Friday, January 30, 2009

Yup, more WATCHMEN goodness!

Five weeks from today Watchmen opens in theaters. It's taken more than twenty years for a movie of this book to happen. And from the looks of things so far, it's gonna be done absolutely right (which had long been considered an impossible task).

Check out this new pic of some of the bad guys from the Minutemen era...

TotalFilm.com has even MORE new photos from Watchmen, including Dan's Arctic-conditions costume, the photo of Jon and Janey at the amusement park, and Billy Crudup in a very TRON-like motion capture suit during filming of the destroyed city scene.

And Movienewz.com has up some portraits of several of the characters, including Big Figure and his henchmen, Rorschach's psychiatrist and even one of Seymour! And yeah, Seymour is wearing just what you think he should be wearing.

So... does anyone know where a guy can find one of those cool Operation: Wrath of God patches?

A friend's intriguing LOST theory

Geoff Gentry is one of the coolest people that I've had the honor of calling not just a friend, but a brother in the Lord. He is also a fellow Lost geek. And Geoff has come up with some very fascinating ideas about what's going on with the island (including the meaning of the Four-Toed Statue that has tantalized fans since the end of Season 2). Click here to read Geoff's "Island Mythology Theory". Of particular interest - and it's one of the more original notions that I've seen floating around - is what Geoff thinks is Richard Alpert's purpose with the island.

Don't stop now Geoff: we want to read more!! :-P

"National car crushing" sought for inclusion in stimulus plan

You see, this is part of what's screwy with the United States right now. We've got too many politicians like Diane Feinstein and Henry Waxman, sitting on their publicly-funded derrieres all day and doing nothing but coming up with crap like this. As part of the "economic stimulus" now being debated, some in Congress are looking at it as an opportunity to completely gut the domestic industry manufacturing trucks and SUVs. Part of the scheme involves giving cash vouchers - out of the federal treasury - to people in order to help them buy "more fuel-efficient" vehicles.

So as if this country's economy wasn't in shambles enough, Feinstein and Waxman not only want to waste even more of our money, they want to destroy much of what little industrial infrastructure we have left to us.

It's almost enough to make one wonder if some elected officials are not actually the proverbial "Manchurian candidates", if ya know what I mean. They certainly seem hellbent enough on wrecking havoc to this country.

Thanks to John Seilback for the heads-up.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

RED DWARF is returning!

Dang... now there is a headline that I never thought I would ever be writing!

It will have been ten years since they were last seen, but Lister, Rimmer, Kryten and the Cat will be returning at last to television this spring. Red Dwarf: Back to Earth will be a two-part special broadcasting in Great Britain during the upcoming Easter weekend (and will no doubt soon afterward find its way to The Pirate Bay, Demonoid and many other torrent-trackin' sites). As the title indicates, the story involves Lister and his fellow crew members finally returning to Earth (and I smell a lot of fun to be had with Battlestar Galactica when they get there).

Slam this smeggin' link for more info on what many have raved is the best sci-fi comedy series ever.

Handcuffed crooks run right into pole

Two criminals in New Zealand, handcuffed together by the local constabulary, make a dash for it. Too bad for them, they didn't coordinate their escape attempt very well. Even more bad news: a nearby security camera recorded what happened...

Standard Mode of Dress rearing its ugly head in Forsyth County

Remember the crazy fight that a lot of good folks here in Rockingham County, North Carolina fought in 2007 (at right) against Standard Mode of Dress: the euphemistic term for what are really school uniforms? It took about four months and the Board of Education had previously approved of the policy... but in the end, with a lot of passion and a little creativity, the board then reversed its decision and the school uniforms went down in flames.

Now comes word that much the same is happening to some of our friends a few counties over in Forsyth. Janet Marsh, the mother of a student at Wiley Middle School, alerts us to this story at the Winston-Salem Journal website. The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education unanimously voted to implement Standard Mode of Dress at Wiley Middle during its January 13th meeting. But opponents of the policy contend that many parents felt too "intimidated" to rise in opposition because of how the information on those wishing to address the board was being recorded at the meeting and because of this, several parents feared retaliation against their children. There was also a sense of "restless urgency" regarding how fast the board pursued the policy, Marsh said. And in an e-mail to The Knight Shift she shared more of her concerns...

"I am a NOSMOD mom at Wiley Middle School and the administration is trying every trick in the book to push this measure through before anyone can really object. I was denied a request for an open forum for discussion and ended up having to stand outside the school for three days in the pouring rain trying to hand out my "Ten Good Reasons to Oppose SMOD" flier before the final ballot was issued. I won't bore you with all the gory details, but many of the parents at our school who would like to object won't come out as we had to put our names on the ballots and they feared repercussions."
Janet Marsh has asked me to pass along the link at the Winston-Salem Journal to the readers of this blog, and even if she hadn't asked I would have gladly shared it with y'all anyway.

And on behalf of those who have fought this kind of thing before, we wish our brethren in Forsyth County all the best in their own struggle against school uniforms! :-)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Standard post-LOST episode reaction: "Jughead"

Awright, before I say anything else, I gotta get this off my chest...

That was the cheesiest-looking hydrogen bomb prop that I have ever seen.

It wasn't the device itself that bugged me. That actually looked the right size and shape of the first Teller-Ulam "gadgets". But to have it suspended from that tower, hanging off the ground nose-downward (and test bombs do not look like deliverable warheads, guys) by those cables, as if it were one bad drop away from blowing Lost Island to Kingdom Come...

Lost hasn't done hokey all that much. But that was the hokiest thing on this show to date.

But with that out of the way...

"Jughead" was definitely one of the best episodes of the series yet! Early word was that we would get answers to some hard questions about the show's mythology. So let's see: possibly the origin of the Others, Daniel's mom, a ton of background on Charles Widmore (who had a whiff of sympathy for once), Richard and how he knew to be in Tustin, California in 1956...

Did I miss anything?

One thing I can't help but think: that the young female Other who took Daniel out to the bomb... might her name turn out to be Eloise?

And I'm wondering if sometime later this season or next, after all the time-twisting settles down, if a certain long-buried nuke is gonna be found. Hey, Anton Chekov's rule of drama is: "If a gun is shown on the wall in Act 2 it must be fired in Act 3, if a gun is fired in Act 3 it must be shown on the wall in Act 2".

Jughead is certainly one honking big gun on the wall, yah? :-P

Final WATCHMEN poster hits the Intertubes (along with more goodies... like Rorschach's mugshot photo!)

I soooooo want this hanging on my wall right now...

And the Warner Bros. marketing department is being very clever indeed. Check out this mugshot photo of Walter Joseph Kovacs AKA Rorschach (played by Jackie Earle Haley) that's just been released. And if you head over to the Flickr account for that radical right-wing fringe magazine The New Frontiersman you can find some "vintage" news photos of Dr. Manhattan during Operation Wrath of God, which took place in Vietnam in 1970. In the world of Watchmen, anyway...

The movie comes out March 6th.

Tonight's episode of LOST, titled "Jughead"...

...is, not to put too fine a point on it, said to be "a powerhouse" of a show. That's the word from some folks who've told me they've seen it already. One person said that if you want answers to questions, they'll be coming in spades tonight.

That's all I know at this point. Neither do I understand why this episode bears the name of an Archie Comics character for a title. Maybe there's a DHARMA station in Riverdale?

Why has Old Dutch Galaxy Food Center apparently pulled out as an advertiser on WGSR Star 39?

Could it possibly be because of a certain anti-Barack Obama sign that WGSR general manager Charles Roark devoted obscene amounts of airplay and screentime to this past Friday afternoon, and then again on Monday?

The answer to that question is, evidently, "yes".

Old Dutch Galaxy had been a major advertiser for WGSR. A chain of four grocery stores around the Danville and Chatham area in Virginia, Old Dutch Galaxy had been running updated commercials every week (on a station that was still running spots for the Reidsville Christmas parade last week, mind ya...).

But the word from our friends around south-central Virginia, is that Roark's constant harping about a sign calling Obama a "bastard" and his mother a "slut" was way over the top and into the realm of completely inappropriate behavior.

I doubt that this lesson will be anything but lost on Charles Roark, who has abandoned responsible broadcasting ethics for tabloid-style trash that caters to the least common denominator.

Except now, WGSR has lost one of its bigger clients because of Roark's reckless behavior.

But I'm pretty confident that Roark won't care, and he probably even told the Old Dutch Galaxy guys as much when they pulled out, since cult leader Johnny Robertson can always be relied upon to make up for the loss via all those thousands of dollars coming in from "the Mysterious Texans"(tm).

Seriously though: I've been arguing for awhile that the image conveyed by WGSR's management is a detriment to the commerce of this area. Does anyone now doubt the veracity of that contention?

Some random musings on things...

A few months ago George W. Bush proposed wasting hundreds of billions of dollars of our money and it was called "bailout" and some politicians approved it. Today Barack Obama is proposing wasting hundreds of billions of dollars of our money and it's being called "stimulus" and those same politicians deride it as unacceptable.

I would like to quote "Oceania is at war with Eurasia, Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia" to the Powers That Be, but sad to say, they most likely wouldn't get it.

And now that he's President, doesn't Obama have better things to do than to get into the proverbial "pissing contest" with a radio commentator who is nothing more than a shameless shill for the "other side"?

Don't we have better things to do than to even care about such a non-story involving two men with apparently arrested development?

Pat Buchanan is right: we have become an unserious people in a serious time.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

ABC greenlights V remake pilot... and Hollywood threatens to make THE A-TEAM movie

The long, long, long-attempted effort to relaunch V - yeah, the 1980s sci-fi franchise about the humanoid lizards come to steal our water, rape our wimmunfolk and eat us for lunch (literally) - is finally getting off the ground at ABC. The network has commissioned a pilot episode, presumably that will premiere this coming fall.

If handled right, this could be a terrific show that might pick up the same fans who are currently hooked on Lost (which will see its final season next year). Unfortunately, V creator Kenneth Johnson is not aboard for this go-round... and I've long thought that if he had been given complete control over his original concept, that NBC could have had one of the greatest television series of the Eighties. Alas! Too many suits ruined that...

And speaking of NBC television shows from two decades ago, June 11, 2010 is the penciled-in date for the big-screen adaptation of The A-Team, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Unless this movie uses the original Vietnam War concept to springboard the plot with, and utilizes a convincing computer-rendered B.A. Baracus (with Mr. T's voice), this will bomb bigtime. Pity the fool who thinks he can tamper with The A-Team and get away with it.

Neal Hutcheson reports from courtroom: Prosecution was "petty and vindictive" against Popcorn Sutton, sought to put "sick and broken" man in prison

Yesterday this blog conveyed the news about famed moonshiner Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton (shown at right along with public defender Tim Moore) getting sentenced to 18 months in prison during a federal court hearing in Greeneville, Tennessee.

In the past 24 hours I have seen some positively unbridled fury from supporters of Popcorn Sutton, including on sites like Facebook (home to no less than three groups for people who believe the government should have left him alone to ply his trade in peace). The general consensus is that Popcorn wasn't harming anyone, and that the federal government has set out to "make an example" out of him, lest anyone else think that they should assert some liberty on their own. There are even some individuals who are publicly suggesting that perhaps a "storming the Bastille" is in order. I'm not gonna endorse or condemn such thoughts... but I am gonna pass along something that is no doubt going to make a lot of people even madder than they already are!

Neal Hutcheson is a well-known name not just across North Carolina, but throughout the southeastern United States and the rest of the country. He's a documentary filmmaker based out of the Raleigh area. Among his many credits are Mountain Talk and Voices of North Carolina, which have both featured appearances by Popcorn Sutton. More recently Hutcheson dedicated an entire film to Sutton and his art in The Last One. I've come to know him lately ever since he sent over a DVD of The Last One (and I just got it back last week, 'cuz everyone that I know practically has been wanting to borrow and see it for themselves!). Hutcheson has built up a solid reputation among the folks in this region and if he reports on something, I'm more than inclined to say that his word will be held as bond.

Well, Neal Hutcheson was in the courtroom yesterday when Popcorn Sutton had his sentence handed down. And earlier today Neal sent along the following report. I asked him if I could share it here for this blog's readers and Neal said "please do". So here it is, in his own words...

"You should know that the prosecution used a video clip made twenty years ago (of him capping a still) to make the case that Popcorn was strong enough to continue making liquor. The judge made it explicitly clear that the idea that he would resume operations if he was let out on probation was behind the rationale that he needed a prison term to stop him. The prosecution knew of course that the clip wasn't made last week, and that his health plus house-arrest & monitoring would be more than enough to prevent him from doing anything prohibited, as the past ten months of house arrest has proved. So, if you leave aside the debate about whether moonshining is a serious offense or not, and take the government's case at face value, the public would have been 'protected' & served without putting a sick man in prison. What the prosecution did was petty and vindictive: The sick and broken man they saw in that trial wasn't putting on an act; I had been with him for three days and that was the best he had looked in all that time.

"I just think people should know what happened there. The litmus test here is for people to substitute moonshining for something else they don't sympathize with, you know just lay all that aside, and ask if it was necessary, as the prosecution insisted, to lay prison time on him. Obviously it wasn't. He's been under house arrest and monitoring for ten months and, along with his health, its kept him from doing anything prohibited.

"The judge did question the age of the video, so that thought came up. But the prosecution was directly implying that the video demonstrated he was capable and because of that could not be deterred from making moonshine without a prison term. And that was disingenuous. And they knew it. The fact is that Popcorn had embarrassed them for a long time."

So... apparently the prosecutors used "evidence" that didn't pertain at all to this particular case in order to malign Sutton, and they convinced the judge to deliver a harsh sentence even knowing that Sutton is not currently in the best of health.

Does anybody else think that there is something horribly out of kilter with the "justice" of this situation?

Report and photos from the orchestral scoring for WATCHMEN

Good friend Marco van Bergen directs our attention to this story at ScoringSessions.com, showing us composer Tyler Bates and an 87-member orchestra recording the music for Watchmen. Gobs of photos at the link, some of which depict scenes from the movie. According to the report, the Watchmen soundtrack will be released by Reprise Records on March 3rd 2009, three days before the movie comes out in theaters.

A glimpse of what's coming to America?

Riots erupt in Reykjavik, Iceland after the citizens of that country, feeling more than a little ticked-off now that their country has gone bankrupt, vent their rage against their government (which has now collapsed)...

Mash down here for more about what's going down over there.

I've never been to Iceland, but I've met enough folks who have visited the place to know that the people there are a pretty hardy and patient lot: it takes a lot to get 'em riled up, especially this bad. The country's banks have failed miserably, and its coalition government has now finger-pointed itself into oblivion.

Gotta wonder if we might see this same sorta thing happening on our own side of the pond in the not-too-distant future...

(Thanks to Phillip Arthur for passing along the link.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Cover art for Star Wars horror novel DEATHTROOPERS

Awright, who else is seeing this, and thought that we must be getting a Star Wars/Hellraiser crossover...?

StarWars.com revealed the image earlier today. Deathtroopers by Joe Schreiber is the first ever true horror story set in the galaxy far, far away (no, I'm not counting the "Galaxy of Fear" books either). The novel is scheduled for release later this year, fittingly enough just before Halloween.

DAMNED REVENUERS! American legend Popcorn Sutton sentenced to 18 months in prison (FREE POPCORN!)

Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton, the legendary moonshiner and genuinely unique American character, was sentenced today in federal court in Tennessee to a prison term of 18 months, after earlier pleading guilty to the charges stemming from the raid on his still last year.

And adding insult to injury, Sutton "agreed to allow his moonshining photos and videos and criminal history to be used to further the education and deterrence goals of Project Safe Neighborhoods."

In other words, rather than praising Popcorn Sutton as the living cultural resource that he is, the sons of bastitches from the government are going to force Popcorn to go fully against his unique sense of identity. The lesson here could not be more obvious: "Conform to the state or we will hurt you."

No, I don't have any sympathy for those assholes. If you want to see what is destroying America, look at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents, the judges, and everyone else who has conspired, against an overwhelming tide of public sympathy with Popcorn, to quash him good.

Grrrrrr...

Well, I'm gonna keep the "Free Popcorn Sutton!" icon in the margin of this blog, as ongoing testament against how our own government is all too often the enemy of freedom and liberty. "Change"? My ass!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cult leader Johnny Robertson: In his own words

Longtime readers of this blog already know about cultist Johnny Robertson and his self-proclaimed "Church of Christ" (which is nothing like the mainstream Churches of Christ that most people know and respect). About how Robertson, flunky/second cousin James Oldfield and their "Religious Review" charade go around the area accosting the decent (and in my mind, legitimate) churches, and then televise their harassment on WGSR... which is now widely acknowledged, Robertson is the de facto owner of.

Robertson, and what he represents, is not real Christianity. There is no love, no humility, no thankfulness for the grace of God that comes out of what they have been doing. All that Johnny Robertson has ever demonstrated that he is capable of producing is hate, and spite, and division, and... dare I say it? Yeah, I will: evil.

But... why should you have to take my word for that?

During his show tonight I recorded what Robertson was saying. I'm going to post some of the more notable comments that he made, and let you, Dear Reader, decide for yourself what to make of this. If you are like most people, I would guess that you would ascertain that what you are about to read is a disturbing glimpse into a very dark soul, indeed.

Remember: I didn't have to make anything up for this post. Everything you are about to read are Johnny Robertson's own words, spoken during his What Does The Bible Say? broadcast tonight, January 25th 2009, out of WGSR Star 39 in Reidsville, North Carolina...

"I would wrap that stuff around their necks!"

"Why are we so strong in this area?!?"

"We are the most morally well-behaved people in this area!"
(Editors note: does "morally well-behaved" mean confronting people in their homes, having dissidents followed by fellow cult members, and outright lying about another church in the area by accusing it of child pornography?)

"I will tie that around their necks and they will never say it again!"

"I will make him look so bad...!"

"Sir you've never seen me mad!"

"He is all mouth! That is what all of them are!"

"I spend THOUSANDS of dollars to open the phone lines up!"
(Editor's note: earlier Robertson boasted that his self-styled "Church of Christ" takes up no offering... but he didn't care to mention that he gets practically all of his funding from wealthy cult members in Texas and other places far west of this area.)

"Because what you believe is not in the Bible!" (talking about Baptists)

"There is not a preacher in this town that knows as much Bible as I do!"

"They are all afraid of me!"

"I'm presenting myself just like Jesus did! Nobody could answer Him. That's what I'm doing. These guys can't answer me!"

"I believe the way I demonstrate that is the case is by answering all of these people that their doctrines are all too weak to shut me up!"

"There's no such thing as a Baptist!"

"THIS (referring to his cult) is the church that Paul was in!"

"There is a church that is determined to preach the truth and only the truth and that is the church that I represent, and that is why everyone is afraid of me!"

As Rod Serling might put it...

"Submitted for your approval."

It certainly does seem like something out of The Twilight Zone, does it not?

If anyone can tell me how Robertson is reflecting the love of Christ, the mind of Christ, or the grace of Christ with his words and his actions - and then daring to insinuate that only he comes with the truth of God - then I would certainly welcome such exposition in the comments for this blog entry.

And if you are a member of the Martinsville Church of Christ: are you really that proud to be represented by such a man who brags of being your minister?

Would any congregation be proud, for that matter?

Scientists claim: Tycho Brahe was murdered!

Tycho Brahe was one of the most accomplished astronomers in history. He was also quite the eccentric: for most of his life he wore a metal nose to replace the real one that he lost in a duel, he kept a dwarf human as something of a pet, and supposedly he died in 1601 from straining his bladder. The story goes that Tycho was at a party, had too much wine to drink and thought it would be the acme of "bad manners" if he did the sensible thing by going out to "drain the main vein" (as my old Bible study partner once put it).

Now a group of scientists are preparing to exhume the body of Tycho Brahe, more than 400 years after his death in Prague. Their motive for disturbing the great scholar's remains: investigating the possibility that Brahe was poisoned as part of a contract killing. The alleged mastermind of what may be a plot of murder most foul: Christian IV, the King of Denmark, using a count from the royal court as the hitman. Adding to the intrigue: scholars have apparently found the diary in which the murderer confesses to the crime.

Meanwhile, so far as we know, Zachary Taylor is still dead from ice cream gone bad...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The final scene from LOST episode "The Lie"

I've watched both "Because You Left" and "The Lie" twice more since Lost had its season premiere this past Wednesday night. But the very last scene from "The Lie" has so intrigued me that I've lost count how many times I've played through it again. Guess it's such a gothic, mysterious scene that in its own way touches on Lost's themes of religion and science.

So here it is if you also can't get enough of it: Ms. Hawking working in the basement of a church, in what looks to be a DHARMA station that we haven't seen before, before she tells Ben that he only has seventy hours to do whatever it is he's got in mind... or "God help us all":

Kay Yow, beloved women's basketball coach, has passed away

The sad news just broke in the past short while that Kay Yow, the longtime women's basketball coach at North Carolina State University - and considered by many to have been one of the greatest women's coaches the game has ever seen - has passed away at the age of 66 following a long battle with cancer.

Yow had been head coach at N.C. State since 1975, following stints as a high school coach and then at what used to be Elon College (now Elon University). She also coached the gold medal-winning women's basketball team at the 1988 Olympic Games. Yow was also a multiple Hall of Fame recipient.

She had been diagnosed with cancer in 1987, but she fought it into remission. Unfortunately, it had recently returned.

Yow was a renowned and beloved icon not just here in North Carolina, but across the sport and around the world. And, she shall certainly be missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends today.

Click here for a chronology at the News & Observer following Yow's long and illustrious career.

"Meet the new boss, same as the old boss..."

President Obama plans to uphold the power that George W. Bush asserted in regards to spying on Americans without a warrant.

So much for not sacrificing our ideals for safety that Obama kept talking about this past week after he got sworn into office.

I hate to say "I told you so" but... many people, including myself, were screaming as loud as we could during the past several years that the horrible precedents that Bush was setting, would likely come back to haunt us. For almost eight years, Bush got away with violating the Constitution - in both rule and spirit - and his cheerleaders kept assuring us that Bush "had no choice" but to do these things to keep us secure.

Now those same powers have gone to a man that many of these same people have not been able to hide their sheer hatred toward. And however it is that Obama might choose to exercise those powers, these same people have no moral or logical grounds to oppose him.

Consider whatever else I might have otherwise posted about this, as an exercise for the reader.

The Apple Macintosh is 25 years old today

It was twenty-five years ago today that the Macintosh from Apple went on sale to the public.

In honor of the occasion, here is the classic commercial (directed by Ridley Scott) that ran during the Super Bowl two days before the product launched...

Monty Python has 23,000% increase in DVD sales during past two months...

...and it's being attributed to the official Monty Python channel on YouTube and all the free videos on it.

This was a sales gimmick from the very beginning (see my post from November when Monty Python launched the channel) and, apparently (LOL!) it has been an earth-shattering success! Monty Python is now sitting pretty in the #2 slot on Amazon.com for TV and movies, and as Mashable notes that's likely because of all of the links embedded in the YouTube clips that take viewers to the appropriate product page at the Amazon site.

The lesson from this should not be lost on those from the RIAA, and others who have been overly-zealous in enforcing "copyright" on the flimsiest of grounds. This story demonstrates more than adequately that YouTube can be a marketing powerhouse and that it is a friend to commercial art, not a foe to be shunned.

(Thanks to Phillip Arthur for passing along the story!)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Shiny new blogger posts brilliant take on software piracy

Hot out of the gate and fresh into the blogosphere comes Matthew Federico, a fellow North Carolinian and I think that after just a few posts, his blog is promising some good things. Like this essay he just posted about video game piracy, and he covers all the bases rather eloquently...
Stealing is bad. Stealing is something you just don't do. You don't go into a candy store and just steal that Hersey's Kiss. You don't take what is yours, and you only get possession of something when you hand over your hard earned cash for it. You work hard, you spend hours after hours doing whatever it is that you do, you get your paycheck, you pay your taxes. You pay for insurance and food and gas and electricity and your cable. After all that, then you get to spend your hard earned money on anything you please, if that suits your fancy.

It's a system that makes sense. That is how economy works, in a nutshell. We all make a service or product, we get money, we pay for our essentials, then we buy our luxuries. And who made those luxuries? Why, somebody who was making a service, just like you.

So, what does our morale upbringing tells us when we think of stealing? Why, we remember that it is almost like we are stealing from ourselves. Thus, stealing is wrong. One hundred and one percent, all the time, always, and forever...

Mash down here for the rest of Matt's thoughts.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cover of this February's issue of MAD Magazine

You gotta hand it to MAD Magazine: though its quality has declined over the past decade or so because of advertisements and the transition to color (but then again the MAD staff will probably be the first to argue that the magazine never had much quality anyway) it's still gets props for proving that it's willing to skewer anybody. Take a gander at the cover of the February 2009 issue, bearing witness to the first 100 minutes of Barack Obama's presidency...

Now that's a classic MAD cover! Go buy a copy and help the economy! :-P

Celine Dion is smiling at my family

My sister Anita got something like second-row seats for the Celine Dion concert last night, and she snapped a bunch of pics of the beloved diva looking and smiling straight at where she and her friends were sitting. Darn! If I had known Anita was plotting this, I'da cajoled my way into going with her, 'cuz I'm a big fan of Dion! Then again, if I had gone last night I would have missed Lost Season 5's premiere. Decisions, decisions...

Still, I'm glad that Anita got to go. She has certainly been letting everyone that she knows how excited she was about it for the past two weeks :-P

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fast reaction to LOST Season 5 premiere

HOLY $%&@!!!

This show has come completely off the chain!

That was season finale-quality material.

Good safety tip we learned tonight: never, ever put knives in the automatic dishwasher with the blade pointing up. Unless, you know, you need them like that to kill intruders.

How convenient that Ben has a lady on his side who owns a butcher shop with a nice, big refrigerator :-P

Anyone else think the part where Hurley broke down and started pouring his heart out about what really happened, was one of the all-time classic Lost scenes?

Okay, that last scene of the episode: the whole theme of "science versus faith", instead of a dichotomy, that seemed to be a convergence of the two. Desmond's mysterious "time lady" is a monk doing equations dealing with space/time in a church. I can't put my finger on quite what it is, but that one scene, I'd be willing to wager, perfectly set the tone for what we should expect from this season.

Just... wow. I'm gonna have to watch that again.

BulletFlight for iPod touch is a killer app... literally!

This has gotta be one of the most innovative and clever uses for the iPod touch that I've ever seen...

The BulletFlight application software, available through the iTunes store, turns the iPod touch into a full-blown ballistics computer that helps hunters in the field plot their firing solution. Users can tap in the ammunition type, wind speed and conditions, and distance to target. Profiles for three weapons come loaded with BulletFlight, although more can also be added.

Maybe Apple should look into this concept further. I mean, wouldn't it be nifty if we could own an iGun? :-P

LOST: Season 5 of television's best drama begins tonight

The penultimate season of Lost, regarded by many as the finest drama that the television medium has ever produced, begins tonight at 8 p.m. on ABC. The network has devoted the entire three hours of prime time to Lost, the bulk of which will be the two-hour season premiere, "Because You Left".

The finale of Season 4 left Lost fans with rattled senses. We saw how the Oceanic Six made it back to civilization. But now Jack and his fellow passengers have to get back to the island... which is easier said than done ever since Ben turned that cryptic frozen wheel and moved the entire island to God knows where (and if Ben is telling the truth, not even God knows where the island is). And then there's the little matter of Jack and Ben having to bring the corpse of "Jeremy Bentham" along with them...

As always, I'll post some thoughts about the episode afterward. And if you haven't already, get your DHARMA Initiative munchies ready 'cuz Lost is BACK! :-)

If you pray against Obama, consider Matthew 22...

I reported last April about the seething rage that a lot of "conservative Christians" were already venting against Barack Obama. And speaking of which, over the past few days I've heard even more thoughtless fury out of Ron Baity's WPIP... but there's gonna be more about stuff like that coming in the next few days, so I'll hold my piece 'til then. Well unfortunately, my guess then that this rancor would "get worse"... is rapidly coming to pass now that Obama is officially the President of the United States of America.

I could comment on any number of items pertaining to this. But for now I'm going to direct my thoughts toward what one prominent "Christian writer" is suggesting, because in the past several hours I've seen his very hypocritical gesture spread like wildfire across the Intertubes. Joseph Farah, founder of WorldNetDaily, is actively encouraging Christians in America to pray that Obama will "fail".

As much as I disagreed, even admit to have disliked the man, I did include George W. Bush in my prayers for the past eight years, for all the good that it did. When 9/11 happened, I held him up in prayer along with everyone else involved in the tragedy one way or another. 'Course, since then I've realized that it's a futile gesture to pray for God to grant wisdom to those who adamantly refuse to acknowledge that they require such wisdom... but that didn't stop me from doing it anyway. Just as I pray that the American people as a whole might seek that wisdom needed to govern ourselves. Just as I will also keep Obama in my prayers.

So let me tell you why Farah's stance is horribly wrong. Why it flies in the face of the teaching of Christ Himself. And that if the Christians of this land do harbor such bitterness in their hearts, then they do so at the peril of the America that they claim loyalty toward.

It's regarding what is chronicled in the Book of Matthew, chapter 22... and it has nothing at all to do with what most people think when they read this passage.

Matthew 22:15-22 tells us that...

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"

"Caesar's," they replied.

Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

That's one of the most quoted - and among the least fully understood - passages out of the entire Bible. It's been used to justify quite a lot of things over the years, from an overzealous desire to separate all things spiritual from anything pertaining to government, to the obscene notion that Christians must somehow "shut up" and let the state roll over them without apology.

But none of that has anything to do with the point that Jesus was brilliantly making to those trying to trap Him.

In Palestine of the time of Christ, there was nothing more hated among the people than how their country had come under the yoke of the Roman Empire. Pompey annexed the land for Rome in 63 B.C. and then a few years later the puppet government of the Herods began. Israel's dream of a Messiah came in the form of a military leader who would vanquish the Romans and return the country to the heirs of Abraham...

...but the people of Israel would have never lost their land to begin with if they had stayed a people faithful to God, instead of putting their faith in worldly politics and their own military might. It was a brief but bitter civil war between the Hasmonean rivals Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II that so weakened Israel as a nation, that after a century of independence there was practically nothing to stop Pompey and his boys from taking over.

Had the people of Israel not fallen for the lusts of political power, they would have most likely had solidarity enough as a nation to stave off Roman rule.

That is the harsh lesson that Jesus was teaching. He reminded the Pharisees - who shared much of the blame for the civil war - that it was their own fault that they had chosen to "render unto Caesar", and sought the institutions of this world, rather than put God first in all things.

As we know well, the lesson was lost on the Pharisees. And it so incensed them that they all the more sought to destroy Jesus.

And so it is, that what this passage (the same story is also shared in Mark 12 and Luke 20) is telling me as it applies to our own day...

...is that the same Christians who are bitter and angry about how they have "lost power" in America really have no one to blame but themselves.

And it also tells me that they aren't going to win anything by trying to "over-compensate".

It was wrong for the Christians of this land, in the name of God, to seek after political power. It is still wrong. And I believe that it is more than accurate to say that after all this time, we should realize that God has not blessed our efforts. The Republican Party is not the anointed vessel of the Lord, George W. Bush was not divinely appointed to be President (to believe so invalidates the concept of free will) and so-called "Christian leaders" like James Dobson and Pat Robertson stand revealed as wanting nothing more than to "sit at the king's table".

In none of this have I seen it recommended at all that perhaps what this country needs, if there is to be an America to pass on to our posterity, is for those who most loudly boast of following Christ, to surrender their lust for power, to cast themselves down in humility and penitence, and sit among the proverbial ashes and finally, at last, and for real, turn their hearts to God!

But that is not what I am seeing Joseph Farah and other "Christian authorities" telling us to do. What they have in mind, is the furthest thing there can possibly be from coming humbly before the Lord, and asking Him not only for forgiveness for seeking after our own hearts but also for the sin of pursuing the folly of our own "understanding".

The "conservative Christians" of America are the ones who have the least excuse to complain about whatever they believe might have happened to this country. They looked to the idols of worldly affluence for their deliverance... and God only played fair by handing them over to their lusts.

Hey, He's done it before. He didn't want Israel to want a king either, but when they clamored for one He instructed Samuel to accede to the will of the people.

But as we also know from that particular tale, sometimes God has a way of taking our own iniquity, and making it work to give Him all glory and praise.

Those who claim to follow Christ in this land, might have just such an opportunity before them...

...that is, if they want it. If they are willing to do what is necessary.

Well... are we?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Awright, a bit of Inauguration Day humor...

A friend suggested this tonight, and lo and behold someone already made a YouTube video of the idea...

Congratulations, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, your lovely daughters, and Vice-President Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden. This is your day. And I think I speak for most of us when I say, our prayers are with you and we ask that the Lord will give you the wisdom and diligence that you will need in the days, months and years ahead.

All that needs to be said about today

Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

-- Percy Bysshe Shelley


"Sic transit gloria mundi"

Monday, January 19, 2009

The time-traveling physics of BACK TO THE FUTURE

The staff of Overthinking It has been celebrating an entire week devoted to the Back to the Future trilogy, of which among the highlights is this exhaustive look at the science and physics of how time travel works in the movie series. There's stuff so dense in this article, that even I can barely comprehend it (then again, I've always sucked at more complex math... and there's a ton of it in this essay).

That's all well and good, fellas. And congrats on all the hard work you poured into this. But what I'd really like to know is: when can we expect to see Mr. Fusion on the store shelves? :-)

CRYOSTASIS: Ukraine's answer to BIOSHOCK?

Eastern European video games have a very nasty reputation of being suicidally difficult. They are also gaining quite a lot of respect for being on the cutting edge of technical innovation. So it is that after reading about Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason that my curiosity has been piqued. Produced by Ukrainian studio Action Forms, it's being described as "the Russian BioShock" (although Ukraine isn't really part of Russia proper :-). Set on a Cold War-era Soviet icebreaker trapped by Arctic ice, Cryostasis is a first-person shooter where the player must not only fight blood-chilling monstrosities while conserving ammo, but must also stave off the elements or else freeze to death. Click here for the official website and GameCyte has just posted a trailer video of the game.

Bush commutes prison sentences of Ramos and Compean

On his last full day as President of the United States (thank God), George W. Bush commuted the prison sentences of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean.

And even with this, the worst President in American history managed to completely screw it up.

The sentences of Ramos and Compean have been commuted: the two former Border Patrol agents have not received full pardon. And it is nothing less than a pardon which Ramos and Compean deserve for doing their jobs as best they could. The fact remains that each of the two has a conviction on his record that will follow them after release from prison. And speaking of which, their release isn't immediate anyway: Bush made it so they couldn't see freedom until March 20th.

And they wouldn't have received a commutation of their sentences anyway had it been left to the "conscience" of Bush. Millions of people and several elected officials rose up to defend Ramos and Compean in demanding their pardon and release. Bush steadfastly refused to free them. Is there any doubt that today's development was motivated purely out of politics, and Bush's frantic desire to salvage his "legacy" as President?

So I won't thank Bush for "doing the right thing" when he should have done it to begin with as part of his job responsibilities. And I can't let it be credited to him as an act of kindness either, when we all know it was anything but that.

And if Barack Obama were smart, he will grant Ramos and Compean their full pardons before the week is out.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cult leader James Oldfield uses YouTube video of my performance of "Bohemian Rhapsody" to attack United Methodist Church

Right when you think that there are no more crazy headlines that this blog can possibly generate...

I just watched James Oldfield, second cousin and henchman of cult leader Johnny Robertson of what many here are calling the "Church of Christ In Name Only", use the YouTube video of my karaoke performance of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" on live television... to attack the United Methodist Church!

(I've already received one e-mail telling me that "whatever this guy is smoking, I want ten pounds of it.")

During the live television broadcast tonight of his show A Word from the Lord on WGSR out of Reidsville, North Carolina, James Oldfield and some other cultist that I'd never seen before, devoted the program to their latest "Religious Review" hijinks: this time, Oldfield was involved in ambushing not one but two Methodist congregations. And I was already having fun half-listening to Oldfield's comedic ramblings, thinking all while working on another project that "Robertson and Oldfield see through the glass just as darkly as the rest of us. What possibly leads them to believe that they have perfect understanding and the authority to lord that over us? They don't have any more monopoly on the truth than anyone else who is professing to follow Christ!"

See, I have no problem with so-called "denominations". And the Bible doesn't either. The seven churches of the Book of Revelation were clearly not in perfect accord with each other, and yet Christ still counted them among His followers.

(Yeah, I can do deep theology while simultaneously editing high-def video and writing for a client: am I a multi-tasking fiend, or what? :-)

But then, as if James Oldfield is not already more incoherent than usual, his frivolous arguments descended into the realm of the truly nutty...

Oldfield announced that Woodmont United Methodist Church in Reidsville was guilty of, something or 'nother, that was coming across as direly sinful. And what, pray tell, wound up being the grave iniquity that Woodmont had tolerated?

None other than the video of me doing karaoke of "Bohemian Rhapsody" during the strike party last month for Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's production of Oliver Twist.

Here it is, if you haven't beheld it already...

Yes folks, because I chose to do my ever-popular rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody", the entire United Methodist Church is damned to Hell, according to James Oldfield!

Well, all I gotta say is: I don't mind at all that they chose to broadcast my performance. I've always done it for laughs, and whenever there's an audience to be found, I don't care how that performance gets conveyed.

Heck, I'll dare Oldfield and Robertson to post the segment of Oldfield's show tonight, where he played my "singing", on their own YouTube account! C'mon guys: show everyone the "case" that you have supposedly built against the Methodists using my karaoke. What have you got to hide? We're giggling at you already: why should this be any different?

Remember folks: don't sing "Bohemian Rhapsody" anymore or you'll be consigned to the stygian depths of the Abyss, forevermore amen.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bert, Ernie and Herry Monster in "No!"

How long has it been since I posted a classic Sesame Street clip? Especially one starring Bert and Ernie? Undoubtedly, not nearly often enough...

This sketch, which also features Herry Monster, is probably one of the few where Bert actually turns the tables on Ernie and gets the last laugh!

George W. Bush leaving with lowest approval of a President EVER!

With a 22 percent approval rating - the lowest ever since the Gallup Organization first started asking the question more than seventy years ago - George W. Bush leaves office as the least popular President in modern history.

Comparatively, both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton left with their approval ratings at 68 percent. George Bush Sr.'s was 54 percent. Jimmy Carter had 44 percent and Harry Truman had 32 percent, the previous all-time low.

(Incidentally, I'm seeing many of the few remaining supporters that Bush has demanding that "their guy" be judged by history as favorably as Truman has been. But I don't see that happening. Truman holds the title of the real "Decider", whereas posterity will note that Bush had no appreciable principle at all.)

Well, it can't be said that Bush doesn't deserve such outrageously low approval. He has nearly single-handedly destroyed the underpinnings of America, doing more to wreck the United States than Clinton ever did. And it's going to take decades, if ever, before the country recovers from the damage this sad little man - who otherwise would not have been been in any position to be given such dire responsibility were it not for family favoritism and a corrupt political system - has inflicted upon it.

EDIT 11:36 p.m. EST: Someone else who's a fan of The Simpsons also used that cartoon to convey their feelings about Bush. What sayeth Comic Book Guy?

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: Wait... what?

A considerable amount of e-mail coming in the last little while, the gist of all of it is that I have missed some "fraking damned spectacular television" tonight on Battlestar Galactica, which I admitted earlier that I had not watched at all, in spite of all the good word about it.

I have no idea what the heck it is that all of y'all are trying to tell me, but I suppose I'm now gonna have to break down tomorrow and get Season 1 of this show, and attempt to get up to speed :-)

(I do have Battlestar Galactica: Razor on DVD however: it was part of the swag bag from Butt-Numb-A-Thon 9 a little over a year ago. Would it be wise to watch that first?)

Friday, January 16, 2009

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA returns tonight

I must sadly admit that I have only watched two episodes of this show. And now I am wondering what I have missed, because a lot of people are telling me "Chris, WHY AREN'T YOU WATCHING THIS SHOW?!?"

I know that Battlestar Galactica is in its final stretch, and that the word on the street is that some momentous stuff happens in tonight's episode.

So... would this be worth investing some coin in getting the DVD sets of the previous seasons, in order to finally catch up on things? :-)

The hero

Like my Dad said this morning, "That is one cool dude".

Here's the photo that's most going around today of Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, III, the pilot of US Airways Flight 1549 who landed his stricken jetliner smack down the middle of the Hudson River in New York City yesterday, an ultra-rare feat that saved the lives of everyone aboard...

I've said before that this blog exists to share my thoughts on various subjects, and to highlight and give praise to those people and things that deserve it. Well, it's been too long since I've felt anything as terrific to report on as good Captain Sullenberger and what he and the US Airways crew did yesterday. This old world doesn't have nearly enough heroes anymore. Yesterday, "Sully" gave it back its heroes.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

No snow tonight. HOWEVER...

...according to the Weather Channel website, nighttime temperatures are supposed to bottom out at 13 degrees Fahrenheit, and not to climb above 25 degrees tomorrow (with freezing being at 32 for all of y'all enlightened folks who are on the Celsius scale :-). That is unseasonably cold for this time of year in north-central North Carolina.

Remember, earlier last week I wrote about how it had thundered and according to backwoods lore (which has proven remarkably accurate) it is supposed to snow ten days after thunder in wintertime. So I guess this go-round it's an "almost": the cold air is there, but not the requisite moisture.

The farewell address of a REAL American President

In the past hour George W. Bush gave his last speech to the American people as President of the United States. I thought it was much like his final press conference last week: whiny, and defensive.

And not for the first time, I found myself wondering how it is that we have fallen so much as a country, from the way things used to be.

Twenty years ago, another President - that many people have said was the greatest President of the modern age - gave another farewell address to the people he had served for eight years. It was heartfelt, humble, reflective... and genuine. That President spoke of a "shining city upon a hill". Twenty years later and the very weak man who succeeded him, actually displayed proud arrogance at how he has turned that city in a prison for its people via the Department of Homeland Security.

(Does anyone believe that Reagan would have approved of such a thing, or that he would have advocated No Child Left Behind, or that he would have done pretty much anything else that Bush has "decided" to do in the past eight years?).

So if you want to behold how a true President of the United States leaves office, here is Ronald Reagan's farewell to the American people, from January 11th, 1989...

Part 2 of the same speech

Miracle on the Hudson: Everyone rescued after plane goes down in river

If you've got ready access to a television news channel you might wanna tune in right now 'cuz the story of the day is US Airways Flight 1549 from La Guardia in New York City to Charlotte, which had to land in the middle of the Hudson River after some birds hit the plane and cut out two of the engines...

The pilot was able to bring the Airbus A320 down in a controlled descent, right smack in a spot in the river that was plenty shallow without any risk of the plane sinking. The plane stayed in one piece and passengers were spotted standing on the wings awaiting rescue. Everybody got out safely.

That has got to be one of the best recoveries from an air emergency, that I can possibly recollect. And that pilot definitely deserves a medal.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Silent Interlude": 25 years later, G.I. JOE comic still rattles the industry

Twenty-five years ago this month, in January of 1984, G.I. Joe #21 from Marvel Comics hit the newsstands. The cover promised "The Most Unusual G.I. Joe Story Ever!!"

What an understatement...

Marvel might as well have declared G.I. Joe #21, the now-legendary "Silent Interlude" issue, as being "The Most Unusual COMIC BOOK Story Ever!" and now, a full quarter-century later, there would be very few fans of graphic art literature who would disagree.

"Silent Interlude" was the issue that broke all the rules of what a comic book was supposed to be. And I think it could even be argued that it forever shattered conventional wisdom on what a licensed property tie-in was fully capable of achieving. From the day that G.I. Joe #1 came out in the spring of 1982 onward, the comic book was generally regarded as a glorified advertisement for the popular Hasbro line of action figures.

And then came Issue #21. Written and drawn by Larry Hama, "Silent Interlude" would become the most talked-about, the most widely praised, and at the time among the most controversial comic books ever published. It permanently elevated G.I. Joe away from its perception of being a "toy franchise" and into the realm of exceptionally mature narrative.

"Silent Interlude" also laid down the foundation for all the G.I. Joe continuity that was to follow for the next ten years and beyond. It established mysteries and connections that have come to be regarded as some of the finest storytelling that the medium has yet produced.

And "Silent Interlude" did it all... without a single word of dialogue or any other written exposition.

Hama's now-classic tale of Snake-Eyes infiltrating Destro's castle to rescue captured fellow G.I. Joe team member Scarlett, and his battle with the Cobra ninja Storm Shadow, was experimental theatre of the highest form. The absence of text proved that it could not stop a well-executed, high-stakes tale loaded with action and enigma. If anything, having no written words escalated the intensity of "Silent Interlude".

Two and a half decades later, G.I. Joe #21 is widely hailed by many of the recent generation of comic artists and writers as the single issue that most inspired them to enter the industry. And as if it needed further testament to its impact, "Silent Interlude" has consequently become one of the most parodied graphic stories in history (including one especially memorable cover for an issue of Deadpool).

But there is one more praise that I am obligated to give "Silent Interlude". I can say now that G.I. Joe #21, and how its story continued to play out over the next few issues after that, was what began turning my very young mind toward what became a life-long interest in modern history. And I think that many people of my age bracket will also readily admit that Larry Hama's work on G.I. Joe made us very curious, for the first time, about what happened in Southeast Asia. Until Issue #26 a few months later, "Vietnam" was just a word that I didn't care to understand. The G.I. Joe comic book first opened my mind about the conflict... and a quarter century later, I'm still trying to grasp it all. A lot of us are.

So let's pretend that Yo Joe Cola is a real drink, and hoist our glasses in raising a toast to "Silent Interlude": not just the greatest G.I. Joe story ever, but one of the greatest comic book issues of all time! :-)

And now Ricardo Montalban has left us

Just minutes after writing about the passing of Patrick McGoohan, and I was notified of another screen legend who has exited the stage...

Fox News is now reporting that Ricardo Montalban has died at the age of 88.

Was there ever a cinematic villain as single-minded in his obsession to destroy as Khan Noonien Singh from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan? Montalban only appeared in the role twice (for the 1982 film and the original Star Trek episode "Space Seed" that first introduced the eugenics warlord) but the raw power that he brought to the character was enough to secure him forever in the memory of pop culture. And of course, he was the ever-mysterious Mr. Roarke on ABC's Fantasy Island... and I had been hoping that he might somehow get worked into a cameo on Lost, 'cuz it seemed so appropriate. He also appeared in numerous other films over the years, particularly musicals for MGM. And let us not forget the car commercials he did back in the day, where he paid exquisite attention to the "Cor-een-thee-an leather"...

He will be missed.

He was not a number: Patrick McGoohan has passed away

Patrick McGoohan, who first rose to fame as John Drake on Secret Agent, and then boggled the minds of generations to come as Number 6 on The Fugitive - in addition to many other memorable roles - has passed away at the age of 80.

More recently, McGoohan won acclaim for his diabolical portrayal of King Edward I "Longshanks" in the movie Braveheart. He also won two Emmys for his work on television's Columbo.

But in this geek's mind, it will be his work on The Prisoner, a show that he not only starred in but created, executive produced and wrote the scripts of several episodes for. More than forty years later and controversy still rages about the finale "Fall Out", an episode so bizarre that McGoohan had to go into hiding for several weeks after it aired, because people kept coming to his home to demand an explanation.

His was one of the most original minds in the business... and he shall certainly be missed.

Bush declares federal emergency so Obama inauguration can get bailout money

How bad are things when paying for the swearing in of a new President of the United States requires bailing out by the United States government?

George W. Bush has declared an emergency in and around Washington D.C. in anticipation of what is expected to be the record number of people who will be coming to town over the next several days to witness the inauguration of his successor, Barack Obama. Doing so "frees up" contingency funds that usually go toward hurricane relief or for other natural disasters. In this case that same money is going toward the inaugural celebrations. Providing for facilities is expected to cost the city $75 million and the state of Maryland, $12 million.

Quite a few things that could be observed about what this says regarding the American people and their government...

Admittedly, presidential inaugurations have always been a bit festive. Probably none on record was as wild as the one for Theodore Roosevelt in 1905 (his had Chief Geronimo among others: kinda hard to top that, folks). But at least for the better part of the past two decades, I've witnessed something revealed about our national character at large during the arrival of every new executive administration lately. Namely, the cult of regarding the President as something more than what the office is supposed to be. And that is, one of public servant. We have instead turned the Presidency into what should not be asked of it and should never be expected of it: practically the right hand of God Himself on this Earth.

As we have seen, there are certainly problems when the very weak men who come into this office, start to believe the hype.

I wrote four years ago when Bush was getting sworn in again that it should not cost anything for a new President of the United States to put his or her hand on the Bible, and swear to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. To that notion I hold also regarding Barack Obama. And Bush betrays how sincerely weak he is as a so-called "conservative" when he wastes the public treasury on perpetuating this folly... but then, wasting other people's money is the only thing that George W. Bush has ever known, so why should now be any different?

Perhaps there should be a law enacted that mandates no public funds for the festivities of swearing or affirming the oath of office. Who knows: with much less distraction, it might be an incentive for future Presidents to actually take their oaths far more seriously.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Prime-ary Colours: Optimus is personal hero of Gordon Brown

In a radio interview about the effects of the global recession on Great Britain, that country's Prime Minister Gordon Brown has admitted that one of his heroes is Autobot leader Optimus Prime from the Transformers franchise...

Listeners to the show seemed to agree. One said that "Optimus Prime would be one hell of an advisor to the PM. He stands for honour and justice and I would vote for him as Prime Minister if he were real."

Personally I think that if Mr. Brown is heartfelt about his admiration for Optimus Prime, that the British people are generally in good hands. Not too many mythic figures from the past few decades that are as virtuous and upstanding as Optimus Prime.

Thanks to Phillip Arthur for passing along the story!

Scott Hamilton on finding happiness

Good friend of this blog (and all around terrific lady :-) Crystal Stearns directed my attention over the weekend to this interview with Olympic gold medal figure skater Scott Hamilton. He has just come out with a new book titled The Great Eight and in it he talks about his battle with cancer, and the wisdom that he has gained from it. In the interview, Hamilton discusses at length how the times in life when we fall down, we should look at them as opportunities to rise again. Crystal told me that "It gave me great hope and inspiration," and it did me as well.

I might have to pick up a copy of Hamilton's book: to put some more uplift in my heart and to put some money in his pocket (a fair trade, aye? :-P)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Odd gadgets abound at CES 2009

The E-Cigarettes are just one of the numerous strange gizmos that PC World spotted at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show. Other dubious products being rolled out this year: a portable Blu-ray player with a nine-inch screen (ummmm... why?!), numerous second-rate Wii clones, and MP3 players that have already become out of date because of Apple's decision to remove digital rights management from iTunes. But the thing that I keep chuckling about for some reason is the CarStars. As the article puts it: "Personally, I can't think of anything more terrifying than trying to drive while knowing that at any moment Elton John or Lil Wayne may pop up out of nowhere and start blurting out song recommendations."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Robert Vaughn sez: I know who masterminded Bobby Kennedy murder

It would be intriguing enough no matter who wrote it. But the fact that it's penned by actor Robert Vaughn - The Man from U.N.C.L.E. himself - will no doubt ratchet up the "wanna read" factor.

Writing for The Daily Mail in the United Kingdom, Vaughn articulates his belief that Aristotle Onassis was behind the plan to have Robert Kennedy assassinated. Vaughn, a friend of Bobby Kennedy and his family, argues that it's likely that Sirhan Sirhan could not have been the one who fired the fatal shots, but that he was instead a "patsy" for the real gunman (or gunmen). And as for motivation, Vaughn contends that Onassis held a grudge against Robert Kennedy going all the way back to the early Fifties and the height of Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communist campaign.

I'm not gonna say that I completely agree right off the bat with Vaughn's thesis, but after reading it over twice already, I do have to concede that the man has done his research and has put together, in my mind anyway, a plausible theory. An interesting article, to say the least...

CNN broadcasting I.O.U.S.A. this weekend

On Thursday I received the following from Elizabeth Wilner, Director of Public Affairs at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, who asked if I could pass it along to this blog's readers...
It wasn't long ago that the idea of an American fiscal crisis was considered speculative at best. Most everyone - the government included - seemed to be living on credit with no end in sight. But recently, the debtors have come calling. Now we're living in an America where lending institutions have collapsed, more than 1 million homes have entered foreclosure, and the federal deficit has reached unprecedented numbers.

In response to public demand for information about the scope of the country's financial challenges, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation is proud to announce that CNN/U.S. will air the television premiere of our documentary I.O.U.S.A., together with an unscripted panel discussion with policy leaders about various economic solutions. I.O.U.S.A. uses candid interviews, archival footage, and economic data to tell the story of America's mounting debts, and offers suggestions for how best to recreate a fiscally sound nation for future generations.

This exclusive televised event will air on CNN/U.S. on Saturday, January 10 at 2:00 p.m. EST and on Sunday, January 11 at 3:00 p.m. EST, and will be hosted by Ali Velshi and Christine Romans, co-anchors of CNN's Your $$$$$, the network's weekend business roundtable program.

When you tune in to CNN, you'll get more than just the U.S. broadcast premiere of I.O.U.S.A. The two-hour program will also feature Velshi and Romans engaging a distinguished group of panelists, including the Peter G. Peterson Foundation's own Pete Peterson and Dave Walker; Alice Rivlin, noted economist and former Director of the Office of Management and Budget; and Bill Bradley, a managing director of Allen & Company and former U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate. Together, they'll discuss issues raised in the film and their ties to current economic events.

So please join us for this exclusive televised version of I.O.U.S.A., and feel free to let your readers know about it too. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation is thrilled that, through its U.S. premiere on CNN, the film will get the chance to inspire even more Americans to make fiscal responsibility a priority.

I.O.U.S.A. has been playing on the festival circuit, and has received rave reviews for its sobering message about fiscal irresponsibility in America. I shall certainly be tuning in to catch it and if you want more information here's the film's official website.

Friday, January 09, 2009

TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN teaser poster (and the date for the trailer!)

About twenty-seven e-mails were waiting for me when I got home late Thursday night, all of 'em with the following tantalizing teaser poster for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen...

And according to Seibertron.com, the first glimpse of the trailer is gonna come during the Super Bowl on February 1st. Also confirmed movie spots that will run during the big game are Star Trek, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Angels and Demons, Monsters vs. Aliens, Land of the Lost, the fourth Fast and the Furious, Pixar's Up, and probably for X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Les Misérables: Pregnant women slug it out at Chuck E. Cheese

In Susquehanna Township, Pennsylvania...

Apparently this particular Chuck E. Cheese has a history of attracting trouble, but it's far from the only location in the chain that has witnessed violence among adults.

2K boss sez: BIOSHOCK could spawn five sequels

Christoph Hartmann, worldwide president of 2K, has claimed in an interview with MCV that BioShock, which some have called the best video game ever created, might possibly lead to five sequels! In the interview Hartmann likens the BioShock brand to the Star Wars franchise... but also notes that 2K must be wary of milking BioShock with too much commercialism.

I finished BioShock for the third time the other night, and even knowing the story and the big plot twist, it has still lost none of its potency. I think that Rapture - the vast underwater city that is the setting of BioShock - is one of the greatest and most fully-realized environments created for a work of fiction. But I'm scratching my head at how Hartmann and 2K are already conceiving of five more games to offshoot from the original. Most fans of BioShock that I've spoken to have said that they'd like to see a prequel at some point: a game that shows us life in Rapture leading up to and taking place during the events of New Years Eve 1958, when the oceanic metropolis collapsed into the total chaos of civil war.

The first sequel, BioShock 2: Sea of Dreams, is due to be released this coming fall.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Lest anyone believe this blog will be soft on Obama...

Ever since this blog began five years ago, I have very often broken bad on George W. Bush. Because he has consistently proven himself to have been the worst President of the modern era (and quite possibly the worst ever). There have been a few times when I have not hesitated to praise his actions, but those have been few and far between. It will be decades before the damage that he has done to America can be fully repaired, if at all.

But don't think that The Knight Shift is going to be a safe harbor for pro-Obama sentiment either...

This blog and the admittedly off-kilter guy behind it do not cotton to any ideology. If anyone enters my dojo with the sad notion that I should admire or fear them because they are a self-styled "conservative" or "liberal", then they are wrong... and I won't hesitate to land them square on their ass for their assumed bravura. People can have conservative or liberal opinions about a given issue, but to deride others as blanket "conservative" or "liberal" is to not give those people the respect that they deserve and to give such a label to one's entire identity is the acme of shallowness.

So Bush is finally going away, and it can't come a moment too soon. How much confidence do I have with incoming Barack Obama? If this next story is any indication: not much at all.

According to a video that Obama had posted on YouTube, as part of "economic stimulus" he wants to create three million new jobs, with 80% of those being in the private sector.

But that translates into 600,000 jobs that will be in government. In other words: more bureaucrats. What these new employees on the federal dole will be doing that government employees are not already busy with, I haven't a clue. And I would be remiss if I did not mention that no nation in history ever created prosperity for itself by increasing the size and scope of its own government. The George W. Bush years alone proved that.

What I'd love to know even more though, is how exactly does Obama believe he can create 2,400,000 employed positions in the private labor force? The most robust way that I can recall that ever being possibly done, is for there to be wartime conditions like World War II, when vast segments of the population went to work for defense contractors.

There is only one way that Barack Obama can help create economic growth and recovery for America's finances: cut taxes - especially slashing income taxes and corporate taxes so as to encourage more domestic industry - and cut spending. Not just one and not just the other, but both together.

If Barack Obama does that, he will truly go down in history as one of the greatest American Presidents of all time.

We'll see what happens, over the next four years or eight...