100% All-Natural Content
No Artificial Intelligence!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

President Trump has become Thanos!

Or is that "Tranos" or "Thrump"?  Well anyway, the idea for this hit me a month or so ago and I spent most of the morning committing iPad Pro and Apple Pencil toward making it happen.  Obviously a homage to the classic cover of The Infinity Gauntlet #4 from 1991:

Friday, June 15, 2018

Reign Of The Madmen

Visiting the Reagan Presidential Library over a year ago impressed upon me the Gipper’s charm and cordiality toward Gorbachev.  Yet Reagan was also fiercely resolute in his conviction that people desire to forge their own destinies.  It was the two Cold War leaders riding horses together as much as it was Reagan’s defiance at the Brandenburg Gate that ended the threat of communism in Europe.

It was a fine example of the “neo-noblesse oblige” that had been the template since World War II.  Countless perished in that conflict due in no small amount to the failure of “gentleman diplomacy” on the part of the upper crust.  But for its time, that was sanity.  And then a new sanity dawned with the rising of a false sun over Hiroshima.

Yet Ronald Reagan… was insane.  Or so we were told by pundits and academics.

Speaking of peace while drastically building up the American nuclear arsenal. An unprecedented military re-investment.  Strategic Defense Initiative.  The latter especially indicated Reagan’s “lack of sound mind.” “Men of peace” do not behave this way, insisted the experts.  “Good feelings” and nice words would prevail.  Drawing-down strategic assets and ultimately freezing nuclear weapons: that was sanity.

Except that very same “sanity” had locked the superpowers into a torturous drawn-out wait for inescapable Armageddon.

Reagan’s insanity is now regarded by all but the most stiff-hearted as superior genius.  He knew the Soviet Union was damned to fail… and so Reagan expedited its collapse by giving Moscow no choice but to spend itself into imploding.  More than a generation of Americans and Russians have now appreciated life without nuclear nightmare.

Somehow, since Reagan departed office, the world has gone un-sane.  The “sane ones” have taken over the asylum.  And we are all the worse for it.

Then came what to many was the night of June the Eleventh.  The gravitas of the flags of the United States and North Korea, arrayed together in official capacity, cannot be understated.  There was the handshake between President Trump and Kim Jong Un before the two retreated into private discussions followed by lunch.  Shortly afterward it was revealed that Kim had already agreed in April to commit toward de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

And then came Dennis Rodman, live from Singapore, in what must go down as among the most surreal moments in the annals of global diplomacy.

The former pro basketball star -- festooned in facial metal, a “Make America Great Again” cap and a marijuana cryptocurrency shirt -- broke down in tears during a bizarre interview on CNN.  There is no reason not to take Rodman at his word when he described attempting his best to communicate overtures from Kim to then-President Obama, only to be roundly rebuffed (read as: “ignored”) by Obama.  It appears that for all of Rodman’s antics in Pyongyang, he was more driven and sincere than most of us gave him credit for.  CNN’s Chris Cuomo looked as hapless as Robb Stark at the Red Wedding.

Cast pity upon the future generations of high school teachers.

Within hours “The Worm” was being hailed as Nobel-worthy.  Almost as a garnish, Scott Adams put the circumstances into context better than journalists who have made lifelong careers of such commentary.  The creator of the comic strip Dilbert explained how Kim had been won over through his love of American cinematography and presented on a tablet screen.  Adams hailed it as perhaps “the best negotiation video in the history of man.”

This is not what statesmanship looks like.  Dennis Rodman is not the second coming of Henry Kissinger and the mind behind Dogbert doesn’t have a clue.  iPads are no substitute for champagne.  This kind of insanity is not supposed to prevail on a global stage.  At least not without being confronted with multilateral airstrikes and petty cliches.

That is what “sane” professionals have insisted, especially since the prospect of a Trump presidency first surfaced.  Oh yes, “beer summits” and gestures like giving Queen Elizabeth an iPod and unloading pallets of gold bullion onto the tarmac in Tehran… that is sanity, the experts have told us.  That is what “legitimate international negotiation” is meant to look like.

Lest it be said this was peculiar to Obama, his immediate predecessors worked with sanity also.  George W. Bush was known for hosting barbecues honoring dignitaries at his Potemkin ranch, and Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeline Albright hoisted flutes with Kim Jong Il in the heart of Pyongyang.  Three administrations have exemplified a quarter century of global sanity and the success of those minds has proven dismal at best.  Among other things Obama’s sanity almost certainly helped to fund Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

A few days before the Singapore summit, CNBC correspondent John Harwood questioned the mental health of President Trump.  “I'll be honest as a citizen, I'm concerned about the president's state of mind,” Harwood said.  “He did not look well to me in that press conference.  He was not speaking logically or rationally.”

It was far from the first time that mainstream journalists and his political nemeses have diagnosed Trump with having psychiatric issues.  Disregard that very few possess medical credentials and those who might have not accompanied Mr. Trump through the protocols necessary to render such a verdict.   Curiously, many of those same observers applauded Robert De Niro dropping F-bombs on live television less than twenty-four hours before the summit as “sane” behavior.  But, I digress.

As someone who has lived with bipolar disorder and especially severe depression for most of his adult life, I would offer an alternative assessment of the current President of the United States:

I know what having a mental illness is about.  I have lost track of the different medications, the therapists and psychiatrists, and the hospitalizations that have transpired toward reining in a mind turned against itself.  So let me cut to the chase: I do not see any indicators whatsoever of mental illness in Donald J. Trump.

I do however see within the man a rare acceptance of his own sense of identity and understanding of why he holds to his beliefs.  Somehow that has become construed by some to be “arrogance”, “belligerence”, and that bugaboo “narcissism”.

For a number of reasons, I could not support or vote for Trump when he was campaigning for President (and Hillary Clinton would never under any circumstance get my vote).  At times Trump behaves in ways that are confounding and frustrating, mostly in regard to the decorum of office.  Case in point: his poor choice of words at last summer’s National Boy Scout Jamboree.

That being said, Trump has otherwise not only not displayed any mental incapacity whatsoever, he has demonstrated an enviable grasp and willingness to confront reality.  “Narcissism”?  That is a condition of someone so uncomfortable with their own existence that he or she justifies it at the expense of all others.  Per that measure, Trump is the least narcissistic President or any contender in a generation.  He is proving to be not unlike in leadership as Winston Churchill: someone who did have bipolar disorder, incidentally.

It’s too easy to associate deviation with madness.  Often they who do so err in assuming that every person is neurobiology and organic chemistry and nothing more.  They ignore that we also are mind and soul.  That we are not creatures of instinct but are meant for thought and all of responsibilities that come with it.

Scripture teaches that man’s wisdom is foolishness to God.  We have certainly seen the “wisdom” of leadership in recent decades.  It has been weighed and found wanting in the scales.  “Insanity”, as Einstein famously observed, is repeating the same mistake and expecting a different result every time.

We have tried diplomatic sanity.  It has failed and no amount of protesting from the Obamas or the Clintons or the Bushes or their supporters can alter that.  Yet in the space of a few hours, Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un accomplished more than seventy years of their predecessors and professional negotiators achieved combined.

Maybe it’s time we try with little more than faith and hope and heart, enjoined with thought.  Perhaps now we should give real sanity a chance to prove its qualities.

There sits that sanity personified, at the site of the most historic and successful summit meeting of the modern era, in the form of Dennis Rodman.

If this be madness, may we suffer more of it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Good morning America and while you were sleeping...

You are waking up to something that most of us never, ever even dreamed we would be seeing.  That the flags of the United States and North Korea are being displayed with one another in an official capacity would drop jaws alone.

But then, this...

Two men who in the space of a few hours have accomplished more than their respective predecessors achieved in the previous seventy years combined.

The end of the Korean War is at last at hand.  Kim Jong Un has indicated he wants full stepdown of a nuclearized peninsula.  Time will tell what the full measure of that intent yields, of course.  But there really is a sense that the leader of North Korea is being genuine.  Maybe Kim has done something even more impossible than what we are seeing on the world stage.  Perhaps he is stepping out of the long shadow of his father and grandfather.

There is no avoiding the obvious fact that by all accounts Kim has been a brutal dictator over his people.  Even so, I have sometimes wondered if he was following the example set by his forefathers, without question.  Has he turned from their example?  'Twould be a path that very few men in places of absolute power have ever taken.  Could it be that we may have underestimated the character of Kim Jong Un?

Again, time will tell.

Then again, stranger things have happened already regarding this occasion of unprecedented history:

In what will surely go down as among the most surreal moments in the annals of global diplomacy, former NBA star Dennis Rodman broke down in tears during an interview on CNN and... seems like there really was a heart of gold behind his antics in Pyongyang these past few years.  Rodman was serious about opening up a dialogue between North Korea's leadership and the United States, apparently.  To hear Rodman tell it, his efforts were appreciated by Kim but when it came to presenting his labor to then-President Obama, he was rudely rebuffed.  Only now, with Donald Trump in the White House, has progress been made and by all appearances magnificently so.

Kim Jong Un is pledging to end his nuclear program, the Korean War is ending and Dennis Rodman is now more eligible for the Nobel Peace Prize than Obama ever was.  It's as if we're in the Matrix and it's been reprogrammed by Electronic Arts.

If you have small children, please be letting them watch this.  And explain to them what's going on.  One of the defining moments of my own life was the day that Reagan was shot.  I wanted to turn the channel and watch cartoons but Dad told me "No we need to watch this, son.  This is history.  You'll be reading about this in books someday.  This is something you can tell your own children about."

He was right.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Since FALLOUT 76 is now officially in West Virginia...

...I just had to run with it!

Actually, "Walton's Mountain" would be a hilariously appropriate name for a player's encampment.  Maybe someone on your team can set up a moonshine still in his or her house.  Y'know, in honor of the Baldwin Sisters and their "recipe".

Fallout 76 streets on November 14.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

My new op-ed piece is up at American Thinker (and about Star Wars and Kelly Marie Tran...)

The last time I wrote an op-ed for publishing other than on my own blog was more than ten years ago.  Certainly hasn't been for lack of wanting to.  This is a kind of writing that I first attempted on the cusp of my senior year of high school and it's a craft I devoted myself to developing further in college and beyond.  Then all of the general wackiness of the past decade transpired and that threw everything out of kilter.  Especially being able to engage all the gears required to really feel like I could be the writer that I needed to be to give this my very best.  And now, well... maybe this is an indication that the time for that has come at last.

American Thinker is a commentary site that I've come to appreciate and visit often, and I am very grateful that it has published "The Revolution Will Not Be Finalized".  An excerpt:
Social revolution has no such finite end.  The civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties was not a "social" revolution.  There was no grand upheaval of the common order – only an assertion of what had long been codified in American heart if not law: that all men are created equal.  It began with acts of conscience, and it ended with acts of conscience. 
There are many in our era who speak unceasingly of bringing about "social justice."  They never describe what a "socially justified culture" will look like.  Why should they want to?  Because for big-P Progressivism to be consistent, it must be progressing toward something.  To state conditions for victory?  That would be aborting Progressivism.  That is not part of the plan.

Maybe it's a persistent pattern in my life but this piece does begin with a bit about the state of the Star Wars "social justice" mess going on right now.  That's kind of what precipitated it being written to begin with.  Well, when one is asking the Muse for inspiration then one takes what one can get.  Anyhoo if you want to check it out here's that link again.

Speaking of Star Wars, I've been out of the loop on stuff the past several days but I did hear about what's been going on regarding Kelly Marie Tran.  "Star Wars fandom terrorist organization" is a phrase that I never imagined would telegraph across my synapses no matter how fevered and delirious they might get.  It was easy to sincerely wonder if it was for real or a satire or a covert "false flag operation".  But apparently it's real.  And if you hadn't heard already, the reports are that Tran unhooked herself from Instagram and maybe all the rest of her social media as a result of brutal harassment because some didn't like The Last Jedi or, more darkly, that they think she was cast to fill a "racial quota" or something.

How has this come about?  What has happened to us?  Star Wars fans have been divided on issues before but NEVER like this.  And it is not the result of the 2016 U.S. election (I may forever be shaking my head in disbelief that someone wrote that on a website devoted to this franchise).

I'll try to maintain brevity here.  Personally, I liked The Last Jedi including Tran's character Rose.  There have been a number of "Rose"-es in my life.  That conscientious young lady with spunk and tenacity and she holds everyone around her accountable to themselves whether they want it or not... or realize that they do want it.  There needs to be more like Rose in the real world.  She was a sweet character and Kelly Marie Tran played her wonderfully.

Reiterating what is in the essay on American Thinker, I do believe that Disney and especially Kathleen Kennedy have done a ginormous dis-service and act of destruction against the Star Wars brand by using it as a platform for their own ideologies as opposed to what it's supposed to be: a realm of ideas common to the human condition.  And in the past few days especially we are seeing the horrible fruits of that error in judgment... though obviously Kennedy and her associates are not the ones to be held responsible for the cyber-bullying against Tran.  That's strictly the fault of the "Legends losers" or whatever they're calling themselves.

That being said, I have not seen before and I do not see now how having the cast reflect a wider range of ethnic backgrounds is part of that at all.  Indeed, I wish there had been this much variety from the very beginning.  But George Lucas pretty much used what there was to work with on a then-limited budget and an available pool compromised of mostly classical English actors and American expatriates like Phil Brown and William Hootkins.  As far as I'm concerned, those are NOT "whites" or "blacks" or "Asians" or "Aleutian Islanders" or whatever in that galaxy far, far away.  Those are humans and whatever geography their ancestors hailed from is long forgotten about.  It shouldn't matter at ALL who plays the roles in these movies!  Just find whoever is right for the part and trust him or her to do his or her best.

Miss Tran, if you happen to read this, please know that you are a very lovely and talented young lady and that you provided much-appreciated shine and sparkle in The Last Jedi and I hope you have an even bigger role in Episode IX.  So far as I'm concerned, you weren't doing anything other than play a human of good character.  And that's something that none of these real-life trolls can ever claim to be.  Hope you come back, kind miss!

Okay, that's 'nuff for now.  It's Sunday morning.  Go back to sleep or eat your corn flakes and get ready for church or watch your re-runs of Land Of The Lost or whatever.  At least sometime today look at the outside world and hug your loved ones or just stop and smile and say hello to someone you've never met before.

Know what you believe.  Know why you believe it.  Know how to stand for it.  But also know that there's more to life than that.  We are as but a vapor.  Don't let a moment go by looking for reasons to be bitter and filled with rancor.

And to those discovering this blog: greetings!

Sunday, June 03, 2018

To father a child: do I have that right?

I am not a wise person.

There are many who possess far greater wisdom than I can ever contain in the few cubic inches of mind absent depression or mania.  And those who admit to knowing me will testify, Dear Reader: I have shared many matters I wrestle with on Facebook, hoping that among beloved friends some can lend a measure of that wisdom.

At first, that's where this was meant to be: posted on Facebook.  But maybe this time I should cast a wider net.  Perhaps some of you who read this blog can provide the answers I seek.

Here it is: Should I want to have children?  Why should I want to have children?

Do I have the right to bring a child into this world?

It is no secret that for the vast majority of my life I have wanted to be a father.  To be entrusted with a child or children who can be born and live and grow and find their purpose and see that their father and mother love each other very much and most of all find their own relationship with God.  To be the parent who goes looking for presents to be found under the tree on Christmas morning.  To explore the world and see it anew through the eyes of my children.  To watch them learn and laugh, just as I will discover again for the first time what it is to learn and laugh.  To do my very best so that they have a better life than I ever did, and to never doubt that they are loved and cherished.  To have that home filled with love and joy and thoughtfulness.

And increasingly I wonder if I should want that at all.  If I was wrong to have wanted that and if I have wasted time in chasing after it.

It comes down to four reasons why I am haunted to ask those questions.  And maybe some of you can give comfort and encouragement.  And the truth.  Especially the truth.  No matter how painful it might be to hear it.

First of all, let us be frank: The world is a cruel place.

And with each passing day it becomes even more cruel.  I see in my own country how it is that anger and hatred, and craving power over others, and hypocrisy and corruption are becoming like virtues.  How much of what made our culture great is becoming eroded for sake of carnal pursuits and perversities.  How it seems that only those who give in and compromise on their convictions and principles have a chance of "making it" and being successful.

Why should I want to subject a new human life to that?  How will I answer him or her, if they ask why did I bring them into existence in such a place?  To have a life where they will be hurt by others over, and over, and over again.  Where they will be used and abused and exploited and betrayed and bitterly disappointed by the boundless visions of man's inhumanity to man.

Second, and this is a big one: How do I or can I tell a child that he or she is going to one day die?

Once upon a time, the fear of death immobilized me.  Almost literally.  That was when the depression first began and after losing a number of loved ones in the span of a few months.  I became obsessed with staving off death.  Even forever, if it was possible.  And that was the mania part of bipolar disorder working its malevolent magic: casting a spell of delusion over my rational understanding of how things must be in this realm held captive to entropy.

The thought of dying doesn't disturb me anymore.  Indeed, there are some days when I think I would rather welcome death.  To be free of the memories of griefs and hurts and abuses: those inflicted on me but mostly those I have inflicted upon others.  Which has oddly made wanting to be a father even more tantalizing.  It would be a chance to fill up my life with good memories instead.  And be driven to give my sons or daughters a happy and fulfilling childhood that they will never someday look back upon with regret and anguish.

And that must be selfishness on my part.  To use having children as a rationale for escaping the ravages upon my own mind and spirit.

What do I tell a child when he or she asks if they will die someday?  How do I respond when they ask why did they have to be born, just to one day perish?  And if they are endowed with any of the inquisitive nature I had in my own childhood, they will eventually ask that.

How do I tell a son or daughter that they are going to die and there is nothing I can do to stop it but I was going to make them live and die anyway?

Third: Dare I possibly condemn a child to have a mental illness?

Bipolar disorder is a funny thing.  We know there is a genetic component but when it comes to getting expressed there is quite a lot of dancing about.  I am now persuaded after research that my great-grandfather on my paternal side had severe mental illness.  So did his daughter, my grandmother.  Grandma Knight definitely demonstrated significant periods of depression.  Dad never showed any signs whatsoever of mental illness: indeed, he might have been the most "normal" of our family.  Grandma Knight had four grandchildren and when her genes and those of my grandfather are diagrammed out, there was a 25% chance that one of those grandchildren would have mental illness.

Looks like it skipped over Dad, from my grandmother and her father, and landed on me.  None of the other three grandchildren have had indicators of mental illness.

With a one hundred percent confidence that I carry the gene for bipolar disorder and having long known that it is an active part of my life, well...

Dare I risk passing that condition on to my children?

Their odds of developing it might be less for them than they were for me.  But even so, to have any mental illness is to jeopardize the chance of a normal and productive life as most people enjoy.  It's certainly something I've never gotten to know.  More than a decade and a half of my life has been spent on medication and deep counseling and some involuntary hospitalizations.  All while trying to grasp and claw at some semblance of enduring happiness.

Don't my potential children have a right to that happiness?  How dare I risk taking that away from them?

And then, fourth, the harshest consideration of all:

How can I give life to a child who will have doubts about God?

When I mentioned "hypocrisy" earlier, I must count myself the worst of the lot.  Because for all of my belief in God, and doing my best to serve Christ with what talents He has given me...

For the most part, I believe God is there.  But I also confess that I doubt God has ever heard my prayers, that He ever will hear my prayers.  I confess that to me, God is not the all-loving, all-caring Father.  And I am very jealous of those who find joy in His love and grace, when it is that I cannot have that.  

Because to my utter shame God to me is a cruel, manipulative and indifferent bastard (yes, I am trying to hold back the anger toward Him).  And I am exhausted of seeing Him bless others with love and families and purpose and joy.  When the only consistent elements throughout my life since childhood have been a mind turned against me, a mother who was more abusive than I realized until recently and only now have I begun to address those wounds, hopes of a future with purpose and satisfaction falling to ashes in my hands...

(And if I as a parent carry on the cruelty and manipulation of a previous generation?  But that is something I'm not yet ready to delve into.  Maybe it's better that remain buried.  As a character in a recent movie said: "Let the past die.  Kill it if you have to.  That's the only way to become what you were meant to be.")

Ever more so, I am losing my faith in God.  Because God has never had enough faith in me.  Certainly not enough to extend the shot at a fraction of the life that seemingly everyone around me has to one degree or another.

And if this is "life" to be thankful and joyful to Him for, then I would rather that He never have created me in the first place.  He can banish me to Hell for all eternity, if this is the only existence that He will ever grant me.  I can't even trust that He would give me a new and whole mind if I go to Heaven.  An eternity with a mental illness?  Where is the joy in that?

To doubt that God is there or worse, to be unable to escape believing that God is deaf and indifferent to our prayers, is a kind of Hell all its own.  And there are some who are going to tell me "Oh Chris, you should be thankful and joyful all the same!  God gave you life and forgiveness of your sins.  You were made for God's pleasure and to Him you are perfect.  You are the clay, not the Potter and not even the Potter's wheel!  Who do you think you are to tell God that He messed up?  You have Christ and isn't that enough?"

No.  It's not enough.  Because despite all that scripture teaches, the God I have seen and come to know is a God who does play favorites.  He blesses some and curses others and if you're on His sh-t-list, there is nothing you can do about it.  And I'm not only referring to the jealousies of my own life.  Too many in this world suffer while others have seemingly have... okay, not everything but certainly the things that matter most.  Innocent people get thrashed and stomped upon and denied even an iota of something to be thankful for.  So what reason do they have to be thankful to God?

Once, I could be and was thankful to God.  I could pray to Him.  Not with requests or for something "good", but merely to thank Him and to praise Him for what I did have.  Now I recognize that, maybe it was being hopeful when I had no reason to be hopeful.  Maybe it was just wishful thinking.

Is that all God is?  Merely "wishful thinking" on our part?  Is there even a God at all?  Or are we deluding ourselves?  Have I been deluding myself for twenty years and more?

What do I tell a child?  That God is there and that He is listening to him or her?  When my own heart harbors even a sliver of doubt?

How do I tell a child that God is good, when he or she keeps praying and in return hears only silence from a Father who is aloof and removed from our cares and concerns save for a select few?  What if that child believes that God loves some but He has to have a reason to hate others... and they are it?  Because that's what it has been like for me all too often.

How do I tell with a sincere and faithful and thankful heart that God is there for my children?  What do I say when they tell me that God isn't there for them?

How do I dare consign a child to that kind of anguish and torment?  Because if that is all that there ever was for me, I would rather have died in the delivery room.  And there would come a day when my children will tell me the same thing.

My doubts about God are not dispelled.  And I'm not going to pretend anymore, for the sake of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, that "everything is fine" between He and I.

Perhaps God might grant an infinitely deeper grace to my children than He has to me.  Perhaps they might know a love and joy from Him than I ever have.  I would hope that He would.

And then again, He may not.  There is no guarantee that He would do that either.

If I were to have children, I would have to be brutally honest with them in all things.  Including about God.  And though I do believe He is there, the faith in Him being all-loving and all-caring is practically absent.  There will be no lies or delusions or distractions from either my faith or my lack of faith... and I do want to have faith.  A real, abiding and enduring faith in God.  But if there is not...

To lie to my children like that would be the cruelest thing I could do to anyone.

So, with all of that being said:

Should I trust God?  Should I dare to plot something so irrevocable as giving existence to a human soul in this wicked and evil world?

Do I have any right at all to be a father?

Whoever is reading this and thinks they have something to share, please do so.  The comments are wide open on this post.  Feel free to use your own name or an alias or to be anonymous.  Maybe some among you have answers that have eluded me in spite of all searching out my heart and mind and soul.

If you do, I would very much appreciate it.

(And very special thanks to "N.G." for having a listening ear and proofreading this post at least three or four times before I hit the "Publish" button on it.)

Saturday, June 02, 2018

New SATURDAY NIGHT MASSACRES: Keyser Soze versus Sherlock!

The previous Saturday Nights Massacre has just ended.  With 83% of the vote Han Solo has hyperspace away with the Coors beer against Peter Quill's 17%.

And now, for the next matchup:
New Scotland Yard had been rocked. Not even MI-6 knew who he was except vague rumors from the usual suspects. About possibly being Turkish, maybe German. The explosion on the Thames portended schemes of a sinister genius more formidable than Moriarty or Magnussen. As Mycroft rushes into Speedy's Cafe (stopping only to hold the door open for a man limping onto the London streets) he spots his brother eating a sandwich. Informed on the situation the dark-haired man in the woolen cape coat smiles. There is a gleam in his eye. And the game begins...

That's right: it's Keyser Soze versus Sherlock (from the BBC series).  It is a clash of the intellects like nothing before.  Voting is now open for two weeks until June 16.  Who will triumph in this battle for the soul of the good people of London?  YOU WILL DECIDE!  Cast your vote and may the best mastermind win.

These middle school girls play Dungeons & Dragons... and it is amazing!

Don't you wish YOU had a teacher like Ethan Schoonover when you were in middle school?  This is the kind of innovation and creativity that educators should aspire to have in their own classrooms.  Heck, it's enough to tempt me to consider teaching full-time.  Several years ago I taught an elective about making and managing websites at an Episcopal day school.  It was just one class three days a week, but it was so much fun and I still think often of those kids and the imaginations they were putting to use.  The girls that Schoonover teaches are indeed blessed to have a mentor like "Mr. E" because they are cultivating skills that will take them very far in life.

What are we discussing here?  After pestering Mr. Schoonover with the idea for an official after-school group at Lake Washington Girls Middle School located in Seattle, the ladies began a Dungeons & Dragons Club.  Seems that they had been inspired by the hit Netflix series Stranger Things and how the kids on that show take so much pleasure from their marathon sessions of Dungeons & Dragons.  The club became such a raging success that Schoonover was approached about making an entire elective class of the classic role-playing game.  There are now two groups of girls involved in DND campaigns and Schoonover is planning a summer program focused on the game.

The Dungeons & Dragons Club has become a pillar of social involvement at Lake Washington Girls Middle, and even students who aren't in the class are asking for updates on how the adventures are going.  And after he began posting photos and updates on his Twitter feed Schoonover and his students are now actively followed by fans around the world: young people but also teachers who have been inspired by this fresh approach to education.

'Cuz it's not just about the game itself.  Schoonover is using it to teach concepts like math (calculating the volume of a room before confronting that weird mist within) and ecology and political science, as well as social interaction skills.  The girls are compelled to tap into their knowledge and find ways to apply them to "real world" (kinda) problems.  Eschewing the standard modifier tables and instead uses algebra to solve dice rolls, "inspiration points" are rewarded for success.  Stuff like that is what merited a visit from some of the game's designers at Wizards Of The Coast.  Forget the gold pieces ladies: you and your teacher have scored a mound of platinum  These are girls who would probably conquer "Tomb Of Horrors" on their first try.  Formidable indeed!

Geek & Sundry has a TERRIFIC article about the adventures at Lake Washington Girls Middle School.  Here's hoping that it will lead to even more students and teachers beginning their own Dungeons & Dragons clubs.  One of the biggest obstacles that educators face in American public schools especially is "teaching a test" instead of teaching the material for its own sake and to encourage critical thinking skills.  Schoonover and his crew have found a way to overcome that obstacle... and how perfectly fitting that they have!  One suggestion though: Mr E and his girls should begin an official blog or a Facebook group about their campaigns.  And use it to reach an even wider audience.  Not just that but the students can chronicle their exploits with art, maps etc.  So there would be even more skills being nurtured: drawing and painting, cartography, and online publishing practices and ethics.  Anyhoo, just an idea.

Speaking of this game, a few weeks ago I posted about my own first time playing Dungeons & Dragons.  And how that had been such an enjoyable and creative experience.  Don't know why I did it at the time but months before Tammy the Pup (my miniature dachshund) and I set out across America (two years ago!) I bought a copy of the Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook.  Maybe it was divine Providence telling me that it would be needed eventually?  Anyhoo, the core guide is in my possession and as you can see in the photo I've a set of those weird dice.  Since it looks that I'll be getting settled now in [location redacted] I'm gonna find or try to start a group here.  My therapist has strongly suggested that it may help with my bipolar disorder and how often it erects blocks in my writing.  That might deserve keeping a chronicle of for its own sake, researcher and reporter that I try to be.

Gary Gygax, wherever ye be, we raise a flagon of mead high in your honor.  You have awarded a boon to young people and may they forever journey far with it!