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Sunday, March 31, 2013

THE WALKING DEAD: Forty-five minutes after "Welcome to the Tombs"...

Okay.  Okay.  Okay.

Okay.  Oh-kaaaaay...

That was NOT what I was anticipating.  The first few minutes after tonight's season finale of The Walking Dead I was feeling... well, a bit let down.

But then I remembered that Season 3 didn't end any better or worse than the previous two have.  In fact, with each passing moment I'm finding myself thinking that this season finale was as well as it could have been.  Perhaps, even with the stakes raised for Rick and his group.  Maybe higher than they have ever been before.

The all-out war with Woodbury?  It didn't happen.  But I'm unable to escape the feeling that it hasn't happened yet. Woodbury has been liberated... but The Governor is still alive.  We don't know where the hell he has gone to.  But I'll posit a guess:

The Governor will not, can not, give up his obsession with destroying Rick, with destroying Michonne, with destroying everyone at the prison.  With being seen in any way at all as being a weak and helpless man.  The Governor is soulless survival-at-all-costs personified.  He is relentless.  He is utterly incapable of bargaining or being reasoned with.  He is also unfortunately bestowed with uncommon charisma.

So where has The Governor gone?

The Governor is the uber hardcase.  And he is now set loose to gather all the other hardcases to him.

Somewhere in the post-apocalyptic Georgia wilderness and beyond, a one-eyed megalomaniac has gone out to seek the lonely, the lunatic, the desperate leaderless...

We haven't seen the war with Woodbury, because we haven't seen the REAL Army of Woodbury yet.

But it's coming.  Chekov (the Russian playwright not the Star Trek character) had a rule of drama: if the gun is to be fired in Act III, it must be shown on the wall in Act I.  If the gun is shown on the wall in Act I, it must be fired by Act III.

That is what The Governor is.  Season 3 was us getting to look at him.  Getting to watch his veneer peeled back and the madman within leering out of that one hateful eye.  But for all that we saw in Season 3, we still haven't seen him fully unleashed.  We haven't...

But in Season 4, we will.

Rick has saved more people than he has ever been able to do before now.  He has also perhaps found redemption for his mistakes.  Carl is on the verge of losing his own sense of humanity.  A major character has died.

And The Governor is still out there somewhere...

No, this was not a letdown of a season finale.  It ended as well as "Beside the Dying Fire" did last season.  "Welcome to the Tombs" gave Rick and his ad hoc family a sense of accomplishment and a glimmer of hope that they haven't enjoyed in a long, long time.

But the powderkeg has been loaded.  The charge has been set.  They just don't know it yet.

And in Season 4, The Governor is going to light the fuse.

Congrats on another season of The Walking Dead well done, AMC!  Looking forward to Season 4 this coming fall!

"He's Alive" by singer/songwriter Bethany Myers

Hey gang, hope y'all are having a Happy Easter!  It's also my birthday, muhahahahaha!!  So along with my girlfriend Kristen being here to celebrate, we had the return of Doctor Who last night, and then tonight it's the season finale of The Walking Dead and the season premiere of Game of Thrones.  Have the stars aligned for this geek, or what?! :-)

(And then there's the positvalutely ginormous hollow chocolate Easter bunny that she got from me this morning.  Still can't compare to the Doctor Who Yahtzee she gave me: at last a TARDIS toy of my very own!!)

Anyhoo, this being Easter, the day which we remember the life of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He made to set us free from the bondages of this fallen realm so that we may have the life abundant, I felt led to share something special with y'all...

Bethany Myers, Christian music, He's Alive, singer, songwriter, piano, pianist
I have been very thankful and blessed to have Bethany Myers as a dear friend and sister in Christ.  Bethany is an amazingly gifted young woman who has been bestowed with remarkable talent as a choralist, instrumentalist and songwriter.  A few days ago Bethany began uploading some of her performances on audio hosting site SoundCloud.  The first of her songs that I was asked to check out is "He's Alive".  I thought it was a very beautiful composition and well worth passing along on this blog!  So I wanna invite my readers to click on over and enjoy "He's Alive" by Bethany Myers.

And if you want to listen to more of Bethany's work, here is her main page on SoundCloud.  Discover her now... before she lands a major recording contract! :-)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

"The Bells of Saint John" chime the return of DOCTOR WHO!

It took me an hour and a half after the episode aired on BBC America before I could turn in a blog post about "The Bells of Saint John"...

So along with statues, shadows, clocks, gas masks, cracks in the walls and Lord knows what else, now we have to be afraid of our Wi-Fi networks.  Damn you Steven Moffat!  DAMN YOU!!

(But he sure knows how to run Doctor Who like nobody's business, doesn't he?)

Three months after we last saw The Doctor (Matt Smith) in the 2012 Christmas special "The Snowmen", our hero is again sulking in solitude: this time at a monastery in England circa 1207.  Considered mad by his fellow monks (not the first no doubt), we find the last Time Lord contemplating, perhaps obsessing, with the newest enigma of his long life: Clara Oswin (Jenna Louise-Coleman, in her first regular Doctor Who episode as a companion).  When the telephone on the TARDIS's exterior starts ringing - by itself something which should not be happening - it isn't long before The Doctor is flying off again into time and space.

I'm not going to say anything else about "The Bells of Saint John", except that I thought it was a fairly strong return of both Doctor Who as a series as well as the start of an entirely new period of The Doctor's life.  Jenna Louise-Coleman came to the show in this season's premiere episode "Asylum of the Daleks".  "The Snowmen" made it clear in no uncertain terms that her character... or characters... is going to become a significant part of the series' mythology for the foreseeable future.  "The Bells of Saint John" begins that next era in earnest.  And judging by the myriad of sly references to previous material (hint: look at the author of that book) this promises... or threatens... to be a hella wild and scary ride in the lead-up to the big fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who this fall.

A pretty solid episode, and one that continues the fine Moffat tradition of giving us something new to keep a watchful eye on.  What's he gonna frighten us with next... vacuum cleaners?  Fish and chips?  Toilets?

(Hey, it'd still be better than "Love & Monsters" was... :-P)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Planned Parenthood official sez: there is a right to POST-BIRTH abortion

God have mercy on us.

Alisa LaPolt Snow, a lobbyist representing Planned Parenthood in Florida ("Planned Parenthood"?  Now there's a contradiction in terms...) testified before that state's legislators this week that babies who are born after an attempted abortion should be killed at the discretion of the mother and her doctor.

Killing a baby.  After it has been born.

Back in the old days, we used to call that "infanticide".  Something that King Herod and certain pharaohs were fond of.  Y'know: murdering infants.

The Weekly Standard has more of the story and here's the actual video of Snow advocating putting to death babies who have taken their first real breath of life...

Folks, this blog's longtime readers know something about me: I am really, really careful about the language I use.  There is a certain word which has appeared on The Knight Shift but only as part of quotations from other sources.  It has been used only ONE time by my own volition.  It happened four years ago and it was the first time in my entire life that I had ever used it in publication.  At the time it was about a man being driven to suicide by hostile agents of the government.

There were no words in polite language that could have possibly conveyed my rage, my frustration and my lust for justice in that situation.  I'll never use that word unless it's absolutely, positively necessary.  When all other linguistical tools have failed.

For only the second time in my life, it has come to that again.

I don't care if my language here offends people.  At this point, I cannot find any other words that could telegraph my disbelief and horror at what we've come to:

We are fucked.  We are literally God-damned, for letting things come to this.  And damn if we don't deserve it.

One friend has noted that Mizz Snow's argument will never be allowed to pass into law or regulation.  Perhaps so.  But that it has even been seriously suggested at all screams volumes about how far we have fallen as a society.

We are on a very slippery slope down.  This will not end well.

The Shroud of Turin? There's an app for that!

Before I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark in the theater (yeah I was that young: it was a weird weird childhood) and got hooked on archaeology, the Shroud of Turin had grasped my fascination.  All I knew at the time was that it might have been the cloth that Jesus was wrapped in after His death and that somehow, His picture got transferred into the material.  I've been reading every serious article and journal paper about the Shroud for most of my life and my curiosity about it has grown more and more.  Especially at this time of year.

What do I think of the Shroud of Turin?  Well, despite many attempts to reproduce it, those have always failed.  And then there is the forensic analysis: just this week scientists announced that the Shroud is almost certainly a product of the First Century.  When you figure in that pollen grains from plants found only in the region around Jerusalem have been extracted from the Shroud and well... if nothing else it is a historical relic of the utmost intrigue.

This being Holy Week, for the second time in history (the first was 1973) the Shroud of Turin is going to be televised live, beginning tomorrow.  And if you want a REALLY up-close look at the Shroud, you should check out The Shroud of Turin 2.0 for iPad and iPhone.

Shroud of Turin, iPhone, iPad, app, 2.0, Jesus Christ

Haltadefinizione is the studio that did the high-definition photography of the Shroud five years ago.  It was the best photo documentation of the Shroud to date and now courtesy of those same folks it's all in the palm of your hand (or your lap). The Shroud of Turin 2.0 takes the 1,649 pics of the Shroud, combines them into a 12 billion pixel image weighing in at 72 gigabytes and streams it to your device (be still your heart: the actual app is only 50 MB in size).  You can download a free version, or pay $4 that gives you the option for even higher-resolution images.  If you want it, mash down here to find it on Apple's App Store!

The thirtieth anniversary of Strategic Defense Initiative

SDI, Strategic Defense Initiative, Star Wars, missiles, nuclear weapons, antiballistic
It was thirty years ago this week that President Ronald Reagan gave a historic speech proposing, for the first time, a space-based anti-ballistic missile system for the United States.  The plan, once developed, would utilize ground and space-based weaponry to blast apart incoming nuclear missiles.  The basic premise was an array of missile-launching satellites around the Earth.  A far more radical design called for the deployment of platforms in orbit: either carrying anti-missile lasers or particle beams, or as part of an adaptive-optics system which would focus a surface-generated laser onto a moving target anywhere around the world (see illustration).

The official name for the concept was Strategic Defense Initiative, or SDI.  But for reasons apparent to everyone it was quickly labeled "Star Wars" by the mainstream press and the name stuck.

SDI gained notoriety overnight, as much from many people in the United States as from the government of the Soviet Union.  Reagan's political enemies swore and declared that "Star Wars" was a ridiculous fantasy that would never work.  Soviet officials were outraged: among other things, claiming that SDI was a violation of the SALT II treaty.

The thing is, Strategic Defense Initiative did work.  But not at all in the way that it was advertised.  And out of all of Reagan's accomplishments, it is SDI that stands as the most genius.  Because SDI didn't have to function at all as Reagan had proposed.  Instead, it was the very idea of SDI that compelled the Soviet government to pour an insane amount of money into its military budget in an effort to "catch up" with the United States.  It was money that the Russians didn't really have to begin with and the rush to build up that country's military and technology took a severe toll on an economy that was severe enough already.

In short: SDI was one of the biggest reasons for the fall of the Soviet Union.  It drastically accelerated the Russian's bankruptcy and inability to contain its own people as it had for many decades.

I'll put it in even shorter terms: Ronald Reagan is the man most responsible for ending the Cold War.  He did it with SDI.  And he did it without a single shot being fired by either side.

Like I said: genius.

There are a number of retrospectives about the thirtieth anniversary of Strategic Defense Initiative, but one of the better ones I've found is a series by Jay Nordlinger running all this week on National Review's website.  It's recommended reading for anyone interested in the very rare crossing of politics, technology and history that is SDI.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

This week's Tammy Tuesday's got some pearly whites

I've had Tammy for ten months now. That's plenty of time to chronicle a lot of her but one thing that keeps eluding me is a perfect shot of this baby's teeth. She had those needle-like daggers that pups always have at first but ever since she lost her puppy teeth she's grown in some positivalutely gnarly chompers.

Well, it's not ideal by far, but this really is the best pic I've been able to take of not just her teeth but that psycho look in her eye when she's showing them off :-)

Tammy, miniature dachshund, teeth

Monday, March 25, 2013

"This Sorrowful Life": Thoughts on THE WALKING DEAD penultimate Season 3 ep

For the record, I wanna state that I just knew what Glenn was doing when he went walking along the fence!  Let's hope he thought well enough to sanitize that thing...

(Guess we're gonna see a spate of The Walking Dead-inspired weddings now, huh?)

There's been a pattern this late in Season 3: seems that AMC's The Walking Dead has been oscillating between "unbelievably greater television than we possibly deserve" and "better than much else".  The latter isn't where The Walking Dead should be: not after everything else that has happened this season.  Last week's "Prey" was an example.  It ended on a great shot but c'mon: forty minutes of The Governor stalking Andrea coulda, shoulda been much more fun.

But "This Sorrowful Life", this week's episode and the final before next Sunday's season finale, brought the pendulum swinging back... before making us watch it break completely off the chain and flying through the window...

The Walking Dead, AMC, This Sorrowful Life, Merle Dixon, Michael RookerI've thought from the getgo that The Walking Dead's biggest strength is how this is a story about human strengths and weaknesses and what any of us are capable of doing in the very worst of situations.  We saw that out the wazoo in "This Sorrowful Life": from Rick's inner turmoil about The Governor's ultimatum to that very touching - even uncommonly encouraging from television - scene between Glenn and Hershel in regard to Maggie.  The part where Hershel is having Bible study and prayer with his family was also a nice touch.  And then there was the scene where Rick called the group together.  He owned up to his mistakes, and I got the sense that we've now seen closure to his arc that began with declaring the "Rick-tatorship" at the end of Season 2.

But more than anything else, "This Sorrowful Life" was the long-coming payoff for Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker).

Merle has come a long way from the borderline neo-Nazi we saw chained to the roof in Season 1.  The racist aspect seemed to have vanished entirely, or at least covered with a practical veneer (sorta) during his time in the quasi-civilized society of Woodbury.  But even so, from the moment he re-appeared as one of The Governor's henchmen we saw the same ol' despicable Merle was still in there.  That he's had a bayonet in place of his right hand didn't help matters much...

So for most of Season 3 we've come to have a grudging tolerance for Merle Dixon.  But in the wake of "This Sorrowful Life" I expect him to become a character we'll be spending a lot more time studying as we re-watch this series in the years to come.  I think that in the end, Merle wound up his personal story as well as anyone can be expected.  Maybe he'll never be remembered by anybody else, but he had the conscience to do his best to make things right.  Not for himself as much as for others.

That doesn't make things easier for little brother Daryl (Norman Reedus, who has become the biggest breakout television sensation in many a moon).  That final scene of "This Sorrowful Life", where we had to witness Daryl's breaking down as he has never before, was sincerely heart-rending to watch.  I'll say it again: Reedus deserves an Emmy nomination for his work on this show (along with Chandler Riggs).

"This Sorrowful Life" featured some of the most brutal scenes in The Walking Dead's three years thus far, especially the ambush at the motel where Michonne makes creative use of that wire.  And did anyone else notice that The Governor (David Morrissey) had one line of dialogue in this episode?  Just one... but it certainly got his point across.

An extremely solid episode.  Here's hoping that it will keep it up going into the season finale next week: presumably the long-awaited war with Woodbury!

Awright, raise your hands...

...how many of y'all didn't have your NCAA Basketball Tournament brackets thoroughly broken after this weekend?

I'm not much up to speed on sports of late. But watching the agony from brackets getting busted in full gory on my Facebook front page has been pure comedy gold!

Even though I don't have a dog in this hunt (I would have rooted for my alma mater Elon if it had gotten into the Big Dance for the first time) I have to say: from the getgo this has been a weird weird tourney. Probably the most topsy-turvy one in recent memory.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Angry Wife Billboard Update: Is it a restaurant publicity stunt?

The talk of the area since yesterday morning has been this billboard on Battleground Avenue in Greensboro (North Carolina). In big bold letters on a wrathful red field it reads thusly: "Michael- GPS Tracker - $250, Nikon Camera with zoom lens - $1600, Catching my LYING HUSBAND and buying this billboard with our investment account - Priceless. Tell Jessica you're moving in! - Jennifer".

That LED billboard has caused at least one car wreck (was his name Michael?!).  Some have said the photos are fake but it's really been on display.

Battleground Avenue, Greensboro, North Carolina, billboard, Jennifer, Jessica, Michael, cheating, cheater, infidelity, wine, Yodaddy's, Yo Daddy's
(Photo credit: Fox 8 WGHP)
Now there is evidence that the entire thing has perhaps been, rather than a jilted wife airing her husband's dirty laundry on Battleground Avenue, a marketing ploy by a restaurant instead.

At right you see the new message that showed up on the same billboard today.  It's now alternating with the original note from "Jennifer".  The new one references "Yodaddy's".  Incidentally, there is a local restaurant called Yo Daddy's.

Mash down here for what the good folks at Fox 8 WGHP have discovered about the billboard since yesterday.  Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

Ehhhhhh... okay.  If it's some kind of stunt, I don't get it.  In retrospect it's not the cleverest thing that I've heard of.  Maybe they could have stretched this whole thing out into an ongoing drama or something...

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS has a new trailer!

Less than two months before this baby erupts across our peepers and I can't wait!

Whether he turns out to be Khan or not, Benedict Cumberbatch has already sold me as being a classic Trek villain.

Does anyone else think that the Starfleet war room looks a lot like the one in Dr. Strangelove? Here's praying that Star Trek Into Darkness doesn't end with Kirk riding a torpedo while whooping and hollerin'...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Do you think Jennifer is angry at Michael?

An actual LED billboard this afternoon on Battleground Avenue in Greensboro, North Carolina...

Billboard on Battleground Avenue, Michael, Jennifer, Jessica, cheating heart, marriage, infidelity, Chad Tucker, WGHP, Fox 8

Tip o' the hat and credit due to journalist Chad Tucker of Fox 8 WGHP, who posted this on Facebook a short while ago!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Frank Thornton - AKA Captain Peacock - has passed away

Found out some sad news yesterday: Frank Thornton, an amazing British actor who shone in every part he played but will forever be most remembered as the unflappable Captain Stephen Peacock on the BBC's legendary comedy series Are You Being Served?, has passed away at the age of 92.

(Does this mean that Peacock is now spending an eternity listening to Mrs. Slocombe prattling on about her pussy...?)

I know that 92 is a good run but still: Thornton made millions laugh during the very long run of Are You Being Served? (along with its sequel series Grace & Favour) and he will be sorely missed.  Of the original cast, only Nicholas Smith - who played Mr. Rumbold - is still with us.

Frank Thornton leaves behind his wife of 67 years.  I found that to be pretty dang remarkable in this day and age.

So in honoring his memory, as well as that of the rest of the wacky crew at Grace Brothers Department Store who have taken the elevator up, here is one of the many classic episodes of Are You Being Served? From March 13th 1975 it's "Up Captain Peacock"...

It's double the dachshund on this Tammy Tuesday!

Want more wiener dog?!?  Tammy is a more fortunate pup than many.  Ya see, my cousin nearby wound up with Tammy's litter-mate Sassy.  And because of that they've had plenty of occasion to romp and play together.

So here is Tammy (with the red collar) and her sister Sassy, along with my cousin's two children.  Hey, it's two cute dachshunds and two cute kids: what could possibly be cute-sier? :-)

Tammy, Sassy, miniature dachshunds, dogs

The Iraq War is ten years old today

George W. Bush is the worst President in American history.  In less lucid moments (mostly when hopped-up on allergy medicine) I would write that Barack Obama has been far far worse.  But there would have not been Barack Obama in the White House had Bush the Lesser been a competent leader.

I spent more time than I cared to during the Bush years chronicling and commenting upon that maladministration's screw-ups, and I sure don't want to spend any more time on it than I absolutely must (some readers of this blog have commented that I'm too hard on Obama, even "hateful".  Where were they during this site's first several years?!).  All I will say for now is this: in regards to the Department of Homeland Security: I told y'all so.  Way back in 2001 even, I wrote in a few places that Bush was giving us something in Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Agency that we would soon come to regret and that in time it would become a tool of harassment by our own government.  Clearly when an active-duty Marine serving in spite of losing both legs to an IED gets humiliated by TSA agents, something is very very wrong.

I also thought that launching a war in Iraq would be unwise and inconsiderate of the larger ramifications.  Saddam Hussein was a grade-A asshole, no doubt about it.  But however evil the man was, the Hussein regime did keep Iraq - a nation cobbled together from remnants of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of World War I - from tearing itself apart through internecine strife and tribal quarrels.  We can blame many of the western leaders, including Winston Churchill,  for setting up that particular board and its inevitable consequences, but I digress...

The country that we insisted be Iraq could - and can - only function when there is a "strongman" figure to keep the ethnicities and sects within its borders from killing each other.  That is the role that Marshal Tito had in Yugoslavia and that is the role that Saddam Hussein had in Iraq.  Just as Yugoslavia imploded into civil war a decade after Tito's death, so would Iraq in the absence of Hussein or a successor just as brutal.  As it is, the United States sought - and claimed - the mantle of strongman over that distant land.

The war itself has cost $1.7 trillion and climbing.  Medical and veterans' benefits will have it costing over $6 trillion across the next forty years.  $490 billion is already owed to veterans.  More than 134,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed.  More than four thousand American service personnel have died in Iraq.

Ten years ago we were told that Saddam Hussein was harboring chemical and biological weapons.  There were none.  Ten years ago we were told that Saddam Hussein had conspired with the 9/11 terrorists.  He had not (a theological improbability, that was: Hussein's Iraq was a largely secular state fully at odds with the goal of sharia law which Al-Qaida has sought).  Ten years ago we were told that a democratic Iraq would be the wellspring from which freedom and liberty would burst across the Middle East.

It did not do that either.  Ten years later and as the much-ballyhooed Arab Spring has demonstrated, the Mid-East has far less freedom than before.  Making matters worse is that following the departure of American forces from Iraq, that land will almost certainly become a territory of Iran.  In some ways it already is.

I understand that in this fallen realm of our temporal life that war is going to happen.  It is, after all, a product of human nature: something which beyond the mercy of higher authority is a vile and loathsome thing absent of all virtue.  My friends of more pacifist leanings are blessed with a grace to turn the cheek and look away from the strife of the realm completely.  I however do not have such grace.  Indeed, I am a historian by training: I gave up that grace a long time ago.

So it is that I am not ignorant of war and its place in this world.  But neither is war something which should be entered into on the most flimsy of rationales.  There is nothing glorious or magnificent about war.  Regardless of its cause, war is always... always... a failure on the part of those involved.  War means that a person or persons or even an entire nation can not or will not be persuaded that their actions are wrong and must be made to cease.  That the cost of their failure must now be either surrender or death.

More than 134,000 non-combatants in Iraq, men and women and children, who have died since we first attacked that country ten years ago tonight.  Perhaps it is easy for some to see the numbers and not think much about them. But every one of them was created by God and precious to Him.  Whether they perished at the hands of their own country's soldiers or inadvertently on our part, they deserve better than to be swept away as "collateral damage".

If that doesn't impinge on the conscience, consider the more than four thousand families across America who have lost a loved one in Iraq.  Those men and women, as all who serve in the armed forces of the United States, took a solemn oath to protect and defend this country and her people.  They chose to surrender years of their lives - years which could have been spent in school or starting careers or getting married and having children - to the service of others.

They did so fully aware that the possibility existed that they might be called upon to enter the theaters of war.  That doing so would place their lives in peril.  And yet they volunteered.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems that this kind of personal sacrifice demands a lot more respect and even sanctity from our alleged leaders.  A man or woman who puts on the uniform and swears to serve this country is expecting that their time and effort and if need be their very lives will be utilized with deepest wisdom and utmost restraint.

That has not happened in the war with Iraq, ten years old today.  Four thousand of our best and brightest have perished halfway around the world and we've nothing to show for it.  Four thousand brilliant souls, extinguished forever from the Earth.

They deserved better.  We deserve better.

I've only heard one cause for war with Iraq that has had any scrap of fact-based rationale behind it.  It was when President George W. Bush told a crowd that Saddam Hussein "tried to kill my dad."  And yes, Hussein did attempt to do so when the elder Bush visited Kuwait in 1993.  But was that enough reason to commit billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars and hundreds of thousands of U.S. service personnel toward removing from power?

A few months after the invasion of Iraq, Bush the Lesser told the militants in Iraq that U.S. forces would not be dislodged.  That they were welcome to try though.  George W. Bush told them to "Bring 'em on."

This is what "Bring 'em on" looks like...

Iraq War, caskets, Dover Air Force Base, dead, George W. Bush

Again, maybe it's just me, but a war is too horrific a thing to justify with a personal vendetta or a temper tantrum.

The Iraq War is ten years old today.  We haven't gained a thing from it.  Lord only knows if we'll have learned anything from it either...

Could a Cyprus-style banks robbery happen in the U.S.?

This past weekend was spent semi-unplugged.  Heck I didn't know that Miami had beaten UNC for the ACC Basketball Tournament title until late last night!  Since all that mess was happening in Greensboro I drove a hunnerd miles the opposite direction on 220 to do ballroom dancing and general geek-ery with my girlfriend.

But even so, I have been following the mess in Cyprus, where the government is poisoned to confiscate 10% of everyone's bank accounts in an attempt to get bailed out of the monetary mess of its own manufacture.  So much commentary could be made of this: the failure of socialism, the complete failure of the Eurozone as anything remotely a feasible concept, the failure of policies that can only lead to hyper-inflation, the failure to rein-in the "banksters" (i.e. those who see banking as not a sacred trust but an exploitable resource), the failure to hold those most responsible accountable for their own mistakes and misdeeds...

Right now banks across Cyprus are closed until Thursday (at least).  The ATMs are empty or damn near it: an old-fashioned bank run for the 21st Century.  There is now concern that Italy and other countries are considering similar measures.

It was two years ago that I read Atlas Shrugged for the first time.  A book some consider to be semi-science-fiction.  It's now clear to me that what Ayn Rand had written was in fact a horror novel, and not nearly scary enough.  For all the madness that Directive 10-289 embodied, Wesley Mouch knew better than to raid the private bank accounts.  The same cannot be said of too many politicians in Europe and now, little Cyprus could set off financial disaster throughout Europe and around the world.  It might well be the camel that breaks the straw's back.

(Witless warble of words or cryptic commentary with cliche?  I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader...)

Could a Cyprus-ish raid on our bank accounts happen here in the good ole' Yoo-Ess of Aye?  Neil Boortz thinks so.  Writing at Townhall.com, Boortz suggests that not only could it happen but that it has been incrementally building up toward such for two decades (at least).  From his essay...
Oddly enough, the people of Cyprus weren’t particularly elated over this move, nor were investors and citizens throughout the Eurozone. Imagine that! Cypriots immediately grabbed their ATM cards and started to withdraw as much money as they could from their accounts. Cash in their hands wouldn’t be hit for 10%. It was clear there would be a run on the banks as soon as they reopened. Now the plan to simply seize individual wealth is being delayed, though not abandoned.
Could it happen here? Well certainly it could. Congress could pass and the President could sign legislation calling for the seizure of 10% of every checking and savings account in every bank in America. This might finally be enough to cause a resurrection, but they could do it. So in America the wealth seizure has to be just a bit more selective and subtle. And that brings us to the warning I’ve been voicing for 20 years.
There's plenty more at the Townhall.com link, including mention of something that has not been remembered nearly enough: the 1993 budget battle in Congress that saw retroactive taxation: something which according to the Constitution should never have happened.  I phoned the office of Steve Neal, my representative at the time.  His lackey listened to me rant about how wrong this was and then told me "well sir that's for the courts to decide."

The courts didn't stop it from happening then.  Anyone wanna bet that a raid on the banks by the government could be stopped now?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Americans according to North Korea: "Buying guns to kill each other" and drinking coffee made from snow...

There is some question about whether or not this is real. Having watched numerous propaganda films made behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, my gut tells me that it's legit. That, and because this video does have that "Dear Leader/all others are inferior" tone which is a hallmark of North Korea's regime.

It's allegedly a propaganda video made by the North Korean government depicting life of the downtrodden proles in the United States.  Here in America we drink coffee made from snow (which is said to be in "abundance"), there are few birds because the starving masses living in tents have caught and eaten nearly all of them, dead bodies are piled up all over the place, Potemkin-ish cities disguised to look like those of Eastern Europe, unsuccessful Republican candidates are reduced to scrounging in the garbage, and it's only because of aid from North Korea that we're able to survive at all.

This is one of the most hysterically funny "real" videos that I've ever seen!  I hope y'all aren't drinking anything that could get snorted onto your monitor as you watch it...

Tip o' the hat to the inimitably awesome Erik Yaple for finding this!

Towns Without Pity: Modder proves EA is LYING about SIMCITY always-online!

So... that whole thing about Electronic Arts' new SimCity requiring a constant Internet connection to play?  EA told us that it was needed because most of the game's processing takes place on EA's own servers.  In other words: the official company line is that it is not possible at all to play SimCity locally on your PC or laptop.  And despite the horde of connection problems that players were made to endure throughout the past week, EA has insisted that they can't remove the always-online obligation and that doing so would require coding up a whole new game.

Lies!  Lies!  All damnable lies!!

Electronic Arts, you got some 'splainin' to do.

The video gaming realm is reeling tonight after word surfaced that a hacker/modder calling himself "UKAzzer" has made SimCity completely playable in the total absence of Internet, for however long you want!

UKAzzer was able to enter the game's demo mode and from there he turned off the disconnection timer.  A few tiny changes of code and the game kept going, and going, and going... and going.  Not only that but he's also discovered that cities can be made much larger than the limits "officially" imposed by the game.

And he's proven it too.  Look!  YouTube clip!

So it looks like the "always-online" component was only slapped-on for digital rights management.  One anonymous developer at Maxis (now owned by EA and the studio that created the first SimCity game nearly 25 years ago) has come out and said as much, adding that it was very easy to make the new SimCity a single-player experience without needing to be online at all.

This situation is really quite unprecedented so far as the video/computer game industry goes. EA practically made it a litany about always-online being needed and how SimCity absolutely, positively could not be made to function without it.  That assertion is now, without any uncertainty, a false one.

I'll wager an RC Cola and a Moon Pie that the next few days at Electronic Arts are going to be a PR nightmare.  But since they've been caught, they should go ahead and do the right thing and rip out the always-online DRM from SimCity.  Doing so would go a LONG way toward re-establishing good relations with its customers and player-base.  Ever since word (and those horrid reviews on Amazon.com) hit the street about how crap-tacular SimCity is because of the DRM, would-be players have been avoiding this game like the plague.  EA needs to come clean and fix this, STAT!

(And if Blizzard is wise, that company will do the same with Diablo III.  If the upcoming PlayStation 3 port of that game won't need always-online, there is no reason whatsoever why the original PC version would require it either.)

North Carolina Beers: A good blog about Tarheel brew

Please note: I am not a beer drinker.  In fact, it's very rare that I'll drink alcohol at all.  There's nothing I hold against those who enjoy it (in moderation 'course).  And I know next to nothing about what makes a good beer.  The first time I tried drinking any, it was in Belgium in 1993.  To this day I still cannot adequately describe how dark that stuff was...

North Carolina Beers, blog, Eric Smith
Even so, lacking knowledge and experience hasn't been an impediment toward enjoying Eric Smith's new blog North Carolina Beers!  A home-brewer for well over a decade, Eric's new site is "dedicated to North Carolina Beers and Breweries. Over the next year or two I plan on visiting every brewery in NC and writing a review on each of them. I will write about as many beers as I can and there may be some beer specific post as well."  In less than a week he's already got four stories up: the latest is a review of Natty Greene's Greensboro.

It's this kind of spotlight on local culture along with the history behind it that I've always enjoyed finding.  There's plenty of it already on North Carolina Beers.  Go check it out and tell 'em that Chris sent ya :-)

Happy Birthday to Michael Caine!

The Knight Shift and its proprietor would like to wish a very wonderful Happy Birthday today to Michael Caine - one of the finest and most versatile actors ever - on the occasion of his turning 80 years young!

Michael Caine, Harry Brown, movie

The above image is from Caine's 2009 film Harry Brown.  If you have not seen it yet, I heartily recommend it.  It's definitely one of the better movies I've seen made in recent years.

Words all Christians would be wise to ponder...

From the homily that Pope Francis delivered this morning in his first Mass as the newly-elected Bishop of Rome:
"We must always walk in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, always trying to live in an irreprehensible way. We can walk all we want, we can build many things, but if we don't proclaim Jesus Christ, something is wrong... When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we proclaim Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly. We may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, all of this, but we are not disciples of the Lord."
Francis also spoke about returning to the Gospels. That without building upon spiritual values and instead trusting in worldly values, all is like a sandcastle before "everything comes crashing down".

I am not Catholic, but in less than a day on the job Pope Francis is saying a lot that this fellow believer can't help but say "Amen" to.

It's also being widely reported how earlier this morning Francis rode the minibus with many of his previously fellow cardinals, bypassing the usual Vatican sedan.  How at breakfast he sat among them as their equal and joked "May God have mercy for what you have done!"  And there is how Francis stopped by the hotel where he was staying prior to Conclave, went to his room to get his bags, then stopped by the front desk to pay his bill!  I can only imagine the look on that desk clerk's face...

To my Catholic brethren: as one outside of the Roman Catholic Church, I have to believe that y'all are in for some very interesting, very exciting and very terrific times with Pope Francis.  He's already demonstrating something that has been woefully missing and direly needed among the princes and politicians of this world:


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

GAME OF THRONES as a mid-Nineties TV series

What if Game of Thrones came out a decade and a half earlier, in 1995?  Back when the style of fantasy television was dictated by shows like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess.  What would it have been like?

Very likely, something like this...

So if Sam Raimi had made Game of Thrones back in the day, who would Kevin Sorbo have played? My guess is Eddard Stark.  Maybe a shaven-headed Bruce Campbell as Varys, or at least Petyr Baelish.

And Lucy Lawless?  No doubt about it: Cersei.

Kudos to YouTube user "hunterlsanders" for such a great piece of work!


Either those cardinals are taking one heckuva break for Camels, or they have just elected the next pope!

Watching it right now.  Awesome scene at Saint Peter's Square.  Now we just gotta learn who it is that's been voted on.

Whoever it is, may God's wisdom and grace be upon him.  I'm not Catholic, but I appreciate my Catholic brethren's enthusiasm and I absolutely have to wish them and their new leader well :-)

"Habemus Papam!"

UPDATE 2:26 p.m. EST: Here's a pic of that white smoke going up!

Conclave, new pope, white smoke, 2013, Vatican, Sistine Chapel

UPDATE 2:44 p.m. EST: Lots of humor about this on Twitter right now.  Thankfully none or very little of it seems to be vulgar :-)

UPDATE 3:15 p.m. EST: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina is the new pope! A Jesuit from Argentina.  I think that makes him the first "New World" pope.

UPDATE 3:20 p.m. EST:  So his papal name will be "Pope Francis".  Is that the first, second etc.?

UPDATE 3:36 p.m. EST:  This will indeed be Pope Francis, first of his name.  By all accounts an incredibly humble, compassionate and quiet man.

And here he is from a few moments ago, his first appearance as pope and giving the traditional "Urbi et Orbi" blessing to the crowd...

Pope Francis, Pope Francis I, Conclave, 2013, St. Peter's Square, Vatican, Sistine Chapel, Urbi et Orbi

Update 4:15 p.m. EST:  Lots of people are noting that Pope Francis' first words were to ask the people for their blessing, rather than bestow his blessing upon them.  It was a gesture of remarkable humility.

I'm also hearing that before this Conclave, Cardinal Bergoglio refused to reside in the mansion reserved for the overseer of the Church in Argentina.  Instead he chose to live in a quite modest apartment in Buenos Aires.  He rode the public bus every day.  Bergoglio even cooked dinner for himself.

A pope who does his own cooking?  Now that is pretty cool :-)

Well, this is the second Conclave that this blog has tried to cover "as it happens", and Lord willing it will be quite a long time before I have to do it again.  Congratulations to Pope Francis.  Though I be not a Catholic, my prayers absolutely go out to him as he begins the task entrusted him.

POPE SMOKE WATCH 2013 #2: More black out of the Vatican chimney

The two sessions of morning ballots have been cast by the cardinals sequestered (that seems to be the popular buzzword of late) inside the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. What sayeth them?

Nope. No pope...

Sistine Chapel, black smoke, second day of voting, 2013, Conclave

Two more ballots this afternoon. They should begin being cast around noon EST.

Monastery of San Benedetto, Birra Nursia, beer, Norcia, Conclave, cardinalsUPDATE 9:27 a.m. EST:  Hey, they've got BEER in there!!  The monks of Norcia at the Monastery of San Benedetto serve the Lord while also making Birra Nursia: their own brand of brew.

Here are Brother John and Brother Francis dropping off several cases of Birra Nursia beer at Domus Sancta Martha (where the cardinals are staying) on Monday, the day before the Conclave began.

All those cardinals, deliberating about the next pope while downing some suds.  Hey, it could happen.  Lord only (literally) knows what is going on inside the Sistine Chapel during Conclave.  Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with that particular imagery.  But then, I'm not much of a beer drinker anyway.  Never have been able to develop a taste for any of that stuff.

But if the cardinals approve of it during their discussions, hey... why not? :-)

And if you want some Birra Nursia for yourself, here's the official website where you can order it.  If it's good enough for the princes of the Church, it's good enough for you!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

This week's Tammy Tuesday gets a bath!

The very first thing I did when I brought Tammy home last May was to give her a bath, 'cuz the poor girl had sooooo many fleas!  Then I had to give her another one the next day.  It was just a rotten flea season all around 'cuz of the warm weather the preceding winter.

Anyhoo, ever since she's had something of an aversion to water.  She doesn't even enjoy going out in the rain to "do her doggie business".  But she's starting to take a liking to the warm water from the shower whenever she needs to get clean 'n shiny.

Here's Tammy about to get some puppy pamperin':

Tammy, miniature dachshund, dog, puppy, bath, bathtime

POPE SMOKE WATCH 2013 #1: First black smoke over the Vatican

Looking at CNN right now: black smoke is pouring out of the chimney of the Sistine Chapel... and how!  There's not gonna be any confusion this time around.

So we know that the cardinals within have had their first ballot and no one has been elected pope.  Which was what most people were expecting anyway.

Two more votes tomorrow.

UPDATE 2:59 p.m. ESTScott Bradford notes that there will be four ballots tomorrow - 2 each in the morning and afternoon - and not two as previously reported.

As an aside, I'm seeing some good-humored jesting about this.  One friend said that based on the black smoke "Willie Nelson has just been elected pope", while someone on Twitter is reporting that the Black Smoke Monster (from Lost) is the new pope.

Come to think of it, that's the blackest black smoke I've ever seen.  We need John Locke on the scene, STAT! :-)
Conclave, 2013, College of Cardinals, black smoke, Sistine Chapel, chimney, first vote, scrutinies
UPDATE 3:41 p.m. EST:  Here's a photo of the black smoke that poured out of the Sistine Chapel chimney a short while ago...

Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin has passed away

Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin
The Knight Shift today is remembering and honoring the life of an army officer from Nazi Germany.  And for good reason...

Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin was born in July of 1922.  More than two decades later at the age of 22, he was an infantry officer of the German army.  Ironic, since both Ewald-Heinrich and his father hated everything there was about Nazi ideology (the elder von Kleist-Schmenzin had even tried to arouse support from western countries for a coup against Hitler).

In January of 1944, Ewald-Heinrich was approached by Claus von Stauffenberg for a bold plan: to assassinate Adolf Hitler with a suicide bombing.  Von Kleist-Schmenzin volunteered to take the place of a wounded officer.  However the attempt had to be cancelled because Hitler kept postponing the event which would have him placed near the bomb.

Then came the following summer, and von Kleist-Schmenzin became involved with the now-famous July 20th Plot: the plan to kill Hitler - again by suicide bombing - while "Der Fuhrer" was at his Wolf's Lair retreat in the mountains of Poland.  This time it was von Stauffenberg who placed the explosive.  It went off: destroying the conference room but leaving Hitler himself virtually unscathed (the dictator later took it as a sign of divine intervention).  In the days that followed von Stauffenberg and most of his fellow conspirators were arrested and executed (some being hung with piano wire, with von Stauffenberg dying by firing squad).  Von Kleist-Schmenzin's father was one of those killed but almost miraculously, Ewald-Heinrich survived.  He wound up arrested and questioned, sent to a prison camp, then released and put back into army service.  All the while Ewald-Heinrich was helping the German resistance movement and doing a darned good job covering his tracks (obviously).

This past week, on March 8th 2013, Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin - Nazi army officer and the last surviving conspirator of the plot to kill Hitler - passed away.  He was 90 years old.

Ewald-Heinrich, this blogger salutes you and your courage.  May you have a joyful reunion with both your beloved father and your Father in Heaven.

Found on Etsy: Crocheted Bane mask

It won't deliver pain-killing anesthetic, but it might keep your ears warm..

Bane, mask, The Dark Knight Rises, crochet, crocheted, Rose Pope, Etsy

A knitted replica of Bane's headgear from The Dark Knight Rises.  Incredible.  And extremely clever!  Kudos to crochet artist Rose Pope for pulling it off.

You can find it on Etsy but mind ya, there's currently a four-month long waiting list for this hot lil' item.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dude hacks DONKEY KONG, lets his daughter play Pauline!

Times have been tough for Pauline: the damsel-in-distress that Mario had to climb up those girders to rescue from Donkey Kong way back in 1981.  Mario and DK of course went on to bigger and better things.  Then there were all those women who came into Mario's life before he settled on Princess Peach.  But whatever happened to Pauline?

Mike Mika, who works at Other Ocean Interactive, was asked by his three-year old daughter if "she could play as the girl and save Mario".  Mika hacked into the ROM of the Nintendo Entertainment System's port of Donkey Kong and after fiddlin' around with the coded innards, he had produced what he calls the "Pauline Edition" of Donkey Kong!  Here's a clip of it in action and you  have to admit, it's a really sweet thing to do for a kid :-)

Jump here for more at Cinema Blend about this awesome hack!

"Arrow on the Doorpost": Rick and The Governor summit on THE WALKING DEAD

Rick, no.  You almost lost your mind.  Do this and you will lose your soul.

The Walking Dead, Arrow on the Doorpost, AMC, Rick Grimes, The Governor
Despite the resolution to one of the show's bigger mysteries - what happened to Morgan and Duane - I thought that last week's episode "Clear" was almost too quiet a departure from what we've become accustomed with AMC's monster hit series The Walking Dead.  But having just watched "Arrow on the Doorpost", I see how there was a lot more in the previous installment that was investment toward the eventual payoff.

And judging what we saw in the final moments of "Arrow on the Doorpost", that's gonna be a hella payoff when Season 3 wraps at the end of this month.

(I just realized yesterday that my birthday is not only Easter Sunday this year but the night before sees the return of new Doctor Who episodes, and Easter night brings the season finale of The Walking Dead and the start of Season 3 of Game of Thrones!  Have the geek stars aligned for me or what? :-)

Rick and The Governor have finally come face to face (in an antezombiebellum feed store), ostensibly to hash things out between Rick's group at the prison and Gov's faction in Woodbury.  The Governor let it be known in no uncertain terms that Rick will surrender or die... but there's "a way out".  Rick had better listen to whatever Hershel has to say: he's a good Christian man with moral clarity and considerable wisdom.  I can't see him telling Rick to give in to The Governor's demands...

'Course, what makes The Walking Dead such compelling television is what human nature is capable of when the whole world has gone to hell.  This is either going to be a shining moment for Rick, or the point that he really will have fallen beyond a chance at self-redemption.  And that - as opposed to which side Andrea must choose - is as of this week The Walking Dead's meatiest situation.

I enjoyed how Daryl and Hershel had polite conversation with Milton and Caesar while the bosses were talking inside the store.  Milton especially seemed to have a measure of respect for Hershel and vice-versa (even if Hershel refused to show off his stump).  There was even a sense of kinship between Daryl and Caesar: my girlfriend thought it hearkened back to the stories about how during the Civil War.  How Union and Confederate soldiers would sometimes encounter each other before a battle and trade with each other, even attending church together.  Even though they knew that the next time they met, it would be as enemies in the field.  Seeing that kind of interaction was a nice touch.

Glenn took on more of a leadership role in "Arrow on the Doorpost" than we've seen from him in awhile.  He's taking his tasks seriously... but it was also good that he got time to make up (and make out!) with Maggie.  Meantime the two biggest wildcards of this entire game - Michonne and Merle - are each contemplating their moves.

And all the while, the clouds of war gather over Georgia...

"Arrow on the Doorpost" was a more satisfying entry than "Clear" in my mind.  And this far out from the season finale, the episode ended with a sense that the buildup to the inevitable clash won't be a rush job as has happened on too many television series.  It's a good solid pace and if The Walking Dead keeps this up it's gonna be a wild, wild ride throughout the rest of this month!

An illustrated guide to the Papal Conclave

The chimney has been installed and tested.  The Swiss Guard are even now still sweeping the place for bugs and spies.  Saint Peter's Square is bracing for the crowds...

Tomorrow morning (Rome time) the College of Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church will enter the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican.  Once it has been confirmed that no one else is present (apart from a very few medical personnel and other attendants who are pledged to uphold secrecy) the doors will be closed and sealed, and the cardinals within will begin deliberation and voting on who will be the next pope.

It is called Conclave (from the Latin cum clave, meaning "with a key")  And it is a ritual which has endured for more than eight hundred years.  But what does happen among the cardinals once they are within the Sistine Chapel and its doors tied off with red silk ribbon?

The Fellowship Of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) has put up on its website a very thorough and comprehensive illustrated guide to the cardinal camaraderie, contemplation and ceremony of the Conclave.  Everything from the arrival of the cardinals to the Urbi et Orbi ("to the city and to the world") blessing that the new pontiff will give.

And by the way, FOCUS has also set up PopeAlarm.com!  Yes, have the announcement of the next Holy See sent directly to your e-mail or text.  Truly, we live in an age of miracles :-) 

SIMCITY's always-online screams for urban renewal

I've been under the weather most of the past few days (not with flu but it felt like it) so this blog ground to a screeching halt. That didn't mean I was without entertainment though. For the most part that involved watching the FUBAR that Electronic Arts has made of SimCity since launching it last week...

SimCity, Electronic Arts, EA, Maxis, meteors, disasters
We built this city on DRM!
This is a SimCity game.  The fifth major one since the series launched in the late Eighties.  HOW in the name of all that's good and holy does anybody... anybody... mess up a SimCity game??

EA did.  And the bustling metropoli promised to millions of players have in less than a week turned into virtual ghettos of riot and violence that even Amazon.com decided to steer clear of: the online retailer halted sales of SimCity for both physical and digital download versions.

Just like Diablo III, the heart of the problem is that SimCity requires an always-online Internet connection.  Allegedly as a Digital Rights Management (DRM) anti-piracy measure.  To be honest it's worse than Diablo III: that game's always-online obligation is a supposed "necessary component" of its Real Money Auction House (never mind that some of us don't care about spending real money for in-game gold and items).  No, SimCity has to be online because most of the game's processing takes place server-side.

Yeah you read that right.  What used to be localized to your PC or desktop, wherever you happened to be, is now something that EA's corporate computers handle for you.  EA says it's because SimCity is now an online multiplayer game and one of its innovations is inter-city commerce such as buying and selling resources and even hiring virtual people to move to your town.

'Course, that's if the game works at all.  As of this writing EA is still struggling to meet the demands of players: some of whom are reportedly waiting twenty hours or more before they can successfully log in.

I'm not a lawyer, but that doesn't sound like a complete game that EA is selling with SimCity.  It's more like a licensed client application.  One that isn't living up to its advertised capabilities.  And EA is refusing to give out refunds (they are giving a free game to people affected however, whatever that will entail...)

This is by far the worst launch of a video/computer game in the history of anything.  The players are in an uproar, the game's ratings are plummeting (some established gaming news sites are refusing to even review SimCity) and some retailers are now refusing to stock it at all.  EA is acknowledging the problems and some in the company have suggested that an offline mode could be implemented.  Others however are saying that it's impossible: that the game was designed from the very beginning to require always-online in order to work.  That this was even considered at all makes one question EA's consideration toward their customers.  One alleged EA employee has gone public with what has gone on at EA that made SimCity an "embarrassment".

There is much more that could be said about this than is possible in one blog post.  However Erik Kain at Forbes.com has an excellent piece about the legal ramifications of always-online and how it is bad policy for both gamers and publishers.  Joystiq's Alexander Sliwinski also has some fantastic examination and analogy about what SimCity and Diablo III's always-online DRM means in terms of customer service and support.

In the meantime, I will not be purchasing or playing SimCity.  EA's negligence has even given me pause to wonder if their Dead Space 3 is worth plunking down my coin for.  Just as I won't be buying Diablo III until Blizzard gives us an offline mode... and I'm wondering if that company's Heart of the Swarm expansion for StarCraft II deserves an investment on my part as well.  I mean, why should I respect any company with my money if that company doesn't respect me as a consumer?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Once again this blogger makes Cracked.com ("5 Famous Online Copyright Crusaders Who Are Total Hypocrites")

At this point I've lost count. It's at least the fourth or fifth time that my shenanigans have landed me on popular humor site Cracked.com.

Cracked.com, Christopher Knight, Rockingham County, Board of Education, Star Wars, school board, commercial, campaign, Viacom, DMCA, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, copyright infringement, hypocrisy, hypocrites

This latest appearance comes courtesy of an article titled "5 Famous Online Copyright Crusaders Who Are Total Hypocrites".  With a title like that I just had to scan and tear it down and analyze it to see what I was doing that was so hypocritical... but I honestly can't find anything about my own part in that very strange episode from the fall of 2007.  In fact, the entire article is about corporations - as Viacom did in that incident - who cry and crow about copyright laws protecting their assets and then steal and violate the assets of everyone else without giving a damn!!

Anyhoo, my situation, "Viacom Lays Claim to a County Board of Education Campaign Video", made #2 on the list.  And if you wanna see the commercial that started it all, from my 2006 campaign for Rockingham County Board of Education, click here to watch "Christopher Knight for School Board TV Commercial #1".

(Personally, I'm still more proud of Commercial #2 and Commercial #3.  In fact, Commercial #3 has always been my favorite of that batch of ads.)

Dear News & Record: Opposition does NOT equal hate and fear of homosexuals

One of the front-page stories of today's edition of the (Greensboro, North Carolina) News & Record is about DC Comics delaying publication of science-fiction writer Orson Scott Card's story for the upcoming first issue of DC Comics' Adventures of Superman anthology.  Chris Sprouse, the artist assigned to illustrate the story, is refusing to work on grounds that the "controversy" about Card's publicly-stated beliefs that homosexuality is wrong.  Especially his opposition to "gay marriage" during the lead-up to last year's amendment to North Carolina's constitution affirming that legal marriage is between one man and one woman.

You won't find it in the story posted on the News & Record's website, but the article's synopsis in the print edition reads thusly: "An uproar over author Orson Scott Card's homophobic views leads illustrator to withdraw."

"Homophobic"  As in, literally, "Orson Scott Card is in fear of homosexuals".  The implication being that if he is in fear of homosexuals, Card also harbors hate of homosexuals.  That is certainly how such things are associated in the minds of too many journalists these days.

I don't know if Robert C. Lopez - the News & Record reporter who wrote the story - is responsible for his article's print synopsis.  Regardless, whoever wrote it is either terminologically ignorant or journalistically negligent.  Or, inexcusably driven by agenda.

But that's not the point of this post...

There is a difference between disapproving of a person's activity and disapproving of that person as a whole.  I know many homosexual individuals.  I sincerely believe that their behavior is wrong and even self-destructive.  But I have never hated them.  Some are even good friends who I have worked with and acted alongside on stage.  I like to think that they can disagree with me as well without harboring any animosity.

But through the prism most politicians and journalists and media "personalities" have demanded we see reality through, a failure to endorse the lifestyle of others is indicative of hatred toward others.

No wonder the political climate of this country is so polarized.  How can there possibly be earnest and sincere discussion about anything at all, when any side sees others as deserving scorn and ridicule, and lacking merit enough to be heard out?

Orson Scott Card is being charged - whether or not it will be admitted aloud - with inciting fear, hatred and intolerance toward homosexuals.  Curiously, the irony has gone woefully under-appreciated that those levelling such claims are inciting fear, hatred and intolerance toward Card and anyone else who believes homosexuality is wrong.  At the Mysticon science-fiction convention in Roanoke last weekend, my girlfriend overheard two people conversing with each other about how Card - the literary guest of honor - wasn't "very Christian" because of his statements against homosexuality.  I also heard one attendee claim that it was wrong for Card to have been invited because he was, quote, "hateful of people like me".

The only people I see demonstrating legitimate hatred of others are those who want there to be hatred of others.  When all else fails in an attempt at persuasion, hate is the time-tested tool of evoking deceit, distrust and division.  It is a coward's tool.  It is a tool of men of barbarity, not men of intellect.

The News & Record writers and editorial staff should bear that in mind, pertaining as much to their personal predilections as their professional ones.

Fake bishop crashes pre-conclave Vatican

Bishop Basilius, Ralph Napierski, Roman Catholic Church, Italian Orthodox Church, Vatican, conclave, Cardinal Sergio Sebiastiana
"One of these is not like the others.  One of these
just doesn't belong."
No matter your religious persuasion (even my Catholic friends are finding this hilarious) you gotta admit that this is pretty funny!

On Monday a man identifying himself as "Bishop Basilius" of the Italian Orthodox Church arrived at the Vatican supposedly to attend the meetings in advance of the conclave of cardinals which will elect the successor of Benedict XVI, who stepped down from the papacy last week.

The problem is, there is no such thing as the "Italian Orthodox Church".  But that's not what aroused the suspicion of the Swiss Guard.  It was mostly because Bishop Basilius was wearing a cassock that was too short, black tennis shoes, a "strange-looking chain" holding his crucifix, and a purple scarf around his waist instead of the traditional sash.

Oh yeah, and he also donned a black fedora.

Basilius - who claimed to represent an organization called "Corpus Dei" - was already past the security checkpoint and found shaking hands with Cardinal Sergio Sebiastiana when the Swiss Guard apprehended him.  "Basilius" turned out to be in fact Ralph Napierski, a German citizen who apparently has a long history of pranking and mocking the Roman Catholic Church (he also lists himself as a practitioner of "Jesus yoga").

Click here for more about the strange but true tale of Bishop Basilius.

Of course this isn't the first time that someone has impersonated high-ranking members of the Catholic clergy...
The Simpsons, Kent Brockman, phony pope, high-top sneakers, incredibly foul mouth
"Authorities say the phony pope
can be identified by his high-top sneakers,
and incredibly foul mouth."

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Tammy Tuesday: Exposing herself!

Has this puppy no shame?!  This week's Tammy Tuesday has my mini dachshund Tammy enjoying a rope toy while flashing her pooch privates...
Tammy, miniature dachshund, dog

Monday, March 04, 2013

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK hits hard and triumphs wildly for this bipolar viewer!

Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, bipolar disorder, movie, mental illnessLast night I finally saw Silver Linings Playbook, the movie that came out late last year with Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Chris Tucker. My girlfriend Kristen watched it with me. In retrospect this was not a movie that I could have watched alone and she really was the only person that I could have watched it with.

Silver Linings Playbook is a movie that everyone who has ever suffered from bipolar disorder should see. It is a movie that everyone who has ever had a bipolar person in their life should see. It is a movie that every possible kind of person that I know of, should see. It was not only the best movie that I've seen in a theater since The Artist last year, it is also the movie that I am finding myself wishing more and more could have been made long ago and one that I will absolutely be watching again and again and again.

This is the definitive film about mental illness for our generation. About what it is to have to live with it day after day after day. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest depicted mental illness but that was for the most part a device examining what it means to be an individual against "the machine". Silver Linings Playbook honestly and brutally depicts what mental illness is: a disease that must be endured. By many, many people. By people like me.

(As an aside, Chris Tucker's character is like many who I have known during bouts in the mental hospital. But there is no way, no how that he could have gotten out like that once, much less twice. Trust me, I've tried...)

Pat - Bradley Cooper's character - in Silver Linings Playbook? That's me. So help me God, it really did feel like I was watching myself up on that screen at times (minus the garbage bag). There is so much about Silver Linings Playbook that resonates with me. Why? Because there was so much of myself that Pat goes through in this movie, it's not even funny. And after just one viewing I can't possibly count all the things that he and I have in common...

The hospitalizations. The meds (there is only ONE drug which Pat talks about having that I have never been on). The wife leaving. Being without a home and getting taken in by Mom and Dad. The restraining order to stay 500 feet away from your spouse's home and place of work. The late-night manic episodes. The late-night manic episodes (I meant to emphasize that). The law enforcement officers having to come to your house (several times). Thinking that you can go off your medication when you really can't. Believing that you can reconcile... maybe being obsessed about it... with your estranged spouse. Writing the letters. The reminders - like the one that played at Pat's wedding - which bring back the memories and the pain much MUCH harder than anyone without bipolar can begin to imagine. Having people in public watch you with manic depression and not caring a damn what they think. The horrible weight gain that the medication can cause and yes Seroquel did make me feel foggy and bloated (I went off of it in November of 2011 and have since lost more than 50 pounds). Wondering how the hell you can possibly have anything at all like a normal life.

Heck just as Pat does, I had something taped to the wall next to my bed in the hospital to serve as a source of encouragement. It wasn't "Excelsior" like what he did though. My first hospitalization was in the spring of 2000. At the time I drew the cartoon character The Tick reminding me that "You're not going crazy... You're going SANE in a crazy world!" I still have that drawing somewhere too.

Pat is a substitute history teacher. I have a history degree and have substitute taught. He has a very strange psychiatrist. I have a therapist and a psychiatrist (make whatever of that which you will). The entire neighborhood knows about Pat's mental illness. All two of this blog's readers know about my mental illness.

You wanna know something? I thought that Pat's struggle with bipolar was dead-on accurate. But I also found myself thinking "Why couldn't I have had it as easy as he does?"

Real mental illness is no motion picture. It's an unrelenting and unforgiving fact of life. Believe that if you believe nothing else that I'm writing here.

And it's weird, but true: the last time I was in a psychiatric hospital, in June of 2009, a counselor there told me that I was seeing the darkness but that God had to... had to... have a silver lining for me. Just as Pat talks about often.

But you wanna know what else about Silver Linings Playbook resonated with me? It's the love that Pat finds with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence, and I see now how she won that Oscar last week). Now to be sure, Kristen does not have a mental illness. But she is beautiful. And she is an amazing dancer. She has taught me how to dance as much to life's music as on the studio floor. How to look beyond my own past, my own failures. How to love and be loved. How to let go of things holding me down and to look forward to the future.

Some have written that Silver Linings Playbook is just "wishful thinking". That it's a story with too happy an ending. That it's a "storybook" ending even.

Silver Linings Playbook ends with our bipolar hero happy and optimistic, with his beautiful and talented dancer girlfriend in his arms.

Maybe some of you think that's not a very real ending to a story...

Chris Knight, Kristen Bradford

...but there are some of us who have our own Silver Linings Playbook. And it does end happily ever after!

Silver Linings Playbook is possibly the movie that in all the years I've had this blog, I would most want its readers to go and see for themselves. You will laugh and you will cry. You will wince with pain as you see what Pat and Tiffany and the people in their lives go through. And in the end, you will applaud. And I'll pretty much promise that you'll come out of the theater a better person for it.