Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mom is gone

At 8:26 a.m. this morning, my mother, Ruby Roberts Knight, went Home.

Thank you to everyone who has been keeping our family in thoughts and prayers.

I'm going to be away for awhile. Will try to return to this blog sometime soon.

EDIT 1:21 a.m. 12/29/2011: This has been the longest day that I can remember, from Tuesday evening on through the phone call early yesterday morning asking me to return to the hospice and then, less than an hour and a half later, Mom's passing. Between then and now have been our family making arrangements at the funeral home, a stream of visitors to our home, and many many phone calls and text messages (my sister Anita swears that her iPhone is going to explode from all the traffic!).

Some will no doubt be wondering how I'm doing in light of my disclosure on this blog that I have bipolar disorder. To be honest: better than I thought I would be. But I couldn't have gone through this were I still the person that I was a year ago. What happened that made the difference? I can only say this: in our tribulations, God makes us stronger. This morning Dad and I held Mom's hands as she passed away, not letting go for some time after the nurse called the time and told us that Mom had gone. And, well... I just can't imagine being able to do that before.

I'm only taking my regular medication for bipolar right now. There are some stronger meds available within my grasp, but I didn't want to go on them. Not for this. Just, had to be there, all there, for her. For my family. I'll write more about that later though.

But if I'm strong at all through this, it's only because God does grant peace. It is to Him that I cling right now. Just as I cling to the promise that this is not the end. That I will see Mom again someday.

As soon as I came back home from the hospice I began to write Mom's obituary. It was something I told Dad the morning before that I wanted to do, for her. Didn't have much time to compose it before it was due, and it came during the most exhaustive stretch that I've yet experienced (have had not more than 10 hours of solid sleep during the past two weeks).

Here it is.

Ruby Roberts Knight
REIDSVILLE — At 8:26 on the morning of December 28 2011, surrounded by family and with her husband and son holding her hands, Ruby Roberts Knight was let slip from the circles of this broken world, away at last from her pain and suffering and into the comforting presence of her Lord.

Funeral services will be held 3 p.m. Friday, December 30, 2011 at Midway United Methodist Church with Rev. Larry Scott, Rev. George Roberson and Rev. Sandy Brown. The burial will follow in the church cemetery. Pallbearers at her funeral: Craig Roberts of Clemmons, Kenneth Roberts of Reidsville, Jesse Roberts of Reidsville, Frankie Stiers of Palm Bay, Florida, Walter Joyce of Reidsville, and Chad Austin of Raleigh. Honorary pallbearers: Richard Wright of Reidsville, John Ashe of Reidsville, Lee Patterson of Reidsville, and Ed Woody of Waynesville.

Born on December 3, 1937, Ruby was the daughter of Elsie Wimbush Roberts and James "Duck" Roberts. In addition to her parents, Ruby grew up in a rambunctious household with six brothers and one sister. From her family she learned the value of love, of laughter, of devotion to those cared for and of faithfulness to God. She was a woman of great generosity, of formidable temerity when roiled to stand for good cause, and always a figure of inspiring courage. Ruby did not complete high school but was later proud of achieving her G.E.D. In 1970 she married and in the years following gave birth to two children: each of whom she encouraged to pursue education and to never stop learning. In 1977 Ruby was one of the first to be employed at the new Miller Brewery in Eden: she worked as a labeler operator until her retirement in 2001. In her spare time Ruby enjoyed traveling, hosting visitors (many of which over the years came to her house from distant countries), sewing, sharpening her keen mind with crossword puzzles, and especially cooking: a skill that she inherited from her mother. She was a member of Midway United Methodist Church and maintained strong ties with Evangelical Methodist Church, both in Reidsville. She was preceded in death by her mother, her father, her brother Franklin Stiers, her brother Michael Stiers, her brother Wayne Roberts, and many others who had gone on before into the presence of the Lord.

She is survived by husband of 41 years Robert Rankin Knight of the home, son Robert Christopher Knight of the home, and daughter Anita Christine Knight of Dunn, North Carolina. She is also survived by sister Glendora Roberts, brother Kenneth "Nub" Roberts, brother R.A. "Snooks" Roberts, and brother Jesse James Roberts, all of Reidsville. Ruby is also survived by a very special friend of the immediate family, Kristen Lee Bradford of Roanoke, Virginia. She is also survived by many, many nephews and nieces, several cousins, and a lifetime's worth of friends and co-workers, many of whom lovingly referred to her with the childhood nickname that she carried throughout her life: "Sister".

The family will receive friends Thursday, December 29 at Wilkerson Funeral Home from 7 to 9 p.m. and other times at the residence.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Hospice of Rockingham County, PO Box 281, Wentworth, North Carolina 27375.

Condolences may be sent to the family at www.wilkersonfuneral.com

Published in News Record on December 29, 2011

There will be more but for now, I need to take care of my family. Expect some new blogging after we have finished doing what we need to do. And again, for all who have sent condolences, on behalf of Dad and Anita and the rest of our family, I thank you.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Our first Christmas together

Still on my traditional holiday break but I couldn't resist sharing this photo from yesterday of Kristen and I on our first Christmas as boyfriend/girlfriend! :-)

Incidentally, plans had to be changed and so we weren't able to watch this year's Doctor Who Christmas special, "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" together. But since we'll be together again tomorrow (for our six-month anniversary, yay!!) we're gonna catch it from DVR then and I'll post a review soon after.

In the meantime, hope y'all are still enjoying some Christmas :-)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011!

Since the Muppets have roared back in style, here's this immortal rendition of them singing "The Twelve Days of Christmas" with John Denver!

I think that's like thirty years old, but timeless as ever. I figured it would be good to depart from blogging for the time being with something we could all smile about.

Longtime readers know that there is a tradition on The Knight Shift but last year there was a break from it, for reasons which were beyond my control. I had been looking forward to continuing that tradition again this holiday season but with each passing hour, well...

I am going to take a break from blogging for the next several days, as has been my usual custom at this time of year. There might be a review of this year's Doctor Who Christmas special (which if I get to watch it, will be in far better circumstance than I have seen any of the previous ones). But along with everything else, that is something very much up in the air at the moment.

There is more that I could say about the situation in my personal life right now. The best I can say for now is: we have given it to God. But if last Christmas was the very best one of my life to date (as I wrote about in Part 1 of Being Bipolar earlier this year) then what I am facing now, I am able to do so with an incredible peace in my heart... and that peace is only because of the One this holiday celebrates the birth of.

This could be the last time that I get to write on this blog for a good while. But until then, whenever I can return, I wish you and yours only the very best this Christmas! And also a very Happy Hanukkah for our Jewish friends and brethren :-)

And now, as always happens whenever I leave for the holidays, there is something that I wrote when I was a columnist for our student newspaper at Elon. Thirteen years later, it's still one of my all-time favorite pieces. I always look forward to re-posting this, so here 'tis once again.


Originally published in The Pendulum, Elon University, 12/03/1998

Celebrating the Christmas season means celebrating the memories
Chris Knight
Columnist

     Some of the best memories that we take through life are about the times we cherish the most. And sometimes, it doesn’t take much to bring back the joy.
     Last Friday as I was driving around Greensboro, the all-time coolest Christmas song ever came over the speakers.
     Who knows what this genius recording artist’s name is? Does it really matter? Whoever he is, he’ll forever be remembered as giving us the immortal sound of “Dogs Singing Jingle Bells”:

Arf arf arf,
Arf arf arf,
Arf Arf Whoof Whoof Whuf…

     Ahh... you know how it goes.
     And there’s the ever-beuh-beuh-beauh-beautiful rendition of Porky Pig singing “Blue Christmas” and the Chipmunks and of course “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Christmas at Ground Zero,” but hearing those dogs singing “Jingle Bells...” ahhhhh.
     It brought me back to the very first time I heard that: on the radio coming back from school just before Christmas in 1982. I was in third grade at the time. And it brought back memories of the Christmas we had.
     It was cold and very cloudy. I remember that because Santa had brought me a telescope and I didn’t get to use it that night. Which wasn’t too big a worry, ‘cause me and my sister had our brand-new Atari 2600 to play with!
     Another Christmas memory: To this day, I’ll never forgive Anita for the pounding she gave me in “Combat.” I don’t care how fancy Sega or the Playstation get... they’ll never touch the 4-bit pleasures of the Atari!
     There have been many a Christmas since then, and I remember each one well, for all the little things they had with them.
     I’ll never forget Mom and Dad taking me and my sister to see Santa Claus at the mall in ‘84. That morning Dad asked if I’d come with him to cut firewood, so we rode the tractor into the woods. There had been snow earlier in the week, which lay around us in the crisp, cold morning.
     Dad also brought his 30-30 rifle, why I still don’t know. After we had the wood loaded, Dad asked if I wanted to try shootin’ the gun.
     There I was, a ten-year old kid, holding what looked like an anti-aircraft cannon in my tiny hands. Well, I aimed at this tree like Dad told me to, and pulled the trigger.
     To this day I cannot describe the colors that flashed before my eyes, or the sound in my ears. When my existence finally returned, I was flat on my back in the snow, and blood was gushing from between my eyes where the scope had hit my nose from the backfire.
     That night Santa saw the bandages and said “Ho ho hoooo, and what happened to you, little fellow?”
     “I got shot, Santa,” was the only thing I knew to say.
     Hey, was I gonna lie to the Big Man? Uh-uh, no way was I gonna lose all that loot!
     The following year’s Christmas I remember for many things, but especially feeding the young calves on our farm. It would be the last year our family would be running a dairy farm, and I had started helping with some of the work around the barn.
     Dad set up a Christmas tree in the milking room, with wrapped-up boxes beneath it.
     Tinsel hung from the front doors of the barn. And there was something about the feel of the place there, that has always held a special place in my heart, as if we knew that there would not be another Christmas like this one.
     I wish there had been another Christmas on the farm, because there’s something I wish I could have seen. And as silly as some people might find this, I really believe that it happens.
     You see, if you go out at midnight on Christmas Eve, you will see all the animals in the farmyard, and in the fields, and in the forests, and wherever else they may be, stop where they are.
     And then they kneel.
     They kneel in remembrance for another night, long ago. It was Christmas, but how many people could know it then?
     Nothing remarkable, to be sure: Caesar had decreed a census through the land, and each man went with his family to his town.
     One man in particular took his wife, a young woman quick with child. But there was no room for them at the inn. So that night, in a dirty and filthy stable and surrounded by animals, a child was born.
     You see, it’s easy for us to forget. At this time of the year, we are too overwhelmed by the consumption and the material and the glitter /and all the customs that come with Christmas.
     And it’s too easy for us to forget that Christmas is, before everything else, a birthday.
     But the animals, who watched over Him as He lay as a newborn babe, two millenia ago... the animals have not forgotten.
     And so they kneel every Christmas and give glory to the newborn king, and in awe that God would send His Son to live among us in the greatest act of love.
     And to teach us many things, but especially to “love one another”. And to bridge the gap between man and God.
     The birth of Jesus Christ: the greatest Christmas present there will ever be. His birth, which would give mankind the greatest present it could ever ask for.
     Who in the world on that night could know the price that this present would someday have?
     Heaven and Earth sang praises to His glory on that night. The animals have always remembered that night. And Heaven and Earth still praise and sing unto Him.
     And if you only take a little time out from how busy things become at this part of the year, you can hear the singing, too. And it is a great temptation to join in that chorus.
     And perhaps in hearing, we will not forget the real meaning of Christmas, either.
     This Christmas Eve night I plan to be outside, with the same telescope that I got for Christmas all those years ago, and trying to envision a bright star over Bethlehem. Around midnight, I’m going to take a walk over to my aunt’s farm.
     Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth, and goodwill toward men.

Dedicated to the memory of W.C. “Mutt” Burton, for whom Christmas was always “In My Bones.”


From our house to yours, Merry Christmas! y'all! :-)

Friday, December 23, 2011

"Peace on Earth" and "Good Will to Men"

The 1939 classic and still heartbreaking animated short, "Peace on Earth"...

The 1955 "remake" produced by none other than William Hana and Joseph Barbera, "Good Will to Men"...

Do the Georgia mountains harbor Mayan ruins?

Found this curious lil' article by one Richard Thornton at Examiner.com, as it was cited a number of times throughout this past day. If there's anything of merit to this thesis, there exists the possibility that the Maya civilization once stretched from the Yucatan as far north as Blairsville, Georgia!

From the article...

Archaeological zone 9UN367 at Track Rock Gap, near Georgia’s highest mountain, Brasstown Bald, is a half mile (800 m) square and rises 700 feet (213 m) in elevation up a steep mountainside. Visible are at least 154 stone masonry walls for agricultural terraces, plus evidence of a sophisticated irrigation system and ruins of several other stone structures. Much more may be hidden underground. It is possibly the site of the fabled city of Yupaha, which Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto failed to find in 1540, and certainly one of the most important archaeological discoveries in recent times.
According to the theory presented here, the age of these structures discovered in the Georgia wilderness corresponds to the sharp drop in the Mayan population of Mexico and Central America. Given how the Georgia sites bear striking similarities to Mayan irrigation canals and other constructs, along with some cultural and lingual evidence, it is the belief of some that there could have been a migration of Maya to the southern Appalachian region.

Wow!! VERY interesting, if there's any substance at all to this. It would go neatly hand-in-hand with a lot of the other stories that pervade this part of the country, like the massive Stonehenge-like megalith circle that once sat atop Stone Mountain (the Ku Klux Klan got ride of 'em about a hundred years ago when the likenesses of the Confederate generals were being carved into the rock face) and the local Native Americans said they had no idea who erected those boulders to begin with. Then there are the odd mounds and carvings here and there from South Carolina on up to the Ohio Valley.

Gonna be keeping a keen eye on this one. Stuff like this, it's practically like porn to me! :-P

Thursday, December 22, 2011

First trailer for Ridley Scott's PROMETHEUS

Did you know that next year will be thirty years since Blade Runner: the last time that Ridley Scott gave us a science-fiction movie?

Based on this much-awaited first trailer for Prometheus, I'm praying that it won't be another thirty years before Scott delves into the genre again!

So if you don't know already, Prometheus is sort-of a prequel to Ridley's 1979 Alien (and by extension also a prequel to James Cameron's Aliens from 1986). It just won't have those chest-bursting xenomorphs, allegedly. Ummmm confused by that? Yeah me too, a bit. Still gonna see this on opening day though :-)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Time for some classic Christmas music

Looks at the first THE HOBBIT trailer, my Precious!

It was ten years ago this week that The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring came out and last night on the way out of town for the evening I had that movie's score soundtrack playin' good and epicly loud from my car's stereo... and I found myself thinking then "I wonder when we'll see that first trailer for The Hobbit?".

Lookee what was already several hours online when I got home a few hours ago!

Ohmigoshohmigoshohmigosh...!!!!!!!!!!!!

That. Is. One. Hell. Of. A. Toad-strangler. Of. A. Trailer.

Heck, it is insanely better looking than anything I had expected of The Hobbit movie, now a decade after Peter Jackson and his crew delivered The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Yeah I didn't know if The Hobbit was gonna work at all...

Color me persuaded with extra portions of giddy!

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey comes out next Christmas season, with Part 2 of the story following in 2013.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Iraq: Well, THAT didn't take long...

I hate to say "I told you so" buuuuuuut...

For quite a long time now and most recently five days ago, I have argued that going to war in Iraq would have disastrous long-term consequences and chief among those is that without a "strongman" to hold that country together, Iraq will tear itself apart into sectarian strife. The classic model for my thesis is Yugoslavia: a "nation" that much like Iraq was cobbled together from leftover realms in the aftermath of World War I. And just as Marshal Tito kept the various factions like the Croats, the Bosnians, the Serbs etc. from killing each other, so did Saddam Hussein put a lid on the Sunnis, the Shiites, the Kurds and everyone else from destroying Iraq from within.

That's NOT any justification for Saddam Hussein, mind you. The man was an evil bastard. It's just the peculiar dynamic of any artificial nation like Iraq that it has to have a powerful central figure wielding exorbitant military force to keep the peace among the various ethnic and religious factions. That central figure was Saddam but when the United States deposed him, we took responsibility for Iraq!

(Okay, not the American people per se, but our government certainly did... and for the moment I'll let it remain an exercise for the reader as to whether our government is beholden to We the People anymore. But I digress...)

So with the United States military not even 24 hours departed from Iraq, that country's Shiite-controlled government has put out an arrest warrant for Iraq's vice-president, Tariq al-Hashemi, who is a Sunni.

Expect this sort of thing to continue to happen.

Incidentally, it was former president George W. Bush who had the "genius" idea of putting the Shiites in charge of Iraq. Some will try to blame Barack Obama for that, but there's no basis for it. And I ain't an Obama supporter by any means either. I'm just an American citizen who expects better of his elected representatives. Including a greater than basic grasp of history and culture of the places we muck ourselves up in.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

North Korean tyrant Kim Jong-Il has died

Breaking news right now...

And in related news...

"Generalissimo Francisco Franco is STILL dead!"

Vaclav Havel, a true leader among men, has passed away

Vaclav Havel, who was born poor, became a pundit, then turned playwright, wound up a political prisoner, and ended up president of the newly-free Czech Republic following the Velvet Revolution that precipitated the fall of the Soviet Empire, has passed away at the age of 75.

Havel lived the kind of life that would have been hard to believe, had it not really happened. Yet for all of it he maintained an intense sense of humility. I've heard stories about how when he was president (a job he did not want at all) that he would often show up unescorted at pubs to discuss matters with his fellow Czechs, as well as popping up unannounced at historic sites to serve coffee to tourists.

Havel did not like being a politician. And I'll dare not sully his memory by referring to him as such. He was, instead, a sincere statesman in every possible sense of the word.

Thoughts and prayers going out to the family of one of the greatest leaders of the past half century.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A response to a challenge on baptism

A few days ago the following e-mail arrived...
"Chris you are WRONG. Baptism is required for salvation! Acts 2:38 has Peter commanding that we be baptized FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS. Mark 16:16 commands baptism and without it we are damned."
There was more to it but that's the heartmeat of this individual's contention. I don't know what precipitated this correspondence. Maybe it was the "Meditation on Baptism" post nearly three years ago. Maybe it was one of the numerous posts I've had to make about a certain cult operating in this area: a group that has among other things harassed others who have met to worship in peace.

Okay, fine. I'll respond to it.

Here is Acts 2:38, as translated in the 1611 Authorized Version (AKA the King James Bible):

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

For all the beauty of the King James Version, it is rife with problems. Those stem from two primary factors: that the Authorized Version was a project that King James used to placate the Puritan faction of the Church of England (i.e. it was a political stunt, plain and simple) and the fact that the primary source material of Greek manuscript for the Authorized Version was apparently the Textus Receptus of Desiderius Erasmus. Now, Erasmus was otherwise a brilliant scholar, no doubt about it. But the Textus Receptus was hands-down his sloppiest piece of work ever (he was rushing to win a contest... and he didn't have that many manuscripts to draw from to begin with). Combined with the aforementioned purpose of affirming in approved canon the doctrines and ordinances of the Church of England over all others and you get the idea of what is wrong with the King James Version (though I still love the overall beauty of its language).

But anyhoo, let's look at the passage that this reader (and others) have attempted to use to insist that water baptism is necessary for salvation: "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins..." I emphasized the word "for" because in the Greek the original word is "eis". And "eis" does NOT easily translate into "in order to receive..." Rather, the more accurate rendition is "because of".

So let's translate Peter's statement again, this time with "eis" correctly translated...

"Then Peter said unto them: Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ because your sins have been remitted."
That makes much more sense. It also reconciles that bit of scripture with the story of Cornelius, the first Gentile to become a Christian (recorded in Acts 10) who along with his household had already believed in Christ. That Peter baptized them was outward affirmation that Christ came for all nations, and not merely the Jewish people (per the vision that he received as recorded earlier in the chapter). Here also, we find that baptism is not for salvation, but is rather for all of those who are already in Christ and His church.

That might seem a small matter today, but in those heated days of the early church the issue of non-Jewish converts to the Way (as Christianity was called in the beginning) was a serious controversy. Peter baptizing Cornelius and his family was a threshold moment for Christianity. They were baptized because they had faith in Christ and because of that faith, their sins were already forgiven. Hence, they were fully entitled to baptism, without any regard whatsoever for their nationality.

So that takes care of Acts 2:38. But what about Mark 16:16? Here is what that passage has Jesus telling His followers...

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
Y'all want the "nice" reason first why this verse doesn't mean that baptism is a requisite for salvation, or do you want the "nasty" reason?

Fine. I'll start off polite. Here it is: this verse does not say at all that the absence of baptism equals damnation. It only states that "whoever does not believe will be condemned". Downright obvious, actually.

But here's the biggest reason why Mark 16:16 can not be used to claim that baptism is a requirement for salvation...

Mark 16:16 doesn't belong in the Bible to begin with.

Feel free to read that again after you've come down from the initial shock.

The Gospel of Mark is apparently the oldest of the four gospels, perhaps composed only about 35 years or so after General Titus and his boys laid waste to Jerusalem and the Temple there. But of all the oldest manuscripts that we have for Mark's book, none of them contain verses 9 through 20 of Chapter 16! The last thing that can credibly be ascribed to the Gospel of Mark is that "...the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid." And if you only have the King James Version to go on, it jumps from there to a sudden re-introduction of Jesus and an ending that is wildly different from the context of the rest of Mark's writing.

Long story short: Mark 16:16 and everything else from 16:9 onward is a later addition. Much later. Perhaps by a century or so. I've tried to find anything that demands why these verses do belong in Mark but as of yet, such justification has eluded me. If anyone has something that I might have missed, leave a comment here or shoot me an e-mail at theknightshift@gmail.com.

Does that mean that your friend and humble blogger is committing sacrilege by ignoring part of the Bible? Nope, not at all. Indeed it is quite the opposite: I am striving for nothing more and nothing less than to understand what the Word of God does teach, in spite of all that man has inevitably attempted to do with it during these two millenia out of either well-meaning or malicious intent.

And however one chooses to adhere to the matter of baptism, it must be acknowledged by all that the endurance of the Word of God - the Truth of God, of which the verbiage of scripture can be but a rough covering - is in and of itself nothing short of a miracle.

Friday, December 16, 2011

MAD TV presents: TERMINATOR 3: THE GREATEST ACTION STORY EVER TOLD

Y'know, the sad thing is: this sketch from Fox's MAD TV is soooooo much better than the actual Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator: Salvation, combined!

I think this was first broadcast before Christmas 1998. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 Terminator is sent back in time to protect Jesus of Nazareth in... The Greatest Action Story Ever Told!

Christopher Hitchens has passed away. And some words for more than a few fellow Christians...

The sad news broke early this morning that Christopher Hitchens, the celebrated, provocative and brilliant journalist/essayist, has passed away at the age of 62 following a battle for the past year and a half with cancer of the esophagus.

Even when I disagreed with Hitchens - and those times were numerous - I had to have grudging respect for the man, because it can't be said that he lacked consistency. He was one of the rare writers in this day and age who strove in his craft not for sake of political or ideological favor, but instead for nothing more or less than understanding of the human condition and its derivative culture.

Here is Hitchens' final essay for Vanity Fair, appearing in next month's issue. In it he wrestles with thoughts of his own mortality and determination of spirit.

And now, there is something that I feel led to say to too many of those who, like myself, profess to follow Jesus Christ...

To be blunt: I am very disappointed with a lot of you.

Yes, Christopher Hitchens was an avowed atheist. But even so: I'm not going to judge the man. And neither should anyone else. Yeah that means YOU too!

What is it about Christianity that seems to bring out the smugness and arrogance in some people? Especially when the choice to follow Christ at all is supposed to stem from an acknowledgement that we ourselves are not worthy of being in His kingdom... nay, of being anywhere within His sight, even!

Yet God loves us so and through Christ has adopted us into His realm. That should be cause enough for joy unceasing. And yet there are far too many Christians for whom that is not enough. For them, Heaven isn't sweet unless they know with absolute certainty that there is at least one poor miserable soul roasting in Hell for eternity. Based on what I've been seeing around the Intertubes since this morning, that particular soul of the day is Christopher Hitchens.

I honestly don't know who to feel more sorry for: a man who wrote that he did not believe in God, or a person who claims belief in God while literally gloating that someone else chose to be separated from that very God for all time.

I am in no position to judge the soul of Christopher Hitchens. But I can assert that based on what I have read of him and found in his writings, that he was an individual who not only struggled with the idea of God, but perhaps had more reasons than most to endure that struggle at all. That he chose to be open and even brazen about it does not befit one who is necessarily comfortable with the notion of there being no God. Rather it seems more that Hitchens was searching for a rationale for God's existence. And indeed, in recent months he had even begun to question his atheism within his essays.

I can't believe that God can't honor that. As our Lord Himself declared...

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

-- Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 7, Verse 7

And we should be thankful that the matter of our own salvation is not dependent upon the understanding of other men!

Because in the end, Christopher Hitchens was a frail man who did not possess fulness of wisdom and understanding. He was a person who was imperfect and had fallen short of the glory of God.

Aren't we all?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

New poster for THE HUNGER GAMES movie adaptation

I know practically nothing about The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, apart from this book being everywhere when I go into any of the local bookstores. In fact, the synopsis for the upcoming film adaptation - which I just read a short while ago - is all that I know about it at all...
Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the evil Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which "Tributes" must fight with one another until one survivor remains. Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy. If she's ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love. THE HUNGER GAMES is directed by Gary Ross, and produced by Nina Jacobson's Color Force in tandem with producer Jon Kilik. Suzanne Collins' best-selling novel, the first in a trilogy published by Scholastic that has over 16 million copies in print in the United States alone, has developed a massive global following.
What sayeth y'all who might have read this book: any good?

Here's the just-released poster for it, which has officially colored me intrigued...

Okay, I just found that there's also this trailer for it too...

Looks pretty solid. I may have to make time to read this book before the movie comes out :-)

The Iraq War is officially over

On this day, the Iraq War has officially drawn to a close. It began in March of 2003, lasting nearly nine years (more than twice as long as the United States took to fight and win World War II across both the Pacific and European theaters).

The Iraq war cost our own country nearly one trillion dollars. It also cost the lives of more than 4,500 American military personnel and more than 100,000 Iraqis (many of whom were innocent civilians not attached to Saddam Hussein's army).

Now... can anyone finally tell me why it is that we went to war in Iraq in the first place? "Enforcing sanctions" won't cut it. We lost too many lives and wasted way too much money on this fiasco. What has come of it? An Iraq which will sooner than later tear itself apart across ethnic and religious lines (specifically Sunni, Shiite and Kurd) and a wide-open corridor from its western border for Iran to get pokey with Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

In short: we took an already unstable world region and primed the fuse for even worse potential for globe-rattling mayhem.

The only reason we honestly went into Iraq to begin with is because we had, at the time, a small-minded narcissist in the Oval Office. A man who only got there because of his friendships and his family connections. A control freak who was too used to getting his own way. A simpleton who had no grasp of history and yet wanted to be remembered as a "war president". An individual detached from sympathy, empathy and sincerity. A man who thought himself and was allowed to think of himself as "favored of God" and that all others as such were expendable according to the whims of his divine right to rule.

Yes, George W. Bush and all of his kind... by all means, "Take a Bow".

Future generations will look upon this conflict - and what it will eventually spawn - and accordingly rank our own era as being among the most foolish in American history.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Time for... THE LOBO PARAMILITARY CHRISTMAS SPECIAL!

This was posted on the blog a number of years ago, minus an embeddable video. That's since been fixed and hey, it is too good not to share once again!

It's The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special! Adapted from the eponymous one-shot special published in the early Nineties, DC Comics' resident badass and intergalactic bounty hunter Lobo (one of Superman's more colorful enemies) is hired by the Easter Bunny to kill Santa Claus. A bit of warning: there's some pretty harsh language in this film... but it's oh so very funny!

Newt Gingrich: The GOP's John Kerry in waiting

I once met Newt Gingrich. He's a strong writer and speaker. I think he's got a very good mind for history. I also happen to share many of the views that he holds.

Nonetheless, I've got to say it...

Newt Gingrich is poised to become for the Republican Party in 2012 what John Kerry was for the Democrat Party in 2004.

Meaning that if Gingrich is the GOP's nominee for President, that will most likely assure that Obama will be re-elected.

Part of me is wondering if that might have been the plan from the start, although by whom and for what purpose, I could only speculate.

Can anybody provide evidence strong enough to compel me that there is any significant difference between the "two major parties" running the show in the United States? And that's all this really is: a show. Albeit one that has cost us billionstrillions of dollars, a wasted economy, individual liberty and even more than a few lives.

We, the American citizenry, will never be free until we make the conscious and conscientious choice to turn away from these petty illusions of political grandeur and at long last accept the responsibilities that God has entrusted with we the people.

(Just my .02 that I felt led to share after reading this morning's news...)

17-year old creates cancer-destroying nanoparticle (and wins lots of $$$ to boot!)

Angela Zhang (left) is probably like the vast majority of other teenagers in most respects. But how many other teens out there are also developing radical new therapies for cancer that might very well lead to a veritable cure?

That's what Zhang has been doing for the past two years, spending over a thousand hours researching and creating a microscopic means of destroying tumors. And for her efforts she has just been awarded the $100,000 Grand Prize in the Individual category of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology!

The title of Zhang's project is "Design of Image-guided, Photo-thermal Controlled Drug Releasing Multifunctional Nanosystem for the Treatment of Cancer Stem Cells". In layman's terms, it means that she developed a nanoparticle that, when delivered to the tumor site via the drug salinomycin, destroys the cancerous stem cells. Not only that but she smartly utilized gold and iron-oxide so that the particles could also be picked up on MRI and photoacoustics. Meaning that Zhang's method can overcome cancer resistance and be monitored in real time without any extra special equipment.

Clever lass, this one is!

Geek.com has more about Angela Zhang and her very cool work. Wouldn't surprise me if this product of her ingenuity sees routine use within the next ten years (if not sooner).

Friday, December 09, 2011

One reader's tale of incompetence at the Internal Revenue Service

Way, waaaaay back when this blog was just getting started, I posted an essay titled "People who should be shot when the revolution comes". It was a tongue-in-cheek (kinda) piece about who in our society should be the first ones to be thrown against the wall if and when the citizens of this country finally get their fill and overthrow those who have gotten too uppity for anyone's good.

That this particular post should come to mind more than seven years after writing it, might clue y'all in on the kind of rage that I feel when I read the e-mail that one of The Knight Shift's viewers sent me recently.

I can't put it any more plain than this: the income tax is a means of economic and personal slavery. Think about how much time and energy gets wasted by millions of honest people in this country every year. Seriously folks: ever think about about what could be done productively, if all those billions of aggregate man-hours that we spend preparing tax returns were done away with?

Then there is how decent people do their best to adhere to a mountain of burdensome legislation that not even the finest tax attorneys in the land can agree on what it's supposed to mean. It's just not possible. I guarantee that if the government wanted, that it could find grounds for criminal indictment against every single taxpayer in America... only because it's impossible to meet each and every single condition of a tax code that is ridiculously volumnious!

And then there are the heartless bastitches of the Internal Revenue Service. Heck, let's name some names here: like Robert W. Nordlander, the IRS "special agent" who prosecuted a cold and cruel vendetta against ultra-marathoner Charlie Engle. Click on that link and just see if that story doesn't get your blood boiling.

I bet what I'm about to share will resonate with too many good people as well. It's what one individual submitted and asked me to pass along to this site's readers...

Waiting for me when I arrived home this evening was an "important" message from the I.R.S., saying it was "important" that I return their call by close of business today (which surprisingly to me was 8 p.m.). I was also asked to reference a "case number" when I returned the call.

After confirming the number appeared to be legitimate from the IRS web site I returned the call, despite my concerns (who wants to get harassed by the IRS?) and suspicions (that this was a scam.)

I decided in advance that I WAS NOT going to give out any personal information, so I bypassed the prompt asking me to enter my Social Security Number. After a 10-minute wait, a "Mrs. C***, ID# [deleted]" answered the phone. She asks for my SSN, and I inform her I'm not giving out any personal information. "Well, we're not going to get very far," she replied. I told her the message I received instructed me to give a case number and that I would give that, which I did.

Little good giving the case number did though, as "Mrs. C***" said she couldn't give me any information unless I gave her my name and "verified" that she was talking to the right person. I told her why not give me the name of the person your trying to reach, and I'll verify if I'm that person or not. No good.

I then mention that I find it peculiar that the IRS would try to contact me by phone rather than mail about a tax issue. (Let me say here that I've been contacted about errors on my federal tax returns before, and each of those few occasions, I was contacted by mail.)

Her explanation was that the IRS does try to make initial contact with individuals by mail based on the address that's on file with their tax return. Only afterwards, do they try to contact an individual by phone.

So I mention that the address they have for me is good because I haven't moved since I filed my taxes. And since since I haven't received a letter prior to this phone call, I must not be the person they're trying to reach. She says, "No! What did I say?"

I responded, "You said that the IRS tries to first contact individuals by mail based on the address filed with their tax return if there are issues. Then you try to contact them by phone." She says that's correct.

So, I ask again, since I HAVE NOT received anything in the mail from the IRS, may I deduce I'm not the individual this case number involves?

"Mrs C***" tells me no, that she can't give me any information unless I give her my personal info, accuses me of arguing with her, says she has other calls she needs to take and that I need to go my local tax office for information.

I could see this wasn't getting anywhere (and wasn't going to) so I ended the call. This drives me crazy and makes me mad on so many levels I gave them the case number they referenced on the message. That's all they asked me to give, and that's all I was going to give. I've "rendered unto Caesar" and filed my taxes on time every year.

Perhaps what made me the most angry was "Mrs. C***'s" comment that she "had other calls to take." Last time I checked, the federal taxes I pay (and we all pay) pay "Mrs. C***'s" salary. The least she could do was do the job I help pay her to do and be a little more helpful.

This is the kind of bureaucratic crap that was symptomatic of the Soviet Union. And the late Roman Empire.

I defy anyone to tell me that the above example is something that should be tolerated by a free people who enjoy the liberty that God has given us and that so many fought... and died... so that we might continue to have.

And I was woefully shortsighted when I came up with that list in 2004. Perhaps we should make room for soulless cretins like Mrs. C*** and Robert Nordlander. I can hear it now...

"But we were only following orders! We were ONLY FOLLOWING ORDERS!!"

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Has the Dan Cooper skyjacking case finally been solved?!

Two weeks after the fortieth anniversary of his dastardly deed, it looks like the mystery of Dan Cooper might have been cracked at last.

And if true, it means that Cooper did survive his crazy stunt after all!

In the image above, you see one Lynn Doyle Cooper on the left and on the right, one of the sketches of Dan Cooper (or "D.B. Cooper" as he was erroneously referred to be by early press reports) made from descriptions given by passengers and crew of Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305: the flight that Cooper hijacked on Thanksgiving 1971.

Marla Cooper, niece of Lynn Doyle Cooper, has come forward to tell the FBI that her uncle arrived at her home on the day after the skyjacking. He was severely injured and claimed that he had been in a car crash.

But what's more, the FBI is apparently close to matching a fingerprint from Lynn Cooper with one found on a cheap clip-on tie that Dan Cooper wore (and left behind) on the plane before the scoundrel bailed out with a parachute and $200,000 into the frigid night of the Pacific Northwest somewhere over the state of Washington.

Lynn Cooper died in 1999. Meaning that if he was Dan Cooper, he got away and was likely laughing about it for almost three decades!

Mash down here for more of this story.

The one who voted against war with Japan

Yesterday was the seventieth anniversary of the Empire of Japan's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor: the event that catapulted the United States into World War II. On the following day President Franklin Roosevelt delivered the famous "Infamy Speech" before a Joint Session of Congress. Less than an hour after Roosevelt's address, Congress passed an official declaration of war against Japan.

And it was almost unanimous. The final tally was 388 for war, and 1 against...

Jeannette Rankin, member of the House of Representatives from the state of Montana, was the sole vote against the declaration of war. Rankin was also the first woman elected to Congress. During her previous term in Congress she had also voted against the United States entering what became known as World War I. And in case you're wondering, she was a Republican.

As you can probably imagine, Rankin's stance was roundly unpopular: not just with her constituents back home but all across America. She didn't even bother to run for re-election. She passed away in 1973 at the age of 92.

But as for why Miss Rankin did not vote for the war declaration, I can't but find her rationale to be intriguing...

"As a woman, I can't go to war and I refuse to send anyone else."
I must admit: as much as a military response was mandated by the horrific nature of the Pearl Harbor attack, I have to appreciate Jeannette Rankin's rationale. Had women been allowed to serve on the front lines or more to the point, had Rankin been a male... I can't imagine that she would have cast a vote against war. But neither of those happened to have been the case.

I believe that Congress did the right thing by voting for the declaration of war. But I also have to believe that Miss Rankin was acting according to the best of her principles by not voting for that same declaration. That may have conflicted with the demands of those she was elected and sworn to represent... but there I am reminded that ours is a democratically-elected republic and not a pure democracy. It's not perfect, but it's the best that man in his limited wisdom has been able to come up with so far as governing himself goes.

Jeannette Rankin's vote against declaring war with Japan is a most curious example of that.

And all of this was seventy years ago today, December the 8th 1941.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

George Burns presents CHRISTMAS CAROL II: THE SEQUEL!

AMC has been doing multiple broadcasts of A Christmas Carol, the 1984 television movie adaptation with George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge, for the past few nights. It's easily my favorite version of Charles Dickens' timeless potboiler (no really, he only wrote it to sell and pay some bills) although Patrick Stewart's one-man performance runs a very close second.

But have you ever wondered what happened after Scrooge changed his ways at the end of that story?

Well wonder no more! Back in 1985 there was a short-lived show called George Burns Comedy Week. It was a comedy anthology series hosted by Burns: sorta The Twilight Zone but all about the laughs. And just before that Christmas, Burns and company produced a follow-up to A Christmas Carol.

So without further ado, here is Roddy McDowall, Ed Begley Jr., Carolyn Seymour, Paul Benedict, and the one and only James Whitmore himself as Scrooge in... "Christmas Carol II: The Sequel"!

Part 1

Part 2

Harry Morgan has passed away

The sad news is coming out this afternoon that Harry Morgan, the already prolific actor before finding eternal fame on two of television's most classic series - as Bill Gannon on Dragnet and then Col. Sherman Potter on M*A*S*H - has passed away at the age of 96.

This guy shined in everything that he was in, during a career that stretched all the way back to 1942. The following year he appeared in The Ox-Bow Incident, quite a controversial film for its time. Morgan followed that up with roles in The Glenn Miller Story and Inherit the Wind. In 1962's How the West Was Won he played General Ulysses Grant. And those were just a few of movies that Morgan appeared in (along with quite a few comedies).

It was a Bill Gannon, alongside Jack Webb in Dragnet, that would have most cemented Morgan's place in entertainment history. But then he did Col. Potter in M*A*S*H: a role for which he earned an Emmy. And yeah I grew up watching M*A*S*H and I liked Hawkeye and Klinger and the rest... but for some reason Potter was even more the heart and soul of that show. A model Army officer and field surgeon, but with crack wit and profound wisdom. Not to mention some of the best lines of the entire show: "Horse feathers!" etc. And I also remember him in that series of "Incident" television movies that he made with Walter Matthau.

Rest in peace, Mr. Morgan. And thanks for the many years of good drama and great laughs.

Seventieth Anniversary of the Day of Infamy

Perhaps the most iconic photograph from the attack on Pearl Harbor: the battleship U.S.S. Arizona suffers a hit to her magazine by a Japanese torpedo.

1,177 sailors and officers perished aboard the Arizona. To this day, most of them are still there.

Today, seventy years later, there are approximately six thousand who survived the Pearl Harbor attack who are still among us.

Remembering them on this 70th anniversary, as well as those who died that day and those who have passed on since.

Monday, December 05, 2011

MUSIC FROM THE TRANSFORMERS TRILOGY (Look! Real physical CD!)

First things first: I have yet to hear any news about a CD release of the score from Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which was once again masterfully composed and orchestrated by Steve Jablonsky. A bunch of readers have been asking me about this for the past several months (and quite often more than once!). No word either on the rumored box set that would have Jablonsky's complete score from all three Transformers movies, which I would gladly plunk down serious coin for and based on the enthusiasm I've been observing, so would many others out there.

Until we have something more substantial to go on (and I tend to believe that it will be coming sooner than later) here's something ya might wanna check out: Music from the Transformers Trilogy!

Performed by London Music Works, this CD includes 16 tracks from the three movies: six tracks each for Transformers and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and four tracks from Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Some great stuff here (though I'm a bit disappointed that "Decepticons" from the first movie didn't make the cut). I don't own this yet but based on the samples on the Amazon.com page this is an amazing composition and definitely well worth investing in! I was especially impressed with the recording of "Arrival to Earth" (a track so beautiful that it has been used at weddings!). It's currently going for $14.08 at Amazon and I'm certainly ordering a copy right now :-)

And if you're feelin' lucky punk, ScoreKeeper at Ain't It Cool News is giving away five copies of this sweet album! Deadline for the contest is this coming Sunday, so click on the link and give it a try :-)

Zoe and Wally are in the first ever I Can Has Cheezburger? daily calendar!

Awright you're probably wondering: Chris who the heck are Zoe and Wally?!

They're my girlfriend's two cats. And two years ago she submitted this wacky photo of the two of them laying on her futon to the popular humor site I Can Has Cheezburger?...

Zoe is the black and white and orange one sitting at the far end, and Wally is the orange dude screaming (or whatever the heck he's doing). And they are now the January 10th featured photo from the I Can Has Cheezburger? 2012 Calendar!

Now available at fine retailers, bookstores and online outlets everywhere!

Leaking roof could lead to revealing of the Ark of the Covenant

There's no way that I'm going to make a post about this and not include a pic from my all-time very most favorite motion picture...

But if you thought that the Ark of the Covenant made its way to a warehouse in Area 51 (or a warehouse in Arlington, Virginia as one of my history professors said years before Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), it's been the longstanding belief of many that the real Ark is here...

The Chapel of the Ark on the grounds of the St. Mary of Zion Church in Aksum, Ethiopia.

The story goes that King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba produced a son together: Menelik. Years after the Queen's visit that was recorded in scripture, Menelik came to visit his father and it was at that time that Solomon let Menelik take the Ark of the Covenant to what is now Ethiopia. There the Ark was kept by Menelik's descendants and when Christianity arrived over a thousand years later, the Ark came into the custody of what today is the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia.

For the Christians of Ethiopia, the whereabouts of the Ark has been no real secret. It used to be brought out on certain religious occasions (always covered with a thick shroud) and kept in the St. Mary of Zion Church. Then in the 1960s the chapel that you see in the above photo was built and the Ark moved into it. Only one man is allowed to see the Ark of the Covenant itself: a "guardian of the treasure" who is appointed for life to keep the Ark safe from harm. Before the guardian dies, he chooses a young man to be the next to watch over the Ark. So it has gone for generations. The guardian never leaves the chapel, and no one else is allowed inside.

But now, the entire world might be about to see the Ark of the Covenant... all because of a leaking roof.

Rain water is now trickling into the Chapel of the Ark. A new temporary chapel is being built nearby to store the Ark while repairs are being made. And moving the Ark requires four men to pull it off. That's if the instructions found in the Bible are followed, anyway (which they should be, because both Bible and Hollywood warn about nasty things happening to those who would locate the Ark in anything but the prescribed manner).

There are two photographs of the Ark of the Covenant that I'm aware of. One of them was taken in the Fifties or Sixties and shows the Ark outside during a religious festival, completely covered. The other one shows a group of monks carrying a shrouded Ark with their backs turned toward it out of respect. There's something there, all right. And whatever it is, it might very well soon be all over CNN and YouTube.

Star Wars cello battle!

I am actually genuinely surprised that my good friend Brian (aka Darth Larry) had nothing to do with this, since he's a bigger Star Wars geek than even I am and also an accomplished cello player!

Here's the video that has musicians and saga fans alike everywhere talking today...

Thanks to Geoff Gentry for being the first among many to pass this along :-)

Thursday, December 01, 2011

How The Salvation Army created modern music

So it's December 1st and I'm finally allowing myself to enjoy the music of the holiday season! Not that I'm a grinch or anything. It's just... I've never liked how the Christmas stuff now seems to start coming out the day after Halloween (and lately even before then). It only "feels" like Seasons Greetings when it's after Thanksgiving, and maybe several days after that just for good measure. I mean, doesn't the year go by fast enough without it needing any "help"?

Well anyhoo, it being the time properly leading up to Christmas at last, I'll kick things off with a post I've been considering for some time now. It's a neat lil' bit of historical lore that I've always enjoyed and I like to think that others will appreciate it as well.

So here we go with the strange but true tale of how The Salvation Army from its very beginning was the catalyst for the style, the substance, and the soul of just about everything there is about modern contemporary Christian music... and much of other modern music too.

The Salvation Army is well renowned for a lot of things regarding its charity work and emergency aid in times of need. Right now as always this time of year, you can find good folks ringing the bell at those cute lil' Salvation Army red kettles all over the place (I'm gonna ask all of The Knight Shift's faithful readers to please consider chucking some coin in this season whenever you encounter one... and the people working the bells are always fun to talk to as well!).

But along with Christmas bells, thrift stores and charitable efforts throughout the community, The Salvation Army is also world-renowned for its brass bands. Once upon a time it seemed that every small town in America had a Salvation Army band playing around Christmas. These days you're more likely to find them in the United Kingdom, but a few places on this side of the pond still have a brass band affiliated with the organization. Even so, most Americans of the current era will probably only know a Salvation Army band from one's fleeting appearance in the 1983 film A Christmas Story (which was set in 1940).

But it turns out that The Salvation Army brass bands have some very neat history behind them. Indeed, it could be said that through its musical ministry, The Salvation Army has wound up pioneering a lot of modern melody!

It all began in 1878. The Salvation Army had been founded more than ten years earlier by Methodist minister William Booth as an effort to reach out in Christian service to the worst slums of Victorian-era London. And by the late 1870s the labors of Booth and his wife Catherine were beginning to bear great fruit: hundreds of English people - many of them alcoholics, drug abusers, prostitutes and countless others who had been deemed "undesirable" by the upper crust of English society - had been won over to Christ through the message of "soup, soap and salvation".

But eventually there was a problem. Namely, the owners of the saloons, pubs and beer halls around London who gradually came to lose a lot of money because formerly regular patrons began flocking to The Salvation Army instead. The new converts gave up liquor as they turned over a new leaf... and that didn't play too hot among the procurers of alcoholic beverage in the East End (where Jack the Ripper would run amok a decade later). That many zealous Salvation Army "soldiers" were returning to their previous haunts to preach against booze - and being fairly successful at that - didn't make Booth's cause too popular in many quarters, either.

Well, before long William Booth and his followers began getting heckled, jeered and cajoled by various drunks and louts. Sometimes it came to worse: Army members being assaulted and attacked and barraged with rocks and bottles. And it fast became apparent that William Booth and his Salvation Army... well, needed protection from the hostilities.

Enter into our tale one Charles William Fry, a builder from Salisbury. He and his family had joined The Salvation Army. And as concern grew over Booth's safety, Fry and his three teenaged sons offered themselves to be bodyguards.

It also just so happened that Fry and his three sons all played brass instruments.


Charles William Fry, his wife and their three sons

Now it was supposed to be that when Fry and his boys went out to keep Booth and other Salvation Army workers from harm, they would be providing musical accompaniment for the singing. But it didn't quite work out that way. Pretty soon other Salvation Army members were bringing their own musical instruments along. And they were using them... whether they had a lick o' music talent or not! Bells, banjos, drums, whatever could be found or crudely made, the Army wound up employing. "It sounds as if a brass band's gone out of its mind," said one observer.

But something else soon began happening, as well. You see, these poor and down-trodden who had thrown in with Booth's Salvation Army, well... "nice", "clean" Christian hymnals weren't something that they were accustomed to. Okay, they didn't know about them at all. These were people far more used to songs that you could drink some hooch to, then sing some more after getting all gassed.

And that's when it started. The Salvation Army members began taking popular songs about partying and getting drunk... and inventing their own lyrics for the same music!

(I guess it could also be said that The Salvation Army was already doing song parody about a hundred years before "Weird Al" Yankovic hit the scene, but anyhoo...)

Hit tunes like "Here's to Good Old Whiskey" became "Storm the Forts of Darkness". "Way Down Upon the Swanee River" inspired "Joy, Freedom, Peace and Ceaseless Blessing". Many other "secular" songs came to be adopted as Christian hymnals with unorthodox melody. And this went on for a few years. William Booth himself didn't know what to make of it. In fact, he came to harbor severe doubts about the music that his own group's members were coming up with.

Then came a night in January of 1882 when Booth was visiting Worcester. The Commanding Officer of the town's Army contingent, George Fielder, came to the stage and began singing "Bless His Name, He Set Me Free". It was something that Booth had never heard before, and he thought it sounded beautiful. Soon afterward he asked Fielder what tune it had been set to.

"General, that's a dreadful tune. Don't you know what it is? That's 'Champagne Charlie Is My Name'."

It was all that Booth needed to be convinced that whatever it was that The Salvation Army was doing musically, there was nothing wrong with it. "That's settled it," William Booth declared. "Why should the devil have all the best tunes?"

Over the next decade The Salvation Army published numerous official adaptations for the bands that were soon being organized throughout Britain, as well as several original compositions: most in the rousing style that the Army's band had discovered such enthusiasm for. The volumes of Salvation Army music proved to be wildly popular among Christian performers and secular artists alike. Some of the songs are still used by Army bands today. And it is a trend that The Salvation Army has continued on into the new millennium: adapting the message of Christ to current tempo even as modern music has followed the example of Charles William Fry and that first Salvation Army brass band.

The Salvation Army had demonstrated that music could be as malleable and adaptable as it needed to be in order to grasp the attention of an audience. It was a pragmatic approach that had not really been done before, and in retrospect has helped to shape and form not only modern Christian music, but music as a whole.

So this holiday season, the next time you crank up your iPod and listen to Lady Gaga or They Might Be Giants or whatever and you happen to see a red Salvation Army kettle, be of good cheer and think about dropping some change in. You're not just giving to a good cause, you're honoring your musical roots!