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Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Aftermath of a storm.
Gas prices have risen forty cents a gallon since Monday...it's just unbelievable. And it looks like there is no end in sight to this. Driving past the Kroger gas station down here in Smyrna where cars are generally piled up two deep per pump in line, there was nothing...just cones sitting out and no prices on the marquee. I can only assume they've run out of gas.

Which there is this rumor and legend going about that we could all be out of gasoline at stations by week's end. I am not sure whether or not to believe it, but there were reports on the radio of Atlanta gas stations charging five bucks a gallon for gas--that is, if you could find any.

Unbelievable...and as I said before, no easy end in sight.

The implications of Hurricane Katrina just keep on coming, don't they? I was listening to a sports call in show talk about Tulane University and the fact that they may not have classes this semester much less a rather trivial little thing like a home football game. It kind of puts things into persepective, doesn't it? Also, I've heard the president of the University of Alabama sent out an e-mail to 50,000 Bama ticket holders saying that there were not going to be any hotel rooms available for this weekend's game...and honestly, people who are living in hotels as they wait for waters to recede to see if they have a home to go back to do need those rooms more.

It's just brutal to think about sometimes. I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around such devestation happening. Yes, it happened last year with the tsunami..but in both cases, the sheer scale of what's gone on is hard to wrap my mind around.

Along those lines, I hope that in the coming weeks, there will be an outpouring of support for the New Orleans and Biloxi areas like we saw with the tsunami. We had the live concert to raise funds and certainly the American people will do what they can to try and help the people who have suffered. But along those lines, I do feel as if I have to point out a double standard...when the tsunamai hit, the United States was criticized world-wide for not doing enough monetarily to help the victims of that disaster. But yet, a disaster like that has occurred and those same powers who criticized us for not offering up as much aid as they felt we should have not yet stepped up to the plate and pledge any kind of aid for us.

Maybe they will..but so far, I've not heard anything to indicate this might or could happen...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/31/2005 07:46:00 PM | |

Happy Trails..to the August Challenge
Well, it's the last day of August and that means the August Things That Make You Happy challenge is coming to an end. It seems like just yesterday I was starting up the challenge...and now it's time to put it back into storage for another year. (At least it's not nearly as time consuming to put away as, say, Christmas decorations).

But for my final day of the challenge, I wanted to say how much I've enjoyed highlighting positive things that in my life. It's been a lot of fun to do this and it's helped give me a bit more of a positive attitude at times during the month. And so what makes me happy is that I am blessed enough to have 31 things to be happy to write and podcast about during the month of August.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/31/2005 08:51:00 AM | |
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Hurricane Katrina
When I lived in Biloxi, Mississippi during the year I was in the third grade, I remember my teacher talking about Hurricane Camille coming through. We watched a movie that had some footage of the devestation Camille left in its wake and I remember my little third-grade mind thinking, "I cannot imagine going through anything like that."

That same thought and feeling has been true the past couple of days as I hear and see reports from Biloxi and New Orleans about the devestation that Hurricane Katrina has brought to the area. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the area that is affected by this storm. I heard this story on the radio this morning about an older couple who couldn't evacuate having to go up on the roof of their home and the home splitting apart. It just breaks my heart to hear about it and think about the possiblity of losing everything you have in this world due to a natural disaster.

Even after the flood waters recede, there will still be lots of work left to do. I've heard in some places it could be up to six weeks before power is restored. In high school, I remember our church sent teams to help rebuild houses after Hurricane Hugo swept through North Carolina. I hope that a simliar thing will happen in the wake of Katrina.

I also know the Red Cross web site is set up to take donations for hurricane relief. It may not seem like much, but it's something to do to help in a small way.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/30/2005 08:52:00 AM | |

Happy Trails
Driving to Wal-Mart last night to pick up an inexpensive flashlight to take into work (my area has no windows and I realized should the power be interrupted today a flashlight might be a good investment), I heard Vol Calls for the first time this season. At long last, the waiting is over and Saturday it will be football time in Tennessee!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/30/2005 08:34:00 AM | |
Monday, August 29, 2005
It's Officials (aka Happy Trails)
As most of you know, I love Doctor Who. Some of you would argue I love it more than any one sane person should...but hey--it makes me happy!

Anyway, after hearing a couple of podcasts, my friend Sarah (who is also a Dr Who fan) said to me: You know, we could do one of those. So, we got together and recorded some commentaries/podcasts for a couple of epiosdes. Which offically puts me into the "scary fan" category, but hey..what you gonna do?

This one is not the first one recorded. But it's the first one we've unleashed upon the unsuspecting world. It's for the 12th episode of the first season, "Bad Wolf."

Now, if you've not seen all of the new season of Dr Who, I suggest you avoid this until you do. It does have SPOILERS. Also, I'd say it's pretty much PG to PG-13 land.

Oh yeah, and if you don't care for Doctor Who, all we talk about is Doctor Who.....fair warning.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/29/2005 02:33:00 PM | |

TV Round-Up
Battlestar Galactica: Home, Part 2
You know, after nine plus weeks of storytelling, I was really kind of prepared to be let down by this one. Nine weeks of building, layering, moving things into place for this episode. Surely, the cynical part of me said, it won't quite live up the expectations.

But wonder of wonders if this one didn't not only live up to expectations but exceed them in just about every possible way.

I'm still sitting here, stunned at how good all of this was.

First up, I have to talk about the wonderful new twist given to Baltar. Baltar tries to cut himself off from Six, saying she is no longer his fantasy woman and Six ups the ante--oh yeah, I'm not really a chip in your head. You're just plain mad and you've had a mental break because you can't handle the guilt of having sold out the human race to their enemies. Watching Six reveal this and then slowly twist the knife was one of the highlights of this story. And watching Baltar slowly try to come to grips with the fact that he just might be crazy and have actualy sold out the Colonies of his own idea and volition...wow, that is great stuff. I know it won't ever happen since this show is on SciFi, but I'm officially taking up the banner to get James Callis an Emmy nomination next year. His work here alone was superb and I've loves seeing how his choices and what he does to bring Baltar so vividly to life.

I also loved how Six messes with him by her choice of clothing. She comes to him first wearing nothing, then once Baltar berates her as not being his fantasy woman, she changes to the comfy sweats and the hair in a ponytail. Only in the end when she wants to further have Baltar question his sanity does she go back to the red dress that has become pretty much a part of the character at this point. I love seeing Baltar had to doubt if he has a destiny or a calling from God and then the idea that Six is an angel sent to guide him....it should be interesting to see how this is all explored as the season progresses. (And if there's one thing I've learned, it's that this show is not going to drop any really interesting plot threads).

Meanwhile, down on Kobol things are simmering to a boil. Starbuck is eager to go back to Caprica to rescue the resistance while Roslin is hell-bent on finding the tomb of Athena. Adama shows up and begins the reconcillation of the family and the fleet. We see him embrace Lee and then hold out an olive branch to Roslin. The scenes in the tent where Adama states that Roslins' decision to leave the colonies was the right one was a nice scene, in a story full of them. Then, to see Adama have to face down a copy of Sharon and then to see her hold a gun on him...great moments. I did wonder why Sharon so quickly went along with the plan to take out Adama and Lee. I mean, I can see that she is trying to find a way to prove her worth and loyalty to the fleet and crew. But it makes you wonder--if Tigh was willing to lock up and interrogate Tyrol because of his connection with Galactica-Boomer, what will be done to Helo when the rest of the fleet finds out that they are an item and expecting a child together. And if push comes to shove, where will Helo's true loyalties lie? I am glad they didn't ask him to make the choice here of joining the conspiracy or not, but at some point this question has to be addressed.

So, it looks as if the season one cliffhanger has finally been resolved. And I must say I'm impressed at the nine-episode run. And it certainly left me hungry for more and thinking--man, there can't only be three more new eps this year. We have to have miscounted and we're going to get a few more.

Oh, it's going to be a long two week break for new episodes.

The 4440: Mommy's Bosses
Well, you certainly can't say they won't have some material to start with as next season begins. I guess we figured if one cliffhanger is good, then four must be better becuase wow, those last five or so minutes were packed with plot revelatoions. I just hope this show doesn't pull an Alias next year and introduce some interesting concepts for sake of a suspenseful cliffhanger and some positive buzz and then totally ignore these developments after an episode or two.

I will admit I was happy to see at least some closure or progression of the Kyle plot. It seems as if for weeks, we've had a lot of angst swirling about because of his role in the killing of Jordan Collier. Of course, since it now appears Jordan ain't dead has Kyle gone and thrown his life away for nothing? I mean, he's come out that he killed Collier and while we now see Collier is alive, Kyle still got a gun, went up on a roof and shot the guy. Yeah, I don't see that as something I'd be putting on my resume...but that's just me.

Also, what exactly did Sean heal Kyle of? Why the huge explosion? And did it work? And why'd it take Sean so long to get around to it? Is part of Sean's power that people have to WANT to be healed of whatever afflicts them? Or will this be something that I think of here and think it's uber-cool but will never be addressed by the show? (I mean I assume they're making the show for more than just the audience of me)

And why did Isabelle suddenly go sit-com child on us and grow up real fast? Is it related to Jordan's return? Does she oppose Jordan and his agenda to help the 4400? I get the feeling that Isabelle is not all she seems. We heard her referred to as the Rosetta stone for figuring out the secrets of the 4400 last week and then this week she's all grown up and walking about naked. This one has potential to either be really interesting or to get really bad really fast. I mean, as much as I liked Enterprise, the temporal cold war plotline got convoluted quickly as to who was with who and on whose side...and this could get equally complicated just as quickly.

And fianlly, I have to wonder if Dennis Ryland has brought about the conflict he was trying to avert with his firewall program. Yes, he made a decision based on the data available to him at the time and it turned out wrong. But I have to think his motivation wasn't necessarily evil or bad...just one of circling the wagons and protecting both sides. But he did go to some extraordinary lengths to cover his tracks and he did create a conspiracy of sorts. And for somoene who was as determined and convinced of the apparent rightness of his cause, Ryland sure did give up awfully easily when Tom confronted him with evidence. It felt like the writers wanted to have a great, dramatic act break but had no idea how to get out of the corner they'd painted themselves into.

I will admit there wasn't quite the sense of head-scratching or an empty hollowness to this year's finale as there was last year's. Of course, when you have at least five cliffhangers, that's not always going to be a problem....

The Dead Zone: Saved

Walking away from "Saved" my biggest question was--why is Mirnada Harris so pivotal in the vision Johnny has for the coming armageddon? When she is missing and presumed dead, Johnny's vision of the future when touching Stillson changes and yet when she comes back and agrees to marry him (more like forced into it to protect Johnny), the visions of destruction return. It makes me wonder--what is her role and why is she so pivotal? Is it because she has some feelings for Johnny and this leads to some greater conflict down the road? Also, a few weeks ago, Johnny and Stillson agreed to not cross paths again and yet I get the feeling this promise won't hold true as the series continues to unfold. Johnny and Stillson are linked somehow in the events that are to play out and we can only watch and see how this connection continues to unfold.

And whereas The 4400 had approximately that many cliffhangers, The Dead Zone went for just one and it's far more effective. It's not something that has to be dealt with immediately when the series resumes, but it is something that should play out as the stories progress. I do admit that I am encouraged that The Dead Zone already has a renewal and a continuation of season four guaranteed so I won't have to wonder how these things all play out. It'd be far too interesting to throw in the towel as it were.

I'm still also very impressed with how the writers are able to kind of play with the vision of the week mystery this late in the game. Yes, it's been cliched at times this year, but the past few weeks, they've taken the basic premise and really spun it off and twisted it into some new directions. It's not breaking any new ground, mind you, but where the stories are going character-wise makes it worth the ride.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/29/2005 12:28:00 PM | |

Funeral for a soldier
Last week, I made a plea to all side involved in protesting the funeral of S/Sgt Asbury Fred Hawn II to stay home Saturday and allow the family to grieve in peace.

Those pleas were largely ignored by Fred Phelps and his congregations of nutballs, but I have to admit I'm very proud of the middle Tennessee area for showing up with flags, words of encouragment and support and prayers for Hawn's family during this difficult time. And it's a great relief to note that there were apparently no major conflicts during the funeral for Hawn. Yes, it sounds like there was some tension there, but it doesn't sound like boiled over as it could easily have.

Reading the article about the show of support for Hawn and for our troops, I was pleasantly suprised to see the names of some people I recognized from church in the story. One in particular is one of the youth who is in my Sunday School class and I work with in the small group that I co-lead.

Cayce Sweeny, 15, is a member of the First United Methodist Church youth group. He carried a sign reading "God Loves S/Sgt. Hawn."

"It's to support the troops," he said.

I am continually impressed with the teenagers at my church. I know there are some people who dismiss teens as being loud, disruptive and unruly. Oh my goodness-they show up for church in t-shirts and jeans! We can't have that.

But really, does that matter? Not really. Now if they were showing up in Marilyn Manson shirts that might be a different issue.

But the thing is--I am continually amazed at the depth of compassion, love and human decency our youth can show. I know a group went out to support a hurting church family member and our troops this weekend. Also, a few months ago in Sunday School, we were talking about what kind of material they'd like to cover. A few days earlier, a girl they knew who occasionally came to our church had passed away. The youth wanted to do something to honor her memory and to let the family know they were loved during their time of loss. I have to admit I left Sunday School that day with a lump in my throat, proud of these youth who wanted to do something to help a grieving family.

This is one of the reasons during the past few weeks when I've been tempted to tell the education committee where to stick it about the Sunday School material that I haven't. See, here's my little secret--I learn more from them than they do from me. Oh sure, there are days when it's a blank stare and it's like pulling teeth to get them to talk...but there are other days where you find something that engages their interest and the conversation and I am just amazed and proud of our youth. It's why I enjoy teaching Sunday School and it's why I fight hard to defend them to the nay-sayers and detracters.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/29/2005 07:32:00 AM | |
Saturday, August 27, 2005
Football Thoughts
Well, I got to see my two favorite teams in action last night and I've gotta say--well one out of two didn't look that bad.

My beloved Redskins looked very good in their third pre-season game, esp. taking it to the vaunted Steeler defense in the 2nd and 3rd Quarters . One stupid mistake by Patrick Ramsey back and we easily beat them by two TDs. And our defense and running game, which is what this franchise were built on in the 80s and early 90s when we were ruling the roost, were spectacular. Seeing the counter-trey executed so well brought back memories of the Hogs and John Riggins. It was a great effort and I think we stand a chance to make some noise in the NFC East this year--esp. with Philly in such disarray.

And coach Gibbs, please, please, please take care of the Cowboys on Monday night the third week of the season. Don't keep it close...let's have a full-on blowout of my most hated team.

As for the Titans...well, it's good Pacman muffed two punts to divert the heat away from an offense that looked anemic at best. I began to wonder if last week's performance against the Falcons was the aberration and this is gonna be the rule. Our offense looked totally out of synch all night long and our special teams play is still less than special. We face the Steelers in week one and no matter who poor Ben R looked and seeing the Bus go out with a knee sprain, I fear a long afternoon for my Titans should things not get better and soon. I'll be there Thursday night to watch their final pre-season tune-up and I just hope we can find something positive on offense to build on as the season starts. We've got all the weapons in the world..it's time to use them.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/27/2005 10:20:00 PM | |

Happy Trails To You
Today begins my week of wearing something orange every day, leading up to kick-off of the first game of the year next week against UAB. And let me add, in case you were wondering, that I can wear something orange each day without having to wash. I started this tradition back a few years ago of wearing something the Friday before each game and then expanded it out as I geared up for football season (I will wear something orange on Friday and Saturday any time UT is playing in the fall...) So, if you see a strange man wandering around middle Tennessee wearing orange in the next week, you'll know it's me...

Only seven more days until the 2005 campaign begins!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/27/2005 10:03:00 PM | |
Friday, August 26, 2005
Theme Songs
Last weekend, I found a pre-viewed box set of one of my favorite TV shows from the 80's, Sledge Hammer.

For those of you who missed it, Sledge Hammer was a half-hour comedy that aired on ABC for two seasons and was in the vein of such shows as Get Smart or Police Squad. The show is probably best remembered for two things--Sledge's catch phrase of "Trust me, I know what I'm doing" and the cliffhanger to end the first season. As the first season came to a close, it looked as if Sledge and company wouldn't get a second season, so creator Alan Spencer wrote what he thought would be the final episode. He pretty much threw in everything but the kitchen sink and ended the story with Sledge blowing up the city trying to disarm a nuclear weapon.

Somehow, this episode got huge ratings and ABC renewed the show, leaving Spencer in a quandry. He now had to get himself out of this corner he'd painted himself into as the second season started. Spencer took the only way out he could--he set the second season of the show five years before the first season and began the season with a voice over telling viewers this. It ranks right up there with the April Fool's episode of South Park featuring Terrance and Philip a few years ago as one of those great TV show cons.

As I've been watching the episodes this week on DVD, I'm reminded of just how funny this show was. It's in the same vein as Arrested Development in that it doesn't have a laugh track and it assumes you can catch sarcasm. Oh yeah, and Hammer's solution to everything is to use more violence which often means hilarity will ensue.

It's still as funny as I remember it being (I saw all the episodes in syndication one summer a few years back) but I'd forgotten how great the theme music to this show was. And it's a good thing as it's very catchy and you immediately can identify what the show is. But the bad part is--the stinkin' theme song has been stuck in my head for days on end. (Click on the link above to give it a listen!)

It got me thinking a bit about memorable TV theme tunes.

In a lot of ways, a good TV theme is an essential part of the formula. Yes, I know these days with the greater amount of commericals out there, that a lot of shows can't have a long theme because they'd lose that necessary minute for plot development, which I think kind of stinks. Having a good theme song is almost essential. Indeed, think of some of the forgettable shows from the past that live on because they had catchy theme songs--I'm thinking of things like Mr Ed, Welcome Back, Kotter or Green Acres as prime suspects.

Indeed, if I had one real beef with the new Battlestar Galactica, it'd be that I don't care that much for the theme song. It's just OK...not really inspiring or note worthy, not in the way the one from the 70s was.

As I contemplated this, I started to think about some of the truly memorable theme songs from over the years. One of the first I was exposed to was, of course, Sesame Street. And then, there was the opening to the Electric Company which was cool, but I remember the yelling of "Hey you, guuuuuuuuuuuuys!" more than a theme. And then there was the theme to the classic 60s Spiderman cartoons.

And, of course, nothing quite stirs me down to the tips of my toes like the themes from Doctor Who or the classic Star Trek theme (the original and still the best..sorry TNG).

So, what are some theme songs that stand the test of time for you? I've mentioned a few year and I now open the floor to my readers and visitors. I could make a huge list of great themes, but I want to hear what y'all have to say. Yes, it's a shameless plug for comments, I know that...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/26/2005 02:27:00 PM | |

Happy Days Are Here Again!
As many of you know, my two favorite pro teams are the Washington Redskins and the Tennessee Titans. Because of the fact that the Redskins aren't quite the powerhouse they were in the 80s and early 90s, they don't get as much national exposure as they used to nor are their games high on the list to picked up for local broadcast.

So, when I get to see my beloved Redskins play a game, it's always a special thing for me. (I know, I could get the Direct TV Sunday NFL package thing...believe me, it's crossed my mind many times now). But to get to see both the Redskins and Titans play on the same day or weekend is a rare treat.

And sure, it's only the pre-season, but tonight, I will get to see both my teams play. The Redskins play Pittsburgh tonight and the Titans travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers. And both games are being broadcast locally, so I will get a chance to see both my teams play.

And that makes me pretty happy today.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/26/2005 07:46:00 AM | |
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Pick 'Em
A couple of days ago, I opened up a fantasy football league for my fellow bloggers .

I realize that fantasy football isn't everyone's cup of tea or that a lot of you already have a plethora of leagues going on right now. But I figured it might be fun to set up some football related competition and one that wouldn't take up too much time each week.

Last year, a couple of my blogging buddies and I participated in Yahoo Pick 'Em leagues. Basically, you just pick the winner of a series of football games each week. I have no idea how the spread works so I have set up the leagues where you just pick winners of games.

I've set up one for the NFL and one for college football. Join one or both..whichever interests you!

The league IDs are and passwords are below:

NFL: 21330
College:
15004

Password: blog

Hope you'll join us!



posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/25/2005 03:38:00 PM | |

TV Round-Up
Battlestar Galactica: Home, Part 1
I'm always intrigued by how television shows use the "To Be Continued" caption at the end of certain episode of TV shows. It was use this week to lead into next week's episode, but I found myself wondering--was it really all that necessary? Because basically, the last nine or so new epiosdes could have featured that little tag to end the story since all the episodes closely follow each other in terms of the on-going story and continuity.

Not that I am complaining, mind you.

I'm just wondering about these things.

Because, honestly, there wasn't a lot to NOT like about this one. Yes, I realize that a lot of it was an elaborate coming together of the last nine or so episodes of the show and moving them toward some type of resolution next week with the conclusion of this arc. But I really liked the way the pieces began to move into place structurally. Last week, I noted I felt like the ships jumping away from the fleet wasn't really addressed at all, except for a comment or two by Adama. This week, we see how this is affecting things and how the splintering of the fleet has weakened things. Also, I found the character journey that Adama goes through a fascinating one. From being stubborn and prideful at the beginning in appointed a new CAG and making comments about loyalty to the conversation with Duala in his quarters to his decision to put the fleet back together. One of the interesting themes of the early season two episodes is characters being forced to embrace roles that are bit outside their area of expertise--from Tigh being the sole leader to Adama facing the press corp here to Roslin playing the religious card.

But in the end, it's Adama who is forces to swallow his pride and begin the journey toward putting things back together. To steal a quote from the original Star Trek's "Doomsday Machine," "We're stronger with you than without you." Looking back, it's easy to forget the exact details of how this current situation began (though you'd think the Cylons would be tearing in to take a potshot or two while the fleet is divided) but it was action of both Roslin and Adama that created the current crisis. Interesting to see that Adama is the one who is willing to offer the palm branch first and do what it takes to put the fleet back together.

Meanwhile, we begin to see more of the true colors of Tom Zarek. As I watch, I don't see Zarek as a typical bad-guy so much as a Gul Dukat type character from DS9. Dukat was absolutely convinced that everything he did was for his own personal good and to achieve his agenda, even when it seemed totally at odds with what was needed overall. Zarek is one of those where the ends seem to justify the means, but he's also smart to plot with a sidekick to take out Lee, thus leaving him an out should the plot be exposed. (And it might be as I don't see them killing off Lee).

And Starbuck returns to the fleet, leading to one of the many great scenes of the show--the standoff. Lee pulls his gun on Caprica-Boomer and Helo pulls his gun on Lee. The standoff and Roslin's promise to keep Boomer safe and then ordering her shoved out an airlock was great.

About the only huge nitpick I had with this one--and I'm sure there are others of you out there who thought it as well--was that if the fleet is out there and supplies are limited, where in the name of Kobol did they get walnuts?

But otherwise, a superb episode and I know exactly where I will be Friday night at 9 p.m. for the conclusion.

The Dead Zone: Coming Home
As I watched the first few minutes of this one unfold, I was rolling my eyes. The plotline of some type of evil stalking the hallways, stealing the souls of people was something right out of one of my least favorite Buffy episodes ever, "Killed by Death" (I can see Barry going into shock right now that I made a disparaging remark about my beloved Buffy).

But suddenly, instead of being a wacky almost Scooby Doo-like mystery of the week, this one took a dramatic turn into some character development and turned out to be one of the stronger epiosdes of the season. Seeing Johnny get inside the fractured family relationship of Sarah and her father was great. The scene in which Johnny tells Sarah of his vision of her mother's final few moments was genuinely one of the best moments this show has ever done in terms of effectiveness and hitting the right emotional notes. I know there are some who are critical of Nicole DeBoer's acting (I've not ever seen it....I tend to like most of what she does here and I liked her on DS9), but I can't see how you dould fault much of what happened in this one. To see that Sarah and her father are both blaming themselves for things surrounding Sarah's mother's death was nicely done. I can even go with Sarah's father having his epiphany moment because he fears he may be dying and wants to make peace with Sarah.

Good stuff all around.

And while the plotline of the lady running the nursing home has created this monster to scare the residents into staying in bed was a bit obvious, it actually worked and it didn't have me rolling my eyes when this fact was revealed. It did have me wonder why Sarah continues to let her father stay in the place at episode's end...but hey, this may be addressed in a future episode so I can let it slide for now.

The 4440: The Fifth Page

Watching this week's episode, I began to wonder just how much control Isabelle has over Lilly. It seems as if Lilly's personality swings and changes on an almost weekly basis, culminated here by her decision to leave the safehouse with Isabelle and go on the lam with her ex-husband. Seems to me as it this is all motivated out of some sense of self-preservation by Isabelle and her not wanting to be taken by the governmental agencies involved here.

Meanwhile, since I guess the great show The Inside is gone, Peter Coyote can come back for a couple of episodes, which is not a bad thing. Seems the 4400 have some type of disease that could be an epidimic. They're all ordered back into quarantine, a stance some of them don't take well. Richard, who is remarkably immune or at least not showing any symptoms yet, becomes the leader in the place of Shawn who is take ill. This leads to the potential for conflict that Jordan Collier warned about with some of the 4400 going into hiding rather than reporting.

About the only plotline that bugged me is Kyle. Seems as if we've had this protracted "should I tell or shouldn't I? think about his role in Collier's death going on far too long now. Yes, I get that he's conflicted about it. But honestly, his going to help the girlfriend of the guy accused in his place..yeah, not so much.

Just like BSG, this episode is all bringing things together and putting the pieces in place for the second half of the story next week. With the information that NTAC gave the 4400 this virus, what will happen now? And will Tom and Diana be forced to choose sides in whatever elaborate game is being played? And will this year's season finale offer us more answers than last year's did?

Time will tell...time will tell...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/25/2005 10:28:00 AM | |

Happy Days Are Here Again!
A couple of weeks ago, Hechts was having a sale on men's dress shirts--buy one, get one free. My mom and I visited the Hechts over at Cool Springs in search of a couple of new shirts for my wardrobe (I always like to have a good fashion consultant with me...my mom and my sister are like having the What Not to Wear crew on call in a good way) . Well, I found quite a few shirts in a variety of shades and patterns and even got some new ties to go with them.

Well, the past couple of weeks, I've been wearing the new shirts and enjoying my new fashion sense. And I've been getting a lot of compliments from people on how much they like the shirts, which is always a nice feeling.

And it makes me think--that makes me really happy. But I also wonder--do I do enough just random kindness to others? So, in my something happy, I find I have something that I might need to work on...because I love hearing the kind words of others about my new fashion sense and so I want to try and pass along that feeling to others.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/25/2005 07:58:00 AM | |
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
A Plea
No matter how you feel about the war in Iraq, I think most of us agree that any time a soldier gives his or her life in service to our country that it is a tragic loss. And I think most of us would agree that the solider's family and friends should be given the dignity of mourning the loss of their loved one in peace.

But there are people who apparently don't agree with me on this one.

One of them is Pastor Fred Phelps, a Baptist minister from Kansas. Phelps is leading a crusade against the war in Iraq by celebrating the death of American soldiers killed in this conflict. According to his rhetoric, these men and women are dying because of God's wrath and vengeance for America's "acceptance of homosexuality." Phelps sends people out to the funerals of service men and women who have fallen in Iraq with signs that proclaim hatred of homosexuals and America in general including one that says "Thank God for dead soldiers."

A few weeks ago, three soliders from Tennessee were killed serving in Iraq. One of them happens to be the brother of a member of my church. Services for him are planned this weekend. Now, the family in question has been through a lot of hardship of late--they just lost a daughter in a car crash as school ended and now they've lost a brother. I cannot begin to imagine the hurt and anguish they are feeling right now.

To make it worse, Phelps is sending some of his protesters (I hesitate in using the word "nutballs" here but the term does apply) to the funerals for both soldiers. Which means that Phelps' crew will be here Saturday to protest the funeral and offer up such wonderful messages as "Thank God for dead soldiers."

But the fun doesn't end there.

Local conservative talk show host, Steve Gill caught wind of this and this morning took to the airwaves calling on the Southern Baptist convention to condemn Phelps' actions and to rally a group to go out and protest Phelps' protesters. From what I caught of Gill's rhetoric, he'd like to have 1,000 listeners out Saturday to show support.

So, it looks like this is turning into a circus. And in all this, we seem to be losing sight of the fundamental issue at stake here--a family has experienced a tragic loss. And they should be allowed to mourn and remember the life of their loved one who made the ultimate sacrifice that allows both sides of this to come out and speak their mind freely and openly about this issue. But instead, both sides are getting caught up on a rherotic and an agenda that suits their own personal goals or needs.

And the more I think about it, the more irritated I get. The families deserve a right to grieve privately.

I've not heard any reports of either of the families in question seeking out media attention or attempting to turn the death of a loved one into a political cause like Cindy Sheehan.

Neither side of this swirling issue were invited to the services on Saturday. I wish they'd figure this out and not bother to come down to Smyrna on Saturday for this. But, alas, I fear that it will be a circus with a grieving family caught in the middle.

To both sides: please, stay home. I understand and respect your right to speak your mind and share your opinion, no matter how much I may disagree with it. But I also ask that you show some thought and consideration for these families.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/24/2005 10:04:00 AM | |

Happy Days Are Here Again!


To say I'm looking forward to Serenity, the movie based on Joss Whedon's short-lived but brilliant series Firefly is a bit of an understatement. (If you're not watching Friday's at 6 p.m. CST on SciFi, why not?!? Or better yet, just buy the box set...trust me, it's worth it).

One of the many marketing tie-ins is a three-part comic book mini-series from Dark Horse comics that will bridge the gap from the end of the series to the movie. Now, I've been scouring local comic shops to find these because as you may know, I'm a fan of all things Whedon and I really wanted to have the opportunity to read this story before I plunk down my eight bucks to see the movie. I was having a frustrating time finding any of the issues. Part of this, I'd like to chalk up to the popularity of Firefly and say it's good vibes for a great opening for the movie and maybe many more movies to come. But I have to wonder if part of it isn't the comic book tactic of having not one but three covers for each issue--each one featuring a different member of the cast. At times in my search, I had to wonder--is it because they have three covers that I can't find even just one issue with any cover so I can just read and enjoy the story?!?

Well, my frustration came to an end last evening when I wandered into the Great Escape and found they had copies of issues 1 and 2 in. And for each issue, they had the covers featuring the characters I wanted (pictured above). So, I was happy to pick them up, take them home and dive into the story. And let me just say this--it's good stuff. It's written by Whedon, so it has a very Firefly-like feel to it. Good stuff and it only makes me that much more excited to see the movie at the end of September.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/24/2005 07:40:00 AM | |
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Happy Days Are Here Again



In case you haven't figured it out by now, I love all things UT. Growing up and moving all around the country, I always wanted to go to UT. My parents attended UT and met there. I love UT football (and really all UT sports!) . I remember visiting the campus on a trip to see my grandparents and being struck by how beautiful it was.

I love all things UT. I'm proud to be an alumni and I spent five great years there.

Above is a picture of campus, including God's house where the Vols kick-off the 2005 campaign a week from Saturday. My dad attended a conference last week and got to take a helicopter tour of East Tennessee. This photograph is from a digital camera while on that tour.

I love UT. I love orange and white. And that is what make me happy today.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/23/2005 09:52:00 AM | |

UT to retire numbers
File this one under: Things that should have happened long before now.

I remember right after Peyton Manning graduated from UT, there was a lot of debate about what should be done to honor him. And let's face it--the man deserves to be honored. Not only a great quarterback and football player, but also a great ambassador and representative of all that can be right and good in the world of college athletics. I mean, the man gave up millions and being an assured first-pick in the draft to come back for his senior season with the Vols. And do NOT get me started on the stupidity that was the Hesiman voting that year. It has forever tainted this award in my mind. The Heisman is meaningless at this point since the criteria for voting change at the whim of the voters (aka ESPN).

But back to my original point. After Peyton graduated, there was a great deal of debate about what should be done to honor him for his great career at UT. One of the ideas bandied about and championed a lot by then SportsTalk host Mike Keith was retiring Peyton's number. Alas, UT didn't agree and instead reserved Peyton's number for "deserving" and "special" players. Which every time I see Rick Clausen wearing Peyton's number I go--how in the hell is Rick Clausen special? (Note for future reference: No member of the Clausen family should EVER get to wear any number worn by Peyton at any time).

Well, finally the news comes this morning that UT is going to retire three numbers this year--Peyton's, Reggie White's and Doug Atkin's. This is a move I wholeheartedly applaud and as I said--it should have been done way before now.

Of course, driving into work I made the mistake of tuning into 104.5 the Zone's morning show (Our motto: Bitter Vandy fans get to talk first). I really should remember that they are the flagship station for Vandy and so they have to try and run up some anti-UT sentiment somehow by questioning if Peyton's number should be retired. Then, you invariably get the four or five bitter Vandy fans who have the number on speed dial who deride Manning, UT and that he "couldn't win the big game." OK, I admit that Peyton never did beat Florida. I'll give you that..but he owned Bama and his numbers and winning percentage speak for themselves. Peyton was also a leader off the field, sending the right message about what is good about college athletics when he chose to forego millions in the NFL and stay for his senior season. Peyton Manning is a great ambassador for college football and UT, the likes of which few, if any schools will ever see again. Manning helped UT go to the next level--a level we've stayed at for close to a decade. I can see how all this positive influence and success would be hard to swallow for fans of other schools as they watch their schools mired in mediocrity and caught by the NCAA in scandal after scandal.

But let me say this again--Peyton Manning is one of the best to ever play the game. And his number is more than worthy of retirement.

End of story.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/23/2005 07:46:00 AM | |
Monday, August 22, 2005
Fantasy Football
Thank heavens that football is only a few short weeks ago--and by football, I mean games that count as opposed to the pre-season.

I've played fantasy football for years now and it does tend to add a lot of fun to the season. Last year, a couple of bloggers and I battled for bragging rights, picking the winners of NFL and college games. (It's all legal..no money exchange hands, just the pride and honor of the respective players). I am up for the challenge again, but this year I thought I'd throw down a whole different gauntlet--fantasy football.

Anyone out there interested in a blogger fantasy football league? I've set one up at Yahoo. You will have to have a Yahoo ID to sign in and play. But it's free and it could be a lot of fun.

League id: 181904
Password: ut1998


posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/22/2005 02:21:00 PM | |

Happy Days Are Here Again!
Every once in a while, I get the much needed reminder that I've got a lot of good friends....

(And yes, I count both real world friends and blogging friends in that)

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/22/2005 10:10:00 AM | |

Podcast #4
The infamous lost episode of "I'm Just Like You, But I Have a Podcast". OK, so maybe it's not infamous and maybe it's just because yours truly couldn't count...but whatever the case, it's the latest and greatest podcast with all kinds of ramblings....

You can follow the link above to my libsyn blog about it or download it directly.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/22/2005 09:38:00 AM | |

Karnival of Kidz
Amy of Prochein Amy hinted for a few weeks that it'd be great if I hosted the Karnival of Kidz this week. Being that I'm a guy and generally clueless I missed the hints, but thankfully Amy didn't lose patience with me and instead took the direct route of saying--Hey, you want to host?

"What are nutrients, anyway?" asks one of Pipsqueak's children. Find out what prompted this question over at the Common Room.

Amy shares about her oldest daughter's first day of kindergarten.

Primo Donna shares a cute, funny story about Amy. I won't spoil it here--you have to read it for yourself.

Peter Davis of Shakey Pete's Shootin' Shack is excited about the Karnival rolling into town. So much so that he got all dressed up. He shares photos of himself then and now, dressed up for the Karnival.

ArmyWifeToddlerMom shares memories of her husband's Grandmother who recently passed away and a few stories from the funeral.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and you can never go wrong with the great food choices available--from cereal to bacon and eggs to pancakes. Man, I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. But it is an important choice and good way to start the day off right, in more ways than one as One Happy Dog Speaks shares with us in this entry.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/22/2005 07:24:00 AM | |
Sunday, August 21, 2005
Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy
I was helping Gracelyn color last night in her new coloring book...which would be a moment of happiness in and of itself. But then, she reached into her bucket of crayons, pulled out an orange one and said, "This is your color. Color with it."

Great moment.

Of course, she then wanted me to color the faerie princess's mouth, lips and nose orange.....

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/21/2005 12:21:00 PM | |
Saturday, August 20, 2005
Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy
Today's little thing that makes me happy is quite simple really....getting to sleep in on a Saturday morning.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/20/2005 12:17:00 PM | |
Friday, August 19, 2005
Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy
Just to be cliche man, I'm gonna go with the fact that I'm happy that it is finally Friday. Man, there were times this week I wondered if I'd make it.

And I am glad that it's only 15 days until it's football time in Tennessee!!!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/19/2005 01:20:00 PM | |

Friday Memes
Friday's Feast
Appetizer
Do you get excited when the season begins to change? Which season do you most look forward to?
Yes I do. And because of my love of football, I look forward to fall most.

Soup
What day of the week is usually your busiest?
Wednesday

Salad
Would you consider yourself to be strict when it comes to grammar and spelling? What's an example of the worst error you've seen?
Grammar, yes. Spelling...well, just read through here and I am sure you will find tons of spelling mistakes and errors. Or typos.

Main Course
Who has a birthday coming up, and what will you give them as a gift?
My nephew, Davis. I am going to get him the Baby Tennessee DVD and a Star Wars X-Wing fighter toy.

Dessert
If you could have any new piece of clothing for free, what would you pick?
A nice suit.

Aloha Friday
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten? Did you know what it was when you ate it?
When I lived in Reston, Virginia, my grandparents (my dad's parents) lived about three hours south of us in Lanexa, VA (waaaaaaaaaay outside Williamsburg...) Anyway, they'd come to visit and we'd always go to the Chesapeake Bay Seafood House on Saturday night. They had all you can eat and you could select from this huge list of seafood delicacies. Well, one night Grandpa got frog's legs and he somehow dared/convinced me I should try them. I did.

What’s your #1 method of communication with people? Email? Telephone? IM? Actually talking in person?
Subliminal messages.....

OK, really, I prefer e-mail as I don't feel like it's being too intrusive.

Link to a news story from this morning you think might be interesting to us!
I know a lot of my blogging buddies are Lost fans like me...so here's a link to the hints that there will be a 2nd new female cast member added to Lost this year (besides Michelle Rodriguez)

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/19/2005 10:55:00 AM | |
Thursday, August 18, 2005
In the Eye of the Beholder.
The CBS Evening News without Dan Rather last night had this report about a marketing campaign by Dove skin cream. Instead of using waifishly thin models to sell their beuaty products, Dove is "taking a chance" by having "real" woman sell these products under the banner of "Real Women Have Curves."

Now, I'd heard about this campaign a few weeks ago. I think it was a featured link on MSN on one day. (I hate to say it, but the little ad of women in their white cotton skivvies with the text shouting that real women have curves on MSN proved to be too much NOT to click. I mean, it's not like this was a link from any other web site where I didn't know where it might take me. Bill Gates would never steer me toward porn...)

There was a lot in this report that struck me as interesting.
But what hasn't changed is this: it's still a sales-pitch. The question Dove is raising is: do real women want to buy their beauty products from regular women or from size two supermodels?

Frances Grill, founder of the Click Model Agency, doesn't think the supermodels have anything to worry about.

Grill says that when she picks up a magazine, she's "looking for the fantasy and the illusion" and that people are drawn in by glamour.

"Regular people, when they look in a mirror, they don't see this," says Axelrod while looking at pictures of models with Grill.

"But they can fantasize it," Grills says.

Dove is banking on her being wrong.

"I think these ads aren't about fantasy. It's about celebrating reality," Gina [Crisanti (one of the models in the campaign)] said.

Dove is also banking that the man on the street is more like Randy Carnegie.

"Now I can walk and whoa -- there goes somebody that looks like my wife!" said Carnegie.

Looking at Gina on the billboard, Carnegie says, "She looks too skinny to be in there."

Too skinny? Try this: A model agency Gina just contacted told her, sorry -- they don't work with plus sizes!
First of all--plus size?!? Good heavens, it's no wonder there are so many young women these days out there with eating disorders.

Of course, what I think this comes down to is the definition of what is beautiful and what isn't. Or to put in the terms the young 'uns are using these days--are you hot or not?

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the bookstore and perusing the plethora of magazine titles availalbe to me. I was debating between which fantasy football guide I needed to start assembling my team this season (I won the league I was in with some buddies from church and I've got a big ol' target on my back, so I've gotta stay one step ahead and not tank in my post-Super Bowl year). Anyway, while browsing, I couldn't help but notice that Hooters (you know the restuarants) had their own magazine. On one level, I suppose it was only a matter of time, really. The magazine was placed with other magazines of "men's interest" such as Maxim, FHM, Stuff, etc.

(In a way, it reminded of the comedy routine about the differences between men and women even in magazines. I think it's by Jeff Foxwerthy. Basically, it says how women's magazines talk about how to find a good man, how to make him into a good man, etc while men's magazines all feature one thing--naked or semi-naked women.)

Anyway, I will admit..I gave into the dark side a bit. I've been to Hooters a couple of times and so I have to admit I was curious about the magazine. I picked it up, flipped through and found a lot of photos of women in the Hooters outfits and bathing suits, all trying to look sexy and hot.

But were they succeeding. I think it was a day or two later I first saw the ad for the Dove campaign and clicked on it. And as I thougth about it, I have to admit that women in the Dove campaign were a bit "hotter" to me.

Why?

A lot of it boils down to the reason I like to go to the Y as opposed to another gym I visited in Smryna. See this gym had lots of people in Spandex all showing off how muscled, toned, ripped and all around in shape they are. Now I like to think I'm in good physical shape, but ripped toned and buff I am not. I like the Y as there is a good cross-representation of real people...not just a bunch of people strutting about in spandex. I mean, I know for a fact that I don't have a perfect body....I like to joke I've got six-pack abs, but they're just inside a cooler.

And the thing is, when I was looking at the Hooters Magazine, I kept thinking--yeah, that's OK, but they're trying too hard to convince me they're "hot." Instead, I was more intrigued by the Dove women because they had that "they don't know they're beautiful" quality to them. As in--they take pride in their appearance but aren't stuck on themselves. I mean, I know I'm not gonna win any high ratings on Am I Hot Or Not, but I do take pride in how I look. And I don't wear the polka-dotted shirt with the plaid pants (well, at least not since that once time in college on laundry day..but I digress). I know we've all been told that true beauty comes from within and the older I get the more I find this to be true.

I'd rather have a sparkle in her eyes, a genuine smile and something indefinable rather than the Hooters fantasy girl who is trying so hard to convince myself and herself of how hot she is.

As the old saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I realize I'm not saying anything earth-shattering or covering any new ground here. But hey, not every posting can be gold, right?

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/18/2005 02:57:00 PM | |

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy
I enjoy a good pizza as much, if not more, than the next person. I think part of it is that while on the diet a few years ago, I read how "bad" pizza is for you in terms of total caloric value. (Even putting veggies on it doesn't help much) So, I have to admit I don't have pizza very often...but when I do I enjoy it.

And there's just something about having leftover pizza for lunch the next day that makes me happy...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/18/2005 01:18:00 PM | |

My newest podcast...
It's just and available for your listening pleasure. Here's two ways to get to it: Download it from here or surf over to my libsyn blog and listen to it that way.

This week, I examine--just what in the world should my podcast's mission statment be?

Enjoy! And feel free to leave any comments, questions or debate.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/18/2005 07:35:00 AM | |
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
TV Round-Up
Battlestar Galactica: The Farm
Was it just me or did this episode really feel kind of incomplete?

Not that this is a bad thing, but as the fade to black set in, I wondered--gee, aren't there five or so more minutes left to go? Also, I felt really robbed that I wasn't watching the whole season on DVD and couldn't just jump to the next episode and continue the stories that were unfolding.

And I mean that in a good way.

After last week, when the Caprica storyline did zilch for me, I can honestly say that at least this week's actually was a bit better. Starbuck is captured by the Cylons and learns that the human females who can bear children have been turned into baby-making machines. And Starbuck could be next in line. From what I understand of the conversation that Caprica-Boomer has with Starbuck and Helo, the Cylons haven't quite mastered creating copies that can biologically have children. Honestly, as I watched this, I kept wondering if this was or is going to be simliar to Attack of the Clones where we'll later find out that the Cylon babies created here are accelerated to be older clones faster.

Meanwhile, the really juicy stuff is happening with the fleet. Adama's back and facing the mess that Tigh created while he was out of the loop. I loved the scenes of seeing Adama return and the conversation between Adama and Tyrol was great. I wonder if Adama was talking to Tyrol about the possibilty of seeing Boomer again or himself. The scene in the end where Adama confronts the dead body of Galactica Sharon was nicely done and the acting by Edward James Olmos makes up for the fact that for five weeks leading up to this, the most emotion he had to show was squeezing Apollo's hand. And you just get this sense of profound relief when he steps back in. Yes, the situation is still pretty much out of control, but Adama's back and he's going to make it right.

Of course, Roslin ain't helping much. She goes for "the religion card" and asks for ships to join her in returning to Kobol. Roslin's reluctance to accept this role is compelling, but it's also interesting that she's slowly embracing it more and more. And it takes less convincing for her to step into the role of a religious leader. At the end, a third of the fleet jumps to Kobol, after Adama assumed that only a few ships would go along with Roslin's "crazy fundamentalism."

I did like Lee not wanting to disavow his father though. And Zarek is being well used. Watching the original series, I never thought that Richard Hatch would be as good an actor as he displays here. He just does a great job and it's one of those pleasant surprises in a series that seems to be full of them.

But the nitpicky things. Sometimes they drive me nuts. Like the last time we saw Caprica-Boomer, she was taking Starbuck's ship? What happened to that? Did we miss some dialogue where it's established what happened to the ship and why? And since Six seems to have some connection to Boomer, does this mean the rebel base has been outed? Are the Cylons simliar to the Borg in that it seems they have a collective consiousness at times? If so, does that mean our plucky resistance group is in big time trouble?

These are the questions an obsessive fan like myself asks.

The 4400: Lockdown
In sports, there is often discussion of a tree of coaching. For example, a lot of today's successful college basketball coaches worked with Dean Smith.

In the world of TV writers, I like to look at the tree of writing. Specifically, anyone who has worked with Joss Whedon (which just to remind everyone here: Joss Whedon, good!). Douglas Petrie, the writer for this episode, was one of those writers. He worked on Buffy for several years, writing some great episodes. In fact, I think he may have been behind one of my favorite episodes of all-time "Fool For Love."

So, when his name scrolled across the opening credits here, I got a bit excited.

Which at that point was a good thing as I'd already rolled my eyes in the teaser. Once again, we had one of those openings where weird, wild stuff happens that is a bit out of character and we see a dramatic moment. Then the show flashes back x-amount of time to show you what lead up to this dramatic event--in this case, Tom and Diana going Face/Off and pointing guns at each other.

And, for the most part, what we got was pretty good stuff. On the day of Jordan Collier's b'day, NTAC is attacked by some type of virus that emites a signal that makes all the men go extra testosterone-y. Or if you've seen original Star Trek, everyone goes all "Naked Time." Or maybe it's more like everyone goes Fox Mulder on his worst day of trusting no one and suspecting everythng. However you want to think about it, hopefully you get the point.

Apparently it doesn't affect the women as much, though towards the end they do get a bit snarky. Of course, running around, having guns pointed at you, getting yelled at and/or shot can kind of ruin you day, I suppose and make you a bit cranky.

In the end, we find out it was one of the 4400 behind the attack, basically sending out the signal from her palm pilot. I had no idea these things could do that. Seriously, I need to look into getting one if I can hold major governmental agencies at bay with it. That could come in handy shortening the line at DMV, let me tell you.

Meanwhile, Kyle meets a new woman (what happened to hottie professor gal?) who helps him make up for his years in a coma, if you know what I mean. And Sean starts to lose his ability to heal, which I had seen coming long before now. I think I called this one a few weeks ago in wondering did Sean's ability have a "shelf life" or what happened if he couldn't "recharge" as it were. I guess we're gonna find out as we make the final run to the end of the season....

The Dead Zone: Babble On
After last week's season high point, I sort of expected a drop off. But hey, every series can suprise you and The Dead Zone did that this week.

Of couse, any week you can highlight David Ogden Stiers and the wonderful relationship between Johnny and Purdy, you've got pretty much dramatic gold. And let me just say that worked this week. Thankfully the script was self-aware enough to know the audience would figure out early the visions Johnny was accessing were from the dust in his house. I was worried we'd go all episode without this being figure out by Johnny and thus left to be disappointed come episode's end.

Instead, we establish this early and often and then go about creating a mystery of the week that is actually compelling and interesting. Sure, it follows the standard Dead Zone formula, but when the impact to Johnny's character is this well done, I can look past it. The idea that Johnny somehow had this vision as a boy and it was what slowly drove his father to a mental institution was a chilling way to end the story. And I have to admit, I liked it. Never saw it coming and it didn't feel forced or cliched as it easily could have.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/17/2005 07:53:00 AM | |

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy
I opened up The Tennessean this morning and right there on the front page of the living section was a great gift idea for Davis's b'day--a DVD called Baby Volunteer that teaches the small ones about the wonders and joys that is God's sport--UT football. (It is played in God's house....hey, why are dark clouds circling around my computer all of a sudden?)

This will be a perfect compliment to his PlaySkool Star Wars X-Wing fighter toy (did I mention when you push a button it PLAYS the first few notes of the Star Wars theme?!? How cool is that?!?) that he'll also be getting from Uncle Michael for his b'day. And it goes well with a board book I got for Gracelyn for her 2nd b'day about the University of Tennessee.

Spoiling my neice and nephew...yeah, it makes me happy.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/17/2005 07:33:00 AM | |
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
A bit of good news, a bit of news that makes me worry
I can't say I'm really that excited about the news that the Titans and Adam Jones have pretty much agreed on a contract that will end the sixth-pick's hold out and get Jones into camp as early as tomorrow. I guess it's more a profound sense of relief that this part of the saga is behind us and maybe, just maybe, Pacman can start earning some respect for his play on the field rather than earning my apathy for how he acts off the field. Though I read that Pacman would like to get some playing time in Friday night's scrimmage pre-season game against the Falcons. Somehow I can't see him picking up the system in just two days...but that's just me.

But, then I hear news that uber-agent Drew Rosenhaus is in town, pushing that his client, Billy Volek be traded by the Titans so he (Billy) can be an NFL starter.

I like Volek a good deal--part of the reason being I picked him up at the right time to help me win a bunch of games in a fantasy football league last year.

And I do think Volek deserves to be a starter at some point. But do we honestly need Rosenhaus coming in here and creating the same swirl of controversy and dissent that he's managed to help T.O. create in Philly?

My answer: Not so much.

So, thanks for stopping by Drew, but I am sure a plane from Nashville International is leaving just about any time now for Philly. I hear T.O. needs your help....cause from what I've seen, you and your client have done wonders so far in helping create a spirit of team work up there with the Eagles...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/16/2005 02:07:00 PM | |

Hitch
Over the weekend, I watched the latest Will Smith movie, Hitch.

Now, I've not got anything against romantic comedies, per se and I will give you that Hitch was an entertaining, fun little movie. (Though I will agree with a lot of the comments I've seen that Kevin James steals the show. Also, I admit I saw it with family and was not "forced" to watch it by a member of the female gender. I wanted to see it as the previews showing Kevin James demonstrating his dancing style to Will Smith were a riot).

But as I watched it, I found myself thinking about the real problem that I--and maybe a lot of other guys out there--have with romantic comedies. It's not the romantic angle or the predictable formula most of them fall into (I mean, look at movies that are targeted for guys...they are pretty formulaic themselves, just instead of the two leads ending up dating, they end up blowing up stuff in a loud way). No, my real "issue" with romantic comedies is that I always walk away thinking, "Yeah, it's so much easier for the guys to apporach the girls in them because the whole encounter is scripted."

When it comes to approaching and talking to a woman I don't know or barely know for the first, second or even fiftieth time, I swear that I sometimes feel like Chris Farley from Tommy Boy. I always seem to want to go "Stupid, stupid, stupid!" within three seconds of having opened my mouth and said something. And why is it that something that sounded witty and funny in my head tends to come out as sounding more like, "Me like stuff...what you like?" or one of the little minions you control in Warcraft who exclaim "Zug, zug!" when you put them to work in the game.

(I swear, I think I could fill an entire season of Seinfeld with stuff that's happened to me. I remember one incident a few year ago, where I'd re-encountered a woman I'd met years before and the group of us had gone out to dinner. Now, I drink a lot of water, esp. after I've been swimming in the evening and/or could be nervous. And so during dinner, we'd chatted and were hitting it off, to the point that after we ate and paid our bills, we stood around the parking lot and it eventually whittled down to just her and I. Being near a bookstore, we went inside for some reason. Now during all of this, I suddenly realized the old adage that you don't own coffee, you just borrow it also applied to water. And I started to feel this desparate urge to go...but trying to be suave and not come out and say, "Gee, I really GOTTA go!" and then run for the restroom, I tried to hint that I'd wander off and be right back....which should have worked were it not for the fact that as I'd try to work this into conversation, she'd say something that I felt I needed to respond to and didn't want the moment to get away from me while I was off in the restroom. Eventually, it got to the point where I just had to go so bad that it was either relive preschool or be blunt. I went with blunt. And then obsessed about it for days on end...again the whole Chris Farley thing of "Stupid, stupid, stupid!". But she did actually call back and we went out a couple of times and thankfully this was not counted against me....at least as far as I can tell.

But back to my point...I could see something like that happening to George...)

Last season on Monk, our hero got the phone number of a woman and before he called her, he sat down and wrote out conversational cards for every opportunity. Which it was great fun to watch him organize the cards and demonstrate how he was prepared for any conversational alley that might arise. And then, we see Monk actually call and, ha-ha, she throws in a rogue questions and throws off the whole system. (And for those of you wondering--no, I haven't done this!)

Now, I'm not saying that I write down or plot out entire conversations before I have them with women. All I'm saying is that as a man, I feel a bit intimidated by these romantic comedies wherein seemingly normal men come up with witty, intelligent banter for talking to women for the first, second or hundred-and-third time. And don't get me started on how Cameron Crowe has ruined it for all of us with his two creations of Jerry McGuire and Lloyd Dobber. It's so easy to come up with these grand gestures that will win her heart and garner her attention in a movie. I'm just saying if I showed up outside someone's window with a radio over my head, she might be as likely to call the cops and have me hauled off for being a stalker as she would be to think, "Wow, that is so sweet."

Of course, I often wonder--what do women think of guys and the ways we approach them? I mean, I can imagine I must have frustrated a woman or two in my time with my complete lack of picking up what should be obvious clues. Heck, I know for a fact that my ex got frustrated with me for the first month after we met as I didn't call enough. But, you know, we traded e-mails and IMs for five hours a day and I wasn't sure if calling after that would appear either cute and endearing or more "dear heavens, this man is a stalker" to her. Eventually it got to a point where she said, "If you get bored later, call me" and I figured even if I wasn't bored, I should at least pick up the phone and, at worst, leave a voice mail.

But ya know, it's all part of the wacky world of fun that is men, women and dating. It's probably been going on since Adam, when he wondered how long after Eve gave him the fruit he should wait before he called. And it doesn't show any signs of getting any easier any time soon. But it sure does make life interesting, doesn't it?

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/16/2005 11:12:00 AM | |

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!
I have to admit that about this time last year, I was in a bit of a struggle to find things that fit the August Challenge...but this year, each time I think I'm about to run out of things that make me happy to blog about, another two or three things spring to mind or happen to me and I just sit back and think, "Cool." That alone could be my happy thought for today...but I've got a few more.

I thought I was going to have to miss playing softball tonight, but events and meetings got moved around so that I could make it to the game. Now, please, please, please don't let it rain or wash out the games!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/16/2005 08:10:00 AM | |
Monday, August 15, 2005
Young Titans fans in training











Here are two Titans fans in training, sharing the foam number one finger I got from Titans Radio Friday evening. I also had fun trying to teach Davis how to mimic spelling the word Tennessee so he could freak out his parents by randomly throwing it out in conversation at some point. I think, for now, I may have to settle for teaching him to the the "T E double-N E double-S, double-E, Tennessee" cheer!


posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/15/2005 11:08:00 AM | |

Titans vs Bucs Pre-Season Game
At long last, pre-season football has arrived in middle Tenneesee. After weeks of the off-the-field distractions of Adam Jones and his contract dispute, it was nice to head out to the stadium and actually focus on what happened on the field rather than who is suing who and will Pacman ever sign a contract? (Honestly, I am beginning to doubt he ever will and his agent is not helping matters by sending an e-mail out informing the media he's leaving town but not telling Floyd Reese or the Titans organization).

But let's face it here--for the most part, pre-season games are little more than a glorified scrimmage. Sure, it's a glorified scrimmage in which the fans can buy beer, but if you really think you're going into a contest where you're going to see the best of the offense, defense and special teams, you've got another think coming. Friday night was all about going full speed against another team for the first time since January and keep all the star players from getting injured. Hence why Chris Brown was held out with tightness in his hamstring and we saw nothing of Tyrone Calico.

But even with these two components out of the game, we still got a small preview of what the Titans offense will offer this year. And if this is the vanilla version for pre-season, I have hopes for the offense this year. Steve McNair looked good in his return to play for the first time since last October. He scrambled twice, one time taking a huge hit, but he bounced back up quickly. So, ::knocks wooden object:: so far, so good. Travis Henry got some playing time with the first team offense and it was great to see Henry back in a uniform for a Tennessee team. Henry didn't get a great deal of production on the night, but the thing with a running back like Henry is that it takes three quarters to wear down a defense. I am interested to see how Henry would do given a half or in a whole game scenario as the defense wears down.

And certainly as the second team got in, there were some issues. I wonder how well Billy Volek is adjusting to the new system implemented by offensive coordinator Norm Chow. He just didn't seem quite as in sync as he was during the late season run last year when he had the reigns of the team. Of course, part of that could be that he was separated from his favorite target, Drew Bennett.

Then, there's the defense that gave up a drive and an easy TD to start the game, but settled down after that. There were two big pass interference calls against us (one of them totally bogus as the ball was uncatchable) that helped the Bucs move score 10 points--including a field goal to win the game in overtime. And while I know we've got issues at cornerback, if Tony Beckham in the answer I wonder if we ought to re-evaluate the questions we're asking.

And I still continue to wonder if Jeff Fisher is going to ban me from the stadium. I've been to four games now and the Titans have only won one of them. And as we all know, it is all about me.

Now, heading over to the stadium, we did get caught in the thunderstorm that blew through early Friday afternoon. This after checking numerous weather forecasts in which no rain or storms were expected. Guess they got that one a wee bit wrong. Barry and I had to huddle in the TitansRadio tent for a few minutes during the worst of the storm. It was blowing so hard that at one point, George Plaster advised us that the tent could blow over and he wasn't making us leave but we stayed at our own risk. This might have been in response to the fact that less than a minute before we got in the tent, some scaffolding holding some banners blew and hit a fan. From what I heard on the radio this morning, the fan is alright, though he was going to his first Titans' game. I think he had to miss it or at least only listen to the Mike Keith radio broadcast or watch the coverage of WKRN instead of being there as he got carted off in an ambulance. I don't know who he was, but I hope and pray he's OK. If anyone was there or knows anything on his condition, please feel free to comment and let me know. Or drop me a line via e-mail.

During all this, we got out very own free Titans' foam fingers which Gracelyn and Davis had a good time with Saturday afternoon. Davis thought it was funny to bonk Uncle Michael on the head with a giant number one foam finger.

Also intereting about the experience was that we got two 2-minute warnings to end the first half. Jeff Fischer reviewed a call, thus setting the clock back to 2:05. This was after we'd done the 2-minute warning thing. Another play was run and then we got ANOTHER 2-minute warning. Listening to Mike Keith and Frank Wycheck on the radio, we got a few minutes of them filling time as they'd obviousy used the commercials already for the 2-minute warning. I will admit that Keith and Wycheck did well on their first broadcast together. Keith is the best play by play guy out there and while I miss the chemistry he had with Pat Ryan, Wycheck did a good job. You could tell Wycheck was nervous and excited, but he quickly got comfortable and offered some good insight. I was worried he'd be too much of a homer for the Titans, but so far no really legitimate complaints here. (I mean, I still miss Pat Ryan, but then again I also still miss John Ward...complaining about it ain't gonna change it).

And you know a game is on the less than interesting side when the most excitement our upper deck section could generate was over a huge bug that was flying around during the game.

I mean, sure there was that huge 53-yard field goal to tie the game and go to overtime but it was just a few moments of excitement whereas the drama with the bug was spread out over an entire quarter and a half...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/15/2005 09:25:00 AM | |

If It Makes You Happy...
Well, I didn't blog over the weekend, so I'm behind on my posts of things that make you happy. But I shall try and make up for it now.

  • I had a good time Friday evening catching up with Barry from Inn of the Last Home at the Titans' game. Trust me..in the late third and all of the fourth quarter, there was plenty of time. And you know, I've never seen them have to repeat a two-minute warning in all of my years of watching football.
  • Saturday evening we had a b'day celebration for my mom with our family all together. Gracelyn and Davis actually managed to share the foam finger I got from Titans Radio and seemed to have fun with it for about five minutes.
  • As some of you may remember from a few months ago, my teaching of the senior high youth Sunday School class has been full of controversy--a lot of it directed from one person in particular. Yesterday, we had a public forum and meeting in which said critic called me a liar and I was able to politely and maturely refute this. (It helps to have not taken the price stickers for the material I'm using off the back of the books and to show--yes, they did come from the Cokesbury bookstore, thank you. ) Also, in the midst of this, I had a large number of parents who showed up and voiced not only their support but their gratitude for my teaching Sunday School. So, it was nice after a week or so of being torn down by a small group to realize that there are those who like what I'm doing.


posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/15/2005 07:45:00 AM | |
Friday, August 12, 2005
Surprise Endings
USA Today has a long article today about movies with surprise or twist endings--such as The Sixth Sense, Million Dollar Baby (which I've not yet seen so please if you've seen it, don't clue me in!) and today's release of The Skeleton Key.

The article talks about how The Skeleton Key is using the twist ending as a selling point to get the masses into the theaters. It also talks about how the ending is easily found on-line on certain web sites--even before the movie was released. Reading the article, I got to thinking about movies with surprise twists and turns that I've seen.

I remember hearing the buzz about The Sixth Sense a couple of years ago and anxiously wanting to see it before someone told me what the twist was. I was fortunate that I did get to see it before anyone could tell me, though I did spend a lot of the movie trying to second-guess the film and wondering "Is that the surprising twist?" (Seeing it in theaters, I assumed the twist was the ghosts were around becuase they had something final to say...not what the eventual twist turned out to be). I like that M. Night Shamalyan had constructed the movie so that it not only had the good twist but it held up well upon repeat viewings. And, to be quite honest, I think Shamalyan has been chasing the success of the Sixth Sense ever since. I saw The Village on DVD and while it was good, it felt like he was trying too hard to shock and surprise us with something...

In a lot of cases, it's hard to go into certain films and not know the key plot element these days...or the twist. I saw Citizen Kane for the first time knowing Rosebud was the sled we see in the beginning, for example. And certainly Psycho has been sent-up so many times in other films that the twists in the ending aren't really all that huge a shock.

I just wonder if it's possible to pull a true surprise ending these days or have something go out and be a total secret until a film or TV show is released to the general public. Empire Strikes Back did it, with audiences not knowing until the movie premiered that Darth Vader would reveal he was Luke's father. But could it be done today with the Internet and the leaks of SPOILER info and scripts making the rounds on fan web sites?

As I ponder this, I'm reminded of a couple things.

The first is how Joss Whedon is the master of the SPOILER grape-vine. Back when Buffy was in its second season, it was leaked out that one of the "Scooby gang" would betray Buffy. This led to rampant speculation on-line about who it would be and why. And Joss made some cryptic comments at the time in a board that led you to believe that no doubt it had to be Xander. Xander would betray Buffy because he was jealous of her relationship with Angel. In the context of how things were unfolding, it made sense. And then we got to "Surprise" and "Innocence" and Joss pulled a fast one. It wasn't Xander who betrayed Buffy..it was Angel. I can remember this wonderful two parter airing for the first time (part two aired on my b'day) and being floored at how good it was. And how Joss had duped us all. He did a simliar thing a few years later in season five when he hinted that every major villain the show had seen would come back for the end of season five and isntead took the storyline in a totally different direction.

I love it when the creators pull a fast one on us. It reminds me of the story around Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. When Khan was going into production, Gene Roddenberry found out that the producers intended to kill off Spock to end the film. Roddenberry disagreed with this decision and thought he'd call their bluff. He leaked the information to the fan clubs who got up in arms about it. Rampant specualation abounded as the movie got closer and closer.

Finally, it premiered and Spock died..in the first ten minutes. As did most of the rest of the crew. But it was a "test." It wasn't real. At this point, as a movie goer, you assume this is what Roddenberry saw and took out of context. Yo u could then relax because "oh, Spock 'died' so let's move on with the rest of the movie." Then when Spock does bite it in the final reel, it comes as a complete shock.

Quite frankly Star Trek II is a better movie for how it addressed that particular issue.

(Of course, you have to understand Star Trek II is in my top five of all-time great films, so I'm biased here...just a bit!)

I can tell you that the first time I see a movie or a TV show, I prefer to not know every possible twist and turn of it all. I've met people over the years who are what I'd call SPOILER-whores..they want to know everything that is going to happen in a movie or tv show or book before they sit down to watch or read it. Which makes me wonder--what's the point of watching or reading? Part of the fun for me is to discover what happens in the course of the show. I love Lost, but how much fun would it be to know all the solutions before I've encountered all the mysteries? Isn't part of the fun being in the dark on these things?

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/12/2005 01:47:00 PM | |

Friday Memes
Aloha Friday
Do you have any phobias?
Actually, I do. I have needle phobia. Which basically means I have this tendency to pass out after getting a shot. And the bad part is--it can be a delayed reaction, taking up to 5 to 10 minutes for the shock to set in and the passing out to occur. But it is a fun trick and it sure does break the ice at parties...

What’s your favorite summer movie so far this year?
Batman Begins.

Spread the spirit of blog aloha & pick someone off your blogroll for us to visit!
Drop by and visit Dana over at Ain't No Rodeo Queen.

Friday's Feast
Appetizer
Did you sleep good last night?
Pretty well, though I do admit I was not ready to get up this morning.

Soup
What is your current computer desktop image?
A Battlestar Galactica background I downloaded from Sci-Fi featuring the round BSG-75 logo.

Salad
When was the last time you planted something, what was it and where did it go?
I helped the parental units plant some bushes out by the mailbox in the spring. They are still growing and doing quite well.

Main Course
What's your favorite condiment?
Ketchup

Dessert
Share a quote that you like, for whatever reason.
"You used to say I was nice, now you tell all your friends that I'm the anti-Christ." --Weird Al
"Just look behind your own soul and the person that you'll see, just might remind you of me." --Colin Raye

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/12/2005 11:25:00 AM | |

If It Makes You Happy...
My brother-in-law, Brian, had to go out of town this week, so the other night I got to help out with Gracelyn and Davis's swim lessons, which I have to admit was a lot of fun. Both of them love to be in the pool. Gracelyn is still getting comfortable putting her entire head in the water (I don't think she likes putting her ears in the water) but Davis is just like Uncle Michael was at that age (and still is thirty plus years later)--he loves the pool. The funny thing is that Davis hasn't quite got down that when you hold your breath to go under, you close your mouth instead of opening it. But he loves dunking under the water and then coming back up. Below is a picture of us at swim lessons where Gracelyn has her pink diving ring (her favorite color is pink). Davis got a green one, though I could tell he really wanted an orange one...

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

I also realize the photo above could be included in the Half-Nekkid Thursday photo challenge I've seen in such blogs as Domestic Pyschology and The Chuckster.

Two posts for the price of one....

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/12/2005 08:11:00 AM | |
Thursday, August 11, 2005
You had me, then you lost me.
Just as I was starting to come around and maybe, just maybe give Adam Jones a bit of the benefit of the doubt, this happens.

Couldn't he just once surprise us all in a good way?

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/11/2005 03:36:00 PM | |

The Dead Zone Round-Up
Two episodes for the price of one!

Grains of Sand
When you get into season four of a show with a hook like The Dead Zone, you've got to find ways to keep the hook fresh and entertaining to the audience. And I feel like at times this year, the series hasn't really been trying that hard to keep it fresh or interesting and instead, has relies a bit too much on Johnny has a vision and must then solve the mystery of the week to keep it from coming to pass.

So, give "Grains of Sand" an A for effort and at least trying to tweak the formula a bit.

But I will have to knock off a few points for not being a compelling enough tweak to keep me interested. There was some interesting potential here--esp. with Johnny and the baby that is put into his care. Seeing Johnny's desire to be a father in the day-in, day-out sense of the word had some good potential. And even though we all knew Johnny had to give up the baby at the end, there should have been a bit more of an emotional response or connection to his having to give up the baby, esp. in light of the visions of Johnny and the boy sharing the train set together.

Meanwhile, the rest of the story is about Mexican immigrants and it pretty much goes paint by numbers--even to the point that our trusted female agent who helps Johnny turns out to be not all she appears to be.

Vanguard
I think I've made the comparisons between The X-Files and The Dead Zone before. Both are similiar shows--a situation/mystery of the week show peppered occasionally with a mythology storyline.

Vanguard is one of those mythology storylines and it was just the kind of episode The Dead Zone needed to kick the season in the pants. After a couple of just ho-hum episodes, we get this one that really was interesting. Johnny reconnects with his life before the coma with the students from his science club. Johnny has a disturbing vision about one in particular, who could help bring about the armageddon that Johnny sees every time he touches Greg Stillson. Suddenly, Stillson is back as is Purdy and things are humming and clicking. The background stories are moving forward..maybe only an inch or two. But suddenly, the series has some momentum again.

I also liked seeing Johnny's attempts to change things not really make it that much better. In the end, he achieved little to make the future better. If anything, he may have created a worse scenario because his friend is not there to oversee the use of the invention that could lead to armageddon.

All that said, I did find this episode to be a bit on the FX side when it came to the cussin'. I counted at least three or four instances where the choice of colorful metaphors by characters took me out of the story a bit. Part of that is that we don't normally hear such colorful metaphors on the show and so it just doesn't feel like part of the show.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/11/2005 01:13:00 PM | |
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