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Thursday, December 31, 2009

So long 2009

For the second year in a row, I'm too stymied for words to describe my feelings about the previous twelve months.

So all I'll say is, here's praying that 2010 will be a good one for all of us :-)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Time to reopen The Knight Shift!

Seven days since the annual Christmas post. I can't remember the last time I was away from this blog for so long with absolutely nothing on the agenda. Also can't say that I didn't enjoy every bit of it :-)

Hope you and yours have been having a wonderful holiday season!

(By the way, Star Trek rocks on Blu-ray! Yah thanks to Dad I have finally crossed that threshold :-)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

As happens every year here at The Knight Shift (or I try to anyway), I'm going to step away from the blog for a few days, and give myself a break to celebrate Christmas with family and friends. And this'll be the first serious break that I've given myself in... maybe more than a year. So for the next few days, expect the proprietor of this humble lil' blog to be off the grid.

(However I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't come back in the next few days to write about this year's Doctor Who Christmas special, especially since it will see the departure of David Tennant from the role and Matt Smith coming on as the eleventh Doctor. Those reviews are always fun to write :-)

I'm also gonna be thinking about how to overhaul this site. It's still too much 2007.

And in case anyone's wondering: I'm already set to deep-fry a turkey for Christmas Eve dinner!

Not much else to say, except to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas (and here's hoping that our Jewish brethren had a Happy Hanukkah :-)

But as always, as is the tradition for this blog, I'll close this out by reposting something that I originally wrote for our student newspaper at Elon in 1998. Of all the things that I've composed in almost a lifetime of published writing, this remains one of my very favorites.

So here it is again. Y'all take care and God bless :-)

Originally published in The Pendulum, Elon University, 12/03/1998

Celebrating the Christmas season means celebrating the memories
Chris Knight

     Some of the best memories that we take through life are about the times we cherish the most. And sometimes, it doesn’t take much to bring back the joy.
     Last Friday as I was driving around Greensboro, the all-time coolest Christmas song ever came over the speakers.
     Who knows what this genius recording artist’s name is? Does it really matter? Whoever he is, he’ll forever be remembered as giving us the immortal sound of “Dogs Singing Jingle Bells”:

Arf arf arf,
Arf arf arf,
Arf Arf Whoof Whoof Whuf…

     Ahh... you know how it goes.
     And there’s the ever-beuh-beuh-beauh-beautiful rendition of Porky Pig singing “Blue Christmas” and the Chipmunks and of course “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Christmas at Ground Zero,” but hearing those dogs singing “Jingle Bells...” ahhhhh.
     It brought me back to the very first time I heard that: on the radio coming back from school just before Christmas in 1982. I was in third grade at the time. And it brought back memories of the Christmas we had.
     It was cold and very cloudy. I remember that because Santa had brought me a telescope and I didn’t get to use it that night. Which wasn’t too big a worry, ‘cause me and my sister had our brand-new Atari 2600 to play with!
     Another Christmas memory: To this day, I’ll never forgive Anita for the pounding she gave me in “Combat.” I don’t care how fancy Sega or the Playstation get... they’ll never touch the 4-bit pleasures of the Atari!
     There have been many a Christmas since then, and I remember each one well, for all the little things they had with them.
     I’ll never forget Mom and Dad taking me and my sister to see Santa Claus at the mall in ‘84. That morning Dad asked if I’d come with him to cut firewood, so we rode the tractor into the woods. There had been snow earlier in the week, which lay around us in the crisp, cold morning.
     Dad also brought his 30-30 rifle, why I still don’t know. After we had the wood loaded, Dad asked if I wanted to try shootin’ the gun.
     There I was, a ten-year old kid, holding what looked like an anti-aircraft cannon in my tiny hands. Well, I aimed at this tree like Dad told me to, and pulled the trigger.
     To this day I cannot describe the colors that flashed before my eyes, or the sound in my ears. When my existence finally returned, I was flat on my back in the snow, and blood was gushing from between my eyes where the scope had hit my nose from the backfire.
     That night Santa saw the bandages and said “Ho ho hoooo, and what happened to you, little fellow?”
     “I got shot, Santa,” was the only thing I knew to say.
     Hey, was I gonna lie to the Big Man? Uh-uh, no way was I gonna lose all that loot!
     The following year’s Christmas I remember for many things, but especially feeding the young calves on our farm. It would be the last year our family would be running a dairy farm, and I had started helping with some of the work around the barn.
     Dad set up a Christmas tree in the milking room, with wrapped-up boxes beneath it.
     Tinsel hung from the front doors of the barn. And there was something about the feel of the place there, that has always held a special place in my heart, as if we knew that there would not be another Christmas like this one.
     I wish there had been another Christmas on the farm, because there’s something I wish I could have seen. And as silly as some people might find this, I really believe that it happens.
     You see, if you go out at midnight on Christmas Eve, you will see all the animals in the farmyard, and in the fields, and in the forests, and wherever else they may be, stop where they are.
     And then they kneel.
     They kneel in remembrance for another night, long ago. It was Christmas, but how many people could know it then?
     Nothing remarkable, to be sure: Caesar had decreed a census through the land, and each man went with his family to his town.
     One man in particular took his wife, a young woman quick with child. But there was no room for them at the inn. So that night, in a dirty and filthy stable and surrounded by animals, a child was born.
     You see, it’s easy for us to forget. At this time of the year, we are too overwhelmed by the consumption and the material and the glitter /and all the customs that come with Christmas.
     And it’s too easy for us to forget that Christmas is, before everything else, a birthday.
     But the animals, who watched over Him as He lay as a newborn babe, two millenia ago... the animals have not forgotten.
     And so they kneel every Christmas and give glory to the newborn king, and in awe that God would send His Son to live among us in the greatest act of love.
     And to teach us many things, but especially to “love one another”. And to bridge the gap between man and God.
     The birth of Jesus Christ: the greatest Christmas present there will ever be. His birth, which would give mankind the greatest present it could ever ask for.
     Who in the world on that night could know the price that this present would someday have?
     Heaven and Earth sang praises to His glory on that night. The animals have always remembered that night. And Heaven and Earth still praise and sing unto Him.
     And if you only take a little time out from how busy things become at this part of the year, you can hear the singing, too. And it is a great temptation to join in that chorus.
     And perhaps in hearing, we will not forget the real meaning of Christmas, either.
     This Christmas Eve night I plan to be outside, with the same telescope that I got for Christmas all those years ago, and trying to envision a bright star over Bethlehem. Around midnight, I’m going to take a walk over to my aunt’s farm.
     Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth, and goodwill toward men.

Dedicated to the memory of W.C. “Mutt” Burton, for whom Christmas was always “In My Bones.”

Chris reviews AVATAR

Last night I saw Avatar for the second time. And if you are set to watch this movie, I can't but recommend that you consider seeing it more than once also. Not because James Cameron has pushed so many pretty pixels that this really is the most visually astonishing film made to date, but also because in spite of whatever you may have heard: there is a hell of a good story in this movie.

Yeah yeah, I've heard it too. "Thundersmurfs" and "Dances with Smurfs" etc. During the climactic battle scene I turned to my friend/fellow blogger Steven Glaspie and cracked that "Rambo Smurf is destroying the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier!"

Yeah, it borrows heavily from Dances With Wolves and Last of the Mohicans and even Forrest Gump among many others. Yeah, Avatar employs every American Indian cinematic trope without once being a movie about American Indians (but for good measure it has Wes Studi as the Na'vi chief). Yeah, it could be said that Cameron is ripping off John Carter of Mars and Dune and a bunch of other classic sci-fi.

Well, once upon a time a filmmaker named George Lucas drew inspiration from The Hidden Fortress and old Flash Gordon serials and dozens of other previous material to make a little arthouse film then simply dubbed Star Wars. Nobody seems to complain about that though, aye?

The biggest complaint I'm hearing about Avatar is that it's too "political". That it's really a film about the "white man's guilt" over treatment of Native Americans. Is Avatar's story analogous to things like the Trail of Tears? Sure is. But that's not the purpose or moral of Avatar, and I really believe that without looking at this movie through the fake paradigm of conservative/liberal that there's plenty of good to chew on and debate for years to come. To me personally, Avatar has a strong Christian message to it: that one must admit that one does not "have all the answers". That one must "die unto self" before understanding and wisdom of the truth of things can possibly come. Sully (played by Sam Worthington) tells Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) that his "cup is empty" at one point. That is the real beginning of his understanding. To not have faith in his own self but to have faith in something larger than he is. I can totally dig that.

Is there an "anti-Iraq"/"anti-Bush" vibe in Avatar? Hell yes there is. But knowing now what we know do, should that even be a problem? RDA, the fictional megacorporation in Avatar that's exploiting the mineral wealth of Pandora, is a thinly-veiled take on Halliburton. The marines stationed there? Like Sully notes early in the movie, they're not really soldiers: they're mercenaries (heavy tones of Blackwater USA, which I've never liked at all). Colonel Miles Quaritch (brilliantly played by Stephen Lang) is classic vintage Cameron bad-a$$, but he's also George W. Bush... if George W. Bush had ever been man enough to step into his own warzone and get down and dirty, that is. I would love to see the Avatar treatment that Cameron wrote before 9/11 and the Iraq War (one extended scene in the movie will certainly bring back memories of the attack on the World Trade Center) and compare that to what he was finally able to bring us in 2009, just to see how real life impacted the evolution of this story. If the differences are only marginal well... that would make for a very interesting study indeed.

I have barely touched on the effects work in Avatar. Had I written this review immediately after seeing it the first time, that's what I would be gushing about. But instead I've talked about the story. Which to me means that James Cameron has succeeded with Avatar. Yah it's an overwhelming shock to see things like floating mountains and the Pandoran megafauna (and in the most convincing 3-D I've ever beheld). That's not what Avatar is about. Cameron and his crew created the most vibrant and living alien world ever depicted in fiction, but this isn't a movie concerned with eye candy. Those unprecedented visual effects have purpose: to draw us in and convince us that Pandora and its life is real... or at least as real as it could possibly be for two hours and change.

I don't know quite what else to say about Avatar. I'm still so blown away by this movie, and there are so many reviews of it already, that I wasn't sure what I could even say. But I had much the same experience after seeing The Dark Knight and it kept me from writing a review of that movie, and I'd come to regret it. I didn't want to make the same mistake with Avatar.

This is not a movie that you go see. This is a movie that you experience. Go and experience Avatar while it's in theaters. Experience it multiple times if you can.

And go in leaving your preconceptions and prejudices at the door. You owe it to yourself to see Pandora for its own sake, not how others tell you to see it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Politics and street gangs

The only difference between Democrats and Republicans fighting and urban gangs is that the Bloods 'n Crips hashing it out never costs the taxpayer billions of dollars.


Clive Thompson at Wired has written an exhaustively-researched article that should give every software developer and game publisher pause: the twelve-year development cycle that plagued Duke Nukem Forever before the plug was finally pulled on the project this past spring. The tale Thompson relates is one rife with technical obsession, corporate money and motion-captured strippers (for realz, folks). If you want the lowdown on the biggest gaming fiasco since Ion Storm and perhaps of all time, here it is!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Yah I finally saw AVATAR today

And it was in digital 3-D too, which if at all possible is very sincerely the best way to watch this movie.

As for what I thought of Avatar...

...I can't remember the last movie that left me feeling so many shades of conflicted.

I'm going to see it again tomorrow night with friend and fellow blogger Steven Glaspie. Between now and then I'm thinking enough of it will "sink in" and maybe I can absorb the story as much as I've already beheld the astonishing visual effects (easily the best I have ever seen in a film). I'll attempt a real review afterward.

But for now: yeah, it's good. It's very good. But not without some issues.

AGAIN?! Looks like I'll be fighting Comcast now...

So I got back from a delightful day of various and sundry stuff (including finally seeing Avatar, review or something coming soon) and I started catching up on an inordinate amount of stuff that had piled up in my absence.

Well, there were two e-mails from YouTube in the e-mail account I use for KWerky Productions. And both of them said that the clip I had posted two years ago of E!'s The Soup had been yanked for "copyright infringement".

It's an exact repeat of the situation with Viacom in the summer of 2007.


You know, the first time this happened, I had to laugh. Couldn't help but giggle at the absurdity of it all. I mean, that was about, what... one minute of a television program and most of it consisting of MATERIAL THAT I HAD CREATED FOR MY SCHOOL BOARD CAMPAIGN!!

It was no different than quoting from a news article. But Viacom jumped flunky about it and had that pulled. I fought, it got reinstated (with more than a little help from the Electronic Frontier Foundation) and I thought that whole thing ended amiably enough.

This time however, I'm more than a little pissed-off.

But this is what it's like under the conditions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, dear readers. As things with the law stand now, ANYONE can have ANY material removed from YouTube or any other hosting service, for the most dubious of reasons... and without YouTube even being obligated to check the veracity of such a claim.

One of these days a political candidate who's campaign has been posting clips on YouTube like crazy is going to find all of his or her videos deleted by order of their opponent. And YouTube will be unable to stop it. The videos can be reinstated 'course, but that first video took me two weeks (and a lot of publicity) to be restored. And that's an eternity in politics, and many other things.

So guess I have no choice. Gonna have to fight all over again. But this time I'm gonna do my damndest to make something out of this that Lord willing will make it a lot harder for this crap to happen to anyone again.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dude mounts rocket launchers onto his motorcycle

This guy has apparently watched Megaforce too many times for his own good...

As cool as that looks, I can't help but think that a bike-mounted minigun like the one at the end of the Machete faux trailer would be much more useful/intimidating.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Congrats to my cousin Lauryn for graduating college!

My cousin Lauryn got her college sheepskin today! Always cause for celebration when one of our clan gets a higher education :-)

(That, and because the last time I posted her photo and said that all the women in my family are this beautiful, I literally got over a dozen e-mails asking if Lauryn was taken and if not "where does she live please!?" So I'm curious as to what will happen when I post her photo again and say that she's not currently! But I'm also screening inquiries with common sense and if that fails, a sawed-off shotgun.)

Seriously though: congratulations Lauryn :-)

7 historical figures who were absurdly hard to kill

They were seven of the most famous (and notorious) men in history. And not one of them went gently into that good night. As a matter of fact, they all had some of the most hardcore awesome deaths ever recorded. Like Blackbeard (shown at right in his final battle). By the way, here in the Tarheel State there's a longstanding legend that Blackbeard's skull has been gilded in silver and turned into a goblet for use during initiation rituals at one of the UNC Chapel Hill frats. But anyway...

Cracked.com has documented seven historical figures who were absurdly hard to kill. If you don't mind a bit of profanity lacing the chronicles, it's quite a good read.

(Thanks again to Shane Thacker for a great find!)

First snow of the season has finished falling

There was about 5 or 6 inches of the white stuff here at my place in Reidsville, North Carolina. To the very best of my recollection this is the biggest snowfall this early in the season in any recent memory. I mean, hey it's still autumn, at least for another day or so anyway.

Meanwhile the computer models are still calling for more snow come later this coming week. Like, around December 24th or so.

If that happens, it'll be the third White Christmas of my life. The last one was 1999 (and the one before that was 1998).

Friday, December 18, 2009

About 3 inches of snow so far...

...and it's not a fit night to be out and about if you can help it.

So I'm stayin' in, cooking pizza and watching some good movies for a snowbound evening.

I'm thinking The Shining, Misery, and The Thing :-P

The most horrific news story I have read all year

A Campbell County, Virginia woman gave birth and smothered her newborn child to death. But she won't face murder charges because the umbilical cord was not yet cut so legally it's not murder but abortion.

Officials say that the loophole in the law keeps them from pursuing charges.

God help us.

Read the story here at WSLS if you have the heart for it.

Jack Bauer interrogates Santa Claus

I'm not much of a 24 fan, but this is darned funny!

Rebel Christmas Card gets the credit for this hilarious mashup.

Chuck Baldwin sez: Rage against federal government ain't good enough

Chuck Baldwin - the man who I voted for President in the 2008 election (and not Obama or McCain, nyah nyah nyah nyah nyaaaaaahhh) - has published an EXCELLENT op-ed piece on his website about why the anger of many Americans toward Washington is wildly misplaced. Baldwin recommends instead re-focusing our energies on the states, and reasserting our Tenth Amendment rights.

Here's a hearty morsel of Rev. Baldwin's fine essay...

You see, the wizards in Washington and on Wall Street have us figured out. Along with their compatriots in the propaganda press corps, they know that no matter how loudly we scream, how much we protest, or how angry we become, the system is rigged to protect them. The best we the people can seem to come up with is "throwing the bums out" every two or four years. BUT NOTHING CHANGES--at least, not in terms of restoring the fundamental principles of freedom and constitutional government.

Throw out George H.W. Bush in 1992, and nothing changes. Throw the Democrats out of Congress in 1994, and nothing changes. Throw Bill Clinton's party out of the White House in 2000, and nothing changes. Throw out G.W. Bush's Republicans in 2008, and nothing changes. The only thing that happens with a changing of the guard is an escalation in the pace of whatever version of socialism--or Big Government program--is currently in vogue. With Bush it meant expanding the Warfare State. With Obama it means expanding the Welfare State. But both do everything they can to expand Big Government.

When will we awaken to the reality that Washington, D.C., has had the American people chasing their tails for decades? People, wake up! As long as we continue to focus our attention and energy on Washington, D.C., we will only continue to supply more rope to those who wish to hang us.

Washington, D.C., is too far gone to salvage. Admit it! Washington is a cesspool, a landfill, and a putrid pond of corruption and duplicity. Neither the Republican nor Democratic Party will ever allow a principled constitutionalist to become its Presidential nominee. No matter whom we elect as President, the beat toward Big-Government socialism and one-world internationalism will go on without interruption. Big Government scalawags own the entire federal system, including Big Media, Big Business, Big Labor, Big Religion, and Big Special Interest Groups. They are all feeding at the government teat.

Therefore, it is absolutely obligatory that freedom-minded Americans refocus their attention to electing State legislators, governors, judges and sheriffs who will fearlessly defend their God-given liberties. And, as plainly and emphatically as I know how to say it, I am telling you: ONLY THE STATES CAN DEFEND OUR LIBERTY NOW! And awakening to this reality means we will have to completely readjust our thinking and priorities.

It means awakening to the fact that Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly (and the rest of Big Media's talking heads) are, for the most part, irrelevant to providing real solutions to the continuing loss of liberty. And, in truth, they are, more often than not, part of the problem, because they continue to focus our attention on Washington, D.C., and off the source of genuine solution, which lies with the states drawing a constitutional line in the sand for freedom. Good grief! Beck and O'Reilly have recently even advocated for higher federal taxes! Yeah! That's a real solution: more power and money to Washington, D.C. Ughhh!

Instead of getting all worked up about what Glenn Beck says or what Sarah Palin says or what CFR member and Big Government neocon Newt Gingrich says, start paying attention to what your State legislators and candidates are saying.

If anyone cares to know why I've never jumped on the Sarah Palin bandwagon (or why to this date I've yet to listen to a minute of Glenn Beck on the radio and I don't even know what the hell his voice sounds like anyway) well, Baldwin articulates much of my own personal sentiment here.

Mash down here for the rest.

It's snowing

Just started. Let's see how much we get!

Best man rigs newlywed friend's bed to Twitter during sex

Yeah it's a slow news day apparently.

Read the wonderfully lurid technical details about the prank here.

And if you are interested in this kind of... stuff... click here to follow the Twitter feed straight from the newlyweds' bed.

Dan O'Bannon, writer of ALIEN and TOTAL RECALL and creator of the Death Star plans, has passed away

Dan O'Bannon stands as one of the most influential minds of the modern era of filmmaking. His script for Dark Star helped launch John Carpenter's career. A few years later O'Bannon did animation work on what was then simply titled Star Wars. Remember General Dodonna's PowerPoint presentation on how to hit the Death Star's exhaust port? You can credit Dan O'Bannon for that.

But not long after that O'Bannon turned in a screenplay for a Ridley Scott-directed project called Alien. That would have been more than enough to have Dan O'Bannon's name emblazoned forevermor into movie legend.

He didn't stop there. Some years later O'Bannon wrote the script for Total Recall: another masterpiece of science fiction. Word is he was still working on a number of other screenplays.

And now the sad news has come out of Los Angeles that Dan O'Bannon has passed away at the age of 63.

Thoughts and prayers going out to his family this morning.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

12 inches of snow tomorrow? White Christmas too?!

That's what the meteorologisticians are predicting. Cold air plus a system pumping a lot of moisture up from the Gulf of Mexico. That usually means beaucoups of snow in this part of the country.

And we stand a good chance of snow on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well.

The bad news is that it puts a crimp in plans to see Avatar tomorrow. But if worse comes to worst I suppose I can always download it :-P

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Scientists crack entire genome of skin and lung cancer

Researchers working around the globe as part of the International Cancer Genome Consortium have announced that the entire genetic code for skin and lung cancer has been "decrypted".

The scientists have discovered more than 30,000 transcription errors in genetic replication that give rise to melanoma (and almost all of these are triggered from too much sunlight).

And if you're a smoker, think about this the next time you light up: you typically acquire one fresh new mutation for every 15 cigarettes that you smoke. Not all of these are malign, but there are more than 23,000 genetic errors and some of them will lead to lung cancer.

That's about, what... 1.25 mutations per pack of cigarettes, on the conservative side of the figures?

Yul Brynner was smoking five packs a day. This is what he had to say about it, in a 1985 television spot intentionally airing after he died...

The International Cancer Genome Consortium researchers are hailing their findings as a tremendous breakthrough in the fight against cancer. That it certainly is.

But folks, let's not pin too much hope on research. Take care of yourself so that you don't have to likely appreciate the fruits of future medicine.

Damn the gods! New CLASH OF THE TITANS trailer unleashes the Kraken on your eyeballs

In general, I loathe remakes of original films. It takes a lot for a revamped movie to impress me.

But I am getting pretty darned close to sold on Clash of the Titans, if this new trailer is indication of what we'll see in theaters on March 26th a few months from now...

Mash down here for the Clash of the Titans trailer in full beautiful Quicktime!

First trailer for IRON MAN 2 flies onto the Intertubes!

You can wait for it to show up on YouTube, or...

...you can watch it in Quicktime right now!

(Go for the Quicktime, it's better.)

Gotta wonder if Steve Jobs is looking at this and secretly wanting to make such an entrance at an Apple event :-P

Iron Man 2 comes out on May 7th, 2010.

Newly discovered "super Earth" has water, atmosphere

Exciting news on the astronomy front: the most Earth-like planet yet outside our solar system has been discovered. The world, which thus far is known only by its official nomenclature GJ 1214b, is 40 light years away (practically in our backyard, cosmically speaking 'course). It's six times the mass of our Earth and according to analysis is literally swimming in liquid water. It orbits a red star, kinda making it "Krypton meets Waterworld". But it ain't quite the habitable sorta world that astronomers are looking for: the temperatures on this planet are around 400 degrees Fahrenheit and the air pressure is much higher than we're used to on Earth.

Maybe we should name it "Saunaworld"? :-P

Roy Disney has passed away

The sad news coming down this afternoon that Roy Disney, nephew of Walt Disney and longtime upholder of the family legacy, has died at the age of 79 following a battle with stomach cancer.

Few will argue that Disney as an entertainment brand would not be anything like the powerhouse it is today were it not for Roy Disney fighting behind the scenes: both to foster creative drive and in the corporate boardroom. His history with Michael Eisner - the man who Roy Disney first brought in as chief executive officer before being ousted in a stockholder coup led by Disney - is the stuff of business legend.

I don't know if there's any comfort in saying this, but I'm glad that Roy Disney lived long enough to see his uncle's company return to traditional animation before he passed. I haven't seen The Princess and the Frog yet but that Disney's 2-D department has been revitalized is a huge victory for Roy Disney.

Thoughts and prayers going out to his family. And Los Angeles Times has a fascinating article about his career.

Not a good gift idea

I don't understand why anybody would want a hippopotamus for Christmas.

Look people: Those things are DANGEROUS!! They cause more human deaths on the African continent than any other animal.

And they cost a fortune to feed, too..

The Battle of the Bulge began 65 years ago today

It was on this date in 1944 that Adolf Hitler launched Nazi Germany's final major offensive of World War II. In an act of desperation, Hitler went for broke and threw in just about all of his reserves for one big operation, in the hope that he could stave off the Allies' occupation of western Europe.

The Germans called it "Operation: Watch on the Rhine". Among the Allies it was officially referred to as the "Ardennes-Alsace Campaign". For General Anthony McAuliffe of the 101st Airborne it was simply "Nuts!"

But you and I know it better as the Battle of the Bulge.

It was perhaps the hardest-fought battle of the European theater. It would have been that even without the snow and ice and freezing temperatures that the Allies (mostly American but several British as well) were forced to endure.

But in the end, more than a month later, the Nazis were in retreat. The Allies had prevailed... and the western front was poised to arrive right at Berlin's front door.

For those who fought - and especially for those who fought and never came back - from this most pivotal moment of World War II, this blogger tips his hat in gratitude.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Swiss scientist on trial for causing earthquakes

Markus Haering appeared in court in Basel, Switzerland today. The charge leveled against him: that his company's activities caused earthquakes, one of which measured 3.4 Richter magnitude. Haering's firm is researching geothermal-generated electricity. Well, according to court documents his company's deep-drilling in 2006 triggered the quakes. There were no injuries but $9 million in damages were reported. If the judge finds him guilty of intentionally damaging property, Haering faces five years jail for making the earthquakes happen...

...which is gonna be a heckuva retort when he gets asked "So what are you in for buddy?"

(Seriously though, sounds like it's gonna be an easy charge to beat. Lex Luthor might have been put behind bars for doing something like this but not Markus Haering. Dude doesn't even have a nuclear weapon, fer pete's sake...)

The photography of Jessica Nicole Reed

Good friend (and fellow Theatre Guild volunteer) Jessica Nicole Reed is blessed with both a great eye and strong passion when it comes to photography. So it was only fitting that she would take her gifts out into the larger world. Click here to visit the Jessica Nicole Photography website and if you're interested in buying prints of her work (like this breathtaking shot of the Golden Gate Bridge) Jessica has a shop up at Etsy.com too!

Yet another cartoon from the wonderfully twisted mind of Dave Lowe!

As always, you can enjoy more of Dave's hilarious work at his web comic Para Abnormal!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Late Monday evening musing (am I doing too much thinking?)

Disillusionment is very often the father of discernment.

Is LucasArts out of touch with its fanbase?

That's what Scott Kelly is wondering on his blog. What precipitates the question is the "big reveal" that happened of the next Star Wars game during this past weekend's Spike TV Video Game Awards 2009 show: a sequel to last year's Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

As Scott puts it...

If we needed any confirmation that LucasArts was undoubtedly out of touch with their fanbase, the announcement of the newest LucasArts game, creatively titled “The Force Unleashed II”, has unfortunately given us the signal.

I could talk about how making a sequel to “The Force Unleashed” doesn’t make sense, in a narrative sense, since (SPOILER AHEAD) Galen Marek dies at the end. I could discuss how this violates the whole “no body/no death” trope. I could bring up the fact that most fans complimented the game not on the gameplay, but on the actual story told.

But I won’t. Looking across the internet, you can find people discussing just that.

Now is the time to come to terms with LucasArts’ cowardice in making new, creative Star Wars games. Yes, you read it right: cowardice. With this cowardice, you’ll only see fans getting tired of the same old games that you’ll come to expect from LucasArts.

I have to agree with Scott. Star Wars should be one of the most dynamic and exciting franchises in history, but LucasArts has been loathe to take risks with it and as a result Star Wars video gaming has become... dare I say it?... exceedingly stagnant. That's what happens when you keep "playing it safe" with your most prized vehicle. George Lucas and his companies should be letting it tear up the highway, not making it sit in a garage out of fear of a few dings and scratches. Because in the end it's the little quirks like that which add character to a franchise. Paramount finally understood that when it let J.J. Abrams direct Star Trek and there's no reason why it can't work for LucasArts too.

Scott suggests new installments of the X-Wing and TIE Fighter series. I would love to see that. But I think LucasArts should stop being afraid to plow some new ground too. We've just had Death Troopers, the first Star Wars horror novel: something like that would make for a hella game in the mold of BioShock or Alien vs. Predator. There may not be any more Star Wars movies forthcoming, but video gaming can certainly keep Star Wars fresh and vibrant by going into sub-genres that have never been considered.

The Muppets do "The Ringing of the Bells"

Here's the latest from Muppets Studio: the Swedish Chef, Beaker and Animal doing the classic Christmas tune "The Ringing of the Bells"!

Gosh I'm loving these new Muppets shorts! I've probably watched the "Bohemian Rhapsody" video about a hunnerd times so far (along with a few million other people :-)

Very awesome pseudo-3D effect using CSS and HTML

Visual artist Román Cortés has taken the classic painting Las Meninas and, using only standard HTML and CSS (no Flash or Javascript at all), has created an INCREDIBLY amazing 3D effect. Click on the link to check it out!

(And thanks to Shane Thacker for the great find!)

Thirtieth anniversary of Steven Spielberg's loudest movie

It was on December 14th, 1979 - thirty years ago today - that the mostest highest-decibel movie ever directed by Steven Spielberg was released.

I am, of course, referring to 1941.

With a crazy eclectic cast featuring John Belushi, Christopher Lee, Slim Pickens, John Candy and Dan Ackroyd among many others and backed up by a rousing score by John Williams, 1941 pokes fun at the very real paranoia that beset the West Coast in the days and weeks following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. At the time 1941 confused and bewildered critics (who weren't sure if it was supposed to have been a drama or a comedy) but three decades later, it is now considered a cult classic. 1941 is a screaming movie. The filming was so loud that Spielberg had to fire a prop machine gun into the air rather than yelling "cut" because otherwise the actors couldn't hear him.

A rather peculiar movie that has only gotten better with age, 1941 is great for an evening's worth of laughs. Check it out if you haven't already... and make sure the volume of your home entertainment system is cranked way up!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's the Singing Dogs... yes THOSE Singing Dogs!

Ever wonder what the Singing Dogs of the "Dogs singing 'Jingle Bells'" look like?

Here they are!

The "Jingle Bells" cover is attributed most to Pearl (center of top row) although Caesar, King, Dolly and Pussy also turned in solid renditions of "Pat-A-Cake", "O Susanna" and "Three Blind Mice".

Want to know the real history of "Dogs Singing 'Jingle Bells'"? Click here for the story of the Caroling Dogs of Copenhagen.

Full circle

All of this has happened before and all of this will happen again.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

HyperMind is doing some charity events this holiday season!

I was at HyperMind in Burlington a few nights ago, my now-familiar haunt on many Thursday evenings (and a few other times during the week) and I got my butt handed to me twice during a coupl'a rousing games of Monsterpocalypse and... ahhh THAT'S BESIDE THE POINT!! :-P

Anyway, this very fine friendly local game store that I have written about much in the past year is doing some groovy charity events this month for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots and Loaves & Fishes Christian Food Ministry! This weekend there's a YuGiOh Tournament and next weekend it's a Magic: The Gathering tourney. The buy-in is to bring items of non-perishable food and while you're there you can donate to the Toys for Tots box.

HyperMind is at 3396 S. Church Street in Burlington, North Carolina. Their phone number is 336-584-1760 and you can find plenty more information on the store's website at hypermindonline.com. Bring some food and toys and yer playin' cards and get ready to have fun for a good cause!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Awright, just 'cuz I'm bored tonight...

...here is "Raging Rudolph", that classic short from MADtv back in 1995 or so.

I wish they would make this into a real Christmas special!

It's Friday again

What are you doing reading this blog? It's the weekend. Go out and play.

Maybe more to post this weekend but in the meantime I got nothin' and for once I like it! :-P

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Something about "health care reform" that isn't asked enough...

Why should we believe that the representatives and senators who are most pushing "health care reform" are going to want to have the same government health care that the rest of us are going to be forced to endure?

Y'all seen this Norwegian spiral thingy yet?

Early yesterday morning the above... whatever... appeared in the sky over Norway (Click here for plenty more photos). It's been captured on video and still photography all over that country. Speculation has run the gamut from an off-kilter display of the Northern Lights, to little green men. Bad Astronomy might be onto the real culprit: a Russian rocket that was test-launched Wednesday and went awry, spewing its fuel into the atmosphere. A more mundane explanation, but still makes for a pretty awe-inspiring show.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


First, here's something that I had the idea for while reading this book...

It could prolly also be said that Darth Bane is the galactic poster child for anyone who ever chose to read a book instead of going outside and playing football with the rest of the kids. 'Course, Bane still worked out like crazy later on so that he'd have the physique and prowess to match, but anyhoo...

Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil by Drew Karpyshyn came out yesterday. This newest Star Wars novel is the final chapter of an impromptu trilogy that began three years ago with Darth Bane: Path of Destruction. The unexpected success of that novel led to Karpyshyn getting tapped to write Darth Bane: Rule of Two, released a year later.

It's good to keep these things in mind while talking about Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil because for a trilogy of books that may not have even been planned to begin with, this wound up being one of the most satisfying and thrilling arcs of storytelling that I've ever read from that great saga of a galaxy far, far away. And I'll reiterate something that I suggested in my review of Darth Bane: Path of Destruction three years ago: that the story of Darth Bane is one that I would absolutely love to see realized in a visual medium someday (and I'm still hearing Clancy Brown's voice coming out of Bane's mouth). For someone who started out as pretty much nothing more than a throwaway reference in the background story of the Star Wars saga, Darth Bane has certainly become one of the most intriguing and popular characters from the mythology.

If this was all planned out, Drew Karpyshyn deserves to be recognized as among the top tier of Star Wars authors today. If it wasn't, then all the more reason why Karpyshyn should be so ensconced. His Darth Bane trilogy should be required study for any future author that might have the chance to write Star Wars.

Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil begins ten years after the events of Darth Bane: Rule of Two. Darth Bane and his apprentice Darth Zannah are still continuing the Sith order through the Rule of Two instituted by Bane: that there must always be only two Sith at a time. Master and apprentice. One to have the power and the other to covet it. Bane has been training Zannah since the day he found her on the battlefield of Ruusan.

And Bane has been doing so knowing fully well... accepting it as inevitable even... that the day must come when Zannah must face him and destroy him. Such is the only way that Zannah can earn the title of Sith Master. But as the years slip by, Zannah has not taken the step of challenging her master. And Bane is beginning to feel the ravages of time and age. That he is still recovering from the orbalisks that once covered his body isn't helping him either...

Fearing that Zannah might not be strong enough to carry on the Sith lineage and knowing that he won't live long enough to adequately train another apprentice, Darth Bane begins seeking out hidden and forgotten Sith lore. His search brings him to the story of Darth Andeddu: an ancient Sith who legends speak of discovering the means of immortality. Bane begins seeking out Andeddu's lair, believing that if he can find the means of staving off death for long enough, he can do away with Zannah and replace her with a more fitting apprentice.

Meanwhile, a labor dispute on the world of Doan has spiraled into something darker when a Jedi sent to mediate between miners and the ruling families ends in the death of the envoy. Serra, the newly-widowed wife of the king's son, leaves for Coruscant on a diplomatic mission of reconciliation with the Jedi Order. It is at the Jedi Temple that Serra discovers a very terrible thing: that for all the boasting of the Jedi, the Sith are not extinct. There is still one out there: the Sith Lord that killed Serra's father many years earlier.

Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil is a little less than 300 pages in length. The second half flies past with the blur of a lightsaber, and Karpyshyn deftly ties up all of the loose ends that we had known were there, as well as tidying up things that we perhaps didn't realize were still there to begin with. In short: it felt every bit like a classic Star Wars tale.

And when Darth Bane and Darth Zannah meet for their final confrontation, Karpyshyn does not disappoint. We've known for the longest time how the Sith of the Rule of Two (the same Sith order that will a thousand years later produce Darth Sidious and Darth Vader) propagates: with the master intentionally training the apprentice to one day rise up to destroy him. This is the first time that we get to see how that happens. I think that Karpyshyn might have inadvertently created a whole new sub-genre of Star Wars storytelling with how masterfully he pulled off his Darth Bane trilogy and its final installment. We've got Jedi stories up to our armpits. With the arrival of Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil, the Sith have satisfied us yet fittingly tantalize us with the promise of more.

If you've read the first two Darth Bane novels, then plunking down coin for Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil is a foregone conclusion. If you haven't already, then start with Darth Bane: Path of Destruction and prepare for a Dark Side treat from the days of the Old Republic. This is Star Wars tale-tellin' at its finest, and I hope that Lucasfilm will give Drew Karpyshyn plenty more opportunity to play with the saga in years to come!

Transportation Security Administration's secret screening manual is secret no longer

Transportation Security Administration is a colossal farce of an agency. It's bureaucracy so bad it makes bad bureaucracy seem good in comparison. The TSA is a grand example of what I and many others prefer to call "security theatre": something that the government does to make it look like it's actively trying to stop "the terrists" from blowing up planes and such... but in reality is just trickery intended to fool the rubes.

Well, the TSA has somehow goofed and posted its "top secret" manual for screening airline passengers online. And the TSA apparently believed that covering sensitive up with black rectangles in an Adobe Acrobat file would be enough to hide confidential information... without realizing how easy it is to just remove the layers with the rectangles!

Want to read it for yourself? Here's the zipped-up archive containing the TSA screening manual!

Between this and the leaked e-mails from University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, it is a great time to be a believer in limited government :-)

TRON LEGACY has a new poster!

"The game has changed"...

Tron Legacy takes us back the game grid on December 17th, 2010.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

My hopes in the Gears of War movie are shooting upward

This might be turning into the smartest film adaptation of a video game yet. According to its producer Wyck Godfrey, the upcoming Gears of War movie will not focus on the game series' signature shootin' action, but instead will be an "origin story" of the war between the humans of Sera and the Locust Horde (which would place it 14 years before the time of the first game)...
"The hard part is how to make it into something that doesn't feel like a world torn asunder and people just in battle," he described. "I think we really want to focus on the idea of a world that's running well, and then it's Emergence Day and kind of make it impactful and immediate and the survival of those 48 hours as people survive Emergence Day. It's more like Cloverfield or something like that."
Not just a "let's make a movie of an insanely popular video game 'cuz we can dammit!" then, but apparently this is going to be a thoughtful and well-considered chapter of the Gears of War canon as much as any of the games or books. Hey, with two-some hours of running time, we're potentially looking at the tail end of the Pendulum Wars, a really good look at Sera (maybe even how the humans came to be there in the first place) and then the horror of Emergence Day and its aftermath.

Sounds like full of win to me. Maybe Gears of War will be the movie that finally bucks the trend of video games-to-lackluster movies.

Something that too many Christians choose to remain ignorant of...

It is of no use to appeal to God if there is first appeal to power.

LOST Season 6 promo with Willie Nelson singing "Amazing Grace"

Even without a single image from Season 6 (that I can tell anyway), this is the most haunting and foreboding promo for Lost that I've ever seen.

Here it is, featuring Willie Nelson's rendition of "Amazing Grace"...

The final season of Lost begins on February 2nd, 2010.

Monday, December 07, 2009

There are 17 days 'til Christmas

I'm going to misbehave as much as I can until then in hopes that Santa will put a lump of coal in my stocking. Hey, we're in a recession and I gotta keep the house warm...

U.S. military developing zombie pigs

Those mad scientists at DARPA (who previously brought us such curiosities as the Internet) are now actively engaged in research to produce semi-undead swine.

Yeah you read that right: the Pentagon is working on zombie pigs now.

Before you reach for the nearest shotgun or chainsaw though, you should know that there's some practical applications being sought from this. The problem is severe injuries of military personnel in combat situations: massive blood loss from wounds that without immediate (and often nearly impossible) treatment leads to death or debilitating lifelong trauma that may stand a chance of being averted. So the eggheads at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) are experimenting to see if a state of hibernation can be achieved in pigs, similar to squirrels and other mammals. If it can be made to work in pigs, humans could be the next step. Artificially slowing down brain and heart functions long enough to get an injured soldier to proper treatment could save many more lives from the battlefield.

'Course, another idea to drastically lower the number of combat deaths and injuries is to stop waging wars with no damn purpose or definite goal! But, that's just me...

Had enough of Johnny Robertson? Not enough apparently...

This blog hasn't had much to report on local cult leader/pathological liar/convicted felon/public menace Johnny Robertson lately. Been almost a month since I posted anything new.

This next item though is sufficiently wacky enough that it screams to be talked about.

Some people have been writing to let me know that Johnny Robertson and all of his followers (those being James Oldfield, Micah Robertson "The Lesser" and Mark McMinnis) have been conspicuously absent from the airwaves of local television station WGSR in recent weeks. Instead What Does the Bible Say? and A Word from the Lord (AKA "The Martinsville Taliban Show" and "A Word from James Oldfield") have been in reruns, one of which was Oldfield's two-hour spiel about why it's a sin to place money in the Salvation Army kettles. That particular screed prompted one person known to this writer to make a fifty dollar contribution to the Salvation Army on behalf of James Oldfield, but I digress...

So, wanna know where Johnny Robertson and his crew are?

Siddown. Y'all ain't gonna buh-leeeeve this one.

Robertson and his cronies are currently on a madcap dash around the country visiting the few other gatherings of their "Church of Christ" cult (which again, has nothing at all to do with the mainstream Churches of Christ) in a bid to raise money for more airtime on WGSR.

But wait: it gets better...

Currently, the "Church of Christ" cult broadcasts for four and a half hours each week on WGSR out of Martinsville, Virginia and Reidsville, North Carolina.

Johnny Robertson has decided that this isn't enough "information" (which approximately consists of 50% bragging about himself, 40% harassing other people and churches and 10% sloppy PowerPoint presentations and 0% about Jesus Christ).

So now he is attempting to raise funds to purchase TWENTY-FOUR HOURS OF AIRTIME PER WEEK!

That is about 3 and a half hours per day that Robertson and his co-villains will be attempting to fill with god-knows-what (not God that is, but the god of this world that Robertson and his cronies serve and commit evil for).

Wouldn't surprise me if Robertson ordered what few followers he still has to ramp up their attacks and intimidation tactics of innocent people and church congregations around here. Maybe even going as far as harassing Greensboro, Burlington and Winston-Salem since Robertson is apparently goading WGSR general manager/personal stooge Charles Roark toward expanding into those markets...

...But that also means that this blog will be expecting a lot more traffic in the near future as people start Goggle-ing about Johnny Robertson, "Martinsville Church of Christ" and the like as more begin to discover the brazenly unethical behavior coming out of WGSR and its current management.

Twenty-four hours per week? I don't know of any politician who's that conceited...

Pearl Harbor mystery solved: Japanese mini-sub discovered

It was sixty-eight years ago today that Pearl Harbor in Hawaii came under attack from the military forces of the Empire of Japan, propelling the United States into World War II. And we've known for awhile now that among those forces were a fleet of "mini submarines": five midget submersibles that were to enter the harbor and attempt to sink American battleships. However four of them ran aground or were destroyed before the attack and wound up playing no part in it at all.

But what of the fifth Japanese mini-sub?

There's been evidence for decades - particularly an intercepted radio transmission from the day after the ambush reporting on the success of the mini-sub - but no hard proof of the role it might have played. Historians have debated it for years.

But today history has one less mystery. The scuttled remains of the fifth Japanese mini-sub have been found three miles south of Pearl Harbor, its 800-pound torpedoes emptied and likely fired at the battleships West Virginia and Oklahoma and perhaps causing enough damage for the latter to capsize in in one of the most iconic destructive acts of the raid.

Amazing, isn't it? That even today, there are still things we don't know about World War II that every so often finally come to light.

Even as we remember those who fought and served and even perished in this most terrible of conflicts, let us pray that there may never again be such an occasion for enigma.

Back to regular blogging

Wow. I'd actually forgotten what this was like...

Can't help but feel like this day won't be complete without lugging a fireman's oxygen pack around though :-P

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Classic SESAME STREET: Ernie "helps" Bert give Baby Brad a bath

One of my fellow cast members of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever - namely Eric Smith, who portrayed Reverend Hopkins - told me during the show's run this past week that he loves it when I post vintage Sesame Street sketches and whatnot on this blog.

So Eric, this one's going out to you especially :-)

This is one of the few appearances of Bert's adorable baby nephew Brad, who is staying with his uncle and about to get a bath. Of course, Ernie has to show up and... well, be Ernie.

The results? Hilarity!


Eight shows in four days.


This was my third productions with Theatre Guild of Rockingham County and I can see how it's true, that each show has its own vibe, dynamic, spirit, whatever that the cast and crew imbue it with. This one... was certainly unique in that right, but there was also something else at work that I'm at a loss to find words for. Our final show this afternoon once again played to a sold-out house and no doubt as with the rest, there were more than a few people in the audience that were brought to tears as much as they were laughing out loud.

Darn. I'm gonna miss doing this. Yeah, even the fireman's gear and heavy oxygen pack that I wore while running up the aisle and onto the stage :-)

But this might not be quite as final as we are usually conditioned to believe. There are whispers... whispers mind ya... that The Best Christmas Pageant Ever could be in production again and sooner rather than later. If that happens, I would gladly don the firefighter getup again... if only just to once again bellow out "HEEEELLLPPP!!!" at the top of my lungs :-)

To everyone who came and enjoyed our show: Thank you for your patronage! We are glad you got to see it :-)

And to everyone that I have worked with during the past seven weeks: I thank God for the opportunity to have collaborated with good friends once again, and to have met and made many new friendships along the way as well. Looking forward to doing another show with y'all ;-)

Just one more performance of THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER left

Can you tell how wrapped-up I've gotten in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever that I've barely been able to blog during the past few days? We did two performances yesterday. Had good friends come to see both of them (thanks y'all!). And in light of what happened during opening night, some of us wondered if we might have invoked the curse of "the Scottish play" during a discussion we were having about it with the younger kids in the dressing room that evening. So just to be on the safe side (and also 'cuz I thought it would be fun to be able to say that I've actually done it) I performed the "counter-curse" before the 2:30 p.m. show yesterday: walking around the building containing the stage three times, then spitting over my left shoulder and muttering a profanity. Did it work? No way to be sure, but everyone is in agreement that both shows yesterday were terrific!

And now we do it for the final time of this production his afternoon at 2:30. Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's website has all the info you need about the show. Hope to see you there :-)

Saturday, December 05, 2009


Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever packed the entire house for its first public performance: not an empty seat in the place and they even had to bring in some more chairs for the extra-sized audience!

The show was great! The kids in the cast are especially doing a phenomenal job. The one thing close to an Opening Night calamity though happened to Yours Truly, when I was leaving the stage after the fire scene and tripped on the risers in the dark... while wearing all that firefighter outfit and oxygen pack, mind ya. I didn't "fall off stage". I actually "fell onto off-stage", LOL!

The upshot is that I have a slightly sprained ankle. And I've still gotta run up that aisle with the heaviest costume in the show three more times. There is no understudy in community theater. But hey: The pain is temporary, the play is forever! :-)

Next show is this afternoon at 2:30 and then again tonight at 7:30 p.m., with one more tomorrow at 2:30. Performances are at Rockingham Community College Advanced Technologies Building Auditorium. Visit the Theatre Guild's website for ticket pre-ordering and other information.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Man in Taiwan "beats" WORLD OF WARCRAFT

A World of Warcraft player in Taiwan calling himself "Little Gray" has become the first person in the game's history to acquire all 986 achievements that are currently in the game. He has effectively "won" at World of Warcraft.

Click here for many inevitable jokes on Slashdot about this hard-earned... victory?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

How community theater can help YOU lose 15 pounds in 5 days!

So tonight we had the fourth performance of Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. That was four performances we did on this first day of the show (mostly for elementary students). We don't take to the stage again until tomorrow night at 7:30.

A lot of people in the cast and crew have mentioned that in the past few days, that I might have lost weight. So after getting home I got on the scales.

Since dress rehearsals began Monday night, I've lost fifteen pounds. All from wearing the full firefighter gear and carrying the oxygen pack around.

Wondering how much of that might be water, 'cuz inside that thing, under the lights, you can't help but sweat like a pig. I've said it before but it merits saying again: I now have a whole new appreciation for firefighters, after experiencing just this very small bit of activity they go through regularly.

Four more shows to go before the end of the weekend! And call me crazy but... I'm beginning to think about going into firefighting now. Hey, who says I couldn't ride a ladder and do filmmaking on the side too? :-)

The first three performances of THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER are already notched on our belts!


Cast and crew was in the auditorium at 7:30 this morning. The first show was at 9 playing to a packed house of elementary students. Then we did it again at 10:30. And again at noon!

Looks like we've got a hit on our hands: the kids loved the show! Many of them said they'd be coming back and bringing their parents (which is always good :-)

So we've got three shows down, five more to go. The next one is a closed performance tonight and then it opens to the public tomorrow evening at 7:30. Visit the website for Theatre Guild of Rockingham County for ticket information and directions to Rockingham Community College.

And now... I'm going to take a nap before showtime! :-P

A "Zhu Zhu Pet"? What's THAT?!?

Back in my day we had nothing but Wacky Wall Walkers... and we liked it, dang-nabbit!!

Up early, prepping for four performances of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever today (three this morning and afternoon for the county's elementary students, and a closed performance tonight). Then four more across the weekend.

And there's a chance of wintery weather for Saturday. As if the kids in the cast weren't excited enough already... :-P

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Late Wednesday night theological thinkin'...

It is the living in Christ and not the preaching of church by which the Kingdom of God will grow.

Fun behind the scenes of THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER

Last night we finally got our dressing rooms!! Awright, to be honest they're conference rooms in the Advanced Technologies Building at Rockingham Community College, which the Theatre Guild just appropriates for shows. We're thankful for Rockingham Community College letting us perform there but all the same: it will be much nicer when we have the new civic center with a bigger stage and dedicated dramatic facilities.

Anyhoo, during our dress rehearsal last night we often found ways of entertaining ourselves until our cues (we know when we're about to go onstage because of the baby monitor that's broadcasting live from the auditorium: can you tell now that we really are community theater? :-). Here's Eric Smith (who plays Reverend Hopkins) strumming a tune on his new banjomer (a combination of banjo and dulcimer)...

By the way, word on the street is that Eric has been wrecking all kinds of good-hearted mischief running around town in his reverend getup :-P

During our first dress rehearsal on Monday I found that my firefighter pants have a tendency to drop. Not so much that it would be a hazard or, ahem, expose me (even though I'm wearing bluejeans underneath) but I was wanting a bit of extra piece of mind. I asked Dad if he had any suspenders that I could use with my costume.

So he found a set...

And if you click on that photo to embiggen it, you can make out the Miller Beer logo printed all up and down the front of them bracers! Yah I know: not completely the most appropriate attire for a play with a large cast of children, but nobody is going to see the suspenders under my firefighter jacket. And besides: every fireman needs red suspenders for his outfit! :-)

Here's a better pic of me in full costume, including the real oxygen pack...

Opening Night for Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is this Friday at 7:30 p.m. Click on the Theatre Guild website for more information and ticket pre-ordering. Hope to see y'all there!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Last night was our first full dress rehearsal for Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. We've got three days 'til the show opens, but really it's two days for the cast and crew 'cuz on Thursday we do something like four or five shows for the county's elementary students...

...and I hope I can keep up the pace 'cuz I'm wearing what many are saying is the heaviest costume in Theatre Guild history! Yesterday evening I wore the full firefighter getup again, plus a real oxygen pack on my back. That's something like one hundred pounds of costume that I've got to put on and charge up onto the stage in. But the story and the message of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is so touching (not to mention entertaining) and this is such an amazing bunch of people that I'm getting to work with, that I'd gladly do this five times a day between now and Christmas :-)

Anyhoo, since we're getting so close to the show, how 'bout some photos to whet yer appetite for Christmastime community theater?

They're the meanest kids in the entire town: The Herdmans (Left to Right: Aaron Boles as Claude, Jared Brown as Ollie, Donna Owens as Gladys, Peggy Wasmund as Imogene, Nathan Tolodziecki as Ralph)

Bob Bradley (Tony Hummel) reacts to hearing about this year's church Christmas pageant from daughter Beth (Faith Jones), son Charlie (Logan Brown) and wife Grace (Jessica Gray)

Charlie (Logan Brown) brags to Leroy (Deuce Mills) and sets into motion a chain of events that will astound the entire community.

Mrs. Armstrong (Arlean Christman) can't believe what she's hearing!

One of the Firemen (Chris Knight) tries to no avail to calm down a hysterical Mrs. McCarthy (Tish Owens).

Grace (Jessica Gray) and Reverent Hopkins (Eric Smith) share their concerns that this could very well be the worst Christmas pageant ever.

Click here for more information at the Theatre Guild of Rockingham County website!

Disney to remake THE BLACK HOLE

Disney's 1979 science-fiction space oddity The Black Hole is one of those "guilty pleasure" films for me. On one hand there are things like the U.S.S. Cygnus (my all time favorite design for a sci-fi spaceship) and then there are the multitudinous violations of physics and other scientific impossibilities (running around on the outside of a spaceship without suits and oxygen? Ummmmm...).

And now Disney is getting ready to "reinvent" The Black Hole. Aim here for the details from TheHollywoodReporter.com.

The Black Hole was Disney's first foray into "serious" storytelling beyond the G rating (meriting a PG instead). If the same film had been made today it might have well been a PG-13. The Black Hole was also Disney's first movie that literally sent small kids seeking therapy. Those cute lil' robots voiced by Roddy McDowell and Slim Pickens? Yeah, just let them weave their seductive Artoo-ish spell, while red robot Maximilian (another favorite design) looms silently over them. And then the themes of slavery and obsession that build up to that horrifying crescendo, before the trips to Heaven and Hell...

What in the world was Disney thinking?

Here's the ending sequence from The Black Hole. If you've never seen this before it will probably shock you that Disney in 1979 produced this movie, much less envisioned it to begin with...

"More light."

iPod therapy helping Alzheimer's patients and stroke victims

My sister is a physical therapist in a hospital that uses Nintendo's Wii to engage patients in stimulating sports-like activity as part of their regimen. And now another toy of the modern era is finding employment in medicine: Apple's iPod is helping patients recovering from strokes and suffering from dementia (like that which is symptomatic of Alzheimer's) to reconnect with memories and emotions...
Listening to rap and reggae on a borrowed iPod every day has helped Everett Dixon, a 28-year-old stroke victim at Beth Abraham Health Services in Bronx, N.Y., learn to walk and use his hands again.

Trevor Gibbons, 52, who fell out of a fourth-floor construction site and suffered a crushed larynx, has become so entranced with music that he's written 400 songs and cut four CDs.

Ann Povodator, an 85-year-old Alzheimer's patient in Boynton Beach, Fla., listens to her beloved opera and Yiddish songs every day on an iPod with her home health aide or her daughter when she comes to visit. "We listen for at least a half-hour, and we talk afterwards," says her daughter, Marilyn Povodator. "It seems to touch something deep within her."

Caregivers have observed for decades that Alzheimer's patients can still remember and sing songs long after they've stopped recognizing names and faces. Many hospitals and nursing homes use music as recreation, since it brings patients pleasure. But beyond the entertainment value, there's growing evidence that listening to music can also help stimulate seemingly lost memories and even help restore some cognitive function.

"What I believe is happening is that by engaging very basic mechanisms of emotions and listening, music is stimulating dormant areas of the brain that haven't been accessible due to degenerative disease," says Concetta Tomaino, executive director of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, a nonprofit organization founded at Beth Abraham in 1995.

Dr. Tomaino, who has studied the therapeutic effects of music for more than 30 years, is spearheading a new program to provide iPods loaded with customized playlists to help spread the benefits of music therapy to Alzheimer's patients even at home. "If someone loved opera or classical or jazz or religious music, or if they sang and danced when the family got together, we can recreate that music and help them relive those experiences," she says.

The Wall Street Journal has plenty more about this fascinating new use for personal media devices.