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Friday, December 26, 2014

A joyful Christmas despite myself

Here I am, the day after Christmas 2014.  And I'm only writing this because a lot of people were praying for me yesterday, that I might get through this holiday.

Grief is hard enough already.  It's especially heartbreaking when it comes so close to the holiday season and you see that empty chair at the table.  It's not something that I haven't experienced already.  Mom passed away three days after Christmas three years ago, and because of that there was already a shadow cast over Christmas and New Year's.  On my 26th birthday we buried my grandmother: something that I'm always reminded of on that day of the year.

This year has been more excruciating than anything I was prepared for.  Because it's so fresh.  Because it's only now sinking in that Dad is gone and is not coming back, no matter how many times I keep expecting him to come through that door every morning, or whenever I see his truck parked at home and find myself thinking that he's inside playing with our dog.

For the several days and maybe a week and a half before Christmas, I was doing pretty well.  Our theatre guild was in the midst of its production of It's A Wonderful Life: The Musical and being around so many people - people who I have worked with before and people who I only now have had the pleasure of making friendships with - was a pick-me-up that I sorely needed more than I'd realized.  And then the show ended this past Sunday and just like that the joy began leaving me.

Let me be more succinct: I knew what was coming and I did not want to have to go through it.  But Christmas was coming, and I had to bear it.  I'm not the only one going through this either: two very dear friends and their family are also going through this holiday season without their mother, a wonderful woman who passed away a month before Dad did.

Tuesday was hell.  Christmas Eve I was assaulted with a lot of thoughts that I cried to God to please take away.  Thoughts about Dad.  Thoughts about being alone, not in the "no friendships" way.  It has been my dream to be a husband and a father for so very long and only now have I been able to reach a state of mind that could let me have that... but I've missed a decade and a half of life because of mental illness and having that happiness seems further away than ever.

It has been a hard thing to be without Dad in other ways too, because he really was supporting me as I wrote my book.  I lost a lot of dependable work this past spring because of an extended bout of severe depression - enough to keep me from writing a word for a major project - and I've been struggling ever since to make up for it.  For now, let's just say that I'm scraping by.  But in a very weird way, I'm thankful for where I am at the moment.  It has re-taught me about the things that do matter most in life.  I am realizing more than before that for all of my circumstance right now, that I am better off than a lot of people who suffer from mental illness.  I may not be where I want to be, but God is providing for me and I'm not having to go hungry.  It is teaching me to rely on God more than I ever have before, and I am thankful for that.

I had no idea that poverty could be so much fun!

(Okay, forget I said that.  It's NOT exactly "poverty".  A tremendous lack of previous resources perhaps, yes... but I'm eating and get to stay warm at night and have a roof over my head: something that too many people in this world can't get to say that they have.)

All of those regrets and more came upon me on Christmas Eve and I desperately wanted to flee them.  I took my medication early that night and tried to go to sleep.  It only lasted until 1 in the morning, at which point I took MORE medication and tried to let it work.  By 8 it was clear that nothing had worked.  Only breakfast at my aunt and uncle's place at 9 brought direly-welcomed respite from the sadness and despair.  I got to have a little Christmas after all.  In fact, it was a Christmas that will go down as one of the most memorable of my life.

Then I came home and took even more medicine and crawled into bed and curled up in the fetal position and waited for the day to end.

I don't know what made me wake up at 4 in the afternoon.  Maybe it was Tammy - my dog - scratching at the door to go out for "relief".  I took her out and when I came back the urge to talk to someone... to anyone... overwhelmed me.

I went on Facebook and asked people to please hold me up in prayer right then, because I was needing it.  And then I spent the next three and a half hours on the phone talking to some especially close friends.

And after that, I came away feeling the most uplifted, encouraged and spiritually renewed than I have been since well before Dad died.

One friend, someone who is as close to me as a sister, told me something that I hadn't thought of: that Dad and Mom were having their first Christmas together in three years.  And that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus and that now Mom and Dad get to celebrate Christmas in the presence of Christ Himself.  She also told me something else: that Heaven really is closer to us than we realize.  We just can't see it with eyes on this earthly shore.  But our loved ones are there, they really are.  Which is funny, because a second friend shared that same thought with me just as many weeks ago.

During a conversation with another friend, he shared an essay with me, about grief during Christmas time, and a reminder that though we may grief, our grief is not that of this world.  Still another friend reminded me that I am unbelievably blessed with friends and family... and friends who are close as any family can be.  As Clarence Oddbody told George Bailey: a person with friends is far richer than anything that money can provide on this earth.

That's something too.  I had found myself asking God to please show me that my life did have purpose and meaning, that despite how things have gone that I might have a wonderful life.  I had secretly hoped for some direct message from Him.  In the end God didn't send a "second class angel" at all.  He sent people who are so very dear and precious to my heart, and in their own way they each helped to convey the precisely right message that I needed to hear.

Yesterday evening I ended up feeling joy and contentment and peace that I had not thought possible.  I felt cheered-up enough to spent the rest of the night comforted by the peace of God, that surpasses all understanding.

I even felt cheered-up enough to do something that earlier in the day I did not have any interest in at all: watching this year's Doctor Who Christmas special.  I'm glad that I did.  "Last Christmas" was like John Carpenter's The Thing meets Inception meets Miracle on 34th Street with a little dash of Alien.  Solid entertainment courtesy of the Doctor Who franchise.  I needed that too.

I let the rest of the night go on as I let the feeling of Christmas joy wash over me, and linger past midnight.  Then I went to bed, but not before thanking God for bringing me through the grief and letting me have joy on this holiday: joy that I hadn't ever expected and will remember for the rest of my life.

Let me put it this way: this Christmas was a Christmas of miracles for me.  I couldn't have gotten through it without the prayers of a lot of amazing people.  And I could not have come through it without God providing friendships and family who lifted me up exactly as I needed for them to do.  There have been a lot of instances this past month and more that I have seen timing happen in ways that can only be described as perfect.  Some of those involved loss.  This time, it was timing that led to me gaining something.  Something that aroused a greater faith in God than I had been prepared for.  That it came just in time for Christmas was the proverbial cherry on top.

Dad would want me to have been happy this holiday, even without his presence at the breakfast table yesterday morning.  He would want me to go on with my life, and to be happy and to keep finding happiness.  My friends encouraged me to know that there is still plenty of time to have the happiness that I have dreamed of having for so long... and I believe them.  One of these years, in the not too distant future, I hope that will be me sharing photos on Facebook of my children having Christmas morning.  I long to see Christmas through their eyes, just as Dad saw it through those of my sister and I.

This, was a far better Christmas than I was ready to be blessed with.  I don't think that would have been possible without some of the despair and depression that I went through on the way to it.  Maybe that is God's timing too: that I might have a lot of sadness before I could appreciate the joy.

I like to believe so.

This was one of the best Christmases that I've ever had.  I don't know how those in years to come will compare, but this Christmas is forever going to be part of me that I will take with me always.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go.  There is a handsomely-endowed gift card for Barnes & Noble in my possession that is screaming to be put to good use this afternoon :-)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

It's a very Dalek Christmas!

Okay, that's it.  I give up.  I didn't know how having a Christmas this year was going to be at all possible.  In light of everything that's happened in the past nearly two months, yuletide joy was something that seemed way past feasibility.  Although, I haven't begrudged anyone from having that.  Just feels like I'm on the outside looking in this year, is all.

But then before tonight's performance of It's A Wonderful Life: The Musical two young ladies who I've been working backstage with surprised me with a little something.  And as I told Joy and Makia, this has to be the sweetest thing that has happened to me since Lord knows when.

Look!  Dalek action figures from Doctor Who!

Joy and Makia spotted these in a nearby store and... well, words cannot possibly convey how touched I am to be given these by two such wonderful people.  As you can see that's the classic Dalek seen in "Genesis of the Daleks" from 1975 during the Tom Baker era.  Along with one of the utterly insane variants witnessed two years ago in "Asylum of the Daleks" from the midst of Matt Smith's reign as the Doctor.

I can't help but feel some Christmas cheer now.  It's A Wonderful Life is a story about how every life has meaning.  Your own life too.  Even if you can't see on your own how it could be.  In the end George Bailey discovered that he had riches that he never imagined, and right now - in the midst of where life has led me these past few months - being given these Dalek figures by two friends I've made through this production has let me feel much like George Bailey.

Incidentally, these are the very first anything of the Daleks that I've ever owned.  I've been a fan of them for almost as long as I've been watching Doctor Who (more than thirty years now) but for whatever reason I've never had any to call my own.  They now have a very special place of honor: on my "motivational table" on my computer desk, sitting next to the monitor.  It has things on it that I sometimes look at while I'm writing my book.  Already on it are Emmet and Wyldstyle minifigs from The LEGO Movie, and three expansion packs for the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures game (which will remain unopened and unplayed-with until my work on the book is finished).  Two Daleks in the fore of it all is going to be the cherry on top, 'cuz hey: it's tough getting more motivational than having two Daleks aiming their guns at you, right?

Thanks again to Joy and Makia for giving me a lot to smile about this holiday season :-)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Currently going through a bout of depression...

Actually, it's a rapid-cycling episode that's been going on for the past two days.  I woke up yesterday morning, remembered that Dad was gone, went into sadness that suddenly plummeted into clinical depression (something that lacks any emotion whatsoever) and then got catapulted into a bout of mania where the sadness returned, got escalated beyond my ready grasp of things, and threw me into a somewhat paranoid state of mind.

This has been going on and off for the past 36 hours now.

So I'm looking forward to working backstage during tonight's performance of Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's production of It's A Wonderful Life: The Musical.  Three more performances this weekend: tonight, tomorrow night also at 7:30 and then Sunday afternoon at 2:30.  Being involved in something like community theatre helps immensely, whether I'm on-stage or behind the scenes.  That's a really special group of people I get to collaborate with and it means a lot to have so much depending on me and on each other.

Speaking of the theatre guild, I'm planning on auditioning for a few more shows coming up.  It'll be the first time in four years that I would be on the stage.  One certain show has a particular role that I've got my eyes on bigtime, and everyone I've told it to have said: "Chris, that role fits you perfectly."  Let's just say that this character has issues and I've got issues and figure it out from there :-)

Okay well, in addition to the theatre the past few weeks (I don't know what's gonna happen when the production ends on Sunday, it's been so much fun!) there's been Tammy the Pup.  And I haven't posted nearly enough photos of her lately so here she is, my little girl...

I was lucky to catch her in one of her calmer moments :-)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Classic SESAME STREET: Bert and Ernie's "The Gift of the Magi"

Good googeley moogely... it's been ages since I posted any Sesame Street clips!!  I think maybe at least two years, maybe longer than that.  How in the world did I overlook such timeless material?  Shame on me!

Time to make up for it.  And boy howdy, do I get to make up for it...

I was waaaay young when this aired but I vividly remember it.  It was part of a Sesame Street Christmas special from... I think it was 1980?  The other part of it that's still in my head is Big Bird sitting on top of the apartment building waiting for Santa, and wondering how in the world would the big guy get into those tiny little chimneys.

But this is the real highlight of the show: Bert and Ernie in an adaptation of O. Henry's classic holiday tale "The Gift of the Magi", as only Bert and Ernie can.  And poignantly, it also features Mr. Hooper.  Played by Will Lee, who sadly passed away later on in 1982 and subsequently became the subject of a very moving episode where Big Bird tries to come to grips with Hooper's death.

So here it is: Bert and Ernie and Mr. Hooper, reminding us that the beauty of Christmas is not in the getting, but in the giving.  I present to you, dear readers, with a most wonderful take on "The Gift of the Magi":

Friday, December 12, 2014

The book: Moving ahead...

It was three weeks ago today that Dad passed away.  I'm still in a great state of grief, more than that even, about it.  There's a real shock that comes with seeing someone so close to you suddenly leaving you like that.  But I still believe that there was something of God's hand in how things played out.  If the circumstances had been slightly different in any of a thousand different ways, my family would not have had those sixteen days to be with him.  In the end, if God had to take him after so long a bountiful, fulfilling and loving life, it came about in what I can only call the best of all possible outcomes.

That said, I still grieve.  There is no small measure of confusion about certain matters.  And I would be remiss if I did not mention that there have been a number of times during these past three weeks that clinical depression has hit and coincided with that profound sadness.  I was going to visit a church this past Sunday morning but couldn't muster myself to get out of bed, much less be aroused to shave and shower.  That did eventually come, but by then it was too late to attend a service.

I don't think these things are really avoidable.  They're part of the process, and it can't be rushed through.  I don't think God intended them to be rushed through.  This is pain, and it cannot be averted.  But it will pass, and I know that Dad would want me to move on with my life and take everything good that he gave me with me along the journey.

It hasn't happened yet, not enough that I can really do it, but I'm coming to a place where I can begin work again on the book.  Maybe next week it will happen.  I haven't written anything serious for it since a few days before Halloween, five days before Dad had his stroke.  He had told me to take a break for awhile.  Here it is more than a month and a half later and the only thing I've done in the intervening period is re-write the prologue in a different tense and compose one very brief "interlude" meant for between the chapters.  And I did those mostly to get my mind off of things, for however brief a time I had.

Next week, I'm going to start tackling this again.  I'm pretty sure of it.

Like I said, this is a process and it can't be hurried through for my own sake.  But I do see the signs of healing.  The sessions with my counselor have become weekly, and in them I see markers along the way.  I have been learning some Christmas songs during my dulcimer lessons.  Last week I was asked to help backstage with the local theatre guild's production of It's A Wonderful Life: The Musical.  Tonight is opening night, and it has been a good thing for me to be around such a great bunch of people and working with them to pull off such an amazing production.  It has been a good thing for me to be around people in general, rather than cooped-up with nothing but my dog and the depression.  Okay, Tammy has been a great presence in my life during all this time and she's definitely someone who has shown me an amazing amount of love and understanding but, well... it helps to hear a real human voice too, ya understand...

This isn't going to be much of a Christmas season for me.  I think that's okay.  I was becoming too burned-out on Christmas becoming so over-commercialized anyway.  The previous six weeks have left my entire family exhausted, truth be told.  We are going to have a small get-together on Christmas morning and I will be watching the Doctor Who Christmas special that night and that will be it.  No giving gifts and I ask to not be given any.  All I ask of my friends and family is to hold each other close and thank God for being in each others' lives and be grateful for having things better than any of us could possibly deserve.  I won't be celebrating Christmas, for the most part.  And right now, that's fine.

This is a process.  Like life itself.  It hurts to go through this right now, but I am trusting God that this will be something that in the end will make me a stronger person.  I see it already.  And I believe that eventually I will see that this period of my life will have been not only for my own benefit, but for that of those close to me and for the sake of things like the book.

Speaking of which: my book now has a new title.

The idea for it hit me during the past few days, I think maybe Tuesday morning.  At first I thought it was too... I dunno... small, perhaps?  But the more I thought about it the more I realized that there is not only power in its brevity, but that it encapsulates a tremendous deal about the nature of bipolar disorder.  It also reflects a passage from the Bible that was invoked during Dad's funeral service: something pertaining to the nature of his handiwork.

I think it's the perfect title.  And I think Dad would like it too.

Dad wouldn't want me to linger in grief.  He would want me to move forward.  To "always think positive" as he was fond of saying often.  I still have hopes of marrying and having children, maybe someday I will get to see many a Christmas through their eyes.  If I can finish writing this book, perhaps there will be more.  My bipolar is becoming more manageable, I can see it held at bay by the medications and the counseling more than ever.

Dad got to see that, before he left us.  I like to believe that even if he didn't see it happen, that he knew that I would be okay.  That he got to see me come to the place where God has been leading me toward for all of this time.

And now it's time to honor him by living my life to its fullest as it's never been possible to do before.

Starting with finishing writing my book.

You voted Republican last month? Why?

I'm going to say something right now, and I don't care if it offends ANY body.  If it happens to offend you, good: maybe you NEED offending to open your eyes...

There is NO difference at all between the Democrat and Republican parties and anyone who puts the SLIGHTEST amount of trust in one party or the other... and I'm going to single out those who support the Republican party especially... are worse than fools and idiots.

For the past few days I've watched the Republicans, AKA the party that was just elected to "fix things" in the House and Senate, PISS AWAY their alleged ideals and principles by caving-in to Obama and everything he's demanded, especially in the way of the "amnesty" for the ILLEGAL aliens who have BROKEN THE LAW and are STILL breaking the law in being here.

The elections last month mean NOTHING.  Think I'm wrong?  Watch the incoming class of freshman representatives: by and large they already support John Boehner: by far the most useless Speaker of the House in American history.  He has foiled efforts to reign-in the government at every turn.  In a sane country there would have been a vote of no-confidence in this a$$hole's "leadership".  And now the "conservative" leaders of the Republican party have given their alleged enemy Obama all the money he needs to fund shamnesty.  Boehner and his fellow "Republicans" have done NOTHING to end Obamacare.  And they never will.

To those of you who voted for the Republican party last month and seriously, seriously thought you were doing something to change the country for the better: what ARE you smoking?

You aren't doing a damn thing to turn around America by still voting for the Republican party.  Or for the Democrat party.  Or for ANY party.  We are in this mess because too many people... and yes some of YOU reading this... haven't engaged the brains that GOD Himself gave you and trusted you to use.  You thought that you could let a party of all things think for you... and this is where it has brought us.

You thought that voting Republican was your "Christian duty"?!  People who are that way are worse than useless.  De-friend me on Facebook if that honks you off too much.  I'm dealing with realities, not illusions.  There is no escaping from realities.

The reality is, too many of us have put faith in a thing of man, and not put a faith in God.  And then claimed that they are serving God by supporting something so corrupt as temporal politics.

Tonight I saw the "conservative" Republicans let this nation slide even further into turmoil and decay.  All that they care about is their position, is their power.  The elections last month mean nothing now and they will mean even less a few months from now.

This country is run by idiots who really think that they're doing something meaningful by throwing their trust and faith behind political parties who do nothing but sell out the American people at every step of the way.

God help us.

In so many words: we have been BETRAYED.  And we will consistently be betrayed, by those who are supposedly appointed to serve us.  By those who ASKED to serve us in the first place.

If THAT doesn't piss you off more than all of what I've written above, then you have significant issues as an American citizen.

Yeah, stop visiting this blog if you like.  Deem me your enemy if you wish.  I would rather that you not. But I also happen to appreciate more the company of those who refuse attempting to exist without the responsibilities of conscience.

And unfortunately, it seems there are too damn few of us left.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Memorial video for Dad

On the night after Dad's passing, Anita (my sister), my aunt and uncle and I went through a ton of old photographs to use in the video that the funeral home would put together for the tribute that would play during visitation on the following night. Wilkerson Funeral did a very solid job in doing so and I wanted to share it on my blog.

I don't want to say which one, but there is one photo in here that seriously broke my heart to include. It was Dad's favorite photograph. It hung on the wall of his knife shop. Heck, it was the knife shop, the heart and soul of it. We knew we wanted it in the video, but it honestly hurt me to take it down on the morning before the visitation that night. It was like taking out the last lingering vestige of Dad's presence from his beloved shop.

Sometime soon, I'm going to have that photo framed and place it back where it belongs.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The FORCERY Four, together again!

I don't know how else to put it, but there are some things that happened at Dad's funeral that despite the occasion were an amazing delight.  And I truly believe that Dad would have had no small measure of pride if he could somehow know that this celebration of his life brought so many wonderful people together to celebrate not only his own life, but also of the most precious things in all our lives.

During the service I spoke a few words about Dad and since the other ministers were sharing stories from his life, I did likewise and related some tales of how forgiving and relenting - even if he didn't understand what the heck I was doing - of the many stunts that I pulled during the life that we shared.  One of them was during the filming of Forcery: my first (and Lord willing still the first of many more to come) film project.  So there was Dad watching as we did things like setting fire to the living room floor of his house, having sledgehammers flying all over the place, "breaking" my best friend's legs etc.  Dad saw this one day and he started to leave.

"Are you headed out Dad?" I asked him.

"Uh-huh, way out," was his reply.  That got a good laugh from the very many who came to the service.

Well, as it turned out, Dad's funeral turned out to be the occasion of a reunion of sorts.  Because among those who came were Chad Austin, Ed Woody, and though it was a long drive for them Melody Hallman Daniel and her mother attended... and boy was my heart jumping for joy to see each of them!  Ten years ago we were all making Forcery.  And as things would have it, we wound up all together once again.

It hadn't been planned, but I really believe that it was something God let happen: the reunion of the Forcery Four.

So here - from left to right - are Ed, myself, Chad, and Melody (with her service dog Sasha) ten years later, just after Dad's funeral:

We don't look all that different than we did when we were making that movie, do we? :-)

And here they are, the stars of our show: Chad and Melody, AKA George Lucas and Frannie Filks:

For such a low-budget project, it is absolutely amazing where our little film has gone and has accomplished since then.  Melody shared how many of her former drama students and fellow faculty members come up to her to tell her they saw her in the Forcery footage that was featured in The People vs. George Lucas.  Chad and Melody were seen on the screens at Cannes.  Forcery was mentioned in Time and The Village Voice and a lot of other publications, and made a whole bunch of bigtime filmmaking-related websites.

I won't say that I myself am proud of Forcery.  Instead, I will say that I am proud of what we accomplished together.  We didn't become only friends because of Forcery: the four of us and others became a real family.  Chad and Ed, have long been my brothers.  Melody became as beloved to me as any sister.  And all of them brought amazing consolation to me when I needed it most.

That is what makes Forcery so special in my life... and it always will be.

But it better not be another ten years before we come together again!  We've already planned to reunite again and watch Forcery once more.  No doubt next time we will have even more family to share it with :-)

EDIT 11-27-2014 3 a.m. EST:  After attempting it multiple times and failing, I finally got Forcery, the entire movie, to upload as a single YouTube video!  No more having to jump to parts.  Here it is.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Taking Dad to the edge of the Jordan

Yesterday was supposed to have be one of the saddest days of my entire life. Yet here I am after Dad's funeral and I cannot help but feel like the most blessed, most overwhelmed with joy, most hopeful man in the world.

Mom and Dad's grave site,
the morning after Dad's funeral
This entire time, I believe Dad would have felt honored by every aspect of it. Anita and I had Dad dressed in his denim bib overalls, with a red plaid flannel workshirt beneath and in his right hand, just as it was often poised in life, his smoking pipe. He had often told Anita that if she had him wearing a tie he would come back to haunt her, LOL. Last night during the visitation we had a table set up displaying some of the many knives that he hand-made over the years. That was my aunt's idea, and it was a good one. A lot of people got to see some really amazing examples of his handiwork.

The service was, well... spot-on perfect. It was a time rife with tales from the life of Robert Rankin Knight. One of the officiating ministers was particularly fond of the time two and a half years ago when Dad (during his and Uncle Frank's epic/crazy cross-country drive to Arizona) was pulled over for speeding in west Texas. We still don't know what he was clocked doing, except that the speed limit was 80 MPH. Somehow Dad got off with a warning after chatting with the patrolman about his knifemaking. That was Dad awright: a peaceful demeanor and cheerful talking can go far.

As I said, the service could not have been better. Everything about it was a true testament to his memory. Something about having two Methodist ministers and a Holiness-turned-Baptist-turned-Presbyterian pastor officiating made it so right, somehow. Dad always said he wanted "Go Rest High On That Mountain" by Vince Gill played at his funeral, and Anita's two friends from her church did an amazing rendition of that song. I'm also glad that before the service, those who came got to see the memorial video that Wilkerson Funeral assembled. So many moments from such a beautifully-lived life.

But it was what came after the service, as we were on the way to the graveside ceremony, that impressed my heart with how much God blessed our lives with Dad, and how He is continuing to bless our lives, and my own especially. Even when I spoke a few words about Dad during the service, somehow I didn't see ALL of the people who were packed inside the church. That came later, when our family was in the limo and watching everyone file out of the church, and then as we met in the fellowship hall following the interment.  Words fail to convey how much my heart jumped to see Melody Hallman Daniel - AKA "Frannie Filks" from our movie Forcery - and her mother.  Denise, I am so very moved that you and Nick could come and join the celebration of Dad's life.  Ed Woody and Chad Austin: my brothers... Dad loved you as if you were his own sons.

To each of you and more who came to the funeral, who came to the visitation, who came to visit with us at the home during the past few days, who kept my family in their prayers thank you for honoring him with your presence: on behalf of my family, you haven no idea how exceedingly grateful we are for taking the time to be with us.

I will confess something: I am scared. I don't know what I'm doing, it seems like. But in the past several days God has been showing me that just as much as He blessed me with the greatest father that anyone could ever have, He has also blessed me... and is STILL blessing me... with the most wonderful friends and family that anyone could have in this world. We are told to lean not on our own understanding, to trust God with all our heart instead. We are also told that we don't have to see the entire road ahead: that His word is a light unto our feet and a lamp unto our path. In these past three weeks and in the last several days, God has demonstrated in too many ways to count that He IS with us. That He is with me, no matter how far I have felt from Him. He has brought me this far. Maybe He will bring me a little further still.

Yesterday, we said farewell to Dad. But this was not goodbye, not really. This was a celebration of his life. Indeed, this was a celebration of what it means to HAVE life, and life abundantly. I am always going to miss Dad. As I sit in this house that is now suddenly my own, only now is his absence beginning to impress itself upon me. But I also know that Dad would want me to keep moving forward, to always be thankful for what God has given me, to "think positive" (as he often told me), and to cherish those who God has placed into my life.

Just as Dad was all of those things and more.

To all of those who have held up my family in their thoughts and prayers during these very trying past 19 days, to those who offered words of encouragement and edification, to those who have consoled our family and helped us in so many ways for the past three days, to those who came to honor the memory of Dad last night and this afternoon, to all of those and many, many more...

Thank you.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Dad's page on the funeral home site

The thought this morning was that I would post Dad's obituary on my blog after it had been published on the Wilkerson Funeral Home website.  But the staff at Wilkerson has rendered such an astounding service during this time of our need... well, that and the page they did for Dad is so spot-on perfect (and totally in keeping with his character)... that their tribute to Dad sincerely and earnestly does merit a visit to its link.

There will be a video slideshow uploaded later.  Anita and I spent most of yesterday evening and some of this morning combing through hundreds of photos of Dad, finding a select few to represent his very varied and wonderful life.  There were some that I hadn't even seen before, including a couple of he and I when I was only one year old.  Anyway, the video slideshow will be up soon.  And as I did with Mom's a few years ago I'll be posting an embedded YouTube of it here also.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dad is gone

Dear readers,

My name is Robert Christopher Knight, and I am proud to be the son of Robert Rankin Knight. And I have something to say to everyone.

No one could have been blessed with a father as amazing as Dad. From him I learned resolve, resilience, humbleness, the strength to always do what is right, the value of education, the persistence to achieve no matter where one is in life, the enjoyment of creativity, loving and cherish others especially those closest to you, and more than anything else a quiet and sincere devotion to God.

I could not have been blessed with a better father.

Robert Rankin Knight went Home this morning at 1:41 a.m.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A request for my readers

Hey.  It's just me again.  For whatever that's worth.

My personal situation is more of an ordeal than I could try to articulate in a blog post.  However it would be very accurate to state that this is without any possible doubt the most difficult period that I have ever known across the entire span of my life.  God only knows how I'm able to hold up right now...

...and that's what I mean, literally.  It's only by the grace of God that I'm writing these words tonight.  It's only by His grace that I've made it through the past two weeks and it's only going to be by His grace that I might be brought through the days and weeks and months to come.

Dear readers, there is something that I want to ask of you tonight.  Something that is absolutely impossible for me to impress upon you enough:

Life is too short.  Life is too precious.  We aren't guaranteed tomorrow.  And there should be no regrets between us.

Tonight, find the most precious people in your life and tell them, at the very least, three little words:

"I love you."

That's all it takes.  Tell them that you love them.  Let them know without any shred of misunderstanding that you care for them, that you cherish them, that you are extremely thankful that they are in your life.  Tell them that you thank God each and every day that they are there for you.

Never, ever let the sun go down on anything between you.  Don't let anger linger among you.  Anger and spite and bitterness have destroyed too many beautiful relationships, haven't they?  Don't let them destroy the ones that you are in.

Never leave something unsaid between you and someone else.  Leave no stone unturned.  No matter how painful it might be.  You don't want that to be something that one day you would wish you could go back to, only to find that it's too late.

I have written on this blog before that I have been in some dark places.  This, right now, is the darkest yet.  I have asked for prayers from a multitude of people.  I've no doubt that they have worked in petitioning God.  Worked more than my own, because I do wonder if God is hearing my own.

This is a very dark place and for once, I would ask for prayer for my own sake.  There are too many issues that desperately require prayer.  If you guys can keep me in your thoughts and prayers, I'm sure that God will hear each of you.

Don't let the day go by without telling someone that you love them.  Please.  Never do that.  Tomorrow isn't assured to any of us.  All we have are the moments now, between each other.

Make the most of them.

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

-- Ephesians 4:32

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fear and faith in the realm of miracles

It would not at all be inaccurate to state that more than any other time in my entire life, I have not been as scared as I have been for more than a week now.

It would be just as rightfully said that in that same span of time I have witnessed nothing short than a miracle.  Maybe even more than one.

Dad had a stroke on Tuesday of last week.

It was incredibly fortunate that it began in a physician's office.  That it was recognized in the earliest stage possible and that as a result 9-1-1- was called and Dad was immediately taken from Reidsville to the best hospital in Greensboro.  If it was meant for Dad to have a stroke, well... he could have been out on his tractor plowing a field when it happened and nobody would have known about it until it was much too late.

Instead he was taken to the hospital and the drug TPA was administered at once.  This is the medication that breaks up blood clots.

I'm counting all of that as the first miracle.  A miracle of timing that extends way past mere coincidence.

I would be remiss if I did not add however that I had never been so frightened as I was then.  I didn't want to lose Dad.  I love him.  He's always been there for me.  I wouldn't be writing my book if it hadn't been for his gentle prodding to do so for so many months.  He has helped me throughout these past few years in dealing with my manic-depression.  He has taught me things that I never knew before, like how to make a good pound cake.

I'll tell you a secret.  I have wanted my book to be sold.  I've been giving this effort my very best, not just for my own sake but for his.  The plan has always been that when it sold I was going to take Dad on a trip somewhere.  Maybe to Arizona.  Maybe to Scotland.

It's not like it was with Mom.  We watched her health gradually deteriorate over the course of three or four years.  When the time came it wasn't without expectation.  When the time came, we were able to let go.  Able to let her lingeringly drift away above and beyond her pain.

It's different when something as sudden as a stroke occurs.  You can't see it coming.  You don't know what is going to happen as a result of it.  All of those plans and more, just gone.  Not knowing if a loved one is going to make it or not.

So it was that the day after the stroke, Dad began to have significant bleeding on the brain.  TPA is practically a miracle drug if given without the first three hours of the stroke, and Dad was given it less than 45 minutes, maybe even 30 minutes, after the stroke began.  Unfortunately TPA brings with it the risk of cerebral bleeding.  And that is what happened.

I saw the area of the bleeding on the scan they did of him.  The big white space is going to forever be etched in my memory.

Fear upon fear upon fear.  I looked at Dad laying on his bed in ICU and the horrible realization finally sank in that I might actually lose him.  And it seemed that God wasn't listening to my prayers.

I'll admit to something else: I've long been afraid that God doesn't hear my prayers.

Maybe He doesn't hear because it is extremely difficult for me to do it with my mouth.  Manic-depression causes my thoughts to run way too fast and sometimes my lips can't catch up.  So my prayers more often than not are from my heart and not my tongue.  Then there is wondering if the bipolar itself is causing Him to not make anything out from the internal dissonance, or if it's just that my mind can't hear Him.

I've wondered if I'm too far away from Him for God to listen.  Yes, there are times when I wonder if I'm too far damned for things that I have done during my life.  Things that I have begged forgiveness for but seem to have never experienced that saving grace.

Dad's brain was awash in blood that should not have been there and my prayers were going no further than the ceiling of his room, it seemed.

That was fear.  That was fear that I've never had before and I pray will never happen again or that it will ever happen to anyone else.

Dad was stable, more or less, for the next few days.  The edema wasn't growing and in fact appeared to be subsiding.  But the following day, on Friday, Dad went into respiratory failure.  During which time his heart stopped beating.  The nurses were about to take him to another room outside of ICU.  Doctors and nurses who were in the same ward went quickly to work and brought him back to normal (whatever "normal" is in this kind of circumstance).  The doctor told us that Dad had experienced a seizure and that the heart stopping momentarily (and his heart did quickly re-start on its own) was not uncommon in cases of stroke.

I don't know what would have happened if all of that staff, with so many years of knowledge and experience, had not jumped into action as they did.

That was the second miracle.  And that's what these were: nothing short of miracles from God.  Miracles of timing, yes.  But that makes them no less potent or awe-infusing.

It was in the first day or two of Dad's stroke that I began asking others to please keep him in their thoughts and prayers.  My logic was this: if God isn't hearing my own prayers, maybe He will listen to those of others who are far closer to Him than I am or may ever be.  That is what happened.  I asked for prayer here (some quietly told me that they have done that, without knowing what it was that was going on to evoke those prayers).  I asked for it on Facebook.  I asked for it from my counselor.  I asked for it from anyone who I knew at all, and then some.

To pray means to petition God for something, even if it's just for a little slice of His time to hear you out.  I added my own to those being spoken by literally hundreds of people, from Reidsville to Hawaii to Germany and everywhere in between.  Dad was being lifted up by people he didn't know and probably never would otherwise know were there.  When he can, I'm going to show him the prayers that my friends on Facebook alone were showering him with.

I'm more thankful than I can possibly express that there is now a chance that that will happen.  Because a few days ago on Monday we really did almost lose Dad.

He had been on a respirator since Thursday (I hope I'm getting these dates right, if not I can always look at the prayer requests on Facebook instead of trying to rely on stressful memory).  After two days he was doing well enough that he was taken off of that.  On Monday afternoon I called my sister - who has been part of the constant vigil we have been keeping at the hospital - to ask how Dad was doing.

She was in tears.  She told me that he was back on the respirator and that Dad was unresponsive and that the damage to his brain might now have been so severe that there was no hope for him whatsoever.

Again, I cannot at all express the fear that enveloped my family and I.

Monday afternoon Dad's sister talked with the doctors.  She talked with Dad's pastor who has been with us so much throughout this ordeal.  Then she talked to my sister, who is a medical professional.  And then in the chapel all of them spoke with me and not for the first time but certainly the most I came almost entirely unglued inside.

I need to elaborate on something here: all through this time I've been holding it together far better than I would have ever anticipated.  I'm being there for my family, for Dad's sake because he would want me to not lose my nerve.  For myself most of all, because I have come this far already.  That doesn't mean that I'm not a mess inside, because going through this has certainly done that.  But at least I'm there enough for those around me.  This has become one of the most incendiary events so far as my bipolar disorder is concerned but... well, again I don't know how else it's happened other than a very real miracle and knowing that it's not been just Dad but also myself who has been sustained by the prayers of so many people.

It's been more than enough to make one believe that God does really hear our prayers.  Even those of people who feel most distant from Him.

My aunt and Dad's pastor conferred with my sister and I.  And, well... there is no real other way to put it: the family agreed that in keeping with what Dad had expressed to us before, that a do-not-resuscitate order would be signed for him.  Meaning that drastic actions to save his life would be withheld if he went into a state that would have rendered him, in so many words, a vegetable for the rest of his life.  That didn't mean that treatment itself would be withheld, because the doctors and nurses have been as committed to helping Dad as much as any patient possibly could be helped.  I saw that on Friday, when his bed was surrounded so much by staff that my sister and I couldn't make him out at all.

To possibly allow Dad's life to be terminated was the hardest decision that I have ever had to make.

For as long as I live I'm never going to forget Dad opening his eyes so briefly, and me telling him that I loved him and his barely-audible voice saying "I love you too".  And I thought that would be the last that I ever heard from him.

Anita (my sister) and I spent the rest of the evening at his bedside.  Holding his hands.  Telling him we loved him and always would.  Whispering to him that if he wanted to let go, that he could.

And all of this time, our friends on Facebook were praying harder than ever for Dad.  For which, I will never be thankful enough.

I went home at 3 in the morning.  I don't remember how I drove back.  Tammy, our dog, needed to be fed and watered (thankfully a cousin had been given a spare house key so he took care of her several hours earlier).  Sleep never came.  Time stretched and spread out too thin.  Not even my medication worked.

That was the longest night of my life.

I'd withheld taking one medication because it's one that does cause drowsiness.  I had withheld it because I didn't know if I had to go back to the hospital and I needed my faculties for it in case I did.  But by 5 a.m. the depression was creeping in and I had little choice but to take the drug.  It was either be awake and my mind collapsing into a massive spiral, or succumb to drowsiness, let my mind rest and be there for my family when they would potentially need it most.  I knew what Dad would have me do in that situation: he would want me to take care of myself first.  So that's what I did.

Several hours later the next miracle began...

I called Anita.  She told me that Dad was doing much better.  That his responsiveness was returning, that he was able to breathe somewhat but that they were still keeping him on the respirator.  He was opening his eyes more when someone spoke to him.  And he did speak to us!  In fact, he told us something so hysterically funny and somewhat vulgar that I can't print here.  But I don't care: my father was alive and communicating, and that's all that mattered.

Later that evening the nurse showed me something.  The stroke has left Dad immobile on his left side.  The nurse put her fingers into Dad's left hand and told him to squeeze around her fingers.

And he did.

Yesterday was even better: he was taken off the respirator.  He wasn't quite whispering but he still had things to tell us that we could just barely make out.  He said something else vulgar that I had to laugh at.  And my aunt and I saw him move his left arm.  Not just fingers, but his entire arm.  Not much, not even lifting it over the blanket on his bed.  But he moved it all the same.

Dad is alive.  And I am absolutely praising God for bringing him so far in such little time.  I went home last night and got down on my knees to thank Him for this and thanking Him for all of the people in my life and that of my family who have been praying for him.  Dad was doing so well last night that we were able to end our vigil.  So after my prayer of thanksgiving I played with Tammy, then I made a pizza and finally got to use that bottle of original brand Sriracha sauce that I found over the weekend, then I ate while watching Thor.  Then I did something I haven't done in two weeks: sent out queries to potential agents (this is the toughest part of writing a book, the gauntlet that every author must run and I'm no different).  Then I let myself play some TIE Fighter and before going to bed I prayed for another ten minutes and then crashed harder than I've ever crashed asleep before.

Don't tell me that there is no such thing as miracles.  I've seen them. From the time when all of this started, on through what is going on right now and especially what happened during the night between Monday and Tuesday.  We really were bracing ourselves for the worst.  By the estimation of practically everyone Dad should not have survived, much less begin to demonstrate responsiveness and motility that defies all sense of reason.

Don't tell me that prayers don't work.  I don't know if my own did, but those of a lot of people better than I certainly did.  And Dad is being lifted up in them still, even now.

A friend told me yesterday that maybe I'm being too negative, too down on myself about whether God is hearing me.  And she's right: I am too critical of myself.  But she also told me that all of this is something God has been using to increase my faith, to make me stronger.  To make me more the person that He intended for me to be.

If so, then that also is one more miracle from this situation.  And in its own way, the one that is personally to me the most amazing of all.

Dad is not out of the woods yet.  There is still a long hard road ahead of us.  In keeping him stabilized and then the therapy which will hopefully restore a measure of normalcy to his life.  I've told the staff that Dad is a knifemaker, and that he needs to be able to swing a hammer at the red-hot steel he holds down on his anvil.  The staff thought that was another interesting thing about a patient who told me "was quite a character".

I don't know what is going to happen from here on out.  I do know that Dad is still in need of a lot of prayer and thought.  For those who I have reached out to through this blog and have done so, I am exceptionally thankful that you have done that.  I ask that you please continue to keep Dad and my family in your thoughts and prayers.

Miracles.  They happen.  In the past several days, I've seen them.  I have seen a lot of things in my life that can't be explained by the senses of science and medicine.  When you witness your own parent go from the very edge of death to having a fighting chance at life, nothing else comes close.

Miracles happen.

Fear is not forever.

And faith?  Faith manages.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Dear readers,

Prayer would be much appreciated right now and it's not for me.  Thank you.

Monday, November 03, 2014

We are supposed to be better than this...

What I'm about to say is going to get me in a whole lotta trouble with some people. But it's way past time that it be said...

There are two groups of people in America who have been taken for a ride by either of the two major parties. They have been taken advantage of at practically every turn. They have been promised everything and have been given nothing.

I speak of Christians being held captive by the Republican party and of those of African descent by the Democrats.

Both of those groups have become the battered housewives of the Democrats and Republicans. They've been beaten and told "where else are you gonna go baby?"

People like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have kept their brethren beholden to the Democrats only because it feeds their own egos. Booker T. Washington warned against such when he said "There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs – partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”

No American deserves to be treated like this. It's something that no free man or woman should tolerate.

And then there is the loathing I have toward the Republicans for what they have done to so many well-meaning Christians.

What is the single biggest issue that most Christians have been passionate about during the past several decades? It is abortion. What is it that Republicans have kept promising that they will do away with if they got into power? It is abortion.

The Republican party has held the majority of votes in the legislature and held the White House so many times since Roe v. Wade, and still we are no closer to getting rid of abortion. And we will NEVER be rid of the sin of abortion if we keep trusting the Republican party to accomplish the task.

Because the truth of the matter is, the Republican party - or at least its leadership - DOES NOT WANT ABORTION TO GO AWAY!! It is the biggest thing they have to keep Christians, especially evangelicals, voting Republican. If abortion was finally made rid of, the Republican party would no longer have all of those well-intentioned Christians to count on to vote for them at the ballot box every two and four years. The LAST thing that the Republican leadership wants to do is throw away their biggest draw.

The GOP had the Presidency and both houses of Congress during the past decade. Did they ever attempt to overthrow abortion? Nope. Not at all. And yet so many of us as followers of Christ have been told in no uncertain terms that we have to vote Republican, that it's "God's ticket" on the ballot.

What am I trying to say in all of this?

We the people have been USED and ABUSED by those who care for nothing but power and prestige. They promise everything and deliver nothing. The two parties and the system they have created is among the most corrupt in the history of the world, and we owe it NO allegiance whatsoever.

We will not be a free people until we stand up, look at those who keep us in bondage right in the face and tell them: "no more".

We either stand on our principles or we stooge for a party. There is no middle ground.

We are better than this. God meant for us to be better than this. America is a land meant for people of liberty and ideas, not limited thinking and ideologies.

If you have understood what I have written and have been pissed-off about it... good. It's SUPPOSED to piss you off. Parties, politicians and the media have insisted you wear blinders. Tear them off and see the light.

And tell those who would claim power over you - WHOEVER you are - that they can go to hell.

Vote tomorrow. Absolutely. But I brook no illusion that anything will change for the better in America, no matter who wins or loses. With each passing election we lose more and more liberty. We have sacrificed responsibility for convenience and we think we can make up for it every two or four years at the ballot box. As a Christian, I believe that too many of my fellow believers have been taken in by the notion that we have to have political power in order to effect change for the better. We are called to be a light for Christ, not to be seated at the table of power. We've been told a lie that we have to elect rulers over us... when in America WE THE PEOPLE are the rulers. Not politicians, or even the government itself. "Render unto Caesar," it is said. Here in America we threw Caesar out on his ass a long, long time ago. The citizens are in charge, for better or for worse. Unfortunately we have shirked that charge because the media or the parties - and I don't care WHICH party - has told us a damned lie in saying "trust us".

I choose to vote tomorrow because I am a free citizen who is not beholden to any man or to any party. None but God can lay claim to my vote, and any who think otherwise is a blithering idiot. I will vote because this land is where God chose to put me and I *will* be responsible with that.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

What the #&@% did I just watch on DOCTOR WHO this week?!?

To: Steven Moffat
From: Christopher Knight
Subject: This week’s new Doctor Who episode “Dark Water”

Dear Mr. Moffat,

You have crossed a terrible, terrible line with this episode.

The same was said of what we came to know as the War Doctor.  This, somehow, is far more insane and certainly the boldest thing yet seen on Doctor Who.  So bold, that you may have finally gone too far.

I hope you know what it is that you’re doing.


p.s.: do NOT consider doing this to the Doctor himself.  The consequences would be disastrous.  I could see someone of the opposite gender in the role, but not the character himself.

p.p.s.: I am compelled to state for the record that what you did is actually better and truer to that particular person than happened on Russell T. Davies’ watch and that "Missy" is a fine addition/extension of the Who mythology.

p.p.p.s.: Roger Delgado will always be the best!

p.p.p.p.s.: somehow, I think Delgado would have admired what you have done.

p.p.p.p.p.s.: oh yeah, “Dark Water” is the best episode of the Peter Capaldi era by far!!

"November Rain"

It's the first day of November.  Seems like a lot of people are getting cold wind and precipitation of some kind (further west of my location many places are getting 3 inches of snow).

Perfect day for a song like this.  Some consider this to be the best music video ever assembled...

Admittedly, I did post this same video six years ago. Somehow, seems even more appropriate now.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Look! Chris makes a political endorsement!

Here comes something that I haven't done in... what, at least six years?  To be honest I can't remember.  I think the total amount of times that I've endorsed a candidate has been less than three.

(Okay, I guess I kinda endorsed myself during that very wacky school board race in 2006, but that mostly came during the process of chronicling that process here on the blog.  I didn't actually come out and say "I endorse myself!" although that would be kinda funny...)

For many years I have had a policy and I have kept strictly to it, without any exceptions.  It is this: I will not vote for any candidate whose campaign runs a single negative ad against an opponent.  If a candidate cannot win on her or her own merit, then that candidate doesn't deserve my vote.  All a negative ad demonstrates is that the candidate running it is more interested in power and prestige than in the people.

I'm telling y'all here and now, that my ballot wound up having a lot of blank spaces at the very start of this campaign season.  I've been watching every race like a hawk, showing partiality to none.  Longtime readers also know that I am not partisan.  I vote for the person, not the party.  Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, independents... each and more have been represented in the ballots I've cast.

Incidentally, one of the most absolutely worst things that a person can do is vote a straight-party ticket.  Too many people fought and died so that we might have the rights of citizenship.  Those rights do not include casting votes without thinking about who you're voting for.

Some of these notions won't find approval with more than a few.  But I don't care.  You shouldn't come to this blog or that of anyone else and expect commentary fitting the status quo.  Around here, we laugh at silly concepts like conventional wisdom.

But anyway...

Here, with less than a week left before the election, after observing this season very closely, I can confidently attest that there is at least one candidate who has passed my test.  The same cannot be said of his primary opponent in the media, and it certainly cannot be said of the two "front runners" in this state's U.S. Senate race.

If this candidate runs a negative ad in the eleventh hour, I'm going to withdraw my endorsement.  But this far along, seeing what I have, I don't think that it's going to happen.

Say no to the negative ads!
Vote Mark Walker for Congress!
So it is that The Knight Shift and its eclectic proprietor gladly announces that in North Carolina's 6th District race for United States House of Representatives, I am going to heartily endorse Mark Walker.  Not only because his values and beliefs as in such close alignment with my own, but because he has run the cleanest campaign that I have probably ever seen for office at the national level.  Not one commercial - be it television or radio - has come out of his campaign aimed at an opponent.  And I seriously believe that he is going to win election in very large part because of that.  People are fed-up and tired of negative campaigning.  People are hungering for real character and integrity.  I would never intimate that Mr. Walker is a perfect candidate, because there is no such of a thing.  If he does win election to Congress, there will be things that I will disagree with him about.  That's just the nature of this carnal world where we each strive to see through the glass darkly.  But I can very confidently affirm that voting for Mark Walker will be one that for the first time in a long time will not be a vote that I see myself regretting.

If anyone asks, I'm not affiliated with the Walker campaign.  I haven't volunteered for it, I haven't made any phone calls or passed out literature.  I've never met Mark Walker.  I do know many others who do know him personally, and not one of them has not attested that he is a man sincere in his beliefs and convictions.   These are people who I respect a tremendous deal and if they say that about Mr. Walker, I'm inclined to believe them.

So again, Mark Walker wins this blogger's enthusiastic endorsement.  And I will encourage this blog's readers who are also in the 6th District of North Carolina to do likewise.  And if you want to know more about Walker, his background and what he stands for, click on over to his campaign website.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

GOG.com has released X-WING and TIE FIGHTER!

Today shall be a day long remembered...

Courtesy of the amazing folks at GOG.com (the GOG stands for Good Old Games), what are by far two of the greatest computer/video games ever wrought by mortal hands have gone on sale today, ready to be enjoyed by a new generation or by those who have longed to reminisce about those heady days of the early Nineties.

Stick it to the Empire in
And I would be saying that even if they weren't Star Wars titles!

X-Wing was an astounding and revolutionary game in its own right and when it came out early in 1993 it took the industry by storm.  With a brilliant combination of 3D graphics, rich user interface, an immersive storyline and balanced yet incredibly challenging gameplay, X-Wing was the Star Wars experience that everyone wanted but few thought we would ever get.  This was the combat simulator of its time and even by today's standards it holds up incredibly well.  At last, players could join the ranks of the Rebel Alliance in the fight against tyranny, with a variety of fighters: the X-wing, Y-wing, the ever-slippery A-wing and the powerhouse B-wing.

...or blow Rebels to smithereens in
TIE Fighter!
But not to rest on its laurels, the following year LucasArts released TIE Fighter: still considered by some to be THE best computer game of all time.  TIE Fighter turned the tables and let gamers take to the skies against the scum and outlaws that the Rebels really are (the intro sequence alone are enough to make one giddy about blowing Rebel fighters out of the stars).  TIE Fighter improved on everything that made X-Wing work, and then some.  An even more interactive story/campaign and array of craft (including the TIE  Defender and my personal favorite the TIE Bomber) gave you all the tools you'd ever need to show them pesky Rebels what's what.

And as of today GOG has made X-Wing and TIE Fighter available and 100% compatible with modern systems!  If you're still playing these classics with old CD-ROMs (or even the original floppies), you'll never again have to juggle disks.  For $9.99 each you can download a DRM-free single-file installer and set up either game (or both) on any moderately-equipped system from Windows XP on up.

Incidentally, for the ten bucks you're actually getting two flavors of each game: the original DOS version and the "Collector's Edition" that ran on Windows and required a joystick (the DOS games could be played with a mouse).  The Windows-based Collector's versions have prettier graphics.  But the DOS ones have the iMuse MIDI score that changes dynamically as events in the game are triggered (i.e. the Imperial theme starting up as a Star Destroyer suddenly arrives on the scene).  The Windows editions have Redbook WAV audio instead (meaning it doesn't change per combat conditions).  Personally, I'm going with the DOS versions at least at first.  Having an iMuse score with the game itself more than justifies the price tag.

So what are we waiting for?  Mash down here for X-Wing and aim here for TIE Fighter!

These two games have been the most hotly-demanded on any modern game-delivery platform and now after years of yearning GOG has given both Star Wars fans and general gamers alike what they've wanted more than most.  And along with these two GOG is as of today also offering other classic games from the LucasArts vault: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (which some will argue is really the greatest PC game ever and not without reason), Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, The Secret of Monkey Island, and the very twisted Sam & Max Hit the Road.  More LucasArts games are promised for the near future (maybe I'll finally get to play Full Throttle...)

So there it is: X-Wing and TIE Fighter for modern computers at long last.  Go get one.  Or the other.  Or get both.  Now.  You know you wanna.

(I'm holding off until after I finish writing my book.  Getting to play X-Wing again is going to be a present to myself :-)

Friday, October 24, 2014

So... you wanna watch Chris play the Doctor Who theme on his dulcimer?!?

Sure.  Why not...

I've mentioned a few times that ever since late spring I've been taking lessons on playing the mountain dulcimer.  So far I've notched up quite a repertoire but I'm still learning the real basic mechanics of what is truly a beautiful instrument.  Still, I've come a long way in a short amount of time :-)

Anyhoo, from the very beginning I've had in mind to play the Doctor Who theme on dulcimer.  It's something that I've played around with for awhile now and... well, I think that I've got it.  Just needs a little more finesse, is all.  Only tonight did I figure out the last half of the second strain of the theme.  When I get really good I'll string them all together nice and flowing.

Okay, so if you want to see and hear what I've done so far ummm... well I can't post it on YouTube at the moment 'cuz for some reason YouTube doesn't like it when I try to publish from my iPad.  But fear not!  I've uploaded the video onto Facebook and made it public so that anyone can watch it.

Just a work in progress.  Next time it's gonna be even better but I'm still rather proud of how it's turning out already :-)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fixing iPad and iPhone "bricked" by iOS 8.1

So the other week I upgraded my iPad (it's an iPad 2) to iOS 8.0 and since then there was some significant slowdown of apps, and Safari seemed especially effected.  Oh it worked, just not at the brisk pace that I'm used to.  Anyway, last night I finally updated to iOS 8.1

Never, never again will I do such an upgrade to my ever-trusty iPad 2.  And yes, I know that I should upgrade the iPad itself.  It's three and a half years old, after all.  I guess it's seen me through an awful lot so there's that sentimental value.  If and when I finally retire it I'm thinking of putting it in a shadowbox and hang it on my wall.  But until then I'd still like to get at least a little life out of it.

Anyway, I started the update and went to sleep and when I woke up this morning it was supposed to have been all ready to go.  Except that it was even slower than it had been before.  So, I powered-down and waited 30 seconds then turned it on again.  And for the next 30 minutes or so I was staring at the silver Apple logo in the middle of a black screen and going nowhere fast.

I was immediately terrified that my iPad had become broken or bricked or something and that I would never see it or the data I had stored on it ever again.

Some Google-ing however indicated that I was far from alone: many people using older iPads (I've seen reports of iPad 3 and perhaps the generation after that) have been affected by iOS 8.1 and many iPhones going back to iPhone 5.  You would think that there would be some kind of thorough analysis and de-bugging, and at the very least have the device inform users when the newest iOS is incompatible with their device.  Some are wondering if this is apparently Apple's way of compelling consumers to buy the latest version of the hardware.

I know that the newest iPad Air is out this week, and I'm considering getting it soon.  In the meantime I do need my iPad now to be working.

Well, it took me an a hour and a half, but I did come up with something that gets the iPad un-bricked and if there's any consistency between the device itself and iTunes (note: make sure your iTunes is updated to the latest version) this will probably work for you too if your own device is hit with a "black screen of death"...

1.  Open up iTunes on your PC or Mac (I'm using Windows Vista... yeah yeah I'm a glutton for punishment).

2.  With your device unconnected to your computer, make sure your iPad or iPhone is already powered-on.  It's okay if it's still showing the black screen and logo: we're about to fix that!

3.  Connect the iGimmick to your computer/iTunes through the cable.

4.You should see iTunes acknowledging the presence of the device.  If your computer is anything like mine you will see that it's setting up new device stuff through the USB.  THIS IS A GOOD THING!  DON'T UNCONNECT YOUR iTHINGY UNTIL IT'S FINISHED DOING THIS!  You should know when it's done when your iPhone or iPad screen comes up as usual, with all your icons and wallpaper and whatnot.  If you can maneuver around the screen with your finger like usual that should indicate that the device has been re-set and back to normal.  But just in case I would leave it still communicating with iTunes for a little while (say, 10 minutes or so).

5.  While you're waiting for that, it's a good time to start backing up your iToy... so do that.  Do it now.  Or perish in flames.  It's your choice, but not really.

6.  After the backup is done (it took mine about 15 minutes because I had so many space-hoggin' apps on it... and other stuff) it is probably good to do.  Disconnect as normal and proceed to continue enjoying your iGadget as normal.

Last night I updated over the house network via wi-fi instead of going through iTunes, and I'm wondering if that is what was part of the problem.  Maybe, maybe not.  Worth pondering.  All I know is that once it was physically hooked-up with iTunes things started going back to normal.

Now, there's one thing that I haven't done so far.  I haven't powered-down and tried to turn it back on.  Because I'm kinda leery about doing so and having to go through this crap all over again.  I may try it tomorrow if I'm brave enough (I'm trying to get some book written  this afternoon/evening so while I'm in that groove).  If it works I'll let y'all know.  Or if it works for you, feel free to leave a comment about it.

Guess I'll have to get an iPad Air 2 sooner than later.  But that's okay.  I've had my eye on getting a 128-gigabites model for awhile now anyway :-)

EDIT 5:02 p.m. EST:  I should have mentioned earlier that after applying this fix following the upgrade to iOS 8.1, that my iPad 2 is functioning MUCH faster than it had been prior.  It's now comparable to the speed it was on iOS .  Even Safari.  And the touch screen seems a tad more responsive now also.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Get out your Bible and re-watch last night's THE WALKING DEAD

No need to discuss the "Bob-b-cue" or the "shish-ka-Bob" or whatever you want to call it at the end of last night's The Walking Dead 'cuz chances are that you've heard plenty enough of it today and Lord help you if you had to eat ribs tonight.

I'm re-watching "Strangers" right now and something that caught my eye...

After Rick finishes sweeping through Gabriel's church and the rest of the group come in, there are a couple of boards on either side of the altar at the front of the sanctuary.  On each board is an identical set of verses.

The verses are:

Romans 6:4
Ezekiel 37:7
Matthew 27:52
Revelation 9:6
Luke 24:5

Just out of curiosity I went to my Bible and looked up each of those verses.

What I found makes me wonder if that was something intentional on the part of the producers.  As if it's a clue or a sly wink or whatever.  One way or another, each of the verses is about death and/or resurrection.

 Very, very intriguing stuff.

And this show keeps continuing to demonstrate why it's the best on television.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"Flatline": Chris declares this week's DOCTOR WHO to be nothing less than astounding and brilliant!

It's been 45 minutes since the transmission (heh-heh-heh, did you see what I did there, saying "transmission" like they always do in Britain?  That's all I got...) on this side of the pond of "Flatline".  And with each passing minute I'm coming to be convinced more and more that this episode of Doctor Who may be one of the very best since the legendary "Blink" of David Tennant's era.

Yes.  It's that good.

"Flatline" was classic old-school mystery/horror and along with the past few episodes I'm reminded a lot of the more terrifying stories from the Tom Baker years.  This was no exception, and along that trend "Flatline" is the finest of the bunch.  In fact, I would even go so far to say that this was the greatest episode of Peter Capaldi's run we've seen so far.  There were some real "hiding behind the sofa" moments in this episode and I think it will be a solid entry on a lot of fans' "favorite Doctor Who stories" lists.  It was also - it goes without saying - replete with plenty of humor (especially in regard to the teeny-tiny size that the TARDIS exterior begins to be).  You can tell that Capaldi is really settling into his role as the Twelfth Doctor and that he's having a wazooload of fun with it.  The chemistry between him and Jenna Coleman's Clara is a sincere delight to behold, and "Flatline" may be the best example yet of that.

So what made "Flatline" so awesome?

1.  The most terrific interaction we've seen yet between Clara and the Twelfth Doctor, despite the fact that they were rarely together (more or less).

2. Clara standing on her own two feet and showing what she's capable of when practically alone.

3.  The incredible shrinking TARDIS (and won't the toymakers go crazy with that one...)

4.  A cerebral concept that was brilliantly executed and was quite easy to follow along.

5.  Secondary characters that viewers could readily empathize with.

6.  The Boneless: perhaps the most original new monsters since the Weeping Angels arrived in "Blink" several years ago.  And just as horrific.

7.  The "I am the Doctor!" scene where the Doctor breaks bad and reminds us that no matter how afraid we may be of the monsters, the monsters will always be afraid of the Doctor.

All in all, "Flatline" is an absolute hoot of an episode and I'll no doubt watch it again from my DVR before the weekend is out (maybe before tomorrow night's The Walking Dead).

Something else that I've been meaning to mention.  I am really digging the music that Murray Gold came up with for the Twelfth Doctor's theme.  There is an epic majesty and sense of mystery to it that complements Capaldi's Doctor just as spot-on as "I Am The Doctor" was for Matt Smith's.  Here's hoping that the BBC won't be long in putting out a Series 8/Season 30-something soundtrack.  Then again, we're still waiting for that score from "The Day of the Doctor"/"The Time of the Doctor" from the fiftieth anniversary last year.  What's the hold-up on that anyway?!

But guess what?  I found out tonight that November 8th sees the return of Doctor Who to PBS!  That's also the night that BBC America broadcasts the season finale.  So that'll be at least two hours of Doctor Who spread out across two networks.  Doctor Who once again on PBS every Saturday...

...somehow, that makes things seem a little brighter in the world.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Best fried chicken recipe I've EVER had!

It was going to be finished by the end of June.  And then the end of July.  Then the end of August.  Then by the end of September.  That didn't happen so I projected the end of October.

More than halfway through this month and my book is still far from finished.  I'm learning the hard way (but what other way is there really?) about what it means to write a book.  And right now I'm going through entirely other frustrations about this, not necessarily related to the manuscript.

This is a very tough thing to do.  But I've grown so much from this.  I wouldn't take anything for it.

Anyway, it occurred to me earlier this week that I really have been throwing myself into this almost non-stop since mid-May.  I don't know if I could have started this before: being able to write this seemed to have come at just the right time.  I wasn't equipped or prepared before.  Now I am.  And I'm going to take this as far as it can.

But for the past few days I've taken a break from writing for the book.  As you can see the blog posts have been far more frequent.  Maybe if I give this site some tender loving care, a few more things will fall into place.

So right now (because it's the sort of random thing that The Knight Shift is famous for) I'm going to share a recipe.  Not just any recipe, but the one that I used for the best fried chicken that I've ever attempted!

Credit goes to Pepper Faircloth Romo for the recipe.  Thanks also goes to longtime friend Lenora Hendrix for drawing my attention to this.  When I saw it on Facebook and how delicious it looked I immediately took a screenshot of it with my iPad so I'd have it wherever I went.  After I used this recipe for the first time I knew it was something that I wanted to share with this blog's readers.

So here is...
I fried this chicken!
No, really, I did.
(And it tastes as delicious
as it looks!)
Grandma's Recipe for Good Old-Fashioned, Perfect Every Time Southern Fried Chicken
  • 10 pieces bone in, skin on chicken (can also use 12)
  • 2 C. all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika (optional, but adds good flavor)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 C. heavy cream or milk (I used heavy cream)
  • vegetable oil for frying
 Set the chicken out about 15 minutes before you are ready to fry. In a large Ziploc bag combine the flour, salt, pepper and paprika. In a dredging type bowl/dish beat the eggs with the cream or milk. Using a large iron skillet (or other deep sided skillet, you could deep fry also), heat 1" oil to 350 degrees. Take each piece of chicken and dip into the egg mixture then place in the Ziploc bag and shake around till well coated. Shake off excess and place in the hot oil. Repeat with a few more pieces (do not overcrowd the skillet, I cooked mine in two batches). Cook for 7-10 minutes or until the chicken is good and golden brown on the bottom, turn the chicken and brown the other side about another 7 minutes, continue turning and cooking the chicken another 6-8 minutes or until the internal temp. reads 165 degrees (white meat does not take as long as dark meat, so check after 15 minutes of frying). Remove chicken to a paper sack or paper towel lined plate.
There are many more recipe's on Pepper's Facebook page, so be sure to go and check it out! And tell her that you saw it on The Knight Shift :-)