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Monday, July 25, 2022

"Slouching Towards Fantasyland": My new article at American Thinker

American Thinker, a site I often go to for insight and commentary, this morning published my latest piece for them.  This essay addresses the leftist fantasies about so-called "green energy" and eliminating emissions.

From the article:

And then there are other considerations about the fallout from the failed fantasy.  Which would you rather have in an emergency, say, evacuating from a hurricane: a reliable car running on gasoline, or an electric vehicle without a ready charge available?  The potential loss of life from people unable to drive to safer ground would be enormous.  Or consider an electric-powered ambulance, that runs out of juice en route to the hospital with a stroke victim.

These are the realities that leftists are not acknowledging.  They refuse to accept that energy comes from something other than unicorn flatulence.  They are instead proverbially sticking their fingers in their ears while singing “La-La-La-Dee-Dah” when anyone broaches the impracticality of their intent.

Click here for the rest of the article.  And thank you to everyone who has written me e-mail about it!

Saturday, July 23, 2022

New post on Substack, about "groomers"

Still getting the hang of Substack, which may be a suitable repository for my more "political" essays.  This evening it's a post about the word "groomer", which has suddenly become quite unpopular on Reddit and other social media sites.  It is the belief of this blogger however that groomer is exactly the precise word to describe pedophiles who are determined to corrupt children...

My honeymoon with Twitter these past few months may soon be drawing to a close. In recent days the microblogging site has apparently cracked down on the use of the word “groomer”. Which has come to mean pedophiles brainwashing children into becoming potential targets for exploitation. Leftist activists claim that it’s a slur against homosexuals and transsexuals and should be banned as “hate speech”. Never mind that it can also mean things like dog groomer, “good grooming” etc.

It’s already verboten on Reddit: a site that for whatever reason I can’t remember looking at much less participated on. Maybe it had something to do with Reddit shutting down a subthingy in support of Donald Trump. So much for being a free and open forum of discussion and dialogue…

Back to grooming. I have no problem at all with using this word in referring to adults who introduce children - who are WAY too young for such concepts - to sexuality in general and the LGBTwhatever “lifestyle” in particular. Because “grooming” kids is exactly what is transpiring.

Mash down here for more.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

PBS documentary The Last One - about moonshiner Popcorn Sutton - is now on YouTube

The legend of Popcorn Sutton lives on!  Thirteen years after he tragically left us, Sutton is definitely not forgotten.  The "last of the old time moonshiners" has been the basis of many an Internet meme and last month was the now-annual Popcorn Sutton Jam in east Tennessee.  The man was the subject of a recent book packed with photos.  And word has it that his original recipe likker is selling well... legally of course.

For a number of years, North Carolina filmmaker Neal Hutcheson produced a series of documentaries for PBS featuring Popcorn.  Two months ago he posted onto YouTube a 2022 remaster of The Last One, which at the time was about Popcorn Sutton's alleged final brew of moonshine.  It's well worth a watch if you're at all a fan of Popcorn or have an interest in Appalachian culture.  It also boasts some awesome music!


Find more of Neal Hutcheson's work on his Sucker Punch Pictures YouTube channel.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

BEING BIPOLAR, Part Ten: Anatomy of a Depressive Episode

Being Bipolar is a series that began in the winter of 2011.  It's an occasional attempt to explore aspects of the life of a person with manic-depression, or bipolar disorder if you will.  It's never meant to be a regular feature of The Knight Shift.  It comes along whenever "the time is nigh" for another installment is called for.  In this series I do my best to be as honest and forthcoming about this condition as possible, within reason.  As with anything else of this kind of subject matter, it should be noted that I am not a medical professional.  So don't take anything written here as solid medical advice in the way of drugs etc.  If you need immediate assistance, please go to the emergency rom of the nearest hospital, or call 911 on your phone.  You may also find a great deal of assistance from a local support group, such as those sponsored by National Alliance on Mental Illness (nami.org).


For the past three years and nearly four months I have been a peer support specialist employed by a state department of mental health.  That's supposed to mean that as someone "in recovery" from mental illness, that I'm in a unique position to help others who likewise must deal with having emotional and behavioral disorders.

I wish that I could tell you that this means that I have a handle on my own diagnosis.  But over the course of nearly a year now that assumption has been solidly put to rest.  Because I've discovered that in many ways I'm the same way I am now that I was six years ago, when I first left my old hometown of Reidsville, North Carolina and began looking for a new home.  That was supposed to have been a fresh start for me (and my dog Tammy).  And for awhile, when we initially set out, there was that breath of fresh air that comes with expanding one's horizons.  With casting destiny to the winds of the Lord.  And then came a year after setting out, and a situation that triggered my bipolar disorder as it had never had been before and what led to friends having me live with them until I could get my mind situated again. That was five years ago and I'm no less thankful for them and what they did for me.

Maybe it was "the plague" that triggered me this time.  Nothing has been the same since COVID-19 came (and I was hit with it this past December, I'm pretty sure I caught it when some friends and I went to see Spider-Man: No Way Home because they came down with COVID also).  I worked from home for more than six months and it changed me.  Made me consider and reconsider my life.  I got the "vaccine" early on, because my job puts me at the forefront of public health (namely visiting patients at their homes among other things) and in the year and a half since then I've come to wonder if that was such a wise thing to have done (it's not being called the "clot shot" for nothing, but I digress).

Back to being a peer support specialist and being in recovery.  The more I have recovered, the more I have found that I still have a long way to go toward that.  It's a lot like "the Hell Curve" that I first described in 2011: I'm forever getting closer to that Y line of total recovery, but never going to cross it or even touch it.  I realized that even before last September, and the day my neighbors found me dancing in the rain in my sweatsuit and socks and trying to open other people's car doors.  I don't remember that at all.  Neither do I remember the next day and being found lying face-down next to the road beside my house, my face beaten up like hamburger from the fall onto the asphalt.  Eleven months later and I still can't wink my right eye without feeling some residual pain.  None of that, I remember transpiring.  It was all because of a medication reaction between my "current" meds and one that I have since stopped using.

I lost very nearly a solid month of work because of that incident, which encompassed one week spent in a mental health facility while I was detoxing.  It led to some changes of my work: changes I haven't been crazy about (no pun intended, or is it?).

Long story short, this past week and a half or so I've had a depressive episode that wrecked havoc with me in nearly every aspect.  Were it not for taking care of Tammy, my miniature dachshund, there is no telling what I would have been compelled to do during this time.  Depression sucks the vigor and vitality out of a person.  Takes away nearly every interest including the desire for eating (and sometimes not even getting up to use the restroom, which is no problem if you're not ingesting food anyway).

Today the episode finally began to abate.  I must thank many friends on Facebook who I reached out to, who have been lifting me up in their prayers.  I hope that I can be just as much there for them when they need my own prayers.  I have pretty much wasted an entire weekend except for this afternoon.  So I thought, maybe since it's fresh in mind I could do another Being Bipolar installment (it's only been THREE YEARS since the last one!).

This depressive episode crept up on me.  In hindsight I can see that it was bedeviling me for almost the past two weeks.  It's been so severe, and I was so subconsciously holding it at bay, that I didn't realize it was happening until two days ago.  During this episode I was robbed of any interest apart from the meanest of caring for myself and my dog.  I was eating candy bars for breakfast and nothing else for lunch or dinner.  I fed and watered Tammy but I didn't feel like playing with her.  She "gets" me when I'm like this.  When I curl up on the sofa, unable to move, she curls right up next to me.  Tammy understands me even if no one else does.  I'm pretty sure that I lost some weight during this time.  When I went to see a doctor this past week I had lost seven pounds since the previous visit about two months ago.

My hygiene has suffered.  I went two days without showering for work.  It didn't seem to matter.  I just didn't care.  I brushed my teeth, but that's mostly out of dire habit.  Something ground into me about seven years ago when I realized what depression was doing to my dental care.  I haven't lost any teeth and I don't intend to.  So whenever I eat or drink something I'm inclined to brush immediately afterward or at least as soon as possible (which has become a religious ritual after getting home from work, before I even take Tammy outside).

I have been trying to cook better for myself (thanks in no small part to the encouragement of a good friend, hello Heather!).  A week and a half ago I visited the nearby grocery store and pharmacy to pick up two prescriptions and I had no other interest in shopping for anything else.  Well, I take that back.  I did purchase a box of Froot Loops, and that was "dinner" for a few days.  But again, my overall desire for a good meal had evaporated.

Interest in fun things and activities crashes and burns.  All that's left are the ashen remnants of something that once moved you.  I've been stoked about the current season of Stranger Things lately.  Especially the music.  I had been listening to the soundtrack and reveling in the return of "my kind" of music.  But interest in any music has gone away during this episode.  I've tried to make myself watch stuff like The LEGO Movie, a film that I usually adore, but that failed to move me too.

Depression has caused me to lose interest in my work.  Has led me to seeing it as all a vain effort.  I haven't been able to help others, in the way that I usually can and have loved doing.  I drove a patient to a physician's appointment this past week and I was barely talking at all, when usually we are readily engaged in conversation.  He could sense that there was something wrong, and he told me as much.  It has caused me to forget tasks, has made me indifferent during phone calls to patients.  It's ironic, that I work in a mental health office and my own mental health has caused that work to suffer.  But then again, my life has been filled with a lot of cruel irony.

This coming Wednesday would have been the twentieth anniversary of my getting married.  A marriage that was destroyed in vast part by my bipolar disorder.  I still can't make sense of that.  It was something I was committed to as much as anyone could commit to something.  And it wasn't enough.  Why did God let me have something that was going to wreck such havoc on an institution that He Himself created?  That has been a thought that has run rampant through my mind during this time.  I suppose that no matter how happy I might be, I'm going to forever be running that through my mind.  It hasn't been made any easier because of this latest episode.  And the proximity to the date has only made it worse.

Strangely, my faith in God this time is something I'm not doubting.  A quality that I must ascribe to not only my friends' prayers, but to all the other times I've had depression.  In its lesser moments I can find myself able to pray, and to solicit prayer.  I don't doubt God, even when it seems the depression is something cruel He lets happen.  I have to remind myself that being a Christian does not mean an escape from pain: something I wish I had known during the first few decades as a believer.

I would be remiss if I did not mention, that there have been moments during this latest episode when I have not wanted to be here any more.  When I've actually prayed to God to please let me die.  But that's a different thing from having full-fledged suicidal ideation.  Something I've come to learn increasingly during my work with those with mental illness.  It's almost okay, maybe perfectly "normal", to have thoughts about not wanting to be alive any more.  It becomes something else entirely though, when those thoughts turn toward contemplating getting a knife to open one's veins, or ingest a whole bunch of drugs and hope that they will lull one into an eternal slumber.  I will admit, that I have tried the latter at least twice.  Both times failed, thankfully.

Also thankfully, the episode seems to finally be abating, and maybe writing these words out is aiding toward that.  More irony: I've lamented in the past week or so that I haven't been able to write anymore, and here I am, composing a new blog post.  Not just blogging but really pouring my heart and soul into this new installment of Being Bipolar.  Maybe if I can write this, perhaps other things that I've thought I'd lost will come back.  Writing is a gift that I first realized I had when Mrs. Rutledge in my freshman year of high school told me I had.  I've been trying to use, develop and hone that gift ever since.  Manic depression over the past two decades and more took a LOT out of me toward that.  Maybe writing this post means I still have it.  Maybe I can write more.  Perhaps even work anew on that book that Dad wanted me to write.  Dad was proud of me.  I was very fortunate to have had him in my life.  I want to finish writing that book, and dedicate it to his memory.

And, that's all that I know to write about this latest bout with bipolar depression.  It is my "dark fountain": a term I have been it from the very beginning, when it first erupted in the spring of 2000.  Its black waters trying to swallow and drown me, and I doing everything that can be done to keep my head above its currents.  Maybe writing about it this time will help to stop the fountain, if only for a little while.

Maybe doing this will help others also, who are going through their own times of depression.

If so, please know: you are not alone.  There IS help.  Your local mental health department is one resource.  So are groups like National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI (nami.org).  If you are in a severe crisis, you can call 911.  It's okay, it really IS an emergency.  And as of yesterday there is a simple three digit number - 988 - that you can call to get help from a national suicide help line.

And if you need a friend to talk to, I'll do my best to be here for you.  My e-mail is theknightshift@gmail.com.  I've communicated with quite a few people over the years that Being Bipolar has been a feature on this blog.  I'll do what I can to be here for you, too.


Monday, July 11, 2022

Internet Archive has EVERY issue of Starlog for your reading pleasure

Okay, this has apparently been up for a decade or so already but only now am I learning that Internet Archive has a collection of EVERY issue of Starlog: that tome of science-fiction goodness that many of us savored every month.  Originally devoted to keeping the embers of Star Trek burning in those years between the original series and the movies, Starlog soon expanded to cover anything and everything pertaining to sci-fi and fantasy, be it in film or on television or in literature or whatever.  In the decades before the advent of the Internet, it was magazines like Starlog that kept our appetites whetted for whatever was coming new out of the genre.  I dare say that it broadened a lot of minds, to things that they otherwise might not have considered.  I for one might never have read a Philip Jose Farmer novel, were it not for an amazing two-part interview that Starlog did with him in 1990.  That's in this collection.  So too is the night in 1977 that George Lucas went to a convention and replied "he's Luke Skywalker's father" when asked what was the deal about that Darth Vader guy.  There was a lot of thoughtful material, some really inspirational stuff and more than a little humor to be found in the pages of Starlog and it makes me feel good knowing that it's out there to be discovered by new generations of geeks.  Mash your mouse down here to find it again, for the first time.

Monday, July 04, 2022

Stranger Things and me

On July 1st I was having a severe headache, that had persisted since the night before.  I went home early from work and took some medicine and quietly prayed that I would be feeling better soon.  Because I did not want to miss volume two of the fourth season of Stranger Things on the day that it had dropped onto Netflix.

I haven't written nearly enough about Stranger Things on this blog.  Actually, I don't think I've written about it at all.  When this is a series that for the past six years has absolutely arrested me whenever a new season has been released.  The first part of this latest season premiered on the same day as Disney+'s Obi-Wan Kenobi and having seen both of them in their entirety now, there is no question as to which is the superior show... and I say that being a hopeless lifelong Star Wars fanatic.

So, about Stranger Things.  This show debuted in the summer of 2016, when Tammy (my dog) and I were journeying across America looking for a new home.  We were in Albuquerque, New Mexico when I finally decided to see what the big to-do about this show was about.  So one morning after taking Tammy out for a walk around the hotel (where she had become a big celebrity, they let her run up and down the hallways to her heart's content) I showered and shaved and put on clean clothes and then pulled out my iPad Pro and curled up on the bed and began watching the first episode, "The Vanishing of Will Byers".

My friends, it is RARE that any television series sucks me hard in from the start.  I can probably number them on one hand: Twin Peaks, Lost, maybe a few others.  Stranger Things had them all beat, with even fewer episodes.  After witnessing the death and destruction going on inside Hawkins Laboratory and the title credits (which I will never fast forward past, not for this show) the episode cuts to the basement of Mike Wheeler, whose friends are engaged in an hours-long Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

That's what did it.  That's what hooked and reeled me in.

This is a series about "my kind" of people.  I grew up in the Nineteen Eighties also, just as Mike and Will and Lucas and Dustin are in Stranger Things.  I "get" them and the world they inhabit.  This show has captured and conveyed that perfectlyStranger Things is a homage, a love letter, a monument to all that made the Eighties so amazing.  Ronald Reagan was President of the United States.  Vietnam wasn't long ago at all and our country was locked in cold war with Russia.  Comic books were mostly read, not adapted into blockbuster movies at the drop of a hat.  We listened to Michael Jackson and Cyndi Lauper and Devo and Eurythmics.  On television He-Man was constantly outsmarting Skeletor and Mr. T was shouting "Suckal!" on The A-Team.  We quoted from movies like Star Trek II and we speculated about Star Wars Episode One which was probably just three years away.  And kids still did things like ride their bikes to their friend's house and hang out for hours after school before the phone rang and it was Mom telling you to come home for dinner.

We were young people who lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation at any time and chose to make the most of the moments we were given.  I think that when The Day After aired in the fall of 1983, it drove the point home that much more.  It made us cling ever more so to that fleeting sense of childhood.  And now, forty years later, I think many of us are still clinging to it.  There isn't going to be quite the same reminiscing about the Nineties or the Aughts as there is now about the Reagan years.  In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell and I think we all knew that the Iron Curtain's days were numbered.  It was the sheer weight of the Eighties come smashing against that bulwark of the old ways.  If only that same spirit could still prevail against people like Putin who seem determined to restore the Soviet Union to it's former borders.  But, I digress...

Back to Stranger Things.  I had watched the first two episodes and then came the only interruption that day was when housekeeping came around about eleven.  I picked up Tammy and we went and got lunch and went for a quick walk and came back to our room.  And I binged the HECK out of the rest of that season.  It is VERY seldom that I binge watch anything... but I kept having to see "what happens next?!?"  At last we came to the Byers house at Christmas, watching this family that had endured so much over the past month... before shrieking anew at the sight of that thing from the Upside-Down coming out of Will's mouth.

Albuquerque did many things to me, in the five weeks that I was there.  Leaving town as a new fan of Stranger Things is one of them.  I don't lend my fanship to many things from pop culture.  But Stranger Things more than earned it.  And when we hit the road again the first season soundtrack was playing loud from my car's stereo.  It was as good as anything to listen to as we set out again across the New Mexico desert.

Season two came a little over a year later, and we were in decidedly different environs: living for awhile with friends in South Carolina.  It hadn't been the ending of our traipsing across America that I had originally intended.  But for the situation, it sufficed and even bore some fruit that I had not imagined.  Once again, I binged Stranger Things on my iPad Pro, pausing only to take Tammy out.  Season two ended well, but lacked the "bang" that I was expecting.  It did have a resolution that I was happy with though, especially Mike and Eleven dancing at the Snow Ball.

Season three... ahhh yes.  July of 2019.  Months before "the plague" hit and stopped everything in its tracks.  Who could have guessed that this would be the last Stranger Things that we would get for another three years?  "Not I, said the dog."  Speaking of which, by this point Tammy had become WELL trained to use the pee pads I set down for her.  So there was very little interruption while binging season three.  I started at about eleven and finished with "The Battle of Starcourt" around 8 and by that time was wiped out.  What a rush!  And not for the first time I thought that the show had perfectly captured the Eighties.  We really did use to hang out in shopping malls, ya know.  Most of them didn't have Soviets tunneling beneath them though, thankfully.

And that was all until May of this year, when I watched the entire series again, only now taking time to pause every so often and tend to other things.  I wanted the show to have room to "percolate" in my mind, instead of assaulting the senses full-blast.  By the time season four premiered I was refreshed and ready for the new episodes.  I took half a day off from work so that I could get home and started watching the next season... which is something I have not done at all for the Star Wars series on Disney+ and likely never would either.  Season four was split into two "volumes" by Netflix, because the last two episodes are so long.  After finishing volume one's "The Massacre at Hawkins Lab" I just sat there stunned and dazed.  And all I could think of was "how are they going to top THAT??"

Well, the last two episodes of the season came out three days ago.  I took a few hours break between them.  And it dropped my jaw hard on the floor too many times than could be counted.  And then came those final minutes, as Stranger Things theme music began then developed into a full instrumental composition, as our heroes see what's falling around them...

Yowza!  Season three had cliffhangers.  Season four has everyone dangling from that cliff by their fingernails.  It was eight hours before I could fall to sleep.  No episode of television since Lost's "Through the Looking Glass" has had that kind of effect on me.

So now we're awaiting the fifth and final season of Stranger Things.  I am hoping and praying that there will be a panel for the show at this year's Comic-Con, and that they'll announce production of the new season beginning soon after.  But I will trust them to get it right.  The Duffer Brothers, the creators of Stranger Things, have done all right so far.  They have given us what is perhaps the best written and finest acted television series currently in production.  I can wait.  Even if it's another two years, by which time I'll be fifty.

Which seems the perfect time to enjoy a series about the years when many of us came of age.