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Does this drug stop hay fever?

One blogger's medical report.

Bitter Blood: Thirty Years Later

The most bizarre crime spree in American history.

Is Priness Leia a Disney Princess?

We go looking for answers!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Michael Sheard has passed away

"You have failed me for the last time, Admiral." And with those words from Darth Vader, Admiral Ozzel - Michael Sheard's character in The Empire Strikes Back - went down in history as the first of many victims of Vader's deadly "Force choke".

I met Sheard a few times, the most recent being at Star Wars Celebration III in Indianapolis a few months ago. I knew he played Ozzel and he was the guy who played Adolf Hitler in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade but I didn't know 'til today that he'd been in a TV show over in Britain called Grange Hill and by all accounts his character on that show was a wild success. He also did a few episodes of Doctor Who.

So it is that I must sadly report his passing away yesterday. That and just wanted to say that he was a really neat actor and all-around nice guy.

President Bush speaks about the crisis..., that had to have been just about the most unconfident motivational speech I've ever heard.

CONFIRMED: Gas running out all over town

In the last half-hour I've called WFMY News 2 and Fox 8 WGHP, the two stations that give Greensboro the most coverage, about gas shortages that are said to be hitting this area. I received a report earlier today that a lot of the stations were putting bags over their pumps, signifying that they were all empty. One oil distributor that I know of is said to have shut down completely because there's nothing left to deliver. I've heard of at least one station in Winston-Salem that's run out, and have confirmation from a source known personally to me that many stations in the western mountains of North Carolina are going dry. In light of all this I decided to confirm it with News 2 and Fox 8.

WFMY told me that they've been getting reports about this all day, but they haven't been able to confirm it yet. However, Fox 8 said that it has been confirmed and there's even a blurb about it on their website right now.

So, it's happening. And it's starting to come down the wire.

American anarchy: 6 days and counting?

Parse this as you will. A pretty reliable source has shared with me that figuring in the blow that Katrina dealt to crude refining, and other problems that have hampered domestic production lately... that there is approximately 6 days of reserve gasoline in commercial storage tanks left in the United States.

And after that, there's no more juice.

Like I said, make of this what you will, but this source has made some pretty accurate prognostications in the past, just based on some seemingly minor observations. If they're wrong this time, I'll be happy. If they're right...

"Perched atop the stack was a bewildered toddler."

The New Orleans Times-Picayune has been forced to relocate their offices because of the flooding, but they're still working to get the news out via blogging. The following is their report from a Wal-Mart that everybody - and I mean everybody was looting from...
At the Wal-Mart on Tchoupitoulas Street, an initial effort to hand out provisions to stranded citizens quickly disintegrated into mass looting. Authorities at the scene said bedlam erupted after the giveaway was announced over the radio.

While many people carried out food and essential supplies, others cleared out jewelry racks and carted out computers, TVs and appliances on handtrucks.

Some officers joined in taking whatever they could, including one New Orleans cop who loaded a shopping cart with a compact computer and a 27-inch flat screen television.

Officers claimed there was nothing they could do to contain the anarchy, saying their radio communications have broken down and they had no direction from commanders.

“We don’t have enough cops to stop it,” an officer said. “A mass riot would break out if you tried.”

Inside the store, the scene alternated between celebration and frightening bedlam. A shirtless man straddled a broken jewelry case, yelling, “Free samples, free samples over here.”

Another man rolled a mechanized pallet, stacked six feet high with cases of vodka and whiskey. Perched atop the stack was a bewildered toddler.

Throughout the store and parking lot, looters pushed carts and loaded trucks and vans alongside officers. One man said police directed him to Wal-Mart from Robert’s Grocery, where a similar scene was taking place. A crowd in the electronics section said one officer broke the glass DVD case so people wouldn’t cut themselves.

“The police got all the best stuff. They’re crookeder than us,” one man said.

When even the cops are looting... man, how much worse can a situation like this get?

"Thousands of bodies" in Katrina's wake

Breaking on Free Republic now: word from a rescue worker that they are "thousands" of dead bodies - some hanging from the trees - being recovered in Gulf Port, Mississippi.

I didn't see any news footage today of bodies floating anywhere. It almost looks... well, too sanitary a disaster, for lack of a better phrase. It's been something I've wondered about more than once: are we not being shown the full brunt of the devastation?

If this report is true, other reports and then pictures are going to start leaking out. And then the major news outlets will be all over this. I'd give it a day, day and a half, at the most for this to bear out.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I was thinking the same thing: New Orleans = No Man's Land

Okay, despite my previous history with it, I still watch Free Republic from time to time. When it comes to something happening on the scale of Katrina, it really is one of the best places you can go to for on-the-spot reporting and commentary from some pretty sharp people. Even if its guiding philosophy has gone to pot: it's not a true conservative site anymore, but I digress... at a time like this, it really does become an invaluable tool.

Well, a little while ago somebody posted something on a thread about New Orleans being evacuated and, darn this is exactly what ran through my mind today when I first heard about the bridges being washed away, the entire town basically left on its own. I wanted to cite it here 'cuz this guy was the first, so far as I know, who made a note about this...

To: gondramB

5 posted on 08/30/2005 4:14:12 PM PDT by Future Snake Eater (The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.)

And others picked up on the similarities too...
To: Future Snake Eater

My gosh! That was what I have been thinking about since yesterday. The No Man's Land scenario after the earthquake devastates Gotham, where basically any people staying behind have to fend for themselves without any intervention from the govt.

73 posted on 08/30/2005 5:26:32 PM PDT by spetznaz (Nuclear-tipped Ballistic Missiles: The Ultimate Phallic Symbol)

Of all the Batman stories in the past twenty years or so, No Man's Land stands out as being the most jarring (yeah even more than what happened when Bane first came to town). Gotham City was ravaged by a massive earthquake that left the whole place pretty much hopeless. Bruce Wayne went to Washington D.C. to beg for disaster relief funds but the condition of the town - and its notoriety for spawning so many costumed freak villains - led Congress to effectively cut off Gotham City from the rest of the United States. People were told to evacuate, and those that didn't were left to their own devices. The U.S. government destroys all the bridges and every other way into town and for the next year Batman, Commissioner Gordon and a few others fight to maintain law and order amid a vicious turf war by the Joker, Poison Ivy, and the rest of the bad guys.

It's a very good story. It immediately came to mind earlier today after hearing about how bad things are getting. And it's downright scary that others who've read No Man's Land are seeing the same thing happen in real life.

Fill up now: price gouging has begun

I filled up my car on our way back from the bookstore tonight. It's a Shell station with the cheapest gas I've seen around here: $2.53 per gallon of regular unleaded. There's another station much closer by that had it at $2.69 when we drove past it earlier this evening.

On our way back, this same station had regular unleaded posted at $3.09 per gallon. That's a forty-cent jump in less than an hour.

I dropped Lisa off at the apartment, then drove her car back to the first one and filled it up too. Ain't no telling how much it's gonna be tomorrow at this time.

Radio stations here reporting a number of places in the Winston-Salem area have gas in excess of three bucks per gallon.

I know that refining is down from the hurricane, but you can't tell me that there's not any gouging going on right now by the big oil companies. The gasoline in most of these stores' tanks was delivered well before Katrina hit: it's not like it's costing extra to hold the stuff, is it?

Whatever Sudoku is I hope it's not contagious

It must be though, 'cuz I first heard about this in a newspaper two days ago and tonight at Border's bookstore there were maybe three books about Sudoku. And now my friend Chad has picked up on it. It's some kind of numerical logic game from Japan that according to Chad it's pretty addictive. I haven't played yet, haven't even studied up on the rules of the game but I might have to check this out.

Because we could all use a laugh right now...

Newsmax is reporting that the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky sexcapade is set to be portrayed next month in a new musical debuting on Broadway: "Monica! The Musical!-savoring glory.
Clinton Sex Scandal Ready for Broadway

A musical based on the sex scandal that turned Bill Clinton into the first elected president ever impeached is set to debut next month on Broadway.

"American Idol" veteran Frenchie Davis will play the role of Clinton's White House secretary Betty Currie in "Monica! The Musical!" - which premieres Sept. 21 as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival.

Actress Christine DiGiallonardo plays the thong-snapping intern, with actor Duke LaFoon potraying Bill Clinton in all his cigar-savoring glory.

"Monica! The Musical!" reportedly has its own "toetapping" signature song - "Blue Dress."

Also to be portrayed in the musical are Hillary Clinton, Vernon Jordan, Janet Reno, George Stephanopoulos, and Ken Starr (gotta wonder how he got worked into this thing).

I wonder if it'll be nominated for any Tony awards...

I've cried every time I watch this man

Harvey Jackson of Biloxi, Mississippi...
BBC has the story that's breaking hearts all over the place. Every time I watch Harvey Jackson talk about losing his wife like this I can't help but believe that he doesn't even know he's talking to a reporter, he's that kind of dazed about it. Not that anybody could blame him.

But I also like to think there's plenty enough room for a miracle: awful lot of incredible rescues happening from this. Praying that Harvey's wife will turn up safe somewhere.

Yesterday it looked like the big one had been dodged...

Today, there are reports that hundreds may have been killed in Katrina. No schools operating in New Orleans for at least the next two months. At least two levees have broken alongside Lake Ponchartrain - which is what everyone was really worried about - and the "bowl" of the Big Easy is filling fast.

Here's some of the more haunting pictures I've been finding...

I spoke prematurely yesterday when I thought this had been almost too easy. Not just in Louisiana but hundreds are being reported dead in Mississippi and elsewhere.

I never thought I'd live to see a storm that would topple Andrew in '92 as being the most destructive in American history. But, here it is.

Thoughts and prayers to everyone who's been affected by Katrina.

North Carolina is getting a lottery

Breaking now.


Finally, we won't be sending millions of more dollars of our money flowing across the border we have with every state around us. It gets to stay here in North Carolina, toward our own education system.

I never thought this day would ever come. We are no longer the laughingstock of the southeastern U.S.

Monday, August 29, 2005

It could have been a lot worse...

Damage reports still coming in, but looks like New Orleans dodged a bullet bigtime.

Here's praying that some steps can now be taken to better prepare that town for when the really big one hit someday. By all accounts it's a great place to visit. Really hoping to go there sometime :-)

Anyway, thoughts and prayers going up for the people having to deal with Katrina's aftermath tonight.

Bush is opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve... ummmm, why?

Coming down now that Bush is gonna open up the strategic reserve in light of Hurricane Katrina. Which makes NO sense whatsoever. The 'cane knocked out possibly one-quarter of domestic oil refining. Simply putting more crude oil out there isn't going to do any good without the means to "crack" it.

This is a political gesture, nothing more. And, it's one that could do potentially far more harm than good down the road, seeing as that's reserve that'll have to be repleted somehow. It's only supposed to be opened for extreme wartime emergencies anyway.

Like I said, this move makes no sense. But again, I'm just a guy with a blog... what do I know?

Meteorlogical muscleman

Somebody's noted that Joe Bastardi from AccuWeather has been up for like 40+ hours straight, studying Katrina and warning everybody to get the heck out of Dodge. Now, how does a weatherman keep going like that nonstop?

Well, here's what Joe looks like...

That is not a Photoshop-fixed image... that's what AccuWeather's Joe Bastardi really looks like! Turns out he's a champion bodybuilder in addition to being a top-notch weather guru.

I just thought that would be a pretty cool thing to post, to sorta break the tension of what's a very grave situation.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

About those refugees in the Superdome...

From Wizbang blog:
Riding Out Katrina in the Superdome

If you've watched the news, you've seen the long lines of people waiting to get into the Louisiana Superdome to ride out the storm. Nobody knows exactly how it will work, but here is an amalgamation of the most probable estimates I've heard from the "experts" on what these people will probably face.

It's a near certainty the electricity will go out about midday Monday. The Dome has backup power but it is only for lighting -no environmental controls- and the backup lighting is not full power. The Dome is about 20 stories high, but people will be scattered all thru it.

If the worst happens -and at this point it seems implausible that it won't- the bottom 2 stories will fill with water. Dirty nasty foul water full of chemicals and raw sewerage. Further the bathroom facilities are only expected to function for the first day.

So in rough terms, 40,000+ people will be trapped in a building with no plumbing, little light and no air conditioning. The temps after the storm rolls thru will probably be in the low 90s. Considerably hotter in the building.

There is an elevated paved deck that surrounds the Dome. It will most probably be above water but inaccessible until probably daylight Tuesday. Once the people can get out to the deck, they will still be trapped there because the city will be underwater. They will be an island. We have no idea how long it will take to remove the water from the city. I've seen estimates from 10 weeks to 10 months... yes months.

More at the above link.

I gotta bad feeling about this: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans

It's like an overload of weather pornography. The tube's tuned into the Weather Channel and I'm keeping an eye on the net for stuff as Katrina edges closer to, all the models are now saying New Orleans is looking to get a direct hit. In light of that, a few observations need to be stated now, because they may prove to have a lot of bearing later...

First, Governor Blanco of Louisiana practically told everyone that everything was going to be okay today at this afternoon's news conference. I believe she actually used the word "positive" to describe this experience. For whatever reason she's been VERY loathe to do anything like call for a mandatory evacuation and now it looks like FEMA is going to pre-emptively step in.

Meanwhile the crazy story at this hour is that New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin is consulting with his lawyers before he decides to call for a mandatory evac. Seems that the mayor is worried about the criminal elements looting and ransacking the town after most of the people start to leave. I've also heard that the city government would be financially liable for injuries/deaths that happen if nobody can be evacuated after such an order is given (is this right? I've heard from two sources that this is indeed the case). His office has taken the step of announcing that the Super Dome will open tomorrow morning to shelter evacuees in its higher levels but nobody is sure just how much pummeling the stadium can take. There's some hesitation to do even that 'cuz during Ivan last year a lot of refugees stole various items from the place.

What this all means is that a real evacuation order might not come down until tomorrow and then it'll be WAY too late to move everyone onto the interstates headed out of town... all because the local politicians are playing themselves some CYA.

And there's not nearly enough National Guard in Louisiana to be called up for assistance because a lot of them are away in Iraq.

And at least one radio station tonight is reporting that animals like turtles, snakes, birds, etc. are fleeing the coastal area and heading further inland. We're talking whole gangs and flocks of them. Animals don't usually act like that unless they know something's up, like the tsunami last Christmas in Asia: whole herds of elephants fled the coastlands many hours before the wave actually hit, and the stories about animals leaving before an earthquake.

Man, the way things might converge with this hurricane, it's almost like the perfect storm about to happen. This might be real history we're about to witness.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Gameboy Advance and Apollo 13

Right now History Channel is showing Apollo 13: one of the best movies ever made in my book. Still remember seeing this at the theater on the Fourth of July in 1995.

Watching it now reminds me of some illustration I used to do when I was teaching website design to middle-schoolers. On the first day of each term I started the lessons off with what we can do with computers now, and how far along they've developed in so short a time. Like, in 2002 the World Wide Web was ten years old and a decade earlier there were probably less webpages on the entire net than you could count on both hands... and ten years later we were at like 10 billion.

The thing that really struck them in awe was the Gameboy example. I held out my Gameboy Advance and told them how there was more computing power in this one small handheld unit than there had been used in all the Apollo moon missions combined. And, it's literally true: there wasn't all that much raw computing that went into each mission. Most of it was simple telemetry. Otherwise, NASA's computers were acting like glorified calculators computing trajectories and engine burns.

Sitting on your desktop, right now, is probably the potential for more mathematical calculation than all of mankind had ever done up to about twenty years ago.

This is the kind of thing that crosses my mind when I'm awake at night...

Katrina eying the Big Easy?

From NOAA a little while ago...
Remember last season when New Orleans was threatened a few times, and it kept coming up how that town would get destroyed if a major hurricane hit? Right now they're projecting Katrina might be a Category 4 by the time it makes a second landfall.

Just wanted to post about this 'cuz I'm fascinated by hurricanes, and this is one I'll be watching a lot during the next few days.

What OTHER reason do I have for blogging this early on Saturday morning?

Yup, it's another piece of brilliance from young master Kyle Williams...
The problem with trusting too much in reason, I believe, is twofold: First, Christianity is not reasonable. Paul himself declared the things of God to be foolish. To attempt to make the doctrines of Christianity reasonable from a human perspective and seek to "prove" things like creationism, Adam and Eve, and Christ's resurrection have more to do with a man-centered ego-trip than piety. Second, the basis for faith is not a vast knowledge of Christianized Western thought, nor talking points from Ray Comfort's ridiculous televangelism program. Yes, as Peter wrote, Christians must always be prepared to give an answer for their faith, but the grand rhetorical arguments of the greatest apologist shouldn't be the foundation for our faith.
And once again, WorldNetDaily is refusing to put Kyle at the top of their front page. Kelly Hollowell's piece is kinda interesting (I think the problem with this one is that she doesn't really focus on any one single subject) and Jerry Falwell's shallow essay is the often-repeated line of late that if you are against Bush you are somehow anti-American. It's a crime of logic that WND gives Falwell's piece a link but makes you dig through the site to find Kyle's stuff... the depth of which puts his elders to shame bigtime. Well anyhoo, ya got a link to him again so go check him out!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Looks like Chavez took Robertson at his word...

Venezuela is suspending permits for foreign missionaries after Pat Robertson called for that country's president's assassination earlier this week.

So Pat, which was more worth it: building up the kingdom of God or pushing a pro-American agenda?

Who am I kidding? It's pretty obvious which side of things Robertson is really on, unfortunately.

This one's for Doc: DVD review of Follow Me, Boys!

I'm gonna lay some things to heart with this one. It all started Sunday evening with a movie that until then I’d never really watched before...

One of the greatest heroes of all time, for me personally anyways, was Jim Valvano. About two months before he succumbed to bone cancer in 1993 Valvano spoke at the ESPY Awards and said something beautiful...

"To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."
To laugh, to think, to cry... every day. I've never forgotten that. And I've tried to live those words every day in the twelve years since Valvano spoke them.

To me, that's also what a perfect movie is all about: it will make you laugh, and think, and cry. A movie that does those three things isn't just worth renting, it's a prime candidate for space on your DVD shelf. Movies like that are hard to watch sometimes: something about them just tugs at your heart and makes a lot of things you've carried around come pouring out. Stuff you didn't even know was there. It hurts to watch it almost... but when the credits roll, you know it was time well spent, because you finished it and came out of it different. Changed. Relieved of something. It makes you thankful for what you've got and for what you've been blessed with before. And you were entertained. As Jimmy V might say: that's a heck of a movie!

Well, Sunday night I saw a heck of a good movie and it's been on my mind a lot this past week. It made me laugh like mad. It made me reflect some things. It made me cry a lot. And in the end, I think I came away a better man for it.

Lisa signed us onto Netflix, which might just be the best thing on the Internet in the history of anything: nine bucks a month gets you DVDs with no late fees and no drive back to the store. It also has a fraggin' humongous collection of movies. It'll even tell ya what's hot in your area (right now Phenomenon, Superman: The Movie and 28 Days Later are in this town’s top ten, go figure) and make some recommendations for you. That includes movies you probably never heard of or think to rent in the first place. So it was that Lisa found Follow Me, Boys! and put it in our queue.

I'd watched a little bit of this movie years ago, not really much at all though. I knew it was about a Boy Scout troop and I knew it was one of Doc's favorite movies (we'll get to who Doc was shortly). The DVD came Friday. Saturday we saw Must Love Dogs at the theater which was oooh-kay but it didn't have many dogs in it. It's a chick flick and Lisa said it could have been better but by that point she'd pulled the same trick on me to go see this with her that she used with The Notebook ("It's a World War II movie you'll love it honey!" when there was like twenty seconds of World War II in the whole thing. But anyhoo...). We watched Garfield on HBO later that evening which I wound up liking a surprisingly awful lot: a good easy summer evening's flick. Still, not cat or dog really "stuck" with me so far as movies went lately. Think I needed something more. Which brings us to the following night...

Follow Me, Boys is a neat lil' film released by Walt Disney Studios in 1966. It's got a great cast but there're four people that particularly stand out for me: first, there's Fred MacMurray. He was the father on TV's My Three Sons for several years and quite a few other movies including others for Disney, and his face was also the model for the look of comic books' Captain Marvel... who also happened to be Elvis Presley's favorite superhero. There's Vera Miles, who's done a lot of stuff including plenty more Disney movies over the years but she's perhaps best known as the sister of a certain lady who decided to take a shower at the Bates Motel in Psycho. Lillian Gish is in this too: she was one of the very earliest stars of the silver screen (she was in D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance if that tells you anything) and was widely considered to be an extraordinarily beautiful actress when movies were just coming about as an art form. And then there's Kurt Russell – all of about fourteen years old here in Follow Me, Boys! – a long ways off from playing Snake Plissken or MacReady in The Thing.

This is the perfect movie that encapsulates what it means to be a Boy Scout. I really wish I'd seen this sooner, because of that and because this was a favorite movie of "Doc" Lewis. Who was he? Well, the guy was practically the grandfather I never had. Alan Lewis died this past December, just shy of his 97th birthday after a life that most of us could only imagine living. This is a guy who acted on Broadway, knew George Burns and Audrey Hepburn, was very close friends with Norman Rockwell, visited every state but Alaska, was a world traveler, was a comedian without equal, could dance up a storm, could have spent the rest of his life being an entertaining sensation... and in the end dedicated it to helping young people. He became a teacher, then a school board superintendent for 30 years (the average nowadays is 3 years in one system). Might also be worth noting that he had one of the largest collections of Hummel figurines in the world: the guy was an authority on them bigtime.

I knew Doc from the Boy Scouts, in which he was an active participant for most of his life. He got the nickname "Doc" 'cuz he worked the health lodge at summer camp, patching up everything from splinters to broken fingers and then some. Geez, what couldn't this guy do related to Scouting? Doc lent his knowledge of theatrical special-effects to the Boy Scouts, especially its service brotherhood the Order of the Arrow: imagine Scouts in Indiana regalia swimming across a darkened lake in the middle of the night... while carrying torches. Or weird smoke coming out of nowhere. That was Doc's little handiwork. He was also the master of the campfire ghost story: the stuff he would tell you in the flickering light was either a true story that would send chills up your spine, or the setup for some hilarious punchline that would have you howling with laughter.

There was so much to Doc's life that if I were to sit here writing about it all, I would probably be working nonstop for the next week and a half. The guy was literally bigger than life, and almost impossible to believe if you'd never met him. And I wanted to write something to this blog then about it but his passing... really impacted me hard. I didn't know how hard until I saw this movie. Ya see, Fred MacMurray's character in this movie, Lem Siddons... well, that's who Doc was.

When the movie opens, Lem Siddons is part of a traveling band that's touring around in a bus. Lem is a good musician, but he's got other plans for his life: he wants to settle down somewhere and become a lawyer. So when the band stops in the little town of Hickory, Lem decides that this is as good a place as any to get started. He finds work doing stock in a local general store and starts cracking open books on law, studying to someday pass the bar exam. Eager to fit in with his new surroundings, Lem attends a public hearing one night about the town's young boys: it's felt that some kind of activity should be provided for them to be involved with. It's brought up that Hickory could use a Boy Scout troop, and Lem volunteers to help organize and lead it. It's just going to be for a short time, he thinks, and then he'll get back to studying so he can move on to become a lawyer.

That's the setup for this movie. Anymore and I would be treading too close to giving away a lot of delightful twists and turns that happen to Lem and his boys for the next twenty-some years beginning with 1933. We see Lem take on the first boys of the newly-inaugurated Troop 1. We see him reach out to Whitey (Kurt Russell), a boy from the wrong side of the tracks who feels like an outsider to the rest of the town. We watch and laugh as Lem wins the heart of Vida (Vera Miles), and share their heartbreak as she shares some terrible news with him. We watch these characters grow up over the years, dealing with circumstances and coming into their own, trying to make the best of what life is giving them...

...and ultimately that's what the heartmeat story of Follow Me, Boys! is about: Lem's plan for his life and what happens to it after he makes this initially insignificant choice of helping out with the town’s boys. In some people's estimation, what happens to Lem is a failure. But that's just going by the world's standards. For Lem, it couldn't have been any happier than what comes of his decision to volunteer, and the commitment he makes to the town and its boys. In the end, we see that the town has become just as committed to him.

Maybe that's why after we finished watching Follow Me, Boys! that I started crying like nobody's business. This movie made me think about my friend Doc, and the choices that he made in the course of his life. He could have been a Broadway legend, or a big screen sensation. He chose to give that up and became something else. He became an inspiration for there's no telling how many thousands of young men over the course of his life. I know that there would have been a lot missing from my own life had Doc Lewis not been involved with it in so many ways.

That’s why Doc was one of the two people I dedicated Forcery to. And I might dedicate another movie to him someday, if it has a bigger reach than this first one did: though Doc gave up acting for something else, I can still honor his memory this way by putting him in a movie in even this little way.

Follow Me, Boys! made me cry. It made me think. But it also made me laugh so hard that it literally hurt! Lem’s boys do some pretty outrageous things over the years, and I'm thinking of two things in particular: when the very first troop attempts to build a meeting hall on their own. And what happens to the troop in 1944 when they wind up in the middle of an army wargame. Again, I'm not going to spoil it here but trust me: it's a hoot! The scene where Vida shows up at the Scouts' camp with some home-baked goodies... well, again I shouldn't say too much here, but it's a pretty funny lil' bout of spite that goes on, that's for sure! Given the sheer number of laughs, I would chalk Follow Me, Boys! up as an overall comedy, instead of an outright drama. Yeah it'll tug at your heart but it'll play with your funnybone too!

This is a movie about another time: when nobody thought twice about trusting young boys to the company of one man (thanks for nothing, Michael Jackson) and everybody in town knew everyone else. When life for a young person was about other things than videogames and the Internet. This was a time when small bands still roamed the countryside to play for whatever audience the next town could give them. Reflecting on things after seeing Follow Me, Boys!, I think it's safe to say that there was a lot more freedom back then, and we only think we're still that free now. Except we either don't use it, or we really don't have it anymore. This movie is about the way America used to be. Lord willing, it's about a way America could be again.

The DVD is packed with extras, including a "looking back" documentary featuring many of the grown-up child actors that made up the Boy Scouts. There's also a neat gallery showing the movie posters and lobby cards from when it was originally released to theaters. If I've any complaints about the DVD though, it's that the movie seems all too obviously shot in a widescreen format and on this release Disney made it full-screen pan-and-scan. Maybe someday – most likely post-Eisner era – Follow Me, Boys! will get a much more faithful transfer. It also shows no signs of being digitally enhanced or cleaned up (i.e. there are scratches visible in more than a few places). But these are really pretty minor, and do little to distract from the quality of the movie.

So if you're in the mood for a little something different to watch and you're up for some classic vintage Disney with timeless qualities coming to us from yesteryear, and just want a darned good movie all the way around, give Follow Me, Boys! a shot. If for nothing else than because this is one of the first times that we all get to see Kurt Russell before he started making movies about Elvis, escaping from New York and fighting extraterrestrial bodysnatchers.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Is Xbox game a vision of our Shattered Union?

This one got on my short list of upcoming video games to look forward to a few days ago when I first heard about it: Shattered Union from PopTop Software, arriving on the Xbox (and Playstation 2 and PC) on October 4th.
It's a turn-based strategy game set in the year 2014, following the break-up of the once-great United States of America. This write-up from Business Week does a better job of explaining it:
So here's the deal. In the not too distant future the U.S. is the victim of a ridiculous amount of terrorist attacks, the most devastating being the nuke that vaporizes Washington D.C. One minute the President is celebrating his election victory and the next he, his cabinet, and the White House are vaporized. With no commander in chief/Congress, which is essentially the same as going away for the weekend and hiring a bunch of teenagers to watch your house, the country becomes totally unglued. Suddenly several states form their own unions and break off from their neighbors, becoming Greater California, New Republic of Texas, the Yankee Union (though I'm almost positive that New York and Boston will still argue over baseball), Arcadia (which is comprised of Pacific Northwest), Dixieland (I don't want to even imagine which states make that up), and finally the Heartland. Also, to make matters worse, a bunch of foreigners who call themselves the European Expeditionary Force thinks they know what America needs, but they're just sticking their noses where they don't belong. Yup, it's a real mess, as in worse than my closet.
There's some really good screenshots and Quicktime movies over at GameSpy that set the tone for what this game is set to offer. It looks pretty disturbing, to be honest: who's to say we aren't headed for a scenario like this in the not-too-distant future? Our political system is already corrupted beyond redemption, several states (especially those on the border with Mexico) are getting fed-up with Washington's laziness in handling the illegal migrant problem, and all it would take is one well-placed terrorist act to wipe out everything necessary for centralized rule and then the whole thing would fall apart in a... well, a shattered union. I'm gonna be keeping my eye on this one, it might be well worth investing in.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Brock Peters passes away

Maybe you didn't know the name, but you certainly remember his face... and especially his voice: Brock Peters has passed away at the age of 78.

He was the actor who played Tom Robinson in the movie version of To Kill a Mockingbird (with Gregory Peck playing defense attorney Atticus Finch). That's gonna be the role he'll be remembered for most, but he did tons of other things too. Years after Mockingbird he played Admiral Cartwright in two Star Trek movies, the more recent being Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country in 1991. For some reason that's the role I remember him in best: Cartwright's voice rising in protest to the other Starfleet officers, telling them all that the Klingons couldn't be trusted. 'Twas a great performance. Peters also was a voice actor on several cartoons.

But one other role that most people may not know Peters had: he was Darth Vader. When National Public Radio did their audio dramas of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and then finally Return of the Jedi, it was Brock Peters who did the voice of the Dark Lord of the Sith. I've got the Jedi one in audiocassette form when it came out some years ago and it must be said that Peters did an amazing job giving us a Vader on the verge of redemption.

Thought I'd make a note of that here on the blog: a great actor has gone from us, and one well worth remembering.

How gullible are you?

Take the Gullibility Factor Test and find out. I only missed one question, rating me as a "Free thinker" in the top 5% among people. Admittedly, a few of the answers I gave were just good guesses (like the gas hydrates one, which I'd never heard of before) but otherwise I'm pleased to hear that if this were The Matrix "you would have taken the red pill, completed the combat training, and started fighting (and beating) agents from day one." :-)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1629!

A group of historians in Great Britain spent a year living the life of Welsh farmers from the 1620s. They did the same farmwork, wore the same kind of clothing, ate the same food, and practiced the same hygiene as a typical family in Wales would have during the time of the Stuarts. They made a few interesting discoveries along the way that could be applied to our life today. Well worth a read.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Pat Robertson is a Christian?

On his 700 Club teevee show today he called for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez by the United States government.

No further comment.

New Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire trailer hits the 'net!!!!!

The Beauxbatons carriage. Mad-Eye. Fleur. The Yule Ball. Gillyweed. Ron in a tux. The World Cup attack. Cho. Dragons. Krum. The Goblet of Fire. Fred and George. Durmstrung students. The maze. Dumbledore. Mer-people. Tombstones. Cedric. Harry Potter.

Starting with Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling takes everything you know about children's books out into the street and shoots it in the head. Looks like the movies are going to keep pace and by the time we get the one for Half-Blood Prince... geez that's going to be one painful piece of cinema.

It's gonna be a long wait 'til November but the Leaky Cauldron has the new international trailer (with French subtitles) that oughtta drop jaws all over the place.

Happy Birthday to Ray Bradbury!

The author of Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes and a bazillion other good stories hits 85 today and alongside Isaac Asimov probably ranks as the worst ecological disaster of the past hundred years: ever think about how many trees died for the wood pulp to make paper for all this guy's books?!

The News & Record printed my letter to the editor...

You can read it here on the News & Record's website. Since it's something about their blogs, it seems only right to mention it on my own :-) It's evoked quite a lively debate too, from the looks of it. I just posted a response of my own, something that was a little longer than the paper's policy on editorial letters would allow. Ahhh the wonders of electronic publishing...

Anyway, I'm proud that they saw it fit for publication. And if anyone is finding their way over here from it, let me say welcome to ya!!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Gonzo send-off for the master of the artform

It could only have happened at a funeral for Hunter S. Thompson...

About 350 friends of the late writer - including Johnny Depp, who played Thompson in the movie version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - descended on Thompson's ranch at Woody Creek, Colorado to blast the gonzo journalist's cremated remains into the air in a fireworks display.

Here's the monument that's been raised to Thompson's memory: it's only like two feet taller than the Washington Monument (which is probably how Thompson would have wanted it) and the moment when Thompson's mortal remains were supposedly dispersed into the stratosphere...

Hunter S. Thompson has always held a lot of fascination for me, ever since I first read about him back in '89 (it was a Time magazine story that had that photo of Thompson shooting a typewriter with a shotgun out in the snow). Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is one of my all-time favorite books (and the movie just keeps getting better with each new viewing). Something about the guy's style, how it was like a running commentary of whatever flashed across his synapses (which were more often than not pretty well "chemically enhanced"). I've tried - and failed, miserably - to honor his style at times, but I just can't nail it. Maybe someday. That's one of my missions in life as a writer: to develop my own voice as a gonzo journalist, not in imitation but inspired somewhat by Thompson... minus the drugs 'course :-P

Anyway, I thought it would be pretty fitting to honor his memory (even though others may not agree with me doing so) with a journalistic nod of my own. Happy trails "Raoul Duke", wherever you are...

You can read more about Thompson's funeral here.

Can I play it on my Atari 2600?

If you've ever wanted to play id Software's original Doom game on your iPod or your digital camera or your calculator or your Kenmore microwave oven (am not sure about that last one though) go to and find a port so you can get your Doom fix anywhere and everywhere.

AMC's month-long James Bond run is good watchin'

AMC channel has been running them in sequential order every weeknight this month and right now they're showing The Man With The Golden Gun (with Christopher Lee as Scaramanga, who also predates Krusty as the the original "man with the superfluous third nipple"), so this has been the perfect time to watch all those James Bond movies that I've never caught before. I'll sadly admit that most 007 flicks have always been just off my radar range (the last one I saw was GoldenEye and I thought it was a rollickin' hella good ride!) but I think I'm finally starting to "get" the chemistry that's made this such a classic movie series. Friday night they ran The Spy Who Loved Me, which I'd also never seen before (as was the case with The Man With The Golden Gun the night before that) and tomorrow night they're playing Moonraker, the very first Bond movie I ever saw (when ABC ran it one Sunday night back in '84). I'm hard-pressed to tell you which Bond is my favorite though: I'm a big fan of Pierce Brosnan in the role, and Roger Moore is always gonna have a special place 'cuz he's the one I really "grew up" with and I've never seen the Timothy Dalton ones, but Sean Connery's Bond - the one that many argue was the greatest - is starting to really grow on me. As for favorite villain hmmm... well gotta love Goldfinger, and Scaramanga, and Blofeld of course (whatever did happen to SPECTER anyway?) but I think we need to see a return of Jaws: Richard Kiel is still looking pretty buff, c'mon put the cobalt teeth back in him and turn him loose! Anyway, most of these movies seem very dated by today's standards, but something about them still holds up pretty well. Who knows, maybe someday I'll have to make room on my shelf for a bunch of Bond DVDs :-)

EDIT: Richard Kiel is back as Jaws!! He reprises the role in the videogame 007 Everything or Nothing. Also starring in the game are Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, John Cleese as Q, Judi Dench as M (LOVED her in GoldenEye) and Willem Dafoe as the usual Bond supervillain. It's available on Xbox so I may have to check this out! :-)

Favorite post of the week

Of all the posts I made this past week, this one has paws-down gotta be my favorite :-) Guess I'm a sucker for little dogs or something...

This guy just hit on a surefire way to end ALL Islamic terrorism...

A rabbi in Israel wants to hang bags of pig fat in buses, as a means of deterring suicide bombers. The pig is a ceremoniously "unclean" animal in Islam (as it is in Judaism) but as some radical Muslims are in actual fear of being buried in pig skins and thus avoid the animals entirely, it might be enough to keep any with wrong intentions in mind a good safe distance away.

This lends itself toward another idea: serve large amounts of pork rinds on all commercial airline flights and means of mass transit. Leave the crumbs in the aisles and seat cushions. Make the entire plane and bus a massive poison pill to would-be terrorists and voila: a practical end to most terrorism!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Kyle Williams makes Jerry Falwell look positively mediocre, again...

I guess that's why WorldNetDaily isn't giving Kyle a top-of-the-page link anymore on Saturdays.

I do have to wonder why this is, seriously: Kyle Williams (along with Vox Day) is the most original, articulate and beautifully-written columnist that WND has. Lately WND is treating him like a pariah, or a crazy uncle kept down in the basement: they know that we know he's down there, but they don't want to bring him any more attention. Instead they give Falwell his regular front-page link, even though Falwell hasn't written anything original for WND since... Lord only knows.

Well, the Christian wunderkind that is Kyle Williams has another great piece this week and so its my task as usual to alert both my faithful readers to it: Click here for Young Master Kyle's latest, an essay titled "The empty lie of self-gratification".

Friday, August 19, 2005

Hospital MRIs attracting all kinds of trouble (sorta funny NYT article)

This ain't from The Onion folks. I wanna say this is funny but it's not really, but it's still something you have to almost laugh at: New York Times is reporting about the rising frequency of ferrous objects flying through the air toward the super-powerful magnets in hospital magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment...
M.R.I.'s Strong Magnets Cited in Accidents


Published: August 19, 2005

The pictures and stories are the stuff of slapstick: wheelchairs, gurneys and even floor polishers jammed deep inside M.R.I. scanners whose powerful magnets grabbed them from the hands of careless hospital workers.

The magnets inside M.R.I. scanners can pull in office furniture.

The police officer whose pistol flew out of his holster and shot a wall as it hit the magnet. The sprinkler repairman whose acetylene tank was yanked inside, breaking its valve and starting a fire that razed the building.

But the bigger picture is anything but funny, medical safety experts say. As the number of magnetic resonance imaging scanners in the country has soared from a handful in 1980 to about 10,000 today, and as magnets have quadrupled in power, careless accidents have become more frequent. Some have caused serious injuries and even death.

No one knows how many have occurred. But the safety experts say there is no doubt they are on the rise, and their growing frequency is prompting widespread calls for more regulation.

Safety guidelines drawn up by the American College of Radiology in 2002 and revised last year "have no teeth and are floating out there in intellectual Never-Never Land," Tobias Gilk, a Kansas City architect who designs medical scanning rooms, said.

He continued: "The X-ray in your dentist's office is more heavily regulated."

Hit here if you're attracted to the rest of the story. There's some pretty funny pictures there too, like one showing an office chair lodged inside an MRI.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Hack your car, get 300 miles per gallon!?

Good ol' American ingenuity never ceases to amaze...
The Telegraph in London has a story about people "hacking" their hybrid automobiles (the ones that use alternating gasoline and electricity to power the car). Many are reporting some pretty outrageous mileages...
Hot-rod heirs customise cars to give 300mpg
By Catherine Elsworth in Los Angeles
(Filed: 16/08/2005)

Owners of hybrid cars claim to be stealing a march on their makers by customising them to go even further for less fuel, in one case doing up to 300 miles per gallon.

Green-minded enthusiasts in California are turning the popular vehicles into "plug-in cars" that can be recharged using off-peak electricity from the mains.

The fuel-efficient hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic and Ford Escape, have two computer-integrated engines: a petrol and an electric one.

Both drive the wheels with the battery-powered motor charged up during braking and coasting. Unlike electric cars, they never need to be plugged in and achieve 60-72mpg, against 26-42mpg for the average car and 14-24 in a 4x4 vehicle.

Now a small but growing number of "hackers" are souping up models by reprogramming their computer and packing them with extra batteries that provide more electrical kick and burn even less fuel.

Critics say that rather than revolutionising fuel efficiency or cutting pollution, hybrid cowboys rely on coal-fired power stations for energy.

Ron Gremban, an electrical engineer and environmentalist in San Francisco, has spent £1,660 customising his Toyota Prius, fitting it with 18 electric bicycle batteries that allow the car to store extra power.

He plugs it into a domestic socket at night using power from solar panels. The extra batteries let Mr Gremban drive for 20 miles with a 50-50 mix of petrol and electricity. After the car runs out of battery it switches to the standard hybrid mode. Mr Gremban said he typically gets 96mpg. "This is a very dramatic breakthrough, especially in the sense that it relies on existing technology so we don't have to wait for any developments such as with hydrogen technology."

He was inspired to alter his car, he said, after learning that Asian Prius models had a "stealth" button enabling them to be switched to electric-only mode until they hit a certain speed.

The electronic tweaks he performed "fool the hybrid system into thinking the battery is fully charged" so it uses battery power at all speeds, rather than just during deceleration...

Cruise over here for the rest of the article.

Nintendo is going to the dogs!

I'd never heard of this at all until I saw a commercial for it earlier tonight. Ever since I've spent a good part of the evening hunting down any bit of info I could find about it. The more and more I'm finding, the more captivated I'm becoming with the idea of this lil' gimmick.

Coming out next week for the Nintendo DS (which along with its own price drop might be another good reason to finally put this on the Christmas wish list) is Nintendogs. At first look I thought this was gonna be something like those darned annoying Tamagotchi "virtual pets" that were all the rage several years ago (how many kids wailed in mourning after finding their precious Tamagotchi perished from malnutrition during their fifth-period spelling test? No wonder they were singled out for banning by many schools). It has some characteristics similar to Pokemon (which was a concept I dug a lot more). But otherwise Nintendogs is in a class all its own: it's a 3D puppy simulator that puts ALL the things that come with dog ownership (including having to break out the pooper-scooper) into the palm of your hand. Coming in three varieties (Chihuahua, Dachshund, and Lab), each one gives you about five different breeds of dog to choose from. Then you choose sex, then coat of fur, and then naming the dog... which is where the Nintendo DS's built-in microphone comes in. Yup, turns out you can actually speak commands to your digital doggie and he'll roll over, fetch the ball or bark. You gotta feed and water Fido too else he looks sickly and malnourished after a few days of no playing (I've no idea how far Nintendo is taking THAT part of the concept). Bring the system to nearby DSes that also have Nintendogs loaded and your pooch will "sense" other dogs in the vicinity and supposedly play with them if they are friendly or grow at them if they are not. And a ton of other stuff that sounds pretty amazing.

Nintendogs are apparently THE hot thing in Japan right now and based on early word they're gonna be a hit on this side of the pond too. Why? Well, if they're this realistic a simulation of a dog as it purports to be, this may be a nice thing to "tide ya over" if you're in a situation (like me) that it's not feasible to have a dog for the time being... but you still can't help being a dog lover. So help me I'm tempted to run out first thing next week and buy a Nintendo DS and the Dachshund edition 'cuz I'm a bigtime lover of weiner-dogs! I mean, how can you resist a videogame box that looks like this...?!

Anyway, I thought Nintendogs was well worth a mention here. Do a Google News search for the latest on these virtual bow-wows and there's a nice writeup about them already at USA Today.

And if you REALLY wanna see how cool this is, watch this MPEG-format video from Nintendo that shows off Nintendogs potential.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

82nd Airborne to Iraq isn't passing the smell test?

Something doesn't jibe here...

I found on the news tonight that the Pentagon is sending 700 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg to Iraq. Supposedly to be guard detail over detained insurgents and other prisoners.

Why are so many of the 82nd Airborne, a paratrooper division - and one of the most elite units of soldiers in the entire Army - being sent in to do something so relatively, well... un-paratrooperish as transporting prisoners and bolstering prison defenses?

Say I'm seeing too much into it, but this is something like flying a 747 into the regional airport at Hooterville. You don't bring in the 82nd Airborne unless it's for really major operations, usually. That's what they're trained for. That's what they're expecting. Either the Pentagon is getting very hard-up desperate for more soldiers to fill out the ranks in an existing theater of operations... or they're looking at expanding that theater of operations. Or possibly opening up an entirely new one.

But hey, as I've said before: I'm just a guy with a blog. What do I know?

I posted something to Democratic Underground a little while ago...

Even though it's been about a year since I promised myself I wouldn't become involved in the political discussion forums anymore. Guess you could say that after years of Free Republic and then Liberty Post, I woke up one morning, looked at myself in the mirror and didn't like what I was becoming. Nothing gets resolved in forums like these: they tend to be ugly and they were making me ugly in spirit.

So I've been away from them, and a lot happier for it. But in the case of my essay about the Cindy Sheehan protest down in Texas from the other day, I was way more than a little curious as to what kind of reaction it would bring from those who are closest to that. And since a few of my articles here have wound up posted on Democratic Underground, I opted to sign up with "theknightshift" handle and make a little post about it there. Someone over there was even kind enough to give my Sheehan essay its own thread over there. Thanks "Maddy McCall" :-)

I'm thankful for their take on my perspective. But I'm still going to prefer to be out here, instead of taking a more direct role in this kind of dialogue from now on. I enjoy watching all three of these forums, but like Robert E. Lee and alcohol, it is because I enjoy it so much that is the reason I choose not to participate anymore.

Look, the guy's still pretty new at this...

Pope Benedict XVI forgot to bless the pilgrims that visited his summer residence this week.

Am not Catholic but in a way, that says some good about the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. He sounds pretty humbled by the job he just took, is still "feeling it out", like it's not gotten the best of him. I'm not saying that giving a blessing to a crowd like that is a bad thing, but most people - if given this kind of power and authority - might let it go to their heads pretty quickly, and that's not happening with Benedict apparently.

By the way: after realizing he had forgotten the benediction, he came back out and gave it, offering his apologies to everyone for his absent-mindedness.

What does this say about the economy?

12,000 people apply for 400 jobs at the new Wal-Mart in Oakland, California.

Man, I don't know whether to say that's a sign of a "recession" or a "depression". I ain't never heard of an applicant/position ratio like THAT before.

What's next for KWerky Productions?

Forcery, looks like it's going to be broadcast in its entirety on a local television station in the very near future. This station is wanting to have ALL-original programming and they're looking at running films made in this area. For a lot of personal reasons, this station broadcasting my own movie is going to be a real highlight of Forcery's history.

But now, KWerky Productions is looking at other projects. Forcery taught us how to make a movie... and how not to make a movie! We feel emboldened to try a few new things now. So what's next on the plate?

Pre-production has started on Han or Hannah?, which may or may not be the last Star Wars-related fanfilm we do. The premise is simple: What if Ed Wood had made a Star Wars movie. We are going to make this exactly as if Ed Wood himself had done it. Among other things this means that I want to direct it while wearing a woman's dress.

But on the more serious side of things we also want to branch out into our own original stuff. I'm working on a new script right now, involving a subject matter that no one to my knowledge has ever touched on before. I guess you could call it a psychological/supernatural thriller. It's tone is a lot like Pi, which wound up being one of my favorite movies. I'm more into the research phase right now, reading up on everything pertaining to this, and sorta letting the script almost write itself from that.

Then there is something else that, I had this idea last week on the drive back from Georgia and after telling Ed about it he got pretty excited. We're hoping to get the ball rolling on this soon 'cuz it'd be a pretty new and bold route to making a movie, and it would be a neat way to render some community service of a sort.

And Ed has an idea for a music video. After hearing about it, I so want to make this! Maybe around Halloween we can have it ready (hint-hint).

Unclogging the crap from a cranky computer

So last night Lisa and I had dinner at the home of a family from church (this guy makes a pretty mean ravioli) and his wife asked if I could take a look at their computer: seems it was going torturously slow. So after the blackberry cobber dessert I followed 'em upstairs and went to work. It was indeed slow as molasses. Slower even. I spent the next hour and a half working on the thing. And ya know what the real problem was?

I downloaded Ad-Aware, in my experience one of the best anti-adware programs around, and installed to their system. For the next hour or so (figuring the restart after storms knocked power out momentarily) it went through the computer and located 553 bits of adware and spyware! No wonder it was crawling! Anyway after Ad-Aware scanned the system and quarantined the offending matter, the computer started performing much faster.

If your system seems to be slowing down, who knows but it might have some "barnacles" attached to the hull. Scrape 'em off with Ad-Aware, by Swedish developer Lavasoft. The basic program is free, with a paid version that comes with a lot more options and whistles. It's by far one of the more useful bits of software I have on my own systems.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

How about some wacky North Korean propaganda?

NK News is the only source you need (as if you really needed this sort of thing :-) for all the latest official party announcements from North Korea: enough Kim Jung Il to make you ill. Be sure to check out the Random Insult Generator for a healthy dose of ego-dashing vitriole. Special thanks to Melody Hallman-Daniel for sending in the link!

Casey Sheehan: He volunteered to serve America, not a President

Ever since coming back a few days ago I've had some mild interest in this Cindy Sheehan thing at President Bush’s "ranch" (I still haven't found anything on what is produced on this ranch). Maybe it's 'cuz it seems so simple a thing for a sitting President of the United States to come out and talk to a regular citizen on his own, without somebody advising him what to say or how to spin it, and he isn't doing that. The harsh truth of the matter is: we have never seen the real, candid Bush left to his own devices before the American people. I'd like to see that, and Sheehan is really giving him what could only be called a golden opportunity for Bush to show everyone how legit his personality really is. But he ain't taking it. Go figure.

I also know that Sheehan has been targeted by the Bush-bots because she dares disagree with the emperor. Some of the things attributed to her, I don't particularly agree with. But she's a grieving mother and the source of her grief alone merits consideration without regard for anything else she's saying. And if her son was killed in a war based on a lie pushed by this President... well, I don't see how it is that anyone could defend that President against a mother bereft of her son because of that.

But one thing in particular that the Bush-bots (sadly, that is what they are: unthinking robots programmed to follow and adore Fearless Leader) are now claiming got me to thinking. The 'Bots are saying that Cindy Sheehan is disgracing the memory of her son Casey because "he volunteered" to join the Army. That it was on his own volition that he chose to be a soldier. Therefore, in their logic it follows that it was Casey Sheehan’s own choice that led to his death (and I've seen it stated at least once by the Bush-bots that Casey Sheehan had it coming because he was a "bad soldier", believe it or not).

There are a few things wrong with the claim that because "he volunteered" that his death is somehow justifiable. The most obvious is that although Casey Sheehan volunteered to serve in the Army, he did not volunteer to fight in a war that began and is being continued on the basis of a lie. But that's already been stated, and I don't want to retread over ground that others have already covered more thoroughly – and more eloquently – than I ever could.

Instead, out of curiosity as to what it is exactly that individuals are volunteering to do, I did a quick Google search and came up with the oath of enlistment taken by personnel in all four branches of the United States military. Here 'tis...

"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."
Officers have a similar oath to swear...
"I, _____, having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God."
For sake of this essay I will refer to the oath taken by enlisted personnel, with the understanding that the one for officers is a necessary adaptation.

That said: Taking this oath at its most literal face value causes the Bush supporters' "he volunteered" argument to completely implode upon itself.

Let's be very clear on something: all service personnel who take the standard oath of enlistment are swearing to serve the Constitution of the United States. They are thus swearing to serve the people who consent to the Constitution. They do NOT – and can not logically – swear to serve the government that derives from the Constitution as though that government supersedes the authority of the people.

There is a difference between the country of the United States of America, and the government of the United States of America. "Government" does NOT equal "the country". Government does not define or establish the country. We are citizens of a country, not citizens of a government. This government does not now, ever has or ever will, establish the rights and freedoms that we have as the American people. We are free by the grace of God, not by the grace of government. And this government exists by OUR grace. It answers to US. Or it's supposed to answer to us anyway.

Casey Sheehan volunteered to do something, on a professional basis for a period of his life, that every single one of us should be doing for free all the time by whatever means God gives us: being wary of threats to our great country. This government, on the other hand, can go to Hell.

Service personnel swear an oath to serve the Constitution of the United States and those who subscribe to it. NOWHERE in this oath is it found that they are servants of the government of the United States. Even much less are they deemed to be servants of whoever it is who currently has power over that government.

The only reference to particular individuals in this oath is the part where the enlistee swears to "obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed" over him or her, with respect to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That's understandable: the success of any military organization depends on adherence to a chain of command, and this part of the oath is where the enlistee promises to acknowledge that chain. However, it does not ascribe superiority of the President of the United States over the authority of the Constitution. Indeed, it should already be understood that the Constitution is the highest authority of the chain of command, with all others – including the President – deferring to it.

Casey Sheehan swore to defend the people of the United States and their Constitution. Casey Sheehan did not swear to be a member of George W. Bush's personal cadre for the task of executing whatever private vendetta Bush has. Casey Sheehan was our servant, not Bush's servant.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice leaves no room for already-enlisted personnel to object to service in a war on the basis that said war is founded in a falsehood: Article 92 makes it illegal to disobey any lawful order, meaning that unlawful orders can and are expected to be disobeyed (Nuremberg settled that 'un bigtime) but an unlawful war is nowhere in the Code's jurisdiction. It's not supposed to be anyway: Whether a war is morally justified is something left not to the soldiers, or to the "elected leaders", but to We the People.

Whatever her motives may be, right or wrong, that is what Cindy Sheehan is doing right now. She is calling for accountability from the government that was established by the Constitution of the United States. A Constitution derived from the consent of the people. A Constitution that her son Casey swore an oath in good faith that his time and talents would be used to uphold and defend to the best of his ability.

But Bush supporters don't want this government – and especially "their man" – to be held accountable. They are the furthest thing from true conservatives that can possibly be: They want power over other people. And they will attack anything that they deem to be a threat to "the way things are". Truly, they do believe that anyone who signs up to serve in the armed forces is cannon fodder without apology for whatever mad plot comes across the mind of George W. Bush.

How dare the extremist Bush supporters seek to shut up this woman? They refuse to attack the message, so instead they opt to attack the messenger. The best way to counter Cindy Sheehan would be to defend the war with as much vigor as Sheehan is giving to denouncing it. But so far they do not seem willing to do this much.

Or could it be that Bush supporters don't really have anything of substance with which to defend this war? The best they can come up with is "we support our President, we support our troops" blah blah blah (as I noted earlier they're wrong to call them "troops") and use that as the primary basis for attacking Sheehan (more than a few times I've seen it suggested that she be tried for treason and hanged).

Well, as I said earlier, and despite some things she has said that I strongly disagree with... Cindy Sheehan could be doing a far greater good in light of this war than most people realize.

Bush is not our king, and he never will be. He is, at most, a bully who was made President through party affiliation and personal connections. And one way or another he must be made to understand something: That no one among the American people will be considered a disposable resource for sake of his own convenience.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Dad said years ago this would happen someday...

Truck drivers across the country saying the CB channels are full of chatter about bringing the big rigs to a halt to protest the rising fuel prices.

Dad says that all that would be needed to shut this country down, would be to honk off enough truckers (most of whom are independent contractors) and there would be no more groceries delivered, no more goods coming into the neighborhood stores, no more of a lot of supplies for needed services... well you get the picture.

This thing could turn into a full-bore general strike, if worse comes to worst.

They are SOLDIERS, darnnit... not "TROOPS"!

I'm reading some stuff about this Cindy Sheehan business where Bush is vacationing on his "ranch" (just what does this ranch produce anyway: beef cattle, dairy, ranch dressing...?) and I just have to rant about this...

Call them "soldiers". Do NOT call them "troops"! A troop is a unit of soldiers, not the whole mass of soldiers put together. Say you SUPPORT THE SOLDIERS but please in the name of all that's good and holy STOP SAYING "SUPPORT THE TROOPS"!! I mean, the singular of "troops" is "troop" but when was the last time you called the highway patrolman who's writing out your citation a "state troop"? Call them "troopERS" if you must, but no more of this "WE SUPPORT OUR TROOPS" crap. It just ain't accurate.

While we're on the subject, I support our soldiers. I do not support the meaningless war that our soldiers have been put into, however.

Hotel Rwanda will really choke you up

I've been meaning to see this for awhile, and last week it came courtesy of Netflix: Hotel Rwanda. It's a movie that came out about a year ago recounting the real-life story of Paul Rusesabagina, manager of the posh Hotel Milles Collines in Kigali, Rwanda. When the country erupted into civil war in 1994, Rusesabagina saved the lives of more than 1,200 Rwandans by sheltering them in his hotel. It's a POWERFUL film, and quite a sobering one: the Hutu slaughter of the Tutsis was one of the most horrific events of recent history, and the filmmakers really confront you with visuals that echo all too well the rivers and roadsides swollen with corpses. Don Cheadle has the best role of his career to date as Paul Rusesabagina: a man ready and willing to do anything to save the life of a neighbor... even if he's never met that neighbor. The DVD is packed with extras, including two documentaries: one is about the making of the film, the other is about Rusesabagina's return to Rwanda after almost seven years away. PLEASE be mindful that this second one has some quite disturbing images that may bother some people: it sure did me. But don't let that hinder you from seeing Hotel Rwanda: it is not only an involving drama, it is an entertaining (and when appropriate, humorous) movie that will affect you on so many levels.

Friday, August 12, 2005

I've unplugged from The Matrix Online

After previously extolling the strengths and virtues of this game, I sadly and reluctantly was led to cancel my account with The Matrix Online a short while ago.

I really, really hated doing this, because The Matrix Online (a) has one heckuva beautiful graphics engine (b) has the most compelling premise of any online game to date and (c) is intended to give players a real part to play in the ongoing Matrix storyline. It's just simply a gorgeous landscape to run around in... and I'm having to leave it.

Why? 'Cuz sad to say, there's just no new content being created for this game, and there hasn't been for some time. They did some gutsy things like killing off Morpheus and introducing a few compelling story arcs, but for the past three months there's not been anything substantial added to this game. The "grind" of leveling-up characters has become long, monotonous and just plain boring: it's the worst of any online multiplayer role-playing game that I know of. I'm not the only one feeling this way right now: account memberships have dropped so sharply that they actually combined all the previously existing servers into three new servers. Otherwise it was looking like an empty shell of a city all across the board. Well, the drop-off in the quality of the game is only one reason why so many are leaving: the real one during the past month or so has been the takeover of The Matrix Online by Sony Online Entertainment... the same company that took Star Wars Galaxies and turned it into Star Wars Costume Party. They wrecked what should have been a winning game from the start, and there's no sign that they've learned any of their lessons now that they have The Matrix Online.

I called an 800 number to cancel my account and talked to a friendly customer service rep named Steven. He was extremely courteous, didn't try to pressure me into staying on, but he did ask me a question or two about why I was leaving. I told him that I couldn't justify paying $15 a month for a game that has become, for all intents and purposes, boring. But I also told him that I'm a huge Matrix fan, that I do like the ideas behind this game and that if it gets its act together then I would definitely reconsider reactivating my account. Maybe it will... who knows? But in the meantime, although I'm going to keep an eye on things with The Matrix Online I won't be one of the "toons" dodging bullets in the streets of the mega city.

Price of oil has jumped 300% since Clinton left office

Have read a few places tonight that it was $22.50 per barrel just when George W. Bush was sworn in. It's now $66 a barrel and only going up.

Funny thing is, Bush chided Clinton back in 2000 about the escalating price of oil. What does he make of a 300% jump in it on his watch, then?

The only reason I'm up right now posting about this is because lately I've been doing a lot of study on petroleum production and possible alternatives to gasoline. I'm inclined to believe that the point of Peak Oil has now arrived and we are seeing the beginning of a rapidly dwindling supply of crude (or at least the readily-refinable "sweet" variety) that cannot meet escalating demand (especially from India and China, where petroleum demands are beginning to vastly outstrip those of the United States). Two possibilities exist from this point forward: a drastic change of lifestyle as formerly plentiful liquid fuels "dry up", or look for other forms of liquid fuel that might be used in already existing engines with some modification. Primary problem here is that many gasoline alternatives - such as ethanol - do not have the energy potential of "fossil fuels".

The best recourse we might be faced with would be a conversion to biodiesel as soon as possible. But I don't know how easy (or even feasible) it would be to convert a gasoline engine to diesel (which could run most biodiesel with no problems). Can anyone enlighten me as to whether this is possible? 'Cuz some interesting stuff I'm reading suggests that if we could do this, if current research bears out we could produce more than enough bio-derived energy to meet not only current demands but those of the next several decades.

So the good news is there is hope if we are almost out of petroleum. But it's gonna take a little bit of effort to make it work... if it's indeed possible.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Now it IS "The end of the world...": Prophetic article from 1999?

The following item isn't something "new" in the least bit. It was first printed in my old college newspaper more than six years ago. I had no plans to write something that week: the following edition would be my "farewell column" before graduation but my editor told me the morning of deadline day that he had too much empty space on the op-ed page for this week and he needed someone to fill it. Since he'd considered me to be his "wordy wordy monkey" I obliged him by promising to write something... even though I had no idea at all what I was going to write about.

So, I wandered around campus the rest of that day, trying to find my Muse. Listening for whatever it was that I was supposed to write about. Elon University really is one of the best places I've ever found to walk around until something presents itself. Lot of rain that day. I think it was finally about 4 p.m. that some things "clicked" in my mind, and I slammed out the following essay. Two days later when the paper hit a lot of friends told me that it was "a really deep article" that they had to try and wrap their brains around. I didn't intend for it to be OVERLY heady... this was the purest essence of my take on things that got poured into MS Word, just because a friend was desperate for filler material and asked if I could provide it.

I refound this a little while ago. Looking back on it now, I have to wonder what exactly was going on that day that made the cylinders fire as they did. It's a very dated read now because it refers to Y2K, the situation in Kosovo back then, and Star Wars Episode I which was getting released the following month. The first part of it reads like a guy with a "Pollyanna" schtick going. The rest of it though... well, in light of the situation our world is in now, and how fast things are headed downhill, it just seems downright too prophetic: we ARE fast approaching the worst stagnancy that human culture has ever known, and very few people seem to want to stop that train from flying off the track. The stuff about "empire", that now seems like too much foretelling of the rise of the neo-conservatives who've gotten us so bogged down in Iraq. A lot of other things that make this article resonate so strongly today.

Anyway, make of this what you will: from the April 22nd, 1999 edition of The Pendulum at Elon College (now Elon University), here is my essay...

'The end of the world as we know it?' I don't think so

Chris Knight

According to some students of esoteric lore, the next month or so is when Nostradamus prophesied the end of civilization would occur, with a great cataclysm.

Nilus, a fourth century Christian, foretold of the coming of the Antichrist before the end of 1999, after describing in detail such things of this century as telephones, aircraft and world war.

All over the world people have become so terrified of the "Y2K bug" that some are digging bunkers and stocking up on food and ammo, hoping to "ride out" what they believe will be a global catastrophe.

One of the hottest sells in bookstores lately has been Apollyon, the latest of the "Left Behind" series set in a post-Rapture world (think of Book of Revelation meets Tom Clancy, meets The Winds of War). Meanwhile, Christians everywhere have begun interpreting the times to mean that the Second Coming of Christ must soon come to pass. Some say that Kosovo will erupt into World War III.

How appropriate that in the midst of "millennial madness," Stephen Jay Gould spoke here a few weeks ago about the times we live in. Especially of late, Gould has been critical of the idea that we can know the future. According to Gould, the obsession that some people are having about the "end of the world" is so much foolishness, particularly religiously-inspired eschatology.

I am a Christian. Meaning that I have accepted Christ as my personal savior, and I believe that a relationship with Him is the only way that a person can enter into the presence of God. I came into that relationship after a life of experiences, especially the experiences I've had at Elon College. So too, as part of my faith, do I believe that Christ will return someday. As a Christian, that much of the future is already established.

That doesn't mean I'm gonna join in the frenzy, though. As Jesus Himself said, "NO MAN knows the hour..." Whether it happens in the next several months, or even in my lifetime at all, that's not something to be worried about. Shoot, I got more stuff out the wazoo to take care of than I know what to do with: post-graduation plans, gearing up to see Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, wanting to travel and see more of the world, get married someday... TONS of stuff. The stuff that life is made of, y'know? I mean, remember Bobby Fischer? He was the world's greatest chess player back in the Seventies. The guy had everything, then he dropped out of sight and started living in cheap motels and getting boozed up, because he was waiting for the Second Coming. That ain't LIFE, man! And that ain't what God wants you to do with it, either: He wants you to be living for Him, but still be grabbing life by the horns and not letting go!

Still, regardless of all the end-time scenarios that are getting chucked around lately, I do wonder if humanity has reached a summit... or perhaps a plateau is a better term. Professor Gould may have been partly correct that we can not predict the future with any reliability. But perhaps, it is that we no longer have any reason to predict the future. If we are not at the end of the world, we could be at an end of history.

Note that I say "an end," not "the end." By "an end of history," I am not speaking of the apocalyptic or supernatural at all. It is something that man has brought upon himself, whether by grandiose dreams and designs spread out over millennia or the simple cravings of the human nature that have steadily brought manking to this point. It is the course of history, culminating in a long-sought "equilibrium" on a global scale.

Throughout recorded time, history has been divided into epochs of "empire:" the Babylonian, the Greek, the Roman... onward until the English and finally, the American empire. The "empire" is the binding force of human civilization: for good or ill, "empire" determines the value of currency, establishes the frontiers, and interprets and enforces the law. "Empire," whatever its name, is what man looks to as the identity of whatever time it is he lives in.

"The empire" has remained the same; only its seat has changed. The influence exerted by our leaders in Washington D.C., though in a radically different form, is essentially the same as that of, say, Xerxes of the Persians, two and a half thousand years ago. And the same of Hadrian, and the khans of Mongolia.

And up until about the middle of this century, "empire" has taken the course it had been on for the past six thousand years. And then something became apparent: that the growth of empire had increased the effect that regionalism was having worldwide.

Consider the two World Wars: they were not true "world wars" at all, in that they were confined to two separate theaters in Europe and the Pacific Rim. But economies and whole nations worldwide were affected all the same. And after the conflicts, there was one undeniable seat of empire: the United States.

There has been one great characteristic that all forms of "the empire" have shared throughout time: growing centralization. It's an aspect of the increase in power that comes with grasping the economic and military reins.

And with this centralizing of military, infrastructure, and economies, there is almost always a breakdown of empire. Consider the Roman Empire, which became so ingrown and heavy upon itself that it collapsed, unable to bear its own burden which had been added to by internal corruption. The Roman Empire fell, only to have "empire" further built up upon its ruins, expanding further.

Now consider that for all intents and purposes, America has become the new Roman Empire, only ours has a truly global influence and a far greater disadvantage.

Without any further frontiers to push into (unless you want to consider colonizing Antarctica), and with the rest of the world either province or periphery, WHERE is it left for "the empire" to expand, to add unto itself? There is nowhere... and no other left to take up the burden of "empire."

There becomes a lack of vitality, and subsequently a waning drive for civilization to improve upon itself. Advances in sciences and the arts steadily dwindle. Ultimately, all that is left is for the seat of empire to try to hold itself together. That has become America's motivation on the world stage in this decade (and I think that trying — and failing — to maintain the situation in the Balkans is part of that effect).

Here's where I'm getting at with all this: as this world becomes more "globalized," we are looking at a breakdown of everything we have come to cherish of human civilization. It's losing its vibrancy, everything is becoming lackluster. There’s an "equilibrium of mediocrity" we are approaching.

Consider that the American of 1800 had far, FAR more rights than you or I enjoy in 1999, with far less to pay for them but his or her own drive and initiative. Growing centralization on a global scale has hit you and me in ways both apparent and subtle... all in the name of a global "community" but more accurately, a global "empire."

This is why I said we are at "an end of history," because in such a time as we are entering into, what is left for history books to be written about? Human progress is slowing down under its own weight for the sake of empire. It needs to break free, with as few limits as possible.

I have some ideas for that. First, we cannot change the world overnight: we need to start "locally." America should consider taking a "protectionist" or perhaps even a bit "isolationist" stance, at least for a decade or two. We need time to examine ourselves internally, and try to determine who we are again, and where we are going.

Second, we should take steps to end centralizing everything here into what is becoming one giant bureaucracy. Localized governments are far more efficient than our federal one. This may sound extreme, but a HUGE step would be to eliminate the Department of Education and let communities run their own schools. Putting all the schools in this country into one basket just opens itself up to incredible abuse and corruption, at the cost of the best education we can give this country's children.

Third, we should really consider getting out of the United Nations. The UN began with the noblest intentions, but time has proven it to have been a grand failure so far as creating and "maintaining" peace goes. It was doomed from the start, because it took the best elements of "empire" and magnified its vulnerabilities to human nature.

I've already argued in past columns, human nature is, on its own and without God, inherently corrupt. If we get out of the UN, now, we will be setting an example to all nations of the world: that they have to start looking to God and their own experiences, and not the illusion of combined human "wisdom," to guide them.

For the young people of our generation, this world still holds great promise. I believe that each of us has God-given potential to make something better of this world than how we first found it.

But we need to take a good, hard look at what this world is becoming now, if we want to someday leave our children and theirs with the same opportunities that we have been blessed with.

It sounds like an impossible task to cut off "an end to history," to break apart an "empire," but it can be done. It might be hard, but it will be fun. And if we need any more enticement, think of it this way...

It will be revolutionary, in every sense of the word.

Like I said, this was written over six years ago, and it's pretty open to interpretation, so feel free to do so.

I'm really new to this whole Cindy Sheehan business...

...but it seems to me like it should be a simple enough affair: Bush should look her in the eye and tell her for what reason was it that her son was killed in Iraq.

In another time, real men could do that much.

After-Action Report: Revenge of the Sith at Atlanta's fabulous Fox Theatre!

The only way this could have been better would be if a good friend had gone with me to this. Otherwise, I can't imagine a finer way to have ended seeing the first-run theatrical release of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith than what happened the night before last.
This needs a little setup though: Monday afternoon Lisa and I were driving down to Atlanta for something of a business trip (we'd been staying with her family an hour away) and as we got close to town and started fiddling with the radio, some station called 99X FM mentioned something about Episode III. I didn't catch it the first time but pretty close to our destination they ran it again: Revenge of the Sith playing Tuesday and Wednesday nights... at the Fox Theatre! Since Lisa was going to be busy with something on Tuesday night, we thought this would be a good way for me to kill some time and hey, how often is it that you get a chance to see a Star Wars movie at the Fox? I pulled the full details from the Fox Theatre's website: turns out they do this summer film festival every year: Monday night they had shown Batman Begins and they were gonna end this year's run with two showings of Sith. I conferred with my friend/collaborator "Weird" Ed about it the next morning via AOL Instant Messenger. It went something like this...
ME: Hey Ed do you think I should go see Episode 3 at the Fox Theatre tonight?
There was also gonna be a wine-tasting before this thing. Since I've never been to one before, all the better for the new experience, eh? Anyhoo the movie started at 8 and the wine tasting at 5:45 so I left Lisa's parents' house shortly after 4, fought an awful thunderstorm while "heading down the Atlanta highway" as the B-52s once put it, and after overcoming the local environment's traffic quirks I pulled into a parking garage around quarter 'til 6.

Why drive over an hour to see a movie I've seen about twelve times this summer already? 'Cuz it's at the Fox Theatre!! It must be said with such awe and reverence. I'd been to the Fox twice before - once to see Stomp and a few months later for The Phantom of the Opera and every time this place bowls me over. This is the theater that had the world premiere of Gone With The Wind back in 1938. It's hosted a lot of neat shows and world-renowned folks (and in 1996 it was headquarters for the Australian Olympic team) over the years. Ignore all that and the place will still absolutely overwhelm you: the architecture is grandiose beyond mortal ken. The entire building was originally a Shriner's temple back in the 1920s that got bought and converted into a theatre at the dawn of the Great Depression. Well those Shriners wasted no expense in giving the building an Oriental/Egyptian/Moorish look: the outside of the Fox has those onion-shaped domes out of "Arabian Nights". That's nothing compared to the inside: the main auditorium will literally make you weak in the knees, it's so overwhelming. The bathrooms are cleaner than most people's houses... heck the bathrooms have like a smoking lounge between them and the rest of the theater! The Fox is so grand it borders on the obscene. But, it's incredibly beautiful. It must be seen in person at least once in your life, just so you'll know that this kind of place really does exist in the world... and for seven bucks for a movie ticket, you can take it all in for the evening!

Well, the wine-tasting it turned out cost an extra ten bucks. I ain't a cheapskate but I thought it'd be wiser to keep the pocket change I had on me for a possible bite after the show and 'sides, this thing would be better shared along with Lisa. I decided to forego the wine this time. So I hung out in the main lobby and about 6:15 Darth Vader and four Imperial Stormtroopers came out, joined later by Boba Fett. They were from the 501st Imperial costumer's group, so respected it is that those troops that accompany Anakin into the temple in Sith were dubbed the 501st by Lucasfilm... is that cool or what? There's a documentary film in the works about them also. Neat bunch of guys. Oh yeah did I tell you that there was gonna be a costume contest before the show? Darn... 400 miles from home and I sure could have used my Jedi outfit and custom-made lightsaber. Ahhh well...

They opened the doors at 6:45. I got me the biggest tub of popcorn and a large root beer and then found a seat in the upper balcony (the best seats in the house). Like I noted at the beginning, I didn't have any good friends with me but I did make a few new ones: there was a really nice lady named Marie, in town from Miami, sitting next to me and she hadn't seen Episode III yet. We had quite a good conversation about Star Wars and other stuff. I even told her about Forcery and she said she'd have to take a look at that :-) At 7:15 an organist came out to play on "Mighty Mo": from what I've read it's the 2nd biggest theatrical pipe organ in the world, after the one at Radio City Music Hall. So we listened as he played some stuff and then everyone did a sing-along (complete with lyrics slides that date back to the 1930s) to songs like "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" and "You Are My Sunshine". Then came the costume contest: about three Darth Vaders, two Obi-Wans, a pre-burn Anakin, one Darth Maul and a Twi'lek chick, along with a few generic Jedi: the smallest Darth Vader was the winner, I think.

7:55 and the curtains opened up to show they screen. They ran that old Warner Brothers cartoon Duck Dodgers in the 24th and 1/2 Century!!! How cool is that?!? And then you know how most theatrical chains have a custom-made "welcome to the whatever theater"...? Well there was a VERY beautiful one made just for the Fox Theatre: that should give ya an idea how important a place this is, when this ONE theater has its very own... one of those thingies.

Then they crank up Revenge of the Sith. As far as I can tell it was practically a virgin print of the movie. And for the next two hours or so... it was unlike any showing of Episode III I'd ever seen.

Nobody talked. Everybody was spellbound. Marie, sitting to my left, cried a few tears, I noticed, during that heartbreaking scene between Anakin and Padme and Obi-Wan.

The quietest I've ever heard the Fox Theatre be came when Darth Vader's mask and helmet come on for the first time: the mask locks down, the helmet clamps on, there's that momentary silence and then Vader's breathing for the first time: "whooooooo-hhhhaaaaahhh". You could have heard a pin drop in that place, I swear.

And then not long after that the show was over, and as everyone was leaving I told Marie it was great meeting her and we wished each other a good trip back home. I got to my car and after getting on I-75 I turned on my MP3 player and dialed up the PERFECT song to end the night on: "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Yoda".

And, that was my night at the Fox Theatre to see Star Wars Episode III. Even if you never see a Star Wars movie there (who knows maybe they'll run all six of them there someday) it's well worth any chance you get to experience the place. But as for me, if there had to be a one last time to ever see a Star Wars movie during its first run, I can't imagine a better venue to have had it in than at the Fox. It was a night I don't think I'll ever forget.