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Monday, September 25, 2023

Elementary school kids in Arkansas produced an AMAZING Indiana Jones fan film and you can watch it now!

This is... THE greatest thing that I have seen in a very long time.  These kids are... wow.  They are amazing!  They were able to pull off what a lot of us thirty and forty years ago were only able to dream of doing.  I know my best friend Chad and I used to plan out our own Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies.  How when we grew up we would be the next Lucas and Spielberg.  I like to think a little of that carried over to when we were making our films fifteen or so years ago.  Still a bit of childhood magic left.

But these kids, the young men and women of Oliver Springs Elementary School in Van Buren, Arkansas were not content to wait that long.  No, they went all out and they did it now.  It took them two years of fundraising and planning and then filming, but they succeeded in their mission: they made a professional-grade Indiana Jones fan film that stands as mighty as any movie ever conceived.

Indiana Jones and the Treasure of the Aztecs finds the globe-trotting archaeologist in the swamps of Arkansas circa 1958.  On the trail of the Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto, Indy runs afoul of rogue Russian agents who are looking for Montezuma's gold.  It seems that there is some mystical quality associated with the treasure: just the sort of thing that Dr. Jones has expertise in.

It runs half an hour but you are going to want more.  These young people have accomplished a film that is incredibly well-shot, smartly composed, exceptionally scored, and astoundingly acted.  These kids are performing their hearts out.  They get the world of Indiana Jones, maybe better than many adults.  And as if a cherry on top, they even got Karen Allen - Marion Ravenwood herself - to make a cameo appearance!

KSFM 5 News has more about the Oliver Springs Music Club and their film, and Arkansas CW Crew has posted a few interviews with some of the movie's cast and crew.

But, you are no doubt wanting to watch this for yourself.  I don't blame you!  There have been precious few Indiana Jones fan film efforts.  In fact the only one that comes readily to mind is the delightful Raiders of the Lost Ark adaptation that was made by Mississippi youngsters in the Eighties.  Well, Indiana Jones and the Treasure of the Aztecs possesses no less soul, and has all the benefits of modern technology and cinematography.

I cannot possibly rave about this enough.  So click on over and watch Indiana Jones and the Treasure of the Aztecs on YouTube.  Or, watch it embedded below.  Hint: click the link instead.  You'll better appreciate the wide aspect ratio these lads and lasses shot their film in.

Young men and women of Oliver Springs Elementary School, this blogger gladly salutes you!

Trailer for Doctor Who sixtieth anniversary specials

Doctor Who needs a hard and fresh return to the franchise that that we know and love, above and away from the mess of the Thirteenth Doctor era (which if we're going to be honest really can't be pinned on Jodie Whittaker, she was just working with some really bad material).

I don't know if that's what is coming in the next few months with the specials commemorating the show's sixtieth anniversary (seems like just yesterday we were celebrating its fiftieth) but the pics and the new trailer that dropped over the weekend have me warefully optimistic.

The last time we saw The Doctor, she (ugh!) had regenerated - clothes and all - into a perfect facscimile of the Tenth Doctor, once again played by David Tennant.  However the showrunners seem to insist that Tennant is playing the Fourteenth Doctor.  Which means this is really Tennant's fourth or fifth character with the Tenth Doctor's face he's portrayed since 2005 (just work with me 'mkay?).

So going into the sixtieth anniversary specials it will be David Tennant as... Doctor Who-ever... and joining him is none other than Donna Noble, again played by the delightful Catherine Tate!  Although one seems to remember that last time we saw The Doctor and Donna together it was made clear that they couldn't see each other again.

Clearly, the BBC is throwing caution to the wind...

Here's the trailer for the specials, which materialized about 48 hours ago:

And at last, the BBC is confirming that Neil Patrick Harris, who had long already been announced as being in the specials, is going to be playing The Toymaker: a villain not seen since the William Hartnell era in 1966.

Is it just me, or does Harris as The Toymaker seem poised to chew up the scenery more than any Who bad guy since Davros?

The big celebration kicks off in November.  And I'm very much hoping we get at least a fleeting cameo of Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor.

Friday, September 22, 2023

So, I lost a teaching job last week

How it transpired is something that a LOT of people have thought I'm making up.  But it really happened.

I was on my first day of substitute teaching.  And I went into that school all shiny and shaved, shirt tail tucked into my khakis, best boots... I was going to make an impression on the students and faculty alike (say, why don't most men seem to tuck their shirt tails in anymore?).

Most of all, I went in bearing in mind all that my own teachers, and substitute teacher especially, had handled us as students when I was in school.  Yes even the subs, many of whom are still burned into my memory.  They knew they only had a day or two to make their mark upon their students' educations, but they were determined to make the most of it.  That's precisely the mindset that I was going to emulate.

The assignment was a high school science class.  Chemistry, to be more specific.  The teacher had left a video for the students to watch, and then afterward they were to set about making 3D models of the atoms of various elements.

The video was about the electrons of an atom, how they orbit the nucleus in different shells.  And how each shell has a maximum number of electrons that can be in them.  We're talking very basic chemistry, per the model that Neils Bohr gave us.

The last example given in the video was about sodium.  The narrator described the nucleus, the first few shells going out, and then the last shell.  Which in sodium has but one electron.  And this lonely particle is what is most responsible for sodium being so drastically reactive.

How reactive?  It didn't touch on that in the video and that's too bad.  Well, when a quantity of sodium comes in contact with water it combusts.  And VERY dramatically at that:



This is something that every high school chemistry textbook going back at least the past eighty years has described (or at least used to).  It's also something that the chemistry teacher at my own high school demonstrated one day.  He had a tripod out on the football field holding aloft a brick of pure sodium.  Below it was a bucket of water.  He let the sodium brick drop and fall into the water.

The explosion was heard over five miles away.  Dad said they even heard it over the sounds of the machinery at the quarry he worked at.

I thought that along with telling them about Neils Bohr also being an Olympic-class football (aka soccer to us yanks) player, the students might find that virtue of sodium to be pretty interesting too.  So I shared it with all three classes that I had that day.

It turned out that the students did indeed appreciate my example of how an element like sodium can react with other substances.  All because of that one electron on its outermost shell and looking for stability.  Some of the students asked if we could do that during our class time.  I had to tell them no. But I like to think the visualized image will stick with them.

The following day I taught at another school.  And after returning home that afternoon I got a phone call.  Telling me that my services had been suspended pending an investigation...

It had gotten around that had I told the chemistry students about sodium's reaction with exposure to water.  The administration at the school considered this to be describing how to create high explosives.

Which was the absolutely LAST thing I would have intended.  It was nothing but describing a very simple interaction between valence electrons, involving one of the most basic elements on the periodic table.

Apparently the word "explosive" has been stricken from the vocabulary of secondary education in the public schools of these United States.  I'm going to assume that the mechanics of the internal combustion engine and the bursting forth of Orville Redenbacher popcorn kernels from their original volume will likewise now be deemed forbidden knowledge from the Dark Ages.

Well, I was invited to write and submit a statement about the incident to those investigating it.  I typed it up, trying to describe everything that had transpired.  I then zapped it out across the ether toward the proper authorities.  And I trusted that they would arrive at the same conclusion I was on: that I had not done anything wrong in teaching the fundamentals of chemistry to high school chemistry students.  I sincerely believed that I would be back in the classroom soon.

That was not to be however.

So, I'm no longer allowed to be a substitute teacher in that particular school system.  But for one glorious day I taught those kids some really neat concepts of science.  Like when one student asked about what neutrons do, I turned that into an explanation of how gas centrifuges enrich uranium into nuclear weapons-grade yellowcake.  And no, the school did not possess a gas centrifuge either (the students asked).

This is ridiculous.  There is no reason whatsoever to be afraid of basic chemistry. Ignoring it and making it a punishable offense to teach about it is certainly NOT going to ever deter real bad guys from using that knowledge.  Science is supposed to be neutral. Objective.  Pure science is on a level playing field and irrespective of agenda.  It simply IS.  It seems officials are now ascribing qualities to science in accordance to their whims and feelings, and not purely of physical principles.

Oh well. I gave it my best.  I don't regret for a moment what I taught those young people.  If it got them to thinking a little differently or deeper about the world around them and its wonders, then my task is complete.

Who knows?  Maybe I'll get to someday return to the classroom.  Just imagine the flames I would set alight if I taught the young people about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights!

But it could have been worse. I could have instead been fired for blowing up that little red schoolhouse...

Thursday, September 14, 2023


 ...at least they didn't fire me for the exploding schoolhouse.

Here is a tip: do not talk anymore about sodium's violent combustibility.

I hope Mr. Springs would be proud of me.  This is the very first time in more than thirty years that I've used the term "valence electrons" in a piece of writing.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Started teaching today. Here's how it went!

For now, I'm being a very active substitute teacher.  Which, well... we'll see what happens from there.  People have been telling me for many years that I would make for a great teacher.  Today was a chance to give it a shot.

So I taught three blocks of high school sophomore honors chemistry class.  The subject of today's lesson was Neils Bohr, who came up with the standard model of atomic theory.  The students thought it was pretty wild that in addition to being a nuclear genius, Bohr was also an Olympic-class soccer player.

I must confess, I am absolutely BLOWN AWAY by the technology in the average classroom today.  Instead of a TV and a videotape player on a cart, each classroom now has this big touch-screen high-definition set.  I had to get one of the kids to explain to me how to make it work.  The teacher had a video about the Bohr model, using various elements' atoms.

The last atom it touched upon was sodium.  I saw a ripe opportunity to broaden the kids' minds in a way they might find pretty fascinating.  After the video I told them that the one lonely electron in sodium's outer shell is determined to chemically bond with ANYTHING.  And from there I shared the story of how my own high school's chemistry teacher once set off an explosion heard for miles around by sending a brick of sodium plunging into a bucket of water.  They did indeed find that pretty awesome.  A few of the male students asked if we could do that, and I said no.

The kids proceeded to make 3D models of their assigned atoms.  Someone asked aloud about neutrons. Like, "what do they do?"

So I used that as the diving block from which to jump into teaching the kids about how neutrons and atomic weight play an important role in using gas centrifuges to enrich uranium into nuclear weapons-grade "yellowcake":

One lad asked if we had a gas centrifuge in the school's lab.  I told him "I doubt it."  But I must give him credit for his curiosity.

(In case you're wondering, I am not joking about any of this.  Who knows, I may have sown a seed or planted a sapling in these kids' minds today.)

So, I'll be doing substitute teaching for the next little while, trying out different ages and subject matters.  The ultimate role reversal is probably going to be me teaching math.  Oh bruddah... WHAT have I gotten myself into??

Friday, September 08, 2023

Another article from the college newspaper. And it's not controversial either!

 See?  I really do know how to write an op-ed piece that doesn't honk off many readers!

This edition of Elon's student newspaper The Pendulum came out right before spring break 1999.  I didn't want to be on the cusp of that and deliver something that would be overly provocative.  There had been an article for Christmas a few months earlier and this new one needed to be on a happy note too.

So here it is, from two months before the premiere of Star Wars Episode I.  Note the special photo we used for the essay: me brandishing a toy lightsaber and wearing the helmet from a Darth Vader mask.  Click on the pic to enlarge and read!


Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Germany 1943 or America 2023?

Found something last night while doing historical research.  It absolutely floored me to read this passage.  It could be referring to the America of today:


Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and their friend and collaborator Christoph Probst wrote six leaflets in defiance of their government.  The three members of the "White Rose" were caught in February 1943 in Munich, Germany.  Four days later they were put on trial for crimes against the state.  It was a show trial, led by the infamous Nazi judge Roland Freisler.  

The three were declared guilty.  A few hours later the Scholls and Probst were executed by guillotine.

Sophie Scholl was twenty-one years old.

"History doesn't repeat but it often rhymes." ~ George Lucas

Friday, August 18, 2023

The church that's 450 feet from my house

Regrettably, there is one goal that has eluded me in the seven years since my dog Tammy and I left our old hometown to find our place somewhere in America.  It was something I was very serious about, and still am.  I speak of finding a place of worship.  Somewhere that I can be an active part of a community of believers.

This area doesn't lack for churches.  I've visited many of them.  Guess you could say that I'm hoping and praying that God will lead me to where He needs me to be.  It's almost like a microcosm of the journey across America we did.  I'm still in that "let's see what's out there" mode.

In the five years since I've been here I've visited some churches that were very big, others that were quite small.  A few of them had beliefs that I can not for good reasons subscribe to.  For the second time in my life I departed from a visit to a church because the number-one item in its statement of faith is that homosexuals are not welcome.  Now, I am not a homosexual and I absolutely believe it's a dire sin that God can not possibly "affirm".  But when that takes priority over everything else in a congregation's doctrine, ahead of even there being one God, something is terribly wrong.  One house of worship had a lot of people babbling incoherently with no idea as to who was saying what.  That's... just not for me, no offense meant.

I had begun to wonder if there was something wrong with my faith.  Am I being too "picky"?  Am I trying to find what many Christians have said does not exist and that I know that they are right: a perfect church?

If there is such a thing as a perfect church, I shall never be able to darken its threshold... because as soon as I enter the building it will no longer be perfect!

So a few weeks ago I was spending a Saturday afternoon browsing church websites.  Looking for a new place to visit soon.  Anyplace that would stir my interest.  It was a seemingly fruitless search.

And then I did something that I had failed to do when I first started looking.  I went to Google and for the search term I simply asked for "churches near me".

It returned with a nice-sized list of places of worship within a few miles' radius.  And the very first of the results was for a church... that was less than five hundred feet away.

"No way!" I literally shouted.

At first I thought it was an error.  Now, there had been a Baptist church with a mostly African-American membership just across the street and a few numbers down from my house.  I used to hear them playing their instruments every Sunday morning.  But they seem to have disappeared in the past year or two.

Apparently, another congregation was now using that building.

I found the church's website and its Facebook page.  And for the rest of the evening I was dumbfounded that a church that already seemed to have much of what I've come to appreciate in a congregation was less than five minutes' walk away.

So it was that a few days ago on Sunday, I walked from home all the way to church.

What was it like?  Well as I told friends later that day it was like Baptist preaching, Pentecostal praying, and a bit of Eastern Orthodoxy all rolled into one.  The most obvious trait of the church is that the vast majority of its people are from Russia and other countries in Eastern Europe.  This area has seen a lot of migrants arrive from that part of the world and there are many churches that serve those communities.  This particular congregation speaks both Russian and English, which a few members were translating between the two.  I couldn't help but notice that during the sermon the teenage girl next to me was taking notes in Cyrillic alphabet.  There were some praise songs in Russian, that all I could do was stand there without an iota of comprehension, followed by songs in English.

The message of the morning's service was based on the Book of Joshua.  About how Joshua is the first character in the Bible who is instructed by God to study scripture (in the form of the Books of Moses).  It also touched upon verses in Matthew and Philippians.  My fingers were darting all over my iPhone's Bible app, and I must have looked like an oddball because everyone else was using good ol' fashion printed books.

The service lasted two and a half hours.  And I definitely felt that I was a better person for being there.  The people of this church are very friendly and welcoming.  They take their prayer life seriously, and that's something that in recent years I have started to better appreciate in my own spiritual journey.  They thought it was very neat that I had asked Google to show me churches nearby, and the top result was a place that I can see from my living room window.

I can't say anything in Russian other than "da" and "nyet", but I really enjoyed spending a few hours with my fellow believers.  Language has never been an insurmountable obstacle for those who are in the Kingdom of God.  Faith and love will always prevail.  I may not have understood the words, but the smiles and the light in their eyes said it all well enough.

It's quite likely that I may go back soon.  There are a few other churches that I've the curiosity to also investigate in the next few weeks.  No matter where I end up though, there is great comfort and joy in knowing that true brothers and sisters in Christ are but a brisk walk away from my front door.

I've said it before, and I try to be mindful of it, but it's true: The Lord provides.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

I have a LinkedIn page?!?

Actually I've had it for a very long time now (I think 2006).  I just haven't done anything with it until this week...

Some friends suggested that I "increase marketability".  So I'm putting myself out there in a way I might have not done before.  In assembling this I've become a bit astounded at all the experiences that have been racked up over the past decade or two.  In spite of having manic depression - or maybe because of it - I've wound up with a pretty impressive skills-set and collaborative history.  I also uploaded and included a portfolio of some of my video work, bits of which have never been seen by a wide audience until now (I'm particularly fond of the "Wacky Dead" clip).

Anyway, if you want to see the professional side of me, here's my LinkedIn page.



Friday, August 11, 2023

I'm a teacher again!!

So for like the third or fourth time in my life I am entering the field of education.

I promise that I won't read "The Call of Cthulhu" to second graders again.

(No, seriously, that's what happened.)

Looking forward to taking young minds full of mush and molding them into critically thinking members of society.  Or playing a small part in it anyway :-)



Tuesday, August 08, 2023

Safehouse: Back a friend's invention on Kickstarter

Hey gang, got something really special for you.  How often is it that you have the chance to get in on the ground floor of a new piece of technology?  Okay, maybe because of the Internet that chance happens on a routine basis now.  But even so, here's a utility that so far as I know is pretty unique.

I've known Matt LaCoe for quite awhile now.  He and I worked together at an on-campus computer store when we were students at Elon.  I saw his technical prowess then and he's only gotten better.  And now he's presenting us with a new mobile app: Safehouse.

It would be better if Matt explained it to y'all:

Have you ever found yourself lost, tired, unsure of where you are, where to go or what to do? Have you ever felt fear that you might be harmed by persons who have taken an great interest in you for one reason or another? Do you remember how these feeling felt? Do you recall the desire to feel safe in those moments?

What if you had a mobile application that would just that for you? What if you could simply hit a button and be guided to a place that would be a "Safehouse" for you? Would you use it?

As as disabled combat veteran I decided that I would try to change this. The objective is to create an application that will allow users who are both travelling and those who can offer a safe place when needed. Whether it be to avoid a bad situation or simply find a safe spot to park your car for the night and having someone near willing to look for your safety. I can easily highlight different use cases for this application but, it the ones I can't imagine that might make this app the difference in someone's life. Whether you are an adventurous person seeing the world or simply a college student trying to make their way home to visit family for the holidays wouldn't it be nice to have an application on your phone designed to look out for your safety?

Safehouse addresses that need, for a wide spectrum of people in our communities.  If you're requiring the assistance of others, help is available with a finger stroke on the phone screen.  It's a really neat concept and I can't think of anyone better to bring this to market than Matt.

And now the project is on Kickstarter, where interested people can back it.  Matt has a lot more information about Safespace on its page there, including  information regarding the protocols in place to ensure that the app is not used by people of malicious intent.

So I ask you to visit Matt's page, and consider backing it.  I've all the confidence in the world that Matt is going to launch something very wonderful with this.

Monday, August 07, 2023

Another op-ed piece from my time at Elon's newspaper

Last month I stumbled on an online archive that has tons of issues of various newspapers going back many, many years.  Including The Pendulum: the student newspaper of Elon University.  Or at least it used to be.  I've been scrounging around Elon's website and it seems that The Pendulum has gone defunct: a casualty of instant news, social media and streaming video.  I hate to see that happen to any newspaper, because there is a priceless value to be had on printed information chronicling a place and its people.  It is also a magnificent snapshot of the thoughts and ideas and values of those people.  I looked and I looked, but I didn't see any opinion/editorial writing recently on Elon's servers.  Having those gone is an immeasurable loss.

Well anyway, I previously found the first op-ed piece I wrote for The Pendulum, about abortion.  I hadn't gone searching for any more essays until this afternoon.  I came across several more articles.  This one aroused some appreciation but also a fair amount of anger, about what I wrote regarding abortion and homosexuality.  I was only sharing Mother Teresa's perspective on such matters.  It wasn't anything that she herself was not unaccustomed to during her lifetime of service.

So, from the September 25, 1997 edition of The Pendulum, here is my column.  Click to enlargen...

Product Review: Zevo Flying Insect Trap

In keeping with this blogger's enjoyment of finding and sharing good stuff, I'm going to do a review of something that I came across lately.  And so far I'm mighty impressed with it.

I don't know where they came from, maybe on some vegetation that I got from the grocery store, but this summer has been absolutely wretched from gnats and fruit flies.  They've been getting all over the house, and I've had to swat them away from my computer screen Lord only knows how often.  Just a real nuisance.

So I was watching television a few weeks ago and caught some commercials for the Zevo flying insect trap.  According to the ads it uses ultraviolet and infrared light to draw in bugs and making them fall prey to the adhesive cartridge within.  You just slap a cartridge into the unit and plug it into a wall outlet, in your kitchen or wherever.

I decided it was worth a gamble.  Off to Walmart I went, and got a starter set with 2 traps and 4 cartridges.  When I got home I read the directions and within two minutes had a trap set up in the kitchen and the other in my living room.

The results?

The Zevo traps began catching gnats and fruit flies almost immediately.  A few hours later I checked the traps and was astounded at how many tiny bugs each of them had dispatched to the nether regions.  That was six days ago.  I looked into the traps again in the past little while and the traps have caught even more.  There is a drastic and very obvious reduction of tiny critters zooming around the place.  I think my dog Tammy has even noticed.

I am very much convinced about the effectiveness of Zevo's little gadget.  It is definitely working as advertised.  I'll heartily recommend it to this blog's readers.  In fact, you might want to consider getting an extra starter set, and provide more coverage for your home. It is also, I have discovered, a very helpful nightlight that nicely illuminates your path to the kitchen if you're ever wanting to raid the fridge at 1 in the morning.

The Zevo flying insect trap is sold at Walmart and I'm sure at other retail stores, and it's on Amazon also.  You've got some options about which traps to get.  Which ever one you choose, I will attest that it is well worth the cost.

Sunday, August 06, 2023

And the Fifteenth Doctor will bear the face of... Ncuti Gatwa!

The announcement already came a year ago, that the Fifteenth Doctor on the British television series Doctor Who is going to be portrayed by Rwandan-Scottish actor Ncuti Gatwa.  Now as things begin really ramping up for the show's sixtieth anniversary in November, the BBC is showing its cards a bit.

Here is Gatwa giving us a glimpse of what's to come:

Number Fifteen's attire reminds me a bit of Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor.  The way he's got his hand gesturing brings to mind the early photos of the Twelfth Doctor played by Peter Capaldi, or maybe Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor.  Gatwa's Doctor looks like he means business, as if he's saying "Okay, fun and games are over, let's get down to brass tacks."

Be mad at me if you will, but I'm very glad the Doctor is a man again.  No offense to Jodie Whittaker, but there is a dynamic between the Doctor and his companions and you just don't mess with that.  My personal favorites to be the Doctor after Thirteen's regeneration were Idris Elba, and Tilda Swinton playing against gender and portraying a male Doctor.  But I think Gatwa will be fine.

Now, if new/previous showrunner Russell T. Davies can just fix that STOOPID "Timeless Child" nonsense...

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

All that I will likely say about former President Donald Trump being indicted


Kindly allow me to boil down certain recent events into something that can be readily grasped. And I say this as someone who has never voted for Trump and likely never will.

The people applauding former President Donald Trump's indictments don't know what the (BLEEP) they are cheering for.
The United States is entering a dark place. We have already been poised to cross that line for a very long time. Now it is barreling headlong into the cave.
America is headed for grief.
And idiots are clapping and howling in delight as we do.
This is about larger matters than "we gotta get Trump". But the ones screaming loudest probably don't want to be bothered to be concerned for that.  What is befalling the former president right now is not the disease itself, but a symptom.  And I would be saying that regardless of who is being targeted.
I'm writing this, as I often do write, because I want nothing to do with what's to come. I've done my part and am still doing my part to encourage people to turn aside from their foolishness.  I saw what's coming even as a teenager and for more than thirty years, I've tried to get people to think about the disaster that will befall us.  Many of them haven't thought about it at all.
What is to transpire is not on my hands, but theirs.
Just my .02


Tuesday, August 01, 2023

AMERICAN GRAFFITI turns fifty years old this week

George Lucas's movie - the first for his own company Lucasfilm - American Graffiti was released fifty years ago tomorrow.  It premiered at a film festival and was followed with wide release soon after.  If you've never seen American Graffiti you really should do yourself a favor and watch it.  It's a film spanning the course of a single night, in the lives of a group of friends who are spending the final hours of summer break in 1962.  I don't know if "plot" is the right word to describe this movie as having.  But it's a mighty monument to a way of youth that isn't there anymore.  American Graffiti has a solid cast and a soundtrack that is just as much part of the film as those appearing in it.

Well, I thought that for the occasion we would go WAY back into The Knight Shift's archives, to when it was less than a year old in 2004.  At the time my friends and I were working on our very first film together Forcery.  The final scene takes place at Mel's Drive-In, from American Graffiti.  Short Sugar's Barbecue in Reidsville, North Carolina played the part of Mel's.  We shot the scene at the drive-in part of the restaurant, and then... this idea hit for something we could do as a homage to George Lucas's classic movie.  I told Chad Austin, who was playing Lucas in Forcery, about it and he was game for it.  He was already wearing the costume and makeup for the part anyway.

So here is Chad Austin as George Lucas in September 2004, in a recreation of the famous behind-the-scenes still from American Graffiti showing Lucas crouched beneath the counter while directing Ron Howard:

Wow.  That was September of 2004 when we made that photo.  So much has happened since then but it seems like just yesterday.

Of course George Lucas - the real one - got a lot of respect and admiration for American Graffiti and would use that goodwill when he was shopping Star Wars around to the studios.  I'm glad that he did, but part of me also wonders what it would have been had he made more films like American Graffiti.  The Star Wars franchise arguably stymied a lifetime of potential movies from this talented filmmaker.  But I like to think that Lucas still hasn't forgotten his greatest career passion.  Maybe someday we'll see him return to what makes him happiest in life after his family.

 I hope that he will.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

We The People Bible: One of the most terrible products I've seen lately

This post is going to honk a lot of people off, probably.  Whether it cuts one way or another.  I know and accept that.

First of all, the older I've gotten the more I have come to understand something.  Mainly, that the republican form of government that the Founders gave us in the Constitution of the United States is ideal only for a people who believe in something higher than man.  Whether you call that something God, or Yahweh, or the Universe, or whatever, the Constitution is best suited for those who hold themselves accountable to that greater entity.  I believe that the past several decades have proven that in the hands of they who believe that man is the be-all/end-all of law and life, that weak attempt at imitating democratically-elected republican government has led to disaster on multiple fronts.

So yes: I do believe that the American government is intended for people who believe in greater authority than their own.  It is where all true law comes from.  It has been ever since Moses came down that mountain with those stone slabs.

I believe in the Constitution.  I also believe that the Declaration of Independence was the work of a magnificent assemblage of some of the greatest minds from throughout the colonies.  I think that the Bill of Rights is not taught about nearly enough in the majority of our schools.  The Pledge of Allegiance... ehhhh, I elaborated on that subject ten years ago, about why I cannot in good conscience say it (but I have absolutely no problem when others choose to recite it).

For saying these things, some are going to declare that I am a "Christian nationalist", a "Christian reconstructionist", that I have a colonial mind, that I'm a "right-wing fanatic" or... good HEAVENS... a "MAGA Republican" (whatever that is supposed to be).

Well, that's one audience that I will have worked up in a frothing frenzy.  Now it's time for the other...

A couple of weeks ago an advertisement began popping up on Facebook.  Usually this sort of thing just breezes past me.  But this particular item severely caught my attention.  Because it's the dire opposite of a lot of things that have shaped and molded my personal theology almost since the beginning of my Christian faith.

It's called the We The People Bible.  You can find it in a Google search easily enough, I'm not posting a link to it here.  As you can see it's got an embossed leather cover.  Said cover, in the words of the website, "was designed with the patriot in mind and features a vertical reversed American flag design that represents a country in distress."  Toward the back of the book there is to be found the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and its amendments, and the Pledge of Allegiance.

Oh bruddah.  How many ways can we talk about how wrong this thing is?

The We The People Bible is the very worst elements of what I've seen from most of a lifetime of exposure to Christian Reconstructionism: a body of tenets orbiting the notion that God has ordained Christians to seize power, so as to remake the United States into a theocracy based solely on the Holy Bible.

The problem with that is, that this theocracy is going to be forced upon people, whether they like it or not.  And when that is the driving influence of such a movement, the entire thing becomes antithetical to the concept that God gave us this country to govern ourselves.  America is supposed to be the land of a people who choose to seek God's guidance, as best he or she might understand that.  It's not meant to be a land controlled by those who believe their interpretation is to be imposed under penalty of punishment.  America is not like places in the Mid-East where "blasphemers" are beheaded and homosexuals are throw from the top of tall buildings.  But, I could spend all day writing about what I've seen over the years regarding this.

The heart-meat of the matter is this: I definitely have no problem with people reading the Constitution, the Bill of Right, the Declaration of Independence, or any other document pertaining to the founding and organizing of our government.  In fact, I want people to read those.  But to include even those hallowed parchments within a volume of scripture along with the fundamentals of Judeo-Christian theology, is tantamount to making them equivalent to those sacred writings.  They are not.  And I can't but think that the Founders and many others, including the scholars who compiled the King James Version (the translation that the We The People Bible uses), would be horrified that documents of this temporal realm are now on the same level as inspired writings.  This is the worst grief that I have with this product.

I said that's the worst grief.  Not necessarily the one that sticks out as being either the most tacky or visibly sacrilegious.  The upside-down flag on the cover of this abomination is ridiculous.  Those who study scripture will absolutely know that the Bible teaches us that those who give God their highest priority are not to be a people living in fear and anxiety.  Isaiah 41:10 tells us "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

So it is that the reversed flag - which is supposed to be reserved only for the most dire emergencies - comes across as a product of the politics of the era of this book's publication.

But consider: the publishers of the We The People Bible have literally wrapped scripture up in the American flag.  In doing so they claim custody of the Bible.  They want it to be known that the Bible is theirs to interpret and to decree from.  Instead of letting holy scripture work in their lives to affect and change their hearts, they seek to change scripture instead, according to the powers and politics of this frail and brittle mortal realm.

I might have just glossed right over the ads I've seen for the We The People Bible, had it not been for an intensive study I participated in college with others about modern religious thinkers.  The most influential person we studied the works of was Stanley Hauerwas.  And one of his books that we read was his 1993 tome Unleashing the Scripture: Freeing the Bible from Captivity to America.  The cover of which depicts a Bible literally wrapped up in an American flag.  Unleashing the Scripture became one of the most influential books during those early days of my Christian life.  I still feel it resonating whenever I'm tackling the subject of Christianity and its relationship with culture, and especially with politics.  And I got to say, that the We The People Bible comes across as a dark parody of Unleashing the Scripture, or maybe a Bizarro-World incarnation of Hauerwas's work.

It comes down to this: the Bible, I have no doubt about this, was the principle guide for the Founders when they set about liberating America and then crafting her principles into codified law.  I believe that the Bible has influenced history as no other book has.  But the Bible is supposed to define men.  Men are not meant to define the Bible.  If we are to believe that the Bible is perfect and inerrant (regardless of which respectable version one chooses to draw from) then we should be prepared to accept how it will apply to our lives.  To mold us and conform us to its image.  The Bible is not to be shaped and drawn out according to the fashions of the time.

And that is what the We The People Bible is an attempt to do.  Whether its publishers intended or not, it is become a weapon against those who are in disagreement with them.  Yes, the Bible is as a mighty sword, that divides between truth and false.  It can absolutely be trusted.  But when its publication is intended to be a tangible symbol of political power, well... it has gone too far and become something that is anything but in adherence to scripture.

Let us look not to carnal weaponry for our deliverance and salvation.  There is a greater Kingdom for us to build up and preach a citizenship of.  It is those edifices we are meant for, not the pale shadows of this fallen land.  God will be the judge of our efforts: Were they for His glory, or for our own?

I pray that what we do, will be done and has been done for Him alone.