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Friday, June 30, 2006
Superman Returns Blogger Viewing Update
I've heard from several people that they'll be attending the Superman Returns blogger viewing extravagazna Monday evening.

For those of you who might have missed it--just a group of bloggers going to see Superman Returns on the Opry Mills IMAX, Monday, July 3rd for the 7 p.m. showing. You can Fandango a ticket or live on the edge and try to buy one Monday evening.

I'm off work Monday, so I plan to get up there early and get a good spot in line. I will probably arrive around 5:30 p.m. We can either all go eat in the food court at that time or take shifts of getting food and coming back to the line, depending on how the line looks.

If you're coming, please give me a shout out and let me know that you are. I'll be looking for you and I will try to remember to wear something orange in case you've not met me in person before.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/30/2006 09:15:00 AM | |

Reason 482 to love the Internet
Remember back in the old days (the late 90s) when you'd hear about some celebrity photos that were coming out in a magazine in a month or so and then you'd have to....oh, I don't know...wait a few weeks for said magazine to come out on the newsstand?

Not any more!

Welcome to the information age, when you can hear a story on the news about Britney Spears' cover shoot for Harper's and within ten minutes see all the pictures on-line. In fact, the leaked cover held the top two most forwarded photo spots in Yahoo! Photos yesterday. (Now it's just three of the top ten). Looking at it, I can't imagine why it would be so popular (that last part was sarcasm btw).

Of course, comparisons are running wild between this and the infamous Demi Moore cover of a few years ago (back when we had to go to the silly newsstand or bookstore to find the magazine, not just log onto the information super highway). If you're interested in the rest of the photo spread, it can be found here, though I'd warn you it's an NSFW (not safe for work).

So, here's the thing with this. Seems that last week Britney was complaining that the media just won't leave her alone to live her life. And you know, I kind of almost felt some sympathy for her. But then, here she is this week courting public attention and the celebrity gossip circuit. It does make me wonder how long until she starts whining again about having no privacy? Britney--you can't have it both ways.

Though we have to admit the real loser in her posing nekkid is all those "celebrity web sites" that have PhotoShopped images of Britney's head onto other bodies. Or maybe not....

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/30/2006 06:10:00 AM | |
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Futurama and Al Gore

For those of you who might not know it, Al Gore's daughter wrote for Futurama back when it was on FOX. In fact, Al appeared as himself in a couple of episodes. Anyway, here's a funny video created by the Futurama people for Al's new movie.

I may not have any desire to see the movie, but this little short is hilarious. Go Bender!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/29/2006 07:53:00 AM | |
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Camping Out
I've never camped out to be the first person to see a particular film. Call me old or a fuddy-duddy, but I can't past the part that the movie will start at midnight and you've got to stay awake until 3 a.m. to see it all.

About the closest I've come to a camp-out was a few years ago, I only had to work a half day on Wednesdays (to make up for the 12 hour workdays most other days of the week) and I stood in the gigantic, mondo line of doom to get tickets for Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. The line wound around the parking garage at West Towne Mall in Knoxville and after a few hours, you really got to know the people around you. Everyone was pleasant, amiable and excited about the first new Star Wars in 19 year (oh, if only we'd known that Jar-Jar was to be inflicted upon us, the line would have been a LOT shorter).

So, as I've said, I've never been part of a camp out to see a particular film. (I mean other than getting to the theater early to get a good place in line...but I don't think an hour in line with friends counts as much). Now, I can't say that if they didn't have a Doctor Who feature film come out, that I wouldn't be there, because, well, I'm just that insane a Doctor Who fan (random note: The preview for this week's season finale...holy cow, that looks good! )

But even though I've not camped out, there are those who have. And thankfully for us, they've blogged about it. Interesting to read about the expereince, though I do wonder if the advent of Fandango will slowly make camping out to see a movie a thing of the past. When you can buy your ticket on-line days in advance (which is wonderful, by the way), it sort of eliminates the need to camp out. All you have to do is arrive early enough to pick up tickets and stand in line for the showing.

But maybe that's just the old fuddy-duddy in me talking...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/28/2006 07:48:00 AM | |
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Wow! Wow! Wow!
The first trailer for next summer's most anticipated movie, Spider-Man 3 is on-line.

All I can say is, "Wow, wow, wow!" and "Forget that guy in the cape and tights...why can't THIS be opening tomorrow?!?"

I had some fears and doubts for Spidey 3, but this one has answered those and put a lot of them to rest...

Yep, I'll be there, opening day for this doubt about it.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/27/2006 02:24:00 PM | |

A plea
One of the cool things about spin classes is that with each instructor, you get a different kind or style of music. It's kind of an interesting way to find some new (to you) songs, hear some old classics and enjoy (well, as much as you can simulating hills the size of Mt. Everest) the class.

Unless the instructor uses a song by Britney Spears....

And it gets stuck in your head...

And all attempts to disloge it fail...

Help me!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/27/2006 10:48:00 AM | |
Monday, June 26, 2006
Peter Tolan defends Rescue Me
Apparently I wasn't the only one taken aback by the final scene of last week's Rescue Me.

Seems that scene has caused quite the debate on-line.

The flames got so hot, that series co-creator and co-writer of the episode, Peter Tolan, stepped into the fray on Television Without Pity to try and talk about/defend the scene. Tolan thought posting at TWOP would be a good idea, but apparently he's regretting it now since it seems to have only added fuel to the flame war.

All I can say is, that scene was horrifying, stunning (in a bad way) and repugnant. That said, I'll be in front of my TV tomorrow night for the next installment.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/26/2006 01:56:00 PM | |

TV Round-Up
The 4400: Gone, Part 1
One thought struck me as I was watching The 4400 last night--is Maia being written out of the show? I wondered this since the actress is obviously growing up (she's at least two years older in the real world now), while in the world of The 4400, Maia has only been back for about eight months to a year. I'd noticed that Maia is looking a lot older in the past few episodes, but yet they were still writing her as being 10 or so.

Anyway, onto the episode itself.

Hard to come away with too many conclusions about it since it's part one of two and we're not sure yet where all this is going. So far, what we know is the future The 4400 were sent back to avert hasn't been averted yet. You know, this really reminds me a lot of Enterprise's time war plotline where factions from the future were coming back to manipulate the past and create a different outcome. I wonder if we've got two or more sides here competiting to create a new future or to keep the current future on track. I have to wonder how much Jordan Collier plays into all of this, since this might be a reasonable explanation for his suddenly appearing alive and well in the cliffhanger last year. Is Jordan the lynchpin?

I do have to wonder if, without Jordan's mentoring if Shawn is going down a path to destruction. He's given funding to terrorists, he's distracted by Isabelle (which I have to think she's being manipulated in order to drive a wedge between Shawn and Richard, whenever Richard finds out about the relationship between Shawn and Isabelle) and now he's slowly being manipulated out of power.

Meanwhile, we find out that Alana is sharing her talent of going outside reality with others, something Tom doesn't take very well.

Lots of threads dangling out there, which should make for an interesting second half.

The Dead Zone: Indepedence Day
Well, it was better than last week, but it still wasn't great. Johnny and Bruce are headed somewhere for the 4th of July fireworks and get caught in a huge traffic jam. Johnny has a vision of Bruce's death, which is tied into this whole traffic jam. Turns out police have shut down the highway to search for an escaped fugitive.

As a concept, it works pretty well, though this one had to work hard to tie in all the cliched characters to the vision--pregnant girl who goes into labor, bikers with a heart of gold, cute girl in a bikini, drunken rednecks, etc. I wil give the episode some credit in that I never guessed the deputy was really the escaped prisoner in disguise until Johnny had his vision about it.

That said, while the characters and situation was a bit cliched, what I did like was Bruce and Johnny's conversation about how Johnny knows all of Bruce's deep dark secrets just by touching him and having visions. That's an interesting aspect of the show and to see Johnny write down a list of equally deep, dark secrets and give it to Bruce was a nice tough. It's nice to see the character-moments still work five seasons in, even in the main plot ain't a lot to write home about.

And on a related note--will we ever see Walt and Sarah again?

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/26/2006 09:23:00 AM | |
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Common courtesy is on-life support and fading fast...
This evening, I journeyed with the family to TPAC to watch my neice in her first dance recital.

(Proud Uncle Michael moment follows).

Of course, she was the best dancer in the entire show. Yes, they were all very good, but Gracelyn was, by far, the best.

I could be just a tiny bit biased here, though I don't really think I am.

(Proud Uncle Michael moment over...for now).

Gracelyn's part in the recital was right near the start and right at the end. I knew this going in and was patient, enjoying the work of the other participants. I applauded when appropriate, though I'll admit I applauded a little more after Gracelyn was done. I did resist the urge to give her standing ovation after each of her numbers. I had to remind myself that everyone there was a proud parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, brother, sister or family friend. And they wanted to see and hear the apple of their eye get to perform.

But I've really got to ask a question--at what point did it suddenly become acceptable to whoop out in a loud voice, "Gooooooooooooooooo, (insert name of kid here)!" followed by a loud "Whooooooooo" that could go on any where from one to twenty seconds. What is the fine line between showing proud appreciation and acting like, for lack of a better term, a redneck. Honestly, it seems as if manners have flown out the window a lot these days and there's this pervasive "me first and forget about the rest of you people" attitude that permeates our day to day living. I think I've said it before and I'll say it again--common courtesy seems to have died a slow, painful death a couple of years ago and despite many attempts by a lot of us to bring it back or at least keep it on life support, it's fading fast.

Maybe I'm a prude. Maybe I'm old-fashioned. But honestly a war whoop is more appropriate for something like a sporting event as opposed to a dance recital at TPAC.

Is it just me?

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/24/2006 10:18:00 PM | |
Friday, June 23, 2006
Superman: Returns Blogger Viewing
As most of you know, the Man of Steel makes the jump back to the big screen next week with the opening of Superman Returns.

One of the many perks of living in middle Tennessee is the IMAX theater at Opry Mills, which will show the summer blockbuster on the huge screen. Not only that but there will be 30 minutes of the film that is shown in IMAX 3-D.

Yeah, that is definitely worth the extra cost for admission!

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to get some people together to go and see this potential epic film on the giant IMAX screen of doom. So, here's the invite for anyone who wants to come.

We'll have a group going to see Superman Returns on July 3rd. Since IMAX charges the same admission price for whatever show you go to, we'll be taking in the 7 p.m. evening show. If you'd like to go, all you have to do is get a ticket and show up. You can Fandango a ticket if you want or stop by the Opry Mills box-office and pick up one (Fandango will charge you a buck for processing fee or some such silliness per ticket if you order on-line). I'd recommend going ahead and getting a ticket if you're planning on going.

So, if you'd like to come and join us for the showing, please feel free to do so. And if you want to let us know you're coming by leaving a comment, that would be great.

Also, I must now make a shameless request of Queen B of NiT....could you please, maybe, crosspost a link to this announcement on NiT for us so we can get the word out to as many middle Tennessee bloggers as possible?

Thanks and I hope to see ya there!

Oh and if you can't make it the Superman due to vacations or the 4th of July, I understand. I am contemplating another blogger movie outing later this summer to see the phenemon that is Snakes on a Plane. Somehow I think it will that one will be a lot more fun with a group of people....

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/23/2006 07:15:00 AM | |
Thursday, June 22, 2006
World Cup chances come to an end
Well, the U.S.'s hopes of bringing home the World Cup are over.

The U.S. team lost today to Ghana, thus eliminating us from contention.

Hopefully now that we're out ESPN can start focusing again on some real sports. Like the fact that it's only 72 days until UT football kicks off.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/22/2006 12:56:00 PM | |

Various Star Trek rumors and thoughts
There are times when I read my good friend, Katherine Coble's blog and her posts about her great love of all things Harry Potter. And I have to smile to myself, because I completely understand her adoration, love, devotion and obsession as I share a simliar affliction. But while her devotion is to the young wizard and his adventures, mine is to to sci-fi related shows, Doctor Who and Star Trek.

There's been a lot of news about the Star Trek franchise the past few weeks and I've held off posting...until now.

So, if you're not really all that into Star Trek or hearing some insnae fan blathering on about, this post may not be your cup of tea. I'm just saying, you have been warned.

First up, there's a rumor flying around the Internet that newly appointed Star Trek producer J.J. Abrams wants to cast Matt Damon as the young Captain James T. Kirk. (The man is Kirk, William Shatner has come out and endorsed the choice.)

Sorry, J.J., but I really don't see it. I have nothing against Matt Damon as a whole, but if the intention of this entry in the Trek franchise is a Starfleet Acadamy type of film, then Damon is too old to play Kirk. Damon is in his mid-30s, which is about the age range we saw Kirk in during the original series. Since the series has established that Kirk was the youngest man to take command of a starship and he was in his early 30's when he did it, it seems to me that Damon is a bit too old for the role. (That's assuming they started filming today, which I doubt they're even close to filming).

Unless, you're going to go reboot...

Which is interesting in light of the memo of the proposed reboot of the franchise by J. Michael Stracysnki and Bryce Zabel that's been making the rounds of the Internet this week. I read the 14 page proposal and while it's an interesting idea, I'm not sure it's necessarily the best way to go. I will agree that what Trek needs is a return of the sense of wonder and exploration we got in TOS, early TNG and, to some extent, the first season of Enterprise. But for a number of reasons, I'm not sure a reboot makes sense.

My biggest is that a lot of what made classic Star Trek, classic Star Trek was the chemistry and relationship of the big three, Kirk, Spock and McCoy. I give a lot of that credit to Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley. I'm not sure you could neccesarily capture the "lighting in a bottle" that was the trio again, no matter how hard you tried.

Now, I'm sure some of you are saying--but Michael, look at what a reboot did for Battlestar Galactica.

To which I say--yes, but it's like comparing apples and oranges.

Battlestar Galactica was a successful and well-remembered show from the 70's. Also, it only lasted a year and while there was a loyal fan base who carried the flame for the show, it never was quite the same as Star Trek.

Star Trek lasted three years before it was cancelled by NBC but instead of just being well-remembered and having fans carry the flame, Star Trek went on to become a world-wide phenomon in syndication. (There was a time when an episode of classic Star Trek was airing somewhere in the world at any given moment). It became part of the pop-media consiousness in a way Battlestar didn't. And since we so associate Shatner with Kirk, Nimoy with Spock, etc. I can only imagine that rebooting and recasting is going to meet with greater resistance from the fan-base, who is larger, louder and more vocal. Remember the whole uproar over Starbuck being a woman? Yeah, multiply that times a million and you might have what you'd get here from some fans.

Which brings me to my final point of "If it ain't broke don't fix it."

This really doesn't relate as much to the reboot as to this conversation that crops up from time to time among Star Trek fans. Seems there is a vocal group that things the original series special effects should be redone and replaced since, well, the original series effects look kind of dated. One popular lighting rod episode for the re-doing the effects is the second season episode"The Doomsday Machine."

Seems a few years ago, Paramount looked into doing this for certain episodes of classic Star Trek. The results are in the highlight reel below, courtesy of You Tube.

OK, I'll give you that the results look very nice.

That said, I don't want the effects from classic Trek replaced. Call me a purist, but I actually like the grainy model shots of the original Enterprise as opposed to the CGI rendered ones here. Yes, the effects were limited back in the 60's when Star Trek was made, but you know what? That's part of what made Star Trek, Star Trek.

I realize that there are some who claim modern audiences won't watch the original episodes because the effects are too dated. I honestly feel sorry for those people who wouldn't watch the episodes because the special effects looked a bit dated. I guess that means they're gonna miss a lot of great movies and tv shows that were only filmed in black and white as well.

The thing is that while the effects for Star Trek were great for their time, it was the characters and the stories that drew in the fans and kept us coming back. When I think of "The Doomsday Machine", it's not the effects or the space battles that come to mind first. It's the superbly drawn characters brought superbly to life by the actors and the drama of the conflict that plays out between them. That is what made Star Trek great.

I think that is something that J.J. Abrams, or really anyone wanting to play in the Star Trek sandbox needs to remember when it comes time to make a new movie or launch the next series.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/22/2006 12:24:00 PM | |
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
TV Round-Up
Rescue Me: Sparks
There are times in this show that it's just painful to watch--and yet despite feeling really, really dirty, I just can't look away.

Like two weeks ago when Tommy figured out who the new guy was with his soon-to-be-ex, Janet. Namely his brother. Man, that fight was brutal, watching Tommy do a slow burn before he gets up and beats the crap out of his brother. It was one of those that you kept thinking--they're gonna cut, they're gonna cut and they never did. Instead, we got a raw, brutal scene that went on too long for comfort.

And now here with "Sparks."

And if you've seen it, you know which scene I'm talking about.

Tommy agrees to meet with Janet to disucss the terms of the divorce. And before the scene is over, Tommy has shoved her onto a couch and is forcing himself on her. Once again, we see Tommy going from slow burn to giving into his baser, animal insticts...and nothing Janet says or does deters him. As if the whole scene weren't bad enough, Janet seems to....dear heaven help me....enjoy it toward the end on some animal level. And once it's done, the two of them chat as if nothing happened and then Janet covers it up when Tommy's brother comes back home. She acts like nothing happened and that somehow what just occurred was normal...and while I'm sickened and horrified at the character of Tommy Gavin, I just can't not tune in next week. It also makes me wonder about the nature of Tommy and Janet's relationship when it seems almost as if both of them get off on this type of angry sex and that it is almost normal to them both....

That's the genius of this show. I love the characters, in that I love how raw, gritty and real they are, but I don't love them in the sense that I'd choose any of them to be friends with. Also, it walks such a fine line between laugh out loud funny (Probie arguing that he's less gay) and dark, distrubing drama such as the scene with Tommy and Janet or Lou's attempt to end his own life. I mean, wow...this is some of the best written and most disturbing TV I've seen in a long time (and I saw the ads for The Simple Life, Part 38).

It's certainly not for everyone...but damn, it's good.

Oh yeah--and Franco's mentioning to Alicia how he kidnapped his daughter back from her foster gonna come back to bite him.

The 4400: The New World, Parts 1 and 2 & Being Tom Baldwin
There were times last summer when I wondered if The 4400 had outlived its premise. The orignal run of six episodes was designed as a one-time, mini-series event but when ratings warranted bringing it back for a second sesaon, the producers complied--and it showed. Last year was about a lot of growing pains as the show tried to figure out what to do next, having resolved some of the central mysteries from season one.

But, the show got through it and seems to have some direction to the storylines now.

No where is that more apparent that the two-hour season premiere, "The New World." The storyline picks up a short time after "Mommy's Bosses" ended last year with mixed results. It's interesting that on both sides, there are leaders who believe that what they are doing is absolutley right and the best way to address the issue. And it's also interesting that as the series has gone along, the 4400 have gone from a group we felt sympathy for their plight to a sense of mistrust about them and their powers. I'm still not quite sure how this impending battle between those with abilities and those without plays into the masterplan of the 4400 somehow saving the planet....or has that goal been corrupted? It should be interesting to find out.

On the other hand you've got "Being Tom Baldwin" that is really nothing more than an episode built around the wacky fun of dopplegangers. Yeah, if it'd not been done better on Star Trek, The X-Files, Buffy or really any other genre show of the past 20 or so years, it might be interesting here. Interestingly enough, the final scene is two copies of Tom arguing with Elena as to who the real one--a page taken right out of classic Star Trek's "Whom Gods Destroy." Though this time, the storyline at least comes up with a way out of the dilemma without annoying one of your lead actors (Nimoy was terribly unhappy with a scene in which Spock had to choose between Kirk and someone impersonating Kirk).

The one common thread between these two episodes is the growth of Isabelle. Interesting choice to push her forward and have her become a, foil/romantic interest for Shawn. This may have some potential, esp. if she's there to somehow derail Shawn as the perceived leader of the 4400.

The Dead Zone: Forbidden Fruit
It's hard to see this as a season-premiere since the fourth season was originally comissioned and structured to run 22 episodes, but was then split into two chunks by USA of 11-episodes each. It may be why this one felt so...well, unmometous and slow moving. Or maybe it's that it's been close to year since I last journeyed into The Dead Zone (apart from the Christmas special) and I'd forgotten a lot of what happened leading up to this.

Thank heavens we had a long recap....

Also, I have to admit details of where we are in the backstory are fuzzy...such as, if Johnny is dating the fellow female pyschic, why would he be romantically pursuing Miranda. Or interested in that relationship? Maybe I'm blurring details in my head.....

Perhaps part of it is Johnny's slow descent into obsession with Stillson. Which is something we've seen before and Anthony Michael Hall does quite well at playing. Seeing just how Johnny is blinded by Stillson and trying to stop the on-coming armageddon is part of the fun of the show. But now since we've had this mythology episode, I bet we get some stand-alones for the next few weeks as Johnny has wacky fun with his powers.

That said, I found myself not as drawn into this episode as I was in previous seasons. At one point, I checked the clock and was dismayed to find I had half an hour left to go. It felt as if there were a lot of circles being run around in this one, building toward the inevitable end we all saw coming. I mean, we mention Miranda has a weak heart and three scenes later there is a deadly snake with venom that can cause death in those with weak hearts...gee, can I put two and two together?

I know that this was the last season Michael Piller produced and worked on before his untimely death. And it was bittersweet seeing the episode dedicated to him. But I still found myself wishing they'd had a stronger episode to honor the memory of how good Michael Piller was when he was at the top of his writing game.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/21/2006 01:55:00 PM | |

Summer is officially upon us
As of 7:36 a.m. CST, it is now officially summer.

That may explain why I would love to do nothing more today than lounge by the pool with a good book....

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/21/2006 07:58:00 AM | |
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
It supports a theory I've held for a long while....

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/20/2006 09:58:00 AM | |

Hot, hot, hot
I showed up for spin class last night to find the usually comfortable (temperature wise) room, stuffy and a bit on the warm side. Or as my grandfather would say, "It's H O T, warm."

Not a good sign since spinning tends to get you warm and sweaty even if the room temperature starts out cold.

Needless to say, by the end of class, I felt like I'd sweated off at least 10 pounds.

Yeah, if only it were that easy....

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/20/2006 09:19:00 AM | |
Monday, June 19, 2006
And the real author is...
The real writer of the Lost tie-in novel, "Bad Twin" has been revealed. It's not Stephen King (though I told you that last week). It's Laurence Shames, who is a noted ghost-writer.

Interestingly, the producers of Lost are not happy with the novel. Apparently, there was a list of things that Shames could and could not include in the novel, most of which he ignored. So, it looks as if the novel's tie-into the show will be moderate, at best.

I wish this news had come out last week before I wasted two hours of my life reading the book.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/19/2006 08:18:00 AM | |
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Summer Reading: "The Husband"
It's interesting that two of the best-selling authors of the past few years both have last names that start with K. Browse the K section of the bookstore or library and you'll find Dean Koontz's prolific output near that of another prolific writer whose last name starts with K, Stephen King. It's also interesting that both men write about simliar subjects--namely ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circusmtances and how the protagonists react to them.

Mitch Rafferty is an ordinary guy with a life he loves and is deeply, madly, passionately devoted to his wife Holley. As "The Husband" begins, Mitch's life seems just about perfect, but that perfect life is about to come crumbling down around him. Mitch receives a phone call from a mysterious man, saying he's kidnapped Holley and Mitch can have her back for two million dollars. Mitch is a gardner and doesn't even have close to that kind of money but the kidnappers don't care. They inform Mitch it's time to find a way or else Holley will meet an untimely demise at the end of 60 hours.

From there, events set in motion to draw Mitch into a desparate, frantic game to try and get his wife back safe and sound.

As with most of Dean Koontz's novels, the premise of "The Husband" is a promising one. But as with most of Koontz's latest offerings, the intriuging premise is stretched out beyond its welcome. What could have easily been a great short story or novella is, instead, stretched out to novel length and the book suffers for it.

And while Koontz shares the ordinary guy thurst into extraordinary circumstances theme with Stephen King, the big difference with a Koontz novel is the complete lack of style. Even though King novels deal with the same themes, the books are memorable with a voice and scenes that will linger in your memory long after the last page is turned. Not so with Koontz. His novels are filled with almost the same character ovre and over again. It's almost like Dragnet, where the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Mitch is of the same mold as other Koontz heroes, such as Odd Thomas. These are men who believe in the power of good over evil, making moral choices and who love their wives and/or families.

It tends to add up to this feeling of having read the book before, even if you know its now. Add to this that while Koontz tries to have some twists and turns along the way in the husband, it's nothing really all that new or differently used and you end up with the "been there, done that" kind of feeling that you get with, well, most of Koontz's work.

Koontz has some great premises. Looking at the cover that sums up the premise of the novel, there is a promise of a compelling, great story within. And for the first few chapters, the novel delivers. It's just in the other two thirds of the novel that things start to go astray and the novel never recovers. Yes, I cared if Mitch rescued Holley but toward the end I didn't care how or why.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/18/2006 07:18:00 PM | |
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Summer Reading, Book 3: "Bad Twin"
Since the dawn of the popular media, there have been media tie-in books. Part of me imagines that back in the days of the Greek tragedies, there were vendors outside with the further exploits of Oedipus available for you to take home and read, should you choose to do so. After all, who wouldn't want to know more about that guy?

In most cases, media tie-in novels are those that feature the familiar characters from the show, movie, video game, etc., all acting and interacting within the established universe.

In some rare cases, the novels will actually be incorporated into the backstory and history of the show. Star Trek: Voyager did this during its run with two novels by producer Jeri Taylor that expanded the backstory of Janeway and the crew. While it wasn't necessary to read the novels in order to enjoy the show, there were times in the series when nods were made to the novels. If you'd read them, you'd catch the reference. If not, it was just a reference and you wouldn't be totally lost for not having read it.

Then you've got a book like "Bad Twin" a novel that ties into the on-going mythology of the hit TV show Lost. The novel was featured on the show this year--we saw Saywer reading a draft of the novel on the beach. According to the Lost mythology, author Gary Troup was on the flight and this is his final novel, now hitting bookstores posthumously. Interestingly, the same week the book was featured on the show, it started appearing in bookstores.

Coincidence? Oh, I don't think so.

So how do we judge "Bad Twin"?

Judged by its own merits, it's a competently written mystery story, though one that employs every cliche in the book. Our hero is a hard-boiled detective loner who is called up by Clifford Whitmore to solve the case of just where his twin brother has vanished to. Paul Artisan, the hero of the story, starts to peel away the layers of why the twin brother, Zander, would vanish. The story takes him from New England to Florida to Cuba to California to Australia. The book tries hard to pull out a lot of red herrings and send you down blind alleys, but these are a bit too obviously done at times.

There aren't any really what I'd call any great characters in this book. Paul is the lonely, hard-boiled detective, who seems like he'd be at home in a 40's noir film. He's got a friend who is an older professor who will fill Paul in on details of literature throughout the novel, conviently at times to reflect what's going on in the novel. It feels a bit obvious almost as if whoever wrote this book is trying to say, "Look at how smart and literate I am...see I mentioned such-and-such."

So, as a novel, "Bad Twin" isn't much to write home about.

But as a novel that ties into Lost, it's not exactly much to write home about either. The novel features all kinds of tie-ins to the fictional universe of Lost. It has the themes of identity and no one being exactly what they seem to be upon first appearance. It also seems to fit in well with the concept that no one on the island seems to get along particularily well with his or father because daddy-issues are all over this book. It has tons of references to the show, inluding the numbers showing up over and over as well as settings, buisnesses and places from the show. How all, or any, of this ties into the show's central mythology, I'm not really sure. It may or it may's kind of left up to the reader to figure out if it could be.

Honestly, were it not for the fact that this book was tied to the Lost universe, I'd probably never have read it. It's not great, but it's not as bad as some media tie-in novels I've read over the years. Yes, it's designed to take advantage of the fact that Lost is a huge hit show and it's part of that huge viral marketing campaign on this summer to keep Lost-ies interested in the mythology of the show. From that point of view, it's well done. But if you're looking for a novel that can easily stand on its own without the fictional universe that spawned it, the novel isn't successful. It's full of cliched characters, plots and situations. Honestly, were it not for this being tied into Lost, I bet "Bad Twin" would never have seen the light of day.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/17/2006 08:01:00 AM | |
Friday, June 16, 2006
Reflections of yourself
Growing up, my mother always told me that people would judge you by the friends you kept.

But these days, it's not just the friends we keep upon which we are judged but how we present ourselves--not only in person, but on-line. With the magical power of Google, you can find out a lot about a person if you're so inclined to look.

A lot of employers these days are running Google checks on prospective hires, to find out more about these potential employees before they're hired to become part of the team. Sure, they may look good on paper, dress well and slam-dunk the interview, but with a few clicks of the keyboard and mouse, you can find out a lot about a person. If they have a blog, a MySpace account or this new FaceBook thing all the cool kids are trying (I have yet to jump on that bandwagon, but I hear it's really, really cool), then the entire world potentially has the ability to find out who and what you are like when you're not all dressed up, minding your p's and q's.

Which knowing that, I'm still stunned at some of the information and sides of the personality some people display on-line. Even warnings about how it could cost you a professional opportunity or a potential friendship or romantic relationship don't seem to have deterred some people from what they present about themselves on-line.

Sure, it's funny to have a blog or MySpace account full of drunken revelry and half-nekkid pictures of yourself, but what does this say about you? And how much information is too much information to be out there on the Net? Are there some things the entire world doesn't really need to know?

Couple that with the latest uproar over some pictures of Julia Corker, the 18-year-old daughter of Senate candidate Bob Corker that have cirucluted on-line the past couple of days. In case you missed the debate, Wonkette posted two photos of Ms. Corker--one of her kissing another woman presumably at some party and another one with her dancing in her undies, presumbly at the same or another party.

The debate has erupted over whether or not these are photos have any news value beyond the basic "woo-hoo, chicks kissing and dancing in their underwear" value.

After seeing the photos and reading a couple of local and national bloggers' opinion, I'm still left with one huge overriding question--what the hell does this really have to do with Corker's run for the Senate?

Do these photos mean that Corker is any more or less qualified to represent Tennessee should he be elected? My answer is, no, not really.

If anything, I feel a good bit of sympathy for Ms. Corker. I mean, yes she's out in public at a party and she should, probably, know better as my good friend Katherine Coble points out. But you know, how many of us haven't made a youthful indescrition or two in our time. I know I've made at least one or two and all I can say is--thank God digital cameras and MySpace pages weren't around back then for the stupid stuff I did to be instantly shared and preserved for future generations to see on-line if they only type in a few key words to a Google search.

I often wonder how some of these young adults of today are going to feel twenty years from now when they can't delete the damn MySpace or Facebook account becuase they've forgotten the password and now it's telling the whole world how they got totally blitzed Friday night and hooked up with some hottie at a party and if only they could remember his or her name, that would totally rock. Gonna be kind of hard to really take the moral high ground with the kids when your youthful indescritions are there on-line for the entire world to say.

It's kind of the same question I have about the participants in the Girls Gone Wild and Guys Gone Wild series. I mean, OK so you flashed the camera and got beads. Good for you and thanks for sharing. But I just wonder how that desire to have the most beads ever is going to haunt you for years to come. And I'm assuming the participants have to sign some kind of waiver so there's little or no recourse to get you removed from the video--or heaven forbid they use you in the ads to sell these products late at night.

We can get so upset about personal information being published on-line (and rightfully so. I certainly don't want the whole Internet to know where I live, how much money I make or how I like to eat my Oreo cookies*) but sometimes I wonder if we miss the forest for the trees. We worry about personal things like name, rank and serial number, which don't get me wrong are important, but we often forget that what we say and how we present ourselves to the on-line world is just as important.

That is, until we learn a hard lesson about the cold hard truth of the world--whether it be getting turned down by that potential date, passed over for a new job or something like what Julia Corker is now facing. It's a privacy issue, yes. But it still doesn't mean we weren't a bit blockheaded to put ourselves in the situation to being with.

* I like to twist off the top of the Oreo, eat the creamy filling and then crunch down the chocolate parts, in case you were wondering.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/16/2006 09:29:00 PM | |

Thompson-Boling West
We all know that one Saturday a year, Vanderbilt Stadium is nothing more than Neyland Stadium west.

And now looks like there are plans to create Thompson-Boling Arena West. MTSU and UT have signed a contract to play five basketball games in the next couple of years--three in Knoxville and two here in middle Tennessee. The two middle Tennessee games would be in Nashville and the Boro.

All I can say is--look out MTSU! You're going to be invaded by the Big Orange Nation when the Vols show up.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/16/2006 01:37:00 PM | |
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Summer Reading, Book 2: Star Trek: Titan - The Red King
I have to start this out by saying I've read more than my fair share of Star Trek tie-in novels over the years. For years, I bought and read every one that came out in paperback and, more often than not, got the hard cover ones either on sale the first week they were out or from the library. It was only in the mid-90s when Pocket started putting out multiple books a month as well as crossover event novels that I began to lose some of my enthusiasm for the Trek novels. Well, that and it was difficult to justify the expense of keeping up with every single novel that came out.

In the midst of that, Pocket took a new direction with the books. Instead of just crossovers between the series or multi-part novels, Pocket decided to expand the Star Trek universe. The first such expansion was Peter David's highly successful New Frontier series. The New Frontier novels were, for better or worse, became the template for future expansions of the Star Trek universe.

Of course, not all of them have been quite on the same level that Peter David's New Frontier are. But then again, that was true of all Trek novels before New Frontier burst on the scene. (In my mind, it was Peter David and then everyone else...though recently Trek author Keith R.A. DeCanddido is approaching Peter David-like, must-read status on my Trek reading list). There were the wildly successful series (DS9 relaunch), the good but not great series (Stargazer) and then the ones that didn't do much for me (Voyager reluanch).

In the past couple of years, Trek fiction has done what most hard-core Trek fans would like it to--fill in the gaps from the movies and shows and expand the Trek universe. Whereas in the 80s and 90s we had lots of stand-alone Trek novels, these days we have more stories that take place within a consistently imagined universe.

Then came Nemesis. And while it didn't directly violate much established Trek litereature continuity, it did bring up some interesting questions about how the characters got were they were and what would happen next. And to give Pocket credit, it took advantage of those raised question to step up the game in the Trek literature universe with novels and stories that answered those questions.

Star Trek: Titan is one of those off-shoots. Titan chronicles Riker as he takes command of his own ship and the crew member he will be working with. Some are familiar faces from the TV shows, some are familiar faces from the novels and some are new characters.
The series started off well with Taking Wing, a novel that was so anticipated by fans that it made the USA Today best-seller list. Taking Wing ended on a a cliffhanger that led right into the next novel in the series, The Red King.

When we left off at the end of Taking Wing, Riker and the crew of the Titan were searching for a missing Romulan fleet. Their investigation led them to a spacial anamoly that sent the ship 200,000 light years across space. Now, the crew must find a way to get back home and find out what happened to the Romulan fleet.

On the journey with them are Romulan and Klingon ships, both of whom mis-trust each other greatly.

The Red King is not only a continuation of Taking Wing, but it's a sequel to The Lost Era's The Sundered. We meet up again with the alien race, the Nygel, a human off-shoot that colonized this area of space. Riker and company's journey to this part of space has awakened a new proto-universe that will, if not stopped, expand and destroy the section of space the Nygel live in.

In a lot of ways Taking Wing and The Red King feel like a giant two-hour premiere for Titan (if we're talking in TV terms). In them, we meet the crew, set into motion some of the group dynamics and see how the group works together for the first time. Taken togehter, the two novels are a great introduction to to the series, though I'll admit I liked Taking Wing more. There are parts of The Red King that get a bit bogged down by the technobabble of the new universe and what's going on. Also, there are long passages of the crew trying to connect with the xenophobic Nygel that get a bit repetative.

But the story has a strong start and a strong finish. The middle sags a bit, but I can see what the authors were trying to do, so I'll cut them some slack.

Titan is definitely a keeper of a series and has some great potential.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/15/2006 09:58:00 AM | |
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Superman: The Movie in 30 Seconds and with Bunnies
Want a fast, easy, funny way to get ready for Superman Returns in two weeks?

Check out Superman: The Movie in 30 Second With Bunnies.

In a word: hilarious.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/14/2006 10:26:00 AM | |

Happy Flag Day

I love those PhotoMosiac pictures (OK, they're kind of hard to assemble as a puzzle, but they're fun to look at). One of the things I love about this one of the American flag is that how all these little pieces and images and assmeble together to make the beauty that is the American flag. Kind of symbolic of how we all like to hope and pray America really is--that even though we disagree on a lot of things, that in the end, we're all one small part of something greater.

And don't forget if you live in or around Nashville, that Old Glory is on display here for you to see, free-of-charge until October.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/14/2006 07:27:00 AM | |

Is Bad Twin written by Stephen King?
There was a rumor going around a couple of weeks ago that the Lost tie in-novel, "Bad Twin" was penned by none other than Lost-fan and best-selling novelist, Stephen King.

Well, the book came in at the library and I've read about half of it. So far, all I can say is--I don't think it was written by Stephen King. It's just not his style of writing or his storytelling voice.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/14/2006 07:07:00 AM | |
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Neither sports not entertainment...
Tonight at the downtown Y, they had some of the TV sets in the workout area and the TV in the men's locker room set to ESPN2.

And I guess it must be a really, really, really, really slow sports day because ESPN2 was airing (and I'm not making this up here) a dominoes tournament.

I had to look twice to see if my eyes were deceiving me.

Surely, I thought they're not showing people sitting around playing dominoes.

Yes, they were.

Surely there must have been a baseball game, soccer game, golf tournament or something go on somewhere that qualified as sports...but not dominoes! I mean, it's bad enough that ESPN and other networks are trying to tell us that poker is somehow a sporting event. But now, we've got dominoes on ESPN2.

Please, please time speed up and bring us the REAL sport that is football. I'll take pre-pre-pre-season drills and OTAs over dominoes....

Shoot, I'm almost rather watch soccer....

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/13/2006 08:24:00 PM | |

"Secret" Ringtone
The New York Times has an article about a new "secret" ringtone high school students are using to get around the ban on cell phones in places like class or at school. The new ring tone is a high-pitched sound that, as you get older you gradually lose the ability to hear.

The New York Times has a sample of the ring tone. I can hear it and one thing I've got to say--it's kind of annoying. I'm not sure I'd necessarily want that going off as my ring tone. But then again, I'm not in high school any more and I don't have to know the shocking, latest gossip quickly either.

Interestingly enough, the ring tone is an off-shoot of a teen-ager repellant device called the Mosquito.

The cellphone ring tone that she heard was the offshoot of an invention called the Mosquito, developed last year by a Welsh security company to annoy teenagers and gratify adults, not the other way around.

It was marketed as an ultrasonic teenager repellent, an ear-splitting 17-kilohertz buzzer designed to help shopkeepers disperse young people loitering in front of their stores while leaving adults unaffected.

Isn't it great the way technology helps us overcome all of our problems in this world?

So, let me ask another question--if you surfed over and sampled the ring tone, can you hear it?

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/13/2006 07:16:00 AM | |
Monday, June 12, 2006
Star Trek vs. Star Wars

Fans of Star Wars and Star Trek have debated for years who'd win the battle between the Enterprise and a star destroyer. This fan made movie attempts to answer that age-old question...

I did find it amusing that Picard changes his style of uniform several times during the heat of batlle and the people at the con also change from clip to clip.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/12/2006 11:07:00 AM | |
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Guest preacher Lee Domann
Between my junior and senior years in high school, a group called Dust and Ashes visited my church one hot July evening. They'd come to lead a worship service/concert for the evening. At the urging of my family, I decided to go and give it a try, not really sure what to expect from the music or the experience.

One thing I did know--there was going to be ice cream after the concert, so even if I turned out ot not be a big fan of the music, well, at least there was ice cream.

I got there a bit early, found a seat and was chatting with my friend when a trio--two men and a woman--took the stage (if by stage you mean stood up in front of the church). They greeted us and said they were going to get started. I settled back as they started playing the song, "It's All Right" and for the next hour or so, I sat there totally transfixed. Every song they played was wonderful, compelling, challenging and I loved every one. I kept hearing one new favorite after the next and soon my visions of ice cream were replaced by not wanting this concert and experience to end.

It was that night I became a Dust and Ashes groupie, if you will. Oh sure, there are those out there who follow the Grateful Dead around the country but if I were ever going to give up my day job to follow a band, it'd be Dust and Ashes.

At the time, Dust and Ashes was a trio--Tom Page, his wife, Mary Lou Troutman and Lee Domann. Tom and Lee are ordained Methodist ministers whose call is to musical ministry. Thye don't have an assigned church but instead travel the country, sharing their message through song and testimony. One of the great things about a concert by the group is that they will share the stories behind the songs or go a bit deeper into the scripture behind the songs and why they were written.

Thankfully, the group had tapes available and I used some of the money I'd earned on my paper route (yes, I actually had one) to buy the tapes...and then proceeded to pratically wear them out, listening to them over and over and over again. I signed up for the mailing list so I could know when a new release came out and I was happy the next summer when my parents bought me their latest release and gave it to me as a present before I went off to UT.

Now, at the time, my mom worked at another Methodist church as a secretary. In fact, the group wrote a song about the church. The group would often call the church my mom worked at and so my mom got to be friends with Mary Lou through their conversations with Mary Lou would call. In fact, my mom told them how much I enjoyed the music and their tapes and the group autographed a picture for me that I still have framed.

Over the years, I've had a special fandom for this group. I've travelled to hear them and I've tried to keep up with the tapes and now CDs they release. Thankfully the Internet has made that a lot easier (and you thought it was just for blogging...)

As the years went along, I noticed Lee had gone on to pursue his own individual ministry. I know that Lee wrote a lot of the signature songs of Dust and Ashes and those were included on a collection of songs called "Old Friends." (Kind of a greatest hits album). As the years went along, I kept up with Tom and Mary Lou. I'd e-mail them and was always warmed to hear they'd remembered who I was and they were always curious as to how I was doing. I kept looking on their web site, hoping they'd come within a driving radius of somewhere I was becuase I would travel for a concert.

But I lost track of Lee....until earlier this week.

I got an e-mail from my old church, saying that there would be a special service this week, led by the Rev. Lee Domann. As I sat reading my mail, I wondered--could it be him? He had a web site and I surfed over. I knew in 30 seconds that it was the same Lee Domann.

Years ago, Lee wrote a song called "Howard Grey." It's based on a real event from Lee's life of a young man he knew in junior high school. Howard's family was poor and Howard took the brunt of the mocking from the kids at school. Lee didn't join is becuase "Momma taught the golden rule"...well, at least until one day in the hall, Howard is being picked on and Lee sees it and laughs. Because Lee had never joined in before, Howard figured they must be friends and Lee's laughter..well, it hurt. As the song says, "I laughed until I cried, but through my tear stained eyes I could see, the crying eyes of Howard Grey looking back at me."

The song ends with Lee expressing regret on how they treated Howard and how he yearns for forgivness from God and Howard for this. It's a powerful song and one that really speaks to me. I think we have all either been Howard or known someone like Howard in our lives.

(If you'd like to hear the song on-line, Lee has a sample of it here)

As soon as I saw Lee's website and it listed information about "Howard Grey" I knew it was him. I have to admit I was excited and anxious to hear him lead worship, giving his sermon through song and testimony.

I went and all I've got to say is--it exceeded any hopes and expectations I could have had. Again, as with every time I hear Lee, Mary Lou or Tom play, the experience is one where when you get to the end, you feel as if only five minutes have gone by and you're left wanting more, more, more. Lee played some of the old favorites and then some new ones that I am sure will be on their way to favorite status as I listen to them again. It was, in short, a powerful and profoundly moving service and one I'm glad I attended.

After the service, I went up to Lee and spoke to him about his music. I told him how his music had been a blessing to me over these past years and how I'd heard him for the first time back in the summer of 1990. After some memory prompting, he remembered who I was, thanked me for blessing him with my telling him how his ministry had blessed me and asked me to come back to his table for a CD to take home. I replied, of course I am going to buy a CD or two and he looked at me and said, "Well, you can have one on me for the blessing you've given me with your story today."

I was stunned by his generosity. I hadn't approached him wanting a free CD, but to honestly share how his ministry had touched me. His gift was a blessing to me and he told me I'd blessed him. I was, honestly touched and we enjoyed a bit more of sharing about the times I'd seen him and how I still had that autographed picture.

Looking back now, I can see the whole experiece as an answer to a prayer I didn't know I'd been praying. Years ago, when I first saw Dust and Ashes, I was at a point where their ministry touched me in a way I've not really been touched since. And today, on old friend sang some old and new songs and touched my heart in a similiar but new way. It's hard to put into words really, and I don't really think this accurately or completely explains it. But all I can say is--it's a blessing.

I'm pleased to note that Lee will be leading some more worship services in middle Tennessee over the next couple of weeks. There are two in Murfreesboro--one next week and one in July. I hope those churches can hold at least one more visitor that week because I plan to be there.

In the meantime, I'm going to do my best to wear out his new CDs of new and old favorites...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/11/2006 06:13:00 PM | |
Friday, June 09, 2006
Happy Friday
About a week or so ago, Logtar instant messaged me, wanting to know if I'd listened to the latest installment of his podcast yet. I informed I had not but would get it at soon as I could.

Little did I know that he'd be dropping a bomb-shell on his friends in the podcast. (One that he would not disclose in his blog until this morning)

Now for those of you who don't know, Logtar and Ceilo have been engaged and planning their wedding these past few months. In fact, Logtar and I discussed his wedding in our podcast interview a few weeks ago.

Anyway, like most of the rest of the world, I assumed the getting married part was still some time off.

Turns out "some time off" is today. I listened to the podcast last night (I'm a slacker, what can I say?) and heard the happy news. I spoke to Logtar this morning via instant messenger and he said the ceremony was to take place around noon central standard time. So as of the time of this posting, they are officially Mr. and Mrs. Logtar.

Let me be one of the first to offer my congratulations to Logtar and Cielo. I'd also like to offer my best wishes for a happy, long, blessed life together. I hope God blesses your marriage, your home and your life together.

If you want to leave your congrats for Logtar, you can surf over to his blog and do so.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/09/2006 02:42:00 PM | |

That whole steroid debate
I'm sick to death of the whole steroid testing debate that surrounds major league baseball. But I have a feeling based on the whole situation with pitcher Jason Grimsley, it's only going to get worse before it gets any better...

But the reason that this issue is an important one to not only baseball but all sports is summed up best by this story from The Tennesssean about four Wilson County high school players who admitted to using steroids.

It only goes to show how there's a trickle down effect from the pros to all levels of athletics. By not having testing for steroids at the pro level, these sports are sending the message that it's acceptable to do this so long as you don't get caught. I mean, if Barry Bonds can allegedly do it and get away with it in pursuit of the all-time home run record, then why shouldn't the athlete in high school baseball in order to ahead?

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/09/2006 10:02:00 AM | |
Thursday, June 08, 2006
I feel much safer now
Good to know the ATF is on the case, keeping Americans safe from college students disguised as ninja/pirate hybrids.

That makes is much easier to sleep at night....

On the other hand, this is the kind of idiocy one would expect from anything related to the University of Georgia.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/08/2006 07:15:00 AM | |

McNair traded to Ravens
At long last, the Steve McNair saga has reached its invevitable conclusion--the Ravens blinked first in the waiting game and gave the Titans a fourth round draft pick in return for trading away the face of the franchise, Steve "Air" McNair.

Three years removed from being co-MVP of the NFL, the business side of football reared its ugly head, leading to McNair's exit from Music City. I've got to say that I'm going to miss him. He did some great things on and off the field for the team and the organization and his leadership, tenacity and just all around never say die attitude will be missed.

I'd like to wish him all the success in the world in his next stop, but he's going to the Ravens, who I dislike almost as much as I despise the Cowboys.

That said, it should be interesting to see how McNair is welcomed back to the Coliseum LP Field when the Ravens come to town to play later this year.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/08/2006 07:09:00 AM | |
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
What are they thinking?!?

I swear it's one step foward, 12-steps back with the SciFi Channel. Last month they slapped up repeats of Law and Order: SVU on a Thursday evening and now there's the news that they're gonna start showing Wrasslin' this week.

Here's what network exec Bonnie Hammer had to say about it:

"Research tells us that there's a healthy appetite for wrestling among Sci Fi viewers," says Bonnie Hammer, president of Sci Fi and the USA Network, which airs "WWE Raw" to strong ratings. "With ECW, we're able to deliver to those fans unique action with a twist that's perfect for Sci Fi.

I'd love to know where Ms. Hammer is getting this demographic info that tells her there is a healthy appetite for wrasslin' on SciFi. Cause I ain't really seein' it, despite this "unique action with a twist."

Here's a notion for you: If you want to keep increasing viewership, don't put wrasslin' on your channel. I won't get into my feelings on wrasslin' but I think it has a time and a place–and that time and place is not on SciFi. I'd rather see endless repeats of Mansquito or some of those other new wave b-movies you show on Saturday nights. Or maybe bring back some repeats of MST3K from when you had it. Or Farscape repeats. Or old episodes of Doctor Who. Or even series 2 of Doctor Who. Or maybe showcase some of those classic shows that come out on DVD and we crazy fans all snap up cause we want to see them again or share them with the next generation of fans.

My biggest fear is that it will cost a lot less to put on wrasslin' on SciFi, thus leading them to cancel or trim back original programming since that costs more and gets less return on the investment. Sure, I could be the "glass is half full" guy and say–well, yes but the extra revenue could be spent on the shows they've got, but then again this is SciFi that balked at the price tag of Doctor Who when it was first offered and before it was a huge hit in the UK and cancelled Farscape a season early due to the mounting price tag for that show as well.

I fear this move does not bode well for SciFi. Both the channel and the genre

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/07/2006 02:52:00 PM | |

Magnetic tape gone bad.
Yesterday, I posted about a couple of popular media things that had I found unnerving or unsettling. (And I'm not just talking about the fact that Fear Factor is still on).

I surfing around the Net, I saw an animated icon on Aint-It-Cool-News that sparked a memory. The icon is of Harry Knowles holding up a boombox over his head, simliar to the iconic moment in Say Anything. Something comes out of the boombox, piles up around Harry's body and eats everything but his head, which falls to the ground and bounces around.

Seeing that reminded me of this short film I saw back on HBO years ago. My family lived in Mississippi at the time. We had HBO and I think I'd got up early and just finished watching the upmeenth showing of The Private Eyes starring Tim Conway and Don Knotts (I loved this movie back in the day). To fill time, HBO showed a short feature after the movie. The feature was about this lone guy who is chased around his apartment by tape from his reel to reel tape recorder. I recall the tape made some kind of weird electronic slithering sound and somehow he found out that anything that touched the tape was consumed by it. The guy ran, eluding the tape until the final moments when the tape caught up to him, wrapped itself all around him and ate him. It then crawled back to the reel to reel, wound itself back onto the reel and then, I think it burped.

Needless to say, to my young mind, this was scary as all get out. I remember being really happy we didn't have a reel to reel machine in the house, though I was a bit leery of the cassette player for a few weeks after this aired.

I have no idea what the name of this short feature was called and I've never seen it since. But it definitely made an impression on my young mind.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/07/2006 09:51:00 AM | |
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Scary Movies
Britney over at NiT linked to my last post about The Omen re-make.

In her post, she asked:
I'll never know why it is so difficult to make a decent horror film. Most of them, let's be honest, are waste of celluloid. The remakes are often the worst offenders. Will you be seeing this remake?

And another thing, what is the scariest movie you've ever seen?

Interestingly, along those lines my good friend Becky had a post last week about wince-worthy moments in cinema.

Let me say that I agree 100% with what B says--there just aren't any great scary movies being made these days. I think part of it is that Hollywood seems so intent on serving up films that are nothing more than slasher-porn with empty, hollow characters that I don't care two figs about if they live or die. Instead, we're asked to be horrified by the ways they die and how creatively the killer or killers in the film can find a way to off the set of stock heroes who inhabit this celluloid world.

But I'd argue that if you had genuine characters or maybe even a halfway decent story, we wouldn't have to go so much for the gore factor and could, instead, get back to the business of scaring the pants off people. Sort of like Alfred Hitchcock did back with a little movie called Pyscho, Vertigo or The Birds. The thing with most of Hitchcock's films is that he took the time and care to set up a situation and the characters and then start dolling out the surprise twists and turns. And it was more than just six people stumble across the farm/estate/convience store where a pyscho killer has set up shop.

For me, the only movies that have come close in recent memory to emulating the success of Hitchcock have been those of M. Night Shamalyan. (Though I will say with The Village, he was trying too hard to have a twist in the end...) In fact, thinking of B's question, the last time I can really remember being edge-of-my-seat unnerved at a film in the theaters was Signs. (I just now have feeling returning to the hand my date was holding and kept squeezing as the suspense kept getting ratcheted up). Say what you will about whether or not you like the Shamalyan films (I think there is something to recommend in each one and they are all worth at least one viewing), his films do have characters who aren't just little more than red shirts on an episode of Star Trek.

What I like about Hitchcock and Shamalyan is they both allow your imagination to fill in some of the grizzlier details. And let's face it, your imagination is far more evil than any Hollywood gore effect ever could be. Look at the famous shower sequence in Pyscho, which is a mastework of quick cuts and the music. I know a lot of people who swear up one side and down the other that you will see the knife cutting Janet Leigh in the shower, though you never really do. The sequence lets you think you are by cutting away quickly and letting your imagination do the rest.

It's why I think the horror genre does better in print or as an audio experience. I can't tell you how much more unnerved I get by a Stephen King novel than I ever do by a movie based on the novel. And I can vividly recall an old epiosde of the radio series Suspense that I heard when younger. The premise is that the narrator has some disease where he can appear to be dead but isn't. He has something in his wallet or a bracelet to inform medical authorities of this, but it gets stolen. The story is our hero's internal monologue as he tries to shout that he's not dead as he is pronounced dead and then taken for an autopsy. Thankfully, at the last second he recovers but man, it was creepy as all get out in my younger days.

Honestly, when it come to movies that would be classifed as horror, I'd have to say the one that creeped me out the most as Silence of the Lambs. And not just for the blood, guts and gore that we get when Lecter escapes in Memphis. Sure, it's creepy but it's no where nearly as gut wrenchingly creepy as the scenes between Lecter and Starling as he delves into her past and the screaming of the lambs. Just the way those were shot and the performances....that's the kind of horror you just can't re-create with blood, gut and gore.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/06/2006 10:40:00 AM | |

Why do I get the feeling?
Why do I get the feeling that the most creative thing about the re-make of The Omen will be its release date of 6/6/06?

From what I've read, it's almost a shot for shot remake of the original version of the film. Which makes me wonder, why bother? Why not just re-master and re-issue the original today instead of this re-make?

Of course, if they did that, they'd have to come up with an original idea and we know they can't do that...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/06/2006 07:11:00 AM | |
Monday, June 05, 2006
Wasn't this where the Batman franchise went wrong?

There will be not one, not two, not three, but four….count 'em four villains in the next installment of the Spider-Man franchise.

Confirmed bad-guys: Sandman, Venom, Hobgoblin (Green Goblin 2)

Rumored: Lizard (Curt Connors who was in Spidey 2) or Man-Wolf (John Jameson, also seen in Spidey 2)

Don't get me wrong here…I love the Spidey franchise and I will be there to see the Spidey 3. But wasn't it the sheer amount of villians in the Batman franchise that doomed Batman and Robin?

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/05/2006 10:44:00 AM | |
Friday, June 02, 2006
Summer Reading Book 1: His Majesty's Dragon
Naomi Novik's first novel, His Majesty's Dragon, is a wonderful discovery. (Thank you to Michael and Evo's DragonPage for the heads-up!)

British naval captain Will Laurence's ship captures an unhatched dragon-egg bound for France during a battle with a French ship. During the journey to take their spoil back to England, the egg hatches, giving birth to the dragon Temeraire. Laurence bonds with the dragon as his handler, soon leaving behind British Navy to join the Aerial Corp of dragons. This decision brings about some heart-ache from his family, espeically his father who was none to happy Laurence joined the Navy to start with.

The book covers three distinct sections--the hatching of Temeraire, the training of Temeraire and then Termeraire and other dragons role in a battle with a French fleet. Laurence and Temeraire's relationship grows and deepens over the course of the novel in a fascinating, compelling and completely convincing way. One nice element is that Novik has more than one breed of dragon and that they all can interact with their human handlers and crews as well as each other in unqiue, interesting ways. This is off-set but superlative battle sequences that are easy to follow, edge of your seat and entertaining.

As the first book in a new trilogy, His Majesty's Dragon does what a good opening novel should do--entertain, draw the reader in and leave you wanting for more. I am pleased that DelRay has such faith in Novik's books that they are releasing all three within a relatively short time span. After finishing His Majesty's Dragon, I was satisfied with the story (it is fairly self-contained and while there are threads left open for future novels, there isn't a massive cliffhanger) and left wanting more.

His Majesty's Dragon will probably be found in the sci-fi/fantasy section of your local bookstore but that description hardly does this book justice. The story is an interesting hybrid of real-world historical fiction and fanciful dragon flights.

Definitely recommended and a great way to start off my summer reading. Try it. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. I know I was.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/02/2006 02:27:00 PM | |

In case you didn't stay up 'til 2 a.m. to find out...
The Lady Vols posted a come-from-behind win over the number one team in the land, UCLA, last night (actually early this morning) in the opening round of the college softball world series. The game was delayed by rain and an extra inning game earlier in the day. The first pitch took place close to three and a half hours late!

Next up the Lady Vols face Northwestern this evening at 8 p.m. CST on ESPN2.

GO BIG ORANGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/02/2006 08:46:00 AM | |

Friday Fun

At last, the 19-year old debate of who'd win a space battle, Kirk or Picard, has been answered.

I think we all knew it's turn out this way cause, well, Kirk is the man.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/02/2006 08:16:00 AM | |
Thursday, June 01, 2006
When did the apocolypse become a cool videogame?
Barry over at Inn of the Last Home has a long post about the forthcoming Left Behind: The Video-Game.

Here's a product description of the game from the Left Behind web site:

Wage a war of apocalyptic proportions in LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces - a real-time strategy game based upon the best-selling LEFT BEHIND book series created by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Join the ultimate fight of Good against Evil, commanding Tribulation Forces or the Global Community Peacekeepers, and uncover the truth about the worldwide disappearances!

· Lead the Tribulation Force from the book series , including Rayford, Chloe, Buck and Bruce against Nicolae Carpathia – the AntiChrist.
· Conduct physical & spiritual warfare : using the power of prayer to strengthen your troops in combat and wield modern military weaponry throughout the game world.
· Recover ancient scriptures and witness spectacular Angelic and Demonic activity as a direct consequence of your choices.
· Command your forces through intense battles across a breathtaking, authentic depiction of New York City .
· Control more than 30 units types - from Prayer Warrior and Hellraiser to Spies, Special Forces and Battle Tanks!
· Enjoy a robust single player experience across dozens of New York City maps in Story Mode – fighting in China Town , SoHo , Uptown and more!
· Play multiplayer games as Tribulation Force or the AntiChrist's Global Community Peacekeepers with up to eight players via LAN or over the internet!

So, they're turning the end of the world into a video-game? At long last, my desire to exterminate all the heathens Duke Nukem 3-D style can finally be fulfilled! (That last part was sarcasm!)

Now I won't deny there's not a niche for Christian-based video games out there just waiting to be tapped. I'm just not quite sure games like this are the answer we're looking for. (And is it just me or does anyone else have visions of Tod and Rod Flanders playing this game?)

If we ask ourselves the question of "What would Jesus play?" I'm not quite sure this game would pass the test. Cause I've read my Bible and I've seen the Jesus in there and I really can't see him advocating a video-game where you extreminate all the "heathens." Kind of of goes against that whole love your neighbor thing he's so famous for...

But then again, I shouldn't be too shocked that type of narrow-minded zealotry comes from the Left Behind empire. As you can tell, I'm not a huge fan of the Left Behind novels. I've read two and a half of them and all I can say is--they're complete, utter purile garbage. Putting aside the theological arguments (If you want to read just a great critique of the books, check out Slactivist), the books themselves could serve as examples to every freshman literature class of how not to write. The novels are poorly written, have stitled dialogue and all have one-dimensional characters whose only function is to either be saved or damned based on which side they choose in the tribulation battle that is unfolding. And while some of the saved do have flaws or foibles, the books make it seem as if "getting saved" magically makes them an all around better person and life is a bed of roses. And don't even get me started on the close-mindedness that ensues on some characters once they get saved and their zealotry to save everyone in the exact same way they were....

What gets me most about these books is the whole us vs them mentality they have. It seems to miss the fundamental point that we're all sinners and it's only through God's grace that we can come into a relationship with Him. And that that Grace is extended to everyone, but it's something we have to choose. It fails to take into account the great commandment of love the Lord with all your heart, soul and might and love your neighbor as yourself. Or let say that it adds the disclaimer of love your neighbor as yourself, so long as they agree with you and go to the same church.

A friend once told me of the merit of the Left Behind series becuase she had loaned the first book to a (then) non-Christian friend. Apparently the story scared the this person enough to accept Christ as her savior. Sure, we've won a new disciple for Christ, but I have to wonder if scaring people to death with visions of hell and the tribulation is really the way to do it. I mean, if your motivation for having a relationship with Christ is to avoid the potential of being left behind or sent to hell, then what's to say the next person or movement promising you freedom from hell isn't gong to convince you to follow it? It's great that the story awoke something inside this person and she felt a deep yearning..but what I worry about is the next stages--the ones where the church as community has to help this person grow in their relationship with God so that it's not just--well, I'm not going to hell, so that's all good and into something more. Again, going back to Jesus, a seed planted in rocky soil will sprout, but when the sun comes out and beats down on it, it will soon wither and die. What we need to do is get that seed to fertile soil and make sure that the seed continues to be fed so it can grow and bloom.

But is the teaching of there is only one way to think and view the world really going to do that?

I read an article recently about someone who'd gone into a Christian bookstore and was alarmed by the overwhelming amount of radical, right-wing books that promoted an agneda of intolerance. The stores had a good representation of such pundits as Sean Hannity but where were the books from liberal Christian thinkers, Brent Bourgeois asked. The article included a list of some of the titles the Bourgeois found just browsing. If they weren't so scarily narrow-minded, they'd almost be funny.

And yet it's these same bookstore where these books will sit right alongside the Left Behind novels. And I'm assuming the Left Behind game will also be carried there as well, whenver it comes out.

It's from all of these things that I can see why those outside the church can get the impression that Christians are hypocrites or that we're close-minded zealots. Certainly, the whole overreaction to the DaVinci Code doesn't help, but then again, there's always something in the pop culture and media that some sect is overreacting to..

The issue I have with all of these things is, as I've said, they miss the fundamental point of what Christianity is really all about. I take seriously Jesus's charge to go out and make disciples of all nations and certainly it's something I don't always do as well as I should or would like to do. But what I do know is that it's a charge to convert others by love, peace and example rather than through violence, fear or hatred.

And in that point, I think these books and this game are entirely missing the boat of what it really means, deep down to fundamentally be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/01/2006 12:21:00 PM | |

Spurrier is speaking...
Ah, Steve, how we'd missed you. We could always count on you for some great pearl of wisdom at any SEC media event and this year is no exception.

At least now you can take pot shots at the Gators in addition to needling the Vols.

And it must be a sign of the apocolypse because (dear heavens!) I agree with him on one thing: Pat Summit deserved to join the million dollar coaching club long before now and she is definitely still underpayed.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/01/2006 12:06:00 PM | |

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