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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Kyle 'n Chris weigh in on the Presidential Deba... thing.

Oh geez... where to begin?

I logged into AOL Instant Messenger just before 9 p.m. EST and hooked up with my main man Kyle Williams, America's youngest political pundit and columnist with World Net Daily. He's also a really good friend and someone I can trust to lay out the truth, no matter how much I may not want to hear the truth sometimes. The kid's got wisdom beyond his ears. He's the coolest cat you can have in a virtual living room while playing armchair political analyst. We spent the better part of two hours doing a lot of play-by-play commentary on this thing.

Bottom line: Bush bombed. Bigtime.

There's no way this can be spun into anything good: a pile of doggy-doo is STILL going to be a pile of doggy-doo regardless of how many times someone claims that it's a gold nugget. Tonight's debacle makes Michael Dukakis look positively Churchillian. No one can ever again say that the '88 debates were the worst for any candidate ever. I mean... sheesh, if I didn't know any better I would have sworn that Jimmy Carter had all the eloquence of Saint Anthony of Padua.

Whenever a politician is talking on television, like giving a speech or doing a debate like tonight, I don't watch it. For the last hour and a half my back has been turned to the screen, so that I could only hear it. That's a conscientious choice that I make, because I want to hear the person out without the visual distractions. Try it sometime: whenever a political ad starts on the t.v., close your eyes or turn your back or whatever and don't look but only LISTEN to what's being said. When you do that, you realize that 99.99% of these guys... aren't saying a bloody substantive thing at all!! They have NO ideas, no grasp of reality, only soundbites and cheap shots.

So it was with tonight's debate: I wanted to listen to the arguments, and not be wooed by Bush's necktie or Kerry's hand gestures. Kyle watched it on his end, he told me some things about what was happening on-screen (like when Kerry laughed at Bush's joke, I couldn't see that). He also sent me some choice comments that the folks at Free Republic had to say: they ain't happy campers tonight, to put it mildly.

I thought that Bush sounded absolutely apoplectic. He was EXTREMELY flustered, even sounded perilously close to losing his temper a few times. I can't really remember anything that he said that weren't a variation of his usual soundbites and mottos.

Kerry was wildly different. Kerry SOUNDED presidential. He definitely came across as the more confident and assured of the two, despite Bush stating more than once that he was sure he would win re-election. Kerry seemed more of a gentleman in his countering Bush's policies. Bush was too defensive when he shouldn't have been, and too aggressive when a calmer tone was called for.

Truth be known... Bush sounded like a kid throwing a temper tantrum to an adult.

After it ended I asked Kyle what he thought about it. His reaction:
"Kerry won.

"Let me elaborate. Bush regularly talks about vision with optimism in his eye. This is how has captured the hopes of Americans. But tonight, he tried to force it. He talked about vision, but fumbled about. He didn't come across as confident and he didn't come across as peaceful. Kerry on the other hand, did better than usual. He had specifics and facts on his side, talking about vision, but more about reality."

Kyle's spot-on in his thinking, and at the risk of seeming biased I can't help but agree with him. I have never seen anything so lopsided in an election year in all my life. Somewhere in America tonight, Karl Rove is sweating bullets over this thing. There was nothing salvagable in this evening at all for the Bush camp, and they know it.

Bush has a little over one week to get his act together. He'd better hit the books and lay off the caffeine in the meantime.

Pre-Presidential Debate Predictions


One more sign that the end of the world is upon us...

Hurricanes raging.

Volcanoes erupting.

Earthquakes trembling.

Tornadoes blowing.

Conflicts escalating.

Resources depleting.

Cultures stagnating.

And now... this. What may be the surest indication yet that the Four Horsemen are mounting their saddles:

Kevin Smith may be running Star Wars after George Lucas.

I'm gonna go get good and liquored up now.

(Actually, Smith would probably do a pretty good job at it... but don't tell THAT to a lot of fans groaning at the prospect right now :-)

Sound and Fury

Volcanologists (scientists who study volcanos including taking samples from their craters and there'd better be some danger pay involved) are casting all eyes on Mount St. Helens this week. Seven days ago strong tremors started coming from the mountain: as of this writing there are now about three a minute. There's also been a buildup of the lava dome, meaning that fresh magma is coming in from deep underground.

It now looks like there's a 70% chance - up from 30% a few days ago - that Mount St. Helens is going to have an eruption in the next few days. Scientists are saying that it will be "a small one" but what that means exactly, I'm not sure. You can bet the good people of Washington State are praying (and we along with them) that whatever happens won't be a repeat or worse of the May 18th, 1980 eruption (pictured above). That one blanketed hundreds of square miles of surrounding landscape with ash and debris, obliterated the nearby wildlife, and took the lives of 57 people with it. One of them was Harry Truman, the cantakerous octogenerian who lived with his 16 cats in a cabin on Spirit Lake, at the base of Mount St. Helens (and was NOT related to President Truman). Despite weeks of warnings, Truman refused to leave. He was quoted as saying...
"No one knows this mountain better than me. This god-damned mountain doesn't dare do anything to Harry."

A few days later Mount St. Helens erupted. Harry Truman and his 16 cats are now buried somewhere beneath thousands of tons of and ash - averaging 40 to 60 feet deep - at the base of the mountain.

Anyways, keep an eye on St. Helens the next few days: along with everything else happening up and down the West Coast, we may see some neat geological forces at work... provided we stay back a safe ways.

From the people who brought you fugu, Godzilla and Pokemon...

Years ago for Christmas my sister gave me a cardboard stand-up of Princess Leia from Return Of The Jedi, wearing the infamous "metal bikini". It soon found a place of honor in my bedroom at our apartment. The "slave metal bikini" seems to be most fanboys' dream: I've a friend whose first glimpse of his future wife was when she was wearing one of these things (though he was in Stormtrooper armor at the time. And I heard this getup even made for an episode of Friends) but I never found it all that appealing or even attractive. The "simple, modest look" is what I've always gone for... though that didn't stop my college buddies from coming over to oggle at the carboard idol of their dreams standing next to my closet. Some even tried to buy it. I wouldn't sell because I love my sister and this thing represented her twisted sense of humor: "Now you get to wake up to a beautiful woman in the mornings!" she told me after I got it out of the box she'd wrapped it in.


But NOT as funny as THIS thing. Leave it to the Japanese - those wonderful people who take EVERYTHING to the extreme - to come up with something like this. Now a single person doesn't just have to pretend waking up to someone... but can pretend SLEEPING with them too!

The Boyfriend's Arm Pillow! From Kameo Corporation, nestled away somewhere in Fukuoka Prefecture in the southern stretch of the Land of the Rising Sun. For $106 American a girl can have a contoured pillow with artificial man's arm (complete with pajama sleeve) to wrap around her as she sleeps. The Courier-Mail has an article about this lil' gimmick and the people that have come to appreciate it...

For Ms Suzuki, who is estranged from her husband, the pillow has definite advantages: It doesn't squirm or thrash in the night, and you know it'll be there in the morning.

"It keeps holding me all the way through," she said in her home outside of Tokyo. "I think this is great because this does not betray me."

Slam here for the rest of the story. A hundred-plus bucks for a pillow with an arm.. unbelievable. Then again, what else could we expect from a people who regularly spend two hundred bucks to devour narrow slices of a deadly neurotoxic pufferfish? Crazy I tells ya... which may explain why I want to visit there someday :-)

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Ready to wage war for a tank of juice?

An upstanding citizen "sticks it to the man" and gets some gas the old-fashioned way

The price of crude oil hit the $50 mark for the very first time yesterday, no doubt adding to the already outrageously incremental increase in the price of gasoline we've seen during the past few weeks. Average price in this neck of the woods is $1.80 but I guess we should be thankful: in some places around the country the average is already at $2.00 a gallon. Some speculate it could go as high as $3 or $4 if not worse.

As a result, I'm no longer driving as much: if I don't absolutely need to go out for it, I just don't go period. That's not a conservative or liberal choice: it simply makes good sense. It might be something to get used to if, as some legitimate sources are now saying, the point of "Peak Oil" (the midpoint between petroleum demand and supply, where supplies are calculated to diminish greatly per year as population and industries increase) has now been reached. If so, the ramifications are almost too scary to comprehend: the price of EVERYTHING - not just gasoline but raw materials like plastics, and substances like fertilizer and pharmeceuticals - is going to skyrocket. We might do well to all tighten our belts.

And yet, I don't want to incline my ear so much to the "doom and gloom" soothsayers just yet. There's a growing - albeit controversial - body of knowledge indicating that petroleum may not be the "non-renewable resource" that we've been told for so long that it is. That instead of being the product of organic decomposition over the course of millions of years, it might be the waste product of bacteria many miles below the surface of the Earth. If so, petroleum and its byproducts may be a replenishable resource. And in the past few years experiments with domestic waste products have proven that crude oil can be made from already available materials and technologies. All that's really needed to make it a viable alternative to traditional petroleum sources is an investment of time and money to further research, to bring it to the next level.

Unfortunately, I doubt that the big oil companies (and their friends in the government) are going to be so keen on making the jump to synthetic (and more cheaply available) alternatives. For the time being we are almost at their mercy, and I'm almost tempted to say that it's going to take some outright nasty things happening across the board to bring them to their senses and let people have a real choice as to their energy sources. Barring THAT happening... well, might be a good idea to start watching those "Mad Max" movies for the valuable information they carry on surviving in a post-oil apocalyptic wasteland...
You have to go back to another time. When the world was powered by the black fuel. And the desert sprouted great cities of pipe and steel. Gone now, swept away. For reasons long forgotten, two mighty warrior tribes went to war and touched off a blaze which engulfed them all. Without fuel they were nothing. They built a house of straw. The thundering machines sputtered and stopped. Their leaders talked and talked and talked. But nothing could stem the avalanche. Their world crumbled. The cities exploded. A whirlwind of looting, a firestorm of fear. Men began to feed on men. On the roads it was a white line nightmare. Only those mobile enough to scavenge, brutal enough to pillage would survive. The gangs took over the highways, ready to wage war for a tank of juice.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Jump to Lightspeed... Again! (but who'll be flying the ship?!)

Well, this is turning out to be an interesting morning. Right after posting that Mel Brooks is making "Spaceballs 2", this comes along...

My old stomping grounds at TheForce.net is today reporting that there will be a live-action Star Wars TV series beginning in the fall of 2006. You can bet the farm that this is gonna happen. For one thing, that had to be Josh Griffin posting the story (no one else can type "Awesome!" quite like he ;-) and being his colleague for two and a half years and friend for even longer, I can vouch that he's way more thorough on his sources than a CBS editor. Also, this has been coming out piecemeal for the past several months anyway: the "Clone Wars" microseries on Cartoon Network was a smash hit and George Lucas has been pretty adamant lately about not only not making any more Star Wars movies, but letting the story continue "in other ways" and with other people taking a shot at the saga.

Exactly who those people would be might be quite an item of discussion coming up. No doubt Lucas is going to be executive producer, if at least to make sure "his baby" doesn't stray too far off the path... but someone else is needed to nurture and guide the show's development so that Lucas can have a free hand to do his other film projects.

Someone is going to have to be trusted by Lucas himself to be only the second person ever to have complete control of Star Wars, answerable only to Lucas himself.

That someone had darn well better know the television industry.

That someone should also know how to manage a vast, multi-generational epic spanning thousands of years.

That someone should be able to relay that epic across a wide variety of mediums: not just television, but the ensuing books and videogames, etc.

That someone shouldn't be afraid to take risks, or "play it safe" to appease a demographic: good storytelling comes from conflict, and this person just might have a good track record on that.

That someone had better be a heckuva good writer.

For all of these reasons and more, finding the right person to take over Star Wars is going to be like finding a needle in a field of hay. But is there such a person?

Yes, there is, I find myself believing, especially in light of some interesting conjecture courtesy of CloneCleaner02 on TheForce.net's forums...

There is one... and only one... person who really comes to mind. One person who has worked most of the past 30 years in television and wound up creating one of the most original series ever put to that medium. One person whose writing is as prolific as Isaac Asimov's... coupled with an understanding of human nature on par with Orson Scott Card. One person who has spun a tale that began millions of years ago and ended one million in our future... but mostly concentrated on a mere five somewhere in between. And, it happens to be the person who has been dropping hints like mad that he's been tapped for an executive producer of a new network series "and while I don't usually do that on shows I don't create or develop, when I heard what this project was, I had to get on board." He later added that this new show had "nothing to do with any current series." Not long thereafter he wrote to his fans on Usenet that "Pending contractual negotiations and formal pickup by the networks involved, I've been offered two different series, so we'll see which goes first. They could both be very cool to work on, but one of them could be insanely successful. I should know more about this situation in late October." In his initial post he said that part of the contract was "work out how that will interface with the stuff that'll be going on later in the year, but fortunately the start date for the series should work out, at least at this point."

The "other stuff" could very well be a few novels, a play, and some television work. Not to mention writing "The Amazing Spider-Man" every month. Everything on the timing works out perfectly for a 2006 launch.

Could it be that Star Wars is about to be placed into the capable hands of J. Michael Straczynski? The same "JMS" who brought us "Babylon 5"?

The mind boggles at such a thing...

Jump to Ludicrous Speed... Again!

Oh Lord please no...

Ain't It Cool News is reporting this morning that Mel Brooks is currently writing "Spaceballs 2"!

The original "Spaceballs" was already as perfect a sci-fi spoof as a comic genius of Brooks' stature could make. It's BRILLIANT and it's FUNNY! It riffed on just about every major sci-fi classic up to its time. HOW da heck is a sequel going to not only live up to all that but raise the bar?

I love Mel Brooks' movies - heck, "Blazing Saddles" was the very first DVD I ever bought - but he should reconsider making this. Although, since his last movie was the largely forgotten "Dracula: Dead and Loving It" and that was almost ten years ago, he really should try something to show that he still possesses the edge he had when he did "Young Frankenstein" and "Silent Movie" back in the day.

Monday, September 27, 2004

They don't cast 'em in the mold of Teddy Roosevelt anymore...

My wife and I talked a bit about the elections on our way back from working-out this afternoon, and I shared with her a story about Teddy Roosevelt: how one night when he was President he was giving a bill the "hairy eyeball" before signing it. Roosevelt found an item in the bill that he couldn't understand the rationale for... and he wasn't about to sign it until he did. So Roosevelt put on his coat and hat, stomped out of the White House and took a carriage to the house of the congressman who wrote the bill, and at about 1 in the morning started banging on the door. The bleary-eyed, disheaveled representative found the President of the United States on his front doorstep demanding to know what was constitutional about that part of the bill. The congressman couldn't give Ol' Teddy an adequate answer, which led to an angry scolding from Roosevelt, who then told him that he would not, could not sign the bill. Roosevelt then hopped back into the carriage and left.

Don't even think that there's this kind of accountability or stalwartness today. Lisa put it best when she told me "this country needs another Teddy Roosevelt." She's right... but I can't see one riding into town anytime soon.

Teddy Roosevelt figures well in today's article by Charley Reese: "First Lady Just a Wife". In it Reese speaks softly and carries a big stick against the notion that the President is like unto Caesar...
I have never bought into this imperial presidency. The office of president, under the Constitution, was made a deliberately weak office. If the politicians in Washington obeyed the Constitution, which is to say if frogs sang arias, the president would not be allowed to start wars without a formal declaration, nor would he be allowed to legislate with executive orders.

As for the president himself, whoever he is, he is nothing more than an ordinary American citizen with a temporary job. As a man, he is entitled to common courtesy; the office itself is entitled to respect, but not worship or awe. As Truman had the integrity to realize, the presidency does not belong to the man holding the office, but to the American people. The White House is the people's house. Some presidents have respected that; others have not. Ronald Reagan always wore a jacket and tie in the Oval Office. Richard Nixon was careful never to put his feet on the furniture. That's in stark contrast to Bill Clinton's behavior, which was personally disgraceful and showed contempt for the White House, especially the carpet.

Punch here for the rest.

George Lucas returns to Mel's as filming winds down on "Forcery"

No blogging since Friday 'cuz the bulk of this past weekend (maybe 5 hours sleep total since waking up Friday morning) was spent wrapping up principle photography on "Forcery". Once our cast assembled here at the apartment we arrived at the set about 10 PM Friday night to film a scene that demanded a strong moonlight shining down through the window. We set up one of the incandescent lamps with a blue gel outside the window and angled it to cast its light down on the bed, then moved the lamp so that we could get another angle.

After picking up another cast member we had everyone at Short Sugar's Barbecue in Reidsville NC at 8 AM the following morning to film the final scene of the movie: George Lucas and Rick McCallum in a red convertible at Mel's Drive-In from "American Graffiti". After getting that done we had to... we just had to... take this photo of Chad in his George Lucas costume, in the same pose that Lucas is in while directing Ron Howard in a famous photo from "American Graffiti"...

We returned to our main set and filmed from 10:30 that morning until 6 that evening, then did one final take (it's taken us two months to figure out what this one character should be saying during a certain event). With that, the bulk of our filming is done: apart from a number of minor scenes that won't require much preparation for, "Forcery" is in the can. And I haven't slept this good in a looooong time :-)

I'll be doing some updates here as "Forcery" enters post-productions but in the meantime, enjoy some production stills that we took during Saturday's filming.

Faux posts the next few days

I'm going to be "tweaking" the look of this blog this week and at times some posts that will be nothing but pictures will be getting posted, then promptly yanked. That'll just be me getting some things uploaded for The Knight Shift's new appearance (it's too dark and I'm not into the whole "Goth" thing).

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Latest poll says that Chris is posting too much about politics ZZZZzzzz...

...although in my own defense I'd like to suggest that I'm not a political junky! REAL political junkies spend their waking hours playing imaginary games of Risk between the Democrats and Republicans in their heads. They also usually have two television sets to watch Fox News and CNN at the same time. Some of them would betray the family's priest to the Cossacks if dinner with Ann Coulter or Susan Estrich was part of the deal. The worst of the lot get an erotic turn-on by covering the bed with printouts of Zogby projections. I spent four years with some of the most psychotic political science majors in the cosmos: I know political junkies, man.

Consider me a mere historian who is watching events unfold, shaking his head in disbelief as this country becomes divided along a false dichotomy, and unable to believe that anything short of extreme circumstances will shake America from those who have enslaved her. That may not be for much longer, as many are now waking up to the stark reality that neither major party has anything of substance to offer: I wouldn't mind if they stagnated, but the damnable thing of it is that they're dragging this country into stagnation with them.

So with that in mind I had to post this story about MSNBC's poll showing that 88% of Americans do not believe the polls are accurate! How about that: a poll of Americans showing that Americans don't trust polls. Sorta like Michael Jackson asking a pack of Cub Scouts if they think he'll just let them ride the merry-go-round at Neverland, when you think about it.

Regarding my initial post from about two weeks ago about having something to say about an experience I had with the George W. Bush campaign four years ago (I posted some other thoughts and even confessions about my motivations a few days ago)... I'm still weighing it in my mind. Ya see, some of what I'd share with everyone... okay, some people know some of what happened, the account that got published then. But some stuff I didn't report on then for no other reason than because at the time, I was more than a little shocked at a few things that took place. It seemed so unbecoming of what I'd expected from these guys that I wondered if I even heard it right. Then some evidence turned up that proved it DID happen. And there's one other thing that only a few other people know about so far... and I'm wondering what might happen if that came out. It's not something provable mind you, but the circumstances by which it came to me does raise some curiosities in my mind.

Bottom line is this, I guess: I don't hate George W. Bush, but he's not someone who can be trusted either. He's a hypocrite and I loathe hypocrisy. I can't vote for John Kerry because of a few things like his pro-abortion stance, but in my mind he's at least the more honest of the two. But I can't find any reason to not come forward with my story either, and let people take from it what they will, to trust Kerry more or not because of it.

May or may not post from here on out until Monday, as we are wrapping up principle photography on Forcery. It's gonna be fun Saturday morning when we replicate Mel's Drive-In from American Graffiti. I might have a photo to post from that sometime this weekend that oughtta make everyone laugh, if we can pull it off :-)

Update on 2004 hurricanes following the 2000 election results

"He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." -- Matthew 5:45, NIV

Ya gotta admit though: it WAS pretty eerie. Still is if you're only counting the mainland.

In my last entry I posted a map showing the route of this season's hurricanes through Florida, which one guy noted have only gone through counties that voted for Bush in the 2000 election. Counties that voted for Gore weren't hit. Almost as if the Almighty was sending Florida a message about something...

...'cept it turns out that the map isn't quite entirely accurate.

Charley's path took it through the Florida keys, which are part of Monroe County. And Monroe did vote for Gore in 2000! Also, as someone noted in the last post's comments, Ivan's eye actually made landfall in Alabama, not the Florida panhandle itself... although it was that part of the state - particularly the Pensacola area - that bore the brunt of Ivan's slam on Florida and did vote for Bush.

So it's not a perfect correlation after all. And although I do believe that God would "send a message" via nature even today, and despite knowing that everything IS under His control, I'm gonna chalk this one up as just a bizarre coincidence of politics and geography.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Has Florida become the receiving end of a divine message?

A little while ago one of my friends sent me the picture hosted at this link. You gotta admit, that's a pretty bizarre correlation between the paths of recent hurricanes to which counties in Florida voted for George W. Bush in 2000...

Not one county that voted against Bush was hit. Furthermore it looks like hurricanes lately have gone out of their way to AVOID hitting those that didn't.

I don't believe for a second that this is God's way of saying that Al Gore should have won Florida: God doesn't choose our Presidents for us, and He doesn't anoint them to be in authority over us. Most people don't understand - they've actually been deluded against realizing this - that God gave the authority over America to we the people, as the citizens of this nation, and it is we who are anointed to govern ourselves. We don't have a king and we don't render unto Caesar... hell, Caesar's dead, why pay the man?

That standpoint gets me into a lot of arguments with fellow Christians who want to believe that Bush is "God's man" for us. Sorry, don't buy it: he's not acting much like God's man for one thing and it goes everything against what I've come to know after studying and praying about the thing. If I'm wrong then God can correct me on it and in fact I do pray that He would correct me if I'm mistaken. But so far He hasn't shown me anything otherwise.

But I will say this: it is a curious thing that Florida's hurricanes this season have only hit the areas that were strongly pro-Bush four years ago. Particularly when you bear in mind, after a study of the Old Testament, the things of nature that God would often use to either remove a threat from the children of Israel... or punish them.

I'm not gonna suggest anymore than that, 'cept to say this: if God is using hurricanes this year to send a message to America about Bush, He's certainly established a precedent for it in the Good Book.

Yeah, I got the Classic Trilogy DVD set...

"Hi my name is Chris and I'm a Starwarsaholic."

"Hi Chris!!"

I called up my friend Brian (the coolest cat who ever played cello) and he came by here last night about 11:20. He was wearing his "Revenge Of The Sith" t-shirt (the black one with the "Return Of The Jedi"-style lettering) and at the last minute I opted to wear my full Jedi costume with robes, cloak, lightsaber etc. We took my car to the Wal-Mart on Wendover Avenue in Greensboro and waited with about 30 other happy campers for magic hour to hit.

People loved Brian's shirt (it looks very cool) and my costume. Some kids wanted to touch the lightsaber... uh-uh, no doing: only people I trust in a big way tough this lightsaber. This is the most special lightsaber ever made, at least to me: it was my own design. I made it in my Dad's knifeshop. I took it to Star Wars Celebration II a few years ago where author James Luceno admired it and Paul Ens of StarWars.com said it was "amazing work". This is the lightsaber that Roy Ackland from WGHP played with off-camera and made the sounds as he pretended to be a Jedi (later during that morning's show it won admiration from Brad Jones and Cindy Farmer). They all loved the story of how I used this lightsaber to propose to my wife. This lightsaber started the biggest chapter of my life... and it's going to play a part in my funeral at the end of it. By now you get the point: a person has to be very, VERY special to me if they want to play with my lightsaber.

(Geez are there connotations too scary to think about in that statement or what?!)

We hung around a bit and talked with a lot of folks and then at 12:01 they started selling them. The guys at Wal-Mart had too few of the widescreen versions on hand as opposed to the pan-scan so they had to make another trip to get more widescreens before we got to the register. But about 12:10 Brian and I got there (he waited to use a gift certificate later today at another store to get his) and I was given the silver box that might has well have been the Holy Grail to a longtime fan like me.

It's still sitting here, unopened, with the shrinkwrap still around it. I like to let things "linger" a bit before tearing into them... 'specially some new bit of Star Wars coolness. Between yesterday and today I've been having one massive StarWargasm (I made that up before the Special Editions release in '97) and I want to let it stretch out a bit.

I may feel different when I'm 80 or 90 and still this way but in the meantime: it's nice being a 30-year old guy who still doesn't know how to grow up :-)

Friday, September 17, 2004

My newest article for The Washington Dispatch is up

"THX 1138: Reality Takes a Turn Toward Fiction" is up and I'm thankful again that the good folks at that site are letting me contribute my thoughts to them. My only problem with this (though I do understand their decision) is the ending of the article: it was edited from what it originally said because there was... well, let's just say it's something I need to be more mindful of in the future, as this was the very first time I've ever had to deal with some things that a writer traditionally didn't have to bear in mind. It's still not fixed quite the way I would have liked, but I submitted an alternate that (I think) takes care of the problem and gives it the clean ending I was aiming for. Hoping it'll merit approval and can be tacked on soon: I hate it when three incomplete thoughts vie for attention in the same sentence. Sorta like my mind in the morning before getting my caffeine buzz...

Anti-Bush guys may have forged memos, and Anti-Kerry dads may have staged their daughters getting their signs torn up...

...it's a sad day in America when pro wrestling is more real than the Presidential election. Is it too late to start a campaign to draft Vince McMahon into the White House?

I need to crucify some things before any Republicans try to crucify me with them

Earlier this week I alluded that it has been growing in my mind to post to this blog my account of an incident regarding George W. Bush from four years ago. It's something that wouldn't reflect well on his character, from my perspective anyway. And it's the only firsthand knowledge I really have of the man and that's certainly added to some hesitations I've had about finally venting about some things. That and, as I've said before, it matters a lot to me that my heart is right on why I would do this: I do not want my motives to be borne out of anger or hatred or a lust for revenge. And as much as the angels of my lesser nature might want to entice me to do such a thing, I really don't know if I could be at peace with myself if I actively sought out a person - any person - with the intent of hurting him in even a way such as this. Ever.

I know that there are others that wouldn't hesitate to do the same to me, if I were to make any move in the slightest that they would construe as being a threat to their comfort zone.

I started posting on political forums about six years ago, when I signed up on Free Republic as "Darth Sidious". For almost four years I stayed very active in the discussion there: I wrote movie reviews from a conservative perspective, was led to pull off a one-man "freep" (protest by a "Freeper", there's a whole subculture over there with its own native dialect) and did any number of things on my own to not just be involved with the site but promote it as well. Heck, I even wound up on the "Free Republic Advisory Board" - whatever the heck that was supposed to have done, I had access to it anyway - and I suppose that might have lasted until the day I was banned from the site. The owner's given reason was "Democrat".

I never gave up on what I thought were conservative principles. The "crime" that led to my exile from Free Republic was openly stating that, as a North Carolina voter, I had to vote for Erskine Bowles over Elizabeth Dole for our U.S. Senate race out of principle. For one thing, of the two candidates running Bowles was the only one who was a real resident of North Carolina: Dole hadn't lived in this state for at least forty years. She only declared her residence here a few days after Jesse Helms announced his retirement so that she could begin filing the paperwork to run for Senate. Might have been the first time in southern history that the carpetbagger brought a Gucci with her. Whatever. The fact of the matter is, this state needed a real representative in the Senate: I disagree with Bowles on a number of things (I even politely told the nice young lady from his campaign as much a few nights ago when she called here) but he was the sole legitimate North Carolinian of the two who could sincerely represent us. Some of the other Freepers called me a "traitor to the cause" but if I had it to do all over again, I wouldn't change a darned thing. I put doing what's right for my state above doing what's "good for the party". And the only reason Dole came here and got as far as she did anyway was because the Republicans' national leadership pretty much "tapped her" for the Senate seat. There were any number of real North Carolinians from the GOP here who could have run and won: they got snubbed as the party bigwigs poured all their money and resources into Dole, who couldn't even be bothered to debate her fellow Republicans on the issues. It mattered too much to the Republicans that they had a surefire winner, ya see... even though the lady they shoved down our throats was not only NOT a longtime North Carolina resident, but in many ways what could be considered a "big-government liberal". I didn't like it and it only served to compound my rationale toward voting for Bowles: the Republicans need to be taught not to micromanage local elections from Washington.

This state was getting the same shaft that New York got from the Democrats and Hillary Clinton. I called the Republicans out on it and for my stance got shut out of what claims to be the nation's premiere website promoting freedom and principles. For a few days after that I watched as the founder of Free Republic and his cronies posted all kinds of cheap insults my way: questioning my state of mind, saying that I was "anti-american", "socialist", "traitor", even siding with "the terrorists" and a lot of other things that I don't care to recap here. It wasn't long afterward that some friends pointed me toward Liberty Post and I signed up there - also as "Darth Sidious" - until I voluntarily left last month.

Admittedly, some good things came out of my time on the boards: I made a lot of new and lasting friendships through them, and a few factors from them resulted in my relocating for a time to try my hand at a few new things. Between some of the friends I made and those fresh experiences that I might not have known otherwise, my life grew and changed for the better. But those blessings only go so far: I came to a point where I had to examine myself on what good was I doing - for others and myself - by still participating in forums like this. And to be honest, I can't see where anything was coming of it except lowering the bar on my own expectations.

The last thing I told the founder of Free Republic before he banned me was that the site was becoming as extremist as Democratic Underground. I looked in on Free Republic recently and I almost feel led to apologize to Democratic Underground. "FR" is so far devolved now from it's '98-'99 heyday that what I remember of "DU" seems downright civilized: Kerry is routinely referred to as "John F'ing" Kerry". Posters cheered when news of Clinton's bypass surgery hit. A few practically thanked God that Hurricane Frances hit Florida so that President Bush could get a good photo-op. Other posters are instructed to toe the line by FR loyalists/keyboard Stasi lest they be banished. Practically no one wants to talk about ideas there anymore: it's about pushing through an ideology. And not even a real one at that.

Liberty Post is becoming the same way, but not because of its management as much as it is for being overwhelmed by the empty, meaningless drivel of adolescent shills who quite possibly believe that they really figure into the Democrat and Republican hierarchies from the tactical advantage of their parents' basements. I did have a few disagreements with that site's management on some things (including having one temporary suspension) but I feel a lot more willing to forgive them because at least there they seem interested in a real conversation despite the constant torrent of nothing but "Bush is toast" and "Democrat-rat bastards" around them.

But this isn't so much about their weaknesses, as it is about mine.

If I do post this account, I'm going to get attacked for it. My entire posting history for the past six years will be scrutinized and I'm suddenly going to find things I wrote but have since long forgotten being brought out of the abyss and shoved in my face. Whatever it was that I went through when I stated that I was going to vote for a Democrat in our local election then, I know that I'm looking at a lot worse - maybe far more so than what I'm trying to be prepared for - happening as a result of me telling the world about my experience at the hands of the Bush campaign four years ago... and what I've learned about the incident in the time since.

It's not even that big a thing compared to other stories that have gotten out, but it makes little difference: if I go through with this there are going to be people - I've already noted who they would be - who will try their damndest to destroy me. They will attack my character, my career, maybe even my family and other relationships. And among the first nails they'll be looking to crucify me with are going to be my own thoughts and words from over the years. And it won't enter their minds at all what they are doing: to them, they would be reciprocating against someone who is attacking their idol: the thing they have come to put more faith in than even God.

How is it that people who want to be thought of as so Christian and loving not only use but defend un-Christian tactics like dirty political tricks and baseless character assassination? Is winning an elected office worth sacrificing one's spirituality over? How is this being a witness of Christ's love and humility? I've been wondering lately why is it that George W. Bush - a professed born-again Christian - is relying on Karl Rove to win re-election. Rove, the guy who once barraged a Democrat candidate's office one day with homeless people who had been promised free booze. The guy who initiated the vicious (and untrue) rumor about Ann Richards being a lesbian that may have cost her an election. The guy who once complained that Christians didn't do enough to help Bush get elected in 2000... as if they were merely numerical assets to be manipulated. Where's the honor in any of that? Is that kind of strategy what a Christian who only wants to serve others is supposed to adopt in America today?

And why did Rove ever start doing things like that anyway? Do a few fleeting years of power and glory on this earth supersede the value of one's eternal integrity? Or might he someday find that years from now, as disease and corruption lay waste to his body, when he can do nothing else then... that his life would have been far more richer had he traded his moments of wrath for kindness?

I feel pity toward those such as this, but people like that are not what I should worry about: he doesn't even know who I am. I'd be taking it from some people who do know me - by the handle of "Darth Sidious" anyway - and would be intimately more familiar with my weaknesses than anyone inside the real Bush campaign could be. They would and could find quite a few things to use to disparage me with, in the name of protecting something that they've attached their own sense of identity to.

But again, it's not about their weaknesses. It's about my own. And I know and can accept that more often than not, that they would be right about those weaknesses.

I know one thing to expect from the get-go: when Free Republic's founder Jim Robinson appeared on the rival Liberty Post this past March. For a lot of people it was a chance to take a shot at the guy who “dissed” them... and on a level playing field no less. For once he couldn't ban people just because he didn't like their opinion. He lasted a few hours before retreating, never really answering a charge or challenge with anything substantive and I didn't really expect him to either, but that didn't stop me from lobbing my own volley at him...

I told him that so great was the anger about how he had slandered me, that part of me relished the thought of throwing him out of his wheelchair and kicking him as he lay helpless on the ground.

There, I said it. And I'm glad that I did say it. At least I was man enough to confess aloud what was darkening my own heart. At least I did desire being rid of it, having nothing more to do with it. If I had the choice between being tempted with that thought and admitting it before others and being tempted but wanting to keep it hidden within, I would have to admit to it every time.

I only did what a lot of other people - whether on a forum like Robinson's or off of it - are afraid to do. And the biggest difference between us is that they're the ones who have not only been just as tempted as I to consciously hurt someone, but they've actively leaped at the impulse and desire to heap scorn and misery on another. It doesn't matter if that's John Kerry that they're trying to ruin: they would have attacked anyone with a "D" next to their name for no other reason than because they have an "R" stamped beside their own. They don't really want to be free of that hate: they let it live on within, so that it gnaws away at their hearts and souls until there becomes a blackness that can readily justify anything for sake of that for which it lusts.

I don't want to be like that. I don't want to be like Karl Rove. I don't want to be like Jim Robinson. I never had the real desire of my mind to hurt him either, or anyone else... but I did have to confess what the anger that he aroused was putting on my heart. And from where I'm seeing things, it's that which does separate me from people like the partisan extremists who don't give a damn how much grief they bring to others. And I don't really see that as much of a weakness at all: I can care, even if they won't.

That's why I left being active on political forums: I didn't want to offer that part of my nature that I still contend with any more chances for me to yield to it like that. I used to believe that Internet forums like those would be the seed of an American renaissance of freedom and responsibility: I was wrong. It's not worth my heart coming to mirror the rancor defining those places just to stick around longer and hope for better. Nor did I really want to make any more mistakes like I had on Free Republic and Liberty Post that might someday come back to haunt me.

But, I did make mistakes before, and nothing I can do on this end of things can make them disappear down the memory hole. I'm human. I'm not perfect. I'm a Christian who fails the test constantly. I'm not particularly proud of some things but I can at least have faith that God hasn't given up on me yet. And if I do this thing and knowing what I should expect on some level, I'm going to face up to it… because I hold the concepts of truth and sincerity to be sacred.

It's because President Bush has not been sincere - and very possibly not truthful at all on some things either - that is leading my heart to post my account and what I've learned since then. Hypocrisy is something that I can't tolerate anywhere, whether it's from someone toward me or in my own character. I demand that my own life be honest and straightforward and I expect nothing less from others, whether they're my intimates or if they're asking me to trust them with a lot of power and responsibility. If they aren't sincere about it and wanting me to believe that they're something that they ain't... well, I get miffed at things like that.

I'm not trying to hurt anyone. I just want to serve the truth, as best as I understand it. And I'm not afraid to be confronted with my own mistakes from the past if anyone wants to throw them up against me. Heck, I just included a link with a wide-open invitation to see something that would no doubt come up during scrutiny. If anyone cares for the context of what I had to say, it's right there for them to check out on their own: I don't need to add anything more to it, but I'll always admit to it.

One last thing, another "weakness" to admit aloud, as it were: if I do this and someone comes after me, I'm fine with that. I can take the heat. But if this in any way becomes something aimed at my loved ones...

My family isn't just blood: there are people that I care for because we've been through a lot together. One of the greatest blessings of my life has been the very close group of people from all over the world that have become so dear to my heart that "friends" can't begin to describe it. I have a wife, and many more brothers and sisters than my one natural sibling. They would do anything for me. And they would be the first to tell you that of all the qualities describing my feelings toward them, the greatest is my loyalty. I would gladly die for the sake of those that I love, if it meant that they would live.

I can take just about anything. But there are some things in my life that no one should bother with hurting without also expecting to go away with a broken spine.

My family is one of them.

And I'll lay that down as fair warning to anyone who may find this: the GOP-locksteppers from Free Republic, anyone with Rove's gang, whatever. Come at me all you want. But don't you dare do anything against the people I love.

'Cuz if nothing else, I've a pretty good track record at digging up dirt on other people myself. It's just that so far I've only had to use that on REAL crooks (ain't that right, Sam and "Leonard"?).

Sometime next week, if after thinking and praying about it I’m still feeling led to do it, I'll probably post my story then about what happened involving George W. Bush four years ago. In the meantime, I'm going to step away from this computer and enjoy the weekend :-)

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Various thoughts

For all its intensity as a Category 4 storm, Ivan could have been a lot worse. It's still holding together now 17 hours inland, and our family in northern Georgia told us a while ago that they're starting to get pounded by the thing. We'll probably begin getting it sometime tomorrow. Meanwhile Jeanne weakens over Hispaniola but looks to strengthen once back over water: it may hit the eastern seaboard in another few days. And the twelfth tropical depression of the season is now firming-up way out in the Atlantic, in that spot off of West Africa that usually spawns the ones that come this way.

My own journalism career has never been more than a fraction of the years that most senior CBS correspondents have racked up, but even I know better than to accept at face value - and with remarkably little reservation - a news source that's been faxed from a Kinko's.

A few days ago a close associate hit on something that hadn't crossed my mind at all and may not have occurred to most folks. Yet it's so very obvious and makes utterly perfect sense, and it's not a far stretch at all to see this happening: about why the results of this year's elections - all of them - may not be anything like what the media is telling us to expect. I'm going to think it through more, and write more about it later.

That's all for now. Going to enjoy the rest of the evening while the wind picks up outside as Ivan comes a'knockin'!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Saying a prayer as Mad Ivan bears down on Creole country

Depending on who you listen to, there are three events that top the list of possible natural disasters in the United States: a "big one" earthquake along the Pacific coast (although an eruption of the Yellowstone caldera is coming to eclipse the prominence of that threat), another quake along the New Madrid faultline similar to what happened in 1811, and a major hurricane making landfall at or near the city of New Orleans. It has been estimated that any one of the three, should they occur, would cause destruction and loss of life beyond anything that we've been prepared for.

In a few brief hours, there may be only two disasters waiting to happen left on that list.

It's a little before 11 PM on September 15th and as I write this, the outer eyewall of Ivan is approaching Mobile, Alabama. The hurricane has enveloped the entire Gulf from west of New Orleans to Tampa Bay. Winds of 160 mph have been reported, with 30-foot waves reported crashing onto the beaches in some areas. One buoy in the Gulf has sent back recordings of 100-foot waves.

Ivan has a substantial storm surge and it's set to hit at high tide.

It doesn't help matters much that New Orleans is built into a natural bowl surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River, all that water held back for centuries by a system of levees and pumps. So why did 1.5 million people end up living in a place so threatened with water that it gives no rest to even the dead, hence the above-ground cemeteries?

Because Jean Baptiste Lemoyne, Sieur de Bienville - the founder of New Orleans - conned the King of France to making all the cheap swampland that he swiped up near the mouth of the Mississippi be the new capital of French Louisiana. As New Orleans grew Bienville sold his parcels of land at outrageously higher prices than what he acquired it for. So New Orleans was a town born of a corrupt politician... and it looks like his lack of vision is going to be darn near the death of it too.

But I hope not, and will say a prayer tonight that if it's somewhere in the Lord's will, that Ivan will spare the Big Easy and those who haven't heeded the evacuation orders. I've never been there but have always wanted to visit: have heard that the food there is incredible.

New Orleans Hurricane is a drink, not a disaster. Take care and God bless y'all.

Six years of complaining and we get digitally-enhanced Ewoks?!

People have been asking me if I'm going to be getting the Classic Star Wars Trilogy when it finally comes out on DVD next week. As much as I'd love to I'm probably going to pass on it for awhile: next weekend we hope to shoot the last few bits of "Forcery". Then it's a mad scramble to get that ready for release by the end of October: pretty ironic to give up REAL Star Wars movies for one that we're making ourselves. I need to button myself down on things and practice some self-discipline, get this and other projects out of the way before letting myself enjoy what I and hordes of fans have been waiting for going on six year now.

It's definitely not going to please everyone though: seems that George Lucas couldn't stop fiddling around with the original movies even after the Special Editions in 1997. The versions we'll be seeing on DVD next week will have several substantial changes: Ian McDiarmid reprises his role as the Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back, replacing that rubber-mask-with-the-rhesus-monkey-eyes thing when Darth Vader speaks to him via hologram. It's now Temuera Morrison's voice for Boba Fett (fitting, since Boba was a clone of Jango Fett). The planet of Naboo is being added to the pan-galactic celebration at the end of Return Of The Jedi, which wasn't even part of the story until the '97 Special Editions anyway. John Williams has rescored parts of the soundtrack, particularly one glaring omission: A New Hope now includes the "Imperial March" that's been heard in every Star Wars movie since but didn't actually debut until three years later with The Empire Strikes Back. Those and a few other things are mostly cosmetic: what's REALLY got a bunch of people honked-off is that Hayden Christensen (the pre-Vader young Anakin from Episodes II and III) has digitally replaced Sebastian Shaw's "older redeemed Anakin" in the ghostly trio at the end of Return Of The Jedi. Lucas has a pretty good reasoning for it, but still... it was a nice image of what Anakin might have become had he not fallen by the wayside.

But now, on the other side of the looking glass after working on my own movie, I do find myself no longer as much a "purist" as I used to be in regards to Star Wars, and have to sympathize with Lucas. There's a zillion things that go wrong with something like this and when it's your vision that you're trying to bring to life, you're compelled to make it as gosh-darned perfect as you can... and when the chance comes to fix some things, you take it. The experience of working on "Forcery" has illumined me quite a bit on what it is to be an artist. I'll probably write more about it later on.

At least that's what I was thinking... until it hit the Star Wars fansites this afternoon that Something Awful had scooped everyone and went public with some other changes that the Plaid One has made to the Classic Trilogy. Check this out...

You ain't seen the worst of it by far: punch here for more New Changes to the Star Wars Saga and pray that those wrought-iron gates at Skywalker Ranch can withstand an angry mob.

Please pardon the mess...

I'm looking over a few things at this insanely late hour ('cuz I've been a night-owl since college) and happened to notice that right now AMC is showing Escape From New York: so very dated by today's standards, but still gotta love Kurt Russell's character Snake Plissken. And the haunting theme music. I know it's just wishful thinking but John Carpenter should consider remaking this someday: set it a vague number of years after today's New York City (i.e. no World Trade Center) so that it holds up to age better. Most of the actors from the original would prolly not be interested but Isaac Hayes looks WAY buff: I bet he could still kick major butt as The Duke of New York, A-Number One!

But anyway, I haven't really had time to address it as much as I'd wished, but the way this blog looks... could use some improvement. So on and off for the next few days or weeks I'll be messin' around with the template and style sheets and whatnot. Gonna try to give it at least a passing semblance to a real publication instead of looking like the Black Hole of Calcutta. Hey I need to do something on my own now that I got a bunch of website certifications right? So forgiveness please if you see this blog appearing a bit wonky or under the weather, 'cuz it probably just means that I'm tinkering with it on this end.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Yes, but did she throw 276 air freshners into the deal?

It's been years since Oprah Winfrey's show really interested me (then again it's been years since most television really interested me). Back in the day she could find something that would grab anyone's attention at least one day out of the week. But that was before "The Oprah Winfrey Show" became about... well, Oprah. Her magazine and book club always struck me as self-serving gimmicks and I understand that there's an entire show on Oxygen or Nitrogen or whatever that women's cable network is that covers nothing but what happens behind the scenes of her other show. Go figure.

But I had to smile yesterday when I heard that to kick off the 19th season of her show, Winfrey gave a new car to each person in her 276-member studio audience. The massive giveaway of the new Pontiac G6 sedans was part of a plot hatched by Winfrey and General Motors. I didn't see it but I heard that after a bit of teasing the audience Winfrey ran across the stage screaming "Everybody gets a car! Everybody gets a car!" Granted, Winfrey herself didn't buy the cars herself (they were donated by General Motors, which when you figure the cost of regular advertising versus the ratings of the Oprah show it comes out that the $7 million giveaway actually saved money on the advertising value alone) but given that everyone in the crowd had a loved one who wrote to Winfrey about how that person needed a new car, you can't help but appreciate that there was at least a sliver of charity at work here.

Still, the whole thing was the beginning of the theme for Winfrey's theme this season: "Wildest Dreams Come True", and I've got to wonder if getting a new car really qualifies as a "wildest dream". Your greatest dreams shouldn't be about getting material things, or finding yourself covered in fortune or glory, or waking up on a pile of money with the most attractive person imaginable beside you. They shouldn't be about the acquisition of something, at all.

My "wildest dream come true" would be to make it as a successful writer, to also have some luck as a filmmaker, to someday be as good a servant to my family, my friends, my church and my community as I can be. And yes, I do want to have a bit more money than I have now (actually a LOT more money wouldn't hurt) but if any of those things were given to me outright, I couldn't appreciate it. Instead I need to earn my dreams, and let them come or go based on my own vision and temerity. With all due respect to her, I'd love for that to be God making my wildest dreams come true, not Oprah. If she or anyone wants to really let me have my "wildest dream" become a reality, all I ask is that I be given a real shot at something, without bias or favoritism, and whether I rise or fall or please or fail, to know that I gave it my best. It's not the destination that makes the dream worthwhile... it's the journey.

It has to to be noted though that it's been awhile since I've seen a new picture of her and I must say... Oprah looks HOT!

Sunday, September 12, 2004

George W. Bush sent a thug to tell me to "get the f-ck out of here!"

Y'know, I like to think that in the course of writing stuff in this lil' space (for whoever might find it, all two of them at least for certain) that people will get the impression that, at heart, I'm a pretty nice guy. Not a perfect guy mind ya (my lovely spousal overunit, God bless her, would be the first to tell anyone that much :-) because I do have weaknesses of human nature that I contend with on a daily basis. But overall, I try to convey that you're reading the words of a guy who's a big kid at heart, loves things like collecting Star Wars figures and making short movies with his friends, will talk with you about anything and everything from why the black and white episodes of The Andy Griffith Show were better than the color ones to the history of the Soviet space program, and whose biggest goal in life is to someday buy a house, then buy a brown male miniature Dachshund that I intend to name "Colonel Klink", and then buy lots of babies (if eBay will have lifted my getting banned by then).

I'm a nice guy. I try to always do what's right. That's what I was taught to do growing up: to be honest to yourself and to others, do your best, leave things in better shape than how you found them (learned that one from camping in the Boy Scouts), and try to never hurt anyone. It's that last one that I've struggled with most of all.

Which is what's at the heart of what I'm considering - not right now though, but please keep reading - as a post on this blog. Because it's not so much a matter about whether it would hurt a man (in all honesty I doubt it would) but rather...

"Is my heart right to want to do this? Am I being led to do this out of a sense of spite, and anger that I still haven't been able to let go of completely? Am I really being the example of that Christ-like spirit that I should be demonstrating to others instead? Shouldn't I just forget that this happened, and let God handle it? Shouldn't I instead be trying to love the man, and the other people that he sent that were involved with this? Because doesn't the fact that I am desiring to love them in spite of themselves show that I'm not bound as they are to the carnality of this world, for which they should be pitied instead of despised?"

Thoughts like that have been running through my head, on and off, for the better part of four years now. I realized not long after all this happened that when I stayed angry at people like that - who wouldn't care whether or not I was angry at them anyway - all I was really doing was letting them have that much more control over my life than they deserved. Which is none at all.

So, I'm not angry at that anymore. My life is a far better thing without it. And I like to think late at night that, somehow, I was able to find a certain happiness that just can't be enjoyed or even discovered by people who will never get any further in life than being a career politician, a hired goon or cops that abuse their authority. They think they have power... but so what? I have freedom. And there's a difference between the two.

What happened four years ago has been something I only tend to dwell upon when I hear or read something about the guy who initiated it. Maybe that's what he wants for some reason: for his name to forevermore be mentally associated with things that didn't used to happen once upon a time in America. And the part of me that tries to rationalize things did wonder if the whole thing was a serious misunderstanding of some sort that maybe I should have been a lot more forgiving of anyway.

I wish that I could believe that last one. As a Christian who tries to forgive and forget, I really do.

Except that it's been happening to a lot of people lately. It's been happening ever since four years ago. And at the risk of coming across as a biased observer, it's gotten a lot worse than what I knew about it then. Heck, for all I know, I may have been one of the very first people that was introduced to the concept of the "free speech zone". And wasn't I more than a little disturbed when THAT image kept popping up in various news stories during the past four years?

Everyone at some time has heard this stanza...

First they came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up,
because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up,
because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up,
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.

Most people know it but surprisingly few have heard of the man who wrote them: Martin Niemoller. As one of the leaders of the "Confessing Church" movement during Hitler's Germany, Niemoller helped organize a spiritual resistance to oppose the Nazi-sponsored "German Christian Church" that had cornered the market on Protestantism in that country. Anyway, Niemoller's bit of poetry has been coming to mind a few times lately. And though I was obligated to make a note of it in my capacity as a journalist then, part of me has wondered not a few times since then if I should have done more to tell others about my own experience with this kind of mentality. One that I've tried my best to be convinced otherwise but from what I now believe is completely unlike the Christ-like spirit that we are told permeates this group and the one that it surrounds.

Look, I want this to be understood: I'm a devout Christian. I am very staunchly pro-life, because I believe every life is precious and unique and deserves a chance in this world. I don't believe that such a concept as "homosexual marriage" is possible (for reasons that I may go into sometime later and maybe it'll interest folks to know that I'm against an amendment banning it too). I believe that affirmative action programs violate everything there is about making it on your own merits in a land of opportunity. I believe in cutting taxes, cutting spending along with them and scrapping a lot of over-burdening regulations that strangle our economy and sends many of our jobs overseas. I'm an Eagle Scout who grew up reading American history and appreciating who we really are and what we are called to be as a nation. I believe that our strength as a nation is reliant upon the force of our arms... but not as much as it is upon the humility of our hearts. I believe that Robert E. Lee was the most perfect example of a Christian gentleman that our country is likely to know. I'm a guy who shifted his schedule like mad in order to make a long drive (after an already longer one) to our nation's capitol to watch the horse-drawn procession bearing the casket of the man who won the Cold War without firing a shot and then spent 7 hours in line to file past that casket.

Conventional wisdom would have me pegged as a conservative. Not that I believe in conventional wisdom, but there you go.

I'm a white male who's a member of an independent Baptist church that might be described as "fundamentalist", who doesn't believe in abortion or gay marriage and Ronald Reagan was my hero. And I'm not voting for the Democrat candidate. By all accounts I should not only be voting for the other candidate, I should also be defending his good name on Internet message boards. But I'm not.

I don't want to do this because I hate anyone, or any group of people. Nor do I want to do it out of burning anger: there may be a few embers still glowing from that, but the last thing I do is let them become a consuming rage in my heart. Those should be allowed to die, not given new life.

What I'm thinking of doing isn't for any candidate or any party. I may cast a vote for someone to be President, but it won't be one of the two that will doubtless win it. Instead I may hold my hand and have faith that God's will cannot be thrawted, no matter who it is that wins the race or how much they might mess up this country. I'm that confident in His will at least.

I'm thinking of doing it because there's a lot of stories coming out about this kind of thing and worse going down all over the place, and considering that I still want this country to be one that my own children someday can enjoy as I did in my own youth, maybe I should have already spoken up more about it a long time ago. I'm thinking of posting my account of what happened, and then let fate and the wind take it where they may.

Besides, after this week the whole world is watching the blogs now. And the evil lil' "id monster" in the dark recesses of my heart is wondering if anyone would take notice of a guy who has a story to tell about how George W. Bush once sent hired muscle to threaten a cub reporter with arrest before telling him to "get the fuck out of here!" (pardon me ladies, but that's what he said) because the reporter was trying to do his job.

Yeah, wondering if it would get noticed. And wondering what kind of havoc... 'scuse me, *response* that it would evoke.

Like I said, I'm just thinking about it is all.

The only "wasted" vote is a lazy vote, Doctor Hollowell

Dr. Kelly Hollowell is another writer over at World Net Daily that I enjoy reading from time to time. I appreciate that, admittedly, she's got a better mind for some things than I do: there's no way I could wrap my noggin around the stuff that a Ph.D in Molecular and Cellular Biology demands. And that she's got a tremendous working knowledge of the legal system. And that she's a fellow Christian. And going by the pictures I've found of her that she's a very beautiful young lass with a sincere smile and eyes that seem to radiate a pure love of God.

But in regards to her new column "Your vote: a terrible thing to waste" she's wrong. She's HORRIBLY wrong! She's so wrong on this that "wrong" doesn't even begin to describe it: I would go so far as to describe it as "spiritually lukewarm". And as much as she (without having actually met her) is most likely a wonderful sister in Christ, someone has to call her out on this.

Dr. Hollowell spends the entirety of her piece this week telling voters why they should not consider voting for a party or person outside the Big Two. Specifically, that they should stay on the Republican side of the fence. Ironically this comes on the heels of her previous article "GOP tent: How big is too big?". In that piece she warns that unless single-issue voters accept - however grudgingly - the incrementalism that the current party leadership has decreed is the only way to win on social issues like abortion, then "the only alternative is to abandon the Republican Party." She then ended it with this: "Pro-lifers won't turncoat to the Dems but neither will they support an unfaithful spouse."

If the Republican Party was supposed to be the unfaithful spouse, now Hollowell offers up a glorified spin on the old argument for why a battered wife returns to that spouse: "because where else are ya gonna go, baby?"

Dr. Hollowell said that in the wake of her previous column many readers responded with their exuberance about the Constitution Party: "Some actually wrote this party's candidates are currently electable, which they are not." I'm enough of a realist to admit that there's at least a 99.44% probability the next President of the United States is going to be either a Democrat or a Republican, but whether or not someone is "currently electable" isn't the criteria that some people are gauging their vote by. An increasing number of people, by the way. Neither are these people "willing to cast their lot in a completely meaningless direction to make a point that will be largely ignored," as she states that it is.

I'm one of the former Republicans that Dr. Hollowell has been pondering lately. It might interest her to know that the very first thing I did on my eighteenth birthday was register to vote. Holding up my end of the responsibilities that comes with being a citizen by taking part in this process was something that mattered an awful lot to me. I was a registered Democrat for almost three years before leaving that party: it no longer represented me, and I wasn't going to try to persuade it to either because I knew that nothing I said within it would really matter. In that regard the Republicans looked far more promising... but after almost ten years in the Republican Party I came to realize how much of a chasing after the wind that has been also.

The fact of the matter is, Dr. Hollowell, that neither major party really cares about what we think, or holds us in serious consideration. The Democrats have long been the shining example of this: does anyone seriously believe that the leadership of that party could genuinely be interested in "abortion rights", "gay marriage", African-American issues, Hispanic-American issues, radical environmentalism, AIDS, children's welfare, labor unions, anti-nuclear activism, and everything else that's trying to ride that poor donkey? Because they don't care, and the only reason that all of those interests have even agreed to be under the same umbrella is because they've been convinced that the Democratic Party is their vehicle to freedom. Rarely do any of them realize how much of a ride the Democrats have taken them for.

And now it should be painfully obvious - to all but those who refuse to see - that the Republicans have become just as bad, if not worse. I say "worse" because at least the Democrats never relied on the spiritual slothfulness of a core contingency while also claiming to be its best friend. Christians have become to the Republican Party what black Americans have been to the Democrats for the past half-century: a numerical asset and nothing more. And it happened because we failed to take the words of the apostle Paul to heart when he instructed the believers at Rome to "...be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you might prove what is good, and acceptable..."

The typical American Christian hasn't cared for the renewing of his mind. That mind is, for the most part, still consumed by the temptations of this world. It is enamored with political glory and enraptured by military might. It is so enthralled with the spectacle of the flag and the eagle and the salute and the gun that it dares not consider itself in the shadow of the humble cross. Indeed, the cross justifies these things, or so such a mind has been trained to believe: now humility is anathema, and might makes right.

If we cannot let our old minds die to the things of this world, the inevitable ramification is that our minds will grow enslaved to the things of this world and to those that control such things. So it is that for all the delusions we give ourselves about our freedom, the state of professing Christianity in America is one of bondage. We have become the willing dupes of the Republican Party: heck even Karl Rove, President Bush's top political advisor, has strongly alluded to devout Christians being needed only for the numbers they bring to the polls. But I can't really blame the Republicans for any of this: in our apathy we would have become the dupes of any party that quoted from scripture or raised the flag high enough.

That we as Christians would become little more than tools and that anyone - especially someone who is apparently a fellow believer - would dare insist that we remain tools... Christian though I try to be, I must admit to the lesser angels of my nature wanting to vent some venal vocabulary about this. C.S. Lewis said that those things that are not eternal are eternally worthless. Well, I can't think of anything more worthless here and now than a political party... and we're supposed to hitch our Christian identities on this thing?!

The only thing I see that's really being furthered from any of this - and regardless of which of these two parties "wins" elections - is government's power over private individuals. But if you want an uglier word for it, let's call it what it really is: "socialism". And socialism killed more people in the twentieth century than anything else. Why should anyone with a conscience be expected to sign on and stick with a party that is dragging America - however slowly - toward that?

Dr. Hollowell is trying to make the case that the Republican Party is the best means that well-meaning people realistically have to effect the changes for good that they so desire. But only if the Republican Party is entrusted with more power. This ignores the fact that the purpose of the two major parties is about nothing but power: its accumulation and retention, and holding that power over others.

The Republicans have held the White House, and both chambers of Congress, for most of the past four years. They could have effected a lot of change for the better in this country... if they had really wanted to. They could have used the weight of respect that most Americans still have toward the offices of President and Senator to convince enough hearts that abortion is wrong, that taxes must be lowered and increased spending halted. Those have been planks in the Republican platform for the past two decades at least anyway: but when given a chance to step up to the plate the only thing that the Republican party has done to satisfactorily pursue those goals has been... well, not much of anything. So why should we trust them with more time? More to the point, why should we trust them with more power?

Arguing that we need to keep working for the election of Republicans because "they can appoint conservatives to the judiciary" doesn't cut the mustard either. As high upon Olympus as the Supreme Court and even lower ones such as the bizarre Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have been made out to preside over lesser mortals, the judicial bench is still not the final arbiter of this nation's legal identity. It is now and always has been quite answerable to both the legislative and the executive branches. There exists no reason whatsoever why President George W. Bush could not have already signed an executive order effectively rescinding Roe v. Wade, and maybe someone should tell him that - and not campaigning for Republican politicians - is the REAL core of the president's checking power against the judiciary. If the Republicans didn't desire being so bold they could have always brought an amendment outlawing abortion to the forefront of debate after introducing it in Congress. Or Bush could have signed the order and insisted that Congress consider an amendment affirming the order, thus making members of Congress answerable to their constituents: the American people.

Or could it be that enough high-level politicians from the Republican party don't seriously want to end abortion? I don't want to elaborate on why that may or may not be, but insisting that abortion is only going to end after a period of incrementalism shouldn't pass the smell test with any rational citizen. It looks more like trying to pass the buck for someone else to worry about later.

To her credit, Dr. Hollowell does acknowledge later in her column that, "I recognize for now the religious right is in a large sense an ineffective voting block on cultural issues held captive by the Republican Party. This explains why little more than bones and rhetoric are tossed at the religious right on cultural issues. They have nowhere to go and no widely accepted strategy to change their current ineffectiveness." She makes a far greater leap than many Christians I have come to know, who sincerely do hold that the Republican Party is favored of God and that the Democrats are the perdition-bound thralls of Lucifer. But with all due respect to her being a Christian and a scientist, arguing that we should remain on the plantation and still expect things to get better is illogical to the extreme. Albert Einstein was even more blunt: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result," he once said.

But I think that the real reason that Dr. Hollowell argues for staying faithful to the Republicans has not so much to do with spiritual apathy, or lust for power, or our failure to test the spirits as it does with something she brings up as the primary argument for voting Republican: because it keeps the Democrats out of power. And that still isn't reason enough for a person to vote against his conscience... nor does it address the root problem that ultimately separates those who slave themselves to The Two Parties and those who have knocked the dust from their sandals and walked away...


That will be either Bush or Kerry getting sworn into office this coming January. I accept that. But I also accept that it's only because the vast majority of the American people are afraid of change that this is even possible. The better part of this past century saw our government, our media, our schools, and even our churches demand that we frame practically every aspect of our lives around a false dichotomy. And we've let it happen for so long that most Americans not only can't conceive of breaking out of the two-party trap, they don't want to leave it. Even though both parties are spent of vitality, devoid of principle and spiraling us all into national stagnancy, most people still want them to stick around because they're too comfortable with believing they still know what to expect from them.

Most Americans are like Brooks Hatlen in The Shawshank Redemption: we're so institutionalized that all we've come to know is our prison, and it feels like we'd practically kill to stay behind the walls. We're too paralyzed with fear to grasp for real freedom. We know what's in here... but we're too afraid of whatever might be lurking out there.

Well, I've enough faith in God that if we did have the courage to finally walk away from our captors, that we would find that our life would be far more enjoyable without them defining whatever it is that we must and must not be.

Dr. Hollowell, if by some cosmic twist of fate you happen to find and read this (and have gotten this far), please understand this: that I can't speak for anyone else. But for my own part it is my unwillingness to perpetuate - or to help perpetuate in any way - a fraud on my fellow American citizens that keeps them locked into a mindset of bondage that makes me dispute your position. I would rather see the American people as free as they can be, to follow their hearts and use whatever talents that God has bestowed them. The modern American political system that plays Democrats against Republicans - and demands that we join this pointless pursuit if we are to be considered legitimate citizens - is nothing but a charade put on by evil men to distract us from the things that really make our lives on this earth meaningful, while they sap at our energies and make a trade of our souls. And I refuse to let my time and passions be used by either side of it, in any way, anymore.

It has to stop, Dr. Hollowell.

And not tomorrow. Nor can it be a "wait until the next election but not this one because we have to vote 'them' out" either. You and me and everyone else with a brain knows that "next election" is a polite codeword for "never".

We are free by the grace of God, not the grace of other men. And definitely not men like John Ashcroft, or Ted Kennedy, or Jesse Jackson, or Pat Robertson, or even George W. Bush or John Kerry.

That's why I cannot go back into the tent that either of the two parties would welcome me under, Dr. Hollowell. I know what real freedom is like too much now.

I know the price that other men paid for me to have it.

I know that God has entrusted it to each of us as Americans, to uphold and defend as a sacred stewardship.

I know that my fellow Americans would most likely enjoy being free.

I know enough to understand that I can't trust the Democrats or Republicans with letting them enjoy being free, much less leading them to freedom in the first place.

I know that my responsibilities as a citizen exclude me from being afforded the luxury of being so lazy with my vote as to play the "either-or" game with the two major parties without considering whether or not one of them deserves my vote.

I know that, despite everything that the politicians and the press and the pundits and even some pastors have told me, it is not a vain and worthless gesture to say "no" to what they have already said "yes" to.

Because "electable" has nothing to do with it. Because whenever I say "no I won't" to their "yes you will"... I win. Every time.

And I want other people to boldly proclaim the same.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

9/11: thoughts and confessions three years later

It was a little before 9 AM, three years ago this morning, when the phone rang.

I'd been asleep on the sofa in the living room of my apartment, still groggy from the night before: September 11th was the day Lucasfilm was lifting the media embargo on their upcoming DVD release of Star Wars Episode I. The whole staff of TheForce.net had been up 'til about 3 that morning (US Eastern Time... TFN's staff was spread all over the world) getting stories and graphics ready to publish for the big day, including editor Joshua Griffin's report from Skywalker Ranch (he got to see George Lucas in person... lucky guy :-) With that work behind me and only going into work at Best Buy that afternoon to really look forward to, I was contentedly crashed until getting up to answer the phone.

It was Mom.

"Are you watching television?" I told her no, that this was the first time I'd been up all morning. "Well turn it on, a plane just hit the World Trade Center!"

Accident. That's the first thing that popped into mind. A plane crashed into the side of the Empire State Building back in the Forties after all. Hey, giant tall things sticking up in the air like that, planes coming in and out of the nearby airports every minute... it had to happen sooner or later, right?

"It hit one tower then just a few minutes later ANOTHER plane hit the OTHER tower!"

Now, that's no accident.

I called my landladies to see if they were watching this, then dialed into the net and started talking over AOL Instant Messenger to Ed, my old college roomie who was at work. The way my desk was situated, I had to turn my head somewhat to the right to look at the television. And then about 10 o'clock (screen names changed)...

Chris: was taking a nap this morning: it was a big night for TFN, we had our TPM DVD coverage. i was taking a nap when Mom called and said to watch this
Chris: now reporting a car bomb exploded outside the State Dept. building
Ed: yeah, I had heard something right before I came back to my office...
Chris: the WTC towers are leaning to one side now
Chris: one might collapse entirely
Ed: I had heard that they have already collapsed...or at least the top sections had
Ed: but I am watching the CSpan feed and wondering why there are so many stupid people in this country
Chris: they're "sheeple"
Chris: they think and say just as they're told to say
Chris: what the...
Chris: ummm did i miss something just now?
Ed: what are you talking about?
Chris: wasn't there a tower there just a few seconds ago?
Ed: *nod* the live feed on CSpan just showed it collapse....like the implosions I have seen on TV..
Chris: i mean... all i'm seeing now is
Ed: the top just fell onto the rest of the building and it went down...
Chris: Ed... oh holy [expletive], smoke's going ALL over the city
Ed: *nod*
Chris: man this is too much. i've never said "f" like that before
Chris: holy [expletive]
Chris: it's...
Chris4: Ed are you seeing this?
Chris: we just saw the World Trade Center... just go
WeirdEd007: *nod*

Don't normally use expletives like that... but then nothing was exactly "normal" that morning, was it? My entire day was spent watching coverage, along with just about everyone else on the planet with a television. Also called my girlfriend to make sure she was okay (a few hours later they cancelled classes at University of Georgia where she was a grad student at).

Was so glued to the set that I didn't want to leave for work but I'm glad now that I did: I needed to get away, get my mind on other things. It didn't help that from 5 until 10 that night we had probably less than 20 customers total who came into the store at all and my department - computers and accessories - saw only two.

I got home, called Lisa again and spoke with her for awhile, then got back on with AOL IM. My best friend Chad was online, under other circumstances he would have been doing news for Sports Illustrated's website at the CNN Building in Atlanta. Tonight they had nothing to report, so we spent the next several hours - until about 1 the following morning - sharing stories from that day, sending links to newspapers that were running extra editions... and talking about a lot of things.

It was a day that's been burned into my mind to be sure. Even now, three years later, I can remember everything about what happened from that morning when Mom called.

A few months later I asked Lisa to marry me. That had been planned out for months anyway, but seeing as how 9/11 affected everyone on some level... I must admit that being confronted with that magnitude a scope on human mortality made me want to spend the rest of my life with her that much moreso. And in a way it was my - ours, rather - way of affirming that life goes on. That we have to still live and love... and laugh, despite circumstances.

And I'm ready to share this much also now: when I proposed to Lisa the way that I did on TheForce.net website, that had been an idea in my mind for three months before 9/11. The attacks made me want to pull off that stunt even more... and you know why? Because I knew that people - a LOT of people, I was praying - would find that to be funny! They would be laughing at this geek with a lightsaber who was proposing to his girlfriend ("Geeks have girlfriends?!" someone asked) over the Internet. Now, do YOU think that the sight of a Star Wars fan proposing with a lightsaber is hilarious? 'Cuz I thought so, and so did Chad when I shared my thoughts with him on it: he said "yeah they'd laugh, that'd be a real trip!"

When Chad says something is "a real trip", that means it's golden.

We didn't have enough things to laugh about in the weeks following 9/11. I wanted to give everyone something to laugh at, and I wasn't afraid to use myself to make it so. Because I was going to be laughing at myself too. And hey, she did say "yes" after that lil' stunt (and a few other things that happened on our side of the monitor... but that's for another day's post): far from being the "revenge of the nerd", doesn't the notion of the geek getting the girl warm the cockles of your heart a bit? I wasn't afraid to do any of that, so long as I believed that people left the sight of that smiling just a bit more than they had before.

That was how I ultimately reacted to 9/11: it was as much an act of defiance against those who would take our joy away from us, as it was the first step on a new path my life would soon be taking.

But in the three years since 9/11, I can't help but believe that we haven't been defiant enough as a people.

We made a mistake in the days following 9/11: we let our government direct the course of our national anger, instead of letting we as the American people be angry on our own. And in doing so we let this government build up and then play off of our fears. Since 9/11 I've watched practically every part of the Bill of Rights trampled into irrelevance because of the PATRIOT Act or some sly judicial ruling that was demanded by the executive branch. I've seen old people manhandled at airports, ordinary citizens afraid to speak out on something because they're afraid of being turned in to Homeland Security (as fascist a name for an agency as is likely to be), debate stifled, people with legitimate reasons for dissent bullied and even arrested for their beliefs, and just about everything else that my teachers told me years ago only went on in the Soviet Union. "It can't happen here," they told me.

It's happening here. Now. Every day since 9/11, because though I cannot find any reason to believe that anyone in our own government was complicit in it happening, it happened to have opened the window for things being done to this country that had long only existed as the envisioned designs of evil men.

I'm not a liberal, or even really a conservative. My vote won't be going to either Kerry or Bush this November: it won't be Kerry because I'm very strongly against abortion, and because of some other issues. But at least Kerry hasn't actively demonstrated that he's willing to embrace the tactics of a fascist state to be in power. How then, as a Christian and a historian and an American, can I cast my vote for Bush either?

I want my country back, the way it was before 9/11. Any less than that is giving those who attacked us that day even more than anything they could have imagined in their wildest dreams.