Metamorphosis / Hilary Duff : 3 of 5

I've been watching so much Lizzie McGuire lately that I was simply drawn to this album, plus I had seen Hilary sing in The Lizzie McGuire Movie, so I knew she would be pretty good (I'm a sucker for bubblegum pop!). This CD is definitely fun to listen to (it's been in my car for days now), but I have some mixed emotions about it. The style of the music reminds me of Letters to Cleo, which I love, so I can really get into the songs and enjoy singing along. I'm just a little surprised at how "adult" most of the songs are - my cute 16 year old Lizzie is really trying hard to grow up! So, if I stop and think about the Hilary I know from TV, it seems really weird. But beyond that, there are some great tunes here - I like So Yesterday and Why Not (obviously positioned to be the "hits"), but my favorite lyrics are in Do the Math, where every line is some arithmetic pun. Where Did I Go Right is a really nice ballad that shows off her mellow voice, and Sweet Sixteen is the totally goofy track that makes me laugh. The title track has a cool melody, too - I guess I can't help but enjoy this CD!


Curses, foiled again

I've always been an electric razor guy. I think I've only tried to shave with a "real" razor once or twice, but I just never felt like continuing long enough to really learn how. Anyway, I use a Braun Flex Integral, which is a foil razor (the big debate is foil versus rotary, but I've used both and I like foil the best, even though my Dad uses a rotary). Earlier this week my foil developed a tear, which meant two things: I cut my face a little (no biggie) and I couldn't shave anymore! Usually when a razor wears out I think about buying a new "upgrade", but after hitting the web I couldn't make a decision. So, I ordered the replacement part from DrugStore.com and it came yesterday. Now my razor is working better than it has in months, so my baby face is happy again.

Ella Enchanted : 3 of 5

I always enjoy variations of the fairy tale genre, so I had to see this movie. I also really enjoyed Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries, so I knew she would be "enchanting" in this film as well (but I hadn't expected she would look so gorgeous - Anne is one fantastic looking actress!). The story takes place in a fantasy world of castles and kings, ogres, giants, and elves (who all have a beef with the Brothers Grimm), and poor Ella is cursed at birth to always be obedient - meaning she immediately does anything asked of her, no matter how silly it is. She goes through her life trying to find the fairy who cursed her, falling in love with the young prince on the way (of course). There are lots of clever gags in the movie - a wooden escalator cranked by strong men, elves who break out into Broadway numbers for any visitor, and a talking book (with some great special effects of the face in the book). The really bizarre parts are the song and dance routines - Ella does a great version of Queen's Somebody to Love, and the entire cast does Don't Go Breaking My Heart as the closing finale, complete with dancing knights in armor. Definitely a goofy movie, but I really enjoyed all the jokes!


Checking the stats

I just love obsessing over WEBmikey web statistics! I use a pretty simple service from TheCounter.com, but it lets me see things like how people got to my site, which is usually from Google searches. Lately I've been hit for everything from "ramen in Honolulu" to "Sir Walter Raleigh". I think the diversity of subjects is cool, since it makes me seem prolific! Lately I've been trying to get indexed by various other blog directory sites, so maybe I'm getting more hits that way. In a related story, WEBmikey was somehow selected as Blog of the Day for April 14th on eugene.com, which is a site about Eugene, Oregon! I've never even been to Oregon, but I'll take any recognition I can get. I guess somebody there found my site and had a laugh, and that's all any blogger can ask for.

Battle Athletes Victory Vol 5 : 3 of 5

Another fun volume of competition on University Satellite, and finally the girls are ready to break their losing streak and make it to the "Great Competition". There's a nice episode that focuses totally on Jessie, showing how she grew up poor and learned to run by stealing bread for her sick sister (so touching). Unfortunately, she is bested by some other burly chick, and when they run she sees the "holy light" that she has been striving for around her opponent, and it depresses her so much that she leaves! I didn't see that coming, so who knows if she'll be back? Akari's team (who are all obsessed with the memory of her mother) has to face Tanya's team (Tanya is the annoying African girl who has been with them since the Earth days), and thankfully they win, so that's the end of her. Now they are introducing these huge, buff steroid girls who act like wild animals - I guess they will have to face them sometime. Oh, and Professor Miracle is still hilarious - I like watching him chomp on Pocky!


Take that, eBay snipers!

Yesterday I survived my Japanese II Chapter 5 exam - I think I messed up a few things, but I feel like I did well, in general. After class I had to drive through a car wash since every bird in Austin decided to poop on my car during work. When I got home, I discovered that I won two eBay auctions that I never expected to win - I almost always get sniped at the last second if I'm not there to watch it, but thanks to some sneaking bidding (I always bid $1.89 more than I want to pay), I've got two more Disney "big figs" on the way! I have seriously got to get some tables and shelves to display them, before they take over my condo! (Since I know you're wondering, I won the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, and a great "standard" red-pants Mickey!)

Tomorrow I have my last oral exam, so today I took my book to lunch and studied, since I'll be busy tonight with rehearsal. It was amazing weather today, so it was nice to sit outside in the bright sun at the Arboretum and eat my tuna sub. Hopefully no one heard me reading out loud!

Astro Boy Vol 8 / Osamu Tezuka : 4 of 5

This volume of my favorite robot hero contains Part 3 of the time-travel saga and wraps it up nicely. It contains lots of great moments in Astro's early life - the construction of his robot parents (who are mysteriously stolen by Tenma so he can teach Astro's robot mom to be just like his "real" Mom) and Astro's first days in school with Mustachio. The big story here is that some weird mold aliens from space are saved by Astro, so they decide to grant him a wish. Astro wants robots and humans to live in peace as equals, so the aliens make an announcement to a world to "scare" humanity into passing robot laws granting them rights! The insect girl Scara is reunited with her husband from two volumes ago, which ties up all the loose ends. There's another story at the end of this volume about a robot who goes on a rampage killing other robots because his head (which contains a powerful weapon) was stolen. The story ends sadly, and the last page is Astro crying over his defeated opponent - quite an emotional image. We could all learn from a robot boy who even loves his enemies.


Lance Burton : 4 of 5

How could any trip to Las Vegas be complete without a magic show? Lance Burton has been performing at the Monte Carlo for years - the theatre was built just for him, in fact. During my last trip, I saw lots of billboards for his show, with cheesy portraits of his glaring eyes with the promise "You will never forget!" So, I was expecting more of a David Copperfield personality, but instead, Lance speaks like Jack Nicholson and seems almost shy when he talks to the audience. But that doesn't stop him from doing some mind-boggling tricks, though - everything from pulling ducks out of thin air to making a car disappear! He definitely has a thing for birds - after making the usual doves appear, and then the trained ducks (which were really funny), he even popped out a giant goose (you certainly can't hide one of those in your pants!). My favorite illusions had to do with lightning fast switches between Lance and his assistants. After some elaborate method of getting into a box or other device, suddenly Lance would be in the assistant's place and the assistant would be in the box. We had great fifth row seats, too, so we should have been able to see any funny business going on - I can only conclude that it was magic!


Grim Grinning Mikey

Last night I played around with the Morphing Ghost Host Maker on The Haunted Mansion DVD, and here are the hilarious results: Mikey as one of the singing busts in the graveyard, Mikey as Madame Leota, and Mikey as a hitchhiking ghost. Now that's scary!

Another section moved

Yesterday I finished moving all of the former Today section into the main WEBmikey blog that you're reading now. That means that photo albums, essays, and the other goodies are now available in the archives based on when they happened, and I like seeing it all together that way! If you're looking for something, here's a couple hints:

  • The Search on the left will get you to anything! To find my photo albums, just search for the event plus "photos", like "thanksgiving photos". That should get you close to the right page (and you can easily find the little camera icons on the page itself).
  • Here's a few direct links to some older popular sections: My PEZ, My friends, and My family.
  • The Haunted Mansion : 3 of 5

    Even though the movie was only so-so (despite being very true to the ride), I still had to buy the DVD for the bonus features. For what I think is the first time, the DVD-ROM extras are Macintosh compatible, so I was able to watch them on my iMac! The best thing is a long QuickTime movie about the making of the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland, with lots of great footage of the ballroom ghosts, the construction of the house, laying down the Omnimover track, and lots of good interviews, too. There's also some really cool interactive features, including a way to take a photograph and transform it into a ghost or a singing bust (really fun!). The documentaries about the movie are pretty good, and go into a lot of detail about the various ride elements and where they show up in the movie. I really liked the audio commentary, too, since I'm a big fan of Don Hahn (the producer), who cracks jokes through the whole movie. It's still not a spectacular film, but I love the special effects and the bonus material, so the DVD was definitely worth it.


    My new morning

    I've really been enjoying reading my pal Matt's journal on Moon Station Foxtrot, and it made me think that I should try to do a little more journal-oriented entries here on WEBmikey. Of course, I have to keep my reviews going - I've kept that up for four years, so I can't stop now! But a little more "real life" entries would be nice, so here goes!

    I'm trying out a new morning routine - the moment I get my butt out of bed, I get my shower and grooming out of the way first thing. In the past I would get up, surf my daily sites, watch Good Morning America, eat some yogurt or oatmeal, and then delay getting dressed until the last possible minute. The problem was that I would often procrastinate too long, and end up at work unshaved, half-toothbrushed, and barely awake. My new morning still gives me time to surf and goof off, but the dressing is completely out of the way! I even did it today, on a Saturday, since it's hard for me to develop habits if I don't stay consistent.

    Today I did my laundry, went grocery shopping, saw a movie, and smoked a cigar (that Jonathan bought me last night on Congress) outside reading a Star Wars book and listening to the music from Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress. I think I'm going to have breakfast for dinner tonight, then watch some DVDs. I should be studying Japanese much more today, but I think I'll hit the books hard in the morning.

    Cirque du Soleil "O" : 5 of 5

    After seeing Alegria here in Austin, I knew that I should see any Cirque du Soleil show when I have the chance, so I made sure my parents and I saw this show in Las Vegas (I also heard wonderful reviews from my pals Matt & Kumiko!). The centerpiece of the show is a huge circular pool, with acrobatics taking place above and in the water. What fascinated me the most was the pool is filled with moveable, perforated platforms that can raise and lower very quickly, so the "ocean" can almost instantly become a dry stage! There's a loose plot to the show, where a guy from the audience is whisked into the world of "O", and appears throughout the various acts trying to fit in, but mostly attempting to give a red scarf to a beautiful performer (who descends from the ceiling as the opening act). There's so much to describe that I can't possibly mention it all - there is water ballet, tumblers on swings jumping high into the air and diving into the pool, fantastic music and lighting effects, and some hilarious clowns floating around on the roof of their flooded house. From the moment the giant red curtain billows into the air like a living creature, you know this is going to be an incredible show!


    Punch-Drunk Love : 2 of 5

    This is a really tough DVD to review. Of course, when this film was at the theater, the trailers played up the romantic comedy aspect and made it seem much more light-hearted, so I was surprised to find out that this is a really dark movie (in spite of all the bright, symbolic colors used throughout). Adam Sandler does a fine job in a serious role, definitely making me feel sorry for his timid state, his terrible sisters, and his bizarre predicament, but the tension was almost too much to bear for me. When his life is crumbling around him, the musical score gets louder and louder, mostly filled with percussion, and I was seriously affected. I guess this means the movie did it's job, but it was rough for me! On the other side of things, the romance scenes are a welcome reprieve (and I loved seeing the couple at the Royal Hawaiian on Waikiki Beach, since I was just there last year), but to me they just weren't enough to counteract the harshness of the rest of the film. Very well made, but I'm afraid it gets a low WEBmikey rating, just because it didn't leave me feeling happy enough.


    Celine Dion / A New Day : 4 of 5

    The first show my parents and I saw in Las Vegas was Celine Dion at Caesar's Palace. I'm definitely not a Celine fan, but Mom had always wanted to see the show, so we went. I enjoyed it much more than I expected, not because of Celine, but because the design of the show and the technical aspects were just incredible! To begin with, the entire back wall of the stage is a giant LCD screen (supposedly the largest LCD screen in North America) with incredible sharpness, clarity, and brightness. With this screen, the stage can be virtually "extended" to any environment - at one point it was ancient ruins beneath a stormy sky, and it looked like you could walk right into the scene. The dancers and costumes were wonderful, especially the "continuing characters", a bald guy in all white who never left the stage, and a yellow bellman. There were lots of people and props on wires, too - like giant instruments floating across the stage, with people hanging on and "playing" them. Celine sang as well as in the studio, and several of the numbers were really powerful. My only complaint was that the large band was completely hidden - they were actually under huge staircases built into the stage, but I really wanted to watch the drummer (who was pretty exceptional).


    Return from Witch Mountain : 3 of 5

    I just couldn't buy Escape from Witch Mountain without buying the sequel, too! I don't really remember seeing this movie in the theater, but it was really fun to watch it on DVD. The story isn't nearly as interesting, but it's still a cute movie with lots of those great cheesy special effects. Poor Tony gets kidnapped and has to spend the whole movie under "mind control", which means he just acts like a robot, so Tia steals the show, along with some silly kids called the Earthquake Gang. The really funny thing is that the villains are Christopher Lee and Betty Davis (and even Disney was amazed she agreed to do the film)! This is another Vault Disney DVD, so the extras are top-notch, even though it's not a two DVD set. The documentary segments are well done, but my favorite segment, the Disney Studio Album, only has one shot of Disneyland, unfortunately (I guess no major attractions opened in 1978).


    Vegas vacation

    Last weekend I took my parents on a Las Vegas vacation, and we had a fantastic time! We stayed at Paris, which had nice rooms and a good location on the strip (plus Dad and I enjoyed the skimpy cocktail waitress uniforms!), but we spent our days visiting just about every casino we could. You name it, we dropped some cash there! I really enjoyed all of the "themed" shopping experiences, which are malls decked out to look like you're in Morocco, France, Venice, or the Rome. We saw three excellent shows (which I'll be reviewing soon), and ate a couple of huge buffets, too. I think we had the most fun at Bellagio, which is by far the most "comfortable" casino, since it's so plush. We all got hooked on a video slot machine called Monopoly Hot Properties that had all kinds of fun bonus games, and had a blast enjoying the free drinks (which are simply the biggest and best at Bellagio) and cheering our wins. My biggest win was almost $65 on a single hand of video poker, but I didn't stay in the positive column for long (no surprise!). By the way, those beautiful colors pictured here are part of the Bellagio lobby ceiling, which is covered with incredible glass flowers!

    View photos: Las Vegas 2004
    Watch video: Las Vegas Vacation

    Easter brunch

    Here are the pics from the yummy Easter brunch that Chris & Eliza whipped up for everyone. Check out the usual photos of Dolly the Wonder Dog and witness the incredible didgeridoo concert!

    View photos: Easter 2004


    Mary Poppins Comes Back / PL Travers : 4 of 5

    It was so much fun to read the further of adventures of Mary Poppins and the Banks children, even if Mary is much more bitchy in the books. There are several more books to come in the series, so I think I can predict the formula: Mary arrives unexpectedly in Chapter One, Mary leaves unexpectedly in the last chapter, and in between all kinds of amazing things happen, but Mary denies it completely and scolds the children (who later find evidence that "it" really did happen!). The many stand-alone chapters are full of creative stories - people flying around holding balloons, Mary and friends bringing Spring by hanging cardboard flowers and butterflies, Jane traveling into the scene painted on a bowl (and nearly getting trapped there), the new baby (there are now five Banks children in the books) talking to birds and telling how she was "created", plus a funny story where Mary helps a caged lark switch places with its captor! Mary arrives on a kite this time, and leaves on a madly spinning Merry-Go-Round that flies into the sky - I'm sure she'll be back soon.


    The Great Muppet Caper : 2 of 5

    I'm continuing with the Muppet movies, which means I recently watched this second film on DVD. It was a fun movie, but I have it say that the first movie was much better. The negatives for me were the lack of star cameos, and the music wasn't as good (though the opening song is pretty catchy), plus some of the effects were lacking - they had to stoop to the "person wearing a Muppet suit" level. Still, there are some great moments. How do you top Kermit riding a bike from the first movie? You start with Kermit and Miss Piggy both riding bikes, and then in the next scene every freakin' Muppet, even the Swedish Chef, is on a bike! I also liked the clever and funny ways they hide the Muppet's feet, like a pair of top hats strategically placed when Miss Piggy does her tap dance. I missed the emotional stuff from the first movie, too, but that won't stop me from watching the rest of the Muppet movies, of course!


    Brother Bear : 5 of 5

    I absolutely loved watching this movie again on DVD! I was especially excited that they preserved the effect of going to CinemaScope ratio when Kenai wakes up as a bear - even though the first 20-something minutes are boxed in on all sides. This is just a lovely film - I feel even more excited about it after reading the book that Ernesto gave me, and it really made the making-of documentary (a full 45 minutes) more interesting. The special features on this two DVD set are nice - in addition to the documentary, there are deleted scenes (including the "confession" scene that I really wanted to see without the music), an additional song, a great art overview (with excellent commentary), and some pretty good games (and now I know that my totem is the Brown Bear, too!). An ingenious addition is a full-blown commentary by Rutt & Tuke (Bob & Doug McKenzie, of course), who blab over the entire movie with some excellent improv comedy! I now have a wonderful appreciation of the fantastic backgrounds and beauty of the landscape (plus, thanks to Rutt & Tuke, I know that Denahi is the name of a primitive SUV!).


    Three helpings of service

    I get ideas for things to mention on WEBmikey all the time, and I usually jot them down quickly to save until I have a chance to write them. Just now I was going through the list, and I found three things that all boiled down to great "customer experience":

  • Netflix has been steadily improving to the point where I can't imagine how they could get better! I've always been a fan from the very beginning, but they've been approaching perfection recently. Their turn-around time for me is nearly next day - I can't imagine how they process things so fast. Their selection has increased drastically - in the past, there were several anime series where they carried the first few volumes only, but now they have the whole collections! In addition, I think they've been buying more copies of things, because nearly every DVD in my 200+ item queue is marked as available now. Most impressive indeed!
  • When I first moved to Austin, my pal Michael Cook suggested I get a "personal mail box" at one of those postal stores, since they can sign for packages while I'm away from home (which is all day!). I've been using PostNet ever since, and I absolutely love it. It's much better than a post office for so many reasons - they keep my packages safe as long as I need, they let me call them up and bug them asking if I have any packages to pick up, and the folks there are so nice that they even help me carry big boxes out to my car. You'll never get service like that at the post office!
  • During my last Disneyland trip, there were some great ride operators who went the extra mile to add to my fun. I like it when they say funny things as you load the ride - the operator on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride told me "Try not to crash!", and the gal running Snow White's Scary Adventures went through a huge speech about the features of the ride, "but I would avoid the food service - the apples are kinda sketchy!" That kind of stuff just makes my Disney day!
  • 4.12.2004

    Disney Princess / GameBoy Advance : 3 of 5

    I'm a little embarrassed about playing this game, but I saw a few neato screen shots before Christmas, so I put it on my list. I'm sure it's intended to be a girls' game, but I'm addicted to Disney enough that I don't care! This is really six games in one, one for each of the Disney princesses (who are, if you don't know, Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine), and each game is of the "run and jump" variety, with you controlling the heroine. I got a huge laugh from the Snow White game, since her "weapon" is her singing (click a button and she sings a little song, which puts her enemies to sleep)! The Cinderella game is fun, too - running around cleaning spots off the floor, while the cat keeps making a mess and your stepmother keeps screaming for tea! I think the Belle game is the toughest so far, since you have to do a lot of jumping on tree limbs to avoid wolves in the snow (I'm pretty bad at all that jumping). I really enjoy these games, but the stupid password system is a total pain - each one is about 24 alphanumeric characters! How do they expect a little girl to deal with that?


    Happy Easter!

    Happy Easter, everyone! I had a nice morning at church, even though it was pouring rain. Unfortunately, I think the rain dampened the usual "Easter fashion". I usually look forward to seeing lots of cute dresses and outrageous hats on Easter, but I think the ladies decided they didn't want to get the fancy stuff wet. After church, all my pals had a nice brunch at Chris & Eliza's, featuring excellent quiche and potatoes (which I'm proud to say I finished, since I wouldn't want them to be stuck with any pesky leftovers - what a nice guy I am!).

    Walking the strip

    Here's a nice night shot of the Las Vegas strip that I took from one of the walking bridges. This was my first trip to Vegas, which was so much fun since I was there with my good friends! Ernesto, Dae, Matt & Kumiko (plus Matt's parents), and I did all kinds of things, from riding the awesome (and scary) Manhattan Express roller coaster to talking with a friendly Borg in the bar of the Star Trek Experience. I think my favorite moment was when all of us played our "very own" Blackjack table at the Horseshoe downtown - it was cool knowing we were all pals united against the mean ol' dealer. Of course, we lost tons of money in no time, but it was still fun. I decided to post this picture since my parents and I will be taking a Vegas vacation in just a few days! I'm playing tour guide, so we have lots of things planned, and we're going to see some great shows, too. As always, you'll find a trip report here when I get back.


    The Muppet Movie : 4 of 5

    I didn't waste any time renting this movie after enjoying the music on the 25th Anniversary CD! I don't remember if I saw this in the theater (I think I did), but it was wonderful to see again, since I didn't remember hardly any of it! The plot is really fun, since it starts with Kermit's humble beginnings in the swamp, and follows him as he travels to Hollywood, meeting all of the other Muppets on the way. The songs are fun to watch, since they really make them big production numbers with all kinds of dialogue and action. I love the special effects - I still don't really know how they made Kermit ride the bike! My favorite scene is when Miss Piggy and Kermit have their intimate dinner, with Steve Martin as their waiter (there are tons of cameos from other stars, too). Animal gets some great scenes, too, and saves the day by eating Dr. Honeydew Bunson's growth pills and turning into a giant! Gonzo's song by the campfire is a beautiful moment, too - I think I like his song better than Rainbow Connection. Time to rent the next movie!


    A rewarding Lent

    Looks like Lent is almost over, and I was able to keep up my dollar-for-dollar donations all the way! It really made this special time more wonderful, and I'm definitely going to keep this up for many future Lents to come. It was especially nice to donate to some causes my pals are involved in, such as Tom's Friends of Fergana fund to help orphans in Uzbekistan (part of his Peace Corps work), and Eliza and Kristin's after-school program at Galindo Elementary School. So, to add to my former list, here are my latest donations:

  • Reading is Fundamental (RIF)
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters
  • Friends of Fergana (Tom Fleming)
  • Galindo Elementary School
  • The Japanese Way / Noriko Takada : 3 of 5

    This was a nice birthday gift from my pal Kristin, who has probably heard me ramble on about various Japanese customs one too many times. The author covers just about every nuance of life in Japan, from vending machines to Pachinko parlors, as well as Japanese customs and even some aspects of language. There are 89 really short chapters in the book, covering a topic in a paragraph or two, and each one is pretty interesting. It was fun seeing which ones I already knew, and to read the use of some phrases that I've learned in Japanese class (and the explanation of saying "yes" when you mean "no" was much clearer than my textbook!). Lots of fun to read a quick topic or two in spare moments of the day!


    Intolerable Cruelty : 1 of 5

    I rented this only because Catherine Zeta-Jones has been moving up Mikey's ladder of obsessions lately (mainly due to Chicago, but looking downright amazing at the Oscars didn't hurt), but I'm sad to say that even she couldn't save this terrible movie. It seemed like the film-makers couldn't decide if they were presenting a legitimate story or just a farce - they kept combining a decent plot with over-the-top bizarre scenes like the old head partner with his breathing tubes and the Life Without Intestines magazine in his waiting room (although I have to say that was the best laugh in the movie). The characters just didn't go anywhere at all - even if George Clooney did fall in love, 15 minutes later he's hiring a hitman to murder her! I guess the whole thing was just too much of a mess for me - if they wanted to make another There's Something About Mary, they just should have gone all the way. What a waste of casting!


    Off to a good start

    It was nice to see the Anaheim Angels win their season opener! Last year they seemed to always choke when they played Seattle, but they beat them 10 to 5 yesterday, which was really cool. Even though the team isn't owned by Disney anymore, I'm still a fan, since at least they are playing for the city that's home to Disneyland! I can remember being at Disneyland during the 2002 playoffs, checking the scores on my cell phone after every ride. There were lots of local folks doing the same thing, so it was kind of fun to be there with fellow fans. My pal Ryan says this year's line-up looks good, so let's go Angels!


    The Two Towers / Original Soundtrack : 3 of 5

    I got this second soundtrack CD soon after the first one, but it's taken me a while to give it a good listen. I think that's mainly because it's much more somber - of course, there are some serious dramatic passages, but there's many more ethereal, mystical slow sections, which are cool, but not so much fun to listen to in the car. Most of the themes from the first movie are scattered about, but there are several new themes as well - my favorite is the Rohan theme, predominantly heard on The Riders of Rohan (big surprise) and The King of the Golden Hall tracks. There's quite a bit more singing, too - mostly in other languages like Elvish, but also in English, such as Gollum's Song, which is interesting, but I can't get over how much the singer sounds like Bjork! Overall, it's a nice CD that I'm glad to have in my collection, but I'm hoping the third will be a better listen.


    Home on the Range : 3 of 5

    It's so exciting to see a new Disney animated feature, although this may be the last traditional 2D work from Disney. I've been looking forward to this movie from the moment I saw the trailer, because the style and comedy seemed so much like The Emperor's New Groove, which I loved! And I was right - Home on the Range is full of comedy, with a little heart thrown in for good measure. The characters are really fun - I especially liked Buck, the super-horse wannabe, and Lucky the rabbit was pretty hilarious, too. Animation-wise, there are some awesome multi-plane shots that looked great, and cool great action sequences, too. In my opinion, the music was the biggest star - from the opening song with it's hilarious lyrics to Alameda Slim's yodeling masterpiece, this movie has some fun tunes! Only a few negatives - I got a little tired of Roseanne's voice, even though she's main character, and there's only one moment that came close to tugging my emotions. But that's OK - I laughed and had a fantastic time, and that's what a good cartoon is all about!


    The Flying Dutchman

    It's always great to see an opera for the first time, so I was glad that Austin Lyric Opera decided to perform Wagner's The Flying Dutchman! I really didn't know the story beforehand, but it's kind of a sea-going ghost story, complete with a spooky ship and a cursed sailor, who only comes ashore once every seven years to find a woman who can be "true until death" to break the curse. Of course, the mysterious Dutchman finds his love, and her noble death becomes his salvation. The sets were really fantastic, including two giant ships complete with sails that actually moved across the stage to anchor on the rocky shore. The chorus was huge - tons of crewmen singing and hoisting sails, plus all of the women of the town dancing and bringing the boys food and drink. The music was really dramatic, definitely exemplary of Wagner's brash style - it was very much like a film score. The performers were fantastic, too, making the entire experience one to remember.


    I've seen an elephant fly

    Here's my Mom and Dad soaring through the air on the back of that amazing elephant, Dumbo! This was from our trip to Disneyland last year, which was one of my favorite visits to the Happiest Place on Earth, since I got to relive my childhood memories with the folks who gave them to me. It was so much fun to be walking by the same buildings and trees that I saw when I was four years old with my parents again, plus it was a blast to be the "tour guide" and use all my Disneyland experience to get us on all the rides! I had to get this Dumbo photo, so I rode in the elephant in front of them and turned around to snap some pics while we were in flight. Now I'm almost ready to focus on a big Walt Disney World trip for my parents, but we have to conquer Las Vegas first (expect a trip report in a few weeks)!


    Disneyland... the Beginning : 4 of 5

    This is a special collector's edition of Mell Kilpatrick photos, much like the three volume series that I enjoyed recently. Unlike the other books, this volume is hardback, much longer, and contains some color photos as well. There are also some fantastic recollections from many Disney Imagineers, presumably written as their reactions and memories from seeing the other three books. For the most part, this time the photos are in chronological order, at least much more so than the previous books. It's nice having the interesting sections of text, but as always, the photos are the real reason for this book, and they never disappoint! I'm always amazed to see workers walking around the unfinished Submarine Voyage before it was wet, and one-of-a-kind photos taken from the inside of the Matterhorn structure before it was finished! There are some awesome Viewliner color photos (I wonder what that ride was like?), and some excellent peeks inside Fort Wilderness (which meant a lot to me since I stood at those closed gates a few weeks ago). A fantastic continuation to the series - I hope they publish a fifth volume!


    Making progress

    I've just completed a WEBmikey redesign milestone! All of my reviews (from the section formally known as Last 5) have been moved to the main blog (which you're reading now), so you can see all the reviews together in the monthly archives (which you can read using the handy links on the left). It took lots of copying and pasting to get these moved, but I like the results. It's kind of cool to see things in chronological context, so I can see what DVDs I was watching around other major events that I mentioned. Remember, to find a review just use the Search - it's really fast and easy! And now, the statistics you have always wondered about! Since I started WEBmikey in 2000, here's what I have reviewed:

  • 351 DVDs
  • 99 Movies
  • 99 Books
  • 91 CDs
  • 38 Cultural events
  • 35 Restaurants
  • 25 Sites
  • 16 Games
  • The Matrix Reloaded : 3 of 5

    It's been a long time since I watched The Matrix, and that was on DVD. I really enjoyed it, since it was full of twists, kind of like an episode of The Outer Limits, but for some reason I just wasn't enthused enough to make it to the theater for the sequels. I've had Reloaded rented for a long time, but I finally got around to watching it, and it was pretty enjoyable. The action is amazing, of course, although that's all there is - lots and lots of action. The fighting is definitely creative and cool, just like live-action anime, but what's missing is the "big secret". Now that I know what the Matrix is all about (sort of), the mystery is gone. That still leaves a interesting war between the machines and the humans, but it doesn't leave me guessing (although the plot certainly throws a few wrenches into the mix). I thought the music was a fantastic compliment to the action - it really becomes a bizarre techno ballet of violence (but since everything is "simulated" it doesn't bother me). The worst part about this DVD is that I don't have the final movie waiting to watch (it comes out soon)! Of course, I have to see what happens, and I'm sure I'll enjoy the action!