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Thursday, June 30, 2005
Winnie Cooper--All Grown Up
Here's a little trip down memory lane for a lot of you guys who are my age.

Anyone remember Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years? I admit, I found Winnie attractive when the show aired--not just cause she was cute, but also because Winnie was intelligent as well.

After The Wonder Years ended, Danica McKellar, who played Winnie, kind of dropped off the radar. She did a movie of the week but I hadn't seen or thought much about her except when I'd catch a repeat of The Wonder Years on Nick-at-Nite.

Well, she's baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack.....and boy-howdy is she!


Remember her from The Wonder Years? Posted by Hello

That's just one of several photos of Ms. McKellar from this month's Stuff Magazine. You can see more of her here and here, if you're interested.

And to think, I surfed over to Stuff looking to find the pictures of Without a Trace's Poppy Montgomery....


Orignally what I was looking for...Posted by Hello


posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/30/2005 03:09:00 PM | |

Interesting DVD news
I don't think it's any great secret to say that I love box sets of television shows on DVD. I probably own more box sets of TV shows than any one person should. You also have to remember I got my DVD player initially so I could collect the single disc, two-episodes per release editions of original Star Trek. (I'd always wanted to have the original, uncut episodes in one complete set and now I've got it!)

DVD box sets can be interesting. For example, Paramount thinks a LOT of their Star Trek releases--$125.00 a season. A bit pricey and hence why I don't have the complete run of TNG and DS9 yet (I've got a couple of sets, but not all of them utnil the price comes down or I find them used for a reasonable amount). Then, there are other shows that seem to be more economically priced--such as season sets of 24, Buffy, Angel, etc. It's been interesting to watch the evolution of the TV show on DVD box set from the early days when Fox took a chance releasing the entire first season of The X-Files which included virutally no extras to now in the day where extras are expected as part of the deal.

There are a couple of TV on DVD sets that are the gold standard by which all others are judged. They are: Futurama, The Simpsons and Doctor Who. Doctor Who has been released so far as single stories and not as season box sets which means I will end up investing far too much money purchasing the same stories I've got commerically releases on VHS over again. But, they make it worth it--at least to me. Every story is remastered and restored with the audio cleaned up. There is always a commentary on each story and we get a couple of extras per disc. In short, even stories I don't care for and question--why are they releasing this when others are in the vault screaming to be released (like the upcoming 60s story "The Web Planet")--I still feel as though it's money well spent and that I will at least enjoy some part of the overall package.

That said, The Simpsons and Futurama are season box sets and are great. Every episode has commentary and there are things like animatics, extra scenes, featurettes and such on each set. Of course, the real gem is having the episodes unedited and commercial free, but the extras really do make the box set. I've got all five Simpsons releases and all four Futurama ones (basically the complete run of the show).

I say all this to show off the new packaging for the next box set of The Simpsons, due out in mid-August. I have to admit, I like it, though part of me is concerned about changing the packaging mid-stream like they are here. I wonder how it will all look on my shelf. Also, I have to ask myself--at what point do I stop collecting the season sets? Is there a season where it just starts to go downhill and it's not worth the investment? (Sort of like my thing on The X-Files--I've got seasons 1-7 and the movie, but am in no hurry to get seasons eight and nine. If they were cheap enough I'd get them just to be a completist...)


Season Six..coming soon! Posted by Hello

According to this news report, each set from now on will be based on a character's head. That could be intersting, esp. the one for Marge. How high will her hair go?

Also of interest--the new Battlestar Galactica first season hits DVD in late July, about two weeks after the season premiere. Can't wait for that one either!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/30/2005 11:58:00 AM | |

TV Round-Up
The 4400: Suffer the Children
This time, the "44oo of the week" is high school art's teacher Heather Tobey, who was returned with the ability to draw out the artistic strengths in people--from playing the violin to painting and a whole lot of other various artsy things in between. The drawback in her power is that she can only work with what's there and not just magically instill in you the ability to play the piano if you don't have it inside you already. Interesting power, though I'm not quite sure yet of what the ripple effect of it might be--beyond maybe getting some school districts to not keep cutting back on the art and music budget of schools, thus ensuring future generation's appreciate good art when they see it. On further thought, maybe this ability would sound the death knell of all the worst of the crop of the reality shows that are on the air these days and that might not be such a bad thing...

Anyway, back to this episode. Heather's ability to help some but not others causes tension and conflict and she's brought up on child abuse chargers. After she is exonerated, she returns to the classroom where one student in particular is unhappy that he has shown no special artistic abilty. He wants to escape his life and not be like his father, so he comes to school with a gun to force Heather to awaken the artist within. Luckily, Dad happens to be at the school at the time and hears what he's done to his son.

What I found most interesting here was how divided everyone was on the use of the power that Heather had. Those who benefited thought she was the best thing since sliced bread while those who couldn't be helped were less than enthused. Kind of mirrors the Jordan storyline of his warning Sean to only use his powers under certain circumtances and not to let the world know he has this healing ability. Kind of the--what have you done for me lately? mentality. Of course, Jordan's warnings come to fruition with Sean befriends a cute homeless girl and then has to use his power to save her boyfriend. (Showing the difference between Sean and Jordan in a lot of ways...I could see Jordan letting the boyfriend pass away so that he could move in on the girlfriend..because let's face it, Sean and the homeless girl had some chemistry.)

Meanwhile, the mythology of the show takes a baby-step forward as Jordan finally catches up to Lilly, Richard and Isabelle. He meets Isabelle and the world doesn't explode around him or he doesn't double over in pain. Jordan takes this as a sign and offers to use his pull with the NTSC to get Richard and Lilly off their David Banner-like run across the U.S. As we got to Jordan waiting to see Isabelle, I fully expected to see the words "To Be Continued" flash on screen and to have to wait two weeks to see what would happen. That said, I think this is only the calm before the storm with Jordan and Isabelle.

The Dead Zone: Double Vision
Episodes like this one are why I got hooked on The Dead Zone in the first place. The game of cat and mouse and visions within visions, all trumping each other as Johnny and Alex tried to meet was a nice touch for the story. And the plotline of the two working togther to find out whic vision was past, present or future and then how to make the changes needed to save the little boy's father from himself was nicely done. The Dead Zone treaded a dark path, but it did so with some lighter moments that helped it not seem as dour and depressing as the first two episodes of the year did.

Seeing Johnny actually get to have some fun and smile was a nice change of pace and I do hope we get to see Alex back again soon as I liked the give and take between the two of them. Plus having someone in there who can be a bit of a wild card to the show could make for some fun. And if we're not going to have Dana back....I guess Alex serve as good eye candy.

This hour just flew by and at the end, I was left thinking--man, no new Dead Zone next week. That stinks.

The Inside: Everything Nice
Over the years, it's been interesting to watch the development of Jane Espenson as a writer. She started out on Buffy and has written for all three Mutant Enemy shows. The thing about Esponson is when she's on top of her game, she's as good as anyone writing for television today.

"Everything Nice" was Esponson at the top of her game.

I want to say this was a nice hour of TV, but nothing about it was nice. It was chilling and disturbing on many levels, but yet was absoulutely rivetting. The scene in the treehouse as Rebecca confronts the alleged killer (who is a 10-year old girl) was just amazing. The look on the little girl's face as she jumped off the treehouse ladder and screamed that Rebecca had pushed her was chilingly effective. Also, the investigation that slowly reveals that this little girl is behind the killing of the boy in her neighborhood and that she stayed around to hear and see the mother find the body....wow, that's some dark, gruesome and disturbing terrirtory. And to see how she'd framed the innocent groundskeeper, not only costing him his job but maybe his reputation and sanity was a nice touch.

Intersting the way parent/child realtionships play out in this one. We have the victim and his mother, where the mother seems to know something is bothering her son, but she waits too long to find out what's going on and misses the opportunity to maybe save her child. Then we have Madison, the 10-year-old girl who kills the boy and her mother. As we see them interact on screen, her mother is always giving orders or making judging comments. Also, I felt as if Madison were more an accessory child to her parents than a child to raise, love and nurture. Rebecca implies as much about the expensive treehouse that Madison has...I guess it's out of sight, out of mind until you need the picture of the perfect family.

Then, we had Virgil. As the father-figure of the team, he allows the squabbling of his kids in order to solve the case. He pits the two theories as to who killed the boy against each other, even giving them a deadline to make their case to him. And it's interesting how these two diverging viewpoints eventually help each other assist the separate investigations.

I hate to admit it, but I really like this show. Which can only mean FOX will cancel it next week.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/30/2005 10:19:00 AM | |
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
War of the Worlds, Part Duex
I watched the SciFi special on the Mercury Theater's 1938 presentation of War of the Worlds last evening. The most interesting part was the recollections of some of those people who actually heard the broadcast when it initially aired and were part of the nationwide panic.

Listening to the snippets of the broadcast that were sprinkled through the episode, I was struck by just how good the story was and can see why it set off a national panic. Part of that is that radio is so much a theater of the mind, limited only in special effects by what our imagination can come up with. I'd argue that most old radio shows are, by far, scarier than most of the gruesome things that pass off as horror and suspense today. (Indeed, I think one of the things that made The X-Files so good was that it knew how to make judicious use of shadows).

I learned a few things I didn't previously know about the broadcast. One was that the writer who adapted Welles' story went on to write a little screenplay for a movie called Casablanca. Also, the music and sound effects were done by Bernard Hermann, who composed some of the great and memorable musical scores for Alfred Hitchcock--including Psycho.

All of this just made me yearn to hear the show again. And luckily, there's a web site out there that has it available for download (the copyrights on it ran out years ago, so no worries). I'm also intrigued to hear the Bergan and McCarthy show that ran opposite it as well. I am not sure if I've heard that or not.

If you've not ever heard the broadcast, I can't recommend it enough. And if you have heard it, it's worth hearing again as you get ready to go see the new version in theaters.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/29/2005 02:58:00 PM | |

Technology is so cool!
There are just some days when have to sit back and go--wow, ain't technology great.

CNN has a story about Katie Williams, a Welsh graduate student who has come up with an idea to help those of us who swim laps--a device that displays the number of laps completed and the time it took to swim them inside a pair of goggles.

As a lap swimmer, this idea is just really cool and I also admit I did a Homer Simpson "D'oh!" for not thinking of it first. And I definitely want to give these goggles a try, though knowing me, I would lose them so fast it wouldn't even be funny.


I really would like a pair of these googles. Posted by Hello


posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/29/2005 11:06:00 AM | |

My parents would be so...well, something.
I'm infamous yet again. I sent in a question to TV Guide's Michael Ausiello about the lack of the new Doctor Who on our American shores last week. And he actually posted it in today's Ask Ausiello column!

Check it out!

Question: Not to get bitter here, but you answered a question about Tru Calling every single week for months! And yet you won't help out the American Dr Who fans by using the power and influence of AA to let some network out there know that we demand this show start airing in the U.S. immediately! I have to admit I'm becoming a bit disillusioned here. — Michael

Ausiello: You owe me, Mike. Big-time.


posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/29/2005 10:09:00 AM | |

Would you like to take a survey?
I promise there will be nothing on this survey about beans, George Wendt or George Wendt eating beans....

Take the MIT Weblog Survey


posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/29/2005 09:14:00 AM | |
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
War of the Worlds
I have to admit, I'm pretty intrigued by the opening of the Spielberg/Cruise War of the Worlds tomorrow. I like how the previews (so far) have kept hidden what the alien machines and the aliens themselves look like. One thing I've come to dislike about trailers of late is their ability to give away some of the twists and turns of a film or to take away the spectacle and awe of seeing things for the first time on the big-screen.

Of course, I expect there to be some scary moments in the new film. But as I ponder the new movie, I wonder if any of the scares will equal those that freaked out all of America back in 1938 when Orson Welles aired his infamous radio version of The War of the Worlds.

I'm an old-radio buff, so I've heard the original broadcast of War of the Worlds. Many times, actually. It's always trotted out around Halloween for sale and will sometimes be rebroadcast. (In fact, they did an updated version a few years ago with actors from Star Trek, but it just wasn't as good IMHO). I am sure with the movie coming out, it will be available somewhere to listen to or download on-line. Even SciFi is getting into the swing of things tonight with a one-hour special that examines why this show scared America so much. (It airs at 10 p.m. EST).

So, what was it that made this show so darn scary? Cause if you hear it now, you might be like me and go--yeah, it's chilling but surely you'd know it wasn't real.

To understand why many panicked you have to understand something of when the show aired. Not just that it was 1938 and radio was in it hey-dey. You have to understand what aired opposite this show--namely the Edgar Bergan and Charlie McCarthy show. Bergan and McCarthy were the popular radio ventroloquist act (you never saw his lip moves, let me tell you!) of the time. It was a hit show, esp. during this time as McCarthy had a feud going on with W.C. Fields. The show would start out with an opening set of jokes and then go to a musical number--think of tuning in for the Letterman monologue as a modern equivalent.

So, Bergan and McCarthy did the opening routine and then went to a longish muscial number. And people being people channel surfed. Over to War of the Worlds. Which was presented like a news broadcast actually unfolding. Listen to it..it sounds real. The actors are all taking it seriously. It sounded real and it was done with such sincerity that people took it as real. Not having heard from the beginning that--oh, by the way, this is fiction, they panicked.

And one of the most famous incidents in radio history was born.

And as good as the shocks may be in this new movie, I doubt they will live up to that shock from almost 60 years ago.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/28/2005 03:15:00 PM | |

"Now I will kill you until you die from it!"
I was in Wal-Mart the other day, browsing the huge block of two for eleven dollar DVDs (I have to check it every time I go in on the off chance I see something I just can't live without), when I saw they had one of my favorite "so stupid it's funny" movies for sale--Hot Shots, Part Duex. (I defy you to watch this movie and not laugh out loud when Charlie Sheen shoots that chicken like an arrow..that, my friends is great comedy! If you can't laugh at that, you just have no sense of humor!) Since I'd picked up the original Hot Shots a few weeks ago at another Wal-Mart, I decided to complete the duology and purchase Part Duex as well.

As I picked it up, I saw a sticker on the outside of the box that gave me pause.

Most of you probably remember that the Hot Shots duology was made back in the early to mid 90's and one of the huge butts of the jokes was Sadaam Hussain. Of course, Sadaam was played by a stand-in in the movie, though the guy did look a lot like Sadaam Hussain.

What struck me on the outside of the Hot Shots, Part Deux packaging was there was a sticker that said, "Sadaam Hussain himself does not appear in this movie." As if anyone out there is thinking--wow, the real Sadaam took a few days off from brutalizing the people of Iraq so he could jaunt over to Hollywood and film a few scenes in which he's portrayed as an imbecile for a movie.

Seriously--if they had to go to the trouble of putting the sticker on the box, you know that means that someone out there watched this movie, saw Sadaam Hussain and thought, "Well, how'd the real Sadaam get in that movie?"

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/28/2005 12:52:00 PM | |
Monday, June 27, 2005
Beyond the 50 Book Challenge
Well, I've finished my 50 books for the 50 Book Challenge..but hey, that doesn't mean I've stopped reading. So, I will just keep a running total of what I've read and my thoughts on them. Be warned, I will try to be vague about SPOILERs but I may give away a few. And some of these rantings will be longer than others.

51. The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.
A couple of years ago, I joined a sci-fi book discussion group at a local Barnes and Nobel. My logic in doing this was that there was a lot of sci-fi out there and just about all of it claimed to be the greatest sci-fi novel ever written on the cover blurbs. I wanted to branch out and read some new (to me) sci-fi and I figured this would be a good way to do so and also to get recommendations from other fans who enjoyed the genre.

I joined during the summer those two competing asteroid movies came out and to tie into it, we read the novel Lucifer's Hammer by Niven and Pournelle. After reading this book (I forced myself to complete it...and let me just say the best character was the asteroid (yes, you do get a lot of pages from its point of view before it crashes into Earth and stuff starts blowing up real good!)), I was so burned out by the experience that I swore off reading anything by Niven and Pournelle as a writing team ever again.

That lasted about seven or so years, until I decided to participate in SF Signal's retro Hugo and Nebula award project. And wouldn't you know it? Niven and Pournelle were on there with their novel The Mote in God's Eye.

So, I did what I swore I'd never do--I bought a Niven and Pournelle novel and sat down to read it. I kept justifying it to myself, saying that this was supposedly their best book.

The Mote in God's Eye is the story of humanity's first contact with an alien race, called the Moties. And when the story actually deals with humanity encountering the Moties and their secret, it's actually quite good and compelling. As a culture, the Moties are interesting, compelling and alien. Give Niven and Pournelle credit--they do a good job creating the alien civilization.

Alas, it will take you about 200 pages to get to the alien civilization and another 50 or so before you start sensing that things aren't what they seem. And those 200 pages are filled with the exact faults that made Lucifer's Hammer so intolerable for me--shallow characters, pedestrian action sequences and a whole lot of scenes that read like "wow, look at us create a super cool universe for our characters to inhabit." I understand that backstory of where humanity is at the time of our first encounter is important, but does the plot have to grind to a halt so we can hear about where we are in the universe and how we got to there? By contrast, one of the other novels nominated for the Hugo and Nebula that year Flow My Tears Said the Policeman logs in at a short 200 pages but yet creates a richer, more compelling universe and view of the future simply by putting us in it and assuming that we, the reader, can figure out what's going on and how the universe works.

52. Articles of the Federation by Keith R.A. DeCandido.
I have to admit, going into this Star Trek novel, the central hook didn't really compel me--a cross of the Star Trek universe with the West Wing. Honestly, I've watched West Wing a few times and I just don't find it all that compelling, interesting or entertaining. Well written with some great dialogue, sure. But not enough to jump into my appointment TV viewing rotations. So, I have to admit that I wasn't as intrigued by this novel as I was by this year's earlier Titan book. I did pick it up because I've enjoyed the word of Keith R.A. DeCandido up to this point and see him as a rising star in the Trek fiction universe. (Some have compared him to the great Peter David).

Now let me warn you--if you're a Trek fiction fan and you haven't read the A Time to... miniseries and the first Titan novel, stay away from this one until you do. It takes place after both and follows-up on events in each of the series. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. It took some interesting risks--the concept of giving us an entire story about the first year of a Federation presidency and the political manueverings that go on could have fallen flat on its face or been (worse yet) dull. Instead, DeCandido gives us a good story with some compelling characters. I will admit I didn't love this one as much as many of the Trek reading community have (I swear they're picking out china patterns with the book as we speak), but it was a good story and well told. It was a nice change of pace in the Trek fiction and it's not a novel that I'd mind a sequel to, provided that DeCandido gets to write it and can find enough compelling material for another year (I think he can). Just like Peter David, DeCandido is finding segments of the Trek universe that we can't or don't see shown on the small screen and expanding on them in new, compelling ways. And for that alone, I will encourage him to keep writing these novels and keeping the bar high for all of Trek fiction.

53. Fantastic Four by Peter David
Back in the days before VHS and DVD, novelizations were intended to give fans at home a way to relive the movie over and over again. Over the years, there have been some great novelizations of films I've seen--ones that really expanded the film and the universe in interesting, meaningful ways. Such examples are the original Star Wars novelization and the Vonda McIntyre novelizations of Star Treks II-IV. But as VHS and DVD have become more prevelant, movie novelizations have become more bare bones--just a basic retelling of the story without much added.

Except when you put the name Peter David on it. David has novelized each of the big Marvel super hero films of the past few summer and done a great job with each. His Spider-Man novelizations were great, expanding what were already great films. Even his novelization of The Hulk worked well, but I think part of that was that David wrote for comic version of the Hulk for many years.

Now he turns his pen to the beliguered and much-debated Fantastic Four movie. I will admit I picked up this novel and read it simply because it had the words Peter David on the cover. And I have to admit I enjoyed it. Will it be a great film? Not sure yet. Honestly, it leans more toward the Hulk side of things than the Spider-Man side of things based on what I read here. But again, I think the movie has some potential and it could be a lot better than people are giving it credit for. I will give the book a lot of credit-it's very readable and it's full of David's storytelling style. For that reaosn alone I enjoyed it.

How will it translate to the big screen? Remains to be seen. But after reading it, I can see how it could go either way. The stroy is a good one as far as retelling of origins go and updating them. My biggest beef is that I don't find the Dr Doom plotline all that compelling and it seems as if they've watered down one of Marvel's better villains for this storyline. I also found myself wondering if this might not be a great set-up movie like X-Men was for the superior in every way X2. And then wondering if this movie will make enough at the box office to warrant the sequel that could do better justice to the premise.

54. Dead Folk's Blues by Steve Womack.
Steve Womack is a Nashville-based writer. This novel is the first in a series featuring reporter turned private-eye Harry Denton. Half of the fun of this novel for me was reading about familiar places around Nashville that I see or hear about daily. It's fun to sort of map out the routes or imagine the areas of town that Harry is exploring in uncovering the crime. But, this is a murder-mystery and it must also be judged on those merits. And I have to admit, I enjoyed it for that as well. I've been reading some of the novels in the Hard Case Crime series and I think this one would fit in well there--a hard-boiled detective, a femme fatale, all those elements are here. And the mystery itself hangs together well enough. It's certainly not as strong as one by Minette Walters or Elizabeth George (my gold standard for modern mystery writing), but it's one that keeps the pages turning and did have me guesssing to the end. The real draw is Denton, who tells the story from the first-person. Denton's voice is compelling, interesting and keeps the pages turning even as red herrings and blind aleys are explored.

55. Just One Look by Harlan Coben
Advertised as a thriller, this one is anything but. It starts out well--housewife Grace Lawsonl collects some photos from the local PhotoMat. Included is one that she didn't take that is years old of her husband and some strangers. He sees it and bolts, thus sending Grace into a panic and trying to figure out why he left and what has happened. Turns out, her hubby is harboring a secret from his past and, well, to tell much more would give it all away. Honestly, this one is not as compelling as it wants to be and it loses steam quickly once the husband drives off. The plot is extremely convoloted and it comes with one-wince inducing twist after another (all telegraphed well in advance and seemingly from the "So you want to write a suspense thriller" handbook). By the time we got the revelations of what was happening and why I was just in it to see how it call came out and not because I cared two figs for any of the characters' fates.

56. The Amber Room by Steve Berry
This one is billed being in the same vein as the DaVinici Code and I guess I can see that. It's a blend of history and action adventure and it is a page-turner. It's part legal thriller, part historical novel and part action adventure story. I'm not sure the overall blend of genres works that well and some of the characters are a bit one-dimensional, but it will keep you turning the pages. This is what I'd honestly classify as a smart beach or pool-side read.

57. By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie.
58. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
59. The Labors of Hercules by Agatha Christie.
I guess you could say I was in kind of an Agatha Christie mood since I read these three pretty much back-to-back-to-back (not that they took that long mind you). Of the three, I found By the Pricking and And Then There Were None the most interesting. And Then There Were None is considered a classic of the mystery-genre and its certainly a formula that has been well-copied since in books, movies and television. I had to set aside my familiarity with the concept in order to enjoy it and I did find myself enjoying it. I was unaware of the resolution of the mystery going in and thankfully no one had ruined it for me (as happened with the Murder of Roger Ackryoid). By the Pricking of My Thumbs is the last novel to feature Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, who were in two other novels. I have to admit this one is a bit different than most Christie novels and I enjoyed it for that reason alone. Also, the central mystery is one that works well and hangs together well. As for Labors, I found myself wishing I was enjoying it more. The hook at Hercule Poiroit wants to be like his name-sake Hercules and takes on cases that only bear a resemblance to the 12 Labors of Hercules was interesting. But the mysteries themselves are short stories and some didn't quite have the narrative hook or umph I was expecting. Christie can do well with short stories, but these stories don't show off her skills as much as others.

60. Flow My Tears, Said the Policeman by Phillip K. Dick
All the classic Philip K. Dick elements are here--paranoia, questions about what is real and what is the nature of identity, etc. And yet, this novel never felt dull, tedious or formulamic. If anything, it felt fresh and contemporary, even if some of the references to future technology do date the novel.

In the span of a day, Jason Tavener goes from being the kind of the media world to being a virtual nobody. The story unfolds as Tavener tries to piece back together what happened to his life and identity. He goes from being the most recognized man in the world to nobody in the span of a few hours and he must figure out just who and what he is and what has happened. There's a sense of paranoia and panic that is palatable as the story unfolds. Tavener slowly tries to reconnect with his old life and finds that no one remembers him.

As the story unfolds, Tavener's universe slowly returns to what it was--where he is a household name. Watching as Dick slowly puts these elements back into play is interesting and keeps the pages turning. And seeing how Tavener uses his ability (he is a six, a person created with exceptional personal magnetism and charm) to win friends and influence people is great.

But while Tavener is the focus of much of the story, Dick makes an interesting choice of not making him the central protagonist of this story. That goes to Felix Bruckman, the titular policeman character. Bruckman has a sister, Alys, with whom he has a less than above the board relationship (re: incestous..they have a child together). Alys is a drug-addict who pushes the latest and greatest drugs in her attempts to escape reality. The stories of these characters all cross and spin-off from there.

Weighing it at just over 200 pages, this novel feels richer and more complex than the lenght would suggest. Dick creates a dystopian future that feels authentic and real. He puts characters in it that are products of the universe. He introduces concepts and hooks that could be entire novels in the hands of other storytellers but are just presented as asides here (this society's solution to race relations is chilling). By doing all of this, Dick creates a universe that feels absolutely complete and real and one in which its easy to become immersed. The pages of this story turn quickly and I came away feeling as if the story had ended too soon. Not because the novels climax was rushed but because I was enjoying the universe so much that it seemed a shame that it had to close so quickly.

Make no mistake though--this is very adult sci-fi. There is an incestious relationship at the center of the dilemma that may make some pause. And I will say this--not all the woman come off that well in this novel. Many of them are just there to fulfill men's desires in a physical way and not much beyond that. That said, the sense of paranoia and the questions of what makes reality real are so strong and compelling that you'll find yourself sucked in and turning the pages quickly. Outside of the classic Man in the High Castle, this is Dick's best book.

61. The Skull Beneath the Skin by P.D. James
The second novel featuring James' Cordelia Gray. It's a decent enough mystery though I have to admit I found it shame that we couldn't get more novels with Cordelia in them. Apparently James sold the rights to the character to television and is unhappy with her development there and for some reason refuses to write more. It was intersting to read this and And Then There Were None so close together as they both have simliar elements to them.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/27/2005 08:47:00 AM | |
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Motor boat, motor boat...
Last night, we had a family pool party at church. My sister was down with the latest creeping crud (it is not fun and I pray that I do NOT get it) and so I agreed to be there to help my brother-in-law keep an eye on my niece and nephew while in the pool. (It's difficult enough for a person to keep up with both of them on dry land).

Davis did some splashing out in the pool last year at our family reunion and he seemed to like it well enough. But last night, he took to the kiddie pool like a duck to water (he got a bit disconcerted when he fell a few times and got his head under for a second, but otherwise he loved it). He stomped about and splashed and had a good time. And Uncle Michael showed him the fun of dragging him through the pool in circles and making motor boat sounds. Needless to say, this is Davis' new favorite game.

Of course, other small children saw me doing this and so I got to be the motor boat for many of the small ones.

Now, the pool we had the party at had a diving board. I used to be a pretty good diver back in the day, but it'd been years since I'd gone off the board . So, after an hour or so of being motor boat, I figured I'd do a couple of dives, maybe a cannonball or two. I was, however, not flipping as I was traumatized as a teenager when I got three-quarters through one and flattened out doing a back-flop. Yes, I can still feel the stinging to this day.

Anyway, where was I?

So, after ensuring that Brian had enough help watching the kids (there were a bunch of parents nearby watching kids swim), I headed for the diving board. On the way, one of the youth said, "Are you here to join the game of sharks and minnows?" Now, it's been years since I played, but I figured why not. Many trips across the pool and back later and a game or two of water polo later, it was time to go...home and pass out from exhastion.

Did I forget the part where I'd worked out and swum laps earlier in the day?

Yeah, so I was a bit tired...but hey, it did justify that trip to Sonic for one of those new cookie dough blast treats...so hey, it's win-win!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/26/2005 07:07:00 PM | |
Saturday, June 25, 2005
"Okay. Here's something you may not know... shooting out the tires of a runaway RV is a lot harder than it looks..."
Earlier this week, Becky wrote a post about the movie He Said, She Said, starring the most-working man in Hollywood, Kevin Bacon.

Before she posted about the film, I'd not seen it, though I was aware of the hook of the film--the story of a relationship as told through the perspective of both parties involved. (I watched it last night out for the first time and have to admit I enjoyed it) Of course, we're supposed to find some humor in the wildly different ways in which certain events unfold on screen through the different perspectives of the man and the woman in the relationship. One of the most interesting things is how both parties perceive who made the first move--in his version of events, he asked her out while in her version of events, she asked him out.

Of course, in both cases, the stories do diverge a bit, even in relating the same series of events. Which brings up the question--just where does the truth of the matter reside?

Thinking about this question brought to mind one of my favorite quotes from Babylon Five.

"A Vorlon said 'Understanding is a three edged sword.' Your side, their side and the truth"

This quote has rattled around in my brain the past couple of days for a variety of reasons. As has the premise of He Said, She Said and one of my all time favorite episode of The X-Files, "Bad Blood" (that's where the quote comes from that serves as the title for this post). For those of you who may not have seen "Bad Blood" or don't know every episode of The X-Files by name, "Bad Blood" is one of the "humorous" episodes. Mulder and Scully head down to a small town in Texas to investigate what appear to be a cult of people who think they're vampires who are attacking cattle and now tourists.

The story starts with Mulder pursing someone who is, apparently a vampire. He catches up to the kid, stakes him and then finds out that the vampire teeth are fakes. We then go to D.C. a day later and hear Mulder and Scully sharing their versions of the events as they get ready to meet with Assistant Director Skinner to explain their actions.

The humor comes from how each person perceives themselves and the events. In Scully's version of the story, she is the long-suffering one doing all the behind the scenes work while Mulder spouts of partial theories out of thin air, causing eye-rolling by all he encounters. Also in her version, the sheriff (played by Luke Wilson) is an attractive man who flirts with her. In Mulder's version, he sees Scully as moody and combatitive--challenging his every theory and acting bored while he pontificates on the origin and nature of vampires to the sheriff and others, all who appear interested in what he has to say (except Scully, of course). Also, in his version, the sheriff is buck-toothed and has a Texas drawl and Scully is throwing herself at him.

One other interesting note--as Mulder is attacked by the vampire, Scully comes back in. She shoots and from her point of view, misses three or four times. From Mulder's point of view (he's drugged by the pizza), he sees the bullets hit the vampire in question (turns out the whole town is vampires) and he leaps through the air to get Scully and escape.

Now, the concept of having a story told from multiple perspectives is nothing new. It's was done way back in Roshomon and it's a concept that certainly doesn't grow old, if done right. (I do remember seeing an episode of Momma's Family with the same, central premise as it were...only hilarity did not ensue).

What interests me about it is a couple of things. The first is, the perception of ourselves. In each of the stories, it's not so much what happens as how we filter the events through our own perceptions and biases. That is something that I've had to think about when it comes to disagreeing with people--it's not they are necessarily wrong, it's that they don't have the world-view that I do. They don't have the same expereinces I do and so they are going to come at things from a different perspective. Again, it doesn't make it wrong or right--it just makes it how they see things.

I think where the important issue comes to bear is how do these two world views come together. Indeed, I am not a person who seeks out people who radically disagree with what I think or feel. In a relationship, as we see with He Said, She Said, each side has different views, but fundamentally, they agree on the important things and can, thus, have a deeper romantic relationship. Indeed, early on we see that Kevin Bacon's character only wants the physical side and could care less about connecting with someone until he connects with Elizabeth Perkin's character. Even after they've had a major melt-down fight and he could go back to his old ways by having a meaningless tryst with an old girlfreind, he chooses not to because he realizes that he wants more than just a one-night thing.

Also of interest is that in a couple of key scenes, the two see things virtually the same way. There is one defining moment in the relationship and movie and it's presented from both sides and is, virtually identical. Early on, it's established that Kevin Bacon's character wakes up on occasion at 4:15 a.m. with night terrors. We also find out that Elizabeth Perkin's character sleep walks and does wacky stuff that she won't remember later. At a key point, Bacon wakes up with night terrors. Perkins asks what is wrong and he says it's nothing. She then babbles on about cheesecake and he agrees. She lays back down and he realizes she won't remember this later so he allows himself to be vulnerable to her emotionally. She then gets up to get the cheesecake and we later find out that she was actually awake for this, but was faking her insanity to keep him at ease. (Yes, I've just ruined some of the film for you, but since my copy had a preview for Star Trek VI that came out in 1991 on it, I'm not too worried about it).

I found it interesting that as wildy different as these two saw other things, that this one important thing plays out the same in both versions--bascially, Bacon's profession of love is word for word the same in both versions and it's played the same.

Looking at it, we see that fundamentally, this is what makes these two work. Because they see eye to eye on the fundmanentals...it's just that both have a different thought process on figuring out what is important to both of them and different ways of relating it.

We also see that in The X-Files episode. Both Mulder and Scully are right about what happened.

In the end, in any relationship, the truth lies in the middle. It's something I have to remember in my daily interaction with family, friends and others. Just because I fundamentally think its the truth, doesn't mean its necessarily the truth to you. This perspective has certainly helped me at times and the times I've not kept in mind, it's not led to good results.

As The X-Files says, "The Truth Is Out There..."

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/25/2005 11:55:00 AM | |
Friday, June 24, 2005
Further proof that Tom Cruise is going insane...
Apparently he got into it with Matt Lauer on the Today Show this morning. First Oprah, now this....make you kind of wonder when he's just gonna snap...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/24/2005 03:38:00 PM | |

My Geek Percentage
I am 55% geeky according to this test. And there weren't even any extra credit questions on Doctor Who....

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/24/2005 03:32:00 PM | |

Friday Memes
Friday's Feast
Appetizer
What time do you usually wake up each day? If you could choose your wake-up time, when would it be?
I usually get up at 6 a.m. daily, though of late for some reason I keep waking up without the alarm at 5:45 a.m. If I could choose a time to wake-up, it'd be 7 or 7:30 a.m.

Soup
When was the last time you bought groceries? What store did you go to? Name 3 things you purchased.
Last Saturday. I went to Super Wal-Mart. I got bread, bananas and apples.

Salad
How many books have you read so far this year? Which was your favorite and why?
I'm a voracious reader. This year I've read 57 or 58 books, so for. My favorite--wow, that's a good question. The books I've enjoyed the most so far this year are Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas and With No One as Witness by Elizabeth George. With No One as Witness was great because I love the Lynley and Havers series and it was a return to greatness of the early books. It was also one that I could get lost in for hours at a time. Rats Saw God is by Rob Thomas, the creator of Veronica Mars and the protagonist who tells us the story just really resonanted with me.

Main Course
What is something you consider to be very elegant? In particular, what about that item/place/person conjures up the feeling of elegance?
For my grandparent's 50th anniversary, the family went out to this extremely fancy inn in the Tidewater area of Virginia (which I could recall the name now..it will come to me later!) We were served courses and between each course, the waiters would come and sweep the crumbs off the table for you. I had venison for my meal and it was incredible. The whole experience was elegant because we all got dressed up, went to a fancy place with waiters who hovered in the background but were never conspicious and because we were celebrating my grandparent's anniversary. A great family memory.

Dessert
Who taught you how to drive?
My dad.

Aloha Friday
Where’s the furthest place away you’ve traveled?
Lived in Hawaii for four years growing up--preschool to 2nd grade. Went back to visit several times when my parents were stationed there again in the mid 90's.

What was your best subject in high school? Worst?
Best--English or my journalism class. Worst--Biology.

Spread the spirit of aloha…whom should we visit this week?
Visit Samantha Tippy, blogger and fellow Doctor Who fans (one of the approximately 40 female Dr Who fans in the world...LOL)

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/24/2005 08:33:00 AM | |
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Doctor Who: The Parting of the Ways

The Doctor regenerates

"You know what they call me in the ancient legends of the Dalek homeworld? The on-coming storm..."
--The Doctor

It's interesting that in 40 plus years of Doctor Who, before "The Parting of the Ways" the Doctor's greatest enemies had yet to feature in a final story of a Doctor's era. Yes, they've cropped up to kick-off an era ("Power of the Daleks" but it took until the series' 27th season before they could usher out an era for the good Doctor.

And just as quickly as it began, the Eccleston era of Doctor Who is over.

And while "The Parting of the Ways" is certainly not up there with "The Caves of Androzani" as perfect stories to end an era on, it's no where nearly as abysmal at "Planet of the Spiders." For the end of an era and a season, it did pretty much all it needed to do. Certainly, I went into "The Parting of the Ways" hoping for another out and out instant classic like we got with "Dalek" but we didn't get it.

Instead, what we got was a story that while it competently wrapped up all the season's on-going storylines, delivered on the promise of "Bad Wolf" and generated some excitement for the next season, still suffered from the same thing that every Russell K. Davies story has suffered from this year--an overall lack of pacing. As much as I understand why we had scenes with Jackie and Mickey, it felt like there was too much built around the trio of Jackie, Rose and Mickey trying to pry open the heart of the TARDIS so Rose could go back and save the Doctor and the world. One scene of this might have been good, but the constant cutting back to it while the Daleks were invading the station and Earth and the Doctor worked on his final solution to stop them got a bit old quickly. I was far more compelled by the discussion of the Daleks levelling Australia than I was in seeing Mickey drive a tow truck and tear up his car.

That said, I did like most of the rest of what we got here. I think the previews sold this episode as being something different that it turned out to be. I expected more of a raging battle with the Daleks--a drawn out battle along the lines of what we saw in "Revelation of the Daleks." Instead, Russell Davies pulled a fast one on us--giving us a glimpse of the battle scenes in the preview while masking the fact that the end of the Eccelston era would be one in the mold of the traditional Doctor Who stories of yesteryear. Instead of blowing the budget on huge battle sequences, we got a story that examined fundamentallly who the Doctor is and what he stands for. The Doctor's building of an ultimate weapon that will wipe out the Dalek fleet and as a side effect take out most of humanity as well as nicely done. And for a long while, I fully thought the Doctor would use it--his justification that humanity had colonies in the solar system and would survive was a nice twist. And based on what we've seen of the 9th Doctor this year as a character ruled by his passions at times--the death of Cassandra being one and his outrage that Rose was killed last week being another--I felt for a long time like he would use the weapon.

But in the end, the Doctor hopes there must be a better way rather than sacrificing himself and the innocents on Earth to defeat the evil. Indeed, I wonder if the Dalek's admonition from "Dalek" crossed his mind as he considered enabling the weapon..."You would make an excellent Dalek, Doctor." It ranks right up there with the classic, "Do I have the right?" scene from "Genesis of the Daleks" as a defining moment in Doctor Who.

Interesting that a defining moment of a Doctor would come in his final few minutes on screen.

Thankfully, the series had a third option--one that we hadn't considered. And that was that Bad Wolf wasn't an evil thing, but was instead a warning. We find out the identity of Bad Wolf in the story. Turns out it's Rose, who absorbs the energy from the heart of the TARDIS, returns to save the Doctor (after he sends her away to save her life) and wipes out the Dalek fleet. Having seen the revelation of who Bad Wolf is, I now want to go back and examine if the series sets this revelation up well enough over the course of the 13 episodes this year. Right now, I feel like it did, but it could fall apart under closer scrutiny. Also, I have to admit, I found the glowing Rose full of power a bit derivative of Buffy's season six Dark Willow (which was derivative of the X-Men Dark Phoenix plotline). But that's probably my bias as a Buffy fan clouding things there.

I do admit I found the Bill and Ted nature of Rose creating herself as Bad Wolf by sending messages to herself back in time a bit much.

Ironically enough, I didn't mind as much the get out of death free card that she played for Captain Jack. Of course, that is because it sets up his return next year and he's gonna be pretty upset at being left behind I imagine.

Also, I have to say that we'd better get some consequences to what Rose did next year. In the course of the story, the Doctor sends her out of harm's way and she ignores him. Also, she pretty much throws in Mickey and her mother's faces that her life on Earth is empty and meaningless. It does set up that she can't just go back to her normal life at the end of her time in the TARDIS since she has burned so many bridges. Finally, even though right away she can't remember what she did as Bad Wolf, she should at some point. Or have someone else remind her of what she's done...and see how that affects her.

But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. But it's a good feeling--knowing we have at least two more years of new Doctor Who to look forward to. A new Doctor is installed and we've got the excitement of seeing where David Tennant will take this role. Eccleston has revived it and now Tennant has to run with it. I know I'm along for the ride.

I enjoyed this season and I can't wait for more new Doctor Who next year. It's going to be a long wait for the Christmas special.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/23/2005 10:35:00 AM | |

I was framed!
Last night, we had family over to chow down on some Mrs. Winner's fried chicken. My dad's birthday is today, so we got his cake early and were all sitting around enjoying the sugary goodness that is chocolate cake with whipped butter cream icing.

Before the cake was cut, I'd threatened to give Davis a bit or two of cake and icing to which his mother said absolutely not. (She never lets him have any fun!) So, being a good uncle, I was determined to wait until she was looking the other direction and give him some cake I decided to not give him any.

Now, Davis was running about and mobile because he likes to sit still in is high chair all of 15 seconds after he's done eating. So, I looked over to see Gracelyn happily feeding her younger brother cake and icing. Both of them were giggling like fools, having a good time.

Until Mommy noticed. And then assumes that Uncle Michael was somehow behind all of this. Which I never specifically told Gracelyn to give Davis cake. I can't help it if she's a loving, big-sister who wants to share with her younger brother.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/23/2005 07:15:00 AM | |
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Too good?!?
While surfing the radio dial the other morning, I heard Steve Gill talking about a little league team in Columbus, Ohio that was kicked out of a rec league for being "too good."

"After hearing and seeing the scores from that group, I called up the
league office and said, ‘No way are we going to play them,’ " said Terry Morris,
who coaches one of three teams from Bloom-Carroll schools in Fairfield County.
"I wasn’t going to subject my players to that."

Other teams started complaining. And canceling. The Stars were pulled
from the league schedule. The team appealed to the league’s commissioner, Joe
Bernowski, to no avail.

So, are we punishing a team for being too good, for being too commited to wanting to play well and practicing hard? The article does go on to say the Stars practice 2 and 1/2 hours a day, four days a week and many of the players have been together for several seasons.

I guess following the same logic, we shouldn't allow the New England Patriots to be in contention to defend their championship next year since they've won three of the last four Super Bowls....

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/22/2005 11:52:00 AM | |

Top Movie Quotes
The AFI revealed their top 100 movie quotes of all-time last night (pared down from a list of over 400 potential top quotes) Number one on the list was the final line from Gone With the Wind (not a huge shock there).

Looking at the list of the top 100 that made the final cut, I have to wonder about some things.

Such as how did "Luke, I am your father..." not make the top 100?!? Sort of one of those pivotal moments in all of movie history, don't you think?!?

Also, looking at the original list, I was interested in what movies had a large representation on the list. (Casablanca having so many wasn't a huge shock). I was a bit stunned that Ace Ventura had not one but TWO potential quotes that made the list. I mean, I like the Ace Ventura movies as much as the next person, but there were a lot of other movies that were more quotable in my mind.

Looking at both lists, I find there are some quotes from movies that I like that just didn't make the grade.

Such as:

"Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!"

"I have been and always shall be your friend."

Both of these are from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

"You killed the invisible swordsman!"
This one is from The Three Amigos

"I suppose you could say that everyone has an El Guapo. For some, shyness may be an El Guapo. For others, lack of education may be an El Guapo. But for us, El Guapo is a large ugly man who wants to kill us!"
From The Three Amigos

"What do you want me to do, dress in drag and do the hula?"
From The Lion King

"1.21 jiggawatts?!?"

"Last night, Darth Vader came down from planet Vulcan and told me that if I didn't take Lorraine out that he'd melt my brain."

"If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits eighty-eight miles per hour... you're gonna see some serious sh*t."
All three from Back to the Future

"I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries."

"It's just a flesh wound."


"One day, lad, all this will be yours."
--"What, the curtains?"

All three of the above are from Monty Python and the Holy Grail

"That'll be the day..."
From The Searchers

"I know I'm gonna use good judgement. I haven't lost my temper in 40 years, but pilgrim you caused a lot of trouble this monring, might have got somebody killed... and somebody oughta belt you in the mouth. But I won't, I won't. The hell I won't..."
From McLintock!

So, what are your quotes that missed the list?

Also, extra credit for those of you who can tell me what movies my quotes are from.

UPDATE: Several commentors have figured out where the movie quotes come from, so I've identified those by bold-facing the font and the color change. Also, I've identified the movie they're from as well.

And I can't believe I didn't point out the line that several commentors brought up from The Princess Bride, "My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die."

FURTHER UPDATE: Well, two of the quotes stumped people. So, I've indentified the movies they're from.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/22/2005 09:53:00 AM | |

TV Round-Up
The 4400: Weight of the World
Alright, so who didn't see the twist of Trent Applebaum's miracle saliva having unexpected consequences coming? I figured as soon as the mobster showed back up, having lost 75 pounds in two days that there would be some Twilight Zone like twist to the storyline. And we certainly got it--turns out once the reduction starts working, it's difficult to stop. And then Trent loses his ability in order to save his daughter and everyone else. But not before he's left behind samples of his saliva so that it can be studied and other uses besides rapid weight loss can be discovered.

I enjoyed seeing Robert Picardo in a good post-Voyager role. As salesman Trent Applebaum, he did a nice job and I liked that his overriding concern wasn't just the money but creating a better life for his daughter after all she had to sacrifice for him while he was gone.

Meanwhile, the other plot threads are slowly starting to boil. We find out that Jordan is a user--using those around him and then tossing them aside when they are no longer necessary to his overall goals. The more we discvoer about Jordan, the more I wonder--how long will it be until Sean is more a liability than an asset? (I mean, this is the man who jumps into bed with the singer and causes Devon to attempt suicide because she can't stand the thought of being used and tossed aside) And why is he making claims of grooming Sean as a successor to take over the institute at some point in the future? And is Jordan's agenda actually one that is benefitting the overall plan of the future humans who took the 4400 and then sent them back? And how much does Jordan know that he's not telling us? It seems as if the 4400 were given their gifts and sent back, but I have to wonder just what was Jordan's gift. Was he brought in on the plan somehow? Does he know more than he's telling?

Meanwhile, Kyle is having blackouts and apparently attempting to date his literature professor (which for some reason, she seems way too convient a character to be introduced at this point for her not to have some other type of agenda). And the Richard and Lilly storyline pushes forward. Honestly, of all the plotlines, this one seems the most rushed week in and week out. They've become the David Banners of this show. I found myself sort of wishing we'd seen them settle down for a few episodes before being forced to leave. I'd feel a bit more sympathy for their plight if we'd had time to see them settle down and begin to enjoy their current residence rather than just jamming in the coming into a new place, wanting to settle down, getting exposed and then going on the lam again. All this within the context of one-hour of screen time. There are a lot of other plots going on and I find myself wishing that The 4400 would give into the tempation to have some of the plot threads unfold over more than just one episode. As it is, the series isn't exactly self-contained episode-wise, so why not allow some things to unfold over the course of an episode or two rather than having to wrap up the central conflict in one installment?

The Dead Zone: The Collector
"The Collector" is the first episode produced for The Dead Zone's fourth season and, quite frankly, it was kind of disappointing. Character-wise I enjoyed what was going on, but the main plotline just didn't ever really grab my attention. I guess part of my bias here is that in season two of Buffy we had the brilliantly underrated "Ted" with John Ritter as a robotic monster who was trying to transform the women he dated into his image of the perfect woman/wife. Here we get something similiar but, honestly, I have to say that Buffy did it better. (I can see Barry even now rushing to hit click the comment bar and question my insane, obsessive love of all things Buffy). There was a sense of tension to the storyline but it came in spurts and was never sustained enough. Also, I guessed early on in the story why our pyscho of the week was collecting the women and so that sort of took out the suspense of the central mystery for me.

But while the main mystery of the week plotline left me a bit chilly, I did warm up to what we were doing character wise. One thing I will give The Dead Zone credit for is that these characters never stay static. Last year, we had a resolution of sorts of the Johnny/Sarah/Walt triangle and now we see the producers pushing forward and continuing the growth of the characters. Sarah's sense of isolation with Walt having to work long hours and J.J.'s growing up was nicely done. I also felt like this wasn't something that came out of left field because we've seen Sarah take part in efforts she believes in in the past--such as Stillson's campaign. And the scene in the car as Walt vents his frustration to Johnny was nicely done as well.

But a couple of isolated scenes don't make up for the fact that the central mystery wasn't much to write home about. But then again, every show can have an off episode every once in a while. If there's one thing I've found with Michael Piller involved--there generally isn't going to be a long string of misfires. And even if there are some that just aren't up to the usual standard, I can always find at least one nugget of something to enjoy--as I did here.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/22/2005 07:49:00 AM | |
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Sibling rivallry
I helped my cousin Rebecca move Sunday afternoon from her apartment to her brand-new (to her) house. After we'd moved all the furniture and boxes inside her new home, Susan came over with Gracelyn and Davis to see the new house.

Gracelyn was interested in Rebecca's cat Aeryl who was skulking in her litter box, having been traumatized by the move.

"Would you like to go and see the cat?" I asked her.

Gracelyn nodded.

"Would you like me to go with you and hold your hand?" I asked her.

She held our her hand. We started walking through the kitchen to where the cat was hiding out.

I'd gone two steps when I heard the approach of a small person behind me and felt my other hand grabbed. I looked down to see Davis, looking at me as if to say, "Yeah, I'm going too, buddy!"

So, one child on each hand, we went down to see the cat. Gracelyn was a bit tentative at first, but Davis was right in there petting the cat. In fact, he was pretty mad at Uncle Michael for making him leave the poor kitty alone so she could get used to her new home in peace after a few minutes of patient attention by a three-year-old and a one-year-old.

But it's good to know that the sibling rivalrry is alive and well.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/21/2005 03:50:00 PM | |

Looking for a good opening line?
Apparently, if you want to pick me up, a possible opening lines is....

To pick up Big Orange Michael: I'm good at math: U + I = 69



or you could go with this one..."Hi will you help me find my lost puppy? I think he went into this cheap hotel room across the street."

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/21/2005 09:14:00 AM | |

Maturity is overrated anyway, Part Deux
Sometimes it takes a crisis in your life to remind you of just who your friends really are. This happened to me last year when I was going through a bleak situation. For some reason, I got the idea in my head that I was all alone in the events and that my close friends and family might not understand or accept me for what I was going through. I couldn't have been proved more wrong and I found out when the chips were down, I had more support than I could ever know what to do with. Instead of judging glances and harsh words, I was met with hugs of support, words of wisdom, offers of help and, most importantly, ears that listened without judging and never said, "Yes, but we've heard this part approximately 17,000 times today."

Now, I wouldn't compare that situation I'm going through right now to what I went through last year, but I am being reminded of the same lesson again--that I do have an amazing group of friend and family members who will rally around me when I need them.

To say it's been an interesting 24 hours is an understatement. I've got several e-mails from parents of the youth in my class saying that they support me and that their teenagers liked the class. Also, they talked to their kids and found out that we actually did open up the Bible and talk about it during the infamous incident on Sunday. Mary Anne's blatant attempt to ambush everyone at the meeting has drawn attention to her pattern of not having a kind word to say about anyone or anything. One of the nicest guys I know, who could find something good to say about Hitler, mind you, has come out and said he think she is just a mean lady and he she never has a kind word for anyone.

I talked to my dad and told him that I'd sent home a note, which I've provided him with a copy of. He said he intends to go to the next SPR meeting and calmly tell Mary Anne that her criticisms weren't accurate and that she didn't have all the details. He intends to present notes of support from the youth and parents and ask Mary Anne to apologize to the Sunday School teacher publically for these unfounded accustations. I took it one step farther and said that he could tell her that my Sunday School door is always open and that I understand her concerns and if she'd like to visit the class and see what is going on, she is welcome to do so.

I don't expect her to take me up on it, but part of me hopes she does. I want her to see what I see in these young adults as people.

I've given it a lot of thought in the couple of days and I've decided a couple of things. One is that I am not going to step down as Sunday School teacher. The second is, I am going to keep going with the study in question. As many negative comments as it's raised, it raised a lot more positive ones. And I had young people who enjoyed it. Now, I am not niave enough to think that next week they could be bored by it, but for now, I am going to go with what is working and getting some good response. The third is that I am going to talk to the education committee about getting some help for me in teaching the class. It's not that I don't love it, but I think having another adult, maybe a female, might help. I can relate well to the teenage guys, but I think the teenage girls might feel more comfortable having a female as a leader that they can relate to. Plus, it will be helpful should either of us have commitments and want or need to go out of town on a Sunday--as I will have to do a couple of times this summer for weddings, family reunions and the corporate day out at the zoo. A lot of the the youth I have in my class are kind of in and out, due to divorce and visitation, travelling in the summer, etc., so I think it'd be good for them to at least know who will be teaching Sunday School week to week.

And make no mistake here--when I talk about those who rally around you, I am not just talking about people I know in the "real" world. I am talking also about all of my blog-friends who took the time to thoughfully comment on what I had to say here. I can't thank you enough for the words of wisdom and support yesterday as it meant a lot to me.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/21/2005 07:59:00 AM | |
Monday, June 20, 2005
24: The Movie?!?
I love 24, but the idea of making a big-screen version of it just doesn't seem like it will be all that successful. Or that it wouldn't somehow go against the basic conceit of the show of having each hour of the show unfold in "real time" (though I think many of us will agree that the reality of the real time concept flew out the window early in season two).

Also, the show needs to learn from the example of The X-Files. Season five of the show set up the movie and it did it fairly well, but there was no huge payoff at season's end. And the movie had to tread a fine line of not being so convoluted that long-time fans didn't feel like it was watered down too much and new fans would understand just what in the name of heaven was unfolding on screen.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/20/2005 02:39:00 PM | |

Maturity is overrated anyway.
I helped a cousin move from her apartment to her new house yesterday and despite the fact that I feel like I'm in pretty good shape for a 32-year-old guy, I can still feel some muscles that aren't always used in my usual regiment of excericse bike, cross-training and swimming laps this morning. It just means one thing--I am looking forward to getting to the pool this afternoon to work out the aches and pains in my muscles.

I'm also looking forward to it so I can work out some frustration I'm having. Some of you may remember that I posted last September about a woman at church who I locked horns with over the youth being in the sanctuary unattended. Well, needless to say, we've crossed paths again.

In the past couple of months, I've taken over teaching the senior high Sunday School class. The first couple of months, we've done a series of lessons reviewing some of the basic Bible stories, which went over OK at first, but the teens started to lose enthusiasm for it after the first month and a half or so. So, for the summer, I decided to go in a new direction. While browsing at the bookstore, I found a book called The Gospel According to The Simpsons. I picked it up and the companion study book, took them home and thought that this might be a good, interesting way to look at Scripture in a new way that the youth might find interesting, fun and relevant.

Let me also say this--I read and studied the book before I brought it our youth director as an idea for Sunday School. So, it's not like I just thought--cool title and went with it. I did my homework.

And you know, after just one lesson of the new material, I think we've got a solid hit on our hands. I announced to them weeks ago that we'd be doing this material and I also sent home notes to parents in case there were objections. In this note, I listed the material, the author of the material as well as my home and cell phone numbers and an e-mail address to contact me if you anyone should have any questions, objections or wanted to review the material before hand. As of this posting, I haven't heard a peep of objection from anyone.

Yesterday as we started the study, one girl informed me that her parents didn't want her to participate. She left and as some of the youth started to make fun of her as she left, I took a teaching moment and said, "No, don't. She's obeying her parents and we shouldn't make fun of her because her parents make a choice like this. They may have some very good reasons for choosing this and we should respect them." But, that left me with about a dozen senior high youth who settled in and enjoyed the study. We started off reading Scripture, watching an episode and then discussing the Biblical principal that was highlighted in the story.

I have to admit, we had some good discussion going and good participation. More so, I've had requests from some of the eighth grade youth to want to jump up and join the class now becuase they're enthusiastic to take part in the study. I left feeling a bit bad that we'd had to alienate one person, but feeling good that maybe, just maybe we'd reached some of the youth in an interesting, relevant way. I promised them at least five more weeks of the study and was kind of hoping this might be a catalyst for them to invite a friend or win back some of the youth who don't come to Sunday School thinking it's dull or boring.

Which that bubble burst last night. My dad is on the staff parish relations committee. And it seems that my Bible Study has raised an eyebrow at the church--that of my long time nemesis, Mary Ellen Rogers. Basically, she came into the meeting with her husband, screaming about that all the senior high youth do in Sunday School is sit around and watch The Simpsons. I know that she feels I am not a suitable teacher, lacking the "maturity" to teach the senior high youth. Basically, I am not fit to teach Sunday School to anyone, anytime, anywhere.

As you can tell, this is not the first time we've crossed paths. At first, when she started complaining about me, I shrugged it off as--well, if I'm annoying her, I must be doing something right. See, a lot of the church leadership--both the clergy and the lay people--come under her criticism. As my Granny used to say, "She wouldn't be happy if you hung her with a new rope." So, to be in the group was kind of a badge of honor, at first.

Now, it's just becoming a pain in my rear. She complains that her two daughters aren't made to feel welcome when they come to Sunday School. Well, I took over teaching this class just before Easter and the only time they've shown up for Sunday School was on Easter. And I treated them like I do anyone else in the class. I try not to play favorites and to give everyone a chance to participate. I know that at this age, some are more willing to particpate than others and that some are just here because their parents are making them be there. So, you have to be sensitive to those situations.

Also, in my defense, I sent home several notices about this study. Again, I included my contact info, so for someone to stand up and go, "Oh, I had no idea," just annoys me. This is not some subversive thing I came up with to get out of teaching Sunday School. Instead, I saw it as an opportunity to reach some young people in a new way. I know that this study will appeal to some but not others, hence why it's a short term thing.

And the thing that gets me is--if you've got a problem with me, come and talk to me. Have the f****** courage to come up to my face and say it to me. Or call me on the phone. Or e-mail me. Hell, I gave out my contact information, so why not pick up the damn phone and call me. Have the guts to confront me face to face instead of running to the SPR, who really has no jurisdiction in this matter other than my dad is head of it, and tell them that I am teaching an "unGodly" class and that it's not in the Book of Discipline. I seriously wonder if maybe sitting around and reading the Book of Discipline to them is what she feels would reach them.

Honestly, I'm a good Methodist and I appreciate the Book of Discipline. But it's not something I grab off the bookshelf and read for pleasure. It can be a bit cut and dried at times.

So, now I'm sort of at a crossroads. I enjoy teaching the youth and it's been rewarding, but this constant barrage of criticism at me--a volunteer leader, mind you--is getting a bit old. To the point that it's dragging in my family members as well and making their lives at church a bit unbearable. So, I'm struggling with a decision here.

I mean, I don't want to be Sunday School nazi and say--it's my way cause I'm the teacher. But I also don't want to be a patsy and just lay down. Also, I don't want to just sit there and take it, but I also know that giving into the tempation to tell certain people off only means they win and I only reinforce their view of myself as not "mature" enough to teach Sunday School or have any type of leadership role in the church. The thing I hate most is that my dad gets knocked around with this crap. Part of it is that belittles me as an adult--as if running to my parent and telling them to stop me will make me change in some way. Like I'm a three-year old making too much noise during a service and it's up to Mommy and Daddy to keep me in line.

Last time I checked, I was 32-years old. I just wish some people would wake up and realize that...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/20/2005 07:31:00 AM | |
Friday, June 17, 2005
Friday Memes
Friday's Feast
Appetizer
What's one word or phrase that you use a lot?
"I'm just saying..." or "Remember that Seinfeld where...."

Soup
Name something you always seem to put off until the last minute.
Getting the oil changed in my car.

Salad
What was the last great bumper sticker you saw?
My car may not look like much, but I've got treasure in heaven.

Main Course
If you could be invisible for one day, how would you spend your time?
Huh, huh..hey Beavis, we'd be invisible.

Sorry, I don't know where that came from. I'd probably enjoy driving my car around, freaking everyone out. That and I could get near Sarah Michelle Gellar again and she'd not know it...stupid restraining order!

Dessert
Describe your hair.
I've got more cowlicks than any one person should and it has a mind of it's own most days. I've tried to tame it with gel, but it just refuses to cooperate. It's generally neat and nicely done for approximately 10 seconds after I comb it and then it runs amok. I do keep it short since I swim laps and if it gets too long, it gets brittle and dried out.

Aloha Friday
What are your favorite pizza toppings?
I like just about anything on a pizza, except anchovies. I have to admit I do like a good supreme pizza every once in a while.

Have you served on a jury before?
::knocks on wooden surface:: I have not yet served of a jury nor have I yet been summoned to jury duty. Wait...what's this that I got in the mail today....

Spread the spirit of aloha…whom should we visit this week?
Pay a visit to Aaron and Tami over at He Says, She Says. Aaron posts more often than Tami does and he's a self-professed Lego addict, so that should be some fun for y'all.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/17/2005 12:16:00 PM | |

Star Wars Toys
USA Today has an article this morning comparing the toy lines of the original Star Wars trilogy with the toy lines for the new Star Wars trilogy. Being a young 'un at at the time the first Star Wars movie came out, I had a good collection of Star Wars toys, which were well played with. I know that I had a Millenium Falcon toy that I think took approximately 17 days to put together and weighted approximately 70 pounds. It was also pretty much two times the size of the Tie Fighter and X-Wing toys I had, thus making the space battles I'd imagine in my head a little unfair.

I had a whole assortment of action figures. I know for a fact that first two I got were C3-PO and R2-D2. I remember them having a lot of adventures out in the backyard, a lot of them involving going down the slide on the swingset. I also had a wide variety of what I call the "background characters" from the films--basically the guys who weren't Luke, Han, Leia, Darth Vader, etc. The cantina scene in the original Star Wars was just great for this and I still get a bit of an excited rush when I see a guy lurking around the background of the scene that I had as an action figure way back when.

Of course, not that it really mattered after a while. At the peak of my Star Wars action figure mania, I lived in Hawaii. Now, if you've lived in Hawaii, you know that the red dirt there can stain. Well, while living on base, they dug a ditch in our neighborhood. Let me just tell you, that a ditch was a great place for Star Wars action figures to have tons of adventures. But it also led to a lot of them getting stained with red dirt and after a while, you I just took on faith that I had Luke Skywalker and not Darth Vader when I was making up my adventures for them on the desert planet Red Dirt Ditch. (I am sure I made up some more elaborate name, but I can't recall what it is right now). And just to be cool, I kept all my Stars Wars figures in an old metal Star Wars lunchbox. (I had several, but would get a new one each year).

Of course, now I realize that if I'd kept all my Star Wars guys in better condition (as in never played with them), I could sell them all for a good sized chunk of change. But then I remember that part of the point of toys is to play with them. And honestly, I would rather have the fond memories of red-dirt stained Star Wars toys than having a pristene collection of them today that I could sell for a ton of money.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/17/2005 07:53:00 AM | |
Thursday, June 16, 2005
You're gonna have to take my word on this.
This morning, while getting ready to face the day, I was flipped over to FOX 17's Morning News Program (Sports Center was in commercials!) One of the stories was about how Larry Flint is opening a boutique here in downtown Nsshville that features lingerie, magazines and novelitites. I then heard this report again during the news update on a couple of local radio stations on the drive into work. So, I figured I'd at least be able to somehow find some independent confirmation of this fact to post here and then make sarcastic comments about it.

Alas, I've looked at a couple of the media outlets throughout the day for the Nashville area, and there's no mention of it anywhere. So, I guess y'all are just gonna have to take my word for it. And no, before you ask, I don't know where this local tourist attraction nor am I willing to go by and take pictures of it for the blog. Ok, maybe I will go by at some point, but not today....

But one of my first thoughts was--yes, that is what we need to announce on the tourist bureau web site to attract potential tourists and/or residents to come to our fair city. Pro football team, check. Musuems, check. Minor league baseball, check. No income tax, check. Larry Flint has a store here--well, that's it...gotta move to Nashville!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/16/2005 06:08:00 PM | |

I AM famous!
So, I go into handbell practice last night and one of my fellow ringers Donna comes in and says, "I saw you on the news the other night! Only they didn't have your name right."

I quickly explained why I was on the news (I knew the press would uncover my secret identity as Spider-Man eventually) and chuckled that now I was a celebrity in my own mind and must, therefore, become unsufferable to be around. So, at random moments, such as trying to find a time when we could all ring, I would point out that we could just pick a time to ring as since I was now famous, my adoring public would show up. (I was joking, of course).

Of course, my friends were quick to burst my bubble pointing out that I wasn't even credited correctly with my comments....

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/16/2005 07:49:00 AM | |
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Doctor Who: Bad Wolf
"The Dalek strategem nears completition. The fleet is almost ready. You will not intervene!"
"And why is that?"
"We have your associate. You will obey or she will be exterminated!"
"No...."
(dramatic pause as music swells and builds)
"Explain yourself!"
"I said, no..."
"What is the meaning of this negative?"
"It means no!"
"But she will be destroyed!"
"NO! Cause this is what I'm gonna to do. I'm gonna rescue her. I'm gonna save Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet and then I'm gonna save the Earth and then just to finish I'm gonna wipe EVERY LAST STINKING Dalek out of the sky!"
"But you have no weapons, no defenses, no plan!"
"Yeah and doesn't that scare you death! Rose..."
"Yes Doctor?"
"I'm coming to get you!"
Dalek, The Doctor, Rose, Bad Wolf

It only took until the penultimate episode of the new season of Doctor Who to get the cliffhanger that every Doctor Who fan has been waiting for and anticipating since it was announced the series was coming back and it would feature the Daleks--the one with the Daleks running about, shouting "Exterminate!" It's a standard Who cliffhanger for just about any story featuring the Doctor's arch nemesises. And it's been 12 episodes in coming.

Was it worth it?

Yes. As a good friend in college used to say, "Oh my, my...oh hell yes!"

At last the wonders of modern special effects technology are put to their best use as we get the Dalek cliffhanger we've always wanted. Not just four to six Daleks in a room shouting "Exterminate" but instead a massive space-ship full of the metallic monsters, shouting their catch phrase, getting ready to attack Satellite Five and open hostilities with the Doctor. And then the stinger hits and we realize that we now have to wait seven long days for the pay-off. Seven long days for the ultimate battle between the Daleks and the Doctor.

It was five minutes or so of specutacular, fist-punching-the-air Doctor Who. It may be the best five minutes the series has seen so far. And if the final episode of the season lives up to the promise of the last five minutes of "Bad Wolf", we may be looking at another instant classic from the new Doctor Who.

But beyond those five minutes of down to the tips of your toes thrilling, was the rest of "Bad Wolf" worth the effort? Yes and no. Since the previews and the press gave away that the Daleks are behind the reality show nightmare on Satellite Five, it wasn't so much a matter of wondering who was behind it, but as to when the big reveal might take place. But I will say this--I was never bored with the surreal nature of the reality shows gone wrong that we found the Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack involved in this week. The tension that once you're elminated, you die was nicely done.

Also, seeing the Doctor's actions not produce the consequences he intended worked well. Turns out the Doctor's assistance in shutting down the Satellite Five newsfeed at the end of "The Long Game" only created a vaccum the people of Earth wanted and needed filled. So, they created these reality shows in which contestants fought for the ultimate prize--to continue to live. Doctor Who has done some shows that are rather surreal in the past--"Web Planet", "Greatest Show in the Galaxy", "Mind Robber"--and all have worked fairly well. And the rather surreal premise holds up farily well here for the length that it's on-screen. (I'm not sure having the actual voice of Anne Robinson a the evil android version of herself on The Weakest Link segments was all that necessary, but it was kind of fun).

Watching this episode, I slowly started to realize who much I'm going to miss Eccleston as Doctor. His work here is nothing short of superb. His reaction at finding out that Rose has been killed was perfect--the slow burn and then over the top anger that was replaced by child-like joy at finding out that Rose was still alive all worked. And his work in the final scene as he tells the Daleks "no" and that he won't surrender to them or be pushed aside and then tells Rose he's coming to rescue her. Eccleston shines in the story and it's a real shame that his time as the Doctor is coming to a close. He's stepped up and owned this role ever since "Dalek" and his continues to do wonders with it here.

If there was one thing that frustrated me about "Bad Wolf" it was the lack of promised answers. All season, we've had an arc building and it seemed as if the first half of "Bad Wolf" was bringing those threads together into a tapestry. We still don't know the identity of "bad wolf" though we do know that the phrase is following the Doctor through time. We do get some idea of why the stories this year have been centered on Earth as opposed to the rest of the universe. We also get to see the results of the Doctor's actions in "The Long Game." Certainly "Bad Wolf" helped to give a bit more credibility and importance to the events of "The Long Game" but I'm not sure if it was enough to redeem the episode as a whole. I have a feeling I am going to have to rewatch the season again to make that call.

But then again, this is not the season finale, but rather the lead-up to it. So, there could be answers right around the corner for us. I will implore Davies to not drag out the Bad Wolf thing more than one season. It's been interesting but it could easily become an albatross around the series neck should it be drawn out too much longer. It's been fun to watch and speculate, but I really would like some answers in "The Parting of Ways."

And just like last week, I am counting days until I see it. And just like "Bad Wolf" I have a feeling that at the end of story, I will be going--no, that wasn't just 42 minutes! It only felt like five.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/15/2005 11:27:00 AM | |
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