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.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tonight I went to THE LAST CIRCUS

This is without a doubt THE most whacked, demented, torn-up, psychotic movie that I've watched in a really long time...

The Last Circus (original title Balada Triste de Trompeta) is a 2010 Spanish film written and directed by Álex de la Iglesia. Covering four decades stretching from the Spanish Civil War on through the early 1970s, The Last Circus is the story of a love triangle between two circus clowns and the acrobat each lusts after.

So what's it like? Imagine that Quentin Tarantino, Tim Burton and Guillermo del Toro collaborated on a movie together. That is the best I can describe The Last Circus.

Here's the trailer...

I think I needed something this off-kilter and screwball ultra-violent right now. With a healthy dash of historical drama thrown in for good measure. This kind of movie appeals to that visceral "id" creature within me. I wound up ordering the Blu-ray based on the trailer and good word-of-mouth alone: in retrospect, definitely a good purchase! Looking forward to showing The Last Circus to some of my friends :-)

Interesting tidbits about Leap Year

Today is February 29th, which only comes about every four years because of Leap Year. And if you wanna know why exactly we have that, The Christian Science Monitor's website has a rather informative article about the Gregorian Calendar and how it came about.

(I learned some new stuff reading that. Like: because of a deal brokered by Saint Patrick, today is the one day during four whole years that the lady gets to propose to her man! And if the dude says "no" he's obliged to give her a new dress and some gloves.)

And over at io9.com there's the strange but true tale of how there was once a February 30th.

New trailer for THE AVENGERS

This is looking to be the most fun of the comic book movies set for this summer...

As jazzed as I am about The Dark Knight Rises, the more that I see of The Avengers, the more it's looking like the superhero movie that we always dreamed as kids of seeing but thought we'd never get to have.

The Avengers assemble on May 4th.

Davy Jones, lead singer of The Monkees, has passed away

The sad news is breaking this afternoon that Davy Jones, lead singer of The Monkees, has died of a heart attack at the age of 66.

I have never quite figured out exactly what The Monkees were supposed to be. Where they actors who could sing? Were they singers who could act?

Whatever they were, they were always entertaining, extremely funny... and waaaay more talented than a bunch of "performers" that I could pick out of today's pop culture.

Jones leaves behind a wife and four children, and millions of fans across five decades. Thoughts and prayers going out to his family this afternoon.

Monday, February 27, 2012

My girlfriend burns up the dance floor with two hot routines!

From Saturday night, here is Kristen doing an Argentine Tango...

Later on, she performed a Bolero (one of the tougher ballroom dances to do, I'm told)...

And yes, your friend and intrepid blogger has taken up some ballroom dancing as well. Maybe someday soon there will even be photo/video documentation of it. If you're good. And if I'm good :-P

I don't care what the pundits are saying...

...but for The Artist winning ALL that Oscar bling last night, including Best Picture, that makes yesterday evening's Academy Awards the best in years.

If only Uggie had been nominated for Best Supporting Actor, then it would have been spot-on perfect.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

STAR WARS EPISODE I in 3D gave Chris a splitting headache!

So yesterday evening, my lifelong best friend Chad and I met up in Durham to do something we had never done before. For all the things we've done together, we had yet to see a Star Wars movie together in the theater.

Okay, we've done that now. I'm thankful that we got to fix that. But that's the only good thing that came out of last night's screening of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 3D(?!?).

Yeah, a Star Wars movie in 3D. I know, it looks good on paper, buuuuut...

Now I have to be honest: there are some parts of the movie that look far better in 3D than they deserve to be. The podrace sequence, f'rinstance. But I'm inclined to believe that's only because it's already moving so fast that your eyeballs are being vicariously assaulted before your gray matter gets time to register the sensation. Unfortunately a movie consumed with things like boardroom meetings and bureaucratic theatrics makes the 3D a tedious thing to sit through. That's when the 3D works at all.

Because there are loads of times during Star Wars Episode I's 3D edition that the 3D isn't there to begin with! Trust me folks, I took off my 3D specs a number of times during the second half or so of the movie and, I couldn't tell ANY difference at all between the 3D conversion and the 2D original that I have seen about 9 times already on the big screen. And then there is what was likely the most significant reason why my visual cortex felt burnt afterward: the schizoid use of 2D and 3D elements simultaneously. I saw plenty of that during the Coruscant scenes in particular before giving up and letting myself just watch the darn thing.

The Phantom Menace in 3D adds nothing particularly enjoyable to the experience of watching a Star Wars movie in theaters... and that's something that I've never had happen to be before, in over thirty years of going to see Star Wars flicks at a cinema. Taking a movie shot in standard 2D and converting it into 3D has proven time and time again to be an expensive and glorious mess. I had hoped, sincerely hoped, that Star Wars Episode I would be the breakthrough movie that put an end to the never-ending parade of 3D post-production disaster. Heck, we've known this was coming for years before Avatar ever came out. In Industrial Light and Magic did I trust.

But no, I cannot recommend Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 3D. Neither can I see myself going to any of the other Star Wars movies set to be released in 3D, one a year for the next five years.

Now if George Lucas wants to produce a new Star Wars film trilogy, and actually shoot them in true honest-to-goodness stereo camera setup THREE DIMENSIONS, I'll gladly see those in the theaters a dozen times over. But turning 2D into 3D?

Who'da thunk that I'd leave a Star Wars movie... any Star Wars movie... cringing about having watched a steaming pile of bantha poodoo.

Friday, February 24, 2012

America: Death by inconsistency

Louisiana College, a private Baptist school, is suing the federal government over the requirement that religious-affiliated hospitals and organizations must fund contraceptives as part of health care, even in spite of strong beliefs against such measures. Louisiana College and other religious organizations are quick to note that Obama's "healthcare" mandate violates their constitutional rights.

Doug Powers notes that the mainstream media is giving President Obama a "free ride" about the ridiculous price of gasoline, when it blamed George W. Bush for it at every opportunity.

(Longtime readers will know that I have never been a fan of either Obama or Bush. They're the two worst Presidents in American history, in my book...)

I juxtapose these two seemingly unrelated items before you, good readers, because I remember plenty of times during Bush's presidency when too many Christians simply "rolled over and took it" when he and his administration violated the Constitution. Not only that, but practically sang praises to the man (and even praying to Bush in at least one instance). So too, do I know fully well how many if not most of the "mainstream press" have a significant bias toward the Democrat party and for what are considered "liberal" causes.

Every day, bit by bit, I watch America die before my eyes because we the people will valiantly fight for what's right when it is in our favor but will feign ignorance and indifference when it is not. Who knows: we may not have this ObamaCare crap if a lot of us had chosen to take a stand against certain politicians during the past decade.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

All kinds of Popcorn Sutton goodness!

There's just no stopping the legend of Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton!

First thing's first: the Third Annual Popcorn Sutton Tribute is set for August 3-4, once again in beautiful Maggie Valley, North Carolina! That's right this year it's gonna be a two day event! I'm currently planning to be there for all of it.

Wouldn't surprise me at all if next year's is a three-day extravaganza, given how Popcorn's life and times continues to gain legions of admirers. And there are gonna be even more after this article in The New York Times about Popcorn's life and likker. There's a terrific photo of Mrs. Pam Sutton holding a jar of Popcorn's original moonshine.

Meanwhile, attorney Will Cheek notes that three years after his passing, Popcorn has achieved a victory of sorts. Namely, that distilling liquor is now legal in Cocke County, Tennessee (where Popcorn lived).

And though it's nearly a year old, I'm led to direct y'all's attention to Arianna Armstrong's essay "Portrait of a Moonshiner", which is packed with a bunch of biographical information about Popcorn Sutton that I didn't know previously (like how Popcorn's father's name was Vader Sutton, and how Popcorn would use his daughter's baby bathtub to mix the ingredients for his likker).

At the rate things are going, it wouldn't surprise me if Popcorn Sutton's Tennessee White Whiskey was soon just as big a household name as Jack Daniel's and Jim Beam. Hey, non-drinker though I be, I'd be totally fine with that :-)

A late night's ponderance

Government is force. Government is not law. And government can certainly never be force of law.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It was Professor Plum, in the kitchen, with the wrench

So about thirty years after I initially learned about it, this past weekend I finally played my very first game of Clue.

Up 'til now, my only real exposure to the Clue franchise was the 1985 film, which had three different endings. I got introduced to that back in college, by roomie/now filmmaking partner "Weird" Ed Woody. I told him then that Clue was always a game that I'd wanted to try but never had the chance.

That finally came on Sunday afternoon. It was raining hard in Norfolk (while everyone back home was getting snowed hard upon) and instead of going out, the four of us opted to stay in and watch movies, play games and such. And so it was that Clue was brought out.

I didn't know anything about the actual rules, but I quickly was brought up to speed. For my piece I chose Mrs. Peacock, only because she was already on the side of the board that I was sitting on.

And I didn't win. That honor belonged to our friend Grace. But I had a heck of a fun time! Lord willing we have some children ('cuz Clue needs 3-6 players) I'm definitely gonna invest in a copy of this game.

So that's one more thing scratched off my "Must Do Before I Die" list. Now if I can only see a real tornado. And live long enough to see Elon's basketball team go to the NCAA Tournament...

Today is the first day of Lent

The last time I seriously gave anything up for Lent, it was 2006, when I stopped blogging for the entire 40-some days of the period. As much as I came back refreshed and invigorated, I don't know if I could do that again.

But Lent was something that I was feeling led to observe this year, for a number of reasons. So at the suggestion of some friends, I am choosing to give up video games and root beer.

The video games, I'm not worried about. It's only the seriously narrative-based games that I seem to indulge myself in, and the last time I did that was Batman: Arkham City. Though I'm curious as to how long I can go without the original StarCraft (which I plan to elaborate upon in the near future).

It's the root beer which I'm cautious about.

It's like this: I don't drink soft drinks hardly ever. At home, I'm a true southern-bred boy, drinking good ol'-fashioned sweet tea. Whenever I go out to eat or to a movie, I drink root beer. If root beer isn't available, I go for some other soft drink. Because no restaurant or movie theater seems to ever do tea the way it's supposed to be.

Knowing this, my girlfriend Kristen keeps her fridge well-stocked with A&W Root Beer whenever I'm dropping by. And I usually wind up drinking more of the stuff than I'd intended. Because, well, root beer is delicious!

But for the next forty days, I'm going off the stuff.

We'll see if I can do this. Hey, if Kristen could be completely off chocolate for Lent one year (I'm still hoping pictures will show up of this 'cuz my mind refuses to acknowledge it) then going without root beer should be easy enough :-)

Girl expelled from school for borrowing asthma inhaler

Alyssa McKinney has learned a valuable lesson courtesy of Lewis-Palmer Middle School in Monument, Colorado (and its primary asshole Superintendent of Schools John Borman)...
“The lesson that I learned from this is not to help people, because helping people is just going to get yourself in trouble,” McKinney said.
McKinney's classmate Breana Crites was having an asthma attack during a gym class last month. Alyssa McKinney let Crites borrow her asthma inhaler. It might have saved Breana Crites' life, or at the very least kept her from being hospitalized.

But for that act of Good Samaritanship, Alyssa was placed on ten days' suspension (with the possibility of expulsion if the school "administration" judges she makes one measly further "mistake) and Crites was expelled for the rest of the year.

Read all about it here.

Superintendent John Borman had this to say...

“I think absolutely the suspension was appropriate.”
People like Bastardorman are going to be the destruction of whatever good is left in this country. A person's life was very likely at stake and this soulless automaton doesn't give a damn. All that matters is absolute obedience to The Rules and those who decree them.

They'll still be insisting "But we were only following orders" right up to the moment that they're thrown against the wall.

Tip o' the hat to Scott Bradford for directing our attention to this latest instance of public education insanity.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Saturday night, I beheld THE TREE OF LIFE

During this past weekend in Norfolk a friend showed us some movies that I haven't seen yet. Drive is excellent! David Cronenberg's 1983 horror entry Videodrome... hmmmm, interesting. Saw some foreshadowing of our Internet culture there. And for my own part I brought along Hobo With A Shotgun.

It's The Tree of Life that I haven't been able to stop thinking about for the past 48 hours.

It's up for Best Picture during the Oscars this coming Sunday night (along with The Artist - a movie I've seen twice in theaters, this is the second Best Picture nominee this year that I've caught). And I can understand why. It's jaw-droppingly beautiful to oggle and admire. Writer/director Terrence Malick was able to woo Douglas Trumbull himself to come out of retirement to do the visuals for The Tree of Life. Trumbull was the genius who pulled off those still-incredible effects in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Coincidentally, it took me more than 15 years to finally "understand" 2001. It might take just as long to wrap my brain around The Tree of Life. Because like 2001, The Tree of Life is the kind of movie that you can watch with your eyes, ears and mind wide-open but when you wake up the next morning you're going to forget what exactly it is that you spent all that time paying attention to.

I need to watch this again. I'll probably be buying the Blu-ray of it soon. As much as my gray matter felt pulped and spindled after watching The Tree of Life (our host put on Drive afterward and that provided some much needed mental refreshment) I want to say that there was a poignant, haunting beauty in this movie. I would even say that after the events of my own life of late (my mother's passing, coming to terms with bipolar disorder, recovering from a divorce among other things) that watching The Tree of Life was... a healing experience, in ways I can't figure out quite how just yet.

I can't think of a cinematic paraphrase of the Book of Job. But that's what The Tree of Life (which quotes from Job at its beginning) is becoming to me. A movie that dares to ask God "Why?"... and gives us His answer.

So I'll recommend The Tree of Life to this blog's readers. And I'd be interested to know what others think of it too.

Fiftieth anniversary of John Glenn's orbital spaceflight

Fifty years ago today, on February 20th 1962, John Glenn flew inside a Mercury space capsule christened Friendship 7 atop an Atlas LV-3B rocket, taking off from Cape Canaveral and into the history books...

It was the first orbital flight around the Earth by an American. Glenn made three orbits over the course of nearly five hours, before safely splashing down in the Atlantic.

Just think: it was only seven and a half years after Glenn's flight that we were walking on the moon.

How come we can't do cool stuff like that anymore? I mean, we use to make it look so easy...

I met John Glenn on Halloween Night in 1988. He came to my high school to campaign for the incumbent congressman from our district. Wish I'd gotten a photo of he and I together, but I do still have his autograph.

Anyway, here's wishing John Glenn a very happy anniversary of his pioneering flight! And hey, he's still looking in good shape at 90! I bet he'd be up for a trip to the International Space Station (if his lovely wife of 70 years will let him :-)

Just blew back into town...

...after four days in beautiful and historic Norfolk, Virginia!

Seems like the only thing that I missed was the ONLY snow my area has had this entire winter!!

Ahhh well, after the past few years' worth of ice and blizzard, a little respite may be a good thing.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Classic SESAME STREET: "What time is it?"

Been a few months since I posted a classic clip from Sesame Street. I figure it's time for another great Bert and Ernie sketch :-)

This one is definitely from way back. For one thing you can hear Mr. Hooper (the actor who played him passed away in 1982) and for another, there's no way that a sketch like this would be broadcast on Sesame Street today. Ahhh those were the days...

So here is Bert and Ernie in "What Time Is It?"

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Addy Miller is nominated for a Shorty Award: Let's help her out!!

Voting is underway until tomorrow night at midnight for The 4th Annual Shorty Awards, which is "a worldwide effort to engage hundreds of thousands of Twitter users to identify the best people and organizations on social media."

So I'm gonna pitch the case to y'all that in my opinion, Addy Miller deserves to win a Shorty. Because she's an incredibly talented young actress who is also immensely sweet and nice in real life, and she always takes time to interact with her growing number of fans.

In case you forgot who Addy is, here's a reminder...

Yup, she's the "little girl zombie" that Rick Grimes shot down in the very first scene of the very first episode of AMC's megahit series The Walking Dead. And word is that she's gotten involved in a bunch more great projects since then!

Here's a pic from a few months ago, when Kristen and I got to meet Addy at Woods of Terror near Greensboro...

Now ain't that the most precious-lookin' little cherub who ever played a flesh-eating undead ghoul?? :-)

Anyhoo, if you've got a Twitter account (which all the cool kids have these days) here's the link to Addy Miller's nomination page at The Shorty Awards. I'm asking all my online peeps to click on over and give her some support! She's doing very well so far, but every little bit helps.

And thanks!! :-)

President Obama has achieved Christian unity!

CatholicVote.org is reporting that every single bishop in the United States has gone on record as opposing President Barack Obama's mandating the funding of contraception as part of health care, even for those institutions (such as Catholic hospitals) which oppose contraception as a matter of belief.

It must also be noted that in the past week or so a significant number of Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox, Pentecostals, Seventh-Day Adventists, and members of many other denominations have rallied support behind their Roman Catholic brethren.

It should thus be noted that Barack Obama has pulled off something that has not taken place in about nineteen hundred years of church history:

He has unified the body of Christ, and found them to be of one accord.

Trinidad Moruga Scorpion: World's newest HOTTEST chili pepper!

I tried growing some Bhut Jolokia several months ago, but it never sprouted the peppers. I wound up giving up. At the time it was the world's hottest chili pepper, clocking in at more than a million scorching Scovilles.

Okay, scratch that... 'cuz there's now a new heavyweight champion of the hot pepper scene!

Behold the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion: some peppers of which have been found to be TWO MILLION Scoville Heat Units!

(I am already determined to find some of this stuff. No I'm not suicidal...)

New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute performed quantitative analysis of a variety of superhot peppers from around the globe. How powerful is the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion?

During harvesting, senior research specialist Danise Coon said she and the two students who were picking the peppers went through about four pairs of latex gloves.

"The capsaicin kept penetrating the latex and soaking into the skin on our hands. That has never happened to me before," she said.

Read more about this potent pepper here. I'll no doubt be purchasing some seeds in the near future. Expect some YouTube'd hilarity to ensue shortly afterward (much to my girlfriend's chagrin :-)

Chuck Baldwin on the hoax of "liberalism" versus "conservatism"

One of the most defining moments in my life as a thinker came courtesy of Matt Mittan, waaaay back when I first went to work for him at that newspaper in Asheville. Matt proceeded to draw a diagram on a dry-erase board about how most people think of government and politics as being "left versus right". But that's not how it really is at all, he went on. Instead of a horizontal line depicting a tug-of-war between self-proclaimed "liberals" and "conservatives", the line should actually be vertical: between the individual and the collective masses.

It was like an instant of enlightenment for me. Something I had known, but didn't know how to express it, suddenly became crystal clear. Matt didn't have to go any further, I could see it so vividly: the "conflict" between left and right, in reality, always takes away from individual liberty and gives more and more power to the government!! The only thing the "left" and "right" are fighting over is who gets to control the government. Neither "side" will ever admit that what they seriously want is control over We The People.

Chuck Baldwin is a commentator who I have enjoyed reading for quite some time, and in his essay this week he writes about the fraudulent "conservative vs. liberal" paradigm. Here's an excerpt...

There may have been a time when the words “conservative” and “liberal” meant something, but that time is no more. Today, “conservatives” in government are doing as much to promote Big Government, as are “liberals.” In fact, if one were to honestly evaluate the twelve years of the George Herbert Walker Bush and G.W. Bush administrations, one could say that “conservatives” even eclipse “liberals” in promoting Big Government. Under the two Bushes, the federal government expanded (and even exploded) to levels that for-real liberal Democrats could only dream about.

Let’s get realistic. Just because a politico says he or she is “pro-life,” or “pro-family,” or “pro-marriage,” etc., does not mean that they are going to do anything to help save the country. Come on, folks; think! “Conservative” Republican administration appointments have dominated the US Supreme Court since the infamous Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions that effectively legalized abortion-on-demand. And we are no closer to overturning Roe and Doe after almost forty years of electing “pro-life conservatives” than we were the year after the Roe and Doe decisions were rendered. And for the first six years of the 21st Century, “conservative” Republicans dominated the entire federal government, and still the Roe and Doe decisions stand.

(snip)

Both “conservatives” and “liberals” look to the federal government to establish and enforce their parochial agendas. “Liberals” look to Washington for the establishment of “social justice,” while “conservatives” look to Washington for the establishment of “military justice.” The net result is the federal government keeps getting bigger and bigger regardless of who controls the White House, Congress, or Supreme Court.

“Conservatives,” whether Christian or not, are just as culpable in the expansion of Big Government as are “liberals.” In fact, when it comes to the expansion of military adventurism, “conservatives” are the most culpable. And when it comes to the ever-burgeoning police state that is currently taking shape in the United States, “liberals” and “conservatives” are equally to blame. Let’s face it: both “conservatives” and “liberals” are in the midst of an intense and illicit love affair with Washington, D.C...

It's one of the finest pieces that I've read in awhile, anywhere. And I'm gonna tremendously recommend that it's worth your time to read it, too.

Government food police halt preschooler's lunch, forces chicken nuggets

How in Heaven's name did we make it this far without the Food Police?

I mean, I remember going to school every day with a lunchbox packed with a sandwich, a small bag of potato chips, a thermos of lemonade and sometimes a brownie or slice of cake. Around the holidays Mom would also usually throw in a bag of Chex snack mix (we've always called it "trash" because "there's all kinds of good junk in it!). So did millions of other children around the country. And we certainly didn't seem to suffer from malnutrition, rickets or plague.

In 2012 however, those individually-prepared meals packed with love would almost certainly have had our parents taken away in handcuffs by Department of Social Services. That seems to be the general direction we're headed according to this story from Carolina Journal Online, which reports on government run amok in the schools of the little burg of Raeford in the eastern part of this state...

Preschooler’s Homemade Lunch Replaced with Cafeteria “Nuggets”
State agent inspects sack lunches, forces preschoolers to purchase cafeteria food instead

RAEFORD — A preschooler at West Hoke Elementary School ate three chicken nuggets for lunch Jan. 30 because the school told her the lunch her mother packed was not nutritious.

The girl’s turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, according to the interpretation of the person who was inspecting all lunch boxes in the More at Four classroom that day.

The Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services requires all lunches served in pre-kindergarten programs - including in-home day care centers - to meet USDA guidelines. That means lunches must consist of one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables, even if the lunches are brought from home.

When home-packed lunches do not include all of the required items, child care providers must supplement them with the missing ones.

The girl's mother - who said she wishes to remain anonymous to protect her daughter from retaliation - said she received a note from the school stating that students who did not bring a "healthy lunch" would be offered the missing portions, which could result in a fee from the cafeteria, in her case $1.25.

"I don't feel that I should pay for a cafeteria lunch when I provide lunch for her from home," the mother wrote in a complaint to her state representative, Republican G.L. Pridgen of Robeson County.

The girl's grandmother, who sometimes helps pack her lunch, told Carolina Journal that she is a petite, picky 4-year-old who eats white whole wheat bread and is not big on vegetables.

"What got me so mad is, number one, don't tell my kid I'm not packing her lunch box properly," the girl's mother told CJ. "I pack her lunchbox according to what she eats. It always consists of a fruit. It never consists of a vegetable. She eats vegetables at home because I have to watch her because she doesn't really care for vegetables."

(snip)

I think every parent in that school should pack the same identical sub-nutritious menu in their children's lunchboxes for a solid week, and make these government ninny-nannies' heads collectively explode from frustration.

John Hayward at Human Events has some more thoughts about this ridiculous situation.

Having a designated person inspecting each and every lunch brought from home? Seriously?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Are the Star Wars prequels better than the original trilogy?

I haven't seen Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 3-D yet (which came out this past Friday). That no doubt comes as a shock to everyone who knows me as being perhaps too much of a Star Wars fan for one's own good. Perhaps this coming week or so is when I'll finally check it out. In the meantime...

A few days ago Timothy Sexton authored this intriguing - and no doubt controversial - essay in which he argues that the "prequel trilogy" of the Star Wars saga is better than the three originals which George Lucas produced between 1977 and 1983. It is Sexton's contention that Episodes I, II and III "are deeper, better structured, and more politically astute than the final three. Not only is that why the prequel is superior, it is also a pretty decent elucidation of the original trilogy's greater popularity."

In the weeks since Lucas announced he was retiring from blockbuster filmmaking (time will tell about how serious he is about that) I've been led to consider his magnum opus anew, particularly the prequels. And at last, I'm wondering what the chronological first half of the Star Wars would have been like had it been... well, different. For the first time I'm finding myself agreeing with a lot of observations: that the prequels are too heavy on politics and too light on action, that we don't come to know and love Anakin enough to sincerely care when he falls to the Dark Side, that there is no character analogous to Han Solo a'la the "regular working guy" that we feel that we can relate to. I could also go into the written dialogue, the over-emphasis on origins and Jar Jar Binks, but those dead horses have been beaten enough already...

I have to concede however, that Sexton is making a lot of good points here. Particularly about how the prequel trilogy is increasingly relevant in light of the culture of our time. And I'm feeling compelled and ready enough to offer up my own theory about the prequels.

Here's what I think really happened: once upon a time, there really were going to be nine or even twelve Star Wars films. In retrospect I think that twelve would have been too many, but a "trilogy of trilogies" sounds better, and has a nice operatic ring to it. Following The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, I do indeed believe that that was the plan.

But one thing happened which threw those plans into turmoil: Marcia Lucas left George.

Look folks, I know what kind of a blow a divorce can deal. I've experienced it firsthand. It's something that you wouldn't wish for anyone to have to go through. Three years later and I'm only now beginning to be able to really pick up the pieces and move forward, hopefully toward bigger and better things that God might have in store. More than anything else, divorce crippled me creatively. I'm working on two new film projects now, the first in a long time. But even with smaller gigs like that, it has been a massive struggle.

I can only begin to imagine what kind of a blow that was to George Lucas: a man who not only has been creative his entire life, but has built a multi-billion dollar empire upon it... along with all the responsibilities of creating industries employing hundreds, if not thousands of people.

Many people argue that Return of the Jedi was the weakest installment of the original Star Wars trilogy. If it was, considering what George Lucas was going through in his personal life at the time, then we should be thankful that Return of the Jedi came out as good as it did. Personally, I think it's a powerful and fitting conclusion to the saga... but had Lucas not been hit hard with the divorce, I would bet good money that there would have been an Episodes VII, VIII and IX. Eventually.

So how does this relate to what we got with the prequels?

It was almost a dozen years after Return of the Jedi before George Lucas sat down to work in his office to begin writing Episode I. And during that span of time two other things happened in his life. The first is that he became older, wiser as a person. The second is that he became an adoptive father. He now has three children. When a man becomes a father, however that comes about, his thoughts begin to turn toward "What kind of a world am I leaving my children?"

It's not a far hop at all from that to "What kind of a world am I going to leave behind, at all?"

Lucas' love of history is well documented. The dude gets the meaning of works like Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. In the lead-up to Episode III Lucas was quoted a lot for remarking that "all democracies eventually become tyrannies".

And that is what drove the prequels to become... what they are. A cautionary tale about decadence and corruption. A warning, against the folly of forsaking wisdom and patience for power and control. A tragic morality play about how even those things with the best of intentions can and will fall because of all-too-human frailties.

It takes the better part of two whole movies to set the board for that, but by the time Episode III comes around, there is no denying that the creator of Star Wars... has a message, for all children as much as for his own.

Think I'm wrong? Well, stop for a moment and think back to all the times in the past number of years that Padme's line has been quoted: "So this is how liberty dies: with thunderous applause." I've seen that line used in more than a few places just during the last few weeks, in regard to any number of matters.

I don't think that George Lucas sold out or "got lazy" or anything like that so far as the prequels go. He simply made the Star Wars movies that he, being the best of the person that he could have been at the time, felt led to make. Three movies intended to give pause and consideration as much as they were meant to entertain.

In the end, the prequels are a product of the evolution and growth of their creator as a person. I don't know if he could have tried to channel "the old George" for sake of his audience... and I honestly don't know if anyone had or has the right to expect that of him.

Or to expect that of any person, for that matter.

Four arrested following botched exorcism in Alabama

Here's one of the stranger stories that I've read today (and I've found plenty)...
Four Arrested After Exorcism Goes Bad - UPDATED
By: Erika Odell

Russellville, AL - Four people in Franklin County have been arrested after what Sheriff Shannon Oliver calls an exorcism gone bad.

54 year old Dianna Brewer, 39 year old Christie Wahl, 36 year old Ginnie George and 20 year old Zachary Bryant are all charged with 3rd Degree Domestic Violence.

According to Franklin County Sheriff's investigators it all started Tuesday morning when deputies were sent to a home on Highway 61 in Spruce Pine on a domestic violence call. When deputies arrived, they found the front door wide open, with a Bible lying on the front porch and saw a scuffle inside. That's when they learned there had been a dispute when George and Wahl accused their mother, Diana Brewer of being Satan.

Officials said that the daughters held a mirror in front of Brewer and told her to look in and see that she was Satan, and that they were going to perform an exorcism to drive Satan out.

Reports show that George said that she was holding a two year old in her arms when Brewer started hitting her and struck the child in the forehead. That's when investigators said that both daughters began hitting and pushing, causing the fight to escalate...

Sounds like these folks have been watching Constantine way, way too many times :-P

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ahhh, love is in the air...

The bouquet of roses I got Kristen for our first Valentine's Day together:




Also got her a box of candy, a card, and I'm cooking her dinner too! A pizza with the pepperonis in the shape of a giant heart.

I would have also gotten her a gift certificate to the day spa, a pair of diamond earrings and a new car but hey, it is our first Valentine's after all. Got plenty of time to build up to bigger stuff :-)

It's Valentine's Day!

Saint Valentine was a Christian who was imprisoned, gruesomely tortured, and finally beheaded on orders from Emperor Claudius II of Rome on February 14th, 270 A.D. 



Lord only knows how we came to remember the occasion by giving cards, candy and flowers.
 
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY from The Knight Shift!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Florence Green, world's last living veteran of World War I, has passed away

It happened a week ago, and I am somewhat ashamed of myself that I did not catch this at the time.

Now's the time to make things right by remembering this fine lady...

Florence Green died on February 4th, at the age of 110. She would have been 111 later this month.

And she was the very last living person who served during World War I.

Born on February 19th 1901, Florence was 17 when she enlisted in the Women's Royal Air Force in September of 1918: just two months shy of the armistice that ended "the war to end all wars".

The last living combat veteran, Claude Choules, passed away in May of last year. And it was a year ago this month that Frank Buckles, the last surviving American "doughboy", departed us.

Read more about Florence Green's long and remarkable life here.

Want a REAL Hoverboard from Back To The Future? 'Course ya do!

I know plenty of geeks that will be salivating their chops about this baby...

More than 22 years after its cinematic debut and after jillions of rumors about "Mattel is really coming out with a working hoverboard!", guess what: Mattel is coming out with a hoverboard from the Back To The Future trilogy! Except it won't actually hover (the press release teases that we should "check back in 2015 for that feature"). And it won't work on water, 'course anyone who's seen Back To The Future Part II already knew about that liability. This is going to be a pre-order item: Mattel needs a minimum of purchasers before putting this thing into production. I highly doubt that'll be a problem though, even considering that this is prolly gonna cost a coupl'a hundred bucks.

But still... a real hoverboard!! Now we can all die happy :-)

I'd better post some thoughts about last night's THE WALKING DEAD...

...'cuz I need to blog about something! :-P

It was an action-packed weekend for your intrepid blogger, dear readers. From the Valentine's party at Kristen's dance studio, then going to the Love For Life Conference at Thomas Road Baptist Church (we got to see Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, AKA the parents of those nineteen kids and counting!) and then yesterday culminating in the mid-season return of The Walking Dead on AMC, I've been a busy dude.

So about "Nebraska", the first episode we got since November 27th's chapter that ended in Barnmageddon...

"Nebraska" began moments after that hella shocker of the previous episode, and was for all intents and purposes a "cleanup operation" of its aftermath. To be honest, not much happened until the very tail end of this one, and I'm wondering if this episode would have been a better one to go into the hiatus with: it would have provided a dramatic "breather" while setting things up to escalate. Which looks to be happening sooner than later.

Not as strong as "Pretty Much Dead Already", but that would have been darn near impossible anyway. Word is however that the remaining five episodes this season are going to be pretty honkin' intense... so in hindsight, we might be thankful for the respite that "Nebraska" gave us.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

George Lucas sez: Han NEVER shot first (What the...?!?)

George, George, George... I love your movies. I still love your movies, no matter what you do to them. I can't wait to share them with my children someday. But how do I put this?

Ummmm... who do you think you're kidding?!?

George Lucas is now claiming that Han Solo did NOT shoot first, and NEVER did, in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

So in case you've been living under a rock for the past fifteen years: in the original version of the first Star Wars movie that we had for twenty years from 1977 on, Han Solo clearly shoots bounty hunter Greedo at (nearly) point-blank range in the Mos Eisley cantina.

Here's the original scene...

Then when Lucas rolled out the "Special Editions" in 1997, the scene was edited so it looks like Greedo shot first, then Han returns fire. Apparently Han shooting first made him out to be too cold-blooded, or somesuch.

Fifteen years after changing it up, and now... Lucas wants us to think that Han didn't shoot first at all? Say what ya will about an artist having control of his vision, but that kinda revisionism just won't fly.

GeekTyrant has more about this attempted retconning with our minds by the Plaid One.

'Course, y'all know what one now-famous fan of George Lucas thinks about the only gun firing belonging to "cock-a-doodie Han!!"

Trying to articulate something...

...and my anger and disbelief at what I am watching right now in this country, just won't let me be as mercurial a wordsmith as some have alleged me to be.

So I'm going to relent to brute-force attack.

Regarding how President Obama is trying to force Catholic hospitals and other institutions to fund birth control, against that faith's beliefs and teachings:

If this isn't a situation that demands civil disobedience and even flagrant lawbreaking against the government, then I don't know what possibly WOULD be!

I try my best not to judge the spiritual state of another. For the first time, I am inclined to be compelled to wonder about that of Barack Obama. How can anyone of conscience even conceive of mandating such a thing?

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

THREADS: A British movie that will scare the hell out of you

Working on a few things behind the scenes, but felt like posting something tonight. And that's when I discovered that YouTube is hosting Threads.

Sure, why not.

I first saw this movie in July of 1986 but it wasn't until I was in college a long time later that I found out the title. We were visiting family in Florida and playing a game of Monopoly in our motel room with my cousins and we thought we'd put some TV on. It was a PBS station showing... some very dark and gritty film about nuclear war in England.

I was 12 years old. I soon lost all interest in Monopoly and became transfixed to this film. The image of the young woman chewing through her newborn baby's umbilical cord is something that has haunted me to this day.

Threads originally aired on BBC Two in Great Britain in September of 1984. That wasn't very long after the network ABC aired The Day After here in America. If you've seen The Day After, well that's mild compared to Threads. And that's sayin' something. I was 9 when The Day After broadcast and it made darn near everybody watching (which was, well... darn near everybody) turn white with fright.

Threads, however, is a far more gruesome beast.

I'm posting this because Threads is a fascinating example of Cold War cinema. That was a very different time for those of us who grew up during it. We were the last of the children who came up scared about nuclear holocaust breaking out at any moment. And it could have happened...

Why didn't it? I've no doubt that history will remember that communism in Russia, could not sustain itself. Its people wanted to be free. An unsustainable economy failing to provide for a citizenry wanting better is a perfect combination for a government's collapse. We can see that in hindsight perfectly. But at that time...

Well anyway, here it is: from British television in 1984, a horrific yet intriguing relic of a world that nearly was: Threads.

Happy 80th Birthday to John Williams!

The Knight Shift and its eclectic proprietor wishes a VERY Happy Birthday today to composer/conductor John Williams!

This dude is 80 years young... and still composing some of the freshest-sounding movie scoring around!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Knight Shift has QR code!

Simply aim your smartphone's camera at this QR code and it will take you right to this blog!

Of course, since you're already looking at this blog, that kinda defeats the purpose of the QR code to begin with...

You are your own best protection

A few days ago, roughly a mile or so from where I'm writing these words, there was a home break-in. A husband and wife were murdered. They are being laid to rest today.

I did not know the family, but I know lots of people who do. I have heard nothing but very good things about Doug and Ladonna French. They leave behind two children, including one who was at home during the robbery and barely escaped. As of this writing, no one has been arrested.

In light of this, I'm feeling led to say something that really shouldn't have to be said...

You really are your own best protection. No offense to the men and women serving in law enforcement, but in the real world they can't possibly be a 100% effective safeguard against criminal wrongdoing. Call 911 and it's going to be at least 5 minutes, in the vast majority of situations, before a sheriff's deputy or police officer can arrive at your house. A lot can happen in that time. A lot of bad. Happening toward you.

A person who is breaking into your house will not care about legal niceties. A person breaking into your house will not care about how much money it will cost you to defend yourself in court. A person breaking into your house will not care how many attorneys you will have to hire. A person breaking into your house will not care that you might get arrested for a firearms charge. A person breaking into your house will not care that you might be in jail for a day or so.

And neither should you.

You can always replace money. You can never replace a loved one. You can never replace your own life either.

It sounds cliche, but it's true: an armed society is a polite society. It's a documented fact that places with higher gun ownership by those with property enjoy statistically and considerably lower crime rates.

If anyone breaks into my house, I will defend myself and my loved ones, with deadly force. And I don't give a flying rat's ass how much it will personally cost me.

Remember folks: it is better to be judged by twelve than to be carried out by six.

5secondfilms presents... COOKING WITH CRAZY!!!

In a perfect world, this would be a real TV show:

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN trailer is up!

All of a sudden, we have a huge fight at the box office come July between Batman and this guy...

Can't put my finger on it but... this seems spot-on Spider-Man, in all the right places. Now I love love love what Sam Raimi did with his 2002 Spider-Man flick. But The Amazing Spider-Man already seems darker, more serious a take on the Spidey mythos. Looking forward to seeing this. Along with The Avengers, 2012 is shaping up to be Marvel's year to shine!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

It's Super Bowl weekend!

Oops... I forgot. Am I even allowed to write "Super Bowl"? Might get hit by the NFL for copyright infringement by not calling it the "big game" instead.

Well anyway, no matter who who're rooting for tomorrow or even if you're not a sports fan at all, here's something we can all enjoy: Andy Griffith's classic comedy monologue "What It Was, Was Football", accompanied by George Woodbridge's illustrations from MAD Magazine!

Friday, February 03, 2012

An observation about Susan G. Komen For The Cure and Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood shouldn't be complaining one measly bit about Susan G. Komen For The Cure dropping its funding.

After all, Planned Parenthood became something not wanted or needed... and so Komen gave it an abortion.

What? I thought Planned Parenthood was pro-choice. Komen made a choice. It chose to abort its relationship with Planned Parenthood. Komen has the right to choose, doesn't it?

And now a dozen or so senators are condemning Komen for what it has done to Planned Parenthood. I thought the government was supposed to stay out of people's private lives where pro-choice is concerned. Guess I was wrong.

Personally, I don't see how anyone with a shred of conscience can support Planned Parenthood. Its founder Margaret Sanger was a notorious racist and believer in eugenics. This has been well documented. Planned Parenthood was an organization intended to kill off minorities, the mentally ill and everyone else who didn't measure up to Sanger's ideal of humanity. How could anybody possessing a soul at all defend such a ghoulish group?

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Time to post something beautiful again...

So it's been a few months since my ravishingly beautiful cousin Lauryn got married. She had been The Knight Shift's official pin-up girl for a number of years and she did a magnificent job... and we all wish her well :-)

But don't y'all think that this place could use some more loveliness from my family? 'Cuz I sure can't offer any of my own!

So then, here is The Knight Shift's new pin-up girl: amazingly sweet, talented, beautiful, and one of the most wonderful young ladies in the Lord that I have had the pleasure of knowing: Rachael!

I know what some of y'all of the masculine persuasion are already thinking... and I hate to be the bearer of bad news but Rachael is taken, fellas. Not only that but her father (I was the ringbearer for her parents' wedding years ago) is like eight feet tall or something. So even if you get past me, you'd have your work cut out for you :-P

"Although you shot at me twice before I left, I did not want to hear of you being hurt."

Jourdon Anderson was a freed slave who for thirty years had been the property of Colonel P.H. Anderson, a Tennessee plantation owner. Four months after the end of the Civil War, Jourdon Anderson wrote a letter to his former master, who had asked Jourdon to return to work on his farm.

Jourdon's letter was subsequently published in The New York Daily Tribune later that same month, and it then found its way into Lydia Maria Child's The Freedman's Book (which is enjoying republication this very week!). And now Jourdon's letter to his previous owner has been published at the Mail Online's website.

Y'all have got to read Jourdon's letter! This freed slave - who had to dictate it to a writer - uses better English than a darn lot of modern-day college students. And then there is the wit and irony that Jourdon employs... along with a considerable amount of great humor. It's not terribly long, but there are some real gems in Jourdon's letter. And the final sentence is a real zinger.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

"Popcorn Sutton the Moonshine Man"

The past several weeks have seen an exploding amount of interest in the life and art of Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton: the legendary brewer of moonshine. It will be three years next month that he left us... but Popcorn Sutton has gotta be smiling and laughing his butt off in Heaven at how his myth has grown down here on Earth! Ever since his family began legally selling Popcorn Sutton's Tennessee White Whiskey I've seen it going for $150 a jar on eBay. And then a few days ago Kellie Pickler introduced it to Ellen DeGeneres on national television, in a clip that simply must be seen.

Meanwhile, there are things going on behind the scenes that I've been sworn to secrecy on that... well, y'all will just have to wait and see how uberawesome this is all gonna be! I can tell you that the third annual Popcorn Sutton Tribute is set for Maggie Valley, North Carolina this coming summer and when I know more details I'll be sure to post 'em!

In the meantime, singer/songwriter Alonzo Pennington has written and recorded an awesome ballad about our favorite Appalachian moonshiner. So without further ado, here is... "Popcorn Sutton the Moonshine Man"!

Just finished reading THE HUNGER GAMES

I began reading Suzanne Collins' novel The Hunger Games, as it turned out, a few day before Mom passed away. It took me awhile to get back to it but I picked it up again a coupl'a nights ago.

I thought it was a most excellent and enjoyable read. Maybe not as rich in allegory as it could have been but, I'm willing to defer final judgment on this series until I finish the third book.

In case you haven't had the pleasure of discovering it yet, The Hunger Games takes place in a distant future where what was once North America collapsed into ruin and from the ashes arose a cruel dictatorship called Panem. It's a place ruled by The Capitol: a megalopolis populated by a decadent people who do nothing but eating, drinking, getting plastic surgery and probably getting laid. They live at the expense of the peons of twelve districts who provide all the necessities like fuel, food and power. To keep the districts from getting uppity (and also as reminder of who's in charge following an age-old rebellion) the Capitol makes each district send one boy and one girl to the yearly Hunger Games: a combination fashion show, popularity pageant and gladiator battle from which only one can emerge as victor. It's now the seventy-fourth Hunger Games and sixteen-year old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to play for District 12 in place of her younger sister (picked by lottery, in something of a nod to Shirley Jackson).

That's all I'll say for the book, which I decided I wanted to read before the film adaptation comes out next month. For a young adult novel, it's rife with plenty of plot, grisly violence and budding romance that never gets too mushy. Here's hoping the movie is even half as good!

DC Comics is making WATCHMEN 2. No, really.

What. The. F-CK?!?!?

(I came waaaaaay too close to writing out that full word, folks. Only the better angels of my nature intervened, but not nearly enough.)

"It's a joke. It's all a joke."

Except it's not. This is actually happening.

Why? Well from the story at IGN's Comics News...

"It's our responsibility as publishers to find new ways to keep all of our characters relevant," said DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee. "After twenty five years, the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told. We sought out the best writers and artists in the industry to build on the complex mythology of the original."
DiDio and Lee don't have an effin' clue, do they? Makes me wonder if they've even read Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' classic graphic novel. Me, I've read Watchmen at least 200 times since first discovering it in the winter of 1990. And every time that I re-read it, I discover something new.

This new project isn't a sequel, and "Watchmen 2" isn't even its proper title. It's being called Before Watchmen: a series of prequels, each one focusing on a different character from Watchmen. And none of them are needed or even wanted at all. Looking around the Intertubes today, all I'm seeing is disgust that this is happening. Indeed, I'm seeing some raw hatred toward DC Comics right now over this.

Suffice it to say, Alan Moore is not happy either...

"I tend to take this latest development as a kind of eager confirmation that they are still apparently dependent on ideas that I had 25 years ago... I don't want money. What I want is for this not to happen. As far as I know, there weren't that many prequels or sequels to Moby Dick."
Mash here for more about this damnable sacrilege that sucks donkeys balls to no end.