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Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Germany 1943 or America 2023?

Found something last night while doing historical research.  It absolutely floored me to read this passage.  It could be referring to the America of today:


Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and their friend and collaborator Christoph Probst wrote six leaflets in defiance of their government.  The three members of the "White Rose" were caught in February 1943 in Munich, Germany.  Four days later they were put on trial for crimes against the state.  It was a show trial, led by the infamous Nazi judge Roland Freisler.  

The three were declared guilty.  A few hours later the Scholls and Probst were executed by guillotine.

Sophie Scholl was twenty-one years old.

"History doesn't repeat but it often rhymes." ~ George Lucas

Friday, August 18, 2023

The church that's 450 feet from my house

Regrettably, there is one goal that has eluded me in the seven years since my dog Tammy and I left our old hometown to find our place somewhere in America.  It was something I was very serious about, and still am.  I speak of finding a place of worship.  Somewhere that I can be an active part of a community of believers.

This area doesn't lack for churches.  I've visited many of them.  Guess you could say that I'm hoping and praying that God will lead me to where He needs me to be.  It's almost like a microcosm of the journey across America we did.  I'm still in that "let's see what's out there" mode.

In the five years since I've been here I've visited some churches that were very big, others that were quite small.  A few of them had beliefs that I can not for good reasons subscribe to.  For the second time in my life I departed from a visit to a church because the number-one item in its statement of faith is that homosexuals are not welcome.  Now, I am not a homosexual and I absolutely believe it's a dire sin that God can not possibly "affirm".  But when that takes priority over everything else in a congregation's doctrine, ahead of even there being one God, something is terribly wrong.  One house of worship had a lot of people babbling incoherently with no idea as to who was saying what.  That's... just not for me, no offense meant.

I had begun to wonder if there was something wrong with my faith.  Am I being too "picky"?  Am I trying to find what many Christians have said does not exist and that I know that they are right: a perfect church?

If there is such a thing as a perfect church, I shall never be able to darken its threshold... because as soon as I enter the building it will no longer be perfect!

So a few weeks ago I was spending a Saturday afternoon browsing church websites.  Looking for a new place to visit soon.  Anyplace that would stir my interest.  It was a seemingly fruitless search.

And then I did something that I had failed to do when I first started looking.  I went to Google and for the search term I simply asked for "churches near me".

It returned with a nice-sized list of places of worship within a few miles' radius.  And the very first of the results was for a church... that was less than five hundred feet away.

"No way!" I literally shouted.

At first I thought it was an error.  Now, there had been a Baptist church with a mostly African-American membership just across the street and a few numbers down from my house.  I used to hear them playing their instruments every Sunday morning.  But they seem to have disappeared in the past year or two.

Apparently, another congregation was now using that building.

I found the church's website and its Facebook page.  And for the rest of the evening I was dumbfounded that a church that already seemed to have much of what I've come to appreciate in a congregation was less than five minutes' walk away.

So it was that a few days ago on Sunday, I walked from home all the way to church.

What was it like?  Well as I told friends later that day it was like Baptist preaching, Pentecostal praying, and a bit of Eastern Orthodoxy all rolled into one.  The most obvious trait of the church is that the vast majority of its people are from Russia and other countries in Eastern Europe.  This area has seen a lot of migrants arrive from that part of the world and there are many churches that serve those communities.  This particular congregation speaks both Russian and English, which a few members were translating between the two.  I couldn't help but notice that during the sermon the teenage girl next to me was taking notes in Cyrillic alphabet.  There were some praise songs in Russian, that all I could do was stand there without an iota of comprehension, followed by songs in English.

The message of the morning's service was based on the Book of Joshua.  About how Joshua is the first character in the Bible who is instructed by God to study scripture (in the form of the Books of Moses).  It also touched upon verses in Matthew and Philippians.  My fingers were darting all over my iPhone's Bible app, and I must have looked like an oddball because everyone else was using good ol' fashion printed books.

The service lasted two and a half hours.  And I definitely felt that I was a better person for being there.  The people of this church are very friendly and welcoming.  They take their prayer life seriously, and that's something that in recent years I have started to better appreciate in my own spiritual journey.  They thought it was very neat that I had asked Google to show me churches nearby, and the top result was a place that I can see from my living room window.

I can't say anything in Russian other than "da" and "nyet", but I really enjoyed spending a few hours with my fellow believers.  Language has never been an insurmountable obstacle for those who are in the Kingdom of God.  Faith and love will always prevail.  I may not have understood the words, but the smiles and the light in their eyes said it all well enough.

It's quite likely that I may go back soon.  There are a few other churches that I've the curiosity to also investigate in the next few weeks.  No matter where I end up though, there is great comfort and joy in knowing that true brothers and sisters in Christ are but a brisk walk away from my front door.

I've said it before, and I try to be mindful of it, but it's true: The Lord provides.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

I have a LinkedIn page?!?

Actually I've had it for a very long time now (I think 2006).  I just haven't done anything with it until this week...

Some friends suggested that I "increase marketability".  So I'm putting myself out there in a way I might have not done before.  In assembling this I've become a bit astounded at all the experiences that have been racked up over the past decade or two.  In spite of having manic depression - or maybe because of it - I've wound up with a pretty impressive skills-set and collaborative history.  I also uploaded and included a portfolio of some of my video work, bits of which have never been seen by a wide audience until now (I'm particularly fond of the "Wacky Dead" clip).

Anyway, if you want to see the professional side of me, here's my LinkedIn page.



Friday, August 11, 2023

I'm a teacher again!!

So for like the third or fourth time in my life I am entering the field of education.

I promise that I won't read "The Call of Cthulhu" to second graders again.

(No, seriously, that's what happened.)

Looking forward to taking young minds full of mush and molding them into critically thinking members of society.  Or playing a small part in it anyway :-)



Tuesday, August 08, 2023

Safehouse: Back a friend's invention on Kickstarter

Hey gang, got something really special for you.  How often is it that you have the chance to get in on the ground floor of a new piece of technology?  Okay, maybe because of the Internet that chance happens on a routine basis now.  But even so, here's a utility that so far as I know is pretty unique.

I've known Matt LaCoe for quite awhile now.  He and I worked together at an on-campus computer store when we were students at Elon.  I saw his technical prowess then and he's only gotten better.  And now he's presenting us with a new mobile app: Safehouse.

It would be better if Matt explained it to y'all:

Have you ever found yourself lost, tired, unsure of where you are, where to go or what to do? Have you ever felt fear that you might be harmed by persons who have taken an great interest in you for one reason or another? Do you remember how these feeling felt? Do you recall the desire to feel safe in those moments?

What if you had a mobile application that would just that for you? What if you could simply hit a button and be guided to a place that would be a "Safehouse" for you? Would you use it?

As as disabled combat veteran I decided that I would try to change this. The objective is to create an application that will allow users who are both travelling and those who can offer a safe place when needed. Whether it be to avoid a bad situation or simply find a safe spot to park your car for the night and having someone near willing to look for your safety. I can easily highlight different use cases for this application but, it the ones I can't imagine that might make this app the difference in someone's life. Whether you are an adventurous person seeing the world or simply a college student trying to make their way home to visit family for the holidays wouldn't it be nice to have an application on your phone designed to look out for your safety?

Safehouse addresses that need, for a wide spectrum of people in our communities.  If you're requiring the assistance of others, help is available with a finger stroke on the phone screen.  It's a really neat concept and I can't think of anyone better to bring this to market than Matt.

And now the project is on Kickstarter, where interested people can back it.  Matt has a lot more information about Safespace on its page there, including  information regarding the protocols in place to ensure that the app is not used by people of malicious intent.

So I ask you to visit Matt's page, and consider backing it.  I've all the confidence in the world that Matt is going to launch something very wonderful with this.

Monday, August 07, 2023

Another op-ed piece from my time at Elon's newspaper

Last month I stumbled on an online archive that has tons of issues of various newspapers going back many, many years.  Including The Pendulum: the student newspaper of Elon University.  Or at least it used to be.  I've been scrounging around Elon's website and it seems that The Pendulum has gone defunct: a casualty of instant news, social media and streaming video.  I hate to see that happen to any newspaper, because there is a priceless value to be had on printed information chronicling a place and its people.  It is also a magnificent snapshot of the thoughts and ideas and values of those people.  I looked and I looked, but I didn't see any opinion/editorial writing recently on Elon's servers.  Having those gone is an immeasurable loss.

Well anyway, I previously found the first op-ed piece I wrote for The Pendulum, about abortion.  I hadn't gone searching for any more essays until this afternoon.  I came across several more articles.  This one aroused some appreciation but also a fair amount of anger, about what I wrote regarding abortion and homosexuality.  I was only sharing Mother Teresa's perspective on such matters.  It wasn't anything that she herself was not unaccustomed to during her lifetime of service.

So, from the September 25, 1997 edition of The Pendulum, here is my column.  Click to enlargen...

Product Review: Zevo Flying Insect Trap

In keeping with this blogger's enjoyment of finding and sharing good stuff, I'm going to do a review of something that I came across lately.  And so far I'm mighty impressed with it.

I don't know where they came from, maybe on some vegetation that I got from the grocery store, but this summer has been absolutely wretched from gnats and fruit flies.  They've been getting all over the house, and I've had to swat them away from my computer screen Lord only knows how often.  Just a real nuisance.

So I was watching television a few weeks ago and caught some commercials for the Zevo flying insect trap.  According to the ads it uses ultraviolet and infrared light to draw in bugs and making them fall prey to the adhesive cartridge within.  You just slap a cartridge into the unit and plug it into a wall outlet, in your kitchen or wherever.

I decided it was worth a gamble.  Off to Walmart I went, and got a starter set with 2 traps and 4 cartridges.  When I got home I read the directions and within two minutes had a trap set up in the kitchen and the other in my living room.

The results?

The Zevo traps began catching gnats and fruit flies almost immediately.  A few hours later I checked the traps and was astounded at how many tiny bugs each of them had dispatched to the nether regions.  That was six days ago.  I looked into the traps again in the past little while and the traps have caught even more.  There is a drastic and very obvious reduction of tiny critters zooming around the place.  I think my dog Tammy has even noticed.

I am very much convinced about the effectiveness of Zevo's little gadget.  It is definitely working as advertised.  I'll heartily recommend it to this blog's readers.  In fact, you might want to consider getting an extra starter set, and provide more coverage for your home. It is also, I have discovered, a very helpful nightlight that nicely illuminates your path to the kitchen if you're ever wanting to raid the fridge at 1 in the morning.

The Zevo flying insect trap is sold at Walmart and I'm sure at other retail stores, and it's on Amazon also.  You've got some options about which traps to get.  Which ever one you choose, I will attest that it is well worth the cost.

Sunday, August 06, 2023

And the Fifteenth Doctor will bear the face of... Ncuti Gatwa!

The announcement already came a year ago, that the Fifteenth Doctor on the British television series Doctor Who is going to be portrayed by Rwandan-Scottish actor Ncuti Gatwa.  Now as things begin really ramping up for the show's sixtieth anniversary in November, the BBC is showing its cards a bit.

Here is Gatwa giving us a glimpse of what's to come:

Number Fifteen's attire reminds me a bit of Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor.  The way he's got his hand gesturing brings to mind the early photos of the Twelfth Doctor played by Peter Capaldi, or maybe Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor.  Gatwa's Doctor looks like he means business, as if he's saying "Okay, fun and games are over, let's get down to brass tacks."

Be mad at me if you will, but I'm very glad the Doctor is a man again.  No offense to Jodie Whittaker, but there is a dynamic between the Doctor and his companions and you just don't mess with that.  My personal favorites to be the Doctor after Thirteen's regeneration were Idris Elba, and Tilda Swinton playing against gender and portraying a male Doctor.  But I think Gatwa will be fine.

Now, if new/previous showrunner Russell T. Davies can just fix that STOOPID "Timeless Child" nonsense...

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

All that I will likely say about former President Donald Trump being indicted


Kindly allow me to boil down certain recent events into something that can be readily grasped. And I say this as someone who has never voted for Trump and likely never will.

The people applauding former President Donald Trump's indictments don't know what the (BLEEP) they are cheering for.
The United States is entering a dark place. We have already been poised to cross that line for a very long time. Now it is barreling headlong into the cave.
America is headed for grief.
And idiots are clapping and howling in delight as we do.
This is about larger matters than "we gotta get Trump". But the ones screaming loudest probably don't want to be bothered to be concerned for that.  What is befalling the former president right now is not the disease itself, but a symptom.  And I would be saying that regardless of who is being targeted.
I'm writing this, as I often do write, because I want nothing to do with what's to come. I've done my part and am still doing my part to encourage people to turn aside from their foolishness.  I saw what's coming even as a teenager and for more than thirty years, I've tried to get people to think about the disaster that will befall us.  Many of them haven't thought about it at all.
What is to transpire is not on my hands, but theirs.
Just my .02


Tuesday, August 01, 2023

AMERICAN GRAFFITI turns fifty years old this week

George Lucas's movie - the first for his own company Lucasfilm - American Graffiti was released fifty years ago tomorrow.  It premiered at a film festival and was followed with wide release soon after.  If you've never seen American Graffiti you really should do yourself a favor and watch it.  It's a film spanning the course of a single night, in the lives of a group of friends who are spending the final hours of summer break in 1962.  I don't know if "plot" is the right word to describe this movie as having.  But it's a mighty monument to a way of youth that isn't there anymore.  American Graffiti has a solid cast and a soundtrack that is just as much part of the film as those appearing in it.

Well, I thought that for the occasion we would go WAY back into The Knight Shift's archives, to when it was less than a year old in 2004.  At the time my friends and I were working on our very first film together Forcery.  The final scene takes place at Mel's Drive-In, from American Graffiti.  Short Sugar's Barbecue in Reidsville, North Carolina played the part of Mel's.  We shot the scene at the drive-in part of the restaurant, and then... this idea hit for something we could do as a homage to George Lucas's classic movie.  I told Chad Austin, who was playing Lucas in Forcery, about it and he was game for it.  He was already wearing the costume and makeup for the part anyway.

So here is Chad Austin as George Lucas in September 2004, in a recreation of the famous behind-the-scenes still from American Graffiti showing Lucas crouched beneath the counter while directing Ron Howard:

Wow.  That was September of 2004 when we made that photo.  So much has happened since then but it seems like just yesterday.

Of course George Lucas - the real one - got a lot of respect and admiration for American Graffiti and would use that goodwill when he was shopping Star Wars around to the studios.  I'm glad that he did, but part of me also wonders what it would have been had he made more films like American Graffiti.  The Star Wars franchise arguably stymied a lifetime of potential movies from this talented filmmaker.  But I like to think that Lucas still hasn't forgotten his greatest career passion.  Maybe someday we'll see him return to what makes him happiest in life after his family.

 I hope that he will.