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Monday, January 31, 2005
Inquiring Minds Are Mildly Curious
I saw this over at All Things Jen(nifer) and even though I did it a few months ago, I didn't know some of my current blog buddies back then, so I figured I'd try it, here we go....

(A) First, recommend to me:
1. a movie:
2. a book:
3. a musical artist, song, or album:

(B) I want everyone who reads this to ask me three questions, no more, no less. Ask me anything you want.

(C) Then I want you to go to your blog, copy and paste this allowing your friends to ask you anything they want!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/31/2005 04:03:00 PM | |

TV Round-Up
Battlestar Galactica: Act of Contrition
Let me say this up front: I am getting a bit weary of the "flashback" episodes. (No, not the ones that Happy Days did where we saw clips from previous episodes, though those are not high of my list of great television). What I'm talking about is when a show starts you in the middle or end of the story and then suddenly pulls back to "three days before" to show you what happened leading up to the dramatic events playing out on screen. Alias does this all the time--so much so that the impact is being lost by the show. It almost stinks of lazy writing--we've got to hook the fans into the action so let's do it early and then take the time to set up the story.

But as overused as this storytelling concept can be, every once in a while, it's used right and an entire episode benefits from it (or an entire series in the case of Lost, which continues to amaze me week in and week out that they can pull off the flashback narrative) . "Act of Contrition" is one of those episodes becuase instead of just flashing back to what led up to Starbuck crashing in the atmosphere of the planet, we get flashbacks within the flashback setting up things even more. It's a bold choice and one that works from a storytelling angle and from a directoral angle. I loved how the earliest flashbacks were the brightest and as we got closer to the current events, the lighting got darker and darker, as did the overall tone of the story.

For me, this whole episode hinged on one great scene in Adama's quarters. Setting this up. Starbuck was engaged to Adama's son and Lee's brother, Zak. He was in flight training and failed, but she passed him, leading to his death. Lee knows this, Adama doesn't. When there's an accident on the flight deck and 13 pilots are killed, the fleet must look to find new trainees to fend off the Cylons. Starbuck is put in charge of training them and goes hard-ass on them, not wanting to fail again and lose them like she did Zak. Adama has no clue of this until Lee lets it slip off-handedly, assuming Adama knows. Starbuck is called to his office and, well, the drama begins.

Starbuck comes clean, tearfully--after Adama has re-iterated she is like a daughter to him. The look on Adama's face says it all--Adama goes from sympathy to pure anger. You can see the slow change on his face as it sinks in. Edward James Olmos earns his paycheck for the week and the entire series in one scene as he tells Starbuck to get out while she can still walk. Man, the guy plays a great slowburn. That scene alone made the entire episode.

Starbuck gives the trainees another chance and while out training, some Cylons show up. Starbuck goes back to fight them off while experienced pilots scramble, taking out all of the patrol. But she is hit and starts spirallng toward the planet where we rejoin the story at its current time and we get those three dreaded words, "To Be Continued"

Needless to say, I'm on the edge of my seat and will be eagerly tuning in for the next installment of this show. Just about everything they're doing here is great stuff--from the character work to the acting to the direction. This episode nailed every moment and every scene so perfectly. Yes, it did require a bit more attention, at first, to get the flashbacks within flashbacks but once you do, the story is so richly textured and well done that it's worth the investment of time and energy.

And the scary part--I hear from our UK friends (who have already seen the entire season) that it only gets better from here. (I've avoided SPOILERS about upcoming episodes, so please don't tell me where it all goes..)

As a Farscape fan, the biggest attraction of this new episode of Stargate was that it featured Claudia Black. Of course, that also kind of ruined some things as well because I just couldn't quite get around the fact that she was playing someone else in a sci-fi show that wasn't Aeryn Sun (kind of like I would have a hard time seeing Sarah Michelle Gellar in a movie or show that involved vampires). Hence, I kept thinking--no, that's not how Aeryn should act...come on, get with it!

That said, this episode had its moments, even if it was fairly predictable. Black's character takes over the ship of our heroes not knowing Daniel Jackson is on-board. They fight, she tells Daniel she is going to save her people, turns out to not be true, ship gets bounded, Hammond and compay ride into save the day and Claudia Black's character escapes in the end. Yeah, no new ground broken here. There was some talk about heading out to Atlantis, but since it's far too early in the season to have Daniel Jackson gone from the show for a few episode or to split time between Earth bound stoires and those on-board the ship, you had to figure they had to go back to Earth from some reason. Also, knowing that Claudia Black was in there, took a lot of the suspense out of the early scenes when she's in G'ould armor and we can't see her face.

I guess if they're setting some things up for the next few episodes, it will be OK. But I can't see what was established here other than a connection to Claudia Black's character. I guess I'll just have to wait and see where all of this goes...

Stargate Atlantis
: The Defiant One
On the other hand, Atlantis shows what can be done within the confines of a rather predictable episode. A team heads out in a puddle jumper to an abandoned Ancients satellite. They pick up readings of a Wraith ship below and head down to get some tactical data. Turns out a Wraith is still alive inside, leading Shepard to have to go one on one with it to keep it from escaping or calling more Wraith to help out. Not exactly the newest premise, but it all worked well. First of all, there is a sense of energy to the story--that there's something driving things along. Then, we have the nice work with the characters. Shepard is pretty much turning into a virutal copy of John Cricthon, but I don't mind that much--now if they split him off into two Shepards, that could be going a bit far. McKay also continues to develop and it was nice to get some of the supporting case some time. Maybe that's my thing with Stargate--I don't feel like much effort is made with the supporting characters. Here, we get Gall, who is fed on by a Wraith but not to the point of death and how McKay reacts to that. Gall's observation that McKay has changed is actually a good one and it made think, "Yes, come to think of it, he has." And Gall's solution to free McKay from his responsiblity to him was a genuinely shocking moment.

That said, I found the solution a bit too easy. Weir sends out a rescue team even though no call has yet come so they can arrive just in time to blow away the Wraith. I just found that a bit too much of a cop-out and it marred what was, otherwise, an enjoyable and fun episode.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/31/2005 11:00:00 AM | |
Sunday, January 30, 2005
Interesting sports weekend
Is anyone else ready for them to play the Super Bowl so we don't have to hear any more stories about the waterboys for the Eagles and the Patriots and how they are playing a vital role in getting their teams ready for the big game next Sunday?!?

In a related note, those of you with young children may want to heed the warning in this article from yesterday's Tennessean, about how the ads during the big game aren't going to be that toned down this year.

But as we all await the spectacle, pagentry and excess that is Super Bowl XXXIX, there are other sports stories going on in and around Nashville. First the good news--the Nashville Kats arena league football team is back and they won their first game of the season Friday night. I was driving home and caught the familiar voice of Mike Keith calling the plays. While Arena football is certainly no NFL or college, it's a pretty interesting way to help keep the inevitable football withdrawal at bay. And with Nashville having it's team back, I have a team to get behind and pull for.

Now onto the less than great news. The Vol's men team managed to help Auburn win their first game in the SEC yesterday. As I've said before, there is little tougher than seeing the vast potential the basketball team has and seeing those hopes and dreams dashed over and over again. Honestly, the men's program hasn't been the same since we lost that game to North Carolina in the NCAA Tourney a couple of years back.

Meanwhile, the Nashville Rhythm is without a coach this morning. Ashlee McElhiney, the first female to coach a men's team (and she was doing a good job from what I understand) got fired last night when co-owner, Sally Anthony wanted former Vandy superstar Matt Fredje pulled from the game. (For those of who don't know, Fredje was brought in on a two-game contract by the other owner and GM of the team to help the team and probably to boost attendance given Fredje's popularity in the Nashville areas).

Sounds like Anthony has gone to the Jerry Jones or Al Davis school of team ownership. I thought a coach was supposed to coach and do what it took to the win the game and the owner did what it took to give the coach those pieces. Also, I have to wonder--does Anthony as co-owner have the right to fire McElhiney by herself and will the other owner overrule her?

This story sounds like it could continue to be interesting over the next several days.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/30/2005 01:23:00 PM | |
Friday, January 28, 2005
Friday's Feast
Appetizer - If you could have a free subscription to any magazine, which one would you like to have?
Entertainment Weekly

Soup - If you were to suddenly become famous, what would you choose as your stage name?
Hobert Foswerth

Salad - What ingredients make an awesome salad? Dressing? Croutons?
Lettuce, tomatoes, baby carrots, cucumbers, sweet onions, green bell peppers. I do like some croutons and my favorite dressing is Italian.

Main Course - What do you like most about your current job?
The people I work with are all really nice. Also, there's a group here who is as addicted to Lost as I am and we do the water-cooler discussion thing each Thursday morning about the show.

Dessert - Who is your favorite instrumental musician (not a singer)?
Rats, the eliminates Michael W. Smith, whose work on the piano is just incredible. Should I go with Yanni? OK, yes, I admit it--I like Yanni.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/28/2005 08:16:00 AM | |
Thursday, January 27, 2005
TV Round-Up
Alias: Welcome to Liberty Village
I'm sure I'm not the first to say this and I probably won't be the last, but The X-Files did this episode and they did it a whole lot better. (I think that's because it features one of those great Mulder lines to Scully, "Get out there in the kitchen and make me a sandwhich, woman.") Syd and Vaughn are forced to pose as a spy couple (gee, that's a stretch) and infilitrate a group that has stolen a EMP weapon. With it they will-well, they'll do something really bad. I'm not quite sure what the overall plan was to wreak havoc and destruction with this thing. So, they go to the wacky gated community where you get into a running gun battle over a convertable to prove your worth (yes, but what was that interest rate?). And people keep telling Syd and Vaughn they're "cold" and "boring." So, let's have some hot-steamy-spy sex in the shower. Yeah, that'll take care of it.

My whole thing with this episode was how unevenly paced it was. We spent a lot of time with Syd and Vaughn trying to fit into the suburbs from hell. So much so that the final five or so minutes feel like--holy crap, we've gotta finish this up, how are we going to do it? (And this epiosde was written by former Buffy and Angel scribe, Drew Goddard, who I KNOW can write better than this with one arm tied behind his back!) Syd somehow gets hold of the EMP device, sets it off and then next thing we know they're on a plane. Huh? I think we missed some stuff about how they got off the base or were rescued or whatever in the world happened. Either that or I made the mistake of blinking during that second and missed it.

Far more interesting was the plotline with Jack giving up the books to his Russian contact to try and get info about the base Syd and Vaughn were taken to. Also, do you get the feeling that Jack and Sloane are up to something? I guess subtle plot development has flown out the window here. And am I just grumpy or is anyone else ready for them to just get on with whatever evil plan they've come up with already? It seems like every week we get a scene where they sit together and cryptically talk about this plan or agenda they have, only we never get any idea of what it is. At this point, they could be plotting nothing more sinister than what to get on their three pizza from Dominos for all we know.

Smallville: Unsafe

To tell you how far off my radar this show has fallen, I had no idea we had a new episode coming up until I heard a commercial on the radio for it Monday morning. And this is coming out of an almost two month hiatus without a new episode. (It just sort of shows how much Lost dwarfs everything else that is on Wednesday nights...and pretty much the rest of the week).

In this week's after school special episode of Smallville, Clark is feeling kind of lonely. Of course, the fact that he's become the biggest stick in the mud EVER certainly ain't helping things. "Oh I can't go to a party with two beautiful girls because my secret might get out." Ummm, Clark they weren't proposing marriage--they just wanted you to come and have some fun. So, insane obsessed girl Alicia is let out of the looney bin just in time to waltz back into Clark's life..oh yeah and she knows his secret but hasn't told anyone. (Again, like they're going to believe her in the INSANE ASYLUM!) Anyway, she shows up and uses red Kryptonite to bring unhibited Clark. They rush off to Vegas to get hitched and them consumate the marriage...but crazy girl wants responsible Clark to be her first time and removes the red Kryptonite. Respoonsible Clark is pissed and goes for a cold shower and heads home.

And just as all of America braces itself for the yelling that is to come by Ma and Pa Kent, we never see it. I was really wanting to see the scene where Clark tells Ma and Pa--oh yeah, by the way, I made a slight error last night and got married to the crazy girl you forbade me to see. We get to see Martha weeping about the sanctity of marriage and hasn't Clark learned anything, but I really wanted to see the scene where Pa flips out and drives off in the General Lee...oh wait, sorry...wrong show.

Meanwhile, Lana decides she wants to find out why Jason broke up with her. She figures that since he's in college and she's a senior in high school he wanted to go to the next level and broke up with her when that didn't happen. OK, why did this little point never come up before now? Turns out Jason dumped her because he is afraid that there are other forces at work behind his meeting and hooking up with Lana and by golly, he doesn't want to play their little game. Oh yeah and he turns down Lana throwing herself at him....

As if this weren't enough, we get a public service message at the end about the dangers of having sex if you're a teenager. Apparently one of them is you'll have to sit through this episode again because the subtetly is like a two by four to the head.

Meanwhile, the interesting plotline--and the one we only get about two scenes of--is Lionel's release from prison and his new found inner peace. Seeing Lionel and how Lex reacts to him was nicely done and I really wanted more of this. But instead, we the after school special going on. Oh yeah, and the other good part--obligatory Jimmy Olsen refernence. Apparently he was Chloe's first love...if you know what I mean. And if you don't, just go back and re-read what the theme of this episode was all about.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/27/2005 01:54:00 PM | |

Apparently I'm going to hell...
A couple of days ago, Danielle posted a link to a web site called Star Fast Episode III: Repent of the Sin with the words, "No comment." I was curious about what the site was, so I clicked on the link and went for a visit.

What I say was, quite frankly, depressing.

I've read over what the web site says several times now just to make sure I'm not misreading what this group is trying to say. Here's some excerpts:
The new Star Wars movie, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, will be released in May 2005 and already there are vast numbers of people all over the world waiting in eager anticipation to see it. Among these are Christians who get just as excited and engrossed in Star Wars as everyone else. Though they deny that they are engrossed, they declare by their actions that they are denying God (Titus 1:16).

Out of love for those who are watching Star Wars on the way to hell, Christians and churches everywhere should be setting an example by fasting from this movie. We should be weeping for those who are already looking forward to watching Episode III. In fact, it should take a direct instruction from the Holy Spirit to prompt any Christian to see this movie, against their own will.

Christians everywhere, should not be picking up their lightsabers but instead putting on the full armor of God.

Star Fast is an opportunity to take a stand with Jesus, reject the world with joy, and deny ourselves as Jesus commanded us to do. Together, we we will seek the light of God's face rather than the light of a movie screen.

2 Corinthians 6:17 "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you."

Let me pause here to say that I'm a Christian and I'm also a Star Wars fan. And let me also say that I can see what I think they're trying to say here--which is that putting anything of this world above God is a sin. I seem to recall that that is the first of the 10 Commandments. I can agree with that message.

But what I take difference with is the way this site is presented. I took a lot of time thinking about this, praying about this and reading the various information posted on the web site. They have an FAQ where they claim to not be "legalistic" or that they are "taking scripture out of context." Well, you may think you aren't, but I think you're missing the big point here.

The Christian church is struggling today to grow in America. In fact, here's a scary thought for you--other countries send missionaries to the United States because we are so desparately in need of a revival. Supposedly we are a Christian nation, but yet the Chrisitan church in America is on the decline?


Because of stuff like this. There's a pereception by a lot of people who are non-Christians or even Christians that don't attend church on a regular basis that the church is boring, stuffy and not relevant to their daily lives. I'm not saying that we, as the church, are really doing a lot to combat this--or let me say we're not doing as much as we could or should be doing about it.

Here's where I come from 0n this. In the New Testament, Christ is asked what is the greatest commandent. He replies, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself." For me, this is what being a Chrisitian comes down to on its most fundamental level. Of course, I also strongly believe that part of this is you have to accept that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savoir who paid the ultimate price for our sins.

Now there is this misconception out there that being a Christian means you can't have fun anymore. I don't think anything is further from the truth. Now, yes, that does mean that you may be holding yourself to a different standard than you were before and that you're going to struggle with that every day. But it does not necessarily mean that just becuase you're having fun, you are sinning.

The Bible says that we are to be "of the world but not transformed by it." If God wanted us to not face the temptations and snares of the world, we'd be beamed directly to heaven the moment we got saved. No, what God wants is for us to be in the world, growing daily in our walk with Him and bringing others to know Him. When we accept Jesus, we are perfected, but we are not perfect. Big difference there. We are still going to face struggles, trials, etc. The worst lie that anyone can tell you is that by becoming a Chrisitian your life will suddenly be all roses and yellow brick roads. That is what the enemy would have us believe so that it makes it easier to backslide when face a crisis instead of turning to God.

Again, I can see the point of not putting enjoying the Star Wars movies above God. And I can also see that maybe there is a point that a lot of people may know a lot more about the Star Wars movies than they do about the Bible because they've spent more time studying the Star Wars trilogy than they have the Bible. I can see that and I think they have a point.

But here's my thing. On its most basic level, Star Wars is the on-going struggle of good vs evil, the choices that people make in that struggle and redemption. So are a lot of other stories that some very conservative Chrisitan groups are quick to condemn such as the Harry Potter books. Again, I say that I've read the Harry Potter books, I've seen the Star Wars movies and while they do contain supernatural elements, they have not taught me how to do magic or fly through space. It's just a fictional story that people enjoy that has these elements as part of the storytelling process. Now reading or watching them so much that they become more important to you than God, your family, real life, etc...that is a problem.

I also had to chuckle a bit at the web site's idea that you take the money you'd save from going to see the movie and buy their literature to give to your church and youth group. So, basically we save that money and give it to you? Honestly, if I'm going to fast from going to see Star Wars, I think that I will give the money to something that really will help God's kingdom here on Earth such as the local rescue mission, tsunami relief, the youth group's mission trip. Something. I think this group missed an opportunity here to be an example and instead of saying give the money to us, they could have asked those who signed up to pray about how to use that money for God's purposes.

Also, I love in the FAQ how if you ask--yes, but can I see the movie on DVD?--are are apparently also hell bound. I hate to say it, but isn't it going to cost just as much if not more if people watch it on DVD or--worse yet--buy the movie on DVD?!?

It just makes me shake my head. Again, it's not that I don't think this group doesn't have a point. But by being overly legalistic and closed-minded, they are closing themselves off from the world and making Christianity even more irrelevant to those out there who are struggling or don't yet know Christ. And that saddens me a great deal. Because what we should be doing is working to make a relationship with Christ relevant to the people of the world today. The chruch has turned people off to Christ for years and it doesn't seem that some of us are making any strides toward finding ways to turn people back onto Jesus Christ.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/27/2005 08:28:00 AM | |
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
OK, so maybe I put a few too many items on reserve.
I stopped by the library the other night to look for a book. I found it and went up to the front counter. The librarian looks at me and asks, "So, do you have anything on reserve tonight?" and smiles.

OK, so maybe I put just a FEW things on reserve....

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/26/2005 04:28:00 PM | |
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
TV Tuesday
Nick at Night is celebrating 20 years of giving us "classic" television in the evening. This year's new show is the classic 80s sitcom Murphy Brown. Murph and company join the rotation of such sitcoms The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, The Munsters, Green Acres and many, many more that help introduce new generations to the great comedies of yesteryear.

This week, we take a look at the shows on Nick-at-Night.

1. Of the many shows that run on Nick-at-Night, what is the one that you would most enjoy sitting down and watching a marathon of?
I love it a couple of years ago when Nick-at-Nite got the original Happy Days and I could watch them in a block. I really liked watching the "best of" back to back.

2. What classic show from yesterday has not made it to Nick-at-Nite yet, but you'd like to see it there?
I'd love to see some of the older shows like the Jack Benny tv shows make it there. Also, what ever happened to Night Court? And could we please get NewsRadio?

3. Have repeat on Nick-at-Night given you a new appreciation of an older show? Which one?
As much as I enjoyed Cheers while it was on, I have to admit catching re-runs on Nick-at-Nite has helped me to enjoy it that much more. I also think enjoyed repeats of Newhart.

4. What show that is currently on the air do you think our kids will be watching in 20 years on Nick-at-Nite?
Full House. Ugh....why did that show stay on so long?!? Will it ever go away?!?

5. What is one show that Nick-at-Nite currently runs that you question if the classic label applies to?
I'd love to see Scrubs on there someday as I think that show is hilarious. I'm still surprised MASH hasnt' made it onto Nick-at-Nite. I think Frasier will be there some day as will Seinfeld and Friends.

~ BONUS ~ Are there some shows that don't repeat well in later years because they rely on topical humor? (For example, a lot of the Murphy Brown jokes rely on a knowledge of current events when they were produced) Do you sometimes find yourself getting the jokes that younger generations don't? Do you think this topical humor helps or hurts shows from having a long life in repeats?
It can help and hurt. Funny is funny, no matter what . Sure there are some topical jokes, but I watched a couple of Murphy Brown episodes and I still chuckled at points . Yes, there was topical humor but there was also just some stuff that was funny no matter what era it's in.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/25/2005 08:55:00 PM | |

Tag...I'm It!
Woo-hoo! After bugging Stacy about not "tagging" me yesterday she had Becky tag me....

Random 10:
1. People's Court by Ray Stevens
2. Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks
3. For Pete's Sake by the Monkees
4. In the Ghetto by Elvis
5. Speak to Me by Rebecca St James
6. Dancing Queen by Sixpence None the Richer
7. How Do I Get There From Here by Deanna Carter
8. You May Be Right by Billy Joel
9. Star Trekkin' by The Firm
10. We Can Work It Out by the Beatles

1. What is the total amount of music files on your computer? I don't really have that many. I've got about 20 or so songs that I gathered from various CDs a while back to make one mix CD.

2. The last CD you bought is: The Best of Sixpence None the Richer

3. What is the last song you listened to before this message: All I Need by Bethany Dillon.

4. Write down five songs you listen to a lot or mean a lot to you:

1. Rocky Top
2. The Dance by Garth Brooks
3. Healing Rain by Michael W. Smith
4. Speak to Me by Rebecca St James
5. Justified and Ancient by the KLF
6. Theme from original Star Trek.

5. Who are you gonna pass this stick to (three persons and why)?
Barry b/c I'm interested to see what he has to say and he is my best friend.
Jen b/c it should be interesting to see what she says.
Cathy because she has a unique perspective.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/25/2005 11:41:00 AM | |

50 Book Challenge
I've seen several fellow Bloggers accepting the 50 Book Challange for 2005 (Woman of Smoke and Dust, All Things Jen(nifer) )

So, I decided I'd see if I were up to the challenge. Here are the books I've read so far in 2005...

50. Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz's latest novel, "Life Expectancy" has an intriguing, "Twilight Zone" like premise but suffers in the execution of it. On the day he's born, Jimmy Tock's grandfather predicts five horrible days coming ahead for Jimmy.

This is the story of Jimmy Tock and those five terrible days--six, if you count the traumatic events of the day he was born. At the same time his mother is in labor, another woman is in labor--the daughter of a famous group of trapeeze artists. Her husband is a clown in the same circus. When the mother dies during the delivery, the clown kills the doctor. The clown then takes his son and disappears into the night. Jimmy is saved by a kind nurse who hides him when the killing starts.

As the story unfolds, we find there is some kind of connection between the two families. In the final pages, there is an inevitable twist that Koontz does well in hiding until the later stages of the story. The problem is that by the time this twist comes about, I had lost a lot of interest in the story.

Koontz's Jimmy Tock is a nice protagonist and a good narrator of the story, but this story seems like it's a good novella stretched out to the length of a novel. Koontz spends a lot of time in the story with superflous scenes that do very little to add to the characters or advance the plot. And while the twists and turns of the final few pages are meant to be shocking and edge-of-your-seat, I found them instead to be rather pedestrian.

Indeed, looking back, I kick myself for not seeing them coming because they are that obvious. Koontz is a good writer. He keeps the pages turning and I will admit I was interested just enough to keep the pages turning and find out how it all comes out. The story has a strong beginning, a bloated middle and an intriguing ending. And unfortunately, it all doesn't all up to a complete novel.

49. Life Everlasting by Robert Whitlow

Robert Whitlow made his fans wait a little over a year for the next installment in his Santee series. The good news is--the wait was worth it. The bad news--the book was so good, it just flew by and I'm left wondering where Whitlow will go next. A word of warning--if you've not read Whitlow's marvelous "Life Support" you need to before reading this book.

The story here continues the story begun there and while readers of "Life Support" will be able to pick up on what's happened even if it's been a while since you read the book, new readers will probably come away a bit confused. But trust me--both of these novels are worth reading. Whitlow continues the story of Baxter and Rena, Alexia and Ted.

One thing I've come to enjoy about Whitlow's novels is that he places the characters in interesting moral and ethical situations and doesn't take the easy way out. Also, his characters feel real over the course of his story. He gives them strengths, weaknesess and flaws--just like all of us. His prose is extremely readable and he never goes over the top. Instead, he draws you in like an old friend telling a story and the pages just fly by. Indeed, my only complaint about this story is that it ended too soon. I was ready to spend another 100 or more pages with the story of Alexia Lindale and her personal journey. I am crossing my fingers that since this book is listed as the second book of the Santee saga, that Whitlow will make a return visit to his fictional characters and town soon.

48. Star Trek: Ex Machina by Christopher L. Bennett

In recent years, Pocket Books has moved away from just telling stand-alone stories in their Star Trek novels. Instead, they've moved more toward bridging gaps between series and/or movies (The Lost Era), continuing the saga on the printed page (DS9 relaunch) or just expanding the already rich Star Trek universe in new and interesting ways (New Frontier).

And every once in a while, there is a novel that gets the best of all those possible worlds. Christopher L. Bennett (no relation to Harve Bennett, he tells us) does that with his first published novel, Ex Machina. The story is a sequel to the events of Star Trek: The Motion Picture and also revists characters and events from Star Trek's third season episode "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky." But don't think the references end there--Bennett peppers his novel with homages galore to the animated Star Trek, the entire original series run and many of the best Trek novels published over the years. (Bennett has been kind enough to post an annotation that gives all of his references over at his web site.)

But don't worry if you're not a devoted Trek fan who will "get" every reference. Bennett slips them the references in a non-invasive way--if you get them, it only adds depth to the great story being told. If you don't, you aren't missing any great details. (One of my favorites is when Bennett has Chekov wonder about a security force composed of homage to Walter Koenig's character on Babylon Five).

But fan-friendly references mean little if there isn't a good story to go with it. And there's a good one here. Kirk and company are called to revisit the world first seen in "For the World Is Hollow..." and many of the characters there. One of the themes of the orignal series was Kirk taking on computers--usually those keeping a society of growing or interfering somehow. Kirk would generally overthrow the computer control and then warp off into space. This novel deals with the after effects of those actions in an intersting, meaningful way. The novel also plays a lot with the reputation Kirk has gained not only in Starfleet but on some of the worlds he's visited--for good and bad.

The storyline also sees Spock, McCoy and the rest of the Enterprise crew dealing with the aftermath of the events in The Motion Picture. Ex Machina isn't a sequel so much as it's a contiuation of the events begun on TMP. And it's definitely worth the trip. And that's what makes the novel such a pleasure to read--Bennett's take on the characters. He gets all of the original crew right, in the place in their lives they are. Seeing Spock struggle with emotions, Kirk with his role in taking back command of the Enterprise and McCoy in trying to find his place on the ship--all of it works extremely well. Not only that, but Bennett introduces us to some original creations of his own along the way. In short, this novel is an enjoyable read. As you read it, you may be stunned that a novel this assured and thought-provoking can come from a first-time author.

If this is Bennett's debut, I can hardly wait to see what he comes up with next.

47. Manifold: Time by Stephen Baxter

I admit that this is one novel that I've been trying to get through for years. It's not that it's not enjoyable, but it's just that it's so deep with ideas and concepts that it really requires you to pay a lot of attention. And I admit that now that I've finished it, it was worth it.

46. Powersat by Ben Bova

Bova's last couple of books have been about the magic and grandeur of traveling to space. Honestly, I read this one right after finishing Manifold: Time it felt like a lot of the same concepts from that book where in play here-esp. in having a main character who is obsessed with getting into space. This time though, instead of exploiting the natural resoruces from asteroids, the story wants to exploit the virutally unlimited energy from the sun to create beamed power. There are groups that don't want this to happen. A decent enough book, but rather predictable.

45. The Sculptress by Minette Walters

Another great mystery from Minette Walters.

44. The Broker by John Grisham

Grisham takes a break from his usual legal thriller to give us a just plain thriller. The broker is Joel Backman, a former high stakes DC lawyer who went to prison for trying to sell control of a spy satellite system to the highest bidder. He took prison when several of those in on the conspiracy with him died. Now, four years later, he's released on a last minute presidential pardon so the CIA can figure out who the buyer was when they try to kill him. Joel is sent to Italy where he is immersed in the culture and language and tries to blend into his new life.

As usual, Grisham writes a page turner. I chewed up large chunks of this one in a relatively short amount of time. That said, this is not his usual legal thriller. Grisham seems to want to try and just write a thriller and, for the most part, it's not that successful. There are long stretches of the novel where next to no action occurs and the plot doesn't move foward. It reads almost like a travel guide to Bologna, Italy for large sections of the middle of the story as Joel learns about the culture and people. And the suspense sequences aren't quite that suspenseful as there's never any impending doom facing Joel as in other cloak and dagger type thrillers.

A good try, John, but not a successful one. You've branched out before with A Time to Kill and A Painted House, both of which are far better novels than this one.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/25/2005 10:25:00 AM | |
Monday, January 24, 2005
And the nominees are....
So, the big announcement of who's up for the Oscar isn't until tomorrow morning, but their evil-twin awards, the Razzies announced their nominations today.

Catwoman led the way we seven nominations.

But what made me stop and scratch my head was that President Bush, Condolezza Rice and Donald Rumsefeld are all for Razzies based on their "work" in the Farenheit 9/11.

How exactly do they count as actors in an alleged documentary? And if they were all that bad in the film, why wasn't the film itself up for the award?

Political? Just a little.

How much would I love to see Michael Moore win a Razzie for Farenheit 9/11? Of course, the other thought is--maybe if we ignore him, he'll give up and go away.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/24/2005 09:54:00 PM | |

TV Round-Up
24: Day Four, Noon to 1 p.m.
Is there anything Jack Bauer can't do?

Apparently not after this episode. It's amazing that rescuing high ranking officials and saving the collective United States has become just another day at the office for this guy. And it is just me or does anyone wonder how the heck CTU gives comp time for everyone working all that extra time? I guess that's why it takes 18 months or so between days--just to juggle the schedule so everyone gets a few extra days off.

But seriously, though. During the NFC Championship game, my usual tactic of avoiding too many promos for 24 was shattered when we saw a promo every time there was a timeout. (Or so it seemed). The teasers promised us the first ten minutes would be the most intense we had ever seen. And while I'm not ready to declare them the ten most intense minutes of TV ever, I will say they had me up on the edge of my seat. It's here--when the concept of having events happen in real time and every second seems to count--that 24 is at its absolute best. So much so that I was ready to yell at Jack and Audrey to make goo-goo eyes at each other later because--by the way!!!--missiles will blow you two sky high if you don't ge on with saving Heller.

And it was not a good week for father/son relationships on this show. Navi sends Behrooz out to his death and then lies to his wife about it. (Yeah, that will come back to bite him, I'm sure!) And then Heller tells CTU to torture the info out of his son. Yeah, the therapy bills should be high, assuming any of them survive this day.

Behrooz has gotta be pissed off and maybe this is what Navi wanted. I have no idea. He seems pretty un-moved by the fact that he ordered the death of his son. It's chilling how committed he is to the cause here. And it's interesting to see that Heller is exactly the same way. Oh how similiar both characters are--only difference is Heller hasn't actually ordered the death of his off-spring.

I have to admit that as much as I love 24, I am always amused at how quickly people travel in this show. Audrey's husband hears about her kidnapping that took place at 9 a.m., hops a plane and is there in L.A. by noon? Apparently the laws of physics work different or else Scotty is hanging out somewhere running a transporter because ain't no way he can come fronm D.C. to L.A. in about three hours. (I think I bring this up every week, but amuses me!) Also, her husband showing up at just the right time seems a bit too convient for my liking. I wonder if he is the one who tipped off the terrorists as to where to find Heller on the morning of and not the son? Or maybe he'll end up betraying our heroes when he figures out that Jack and Audrey are an item--though by the look on his face at the end, I think that cat is way out of the bag there.

And at least the hour ended with a kicker for next week--turns out we've only seen the tip of the iceberg on the what the terrorist have in mind for the United States. Of course, you do have to question the logic of why someone would make a remote control to melt down every reactor in the country and not give it more security? That seems like just the type of weapon most terrorists would be extremely happy to get their hands on...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/24/2005 09:31:00 PM | |

TV Round-Up
Battlestar Galactica: Bastille Day
What easily could have been an episode built around the stunt casting of Richard Hatch from the original Battlestar Galactica, instead turns out to be an interesting, compelling and intriguing episode of the new series. Last week, the Galactica found a planet that had the water they so despararately need. But to harvest the water will take a good deal of man power and under gruelling conditions. Adama and Roslin send Apollo to a prison ship to try and entice the prisoners into helping with this task. There Apollo meets Tom Zerek, a man of some infamy who stages a breakout and riot, holding the Galactica crew captive until Roslin steps down and free elections are held.

Watching this episode, I was reminded in some ways of the original Galactica's "Gun on Ice Planet Zero" in which the crew is forced to take a group of prisoners with them in order to take out a Cylon weapon. In that episode, the prisoners agree to go on the mission much protest. This time around, I loved the scene where Apollo makes the offer and no one steps out of their cells., followed by Zerek's politely declining the offer. Zerek is an intersting character--a man who is obviously willing and wanting to be matyred for his cause.

What I am really enjoying most about the new Galatica is that the heroes and villians aren't painted in black and white, but shades of gray. We see here that Apollo has read Zerek's books even though they're banned. He understands Zerek's viewpoint, even if he doesn't agree with the methods Zerek uses to achieve his goals. Seeing Apollo make a deal with Zerek and then go back and defend why he made it and that elections must happen in seven months or the entire social order is meaningless was great stuff. And to see Apollo told early "Choose a side" and then he chooses a side that neither party is especially thrilled with was nice. He's choosing his own path and it should be interesting to see how that conflicts and meshes with the differing agendas Roslin and Adama have.

I also love how there's a mini-series like feel to this show. I loved seeing Baltar's attempts to bluff Adama about the Cylon detector. The look of shock on his face when Six suggest he needs a nuclear warhead was nicely done, even if it was ruined a bit by the previews. And to see the on-going conflict between Starbuck and Tigh was interesting. Tigh putting his foot down about the romance between Boomer and the other enlisted guy was nice. I loved the reasoning--we weren't at war then, we are now. The rules have changed. It doesn't make sense, but that's the way it has to be. It echoes what Apollo tells Roslin and Adama--there have to be some rules or else the essential part of what they're fighting for will die.

Also, you have to love some of the dialogue given to Richard Hatch and the double meanings, referring to his character here and his involvement with the previous incaranation of Galatica. Again, it made what could have been a ratings-ploy instead work to the strengths of the series. It's official--I'm hooked on this show.

Stargate SG1: Gemini
Just about every sci-fi show worth it's salt has an episode or two or three where one actor gets to play their character's twin. So, I guess it was inevitable that Stargate would jump on the bandwagon. What I guess pleasantly surprised me was that they managed to find a way to make this potentially tired and cliched plotline relevant and interesting.

OK, I'll admit that I bit hook, line and sinker that the clone of Carter was actually betraying the Stargate team and never thought she was also betraying the Fifth. It was interesting to see her playing all the sides against each other in order to make the Replicators even more unstoppable. And the reasoning--becuase it's what Carter would have done since she has all of Carter's memories and thought patterns was a chilling way to end the show. It also makes you wonder just what will happen now--will the Replicators now be coming to Earth since they know they are now, virtually unstoppable? And will they be led by Replicator Carter?

Stargate Atlantis: The Eye
For an episode that featured the best, laugh out loud line of the night (McKay's "I'm an arrogant scientist. I think every plan I have will work!), this episode was surprisingly frustrating. The first half seemed way too slow and heavy as we watch Shepard running around Atlantis doing his best Die Hardimpression. He takes out a bunch of Gena'i nad pisses off the ones who are left by killing a bunch of their buddies coming through the gate. Of course, the team in the puddle jumper gets back to Atlantis and helps take back the city, popping up at opportune moments.

Meanwhile, McKay and Weir are outside in the rain trying to fix the things that will generate the shields while evil bad guy Robert Davi glares and makes threats. Honestly, they could have cut about three of these McKay and Weir in the rain scenes down and maybe tightened up the pacing a bit. Becuase the last half of this one just went breakneck as the writers seem to realize that we had to take back Atlantis, get rid of the Gena'i and save the city. All this happens in about seven minutes of screen time, which considering how long it took us to get here, seems a bit rushed. Of course, I figured that McKay was bluffing about his plan not working. Also, I could have done without the fight between Teyla and Sora. Why was this added? What did it possibly do that had any impact on the overall story and its outcome I ask you? None that I can see except that it might keep Sora as a recurring character. Notice I said might here. I fear this will be a plotline that is swept under the rug as the season continues.

Monk: Mr Monk and the Red Herring
I will fully admit that going into the second half of Monk's third season, I was ready to declare the show had fully jumped the shark. My irritation with the characters from this summer is documented time and again in this blog and I felt that with the loss of Bitsy Shram as Sherona, Monk was losing the Watson to his Holmes, the Mrs. Peel to his John Steed.

So imagine how pleasantly surprised I was that the departure of Sherona seemed to have breathed new life into the show. Maybe Shram's decision to leave forced the writers to sit back and make Monk less shrill. To have us again feel for his OCD instead of having it be--wow, let's put Monk into a wacky situation and let the hilarity ensue. By bringing in a new assistant and having her meet Monk and see what makes him tick, maybe the writers have re-discovered what made the show so much fun to watch and why we tuned in each week. If losing Shram means we get a better Monk, then I guess I'm all for it(for now). So far, shark jump averted.

That's not to say the mystery on this one was especially mind-taxing. The first time we saw the moon rock, I thought the real moon rock was somehow in the aquarium. What I wasn't sure was how it got there and so it was fun to watch the exploration of how the rock got there. Also, I loved the scene where Monk has to choose between the rock and saving the little girl's fish. I loved his choice--probably because he knows what it's like to have to hold onto someone you've lost. Good scene in a good episode.

Of course, I'm already a bit concerned about next week based on the previews...

Enterprise: Observer Effect
After seeing this one, the thing I have to wonder is--how do the Organians go from being the aliens we see here to the aliens we see in "Errand of Mercy"? I may need to rewatch my DVD of "Errand of Mercy" because it seems as if the Organians were a lot different as a alien-race there--I mean, they do force a peace betwen the Federation and the Klingons in that episode, one that is mentioned many times in the original series.

Just like last week's episode was a greatest hits from other Trek shows, so was this week's. The difference this time around was I was a bit more invested in the characters since they are part of the crew we know and love. But as interesting as it was to watch the Organians jump from person to person (and to see how the various actors did at playing being inhabited), there wasn't a lot else of new ground broken here. I don't feel as though I came away understanding anything new or different about the Organians. I came away feeling like Archer becomes a bit more like Kirk each week in that he just throws himself into the fray to save his ship and crew and damn the consequences, but doggone it, it always saves the ship, crew, humanity, civilization as we know it. I still find myself wanting to see Archer make a big time blunder, but I guess we won't see that any time soon.

It was nice to see Phlox, Montgomery and Sato get some screen time after being under-utilized all year. But then again, at times it wasn't really them so what have we learned?

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/24/2005 10:10:00 AM | |

Well, at least I can enjoy the commericals...
It's official--I cannot get behind either team that is in the Super Bowl. I am over the Patriots and the unrelenting hype surrounding them as they try to establish a "football dynasty" and my years of being a Redskins fans means I can't feel any better than apathetic that the Eagles made it (finally) to the big game.

So, right now, the only thing I look forward to about Super Bowl Sunday is the commericals and the preview of Seth McFarland's (creator of Family Guy) new show.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/24/2005 08:22:00 AM | |
Saturday, January 22, 2005
Customer Service means....
Today, I stopped by Books-A-Million in my quest to find the new Star Trek novels. (Yes, I read Star Trek novels....they're not great literature, but I enjoy them!) I found the book in question and went up to make my purchase. And here's where the problem begins. I am second in line and waiting for the register to open up. Meanwhile, there are FIVE...count them FIVE employees behind the desk all chatting away. The line begins to build and one red-headed girl looks up and says, "Can I look up a book for anyone?"

Then, they have to CALL another girl up front to ring people up. Apparently the five other people up there discussing heaven only knows what and can't ring someone up Yes, they must have all missed that day in training...

So, this poor girl gets me next.

"Would you like a super saver Books-A-Million card?" she asks.

"No," I say. "I'm honestly thinking of not coming here again as your customer service stinks. It's nothing you've done, it's just I don't understand how five people can be up here doing nothing and have to call you to ring me up."

She apologizes, rings me up and I go about my way.

Honestly, is good customer service dead?

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/22/2005 06:30:00 PM | |
Friday, January 21, 2005
The end of an era
This morning's Tennessean reports that Pat Ryan's contract was not renewed with the Titans' Radio Network. Ryan has been the color analyst for the Titans broadcasts for the past eight years with the Voice of the Titans, Mike Keith. Ryan will live on in Titans' fan memory for his call during the Music City Miracle of "They've got something...they've got something!"

Former Titans' player Frank Wycheck will take over as the color announcer in the booth next fall. I've heard Wycheck on a couple of the Titans' pre-season games and his work on his call-in show in the mornings. He's good, but it will take me some time to get used to not hearing Pat and Mike in the booth.

Good luck to Pat and thanks for eight great years.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/21/2005 01:43:00 PM | |

Volunteer Tailgate Party
Welcome to the first Volunteer Tailgate Party of 2005! Pull up a chair, grab a cold beverage and some food and check out the best and brightest from the Rocky Top Brigade.

Starting things off this time is Thomas Nephew over at Newsrack with this entry about ”Cruel, inhuman, or degrading” treatment – like waterboarding – is OK if nonmilitary personnel do it abroad

Nephew also offers up this question--How can we object to Iran’s crimes and not to our own?

Say Uncle offers up a look at the current state of gun control in the United States.

A gun buyback program? Say Uncle digs into this controversy.

The Newswriter at What Is It Today? offers up her own account about hearing about the tsunami. She also questions Time Magazine's choice for Man of the Year.

You'll Always Find a Fifth puts together some links about the advantages of living in a big city.

If you're living in Tennessee, then you know Governor Bredeson has made some huge changes to the TennCare system. Les Jones looks at the recent TennCare reforms.

The (Almost) Daily Comment was on hiatus...but he's back now. And he's making up for lost time. Check out his (almost) daily comments.

How can we believe conclusions without documented proof or sources? asks Barry over at Inn of the Last Home in his posted called "Sources"

He fought the law and the law won....Barry from Inn of the Last Home discusses his adventures in traffic court.

Paisley Dreams' Libby combines two great things--Christmas and duct tape.

Cathy over at Domestic Pyschology shares memories of the cabin her family stayed in during vacations. She also warns us that it's Girl Scout cookie time....

Do you blog at work? (OK, who doesn't?!?) Sugarfused looks at how people blog during working hours and generates a lot of discussion...

Finally, yours truely offers up the story of being Santa's elf for my two year old niece. And I celebrated a Big Orange birthday this week and I can't resist sharing the details.

Thanks to everyone for participating! And let's make plans to have another Volunteer Tailgate Party soon!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/21/2005 08:01:00 AM | |
Thursday, January 20, 2005
As if my birthday wasn't cool enough already...
So you're telling me that for my 32nd birthday I got all this...
AND the Vols beat the Gators in Gainesville last night?!?

Yeah, one of the greatest birthdays EVER!

Seriously, thanks to all the bloggers who dropped by to wish me a good b'day. You made me smile and helped me have a great birthday. I appreciate it.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/20/2005 01:39:00 PM | |

TV Round-Up
Lost: Special
The more I watch Lost, the more I convinced that the island is actually one giant group therapy session. Every one of these guys and gals has huge family issues. And how many of the castaways have issues with their father? I'm counting at least three so far--Walt, Charlie and Sun.

You know, there are times when being an opening credit reader can backfire on you. This week, I noticed the words "Written by David Fury" and got all excited about the episode. For those of you who don't remember, Fury wrote the Locke episode "Walkabout" and he also wrote a lot of very good episodes of Buffy and Angel. So, going into an episode written by him, I'm predisposed to like it. And after "Walkabout" I'm kind of sit up and go--"OK, shock me again, Fury. I'm ready, I can take it."

Becuase let's face it--the reveal about Locke at the end of the "Walkabout" was really the defining moment of this show this year. It took Lost from a fascinating show to one of those--holy cow, I've got to tune in next week and you can't give me new episodes fast enough. I also find myself wondering if maybe, just maybe, Lost hit such a high point with the shock value there that it may never recover or be quite that shocking again. Not that it's a bad thing, but that visceral thrill of the Locke story has not been matched or duplicated.

But back to this week's episode. Interesting to see how some of the backstory of our castaways unfolds. With Jack and Kate, we've gotten the stories of certain incidents in their lives and how it led to them coming to the island. With Locke, Michael and Walt, we get a wider tapestry. We see glimpses of who they were over a period of years and what led to them to the island instead of just a couple of weeks or days leading up to the plane crash. Of the backstories presented so far, this one may be the most far reaching--going back at least ten or more years to before Walt was born.

"Special" is about father figures. Michael wants to be one to Walt but is denied the opportunity by Walt's mother. The guy she marries (who name eludes me) only wants to be a father to Walt becuase it's part of the package for marrying Mom. Locke is slowly becoming this father-figure to much of the island--look at how Jack came to him last week just to chat, Walt looks up to him etc. I'm slowly coming to believe that Locke's encounter with whatever is loose on the island changed him in far more subtle way than we think. Yes, he can now walk, but have you noticed how close to the life-changing events of late Locke has been. It's almost as if he's the one pulling some of the strings, being in the right place at the right time to help the castaways get to where the island wants or needs them to be. Last week, Boone had to get past his love for Shannon. This week, Michael needs to be seen as a hero to his son and a father-figure. Michael gets that chance--but with Locke's help. The polar bear attacks again--again, after Walt reads about it on a comic book--and Michael is the hero who saves the day and drives off the polar bear with a knife. Interesting to consider just what that might mean in the overall scheme of things.

Because we're not quite sure why the Polar Bear stopped attacking. I have to wonder if it was how Walt wanted things to be. He wanted a super hero like he saw in his comic books and his dad stepped into that role. Of course, we get some kind of strange vibe from Walt. When his mom and step-father don't pay attention to him, bad things happen. A bird he's studying in his book crashes into the window and dies and Mom suddenly gets sick. Now on the island, both times in a higher state of emotion, he sees a Polar Bear and one appears. Coincidence? Oh, I doubt it seriously. Worth debating--well, yeah, since I've pretty much done that for the last paragraph or so.

And while this week there weren't as many subplots kicking around, there were still some intersting things. Sawyer taking Claire's diary is interesting. I'm not sure why he did it but surely he had a reason. Charlie reading the journal--the scene where he keeps opening and closing it was hysterical--and then relating what he read to Sayid and Jack. And the continuing attempts to understand what the maps mean and if they actually lead to the Black Rock or not. All of that was interesting and helped keep the backstory moving. But then, we get the ultimate--ha, we're gonna make it a long wait for new episodes ending. Out in the jungle, looking for Walt's dog, instead we see Claire stumble out of the bushes--very much not pregant any more and looking like she's been through hell.

All of which makes me wonder--last week, we saw how Boone had to let go of Shannon. Was part of Claire's return that Charlie accepted she might be gone for good and now she's given back to him?

I am sure the truth is far more fascinating and I can't wait to see where they take us next. Dang it's going to be a long couple of weeks...

Alias: Ice

It's former Mutant Enemy night over at Bad Robot. First, Lost is written by David Fury and then Alias is written and directed by Jeffrey Bell, a producer and writer over on Angel.

And wouldn't you know it--a former Mutant Enemy guy is just what Alias needs to help it get back on track. Say what you will about the whole secret-weapon that freeze dries people, but at least this episode was interesting and did some good character work.

No shock that Bell would be good at writing for angst and guilt-driven characters. That's pretty much Angel. But that he'd do so well for Vaughn was a pleasant surprise. I will admit I've never found Vaughn all that compelling a character, but here it all clicked. Vaughn as a priest and giving and receiving the confessional about his having to kill Lauren was the highlight of the show. And that's saying a lot when you've got a weapon that freeze dries people and causes them to shatter into a million and one pieces if you drop them.

This week's big story is trying to find who is producing this new bio-weapon and stop them. And as silly as the whole bio-weapon could have been, at least our heroes take it seriously. I guess being a Star Trek fan, I will buy into just about any sci-fi concept you put out there, so long as the story and characters make it seem credible. If they'd had any sarcastic comments about the whole bio-weapon instead of taking it seriously, I'd've been a bit less enamored with the episode than I am. Also, as I've said before, the sci-fi plotline opens up some new avenues for our characters to explore and do so in a credible, well-done way.

Of course, let us not forget this is Alias where insane things can happen at any time. Such as the last few minutes where Vaughn is strapped down to the table and going to be injected in the eye with the bio-weapon only to see Syd come into the room at the best possible moment to dramtically save Vaughn and kick some bad guy butt. I will also say the ending didn't really address the main issue--which was we had to shut down production and destroy all the weapon that had been produced to this point. Yes, we stopped bad guys from the IRA but we get no mention of--yes, we blew that stuff up or disposed of it or are we're sending a team to dispose of it. One line is all it takes and I'm satisfied line people!

Also, who else thought that Jack made up a story to tell Nadia about the picture? That story about the baby being Irinia's niece was just way too fuzzy and touchy-feely for Jack. Last week, the man is lying to Nadia so she'll kill someone and this week he's sparing her feelings? Yeah, right. I bet this whole baby photo thing will come back to bite Jack yet again when Nadia puts together the truth about everything.

And you have to love the scene between Jack and Vaughn about killing your wife. Where else but the CIA would you find two guys who would kill their wives to save Syd? What are the odds? Those two should really start their own support group and have some group therapy sessions.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/20/2005 08:49:00 AM | |
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Happy Birthday to Me!
Yes, I realize it's a shameless ploy to get some love from my fellower Bloggers, but dang nabbit, it is my birthday! I turn the big 3-2 today but I really think age is only a state of mind.

I've already had one great b'day gift--Jonathan and Victoria were eliminated from The Amazing Race last night! Can I get a "Yeeeeeeeeeeeees!"

In thinking about my birthday this week, my memory went back to when I was little. Before I discovered the life-long consuming passion that is Spider-Man, I used to really dig Batman. My mother has purchased a cake pan that was looked like a superhero's torso with the arms folded over the chest. Depending on how you decorated it, it could be Batman or Superman. (It came with this plastic S or the Batman bat to complete the look). I remember every year for a couple of years, my mom would make two cakes--one Batman and one Superman for my b'day. I'd take one to school--usually the Superman one--and have the Batman one for my b'day party. I remember that these cakes took forever to decorate but my mom did it without complaint. I also remember that with the Superman cake you definitely wanted the blue icing as the red dye gave the icing an odd bite to it. (Not that it mattered as much because icing is icing!)

My family has always gone to great lengths to make sure my birthday is special. My first year at UT, my parents surprised me with a birthday cake on my birthday at college. They knew I attended the Wesley Foundation for Sunday services and then stayed for lunch. They secretly made arrangements with Barry and L to get a cake for me. And it wasn't just any cake--they picked out a Washignton Redskins cake for me. I have rarely been more pleasantly surprised.

This year, I had a birthday gathering Saturday night. Just a gathering of good friends to hang out, eat dinner and celebrate. Of course, tonight I have having a family dinner and we're gonna have lasagna and (more) cake. (Do you get the idea that I love cake?)

I also got the b'day treatment last week after Thursday Night Worship.

We go to the same restaurant every week after service--a Mexican restaurant called Cozumel. Good food, lots of fun, chips and salsa galore (I could eat my body weight in chips and salsa). Well, if they find out it's your b'day they will sing to you..and bring you out a dish of ice cream with whipped cream on it. Oh yeah, and you get to wear a hat like those worn by the Three Amigos! (great movie...if you haven't seen it, do so soon!) Somewhere along the way, the public embrarassment of having these guys sing to you and wearing the hat wasn't enough for our group--nope, now they smear the whipped cream on your face.

The only thing I thought would save me was--my b'day is not until today, so I should be OK. My plan was to lay low, not mention the big day and hope that they'd wait 'til next week when I would just not go and avoid the singing and whipped cream on the face. Oh, but someone saw through this elaborate scheme--hence, why I'm not a James Bond villain. As we're sitting there, I suddenly sense something...just as the hat is plopped on my head and the singing begins. I got whipped cream smeared all over my face and nose-- I think I looked like I had a whipped cream goatee. I think that my glasses saved me from having the full facial, which I am grateful for.

I will say this--I think mother nature got my b'day wish mixed up. I asked for a nice day not a day with ice. The roads were a bit icy in the mid-state area this morning. Next time, I have to be more specific.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/19/2005 08:13:00 AM | |
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
TV Tuesday

Jumping the Shark

As TV fans, we hear it all the time--"This show has jumped the shark"

For those of you who might not be aware, there is a web site called The site attempts to find the exact moment when a TV show goes from being really good to being not as good. The Jump the Shark refers to the infamous Happy Days episode where Fonzie jumped over a shark on water skis. After that, it was all downhill for the show. (If you head over to the Jump the Shark web site, you can see a huge database of shows and the moment when fans feel they made the fateful jump.)

Right now, fans are debating if a couple of shows aren't becoming Shark bait. So, this week, we'll take a look at just when good shows go wrong.

1. What is the worst Jump the Shark moment for a show that you've faithfully watched? Did you continue to watch after the show took the jump or did you give up in disgust?
I was a big fan of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and it jumped the shark in a big way in mid-season three. They'd avoided potential sharkbait by having Lois figure out that Clark is Superman, but when they got the wedding arc--referred to in the fandom as the wedding argh!--and we got five episodes that ended with Lois not remembering she loved Clark, not married, etc. it was all over. It was just downhill from there and fans turned off in droves. I remained loyal to the end, but was still very, very bitter about it. I still am come to think of it.

2. Is there a show that you're currently watching that you think has Jumped the Shark? Any show that currently is putting on a life vest and strapping on water skis?
I'd have to say that Alias has jumped the shark completely since season two when Syd and Vaughn took down SD6 so they could hook up. It's not been the same since that point and nothing they do seems to help it recover. (But yet, I still watch).

3. Is there a show that has never taken the jump?
Doctor Who, The Simpsons, Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, DS9

4. Is there a show that got close to jumping but then came back?
Boy, Buffy sure did get awfully close in seasons four and six, but it came back from the edge.

5. What elements do you think most contribute to a show making the jump?
One of the biggest things is when you have a series built around romantic tension between two characters and you get them together and then have no idea where ot go next. So many shows are content to get the two characters together and then have no concept of what happens next that is can ruin the whole thing. Also, I think having a show that refuses to break out of its "formula" can be bad. I have to say that Quantum Leap was a show that at least tried to tweak the formula in its last season to keep it interesting--and for the most, I think they did.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/18/2005 01:18:00 PM | |

24: Day Four, 11 a.m. - 12 p.m.
You just had to know it wouldn't take Jack very long to get out of trouble with the police. After all, it'd kind of be a bummer of an episode to see Jack sitting around in the back of a police car for ten or fifteen minutes of the story. But again, I'm always amazed at how quickly things occur between segements of the show. Last week ended with Jack, face down on the ground, cops approaching him. This week, in les than two minutes, Jack is cuffed, on the back of the car and the officers have heard his story, believed some it and got through the CTU voice mail hell and are talking to Director Driscoll about it. Yeah, seriously..that's gonna take at least five maybe six minutes .

And as the epiosde unfolds, you have to wonder how CTU manages without Jack around. Because just about every succesful idea that comes along comes from Jack. I did enjoy Jack's attempt at a trump card of saying, "Let me talking to the president" which would have worked the past two years. But unforunately for Jack, Palmer is no longer POTUS and Jack doesn't have the inside track he once did.

This episode had its moments--Khalid's run in with the police that tipped him off that Jack was on his trail (a good move by the show since for him not to suspect would make him way too unobservant) and his subsequent taking one for the team. Why is it that only his truck bursts into flames and that the fire department is only one minute away from scene of the accident? (Again, I am thinking too much, I suppose, but you see my point). Why didn't the other truck also burst into flames. Also, Jack just stands there after Khalid's truck blows up and doesn't try to see if the driver of the other truck is OK. I also liked Heller's idea that if he kills himself, he ends makes the terrorists look foolish. And the debates between the president and his advisors about how they may have to kill Heller rather than letting the terrorists conduct their trial and killing Heller on Amercian soil. That all worked.

I was also amazed by the cell phone service Jack gets. Not since Mulder and Scully has anyone had service that good. (I mean, Mulder and Scully's phone worked in the middle of the desert, in a boxcar, underground, in elevators, in top secret government facilities, everywhere...about the only time it didn't work was when Scully was taken by the "aliens"). I can barely drive around metro-Nashville without my phone service occasionally cutting in and out and I'm not even out on a deserted highway like Jack is. And you've got to wonder if he's got that Sprint plan where extra minutes are only $5 a month because otherwise I'd had to see his cell phone bill. (Also, I need a cell phone like Jack has becuase that thing NEVER runs out of power).

Of course, Jack is the only one who arrives in time to the compound where they're holding Heller and Audrey. I am sure Jack will save them, because I'm not sure the man could handle the guilt from losing first Terri and now Audrey.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/18/2005 08:17:00 AM | |
Monday, January 17, 2005
Lady Vols take care of Lady Dores
When I was a student at UT, one of the big rivals for the Lady Vols were their close competitors, the Lady Commodores of Vanderbilt (this was right as the Lady Vols/U-Conn rivalry was heating up). At one time, it was so intense and so well-played that the teams added an extra meeting between the two squads each year.

Tennessee guard Shanna Zolman, center, gets a shot away as she slips by Vanderbilt's Ashley Earley, right, in the first half on Sunday, Jan. 16, 2005, in Nashville, Tenn. Zolman led Tennessee with 20 points as No. 8 Tennessee defeated No. 17 Vanderbilt, 79-65

Oh, how the times have changed.

Yesterday, the Lady Vols took care of business again--I think this is the 7th time in a row we've beat the Lady Dores--here in Nashville. And this was after getting down by 15 and looking like Vandy was gonna run us out of the gym. Just goes to show you what a great coach can do to rally her troops.

The Lady Vols' win over Vandy made my sports-viewing afternoon since the early NFC game was over by halftime and the Colts...well, the Colts just couldn't get it done yet again against the Patriots.

I hope the Steelers just run the Patriots out of the building like they did earlier this year, though Cower's tendency to choke in the AFC Championship Game at home has me worried the damn Pats will make it to the Super Bowl again. I'm so sick of hearing about them....just go away already.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/17/2005 04:03:00 PM | |

24 in hot water.
Anyone else remember in the fall of 2001, that there were questions of whether or not 24 would actually air due to its odd similiarity to the attacks of September 11th?

Looks like the show is drawing fire again...

"24" Making Nice with Muslims

In a related story, young blondes who get into needless peril and are attacked by cougars are also protesting their treatment on the show....

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/17/2005 03:56:00 PM | |

TV Round-Up
Battlestar Galactica: 33 & Water
When I was little, I remember watching and enjoying Battlestar Galatica--a lot. I even had several of the toys, including the Vipers that I'd play with in the backyard, making up all kinds of great adventures for the cast and crew of the Galactica. I will even admit I have some vague recollections of seeing Galactica 80, the much-loathed spin-off to the series. Looking back, I'm always amazed the series only lasted one season--it seemed like it was on so much longer back when I was a kid.

Over the years, I've drifted away and not watched the original series that much. I'd heard about Richard Hatch's attempts to get the series back on TV and keep the dream alive, but I never got caught up that much in it. Then, Sci-Fi announced they were doing a new mini-series that wasn't a continuation so much as a re-imagining. I tuned in for the first half but due to circumstances beyond my control, missed the second half until it was repeated late last week. The mini-series set the storyline in motion for a new series. I have to admit, after the mini-series I was hooked. I was also hooked by the fact that our friends in the UK, who also footed some of the bill to get the new series on the air, got to see it first and were giving the new series rave reviews.

So, I have to admit, part of me went into Friday night's premiere of the new series wary. Could it be as good as I hoped and expected based on the rave reviews and hugely positive buzz?

The answer, thankfully, is yes. Now, I've gone back and rewatched some of the old Battlestar Galactica on DVD and it's a fun little show that, quite frankly, doesn't take itself or the situation all that seriously. Yes, this is humanity's last hope, fleeing from an oppressive empire who is out to destroy them at all costs, but we still have time for some wacky fun and family learnin'. Oh yeah and we have Daggett, who the less is said about that the better.

But the new Galactica embraces the situation our heroes face. They are facing a desparate situation, they are facing a relentless enemy. But instead of the attacks coming just from without, there's a new found, almost X-Files like paranoia in the show since the new breed of Cylons can create duplicates and sleeper agents who look and sound human. It's a bit similiar to what we saw with the Psi-Corp on Babylon Five and it really helps drive the first two installments of this series.

Of the first two hours of the new show, "33" is the stronger entry of the two, but only just by a hair. The crew has been on the run for five days from the Cylons. They are forced to jump every 33 minutes in order to keep one step ahead of them. But because of the stretched-thin nature of the defense crew, everyone has been awake for the past 33 days. Sure they might get a ten-minute cat nap or a stimulant or two, but everyone is exhausted and nerves are wearing thin. Ron Moore does a superb job of setting up the tension and showing just how exhausted the crew are from having to face an unrelenting attack every 33 minutes .

Also of interest is Six's manipulation of Baltar--that he can make this all stop by repenting.

It all comes to a head when a commercial transport, the Olympic Carrier, doesn't make a jump with the group and all aboard are presumeded dead (the white board with the total population left is chillingly well done). When the ship arrives late, after the 33 minute deadline the crew must destroy it for fear it might contain Cylon tracking devices. In the course of just a few moments, the crew goes from hope to despair at realizing what they must do. I also like the fact that Apollo is having an issue with this and it doesn't just magically go away at the start of the next segment.

(Also of interest is Ron Moore's blog over at He discusses why he chose 33 minutes).

The next episode, "Water" while not as strong as "33" was still intriguing. The water supply containers on board Galatica are sabotaged, causing the ship to lose a large portion of its water supply. Instead of having enough to make it through without too much trouble, the crew now faces a desparate circumstance--a necessity is limited. We must find more. The resulting episode unfolds as the crew struggles to find out who did it (they don't yet, but I can see this is building to something with Boomer) and how to find more water. The Cylons threat is felt but not seen (well, we see it on Caprica) but it's still there. The episode also provides some great character work for Adama and President Roslin, seeing their working relationship come to a new understanding. We also see Apollo accept a role of helping Roslin understand his father and the military so she can lead more effectively. And we continue to see Baltar's manipulation by Six, which I have to admit his asides and flashouts to talk to her are almost Crichton and HarveyScorpius like.

What I like most about these episodes is that the answers aren't so cut and dried. We also have real, three-dimensional characters and there's an emphasis on just how desparate this situation is. Yes, there's time for some fun such as Baltar's game of cards with Starbuck and company. But that's only a ruse for Baltar to play for time so his role as a Cylon agent won't be detected jut yet. Also, the Cylon's manipulation of Baltar based on his beliefs is compelling and I am hopeful we'll see this continue to develop as the season goes along.

So, I will admit it--I'm hooked on the new Battlestar Galactica. Just like the first one hooked me so many years ago. (Only this time I doubt I'll be making up nearly as many adventures in the back yard for the Galactica crew!)

Enterprise: Daedulus
I guess it was only a matter of time before Enterprise came back to earth a bit. After seven stellar episodes in a row, we get an episode that was good, but just not great with "Daedelus." Meeting the inventor of the transporter should have been a lot more fun, more intriguing and more interesting than what we got here. The script felt like it was cobbled together with strong portions of other Trek shows over the years, but it failed to really do anything new or different with the material. We didn't really cover any new ground and that left the entire hour feeling a bit hollow.

Part of it is that the audience knows this whole project is doomed to failure since we don't have the transporter technology being tested here in the future Trek that we've seen. That either means it's going to fail spectacularily or the inventor is up to something. Turns out it's the latter and while his motivation could be interesting--guilt over losing his son in the initial tests and possibly a way to get him back--that gets lost in the script's complete lack of focus. On the one hand, we have a genius dealing with his reputation and trying to live up to it while deceiving his good buddy, Jonathan Archer. We've also got in there--wacky area of space threatens the ship and crew. It doesn't take long to jump from point a to point b and see how these things are connected. In fact, I guessed that they were trying to rescue Embry's son the first time wacky distoration person appeared on screen, thus ruining the turning point of the entire episode for myself.

Meanwhile, I have to admit this episode did have a few redeeming qualities. I liked how Enterprise is exploring the affects of previous stories on character--namely the Trip and T'Pol relationship. Those scenes actually carried some weight and were intersesting. As was Archer's single-minded obsessiveness at helping Embry fulfill his experiments. For a few minutes, I thought that Tripp and T'Pol were going to mutiny on him, but alas they don't. An interesting question I found myself asking--were this not a personal friend of Archer's would he have been as single-minded in his quest to see the experiments fulfilled?

posted by Michael Hickerson at 1/17/2005 11:02:00 AM | |

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