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Sunday, November 30, 2008

"November Rain" by Guns N' Roses

Because it's the last day of November. And it's been a rainy, cold and dreary mess outside all day, now going into this evening.

And because, this is one of the best rock songs of all time...

Bush, worst President ever, dares suggest history will exonerate him

People keep asking me what do I think of Barack Obama, now that he is going to be President come January 20th, 2009. Which I'll admit a kind of devious joy in answering them since I didn't vote for either Obama or John McCain (in keeping with my policy of never voting for anyone who runs a single negative ad, neither one of 'em deserved my vote). Whenever anyone's asked me that in the past few weeks my answer has been the same: that I can't see Obama being a good President at all... but as bad as he would have been on his own, he will be even worse because George W. Bush paved the way first.

It will be decades before we fully understand the damage that Bush has done to this country, and consequently to this world. Yet Bush is so self-deluded with grandeur that he seriously expects historians to not just forgive him, but to exalt him. From the article at Breitbart...

George W. Bush hopes history will see him as a president who liberated millions of Iraqis and Afghans, who worked towards peace and who never sold his soul for political ends.

"I'd like to be a president (known) as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace," Bush said in excerpts of a recent interview released by the White House Friday.

"I would like to be a person remembered as a person who, first and foremost, did not sell his soul in order to accommodate the political process. I came to Washington with a set of values, and I'm leaving with the same set of values."

He also said he wanted to be seen as a president who helped individuals, "that rallied people to serve their neighbor; that led an effort to help relieve HIV/AIDS and malaria on places like the continent of Africa; that helped elderly people get prescription drugs and Medicare as a part of the basic package."

Well, it's true that he didn't compromise his "values". All his life, George W. Bush has valued George W. Bush and no other... and to that he has certainly been faithful. Too bad that he never comprehended the fact that he wasn't trusted to be "the Decider" or even "the Leader" but instead was sent to Washington, as are all elected officials, to be a servant. Lo and behold, as Fred Reed eloquently observed two years ago: "We are ruled by a male cheerleader who favors torture."

The crux of Bush's argument is that he will be seen as a "liberator". That he would insist his lack of wisdom is wisdom itself would be laughable, were it not for the fact that in many aspects Iraq is worse off today than it was under Saddam Hussein. I have written here before and I will reiterate again: democracy is not, in and of itself, a good thing. For a nation to know success as a democracy, its people must first want to govern themselves, having understood the responsibilities that such a condition demands of them. There is no way that democracy can be "imposed" on a people and it be a lasting thing. Bush refuses to understand (or is incapable of understanding at all) that Iraq was never one united country to begin with. That it was fractious and poised to destroy itself, were it not for a "strongman", even one as reprehensible as Saddam Hussein, keeping it together and peaceful at the point of a gun. Now Saddam is gone and the United States has inherited the title of "Iraqi Strongman". That is a role that we should have never desired, and can not afford to sustain. And as soon as our military forces leave Iraq, it will - sooner or later - self-destruct. Bush broke it and we're having to buy it.

By the way, why is it that most Presidents in the past century or so have tried to make a name for themselves as "international peacemaker" when more often than not they fall flat on their faces? The last time that I can recall a President ever had real success as a peace mediator, it was Teddy Roosevelt when he brokered the treaty that ended the Russo-Japanese War. Like this weird obsession with "peace in Israel": when the hell are we going to get a President who tells the Israelis and the Palestinians "you guys hash this out between yourselves, we don't have a dog in that hunt"? Probably when pigs fly. But I digress...

You wanna know where Bush most demonstrates that he hasn't a clue? It's when he brags about being a President who "...led an effort to help relieve HIV/AIDS and malaria on places like the continent of Africa; that helped elderly people get prescription drugs and Medicare as a part of the basic package."

Based on that bit alone, I cringe to think what sages of generations to come will judge of our era.

Georgie baby, none of those things are part of your job description! Not a single item that he brings up can be found in the Constitution of the United States. But then, since when has George W. Bush given a damn about the Constitution?

If he had been a smart man, Bush would have realized that we have to "get our own house in order" first, before we even begin to consider how to "help our neighbors".

So what is the state of the American house in the final days of the George W. Bush regime?

- Biggest expansion of government in American history

- Creation of the Department of Homeland Security, regarded as the most wasteful government agency ever

- Doubled the national debt to more than $10 trillion and rising fast

- Budget surplus (which happened under Clinton, ironically) went from $236 billion to -$400 billion

- A loss of 3 million manufacturing jobs over the past eight years

- Value of the dollar has dropped by almost half

- Millions of illegal aliens that have flooded into the country... and nothing substantive done to stop the influx

- For the first time in American history, the United States went from being a food exporter to becoming a food importer (something that this country will not be able to survive in the long run)

- Wholesale diminishing of national defense: we now have no combat ready active duty reserves, and being tied up in two wars with no clear end goal has depleted our overall preparedness

- No Child Left Behind, which has destroyed more of our public education capacity than most politicians will ever admit

- Legislation like the New Freedoms Initiative which allows for forced medication of children against parental consent (read my thoughts about this from 2004)

- "Bailouts" of major companies at taxpayer expense... to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars and perhaps as much as $7 trillion

- No more freedom from unwarranted search and seizure

- No more real right to petition for habeas corpus

- The most corrupt executive administration in the history of the United States (it even put the Clinton years to shame)

Bush has about fifty days left to wipe out his real record. But it won't happen. And even when Obama gets saddled with the mess, for this at least I suspect the American people will have a considerably long memory.

I say again: however bad Obama might be, it will only be because George W. Bush set the precedent before him. May his name be forever condemned in history, as damned as those of Quisling and P├ętain, remembered as a man whose vision would not exceed the boundaries of his own self-centered cranium... and as a result brought his own country to ruin.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dad's latest hand-crafted knives

Dad asked me to take photos of a number of knives that he's made in his shop recently, for an upcoming publication. I thought it would be neat to post some of them here also.

Two of the Damascus steel blades that he's finished. Dad learned the art of forging Damascus from Bill Moran, the man who more than thirty years ago re-discovered the centuries-old secret of making layered steel. Dad's Moran-inspired technique usually means that there are around three hundred layers of steel in an individual blade, all folded and hammered into each other. He also made the leather sheaths...

Bowie knife that was made special-order for a customer (whose name is engraved on the blade, which I have blurred-out of the photo)...

Probably his favorite kind to make: the entire knife is crafted from a single railroad spike. Also pictured is a knife forged from a horseshoe...

The Bowie is already spoken for, but if you see anything there that you'd be interested in purchasing, write me at theknightshift@gmail.com and let me know.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Straight No Chaser: music worth chasing down!

It's things like this that make the hours of blogging, time well spent.

Good friend Crystal Stearns sent me an e-mail tonight raving about Straight No Chaser, a performance group that I'd never heard of until tonight. But I shall certainly keep an eye (and an ear) out for them from now on...

Here's what Crystal has to say about 'em...

You have to check out this group. Their 12 Days of Christmas is becoming all the rage here. Their story is really cool. They were just a college singing group 12 years ago. Then a couple years ago they were going to do a college reunion performance so their leader put some old footage on youtube to get them reaquanited with the music and moves. They got 8 million hits by Christmas. It got them a record deal. They are now the new sensation of the music world. Its all acapella. Their music is not only wonderful to hear, but they also have some comedy in some of their pieces like the 12 days piece. I hope you will take a look at the link below.
So I went to Straight No Chaser's website at sncmusic.com and was immediately treated to an amazingly beautiful all-vocal cover of "Africa". Also on the site you can hear their "Twelve Days of Christmas": by far one of the liveliest and most original renditions of that song that I have ever had the pleasure of beholding. I won't say anything else: best if you discover it cold but trust me, you won't regret letting your browser linger on their site for awhile :-)

Thanks for the great tip Crystal! It's just the thing to get us in the spirit of the season.

Dear Lord, save us from ourselves...

A store clerk was trampled to death this morning after thousands of shoppers stampeded into a Wal-Mart in New York when it opened for "Black Friday" at 5 a.m.

And this was the scene at a Wal-Mart in Concord, North Carolina (about 2 hours away) when shoppers stormed the electronics section and fought for the last Xbox 360...

EDIT 5:06 p.m. EST: And now two people have been shot to death in a Toys R Us in California.

50 free college classes about movies

Interested in just about any aspect of film? Online College Blog has collected fifty open college courses for movie lovers, running the gamut from movies as art and exercises in philosophy, to the actual filmmaking process. And what's more, all of these courses are free! Props to Kelly Sonora for passing this along :-)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Monty Python launches official YouTube channel

So instead of letting us get away with posting inferior copies of their crap on YouTube, the members of Monty Python (except for Graham Chapman 'cuz, you know...) are putting superior copies of their crap on YouTube!

Click here for more Monty Python madness.

Hey, all of y'all in Idaho: Listen up!

Word has reached this blog that my good friend Brian Hodges will be entertaining you folks with his exquisite cello talents on Idaho Public Television tonight!

There may be some video that Brian will be uploading of the performance too. You guys are going to have to check your own local listings for his appearance tonight though: I'm too lazy to do it from here!

(But if anyone can report that Brian is looking any closer to his goal of imitating Daniel Craig, be sure to let me know! :-P )

"I? I am a monument, to all your sins."

EIGHT HUNDRED AND TWENTY-SIX PAGES OF ADVERTISING CIRCULARS in today's newspaper. That's the pic of all of 'em in a heap on the living room floor.

(And if you didn't get the reference in the title, click here.)

826 pages. That is... just wrong...

We used to have a cocker spaniel named Bridget. Every morning we would let her go outside and she would run out to the end of the driveway and pick up the day's newspaper. Bridget would grasp it with her mouth and come prancing back to the front door with her head held high, and she wouldn't dare let you have the paper until you "paid" her with a doggy treat. If people think that animals don't have a concept of capitalism and property, then Bridget would have proven them wrong, but I digress...

Anyhoo, every day of the year, Bridget did her job well. Except for Thanksgivings. The newspaper on those days was so bulky she couldn't wrap her jaws around it at all, to say nothing of holding it up so proud-like. The poor girl had to drag the paper across the driveway and into the house. And even then she struggled to bring it up the stairs.

I'm not sorry for saying this, but if a newspaper is too heavy for a cocker spaniel to faithfully bring into the house because of all the advertisements in it, then it's got too damn many advertisements, period.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Coming soon...

A review of a new movie that most people haven't seen yet. A couple of book reviews. And an awesome contest... with some very neat prizes!

Keep an eye on this blog in the next few days for all kinds of kewl stuff.

In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving!

EDIT 7:05 p.m. EST: And now for a true bit of Thanksgiving comedy. It's the now-infamous "As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!" scene from the classic sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati...

As Mr. Sowerberry in OLIVER TWIST

This is one weird costume. It makes me appear chubby all over, mostly 'cuz of the cut of the coat and the pants. I keep thinking that I look either like a London undertaker, or a French guillotine executioner...

Am hoping to have some more pics of cast in costume to post soon. Just wait'll y'all see Tim Wray as Fagin!

Oliver Twist opens next Friday night, on December 5th, at the Rockingham Community College Advanced Technologies Building Auditorium. For more information visit the Theatre Guild of Rockingham County website.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Sleeping in Light": The tenth anniversary of BABYLON 5's series finale

Ten years ago tonight, the Babylon Project came to a magnificent end as "Sleeping in Light", the series finale of Babylon 5 - considered by many to be the greatest television show of the Nineties - was broadcast on TNT.

I have not written nearly enough about Babylon 5 on this blog. J. Michael Straczynski's soaring, spanning epic about the Babylon 5 space station and the people within it, I can confidently attest, had the most profound impact on my personal philosophy of any work of televised fiction. From the first time I heard about it in an issue of Starlog in the summer of 1992, I knew this would be one to watch for. And it did not disappoint: the shot of the Vorlon fleet coming through the jumpgate in the pilot movie should have been fair warning to everyone that science-fiction television would never be the same.

But the effects, even those from episodes like "The Coming of Shadows" and "Severed Dreams", weren't the reason we stayed faithful to Babylon 5. It was because this was a show about very real characters, as rife with strengths and weaknesses as anyone in our own world. We could identify with the people of Babylon 5. Personally, I think the show's greatest gift was that it demonstrated something that has not been said nearly enough in either fiction or non-fiction: that it's okay to grow and change into something more than what we think we are. That we do not have to be what the world expects us to be.

Has there been anything so profound that has been taught as well on television as Babylon 5 did? If there is, I don't know of it.

Five years of storytelling came to its triumphant conclusion with "Sleeping in Light", an episode set twenty years after the rest of the series. And I don't know of any better way to celebrate this anniversary than with the final five minutes of the episode. If you're new to Babylon 5 and don't know what's going on here, I think that maybe you should watch this, 'cuz it'll ratchet up the "wanna know more" that oughtta leave you wondering what all happened that brought the story to so triumphant a conclusion...

Happy anniversary, Mr. Straczynski and Babylon 5. You fulfilled your mission well. And hopefully there will yet be many more stories to tell from that five-mile long space station burning bright, all alone in the night...

Review of Steve Jablonsky's GEARS OF WAR 2: THE SOUNDTRACK

Today marks the release of Gears of War 2: The Soundtrack, featuring the score that Steve Jablonsky composed for Epic's already mega-selling game. Last week I won the single-player campaign and a few days later an advance copy of the CD arrived in the mail. I've been listening to it non-stop ever since! It's also now a proud addition to my iPod, and I had it blaring out of my car's stereo on the way to and back from rehearsal for Oliver Twist last night.

Okay, so for a proper review...

Many of y'all know how this very blog ended up the focal point for the drive and petition to see a release of Jablonsky's score for the movie Transformers and I was honored to be able to write up the first review anywhere of that soundtrack. So pretty much everyone knows that I'm a huge fan of Steve Jablonsky and his work.

Well folks, I gotta tell ya: as much as I loved his Transformers music, Jablonsky's score for Gears of War 2 might be even better!

Why is that? I thought the music for Transformers brilliantly evoked the sense of majesty and raw power of the Autobots and Decepticons. "Arrival to Earth" is still one of the most-played tracks on my iPod, and I continue to be haunted by the utter alien-ness that Jablonsky brought to his track "Decepticons". Many times I have said that Jablonsky's music was one of the bigger reasons why Transformers the live-action movie finally brought the whole concept to the level of maturity that it deserved to be at and could at last be appreciated for by the widest-possible audience.

Okay well, that's doing music for big robots. It's something else altogether to compose for the human condition. Especially one that covers such a spectrum of emotion as the Gears of War mythos. But here again, Jablonsky has triumphed immensely.

Gears of War 2: The Soundtrack begins with "Return of the Omen", the music from the opening screen. The next track is my favorite: "Hope Runs Deep", the piece that plays over the end credits. Track 6, "Armored Prayer", is the composition from the part when Chairman Prescott is making his speech to the assembled army while we watch Marcus, Dom and the rest of the Gears heading off to rendezvous with the derricks. Most of the soundtrack is "situational" music lasting less than two minutes, which is to be expected from a score for a video game... but Jablonsky's "heavy metal mayhem" style means that they are still tracks that you should be careful playing while driving your car, 'cuz the beat will more often than not entice you to drive a little faster :-)

And then there is "With Sympathy". If you've played the game then you probably know which part of the story this piece is from. I've played it three times now. And that's as much as I can really bear to listen to it so far, it has so darn nearly brought me to tears. Of all the tracks of music from Gears of War 2, "With Sympathy" is the one that brings the whole thing from the level of mere "video game" and takes it into territory that only movies like The Empire Strikes Back have enjoyed. Jablonsky poured his heart and soul into "With Sympathy", making it a grief-stricken aria of despair and brutal necessity. It is an overwhelmingly heart-rending work. For this one track alone, Jablonsky deserves a wazoo-load of awards.

The other track that I think is going to be a favorite is "Finale", the music from the last scene of the game as Marcus and Delta Squad are beholding their handiwork, as we listen to the Locust Queen talking about unintended legacies... which is no doubt a hint of what is to come in a future installment.

Gears of War 2: The Soundtrack should be at your friendly local electronics and entertainment store, or you can purchase it from Amazon and it's on iTunes as well. This one's destined to be a classic, folks. Highly recommended not just for fans of Gears of War, but for all fans of Steve Jablonsky and every earnest soundtrack collector.

And if you want to know more about Steve Jablonsky and his work on Gears of War 2, check out this in-depth interview conducted by Music 4 Games.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

And to think that I sometimes loose a screwdriver in the kitchen drawer...

A few days ago during a spacewalk at the International Space Station, astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper accidentally lost her bag of tools and it went floating away.

But don't worry: Kevin Fetter of Brockville, Ontario found it last night! He was in his backyard with his satellite-observing gear, which was also armed with a good video camera. And Fetter not only spotted Stefanyshyn-Piper's bag as it scooted past the star eta Pisces, he filmed it too...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

U.S. elected officials flunk test on basic civics and history

On a quiz covering fundamental American history, civics and economics conducted by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, United States elected officials crashed and burned. Politicians averaged 44 percent, while average citizens scored better but not by much: 49 percent. The test was given to 2,500 Americans.

Want to try it yourself? Here it is.

How did I do? Not bad: my score was 90.91%. I missed three questions, but one of them I'm inclined to contest if that were possible and the other two, I have to wonder about also. Maybe that's giving away too much already about which questions they are :-P

So... what does this test say about us as a country?

The Founders understood that the United States would only endure and thrive if her people were educated, vigilant, and actively seeking enlightenment. Hard to say that we're doing any of that.

So does anyone seriously think that these same politicians are really bright enough to get us out of the trouble that our economy is in?

If anyone says yes, then I've got one thing to say about that...


Friday, November 21, 2008

Johnny Robertson: child exploiter (and this blog calls bullcrap on "Religious Review")

Before I get to the meat of this particular post, there's something that I'm gonna share here, that I think is nigh worth passing along...

In the past several days, two individuals - each of whom is a highly respected and admired member of the community in this area - have volunteered to me their opinion of WGSR Star 39: the television station "serving" the market around Reidsville, North Carolina.

The first person said that WGSR is an "embarrassment" and that it "makes the people here look dumb".

The second person was more precise in their assessment: that WGSR general manager Charles Roark is not a serious broadcaster, that he is only out for "tabloid television" and that Reidsville's television station never tolerated such "nuts like Johnny Robertson" when it was operating as WAEU Channel 14 several years ago.

I agree, one hunnerd percent. WAEU had a much more professional operation than what has transpired under the "leadership" of Charles Roark. And a man as evil as cult leader Johnny Robertson would never have been allowed the airtime on WAEU. Back then, the station practiced civic responsibility. To have let Robertson and his self-described "Church of Christ" cabal use the station's facilities would have been like letting David Koresh broadcast for four hours a week just because he had enough money. And I've no doubt that if Koresh were alive and active in this area, that Charles Roark would sell him airtime.

But anyhoo, back to Johnny Robertson (who a number of people have also told me that I wasn't wrong in comparing him to Jim Jones a few days ago)...

I happened to catch Robertson's broadcast at 10 p.m. last night on WGSR. The highlight of the show was Robertson's son out harassing people going into churches with a camcorder, calling himself a "reporter" with an outfit called the "Religious Review Multimedia Group".

First of all, there is no such thing as "Religious Review Multimedia". It's something that Johnny Robertson pulled out of his own butt, just to add an air of legitimacy to his twisted activities. And second, his son is a horrible reporter (but I guess he's working for WGSR in a sense, so that jibes). From my understanding, this is a fifteen-year old kid that Robertson is sending out to do this kind of stuff.

But as it turns out, exploiting pre-adults is something that Johnny Robertson is rather fond of.

This blogger received some information not long ago and has been working to confirm it. The Knight Shift can now report that Johnny Robertson, of the "Martinsville Church of Christ" in Martinsville, Virginia, has been handing out twenty dollar bills to the children of his congregation. But this isn't money he's giving out of the goodness of his heart. No folks: Robertson has been passing out the bills to the kids, with orders to confront fellow students and even teachers in the schools that they attend. The instructions to the "Church of Christ" cult's youth are: "if you can prove that your denomination is in the Bible, I will give you twenty dollars." Just as Robertson has publicly offered thousands of dollars on live television to anyone who can offer biblical evidence of denominations.

(Personally, I think that the seven churches described in the Book of Revelation correspond precisely with denominations as we understand them today. But I'm not holding my breath for Robertson to make good on his offer...)

It's already been well established that neither Johnny Robertson's "Martinsville Church of Christ", or the "Reidsville Church of Christ" that his henchman James Oldfield runs, is financially self-sufficient. That Robertson is being funded by the proverbial "mysterious Texans" out west.

This is what all his donors in Texas give money to support? I mean, Robertson and Oldfield complain all the time that other churches and preachers don't care about the Bible... yet they spend their entire time not only not talking about the Bible, but instead condemning those churches and preachers. And now, Robertson is apparently using that same funding to send children out to harass others?

Once again I have to ask: how is this demonstrating Christ's love and grace to a lost and dying world?

No wonder so many people laugh at Christianity.

(But a lot of people are also laughing at Johnny Robertson and Charles Roark...)

eHarmony to allow homosexual matching following lawsuit

Yeah you read that right: eHarmony, the relationship-matching website that's found especially strong popularity with Christians, is "going gay".

From the story in The Wall Street Journal...

A settlement Wednesday between eHarmony Inc. and the New Jersey attorney general requires the online heterosexual dating service to also cater to homosexuals, raising questions about whether other services that target a niche clientele could be forced to expand their business models.

The settlement stemmed from a complaint, filed with the New Jersey attorney general's office by a gay match seeker in 2005, that eHarmony had violated his rights under the state's discrimination law by not offering a same-sex dating service. In 2007, the attorney general found probable cause that eHarmony had violated the state's Law Against Discrimination.

As part of the agreement, the Pasadena, Calif.-based company will develop and market Compatible Partners, a Web dating service for same-sex couples, and will allow the site's first 10,000 users to register free. EHarmony will also pay $50,000 to the attorney general's office and $5,000 to the man who first brought the case.

This is so wrong that I don't know where to begin.

Okay, it's like this: I have my own beliefs about homosexuality. And I do have friends who are "gay and lesbian". And they understand where I'm coming from when I say that I can love them as God wants me to love them... but I can not condone what they are doing. Any more than I would want anyone to condone my actions when I do something wrong. It goes back to that "grace" thing or as someone eloquently put it: "hate the sin but love the sinner".

But that's not what infuriates me about this case...

eHarmony is a private corporation. It was founded by Dr. Neil Clark Warren for the purpose of establishing lasting relationships between men and women, based on Warren's research. As such, eHarmony has every right to pursue business as it sees fit. Nobody else should be telling eHarmony how to carry out its own operation. If a homosexual person thinks that there's enough pressing need for a similar service for his or her "lifestyle choice", then there's nothing stopping him or her from attempting to establish that service, and either it will be successful or it will fail. But there is no obligation at all to force another company to do business that way.

I'm sorely tempted to point out that this kind of government-mandated management of privately-held corporations was at the economic heart of Nazi Germany.

Dear Lord, what the hell has gone wrong with the free enterprise system in this country lately?! First it was the $700 billion bailout that is going to God Only knows where. Then this week it's the auto companies come begging for help when it was their own decisions that bankrupted them to begin with. Now it's this. And if it can happen to eHarmony, it can happen to any business in America.

First snow of the season

A photo I took a few minutes ago...

The forecast doesn't call for any accumulation this morning. But this far ahead of winter, it's no doubt a good omen. Or maybe a bad one depending on how you look at it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tomb of Copernicus found after 200 year search

It's turning out to be quite a week for the science of genetics. First the DNA of the woolly mammoth has been mostly reconstructed.

And now comes word that the final resting place of Nicolas Copernicus has been positively identified.

Copernicus was the sixteenth-century astronomer who turned human understanding of the heavens upside-down (and would later on invite the wrath of religious officials especially after it was championed by Galileo Galilei) with his treatise "On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies". Copernicus contended that in spite of the unquestioned assumptions of Ptolemy fourteen hundred years earlier, the Earth was not at the center of the universe! That in fact the Earth and all the other planets revolved around the sun, which was just another star among countless others. The heliocentric theory was of course correct and for this, Copernicus is widely regarded as the father of modern astronomy. The one snag in Copernicus's theory was that he believed that the planets went around the sun in perfect circles (the idea of elliptical orbits was still waiting for Kepler, Newton and Halley to discover).

Anyhoo, Copernicus passed away in 1543 and for two centuries there has been a search for his burial place. In 2005 remains were discovered at Frombork Cathedral in north Poland. Working from two strands of hair found in a book owned by Copernicus and a tooth from the grave, geneticists and archaeologists today announced that there was a perfect match.

Incidentally, church officials are already happily mentioning doing something that "...will be able to pay homage to Copernicus with a tomb worthy of this illustrious historic personality," according to Jacek Jezierski, the Bishop of Frombork.

Scientists reconstitute most of woolly mammoth's DNA

Working from balls of hair recovered from Siberia, scientists have reconstructed two-thirds of the woolly mammoth's DNA sequence. The mammoth, a close relative of the modern-day elephant, has been extinct for ten thousand years (although there is some evidence that they lived as late as 1,700 B.C. and possibly survived into even more recent times).

There has been discussion for several years about possibly "resurrecting" the mammoth, by using its DNA and fertilizing the egg cells of modern elephants. There is also said to be potential to bring back the quagga and the Bali tiger, and a few have even suggested using genetic technology to restore the passenger pigeon, which was once the most numerous bird in North America. Admittedly there's a long way to go still, but it wouldn't surprise me if within a decade we might yet hear news of a baby mammoth being born.

Just as long as these scientists don't start messin' around with velociraptor DNA...

LIFE photo archive on Google

Millions of photos from the LIFE Magazine archives going all the way back to the 1750s (they had photography in those days?) are being hosted on Google for easy searching. The complete archive isn't available yet, but Google is promising to have the full range of pictures up within a few months. I've been playing around with it since yesterday, mostly seeing how many photos from the Civil War are already up. And I have to admit that I've been pleasantly surprised at what Google has done so far. This'll no doubt be a terrific research tool when its fully implemented.

Official poster for LOST Season 5

Kinda reinforces the notion that for the most part, this upcoming season of Lost is going to be practically two different shows. One will be about Locke, Sawyer and the rest who were still on the island when it "moved" to God knows where (and God Himself may not even know if Ben wasn't lying for once). And the other will be about Jack's group that was able to leave, who are now all trying to get back.

Good poster. I like it a lot :-)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Just finished GEARS OF WAR 2


Gotta give it up for the crew at Epic Games.

This is certainly a remarkable time for the art of video games. And that is exactly what Gears of War 2 is: art of the highest caliber.

Everything about it is just darned perfect. And there's one scene in particular in the game... you'll know what I'm talking about if you've played it already... that is absolutely heartbreaking. For that bit of music alone, Steve Jablonsky deserves beaucoups of awards.

I thought it was at least twice as good as the original Gears of War, and that one got tons of play already at the Knight Casa.

Okay so anyone who's played it and waited through the credits: is he still alive?!? And what is he talking about?

And did anyone else think that the lab facility segment of the game asked a lot of questions that will hopefully be answered in the inevitable sequel?

EDIT 2:09 p.m. EST: If you've played through the game you've probably busted a gut laughing at Cole's rant on the microphone to the Locust Queen. Here it is courtesy of YouTube (WARNING: harsh language)...

Dobson should "Focus on the Finances" instead!

Focus on the Family is going broke. The ministry ummm... "organization" is being forced to lay off 202 employees, supposedly after campaigning for Proposition 8 (the "gay marriage" ban) in California cleansed its coffers of over half a million dollars. It still has 950 employees though.

(What does any outfit like Focus on the Family need with more than a thousand employees?! I know of a few others who get by with much less overhead.)

Maybe if Focus on the Family was more responsible with its own house, it might have some legitimate clout. That's been pissed-away though, and a lot of it has to do with silly stunts like "boycotting" businesses that don't use the word "Christmas" enough (read Kevin Bussey's thoughts on that, which I agree with him on most things anyway but on this point I especially have to concur.)

I've written about it before here and I'll do it again: I once came very close to going to work for James Dobson at Focus on the Family. It was a long time ago. Now I thank God that He didn't send me off to Colorado to be an employee of that shyster. Focus on the Family has completely lost sight of the things that are supposed to matter most to us as followers of Christ. Dobson? He's prostituted his principles and sold out the soul of his ministry (if not his own as well) to "sit at the king's table" and hope for a little shred of worldly power. Don't believe me? That fool Dobson doesn't have vision enough to see past his fixation with the Republican Party (yeah I called him a "fool": deal with it) and "winning elections", each one he cries out is "historic" and "too important for Christians to miss out on".

Dobson and Focus on the Family are as much part of the problem with this country as an out-of-control Congress and President Bush wasting our money, an incoming President-Elect who is going to be just as bad, and the whole damn complacent "media" that lets them get away with it. I've no sympathy for Dobson or Focus on the Family and if they go down in flames, so much better for the people in this country who are sincerely following after Christ for the right reasons.

Recession to rob many of fried turkey this Thanksgiving

See the photo on the right? That's me a few years ago on Thanksgiving, holding a golden brown, succulent deep-fried turkey. It's considered the second most dangerous form of cooking known to man (after preparing fugu) and I've done it plenty of times since 2002. And especially for family and friends, who have always enjoyed the exceptionally juicy meat that comes from preparing the bird this way. It's a taste that I've become rather addicted to. And I was looking forward to doing up one or two or even more next week...

But this will be one Thanksgiving that I'm gonna have to do without my beloved fried turkey. So is everyone else who does this that I've spoken to. I wouldn't mind paying for it but the people around me keep telling me to "save your money".

The reason: the price of peanut oil has gone through the roof.

When I first started doing this, I could buy a three-gallon container of peanut oil for twenty bucks. Last year it was $25. I was in a meat market yesterday afternoon, one of the best places in town, and three gallons of peanut oil this year is a whopping thirty-five dollars.

I always have to buy two containers for my frying needs.

I chatted some with the manager and he said nobody is buying any this year... and usually they've done quite a bit of business selling it already.

"What's your take on why the price has gone up?" I asked.

"Bad biofuel decisions," he replied.

Doesn't surprise me. I've been hearing all year that biofuel subsidies have wrecked havoc with cooking oil across the board. And then you factor in that peanut production is down anyway, and the stuff does become a valuable commodity.

But the manager also told me that it's the economy in general which is the reason why most people are going back to basted this year. There's not as much free money to spend on what by all rights should be a gloriously prepared banquet to share with loved ones.

This was the first sign that really hit me upside the head, that we are in a recession. And there's been a helluva lot worse than "bad decisions" about biofuel going on lately, what with $700 BILLION of taxpayer money that Congress and the Bush White House is doling out with NO oversight. For sure, I don't see the lean times ending anytime soon.

For fiscal irresponsibility leading to desecration of an honored method to treat a bird as noble as the turkey, I've got just one thing to say about the miscreants who've wound up in charge of our money:

Boil 'em in oil!

Fabled "lost" Beatles track may finally see release

Back in 1967, about the same time that the band was working on the "White Album", the Beatles recorded an extremely avant-garde track they dubbed "Carnival of Light". The 14-minute long song was said to consist of the Beatles going completely off the chain, with screams of "Barcelona!", a church organ being played full-tilt, and a bunch of other seemingly random sounds. It was never released because it was deemed too weird and "ahead of its time".

In the more than four decades since, "Carnival of Light" has taken on something akin to the status of urban legend among Beatles fans. Some wondered if it had even been recorded at all.

Well folks, guess what? If Paul McCartney has his way and if he can convince Ringo Starr and the estates of John Lennon and George Harrison, "Carnival of Light" is going to see a release at last.

Think about that for just a moment: it's looking very likely that a "new" Beatles song will be coming out soon.

Gotta also be curious as to whether "Carnival of Light" will be a playable song in the Beatles video game that Harmonix is putting out next year. Then again, I'm the type who seriously wonders if the game will end when you play the "John has a girlfriend" concert :-P

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"You'll shoot your eye out!"

A Christmas Story, the classic film of Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) who pines for a Red Ryder BB gun in his stocking in Indiana circa 1940, was released twenty-five years ago today, on November 18th 1983...

"How about a nice football?"

I saw it twice in theaters when it came out. First Mom and Dad took my sister, my best friend Chad and I to see it, and then two weeks later our Cub Scout troop watched it together. Good times!

In honor of today's occasion, this evening leg lamps will be aglow in living room windows across America.

Thirtieth anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre

This is what happens when otherwise normal individuals don't think for themselves with the minds that God gave them...

It was thirty years ago today - November 18th, 1978 - that the Jonestown Massacre occurred at the People's Temple Agricultural Project near Kaituma, Guyana. Following an ambush at a nearby airstrip (which took the life of United States Representative Leo Ryan), People's Temple founder and leader Jim Jones told his followers that their enemies were coming to destroy them and that the only option left to them that afforded any "dignity" was to commit "revolutionary suicide".

Jones then ordered his faithful to drink cyanide-laced fruit drink. Many families used syringes to squirt the deadly poison into the mouths of infants, before they themselves ingested the fatal fluid. All told, 909 people - including Jones, who was later found with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head - killed themselves in the largest non-natural loss of American life up 'til the September 11th, 2001 attacks. Four more of Jones' followers took part in a smaller mass suicide not long afterward in Georgetown. The final death toll was 918 people.

If anyone's been wondering why I think loons like local cult leader Johnny Robertson and his self-proclaimed "Church of Christ" need to be countered, this is a big reason why. If left unchecked, God only knows what a hate-filled man like Robertson might do to others. Could you at all trust a man who accuses a congregation of child pornography, regularly harasses other churches, tries to break up families and has a "bomb threat" painted on the side of his own building? I hate to say this but I'm hard-pressed to believe that a mind like Robertson's is at all far removed from the mentality of Jim Jones. Maybe if some folks in San Francisco back in the day had stood up to Jones, the Jonestown tragedy would never have happened.

When authorities arrived at "Jonestown" they found a 45-minute long audio tape that was recorded during the cult's act of suicide. Here is a transcript and if you feel so inclined, here is the audio courtesy of the Internet Archive...

There is plenty more material - including some primary source evidence - at the Jonestown Institute website.

Monday, November 17, 2008

This is a STAR TREK trailer?!

This is positively unlike anything that I have ever seen done with Star Trek...

...and I think it's awesome!

For this one, I'm gonna direct you to the full glorious Quicktime version (it's Trailer 2). I just took a look at it in 480P and was blown away. Wait 'til you see the first scene in this thing: it's probably the most UN-Star Trek-ish image produced in the entire forty-some year history of the series.

The night the Star Wars empire almost self-destructed

Today marks an extraordinarily dubious anniversary for the Star Wars saga. Because it was thirty years ago tonight, on November 17th, 1978, that CBS aired the first and last broadcast of The Star Wars Holiday Special.

The two-hour schlockfest is now widely considered by many to be the absolutely worst block of television in the history of anything...

"One of these things is not like the others..."

I'm not even going to try to pretend to make sense of this... thing. If you want to see it, you'll be able to find it all over the 'net and if you don't want to see it well, that's two hours of your life that're your own to spend how you wish. I remember watching this as a way wee lad on the night that it aired, and even then I thought it was pretty terrible. I mean, Harvey Korman as a four-armed alien version of Julia Child?!?

No wonder that George Lucas has strenuously prayed - both privately and publicly - that every copy of The Star Wars Holiday Special might somehow be incinerated. The "special" came to be considered the low point in the careers of everyone involved, including Bea Arthur and Art Carney. Let's not even mention Carrie Fisher singing "What Can You Get A Wookiee For Christmas (When He Already Owns A Comb)?". Or Mark Hamill's post-motorcycle accident "Mannequin Skywalker" plastic-faced visage that reeks of way too much makeup.

Little wonder then that The Star Wars Holiday Special has been branded the worst moment of the entire franchise...

What the hell were they thinking?

But to its credit, The Star Wars Holiday Special did make a few (a few mind ya) decent contributions to the saga. The Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk was introduced, though it wouldn't get any more screen time until Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in 2005. So was Chewbacca's family, which would be cemented in the mythology's canon by way of Expanded Universe literature. And then there is Boba Fett: the most famous bounty hunter in all of fiction made his debut in an animated segment during the special, just in time to whet fans' appetites for more of him a year and a half later when The Empire Strikes Back came out.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the fun that I got to have with The Star Wars Holiday Special when I was Humor editor of TheForce.net: it provided plenty of "bantha poodoo" for the Star Wars Captioning feature, like this one and this one and this one and this one.

For what it's worth, I think The Star Wars Holiday Special stands as a curious fixture of not only a successful legend, but of a cultural mindset as well. Something like this is a unique product of the Seventies: there's no way it would have been sanctioned even a few years later. For that at least, I have to render some faint appreciation for The Star Wars Holiday Special.

Anyhoo, if... if... you want to find out more, check out StarWarsHolidaySpecial.com. And if you just want to see how this fiasco begins, here's the opening courtesy of YouTube...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Awesome new promo for LOST Season 5!

"Where we going Mommy?"

"We're going on vacation, baby."

And among the other intriguing things in this new promo: Juliet uncovering what looks to be another hatch, Daniel wearing a mining helmet underground, Locke at Jacob's cabin, Sun locked in a room demanding to be let out, and what looks to be the words "DHARMA Initiative" that flashes by very rapidly (don't blink or you might miss seeing it).

DarkUFO has an even better quality version for you to enjoy looking... and guessing... at.

Soviet-era Buran could replace NASA space shuttle

Twenty years ago yesterday the Buran (shown landing at left), the Soviet Union's answer to the American-made NASA space shuttle system, launched from Kazakhstan for its first test flight. It wound up being its only mission to date. A few years later the fall of communism left the program in limbo. The only flight-worthy Buran was destroyed during a roof collapse at the Baikonur facility in 2002, although a number of others were already in production and one is currently on display in a museum in Germany.

But with the space shuttle fleet due to be retired in less than two years, Russia Today is reporting that interest is being rekindled in the Buran system for use as a service vehicle for the International Space Station and perhaps other purposes as well. Despite its visual similarity to the American space shuttle, the Buran was in many ways the superior vehicle (the feature that its designers were most proud of is that it can be launched and landed un-manned). And the Energia booster system that was developed parallel to the Buran is an absolute beast of a launch vehicle: it's said to be powerful enough to send a payload to Mars. Click here for more comparisons between the American shuttle and the Russian Buran.

I would love to see the Buran finally get some serious use... and achieve the appreciation that I've long thought was due her and her creators. I've been a devout student of the Russian space effort for well over a decade, ever since I made it the topic of my senior history thesis while at Elon (and I ended up presenting my research about it at a national conference in Rochester, New York). In spite of how screwy and completely wrong the the Soviet government was, the scientists and engineers who were forced to live under that regime still had a total passion for technical achievement (often in defiance of how much the Soviet bureaucrats got in their way: do some research on how Kruschev screwed-up a lot of Sergei Korolev's projects). Buran is a terrific vehicle and now at last she has a chance to soar and shine.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

How does Chris spend a Saturday?

In no particular order, today I...

...saw the new James Bond movie Quantum of Solace (it kicks seriously crazy cool boo-tay!!!)

...filmed a lot of footage for a commercial that I'm making for a new client.

...played Classic Battletech and had my derriere handed to me (especially after the legs were shot off my BattleMech).

...was told during rehearsal for the Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's production of Oliver Twist that I had a great British accent and that I was channeling the perfect persona for my role as Mr. Sowerberry.

...got to meet Cecil L. Cline, the project manager for the Saturn V rocket program (he also worked on the Polaris and Poseidon missiles and the C-5A Galaxy transport plane in addition to many other engineering marvels) and received an autographed copy of his book A Soldier's Odyssey.

Not too bad a way to fill up a Saturday, eh? :-)

Monty Python "Dead Parrot" sketch is 1,600 years old

A Greek scholar has conclusively proven that the classic "Dead Parrot" sketch made famous by Monty Python's John Cleese and Michael Palin actually goes back sixteen hundred years.

Hierocles and Philagrius were the original comedy duo who came up with the concept. Except in their version it wasn't a dead bird, but a deceased slave. One man complains to a friend that the slave he bought from him died not long after purchase. The friend replies "When he was with me, he never did any such thing!"

Also among the 265 jokes found in the Philogelos: The Laugh Addict collection are some poking fun at marriage. One of them goes: "A man tells a well-known wit: 'I had your wife, without paying a penny'. The husband replies: 'It's my duty as a husband to couple with such a monstrosity. What made you do it?'"

Sign of the times: Spam production can't keep up with demand

The New York Times is reporting that Hormel is pulling out all the stops to keep up with a sudden demand for Spam. The classic "mystery meat in a can" was first introduced over seventy years ago and ever since has become a staple food for hard economic times, having cemented that status during the lean years of World War II. And now as many seriously wonder if we might be on the cusp of another Great Depression...
Hormel declined to cooperate with this article, but several of its workers were interviewed here recently with the help of their union, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 9. Slumped in chairs at the union hall after making 149,950 cans of Spam on the day shift, several workers said they been through boom times before — but nothing like this.

Spam "seems to do well when hard times hit," said Dan Bartel, business agent for the union local. "We'll probably see Spam lines instead of soup lines."

The article further reports that Kraft is another company seeing an upswing in the demand for its "low-budget" products, particularly macaroni and Velveeta.

Friday, November 14, 2008

IBM using lawsuit to keep Apple from giving you the last iPod you'll ever want?

A few weeks ago Apple hired Mark Papermaster to be its new head of development over the iPod and iPhone lines. All well and good... except that Papermaster was also previously the vice-president of the microprocessor and chip technology at IBM, and there was a "no-compete" clause in his contract with his former employer. Papermaster has countered that he's going to be involved in entertainment devices: something that IBM has never pursued and thus, the clause is invalid in his case. It's now wound up in the courts, where IBM is suing to keep Papermaster from working at Apple.

Now we know why IBM is really interested in locking Papermaster out of the Jobs Mob...

IBM has been developing something called "racetrack" memory and it's afraid that the technology it developed will wind up in the iPod and iPhone. And it's easy to see why Apple could conceivably be interested in implementing it in their own products:

- Racetrack memory could store 500,000 songs, compared to 40,000 in the current 160 gigabyte iPod classic. That is also equivalent to 3,500 full-length movies.

- Racetrack memory uses much less power. A single battery charge would last for weeks (though using the screen in video mode on an iPod with such storage would still drain some juice).

- Racetrack memory would last for decades, and not be subject to wear like hard drives or flash memory.

- Racetrack memory will be much cheaper to produce.

Sounds kewl, eh? The only real obstacle is that IBM still deems racetrack memory to be in the experimental stage, and that we won't be seeing it in products for another decade.

Here's a suggestion: Steve Jobs should direct Apple to buy out IBM. That way his company will have Papermaster's contract lock stock and barrel, and Apple can hustle like nobody's business to get racetrack memory in its toys by no later than 2010 or 2011.

A half-million songs on a single iPod. That would be like the last iPod that I would ever need :-)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The second WATCHMEN trailer!

It's gonna be so weird to finally see the movie adaptation of Watchmen. Ever since this blog's beginning I've been writing about the efforts to get this film made, and usually it's to share some pessimism about whether it could be done right... or at least done at all. Like yesterday evening I conveyed some concern about Zack Snyder's admitting that the ending of Watchmen, which he's directed, is going to be different from the book.

Funny how things can change in just twenty-four hours.

Yahoo! Movies has the second trailer for Watchmen (including high-def Quicktime). And if there's a single shot in this that's not in the graphic novel, I'm not seeing it...

Okay, I'll say that I again have faith in Snyder. That I believe he will indeed pull off the impossible, regardless of whether the squid is in there. Tonally, this looks completely right. Rorschach's voice is exactly as I imagined it would be when I first read the book in 1990. But the thing I keep thinking about most from this trailer is Jon's voice: Billy Crudup is evoking the right kind of disaffection for a god no longer interested in the world around him. And then his scream of "LEAVE ME ALONE!"...

Think I might have to see Quantum of Solace this weekend, to catch this trailer on the big screen (well also 'cuz I liked Casino Royale too :-)

First photographs made of extra-solar planets

We've known they were out there for over a decade. Now two groups of astronomers have captured the first photographs of planets orbiting stars far beyond our own solar system. Images of the star HR 8799 turned up three planets, including this first-ever direct photo of an alien world...

And the Hubble Space Telescope has imaged a planet circling Fomalhaut.

In case yer wondering: these are not planets anything like our own Earth. They're believed to be more along the lines of the "gas giants" like Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus. But with increasingly refined imaging technology, astronomers tell us that it's no doubt just a matter of time before a world - possibly one that could harbor life - is found waaaaaaaay out there!

Federal air marshals abusing power, commiting crimes

USA Today is running a story about the high rate of crime among the Transportation Security Administration's federal air marshals. One marshal used his badge and top secret security clearance to smuggle cocaine and drug money. Another attempted to "disappear" his ex-wife via a contract killer (who was another federal air marshal). Still another used his authority to engage in child pornography. There have been dozens of such cases since 9/11, when the number of marshals ballooned from about thirty to more than thirty thousand.

Maybe it's time to reiterate a suggestion that I made over two years ago. During the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks I proposed the creation of "citizen marshals": ordinary American citizens who, after a background check and some training, would be allowed to carry firearms on commercial airlines as a volunteer service to their fellow countrymen.

From my post in 2006:

Such persons will not be affiliated with any law enforcement agency or the government at all. Being appointed "citizen marshals" merely means that they have no outstanding criminal record, that they possess qualities of good character and are otherwise sound and considerate human beings. Being a citizen marshal would be an unpaid position... but then, anyone wanting to be such a marshal for the right reasons would not want any financial compensation anyway.

Citizen marshals would be the only regular civilians who would be allowed to board commercial passenger planes with a firearm, and adequate ammunition. They could even be given a special badge that designates their status for all to see. Ideally, there would be more than one citizen marshal - with guns - aboard each flight.

The thought of becoming a citizen marshal should not be entertained lightly by anyone, and there should be incentives in place to dissuade those who might potentially abuse their appointments. The penalties for doing so - be it from impersonating a licensed citizen marshal to unholstering a firearm aboard a plane in flight without legitimate caues - should be extremely severe. As much or even more than what we expect from police officers who "cross the line".

But... a flight with an armed citizen marshal or two (or three or four) would be the safest possible airline trip in terms of passenger safety outside of technical malfunctions. Even the mere possibility that a jetliner might have a citizen marshal onboard would automatically make that plane a "poison pill" for anyone contemplating a terrorist act.

Ask yourself again: would Mohammed Atta and his fellow terrorists been so quick to pull out the box-cutters on September 11th, 2001 if the slightest thought entered their minds that not only might they not reach the cockpit, but that they would be shot dead the moment they started trying?

Let's face it: Transportation Security Administration has been a colossal farce from the very beginning. I consider it one of George W. Bush's biggest failures. The entire thing has been nothing but "security theatre" on a grand scale. Personally, I can think of at least a dozen ways off the top of my head that TSA's "procedures" could be defeated for a much worse re-enactment of 9/11.

And when I read stories about air marshals out of control, it solidifies that much more my belief that regular American can do some things better than their government.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Alan Moore is gonna be honked-off angry...

Zack Snyder has confirmed that he has changed the ending for the movie version of Watchmen, which he's directed.

So we will not be getting to see the "alien squid" after all...

In the past few weeks I've found myself wondering what the "squid" might possibly look like translated to screen. And that led me to think that perhaps Guillermo del Toro would have been the "go-to" guy for giving it the appropriate gruesomeness. Now it turns out that the climactic moment of most widely-acclaimed graphic novel has been... altered?!

Snyder did read Watchmen, right? I mean, he knows what the ultimate purpose of the "squid" is, yes?

I am now officially skeptical about how this is going to work. No wonder Alan Moore - the creator of Watchmen - harbors such legendary frustration about film adaptations of his efforts.

Weird news from overseas

The mayor of Batman, Turkey is suing Warner Brothers and Christopher Nolan over their Batman movie The Dark Knight, claiming that since the movie came out his town has been plagued by a high rate of unsolved murders and skyrocketing numbers of female suicides.

And in Russia, the parish priest of the village of Komarova notified law enforcement officials that he had been robbed. The item in question that has been stolen: the entire village church.

Are video games becoming a luxury for the rich?

That's the question posed by Matthew Federico on his blog. It's his contention that the rising price of video games (lately hovering around sixty bucks each for games on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) coupled with the current state of the economy means that only those with plenty of ready cash on hand can fully enjoy the latest slate of games like Gears of War 2 and Fallout 3.

On the flip side of the coin, a few months ago Theodore Beale (writing as Vox Day) on WorldNetDaily offered some suggestions for "living lean" and seriously advised that video games were a sound use of one's entertainment dollar, as opposed to spending it on something like movie tickets.

So are video games for the most part now in the province of those who can most afford them? It may be worth noting that even at the height of the Great Depression people kept flocking to movie theaters. When you figure in for inflation, Gone With The Wind is still the top-grossing film of all time, and it came out at a time when going to a cinema was still considered a high-falootin' expenditure.

What do y'all think?

Ridley Scott to direct MONOPOLY movie

What the heck is wrong with Hollywood lately? This has been one of the best years for filmmaking in recent memory. But alas! It does not appear as if it was meant to endure. Yesterday word came that a remake of The Karate Kid starring Will Smith's son is in the works, and there's also a redo of Footloose headed our way.

But this next item is something that is certainly... different, in ways most of us weren't expecting: The Hollywood Reporter is breaking the news that a movie based on the board game Monopoly is in development and that none other than Ridley Scott has been attached as producer, and likely will be directing it as well. Scott is looking at the project "with an eye toward giving it a futuristic sheen along the lines of his iconic 'Blade Runner.'"

The story also reports that a movie based on Battleship is also being considered (didn't they already make that a few times, first as The Enemy Below and then The Hunt for Red October?).

Gotta wonder what Monopoly directed by Ridley Scott will be like...

"Do NOT pass Go! Do NOT collect two hundred dollars!"

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This is why a lot of us have been opposing George W. Bush all these years...

President-Elect Barack Obama is likely going to overturn a lot of Bush's policies via the use of executive order and "signing statements".

And here's why Bush's most stubborn supporters had darned well better start worrying up a sweat...

George W. Bush set a horrible precedent with his abuse of executive orders and signing statements (which are how he got around the letter of the law a lot of times, by "interpreting" legislation according to his own whims and declaring that it was his executive privilege to do so). And for most of the past decade, the "Bush-bots" have cheered him on... even when he's grievously violated the Constitution in the process.

And now that very same power is going to land in the hands of Barack Obama.

Can you people who have thought Bush could do no wrong these eight years, possibly be capable of understanding what that means?

I've said it since last week: Barack Obama will not be a good President. But he would not have the potential to wreck so much havoc if George W. Bush had not shown him how to do so in the first place.

In the end, if Obama's tenure as President is a disaster, it will be, quite sincerely, Bush's fault.

And I'm gonna go ahead and tell y'all that beforehand.

Six new WATCHMEN posters hit the Intertubes

Oh geez... can you imagine all the kids who are now gonna try to "look cool" as they emulate the Comedian lighting up his cigar like this?

Ain't It Cool News has collected the links to the six new character posters just released for Watchmen. Also in the lot are Rorschach posing with his grapple-gun, Laurie/Silk Spectre II, Dr. Manhattan (in a scene that everyone who's read the book will recognize), Adrian at his Antarctic retreat (with Bubastis in the background!), and Daniel with the Owlship.

HyperMind: Great gaming store serves the Triad area well!

A couple of weeks ago I had to go to Burlington, North Carolina, about thirty minutes away from home here in Reidsville, on a business errand. I wound up with some time to kill and thought I'd drive around my old stompin' grounds, since I lived there for a few years while a student at Elon. The west end of town in particular has grown a lot recently, what with a new Target Supercenter and a Best Buy and a new movie cinema and all kinds of other good places.

Anyway, it was while on south Church Street that I came across HyperMind...

With a name like that, I couldn't resist going in.

It turns out that HyperMind, now at its second and larger location since first opening in 2006, is a game store. And to the best of my recollection, there hasn't been a place like this serving the area since Cosmic Castle on High Point Road in Greensboro, which closed up a number of years ago. I used to go to Cosmic Castle a lot to buy Star Wars Role-Playing Game source books: even though I never played the game itself, I was one of those Star Wars geeks that bought plenty of the background supplements. I'm glad to have now found HyperMind, 'cuz this store has Star Wars RPG stuff out the wazoo!

Or is Dungeons & Dragons - which for years I've called "Bushes & Orcs" since players hardly ever go adventuring into a dungeon or fight a dragon anymore these days - more your speed? HyperMind is amply stocked with the latest Dungeons & Dragons products, from the basic sets on to the advanced campaign settings. Need more of those fancy dice that Dungeons & Dragons and a lot of other pen-and-paper RPGs employ? HyperMind has plenty of those, too! Just about every role-playing game that I've heard of (and plenty that I never knew existed) can be found at HyperMind.

The more traditional board games can be found here also, like Monopoly (including several themed variants, like Transformers and John Deere) and Clue. While I was there I also found a board game version of Starcraft, several zombie-related games (what is it with zombies lately anyway?) and some longstanding classics like Axis & Allies, which if you've never had the pleasure is a game that lets you act out the parts of Patton and Rommel or any other military genius that strikes your fancy, as you re-create the theaters of battle in World War II on your dining room table. The Starcraft game came out a year ago and I'm told that it has an especially strong following

Are you a fan of the HeroClix system games, like Marvel and DC Universe? HyperMind has tons of that also. In fact, when I was there I saw a coupl'a full racks of the DC Universe Arkham Asylum packs, which word on the street is that they're selling out all over the place. HyperMind also carry the Star Wars Miniatures game, which I also haven't had the opportunity to play yet but lots of people tell me it's a very enjoyable pastime. HyperMind also sells Magic: The Gathering and a host of other collectible card games. And if they don't have it in the store, the friendly and knowledgeable sales staff will be more than happy to order it for you, usually delivered in less than a week.

And HyperMind doesn't just provide the games either: toward the back of the store is a large gaming area, set up with lots of tables and chairs. The store is open on several weeknights for people to come in and play their favorite games, be it a card game like Magic: The Gathering or role-playing.

On top of all that fun stuff, HyperMind also features a wide selection of educational games and toys... and I was pleasantly surprised to find some items in the store that I had no idea were still being produced these days, like chemistry sets. And if you're looking for a puzzle to spend some nice leisurely time with or as a gift for someone, HyperMind has you covered there as well.

So what did I get while I was there?

We used to play BattleTech (now known as Classic BattleTech) a lot at the nearby community college when I was getting my associates degree. I've always loved this game and its fictional universe, and now it's growing in popularity even more. So I got the latest version: the Classic BattleTech Introductory Box Set. If anybody reading this is up for a game, write me at theknightshift@gmail.com and we'll work something out! And it's a good thing that HyperMind has lots of miniatures (for BattleTech but also for games like Warhammer 40,000) on sale: I'll probably need 'em as I resupply my Inner Sphere mercenary company :-)

Family-owned and operated, HyperMind (click here for its website) is located at 3396 South Church Street in Burlington, North Carolina. It's practically across the street from West End Cinema, among that group of stores if you're familiar with the Burlington area. I would absolutely recommend checking out HyperMind if you're from anywhere like Raleigh and Winston-Salem and all points in-between. I don't know if there's ever been a place quite like this ever around here: HyperMind is well worth giving your patronage!