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Monday, May 30, 2005

So, why DIDN'T the people who wanted war in Iraq want to go over there and be heroes themselves?

A follow-up to my previous post. Found this recent essay by Chuck Baldwin that lays it down in a way that I'm pretty sure the pro-war cowards (and really, what else CAN you call them?) will never stand up and answer to...
To those who are engaged in war, the consequences can be nightmarish! Arms and legs cut off. Eyes put out. Flesh burned. Intestines ripped out. Backs broken. Skulls crushed. Lives lost. Families torn apart. Homes destroyed. Children left without parents. Parents never able to see their children again. Wives without husbands. Husbands without wives. Souls snuffed into eternity. Emotional scars that never heal. These are the realities of war. And this is what the neo-cons who profit from war never have to see up close and personal.

Instead, pro-war neo-cons sit in their comfortable, air-conditioned offices and send other husbands, other wives, other parents, other children, other people to incur the "scourge" of war. But the neo- cons who trumpet war, who promote war, and who finance war never actually experience war.

Y'know, if General Robert E. Lee were still around, he would have condemned Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the whole lot of modern-day warmongers as being not Christian, or gentlemen, or even real men at all. Lee was horrified by war, and rightly so, "lest we should become too fond of it." But you gotta say one thing about Lee: he wasn't afraid to place himself in the same amount of danger as the men he commanded, for a cause that he did sincerely believe in.

So how about it, warmongers who wanted this mess in Iraq (and are now clamoring for Iran): if YOU believe in this fight so much, why don't YOU sign yourselves up, or YOUR sons and daughters, and go fight it yourselves?

You'll be "heroes", doncha know?

Memorial Day musings...

I'm going to pose a question that I've been thinking about the past several months:

Does being a soldier who merely steps foot on foreign soil qualify that soldier as a "hero" who's defending his country?

Because I don't think so.

And yet so many are being sent to other lands to come back as "heroes" while those doing the sending, are all too reluctant to go and be "heroes" themselves.

Why should I feel compelled to honor anyone on Memorial Day? We don't even really have what so many fought and died for anymore. How DARE we go through the motions of suggesting that we would hold their sacrifices to be "sacred" on this one day when we can't even do it during the other 364?

Y'know, you don't have to be a soldier, or a sailor, or a marine to be deemed worthy of being a "warrior" in this country. Safeguarding our liberties is a job for all of us, and those without the guns have a helluva lot more responsibility than those with the guns will ever have.

Instead we've shirked our duty. And we pat ourselves on the back for thinking we're "good Americans" when we congratulate those coming back home without a limb, or an eye, or a life.

You can't really remember those who died for freedom when real freedom is already dead.

EDIT 10:27 PM 05/30/2005: just found a really good essay by Doug Newman titled "Memorial Day 2005: Are We Even Worthy that puts things a lot better than how I tried to describe 'em here.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Time to say "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen" to Star Wars Galaxies

Wish it could be reported that everything is going beautifully in these halcyon (final?) days of being a Star Wars supergeek, but alas! Some things are not the ideal they should be in that saga far, far away...

I've been playing Star Wars Galaxies, the massively-multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) runs for LucasArts, ever since last January. I've been quite proud of the online persona of "Slanner Kwintz" that I invested countless hours in establishing as a smuggler/bounty hunter figure, and in proudly outfitting my SoroSuub yacht, the Mare of Steel, into a brutal business vehicle with refined elegance (I think I may have been the first player to figure out how to install a jail cell onboard a spacecraft in this game). I had a house on a hilltop on Tatooine that had a gorgeous view of the twin suns setting from the front porch, and I wound up meeting a lot of neat players.

But now it's time to hang it all up. Because this just ain't a fun game at all anymore.

It's not even really "Star Wars". It's more like "Star Wars Costume Party". SOE did a "Combat Upgrade" a few weeks ago intended to improve the (admittedly flawed but still fun) system of combat. Instead they botched things in such a way as to make the game darn nearly unplayable in anywhere near a sane fashion. Like, if you are wounded or killed (and respawn at a cloning center... why they don't call the cloning chambers "bacta tanks" and thus be more StarWars-ish I've no idea) you darn well better get used to being walking wounded 'cuz medical characters have NO hope to level up outside of combat. The crafting professions have been screwed up and my favorite profession, smuggler, is as far away from ITS much-needed revamp as its ever been.

The established characters from the saga are so ill-used it's laughable: Darth Vader, when he IS used, has become a corporate mouthpiece for the Galactic Empire instead of a dreaded Sith Lord. Yeah you read that right in SOE's hands Darth Vader has become a JOKE! There are scores of problems with the game, including some bugs that have still been in-game for months, if not ever since inception. SOE's manner of dealing with these failings has always been the same: introduce more Star Wars eyecandy, like better mountable pets and multi-passenger vehicles, and planets like the Wookiee homeworld to run around in. WITHOUT either addressing the present problems or working on the problems that crop up with EVERY "improvement" they roll out. SOE is trying to slap bandaids on a chestwound. And they're still wondering why the patient is still crippled. Fercryingoutloud they allow Tatooine banthas to run around on Naboo... where da heck is the famous Lucas-ian attention to consistency in THAT?!?

The problem with Star Wars Galaxies is that it no longer feels like real Star Wars. There's no sense of the spirit of the saga that was the allure most of us had in playing it to begin with. We wanted to be part of Star Wars, not players in a game that merely borrows from the look of Star Wars. And some players have started a massive online petition movement to make SOE enact some real changes to the game, but I've come to realize that anything SOE does would be too little, too late. This game is going down fast: at least 16,000 subscribers have publicly announced cancellations according to most accounts, and that indicates that many, many more players have called it quits already. This past week SOE brought Star Wars Galaxies: The Total Experience to stores: a compilation of the original core game plus the Jump To Lightspeed space expansion, and the new Rage of the Wookiees add-on, all for thirty bucks. Most players paid that much just for the space expansion. If you want just the Wookiee expansion you can download that directly for just about the same price. You tell me: be a new player and buy EVERYTHING for thirty bucks in one shot or a longtime veteran and have to pay the same price for ONE portion of the same game. How would YOU feel?

Man, it sucks to have to say this, but Star Wars Galaxies had a LOT of potential, and I'd be lying if I said that I didn't have a good time playing it when I did. When it was still fun. I wouldn't recommend it to my worst enemy at this point and up until recently I was a VERY faithful player: heck, my wife and I even attended the Star Wars Galaxies breakfast at Celebration III last month in Indianapolis. SOE took the Star Wars franchise and tried to run it like its own, when it's NOT like EverQuest at all: it's Star Wars. And this game needed people who knew and loved and understood what Star Wars was really all about from day one. They missed the mark and at this rate they'll always miss the mark, no matter how many hundreds of players they allow to pick up a lightsaber and call themselves "Jedi".

So I'm quitting Star Wars Galaxies. But I'm not giving up hope on there being a MMORPG someday that deserves being given the Star Wars moniker. This game doesn't just need an overhaul: it needs a total rebuild from the ground up. Players need to be given something more substantial than running around grinding for experience points and killing "Meatlump Buffoons" hoping to loot rug adhesive (yeah you read that right rug adhesive). They want to be part of the story, and there DOES need to be a sense that there's a grand, epic and sweeping story that's in the background that we're participating with, not merely onlookers of. The space ability needs to be built-in from the game's very beginning. Inconsistencies with the saga should be dealt with. None of this is happening. But it could happen, in the proper hands of people who actually care about it being legitimate Star Wars.

Until that day comes (and if and when it does, believe you me I'll be first in line at the local Best Buy, cash in hand, ready to plunk down and start playing) it's time to write off this attempt at a Star Wars MMORPG as a sinking ship. But if you want some real enjoyable action in a franchise-related online RPG, check out The Matrix Online. I've been playing that since day one of the retail version and its developers have proven that they are extremely committed to not only delivering an enjoyable experience for the gamers, but making it as substantial a part of enjoying this particular story as the movies were. I mean, The Matrix Online was ballsy enough to ASSASSINATE Morpheus a few days ago, and now every player is running around helter-skelter trying to find out whodunit. You can't kick it up another notch much more than THAT, right? :-)

Friday, May 27, 2005

Some thanks that's overdue regarding Forcery...

I've thanked a lot of people already for helping make this film possible but there's one group of people that for some reason I really neglected to mention, because this movie practically grew up in the forum and if it wasn't for plenty of advice and suggestions on stuff like de-interlacing and rotoscoping, well there wouldn't have been a Forcery worth downloading, if at all.

So here's both a tip of the hat, and an invitation if you haven't already checked them out, to the good people on TheForce.net Fan Films discussion board. The best film school bar none that you could hope to attend without paying $20,000 in tuition. There wasn't much that I learned during the production of Forcery that didn't first come from these guys. So if you want to see some REAL creative juices percolating or take part in something that'll imbue you with considerable film education, you can't do much better than the TFN Fan Films board.

Appreciate the help, fellas :-)

If you want to watch Forcery then please punch here -->

Yesterday Durbnpoisn at TFN FanFilms added Forcery to their Fan Films Hosting Pool: a collection of mirrors for various films. Forcery hasn't been hosted there yet, but I wanted to make an acknowledgement of that courtesy by them. See that sweet-lookin' "banner ad" on the right? If you click that you'll be taken to a page at TFN that has links to all four of the Quicktime versions without having to suffer from my commentary :-)

Happy 83rd Birthday to Christopher Lee!

I still think he didn't get enough screen time in Revenge of the Sith though...

Anyway, in honor of the occasion and the remarkable life that Mr. Lee has led for practically its entire run so far, I thought it might be a neat idea to bring back to mind another article I wrote here a few months ago: THE KNIGHT SHIFT Exclusive: Christopher Lee's VERY FIRST Horror Picture Appearance!

And no it wasn't this guy either...

Seeking Christian Wisdom from the Jedi Masters...

Well gang, for more than over a month I was working to get Forcery out and now that's finally accomplished. I can now set my sights on doing some other things that have been on the radar screen (and yes Brian I am going to be posting those pics from Star Wars Celebration III :-) Gotta bear in mind, and it's a whole new thing on the other side of the fence believe you me, but getting a movie out is a TOUGH thing to do!! There are always a zillion little things that could be better that you have to make judgement calls on, and decide whether or not the film would be okay with those things in there, knowing it would take forever to get ALL the wrinkles out. In the end, yeah it's not a *perfect* baby but it's still our baby, lumps and all. And I love it :-) And, it seems to be getting quite a bit of attention already. Time will tell how well it'll be received but I just feel good knowing that, hey, "I made a movie!!!!"

But while word on it gets around it's time to move on to other things. I wanted to mention this earlier but it kept getting bogged down in the back of my mind but there's a really good book out right now called Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters that Lisa and I found when we were in Indianapolis last month. It's written by Dick Staub and in it, he doesn't do like *ahem* some people have attempted to do and turn the Jedi way into a full-blown religion (what are some of you guys down in Australia and New Zealand thinking anyway?? :-) but he does use illustrations from the Star Wars saga to demonstrate what it means to be a Christian from the earliest, most traditional perspective. I'm finding that this book is a great introduction for someone who might not have been given a real explanation of Christian theology, and for those of us who are long-time believers Staub's book provokes a lot of challenge and encouragement to consider on our own what it means to be a Christian believer and to gain strength from even the most humble of life's circumstances. As the apostle Paul said, "I am become all things to all men..." and here Staub makes it clear that Paul even meant becoming a Padawan Learner unto those men who spent idle weekends walking around in vacuu-formed plastic armor. Anyway, it's a great book and I'm heartily recommending it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

FORCERY World Internet Premiere: Download and Watch It NOW!!!

May 25, 2005. Ironically enough it's the 28th anniversary of the release date of the very first Star Wars movie Episode IV: A New Hope. The legendary story is that George Lucas was eating dinner in a restaurant across the street from Mann's Chinese Theater and didn't even realize until later that those throngs of people lined up outside the place were waiting to see his movie on opening day! Maybe lightning will strike the same date twice. Hey a guy can dream and wish right? :-)

So here it is, Forcery. You got several "flavors" of viewing sizes to choose from. Sometime soon we're going to have it where you can mail us a blank DVD and SASE and we'll return it to you (with a nice label if you pay a little extra to cover cost) with the movie, chapters selection feature, the gag reel, maybe a "making of" documentary, da works! Yah we're quite proud of our lil' film. But for now here's the viewing options for you to choose from. Special thanks to Ourmedia.org for providing hosting for these Quicktime files: Ourmedia.org is my new very bestest friend in the whole wide world! Or at least cyberspace.

Anyhoo, here ya go...

FORCERY Super Data Rate Large Size

Super Data Rate Large Version (467 MB, 480x270 resolution)
: the largest available online. Pretty darned close to DVD quality. This was the first one encoded, before I really knew what to do with Media Cleaner. But I'm going to leave this one up for sake of anyone who may desire to download and watch this one. Click here for this version's homepage at Ourmedia.org.
FORCERY Regular Large

Regular Large Size (358 MB, 448x252 resolution)
: slightly smaller resolution than the Super Data Rate Large format and a slightly smaller resolution, but I imagine this one will be what ultimately be considered as the "mainstream" one. The only real difference between this one and the previous version is that this one was encoded with a somewhat smaller data rate. Maybe just a little bit of artifacting (most apparent around the "FORCERY" logo at the beginning, hence why screenshots of that are up) but otherwise a perfectly good large version. Click here for this version's homepage at Ourmedia.org.

Medium Size (193 MB, 384x216 resolution)
: this one should be more "friendly" for anyone who's on a dialup connection, at least if they're okay with leaving the computer running all night after praying that nothing severs the connection. Ooh-boy, I still remember the old days of Trumpet WINSOCK on the Windows 3.1 machine that I was using right up 'til summer of '99. Good times! Trumpet Winsock, it was a socket layer/Internet dial-up utility that went between Windows 3.1 and the Internet, from the days before Windows came with built-in Internet capability. And you weren't supposed to be able to use it continuously unless you paid for the registered version but ummm if you knew a certain lil' trick you could keep using it indefinitely. You just had to "reset" Winsock by uninstalling and then re-installing it once a month. It wasn't anything "illegal" per se, it was a pretty blatantly obvious vulerability that anyone was able to exploit. But that lil' ritual became burned in my gray matter permanently! And if you weren't too spoiled on how fast your college's Internet connection was it was pretty good... until it got ticked-off and sometimes DISCONNECTED on you while you were doing 'net chat with that cute co-ed at the next campus over. Anyway, there's no shame in admitting it if you don't have a cable modem: lots of folks still don't, and cable and wireless can't go everywhere, right? Our first year of marriage, Lisa and I lived in a rented house so far out in the country that cable TV isn't scheduled to arrive for another forty years or so (telling you here and now I nearly went stark raving mad without my dose of The Powerpuff Girls). Or it could be that you're doing missionary work in the middle of Borneo and you're lucky enough to have a halfway decent 'net connection. Leave the computer running in your tent and pray the screen's glare doesn't attract any malaria-ridden mosquitoes or direly hungry lion in mating season, and you should be able to watch this version just fine. Click here for this version's homepage at Ourmedia.org.

Micro Size (97 MB, 256x144 resolution)
: I mentioned in my earlier post this afternoon about how I made this size so that it would all fit neatly onto a 128 USB "flash drive" that Lisa found for me awhile back. I can carry the entire movie - plus a Quicktime installer for Windows XP - around in my pocket with this version. Or since the flash drive has this lanyard on it, I can hang the movie around my neck. Like the proverbial dead albatross in that old poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. That's what it is to be a filmmaker: you carry this dead weight around your neck and it seems like you'll never lose it. Like you'll go to your grave with this thing dragging you down. Or maybe it will be what drags you into your grave. And you pray to God that the day will come that it will finally slip from off your neck and into the depths of the sea and you'll be free to gaze upward a free man at last. Whatever. I think this may be my favorite of the versions because ya gotta admit it is pretty cool to be able to carry an entire, almost-full-length motion-picture - that you and your friends made - around in your pocket! O the joys of modern technology. Anyway, this really is more or less a "gimmick" for my own amusement but I wanted to make it available all the same anyway. So download if ya like. Click here for this version's homepage at Ourmedia.org.
I couldn't finish this premiere without once again acknowledging the hard work and sacrifice, and dedication that so many people gave in making the dream of this film a reality. Especially Chad Austin and Melody Hallman Daniel, who play George Lucas and Frannie Filks, respectively. Go visit Chad's blog and Melody's website sometime, they and I will be glad that you did :-)

Thanks to not only my partner and collaborator but also one of my best friends in this world, Ed Woody, for co-directing and co-producing Forcery, in addition to a lot of other things.

Very special thanks to my wife Lisa (who has a small role in Forcery) and my parents, in whose home we filmed most of the Frannie's house scenes. Thanks to Dad for providing the weapons that were used as props, and to Mom for all the catering that she did (so that no one went hungry under the obsessive direction of ANOTHER filmmaker - who shall remain nameless - who tried to become too much like George Lucas by demanding "FASTER, MORE INTENSE!!"). Lisa deserves all the praise in the world for putting up with me while I was working on this thing.

Thanks to Short Sugar's Drive-In of Reidsville, North Carolina for letting us film the Mel's Drive-In scenes at their restaurant. Thanks to Charity Baptist Church of Greensboro, North Carolina for use of the church parking lot (where some of the crash was shot) and the church offices (used for Sheriff Boozer's office and Steven Spielberg's office scenes). Thanks to Kenneth and Laurie Wright and their family for allowing us to film the Skywalker Ranch scenes in their home.

Additional photography was done on the Blue Ridge Parkway, including the area around Mount Mitchell, and the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. The library scene was film at University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Many other notes of thanks are included in the end credits of Forcery.

Okay, enough talk out of me.

Go watch Forcery, now.

Or, perish in flames.

It's your choice. But, not really.

"You haven't heard the last of Ernest T. Bass!"

Okay, now I am depressed. Saddened, even. Darnnit this has been an emotional week for me and just about all of it from the pop culture scene (which doesn't hardly happen, ever). But this one... hurts... folks, seriously. But we were blessed to have had him while we did, and now he's gone to that great celestial hollar up in the sky...
Ernest T. Bass

Howard Morris has passed away at the age of 85. He was pretty well-known in film and television circles but here in North Carolina, Mr. Morris will forevermore be known and renowned for something else entirely altogether: he was the man who brought the irascible, irrepressible mountain "nut" Ernest T. Bass to life on The Andy Griffith Show.

From the story at WFMYNews2.com:

Actor Howard Morris Remembered

Los Angeles, CA -- Howard Morris, best known for his portrayal of Ernest T. Bass on the Andy Griffith Show, died at his home in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. He was 85.

Morris died Saturday of natural causes, his son David said Monday.

Morris enjoyed a long and varied career in show business, from being a key player in the acting ensemble of Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows" in the 1950s, to his stint on the Griffith Show, to providing voices for dozens of animated characters, including Beetle Bailey and Atom Ant.

He also directed TV shows and films, including the pilot episode of the Mel Brooks series "Get Smart," the Doris Day film "With Six you get Eggroll," and the film version of Woody Allen's "Don't Drink the Water," starring Jackie Gleason.

But it was probably as the love-challenged, poetry-spouting hillbilly on "The Andy Griffith Show" that most people remember Morris. His fan Web site is named for the character that appeared in only a handful of episodes, but made a large impact with viewers. The show was based in the fictional town of Mayberry, modeled after Griffith's hometown of Mount Airy, N.C.

Morris was born in the Bronx, New York, on Sept. 4, 1919. He served in the entertainment unit of the U.S. Army during World War II, stationed in Hawaii.

After the war, he appeared on stage and enjoyed a brief stint as a Shakespearian actor.

In the 1950s, he joined a comedy sketch group including Carl Reiner and Imogene Coca on several TV variety shows, including "Admiral Broadway Review," "Your Show of Shows" and "Caesar's Hour."

After his work on "The Andy Griffith Show," Morris provided the voices of possums, birds, monkeys, cats and alligators on several animated TV shows. He is credited as the "third buffalo" in a Flintstones episode that aired in 1963.

Also in 1963, Morris played the nebbish character "George P. Hanley" on an episode of "The Twilight Zone" entitled "I Dream of Genie." Hanley, hopelessly inept in social situations, is given one wish by a genie that appears after he rubs a lamp. After considering and rejecting numerous options, Hanley's wish is granted -- he becomes the genie.

Morris was married and divorced five times. His son David, 39, is a director of TV commercials.

In remembrance of the passing of Ernest T. Bass, we should all go out and throw a rock through a window.

Seriously though, he was a one-of-a-kind talent and will be missed. WFMY has a poll up right now about which was our favorite Ernest T. Bass episode, but they're missing a few classics, like the one where Ernest T. tries to get into the army, and the one where he's working as a school crossing guard (where the above photo is from).

But at least like Otis the town drunk and Floyd the barber, though gone they may be, they will live on, thanks to the flickering magic of reruns on syndication and TV Land. Ernest T. Bass will terrorize Mayberry forever, world without end, hallelujah amen...

Forcery is coming soon. Like, TODAY!

I guess the last bit of "learning curve" that I'll have to go through so far as Forcery goes has come yesterday and today, when I've had to master all the lil' quirks that come with encoding video into Quicktime format. The first result was a 460 MB monstrosity that I'm going to keep online, just for benefit of anyone who wants that size and the slightly better video quality that comes with it. That's 480x270 resolution, the same as with what I'll call the "Regular Large Size" which only differs in terms of lowered data rate (not much noticable loss in quality, but it's 350 MB in size). There's also the "Medium Size" at 190 MB that's uploading to the server now (and still looks pretty darned good) and the "Micro Size" which I only really did 'cuz I wanted to be able to fit the entire movie onto this 128 MB flash drive that Lisa got for me awhile back, along with a Windows XP installer for Quicktime ("Is that a motion picture in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?") With the flash drive's lanyard I guess I could also have the entire film hanging around my neck, like the dead albatross that this whole thing has felt like more than a few times during these past nearly four years.

But, this really is all that's left to do, isn't it? To publish it I mean, and let the entire world take a gander. And hopefully smile and laugh a bit.

A few people have seen it and are seeing it now. We sent word out to a select number and so far, the feedback has been outrageously good! Can't wait to see what happens when more people start learning about it. I'm really hoping that this will become, not so much something for myself, but something good for everyone else that worked on it. Chad Austin pulled off a VERY spot-on George Lucas and Melody Hallman Daniel... well, let's just say that she deserves to be recognized by a lot of people after the performance that she did here, and all the passion and energy and dedication she gave, and outright sacrifice that she made to do this for us. Everyone gave it their all in making this happen but those two especially, I'm going to forever be indebted to for helping make this dream become a reality.

Okay, keep yer peepers on this space. Forcery is coming very very very very very very very very VERY soon!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

"Think of the CHILDREN!": Christian group is wrong to demand end to Burger King Sith promo

Some people have way too much time on their hands. And I loathe them with a passion. A few years ago it was the bastitches at Center for Science in the Public Interest: the jerks responsible for making it impossible to ever again have real decent movie theater popcorn. I pray there's a special circle of Tartarus awaiting them for that.

Now it's some outfit called the Dove Foundation, who are honked-off that Burger King is doing a tie-in with Star Wars Episode III: Attack of the Clones because of its (gasp!) PG-13 rating. Here's the story from USA Today via Yahoo!, following which I'll explain why groups like the Dove Foundation are hypocrites giving the rest of us Christians a bad rep:

Group asks Burger King to halt 'Star Wars' deal

By Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY Tue May 24, 6:21 AM ET

The Force may - or may not - be with Burger King's latest Star Wars-themed Kids Meals.

One day after a record-shattering weekend for Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, an advocacy group is asking Burger King to stop the tie-in of its Kids Meals with the film because it is rated PG-13.

The same group, Dove Foundation, got McDonald's 13 years ago to apologize for "confusion" from its promotion of PG-13 Batman Returns with Happy Meals. Now, it's going after BK's latest Kids Meal promotion - targeted at kids ages 4 to 9. The meals feature characters from Sith or other Star Wars films.

"When Burger King puts that in a Kids Meal, there's an implicit endorsement of the movie," says Dick Rolfe, chairman of Dove Foundation.

This is no small matter. Product licensing and promotion is a $100 million annual business. Since the first Star Wars was released in 1977, the six films have racked up almost $9 billion in merchandise sales and product promotions.

For Burger King, the stakes are huge. The No. 2 burger chain is in the 16th month of a major rebound. The Star Wars promotion, dubbed "Choose Your Destiny," is the 50-year-old chain's first global promotion.

Burger King officials insist the promotion isn't specific to the latest film (the others are rated PG), but one that relates to the chain's long-term relationship with the Star Wars franchise. Executives point out that only four of the 31 Kids Meal toys are specific to Sith.

The toys "clearly celebrate not just one film but the entire Star Wars saga," says Edna Johnson, a Burger King spokeswoman. "The reception at our restaurants and from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive."

But Rolfe says "the tie-in is very specific to this film." Wrappers around Kids Meal toys all promote Sith, he notes.

Dove Foundation, a non-sectarian family advocacy group, sent an overnight letter to Burger King last Thursday requesting the promotion be stopped. It also conducted a national phone survey of 889 adults and says 83% felt the promotion was not appropriate for kids.

Another critic says the fault isn't that of Burger King but Star Wars creator George Lucas. "It's irresponsible of George Lucas to OK the marketing around this PG-13 movie to young children," says Susan Linn, a Harvard psychologist and author of Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood.

"Star Wars is broader than a single movie," says Lynn Fox, a LucasFilm spokeswoman. "Parents know that Star Wars has been a positive influence."

Now, I want to pose the question: ever notice that people like the ones at the Dove Foundation never seem to be on the radar screen, UNLESS there is something in the public consciousness that they feel a compelling reason to come out and attack? I bet most people had never even heard of the Dove Foundation until Revenge of the Sith and this promo with Burger King. But as soon as Sith started smelling like box-office bonanza, the Doves fly out and start squawking in shrill voices for their share of the attention.

These are the same Christians that make such a big deal about the Harry Potter books and movies. And I'm going to tell you a lil' secret: this faction of Christians is secretly thankful that there are such things like Star Wars and Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings in this world. Because without them they wouldn't have a justifiable excuse - in their minds anyway - to outwardly express hatred toward something.

Christianity is supposed to be a faith that puts to death the things of the flesh... but these are Christians that are still enslaved to the meaner things of our earthly existence. Namely, the lust to hate and seek to destroy someone else. Ever heard of a guy named David Cloud? He's one of the more proud, arrogant and downright nasty Christians posting on the Internet. Sadly he's also one of the most cited by "fundamentalists". A few years ago he attacked J.R.R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings in a slanderous and hate-filled diatribe that could be considered nothing less than brazenly evil. What ya wanna bet that had there been no Lord of the Rings movie trilogy that he would have kept his mouth shut on the whole thing? Last year he came out and attacked Mel Gibson for his The Passion of the Christ, doing it so many times that he dedicated an entire section of his website toward cataloguing his mad rants at Gibson. I wonder if he'll do a hit-piece on the Star Wars saga now that some other Christians have turned it into a target.

Remember Dungeons and Dragons? The exact same kind of gameplay happens today a lot more than it did 20 years ago: it's just become computerized instead of resting entirely in the players' imaginations. If Dungeons and Dragons was really as satanic as some Christian groups were claiming it was, then there should covens of witches and warlocks operating in broad daylight all over the place, and more today than there were then. That obviously isn't the case. The fact of the matter is, Dungeons and Dragons was never an "evil" game. But it had to be perceived to be evil by some bunch of busybodies so they could be confident in showing everyone else just how capable and justifiable they were in hating something or someone else. About ten years later this same band of oddballs tried to ruin Magic: The Gathering, which I never played but saw enough of it to know that it was about as dangerous as a deck of Garbage Pail cards.

And so, it has been Harry Potter, and today it is Star Wars, and tomorrow after Revenge of the Sith has gone into second-run theaters and DVD release the same band of the bitter righteous will be girding-up to hate Harry Potter again when his next movie comes out. And they won't even think for themselves why it is that they hate the stories so. All they are concerned with is that they are told that they should hate... and that is more than enough.

Back to the Dove Foundation: I found their website and sure enough there's a review of Revenge of the Sith. To their credit they give Sith a passing enough grade that it could be recommended as family viewing, bearing in mind the violence. It ends the review with a statement that "Burger King is making a mistake by marketing this PG-13 Star Wars film in their Kids Meals". There's where Dove Foundation has jumped the tracks and gone loco: it sees the PG-13 rating and feels that is judgement enough against a movie to condemn it somehow. Sadly a lot of other Christians do the same: the first thing they look for in a movie is its rating, and if it's anything over a PG (and I know some that won't even go to anything over a G rating) then it automatically is stricken-down as verboten and branded a material act of Satan on Earth.

Now, stop and think about that: Christians condemning a movie solely because of its rating. A rating that was not affixed to said movie with Christian priorities in mind at all! These Christians are letting the world make a judgement for them that they are too lazy to use the brains that God gave them to think and judge for themselves. Instead they let the world think for them.

THAT is why the Dove Foundation is acting so stupid in trying to talk Burger King out of its promo with Episode III. They have to put on a show so that other Christians will be entertained by the gesture, enough so that they don't have to think on their own. Dove Foundation wants to be Christians thinking for other Christians. Hence, the Dove Foundation is a very functional part of the world that it claims it is trying to be apart from.

I wonder how many Christians really, truthfully, would be ready to be separate from this world, knowing how much power and affluence they would be forced to lose from it. The truth of the matter is these people DO NOT WANT to be separate from the world. They only want to believe that they can control it.

Fools. Every single damned one of them. Fools.

On a related note, I think Burger King's tie-in campaign is one of the more entertaining ones in many years. I'm enjoying the commercials and other stuff it's coming up with at least... though I gotta admit that their SithSense.com website is positively creeping me out.

Monday, May 23, 2005

This movie just won't quit haunting me

And I never thought that would ever be coming from a Star Wars movie.

The first hour or so, it's pretty standard fare for the saga. But the next hour and a half is rife with so much disturbing imagery and dialogue... call me overly-sensitive but I've literally cried just *thinking* about some of the things in this movie.

Order 66 is something I'm coming to wish we had never had to witness. If you've seen the movie you know what I'm talking about. Maybe you'll agree with what a lot of people have been saying the last few days: that Order 66 may be one of the most powerful moments in cinema history. Everything about that sequence... has been haunting me. That was the point that I lost it Wednesday night and the tears started flowing. Ki-Adi Mundi was the first to go, and then Aayla Secura. Plo Koon. Yeah I know they're fictional characters but they represent a noble ideal that we just don't see much of in the real world. The music for that whole scene, it's "Anakin's Betrayal" on the soundtrack CD, that is the sound of utter heartbreak. These were the good guys. And the last moments of their lives are spent in wild confusion not knowing what is going on and they will never know why it is that they are now dying. God help me, I wanted to scream "you #*@&ing BASTARD!!" at Palpatine after that. For years my screenname on Free Republic and else where was "Darth Sidious". Wish now that I'd never taken it: why the heck should I want to be associated with someone THAT evil?

What does that say about a movie that still bothers you on this kind of level days after you've seen it?

Wish that I could get that music out of my head, and the look of anguish on Yoda's face.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Ruminations on the Sith

Well, twelve hours ago we were getting situated back at the Grande Theater here in Greensboro: Brian and I for the second time in less than 24 hours, along with Lisa and this couple from Brian's small group at his church one of whom, Zach, I never thought it possible to be a Star Wars fan and THAT big a spoiler virgin. Me and Brian were the only ones with any idea of what was gonna happen, and I tried warning Lisa all afternoon that it was a harsh movie, but for some reason I think me and Brian were more choked-up about it this time than the first. Or maybe it was 'cuz we weren't watching it during the hours most sane people are asleep :-)

Episode III: Revenge of the Sith may be the most perfect Star Wars movie ever. Possibly (shudder) even better than The Empire Strikes Back. The power of that chapter came from how all the different elements - the plot, the pacing, the music, etc. - worked together. So it is with Sith but on a far richer and grander scale. The example that's standing out in my mind a lot when Palpatine orders the clones to "execute Order Sixty-Six": one of the biggest tragedies in a movie rife with tragegies and Lucas orchestrated its execution into something genuinely moving and heartbreaking to witness as a moviegoer. And then again later when The Duel happens: I always wondered how it would be initiated, and the exchange between Anakin and Obi-Wan and Padme before sabers clashed so brought home just how real these characters have become, that it's been haunting me more than the actual fight.

Sheesh, I don't know where to begin talking about Revenge of the Sith, not really. It's a deep, deep movie and it's going to take at least two or three more showings for it to really sink in. But here's a few things about it since having a little more time to think about it...

The Good

General Grievous: MUCH better character than I thought he would be when he was first announced. Grievous is NOT on screen just to become a neat Hasbro action figure. It gets established pretty quickly that he's a legitimate leader of the Separatist faction and war criminal that must be taken down. I liked him a lot... but geez what the heck is up with all that coughing? Does this cyborg have emphysema or something?
The Sith's reveal: Not nearly as dramatic as I imagined it would be, but it couldn't have happened any better. It's NOT this big flashy show by Palpatine that "I am Darth Sidious, fear and tremble!" but something much more subdued and seductive. And though it lacks the "umph!" now 'cuz we did know for all these years that Palpatine becomes the Emperor, I imagine that in decades to come when kids will watch the movies sequentially 1-6 instead of 3,4,5 and then 1,2,3, that this will pack more of a punch and ratchet up the "oh &#@% NOW what?!" factor.
Plans within plans within plans: Episodes I and II are made better by III (and I thought they were pretty good anyway) because there was a LOT of stuff that we maybe didn't catch in the first two that come into play here. The Trade Federation guys? They weren't there just to be a vapid stand-in for the future Empire, there was a purpose for them in the plot and you see how that gets used. Remember that amulet that Anakin gave Padme on board her ship in The Phantom Menace? Well that makes a return, but it'd be a crime to say now in what context. Will only say that there's TONS of stuff that went unnoticed in the previous entries that you'll be slapping your head and telling yourself "why didn't I realize that?!"
The lightsaber battles: No less than five of them here, and they're easily the best choreagraphed of the series.
Wookiees Wookiees Wookiees: A whole planet of 'em. Armies of enraged Wookiees fighting the bad guys. The return of Chewbacca. And the moment that had everyone in the theater going "awwwwwww... how cute!"
The Duel: Wildly exceeded my expectations. I won't say any more than that.
Ian McDiarmid's acting: it was Lucas' original plan to film McDiarmid as the Emperor in Return of the Jedi and then use another actor to provide the voice for Palpatine in post-production dubbing, but McDiarmid was doing so well before the cameras that Lucas kept his own voice in the end film. 22 years later and that is now shown to have been a very, very wise decision on Lucas' part. I consider McDiarmid to be playing three different roles in this movie: the benign politician Palpatine, the Sith lord Darth Sidious, and the deformed but all-powerful Emperor Palpatine that emerges later on that combines the first two. They're all facets of the same evil mind and McDiarmid did an amazingly believable job pulling it off. The last time an actor in a Star Wars movie was nominated for an Oscar it was Alec Guinness for Best Supporting Actor in 1977 (he didn't win though). If the 2005 list doesn't have McDiarmid's name on it I imagine a lot of people - and even the more casual moviegoers - are going to be severely disappointed.
John Williams' musical score: Quite possibly the best for a Star Wars movie, and one of his best ever. Williams combines ALL of the elements of his composing style for the grand finale: the standard sweeping fare of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies, but also a little touch of his work on Home Alone, the Harry Potter flicks and even Born on the Fourth of July and Schindler's List. The background track for when The Duel breaks out, "Battle of the Heroes", will get stuck in your brain but in a good way. We also get a return of "Duel of the Fates", used during the epic clash between Yoda and Darth Sidious.
"When Vader goes bionic...": That's what George Lucas told James Earl Jones back in 1994 when Jones asked when was he going to get to work for the Plaid One again. Whatever nightmares you've had about when Anakin gets horribly burned and turned into a malevolent mechanical melange... well, that's what you see here.
The portrayals of Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Padme: There should be no question now, at all, that Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman are up to par with the classic trilogy's trio of Luke, Han and Leia. I'd even dare say that what happens to the core characters in the prequels is far more effective and moving than anything - including the Han frozen in carbonite scene - in the classics. And that's saying a lot.

The Bad

Count Dooku's time on screen: Was my favorite new character of Episode II: Attack of the Clones. He's in this one not nearly enough and when he does appear early on... ahhh, you'll have to see for yourself if you don't know already. Suffice it to say I was eager to see more of Dooku and was disappointed that Christopher Lee's character really had very little to do here.
Horrible makeup for Tarkin: Yup, Tarkin - Peter Cushing's character from A New Hope that bossed Darth Vader around on the Death Star - shows up toward the very end. Okay I can accept that this is supposed to be a younger version of Tarkin and not Peter Cushing, but geeeezzzzz Louise must he look like a walking corpse? Just plain sick looking. Or maybe that was the point.
Political backstory on the cutting-room floor: Scenes were filmed of the younger Mon Mothma meeting with Padme and Bail Organa in Padme's apartment, the idea was that we were witnessing the seeds of the future Rebel Alliance being sown. Two thousand or so senators try to stop Palpatine from taking complete control but they get slapped down as political enemies later on. That is now edited out of the movie, with only a cursory reference to calls for Palpatine to step down. It would have been great seeing Mon Mothma now so that her presence is established for Return of the Jedi but hey it's George Lucas' baby and this thing runs almost two and a half hours, and didn't we see enough of boardroom meetings in the last two movies anyway?
Yoda's fate: We knew already that Yoda winds up on Dagobah and I've seen a still or two showing him landing there. That got cut out of the end product too. You can find a good picture of the escape pod that he uses to arrive on Dagobah in the Episode III vehicles cross-section book though.
Alderaan: Not "bad" by itself per se but finally seeing it and how GORGEOUS it is makes what happens to it in A New Hope that much more painful to witness. Darnit why did they have to make it so beautiful only to trash it later?!?

The Ugly

Palpatine's makeup and burned Anakin: The stuff of nightmares for any little kids that manage to talk their parents into letting them watch this thing.

The Best of All

The final scene: There could not possibly be a better way to end this, the last and darkest of the Star Wars saga for the big screen. A classic pose returns, for the first time. Of all the bridges connecting the prequels to the classics, this scene was my most favorite of all.

I'll prolly watch it again this weekend. It would be neat if the number of times I see this in the theater can eclipse how many times I saw The Phantom Menace, which was nine times (only two more than the number of times I caught Independence Day during its first run... what the hell was I thinking that summer?). And then that'll be it for Star Wars movies on the big screen, at least until another thirty or forty years when Lucas realizes he can make more movies after all and does a trilogy that I'll be taking my great-grandchildren too :-P

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Last night's midnight premiere of Revenge of the Sith ...

They told me to bring Kleenex. I didn't listen to them. Titanic didn't faze me at all. The Passion of the Christ left me numb with horror but no tears there either. There were moments during Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy that welled-up my eyes but those were all "happy" tears, like when in The Return of the King when Sam tells Frodo "I cannot carry it for you... but I can carry YOU!" Until now the most overwhelming experience in a theater was when I caught Schindler's List back in '94, ironically enough that one also had a background score by John Williams.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the most overwhelming movie I have probably seen in my entire life. And I cried plenty of times.

I can't talk about it right now. It needs some time to sink in and we're going to catch it again with Brian AKA Darth Larry this evening. Lisa didn't go with me last night: it was Weird Ed, Darth Larry and his lovely spousal overunit, about a dozen of his friends and me in a Jedi getup. I got a feeling that my shoulder is going to get a lot of crying on before this night is over with... I just wish I had one to have cried on last night.

Dear Lord, this movie is brutal. More brutal than The Passion of the Christ in some ways, even.

Okay, more later after my brain has digested more about last night's show. But I'll end with this: The Duel did not disappoint!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Last ride of the Jedi

Right now I'm sitting behind the keyboard wearing my Jedi costume. Didn't want to but all my friends said I *had* to wear it for this one, the very last midnight premiere of a Star Wars movie. Figure I'd probably regret not doing it years later so I'm covering the bases.

Waiting for Weird Ed to get here and then its off to the theater. Will report back later tomorrow: no way I could stay awake any longer than I absolutely need to after going two days without sleep already working on Forcery.

And hey, we got Forcery in the can just before Revenge of the Sith comes out, exactly as our goal was! Woulda been better if we had it done months ago but hey, it still counts right? :-)

As soon as it has a home online, prepare to be blown away. In more ways than one. I certainly am. There's a double meaning there, which you shall soon understand :-P

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Forcery is in the can!

It is done.

It was sorta done a few weeks ago, when we were going to try to take it to Star Wars Celebration III, and then the hard drive... got a little wonky. Luckily I'm a backup beast and we saved almost everything, but had to reconstruct some other stuff. Which lent itself to the opportunity to retool some things.

The upshot of it is, this one, the final version, is a HECKUVA lot better than what we had going three weeks ago.

All I have to do is add the end credits (which will include something I've wanted to do for over ten years now) and choose which version of the shotgun blast to use in the published cut: the "tame, family-friendly" one that's obviously particle generated in After Effects, or the EXTRA-GORY version that has cloth and blood and body chunks flying all over the screen.

I'm a nice guy, so I'll prolly go with the "clean" one. And save the sicko one to scare my wife with :-)

Awright, gotta go encode this thing, then upload it and submit it to some places. It ain't quite over with just yet but hope you can all see this soon!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Good news from the Forcery front

Reported this morning on some difficulties. Those seem to have now been resolved. Most of it had to do with a degradation of audio quality in the Quicktime encoding. I tried encoding it with a different program and, so far it's pretty good.

Between this, trying to use Magic Bullet Suite, forgetting to shoot our very first footage in 16:9 and having to figure out what to do with it, multiple recastings of the Frannie character, the thing we went through to get needed shots (like driving around the top of Mount Mitchell and making it look like it's the Rockies of Colorado), and a bajillion things that happened to each of us on our own personal ends, and now ridiculous issues coming up here at the finish line...

I swear that I'm going to go out and get good and drunk this evening. And I ain't even a drinking man.

Premiere Pro, don't fail me now!!!!!

I ain't a seismologist, but...

...yesterday there was a geomagnetic storm relating to solar activity that registered 9 on the K-Index, that got measured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. According to the link on NOAA's website the affects of this kind of storm...
...include widespread power system voltage control problems; some grid systems may experience complete collapse or blackouts. Transformers may experience damage. Spacecraft operations may experience extensive surface charging; problems with orientation; uplink/downlink and tracking satellites. Satellite navigation may be degraded for days, and low-frequency radio navigation can be out for hours.
I've noticed during the past couple of years that whenever Earth gets hit with a massive dose of these particles from the sun, that we start having a lot more active earthquake activity. It happened this past December before the quake and tsunami in southeast Asia, and its happened a few other times lately. Maybe the nickle/iron mantle and core of the Earth get agitated or something and they rattle the upper plates. Dunno for sure but I'm gonna keep an ear open in case anything seismic happens during this next week or so.

Various Star Wars items...

Awright, Forcery should be finished by this afternoon, I think. Had to re-export a few of the projects 'cuz of interlacing issues, on top of the redone sound. I know this is getting perilously close to the deadline of beating Episode III but I'm pretty confident it'll be done in time. Gonna try anyway.

Good news is every time I watch this, it gets funnier and funnier.

A while back on this blog I mentioned how much Revenge of the Sith is a thingly-veiled jab at President Bush. That's starting to get picked up by the established press ever since advance screenings began the other week. I don't think it's a personal thing though: Lucas had this all plotted out thirty years ago and if it wasn't George W. Bush destroying liberty in America, it would probably be somebody else. Lucas is just resonating with a pattern of history. Not that that excuses the person doing most of the destroying at that time in history though and after taking a look at some of the political websites this morning I can't help but grin at how some people - the ones who would defend Bush if he were caught with a dead girl or a live boy - are feeling so offended that Lucas would dare take this kind of immortal shot at Maximum War Leader. Heh-heh-heh, thassright: which one of these is going to be the more beloved years down the line: the man or the movie? My money's on Episode III.

My friends are saying I should go to the midnight showing in my Jedi costume. Personally, I think the Celebration 3 shirt would be more appropos: it's like a mark of pilgrimage, like something a Catholic person would bring back to show that he went to Lourdes. Besides, anyone who endures some of the insanity that happened at Celebration 3 deserves to boast some proof of his or her tenaciousness. And speaking of which I'm planning on finally posting those pics of the thing after finishing Forcery.

I'm hearing good vibes about the Star Wars TV projects that'll be coming out in another year or two. Latest word is that they'll be produced in Australia, where Episodes II and III were filmed for the most part. Still nothing solid about the premise of the live-action one but I'm still hoping for an anthology series that does different stories across different eras and locations in the saga.

Right now on my desk I have the Darth Sidious action figure from Episode I, the Emperor Palpatine with lightsaber and the deluxe Darth Sidious (the one with switching faces) from Episode III on my desk. My friend Brian found me the one of Chancellor Palpatine with lightsaber but that's still in the package and I'm debating whether or not to let him join my lil' Sidious chorus. If anyone knows of any other Palpatine/Sidious action figures (NOT the plain vanilla Senate garbed ones, I mean Palpy/Siddy when he's in full-tilt evil mode) I don't have here, lemme know 'cuz I'm a big fan of Darth Sidious. I also have a Darth Sidious LEGO minifig that I custom-made a few years ago, will try to post a pic of that soon :-)

Okay, back to finishing this film up. Pray it goes well...

Saturday, May 14, 2005

I have an idea for a new bumper sticker slogan...

It sorta came while reading Kyle Williams' new piece at WorldNetDaily this morning. Which reinforced my belief all the more that he and Vox Day are two of the darned few serious Christian intellectuals we have operating in America lately.

Anyhoo, I don't know if anyone else has ever thought of this but I like to think it's pretty clever:

Real Men

Don't Worship

Fake Cowboys

Maybe stick a lil' caricature of Bush wearing an oversized cowboy hat or something.

I don't want any money from suggesting the idea. I just wanted to be the first to suggest it :-)

Star Trek and Star Wars come to an end within a week of each other

There's a meaning here, I'm sure of it.

I hadn't caught it regularly since the first few episodes, but last night was the series finale of Star Trek: Enterprise, and despite a lot of negative criticism I thought it was a pretty good way to end all things Trek for the forseeable future. This franchise needs a rest though: it's gone to the same well for darn nearly 20 years and a big chunk of that time, there were two separate Star Trek series running at the same time! Don't call me a die-hard Trekkie 'cuz that's never been me, but I did enjoy keeping tabs on whatever was going on in that particular universe, and Enterprise really got me excited during its first season... then it fizzled out. Heard the episodes this past year rocked the house though. But somebody please tell me: did they ever reveal who the Future Guy was? He's not really Dr. Sam Beckett is he? :-P

Anyway, Star Trek comes to its end tonight and a few days from now, Star Wars will do the same. So I'm sorta watching the reaction from our Trek friends for any hints on how to get through the ensuing weeks and months of withdrawal. It will be hard, but I'm sure we will all get through this. And maybe finally find lives of our own ;-)

"Almost there, almost theeeere..."

The end is finally in sight. This thing is going to beat the deadline by about four days. And this crazy notion I've carried on my back for going on four years now will soon finally be laid down. Hopefully you'll like what it is.

Should have more to report later today.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Why don't they just nail Bush to a crucifix and get it over with...

This is so damned digusting I can't even come up with words for it. Friend sent me this link tonight. Behold the BushFish:
No joke, it's a real car magnet. Here's how the website pitches it...
Do you believe God belongs in government?
Do you believe President Bush is doing The Lord's Work?

If so, then show your love for God & the USA!

If this country's legislature and judiciary are supposed to reflect the values and beliefs of The People, then send them a message that they are WAY off course!

If you are tired of secularists telling you that The Lord has no place in our government and our public institutions, then show them that you disagree.

This symbol, this site, and this car magnet have been created for the millions of Americans who support the President and his vision for a government that embraces religion, morality, and family values. It shows worship to the Lord, respect for the President, and hope for

Join the millions of Americans who believe that President Bush’s faith-
based administration presents the best hope for America’s future. The future is in your hands. Stand up and be counted!

Order a BushFish for yourself or a loved one today.

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

This has gotta be the most sacrilegious thing I've ever seen come out of the dominionists' camp. Think about it: the icthus was the very first symbol of Christianity. It's how Christians recognized each other during Nero and Caligula's day: if someone were to draw the fish in some sand nearby, that was the coded signal meaning that person was a Christian. The standard Roman cross didn't come into widespread use until a few hundred years later (and that was mostly Constantine's doing): before then it was actually condemned by some Christians as a pagan symbol. That's not what we hold it to mean these days, 'course...

But treating the icthus like this is something like affixing an effigy of George W. Bush onto a crucifix in place of Jesus Christ. This kind of deification of a mere man would have horrified the early Christians: what if someone was selling these things back then with "NERO" on 'em? And how are they so blind as to believe that Bush is really doing "the Lord's work"? Just because they can deny the fact that he does many things in violation of scripture, doesn't make that fact any less true.

Geez, what the hell is wrong with these people??

About eight years ago I first learned about Christian Reconstructionists during a religion class in college. We laughed at their chances of taking over everything then. Now it looks like they really are hellbent on doing it: this blasphemy and the Bush-worshipping pastor in Waynesville NC are just two examples of their mindset.

And in all honesty it scares the hell out of me.

Revenge of the Sith made Spielberg cry

I've little doubt that he did either. Have spoken to a couple of people who've seen Star Wars Episode III already and they're warning now to bring Kleenex to the theater. Sheer, unrelenting brutality. If it can possibly go wrong, it goes wrong. If it COULDN'T possibly go wrong, that goes wrong too. Almost nobody gets out alive this time. How bad is Revenge of the Sith? One friend said that "it's more devastating than Titanic."

Man this is going to be the longest week of my life. Three decades of wondering about new Star Wars movies comes to an end in ten days. Whatever shall I do with my life now...? :-)

Good article by Vox Day today

Over at WorldNetDaily, Day cuts through the smoke and mirrors deluding even the elect and ponders mightily: who is "The Devil's own?"

Friday, May 06, 2005

Does this mean I'm a big-league blogger now? Baptist Bushiites story spreading fast

It's been awhile since I lived there but some of the contacts I made and cultivated in the curious lil' burg of Asheville paid off bigtime last night. Got to share the thing about East Waynesville Baptist Church and how its pastor excommunicated nine people because they were Democrats, and SEVERAL hours before most newswires picked it up. Granted, WLOS, the ABC affiliate in Asheville was the outlet that first broke the story, but looks like at least mine was one of the first blogs to pass it along.

So it's out there now, the Asheville Citizen-Times just posted a story about the situation and a little while ago WorldNetDaily made it the top story. Meanwhile I'm hearing that this Chan Chandler guy is nowhere in sight but is sending statements defendings his actions as justifiable according to the Bible. Ummmmm ooh-kaaaay...

If no one minds my saying so, that part of the state is... well, strange anyway when it come to spiritual issues. I was a reporter there when the local churches had the big "We Still Pray" rally in 2000 and then a few weeks later at the same high school football stadium when area witches and warlocks held their own "We Still Work Magic" gathering. The Asheville area is one-third New Age mecca and one-third ardent Christian fundamentalist, with the last third being anyone and everyone in between. Can be a helluva fun place to spent a year or so of your life when you're young and adventurous and want to see a lot of nutty stuff happening. Makes me wish I was back there now while this is happening :-)

WHEN BAPTISTS GO MAD: "support George Bush" or be drummed out of church

Please bear in mind that my wife and I attend an independent Baptist church and we really enjoy the fellowship there. It's like the old saying here in North Carolina: "put two Baptists into an argument and you'll hear three different opinions". They come in all flavors, not all of 'em like the nutcases behind this lil' item...

Heard from a contact in Asheville a little while ago: a church in Waynesville (about 20 miles or so west of Asheville) has excommunicated nine members for - get this - being members of the Democratic party! I'm scanning the websites for the Citizen-Times newspaper and WLOS to get more word on this but apparently this ain't a joke by any stretch. But from what I understand, the pastor of East Waynesville Baptist Church let the nine go because they supported John Kerry or the Democratic party somehow. One former member described on tonight's WLOS broadcast how he and others were told that "if we didn't support George Bush that we needed to resign our position and get out of the church, or go to the altar and repent and agree to vote for George Bush." His exact words, my source noted.

Geez, I don't know where to start on this one folks. This preacher sounds like a neo-pharisee or something.

No, it's worse than that. It's a church telling its members to believe that a mere earthly man is divinely anointed over them. The last time I recall churches doing that, it was shortly before the Russian tanks entered Berlin.

"Repent and agree to vote for George Bush"?! Can't get much more Nazi than that, boyz and goilz.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The National Day of Prayer: a damned useless gesture if there ever was one

I'm not going to waste a single moment today on the "National Day of Prayer". Because the entire idea of it is a blasphemous joke. It insults my intelligence. It insults the memory of those who fought and died for our freedoms. And worst of all it insults God.

It used to have real meaning, back in the day when the Continental Congress and General George Washington asked their countrymen to pray for wisdom and guidance from divine Providence. Theirs were prayers of humbleness and contrition: those men and women knew where they stood before God. I think that was a far more noble era than today because for the most part, those people weren't afraid or ashamed to admit before all that their lives were meaningless without the grace of God. Nor were they too proud to confess the need for personal communion and fellowship with God to the extent that it had a higher priority than their relationships with others.

And it was considered a far nobler thing to desire that God's will be done, instead of OUR will be done. Look at many of the political and military leaderships of both sides of the Civil War: Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee were on opposite sides, yet both sought counsel from God and were content to let Him judge how the conflict should end. And in the end, General Lee harbored no bitterness toward either God or his conquerors for suffering defeat.

As for Lincoln, he was the first president to proclaim "a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer" in 1863. You can read the proclamation yourself at the link. Including this passage from it...

...We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God.

We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

That's what the National Day of Prayer used to mean: the nation humbling itself and crying to God for His will to be done.

It was not intended to be a platform upon which the nation exalts itself and demands that God allow its own will be done.

I went to the National Day of Prayer's website to see what we're supposed to be praying for today. Starting with the President of the United States and members of Congress, the list of who/what to pray for goes on to mention members of the armed forces, "school authorities", law enforcement agencies, presumably "mainstream" journalists (where the heck are bloggers?!) and families at last.


The "National Day of Prayer" is not an exercise of our freedom to worship and seek out God as we understand Him.

The "National Day of Prayer", rather, is a means of controlling the American people.

I see nothing here but a reassertion of "authority" over the people of this country. As if there were common people and then an elite "priestly caste" of politicians and power-mongers that intercede on our behalf before Almighty God. As if we have no right to discourse with God regarding the state of our national affairs in our life on this Earth.

We're supposed to pray for wisdom for them. But where the Hell do you see it that we are asked to pray to God for wisdom for ourselves?

God didn't put "the government" in authority over America. He never decreed that this country is something only Democrats and Republicans can boast of controlling. Nowhere has it ever been commanded that we are supposed to follow men like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and George W. Bush as if they were anointed apostles of the Almighty without question. Who the *&$# do they think they are, anyway?!

And now we're supposed to pray that they do the right thing, when they have *&$#-ed it up so many times already in spite of our prayers for them?!

No sir. I will not partake in the National Day of Prayer. Because I have chosen to worship God. I will not worship America. Nor will I worship anyone who expects me to believe they have power over America.

Besides, the idea that prayer is a one-day out of the year thing cheapens it. We are told to "pray without ceasing". So instead of following through with what those who expect us to believe have authority over us would have us to do, I will pray in my own fashion. And include among them this petition to God: that He might give ALL of us, as Americans, the wisdom and the strength to govern ourselves in the stewardship He gave us.

Time to quit letting "them" handle things while we run away from it.

Okay so it's six days later since last time...

I been busy. With lots of good stuff.

Like, REALLY good stuff.

All will be revealed soon. And then, hopefully, you'll smile a bit :-)