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Friday, August 31, 2007

Quick update on the Viacom situation

Well, this has certainly been an interesting past 48 hours.

There's been lots of activity happening on this end about the deal with Viacom and me: how they claimed I infringed on their copyright after posting a video on YouTube that Viacom made by infringing on my copyright.

It's evoked quite a bit more controversy than I had expected.

May be able to talk about this more in the next few days.

This is decisiveness? Fred Thompson announces an announcement

Fred Thompson has said he'll announce his presidential candidacy on September 6th.

Ummmm... isn't the announcement of an announcement the logical equivalent of the announcement itself?

This is part of the reason why I'm so disgusted with modern politics: it's become too much about pomp and pageantry and public bravura, and so very little about substance.

It's like this: the President of the United States is a position of service. Those who fully comprehend that won't play games with even candidacy for it. A real leader would simply say "Yes I'm a candidate", without being a protracted prima donna about the matter.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

More Viacom "infringement" insanity: Now lip-syncing to Prince is out

The story about my issue with Viacom and how they made YouTube take down a clip that I'd posted of a VH1 show which was already made with my own material is starting to get around. Now comes word of another crazy clip takedown on Viacom's orders...

Kenya Allmond received notification from YouTube yesterday that one of her videos had been pulled for "copyright infringement". The offending material? A clip of her boyfriend lip-syncing to "Kiss" by Prince!

At the rate things are going, it wouldn't surprise me if every single mash-up video using Star Trek on YouTube wound up getting zapped down the memory hole by the end of this weekend.

This blog has been Slashdotted! (And guess why?)

So I just got online for the day and guess what I saw at the top of the page on Slashdot:

It's the story about how Viacom claims I'm infringing on their copyright after they infringed on MY copyright! I just took a look at the original post that I made about this and in the last little while it's gone from 4 comments when I went to bed last night, to 20. I haven't read those yet but I'm about to.

So to all of the good folks who are finding their way to this blog from Slashdot: welcome! Thanks for coming! Hope you'll like what you find here :-)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


The irony didn't sink in until a short while ago: all summer I've been championing the release of Steve Jablonsky's orchestral soundtrack from the movie Transformers. And Transformers was a Paramount production. Well, Paramount is owned by Viacom...

...and now Viacom is claiming that I infringed on its copyright because I uploaded onto YouTube a video that Viacom made by violating MY copyright!

No good deed goes unpunished, I suppose.

Okay, just had to get that out of the way for sake of the irony, 'cuz I do appreciate irony (even when it's not going my way). Anyhoo, I found this on Amazon.com's page for what is apparently now being called Transformers: The Score:

Looks beautiful! I soooo can't wait to have this in my CD collection.

Viacom hits me with copyright infringement for posting on YouTube a video that Viacom made by infringing on my own copyright!

UPDATE 09-12-2007 12:29 am EST: YouTube has restored the clip

"Chutzpah" is a Yiddish word meaning "unbelievable gall or audacity". An example of it would be the story of the kid who murders both of his parents, then throws himself on the mercy of the court on the grounds that he’s an orphan.

That's chutzpah. So is this: multimedia giant Viacom is claiming that I have violated their copyright by posting on YouTube a segment from it's VH1 show Web Junk 2.0... which VH1 produced – without permission – from a video that I had originally created.

Viacom used my video without permission on their commercial television show, and now says that I am infringing on THEIR copyright for showing the clip of the work that Viacom made in violation of my own copyright!

The clip in question was pulled by YouTube earlier this morning, at Viacom's insistence.

Last fall, as part of my campaign for Rockingham County Board of Education, I produced three commercials that ran on local television. The first of them – which I simply dubbed "Christopher Knight for School Board TV Commercial #1" – was hosted on YouTube the same evening that the ad started running on WGSR in Reidsville. You can watch it at http://youtube.com/watch?v=nLi5B0Iefsk.

Well, the concept of a candidate for Board of Education pitching himself by using the Death Star to blow up a little red schoolhouse is admittedly unusual. The YouTube clip got around quite a bit: as of this writing it's received over sixty-six thousand views. I put it and the other two ads on YouTube so that I could post them on this blog (because I was trying to chronicle everything that happened during the course of my campaign). And I'd always intended to keep them up after the election too, in case anyone else might find and enjoy watching them. Heck, I've always liked to think that maybe someday, others might see how I was a candidate and feel led to run for office themselves!

A month and a half ago some friends let me know that the cable network VH1 was spotlighting the commercial on their show Web Junk 2.0, in an edition titled "Animals & Other Crap".

VH1 took the video that I had created and hosted on YouTube, and made it into a segment of Web Junk 2.0. Without my originally-created content to work with, VH1 would not have had this segment at all. They based this segment of Web Junk 2.0 entirely on the fruit of my own labor.

I got to catch the episode and was laughing pretty hard not just at host Aries Spears's witty commentary about my commercial, but that VH1 had found the commercial worthy of sharing with such a vast audience.

Please bear in mind that at no time prior to the broadcast of this show was I contacted by VH1 or its parent company Viacom. At this time, I've received no communication from Viacom whatsoever about this.

I was quite aware that they were using my own not-for-profit work for commercial purposes and that they should have contacted me. But I didn't really care that they were doing that, either. It was just nice to see something that I had worked on getting seen and appreciated by a lot more people than what I had intended for a local audience. And I was glad that Melody Hallman Daniel, the voice-over actress in the spot, received some widespread notice of her considerable talent.

I was so proud that my commercial had been highlighted on Web Junk 2.0 that I posted the segment featuring it on YouTube so that I could put it on this blog, just like I'd posted the original commercial.

Did I think about the issue of copyright when I did that? Of course I did! But if this wasn't a matter of Fair Use, then I don't know how anything else would qualify it as such either. I made the original video, VH1 used it without my permission and I didn't particularly have a problem with that. I thought that they would have readily understood that were it not for my creativity and effort, that this edition of Web Junk 2.0 would have had to find some material elsewhere.

And then this morning the following e-mail arrives from YouTube:

Dear Member:
This is to notify you that we have removed or disabled access to the following material as a result of a third-party notification by Viacom International Inc. claiming that this material is infringing:

Web Junk 2.0 on VH1 features my school board commercial!:

Please Note: Repeat incidents of copyright infringement will result in the deletion of your account and all videos uploaded to that account. In order to avoid future strikes against your account, please delete any videos to which you do not own the rights, and refrain from uploading additional videos that infringe on the copyrights of others. For more information about YouTube's copyright policy, please read the Copyright Tips guide.

If you elect to send us a counter notice, please go to our Help Center to access the instructions.

Please note that under Section 512(f) of the Copyright Act, any person who knowingly materially misrepresents that material or activity was removed or disabled by mistake or misidentification may be subject to liability.

YouTube, Inc.

So Viacom took a video that I had made for non-profit purposes and without trying to acquire my permission, used it in a for-profit broadcast. And then when I made a YouTube clip of what they did with my material, they charged me with copyright infringement and had YouTube pull the clip.

Folks, this is, as we say down here in the south, "bass-ackwards".

I have written to YouTube's division of copyright enforcement, telling them that the VH1 clip is derived from my own work and that I should be entitled to use it as such. So far I haven't heard anything back from them. After reading that last part of the initial e-mail that they sent me, I'm wondering how apt they might be to use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to wipe out the accounts of anyone who even raises such a fuss about something like this, no matter how well-grounded it is.

What does this mean for independent producers of content, if material they create can be co-opted by a giant corporation without permission or apology or compensation? When in fact, said corporations can take punitive action against you for using material that you created on your own?

That's what's happening to me right now, folks. Viacom is penalizing me for using my own original material, which they used without permission to begin with.

I would really like to fight this as hard as I can. Unfortunately at the moment I lack the time and resources to do this on my own. I am also, admittedly, not an attorney. There's a good bit of knowledge of copyright law floating around in my gray matter, but it's not nearly enough to mount the challenge that I would like to levy against Viacom for doing this.

I want to publicly declare this: that I am not out for any money. Not a single penny. All I want is for the clip to be restored to its original address on YouTube. And I want it to be established that other creators of content have a right under Fair Use to show how their works are being appreciated in the wider world. I just want the rest of us who aren't affiliated with corporate media to have as much right to use our own work as "the big boys" enjoy for theirs.

Any inquiries or suggestions or anything else pertaining to the matter can be directed to me at theknightshift@gmail.com.

EDIT 8:22 p.m. EST: Want to see the forbidden video clip of Web Junk 2.0 using my TV commercial? Mash down here, grasshoppah! Special thanks to Richard Moore for hosting it!

This is why school uniforms are a horrible idea

Over 300 students - more than a third of the entire student body - at Eastern Guilford Middle School were detained part of the day on the first day of school yesterday because of dress code violations.

These included wearing even the wrong kinds of belts.

How much real education went on yesterday because the teachers and faculty were spending so much time looking for dress code violations?

This is one of the reasons why P.O.T.S.M.O.D. fought and beat the school uniforms when the Rockingham County Board of Education tried to impose them on Reidsville Middle and Reidsville High schools for this new school year. Because we understood that considering all that goes on in a school day, that teachers shouldn't be given unnecessary tasks that take priority over everything else already on their plate. Be mindful that this isn't the normal, sensible dress code in the traditional sense, but overly burdensome "standard mode of dress" that is for all intents and purposes a school uniform.

Having this kind of draconian dress code policy is unfair to the teachers and it's ultimately unfair to the students.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

First details about the TRANSFORMERS score CD (including possibility of a 2-disc set)!

Since news broke here on Sunday night that the soundtrack CD of Steve Jablonsky's score for Transformers would be coming out on October 9th from Warner Bros. Records, I've watched the album's product page on Amazon reflect considerable demand for this CD. When it first listed on Sunday night it was somewhere in the 40,000-ish area so far as sales ranks go. Yesterday morning around 10:30 EST it was #1,618. Currently it's at #217 and some are saying it might be in double-digits within the next few days. The Transformers score CD has also jumped significantly at the Barnes & Noble site (currently at #669).

All of those are just from presales, for an album that word is only now really getting around that it's coming out.

Every indication right now is that this is set to become a major selling CD. And sales are probably going to soar even more after the DVD/HD-DVD release of the movie later this fall.

Well, The Knight Shift was proud to have been the first news outlet(?) anywhere to announce the October 9th release date, and now it gets to be the first to offer up some juicy details about the CD itself! This all comes from a highly trusted and well-placed source that I am going to dub "Emirate Xaaron" for sake of anonymity. But take my word for it: "Emirate Xaaron" is as good as his namesake Autobot! Here's what this steadfast agent has to report...

- The album is already in production. Meaning that they are pressing out CDs even now.

- Sources who have listened to the CD report that it sounds "AWESOME!"

- The album is one disc and is "as complete as possible".

- Warner Records may consider publishing a 2-disc set containing all the music that Steve Jablonsky and his crew created for Transformers, which presumably would include most/all of the music not used in the final cut of the movie (Jablonsky reportedly composed about 90 minutes of score). The possibility of a 2-disc Transformers score album depends on how well the initial release sells.

- It looks like the public demand for a proper Transformers soundtrack CD might have had some effect. Emirate Xaaron reports that Warner Records had already slated the score album for a release but that it was originally intended to come out "later", in November. Now they are "speeding up the process" to get the score out!

Sounds groovy! Now all we need is a nice juicy official press release from the Warners home office to post here in big bold font :-)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

TRANSFORMERS score album set for October 9th release!

Well folks, it's now looking like we have a release date for the album containing Steve Jablonsky's awesome score from the movie Transformers: it's apparently rolling out on October 9th, 2007!

It must have just listed in the last little while 'cuz I checked Amazon at around 8 p.m. on Sunday night and it wasn't there. But sharp-eyed Transformers fan Chris Barry in the past hour found it here on Amazon and then spotted it here at Barnes & Noble and then again here at Best Buy. It's street price is listing at $18.98 but there is some retail price difference depending on which site you look at. And as previously reported here, it will be coming to us courtesy of Warner Bros. Records.

So ummmm... yay!!! We'll soon have this awesome score in our CD collections! At least I hope that we will all go out and show our appreciation to Steve Jablonsky, Chandra Cogburn, everyone else who composed and performed the score, Michael Bay, Dan Butler at Paramount, and all those other nice folks who made this beautiful score possible by paying good money for this CD.

Heck, I'm so happy to hear about this, I may have to buy 3 or 4 copies!

Thanks again to Chris Barry for the alert (and I would definitely give him a Snickers bar if I could :-).

Friday, August 24, 2007

She's DOCTOR Knight now!

Bigtime props to my sister Anita, who this weekend will be awarded the degree of Doctor of Physical Therapy. That makes Anita the first member of our family (that I know of) with a doctorate level of education!

Can't say that Anita hasn't worked long and hard for this. Why, I remember the night Lisa and I got engaged, and we met Anita for dinner at the Cracker Barrel in Asheville and while we were eating Anita was telling us all about this dead body that she was dissecting for her anatomy lab and how she was having to scrape out the fat...

...yup, that's my sister: Doctor Anita Knight! :-P

Mother Teresa and the long dark night of the Christian soul

It is far too easy a thing to believe in Christ.

When I say that, there are two meanings that I have in mind: both radically different yet not mutually exclusive from each other at all.

The first meaning is the one that I discovered a long time ago: that to believe in Christ is something that the least among us can do. Even the smallest child can have faith and know the fullness and abundantly joyful life that is to be found in Him. Indeed, scripture tell us that "...unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3).

This has been at the heart of some of my greatest spiritual struggle, because I confess that I do not possess the heart of a little child. And there are times that I think that I would do anything to know what it is to have that childlike, innocent belief in God that we are called to have.

There are people around my own age who, more than they will ever realize, I have for many years envied terribly the strength and source of their faith. These are people in their early thirties, in their early twenties and even younger, that do have that childlike faith in Christ. They enjoy a belief in God that I don't know if I will ever get to experience the way that they do. And please don't think that I haven't tried, either. I don't begrudge them their faith at all, but I have always felt and little doubt that I will always feel like an outsider to them, looking in from the cold outside at the beautiful warm glow of their spiritual fire.

At the same time, I do understand that my own walk with the Lord has been shaped and molded by such situations and experiences, so that it is one that most other people will never know or comprehend, either. And I really don't know if I would like the thought of others having to go through the same things that I went through. My faith has strengthened considerably over the years... but I don't dare boast that my faith is "strong". It isn't. And whatever strength that may be there doesn't come from my own spirit or free will at all. It only comes because God led me through tribulation and fire. And it still isn't strong enough. Even now, my faith is being tested as it never has before, and I really don't know how I am going to be able to endure this new trial. If it is endured, it will only be by the grace of God that He will have seen us through.

So some of us know a thing about what it is to serve Christ that others do not, and those others know something also that may never be understood by some. Maybe none of us are capable, or are supposed to be capable, of comprehending the total mystery. At least not on this side of eternity. Which is probably a good thing: can you imagine the pride and arrogance that would come if any of us could claim that we knew everything about living the perfect life in Christ? Oh certainly the knowledge is there, but it will ever be tarnished by carnal nature so long as we inhabit this earthen realm. There can be such a thing as perfect knowledge and still be something evil and destructive... as Adam and Eve learned in the garden.

But none of this makes one's certain walk with the Lord better or lesser than that of another. In our own way we each strive to yield to the will of God, in whatever circumstance that He has put us. We do so knowing that it is the will of God that we serve, and that His will might not be known to us in our time on Earth or even for a hundred years. But we know that His will is a perfect one, and that we get to play a part in it - however great or mean - is a tremendous source of comfort and strength in our travails.

This struggle with faith also has bearing on what it is when I said that "It is far too easy a thing to believe in Christ" has another meaning: one that I have only recently begun to understand. That being, that we as Christians - and I am inclined to believe that this is much more prevalent the case among so-called "evangelical" Christians of the modern western sort - do have a terrible tendency of making the Christian life out to be an easy one.

The faith can be easy to find. The strength to persist and persevere in continuing that faith... not so much.

All of my life, I have watched people "lead others to the Lord". They lead them to the point of salvation and they need never fear Hell again. Unfortunately that's about as far as a lot of people get. That's as far as a lot of us who are already believers in Christ are willing to take them: to salvation and not one step beyond.

Oh sure, we can tell them about salvation... but we hardly ever bother to tell them about what it is that they are really getting into.

Becoming a Christian is something that the childlike can do. It's also something that only the most sober-minded and clear-thinking should do. And it should not be something that we do for any other sake other than His.

Why do we place so high a priority on the salvation experience and so little on the lifelong process that follows? There are two reasons, I think. The first is the one that I like least: that maybe we lead others to Christ and then we abandon them there, in our own contentment that we have bolstered the forces of God on Earth. Which in reality is just a satiating of our own selfish ego. Look at the churches, the preachers, the "Christian organizations" that boast of having hundreds or thousands of followers and members. I'm not saying that all of them are like this, but many of them do want the appearance of earthly affluence and go about achieving it by persuading themselves and others that they are doing "the work of the Lord". So it is that they become quite busy at recruiting individuals and hardly do anything at all in encouraging the individual to grow for sake of Christ alone.

This is why I've come to despise so much of what modern Christianity - and especially Christianity in America - has turned into. Even among ourselves, we don't look at the individual in Christ so much as we do at the individual in church. I do believe that we are supposed to have fellowship with other believers. But that fellowship is supposed to build up and edify us so that we can go out into the world as believers, and be missionaries with our actions and our attitudes. But I digress...

Put simply: I believe that God works through individuals, not through the masses. "Mass men" seek power for themselves. The Christian man seeks to serve others for no other reason than out of love for God.

The other reason why we often don't want to think about what comes after others reach the moment of salvation is less devious but none the more excusable: that we're too lazy to care. Probably because we don't bother to fully pursue Christ in our own lives as much as we should be doing.

Committing one's life to the Lord is not something that should be done lightly. Salvation, yes. I believe that is easy enough and is supposed to be easy enough. But the pursuit of Christ means a life that is going to be met with affliction, confrontation, persecution and at times, abject desperation.

If and when I have children, there's not going to be any of this "leading them to the Lord with a bedtime prayer" nonsense when they're 5 or 6 or whatever. I'm not saying that it's not possible for that to happen when they're at that age. But if my children want this... if they really want this... then they're going to have to understand what it is that they are embarking upon. They are going to have to want to follow Christ, even knowing how much it is going to invariably cost them and how much they are going to be arrayed against their own nature.

If they want to follow Christ, then I'm going to tell them that they shouldn't want that just to "stay out of Hell". Becoming a Christian is not supposed to be "fire insurance for the soul". We each should choose to follow Christ because we recognize the inadequacy of our own soul and that we are incomplete without yielding to the perfection of Christ.

To truly be a Christian often means to stand alone in the eyes of the world, with no support other than the faith in knowing that God is present and that His grace is sufficient to overcome.

To truly be a Christian does not mean, and was never supposed to mean, a one-time trip to the altar to be "saved". Yes, salvation is instantaneous and for all time, but the process of sanctification is one that continues on throughout earthly life. The most severe Christian life is one of never-ending crucifying of the old self and the putting to death of the former nature.

To truly follow Christ means not trusting what the world tells them to believe and accept. It even means not automatically trusting what others who come in the name of the Lord tell them to believe. Heck, it's going to mean that they can't even assume that we as their parents know and fully understand everything enough to be completely trusted. God, they can and should trust. But not fallen mankind.

(I'm telling you here and now, my children are going to grow up knowing fully well how a lot of Christians have been very very foolish for putting their trust in any political party.)

To truly follow Christ and to seek after Him in all things is not a life of comfort and control and power. And to cast off those fetters of worldly life does not necessarily mean a spirit that knows absolute the joy and serenity that comes with faith in Christ, that so many preachers and books teach we are to have.

Now what kind of a Christian parent would I be, if I didn't tell my children about all of this? Not a very good one at all.

These are all things that I have struggled with to varying degrees at one time or another in my life. And for whatever reason, they all came flooding back to me yesterday after I read a new article in Time Magazine, titled "Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith".

In newly-surfaced correspondence that is just now being published in the book Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, we are just now coming to realize that Mother Teresa - one of the most beloved and renowned servants of Christ of the past century - suffered tremendously from times in which she felt an absence of God and a lack of faith.

These weren't the usual bouts of spiritual distress that each of us as believers go through at times throughout our lives. Mother Teresa no doubt had to fight through those too. But in letters to numerous confidants across her long decades of Christian service, Mother Teresa wrote often from the depths of despair and longing to know that God was indeed with her. And in reading these letters, I really couldn't get over the impression that however it was that we saw her on the outside, Mother Teresa was in dire spiritual agony for most of her life. She really did have to live through "the long dark night of the soul", and quite possibly she did until the day she passed away ten years ago next month.

Here is one letter in which she particularly expresses her inner turmoil...

Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The Child of your Love — and now become as the most hated one — the one — You have thrown away as unwanted — unloved. I call, I cling, I want — and there is no One to answer — no One on Whom I can cling — no, No One. — Alone ... Where is my Faith — even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness — My God — how painful is this unknown pain — I have no Faith — I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart — & make me suffer untold agony.

So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them — because of the blasphemy — If there be God — please forgive me — When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven — there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. — I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?

Honestly, I'm still feeling a bit of shock at the thought: that Mother Teresa struggled so much with her faith. And at the same time, it doesn't really come as a surprise at all.

Mother Teresa did have faith. That she felt overwhelmed with feelings of doubt and despair, and yet clung to her faith in spite of it, is evidence enough of that. I know that some are obviously going to claim that Mother Teresa was in "denial" because she "couldn't bring herself to believe that there really was no God" or some other nonsense. But what Mother Teresa expresses in these letters, is what I have gone through in my own spiritual life. I would even say that my Christian life has had times of far more doubt than it has of enjoying feeling secure in my faith.

That we, as believers in Christ, should know what it is to go through "the long dark night of the soul" should not be taken as a lack of faith or even as a sign of weakness. The real weakness would be to surrender without confronting those doubts headlong... and again, not for sake of ourselves or that others "expect" us to, but for His sake. His grace really is sufficient to see us through the night, in the face of our trials.

I don't know if Mother Teresa ever felt her doubts wiped away and her faith restored. In the end, it doesn't matter: our faith is not something that is dependent upon our feelings. That Mother Teresa persevered in spite of mere "feelings" should shine, even more brilliantly than a Nobel Prize, at how much strength that God had granted such a frail and tiny woman.

Mother Teresa found it easy to commit her life in Christ. She also found that it wasn't easy to endure to that commitment. But Mother Teresa endured all the same. I'm hard-pressed to think of how the life of the believer should be any more ideal than that.

World War II sub found 65 years after disappearance

The U.S.S. Grunion, a submarine that was last heard from on July 30th, 1942, has been discovered on the floor of the Bering Sea.

From the story...

The mangled remains of a World War II submarine were found in the Bering Sea on Wednesday night, more than six decades after the U.S. Navy vessel disappeared with a crew of 70 off the Aleutian Island of Kiska.

The discovery of the USS Grunion culminates a five-year search led by the sons of its commander, Mannert Abele, and may finally shine a light on the mysterious last moments of the vessel.

"Obviously, this is a very big thing," the oldest son, Bruce Abele, said Thursday from his home in Newton, Mass. "I told my wife about it when she was still in bed and she practically went up to the ceiling."

A remotely operated vehicle snapped pictures and captured three hours of video footage of the Grunion on a rocky underwater slope north of the volcanic island, according to John Abele, who was in Kiska Harbor with the search team on Thursday.

The submarine lies 1,000 feet from the surface and had been crushed by water pressure, Abele said. He is director and co-founder of the medical equipment company Boston Scientific Corp. and the youngest of the three brothers.

"The most surprising thing was the damage," Abele said. "It was much more than we or anyone else imagined. Initially it was very hard to recognize as a ship."

The hull had imploded so severely that the interior, including bunks and a dive wheel, are clearly visible, Abele said. No human remains were found.

Click here for the search team's official website and they've just started posting some photos from their underwater cameras, too!

Review of Marco van Bergen's ZERO HOUR!

Something I've been saying for awhile: the next revolution in film-making won't be in Hollywood. It'll be coming from out of the hinterlands. There is something really wonderful happening across the world, my friends: a new breed of filmmaker, and I'm seeing them as young as 12 all the way up to their 50s and 60s. People armed with the new technology of cheap digital filmmaking who are doing incredible things around their hometowns and down in their basements... which are more often than not rigged-up with makeshift greenscreens. Regular people, no longer content to watch the magic on the big screen, are now telling themselves "I could do that, I can do that. Maybe I will do that!"

Marco van Bergen is one of those people. A mid-teen filmmaker in the Netherlands, van Bergen just finished his new movie Zero Hour. This past week I was honored to be granted the opportunity to give it a looksee.

Zero Hour is about a tidal wave that hits a research facility on an island, and how the survivors frantically fight to survive. That this sounds much like Poseidon is bolstered by how some footage from that movie (along with clips from Titanic and other major motion pictures) is used in van Bergen's film. But don't let that fool you: Zero Hour is defined by its own cinematography (and by a largely original score by German composer Ralf Wienrich, which won a whole slew of awards at a major competition in Amsterdam a few days ago). There are some terrific shots that van Bergen and his crew pulled off, including a number of great special effects. Yet Zero Hour doesn't make the mistake that many other productions on this scale fall to the temptation of doing: making the effects supersede the story and the characters. Indeed, the scene that stands out in my mind from Zero Hour is an escape through the ventilation system: there was a much greater sense of claustrophobia and dark humor in that part than I would have expected from an older, more experienced filmmaker.

I couldn't help but think while watching Zero Hour that I was being blessed to witness the early efforts of a very talented group of young people, that I've no doubt we are going to be hearing quite a lot of good from in the years to come. Heck, if I was a bigtime studio exec, I'd throw Marco and his crew a couple million dollars and really turn them loose!

If you want to find out more about Zero Hour, check out the movie's official website. Oh yeah, and there will be a soundtrack CD of the film's score coming out soon, too! If that were only true of some other movies...

Stephen Sommers directing G.I. Joe movie (plus who might be writing the script)

No not a remake of The Story of G.I. Joe, the 1945 movie about Ernie Pyle, and it's not a movie about the foot-tall action figure that your daddy might have played with. Sommers is directing G.I. Joe, a big-screen flick of the extremely popular toy line from the 1980s.

From the story...

While G.I. Joe toys have been around for decades, the movie will be based on the toy line launched in the 1980s, which also was tied to a Saturday morning cartoon and comic book series.

Director Stephen Sommers' take was inspired by a trip to Hasbro's headquarters in Rhode Island, where he learned in depth about the world of G.I. Joe. Sommers then met with Paramount brass, who sparked to his ideas. The studio is eyeing a summer 2009 release.

The film will see soldiers from all branches of the military fighting a terrorist group called Cobra, led by the Cobra Commander and featuring such villains as the Baroness, metal-faced arms dealer Destro, master of disguise Zartan and biker gang Dreadnoks.

On the good guys' side were heroes such as the mute ninja Snake Eyes and the fetching heroine Scarlett, who were led by a Joe named Duke.

And then IESB.net has who might be writing the script: Stuart Beattie, who worked on the Pirates of the Caribbean movies for Disney.

There's more that I want to write about this, but not right now. Suffice it to say I've had some thoughts lately about a big-screen G.I. Joe movie (let us pretend that... thing... from 1987 never happened) and why it might not work as well as the Transformers did. But if Sommers is helming and Beattie is writing, I am inclined to have some confidence in this.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Software pirate sentenced by government to use Windows

Scott McCausland pled guilty to uploading Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith onto the Internet a day before the movie's release in May of 2005. He received 5 months in jail and then 5 months home confinement. As part of that part of his sentence, McCausland agreed to have some tracking software installed on his computer.

There's just one problem: McCausland is a Linux user, and the government doesn't have any tracking software that runs on Linux.

So now the government is making Scott McCausland use Microsoft Windows, or else don't use a computer at all.

If they make him use Windows Vista, would that violate the Geneva Convention?

Bush: Another who fiddles while the town burns down

Here is a rendering based on various busts and statues of the mad Roman emperor Nero...

And here is George W. Bush during his speech yesterday...

"In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue, will arise. He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy the mighty men and the holy people. He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior."

-- Daniel chapter 8, verses 23-25

One of my best friends is fond of saying that "the eyes are the window of the soul". Folks, I see that picture of Bush, and there's only a pitch-black abyss staring back. No wonder he doesn't care how many people die in this war of his.


Actually it's been online for about 2 weeks now but it somehow didn't show up on my radar until this morning...

Mash down here for the trailer for National Treasure: Book of Secrets. I absolutely loved the first movie: it was like historical pornography. This new film is said to have Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) wound up in a plot involving the Lincoln assassination, the 18 missing pages from the diary of John Wilkes Booth, and a sinister secret in the Gates family history. Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, Justin Bartha and Harvey Keitel return from the original, and will be joined by Helen Mirren and Ed Harris. It comes out on December 21st.

Bush makes tacit admission that Iraq is about his own ego

A little knowledge is said to be a dangerous thing. George W. Bush's grasp of history is downright lethal.

Here's one of the stories about Bush comparing Iraq to Vietnam, in which he made sure to use emotionally-charged words like "re-education camps" and "killing fields".

The biggest irony of that: if Bush is talking about the "killing fields" of Cambodia, then maybe it will interest him that the genocide might never have happened, had the people of that country not given the Khmer Rouge so much support following American attacks on Cambodia during the Vietnam War. The Khmer Rouge's rise to power was a direct result of American interventionism in Southeast Asia. Just as we are intervening in the Middle East today with Iraq.

But here's what also bothers me: in this same speech, Bush said that America will stay in Iraq as long as he is President.

In other words, Bush is admitting that the American presence in Iraq is not dependent on achieving "conditions of victory", whatever they happen to be at the moment. No, now Bush is making it clear that American forces being in Iraq are solely there because he wants them there, without that necessarily being in regards to the best interests of this country. This war really is about satisfying one man's ego now: Bush has actually come out and said it.

Meanwhile, 14 American soldiers are dead in a helicopter crash in Iraq. And the mother of one soldier who died in Iraq is asking "I want to know why I'm planning a funeral while George Bush is planning a wedding."

And one California family is mourning the death of their second son in Iraq.

I very strongly doubt that Bush, or any of this war's supporters, have shed any tears of grief for those lost in this conflict of theirs. They really can't look past their own egos and see the very real individuals who are dying for no reason at all in this senseless war.

Yes, I wonder too why Jenna Bush and this beau of hers haven't volunteered to serve in Iraq. I mean, if this war is about freedom, then it seems as though they would want to do their part in securing it, doesn't it?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

ATF agents caught editing Wikipedia pages for Star Wars, beer

You may have heard already about the Wikipedia Scanner, a new website that lets you find out who has been editing what Wikipedia pages and from where. And since the site went bigtime last week a lot of activity has come to light, such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the Vatican making edits, Apple, Microsoft and Dell adding negative info about their competitors and Diebold attempting to wipe out serious concerns about the integrity of its voting machines.

Now comes word that Red's Trading Post has blown the lid on what members of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are doing with our tax money.

Among other things, IP addresses that trace back to the BATF have been responsible for Wikipedia edits regarding: Star Wars, Calvin and Hobbes, Charles Bronson, Samuel Adams Beer, and Harry Potter.

I suppose it's easier for ATF members to play around with fantasy, than it is for them to "edit away" the very real world that they have played a part in creating (WARNING: graphic image at the link).


Over the weekend I got to catch The Simpsons Movie. It came out at the end of July and people who know me best had assumed that I would see this on opening day but I wound up waiting about three weeks. At one point I thought I'd just wait to see it when it came out on DVD.

I'm glad that I didn't! The Simpsons Movie was the funniest film that I've seen at the theater in quite a long time. I'm going to heartily recommend watching The Simpsons Movie during its cinematic run because the show's producers seriously play up the fact that they have a full-length motion picture to run around in (i.e. Bart writing on the blackboard "I will not illegally download this movie" on the classic opening chalkboard shot). The movie tends to "slow down" somewhat during the final third of the movie, but overall I was laughing pretty hard throughout the entire show. My biggest fear was that this would basically be one half-hour Simpsons episode strung out across 90 minutes, but gladly it doesn't feel like that at all: it's actually quite a lengthy and intricate plot for an animated comedy. And as a fan of the show who has - like many - lamented a perceived decline in quality over the past few years, I have to say: this certainly felt like vintage Simpsons from ten years or so ago. If they have been "saving the good stuff" for this movie, then I am feeling inclined to forgive the show's producers. Let's hope that The Simpsons Movie marks the beginning of the pendulum's swing back upward.

Great movie. I enjoyed it immensely. And I'm hearing that some people who don't even care that much for The Simpsons are liking it a lot too. Well worth seeing during its theatrical run.

Charlie's Soap commercial on YouTube

Charlie's Soap is a locally-produced item that's been available here for quite awhile. It's now fast becoming known all over the place as a substance that will clean anything ("...from false teeth to diesel engines" as the label says) while being very friendly to the environment. Here's a pretty hilarious commercial for the stuff that I found on YouTube:

Monday, August 20, 2007

YOUNG INDIANA JONES on DVD and why history teachers should want it

TVShowsOnDVD.com has the scoop on what to expect with next month's long-awaited (well I sure have been wanting this anyway :-) release on DVD of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles - Volume 1.

In case you never saw this, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was a show on ABC that started in March of 1992 and ran for a year or so on-and-off. The brainchild of George Lucas, Young Indiana Jones Chronicles followed, well, young Indiana Jones on adventures from the time he was 9 on up into his early twenties. We got to see Indy meet T.H. Lawrence (of Arabia) and Howard Carter (discoverer of Tut's tomb) in the burning sands of Egypt, all the way to fighting in the trenches of World War I and then as a college student in Chicago where he was roomies with Elliot Ness. It was an amazing show that happened to come along at the wrong time: I've always thought that television networks struggled quite a bit back then with a lot of new shows that were well ahead of their time. ABC was rife with this: first Twin Peaks, and then Young Indiana Jones. I also think in hindsight that the show was probably marketed the wrong way. How it should have been marketed is something I'm still trying to figure out. In any case, I've always thought that The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles had enormous potential as a teaching aid in the classroom, and indeed that was the driving impetus that was part of the show's production from its inception.

Well, it's coming 15 years after its premiere, but it looks like The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles is finally going to bear the fruit it was always intended to bear. The DVD set of Volume 1 is going to weigh in at 12 discs. What's on them? Well there'll be the first several episodes from the show, but also a bunch of historical documentaries that George Lucas and producer Rick McCallum have been working on for several years now just for this DVD release, an "interactive timeline" and some other goodies.

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles - Volume 1 is going to street with a suggested retail price of $117.99 (U.S.). Which is the most that I've ever heard of for a DVD set of a television series. But I cannot emphasize enough how much of a wonderful tool this is going to be for teachers of middle and high school history classes. The episodes themselves, I always found to not only be rollicking fine entertainment... but they were also some of the finest historical fiction that I've ever come across. This was a show that showcased the history of the early 20th Century with an unprecedented amount of detail and accuracy for a show with a network television budget. Much more important than that, the show made viewers appreciate - through the eyes and experiences of young Indiana Jones - some of the most important events of the past hundred years in a way that perhaps audiences had never been led to empathize with before. The episode that takes place at Verdun, during which Indy is a courier for the Allied army in World War I: to this day, that episode haunts me like precious little on television has. That's one episode that might have a lot more relevance today than it did when it first aired in the spring of 1992, even (if you saw it you'll probably understand what I'm talking about).

If I ever wind up teaching history in a high school setting, you'd darned well better believe that I'm going to get this set. Not just for my own collection and as an Indiana Jones fan, but because this is going to present a lot of material that I'm eager to share with my students in a way that is going to thoroughly engage them and make them want to learn more about it on their own. Which, I've always thought, is how you can know that you've succeeded as a teacher.

So if you are a history teacher already, you may want to check this out: I've a hunch it's going to wind up seriously recommended as an instructional aid, and you might want to look at having this in your school's library.

Ron Price and Lord Voldemort: THE SAME MAN?!

Over the weekend I was re-reading through parts of the Harry Potter books and something really scary crossed my mind. It turns out that there are numerous striking similarities between Harry's arch-nemesis Lord Voldemort, and disgraced Rockingham County Board of Education member Ron Price (the admitted thief and loather of public participation).


- Lord Voldemort has no friends. Ron Price couldn't find a friend or relative who would hold his Bible as he was being sworn-in for the school board.

- Lord Voldemort conned many people into thinking that he was a charming man. Ron Price conned many people into thinking that he was a "conservative" Christian.

- Lord Voldemort is fixated on himself and sees everyone else as a potential threat. Ron Price is fixated on himself and has said that "I've learned who my opponents are and who will work with me."

- Lord Voldemort and Ron Price are both mad with power.

- Lord Voldemort and Ron Price both lash out against those who oppose them: Voldemort tries to destroy Harry Potter and Price is trying to destroy the Moores.

- Lord Voldemort's mad schemes were opposed by the Order of the Phoenix. Ron Price's mad schemes have been opposed by P.O.T.S.M.O.D. (People Opposed To Standard Mode Of Dress).

- Lord Voldemort speaks Parseltongue. Ron Price speaks Neocon with a forked tongue.

- Lord Voldemort steals valuable items and hides them around England. Ron Price steals valuable items and hides them in the trunk of his car.

- Lord Voldemort hates Half-bloods and believes they are bad for the Wizarding world. Ron Price hates common people who take a stand and has called them "bad for the community".

- Lord Voldemort wants to have control of one school. Ron Price wants to have control of one school system.

- To stay forever young Lord Voldemort uses Horcruxes. To look forever young Ron Price uses... well, we'll let you judge for yourself.

- And last but certainly not least...

becomes the anagram


becomes the anagram


Maybe we should start referring to Ron Price as "He Who Should NOT Be Named"...?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Last thing I'm going to say on this blog all weekend

"This part of my life...
this part right here?
This is called 'happyness.'"

-- Christopher Gardner (played by Will Smith)
from the movie The Pursuit of Happyness

God is good. Life is good. And my pursuit of happyness has come a very long way today.

Have a great weekend :-)


Transformers is coming to IMAX screens all over the place on September 21st! It's gonna be bigger, louder... and it's going to include more footage than what we've seen in conventional theaters already!

Here's the story at SuperheroHype.com. Very good thanks to Eric Wilson for passing the word along over here :-)

I finally have a complete set of BABYLON 5 on DVD!

Well, almost a complete set. But it is the part that counts most!

As I've said here before, I'm not much of a television watcher. A show has to be very good before I invest my valuable time in sitting down to enjoy it on a regular basis. And it takes nothing less than storytelling of the highest caliber to keep me captivated and coming. That's why I love Lost so much. And ten years before that, there was Babylon 5.

This was the standout science-fiction show of the Nineties. And easily one of the best shows of that era, period. Babylon 5 broke bold new ground and in my sincere opinion set the pace for all the good shows that have followed. I don't know if there had been this kind of thing attempted before with American television that Babylon 5 pulled off: a broad, sweeping epic boasting a definite arc with a beginning, middle and end. The show was programmed to last for five years, tell its tale and then bow out, without becoming bogged-down as a "franchise".

What was it about? Babylon 5 was set (for the most part) aboard a space station in the 23rd century, at a meeting-point in space between several interstellar superpowers (including a coalition of Earth-aligned planets) and several other minor races. Babylon 5 was five miles long, armed to the teeth, and always seeming to attract the wrong kind of attention. This was a show with terrific settings and special effects but above all else this was a show about characters. These were real three-dimensional people who grew and changed dramatically over the course of five years worth of plot. It was the first sci-fi show I ever saw that treated the subject of religion seriously, and without scoffing at it (my favorite episode is the one with the Baptist preacher... and if you know which one I'm talking about, guess what my favorite scene in that episode was :-). It had drama, heartbreak, horror and insane humor. And I don't know if I can keep singing its praises without being here typing all afternoon.

Well anyhoo, in spite of how much I loved this show, until last night I'd never had the complete series on DVD. And I've been such a big Babylon 5 fan that I taped it's complete run in broadcast not once but twice: first off of TNT when the show moved there from syndication and then when Sci-Fi Channel started running it in widescreen.

So the first Christmas that Lisa and I were married (2002) I wound up getting Season 1 on DVD as a gift. The following year I got Season 2. The year after that I received Season 3 and the Movie Collection, which has the 2-hour pilot episode and the four Babylon 5 made-for-TV movies. But all of this time, for one reason or another I never wound up getting seasons 4 and 5.

Well right now, Best Buy has all the Babylon 5 DVD season box sets on sale for $19.95 each, whereas they usually street for about $60. So last night I went to the Best Buy in Burlington and drove back home with Season 4 and Season 5 in my happy possession :-) Here's the entire set that I now own...

I also own the original DVD release of "The Gathering" and "In The Beginning", but since those are already in the Movie Collection I didn't put that here in this photo. Prominently absent are the DVDs of Crusade, the Babylon 5 spin-off series. Why don't I own those? Mostly out of frustration: I was really looking forward to Crusade... and then TNT had to botch it up beyond belief (the Wikipedia entry for Crusade barely even begins to describe the hell that this show went through). Because of TNT's machinations, Crusade became two wildly different shows mashed together with all kinds of continuity problems sticking out like sore thumbs. I would love to see this part of the Babylon 5 saga continued and resolved someday, but TNT put too bad a taste in my mouth to even try to enjoy Crusade as it became in its hands.

I also don't own (yet) the "Legend of the Rangers" DVD. I watched that when it first broadcast and it was... odd. Even for Babylon 5. But maybe I'll give it a shot again. That movie has the distinction of being the only thing of Babylon 5 that I watched while visiting Lisa's apartment at University of Georgia when we were dating.

And there is one new, made-for-DVD Babylon 5 movie called "The Lost Tales" that just came out. I'm probably going to get that soon, too.

But in the meantime, I'm relishing having the complete set of the core Babylon 5 series in my possession, where I can enjoy it - like any good book - in the years to come and where it can be waiting for my own children to discover and enjoy someday.

Now, since I finally have them all, I'm wondering what to make for dinner tonight as I start watching them anew. I figure that I've got two choices: bagna cauda (you will understand this if you've watched Babylon 5) or Red Baron's pepperoni pizza (two other people will understand that one :-).

Alaska football game to make sports history tonight

Tonight at 7 p.m. Alaska Time (that's 11 p.m. for us folks here on the East Coast) the Barrow Whalers will open their 2007 football season against the Seward Seahawks.

It will be the first-ever live broadcast over the Internet of a sporting event from north of the Arctic Circle! The game will be played 300 miles above the circle in Barrow, Alaska: the northernmost point on the North American continent.

Click here to enjoy the game on the Black Diamond Sports Network when it starts streaming live. The pre-game show starts 20 minutes before kickoff.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

AWESOME pics from THE DARK KNIGHT hit the web!

Well, looks like I get to go out on a good note tonight after all!

Check out this incredible still of Heath Ledger as the Joker from The Dark Knight...

"Starting tonight, people will die. I'm a man of my word. FFFFFFHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!"

(from The Dark Knight teaser)

And there's a dozen more or so floating around out there right now. Here's where I first found them on Ain't It Cool News but if they get hit with a cease & desist then you'll know what to look for 'cuz it's all over the blogosphere tonight anyway :-)

So we're not becoming a fascist state under Bush, huh?

Americans may soon be required to have a passport to board a domestic flight. Or... get this... to picnic in a national park.

Yup, you may soon have to possess a passport the next time you want to fly off for a visit to Aunt Tilly in Akron, or take the family to vacation in Yellowstone.

How in the world is this different from "Your papers, please..." in the Soviet Union?

How, indeed?

Will people keep ignoring what is happening, now so obviously right before our eyes? Will the people of this country ever take off the rose-colored glasses and stop denying what is going on?

I've said it before, will say it again: America has suffered more grievous damage during George W. Bush's time as President than she ever has throughout her entire long history. And I don't know if we'll ever recover from it all adequately enough.

Homeland Security enlisting clergy to quell dissent

I'm going to start this post with a reference to one of my all-time favorite movies. In The Patriot, right after Gabriel goes to the church to recruit members for the militia, Reverend Oliver (Rene Auberjonois) lays down his clergyman's wig and takes up the rifle. And this is what he tells his congregation...

"A shepherd must tend his flock.
And at times... fight off the wolves."

I know: The Patriot is a work of fiction (even though some of its characters were real historical figures). But Reverend Oliver's sentiment is a real one for a follower of Christ. Especially for a true patriot in every sense of the word. Real Christian patriots are loyal to a law higher than man's. They will defend it. They will fight for it. If need be, they know that they may even be called upon to die for it. And they can accept that because they understand that there are worse things that can happen to us than deprivation of comfort or a painful death.

See that quote at the top of this page by C.S. Lewis? That's what that's all about. That's what most Christians - and especially Christians in America - used to know and appreciate.

Let me put it this way: a real Christian minister in modern America would not be blindly doing or believing whatever this government tells them to. A real Christian would dare to question, and to stand up and defy this government if it comes to that.

Well folks, it looks like sooner than later the wheat is going to be separated from the chaff so far as spiritual leadership in America goes. We are about to see who will stand for God and who will stand for man. From KSLA in Shreveport comes this report...

Homeland Security Enlists Clergy to Quell Public Unrest if Martial Law Ever Declared

Aug 15, 2007 07:07 PM

Could martial law ever become a reality in America? Some fear any nuclear, biological or chemical attack on U.S. soil might trigger just that. KSLA News 12 has discovered that the clergy would help the government with potentially their biggest problem: Us.

Charleton Heston's now-famous speech before the National Rifle Association at a convention back in 2000 will forever be remembered as a stirring moment for all 2nd Amendment advocates. At the end of his remarks, Heston held up his antique rifle and told the crowd in his Moses-like voice, "over my cold, dead hands."

While Heston, then serving as the NRA President, made those remarks in response to calls for more gun control laws at the time, those words live on. Heston's declaration captured a truly American value: An over-arching desire to protect our freedoms.

But gun confiscation is exactly what happened during the state of emergency following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, along with forced relocation. U.S. Troops also arrived, something far easier to do now, thanks to last year's elimination of the 1878 Posse Comitatus act, which had forbid regular U.S. Army troops from policing on American soil.

If martial law were enacted here at home, like depicted in the movie "The Siege", easing public fears and quelling dissent would be critical. And that's exactly what the 'Clergy Response Team' helped accomplish in the wake of Katrina.

Dr. Durell Tuberville serves as chaplain for the Shreveport Fire Department and the Caddo Sheriff's Office. Tuberville said of the clergy team's mission, "the primary thing that we say to anybody is, 'let's cooperate and get this thing over with and then we'll settle the differences once the crisis is over.'"

Such clergy response teams would walk a tight-rope during martial law between the demands of the government on the one side, versus the wishes of the public on the other. "In a lot of cases, these clergy would already be known in the neighborhoods in which they're helping to diffuse that situation," assured Sandy Davis. He serves as the director of the Caddo-Bossier Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

For the clergy team, one of the biggest tools that they will have in helping calm the public down or to obey the law is the bible itself, specifically Romans 13. Dr. Tuberville elaborated, "because the government's established by the Lord, you know. And, that's what we believe in the Christian faith. That's what's stated in the scripture."

Civil rights advocates believe the amount of public cooperation during such a time of unrest may ultimately depend on how long they expect a suspension of rights might last.

This Dr. Durell Tuberville is a bad shepherd for his flock. He doesn't believe in "fighting against the wolves". He's going to let the wolves come in and devour those that he believes he has been called to care for.

Heck I'll put it this way: if I were a minister in an area that the federal government was using armed force to suspend Constitutional rights in, I would have but one instruction to my congregation: "Aim small, miss small."

Ministers who go along with Homeland Security like this are traitors. To their countrymen and to their calling. They may not have acted upon it yet but they've thrown their lot in with the powers of man in opposition to the power of God.

And so far as Romans 13 goes, I'll attempt to put it in plain-enough English for these so-called "minsters" to understand...

Here in America, the government is not in authority over us! We the people have the authority! This government only has whatever authority it derives from us!

It is my belief that we rebel against this authority - which God Himself has entrusted to us - when we do not use it responsibly. And we do not use it responsibly when we tolerate these weak people who abuse it in the name of government. 1st Peter 2:13 tells us to "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men".

Well, the Constitution and what it stands for is what we have instituted in America. If we are not loyal to the Constitution against all enemies, then we are in dire violation of scripture. And I'll be damned if I let this government tell me not to be loyal to a Constitution that more people than we'll ever know fought and died for.

The wolves are coming. They want to devour everything that we have and everything that this country is supposed to stand for.

Where are the shepherds this time who will fight them off?

Monetary hypocrisy

If your or I were to make counterfeit money, we would go to prison.

If the Federal Reserve makes counterfeit money, it's considered "business as usual".

$17 billion today that got injected into the system. That's almost $90 billion since last week.

If this keeps up, the "dollars" that you can print up with the Epson on your desktop are going to be worth more than actual Federal Reserve notes.

High school students being forced to pick majors

I have to quite seriously wonder how long will it be before this is becomes proposed for schools here in Rockingham County, North Carolina. I mean, we've already got at least one school board member who has said that students are there to learn how to "find a job" and not how to be individuals.

This same school board member re-affirmed that to me rather strongly at the meeting the following night, by the way. I honestly can't see it as being too far of a stretch for him to be in favor of something like this, either...

Students at many high schools across the country are being forced to pick academic "majors" as early as 9th grade, according to a story in today's The New York Times...

Ninth graders often have trouble selecting what clothes to wear to school each morning or what to have for lunch. But starting this fall, freshmen at Dwight Morrow High School here in Bergen County must declare a major that will determine what electives they take for four years and be noted on their diplomas.

For Dwight Morrow, a school that has struggled with low test scores and racial tensions for years, establishing majors is a way to make their students stay interested until graduation and stand out in the hypercompetitive college admissions process.

Some parents have welcomed the requirement, noting that a magnet school in the district already allowed some students to specialize. But other parents and some educators have criticized it as preprofessionalism run amok or a marketing gimmick.

"I thought high school was about finding what you liked to do," said Kendall Eatman, an Englewood mother of six who was president of the Dwight Morrow student body before graduating in 1978. "I think it's too early to be so rigid."

Debra Humphreys, a spokeswoman for the Association of American Colleges and Universities, called high-school majors "a colossally bad idea," saying youngsters should instead concentrate on developing a broad range of critical thinking and communication skills.

"Today's economy requires people to be constantly learning and changing," Ms. Humphreys said. "A lot of jobs that high school students are likely to have 10 years from now don't yet exist, so preparing too narrowly will not serve them well."

Here's why this approach is so horrible: it's trying to mold and craft people into being gears in a machine that can be installed and swapped-out. It specializes people too much. Instead of giving individuals a wide, rich foundation of knowledge and critical thinking skills from which they can draw upon throughout life as they themselves see fit, it defines them downward according to Utilitarian purpose.

In other words, it restricts the students from being the individuals of ability and free will that they are supposed to be.

But I guess that tearing down their potential isn't of much concern to some people, apparently.

Paramount confirms: TRANSFORMERS score CD is rolling out!

Warner Bros. Records will "shortly" be releasing the album of Steve Jablonsky's orchestral score from the movie Transformers, according to a Senior Vice President in the Music Department at Paramount Pictures.

The Knight Shift blog received this confirmation a short while ago. And you've no idea how happy I am about being able to report this!

The word comes from a source wishing to identifying himself as "Sam Witwicky all the way from New Zealand" (and in case you're wondering, I already asked if his eBay username was "ladiesman217" and he said that it's not :-). "Sam Witwicky" was able to correspond directly with the good people at Paramount Pictures: the studio which along with DreamWorks was responsible for producing Transformers. Our man Sam told them about the interest there's been in a CD release of Jablonsky's score and he mentioned the online petition (which may hit 5,000 signatures in the next few days).

Here's what Sam received back...

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Dan Butler at Paramount
Date: Aug 16, 2007 4:12 AM
Subject: RE: Transformers Original Score
To: Sam Witwicky

There will be a score album released shortly on Warner Bros. Records. Thanks for your interest!

Dan Butler

Senior Vice President

Business Affairs & Legal - Music

Paramount Pictures

So there's the word pretty much from the top: soon, we'll be getting to put our grubby lil' paws on a shiny new CD containing that majestic score from Transformers by Steve Jablonsky!

To all of you who have signed the petition and have otherwise been showing support for this album and getting the word spread about how much we'd love to have it in our collections: THANK YOU!! Nothing would please me more than to be able to shake hands with every single one of ya :-)

And very special thanks to Dan Butler and the folks at Paramount for having this great news sent along to us!

1000 MILES TO GRACELAND: Our honeymoon pilgrimage to Memphis

We celebrate many birthdays. But to the best of my knowledge there are only two people that the western world takes time out to commemorate the deaths of: Jesus Christ, and Elvis Presley. Curious, that...

So today is the 30th anniversary of the death of Elvis. Which a lot of folks no doubt are going to be remembering in various ways. Here's mine: the story of how Lisa and I wound up devoting a considerable chunk of our honeymoon five years ago to the King of Rock and Roll.

I suppose all of this came about because of what you see in the picture on your right. This was taken at the rehearsal dinner on the night before our wedding at this restaurant in Calhoun, Georgia. As dinner was winding down Lisa's dad thanked everyone for coming from such far away (we had guests in from Brooklyn, Australia and Belgium!) and thought that it would be a good time to introduce everyone and how they were related to the bride and groom, and basically it was a great idea to "roast" us as he put it.

Well, I had no idea that this was coming, but Chad Austin spoke about how he and I had been friends since kindergarten, all on up through high school and it was at that point that he mentioned Chris "doing his Elvis impersonation". HOW THE %@#$ DID HE THINK TO BRING THAT UP AT A TIME LIKE THIS?!? That was something that started in one particular session of computer class when we were juniors in high school, and before I knew it there were posters all over campus advertising "CHRIS KNIGHT TONIGHT LIVE, SEE HIM DO ELVIS AT 8 PM!" Well, being a good gracious groom at my own rehearsal dinner I thought it'd be wise to demonstrate just what the joke was about, so I got up from the table and in front of everyone I did my world-famous "Elvis shaking his pelvis" routine. It was a huge hit! And that's all that I plan on talking about that. In fact, forget you ever read this much about it.

Let's move on, shall we...

So we finished with dinner and Lisa went back to her parents' house for a lil' "get-together" with the girls and a bunch of us guys - Chad, "Weird" Ed, Johnny Yow, the amazing "Lowbridge" and I - went off for a bachelor's party at U.S. Play in Marietta. The next day we had the wedding and that afternoon Lisa and I took off for our honeymoon in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We'd planned on being there from Saturday night on 'til Wednesday but decided to extend our stay there a day. That still left us with plenty of time for our honeymoon trip but we didn't know where to spend it at.

I think it was late Tuesday that the idea hit to drive all the way across Tennessee, and make a "religious pilgrimage" to Graceland in Memphis.

We checked out at the cabin rental place on Thursday morning and it wasn't long afterward that we were on I-40 headed west across the whole length of Tennessee. We left Gatlinburg at about 11 and after a loooooooong drive we finally got to Memphis almost at 8 p.m.

The next morning, we went to Graceland. There's a visitor's center where you board a shuttle and if you like you can get this fancy audio tour thingy that you wear earphones with as you walk around the grounds.

Anyways, here's some photos from our visit to Graceland. First is the front door of the place...

There's not too much photo-taking allowed inside Elvis's house (and the upstairs portion - where the King lived and ummmm, died is strictly off-limits) but we were able to get a few good pics elsewhere on the grounds. Here's Elvis's swimming pool...

Here's Lisa in the backyard area...

And here in the Meditation Garden of Graceland is the grave of Elvis Presley, along with mother Gladys, father Vernon and his grandmother Minnie Mae...

And here's a closeup of Elvis's grave...

A quick note about the name on the King's grave marker, since it's helped fueled speculation over the years that Elvis didn't die in 1977. You see, Elvis's full name really is "Elvis Aaron Presley". But for years it's been claimed that his middle name was actually "Aron". Indeed, that's how Elvis himself spelled it for a long time, until he discovered that his legal name did include "Aaron". The reason for the "Aron" spelling was that Elvis thought it sounded so much like "Garon", the name of his stillborn twin brother. Anyways, when the official death certificate was made out for Elvis it spelled his full name as "Elvis Aron Presley"... which led some to wonder if there might be something sinister at work. And some have said that the name on the grave marker is not the actual legal name of Elvis, either. Which is which? Since it was Vernon Presley who was in charge of the grave arrangement and how the memorials were made out, I'll defer to his judgment.

There's a pretty extensive collection of Elvis's belongings that are on display at Graceland, including all the King's certified gold, silver and platinum records (this takes up every bit of wall space in one cavernous room and it's still growing). You can also see Elvis's vehicles, including his planes and his cars, not the least of which is his famous Pink Cadillac...

There's that guy again, unholying the holy ground...

We spent most of the day at Graceland, and thought it was well worth taking an unplanned excursion for it during our honeymoon. Later that night we went out to explore Memphis some more. Here's a shot of Lisa taken right before sunset, with the Hernando de Soto Bridge crossing the Mississippi River in the background...

A short while after this, since it's not everyday that you get to cross the Mississippi, we got in our car and took I-40 over the bridge. That way we also got to say that we visited Arkansas during our trip. But since by this point the sun was fast going down, I told Lisa that we had better get out of Arkansas "before the monsters come out". Look this is the state that produced Bill Clinton: that's more than enough to scare me about the prospect of being stuck there when darkness falls, 'kay?

So we turned around fast and headed back over the river and got back to Memphis. Here's a groovy statue of Elvis that we found...

And here's a statue of another famous son of Memphis, B.B. King...

Lisa and I took a nice trolley ride through downtown Memphis. We got to see Beale Street, which was just as lively as I imagined it would be. And I just did miss getting a picture of this because it it took about 5 seconds for me to realize what it was that I was looking at, but we also saw the Lorraine Motel: the place where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot (it's now the National Civil Rights Museum, but it's still quite recognizable as the Lorraine Motel).

The next morning - on Saturday, now a week after we were married - we left Memphis and headed back to Calhoun. To get there we decided to go through Mississippi and Alabama. Lo and behold the route included Tupelo: Elvis's birthplace! So of course to make our pilgrimage complete we had to stop and see the place. Here's Lisa at the historical marker outside Elvis's childhood home:

Here are some photos inside the place...

And here's Lisa and I on the front-porch swing...

And that's pretty much how we spent a good part of the second half of our honeymoon: paying our respects to the life of Elvis Presley. From the time I left Reidsville for the wedding, until we got to Memphis, it was roughly one thousand miles (hence the title of this post). Considering that our wedding had included wacky music, Star Wars action figures, and a garter snake, I suppose it was a quiet enough way to wind things down :-)

So, too all of my friends who are reading this: considering that this is the 30th anniversary of his passing, should or should I not likewise pay tribute to the the King by posting a YouTube video of myself "doing Elvis"? :-P