Monday, January 31, 2011

If you aren't watching STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS lately...

...then you are missing some of the best and most daring storytelling that the Star Wars saga has enjoyed in a heap many moon!

I found myself genuinely shocked at how much I enjoyed the three-part "Nightsisters" arc which concluded a week ago this past Friday. Written by Katie Lucas (daughter of The Flanneled One himself), the storyline showed that Lucasfilm does have the willpower to not play things safe... as well as bring on some bigtime "What the...?!" moments (which if you saw the final moments of "Witches of the Mist" you know what I'm talking about). That new villain Savage Oppress is voiced by Clancy Brown (who I still think should eventually provide the voice of Darth Bane) was the sprinkles on top of a fine dessert indeed.

And then there was this past week's episode, which featured the return of Liam Neeson as the voice of Qui-Gon Jinn, as well as Pernilla August doing the voice of Shmi Skywalker...

I think one of the bigger complaints that many fans have come to have about the saga is that Star Wars is being kept too risk-free and pristine. And there's some frustration about how Star Wars could, should be a toy that Lucasfilm plays with and plays hard.

"Overlords" - which is the beginning of a new three-part story - proved us all wrong. At last, this is some of the potential that Star Wars has always had... and it's being allowed to blossom forth brilliantly.

So to the cast and crew of Star Wars: The Clone Wars: my hat is tipped to you! These episodes have given me all new reason to not only watch this show but also DVR it for further enjoyment :-)

Federal judge rules "Obamacare" UN-Constitutional!

But it shouldn't have been passed by the House and Senate to begin with!

Y'know, I am getting mighty fed up with the sorry lot of politicians in Washington... in both major parties mind ya... who have NO respect whatsoever for the Constitution.

Obama's "health care reform" was always unconstitutional. It was the most brazen violation of the commerce clause in perhaps all of United States history. Of course it was going to be struck down by somebody in the judiciary sooner or later.

That this was lost on too many members of the House and Senate, who persisted in advocating and then voting for Obamacare in spite of all sane understanding of constitutional law...

Grrrrrr...

Anyone else doubt that the political system of this country is hopelessly and irredeemably broken? I mean, if people like this are the only ones that we can expect to vote for... then what good is voting at all, for the person who sincerely strives in his or her stewardship as a citizen?

Seriously, seriously: this kind of thing makes me understand voter apathy.

Well anyhoo, it's some good news for a change. Read all about Federal Judge Roger Vinson's ruling here. And here's hoping it'll keep getting declared unconstitutional all the way to the Supreme Court.

Tailgate365: A great site from another awesome friend!

Perhaps I'm being biased in saying this, but I've thought this for a long time: my high school (I'm a proud alum of Rockingham County Senior High) produced some really talented people. Last night I shared a link to the blog of one such person. And tonight I'm gonna share another...

I met T.J. Lee in the summer of 1988 during an enrichment program, so we've known each other for awhile. But I didn't learn of his website Tailgate365 until a few months ago...

Well, what can I say other than this site is pure-D T.J. Lee! It's got entertainment news (in fact Tailgate365 is where I first heard about Henry Caville being the next actor to play Superman), movie trailers, reviews of films and video games, all kinds of good stuff. It even has recipes! One of which, for Jack Daniels wings, I am getting sorely tempted to try for myself 'cuz they sound so good!

So if you want a good destination "for the stuff you like", give head on over to Tailgate365. Hey, you might find some great ideas for this year's Super Bowl "big game" party! :-)

John Barry, epic movie score composer, has passed away

The baton behind some of the most iconic themes in motion picture history has fallen silent.

John Barry won Academy Awards for his scoring of Out Of Africa, Born Free, The Lion in Winter, and Dances With Wolves. He was responsible for many other soundtracks as well. But it was his work for something which didn't garner him any Oscar nods which he will be most remembered for: the legendary James Bond theme music, beginning with Dr. No in 1962. It was a film series that he was actively composing for until 1987's The Living Daylights.

My personal favorite John Barry score is from what is for me a "guilty pleasure" movie (but hey, it's a guilty pleasure for a lot of people): Walt Disney Picture's seductively disturbing 1979 science-fiction film The Black Hole. For whatever other... issues... that movie has, Barry perfectly captured the sinister brooding mystery of the U.S.S. Cygnus: a long-lost ghost ship teetering on the brink between reason and madness in a place where normal physics lose all meaning.

Here's the write-up at Entertainment Weekly's site about John Barry, his life and his long career. He will be missed.

Out-Of-Season Bear Alert

I don't know if this warrants a 9-1-1 call or what, but to this blog's readers here in Rockingham County, North Carolina:

Be advised that a large black bear was spotted by Yours Truly on Vernon Road not far from Rockingham Community College earlier this evening.

Yeah, I'm certain it was a bear. At first I wondered if it might be a large black dog instead. Until I saw its face and muzzle. It's a bear all right.

It was acting a bit lethargic. Walking on all fours with its head going from side to side. Maybe he (or she) had just woken up from hibernation and was looking for a mid-winter snack?

Anyway, now y'all know. There's a bear somewhere around Vernon Road.

Ummm... don't tease it?

My thoughts about the situation in Egypt

It's late. Had a way long day. I'm tired. So I'll make this quick. Or as quick as I'm apt to be with this sort of thing...

In a way Egypt is demonstrating why I was always against the Iraq War that began in 2003. And it's also demonstrating why the American government is never going to feel safe about pulling out of that country.

Because once we do, Iraq is going to very quickly turn into what Egypt is becoming now.

The uprising in Egypt began in large part to long-festering mistrust of Hosni Mubarak (who has been ruling Egypt since I was knee high to a grasshopper). That's thirty-some years. Way too long for anyone to be in power. I don't blame the Egyptian people for wanting to peaceably put an end to his regime.

But increasingly I'm seeing the efforts of the "nice 'n peaceable" Egyptians getting co-opted by radicals like the Muslim Brotherhood.

And in short: what's now happening in Egypt is looking insanely like what went down Iran way in 1979.

I can understand why the average Iranian was honked-off at the Shah. There was plenty enough of that to fuel the urge to overthrow his government in Iran at the time. The thing is, the average Iranian didn't care to be ruled over by wackos like Ayatollah Khomeini. The politics of the revolutionaries was immaterial. They just happened to have enough momentum to be the ones to topple the ruling order.

Sorta like what happened in Vietnam. Anyone seriously believe that the Vietcong were Communists purely because of its ideology? Feh! Communism was just a means to an end for what Ho Chi Minh and his gang were promising: an end to a thousand years of fighting for Vietnamese freedom.

My gut feeling: Egypt is going to wind up as another Iran. Maybe not as quickly as Iran turned into, but yeah: basically a bunch of good people who will realize too late that they are being ruled by a small band of nutcases. If you want me to use the words "radical Islamic state" then I suppose I've reason to.

And if we pull out of Iraq now or anytime in the foreseeable future, the same thing is going to happen there: people wanting freedom only to be co-opted by the radicals. And then we're looking at a bunch of Mid-East gone Islamic theocracy with a lot of shootin' irons and worse.

Awright, that's my analysis. G'nite!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Michelle Bradsher enters the blogosphere!

In case anyone's wondering where the list of links went to: I haven't forgotten about it. In fact it'll probably reappear sometime this week if I can find time to put it together anew. It's just something that I made a secondary priority during this blog's recent redesign. And I'm looking forward to spinning some traffic toward friends and accomplices who also maintain blogsome presence on the Intertubes :-)

As it turns out, tonight I discovered another to add to the roll. I have known Michelle Bradsher for a long time (like, going back to seventh grade). And I am delighted that she has chosen to share her unique voice and her talent for conveying the stories of others on her new site, Bradsher's Blog.

Welcome to blogging, Michelle! I'm looking forward to reading your site and I am glad to spread the word about it with others :-)

Busy week ahead

Look gang, the next few days I'm gonna be swamped with stuff. Especially with the lead-up to opening night for Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's production of Gypsy. I'm not gonna have much time to entertain you, enlighten you and otherwise play around with your heads like I usually do.

So here's something to tide you over until The Knight Shift resumes regular blogging. It's a YouTube clip that blurs the line between reality and imagination... well, more than most things that readily come to mind. From 1982's The Fantastic Miss Piggy Show, it's Tony Clifton!

Depending on how old you are, this video will either make you laugh... or confuse the heck out of you. Ironically it's the older viewers who are likely to be scratching their heads in wonder.

"If you believed they put a man on the moon..."

Friday, January 28, 2011

Twenty-five years ago today...

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

-- John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
No 412 squadron, RCAF
Killed 11 December 1941

In memory of the crew of Mission STS 51-L of the Space Shuttle Challenger, who perished on this day a quarter century ago, January 28th, 1986.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Let's conduct a weather experiment!

Just for fun (or maybe not)...

I have heard it said, since at least 1993, that if it thunders in the winter that it means snow is coming ten days later.

The first time I was told that, it was by Dad in February of that year. Exactly ten days later we had "the Storm of the Century" blizzard.

And every time since then that it has thundered during winter, we have had snow: if not precisely ten days later then very closely thenabouts.

Well, we had thunder this morning here in Reidsville, North Carolina. A lot of thunder.

So with this post as a benchmark, I'll check back in ten days from now Lord willing, and we'll see if there's any wintery preciptation :-)

GYPSY: 10 days until Opening Night!

Y'know, it's incorrect to refer to this ethnic group as "Gypsy". The real term is "Romani". The reason they got tagged with the name "Gypsy" is 'cuz as they spread into Europe from their original home in the Indian subcontinent, the locals thought wrongly that they were Egyptian.

So don't you think that "Roma Rose Lee" has a better ring to it? Or is that just me?

Well anyhoo...

Next Friday night, February 4th, is Opening Night for Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's production of Gypsy! Rehearsals have been going great. Everyone was roaring with laughter last night during the run-through of "You Gotta Get A Gimmick". And I am having an absolute blast playing Cigar. He is completely sleazy and, well I just can't help but have fun with this character: he is the manager of a burlesque house, after all. Expect lots of yelling and waving my stogie around. And expect lots of other stuff that probably couldn't have been done in Rockingham County twenty years ago :-P

Gypsy runs for six shows from February 4th through the 13th. Hit here to go to the Theatre Guild website for ticket information.

Message on a church sign that I saw this weekend...

"Following Christ means to be a witness, not be a prosecutor".

Very, very true. And the more that I've thought about it, the more I've appreciated how that is everything that it truly means to be a Christian.

It is not us that the world should be seeing, but Christ within us. We will always fail. But He never fails.

Release trailer for DUKE NUKEM FOREVER. Yes, really.

On April 28th, 1997, video game studio 3D Realms announced that Duke Nukem Forever, the follow-up to its 1996 hit Duke Nukem 3-D, was in development.

Fourteen years, hundreds of thousands of wasted man-hours, numerous rendering engines long gone obsolete, two or more full generations of console technology and a bankruptcy later, Gearbox Software - which picked up the pieces last year to try to make some sense of this mess - will be releasing Duke Nukem Forever on May 6th.

Yes, as in: this year. 2011.

Look! Release trailer!

Here's the official synopsis:

Put on your shades and prepare to step into the boots of Duke Nukem,whose legend has reached epic proportions in the years since his last adventure. The alien hordes are invading and only Duke can save the world. Pig cops, alien shrink rays and enormous alien bosses can't stop our hero from accomplishing his one and only goal: to save the world, save the babes and to be a bad-ass while doing it. The King arrives with an arsenal of over-the-top weapons, non-stop action, and unprecedented levels of interactivity. This game puts the pedal to the metal and tongue firmly in cheek. Shoot hoops, lift weights, read adult magazines, draw crude messages on whiteboards or ogle the many hot women that occupy Duke's life - that is if you can pull yourself away long enough from destroying alien invaders. Duke Nukem was andwill forever be a gaming icon, and this is his legend.
I wonder if THIS guy is going to get his pre-order honored by GameStop.

I still can't believe this is seriously happening. All the jokes about "Duke Nukem Whenever", "Duke Nukem If Ever", "Duke Nukem Not Ever" are about to come to an end. When this game was first announced the Star Wars Special Editions were still in theaters. Bill Clinton had not yet done "that thing" with a cigar and Monica Lewinsky. Gas was ridiculously cheap. You could go to the airport without getting molested by government goons. "High-speed Internet" meant 57k baud...

I probably won't be buying it, but I'm planning on being at GameStop for the midnight release, just to see it with my own two eyes :-P

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bipolar as experienced by Kay Redfield Jamison

The series that I have recently begun, "Being Bipolar", is picking up some intense interest. I posted Part 2: "Sketching Uniquet" late last week. Meanwhile Part 1: "The Tale of the Two Chris Knights" has become the most-visited page on the blog over the past several days.

During the weekend I made the decision that for the next few installments of the series at least, I am going to refrain from reading any other scholarly material about bipolar disorder. Why? Because I'm trying to honestly and accurately portray and convey my own struggle with bipolar disorder. And well, guess you could say that I'm afraid that I might "cross contaminate" my experiences with those of others. But no doubt I'll be delving into the research sooner than later.

The first thing that I plan to read is An Uniquet Mind, the memoir of someone whose name has come up consistently during the investigation of my condition: Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Jamison is widely considered to be one of the foremost authorities on bipolar disorder... in large part because she herself has had to live with it for most of her life. In addition to her books (the list of which also includes Night Falls Fast, a study of suicide) she has made numerous appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Charlie Rose and other television outlets, and she enjoys considerable demand as a public speaker.

I'm looking forward to reading An Unquiet Mind. But in the meantime, I feel more than a little led to share with my readers a link to this page of quotes by Kay Redfield Jamison about her own ordeal with bipolar disorder and what she has gained and learned from her experiences. I found that what she has written about bipolar very much parallels what I have been trying to share in my own words about the condition.

And she's a professional! I'm just a dude with a blog. That makes Dr. Jamison's word on the subject all the more worth checking out! :-)

Third TRON movie gearing up already!

And before anyone asks, lifelong best friend Chad Austin and I are already planning our trip to the cinema to see this.

But first, if you haven't already bought Daft Punk's electrifying soundtrack to Tron Legacy...

...then you really oughtta go to iTunes (where I bought it from) or buy it old-school physical media from a retailer and add it to your collection. In all seriousness, I'm finding it increasingly harder to find any friends who haven't got this album yet. Lately I'm listening to this, well... just about any time that I need music. Just gotta be careful when listening to "Son of Flynn" and "The Game Has Changed" while driving 'cuz like "Duel of the Fates" did from the Star Wars Episode I soundtrack, it's too easy to find myself with the pedal to the metal :-P

I didn't know until today that it was Cillian Murphy playing Edward Dillinger Jr. in the board room scene early in Tron Legacy. Had I caught that when we saw the movie a few weeks ago (read my review of Tron Legacy here) that would have been a huge flashing red hint that there were perhaps larger plans afoot for the Tron franchise.

Now comes word from Ain't It Cool News that the upcoming Blu-ray and DVD release of Tron Legacy will feature three "teaser" scenes for... wait for it... the THIRD Tron movie. What are these scenes? The first one is reportedly Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) confronting the creator of RAM (the program that Flynn befriended in 1982's Tron, and again played by Dan Shor). RAM's human user, it is revealed, is the person behind the "Flynn Lives" campaign.

The second scene has Quorra (Olivia Wilde's character from Tron Legacy) still out of the Grid in human form, telling some reporters that she had just spoken with Kevin Flynn.

And the third teaser scene? Just some text messages... but oh boy, what they portend! It's an exchange between Edward Dillinger and his father (Ed Dillinger, who was played by David Warner in the original) about how "everything is going as planned".

Does this mean that Warner will be coming back not only as Dillinger but also as Sark or... be still my geeky heart... the Master Control Program?!

Looks like we'll be finding out soon enough. More Tron is always a good thing :-)

World running out of Internet (as we've known it)

Things could be about to get really interesting pretty soon...

Sometimes around 4 a.m. on February 2nd - next Wednesday morning - the very last of the still-available IP addresses under the traditional IPv4 scheme will be allocated.

And then the Internet as it has existed since IPv4 was established in 1977 will, for all intents and purposes, be running on empty.

"Who the hell knew how much address space we needed?" said Vint Cerf, Internet pioneer and father of the World Web Web. At the time Cerf and his colleagues thought that it would be a ridiculously long amount of time (they may have assumed it would not be within their own lifetime) before the Internet would run out of IP numbers. They couldn't have possibly foreseen not only Internet usage in private home but also mobile devices, streaming video and the like. In 1977, 4.3 billion possible IP addresses was a gracious plenty.

The good news is that the "IPocalypse" may not be too bad, since technicians have known about the shortage for quite some time and have been developing the IPv6 protocol: an upgraded system that has 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 possible addresses.

But the possibility remains: until IPv6 gets full implemented, some rather wonky things might be set to happen within the next several days.

(And I was so hoping to get an iPad soon too... :-P)

Friday, January 21, 2011

BEING BIPOLAR, Part 2: Sketching Unquiet

This is the second installment of an ongoing series about living with bipolar disorder. It is well advised that if you have not done so already that you read Part 1: The Tale of the Two Chris Knights before proceeding with this chapter...

There are two difficulties that arise when writing about bipolar disorder, as one who must live with and manage the condition.

The first is: My own experiences and struggles with bipolar should not be taken by those reading this series as being one hundred percent "typical" of everyone who suffers from bipolar disorder. Neither should it be considered as professional opinion or diagnosis for your own medical purpose (there, that should stave off the malpractice lawyers 'cuz this blog has already seen way more legal nonsense than most...).

The best physicians in the world will tell you: Just as every person is his or her own unique individual, so also can it not be said that there are two patients suffering the same condition who will be exactly alike in expressing symptoms or will require the precisely identical medical ministrations. There are just too many physiological elements involved that keep matters from being that simple. And that bipolar disorder is a mental illness – with factors ranging from physical to genetic to environmental – only complicates matters.

All I can do in that regard, is to share as best I can what it has meant for me to live with and work through my own condition. Will my experiences with bipolar resonate with many people who also have suffered in one way or another because of this illness? I've no doubt that it will. And based on the astonishing amount of e-mail and other correspondence that has come in since I posted Part 1 of this series two weeks ago, it's already happening. That is one of the reasons why I chose to do this. And as I said before, I will strive to be uncompromisingly honest and sincere about what I have had to endure because of bipolar... and what I have learned from it.

The second problem is one that I am becoming increasingly aware of as my situation improves, and especially during the past number of months. And that being: It is becoming harder for me to recollect, with the detail and clarity that I would desire for this endeavor, precisely what the experience of a bipolar episode is like.

I don't think that's unfair though, to anyone. I mean, c'mon: this really is the most freedom and liberation that I have ever been capable of enjoying in, literally, my entire life. I can not possibly express with words the wonder and elation... and optimism and hope... that has filled my life in these past few months. No longer do I have to fight against my own mind to keep it from overtaking me, from hurting me and those that I care about. After decades of not able to know any better, and I am...

...well, I feel like a kid in a candy store, to put it mildly.

So I think that most people will forgive me if I disclose now that although I do remember all too well what bipolar has done to me, that I'm thankful that Lord willing I'll never have to endure it firsthand like that again.

But that said, I think that there's plenty that I can write about being bipolar...

Defining An Illness

So... what is bipolar disorder, precisely?

It is actually a broad variety of mental illness that are specifically referred to as "mood disorders". Sometimes it is called "manic-depressive disorder", or just "manic depression". Diagnosed types include bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, cyclothemia, and "borderline" conditions that do not fully meet all the criteria of full-bore bipolar. In my own case, I have been diagnosed with bipolar I disorder. It's thought that 1% of the population may have it to some degree or another.

The exact cause of bipolar disorder is still not known. However there is very strong evidence that genetics and heredity are a substantial factor. I have no reason to doubt this and in fact have firsthand evidence: my grandmother exhibited symptoms of bipolar, as did her father. My own father, happily and thankfully, has not ever demonstrated any symptoms of bipolar whatsoever (incidentally he is one of the most creative people that I have ever been blessed to have in my life... and is especially talented with his hobby of handcrafting knives). So it's altogether possible that bipolar could skip a generation or two if it conforms with what we know of heredity. But environmental and physiological factors apart from inherited traits are also thought to play some role in the onset of bipolar. It is possible that genetic predisposition for bipolar disorder is triggered by such things as severe trauma, emotional or sexual abuse, inordinately high levels of stress, or chemical abuse (i.e. drugs and alcohol).

"Bipolar disorder" most often brings to mind spontaneous outbursts or radical mood swings, usually uncontrollable anger (and all too often worse). And that is part of what it means to struggle with bipolar (well, it has been for me anyway). But that is only part of the bipolar experience. "Bipolar", by definition, entails mood swings between two drastic extremes. Sometime the pendulum veers wildly toward heights of emotion that a normal person can barely, if ever, function productively with. And that can be emotions of anger. But it can also be emotions of ecstasy, of desire, of carnality... and of confusion, of sadness, of hopelessness.

And then the pendulum swings the opposite direction. And instead of the far end of expressive mood, a person is then thrown into long bouts of depression. I'm going to write more about this a bit further down the line but please know this from the getgo: there is a huge difference between depression, and bipolar depression. Believe you me, I know what I'm talking about 'cuz I've had to endure both during some time or another in my life. "Run of the mill" depression is something that is significantly easier to abide and manage than depression stemming from bipolar. And somehow it seems as though there isn't much said about bipolar depression and how debilitating it is.

It is commonly thought that people with artistic and creative talent suffer from bipolar disorder at a much higher percentage than most other people. This notion is not without a tremendous amount of evidence. Indeed, bipolar disorder seems to be a common factor among many well-known artists, writers, musicians and scholars throughout history. Vincent van Gogh remains the classic example. Kurt Cobain also struggled throughout his life with bipolar. Carrie Fisher has spoken openly about being bipolar (going so far as to write a successful book and produce a stage show about it!). Kay Redfield Jamison – a world-renowned clinical psychologist and professor at Johns Hopkins – has bipolar and turned her own condition into a matter of study, culminating in her bestselling memoir An Unquiet Mind. Being one with a background in history I cannot but also be reminded of Iris Chang: the brilliant and beautiful author of The Rape of Nanking (I think everyone in Elon's history department read that book when it came out) who tragically took her own life in 2004 at the age of 36. Chang, also, suffered from bipolar. And it is thought that Ludwig van Beethoven and Sir Isaac Newton may have had bipolar to some extent or another.

I could also tell you what bipolar disorder isn't. F'rinstance: having bipolar doesn't mean that a person is "crazy". It doesn't mean that a person is "evil". It doesn't mean that a person is necessarily a danger to self or others. It's not something that someone... that any one... can do anything to prevent from happening. Bipolar is not anything more or less than a disease: one as real as any other medical condition that can afflict any of us.

But, all of this is pretty academic. Material that you could just as easily find in a textbook of modern medicine, or with a Google search. And if that were strictly the case, then your being here reading this blog isn't going to give you any more insight or understanding into what having bipolar is about.

'Course, me being the blogger that all two of my faithful readers have come to know and love, I aim to go further than that. Much further...

The Fountain And The Minefield

Without the regimen of medication and counseling that has finally allowed me to manage my bipolar, a manic episode could begin at any moment... but that doesn't mean that I am or have ever been the proverbial "ticking time bomb" of mental illness. However, let's just say that I am very thankful that my own condition found intervention and treatment before it could worsen to that point.

There were some days when I could wake up and feel... off. And that was a signal to me that my mind was "primed and armed" and that it could be triggered. Most of the time, I knew that I could keep that from happening to one degree or another. After a day or sometimes even a few hours, the feeling would pass. The instinct came to me over time that I should lay down on a bed or a sofa and let my mind "quiet itself" or "work things out". And usually I could proceed from there to have a normal, routine and productive day.

There were other times though when there was no warning at all that a manic episode was imminent. And invariably, those were the days... and weeks... of my worst episodes.

The triggers could be anything. Too often it was something that in any normal circumstance would be nothing at all: a mistake, a careless word, an unexpected change in plans for the day. There were even triggers that, I am sure, most people would never think of as "setting off" someone like me. How would you like it if a certain scent - no, not every time it wafted into my nostrils, 'cuz again there was no telling when I was about to have an episode – was enough to send your mood into an uncontrollable emotional tailspin?

That is what it was like.

One person who spent time living with me said that to be around me was like "walking on eggshells". That one false step would cause me to come unhinged.

I can appreciate that analogy. But it comes nowhere close to what it means to be the person suffering from bipolar disorder. "Walking on eggshells"? I had to navigate a minefield. For practically every waking moment of my life. With barely any notion as to when I would be making that one false step within my own mind that would detonate all semblance of a happy life.

Nobody should have to live in fear of that. And nobody should have to waste so much precious effort – time and energy and passion that deserves to be spent on living life to its fullest – just to keep from being overtaken by his or her mind turning against one's self.

How do I describe the agony of a bipolar episode?

Well, for the longest time now I have envisioned it as... of all things... a fountain.

A fountain in my brain. And that might be the perfect metaphor, based on what I've learned of bipolar and its neuro-chemical mechanics over the years. The image of the fountain first came to me in 2000, a few years before I was formally diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It's like a fountain that erupts dark, angry and bitter water… and it just. Won't. Stop, until it has run its course.

Sometimes the fountain would flow for a few hours. Other times, it would erupt for days. For weeks. Especially for weeks, toward the time of my hospitalization in 2008.

And what was I like during those periods?

I wasn't anyone that you would want to know. If you've read Part 1 – and I hope that you have – you already have some idea. But bipolar wasn't only about the anger. There were also lengths of time that I fell into extreme bouts of sadness. Bouts of despair. Bouts of utter and unrealistic happiness. Bouts of... yes, hyper-sexuality. If you can name an emotion, I was compelled toward it full-throttle and against my will.

(But those were emotions. They weren't coming from who I really was... as I hope I can articulate to you soon enough.)

And then there were the days and weeks when I wasn't driven toward extremities of mood. Those were the times when I had to linger through the agony of bipolar depression. If bipolar disorder on one hand sent my mind racing with the barest restraint (if any at all) then the depressive episodes were periods completely absent of mood, or interest or motivation of any sort.

For a person who thrives on being creative and who does want to live life to its fullest, the times of depression stemming from my bipolar... in some ways those were most often the times when I did most want to die. Because those were great lengths of life without life. Vast stretches of time when I didn't, when I couldn't see a reason to live or have an interest in anything... even when I knew in the core of my soul that I really did have every reason to live and to want to live.

My Own Mind, My Own Mistakes, My Own Life

How could anybody know that his or her emotions aren't stable, when they have never enjoyed real and complete emotional stability?

Can you imagine what it is like to go from constantly monitoring your own mind for all of your life, in large part being unaware at all that you were having to do that, to suddenly not being burdened by that necessity?

I don't have to imagine it. Because I'm living it.

In Part 1, I said that the past few months have been the very best of my life. Maybe not totally "perfect", but God has brought me through so much and I can see that. I am thankful for that. I am excited about not only what life has in store for me but that I can and will be making the most of it from now on.

But along with the hope and happiness, I have also had to experience a lot of inner turmoil. During these past several months I have experienced a wide degree of emotion. I have been incredibly sad. I have been exceptionally angry. I have felt bitter about how some things have gone in my life that in retrospect, I could not have helped.

None of those are emotions that we ordinarily want to experience. Especially not when you are crying out to God for days and weeks on end for answers. Answers which, I still don't possess.

But – and this is gonna be something else that longtime readers will assume that I'm being somewhat perverse about – I am thankful for those emotions.

Because for the first time in my life, they are my own emotions.

I am glad for those feelings now. Because at last they are coming to fully complement the very heart and soul of my being, instead of being in contrary to it.

I make mistakes. I will always make mistakes, as long as I live. But for the first time, I know that they will be my own mistakes. That I can and will learn from them. That I have the opportunity to grow from them, and to continue growing into the person that God made and needs me to be. And on that note, I am even more thankful than ever for the grace of God.

The worst thing that bipolar disorder did to me, was to cause me to hurt some of the people that I have loved and cared for most. Who I really am would have never wanted that to happen. The real me was hurting, in ways that I hope nobody will ever have to understand, that my condition was causing misery and grief to those closest to me.

That was my soul that was hurting for them. Because it was my soul that loved and still loves. And bipolar, in a very curious way, has taught me something that I might not otherwise have ever come to understand...

That love... that true love... is not an emotion. And it is not a mood.

Love is a choice.

And so is hope.

And my soul has chosen to love. My soul has chosen to hope.

Bipolar disorder threw my mind and my emotions into disarray. But it couldn't do anything to the uttermost core of my being.

And now, at last, I can choose to love with all of my mind and all of my soul. I can choose to hope.

I can... and I do... choose to live.


Part 3 of Being Bipolar will be published in approximately two weeks.

Physicists propose idea for "Time Teleportation"

For the past several weeks I've been telling my filmmaking partner "Weird" Ed about Primer: the indie sci-fi film from a few years ago and positivalutely the most genius movie about time travel that I've ever had the pleasure of watching.

Well, it turns out that filmmaker Shane Carruth might be on to something...

Two physicists at the University of Queensland in Australia have published their theory on the concept of "time teleportation". If you're too lazy to read the write-up on the Popular Science website, the gist of it is that Einstein's "spooky action" not only operates across distances of space but also across measures of time!

Whoa.

Okay well if nothing else, maybe this'll entice you as well to watch Primer, 'cuz that movie sure does a much better job at trying to make sense of this than I can at the moment.

'Course it also goes without saying that there are some scientists who prefer a more "brute-force" assault on the space-time continuum...

Blizzard stops, then allows "World of StarCraft" mod

Now this could be a story about copyright issues that may wind up having a very happy ending...

It all starts with one Ryan Winzen, a 25-year old artist who claims to have no inclination toward video game programming but who has been creating custom maps for Blizzard's Warcraft and StarCraft games since he was 13.

A few days ago Ryan sent shockwaves across the Intertubes when he went public with a lil' project that he's been working on...

Yup, "World of StarCraft"! Ryan is using the in-game editor and assets to create a StarCraft II mod that is... well, World of StarCraft. And it's exactly what you're thinking it is: a massively multiplayer online game that does for StarCraft what Blizzard's mega-popular World of Warcraft has done for the company's other well-known franchise.

Remember: Ryan used the StarCraft II editor and the game's own assets to pull this off. Which is something that everyone thought was what Blizzard allowed... nay, encouraged from its player base.

There was a proof of concept video that Ryan posted on YouTube. I didn't get a chance to see it but the blogosphere is abuzz about how crazy awesome Ryan's skillz are!

Unfortunately, it wasn't online for long before Blizzard's parent company Activision had it taken down and hit Ryan with a cease and desist order! But by then the word was on the street about the World of StarCraft mod. And... well... it fast turned into a PR problem for Activision.

So here's the good news: Blizzard has announced that it has no intention of halting Ryan from working on World of StarCraft. The company clarified that it does encourage the StarCraft player community to use the games' editors to express themselves creatively. And not only that, but for his daring and initiative Ryan Winzen has been invited to visit the Blizzard campus and meet the development staff! Ryan has also apparently been approached by another video game company that has expressed interested in working with him (read that as: "potential career opportunity").

Very neat outcome for Ryan. Here's hoping that he goes far :-)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Blackbeard's sword? Could be...

It's seen better days (in fact it had to be reconstructed from its separate pieces for this photo) but this gold-gilded sword hilt recently recovered from the site of the Queen Anne's Revenge off the coast of North Carolina is being thought of as possibly belonging to Captain Edward Morgan Teach... more infamously known as Blackbeard the Pirate.

If so, it's probably not the weapon that Blackbeard would have primarily used in combat (likely not even in his final duel with Captain Maynard). Pirates and the like preferred blades with more protection for the handle. However the conspicuous hole in the hilt suggests a chain guard. Whatever the case might be however, it is a rich and handsome weapon: just the sort that one could imagine being carried by Blackbeard.

National Geographic's website has more photos of this sword handle. I'm wondering if it'll go on display in Raleigh anytime soon. If so, I'll have to go check it out :-)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It's 2011's first pic of Lauryn!

At the moment I'm... working... through getting Part 2 of the Being Bipolar series finished (read Part 1 here if you haven't already). Not only that but also practicing my lines for Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's production of Gypsy. Along with a few other "irons in the fire" so to speak.

So to make up for a dearth of new material these past few days, here is something that this blog literally gets scores of e-mails from around the world about: a new picture of my ravishingly beautiful cousin LAURYN! Okay she's not only beautiful, but she's also amazingly sweet, terrifically smart, and a Christian with a deep and wonderful faith (who also encourages me in my own relationship with God).

So since some of you have asked for another one, almost to the point of offering money for it, here is a new Lauryn photo...

I'll try to post at least one new image of her every month! Just remember guys: she is taken already. You get past her beau, and you'll have to get through me. And if you get through me (fat chance though) you've got to get through her father, Bob.

And you wouldn't like Bob when he's angry :-P

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Monsignor Charles Pope contemplates "the Strength and Resilience of the Human Person"

In the wake of last week's tragic incident in Tuscon there have been reams of pages written about human nature, with one spin or another on the subject.

I haven't read anything that is as poignant and beautiful as what Monsignor Charles Pope - pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian - has composed on his blog hosted by the Archdiocese of Washington.

Here's an excerpt "Life is Worth Living: On the Strength and Resilience of the Human Person"...

One of the rights our modern age demands is the right to declare that certain lives are not worth living. In utero testing sometimes reveals the possibility or even the certainty of birth defects. Abortion is often recommended to mothers who carry "defective" children and sometimes that recommendation becomes pressure. It is said that almost 90% of families who receive a poor pre-natal diagnosis choose to abort.

And yet there are so many stories of people who have overcome enormous obstacles and who live full and rich lives. Some are missing limbs, others are blind, still others struggle with disease. Some have overcome poverty and injustice, others paralyzing accidents or great tragedies. And they are living witnesses to us that we ought never be the judge of what lives are worthwhile and what lives are “not worth” living. It is true that none of us would wish to be born missing limbs, or blind or in poverty, or with chronic conditions. But we must reverence those who are, learn to appreciate their gifts, and summon them to courage and greatness.

We must declare with great certitude that there is no such thing as a life not worth living. We say this not as some politically correct slogan but rather with firm conviction that every human life is willed by God. We were willed before we were made for the Scriptures say, "Before I ever formed you in the womb I knew and I appointed you..." (Jer 1:4). None of us is an accident nor are our gifts and apparent deficits mistakes. We exist as we are, the way we are for a purpose, a purpose for us and for others. We all have an irreplaceable role in God's kingdom and show forth aspect of His glory uniquely. Every human life is intended and is worth living because God says so by the very fact that we exist.

It's well worth reading in its entirety. Not only because of the good padre's own articulation but also for the videos he has included demonstrating several individuals who have triumphed in spite of the physical obstacles they were born with.

(Big tip o' the hat to Mike Casteel for this terrific find!)

It's a first for The Knight Shift! Guest blogger Simon Burdett reviews FALLOUT: NEW VEGAS!

I can just hear it now: "Chris you've gotten lazy with your blog! It took seven years but you're finally all tapped out!"

Well the fact of the matter is, Simon Burdett from Great Britain has been a good friend of this blog for some time now and it was all his idea that perhaps I could allow "special guest stars" to write for The Knight Shift every now and then. And the more I thought about his idea... the more I liked it! Who knows: this might be the first of many guest writers who'll be finding an audience here. And if it spins attention to their individual talents and perspectives well... that's the kind of thing that I enjoy being able to do for others :-)

So for his first submission, Simon has turned in his review of Fallout: New Vegas. The game came out a few months ago in October. Now, I loved loved LOVED its predecessor Fallout 3 (enough to have spent 140 hours or so on it but hey, I was determined to visit all of the Washington D.C. area :-P) but I've only played Fallout: New Vegas for an hour or so. Mostly it's 'cuz I've been busy with other stuff but also because Fallout: New Vegas in short order has become legendary for some of the most whacked programming bugs in video game history. Bugs like this one that's happened to many players at the very beginning of the game...

Linda Blair, eat your heart out.

Awright then, 'nuff from me. Here is Simon with his review of Fallout: New Vegas!

Sminkie's Scrapbook
January 2011

Bet on disappointment

Towards the end of last year I spent some considerable time playing Fallout: New Vegas - the highly anticipated follow up to Fallout 3.

What a frustrating experience it was.

Fallout: New Vegas is set in the Mojave Desert where you are a courier shot in the head whilst in transit. You (obviously but simultaneously absurdly) survive and awaken in the town of Goodsprings and your quest for revenge begins.

First off, this is spoiler free - I'm not going to delve into the main quest or the side quests as my gripes with this game don't actually revolve around the writing of the game.

I bought Fallout: New Vegas purely on the back of Fallout 3. I was a late comer to the Fallout series and Bethesda's Fallout 3 was my first taste of the American Wastelands and was my first role playing adventure I had played in years.

Fallout 3 was a regular fixture on my PS3 from 2008 up until October 2010 such was and still its appeal. Despite having completed the Fallout 3 on several occasions it didn't deter me from starting afresh. I found incredible longevity in Fallout 3.

But that's Fallout 3.

Fallout: New Vegas was lauded widely as being an incredible game but I beg to differ. I think reviewers praising it lost sight of the fact that they were essentially still playing Fallout 3.

I will concede however that the writing in this game on the whole is better than Fallout 3 and there are some excellent additions in this game (the companion wheel, some nice new weapons and the impact of wearing faction armour on other factions) that ought to be imported into Fallout 4.

I simply entitle my gripes with Fallout: New Vegas...

Obsidian. Why?!?

Havoc: Fallout: New Vegas uses the same engine as Fallout 3 which was buggy as hell. It was a considerable source of frustration for the gameplayer when the game would freeze during VATS combat or as you were running across the map. Its simply ridiculous that Fallout: New Vegas should be WORSE for bugs.

Obsidian's New guns and apparel: There are some nice weapons and apparel to choose from but there are some truly shocking examples of rushed production too. The highly desirable Ranger Veteran armour as shown on the box-art is a dreadful disappointment. Clipping issues when carrying rifles ruin its allure. The helmet optics seen in the demo/intro don't appear in the game. The armour offers no additional benefits either. The selling point during its teaser trailer days was this armour. Yet you may as well be dressed as Ronald McDonald for all the good its worth. Granted, this is a mere aesthetic grumble but it suggests the team designing the armour didn't capture its appeal from the intro. Some of the new guns have awful graphics, e.g. the 9mm sub machine gun and .357 Magnum in particular beggars belief. Its just not good enough for a next gen console.

The Environment: For the most part the Mojave wasteland is well laid out. The map is clearly smaller than Fallout 3 but on first glance it only seems slightly smaller. The four corners of the map though are swathed by poor layout and actual design, yet I consider the most unforgivable environmental flaw the inexplicably inaccessible terrain in some quadrants of the map. It feels very annoyingly contrived that some destinations are only accessible through a designated route.

Missing content: Specifically, The curious case of the BoS abandoned bunker. Perhaps this has been addressed or is being addressed but when I played it, I struggled to understand why this location was locked out of the game.

Changes to gameplay: XP. Regardless of difficulty the XP is always the same - playing on very hard difficulty no-longer feels rewarding. Indeed playing on very hard is tantamount to insanity if you're building a melee or unarmed character. Obsidian wanted to make Fallout: New Vegas more challenging, clearly seeing the gradual increase in potency of the bestiary a mistake in Fallout 3, so right from level 1 apex predators roam the wasteland. Its sheer folly attempting to fight Cazadors, Giant Radscorpions or even Deathclaws at early levels armed only with a 9mm pistol (and a wing and a prayer) and utterly ridiculous. The most obvious route to New Vegas places many apex predators in your way. Some may think this is clever. I consider this lazy programming coercing the gamer into playing the game the programmer's way.

The Casinos: Ok, a slight quibble but the main drag of New Vegas has 4 casinos and of which one isn't operational. For a game called "New Vegas", there is paucity to its focal point.

Fallout: New Vegas for all its good points is Fallout 3 but minus the charm. When I read Fallout: New Vegas was what Fallout 3 was meant to be I appreciated what Bethesda had done with Fallout 3 so much more.

My lasting impression of Fallout: New Vegas is of a rushed venture. It made some nice tweaks but ruined character development, idiotic decisions such as reducing perks and amount of skill points accrued per intelligence quota destroyed the fun in leveling up.

Summing up:
A decent storyline butchered by a poor development team. Bethesda can't develop Fallout 4 soon enough.

God (and Chris) willing see you again in February!

I'm still looking forward to getting more into Fallout: New Vegas, but what Simon is reporting has been echoed by a lot of people. Let's hope that Bethesda and Obsidian get on the ball and patch things up and soon.

And thanks for the guest post Simon! Looking forward to reading more from ya :-)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Death Star Cookie Jar

Yet another entry to be filed under "Things We Don't Really Need But Are Badly Lusting For"...

Available exclusively through the Official Star Wars Website, for $49.99 you can be the proud owner of the Death Star Cookie Jar! According to the product description...
The exclusive Death Star cookie jar is built to hold an Imperial army of your favorite cookies, and can even double as a festive ice cooler or candy bowl at your next Star Wars soiree. Made of sculpted ceramic with great detail and features a flat base to keep your Death Star from rolling off the counter. Oh, and no exposed thermal exhaust ports for hungry young rebels.
I might have to get this for Dad, to go along with the Darth Vader spatula that I got him for Christmas :-)

(Hat tip to Phillip Arthur for the great find!)

Is America headed to bankruptcy?

Well, it's more than a fair question. Yesterday I was reading how the Federal Reserve might soon be in need of a "bailout". More than anything else I've heard in recent months, that raised a honkin' big red flag. But then, I've been thinking for awhile now that conditions are ripe in this country for hyperinflation.

A good friend of mine, James S. Hodges - writer, Baptist minister, and all-around astute thinkin' dude - published an essay today about the possibility of the United States going totally broke this year. And as with all such things, I'm compelled to lean y'all's attention toward it...

Recently there have been disturbing reports on various news outlets about the rise of food and oil prices. Now the housing market also appears to be collapsing once again. The floods in Australia is said to affect the meat market due to cattle being lost that some American companies purchase from. Also the price of corn and rice is said to be on the rise as a result of not so good harvests. And on a side note, should we be surprised since corn is used to make ethanol as we see the increase of ethanol placed in our fuel supply?

To go even further on this matter, our dollar is continuously being devalued by the U.S. government printing more paper. They got by with it for a long time since the foreign governments always recognized the dollar as the standard exchange of currency since World War II. Oil, for example, was always purchased with dollars by other countries instead of their own currency. But it is even more disturbing that in restaurants and stores in foreign countries are now placing signs on their front doors no longer accepting the American dollar.

Hit here for more of James' observations. One of the more disturbing things that he makes note of is that American currency is being brazenly ignored in international markets as a form of payment.

But, can ya blame other countries for that?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Stumbling toward GYPSY

Tonight we had the first "stumble-through" of Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's production of Gypsy. A stumble-through, I learned tonight, is an extreme "rough cut" of the show. Which I assume is like what the preview performances of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark have been about so far... but without all the injuries.

So since getting involved with community theatre three years ago I have been, in chronological order: a biblical patriarch, an undertaker, a pirate, a firefighter, a Siamese court eunuch, a plainclothes detective, a firefighter again (both times for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever)...

...but only tonight did I discover that of the two roles that I'm playing in Gypsy, that the part of Cigar is, for all intents and purposes, the manager of a strip club.

(Somebody tell me HOW is it that we can do a show like this but we CAN'T mount a production of Sweeney Todd...?!?)

And if you come you're gonna get to see Yours Truly not only with quite a lot of lines but also being a total sleazebag. And I get to yell most of my lines too! Yes: REAL SCRIPTED LINES!! Which'll be a change from the ad-libbed stuff I've done as Fireman #1 these past two seasons for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever :-)

Well anyhoo, Gypsy is actually quite a decent - and fun - show! Considered one of the greatest musicals ever, Gypsy is based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee and her life during the Great Depression, with particular emphasis on her outrageously overbearing mother: the ultimate showbiz parent!

We'll be doing three performances of Gypsy from February 4th through the 13th. Click here to visit the Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's website for more information. And we're looking forward to entertaining you!

T-shirts at the Tuscon memorial service?

Does anyone else think that this was crass at best and beyond pale at worst?

To the left you will see a few of the 20,000-some "Together We Thrive" t-shirts that were given away free as "souvenirs" - and that's being more charitable than it deserves to be called - at last night's memorial service for victims of this past week's massacre in Tuscon.

I didn't watch it on television but a number of people whose reports I have long come to trust have shared a common sentiment: that last night's event was a meandering mess of narcissistic narcolepsy... with President Barack Obama as the focal point.

(What's the story about this Native American medicine man that I'm hearing so much bad about?)

Free t-shirts for attending a memorial service supposedly held in honor of those who died in an act of violence. I defy anyone to articulate how this was at all appropriate.

And I'm also a mite curious as to who paid for those t-shirts...

TRON Blu-ray: Worst. Disney. Cover. Art. Ever.

This is just plum lousy...

Hey, I'll buy it. I just pray that I won't need a Mattel Intellivision to watch it on.

If that winds up being the final cover for the Blu-ray release of Tron, I swear that I'll compose one of my own design in Photoshop and use that when I put this movie into my personal library.

Could anyone blame me? Just compare that Blu-ray cover "art" to the original theatrical poster for Tron from 1982...

I suspect that Disney's failure to stand strongly behind the original Tron during the marketing of sequel Tron Legacy will become known as one of the worst commercial tactics in entertainment history. Disney was sitting on a wazoo-load of potential earnings if it had given the original movie some decent respect and linked it to the follow-up. Instead the suits at Disney are acting as if they should be ashamed and embarrassed by Tron.

Hey, Disney execs: you won't look as well in another thirty years or so either, most likely!

But there is some good news: Disney is coming close to announcing a sequel to Tron Legacy, 'cuz the new movie has done well enough at the box office. I might see it again this weekend (taking a friend along who hasn't caught it yet). In the meantime, I'm listening to Daft Punk's score for Tron Legacy: easily one of the best purchases that I've made from iTunes!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Personality cults do not exist in this dojo

A contented life of liberty is one lived with no concern or regard whatsoever about what either Barack Obama or Sarah Palin did today.

The most disturbing Super Mario Bros. video you will EVER see

A guy named "petermolyneux2" on YouTube has... well he might have some issues, if his short film "Nintendo: A Sad Story" is any indication. I've watched this three times now, trying to make sense of what exactly I'm looking at. And now I CAN'T GET IT OUT OF MY HEAD!! No sound sleep for me tonight.

No sound sleep for you either, maybe, if you choose to let enter your gray matter this clip that surely must resemble what the 1993 Super Mario Brothers movie would have been had Neil Gaiman written the script...

Monday, January 10, 2011

God taught me something this weekend

And that being: God often does not show us what challenges He has set before us...

...but He always does prepare us to meet those challenges when we get there. Often in ways that we can't possibly appreciate until we have overcome them.

Am I speaking of my having bipolar disorder and how I am now writing about it on this blog? Somewhat, yes. But in looking back over my life, I now see that there have been many such challenges.

Would I have allowed myself to be confronted with them, had I known of them in advance?

In all honestly... maybe not. I'm not sure that I would have. I know that I wouldn't have endured the bipolar had I know what it would cost me.

I might write about this also: how in retrospect I see that God was moving me, was guiding my path until I was in a place He desired for me to be, irrespective of my own desires.

I may not have liked it. But, He did equip me for when I was brought to that place. To all of those places.

And knowing that and being thankful for that now, is something that I do plan to draw strength from during whatever other challenges He might set before me.

All that I intend to say about the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords

I cannot be convinced otherwise: that America will NEVER grow into her fullest potential until her people GIVE UP and GET OVER this fraudulent divide between "conservatism" and "liberalism".

Seriously. "Democrats" vs. "Republicans"? Don't MOST adults grow up past such childish behavior?

In an honorable nation there would have been NO mention at all of politics or labels in the aftermath of what happened in Tuscon, Arizona this weekend. Instead I have watched TOO MANY of us still fixated on "US vs THEM".

What a crock of crap that is!! Some of us seemed even oblivious to the fact that innocent people DIED in this senseless act. And we're supposed to be the most "enlightened" nation on Earth?!

Like %&@# we are!!

I don't care what the victims believed in. I don't care what the assailant believed in. This was a CRIMINAL ACT. It does not require explanation. It does not require understanding.

And it absolutely does not merit exploitation!

And for those who yet insist upon a reason for the tragedy in Tuscon...

It is the same reason as has existed since the dawn of time: imperfect human nature left to its own devices, given to hate and acts of hate... and all too often, hate without any reason at all.

Thoughts and prayers going out to all of those involved. And by "all", I mean that.

I can't believe that I did this...

Premium cable/satellite channel Showtime had a free trial weekend over the past few days.

So I wound up watching, of all things, the movie Twilight and its immediate sequel New Moon.

Ehhhhh... they were okay, I guess. I still don't think that Edward and his kin are real vampires. I mean: they aren't afraid of daytime, they don't sleep in coffins, they aren't repelled by crucifixes or garlic, they don't have actual fangs...

Those aren't vampires. They are, at best, people with severe eating disorders.

(I still think that Anne Rice will always be the master of vampire fiction. Akasha would have incinerated the entire Cullen clan without batting an eyelash... and we all know it! :-)

Thursday, January 06, 2011

BEING BIPOLAR, Part 1: The Tale of the Two Chris Knights

ADVISORY: What you are about to read contains lots of unpleasant information. I can't apologize for any misconceptions that will soon be shattered about Yours Truly. This is, to the best of my understanding, the honest truth and 100% accurate. If you're okay with seeing the dark side of mental illness in un-embellished detail, then read on. If not, there's plenty of other material on The Knight Shift to enjoy. But I wouldn't be writing about this at all if I didn't believe with all of my heart that I need to do this, regardless of what others might think of me. That said, I do hope you will press ahead...

A week and a half ago was the most very wonderful Christmas of my entire life.

It wasn't completely "perfect". One or two details were lacking that would have been the ideal "cherry on top". But the snowfall made it the first legitimate White Christmas here in almost half a century. My family was together. A number of friends visited my house in the days preceding the holiday. I got to deep-fry a lot of turkey.

The gifts were nice (and Dad even loved the Darth Vader spatula that I gave him)...

But best of all, and what most made it the finest holiday season that I have yet to have: it was the first Christmas of my life that I was able to experience and enjoy without the constant need of struggling to keep my own mind in check.

I hadn't even known... indeed I could not possibly have known until the latter half of 2010... just how much strength and energy and sheer focus I had been expending, ever since childhood, to keep myself from being overwhelmed by a mental illness that I wasn't aware of until recent years.

Most of the time, I was successful at doing that. And then there were times when I see that I wasn't.

I wish that I could report that those times were few and far between. But there were just enough of them that there came irreparable damage done to many of those things that I have held as most sacred. Things like friendships, career opportunities... and yes, my marriage.

Even the times when I could manage my mind well: those occasions too, were long bouts of constantly having to patrol my own thinking process. Forced to persistently beware and be aware that my thoughts and emotions could run amok in ways that I knew in my heart, I would never want to happen.

And all this time, all of the years of my life until now, I thought that this was how normal people existed. I really did come to believe that everyone else went through the same thing and "had it together" in a way that I could never seem to figure out how to do. I had no way of knowing that there was an entirely different, inestimably better manner of living.

I had been in the back of a dark cave for so long, watching a very complex and intricate shadow play cast on the walls by the world outside... and sincerely believing the shadows were life as everyone else knew it. I had no reason to even begin to grasp that what my condition had imposed upon me wasn't the way that people are meant to be at all. That my perception of the world was only a well-formed shade of what was truly possible.

And then, in these past several months, I was able to come out of it finally. And I could practically feel the chains and the shackles that had bound my mind for so long, falling away at last. I had been held back by more than I ever realized. It has taken a very long time and a lot of work, a lot of struggle, a lot of prayer, and a lot of patience to get to a place where I could experience that liberty of mind.

And today... I am free. For the first time, fully free to be the Chris Knight that God made me to be.

So now I am endeavoring to use what God has brought me through, to help others who also are suffering similar affliction.

I recently revealed on this blog to the public for the very first time that I have bipolar disorder. That I was diagnosed with it several years ago. I've been well aware for more than ten years about my severe depression. The bipolar however wasn't diagnosed until quite some time after that.

Since first revealing my condition, my disclosure has been the subject of a report by Bob Buckley of WGHP Fox 8. That was two weeks ago. Dozens of e-mails have come in since from people who've said that watching the story either helped them understand bipolar as they couldn't before, and more than a few from individuals who have bipolar who said they were thankful that this story did get produced because "this is what's needed to be said". I've even been approached in public by some who caught the report either from when it was broadcast or by watching it on the Fox 8 website. A few days ago I was at the Target store off New Garden Road in Greensboro when a woman came up to me and asked if I was the Chris Knight from the bipolar story. When I told her I was she said "Thank God that someone is doing this because someone's needed to do this for a long time."

It's a funny thing about life spent trying to serve God: you never know what direction He is going to spin you toward. Did I ever see myself as an "advocate for people with bipolar disorder"? Heck no! I still don't. I'm... only Chris Knight. Nothing particularly special, mind you. And as one friend told me last week, and I hope others will take this to heart as well: I am NOT a "mentally ill person".

What I am is a person who happens to have a mental illness. I can be defined by my condition, or I can choose to define it and what it will do to my life. I have chosen to make this a component of my life as opposed to that which will establish my life. Where once it was a weakness, I can and do now choose to make it a thing from which to draw strength.

And it would be the acme of selfishness on my part if I didn't use what I have gained through my own ordeal, and what God has taught me from the experience, to help those who are enduring the same affliction in some way or another...

The Me That I Never Chose To Be

What did bipolar disorder bring about in Robert Christopher Knight?

It made me to be a person that I was never meant to be, never chose to be, and had I been able to enjoy control over my mind for most of my life, a person who would never have existed at all.

Because of bipolar disorder (and the associated depression)...

- I have lost no less than three jobs because of violent outbursts on my part.

- I was charged in court with communicating threats in 2003 and very nearly served a jail sentence for it.

- I have been in numerous physical fights, for reasons which I can no longer remember. If there even was a reason at all for any of them.

- I have been handcuffed by law enforcement officers and taken to a psychiatric hospital against my will for observation and evaluation. Three times.

- I have contemplated suicide.

- In spite of everything that I believed myself incapable of doing and against every virtue that I have striven to hold true to, I did collect what can only be called material for pornographic use.

- I have driven off in the dead of night, without telling my loved ones where I was going. Because I didn't know where I was going either.

- I have screamed curses at God.

- I once slapped my mother.

- I have screamed obscenities at my wife and even called her a "bitch" (one thing that my condition made me do that I will never forgive myself for).

- I once threatened to leave my wife on the side of a highway in the middle of the night.

- At times I have not left my place of dwelling for a week or more, such was my mental incapacitation.

- There were other times when I was so obsessed with finishing a project that I forgot the safety and comfort of those closest to me.

- I reacted abusively to stimuli that were extraordinarily mundane (such as the shattering of a glass on a kitchen floor).

- I have made life a living hell too many times for the people that I have loved most.

- I did something to a friend that I had for a very long time, that brings me too much genuine shame and agony to even think about (much less write about it).

- I did many other terrible things that I still don't understand and probably may never even know about fully.

The Me That Is True

What you've just read is the ugliest list that I've ever compiled in my life. And that it is a list about my own life...

The things that bipolar drove me to do, the person that I became in moments of weakness because of my condition: none of those are what I am at all proud about having done.

But neither will I ever be ashamed to talk about them. I have no reason to be ashamed for them to be known.

I can say that in confidence because I do know - and God knows and understands even better than I possibly could - that those were not what the real Chris Knight is about or even capable of doing at all.

The real Chris Knight, the true Chris Knight, is someone who has done some pretty wonderful and amazing things in his life already, despite what he has had to endure. Such as...

- I worked and paid for my own way to visit friends in Europe at an especially young age.

- I have written the scripts for, produced and directed a number of original movies, and am working on a new one.

- I have run for public office. And came pretty close to winning a seat in the election.

- I have been asked to consider running for office again, by people who are widely respected and known for the strength of their character.

- I created a television commercial that has been broadcast around the world because of its clever (and entertaining) approach to a serious issue.

- I have served as treasurer for a statewide political campaign.

- I have read through the entire Bible. Twice.

- I have presented what has been called a "very original" and "insightful" historical thesis at a national research conference.

- I am an active participant in community theater, and have been a cast member in productions of The King and I, Children of Eden, Oliver Twist and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever among others.

- I have earned the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest and most difficult rank to attain as a Boy Scout.

- I have written one nonfiction book, am working on another, and have written a children's book that I hope to find a publisher for.

- Recently I have discovered that I have a talent for painting and am working to develop that talent further.

- I am learning how to make knives, including blades of Damascus steel.

- I have been a published writer for most of my life.

- For seven years I have maintained this blog while enjoying watching its readership grow (and I hope to continue finding new things to blog about for many years to come).

- I am a friend to a lot of people, each of whom I thank God for putting into my life.

- I have been called "loyal", "dependable", "trustworthy", "hard-working", "the most creative person I know", someone who "takes your relationship with God seriously", and "a person with a good heart" by those who know me.

- I have not once been drunk in my entire life. Neither have I ever used illegal drugs. I've never even smoked a cigarette.

- I made what has come to be widely-cited legal history by fighting against a wrongful copyright claim.

- I am probably the first person in history to address a school board meeting while wearing a full Jedi Knight costume (and later that night the board rescinded the policy that we were there to contest).

- Something that I wrote stopped a person who read it from going through with committing suicide. A person who has since been blessed with marriage and two beautiful children.

- My parents have told me that they are proud to have me as their son.

- I am writing poetry again for the first time in a long time.

- I am currently writing my first stage play.

- I have been called someone "who fights for what's right no matter how unpopular it is."

- I have been called "truer than a brother" by my closest friends.

- For six years I was a devoted husband who sincerely did his best to serve his wife, and was fiercely loyal and utterly faithful to her. I saved myself for marriage, waiting to give the gift of myself to my wife.

- Most important of all, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I have been for more than fourteen years now, and ever since choosing to follow Him I have done my absolute best to serve God with all the talents and abilities that He has blessed me with. Not because I feel like I have to, but because I earnestly desire to serve Him with all of my heart, all of my strength, and now – finally – with all of my mind.

Going From Here...

Two sets of characteristics that could not be more wildly different from each other than night and day. One the defining aspects of a monster, the other those of a person trying to contribute as best he can from an active and productive life.

One of those was a Chris Knight that came about from my own mind turning against me. A Chris Knight that was the product of a mental illness... a medical illness... that could not have been prevented and that I was helpless to stop.

That was a false Chris Knight. A Chris Knight that thankfully, I don't ever see will be coming back again... but neither am I able to forget the lessons that the real me has had to learn from him.

Nor will I ever be able to claim that I am "cured" of bipolar disorder. This is something that has no cure. For the rest of my life I will have to take medication and be in counseling of some kind or another to keep this managed and under control.

But you wanna know something? I'm thankful for that, and not in the perverse way that some readers of this blog have come to expect either.

I am better today than I was a week ago, and I'm not as good today as I will be a week from now. That kind of self-improvement only comes from work and commitment and self-discipline. Bipolar could have destroyed me. Now, it stands to be something that, thanks to God and a lot of people who have been helping me through this, will be what I can gain strength and purpose from.

For seven years this blog has wound up having to take on corporate multimedia giants, larcenous elected officials, twisted cults out to destroy the right to worship in peace, and more. Now, I am being led to use it to take on something else: my own mental illness.

And as much effort and determination as I had toward the pursuit of all those other things, I now commit myself toward honestly and sincerely examining my own condition and weakness. With even more effort and determination.

Bipolar disorder can ravage my mind. It has led to the destruction of much that I have held dear. It has caused a lot of people that I care about to suffer. It has brought to an end so many hopes and dreams that I have had.

But, it can not touch my soul.

And mine is the soul of a good person.

Not a "perfect" person. There has been only One perfect Person in the history of this world. The One Whom I owe every good thing in my life... and that includes delivering me from the very worst of mental illness so that I can, at last, have life full and abundant.

However much mental illness has held me back, I have been able to still pull off some pretty interesting feats and have plenty of great adventures. And that was with bipolar and depression. What might happen now that I don't have those holding me back?

I don't know... but I'm eager to find out!

And if I can help others going through the same to have a better life, then that'll make it all the more worth doing this.

I have spent a lot of time lately crying out to God. Telling Him that I can't understand why He would allow me to have this condition when it has cost me so much, in ways that I thought ran completely contrary to His nature as I have come to understand Him. The apostle Paul cried out to God about a "thorn" in his flesh. I have had to cry out to Him about something that, in my opinion, has been far worse: a thorn in my mind.

God's answer to me has been the same as what He gave to Paul: "My grace is sufficient".

I don't know why God has let some of the things happen to me because of this. As I said in the Fox 8 interview I would have been happier with God, if He had to allow me to be stricken with anything, if instead He let me be hit with cancer or muscular dystrophy or some other condition that people for the most part do understand and appreciate. There is still too much stigma about having a mental illness: as if those suffering from it are "crazy" or "insane" or "just plain nuts" or whatever.

Maybe that's why God allowed me to have this. So that in some small way, I can do what I can to prove otherwise.

If so, well... I intend to play this thing to the hilt.

This is the first of what will be an ongoing series of The Knight Shift examining bipolar disorder, from the perspective of someone (namely me) who must live and deal with it. In future installments I'm planning on attempting to describe what exactly a bipolar "episode" is like, some meditation upon mental illness and how it effects one's conscience, an essay on the responsibilities of those with mental illness (ooh-boy, that one is gonna be interesting). And - there's no real way to avoid this - the effect of bipolar on a marriage: something I've felt obliged to talk about since finding that more than 90% of those with bipolar who are married end up divorced. Those are just some of the facets of bipolar and other mental illness that, Lord willing, I will be delving into from the perspective of one living with it.

All I can do is honestly and candidly share my own experiences and observations with whoever might happen upon this humble - and humbling - effort to examine not only a mental illness, but my own life.

And maybe... just maybe... other people will get to have the best Christmas of their lives just shy of twelve months from now, too.

If so, then I will absolutely thank God that He chose to use me to help them have that.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Coming tomorrow to The Knight Shift...

...it's the start of something that, well...

I'm not nervous about it. This is something that has been building up for awhile now and, God is certainly putting this on my heart to do. There is some seriously earnest conviction to do this.

But all the same, I'm fully aware that what I'm about to do, might lose me a lot of faithful and longtime readers. Maybe even some friendships.

If nothing else, plenty of people are no doubt going to think a lot less of me.

But what can I say? I'm going to be honest. Brutally honest, even.

Perhaps what has begun already, God might continue to use in the ways that He has.

Please know now: a lot of unpleasantness is coming. I don't know any way to avoid it and even if I did... I don't think that I could.

All I ask is that you please read it, and continue reading it, with an open mind.

Keep watching this blog. It'll begin soon enough.

For anyone claiming to have "the only true church"...

"No Christian theology can claim to speak the last word about God and God's relation to human beings and the world. Every theology is at best a limited, fallible, provisional attempt to speak of the living God of scripture whose truth, justice, and compassion are beyond the very highest and best we can imagine."

-- Shirley C. Guthrie

That quote was discovered by by a good friend today, and I just had to post it here. If for no other reason than because too many people have the audacity to believe that they possess "the one true church" or "the only way" to be a "real" Christian... when they forget that their utmost wisdom is in fact far less than foolishness to God.

(Hat tip to Crystal Risbon for a great find :-)

RED HARVEST: Star Wars returns to horror genre with mildly good zombie story

Had author Joe Schreiber not written Star Wars: Red Harvest, I would have been completely satisfied with his 2009 novel Death Troopers (see my review here) as a standalone story. Death Troopers was the first time that the Star Wars saga had delved into the territory of classic horror. It succeeded, and hopefully it will prove to be the first of many more endeavors to scare us with the darkness of that galaxy far, far away.

With Red Harvest, Schreiber follows up with a prequel examining the origins of the Blackwing virus: the infectious agent that turned an entire Imperial Star Destroyer into a derelict tomb packed with flesh-hungry zombies that Han Solo and Chewbacca had to blast their way through. However instead of again setting the story within the timeframe of the classic movies, Schreiber takes the readers back to the era of the Old Republic, more than thirty-five hundred years before the time of the Empire.

I thought that Red Harvest is something of a mixed bag, that for the most part works fairly well. But I have to wonder if it might have been more effective at eliciting terror had Schreiber set it (or if he'd been allowed to set it: remember we're talking about Star Wars licensed fiction under the ultimate control of the Lucasfilm bigwigs) during the period of the classic films. The virus, it turns out, was originally created by a Sith Lord named Darth Scabrous (that is either the funniest or the most sicko moniker for a Dark Lord ever), as part of his bid to find a means of living forever. Maybe it's just me, but Scabrous as a character just... didn't have the sense of menace that most Sith Lords have embodied. Although there is one vile act that Darth Scabrous does involving a bounty hunter and his partner (if you've read the book you know what I'm talking about) that is... well, it's pretty harsh. I mean it, it's outright gross to the max! And I can't help but think that somehow it would have been more intense had it been Darth Vader doing that instead to some poor shlub.

Death Troopers worked so well because it involved a setting and characters that most Star Wars fans already understood and appreciated. Red Harvest on the other hand demands that we feel empathy for an entirely new cast and an era of Star Wars lore that for many people, is still an unknown quantity. I'm not saying that you won't get a thrill from Red Harvest (which was originally to be titled Black Orchid until it was decided that sounded too much like a romance novel), just that the "scare factor" in Death Troopers was in most part because it involved elements we'd already invested significant time in coming to know and love. With Red Harvest even die-hard Star Wars fans will have to "work" at arousing the empathy needed to feel something toward the story's good guys.

So yeah, it wasn't quite up to the snuff that Death Troopers is, but I still have to say that I was entertained plenty enough by Red Harvest. It was good to see the concept of midi-chlorians explored further, and Schreiber also demonstrates in Red Harvest that he's not squeamish at all about turning the reader's stomach.

And hey, this novel has Sith ZOMBIES in it! Hard to say "no" to that :-)