Sunday, November 29, 2020

Replacing the battery in a Game Boy cartridge (yes, it CAN be done!)

A few weeks ago I found my Game Boy Advance.  Still in pristine condition after being in a really nice case all this time.  Vintage game consoles seem to be enjoying a renaissance lately, like systems that play Atari and Nintendo Entertainment System cartridges on high-def television sets.  And this particular Game Boy Advance holds a special place in my heart, it having been a gift for Christmas eighteen years ago.

I still had a bunch of cartridges on hand: Game Boy Advance ones as well as for the classic Game Boy and the Game Boy Color.  They all still work great!  Except for one small problem...

The cartridges that utilize battery backup have almost all run dry.

Battery backup in game cartridges goes back at least as far as the original The Legend of Zelda for the NES.  After choosing to save a game it would use the built-in battery to hold the game state and vital stats, like which items your character possessed, amount of life it had, whatever.  I guess the most well known example of batteries used in game cartridges are the first several editions of Pokemon, before it went to flash memory starting with the Game Boy Advance (though batteries still powered the internal clocks of those cartridges).

But as with all such things, the batteries eventually go dead.  And along with it any practical means of playing the game again. If only there was a way to replace that battery...

It turns out, that there is.  And it works amazingly well!

Here's what you need:

From left to right: Game Boy cartridge, new CR2025 battery with tabs for soldering (available here), soldering iron (and sufficient amount of solder) such as this set that I used, and set of security screwdrivers (like this set available on Amazon for $6.99).

For the first attempt I used my copy of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening.  Bought when it first came out in the summer of 1993.  Took me a few weeks to beat it (SPOILER: the entire game is just a dream, sorta like when Pam Ewing found Bobby in the shower).  Twenty-seven years later the battery inside the cartridge had long been dry.  Perfect specimen for experimentation.  In the pic to right you see the cartridge along with the 4.5mm screwdriver.  None of the Nintendo gear seems to have used standard screwdrivers.  Instead they're special "security" screws.  That set for seven bucks I just told you about?  It comes with 3.8mm and 4.5mm screwdrivers as well as a tri-wing screwdriver that's supposed to come in especially handy for Game Boy Advance cartridges.  Along with opening up other Nintendo cartridges and game systems.

So first we open the cartridge (shown with the new battery):

 

Instead of lifting straight off, the top of the cartridge sort of slides up and out from the rest of the plastic casing.  And then we get to the guts of the thing:

See that round looking gimmick?  That's the original battery, which is what will be replaced.  It looks welded to the board.  Which, it kinda is.  But it's going to be a snap to remove it.

Simply heat up the soldering iron and apply it to the places where the battery is soldered to the board.  It should not take much effort at all to do this to each solder.  Do NOT apply the iron to the battery itself!  Just on the two metal tabs coming off of the battery (which, is what they are there for):

 And here is the old battery now removed from the cartridge:


Make extra sure that you are soldering the right tabs to the proper places on the circuit board (i.e. + to + and - to -.  But if you keep in mind how the old battery was placed, it should be easy to match them up right):

Here is our new battery completely soldered onto the board:


And now the cartridge is closed up and screwed down tight, looking brand new as ever!


But will it work??  The game turned on fine when inserted into the Game Boy Advance.  I started a new game/file and after playing around with it a few minutes I saved and turned it off.  Waited thirty seconds before turning it on again.

And there is the saved game:


The entire operation took less than five minutes!  Emboldened by the first surgery, I now turned the soldering iron to Pokemon Blue.  I bought this on a lark in 1998, out of curiosity about what the Pokemon craze was about.

A few minutes and one new battery later...

My Pokemon Blue now has at least 22 more years left before it needs the battery changed again.  Which means I've plenty of time to catch them all before I turn 70.  Who knows: I may buy a GameCube and the other intervening consoles between Game Boy and Switch or whatever, just to keep expanding my collection until the day I die.  Yes, that too is possible.

So if you want to extend the longevity of your Game Boy cartridges, don't be intimidated by the batteries!  A few simple tools are all you need to keep your games going for the next several decades :-)



Friday, November 27, 2020

Chris and Bennie's Trans-Atlantic Pecan Pie!

 Last week my good friend Bennie, a physician in Belgium, shared on Facebook a photo of a pecan pie she had made.  It looked magnificent!  I asked her for the recipe for it and she sent it along.  Turned out that it's from a French-language cookbook of American recipes.  Well whatever: I'm still counting it as a recipe from a foreign language book :-P

It looked so decadent that I had to make it, even though I've never baked anything more than brownies before.  And after some cross-oceanic consultation about things like proper temperature (at one time I thought it was going to bake at 800 Fahrenheit... which didn't sound right...) and some finagling with extra ingredients like corn syrup, I think it's safe to say that in light of what friends were raving yesterday at Thanksgiving dinner, we have concocted a masterpiece!

So here is the recipe for Chris and Bennie's Trans-Atlantic Pecan Pie:

Ingredients:

1 9-inch pie crust

3 eggs

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of salt

1 cup corn syrup (I use good ol' reliable Karo brand, dark)

1 cup pecans


Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (or 150 Celsius for our friends in Europe and abroad).  Whisk together all the ingredients, except the nuts.  Pour into pie crust.  Cover with pecans cut in two lengthwise (Bennie also suggests crushing the pecans).  Bake for 70 minutes.  Let cool at room temperature before placing in refrigerator for setting.  Wait 1 hour before serving (or wrapping in plastic wrap for transport to dinner elsewhere).



Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thanksgiving... 2020?


Maybe 2020 is as good a year as any to bring back a tradition on this blog: listing the things that I am thankful for.  Having all the craziness and challenges that Twenty-Twenty has tossed our way, perhaps it will make thankfulness that much better.  Make our blessings more appreciated.  I want to believe so anyway.

So here are the things I'm thankful for in 2020:

1.  Having the friends that I have, who I consider very much to be real family.

2.  My dog Tammy: as precious to me as a child.

3.  Housing, food on the table, a car, and too many other things that are often taken for granted.

4.  Speaking of food, this year I've learned how to cook more than ever before.

5.  That I've been writing again for publication.

6.  That I completed my first book.

7.  That I have a challenging and rewarding career, that I get to go into every day and really help others with.

8.  My colleagues at work, who truly have become as dear to me as anyone.

9.  A faith in God that, I like to believe, is becoming rekindled.

10.  That I was finally able to play... and complete... Fallout 4.

11.  That warts and all, I can say that I live in the United States of America and that I still believe in the best about this country.

12.  That though it took a sizable hit from The Rise of Skywalker, I'm still counting myself as a Star Wars fan.

13.  That I'm discovering new ways to better manage my bipolar disorder and PTSD.

14.  That despite it all, sometimes even myself, I am still alive.

And there are probably other things that could be put on the list, but you get the idea.

All things considered, that's a heck of a lot to be thankful for in the year of Our Lord two thousand and twenty.

Who knows.  There's still a month left.  Maybe some more blessings will come still...



Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Just watched Ron Howard's HILLBILLY ELEGY

I think Hillbilly Elegy must have hit Netflix this week.  A friend and I were discussing it just yesterday but I had no idea it was coming out so soon.  I was about to start on The Queen's Gambit (a series getting lots of high praise from people I trust) but I went with Hillbilly Elegy instead.

Ron Howard's latest film hit hard.  Parts of it were like a sucker-punch to the gut.  Hillbilly Elegy slapped me hard in the face and didn't give a damn.  So much of this movie that resonated with me, and not all of it for good reasons.

Let me be succinct about it.  I know people that are like the people in Hillbilly Elegy.  And I could see some of myself in it.  Maybe too much for the circumstances that life has put me in at the moment, but I digress...

Based on J.D. Vance's 2016 memoir of the same name, Hillbilly Elegy spans the course of roughly fourteen years in the life of a Kentucky/Ohio family.  I haven't read the book (yet) but I could identify with the world of young J.D. in this film.  The sense of feeling trapped, and realizing that a person has to want to escape hard enough to make it happen.  Family as something to love as much as be captive to.  The strength to break away without losing one's sense of identity in what came before.

So much that I could say about this movie.  It's going to take some time to sink in, no doubt.

Look for Amy Adams and Glenn Close to sweep up a whole bunch of awards for their portrayals in this movie.  Especially Close, whose character of Mamaw Vance might be more accurate than many of us would like to admit.

It's not a beautiful movie, but it is an honest one.  And I may watch it again soon (but not before watching A Quiet Place, which at least one friend has told me I'm depriving myself by not seeing it yet). 



Wednesday, November 18, 2020

To whom it may concern:

 Go stick your head in a goat!

That is all.



Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Today is Veterans Day

 My father, Robert Knight, circa 1958.  He was 19 years old, serving in the United States Navy aboard the Seventh Fleet flagship U.S.S. Northampton.

 

 

Thinking of all members of the United States armed forces on this Veterans Day.  Thank you for your service.



Sunday, November 08, 2020

This game show host brought dignity, class, and an astounding intellect into millions of homes for almost forty years

 "Who is Alex Trebek?"

Rest in peace, good sir.



Friday, November 06, 2020

Want some commentary about this presidential election?

 No?  I don't care.  You're getting it anyway...

The more I am finding out ("voters" born in 1850, 160,000+ ballots going for ONE candidate in a single dump, software "glitches" etc.) the more I am of the persuasion that this presidential election needs a nationwide do-over. This time with NO mail-in ballots and paper only.

But realistically, I don't see that happening.

We are hurtling headlong into a very dark and chaotic time.



 

 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Happy Halloween!

Hey gang, there's a new app for mobile devices called ReFace and it is amazing!  You shoot a selfie of your face and from there it places your mug practically seamlessly into footage from television or movies or whatever.  Thought for Halloween that I'd share this one of me channeling Jack Nicholson from The Shining.  All work and no play makes Chris a dull boy, after all...

 

 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Richard "The Carpenter": Twelve generations of Knights

 Dad used to tell me that he didn't want to study our family tree too much.  "There's going to be someone there who wore a rope for a necktie", he would say.  In most part Dad was content with knowing his grandfather, Samuel Knight - born in 1887 - and not much further.

(Samuel's wife, Maggie Warren, was born in 1880 and died in 1979.  I'm old enough to remember her in her final years... and that's a pretty neat thing, to have known someone who knew Civil War veterans and was a young lady when the Wright Brothers flew their plane.)

With not much else to do with my own time these past several months, I thought it would be intriguing if I started to research our family history.  Quietly praying that there wasn't some scoundrel of ill repute back there anywhere.  And now I can say that ours does go back quite a bit and they left a trail behind them.

Knight family cemetery, Rhode Island

So it turns out that I'm the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson of one Richard Knight, aka Richard "the Carpenter" Knight.  Born around 1620 in the Norfolk, England area.  He came to the colonies circa 1640, at first in what is today New Hampshire.  But after "some legal trouble" - namely evading the authorities after being charged with theft - Richard left and settled in Rhode Island.  He was a carpenter, a miller, and a deacon.  He was also apparently a veteran of King Philip's War, because of the one hundred acres he was awarded following the conflict.  Richard had two wives, the second being Sarah.

Richard and Sarah had six children.  One of them was David Knight, my grandfather eleven times removed.  And it turns out that many of Richard's immediate male descendants were blacksmiths by trade.

Huh.

Dad was a knifemaker.  He put together most of his equipment, including his forge and his power hammer.  He even welded together the anvil that he would bang and shape the blades on.  He made a lot of knives, more than we realized at the time of his passing.

And now it turns out that though he never knew it, he was following in the footsteps of our remote ancestors.

I've been finding information about some others along the family tree.  One grandfather was Thomas Jefferson Knight, born shortly after the Revolutionary War.  At least one family member fought in the American Revolution itself.  Thomas' brother, Absalom Knight (is that a bad-a$$ name or what?) took part in the War of 1812.  To the best of my research, one of my direct ancestors owned a slave: name unknown.  He willed the slave to his wife following his death.  So, there is that tidbit.   I haven't found any indication that anyone in my direct lineage fought in the Civil War, but it wouldn't surprise me if someone along one of the branches participated.  I say that because North Carolina sent more soldiers than any other state in the Confederacy, and Rockingham County provided more than its share of those soldiers.  So the likelihood that I've an ancestor who fought in the War Between the States is moderately high.

And it all goes back to Richard the Carpenter.  Who came to the New World and it sounds as if he lived an interesting life.

Who knows.  Maybe some bit of prior research eludes me.  And that it may be possible to take the lineage back even further.  But if not, I'll be content to be the scion of Richard the Carpenter.

I hope he would have been satisfied that I've tried to live a life even a little bit as illustrious as his.




Thursday, October 15, 2020

Censored by Twitter

Well, it happened.  But from the looks of things I am in plenty of good company.

Last night I made a tweet on Twitter.  The now much-beleagured company that along with Facebook (is that a possible RICO charge?) has been censoring any mention of yesterday's New York Post story about Joe Biden and his son Hunter and their dealings with Burisma.  Among other things.

There is a photograph of Hunter Biden using a crack pipe.  Or maybe meth.  I don't know.  Meth would be a lot nastier.  But I know this photo exists.  I know because I have seen it.

So last night I made a Twitter post, along the lines of "the question that should be asked of every journalist, news outlet, and social media giant: Why should we trust you?"

Below that I added: "P.S.: there is a photo of Hunter Biden with a crack pipe."

I just checked my Twitter page.  That post has vanished.  Without warning or notice.

It's possible that a Twitter employee deleted it. It's also possible that they have adjusted their algorithms to automatically search and destroy anything negative pertaining to the Bidens.

However or whatever happened, it's not that big a deal.  I'm actually rather honored that of all the zillions of tweets flying right now about Hunter Biden, that mine was apparently targeted for termination.  The Twitter account page itself is still there (at twitter.com/theknightshift) but I wouldn't be surprised if that went MIA without warning sometime either.

 The more that Twitter and the other "Big Tech" companies pull stuff like this to an increasing number of people, the more they are looking at having their protections stripped and being broken up.  It happened before with the phone companies.  It could happen again.  Nothing is "too big to fail".  I've wondered if anyone has considered that Facebook and Twitter have become means of communication between people, companies, and organizations like churches and civic groups.  Depriving people of that or banning them from participation is almost tantamount to obstructing delivery of the mail service.  Or denying phone service on the basis of personal political beliefs.

And of course, Twitter and Facebook are behaving not so much as platforms as they are publishers.  There is a vast difference between the two.  Big Tech is trying to have it both ways.  And it's wrong.

Well, as I said: it's no skin off me if the post was deleted or even if my entire Twitter feed is destroyed.  Who knows: maybe there's a class action lawsuit that could come of Twitter's antics.  I wouldn't mind getting in on that action.

EDIT 10/16/2020 8:26 am EST:  The tweet is back where it was.  Oddly, I looked at its interactions and it has only been seen twice.  The other night it got up to around 200 or so within a short period of time.  Not speculating, just making a note of that.


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Star Wars: Squadrons has Chris feeling like he's 20 years old all over again

For the vastest part I have moved on past video games.  These days if I play any game at all it's going to be something like a rewarding round of Go against a human opponent, or the miniatures game Warhammer 40,000 (either of which provides for keen exercise of the tactical mind).  You know, something physical with tactile sensation.  A few months ago I reviewed Gears Tactics, but then again Gears of War for me isn't so much a game franchise as it is an epic tale (along with the BioShock games and Halo).  And that came when we ALL needed something to keep from going totally bonkers from COVID sequestration from society...

But about that same time came word of Star Wars: Squadrons.  Electronic Arts' foray into what seemed like the first truly dedicated Star Wars flight sim since perhaps X-Wing: Alliance all the way back in 1999.  Oh sure, there have been others involving an element of space warfare.  But the still much-beloved X-Wing series went beyond "aiming and shooting" by adding power management, ordnance selection and other elements that made it truly feel like you were responsibly flying a real ship.  And then there was how 1994's TIE Fighter somehow made you glad to be blasting those Rebel insurgents into space dust!

No Star Wars game like that has come about in the more than two decades since X-Wing: Alliance.  In fact, the entire flight sim genre has seemed pretty much dead or at best in deep coma.  Would one be welcomed with eager arms today?

Based on the wild reviews and raving word of mouth about Star Wars: Squadrons, the answer to that question is an emphatic "Yes!".  So yesterday evening I took the plunge and bought the game.

And now?  I have felt like a 20 year-old kid all over again, that very first night when X-Wing installed on my MS-DOS machine (running on a 486-SX CPU with 4 megabytes of RAM and a 70 megabyte hard drive... yes, I'm ancient).

Star Wars: Squadrons is the X-Wing games all over again, updated to the nth degree.  I've played through the prologue and just a few missions into the main game but that's been enough to bowl me over.  It looks so new, and yet it is so beautifully familiar.  The cockpit layouts look almost exactly the same as they did for the X-Wing games over a quarter century ago: if you ever played TIE Fighter, your first moments inside Squadrons' standard TIE will be a rapturous return to warm surroundings.  The ever-trusty X-wing starfighter looks almost precisely as it did circa 1993.  Even the cargo vessels - those boxy ships we all thrilled to scan for legal goods or Imperial war materiel back in the day - make a faithful return to form.

Maybe I'm missing it so far, but the ONLY aspects from the X-Wings series that I've found absent from Star Wars: Squadrons are the ability to direct more power to front or rear shields, and getting to cycle lasers between one blast or the (slower but more powerful) four blasts at once.  Or maybe they're in the game and I've missed them.  If it hasn't been implied enough already, I've felt like a wide-eyed kid in a candy store playing this game.  It's been reliving a phase of my life that was well before all of the griefs and heartbreaks came over the years since.

Who'd have thought that a video game could make someone feel so spirited again?

There is the single player story mode.  There is also a multiplayer cross-platform function, which I haven't tried yet but some friends are due to be getting Squadrons soon and we'll likely be playing it together.  Which, I'm looking forward to hooking up with them and shooting those Rebel scu... errr, Imperial swine out of the sky.  Until then, there's plenty of time to practice with the single-player campaign.

Game studio Motive deserves a heap o' praise for not just delivering a solid combat flight sim, but making what some are hailing as one of the best Star Wars games in a very long time.  And from me especially, they get mega high marks for tapping into the vein of the X-Wing series and bringing that same spirit back to Earth for a new generation of gamers to discover and enjoy.

X-Wing: Squadrons is available now for XBox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows.  I know it's on Steam for PC users and it may be for sale on the online stores for the consoles.  It's perfectly playable via keyboard and mouse but for a more realistic feel I'll recommend a moderately priced flight stick.  I'm using an older Microsoft SideWinder Precision joystick and it works perfectly fine.



Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Want to run for office? Here's how!

At the moment the vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris is going on.  I'm sort-of listening to it, and for whatever reason tonight has me thinking back to the "debates" we had as school board candidates when sixteen of us were running for Rockingham County (North Carolina) Board of Education.  Though I did not win a seat, I have always been proud of my campaign and there hasn't  been a single moment's regret.  I had way too much fun throughout the entire process than to have been the least bit bitter about not winning.

So that sent me hurtling into the Wayback Machine(tm) of this particular blog.  Every step of the way during that run, I was chronicling it here.  And more than ever it strikes me that maybe this is a resource that others could benefit from.  I mean, there NEEDS to be good people willing to stand up and run for office in this land.  Could it be you?

Possibly, you don't know how to start.  Or it just seems too intimidating a task.

Listen, lemme tell you something: if an idiot like ME could run for office (and nearly winning), there is NOTHING that could or should keep YOU from running, too!

Here is the post that I made in February 2007.  It's a compilation of links to the various posts I made from the start of the campaign, on through when it was closed out a few months after the election.  There are also all the posts I made during that election day.  What DOES a candidate do when his name is on the ballots being cast?

It is my hope that others might find this, and take from it encouragement.  I was fortunate to have had friends (and some who became friends and indeed truly family) who "walked me through it".  Maybe that can continue on to others, through this.

Here is the complete list of posts made regarding my campaign for Board of Education in 2006.



Saturday, October 03, 2020

Review, kinda, of TENET

There is likely no disputing that Christopher Nolan is king of high-concept cinema.  With Tenet I am wondering if maybe he went for TOO high-concept.  It was ten years ago this summer that Nolan gave us Inception: a movie that I have watched many times since and continues to enthrall.

Tenet however, I might watch once or twice again.  Three times tops.  Just enough to try to figure out what the heck is going on.  Because there is some Grade-A gray matter warping at work in this movie.  The publicity for it has been clear that it's NOT a film about time travel.  Instead it's about "inversion".  Reversing the entropy of an object - or people - so that it appears that they are going backward when instead from the perspective of the object... say, a bullet... time is progressing forward linearly.  And I can understand that much.  But more exposition would have been appreciated.

It would have also helped matters if the sound wasn't overwhelming the spoken dialogue.  Straining to make out what the characters were saying became an exercise for the eardrum.  Was it deliberate?  I mean, it's a pretty discombobulated plot to follow along as it is.  Something about arms dealers and a fraudulent Goya drawing.  Distracting it with sound and fury just made things worse, intentionally or not.

But if Tenet has something going for it, it's absolutely the visual effects.  Nolan and his crew used a real Boeing 747 for this movie.  And the battle scene toward the end is incredible to behold if also bewildering to keep up with.  It's apparent that Tenet's production team went for practical effects whenever and wherever possible... and that's something I can definitely approve of.

I will give Tenet a score of 7 out of 10.  For comparison's sake I would give Inception a 9.5 out of 10.  Tenet is a strong effort from Christopher Nolan.  Unfortunately this time he came short of making the mark.  For further comparison's sake, a perfect 10 of a time-centric movie is the 2004 film Primer.  Produced for a miniscule seven grand, Primer proves that a solid high-concept movie can be made without a major studio backing it with a few hundred million dollars.


Thomas Sowell's take on Black Lives Matter

Twice in the past week, during the course of conversation with other individuals the situation with Black Lives Matter came up.  There was a lot that I tried - and failed - to convey, for various reasons.

But as it turns out, I really didn't have to try, because a mind far better than my own accomplished it with more weight and consideration than I could muster.


I have long been an admirer of Dr. Thomas Sowell.  His is an enormous intellect and our culture is more the better because he has chosen to share it with us for quite awhile now.  And it is this time which, I believe, his words are worth considering more than ever before.  A few days ago on his YouTube channel there was a video posted consisting of various clips of Dr. Sowell discussing the Black Lives Matter movement, along with its intellectual and philosophical underpinnings.  He consistently backs up his position with facts and citations, and over the course of eight minutes lays down his case.  That being: Black Lives Matter is destroying as opposed to leading to anything positive for the black American community.  And it is tearing apart our culture as a whole.

Here's the video.  It's well worth your time to watch.

 


 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

I rarely watch episodic television, but...

...Transplant, a Canadian-produced medical drama that's found a domestic home on NBC, has reeled me in as hard as any show has.  Ignoring that many American folks will have a time translating from the metric system (the patient's temperatures aren't really THAT chilly) Transplant has a unique premise, intrepid plot, and a fine ensemble to carry it out.

Heading the cast is Hamza Haq as Dr. Bashir Hamed: a refugee from Syria's civil war who fled with his sister and is trying to resume life as a physician.  The trek brings him to the emergency room of a major hospital in Toronto (following an incident that surely impressed his boss, but that's spoiler territory).

And it's solid, solid television.  Last night's episode, the season's fourth, is the kind of thing that would be seen for in-class discussion in a course on ethics.  Hamed is honest, almost to a fault.  And he hasn't been willing to cut corners on getting transcripts from his university back in Syria: being an enemy of the state when you're at a state-run school kinda has its complications.  Meanwhile a fellow doctor is confronted with a matter of patient confidentiality involving a drunken driver who killed a woman.  And oh yeah, on top of it all Hamed is also Facetime-ing a how-to for a roadside amputation thousands of miles away.

It takes a lot... and I mean a lot... for a series to convince me that it's worth my valuable time to watch.  I used to be that way with The Walking Dead but I lost track of that show (blame real life matters throwing a monkey-wrench into the works).  Before that it was Lost, and I don't think there's been anything else new since then.  But I've become rather enamored with Transplant.  Looking forward to seeing how this series develops.

Transplant is on Tuesday nights on NBC.  Next new episode airs October 6th.

EDIT:  I should have mentioned Star Wars: The Mandalorian, but that was a given anyway.  And it took getting every season on Blu but I did finish up Game of Thrones.  Which if anyone asks, I thought it had a perfect ending.



Monday, September 14, 2020

And this is why I can't and won't support Black Lives Matter

Just one of the reasons why I have not and can not jump on the big bandwagon issue these past several months. There were a LOT of organizations of various sorts that came out with broad statements of support. I knew all along that it was foolish to make a statement about ANY political issue. Due legal process has not run its full course. Many have yielded to the moral outrage of the moment, without weighing whether it was wise.

 
And now this has happened and there is growing backlash against the movement, its leaders, and its "protestors". From the very beginning it has been borne of anger and that has given way to outright hatred and now the very many incidents of violence, and as we see here attempted murder of two innocent Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies. Not just the attempt itself: "activists" and some leaders of the same movement tried to prevent the officers from receiving proper treatment at the hospital's emergency room.
 
I am going to make a bold, bold prediction, and I am absolutely serious. It is not something I say lightly, it is not said in anger or with any ill will toward anyone. And this is just the historian in me. Someone who has studied matters like this at great length, for most of his life.
 
Here it is: Black Lives Matter will sooner than later be seen as a movement that inflicted far greater harm than any good. This article at The Wall Street Journal, and many other articles about the situation with the two officers, illustrates why.
 
And the longer Black Lives Matter is given inconsiderate support the worse this is going to get.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

I am a bad Star Wars fan (for abandoning the sequel trilogy)

There is a rumor... rumor mind ya so take this with an industrial sized salt lick... that somewhere in the Disney Vault there rests a cut of Star War Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker that is drastically different and better than what was released theatrically last Christmas.  This cut was allegedly assembled by George Lucas: the Maker himself.  This edit supposedly adds new material, removes several elements we saw in The Rise of Skywalker's theater version and perhaps even has a new ending.  The result is a film that is at least forty percent altered from the original cinematic release.

It is supposed to fix the problems that The Rise of Skywalker has, as well as many of the problems that the entire sequel trilogy is rife with.

It is the hope of many fans that "the George Lucas Cut" - IF it exists at all - will be released eventually, and sooner than later.  One possible venue would be Disney+ (where The Mandalorian and the complete The Clone Wars series have made their home).  One must wonder how much the Disney execs will be watching the upcoming release of the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League on HBO Max.  Success for that cut would certainly compel Disney to cast an eye upon potential product for its own streaming service.

I bring up the Lucas Cut rumor because I am increasingly finding myself hoping and praying that it's true.  And that it will get released.  And that it is just as magnificent as it's being made out to be.

Because at this point that's what it's going to take to make me respect the Star Wars sequel trilogy.

Yes folks, there it is.  I am going to always and forever be a Star Wars fan.  But going forward... I'm going to try to forget that Episodes VII, VIII and IX ever happened.  Because there are substantial problems with what should have been a final fulfilling arc in the Skywalker saga.  Problems which can not be ignored any longer.  As far as I'm concerned the Skywalker tale on film ends with Vader's redemption, the Emperor's death and Luke's reunion with his friends amid the celebration on Endor.

Because it is now abundantly clear that Disney had no idea what it was doing when it produced the sequel trilogy.

It was Daisy Ridley's comments this past week that made the kill shot.  It seems that even after the cameras stopped rolling there was indecision about Rey's parentage.  At one point or another she was related to Obi-Wan Kenobi, or was Palpatine's granddaughter, or just what Kylo told her in The Last Jedi: "no one".  I wish she had been nobody special.  It would have made Rey a much more potent character.  Better than that: it would have reinforced the notion that the Force belongs to anyone and everyone.  That it was not the sole provenance of favored lineages like the Skywalkers or the Palpatines.  One of the major themes of A New Hope was that a hero can come from the most humble of beginnings.  Rey was set to follow that theme.  And then they made her a granddaughter to Palpatine...

Did these people seriously understand Star Wars at all?  Did they even care?

Blame can be assigned across the board.  I'm not going to bother divvying it up.  But mistakes were made.  Atrocious mistakes.  The components were there for a majestic trilogy, the one we had been long promised but had come to believe would never be made.  All of the pieces were within ready grasp.  They even had the cast of the original trilogy willing to sign aboard for the project.

The sequel trilogy had everything going for it, seemingly.  And they messed it up.

Personally, what was most unforgiving about what happened in the sequels was how Snoke was treated.  Here was a new character - a fantastic character - perfectly set up to be a truly horrific and fascinating villain.  Snoke brought about the reaction that Darth Vader evoked during his first onscreen appearance: even without knowing anything about him, we knew he was evil.  And we hated him for it.  And we wanted to see more of him.  Snoke had presence.

I can look past how Snoke was killed in The Last Jedi.  What I can not look past is how sloppily it was made out to be that Snoke was just a puppet for Palpatine.  It was complete laziness, and trepidation, and a failure to give Snoke the respect he deserved.  He deserved much better.

Star Wars deserved better.  It still does.

Could I somehow come to give the sequel trilogy enough lenience that it takes a rightful place with the six core saga films that came before?  Yeah.  Yeah, I could.  And I think that many if not most of the Star Wars fans put off by the sequels - and there are loads of them - could accept the sequels.  But not like this.  They treasure this mythology too much than to accept second or third best.  And Disney erred grievously when it took those fans for granted and saw their wallets more than their hearts.

If the rumors are anywhere accurate, there is a cut of The Rise of Skywalker that is a true chapter of the Star Wars saga.  A film that addresses the problems of its immediate predecessors and not only complements them, it makes them better.

I hope that rumor is a true one.  Because if Star Wars has taught us anything, it is that nothing is beyond redemption.


EDIT 09/14/2020:  Had a moment of realization this morning.  Obi-Wan Kenobi said that a ship the size of a TIE Fighter could not get so far out into space on its own.  Yet in the sequel trilogy we see TIEs swooping in and out of lightspeed all the time.  They even follow the Millennium Falcon, aka "the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy".  What kind of consistency is THAT?!?!?

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

First trailer for DUNE is epic!


Denis Villeneuve's adaptation of Dune just dropped its first trailer.  And it looks insane!!  The film itself is due in December and here's hoping that the theaters (and everything else) will finally be wide open because this looks to be a movie screaming for the big screen experience.  Love the reveal of the sandworm!

Turn your peepers toward this, ladies and gents:


 

Will Villeneuve's Dune succeed where two previous adaptations have come up short?  I thought the Sci-Fi Channel's version was an admirable attempt (and it did give us the follow-up Children of Dune) and however glorious a mess it was, David Lynch's Dune has a hypnotic quality to its production design.  But those didn't quite nail it.  Or maybe Dune is one of those stories best left to the book and the reader's imagination.  We'll find out in a few months.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

To this blog's friends in Texas and Louisiana:

Thoughts and prayers going out to you as Hurricane Laura approaches.

Longtime readers know how much hurricanes and other tropical systems interest me.  This one already rivals Katrina.  I hope this blog won't be as busy with Laura as it was with Katrina fifteen years ago.

(Has it REALLY been that long?)

Hurricane Laura as of 06:44 pm EST on August 26 2020


Sunday, August 16, 2020

A scenario

 Something put together during the hour of the wolf: that time between 2 and 3 in the morning when you can't sleep and your mind is running through a myriad of thoughts all at once...

It goes like this:

America is thrown into turmoil as a result of a November election that sees no clearly declared winner and in fact is endemic throughout the country's state and local elections.

Factor in that the United States is still in the midst of COVID-19 and this does not look to alleviate anytime soon.

China takes advantage of the chaos in America and fully deploys its naval might in the South China Sea. Taiwan is invaded. American military along with Japanese and Australian forces engage.

North Korean hardliners in that country's army, frustrated with Kim Jong Un for various reasons, depose their leader and install Un's sister as the glorious new leader. North Korea invades the south with China's tacit blessing.

Meanwhile Beijing opens another front. This time in the west, against the Uyghur minority. This becomes a campaign of full-blown ethnic cleansing. And once the real horror of it becomes unavoidably apparent, interests to the immediate west of China become motivated to interfere.

This will be mostly lead by Turkey. And Erdogan, obsessed with restoring the old Ottoman glory (he's already converting Haggia Sophia back into a mosque) mobilizes against perceived Chinese intrusion but also begins his own campaign against religious and ethnic minorities. Armenians are once more targeted. Persecution of minorities spills over into northern Iraq. Once more the Yazidi are fugitives in their own land.

Russia is enraged by Turkey. God only knows what Putin would do. A "crusade" against the "infidel Turks" is altogether possible. There remains some bitterness among the faithful about what happened in 1453 when Mehmet and his boys took Constantinople. Expect sympathies from Greece and other Balkan states against Turkey.

Poland becomes the one really peaceful island in the midst of this. I say that for a number of reasons. I don't see Russia doing anything there. It's not like the Nazis are back and taking over eastern Europe.

Western Europe however becomes hit with numerous terrorist attacks conducted by radical Islamic groups. France is hit especially hard.

I can't figure out what else may be.  It was already 6 a.m. when I first posted this to Facebook and my brain was frazzled after a marathon session of Fallout 4.

But to be succinct about it: the dominoes have fallen and World War III is now underway.

Like I said: a scenario. One of very many.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Unreliable Narrator, or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Sequel Trilogy

Many of you  by now are hearing the rumors: that Kathleen Kennedy is on the way out as matriarch of the Star Wars franchise.  That the operation will soon be run by either Jon Favreau or Dave Filoni.  That the entire sequel trilogy is going to be scrapped and "re-made".

Personally, I doubt that last one is going to happen.  Because I can't but think of all the little girls I've seen dressed as Rey for the premiere of the past few Star Wars movies.  Rey is a true heroine to them.  Heck, she is for me too.  But especially to young girls who look to Rey as a role model.  Not I or anyone else should take that away from them.  Besides, Star Wars was ripe for a female character on par with Luke Skywalker and young Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Rey fits the role perfectly.

But I won't deny that the sequel trilogy is the worst of the three.  I first had a bad feeling about this when it became clear that too much of The Last Jedi was going to be spent on the Resistance fleet fleeing from the First Order.  And then Snoke getting killed.  And then the reveal that the enemy of The Rise Of Skywalker would be a resurrected Emperor Palpatine...

I've had a theory for many years.  It's about Star Trek, the original series.  So many episodes of that show are timeless classics.  And then there were the utterly hokey ones like "Spock's Brain".  You know, the episode where aliens run off with Spock's gray matter so it can serve as the new computer running their indoor plumbing.

How hokey can you get?  But it begs the question: did the over-ridiculous premise of the episode disqualify it from being canon?  Because it just doesn't seem, you know... "Star Trek"-ish.

I've a solution to that.  How the bad Trek can co-exist with the good.  Those episodes are actually fake captain's log entries that James Kirk made when at times he was feeling extra bored.  And then decades if not centuries later the data dump of the U.S.S. Enterprise is being researched by historians who don't know any better.  And they find the stuff about the brain stealers and the space Nazis and whatever else and they assume that those things "really" happened.  When in fact it was just Kirk having his fun.

That's my theory and I'm sticking by it.

So what bearing does that have on a post about Star Wars?

I've re-watched The Rise Of Skywalker at least a dozen times now since it became available on iTunes and then Blu-ray and now on Disney+, and... how should I put this?  It's frustrating the heck out of me.  Part of me likes it.  Part of me is "meh" about it but the larger part of me can't stop thinking how much makes no sense.  Like travel times through hyperspace: it shouldn't be that instantaneous.  And how Palpatine is brought back so late into the entire saga.  A lot of small issues that accumulate.  Plenty enough of them lingering from the previous film The Last Jedi.

And now... I sadly lament that the Star Wars sequel trilogy - episodes 7, 8, and 9 - are the weakest of the entire series.  When they should have rivaled the original trilogy in greatness.

But then something hit me.  And this is going back a ways...

George Lucas was saying as early as 1982 how the entire Star Wars saga was one story being told by the droids Artoo-Detoo and See-Threepio.  It was the tale of the Skywalker Family, being shared with the Whills: a mysterious sect that among other things recorded the history of the galaxy.  And their collection of such stories became "The Journal of the Whills": something that Lucas later described was a larger work of which Star Wars "was just a piece".

Let's assume that was and is and ever shall remain George Lucas' notion about how the story of the core Star Wars legend came about.  We can be assured that hundreds of years after the events of the Skywalker saga, Artoo and Threepio are passing it along to the Whills.  We can trust their word.  They were THERE during that time.  They saw it all happen.  Especially Artoo.  At least, they saw everything from The Phantom Menace through Return Of The Jedi.

But did Artoo and Threepio necessarily witness the later events with such clarity?

No.  They did not.  Apart from traveling aboard the Millennium Falcon during Rey's search for Luke Skwyalker, Artoo went nowhere.  He had been in near-total shutdown for years prior to Rey and Finn's arrival.  And Threepio?  He certainly wasn't off on any cosmic adventure.  Not without his little blue buddy.  Threepio was just hanging around the Resistance base, in Leia's company.

It can be safely assumed that the true chronicle of that part of the Skywalker legend ended with Return Of The Jedi or thereabouts.

So does that mean the sequel trilogy is all trash?  Nope.  Not at all.

Because there was another droid who was witnessing those events.  From the first moments of The Force Awakens, BB-8 was an active and integral part of the sequel trilogy.  And we can rest assured that he chronicled as best he could the larger events around him.

The thing is, BB-8 might well be what is termed an "unreliable narrator".  And if he is sharing his knowledge with Artoo and Threepio (who go on to share it with the Whills) it may not be entirely accurate.  BB-8 is a plucky little droid but he seems confused at times.  Maybe he has a circuit burn out in his memory, as a friend has suggested.  Maybe he's just in way over his cute lil' head.  However it is, BB-8's accounting of history might be severely handicapped when compared to that of Artoo and Threepio.  Those two have a counterpart-level base of understanding.  They are check-summing and error-correcting each other.  BB-8 has no such advantage.  And so it is that, sadly, BB-8's recording of many details is spotty at best.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that BB-8's part in the chronicle is ALL bad.  In a general sense his chronicle is accurate.  And if he tells Artoo that Rey goes to Tatooine to bury Luke and Leia's sabers and that she assumes the Skywalker surname, we can be confident that's what really happened.

It also allows for a lot of leeway of interpretation.  Snoke?  He could have been "made" by Palpatine.  He could also have been some Dark Side shlub who existed long before Palpatine was even born (and The Last Jedi novelization indicates that he was).  Hyperspace travel?  That's BB-8's interpretation of what he was told by Rey and others.  The casino?  Okay we can take BB-8 at his word that's what happened.  There are dozens of elements of the sequel trilogy that defy logic... unless we can accept that they're being conveyed by an unreliable narrator.

I put it to the test.  I re-watched The Last Jedi and The Rise Of Skywalker, per my new paradigm.  And lo and behold it works.  It really, honestly works!  The sequel trilogy is much more palatable now.  After fanwanking my synapses to the breaking point trying to "suss it all out" with the problems of the final three movies, suddenly there is a silver bullet for it all.

But in a funny way, I can still accept the quirks and at times misfires of the sequel trilogy as being part and parcel with being true Star Wars films, even without having BB-8's flaws being the cause of it all.  Because in the end, Star Wars is a legend.  And legends are rarely if ever clean cut affairs.  They don't need to be, either.

It's just that it's nice now to have a reason to accept the sequels as belonging with the other six movies after all.

Monday, July 06, 2020

In memory of Charlie Daniels...

Daniels and his band performing "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" in concert:

Saturday, June 27, 2020

It's June 27th! Time to play... THE LOTTERY

The classic 1969 short film adaptation of Shirley Jackson's eternally controversial horror tale:


For a film now over fifty years old it holds up exceptionally well.  I think every college freshman English class in America shows this to its students.  Sharp-eyed viewers will spot a very young Ed Begley Jr. in this.

On race and human nature

Several years ago I went to hear James Earl Jones give a lecture. He said something I will never forget. "Who am I? Obviously, I am partly African descent." But then he added "I am also part Cherokee. And also part Irish. Who am I?" Jones elaborated that he was a person of many ethnic backgrounds, and that "it is not right to call me an African-American." It was more important to be simply an American, with all of the nuances that come with that.

I think of my own racial background. I am part English, part Scotch, part Irish... and also 1/16 part Cherokee. My great great grandfather and his two brothers walked all the way from Oklahoma Territory to Patrick Springs, Virginia. Several years later my maternal grandmother was born. I'll always find that fascinating (and who knows, maybe Jones and I are distant relatives!).

But those things don't really define who I am today, any more than Jones said that he felt obligated to be black, or Irish, or native American.

Last night I remarked to a friend (and I hope she and I can always be friends regardless of our differences): human weaknesses doesn't "pick and choose" who is like this, and who is like that. No matter our ethnicities, we are ALL beholden to human nature. And human nature is ubiquitous: none of us are exempt or immune to it.

I believe there is such a thing as racism. But it is extremely wrong to ascribe racism - or any other weakness of character - to one "race" or another and no other. I have seen racism across the board, coming from practically every ethnic group I have encountered. I have seen white racism against black, black racism against white, white and black each harboring prejudice against Asian descent, one Asian culture prejudiced against another. I have even seen black against black racism...

Get the picture?

Human nature. It's not determined by skin color. One way or another we each have stock in it. And it really ISN'T about color of skin, or creed, or anything else. It's about how each of us, as individuals, CHOOSE to respond to that nature. And also how we choose to respond when others allow their own natures to overwhelm reason.

Don't let a weak and petty thing like "race" be a rationale to excuse yourself from human nature. We are all in this together, without favor.

And you never know: you might be a lot less "white" or "black" than you've come to realize. Heck, you and I may be relatives from somewhere up the line. Although whether you want to admit that I'm in your genealogy should probably be better left an exercise for the reader :-)

Saturday, June 20, 2020

On race, history, honor, and statues

This might upset some people. I can understand. Bear with me here though...

In 1828 the United States Congress passed what came to be called "the Tariff of Abominations". It was meant to protect northern industry. Instead it inflicted enormous harm on southern manufacturing and agriculture, especially the cotton industry. And no place was more hit by the consequences of the tariff than South Carolina.

This led to the Nullification Crisis of 1832. South Carolina declared that the Tariff of 1828 did not apply to within its borders. It effectively set the state of South Carolina against the United States of America. Fortunately cooler heads eventually prevailed, a new tariff was approved to South Carolina's satisfaction, and everyone was happy.

But think about it: the American Civil War could well have broken out thirty years earlier.
I believe that civil war was going to happen regardless. It was inevitable. In fact, it was practically guaranteed when the Founders approved the 3/5th compromise that counted black slaves as "three fifths of a free white person". The Founders may have been the greatest collection of minds in modern history. But they were not infallible. Whether they understood the consequences of their actions or not they had set in stone regional differences and rivalries that would explode into open conflict nearly eighty years later.

It was just a matter of when. It was also just a matter of who it would be who fate decided would be the ones who fought in that war. And no matter which side it was - be it Union or Confederate - those men were faced with the hardest decision of their lives. It certainly weighed on Robert E. Lee, who had to choose between the country his grandfather had helped to found and the people of Virginia: the ones he considered his countrymen.

The best that could have happened for the Civil War was that it would be led by good men, whose wisdom had failed to avoid the conflict, but nonetheless trusted in higher Providence to establish a final justice. And I believe that's what happened at Appomattox Court House. When Robert E. Lee - still resplendent in his officer's gray - surrendered to the ruffian-looking Ulysses S. Grant.

Grant said something that day. He told it to his fellow officers and to the men under him: "they are our countrymen again". Indeed, they were. The great controversy had drawn to a close. It had cost each side dearly. It no doubt hung on their consciences for all the rest of their lives. But that was the die that had been cast and they could not have avoided it.

And over the ensuing decades, they WERE countrymen. Fellows who had shared a common bond. Together again. With no animosity among them. One of the most beautiful photos I've ever seen is circa 1910, depicting two then-elderly former opponents embracing as brothers. And why shouldn't they be?

I believe that no matter which side of the conflict, they found with as much honor as was afforded them. We may not agree with who fought on what side, but that's really not for us to judge. Those men (and women) did the best they could do with what was given them.

Let me be blunt: they all fought with honor.

And I do believe, with utmost sincerity, that we can honor them all.

My heart has been breaking to see the statues of so many fine and honorable and decent men being torn down, by people who have no grasp of real history whatsoever. They certainly are not people of honor. And now they are venting wrath against the statues of individuals who had no part whatsoever to play in the Civil War. Last night it was a statue of Francis Scott Key that was toppled and vandalized. A rational person must ask: "Why?"

I have a private ritual, every January. I've honored it for a long time now. I remember the lives of two great Americans, whose birthdays are very close together. They are Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert E. Lee. I can't see how they are all that mutually exclusive. Why? Because each was a Christian man of deep faith, who was a person of his time. And he did the best with the hand dealt. Indeed, I can't but believe that on some level they were as kindred spirits. What a meeting that would be!

What am I trying to say with all of this?

There is a rage loose upon this land that is NOT representative of who we are called to be not just as Americans, but as friends and neighbors. As family. This isn't what we're supposed to be at all. It's not just the statues. I'm seeing worse than that between people who just weeks ago lived in contentment with one another. What happened? A very terrible turn of events was exploited, by people who devote their lives to exploiting, and it set off a powder keg that didn't have to be there to begin with.

Am I arguing that the status quo should have been maintained? Certainly not. I don't believe in a "status quo". I believe that there is always going to be room for improvement. I believe that ours is a family that can strive together to find ever more who we are supposed to be. We've come a long way already toward that. It would be a tragedy if that was undone now.

But that is what I am seeing happen now. All the progress that we have made, together, is being torn apart.

We have had people of honor, throughout and across the entire spectrum of American history, whose examples we are meant to heed. We stand on the shoulders of giants, no matter their skin color or creed or whatever. Not perfect people... but then again, who has ever been perfect? Only One who I know of, and He lived two thousand years ago. We have squabbled over what it is to follow His example ever since. But for all of our failings, we still have that sense of common decency and respect for one another.

It would be an enormous crime against our ancestors, if we continue to destroy their legacy.
I will not, in the demanded context, agree that "... lives matter" except to say that "all lives matter". And they DO. But I choose to go deeper: "All INDIVIDUALS matter". And isn't that what has come before has been all about? That we are not judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character. A great man said that. I prefer to believe that he was correct.

We are better than this. It's not too late to pull back from the present madness.

It's not too late to be countrymen again.

And it shouldn't take someone like me to be saying all of this.

Just my .02

Friday, June 12, 2020

Fried chicken... in an air fryer!

A few weeks ago Amazon delivered a Ninja Foodi air fryer/pressure cooker into my grubby little paws.  Since then I have had a fistful of fun cooking just about everything in it!  Hot dogs come out exactly like baseball park wieners, and I'm getting the hang of baby back ribs.  This past week a friend told me that you can cook steak in it.  I didn't believe it at first but I put a rib-eye into it a few nights ago.  The steak was cooked perfectly medium throughout, with a spot-on warm pink center.

Okay well that's all good... but what about making chicken in the air fryer?

My first attempt, had I posted photos of it to social media, would have gotten me banned from Facebook on grounds of violating community standards.  It was the worst culinary exercise that I have ever tried.  The meat itself was juicy and edible but that was only after you got past the... crud... that was supposed to have been the crispy skin.

But never let it be said that I am deterred.  Part of the fun of cooking is that you get to experiment.  And hey, even my first ever deep fried turkey came out of the pot more than a little burned.

So a few nights ago I gave it a second try.  Had a pack of eight drumsticks and that made for three experimental batches in the fryer.  I played around with technique and on the third batch... the chicken came out exquisite.  Cooked beautifully, crispy outside... and the taste was pure Southern delectable.

Batch #3 - the best product - is the two pieces on the upper right of the plate


With everything else going on right now, I thought it was time to post something more upbeat and educational and fun.  So if you've got an air fryer, here is how I made air-fried chicken:

INGREDIENTS:
Chicken (I used legs but you could do this with breast or whatever)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon salt

Before doing anything else, open up the fryer and spray the basket with a thorough amount of cooking spray or oil (vegetable, canola, olive, etc.)  THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!!  I discovered that this keeps the chicken crust from sticking to the basket.

Mix the flour, black pepper, paprika, and salt thoroughly in a bowl.

In another bowl mix the buttermilk and eggs (making sure you've cracked the eggs and poured the inside yolk into the bowl... just making sure you're paying attention ;-)  

Wash each chicken piece thoroughly.  Pat dry.  Then drench the piece in the bowl with the buttermilk mixture.  When thoroughly covered place piece into bowl with flour mixture, rolling it around until it's completely covered.  Place chicken piece on sheet of foil or cooking sheet.  When enough pieces have been covered in flour mixture, spray cooking spray/oil on the pieces.  Place pieces with sprayed-side down into the basket.  Close fryer and turn on 350 degreees at 16 minutes.  Halfway through cooking time open the fryer, spray chicken, and turn over.  Cook for the remainder of the time.  Remove from fryer... and enjoy!

EDIT 3:06 PM EST:  Just for the heck of it, here's a pic of the air-fried steak from the other night:

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Regarding "racial justice"

A thought that occurred tonight:

The notion of "racial justice" is a wrong one.  The problem is that to have any kind of justice at all there must be a baseline standard against which to compare and contrast and ultimately judge.  "Racial justice" does not really possess that.  Which race is the standard?  Black, white, Hispanic, Polynesian, Brazilian... what?

I will posit that "racial justice" introduces far more problems than it solves.  It elicits and encourages envy and anger.  Sometimes wildly misplaced envy and anger.  And we are seeing the fruit of that anger right now.

Yet obviously there is an issue.  There has been one and always will be so long as human nature endures.

If "racial justice" is the wrong idea to pursue, then I would suggest "racial neutrality".  Which is much more open ended and challenging.  Racial neutrality emphasizes that all races are equal across the board, without respect or condescension toward anyone.  It is not just an outward goal to strive for, but an inward reflection of how one perceives and interacts with all people.

Personally, I would rather have racial neutrality than have racial justice.

Then again, all my life I've seen all people as equal anyway.  I have never understood racism during that time and I can't understand it now, however form it takes.  So what do I know?

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

This article was a heartbreaker to read...

Let me preface this by stating from the start: I know fully well that bad cops exist.  There is a city in North Carolina that I am forever going to loathe going through because of one incident that involved both city police and county sheriff's personnel, and that was almost twenty years ago (oh the perils of being a puppy-eyed cub reporter getting knocked around by the world for the first time).  I believe that there are few things as bad as any member of law enforcement who consciously betrays what it means to take an oath and puts on the badge.  And this blog has chronicled law enforcement abuse so many times that it's gotten its own tag.

In short: I get it.

But I'm also grateful for being able to still appreciate that the good cops far outnumber the bad.

Three situations come to mind as I write these words.  One happened not too long ago, and it revitalized my trust and confidence in the members of law enforcement in general.  Two of its representatives assured me that an incident I brought to their attention would be pursued as much as possible, and I have taken their word on that.  The second involves the prank video I made four years ago of a rocket launcher destroying that "new statue" in Reidsville, North Carolina's downtown area.  Two police officers came to my front door (fifteen minutes away from town!) to ask about it.  There was no warning issued, they seemed pretty amused by it actually.  It was just that apparently someone reported it to Homeland Security and they had to follow up on it.  They were confident that I was harboring no real explosives and a good laugh was had by all.

The third situation regards my having severe enough mental illness that I have had to be taken into custody numerous times by members of law enforcement.

Yes, I have had to be handcuffed.  I have had to be put into the back of a police cruiser or sheriff's vehicle.  I have been frisked for potential weapons and escorted under guard into hospital emergency rooms.  All of these and more.  And not once have I felt like my dignity as a human being was violated.  Every officer involved in those sporadic situations has behaved with utmost respect toward me and I hope that I reciprocated that to them.

(There is also the matter of how many times during the course of my current profession, that I have witnessed law enforcement officers interact with some of the most neglected people in our community.  That alone has brought about renewed appreciation for their efforts.)

Right now there is a lot of commotion about cities disbanding their police forces.  Travis Yates, writing at the website Law Officer, has penned a heart-rending essay about why that will sooner than later not be necessary.  Because members of the law enforcement community are finally becoming so discouraged by what they must deal with that they are now actively asking young people to reconsider going into the profession.

I have to agree with Mr. Yates, on every point.  And if Minneapolis commits to its plan to abolish its police department, then it truly will become "Mogadishu on the Mississippi": a lawless realm of total anarchy.  Give it a year and it will not resemble the Minneapolis of today... and I don't mean that in a good way either.  It is not a situation that will be remedied by bolstered social programs and increased bureaucracy.

It's an eye-opening article, and it made me reassess my own perspective on those who put on the uniform.  It also led me to discover Blue Line Bears: an endeavor by a young lady in Florida to provide teddy bears to children of those who have fallen in the line of duty.  I was so impressed by the effort that I reached out to them to thank them.  There's an option to make contributions on their site and I'm going to ask that any readers of this post consider that.

As for the people of Minneapolis and other cities: you would do well to read Mr. Yates' words and ponder them deeply.  And then if you are still led to do so, go ahead with your plan to abolish the police force wholesale.

The rest of us will be watching.

Friday, June 05, 2020

A photo for our time

I've posted this photo before.  It seems more timely than ever.

This picture ran in newspapers across America in the winter of 2012.  It depicts a family friend and fellow farmer, John, along with my father Robert Knight.


This photo hangs on the wall in my office at my job.  There is rarely a day when I don't stop to admire it.  It says so much, without saying a word.

In its own way, it says everything that I'm feeling led to say.  Without a single word.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Have been thinking more about the George Floyd case...

Some additional notions that I have been pondering, though I said earlier that there would probably be nothing more that would be remarked upon:

1.  The death of George Floyd was a tragedy, make no mistake about it.  But it was not necessarily a racially-motivated death.  It is now coming out that the officer who knelt on Floyd's neck already had an established history of troubling behavior in his role as a law enforcement agent.  It is altogether possible that Mr. Floyd's ethnicity didn't even figure as a consideration in the officer's mind, as well as that of the other officers involved.

Not everything is about race.  Or needs to be.

2.  The handling of George Floyd's death was a matter germane to local jurisdiction and that's ALL as far as it should have gotten.  There should have been proper investigation, including objective autopsy (there are now two autopsies with different results competing with one another).  Such a matter as this demands that there be as objective and thorough an examination as possible, with regard toward all parties involved.  The people of Minneapolis deserved no less.  The family of George Floyd deserved no less.

But of course it became a viral video, one that the media picked up and ran with, and now... well...

3.  Speaking of the the media, it is 10,000% culpable in this disaster.  There is likely not another situation in American history where the news media has been responsible for precipitating so much devastation.  But as is also 10,000% of the time there will be no holding anyone in the media accountable.  And speaking as a former journalist, what I have seen is beyond the pale.  These are not the actions of those in a profession devoted to seeking and reporting the truth of the matter.  I can attest without reservation that too many in the journalism racket are actually proud of the mayhem that they have helped to unleash.

Incidentally, I am never going to chalk myself down as a fanatic for the guy, but the media is trying to perpetuate the claim that President Trump's visit to the church a few days ago was preluded by confronting protestors with tear gas and rubber bullets.  We now know that this did not happen, according to United States Park Police.

4.  Impartial handling of the case has been rendered impossible.  Mob justice has prevailed.  Anything going forward is going to be poisoned with the threat of more rioting and violence.  It is going to be impossible to empanel an impartial jury after this debacle.  Because no juror will want to have it on his or her conscience that he or she voted "not guilty" in a case after a full and fair presentation of evidence, if said presentation merits a not guilty verdict.

In short: the rule of law in the George Floyd case - figuratively speaking - has been strangled.

5.  Scott Adams - the creator of the Dilbert comic strip - has made a brilliant observation in his video podcast: the "black leadership" presuming to speak on behalf of all African-Americans is for all intents and purpose without a rudder and has NO idea what it is trying to accomplish.  For all of the rioting and calls for social upheaval, there is not a single solid idea that has been put forth from these "leaders" about how to accomplish it.  As Adams put it, nobody in the crowd seems to have a typewriter or a pencil to capture any ideas that come to mind.  Adams further remarked that there is currently no leader approaching the caliber of Martin Luther King Jr.  I am compelled to agree with him on that.

6.  Much of the reaction to the Floyd murder... and again, something that may not have been racially motivated at all... has been either out of fear or out of political opportunity or both.  For God's sake, LEGO has now jumped into the fray and telling its stores to not display sets depicting cops or the White House.



I am going to draw flak for proclaiming this, but I'm not going to jump on this particular bandwagon.  It is mob mentality, it is madness, and someone's got to say it dammit.

7.  The mob mentality we are now seeing is too much like what transpired during the French Revolution, when "the wisdom of the crowd" wrought anguish and worse upon the innocent.  Thankfully it is not at the point of beheadings and mass drownings.  Not YET anyway...

8.  An example of that last point is what has happened to Grant Napear, the longtime announcer for the Sacramento Kings.  Napear merely tweeted that "all lives matter" and for that he was driven from his position.

9.  I am going to state without hesitation that all lives do matter.  That all human lives are precious and sacred.  Indeed, I will posit that the Founding Fathers had it all wrong: it's not "all men are created equal".  It should be "all men are created sacred".

10.  The last words my grandmother spoke before she died were "I love everybody."

That's not a bad way to live, when you think about it.  Too bad that the way things are going, saying those words will probably be soon worth condemning over.