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Tuesday, May 31, 2005
How big a geek am I?










Your Geek Profile:



Geekiness in Love: High

Movie Geekiness: High

Academic Geekiness: Moderate

Internet Geekiness: Moderate

Music Geekiness: Moderate

SciFi Geekiness: Moderate

Fashion Geekiness: Low

General Geekiness: Low

Gamer Geekiness: None



Tip of my geek-boy hat to California Girl for the quiz...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/31/2005 12:46:00 PM | |

50 Book Challenge Update
Continuing the 50 Book Challenge...

6. Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card
I've enjoyed Card's historical novels based on characters from the Bible and his SF novels. So, you'd think a combination of the those in an alternate history story about Christopher Columbus would pretty much be can't miss, right? Yeah, not to so much. I liked what Card was trying to do in his story about C0lumbus and his motivation for exploring and finding the New World, but the book never quite caught my attention in the way other works by Card has. This was not the page-turner I'd hoped it would be.

5. The Breaker by Minette Walters
Outside of Elizabeth George, I'd have to say Minette Walters is my favorite mystery writer currently publishing. The Breakers is one of her earlier works and one that I really enjoyed. Two boys discover the body of a nude woman washed up on shore. Later her young daughter turns up by the side of the road alone. Turns out the woman was raped and then killed and the daughter abandonded. One of the things I love about a good mystery is when you have a good gallery of suspects--all of them with a very good motivation for taking out the victim. And in this, Walters delivers. She also creates some good characters over the course of the story. And there are red herrings left and right. While this is not one of her best--I think Fox Evil and Shape of Snakes are in that category--this one is still worth the time.

4. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P.D. James
I've tried to get into P.D. James' mysteries in the past and always walked away from them less than excited. But, yet I keep plugging away. And I'm glad I did, finding this little gem. Cordelia Gray inherits a detective agency when her boss passees away and is hired to find out why a rich, young gentleman killed himself. Intriguing and suspenseful as Cordelia slowly gets closer to finding out who done it and invites danger upon herself. Turns out it's not suicide but murder and the reasoning all makes good sense. The best P.D. James novel I've read so far.

3. A Study in Scarlet/The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The first two stories that introduced the world's most famous consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes. A Study in Scarlet is an intriguing beginning though you can tell its one of Doyle's first efforts in writing. We meet Holmes and Watson and see him solve a case. A lot of the story takes place in a flashback that explains the current mystery. So, that is a bit frustrating if you're looking to see Holmes in action. But I can see why Holmes caused such a sensation when this novel was first published and why his popularity endures to this day. The Sign of Four is a better Holmes story and feels more like a Holmes story than A Study in Scarlet. We really see Holmes come into his own here and some of the character quirks that make Holmes Holmes appear here.

2. The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The fourth Sherlock Holmes novel and probably the least well known. That said, it's still a great story and one that may be underrated by fans out there. I'd argue there is more of what makes a good Sherlock Holmes story here than in Hound of the Baskervilles. We certainly see more of Holmes directly involved in the story and solving puzzles than we do in Hound. The story does feature a flashback to explain the current mystery and the continuity of the Holmes canon comes into huge question here with the explanation that Moriarty is behind this, thus making it dubious that Watson has never heard of him later in the chronology. But looking past all of that, the story is a good one and the flashback is well written and entertaining.

1. Sleeping Beauty by Phillip Margolin
This is the equivalent of a summer blockbuster at the movies--it's just best if you turn our brain off and just go with it. And it starts off so well. Ashley Spencer is a junior in high school and seems to have it all--great family, standout soccer player, boyfreind, friends, all of it. Until one night, her home is invaded by a killer who takes out her dad and her best friend. Ashley then decides to go to a private school to try and move on and her mom is killed and the dean who was nice to her put into a coma. Turns out the alleged killer is a teacher on campus--a former best selling author who is teaching creative writing. He has apparently written a novel in which the crimes are detailed, thus once Ashley sees him over her mother's body with a bloody knife and this evidence comes into play, he's suspected of being the killer. The killer is captured but then escapes custody and so Ashley drops out of school and goes into hiding. And this all happens before the midway point of the book. Then, we get a whole lot of revelations that come out of left field and make you go, "No, but seriously..." as the pages turn along, each one more dramatic and implausible than the last. Again, if you turn the brain off and just go with the story, you're going to feel a lot better about this. And the identity of the real killer and the resolution to the serial killer aspect of the novel....well, I won't give it away, but it's pretty much a huge disappointment. The twist and turns of the story come so far out of left field and get no set-up that I was left not turning the pages in a desire to see who the real killer was but to see just how absurd the next plot twist could be.

0. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover
I bought the novelization of the movie a month or so ago and was very good about not reading it until after I went to see the movie. In a way I'm glad I'm did, but in a way I'm sorry I didn't read it first. It helps fill in some gaps in the movie better. For one thing, it's easier to understand the internal conflict that leads Anakin to the Dark Side here. Also there are a few more establishing scenes of characters and their motivations here that help make things a bit more crystal clear as to why things have to happen the way they do. This novelization did what a good novelization should do--made me want to go back and re-watch the movie with the understanding of what unfolded in the story here. Stover does an interesting thing--he will take a pause in the action to examine who the characters are at that moment. One of the best is the early examination of the hero status Anakin and Obi Wan have achieved in the course of the war and how they're seen as the calvary almost when thinks look bleak. It makes Anakin's fall to the dark side that much more tragic as the book unfolds.

Well, that completes 50 books...but I will keep on counting what I've read beyond the fifty.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/31/2005 09:53:00 AM | |

A Music Meme
Becky over at April Fool tagged me with this a couple of days ago.

Total volume of music files on my computer.
Just a couple of CDs that I've converted to .mp3s so I can listen to them while I work. Probably less than 100 total songs.

The last CD I bought was
Beauty Has Grace by Jaci Valesquez

Song playing right now
Southern Air by Ray Stevens (with special guest stars Jerry Clower and Minnie Pearl)

Five songs I listen to a lot or that mean a lot to me LATELY (I go through phases)
Rocky Top (if you really wonder why, just check out the name of this blog)
The original Star Trek theme by Alexander Courage (the original and ALWAYS the best!)
I Need You by Jars of Clay
Speak to Me by Rebecca St James
You're Here by Sixpence None the Richer

Five albums I can listen to over and over from start to finish - Greatest Hits don't count
John Williams Conducts John Williams - The Star Wars Trilogy
The Way We Are - Fleming and John
Transform - Rebecca St James
No Fences - Garth Brooks
The Voice - Russell Watson

Which 5 people are you passing this baton to
Barry, Logtar, Karen, Stacy and Chuck

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/31/2005 07:56:00 AM | |
Monday, May 30, 2005
Family.
Back in August, I posted about my mother's side of the family and our tradition of getting together on the first weekend of August every year for our family reunion.

Of course, being family, we do get together for other reasons as well. One thing I've learned over the years--when the chips are down, I can count on my family to be there. I've seen them turn out in force for funerals to support one another during times of crisis. We've supported each other through the years in all types of life situations--from births to deaths and everything in between. I can honestly say I'd have never stayed sane the past couple of years were it not for my family (and some very close friends out there who are family as well). I am sometimes just amazed at how strong and close my family.

This past weekend, the family got together for a big celebration. One of the cousins from my generation, Kara, got married. Actually, she's been married since November when she and her husband Adam decided to elope while in Hawaii. But, they decided to have a Catholic wedding ceremony and a reception for the family to attend this weekend.

As usual, family turned out in full force, ready to celebrate, catch up and have a good time. Oh yeah--and eat. If there is one thing my family knows how to do well, it's eat. (Of course, the flip side of that is--just about everyone in the family is a GREAT cook, so it's not like eating is really all that hard to do or so terrible a thing!) And eat we did. We had dinner Saturday night, a big ol lunch Sunday. As my cousin Randy kept saying, "This is my last big meal this weekend."

I swear, I am going to have to swim an extra mile each day this week to work off the calories. But darn, it was all good. And that doesn't even cover the food at the reception...

We had several family members stay down with us in Smyrna and it was a pleasure to catch-up with them, rib each other a bit about various sports rivallries (my cousins Randy and Jenny were on opposite sides of the big Yankees/Red Sox series). I heard the latest stories of cousins who couldn't make it--including the my favorite cousin Pam has a serious enough boyfriend to bring to the reunion this August. (You only bring a significant other to the reunion if you're planning on marrying them). Jenny, her sister, asked Ben, Randy and I to do the big brother thing and make sure he passed inspection. I said he should bring his last three year's tax returns and list of charitable contributions so we can make sure he can support Pam when and if they start a family.

Our generation--we're the third generation--was proud that we had the largest showing of the family at the wedding. We had 20 of the 32 members there (there were 34 but we lost two to cystic fibrosis). It's also kind of bittersweet to see the members of the first generation slowly dwindle down. But it's great that we can get together each year and share memories of them.

Of course, having all of us together, we had to get a picture. Now, you'd think it's be easy to do, but getting 20 people together for a picture ranging in age from one to the early 40s and looking all the right direction at the same time...honestly, it's a bit like herding cats.


Just some of my "generation" of cousins. Posted by Hello

We had a good time. Shoot, they even played YMCA which I danced to--sorry, no pictures of that. Also, Jenny and I helped Gracelyn and some other cousins to dance out on the floor to "Staying Alive." It's sad when your three-year old niece has more rhythm than you ever weel, though she did enjoy spinning around.

The only regret I had was that after the wedding and reception, some family gathered at Susan's just to hang out. I had to cut out early as I had to work today. (Don't ask, I'm still pretty miffed about it). I am also a bit annoyed since while working I'm missing a family BBQ at my parent's house and another chance to just catch up with family and enjoy their company.

But, I just keep reminding myself that I will get to see them all again in August. I have to say that I'm looking forward to it.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/30/2005 02:30:00 PM | |

Things in the News That Caught My Attention
Ford Resigns Senate
Senator John Ford turned in his resignation from the state Senate Saturday. In the letter, Ford said he intended to spend his time now "working to clear his name." My first thought was guaranteed that Ford was going to have a long life because the list of allegations against him just continues to grow day by day. Then, The Tennesseean reported this morning that Ford faced the potential of being ousted from the Sentate by his collegues. So, I guess he decided to quit before he got fired. Also, reading the new allegations of bribary and corruption against Ford, it makes me think again that we've only seen the tip of the iceberg in how far his corruption and double dealing goes.

Vols to host regional
The Tennessee Vols baseball team got the news yesterday that they would play host to a regional round of the NCAA college baseball tournament this weekend. The three other teams they will face in the regional will be announced this morning. SEC teams will host three other regionals--Florida, LSU, Mississippi. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt continues to whine about how they could be shut out of the NCAA tournament. Again--all you had to do was win ONE game to get in the SEC Tournament and pretty much seal an NCAA bid for yourselves. You couldn't do that, so quit your complaining!

Lady Vol Softball Team Headed to College World Series


Tennessee's Brittany Bessho, center, hugs pitcher Monica Abbott and Tonya Callahan joins the celebration as UT beats Stanford.

The Lady Vols softball team wrapped up a berth in the softball college world series this past weekend, by winning their super regional. Congratulations to them and good luck in the series!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/30/2005 09:47:00 AM | |
Sunday, May 29, 2005
Our wacky world
Yesterday's Tennessean had a front page story about a 34-year old mother who hired a stripper for her 16 year old son's birthday party. A Davidson County jury indicted her for contributing to the deliquency of a minor, among other things.

Couple of things that struck me about this article .

1. Mom had to call around to several agencies to find one that would send a stripper to a 16-year old's birthday paryt

2. They paid the stripper (who goes by the stage name "Sassy") extra to fully strip. In fact, some of the teenage guys took up a collection at the party for this. This is actually what got them in trouble. Photos were taken and sent for development at a nearby drug store. The drugstore staff turned them over to the police. (As my good friend Leslie, who worked at a Walgreens in high school says, "If you're gonna take the naked pictures, it's time to go digital."

3. -Mom seems to think there's NOTHING wrong with this. Here are just a few of the things she said...
"It's a bunch of bull," Anette Pharris, 34, said yesterday afternoon in an interview at her east Nashville home. "I tried to do something special for my son. It didn't harm him."

From the family's front porch, which sits on a small street off Dickerson Pike near Hart Lane, her children have witnessed prostitutes with customers, people injecting drugs, smoking crack and doing other misdeeds. A naked woman was nothing to get upset about, Pharris said.

"Age is just a number," she said. "My son is very mature."

After nearly choking on my Rice Krispies laughing at some of the quotes in the article, I had to admit I felt it was really kind of sad. Sure, in the short term it seems like--hey, cool parent! But in the long run, there is not telling what kind of lack of moral example or leadership Mom is setting for her son. And the fact that there was apparently a house full of adults there, including someone that is referred to as "grandpa" and no one thought this was in any way a bad idea.

Of course, I will say this.

When I lived out in California, the high school I attended for one year was built around a central, outdoor courtyard. In fact, all the classrooms opened to outdoor hallways. One day during lunch, a "policeman" came to the school and began to do his show. Seems it was a young lady's birthday and her friends had hired a stripper for her to come during lunch time. The "officer" got his shirt off before he was escorted off by the principle and later got to take a ride downtown with a real police offer.

It's a strange world we live in...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/29/2005 02:30:00 PM | |

Swimsuit Spectacular: Weekend Special
A special weekend edition swimsuit photo for all of you out there. This one is of CMT VeeJay, Katie Cook. It was taken at one of the Y's here in Nashville.

I've actual swum laps in the pool in the background. Never while Ms. Cook was there, mind you....


Katie Cook of CMT fame. Posted by Hello


posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/29/2005 01:51:00 PM | |
Friday, May 27, 2005
Swimsuit Edition Day 5
Well, it's almost the end of the Big Orange Michael Swimsuit Edition Week. The outdoor pools are scheduled to open tomorrow (please no rain, please no rain!). So, in celebration of that, I offer not one but two photos today for you viewing pleasure.


Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard


Country Singer Elizabeth Cook


Have a great weekend and a great Memorial Day!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/27/2005 03:30:00 PM | |

Operation Tennessee Waltz
The day after the arrests in relation for Operation Tennesse Waltz and there's a wealth of coverage in the media about it. The Tennesseean and The Nashville City Paper have in-depth coverage, as I'm sure do all the other television and radio outlets in town. (I'm also sure there is a wealth of coverage, opinions and analysis in The Rocky Top Brigade as well as in the Nashville is Talking blog)

Reading, listening to and watching the coverage has only reinforced the perception that Senator John Ford of Memphis is as crooked as a dog's hind leg. He allegedly took $55,000 in bribe money for a sting corporation in order to influence Tennessee legislation. Heaven only knows how much more he money he took from other sources, though I have a feeling we may find out in the coming days and weeks.

But, for having taken all this money, Ford can't afford a lawyer, according to an article in The Tennessean.
The senator is likely to ask for a public defender to handle the criminal case because he cannot afford a lawyer otherwise, said Ford's civil attorney, Martin Grusin.
So let me see if I've got this. Ford has been accused of taking bribes up to $55,000. This is in addition to the reports that Ford wrote off large chunks of his daughter's wedding from his campaing funds. And once again, he wants the tax payers to pay for his defense in this case?!? I know that under the law Ford is entitled to a fair trial, but surely the man can afford a lawyer.

Of course, I guess if he hires the best legal council money can buy, he'd have to reveal where he's hidden all the money he took in bribes, which would kind of damage his defense.

I hate to say it, but as news of this gets out, it makes Tennessee the laughing stock of the nation. Do you realize that 10% of the Tennessee legislative body was led away in handcuffs yesterday under this? How's that for an unhealthy dose of reality slapping your firmly in the face? I mean, this is the type of thing I could see happening in New Jersey, New York, Chicago in the 30's. But not in Tennessee. It's an embarassment to us as a state.

Of course, one good thing that has come out of it is that pundits on both sides are lining up, calling for better ethics legislation. And while I think this is a good thing, I also have to wonder if it's not more a case of closing the barn door after the horse has escaped.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/27/2005 10:30:00 AM | |

Doctor Who: The Empty Child
A couple of weeks ago, I noted that "Aliens of London" was trying desperately to come up with a indelible, defining, memorable moment that would be forever burned into the hearts and minds of the new fans of Doctor Who. And while the story was full of memorable images such as aliens in Downing Street, a spacecraft hurtling over London and Big Ben destroyed by an alien ship, I'm not sure how successful the story was in creating one single, memorable, defining moment.

This week with "The Empty Child" the new Doctor Who created its first defining, memorable moment. If you saw the episode, you know what I’m talking about—the image of Doctor Constantine's face being transformed into a gas mask. It was dark, it was scary and it was exactly the type of moment that defines Doctor Who as Doctor Who. It's an image that could come right out of a 70s Robert Holmes serial in which the things that we perceive as safe and every day become horrifying, scary and potentially lethal.

It was just one of those great Doctor Who moments.

And the best part is—it was in one heck of a great Doctor Who episode.

As I said back with "Aliens of London" it's hard to judge the overall impact of the story here because it's part one of two. We have yet to see where all these events will go and how they will play out. But based on the strength of the first half, I think we're in for a treat with part two.

"The Empty Child" is probably the most slowly unfolding of any of the new Who stories to date. It's slow to unfold, keeping its secrets guarded. It doesn't sacrifice story for atmosphere but it does create atmosphere in droves. It's interesting that the story takes place at night. In many ways, it's like a nightmare slowly unfolding on screen. Taken against the backdrop of London in World War II, the story slowly reveals its secrets, taking time to allow the Doctor piece things together himself. We also get to have some time to get to develop Rose a bit and learn some of the background of Captain Jack. And yet, there was never a moment where I wanted the story to speed up. The tension built well over the 41 minutes of screen time, building to a cliffhanger that left me wanting to know how they got out of it and to wonder just where the story would go next.

In short, "The Empty Child" felt solidly like some of the classic stories of the original Doctor Who in all the right ways. Those stories were built on creating characters and a strong sense of atmosphere. "The Empty Child" felt the most Robert Holmes-like of any of the new Who stories to date—even "Rose" which was little more than an homage to Holmes’ great "Spearhead from Space."

The story had an almost mesmerizing like quality to it. It had the quality of a bad dream, slowly developing a sense of tension and dread, yet the feeling that you just couldn’t look away from the screen.

It's easily the best episode since "Dalek" and it's in the running for the best of the season in my mind. After "Dalek" I thought there was no way the new Doctor Who could top itself. But with "The Empty Child" it may have done that—not by being new-fangled, but by dwelling on what it was that made the original Who so great. Of course, I am reserving my final judgment on this until I see the second half of the story. It could all be great set-up without the payoff we all want or deserve. But based on the strength of what we got here, I'm hopeful for how part two will unfold.

Part of what made it successful was the world building. Again, I think that being two parts helped because it allowed the story to slow down and set up the environment and the historical setting. Seeing the Doctor slowly figure out when he and Rose have landed was nicely done. To see Rose hanging by a thread over the German blitz was nice and to establish the character and back story for Captain Jack was a nice touch. It's a story that dolls out information in unexpected ways—such as the revelation that it was the girl who was getting food for all the street children in London's brother who had died right after the crash of the alien spacecraft to the establishing of the idea that everyone infected by whatever turned our face into a gas mask had the same cut on their hand and the same symptoms. The phones ringing at various places—including the TARDIS phone—was also a nice touch. It helped create the feeling that you could run but you couldn't hide. At first, it was a mystery that slowly built into a scary, tension filled point, leading to the Doctor and Rose surrounded by the infected and the Doctor admonishing everyone to not let them be touched.

Certainly by having it be two parts, we get a chance for the story to take a breath, take its time and create something unique. And the cliffhanger did what a good one should do—left us wanting more and eager to see how the story continued to unfold. The build up to it felt natural and it was a well-place one. It never felt like it was out of left field or forced onto the story by time constraints as can be the case in some of the classic Who serials.

In short, "The Empty Child" is the most Robert Holmes-like story of the new series. It’s dark, it’s atmospheric, it’s scary and it’s damn entertaining. I can't wait to see how things conclude with "The Doctor Dances."

And kudos to the BBC for not airing the scenes from next week until after the closing credits and with a SPOILER warning.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/27/2005 09:33:00 AM | |

Aloha Friday
Would you consider yourself to be introverted or extroverted?
It honestly depends on my comfort level . If I'm comfortable in the situation, I can be extremely extroverted. If I am outside my comfort zone I can be a bit more introverted. But I'd have to honestly say that most of the time, I'm more introverted though the movng about growing up helped me to learn how to get outside the comfort zone and be more extroverted as needed.

What kinds of calendars do you own?
Let's see--I've got the Star Trek: Ships of the Line, Star Trek Page-a-Day, Closer to Home Page-a-Day and my University of Tennessee football calendars.

Spread the spirit of blogaloha...what blog should we visit this week?
This week, visit the fun that is MemePool.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/27/2005 08:33:00 AM | |
Thursday, May 26, 2005
Swimsuit Edition Day 4
Continuing the countdown to the outdoor pool opening this weekend....


It's a swimsuit..and it's orange! How can you go wrong?

Hey, it is a swimsuit! What more do you want? LOL

OK, here the swimsuit is being worn by Olympic gold medalist Natalie Coughlin.


Olympic gold medalist Natalie Coughlin


posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/26/2005 03:14:00 PM | |

Operation Tennessee Waltz
The press conference is over and here's what we know from an article on News Channel Five on-line.

According to the indictments, the suspects were accused of violating the Hobbs Act, which is a type of extortion, and of taking bribes to use their offices to help a company do business in Tennessee.

According to the FBI, the lawmakers accepted bribed from an undercover electronics company to sponsor legislation that would have helped the company make money.

Ford was accused of accepting $55,000; Crutchfield was accused of taking $12,000; Bowers was accused of taking $11,500; Newton was accused of accepting $4,500, and Dixon was accused of taking $9,500.

Ford was also accused of threatening a witness in connection with the investigation.

The investigation, dubbed Tennessee Waltz, took two years, FBI officials said. The investigation was conducted by the Memphis and Knoxville FBI offices. Nashville and Chattanooga agents were also involved.

Some searches were conducted in the Capitol Building in Nashville.

News Channel Five also had .pdf files of all the indictments on their web site.

There is on-going coverage in many blogs around the state and various other media outlets. Two good sources for round-ups and links to all the coverage are Nashville is Talking and No Silence Here. Also, I'm sure members of the Rocky Top Brigade will have a lot of reaction and dicussion about this topic.

This whole thing just sounds messy and I wonder if we've yet seen the tip of the iceberg on this whole situation.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/26/2005 11:43:00 AM | |

This just in...
Four Tennessee lawmakers have been arrested by federal agents. No word yet on why they were arrested or what the charges are.

Those taken into custody are:
  • Sen. Ward Crutchfield, D-Chattanooga
  • Sen. John Ford, D-Memphis
  • Sen. Kathryn Bowers, D-Memphis
  • Rep. Chris Newton, R-Cleveland.
A press conference is due to be held by the Attorney General at 11 a.m. that will outline the charges. Hallorin Hilton Hill is reporting that they were arrested on sealed indictments handed down by a judge in Memphis and there could be more arrests to come.

Not really a huge shock that Ford was taken into custody. I wonder if this arrest has to do with all his travel and parties at the tax-payer's expense that have dominated the news the past few weeks.

No Silence Here has a lot of links out to the breaking story.

FURTHER UPDATE: The Nashville City Paper has some details on charges.
The four were arrested under the federal Hobbs Act, which covers extortion by the wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear.

The arrests apparently involve a bill sponsored in the House by Newton and in the Senate by Crutchfield and Ford that involved the sale of surplus computers and electronic equipment.
News Channel Three in Memphis is reporting three more arrests.
  • Roscoe Dixon (a former state senator)
  • Barry Myer (an associate of Dixon's)
  • Charles Love.
There are also rumors the mayor of Memphis may be implicated in all of this as well. There are also reports that another person is being pursued for arrest.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/26/2005 10:03:00 AM | |

TV Round-Up
It's the last TV Round-Up of sweeps. And it's about two "huge season finales." I'm going to be a bit different this week and start with..

Alias: Before the Flood
Apprently the combination of the tainted water and the sub-sonic sound from the red ball thingy makes everyone go 28 Days Later. Everyone turns into zombies who are all lethal killing machine. Was it just me or was anyone else reminded of the first South Park Halloween episode when an accidental mixing of embalming fluid and woistershire sauce created zombies that took over the town? Seriously, that makes about as much damn sense as this whole Rimbaldi thing.

The thing was internally this episode was insanely inconsistent. In an early scene, we see that it takes Syd and Nadia a couple of dozen bullets from a sub-machine gun to take down the zombie people. Yet later in the episode, Zombie Nadia (tm) is taken down by a single bullet from Slaone. What?!? To make matters worse, we hear about how the zombies kill any living person they get their hands on but yet when Nadia is attacked by a pack of them, she somehow survives because...what? She's part of the prophecy? The script writers just got lazy? This is why Alias is so frustrating to watch.

Among other things.

You know, for someone bent on world domination Elena Derevko ain't the sharpest knife in the drawer. Follow me here--Sloane betrayed APO and the CIA to help her out. Sloane seems to change loyalties with the changing of the wind, but yet Elena is somehow surprised that he betrays her, selling her out to help the APO gang. Who didn't see that one coming about a mile away? About the only thing that didn't happen was Elena trying to claim to somehow be Nadia's mother, which I fully expected to have happen at some point.

And then we get the cliffhanger. Or as I call it--you've got to be kidding me moment! It's set up early on by Irina when she tells Vaughn--you should tell Syd your deep, dark secret so you don't end up like Jack and I did. Then, we get to the final moments, driving in the car and Vaughn drops a bomb. "By the way, I'm not really named Vaughn and.." and then a crash happens. Wait, wait, wait....now, I like a good cliffhanger as much as the next person, but I want one that actually makes a lick of sense. So, Vaughn is really Michael Vaughn but is...who? Hobert T Foswerth insurance salesman from Sioux City? How the hell did the CIA let him come to work for him all these years if he wasn't Michael Vaughn? What--he just changed his name mid-stream and they went along with that? Also, I got the impression that Jack knew Vaughn before now, so wouldn't Jack know something and have SAID SOMETHING before now? Also, why did Vaughn try to find his father--also named Vaughn!--for much of this season? Was that just a useless plotline to get Michael Vartan away from Jennifer Garner due to their break-up and complete lack of tension on screen? This cliffhanger is just as bad as the one on Enterprise last year with evil Nazi aliens that they pulled out of their collective rears. I know that Alias wants to get some buzz going into the fifth season and a new tough time slot, but come on! This is just too much, guys! And I bet we start off much of season five with Vaughn in a coma and Syd trying to find the answers to his read identity, which will turn out he's actually a guy named Anakin who gets seduced to the Dark Side when Syd gets pregnant and he starts having visions of her death and desparately wants to save her...oh wait, that was another, better movie.

Seriously, I'm thinking about breaking up with Alias. I think it just may be time for me to let it go and focus my energies on another show or pursue a new TV-show relationship. I'm going to think about this over the summer (I sure as hell won't be watching repeats of this season) and see where I'm at in the fall when the fifth season rolls around.

Espeically when there are much better shows out there such as...

Lost: Exodus, Part 2
About halfway through last nights' big two hour finale, a family member looked over at me and said, "So, when is all this resolution going to start happening?"

I scoffed, pointing out they'd never watched The X-Files much because if they had, they'd know you can never fully resolve an on-going story like you have on Lost (Unless of course you're Veronica Mars or Buffy). Instead, you're going to get one or two resolutions of smaller mysteries and a whole lot of new questions that come up. It's just the way season finales work.

And Lost did not disappoint there.

So, we find out that the Others are not interested in Claire's demon-child, but instead want Walt. Which I pretty much figured out early on in the story and this came as no huge shock to me. And Sawyer apparently got shot and is in the ocean, bleeding, which can't be good for Jin and Michael right now. (And for Saywer too, for that matter). So, I wonder how much of next season will be spent trying to resuce Walt from the clutches of the Others, assuming they can find them.

Meanwhile, the hatch is opened to reveal a long tunnel with a ladder leading to...well, we just don't know? We'll have to wonder about that until next season. (What?!? You expected to find something significant out?) It does make me wonder just what is on the other end of that ladder, how long it is and how long it will take our heroes to climb down it (obviously not Hurley as he seemed pretty addled to see the numbers on the outside of the hatch).

Also, we find out that Daniella's agenda was not to help our heroes so much as to help herself get Alex back. Which brings up the question--why did they take Alex? And then it also makes me still wonder if Daniella isn't one of the others who was banished when she had Alex or for some other reason. It seems as if she played into their plans a bit too well for her to have been a rogue element on the island.

We did get to see a glimpse of part of the monster, though we found out tantalizing little more about it. Except that Locke is not in any way afraid of it. In fact, he wanted to be taken by it down the hole for whatever reason. And was it just the music or did it seem to anyone else like we heard the sound of a chain pulling when Locke was drug through the jungle? Also, it's interesting that Jack sees a power struggle coming and is already making alliances for that day. The scene where he says they're going to have a Locke problem after getting the hatch open and if Kate has his back was a good one. As was the scene between Locke and Jack about the how's and why's they're all on the island. Locke's contention that he is a man of faith and that Boone had to be sacrificed for the greater destiny of everyone was a bit on the chilling side. What exactly is Locke's game and how much does he know? Also, I still have to wonder if he wants to be rescued from the island. After all, if he goes back, presumbably he'll be put back in a wheel chair, working for a box company.

I will have to say this--poor ol' Artz. Brought into the series in order to give two science lessons and then get blown up. Poor guy. (Though his comment about how there were 40 other survivors on the island, but no one seemed to care about that was a riot).

And why did we spend a long scene last week with Michelle Rodiguez's character only to have he NOT SHOW UP AT ALL here?!? I kept scratching my head going--huh? Where is she? Why can't have more of her. I figured we'd find out she was on the other side of the island, basically in the role that Jack is to the survivors we've come to know over the course of this season. They made it far too obvious a plot point set up to drop the ball like they did here. I can't believe that Rodriguez would take the time to fly to Hawaii and back for what amounted to little more than a cameo on the show. There has to be more to it than this and I can only hope that next year we'll see her character come back.

Was it just me or were there a lot of commericals in this one? It seemed as if every five minutes we cut to progressively longer commercials breaks. And the funniest part was that Good Morning America advertised having a Lost cut scene in this morning's show. My response: Yeah, if you'd not had this commerical, we could have had time for it.

Also, I did get a bit irritated with the extended everyone gets on the plane scene in the final five minutes when we could have been, oh I don't know, looking in the hatch!!!

So, we have some answers, but not many. Not nearly as many as I think a lot of us hoped for. But then again, I went in not expecting a whole lot of big, huge, earthshattering answers. I think it addressed a few issues and gave the series some direction to follow leading into next year. And none of the cliffhangers felt forced in any way (unlike Alias). I know one thing--it's gonna be a long, hot summer waiting to see what happens next. And I have to admit, I can't wait to see where it all goes from here.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/26/2005 07:47:00 AM | |
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Swimsuit Edition Day 3
Continuing the countdown to the pool opening this weekend. Enjoy!


Ready to hit the pool. Posted by Hello


posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/25/2005 03:42:00 PM | |

"They're real and they're spectacular."
Apparently, the price tag for all the world to find out what Jerry so depsarately wanted to know in the famous episode "The Implants" is $10 million. According to several reports, that is the amount it would take for Teri Hatcher (of late of Desparate Housewives fame) to reveal all for Playboy.

Posted by Hello
Don't tug on Superman's cape.

Above is a famous photo from the early days of the Internet. For those of you who don't remember, Teri played Lois on the hit series Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. When Lois and Clark was on, I was a big fan of her and the show (well, at least until the middle of the third season when it jumped the shark spectacularily, but that's a whole other story) This photo came out while I was in college and I remember getting an AOL account just long enough to download this photo and then cancel it (it was only available on AOL for a while). I was even such a devoted fan that I watched Ms. Hatcher in such movies as The Cool Surface, Heaven's Prisoner and her turns as a Bond girl in Tomorrow Never Dies.

I've yet to see an epiosde of Desparate Housewives, though. I missed the first couple and just never have found the time to catch up or get into it.

I find it interesting that Ms. Hatcher has put the price tag of $10 million on the possibilty of being in Playboy. Why? Because two of three movies I mention above feature her doing nudity. In fact, Heaven's Prisoners features full frontal nudity. (There was quite a hubbub about it in the on-line Lois and Clark fan community at the time). I can see how The Cool Surface would be out there, lurking around on video and DVD before she hit it bit. But Heavens Prisoners was made during the height of Lois and Clark's popularity when she was a pretty big name. In fact, I remember a lot of articles in which she defended her choice for doing the full frontal nude scene (if you've seen the film, you may remember it doesn't really actually ADD that much to the movie from a plot standpoint. It's not a bad movie, per se. It's actually rather good) .

But I guess you become a "hot" star and you can name your own price. That is, assuming Hugh Hefner is rushing to the phone to call, which based on the fact that you can rent both films or find screen captures from each one on the Internet doesn't seem all that likely. I guess what I'm saying here is--Teri, we all know they're real and based on what I've seen, we all can agree they're spectacular.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/25/2005 03:00:00 PM | |

Lost Season 1 Finale Tonight
The first season of Lost concludes tonight with the big two-hour season finale event. The finale promises to answer some of the questions that have been swirlling all season (though I'd be willing to bet not as many as we'd like them to answer) and to create new questions heading into next season. It also promises a cliffhanger that will keep us wondering all summer long--what happens next? If you want some more nuggets of info on the season finale, TV Guide On-Line's Insider has a conversation with the producers in which they drop a few big SPOILERific hints about what will happen this evening.

If you're not wanting to have the episode SPOILed, you can surf over to MSN and read this article about the locations used on Oahu to film Lost. It even includes a map so that if you should visit Oahu, you can go on the tour of the locations of Lost. (Maybe you'll get a glimpse of Kate....)

Hanauma Bay Posted by Hello

Having lived in Hawaii when I was in preschool through second grade (I remember seeing them filming Magnum P.I. while we driving out to Bellows Beach a couple of times) and then visiting there a couple of times when my parents were stationed there in the mid 90's I've had fun this year looking for things I recognize on the show. The only one I've been really sure I've actually seen is last week, when the expedition to find the Black Rock went around a cliff face. Turns out it, it's the walk out to the famous Toilet Bowl at Hanauma Bay. (Thanks to Becky for confirming this for me. Also, Becky recognized one of the locations used a few weeks ago in this post on her blog)


The Toilet Bowl before it fills up... Posted by Hello

The Toilet Bowl filled Posted by Hello

If you look at the photo of the Toilet Bowl above, you can see the rock face where they filmed some of last week's episode. It's in the top middle of the frame.

And for those of you who have missed the greatness that is Lost (I'm looking at your Barry), your chance to catch up starts next week when ABC is going to run the series from the beginning on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EST. Also, there's the DVD release of season one in September just about the time season two kicks off.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/25/2005 10:34:00 AM | |

Softball Update
Last night, our team got back on the winning track, sweeping our double header. The first game was kind of close--we squandered a nine run lead in the bottom of the fourth, only to get two runs in the top of the fifth and hold on for a 15-14 win. (We have got to work on the whole strategy of giving up a run to get an out when you're up by four or more) We then proceede to blow open the second game, winning 13-3 by the mercy rule after four.

Once again, the officiating for the league was just absolutely the WORST I have ever seen. Case in point--I'm up at bat, and the ball is heading for my head. So, I'm thinking "Ball" and have to PULL BACK so it won't HIT ME IN THE HEAD! The ump calls out "Strike three!" and ends the inning. All I can say is, it's good Gracelyn and Davis were there to watch the game or else Uncle Michael would have probably said something to the umpire he'd have regretted later. The thing was, this guy had no consistency. The strike zone changed from pitch to pitch. I also observed that if you got up on the count 2-0, the next ball, regardless of where it was pitched was a strike.

So, my last time up at bat, I got up to bat, determined to at least make contact and not be sent off to the bench again in abject humilation. I did get a single, but later got forced out at second on a slow grounder to the short stop.

Sorry to all of you who have me on your fantasy softball team. My stats are not quite up there like I want them to be. I'll see what I can do to help y'all out in the coming week.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/25/2005 07:47:00 AM | |
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Swimsuit Edition Day 2
Today for your viewing pleasure, I offer not one but three women in swimsuits for the big lead-up to the start of swimsuit season this weekend.

The picture in question comes from this week's Nashville Scene's summer preview issue.


Artist and renaissance sisters Casey (photographer), Delaney and Jenny (Hatch Show Print goddesses) Gill making art at Cheekwood. Posted by Hello


posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/24/2005 03:54:00 PM | |

The wide, wide world of sports
Boy, the Titans are not having a good off-season this year. And I'm not just talking about having the dark day a few months ago when we lost a whole lot of veteran players to the salary cap limitations.

No, I'm talking off the field.

Seems Tyrone Calico--our best hope to replace Derrick Mason at wide-receiver--was pulled over last week and charged with public indecency. Allegedly, Calico was unclothed in the backseat of his SUV with an 18-year old woman.

This is the third such incident in as many months off the field for a player in the Titans organization. Seriously--are we trying to rival the Dallas Cowboys from the mid 90s in terms of arrest? Certainly, I'd be all for emulating them in that winning three Super Bowls in four years category, but this is not how we want to emulate them.

You know that Jeff Fisher and company have just got to be tearing their hair out of at Baptist Sports Park (training facility for the Titans). When the news should be about mini-camp and how Steve McNair is doing, making his comeback or speculation of trading for Travis Henry (my thought on this--just make the deal. Chris Brown has yet to show he can go a whole year and Buffalo only wants a third round draft pick for Henry! Pull the trigger, make the deal!). Instead, we get more of this type of behavoir and players making bad choices.

The Titans are popular here in middle Tennesee. Not just because they win but because they are positive members of the community at large . But that reputation as good members of the community is getting a bit bruised right now.

Not only did that article catch my eye this morning, but I also saw Joe Biddle in there with a column about Vandy whining about not getting into the SEC baseball tournament and how it could mean their season is over. And how unfair it is that not all the SEC teams get to go to the tournament that starts tomorrow in Birmingham.

First of all, Vandy should have taken care of their business on the field and won one of three games this weekend. You do that and you can pack your bags to go. Not the league's fault you can't win a game in crunch time and limped down the stretch of the season.

Second of all, while you can have the entire league go to a basketball tournament, baseball is a different beast. For one thing, the baseball tourney is double elmination. Second of all, there is no time limit on a baseball game like a basketball game, so you could have a 17 inning game run for hours on end, thus really screwing up the scheduling. It just makes no sense to open the tournament to the entire league. Also, you get to earn you way into this tournament and I like that it. It gives teams something to play for.

Which apparently Vandy missed the memo that they had something to play for this weekend and figured they could just coast on into the tourney. So now they're on the outside looking in, hoping the NCAA will put them into the qualifying for the college world series.

Typical Vandy....

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/24/2005 03:12:00 PM | |

I'm an idealist.
Found this over at the Inn of the Last Home.

You scored as Idealist. Idealism centers around the belief that we are moving towards something greater. An odd mix of evolutionist and spiritualist, you see the divine within ourselves, waiting to emerge over time. Many religious traditions express how the divine spirit lost its identity, thus creating our world of turmoil, but in time it will find itself and all things will again become one.

Idealist


69%

Cultural Creative


63%

Postmodernist


56%

Romanticist


50%

Fundamentalist


44%

Modernist


31%

Existentialist


25%

Materialist


19%

What is Your World View? (corrected...again)
created with QuizFarm.com


posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/24/2005 09:29:00 AM | |

24: Day 4, 5-7 a.m.
After 22 hours of build-up, it all came down to this--the wrap-up to day four.

In the final two hours, Jack and company had to do the following.
  • Stop the missile
  • Capture Marwan
  • Rescue Tony
  • Avert war with China
  • Give Nearly Naked Mandy a "get out of jail free" card
  • Run through a drive through for a tasty McGriddle sandwhich.
OK, so maybe they didn't do the last one. But seriously, if I were Jack, I'd at least have had a meal before I took off down the traintracks, presumably to Mexico.

In the end, Jack ends up saving the world (again) but loses everything. He no longer has an identity as he's made the sacrficial lamb for President PrissyPants with China and thus has to fake his own death. He loses Audrey. He loses his relationship with Kim because presumably he can't call her any more and she will assume that he's dead, along with the rest of the world. All because Jack is the guy who does whatever it takes to do the right thing and things little of the consequences at the time. It's only after it's too late that repurcussions start to hit him. I think next season should start with Jack bitter, drunk and eating bad salsa in a hole in the wall Mexican restuarant.

So, the world is safe yet again, thanks to the combined work for Jack and David Palmer. Interesting to see how quickly President PrissyPants shows Palmer the door. "Gee, thanks for saving my and America's collective ass, but don't let the door hit you in yours on the way out, David" is how PrissyPants does things. And then he goes politician, willing to sacrifice Jack (but not condone his murder publically, but to look the other way when Palmer confronts him about it). Indeed, it's interesting to see how the bonds of loyalty play out in the show. Palmer is loyal to Jack for what Jack has done for him on three previous days. So much so that Palmer is risking treason by helping Jack to escape. Should there be consequences of this for Palmer later? Certainly if it brings the character back to the show in an interesting, relevant way than yes. I'd love to see Palmer have his passion for politics re-ignited and run again for office. Day five surrounding the election between he and PrissyPants as one sub-plot might be fun to watch, provided the writers come up with a good reason for it.

That's not to say things weren't a little coincidental here. As usual, we have to suspend a lot of disbelief. Such as Marwan would only shoot up the tracking device for the missle just enough so it takes Chloe a minute instead of 30 seconds to unencrypt it. Also, the fact that after rushing about for nearly 22 hours, Jack is still awake and alert enough to catch that it's not raining on Nearly Naked Mandy's cell phone call when Tony is allegedly killed. And the fact that the Chinese have had the time to not only reposition the satellite to see Gray leaving CTU LA but get to San Diego BEFORE A HELICOPTER and take the guy into custody. Apparently the fastest vehicle in the universe on 24 is Chinese Consolate Limo. Unless it's CTU LA helicopter which gets to where Marwan is trying to escape from in about 2.4 seconds.

Also, after hanging around CTU last week and interrogating his son, where did Heller disappear to? Did he drive his son home? Also, I love how within five minutes, Michelle has gone out in the pouring rain, is crying her eyes out in the car and streaking her make-up and then is perfectly put back together when Tony gets back.

Speaking of Michelle, it was interesting to see be put in the same position Tony was in day three when he commited treason. Michelle goes the route of having the entire team help and ends up saving Tony and not going to jail. Of course, it helps that Tony is one smart cookie and leaves a trail for Jack to follow. Meanwhile, Buchanan gets dumped and left high and dry. How bad a day did he have? He started the day off being with Michelle and then loses her when she goes back to her ex-husband. Man, that has got to put a real damper on the day.

And while it was nice to see Nearly Naked Mandy back on the show, I have to wonder--in the end, what was the point other than having a familiar 24 villian on there? I guess the thing is that there's been so little backstory devoted to Mandy that we really have no idea how or why she chooses the causes she does. Is it money? Does she have a vendetta against some group or the United States as a whole? We realize that she's as cold and caluclating as Jack, but why? I mean, don't get me wrong--I appreciate Mia Kirshner as much as the next guy, but I really wish we'd had some more concrete reason that it was Mandy behind all of this (I mean, other than to give Palmer a moment of pause in the signing of her get out of jail free card) than we did.

So, I guess the long wait until January now begins. And the speculation on just where can 24 go next? And how will they come up with a way to get Jack Bauer into the mix without completing jumping the shark?

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/24/2005 08:16:00 AM | |

Volunteer Tailgate Party 2005 v 5.1
John Norris Brown of What Can Brown Do For You? is hosting the latest edition of the Volunteer Tailgate Party. Surf on over, pull up a comfy chair and enjoy some of the best and brightest from the Rocky Top Brigade.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/24/2005 08:03:00 AM | |
Monday, May 23, 2005
It's swimsuit season
When I was growing up, Memorial Day weekend meant two things--school was out and the pools opened up.

Years later and not having children, school getting out isn't as big a deal as it was back then. But one part Memorial Day weekend is that the outdoor pools will finally open. And even though I swim laps five times a week and it's not like getting into a pool is all that big a deal, part of me has to admit I still get like a little kid, getting excited that the outdoor pools will be opening this weekend (at least the ones at the Y!)

And, of course, one big part of being around the pool is finding that just perfect piece of swimwear. Looking at The Nashville Rage's swimsuit issue last week and seeing the prices of swimwear for the ladies, I have to admit I am glad I'm a guy. Also, I'm glad I'm a guy as the only real choice we have is what color of trunks do we want? (I will repeat it again--unless you are competive swimming, guys, you do NOT need to wear a Speedo as a courtesy to yourself and everyone around you). But it seems as if the ladies have a ton of choices available to them and at a huge range of prices.

So, in counting down to the big pool openings this Saturday, I am going to feature a week of posts with women in swimsuits. Here's the first one, taken from the Nashville Rage's swimsuit issue.


Jessica Grider Posted by Hello


posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/23/2005 03:16:00 PM | |

My review of Revenge of the Sith
Ever since Darth Vader uttered the line "Luke, I am your father" in The Empire Strikes Back and Obi-Wan Kenobe confirmed this as a fact in Return of the Jedi, I've been waiting for this movie. The movie that would explain how and why Luke's father could go to the Dark Side.

See, Darth Vader's revelation that he is Luke's father was one of those defining moments in movies of my childhood. I can't imagine today what it's like for generations of fans to go into The Empire Strikes Back and already know, "Oh yeah, Darth is Luke's dad." I can't imagine what it's like to see the movie for the first time, knowing this jaw-dropping revelation is coming. I just can't honestly. It's one of those great moments in movies--a truely shocking twist that seemingly comes out of left field but once you sit back and examine it makes perfect, complete and total sense.

It's one of those moments that is going to be hard, if not impossible to top. Especially in a franchise series of movies like the Star Wars movies have become.

The moment was so good that everything else in the Star Wars universe has been trying to catch up since.

Give George Lucas credit--the man has been trying. He tried with Return of the Jedi to shock us with the revelation that Leia was Luke's twin sister and also a Jedi. He tried to equal the success of Empire with two prequels that examined the backstory of Anakin Skywalker and just who he was before he went to the Dark Side. But, let's face it--the story we all wanted to see was this one--the one where Anakin finally makes the choice to go the Dark Side, to become one of the quintessential movie villians in history, Darth Vader.

Needless to say, I had a lot of expectations as I headed into see Revenge of the Sith Friday evening. And I can say I honestly tried to put those aside--to put aside the memory of how great Empire was and to enjoy the movie on its own merits.

I will say this--Revenge of the Sith is the best of the prequel trilogy. It's the one we've wanted to see since George Lucas first started this little experiment a few years ago. And I will admit there, I'm a bit sad today to know that I will never again see the words "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" on screen with the promise of more new Star Wars. But, in the end, I walked away from Revenge of the Sith feeling satisfied by what I'd seen on screen in a way the previous two movies in the series hadn't.

Don't get me wrong--there are isolated bits of each of the prequel movies that are as good as most of the original trilogy. I'd argue the final 45 minutes of Attack of the Clones is some of the best Star Wars movie going fun you can have....it's just a shame you have to wade through an uneven hour and a half of stops and starts to get there.

Same thing with Revenge of the Sith. The final hour or so is as good as just about anything in the Star Wars universe. And the opening itself is quite good--a great space battle the looks right out of a videogame. It's just the 45 or so minutes as we set up Anakin's fall to the dark side that are a just bit drab. The movie sputters too much between the superlative scenes of Palpatine slowly manipulating Anakin's fall to the Dark Side and clunky dialogue and professions of love between Anakin and Padme. I can see what Lucas is doing with the storyline and why the movie has to go the way it does, but I honestly wish there had been a stronger way to get there. We do get there and once the journey begins, it's mesmerizing and all that was promised. And even from a motivation stand-point I can understand it--Anakin's fall isn't precipated by some kind of political desire or lust for power, but instead because he loves his mother and Padme too much. In his quest to protect those he loves from pain and harm, Anakin loses himself to the Dark Side.

Yes, we do see Anakin struggle with his desire for respect from those he percieves as authority figures. But it's all from an inner drive by Anakin to be the best at everything--something we saw established all the way back in Phantom Menace during the Pod Races. Anakin wants to be the best and gets frustrated when he can't be for whatever reason. We see Palpatine slowly take advantage of this desire to twist Anakin to the Dark Side and set up his eventual fall.

But then, once Anakin goes over to the Dark Side, the movie kicks into a higher gear. We get the chilling slaughter of all the Jedi across the galaxy and the end of the war. We see Palpatine manipulate events to create an Empire with himself as the center of power. We see the much anticipated battle between Anakin and Obi Wan near the lava pits. We see Anakin become Darth Vader, putting on the suit and helmet, completing his fall.

At the end of Revenge of the Sith, you're left wanting to go out and re-watch the original trilogy just to remind yourself that it all turns out OK in the end. It's not as bleak and hopeless as things appear here.

But as good as Revenge of the Sith is at getting the big details right--seeing Anakin fall, the battle at the lava pits, the reason why C3PO doesn't remember anything--it misses the chance to really be a better bridge from one trilogy to the next.
  • For one thing, Lucas wastes the opportunity to redeem Jar-Jar. In Attack of the Clones we had a bit of this as we see Palpatine manipulate Jar-Jar into helping grant him more powers in the Senate. Lucas misses a huge opportunity here to redeem the character further from an annoynace in the first film to a tragic figure. How much more interesting would it be to see and hear Jar Jar's own innocence and trust used against him by Palpatine to seize power in the Senate? Instead Lucas relegates Jar Jar to the sidelines of this one, thus missing a golden opportunity.
  • Another is--I'm not quite sure why Padme died. Was it of a broken heart? Did Palpatine do something to her to maniplate Anakin?
  • Also, I have to wonder how Anakin and Padme kept their marriage a secret for so long. It seems that in the cut throat world of politics that one of Padme's critics would figure this out long before hand. It seems a bit odd that it takes six plus years for people to put together this little revelation. I don't know--maybe they were just really really careful about meeting.
  • And it took 18 years to finish the first Death Star?
  • I hate to say this, but Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman have no chemistry on screen together. Part of this could have been the stitled dialogue, but a lot of the time, there's no fire between the two, no passion. At times watching them kiss is like watching brick's collide...
  • As much as I wanted to like General Grevious, I felt he was a bit of a missed opportunity. He is a military genius we get that. But very little else in backstory. Had I not read the prequel novels leading up to this movie, I would have been much more disappointed with the character.
Does any of this make Sith a bad movie? No. I will still recommend it to you as an enjoyable movie. It's certainly not on par with Empire (my favorite of the series and one of my top five movies of all time) but it is head and shoulders above Menace or Clones. The last hour or so is fun and almost exactly what it needs to be. The first hour or so is stop and start.

It's one that I will be buying on DVD when it comes out and watching again and again, make no mistake about that. The light saber battles alone are worth that...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/23/2005 10:22:00 AM | |
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Faded Sweatshirt.
There's just something comforting about being in Knoxville for a few days. Last day, after seeing Episode III, I jumped into my car, tuned up a UT baseball game on the radio and quickly ran through four ways to get back to the Inn of the Last Home from West Town Mall. Funny thing is--the paths all would still work, from what I observed. It just depended on how quickly I wanted to get there and how much of Knoxville I wanted to see along the way.

Sure, some things have changed. I mean, the world famous McKay's Used Books has moved out west and there is more growth at Turkey Creek than you can shake a stick at. But overall, it's not changed that much. It's a very comfortable feeling for me....sort of like that favorite old sweatshirt I keep in the top of my closet. It's a bit faded and I do have nicer, newer sweatshirts, but yet I can't bring myself to get rid of that old comfy sweatshirt. I've had it ten plus years and it's a bit too big for me now that I've lost a lot of weight..but ya know, I can't bear to get rid of it. It will probaby fall apart in the wash one day and then, maybe, just maybe I will get rid of it.

But while the geography hasn't changed that much, time has continued to pass. I've written before about feeling old sometimes working with the youth at church. That feeling gets a bit intensified when I come back to Knoxville to visit. See, when I move away, in my mind all the kids I knew stay the same age they were when I left. It's not as difficult to see BrainyBoy and GiggleGirl get bigger and older as I see pictures of them from time to time over at the Inn of the Last Home. But what stuns me is to see Kelsey and John Allen Broyles grow up.

I will say this--I am going to have to have a big-brother boot camp for BrainyBoy and John Allen. I know John Allen is younger, but he must be trained in the ways of intimidating bad boyfriend material from getting too close to his sister. I will be running drills later today in the ability to imidate without actually ever having to physically hurt someone. It will be good training for BrainyBoy when GiggleGirl gets to start dating, when she turns 30 or so...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/21/2005 10:24:00 AM | |
Friday, May 20, 2005
The Force is strong in this one...
Seems that Epiosde III is making a ton of money in the first day of release. (Gee, who didn't expect that?)

Last night, working out at the Y, I flipped through this week's Nashville Rage, which had a cover story about the last installment of the Star Wars saga. (Big shock, huh?) The interesting part was the discussion of the Star Wars saga by a group of Nashvillians. Sort of state of the Star Wars type of thing.

Of course, there are a plethora of reviews out there for the movie, but since I'm not seeing it until tonight, I'm avoiding them. I know that trying to go in totally unaware is impossible, but I am trying to limit the SPOILERs as much as possible. That said, there was an interesting non-review article this morning about Anakin vs Luke: Was Darth born bad? in The Tennessean.

If you want to see how much you know about the Star Wars saga, you can take the Tennessean's quiz about the Star Wars saga. I scored 60, so I'm not quite a Sith lord yet.

Of course, The Rage also had an interesting article about women's swimwear fashions. If by article you mean pictures of women in swimsuits, like this one here....


From The Nashville Rage's article. Jessica Grider, Maranda Starling and Ande Sedwick model a swim suits. Posted by Hello


posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/20/2005 09:52:00 AM | |

Friday's Feast
Friday's Feast is a year-old today! Woo-hoo. Great first year and I look forward to many more...

Now, onto the feasting...

Appetizer
Approximately how many hours per day do you spend watching television?
Boy howdy, ain't that the million dollar question. The answer is--more than I should. I do have a regular rotational set of shows I watch when they're new...and then there are just some I seek out in the syndicated repeats if I'm around and feel like vegging out. Curse you Seinfeld for being so darn good that I can watch you many, many times and day and not get bored!

Soup
Which colors decorate your kitchen?
I used to have the Coca-Cola themed kitchen...and when I get my new place, I hope to do so again.

Salad
Name 2 brand names you buy on a regular basis, and what do you like about them?
Jif because I think their peanut butter tastes the best. And Pocket Books because they publish those Star Trek novels I like so much.

Main Course
What is your biggest fear?
Scary thought....once upon a time, I played one of those questionaire, get to know you games with some friends on-line and this was one of the questions. I put down what was, at the time, my biggest fear, and dammit if six months later that fear didn't become a reality. So, I think I'm gonna take the fifth on this one this time. I am not tempting fate again...

Dessert
If you could wake up tomorrow and find yourself in another location, where would you want to be?
Actually, I will wake up tomorrow in another location. I'm headed out later today to journey to Knoxville to visit the Inn of the Last Home and see some little sci-fi epic. That said, if I could wake-up in another location, I'd want it to be a small town where I lived close to my family and close friends and we could see each other regularily. This town would have a kickin' bookstore, library and place that sold used DVDs. (As in, they'd always have the used DVDs I wanted in perfect condition when I wanted them.)

Bonus Birthday Question
What's your favorite flavor of birthday cake?
I love the marble cake with the butter cream icing and the strawberry jam stuff in the middle of the cake. Yummy!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/20/2005 09:13:00 AM | |
Thursday, May 19, 2005
The movie meme game
Sarah tagged me do this, so here we go....

1) Total number of films I own on DVD/video:
Do box sets of TV shows count toward this total? If so, then a whole bunch. But if it's just movies, then I'd say I have about 70 or so movies on DVD.

2) The last film I bought:

I picked up Seinfeld, Season 4 this week. But if we're going strictly on movies, then Pleasantville.

3) The last film I watched:

National Lampoon's Dorm Daze. And yet, it was really, really bad...

4) Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me (in no particular order):

Back to the Future
The Empire Strikes Back
The Searchers
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
The Lion King

5) Tag 5 people and have them put this in their journal:
Becky, Stacy, Karen, Barry and Logtar.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/19/2005 03:36:00 PM | |

TV Round-Up
Lost: Exodus, Part One
I just can't help it. But this week during Lost, I was once again have flashbacks to the hey-dey of The X-Files. If you weren't an X-Files fan, then you may not know that every season there were a set number of mythology episodes--storylines in which the on-going plot arcs would come to the fore and we'd get some movement forward in the storylines that had been on-going--Scully's abduction, Mulder's sister, the Cigarette Smoke Man and his agenda, etc. These episodes always had this almost breathless quality to them--at least at first--or a sense of urgency and that you absolutely had to pay attention to every single scene, every single detail because something exciting and revelatory was about to happen and you did not want to miss it.

Season premieres and finales were especially good at this (well, at least the first couple of years, anyway).

Watching Lost this week, I got that same feeling here. There was a sense of urgency at points in the show, a feeling that you just couldn't stop watching because something big was about to happen.

Of course, I will say this--a lot of the huge, dramatic revelations I was hoping for didn't happen this week. Instead, we got a plot that began to set things in motion. It began to draw on the threads we've seen coming all year--the Black Rock, the hatch, the raft, how everyone got to the island and why. It started to connect the dots on the backstory, showing how everyone got here together on this island. And it also three out some pretty huge hints that there are some other castaways out there--I mean, I like seeing Michelle Rodriguez flirting with Jack in the flashback as much as the next guy, but could that have been a more obvious attempt at foreshadowing? "I'm in seat 42F! In the back of the plane!" She might as well have said--"You know, the part that gets ripped off and goes flying away in the first episode!"

Also, by having a big-name guest star like Michelle Rodriguez and only having her in one scene, it pretty much sets up that she will be back next week somehow, someway.

I will admit the flashback scenes had some naunces to them I liked. Shannon's turning in Sayid for leaving his bag at the gate under her care, Jin's understanding what the tourists were saying about she and Sun, finding out that Jack is no longer married, Saywer's run in with the law and finding out how Kate got the airplane (turns out it was a trap by the marshall to draw her in, but it maddenly enough doesn't give us any real explanation for why the toy plane is so damn important to her...maybe next week or most likely next year). And Sawyer even has a nice moment in which he tells Jack the story about seeing Jack's father in the bar and the comments made about Jack. I have to admit I liked that scene a lot though I did keep thinking how fortunate it was that Matthew Fox starred on Party of Five for five years and can cry on command. I knew those days as Charlie Salinger would come in handy eventually....

Meanwhile, things are happening on the island as well. Danielle shows up in the village warning the survivors that the "others" are coming. Turns out these others kidnap babies from women who are stranded on the island. Jack decides that a place of safety could be the hatch and whatever is beyond it. It gives them a place to hide from the others. In order to get the hatch open, a group of the survivors, including Artz, who is suddenly getting a lot of screen time, set out to find some dynamite that Danielle has hidden at the Black Rock.

I will give Lost a ton of credit here. I was in no way expecting the Black Rock to be a ship so much as I expected it to be--oh, a big black rock. So, was the Black Rock her ship and just how did it get so far in-land? Of course, having it be a ship does make a lot more sense and it works well. So, it's one of those revelations that actually works well for me. It came enough of left field to surprise me, but not so far out of left that I was going--seriously, come on, you must be joking.

And the raft is ready to hit open sea and look for help. Now, I hate to be picky here, but you have four guys setting out on a raft and they never tested it a bet to see if it was sea worthy. How embarrasing would it have been had they pushed it out to sea and then it sank like a rock?

In all of this, the monster resurfaces and Danielle reveals its some kind of security system for the island. But what is it protecting and why? And the real question I still have is--is Locke able to control it or does he somehow know the override code? Also of interest is that Danielle leads to part of the group to the set of trees that protected Walt and Michael earlier this year from polar bear attack. What is the significance of them? Or am I just reading too much into it as usual?

However, it all works out, I will be tuning in next week for the two-hour season finale. I have a feeling we will get one or two answers and about fifty more questions to ponder upon over the summer.

Just like The X-Files...

Alias: The Descent, Search and Rescue
Two times the Alias just mean two times the overall frustration with the show. In the first episode, we find out that Slaone has gone back to his old Rimbaldi obsession (did we ever think he'd given it up?). We see a year earlier he failed in his quest to become the ultimate Rimbaldi nerd. So, now that Elena Derevko has all the pieces and was really the one behind the Covenant and it was never dismantled really but kept on going with it super, top-secret ultra-cool agenda, she is going to use them to do--what exactly? I'm not quite too sure on what her super secret plan is, other than sending the world into panic and setting the final stages of the Rimbaldi prophecy in motion. And since we've had more end of the world prophecies out of Rimbaldi that Carter has pills, there is no telling which one will happen on screen or if it might not be some super-deluxe new prophecy we haven't heard about until now.

In the course of the two hours, we learn that Vaughn wants to ask Syd to marry him (and how deflating must it be for Vaughn when he ask Syd to marry him and she can't even say his first name?!?), that Irina Derevko is still alive and that Jack only killed a clone of her. Speaking of duplicating people, why didn't they make Slaone-clone to look like him and then download his memory into the clone. That would be a far more effective tool for world-domination don't you think since Sloane is so well known in evil circles far and wide.

Meanwhile, everyone races around the globe to stop the evil Derevko sisters and find Mom. Intersting that Slaone goes AWOL for the last hour of the show, making me wonder if his excuse will be--hey, I went deep under cover to stop this whole thing from getting too far out of hand. Yeah, I think it's a bit late for that, don't you, Slaone?

Also, Nadia show she is the densest agent at APO since it appears that everyone from the front-desk staff to the janitor knows that Jack killed Irina except her. To pull out the phrase used so often last year for Lauren, "Worst...spy....EVER!" You know, I really expected Nadia to be a lot more angry at Syd, Jack and everyone else for keeping this from her. But she just takes it in strid.e

And I was on the floor laughing when Syd tells Jack, "Oh I know you always have my best interests at heart." Oh really? Syd, have you been paying attention to this show since day one?!?

How quickly we forget the back-story of the show so we can have a touching moment and Jack can give Vaughn the thumbs up to ask Syd for her hand in marriage. (If I were Vaughn, I'd review that DVD of what happened to her last fiancee and think twice...or better yet, look at the example of Jack and Iriana. That didnt' work out so well).

So, Alias continues to just of limp along toward the end of the season. It felt like it was trying really, really hard to make things all come togther in an intersting, compelling way to end the season and not have all of season four be a colossal waste. But, unless the season finale just blows me away, I'm afraid there is little that can be done to rescue this season from the mediocrity in which it's been mired.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/19/2005 07:41:00 AM | |
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