Return to normalcy

WEBmikey is finally back, faithful readers! My latest Disneyland adventure (which was fantastic!) is over, so I'm getting back to normal life now. My Japanese class at ACC has started, and it's going to be lots of fun - I feel lucky that I'm way ahead in the pronunciation department. I'm looking forward to the Labor Day weekend to do some relaxing (and some homework, of course!) - I'll get back to a regular posting schedule soon, I promise! (To which Mary Poppins would say, "That's a pie crust promise - easily made, easily broken.")


I decided to take my parents along with me for my yearly pilgrimage to Disneyland this year, as a way to pay them back for all the times they took me (starting when I was three years old!). I spent a lot of time planning each hour of our time there, because I really wanted Mom & Dad to experience everything they could, and I'm thrilled to say that my plan was a success - we enjoyed 39 attractions in three days! My pal Dae joined us for our day at Disney's California Adventure, which was an added bonus to an all-around magical time! A few favorite moments:

  • A new Jungle Cruise joke about the ancient ruin archway being Disney's first attempt at the Monorail
  • Saying hello to another rider on the second Matterhorn bobsled track as we zoomed around the mountain in unison
  • Listening to Mom & Dad squeal in amazement on Soarin' Over California
  • Meeting the lovely Ariel

  • View photos: Disneyland 2003
    Watch video: Disney's Parade of the Stars
    Watch video: Disney's Electrical Parade


    Boba Fett 3: Maze of Deception / Elizabeth Hand : 3 of 5

    Even though this book is by a new author, it's another great quick-reading story, just as good as the previous volumes. This series is doing such a great job of working in the richness of the Star Wars saga, mainly by including characters we all know. While trying to escape from Aurra Sing and collect the money Jango left him, young Boba encounters Jawas, Bib Fortuna, and even Jabba the Hutt's nephew! The story is really interesting, set on the "banking world" of the galaxy, which sounds a lot like Coruscant, but a little more organized. Boba knows the Dooku/Tyrannus secret, and uses it to his advantage - it's fascinating to read about him wondering what Dooku is doing, knowing he's on both sides of the Clone War conflict. This series has me totally hooked now!

    Freaky Friday : 3 of 5

    I can barely remember the original Freaky Friday, and I'm definitely not a Jamie Lee Curtis fan (she's too manly for me), so I wasn't really planning on seeing this Disney movie. But once I read the positive press, it seemed funny enough to take a look, and I'm glad I did! The actress playing the daughter (who is playing the mom) does a fantastic job - she's has wonderful comedic qualities and can still bring out emotion when she needs it. Everyone knows the plot, of course, but this version focuses on understanding, which can only happen through empathy (of the most literal kind, in this case). I loved the scene where the daughter finds out her brother really looks up to her, and the speech at the wedding was great, too. Add in several laugh-out-loud scenes, and you have a surprisingly fun movie!

    Disney Surprises

    Just some impulse buying, but I'm really excited about the haul! There was a special offer from my Disney Visa card to get a cool limited-edition Mickey watch (since this year is Mickey's 75th anniversary), and I have to say it's really great - a nice sized watch with a perfect classic Mickey telling the time with his little gloved hands. I also went through a recent eBay spree, and I think I've almost completed my collection of die-cast ride vehicles! There's only one left, Pinocchio's Daring Journey, and I'm planning on buying that at Disneyland next week.

    Everyone Says I Love You

    Regular WEBmikey readers may already know that I like Woody Allen movies, but I have to make a special mention of Everyone Says I Love You, which I watched on Cinemax the other day. It's such a fantastic movie - a completely schmaltzy musical (where none of the actors are known for singing) with about 10 main characters, set in New York City, Paris and Venice. Watching it just makes me smile - it's wonderful!

    I'm still watching NHK news from Japan regularly, and I've just noticed that the weekday anchor, Yuko Nomura, has a different hairdo every day! I don't know how she can be so creative, but I don't think I've seen the same style twice in over two weeks. Pretty impressive to me - I doubt any American newsperson could accomplish such a feat!

    Disneyland Countdown: 5 days!


    Thoroughly Modern Millie : 2 of 5

    I put this DVD in my Netflix queue soon after returning from New York City, since I was absolutely blown away by the Broadway production. I'm sorry to say that the movie wasn't half as good as the stage show! It turns out that the Broadway show is based on the movie, but they only used three of the original songs, which makes sense because several of the songs in the movie were terrible. I love Julie Andrews in general, but she didn't seem to fit the role at all - she just seems too proper to be a "modern". It's amazing how different many of the characters were also - Jimmy is such a nerd in the movie, while he's kind of suave on stage. There's a lot more slapstick in the movie also - I just couldn't feel for any of the characters because all of the emotion was downplayed. Anyway, it's interesting to see where the show came from, and now I can appreciate the Broadway production even more, because they turned something silly into a masterpiece!


    Piglet's Big Movie : 4 of 5

    I'm sure you've read my positive review of Piglet's Big Movie when I saw it in the theater (opening day, of course), so I'll try to come up with new things to say now that I own the DVD. Once again, I really enjoyed the story and the songs - I'm definitely not a Carly Simon fan, but her compositions for this movie are great! The big emotional blast really comes on strong at the very end - an excellent job at opening up the tear ducts. I noticed a little detail that was kind of fun: in one scene Pooh and Tigger pretend to see a "fish in a tree" to distract Kanga from one of their plans, and a few minutes later during a zoom, there really is a fish sitting in one of the trees, smiling at the camera! The bonus material is only so-so, unfortunately, with no making-of documentary at all, but I'm glad I have the DVD in my collection anyway.


    Fantastic Mr. Fox / Roald Dahl : 3 of 5

    This is the shortest Roald Dahl book I've read so far, but it was still just as enjoyable. It seems like it should be part of a collection of stories rather than its own book, or maybe it was intended for younger readers with shorter attention spans. The story is really cute, following a sly fox trying to protect himself and his family from three mean (and totally bizarre) farmers who will stop at nothing to see him dead. He uses his wits to dig deep underground and joins up with other creatures who live there - gophers, badgers, and rabbits. They join together to devise a plan so they can survive underground as long as they want - at the expense of their enemies, of course! The storytelling is masterful as always, but I think I like to read about people more than animals.

    An Ideal Husband : 3 of 5

    I decided it was time to balance my DVD watching with some live-action, and An Ideal Husband was about as far away from anime as I could get. Originally an Oscar Wilde play, the movie is full of witty conversation and no action (exactly the kind of film dear old Dad would snooze through!). The plot was very clever, full of deception and blackmail, with broad characterizations that were easy to love or hate as appropriate. I really enjoy this kind of English high-society setting, and of course, the way everything is so polite and proper is a great cover for the not-so-nice motives of the nasty characters. The "layering" of the ending seemed a little much to me, though - I guess I don't like to be fooled into a false ending, and this film has about three!

    Magical movies

    I've been re-watching my Disney animated features DVDs lately, starting with Snow White and continuing in order. No matter how many times I see them, they are always fresh and magical to me - I notice something new each time I watch them. It was fun to watch Pinocchio again, since I've done lots of recent reading about the famous Disney animators. Now I can watch a scene and remember who worked on it, what problems they had, and how they solved them to create something special!

    I had some Cap'n Crunch recently, and the new slogan on the box is "Crunchetize me, Cap'n!". What exactly is this supposed to mean? It could be like "deputize" to become part of the crew, or maybe like "hypnotize" with golden sugary goodness. Whatever it means, at least the taste is the same and it still tears up the roof of your mouth!

    My Disneyland trip is so close that I'm daydreaming about it everyday now! Pretty soon my parents and I will be floating through pirate battles, escaping from grim grinning ghosts, and flying over London - I haven't been to Anaheim since October, so I simply can't wait!

    Disneyland Countdown: 11 days!


    Kiki's Delivery Service / Eiko Kadono : 5 of 5

    This is the original Japanese novel (translated into English) that inspired my beloved Miyazaki movie, so I simply had to read it. The book is absolutely wonderful! Each chapter is another self-contained episode in Kiki's life, beginning with her leaving home to make it on her own for a year, and then following several different delivery adventures. I was amazed at how different the movie is from the book - the premise is the same, but the events certainly are not. Both book and movie are imaginative and don't contradict each other, so it would be interesting to know if it was the author or Miyazaki who wrote the movie's adventures. The way the chapters flow reminded me of reading Mary Poppins, and the writing was simply beautiful and touching, as well as funny in all the right places. I could easily read more stories about Kiki - I've heard there are more books about her, but not in English yet. I'll be waiting!


    The Imagineering Way : 3 of 5

    I put this book on my Amazon wish list before it was even published, since I really enjoyed the last book I read by Disney's Imagineering team. I was hoping there would be more anecdotes and examples of Imagineering triumphs in this book, but there were enough interesting tidbits to keep me interested. In general, this is a collection of lots of short essays on the spirit and process of Imagineering - turning dreams into reality. There are plenty of wise sayings that are fun, but not very meaty to the average reader. Thankfully, the more I read, the more I enjoyed the tone of the book - after a slow start, it really picked up about a third of the way through. I loved reading about the erector set model of Soarin' Over California and how the water for Grizzly River Run is pumped from Paradise Pier! Reading books like this can be inspiring, even if some of the principles may be hard to apply to real life.

    Princess Nine Vol 2 : 3 of 5

    The series is really growing on me - I'm already ready to watch the next volume! The episodes on this DVD focus on the gathering of more players, since we have to get to nine girls to have a team. The first problem they tackle is finding a catcher, since our main character's pitches are so strong that they knock the other girls over. The solution is a shy girl from the judo team, who is large enough to absorb the blow! They also take on a complete girly-girl who is afraid of the ball - she really just wants to be a pop idol (but I guess she'll manage to play baseball somehow). The rest of the episodes are about the rivalry between the star tennis player (who they really need on the team) and the pitcher, fueled by the fact that her mother once dated the pitcher's deceased father, and that's why she wants a girls baseball team in the first place. Pretty complicated emotions, but plenty of tense baseball practice action!

    Pain in the neck!

    I have two great excuses for the short break in posting: First, I was a very bad Mikey and slept on the couch in the worst possible position, giving me the most terrible neck ache that I've ever experienced! Thanks to Ben Gay and Aleve, I'm finally back to normal. Second, I'll soon be moving to a new condo (still here in Austin), so I've been busy talking to my mortgage company, getting paperwork together, and all that fun stuff. I'm sure I'll be really happy with my new place - much more wallspace to hang Disney artwork!

    A quick celebration - I recently hit two million steps (yes, that's 2,000,000) on my SportBrain! It's amazing how much walking everyone does in an average day, plus the extra exercise I've been taking on lately. Hurray!

    Disneyland Countdown: 14 days!

    Seabiscuit : 5 of 5

    After a glowing review by my parents, I decided I need to see this movie on the big screen, rather than waiting for the DVD. I don't know anything about the history behind this amazing story, but the film is truly fantastic. The plot begins by switching between three men, who eventually become the horse's owner, trainer, and jockey, and they all intertwine into a wonderful tale of victory against impossible odds. I really liked how everything was handled against the backdrop of the Great Depression, since it transformed the story into a celebration of the human spirit, and those are exactly the kind of movies I love! Every scene is shot beautifully, and there's plenty of excitement - there were several rounds of applause in the theater. It's amazing to see the jockeys in close-up during the race - watching them talking and managing the speed of their horse at the same time was fascinating! I completely recommend this film to anyone who believes in a second chance.


    Mahoromatic: Automatic Maiden Vol 2 : 3 of 5

    Even though this second DVD in the series wasn't as charming as the first, I still enjoyed it very much. The basic theme in this set of episodes is Mahoro's past catching up with her - first, she's joined by her "support mech", basically an android panther named Slash, and next her ultimate enemy (of course!) shows up for a final showdown. Her rival poses as a math teacher at Suguru's school, so there's a lot of tension there - generally the stories are much darker now, since Mahoro is realizing that she won't be able to completely leave her battle android past behind and live her happy little life as a maid. There's also much less of the busty school teacher, who was so much fun on the first DVD. Still, the series is definitely my favorite of my recent devouring of new anime. I know I'm going to enjoy the last two DVDs in the series, and I guarantee I'll be sobbing during the last episode.


    Battle Athletes Victory Vol 1 : 3 of 5

    It's official - I now have too many anime series going on at the same time, and they're all getting confused in my head. Oh well, I'm having fun getting confused! This story involves a school for young girl athletes, kind of like an olympic training camp. They're all competing for the chance to go to a school in orbit around the Earth - I'm not sure why, but it sounds cool. There are six main characters, but they're not really a group: two of them are super-rivals (a Russian and an American), two are good friends (a determined athlete and a goofy klutz), and two are just there to cause problems (a conceited Chinese girl and a bizarre African girl). The competitions are amazing and exciting - cycling on a roller coaster track or racing across mine fields with giant steamroller things, and after a while the plot started to grow on me. Now I really want to know who's going to win!


    Atlantis II: Milo's Return : 1 of 5

    Even if you agree with Disney's onslaught of direct-to-video sequels of the past few years, you have to admit there are sequels they seem to care about, and then there are sequels that don't even seem worth the DVD they're burned on. Atlantis II: Milo's Return is just as bad as Tarzan and Jane - I just have no idea how they can package this barely acceptable Saturday morning animation and call it a "feature". The plot is really three short stories, all involving the explorer gang, plus Kida from Atlantis (and her little lava dog, which is kind of cute, I'll admit) wandering the globe in search of Atlantean technology being put to evil use. They spend more time in ghost towns than in Atlantis itself, which is one of the reasons the plot is so bad. There are a few good speaking parts (and someone can really do a great impression of Michael J. Fox as Milo!), but the animation is so terrible that it's tough to make it to the end. I'm so glad I followed my rent-before-buying policy with this one!

    Matt's Japan Pics

    My pal Matt (Level 10 Timer Shot Master) took lots of great pics of my pals and I in Japan. Here are the scanned pics for your laughing-out-loud pleasure!

    View photos: Japan 2003 Matt's Photos

    GameBoy Advance SP

    I've realized that there's no way I can keep posting all the stuff that I buy - I just treat myself too much. I think I'll just try to mention "major" purchases and a few random things every now and then. So, my last big toy was a GameBoy Advance SP - I just had to get one after seeing so many people playing them in Japan, and I really love it! Here's a few more random items I've brought recently:

  • A few GameBoy Advance games, namely Peter Pan: Return to Never Land and The Muppets: On with the Show
  • Lots of books, mainly Roald Dahl books and Scholastic Star Wars series
  • A few Disney DVDs, including The Rescuers and Lady and the Tramp II (I've decided to buy the "good" sequels)
  • Some Disney artwork, such as the Here's Mickey sericel and a framed Cinderella concept art pin set
  • Ready for class

    Yesterday I bought my books for Japanese I - there's a big hardcover text book, a paperback workbook with tons of exercises, plus a set of CDs to listen to. They were motto takai (more expensive) that I thought they would be, but it all looks exciting! There's going to be much more reading and writing than I thought, but that sounds pretty cool to me.

    I picked up a new pair of glasses yesterday - I had completely abused my old pair by rubbing them with my shirt, restaurant napkins, and sandpaper (just kidding) and the anti-reflective coating had turned into a clouded mess. When I put on the new pair, I couldn't believe how clear everything was! Now I have to be a very good boy and never, ever rub these lenses the wrong way!

    I thought I should mention that Blogger has totally been kicking ass lately! In the past I've been accustomed to various bugs in the site, and I'm used to working around them or trying things a few times to get them to work. For the past month or so (knock on wood!), everything has been working flawlessly! I guess that Google money has done some good.

    Disneyland Countdown: 19 days!