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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Chad and Koren: ENGAGED!

As of tonight, this man has no more excuse for not updating his blog.

Back in May I wrote about my quarter-century long friendship with Chad Austin. Two friends see a lot of things in that time. Lots of good times, and bad. You can't avoid the heartbreak... but then there are the moments when you get to rejoice, too. Those rich, beautiful slivers of time that make you glad to be alive and remind you that there is a God who rewards virtue and patience.

Chad Austin is one of the most virtuous people that I have ever known. He has also been one of the most patient. He's always known what it means for him to be happy, and I always knew that he would never settle for second best.

Tonight, he's been rewarded in spades.

As not only his friend but also a brother, it is my supreme honor to be the first to break the news to the world that this evening we get to toast one of those happy moments.

A very short while ago, in Virginia Beach where they ran in the 2008 Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon earlier today, Chad proposed to his girlfriend Koren Borchers.

And Koren said "Of course!"

(I've been in the loop for a few days now, so I already had this graphic ready to roll :-)

Word has reached The Knight Shift that Chad popped the question in real style. He took Koren out to dinner, then they went on a romantic walk along the beach. And that's where Chad, on Koren's birthday, dropped to one knee and asked her to be his bride, and she agreed to his suggestion that maybe it's time they start running as one instead of merely as two.

Y'all have no idea how long I've been waiting to make this post. On the list of things that I've wanted to most write about on this blog, Chad and Koren getting engaged easily comes in at #2 (and #1 hasn't happened... yet). And I've been hoping and praying for much longer than that, for literally years, that I'd get to see this day happen for a friend I've known for almost my entire life.

Chad and Koren, you guys have already been a beautiful couple. And you are going to make a wonderful team of husband and wife. May God bless you today, and all the days that are yet to come.

Dunno how else to close this 'cept to say except, again: CONGRATULATIONS! :-)

EXCLUSIVE: "Church" in division? Cult leader Johnny Robertson throws Norm Fields off television!

Norm Fields, who has hosted one of the three weekly live television broadcasts of the self-professed "Church of Christ" cult in the Reidsville, Martinsville and Danville area of north-central North Carolina and southern Virginia, has been kicked off the air by cult leader Johnny Robertson, The Knight Shift has learned.

Fields, who came to this area from Georgia in 2007 and has been working at the Danville Church of Christ, has been doing the Bible Q&A broadcast every Thursday night at 10 p.m. on WGSR Star 39, broadcasting from Reidsville, North Carolina. For the past several weeks Fields has been conspicuously absent. This past week there was a two-hour broadcast of A Word from the Lord at 9 p.m. to fill in the hour that Fields has usually hosted. That broadcast featured a "debate" between James Oldfield of the Reidsville Church of Christ and Larry Surber of Stoneville in regard to science versus religion.

The Knight Shift can now report that Fields "won't be coming back" and that Johnny Robertson has made this clear to WGSR general manager Charles Roark. The reason? Fields wasn't "working out", which was explained that Fields was not combative and aggressive enough for Robertson and Oldfield. Indeed, of the three "Church of Christ preachers" broadcasting on WGSR it should be noted that so far as is known, Norm Fields was the only one who did not ambush any other area churches or pastors with a hidden camera during worship services or at any other time. Many people have regarded Fields as the "more sensible" of the three preachers. A number of sources have been reporting to me in the past few months that there was some friction between Robertson and Fields and that Robertson "did not like Fields at all", that Robertson thought of Fields as a "wimp" for not "taking on the denominations hard enough".

The "Church of Christ" cult - which is not associated in any way with the mainstream Churches of Christ - prides itself on "unity" and maintains that being one church is something that Jesus not only taught but demanded. Robertson and Oldfield are known throughout the area for broadcasting their message that unless a person is a member of their "Church of Christ" that a person is damned to go to Hell, with zero tolerance allowed for dissent. It now looks at this hour that Fields, the preacher of the Danville Church of Christ, is indeed dissident enough for Johnny DeVere Robertson - widely known as the leader of the cult - to have him drummed from the airwaves.

There is no word yet on how Fields's position with the Danville Church of Christ is affected.

More information as it becomes available.

(Actually I'm sitting on a whole mountain of more information about Johnny Robertson and his cult, that I haven't divulged yet. If he's going to declare during his Sunday morning "church service" and on broadcast television that I'm his "worst enemy", I might as well act the part, yes?)

God and politics and nature

I'll admit, it's so ironic you have to wonder if there's some karma at work here.

A few weeks ago one of James Dobson's cronies made a video and posted it on the Focus on the Family website. In the clip Stuart Shepard, who does a lot of multimedia production for the "ministry", asks Christians to pray for "abundant rain, torrential rain... flood-advisory rain" in the Denver area on the night of Barack Obama's open-air acceptance speech at the Democrat National Convention.

Here's Shepard's video, which he claimed was done for humor (but I can't find anything funny about it at all)...

As anyone who caught his speech will know, Obama enjoyed terrific weather for his address, which aired to what some are saying is one of the record highs for political speeches before a televised audience.

But if Shepard's cry to Heaven was echoed by his fellow evangelicals, they're about to get an answer. Maybe not just the way they'd wanted. With Hurricane Gustav now threatening to wreck more havoc on New Orleans than Katrina did (if that's even conceivable) in 2005, the Republicans are being ominously overshadowed for their own convention by the forces of nature. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have canceled plans to speak there (one Republican friend has told me that a lot in his party are considering this to be a good thing) and now there's mention that John McCain himself may not show up, instead delivering his acceptance via satellite.

(Incidentally, McCain and Sarah Palin have already announced that they're going to be visiting the area that's being threatened by Gustav. Obama is supposedly going there too. I wish they would all steer clear of the place. Those people have enough to worry about right now than to also have some politicians coming in for a photo op, with all the logistics of personnel and security that it entails.)

I've no doubt that many professing evangelicals took Shepard at his word and prayed for rain on the Democrats: a few even told me that they did. What then do we make of Gustav and now Hanna, which one Democrat official and filmmaker Michael Moore are now gloating are proof that God favors the Democrats?

They're wrong. All of them. "Conservative Christians" like Stuart Shepard and "liberal Democrats" like Michael Moore, they are equally in grave error so far as God and politics goes.

God is no more a Republican than He is a Democrat. Things like temporal politics don't interest Him. Yes, we are told many times in scripture that He causes nations to rise and then collapse, and that He brings up rulers and brings them down again. But nowhere are we told that He ever has grace for one political faction and contempt for another concerning their vying for control of a country.

Here's how it is, folks: God doesn't answer our prayers for "divine intervention" against our political enemies. Especially not here in America. And it does no good to pray regarding the outcome of an election, either. Praying about an election violates everything that we know about how God grants us free will in whether or not we choose to follow Him. He can't make us want to seek after Him: we have to want that on our own. So how can He ever make someone else's mind be swayed to our own political proclivity?

Or maybe He does answer those prayers, just as He's now apparently answering the one that many Christians had for rain during a political convention. I am now hearing many among the evangelicals declare that Sarah Palin is a "gift from God". But if that is the case, then the same people had better be prepared to accept that all the damage that George W. Bush has done to this country is also God's will, since they were just as quick to claim that Bush was "anointed", and they darned well were praying for him to get a second term.

Perhaps these same Christians would do better to heed the words of Proverbs 3:5, where we are taught to "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." Our ways are not His ways, and we tempt disaster to suggest that they are.

And so far as the weather is concerned...

"...for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."

-- Matthew 5:45

America is in a lot of trouble, and it's time for the Christians of this land to own up to their responsibility in the mess. We have assumed wisdom, when we should have come to God broken and willing to admit that we don't have wisdom at all on our own. We have sinned in our pride, and if Gustav and now Hanna might be the result of appealing to Heaven, I cannot but now believe that it is because God is trying to humble this nation. If we are smart, we will recognize that now is not the time to turn that opportunity into an occasion for arrogance.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

To our friends along the Gulf Coast...

You guys are definitely in this blogger's thoughts and prayers this weekend.

I'm now hearing that Hurricane Gustav has gone from a tropical storm all the way to a Category 4 within the space of the past 12 hours. That in the past 3 hours alone the central pressure has dropped 9 millibars and Gustav still hasn't hit the warmer Gulf waters yet.

The projected tracks also have the storm going west of New Orleans. If the east side of the storm gets too close, the town which is still cleaning up after Katrina three years ago will likely get hit even worse this time around.

Lord willing, this thing will fizzle-out into a relatively weak system (it's happened before). Three years ago I went nuts chronicling Katrina on this blog, and truth be known I'm still a bit burned-out by the experience. It's not something that I want to have to do again. But if it does hit, hopefully there will have been much that was learned from the mistakes of Katrina that will make Gustav a much less traumatic event.

Speaking of Katrina, here's a photo that I found a few days ago...

This is the storm surge itself of Hurricane Katrina, as it came ashore near New Orleans. I can't recall anyone else photographing the surge of any hurricane in such up-close detail. That is pretty much a mountain of water dozens of feet high as it's crashing down onto the shore. For this and other pictures in the series click here.

Friday, August 29, 2008

And now... Uga VII

Two months after the passing of Uga VI, the world today got its first look at his son Uga VII (official name "Loran's Best"), who tomorrow will make his public debut as the latest in the University of Georgia's proud line of mascots as the school hosts its season opener against Georgia Southern.

Here he is in all his fuzzy glory!

Here's the story in The Red and Black about the newest entry in the Uga dynasty.

Look like a damn good dawg to me! :-)

EDIT 11:27 p.m. EST: So what happens when Sonny Seiler and his family are faced with the task of producing a new mascot? The Fayette Daily News asked the man himself about what it takes to breed the most famous college sports mascot in the world. I'm still laughing about his comment on sending up red and black smoke to signal Georgia fans that they have a new Uga :-P

The only commentary that I'm planning to make about the race between Obama and McCain

I watched some of Barack Obama's speech last night. I'm not voting for him. But I could see where a lot of people would vote for him based on charisma and presence.

(Parse that as you will...)

I'm not voting for John McCain either. And so far I haven't found anyone jazzed about him enough to cast their ballot in his favor. Any man who by all accounts left his wife just so he could have a younger woman, is not a man that I can trust to be President of the United States under any circumstance.

In a sane world, Sarah Palin would be running for President, and I would vote for her regardless of what party she's coming from. That's still not enough to entice me to ever vote for McCain though, now that she's set to be his running mate. But I've been following her for awhile now and she seems to be the kind of lady who's on my wavelength so far as good clean outrageous behavior goes: the gal shoots moose and makes burgers out of 'em... that's awesome!

In the end it will not matter who is elected President, I hate to say. There is simply too much rot at work in the timbers and one man - or one woman - can not stave off what history has demonstrated is the inevitable consequence of too much bureaucracy, too much extension, too much empire, and too little enlightenment.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Behold the demented cartoons of Dave Lowe!

I've known Dave Lowe for a number of years now, ever since he used to submit his wicked funny cartoons to TheForce.net Humor. Dave passed along his latest handiwork...

Lord only knows how many Star Wars fans will be enjoying that one :-)

And after going to his site I couldn't resist drawing y'all's attention to this one as well...

Mash down here to enjoy more of Dave's hilarious vision!

Major bank about to go under? Reliable source says yes.

A major American bank is not just teetering perilously close to failing, "it's unavoidable", a source has told The Knight Shift.

Details about the possible imminent failure first came this way a little over two weeks ago, and I've been doing a lot of calling and checking around since then. The individual who first told me has been a longtime (over ten years) source whose information has previously turned out to be exceptionally reliable. And all the evidence that I've been gathering over the past few weeks jibes bigtime bad with what the source has been saying.

For various reasons I'm not able to divulge the name of the bank. But this blog can report the following details:

- The bank in question is one of the top five financial institutions in the United States.

- The bank has posted a high profit loss but this is "not even close" to how much money it has actually lost, according to others in addition to the original source.

- The biggest contributing factor to the bank's dwindling financial security has been "fast credit for every Tom Dick and Harry demanding a mortgage". This has been especially severe in the southwestern portion of the United States, where this bank has apparently loaned too much to people with little or even no collateral at all. And apparently this bank has thrived on business with people who weren't even supposed to be doing business in this country at all: parse that as you will.

- Some branches of this bank have already told customers that it might be days or even months before they can access their funds. You read that right. I've spoken with enough customers and one branch manager who confirmed this to be able report it as factual information.

- FDIC "could never" fully compensate depositors if/when this bank goes down. Source says that it will be like IndyMac but "much worse".

I debated long and hard about whether or not to post even this much information. In the end I decided that it would be better to publish what I can talk about now, so that there'd never be the nagging in my brain that I didn't do something about this.

There's not much else to say at the moment other than this: it seems a trend lately that bank failures are only reported on late Friday afternoons or early evenings, after the markets have closed for the weekend. I'd wager a dollar (however much that's actually worth these days) that if/when the institution under discussion takes a dive, that'll be when you first hear solid word about it.

I'll try to write more about this as it becomes available.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why George W. Bush will never be as good as Reagan...

Something I came up with after the idea hit me on the drive back from Atlanta last week.

It could also be argued that Ronald Reagan won the Cold War without really firing a single shot, or inflicting any fatalities. He defeated the Soviet Union in the only way that it could be beaten: by forcing it to bankrupt itself to death.

Not even twenty years later, his legacy is becoming undone before our very eyes. And millions of people who have never had to know such things may soon be hearing quite a bit about bomb shelters and air raid sirens.

Happy 30th birthday to the LEGO minifig

Thirty years ago today LEGO introduced the minifig: the micro-sized citizenry that populate almost every facet of the LEGO universe. To celebrate the anniversary, Gizmodo has a report on how the minifigs are put together from start to finish (turns out that they're the most expensive part of any LEGO set). And Gizmodo is also sponsoring a contest that's inviting people to submit videos featuring the minifigs. The grand prizes: the vintage Yellow Castle and Galaxy Explorer sets! Just last month I posted here about how much I've always lusted for a Galaxy Explorer. Looks like now might be my biggest chance ever to snag one and bring my life's work one step closer to completion :-)

I used to have fun customizing LEGO minifigs. Most of them didn't turn out so well (especially the lineup of Cenobites from the Hellraiser movies that I attempted). I still have the Darth Sidious one that I made not long after Star Wars Episode I came out: it's in storage somewhere but it looks pretty cool, right down to that scowl on the part of his face that's visible.

None of my customs were anything as good as this guy's work, which includes minifigs based on historical figures such as the Beatles, Fidel Castro and Christa McAuliffe (shown at left). Those with a religious inclination should check out The Brick Testament: Brendan Powell Smith's popular effort at rendering the entire Bible in LEGO (I can't wait to see how he depicts the Book of Revelation). People who prefer their LEGO creations to be more action-oriented need to stop by BrickArms: a fella who makes highly detailed weaponry for LEGO minifigs, including AK-47s and Uzi submachine guns.

And as if LEGO minifigs were not versatile enough, there are the amazing short films (and not a few longer ones) that employ them, such as this now-classic version of the "Camelot" scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail...

What more can be said but: Happy Birthday, LEGO Minifig! May you see many more years of being cannibalized for parts and stopping up vacuum cleaners :-P

AHHHH... my eyes!!!

Older women, I have long thought, are potentially much more beautiful than younger women. As proof, I offer this recent photograph of Eartha Kitt (who for many years I have harbored a very deep admiration for):

What an amazing performer. She was the best girl to ever play Catwoman in any medium. And Miss Kitt is not only beautiful and a talented singer and actress, she's smart, too. I'll never forget hearing her give the most articulate reason that anyone made for why Bill Clinton should have been impeached: because the White House belongs to the American people, not to the President who's temporarily living there.

So now you know one of my more peculiar secrets: I think Eartha Kitt, now 81 years young, ranks high among the hottest and loveliest women in recorded history.

Now look at this photo that was taken over the weekend of Madonna, who turned 50 last week and just kicked-off her new "Sticky and Sweet" concert tour...

That is not hot. That is not beautiful. That is not sexy. Not at any age, for what it's worth.

That is just... what the Hell was Madonna thinking?!?

You know, getting older isn't a bad thing at all, even for a performance artist. The ones who have enjoyed consistently successful careers over time, they've learned how to grow and re-define themselves. David Bowie readily comes to mind. So does Bob Dylan. And Jon Bon Jovi. Trying to stay in one place in an attempt to recapture lightning in a bottle doesn't work. And it's not really fair to the fans either, who should expect new and fresh material from a talented artist, whenever that artist produces something.

Madonna has had a great career for well over twenty years now. But she needs to learn to adapt and grow, and move away from whatever it is that she was in the Eighties. She can do it. She has to do it, if she expects to sell her music to a new generation of fans.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bartertown? Rockingham County to mine landfill for methane to boost economy

It was reported earlier this week that officials here in Rockingham County, North Carolina have begun looking at the county landfill off N.C. 704 as a rich source of high-quality methane. The plan is to harvest the gas and use it for artistic uses - such as blacksmithing - and even for commercial purposes... such as "creating electricity". All of this is supposed to help boost the local economy.

Maybe we should turn control of Rockingham County over to this guy. He seems experienced...

"Who run Bartertown?"


Come to think of it, the way things are going lately it might not be a bad time to pop those Mad Max movies in the DVD player. Might be a good brush-up for how lousy things are getting.

I still can't believe they're doing this with the landfill though. I mean, with all the cows in Rockingham County, that seems to be a more cost-effective source of retrievable methane, if they're hellbent on using the stuff.

Friday, August 22, 2008

"We will need a lot more hemp before we're through."

Through a series of events that I don't care to discuss, it has come to my attention that this week has the dubious distinction of being the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of Yor: The Hunter from the Future, claimed by many to be the most schizo and ridiculous movie ever made...

Release on August 19th, 1983 and starring Reb Brown as Yor ("My what?" is what everyone around him must ask when they hear his name), Yor: The Hunter from the Future is about a big(?) blond guy who runs around a seemingly prehistoric landscape, killing things (mostly dinosaurs). He hooks up with this chick named Kala and her "protector" Pag. Yor and Pag have to go rescue Kala from some blue-skinned cavemen. Then they wind up at a beach village that is blown up real good courtesy of a "damn talking box". And then Yor and crew wind up on a remote island run by the Overlord and his Darth Vader-looking robots. Overlord is glad that Yor has come because he needs Yor's sperm to create a better breed of androids. The movie ends with a spaceship flying away.

Now, does any of that make a lick of sense?!

I've had lots of fun mocking Yor: The Hunter from the Future over the years, like when I used this still from the movie for a Star Wars Captioning at TheForce.net Humor back in 2001. Everything about it is laughable! From the theme song ("Yor's world, he's the man!") to the horrible lines delivered so straight-faced:

"Drinking the blood of our enemies gives us strength!"

"Urgh... I prefer to stay weak then!"

"We will need a lot more hemp before we're through."
"I am the Overlord, ruler of my people and yours too. You are completely in my power."
And then there are the special effects. It's hard to miss the action figures used in the scene where Yor and Kala are swinging over the atomic pile. But that's nothing compared to this, possibly the greatest scene in a hundred years of movie history. It's the part where Yor kills a giant bat, then uses its carcass as a hang-glider to rescue the girl...

Don't you wish you had your own theme song that played whenever you did something, like driving out of your garage or using the bathroom?

But don't take my word for how bad Yor: The Hunter from the Future really is: Noah Antwiler has a hilarious video review of the movie on his blog. Badmovies.org also contributes considerable space to deriding Yor. Internal Bleeding couldn't resist having some fun with it either. I don't know if it's on DVD anywhere but if you want a real laugh and can track it down, you owe it to yourself to watch Yor: The Hunter from the Future at least once :-)

The University of Georgia Mr. Potato Head

While on the road in Georgia yesterday during a bit of a business trip, I found this little guy...

Lisa spotted it in the University of Georgia catalog the other day and fell in love with it immediately. So I was able to surprise her with it when I got back last night :-)

It's actually from the "Sports Spuds" lineup, meaning it's about half the size of a standard Mr. Potato Head. But in that classic red and big "G" logo, this is sure to please any fan of Bulldogs football! Should be able to find it in a lot of places around Athens and Atlanta but if you're a Georgia alum (or just crazy about UGA) living elsewhere, you can order it from the current school catalog and if you don't have that, here's where you can buy it from Amazon!

To a very few certain people watching this blog

"First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win."

-- Mahatma Gandhi

Parse this as you will.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Still alive

Y'all wouldn't believe how crazy the past few days have been. And it's gonna get crazier still! Lord willing, I'll be able to report on it soon.

YES I KNOW! I still haven't done that The Dark Knight review! But it hasn't been for lack of trying. If I'm having this much trouble putting my thoughts together about this movie, I hate to think about what's gonna happen when Watchmen comes out in about six months.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

"Ain't It Good?"

Last night at Rockingham Community College the Theatre Guild of Rockingham County held its season-ending banquet, followed by the 2007-2008 Golden Guild Awards. That's the annual ceremony that honors those who volunteered during the previous season. The various award winners are chosen based on votes cast by the cast and crew of the shows.

In addition to the Best Actor and Best Actress categories, Best Production etc., there is what is called the Spirit Award. There's one given for each show during a season's run. I was told that it goes to the person who "best exemplifies enthusiasm for a show".

The last Spirit Award for the 2007-2008 Golden Guild Awards was the one for Children of Eden.

And I'm still reeling in shock after the envelope was opened and hearing "Chris Knight" announced as the winner!

I barely remember staggering on stage, and the first words out of my mouth at the podium were "Holy cow!" I quickly stammered how I'd first seen Children of Eden performed at Elon in 1998, and how I fell in love with the show and for almost ten years wanted to be part of it. How I told the producers at the audition that I knew that I couldn't sing and that I get booed off stage every time that I play Karaoke Revolution. That I just wanted to be part of this even if it meant working backstage and how thankful I was that they let me have this opportunity. I thanked my wife Lisa for supporting me, thanked God for letting me do this, thanked Mom and Dad and that I was glad that they got to come see me perform. And I said that even though he was no longer with us, I knew he was there in spirit and I thanked Gene Saunders, my drama teacher in high school and the founder of the Theatre Guild, 'cuz I definitely wanted to give this my best shot to honor his memory. And I vaguely remember getting a standing ovation 'cuz by that point, folks, I was seriously holding back the tears.

Getting to be in Children of Eden was not only the fulfillment of a dream, it became one of the greatest experiences of my life. And the best part of that was getting to know so many wonderful people. Making not just new friends, but becoming part of a terrific family: people who know and love and stand beside each other through thick and thin. To receive the Spirit Award for Children of Eden from these people... well, that has to rank right up there with Eagle Scout and marrying Lisa for lifetime achievement in my book :-)

Here I am with the Spirit Award for Children of Eden...

Seth and Seth's Wife reunited! Me and Tish Owens, who also racked-up Golden Guild Awards for Children of Eden and Steel Magnolias...

And here's most of the people who received an award at this year's ceremony (including Pete Barr, the director of Children of Eden which won for Best Production)...

I'll throw up the complete list of who won what as soon as I can get hold of the official roster of recipients.

Thanks to Tish Owens for providing a lot of these pics.

And thanks to the cast and crew of Children of Eden for giving me this honor. 'Twould be an understatement to say that I've been immensely humbled by this.

By the way, after the Golden Guild Awards last night, Lisa and I were driving back and we decided to stop by Mom and Dad's first to show the Spirit Award to them. I couldn't think of a better song to celebrate with than to crank up "Ain't It Good?" from the Children of Eden soundtrack on my iPod over the car stereo system.

"Ain't It Good"? It is indeed :-)

Saturday, August 16, 2008


We may never see a sports moment like that ever again. Absolutely amazing.

Congratulations to Michael Phelps and the United States men's swim team at the Beijing Olympics!

The Star Wars Church

A few weeks ago this blog reported on Darth Vader's attempt to join the Lutherans in Iceland. Now it turns out that there is an entire church devoted to Star Wars...

Friday, August 15, 2008



1/100th of a second ahead of Croatia's Milorad Cavic.

If there's a single moment that will be remembered from the Beijing Olympics, that will be it. We've been re-watching it at least a half-dozen times in slow-mo the past few minutes, and... just amazing, man!

He's now tied Mark Spitz's record of most gold medals during a single Olympiad. And tomorrow, Phelps might have one more for his collection.

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE movie delayed 'til Summer '09!

Warner Bros. is pushing back the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince from it's originally scheduled date of this November... to July 17th, 2009!

Why? Officially the word is that the writers strike several months ago means that there will be a dearth of "tentpole movies" next summer and Warners wants to make up for it somehow.

It also means that by the time the adaptation of Half-Blood Prince comes out that there will have been two years since its release and the previous movie in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. And it'll be two years still after that before the series finally wraps up with Part Two of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I'd hate to be the poor lady who's answering the phone at Warner Bros. when more people start hearing about this later this morning...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

We saw THE DARK KNIGHT in IMAX last night

At the Marbles Kid Museum in Raleigh. That's three times now that I've seen The Dark Knight.

So I guess there really is no excuse anymore for not having a review up already, is there? :-)

Think I finally "get" this film now. Write-up coming later today.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Michael Phelps's secret? 12,000 calorie a day diet

And no, there is not an extra "0" in that number.

The New York Post reports on the special diet that has Michael Phelps breaking swimming records like nobody's business at the Olympics. The guy is on a staggering twelve thousand calories a day eating regimen. A typical person usually takes in around 6000 calories every day. Phelps has been nearing that amount with each meal! Mostly lots of carbohydrate-rich fare like pasta.

The boy better figure in some Wheaties too if he wants to have his picture on the front of their cereal box :-P

Scratch that: Michael Phelps now has FIVE gold medals (and 11 overall!)

Right after my last post, Michael Phelps shattered another world record and earned his fifth gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. That's now eleven gold medals overall across two Olympiads, firmly cementing his place as the winningest Olympic competitor ever.

If he goes on winning gold in the rest of his events, Phelps will not only make his own record all the more unreachable but he'll break Mark Spitz's record of having earned seven gold medals in a single Olympiad.

Do it, dude!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

MOST GOLD EVER: Phelps wins 200 meter butterfly for 4th medal at Beijing Games!

Butterfly is perhaps the most strenuous stroke of competitive swimming. And Michael Phelps won the 200 meter butterfly with a time of 1:52:03 early Wednesday morning at the Beijing Olympics.

Phelps is now the most-winning Olympic athlete in history: ten gold medals so far in his career, with four in Beijing alone. And he's got a chance to bring home four more.

Go Michael! :-)

Burger King employee takes bath... in restaurant's sink!

Mr. Unstable's parents are no doubt proud of him...

The Burger King in Xenia, Ohio is minus a bunch of employees and one manager tonight because this guy decided to cleanse himself with a bubble bath in the restaurant's dish sink! The location's operators have thrown out all the utensils that came in contact with "Mr. Unstable", and have said that the sink has been sanitized twice. I've heard at least one person suggest that perhaps the entire Burger King be razed and burned and the ground sown with salt.

If you must (and you probably must) here's the complete video showing the now-unemployed Mr. Unstable taking his bath in the sink...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Full-size Lancer from GEARS OF WAR on sale at Amazon

Here's one for the "Things We Don't Really Need But Are Lusting For Badly" file...

The Amazon.com exclusive Gears of War 2 Lancer. Full-sized replica of the workhorse weapon used by Marcus Fenix and the Delta Squad, right down to the bloodied chainsaw bayonet. Squeeze the trigger to activate the chainsaw sound effects and vibrating action. It also features a removable clip.

Retail price: $139.99 and that isn't stopping it from currently being the #1 video game item at Amazon.

Think I'll just get the game instead :-)

Isaac Hayes has passed away

Word is breaking right now that singer/songwriter/actor Isaac Hayes has passed away.

That's how I'm always going to remember him as. The very first time that I heard of him: when he played the Duke in Escape from New York.

Hayes also wrote and performed the theme song from Shaft. And of course he was Chef on South Park, before that very odd dispute with the producers.

Adding him to the list of people for whom to keep their families in our thoughts and prayers.

EDIT 3:49 p.m. EST: Here's the first real news story that I've found about Hayes's death.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

RED DAWN? Google reports Russians attacking Savannah, Georgia


(Look, somebody had to say it... :-)

In a very wonky case of mistaken identity, Google News has been reporting that the Russian Army is invading Georgia... as in, Georgia in the southeastern United States! The mix-up stems from the trouble going on with Russia and Georgia, the country in the Caucasus between the Black Sea and the Caspian.

Don't worry folks. Even if the Russians take Savannah, there'll be hell to pay when they get to Athens. GO DAWGS!

The hope of new life, the promises of a new life together

A number of things are "clicking" perfectly this weekend. Not just for me personally but for a number of people that God is also showering His blessings upon...

First there's Jenna Olwin, who over the past few years has not only become a very dear friend to Lisa and I but also a wonderful sister in the Lord, who will tie the knot with her boyfriend and soul-mate Lou tomorrow. Here's her blog post about getting engaged from back in March. There might be pictures that I can post soon afterward of the wonderful event.

And then in the wee hours of this morning my friend Chris Rash and his wife celebrated the birth of Reagan, their first child and a beautiful baby girl!

Congratulations to Jenna and Lou, and to Chris and Ashley and Reagan! Y'all are definitely in our prayers this weekend :-)

Bernie Mac has passed away

Comedian and actor Bernie Mac has passed away from pneumonia complications at age 50.

That's one bit of news that I sure wasn't anticipating.

A very funny and talented person. And seemed like way too nice a guy to leave us at a pretty young age.

I thought his television show was pretty good and always had a good moral at the end. His work in Ocean's Eleven and its sequels was terrific. And there was Transformers of course: his portrayal of used-car dealer Bobby Bolivia was uproariosly funny!

Thoughts and prayers going out to his family today.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The brewing war between Russia and Georgia

In case anyone's paying attention, this is why the United States should exercise a hella lotta caution before getting involved in anyone else's business.

I'm hearing mixed word on what started this: the Georgians claim the Russians invaded and the Russians are stating that missiles from Georgia attacked their military positions. It's almost like a repeat of Fort Sumter.

The U.S. aligned itself with Georgia awhile back. A lot of people are saying that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili was counting on that support when he tried to retake the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Which pretty much means that because of this damnable Gordian Knot of entangling alliances, that the United States might soon find itself at extreme odds with Russia and Cold War II will have officially begun.

Oh yeah, I'm hearing that there are currently about twelve hundred American military personnel - ironically, many from our own state of Georgia (and lots from around Atlanta) - that are in Georgia (the country in the Caucasus in Europe) for joint exercises with the Georgian army.

Meanwhile, most Americans are either (a) watching the Olympics, (b) listening to John Edwards confess his dalliances, or (c) seriously considering that Paris Hilton should run for Congress. Oblivious to the fact that for all intents and purpose, this is darn nearly an identical scenario to that which began World War I.

Pat Buchanan was right: "We are an unserious people in a serious time."

Video of alleged ghost at Asheville High School

Asheville High School is not just a great school, it's a beautiful building. I know 'cuz some years ago I did a lot of substitute teaching there. So I'm pretty familiar with the layout of the place and the kind of people there. Which makes this story all the more interesting for me personally...

A video surveillance camera at Asheville High has purportedly captured the moving image of a ghost. Some are saying that it looks to be the size and shape of a child as it darts around the atrium in the early morning hours of August 1st.

Could it be? When I heard about a "haunted" high school in Asheville, the first thing that popped into my mind was Erwin High School, which you would expect to be haunted since they build the place on top of Buncombe County's old "potter's field" (you can still see pits in the ground from where they removed the coffins, and sometimes bits of bone and nail wind up on the surface after a heavy rain). I heard plenty of ghost stories about Erwin, but this is the first that I'm hearing about Asheville High being spooked. It is rather old for a school building: dating back to 1929. Doubtless a building with such a long history has seen its share of haunting experiences, spectral or no.

But I think in this case, judging by the video I'm seeing here, we need not be alarmed. It seems very much to be nothing more than a moth that alighted on the protective dome covering of the camera. You can even pick out its silhouette against the more well-lit parts of the footage.

So I don't think there's any ghost here. But students at Asheville High need not be disappointed: between Helen's Bridge and Battle Mansion and of course the Pink Lady of Grove Park Inn, there's plenty of supernatural delight to be found around Asheville!

Ozzy Osbourne to be playable character in GUITAR HERO WORLD TOUR

I've talked about Rock Band a lot on this blog ('cuz Lisa and I play it together all the time) and we're eager for Rock Band 2 next month, but I'm also a big fan of the Guitar Hero games. Lisa got me Guitar Hero III for my birthday a few months ago. Now if only I can get past Slash...

Well, the next few months are going to be pure crazy on the rhythm gaming front, with Rock Band 2 and then Guitar Hero World Tour fighting for the coveted space under the Christmas tree. Today Activision released gobs of new info about Guitar Hero World Tour, including how Ozzy Osbourne will be a playable avatar in the game.

Activision should program an "Easter egg" that lets you bite the head off a live chicken on stage while playing Ozzy. It would triple sales of Guitar Hero World Tour!

Apple working on Wi-Fi streaming iTunes

Mac Rumors has found a story about a very cool technical innovation that Apple is researching. It involves wireless streaming of the iTunes on your home computer to your iPhone or iPod Touch, wherever you happen to be! So, say you're driving through Colorado and your home is in Atlanta, and you want to dial up a song (maybe even a video) on your Apple appliance that you don't happen to have on the device itself. So long as you're in a Wi-Fi or cellular hotspot, you'll be able to tell the iPhone or iPod Touch to "phone home" and stream the song or other file to wherever you are.

Now, that is some seriously sweet innovation. I'm beginning to see why Apple devotees are so loyal to the House of Jobs :-)

In related news, there's been considerable buzz about a possible "iPhone nano" coming out later this year, said to be a "pay as you go" iPhone. Personally, I think an iPhone shuffle would be more fun: no display, and it dials random numbers whenever you use it :-P

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Kenneth Johnson is making V into a big-screen feature?!

That's what Ain't It Cool News is reporting today. The guys at Latino Film Review seem to have gotten their hands on the proposal script, and it reads like a combo of the two miniseries (minus that "Starchild" crap, well let's hope it's not in it anyway).

Even if this specific project never gets made, I don't care. I'm just glad to hear that there is some movement afoot to bring V back to the screen.

Hopefully as a re-imagined and updated story, but maintaining the same basic premise. With Kenneth Johnson given complete control over it. I've said it before and I'll say it again: if NBC had let him run V the way he intended, it would have become something truly monumental. V, the original 1983 miniseries, is still considered one of the most memorable achievements of that decade's television.

And there's been no better time to resurrect V than now. If the new Battlestar Galactica can soar, a new V would practically become a license to print money for whatever studio produces it.

I just have one request to Johnson and the other powers-that-be. If and when V gets relaunched, please, please include an adaptation of the final scene from Part 1 of the original V miniseries. 'Cuz a quarter-century later I still feel a lump in my throat when I see Abraham, the elderly Jewish man wonderfully played by Leonard Cimino, admonishing those kids...

"No! If you're going to do it, do it right. I'll show you."

(Abraham guides the teen's hand as he spray-paints a blood-red "V" on the Visitor poster)

"You understand? For VICTORY! Go tell your friends."

If they include an update for that scene that's just as powerful as the original, I swear that I will see V five times on opening day.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Medical MacGyver saves baby's life with home-brewed dialysis machine

BBC News has an uplifting story about Dr. Malcolm Coulthard, a British kidney specialist. A few years ago he was given a patient: a baby girl who was born with a life-threatening condition that demanded dialysis treatment. Unfortunately the normal dialysis machines were way too big to be used on someone with such small weight.

So Dr. Coulthard built a dialysis machine that would do the job, using scrounged-up parts and literally working out of his garage.

Hit the link above for the rest of this neat story. Although as at least one smart-alec has remarked on Slashdot, unless Coulthard used chewing gum he's still got nothing on MacGyver :-P

THE FUGITIVE premiered 15 years ago today

One of my all-time favorite movies, The Fugitive, came out fifteen years ago today, on August 6th, 1993.

(How much is it one of my favorites? Well, it's on my iPod, for one thing...)

Starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive was based on the 1960s television series about Dr. Richard Kimble, a physician who is wrongly convicted of murdering his wife, then escapes and goes on a cross-country search for the real killer: a one-armed man. Complicating matters is Phillip Gerard, a law enforcement agent obsessed with recapturing Kimble.

The movie took a number of liberties with the story from the television show. But it also benefited from enormous production values and a very strong cast which also included Sela Ward, Joe Pantoliano, and Julianne Moore in one of her first film roles. Also among the cast, playing Frederick Sykes (AKA "the one-armed man") was Andreas Katsulas, who soon afterward gained international acclaim for his portrayal of G'Kar on Babylon 5. The Fugitive became one of the biggest hits of 1993 and a defining motion picture for the next decade and beyond.

Wanna know something really cool? I have, in my possession, some pieces of the prison bus that gets hit by the train!

How'd that happen? Not many people know this but The Fugitive, although it takes place in the state of Illinois, had a lot of filming done for it in the mountains of North Carolina. Especially in and around Sylva. Some years ago I was visiting my sister when she was a student at Western Carolina. While I was waiting for her to get off work I went around town and took pictures of the various sites used in The Fugitive. I got to visit Taylor Auto (where Kimble steals the clothes) and found the street that he's walking along when he sees the hospital sign. A short distance away in Dillsboro is the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. If you know where to look, you can see the train and bus wreckage from the main road. Well, I just asked, and the nice folks said that I could go spend a few minutes getting a close-up peek at the bus and train. There were two buses they used to make that scene, and there was busted-out glass all over. I picked up a few shards and wrapped them in some Kleenex that I happened to have on me. Maybe someday I'll figure out a good way to display 'em...

(Yeah I have pictures to back all this up too, but don't have 'em handy at the moment.)

Harris Regional Hospital in Sylva was used extensively in the movie. That's the place where Kimble treats his wound and shaves off his beard and mustache. I've heard that the hospital made a lot of nice improvements to the place for the dough they got from the producers in exchange for it being used as a filming location. The very famous dam sequence was shot at Cheoah Dam in Graham County (although some internal scenes were filmed back in Chicago in some abandoned freight tunnels).

Think I'll honor the occasion later tonight by watching this awesome movie again. After I finally finish my review of The Dark Knight 'course... :-)

Gymnastics at Olympics drops "perfect 10" scoring

Remember how legendary Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton became when they each scored a perfect 10 in their Olympic gymnastics competitions? Heck, "Perfect 10" has become a part of our vernacular because of their achievements and those of other gymnasts. Well, we can kiss any hope of seeing some 10s at the Beijing Olympics goodbye 'cuz a new scoring system completely gets rid of the traditional 10.0 grade.

In its place is a convoluted scheme that not only doesn't reward poise and grace, it darn nearly penalizes it: demanding that gymnasts produce "bigger and better"...

Nastia Liukin of the United States team, for example, performs a routine on the uneven bars that has a sky-high difficulty value of 7.7. Her father and coach, Valeri Liukin, crunched numbers last year to invent the complex, high-scoring routine.

He did the calculations on a Post-it before handing it to his daughter at practice one day. She gasped.

"I was like: Wow, you want me to do all of that? Is that possible?" Nastia Liukin said. "But then I realized that I need to do all that with this new scoring, if I even want to think about a gold medal. I said: OK, cool. I'll learn it."

It seems like a minor thing to be upset about. But what bothers me is that this move represents something that has become very widespread in this world: the belief that since there is no real attainable perfection, that we can over-compensate with bulk quantity. I can envision lots of gymnasts now, coming to spend most of their at a computer trying to "calculate the best possible routine" instead of getting out there and throwing themselves at the equipment... which is the only way that anyone grows and gets better. It comes by hard work and firsthand experience, not running it through simulations. And as Retton and Comaneci and others have proved, perfection at something is possible. It just comes from being dedicated to making the most of the talents you've been given.

And is it just me, or does practically everything about these Olympics scream out massive fail?

So much to write...

...and so little time.

(And yes, that The Dark Knight review is still coming!)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Sickest YouTube video ever?

I'm not going to embed this. In fact, I don't know if it'll work as an embed. This particular video has age verification enabled, so you've got to be a registered YouTube user and click through the agreement that yes, you're old enough and you do want to watch.

No, it's not pornography. But it's not for the squeamish, either. And it is legit. I first heard about this clip two years ago, and if a friend hadn't passed it along I never would have known that it was available for public viewing.

You've probably seen enactments of this in movies and television. But this - a very rare and early film shot in a prison in Hanoi, Vietnam - depicts the real thing.

What is it?

The executions of two prisoners by guillotine... with the camera showing the heads falling into the basket.

Two things that strike me as I watch this. The first is how rapidly each execution is carried out (in consideration of how fast the film is progressing). Various dramatic presentations have it as something of a drawn-out affair of bringing the condemned to the guillotine, then lowered into position and a wait of several moments before the blade drops. Here we see how it usually happened: from the time the prisoner was brought to the machine, execution usually took place less than 30 seconds later. Which I assume was a good thing, and didn't give the prisoner much time to dwell on being placed inside such a contraption... especially one with a razor poised to slice off his or her noggin.

The second thing which surprised me very much is how much of a recoil there is from the blade after it finishes dropping. Every time I've seen the guillotine used in a movie, the blade descends and then stops abruptly as if there were no real inertia. But as we see in this footage, the blade bounces quite a few times before finally coming to rest. Probably indicates some kind of "shock absorbing" mechanism, 'cuz otherwise the guillotine would likely tear itself apart after a small amount of use.

It's not the most gruesome thing that I've seen as a historian (I've looked at stuff from the Nazi era that most people don't even know exists and for their sake I hope they never do) but I'll admit: there's some horrible fascination at seeing such a legendary device carrying out its function.

Scientists find the hottest water on Earth

Just south of the equator and nearly two miles below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, researchers have discovered the hottest liquid water ever found on Earth, in a state that has never before been observed in the natural world. Hydrothermal vents are discharging water in a "supercritical" state (I'm thinking it's analogous to plasma as a super-heated gas) that has been recorded to get as hot as 464 degrees Celsius. For us American folks, that's a whopping 867 degrees Fahrenheit for liquid water! The conditions are so adverse surrounding the vents that computer modeling is the only way to study them, since regular equipment would melt from the heat.

Interesting stuff. Great fodder for discussion for any science and physics teachers out there who want to get their students thinking about how things like temperature and pressure affect water's properties.

Monday, August 04, 2008

This blog has just been notified of an important anniversary

We missed it by three days, but I don't think most people will mind if we "honor" it belatedly!

Yes folks, this past Friday, August 1st, was the thirtieth anniversary of a certain somebody going all nuts in a convenience store in east Texas, pulling out a revolver and threatening to kill the store's owner, then making off with a ridiculously tiny sum of money before being apprehended following a twenty-minute high-speed car chase... in a Ford Pinto.

(Was this same young man suicidal in addition to being an idiot?)

For that little stunt, Our Hero spent two years locked up in the prison at Huntsville (the one used for death sentences) before getting out and spending the next few as a paroled convicted felon.

And that's just the beginning...

More coming soon.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Alexander Solzhenitsyn has passed away

The sad news is going out at this hour that Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel-winning novelist who spent decades in exile from his homeland in the Soviet Union after describing the evils of its prison system, has died at the age of 89.

Solzhenitsyn served as an officer in the Red Army during World War II (and I don't care what some people might say about it, but the Russian men and women who defended their homeland against the Nazis were among the bravest and most noble of the past century, and I've nothing but the utmost admiration for them, regardless of how nuts Stalin was). After the war, Solzhenitsyn became one of his country's most prominent dissidents, and was quickly relegated to Siberia.

It was his experiences as a prisoner of his own government that Solzhenitsyn would draw from later on, when he wrote One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and then The Gulag Archipelago. While the western world came to admire and love him, the Soviet leadership cast him out. He spent twenty years living abroad before being hailed as a hero when he returned to a now-free Russia in 1994.

You know, we don't have very many writers like that anymore. The kind whose works can get people thinking and rile them up enough to overturn entire corrupt nations. I sure don't know of any of Solzhenitsyn's stature among us today. There's a huge void, a need, for writers like that and with Solzhenitsyn's passing, the need became that much greater.

Don't know what else to say, except...

Бог благословляет, храбрейший ратник. Мы пропустим вас.

Official SESAME STREET videos now on YouTube!

Longtime readers of this blog know that I'm fond of posting classic clips from Sesame Street whenever I find them on YouTube. That should be a lot easier to do from now on 'cuz Sesame Workshop (the outfit that used to be Childrens Television Workshop) is on YouTube and putting up officially-sanctioned Sesame Street videos! You can't embed them in your own blog or site (yet, and let's hope they consider allowing embedding eventually) but you can certainly link to 'em and watch them. Like, f'rinstance, the now-infamous "Sesame Street News" where Kermit the Frog reports on Prince Charming's attempt to rescue Rapunzel.

I'm glad Sesame Workshop is doing this, and I hope they post many more in the weeks and months to come. Especially Bert and Ernie sketches. Can't get enough of Bert and Ernie... :-)

A brief glimpse into the life of Chris and Lisa

Right now TNT is running Titanic. I was just telling Lisa how I saw that movie on the day after it came out, and how these teenage girls were leaving the theater in tears before the show we were going into started. I told the ladies in line with me then "Wow, must be pretty powerful." And then those ladies were in tears as we were leaving the theater.

Me? I cried once during Titanic. It was during the first time we see the ship going full-speed underway, and something about those engine rooms, how incredibly accurate they were to the real Titanic's power plant, watching those steam turbines in all their grimy, beautiful detail...

...I cried at that. I didn't cry at the romance.

"You're heartless!" Lisa said.

"No," I replied. "I'm just a historian."

This is gonna be some household when the kids come along, I'm telling you :-)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Why you should be watching DRAGON WARS on Sci-Fi Channel right now

At this moment, Sci-Fi Channel is broadcasting Dragon Wars (also known by its original title D-War), last year's action-fantasy movie from South Korea. And I think that if you get a chance to see it, you should.

Wanna know why?

'Cuz its soundtrack was scored by Steve Jablonsky! Yup, the same good dude who scored Transformers.

That makes Dragon Wars darn nearly mandatory viewing, so far as this blogger is concerned :-)

Seriously though, it's an awesome soundtrack! Jablonsky sent me a signed copy last year along with the ones for Transformers: The Score and I've listened to it a lot off my iPod while driving. And the movie is pretty good in spite of its production values: I think it's kinda like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets Reign of Fire.

Anyhoo, check it out if ya can!

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic MMO is coming, confirms EA head

Why is it that really good news happens when you're away and you only find out about it later?

A few weeks ago at E3, Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello confirmed something that has long been in the rumor mill: that a massive multiplayer online role-playing game based on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is coming. BioWare, the company that produced the first Knights of the Old Republic game in 2003, has been working on the project since way before they were bought by EA last year.

I don't do the MMORPG gig much anymore, but this might be the thing that reels me back in. In my opinion Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is the best Star Wars video game ever produced, and the sequel wasn't too shabby either (once the bugs were worked out). The saga has already gone the MMORPG route with Star Wars Galaxies, but Sony Online Entertainment botched that one so bad that it rates as one of the worst business stories of the past decade. The fact that this new game will be using the Knights of the Old Republic era (set four thousand years before the time of the movies) and that BioWare is handling things promises great things for a saga that many believe has become stretched too thin. Right now it's the direction for Star Wars that has the most promise to keep the franchise fresh and interesting.

The game should be coming out in 2009. Is that soon enough for you meatbags? :-P

Department of Homeland Security can legally steal laptops, iPods

Electronista is reporting about policies with the Department of Homeland Security that now allow its agents to legally detain laptop computers from anyone it wants to who's crossing the border into the United States... and never return them to their rightful owners. This includes American citizens, also.

As of last month, Homeland Security (still the most Nazi-ish name for an American government agency that has ever been) can seize not just laptops, but iPods, videotapes and DVDs, books, and pretty much anything else it wants, without there being any suspicion of wrongdoing on the part of the person entering the country.

If this does not violate the undue search and seizure clause of the United States Constitution, then I don't know what does. No doubt that a lot of DHS employees are looking at this as a goldmine of opportunity: "Hey Bob, didn't your little girl want a new iPod? Look at what this guy coming toward us has..."

Meanwhile, some people have been upset that I disagreed with a recent op-ed piece that compared George W. Bush to Batman. They don't like it that I dared attack their precious god incarnate, but they've no problem with the very same man turning this "free" country into a damned f-cking police state.

It's funny: I just came back from a visit to Canada. A country that is not without its problems (and some policies that I disagree with) but otherwise is just as modern and free as any place I've been. When was the last time that Canada was attacked by "the terrists"? I mean, if "the terrists" really do "hate us for our freedoms" you'd think that they'd be attacking free countries across the board. Instead, to hear it from our "brilliant" leaders they only have it in for the United States. Why is that? Maybe 'cuz we seem to have the only goverment on Earth hell-bent on dominating everyone?

And now our government is hell-bent on dominating its own citizens. But a lot of us who've been paying attention the past few years already knew that.

And this upcoming election won't change a thing. Not really. No matter who gets elected, the slide will continue. We'll lose more freedom and individual rights. Count on it.

With twenty men and boxcutters, Osama Bin Laden defeated the most powerful country that ever existed. Because he conned us into destroying the very thing that made us precious and unique among nations. Had we been more vigilant and not handed stewardship of the country over to insane people, none of this might be happening.

In the meantime, I'd suggest shipping your laptop to your destination, if you have to cross the United States border.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Forty Martyrs of Sebaste: Something Johnny Robertson and his cult cannot respond to

This blog is drawing lots of attention lately from local cult leader Johnny Robertson and members of his so-called "Church of Christ". Why? Beats me.

But since I have their attention, I'm gonna have some fun with them.

It has to do with something that I've thought about for the past several weeks...

Robertson, along with James Oldfield and Norm Fields - who all broadcast for four hours each week on the only television station in the area desperate enough to sell them the airtime - teaches that if a person is not a member of their "Church of Christ" (which isn't the Church of Christ that most people know and respect, remember that), and especially if that person is not baptized, then that person is going to Hell when he or she dies.

Which brings us to the subject of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, one of the earliest and best documented accounts of persecution to happen to the early Christians.

There were few contingents of the Roman Empire's army that were as respected or feared as the Legio XII Fulminata: the "Thundering Legion". Founded by Julius Caesar, the Legio XII Fulminata accompanied him on his campaign through Gaul. It was then assigned to the eastern reaches of the Empire during the time of Augustus Caesar, and was active until well into the Fifth Century.

In 320 A.D., Licinius, the Emperor of the Eastern Empire, was engaged in civil war against Constantine, Emperor of the West. Licinius had originally yielded to pressure from Constantine to legalize Christianity in his half of the Empire. But Licinius soon broke broke the peace with Constantine and resumed persecuting the Christians.

Licinius decided that if he was going to full-blown war with Constantine, that his own army had to be "purged" of the undesirables: namely, the followers of Jesus Christ. So Licinius issued an edict: all soldiers of his army had to make sacrifice to the pagan gods. Those who would not bow to the gods of Rome would be made to suffer cruel death.

Then came word from the town of Sebaste, in Armenia. Forty soldiers of the Legion XII Fulminata had declared that they were Christians, and would not pay homage to the Roman gods.

Furious with their contempt, the judge sent by Licinius sentenced the forty Christian soldiers of the Thundering Legion to death. But it would not be quick and merciful. By this time it was in the dead of winter, with a bitter cold wind blowing through the land. The forty Christians were to be stripped naked, and made to stand throughout the night on a frozen pond. Left to the elements, the exposure would no doubt kill them. But if they were willing to renounce Christ, then they could leave the surface of the pond and come to the shore, where shelter, a warm bath, and food awaited them.

One of the centurions who had sacrificed to the gods - many accounts tell us that his name was Sempronius - stood guard on the shore of the pond, and he watched the forty Christians stand shivering. But in the midst of their torture they were also singing hymns and crying aloud to God...

"Oh Lord, forty wrestlers have come forth to fight for Thee. Grant that forty wrestlers may gain the victory!"
One of the forty soldiers standing on the pond gave in to the temptation of comfort and survival, and left the group. He was welcomed back on the shore. And still, the Christian soldiers of the Thundering Legion appealed to Heaven...

"Oh Lord, forty wrestlers have come forth to fight for Thee. Grant that forty wrestlers may gain the victory!"
And the centurion Sempronius, so moved by the faith of those who were determined to stay true to their Lord even unto death, openly declared that he too was a Christian. He had been obedient to the gods of Rome up until that moment, but now he saw something among his thirty-nine comrades that he also chose to have.

Sempronius voluntarily threw down his weapons, stripped off his armor and removed his clothing, and joined the thirty-nine other Christians standing naked on the frozen pool.

By dawn, God had answered their prayer. "Forty wrestlers" indeed, their number unbroken, had fought to the end for His glory. Among them was Sempronius, who had willingly become a believer so that he might die a believer. Most of the forty Christians had frozen to death during the night. Some were barely alive, but immobile. The bodies of all, dead or not, were gathered up to be burned.

The story of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste is one of the most famous in the history of the early church. It is also one of the most thoroughly chronicled. There is no doubt that the story of the Forty Martyrs happened, and that Sempronius (he is also called Aglaios in a few places) did join with the thirty-nine other Christians so that forty might enter Heaven together.

But according to what Johnny Robertson, James Oldfield and Norm Fields would have us believe, it was not enough for Sempronius to declare that he was a follower of Jesus Christ! Sempronius, they must declare by virtue of their doctrine, went to Hell when he died... because Sempronius was never baptized! Sempronius declared that he was a Christian with his mouth, and then promptly went off to die. He didn't have time to be baptized.

Robertson and his minions, who spew their hateful message for four hours a week and have even harassed the worship services of other churches in this area, would have us believe that Sempronius's death for the name of Christ was not enough, because Sempronius did not "obey" and become baptized. Thus Sempronius was always beyond the reach of the grace of God. Which means that his sacrifice on the frozen pond of Sebaste was meaningless!

I have searched for every way that I possibly can think of, about how the story of Sempronius can be reconciled with the "Church of Christ" doctrine of Robertson and Oldfield and Fields, in such a way that Sempronius also might be afforded entry into Heaven. And I can't find any means among their narrow, selective mentality that would have extended such a grace to this noble centurion and follower of Christ.

So, to Johnny Robertson and James Oldfield and Norm Fields and Mitch and anyone else from the "Church of Christ" of Martinsville, Danville and Reidsville (a cult deemed so potentially dangerous that people in some local churches are now taking extraordinary measures to defend themselves, but more about that coming soon)...

Did Sempronius of the Thundering Legion go to Heaven along with the other Forty Martyrs of Sebaste? If he did, where is your scripture to back up that he was able to get into Heaven without baptism? And if it must be admitted that Sempronius did gain admission to Heaven without baptism, then how is it not to be said that this same grace is given to everyone else who follows Christ, also?

Or, Robertson and Oldfield and Fields: Are you prepared to tell us that Sempronius died for nothing, and went to Hell?

More than likely, they won't answer. They probably can't find an answer.

But I'm having fun asking it, all the same.