more than three decades.

Mash down here for more photos and one scary video clip of "The Door to Hell".

EDIT 2:28 pm 03/30/2008: Someone noted in the comments that Darvaz is actually located in Turkmenistan, not Uzbekistan. So I stand corrected. But in my own defense, I just took the original website at its word that this was Uzbekistan :-)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Read George Orwell's NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR online for free

George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (or 1984 as it's more commonly written), the all-time classic novel about totalitarianism and the destruction of privacy, is now available for free reading on the web... and legally, too!

I read this book during the spring break of my senior year of high school. In many ways, Nineteen Eighty-Four broke the ground for much of the foundation of my personal philosophy and beliefs. And it's probably a safe assumption that to most people who've read the book, mentioning it brings to mind Big Brother, or the Thought Police, or Room 101. Certainly the telescreens of the book can now be seen as greatly prescient, considering how our own government is now fully capable of spying on regular American citizens without a warrant or any real oversight (I'll leave it as an exercise for any readers as to whether this government is actually doing it, but have you ever known of a government given power and then choosing not to use that power?).

But to me, the scariest concept of Nineteen Eighty-Four was always Newspeak and Doublethink. Because each day we see Newspeak all around us. Most people don't even care that it's there at all, they have become so inured to it. In Nineteen Eighty-Four Orwell shared the brilliant observation that without adequate language to share ideas, those ideas and thoughts were rendered utterly impotent... right to the point that over time, it would become impossible for a person to even be capable of the thought at all. Hence, the Party's systematic destruction of language as a measure of controlling the people. Most often this was done by cramming many disparate thoughts beneath the umbrella of generic terminology.

Now think about how many - some would even say "most" - Americans are intellectually incapable of thinking about this country's politics beyond the entrenched two-party system. Very many Americans only think that they are capable of deep meditations about this nation's politics... when in fact their thoughts have already been dictated by language and those who control it: the leadership of the two parties, with the eager assistance of a corporate press.

Don't even get me started on Doublethink. I've had a long day and don't feel like trying to educate some people for whom it would be lost in a cloud of cognitive dissonance.

But I must ask: how is what America is turning into not like the Oceania of Nineteen Eighty-Four?

Read the book, if you haven't already, and judge for yourself.

IRON CHEF: Paul Prudhomme keeps cooking after hit by gunfire

Chef extraordinaire Paul Prudhomme - from whom millions of people have learned that there's more to Cajun cookin' than just having a bottle of red pepper handy and who has sometimes been blamed for the near-extinction of the redfish - was hit by a stray bullet while preparing food on a golf course near New Orleans during a PGA event two days ago.

Prudhomme felt a sting on his right arm above the elbow and thought he had been stung by a bee.

Turned out that he had been grazed by a .22 caliber bullet.

So what did Prudhomme do? He kept on cooking! Minutes later he was back in action and served up some tasty cuisine for the golfers, caddies and guests at the Zurich Classic.

Doesn't surprise me at all. Having known some, I can attest that them Cajuns are a good and hardy folk. Glad to hear that Prudhomme is okay, and is back to making more tasty gumbo!

The "Spy Hunter" Pontiac commercial

Here's that new commercial for the Pontiac G8 GT, inspired by the classic video game Spy Hunter ...

Jack Armstrong, radio legend and Guinness record holder, has passed away

John C. Larsh, better known to countless fans during decades of radio work as Jack Armstrong, has passed away at 63.

Armstrong is probably most recently remembered around here for being a longtime DJ at WMQX Oldies 93. I used to listen to him every day: Armstrong was easily one of the liveliest radio personalities that I've ever found on the dial. But before that, the Chapel Hill born-and-bred Armstrong had also worked in the Boston, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and San Francisco markets. During his long career he got to hook up with Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Frank Zappa, and many other musical legends.

Armstrong's zest for life reflected in his radio work, especially after the Guinness World Records certified him as being the "world's fastest talking human". Armstrong also pulled off the rare feat of being a double-record holder when he broke the one for most revolutions on a roller-coaster: 750 on the Thunderbolt in Pittsburgh, riding it for 34 hours (my butt's sore just thinking about it...). And Armstrong's passion for radio would eventually lead to his being ensconced in the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame as part of the "This Is Dedicated To The Ones We Love... 100 Jocks From 1935" exhibit.

You can find out much more about Jack Armstrong at his official Myspace page, which is already becoming a shrine to his memory.

Thanks for the many good laughs and great tunes, Jack. We'll miss ya.

EDIT 8:42 a.m.: Want to hear just how fast Jack Armstrong's voice was? Here is his trademark sign-off in MP3 format (and thanks to WBFO for hosting it). Here's what Armstrong is saying, in case you need a guide...

"Don't get none on ya, do it twice, be nice. It's very nice to be important, but more important to be very nice. Let it all hang out, drag it in the sand, and make a deep rut. People who live in glass houses shouldn't... A bird in the hand makes it hard to blow your nose. One good turn takes most of the blankets. You can lead a horse to water, but don't push him in. Nothing smells any worse than a wet horse, or you can lead a horse to water, push him in and teach him the backstroke, then you've really got something. Wash your face in the morning, neck at night. Love is life, life is love. Light your own candle and the world will be a much brighter place. When you get to the end of your rope, tie a little knot, hang on and swing. Stay calm, try to adjust. You can't live with 'em or without 'em. Hoo hee, HEE HOO! Don't let your six gun get rusty. It's been a business doing pleasure with you, it's been real... and your LEEEEEEADAAAAAAAAH love you-ah!"

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Everything in its own time

Okay, this lil' presentation... puts me away, every time I watch it.

Ecclesiastes 3.

Make sure you've got the latest version of Flash Player installed.

Very special thanks to the ever-resplendent Reida Drum for finding this, and to Brittany Gibson for passing it along!

Richard Widmark has passed away

The first time I ever saw Richard Widmark act in a movie, it was The Long Ships. WFMY aired it as a Saturday afternoon movie when I was eight years old. I happened to start watching right at the scene where Widmark's character Rolfe, the dashing Viking, is about to ride the "Mare of Steel" and that crazy Moorish king Aly Mansuh (played by Sidney Poitier) gives him a "demonstration" first. I can't say that I remembered Widmark himself much from that scene: the sight of a long curved razor blade that the condemned was forced to slide down belly-first made a much bigger impression on my young mind.

Since then I've watched Widmark in Kiss of Death (his breakout film), Judgment at Nuremberg, and many others. At Butt-Numb-A-Thon 9 this past December one of the early movies on the program was Pickup on South Street starring Richard Widmark as "Skip" McCoy. It was a huge hit with the crowd. I must admit: I had come to be a fan of Widmark but that was one movie that had stayed under my radar until then. It was one of the films I discovered there that made the trip to the festival very worthwhile.

And now comes word that Richard Widmark has passed away at 93.

He leaves behind a wife, a daughter, and dozens of films that will doubtless continue to thrill many generations to come.

I ask Johnny Robertson - the "Church of Christ" guy - a simple question and he tells me to go see Benny Hinn

This requires a bit of set-up for readers who aren't in this part of North Carolina/south-central Virginia ...

Two or three times a week on Reidsville's WGSR Star 39 television station, a group of local ministers calling themselves the "Church of Christ" do a series of live broadcasts. The shows have various names, but they're all pretty much the same: a show starts, the minister runs some old video of a Baptist or Pentecostal or preacher of some other other denomination that they don't agree with (sometimes it's video of a debate of that night's "Church of Christ" guy hashing it out with another pastor). While the video is running that night's preacher silently stands on the set giving the camera a stern gaze, then he stops the video and begin blasting whoever it is that's on the "hate list" for the evening.

So these "Church of Christ" guys believe that everyone is a hellbound sinner who is not a member of their brand of church. To them, there is no salvation outside of their "Church of Christ".

I guess that's their right to believe that (and to spend thousands of dollars a month to air their views) if they wish. Just like it's my right to believe what I do about salvation, and how it comes by the grace of God after we realize our need for forgiveness. In my Christian philosophy, that's all that we need to do to secure our destiny for eternity. Because anything else is of human effort and always doomed to fail.

If we have faith in Christ, that alone is enough. It's more than enough.

What really bothers me though is when these "Church of Christ" people display so much vitriol and outright hatred toward anyone who they perceive as "following false doctrines". If I were not a believer in Christ, and I were to come across their programming, there's no way that I could be convinced that Christ is real. It would probably just affirm for me that Christ is only something else that's meant to control us. I know better though: that a life in Christ is a free one, liberated from legalism.

But to hear it from these "Church of Christ" guys, a Christian life is about nothing other than legalism. Some of the things I've heard them say in their shows would make the Pharisees of Jesus's time seem even libertarian in comparison.

These local "Church of Christ" people don't even believe that a person can go to Heaven unless they were baptized. I suppose that according to them I'll go to Heaven anyway, because I was baptized (by immersion, in case anyone's wondering) not long after I came to Christ while in college. But it was never something that I did because I thought I had to do it to secure a place in Heaven. It had no supernatural power at all: I just did it because I wanted to publicly identify with my Lord and Savior. That's all it can do. But as it is, the adamant stance about baptism by these "Church of Christ" guys comes perilously close to outright Gnosticism.

Anyway, I've been watching them for awhile, and particularly a dude named Johnny Robertson who seems to be the ringleader. Or at least the most seeker of controversy (he was mentioned on this blog almost two years ago when the Westboro Baptist Church "God Hates Fags" gang came to town). He does a live program every Sunday night called What Does The Bible Say? (click here for show's website). He's also currently running a very ridiculous commercial for his show on WGSR, that you'll see at the beginning of this video.

I don't know if these guys are at all what could be called the "Church of Christ" as most people understand that denomination (knowing full well that Robertson and his brethren will bristle at being called a "denomination"). I've worshipped lots of times in a Church of Christ congregation, and I've never seen the bitterness and rancor that the local "Church of Christ" as represented by its ministers on WGSR every week display toward what seems like everyone imaginable. There were some members of one Church of Christ, in another part of North Carolina, that helped me through a very difficult time some years ago and I'll always be thankful for God putting them there at that moment.

I guess that it's what people like the Reidsville/Martinsville "Church of Christ" are doing every week in lashing out at those they don't like, that's one of the reasons why I'm so honked-off about this, because I do believe that Johnny Robertson and his crew are giving the sincere Church of Christ members a very bad name.

Well, for the past few weeks I had been feeling compelled to call up Robertson during his show, and ask him a question. One simple question, that I would have really enjoyed having an answer for. And it so happened that Easter night is what moved me to pick up the phone and take action.

I wanted to ask him: "How is what you guys are doing giving glory to Christ?"

So how did he respond? Here's the video ...

As you can see, Robertson could not answer such a simple question. He instead tries to gauge that I'm not a real Christian because I'm not a tough-enough opponent of "false doctrines" and then he tells me to "go listen to Benny Hinn".

Ummmm... saywhu...?

I've thought for awhile now that where Robertson and his bunch go wrong is that they refuse to see following Jesus Christ as anything but an act of corporate worship. As much as they fixate on the Baptists, the Pentecostals, attacking pastors of various denominations etc., I don't know if worshiping Christ as an act of the individual fits into their theology at all. He attacked me without knowing anything about me, assuming that I was "denominational". I've never professed to being any denomination. Oh sure, I've worshiped in various churches during my life, but not once have I called myself a "Baptist" or "Methodist".

Can't I just be a follower of Christ? Can't anybody? Not according to these "Church of Christ" people in Reidsville and Martinsville.

It's the classic case of becoming so obsessed with the enemy, that a person becomes the enemy. Robertson and his "Church of Christ" gang have so defined themselves by how they are not a "denomination", that they have not only become a denomination but they have become everything that is possibly wrong with a denomination. More than one person has even told me that they aren't anything but a bona-fide cult. I'm hard-pressed to disagree, unfortunately...

So Mr. Robertson, if you ever read this, I was wondering if you could please tell me: How is what you guys are doing serving and giving devotion to Christ, and showing His love toward others?

That's what this hinges on the most: where is the love in what you are doing?

Because if this is just a thing about works, without the real love toward others, then what you are doing is already a dead thing that God cannot possibly bless.

(For more perspective on the "Church of Christ" as represented on WGSR, check this blog out.)

Has Dan Cooper's parachute been found?


It was Thanksgiving eve
Back in 1971
He had on a pair of sunglasses
There wasn't any sun
He used the name Dan Cooper
When he paid for the flight
That was going to Seattle
On that cold and nasty night

-- "The Ballad of D.B. Cooper"
by Chuck Brodsky

More than 36 years after Dan Cooper bailed out of the back of a 727 into stormy night and American folklore, a parachute has been found in Washington state that the FBI is speculating could have been used by the legendary skyjacker.

It was on the night before Thanksgiving in 1971 that a man calling himself "Dan Cooper" (more often erroneously called "D.B. Cooper") boarded a Northwest Orient flight in Portland, Oregon bound for Seattle. Shortly after takeoff Cooper told a stewardess that he had a bomb, and gave instructions to have $200,000 in unmarked bills and four parachutes ready upon landing: two loaded in the front of the plane and two in the rear. The demands were met, Cooper allowed the passengers to leave and then the 727 took off again, this time headed south. About a half-hour into the flight, Cooper went to the back of the plane and was never seen again. He took the money and one of the parachutes and jumped out of the plane via the aft stairs.

Ever since that night, there have been all kinds of theories and rumors about what happened to Dan Cooper. In 1978 a 727 placard describing how to lower the rear stairs was found in the Washington woods by a hunter, and a few years about $6,000 from Cooper's haul (the serial numbers matched those of bills that were given to Cooper) was discovered on the banks of the Columbia River near Vancouver.

Some believe that given the fierce wind, heavy rain and freezing temperature along with how Cooper was described as wearing normal clothes that would not have provided much protection from the elements, the general consensus of law agencies is that Cooper did not survive his jump and that his skeleton is still laying around somewhere deep in the forests of the Northwest. And then there are others who believe that he not only did survive his caper/stunt, but that he took the money and went on a lavish spree. The story I've heard over the years is that Cooper had someone (usually a girlfriend) waiting for him, and they wound up blowing the wad at the casinos in Las Vegas.

Personally, I think Cooper made it all the way down alive. And if this parachute was his, then the following detail from the story certainly indicates that he survived the fall...

Children playing outside their home near Amboy found the chute's fabric sticking up from the ground in an area where their father had been grading a road, agent Larry Carr said. They pulled it out as far as they could, then cut the parachute's ropes with scissors.
Sounds like someone didn't want that parachute to be found. And whoever it was, they were alive long enough to bury it.

I've been a Dan Cooper buff ever since I was nine years old. This is one story that I'm certainly going to be keeping my eye on.

(And along with the radioactive cat story, this is the second post in a row pertaining to the Seattle area. Pretty weird, huh?)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

Rock Band coming to the Wii, BUT ...

... it won't have downloaded content or online play.

Harmonix announced today that the wildly popular music game will be released for the Nintendo Wii on June 22. It will have five "bonus" songs. This supposedly is in lieu of the online play feature and ability to download new songs that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions already have.

A lot of people will be glad to know that Rock Band is getting ported to the Wii. But how long is that going to last when these details about the release become widely known? To exclude the downloadable content feature and online play is an insanely bad move by Harmonix. From a business standpoint, it makes no sense at all! Nintendo Wii is the best-selling video game system on the market today, consistently outpacing both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. Now bear in mind that for those two systems already, Harmonix has sold over 6 million copies of new tracks that have been made available since the game's launch in November.

Obviously, the downloadable content is one of Rock Band's most popular points. Harmonix is courting disaster by consciously stripping it from the Wii edition. They aren't just going to be losing millions of dollars in potential profit from lack of downloaded tracks, but a lot of Wii owners - and I'm one of them - are going to see this move as petty at best, and outright insulting at worst.

Besides, there is no reason at all why the Wii could not support either the downloaded content or online play for Rock Band. It can save tracks to an SD card, and I'm sure that some kind of encryption/encoding scheme is possible that would prevent tracks from being illegally copied. Technically, the online capabilities of Rock Band could certainly be shared with the Wii version. So why aren't they?

The suits at Harmonix had best reconsider, and announce that the downloaded content and online play are going to be in the Wii version too. Or else they're going to wind up with tons of unwanted Rock Band for Wii boxes that'll take up a hella lot more space in a landfill than those E.T. cartridges ever did.

FREE POPCORN SUTTON! Moonshine legend in the pokey after raid by evil revenuers

You see, this is part of the reason why I absolutely hate what America has turned into. It used to be that government in America was "of the people, by the people and for the people". Today government in America is "do what we tell you to do or we will kill you!"

And now, said government is more interested in destroying the life of a bona-fide original American character than it is in stopping an invasion by millions of illegals who are entering this country (not to mention that our politicians are way too fixated on one baseball player to care about how their little war with no purpose has just notched its four-thousandth American fatality) ...

"Weird" Ed sent me a clipping of this story from the Asheville Citizen-Times about how Popcorn Sutton - Maggie Valley, North Carolina's resident moonshiner/bootlegger/subject of numerous documentaries/author of Me and My Likker/business owner/curio collector/stuff that I've been sworn to silence on/living legend - is now in jail in Tennessee after a bust by federal and state agents. The G-men shut down Sutton's operation that included three 1,000-gallon stills, almost 900 gallons of finished "firewater", hundreds of gallons of corn mash, and apparently guns of some kind. That alone might send Sutton to prison for 10 years because he's already considered a convicted felon, having serving time for liquor violations going back to the 1970s. Each separate moonshine charge could also get him an additional five years.

Right now Popcorn Sutton is being held in jail without bond in Greeneville, Tennessee.

The first thing I'm compelled to say about this is that Popcorn should never have "expanded his business" into east Tennessee. If he had stayed in Maggie Valley, there's little doubt that he'd still be brewing his 'shine today. He's too much of a local institution there. Everyone in Haywood County knows Popcorn, either personally or by reputation. They respect his art, which he learned from his father and grandfather. Moonshining in those mountains goes back a way long time. And folks out there, they don't cotton much to outsiders coming in and causing trouble that's not wanted... even if someone comes in wearing a federal badge. Besides, a lot of people have noted that Popcorn goes out of his way to produce the safest moonshine possible.

But the moment Sutton set up shop across state lines, he was a marked man and he should have known it.

Why? Because making your own "likker", although not an immoral act, is illegal. But it's only illegal because the government feels obligated to tax everything it possibly can. And what happened here is that Popcorn Sutton put himself square in the sights of greedy government officials who couldn't stand it that they haven't been able to shake him down for the money they feel is "owed" them somehow.

This quote from the story says it all...

But, the ATF agents who helped arrest Sutton said moonshine operations like his should not be treated too lightly.

"Moonshine is romanticized in folklore and the movies. The truth though is that moonshine is a dangerous health issue and breeds other crime," ATF Special Agent James Cavanaugh said in a statement.

"The illegal moonshine business is fraud on taxpayers in Tennessee and across the country," he said.

These bastitches in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have killed more innocent people than Popcorn Sutton could ever accomplish if he was using the dirtiest condensing coil imaginable. Not to mention that the federal government and too much of modern law enforcement is corrupt to the core and "breeds crime" already: who the hell are these people to tell us that a guy like Popcorn Sutton is a threat to public safety?

It's just government wanting to interfere with our own lives again, folks. It can't do anything else but throw its weight around and compel us at gunpoint to obey it.

Well, here's what I got to say about that...

ATF Special Agent James Cavanaugh, if you ever read this: I pray that you'll someday get ordered to go on a raid deep inside "Little Canada". And I hope you'll be wise enough to leave instructions to your next-of-kin when you do.

(Anyone who knows something about that part of the state will no doubt recognize the severity of what I just suggested.)

In the meantime: Free Popcorn Sutton! And if you want to know more about Popcorn and his trade, here's his "how-to" video on YouTube:

"Makin' Likker with Popcorn Sutton, Part 1"

"Makin' Likker with Popcorn Sutton, Part 2"

Homeland Security wants to put a taser bracelet on you

So far as I can tell this is not a joke! Here is the website for Lamperd, and it includes this video.

So the government now wants to put an "EMD Bracelet" on all airline passengers, and this bracelet would allow the Homeland Security bastitches to shock someone like a taser.

Here's the video...

They really are getting bold about bringing us a police state, aren't they? How long would it be before "The Powers That Be" started insisting that everyone wear one of these things, "for the public good"?

I think that anyone who seriously believes in mandating this thing, should have an EMD Bracelet wrapped firmly around their circular reproductive units and rendered the maximum level of electric shock continuously for not less than 24 hours.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Epitaph for Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke was laid to rest yesterday in Sri Lanka. According to the story, his tombstone will soon be engraved with the following words...

Here lies Arthur C Clarke.

He never grew up and did not stop growing.

That's about the most succinct description of a life well-lived - and a life worth living - that I've ever read.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Cheney sez: I don't care what Americans think

No doubt that a lot of the so-called "neoconservatives" will thump their chests and howl and gloat about how "their guy" Dick Cheney is thumbing his nose at those who have been opposed to his little war in Iraq.

And then there are those of us who watch this video, and we are saddened at the downward spiral that America has taken, when people like the Vice-President of the United States (and the President, remember he called himself "the Decider") can openly boast about how they enjoy the feeling of not being held accountable by anyone.

Here it is folks: your Vice-President doesn't give a damn what you think about how he and Bush are wasting American lives and resources...

The lesser angels of my nature would like to suggest that someday, Dick Cheney might be found face-down in a gutter bleeding to death and crying for help. One guy could walk past him. And that dude will look at Cheney, someone in need of dire medical assistance, then he'll shrug his shoulders and say "so?" and he'll keep on going his way, leaving Cheney to die begging for sympathy.

It would make for a great episode of The Twilight Zone. Except for a morality tale to be effective, its audience must possess a soul. Something that I don't know if Cheney and Bush and their kind ever had to begin with.

Rock Band massive update includes in-game music store

Give it up for Harmonix: they are definitely one software company that listens to its fan base. Yesterday they pushed a patch for their hit game Rock Band that addresses several issues that players have been having. And with the update comes one very cool innovation: Rock Band Store, an in-game way to purchase new songs without having to leave the game for Xbox Live Marketplace or the PlayStation Store.

I just installed the update and messed around with the game (the Xbox 360 version) and I am extremely pleased with what Harmonix has done with this update. The Rock Band Store even lets you preview songs that you might consider purchasing before doing so.

In addition to the Rock Band Store, the new patch fixes the random song lists bugs, tweaks the cap on fans in Band World Tour mode, improves some issues with the microphone (which was a big deal with the PlayStation 3 version), and the downloaded content is said to be much faster in loading 'cuz after this update it's now being cached.

The update is free. Just turn on your system with the Rock Band disc, and if you're on Xbox Live or PlayStation Store it should automatically ask if you want to install it.

First images of Snake-Eyes from the live-action G.I. JOE movie

I am not hopeful about this movie at all. So much of it screams wrong, like having the G.I. Joe team, an American counter-terrorist group, based in Belgium. And a far-too-young Cobra Commander.

But there have been a few things about G.I. Joe that have piqued my curiosity. Christopher Eccleston as Destro, f'rinstance. And Ray Park as Snake-Eyes. And the fact that Larry Hama, who pretty much defined the entire look and tone of the Eighties-era G.I. Joe mythology, is aboard the production team.

And then yesterday Ain't It Cool News, courtesy of Larry Hama himself, delivers the first officially released photos of Snake-Eyes from the film...

Here's the other pic, after I played around with it in Photoshop to bring out more detail...

That's Snake-Eyes alright. No question about it. The only thing I don't like is that he's got the Arishakage clan's hexagram emblazoned on his costume's shoulder, when I much prefer it tattooed on his arm and out of sight. But the fact that the hexagram is being used at all makes up a bit for that quibble.

I must admit, I really like how they've got Snake-Eyes looking here.

(By the way, I still have in my possession my almost-pristine copy of G.I. Joe issue #21: the legendary "Silent Interlude" story. Along with #25 and #26 of the same run. So if these pics can impress me, that's sayin' something :-)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Freighters are coming... and Michael's one of them! Last LOST until late April airs tonight

Last week on Lost, Sayid and Desmond were still on the freighter and the captain made it clear that their mission was to capture Benjamin Linus. Then while being taken to new quarters they were introduced to the ship's janitor: "Kevin Johnson".

It was Michael (Harold Perrineau).

When we last saw Michael, it was the finale of Season 2 and he was in a small boat along with his son Walt headed on a compass bearing of 325 away from the Island, after making a traitorous deal with the Others. Linus told Michael that they would soon find rescue.

Now one month later in story time (though what we know of time on the Island now, that doesn't really mean anything), Michael is back.

Speculation has been rampant for months about "Meet Kevin Johnson", tonight's episode and the last completed before the writer's strike. The cast list alone already guarantees this one to be a must-watch for the Lost mythos: Cynthia Watros as Libby, M.C. Gainey as Tom/Mr. Friendly, Mira Furlan as Danielle, not to mention that Alex, Karl, most of the original helicopter people (including Naomi), Minkowski, and a ton more that have been revealed from the credits. But the real draw is that "Meet Kevin Johnson" is said to be a Michael-centric flashback revealing what happened to he and Walt from the time they left the Island until he was shown mopping floors last week.

One thing's for sure: Michael is probably quietly praying that he's never, ever going to be left alone with Sayid.

Enjoy it while it lasts, fellow Losties: tonight's is the last episode until the five new post-strike produced ones begin airing on April 24th.

2008 High Holy Days begin today

Oh yeah, this is the weekend of Easter too, right? And tomorrow is Good Friday. So it really is the High Holy Days, isn't it?

Okay "High Holy Days" is my own personal nickname for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. It kicks into high gear today and here are the brackets for it courtesy of CBS Sports.

It ain't looking good for the Knight household though: this year the NCAA honchos have put the three teams we have the most affection for in the same region! Duke (my longtime favorite Atlantic Coast Conference team along with N.C. State), Georgia (Lisa's alma mater) and Baylor (where Lisa's brother is attending) are all playing in the West. In fact, if they both come out of their first games intact it's going to be Baylor and Georgia playing each other! And then of course whoever wins that will be sent home by the Blue Devils, but anyway...

Unfortunately, Elon is not in this year's tournament. Again. Someday before I die, Lord willing I will see the Phoenix make it to the Big Dance. And then like Gonzaga was a few years ago (yeah they're in it this year again too) all the sports commentators will be going "Elon?! Where the heck is Elon?!" and I'll be able to smile and laugh about our little school getting a few seconds of footage in the "One Shining Moment" video that CBS Sports always runs after the championship game :-)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"My God, it's full of stars!"

Arthur C. Clarke, the last of the original masters of science-fiction, has passed away at the age of 90 in Sri Lanka.

Even if he had never written books like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Rendezvous with Rama (along with everything else in his prolific career) he would have gone down in history as the man who came up with the concept of the communications satellite. That billions around the world enjoy such conveniences as global television broadcasts, Internet service in remote locations and satellite radio in their cars is plenty enough testimony to Clarke's vision and brilliance.

Clarke was also one of the first enthusiastic adopters of e-mail. He used it almost every day to communicate with director Peter Hyams during the production of 2010: The Year We Make Contact. As far back as 1983, Clarke believed that this was revolutionary technology that would change the world. He was right.

It is his science-fiction work that he will be most remembered for, though. And that Clarke - along with his fellow masters Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein - would spark the imaginations of so many people with his writings... that is going to be the eternal legacy of this man, standing as tall and resolute as the monolith.

But tonight I am more than a little saddened, because one of the best dreamers of our era has left us.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

President Bush, bereft of any concept of sacrifice, says Iraq War "worth it"

This war is five years old this week. That's a longer conflict in one small country than the United States was involved across the globe in World War II. Very nearly four thousand U.S. personnel have died... but that's only officially counting those who die within Iraq, not those who are wounded and airlifted to Germany or wherever and die elsewhere. That says nothing of the long-term emotional trauma that many of these men and women will be suffering for years to come.

And so far as the innocent population of Iraq goes, there's no telling what they've had to endure. It's already a far worse country for Christians to live in than it was under Saddam Hussein. Under him there was no persecution of Christians: now most of them have had to flee the country.

Al-Quaeda was not welcome in Iraq during the Saddam years. Today, because of this war, Al-Quaeda has no more fertile recruiting ground. Like they say on the basketball court: "Smooth move, Ex-Lax."

All of this because of a war based on a lie. It was a lie then and it's still a lie today. It's a lie whenever a country goes to war for reasons that are not morally clear. This is and always has been a politically-driven conflict. That the current administration has to resort to buzzwords and catchphrases like "the Surge" in order to build support for this war is ample demonstration that these people are more disciples of Madison Avenue than they are of Thomas Aquinas.

That there are people so deluded as to still support this administration without question might even be the bigger tragedy, because without these "useful idiots" the government would never get away with such wrongdoing... no matter who is in charge of it. But I digress...

George W. Bush not only says that the Iraq War was "worth it", but that the "high cost in lives and treasure" has turned Iraq into a "success"!

Bush has no understanding of sacrifice. He's never had to experience it. From what I've heard of the man, he's shyed away from it all his life. Things like heartbreak and grief are alien concepts to the man. Bush's disconnect from norman human emotion is probably greater than his dis-attachment from the rest of the world that you and I have to live in (the man didn't even know about the soaring price of gasoline the other week... but then since when was the last time Bush ever pumped his own gas?).

That's the only way that Bush can still want his mad little war. Had Bush and most everyone else had something personally invested in this war that they root for - like a loved one on the ground having to fight it - then his and their support would no doubt be far different. But it's easy to cheer on a fight from behind the safety of a keyboard.

We would have been far better off leaving Iraq alone, even if that meant letting Saddam stay in power. In the long-term scheme of things, his presence as a strongman over that country was a stabilizing influence, and should have remained so until the Iraqi people were ready to remove him on their own terms. That's the key thing here: it should have been Iraqis who took Saddam down, and not anyone from outside. Bush lacked wisdom to understand this in addition to any empathy toward others beyond his own ego.

From the very top on down, America is in the hands of cowards. How dare they presume to speak to us about understanding sacrifice?

Because until Jenna and Barbara Bush wear some cammies and pick up a gun and go on a patrol in Basra so that their father will know what it's like to go through the Hell that he's imposed on too many other Americans, this will be something that Bush will never know or fear. And I'm damned tired of too many people still making excuses for this pathetic man.

What did Obama's pastor say exactly?

Seriously, I don't really know what's going on. I've had better things to occupy myself with during the past few days.

But I'm seeing "Obama" and "pastor" come up quite a lot in news headlines lately. So what's the big deal?

And why should I care?

Why should any of us care, for that matter?

Rumored: Beatles version of Guitar Hero

A few weeks ago it was announced that there would be an Aerosmith version of Guitar Hero in a few months. Now comes word that the Beatles may be getting their own edition of the popular music video game.

I don't think this is a good idea. Aerosmith I can understand, but the Beatles had a whole 'nother vibe going than their guitar style (even though they were great guitarists). But now that the Beatles catalog will soon be available via iTunes, who knows: maybe we'll soon see some Beatles hits as downloadable content for Rock Band too, which would make a lot more sense than Guitar Hero.

(Credit goes to Electric Pig for their awesome pic of Paul McCartney with a Guitar Hero controller :-)

Supreme Court to hear Second Amendment case today

Today the Supreme Court of the United States is going to hear arguments in a case regarding the interpretation of the Second Amendment. Namely, whether possession of a gun is the right of an individual or whether it's a "collective" one.

I would like to report that I am cautiously optimistic about how they will decide on this, but I can't even muster up that much.

This is the same Supreme Court that a few years ago that effectively destroyed the security of owning personal property by way of the Kelo decision. They ruled in favor of "the community" then and against the rights of the individual. Why should we believe that they will do any differently this time, on this issue?

Actually, I must confess that part of me is secretly hoping that the Supremes will attack individual rights on this one. Maybe then some of the Christians in this country - who I am still angry toward regarding their sheepish complacency - will wake up and realize what's going on with this country. Maybe they would... but again, knowing what I do about them I can't be very hopeful on that one.

But I'm not terribly worked-up about this, however it turns out. Because I know enough about why the Founding Fathers included the Second Amendment to understand that they no doubt fully anticipated something like this happening eventually. The Second Amendment is written confirmation that the individual has the right to protect himself or herself... but that's not the main reason why the Founders made such prominent note of it. They were people who were plenty wise about human nature and its capacity for corruption and destruction in the pursuit of power.

So it is that the primary purpose of the Second Amendment is a temporal guarantee that government in America is derived by the consent of We The People, and that the People have the right and responsibility of overthrowing that government if and when government becomes abusive without restraint.

In other words, the Second Amendment is there not because we can shoot the bad politicians dead in the streets, but so the bad politicians will know that we can shoot them, if they get out of line.

Thus, the Second Amendment is the final "checks and balance" of government in the United States. It is a bulwark against human nature... because without that, this country will become something that few of us want to see.

No wonder why many who enjoy exercising the power of the state are hoping the Supreme Court will quash individual rights again in this case.

No, I am not a violent man. I just understand enough of humanity's capacity for violence to know not to trust it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

No love lost between Duke and UNC on Facebook

CBS Sports has an Official NCAA Basketball Tournament Brackets application on Facebook and among other things it lets you rank who your favorite teams are... along with who you loathe the most.

I thought the current standings were pretty funny:

Right now the Tarheels of UNC-Chapel Hill are the top favorite team, followed by the Duke Blue Devils. But in the Despised category, Duke is by far the most hated followed by Carolina, and UNC has almost as many votes as it does in the Favorite chart. Hmmmm...

This might be the most scientific indicator yet of how intense the feud is between Duke and Carolina. Even though it's a routine part of life here in North Carolina, I must admit it's still quite neat to see it reflected in this way.

Oh yeah: GO DUKE!! :-)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Will tomorrow be The St. Patrick's Day Massacre? Economy teetering on brink of disaster

Bear Sterns got bought out by J.P. Morgan Chase in an 11th-hour deal tonight, just in time to beat the opening of the Asian markets. The deal involves J.P. Morgan Chase buying the Bear Stearns stock for two bucks a share. Lots of people have lost lots of money. This came after the U.S. government agreed to bail out Bear Stearns this past Friday: essentially printing up money that isn't there to provide some short-relief.

Which means that in the long run, lots more people are going to lose lots more money because of inevitable inflation.

And depending on who you listen to, there are anywhere between three and seven or eight other major financial institutions that are also flirting perilously close to going under. Can the government and the Federal Reserve rescue them, too?

Two people that I've known for a long time have also told me that there is trouble brewing with derivatives. I'll take their word for it, even though I still have no idea what the hell "derivatives" are. Ever since I first heard about them a dozen or so years ago, I've thought they sounded too much like a Ponzi scheme. Why can't financial transactions be made using real money for real products, instead of imaginary money for imaginary products? Anyhoo, my friends tell me that if derivatives go bad, it's gonna hurt plenty.

Meanwhile, the Asian markets which are already open for Monday business are dropping like a rock: Nikkei is down over 4%. And it already ain't looking good for the Dow tomorrow either.

St. Patrick's Day tomorrow and the rest of the week might be a time to keep an eye on the economy. I'd suggest paying close attention to any news coming out of the bigger banks, especially. If even one of them winds up going down like Bear Stearns, this country will likely be in a heap o' trouble.

Teenage girl is hero, still gets Saturday detention

15-year old Amanda Rouse wasn't feeling very well, so she stayed on her school bus for a ride back home from Marina High School. While the bus was on the road the driver fell out of her seat and hit her head. The bus went out of control and hit two cars, and had Amanda not jumped out of her seat to apply the brakes, this might have turned out a lot worse.

Because of her quick thinking, Amanda Rouse saved the lives of 40-some people on the school bus and perhaps those of others also. The girl is a heroine.

And now school administrators are punishing Amanda with Saturday detention for her "truancy".

Too many school officials in this country - not all of them, but darn enough of them - are heartless, unthinking robots. Those of Marina High School exemplify this. Not to mention this story demonstrates why "zero tolerance" policies are ridiculous without fail.

But never mind them. Amanda Rouse, however it happened, you were in the right place at the right time... and you did the right thing in the circumstance. My hat's off to ya!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Kettle calling pot black: U.S. condemns Iranian elections

I wish a lot more people could understand and appreciate the irony of this. I don't have any love for the Iranian government, but for officials of our own to be this blatantly hypocritical doesn't reflect well on us, either. From Reuters...
U.S. says Iran election results are 'cooked'
Fri Mar 14, 2008 7:52pm EDT

By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States, at loggerheads with Tehran over its nuclear program, cast strong doubt on the fairness of Iran's parliamentary elections on Friday and said any outcome of the poll would be "cooked."

"In essence the results are cooked. They are cooked in the sense that the Iranian people were not able to vote for a full range of people," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said of the poll.

Iranians voted on Friday in an election likely to keep parliament in the control of conservatives after unelected state bodies barred many reformist foes of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from the race.

"They are given the choice of choosing between one supporter of the regime or another supporter of the regime," McCormack told reporters. "They were not given the opportunity ... to vote for somebody who might have had different ideas."

(snip)

Mr. McCormack, let's get serious: your own country the United States doesn't even allow its citizens to vote for "a full range of people". Between the Democrats and Republicans conspiring with each other by limiting ballot access, and a complacent corporate media helping them along, the people of our own country more often than not have little choice but to vote for "one supporter of the regime or another supporter of the regime".

Mr. McCormack, shut up sir. You and many others have a lot of nerve in condemning another country's political process, when the one that you help support in your own country is just as damnably corrupt.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Teaching filmmaking for Cultural Arts Day at Monroeton Elementary School

Today has been one of the best, most fun-filled days that I've had in quite a long time. And most of that is because of how I got to talk about being a filmmaker and show some "tricks of the trade" for the students of Monroeton Elementary School in Reidsville, as part of the Cultural Arts Day that it held today.

Cultural Arts Day had folks coming in to demonstrate arts like painting, sculpting, mosaics, music and storytelling. And in Mrs. Marsha Lipford's room, we set up a "mini movie studio" - complete with camera, greenscreen and even some props and costumes - for the kids to check out...

There were five groups of students who came in during the day. Here I am telling some fourth-graders about how I got into filmmaking and how they can get into this too. I especially told them that if they want to make movies, they should read as much as they can and also come to enjoy writing...

For each group, we did a "walkthrough" of how a movie goes from idea to written script, and then finding actors and a set to shoot the action on, and then editing it all together and distributing it.

For the event I also put together a "demo reel" showcasing some of KWerky Productions' projects during the past few years, including several scenes from Forcery...

One of the clips from Forcery that the kids got a kick out of was my "death scene" where Frannie shoots Sheriff Boozer from behind with the shotgun. I'm glad now that in the end I used the less-graphic second version of that effect 'cuz three years later, the first one still does bother me to think about... but the kids all thought that my "death" was pretty funny! The students loved the lightsaber effects, and they also got to watch clips from The Baritones (they enjoyed seeing Monroeton Elementary itself make a cameo appearance), some of Schrodinger's Bedroom and of course I couldn't resist showing them my first school board campaign commercial. A lot of the kids cheered when they saw the Death Star blowing up the schoolhouse :-)

But the real highlight of each session came toward the end, when we got to use the greenscreen, the high-def camcorder and my video rendering system along with the Ultra CS3 chromakey software to let the students experience video special effects firsthand. Mrs. Ledford picked some students who then got in front of the greenscreen, and then I would put them in some crazy locations. Here's one guy that we sent to the beach (by the way, for legal reasons I have to "black out" the students' faces)...


And here's one dude that we dressed up in my brown Jedi cloak and handed him my Master Replicas-made lightsaber prop, who was then digitally transported to the Jedi Temple from the Star Wars movies...

I also grabbed a weather satellite image of the United States from early yesterday morning and put that in the background, to give the students a chance to play "television weatherman" :-)

The kids were all really terrific and they were asking some very good questions in addition to totally "getting into it" :-)

I want to thank everyone at Monroeton Elementary School, especially Mrs. Lipford for letting me set up in her room, for allowing me to take part in today's activities. I can't say enough how wonderful it was to be a part of this.