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Saturday, April 30, 2005
I fear for our future.
Out and about running errands this morning, I stopped in the Dollar Tree store to pick up a gift bag for my mom. She, Susan and Gracelyn are attending a shower tomorrow for a cousin who eloped to Hawaii back around Thanksgiving and are going to have a big marriage ceremony sometime next month. (Don't ask...) The shower is a garden themed one so Mom got a gift that will be difficult to wrap. Thank goodness for the modern miracle of the gift bag!

And the Dollar Tree has gift bags for a dollar for any size. How can you go wrong?

Well, first of all, it's Saturday so that means it's a bit busier than usual. Now, most of you know that I love kids...I really do. But there are just some parents out there who are going a bit too far in letting the inmates run the asylum at it were. I was trying to get around a cart that was blocking the aisle and the mother was trying to reason with a girl who was no more than four. "If you don't get out of the aisle so this man can get by, we won't go to Wal-Mart," the mom kept saying to which the daughter just whined and said she wanted to go to Wal-Mart. Seriously, just pick up the child please. If it's not too much trouble.

Then, the time comes to pay. And there's a line. A long line and some people have trouble with the concept of this. The line starts at a register and goes down an aisle..it's that long. So, I go to the end of the line and get in it. And some others who didn't miss that day in line school do the same. Well, this guy and two kids come up, look down the aisle, see the line and then stand at the junction of line and aisle. And every time it moves up, they try to cut in, I guess figuring that they're standing near the line so they should get in. I bet this is one of the same guys in traffic who knows the lane is ending but flies up at 90 to the end of the lane and then flips you off when you don't let him in.

Finally, I get up to pay and they have problem making change....out of a $20. And it's not like it's early in the day....the store has been open half an hour, maybe 45 minutes. So, the young lady running the register calls the manager for change. This only makes the line longer. So, manager guy comes waltzing out, gets her change and then proceeds to go back to his dungeon. Now, I'd been waited on already, but I guess part of management training is that you don't help your employee out by ringing up a few customers. (And before you start, I know, it could have been that there weren't two tills open...but that seems odd on a Saturday).

After the change arrives, the girl is perplexed by the simple math of giving me back multiples of five dollar bills and one dollar bills. As in, it took her three times to figure out that three five-dollar bills is fifteen dollars and then you put ones in there to get the rest. (I really flumoxed her by using exact change.)

I swear, there are just some days I fear for the future of our country...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/30/2005 11:47:00 AM | |
Friday, April 29, 2005
Boys and their toys
This month's Sync Magazine has an article about toys for big boys. Basically, they are the "guilty pleasure" toys that were denied to you as a kid.

Below are two pictures of the Adult-Sized Big Wheel (with a model showing their proper use)....






When I was little, I wore out a bunch of Big Wheels in my time, riding them around the neighborhood (back before I had a bicycle). My question is--I wonder how much a new Adult-Sized Big Wheel is?

And how much is the cute girl in a bikini upgrade to the Adult-Sized Big Wheel?

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/29/2005 04:33:00 PM | |

Friday Memes
Friday's Feast
Appetizer
Which keys do you have on your key chain?
I've got keys to: my car, the house, the study, my sister's house, my storage shed, the lock on the storage shed and then a couple of random keys I have no idea what they're to.

Soup
What is the most spontaneous thing you've ever done?
Back in college, some buddies and I decided--hey, let's go to Chattanooga. We drove down to Chattanooga and ended up only going to see a movie..that would could have seen in Knoxville.

Salad
Who is the best cook in your family?
My mom

Main Course
If you were to write a "how-to" book, what would the title be?
Dummies Books for Dummies

Dessert
Name a recent fad you've tried.
Well, it just goes to show you how untrendy I am..I've not tried any new fads of late.

Aloha Friday

Do you like road trips? What’s the longest you’ve driven in a single stretch?
Depends on the company really. If you've got a good travelling companion or are going somewhere fun or of interest to you, I love a good road trip. As for the driven, I'd have to say about eight or so hours to go to DC to visit some friends a couple of years ago.

What one technogadget do you have that, I don’t want to say you couldn’t live without, but would really bum you out if it were no longer available?
I would be lost without my VCRs.

Spread the spirit of blogaloha…what blog should we visit this week?
Say howdy to Karen over at My Life, a fellow DVD-aholic.



posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/29/2005 11:45:00 AM | |

Alias A Clean Conscience
Good to know that Michael McKean is still getting work and not just living off those Laverne and Shirley residuals.

OK, was it just me or when Jack was digging around on his palm with a letter opener and removing whatever it was that McKean's doctor had implanted there, did you think--I bet Jack really doesn't have radiation poisoning, but this implant is somehow slowly poisoning him. And then I started to wonder who was behind this latest way to mess with Jack. My thought was--Jack knows something and McKean goes and encourages Jack to not die without unburdening himself to Sydney about all the secrets he's been keeping all these years. My suspicion meter went off there big time.

And how just wince inducing was it to see Jack pulling off dead skin and digging into his hand with a letter opener?!? I like to think I'm not squeamish but those scenes had me wanting to hit the fast foward on the remote to make them end sooner.

Meanwhile, Syd once again hangs out at the APO office so we can actually send other agents into the field--this time Vaught and Dixon. Thankfully, we get very little screen time with Vaughn and, instead, get some nice time with Dixon. Seeing Dixon meet an old Marine buddy who justified blowing up an embassy and killing 15 as casualties to in the war they are fighting was nice. And then Dixon has to shoot his buddy and appear to kill him in order to do the same thing. Seeing Dixon as conflicted as he was about doing this and then pulling the trigger was nicely done. I do think it was a bit of a cop-out that the guy was only severely wounded and Dixon didn't really kill him. I just think that gives you a too easy "get out of guilt and character development" free card later in the series. Or else it gets the writers out of dealing with that later so we can have more startling revelations.

Like the fact that the Derevko family is evil....pure evil. Now, I admit the little twist at the end where Sophia shows up and turns out to be Elena Derevko was kind of fun. But I find it staggeringly disappointing if all the secret Jack and Slaone conversations this year were about Elena stalking Sydney and Nadia. We built up all year to this?!? Come on...you can do better than that.

Also, how did Nadia know what flight that Sophia would be coming in on? Sophia calls and says, "Hey I'm gonna be in L.A." and Nadia goes, "I'll pick you up at the airport" and then the conversation ends. Yet a scene or two later, Nadia and Syd stroll up to a gate and meet Sophia. Yet, at no point did we find out what flight Sophia was taking. And it's not like LAX is the airport from Wings where you had two airlines coming in and out and so it wasnt' hard to figure out when someone was going to come in. Which brings me to another point--how the heck did they know when go and pick her up? Did they just say--well, we'll get there around 8 and browse gift shops until she comes in?

I know, it's nitpicky..but these are things you can take care of with ONE line of dialogue. I don't think it's too much to ask that we do these things.

I also have to wonder--will Dixon still be undercover next week? Will we see any resolution to the molecule that turns water to sludge plotline? Or will it all be spectacularily dropped next week?

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/29/2005 09:05:00 AM | |
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Ten Things I Like About Me
Becky over at April Fool responded to a challenge thrown down by TAB (The Anoymous Blogger). Basically, you list ten things you like about yourself.

So, without any further adieu....
  1. I am a good Uncle Michael
  2. I lost a lot of weight in 2001/2002 and have kept it off
  3. I realize that while Star Trek and Doctor Who are great TV shows that I enjoy watching, they can't take the place of having real world friends and relationships. And I would gladly choose spending time with a friend or family member over watching either one. Oh, I'd still tape them...let's not get nuts here.
  4. I have a good sense of humor.
  5. I enjoy writing
  6. For the most part, I'm pretty easy-going--with me, what you see if what you get. I don't pretend to be someone I'm not to impress anyone.
  7. I took a strengths test a while ago and found that four of my top five strengths are in the thinking category.
  8. I have a close relationship with my immediate family. I am also close to many of my cousins.
  9. I am a voracious reader. I love getting lost in a good book.
  10. I survived a difficult time in my life--when it would have been easy to sink into a pit of despair and returning cruelty with cruelty--with dignity, grace and without comprimising myself. I stood up for myself, but I did it in a Christian way, which is not always easy to do.


posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/28/2005 11:43:00 AM | |

Cool News
My favorite super hero is Spider-Man. One of my favorite writers is Peter David. Starting this summer, there will be a new Spider-Man title written by Peter David.

How cool is that?!?

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/28/2005 10:15:00 AM | |

How does my brain work?
I'm sure many have wondered about this for years....





Your Brain is 73.33% Female, 26.67% Male



Your brain leans female

You think with your heart, not your head

Sweet and considerate, you are a giver

But you're tough enough not to let anyone take advantage of you!






Tip of the hat to Barry over at Inn of the Last Home for this quiz.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/28/2005 09:03:00 AM | |
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
I'm figuring it out.
For some reason, Wednesday just seems to wipe out my energy level. The last two weeks have been especially bad in this department.

I got to thinking--what has been different?

And then it hit me.

At handbells we're working on playing Pachabel's Canon. We're using chimes for it and it sounds really cool when we can all stay together.

Anyway, as I got to thinking about being tired, it suddenly hit me. I have one of those relaxation CDs that has the Canon playing repeatedly for an hour with the sound of waves crashing on the shore. For a while, I used to use it to help me drift off to sleep at night. So, I guess on some level, my body hears the music (on the chimes it sounds very simliar to the CD) and starts to shut down.

On a totally non-related note, the Today Show will be in Nashville tomorrow morning, snarling traffic, blocking roads and taking up the limited downtown parking places with fans of the show and the country artists who will be peforming. That should just make getting to work lovely tomorrow...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/27/2005 09:06:00 PM | |

Doctor Who: World War III
By Russell T. Davies
Directed by Keith Boak

In the 60s and 70s aliens invaded Earth for a number of reasons. In “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” the Daleks wanted to hollow out the planet’s core and drive the Earth around space as some type of huge space ship (don’t ask..it never made much sense to me either). In the Pertwee era, aliens came knocking because we’d sent up spacecraft, thus announcing our presence. Also the Master thought it would be fun to conquer Earth and destroy the Doctor.

Now, in the new modern era of Doctor Who, aliens don’t show up en masse to take over the planet. Instead, they show up as galactic entrepreneurs out to make a quick buck by having the entire planet go to war. Aliens have invaded the UK at the highest levels of power in order to get permission to use nuclear warheads to turn the planet into a radioactive slag heap and sell off the waste to the highest bidder. The waste can be used to power space crafts.

That, in a nut shell, is the entire plot the Slitheen have for our planet. No grand dreams of conquest, no bringing the aliens to our doorstep because of anything we’ve done. Nope, we’ve essentially got a bunch of aliens who are creating their own E-Bay auction for the remains of planet Earth.

I understand that we’re living in a new, modern age here and we’ve got to have a bit more motivation out of our Doctor Who monsters. But even this idea seems a bit paper thin at best. With the wealth of other planets even in, say, our solar system, why pick Earth? Did I miss some dialogue that stated that Earth’s composition made it a better radioactive fuel than others? Or was it that we just had the weapons to create the galactic slagheap? Now, I realize here that I’m answering my own argument, but I still think this is something that one or two lines of dialogue in the story could easily address. But, alas, it’s not.

Instead ,we get a lot of the other infamous Doctor Who cliché—running down the corridor.

Five episodes into the new age of Doctor Who and we’ve got a myriad of corridor chases. It’s good to know that Doctor Who’s contribution to the Olympic games lives on for a new generation of fans to enjoy.

None of this is to say that I found “World War III” to be all that bad. I found parts of it to be rather enjoyable. But overall, I found it to rather disjointed. Whereas “Aliens of London” made a smooth transition from the concerns by Rose’s mother and Mickey about her travels in time to the main plot of aliens coming from the sky, this one didn’t do as well moving from one plot the next. We end the Slitheen storyline with ten minutes to go and then have several dead scenes of Rose and her mother chatting about inviting the Doctor over for dinner and how her travels will affect the family. Now, I did find the scenes with the Doctor and Mickey to be well done, especially with Mickey admitting he’s not cut out for travel with the Doctor. But again, it was a rather abrupt change of tone in the story.

Not that we needed more the Slitheen.

I think the production staff fell in love with the new effects for the first time. We seemed to have a lot of transitions from the Slitheen in their human bodies to being in their alien appearance. I swear someone was scratching open a forehead every two minutes after the Doctor, Rose and Harriet Jones lock themselves in the safe room. Every two seconds the Slitheen were slipping in and out of their suits and it felt more like a time filler than anything else.

It certainly took away from the sense of paranoia and panic that pervaded part one.

That’s not to say I thought all of “World War III” was that bad. I liked the debates between the Doctor and Rose in the war room. It was nice to see Mickey well used and to see how he’s taken up the cause that Clive had back in “Rose.” Mickey actually worked as a character and while it might be intriguing for him to travel with the Doctor and Rose, I’m glad he didn’t. He could easily become the Adric of this series and we don’t need that.

The scene with the Doctor asking for bits of info about the Slitheen to determine their home world and how to stop them was nice. And it’s interesting how extreme the measures the Doctor is now taking to stop the alien baddies. He’s let Cassandra die, sacrificed the girl in “The Unquiet Dead” and here he allows a missile strike to take out Downing Street. He also slaps a band on the aliens in the opening moments of the episode and gives Mickey the way to kill a Slitheen when it attacks he and Rose’s mother. I find it interesting to see this development in the Doctor where the ends justify the means. We saw this develop in the seventh Doctor and now it’s continuing here. I keep getting the feeling that something has hardened the Doctor..he used to fight for a peaceful solution. Here, he barely acknowledges it, instead choosing to blow up the Slitheen in order to stop them. I can’t help but wonder if we’re missing a bit of the clever ways the Doctor used to defeat alien menace here so that we can have a big explosion to end the story.

Again, I sense there is something building in a season-long arc type of way, so I’m reserving too much judgment at this point and time. It may all make a lot more sense when we get to episode 13 and everything gels.

Until then, the fifth episode feels a lot like a placeholder. This may be that I’m about to go crazy to see the new Daleks show up next week. (How good was that preview, I ask you?) Or it may be that it was just too disjointed an episode to really capture and hold my attention. Again, there is a lot of isolated thing I liked, but when you add it all up, I’m not sure it worked as an entire episode, much less the second half of a story.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/27/2005 03:38:00 PM | |

"I can't do this all on my own..."
Now, I love Scrubs. It cracks me up and I look forward to its quirkiness each each week.

But did anyone else think that last night's episode felt like they were trying too hard?

I felt like we'd fallen into this weird, parallel universe where we had these characters who looked and sounded like the ones we've come to know and love, but weren't really them. Especially my favorite character, Dr. Cox.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/27/2005 08:49:00 AM | |

TV Round-Up
Veronica Mars: M.A.D.
Last night, we got the final "mystery of the week" storyline for Veronica Mars's first season. From here on out, it's all about solving some of the lingering mysteries that have been with the show since day one.

I'm becoming more and more impressed with this show. In this week's "on campus" mystery, Veronica is approached by Carmen for help. Seems that Carmen made a sexy video involving her, a hot top and a popsicle. Her boyfriend (who she longs to make an ex) will distribute it to the school if Carmen doesn't stay with him. Veronica steals the boyfriend's camera phone but the sneaky guy as a copy on his computer. Boyfriend is set to go to the Naval Acadamy, so Veronica and Carmen set him up to look like he'd fail the "don't ask, don't tell policy." Veronica assures Carmen that by having this evidence, it will be a stand-off of mutually assured destruction for both parties, so neither will fire the first salvo. That backfires and Carmen is humilated but takes the high road, refusing to destroy her ex in retallation.

Meanwhile, Keith is trying to find Duncan Kaine for the huge reward so Veronica can have her first two years of college paid for. He's also falling in love with Alicia, so much so that he's running an ad in the classifieds so he can divorce Veronica's mother for abandonment.

Oh yeah, and Veronica's relationship with Logan seems to be going well..that is until the final five or so minutes when it all hits the fan.

What I like about this show is that you've got all this going on, but none of it feels rushed. Nor do I feel like we're wasting time in one plotline when there are other ones that should get more attention. And the final segment of this episode where we learn a few more shocking little tidbits about the night that Veronica was raped were stunning. Veronica learns that the night Carmen's little Paris Hilton video was filmed was the same night and party as her date rape. She learns that Carmen was drugged, as was she. She finds out the supplier of these was Logan. All in the span of fifteen minutes of screen time. As if that weren't jaw-dropping enough, Clarence Weedman calls in Alicia (who works for the Kaine's company) and informs her that her career is over if she doesn't stop seeing Keith Mars immediately.

So many revelations, so little time. And it leaves me hanging for next week. UPN has the first few minutes of next week's episode on-line, but I'm not sure I want to see them just yet. I'm honestly afraid that it will leave me that much more anxious than I am now for how this all plays out.

One final note--loved the little shot at themselves. The second epiosde of the series featured a guest star turn by Paris Hilton, who is referenced here. I wonder if that was the writing staff's way of taking a shot at UPN for forcing the "big name" guest star on the show to generate some early season buzz.

Smallville: Spirit
Smallville came out of its repeat cycle last week and is now in the final run toward the season finale. It has been far too long since I watched a new episode, so I guess that's why I'm just confused about some things. So, Jason is now working for Lex in order to spy on Lex for his mother, who in December he hated for manipulating him to be with Lana. Alrighty then...

In this week's "what can Kryptonite do?" segment, we find out that if you're at the point of death, Kryptonite can turn you into a ghost who can inhabit people's bodies and be passed by touch. Wacky fun ensues as people act out of character a bit, to the point that Lois is possessed and takes Clark to prom. Oh yeah, and did I mention that becuase this one is told in flashback, we get to hear band of the week play their song twice and I can buy their album right now at the WB web site?!?

OK, so does anyone remember in the first season with Kryptonite had to interact with something in order to make the freak of the week come out? Have we forgotten this or did we just run out of things for it to interact with and are just saying--ah, the hell with it, let's just have some fun and blame it on the Kryptonite. And then, we've got characters changing loyalties mid-stream like Jason. It's one of those moments that is meant to be a huge shock, but it comes off as--OK, so why is he chaging loyalties now when up to now he's been all against Mommy dearest? (For a good way to pull off jaw dropping plot twists that work see this week's Veronica Mars.)

Honestly, I'm just not sure. I'm slowly beginning to think this season of Smallville has been a complete waste.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/27/2005 08:14:00 AM | |
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
"I aim to misbehave."
Wow, wow, wow...the first trailer for Serenity is on-line.

All I can say is--wow, it looks good! I will be seeing this one in the theaters opening day.

For those of you who haven't yet given into the genius that is Firefly, all I can say is--get the DVDs now!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/26/2005 04:10:00 PM | |

Bad Movie.
I love my local branch of the public library--and not just because I read more books than any one person should. No, I love my county library system because they have a good selection of movies on VHS and DVD for you to check out. And not just old stuff either--they get in the new releases on a regular basis. You just have to be patient and put them on reserve in the on-line card catalog. Added bonus--you get the movies for a week with no charge.

My patience in waiting for movies to come in explains why I've yet to see Napolean Dynomite.

So, last week, I was in the library and browsing the DVDs. I saw one that from the clam shell looked like it could be interesting--View from the Top. I'd seen previews for it during its theatrical release and couldn't recall any outright scathing reviews so I figured--hey, it's free, why not?

I made it through all of 45 minutes of this 90 minute movie before I just had to turn the thing off. This is a movie so bad I'm not sure MST3K could make it funny. My dad kept asking me, "So when does it get funny?" and I kept saying, "Surely it must get funny soon."

Let me be blunt here--this movie has Mike Myers in it and it's not funny. Mike Myers can read the phone book and make it funny. Heck, he could just read the phone book in the Dr. Evil voice for an hour and a half and you'd get more laughs than you do here.

Candice Bergen also stars in this. Apparently she lost a bet with Satan and this is her punishment. Both she and Myers look horribly embarassed to be in this. You can just look into their eyes and see them pleading, "Please for the love of heaven, get me out of this movie!"

So, I turned it off, having wasted 45 minutes of my life and not wanting to go for the full 90. And you know, if I turn off a movie, it's got to be pretty bad, especially in the light of the fact that I sat through all of Sorority House Massacre 2. So, that should tell you a little something about how bad this movie really is. Not even on a free Showtime or HBO weekend when you have nothing else to do should you watch this one. There's a test pattern on somewhere that would probably be more entertaining.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/26/2005 01:57:00 PM | |

Packers tickets or jail time?
A judge in Oshkosh, Wisconsin has ordered that a woman who embezzeled funds from a labor union either give up her tickets to three Green Bay Packer games this year or go to jail for 90 days. If she gave up the tickets, they would go to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Of course, my first thought on reading this is--OK, so who are the Packers playing these three games? If it's the 49ers, the Dolphins and the Cardinals, give 'em up! It's not worth going to jail for that!

But then I got to thinking--what if it were UT tickets I was asked to give up? To games such as UT vs Georgia, Florida or Alabama. Would I choose to spend 90 days in the pokey or would I give up my tickets to the game? And the answer is--I'm just not sure.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/26/2005 09:46:00 AM | |

24: Day 4, 1-2 a..m.
I know that when it comes to watching 24, there are times I've just got to turn my brain off and go with the flow. Jack can get across L.A. in rush hour in five minutes--check! Jack or someone can be tortured/shot/greviously wounded one minute and five minutes later be up and around like nothing happened--check!

But as much as I'm willing to suspend my disbelief most weeks to enjoy the thrill ride that is 24, there are some times when the what's happening is so overwhelmingly unbelieveable that you can't help but stop and go--huh?!? Like this week where, once again, Marwan eludes CTU (again). Honestly, this man has more escape routes than Carter has pills. And he's the luckiest terrorist in the world. CTU is sending in someone to replace Jack because the secret service is there to arrest him and a car happens to drive by and alert Marwan's look out so he can escape. Yeah, that is a bit much for me. Also, would it have hurt CTU to send one or two guys in undercover into the night club to intercept Marwan should things go awry? Sure, I know that it's fun to see Jack going in and being super-spy Jack, but he can't do the whole thing all by himself? Also, couldn't the Secret Serivce guys realize--hey, it's national security and we can arrest this guy when he comes out? Surely they could wait five minutes.

Of course, we've seen the danger of being on the wrong side of President Logan, who I am now going to call President Prissy-Pants. Far too concerned with what people are going to think and how they're going to react rather than being a decision maker. At least about the important things. I love how quickly he's set to arrest Jack after Jack disobeys his orders but he can't make a firm, hard decision on how to extract information from Pratto in less than half an hour and without getting everyone's advice.

It's also apparent that Mike Novak has learned nothing from the last time he got canned. He got canned for keeping the president in the dark and yet he walks a dangerous line toward doing the same exact thing here. And then he calls in Palmer to come in and handle the crisis. Good thing Palmer is a news junky and was staying up all night. Oh, and here's a note to FOX and the media. Watching 24, I was pretty sure they were trying to keep Palmer's eventual appearance a secret...they worked it so that Dennis Haysbert wasn't listed in the guest star credits and the first scene with Palmer showed that. Now, I know it's been all in the media these past few months that he was coming back, but it was ruined here. Not just by the previews but by articles in USA Today about it...and not just in the body of the story but in the headline. I love that 24 is getting some good publicity, but I hate that we're having to give away plot twists before they happen on screen. Knowing Palmer is coming back is one thing....knowing the exact episode he's coming back in kind of ruins the fun.

Meanwhile, Chloe gets sent out in the field and kicks some butt. Chloe leaves no doubt that the terrorist attacking them is dead. I could go into the fact that the recoil on the machine gun would knock her to the ground, but I won't.

Something I learned from this episode..if you're a terrorist, you should really not be dating. Too often, your significant other will check up on you and see through your lies.

Also, it was nice to see Keith Szarabajka getting some work, though I'm such a huge Angel fan I kept seeing him as Holtz from Angel's third season and not as evil terrorist helping man. All he needed was the trenchcoat.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/26/2005 08:19:00 AM | |
Monday, April 25, 2005
50 Book Challange Update
It's been a couple of weeks since I updated my progress on the 50 Book Challenge. So, here we go...

19. The Gospel According to the Simpsons by Mark I. Pinsky
It seems like one of the latest "trends" in Sunday School/Bible study material is finding TV shows and expanding upon them from a Biblical view point. (It really started back with The Gospel According to Peanuts and has expanded outward). We've had studies based on The Andy Griffith Show, Gunsmoke and The Beverly Hillbillies. (The last two I just think is stretching it a bit) So, why not The Simpsons? Actually, I've got to admit that Pinksy's examples of Biblical teachings from the popular animated sit-com actually are well done and thought out. You can see some of the theology behind the shows and it certainly might be a fun way to look at Scripture in a group setting. I may use this as a way to teach senior high Sunday School in a few weeks.

18. Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
A hard SF novel that came highly recommended from a variety of sources. Parts of it are page-turningly compellng while there were a few stretches that left me wondering--so when does the good stuff start back up? Characters are not the strongest, but the story does well enough toward the end. There are sequels that I may check out, though I'm not running to the library to find them.

17. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.
Considered a classic of science-fiction, this novel was particularily intersting to read around the time of the death of the Pope. In the near future, humanity has been nearly wiped out by nucelar war. The Catholic church is serving as keepers of what knowledge is left. This story is told in three segments and we ask the question--has humanity learned anything? Or are we doomed to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over?

16. Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery by John Feinstein
A mystery set at the 2005 final four, complete with plenty of references to some of today's most popular sports personalities. The star player for one of the teams in the final four is being blackmailed to throw the last game and only Steve and Susan, two young reporterers who won a writing contest, can help. It's fun, it's breezy and it's an enjoyable mystery.

15. Sahara by Clive Cussler
I'm a book snob. I saw the previews for the movie and thought--well, I might want to read the book first. After reading it, I can see why it would make a good action thriller. It's pure popcorn for the brain. It does have spots where it lags a bit and it stretches your suspension of disbelief at some points. Oh yeah, and the cover gives away the final twist (at least my edition did).

14. Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas
The first novel by guy who created Veronica Mars. It's a coming of age story about our hero, Steve York. Steve's father is an astronaut, divorced from his re-married mother. As we meet Steve, he's receiving accolades for scoring high on an SAT-like test, but wasting his potential smoking weed and not giving a damn about school or life. Through the story of his life in Texas and his first-love, we find out what led Steve to this point and we see his assumptions of reality slowly broken down (he blames his father for his parent's divorce when the reality is slightly different). We see Steve comes to terms with the events in his life of the past three years in a real, honest way. Even the novel's big twist works well becuae Thomas sets it up well enough in advance that you don't roll your eyes and go--come on, you've got to be kidding me. And it could have gone that way. A great first novel and one that compells me to seek out more of Thomas' work and soon.

13. Time Out of Joint by Phillip K Dick
More paranoia from the mind of Phillip K. Dick. An intriuging book that felt a bit like the movie The Truman Show. There are some dated references in here, but the story is still interesting.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/25/2005 08:53:00 AM | |
Sunday, April 24, 2005
TV Round-Up
This one could be a lengthy one. You have been warned.

Enterprise: In A Mirror Darkly, Part One
Visits the Star Trek's mirror universe are nothing new. We've been there in the original series in the classic episode "Mirror, Mirror", we journeyed there five times over the course of DS9 and the latest Shatner novels have been just full of jaunts into the mirror universe. So, the fact that Enterprise planned to visit the mirror universe wasn't exactly what I'd call earth shattering or ground breaking.

But it's how Enterprise visited the mirror universe that is ground breaking. In each of our previous visits to the mirror universe, we went through to the other side with a familiar character. And a lot of the tension in the episode came from character from our universe trying to get back the familiar, safe universe we saw week in and week out. Not so with Enterprise's journey to the dark side. Instead, we go over into the mirror universe and follow the adventures of the Enterprise crew there.

It's an interesting risk for the show. Becuase it means that you aren't having at least one sympathetic character the audience can identify with. And it's not like the classic TNG episode "Yesterday's Enterprise" where we start in our universe, go to a parallel timeline and then set things back on track by episode's end. Enterprise takes a bigger risk--there is no huge reset button at the end of this one. We're going dark and we're not looking back.

And you know what--it worked.

Yes, I have to admit that Friday evening as I watched this episode, my internal little Trek geek was going crazy. References to "Mirror, Mirror" "The Tholian Web" and actually seeing a Tholian on-screen! An attack by Tholians using their web with more than two ships slowly building a web! Small references to events that have taken place over the course of Enterprise as a series being slightly tweaked. A new look at first contact (brilliantly marrying the footage from First Contact with newly shot footage). Even a new, darker opening credits for this one. Wow, wow, wow, it was all good. And the cast was having a great time, hamming it up. Special props have to go to John Billingsley who clicked as the mirror version of Phlox. Phlox here was dark, nasty and vicious--but yet he got such a thrill out of his job. It was creepy and completely compelling to watch all at the same time.

But there was also a lot of other fun things happening here. The dark, moody, bitter Tripp, the Captain's woman Hoshi, the traitor T'Pol with her mid-riff bare. Reed's turn as Archer's number one goon. Reed invents the agony booth. Porthos is a rotweiller. The ship being slightly redone in the exterior shots and the music...wow, the music really added to the mood.

About the only thing I didn't find all that compelling or convincing was Archer in the mirror universe. I will admit I did question why Archer didn't just kill Forrest to get him out of the way. And I do wonder how it is that Vulcans are slaves in the mirror universe now but don't appear to be later in "Mirror, Mirror."

But when an episode is actually this much and as entertaining as it was--and since we get more next week--I can leave those aside and whole heartedly say that I really, really enjoyed this episode. And I can't wait to see more next week. It's also episodes like this one that tie together elements of continuity from the original series and do it a compelling, interesting fashion that make regret that the voyages of the Enterprise crew have been cut short. Again, I think this show was just hitting a creative stride and it's episodes like this one that confirm it for me.

Alias: Another Mr. Sloane
Last week, when we had the dramatic reveal that there was a second version of Slaone running about the globe, played by Joel Grey, I felt sure the writing staff was trying to take the easy way out. They'd fallen so in love with the idea that Sloane be the one who pay for the hit on Sydney that they'd gone with it, without thinking through how it would all play out on screen, once you got past the jaw dropping moment of--holy cow, Sloane ordered the kill. I was a bit skeptical about how the new, evil Slaone clone would turn out, but so far, I've got to admit they seem to have some kind of handle on just where all this might be going. Not that they can't drop the ball--they've done that before, big time. (For example, see last year's epiosde that explained why Syd had lost her memory for two years....it was a good concept ruined by the fact they took an extremely easy way out of the storyline).

So, we find out there's a second version of Slaone running about--one who is obsessed with Rimbaldi in the same way our Slaone was for years until Nadia came along. Interesting that in a week in which Enterprise goes "what if" and jaunts over to a parallel universe, Alias does sort of the same thing with Slaone. Let's play "What if?" with Sloane. What if he'd kept following his Rimbaldi obsession--where would he be now? He'd still be hiding out, playing out his agenda to assemble--what exactly? I'm not sure what we assembled here or why we had to have the wriggling in your seats scenes of Michelle Forbes having her hands sanded down with a belt sander. (Between that and Jack's interrorgation on 24, it's not been a good week for fingers on spy shows).

I will give the show credit. Any time you can get Ron Rifkin out there, doing something besides acting like Snidley Whiplash, it's a good thing. And we get to see a range here. From his cool, calm in talking to Nadia to his rage at beating Grey Sloane's henchman to death to his dark obsession at gaining access to the Rimbaldi artifacts again, Rifkin was compelling. He was interesting. The character worked and was far more entertaining that he's been, quite frankly, all season.

Veronica Mars: Weapons of Class Destruction & Hot Dogs
I'm slowly becoming convinced that whatever was in the water JOss Whedon was drinking, Rob Thomas has found some as well. With the early renewal of Veronica Mars, obsessive fans (like myself) can now focus on the myriad of mysteries that are supposed to be resolved by the end of the show. And just as you think you've got it all figured out, Thomas and his writing staff throw in a new twist. In the past two weeks, Duncan runs away when he finds out Vernoica is keeping a file on him and Weevil breaks into Lilly's bedroom to find a message written in a decoder pen. I love how this show just drops in tid bits of the story and then makes them pay off later. And how even the mystery of the week stuff is fun to watch. There aren't many shows that can balance the needs of an on-going storyline with the needs of an episodic television story and have all the parts be compelling, entertaining and totally watchable. And as addictive as it has been. I am loving where this story is going and can't wait to see more. It's just one reason that Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. EST may be the best hour of TV.

And just when I think I've figured out who killed Lilly Kane, they throw another red herring into the mix. At this point, I have no clue, though my money is on Duncan. But then again, that makes too much sense....

House: Babies and Bathwater
I'm not quite sure what I expected of the final battle between House and Vogler, but this wasn't quite it. After five weeks of it's my way or the highway, for Vogler to just take his money and go home seemed a bit anti-climatic. I did agree with Cutty that really no one one here...they lost the chance to do good with his money and House aliennated himself from the hospital staff and his staff a bit more. So, I'm hopeful that as the rest of season one plays out, we'll see some of the fall out of that. How great would it be to see House not able to do an experimenetal treatment because the hospital didn't have the funds from Vogler? That might be a tricky little dilemma.

Meanwhile, two sets of parents come in, each dealing with very different baby issues. And there are no good choices, no good answers. Just a lot of heartache and sorry. And some hard choices to make. Wow, seeing the couple struggle with trying to save the baby and the mother was just heartbreaking. And to see the new father hold his premature son in his arms after the mother died in trying to save her....wow....it reminded me of ER's best hour "Love's Labor's Lost."

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/24/2005 01:39:00 PM | |
Friday, April 22, 2005
Schaeffer Out at UT
Brent Schaeffer is out at UT. The sophomore quarterback, who was arrested last week for his part in an on-campus brawl, has been booted off the team.

I'm sorry to see a young man as talented as Shaeffer get the boot from the team for disciplinary issues. He's been in trouble before. I wish him well wherever he goes and hope that this will cause him to wake up and as my parents used to say "straighten up and fly right."

In the silver lining department, this helps make the QB picture a bit clearer for next fall.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/22/2005 02:33:00 PM | |

How do I get invited?
The cast of Lost likes to get together and watch the show they all star in together. (More info and photos here) According to InStyle, these parties are some of the hottest on Oahu.

All I can say is--if Evangeline Lilly is in attendance, I'm there!

Oh wait, no one invited me...

Rats!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/22/2005 11:17:00 AM | |

Friday Memes
Friday's Feast
Appetizer
Name something that helps you fall asleep.
Old radio shows. I've heard the first half of a ton of them...I have no idea how many of them end.

Soup
Who brings out the best in you?
My family.

Salad
What do you like to do on a rainy day?
Read a good book...or really any book will do, I guess. Catch up on the zillion and one shows or movies I've videotaped.

Main Course
Complete this sentence: In our home, we never have enough...
chocolate animal crackers.

Dessert
Which shoe do you put on first?
Left

Aloha Friday

What actor/actress would play you in a movie about your life?
David Duchovny

What are your favorite things about Spring?
Spring football practice.

Spread the spirit of blogaloha…what blog should we visit this week?
You know, a meme has really got into you subconsious mind when you're surfing a blog and you think--this would be a good one for Aloha Friday..

That said, I am going to provide a link to What's Up Chuck this week. Chuck is a fellow Vols fan, who I've enjoyed reading his blog. But in the last week or so, Chuck has taken it to a whole new level with the raw, gritty and honest story of the end of his first marriage. It may take some time to read the whole thing and the story still isn't complete yet, but it's compelling reading.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/22/2005 08:57:00 AM | |

A Convention Blog
USA Today's César Soriano is attending the Star Wars Celebration III in Indianapolis this weekend. He's got a blog that is reporting on all the events and festivities surrounding the convention, all leading up to the much anticipated premiere of Episode III. Now this is the kind of blogging from a convention that we need to see.

I mean, any convention where you can have an entry about two women creating a mob scene because one is dressed in the Princess Leia bikini from Return of the Jedi (mmmmmm, Princess Leia in the bikini...) and one is dressed like Padme from Attack of the Clones (including photos!)...that's the kind of hard-hitting, world-changing information that people go to journalism school to cover. That is good stuff!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/22/2005 08:09:00 AM | |
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Special Occasions
For the past couple of weeks, I've been seriously considering the prospect of taking the plunge into home ownership. It's something I've thought about for a while now, but until recently I haven't felt like I was in a place where it would be the most advantageous for me.

So, I've started the process of looking for a suitable house that I can a)afford and b)would want to live in for at least a couple of years. I've also gone through the humbling process of meeting with a mortgage broker to figure out how much home I can afford. I was hoping for something between a "van down by the river" and "the mansion from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire."

Looking at real estate can be an interesting experience. I've seen a lot of houses--some I've liked, some I've thought "it could be OK with a lot of work" and some that have seen one too many episodes of all those shows on TLC like Trading Spaces.

Last week while crusing for houses, I came across one that was up for auction. Last Saturday, my parents and I went to the auction. I'd never been to a real estate auction and was curious to see how it all worked. Also, like everyone else who showed up, I had visions of getting a nice house in a good neighborhood at a bargain basement price. What I didn't know going into it was that it was also an estate auction with stuff from the house sold off to the highest bidder.

It's kind of humbling to think that someday, when I'm gone, my descendants will pick through my stuff, take what they want and then get rid of the rest. Now, there was a lot of stuff there for sale--old record albums, CDs, kitchen items, furniture, etc. As I sat there, listening to people bid on all this stuff, a throught struck me. Some of the stuff auctioned off was China from Germany and other places. It was nice, but it didn't looked used that much. And that made me wonder--were they saving it for a special occasion? And what constituted a special occasion?

And was I the same way? Do I have nice things that I don't use because I'm saving them up for this mythical special occasion in which high ranking dignitaries will happen to come by my house and want to use the good China and the guest towels?

In the Bible, it says to not store up treasures on Earth but instead store up treasure in heaven. And I wonder--am I too concerned with my stuff here on Earth? Like I said, am I saving it for a mythical speical occasion? Or should I just use what I have and enjoy it while I'm here? Share it with family and friends who are all diginitaries in my life in their own way. In my parent's house, they have some antiques that someday my sister and I will fight over. But the thing that makes them special to me is not that they're antiques, but that I know some of the stories and memories associated with them. Because we've used them, had them out and my parents took the time to tell me about them.

Yes, there is a danger that in using the good stuff that it could get broken. But, ya know, it's jsut stuff. We can replace it. What you can't replace is the time that you spend with your family and friends enjoying and using it. Got a nice tablecloth? If you get gravy on it, most times that new fangled washing machine will get rid of the stain. If not, don't focus on that it's ruined. Focus on that you were able to gather together the people you loved for a meal and a chance to build some memories.

You can save your stuff for a mythical special occasion or you can take it out, use and make today special. I think I far prefer the later.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/21/2005 08:13:00 AM | |
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Kiss a pig, hug a swine.
I found this interesting little test over at Misty's. You draw a pig and then it tells you about yourself.

Here is the drawing I made of a pig.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Based on my drawing, here is what we know about me...

I am a realist, believe in tradition, are friendly, and remember dates (birthdays, etc.), emotional and naive, care little for details and are a risk-taker. I am they are secure, stubborn, and stick to my ideals and am a goood listener. And the quality of my sex life is medium.

Make of it what you will.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/20/2005 01:18:00 PM | |

Doctor Who: Aliens of London
Written by Russell T. Davies
Directed by Keith Boak

Back in the 60s some of the most memorable episode of Doctor Who were those that featured images of alien invaders stalking the streets of then-modern day London. Images of the Cybermen and the Daleks roaming the streets, attempting to conquer the Earth are some that have been burned into the collective memory of Doctor Who fans.

With “Aliens of London” the new Doctor Who attempts to burn images of alien invasions in modern times into the hearts and minds of viewers. But instead of seeing Cybermen emerge from the sewers, we have greater technology today. Now we can see an alien space craft flying over London and have the memorable moment of Big Ben being destroyed by an alien ship etched into our collective memories.

But is this alien invasion story one that ranks up there with those classic stories like “The Invasion” or “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”?

For me the answer is—no, not yet.

Mainly because right now we’ve only seen the first half of the events to unfold on screen, Imagine trying to judge “The Invasion” after only seeing the first four episodes and determining if it’s a classic or memorable. You couldn’t honestly do it. And I don’t think we can jump to conclusions about “Aliens of London” just yet. As the first half of a story, I think it succeeded in what it needed to do—set up events, characters and situations for the Doctor and company to resolve in the second half of things.

For the first time in the series, a storyline has 90 minutes to set up and resolve itself. And I think that Russell T. Davies took great advantage of the first half of the storyline to set things up.

For one thing, I loved the time spent examining the consequences of Rose’s decision to travel with the Doctor. To see her come back after vanishing for a year (she thinks it’s twelve hours) was nicely done. Her mother’s reaction, what happened to Mickey, etc—all of that worked well. To find out that Mickey was suspected of murdering Rose was a nice touch. This is one of those things that was never really given much time or thought in the original series—companions jumped on board and may or may not have returned to the time and place they left. So, to see some time devoted to this here was a nice little touch. Also, to see the effect it had on Rose—her dilemma of wanting to tell her family but not being able to for fear of not being believed was a nice touch to her character.

But then aliens fall upon London, crashing into Big Ben before sinking in the Thames. But it’s not an invasion with without. Instead, we find out the aliens are already among us. Borrowing a plot from the Cylons or the Dominion, Doctor Who shows us that aliens are walking among us, looking like us and taking positions in high ranking government offices. Why, we’re just not quite sure yet. I found we had some echoes of “Terror of the Zygons” or either of the early Auton stories with aliens that could look and sound like human beings. And were ready with a plan to take over the highest corridors of power for whatever reason they saw fit.

Of course, the difference between the Zygons and our new found alien friends is that our new found aliens have a side-effect of being in human form. Their gas-exchange systems result in them farting a lot, thus giving away that they are aliens. Now, I know a lot of Doctor Who fans out there are pretty upset about this and think it’s juvenile humor. But from where I sit, it honestly didn’t bother me that much. I found the flatulent aliens to work. You have to remember that it’s Doctor Who we’re talking about here. It’s supposed to be fun. And what could be more fun than farting aliens?

OK, so I could have done without their ring leader cackling like the Master every five or so minutes, but that’s just a personal quibble.

Meanwhile, the Doctor is on the outside looking in. So many times, we see the Doctor show up and immediately insert himself into positions of authority to thwart the aliens. Not as much here. There is mention of UNIT and it did make me wonder what happened to the UNIT passes the Doctor carried about. But I am beginning to wonder if the 9th Doctor is trying to be more low-key. To rush in and take charge of things wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing if he’s the last of the Time Lords. He could be on the run and wanting to maintain a low profile. So, he may be waiting to see who the alien menace is before he steps in and eventually helps defeat them.

I did like how the Doctor did finally get into the fray, not by his own actions, as much as having the role thrust upon him. He’s a bit of a reluctant hero in this one. He’d willingly save Rose, but he’s content to sit by and be an observer as all of humanity faces a crisis. Interesting.

I did like the scenes where Rose’s mother calls the alien line and reports that she’s seen the Doctor and his TARDIS. I loved seeing how the government rushed into action to find the Doctor in light of the alien invasion. Indeed, you’d think the Brig would leave orders in the files saying that if aliens arrive, your best bet is to find the Doctor and quickly.

Of course, there were some predictable things in this storyline. One was that the alien ship was a ruse. The pig-alien was evidence of that and I figured long before the Doctor and company did that it the meeting at Downing Street was a trap. But for what purpose, I asked myself? Apparently it’s to bring all the alien experts together and destroy them? But why? We don’t know just yet, but I can bet that next week, we’ll have a lot of the answers.

Also, I have to admit that it would have been nice to have a bit more throw- away continuity. Like the Doctor telling Rose that it wasn’t’ humanity’s first encounter with aliens, just the first one covered by CNN, etc. Also, it would have been nice had the Doctor gone to UNIT himself instead of sneaking around too much.

One small thing that struck me—why did the boy paint the graffiti of “Bad Wolf” on the side of the TARDIS? Significant? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

But all that said, “Aliens of London” was still an enjoyable episode for me. It set up some things well and I can’t wait until next week to find out what’s really going on here. Yes, it was a bit predictable at times but you can’t fault it for not being a fun, enjoyable hour. Not every hour of Doctor Who has to be groundbreaking. Sometimes it just has to be fun. And, for now, “Aliens of London” was just that—fun.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/20/2005 10:26:00 AM | |

One year Blog-versary
One year ago, I started a journey, not quite knowing where it would lead. One year ago today, Big Orange Michael sprang onto the Internet. It's been quite a ride the past year--what started out as a way to take my mind of certain things going on in my life and focus on things outside myself has turned into something more. But yet, I still maintain my devotion to focus on all things related to the Big Orange of the University of Tennessee.

Over the past year, I've watched as some favorite TV shows left the airwaves, some new ones took their place and my all-time favorite show made a triumphant return. I've posted about things that make me happy, reflected on Christmas, dabbled a bit in current events and shared stories from my life. Oh yeah, and I also bragged a lot when the Vols won. (But then again what did you expect?!?)

Here's a look back at some of the highlights of the past year.

April 2004
The Big Orange Cliffhanger - My first post, commenting on UT's annual spring game.
The Things That Make You Feel Better - My first of many posts about the joys of being Uncle Michael.

May 2004
A Big Day - Davis's adoption is finalized.
An Evening with Phillip Gulley - One of my favorite authors gives a reading at the local library.
Getting carded at Wal-Mart - Nothing like getting carded at Wal-Mart.
"And I said 'Go away, doggy!'" - One of my favorite Gracelyn stories.

June 2004
I'm an offical member - Big Orange Michael gets accepted into the Rocky Top Brigade
Thoughts on Bruce Almighty
What it was was slaugherball - The movie DodgeBall casts my memory back to the game of slaughter ball.
Walking to Memphis - I introduce Davis to the world that is Doctor Who..and he likes it!
Scenes from a job fair

July 2004
Spider-Man 2 Review - After weeks of noting every bit of hype and review for Spider-Man 2, I finally get to see it..and love it!
Tickets to a Titans game - How I won tickets a Titans game and traded up.
The new Doctor Who starts filming - And I slowly start to believe that just maybe we'll get new episodes.
Forget Meet the Press - Learn all about the way world was and should be at the barber shop.

August 2004
It Must Be Karma - August was the month of naming one thing each day that made you happy. Well, this cover of FHM and the photos of our female Olympic athletes was very nice.
Family Reunion - My annual visit with my mom's side of the family.
Scooby Doo, Where Are You? - A temp job as Scooby Doo goes terribly wrong.
Sorority House Massacre 2 - My long summary of a really bad movie.

September 2004
It's Football Time in Tennessee - At long last, one of my favorite days ofthe year arrives. UT football season starts!
Gather at the River - Several of the youth at church get batptized by immersion.
Just like the Amazing Race - In which my looking younger than I am rears its head again.
Going to the Titans game - Using the tickets I won back in July to see the Titans lose to the Colts.
Just another manic Monday - One of my more interesting job "interviews"
Adventures in marketing - Another job" interview" story.

October 2004
A Trip to the Pumpkin Patch
I Hope They're This Strict About Buying Alcohol - The quest to find Tink a b'day present.
Morgan Webb - How can you not love her?
The Final Debate - Kerry vs Bush, round three.
One year old - Davis's first b'day.
Tennessee 17, Alabama 14 - Nothing better than beating Bama.
Channel Surfing - I still have no clue what I watched that night.

November 2004
Titans vs Bengals - At last, I go to a game the Titans win.
UT vs Vandy - In which I go to see my beloved Vols play and annoy Vandy fans all around me.
You Can Always Tell What Time of Year It Is - Post Thanksgiving guilt sends people to the Y.

December 2004
Santa Claus is Coming to Town - I remember being a helper for Santa
Angels We Have Heard on High - Gracelyn makes her stage debut as an angel.
To Granddaddy's House We Go - Celebrating my grandfather's 91st birthday.
A Care Bear for Christmas - The saga of Gracelyn's Care Bear.
I'm Feeling Old - You'll see why when you read it.

January 2005
Well, My Weekend is Planned - Any time you can have a picture of a squirrel on water skis, you must take it.
Happy Birthday to Me
Customer Service Means... - Is good customer service dead?
Apparently I'm Going to Hell - Because I want to see the new Star Wars movie.

February 2005
Yes, But Can They Sing? - A new crop of female country singers show off thier assets
My Nephew Needs This Entire Toyline! - Because Uncle Michael wants to help him play with them!
The Good Old Days - Making today one of the "good old" days.

March 2005
My Evil Plan Worked - Finding a great b'day gift for Brainy Boy.
Childhood Injury - How I broke my arm.
My New Job - Apparently I moonlight as the Easter Bunny.
Doctor Who: Rose - The first of the new Doctor Who stories reviewed.

April 2005
Should They Get to Play? - Home school students want to participate in public school sports.
The Tax Man Cometh - Does anyone LIKE paying taxes?
Throw It Over the Moon, Michael! - Babysitting my niece and nephew.



posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/20/2005 07:52:00 AM | |
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
What kind of American English do you speak?


Your Linguistic Profile:



60% General American English

30% Dixie

10% Yankee

0% Midwestern

0% Upper Midwestern




Tip of the hat to Barry who got it from Scorpy....

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/19/2005 02:52:00 PM | |

24: Day 4, 12 - 1 a.m.
In the mid-70's on Doctor Who, there was a para-military organization called U.N.I.T. (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce). The purpose of U.N.I.T. was to thwart alien invasions of Britian (and the rest of Earth) and to give our hero, the Doctor somewhere to stay and hang out while he was exiled to Earth (saved money on the budget). Now, there were times when you believed that maybe U.N.I.T. was an elite force of soldiers who you would be comfortable putting the fate of the planet in their hands. And at other times, well, they were comedic foils for the Doctor and you really wondered how we'd avoided being conquered by every alien race that wandered by.

In one story called "The Mind of Evil" U.N.I.T. is tasked with several things--security a world-peace conference and disposing of a missile full of nerve gas. So, our intrepid heroes set out to dispose of the nerve gas missle, following a pre-determined route that takes them past a prison. A prison, by the way, where prison riots have broken out and the inmates are running the asylum. Before you know, the escaped prisoners have stolen the missile from the convoy, giving it to the bad guy and are ready to use it to destroy the peace conference and plunge the world into war. If only they'd listened to the Doctor when he said--by the way, a riot has broken out at the prison and done something simple like, oh I don't know, changed the route of the convoy.

Of course, then it'd have been a whole lot shorter story.

So, why do I bring this up in relation to 24? Last night as I was watching events unfold on screen and hearing about how the military was still moving nuclear warheads about despite the events of the day, I worried that it'd be a hugely coincidental chain of events that led Marwan to get his hands on a missile. And that it might be too much to accept and throw my willing suspension of disbelief right out the window. (And I can take a lot since my favorite show, Dr Who involved a guy travelling through time in a police box this is bigger on the inside than the outside).

Thankfully, I am pleased to report that 24 managed to avoid taking me completely out of the willing suspension of disbelief in this aspect of the plot. Indeed, I could see that Marwan would have operatives based around the country and ready to intercept a missile. Also, I found it interesting that he had a window of opportunity that he had to exploit and exploit it quickly to get his hands on a missile. What he intends to do with it, I'm not quite too sure yet. But I get a strange feeling the new president is in on it becuase he was way too eager to jump down into the bunker and cover his own butt rather than being the commander in chief that the country needs at that moment.

Yes, the new president annoyed me. Which I think is the point. In a time of crisis and when tough calls need to be made with authority, he wants to debate them. You could almost see Mike Novak wanting to reach out and slap him when he wouldn't condone to the interrogation of the prisoner. And CTU's reaction to him was nicely done. It almost made me wonder if that was what some people at the Pentagon said when certain less than popular with the armed forces presidents called them up. Just a thought.

Meanwhile, it actually takes Jack the same amount of screen time to get from CTU to the desert and then back to CTU. Yes, I was a bit stunned myself at that. But he got back just in time to go into classic Jack Bauer mode. So, the prisoner won't talk. Let him go, I'll resign and then torture the crap out of him in the van. You know, I think had the prisoner known that Jack was going to meet him for a special talk, he'd have given up everything he knew. And surely there must have been some loophole since the prisoner didn't call his lawyer that CTU could exploit without letting him go and having Jack break his fingers to get the truth out of him. (Which was quite a scene, let me tell you).

And did anyone else get the feeling that when CTU let the prisoner go that Edgar was going to snap, go out to the parking lot and beat the crap out of the guy? Or I figured Edgar would kill the prisoner and thus end that avenue of information for Jack and company. Either way, Edgar is slowly reaching his snapping point--and can you blame the guy? He's had a pretty rough day. And to think that Chloe seems to be acting like the boss again, even if she doesn't have the official title. (Which I think we established a few episode ago that Edgar is now Chloe's boss).

And along the way, there is time for Tony and Michelle to have a talk that makes Buchannan jealous. Why is it every time I see Tony and Michelle maybe think about being a couple, I'm reminded of the line from Speed about relationships based on high stress usually don't last? Anyone else thing that?

All that said, I found this hour to be a compelling one. It didn't have the dramatic edge-of-your-seat intensity that such as Air Force One being attacked, but it still kept me rivetted through most of the story. It also made me hate lawyers that much more with the Amnesty lawyer showing up like he did. But I think that was kind of the point, wasn't it?

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/19/2005 07:55:00 AM | |
Monday, April 18, 2005
It's not easy being green.
Ever wondered what it'd be like to portray an Orion slave girl on Star Trek: Enterprise?

Well, thanks to TrekPulse, you can find out from Menina Fortunato, one of the three women who guest-starred on Friday night's episode, "Bound." You can also see what she looks like sans-green make-up, revealing outfit and flowing black wig. There are also on the set photos of Menina in the full-green make-up and Orion slave girl costume toward the bottom of the page. If you're interested in that kind of thing...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/18/2005 12:40:00 PM | |

The 10th Doctor is announced
It's official.

After weeks of rumors that he was the front-runner for the role, David Tennant has been cast as the 10th Doctor on Doctor Who.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/18/2005 11:40:00 AM | |

TV Round-Up
Enterprise: Bound
Enterprise returns from a six or so week hiatus with the first of the final six new episodes of the show. In a lot of ways it's the end of an era since for the past 18 years, we've always had new Star Trek as part of the upcoming television season. Alas, it's no longer to be and it's a shame really as I think Enterprise was really hitting a good stride this season with far more "keepers" in the canon.

And after a season with a lot of serious, continuity-tying-together arcs, I have to admit that I found "Bound" to be just a lot of fun to watch. It wasn't taking itself too seriously and it was just kind of a fun, enjoyable little episode to watch and enjoy. At times it felt like writer and producer Manny Cotto was taking elements of "Mudd's Women" and various other "strange alien women come on board the ship" episodes of classic Trek and distilling it into what we got there. The premise is that the Orions approach Archer about wanting to share a wealth of a mineral on a planet since they don't have the resources to harvest it. Part of the deal is that with these renewed diplomatic relations, Archer is given three Orion women, who he brings back to Enterprise. Faster than you can say "red shirt" the women are driving the entire male population insane due to the pheremones and the women are having blinding headaches. All except Trip and T'Pol who share a connection because of their intimacies last season.

So, it's the most politically correct storyline. But that's kind of the point. The original series was no where near politically correct all the time and yet it was always fun. There are lingering shots of the Orion women's assets and we have the male population behaving like a bunch of horny sailors on leave. I loved the scene where Malcolm and Mayweather are in the gym, trying to get the Orion women out of their minds. Also, we find out that the Orions actually used this as a trap for Archer-they're still pissed that he set all those slaves free during the Augments storyline earlier this year. And we also find out the women really run things over in the Orion Syndicate. Interesting little tid-bit that, alas, we may not get any follow-up on since we're in the final run of new episodes.

All that said, I enjoyed the episode. Was part of it the scantily clad Orion females wandering th ship, wreaking havoc? Yes, that was a part of it. But the other part was that it was just intended to be a fun little episode without any overriding social messages. Unlike Monica Erica Green over on TrekToday, who lumps this one up there with such clunkers as "Spock's Brain," I think Ms. Green was looking for some kind of message or agenda to the story when what it was really meant to be was just a fun, enjoyable hour of Enterprise before we get into the final five stories of the season/series.

About the only real downside to the episode for me was the swift resolution of Trip coming back to Enterprise

Arrested Development: Righteous Brothers

You know, I have to admit the more I watch this show, the more it grows on me. And if this is the last episode we ever get, I will be upset but also happy that it ended on a high note. (As all of this season has been, really). So many running gags surface in this one--from the cornballer to Tobias's trying to be part of the Blue Man group. And it was all funny. Gob recording an album with Franklin and then bleaching him out in the wash was a riot. And Maebe and George Michael kissing and, yet again, someting disastrous happens.

Seriously, this show can't get cancelled. It's far too funny.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/18/2005 08:41:00 AM | |
Sunday, April 17, 2005
"Throw it over the moon, Michael!"
Friday evening, I babysat my favorite neice and nephew while the parental units went out to dinner and to run some errands. Now, I love my niece and nephew, but if there is anything to convince me I don't have the energy to be a single parent, it's baby-sitting two small children under the age of four.

Gracelyn was upset when her parents left--she threw a hissy fit for about twenty minutes. Davis was unphased--except he did try to hug and console his sister, who wanted none of it. So, while Gracelyn had her tizzy, Davis took advantage of having Uncle Michael all to himself. I did manage to get Gracelyn to stop crying doing the following.

Me: "Davis, do you want to go outside and play?"

Small voice: "I want to go outside and play!"

Me: "Well, if you stop crying, we can go outside."

The crying slows to a trickle.

Me: "Davis, do you want to have fruit snack when we come inside?" (Gracelyn loves fruit snacks..I swear, she might turn into a fruit snack someday).

Small voice: "I want to go outside and have fruit snacks."

Me: "But we can't outside and have fruit snacks unless you stop crying and put on your shoes."

Crying stops.

Small voice: "Where are my shoes?!?"

So, we went outside. It was a nice, pleasant spring evening. We drug out more toys than any two small children and one adult should play with. Gracelyn has a big orange ball (you can see it in the picture of them I posted a few weeks ago). She liked to see me throw it up in the sky and watch it come down and then chase it. One special thing that Gracelyn likes to do with Uncle Michael is look for the moon. The moon had come out early and Gracelyn was happy that we could see in the lingering daylight. As we threw the ball up, she said, "Throw it over the moon, Michael!" So, we spent many attempts counting to three and then I'd throw the ball as high as I could to see if it could over the moon. Alas, we never quite made it, but Gracelyn said it got "close" and that seemed good enough for her.

After a while, it got a bit cool and we went inside. We had fruit snacks, watched Dora and Elmo. And we got Davis wrangled into his pajamas and then bed. I bribed Gracelyn with TWO stories before bed time if she'd let me put Davis to bed first and watch Dora. I came back downstairs after wrangling Davis into bed and then Gracelyn started to talk to me.

Gracelyn: I want some popcorn.

Me: It's too late. I will come back soon and we can watch a movie and eat popcorn!

We then negotiated who could and could not come to this event. Also, a couple of weeks ago, I gave Gracelyn an Aeryl doll from The Little Mermaid. I also told her that she was a princess from a movie and I'd try and find it for her. This is before I knew the doggone thing was out of print on DVD and VHS. So, after figuring out who'd watch the movie, it went like this.

Gracelyn: I want to watch the movie with the princess!

Me: Snow White? Or Sleeping Beauty? (We'd talked about them both earlier).

Gracelyn: No, the one with the mermaid. You bring it over and we can watch it!

So, I'm sending out an appeal to everyone. If you know somewhere I can find a copy of The Little Mermaid on DVD for less than $40 or so, please let me know. Otherwise, I'm going to have to keep scouring the countryside....

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/17/2005 01:40:00 PM | |
Friday, April 15, 2005
Alias: Pandora
Haven't we seen this about a million and one times before--something dramatic, exciting and totally unexplained happens in the teaser and then Alias spins the clock back a couple of days so we can all be shocked, stunned and surprised at the events leading up to what we see unfolding on-screen. In this case, we're all supposed to be stunned and on the our edge of our seats that Vaughn would shoot Dixon. But surely, he must have a good reason for it, we say to ourselves. Let's go along for the ride!

Now, there are times when I've been irritated by Alias, but there are few times when I've honestly been itching to hit the fast-forward button. Until this week.

For one thing, I could care less about Vaughn's search to find his father--a plotline that thankfully appears to have come to an end. I just didn't buy Michael Vartan's "I'm so angry" act. This is the guy who goes undercover and puts his feelings aside every week, but yet his disdain for what he has to do here surfaces through? Was it an act? It didn't seem like Vaughn was putting on much of an act. And this is a man who changed identities in the field as often as Sydney does--he should be better at it. Oh, but he gets in a zinger on the blonde is practically tearing off her clothes for him. "This is the second time the CIA has rejected you." Good to know Vaughn speaks for the entire CIA in this matter.

So, Vaughn has to go up against the CIA to recover an artifcat that is Rimbaldi in origin. Just as I think I might get interested, this one just goes paint by the numbers and fails to engage my interest. Part of it is that Vaughn has little to do in the show. I figured out this week that I don't care anything about the character and I haven't for a while now. Had he gone rogue, that might have been interesting, but honestly, he's just no where nearly as much fun as Jack, Sloane or Marshall. Heck, even Weiss is more interesting that Vaughn and he barely gets half the screen time Vaughn does. Is it just me or did this whole storyline seem like a ploy to get Michael Vartan an Emmy nod? Let's have him run the gamut of emotion and get him and Emmy. Well, if this is what he does, I wouldn't expect an early call.

Meanwhile, Nadia is off visiting her evil Aunt Katya in prison. Katya uses Nadia to bring Syd to see her (Katya) and then reveals that--mommy dearest didn't want to have you killed Syd. Katya knows who it was--the answer is hidden in a clock, which Syd picks up and then surf on the Net at work to find out--golly, it's Slaone. But just as we think--ha, ha, he really is evil, we have the final reveal in which Joel Grey is also calling himself Sloane and is also hot for the Rimbaldi stuff. Everyone say it with me here--g'huh?!?

This little twist could have been nice had it not come completely out of left field. The best plot twists are those that you find out and you go--oh so that explains it all. For example, season two of Farscape. Crichton starts acting strange and we aren't sure why until about two-thirds of the way into the season we find out--by the way, Scorpius planted a chip in Crichton's head to spy on him and it's slowly driving him mad. Then you go--oh, that explains all these things that happened until now and it works as a plot twist. On Alias, they pull stuff out of the air and expect us to just buy it because they told us to. The writers are not working for anything here and it shows.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/15/2005 03:15:00 PM | |

Friday Memes
Friday's Feast

Appetizer
What was your first "real" job?
I had a paper route from my sophomore to senior years of high school.

Soup
Where would you go if you wanted to spark your creativity?
If the creative juices aren't flowing, I will often go and swim laps. You can go to the pool with everyone on the planet, but once you're in the water, googles on, it's just you and the line on the bottom. It's a good place to have the mind work over things.

Salad
Complete this sentence: I am embarrassed when...
I can't remember someone's name and I should know it.

Main Course
What values did your parents instill in you?
Work hard and be open minded.

Dessert
Name 3 fads from your teenage years.
1. Garbage Pail Kids
2. The Simpsons (specifically all the Bart t-shirts)
3. Those t-shirts that changed color due to heat.

Aloha Friday

Describe a time in your life when you were completely, totally caught off-guard by something.
Back a couple of years ago, when I was "the single guy" at church, I kept hearing these stories about this new girl who'd started coming to the early service. She was blonde, about my age, and I just HAD to meet her. Well, our paths kept not crossing for weeks, even though mutliple people told me about the new girl that I'd enjoy meeting. Finally, one Sunday, she was at the same service I was and we met. I asked her if she'd be at the church picnic later that day and she said she would. I have to admit I was intrigued and now eager to be at the picnic. I arrived and found her. We sat and talked for what seemed like minutes but was, instead hours. As we bantered back and forth, I felt myself really falling for her..to the point that in order to "impress" her I gave into her dare that I get my face painted and I completely trust her to pick out the face for me. (And yes, Barry, I will kill you if you dare to post the photos on-line of this moment). After the face painting, I got her phone number. I was pretty much blind-sided by how quickly and completely I feel for this woman. It was amazing. See, due to the immense "build-up" of her by friends, I figured we'd meet and not really get along the well. I had no idea by the end of the afternoon of meeting her, I'd be on the way to falling in love with her.

A friend is coming to visit you. Where do you take them to visit, eat, shop?
Oh goodness, that is a good question. Does Sonic count? Cause as you know, I could eat Sonic 24/7. Honestly, I've not really been in Nashville long enough to find any really just out and out cool places to shop or eat. I'd probably be inclined to head up to Opry Mills and see something on the IMAX at the very least.

Spread the spirit of blogaloha…whom should we visit this week?
Well, I sent y'all to three people yesterday, so now I'm wondering--how should I send you to now? I'm in a UT kind of mood, so I'm going to have you drop by and visit Prochein Amy who roots for the other UT. (Ya know the one in Texas)

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/15/2005 12:11:00 PM | |

The Tax Man Cometh
It's April 15th and that can only mean one thing...it's tax day. Hope everyone has already filled out and sent in your tax forms. If not, I hope you've got a good book to read while you wait in in line at the post office.

In honor of tax day, here are a few nuggets to keep in mind...
  • Many of us remember that one of the battle cries of the Revolutionary War was "No taxation without representation." The Boston Tea Party was one of the cornerstones of the war, designed to protest an "unfair" tax. The tax: 1 percent.
  • According to the figures released by the IRS on their web site, 50 percent of the "wealthiest" Americans pay 96.4% of taxes. By the way--if you made more than $28,000 adjusted gross income in 2001 (this is the latest year they have figures through) you are among the "wealthiest" Americans out there. And yet, Congress feels we should pay more.
There's a great song out there that was covered by Ray Stevens. It's called "If 10% Is Good Enough for Jesus." I can't help but agree. If we did away with our current tax system, went to a flat 10% tax (15% if we must) that EVERYONE regardless of income level paid, I think we'd be better off.
  • First of all, the Lord, who created the universe and without whom we'd have nothing said that He could run His kingdom of 10%. Why can't we run our worldly kingdom on that much?
  • Next up--out of that 10%, no deductions for any reason. Everyone pays. Then, instead of arguing about how to collect the money or how much to take, we could instead look silly things like how best to use it. Congress might also be able to turn their attention to such important things as Social Security reform so some of us might have access to it when we retire instead of worrying about new ways to tax us.
  • Having the 10% tax would be helpful to us also because it would allow our accountant friends to see and interact with their families in Febraury through April. Also, by not having to work on taxes 24/7 during that time, it woud allow them to help the rest of us create better retirement plans and invest for our futures.
  • Finally, it'd mean that maybe, just maybe, you and I could actually sit down, do our taxes in a simple, clear, concise fashion without having to devote 12 or 13 hours to filling out the forms. A flat 10% tax means it'd take all of five minutes to fill out the forms.
Of course, this plan makes a lick of common sense, so that means Congress won't touch it with a ten foot pole.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/15/2005 07:29:00 AM | |
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