Astro Boy Vol 16 / Osamu Tezuka : 4 of 5

I don't usually rate Astro Boy books more than a 3, but this volume includes the fantastic tale of Robio and Robiette. If you haven't figured it out from the title, this is a robotic Romeo and Juliet with Astro in the middle! Two old inventors are constantly competing against each other, so the robots they build are constantly fighting. Robiette's brother is even named Chibolt (who is Tybalt from the play, of course), and the end is tragic but sweet, as expected. The other stories in this volume are longer than usual, and include lizard aliens living in a spooky swamp, animals fighting to preserve nature, and a guy who sends out explosive balloons that look like Astro Boy to make everyone hate robots! (Why anyone would think a robot would send out balloons of himself is beyond me, but folks can be pretty silly in these stories.) This volume is totally worth it for Robio and Robiette - definitely enjoyable to Shakespeare fans like me!


Jesus Christ Superstar : 5 of 5

This was my fourth time to see a production of this fantastic musical, but the first time to see a true Broadway touring company. This show decided to go with a more modern approach to costumes and sets, and they really pulled it off well - rather than going for the tired 60s hippie look, the costumes were updated to today's culture, with Jesus' followers wearing jeans and cool street clothes, while the Roman guards were in black uniforms with riot shields! The set was made of pillars that resembled being underneath a bridge and Roman pillars at the same time, with a second level catwalk and amazing lighting that really made the most of the space. The performers were all top-notch - Jesus could do an eerie soft falsetto when needed (thanks to the small headset mics) and still scream for that authentic sound. Judas had an incredible voice, and Caiaphas and Annas were hilarious since one was a huge guy and one was short. Mary was wonderful, too, and did a nice acting job - she had a great way of singing her lines with real emotion. The live music was well done, though I wish they would have sprung for a couple horns rather than the synthesizer. This was without a doubt the best of the productions I've seen!


Chobits Vol 1 : 4 of 5

I've seen lots of images from this anime all over the web, so I knew this was a really popular show that I had to check out. I actually saw an episode on the Anime Channel, but the dubbing was so bad that I couldn't get into it, so I decided to start renting the series. The first volume was fantastic! It has all the cuteness of the first few episodes of Mahoromatic without the science fiction battles. A country boy named Hideki moves to Tokyo to go to prep school, and sees that everyone has Persocoms, which are walking, talking personal computers (mostly female and totally cute, of course). He finds a discarded model near a dumpster, so he takes it home. After he switches it on (you can guess where the "switch" is), all she can say is "Chi", so that becomes her name. These first few episodes are about Hideki getting a job, falling in love with every cute girl he sees (his apartment manager, his teacher, and his boss' daughter) and trying to teach Chi everything from learning to speak Japanese to buying underwear! Chobits is a completely fun-filled fantasy so far, so I think I've been hooked into renting the rest of it!


Cake / Pressure Chief : 4 of 5

Just when I was wondering when Cake would release a new CD, Amazon sent me an email to announce it! I ordered it right away, of course, being a Cake fan from their first CD. On my first listen, I thought that their previous CD was much better - these tunes seemed to be missing something. But as it lingered in my car CD player for several days, I soon found myself enjoying these songs in a whole new way. I think my problem was that Pressure Chief is a particularly sad CD - lots of the songs are about being depressed, it seems. However, they still are fantastically groovy and have a fun attitude if you look for it. Carbon Monoxide really stands out as the lightest song with hilarious lyrics, but I think the opening track Wheels is the most Cake-like. This time the funky cover tune is The Guitar Man, but I'll take I Will Survive any day over this one. If you're in the mood to groove and be dark at the same time, this is the CD for you!


Hangin' downtown

My last day in Los Angeles was spent downtown, where Dae and I visited the fairly new Walt Disney Concert Hall, one of the most beautiful bizarre buildings I've ever seen! Walt's widow Lillian donated 50 million bucks to the city to start the building, and other Disney family members upped the total to over 100 million, so it definitely deserves the name. The outside is full of sweeping metal surfaces, so huge that when they capture the sunlight you can feel the heat from several feet away! The inside is amazing, too - it's just confusing enough to invite exploring. Across the street we went to MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) and saw a couple of fantastic (and strange) exhibits, then had lunch at Philippe's, which is supposed to be the oldest restaurant in LA, as well as the original home of the French Dip sandwich (and it was yummy!). Dae's such a pal to allow me to visit so often - I can't wait to do it again.

View photos: Walt Disney Concert Hall


14 magical hours

The next day of my Los Angeles trip was spent at Disneyland - a full 14 hours! Believe it or not, I actually got tired near the end of the day. Dae's pal Selina went with us, and her sister Mae (an annual passholder) met us there for part of the day, too. We started by doing everything in Fantasyland, then hopped to Disney's California Adventure to hit the best rides, including the Tower of Terror! It was my first time to ride the Anaheim version (I've been on the Orlando ride several times), and I really enjoyed it - that's some serious elevator mayhem. Back at Disneyland, the Haunted Mansion was decked out in its Nightmare Before Christmas version (Oogie Boogie was really cool, and Zero was so cute running around on the ballroom table!), so we rode it twice, plus just about every other attraction that was open. I also finally got to ride the Omnibus on Main Street, and it was fantastic! We had a late dinner at Blue Bayou, and the fake Mint Juleps were the only thing keeping me awake. I think playing DDR in Tomorrowland wore me out!

View photos: Disneyland October 2004


Voting and video

Today I was a good citizen and cast my vote! I had to go to a different place for early voting since I now live in a different county, but it was easy to find and super-easy to vote. Kind of underwhelming, in fact. Oh well, at least I've done my duty!

Tonight I spent some time going through all my photos of my Los Angeles trip, plus all the great photos that Dae took (which he burned to CD for me before I left). I also watched the video I shot - I think it's some of my favorite Disneyland footage so far! I've decided to post the trip details and photos over the next few days (see the first one below), but in case you want an overview featuring my goofy grinning face, check out Dae's photos of me in various fun places!

View photos: Mikey in Los Angeles 2004

Visit to Universal Studios

The last time I visited Universal Studios was in 2000, I think, so I was really excited to see the park again. Dae and I got to ride everything there, including the best rides twice! The Jurassic Park ride is still my favorite - the way the gates open and the huge dinosaur lifts his long neck above the mist is perfectly timed. The sheer size of the animatronics definitely makes it the best at the park! The new Revenge of the Mummy ride was very cool, too, but the figures and effects were definitely less amazing than I expected - the roller coaster, however, was spectacular (even the backwards section)! Van Helsing Fortress Dracula was detailed and scary - we knew there would be guys jumping out at us, so we ran for our lives in a few sections. Shrek 4D was really funny, and it was nice to see characters wandering around like Spongebob Squarepants and Dr. Doom! The classic tram ride was lots of fun, as always, and yes - I hid my face during the Jaws attack!

View photos: Universal Studios 2004


Back from theme park paradise

In case you were missing fresh WEBmikey posts for the last few days, I just got back from a great trip to Los Angeles to visit my pal Dae (and it's his birthday today, so everyone yell "Happy Birthday!"). Of course we spent an entire 14 hour day at Disneyland, and we also took on Universal Studios. I'll post more details soon with the usual photo links!

Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040 Vol 4 : 3 of 5

Holy time warp! I watched Volume 3 of this anime way back in September 2001! I'm finally finishing some shows now that Netflix has the complete sets - it's about time. I really enjoyed this series previously, and it was fun seeing the story continue (I'm amazed I could remember the general storyline so quickly). The general conflict is "fight the zombie robots" (which are called Boomers), and the Knight Sabers (a group of hot chicks in battle armor) are up to the challenge. Unfortunately, this volume reveals that the seeds of the plot are along the same tired old lines of "mad scientist who wants to create a new form of life to replace humanity". At least most of the mysteries that unfolded in previous episodes are pretty much spelled out in these episodes, including some interesting information about the hard-suits (the Knight Sabers' armor) and why they can only be operated by girls! On the subplot side, a couple of romances are brewing - Nene and Mackey have a thing for each other (too bad he's one of the weird semi-humans) and Priss and Leon finally have something like a date. Bring on Volume 5!


Astro Boy Vol 15 / Osamu Tezuka : 3 of 5

I wonder how they chose which stories to include in each volume of these Astro Boy books? It's amazing to me how they mix things up so there's always a story to answer what ever question I'm thinking of - this time I was wondering about the earliest appearances of Astro, and this volume includes Ambassador Atom, the first story ever! Cartoon Tezuka introduces many things in this volume, and he explains how Astro really wasn't the main character until he became popular and his publishers asked him to make the story about our favorite robot boy. Ambassador Atom focuses mostly on Ken, one of Astro's school friends, but the plot really involves a kind of parallel humanity of aliens (a matching person for every one of us on Earth) who come to live with us, and the resulting food crisis! The three other stories in this volume are all really good, too, including the excellent Gas People, another early tale of Astro's robot parents. Astro even starts the story by giving us a walking tour of the Ministry of Science and all the cool machines (it's only a few pages - I wish there were a whole story just for the tour!). Looks like I won't be tiring of Astro anytime soon!


Disaster movie dream

Last night I had the weirdest Disney dream ever. I have dreamed about being in the parks several times, but this was the first "disaster movie" dream I've had, though it's so bizarre it's hilarious. I was at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, walking down Main Street towards the train station, when suddenly a volcano rises up out of Seven Seas Lagoon behind the station! It was huge - a giant mountain with lava coming up and towering over the station. As it was erupting, a big plume of lava shot out, but then it acted like a vacuum hose and sucked up the entire Main Street Station! The lava pulled it right down into the volcano, and then the volcano went back into the lagoon. Everyone was standing there in shock because the whole building was gone, with only the broken train tracks remaining. I was so sad in the dream, but when I woke up I just couldn't believe my sub-conscious could think that stuff up!

Hilary Duff / Hilary Duff : 3 of 5

Now that I've seen every episode of Lizzie McGuire at least twice, I don't see Hilary as much anymore, but I enjoyed her first album so much that I bought this one without a second thought. I really have mixed feelings about it - so much of it is full of those "girl growing-up songs" (you don't know the real me, I'm under so much pressure, blah, blah, blah). I'm much more interested in positive sentiments and having fun! So, I would almost give this CD a 2 rating, but it really turns around at the end. This may be because some of the tracks are from her new movie, Raise Your Voice, so they are much more pop-oriented and inspiring - just the kind of stuff I want to hear! The rest of the CD isn't bad - the production is great and it really is a good listen in the car (I gave it the full week to grow on me), but I was just looking for a different attitude. The great tracks are I Am, Jericho, and Someone's Watching Over Me (by far the best - even if she doesn't have a shred of vibrato yet!).


Darby O'Gill and the Little People : 3 of 5

I bought this movie quite a while ago when it was released on DVD - I'm not really sure why, except that it's a 1959 Disney classic that I've always wanted to see, since I've read so much about it. I finally got to spend the time and enjoy the film, and now I'm really glad I own it! This is a fantastic movie set in Ireland about an old man, his daughter and her budding love interest (one of Sean Connery's first American films!), and of course, leprechauns! The special effects are absolutely spectacular for the late 50s - not only are the matte paintings just fantastic (by Peter Ellenshaw, who did effects for many Disney films), but the use of forced perspective to create scenes of normal-sized Darby surrounded by hundreds of dancing quarter-sized leprechauns is sheer genius! There's an excellent short documentary about the effects, which had me completely amazed - the techniques invented here were later used in The Lord of the Rings films. The DVD also includes a full episode of the black & white Disneyland TV series, where Walt presents the story and making of the film as if he had to travel to Ireland to find the King of the Leprechauns to get him to act in the movie (Walt at his fantasy best!). There's no better movie to watch while smoking your pipe and drinking Irish Whiskey!


My hero Mark Henn

I only recently discovered (from watching the bonus material on the Aladdin DVD) that nearly every beautiful Disney heroine from recent years has been designed and animated by the same artist - Mark Henn. The amazing hair and eyes of Ariel, the dreamy face of Belle, the incredible waist of Jasmine, and the athletic elegance of Mulan all came from Mark's pen - he's officially my hero! I've read that he's making the transition to CGI with Disney, so I hope to see more of his beautiful characters in the new medium (even though I wish both worlds could co-exist!). Everytime I think about animation, I dream about it as an alternate life for myself - I have such respect for the work that has been produced that it just seems like the most rewarding job! Of course, I would probably crumble under the kind of deadlines and pressure they deal with, but it's only my dream, so I can dream I would have the stamina to tough it out, too. (I've since learned that while Mark animated all of these lovely ladies, the actual character design for Ariel was primarily by Glen Keane, who I also respect and admire, and Belle's design was by James Baxter.)

Team America: World Police / 4 of 5

I knew this would be a hilarious movie from the first time I saw the preview, so my pal Chris and I had to go opening weekend. I'm actually a fan of Thunderbirds, the 60s TV series filmed in "Super-Marionation" that inspired the idea for Team America, so it was a blast to see them specifically do lots of things to spoof the series (for example, marionettes can't walk convincingly, so they go out of their way to make them hop around and kick their legs out in a goofy way). The story is completely full-on harsh satire, full of bloody violence, sex, and lots of F-bombs (including the awesome Team America theme song, America - F*ck Yeah!). Trey Parker and Matt Stone definitely know how to go over the top brilliantly - there are moments where the audience was just continuously laughing even when nothing was really going on! The action scenes are really great - lots of famous monuments of the world get blown-up, and you haven't seen a fight scene until you see marionettes fight. This definitely isn't a movie for everyone, but if you can just step back and take the time to laugh your ass off at the world around us, you're going to love Team America!


Disneyland Detective / Kendra Trahan : 3 of 5

I had been wanting to check out this new Disneyland book ever since it was published a few months ago, so I decided now was the time since I'll be going to Disneyland again so soon! Like many other Disneyland books, there are chapters about the park history and each of the themed lands which discuss the different attractions and entertainment. What makes this book unique is that it jumps off in different directions to go way beyond park facts, such as exploring the historical facts that inspired a certain attraction or design. For example, there are pages and pages that go into detail about all of the historic American flags flying in Frontierland, and even an overview of each of King Arthur's nights who's heraldry appears on the carousel in Fantasyland! This is both good and bad - it's definitely interesting, but by the time you read a complete "tangent" you really want to get back to the subject, Disneyland! The book is very well designed and printed, with great photos and illustrations. Unfortunately, there are lots of typos and some facts that just weren't checked out - the author repeats several Disneyland urban legends as if they were true, but it's easy to find sources that reveal the hard facts. Putting that aside, this is a great book with a new spin on my favorite place!


How to have a perfect morning

Warning! Mikey's perfect morning is pretty tough to accomplish, especially if the snooze bar is easily within reach. Don't be discouraged!
  1. Get up at 5:30.
  2. Crank-up the PS2 and your choice of DDR mix, then play at least 15 songs on Endless Mode.
  3. Do a few crunches and stretch out your dance-worn legs.
  4. Grab a yogurt and a banana, then sit down and eat while studying a few pages of your Japanese kyookasho (textbook), so you won't forget everything!
  5. Shower and get dressed while jamming to iTunes.
  6. Spend the rest of the pre-work time surfing the usual daily websites and answering email while Good Morning America is on, so you at least have a small dose of news.
  7. Hit the road at 8:25 and enjoy the four-minute drive to work with the windows down and the latest CD blasting!

Ben Folds / Super D : 4 of 5

This is the third in Ben Fold's trilogy of EPs, and I've been anxiously waiting for it to become available at the iTunes Music Store for quite a while! Now that I have it, I've been cranking it in my car for several days, which is pretty impressive considering I'm listening to the same five songs over and over. Once again, Ben proves that he's the coolest piano-banging dude on the planet, and shows off his ability to make dirty words downright poetic. Get Your Hands Off My Woman starts off the CD with an incredible drum track and some great lyrics. The next two songs are much slower and introspective - I like them, but they don't really move me like Ben's other slow tunes (like Brick, for example). Then comes the gem - Rent a Cop, an homage to mall cops (hey, that's a Greatest American Heroes song!), is one of the funniest, funkiest songs I've ever heard! The CD ends with a short Ray Charles tune, Them That Got, and then if you're listening in Mikey's car, it starts all over again. OK, Ben, I'm ready for a full album, but I'll settle for more EPs if you've got some spare time!


Chance Pop Session Vol 3 : 4 of 5

Finishing another anime series on DVD is such a bittersweet feeling! It's kind of nice that Chance Pop Session (which I discovered was called Chance Triangle Session in Japan) was only a three volume series, since there are no major subplots to take away from the emotion of the story. Of course, my suspicions were correct that all three of the girls are sisters, and even better, Director Kisaragi is their mother! Most of this volume is filled with long flashbacks - one full episode for Reika, and one for Kisaragi (where we get to see her give the blue-stone jewelry to the three sisters). Sorry for giving away the plot, but this anime came out in 2001, and if you like sentimental stories like I do, you'll love it anyway. Even though I love the pop music throughout the show, I think they finally went too far with the theme song Pure Blue, because it's the only song that R3 sings, meaning you have to listen to it multiple times in each episode! Thank goodness it's a pretty cool song. I loved seeing all of the girls' friends and family come together to cheer them on - even Akari's dad the priest finally decided to root for her. So, another lovely story has come to an end - I'm going to miss it!


Trying out new web stuff

I'm experimenting with a couple of cool new web services. The first is called Flickr, and it's a photo sharing site with so many features that it's hard to describe! You can tag all of your pictures, organize them into sets, and share them with everyone on the web. I'm giving it a try for my Disney-related photos (I'll still keep using Ofoto for general photo albums, though) - I really like the little random photo badge feature (see it in my sidebar?)!

Visit site

The next service is Audioscrobbler, which uses an iTunes plug-in to keep track of what I'm listening to. Once you get lots of stats on the site, it can figure out your top artists and songs and show you how your music tastes compare to other users. My stats just started tonight, but it will be interesting to see how they stack up!

Visit site

The Wizard of Oz / Original Soundtrack : 3 of 5

This was completely an impulse buy, since the CD was displayed on the way to the checkout and was priced super-cheap. I'm glad I bought it, since I'm definitely a Wizard of Oz fan, and I'm certain that Somewhere Over the Rainbow would have to be one of my most favorite songs of all time (don't ask me to come up with a complete list, though!). This is a condensed version of the soundtrack, but it has all of the tunes I like with plenty of extras, such as a few fun songs they recorded but didn't use in the film. The whole Munchkin sequence is hilarious, including the Lullaby League and the Lollipop Guild, and I also love the Scarecrow and Tin Man's songs - I think it's really clever how they used the same melody with lyrics appropriate to the character. Unfortunately, I can't stand the Cowardly Lion songs, especially If I Were the King of the Forest - yuck! The quality is the best they could muster for such an old recording, but it's really fun to hear Munchkin voices on my iPod every now and then.


I can see a dream in my dance

Yatta! I just completed every single song in Endless Mode on DDR Extra Mix! That's 50 songs in a row, with no breaks - all one game (in Trick mode, of course) - over an hour and a half of dancing. My previous record was 33 songs in a row, but since I had been playing so much DDRMAX2 lately, I decided to give the old Extra Mix a whirl since I felt like seeing those cartoon nurses again (with the word balloon that says "I've waited so long time for this moment"). I was really happy when I hit the 34th song, and then I just decided to go for it all (gambarimasu!). When I finished it had a special message for me with a big omedetoo. Hurray for me! Hurray for DDR!

Batman: The Animated Series Vol 1 : 5 of 5

This is the series that really signaled the rebirth of superhero cartoon animation, and finally brought some serious stories and characterization back to Saturday morning TV! I was a fan of this show from the beginning, and I've seen every episode many times (in fact, I recorded most of them on VHS and tried to catalog the entire run of series), but it's so much nicer watching these on this four DVD set. A few episodes have a commentary track with Bruce Timm, who created the distinct look of the characters, and several of the directors, which reveals lots of interesting facts (for example, all of the backgrounds are painted on black paper to constantly give the series a dark look). There are a few so-so episodes in this collection, which is the complete first season in order, but they are more than made up for by classics such as Two-Face, Feat of Clay, and Heart of Ice! I really like the story of the Mad Hatter also, since the Alice in Wonderland references are fantastic. This is by far the best superhero cartoon ever, with each episode styled as mini-movie, so I can't wait to continue enjoying this series again with Volume 2 (but I have to wait until January)!


I'm not so lovin' it

Last week I had my first McDonald's meal in about 120 days. I went on a "fast-food fast" (hey, that's a cool phrase!) as a way to prime myself for big eating at Walt Disney World, plus I had been eating way too much of it (and seeing Super-Size Me certainly helped). Anyway, I was hungry for lunch so I just decided to go for it and got my old usual combo - the two cheeseburger meal (with fries and chocolate shake, of course). It was tasty enough, but I have to say that it wasn't as good as it used to be, which is a good thing. It also made me so full that I completely skipped dinner! So, maybe I've broken my McDonald's habit - food that seems fresh (like subs) it just so much better! The only thing I'm going to miss is Happy Meal toys.

Shark Tale : 3 of 5

Even though I'll always be loyal to Disney, I'm really glad there are other animation studios cranking out quality creative work. In this case, it's Dreamworks (with Katzenberg, formally head of Disney animation, at the wheel), and Shark Tale, and this is certainly another case of A Bug's Life and Antz! The movies are completely different, of course, but it's nice being able to compare the character designs of the two. In my opinion, the Shark Tale character designs are its weakest point - they come across as fish with human heads slapped on (except for the sharks). But that complaint aside, the movie is a riot, filled to the gills with awesome humor - you can tell the story department could have riffed on fish-related puns for weeks. My favorite gag in the opening montage of the city is a brief look inside a sushi bar, where the chef is pissed that his restaurant is empty yet again! The story is quite enjoyable, with just a little emotion to carry it along, but not enough to move me in that Disney way. The details of the computer animation are very impressive, especially close-ups where you can see iridescent scales and transparent fins. I had a great time watching this movie, but I hope Disney's first CG effort kicks its butt.


Chance Pop Session Vol 2 : 4 of 5

I watched the first DVD in this anime series over a year ago, back when Netflix didn't have nearly as many DVDs available as they do now. Thankfully, they finally have this entire series, so now I can finish it! It didn't take long for me to catch up - the main characters are three girls (the principal character has the same name as the main character from Battle Athletes Victory, Akari!) who are in music school to become a pop sensation. Lots of big events happen in this volume. First, they discover that two of them are sisters (and I'm suspicious of the third, too), so there are lots of touching sibling moments, and then Akari's boyfriend dies in an accident, so she has to find the strength to go on. Then there's a huge competition, and our girls (now called R3 for "Three Resonances") beat their rival Jun, but I have a feeling she'll be back in later episodes. I love how each episode has at least a couple of "music videos", made up of semi-related songs and lots of montages of other scenes - the music is fun, and the girls are super-cute, mochiron! I'm really looking forward to renting the next DVD!


A little more Disneyland trivia

Here's a few more Disneyland trivia tidbits for my pal Matt (just because he asked):

  • The huge ship that's attacking the fort in the Pirates of the Caribbean is called the Wicked Wench - the name of the ship is actually painted on the stern, but it's in a place no one can see from the ride!
  • The "bench cars" on the Casey Jr. Circus Train were taken from the original 1922 carousel that was purchased for the park, which was converted to all horses.
  • Disneyland's water system for the various attractions is all interconnected! It starts at the Storybook Land Canal Boats, runs to the lagoon by the old Submarine Voyage, then to the castle moat, then to the Jungle Cruise, and finally to the Rivers of America (where the Mark Twain steams along), and then pumped back to Storybook Land.

    Speaking of Anaheim, I guess this wasn't the year for the Angels in the playoffs. My theory is the Boston players were just so damn ugly that the Angels were too distracted to play well. I'm just happy they won their division - I'll still be rooting next year!
  • Aladdin : 5 of 5

    It's so much fun filling in the gaps in my Disney animated feature timeline! Now that hole between Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King is taken by Aladdin, a truly spectacular motion picture in so many ways. I don't remember the last time I had seen the whole movie (probably a friend's VHS version), so it was thrilling to see it again "for the first time". Looking at its cartoon style (following a specific characatured style) against other Disney features is amazing - they were able to accomplish so much that I could go on and on about characters, such as Aladdin himself, Jafar, the amazing magic carpet with a personality, the incredible Genie, and of course, Jasmine - I love staring at her little cartoon belly button. The music and songs are incredible (and fun to sing!), and the story is so wonderful (with just the right touch of romance, including what's known as "Disney's hottest kiss"). The bonus material is spectacular also, including two complete audio commentaries and a two-hour documentary with tons of interviews and special insights. This stuff is so great, because these animators truly are geniuses and need to be recognized! I watched the movie three times straight in just a couple days, and I think I could watch it again soon!


    The Final Act

    I just watched the final episode of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (thanks to TV-Nihon), and it was great! I figured the ending would get a little esoteric, and I was right, but it doesn't matter - seeing everyone together and happy is all that matters to me. As predicted, I shed a tear or two (but not as many as when Minako died a few episodes back), and now I'm so sad that it's over. The only thing for me to do is start devouring the original anime again, which is still wonderful and has its own charm - but there's nothing like watching the beautiful live-action Usagi say "Tsuki ni kawatte - oshoiki yo!"

    How to eat at Jason's Deli Salad Bar

    1. No need to wait in the ordering line, just go right to the register and pay for your salad bar!
    2. Fill up your plate with field greens, black olives, cheese, bacon bits, and cucumbers with vinagrette dressing. Don't forget to plop some pasta salad on the side!
    3. Grab a glass of water, sit down and eat it all up while enjoying a book - Astro Boy is recommended since it's easy to hold the book with one hand.
    4. Trade in your salad plate for a new one, and then go back to the bar for strawberries, peaches, and chocolate and banana puddings (gotta have 'em both!).
    5. Return to your table and finish Astro while you gobble up Round Two.
    6. If you have any room left, reward yourself with a free soft-serve ice cream cone - swirl, of course!


    101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland / Kevin Yee & Jason Schultz : 4 of 5

    Since I'll be walking down Main Street USA in Disneyland in a few weeks, it's time for me to read a more Disneyland books before my trip! This book just came out, and since I enjoyed the authors' last book, Magic Quizdom, so much, I ordered it right away. As I expected, this is another fantastic work! As the title says, the book is generally 101 pages with a little-known fact on each page. However, I'd really say it's 202 facts, since each page contains another paragraph that elaborates on another cool related topic. Of course, there were many things in the book that I already knew from all my previous reading, but over half of the facts were completely new to me! I would love to have a day to walk around the park with this book and find everything mentioned one by one. Now I know things like Brer Bear's snoring sound on Splash Mountain is the oldest sound effect in the park (recorded during the making of Snow White!), and I have to find the book in Minnie's house titled "Elvis: What Happened?". I love books like this - I just wish it was more like 1,001 pages!


    Couch potato overtime

    I've been putting in some extra couch potato hours lately, so now I'm fairly caught up on my essential TV (and my TiVo has a much more free space now!). I watched the first two episodes of the new season of Smallville last night - it was fun to see new shows, but the plot just gets crazier and crazier. I think bringing a young Lois Lane into the picture is a good move, but Lana's mystery tattoo is just bizarre (and ugly). Oh well, at least Chloe's not dead!

    Cartoon-wise, The Batman is turning out pretty good - I think the more recent episodes have been better than the first (I'm sure they had to put Joker in the first episode, but his new design is so weird that it tainted the show). I'm starting to get used to a younger Bruce and Alfred, and even the Batwave isn't so bad - it was a great plot device when Catwoman stole the utility belt. Speaking of Catwoman, what's with those giant ears? She looks like Chihuahua-woman! (Am I the only one who thinks the theme song sounds like Dr. Who?) Recent Teen Titans episodes have been OK, and I'm thrilled to see a few new Samurai Jack episodes - still as fresh and awesome as ever!

    I'm also completely caught up with Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (not on TiVo, but downloaded fansub versions) - I've seen episodes 1-48, and 49 is the last one! It's already aired in Japan, so I'm just waiting for the fansub to come out so I can watch it and cry. They have a lot to finish up in 30 minutes, that's for sure. I hope there's a happy ending for Motoki (the turtle geek who loves Sailor Jupiter) - I always root for the awkward guys to get their girl!


    Star Wars Trilogy : 5 of 5

    How you could you expect any thing but a 5 rating from WEBmikey? I've actually been more excited about owning these movies on DVD than I am about seeing Episode III next year, and since the release happened while I was in Walt Disney World, I had to wait a few more days than everyone else! The movies themselves are fantastic to watch, with excellent sound (lots of use of my rear speakers) and beautiful quality, and I really enjoyed the commentary tracks on all three movies (George talks too much about mythology, of course, but Irvin Kershner, who directed The Empire Strikes Back, is a total riot!). The 4th DVD of bonus material is absolutely incredible - you would think that a 2.5 hour documentary would be enough, but it goes on to include other mini-documentaries, all of the goofy trailers from the 70s and 80s, awesome photo galleries of things we've never seen (like Luke hanging out with his pals at Tosche Station), and even a secret blooper reel! Empire of Dreams, the full documentary, contains tons of information I had never heard before (I couldn't believe Lucas was fined for holding all credits until the end of the film - what silly unions!), and lots of awesome footage of model building, Artoo falling over, and everything in-between. I'm not too wild about the additional changes Lucas made on these DVD versions, but they are minor enough for me to ignore - the main thing is that my grade school obsession is here for me to watch as many times as I want!


    Star Wars: A New Hope (Special Edition) / Original Soundtrack

    While I was busy getting excited for the release of the original Star Wars Trilogy on DVD (don't worry, a review is on the way!), I decided to finally buy the complete soundtrack CDs. I used to have these on vinyl many, many years ago, and I've probably listened to them hundreds of times when I was younger, so it was a joy hearing them again! Even if you're not a Star Wars fan (and if you're not, you shouldn't be reading WEBmikey), you can't deny that this is some fantastic music - John Williams simply is a brilliant composer. I've always loved Princess Leia's Theme, which is presented here as a full piece (not used in the film) that stands alone and could be heard in any symphony concert. This is a double CD set, so it includes every scrap of music, including the second Cantina Band song - I've always loved that second song (heard during the conversation with Han), but I've never got to hear it in its entirely until now! I love hearing different Star Wars tracks pop-up in my iTunes randomization, whenever the Force flows, of course.


    Congratulations, Angels!

    A few months ago I wasn't very hopeful for the Anaheim Angels, but suddenly the season is over and the Angels are division champs! Even though I'm only a part-time baseball fan, I'm really excited that "my team" (due to their city being the home of Disneyland, of course!) will be in the playoffs - it's fun to have someone to root for! Go Halos!

    Atlantis: The Lost Empire / The Illustrated Script : 3 of 5

    I just finished my latest Disney art book to add to my collection, filled with lots of great artwork from the making of the action-adventure animated feature Atlantis. When I first saw it in the theater, I wasn't particularly impressed, since I was expecting more of a warm-hearted Disney movie, but after watching the DVD and realizing the genre they were going for, I really gained an appreciation for the movie. The wonderful sketches and production stills in this book definitely add to that appreciation, but unfortunately there's very little text discussing the making of the film. As the title says, this is really just the entire script of the movie with lots of artwork on each page. It's interesting to read the script, but the short blurbs from the directors scattered about are more of what I like to read in an art book. Anyway, it's still a nice volume full of great things to look at, so I'm just happy Disney decided to publish it, even if I would have enjoyed a more traditional look at the film more.


    The magic moment

    My pal Matt in Japan left me an interesting comment the other day:
    Can you pinpoint the moment when Disney became more than a normal kid's interest, and true mania was born? Were you like this in your high school or college years?
    I thought this deserved a complete answer, because I was interested in figuring it out myself! So, I tried to trace my level of Disney fandom from the beginning, and while I think there has been a gradual progression to my current mania, I think I know when it shot up like fireworks over Sleeping Beauty Castle.

    When I was young, my parents did the right thing and exposed me to all sorts of Disney goodness. I remember reading lots of Disney books with Mom (I even recently re-purchased an old Peter Pan book because it reminded me of those times), and I had plenty of Disney toys. My parents have home movies of me playing with a wind-up Mickey Mouse and a giant Mickey ventriloquist doll (both of which are probably worth a ton now!). My Dad even got into the act by shipping me a cute Donald Duck clock when he was overseas with the Air Force. Along with all this exposure, of course I visited Disneyland! My parents took me there with other family members on a few occasions, starting when I was around four years old (that's me with the ears!), and soon I was chasing after Winnie the Pooh and trying to get in other family's pictures with the characters!

    During late grade school and high school, everything was Star Wars - Disney had to take a vacation so I could geek out with my Han Solo haircut and Stormtrooper necklace. In college, I was obsessed with opera, classical music, theater, and poetry (plus kind of busy getting married and stuff like that), so Disney was still just a childhood memory. However, when I began my big career at CITGO, I got to take lots of business trips, and one of these was to Los Angeles with my co-worker Tina. We decided to fly-out a day early and spend the whole day at Disneyland! When we drove to the park and I saw that Happiest Place on Earth sign, just like I remembered, everything came flooding back to me. We stayed open to close and rode it all (including the short-lived Rocket Rods, which I'm proud of), and even survived the sinking of an Explorer Canoe (but that's another story!). I was much more interested in Disney after this trip, and became fascinated in the history of the park.

    In October 2001, Disney started their Platinum Series DVDs with the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Since I was now hungry for Disney things, I immediately bought the DVD and watched it with eager eyes. Yes, I think this is the pinpoint moment - as I sat there staring at Snow White, I was filled with all kinds of emotion. I realized I was watching a living work of art - I was just astounded at the creativity. I was touched by Snow White's patience and virtue, which gave me a new sense of the purity possible for humanity (yes, I know she's just a character, but she was created by humans who had a story to tell!). At the same time I was thinking, "Wouldn't it be great to collect all the Disney DVDs I can?"

    When my pal Dae moved back to Los Angeles, I had a fantastic reason to take trips to visit a great friend and see my beloved Disneyland! On one of those trips, I had a blast sharing the park with my pal Matt, too, because Disneyland has a wonderful effect on anyone who passes though its gates. The rest is history - I started reading Disney web sites, and after realizing there were millions of other obsessed adults like me, my full-on mania was unrestrained. I started buying books, DVDs, collecting antique park maps, and visiting Disneyland and Walt Disney World as often as possible (which is usually twice a year for Anaheim and once every other year for Orlando). So there you have it - now Disney touches my life everyday, and I'm thankful for it!


    Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow : 4 of 5

    The movie gets a high rating because I sat in the theater with my jaw on the floor the whole time! The idea of shooting an entire film in blue-screen and then building everything else (all the sets and scenery) digitally is pretty radical, but the cool style of this movie really pulled it off. Everything has a 30s-40s feel to it, and looks just like it popped out of a science fiction comic book of the same era - giant robots, secret laboratories, dinosaur creatures, and tons of awesome technology. Truthfully, anyone could have acted these parts - they really didn't need stars like Gwyneth (but she was nice to look at anyway). I loved the amazing machines like the submarine airplanes and the floating aircraft carriers, and I had lots of "wow" moments when they would come upon the next gigantic set piece! Along with all this cool eye candy, they managed to put some funny dialogue in just the right places (I won't say there was any real character development, though). This is definitely a movie I would like to watch again, just to enjoy all of the amazing details. I don't think CG sets are the "future" of film-making, but for a story like this one, it was the perfect medium.