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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

One reason why I support Ron Paul for President

Here, read his latest essay, "The Fear Factor".

When was the last time we had the opportunity to elect a man with an intellect on par with that of the Founding Fathers?

You'll never see this kind of thought and eloquence from Hillary Clinton, Rudolph Giuliani, Fred Thompson, or any other empty suit that the party bigwigs and the mainstream press would rather you vote for. You certainly can't say that you've ever seen this level of articulation from George W. Bush.

Just one more reason why in 2008 I'm voting for Ron Paul, or I'm voting for nobody.

Fast reviews of 3 movies I've seen since this weekend

Madea's Family Reunion - I liked Diary of a Mad Black Woman and I really enjoyed this latest film entry from Tyler Perry's work. A solid Christian movie with loads of laughs from Perry's signature character Madea Simmons. He should just make her whip out her handgun more often, is the only thing I would suggest from his plays/movies. There's a great speech by Cicely Tyson in this movie that although written from the perspective of a black American, I think could well apply to all Americans.

Bridge to Terabithia - Sort of like "Pan's Labyrinth meets Terry Gilliam's Brazil". With special effects by WETA. Confused the heck out of me at first, but I think I've come to enjoy it since watching it Sunday night.

Little Miss Sunshine - Has a great message at the end. Unfortunately this comes after some of the most vulgar dysfunctionality that I've ever seen in any movie. I groaned more than I laughed. This got wiped off the DVR immediately.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Filipino convicts perform Michael Jackson's "Thriller"

Can't embed this YouTube video so you'll have to click here to watch it. It's just what the title says: 1,500 inmates at a prison in the Philippines dancing to Michael Jackson's "Thriller".

Yes, this is for real. Here's a story from the BBC about it, which is part of the exercise regimen that a security consultant came up with for the prisoners.

Thanks to Marc at Bmovies - who never fails to amaze me at the stuff he locates on the Internets - for finding this :-)

The movie SPEED is about to start on FX

Funny story about that movie ...

My sister Anita and I went to the Brassfield Cinema to see Speed during its first week in theaters. It so happened that we saw it on June 17, 1994.

Does that date ring a bell?

So we went to Greensboro and saw Speed and we got back later that night a little before 10 p.m. local time. Anita was telling Mom and Dad how great a movie it was. I thought it was terrific too. While Anita was talking about it I turned on the TV in our living room to see what was on.

Not ten minutes after we got back home, CBS interrupted regular programming with a breaking news report. The very next thing we saw was a closeup shot from a helicopter of a white Ford Bronco driving down some highway in California.

That's always made me laugh: that we went right from watching Speed at the theater, to watching the O.J. Simpson slow-moving car chase on television.

This blog is now illegally exporting munitions data

I wonder if I'll get a "cease and desist" from the U.S. government for posting this amazingly detailed cutaway diagram of the Saturn V rocket. Slashdot is reporting that NASA is censoring information about the Saturn V launch vehicle.

How much information? Well, there are reports that NASA is ordering the confiscation and destruction of Saturn V posters that were purchased at gift shops at Kennedy Space Center and other NASA facilities. And now UpShip.com, a website that's loaded with technical specs and blueprints of various air and spacecraft, has been sent a warning from officials at NASA's Export Control Office that files pertaining to the Saturn V the site has on this page are in violation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). That's the list of things that the federal government doesn't allow to be disseminated because it classifies them as "weapons".

So of course, I couldn't resist posting the biggest, most detailed picture of the Saturn V's internal structure that I could find.

Some are wondering if the appointment of one of Karl Rove's cronies to the position of White House liaison to NASA has anything to do with this ridiculous move to ban images of the Saturn V.

I'm expecting jack-booted thugs to bust through the door at any moment now to confiscate my 10th Anniversary Edition DVD of Apollo 13.

Does this mean that the Bush Administration will soon move to ban the sale or purchase of Estes model rocket engines because they could conceivably be used by "terrists" to deliver armed payloads? Seriously, I have to wonder if this government would actually consider doing that.

This is one of the loonier things that I've seen the federal government do in the past several years. If it sends me a sternly-worded e-mail or some other communique about the placing of the above image, I'll make sure to share it with y'all.

So I called Sony Music about Jablonsky's TRANSFORMERS score ...

The online petition to show support for an album of the Transformers score by Steve Jablonsky is now up to 1,821 signatures. It will probably be over two thousand by this time tomorrow.

So I thought it was a good a time as any to call Sony Music, since everything is indicating that they are the ones who would be releasing this thing. And my intention was only to ask about when approximately we could be seeing this in stores. My e-mail box has been flooded with inquiries in the past several days from people about this: there was the feeling that I owed them some kind of substantive update with info straight from the source.

Well, I called up Sony BMG Music at (212)833-8000. A woman's recorded voice gave me a list of options to choose from. I hit "4", to speak to an operator at Sony BMG Music.

That put me through to a fella who asked me "how may I direct your call". I told him that I was calling to ask about the status of the Transformers score CD. He told me in a rather tired voice that there is no plan to release it at this time and that "I believe that I've spoken to you before about this." Now this was the very first time in my life that I've called Sony Music, and so far as I know it's only the second call I've ever made to any recording label (the first was several years ago when I was working to set up an interview with a musical artist). I told this guy that it couldn't have been me that he had spoken to, that this was my first time calling Sony Music. I don't know who it was but I can't help but have the sense that they have been contacted quite a bit about this.

Like I said, I only called to try and get an estimated release date. I wasn't expected to hear, again, that there are "no plans at this time" to release the orchestral score from the Transformers movie.

In the past week we've heard from a number of sources that an album is coming and "soon", and then we've heard from the music studio itself that an album is not coming anytime soon. So which is right?

If I hear anything else about this, I'll let y'all know.

Athletes who've been on THE SIMPSONS

Sports Illustrated has a feature on its website showing athletes who have been on The Simpsons and comparing their cartoon caricatures with their real-life photos. Among those from the world of sports who have made their way to Springfield at some point are Tony Hawk, LeBron James and Wade Boggs (pictured above from the legendary 1992 episode "Homer at the Bat").

Thanks to Chad "Ironman" Austin for passing along the link!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Harry Potter-verse stories we'd like to see

The saga of Harry Potter is, at last, finished. And let me state this from the outset: I do not have any great desire to see another novel about Harry Potter as a character.

But ever since reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, my mind has been reeling with wonder. J.K. Rowling tied up all the threads throughout seven novels by the end of that book. But whether she wanted to or not, she also sowed the seeds for a lot of further stories from the Potter-verse. She's been doing that from the very beginning but Deathly Hallows somehow maddened the lust to know more about the world that Harry lives in.

Well, Rowling has said something about eventually writing a comprehensive Harry Potter "encyclopedia" that will go a long way to fleshing-out the Wizarding world and its history. And maybe a book about Neville Longbottom that would be sold for charitable causes. But I think there are some fascinating possibilities for more narrative fiction from the world of Harry Potter, with stories that are begging to be told at some point...

- The First War: We've always heard about how bad it was, but we know hardly anything about what happened in the Wizarding world between 1970 and 1981, when Voldemort and his army was tearing everything apart. It's been said that World War II was just a continuation of World War I, with a period of time in between to rest and reload. That's partly why this would be a fascinating read because it was while reading the third Harry Potter book, Prisoner of Azkaban, that I realized that Harry and his generation were being used to fight a proxy war by those that came before, until the young ones grew into their own. Maybe with a rich account of the First War, we can finally get to see a place that I've always wanted to see depicted in the Harry Potter books: the wizard prison of Azkaban. This book should end just when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone begins: in the aftermath of October 31st, 1981.

- Full-length novel about Dumbledore and Grindelwald: The "Obi-Wan Versus Anakin Duel" of the Harry Potter saga, that until we get to "see" it is going to become just as legendary an exercise in imagination. This story deserves a book all to itself as much as the First War does. We know from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald were once friends in youth, who came to share (for the Dumbledore we came to know and love anyway) some very disturbing dreams. The two eventually split, before Grindelwald was defeated by Dumbledore in 1945 (ever since this was mentioned in the first book, some have wondered if this date implies that Grindelwald had something to do with Nazi Germany). A book about Dumbledore and Grindelwald might not only give us a close look at the early years between the two wizards, but also what happened in the World War II years at Hogwarts when Dumbledore was at first reluctant to confront his former friend.

- Hogwarts: The Early Years: Sometime in the late 900s A.D., four of the greatest sorcerers of that age established an academy of magic somewhere north on the isle of Britain. The alliance between Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff, and Salazar Slytherin – and their eventual falling-out – would carry ramifications that would rock the Wizarding world for the next one thousand years. I'd love to see this story laid out somehow, especially how Slytherin ended up creating the Chamber of Secrets.

- How the magic and non-magic worlds separated: At some point, those who could work real magic decided the time had come to live apart from the Muggles (non-magic folk in the Harry Potter books). The result, in my mind anyway, was that there were two very real realms that grew and evolved in parallel to each other, but with radically different underpinnings: the Muggles rely on technology and science, while the Wizarding people use magic and other forces of nature that mystify us Muggles as much as Arthur Weasley is captivated by ordinary batteries and electrical plugs. This splitting-away might be a fun thing to see, especially with how the Wizarding community ended up with a government so much like Muggle bureaucracy.

- The story of Dean Thomas: J.K. Rowling has hinted a number of times that Harry's fellow Gryffindor classmate Dean Thomas has a much more interesting background than we've yet be let in on. I will admit that he hasn't felt to be much more than a secondary character but his role in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows did pique my curiosity about him quite a bit.

- A Marvels-style glimpse of the Wizard world from the viewpoint of a Muggle: In 1993, Kurt Busiek wrote a graphic novel for Marvel Comics called Marvels. Beautifully and realistically illustrated by Alex Ross, it was the story of the events of the Marvel Universe as witnessed by an average "man on the street". Well, what if a British Muggle had managed to witness every major event of the Wizarding world that had happened between World War II and 1998 – from Grindelwald's possible involvement with the Nazis to the destruction wrecked by Voldemort's forces throughout England. And what if that Muggle had somehow been "missed" by the Ministry of Magic's squad of Obliviators, so that he/she not only saw these things... but remembered it all as well?

- Hagrid's biography: Hagrid is, shall we say, one of the more interesting characters in the Harry Potter saga. I'd love to see more about him, especially his life after getting expelled from Hogwarts.

Those are just the ones that came most immediately to mind during the past week. What else could we see turned into more stories from the world of Harry Potter? :-)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The last DVD of BLADE RUNNER you'll ever want

The Blade Runner 5-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition. Comes out on December 18th. Suggested retail price of $78.92. It will include director Ridley Scott's 2007 "final cut" of Blade Runner, plus the 1982 original theatrical version and the 1992 "director's cut". Plus another DVD packed with bonus material. That's stuff that's coming with the 4-disc set but this set also includes the ultra rare "workprint" version of Blade Runner ...

This rare version of the film is considered by some to be the most radically different of all the Blade Runner cuts. It includes an altered opening scene, no Deckard narration until the final scenes, no "unicorn" sequence, no Deckard/Rachel "happy ending," altered lines between Batty (Rutger Hauer) and his creator Tyrell (Joe Turkell), alternate music and much more.
The set comes in an individually numbered stylized briefcase like the one Deckard carries in the movie. Also packed in with the DVDs are a lenticular motion film clip from the original feature, miniature origami unicorn figurine, miniature replica spinner car, collector's photographs as well as a signed personal letter from Sir Ridley Scott.

Find loads more info about the Blade Runner DVD releases at The Digital Bits.

I'm putting this on my Christmas wish list pronto!

Friday, July 27, 2007

First good pic of Joker from THE DARK KNIGHT

You won't buh-leeeve what it took an army of geeks - both online and in the real world at Comic-Con in San Diego - to find that image. Read this article and the associated talkback on Ain't It Cool News for an idea of what went down in the last little while.

Other than the fact that it looks like the whiteface is painted on instead of his skin being bleached white, I really like this look for Heath Ledger as the Joker. So far, it's looking good for next summer's The Dark Knight.

Oh and I might be able to post a link to a Quicktime teaser for the movie soon too ... if I can find the right link.

EDIT 12:36 a.m. 07-28-2007: The teaser is up at whysoserious.com, the link that started this twisted scavenger hunt. Thanks to Phillip Arthur for spotting it!

Since Lisa is about to finish reading HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, I'll go ahead and say it ...


Greatest. Line. In a children's book. Ever.

If that line is not in the movie, I will walk out of the theater.

Excellent piece about Ron Paul in The Red and Black

Something I haven't let y'all in on nearly as much as I should have: I am a die-hard Bulldogs fan. When the girl of your dreams is a grad student at the University of Georgia - the school whose motto should be "Play Football or Die" - you tend to get caught up in the spirit of the place very quickly as you start making regular visits to Athens.

Seriously though: it's a great university. Even though I'll always be proud of my alma mater Elon, you can often find me wearing a Georgia Bulldogs t-shirt whenever I'm out. So I was especially glad to find that this very good article about presidential candidate Ron Paul was written by J. Patrick Rhamey for The Red and Black, the student newspaper at UGA ...

What are our traditional values? Looking across history, they are most certainly not wire-tapping, secret prisons, and preemptive wars. The Republican Party gained power with Newt Gingrich to minimize the size of government, lower taxes, encourage free trade, and get government out of our lives.

Unfortunately, they did the opposite and have paid the price.

It is time to elect someone who represents the political views of Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater and Dwight Eisenhower. A patriot who will not put our brave fighting men and women needlessly into harm's way. A candidate who supports policies of economic growth for the middle class such as lower taxes and minimizing government. A man of outstanding character who has been married to the same woman for fifty years and opposes abortion. A veteran who will secure our borders. This is the type of Reagan Republican we need back in the White House.

I encourage Georgians of all parties to take a moment to investigate Paul as a candidate on his website, www.ronpaul2008.com. In this great struggle against terror, amidst the many successes and setbacks, I fear we may be losing sight of that which our fighting men and women are dying to protect: individual freedom. If we lose sight of that, the terrorists have most surely accomplished their goals.

We must elect a candidate who will pursue a humble, defensive foreign policy. One who will bring our fighting men and women home to protect us here, not in Iraq, Afghanistan or Iran.

To quote another great Republican president, Dwight Eisenhower, "Preventive war was an invention of Hitler. Frankly, I would not even listen to anyone seriously that came and talked about such a thing."

As the only Republican candidate who took that advice seriously and opposed the war in Iraq, let's give Ron Paul a chance.

I've been thinking for awhile: even though I'm no longer a believer in political parties, I cannot help but think that if the Republican party does not steer toward the direction that Ron Paul represents, it will no longer be able to claim to be a party of principle after this next presidential election. Unfortunately I'm seeing most, if not all, of the party leadership putting their support behind the usual "contenders" of shallow character.

It's like this: the Republicans must decide that they either want reality, or illusion. It's time for them to take the proverbial red pill and put their money where their mouth is.

And if most people in the GOP seriously believe that Fred Thompson is going to be anything better than George W. Bush, then that party can kiss whatever respect they still have goodbye. It's almost gone anyway, after the fiasco of our border situation.

Chris as a SIMPSONS character, Part II

About a month ago I showed what I would look like as a character from The Simpsons. That pic was courtesy of The Simpsons Movie website.

Then Darth Larry spotted another site, this one a promotional one run by Burger King called Simpsonize Me, also a tie-in with the new movie. But with this "you as a Simpsons character" thingy, you upload an actual photograph of yourself and the website does most of the work for you. Then all you have to do is fine-tune it with a variety of mouths, noses etc.

(Is it just me or is Burger King running some of the best movie promo sites lately? Their gimmick for Revenge of the Sith a few years ago was downright ... spooky.)

So I uploaded the photo I used for the newspaper ad from my school board campaign and after "tweaking" it a bit, the pic on the right is what I came up with. Personally, I think this looks a lot like me: right down to the part on the right side of the hair and the ears that are more or less standard gauge for guys in the Knight lineage. Compared to how I looked in my TV commercials, I can't imagine Matt Groening himself drawing a more accurate caricature.

So if you want to see what would look like as a resident of Springfield, point your browser to SimpsonizeMe.com and upload a nice-sized closeup of your mug. Anyone who's a friend of mine might as well go ahead and do it, 'cuz I'm prolly going to run your pics through this just for the heck of it :-P

Tons of new LOST goodies

It's been over two months now since the last post about Lost. But this week is seeing a nice torrent of info about what might be the best show on television right now. You might have already heard that Harold Perrineau will be returning as Michael next season. Which is bound to unloose all kinds of craziness, given the circumstances under which we last saw Michael.

Then there is Comic-Con in San Diego, running from Thursday to Sunday this week, and on Thursday night Lost producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof gave a presentation about the direction the show is headed. You can read reports from the panel here and here. Among the tidbits from Cuse and Lindelof ...

- Season Four will use both flashbacks and flash-forwards.

- Lost might be moving to Friday nights (my wife will be happy if that happens :-).

- Jack and Claire will come to know what we the viewers already know about them this coming season.

- We will see how Benjamin wound up in Danielle's net: Cuse says that it was an accident and that Ben was on his way somewhere when he was snagged.

- Getting off the island may not necessarily mean escaping the island: it's not "the end" by any stretch, the producers said.

- Michael will be returning as a regular character, not just a cameo or an appearance in a flashback.

- The enigmatic Richard Alpert, played by Nestor Carbonnel, may not see much screen time or any at all this coming season because of Carbonnel's upcoming CBS show Cane (not to mention that Carbonnel is also playing the mayor of Gotham City in a certain lil' film due out next summer) but I'm hearing a number of people saying that if Cane is cancelled early on, that we may yet see plenty of Richard. I sure hope so: by the end of Season Three, Richard was one of the most intriguing mysteries of this show.

- We haven't heard the last of Libby. We will get to find out her story.

- Ditto with Danielle, apparently.

- We will find out more about "the monster", which has been called Cerberus but might have other names also. We're going to find out who made it and what it's purpose is.

One last tantalizing bit of info from Comic-Con is a new DHARMA video that was shown to the crowd attending the panel, and it's probably best to go with The Tail Section's description of the footage 'cuz nothing I can do on this end would have this making a lick of sense:
The final item of the night was the video clip from Norvick, Norway. In this film we see the actor formerly known as Marvin Candle getting hair and makeup done on him in a new testing facility. Soon after he begins a speech for a new DHARMA station: The Orchid. He goes by the name Edward Hourwax and says that the Orchid is Station 6. It is not a botanical garden as they were told to tell their families when they left them to come work for DHARMA. Instead, it is another location on the island where unusual properties (this time from I believe I heard him say a volcano) were being used to form a kashmir effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kashmir_effect).

He proceeded to hold out a bunny which has a black 15 inscribed on his side (similar to the numbered bunnies of Ben's owning). From here things get weird. First the film jumps twice during the entirety, the first time the Jacob loves you line from the Karl video is seen for a split second and on the second jump a gorilla riding a bicycle is shown upside for a split second. During this time we hear the alarm noises usually associated with the 4 minute warning with the hatch. We then pan to another area of the room and see another bunny magically appeared on a high shelf... the thing is, this bunny has a number 15 on his side as well. Hence why I mentioned early the cloning properties of the hatch).

I'm not sure what all of those things in the video mean, but that's all I can remember from it.

It's actually spelled "Casimir effect" and it has to do with forces tied to quantum physics between objects at extremely close distances from each other. Though how a gorilla riding a bicycle figures into this, I haven't a clue.

Finally, a Quicktime trailer for the upcoming Lost: The Game has been released. Here's a still I pulled from it showing Hurley standing around the camp's "pantry" ...

This may be another reason to possibly invest in an Xbox 360 in the near future (or if they release it for the Wii, maybe you can use the controller to beat people up with Eko's "Jesus stick" :-P ).

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Karen Allen confirmed to return as Marion in INDIANA JONES 4!

Gadzooks, check this out!

Tonight, via satellite hookup, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford revealed to those attending Comic-Con in San Diego that Karen Allen would be returning as Marion Ravenwood in the as-yet-not-properly-titled Indiana Jones 4. There's more pics at the link. Doesn't Allen look simply amazing?! I can't tell any difference between her in 2007 and how she looked circa 1981 in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Now, the return of Marion Ravenwood, well ... adds considerably to the melange of mystery that I'm seeing coming out of this project. I've heard all kinds of things about what the next Indiana Jones movie entails. One rumor I heard a few weeks ago, when I first came across it I thought "that's the STUPIDEST thing I've ever heard about an Indiana Jones movie", and now I can't help but think "that's the most BRILLIANTLY CLEVER thing that I've ever heard about an Indiana Jones movie!" Basically the rumor has it that Indy is going after the Ark of the Covenant again, 'cuz it's been stolen by the Soviets. Dunno how that notion is going to pan out but the presence of Marion (and the story that John Hurt will be playing the long-presumed dead Abner Ravenwood) does make one wonder.

However it turns out, it's great to know that Marion return. Of all of Indy's girls, she was my favorite. Maybe we'll get to see that she and Indy got together after all :-)

J.K. Rowling reveals what happens after THE DEATHLY HALLOWS!

WARNING: Do NOT click on the below link until AFTER you have read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. You have been warned! :-)

In an interview for NBC, J.K. Rowling has revealed a LOT about what happens to many of the characters after the events of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Some of the details are wonderful, others are heartbreaking. I'm not going to post what she said here, you're going to have to click the link to find out.

Thanks to Phillip Arthur for the heads-up!

Blog Mercenaries: Buying a grassroots army

Is this how some candidates are claiming to have "vast grassroots support": by purchasing the services of commercialized keyboard commandos?

It does kinda make sense, I suppose. I mean, there is at least one "front-runner" candidate for President who hasn't filed the official paperwork, and this could be why that hasn't happened yet. Because while he's an undeclared candidate, he can spend money on whatever and not have to report it. After he becomes an official candidate, if it turned out that he was paying a firm to hire "professional bloggers" to set up bogus blogs and otherwise shill for him across the Internet without it being legitimate "grassroots" at all, then there would become something of a public image issue.

When Fala jumped up on Franklin Roosevelt's lap and started yapping into the microphone during FDR's "fireside chat" that time, Americans knew it was unrehearsed and sincere. When Nixon tried to get his dog to do the same thing, people saw it for what it was: a sham. So it is here, also.

There's at least one company (and probably others) that will actually rent you an army of professional "blogger mercenaries" so that you can make it look as though you have a lot more people on the Internet backing you than you really do. Sort of a combination political consulting firm, website design team and escort service.

This shouldn't have been unexpected. I mean, the Bush Administration has already been caught in the act of paying journalists to spin op-ed material in its favor. And I've heard loads of stories about how a lot of the "military personnel" blogs on the web are actually creations of agencies hired to give the Iraq war a more upbeat reputation than it actually has.

I've seen enough of these supposed sites to believe that they really do exist: they have too much of a "manufactured" feel to them, without any real sense of passion.

It was just a short step from that, to individual candidates beginning to do the same thing with their political campaigns. And I suppose that we are going to be seeing a lot more of this in the future, if we aren't indeed seeing it already.

The thing is, real blogging can't be bought. In fact, I don't know if there really is such a thing as "professional blogging" in the sense that it can be hired and wielded like Blackwater USA or some other privatized military outfit. The whole notion of the so-called "Web 2.0" is that it is the empowerment of the individual, who finally gets to enjoy a level playing field with the rest of the media. I'm sure that those who hire these "pro bloggers" think that they are over-riding that facet of the blogosphere's nature with a brute-force attack, but when the motivation for posting thoughts becomes profit rather than for sake of the thought itself, then there is no true individuality at all. There can't be. It's been bought for a buck, instead of being an expression of one's soul.

"This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."

-- Lord Polonius
Hamlet Act I, Scene III
by William Shakespeare

By the way, neither The Knight Shift blog or its peculiar author has ever been approached to be a mercenary in a "blog army". I've never been a "pro blogger" ... and I never will be, either. What I've written and otherwise posed on this blog, is only there because I personally believed it should be there, for whatever reason at the time. I've never been paid a cent in exchange for writing for one cause or another. If it's on here, it's only because I believed it should be here. The only exception to that rule is the Google banner ads ... and I do my best to control what content appears on those if I believe they run against the philosophy of this blog.

I'll close with this thought: if anyone - be they a political candidate or some other interest - decides that "pro bloggers" must be employed to get out its message, then neither the message or its sponsors deserve the least ounce of respect. I sure would never vote for a candidate - declared or otherwise - who is found to be using blog mercenaries.

The bicycle thief

Sometime between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, someone stole my bicycle. I'd only had it for just less than a year.

That's probably the last I'll ever see of it. When I found that it was missing I called the Reidsville Police Department and they sent an officer over promptly to look into it. He said they'd keep an eye out for it and I don't doubt that they will ... but all the same, by this evening I'm fairly accepting that it's gone for good.

Whatever happened to the thing called "honor"? You know: the concept that you are supposed to do what's right even when there's nobody around to see you doing it. Or does such a thing even matter anymore?

Geez, can you believe how naïve I sound now? I mean, I live in a county where school board members demonstrate to children that it's okay to steal things that don't belong to them. And that's the kind of example that's set all over this country, from small offices to the Oval Office. This sort of thing should not only be expected, it's practically a rule of modern life.

Losing my bicycle bothered me most of this past day. But I realized that there are worse things that could happen. There are people I know who are going through much worse than the loss of a $130 bicycle. A bicycle can always be replaced ... but there are some things in life that can't be.

My friend Johnny helped me remember that tonight on our way to see Transformers: my fourth time seeing it and his very first (he liked it a lot by the way :-).

As for whoever stole the original, I hope that they are happy with it. They probably think themselves as pretty smart for pulling it off, but that is most likely the limit of the satisfaction that they'll ever find in this world. People who steal things from other people like that not only lack honor, they lack conscience. I would even argue that they lack a full and complete soul. They'll probably never demonstrate that they can be fully what God intended them to be.

I'm going to get another bicycle: a better one, even. And I'll be using it as if nothing had happened with the first. I mean, it's just a bicycle: it's not like I'm going to go on some insane cross-country quest to the basement of the Alamo, is it?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Chandra Cogburn: TRANSFORMERS score "coming out soon"!

Some great news to report from the effort to see a Transformers orchestral score CD be made available!

First, the petition showing support for Steve Jablonsky's Transformers score has gone from 438 signatures on Monday afternoon, to 787 right now on Wednesday evening. I realize that some are saying that "online petitions don't work" but all the same, this is a pretty strong barometer of how much demand there is to see this album released.

The second bit of news is even more heartening. I sent an e-mail to Chandra Cogburn, who was one of the composers who worked on Transformers. I told her that the work she and the others did on this score was amazing and that there is a very large demand for an album of it. This is what Miss Cogburn said when she wrote back:

Hello Chris,

There will be an album of Transformers score coming out soon. I do not know the details, as I am not working on it. Thanks so much for appreciating the music, and all our hard work!

Chandra Cogburn

This is also what Chris Barry was told this week when he also asked about a Transformers score.

My gut feeling is that we are going to see this score released, and probably before the DVD of Transformers comes out around late fall. I can only assume that once the DVD is out that there will be an even larger demand for this score.

Anyway, there's the latest from the "give us that great Transformers score" front! Will report more as it happens.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Drew Carey will be new host of THE PRICE IS RIGHT

Click here to see how the announcement went down last night on David Letterman's show.

I think that going with Drew Carey is a fabulous choice. Personally, I've thought for a while now that CBS should tap Mr. T for the hosting job ("Come on down, fool!") but Carey is probably as ideal a man for this job as there can probably be. Here's wishing him all the best!

Monday, July 23, 2007

TRANSFORMERS Jablonsky score album update: Lot of stuff flying around

Here's the petition that was set up last week, asking for an album be released of Steve Jablonsky's magnificent score from the movie Transformers. If you loved the music in this movie too (and we're talking about the orchestral soundtrack) and haven't already, please feel free to sign it. At last count there were 438 signatures.

Since reporting last week about Sony Music saying that there are "no immediate plans" to release a CD of the Transformers score, a lot of people have been making inquiries with various parties about this. Fellow seeker-of-the-score Chris Barry has made the following compilation of answers that have been coming out about a score release:

1. Lorne Balfe (composed some additional music on Transformers) said: "There is talk of a score for transformers coming out but it will be at least another 2 months!"

2. Mel Wesson (ambient music designer for Transformers) said: That's a question a lot of people are asking but to tell the truth I have no idea what's happening with the album. It would surprise me if the score wasn't released, although people tell
me soundtrack albums without high profile songs seldom sell that well. That said it's a big movie, there's a market for the score and I'm sure it'll be available at some stage.

3. Frank Macchia (responsible for percussion/choir orchestration on Transformers) said: I have not heard that there will be a score release of Steve's music to Transformers. It's possible that down the road a CD will come out, but I do not know of any CD presently planned.

4. SonyMusicStore Customer Service said: At this time, there are no immediate plans regarding the release of the Transformers soundtrack score.

It's a good thing to know, at least, that the right folks who have been involved with Transformers's music do understand that there is quite a heavy demand for this score. By the way, when talking about a "Jablonsky Transformers score album", I hope that this includes every composer's contribution to this amazing soundtrack, if at all possible.

And in case you haven't seen Transformers yet (and you really should 'cuz it's a terrific movie), here's an example of why so many people want to own this soundtrack so much. I've no idea how long it'll be up on YouTube but someone has posted the "Autobots descent" scene. Here it is, in all it's glory:

I'm going to be contacting Sony Music pretty soon (can't today 'cuz there's a few things on my plate that need attention and I want to allow for however much time is needed to convey our desire on this) and will report back, hopefully with some encouraging word. In the meantime, keep spreading the word about the petition and encouraging people to sign it. Even if this is just a fraction of the people who want to buy a Transformers score CD, every signature is still going to help the cause immensely.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS midnight release party at Border's in Greensboro

Here's the big report - that had to wait until my brain recovered from reading the thing - on the party two nights ago at Border's bookstore on High Point Road in Greensboro for the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (and here's my review in case you wanna read my thoughts on the book). This is the same place that we were at two years ago for the Half-Blood Prince release.

Here's the exterior of the store. It's probably my favorite bookstore in Greensboro, if for no other reason than because I've come to know a lot of good people who work there.

Without a doubt, there were more people waiting inside Border's this time than there were two years ago. And it seemed that the crowd only grew exponentially as midnight approached.

Here he is: the infamous Brian aka Darth Larry, who Border's brought back special for this night before he starts his new job as a music professor at Mercer (click here for what Darth Larry thought about the book after his insane reading binge).

Here's the sign-in table. If you pre-ordered the book you got a wrist-band in one of about 5 or 6 colors, depending on how early you showed up to get a spot in the check-out line (I think). My wrist-band was colored pink, which put me in the group about 5 places from the front of the line (I guess we could have gotten there earlier and received a higher color in line, but Lisa and I did have our fifth anniversary to celebrate over dinner, 'course :-).

I didn't take these next three pics. They came from someone who I let borrow my camera so they could get these photos of the sealed boxes containing the copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I would have probably been severely mangled if I had come within eyesight of these crates before they were brought out at midnight.

This being a Harry Potter release party, a lot of folks came out in costume (and in case anyone's wondering, I did not wear the "Read a Harry Potter book for Jesus" t-shirt). This dude is sporting some wizarding high fashion.

And here's a guy who's either Voldemort or a Death Eater.

For the kids (and the considerably older kids as well) Border's had several events going on, including a "dance floor" and Harry Potter Bingo.

This is Susan Miller, a teacher at Ragsdale High School. She came dressed as Professor McGonagall and her daughter came as Nymphadora Tonks, complete with wild pink hair.

Ahhh yes, the big question we expected to be answered in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (besides whether Harry lives or dies): is Severus Snape a good guy or a bad guy?

Luna Lovegood has become quite a popular character from the books. There were at least two young ladies who came as Luna (complete with copies of The Quibbler).

"The Great Snape Debate": a lively forum about the infamous Hogwarts potions master.

This person came dressed as a Gringotts goblin two years ago. It looked great then and I think the makeup and costume looked even more outrageously terrific this time.

And the Gringotts goblin entered the place accompanied by another awesome costume: none other than He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named himself, Voldemort!

Here's Phillip Arthur, one of the Border's managers not to mention fellow blogger and good friend (click here for the review he wrote of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).

In the last hour before midnight, the Border's staff had a costume contest. I wasn't able to get too many good pics of this 'cuz of the crowd, but there were plenty of good and original costumes, including one guy who came as "Harry and Cho's secret love child from an alternate universe"!

The calm before the storm: with about 45 minutes to go before midnight, the front counter was bereft of customers. Here you see Border's employee Liz as the lone guardian on the frontier of madness.

Hey look: a kid actually dressed as Harry Potter at a Harry Potter book release party!

Finally, with about ten minutes or so to go, everyone was more or less in their color-designated sections around the story. With one minute left the countdown toward 12:01 a.m. commenced.

And then: Magic Hour! Here are the first customers to buy the book, including the guy in the Voldemort getup who won the costume contest.

The "pink-coded" people wrapped around inside the store, but the line moved very quickly. Darth Larry told me Saturday afternoon that they were able to get around 600 people served within an hour and a half: a new record!

Here are three good dudes that I spent time with in line as we made our way to the counter.

On final approach to the checkout counter. One of the things the Border's people did that seriously expedited things was that they were busy bagging individual books so that they would be ready for purchase immediately.

Our copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is almost in hand!

And there's Brian, in his farewell appearance at Border's before he rides into the sunset for Mercer.

And heeeeeeeere's Harry!

That last picture was taken by Meaghan (here with her husband, whose name is on the tip of my tongue - is it Scott? - but I can't remember exactly, c'mon you guys shoot me an e-mail and please let me know so the record will be accurate :-) who I'd last seen playing cello along with Brian this past December at UNC-Greensboro's performance of Amahl and the Night Visitors.

And, that was what went down on the night of July 20th-21st 2007 at the Border's in Greensboro. The Border's staff did an awesome job of entertaining the crowd and making sure that everyone got their books. It was a perfect model of customer service: I tip my fedora to the whole crew there.

'Twas a wonderful time! Lisa and I both enjoyed the evening (it was still an offbeat way to celebrate a fifth anniversary though). Too bad it will never happen again. But maybe J.K. Rowling will go the George Lucas route and write some prequels someday (maybe about the first war with Voldemort?) and we can all get together again. Maybe then I'll be courageous enough to actually come as Snape next go-round :-)


(NOTE: This review does not contain spoilers. Feel free to read without risk of having something revealed to you that you don't want to know about yet if you haven't read the Harry Potter books ... even though you should read them at some point :-)

The best magic is when the trick is done right in front of you, in plain sight where you can see everything, and still your mouth hangs open in utter amazement at trying to figure out "how did they do that?".

For the past seven years, ever since I first bought and read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, I've watched J.K. Rowling spin and weave her wonderful tale. She has made me look forward to each succeeding book with a wide-eyed wonder about what was going to happen next, where was this going. Always with the barest hint of mis-direction or sleight of hand on her part.

So at about 12:30 a.m. this morning (late last night in layman's terms), I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, almost 24 hours to the minute after first buying it at Borders in Greensboro (full report with photos of that coming later today).

And now, the morning after, I feel as if I have watched the conclusion of the most magnificent magic act in the history of fiction. The way it unfolded, the way it was always playing out before our eyes from the very beginning even if we didn't know it. How everything, in the end, is revealed to have been working in glorious sync toward the act's climax ...

"How did she do that?"

How wonderful a performance was it? Right now, I think that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a more fulfilling and uplifting end for a saga than Revenge of the Sith was to Star Wars ... and maybe even how The Return of the King wrapped-up The Lord of the Rings.

And the more I think about this book, the more I'm becoming convinced that the Harry Potter series is allegorical Christian fiction on par with C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. After Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, nobody will ever again be able to claim that Harry Potter is "evil" or "promoting witchcraft" or whatever ludicrous things have been said about these books and their author. What Harry and Hermione discover in Chapter 16, and the very title of the next to the last chapter of the book (it's called "King's Cross") should be flashing sign enough about the considerably Christian element that has been at work in this series.

I'm very glad now that I took the time to re-read all of the subsequent books in the past few weeks leading up to the release of The Deathly Hallows. It refreshed my mind about a lot of details that seemed so minor then, but take on enormous new significance in this final chapter of the Harry Potter saga. I'm trying hard this morning to think of some thread from subsequent books that is still left dangling by the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. So far I can only think of one, and it's a pretty minor one (but something toward the end makes me wonder if Rowling left that hanging after all).

And this book, at long last, delivered solid answers on some things that I had been wondering a lot about since the very beginning. Want an example? Without giving away any spoilers to those who haven't read the books yet (you know who I'm talking about ;-) I'll offer this example: in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, when Harry and Ron meet for the first time, Harry reads something. This particular item has to do with a certain major character and it cites a name and a year. Mention of the year alone has piqued and ached my curiosity for the better part of a decade now, because it happens to have been a very significant year in real world history and I've been dying to know all this time "okay, what's the connection here?". Sometimes I've wondered if I was reading too much into it. And then it turns out, after reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, that I was right to have caught note of that and maybe I didn't give it enough thought, because it turns out to have been very, very important to the story as a whole (and I'm probably giving away too much already just talking about it like this).

That's what this book is like though. Whatever question that likely has tantalized you for so long during the Harry Potter series, is answered here. Including some things that I had never given a second thought to. It can never be said that J.K. Rowling was simply "making it up" as she went along: this kind of orchestration isn't possible unless there were years of planning and forethought behind it.

This book has heartbreak. It has horror. It even has humor. It satisfies in ways that I've never enjoyed out of a fictional saga before. And for what it's worth, I will go ahead and say that the greatest line of the entire series is in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and it's spoken (actually screamed out) by Mrs. Weasley. You'll know it when you read it.

And so far as The Big Question goes, the one that has been foremost in the minds of readers these past two years - other than about if Harry is going to live or die in The Deathly Hallows - I can only say here that the answer is definitive and final and absolutely fitting in every way. But that's all I'm going to say about it until I'm confident that plenty enough people have read the book so that it can be discussed safely in the open.

I'm not going to say much more about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It's still very soon after the book's release and there are plenty of folks who haven't even read the first novel in the series, much less this final one. Those people really do deserve to discover the world of Harry Potter as we first came upon it: with amazement and wonder, and as unsuspecting as we were as to how beautifully crafted this intricate world really is.

In the meantime, I've finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and soon my wife Lisa will be reading it for the first time too (she's currently finishing reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince again). And then the book will join the others on our shelf as the complete seven-volume collection of the Harry Potter saga: a story that we will be returning to many times over the years, not just for our enjoyment but also to share with our children. And, no doubt, that they will share with their own children.

I used to wonder if my generation would ever see a literary masterpiece like The Lord of the Rings be produced in our own lifetime. I wondered if there was still enough magic in this world to do something so beautiful and wonderful again. With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows finishing this series, I am at last convinced: the magic is still out there. We just need to have faith that we can ... and will ... find it.


It took almost exactly 24 hours, from the time that we bought our copy, to finish reading it. As I've said in the last few posts, I wanted to take my time reading it, and let this experience linger and be drawn out and enjoyed as much as it possibly could be, because this really is the very last time that I will get to read a Harry Potter book without having any way of knowing what to expect as the next page is turned.

For the first time in my life, ever, my eyes were full of tears after reading the final words of a book.

That wasn't the only time either that it happened while reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, either.

Best experience I've had reading a book since ... maybe ever. It's going to take quite awhile for this to fully sink in.

There are a lot of things I'm going to be saying about this book in the next few days, especially when I write up my full review. But this needs to be stated loud and clear and right now: As of this moment a lot of people, if they have any shred of conscience, owe J.K. Rowling a huge apology. For trying to claim that this series of books is evil and morally corrupting and the ridiculous charge that it's "promoting satanism". The people who have said these things and have tried to ban the Harry Potter books and who have said a lot of nasty things about Rowling, if they have any sense at all, they will express nothing short of profound regret at what they have done all these years.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows establishes these seven books, now and forever, as Christian allegory that's just as wonderful as The Chronicles of Narnia. And I defy anyone to argue with me otherwise about that.

This book came out just over 24 hours ago. I'm already finished reading it. If you've finished reading it too and have a blog, do yourself a favor and make a note of it with a post, so that you can have something to point toward in years to come so you can tell your kids and grandkids "yes, I read Deathly Hallows when it first came out."

This book makes history. The good kind.

Will write more later. I'm gonna rest awhile now.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: Just finished page 501

Words fail.

The end of this chapter - Chapter 24 - made me have to step away from the book and take a break for about a half-hour. It literally made my brain hurt to read something that horrific.

Something like this is perhaps the last thing that I would have ever expected to read in a children's novel.

That scene was ...

Like I said, words fail.

Still taking it nice and easy so that I can savor every moment of reading this. And so far, I can definitely say that it's been a very long time that a book has affected me like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. And it's still far from over.

Many more thoughts about it later. I just wanted to hit the blog and chronicle my stunned disbelief at what I just read in this book. And even this probably won't be the last unholy act that I read before this night is over ...

Darth Larry and Jenna have already finished THE DEATHLY HALLOWS

Darth Larry phoned me about 2 this afternoon to tell me that he had finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows already. He was helping with the festivities at Borders last night (report and pics coming soon) and he said that they got everyone in line taken care of within an hour and 15 minutes. Then he went home and started plowing through the book.

Now comes word that Jenna Olwin has finished reading the book, too.

I am just now getting to Chapter 16 on page 311. I started reading the book as soon as I got home early this morning, then got some sleep starting at about 5, slept 'til 10 and then took another nap 'til noon. And I'm going slow with this book: I want to savor every bit of it, as much as I can, because this really is the final one. I want the experience to linger out a bit.

I should finish sometime later this evening. In the meantime, congrats to Darth Larry and Jenna (and probably a few others that I know have finished it by now too no doubt :-)

Just a few chapters into THE DEATHLY HALLOWS ...

For several years, the movie Red Dawn held the Guinness world record for being the most violent movie ever made. If you ever saw it, just keep in mind how much bad stuff happened from the very beginning of the movie.

If Guinness has a category for "most violent children's book ever written", then Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has already earned the title ... and I'm not even a hundred pages into the thing!

Death toll so far: won't spoil it with numbers but it's far beyond what you would expect from kiddie literature.

And it's threatening to get worse.

Nobody is safe anymore.

"old Charlie stole the handle and
the train won't stop going --
no way to slow down."

-- from "Locomotive Breath" by Jethro Tull

If you're just about to start reading, boyz and goylz: hang on tight. It's going to be a very long night indeed.


That's one odd way of celebrating a fifth anniversary ...

Lisa and I went to Carrabba's on High Point Road in Greensboro for dinner at about 8, and then after that we went on to Borders further down the road. I got to purchase Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows about 35 minutes after the book went on sale.

We just got home. The first thing I did was make an annoying crank call to certain friends in Bellingham, Washington to let them know that us folks on the East Coast have already got the book, and they still have to wait more than an hour at least!

Full report of what happened tonight (well at Border's anyway) on this blog sometime during the weekend.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Five years ago today ...

Lisa and I were married.

Seems like just yesterday. Can't believe all of the things that have happened in those five years.

Where does all that time go?

What does God have in store for us the next five years?

I don't know ... but it's a great feeling knowing I've got the best girl in the world to share this life's journey with.

Happy anniversary honey :-)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

On the eve of THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: Final predictions for Harry Potter

A little over 24 hours from now, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be released.

So here are my absolute final predictions for the Harry Potter saga before this concluding chapter of the series is published:

- Harry will live.

- Hagrid will die.

- The fatal shot aimed at Voldemort will come from none other than Draco Malfoy, who reconciles with Harry just before passing away from wounds suffered in battle.

- Rufus Scrimgeour will be sacked ...

- ... and Arthur Weasley will become the new Minister of Magic.

- We will finally get to see Azkaban Prison.

- Norbert will return as a full-grown dragon

- Neville will finally confront Bellatrix Lestrange, upon which he goes into a fit of rage and kills Bellatrix with a savage assault of the Cruciatis curse.

- In a perfect world, Harry would hunt Dolores Umbridge down like a dog, and shove that evil quill pen of hers straight and hard up her (vulgar terminology for human anatomy).

- Ron and Hermione will wind up married, and have twin sons they name Albus and Hagrid.

- Wormtail will rescue Harry from an attack by Fenris Greyback by plunging his silver hand into Greyback's chest and ripping his heart out. With Greyback dead, the curse of lycanthropy will be lifted and Remus Lupin will no longer suffer from being a werewolf ...

- ... and Remus will relent to having a relationship with Tonks.

- The Dursleys will barely escape the total destruction of Number 4 Privet Drive that is scheduled for 12:01 a.m. on July 31st, 1997.

- EVERYTHING that was published in The Quibbler will turn out to be absolutely true, including the story that Sirius Black was once a singing sensation and that Cornelius Fudge is after the Gringotts gold.

- Professor McGonagall will be confirmed by the board of governors as the new Headmistress of Hogwarts.

- Professor Sprout will flee the country and Neville will fill in as substitute Herbology teacher at Hogwarts (by this point he will already be of age by wizarding standards) until a permanent replacement is appointed.

- It will be revealed that Snape was working for Dumbledore against Voldemort all along. How this will be possible is something that I have been trying to figure out for two years now and am no closer at understanding: it's just a gut feeling.

- Filch, for the first time in his life, will perform magic. It comes in a moment of madness after he sees his beloved cat Mrs. Norris killed by the Death Eaters. And the magic that Filch does is nothing less than the Avada Kedavera.

- Bill and Fleur will have their wedding but it will be too much of a target of opportunity for the Death Eaters to pass up and an attack ensues.

- "R.A.B." will be revealed to have been Regulus Black, and the strange locket that won’t open at 12 Grimmauld Place will indeed be the Slytherin locket that is the real Horcrux.

- Harry will, at some point, come to Godric's Hollow and meet his father's parents for the first time.

- Luna and Neville will end up getting married.

- Harry and Ginny will end up getting married also.

- Lucius Malfoy will end up bankrupt and destitute.

- Viktor Krum will replace Karkaroff as the head of the Durmstrang school.

- The last we see of the Weasleys' Ford Anglia, it is flying off into the sunset with Ron and Hermione, with the words "JUST MARRIED" written on the rear window.

- Harry will fulfill his dream of becoming an Auror.

- Harry and Ginny will have a son, who they name Sirius.

That's just the stuff that readily comes to mind. This probably isn't even half the predictions that I could come up with: it's still leaving out Grawp and Professor Trelawney and the motorcycle and dozens of other things.

I'll probably be finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows about 48 hours from now. And then we'll see how this all goes down in the end.

EDIT 10:37 p.m. EST: Jenna Olwin has published her own list of predictions for Deathly Hallows. Amazing how some of ours are close similar, and we didn't even compare notes or anything before we did our own lists!