11.30.2003

Princess Nine Vol 6 : 5 of 5

I can't tell you how sad I am that I've finished this series - I want more! This final volume was absolutely fantastic, though, and had me cheering and crying for Kisaragi Girls High! The pace really picked up in these episodes, with several games passing by quickly, all leading to the big match-up against the Kisaragi boys (and Hiroki, of course). After an excellent episode focusing on Yuki (still my favorite), the love triangle comes to a conclusion that manages to get everyone's emotions completely screwed up right before the big game. Of course, they finally get things straighted out (even though Hiroki has to scream his feelings for Ryo right there on the field), and the last two episodes that cover the big game are just amazing! I can't think of another anime that manages so many characters so well, and makes you feel for each one in the way Princess Nine does. I'm going to miss it so much! I can only hope there will be another season on DVD soon.

11.29.2003

52nd Street / Billy Joel : 4 of 5

Another walk down Memory Lane with the iTunes Music Store, continuing my look into my Billy Joel filed past. It's safe to say that 52nd Street was my favorite album - it's still fantastic, since I think it has the most jazz influences, but now I think it gets a little weak in the second half (or Side B, as we used to say). The opening tracks are the best, and when I was younger, they were such an emotional catharsis for me! First you have Big Shot, so you can get out your anger, and next is Honesty, so you can release your sadness. But right after that is My Life, when you rise above it all and declare your independence! There are several other tracks I love, too, especially Half a Mile Away, which has some really fun horns. It's so nice to listen to these albums again, especially when I can have them in minutes, since I could never get around to buying the actual CDs!

Turandot : 4 of 5

When I go to the opera, more often than not I've seen a production of the piece before, and I end up comparing memories and looking at technical details. However, I had never seen Turandot before, so I really enjoyed watching and getting into the story this time. Speaking of the story, it's actually a little disturbing, since the lead characters really allow some terrible things to happen - it's tough to feel happy for the heroes when they aren't so noble. The real star of the show is Liu, a slave girl who is in love with Calaf to the point of suicide just to keep his secret. The performers were all wonderful, although Turandot's voice was a little cutting for my taste. The sets were beautiful, but the painted scrims seems a little too painterly to me. Anyway, the music is fantastic, featuring a spectacular theme that nearly everyone can hum (even though it's not certain that Puccini wrote it!). Turandot was a great experience that I look forward to comparing to another production someday.

Thanksgiving 2003

Another spectacular Thanksgiving at Chris & Eliza's house, full of friends, family, and of course, food! Don't miss the famous "basting shot"!

View photos: Thanksgiving 2003

The Cat in the Hat : 2 of 5

I don't know why Hollywood wants to keep messing with Dr. Seuss (or why his estate keeps selling out). I'm sure they have good intentions at first, but they just can't keep from mixing their impure creative juices with Seuss' masterful work. Anyway, to be fair, this movie does a great job visually (which is the only reason for my "two" rating). The sets and colors are really fantastic, and even during the plot additions they manage to keep a Seuss look. The big problems are the bizarre ending (the trip to the Cat's "world"), and with Mike Myers' characterization - to put it nicely, it sucks. The Cat was always drawn in "refined" poses, and was played that way in the excellent cartoon, so why did Myers decide to turn him into Snagglepuss? That laugh is completely hideous, and there was definitely one too many "wink at the camera" type jokes. It's not as bad as Jim Carrey's How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but it's close - I guess I had to see it out of curiosity and Seuss loyalty, but that's doesn't mean you have to.

Treasure Island : 3 of 5

I think I may have seen Treasure Island before, but it was fun to watch it again on DVD. This was Disney's first live action movie, and it's a pretty good one, but it definitely requires that you get used to the extreme over-acting (I think that was just the norm during the time). Long John Silver is especially good, twitching his eye and spouting a hundred pirate cliches per minute (of course, this story is probably where most of those cliches came from). There's no peg leg - just a missing leg, which I think it more dramatic as he hobbles around on his crutch. Bobby Driscol as young Jim Hawkins is pretty awful, in my opinion. He was a big Mickey Mouse Club star, but his acting is just bizarre, especially the way his emotions turn off and on, which makes his relationship with Silver seem totally unbelievable. He does this weird brow-scrunching thing, too. Anyway, it's a wonderful, classic story that makes a nice evening of DVD adventure!

Thanksgiving fun

Thanksgiving was so much fun! I started the day with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which has been my tradition for as long as I can remember (because when Santa Claus shows up at the end, that's the real Santa). I thought the new Super Grover balloon was the best! Ernesto came over and cooked breakfast (yum!), so it was a great start to a great day. The rest of the day was spent at Chris & Eliza's house, along with all of my friends and some of their families, too! We ate tons of food and then played some PS2 games - the new Karaoke Revolution was a big hit! We also played some DDR (of course), and I danced so much that I killed my wine buzz completely (but it was fun while it lasted). I have the best friends on the planet, which makes Thanksgiving such a fantastic holiday!

O Holy Night / Ray Conniff / We Wish You A Merry Christmas

11.26.2003

Glass Houses / Billy Joel : 4 of 5

Most of my high school listening was centered around Billy Joel - I think I had just about every album, and I would sit in my room and actually just listen and sing with complete attention (something I rarely do now, since I'm always multitasking). I still have those old records, but no way to listen to them, so the iTunes Music Store came to the rescue once again. I decided to buy Glass Houses first, not for the obvious hits, but because I really wanted to hear All For Leyna again, along with the other obscure songs that I used to enjoy. In about two minutes I had a disc burned and cranking in my car, and believe it or not, I remembered nearly every word of every song! I had a blast listening to all of it again, especially hearing some cool Liberty DeVito fills (that totally influenced my future drumming style). Ah, memories.

Astro Boy Vol 4 / Osamu Tesuka : 3 of 5

Another great Astro book with a prominent theme I'm beginning to expect: robots are people, too. There are three cool stories in this volume, starting with a Westworld-ish theme park, which is really an evil cover-up, of course (never trust a robot named Satan!). Next up is an adventure on the moon (written before man had been there, so there's some fun vegetation and scenery, not to mention diamonds). The best story is about a boy who has disappeared in a home-made time machine, and Astro takes the boy's place in a nice Japanese holiday to remember the dead (where robots are built to mimic those gone for three days). Astro figures everything out eventually, and after fighting off some gangsters, the family is reunited in a happy moment. It's inventive and touching stories like this one that sets Astro apart from other manga!

I'm sorry, Mickey!

I have to make a formal apology to Mickey Mouse for not posting a 75th birthday wish last week. I've been super-busy with post-moving projects and studying Japanese, but that's no excuse. Mickey means a lot to me - he's always cheerful, helpful, and funny! Mickey's positive attitude is so cool, and the smallest things in life make him happy. Mickey has brought me hours and hours of entertainment and memories over the years, so happy belated birthday, Mickey! (I know he'll forgive me, because he's that kind of mouse!)

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Be sure to eat yourself silly tomorrow - it's the law. I'm really looking forward to the long weekend to check a million things off my To Do list (and get this website moving again, too)!

Rush / Cowboy Bebop / Original Soundtrack

Looney Tunes: Back in Action : 3 of 5

This was one of those movies that I knew I had to see, but I wasn't sure what to expect. I'm definitely a Looney Tunes fan (like you couldn't have guessed), so I was hoping that they would stay true to the characters. I'm glad to say they did a fine a job - this movie certainly isn't history making, but I had a great time and did a lot of laughing. I love movies with inside jokes, and there are tons of them here (my favorite was Speedy Gonzales chatting with Porky about how tough it is to be politically correct!). There are some other cool plot devices, too, like Brendon Fraser playing Brendon Fraser's stunt man. They did a good job working in a lot of characters - I'm glad Marvin the Martian made the cut (and I loved all the classic Sci Fi monsters in that scene!). When you've watched as many Warner Brothers cartoons as I have, I guess you can't help but like this movie!

11.16.2003

New condo

Howdy, folks! This is the first WEBmikey post from my new condo, which means I'm moved in and I have my cable internet working and all that good stuff (and AirPort reception is great downstairs, even though my router is upstairs). Everything is a total shambles here, but I just have to bite the bullet and get things organized. I'm going to love it here when I get settled in! I'm taking a break from unpacking to write this, so here's a few observations so far:

  • Having storage space in a connected garage rocks.
  • I feel like I've been working out on a StairMaster, since I've been up and down so many times! Oh, my poor quads (yes, I'm whining).
  • My new rooms are larger, so my furniture seems smaller. Time for some new furniture (over time, of course).
  • I don't have anywhere to put my sweaters! I'm going to have to buy a chest or something.
  • I love my loft, and the open space makes my iPod fill the whole place with music!

    Feed the Birds / Mary Poppins / Classic Disney
  • 11.15.2003

    Finding Nemo : 5 of 5

    I saw Finding Nemo on opening day at the theater, so of course I had to buy the DVD on the day it was released (actually, I had pre-ordered it weeks before at the Disney Store)! All of the Pixar DVD sets have been absolutely fantastic, and Finding Nemo is no exception. The movie looks wonderful, and it was great to see it again and appreciate it's incredible animation. Next, I watched the documentary feature, which was complete and interesting (without having too much of that tired "how do you make an animated feature?" stuff), and then I watched the movie again with the "visual commentary", which combines the director's voice-over with tons of behind-the-scenes snippets and deleted scenes. Watching these along with the movie was actually much more fun than browsing through them all separately! The second DVD has some nice stuff, but I would have enjoyed a little more in-depth material than comedy (though the comedy is really funny, especially Exploring the Reef with Jean-Michel Cousteau). Pixar is simply an amazing studio, because they really put everything into their movies, and it really shows with Finding Nemo.

    11.14.2003

    Daredevil : 3 of 5

    I seem to be missing lots of super hero movies in the theater lately, but thankfully they come out on DVD really fast these days. I didn't really know what to expect from Daredevil - I used to enjoy the comic books, but I wasn't sure how the character would translate to film. Actually, I was surprised at how good the movie was! I'm not really impressed with Ben Affleck in general, but he does a fine job as both Matt Murdock and the Man without Fear. The opening telling of his origin is very well done, explaining his powers and giving just enough insight into his motivation. I liked the action sequences, but the fight with Elektra in plain clothes was just totally silly. Bullseye was bizarre, but came across OK, but I'm afraid Kingpin was pretty lousy. He just wasn't believable at all, seemed slow and stupid, and worst of all, he did the worst job ever of pretending to smoke a cigar! Overall, though, I had a good time watching Daredevil (but I don't think they should mess with a sequel).

    11.13.2003

    Good this cartoon is!

    The new Clone Wars series on Cartoon Network is really innovative! I don't know what the reasoning was behind producing a series of five minute episodes, but it's actually a pretty fun format, since it keeps you looking forward to the next day's chapter. The animation is really great, since it's essentially the same style as Samurai Jack, and hearing all the authentic sounds and music of Star Wars really makes the experience real. Anakin's voice totally sounds like a valley dude, but I guess I'll let that flaw pass - at least Yoda's voice is right!

    Although it's seeming less like a milestone as time goes by, I just hit 3,000,000 (yes, that's three million) steps on my SportBrain. Carrying moving boxes back and forth to my car a hundred times sure does help!

    Speaking of moving, this should be my last WEBmikey post in the old condo. Hopefully everything will go smoothly with my Road Runner transfer and I'll be back online as soon as possible! Oh boy, I can't wait to start unpacking. (Yes, that was sarcasm!)

    Yubaba / New Japan Philharmonic / Spirited Away

    Bat Thumb : 2 of 5

    Even though I wasn't blown away by Thumb Wars, I couldn't resist trying out another one of Steve Oedekerk's thumb films. Bat Thumb is a pretty good parody of the Batman films, following the gothic look and Danny Elfman soundtrack, but created entirely with miniature sets and real thumbs (in costumes with super-imposed eyes and mouths). The humor is pretty silly - part of the joke is just the way these goofy thumbs look, and the rest is just weird stuff like Batman's sidekick Blue Jay and his stupid costume (and his tendency to follow too closely to Bat Thumb's booty while they climb walls). The villain is No-Face, who wants to erase the faces of everyone in Gaaathumb City (of course). I'm sure I'll rent more of these thumb movies - they're short, fun, and well-manicured.

    11.08.2003

    Stereo Type A / Cibo Matto : 4 of 5

    This is another CD I bought from the iTunes Music Store, because I just kept forgetting to pick it up at a store. I've enjoyed Viva La Woman for a long time, and everything I read says it's the best Cibo Matto album, but Stereo Type A is pretty fantastic - there are tons of songs here that I like much better than most of the tracks on the other CD! The best aspect of this album is the amazing groove - most of the songs are just so freakin' smooth that the lyrics really don't matter at all (although the voices do, since the tight harmonies of the girls' voices are an essential groovy instrument in their own right!). Of course, there are a few bizarre tracks that are easy to skip over, but regardless, this CD has tons of playability - I've been jammin' to Spoon and Sci-Fi Wasabi for weeks now. (I have to admit, it's really cute to hear Japanese girls rapping "I've got to get the shit straight".)

    Good bye sunsets

    Well folks, this is the last weekend I'll be living in my current condo. I'm 99% packed, I've already started moving some things to the new place (thanks, Chris & Eliza), and the big move is next weekend. I'm even doing the last load of laundry I'll do here. There are tons of things about my new condo that are way better than this one, but there will still be some things I miss, mainly my balcony with the awesome view. I can't even begin to count the hours I've spent out there reading, smoking my pipe, cooking up hot dogs with Ernesto, or just staring at the cool sunsets. I took this sunset picture soon after I moved in, and I've seen hundreds of sunsets like this one since then. Oh well, I'll just have to visit Hawaii more often or something.


    Darlin' / Beach Boys / Wild Honey

    11.06.2003

    Astro Boy Vol 3 / Osamu Tezuka : 4 of 5

    The Astro Boy manga series continues with one of the coolest and longest stories: The Greatest Robot in the World. An evil sultan creates a super-robot named Pluto, built for the sole purpose of destroying the best robots from all over the world. Of course, one of those robots is Astro! There are plenty of battles, but also some great plot developments, such as Astro being modified to one million horsepower so he can face Pluto! There's also some funny scenes with Astro's sister, Uran, who feels sorry for Pluto, since it's not his fault that his orders are to fight everyone. The second story in this volume is short, but pretty interesting. A crazy professor makes a machine that emits "crazy rays", causing all machinery to go berserk. Save us, Astro! I love reading a long series - with 18 volumes in all, I have many adventures ahead of me!

    Remember the Rocket Rods?

    With the Disneyland's 50th anniversary coming up, I've been thinking about Tomorrowland lately. I'm so glad that I got to ride the Rocket Rods before they were gone - they weren't working very long, so I feel pretty lucky. The Rocket Rods were high-speed vehicles that used the old Peoplemover track - they did wheelies and went really fast on the straightaways, but had to slow down quite a bit on the curves (that were never designed for high speeds). I think all that accelerating and breaking was their downfall, but it was a fun ride while it was around! I thought it was really cool to ride Journey to the Center of the Earth at Tokyo DisneySea, because they used the same Rocket Rods vehicle technology - the acceleration is awesome! It's nice that the Rocket Rods have a new life in Japan.

    I had an oral exam in Japanese class last night. It wasn't very difficult, but I was so nervous! I think I can speak pretty well when I'm at home studying out loud, but it's an entirely different thing in front of my Nihongo no sensei.

    If I Should Lose You / Julie London / Sophisticated Lady

    11.04.2003

    Speed Graphic & Sunny 16 / Ben Folds : 4 of 5

    In my opinion, Ben Folds is like a modern-day Billy Joel with bigger balls. He has an awesome sound (which he has continued on his own even after the demise of Ben Folds Five) that uses the piano in a fantastic, percussive way, and his lyrics and subject matter are always poignant and funny at the same time. He's the only artist I know who can curse in his lyrics and make it sound intelligent and beautiful. I bought these two EPs from the iTunes Music Store, burned them onto one CD, and I've been cranking them in the car for several days now. There are some incredible songs here that span several moods, but my favorites are All U Can Eat (hilarious, true, and thought-provoking) and Songs of Love (full of great metaphor and rhymes). As long as Ben can keep churning out the tunes, I'll keep buying!

    Blue Note Mikey

    My pal Shelly in Portland is a fan of classic Blue Note album cover design, and he's created a few tributes in the past to use on the home page of his site Synaesthetic (well worth reading!). This morning I was totally surprised to be featured on his latest "album cover"! I think Shelly is my biggest fan when it comes to my drumming (and I'm super-flattered!), so now I feel like a jazz legend. I wish he were still in town to come watch my gigs.

    I recently bought a few more Disney DVD sequels, just because I knew they were watchable and I found them at a great price. I watched The Little Mermaid 2 again, and I think it was better this time. I can definitely appreciate the work the animators did to make Melody actually look like the daughter of Ariel and Eric - it's pretty impressive, really. It was also cool to hear Here on the Land and Sea, a great song that Tokyo DisneySea used in one of the water parades I saw.

    Everyone congratulate me - I closed on my new condo today! Now I just have to deal with the joy of moving. I'll feel so happy when my bed is set up, my TV/stereo is cranking, and my iBook is surfing away at the new place.

    You're in a Bad Way / Saint Etienne / So Tough

    11.02.2003

    Halloween with the Heroes

    The Greatest American Heroes rock the Carousel Lounge in full costume! Check out the band's TV/movie themed outfits, as well as the awesome audience duds. Beware of the werewolf!

    View photos: Halloween 2003

    Brother Bear : 5 of 5

    I love seeing a Disney premiere with an audience full of kids - hearing their reaction gives such a great perspective, beyond my in-depth love of the animation on screen. The audience for Brother Bear had a fantastic time - lots of laughs, no squirming during dialogue scenes, and appropriate silence during sad sequences. Kids may just be mesmerized by talking animals, but Disney definitely has produced a beautiful film. There's lots of wonderful animation, excellent character design, and the transition from muted palette, small aspect ratio to bursting color and wide screen (which signifies Kenai's change from human to bear) is fantastic! The music is really good, though the fourth montage (where Kenai has to tell Koda about his mom) would have been much more powerful with dialogue only, I think. I love the story - just enough setup with the brothers, the excellent explanation of the totems, and lots of comedy sections keep everything moving smoothly. And yes, I had two misty moments, so Brother Bear definitely passes the "Disney moment" test!

    Battle Athletes Victory Vol 3 : 3 of 5

    Lots of characters leave the series on this volume. Poor Itchan's leg is totally broken, so she leaves the school, leaving Akari confused with no reason to do her best anymore. Everyone begins their "final competition on Earth" (a huge swimming/biking/running triathlon), but first there's an episode about Ayla, whom we find out is some Russian super-kid bred to be an athlete. Her old coach shows up because her homeland has been annexed by another country, so she decides to compete just for the sake of beating Jessie. After she wins the swim, she leaves. The crazy Chinese girl leaves, too, when all of her cheating backfires on her. Akari is running dead last when she gets a note from Itchan (delivered by her brother, wearing a Hanshin Tigers jersey like all Osaka folks in this anime), so she finds the strength to win the whole thing! So, Akari, Jessie, and that weird African girl are going to University Satellite - I hope they meet some other cool kids there, because I'm going to miss the characters who lost!

    Halloween with the Heroes

    The Greatest American Heroes played a really fun Halloween show at the Carousel Lounge this weekend. Of course, we were all in costume! Chris was the Greatest American Hero himself, Ernesto and Jonathan were Coneheads, Francis was Darth Vader, Conrad was an American Werewolf in London, and Dana was Miss Piggy. I was the Six Million Dollar Man, with real bionic legs and arm (everyone knows bionic parts are really internal modems). Lots of audience members dressed up, too - I was really impressed with the gang from Scooby Doo, who not only looked great, but danced until the very last song. Jinkies!

    As part of my moving madness, I'm giving my old PowerWave (Mac clone) to my pal George so his grandson can play with it. I haven't even booted the thing in the past two years! Anyway, I had some old files I wanted to copy for posterity, so I powered up, turned on file sharing, and in two seconds I had this ancient machine mounted as a server on my iBook so I could copy the files with ease. It's completely amazing to me that Mac OS X can talk to this dusty old computer via AppleShare, which no one uses anymore. It's times like this that I'm even more glad to use Macs!

    Queen of Charades / The Connells / Still Life