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Monday, December 31, 2007

Looking back on 2007

I don't really feel like doing this right now. We got back from a trip out of state a short while ago and I'm way tired, among other things.

But, these are the last few hours of 2007, before a whole new year rings in. So I'm going to try to do my traditional wrap-up of the preceding year.

I'm not going to sugarcoat things: 2007 was a very, very rough year. In fact, of the "year-end reviews" that I've done so far on this blog, 2007 has been by far the one that I wince most at thinking about. For no other reason than because I'm really not where I wanted to be this evening, when last December 31st I thought about where I wanted to be a year from now.

What happened? Well, 2007, more than any other year of my life, was a year of struggles. Many of which I didn't chronicle here. Some of them were. And some even wound up making international headlines.

But in spite of all that happened in 2007, for all the regrets that I admit having about the past 12 months, I can't help but believe that there was a lot of good that came out of this year, too. And quite a lot of surprises.

2007 began innocuously enough. Everything was quiet for the first few weeks. I started out 2007 hoping to move forward with my life on several fronts, including making a full-length film and getting a new business going. I dabbled a bit with YouTube "personal commentary" videos, but didn't make much headway there (I might pick it up again soon though).

The first big project of 2007 started on the night of the American Idol season premiere. Lisa and I saw a promo for the first (and subsequently only) season of the new Fox show On The Lot: the one that asked filmmakers to submit short films for a competition somewhat like American Idol. Lisa told me that I should give it a shot. So with just a month left to write, cast, shoot, and edit it together... that's what I did. Schrodinger's Bedroom didn't get past the first round of tryouts, but during the whirlwind experience I came to meet some wonderful new people, and it was a heckuva lot of fun to pull it off. And I personally think that considering the time I had to work with, that Schrodinger's Bedroom turned out to be pretty clever and funny. I just wish that I'd had more opportunity for filmmaking like that during the rest of this past year.

That brought things toward March, and things began picking up in earnest. One of the highlights of this year was when I got to host Monday Night Live for an entire hour along with Ken Echols. My April Fools Day gag wound up convincing a lot of people that I had run off to join the Amish (I don't know how I'll be able to top that... but I'll try :-).

And then a few weeks later, the rest of the year started going full-tilt wacko. At the April meeeting of the Rockingham County Board of Education, the board voted to implement uniforms at two Reidsville schools. A lot of parents and students at the schools protested, and banding together to form P.O.T.S.M.O.D. (People Opposed To Standard Mode Of Dress) they took to the warpath. I didn't believe in the uniforms either, and was asked to help out. I told 'em that anything I could possibly do to defeat this, I'd do it. We spoke out against the uniforms at every meeting for the next three months, and even took to the airwaves on the local television station WGSR. It all came to a head at the July 9th meeting, when some of us came in costume - including Yours Truly dressed as a Jedi Knight - with most of the area's major news media present to chronicle the mayhem. By the end of the evening the board rescinded their earlier vote, and the students at the two schools didn't have to put "civil disobedience" into practice (which I've no doubt they would have done). And I'm glad they rescinded the policy too 'cuz if the Jedi costume stunt didn't work, I had something else in mind to heat things up a bit.

Later on in April came something else that, in retrospect I do wonder if I'm beating a dead horse too much... but then I remember that there is still such a thing as honor, and that has to be defended with whatever is in my arsenal. At the end of April word got out that admitted sign thief and disgraced school board member Ron Price had filed a lawsuit against local publisher Richard Moore and Moore's wife Debbie, for their attempts to make Price accountable for his misdeeds. Which led toward all kinds of spoofing of Ron Price on this blog: Ron Price as Leon Trotsky, Ron Price as Rambo (yeah I made that one, and as they say "so sue me"...), Ron Price as The Godfather, Ron Price as Lord Voldemort, Ron Price as the Gravemind from Halo, Ron Price as L. Ron Hubbard, and then the piece de resistance: the Ron Price Jack-O'-Lantern! Probably little wonder then that I wound up getting deposed by Price's lawyer to answer questions under oath as part of this lawsuit, even though when the day of the deposition came Price's attorney Doug Hux could only show me a photograph of last year's Reidsville Christmas Parade and ask silly questions about it. The case is supposed to come to trial in the next few months but it could be dismissed sometime in January (and it probably will be). I've little doubt that I'll be next to get hit with a lawsuit from Price... but hey, if that happens, it's all the more fodder for parody for me to work with :-)

I didn't get much of my own filmmaking done this past year, but I could help out (a bit) Jae Solina with his short film, and he did a slam-bango job on it, too!

June was a good, productive, fun month. I produced my first pro-Ron Paul video (while Lisa was away at a 2-week music seminar in Georgia, and she's told me many times since that if she'd been here that she'd never have let me do that!). Not only did my Ron Paul video become a YouTube hit, but that same weekend my first school board commercial was screened at the Pixelodeon Video Festival at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles! Which was just one of many things that happened in association with that commercial over this past year, but we'll touch more on that in a minute.

And that same weekend, I took the Praxis II test in Raleigh... and pretty much aced the thing! Yes, I'm still very excited about that :-)

July of 2007 would see the publication of the final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. So in the lead-up to that I resolved to read every book in the Harry Potter series leading up to that last installment, within a month. Within three weeks I'd finished them all, and went right into Deathly Hallows (here's my review of it). What an absolutely amazing, wonderful series of books. I can't wait to share it with my children someday.

If June was wild, it couldn't hold a candle to July. In addition to the "Jedi at school board meeting" hijinks and the Harry Potter mania, there was also my school board commercial getting featured on VH1's Web Junk 2.0 show. Which I've always thought was hilarious and I didn't hesitate to post it on YouTube. Ooh-boy... who'da thunk that would have caused so much controversy a month and a half later?

But in the meantime, there was one thing, even more than the uniforms controversy, that dominated this blog not just in July but for many of the months that followed: the fight for the Transformers score CD.

It all started when I saw Transformers on July 4th. I loved everything (okay almost everything about that movie. Especially the amazing orchestral score by Steve Jablonsky. I went looking for the CD of it in stores. It wasn't to be found 'cuz nobody had released it. I lamented about that on this blog. Lots of people started coming here as a result because they were looking for info about a Transformers score CD too. To reflect the heavy demand for this CD, I set up an online petition calling for the score's release. Thousands signed it. Apparently, it attracted attention of the suits at Warner Bros. Records (though how much real impact the petition had, is still debatable because as I understand it the score was going to be released eventually anyway). Some news agencies even picked up the story about the demand for the CD. In the end, on October 9th Transformers: The Score by Steve Jablonsky was published and sold out all over the place (as of this writing it's still doing very well on Amazon). And lo and behold, Steve Jablonsky himself sent some autographed copies of the score (including one that we later auctioned on eBay with all the proceeds going toward the purchase of new music instruments for schools here in Rockingham County) this way! I still haven't done with mine what I've planned to do with it: frame it in a shadowbox, along with a copy of the petition (including all of the signatures) and a little plaque that says "NO SACRIFICE, NO VICTORY!" Probably will do that soon though :-)

August was fairly quiet in comparison to the previous two months. All the way until the final few days, when... that Viacom thing... happened. The incident that brought attention to this blog from a lot of bigtime news outlets. On August 29th I was hit with a takedown notice from YouTube over my posting of the Web Junk 2.0 clip featuring my own school board campaign commercial. And if you wanna read up on just about all the various perspectives and opinions on this bit of copyright wackiness, here's most of the links that I was able to find. Folks, this was a huge thing for me to have gone through on this end. Never in my life did I think that I'd have to wind up taking on Viacom, a multi-billion dollar media conglomerate. And it just happened to have come at a really lousy period in time, too. Fortunately (and with a little help from the Electronic Frontier Foundation), two weeks later the situation was resolved, when Viacom dropped their contest and allowed the clip to be restored. Here's what I had to do, in order for that to happen, in case this ever happens to anyone else. When comparing all of the things that happened in 2007, Knight v. Viacom definitely comes in at the top of the list so far as "major" things go (especially regarding this blog).

A few days after "the Viacom incident" wrapped up, I got to post something much more fun here: my wife Lisa's "Star Wars"-motifed music classroom. Months later and the kids are still amazed by it all. Lisa says that every class, the children race to see who can sit closest to Yoda :-)

October brought a lot of weddings to our family (dunno why I didn't chronicle most of them) and some other things that kept me busy, that for some reason I didn't chronicle much about here. But also a bit of whimsy: in addition to the Ron Price Jack-O'-Lantern that I mentioned earlier, I also did this Ron Paul Jack-O'-Lantern, which was much more fun to make :-)

As the year started winding down, there were indications that 2007, far from ending quietly (which I had kinda hoped) might be going out with a bang. On the first weekend of November, while we were en route to another wedding, my beloved 2001 Toyota Corolla was totaled in a rear-end collision. I've got a new car now - a Toyota Camry, which I've already come to like a lot - but my Corolla had quite a lot of crazy history attached to it.

A week after the crash, I made it into the national spotlight again (how many times is that in one year??) when E! Entertainment Television's hit show The Soup ran my school board commercial. I got tons of e-mails and phone calls about that one, and one friend from high school later said that he was on his honeymoon when he saw me on The Soup. Heh-heh... that's gotta be a scary thought: "Chris Knight crashed my honeymoon!" Fortunately the clip I posted of that on YouTube hasn't been struck-down (yet). Hopefully it won't either, 'cuz it's an awfully funny segment.

Thanksgiving 2007 saw me deep-frying my first turkey in two years. I did two more for Christmas (hope to have the pics of them up soon) and consensus is that my culinary skill is getting better with age :-)

Also in November came... folks, I was seriously, seriously considering doing this: the whole "run for Congress" thing. And I'm very thrilled that a lot of people wanted me to do this. And I know that I said that I would, at one point. But after some thinking about it (which in retrospect, I should have considered a few things that I didn't at the time) I'm still not going to run this time. Maybe in a few more years. The past few weeks have proven all the more to me, that I need some more "personal projects" time in the near future. And I'm not ready for something like this right now. I do hope to run sometime though. And it will absolutely be a terrific, positive, and fun campaign. I came up with 5 or 6 ideas for commercials, if I had run this time. For now, those are going in the trunk to be used later.

In the month leading up to early December, I could barely contain my excitement for finally, after all these years, being chosen to attend this year's Butt-Numb-A-Thon film festival in Austin, Texas. Not only did I get to be there for 24 hours of movie magic (and other stuff), but it was my first trip to Texas and I got to hook up with some great friends and my brother-in-law. Plus, I got to visit the Alamo! Definitely a great event to go out of 2007 with.

And then, there was Christmas. Which was really good and I'm gonna try to get pics up of that soon, including some of the stuff that we got (including a certain toy for Lisa, that I had to camp out overnight in the freezing rain to get for her :-).

Okay well... that was 2007, I guess.

Was it a good year? Depends. I got to meet many wonderful people over the past 12 months, and got to do some things that I'd always wanted to do and a few things that I never thought I'd get to do. Going by that measure, 2007 was one rollickin' adventure after another.

But all the same: I don't feel like I actually accomplished anything personally, or at least anything that I feel much - right now anyway - that I grew from. A lot of what happened in 2007 was carry-over from events of 2006, which in many ways was a much more fascinating, rigorous, terrific year for personal growth and advancement. Looking back over 2007 with that same eye, I feel... a lot of regret. A lot of wishing that some things had been different.

At the end of 2006, I felt like I could do anything. At the end of 2007, I'm wondering: what can I do? Is there anything left for me to do? Is this it: a life of fighting a lot of never-ending battles? Yes, I suppose that most people would say that I did win the vast majority of those battles. And that I should feel proud for that.

But I can't do it. I know what I did. I'm thankful that, in my understanding at least, the right thing did prevail more often than not.

But I'm still not feeling any more satisfied with 2007 though.

Maybe I'm just being pessimistic about what's gone on in the past 12 months. It could be that it was all such a severe roller-coaster of a ride, that I'm now left wondering "okay, how can I possibly top all of this?". And with nothing that big (let's face it: taking on Viacom in a copyright dispute and coming out on top isn't something terribly small we're talking about here) on the horizon right now, well... what is there?

Mostly though, I do wish that I could have done the projects that I'd started 2007 out with in mind. But maybe that's okay too: there's always 2008. And in some ways, the end of 2007 made me more prepared to take on those things than I would have been if I had attempted them a year ago. So maybe there is something of God's will at work here after all.

Speaking of which: I hope that 2008 brings me closer to God. And I don't mind admitting that, either. Lately, I've realized how much I have failed and fallen as a follower of Christ. The past few months have taught me that while I was so busy fighting everything else out there, I neglected to confront some things in here. And I'm going to need to work on those things for awhile. Probably a long while. I might really have to give up blogging while I'm doing that, too.

So in short, about 2007: a lot of regrets. But I won't deny that this was a very, very interesting year.

Here's praying that 2008 will be a far better one. Please Lord, I hope so.