Thursday, August 09, 2018

Lesser-known executive orders of President Trump

As everyone knows, Donald Trump wasted no time in getting to work signing executive orders once he was seated in the Oval Office.  And we all saw the pics of him putting them into effect.  However most aren't aware of a few of the orders he issued after his inauguration.

Fortunately, you're in luck!  Because though I had completely forgotten about these until last night, I was in San Diego when Trump took office and was making sure to thoroughly document the early days of his administration.  So here, for what may be the first time for many Americans, are some of the other EOs that President Trump immediately moved upon...

The "No Celluloid Left Behind" Act:

Bringing whole new meaning to "pork barrel politics":

Just putting into law something we already knew:

Even President Trump's WORST opponents must surely be applauding his wisdom on this one:

He got this one through.  Unfortunately the Senate didn't confirm Dr. Demento as United Nations ambassador:

"We're making reboots, and they're gonna be yuuuuge, and they're gonna be beautiful."

"Hail to the king, baby."

It was a great job, until I was expelled from the country 48 hours later...


Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Do Not Pass Go: An evening with the world's oldest board game

One movie that has particularly stuck with me has been Pi.  Darren Aronofsky's first film hit theaters twenty years ago this summer and fast became a sensation.  Especially among mathematicians, who for the first time had a taut psychological thriller of their very own!

A quick and dirty synopsis of Pi: Max is a math prodigy since childhood and has become obsessed with finding an ordered pattern within the stock market.  What he comes across is far bigger and has him targeted by everyone from corrupt corporate agents to Hassidic Jews (just watch it, it does make sense).  Anyhoo, there are a few scenes where Max goes to visit his old mentor Sol.  And those are some of the best-written and finest played scenes of the entire film (YouTube clip with some spoilers).  But one thing had bugged me since the first time I saw Pi...

"What the heck is that game they keep playing?"

Okay, I knew it was called "go" because that's what Max and Sol referred to it as.  And it held great fascination with Sol, especially when he spoke of it as being "a microcosm of the universe".  Obviously something deeper going on here than simply putting what looked like Mentos and Peppermint Patty candy across an empty wooden Mercator projection.  And when I rewatched Pi again recently, once again I found myself wondering what go is.

So as with most things new to me, I yielded to curiosity and looked further.

Turns out, go is old.  Like, really old.  It was first played in China around 500 B.C.  And it is the oldest continuously played board game in known history, or at least played with the consistently same rules.  Backgammon can still claim to be the oldest board game.  The problem is, what we today know as "backgammon" comes down from earlier games that we still don't know very much about their rules.  The sets exist, including those "of ancient Mesopotamia" with dice made of bone that Locke told Walt about in the very first episode of Lost.  But in all likelihood the favorite pastime of the Oceanic 815 survivors bears little resemblance to whatever those archaeologists pulled out of the ground.

And besides, backgammon has just a few checkers to move around the board.  Making the game be go might have presented logistical problems and inhibited the story flow a tad.  I'm gonna assume that Locke, aficionado of games that he is, is familiar with go.

The game has had many names over the centuries, and it has regional monickers in China and South Korea (and hopefully North Korea also) but for most of the modern world it's called "go".  And interestingly the Japanese word for it is "atari", which is also a term used during a game (we'll get to that soon).  And when Nolan Bushnell was coming up with a name for his new video game company, he thought that "Atari" fit well with his guiding vision.

Bizarrely however, there was never a go game for the Atari 2600.  We got that horrid-sounding Pac-Man port and turkeys like Custer's Revenge and Porky's... but a cartridge for the company's namesake?  It never happened.

But let's not digress.

Anyway, after a few weeks of playing around with a go app on my iPad Pro and looking at resources on the Intertubes about the game, I decided it was time to plunge in headlong and experience go for myself.  To have a go at go.  So last night I went out to go.  And when I came back I had gone and went back from go.

Wait... what were those Korean names for this again?

The website for the American Go Association has a massive list of local go clubs.  I found one near my present location and showed up at their weekly gaming session.  Go, I was told, is still not a terribly big game in the United States and much of the western world, but it has been steadily growing in popularity over the past few decades.  Movies like Pi are probably a reason (just as Dungeons & Dragons has been resurging with a vengeance since Stranger Things debuted a couple years ago).  There were three regulars who arrived around 6 in the evening in the side room of a nearby restaurant, and since go is a two-player game all four of us could be playing.

So, about go.  Very simple game.  The board is a grid of lines.  A full-size standard game is a 19 by 19 grid but those who are beginnners or just want a short game can play with a 9 by 9 board.  There are two sets of playing pieces, called stones.  One set is white, the other is black.  Each player takes a color and beginning with black, proceeds to place stones at the intersections on the grid.  The stones don't move as the pieces in chess or checkers can.  They just stay on the board.  Unless they are removed.  Because the object of go is to possess the most territory at the end of the game.  "Territory" being measured by the exposed intersections around the stones.  Each stone on its own has four of these intersections, called "liberties".  And if a stone gets surrounded on all four of its liberties by the opposing player, that stone is taken off the board and figured into the final score.  It's not about seizing the other player's stones however.  That's just one part of the greater scheme to get territory.

It all boils down to one color of stones getting more coverage on the board than the other.  And it's a ridiculously simple conceit.  But as I am coming to discover through both talking about the game with others and my own meager experience thus far, go is much, much deeper than a mere board game.  The ancient Chinese considered it an essential element of philosophical training for all true gentlemen.  Confucius wrote much about go.  It is a game, a practice of logic, an exercise in intuition, an introspection of one's being... all of these and more, all at once.

Go is a game steeeped in ancient tradition.  It is something that many approach with the trappings of ritual.  Go is a game of legend and go games have become legend themselves.  A particularly infamous match in the 1800s ended with a player keeling over bleeding on the board before dying.  Other games have gone on for months, even years.  And then there is what has come to be hailed as "the Atomic Bomb Go Game": a championship match that was well underway in Hiroshima on the morning of August 6, 1945.  "Little Boy" detonated a few miles away, the blast blew out the windows of the house and knocked one of the players off his feet, and the board had to be reset to where the stones were at the moment of the explosion.  All present did these things after going outside the house to see what happened.   They beheld the first mushroom cloud in the history of warfare, then went back inside to continue the game.  They took a break for lunch and later that afternoon the game was finished.

I dont know how else to put it: that is total bad-ass.  I dare anybody tell me that go isn't absolutely hardcore.  Now THAT is a game I wanna be hunkered down with come the apocalypse!

Well, let's get to my first game of go, last night...

You know how when you're like seven or eight years old, and when Thanksgiving dinner comes all the adults sit at the real table while you and your sister Sally and cousin Oliver and the rest of the kids were around that card table in the corner?  Well, that's how it was sorta like for me yesterday evening.  Starting out on the 9 by 9 board.  But it's all well and good, because I had a great instructor in Brendan, who described the game and how to play it far better than I can for now.

One cool thing about go is that there is a handicapping gimmick that lets everybody play against everybody else regardless of individual skill level.  So even if you're a greenhorn like me, you don't have to get into a flopsweat as if you were playing chess against Kasparov.

Brendan has been playing for a few years now.  Mike, another player who came last night, has been into go for over thirty years.  Leo, the fourth to arrive, has been playing for a decade or so.  And if you want to see what go looks like with two seasoned veterans full-bore into a game...

Something that struck me about this game: it's sense of being an organic experience.  Look at that board, in the game between Mike and Leo.  It starts off empty, but the "feel" of moment, of the session, of the stones and of whatever fancy goes across their minds... what starts as an empty board becomes like a living, breathing organism.  And it merits considering that the total number of possible games of go are more than there are subatomic particles in the observable universe!  I already knew that was the same for chess.  Well, the number of possible go games is exponentially larger than that.

Think about it.  I dare ya.  Think about that until you go crazy.  No wonder there was never an Atari cartridge for this game.  Because even today computers find it exceptionally difficult to replicate the go experience.  They can only somewhat approximate it.  To really "get" go, you have to play it against another human, either in person or via the Internet.

Anyway, Brendan became the first person I ever played an actual game of go with, and he was just as I hoped he would be: merciless and unforgiving at least so far as the rule about "a stone laid is a stone plaid" goes.  Because the best way to learn to play the game, is to PLAY the game just as its meant to be played!  Okay, he encouraged me to take a mulligan in the first of the two games we played, but that was to illustrate something I hadn't seen yet.  Otherwise, a lot of my stones wound up "in atari": the condition of being surrounded on three sides by the opponent and just one stone away from capture.  I missed seeing a lot of stuff on the board that should have been screamingly obvious.  Brendan told me he was much the same when he began.  That a person gets better at this as he or she plays go more and more.

Speaking of "atari", sometimes there's a weird event that happens when the players could be locked into an eternal see-saw of capturing each other.  That's called "ko" and it can lead to a "ko battle" (or as Mike put it, "a gentlemanly hockey fight").  Fortunately there's a rule for that, and if the players get trapped into that situation one has to make a move that's beyond the ko, and that could prove advantageous.  Again, go is a game of both logic and intuition.  With a heavy emphasis on the latter.

Well, by the time I departed for the evening Brendan and I had played two games of go.  The score of my very first game ever had me losing 44 to 4.  The second game though went a bit better.  I still got clobbered 33 to 7... but at least I did capture one stone that night!

And this is how Leo and Mike's board looked like at the end of their game:

Go games don't have a "definite" ending.  They go on until one player resigns, or each player takes a passing turn, or I suppose until they just plain run out of stones.  Or maybe they could add a new rule like they do with Monopoly and how the bank doesn't actually run out of money, you just get to use slips of paper or whatever else is on hand.  And that is likely the only contribution I'll ever make to a grand game deep in millennia of lore and virtue.

And that was my first time playing go.  And I've no doubt that I am just beginning.  This is a game that has serious appeal to me.  I'm looking forward to playing again, and trying to improve.  Something that nobody ever fully masters, I was told.  It's like golf: you can never completely comprehend this game, you can only keep getting better.

Much like how life is supposed to be, aye?

So if you want to have a go at go (no more puns, I promise!) one particularly good resource I've visited often is the American Go Association website.  There is a rather whimsical little tutorial at that will teach you the game better than I ever could.  The American Go Association site has links to merchants that sell go equipment: boards, bowls, stones (which can be made of plastic, glass, clamshell, pretty much most materials but probably not Play-Doh or chicken soup).  You may be able to find inexpensive go sets at your friendly local game store or book seller.  I've seen then priced anywhere from about thirty bucks on up to thousands of dollars... and that's just for the board itself.

But yeah, I'm probably going to play more of this.  Go seems to have a really good community around it, and quite a diverse player base.  And I can't help but think that in time, though it may be decades from now, it's going to become as popular among Americans as is already chess, checkers, and Cards Against Humanity!

Monday, August 06, 2018

So ummmm... a letter from President Trump arrived...

Several months ago, following a mass shooting incident and some remarks he had made about mental illness, I composed a letter to The Honorable Donald J. Trump, President of the United States.  In the letter I shared some understanding that I, as a person with bipolar disorder, have come to discover.  Namely, that mental illness is a condition of the mind, and not the heart.  Over much of the past year especially I have worked alongside many who also have varying types of mental illness.  Not one of them is a person I would ever consider to be a danger to others.  But I also do realize that there is a stigma, and maybe it will be with us for a long time still.  And I suppose there is little that just one guy with a blog can do about that.

Even so: bipolar disorder has wrecked havoc with my neurobiology.  But it can't touch my soul.  That's something still left as a choice to each of us.  We decide whether we will take the path of good or bad with each new day.  And that is what defines us... and no matter what is beyond our control within our grey matter.

Well, it took awhile for me to receive it - because your Friend and Humble Narrator has been busy with stuff here and yonder - but late in June a letter from President Trump arrived, and in it he addressed many of the matters that I was attempting to bring to his attention.  He doesn't touch upon the thoughts I conveyed about mental illness not affecting moral choice, but neither do I get the sense that it was entirely a "form letter" either.  Somebody in the White House read it, and sent it to President Trump's desk for his signature.  More than likely he has written letters about several issues and the one most appropriate for the situation gets used.  Not that I would blame the guy.  Nor can I blame him for the late reply.  I mean, hey... he's the President of the United States!  Dude's got a lot on his plate.  But it's still quite nice to get a response with his signature on it.

Anyway, here it is.  With my current location smudged beyond any reasonable ability to deduce my whereabouts:

Part of me wondered if I should post this without asking for President Trump's permission first.  Then I rembered how busy he is and that it took eight months to get this letter!  I'm gonna assume that it's okay with him.

Anyhoo, Mr. President, if you're reading this: Thank you.  And your concerns and beliefs on the matter are greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Fun with animated GIFs!

Seems like lately I've been feeling extra wacky and I've no idea why.  Maybe the twisted creature that is my id is retaliating against the general nastiness that seems pervasive too much.  So the best course of action is to go in the opposite direction and do what I can to make people laugh a little.

Perhaps that's why I've been playing around with GIF-making apps the past few days.  There've been a few that I've cranked out, so I figured I'd share them with y'all.

This first is a few seconds taken and edited from my first movie Forcery.  In hindsight this should have been done a WAY long time ago.  But in any case, here is Frannie telling her hostage George Lucas what she thinks about the "Han and Greedo shooting" thing:

Talk about toxic fandom!

Next up is a result of looking to see if this was already out there.  And it wasn't.  So I set out to fix it.  A few seconds from the Coen Brothers' 2001 film O Brother, Where Art Thou?  George Nelson ("Not 'Babyface'!!!") shooting a herd of cows with his tommy gun as he's being pursued by Mississippi's finest.  Tim Blake Nelson's "Oh George, not the livestock" delivery slays me every time I hear it!

And finally... for now anyway... okay, lemme preface this a bit.  In 1993 computer game company Infocom released Return To Zork.  It was a technologically cutting-edge (for early days of CD-ROM anyway) journey back to the Great Underground Empire that gamers had first visited via all-text adventure in 1977.  It had a live-action cast and for its time an extensive soundtrack.  It was also baffling beyond all mortal reckoning!  And completely unforgiving.  Make the slightest mistake and you were dead.  Or at least a mysterious guardian guy wearing what looked like strips of bacon would appear and take away all of your possessions and you had no choice but to begin the game all over again.

So at one point, when it's time to at last descend into the Great Underground Empire, the entrance to it is a trapdoor in a waterwheeled millhouse.  And sitting atop said trap door is a guy named Boos Myller: bearded, wearing a pizza restaurant tablecloth and drunk as hell.  It's up to you to figure out that you have to make Boos even MORE drunk, get him to give you the keys to his car and then drive him to pass out onto the floor and off the trapdoor.

Boos will forever be remembered for his oft-repeated line "Want some rye?  'Course ya do!" every time he pours you a glass of whiskey.  And I thought it was fine fodder for a GIF but again, an exhaustive search couldn't find one.  So I found that scene on YouTube and manufactured an animated GIF with it:

There'll probably be some more coming as I monkey around with this.  Hadn't made an animated pic since that weird one of my head spinning around when I was in college.  Using a film camera on a tripod, and eight shots of my head as I sat in an office chair and rotated 1/8th for each snap as I held the same face.

Telling you kids here and now: y'all have no idea what lengths we had to go through to cause mischief on the Internet back in the day...

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Something I made a while back...

That's my little girl Tammy, in a photo made by my friend Tim Talley.

Just one of many things I have learned in the past few years.  And anyone who claims that a dog or cat doesn't have a soul, has obviously never owned one.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

YouTube Video: Analysis Of The #WalkAway Movement

A few weeks ago on American Thinker, I wrote an article about how the Democrat Party is tearing itself apart.  And in all sincerity that's unfortunate, because I do believe there are good people within that organization (just as there would be in most political parties in America).  However the rising tide of bitterness, rancor, hatred and even suggestions of violence from many attached to the Democrat Party are destroying that party.  So much so that in the article I remarked that the Democrat Party as we have come to know it at the national level will not exist by the 2020 elections and and it may only barely survive past this coming Thanksgiving.

Time will soon tell how accurate that assessment is.  However at the time it was written I had not looked much at the #WalkAway movement.  And now that I have, I am compelled to revise my prognostication.  Because I now believe that the Democrat Party beyond the local and state level is disintegrating worse than most realize.

Instead of another article, earlier today I recorded some commentary to put on YouTube.  Here it is.  Maybe I'll try doing it again sometime.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Charles Kuralt's words of wisdom for journalism and social media

A quote from the great American chronicler of people, from a few years before his passing in 1997.  I guess it came to mind while musing on all the scandals erupting lately from things famous people put on Twitter years ago and are now regretting it.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Trailers for OVERLORD and GLASS

American soldiers fighting undead horror during the invasion of Normandy.  Maybe instead of Overlord it could have been titled The Longest Night.  Get it?  Get it?!  "Yes ladies and gentlemen I'll be here all week, try the salad!"

Just one complaint about an otherwise great trailer: the music.  Not very much fitting for a World War  II setting no matter it's unique conceit.  Could have been more suggestive of the era.  Nonetheless, I will be looking for this one.

And then there is the first trailer for Glass, that premiered during Comic Con yesterday.  Still haven't seen Split but I did hear about its tie-in with Unbreakable: a film I have loved since seeing it when I lived in Asheville years ago.  M. Night Shyamalan looks to be giving us a genre we don't deserve and didn't even know we needed: a "thinkin' man's" superhero shared cinemaverse.  I might be finally catching Split via iTunes later today.  In the meantime, here's the first look at Glass, which breaks loose this January. And to be honest, this is the first trailer for anything in quite awhile that has me stoked about seeing the movie...

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Look! New article on American Thinker! Word you've never heard before within! Free toy inside!

Okay so truth be told, I lied about the free toy.  Maybe I was driven to madness by the bowl of Lucky Charms that I am currently enjoying.  Along with the orange juice and banana, everything that a growing boy... errrr, grown man(??) needs.  Anyhoo...

I am very grateful and honored that American Thinker, a commentary site that I have long admired and respected, has published the third article that I have written and submitted for their consideration.  "The Inthinkables" (I looked for that word on Google and couldn't find it already, honest) is about how too much of our society has yielded over its capacity for rational and critical thought and in its place has chosen an almost visceral and hair-trigger instinct toward reacting on the basis of "feelings" unfounded in logic and knowledge.

In short: too many aren't using the minds they were born with.  The rest of us are surrendering too much to them.  The real thinkers are being harassed from public venues and good people like John Schnatter are being driven from the very businesses they founded and nurtured through their own effort and initiative.

Critical and rational thought is being vanquished.  In its place is a Randian horror of mental surrender.  Orwell described Eastasia's dominant philosophy as "death worship," better translated as "obliteration of the self."  I can conceive of no more fitting phrase.  The academic world and the realms of entertainment and media have nurtured and encouraged too many to offer their minds as sacrifice to convenience and their souls to mass approval.  Most have happily complied if they have been cognizant of having a choice at all. 
Nature abhors a vacuum, and so it is that the obligation for reason is abdicated for the intoxication of emotion.  At last, there is no logic whatsoever.  There is only an instinctive response to sounds and sights that seduce or offend.  For some, the condition may be irreversible. 
So kindly allow me to introduce a new word into the English lexicon: "inthinkable."
If you're on the fence about clicking on over to read it, the op-ed invokes Blazing Saddles and Pat Sajak.  Among other things.  But you'll just have to find out yourself.

"The Inthinkables", only at American Thinker.  Load your copy today!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

This guy makes real knives out of ANYTHING (even chocolate and underwear)

It takes something TRULY impressive to make me subscribe to a YouTube channel.  But there's a dude calling himself kiwami japan out of... ummm, Japan I guess, who has earned the ultra-rare golden buzzer.  As the son of an accomplished knife maker I have been totally jaw-dropped by kiwami's work.  Because he is demonstrating that real and extremely sharp and perfectly usable blades can be made from practically anything.

So far kiwami has made knives from an Amazon cardboard box (seen in photo), from chocolate candy, from epoxy, from rice, from ice (bet you'll never watch Game of Thrones the same again), from Jello, and now in his latest video kiwami japan has made a deadly blade out of men's underwear.  kiwami japan is working with so many unorthodox mediums that your mind will barely stop reeling and your mouth might never stop watering.  With a minimum of tools (many might already be in your own kitchen or garage) you can follow his tutorials and make your own blades.  The one that is currently interesting me most toward attempting is the carbon fiber knife.  It seems the more practical, long-lasting and durable of the series so far.  Well, that and also because I suck at cooking anything in the kitchen.  It's also the one that I most easily envision Dad taking a stab at (pun horribly intended) in his knife shop.  And kiwami japan's YouTube channel is one I've no doubt Dad would be checking out every day... and he hated computers entirely.

Since I mentioned Dad and his own handiwork, I'm obliged to post some of what he made in his time on this earth.  Incidentally, he learned the art of making Damascus steel from Bill Moran himself.  He was the one who back in the Seventies rediscovered how to forge Damascus for the first time in several centuries.  Anyhoo...

Yup, Dad even made knives out of horseshoes and railroad spikes.  How many he made, I've no idea.  He would make knives for friends just for the heck of it without telling them, just to see the look on their faces when he gave it to them.  All of those you see in the pics above were for sale or commissioned works.  If you see "R KNIGHT" or "ROBERT KNIGHT" stamped on one, it's likely a knife he made.  I've got one in my possession...

...and no, you can't buy it.  Not for all the money in the world.

Friday, July 13, 2018

World Premiere: "Snoke Is Just A Gigolo"

It's Supreme Leader Snoke set to "Just A Gigolo" by David Lee Roth! You'll never look at your Star Wars action figures the same way again...

The idea has been accreting throughout my neurons since at least April. Guess I had no choice but to do something about it. Made on my iPad Pro, took about 11 hours not counting breaks for dinner and playing with Tammy the Pup. Finished just before 4 this morning.

Dear Dave and Disney: please don't sue me!!!!!

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Haven't posted any new pics of Tammy in awhile...

Here she is this morning, not wanting to get out of bed:

That's her favorite blanket that's been pulled off from over her.  Dad would throw it over himself as he leaned back in his recliner and Tammy would jump in his lap then burrow herself completely under the blanket and they would nap together.  It's gone all over America with her.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Got a new article up at American Thinker

"Frankenstein's Body Politic" is about something I've been pondering for some time: that the two major parties have each in their own way been self-destructing these past few years. Except in contrast to my prognostication four years ago, the Republicans have avoided that fate (for now), while the Democratic Party is coming apart in drastic fashion.

An excerpt from the article:
Strangely, the bicentennial of the novel Frankenstein is witnessing a practical demonstration of Shelley's tale of promethean horror. A mishmash assemblage, long on borrowed time, is ripping itself to shreds at the seams. We will never know what agonies might have erupted from the throat of Frankenstein's creation as it struggled to rise. But of the vaster Democratic Party and its fellow travelers in media and entertainment, the death throes prevail across our screens. Those silicon bindings may not be enough to contain the rising lust for wrath.
I am very grateful to and honored by American Thinker for their publishing my second op-ed piece in a month.  Here's the previous article: "The Revolution Will Not Be Finalized".

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

President Trump has become Thanos!

Or is that "Tranos" or "Thrump"?  Well anyway, the idea for this hit me a month or so ago and I spent most of the morning committing iPad Pro and Apple Pencil toward making it happen.  Obviously a homage to the classic cover of The Infinity Gauntlet #4 from 1991:

Friday, June 15, 2018

Reign Of The Madmen

Visiting the Reagan Presidential Library over a year ago impressed upon me the Gipper’s charm and cordiality toward Gorbachev.  Yet Reagan was also fiercely resolute in his conviction that people desire to forge their own destinies.  It was the two Cold War leaders riding horses together as much as it was Reagan’s defiance at the Brandenburg Gate that ended the threat of communism in Europe.

It was a fine example of the “neo-noblesse oblige” that had been the template since World War II.  Countless perished in that conflict due in no small amount to the failure of “gentleman diplomacy” on the part of the upper crust.  But for its time, that was sanity.  And then a new sanity dawned with the rising of a false sun over Hiroshima.

Yet Ronald Reagan… was insane.  Or so we were told by pundits and academics.

Speaking of peace while drastically building up the American nuclear arsenal. An unprecedented military re-investment.  Strategic Defense Initiative.  The latter especially indicated Reagan’s “lack of sound mind.” “Men of peace” do not behave this way, insisted the experts.  “Good feelings” and nice words would prevail.  Drawing-down strategic assets and ultimately freezing nuclear weapons: that was sanity.

Except that very same “sanity” had locked the superpowers into a torturous drawn-out wait for inescapable Armageddon.

Reagan’s insanity is now regarded by all but the most stiff-hearted as superior genius.  He knew the Soviet Union was damned to fail… and so Reagan expedited its collapse by giving Moscow no choice but to spend itself into imploding.  More than a generation of Americans and Russians have now appreciated life without nuclear nightmare.

Somehow, since Reagan departed office, the world has gone un-sane.  The “sane ones” have taken over the asylum.  And we are all the worse for it.

Then came what to many was the night of June the Eleventh.  The gravitas of the flags of the United States and North Korea, arrayed together in official capacity, cannot be understated.  There was the handshake between President Trump and Kim Jong Un before the two retreated into private discussions followed by lunch.  Shortly afterward it was revealed that Kim had already agreed in April to commit toward de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

And then came Dennis Rodman, live from Singapore, in what must go down as among the most surreal moments in the annals of global diplomacy.

The former pro basketball star -- festooned in facial metal, a “Make America Great Again” cap and a marijuana cryptocurrency shirt -- broke down in tears during a bizarre interview on CNN.  There is no reason not to take Rodman at his word when he described attempting his best to communicate overtures from Kim to then-President Obama, only to be roundly rebuffed (read as: “ignored”) by Obama.  It appears that for all of Rodman’s antics in Pyongyang, he was more driven and sincere than most of us gave him credit for.  CNN’s Chris Cuomo looked as hapless as Robb Stark at the Red Wedding.

Cast pity upon the future generations of high school teachers.

Within hours “The Worm” was being hailed as Nobel-worthy.  Almost as a garnish, Scott Adams put the circumstances into context better than journalists who have made lifelong careers of such commentary.  The creator of the comic strip Dilbert explained how Kim had been won over through his love of American cinematography and presented on a tablet screen.  Adams hailed it as perhaps “the best negotiation video in the history of man.”

This is not what statesmanship looks like.  Dennis Rodman is not the second coming of Henry Kissinger and the mind behind Dogbert doesn’t have a clue.  iPads are no substitute for champagne.  This kind of insanity is not supposed to prevail on a global stage.  At least not without being confronted with multilateral airstrikes and petty cliches.

That is what “sane” professionals have insisted, especially since the prospect of a Trump presidency first surfaced.  Oh yes, “beer summits” and gestures like giving Queen Elizabeth an iPod and unloading pallets of gold bullion onto the tarmac in Tehran… that is sanity, the experts have told us.  That is what “legitimate international negotiation” is meant to look like.

Lest it be said this was peculiar to Obama, his immediate predecessors worked with sanity also.  George W. Bush was known for hosting barbecues honoring dignitaries at his Potemkin ranch, and Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeline Albright hoisted flutes with Kim Jong Il in the heart of Pyongyang.  Three administrations have exemplified a quarter century of global sanity and the success of those minds has proven dismal at best.  Among other things Obama’s sanity almost certainly helped to fund Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

A few days before the Singapore summit, CNBC correspondent John Harwood questioned the mental health of President Trump.  “I'll be honest as a citizen, I'm concerned about the president's state of mind,” Harwood said.  “He did not look well to me in that press conference.  He was not speaking logically or rationally.”

It was far from the first time that mainstream journalists and his political nemeses have diagnosed Trump with having psychiatric issues.  Disregard that very few possess medical credentials and those who might have not accompanied Mr. Trump through the protocols necessary to render such a verdict.   Curiously, many of those same observers applauded Robert De Niro dropping F-bombs on live television less than twenty-four hours before the summit as “sane” behavior.  But, I digress.

As someone who has lived with bipolar disorder and especially severe depression for most of his adult life, I would offer an alternative assessment of the current President of the United States:

I know what having a mental illness is about.  I have lost track of the different medications, the therapists and psychiatrists, and the hospitalizations that have transpired toward reining in a mind turned against itself.  So let me cut to the chase: I do not see any indicators whatsoever of mental illness in Donald J. Trump.

I do however see within the man a rare acceptance of his own sense of identity and understanding of why he holds to his beliefs.  Somehow that has become construed by some to be “arrogance”, “belligerence”, and that bugaboo “narcissism”.

For a number of reasons, I could not support or vote for Trump when he was campaigning for President (and Hillary Clinton would never under any circumstance get my vote).  At times Trump behaves in ways that are confounding and frustrating, mostly in regard to the decorum of office.  Case in point: his poor choice of words at last summer’s National Boy Scout Jamboree.

That being said, Trump has otherwise not only not displayed any mental incapacity whatsoever, he has demonstrated an enviable grasp and willingness to confront reality.  “Narcissism”?  That is a condition of someone so uncomfortable with their own existence that he or she justifies it at the expense of all others.  Per that measure, Trump is the least narcissistic President or any contender in a generation.  He is proving to be not unlike in leadership as Winston Churchill: someone who did have bipolar disorder, incidentally.

It’s too easy to associate deviation with madness.  Often they who do so err in assuming that every person is neurobiology and organic chemistry and nothing more.  They ignore that we also are mind and soul.  That we are not creatures of instinct but are meant for thought and all of responsibilities that come with it.

Scripture teaches that man’s wisdom is foolishness to God.  We have certainly seen the “wisdom” of leadership in recent decades.  It has been weighed and found wanting in the scales.  “Insanity”, as Einstein famously observed, is repeating the same mistake and expecting a different result every time.

We have tried diplomatic sanity.  It has failed and no amount of protesting from the Obamas or the Clintons or the Bushes or their supporters can alter that.  Yet in the space of a few hours, Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un accomplished more than seventy years of their predecessors and professional negotiators achieved combined.

Maybe it’s time we try with little more than faith and hope and heart, enjoined with thought.  Perhaps now we should give real sanity a chance to prove its qualities.

There sits that sanity personified, at the site of the most historic and successful summit meeting of the modern era, in the form of Dennis Rodman.

If this be madness, may we suffer more of it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Good morning America and while you were sleeping...

You are waking up to something that most of us never, ever even dreamed we would be seeing.  That the flags of the United States and North Korea are being displayed with one another in an official capacity would drop jaws alone.

But then, this...

Two men who in the space of a few hours have accomplished more than their respective predecessors achieved in the previous seventy years combined.

The end of the Korean War is at last at hand.  Kim Jong Un has indicated he wants full stepdown of a nuclearized peninsula.  Time will tell what the full measure of that intent yields, of course.  But there really is a sense that the leader of North Korea is being genuine.  Maybe Kim has done something even more impossible than what we are seeing on the world stage.  Perhaps he is stepping out of the long shadow of his father and grandfather.

There is no avoiding the obvious fact that by all accounts Kim has been a brutal dictator over his people.  Even so, I have sometimes wondered if he was following the example set by his forefathers, without question.  Has he turned from their example?  'Twould be a path that very few men in places of absolute power have ever taken.  Could it be that we may have underestimated the character of Kim Jong Un?

Again, time will tell.

Then again, stranger things have happened already regarding this occasion of unprecedented history:

In what will surely go down as among the most surreal moments in the annals of global diplomacy, former NBA star Dennis Rodman broke down in tears during an interview on CNN and... seems like there really was a heart of gold behind his antics in Pyongyang these past few years.  Rodman was serious about opening up a dialogue between North Korea's leadership and the United States, apparently.  To hear Rodman tell it, his efforts were appreciated by Kim but when it came to presenting his labor to then-President Obama, he was rudely rebuffed.  Only now, with Donald Trump in the White House, has progress been made and by all appearances magnificently so.

Kim Jong Un is pledging to end his nuclear program, the Korean War is ending and Dennis Rodman is now more eligible for the Nobel Peace Prize than Obama ever was.  It's as if we're in the Matrix and it's been reprogrammed by Electronic Arts.

If you have small children, please be letting them watch this.  And explain to them what's going on.  One of the defining moments of my own life was the day that Reagan was shot.  I wanted to turn the channel and watch cartoons but Dad told me "No we need to watch this, son.  This is history.  You'll be reading about this in books someday.  This is something you can tell your own children about."

He was right.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Since FALLOUT 76 is now officially in West Virginia...

...I just had to run with it!

Actually, "Walton's Mountain" would be a hilariously appropriate name for a player's encampment.  Maybe someone on your team can set up a moonshine still in his or her house.  Y'know, in honor of the Baldwin Sisters and their "recipe".

Fallout 76 streets on November 14.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

My new op-ed piece is up at American Thinker (and about Star Wars and Kelly Marie Tran...)

The last time I wrote an op-ed for publishing other than on my own blog was more than ten years ago.  Certainly hasn't been for lack of wanting to.  This is a kind of writing that I first attempted on the cusp of my senior year of high school and it's a craft I devoted myself to developing further in college and beyond.  Then all of the general wackiness of the past decade transpired and that threw everything out of kilter.  Especially being able to engage all the gears required to really feel like I could be the writer that I needed to be to give this my very best.  And now, well... maybe this is an indication that the time for that has come at last.

American Thinker is a commentary site that I've come to appreciate and visit often, and I am very grateful that it has published "The Revolution Will Not Be Finalized".  An excerpt:
Social revolution has no such finite end.  The civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties was not a "social" revolution.  There was no grand upheaval of the common order – only an assertion of what had long been codified in American heart if not law: that all men are created equal.  It began with acts of conscience, and it ended with acts of conscience. 
There are many in our era who speak unceasingly of bringing about "social justice."  They never describe what a "socially justified culture" will look like.  Why should they want to?  Because for big-P Progressivism to be consistent, it must be progressing toward something.  To state conditions for victory?  That would be aborting Progressivism.  That is not part of the plan.

Maybe it's a persistent pattern in my life but this piece does begin with a bit about the state of the Star Wars "social justice" mess going on right now.  That's kind of what precipitated it being written to begin with.  Well, when one is asking the Muse for inspiration then one takes what one can get.  Anyhoo if you want to check it out here's that link again.

Speaking of Star Wars, I've been out of the loop on stuff the past several days but I did hear about what's been going on regarding Kelly Marie Tran.  "Star Wars fandom terrorist organization" is a phrase that I never imagined would telegraph across my synapses no matter how fevered and delirious they might get.  It was easy to sincerely wonder if it was for real or a satire or a covert "false flag operation".  But apparently it's real.  And if you hadn't heard already, the reports are that Tran unhooked herself from Instagram and maybe all the rest of her social media as a result of brutal harassment because some didn't like The Last Jedi or, more darkly, that they think she was cast to fill a "racial quota" or something.

How has this come about?  What has happened to us?  Star Wars fans have been divided on issues before but NEVER like this.  And it is not the result of the 2016 U.S. election (I may forever be shaking my head in disbelief that someone wrote that on a website devoted to this franchise).

I'll try to maintain brevity here.  Personally, I liked The Last Jedi including Tran's character Rose.  There have been a number of "Rose"-es in my life.  That conscientious young lady with spunk and tenacity and she holds everyone around her accountable to themselves whether they want it or not... or realize that they do want it.  There needs to be more like Rose in the real world.  She was a sweet character and Kelly Marie Tran played her wonderfully.

Reiterating what is in the essay on American Thinker, I do believe that Disney and especially Kathleen Kennedy have done a ginormous dis-service and act of destruction against the Star Wars brand by using it as a platform for their own ideologies as opposed to what it's supposed to be: a realm of ideas common to the human condition.  And in the past few days especially we are seeing the horrible fruits of that error in judgment... though obviously Kennedy and her associates are not the ones to be held responsible for the cyber-bullying against Tran.  That's strictly the fault of the "Legends losers" or whatever they're calling themselves.

That being said, I have not seen before and I do not see now how having the cast reflect a wider range of ethnic backgrounds is part of that at all.  Indeed, I wish there had been this much variety from the very beginning.  But George Lucas pretty much used what there was to work with on a then-limited budget and an available pool compromised of mostly classical English actors and American expatriates like Phil Brown and William Hootkins.  As far as I'm concerned, those are NOT "whites" or "blacks" or "Asians" or "Aleutian Islanders" or whatever in that galaxy far, far away.  Those are humans and whatever geography their ancestors hailed from is long forgotten about.  It shouldn't matter at ALL who plays the roles in these movies!  Just find whoever is right for the part and trust him or her to do his or her best.

Miss Tran, if you happen to read this, please know that you are a very lovely and talented young lady and that you provided much-appreciated shine and sparkle in The Last Jedi and I hope you have an even bigger role in Episode IX.  So far as I'm concerned, you weren't doing anything other than play a human of good character.  And that's something that none of these real-life trolls can ever claim to be.  Hope you come back, kind miss!

Okay, that's 'nuff for now.  It's Sunday morning.  Go back to sleep or eat your corn flakes and get ready for church or watch your re-runs of Land Of The Lost or whatever.  At least sometime today look at the outside world and hug your loved ones or just stop and smile and say hello to someone you've never met before.

Know what you believe.  Know why you believe it.  Know how to stand for it.  But also know that there's more to life than that.  We are as but a vapor.  Don't let a moment go by looking for reasons to be bitter and filled with rancor.

And to those discovering this blog: greetings!

Sunday, June 03, 2018

To father a child: do I have that right?

I am not a wise person.

There are many who possess far greater wisdom than I can ever contain in the few cubic inches of mind absent depression or mania.  And those who admit to knowing me will testify, Dear Reader: I have shared many matters I wrestle with on Facebook, hoping that among beloved friends some can lend a measure of that wisdom.

At first, that's where this was meant to be: posted on Facebook.  But maybe this time I should cast a wider net.  Perhaps some of you who read this blog can provide the answers I seek.

Here it is: Should I want to have children?  Why should I want to have children?

Do I have the right to bring a child into this world?

It is no secret that for the vast majority of my life I have wanted to be a father.  To be entrusted with a child or children who can be born and live and grow and find their purpose and see that their father and mother love each other very much and most of all find their own relationship with God.  To be the parent who goes looking for presents to be found under the tree on Christmas morning.  To explore the world and see it anew through the eyes of my children.  To watch them learn and laugh, just as I will discover again for the first time what it is to learn and laugh.  To do my very best so that they have a better life than I ever did, and to never doubt that they are loved and cherished.  To have that home filled with love and joy and thoughtfulness.

And increasingly I wonder if I should want that at all.  If I was wrong to have wanted that and if I have wasted time in chasing after it.

It comes down to four reasons why I am haunted to ask those questions.  And maybe some of you can give comfort and encouragement.  And the truth.  Especially the truth.  No matter how painful it might be to hear it.

First of all, let us be frank: The world is a cruel place.

And with each passing day it becomes even more cruel.  I see in my own country how it is that anger and hatred, and craving power over others, and hypocrisy and corruption are becoming like virtues.  How much of what made our culture great is becoming eroded for sake of carnal pursuits and perversities.  How it seems that only those who give in and compromise on their convictions and principles have a chance of "making it" and being successful.

Why should I want to subject a new human life to that?  How will I answer him or her, if they ask why did I bring them into existence in such a place?  To have a life where they will be hurt by others over, and over, and over again.  Where they will be used and abused and exploited and betrayed and bitterly disappointed by the boundless visions of man's inhumanity to man.

Second, and this is a big one: How do I or can I tell a child that he or she is going to one day die?

Once upon a time, the fear of death immobilized me.  Almost literally.  That was when the depression first began and after losing a number of loved ones in the span of a few months.  I became obsessed with staving off death.  Even forever, if it was possible.  And that was the mania part of bipolar disorder working its malevolent magic: casting a spell of delusion over my rational understanding of how things must be in this realm held captive to entropy.

The thought of dying doesn't disturb me anymore.  Indeed, there are some days when I think I would rather welcome death.  To be free of the memories of griefs and hurts and abuses: those inflicted on me but mostly those I have inflicted upon others.  Which has oddly made wanting to be a father even more tantalizing.  It would be a chance to fill up my life with good memories instead.  And be driven to give my sons or daughters a happy and fulfilling childhood that they will never someday look back upon with regret and anguish.

And that must be selfishness on my part.  To use having children as a rationale for escaping the ravages upon my own mind and spirit.

What do I tell a child when he or she asks if they will die someday?  How do I respond when they ask why did they have to be born, just to one day perish?  And if they are endowed with any of the inquisitive nature I had in my own childhood, they will eventually ask that.

How do I tell a son or daughter that they are going to die and there is nothing I can do to stop it but I was going to make them live and die anyway?

Third: Dare I possibly condemn a child to have a mental illness?

Bipolar disorder is a funny thing.  We know there is a genetic component but when it comes to getting expressed there is quite a lot of dancing about.  I am now persuaded after research that my great-grandfather on my paternal side had severe mental illness.  So did his daughter, my grandmother.  Grandma Knight definitely demonstrated significant periods of depression.  Dad never showed any signs whatsoever of mental illness: indeed, he might have been the most "normal" of our family.  Grandma Knight had four grandchildren and when her genes and those of my grandfather are diagrammed out, there was a 25% chance that one of those grandchildren would have mental illness.

Looks like it skipped over Dad, from my grandmother and her father, and landed on me.  None of the other three grandchildren have had indicators of mental illness.

With a one hundred percent confidence that I carry the gene for bipolar disorder and having long known that it is an active part of my life, well...

Dare I risk passing that condition on to my children?

Their odds of developing it might be less for them than they were for me.  But even so, to have any mental illness is to jeopardize the chance of a normal and productive life as most people enjoy.  It's certainly something I've never gotten to know.  More than a decade and a half of my life has been spent on medication and deep counseling and some involuntary hospitalizations.  All while trying to grasp and claw at some semblance of enduring happiness.

Don't my potential children have a right to that happiness?  How dare I risk taking that away from them?

And then, fourth, the harshest consideration of all:

How can I give life to a child who will have doubts about God?

When I mentioned "hypocrisy" earlier, I must count myself the worst of the lot.  Because for all of my belief in God, and doing my best to serve Christ with what talents He has given me...

For the most part, I believe God is there.  But I also confess that I doubt God has ever heard my prayers, that He ever will hear my prayers.  I confess that to me, God is not the all-loving, all-caring Father.  And I am very jealous of those who find joy in His love and grace, when it is that I cannot have that.  

Because to my utter shame God to me is a cruel, manipulative and indifferent bastard (yes, I am trying to hold back the anger toward Him).  And I am exhausted of seeing Him bless others with love and families and purpose and joy.  When the only consistent elements throughout my life since childhood have been a mind turned against me, a mother who was more abusive than I realized until recently and only now have I begun to address those wounds, hopes of a future with purpose and satisfaction falling to ashes in my hands...

(And if I as a parent carry on the cruelty and manipulation of a previous generation?  But that is something I'm not yet ready to delve into.  Maybe it's better that remain buried.  As a character in a recent movie said: "Let the past die.  Kill it if you have to.  That's the only way to become what you were meant to be.")

Ever more so, I am losing my faith in God.  Because God has never had enough faith in me.  Certainly not enough to extend the shot at a fraction of the life that seemingly everyone around me has to one degree or another.

And if this is "life" to be thankful and joyful to Him for, then I would rather that He never have created me in the first place.  He can banish me to Hell for all eternity, if this is the only existence that He will ever grant me.  I can't even trust that He would give me a new and whole mind if I go to Heaven.  An eternity with a mental illness?  Where is the joy in that?

To doubt that God is there or worse, to be unable to escape believing that God is deaf and indifferent to our prayers, is a kind of Hell all its own.  And there are some who are going to tell me "Oh Chris, you should be thankful and joyful all the same!  God gave you life and forgiveness of your sins.  You were made for God's pleasure and to Him you are perfect.  You are the clay, not the Potter and not even the Potter's wheel!  Who do you think you are to tell God that He messed up?  You have Christ and isn't that enough?"

No.  It's not enough.  Because despite all that scripture teaches, the God I have seen and come to know is a God who does play favorites.  He blesses some and curses others and if you're on His sh-t-list, there is nothing you can do about it.  And I'm not only referring to the jealousies of my own life.  Too many in this world suffer while others have seemingly have... okay, not everything but certainly the things that matter most.  Innocent people get thrashed and stomped upon and denied even an iota of something to be thankful for.  So what reason do they have to be thankful to God?

Once, I could be and was thankful to God.  I could pray to Him.  Not with requests or for something "good", but merely to thank Him and to praise Him for what I did have.  Now I recognize that, maybe it was being hopeful when I had no reason to be hopeful.  Maybe it was just wishful thinking.

Is that all God is?  Merely "wishful thinking" on our part?  Is there even a God at all?  Or are we deluding ourselves?  Have I been deluding myself for twenty years and more?

What do I tell a child?  That God is there and that He is listening to him or her?  When my own heart harbors even a sliver of doubt?

How do I tell a child that God is good, when he or she keeps praying and in return hears only silence from a Father who is aloof and removed from our cares and concerns save for a select few?  What if that child believes that God loves some but He has to have a reason to hate others... and they are it?  Because that's what it has been like for me all too often.

How do I tell with a sincere and faithful and thankful heart that God is there for my children?  What do I say when they tell me that God isn't there for them?

How do I dare consign a child to that kind of anguish and torment?  Because if that is all that there ever was for me, I would rather have died in the delivery room.  And there would come a day when my children will tell me the same thing.

My doubts about God are not dispelled.  And I'm not going to pretend anymore, for the sake of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, that "everything is fine" between He and I.

Perhaps God might grant an infinitely deeper grace to my children than He has to me.  Perhaps they might know a love and joy from Him than I ever have.  I would hope that He would.

And then again, He may not.  There is no guarantee that He would do that either.

If I were to have children, I would have to be brutally honest with them in all things.  Including about God.  And though I do believe He is there, the faith in Him being all-loving and all-caring is practically absent.  There will be no lies or delusions or distractions from either my faith or my lack of faith... and I do want to have faith.  A real, abiding and enduring faith in God.  But if there is not...

To lie to my children like that would be the cruelest thing I could do to anyone.

So, with all of that being said:

Should I trust God?  Should I dare to plot something so irrevocable as giving existence to a human soul in this wicked and evil world?

Do I have any right at all to be a father?

Whoever is reading this and thinks they have something to share, please do so.  The comments are wide open on this post.  Feel free to use your own name or an alias or to be anonymous.  Maybe some among you have answers that have eluded me in spite of all searching out my heart and mind and soul.

If you do, I would very much appreciate it.

(And very special thanks to "N.G." for having a listening ear and proofreading this post at least three or four times before I hit the "Publish" button on it.)