The winter of 2015

Not as much snow as our northern friends, but no less beautiful...

The artwork of Cameron Hobbs

A young artist to watch out for.

Tammy the Pup approves of new look!

Semi-psychotic pooch gives two paws-up to The Knight Shift's overhaul.

Movies I've Never Seen: THE BIG LEBOWSKI

"It really tied the room together."

Catherine Rose: genius, pioneer, mother

A story of love, creativity, and perfect timing.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Johnny Robertson ("Church of Christ in Name Only") attacks me... because I'm a Star Wars fan?!?

Okay, now it's getting into the territory of the downright nutty...

About two months ago I called into Johnny Robertson's show What Does the Bible Say? on WGSR Star 39. Johnny Robertson (shown at right) is considered the chief ringleader of what I've come to call the "Church of Christ in Name Only" (COCINO for short), a very vindictive, mean-spirited cult working around Reidsville, North Carolina and Martinsville and Danville in Virginia. These guys have about three hours of programming on WGSR each week and they do nothing but attack anyone who isn't "their" brand of Christianity. Namely, they believe that if you are not part of what they call the "Church of Christ" (which is nothing like the Church of Christ that most people know) that you are damned and going to Hell. They also believe that a person must be baptized in order to be saved.

And they have an extremely ugly attitude toward anyone who disagrees with them.

So I called up Robertson's show one night to ask a simple question: "How is what you guys are doing giving glory to Christ?" And more to the point, I wanted to know how is what they are doing showing Christ's love and grace to a world that is lost without Him. How is what Robertson (along with James Oldfield and Norm Fields) doing, in any way, able to persuade those who don't know Christ about Christ at all? Because I can't see how their hatred toward others can do anything but drive people away from wanting to consider Christ at all.

Robertson and his cohorts are ultra-legalists of the highest order. It's all about following rules and regulations so far as they are concerned: which is exactly what Christ's sacrifice did away with for all time. I think it could even be argued that Johnny Robertson is trying to crucify Christ all over again. But I digress...

Robertson had no answer for me. Instead he told me to "go listen to Benny Hinn!" Here's the video again if you want to see what happened for yourself.

Then a few days ago I heard about a very sad story out of Tennessee, involving a woman who was by all accounts a devout follower of Christ, who passed away after a lifetime of unusual circumstance that did not allow for her to be water baptized as Robertson and the Church of Christ in Name Only demands. So I asked a question on this blog directed to Robertson, Oldfield, and Fields: "Is this woman now lost because she was not baptized?"

It got picked up by the Answering the Church of Christ blog and it's led to a rather heated discussion. There are currently 134 comments, including a few that I've made.

Well, none other than Johnny Robertson himself has chimed in. And according to my meter's records he spent about a half-hour on The Knight Shift earlier this morning, looking at a lot of stuff (including my post about how The New York Times had reported on the crazy TV commercials that some of us school board candidates did in 2006). Apparently he was looking for dirt on me.

This is what Johnny Robertson fired back with on Answering the Church of Christ...

On May 31, 2008 at 10:22 am johnny Said:

Knight said

In the end, that faith in Him is something that must transcend earthly terminology. To say that we are saved because we are "Christian" or "Church of Christ" is to deny the new creation that we are called to be in Him.

transcends earthly terminology"

talking about a gnostic!
Col 2:18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,

you kinda got beyond yourself there chris star Wars New York posted ....I've a part in Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's production of "Children of Eden"(look at me everyone I am an actor toooooo!)

Let me try to understand this: Johnny Robertson cannot confidently tell us that what he and the others in the Church of Christ in Name Only are doing is showing the love of Christ to others. So instead he chooses to attack me because I dared asked him that question... by mocking my being a Star Wars fan and because I'm involved in a production of Children of Eden?!?!?

Star Wars, Johnny? Star Wars?! And Children of Eden?!?

I responded to Johnny Robertson thusly...

On May 31, 2008 at 11:24 am Chris Knight Said:

Dear Johnny Robertson,
So now that I have your attention, might I ask you again...

How IS what you are doing possibly showing others the love of Christ?

You still haven't answered that.

And now you are attacking me because I’m a Star Wars fan, of all things?!

You're acting pretty infantile, dude.

I know it's you, by the way. I saw where you visited my blog earlier this morning, and spent quite a bit of time looking around on it.

So Johnny, once again: HOW is what you, and Oldfield, and Fields, doing, illustrating the love and grace of Jesus Christ to those who don't know Him? WHY should the lost of this world look at you guys and be persuaded at all?

You have nothing to show for your work, because it is not motivated in love. You are too enamored with your sense of power and leadership... but if you have not love, then these things are utterly worthless.

Why do you make yourself so big and God so very small, Johnny?

A few minutes later I added...
On May 31, 2008 at 11:28 am Chris Knight Said:

By the way Johnny, you're invited to come see the Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's production of "Children of Eden". Performances are June 20-22 and June 27-29 at Rockingham Community College. Tickets are $10 for adults. More information is on the Guild's website at tgrc-nc.com

Among the themes of "Children of Eden" are love and forgiveness. Maybe you could learn something from it.

Yes Johnny, I am a Star Wars fan. And it's something that I've never been ashamed of, or have ever felt it encroached upon my faith in God. You would no doubt be surprised at how many followers of Christ are also fans of this story. And it would probably blow your mind at how quite a few have found opportunities of ministry with it. As Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians 9:22,
"To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some."
Johnny, has it ever occurred to you and your bunch that maybe instead of puffing yourselves up and lording over other people, that if you humbled yourselves and brought yourselves lower, that God might actually bless your ministry?

I mean, is this really about you or is it about Him?

As it is now, Johnny Robertson - along with James Oldfield and Norm Fields - is a false preacher. He comes preaching another Christ: a Christ that would bind us in legalism all over again, instead of being free by His mercy and grace and love. The Jesus Christ of the Bible is not the Jesus Christ that Robertson and Oldfield and Fields preach on WGSR.

(Or as Mama Reyes said on Lost: "Jesus Christ is not a weapon!")

Johnny Robertson, again I am compelled to ask you publicly: How is what you are doing showing love of Christ and demonstrating Christ's love toward others?

I would very much like to know this.

EDIT 4:51 p.m. EST: Johnny Robertson spent two and a half hours visiting my blog today, on at least two separate visits. He was quite the busy bee, taking screenshots etc.

Wonder what he's up to...

A cool (and free) technical idea for the Nintendo Wii

This morning I was having a workout on Wii Fit (here's my initial review). My personal regimen right now is some strength training, some yoga and a lot of hard aerobic activity, followed by the "fun" stuff like the Ski Jump. That and the Ski Slalom might be the most addictive activities of the entire package... but Lisa swears that Bubble River will have you just as hooked.

Part of the aerobics that I'm doing right now is Jogging the long distance. It's really clever how this works: you don't use the Wii Balance Board at all. You just put the Wii Remote in your pocket (or if your pants lack pockets you can just hold the Remote in your hand) and then you start jogging in place. If you keep a brisk pace while swinging your arms in good wide circles you can work up a serious sweat. And all the while, the Wii is picking up your relative speed by how much the Remote in your pocket or hand jiggles about.

It's this use of the Wii's sensing technology that got me thinking...

Imagine a first-person shooter game like Doom or Halo for the Wii. Imagine having one Wii Remote that you use to aim like a gun at whatever it is on screen that you intend to shoot at. Now imagine two other Wii Remotes, one in each side pocket of a pair of pants that you are wearing. And to play the game you have to literally run through the map shooting at whatever bad guys there are while running and possibly even ducking for cover. The Wii will be picking up all of this movement as you play, including changes in body position and change of direction/speed (your velocity) as you run through the map. It would be like putting yourself directly in a game such as Gears of War... but instead of using a standard hand-held controller, your entire body - from your toes to your trigger finger - would control your in-game persona.

Can you imagine how much fun that would be? To say nothing of the workout that a person would be getting while probably not even realizing it.

There would be a few minor drawbacks for such a system though, but I think those might be fairly negligible. The most obvious is that to work like this the player must own three Wii Remotes. And there could be no multiplayer per this system. But with some minor tweaking, Nintendo programmers or whatever other company that makes this game could add the option of playing with only one Wii Remote along with a gun accessory and the Nunchuk add-on, and then possibly four players could do this at the same time. Or one Wii Remote could be placed in a pocket and pick up running while the Nunchuk controls movement and the Wii Remote operates aiming and firing, in which case two friends really could be running around shooting at each other.

That might even rival Boxing on Wii Sports for two-player fun on the Nintendo Wii!

If anyone at Nintendo or some other video game studio reads this and wants to play with it, feel free to do so. I'm not looking for any compensation for the idea. It just seemed like too neat a concept to not put out there and see if somebody could work with it. If this ever does become a Wii game, I would absolutely be the first in line to buy a copy (provided that everything else in the game was well-designed too, like the engine and graphics and sound and the story, etc. :-).

Here it is: Ben moving the Island from the LOST Season 4 finale!

You know what haunts me most about this scene? It's that Ben is crying. This is the last thing that he's about to do for the Island, the final gesture of his duties as the previous chosen one. And for the first time, we are seeing fear in the face of this master manipulator.

Just before the white light cascades over everything, I can't help thinking that what's going through Ben's mind is, "I'm going to die. Please forgive me." He knows he's going to be banished from the Island... and he doesn't know where he'll be sent to. He could wind up anywhere in the world, or anywhere above it or inside it. The next moment could find him on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, for all the good that it would do him. I like to believe that this was a "leap of faith" moment for Ben, and that when we see him materialize in the Tunisian desert that it was Jacob's doing.

Everything is orchestrated flawlessly in this scene, from Michael Emerson's performance, to the sets, to how we see the affect that Ben's action has throughout the area of the Island. And Michael Giacchino's music here: I will buy the Lost Season 4 soundtrack just for this, if/when it comes out.

In the two and a half seasons that he's been a character on Lost, this was the definitive moment for Benjamin Linus. And it's being widely agreed that this was the most amazing single scene of this television season.

So here it is courtesy of YouTube: Benjamin Linus working the frozen donkey wheel, and using it to move the Island...

Friday, May 30, 2008

Brazilian tribe with no outside contact is photographed by airplane

Eric Wilson sent this story over to me late last night. Look at these photos: they're of a tribe of people near the border of Brazil and Peru, that so far as we know has had no contact at all with the outside world. They are reported to have fired arrows at the airplane that flew over them as these photographs were taken...

Read more here at the BBC's website.

Kinda humbling to know that in 2008, in spite of all our technology and how we've thought that the entire Earth has been mapped, that there are still corners of it that "civilized" humanity has not been able to reach... and that there are people there.

I say, leave these folks alone. Let them be. If they ever decide for themselves that they want to go beyond their present borders, that's their choice to make.

Courage, Earle, and Korman: Three of entertaiment's greats have left us

Three classic figures from the world of music, television and film have passed away in the past few days. I don't think there is one of us who at some time or another was not entertained by the work of these gentlemen, their influence was so prolific...

Alexander Courage died at the age of 88 on May 15th, it was announced yesterday. He composed music for many movies and television series. But the one he will be most remembered for is the legendary theme from the original Star Trek.

Earlier this week, also passing away at age 88, was Earle H. Hagen. His composing career stretched back into the 1940s and he eventually moved to work in television. Among his credits are the themes for The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Spy and Mike Hammer. But it was a whistling little ditty that he did for The Andy Griffith Show that will forever be perhaps his greatest legacy.

And then yesterday came word that Harvey Korman has died at 81. Korman earned four Emmys and a Golden Globe for his work on The Carol Burnett Show. Korman was also a terrific voice actor and performed The Great Gazoo on The Flintstones. But personally, I think that Korman will be foremost remembered for his over-the-top performance as Hedley Lamarr in the already over-the-top Mel Brooks film Blazing Saddles...


"You will be risking your lives, whilst I will be risking an almost-certain Academy Award nomination for the Best Supporting Actor."

Think I'll watch some classic episodes of The Andy Griffith Show,Star Trek and then Blazing Saddles this weekend, to honor their memory.

LOST: The morning after "There's No Place Like Home"

Like Lisa said last year when waking up the morning after "Through the Looking Glass": "It's hard to sleep with something like that on your mind..."

In the 8+ hours since the two-hour conclusion of "There's No Place Like Home" (read my initial thoughts here) this blog has registered about 3,000 hits. And almost all of those are coming here after looking for "Jeremy Bentham" on Google. When I run the search myself, The Knight Shift shows up in the top ten results because of what was posted about the historical Jeremy Bentham last year. So to all the newcomers: welcome! :-)

A few days ago the producers of Lost submitted the episodes "The Constant" and "The Shape of Things to Come" for consideration for this year's Emmy Awards. The deadline to submit is today. I hope there's some way to submit "There's No Place Like Home" also. Both "The Constant" and "The Shape of Things to Come" were the finest regular episodes of Season 4 but even as brilliant as "The Constant" was, it was just build-up to the magnificence of this season finale.

I don't think Michael is still alive. I do believe Jin has survived though. Hey he's escaped one exploding boat before, right? The thing is, so did Michael. This being Lost it's fair to assume we haven't seen the last of them, in one form or another.

One of the most surprising things about this show is that before I even realized it, I have come to be a fan of Sawyer. More than any other character, he has shown the most positive growth away from what he used to be. The slick, opportunistic con artist that we met at the beginning of Season 1 is gone and in his place, there is a man who sincerely cares for others and is now showing a willingness to die for them if he has to. Thankfully he wound up safe back on the beach. I now wonder if he and Juliet are going to be hitting it off (and did that scene with Juliet and the DHARMA rum with Sawyer on the beach remind anyone else of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie?).

I've watched this episode twice all the way through now but the scene where Ben is trying to work the frozen wheel: that scene has been played about a dozen times already. Glad that I documented my immediate reaction to that! And if you thought the "Atmosphere Jump" on Battlestar Galactica was crazy cool, "Moving the Island" beat that by a mile. Everything about that scene was perfect: the determination and intensity on Ben's face, the reaction across the Island and from those still away from it, the sound effects, the CGI work... and through it all, Michael Giacchino's haunting score. I don't know why but in that scene I felt a sympathy for Ben that I'd never had before. And then when the Island disappears and Frank is frantic about trying to land the helicopter, and how they even search desperately for the Hydra Island but there's only water all around: that scene alone makes "There's No Place Like Home" Emmy-worthy.

And about who we finally get to see is in the casket: ya know, I don't believe for a moment that this is the end of that particular character's story. The good times may have only just begun for our friend "Jeremy Bentham".

Just darned amazing television. Far better than our culture deserves. Lost is one of the few things on the medium that has never insulted the viewer's intelligence, has treated its fans respectfully by expecting more from them. In an art form that has grown vapid and stagnant, no wonder Lost stands tall in a class all its own.

I might post more thoughts here later as they come to me :-)

Update 7:29 a.m. EST: Did anyone else think that Ben and his crowbar looked a lot like the image of Gordon Freeman from the Half-Life video game series? Freeman is the main character in those games, and he's a scientist involved with teleportation experiments. Couldn't help but wonder last night if that was an intentional homage on the part of the Lost showrunners.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Six minutes after the LOST Season 4 finale...

From the moment that Kate mentioned "Jeremy Bentham" I was screaming during this episode.

(Did that one get called last year, or what? :-)

"There's No Place Like Home" did something that I never thought possible: it was an even more intense season finale than "Through the Looking Glass" was last year.

Just... wow. Think I'm gonna need a drink after that one.

Most jaw-dropping scene of the entire television season has got to be the Island moving. Anyone else see that and think they were watching a Halo movie for a second there?

Was great to see Walt again. The producers planned that out very well and I'm hoping we'll see more of Malcolm David Kelley now that puberty has run its course. The reunion between Desmond and Penny: now that was something that I didn't see coming, not this soon anyway. I was darn certain they would save that for the series finale two years from now. And folks, we were crying when they finally got back together. On one level I'm glad they've found each other again but on another level, I can't help but dread what else might be coming down the pike toward them.

I don't think we've seen the last of Jin and Michael. Not with Christian's very odd appearance just before the freighter exploded.

And I don't think that Locke is necessarily dead, either. Why? Go back and watch the stuff in the Orchid, and especially the "preview" of the Orchid's orientation film that the Lost producers released last summer.

Okay, my mind is officially blown for the next several days. I gotta watch that quite a few more times before it can sink in.

And if you thought the wait after last year's finale was painful, the next eight months will be sheer agony...

Have said it before: Lost is the best show on television right now. After "There's No Place Like Home", it might have secured itself as the greatest show ever.

Going off to replay it from the DVR now :-)

EDIT 11:30 p.m. EST: They need to release the soundtrack for Season 4 as quickly as possible! This was some of Michael Giacchino's best work to date. I would buy this CD just for the music from the scene where Ben is turning the wheel: what a beautiful reprise of "Dharmacide"/Ben's theme!

30 minutes left in LOST's Season 4 finale...

HOLY HELL!! THEY ACTUALLY DID IT!!!

Locke told Jack "Just wait 'til you see what I'm about to do." He wasn't kidding.

The Island... moved.

And there's still thirty minutes left.

More reaction later.

LOST. Season 4 Finale. Tonight.

"We have to go back, Kate. WE HAVE TO GO BACK!"

-- Jack Shepherd
Lost, Season 3 Finale "Through the Looking Glass"

And ever since the jaw-dropping season-ending episode a year ago on Lost, a lot of people have been wondering: what could possibly have driven Jack, after everything he's done to try to get off the Island, toward such desperation about wanting to return to that place?

"Through the Looking Glass" completely re-defined what viewers had come to expect of a favorite television series, and in the process that episode alone cemented Lost as one of the finest works of fiction of the modern era.

And now tonight, after a season that received widespread praise as the best yet (despite its shortened length) Lost Season 4 concludes with the two-hour conclusion of "There's No Place Like Home". Will this year's finale change our perception of this show yet again? All signs point to a solid "yes".

To recap the current situation...

- Keamy and the rest of Charles Widmore's assault team have invaded the Island.

- Locke, per orders from Jacob, is going to move the Island.

- Ben has allowed himself to be captured at the Orchid... which portends to be the most powerful DHARMA Initiative station of them all.

- Sun, Jin, Desmond, and Michael have found one honking-big bomb on the freighter.

- Kate and Sayid have been captured by Richard and the Others.

- Sawyer is babysitting Aaron.

- Hurley is hanging back with Locke outside the Orchid, and is presumably hungry.

The obvious treat tonight is that we should finally find out how Jack, Kate, Aaron, Sayid, Sun, and Hurley - the Oceanic 6 - came together and escaped the Island. But as this is a Lost season finale, prepare to scream at the walls when the unexpected happens.

It all begins tonight with a reprise of Part 1 of "There's No Place Like Home" at 8 p.m. on ABC, followed by Part 2 at 9 o'clock.

Of course, I'll be posting my thoughts afterward. And if Lisa figures out what's going on again before I do, I'll have to report that, too :-)

A question for Johnny Robertson, James Oldfield, Norm Fields, and others of the "Church of Christ In Name Only" in the Reidsville/Martinsville area

Dear Johnny Robertson, James Oldfield, and Norm Fields:

I can't recall a single time that any of you have been live on the air on your various "Church of Christ" television programs that broadcast on WGSR, when you have not vehemently stated that in order to be saved and go to Heaven that one must be baptized in water and join the Church of Christ. All three of you claim that without water baptism, there is no salvation possible at all.

(I'll take time out here to state again - as I did the first time and then again not long afterward that in no way do I consider Robertson, Oldfield, Fields and their bunch to be the real Church of Christ that most people know and respect. The "Church of Christ In Name Only" that broadcasts on WGSR is something that can only be described as a twisted cult.)

If you guys are so convinced that baptism is absolutely essential for salvation, then I would like to know what your take on the following true-life story is...

Yesterday Dianne Odell passed away near Memphis, Tennessee. She was 61 years old. Only a few months after being born, Dianne was struck with a form of polio that left her unable to breathe on her own. Of her sixty-one years on this Earth, she had been confined to an iron lung for sixty years. She died when a power outage stopped her iron lung from working, although her father and brother-in-law made a valiant effort to keep it operating manually.

She spent all those years of her life laying on her back, confined to a steel enclosure, just to keep living. But she wound up having a more full life than most people will ever know. Dianne earned a high school diploma, took college courses, and even wrote a children's book.

What sustained her? By all accounts, Dianne Odell was a devout follower of Christ and she completely put her faith in God, and she didn't hold it against Him that she was given the kind of life that she had.

I'm fairly certain that given her condition, that Dianne was never baptized. There's no way it could have been done without killing her, most likely. At least she was never baptized by immersion, which is what you guys claim all the time is an absolute obligation in order to have salvation. I've even heard you claim, on numerous occasions, that if a person comes to believe in Christ but is not baptized before death, that such a person is damned forever.

Johnny, James, and Norm: Are you really prepared to go on live television and say that it is with 100% conviction that you believe that God did not allow Dianne Odell into His kingdom yesterday morning, all because it was impossible for her to be water baptized? Or might you possibly even argue, per your logic, that Dianne Odell should have left her iron lung and risked water baptism if she wanted salvation? Because that is what you are claiming, whether you want to admit it or not.

I'm planning on calling some or all of you live on the air to ask you that, if you aren't willing to provide an answer in any other way. If you won't take my phone call, then maybe Charles Roark will let us debate the matter live on WGSR. Is that an open challenge? You bet it is.

So what's your take on it, Johnny and James and Norm: Are you seriously ready to condemn such a person to Hell with your legendary zealousness?

But I've no doubt that Dianne is in the presence of the Lord that she loved, and for Whom she shared that love toward others in her earthly life. That is the beautiful thing about a God Who has abundant grace and mercy.

I just wish that you guys could understand that.

(And for everyone else: If you want to know more about what Johnny, James and Norm stand for please check out the Answering the Church of Christ blog.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Chad Austin and Chris Knight: Twenty-five years of mischief and friendship!

A few days ago was the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. I'd thought of writing about that but you know, that's one event in my life that I've shared my memories about a few times already. All these years later and my ears are still ringing with the pandemonium that erupted when Darth Vader betrayed the Emperor.

That's already one of the fondest memories of my generation. But there's something else about the present time, that to me is much more special and worth honoring here. Because it was twenty-five years ago this month that a life-long friendship began between me and Chad Austin.

It was actually a few years earlier that Chad and I had met, on our first day of kindergarten at Community Baptist School in Reidsville. We didn't get to see much of each other though for the next three years because he and I wound up having different teachers, so there was one group of students that by circumstance he wound up hanging out with, and vice-versa.

But toward the end of our third-grade year, our classes were sharing a lot of recess time together and he came to me one day to ask about something. What was his question? Ahhhh, yeah I still remember that one. He asked if I by any chance had a certain action figure. As a matter of fact I did and not just one but two of 'em! I brought it with me the next day to show it to him. And then we started talking about other things too, like Return of the Jedi which was two weeks or so from being released, and whether Darth Vader was really Luke Skywalker's father: hard to believe that those were the last days of discussion and debate about what had turned into the most heated controversy of the era's pop culture.

And a funny thing happened, which I didn't have a name for it at the time but I think that even back then, Chad and I recognized a kindred spirit in each other. We enjoyed the same things like Star Wars movies and G.I. Joe comics, and more serious stuff. Like, way more serious stuff, including science and religion. Chad was the first person of my own age that I could have a deep theological discussion with.

By the time we had the end-of-year third grade cookout a week before school ended, Chad and me were fast friends. We gave our phone numbers to each other, and started laying plans for the summer. Sleepovers at each others' house were definitely in the works, especially 'cuz I wanted to come over to his place and see something his family owned and I had only heard whispered about, like a piece of arcane magic: a video-cassette recorder.

I've never forgotten my first time visiting Chad's house. I spent the night there beginning one Friday evening. His Dad brought pizza and he also got these toy Star Wars lightsabers for Chad and his brother, and we wound up having mock lightsaber duels in the backyard and on the trampoline (yeah dangerous but fun!). And Chad showed me their VCR. I still remember beholding it, in awe at the kind of power that there must be with being able to tape television shows and watch practically any movie you wanted to whenever you wanted to watch it! Sorta my introduction to the basic concept of an iPod, when ya think about it...

Anyhoo, that night we watched Tron, which I'd never seen before. And the whole time we were watching it together, Chad and me were cracking jokes at whatever was happening in the movie. It wasn't as intense as Mystery Science Theater 3000 but we couldn't resist cutting-up some. Who knew that a quarter-century later we'd still be doing that?

(By the way, I gave him my spare action figure too :-)

A few weeks later Chad visited my house for a sleepover, and we played lots of Atari 2600 together. Fourth grade started, and I think by that point at least one weekend a month was spent at on or the other's house. Most nights, we'd be up way late chatting up a storm, and I can't recall if we ever once resolved that we would try to actually get some sleep! It was on one of those nights, when I was at his place, that I told Chad something...

"Chad, I'm going to make a movie someday and I'm going to put you in it."

"What's it going to be about?"

"I don't know yet, but I'm going to put you in it."

That was January of 1984. Just one of those times when two kids are talking and dreaming about what they're going to do "when we grow up."

It's twenty-five years later now. I honestly don't know if Chad and me have grown-up yet.

But a funny thing happened: twenty years later, I did make a movie. And Chad was put in it! He had the principle role even, playing George Lucas in my first film Forcery. He did an awesome job too, despite how much he got thrashed and throttled-around in the course of production :-)

And the neat thing is, he and I still haven't stopped with our dreaming and scheming. I don't think we ever will, either...

Sixth grade came, and that was the last time we saw each other for awhile because the next year my sister and I started in public school. And there were some other things going on in my life at that point too: way much more than most twelve-year olds have to deal with. And before we knew it, there was a long time that Chad and I weren't able to keep in touch with each other.

But one day during Christmas break in our eighth-grade year, our phone rang and I happened to answer it.

"Hey Chris?"

"That's me." I didn't recognize the guy's voice. Just one of many strange things that puberty does to a guy...

"This is Chad!"

I think we spent about two hours on the phone after that, catching up on things. He was in public school now too, and he was telling me about the trip his class had taken to, I think it was Washington D.C. I told him about our class going to Disney World in a few months. We compared notes on pro wrestling and for the first time in my life I confided with a friend that I liked... as in, really liked... a girl.

(Her name was Dana. That's all I'm gonna say about that :-P)

We were expecting to see each other again when we started high school, but as it turned out Chad and I had a reunion during a month-long summer enrichment program a few months before class began. He and I took the newspaper elective together. And I wish that whatever happened between us could be bottled and sold 'cuz when Chad and I hooked-up again after so long, it was like a spigot of mad creativity that got turned on and we didn't know how to make it stop! Between Chad's hilarious cartoons (he always was a terrific artist) and my insane articles, we took over that middle-school summer project and turned it into our personal MAD Magazine. I still have a few copies of each issue that we did, too!

So then the high school years were upon us, and all the dilemmas and difficulties that come with them. And unfortunately, Chad and I didn't get to see each other much during our freshman year: again because of different schedules. The following year though he and I were inducted into the Beta Club together, and on the night of the ceremony Chad and his mom did something that turned out to be one one of the better turning-points in my life: they encouraged me to join the school's swim team, which would start practice the next day.

You gotta understand something, folks: at this point in my life I was extremely shy. Like, you wouldn't believe how withdrawn I was from people... including the people I cared for most. And this ain't the time to talk about why that might have been but take my word for it: the Chris Knight you're reading the words of today, is the farthest thing you can imagine from the Chris Knight that used to be. So think about what it was like when that shy kid was asked to not only come out of his shell, but put on a swimsuit and show the world how fast he can drown...

If it had been anyone but Chad telling me that I could do this, I don't know if I would have tried. But he said that this would be a fun thing, so the next day I showed up at the first practice.

If somebody had told me that I would be on Rockingham County Senior High's Swim Team for that year and the next two, I would never have believed it. Or that before it was over with that I would have earned a trophy for "Most Improved Swimmer".

I also remember the day during one meet (we were swimming in the pool at what was then Elon College) that Chad was about to finish a race and he dislocated his shoulder. And it came out so loud, that we literally heard the thing pop out of joint all the way across the pool.

Chad went into physical therapy for his injury. But he never gave up. He came to every practice and every meet. And as soon as his doctor gave him the green light, Chad was back in the pool...

...swimming with one arm...

...and coming in first a few times too!

(It goes without saying that Chad quickly earned the nickname of "One Armed Bandit" ;-)

It was our junior year of high school that the friendship between Chad and me really began taking the form that would follow us into the rest of our lives. We had more classes together then and he and I were talking on the phone a lot more too (but this time less about pro wrestling and a lot more about girls). In computer class we were still cutting-up together. And yes, that was when the now-infamous "Chris Knight does Elvis" thing first happened. Before lunch that day, posters advertising "Chris Knight Does Elvis! See him shake his pelvis! One show TONIGHT ONLY!" had appeared on just about every bulletin board on campus. There is also my very strange "Buffalo Bill" impersonation from The Silence of the Lambs too (which I'd sometimes do on the starting blocks during a swim meet) but we don't have to go there...

Toward the end of our junior year, something else happened to Chad and me that years later we still crack up laughing about. That wasn't long after I'd discovered Monday Night Live on what was at the time WAEU Channel 14. One Monday in school Chad said he was going to call up the show that night with this "laughing box" that he had. It took him a few weeks but sure enough, on a night in early May in 1991...

Ken Echols: "Well you know Mark, this is the time of year, getting to be summer, people start spending more time outside, and calls to the program sometimes become sparse. So we'll often have these periods of lull that we'll have to sit through, waiting for someone to call us..."

(A few minutes later...)

Mark Childrey: "And it looks like we finally have a caller!"

Ken Echols: (answering phone) "Hello you're on the air."

Mysterious Prank Caller: (the next several seconds are of a laughing box going "HHHHHHHHAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAHAHAHA...")

(Ken Echols laughs so hard that he has to bend away from the desk and off-camera in order to regain his composure)

Mark Childrey: "Okay well you know, that's how it is sometimes. Things get slow, and then some nut decides he wants to play around and..."

By then my own phone was ringing and Chad was asking if I'd heard that. I don't think there was another Monday night from then on until we graduated high school that he or I and sometimes both of us would prank-call Monday Night Live. I still have most of the tapes of those shows, too! And I was already calling the show a lot to talk about serious topics but then whenever Chad did his laughing box, that was a personal obligation to phone in a prank too. And we had a system: whenever we called up the station, we told the screener that "Uhhh yeah I want to talk about the cruising on Scales Street" and just like a charm, we were in the phone queue. Then whenever Ken said "Hello you're on the air" Chad would hit the laughing box button or I would shout "HE SHOOTS HE SCORES!!!!"... and so it went.

After high school, Chad went on to UNC-Chapel Hill and I lingered around Reidsville for a few years, not too sure of what I wanted to do so I took full-time classes at the nearby community college. We were much better at keeping in touch though. And by this time the Star Wars saga was starting to return to full-bore popularity, and I was reading all the new novels and comics that were coming out from it. The summer after our second year of college Chad was interning at the Reidsville newspaper and he wound up writing a column about how Star Wars was making a comeback: I still have that, too.

Then the following year I started at Elon. And by this time the Internet was everywhere, so Chad and me were writing e-mails to each other just about every day. I always knew an e-mail from Chad just by looking at the subject line: he would also use some reference to Sanford and Son, his all-time favorite television show. There are floppies in my possession from those years that are loaded with e-mails that have "Esther" and "I'm coming to join you 'Lizabeth!" and "I'll stick my foot in your... hello?" as their subjects.

After he graduated from Chapel Hill, Chad worked some stints at the Naval Academy and then some colleges in Georgia. A year after I graduated from Elon I wound up in Asheville, and by that time he and I had added AOL Instant Messenger to our communications repertoire. It was also around that time that I told Chad that there was a girl that I'd started talking to, and she was very different from other girls that I'd met before.

Chad and Lisa became great friends too. I didn't know it at the time but she was "conspiring" with him to give me a great birthday in 2001, after the previous year when my birthday had been spent as a pallbearer at my grandmother's funeral. So Lisa and I wound up meeting Chad at the CNN Building in Atlanta, where he was working at the time, and he gave us a tour of the place that most people never get to see. Two months later the three of us got together again for a day at Six Flags.

And then a few months after that came 9/11. Chad was part of the Sports Illustrated staff, but nobody was writing about sports on that day. He was able to use Instant Messenger at work, and we were up 'til 1 a.m. on the morning after the attacks talking about it, sharing news links and photos that we'd found about the tragedy. Like ever other instant message, I saved those too.

The following months were punctuated by Lisa and me getting engaged, and then our wedding in the summer of 2002. For my groomsmen I chose three of the people who have become not just the best friends any guy could ask for, but also true brothers in every sense: Johnny Yow, Ed Woody, and Chad Austin. And I could visually elaborate on the camaraderie by posting some pics of the bachelor party we had the night before the wedding, but this write-up is getting long enough as it is.

And now here it is: twenty-five years since that day in third grade when we started talking about action figures. And I still have barely touched on the things that have happened during the friendship of Chad Austin and Chris Knight. How could anyone possibly chronicle all the good times, the bad times and the crazy times in between? And yes, there have been some times of genuine hardship and heartache. There have even been, it shames me to admit, times where less-virtuous words have been exchanged between us.

But you know... in the end, those didn't matter. Because the respect and admiration, and loyalty... and yes, love... that we've had for each other, has always borne out. And Chad and I came out stronger from everything that's happened to us, too. Every tragedy in our families and among our circle of friends, we've been there for each other. He and I have become brothers, and our families have become as one family as well over the years.

And there's no doubt that across the years I've learned not only much about the true meaning and value of friendship from Chad, but also about the grace of God and how much His grace is sufficient. Chad Austin is one of the most sincere and earnestly-seeking followers of Christ that I have ever known, and he really has no idea how much of an inspiration he has been for me to seek after Christ with that same measure of humility and desire. You want a model of Christian discipleship? Folks, don't look at me, 'cuz I'm not it. But I can point to a few people who are that, starting with Chad Austin.

So here it is, a quarter-century of friendship between two guys that gets to be celebrated. Which is one of the reasons why I wanted to make a post about this, 'cuz as bad as things are becoming in this world we could all use a little reminder that good things still endure.

And hey, seeing as how far we've come already...


Chris (left) and Chad (right) playing Rock Band on the Xbox 360
May 10th 2008

...is there any doubt that the next twenty-five years are going to be even more fun? :-)

Happy anniversary, brother. Here's to looking forward to another quarter-century of good times and general mayhem!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Want your own DHARMA Initiative snacks for LOST this week?!?

Two nights from now will be the two-hour finale for Season Four of Lost. We can't wait to see what happens! For last year's finale we had a Lost party at our place, which included these DHARMA Initiative food products made with various graphics I found on the web...

Ever since then a lot of people have been writing to me, asking if I could send them the DHARMA labels too for their own Lost parties. Until now I've been able to e-mail the zipped-up file containing the labels, but there's such a barrage of requests coming in right now and I'm going to be so busy the next few days, that responding to each e-mail is going to be downright difficult.

So thanks to file-hosting service MediaFire, I've uploaded the zip file containing those labels - in addition to several others that I've found since - and am making it available for everyone to be able to just go ahead and download at your leisure!

Lost - Dharma food labels.zip (3.6 MB)

Just click on the link and proceed with your download. Hope you'll enjoy your DHARMA Initiative munchies as you watch Lost this week! :-)

(P.S.: This file package does not contain a label for the Widmore Pharmaceuticals Home Pregnancy Test.)

Brittany gets engaged! Reidsville's bachelors weep!

Anytime someone I know gets engaged, it gets celebrated on this blog. Three years ago it was my longtime friend and collaborator "Weird" Ed Woody (and if you want to read up about the alligators and everything else that happened at their wedding mash here). Then a few short months ago it was Jenna Olwin's turn. Now late tonight comes word that a dear friend and fellow freedom-fighter in the cause against school uniforms is the latest to get popped with The Question(tm)...

Congratulations to Brittany Gibson (note: this file photograph of Brittany is not meant to be representative of the moment immediately following becoming a pre-nup) who a few days ago was proposed to by Curtis Wilson and she immediately affirmed the lad's request!

Brittany, yer a fine young lady, and I pray that God will bestow all His blessings upon you and Curtis as you begin the trek toward your new life together.

And if you invite me to the wedding, I promise that I won't arrange for any dancing chimps this time...

Monday, May 26, 2008

Today is Memorial Day

Why should we be honoring the memory of those who died so that we might be free, when we don't seem to particularly care to be free to begin with?

I see what has become of our politics, particularly this election year, and I cannot but think that it is, literally, become a thing God-damned. This is not what countless men and women across two centuries and more have died to give us.

While they were "over there" fighting for us, those of us over here haven't done a damned thing to be a free people. I now fear a tyrant in Washington more than I could ever fear a criminal cowering in an overseas cave.

There is no more rule of law in America. The Constitution, for all intents and purposes, is defunct. Government "of the people, by the people and for the people" is now government for sake of government, power for sake of power. When we arrive at the point where we are compelled to do things at the point of a gun more than we are by virtue of conscience, then we have turned a dark corner indeed.

Maybe now you understand why I am conflicted about Memorial Day. It isn't that some gave all so that we could have freedom that obligates terrible pause, but that most care to give nothing for their own freedom at all.

America will not be a truly free country again, I fear, until we have suffered a terrible fall. We may yet rise again. But the ground will first be caked with the blood of those who brought her to ruin before that bright and glorious day.

And as frustrated as I'm feeling right now, my mind is troubled with the notion that I might gladly throw some of them against the wall before offering to pull the trigger.

CHILDREN OF EDEN Update: 25 Days to Opening Night

"Now uss dee time undt Schprockets ven ve dantz!"

Okay who can tell me where that's from? Still can't believe that I thought of it Sunday afternoon.

So yesterday we started doing choreography for two of the biggest numbers from the Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's production of Children of Eden: "Generations" and "Ain't It Good". Singing the songs? No problem, 'cuz like I've mentioned before after frequent listening to the soundtrack for almost a decade now, that's easy...

...but dancing is a whole 'nother thing.

Stephen Hale, who's playing Adam in our production, is also our choreographer. He's mapped out some terrific routines for these songs. They're also a bit complex, especially "Generations", which requires everyone radically changing positions on stage no less than three times. I'm thinking of bringing a video camera for next time we do this so that I can study it later (and possibly making a privately-available YouTube video only for those involved in the production to be able to look at, if they need to). But given the work and commitment that everyone is giving this, I think the effect is going to be pretty amazing when showtime comes. The other piece we worked on yesterday, "Ain't It Good", is going to be nothing short of ecstatic: a well-executed gospel-style number that's only going to be missing people doing backflips across stage (except it's not a big enough stage).

I have tomorrow night off, 'cuz that's being devoted to working with everyone playing the Snake (and word is that it involves something very clever, that I don't think I've seen before after watching Children of Eden a number of times over the years). Then it's back to practice from Tuesday through Thursday night. Yeah, I'm gonna miss some of the Lost season finale, but since we're DVRing it I should be able to catch up in real time quickly when I get back. But the play is the thing... and that is how we are playing! :-)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Davros returning?!? BBC unloads new DOCTOR WHO Season 4 trailer

Last week the BBC aired "The Unicorn and the Wasp", the newest episode of Doctor Who and yeah I downloaded it courtesy of some good British chaps, but I didn't have time to give it a proper write-up. Trust me though: it's a very entertaining episode. How can the Doctor playing a grandiose game of Clue (or Cluedo as it's called in Great Britain) with Agatha Christie not be good?

There is no Doctor Who this week because of the 2008 Eurivision Song Contest, but it'll return next week with "Silence in the Library".

But the BBC didn't let fans of the Doctor go through this weekend completely empty-handed. Check out this new trailer for the remainder of this season...

Yes, Rose is back and she's all over this and I am very glad to see her in action again 'cuz she became one of my favorite companions. But what really has me stoked is what we see at 46 seconds into the trailer...

It looks like the rumors are true. Because if that is not him, after a tease like that, the BBC is going to get slammed with the angriest phone calls and e-mails in the history of anything.

Hide behind the sofa, kiddies: Davros, one of the greatest villains in all of fiction, is coming back. And I've a feeling he won't be in the best of moods.

Can't wait! I've been waiting for the return of Davros ever since the BBC announced they were reviving Doctor Who almost five years ago. This will be epic!

Goodnight, Dick: LAUGH-IN's Martin passes away

The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate has caught up with Dick Martin, who passed away yesterday at the age of 86.

I was born after Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In stopped production, but WJTM (which not long afterward began using the call letters WNRW and is now WXLV, the local ABC affiliate) used to air reruns of the show at 11 on weeknights back in the early Eighties. That's when I first started watching Laugh-In, on the television set in my bedroom with the door closed and the sound turned down so my parents wouldn't know that I was up late on school nights. Even as a little kid, I thought that Laugh-In was sophisticated and hilarious. It was like having my mind machine-gunned with a nonstop barrage of quips and gags. And at the center of the manic maelstrom that was Laugh-In were Dan Rowan and Dick Martin.

So much that could be said about that show and all that happened on it, but for a tribute I couldn't find anything that more perfectly sums-up Martin and Laugh-In than this clip of him along with Tiny Tim (singing "Tiptoe Through the Tulips")...

Goodnight, Dick. And thanks for all the laughs!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Review of INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL

"Raiders of the Lost Ark is my favorite movie!"

-- Chris Knight while shaking hands with Steven Spielberg
August 2nd, 1989

So here it is: my review of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. A review that for various reasons I never thought that I'd find myself writing.

And all this time y'all thought the Star Wars movies were tops on my list. Well, the Star Wars saga remains my favorite film series. But so far as individual movies go...

No other movie before or since has influenced my life as much as Raiders of the Lost Ark did. I was seven years old when my family went to see it on the night before New Year's Eve in 1981. The next day I was on my bedroom floor surrounded by opened volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia and our family Bible, looking for every scrap of information that I could find on the Ark of the Covenant: my first-ever research project. Before 1982 arrived I'd already figured out that Lucas and Spielberg might have "taken some liberties" (as I found out years later is what you call it) with the real story of the Ark. Like, nowhere in the Bible did I find that the Ark could "level mountains". Still didn't keep me from wanting to see the movie again though...

That was the beginning of my life-long interest in history: one that would ultimately see me earning a college degree in the field.

I'm sharing all of this to let y'all know what the Indiana Jones movies mean to me, and the profound impact that they wound up having on my life. And that's been the most consistent thing that I've been able to come up with so far. Usually I spend a lot of time composing my thoughts for a movie like this, and just as much writing them. And since yesterday evening I've started writing a proper review of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull no less than four times.

I saw it yesterday afternoon at the Grande Stadium 16 in Greensboro, along with my wife Lisa and my father. Dad and I have seen every Indiana Jones movie together as each was playing in the theaters. We've been talking for months about seeing this one too, and I could have caught it during the midnight premiere on Wednesday night or opening day Thursday but nope: this is something he and I had to do together. Figure in Lisa and that's two of the people who matter most to me that I wanted to share this with (I would have asked Mom if she wanted to come but she's still grossed-out by memories of what happened to Belloq, Toht and Dietrich when they opened the Ark).

So... what did I think of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull?

I THOUGHT IT WAS AWESOME!!!

No, I'm not just saying that either. I seriously thought it was a very, very good movie. And it only gets better the more that I think about it since watching it yesterday afternoon.

The movie takes place in 1957: nineteen years after the events of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (but chronologically it's seven years since we last saw Harrison Ford in the role during his cameo in a 1993 episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles television series). The film begins with a convoy of U.S. Army trucks driving through the Nevada desert. The vehicles arrive at an Air Force hangar. The soldiers disembark, shoot the base personnel and then drag two men out of a car trunk: George "Mac" McHale (played by George Winstone) and Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones Jr., looking none the worse for wear in spite of two decades and hints of action in World War II.

It turns out that their assailants are Soviet soldiers under the command of KGB agent Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett). And the building they have arrived at is none other than the now-famous government warehouse shown at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Spalko has brought Indy and Mac here because Russian intelligence has discovered that in addition to all of the other U.S. government secrets (including the contents of a certain crate... which we do get to see again) there is something in the warehouse pertaining to an incident that Indy was called in to consult upon in 1947.

Of course, Indy escapes (in one of the most outrageously fun sequences that I've seen in an action movie in many years). But the circumstances of what went down in Nevada leave Jones academically black-balled at the height of the Red Scare. En route to teach elsewhere, Indy is approached by Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), a "greaser"-type in love with motorcycles. Mutt shares with Indy the news that an old colleague named Harold Oxley (John Hurt) has gone missing after discovering a crystal skull in Peru. The new team of Indy and Mutt are soon en route to South America (and the classic Indiana Jones-style map and red line is back!) to unravel the mystery. It's not long before Indy once again runs afoul of Spalko and the Russians, who are holding as their captive Mutt's mother and Indy's old flame Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen, looking as great as she did in Raiders of the Lost Ark!).

And yeah there's much more to this movie, but that should be enough to tantalize folks who haven't seen it. And they really should go see it in theaters if they can, 'cuz I honestly can't remember the last time I saw a movie quite like this and had that kind of enjoyment. Maybe not since the Nineteen-Eighties even...

You see, to me at least there are three things that one should realize to fully enjoy Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The first is that this is an Eighties movie, made two decades later. In terms of style and tone it's not at all what we've come to expect from a modern blockbuster. So in that respect, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is something of a "love letter" to the original Indiana Jones movies and other films that my generation grew up with.

If that bothers some people, then maybe it would also help to understand what it is that, I believe, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were doing when they set out to make Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Remember how they said that Raiders of the Lost Ark was intentionally a homage to the classic "Saturday afternoon serials" of the Thirties and Forties? Well, I believe that just so, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is best appreciated when it's understood that this movie is a homage to all of those Nineteen-Fifties science-fiction films, including so-called B-movies. All of the classic elements are there in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: aliens and flying saucers, atomic warfare, Communist spies, psychic powers, heck even a cheesy-sounding title! This is an Indiana Jones movie that George Pal, Gordon Douglas and Joseph M. Newman would have made back in the day... and for that reason alone, I love it!

And the third reason why I thought Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a great movie: this film represents at long last the return of "the old" Steven Spielberg. When I met him in 1989 at the National Boy Scout Jamboree, that was the Spielberg that was still making Indiana Jones movies and stuff like Back to the Future, and went on to make Jurassic Park. A lot of of other people at the time commented that Spielberg in person really did act like "a big kid having fun".

But then a few years later Spielberg made Schindler's List. One of the stories I've read is that while visiting Auschwitz, Spielberg found a strange puddle in the ground and stuck his hand into it. Only then did he realize that it was a pit of human ash and bone debris.

How does something like that not affect a person? Spielberg was never the same after Schindler's List. I know people who've met Spielberg in the years since and as one put it "he's creative, but haunted". Even when his next movie The Lost World: Jurassic Park came out, it seemed as if Spielberg was a rattled director. At least since A.I.: Artificial Intelligence he's been trying to "come back home" to the kid he once was, but it's been a hard road.

With Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I think that Steven Spielberg finally has returned, and maybe to the point in his life that he wants and needs to be at. A few years ago I heard John Rhys-Davies comment that he thought Spielberg was still "a young director" with potential to grow even greater. With this latest Indiana Jones movie, we see that "the kid" Steven Spielberg is still alive and well. He's been there all along: he just had to go on his own "Grail quest" and come back a little wiser for it.

As for the plot of this movie: having followed the development of a fourth Indiana Jones movie for fifteen years now, I caught a lot of elements that had been suggested in that time. At one point Indy jokes about "saucer men from Mars", and indeed Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men from Mars was the title of a proposed fourth Indy script from the Nineties. I thought that I could also pick out more than a few things from the Indiana Jones and the Sons of Darkness script (just one of the wackier things that happened on the way to making a fourth Indiana Jones flick). Maybe it's just the Indiana Jones "geek" in me coming out but I noticed what could have been nods to Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (considered the best Indiana Jones video game produced to date) and even Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, which also pitted Indy against Soviet goons. At one point Indy tells Mutt that he rode with "Pancho" Villa, which is more than a passing reference to the events of the two-hour pilot episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. And although Marcus Brody and Henry Jones Sr. have sadly passed away (Denholm Elliott died in 1992 and Sean Connery is enjoying retirement) they are still a strong influence in Indy's life. It was very neat to see them acknowledged, particularly how Marcus is remembered around the Marshall College campus.

It might have been a maddening melange of MacGuffins. But Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull brings home the goods in classic Indy style.

I thought the acting was terrific, the action intense and the humor was just right. Spielberg, Lucas, Ford and the rest of the crew no doubt had some laughs playing around with this "new" era of Indy's life, and it shows. Ford as the older Indy shows some poignancy we haven't seen in the role before, but he's just as quick with his mind and wits... and his fists... as he ever was. The biggest surprise in terms of cast was LaBeouf as Mutt: I thought he was the perfect Fifties-era sidekick to Indy, and by the end of the movie he's becoming something of an apprentice, which is perhaps something that Jones has needed more than he knew. Karen Allen is a delight to watch as Marion again. Blanchett brings the right balance of menace and humor to Spalko. I enjoy Winstone as Mac (and I hope we get to find out more about what happened between Mac and Indy during World War II) and James Broadbent in his all-too-brief appearances as Indy's friend and Marshall dean. The one criticism I kinda have is that it would have been good to see more of John Hurt as Oxley. But even there, I have to wonder: Harold Oxley reminds me greatly of Lt. Col. Percy Fawcett: an English archaeologist who also went looking for lost cities of gold deep in the Amazon basin. Fawcett disappeared in 1928, and there were stories that he was spotted years later in the jungle having "gone native" and screaming mad. Was Oxley based on Fawcett? Seems little doubt that he was. So in that regard, I have to believe it was inspired casting to put Hurt in the role.

The special effects of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull are outstanding, but it is not a movie as bereft of digital enhancement as I was expecting. The early publicity was almost enough to make us believe that Spielberg and Lucas would shoot this with the same level of technology as the three original movies. There's CGI galore in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull but I never thought it was as overwhelming as, say, one of the Star Wars prequels (didn't all of those Clonetroopers as a whole look more than a little un-natural?). The stunts are, so far as I can tell, still all physical... including Harrison Ford, who seemed to impress everyone at our screening with the fitness he shows for a 65-year old actor. The man has definitely been keeping himself in great shape all of these years while waiting to do this movie.

John Williams' score for this movie complements the action nicely, but curiously I can't recall any single theme that resonates as well afterward from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as much as, say, the Ark's theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark or the music for the Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I did buy the soundtrack CD a few days ago though for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and have been playing it a lot while I work. There is a lot of repetition of previous movements, but otherwise I think it's okay for an Indiana Jones soundtrack. Not at all "outstanding" like the one for Raiders of the Lost Ark, but still good in its own right.

I could go on writing about how great a movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is. But you know... it all comes down to the experience I chose to have watching it with my wife and my father. Lisa and Dad loved it. Especially Dad: he admitted that parts of it were "weird to me" (especially the stuff toward the end) but it was pretty obvious to both Lisa and I that he was thoroughly enjoying this movie. It was also enough to make Lisa want to watch our DVD of Raiders of the Lost Ark when we got home.

And as for me: I've been watching a new Indiana Jones movie writhe and linger in turmoil for a decade and a half now. I've said for months that I wouldn't believe this one was really happening, until I sat down in the theater and saw it on the big screen for myself.

Well folks, that's just what happened yesterday. I saw a new Indiana Jones movie at last and I enjoyed every minute of it!

And if you can buy into the notion that this is an old-fashioned Eighties blockbuster, you will too.

(And if you want another, although very different take on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, my good friend Phillip Arthur has posted a review also :-)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chris meets Wii Fit

So yesterday (which it barely is as of this writing) Nintendo released its much-anticipated Wii Fit. I had no idea what this was until Lisa was in Georgia a month and a half ago. She phoned home and asked if I could go to the local GameStop and pre-order a copy. Well you know, when you're a husband you do whatever makes your wife happy (unless you've got an "Ahab and Jezebel" thing going on, but I digress...) so I went and plunked down the money and was told it would be waiting for me on May 21st.

And then I went home and got on the Internet and found out what Wii Fit was exactly.

And then I found out that I had just committed to purchasing a ninety-dollar bathroom scale...

For the next several weeks, I found myself studying Wii Fit, wondering what the heck were we getting into. Let's start with the obvious: in the videos and all the other advertising that we're seeing for this thing, the people using the Wii Balance Board are playing with it in their bare feet. I don't know how sterile the plastic is that Nintendo uses in their products, but no doubt there's going to be some athlete's foot and other gnarly fungal infections coming from this thing during the course of heavy use among several people (like yer average-sized family). Plus, how clean does Nintendo expect this thing to be? Tonight millions of people across America are enjoying their white, pristine Wii Balance Boards. In a few weeks or even days those will start to turn an ugly, festering yellow as the skin oils from the soles of their feet (trivia: there are more sweat glands on the bottom of your feet than the rest of your body put together) permeate the boards. And according to the literature you're suppose to do this barefoot. Can't Nintendo engineer a pair of Wii Socks or something?

Well, we picked up our Wii Fit this afternoon and after Lisa finished watching American Idol tonight, I gave Wii Fit a try. In addition to the Wii Fit I also bought a silicone protective sleeve (much like those for the Wii Remotes) to go over the Wii Balance Board, and in spite of the instructions I chose to wear regular socks. 'Cuz I'm the kind of guy who likes to keep his possessions in good shape for however long I have 'em, and it seemed like the hygienic thing to do. I also wore black sweatpants and a dark t-shirt.

So how did it go?

10:12 p.m. EST: Inserted the Wii Fit disc into the Nintendo Wii system, then proceeded to synchronize the Wii Balance Board.

10:14 p.m. EST: Synchronization complete.

10:17 p.m. EST: I'm being asked to select which "Mii" to use for my personal account on Wii Fit. I use my standard "Chris" Mii, the one that kinda looks like mii... I mean, me.

10:19 p.m. EST: Wii Fit is now asking for my height and my age. Since this is a ninety-dollar bathroom scale I'm assuming that it has already precisely determined my weight.

10:25 p.m. EST: Wii Fit has just finished running me through some balance and coordination tests. It needs to do this so that it can calculate my "Wii Fit Age" and Body Mass Index (BMI). And according to Wii Fit... I'm two years younger than my physical age! Balance and posture is darn near perfect (only a few tenths of a percentage point more inclination on my right side). Not only that but my BMI is only slightly more than recommended (but according to Wii Fit I'm still in excellent shape).

10:39 p.m. EST: The original results were so good, that I ran them again, just to see if the results would duplicate. Because I want to make sure that this thing is measuring everything right for sake of accurate record-keeping. Sure enough, the results come out the same. I'm satisfied enough to proceed.

10:42 p.m. EST: Wii Fit is about to begin me on exercises and it starts off by asking me which "trainer" I want to work with.

Ooh-boy...

On the left-hand side of the screen is the 3-D rendered avatar of a buff, well-toned male. On the right-hand side of the screen, depicted equally well with Wii's 3-D capabilities, is a sultry and seductive lass who looks positively hot in her leotard!

If I choose to train with the man, I'll feel like people will wonder why I didn't choose the woman trainer. And if I choose to train with the woman, Lisa will get mad and I'll be "sleeping in the doghouse" for a week. Why couldn't Nintendo just let you work out with Mario or Toad instead? Why are they doing this to me?!?

So I broke down and chose to workout with the female trainer. May God have mercy on me...

11:01 p.m. EST: The sexy leotard-clad female trainer has told me that "You've got great abs! Keep it up!"

11:16 p.m. EST: Okay, I think that's going to be enough of the Wii Fit for a first time. All I did was a few sets of each of the four initial strength exercises, using the default number of reps for each one. Had to re-arrange the furniture in our living room some to do the things like jackknife and push-ups, and then put everything back afterward. I've set a goal to decrease my BMI over the next two weeks, to get it at the Wii Fit-recommended level for my height.

Based on this cursory experience, I think it's safe to declare that Shigeru Miyamoto has created another winner for his company. Wii Fit is certainly not a "toy" or anything that one should underestimated. If used consistently and with moderately increasing levels of intensity over time, Wii Fit could become a fantastic - and fun - part of any exercise regimen, with the benefit of yielding tangible results. It wouldn't be wise to rely solely on Wii Fit though: regular "traditional" exercise and good diet also go a long way. And I'm not in the peak of condition by any stretch: my goal is to eventually run a full marathon like my friend Chad Austin does all the time. Wii Fit won't necessarily build me up for something like that, but it should be a good complimentary tool toward that goal all the same.

If you've got a Wii, I'll recommend Wii Fit for ya. It seems quite worth the hype. And if you're wondering about real results, check out what happened to this guy after using Wii Fit for seven weeks.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Romanov mystery solved: DNA testing ends ninety years of speculation

It was one of the most tantalizing mysteries of the Twentieth Century. And had I not been so busy with other things, I would not have missed the announcement about three weeks ago that the last members of Tsar Nicholas II's family had finally been found...


Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia, and his family in a photo taken in 1911

Nicholas and his family, along with several faithful servants, were executed by the Bolsheviks in the town of Yekaterinburg on July 17th, 1918, a little over a year after his abdication from the throne. Rumors and legend have persisted over the decades that at least one of the Romanov children survived the slaughter. Most fancifully, it's been suggested that Nicholas' only son Alexei and youngest daughter Anastasia had somehow been secretly spared.

In 1991, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, the remains of Nicholas II and most of the Romanov family were found. After exhaustive research it was discovered that two of his children were still missing: at least one daughter, and Alexei. The Romanov enigma would endure for nearly another two decades.

And then in the summer of 2007 the remains of two children were found in the area of the Romanov execution. They matched a report by the Romanovs' executioner, who said that two of the bodies had been burned and buried separately from those of the family. For the past several months the remains have been undergoing DNA analysis.

And now we know for certain: none of the Romanovs escaped execution. It has been confirmed that the remains are those of Alexei and his sister Maria, the third oldest of Nicholas II's daughters.

I'll admit: I was one of those who ever since first reading about the Romanovs had secretly hoped that at least one of them had yet survived. And it would have been neat for there to have been this one great mystery of the previous century left unsolved, which would have always left a little room to have a glimmer of hope.

There is no hope now. Nicholas, his wife and all their issue were massacred, leaving no survivors.

But at least now, with no more doubt, they will soon be together as a family again: on Earth as they are in Heaven. As it should be.

Monday, May 19, 2008

McCain "kind of like Jesus Christ on the cross" says GOP state chair

Sue Everhart, chairlady of the Georgia Republican Party, has said that John McCain is comparable to Jesus Christ...
Georgia Republican Party chairwoman Sue Everhart said Saturday that the party's presumed presidential nominee has a lot in common with Jesus Christ.

"John McCain is kind of like Jesus Christ on the cross," Everhart said as she began the second day of the state GOP convention. "He never denounced God, either."

Everhart was praising McCain for never denouncing the United States while he was being tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

"I'm not trying to compare John McCain to Jesus Christ, I'm looking at the pain that was there," she said.

What's worse in my mind is that Everhart is ascribing divinity to the United States: basically saying that America is like God.

So between a South Carolina church trying to connect Barack Obama to Osama Bin Laden and a Baptist minister declaring on the radio that Obama is "Antichrist", we are now supposed to believe that John McCain is like unto the Son of Man.

And some people wonder why I've grown tired of politics.

It's looking like so far as "the two major parties" go, it'll be the proverbial Hobson's choice between McCain and Obama for President this November. I won't be voting for either one of them.

And once again, I have to wonder how many self-professed Christians are going to spin this election as "a vote for Obama is a vote for evil" thing. You'd think that after two elections of voting for "God's anointed man" that most would have learned better.

Probably not. Mark my words: you'll still see Pat Robertson, James Dobson and their kind shilling for McCain and saying it's one's "Christian duty" to support him.

They had more than enough opportunity to do what they could to turn America around spiritually and intellectually. Instead they prostituted their principles so they could sit at "the king's table".

Screw 'em.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Want a KWerky Productions update?

YEEEEEAAAAAARRRRGGGGHHH!!!!!!

So earlier tonight, this idea hit me like a bolt out of the blue. I have no idea what might have been going on in my neurobiology, the myriad of connections that led to everything "clicking" in place for this crazy notion.

Holy cow... if we can make this thing work... and I think that we can make it work...

I've already spoken to two people who would be involved. We'd have to be way careful about how we do this. But both of them believe it's feasible.

I'm working on a treatment to pitch to The Powers That Be(tm). It doesn't even have a working title yet. Maybe one will present itself in the next little while.

Hot darn, this idea has me stoked!! It's definitely in the realm of filmmaking, but it's going to be quite a few other things rolled into the package too.

Don't expect much more word about this. It'll have to be kept pretty close to vest over the next several months. But if the pitch flies and we can get our ducks in a row, I think the results will be pretty explosive.

Stay tuned :-)

Rave reviews coming in for INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL

Harry Knowles is madly in love with it. Roger Ebert has given it 3 and 1/2 stars. And when it was premiered at Cannes Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull received a three-minute standing ovation.

I'm finally beginning to let myself believe that after a decade and a half of crazy rumors and false-starts, that this week we are going to see an Indiana Jones movie... and one that stands as tall as any of them.

I'm currently debating whether to catch it at the midnight showing on Wednesday night, or wait 'til Friday at the earliest to see it with Dad and Lisa. If I see the midnight premiere, I get to post a review of it all the sooner for this blog. But if I wait a few days, I get to enjoy it for the first time with my father (with whom I've watched every Indiana Jones movie in a theater) and my wife. Right now I'm leaning toward waiting, and discover it fresh with some of the people closest to me... 'cuz a memory like that is worth much more than filing an earlier report, right?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Review of THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN

There is something very odd at work if I'm watching a film based on one of C.S. Lewis's Narnia books and the one thing I can't stop thinking about is "Dear Lord, this movie is too much like Army of Darkness!"

Not kidding folks. It happened yesterday when Lisa and I went to Greensboro to see The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. The second adaptation of the classic Lewis fantasy series from Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media. And there is also plenty in this movie that will remind people of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings and even the Harry Potter films.

But it was Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness that this viewer kept finding parallels to. Let's see: Heroes whisked away to another place and time to fight evil? Check. Modern technology used in a medieval setting? Check. Body parts chopped off and replaced? Check. Catapults? Check. Assault on a castle? Check. Ultimate evil brought back from the dead? It almost happens in Prince Caspian, so we'll count it. This movie should have just got it over with and cast Bruce Campbell as Miraz ("Hail to the king, baby.")

For the most part, Andrew Adamson's adaptation is extremely faithful to the book. I'll say that I enjoyed watching it, but I want to watch it again before I'm confident enough to say that I thoroughly loved it.

The biggest problem with Prince Caspian is that it's just so very long. Its cinematic predecessor, 2005's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was longer in screen time but there was so much going on (most of it directly taken from the original book) that the time whisked by. In contrast, there were parts of Prince Caspian that were quite tedious to sit through: Lisa had to nudge me awake during the scene where Miraz is crowned king. This movie could have had 10-15 minutes excised from it, and it would have been a far better film for it.

True to the marketing that's been done for it, Prince Caspian is a far darker movie than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was. But instead of relying on the source material alone to provide a grimmer setting, Adamson and his crew set out to up the stakes and honestly, I don't know if that works well with this kind of adaptation. There are many scenes in the film that are nowhere to be found in Prince Caspian the book, including (by Lisa's count) two extra battle scenes, one of which is the attempt to take the castle. At least one professional reviewer has observed that this movie doesn't provide much other than give the Pevensie kids a chance to hack and kill once they're back in Narnia, and with so much extra violence in this film it's hard to not relent and admit that there's some validity to such a claim. The Christian metaphor of Prince Caspian (I've always thought it was about having faith, as Lucy does when she wants Aslan to appear) is diminished as a result, when it could have been greatly expounded upon in this movie.

But in spite of its flaws, I'll say that The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is worth seeing once in these days of gloomy economy (read as: yeah burn some gas to go see it). The only other thing that I'll complain about it is that I seriously wanted to see more of Eddie Izzard as Reepicheep: that swashbuckling little mouse was the best thing about this movie! Hopefully we'll see more of him when the movie of Voyage of the Dawn Treader is made.

Friday, May 16, 2008

"Dear Sumner Redstone, from the guy you STOLE video from ..."

In spite of what I said about no hard feelings, there ain't no way that I'm gonna let this one slide...

Many of you no doubt remember what happened between me and Viacom several months ago, regarding the first TV commercial from my 2006 school board campaign.

To quickly recap: months after the election, Viacom's network VH1 chose to use my commercial for a segment of its show Web Junk 2.0, without bothering to ask me about it. I didn't mind, heck I thought it was pretty funny. So a few days after that episode runs I posted the clip of Web Junk 2.0 running MY commercial onto YouTube, so that I could share it on this blog.

A month and a half later, I was notified by YouTube that Viacom had demanded that the clip be removed, and YouTube was acquiescing with the order. Viacom actually claimed that I was violating its copyright... when it had violated my copyright to begin with!

Of course, I couldn't believe the rank hypocrisy of the situation. "Chutzpah" is the word I used to describe it. And it really wasn't a question of whether or not I wanted to fight it: the circumstance more or less obligated it. I filed a Digital Millennium Copyright Act counter-claim with YouTube, while the case engendered considerable media attention. Two weeks later Viacom yielded and the clip was restored to YouTube. I still gotta thank a lot of good people, especially the folks at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, for providing considerable support during that whole fiasco.

You'd think that Viacom would have learned a lesson from all of this, right?

Jazz at All Thats Evil was the first to pass along some remarks made last week in South Korean by Sumner Redstone, the CEO of Viacom. Here's the link that Jazz sent from Inside Online Video, which cites John Dvorak's take on Redstone's remarks.

To wit...

[According to Redstone] When you post a clip of The Daily Show on YouTube, for example, that may indeed have a positive effect on the show and its ratings, but it’s not your decision to make. In the world of the media giants, a fan has no special privileges and is not part of the marketing department.

As a fan, your job is to watch a few ads (or buy a ticket), enjoy the show, tell your friends about it, and get out of the way.

And here's a quote directly from Redstone...
During a question-and-answer session after the speech, Redstone took a swipe at popular video-sharing site YouTube, which his company has sued.

"We cannot tolerate any form of piracy by anyone, including YouTube," he said.

Viacom sued YouTube and its parent Google Inc. in March last year, claiming that the Web site is rife with copyrighted video from Viacom shows and seeking more than US$1 billion in damages.

Mr. Redstone, I don't know if you realize this or if you even care, but I am a person that your own company not only STOLE video from, but chose to PROFIT from that theft!

And you have the audacity to tell the world that using the most miniscule segments of video, without asking the original copyright owners for permission or even caring enough to inform them that it's being used, is "theft" and "piracy"? When most people who post clips onto YouTube never make a cent for their efforts while you run a multi-billion dollar company that does the same thing for profit?

Sumner Redstone, shut the hell up, sir!

For all your talk of "cannot tolerate any form of piracy by anyone", you don't give a damn about YOUR OWN COMPANY committing piracy already!

Hell, Viacom never even offered me an apology for when it stole (I wouldn't ordinarily categorize using my video as "theft" by anyone else but Redstone's comments throws this into whole 'nother territory) my video.

Previously I regarded this whole thing as a misunderstanding, and that I was glad we were able to resolve this amiably and "go our separate ways".

But now, after reading Redstone's remarks in Seoul, I have to seriously wonder if I made a mistake in not pressing this further. Parse that as you will...