Thursday, May 30, 2013

Kristen's Korner: A Beacon of Light

This afternoon the lovely and effervescent Kristen let me know that she had composed another of her articles for this blog. That's something I really appreciate about her: how much of a surprise she always is!  Her first entry, "My Bipolar Boyfriend", has turned out to be one of the more popular posts on The Knight Shift.  I know she has a few others in the works too.

So take it away Kristen! :-)


"A Beacon of Light"

On Memorial Day weekend of this year, Chris and I went to the Outer Banks.  I had been in the area 25 years ago, at the age of 3, and felt like this was a trip of nostalgia (although I barely remember the first trip).  We enjoyed the Elizabethan Gardens and aquarium in Manteo, but also ventured from Roanoke Island to see Cape Hatteras, Bodie Island, Kitty Hawk, and Jockey's Ridge.

When we were at Cape Hatteras, I wanted to climb to the top of the lighthouse.  Hey, I had done it numerous times in San Diego's (newer) Point Loma lighthouse when my family lived there in the early 1990s.  Surely this would be a fun experience, one with a great view of the Atlantic Ocean from the top and a great memory with the man in my life.

While I will say it was a memorable experience, I can't say it was a fun one.  You see, sometime during college, I started to get vertigo.  Being somewhere high, sometimes I'd get dizzy and anxious.   It was never really that bad, just annoying.  But for some reason, standing at the base of the lighthouse, looking up at its black and white striped glory... I started to panic.

When it was time for us to go up, I decided to let the other people in the group go ahead of us.  Then Chris and I started up, me at the front.  I have to say, I was thankful for the eight platforms along the way - because I probably stopped at every one, putting my hand on my chest in order to ease my breathing.  My legs started to feel shaky.

Yes, I was freaking out.  Scared.  I knew I wasn't going to fall - there were plenty of railings to prevent that, in case I slipped.  But the fear consumed me.  The rational part of my mind was saying there was nothing to fear - the steps weren't narrow or steep, they were actually very manageable compared to some other places I had been to (like Warwick Castle in England - THOSE stairs were fear-worthy).  But the irrational part of my mind was hysterical - especially if I heard people coming down the stairs.  To feel stable, I just HAD to hold on to the railing and put my other hand against the wall, and someone coming down prevented that.

Kristen's Korner, Kristen Bradford, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Outer Banks, North Carolina, A Beacon of LightWhen we finally made it to the top, I only took one picture... from the doorway to the outside.  I went outside, took a brief look around, and was desparate to go back inside and leave to head back down.  I couldn't really take the time to enjoy the view because of my anxiety.

But then we had to walk down.  All 200-some stairs.  That was even worse for my anxiety.  At least by going up, you could ignore the bottom.  You have to look down (in the general direction, not necessarily down to the bottom) to walk down.  Well, at least I do.  I couldn't walk down those steps without making sure my feet were positioned in a secure way on each step.

The whole experience took half an hour, probably.  Whereas other people surely took a lot shorter time, because they weren't succumbed by fear.  When I got down to the bottom, I was so thankful.  I had survived it.  And I told Chris that I never have to do it again.  If we have kids someday and we go back, HE can take them up and I'll be at the bottom, waving at them when they're at the top (just like my mother did when we were in San Diego... okay, I've heard some women say they start to become their mothers, but I never thought I'd have this fear-of-heights problem!).

This also made me really appreciate Chris.  Not just because he was supportive and encouraging me during my little freak-out, but it gave me insight into what Chris deals with on a regular basis.

I don't have bipolar.  I don't know what it's like to battle your mind everyday, trying to ignore the horrible thoughts or depression that likes to creep up.  But in a way, on a much smaller scale, I was battling my mind.  I WANTED to enjoy going up to the top of the lighthouse with my boyfriend.  I WANTED to be strong.  I WANTED to tell those irrational fears where to stick it.  But in the end, I did not win the battle.  I was a victim to my fears.  While I didn't give up on the climb, I let my fears take hold of me and was not able to resist them.  People with bipolar go through this.  They want to be happy and have a normal life, but sometimes their mind gets in the way.

Fear, bipolar, stress, emotions - whatever barrier you have to battle your mind for, it doesn't have to win.  It's not always easy, nor always a success.  But have hope that it will get better and you will get through it.  Just keep your focus on the goal: I WILL get through this depression.  I WILL survive this broken heart.  I WILL survive this lighthouse climb.

As I end this post, I think to what the lighthouse symbolizes.  It's a beacon of light that guides ships away from the cliffs, towards the right direction.  I'd like to think God is a lighthouse of sorts, who uses his light to direct us the way to go.  It reminds me of that popular hymn that comes from Psalm 119:105: "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."  Next time the fear rears its ugly head, maybe I can take comfort in those words, and give the fear to God.

You know, maybe I'll climb Cape Hatteras again after all.

STAR WARS: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC comes to the iPad!

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, iPad, iOS, Apple, BioWare, Aspyr MediaWhen I first heard about it this morning, it was only from a report and there had been no announced availability but my first reaction was already "SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!!"

Guess who just spent ten bucks on the App Store?

BioWare's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, deemed by many to be the greatest Star Wars video/computer game ever and one of THE best games of all time period, has been ported to the iPad and is on sale now!  Ten years after it was first released, Aspyr Media has taken this much-beloved classic and put the whole experience in the palm of your hands, to enjoy wherever you happen to be.  It requires at least an iPad 2 to run and it needs iOS 6.  As well as some hefty space for the install (1.9 gigs free but I'm hearing at least 2.5 is recommended).

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is available for $9.99 on the Apple App Store.  Go download it now, meatbags!

Hey Hey Hey! It's the profanity-strewn prison rape episode of FAT ALBERT!

A few weeks ago I came across a religious broadcasting station that runs episodes of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids on weekday afternoons.  I'd forgotten how awesome this show was!  My DVR has been set accordingly, so I can once again watch the wacky adventures of Fat Albert and his gang during the evenings or whenever.

From the show's start, its creator/producer/narrator Bill Cosby intended for the series to teach and enlighten as much as it entertained (it eventually became the basis of Cosby's doctorate in education).  As the show progressed, Cosby and his staff began to take on bolder issues, such as racism and guns (interestingly, that particular episode did not condemn firearms entirely, it just cautioned young people to be extremely careful with them).

So it was 1984 and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids was finally winding down after being on Saturday morning television for twelve years.  And the Cos' decided that at long last it was time to unload a "scared straight" story at the kiddies.  Many other shows enjoyed by children were also doing "very special episodes" (I still cringe whenever I think of "Gordon Jump as the pervert bike shop owner" on Diff'rent Strokes... come to think of it, most of the Diff'rent Strokes episodes were like that.  Being "very special", not Dudley and the pervert bike store owner I mean).  Anyway...

"Busted" would be unusual if it had been produced today, but in the mid-Eighties it was way more daring.  In a departure from the norm, Bill Cosby began the show warning viewers that this episode would have foul language (like "bastard", "damn" and "hell") but it had to be that way to be as accurate as possible.  What Bill didn't tell us about is that we would soon be witnessing Fat Albert and his friends being oggled with lustful eyes by hardened felons!  No other episode to the best of my recollection ever had Fat Albert jumping scared into Dumb Donald's arms.  Or had poor little Russell (my favorite character of the entire show) being asked if he wants "a candy bar".

The language has been toned down from its original airing, but everything else is as disturbing as ever.  From 1984 here are Fat Albert, Rudy, Bill, Russell, Bucky, Dumb Donald, Weird Harold and Mushmouth in "Busted"...



That would frighten anybody into doing whatever they possibly could to avoid going to the big house!

Unfortunately, twelve years later would see the publication of Alex Ross' and Mark Waid's classic graphic novel Kingdom Come.  And in its very first pages we find Fat Albert and his pals shooting down some civilians on the streets of Gotham City, just before getting arrested by Batman's patrol droids.

(Looks like "scared straight" didn't work, huh.  One can only assume that Rudy wound up learning the hard way to watch himself in the shower...)

Is greed killing NASCAR?

NASCAR, stock car racing, crashing and burning
Not long ago, stock car racing was the most-watched, most profitable professional sport in America and one of the biggest in the world (surpassed internationally only by soccer... or "football" or "futbol" or whatever).  Which isn't bad at all for a spectator sport which has humble beginnings in the manufacture and transport of illegal moonshine throughout the southeastern United States.  And that is where NASCAR's most faithful and stalwart fans have always been found, along with its most celebrated and capable drivers.

Lately however, NASCAR seems to have forgot "who brung them to the dance": those same longtime fans, most of whom have decades of loyalty notched on their belts.  Speedway Motorsports' owner and CEO Bruton Smith had this to say last week when it was announced that NASCAR was moving one of Charlotte's races to Las Vegas: "When the game is over, it'll be money, money, money... Money will move it."

NASCAR's big wigs are poised to lose it all if they keep going at this pace, so writes friend and colleague Doug Smith.  The owners and executives are selling out stock car racing's core fans by having events all over the map, taking them away from longstanding venues such as Rockingham and Darlington.  In other words: the pursuit of a higher profit is destroying what made NASCAR profitable to begin with...
I've written for several years that I wouldn't be surprised to see Nascar fold by 2020-2025. Or at the very least, there would be races that weren't televised live any more, if at all. Regrettably, there are enough sheep out there to keep the sport alive but I see no reason to change my prediction about Nascar on television because any sport depends on its traditional fanbase to support it in hard times. Nascar's attendance and ratings have been down for years and it can be traced right back to the unholy trinity's concentrated efforts to run off the traditional fans. MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, Soccer, Tennis, Golf, other auto racing bodies such as Indy and F1, and nearly every other sport I can think of tries at least to innovate but still remaining loyal to their core fanbase. In the case of MLB, I think they try too hard sometimes to do this since it hinders progress that could actually make the game better, but they are at least trying to keep their core fans.

Nascar on the other hand doesn't subscribe to this theory. They think that the fairweather fans are the group they need to go after. I'm not saying they shouldn't try to lure in new fans but I am saying that perhaps if they didn't mess with things that worked to draw in fans for over 50 years previously, perhaps they might actually draw in some new fans without running off millions of fans that Bill France Sr and Jr worked for a combined 55 years to draw in.
Crash here for more of Doug's thoughts.  It's well worth reading and pondering, whether you are a fan of NASCAR or are a student of corporate decision-making (if there really is such a thing...)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

This week's Tammy Tuesday is a warm fuzzy welcome home

Kristen and I spent the entire weekend at the Outer Banks.  We really enjoyed ourselves and already are planning what to do the next time we visit.  When we do I'm bound and determined to go hand-gliding on Jockey's Ridge. But even without that this time, the trip was a neat lil' adventure.

And when we got back home Tammy was waiting for us.  As much fun as we had, I really did miss my lil' mini dachshund. And I think Tammy was happy to see us too...

Tammy, Kristen, dog, miniature dachshund

The next time y'all see Kristen and Tammy in a photo together, it might also include Kristen's cat Zoe. We're trying to figure out when would be a good time to introduce her and Tammy to each other.

And it was two years ago today that Kristen and I had our first date!  Hey, a sweet and beautiful girlfriend and a mischievous little wiener dog: what more could a guy ask for? :-)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Thirty years of RETURN OF THE JEDI

Congratulations to George Lucas and all involved on this, the thirtieth anniversary of the release of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.



And the saga continues...

Friday, May 24, 2013

Yeah women, know your place!

Found this graphic yesterday morning and I can't stop laughing at it!

Biblical Proof, Church of Christ, women, Bible, church, baking, cake, girls

"You read that Bible right woman!!  Now get yo butt to that kitchen and bake me that cake!!"

It's from a site called Biblical Proof, a blog about "Speaking where the bible speaks, and silent where the bible is silent".  And there are plenty more hilarious images like the one above on it!

If you think that pic is bad, check this one out.  I've a very good friend who is a devout Christian and also a home brewer.  He's a shoe-in for Hell for sure, huh?

That site is obviously a product of the ultra-conservative fringe of the Churches of Christ.  They're the ones who believe that unless you are baptized you are going to Hell, that unless you are baptized correctly you are going to Hell, that unless you are a member of the Church of Christ you are going to Hell, that anyone who is Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal etc. is going to Hell, that if you are divorced and remarried you are DEFINITELY going to Hell.  And if you have musical instruments in your worship services you are sooooo going to Hell for that.  Fortunately not all of the Churches of Christ are that loony.  Most of the ones I've known have been very humble, loving, sincere and kind but as with every denomination of Christianity, one must accept that along with the fruits there will be some nuts...

This image is pretty laughable too, but it's also very tragic.  In no uncertain terms the author of its accompanying post insists that there is no salvation without water baptism, but there can be no water baptism without repentance.  But that in the case of a divorced and remarried person, repentance is impossible without leaving that marriage too!

I'm divorced.  It's not something that I wanted to happen.  It's not something I ever intended to happen.  I know that it's wrong.  I know that I had my own part to play.  I know that God intended for marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman that only ends at the death of one of them.  But I will never believe that divorce or anything else is beyond forgiveness from God.  Divorce may be a sin, but it's not a sin that can keep a person from having salvation.  If it is, then Christ went to the cross for nothing.

I don't mind finding stuff like this and pointing this blog's readers to it.  As a follower of Christ, I have to laugh at anything that presumes we can "score points" to get favor with God.  That, and because it's just not every day that working for salvation entails dressing up like a World of Warcraft character.

Review of STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS

(One of the reasons why I haven't posted a review of this movie already - though it's been out for a week and I've seen it twice - is because I've wrestled with how to discuss Star Trek Into Darkness while being mindful of certain plot points.  Since most people know about "that" particular item by now anyway, I'm going to be openly sharing my thoughts about it.  But if you haven't seen Star Trek Into Darkness yet and you absolutely do not want to be spoiled, please stop reading now and come back after you've watched it.  Consider yourself warned! :-)


Star Trek Into Darkness is the best film of the entire Star Trek film series date and if it's not then it definitely rivals Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan for the honor.

Yeah.  I said it.  I went there.

In 2009 J.J. Abrams and his gang at Bad Robot delivered Star Trek and pulled off the impossible: they made the world care about Star Trek again.  They did it by yanking out of our minds the tired and tedious Star Trek we had grown inured to, then shattered it into a hundred pieces on the floor without seeming to give a damn about how those pieces would fit back together... if they weren't totally thrown out and forgotten about first.

Star Trek 2009 was easily one of the most beautiful and well-engineered pieces of blockbuster cinema of the past two decades.  Four years after writing my review and I still find myself overwhelmed by its beautifully orchestrated destruction of the familiar.  The classic Trek?  It's still out there and one of Star Trek '09's more genius tricks was using quantum theories to give us an alternate reality that is not a replacement for the classic Trek canon, but rather an extension of it.  A complement of it, even.

So... could J.J. Abrams and the writing team of Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof give us a solid follow-up?

Having seen it twice now, Star Trek Into Darkness is a sequel that not only stands well on its own, it actually makes the previous film better.  Abrams and his peeps could choose not to make another Star Trek movie after this one, and I would be happy, because Into Darkness ends on precisely the right note that it needs to be.

Star Trek Into Darkness opens some time following the events of 2009's Star Trek and hits the ground running with a cold open that makes a few sly winks at Raiders of the Lost Ark.  James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) has taken the Enterprise to an undeveloped planet whose aborigines have barely invented the wheel.  Unfortunately this lil' "observe and report" mission gets complicated by a supervolcano whose imminent eruption threatens to destroy the planet and wipe out the natives.  Kirk doesn't want that to happen so he has Spock (Zachary Quinto) whip up a gadget to save the world (this world, anyway).  In the course of events, Kirk winds up saving Spock's life.

But no good deed goes unpunished.  Particularly when it involves the Prime Directive.  Kirk gets called onto the carpet by Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood, who seems to be enjoying a lot of good work lately).  Pike asserts that Kirk doesn't understand what it means to be in the captain's chair: he's taking risks but not thinking about the consequences.  Playing games with people's lives, then patting himself on the back because nobody has been killed on his watch.  In short: Kirk may have an inkling of life but he hasn't faced up to the reality of death.

Witness here the real secret of Star Trek Into Darkness' success: how much it judiciously draws from the well of The Wrath of Khan.  This is the first time.  It won't be the last.

Pike yanks the Enterprise from Kirk.  Meanwhile in Great Britain, a Starfleet officer and desperate father (Noel Clarke, known to many as Mickey from Doctor Who) is approached by a sinister individual offering a cure for his daughter's illness.  The girl survives, and her father owns up to his end of the bargain by suicide bombing a secret Starfleet installation in the heart of London.

Thus it is that Starfleet finds itself engaged in a war against agent-turned-terrorist "John Harrison".  And at last we begin to see the ugly head of this alternate reality coming into true focus...

Because this is a timeline which is still reeling from the attack on the U.S.S. Kelvin  a quarter-century earlier.  When Nero and his ship came through time, that one incident triggered an entire cascade of events which altered history in ways both drastic and subtle.  As a result many in Starfleet such as Admiral Alexander Marcus (powerfully played by Peter Weller) have come to see the Federation as being too weak militarily.  Where Starfleet was supposed to be about peace and exploration, some now want it to be about war and conquest.  Nero's destruction of Vulcan in Star Trek moved Starfleet's more aggressive elements to take action.  And it is eventually discovered that at the heart of Marcus' covert buildup is a twentieth-century warlord found floating in deep space along with seventy-two of his followers: Khan Noonien Singh.

This is going to draw some flack, but I'm going to put it in writing: Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan is the best villain I've seen in a movie in years.  And I will go so far as to say that his Khan is more evil, more dangerous, and more fascinating to behold than was Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight.  Cumberbatch's Khan is also the most sympathetic villain we have seen in a very long time.  Yes, he's killing people left and right and he is capable of bringing the Federation to its knees.  But as the story progresses we find that for Khan, he really doesn't have much of a choice in the matter.  What he is doing is not from a lust for power, or territory, or even revenge and obsession.  He is only interested in protecting and taking care of his people.  I watched the "Space Seed" episode from the original television series after seeing Star Trek Into Darkness and... it's just impossible not to associate Cumberbatch's take on Khan with Ricardo Montalban's portrayal.  In this reviewer's mind they are 100% one and the same.  We are seeing the very same character, the exact same person... but we are seeing what that person is doing with his back against the wall and left to fend for himself.  The result: Khan Noonien Singh finally afforded the latitude to demonstrate his superior intellect and enhanced physical ability.  This is the Khan that could have been were it not for the disaster on Ceti Alpha V... and he is an astounding character to witness!

But as gripping and compelling as Cumberbatch is as Khan, I felt that he was but part of the larger drama at work in Star Trek Into Darkness: how we the viewers behold the Federation turning into a twisted version of the one we know from the original series.  It's not the "Mirror, Mirror" universe wracked with backstabbing and treachery, but it is one that is increasingly turning to faith in firepower as oppose to hope in the heart.  Some people have written that this movie has its title because J.J. Abrams wanted everything in it to be "dark dark dark".  But that's not really why at all.  It's called Star Trek Into Darkness for a very good reason: this is the Star Trek we've come to know and love... slipping into darkness.  For Kirk and his crew, this isn't about saving the Federation from Khan or the Klingons: this is about saving the Federation from becoming its own worst enemy.  The real baddie of Star Trek Into Darkness is Admiral Marcus, but the true conflict is the one against fear.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan became a classic parable about growing older and having to face death.  Star Trek Into Darkness is a morality tale about facing life, and being able to live with yourself.  I don't know if that was the intention of Orci, Kurtzman and Lindelof when they wrote this script but I suspect it's not without reason why they chose to borrow so liberally from The Wrath of Khan.

I enjoyed once again watching Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as Kirk and Spock, respectively.  Zoe Saldana as Uhura impressed me much more in this film than she did in the previous entry (she gets some great screen time during the scene with the Klingons).  Simon Pegg continues to be a hoot to watch as Scotty!  However if I have one complaint it was that there wasn't enough of him in this movie, and shuffling him and Keenser (Deep Roy) off to get drunk in a bar in San Francisco - as fun as that was - doesn't nearly enough make up for it.  Ditto for John Cho as Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Chekov: apart from Sulu taking the helm and Chekov's brief tenure as ship's engineer, I barely remember them for much else.  Karl Urban however continues to rock it as Dr. McCoy!  It was seriously spooky how much he seemed to be channeling DeForest Kelly's spirit in Star Trek, and Urban just amps it up more here (he gets the best line of the whole dang movie, in my opinion).  Again however, I wanted to see more of him.

Perhaps we'll get that in the next movie.  As I said before, Star Trek Into Darkness ends at precisely the right spot: with the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise poised to begin their five-year mission.  We've had two feature films to re-introduce and acclimate us to this beloved cast of characters.  I think the next film should steer away from the "insane lunatic threatening Earth" trope.  As the captain of another Enterprise once said: "Let's see what's out there."  Khan and his people aboard the S.S. Botany Bay may not be floating around to be found, but there's always V'Ger.  And that weird whale probe thingy...

Michael Giacchino turned in another terrific score for this movie's soundtrack.  There's a lot of variety in the music for Star Trek Into Darkness.  Some of it is even considerably quieter than much of what one would have expected from any Star Trek production.  Khan's theme is an especially stirring composition: evoking the Khan we saw in "Space Seed", compounded by Khan's circumstances in the alternate reality... along with a healthy hint of James Horner's theme for the character from The Wrath of Khan.

I would be remiss in my duty as a movie reviewer if I did not mention how much of a delight it was to see Leonard Nimoy return as Spock from the original reality.  Some have thought that his cameo was not necessary.  I thought it was perfect to have the original Spock bring that kind of connection to this story.  It was not a long scene, but Nimoy's performance in it has stuck with me.  Especially that haunted look he acquires as he begins to tell his counterpart about Khan Noonien Singh.

Star Trek Into Darkness easily defied and exceeded the expectations I had about this film.  It gets my heartiest recommendation for your entertainment dollar!  I've seen it twice already and wouldn't mind seeing it again during its first run in theaters.  The 2009 Star Trek is already the most played Blu-ray in my collection.  As much as I love its sequel, it'll probably be a close second :-)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

This is my Eagle Scout card


I received it during my Eagle Scout ceremony at Fairview Baptist Church in Reidsville, North Carolina on August 16th, 1992.

It immediately went into my wallet.

I have carried my Eagle Scout card with me ever since.  It has been with me through college, across the ocean, through some very dark times and into some very wonderful times.

I've never been without it.  I had long planned to someday be buried with it.

Moments ago I removed my Eagle Scout card from my wallet.  I do not plan to carry it with me ever again.

Within the past hour it has been announced that the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America has passed a resolution to allow openly homosexual members.

This is incompatible with the spirit and the meaning of the Scout Oath and the Scout Law.  The principles of Scouting are about being the best that God intends for us to be.  Strength of mind, strength of body and strength of character are inherently essential toward this.  And part of that means developing personal restraint.  God intended for us to control our own bodies.  Not for our bodies to control us.

The National Council of the Boy Scouts of America has demonstrated that it does not understand the meaning of either the Scout Oath or the Scout Law.

And so it is, with great sadness and a grieving heart, that I choose to no longer be associated or affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America.

Maybe someday I'll be able to pick up the card and carry it with me again.  I pray that day does come.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lois Lerner of the IRS: Fifth Amendment for me but not for thee!

This is Lois Lerner, who headed the Internal Revenue Service's exempt organizations division during the time that the IRS was singling out "tea party"-affiliated groups and other politically conservative people with audits and intimidation...

Lois Lerner, Internal Revenue Service, taxes, government
Where do these people keep coming from?
Lois Lerner of the IRS invoked the Fifth Amendment so as not to potentially perjure herself during hearings in the House of Representatives investigating her agency's unethical and illegal activities.

Every year, you and I and millions of other Americans have to file 1040 forms with the IRS.  If we don't, we go to jail.  If we withhold information on the 1040 forms, we go to jail.  If we don't sign the forms, we go to jail.  At no time does the IRS afford us the right to invoke the Fifth Amendment so as not to incriminate ourselves. 

Lois Lerner in her capacity as a high-ranking official of the Internal Revenue Service is pleading the Fifth to a congressional committee and she expects to get away free and clear from this entire mess.

You and me and everyone else must answer the IRS under threat of perjury.  This IRS official doesn't want to answer to our elected representatives and is using the Fifth Amendment as an escape clause which her agency has not and never would afford the average citizen.

If Lerner gets away with this, then she has set a legal precedent and every tax-paying citizen in the United States should follow her example.  Come next April 15th, put "I PLEAD THE FIFTH JUST LIKE IRS OFFICIAL LOIS LERNER DID" in big bold red printed letters on your tax form and send that instead.

Remember folks: the Constitution applies to every citizen in this country, not just politicians and their cronies.

"He's the one who broke the promise": Chris lost his mind watching "The Name Of The Doctor" and still hasn't fully recovered from the DOCTOR WHO season finale!

Doctor Who, The Name of the Doctor, Matt Smith, Jenna-Louise Coleman, John Hurt, Eleventh Doctor, Clara Oswald
In hindsight it was for the best that I waited nearly two days to watch "The Name of the Doctor".  I didn't dare let this episode begin without my girlfriend/fellow geek Kristen.  And in the aftermath of those final three minutes she literally had to calm me down and keep me from staggering as I walked up the stairs.  If I had attempted to watch it while she was still out of town, Lord only knows what kind of injury would have ensued.  Heck, I went into a fit of spastic fanboygasm simply when Simeon mentioned The Valeyard.

"The Name of the Doctor" was season finale caliber, definitely.  But with 2013 being the fiftieth anniversary celebration of Doctor Who it's safe to say there was already an expectation for showrunner Steven Moffat to up the ante for the occasion.  The thing is: the stuff many if not most (or even all) the fans were expecting to be in the fiftieth anniversary special, Moffat pulled the trigger on in "The Name of the Doctor"!

So has Moffat shot his wad already?  Or has he something even more diabolical planned for November 23rd?

Advance warning is in order: make sure there's plenty of space behind that sofa to duck and cover with!

This was an episode of extremes.  No previous story has ever given us The Doctor from alpha to omega and everyone(?) in between.  Right off the bat "The Name of the Doctor" showed us something we had never seen before: the First Doctor committing grand theft TARDIS and making his run from Gallifrey.  Ten incarnations later the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) chooses to defy all caution and come at last to Trenzalore: the one place in the universe he is to never, ever go.  And now we know why: Trenzalore is where The Doctor's grave is.

And when you are a traveler through time and space, your own grave is never a place you want to visit.

I thought the big reveal about Clara (Jamie-Louise Coleman) was done well, particularly in light of how this half-season of Doctor Who has been very uneven since the show returned in late March.  With the hindsight of seeing how Clara fits into the bigger picture of The Doctor's story, that's left me more appreciative of how Moffat has handled her from her first appearance in "The Asylum of the Daleks" and then "The Snowmen" onward.  Going back to the fiftieth anniversary looming over everything: I figured we'd see all the Doctors but I also feared there would be no way to really "involve" them all without resorting to deus ex machina at its hokiest.  Clara proved to be an amazingly elegant solution and by the end of the episode, she left no doubt about earning her place as a companion of The Doctor.

All right, something I'm a bit fuzzy about: is this meant to be the last time... I mean, the really last time... that we'll be seeing River Song?  There was some grave finality (horrible pun intended) in her interactions with The Doctor.  If this is the last time well, one can't help but admire the irony.  River Song's first appearance was in a two-part story five years ago that ended with her dying to save her future husband.  "The Name of the Doctor" has River after the events in The Library, with everything about her and The Doctor laid bare at last.  Alex Kingston as River Song has been one of the purest delights in all of television these past few years and if this is "goodbye sweetie" indeed, that is a void which will not be easily filled.

I loved how Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax were brought back once again.  It wouldn't be a proper season finale without that wacky trio (again I insist: give them their own spinoff series!).  Strax's scenes were especially hilarious, particularly when he asks that drunken Scottish lout to knock him unconscious with the shovel.

The Whisper Men: ummmm... still trying to figure those guys out.  Are they intended to be the distant cousins of the Silence?  Simeon didn't really "do" it for me as a main villain... until he spoke of The Doctor's future and referenced The Valeyard (so we know that gun is still on the wall waiting to be fired).  I think what most impressed me about him is that whatever it is about The Doctor still to come, Simeon was perfectly able and willing to let himself be destroyed in order to undo The Doctor's entire existence.

"The Name of the Doctor" sets an all-time record: eleven Doctors in one episode!  There hasn't been a story with so large a cast of Doctors since 1983's "The Five Doctors".  And by the way: they are all in there somewhere.  It took me awhile to find Eight and Ten, but they appear also (Clara sees the Eighth Doctor very briefly on the same beach as the Second Doctor, and that's the Tenth Doctor's back that Clara is looking at in The Library).

In every way that I could have conceived, "The Name of the Doctor" was the epic that I had been stoked to see and much, much more.

But then it got to that final scene, and the figure turning to show his face and then those words on the screen...


I've watched Doctor Who for more than thirty years. And THIS was the scariest, the most unexpected and DARKEST turn of events in the whole history of the franchise.  The mythology got rocked and rocked HARD in those final 2 or 3 minutes.  It's absolutely the riskiest thing ever done in the entire history of the show and for good or ill Steven Moffat has crossed a terrible, terrible line with this.  There was stuff in this episode that I was certain we would only see in the fiftieth anniversary special... and already Moffat's not only fired all that off, he chased it down with a tactical nuke.

"The Name of the Doctor" is the most insane, most senses-shattering cliffhanger in television history.  Granted it needed almost fifty years of material to pull it off but still...  And my poor brain is still reeling from it.  Remember Lost and it's third-season finale "Through the Looking Glass"?  Yeah the one that sucker-punched us at the end with the reveal that those flashbacks of Jack's were really flash-forwards to a time after Jack escaped the Island?  Well "The Name of the Doctor" was a thousand times more gray-matter-melting than that.

"The Name of the Doctor" didn't just peg the needle and break it off, it sent it flying madly out the car window.  Desperate times call for desperate measures so I'm giving it TWELVE Sonic Screwdrivers out of a possible five.  One for each of them.  If you've seen the episode you know what I'm talking about.

"To be continued November 23rd"!  This is gonna be a looooong six months...

Ray Manzarek of The Doors has passed away

It happened Monday but I'm just now hearing the sad word about the death of Ray Manzarek: founding member of The Doors and one of the greatest keyboardists ever.

There are going to be a lot of memorials to Manzarek and his talent, but I thought I'd share this one that "Weird Al" Yankovic posted on his YouTube channel.  It's from 2009, when Yankovic was producing his song "Craigslist" (a style parody homage to The Doors and Jim Morrison).  Manzarek himself played keyboard for the song, giving it an authenticity that he alone could deliver...


Thoughts and prayers going out to his family.

Xbox done

Here's the Xbox One...

Xbox One, Microsoft, Xbox, video games, consoles,
There is no backward compatibility: you can't play anything from your already-existing library of Xbox 360 games on it.  You can't play your original Xbox games on it either.  Ditto for any games from Xbox Live Arcade.  It has no power button (it stays on all the time) and it needs an Internet connection to really function optimally.  It has a hard drive, but it's non-removable.  To play your games you must install from the disc.  If there is no more room on the hard drive you'll have to wipe some games off (then re-install if you want to play them again later on).  It won't work at all without the Kinect sensor (something which unless you have ample enough space, could be a problem).  Once you play a new game it's tied into that Xbox One unit and you can't easily take it anywhere else or let a friend borrow it or be allowed to sell it... okay well you can but the next player using it will have to pay a fee to Microsoft.

But at least it will tie all your incoming cable TV, satellite TV, Internet, Blu-ray and whatever else into it so that you only need one remote control.  I guess that's something worth five hundred bucks, huh?

The big "reveal" yesterday spent way more time raving about the Xbox One's television and home entertainment capabilities than it did about actual video gaming.  Seems to kinda defeat the point of pouring the entire budget of a typical developing country into the design of something for... you know... playing video games.

The lack of backward compatibility alone turns me off completely from wanting an Xbox One.  But then Microsoft had to add insult to injury more ways than I care to count...

I'm gonna be way, way content with my Xbox 360 for a long time to come.  Based on commentary I've seen since yesterday's reveal, I won't be the only one apparently.  Heck, lots of people and private businesses are still using Windows XP nearly twelve years after it was released.  I'm expecting the Xbox 360 to enjoy similar longevity.  Along with anticipating Microsoft's entry into the next-gen console wars to slip to a hard second after the PlayStation 4, and perhaps even lagging significantly behind the Wii U.

And one last thing about the Xbox One: it's ugly too.  It's like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey as envisioned by George Orwell: a big black solid slab of freedom is slavery.

This week's Tammy Tuesday(?) only wants to help!

Didn't get to post an installment of Tammy Tuesday yesterday 'cuz of too much stuff that came crashing down all at once.  Hey I enjoy blogging but it's not like this is my full-time career, right?

Forget I asked that.

It's a day late but no less cute: here's Tammy trying her best to assist Dad in the kitchen as he looks for cookware...

Tammy, miniature dachshund, dog

Truth be told, I think Tammy enjoys eating the food more than she does actually preparing it :-P

Monday, May 20, 2013

I purposely stayed off the Internet for the past 48 hours

Why?

Because I wasn't able to watch the season finale of Doctor Who until just now. I had to wait for my girlfriend Kristen to arrive back home from a wedding out of state. We weren't going to see this one without each other.

So a few minutes ago we finally finished "The Name of the Doctor".

My immediate reaction? Unprintable. I can't even come up with words right now.

Gonna see Star Trek Into Darkness with her. Maybe by then I'll have calmed down enough.

The most senses-shattering ending of a Doctor Who story ever.

More coherent reaction later.



Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Knight Shift has an official Facebook page!

The Knight Shift, Facebook, like meAt long last, this blog has a bona-fide presence on Facebook!  It's been up for awhile now but I wanted to make some posts on it to sorta "furnish the place" before going public with it

Anyhoo, the URL thingy is facebook.com/theknightshiftblog (pretty clever, huh?).  The Facebook site's primary function will be to share posts that I make here on the blog.  But I also have plans to use it for other neat stuff: anything from previews for coming attractions to emergency posts from the field when full-blown blogging isn't an option, to... dunno, maybe a recipe or two.  I aim to have the place as hopping with seemingly random iotas of information, thoughts and wild ideas as this blog is.

Okay well... "like" me, why don'cha? :-)

There is no possible contesting it: The IRS must be abolished

The Founding Fathers would "repent in Heaven" - as John Adams threatened those early Americans - if they could see the country they founded and what has come to light in the past few days.

If anybody can tender any argument whatsoever in defense of the Internal Revenue Service, I for one wish to hear what it is.

IRS, Internal Revenue Service, spying, audits, Tea Party, Tea Parties, conservatives, corruption, abuse of powerI am not a conspiracy theorist but hey, whaddya know: the conspiracy theorists were right all along.  The United States Federal Government really has been spying on the dissidents, the disaffected and those who want less intrusion into their private lives.  Add in how the government has also been found to have been spying on Associated Press journalists and then the whole mess about Benghazi (which cost lives, mind you) and only an idiot would deny that We The People are no longer in charge and that our own government has become a colossal, reprehensible beast.

Audits.  Threats.  Intimidation.  Favoritism toward political allies.  Cover-ups.  Seizing millions of private individuals' medical recordsBullying a conservative education group to turn over the names of high school and college students.  Not even Billy Graham's ministry has proven safe from the IRS.

Our forefathers went to war with England for far, far less than this.  They bought our liberty with their blood.  Too many of them paid the price for a freedom they knew they would never know but wanted their children and their children's children to have.

We owe their memory better than this.

Yes, Mr. Adams.  The time has come to repent in Heaven.  The government which you and Jefferson and Franklin and Washington and Madison and Morris and Calhoun and the rest gave us, doesn't exist anymore.  We had a republic and we couldn't keep it.

And now we have a "government" of thugs with all the mentality of street hoodlums, or a Mafia family.  Barack Obama, Eric Holder, Janet Napolitano...

They may have been elected, but they are not leaders.  They aren't my leaders, anyway.  They are, at most, glorified gangsters.  Albeit gangsters with their very own Gestapo.  And lots and lots of bullets (which we still haven't been given an adequate explanation for).

The Founding Fathers never would have entertained the notion of a government agency empowered to intimidate and threaten and confiscate the property of the people of the United States... much less approved of one!

So here's how I see it as things stand tonight...

Either the Internal Revenue Service is abolished for good, obliterated totally and its entire structure laid waste.  Or, there can be no more confidence and trust that We The People can place with our own government.

This is our Runnymede, folks.  King Obama Lackland needs to be dragged kicking and screaming to the pasture and told in no uncertain terms "you've gone mad with power, John.  Now sign on the dotted line and get the hell out of our way."

Say what one will for all his faults, but at least King John had enough sense to comprehend what the barons were telling him.  But then again John didn't have mega-sized computer databases, airborne drones and a secret police at his beck and call.

Either the IRS goes, and with it all its power and authority (which there is considerable evidence it was never meant to have to begin with), or there is no longer any pretending that we are living in a free nation of the people, by the people, and for the people.  There will be only government for the sake of government.

That is not the country I want my children to grow up in.

And you shouldn't want it either.

Kermit Gosnell has chosen life

And by that I mean, Kermit Gosnell has chosen life in prison.

He could have chosen death.  Gosnell dropped his appeals in exchange for life, not death.

I'm not the first to note the irony that given a choice, Gosnell chose life.

If only his victims had been given the same choice...

Kermit Gosnell, abortion, abortionist
Kermit Gosnell: He chose life for himself, death for babies.
Kermit Gosnell, abortion "doctor", found guilty yesterday of murdering three babies (he had been charged with killing four) during botched abortions at his "clinic". Gosnell was quoted as remarking that Baby A was "big enough to walk around with me or walk me to the bus stop."

You may not have heard much about Kermit Gosnell. In fact, you might not have heard anything at all about him. The mainstream media was curiously quiet about his case. I don't know whether it was because the details about went on in Gosnell's slaughterhouse were so gory and horrific, or because it was a story that exposed abortion for the obscenity that it is.

(You can click here to read more about the case. Much of which is about how Gosnell's primary M.O. was jabbing the babies' necks with scissors and snipping and twisting the spinal cords.)

Last week I wrote about how Ariel Castro is facing "aggravated murder" from allegedly causing the deaths of at least one unborn baby during the ten years that he and his two brothers held three women hostage in Cleveland.  The only person who was killed in that case was an unborn baby.  Not a "fetus".  Not an "unviable tissue mass".  A human being.

Kermit Gosnell is going to prison because he killed human beings.  They were humans at their most helpless and most in need of love and compassion.  Kermit Gosnell butchered them, laughed about it and made money from it.

Kermit Gosnell is not a doctor.  A doctor takes an oath to defend life.  Gosnell took innocent life.  Again and again and again.

So what's it going to be, ladies and gentlemen?  Either an unborn child is a human accorded all the rights as any other, including the right to live.  Or it is not, and Kermit Gosnell has not committed murder at all.

As I said last week: We can't have it both ways.

(By the way, that was Troy Newman of Operation Rescue who first noted the supreme irony of Gosnell choosing life in prison over the death penalty.)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"Nightmare in Silver": Neil Gaiman restores horror to the Cybermen on DOCTOR WHO

It's been three days since "Nightmare in Silver" - this season's much-anticipated episode of Doctor Who penned by Neil Gaiman - aired and the thing I still can't get out of my head is how fast that Cyberman was.

Look, it takes an awful lot for a TV show or a movie to scare the ever-living crap out of me.  But when the girlfriend and I saw that one Cyberman arrive at the barracks and then do that...

Think back to the first time you watched "Remembrance of the Daleks", the big story that marked Doctor Who's 25th anniversary in 1988.  And that numb-struck look of terror on The Doctor's face as that Dalek did something no Dalek had ever done before: it climbed the stairs during its hellbent pursuit.

Well, that high-speed Cyberman scared me worse than that!  I was literally screaming "HOLY SH-T!!" (and other stuff) at the top of my lungs and I barely realized it.  After decades of watching the Cybermen clank around in that clumsy armor, for one to run and attack almost faster than the eye could follow was an automatic "behind the sofa" moment.

And it was neat to see the return of the Cybermen's biggest weakness being gold.  How The Doctor was able to use it was definitely a slick and brilliant move.  'Twoul be great to see that vulnerability exploited again: I've no doubt that Matt Smith's Doctor could have all kinds of fun with it!

I found Hedgewick's World of Wonders to be a well-imagined and quite offbeat place to have set a story like this.  I mean: the universe's greatest amusement park?  Somehow that worked to "up" the creepiness of the episode's atmosphere.

I think Gaiman set out to do two things with "Nightmare in Silver": to re-establish the Cybermen as the horrifying threat they were always meant to be, and to apply his inimitable style toward a "Doctor. vs. Doctor" conflict.  And to a great degree, I believe he pulled off each of those tricks.  Although I have felt at times that "Nightmare in Silver" could have focused more time on the Cybermen themselves, but knowing that it's a Neil Gaiman story made me enjoy with greater appreciation The Doctor's internalized conflict with his Cyber-Plannerized "Mr. Clever" ego.  The Doctor at war with "Mr. Clever" was a well-executed duel that never descended into cheap gimmickery which that sort of thing has become in too many other stories throughout fiction.  Matt Smith has been at the top of his form as The Doctor this season and with "Nightmare in Silver" he brings that power and to bear against no less an opponent than himself... and it is a treat to behold!

(Okay I gotta get this off my chest: we could have gone without the "cute kid on a sci-fi show" trope and in "Nightmare in Silver"'s case we got two of them.  I really tried to give Artie and Angie a chance but in the end, hmmmm... they were more of a liability to the story than they were an enhancement.  But at least they were the only such liability in an otherwise terrific episode.)

Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) continues to be a pleasure to watch.  She's definitely getting her hands dirtier so far as the action goes.  And the dialogue between her and the Cyber-Planner was positively dark and chilling.  More foreshadowing, no doubt, of what is to come.  Along with all the other in-show references (fewer in this episode than the previous ones, but they were otherwise well-employed).

But I can't write about "Nightmare in Silver" without remarking upon the best use of a guest star this season: Warwick Davis as Porridge.  This month marks thirty years since Davis first appeared on the big screen as Wicket the Ewok in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and since then he's become quite an accomplished actor (most notably as Professor Flitwick throughout the Harry Potter movie series).  I thought his portrayal of Porridge was sweet, comical and tragic... all at once.  Davis was a delight to watch and I for one would love to see Porridge return again.

I'm going to give "Nightmare in Silver" Four out of Five possible Sonic Screwdrivers.  It could have been even better with a bit of trimming off the fat (yeah Artie and Angie again) but I'm choosing instead to focus on the The Doctor's battle with his own intellect, and the re-scaryfying of the Cybermen.  Speaking of which, I'll never look at a cockroach again without having those nasty Cybermites coming to mind.

And this Saturday night: the season finale of Doctor Who.  His path will take him to the Fields of Trenzalor.  The one place he must never go to.  And there... the question.

"The first question."
"The oldest question in the universe."
"The question hidden in plain sight."
"The question that must never be answered."
"The question he has been running from for all his life..."


"The Name of The Doctor".  And I won't be able to watch it until the following Monday afternoon!  I might go into "radio silence" to avoid spoilers ('cuz I can't watch it unless it's with my girlfriend :-)

This week's Tammy Tuesday is all tired out

Tammy in one of her all-too-rare quiet moments...


Miniature dachshunds might be small... but they more than make up for it in hyper-activity!  If you are contemplating getting one, you'll love them like nothing else... but you'll also come to appreciate those fleeting minutes of rest and quiet :-)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Just saw IRON MAN 3

Definitely THE best of the series by far! And one of the finest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date.

Go see it. Now! Or, perish in flames. It's your choice. But not really...

(And do not do not DO NOT leave the theater until you've seen the end credits. All of the end credits. You have been warned.)

Today's DILBERT a must-read for people with bipolar (like me!)

Dear Scott Adams:

Today's edition of your comic strip Dilbert is one of the most encouraging - and one of the funniest - cartoons that I've come across in a long time. As a person with bipolar disorder and on behalf of many others who must deal with having a mental illness, thank you for giving us something to laugh and smile about :-)


I think after reading this, I'm gonna begin referring to most other people as "normals" and myself as... how does "meta-human" sound? :-)

Sincerely,
Chris Knight

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Want good comedy? Have a dose of THE AMOS 'N ANDY SHOW!

Awright, I got a secret to share: I'm a longtime fan of The Amos 'N Andy Show from the early 1950s. This was a television series that in my opinion was way, way ahead of its time. The writing was sharp and witty and as clever as anything, and this show had an amazing cast. Especially Tim Moore as George "Kingfish" Stevens and Nick Stewart, who played Lightnin'.

So since its Saturday and a time to kick back and have some good laughs, let's check in with the boys down at the meeting hall of The Mystic Knights of the Sea!  Here's The Amos 'N Andy Show episode "Kingfish Teaches Andy To Fly"...

A flapper and a slacker

Last night was Great Gatsby Night at Kristen's dance studio! Everybody was supposed to come in 1920s-era attire. Kristen made a terrific flapper girl ensemble! However her ne'er-do-well boyfriend couldn't put a proper costume together in time so he showed up looking more like a flood refugee...


And here is Kristen with two other fine ladies in period attire!


And a good time was enjoyed by all :-)

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Department of Defense has 3D printed gun yanked... but I got it anyway (and so can you!)

Liberator, Defense Distributed, 3D printing, gun, firearms, Second Amendment, First Amendment
The Liberator: Coming soon to
a desktop near you!
Defense Distributed has made a lot of headlines lately about the Liberator: a firearm which is completely fabricated by "3D printing", apart from the firing pin.  I think the success of this gun already is that it's got politicians like Charles Schumer and Steve Israel all steamed-up about it.  Schumer wants 3D printed guns to be outlawed completely.

The thing is, politicos like Schumer can't figure out how to pull that off.  3D printing will soon be a household implement and if it can be drawn up on a computer, anyone will be able to produce a fully-functioning model right on their desktop.  The computer doesn't care if it's a replacement part for a kitchen appliance or an action figure or a real working handgun.  The barn door has been thrown wide open and there's no getting that horse back inside.

Never let something like common sense stop the government from trying.  Earlier today the Department of Defense requested that Defense Distributed remove all its 3D weapons-related files from its website.   Defense Distributed's founder Cody Wilson is laying the blame on the doorstep of Secretary of State John Kerry.

As of this writing, Defense Distributed's site has "gone dark".

But less than five minutes after reading about the government having the Liberator pulled from the web, I had downloaded the gun.  And not once, but twice.

Here's how I did it, and how anybody else can as well:

Download ĀµTorrent if you don't have it already (it's a free download) and run the install.  Any other torrent client should work too.  I found the Liberator files on The Pirate Bay.  There are two torrents for it so far: here's #1 and here's #2.  If either of those can't be found just do a search for "liberator" and "gun": I got those two results at once.  The file size is 2.02 megabytes (such a tiny thing for something so much fuss about).

And then... just download your Liberator files!  If you possess a 3D printer you can start making your Liberator pistol immediately.

I downloaded the file from each of those two torrents.  It is on my hard drive.  It is also on at least two USB drives that I've copied it too.  I can e-mail the file to anyone, anywhere in the world.  I could even set up a torrent on my own and allow people to download it from me directly.

In fact, it is happening right now.  Not by me, but by other people.  Lots and lots of other people.

Shutting down the Defense Distributed website was just about the worst thing that the United States federal government could have done, if it didn't want the Liberator to get into the wild.  By trying to outlaw it, the feds have made it so that practically everyone can want it.  Defense Distributed could not have asked for better publicity for and dissemination of its product!

Anyhoo... "Annie get your gun!" :-)

The Cleveland kidnappings and abortion

Like many others, I have been watching the news out of Cleveland this week: the three young women who escaped after more than a decade of captivity, rape, torture and other abuse.  There is a lot to be said about this story, but most of that has been discussed at considerable length already.

However, tonight I happened to catch something that has led me to articulate some thoughts aloud...

Apparently, at least one of the women became pregnant because of the Castro brothers (Ariel, the eldest, is still being held but his brothers are free for now).  It's being reported that at least one child was born but the others were killed as a result of induced miscarriages.

Ariel Castro, the "leader" of the three brothers charged with the kidnappings and torture, now faces the possibility of the death penalty if tried and convicted.  That is, if it is determined that he is responsible for purposefully causing one of the five miscarriages that hostage Michelle Knight suffered.  Knight was reportedly starved for more than two weeks and then Ariel Castro "repeatedly punched her in the stomach until she miscarried".

Here is what prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty told reporters earlier today...
“Based on the facts, I fully intend to seek charges for each and every act of sexual violence, rape, each day of kidnapping, every felonious assault, all his attempted murders and each act of aggravated murder he committed by terminating pregnancies” during the years the women were held, McGinty said.
"My office of the county prosecutor will also engage in a formal process in which we evaluate whether to seek charges eligible for the death penalty," he said. "The law of Ohio calls for the death penalty for those most depraved criminals who commit aggravated murder during the course of a kidnapping."
That is what Castro's alleged crime is being legally defined as: "aggravated murder".   McGinty made it clear that Castro's actions were "attempted murders" and "murder he committed by terminating pregnancies".

And for his heinous actions, Ariel Castro could be put to death.

But how is what Ariel Castro has reputedly done any different from abortion: something that has long enjoyed legal protection?

If Michelle's children were conceived as a result of Ariel raping her, and he is biologically the father and he didn't want any of them well... isn't that what happens thousands of times each day across America?  When a parent does not want a child?

How is it possible to defend the killing of unborn children as a legal "right" on the basis that they are not yet full-born human beings but rather an "unviable tissue mass", yet murder charges can be pressed against a man who likely killed at least one unborn child on the basis that these were humans he exterminated?

Logically, it is not possible.  Logically, it does not make sense.

How is the same act of killing someone a "protected right" in one situation and "aggravated murder" in another?

Want to know something?  I would bet real money that if Ariel Castro is charged with murder, the pro-abortion crowd is going to be sorely tempted to come out guns blazing against those charges.  Because if unborn children can be legally defined as having the right to live and that said right being denied is grounds for capital punishment, then the entire legal basis of abortion collapses.

It will have to.  There can be no prosecution for the murder of five innocent unborn children in one matter and a rigorous defending of "the right to choose" and "the right to privacy" so as to put to death unborn children in another.

We can't have it both ways.

Scientists create "injected breathing": breakthrough could save lives of millions

"Liquid breathing" from The Abyss.
Do not try this at home.
Remember in James Cameron's movie The Abyss, where Ed Harris' character was put into that funky diving suit which got filled with "breathing fluid" and he had to respirate through the liquid in order to survive a deep, deep dive?

(Incidentally, that was in 1989 and at the time it wasn't far from reality.  The mouse from the earlier scene that the fluid is demonstrated on?  That was not a special effect folks!  The mouse was actually breathing with that stuff!)

How about one better than that?  Say... put a needle in your arm and shoot yourself up with breathable oxygen?

Research scientist at Boston Children's Hospital have come up with a neat trick and it could revolutionize much of modern medicine: a nanoparticle which can be injected into a person and provide enough oxygen to maintain short-term "breathing".

From the article at TechWench.com...
This finding has the potential to save millions of lives every year. The microparticles can keep an object alive for up to 30 min after respiratory failure. This is accomplished through an injection into the patients’ veins. Once injected, the microparticles can oxygenate the blood to near normal levels. This has countless potential uses as it allows life to continue when oxygen is needed but unavailable. For medical personnel, this is just enough time to avoid risking a heart attack or permanent brain injury when oxygen is restricted or cut off to patients.
(snip)
The microparticles used are composed of oxygen gas pocketed in a layer of lipids. A Lipid is a natural molecule that can store energy and act as a part of a cell membrane, they can be made of many things such as wax, vitamins, phospholipids, and in this case fat is the lipid that stores the oxygen.
These microparticles are around two to four micrometers in length and carry about three to four times the oxygen content of our own red blood cells. In the past, researchers had a difficult time succeeding as prior tests caused gas embolism. This meant that the gas molecules would become stuck trying to squeeze through the capillaries. They corrected this issue by packaging them into small deformable particles rather ones where the structure was rigid.

Okay, I don't see how this could maintained for very long, before the carbon dioxide has to be expelled out of a person's system and that's one of the bigger functions of the lungs.  In fact, the 30 minutes limit cited in the article is very hard to believe, truth be known.  Even a few minutes without CO2 being exhaled would be fatal.  There would definitely be significant and possibly permanent damage.

But for things like localized injuries, this certainly could be extremely useful.  I'm also wondering how it could be used in therapies to fight oxygen-unfriendly situations like infection and most kinds of cancer.

Zero-tolerance out of control: Pencil leads to boy's suspension, while Eagle Scout hit with felony

I'll be damned if (Lord willing) I get blessed with children and I put them in a government-run school.

They're not here yet.  But I already love them too much than to subject them to the insanity of a modern public school.  And few things exemplify that madness more than do zero-tolerance policies.

(Hey, I ran for school board once.  It can't be said that I never tried to make the public schools better.  But things won't going to get better until more people get up the gumption to tell the bureaucrats "ENOUGH!")

Two stories demonstrating my point.  The first is about seven-year old Christopher Marshall of Suffolk, Virginia.  He was suspended from his elementary school last week per a policy of "zero tolerance".

What was his crime?  Pointing a pencil as if were a gun at another student and making "bang! bang!" noises with it.

Yeah, you read that right.  That's all that little Christopher was doing.

From the story at WAVY.com...
Seven-year-old Christopher Marshall says he was playing with another student in class Friday, when the teacher at Driver Elementary asked them to stop pointing pencils at each other.

"When I asked him about it, he said, 'Well I was being a Marine and the other guy was being a bad guy,'" said Paul Marshall, the boy's father. "It's as simple as that."

Christopher's father was a Marine for many years. He thinks school leaders overreacted.

"A pencil is a weapon when it is pointed at someone in a threatening way and gun noises are made," said Bethanne Bradshaw, a spokesperson for Suffolk Public Schools.

The Suffolk school system has a "zero tolerance policy" when it comes to weapons. And, Bradshaw admits, that policy has tightened up in recent years because of widely publicized school shootings.

"Some children would consider it threatening, who are scared about shootings in schools or shootings in the community," said Bradshaw. "Kids don't think about 'Cowboys and Indians' anymore, they think about drive-by shootings and murders and everything they see on television news every day."
And then there is the tale of Eagle Scout, honor student, devout Christian and model young man Cole Withrow from Princeton, a small town near Raleigh here in North Carolina.  Cole had been skeet shooting and accidentally left his shotgun in his vehicle when he came to school late last month.  Cole realized his error and sought to do the right thing: he went to the office and called his mom to come and take the gun out and away from the campus.  Unfortunately one of the staff at Princeton High School overheard the call and alerted the police.

Cole Withrow, Princeton High School, guns, zero tolerance, expelled, arrested, felony
Cole Withrow with his sister Hannah Walker
Cole was arrested on felony charges and expelled.  He will not walk with his classmates at graduation in a few weeks.  All for trying to do the right thing in the matter.  For trying to do what his faith and his vows as a Boy Scout would have him to do.

Cole will be allowed to graduate, just not from his own school.  His family is fighting for Cole's right to be with his classmates.

But at least his troubles caught the attention of Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University.  Cole Withrow has been offered a scholarship to attend the college.  Harding University has also extended a similar offer to Cole.

Is it paranoia?  Is it laziness?  Is it intentional conditioning of the kids on the part of the public school educators and administrators?  For whatever reason it is, this kind of thing has gone on... and continues to go on... for far too long.

"Zero-tolerance"?  More like "zero common sense".

Trailer for THE BROTHERS RAPTURE fan-made BioShock movie!

BioShock Infinite has been out for over a month. It's a game I haven't played an I'm not inclined to either. Why? Because in this blogger's opinion it's not a true BioShock game.

For me, the BioShock mythos will always be focused on Rapture: that city beneath the waves of the North Atlantic, not a brightly-lit metropolis floating Lord-knows-where in the sky. The first BioShock game was and remains the most intellectual and even enlightening video game I have ever enjoyed. It's difficult even calling it a "video game".  From what I've heard, BioShock Infinite's world of Columbia is a beauty to behold and has a degree of moral choice... but in the end it doesn't leave as strong an impression as Rapture.

I'll say it again: BioShock is high-brow literature of a whole new kind that hasn't been seen before. And its sequel BioShock 2 did a pretty good job continuing its themes.  And I think there's plenty, plenty of room for a BioShock 3 and more past that.  Maybe it could be a few years later in the 1970s and the U.S. and Soviet governments finally learn about Rapture and try to take it.  I'm not the first to think that and I hope that the folks at 2K have thought of it either... or any idea that would even more terrific!

Well anyhoo, the real BioShock saga has long inspired some amazing work by its fans and now a group of filmmakers has produced a film that looks just as good if not better than anything Hollywood is likely to crank out!  The Brothers Rapture (click here for its official Facebook page) is getting released next week on May 13th, but there's already a trailer for it.

And it is gorgeous to behold!


As the article at The Escapist describes it: " Set before the hidden city underwent cultural and physical collapse, The Brothers Rapture explores the people who thrived in a land without limits.  It appears to take the setting and theme of Bioshock and spin them out into an original story.  The trailer shows the brothers Charles and Arthur, artists newly arrived in Rapture.  They seem overjoyed at the freedom that Rapture offers them, until a shady figure in a dapper hat shows up offering to turn their very hands into tools.  Expect philosophical arguments and scenes of people shooting large vials of glowing goo into their arms."

Seriously, I don't know which I'm now looking forward to more next week: Star Trek Into Darkness, or this baby.

A thankful tip o' the hat to loyal reader Roxanne Martin for forwarding this along! :-)

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Tammy Tuesday this week is a hyper dog

Tammy found herself last week at one of my favorite places: HyperMind in nearby Burlington!  So while the place was packed with people playing Magic: The Gathering, Settlers of Cataan and several other games there was this cute lil' miniature dachshund running up and down the store.  I think everyone stopped what they were doing to give her a pat on the head or a tummy rub and a lucky few even got their faces licked!

Here's Tammy with HyperMind's owner and manager Denise...

Tammy, HyperMind, miniature dachshund, dogs

Tammy is getting to travel around quite often lately. I'll be sure to photographically document her exploits and post them here in the future :-)

Alien abduction in Roanoke, Virginia!

It's true! Two are missing after an alien abduction in Roanoke, Virginia. And frantic parents are desperately searching for answers.

It's not a headline ripped from the pages of Weekly World News.  This is happening and it's happening now!  Dan Casey of The Roanoke Times is the first to break a story which will no doubt be soon going national.

Click here to read more!

Well, here we go... the trailer for ENDER'S GAME

I shall remain cautiously optimistic. Ender's Game comes out on November 1st.

Ray Harryhausen, stop-motion genius, has passed away

Ray Harryhausen poses one of the many skeleton warriors
from 1963's Jason and the Argonauts.

For no reason that I can determine at all, late last night I found myself thinking about Ray Harryhausen.  Maybe it was because I caught the original Clash of the Titans a week or so ago and not for the first or last time, found myself marveling at the stop-motion magic that this man wrought over the course of his long, long career.

It occurred to me that if and when he passed, I was going to have an awful hard time choosing one photo that best conveyed Harryhausen's spirit, his ingenuity and his passion.  But that hopefully, Lord willing, that day was going to be a long, long time to come.  Instead here it is less than twelve hours later and I'm having to do just that.

Clash of the Titans is what introduced me to Ray Harryhausen's work, and I'm always going to consider Medusa and how he brought her to life as his most terrifying creation.  But that's such a classic image of him doing one of the skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts that, it had to be that one.  It had to be a photo of him doing what he did best: making us believes that there really were monsters and other incredible creatures up there on the big screen.  From 1949's Mighty Joe Young on through 20 Million Miles to Earth, Jason and the Argonauts and many other legendary science-fiction and fantasy films, Harryhausen pulled off nothing short of magic... or pretty dang close to it.

This was a man without whom, there would likely have been no blockbuster movies as we have come to know and love them.  Harryhausen was a special and visual effects maestro who forever left his mark on cinema.  Without his pioneering work, there may have never been a Star Wars series.  George Lucas himself remarked as much earlier today.

I'm gonna say something, and I dare anybody to tell me otherwise: Ray Harryhausen's work will always stand up against anything done with computer-generated special effects.  The Clash of the Titans remake proves my point.  The remake's creatures were as cold as their silicon spawning.  But the Kraken, Medusa, Bubo and the rest?  They lived and breathed with a life all their own.  Because at their heart really was the drive and soul of a living man.  And what a life he lived...

This afternoon the sad word has come that Ray Harryhausen has passed away at the age of 93.

Thoughts and prayers going out to his family.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Internet sales taxes: Does the United States Senate NOT understand the Constitution?

A short while ago the members of the United States Senate voted 70 to 24 to pass the "Marketplace Fairness Act": AKA "Internet sales taxes".

The Senate has approved collecting taxes on goods sold on the Internet.  We'll examine that in just a sec.

("Marketplace Fairness Act"?  God, I hate how these people try to govern by emotion instead of intelligence...)

Anyone who voted for this bill should be removed from office at the earliest possible legal opportunity.  For one thing, it is insanity for government to be levying more taxes upon us at a time when you and I and most other Americans are being obligated to tighten our belts.  How much more do our supposed "representatives" believe we can take?

But what is most on my mind tonight is how this bill is a flagrant violation of the Constitution of the United States.

According to Article One, Section 7:
All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.
 "All bills for raising Revenue shall originate n the House..."

Why then is a bill for raising revenue now originating in the Senate and not only that but has been approved??

I do not have time to watch C-SPAN but I wonder: were there any senators who brought up this fact during debate on the bill?

In a sane world, the House of Representatives would reject the bill from even being admitted into its presence, given how it's unconstitutional.  But I seriously doubt that will happen (though it should).  Barring that, the House should overwhelmingly defeat it.  If it does pass though and President Obama signs it, the obvious thing in this blogger's mind is that the Supreme Court should strike it down.

The Supreme Court shouldn't have to do that though, given that any fifth grader would tell you that the bill has been unconstitutional to begin with.

Y'know, there could be a lot of trouble saved if those in government just followed the directions instead of pulling stuff like this out of their collective ass...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Kristen's Korner: A Beacon of Light

This afternoon the lovely and effervescent Kristen let me know that she had composed another of her articles for this blog. That's something I really appreciate about her: how much of a surprise she always is!  Her first entry, "My Bipolar Boyfriend", has turned out to be one of the more popular posts on The Knight Shift.  I know she has a few others in the works too.

So take it away Kristen! :-)


"A Beacon of Light"

On Memorial Day weekend of this year, Chris and I went to the Outer Banks.  I had been in the area 25 years ago, at the age of 3, and felt like this was a trip of nostalgia (although I barely remember the first trip).  We enjoyed the Elizabethan Gardens and aquarium in Manteo, but also ventured from Roanoke Island to see Cape Hatteras, Bodie Island, Kitty Hawk, and Jockey's Ridge.

When we were at Cape Hatteras, I wanted to climb to the top of the lighthouse.  Hey, I had done it numerous times in San Diego's (newer) Point Loma lighthouse when my family lived there in the early 1990s.  Surely this would be a fun experience, one with a great view of the Atlantic Ocean from the top and a great memory with the man in my life.

While I will say it was a memorable experience, I can't say it was a fun one.  You see, sometime during college, I started to get vertigo.  Being somewhere high, sometimes I'd get dizzy and anxious.   It was never really that bad, just annoying.  But for some reason, standing at the base of the lighthouse, looking up at its black and white striped glory... I started to panic.

When it was time for us to go up, I decided to let the other people in the group go ahead of us.  Then Chris and I started up, me at the front.  I have to say, I was thankful for the eight platforms along the way - because I probably stopped at every one, putting my hand on my chest in order to ease my breathing.  My legs started to feel shaky.

Yes, I was freaking out.  Scared.  I knew I wasn't going to fall - there were plenty of railings to prevent that, in case I slipped.  But the fear consumed me.  The rational part of my mind was saying there was nothing to fear - the steps weren't narrow or steep, they were actually very manageable compared to some other places I had been to (like Warwick Castle in England - THOSE stairs were fear-worthy).  But the irrational part of my mind was hysterical - especially if I heard people coming down the stairs.  To feel stable, I just HAD to hold on to the railing and put my other hand against the wall, and someone coming down prevented that.

Kristen's Korner, Kristen Bradford, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Outer Banks, North Carolina, A Beacon of LightWhen we finally made it to the top, I only took one picture... from the doorway to the outside.  I went outside, took a brief look around, and was desparate to go back inside and leave to head back down.  I couldn't really take the time to enjoy the view because of my anxiety.

But then we had to walk down.  All 200-some stairs.  That was even worse for my anxiety.  At least by going up, you could ignore the bottom.  You have to look down (in the general direction, not necessarily down to the bottom) to walk down.  Well, at least I do.  I couldn't walk down those steps without making sure my feet were positioned in a secure way on each step.

The whole experience took half an hour, probably.  Whereas other people surely took a lot shorter time, because they weren't succumbed by fear.  When I got down to the bottom, I was so thankful.  I had survived it.  And I told Chris that I never have to do it again.  If we have kids someday and we go back, HE can take them up and I'll be at the bottom, waving at them when they're at the top (just like my mother did when we were in San Diego... okay, I've heard some women say they start to become their mothers, but I never thought I'd have this fear-of-heights problem!).

This also made me really appreciate Chris.  Not just because he was supportive and encouraging me during my little freak-out, but it gave me insight into what Chris deals with on a regular basis.

I don't have bipolar.  I don't know what it's like to battle your mind everyday, trying to ignore the horrible thoughts or depression that likes to creep up.  But in a way, on a much smaller scale, I was battling my mind.  I WANTED to enjoy going up to the top of the lighthouse with my boyfriend.  I WANTED to be strong.  I WANTED to tell those irrational fears where to stick it.  But in the end, I did not win the battle.  I was a victim to my fears.  While I didn't give up on the climb, I let my fears take hold of me and was not able to resist them.  People with bipolar go through this.  They want to be happy and have a normal life, but sometimes their mind gets in the way.

Fear, bipolar, stress, emotions - whatever barrier you have to battle your mind for, it doesn't have to win.  It's not always easy, nor always a success.  But have hope that it will get better and you will get through it.  Just keep your focus on the goal: I WILL get through this depression.  I WILL survive this broken heart.  I WILL survive this lighthouse climb.

As I end this post, I think to what the lighthouse symbolizes.  It's a beacon of light that guides ships away from the cliffs, towards the right direction.  I'd like to think God is a lighthouse of sorts, who uses his light to direct us the way to go.  It reminds me of that popular hymn that comes from Psalm 119:105: "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."  Next time the fear rears its ugly head, maybe I can take comfort in those words, and give the fear to God.

You know, maybe I'll climb Cape Hatteras again after all.

STAR WARS: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC comes to the iPad!

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, iPad, iOS, Apple, BioWare, Aspyr MediaWhen I first heard about it this morning, it was only from a report and there had been no announced availability but my first reaction was already "SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!!"

Guess who just spent ten bucks on the App Store?

BioWare's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, deemed by many to be the greatest Star Wars video/computer game ever and one of THE best games of all time period, has been ported to the iPad and is on sale now!  Ten years after it was first released, Aspyr Media has taken this much-beloved classic and put the whole experience in the palm of your hands, to enjoy wherever you happen to be.  It requires at least an iPad 2 to run and it needs iOS 6.  As well as some hefty space for the install (1.9 gigs free but I'm hearing at least 2.5 is recommended).

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is available for $9.99 on the Apple App Store.  Go download it now, meatbags!

Hey Hey Hey! It's the profanity-strewn prison rape episode of FAT ALBERT!

A few weeks ago I came across a religious broadcasting station that runs episodes of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids on weekday afternoons.  I'd forgotten how awesome this show was!  My DVR has been set accordingly, so I can once again watch the wacky adventures of Fat Albert and his gang during the evenings or whenever.

From the show's start, its creator/producer/narrator Bill Cosby intended for the series to teach and enlighten as much as it entertained (it eventually became the basis of Cosby's doctorate in education).  As the show progressed, Cosby and his staff began to take on bolder issues, such as racism and guns (interestingly, that particular episode did not condemn firearms entirely, it just cautioned young people to be extremely careful with them).

So it was 1984 and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids was finally winding down after being on Saturday morning television for twelve years.  And the Cos' decided that at long last it was time to unload a "scared straight" story at the kiddies.  Many other shows enjoyed by children were also doing "very special episodes" (I still cringe whenever I think of "Gordon Jump as the pervert bike shop owner" on Diff'rent Strokes... come to think of it, most of the Diff'rent Strokes episodes were like that.  Being "very special", not Dudley and the pervert bike store owner I mean).  Anyway...

"Busted" would be unusual if it had been produced today, but in the mid-Eighties it was way more daring.  In a departure from the norm, Bill Cosby began the show warning viewers that this episode would have foul language (like "bastard", "damn" and "hell") but it had to be that way to be as accurate as possible.  What Bill didn't tell us about is that we would soon be witnessing Fat Albert and his friends being oggled with lustful eyes by hardened felons!  No other episode to the best of my recollection ever had Fat Albert jumping scared into Dumb Donald's arms.  Or had poor little Russell (my favorite character of the entire show) being asked if he wants "a candy bar".

The language has been toned down from its original airing, but everything else is as disturbing as ever.  From 1984 here are Fat Albert, Rudy, Bill, Russell, Bucky, Dumb Donald, Weird Harold and Mushmouth in "Busted"...



That would frighten anybody into doing whatever they possibly could to avoid going to the big house!

Unfortunately, twelve years later would see the publication of Alex Ross' and Mark Waid's classic graphic novel Kingdom Come.  And in its very first pages we find Fat Albert and his pals shooting down some civilians on the streets of Gotham City, just before getting arrested by Batman's patrol droids.

(Looks like "scared straight" didn't work, huh.  One can only assume that Rudy wound up learning the hard way to watch himself in the shower...)

Is greed killing NASCAR?

NASCAR, stock car racing, crashing and burning
Not long ago, stock car racing was the most-watched, most profitable professional sport in America and one of the biggest in the world (surpassed internationally only by soccer... or "football" or "futbol" or whatever).  Which isn't bad at all for a spectator sport which has humble beginnings in the manufacture and transport of illegal moonshine throughout the southeastern United States.  And that is where NASCAR's most faithful and stalwart fans have always been found, along with its most celebrated and capable drivers.

Lately however, NASCAR seems to have forgot "who brung them to the dance": those same longtime fans, most of whom have decades of loyalty notched on their belts.  Speedway Motorsports' owner and CEO Bruton Smith had this to say last week when it was announced that NASCAR was moving one of Charlotte's races to Las Vegas: "When the game is over, it'll be money, money, money... Money will move it."

NASCAR's big wigs are poised to lose it all if they keep going at this pace, so writes friend and colleague Doug Smith.  The owners and executives are selling out stock car racing's core fans by having events all over the map, taking them away from longstanding venues such as Rockingham and Darlington.  In other words: the pursuit of a higher profit is destroying what made NASCAR profitable to begin with...
I've written for several years that I wouldn't be surprised to see Nascar fold by 2020-2025. Or at the very least, there would be races that weren't televised live any more, if at all. Regrettably, there are enough sheep out there to keep the sport alive but I see no reason to change my prediction about Nascar on television because any sport depends on its traditional fanbase to support it in hard times. Nascar's attendance and ratings have been down for years and it can be traced right back to the unholy trinity's concentrated efforts to run off the traditional fans. MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, Soccer, Tennis, Golf, other auto racing bodies such as Indy and F1, and nearly every other sport I can think of tries at least to innovate but still remaining loyal to their core fanbase. In the case of MLB, I think they try too hard sometimes to do this since it hinders progress that could actually make the game better, but they are at least trying to keep their core fans.

Nascar on the other hand doesn't subscribe to this theory. They think that the fairweather fans are the group they need to go after. I'm not saying they shouldn't try to lure in new fans but I am saying that perhaps if they didn't mess with things that worked to draw in fans for over 50 years previously, perhaps they might actually draw in some new fans without running off millions of fans that Bill France Sr and Jr worked for a combined 55 years to draw in.
Crash here for more of Doug's thoughts.  It's well worth reading and pondering, whether you are a fan of NASCAR or are a student of corporate decision-making (if there really is such a thing...)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

This week's Tammy Tuesday is a warm fuzzy welcome home

Kristen and I spent the entire weekend at the Outer Banks.  We really enjoyed ourselves and already are planning what to do the next time we visit.  When we do I'm bound and determined to go hand-gliding on Jockey's Ridge. But even without that this time, the trip was a neat lil' adventure.

And when we got back home Tammy was waiting for us.  As much fun as we had, I really did miss my lil' mini dachshund. And I think Tammy was happy to see us too...

Tammy, Kristen, dog, miniature dachshund

The next time y'all see Kristen and Tammy in a photo together, it might also include Kristen's cat Zoe. We're trying to figure out when would be a good time to introduce her and Tammy to each other.

And it was two years ago today that Kristen and I had our first date!  Hey, a sweet and beautiful girlfriend and a mischievous little wiener dog: what more could a guy ask for? :-)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Thirty years of RETURN OF THE JEDI

Congratulations to George Lucas and all involved on this, the thirtieth anniversary of the release of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.



And the saga continues...

Friday, May 24, 2013

Yeah women, know your place!

Found this graphic yesterday morning and I can't stop laughing at it!

Biblical Proof, Church of Christ, women, Bible, church, baking, cake, girls

"You read that Bible right woman!!  Now get yo butt to that kitchen and bake me that cake!!"

It's from a site called Biblical Proof, a blog about "Speaking where the bible speaks, and silent where the bible is silent".  And there are plenty more hilarious images like the one above on it!

If you think that pic is bad, check this one out.  I've a very good friend who is a devout Christian and also a home brewer.  He's a shoe-in for Hell for sure, huh?

That site is obviously a product of the ultra-conservative fringe of the Churches of Christ.  They're the ones who believe that unless you are baptized you are going to Hell, that unless you are baptized correctly you are going to Hell, that unless you are a member of the Church of Christ you are going to Hell, that anyone who is Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal etc. is going to Hell, that if you are divorced and remarried you are DEFINITELY going to Hell.  And if you have musical instruments in your worship services you are sooooo going to Hell for that.  Fortunately not all of the Churches of Christ are that loony.  Most of the ones I've known have been very humble, loving, sincere and kind but as with every denomination of Christianity, one must accept that along with the fruits there will be some nuts...

This image is pretty laughable too, but it's also very tragic.  In no uncertain terms the author of its accompanying post insists that there is no salvation without water baptism, but there can be no water baptism without repentance.  But that in the case of a divorced and remarried person, repentance is impossible without leaving that marriage too!

I'm divorced.  It's not something that I wanted to happen.  It's not something I ever intended to happen.  I know that it's wrong.  I know that I had my own part to play.  I know that God intended for marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman that only ends at the death of one of them.  But I will never believe that divorce or anything else is beyond forgiveness from God.  Divorce may be a sin, but it's not a sin that can keep a person from having salvation.  If it is, then Christ went to the cross for nothing.

I don't mind finding stuff like this and pointing this blog's readers to it.  As a follower of Christ, I have to laugh at anything that presumes we can "score points" to get favor with God.  That, and because it's just not every day that working for salvation entails dressing up like a World of Warcraft character.

Review of STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS

(One of the reasons why I haven't posted a review of this movie already - though it's been out for a week and I've seen it twice - is because I've wrestled with how to discuss Star Trek Into Darkness while being mindful of certain plot points.  Since most people know about "that" particular item by now anyway, I'm going to be openly sharing my thoughts about it.  But if you haven't seen Star Trek Into Darkness yet and you absolutely do not want to be spoiled, please stop reading now and come back after you've watched it.  Consider yourself warned! :-)


Star Trek Into Darkness is the best film of the entire Star Trek film series date and if it's not then it definitely rivals Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan for the honor.

Yeah.  I said it.  I went there.

In 2009 J.J. Abrams and his gang at Bad Robot delivered Star Trek and pulled off the impossible: they made the world care about Star Trek again.  They did it by yanking out of our minds the tired and tedious Star Trek we had grown inured to, then shattered it into a hundred pieces on the floor without seeming to give a damn about how those pieces would fit back together... if they weren't totally thrown out and forgotten about first.

Star Trek 2009 was easily one of the most beautiful and well-engineered pieces of blockbuster cinema of the past two decades.  Four years after writing my review and I still find myself overwhelmed by its beautifully orchestrated destruction of the familiar.  The classic Trek?  It's still out there and one of Star Trek '09's more genius tricks was using quantum theories to give us an alternate reality that is not a replacement for the classic Trek canon, but rather an extension of it.  A complement of it, even.

So... could J.J. Abrams and the writing team of Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof give us a solid follow-up?

Having seen it twice now, Star Trek Into Darkness is a sequel that not only stands well on its own, it actually makes the previous film better.  Abrams and his peeps could choose not to make another Star Trek movie after this one, and I would be happy, because Into Darkness ends on precisely the right note that it needs to be.

Star Trek Into Darkness opens some time following the events of 2009's Star Trek and hits the ground running with a cold open that makes a few sly winks at Raiders of the Lost Ark.  James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) has taken the Enterprise to an undeveloped planet whose aborigines have barely invented the wheel.  Unfortunately this lil' "observe and report" mission gets complicated by a supervolcano whose imminent eruption threatens to destroy the planet and wipe out the natives.  Kirk doesn't want that to happen so he has Spock (Zachary Quinto) whip up a gadget to save the world (this world, anyway).  In the course of events, Kirk winds up saving Spock's life.

But no good deed goes unpunished.  Particularly when it involves the Prime Directive.  Kirk gets called onto the carpet by Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood, who seems to be enjoying a lot of good work lately).  Pike asserts that Kirk doesn't understand what it means to be in the captain's chair: he's taking risks but not thinking about the consequences.  Playing games with people's lives, then patting himself on the back because nobody has been killed on his watch.  In short: Kirk may have an inkling of life but he hasn't faced up to the reality of death.

Witness here the real secret of Star Trek Into Darkness' success: how much it judiciously draws from the well of The Wrath of Khan.  This is the first time.  It won't be the last.

Pike yanks the Enterprise from Kirk.  Meanwhile in Great Britain, a Starfleet officer and desperate father (Noel Clarke, known to many as Mickey from Doctor Who) is approached by a sinister individual offering a cure for his daughter's illness.  The girl survives, and her father owns up to his end of the bargain by suicide bombing a secret Starfleet installation in the heart of London.

Thus it is that Starfleet finds itself engaged in a war against agent-turned-terrorist "John Harrison".  And at last we begin to see the ugly head of this alternate reality coming into true focus...

Because this is a timeline which is still reeling from the attack on the U.S.S. Kelvin  a quarter-century earlier.  When Nero and his ship came through time, that one incident triggered an entire cascade of events which altered history in ways both drastic and subtle.  As a result many in Starfleet such as Admiral Alexander Marcus (powerfully played by Peter Weller) have come to see the Federation as being too weak militarily.  Where Starfleet was supposed to be about peace and exploration, some now want it to be about war and conquest.  Nero's destruction of Vulcan in Star Trek moved Starfleet's more aggressive elements to take action.  And it is eventually discovered that at the heart of Marcus' covert buildup is a twentieth-century warlord found floating in deep space along with seventy-two of his followers: Khan Noonien Singh.

This is going to draw some flack, but I'm going to put it in writing: Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan is the best villain I've seen in a movie in years.  And I will go so far as to say that his Khan is more evil, more dangerous, and more fascinating to behold than was Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight.  Cumberbatch's Khan is also the most sympathetic villain we have seen in a very long time.  Yes, he's killing people left and right and he is capable of bringing the Federation to its knees.  But as the story progresses we find that for Khan, he really doesn't have much of a choice in the matter.  What he is doing is not from a lust for power, or territory, or even revenge and obsession.  He is only interested in protecting and taking care of his people.  I watched the "Space Seed" episode from the original television series after seeing Star Trek Into Darkness and... it's just impossible not to associate Cumberbatch's take on Khan with Ricardo Montalban's portrayal.  In this reviewer's mind they are 100% one and the same.  We are seeing the very same character, the exact same person... but we are seeing what that person is doing with his back against the wall and left to fend for himself.  The result: Khan Noonien Singh finally afforded the latitude to demonstrate his superior intellect and enhanced physical ability.  This is the Khan that could have been were it not for the disaster on Ceti Alpha V... and he is an astounding character to witness!

But as gripping and compelling as Cumberbatch is as Khan, I felt that he was but part of the larger drama at work in Star Trek Into Darkness: how we the viewers behold the Federation turning into a twisted version of the one we know from the original series.  It's not the "Mirror, Mirror" universe wracked with backstabbing and treachery, but it is one that is increasingly turning to faith in firepower as oppose to hope in the heart.  Some people have written that this movie has its title because J.J. Abrams wanted everything in it to be "dark dark dark".  But that's not really why at all.  It's called Star Trek Into Darkness for a very good reason: this is the Star Trek we've come to know and love... slipping into darkness.  For Kirk and his crew, this isn't about saving the Federation from Khan or the Klingons: this is about saving the Federation from becoming its own worst enemy.  The real baddie of Star Trek Into Darkness is Admiral Marcus, but the true conflict is the one against fear.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan became a classic parable about growing older and having to face death.  Star Trek Into Darkness is a morality tale about facing life, and being able to live with yourself.  I don't know if that was the intention of Orci, Kurtzman and Lindelof when they wrote this script but I suspect it's not without reason why they chose to borrow so liberally from The Wrath of Khan.

I enjoyed once again watching Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as Kirk and Spock, respectively.  Zoe Saldana as Uhura impressed me much more in this film than she did in the previous entry (she gets some great screen time during the scene with the Klingons).  Simon Pegg continues to be a hoot to watch as Scotty!  However if I have one complaint it was that there wasn't enough of him in this movie, and shuffling him and Keenser (Deep Roy) off to get drunk in a bar in San Francisco - as fun as that was - doesn't nearly enough make up for it.  Ditto for John Cho as Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Chekov: apart from Sulu taking the helm and Chekov's brief tenure as ship's engineer, I barely remember them for much else.  Karl Urban however continues to rock it as Dr. McCoy!  It was seriously spooky how much he seemed to be channeling DeForest Kelly's spirit in Star Trek, and Urban just amps it up more here (he gets the best line of the whole dang movie, in my opinion).  Again however, I wanted to see more of him.

Perhaps we'll get that in the next movie.  As I said before, Star Trek Into Darkness ends at precisely the right spot: with the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise poised to begin their five-year mission.  We've had two feature films to re-introduce and acclimate us to this beloved cast of characters.  I think the next film should steer away from the "insane lunatic threatening Earth" trope.  As the captain of another Enterprise once said: "Let's see what's out there."  Khan and his people aboard the S.S. Botany Bay may not be floating around to be found, but there's always V'Ger.  And that weird whale probe thingy...

Michael Giacchino turned in another terrific score for this movie's soundtrack.  There's a lot of variety in the music for Star Trek Into Darkness.  Some of it is even considerably quieter than much of what one would have expected from any Star Trek production.  Khan's theme is an especially stirring composition: evoking the Khan we saw in "Space Seed", compounded by Khan's circumstances in the alternate reality... along with a healthy hint of James Horner's theme for the character from The Wrath of Khan.

I would be remiss in my duty as a movie reviewer if I did not mention how much of a delight it was to see Leonard Nimoy return as Spock from the original reality.  Some have thought that his cameo was not necessary.  I thought it was perfect to have the original Spock bring that kind of connection to this story.  It was not a long scene, but Nimoy's performance in it has stuck with me.  Especially that haunted look he acquires as he begins to tell his counterpart about Khan Noonien Singh.

Star Trek Into Darkness easily defied and exceeded the expectations I had about this film.  It gets my heartiest recommendation for your entertainment dollar!  I've seen it twice already and wouldn't mind seeing it again during its first run in theaters.  The 2009 Star Trek is already the most played Blu-ray in my collection.  As much as I love its sequel, it'll probably be a close second :-)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

This is my Eagle Scout card


I received it during my Eagle Scout ceremony at Fairview Baptist Church in Reidsville, North Carolina on August 16th, 1992.

It immediately went into my wallet.

I have carried my Eagle Scout card with me ever since.  It has been with me through college, across the ocean, through some very dark times and into some very wonderful times.

I've never been without it.  I had long planned to someday be buried with it.

Moments ago I removed my Eagle Scout card from my wallet.  I do not plan to carry it with me ever again.

Within the past hour it has been announced that the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America has passed a resolution to allow openly homosexual members.

This is incompatible with the spirit and the meaning of the Scout Oath and the Scout Law.  The principles of Scouting are about being the best that God intends for us to be.  Strength of mind, strength of body and strength of character are inherently essential toward this.  And part of that means developing personal restraint.  God intended for us to control our own bodies.  Not for our bodies to control us.

The National Council of the Boy Scouts of America has demonstrated that it does not understand the meaning of either the Scout Oath or the Scout Law.

And so it is, with great sadness and a grieving heart, that I choose to no longer be associated or affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America.

Maybe someday I'll be able to pick up the card and carry it with me again.  I pray that day does come.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lois Lerner of the IRS: Fifth Amendment for me but not for thee!

This is Lois Lerner, who headed the Internal Revenue Service's exempt organizations division during the time that the IRS was singling out "tea party"-affiliated groups and other politically conservative people with audits and intimidation...

Lois Lerner, Internal Revenue Service, taxes, government
Where do these people keep coming from?
Lois Lerner of the IRS invoked the Fifth Amendment so as not to potentially perjure herself during hearings in the House of Representatives investigating her agency's unethical and illegal activities.

Every year, you and I and millions of other Americans have to file 1040 forms with the IRS.  If we don't, we go to jail.  If we withhold information on the 1040 forms, we go to jail.  If we don't sign the forms, we go to jail.  At no time does the IRS afford us the right to invoke the Fifth Amendment so as not to incriminate ourselves. 

Lois Lerner in her capacity as a high-ranking official of the Internal Revenue Service is pleading the Fifth to a congressional committee and she expects to get away free and clear from this entire mess.

You and me and everyone else must answer the IRS under threat of perjury.  This IRS official doesn't want to answer to our elected representatives and is using the Fifth Amendment as an escape clause which her agency has not and never would afford the average citizen.

If Lerner gets away with this, then she has set a legal precedent and every tax-paying citizen in the United States should follow her example.  Come next April 15th, put "I PLEAD THE FIFTH JUST LIKE IRS OFFICIAL LOIS LERNER DID" in big bold red printed letters on your tax form and send that instead.

Remember folks: the Constitution applies to every citizen in this country, not just politicians and their cronies.

"He's the one who broke the promise": Chris lost his mind watching "The Name Of The Doctor" and still hasn't fully recovered from the DOCTOR WHO season finale!

Doctor Who, The Name of the Doctor, Matt Smith, Jenna-Louise Coleman, John Hurt, Eleventh Doctor, Clara Oswald
In hindsight it was for the best that I waited nearly two days to watch "The Name of the Doctor".  I didn't dare let this episode begin without my girlfriend/fellow geek Kristen.  And in the aftermath of those final three minutes she literally had to calm me down and keep me from staggering as I walked up the stairs.  If I had attempted to watch it while she was still out of town, Lord only knows what kind of injury would have ensued.  Heck, I went into a fit of spastic fanboygasm simply when Simeon mentioned The Valeyard.

"The Name of the Doctor" was season finale caliber, definitely.  But with 2013 being the fiftieth anniversary celebration of Doctor Who it's safe to say there was already an expectation for showrunner Steven Moffat to up the ante for the occasion.  The thing is: the stuff many if not most (or even all) the fans were expecting to be in the fiftieth anniversary special, Moffat pulled the trigger on in "The Name of the Doctor"!

So has Moffat shot his wad already?  Or has he something even more diabolical planned for November 23rd?

Advance warning is in order: make sure there's plenty of space behind that sofa to duck and cover with!

This was an episode of extremes.  No previous story has ever given us The Doctor from alpha to omega and everyone(?) in between.  Right off the bat "The Name of the Doctor" showed us something we had never seen before: the First Doctor committing grand theft TARDIS and making his run from Gallifrey.  Ten incarnations later the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) chooses to defy all caution and come at last to Trenzalore: the one place in the universe he is to never, ever go.  And now we know why: Trenzalore is where The Doctor's grave is.

And when you are a traveler through time and space, your own grave is never a place you want to visit.

I thought the big reveal about Clara (Jamie-Louise Coleman) was done well, particularly in light of how this half-season of Doctor Who has been very uneven since the show returned in late March.  With the hindsight of seeing how Clara fits into the bigger picture of The Doctor's story, that's left me more appreciative of how Moffat has handled her from her first appearance in "The Asylum of the Daleks" and then "The Snowmen" onward.  Going back to the fiftieth anniversary looming over everything: I figured we'd see all the Doctors but I also feared there would be no way to really "involve" them all without resorting to deus ex machina at its hokiest.  Clara proved to be an amazingly elegant solution and by the end of the episode, she left no doubt about earning her place as a companion of The Doctor.

All right, something I'm a bit fuzzy about: is this meant to be the last time... I mean, the really last time... that we'll be seeing River Song?  There was some grave finality (horrible pun intended) in her interactions with The Doctor.  If this is the last time well, one can't help but admire the irony.  River Song's first appearance was in a two-part story five years ago that ended with her dying to save her future husband.  "The Name of the Doctor" has River after the events in The Library, with everything about her and The Doctor laid bare at last.  Alex Kingston as River Song has been one of the purest delights in all of television these past few years and if this is "goodbye sweetie" indeed, that is a void which will not be easily filled.

I loved how Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax were brought back once again.  It wouldn't be a proper season finale without that wacky trio (again I insist: give them their own spinoff series!).  Strax's scenes were especially hilarious, particularly when he asks that drunken Scottish lout to knock him unconscious with the shovel.

The Whisper Men: ummmm... still trying to figure those guys out.  Are they intended to be the distant cousins of the Silence?  Simeon didn't really "do" it for me as a main villain... until he spoke of The Doctor's future and referenced The Valeyard (so we know that gun is still on the wall waiting to be fired).  I think what most impressed me about him is that whatever it is about The Doctor still to come, Simeon was perfectly able and willing to let himself be destroyed in order to undo The Doctor's entire existence.

"The Name of the Doctor" sets an all-time record: eleven Doctors in one episode!  There hasn't been a story with so large a cast of Doctors since 1983's "The Five Doctors".  And by the way: they are all in there somewhere.  It took me awhile to find Eight and Ten, but they appear also (Clara sees the Eighth Doctor very briefly on the same beach as the Second Doctor, and that's the Tenth Doctor's back that Clara is looking at in The Library).

In every way that I could have conceived, "The Name of the Doctor" was the epic that I had been stoked to see and much, much more.

But then it got to that final scene, and the figure turning to show his face and then those words on the screen...


I've watched Doctor Who for more than thirty years. And THIS was the scariest, the most unexpected and DARKEST turn of events in the whole history of the franchise.  The mythology got rocked and rocked HARD in those final 2 or 3 minutes.  It's absolutely the riskiest thing ever done in the entire history of the show and for good or ill Steven Moffat has crossed a terrible, terrible line with this.  There was stuff in this episode that I was certain we would only see in the fiftieth anniversary special... and already Moffat's not only fired all that off, he chased it down with a tactical nuke.

"The Name of the Doctor" is the most insane, most senses-shattering cliffhanger in television history.  Granted it needed almost fifty years of material to pull it off but still...  And my poor brain is still reeling from it.  Remember Lost and it's third-season finale "Through the Looking Glass"?  Yeah the one that sucker-punched us at the end with the reveal that those flashbacks of Jack's were really flash-forwards to a time after Jack escaped the Island?  Well "The Name of the Doctor" was a thousand times more gray-matter-melting than that.

"The Name of the Doctor" didn't just peg the needle and break it off, it sent it flying madly out the car window.  Desperate times call for desperate measures so I'm giving it TWELVE Sonic Screwdrivers out of a possible five.  One for each of them.  If you've seen the episode you know what I'm talking about.

"To be continued November 23rd"!  This is gonna be a looooong six months...

Ray Manzarek of The Doors has passed away

It happened Monday but I'm just now hearing the sad word about the death of Ray Manzarek: founding member of The Doors and one of the greatest keyboardists ever.

There are going to be a lot of memorials to Manzarek and his talent, but I thought I'd share this one that "Weird Al" Yankovic posted on his YouTube channel.  It's from 2009, when Yankovic was producing his song "Craigslist" (a style parody homage to The Doors and Jim Morrison).  Manzarek himself played keyboard for the song, giving it an authenticity that he alone could deliver...


Thoughts and prayers going out to his family.

Xbox done

Here's the Xbox One...

Xbox One, Microsoft, Xbox, video games, consoles,
There is no backward compatibility: you can't play anything from your already-existing library of Xbox 360 games on it.  You can't play your original Xbox games on it either.  Ditto for any games from Xbox Live Arcade.  It has no power button (it stays on all the time) and it needs an Internet connection to really function optimally.  It has a hard drive, but it's non-removable.  To play your games you must install from the disc.  If there is no more room on the hard drive you'll have to wipe some games off (then re-install if you want to play them again later on).  It won't work at all without the Kinect sensor (something which unless you have ample enough space, could be a problem).  Once you play a new game it's tied into that Xbox One unit and you can't easily take it anywhere else or let a friend borrow it or be allowed to sell it... okay well you can but the next player using it will have to pay a fee to Microsoft.

But at least it will tie all your incoming cable TV, satellite TV, Internet, Blu-ray and whatever else into it so that you only need one remote control.  I guess that's something worth five hundred bucks, huh?

The big "reveal" yesterday spent way more time raving about the Xbox One's television and home entertainment capabilities than it did about actual video gaming.  Seems to kinda defeat the point of pouring the entire budget of a typical developing country into the design of something for... you know... playing video games.

The lack of backward compatibility alone turns me off completely from wanting an Xbox One.  But then Microsoft had to add insult to injury more ways than I care to count...

I'm gonna be way, way content with my Xbox 360 for a long time to come.  Based on commentary I've seen since yesterday's reveal, I won't be the only one apparently.  Heck, lots of people and private businesses are still using Windows XP nearly twelve years after it was released.  I'm expecting the Xbox 360 to enjoy similar longevity.  Along with anticipating Microsoft's entry into the next-gen console wars to slip to a hard second after the PlayStation 4, and perhaps even lagging significantly behind the Wii U.

And one last thing about the Xbox One: it's ugly too.  It's like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey as envisioned by George Orwell: a big black solid slab of freedom is slavery.

This week's Tammy Tuesday(?) only wants to help!

Didn't get to post an installment of Tammy Tuesday yesterday 'cuz of too much stuff that came crashing down all at once.  Hey I enjoy blogging but it's not like this is my full-time career, right?

Forget I asked that.

It's a day late but no less cute: here's Tammy trying her best to assist Dad in the kitchen as he looks for cookware...

Tammy, miniature dachshund, dog

Truth be told, I think Tammy enjoys eating the food more than she does actually preparing it :-P

Monday, May 20, 2013

I purposely stayed off the Internet for the past 48 hours

Why?

Because I wasn't able to watch the season finale of Doctor Who until just now. I had to wait for my girlfriend Kristen to arrive back home from a wedding out of state. We weren't going to see this one without each other.

So a few minutes ago we finally finished "The Name of the Doctor".

My immediate reaction? Unprintable. I can't even come up with words right now.

Gonna see Star Trek Into Darkness with her. Maybe by then I'll have calmed down enough.

The most senses-shattering ending of a Doctor Who story ever.

More coherent reaction later.



Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Knight Shift has an official Facebook page!

The Knight Shift, Facebook, like meAt long last, this blog has a bona-fide presence on Facebook!  It's been up for awhile now but I wanted to make some posts on it to sorta "furnish the place" before going public with it

Anyhoo, the URL thingy is facebook.com/theknightshiftblog (pretty clever, huh?).  The Facebook site's primary function will be to share posts that I make here on the blog.  But I also have plans to use it for other neat stuff: anything from previews for coming attractions to emergency posts from the field when full-blown blogging isn't an option, to... dunno, maybe a recipe or two.  I aim to have the place as hopping with seemingly random iotas of information, thoughts and wild ideas as this blog is.

Okay well... "like" me, why don'cha? :-)

There is no possible contesting it: The IRS must be abolished

The Founding Fathers would "repent in Heaven" - as John Adams threatened those early Americans - if they could see the country they founded and what has come to light in the past few days.

If anybody can tender any argument whatsoever in defense of the Internal Revenue Service, I for one wish to hear what it is.

IRS, Internal Revenue Service, spying, audits, Tea Party, Tea Parties, conservatives, corruption, abuse of powerI am not a conspiracy theorist but hey, whaddya know: the conspiracy theorists were right all along.  The United States Federal Government really has been spying on the dissidents, the disaffected and those who want less intrusion into their private lives.  Add in how the government has also been found to have been spying on Associated Press journalists and then the whole mess about Benghazi (which cost lives, mind you) and only an idiot would deny that We The People are no longer in charge and that our own government has become a colossal, reprehensible beast.

Audits.  Threats.  Intimidation.  Favoritism toward political allies.  Cover-ups.  Seizing millions of private individuals' medical recordsBullying a conservative education group to turn over the names of high school and college students.  Not even Billy Graham's ministry has proven safe from the IRS.

Our forefathers went to war with England for far, far less than this.  They bought our liberty with their blood.  Too many of them paid the price for a freedom they knew they would never know but wanted their children and their children's children to have.

We owe their memory better than this.

Yes, Mr. Adams.  The time has come to repent in Heaven.  The government which you and Jefferson and Franklin and Washington and Madison and Morris and Calhoun and the rest gave us, doesn't exist anymore.  We had a republic and we couldn't keep it.

And now we have a "government" of thugs with all the mentality of street hoodlums, or a Mafia family.  Barack Obama, Eric Holder, Janet Napolitano...

They may have been elected, but they are not leaders.  They aren't my leaders, anyway.  They are, at most, glorified gangsters.  Albeit gangsters with their very own Gestapo.  And lots and lots of bullets (which we still haven't been given an adequate explanation for).

The Founding Fathers never would have entertained the notion of a government agency empowered to intimidate and threaten and confiscate the property of the people of the United States... much less approved of one!

So here's how I see it as things stand tonight...

Either the Internal Revenue Service is abolished for good, obliterated totally and its entire structure laid waste.  Or, there can be no more confidence and trust that We The People can place with our own government.

This is our Runnymede, folks.  King Obama Lackland needs to be dragged kicking and screaming to the pasture and told in no uncertain terms "you've gone mad with power, John.  Now sign on the dotted line and get the hell out of our way."

Say what one will for all his faults, but at least King John had enough sense to comprehend what the barons were telling him.  But then again John didn't have mega-sized computer databases, airborne drones and a secret police at his beck and call.

Either the IRS goes, and with it all its power and authority (which there is considerable evidence it was never meant to have to begin with), or there is no longer any pretending that we are living in a free nation of the people, by the people, and for the people.  There will be only government for the sake of government.

That is not the country I want my children to grow up in.

And you shouldn't want it either.

Kermit Gosnell has chosen life

And by that I mean, Kermit Gosnell has chosen life in prison.

He could have chosen death.  Gosnell dropped his appeals in exchange for life, not death.

I'm not the first to note the irony that given a choice, Gosnell chose life.

If only his victims had been given the same choice...

Kermit Gosnell, abortion, abortionist
Kermit Gosnell: He chose life for himself, death for babies.
Kermit Gosnell, abortion "doctor", found guilty yesterday of murdering three babies (he had been charged with killing four) during botched abortions at his "clinic". Gosnell was quoted as remarking that Baby A was "big enough to walk around with me or walk me to the bus stop."

You may not have heard much about Kermit Gosnell. In fact, you might not have heard anything at all about him. The mainstream media was curiously quiet about his case. I don't know whether it was because the details about went on in Gosnell's slaughterhouse were so gory and horrific, or because it was a story that exposed abortion for the obscenity that it is.

(You can click here to read more about the case. Much of which is about how Gosnell's primary M.O. was jabbing the babies' necks with scissors and snipping and twisting the spinal cords.)

Last week I wrote about how Ariel Castro is facing "aggravated murder" from allegedly causing the deaths of at least one unborn baby during the ten years that he and his two brothers held three women hostage in Cleveland.  The only person who was killed in that case was an unborn baby.  Not a "fetus".  Not an "unviable tissue mass".  A human being.

Kermit Gosnell is going to prison because he killed human beings.  They were humans at their most helpless and most in need of love and compassion.  Kermit Gosnell butchered them, laughed about it and made money from it.

Kermit Gosnell is not a doctor.  A doctor takes an oath to defend life.  Gosnell took innocent life.  Again and again and again.

So what's it going to be, ladies and gentlemen?  Either an unborn child is a human accorded all the rights as any other, including the right to live.  Or it is not, and Kermit Gosnell has not committed murder at all.

As I said last week: We can't have it both ways.

(By the way, that was Troy Newman of Operation Rescue who first noted the supreme irony of Gosnell choosing life in prison over the death penalty.)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"Nightmare in Silver": Neil Gaiman restores horror to the Cybermen on DOCTOR WHO

It's been three days since "Nightmare in Silver" - this season's much-anticipated episode of Doctor Who penned by Neil Gaiman - aired and the thing I still can't get out of my head is how fast that Cyberman was.

Look, it takes an awful lot for a TV show or a movie to scare the ever-living crap out of me.  But when the girlfriend and I saw that one Cyberman arrive at the barracks and then do that...

Think back to the first time you watched "Remembrance of the Daleks", the big story that marked Doctor Who's 25th anniversary in 1988.  And that numb-struck look of terror on The Doctor's face as that Dalek did something no Dalek had ever done before: it climbed the stairs during its hellbent pursuit.

Well, that high-speed Cyberman scared me worse than that!  I was literally screaming "HOLY SH-T!!" (and other stuff) at the top of my lungs and I barely realized it.  After decades of watching the Cybermen clank around in that clumsy armor, for one to run and attack almost faster than the eye could follow was an automatic "behind the sofa" moment.

And it was neat to see the return of the Cybermen's biggest weakness being gold.  How The Doctor was able to use it was definitely a slick and brilliant move.  'Twoul be great to see that vulnerability exploited again: I've no doubt that Matt Smith's Doctor could have all kinds of fun with it!

I found Hedgewick's World of Wonders to be a well-imagined and quite offbeat place to have set a story like this.  I mean: the universe's greatest amusement park?  Somehow that worked to "up" the creepiness of the episode's atmosphere.

I think Gaiman set out to do two things with "Nightmare in Silver": to re-establish the Cybermen as the horrifying threat they were always meant to be, and to apply his inimitable style toward a "Doctor. vs. Doctor" conflict.  And to a great degree, I believe he pulled off each of those tricks.  Although I have felt at times that "Nightmare in Silver" could have focused more time on the Cybermen themselves, but knowing that it's a Neil Gaiman story made me enjoy with greater appreciation The Doctor's internalized conflict with his Cyber-Plannerized "Mr. Clever" ego.  The Doctor at war with "Mr. Clever" was a well-executed duel that never descended into cheap gimmickery which that sort of thing has become in too many other stories throughout fiction.  Matt Smith has been at the top of his form as The Doctor this season and with "Nightmare in Silver" he brings that power and to bear against no less an opponent than himself... and it is a treat to behold!

(Okay I gotta get this off my chest: we could have gone without the "cute kid on a sci-fi show" trope and in "Nightmare in Silver"'s case we got two of them.  I really tried to give Artie and Angie a chance but in the end, hmmmm... they were more of a liability to the story than they were an enhancement.  But at least they were the only such liability in an otherwise terrific episode.)

Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) continues to be a pleasure to watch.  She's definitely getting her hands dirtier so far as the action goes.  And the dialogue between her and the Cyber-Planner was positively dark and chilling.  More foreshadowing, no doubt, of what is to come.  Along with all the other in-show references (fewer in this episode than the previous ones, but they were otherwise well-employed).

But I can't write about "Nightmare in Silver" without remarking upon the best use of a guest star this season: Warwick Davis as Porridge.  This month marks thirty years since Davis first appeared on the big screen as Wicket the Ewok in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and since then he's become quite an accomplished actor (most notably as Professor Flitwick throughout the Harry Potter movie series).  I thought his portrayal of Porridge was sweet, comical and tragic... all at once.  Davis was a delight to watch and I for one would love to see Porridge return again.

I'm going to give "Nightmare in Silver" Four out of Five possible Sonic Screwdrivers.  It could have been even better with a bit of trimming off the fat (yeah Artie and Angie again) but I'm choosing instead to focus on the The Doctor's battle with his own intellect, and the re-scaryfying of the Cybermen.  Speaking of which, I'll never look at a cockroach again without having those nasty Cybermites coming to mind.

And this Saturday night: the season finale of Doctor Who.  His path will take him to the Fields of Trenzalor.  The one place he must never go to.  And there... the question.

"The first question."
"The oldest question in the universe."
"The question hidden in plain sight."
"The question that must never be answered."
"The question he has been running from for all his life..."


"The Name of The Doctor".  And I won't be able to watch it until the following Monday afternoon!  I might go into "radio silence" to avoid spoilers ('cuz I can't watch it unless it's with my girlfriend :-)

This week's Tammy Tuesday is all tired out

Tammy in one of her all-too-rare quiet moments...


Miniature dachshunds might be small... but they more than make up for it in hyper-activity!  If you are contemplating getting one, you'll love them like nothing else... but you'll also come to appreciate those fleeting minutes of rest and quiet :-)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Just saw IRON MAN 3

Definitely THE best of the series by far! And one of the finest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date.

Go see it. Now! Or, perish in flames. It's your choice. But not really...

(And do not do not DO NOT leave the theater until you've seen the end credits. All of the end credits. You have been warned.)

Today's DILBERT a must-read for people with bipolar (like me!)

Dear Scott Adams:

Today's edition of your comic strip Dilbert is one of the most encouraging - and one of the funniest - cartoons that I've come across in a long time. As a person with bipolar disorder and on behalf of many others who must deal with having a mental illness, thank you for giving us something to laugh and smile about :-)


I think after reading this, I'm gonna begin referring to most other people as "normals" and myself as... how does "meta-human" sound? :-)

Sincerely,
Chris Knight

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Want good comedy? Have a dose of THE AMOS 'N ANDY SHOW!

Awright, I got a secret to share: I'm a longtime fan of The Amos 'N Andy Show from the early 1950s. This was a television series that in my opinion was way, way ahead of its time. The writing was sharp and witty and as clever as anything, and this show had an amazing cast. Especially Tim Moore as George "Kingfish" Stevens and Nick Stewart, who played Lightnin'.

So since its Saturday and a time to kick back and have some good laughs, let's check in with the boys down at the meeting hall of The Mystic Knights of the Sea!  Here's The Amos 'N Andy Show episode "Kingfish Teaches Andy To Fly"...

A flapper and a slacker

Last night was Great Gatsby Night at Kristen's dance studio! Everybody was supposed to come in 1920s-era attire. Kristen made a terrific flapper girl ensemble! However her ne'er-do-well boyfriend couldn't put a proper costume together in time so he showed up looking more like a flood refugee...


And here is Kristen with two other fine ladies in period attire!


And a good time was enjoyed by all :-)

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Department of Defense has 3D printed gun yanked... but I got it anyway (and so can you!)

Liberator, Defense Distributed, 3D printing, gun, firearms, Second Amendment, First Amendment
The Liberator: Coming soon to
a desktop near you!
Defense Distributed has made a lot of headlines lately about the Liberator: a firearm which is completely fabricated by "3D printing", apart from the firing pin.  I think the success of this gun already is that it's got politicians like Charles Schumer and Steve Israel all steamed-up about it.  Schumer wants 3D printed guns to be outlawed completely.

The thing is, politicos like Schumer can't figure out how to pull that off.  3D printing will soon be a household implement and if it can be drawn up on a computer, anyone will be able to produce a fully-functioning model right on their desktop.  The computer doesn't care if it's a replacement part for a kitchen appliance or an action figure or a real working handgun.  The barn door has been thrown wide open and there's no getting that horse back inside.

Never let something like common sense stop the government from trying.  Earlier today the Department of Defense requested that Defense Distributed remove all its 3D weapons-related files from its website.   Defense Distributed's founder Cody Wilson is laying the blame on the doorstep of Secretary of State John Kerry.

As of this writing, Defense Distributed's site has "gone dark".

But less than five minutes after reading about the government having the Liberator pulled from the web, I had downloaded the gun.  And not once, but twice.

Here's how I did it, and how anybody else can as well:

Download ĀµTorrent if you don't have it already (it's a free download) and run the install.  Any other torrent client should work too.  I found the Liberator files on The Pirate Bay.  There are two torrents for it so far: here's #1 and here's #2.  If either of those can't be found just do a search for "liberator" and "gun": I got those two results at once.  The file size is 2.02 megabytes (such a tiny thing for something so much fuss about).

And then... just download your Liberator files!  If you possess a 3D printer you can start making your Liberator pistol immediately.

I downloaded the file from each of those two torrents.  It is on my hard drive.  It is also on at least two USB drives that I've copied it too.  I can e-mail the file to anyone, anywhere in the world.  I could even set up a torrent on my own and allow people to download it from me directly.

In fact, it is happening right now.  Not by me, but by other people.  Lots and lots of other people.

Shutting down the Defense Distributed website was just about the worst thing that the United States federal government could have done, if it didn't want the Liberator to get into the wild.  By trying to outlaw it, the feds have made it so that practically everyone can want it.  Defense Distributed could not have asked for better publicity for and dissemination of its product!

Anyhoo... "Annie get your gun!" :-)

The Cleveland kidnappings and abortion

Like many others, I have been watching the news out of Cleveland this week: the three young women who escaped after more than a decade of captivity, rape, torture and other abuse.  There is a lot to be said about this story, but most of that has been discussed at considerable length already.

However, tonight I happened to catch something that has led me to articulate some thoughts aloud...

Apparently, at least one of the women became pregnant because of the Castro brothers (Ariel, the eldest, is still being held but his brothers are free for now).  It's being reported that at least one child was born but the others were killed as a result of induced miscarriages.

Ariel Castro, the "leader" of the three brothers charged with the kidnappings and torture, now faces the possibility of the death penalty if tried and convicted.  That is, if it is determined that he is responsible for purposefully causing one of the five miscarriages that hostage Michelle Knight suffered.  Knight was reportedly starved for more than two weeks and then Ariel Castro "repeatedly punched her in the stomach until she miscarried".

Here is what prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty told reporters earlier today...
“Based on the facts, I fully intend to seek charges for each and every act of sexual violence, rape, each day of kidnapping, every felonious assault, all his attempted murders and each act of aggravated murder he committed by terminating pregnancies” during the years the women were held, McGinty said.
"My office of the county prosecutor will also engage in a formal process in which we evaluate whether to seek charges eligible for the death penalty," he said. "The law of Ohio calls for the death penalty for those most depraved criminals who commit aggravated murder during the course of a kidnapping."
That is what Castro's alleged crime is being legally defined as: "aggravated murder".   McGinty made it clear that Castro's actions were "attempted murders" and "murder he committed by terminating pregnancies".

And for his heinous actions, Ariel Castro could be put to death.

But how is what Ariel Castro has reputedly done any different from abortion: something that has long enjoyed legal protection?

If Michelle's children were conceived as a result of Ariel raping her, and he is biologically the father and he didn't want any of them well... isn't that what happens thousands of times each day across America?  When a parent does not want a child?

How is it possible to defend the killing of unborn children as a legal "right" on the basis that they are not yet full-born human beings but rather an "unviable tissue mass", yet murder charges can be pressed against a man who likely killed at least one unborn child on the basis that these were humans he exterminated?

Logically, it is not possible.  Logically, it does not make sense.

How is the same act of killing someone a "protected right" in one situation and "aggravated murder" in another?

Want to know something?  I would bet real money that if Ariel Castro is charged with murder, the pro-abortion crowd is going to be sorely tempted to come out guns blazing against those charges.  Because if unborn children can be legally defined as having the right to live and that said right being denied is grounds for capital punishment, then the entire legal basis of abortion collapses.

It will have to.  There can be no prosecution for the murder of five innocent unborn children in one matter and a rigorous defending of "the right to choose" and "the right to privacy" so as to put to death unborn children in another.

We can't have it both ways.

Scientists create "injected breathing": breakthrough could save lives of millions

"Liquid breathing" from The Abyss.
Do not try this at home.
Remember in James Cameron's movie The Abyss, where Ed Harris' character was put into that funky diving suit which got filled with "breathing fluid" and he had to respirate through the liquid in order to survive a deep, deep dive?

(Incidentally, that was in 1989 and at the time it wasn't far from reality.  The mouse from the earlier scene that the fluid is demonstrated on?  That was not a special effect folks!  The mouse was actually breathing with that stuff!)

How about one better than that?  Say... put a needle in your arm and shoot yourself up with breathable oxygen?

Research scientist at Boston Children's Hospital have come up with a neat trick and it could revolutionize much of modern medicine: a nanoparticle which can be injected into a person and provide enough oxygen to maintain short-term "breathing".

From the article at TechWench.com...
This finding has the potential to save millions of lives every year. The microparticles can keep an object alive for up to 30 min after respiratory failure. This is accomplished through an injection into the patients’ veins. Once injected, the microparticles can oxygenate the blood to near normal levels. This has countless potential uses as it allows life to continue when oxygen is needed but unavailable. For medical personnel, this is just enough time to avoid risking a heart attack or permanent brain injury when oxygen is restricted or cut off to patients.
(snip)
The microparticles used are composed of oxygen gas pocketed in a layer of lipids. A Lipid is a natural molecule that can store energy and act as a part of a cell membrane, they can be made of many things such as wax, vitamins, phospholipids, and in this case fat is the lipid that stores the oxygen.
These microparticles are around two to four micrometers in length and carry about three to four times the oxygen content of our own red blood cells. In the past, researchers had a difficult time succeeding as prior tests caused gas embolism. This meant that the gas molecules would become stuck trying to squeeze through the capillaries. They corrected this issue by packaging them into small deformable particles rather ones where the structure was rigid.

Okay, I don't see how this could maintained for very long, before the carbon dioxide has to be expelled out of a person's system and that's one of the bigger functions of the lungs.  In fact, the 30 minutes limit cited in the article is very hard to believe, truth be known.  Even a few minutes without CO2 being exhaled would be fatal.  There would definitely be significant and possibly permanent damage.

But for things like localized injuries, this certainly could be extremely useful.  I'm also wondering how it could be used in therapies to fight oxygen-unfriendly situations like infection and most kinds of cancer.

Zero-tolerance out of control: Pencil leads to boy's suspension, while Eagle Scout hit with felony

I'll be damned if (Lord willing) I get blessed with children and I put them in a government-run school.

They're not here yet.  But I already love them too much than to subject them to the insanity of a modern public school.  And few things exemplify that madness more than do zero-tolerance policies.

(Hey, I ran for school board once.  It can't be said that I never tried to make the public schools better.  But things won't going to get better until more people get up the gumption to tell the bureaucrats "ENOUGH!")

Two stories demonstrating my point.  The first is about seven-year old Christopher Marshall of Suffolk, Virginia.  He was suspended from his elementary school last week per a policy of "zero tolerance".

What was his crime?  Pointing a pencil as if were a gun at another student and making "bang! bang!" noises with it.

Yeah, you read that right.  That's all that little Christopher was doing.

From the story at WAVY.com...
Seven-year-old Christopher Marshall says he was playing with another student in class Friday, when the teacher at Driver Elementary asked them to stop pointing pencils at each other.

"When I asked him about it, he said, 'Well I was being a Marine and the other guy was being a bad guy,'" said Paul Marshall, the boy's father. "It's as simple as that."

Christopher's father was a Marine for many years. He thinks school leaders overreacted.

"A pencil is a weapon when it is pointed at someone in a threatening way and gun noises are made," said Bethanne Bradshaw, a spokesperson for Suffolk Public Schools.

The Suffolk school system has a "zero tolerance policy" when it comes to weapons. And, Bradshaw admits, that policy has tightened up in recent years because of widely publicized school shootings.

"Some children would consider it threatening, who are scared about shootings in schools or shootings in the community," said Bradshaw. "Kids don't think about 'Cowboys and Indians' anymore, they think about drive-by shootings and murders and everything they see on television news every day."
And then there is the tale of Eagle Scout, honor student, devout Christian and model young man Cole Withrow from Princeton, a small town near Raleigh here in North Carolina.  Cole had been skeet shooting and accidentally left his shotgun in his vehicle when he came to school late last month.  Cole realized his error and sought to do the right thing: he went to the office and called his mom to come and take the gun out and away from the campus.  Unfortunately one of the staff at Princeton High School overheard the call and alerted the police.

Cole Withrow, Princeton High School, guns, zero tolerance, expelled, arrested, felony
Cole Withrow with his sister Hannah Walker
Cole was arrested on felony charges and expelled.  He will not walk with his classmates at graduation in a few weeks.  All for trying to do the right thing in the matter.  For trying to do what his faith and his vows as a Boy Scout would have him to do.

Cole will be allowed to graduate, just not from his own school.  His family is fighting for Cole's right to be with his classmates.

But at least his troubles caught the attention of Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University.  Cole Withrow has been offered a scholarship to attend the college.  Harding University has also extended a similar offer to Cole.

Is it paranoia?  Is it laziness?  Is it intentional conditioning of the kids on the part of the public school educators and administrators?  For whatever reason it is, this kind of thing has gone on... and continues to go on... for far too long.

"Zero-tolerance"?  More like "zero common sense".

Trailer for THE BROTHERS RAPTURE fan-made BioShock movie!

BioShock Infinite has been out for over a month. It's a game I haven't played an I'm not inclined to either. Why? Because in this blogger's opinion it's not a true BioShock game.

For me, the BioShock mythos will always be focused on Rapture: that city beneath the waves of the North Atlantic, not a brightly-lit metropolis floating Lord-knows-where in the sky. The first BioShock game was and remains the most intellectual and even enlightening video game I have ever enjoyed. It's difficult even calling it a "video game".  From what I've heard, BioShock Infinite's world of Columbia is a beauty to behold and has a degree of moral choice... but in the end it doesn't leave as strong an impression as Rapture.

I'll say it again: BioShock is high-brow literature of a whole new kind that hasn't been seen before. And its sequel BioShock 2 did a pretty good job continuing its themes.  And I think there's plenty, plenty of room for a BioShock 3 and more past that.  Maybe it could be a few years later in the 1970s and the U.S. and Soviet governments finally learn about Rapture and try to take it.  I'm not the first to think that and I hope that the folks at 2K have thought of it either... or any idea that would even more terrific!

Well anyhoo, the real BioShock saga has long inspired some amazing work by its fans and now a group of filmmakers has produced a film that looks just as good if not better than anything Hollywood is likely to crank out!  The Brothers Rapture (click here for its official Facebook page) is getting released next week on May 13th, but there's already a trailer for it.

And it is gorgeous to behold!


As the article at The Escapist describes it: " Set before the hidden city underwent cultural and physical collapse, The Brothers Rapture explores the people who thrived in a land without limits.  It appears to take the setting and theme of Bioshock and spin them out into an original story.  The trailer shows the brothers Charles and Arthur, artists newly arrived in Rapture.  They seem overjoyed at the freedom that Rapture offers them, until a shady figure in a dapper hat shows up offering to turn their very hands into tools.  Expect philosophical arguments and scenes of people shooting large vials of glowing goo into their arms."

Seriously, I don't know which I'm now looking forward to more next week: Star Trek Into Darkness, or this baby.

A thankful tip o' the hat to loyal reader Roxanne Martin for forwarding this along! :-)

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Tammy Tuesday this week is a hyper dog

Tammy found herself last week at one of my favorite places: HyperMind in nearby Burlington!  So while the place was packed with people playing Magic: The Gathering, Settlers of Cataan and several other games there was this cute lil' miniature dachshund running up and down the store.  I think everyone stopped what they were doing to give her a pat on the head or a tummy rub and a lucky few even got their faces licked!

Here's Tammy with HyperMind's owner and manager Denise...

Tammy, HyperMind, miniature dachshund, dogs

Tammy is getting to travel around quite often lately. I'll be sure to photographically document her exploits and post them here in the future :-)

Alien abduction in Roanoke, Virginia!

It's true! Two are missing after an alien abduction in Roanoke, Virginia. And frantic parents are desperately searching for answers.

It's not a headline ripped from the pages of Weekly World News.  This is happening and it's happening now!  Dan Casey of The Roanoke Times is the first to break a story which will no doubt be soon going national.

Click here to read more!

Well, here we go... the trailer for ENDER'S GAME

I shall remain cautiously optimistic. Ender's Game comes out on November 1st.

Ray Harryhausen, stop-motion genius, has passed away

Ray Harryhausen poses one of the many skeleton warriors
from 1963's Jason and the Argonauts.

For no reason that I can determine at all, late last night I found myself thinking about Ray Harryhausen.  Maybe it was because I caught the original Clash of the Titans a week or so ago and not for the first or last time, found myself marveling at the stop-motion magic that this man wrought over the course of his long, long career.

It occurred to me that if and when he passed, I was going to have an awful hard time choosing one photo that best conveyed Harryhausen's spirit, his ingenuity and his passion.  But that hopefully, Lord willing, that day was going to be a long, long time to come.  Instead here it is less than twelve hours later and I'm having to do just that.

Clash of the Titans is what introduced me to Ray Harryhausen's work, and I'm always going to consider Medusa and how he brought her to life as his most terrifying creation.  But that's such a classic image of him doing one of the skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts that, it had to be that one.  It had to be a photo of him doing what he did best: making us believes that there really were monsters and other incredible creatures up there on the big screen.  From 1949's Mighty Joe Young on through 20 Million Miles to Earth, Jason and the Argonauts and many other legendary science-fiction and fantasy films, Harryhausen pulled off nothing short of magic... or pretty dang close to it.

This was a man without whom, there would likely have been no blockbuster movies as we have come to know and love them.  Harryhausen was a special and visual effects maestro who forever left his mark on cinema.  Without his pioneering work, there may have never been a Star Wars series.  George Lucas himself remarked as much earlier today.

I'm gonna say something, and I dare anybody to tell me otherwise: Ray Harryhausen's work will always stand up against anything done with computer-generated special effects.  The Clash of the Titans remake proves my point.  The remake's creatures were as cold as their silicon spawning.  But the Kraken, Medusa, Bubo and the rest?  They lived and breathed with a life all their own.  Because at their heart really was the drive and soul of a living man.  And what a life he lived...

This afternoon the sad word has come that Ray Harryhausen has passed away at the age of 93.

Thoughts and prayers going out to his family.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Internet sales taxes: Does the United States Senate NOT understand the Constitution?

A short while ago the members of the United States Senate voted 70 to 24 to pass the "Marketplace Fairness Act": AKA "Internet sales taxes".

The Senate has approved collecting taxes on goods sold on the Internet.  We'll examine that in just a sec.

("Marketplace Fairness Act"?  God, I hate how these people try to govern by emotion instead of intelligence...)

Anyone who voted for this bill should be removed from office at the earliest possible legal opportunity.  For one thing, it is insanity for government to be levying more taxes upon us at a time when you and I and most other Americans are being obligated to tighten our belts.  How much more do our supposed "representatives" believe we can take?

But what is most on my mind tonight is how this bill is a flagrant violation of the Constitution of the United States.

According to Article One, Section 7:
All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.
 "All bills for raising Revenue shall originate n the House..."

Why then is a bill for raising revenue now originating in the Senate and not only that but has been approved??

I do not have time to watch C-SPAN but I wonder: were there any senators who brought up this fact during debate on the bill?

In a sane world, the House of Representatives would reject the bill from even being admitted into its presence, given how it's unconstitutional.  But I seriously doubt that will happen (though it should).  Barring that, the House should overwhelmingly defeat it.  If it does pass though and President Obama signs it, the obvious thing in this blogger's mind is that the Supreme Court should strike it down.

The Supreme Court shouldn't have to do that though, given that any fifth grader would tell you that the bill has been unconstitutional to begin with.

Y'know, there could be a lot of trouble saved if those in government just followed the directions instead of pulling stuff like this out of their collective ass...