Monday, November 30, 2009

Darth Vader rings the bell for the Salvation Army

Woe be the person who doesn't have some spare change for the Dark Lord of the Sith...

Don't worry. It's just the fine folks of the 501st Legion doing what they do best: using their love of the Star Wars saga to do good in the community. In this case it's volunteering to ring the bell for those Salvation Army red kettles in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Click here for the story and more photos.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

If the Earth had rings...

...it would possibly look like what Roy Prol has cooked up in this 3D animation. Prol took into account the Roche limit for Earth's mass to calculate the size and distance of the rings from the surface, and also how the rings would look from various latitudes on Earth.

Check it out!

Thanks to Shane Thacker for this thought-provoking and beautiful find.

Thought that came to mind while driving around Greensboro today

He who establishes his identity not in what he is but what he is not is worse than the most foolish of men.

GEARS OF WAR: ANVIL GATE coming in March 2010

While we're waiting for word on Gears of War 3 (which is being whispered will be released sometime late next year), the story of Marcus Fenix and the rest of Delta Squad will continue in the meantime with Karen Traviss' upcoming novel Gears of War: Anvil Gate, scheduled for publication on March 30, 2010.

Here's the book's description on Amazon's UK site...

With the Locust Horde apparently destroyed, Jacinto's survivors have begun to rebuild human society on their island stronghold. Raiding pirate gangs take a toll - but it's nothing that Marcus Fenix and the Gears can't handle. Then the terrifying life-forms they thought they'd left behind - the Lambent, creatures even the Locust feared - begin to advance across the planet. Gears and gangs must fight side by side to stop their deadliest enemy yet, falling back on the savage tactics of another bloody siege: Anvil Gate.
So it's gonna be a direct sequel to Traviss' Gears of War: Jacinto's Remnant, which itself was a superb follow-up to the events of Gears of War 2 (and if you're anything at all a fan of all things C.O.G., Jacinto's Remnant should be obligatory reading).

And Marcus, Dom, Cole, Baird, Anya, and the rest are going to have to now fight the Lambent, while in the process we learn what went down at the Battle of Anvil Gate. Oughtta be a great thrill!

Climate data was DUMPED, East Anglia scientists admit

"Climategate" is a little over a week old but already is gaining steam faster than most scandals. Curiously most of the "mainstream press" has yet to pick up on it. Out of embarrassment, perhaps?

Well, this next item of news related to last week's leaking of confidential material from the Climate Research Unit outta raise ire even more: scientists at University East Anglia are now confessing to disposing of ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY YEARS worth of climate data! There is now no raw data to analyze and determine if there has been any real global warming... or global cooling for that matter.

What the hell kind of researchers throws away a century and a half of raw data upon which their studies are based? That's like a courtroom prosecutor chucking out all the evidence in the hopes that a jury will simply take him at his word that the defendant on trial is a serial murderer.

(Methinks that while we're using legal metaphor, that there is becoming a growing body of proof that "scientists" worldwide have been engaging in a gross act of scheming to defraud in the first degree.)

Seriously: how much storage is required to contain all that data? A regular 500 gigabyte hard drive like the kind probably in your computer? Likely not even that much. So they can't excuse this away by claiming that there "wasn't enough room" to keep the raw data. The CRU eggheads have a lotta 'splainin' to do...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Where is THE ROAD?!? Help me find it!

A few days ago The Road, the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's bestselling novel, premiered. I've been looking forward to this movie ever since reading the book over the summer. But Alas! I am scanning the local horizon like crazy and The Road is nowhere to be found within a 100 mile radius of here.

So I'm gonna turn to this blog's loyal readers (all two of them and maybe others?) to help me out, 'cuz I am bound and determined to see The Road as soon as I can. If you know of any theater in North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, heck maybe even Georgia and eastern Tennessee, that is currently running The Road, e-mail me at theknightshift@gmail.com and please lemme know where it can be located at. I'm seriously looking forward to watching this film (and writin' a review of it 'course :-)!

Friday, November 27, 2009

How'd them fried turkeys come out? Behold the pics and video!

Last year it was the outrageously jacked-up price of peanut oil that kept fried turkey from being economically feasible.  This year I thought the price had gone down when I went to buy it, but turns out I was using cottonseed oil instead!  Which turned out to be a pleasant surprise.  I'd been wanting to try cottonseed oil for awhile now but couldn't find it anywhere.  Same great taste when all was done though!

Here's the first bird that I did (for a customer), after about 30 hours of marinading and rubbing-in seasoning, as it awaits the 350 degree Fahrenheit hot oil...

Yours Truly carefully lowering the turkey in...

Frying at 3 and a half minutes per pound, this 9-pounder took 35 minutes to cook...

A little over half an hour later (a heckuva lot shorter time than basting it in an oven) this turkey is done!

Beautiful, ain't it? :-)

Now this next one is the turkey that I fried for my own family's Thanksgiving dinner. And lemme tell ya: I've never done one this big before. It weighed in at more than TWENTY AND A HALF POUNDS! I nicknamed it "The Beast", it was so monstrously large. Think the previous biggest one was about 13 pounds and I darn nearly had cardiac infarction when Dad told me how big a bird he had purchased. But, I'm always up for a challenge.

Here's "The Beast" before frying...

A turkey this big deserves something better than just still pics, don't ya think? So how about a video clip of me lowering it into the oil...

"The Beast" took 75 minutes to thoroughly fry...

And an hour and fifteen minutes later...

That is going to be my personal standard by which all future fried turkeys will be judged. If all the rest to come can be as big and juicy and delicious as The Beast, I will be happy :-)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What I am thankful for this year

I admit: it is not a habit that I have kept up very well. A number of years ago my friend Chad Austin made a post on his own blog for Thanksgiving about the things that he was thankful for. And I resolved then that I would do the same and stick to it.

Well, I missed it last year (because of some circumstance that a few of you are now aware of). But it's a funny thing: now, two years since the last time I said I was thankful, I feel more thankful than ever before... and thankful for things that maybe I didn't appreciate as fully as I should have been.

Thanksgiving remains a uniquely American holiday. No other place in the world, so far as I know, has a holiday devoted to reflection upon the blessings in our lives. Yes, I know: our Jewish brethren and many other religious groups do have festivals of thanks to God. But Thanksgiving enjoys the curious place of being perhaps the one holiday with anything like a spiritual basis that is endorsed by an understandably secular government. That doesn't mean that I think Thanksgiving is a strictly "Christian" affair.. but you've gotta admit: we would all be the better for it if we spent more time thankful for what we do have, and not lamenting that which we don't.

So without further ado, here is what I am thankful for as we wind down 2009...

I am thankful, more than I can possibly express, for the very many wonderful friends that I have been blessed with throughout my life.

I am thankful that for those friendships which may have fallen by the wayside, that there is hope for the reconciliation that I fervently pray for each day.

I am thankful for my Mom and Dad, who have always been there for me... even when I have been at my lowest.

I am thankful for my sister, who is far more an inspiration than she will ever know.

I am thankful for all of my family, now spread out throughout the world...

...and thanks to Facebook we are keeping in touch with each other more than ever before!

I am thankful for the very many opportunities that God has opened up for me in recent months, and I look forward to seeing where they might take me.

I am thankful to be an alumnus of Elon University, not only because I love the school but because the Phoenix have become the team to watch in football and basketball.

I am thankful for the Theatre Guild of Rockingham County and everything - and everyone - that comes with being involved with it!

I am thankful for this blog, which in however small a way I want to believe might be an encouragement for anyone who might find their way here to take a stand and contribute their own unique voice and perspective to the world.

I am thankful for discovering the joy of Warhammer 40,000 and Monsterpocalypse this past year, and the numerous friendships that have come about from meeting to play those games.

I am thankful for YouTube, which is always there to show me how to tie a necktie whenever I need the instruction.

I am thankful to live in the country, where I can take my telescope out on any clear dark night and use it as I please without getting honked-off at light pollution.

I am thankful for getting to see my life-long best friend Chad Austin get married this past summer.

I am thankful that I get to be creative and productive, and can now get away with it after some previous stunts finally garnered me some hard-earned street cred (especially among my family ;-).

I am thankful for Fallout 3, which has to date consumed 130 hours of my life (and still counting...).

I am thankful that I am getting to learn more of the fine art of knifemaking from Dad.

But, most of all...

...I am thankful that I serve an awesome God, Who has been faithful to me even when I have not been as faithful to Him. I am thankful that His grace is sufficient to cover the unbelievable amount of shortcomings that are in my life. I am thankful that even though I do fall and make many mistakes, that He is ever there to pick me up, dust me off, and be beside me closer than a friend as I continue on the difficult, strange and at times all-out wacky journey that is life.

If am am thankful for nothing else, then I am thankful that I have Christ in my life. And I am thankful for being able to see, thirteen years later, that He is a presence in my life... and one that I want to grow all the more, for as long as I am in this world.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How much do I hate Christmas songs before Thanksgiving?

So earlier today on Facebook I made the following status update...
Chris Knight says that it's TOO EARLY for Christmas music!! Can't we wait until Friday?! If I hear ONE MORE #&@% Christmas song I will brutally murder a kitten. In the name of all that's good and holy, THINK OF THE KITTENS!!
My good friend Lee Shelton (who is celebrating his first Thanksgiving as a father this year, congrats Lee!) read that, and decided that I was not nearly vehement enough about that sentiment.

And so, Lee made the following visual reinforcement...

Lee, next year I'm going to go around all month of November wearing a t-shirt with that graphic on it :-P

Stephen King working on a sequel to THE SHINING

This could be very promising: Stephen King has announced that he is planning a sequel to The Shining, his 1977 novel that was later made into two movies (including the 1980 original directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Jack Nicholson).

The planned title for the sequel is Doctor Sleep. And so far as what it would be about, King plans to revisit the story of Danny Torrance, now forty years old "...and living in upstate New York, where he works as the equivalent of an orderly at a hospice for the terminally ill. Danny’s real job is to visit with patients who are just about to pass on to the other side, and to help them make that journey with the aid of his mysterious powers. Danny also has a sideline in betting on the horses, a trick he learned from his buddy Dick Hallorann."

I'm cool with that. And a revisit to the Dark Tower series as well (which King has recently said he's working on too). Just as long as there's no follow-up to The Stand: whatever happens after that story needs to stay in our imagination.

But more tales of Danny Torrance? Sounds intriguing...

The Muppets perform BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY!

Somewhere, Jim Henson and Freddie Mercury are smiling and laughing their heads off...

This DESERVES to be a real Thanksgiving TV special...

It's not the first time that I've blogged about this. But a short film this good easily merits sharing more than once. And who knows, there might be some who have never had the pleasure of seeing it before.

Here is that brilliant, spot-on and hilarious spoof of Ron Howard's Apollo 13 that Gene Kranz himself has taken to watching with his family as a holiday tradition.

Behold: Thanksgiving With The Kranzes...

Thanksgiving 2009: And so it begins...

The twenty-pound turkey (what the heck was Dad thinking?!?) that will be our own family's main course tomorrow. Since this is the biggest bird of the batch, I used this one to do the "water trick" with to measure out how much peanut oil to pour into the pot tomorrow morning. That means you put the turkey in, and start pouring cold water into the pot until it meets the top of the turkey. Then take it out and make a mark (I use a piece of tape) at the water line minus the displacement. That way you don't have to rough guess and risk flames and destruction when peanut oil comes flowing over the top of the pot...

So all the birds are now marinaded and well-rubbed in with Cajun seasoning. There'll be several more treatments throughout the day but for now "the chef" is going to take a break and do something I've hardly had time to do at all the past few months: finally get into seriously playing Batman: Arkham Asylum :-)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Random thought/proverb/wisdom/whatever

There is one letter's difference between "fame" and "fake"... and often not even that much.

BioShock cosplay recreates Rapture at the Georgia Aquarium (WOW!!!)

This is about the most crazy awesome astonishing thing that I have seen all month...

Folks, that is NOT from a BioShock video game! Harrison Krix out of Atlanta built that unbelievably sweet Big Daddy costume, then contacted reps with the Georgia Aquarium and got some time scheduled there for a photoshoot. With Harrison in his Big Daddy gear and his fiancée in decrepit dress and scary makeup as a Little Sister, they brought Rapture to life amid real sharks and jellyfish.

Click here for MANY more images of Harrison Krix's BioShock session at the Georgia Aquarium, including some that Harrison has made wallpaper size for your desktop (and they will certainly be made useful, of that there is no doubt :-)

THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER: 11 days 'til showtime

Last night we had our first technical rehearsal for Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Prior to that co-directors Jeff and Melissa Mericle had a "costume parade" where the cast got to show off the costumes they had put together for approval. The idea is to evoke a Seventies-ish look (since that's the time period of the original novel).

Although I didn't take part in the costume parade itself (since it had been provided by the Theatre Guild with special arrangement with the Madison Fire Department) I did put on my Fireman's getup for the first time, and kept it on when we rehearsed the fire scene...

I have an entirely fresh appreciation for firefighters now, after wearing that for just one evening. It is heavy! And that's still not all of what I'll be running around in during the show. Firefighter's attire is big and bulky and gets hot inside: it's like a Snuggie from Hell. But when you think about the alternative and then realize that at the present time there is no alternative... yeah, I have to really tip my hat to the men and women who choose to do this for real.

"Technical rehearsal" is just what it sounds like: rehearsing just as we've done for the past four or five weeks, but with things like props and furniture in place, going through the lights and sounds, etc. We'll do it again tonight, and then full-blown dress rehearsals next week.

Everyone is stoked about doing this show! The kids especially are doing a terrific job. Hope y'all will get to come and see them shine :-)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tip your waiter or get arrested in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania!

Leslie Pope and John Wagner were hauled away from the Lehigh Pub in handcuffs by the police in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania last week. Their "crime"? Refusing to pay a tip!
If you're frustrated by poor service at a restaurant, think twice before you decide to not tip. You may be in for a bit more than just a dirty look from the waiter.

"Nobody, nobody wants to be forced to pay a tip or be arrested for terrible service," Leslie Pope said when her happy hour ended in handcuffs.

Pope and John Wagner were hauled away by police and charged with theft for not paying the mandatory 18 percent gratuity totaling $16 after eating at the Lehigh Pub in Bethlehem, Pa. with six friends.

Pope claimed that they had to wait nearly an hour for their order and that she had to get napkins and silverware for the table herself.

"At this point I became very annoyed because I had already gone up to the bar myself to have my soda refilled because the waitress never came back," Pope said.

After the $73 bill came, the group paid for food, drinks, and tax but refused to pay the tip. After explaining the bad service to the bartender in charge, Pope claimed he took their money and called police. The couple was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car.

"I understand that, you know, we didn't pay the gratuity, but it was a gratuity, it wasn't something that was required," said Wagner.

The owner admitted that the group waited unusually long for their food, but said the pub was extremely busy that night. He said managers offered to comp the food, a claim the couple denies ever happened.

Obviously we would have liked for the patron and the establishment to have worked this out without getting the police involved," said Deputy Police Commissioner Stuart Bedics.

Police charged them with theft since the gratuity was part of the actual bill. However, it is doubtful that the charges will hold up in front of a judge. The couple is scheduled to appear in court next month.

Bet that's one place that's gonna lose some patronage!

GeekTyrant's retrospective of ALIEN

2009 marks thirty years since Ridley Scott's film Alien was released. Alien remains one of the most classic and influential science fiction movies ever produced... and it has not only held up against the test of time, it's one of the few films of the genre that actually seems to get better with each passing year.

GeekTyrant has posted a fine retrospective of Alien, including some thoughts and observations that had never occurred to me before, as well as lots of trivia that will now doubt come as new information to many people (like how H.R. Giger's designs for the Facehugger were held up by alarmed U.S. Customs agents at the airport, prompting writer Dan O'Bannon to drive on over and explain that they were meant for a horror movie).

Chad Austin makes THE NEW YORK TIMES!

A little over three years after my photo appeared in The New York Times, now it's life-long friend Chad Austin's turn! New York Times is running a story about the SAS Institute in Cary, where Chad works. The story is mostly about how the company is the biggest independent software company in the world and how its fast gaining attention in the corporate world, but there's also a lot about how SAS gives some awesome benefits to its employees. And among the photos in the slideshow accompanying the story there's this pic...

See those legs in the foreground wearing the blue-trimmed shoes? Those are Chad Austin's legs!

Sorry girls but as nice as Chad's calves are, he is a married man as of this past summer :-P

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ahead of his time: Michael Crichton on the global warming fraud

"F---ing pissed!" And that was one of the more polite e-mails that have come in since Friday afternoon when this blog and many others spread the news about the Climate Research Unit at University of East Anglia getting hacked. That 61-megabyte .zip archive has gone viral across the Intertubes and bunches of blood-boiling stuff is still being gleaned from the correspondence between climate "scientists" that points to a decades-long conspiracy to promote paranoia about global warming at cost of rigorous and honest study.

Well, many people have been saying for a long time that global warming is fake. And few argued against global warming as articulately and passionately as did Michael Crichton. The acclaimed bestselling author of Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain addressed global warming in his novel State of Fear. It was one year ago this month that Crichton passed away, but I've no doubt that he would have been very pleased with this weekend's news... and would probably smile from knowing he was so far ahead of the curve. If you're interested in some serious discussion about the Earth and its climate, I greatly recommend reading Crichton's 2005 lecture "Complexity Theory and Environmental Management". It's a rather long read, but one rife with all sorts of solid information (the thing about Chernobyl severely made my jaw drop).

And I'm gonna do something that I've never done before: if you maintain a blog, SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT THE HACKING OF THE CRU! I'm seeing the traditional press start to finally disseminate this news, but they're (perhaps understandably but that's still no excuse) being awfully slow-pokish about it. This very well might be the biggest scam in modern history, when you consider all the money that's been wasted and legislation that's been enforced in the name of "global warming". Should that make everyone "f---ing pissed"?!? Yer #&@%ed right it should!!

If sincere investigation bears out that this has been a fraud, then careers must be forever destroyed and I'll even suggest that a lot of climate con-artists need to be strung up from the nearest telephone poles by their circular reproductive units. With piano wire.

Chris Knight's somewhat typical Sunday

Right now: catching up on e-mail and news.

Later: writing more of the novel that I've been working on for National Novel Writing Month, which as things stand now won't be finished by the end of November because of all the good stuff that I'm finding to add into it. But what will be done by then should still be enough to meet the 150-pages needed to qualify as "done" for the month. I'll just put the finishing touches on it later :-)

Later still: painting some more of my army of Orks for Warhammer 40,000 and then laying out all my works for turkey frying on Thursday.

And done already this morning: videography of the baptisms of a friend's children at a church in Greensboro. I'd never done a baptismal job before.

Maybe someday I'll get to film a bris. But please... no tipping! :-P

Linguist spends first three years of son's life speaking only Klingon

An expert at linguistics used nothing but the fictional Klingon language from the Star Trek franchise when he spoke to his son for the first three years of the kid's life.

Dr. d'Armond Speers wanted to observe whether baby Alec would pick up Klingon as naturally as most babies learn English or any other real language. Speers was especially giddy about the prospect of Alec's first word being "vav" (the Klingon term for "daddy"). Although Alec, now 13, doesn't speak Klingon at all, at the time "He was definitely starting to learn it... When Alec spoke back to me in Klingon his pronunciation was excellent."

This dude should have tried getting his son to speak fluent Sindarin or Quenya. Now that would have been impressive!

Boeing creates laser weapon that shoots down flying aircraft

The photo on the left is an unmanned aerial vehicle (like those drone aircraft that are being used by the military) being tracked and destroyed while in flight by a laser weapon developed by the Integrated Defense Systems unit of the Boeing Company. This isn't the first practical laser-based weapon to be developed, but the technology is certainly getting refined at a brisk pace. For all intents and purposes, these are full-blown "laser cannons" like something out of Flash Gordon or Star Wars.

Aim your browser here for more, including the next technical goal that Boeing is setting out to accomplish: mounting these laser weapons onto sharks.

(I'm kidding! :-)

It's an odd commentary on our culture...

...when all the literature on the front shelves of the bookstores is about either vampires, zombies, or Sarah Palin.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

CLIMATE RESEARCH UNIT HACKED! 61 megabytes reveal massaged data on global warming?! Did scientists conspire on climate scare?!

Ho-lee HELL!! This could turn into one of the biggest stories of the decade... scratch that, decades!

Could it be that the whole "global warming" thing has been nothing but a colossal scam on damned near every man, woman, child and dumb animal on the planet?!

The Intertubes are smoking hot this afternoon from the news about University of East Anglia's Hadley Climatic Research Unit getting hacked and a heapin' big pile of material being leaked online. The 61 megabyte file can be downloaded here. But if you want the gist of it, Watts Up With That has a bigtime discussion going on, including excerpts from the hacked stuff.

And if this small sample is any indication, a bunch of scientists have a lotta 'splainin' to do. There are e-mail exchanges among researchers about hiding data reflecting temperature decline over the past three decades, and even adding on to temperatures. There is also some troubling discussion of political ramifications of the climate research which strongly suggests that it has been severely tainted with outside interests.

Just... wow.

And according to the story at Watts Up With That, the Climate Research Unit has canceled all e-mail passwords and is now admitting that the breach is real. The plot thickens.

This demands to be the hardest-hitting story of the next week if not the next several months. It also needs to be thoroughly investigated... and let the chips fall where they may.

WWII IN HD: Best high-def programming I've seen yet!

My DVR just received a massive enema. Gone is stuff that I've recorded like P2 and Krull and Clash of the Titans and Stroker Ace (though how that got scheduled is beyond me, and I'm still trying to figure out how I wound up with Yentl). So now I've got plenty of disk space to record WWII in HD from the History Channel.

HOW did I miss hearing about this until now? Well, no matter 'cuz History Channel is broadcasting them again and if you've got a high-definition television you really owe it to yourself to catch this, because you've never seen World War II as clear and brilliant as this before. See that still image? Those are British soldiers coming ashore at Normandy, and it looks so crisp and sharp you'd swear that this was footage gathered just yesterday.

If History Channel puts this out on Blu-ray... well, between that and Star Trek that's prolly gonna be more than enough to pull me into adopting a Blu-ray player at last. But 'til then, watch WWII in HD however ya can!

LOST Season 6: February 2nd, 2010

ABC's Lost, perhaps the most defining and innovative show of the decade, will begin its sixth and final season on February 2nd, 2010. That's a Tuesday night by the way, which is where Lost will be from here on out (apart from a break for the Winter Olympics). Eighteen hours spread out over sixteen episodes will begin with the two-hour season premiere, "LA X".


Can showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse wrap up everything in those 18 hours?! In no particular order we've got: the smoke monster, Jacob, Richard's eternal youthfulness, Walt being "special", Christian Shepherd and why he's still walking around, the statue, the Temple (which we have yet to get a serious look at), the food drops, why Marvin Candle uses those names for different DHARMA films, the hollowed-out Bible, the Black Rock, whoever thought to build the pendulum inside the Lamppost station (I've thought since last season that there's some importance to that), Sun and Jin and how the heck they're supposed to reunite, how "the rules" don't apply to Desmond... and what promises to be an all-out epic war between Benjamin Linus and Charles Widmore for control of the Island if not of the Earth itself.

Holy cripes crispies, this season of Lost is going to be insane!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Food Nazis strike again! Movie theater popcorn = 3 hamburgers?!?


The first time I heard about Center for Science in the Public Interest it was 1994. That was also the first time these ninnies went after movie theater popcorn. They declared it wasn't safe because of the coconut oil that most cinemas pop their corn in. The very next day EVERY movie theater listing in the News & Record posted declarations that their popcorn was free of coconut oil.

Those bastitches at Center for Science in the Public Interest made it damned near impossible to get a decent bag of popcorn at the movies for many years after that. Thankfully (well in my book anyway) most chains went back to using coconut oil.

But I learned something from that incident: that it's ridiculously easy in this modern world for someone or a small group of people to hide behind some fancy-pants official-sounding name that cons the media into thinking they're "legitimate". And from there they can claim anything and get away with it, no matter how outlandish. Who ARE the people at Center for Science in the Public Interest? Did anyone in the press do any hard questioning or fact-checking about their accusations at the time?

And that's why Center for Science in the Public Interest has borne a whole 'nother title in the vocabulary of Chris Knight these past fifteen years: the Food Nazis.

And now they're at it again! Once again the target is movie theater popcorn, which the Food Nazis at the Center for Science in the Public Interest insist is the equivalent of three hamburgers.

What the...?!?

Center for Science in the Public Interest claims that the findings were arrived at by "an independent lab". But when you look at CSPI's official release about movie theater popcorn you can't find any solid reference to this "laboratory". We have to take Center for Science in the Public Interest's word that the analysis was conducted and that these were the results being reported.

I don't mind saying this: that's piss-poor scholarship. It wouldn't merit a passing grade on a college paper and it wouldn't hold up under scrutiny in a court of law.

For all we know, CSPI pulled these "findings" out of their collective ass and thinks we'll be none the wiser. Jayne Hurley and Bonnie Liebman, the two "scientists" who published this alleged "study", are each longtime activists with CSPI, and the organization itself has quite a history of unfounded "attack dog" tactics.

These are jerks with nothing else to do but try to ruin a good time for everyone else so that they look superior and un-reproachable.

Just trickery trickery trickery, friends and neighbors. Don't fall for it.

(And when I go to see The Road next week, I'm buying an extra-large tub of popcorn with plenty of butter in honor of Center for Science in the Public Interest!)

Box art for BIOSHOCK 2

Don't even think of bugging me about anything come February 9th 'cuz I've already cleared my calendar for that date and Lord willing I'll be spending all of it immersed in BioShock 2. And at last 2K Games has revealed the cover art for the hotly anticipated sequel to the 2007 original first-person shooter that blew minds and won awards all over the place.

I'm really digging the BioShock 2 logo: more decrepit than the one for the first game and now encrusted with barnacles and other sedentary sea life. And look: the Big Daddy is so ticked-off that he's smashed a crack in the game's cover! But what's seriously wigging me out is that... thing... to the left of the Little Sister's head. Is that a group of fish or someone's face?

Just two and a half more months before we get to return to Rapture!

New wallpaper protects against bullets and bombs

Want to seriously protect yourself and your loved ones against flying debris, bullets and bombs? Consider covering your living room in X-Flex wallpaper. Developed by Berry Plastics in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the X-Flex Blast Protection System is touted as wallpaper that will stop a wrecking ball and worse with a single sheet of the stuff. X-Flex is two sheets of polymer wrap with a Kevlar-like material sandwiched in between. It's self-adhesive and covering an average-sized room takes less than an hour. Berry Plastics obviously had the military most in mind for employment of their product, but the company is already seeing a market for X-Flex in buildings constructed in areas prone to tornadoes and hurricanes.

I'm wondering how 'spensive this stuff is. X-Flex probably has a hideous price tag. But if nothing else I could see papering your bathroom with it and hunkering down in the tub during a tornado and really being secure :-)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Finally watched last night's V and finale of AMC's THE PRISONER

AMC's much-promoted revamp of The Prisoner concluded last night. After watching both hours twice-over now I am going to say that that, acknowledging that while mine is going to be in the minority of opinions, that I very much enjoyed it and thought it was time well spent. And I will likely be getting the DVD of the series when it becomes available. But I will say that AMC way over-hyped The Prisoner. And so much so that I have to wonder how much confidence they had in their own product. Doing "coming up" bumpers before each commercial break did nothing to instill one's faith in this show as a viewer. Without those, I think The Prisoner could have been much more enjoyable. Another reason why I'm looking forward to a DVD set of this.

Meanwhile, ABC aired the third episode of the relaunched V. I watched it from the good ol' DVR this morning. Last week I said that V needs to drastically ramp-up its action and intrigue. Well, it's a funny thing but last night's installment "A Bright New Day" did just that and in spades! The Visitors (in perhaps a thinly-veiled commentary on real-life immigration policies) began receiving passports and visas to travel throughout the country. We discovered that the Visitors had secretly been installing themselves on Earth for at least twenty years. We learned a lot more about the traitors and the words "Fifth Column" were finally used in this V's incarnation. And there were devious plot twists out the wazoo. If V keeps up this kind of tempo, it will almost certainly become the breakout hit of this television season and set itself up as the high-brow science-fiction series of the medium in the absence of Battlestar Galactica and the soon-to-depart Lost. After last night's show, me want more V!

Okay, three hours of television from one night: that's way more than what I'm used to. I'm gonna go read a book or three and compensate.

International Space Station transits the Moon

Bernhard Christ, an amateur astronomer from Germany, put himself in just the right spot on the Earth's surface (a testament to his mad plottin' and plannin' skillz) and using a digital astronomical camera produced this sequence - made in less than 0.4 seconds - of the International Space Station transiting across the Moon...

That's five shots of the ISS taken at equal intervals. If you're wondering where the fifth is, click on the image to drastically embiggen it and look just inside the Moon's limb toward the left side of the picture and you'll easily pick it out from the lunar landscape.

Aim here for more about Bernhard Christ's astonishing photo, and many thanks to Shane Thacker for the great find!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"...Only to God and woman."

Last week President Barack Obama met with Akihito, the titular Emperor of Japan. You might have heard about it: Obama made a ceremonial bow to Akihito and it's purportedly caused a lot of his political enemies to seethe with outrage...

Interestingly, many if not most of these same critics defended George W. Bush when in April 2008 (when he was still President) Bush not only held hands with but also gave a big fat slobbering fat kiss right on the lips to the visiting king of Saudi Arabia...

Bush's supporters at the time claimed that Bush was just "following protocol", exactly as Obama's defenders are doing now.

Me? I can't see a difference between what either of these two Presidents have done. And regardless of who's doing it, it sickens me to no end.

If either Bush or Obama had acted like this as private citizens, that would have been their right. But Bush and now Obama, as elected head of state of the United States of America, each ceremoniously capitulated their nation to a foreign sovereign power. This ain't about our home-grown assumption that the United States is "the greatest" country on Earth and everything with our understanding that in the roll call of nations ours is equal - no more and no less - to any other.

That's not a small matter, folks. And I can't see how it can be defended.

A little over a hundred and fifty years ago in 1859, John E. Ward arrived in China. Ward, a proud native of Georgia and former mayor of Savannah, had been dispatched by President James Buchanan to begin trade relations with China in accordance with the Treaty of Tientsin. But before such could happen Ward would have to come to Peking: a place that no American had been allowed to enter. Ward was allowed to proceed but on every step of the journey he asserted his native land as equal to China and not as a vassal state, as the Russians and the British and everyone else had done according to "diplomacy". The final act of "insolence" on the part of this American "barbarian" was his refusal to kow-tow: a low bow before the Emperor.

John E. Ward refused to bow. The representatives of the Emperor told Ward that he must bow not only for purposes of diplomacy but out of respect for the land's religion.

The reason Ward gave the Chinese: "I kneel only to God and woman."

True to his word, Ward did not bow to the Emperor of China. He never got the audience with the Emperor that he had been sent to have, but Ward wasn't fazed. He still delivered his letter about the treaty (to a minor official) and returned to America, his pride upheld... and China beginning to respect "the Country of the Flowery Flag". You can read more about John E. Ward at AmericanHeritage.com.

Y'know, I can't even begin to imagine either Bush or Obama getting up the nerve to think of something as brazenly principled as "I kneel only to God and woman." In the chronicle of American statesmanship, John E. Ward is certainly the greater man than our two or three or four most recent Presidents of the United States.

And if we had men (and women) of Ward's caliber and character, this nation would no doubt have more respect and standing among the countries of the world today.

Auto-Tune as explained by Rocketboom and "Weird Al" Yankovic

Depending on you who listen to, Auto-Tune has become either a boon or bane to music production. The Rocketboom Institute for Internet Studies examines the Auto-Tune phenomenon in their latest video, with some rather scholarly assistance from visiting professor "Weird Al" Yankovic!

Thanks to Geoff Gentry for the heads-up!

BioShock EVE Hypo Prop Replica (yes, you can BUY this thing...)

Got a small daughter or know where to borrow a little girl (legally 'course)? Wanna have some fun freaking out the neighbors? The officially licensed BioShock EVE Hypo Prop Replica from Play.com is just what you need!

According to this "toy"'s description, "EVE is the lifeblood of the underwater city of Rapture, the setting for Bioshock and Bioshock 2. It is the substance that fuels the bizarre powers of the genetically-engineered splicers' plasmids, and it is the fight to control this precious resource that has nearly destroyed the underwater city. This Play.com exclusive EVE hypo prop replica is based on the in-game models, and features a light-up LED feature for that authentic eerie blue glow!"

Yuck... but still awesomely kewl!

Just finished watching the second installment of AMC's THE PRISONER

We had the first run-through (or "stumble-through" as it was officially called :-) of both acts of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever last night, so I was late getting home. But I had the DVR whirring away recording the second two hours of AMC's remake of The Prisoner and I just finished watching 'em.

I know that I'm in a solid minority here, but I am absolutely digging the heck out of The Prisoner! To me, it's the same theme going on as the Sixties original series. Just... different. Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner was about individuality, and this one starring Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellan is about personal identity. Now, those may seem like the same thing, but they aren't. They're just aspects of the same thing. I don't have any better word for it other than "soul".

Is The Prisoner meant to be entertainment? Hmmmm... not really. It's more like something made to be endured (call it "enduretainment" perhaps?). There are no easy answers here, just more questions that one winds up asking more of self than of the show. But then, the original The Prisoner, forty years and more later, is still doing that. So on that note, AMC's revamp is already successful.

The final two hours air tonight. I'll be watching with great interest.

EDIT 12:31 p.m. EST: I like the "enduretainment" term so much that I thought it deserves an apt definition...

Enduretainment (noun): A work of performance art, usually but not limited to television and motion pictures, intended to bring about sometimes painful personal reflection and self-questioning as opposed to being intended for pure enjoyment and distraction.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A tiny lil' musing this afternoon

The smallest sincere kindness mocks every cruelty of the world entire.

Edward Woodward has passed away

The sad news is coming out of Great Britain this morning that Edward Woodward, the accomplished actor who rose to prominence with the television series Callan in the late Sixties and his role as Neil Howie in 1973's The Wicker Man, then scored even more fame during the Eighties with the television series The Equalizer, has passed away at the age of 79.

Woodward was a very, very good actor. His portrayal of Howie in The Wicker Man has always haunted me for some reason. But like many people I was especially awed at Woodward's ability to convey "controlled rage". Robert McCall, his character in The Equalizer, was a man with James Bond's dirty tricks combined with Batman's thirst for justice. The last time I saw Woodward in anything, it was in the ill-fated Babylon 5 spinoff show Crusade: he played a Technomage who was the father of series regular and fellow Technomage Galen (who incidentally was played by Edward Woodward's real-life son Peter Woodward).

Thoughts and prayers going out to his family this morning.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Just watched the first two hours of AMC's remake of THE PRISONER

Hmmmmmm...

Well, it's unarguably not The Prisoner of Patrick McGoohan's day. And I knew that it wasn't going to be that either.

But, I think that I wound up liking it quite a bit.

Need to watch it again before tomorrow night's two-hour installment. Maybe even two or three more times.

Now you gotta admit: that is what good The Prisoner should compel you to do :-)

Tommy Burst toy commercial ("From Mattel, it's SWELL!")

There is no way that a TV commercial like this would ever be made, much less allowed to broadcast, in 2009. But once upon a time when boys were allowed to play "cops 'n robbers" there were fewer toy weapons as kewl as Mattel's Tommy Burst arsenal. For three bucks you could get the revolver and for seven you got the Detective Set complete with handgun and holster, toy bullets, badge and one neat-o machine gun!

Behold the commercial from about 45 years ago...

And if that adult looks familiar, it should: that's Hal Smith as the thief and the commercial's pitchman. Smith will forever be known as that lovable town drunk Otis Campbell on The Andy Griffith Show.

I remember about two decades ago when every Toys R Us had an aisle devoted to toy guns. Seems like we had a lot less real-life crime then than we do now. Maybe we should let children be children instead of expecting them to be miniature adults, and allow them to live out the "good guy/bad guy" fantasy. That's the kind of thing that has gone on since time immemorial and it's only been in the past number of years that the "child experts" (who never seem to have children of their own, hardly) have done their damndest to change that.

Well, anyway: it's a "swell" commercial, I think. Especially that machine gun!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hey, live near Reidsville, North Carolina? Want a professionally-fried turkey for Thanksgiving? Read on!

Lots of this blog's readers are well aware of my obsession with/addiction to deep-fried turkey. I first heard about it nine years ago this month and then spent two more years studying the technique and getting brave enough to attempt it. With that first succulent bite in 2002, I knew that Thanksgiving would never be the same for me again. I'll never go back to basted turkey if I can help it. For me, a bird as magnificent as a turkey deserves better. Deep-frying it is the only way to honor what no less an authority than Benjamin Franklin once decreed should be our national fowl.

This is not mere "cooking" to me. This is an art! One that demands meticulous care and attention and passion. That this is also considered the second most dangerous form of preparing food known to man (after cleaning fugu) is even more extra incentive to treat turkey frying like delicate surgery. I love my work but I also know how to be really careful. I haven't been burned yet and Lord willing, I won't be anytime soon either.

Well anyway, for some reason my fried turkey has always been a smashing success for Thanksgiving and Christmas and a few other festive occasions. It's always the first thing to go at the family table. And a bunch of folks have told me over the years that I should go public with my nigh-patentable technique. That I could offer my services to others, for a reasonable fee.

I hadn't really given it much thought. But y'all know me: I'll try anything once!

If you live anywhere within driving distance of Reidsville and your mouth is already watering for one of those gloriously seasoned and deep-fried turkeys like you see me holding in that photo, fire me an e-mail at theknightshift@gmail.com and I'll get back in contact with you. Thanksgiving is a little less than two weeks away. I've already got a few orders in and can fit in some more.

And remember: you ain't just buying a turkey. You're buying confidence! Confidence that your Thanksgiving main course will be given all due diligent care, that it'll be done by an experienced pro, and that you will be risking neither your own life or house! That's a no-lose proposition folks :-)

Friday, November 13, 2009

I've gone mad for Monsterpocalypse!

A lot of you probably remember how over the summer I made this video on behalf of HyperMind - that groovy game store in Burlington - for a contest entry. It was for the Monsterpocapalooza event sponsored by Privateer Press for that company's Monsterpocalypse collectible miniatures game. Well as is usual whenever I'm about to get involved with something, I research the bejeebers out of it! I never get involved with a project regarding something new to me without giving it the hard hairy eyeball and reading everything that I can find on the subject. The store's owners gave me a copy of the Monsterpocalypse rulebook and I scoured the Internet for whatever I could find, and in the end we banged out a darn good video. It even made the top ten of the Monsterpocapalooza finalists. And I also have a nice letter from the president of the company praising how we parodied Cloverfield with it!

Along with the letter, Privateer Press also sent over some boxes of limited edition minis from the game. Between seeing how pretty those were, and observing how everyone in the store was way enjoying Monsterpocalypse, it was more than enough to entice me to give it a try. And that's how it all started...

So now five months and several booster box purchases later (in addition to scouring eBay for a few hard-to-find minis) I must confess: I am officially a Monsterpocalypse junkie.

Awright well, what exactly is Monsterpocalypse and why am I feeling obligated to sing its praises here? It's a game based around the "giant monsters" genre... and it's a heck of a lot of fun!!

Monsterpocalypse is a game between two players (although some ambitious folks have created custom maps that let four, six and even eight people play against each other). The game is played on a playmat. On each player's side of the mat there's "storage" spaces for your various units and both forms of your monster (more on that later) along with "wells" for your various dice. Taking up the bulk of the mat is the city map, arranged in a grid. At the beginning of the game players take turns putting various building figures onto the map, constructing a city that they will soon proceed to destroy.

Gameplay revolves greatly around how you use your dice. You've got ten "action dice", ten "power dice" and you can use any number of "boost dice" depending on what figure you're using and other factors. If you want to "spawn" a unit - which are classified as either grunts or elites - onto the board you have to spend a die (and it'll cost ya two dice for an elite). Want to move a unit? It'll cost ya one die. Attack with it? That'll cost ya a die as well. But "spending" means moving the dice from your unit pool to your monster pool... which will let you wreck even more carnage with your big monster. So there's not only a lot of strategic thinkin' that Monsterpocalypse calls for, but also a good sense of economics and wisely using your resources. If all that sounds too complex, don't worry: it's not. Games are usually very fast paced and most last under an hour. Hey, this is about ginormous monstrosities unleashing death and destruction, not... chess!

The object of the game is to destroy your opponent's monster. Which ain't as simple as it sounds. Ya see, you and the other player actually have two figures representing each of your respective monsters! The primary is the "alpha" form, which is what that monster looks like in its natural state. But accumulate enough power dice (earned by destroying units and brawling building into rubble) and you can switch your monster from its alpha to its "hyper" form: a bit more powerful and often with even cooler abilities than the alpha. Your goal in Monsterpocalypse is to inflict enough damage that both of the other player's monster forms have zero on their health trackers.

Monsterpocalypse came out a year ago and it's become a huge success for Privateer Press. When the game first came out it introduced its first six factions: G.U.A.R.D. (sorta like G.I. Joe or S.H.I.E.L.D. from the Marvel comics), Martian Menace (from the red planet), Lords of Cthul (my personal favorite faction, take a guess why), Terrasaurs (think Godzilla's kinfolk hooking up with radical environmentalist terrorist wackos), Planet Eaters (also a favorite) and Shadow Sun Syndicate (sorta like the Power Rangers on steroids). Last month Series 4 of the game, Monsterpocalypse Now! was released and rolled out six new factions: Elemental Champions, Tritons (a threat from the ocean), Savage Swarm (Them!? You'll wish it was just them), Subterran Uprising (molemen... really big molemen), UberCorp International (run by a thinly-veiled parody of Howard Hughes) and a group that's fast running up players' lists of most-liked factions, the Empire of the Apes (see the gun that Kong-sized gorilla is wielding? That's really a salvaged howitzer).

So, all of this sound like oodles of fun? It most certainly is! Nothing feels quite like building up a town only to thrash it to pieces with exotic weaponry and kaiju critters. And you can find Monsterpocalypse at most of your friendly local game stores. A lot of those usually have a dedicated group of players that meet regularly. I've started playing at HyperMind in Burlington on Thursday nights, and we've a good bunch that congregates there (including one particular 11-year old who handed my butt to me with his Subterrans last night despite my use of G.U.A.R.D.'s heavy air support... but he won the Mega Mantacon figure and is happy, so it's all fine :-).

One of my favorite online resources for all things Monsterpocalyse is Team Covenant and if you're looking for any particular figures, Team Covenant's online store is well worth visiting! They not only carry the starter box sets and boosters but also special bundles and some very good custom Monsterpocalypse dice that if you start getting heavy into this game you might wanna consider getting, 'cuz the blast markings on the regular dice have a tendency to "wear off" after several games. And 'course there's also eBay, that good ol' standby (and maybe your last, best hope of scoring a Mega Yasheth figure... hey, I am big into the Lords of Cthul, y'all ;-) And it goes without saying that the official Monsterpocalypse website is a must-see if you're thinking of getting into this game. Privateer Press just overhauled the site and among other things there's a gallery featuring every mini the game has to date, including stats. There's also a lively message board for players to discuss various aspects of the game.

Monsterpocalypse gets this blog's highest recommendation for entertainment worth checking out. There's a little something for players of all ages to enjoy... and they certainly do. And if you're in this part of North Carolina, drop me a line at theknightshift@gmail.com and let's see if we can hook up and play a round some evening :-)

A Dr. Horrible fan-film?! HORRIBLE TURN is pretty darned good!

While we're waiting for Joss Whedon to deliver up some more Dr. Horrible goodness, here's something that will both entertain and astound ya: Horrible Turn. It's an hour-long unofficial prequel to Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog!

Sometime in the early Nineties, young Billy is pining for a cute Australian exchange student at his school. He's also wound up helping a fellow student named Hammerstein pass his grade. Meanwhile, a group calling itself the Evil League of Evil - led by the mysterious "Bad Horse" - has just staged its first attack on the city.

And in case you're wondering YES: Horrible Turn is a musical! The production quality is quite on par with what we saw in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog last year. Click on the link to watch Horrible Turn on YouTube or on Vimeo.

This is a photograph of the sun

Many of us in this part of North Carolina no longer remember what it looks like. There is a rumor about that today we might finally see it again.

(Curse you Hurricane Ida!)

DVD, made of stone, that lasts a thousand years


Startup company Cranberry has unveiled its DiamonDisc: a DVD that stores your data by etching it in stone... literally. The disc is composed of synthetic stone that a high-intensity laser burns the data into, creating a DVD said to be perfectly compatible with all DVD drives and players. But amazingly, Cranberry claims that the DiamonDisc will keep your data safe for a thousand years.

(Whether there will be DVD players in the year 3009 is a whole 'nother matter.)

You can send your data to Cranberry to have it burned by them. Or you can buy the DiamonDisc recorder for your own use, for the low price of $4,995. But that also gets you 150 DiamonDiscs that currently run $34.95 each when bought separately.

Personally, I think the major studios should adopt this new technology for the home market. And the first movie that gets this "recorded in stone" treatment deserves to be The Ten Commandments :-P

Man arrested for phone sex calls... to 911

The Smoking Gun has published the mug shot and police report of one Joshua Basso, a Florida man who's currently in the pokey after making numerous telephone calls to a woman, asking crude questions about her breast size and then queried her about engaging in erotic activities.

That's gonna land him in court for sure. Except that Basso also made all of his calls to 911. There's gonna be a bunch more charges against him for abusing the 911 system.

Why did he do it? Basso claimed that his LG cell phone was out of minutes and that he "called 911 because it was free".

This guy wasn't just stupid: he was stoopid!

MPAA shuts down town's entire Wi-Fi over one download

Coshocton, Ohio is a town without free Internet. Thank the Motion Picture Association of America, which successfully turned off Coshocton's Wi-Fi connection to the world because, allegedly, one person used the wireless access to download a copyrighted movie.

In addition to being of great benefit to out-of-town tourists and business people, the Coshocton County Sheriff's Department personnel have found the Wi-Fi service to be a tremendous convenience by letting then file an accident or incident report without having to leave their vehicles. That's no more, because the MPAA somehow mustered up enough power to violate the Geneva Convention and subject everyone in town to collective punishment.

(Just one more reason why the Digital Millennium Copyright Act needs to be mutilated beyond all possible recognition.)

Just typical life in Reidsville...

According to the News & Record out of Greensboro, at 3 a.m. this past Tuesday morning the South Scales Street Market here in Reidsville was robbed. Someone broke through the glass door of the store and proceeded to pilfer the place.

The assailant made of with more than $2,700 worth of cigarettes and $50 worth of condoms!

(You can insert your own clever joke here.)

I swear, more and more this town is resembling the one from Hobo with a Shotgun...

We need that guy patrolling the downtown area! :-)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

School in North Carolina caught selling grades for cash

Rosewood Middle School in Goldsboro, North Carolina is in a money crunch like many schools across the country. So like most of those schools it held a fundraiser last year, selling chocolate candy bars.

But that didn't raise anything. So with the principal's blessing, Rosewood Middle embarked on a new scheme...

The school began selling grades.

For $20, a student would be able to add 20 points to a test grade: 10 points on two tests of the pupil's choosing. Enough to raise a B to an A or possibly make a failing grade a marginally passing D.

Read all about it on the website of the News & Observer, which caught wind of the plot and ratted the school out. School administrators are now stopping the "fundraiser" and refunding any and all donations that might have been made (Rosewood Middle's principal Susie Shepherd said that the plan had elicited no money yet anyway).

Just... wow. I guess if this had gone forward that a kid with rich parents could buy himself into the Beta Club even if his grades otherwise sucked.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Charlie Chaplin stars in THE MATRIX

It could use some piano accompaniment. And the cards need some serious cleaning-up of translation. But those aside, this is still very clever: The Matrix as an old-timey silent movie featuring Charlie Chaplin!

That "dojo" scene is especially Chaplin-esque :-)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

25 days until THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER

Last night we had the first rehearsal of the fire scene for Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and it was a scream! "Well-choreographed chaos" is the best way to put it. And lo and behold, as a Fireman I get to be right in the center of it all! Some terrific hijinks ensue in just a minute or two of performance time and we more or less got it all nailed down pat last night. Well, 'cept for doing it in costume 'course.

And speaking of that, tonight the three of us in the Fireman roles dropped by a local fire department to get equipped with our firefighter's coats and pants. I'd never worn full fire gear before. The stuff is so bulky that I felt like I was wearing C.O.G. armor from a Gears of War game. And I've got to run up the aisle and onto the stage in that getup. Good times, aye?

Well, y'all will have a chance to see it all come together on December 4th, 5th and 6th. TGRC-NC.com has more details including ticket pricing and ordering. Hope to see ya there!

Second episode of ABC's new V just aired

I'm still enjoying this re-imagined V (slam here for my review of the pilot episode). ABC is doing a fine job of updating the concepts of the original. However, I'm more than a little compelled to say that this show needs to ratchet up the intensity. Tonight's episode "There is No Normal Anymore" picked up right after the end of last week's premiere, and then hit a plodding stride.

Maybe this is still just "setup" for a bigger payoff later. I hope so, because V has tons of potential. But unless there's some master arc plan in the works that we aren't aware of the show is taking its own sweet time more than Babylon 5 did, or Ronald Moore's Battlestar Galactica. It worked very well on those series and it can work just as well now, but V's showrunners need to pick up the pace bigtime, or all the interest it's enjoying now will peter out fast.

Worst recent Supreme Court decision now wasted: Pfizer abandons New London

Few things convinced me that this country has gone completely off the rails more than did Kelo v. City of New London: the horrendous decision by the Supreme Court in 2005.

To recap: the city of New London, Connecticut set about in the late Nineties to use eminent domain to seize the land of private homeowners... so that it could lure big companies like pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to the area and sell them the same property! It was the very worst example of stealing from Peter to give to Paul.

How did the elected officials of New London justify this outrageous action? By claiming that seizing the property of Suzette Kelo and other homeowners and giving it to major industry, that they would be building up the tax base of New London. It was for a "public good", ya see. At least that's how they described it.

Suzette Kelo and her neighbors took New London to court. And it reached all the way to the United States Supreme Court. And on June 23rd 2005 the Supremes ruled 5 to 4 that... New London and any municipality has the right to seize private land and sell it to other private interests!

(The five idiots - I don't dare refer to them as "honorable Justices" - who voted for this were Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer.)

So New London seized all of the property, bulldozed the houses into rubble, and went ahead with its plans to sell the land to Pfizer.

And now, Pfizer is abandoning New London, Connecticut entirely.

All that New London has to show for its efforts is a field strewn with rubble and waste. Suzette Kelo and the rest wound up with nothing at all.

If there is no such thing as respect for property rights in this country, then there is no respect for rights at all. Kelo v. City of New London had already demonstrated that. Pfizer moving out is in many ways New London adding insult to injury.

Will the lesson be heeded by others? Probably not.

Happy 40th birthday SESAME STREET!

"You've never seen a street like Sesame Street. Everything happens here. You're gonna love it."

-- Gordon (played by Matt Robinson)
the first words spoken on the first episode of Sesame Street
November 10th, 1969

Forty years ago today a new kind of television burst onto the scene. It was an educational program, but one that eschewed dour and boring lessons. Instead, fast-paced skits and high-brow humor were to be the norm.

And the cast of characters of this new show? An eclectic mix of adults, children, puppets, monsters, grouches... and one very big bird.

Forty years later and Sesame Street is still going strong! And after all this time Gordon is still right: we've never seen a street anything like Sesame Street. Everything does and has happened there.

And we're still loving it.

So you know, what better time than this to put up another classic Sesame Street video? Except I've posted so many of them already! Which one should I use?

I know: how about this classic sketch featuring Grover and Fat Blue, in which Grover recommends the "little" hamburger!

Now that's comedy!! :-)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Homeland Security is now officially worse than useless

Malik Nadal Hasan, the U.S. Army major who massacred thirteen people and injured more than forty others at Fort Hood in Texas last week, made numerous attempts to contact members of the terrorist group Al-Qaeda by e-mail...

...and the FBI and other U.S. government intelligence agencies knew all about it but did nothing! Their general consensus was that Hasan's activity wasn't important enough to investigate.

So let's ask the obvious question: WHAT THE #%@$-ING HELL GOOD IS THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY?!?

No way around it: the United States government effed-up heinously. Homeland Security failed! The mechanism put in place by George W. Bush, Congress, and continued by Barack Obama SCREWED THE POOCH!

There is no more justification for the existence of the Department of Homeland Security, if it couldn't prevent something like this while knowing fully well that Hasan was apparently trying to actively conspire with the same bastards that caused the 9/11 attacks to begin with.

Ask yourself this folks: if your own government can't keep us safe from an American soldier who was seeking to collaborate with this country's enemies when it knew Hasan was trying to do so, how CAN it keep us safe from anything?

Protect yourselves. Lord knows the government can't.

We saw STAR WARS: IN CONCERT in Charlotte this past weekend!

The Force was with us on Saturday night! Along with lifelong friends Chad Austin and Eric Wilson, I got to see Star Wars: In Concert when it came to Charlotte.

Chad and I hooked up in Burlington, and then high-tailed it down I-85 to rendezvous with Eric at his impregnable fortress. We wasted a few hours at Concord Mills Mall (which according to Eric is now the most visited attraction in the entire state of North Carolina), got some grub to eat and then went back to the Wilson homestead real quick so I could "get dressed" for the show. Then we headed out for the evening.

Here's the Time-Warner Cable Arena in downtown Charlotte, where the concert took place...

And here I am in my Jedi attire for a night at the Coruscant Operahou... errr... Charlotte's biggest indoor venue...

I hadn't seen this many people in Star Wars garb since Star Wars Celebration III in 2005! Granted, most of 'em Saturday night were kiddies, but there was at least one other guy there in full Jedi uniform. My getup aroused plenty of oggling, as you'll soon see.

Inside the arena before the show we got to check out a bunch of props, costumes and other artifacts from the Star Wars movies. And I wish my sister could have come (she was off running a half-marathon elsewhere during the weekend) 'cuz Chik-Fil-A was one of the show's sponsors and they had a bunch of their famous cows walking around in Star Wars costumes! Here's Eric and I with "Obi-Wan Cow-nobi"...

Chik-Fil-A also had a cow as Princess Leia (complete with hair buns) and Darth Vader walking around.

This being a major Star Wars event, the 501st Legion was well represented. Several stormtroopers (in both standard and scout armor) stalked the promenade and posing for photos. Here's Chad getting "taken into custody" by the 501st...

And then, right as Eric and I were getting this photo of Chad, something very neat started happening: people began coming to me to get their photos taken with!

And it only got better once we got to this big backdrop of the Coruscant skyline set up for photos...


Offhand, I think I posed for about 15 or 20 pictures: with children and not a few adults!

We stuck around for awhile and during a break in the "photography session" and with ten minutes before showtime we headed on in to our seats. Here's Eric, Chad and me awaiting the start of the concert...


So, what is Star Wars: In Concert like?

It's a musical and multimedia celebration of George Lucas's beloved film saga. Conducted by Belgian composer Dirk Brosse and narrated by Anthony Daniels (who portrayed C-3PO in each of the Star Wars films) and specially pre-recorded voiceovers by James Earl Jones, Star Wars: In Concert conveys the entire mythic arc of the Skywalker family - and particularly Anakin Skywalker's rise, fall and redemption - through the medium of John Williams' amazing score, accompanied by select scenes from the movies playing out on a gigantic screen behind the orchestra.

In fitting Star Wars fashion, the concert began with the THX brand's theme blaring out of the speakers ("the audience IS listening" y'all) followed by the 20th Century Fox fanfare as the arena darkened. And then the Star Wars logo burst onto the screen as the orchestra began to play as a montage of clips from the movies reeled away.

Anthony Daniels took to the stage, introduced Dirk Brosse and began his narrative of the story: how the Republic had stood for thousands of years but that a darkness was growing. And so began "Duel of the Fates". I have enjoyed this piece three times now in live performance. This was probably the best one I've heard yet.

The story then shifted to the events on Tatooine circa 33 years before the Battle of Yavin, where a nine-year old slave boy named Anakin Skywalker was dreaming of freedom and adventure. "Anakin's Theme", "Moisture Farm" and "The Flag Parade" were the next pieces of the set, showing us everything from young Anakin's home life (including his building C-3PO) on through the Boonta Eve podrace.

And then came "Across the Stars". I had been waiting since 2002 to hear this performed live. This has become one of my all-time favorite pieces of Star Wars music and the orchestra did not disappoint! Anakin and Padme's growing love for each other even as the galaxy teeters on the brink of war had never sounded so beautiful.

I have to say something here: Star Wars: In Concert engenders a whole new appreciation for George Lucas's movies. In two hours' time we saw the story of six full-length features presented as a single cohesive and compelling story. Call me crazy for saying this if you wish, but Star Wars: In Concert reinforced something that I have believed for years: that in decades still to come, the Star Wars saga will be held up as classical opera on the same level as Wagner's Ring cycle or Parsifal.

(Something else too: for the first time since all of the movies have been released, at last I see it as one story of equal parts, instead of thinking that Episode I is the weakest and The Empire Strikes Back the best installment of the series. Star Wars: In Concert... did something for me as a fan, that I'm still trying to articulate.)

Daniels continued with his narration: about how Anakin's lust for power to save the ones that he loved ultimately and ironically led him toward the Dark Side. Palpatine completes the young Jedi's seduction even as he finishes the master stroke of his takeover of the galaxy. So it is that an Empire is born and with it, Darth Vader. "Battle of the Heroes" - another of my very favorite Star Wars pieces - began, and was then followed by "The Imperial March".

Following a twenty minute intermission the concert began again. "The Asteroid Field" and "Princess Leia's Theme" were next. Then it was the haunting and reflective "Tales of a Jedi Knight", which quickly segued into "Cantina Band".

The diminutive green Jedi Master was the next to receive musical attention as the orchestra played "Yoda's Theme", the screen showing us every aspect of Yoda's career: from his mentorship to his swordsmanship!

Next up, spaceborne combat erupted to the strains of "TIE Fighter Attack". And then it was "Luke and Leia", as the relationship between the brother and sister was chronicled from birth on through their first meeting on the Death Star and then the revelation that Luke and Leia were the offspring of the very man they had been leading a war against.

If you love Ewoks (and who doesn't? Okay, forget I asked that...) then you'll thrill to hearing "Forest Battle" performed live. We certainly did!

Winding down the mythic narration, Daniels spoke of how Anakin Skywalker finally threw off the chains of hate and rage that had bound him to Darth Sidious for so very long, and through love for his only son found redemption at the cost of his own life. The orchestra performed "Light of the Force". And wrapping up the main show, they played "Throne Room/End Titles" for the finale.

But what is a magnificent concert such as this without an encore? "I get the feeling that you don't want to go home yet!" Anthony Daniels told the crowd. "Yeah!!" everyone screamed. The lights went down again and the orchestra did another performance of "The Imperial March".

And then the show was over. The credits rolled on the screen, while David Bowie's song "Ground Control to Major Tom" played over the speakers. How geeky cool is that? :-)

It was a heckuva grand evening: probably one of the best that I've had in awhile. Getting to share it with two good friends, and being able to entertain quite a few folks with my Jedi getup, made it even more special.

Star Wars: In Concert is touring the United States and Canada right now and is scheduled to begin a worldwide tour later on. I absolutely recommend going to this if it's at all possible. And I would love to see a DVD of this concert be made available at some point. PBS has been running a special about it lately, so I know they've already done filming for it. This is the kind of experience that more than deserves preserving for the ages.

But don't let that possibility deter you from seeing it now if you can, folks. Star Wars: In Concert is a performance you will remember for all time!