3.31.2003

Childhood friends in California

Everywhere I've lived, I've been lucky enough to have a close group of friends to make my life fun, exciting, and wonderful. When I was very young, I lived in several different states and cities while Dad was transferred around in the Air Force, but my real childhood years that I remember best were during grade school in Sacramento, California (I even remember my street address: 4533 Ladera Way!). It's here that I had my first close friends - we did everything together at school and I spent a lot of time with each of them during afternoons and weekends. We even called ourselves the "Fantastic Four" at times (since all of us were comic book geeks, of course).

First there was Tony Favro, who was probably my best friend since he lived in my neighborhood. Tony was an athletic, blond California kid - we used to spend hours playing Frisbee or riding bikes, and he did lots of swimming in their family pool (he even used to dive in from the second story of their house!). Tony's dad was the City Fire Marshall, so he would be on the news sometimes, and he liked to show me their emergency escape route his dad designed. He had two great dogs - a collie named Sally and a Llasa Apso named Maggie. Tony was my best action figures playmate - he had tons of super hero figures like me, and we had some great adventures together.

Next was Derek Bowman, who lived a short bike ride away. I liked to visit Derek because he had a huge tree in his front yard with a treehouse. Sometimes we rode to his treehouse quickly after school to watch some of the girls we liked walking below. His dad was a veterinarian, and they had a crazy Doberman with a surgically-removed voice box (what a weird bark!). I spent several nights at Derek's, including my going-away party, which included lots of microwave hot dogs (when a microwave oven was a new amazing thing!) and a long session of toilet-papering houses (completely instigated by Derek's dad!).

The last member of the "Fantastic Four" was Russ Nishimoto - he was a wonderful friend, but I remember less about him for some reason. I remember distinctly that he was a great doodle artist and could print in the tiniest, yet legible, letters imaginable. I know I used to visit him at his house - he lived walking distance from a Dairy Queen that we used to visit sometimes. I wish I could remember more about him.

I had other non-school friends in my neighborhood, too, but none as close as Mark Kempton. Mark was several years younger than me, so he was kind of like a little brother. His parents were divorced (which seemed like a rarity at the time), so he lived with his dad and had tons of fun toys. He was a huge Star Wars fan - I think his dad took us to see the movie at least ten times! I used to have a wonderful time with Mark when it was just the two of us, sharing that brotherly fun, but when my other pals were around, the gang teased him a lot (I know it's terrible, but it's just what a bunch of kids do - tease the little guy). Once we even convinced him to streak past some girls playing with Barbies in their front yard. When I moved away from California, Mark was the saddest to see me go - I missed him, too.

Childhood is amazing, because so many things are overlooked. Believe it or not, Tony was Catholic, Derek was Mormon, Russ was Buddhist, and I was good ol' Protestant - and no one cared. To us, life was playing with action figures, putting rubber bands on our ears to look like Spock, or taking the bus to Sunrise Mall to buy posters. I'll always have wonderful memories of these first friends - I hope they've made happy lives for themselves, and I hope they remember me.

3.30.2003

Pic of the moment

Hope you enjoy the new Pic of the moment! There are only a few right now, but expect tons more to be added every now and then. Not much more to say today - it's time to have a beer and relax after a very full weekend.

3.29.2003

Making changes

I'm doing some experimenting with WEBmikey - moving some of the navigation to the header, and adding a random pic to the home page (it's not random yet, though!). I should have it finished soon!

3.28.2003

The Tigger Movie : 4 of 5

It was fun to watch this DVD so soon after seeing Piglet's Big Movie! I missed The Tigger Movie when it was in theaters, so it was a blast to compare the two. I have to say it's a tough comparison! This movie has lots of great things going for it: the opening live action sequence of Christopher Robin's room that I love so much, the use of the storybook transitions (with John Hurt trying to sound like Sebastian Cabot), excellent songs by the Sherman brothers, and some great effects animation (such as the tiny little leaves blowing through most of the backgrounds). I didn't think the character animation was as good as Piglet's Big Movie, though, and I really liked Piglet's scrapbook of memories, but Tigger's plot was touching, too (you guessed it, leaky eyes). I guess I'll have to call it a happy tie!

3.27.2003

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes : 3 of 5

Another ancient Disney feature, this time with a super young Kurt Russell playing a high school student who "merges" (I don't know what else to call it) with a giant computer (this is the 60s, you know) in a freak accident. Suddenly he becomes brilliant, speed-reads encyclopedias, and also knows the secrets of an illegal gambling ring! The whole computer thing is as silly as can be (a doctor looks into his eyes and sees reel-to-reel tapes), but watching his high school friends rescue him when he's kidnapped is hilarious. I definitely wasn't bored - the plot moves along quickly and watching those clean-cut kids in a goofy car chase is pretty funny. It's fun to watch these old movies that I haven't seen before, and even more fun when they're great!

Desperate for Disney

You know you're a total Disney freak when you're watching an old Roseanne rerun just because the family is taking a trip to Walt Disney World!

I've had a couple of 10,000+ step days in a row, according to my SportBrain, thanks to some nice weather and lunchtime walks. Wish me luck keeping up the pace!

Tokyo Disneyland Countdown: 63 days!

3.24.2003

6th annual fun

My 6th Annual Academy Awards Party yesterday was so much fun! Be sure to check out the usual party pics, but also take a second to view the entire party in a minute and a half!

Academy Awards Party

I ran a webcam at my latest Academy Awards party, and just for fun I put it in time-lapse mode to film one second every five minutes. The result was pretty hilarious, so I just had to share it here.

Watch video: Academy Awards Party

Academy Awards Party 2003

Mikey's 6th annual excuse to get dressed-up and drunk at the same time! This year we had contestants in Austin, Los Angeles, New York, and even Japan!

View photos: Academy Awards 2003

3.23.2003

Asleep / Banana Yoshimito : 5 of 5

My pal Barron ordered this book for my birthday from my Amazon Wish List - what a nice surprise! I discovered Banana Yoshimoto a long time ago and read everything I could find by her, long before I was really interested in Japanese culture. Her style of writing is incredible (at least in translation) - full of amazing detail, and yet really obscure at the same time, like a huge watercolor wash with one detailed figure in the foreground (and that's kind of like a metaphor she would use!). Asleep is a collection of three stories, all involving themes of night, dreams, and the line between imagination and reality. Each one is told in first person by a female character, whom you immediately feel close to after the first few paragraphs. The tone of the book is darker than Amrita, but ends on such a fantastic note that you feel completely refreshed - just like after a good night's sleep.

101 Dalmatian's 2: Patch's London Adventure : 4 of 5

As long as we have to endure direct-to-video sequels of Disney classics, this is how they should be! I was all set for a mediocre plot with cheap animation, and instead I absolutely loved this movie. The story is pretty funny, making an adventure for young Patch (one of the 101, of course) and Thunderbolt, the TV action dog (from the show they were all watching in the original movie). The vocal talent is great - Patch's little English boy voice is so perfect. The animation is far beyond the usual sequel quality, maybe because it was handled by Disney's Japan studio. They managed to keep the incredible style of the original with all the backgrounds - I had a huge smile as soon as I saw the first scene with Roger. What a great tribute to the original - I may have to buy this one!

Siena : 5 of 5

I didn't even know this restaurant existed until I received a generous gift certificate, so I thought I would try it out while my parents were here to visit. The restaurant itself is beautiful, styled as an Italian villa with several rooms, including a large two story central area. The food was really wonderful - Dad and I shared a huge 32 ounce steak with nice potatoes and spinach, and Mom had a great looking salmon dish. I really enjoyed everything, from the field green salad to the bottle of wine we had (I've loved Sterling Chardonnay since visiting the vineyard many years ago). We shared gelato for dessert, which had a great combination of sweet sauce and vinegar. Siena is expensive (if you don't have a gift certificate), but I would say it's well worth it.

Cheesecake Factory : 4 of 5

Although I mourned the loss of the Arbor Cinema, I think the Cheesecake Factory is pretty nice. I wouldn't call it a spectacular restaurant, but I like the kind of theme park grandure of it, with the weird Egyptian influences, Roman columns, and Renaissance look all at the same time. All of the food I've tried there has been pretty good, but I think my favorite so far is the Cobb salad. The cheesecake is excellent, of course, and huge, just like everything else on the menu. Speaking of the menu, it's pages and pages long, so it's fun to keep trying new things. I haven't been overly impressed with the service, and it's not a gourmet experience, but something about the place pulls me away from reality, and that's fun.

Cardinal spotting

I took a nice lunchtime walk on Friday on my new Arboretum route, and I saw an amazing red cardinal. I have seen several really bright blue jays in the past, but this was my first cardinal spotting. By the way, I think the geese in the duck pond are amazing - they walk right past you without flinching!

Don't you hate it when you're a little bored and you start web surfing and you don't really know what you want to go surfing for, but you just keep clicking around and following links and reading this and that, and suddenly two or three hours have passed and your butt hurts from sitting too long and you should have been in bed hours ago? Me too!

3.22.2003

Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World : 1 of 5

I have to admit, Disney robbed me with this one. I would normally rent a DVD like this one, since I had the feeling it was going to be fairly lame from watching the trailers, but their masterful marketing pulled me in - this DVD is touted as Volume 3 in the Beauty and the Beast "set" (Volume 2 was The Enchanted Christmas). They are even shipping free storage cases for all three DVDs to make sure you want them all! Anyway, this movie is just a quick throw-together of some episodes of the so-so animated TV series - pretty bad animation with just barely interesting stories. The amazing thing to me is that most of the original vocal cast is here - Paige O'Hara has such a great voice that it's a shame to see it coming out of such a badly drawn face. Oh well, at least I had something to watch during Austin's ice storm.

Piglet's Big Movie : 4 of 5

As usual, I have to see all new Disney features as soon as possible, so I saw Piglet's Big Movie on opening day. I wasn't sure what to expect - I love the charm of the original Winnie the Pooh animation, so I didn't want to see Disney mess anything up. Thankfully, they made no mistakes - this is a great movie (it even passed the "misty eye" test!). The animation is well done (I think the storybook look lends itself to the faster turnaround from the Television Animation department), and the story is excellent - everyone feels like Piglet sometimes, so everyone can relate. I was really impressed with the songs - I'm not a Carly Simon fan, but she did a fantastic job of capturing the emotions of the characters in some folky numbers (lots of acoustic guitar and harmonizing). I love to be surprised by a great movie!

Tokyo Disneyland planning

I'll be going to Tokyo Disneyland later this year (I'll post the countdown every now and then), so of course I need to read everything I can about the park. I'm so used to pouring over professional guide books for trips to Disneyland and Walt Disney World - I can't believe that no one publishes a guide for Tokyo Disneyland! They probably do in Japan, but it sure would be nice to have one for American visitors. I'll just have to read all I can on the web (Joe's Tokyo Disney Resort Site is a great start!).

It's a rainy morning, but I like watching the steam from my dryer vent coming off my balcony while I'm doing my weekly laundry. I suppose I'll have lots of time to watch DVDs and read, so I'll make the best of this dreary day! I'm hoping the weather will improve later so I'll feel like getting to the grocery store.

Tokyo Disneyland Countdown: 68 days!

3.21.2003

About a Boy : 4 of 5

I didn't actually see this in the theater, but I recently watched it on iControl, so I guess that deserves a movie review. I may have said before that I'm not a big Hugh Grant fan, since I can only take the same character over and over so many times. But About a Boy is thankfully different (most likely since it's an independent film). Hugh starts out as kind of "same old Hugh", but his character actually grows in the film, which is a fantastic development. Hugh plays a shallow guy with lots of money who just fills his life with anything to kill time, but he is affected by seeing a chance to have a positive effect on a boy's life. I thought the message was wonderful and really thought-provoking - all of us need to constantly take a look at what's important in our lives versus what is simply "cool".

3.18.2003

Novocaine : 2 of 5

I've been a Steve Martin fan from the beginning, listening to his albums over and over while I was in high school. I try to see all of his films, but there are always disappointments (like Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, which could have been so much better). Novocaine is another one of those disappointing films - I think Steve wants to make serious movies, and he seems to be a fan of the mystery genre, but I would much rather see him in The Man with Two Brains! The plot isn't too difficult to follow, but it's kind of painful to see a character with his life "together" fall apart so easily. I can see where the shocking ending sounds interesting on paper, but it's entirely too disgusting in practice!

Restricted airspace

I found a blurb about the restricted Disney airspace I mentioned earlier:

The new regulations in effect create a no-fly zone around Disney World in Orlando, Florida and Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Unless pilots are granted specific exemptions from air traffic controllers, no flights are allowed within a 3-mile radius around the parks or below 3,000 feet.

The article mentions that this has been in effect on and off several times since 9/11, so it's nothing unusual (but of course, it is pretty bizarre).

UT Tower Tour

Mikey's parents enjoy the amazing view of Austin from the top of the University of Texas tower.

View photos: UT Tower

Orange to yellow to orange

I had a great time with my parents this past weekend! We were able to visit the UT Tower, which was recently reopened when the terror alert was lowered to yellow. I guess we were lucky - now that the nation is back to orange alert, the tower is closed again.

I just heard that part of the recent change to orange alert involves several areas of restricted airspace, which includes Disneyland and Walt Disney World! It's sobering to think that these measures are necessary, but it still feels good that the parks are being protected.

3.13.2003

Gasaraki Vol 7 & 8 : 4 of 5

I finally finished watching this interesting eight DVD anime series. I'm kind of overwhelmed - even though things got very confusing in the middle, I completely enjoyed the last few episodes. The tension builds so well, both through action sequences (we finally get to see a great mech battle, listening to radio communications on both sides) and philosophical commentary. It's amazing how the plot deals with the threat of war and how that threat can be stopped - how mankind can actually overcome adversity through peace. Of course, this is all in the context of a cartoon, but I found it very thought-provoking. The finale is entirely bizarre, and ultimately unsatisfying (like many anime series, I think), but overall, this is a fantastic series, and I'm glad I made it to the end!

3.12.2003

Walt: The Man Behind the Myth : 4 of 5

I watched this fantastic documentary about the life of Walt Disney when it was on TV, and it was even better seeing it now that it's been released on DVD. The film, directed by one of Walt's grandsons, is so well done - it features lots of home movies and location shooting, and it's filled with interview footage of animators, directors, actors, and family. The special features of the DVD include lots more of the interviews that weren't edited into the film, and some nice photo narration by one of Walt's daughters. It's extremely inspiring to watch - not only because I'm such a fan, but because I'm in awe of people who have a positive effect on the world.

WEBmikey vacation

My parents are coming to visit me tomorrow, so WEBmikey will be silent until next week. I love taking a four-day weekend!

3.11.2003

The Horse in the Grey Flannel Suit : 2 of 5

Still watching these Disney live-action features, but I should have skipped this one. There's not really much to say about this movie, except it seemed long and it never made me laugh out loud. The story isn't that bad, it's just not very interesting. An ad exec tries to push his product by sponsoring a horse, which conveniently makes his daughter happy, too. There's tension with the riding instructor, which of course blossoms into romance. I guess I was looking for something either funnier or more tender. Oh well, it's still fun renting these movies!

Broadway lights up again

I'm so excited that the Broadway strike is over! I'm especially glad since I have tickets to see two shows with my parents in the near future, but also because Broadway musicals are such a symbol. They are meaningful to the audience, representing a way of life where entertainment is enriching and valuable, as well as meaningful to the performers, who are living their dreams every time the curtain goes up.

3.09.2003

The Moon-Spinners : 3 of 5

The live-action Disney DVD series continues with this Hayley Mills adventure. Hayley was much older in this film than in her famous Parent Trap days, but she is still just as cute (how could you not love that nose?). The plot is a kind of robbery mystery set in Crete, so there's some pretty interesting scenery among the ruins. Hayley and her mom are just tourists who get caught up in the adventure, which includes an exciting windmill stunt where the only way up or down is to ride the blades! The story starts to really drag towards the end, which is where it should be picking up, but I guess I'm just getting conditioned to today's shorter movies. At least this DVD is much better than some of the others I've been watching lately!

Haiku

Sunday afternoon,
Soy sauce and laundry drying
Drifts from the hotel

La Boheme : 4 of 5

I always say the La Boheme is the best "first opera" for anyone to see - it has an easy-to-follow story, lots of comedy, amazing sweeping melodies, and a dash of tragedy to get someone used to what opera is all about. I think this was my fourth production of La Boheme, and Austin Lyric Opera did a fine job (maybe not my favorite of the four, but at least second place!). While I enjoyed the lead characters, I think the baritone philosopher stole the show for me - his aria to his old coat was amazing. The sets were great - lots of creative storefronts (there was even a dentist with a giant tooth hanging there), and the whole stage came to life during the procession in the street. A wonderful finale to this year's opera season!

Jonathan's Birthday

All of us celebrate Jonathan's birthday with the traditional croquet match and barbeque - isn't that what everyone does?

View photos: Jonathan's Birthday 2003

New walking route

Today I took an amazing walk on a new route I invented this week. I discovered some new paths around the Arboretum that are really fun - a steep rock-paved path down to a duck pond, and a nice winding path around the hotel. I walked these in some back and forth loops, so I got in some tough (but fun) uphill sections. Then I soaked my feet in my freezing condo pool!

I just made my first purchase (groceries) on my new Disney Visa Card! I definitely did not need another card, but I had to get this one, of course. Now all of my everyday purchases will add up to "Disney Dream Reward Dollars", which will definitely come in handy! (It's fun to see those big mouse ears in my wallet, too.)

New PEZ

I kind of went crazy with my latest PEZ ordering! Recently I received no less than 24 new dispensers in the mail - here's the haul:

  • Fuzzy Friends Dogs & Cats: The Fuzzy Friends series is the most bizzare thing ever. It just seems weird seeing a PEZ pop out of a bunch of fur.
  • The Jungle Book 2: For some reason, they're only releasing this series in Canada! They look really cool, too.
  • The Tweenies: I've never even seen this TV show, but the dispensers are awesome!
  • Christmas series: I missed buying the complete new series last year, so it was easy to order a set.
  • USA Heart: Only available on the web, this is just a Valentine heart with a blue stem and USA printed on it. Kind of patriotic, I guess.
  • Completely clean for free!

    Yesterday I had my glasses cleaned, re-padded, and adjusted. It's amazing to me that this is a free service! The guy spent over 20 minutes taking my glasses apart, cleaning all the gunk off of the frames (he even cleaned the little screws individually), putting them back together, replacing the pads, and working with them to get a perfect fit (they feel great now) - all for free! Pretty cool, if you ask me.

    The Greatest American Heroes played a great gig on Friday, and we shared the show with Jerm Pollet, one of the comedians of Mr. Sinus fame, who also plays some great songs in a loose, lighthearted, and hilarious way. He asked me to play some drums with him, and I ended up playing most of his set - I had never played with any of his songs before, but it was really fun to follow the dynamics and feelings to come up with some appropriate noise. Everyone loved it, so I was a hit! (I don't think I did anything that spectacular, but I guess I have to learn to accept compliments.)

    3.05.2003

    Disneyland: The First Thirty Years : 4 of 5

    This is a nice hardcover book I snagged from eBay, published for sale at the park around 1985. It's full of the usual park photography and brief history, but then goes on to highlight the various new attractions and events, which is really interesting. There are several amazing photos of construction I had never seen before - not just the original work, but things like the rebuilding of Fantasyland! I love to see things like all of the famous big bands that played there, too. The book ends with some beautiful panoramas and Walt quotes - what a great find!

    Chicago / Original Soundtrack : 4 of 5

    My pal Eliza bought me this soundtrack CD for my birthday, since she saw the movie with me and knew how much I enjoyed it. The soundtrack is wonderful! It's great being able to listen to the songs in detail, to hear the little nuances in singing, as well as the terrific instrumentation (the drums are fantastic - I love the way they punch everything!). They lyrics are great, too, and now I pretty much know them all. Of course, they had to put a couple of modern songs on the end, but those are easily skipped.

    The Happiest Millionaire : 4 of 5

    Another old Disney film that I had never seen or heard of, though I knew many of the songs from listening to Disney compilation CDs. I completely enjoyed this musical, in all of its fun and sappy glory! Even though it's nearly three hours long, there are enough characters and hilarity (as well as romance, of course) to keep my heart and mind occupied. There are several subplots and themes going on, but mostly the plot revolves around young lovers and their families (with the beautiful girl played by gorgeous, teenage Leslie Ann Warren). I really loved the numbers by the Irish butler, full of goofy spirit and life! I'm glad to have finally seen this mysterious masterpiece.

    All things end

    I went to an Ash Wednesday service tonight, the beginning of the season of Lent. I think the main theme behind Ash Wednesday is to realize our mortality, so we can enjoy the amazing gift of life that much more - I always enjoy this service. It made me think a little about Mister Rogers, and about the incredible life he lived. Although his death is certainly sad, all I can think about is how many lives he touched and enriched with his own everyday. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was always my favorite show, better than Captain Kangaroo or Sesame Street. I loved to join in when he would make some kind of craft project - I was obsessive about saving empty toilet paper rolls so I would always have the materials on-hand for the next project!

    3.04.2003

    Nice shadows

    At last some sunshine! I get so excited whenever I see shadows with nice defined edges - I had to take a quick walk at work today, then rush home and do a quick mile while I could still feel the sun on my face. After so many days of overcast, this afternoon was such a relief!

    3.01.2003

    Music from the Park : 3 of 5

    Another eBay purchase - I had to search for this CD as soon as I read about it. It's basically "modern" interpretations of the various attraction songs, but these are the most bizarre versions you have ever heard. Tim Curry does The Ballad of Davy Crockett, which is like a slow funk with tons of silly comments in his proper English accent. The best track is Grim Grinning Ghosts (from the Haunted Mansion, of course) by Barenaked Ladies - it kind of sounds like a rollicking cowboy romp, but it's really cool. Not much else stands out, but overall it's pretty fun to hear these songs in such a different way!

    Blackbeard's Ghost : 2 of 5

    As I mentioned before, Disney has been releasing lots of their old live-action movies, and I've been enjoying (for the most part) seeing all of these quaint classics. However, Blackbeard's Ghost was an exception - I had to watch this in several sessions, because I couldn't take it all at one time. The basic story isn't so bad, and I don't even mind the over-the-top acting style of Dean Jones, but something about it just couldn't keep my attention. It just seemed like the same gag over and over again (kind of like Harvey with a pirate instead of a rabbit!). There's a big scene where Blackbeard (invisible, of course) helps a track team win at a meet - it's so much like the great basketball game from The Absent-Minded Professor, but without half the charm.

    Hangin' with Starbuck

    What a nasty day - it's foggy, drizzling, and humid. This is a good day to drink coffee and watch Battlestar Galactica reruns.

    I discovered that my camcorder can be used as a webcam! My pal Dae is planning to attend my annual Academy Awards party via Yahoo Messenger - how hi-tech is that?

    The other day I got a Walt Disney World vacation planning DVD in the mail - it was free, so I figured it would be fun to watch and dream. One thing I thought was cool is that the DVD they sent is geared toward people without kids (they asked on the order form), so it had lots of footage of Pleasure Island and not so much coverage of Fantasyland rides. Maybe I should order another one and say I have kiddos this time!