Saturday, May 27, 2023

Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun: Carnage-filled fun for gamers of a certain age (and other people too!)

This coming December will mark thirty years since the original computer game Doom was released by iD Software.  Gadzooks!!  Where did all that time go to?!?  Well, Doom sucked me in hard and refused to release its grip.  There had been a few first-person shooters before, notably iD's own Wolfenstein 3-D.  But it was Doom that showed off the REAL potential of the genre.  And it broke the ground for other high-drama atmospheric entries in the category, like Star Wars: Dark Forces, Duke Nukem 3-D, and Quake.  Those in turn showed the way for more advanced games in the forthcoming generations, such as Halo and Call of Duty.

But no matter how advanced home computers and gaming consoles have become, my heart belongs to 1993's Doom and its contemporaries.  Especially for how editable it was, and it seemed like everyone and their brother was creating WAD files containing new graphics (my favorite is still the one that turned the Baron of Hell into Barney the Dinosaur), or sounds and music, right on up to new maps to play in.  Yes, the music was MIDI and the graphics were REALLY pixelated when you got up close to an element like scenery or an attacking monster... but that was just part of the charm.  Part of why I and many others came to love those games.

Well, a few weeks ago I heard about Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun, from Auroch Digital.  And what grabbed my attention was that it was created in the very same style of the Nineties-era first person shooters like Doom.  The game came out a few days ago and lo and behold a friend gifted it to me on Steam (where it's currently priced around twenty bucks).  So I installed Boltgun and played around with it.

Friends, that evening I felt what it was like to have played Doom for the very first time all those decades ago.  Auroch took the Warhammer 40,000 franchise and gave it a game it didn't know it needed.  If you're a "gamer of a certain age" who was among the first to play classic shooters, you will LOVE Boltgun.

The game has you playing a member of the Ultramarines chapter of the Adeptus Astartes (faux Imperial lingua franca for Space Marines).  If you ever played the Space Marine third-person game, you'll be especially delighted to learn that Boltgun takes place following that tale (and before the upcoming Space Marine II).  Your marine, Malum Caedo, finds himself on the forge world of Graia.  Just like those Union Aerospace scientists did in Doom, it seems that the local techpriests got to messin' around with stuff they shouldn't have and opened a portal to Hel... I mean, the Warp.  Demons and mutant heretics and traitor marines have come through and are threatening the planet and all around it.  So as Caedo, you set out to make things right... by shootin', explodin', and chainsawin' every thing that's in your way.

Boltgun is an intense game, and the blocky pixelated blood and gore that splatters across your screen is all the more like enjoying a classic again.  Befitting a Warhammer 40,000 product, it is unfettered chaos and wreckage that will have you attacking anything and everything that moves.  I've gotten pretty good at taking aim with the selected firearm (mostly the boltgun) at relatively far targets, then rushing in to chainsword the baddie and any surrounding renegades.  It was like when I was playing Doom for the first time and came upon the chainsaw: Dad was walking past my room and had to see what I was giggling about.  I got the sense that he thought it was pretty gruesome (but also kind of funny).  Lord only knows what he would think of modern gaming.

I'm only three levels into the game, but felt it was already worth recommending to all two of this blog's readers.  I've been pretty well entertained by Boltgun so far.  What I would VERY much like to see however is for Auroch (provided that Games Workshop approves the concept) to open the game up for editing, just like we could do with many of the more popular first-person shooters of that epoch.  At the very least the studio could produce some add-on campaigns.  I would DEFINITELY pay to have Boltgun pitting the player against the Orks, or Tyranids (which reminds me of that legendary megaWAD which transformed Doom into the movie Aliens).

If you have fond memories of the gaming of thirty-some years ago, I think you'll like Boltgun.  It may also entice younger gamers to look around at the titles we had back then and give them a try also.

Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun can be found for purchase on Steam, again for about twenty bucks.  Not a bad deal if you're looking for something to vent a little angst and tension without having to shoot at the wall like Sherlock did.



Monday, May 08, 2023

The Visitors came forty years ago this month

I was reminded of something earlier today, and I can't believe that this somehow slipped past the radar screen...

Last week, May 1st, was the fortieth anniversary of the premiere of the NBC television miniseries V.


That doesn't seem possible.  It's like it was only yesterday that creator Kenneth Johnson unleashed his nightmarish vision of fascism on a global scale.  The Visitors came to major cities across the planet, in fifty ships each three miles in diameter.  They looked like us.  They came from a dying planet and they needed humanity's help.  They came in peace.

And it was all a damnable lie.  Their intent was to rape the Earth, seizing every precious natural resource.  And the fate of mankind?  Something truly horrifying.  Four decades later and the scene of all those humans in cold storage still sends a shiver up my spine.

It was a grand endeavor.  What if Nazism had conquered the planet?  V was about that.  Every aspect of true-life fascism was portrayed, magnified through the lens of science-fiction.  But it was also about hope, and taking a stand and fighting back.  More than it frightened us, V inspired us.  The film was dedicated to the resistance fighters, wherever they have been found, past present and future.

This franchise deserved better!  Johnson's original plan as he presented it to NBC was that after the original miniseries, there would be three or four television movies each season, depicting the Visitors' occupation of Earth in various places.  But the executives didn't want that.  They wanted a second miniseries and using that to launch a weekly series.  They got that, but the follow-ups lost a lot of the spirit of the original.  V wasn't something like Star Wars, it was about a much deeper notion.  And then around 2009 ABC tried to reboot the franchise, but it failed for various reasons (I thought it was quite an admirable effort though).

It was an awe-some television experience.  So many moments from it that no doubt still stick out in the minds of many.

But here is my favorite moment.  Not just of the miniseries, but one of my most favorite moments in television, ever.  The final scene of Part One of V, the original miniseries.  Abraham, the elderly Holocaust survivor and his friend Ruby, find a group of teenagers who are vandalizing Visitor propaganda posters.  He stops them.

No, I won't say anything else.  Let the scene speak for itself:

 

 

And from that moment, humanity has a symbol of resistance.

It's a little dated now, but what do you expect from a television miniseries forty years old?  Don't let that stop you from watching it.  And you'll probably be like the rest of us were at the time: wondering how the HECK did any major broadcast network get away with all the stuff that they showed in this movie?

You'll see what I mean when you watch it.



Wednesday, May 03, 2023

"Faith manages": Babylon 5 returning with animated movie!

I'm feeling some geeky gears in my gray matter starting to rotate like they haven't in a VERY long time.



Babylon 5 - the single greatest television series that the Nineties ever spawned - is coming back as an animated film.

The show's creator J. Michael Straczynski unloaded the news on Twitter earlier this afternoon.  More details are coming soon, including the movie's title and release date.

I cannot emphasize enough how stoked I am about this.  Babylon 5 was like an extra few years of education on top of what I got in college.  The five-season story about that miles-long space station all alone in the night, the "last best hope for peace" in a galaxy rife with plotting and intrigue, shattered the ceiling both as a broadcast series and for what the medium was capable of giving viewers.  Had it not been for Babylon 5 paving the way, there may have never been a rebooted Battlestar Galactica, or Lost.  Or The Walking Dead for that matter, along with an armful of other shows.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how this goes.  One thing that popped into mind: wouldn't it be really sweet if we saw an animated Garibaldi watching Daffy Duck cartoons?  That would be soooo meta.

If this show has always been just off your radar screen and you want to "get a feel" for it, I wracked my brain trying to think of a clip from the show to put in this post, just a little iota of what it's about.  Someone on Facebook found one and it's perfect.  From the third season episode "Passing Through Gethsemane", Brad Dourif as Brother Edward, telling Delenn (the late Mira Furlan) and Lennier (Bill Mumy) about the last night that Christ spent before His death:


 

Yes, a science-fiction series that is respectful toward the concept of religion.  Just one of many such moments that Babylon 5 came to be renowned for.

This would be something that would compel me to get HBO Max, just to watch this.  I've always loved this show, its universe and this amazing cast of characters.  Ever since first reading about it in Starlog several months before it premiered in the winter of 1993, I've been enchanted by what this series was attempting.  And it pulled it off beautifully.

And now, more is coming.  Thing I'll celebrate by making some bagna cauda.  Hey, it's easier to find than Zima...

 

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Gordon Lightfoot died yesterday

The man is responsible for a lot of well known songs.  One of the local stations played "Sundown" around lunch today.  There are a few others he did too.

But the main subject of this post is about one that's especially dear to me.

I was almost two and a half years old when Gordon Lightfoot released his haunting ballad "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald".  The song came out several months after the loss of the largest ship on the Great Lakes in a fierce November storm.  It was featured on Lightfoot's album Summertime Dream as well as getting a single release.

Dad bought the 8-track of Summertime Dream.  And his favorite song from it must have been "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald".  I know this because I heard it so many times that it got impressed in my young memory.  That song is the earliest one I can recall knowing the sound and words of.  I very clearly and distinctly remember the sound of it, listening to it as I played with my toys in the living room.

The runner-up has to be The Chipmunks Christmas Volume 2.  And there were a few others that come to mind.  But "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald" was my first "grown-ups" song.  And Lightfoot himself was the first musical artist that I remember the name of.  I know because I asked Dad what was he listening to and he told me "Gordon Lightfoot".

Don't know much else what to say with this post.  Except that I tweeted this last night, and it seemed right that I put it on my blog too.

So here is "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald".

 

 

 

Thanks for the good memories Mr. Lightfoot.

 

 

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Preview: The Knight Shift's very last blog post

Am looking at making a few edits and additions to this blog.  Nothing too drastic though.  I used to change up The Knight Shift's appearance about once a year or so.  But it's had this template for five years now and it really does seem to be the best it's looked.

And I'm going to make sure it stays looking good, up until the very end.

A long time ago I heard about something that, it was kind of a legend.  That somewhere in the bowels of the CNN headquarters in Atlanta, there was a videotape.  And it was explicitly noted that it would not be used until the end of the world had been confirmed.  CNN founder Ted Turner had declared when the channel first started up that it would be on the air until the absolutely final moments of Planet Earth.  There would be no signing-off of CNN until then.

It turned out that this was not a myth.  Turner did make a "hold until end of the world" video.  Here it is on YouTube.  Depicting a military band playing "Nearer My God To Thee".  To be followed by CNN going out into darkness eternal.

When the tale turned out to be real, an idea hit me.  That I should also have a final post to be made on this blog.  There are actually two posts for the occasion: one to be made when my own passing away happens (hopefully a LONG time from now), and one to also hold for publishing until the apocalypse truly is upon us.

So if you are wondering what the very final words will be on The Knight Shift, after all this time and more, here's what is "in the vault" ready to be used at the closing of human history.  Please ignore the January 2050 timestamp.  That's just a placeholder for the actual date of Armageddon.

Anyhoo, here it is:




 

I want to be well into my eighties before I leave this earth, however it happens.  I was a kid when Halley's Comet visited in 1986 and it really was a letdown unless you lived in more southerly latitudes.  Hoping I'll get to see it during its next appearance and praying it will be much better.

Well, there it is.  When you all see that post, you will know to step away from the computer or put down your smart phone and embrace your loved ones as destruction rains down upon us.

I just like being prepared, is all :-)



Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Dr. Charles Stanley has gone Home

"Well done, My good and faithful servant."

 


Let us be thankful for the very long time that God let him be among us.  A lot of people came to Christ... and drew closer to Him... because of this man's seemingly tireless efforts.  Dr. Charles Stanley truly had a servant's heart.  I for one learned quite a lot from watching his In Touch weekly series on television.

I got to meet him once.  It was January 2001, some friends and I went to a service at First Baptist Church of Atlanta.  Stanley struck me as one of the kindest people I've ever encountered.  He asked where was I from and I told him Reidsville, North Carolina.

"Oh I know where Reidsville is!" he replied.  "That's right down the road from Danville!", where he grew up.

I asked him if he could sign my Bible and he did on the inside front page.  Below his name he wrote "Isaiah 64:4".  It reads as thus, from the New International Version:

 

Since ancient times no one has heard,
    no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
    who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.


In hindsight, I should have taken that verse more to heart.  I am thankful now though, that I get to appreciate it anew.

See you later Dr. Stanley.

EDIT 04/19/2023: my best friend since forever, Chad Austin, is managing editor of Biblical Recorder.  He just published an excellent article about Dr. Stanley's early years, from his first devoting his life to Christ on through serving as pastor of several churches and becoming a teacher.  It's a very inspiring read and I felt truly moved by it.  Click here to read "Stanley's global ministry has deep, formative roots in NC".




 

Friday, April 14, 2023

Anyone else feeling this way too? (Spoilers for Stranger Things)

The very last shot from "The Piggyback", the finale of Stranger Things season four:


Click to enlarge


That's the overwhelming sense of things that I've had for much of this past year and I imagine it has been for a lot of other people too.  The visual metaphor is a most fitting one.  Many of our heroes, who have just gone through an incredibly exhaustive tribulation that spanned the width of America, enjoying a brief moment of joy and reunion.

And then they see the particles floating downward, not just them but everyone else in Hawkins.  It builds up to the final scene as Hopper and Joyce lead the others out of the woods... and toward the inescapable reality that for all their effort they have failed after all.  All they can do is stand from afar and look on as the Upside Down begins its invasion of the world.

Here's the sequence in its entirety, from the goosebumps on the back of Will's neck on through the devastating conclusion:

 

That, for me, is the thematic encapsulation of what I've had to watch unfold around us these past couple of years especially.  Growing darkness.  For each apparent win it becomes apparent that it hasn't been good enough.  That the battles may be won but the war is far from over.

I feel like I'm in that field, standing at a distance away from the chaos and turmoil that's threatening to engulf everything.  Looking onward toward the encroaching darkness and the world really is being turned upside-down and inside-out.

It's a powerful sense to be hit with.

But that's not all that scene conveys.

Joyce and Hopper are holding hands, bracing themselves for what is to come.  They've gone through so much for each other and they're going to be together now, too.  They aren't giving up.

Neither is Eleven.  The very last closeup of her shows her face in grim determination that this is not the end.  That the fight isn't over.  That she's going to do whatever it takes to face the threat of the Upside Down.  Eleven is going to finish this.  She's standing between her friends and evil unleashed: literally as well as figuratively.

I look at that final shot and see a battle that has been lost.  Things look bad now.  Very horribly wrong.

But there is still hope.

I don't think this present darkness around us is insurmountable, unconquerable.  I think it can be held at bay, if only for a little while.  Maybe that's all it will take for things to begin to be set right.  We look at how circumstances are now and we're going to acknowledge that the situation is dire.  But that's the furthest we'll allow it to get.

What comes next will be difficult.  The darkness will not give quarter to us.  Many people are going to be hurt in some capacity.

I think of scripture, and the promises of God.  We just had the Easter season.  Remembering a time when things seemed beyond all hope... and then God intervened and turned grief into immeasurable triumph and victory.

That's what we have to cling to, as we stand in our own field looking out upon the world that's being engulfed in evil.

We don't have to win.  We only have to stand.

If there is strength to do just that much, it will be enough.

 

 

Monday, April 03, 2023

The April Fools prank I helped a friend with

The other week my very good friend Eric Smith (yes, the same one who also made a campaign commercial during that VERY wacky school board race years ago) approached me with a project.  Could I help him pull off an April Fools stunt this year?  I said absolutely, that it would be an honor and a pleasure to work with him.

Along with being an expert welder, Eric is also a professional Santa Claus (the reason his beard is so big and bushy).  And he's a certified beer expert (no really, you can get certifications for that) who regularly posts videos on YouTube as "Beer Santa".  So he came up with the idea for Duke's Mayonnaise Beer.

Here's the video he published two days ago.  Looks and sounds pretty convincing aye? :-)


Maybe next year I'll come up with another prank.  It's been too long since I've pulled off something.  I think my favorite was when I got everyone thinking that I was joining the Amish and turned this site into "Plain Blog by Brother Christopher Knight".  And then there was that other year's prank that got the Vatican's attention... but we won't go there.

So on your way home this evening, stop by your local grocer and pick up some all-natural Duke's Mayonnaise Beer.  Made by Sloof Brewing in Piedmont, Georgia.



Friday, March 31, 2023

49

 Well, I'm feeling pretty good, here on the home stretch to the half century mark.  Tonight at 6:09 PM EST I officially turned forty-nine years old.

I had come to dread having a birthday.  They used to be something that I looked forward to.  But at least since 2000 it has come with pain preceded by the notion that I really haven't done much with my life.  It probably has something to do with my 26th birthday.  That was spent at my grandmother's funeral.  I was one of the pallbearers.  It also happened to take place a few months after the symptoms of manic depression first manifested and at that moment I was having a depressive episode.

But in the past few months and weeks it's been... different.  There has been no dread at all.  In fact, I've been feeling pretty good about things.  I like to believe it's because I'm finally at long last able to manage having bipolar disorder.  I'll never fully conquer it, but the episodes are getting further and further apart.  I had a manic episode this past fall, and I was able to tell that it was coming.  I got to act accordingly.  Fifteen or twenty years ago that wasn't possible.

I'm still hoping that God might let me have family.  Call me a hopeless romantic or a daydreamer or a fool like Don Quixote.  If He does, I will be able to take care of them in ways that I hadn't before.  Speaking of which, I'm finally coming to forgive myself for some of the things that I did during my lesser moments.

So, I've some reasons to be hopeful, and am eager to embrace life, however it is that I find it.  Getting older isn't a bad thing at all.  I wouldn't want to go back to when I was younger, and I likely wouldn't do anything to make all the pain that happened be as if it hadn't.  Like John Locke said on Lost: "I needed that pain to get to where I am now."

Better days are ahead.  I know they are.  I wasn't able to sit at Microsoft Word for the past month and a half because of some things that arose in real life, but I have been "sussing it out" in my head.  I'm also considering a new job: one that would be entirely different from anything that I have done before in my life.  The people I would be working with very much want to bring me aboard, they have said that my experiences with mental illness and my training as a mental health professional would make me a unique member of their force.  I'm thinking about it, praying about it especially.  Should I take this job you will DEFINITELY be reading about it here.  I'll give you a hint: as part of the training I will be hit in the face with pepper spray.  I doubt my love of Tabasco Sauce is going to make me immune to that.

So, my orbit around the Sun has made it's 49th circuit.  Now on to fifty.  Ever closer to what I've asked God for all these years: to please let me live long enough to see the return of Halley's Comet in 2062.  I'll be 88 years old then.  And hopefully my eyesight will be good enough to view it.  The appearance in 1986 was kind of a letdown.

Maybe it will be better next time.



Sunday, March 12, 2023

The Storm of the Century: Thirty years later...

It was this day, March the 12th, thirty years ago.

I was eighteen, taking first year classes at the local community college.  I worked part time at Subway, but I didn’t have to go in that night.  About 4 that Friday afternoon Dad asked if I wanted to ride with him to Ridgeway, across the state line in Virginia.  There was this little convenience store there that EVERYONE in Rockingham County seemed to go to when they played the lottery.  I said sure, I’d come along.  It was a cold and cloudy day for mid March.

Looking back, I now recall the sound of the air around us before we hopped into the truck.  It had a very muffled characteristic.  I hadn’t heard air like that in a long time.  That should have been the first clue, about what had already begun to transpire.

We got back home a little over an hour later.  And as I got out of Dad’s truck I saw it: the first flakes of snow.  Something we had not seen fall in three years.

Well, two nights earlier at Boy Scout leadership training, the scoutmaster of my troop made a halfway-joking reference to the weather for the next few days.  How there may be snow.  I didn’t really take him seriously.

But here it was.  Snow.  And more flakes were starting to come down.

It didn’t stop.  It was only falling harder.  By 6:30 the ground was almost completely covered.  We drove to Short Sugar’s in Reidsville a little while later to pick up my sister, who was working there.  She drove cautiously behind our car.  By that point it was undeniably the harshest snowfall that we had seen in quite some time.  I don’t know how Mom drove through that as she did.  We could barely see the highway at all.  But we got back home, a little after 9.

The snow was still falling when I looked out the kitchen door about midnight.

It hadn’t stopped falling when we woke up.  And it continued on and on throughout the day.  No one was driving on our road.  There was nowhere to go.  I had to call my manager and tell her I couldn’t get to Subway tonight.  Saturday afternoon brought the wind.  It sounded like a hurricane.  And it blew the flakes hard against the side of the house.  There was zero visibility if anyone was so daring as to try to get out in that mess.

The power stayed on at our house.  The same could not be said for several hundred thousands of others throughout the area, including one television station in Greensboro that went off the air.  The ABC station was hardly functioning, which I remember because there was something coming on that night that I had been looking forward to catching and the signal barely penetrated the storm.

It was weather on an almost apocalyptic scale.  I finally fell asleep probably around 2 a.m., the wind still howling and barraging the house with frozen precipitation.

Finally, Sunday morning dawned.  The wind had ceased.  The first real sunlight in two days revealed our home, the fields around it, our cars, the trees… everything covered by a pure unspoiled brilliant
blinding white sheet of snow nearly two feet deep.  I got out of the house for a little while to get some fresh air and behold it all.  Our cocker spaniel puppy, Bridget, went out also.  I don’t know how she kept from sinking into the snow.  She looked like a miniature polar bear, she was walking across it so easily.

That was how I experienced the Storm of the Century.  The 1993 Super Storm.  The Great Blizzard of '93.  Whatever you want to call it.  It was a convergence of several weather systems that produced a meteorological monstrosity.  At its height it stretched all the way from Central America to Canada up and across the Eastern Seaboard.  Roughly half the population of the United States was impacted one way or another by the event.  No storm since then has approached it in size and ferocity.

Things had been brought to a standstill for the next few days.  But the weather turned warmer and by Friday all roads were completely passable.  There was only the barest vestige of the blizzard to be found in shady spots as I drove back from the Boy Scout camp the following Sunday morning, at the conclusion of leadership training.

The Storm of the Century was thirty years ago.  But I still think of it, whenever it snows.  I’ve no doubt that many who are reading this will also remember where they were during those several days in March of 1993, when winter showed us that it wasn’t finished yet.

 

 

Sunday, February 26, 2023

The closest person I had to a grandfather

 A few nights ago I was propped up in bed, just randomly looking up things with my iPad.  And I came upon something truly, truly special.  It is for me anyway...

It's on the website for the Order of the Arrow lodge of the Boy Scout council that I was in.  This photo dates to 1954.  The man on the right, in the light uniform shirt, is Allan "Doc" Lewis.  He was a lifelong educator and advocate for Scouting.  In the photo he and the other man (C. Lin Adams) are wearing their Order of the Arrow sashes, which indicate that they were Vigil rank.  The OA was especially near and dear to Doc's heart, as it symbolized true brotherhood and service.

I know these things about Doc, and much more, because he was the grandfather that I never got to have.  I suspect a lot of young men felt the same way about him.

I first wrote about Doc fifteen years ago, on the occasion of what would have been his one hundredth birthday.  Doc was born in January 1908, so he would have been about 46 in this picture.  That was thirty-one years before he and I met for the first time.  I was eleven and a half and a newly minted real Boy Scout.

I'll never understand why Doc took a shine to me as he did.  How it came to be that he brought me under his wing.  I think we definitely had a "master and apprentice" relationship going on.  Doc would often tell me stories of his interesting younger years (he once took Katherine Hepburn out to dinner, he used to hang out with George Burns and Gracie Allen, and he served on a committee with Norman Rockwell).  Doc was a well traveled man too and I think I inherited some wanderlust from him.  That year-long meandering across America that my dog and I did a few years back?  I was definitely channeling pure Doc for that one.  He often shared his witty sense of humor, and his belief in chivalry toward the opposite sex.

There isn't much to say that hasn't been already.  Doc Lewis really did fill a role in not just my life but the lives of many others.  He was very dear to me.  He still is.  And that's the earliest photo I've come across of him.  Seeing that, it's like I can still hear his voice speaking across the decades.

Well, it was just a neat find and I had to blog about it.  Doing what I can to keep his spirit alive and well in our hearts.  Thanks for reading this :-)



Wednesday, February 15, 2023

My latest Warhammer 40,000 miniature

Behold my new Ork big mek with kustom force field:

This is a model that I assembled three years ago, in the initial days of the COVID pandemic.  It seemed there wasn't going to be much travel for awhile, and there were a few Warhammer 40,000 minis that I had accumulated but never gotten around to giving much attention toward.  It was as good a thing as any to occupy myself with.  I put this together and it finally dawned on me that the lockdown could last months instead of weeks.  So he just kinda lingered unpainted on a shelf.

Anyway it's now 2023 and Warhammer 40K is hotter than ever and poised to get even bigger.  And I wanted to see if I still had my mad mini-painting skillz.  I'm rather pleased with how this little fella turned out.  So far as in-game mechanics goes, a big mek carrying a force field bestows a good level of protection for nearby friendly forces against enemy fire.

I need to come up with a name for him though.  I like to name my minis.  Gives them a little personality as they fight their way across the board.  I've already got my warboss Kaneegutz (left).  He's a character that I cobbled together from eight different kits.  That's a photo from a few months ago though.  Since then I've widened the base he's standing on with an adapter, and textured the base with astrogranite technical paint (available on Games Workshop's website and many game stores).  So he's "good 'n proppa" for battle.

Next up: a box of the new Ork boyz.  Unfortunately they don't have the pose-ability of the previous boyz minis (which I love) but I'm going to give the new guys a similar paint scheme and spread them around the units.  Infuse my squads with a little extra flavor.  Or maybe I should grant my lads some heavy support and get a deff dread.  That's one of the things why this is such a fun hobby: there's no one correct way to play.  Just go however it feels right for you.  Who knows, if I get good again I may put together a list and enter a tournament sometime.  That would be a lot of fun :-)

EDIT 02/19/2023 12:57 a.m.: I've decided to name my new big mek Erk DeffWelda.  After my good friend, true renaissance man, master welder and professional Santa Claus, Eric Smith.  Who has taught me much about life and he deserves being immortalized as a Warhammer miniature.  I look forward to unleashing him on the field of battle!


Tuesday, January 24, 2023

About the post from three days ago...

 
It increasingly seems that it was the right thing to do.  I feel an AWFULLY large burden has been lifted off of me.  I carried that particular thing around for almost forty years.  I felt better after talking with the detectives about it three years ago.  I feel better again, now.
 
It has indeed been a boon.  I'm writing for the book again.  From the very beginning, when I first tried writing it in 2014 before Dad passed, I knew this was going to have to be addressed somehow.  That is possible now, when it hadn't been possible before.  I wish I could tell you that this book is going to be entirely focused on my life as a manic depressive: something that in and of itself is replete with drama and occasional comedy.  But it's not and it can't.  A person's life is like a tapestry.  Try to take one thread out and the whole thing unravels.  This particular thread has insinuated its way into my life since I was twelve.  But in the past couple of days I've found that I'm not afraid to confront that anymore.  So, that's good.
 
A number of people have privately messaged me about it.  Some have reiterated that the chances of seeing something done in the way of justice are slim.  I know that.  I knew it going in to talk to the detectives three years ago.  I keep thinking though that if it happened to me, well... could it have happened to others also?  As one of the detectives told me then, a person who does a thing like this can't stop.  He (and it's almost always a he) will try to do more.  Who knows?  Maybe others will step forward.
 
One person left a comment on my blog yesterday, noting that decades after the war that Nazis were still being found and prosecuted.  My situation isn't quite like that though.  There were MANY witnesses still alive in the 70s, 80s and 90s who could recollect individual SS officers and concentration camp guards.  There was very little problem with identifying such people.  With what happened in 1986 it's going to forever be my word against his  But again, who knows?  Since going to them three years ago the authorities may be keen on something I don't have.
 
Anyway, I felt led to come forward and write about this.  It was more than that even though.  God put me in a place where I had no choice, if I was going to continue writing the book.  And I want and need to write this.  It's as part of my recovery story as much as it is a chronicle of that.  I have been obedient to that and now it's done and well... we'll see what transpires next.
 
So that's what's happened since Saturday.
 
Hope you guys are having a great week :-)


Saturday, January 21, 2023

I am a survivor of child rape

It is exactly two hundred miles from the driveway of my home near Spartanburg to the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Department office in Wentworth, North Carolina.  That was the distance I drove one morning three years ago this winter.

I went back to where I grew up.  Because I was finally ready to give a statement to members of law enforcement about my being raped at age twelve.

For well over three decades I had kept the agony and the shame close to me, sharing it only with a few people I absolutely trusted.  As if that would be enough to stop the hurt.  But at last it became too much to bear, this far into my life.

Why didn’t I go to the authorities years earlier?  It’s hard to explain.  Partly, it’s because on a primal level I didn’t want to have to face my abuser again.  Anything sexual creates a bond between two people: something that had I treasured in the marriage that complications from my wounds eventually destroyed.

I guess, I can’t really fully offer up an explanation for why I waited for so long.  You have to go through something like this to understand why.

I went to the sheriff’s office and spoke with two detectives.  I knew going in that it was a long shot.  That after thirty-four years the odds of seeing anything happen in the way of justice were against me.  But I gave my statement, and the two officers gained my confidence.  I don’t know if anything will ever come about from my going in, but they still have it.  I’ve no doubt that they have pursued this with all due passion and diligence.

But it’s been nearly forty years.  People move around.  Many die in that period.  Memories fade.

My own memory is a funny thing.  Some things I don’t remember well at all (a quality that to some extent is rooted in the meds I take to manage bipolar disorder).  Other things, I remember all too well.

May 16, 1986 is a date burned into my mind.  That was the day that the remaining vestiges of childhood innocence were ripped away from me.

I can even tell you the shirt that I wore that day, to Community Baptist School in Reidsville, North Carolina.  A place I had been a student at since kindergarten.

Maybe it was my size.  Maybe it was because I was the “nerdy kid” of the school.  Whatever.  I was regularly bullied, by boys as well as girls.  On this day I got into an altercation with someone.

A male faculty member accused me of doing something that I had not.  Of uttering a forbidden word.

I protested that I had not.  I would have never dared use that word toward anyone.

In later years I would find using it all too easy.  Well, why not?  I sure paid for the right to say it.  But I digress.

The faculty member said I had to be punished.

The two of us were alone.  I was told to drop my pants, exposing my underwear-clad behind.

And then he put his hands all over my genitals.  He did worse than that even.

I was sent home.  Too shocked and confused to fully comprehend what happened to me.  I was still dazed by the accusation that I had used that word to describe my classmate.  Too hurt by being punished for it.

That night the movie Godzilla 1985 came on television.  I desperately tried watching it to make the feelings go away and be forgotten.  It did nothing.

That night I had very bad dreams.

I felt violated.  Dirty.  Ashamed.  And you want to know why?

Twelve is the cusp of something that can feel either very wonderful or very terrible.  A person’s body is changing at that age, beginning to become a full fledged entity.  Sensations are starting to come about, that delight or bewilder or both.

God forgive me.  For one horrible moment when he had his hands on me, my body liked it.

And even then, I knew that that was wrong.  That it violated the natural order of things.

That day altered whatever trajectory my life would have taken, toward something polluted and twisted.

Sixth grade had been a hell year for me at Community Baptist.  So much went wrong.  The one bright spot was those fleeting months that Halley’s Comet came, and the astronomer in me was excited to see it.

After that day in May, even a once-in-a-lifetime visit by the comet didn’t make me feel anything.  I was just too overwhelmed.

I didn’t tell anyone what the man did to me soon after it happened.  It was four years before I told someone.  That person didn’t believe me until many years later when the fractures became too grave to deny that I had been violated when I was young.

Three and a half months later my sister and I were in public school.  A place that we were told at Community Baptist was filled with godless heathens who didn’t pray.  I was at once thankful to be away from Community Baptist and also intimidated.  I was bullied a lot.  I cried a few times.  I felt thrown to the cold cold world and there was nobody to help me.

But I also remember seventh grade as the first time I was attracted to the opposite sex.

And I felt dirty because of it.

I will never forget the first moment I found myself wanting to look at a pretty girl in my class.  She had a beautiful smile and she was wearing a nice outfit and it was driving me CRAZY.

I had to turn my head and look away.  I was too ashamed of my feelings.  Felt too much like I had with him.

It was a shame that persisted well into adulthood.  Counseling has helped.  But by that point it was too late.  Among other things I thought that being married would make things better.  But it didn’t.  Marriage doesn’t solve problems, it only brings what is wrong to the surface.  And that’s what happened and I will forever be damning myself for hurting the most wonderful person God ever put into my life.

But again, I digress.

God, I hate that man.

Yes, let’s talk about God.  Because of all that came about from what happened, my relationship with God was impacted worst of all.

I’ve never doubted that God is there.  There have been many times that I have been accused of being an atheist.  My own mother was one person.  There were some who believed her.  Who believe her still, though she has been dead for eleven years.

No, I have never been an atheist.

But I have had my faith in God destroyed.

It was a man who I had respected and trusted and looked to as a Christian example.  And God let him hurt me.

Wasn’t God angry at that?  Wasn’t God going to mete out justice?

But He didn’t.

God let me be abused and violated and betrayed.  And I felt betrayed by God in turn.

No, I never stopped believing in God.  But I hated Him with every ounce of my being.

I was a senior in high school when it began to dawn on me that God didn’t hurt me.  That it was someone who only claimed to be sent by God.  I started to not hold that against God.

But by that point I thought my hatred toward Him made me irredeemable.  That God wouldn’t want me anymore.  Thankfully He put some people into my life a few years later in college who showed me what REAL love of God is.  That God isn’t the tyrannical legalistic despot Who we were taught at that church-run school that He was.  That wasn’t the real God of Christianity.  And so it was that in my second year at Elon, I was able to finally turn to Christ and commit to following Him.

But that still wasn’t enough to completely salve the wounds.

Well, it was a few confusing years more after that.  My faith teetered at times on the brink of destruction.  And then in early 2000 the first symptoms of manic depression began to manifest: one more element of chaos in my life.

My faith has been tried and tested and pushed to the breaking point by so much that has transpired since then.  I have at times shared my despair with others.  Sometimes very openly.

It has taken time, prayer, counseling, and the love and care of many true and wonderful friends.  But at last my faith has begun to become what it should have always been.  And I am thankful for that.

As for what happened when I was twelve…

I have spent much of my life wanting to destroy that man.  Even now there is the temptation to call him out by name and let the chips fall where they may.

But doing so would add many complications to matters.  It would literally be my word against his.  For now I have to trust the people I went to three years ago.  They have resources that I don’t.  They also bring an objective eye to the issue and that’s something that obviously I lack.

And if justice doesn’t come in this lifetime, I have to trust God that it will come in His time.  It is VERY hard to do that, I won’t deny it.  Just one more test of faith.

Why am I sharing this, now?

I am writing a book about my life, especially what has come about because of a condition that almost certainly has a medical component.  But that is only one aspect that has defined me.  If I’m going to be completely honest and forthcoming about my story, I have to write about EVERYTHING that has so impacted me.  Sexual abuse and PTSD are also elements of my life.  And it’s going to have to be confronted full-bore.

I have come to a place where I cannot further work on my book.  The feelings keep breaking through.  I am haunted by the thoughts of what could have been, had things gone otherwise.  Especially thoughts of my dreams of having a family.  Something that is a fleeting possibility with each passing day, it seems.

Maybe sharing what happened when I was a kid now, will help me expel the demons keeping me from writing.  It’s going to come out in the book anyway, if it ever gets published.  Why not tell it as it is?

If my book does get published?

I don’t know what I’ll do.  Maybe God will let me finally die, with my faith in Him intact.  I don’t see what the point would be in keeping going on.  I will have said everything that needs to be said.  My life will be complete.  There will be no need for a sequel.

Maybe if it is published, the people I’ve hurt most in my time on this earth will have some understanding of where I’ve been coming from and why I have done the things that I did.  Maybe there will be forgiveness and absolution that I can’t get in this life.  That’s something to hope for.  I could die believing that.

But for now, perhaps getting all of this out in the open will let me overcome that obstacle.  I want to write my book.  I need to write it.  It’s what God has put before me to do.

I can promise you, it won’t be all bad.  There are some pretty funny things that have taken place in my life.  I look forward to sharing those, too.

Thank you for reading all of this.  Please keep me in your prayers.  I would very much appreciate it.

 

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Picking up an old hobby again

Way back around 2009 or so I got into the Warhammer 40,000 miniature game hobby.  It started with the now-legendary Assault on Black Reach boxed set, which included two armies: Space Marines and Orks.  I had a lot of fun putting the miniatures together and painting them, and then played against other people at game stores in Greensboro and Burlington.  There are a lot of different factions in Warhammer 40K but I gravitated toward the Orks as my favorite.  It's hard not to like a mob of green-skinned hooligans shootin' and cuttin' their way through the opposition all the while screaming "WAAAGH!"

In the years since I drifted toward other things, but Warhammer 40,000 never left my mind.  I love the setting, the lore, the beautiful miniatures, the various armies to choose from... there's a lot of good to be said about it.  The game is over 35 years old and is popular worldwide.

And it looks as if it's about to get even more popular.  The other week the announcement came that Henry Cavill is spearheading development of Warhammer 40,000 film and television projects for Amazon Prime.  Cavill became well known during the COVID pandemic for posting photos of his own miniatures.  The guy knows and respects Warhammer.  I trust him to deliver the goods.

Anyway, it seems as good a time as any to get back into the hobby.  This past week I returned to a miniature - an Ork Big Mek with Kustom Force Field - that I had glued together in the early days of the COVID lockdown.  It had been lingering unfinished for almost three years and I felt it needed to be "good 'n proppa".  I still have the paint I used back in the day and earlier tonight started working on the mini, only to find that my goblin green had become too thin to use.  A new bottle is on its way so I'll get back to that mini later this week.

But the Orks I've already had all this time deserve some loving care too.  For one thing they need to be adequately based, not just glued to the base.  I ordered some astrogranite paint from the Games Workshop site along with a texturing tool for spreading it.  The first mini to get its base so treated is the Weirdboy that I worked on around 2012.  Here's how it came out:

 

It's a plastic model and it originally had his left foot atop some debris on the ground.  I removed the debris with a knife so that it looks like he's got his leg raised.  Maybe he's trying to run away from the grots (the mini-orks) struggling to keep him chained down.  Whatever, I think he looks better than how the model comes as.

After I finish the Big Mek I'm going to bring my other miniatures up to snuff.  The base sizes for many of the minis has changed since I played last, so there are some special adapter rings that can be put on the pre-existing bases to make them the correct size.  Once that is done (to almost 40 Ork boyz) I'll be giving them the astrogranite treatment too.  And I'll need to also do further work on Warboss Kaneegutz: my custom-designed leader mini.

And once I'm satisfied with my Ork army... well, I've also been getting some Space Marines minis.  I've had in mind creating my own chapter.  Some years ago I had a thought that, surely there are some religions still active in the forty-first millennium, that hadn't been wiped out.  Inspired by the Dune novels I came up with the notion that the Jewish faith is still practiced in the far future.  What better way to be concealed than to hide in plain sight as a Space Marines chapter that nobody will question?  So drawing from history I'm going to make a chapter based on the Maccabees.  And name the minis after friends of mine (the chapter master will be Marco Solomonius).  I want it to be an army composed of traditional "standard" marines as well as the newer Primaris ones.  Just need to figure out a name for the chapter.  And color scheme of course.

Following that... who knows.  I may put together a small force of Word Bearers.  It might be fun to play a purely evil army every now and then.

I figure getting back into Warhammer 40K is going to be quite an enjoyable pastime.  It will also be something that will take my mind off of actively writing my book.  Some casual downtime may let my brain work subconsciously on what to write, without me actively addressing the matter.

Expect pics of more miniatures as they're completed :-)



Saturday, December 31, 2022

Looking back on '22

Wow.  Blink and you miss it.  Seems like only yesterday we were celebrating the last normal holiday season before the COVID plague hit.  And that was three entire years ago.

"Time keeps on slipping into the future..."

This past year was a frustrating one, in too many ways.  For me, it was that so much corruption has become obvious in our society and government.  I used to believe that we could do something to change that.  That all it would take is to gain enough momentum and we could overcome the powers that be.

But as I've grown older the less that I see that happening.  People see the corruption and how pervasive it has become - and I'm looking you especially FBI and Department of Justice - that they simply give up trying.

Between that and our "elected leaders" spending money that was never really there, and obscenities like "transgender", and our schools and libraries becoming places of indoctrinating young minds with liberal bullcrap, and too much else, well...

It's going to take a hard fall for this country to come to its senses.  And when it does the really normal people had better be prepare to take up arms against those who brought us to this condition.  Liberalism has been tried and failed.  We can no longer afford give it any new chance of proving itself.

That's how I've come to look at things on the macro scale, more or less.

On a more personal level, I think this was an okay year.  Not overwhelmingly "great" but it's been far from the disaster that many years I've lived through have been.  And I think it could be argued that I made some astounding gains in my life this past 364 days.  My bipolar disorder has become much more manageable, to a degree I had never thought possible.  It's taken almost two decades to bring it under this much a modicum of control but at last it's not completely crushing my life.  That is a massive achievement.  One that I have to credit friends, counselors, and God toward helping me reach this place.

I became a writer at a highly respected website.  And I changed careers, to one that is paying much more while also giving me more time to address things that matter to me.  Although I would like to get back into the healthcare field.  That was a very rewarding experience, getting the chance to make others' lives better every day.

Speaking of writing, I was able to find "my muse" again.  Whether it was manic depression or the medications I take to control that, my ability to write had been robbed from me for a very long time.  I'm now finally making an earnest attempt at writing the book that Dad and many others have said I should compose.  Maybe there will be a finished first draft by the end of spring, if not sooner.

I suppose that 2022 was a year, no more and no less.  One has to accept it, good and bad alike.  But it most certainly could be said that it was a far improvement over what most of the past three years have been like.

Excelsior to 2023!


Sunday, December 11, 2022

Status of the book, December 2022

Three months ago I posted here that I had begun work anew on the book that has been percolating in my gray matter since 2014.  That was when Dad told me I should write about my struggles with bipolar disorder.  He thought it could be inspirational to others.

And then of course, Dad passed and that knocked me off my feet.  And since then a lot has happened: the journey across America, new career and then changing career (and now, again), new town and new faces... all of this the backdrop against an ever-evolving saga of my mental health.  The book then, in whatever form it was going to take, is radically different from the project now before me.

I am happy to report that after a few false starts with how to open the book, that it is now well on track.  Late last night I finished the first draft of the new prologue.  It no longer opens with me in handcuffs, being taken away to a psychiatric facility.  The prologue now is one page of Microsoft Word that comes barreling at ya at 90 miles an hour, literally.  The preface was completed a week and a half ago.  Yesterday I finished chapter one and it's now in the hands of a few faithful friends who I'm awaiting feedback from.  The chapter about the school board run is also done.  There exist a few incomplete chapters, which I will be getting to as the Muse leads (wow, haven't mentioned "the Muse" in quite many years, I think).

I want this book to be a thorough chronicle of my life not only in spite of bipolar disorder but also much other traumatic experience, that have only been addressed in recent years (another reason why I'm glad I'm working on this now instead of trying to publish it then).  I also need for it to be a homage to everyone who has entered my life and helped me along the way.  I hope this will reach out to some of them.

And the title?  I've had about a dozen ideas for that.  Last week it was called "American Manic".  But this book is going to be about so much more than manic depression.  It needs a title that reflects a deeper life story.

For the past three days I've been fighting a nasty bug that at one point had my temperature reaching 104 Fahrenheit (or 40 centigrade for our metric friends).  During the delirium and convulsions I came to a spiritual place of peace that I had been praying to reach for most of my life.  And accompanying that, arrived an idea for a title.

(I think I underwent what my Native American brethren refer to as a sweat lodge, whether I wanted it or not.  I was perspiring like a pig as the fever broke.)

And now, I think it does have a title.  A good one.  Beautiful, even.  That doesn't refer to mental illness at all.  But instead could be interpreted as being about my entire journey, from the moment I was born on through young life and into adulthood.

I hope my high school freshman English teacher gets to read this.  She owns that preface!

I've read a number of autobiographies by people with bipolar disorder over the years.  Kay Redfield Jamison's An Unquiet Mind and Terri Cheney's Manic were two of them.  I am currently reading Electroboy by Andy Behrman (as high energy a jolt of a book as I've ever come across).  It doesn't hurt to study those who have gone before.  But I like to think that my own humble contribution to literature about life with mental illness will have a style all its own.  If it can carve out some small niche which readers will discover and be led to think about and even be entertained by, that would make me very happy indeed.

So, work is well underway.  Maybe it will come out before The Winds of Winter (come on Martin, what's KEEPING you??!).  I am looking forward to the next few weeks and months as it develops further.

Next up: chapter two.  Which begins in Washington, D.C.  Or maybe not.