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Friday, December 29, 2023

Tammy's decoy

Last night Tammy, my miniature dachshund, got on the sofa.  And she brought along one of her Christmas toys: a plush dachshund toy, which came courtesy of my cousin Lauryn and her husband.

So she got up under her blanket, on my lap, and I noticed that she and her toy each had their tale protruding out:

Which one is Tammy??  In real life it really does look like there are two dogs in my lap.

It doesn't help resolve matters that the toy is almost precisely the same size as Tammy.  She could make serious trouble if she wants to :-D

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Twelve Years Later: Forgiving Mom

The realization hit me this morning that today is the twelfth anniversary of Mom's passing.
I've written about her before, here.  Maybe too much.   Sometimes all the hurt and anguish builds up and demands, even needs a vent.  Some people do that with art.  Or going out for a drive.  I learned a long time ago that I can't paint and I'm a threat to everyone on the road if I'm not in the right state of mind for driving.
I guess, I'm writing this to note how much my attitude toward Mom has changed in the past year or so.
There is no forgetting the things she did.  I can still hear her screaming "You're retarded!" at me.  The beatings.  The humiliations, often in front of friends (mine or hers).  Her telling me I wouldn't count for anything, and how much I believed her and maybe still believe on some level.  The list goes on.
I don't even know if I ever got a sincere loving hug from her.  She may have thought I was too deformed, too broken: the result of a birth that almost ended in my death and that close family insist made me mentally defective.
No, there is no forgetting those and more.  Mom had, as a dear friend put it, "a kernel of cruelty".
But in the past year or so, something has happened that surprises me as much anyone...
I've begun to forgive her.
It's not complete. Not yet. But maybe that's coming.
I've gradually started to let go of my anger and hatred toward her.  Have stopped letting it dominate my life, for the most part.   Maybe, even, coming to sympathize with her a little.
Because she was NOT all bad.  She did work hard to provide our family with food and clothing.  She also worked so that my sister and I would benefit from a private school education.  And there was never a bad Christmas, when Mom and Dad were behind it.  We always got nice presents from Santa that morning.
Mom did have her sweet moments, too.  They were so sporadic as to be complete surprises.  A few times she would come home from work, and having stopped at the Eden Mall along the way to get some things, and she would have a new Transformer toy for me (I so loved those little guys).  There were times when she surprised us with Domino's pizza for dinner.
I can't unfairly account for her bad, without doing likewise with her good.
Perhaps I must be content to resort to believing thus: that Mom was a very complicated person, who sometimes let the worst come out but was also capable of good.  That's the best I'll probably ever get to have on this side of the veil.
In her final year, she did once say something about how she had treated me at times.  Telling me that "wasn't the real me".  I've thought long and hard about that.  Was it just a lie, one of many that she told me over the years?   I don't know. I'll never know.   But like I just said, that's likely the best I'll ever get.  The closest to a real apology from her. I've got to do my best to accept it.
Nothing good she did will completely erase the hurt. But I can choose to overlook those, for sake of allowing myself to love the woman who, for good or bad, did bring me into the world.
Maybe writing this and sharing these thoughts will bring me closer to closure. And perhaps these words will resonate with others, who likewise are having a hard time letting go of anger and bitterness. I can tell you that forgiving someone can be a very hard thing. But it really will bring you a freedom that you've never known.
If I can forgive my mother, then anyone can forgive... and be forgiven.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Christmas 2023: Return of a Tradition

To be honest, I don't know if I should do this.  It seems like it would be more ideal to bring this back during a better Christmas.

But when would that be?  We aren't guaranteed a tomorrow, much less a holiday that could be years from now.

It's like this: for a very long time, every year in the days before Christmas, I would post an article that I wrote for my college's newspaper, in 1998.  A few weeks ago was the twenty-fifth anniversary of it getting published.  When I started this blog some years after college, that essay seemed like a good thing to make a holiday tradition out of.

I just checked and the last time I did that was in 2013.  Ten whole years ago.

In 2013 I was recently back home from spending a week in voluntary commitment to a psychiatric facility, because of depression.  Well, a few other things that preceded that too, that had also really hit home.  I don't know how I managed to eke out the tradition that year.

And then in 2014, Dad passed away just before Thanksgiving.  There was no keeping the tradition after that.

Since then I've struggled to keep the blog going at times, occasionally wondering what is the point of it.  But I always seem to make myself realize that this is, as it always has been, a chronicle of the human condition, seen through the eyes of one particular and peculiar person.  With all his strengths and weaknesses, warts and all.

And then there was my picking up stakes and traveling across America, looking for a new place to hang my hat.  It was a quest that brought my dog Tammy and I all the way to California.  That didn't work out so friends invited us to stay with them in South Carolina for awhile.  Now I'm living in a real home, and have had a serious career under my belt.  Unfortunately the current economy made me have to look for other work.  Which is very sad, because I truly loved my job at the Department of Mental Health.

 Well, I guess... things could be much worse.  Despite circumstances there is still a roof over our heads, food on the table, a car that still runs.  Tammy and I are together and Lord willing will be for many more years to come.

And for the first time in a very long time, definitely since before the worst of the manic depression cranked up in stark earnest, I've found an abiding faith in God again.

I suppose if nothing else, that by itself qualifies the return of the tradition this year.

So here it is, for the first time in a decade.  And with that I am going to take a few days off from blogging.  Allow myself a period of reflection and consideration, as much as might be possible.  Maybe it will be a season in which I can draw further close to God.  I would really like that.

Until next time, Merry Christmas.  And now...



 Originally published in The Pendulum, Elon University, 12/03/1998

Celebrating the Christmas season means celebrating the memories

Chris Knight

     Some of the best memories that we take through life are about the times we cherish the most. And sometimes, it doesn’t take much to bring back the joy.

     Last Friday as I was driving around Greensboro, the all-time coolest Christmas song ever came over the speakers.

     Who knows what this genius recording artist’s name is? Does it really matter? Whoever he is, he’ll forever be remembered as giving us the immortal sound of “Dogs Singing Jingle Bells”:

Arf arf arf,
Arf arf arf,
Arf Arf Whoof Whoof Whuf…

     Ahh... you know how it goes.

     And there’s the ever-beuh-beuh-beauh-beautiful rendition of Porky Pig singing “Blue Christmas” and the Chipmunks and of course “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Christmas at Ground Zero,” but hearing those dogs singing “Jingle Bells...” ahhhhh.

     It brought me back to the very first time I heard that: on the radio coming back from school just before Christmas in 1982. I was in third grade at the time. And it brought back memories of the Christmas we had.

     It was cold and very cloudy. I remember that because Santa had brought me a telescope and I didn’t get to use it that night. Which wasn’t too big a worry, ‘cause me and my sister had our brand-new Atari 2600 to play with!

     Another Christmas memory: To this day, I’ll never forgive Anita for the pounding she gave me in “Combat.” I don’t care how fancy Sega or the Playstation get... they’ll never touch the 4-bit pleasures of the Atari!

     There have been many a Christmas since then, and I remember each one well, for all the little things they had with them.

     I’ll never forget Mom and Dad taking me and my sister to see Santa Claus at the mall in ‘84. That morning Dad asked if I’d come with him to cut firewood, so we rode the tractor into the woods. There had been snow earlier in the week, which lay around us in the crisp, cold morning.

     Dad also brought his 30-30 rifle, why I still don’t know. After we had the wood loaded, Dad asked if I wanted to try shootin’ the gun.

     There I was, a ten-year old kid, holding what looked like an anti-aircraft cannon in my tiny hands. Well, I aimed at this tree like Dad told me to, and pulled the trigger.

     To this day I cannot describe the colors that flashed before my eyes, or the sound in my ears. When my existence finally returned, I was flat on my back in the snow, and blood was gushing from between my eyes where the scope had hit my nose from the backfire.

     That night Santa saw the bandages and said “Ho ho hoooo, and what happened to you, little fellow?”

     “I got shot, Santa,” was the only thing I knew to say.

     Hey, was I gonna lie to the Big Man? Uh-uh, no way was I gonna lose all that loot!

     The following year’s Christmas I remember for many things, but especially feeding the young calves on our farm. It would be the last year our family would be running a dairy farm, and I had started helping with some of the work around the barn.

     Dad set up a Christmas tree in the milking room, with wrapped-up boxes beneath it.

     Tinsel hung from the front doors of the barn. And there was something about the feel of the place there, that has always held a special place in my heart, as if we knew that there would not be another Christmas like this one.

     I wish there had been another Christmas on the farm, because there’s something I wish I could have seen. And as silly as some people might find this, I really believe that it happens.

     You see, if you go out at midnight on Christmas Eve, you will see all the animals in the farmyard, and in the fields, and in the forests, and wherever else they may be, stop where they are.

     And then they kneel.

     They kneel in remembrance for another night, long ago. It was Christmas, but how many people could know it then?

     Nothing remarkable, to be sure: Caesar had decreed a census through the land, and each man went with his family to his town.

     One man in particular took his wife, a young woman quick with child. But there was no room for them at the inn. So that night, in a dirty and filthy stable and surrounded by animals, a child was born.

     You see, it’s easy for us to forget. At this time of the year, we are too overwhelmed by the consumption and the material and the glitter and all the customs that come with Christmas.

     And it’s too easy for us to forget that Christmas is, before everything else, a birthday.

     But the animals, who watched over Him as He lay as a newborn babe, two millenia ago... the animals have not forgotten.

     And so they kneel every Christmas and give glory to the newborn king, and in awe that God would send His Son to live among us in the greatest act of love.

     And to teach us many things, but especially to “love one another”. And to bridge the gap between man and God.

     The birth of Jesus Christ: the greatest Christmas present there will ever be. His birth, which would give mankind the greatest present it could ever ask for.

     Who in the world on that night could know the price that this present would someday have?

     Heaven and Earth sang praises to His glory on that night. The animals have always remembered that night. And Heaven and Earth still praise and sing unto Him.

     And if you only take a little time out from how busy things become at this part of the year, you can hear the singing, too. And it is a great temptation to join in that chorus.

     And perhaps in hearing, we will not forget the real meaning of Christmas, either.

     This Christmas Eve night I plan to be outside, with the same telescope that I got for Christmas all those years ago, and trying to envision a bright star over Bethlehem. Around midnight, I’m going to take a walk over to my aunt’s farm.

     Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth, and goodwill toward men.

Dedicated to the memory of W.C. “Mutt” Burton, for whom Christmas was always “In My Bones.”



Sunday, December 17, 2023

Tammy and me at Kitty Hawk

Today is the 120th anniversary of the first powered air flight, by the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk on the  Outer Banks of North Carolina.

In May of 2017, not long after coming back east after nearly a year of traveling across America, I took my dog Tammy on a day trip to the Outer Banks.  I wanted her to be able to say (to other dogs anyway) that she has seen the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.  We drove down to Cape Hatteras and visited the lighthouse, then went back north.  We spent a little while at the Wright Brothers monument, and got our photo taken at the spot where that very first airplane flight took off from:

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Got to see Godzilla Minus One last night

Many years ago an idea hit for a Godzilla movie.  There are strong doubts that I'll ever get to make it but the notion still occupies my mind whenever a film about kaiju is released.  My idea for a Godzilla film is to set it in Japan in 1954, the year the original film came out.  To treat Godzilla as a force of nature like an earthquake or tsunami.  Shoot the movie in black and white like Schindler's List.  And throughout the film it cuts to the modern day (or maybe it's the Nineties or Aughts) with survivors of the attack sharing their perspectives.  Just like the "witnesses" that were seen throughout Warren Beatty's Reds.  It would have been as close to a documentary-style film about a Godzilla attack as would be possible.

As I said, I don't expect that film to be made (or maybe someone at Toho will read this post and decide it's a good idea, in which case I will cheerfully say "Do it!").  But if that doesn't happen then I will be perfectly happy with Godzilla Minus One, which I was able to catch last night.


Godzilla Minus One is, absolutely, the Godzilla film that I have been hoping to see for a very long time now.  Yes, here is a movie that treats Godzilla as he should be: a natural disaster on ginormous legs and breathing atomic fire.  There is no bargaining with such a force of nature.  You can only do your best to brace for the destruction in its wake.  And maybe it's just me but I've long thought that Godzilla should not be endlessly fighting other kaiju.  The tendency there is that Godzilla becomes a nigh-unstoppable force for good... which runs fully counter to his character.

Let me be succinct: Godzilla Minus One is the Godzilla movie we didn't know we needed and thought we would never get.

The film begins in 1945, in the closing days of World War II.  Which I loved.  Setting the movie in postwar Japan is perfect for a Godzilla story and it immediately ups the stakes, what with the country just then beginning to recover from incendiary air raids and the two atomic blasts.  Just when the people of Japan think they might really be on the high road away from devastation, here comes Godzilla to make things even worse.

I'm stopping short of calling this post a proper "review".  It's more of just a blunt reaction piece.  Godzilla Minus One is a movie that you are going to want to go in cold when you watch it.  This movie was a sheer and quite moving delight that hearkens back and brings freshly to the fore all the qualities that one would expect from a serious Godzilla motion picture.  I had a blast (no pun intended) watching this movie and I think most of the people reading this will come away from seeing it feeling much the same.  WELL worth finding a good theater to see this movie in.

I'll close with this: No, I haven't seen Oppenheimer yet.  Real-life events have conspired me prevent me from seeing any movie this year up 'til now, with the exception of this past summer's Indiana Jones film.  But I could definitely see Godzilla Minus One being a serious awards contender.  It's a film as beautiful in its acting and cinematography as it is massive in scope.  In a perfect world this movie would be up for Best Picture at the Oscars in a few months.

If so, the gang at Toho Pictures will have well deserved it.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

DOOM is thirty years old today!

Doom, arguably the most installed piece of software in the history of anything, today celebrates the thirtieth anniversary of its release.

It was at 12:01 AM on the morning of December 10th, 1993 that the team at id Software uploaded the first one-third of the game - the shareware version - to an FTP server at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.  Within minutes wanna-be players crashed the school's system as everyone and their brother (and a few sisters) tried to get Doom.  Hours later and campuses around the world were banning the game's network play capability, it was such a resource hog.

By the end of that first day it was very obviously clear: the world was Doomed.  It wasn't long afterward that the id Software staff started getting sales of the full game to the tune of a hundred THOUSAND dollars a day.

And it wasn't just the high school and college crowd that was playing Doom: it was people from all walks of life.  Young and old.  Students and professionals.  Especially when it came to the game's revolutionary multiplayer component.  Doom was the great leveler after death itself.  In a perfect world there would be no wars: only games of Doom to prove one's skill.

My first exposure to Doom came a few months later, when a friend brought over a box containing the shareware version that he had found at K-Mart for like a dollar.  This was still a time when most homes in America didn't have Internet and consequently no FTP access, so id also distributed the shareware edition in boxes for the cost of packaging.  Johnny's own computer was having problems running it, but maybe mine would.  We were sharing rides to the community college for a history class on Tuesday nights.  After I returned home that evening I installed Doom on the 486-SX system that I had gotten for Christmas.

Doom was a little overwhelming at first.  Also plenty violent.  I didn't honestly know what to make of it when I initially cranked it up, and there was school work and my job at the nearby seafood restaurant for most of the weekend.  But on Sunday afternoon I gave Doom another shot.  It sucked me in hard and refused to let go.  I was firing at anything and everything that moved.  By the time I found the chainsaw I was grinning like a maniac.  Dad walked past my door and looked in to see what I was doing.  He saw me blasting those Imps away with the shotgun and just sort-of shook his head in disbelief.  Later on he watched me sawing into the demons and I like to think he found it pretty amusing.  Just as I was finding that killing off hordes of the undead was a GREAT stress reliever after all.

It wasn't long after that when I sent a check off to Texas.  A week or so later the full version of Doom - containing version 1.666 - arrived at my door.  By that time I had conquered "Knee Deep In The Dead" many times on the various difficulties.  Now it was time at last to wade upon "The Shores Of Hell" on my way to "Inferno".

And then came the discovery that id Software had made the game almost completely customizable!  People had figured out how to create their own levels, edit and add-in new graphics, change up the sounds and music... pretty much anything pertaining to the game's environment.  That first night I tried an add-on, when I UNZIP-ped a WAD (acronym for "Where's All the Data?") file and changed the Baron of Hell into Barney the Dinosaur... that just lit a fire under me to find and collect EVERY add-on file that I could locate.  I think my favorite custom level was "Deimos Subway": a very well-designed board imitating a train station along with a catchy tune for background music.  There was the WAD that added sounds from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  And there is also no forgetting the various WADs that added classical MIDI music to the game.  All very clever (and often very funny) stuff.  Although I kind of harbor doubts that many people these days would be comfortable with loading the COSBY.WAD before starting the game...

Wow.  Thirty years.  So much has happened both in personal time and across the realm of video/computer gaming.  But even today, that first one-third of Doom is with us as much as ever.  Ports of the game have been made for everything from calculators to refrigerator doors to home pregnancy tests to John Deere tractors.  It's become an unofficial mantra of the coding sector: "It's not a computer if it doesn't run Doom."

And I would be remiss if I did not admit that every so often I find myself playing original Doom again.  There's just something about this game that charms the player and leaves an indelible mark on one's cerebral pleasure center.  I've played a lot of so-called "Doom-clones", but it's the original game which the game-oriented part of my personal entertainment proclivity owes its allegiance to.

Time has proven that it is true: "Doom will never die.  Only its players will."

So Happy Thirtieth Birthday to Doom!  May we be playing it for another thirty!

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Testing for un-named weekly series

It was my friend Matt Smith who first encouraged me to start a weekly video series like his own Sunday school videos.  He suggested some equipment and I've been playing around with shooting footage with my iPad Pro.  Today I tried it again, this time with a wireless lavalier microphone.

This is still VERY rough, but I thought it could be shared with y'all.  Few things from making this: the mic should be further up my shirt (crossing my arms in this muffled the sound).  And this show is in dire need of a name.  Maybe y'all can suggest one.

Anyhoo, here it is!

Tuesday, December 05, 2023

The Knight "Many Santas" Hypothesis

Work with me here.  This is something that popped into being inside my gray matter a few weeks ago.  Personally, I can't find any argument about how this is not a viable theory.  Although I confess that I did ummm... "borrow" some things from current pop culture.   But as Santa Claus is a character who has borrowed much else across the centuries I think it's appropriate.

So here it is: my hypothesis for why there are so many Santa Clauses, how Santa gets ALL that work done in a single night, how Santa knows everything about whether you've been bad or good.  And that ultimate question: does Santa Claus exist at all?

All right, here we go...

Santa Claus is a multi-universal entity. That's why we see so many of them at Christmas time. Most of the Santas you're seeing are from other universes who are in ours for awhile. Each Santa has a territory staked out, so it's always Santa who brings toys, they're just not necessarily Santa from our universe.  Santa is living, breathing proof that the "many worlds" theory is true.  He is the anthromorphic personification of quantum mechanics.
This is also why "Santa" takes so many forms wherever on Earth he's at. Father Christmas? Yup, he's from another universe too.  So is Julmoten (and HIS multiples), Papa Noel, and every other incarnation of a kindly old man who brings presents to good little girls and boys at Christmas.

Santas from across the Multiverse

Being a multiversal entity gives Santa access to all kinds of wild technology, some of which seems absolutely magical to us mere mortals.  This explains the flying sleigh.  Reindeer?  Those are mostly just for appearance's sake.  The real Santa's sleigh is a miracle of applied science that is as mundane to many others in the multiverse as a truck-pulled sleigh in a Christmas parade is for us today.
(That Santa?  Yup, he's a multiversal agent also.)
Every so often the Santas, all couple of million or so of them, congregate at the North Pole, which is the nexus of all those divergent universes. There the Council of Clauses set forth policy, handle legislation and otherwise provide leadership for all the Santas.
Who is that Santa Claus you see at the mall, or ringing a bell for charitable contributions? Is that the real Santa? The answer is no AND yes. Santa Claus is a mythic wave function given temporal form. If you share your Christmas list with one Santa, it's as if you've shared it with EVERY Santa.
And it goes without saying: all of those Santa Clauses operating in the world have a MUCH easier time than the government does in watching for who's been naughty or nice.
So be good and keep the faith, my friends. Yes Virginia, there most certainly IS a Santa Claus. And he is everywhere!


UPDATE: a kind reader sent us a photograph of one of the "Quantum Clauses".  This Santa is in the Reidsville, North Carolina, United States area:




Sunday, December 03, 2023

Sharing something very special tonight

So, this past week a memory just popped into mind.  About something I had written a long time ago as a student at Elon.  Awhile back I discovered an online archive of every issue of The Pendulum, which was the college's newspaper.  I've shared a few of the op-ed pieces I wrote for the paper already.

I don't know why I found myself thinking of it but I went looking for it.  And lo and behold I not only found it, but I realized today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of its publication!

Maybe there is something at work, that such synchronicity happened right just now.

For many years at Christmas time I posted the text of this piece.  It was a holiday tradition for this blog.  But I haven't done that in a long while.  Maybe this year would be a good occasion to bring that tradition back.

Well anyway, here it is.  From the December 3rd, 1998 issue of Elon College's The Pendulum: my essay about Christmas and its memories.  Click to enlarge the image.

I'm feeling as if Kipling is in order...

 The Gods

of the

Copybook Headings

Rudyard Kipling



As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all. 

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind. 

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome. 

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things. 

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."  

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."  

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all, 
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul; 
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy, 
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."  

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more. 

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began. 
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire, 
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire; 

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins, 
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn, 
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!