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Friday, February 27, 2015

He lived long and prospered

"Of my friend, I can only say this: Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most... human."
-- James T. Kirk, eulogizing Spock. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

 Leonard Nimoy
1931 ~ 2015

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Big White-out of February '15

During last night and into early this morning, a huge swath of the state got blanketed with 4-8 inches of snow. Here's how it looked at my house around 7:30 this morning.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tammy wants to sing to you...

Behold her beautiful singing voice!

Been too long since I've posted any pics of Tammy.  I happened to catch her right in the midst of one of her yawns (which, it must be said, sound hilariously cute):

Monday, February 23, 2015

Let her go? Queen Elsa arrested near Charleston for FROZEN weather

Disclaimer: I have yet to see Disney's Frozen, so I have no idea about how extensive Elsa's criminal activities go.  I'm assuming they are pretty pervasive, given how much I've heard it talked about by numerous children I've found myself around.

Just days after police in Harlan, Kentucky issued a warrant for her arrest, Queen Elsa was located this morning all the way in Hanahan: a small town near Charleston, South Carolina.  Hanahan police spotted Elsa freezing a fountain in broad daylight.  Police swooped in and arrested the Snow Queen before she could bring down the fury of a cold front threatening the area.

ABC News 4 is reporting that...

With more bitter cold heading to the Lowcountry this week, Hanahan police officers tried to do their part to stop the encroaching weather by arresting the Snow Queen.
Police Chief Mike Cochran and Officer Flor Reyes made the arrest.
In this case, police could not let her go after spotting her freezing a fountain in Hanahan. However, she was freed after a bond court hearing. Apparently the ice melted before the hearing, taking with it any evidence.
The ABC News 4 link has much more about Elsa's arrest, including several other photos among them pics of her getting her bond hearing.

No word on whether Elsa began singing "Let Me Go" after being handcuffed.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

I suppose nothing good lasts forever

The Walking Dead may have jumped the shark tonight.

I'm not the only one with that estimation.  Many others are expressing the same thing.

This show has gone political, and far too blatantly so.

This episode had one and only one purpose.  It was one scene.  A scene designed to throw something into the face of viewers.  And that's all that this episode was meant to do.

I don't care for that no matter what one's persuasion may be.  What I've enjoyed most of The Walking Dead is that it explores the human condition in the face of the most trying of circumstances, and it does so without regard to political perspectives.  That's what has made The Walking Dead such refreshing viewing.

Tonight The Walking Dead fell back into the gutter that is most of the rest of television.

Very disappointed.  Very.

Movies I've Never Seen: First edition has Chris abiding THE BIG LEBOWSKI

This is the first installment of something that I've had in mind to do for a few years now.  I think this is going to be a fun new feature of The Knight Shift.

Here's the deal: my DVR is loaded... and I mean loaded... with movies that for some reason or another I've never watched before in my entire life.  They've just been sitting there, waiting for me to take the time to partake of them.  And as time goes by and especially as I find my knowledge of films has some significant gaps in it, I increasingly find myself wondering "what the heck's in there?"

So I'm finally going to see what these movies are about, and then share my thoughts about them here on this blog.  This is going to be an ongoing if irregular feature, but I'll try to do it at least once a month (the next few movies have already been selected.).

So without further ado, kicking it all off is a movie that a lot of people were abjectly shocked that I had never watched before...

The Big Lebowski (1998)

I had to watch this three times before I felt confident enough to write about it and even now, I'm wondering if I "get" it on a level comparable to that of others.

Now, I did enjoy The Big Lebowski.  It's a Coen Brothers film, with all of the quirkiness that I've come to expect of them.  No, more than that: it's their signature style all cranked up on high-octane crystal meth, and it makes for a hella fun ride.  But my biggest problem with The Big Lebowski is that there is not one character - other than Donny and The Stranger - who I felt any measure of sympathy or empathy for.

Take Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) f'rinstance.  The central character to this mad tale of mistaken identity, bowling, and absconding trophy wives.  I liked The Dude.  He is, as The Stranger puts it, a man for his time and place.  But I didn't particularly feel moved by him.  He's someone to watch, not to be become attached to.  Like a lab rat running around trying to navigate a maze... or doing its damndest to not be devoured by a rattlesnake.  That, to me, is The Dude: a slacker out of his league (though certainly not by his own free will) who finds himself a pawn in a larger game.  But that is all that he is to me: a pawn in a larger game.  Although just as in chess, the pawn that reaches the final row can become a greater piece... and that is what The Dude is in the end.  That's all that we know of him after that, what The Stranger tells us.  I like to think that The Dude finally grows up and becomes more than the person we've spent two hours watching in this mad manic adventure.

And then there is Walter (John Goodman).  Again, no real attachment to this character.  In some ways he's more pathetic than The Dude.  Stuck in the past, unable to move beyond his failed marriage.  Still trapped by his ex-wife.  Using his unresolved anger about the Vietnam War as a cover (barely) for his frustrations.  Am I supposed to feel anything for Walter?  I lost any possible sympathy for him when he whipped his piece out at the bowling alley and threatened poor Smokey.  And he was already blowing whatever goodwill he may have had with his torrent of F-bombs at Donny (Steve Buscemi).

Like I said, these aren't characters that I particularly "liked".  With two exceptions.  One of them is Donny, who is suffering all of this nonsense with an extreme amount of grace.  Donny seems to be the only one of this trio of bowling buddies who I had any sense of appreciation toward.  Which makes what happens to him later so tragic, even heartbreaking.

And then there's The Stranger (Sam Elliott, wonderful as always).  The character who I found myself relating to the most.  In large part it's because of his aversion to the harsh language throughout this movie (and in all sincerity, there is too much of it).  But even that is an aspect of a larger dimension to The Stranger.  He's the cypher, the framing device that puts the glorious mess of The Big Lebowski into proper perspective.  The Stranger is the keystone of the entire enterprise.  Without him as the bookends of this film, there is not much more than a barely-coherent mess populated by this Greek chorus of colorful if not likable characters.

This is not an enviable set of circumstances at all, from start to finish.  I mean, The Dude gets his head plunged into a toilet, fercryinoutloud.  And then his quest to replace his rug (it really tied the room together) runs afoul of hostage situations, drugged-up visions and ninja-esque nihilists.  Again, all involving more characters that I didn't have any sense of empathy toward.

Maybe that's part of the point of this movie.  It's to be witnessed, not to have any feelings of associating with.  It's to be enjoyed, not to necessarily be understood and much less embraced.  It's kinda like a comedy out of the Sixties.  Yes, this is the Coen Brothers paying homage to Blake Edwards, as only they can.

All of that said, I did enjoy The Big Lebowski.  A lot.  It is a Coen Brothers movie, and true to their style it's a work which is greater than the sum of its parts.  Taken apart and divvied-up, there is not much to really enjoy.  But mash all of those characters and situations together, and it's well-orchestrated hilarity flying past the retina in connected episodes of mayhem and Chandler-esque mystery.

So, I finally watched The Big Lebowski, and I find my knowledge of movies all the more enlightened for it.  I'm wondering if it's too early to put this film on the National Film Registry, as happened recently.  But maybe with more viewings I'll come to understand and appreciate that more.  And I do plan to watch it a few more times, at least.

Anyway, let's go bowling...

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Catherine Rose: Mother, genius, communications pioneer

Catherine Rose and her daughter Alexis
It is an honor and a privilege to be able to say that I have been able to count Catherine Rose among the friendships that I have made through this journey in life.  She and I were in high school together and shared many conversations back and forth from our swim meets.  Catherine is, literally, one of the most powerhouse intellects on the face of the Earth.  I thought that then about her and the past decade has only served to reinforce that estimation.

Catherine and her husband are blessed to be the parents of two beautiful daughters.  One of them, Alexis, was born with severe disabilities that prevent her from learning and communicating as other children her age.  It was something that led Catherine to take a position at Philips and their healthcare division.  In her time at Philips, Catherine has led the development of a system which could be used by Alexis and countless others to express thoughts and ideas that would otherwise be extremely difficult.  Catherine's technology, called LightAide, is now being employed throughout the world by people from all walks of life.  For her efforts, she and her team have been lauded with many awards from the healthcare and engineering communities.

I know of no other way to put it than this: Catherine Rose is the precisely right person to accomplish this magnificent task.  I can not possibly think of anyone else so gifted and given such an opportunity to share that gift with so many.

And now Catherine has been named among The Mighty!  That website has just posted an in-depth conversation with Catherine in regard to her family, LightAide, and how technology is providing a bridge across which we all may span together...
Rose noticed her daughter's attraction to lights and convinced her employer to build a teaching tool to help children with visual impairments learn. LightAide is now being used around the world by people of all ages, and, just as important, by their teachers and caregivers, who are beginning to realize their charges might have better cognitive abilities than previously thought.
"There's a whole lot of people who have vision, but they have low vision," Rose said. "They can't see as well in the light that we normally give them. But if we give them more light, then they may be able to use more vision."
Mash here for more of The Mighty's interview with Catherine.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

From inside the chrysalis

The realization has been growing in the past several weeks and months that I have not written much of the kind of serious material that I used to do.

Okay, not exactly true.  There have been dozens upon dozens of pages of written work that I have been producing, for the past nine months.  But it hasn't seen the light of day because it's all for the book I'm writing about having manic-depression.

(Well, that isn't exactly true either.  Every so often I'll play a game with my friends on Facebook, telling them that if my status gets so-and-so many "likes" that I'll post a sentence from my manuscript.  Sort-of my way of beta-testing the tone that the writing is in as I'm writing it.)

No, what I mean is: I haven't been writing any serious contemplations or musings on my blog in what seems like forever.  And I'm wondering why that is.  Especially because I've been told that those have been some of the posts that have consistently drawn a readership here.

Maybe it's because I'm changing as a person.  And I think that writing the book is the biggest reason.  Yes, it's taken up a lot of time and energy that would otherwise be spent blogging from my heart and soul.  But it's also compelling me to develop as a writer.

More than that: I'm metamorphosing as a person.

Dad's passing certainly figures into the equation.  It took a lot out of me.  It took out things that only now am I really beginning to recover from.  But I think that I'm coming away from it stronger as a person, and I know that Dad would appreciate it.

For those of you who have asked if I'm ever going to do "serious" stuff again here: yes.  Absolutely.  I have every intention of doing so.  But for now, I have to see where this goes.  Where God is taking me.  What He is making me into.  I'm inside a chrysalis and I have no idea what it is that I'm supposed to be when I emerge from it.  All I can do in the meantime is continue to grow and change and experience the delights of mere becoming.

More and more, the title I have in mind for my book is being more appropriate.  Four words.  Four syllables.  But those four words are packed with meaning.  And if (or "when" as my friends keep telling me) it is published, the final sentence is going to really slam home what manic-depression has done to my life.  But that may not be all a bad thing.  I'm still growing toward that as a person.  Which is going to make that last sentence as much a thing of wonder for me as I hope it will be for you.

In the meantime, I keep writing.  I keep evolving.  I keep being shaped and molded according to His will and not my own.  But I do think very much so that after seeing how far this goes, that I will come out of it a stronger person of the pen.  And I'm looking forward to writing more of that kind of stuff for y'all.

Neil Blomkamp is making an Alien movie! And why this makes Chris very VERY happy...


Holy cow, this is a SERIOUS dream of mine come true! For literally decades I've been saying that there needs to be an entry in the Alien franchise that picks up after Aliens and totally ignores that Alien 3, Alien Resurrection etc. ever happened.

And now it's actually happening!!

It began two months ago when Neil Blomkamp (director of District 9 and the upcoming Chappie) twittered some concept art he had quietly been commissioning for his vision of what an Alien movie should look like.  An Alien movie where Ripley and Hicks made it back and thus totally repudiating Alien 3.

Here's some of what Blomkamp had in mind:

Needless to say, the response those pics engendered was one of frenetic approval.  Throughout social media and across reams of websites the message to Fox was clear: "we demand that Neil Blomkamp make a proper Alien movie!"

And it's really happening.  Blomkamp twittered today that his next project is officially going to be the Alien saga.

Blomkamp is the person to do it too. At long last, we are going to see Ripley and Hicks going on another bug hunt. We can forget that Alien 3 ever happened.  Blomkamp has indicated that he can begin work on this, for all intents and purposes, immediately.  I can hypothesize that this means he can have Alienwhatever ready for summer 2016.

Think I'll celebrate tonight by popping in my Blu-ray of Aliens...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Praise from a peculiarly-placed demographic

So, I've never watched AMC's series Breaking Bad.

Okay, I take that back.  I've watched half of one episode, and it looked pretty good.  Made me want to see more of it.  Everyone who I've mentioned to has raved about this show.  Has told me "Chris what the %&@$ is wrong with you, this is the best series ever!!" or words to that effect.

Someday, sooner than later (it'll have to wait until at least after the book is finished) I plan to watch Breaking Bad from start to finish, and find out what all the commotion is about.

In the meantime...

Last week was the premiere of the spinoff series Better Call Saul.  There've been three episodes thus far.

And without knowing anything else about this particular fictional universe, other than Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk's character) is a shyster lawyer, I have to say... that I am hooked.

If Better Call Saul is this good already, then I can barely imagine how good Breaking Bad must be.

I'll give Better Call Saul a pretty strong recommendation.  Not my highest, because it's still too early.  But I'm very optimistic that this series is going to go far and be consistently strong for the whole ride through.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Classic SESAME STREET: "Ladybugs' Picnic"

It's been some time since I posted any classic Sesame Street material.  Need to get better about that.

Well anyway, here from 1971 or so it's the very timeless "Ladybugs' Picnic"!

Few items of interest about this clip. Firstly, that's legendary muppeteer Jerry Nelson singing, with fellow muppet operator Richard Hunt playing the kazoo.

And it's also worth noting that this was animated by Bud Luckey, who is currently an animator at Pixar. Just think: this cartoon is from a guy who went on to work on stuff like Toy Story, WALL-E and a bunch of other Disney/Pixar movies.

This song was always memorable to me for some reason.  At one point it was seriously stuck in my head.  So now I'm showing it to you guys so that you can share my, errr... enjoyment :-)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Another chapter completed

Late last night I finished another chapter for my book about having mental illness and specifically bipolar disorder.  So depending on how you figure it, that's three chapters I've done in the past few weeks.  Three chapters done since I picked up the project again in the wake of Dad's death.

In all honesty, I never expected to have come this far along, so fast.  I don't know if I could have before now.  Maybe I had to go through some things before I could arrive at the place where I am now.  Dad's death... well, it changed me in some ways.  Most of all it renewed my faith in God, that His timing is perfect though we often can't see that.  That aspect has made me realize anew that everything that I've gone through, everything that has happened, has had some purpose.  It hasn't been for naught.  What that purpose is, I don't know... but it's there.

I am writing the book in part because this is what I'm supposed to be doing at this point in my life, looking back on all the other points that were leading to this precise place.  I want to believe that I am poised exactly where God has been moving me to be for all of this time, despite how dire the circumstance may have been.

I could not write what I am now, were it not for those things happening.

I like to think that that belief in God will be reflected in the book, regardless of how it will come across to many people.

Let me be clear, in no uncertain terms: this is a harsh, harsh book.  The chapter that was finished last night is the longest so far.  You'll know it if this is published.  It's manic.  Very manic.  We're talking rapid-fire machine gun of barely-controlled thrill ride framed by what remains one of the very worst mistakes of my life.

But now, at last, I have come to the edge of a very, very dark place and I am so not kidding: in all of my long career as a published writer, what I'm about to do next is the most frightening thing that I have ever attempted.

This is the abyss, and I'm about to plunge into it.  Worse, I'm asking readers to come along with me and look into the darkest heart of mental illness.  There are things in there that will disgust many, if not most.  I am not going to be looked at the same way again.  I may lose friendships.  I may lose opportunities

Tonight the notion struck me that I couldn't be doing this if it weren't for God bringing me to this place.  If this had been just me, I could not be writing at all.  We are told that in our weakness, He is magnified.  If what I am doing in this book gives God the honor and the glory, then what I'm about to do will be a small sacrifice.  One that I won't mind in the long run.

But right now, I'm scared.  Really, really scared.

I hope you people have a strong stomach.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

One of the sport's greatest has left the court...

Dean Smith
1931 ~ 2015

This is one of the best campaign ads you will ever see

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come out with a commercial for his campaign (and the Likud party) and... well, it's pretty gosh-darn brilliant no matter who you are!  A couple expects a babysitter and instead they get a "Bibi-sitter". Check it out:

I understand that there is some play-on-words here that will probably go unnoticed by most English-only speakers.  F'rinstance, when they mention "carpets" that's also Israeli terminology for "territories".

I've a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for Mr. Netanyahu.  A tremendous amount.  But I never thought that he'd be making a commercial like this.  Seeing him let his hair down with such a clever ad seems perfect somehow.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Book status (maybe this should be a weekly thing?)

I think... I think... that Chapter 23 is in a form which I can be content with.

I refuse to say "comfortable with".  There is nothing comforting about this chapter.  This has been difficult to write because it is becoming very painful to write about some things.  Indeed, at the moment I'm trying to take steps to help more accurately convey what was happening at that point in my life.

Chapter 23 has been rough, to put it mildly.

The next few are going to be the harshest of the book by far.

The thought of revealing the original title has been floating around.  The more I think about it the more I find myself of the notion that it was a great title at the time.  That it may have been the best that I could have come up with, that it was the title that got me through that stretch of the journey.  But now it sounds like crap.  And I'm kicking myself for using that title to try to sell the book for some of the past several months.

No, that wasn't a good title.

The new one is better.  Much, much better.

And though it didn't originally, there is now a subtitle and I like it a lot.  The few who I've shared it with also think it rocks.  I'll give a hint: Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist.  Read that and you may find something of the direction the whole book is heading into.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Official Doctor Who LEGO sets are coming!

We will soon have a TARDIS officially rendered in LEGO...

That pic is just the proof of concept from two guys who submitted their design through the LEGO Ideas page and have had it approved.  The actual sets will probably look somewhat different.  But even so... we're getting BBC-approved Doctor Who LEGO sets y'all!!

Nerd Approved has a lot more about this awesome news.

I wonder if the little Weeping Angels minifig moves when you're not looking at it...

"Everything is Awesome!"

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Look at what I just found!

It's The Weird Spinning Head of Chris Knight!

That's from 1998.  It was on my personal websites for a long time. "Weird" Ed helped me make it: he snapped the photos with a film camera while I sat in his office chair and rotated around to get the various angles. Then after getting the pics developed I scanned 'em and then put them together with GIF Construction Set.

sigh...  Those were the days.

Have spent most of the day working on my book.  Chapter 23 took several huge steps forward this evening.  I wound up taking a break and came across that GIF.  Was bored and figured I'd post it for a few cheap laughs :-P