Muppets from Space : 3 of 5

Even though nothing could top the first Muppet movie, Muppets from Space is better than the last two movies I watched combined! I haven't completely pinned down why this is, but there are several major differences. First, they dumped all of the musical numbers and replaced them with awesome funk music montages. I generally love seeing characters sing in a big production, but I'm just not super-fond of the old music, which makes these funk songs even more welcome! Second, the focus is completely on Gonzo, rather than Kermit, and the emotions he goes through seem more interesting to me than a frog's love for a pig. Finally, I think the last two movies were too focused on effects - they wanted to see what they could make the Muppets do. In this movie, they just tell a really good story and don't waste time trying to do wild stuff. Anyway, the story of Gonzo's search for his origins is fantastic, and all of the supporting Muppets (especially Pepe the Prawn and Rizzo the Rat, who have much larger roles this time around) are hilarious. The production values seem a little higher, too. I thought that this was the last Muppet movie I needed to watch, but I just discovered that I haven't seen Muppet Treasure Island! Guess I'll have to watch that one soon.


Muppet Pinball Mayhem / GameBoy Advance : 3 of 5

Since I love playing Pokemon Pinball so much, I've decided that my absolute favorite type of game for the GameBoy Advance SP is pinball simulation! Thankfully, there are several pinball games available, so I bought a few several months ago, and I've been playing them off and on. I think that's why pinball is so great - I can get into a game with very little commitment, so I can play a ball or two in just about any random moment of the day. Anyway, this game has three Muppet-themed tables (plus a fourth that I haven't unlocked yet) - one for Kermit, one for Miss Piggy, and one for Gonzo. The Kermit table is the easiest, but I still have yet to get a score high enough to let me move from one table to the next in the middle of a single game. I think I like the Gonzo table best - the graphics are really cool on that table. The sounds are pretty fun, with a few samples of the Muppet voices, but the background music can get annoying (especially on the Miss Piggy table!). I have to say that the pinball action is a little weird - I don't think the motion of the ball has enough friction, or maybe too little gravity, but it can be unpredictable at times (unlike Pokemon Pinball, which has very lifelike action!). All in all, this is a fun game - I just need more practice!


In bloom

In case you were wondering, my magnolia tree finally bloomed! Once all the buds appeared, they seemed to take forever to actually open up, but eventually the thick skin of the buds broke open and beautiful white flowers appeared. Each flower only lasts a couple days, but I've enjoyed at least eight flowers (sometimes two at once), so I'm quite pleased!

I've already received my park tickets to Walt Disney World! This time I got four day Park Hoppers rather than Ultimate Park Hoppers, because my parents and I won't be visiting the water parks or Pleasure Island, but we'll still have full access to the theme parks, and I saved some money. Disney tickets are plastic like credit cards, and each one has a different character, so I got Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy! I'm already cranking on the detailed planning, too.

Take a look at this guy's cool photos (he has a nice blog called Miceland) - look at all those princesses! I think he's my new hero!


Wet and wild party

I had a little birthday party for my pal Ernesto at my condo last weekend, and everyone had a great time. We surprised Ernesto with some fun presents, and ate a lot of hot dogs and other great food that everyone brought. During the party, a water pipe burst right across from my condo - it started spewing water like crazy (but thankfully was kept away from my place by a clever drain)! I had to call to report the problem, and some poor plumber had to come out on a Sunday night, but the flood continued for over an hour! Everything is back to normal now, of course.

View photos: Ernesto's Birthday 2004

Designing Disney's Theme Parks: The Architecture of Reassurance : 4 of 5

I finally finished the last of the fantastic books that I got for Christmas! This one took the longest, since it's unlike any Disney book I've ever read, covering the history and development of the Disney parks from a purely architectural and cultural angle. The book was produced to accompany an art exhibit of Disney park design, so it includes many illustrations I've never seen before, but much, much more text (presented in the form of several essays), so it was a major reading achievement! The best essay (and also the longest) takes a very detailed look at the events leading to the opening of Disneyland, including Walt's fascination with model railroading and miniatures (I had no idea that one of his first ideas was a traveling show of miniature dioramas called Disneylandia), plus all of the parks he visited in other countries that inspired him. Some of the essays are entirely technical, comparing Disney architecture to various movements and trends in building, and some essays become entirely over-analytical, but the wealth of information here is well worth it. This book was published before Animal Kingdom opened, but it does touch on the design of every other Disney park. Now that I'm finished, I feel like I've graduated from an art history course!


42nd Street : 4 of 5

I've seen various productions of 42nd Street a few times before, so I wasn't planning on seeing the national touring company in Austin, but my pal Melinda asked if I wanted to go, and I'm glad I did. This was a really wonderful show, with all the energy put just where it should be - into the talent! The dancing and singing were really fantastic, and the acting was first-class, too (especially the actor playing Julian Marsh the director, who was perfect for the role, but ironically was the weakest singer). The sets were very minimal, usually just a painted backdrop, but there were still some clever effects! In one number, a huge set of mirrors came down and leaned toward the stage, so the dancing girls could lie on the floor in a circle and do water ballet movements, while the audience watched the display from above in the mirror! I also enjoyed the huge set of lighted stairs that everyone danced on, because they made all the tap dancing so much more percussive (if you didn't already know, 42nd Street is filled to the brim with tap dancing!). The music is great, of course - there are at least five or six songs from the show that are huge jazz standards now. It was a great production and I'm glad I went!


A band of merry pals

I few years ago I performed as part of an on-stage band in Tongue and Groove Theater's production of Le Petomane. I was a fun experience, so I hoped I could do it again whenever things worked out with my crazy schedule. Now that I'm out of Japanese class, the timing is perfect, and I'm going to be a part of Tongue and Groove's production of Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors! The band is made up of all of my pals - Jonathan (who is our musical director), Lisa, Ernesto, Chris and myself. We're trying to compose and play Renaissance style music, which is challenging, but cool - I'm pretty amazed at how well we're capturing the sound! My percussion is pretty limited, but I also get to play a little guitar and some harpsichord (which looks strangely like a Yamaha keyboard), too. We've already started rehearsing with the actors (my pal Conrad has a part), and my schedule will be kind of hectic through our eight performances next month, but it's going to be a blast. I'm just anxious to find out what my costume will be - I really don't want to see myself in tights!


Shrek 2 : 3 of 5

Even though I had mixed feelings about the original Shrek, I was pretty excited about seeing the sequel, and it certainly wasn't disappointing - I really think Shrek 2 is better than the original! The plot isn't as good as the first, but the additional characters and scenery really put it over the top for me. All of the scenes of Hollywood and Los Angeles transformed into the kingdom of Far Far Away were really cool - you can tell the animators just went crazy coming up with gags for the background! Puss in Boots completely steals the show, and Donkey is pretty funny as well (although I still think Eddie Murphy is just recycling Mushu from Mulan), which means that Shrek and Fiona are the least interesting characters in the movie (except for their opening love montage, which has some hilarious scenes, such as Fiona tossing Ariel back into the sea!). Just like the first, I wasn't too excited about the music - some of the pop numbers just seem so out of place, but I like it when they are sung by characters as a musical number (although the Fairy Godmother song was simply terrible). Of course, the animation is well done, but CG will never be as beautiful as traditional animation for me. That said, I really did enjoy the movie, and it's making me think I should buy both Shreks on DVD.


Emma Bunton / Free Me : 4 of 5

Back in the good ol' Spice Girls days, I was crazy about Baby Spice, otherwise known as Emma Bunton. Of course, she was the cutest, and I thought her voice had the most potential, too. Thankfully, after the Spice Girls called it quits, Emma continued her career with a great solo album, which I totally loved. It's been a long time waiting for her second solo CD, but let me tell you, it was worth the wait (even if I had to order it imported from England at a big price!). The songs on this CD are really fantastic - very sophisticated and fun at the same time. She seems to be going for a retro look and feel, almost James Bond meets Burt Bacharach, and the results are super cool! The title track has a wonderful melody that's instantly singable, but the production of these tunes is what stands out - lots of horns (mostly trombones, I would say) and fantastic percussion (including a full samba section with cuica in Crickets Sing for Anamaria). There are several tunes where the dude playing the triangle totally makes the groove happen. Emma is a total hottie in the liner notes photos, but she still keeps that girlish charm that will make her forever Baby Spice. I'm so glad she's still singing!


I accept!

This weekend my pal Chris asked me to be best man at his wedding! I'm totally thrilled - I was lucky enough to become friends with Chris and Eliza soon after they moved to Austin, and they have done so much for me (about a million parties, and the best Thanksgivings ever!). I'm confident that I can handle the responsibility (I know I can write a nice speech), but I hope I can deliver on a cool bachelor party. Anyway, it's really an honor - I've never been a best man before, so I'll rise to the challenge!

I love to discover a link to WEBmikey on another site! I'm now listed in the blogroll on sleepery.net - I'm not sure how he found me, but I'm definitely appreciative. Thanks, Bob!

I just booked a nice long trip for my parents and I to Walt Disney World! I didn't get to go there last year, so I'm really excited about it! My parents have only been once, and they've never seen Disney MGM Studios or Animal Kingdom, so there will be plenty of fun for them to discover. We're going for the deluxe experience, staying at the Grand Floridian - I'm looking forward to many hours of detailed planning (because I'm just weird that way)!

Walt Disney World Countdown: 120 days!


Astro Boy Vol 9 : 3 of 5

As always, Tezuka (in comic form) introduces the stories in this volume, and he explains that Astro has gone through several different looks over the years. These stories are from his "extra cute" stage, so he's a little shorter and rounder. There's a lot more comedy in general scattered throughout, with lots of one-liners that sometimes seem out of place, but they're funny, so I don't mind. The longest story is about someone who builds a Cleopatra robot (a sexy one, of course) so he can revive the Egyptian empire, but my favorite is about an accident with a matter transporter (just like in The Fly, which Tezuka admits was his inspiration). A rival scientist traps another scientist in limbo while his molecules are being transported (along with a rabbit, a fish, and a robot), so he becomes a bizarre ghost that can form as a mist from 3D televisions! The third story is pretty short, but it features Cobalt, a replica of Astro in every way, except his brain isn't as developed (so he seems kind of dopey). Astro gets hurt a lot in this volume - I think he has his arms ripped off more than once! Be more careful next time, Astro.


Mahoromatic: Something More Beautiful Vol 1 : 4 of 5

Even though the first season of this anime left me a little disappointed, I just had to rent the next season since they're finally available on Netflix. I've read that this season has a terrible ending, so I'm definitely dreading getting to Volume 3, but for now, Volume 1 was way beyond my expectations! All of the characters are just as cute as ever, even Minawa, a new little android girl who comes to live with Mahoro as her little sister. The comedy is as outrageous as ever, including an entire episode devoted to breast enlargement products - Mahoro is always singing little songs, so of course she sings a funny boobie-oobie song! To top it all off, Vesper (the group who created Mahoro) sends her a new secret weapon that looks like a bra - you can guess the rest! The big enemy from last season is now living as human (posing as a teacher in Suguru's school), so they have to introduce the Management - a new super-secret organization that controls "everything" on Earth. I was so happy that they continued including the Satellite Poem at the end of each episode, because they really are clever, sometimes funny, and always poignant. I really laughed out loud watching these episodes - I just wish I didn't know it was going to get bad!


Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Epic Series : 5 of 5

I got this fantastic six DVD set (with the amazing looking Cylon head packaging!) for my birthday in January, and here we are in May! It took me a long time to watch all the episodes and bonus material, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I loved Battlestar Galactica when it was on the air! I remember playing with the toys, watching it every week on TV, and even filming parts of the show on Super 8 film (back before VCRs were in every home) - I even remember the episode I filmed was Gun on Ice Planet Zero! It was so much fun to watch it all again! The first several episodes are the best, since the Cylons are at their evil worst, and Jane Seymour adds such a touch of class (and beauty) to the performances. The stretch of episodes where the fleet outruns the Cylons are kind of dull, and I can't believe all the bizarre guest stars - I had forgotten that Fred Astaire did an episode as Starbuck's dad! Thankfully the last episode has a great showdown with a Cylon Basestar, and Apollo gets to kiss Sheba, before the show was suddenly cancelled (boooooo!). Each DVD has a long set of deleted scenes from each episode, which are usually just alternative takes that were scratched, but they show all kinds of great stuff like the live rear-screen projections for filming the Viper cockpits! The documentaries are good, too - especially the one about the poor chimpanzee that had to run around wearing the Muffet costume. What a great way to relive some of my best childhood entertainment!


Love Hina Vol 2 : 3 of 5

I think this may be the most disjointed viewing of a series I've ever accomplished - I watched Volume 3 first, ages ago, then Volume 1 late last year, and now I've finally seen Volume 2. But even with the lack of consistency, I still had a wonderful time watching this DVD! There are four episodes here, and I would definitely give the first two a 4 rating, but the last two are kind of so-so. It begins with our characters failing to make it into Tokyo University, so they are crushed. Keitaro and Naru just want to get away from it all (and each other), so they each decide to go to Kyoto (and there are some wonderful scenes of places I've been!), but they break their glasses on the train, so they spent the trip flirting with each other, not know who they are (only in anime)! Another episode puts Motoko (the sword-fighting girl who also lives in the Hinata Apartments) into a video game, where all the characters are "baby-ized" and everything is spoof-city. There's an awesome Sailor Moon transformation sequence, and the best part is a version of the Mothra song (sung by two tiny twins, of course) to wake up a giant turtle. I know, it sounds crazy, and it is, but I laughed and had a wonderful time!


Waikiki, Texas

I'm starting to really enjoy the sun and the warmer weather, so I bought myself a cheap lounge chair so I can relax in the heat in my little backyard. It gets some excellent sun, which travels from left to right (east to west) right over my head, and it feels so good to drink some beer or water and sweat out there (wearing sunscreen, of course). I use my iPod and some little travel speakers to listen to Hawaiian music, then I close my eyes and try to imagine the beach. Sometimes I think of the distant traffic on 183 as the sound of the surf, and the smell of the sunscreen makes things more authentic, too. On my trip to Hawaii, I had the real experience all alone on the beach (when Dae was learning to catch a wave), and I guess Waikiki has become my frame of mind when I want to relax. Aloha, warm weather!

Amadeus / Director's Cut : 5 of 5

Amadeus is another one of my Top 10 films - I remember seeing it in the theater and countless times on cable and video, and then it was one of the first DVDs I owned. When I heard about the Director's Cut, I decided to buy it anyway, since I really wanted to see the extra scenes. Now the film is over three hours long, but I enjoyed every minute of it. This movie just completely absorbs me - once I start watching it, there's no way I can stop. The additional scenes are really nice to see - there are some long sequences between Salieri and Constanze, plus new segments of Mozart trying (and failing) to get pupils. The second DVD of this set contains an hour-long documentary with some fascinating information, such as the fact that the opera scenes were shot in the Prague Opera House, which is the very same building in which Mozart premiered Don Giovanni! I also discovered that Meg Tilly was going to play Constanze, until she was injured playing soccer the day before shooting. There's also some great background material on the "dictation of the Requiem" scene, which is simply incredible. This is an outstanding movie, and the additions in this DVD set only make it an even more wonderful experience!


Boba Fett 5: A New Threat / Elizabeth Hand : 3 of 5

The "young Boba Fett" series timeline is now around two years past the events in Attack of the Clones, so Boba is pretty well established as Jabba's favorite bounty hunter (even though he's still young). This book ties in closely with the Clone Wars, since Jabba has been secretly asked by the Republic (the "good guys", who eventually become the Empire) to take out a Separatist bad guy, and he gives Boba the job. The action takes place on a really interesting planet (kind of a mushroom world) right in the middle of a big clone/droid battle, and includes a cameo from General Grievous, who is a major character in the next Star Wars movie. The best part of the book is when Boba has to fight clones, who are all essentially his dad (he hears his dad's voice, sees his dad's mannerisms, and so on)! There are a few incidences of Boba being a "nice guy", which still seems kind of strange to me, but I guess it's necessary since he's the hero of these stories. Unfortunately, most of the narrative takes place in Boba's head, which is OK, but not as fascinating as when Boba interacts with other characters. The ending is a total cliffhanger, so the next volume better come out soon!


The Day Jobs: Work all day, swing all night

Most people tend to remember firsts - their first love, their first kiss, their first drink, maybe even their first speeding ticket. Musicians remember firsts, too, and they become memories that are, in time, even better than the actual events themselves. The Day Jobs wasn't my first band, but it was my first "hit" band, and so it will always hold a special place for me as my favorite musical experience. I love to reminisce about good times, so here's the fun I remember.

Soon after I moved to Austin, my pal Tom Fleming introduced me to some new friends - Matt Melton, Ernesto Marquez, and Dae Kim. He knew that they had been playing some old 20s and 30s tunes together, and he knew I was a drummer, so he got us together. I remember the first time we played in Ernesto's bedroom - it was fun for me to play jazz style, and I think the boys liked the way the drums filled out the sound. So, we hit it off pretty quickly! Soon we decided we needed a bass, so we advertised in the Chronicle and had a few responses. One of them was Ann Marie Harrop, who was enthused to be playing stand-up bass, and soon she was in. Suddenly we were a band!

We spent lots of evenings rehearsing in Ernesto's bedroom (always stopping for a French press coffee break), and not only did we learn tons of tunes, but we started becoming great friends. Even from the beginning we were adding original songs - Dae and Ernesto were both writing (Dae's Mopac Bounce and Ernesto's Marvin Gardens became some of our most popular tunes!). We learned how to arrange as a group, trying out different intros and endings, seeing what worked and what didn't. We started to develop our style, which I always thought of as "a big band feel with a small combo".

Ann Marie, who turned out to be a master booker and manager for the group, got us our first gig at the Manor Road Coffee House. It was a small quirky place with protest posters everywhere, and we played for free pizza (which was excellent), but it was a real gig and we were excited. We told all our friends, and Austin's local swing scene was notified - the Four on the Floor gang showed up to our first gig, so people were dancing! Since we were still a new band, lots of our songs were played at a medium to slow tempo (because that's all we could handle at the time!). However, those tempos turned out to be perfect for Lindy Hop, a style of swing dancing that was all the rage, so the dancers loved it! We were on our way.

The Day Jobs part 2

Soon we started playing Monday nights at the Caucus Club - since Four on the Floor had dance classes that night, it was a good fit to have a swing band play afterwards. Our first show there was such a thrill - we thought we were real stars! We got to see our name on the board in the entryway, we had some comped drinks, and playing on that raised stage was so exciting. Little did we know then that we would end up playing over a year of Monday nights there! The Caucus became our "home", in a way. The bartenders liked us because we were big tippers, and they even invented a drink for us - the "Day Job" was a concoction with scotch (our liquor of choice), and we were proud of it. Those Monday nights were something special, and really helped us develop a following - we had honest to goodness fans!

All of that playing really helped us hone our performance. Ernesto and Dae wrote out excellent crafted solos that I loved to play behind - since I knew what phrases were coming, I could accent and punch in all the right places. I had fun playing with dynamics and "Las Vegas" endings just because I liked to be cheesy, but I also tried to always play jazz style, without the heavy snare on two and four, which I think helped differentiate us from the other swing bands. Ann Marie and I loved to play against each others fills, and we all liked to listen to Matt sing, because he was a whiz with coming up with alternate melodies and lyrics, just like his hero, Mel Torme. I'll never forget that feeling of counting us off and hearing us all come in together - it always felt just right, like putting on a favorite T-shirt.

The Day Jobs part 3

Lots of other gigs started coming our way. We played other clubs in town, several parties and lots of weddings, which were some of my favorite shows, since we had lots of time to goof off and enjoy the food and drink (including some devastating mead at one particular wedding!). We played some big shows at the Union Ballroom on the UT campus - it was a pain to get the sound right, but that huge hall made us feel important. We helped organize a big multi-band Christmas show (where we played a swing version of Frosty the Snowman that was later requested year round), and even played on the Austin Music Network (including a goofy interview), so we have "professional" video of us that I'll cherish forever. The out-of-town gigs came, too - our first was in Houston, and we couldn't believe that we were renting a van, hauling all our stuff to Houston, staying in a hotel for free, and getting paid. We played in Dallas and San Antonio, too, and always played dirty Mad Libs in the van, and had some great Denny's food at 2:00 AM after the shows.

The Day Jobs live on

We were also marketing geniuses! We had our logo printed on matchbooks, and we left a few of them everywhere we went. Eventually they were all over town! We wanted to make T-shirts, but we realized that our dancing fans dressed much too nicely to wear them. But, they did use hankies to wipe their brows, so we had hankies make with an embroidered Day Jobs logo. I'm sure we never made a profit selling them, but it was definitely an original merchandising idea! I made lots and lots of flyers for the band, using old stock photography and coming up with goofy things to say - it was always fun showing the band my latest crazy work!

Two successful years later, Dae decided to move to Los Angeles. Before he left, we spent some time in the studio to record most of our originals for posterity, and then said good bye to our founding guitarist. Around the same time, Austin's most popular swing band, The Merchants of Venus, decided to break up after five years of playing. The timing was amazing - after the Merchants' last show, Ian Case started rehearsing with us. He learned our material in no time, and the Day Jobs kept playing with almost no break at all. Ian's style was very different from Dae's, giving us a fresh feel and a new, spontaneous sound. He was instantly part of the band, and part of our close friendship as well.

Several months later, Matt decided to start a new life in Japan. We debated about finding a new singer, but truthfully, all of us were a little tired from close to three years of playing, and Matt's voice was an integral part of our sound. The swing scene in Austin was also much less prominent - several swing clubs went techno, so we all saw the handwriting on the wall. We said good bye to Matt, and at the same time, said good bye to the Day Jobs as well.

All of us are still close friends, and always will be - our band experience brought us together in a special way. Matt has a wonderful life in Japan with his wife Kumiko, and Dae has been a part of several music projects in Los Angeles. Ian began to study classical guitar, and now lives in New York City. Ann Marie went on to become the most serious musician of all of us, and has played more gigs with more bands than I can count (just check out her website!). Ernesto and I still play together in The Greatest American Heroes. I think all of us look back on those Day Jobs days with a special fondness - the rewards have certainly been great.

View photos: Gig in the Boonies
View photos: Flagship Texas Gig
View photos: Finale at the Fed
Watch video: Mopac Bounce

Nearly five years later, we're still on the web!

  • Part of Austin's swing history

  • Our 1999 entry in the Chronicle's musician's register

  • Voted the #9 swing band in the 1998-1999 Austin Music Awards!
  • 5.15.2004

    The ultimate dinner music

    This week I went out to dinner with my pals Eliza, Kristin, and Ernesto (plus his sister, visiting from Los Angeles). We ate at Asti to see The International Tubadores (otherwise known as my pals Chris, Jonathan and Lisa), and had a fantastic time. The food was great - I had a nice seafood risotto (I was craving seafood!) with shrimp, clams, and mussels, then a pear sorbet (with champagne poured on top!) for dessert. We all loved the band - of course, I've seen them play many, many times at lots of parties, but it's even more fun seeing them perform in public. Going out to eat with friends is such a wonderful thing to do - I need to do it more often!

    View photos: Dinner with the Tubadores

    This weekend I watched some anime for the first time in a long while. Truthfully, I was a little burnt out on Japanese since I was studying so hard, so the last thing I wanted to watch was more Japanese. Now that class is over, it's fun to watch (and listen) all over again! I laughed out loud, drank Kirin Ichiban, enjoyed the cute anime girls, and felt like I was welcoming home an old friend. I'm back on the anime wagon, fellow otaku!

    My potted magnolia tree has buds all over it, just waiting to look beautiful - I can't wait for them to open! The suspense is killing me!

    Old Yeller : 4 of 5

    This DVD was one of the original Vault Disney series, which I'm only just now getting around to buying and enjoying. I'm sure I saw this movie when I was younger (and I'm sure I cried), but I don't remember if it was in the theater or on TV. In any case, it was a joy to watch again - it really is a wonderful film, with excellent acting performances in an emotional story. I was amazed at some of the action sequences of Yeller fighting with the bear and the wolf - they are really impressive and well filmed! I got a boyish thrill from seeing all the "outdoor living" the kids experience, too - it actually makes farm life look kind of fun. Of course, the end is tragic, but Fess Parker's speech about life (as the dad to his son) is so moving to me - "A man can't afford to waste the good part, fretting about the bad." The second DVD of bonus material is incredible as usual, including interviews with the living actors, lots of information about how Yeller was trained, and a outstanding piece on the book's author and an Old Yeller monument erected in his hometown. This DVD set is a thorough tribute to an excellent film!


    The Tarzan Chronicles : 5 of 5

    I'm officially collecting Disney art books, and since I re-watched Tarzan recently, I decided to buy this one next. I can say right away that this may be the best of the bunch - I can't imagine a way to make this book better! It's huge, hardback, has a fantastic feel to it, and every page is bursting with fascinating information and artwork. All of the little details, like using a different texture of paper to start each new chapter, make simply holding and reading the book a joy! The book is organized into five sections, each one using the theme of one of the movie's songs as a structure, which works so well. In addition to a well-written narrative, each page has excerpts from journals kept by the animators, directors, and even Phil Collins that really peek into the frustrations and victories of this incredible creative process. The artwork is amazing, of course, and includes several fold-out pages that are simply beautiful. Everything presented here really instills a respect for the true art of animation, as well as songwriting (lots of interesting scraps of Phil's lyrical attempts are included, too). I really enjoyed my time spent with this book - I'm only sorry I've finished it!


    One blog is enough

    It's finally done! The old WEBmikey multi-blog design has now been gobbled up into the sleek one-blog design that you've been enjoying for the past few months. (At least I've been enjoying it!) The last section to go was Creativity, and now all those poems, songs, and papers are in the appropriate places in the timeline. I think most things look better now, and as a bonus, now I know there are 1,640 postings (counting this one) on WEBmikey! If anyone has read them all, please contact me for a super prize (after you pass a quiz, of course)!

    The Matrix Revolutions : 3 of 5

    Well, now I've finished the complete Matrix trilogy - I can't say that I fully understand what happened (can anyone?), but I was certainly entertained, and there were lots of exciting moments! The first part of the movie involves rescuing Neo from a kind of limbo, and I thought his conversations with the other "programs" were interesting. Once he's back, he has to face Smith in the real world, since Smith takes over another human (and the actor did a fine job of imitating Smith - I realized what was going on way before he said "Mr. Anderson"). The grand finale takes place in two spots - there's a big battle in Zion, and Neo and Trinity go to the Machine City. Of course, Trinity doesn't make it (I'm sure everyone expected that), and Neo gets to have his last battle with Smith in the Matrix. The fight is pretty cool, flying around in the rain and all, but the end is super weird (but "happy", I guess, though I really expected more finality to it). Anyway, I would have been happy if the original movie was it, but these two sequels have been fun. I can't deny they are really well made and creative, just not something I would want to watch again.


    Weekend walking

    This past weekend I took some nice walks around the Arboretum, which used to be one of my favorite walking routes when I lived next door. Even though I have to drive there now, it's still a fantastic walk! I have a two mile path mapped out that makes a large figure eight around the shops, the hotel, the office buildings, and the duck pond, so I get such a wonderful variety while I walk. There are sections with crowds, so I can watch couples with babies and cute girls shopping, and then sections where I'm all alone, so I can listen to birds. Part of the route is in the direct sun, and part is completely in the "forest". There's even variety in the terrain - hills, concrete, grass, and so on. And of course, the duck pond is always full of ducks and geese honking around. What a nice way to exercise!

    Blogger revamped their service over the weekend! It's pretty exciting, and everything seems to work, but I'm not sure if I'm totally going to take advantage of the new features. I have the most mixed feelings about the new built-in comments, because you have no control over the comment form, and they don't even have a place for the commenter to put their email or website! Maybe the next revision will be better, but for now I'll stick with HaloScan. (Someday I'll update my HaloScan template to something cool!)

    Phoenix: Dawn / Osamu Tezuka : 5 of 5

    I never dreamed that this volume of the Phoenix saga could be better than the last one (which is actually the second in the series), but I poured through this 340 page manga at top speed! Tezuka's Phoenix series is fascinating - it was designed to bounce back and forth between the extreme past and extreme future, eventually meeting in the middle at the present, presumably. This volume takes place in the distant past (the last I read was in the future), and it involves the pre-history of Japan, including epic battles, a mystical queen, and the friendship of a boy and his master (who is "reincarnated" in the future volume!). Of course, there are tons of other characters, and this book alone covers years and years of time - this is truly manga on a grand scale. The violence in this volume was pretty shocking to me (lots of death, killing animals, even babies), but it all works in a historical context. Through it all, the phoenix flies and is always reborn, preaching her message, "You must keep on living, because you have the right to!" I can't wait to keep reading this series as fast as they can translate them!


    Brother Bear / Original Soundtrack : 3 of 5

    I really enjoyed Brother Bear, both at the theater, on DVD, and reading about it in the art book that Ernesto got me, so I thought I should continue my collection of Disney soundtracks with this CD. It was interesting in listening to this soon after hearing the Tarzan soundtrack, since both of them feature Phil Collins songs, and even though I think I like the Tarzan songs better, these are some wonderful tunes. For this movie, Disney decided to have some other artists sing Phil's compositions, so unfortunately Tina Turner (yuck) sings a really cool song. The good thing is that most of the tracks also include a version with Phil, and it's nice to hear how he originally thought things should sound. Look Through My Eyes and No Way Out are my favorites, both with awesome crescendos of emotion. It's especially interesting to hear Phil's lyrics to Transformation (which plays when Kenai turns into a bear), since they were translated to Inuit and sung by the Bulgarian Women's Choir for the movie! There are only three non-vocal score tracks, and that's fine with me, since the songs are what make the soundtrack.


    The Muppets Take Manhattan : 2 of 5

    I'm continuing to watch the Muppet movies, but unfortunately they still aren't coming close to the fun of the original. That's not to say this third film isn't enjoyable, it's just doesn't have the pizazz of The Muppet Movie. This plot has the gang going to New York City to get their show produced on Broadway. We get to see Scooter ride a bike (guess that's a signature shot, now), and there are some cameos from the likes of Brooke Shields and the Sesame Street gang, but the best scene is when Miss Piggy dreams of all the Muppets together as babies (even though the song they sing is pretty bad), with Rowlf playing piano in diapers and little Gonzo crawling on all fours. Before the show opens, Kermit gets amnesia, which is cured by a Piggy karate chop, and then we get to see the big show as the final musical number. Kermit and Miss Piggy actually get married, and then the movie just ends - so abrupt that I was stunned! As I said, it's still a nice Muppet movie, but it leaves so much to be desired. I sure hope the next movie is better!


    Weekend freedom

    It's been nice to have a free weekend without homework or a test to study for! Yesterday I did some successful furniture shopping, mainly because I need more places to put my growing collection of Disney collectibles! I also dropped off a cool print to be framed - a limited edition of Pirates of the Caribbean artwork, actually signed by five Imagineers who worked on the attraction. The best signatures are of Alice Davis, who designed all the costumes worn by the Animatronic figures, and X. Atencio, who wrote the song! I also took a nice walk around the Arboretum, sat in my backyard drinking beer, and read long portions of three different books. Ahhhhh, free time!

    Happy Mothers Day to my fantastic mom, who gave me such a wonderful childhood that I'm going to keep living it for my entire life!

    The Magic Finger / Roald Dahl : 2 of 5

    It's hard to give a Roald Dahl story such a low WEBmikey rating, but even though The Magic Finger was cute and fun, it just didn't hold anything special for me. This by far the shortest Dahl story I've yet read, made even shorter by the rather large illustrations (which are good and make the story more interesting, but really keep the text to a minimum!). The idea is good, about a girl who can zap people with her finger when she gets mad (to right some kind of injustice, of course), but the story really isn't about her at all, but rather her neighbors who suffer from her power. She zaps them because they are cruel hunters, and so the family is turned into little people with duck wings, while the ducks become large with human hands, and so they switch places - the ducks move into the house, and the family must build a nest. It's definitely funny, and the family learns their lesson and all is restored, but I was missing that extra Dahl "something" to really make the story enchanting.


    Goodbye, Yesterday

    The former Yesterday section is now fully integrated into the new WEBmikey single blog design! It was pretty fun moving over my longer essays and things into the appropriate places, and now there's only one more section to go. Having only one blog has seriously helped me become a more active blogger - I've had a daily post for several months now (not counting vacation time)! To celebrate this accomplishment (woo hoo), now would be a good time for you to re-read my lengthy Japan journals from my 2000 trip and my 2003 trip. Doozo!

    Treasure Planet: A Voyage of Discovery : 4 of 5

    For quite a few years, Disney has produced an art book for each of their animated features, focusing on the many sketches, paintings, and other artwork that goes into making the film. I hadn't started collecting these books yet, until my cousin Clinton gave me this wonderful book for Christmas, and now I'm hooked. This particular art book features hundreds of pictures from Treasure Planet, which I think is a fantastic film (despite it's performance at the box office). I love seeing all of the different color paintings from the development phase, plus seeing the various technology firsts used in the movie: digital sets, the combination of 2D and 3D animation in the character of Silver, and the fantastic 70/30 rule (70% old world look and 30% science fiction look) that governed the design process. Even though this is a soft cover book, the format is large and the artwork is in fantastic color on quality paper. I had to watch Treasure Planet again immediately after reading this book. Looks like I'm going have to start a new collection of Disney art books!


    Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo : 3 of 5

    I always enjoy the latest Disney Winnie the Pooh stories, so I rented this DVD soon after it was released. The movie is really short (just barely over an hour), but it's still really exceptional, combining lots of unusual elements and pouring on the emotion (the folks who write these stories are geniuses at tugging heart-strings!). Even though the title mentions Roo (who is one of my favorites since he's so cute - I love it when he tries to do Tigger's laugh!), the story focuses mainly on Rabbit, who is such a bitch for the first half of the movie! In fact, the plot quickly turns into A Christmas Carol (except the holiday is Easter), with the narrator acting as the "ghosts". Tigger even has the line "What the Dickens? And I do mean Dickens!" The songs are pretty cute, even though one of them is totally a rip off from the Chicago soundtrack. For some reason, Owl is nowhere to be found - maybe he flew south for Spring? Anyway, I really enjoyed this DVD - it's not one to own, but an excellent choice to rent.


    See you next year, Disneyland

    Yesterday was a big day for the Disney parks! To commemorate the upcoming 50th anniversary of Disneyland, there was a huge event to announce The Happiest Celebration on Earth! There will be exciting new things going on at all 10 Disney parks around the world, but I'm most excited about seeing the new things in Anaheim after May next year. The new Space Mountain is supposed to have some nice new effects, and I'm sure the new parade will be wonderful. I think I'm most looking forward to the historical exhibit about the park's history, since I just love that stuff! The big show (in front of the castle, of course) featured singing, dancing, Art Linkletter (who hosted the original opening show in 1955), and even Julie Andrews! I watched the whole thing on MousePlanet, and my heart swelled when all the charcters ran out of the castle at the end - Disney really knows how to get me going!

    Fuddruckers : 4 of 5

    I kind of remember when Fuddruckers first opened when I lived in Oklahoma, and of course everyone loved to mispronounce the name. I first ate at Fuddruckers in Austin because my pal Shelly used to like it, so we ate there together a few times. For some reason, it slipped through my reviewer's fingers, but my pal Ryan and I ate at a brand new Fuddruckers recently (next to Lakeline Mall), so it's time to tell you what I think. The food is pretty darn good - burgers from 1/3 pound (the baby) all the way to one full pound. Their fries are like potato wedges and are nicely seasoned, and their chocolate shakes are the real thing. Plus, they give you the "extra" from the shake-maker machine, so it's like two shakes in one (I love it when places do that!). I would say the food is a strong 3 rating, but this new Fuddruckers gets a 4 because the interior is so cool! There are lots of semi-themed areas to sit in, with lots of different kinds of chairs - everything from wooden stools to full plush living room seating. We ate in a Tiki-themed place, under a thatched roof - Mikey's likes neato decor!


    Nihongo no kurasu is over!

    I just took my Japanese II final - I'm completely wiped out, but I'm so glad it's over! I've now completely finished a year of Japanese study, and I think I've learned a lot. I can read and write pretty quickly now (only 50 or so Kanji, but my Hiragana and Katakana is solid), and I can put together some complex sentences, too. Still, there's no way I could follow anime without subtitles, but I do catch many more phrases than I used to. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to continue on to Japanese III - this course was a ton of work and study, and although it was fun, I want that time back now to enjoy other things. I'm looking forward to making another trip Japan next year, and now I have the means to brush up a little before I go, so it should be a fun experience!

    Tarzan / Original Soundtrack : 3 of 5

    I recently watched my Tarzan DVD again, and I was overwhelmed with the movie as usual - the quality of animation, nice characterization, even the emotions (I always cry when Tarzan's ape father dies) are just right! Also as usual, I really enjoyed the music, mostly the Phil Collins songs, which do such an amazing job of moving the narrative along while keeping things upbeat. I decided to buy the full soundtrack, and it's been fun listening to it all together. All of Phil's songs are excellent (even though I'm not totally a Phil fan), and the CD has both the film versions and pop single versions. I don't really think Trashin' the Camp is so great, but you can't win them all. The rest of the CD has the incidental music, which is great in some places, but for the most part is pretty snoozy. It's a shame that a different composer was used, so he doesn't take advantage of the themes that Phil's songs have established (except for one small excerpt of You'll Be in my Heart). Tarzan is a marvelous movie, and the CD is pretty cool, too.


    The Umbrellas of Cherbourg : 5 of 5

    I first saw this movie back in 2000 and immediately fell in love with it, buying the amazing soundtrack almost right away. Several weeks ago I started listening to the soundtrack again, and I wanted to see the movie so badly that I thought I should by the DVD - only to find out it had been discontinued! Luckily, there has been a re-release of this incredible film, so at last I own it and got to watch it again. I can't even begin to describe the unique beauty of this movie - it's got to be in my Top 10 movies of all time (if I could ever decide on only ten!). The entire movie is really an opera - every single line is sung, but still delivered as if it's spoken. The music is outstanding, filled with drama and jazz at the same time. Visually, the film is overflowing with color - tons of bright, contrasting colors add emotion to each scene, and the acting is fantastic, too, with a young Catherine Deneuve looking absolutely heavenly. There's a short documentary on the DVD, too, which describes how the film makers planned all the audience tears! They actually wrote on the score, "First Hanky", "Second Hanky" and so on, and for me, they were absolutely right.


    Fruits and veggies

    I have 38 Dole Fruit Cups in my refrigerator - I love 'em! How long do you think it will take for me to eat them all? Place your bets now! Speaking of food, I've been enjoying a new bag salad lately. Years ago I did some silly diet that involved spinach leaves, so I never thought I would eat spinach again. But recently my pal Conrad brought over a bag of Fresh Express baby spinach for the usual Sunday Sopranos pizza night, and I loved it! Now I'm buying it regularly - it's just fantastic with Brianna's Asagio Caesar dressing (which I switched to since HEB stopped carrying Drew's). I never thought I could be so excited about eating leaves.

    Jedi Quest 8: The Changing of the Guard / Jude Watson : 3 of 5

    It was great to read another Jedi Quest book, since I read the previous one in December! This story wasn't the best of the series, but it definitely had some great moments, both from a character and action standpoint. The plot involves the Jedi disguising themselves as a gang of thieves so they can fit in on a criminal refugee planet and capture the dreaded Jenna Zan Arbor, one of the villains who keeps popping up in these books. There are some funny moments as Obi-Wan has be a "dandy" in flowing robes, and Siri, another Jedi Master, has to flirt and be charming. There is a fantastic conversation between Ferus, Anakin's Padawan rival, and Obi-Wan about Anakin and his troubles - usually the character development comes from Anakin's thoughts, but it was interesting to learn more from other characters' speech. The end of the book picks up the pace with a nice battle and an appearance by Mace Windu for good measure, and of course, the evil schemes all point to Granta Omega, the villain from the older Jedi Apprentice series who just won't go away!


    The Full Monty : 4 of 5

    I decided to check out this Broadway touring production at the last minute - I bought my ticket just a few hours before the show, and I ended up front row center (there's always great single seats available)! The advantage to this location was not only did I have an amazing view of the show, but I was also looking down into the orchestra pit so I could watch the excellent band. The show was funnier that I expected - I haven't seen the movie, so I didn't really know the plot (except for the obvious, inevitable finale!). The performers were all excellent, especially Horse, getting the whole audience laughing with his funky, old-man dancing, and Malcolm, who had the best voice by far. My favorite numbers were Big-Ass Rock, which is the most hilarious friendship song ever, and Life with Harold, because the gal playing Harold's wife had just the right charisma. In general, the pacing of the show is a little off - the first act is mostly funny songs and the second is mostly ballads, but of course, the final number was great, with the female performers standing in the audience so they could scream at the guys, and a clever lighting effect to hide what everyone thinks was dangling up on the stage!


    Spiking Ren & Stimpy

    I've been watching a lot of Ren & Stimpy lately, since Spike TV has been showing all the classic episodes again. I love seeing these hilarious episodes, but I have to complain about the commercial inserts! For whatever reason, they have completely ignored the original places where the commercials where supposed to go, and inserted their own in the most irritating places. The worst offense was in one my favorite episodes, Rubber Nipple Salesmen. There's a fantastic scene where the boys ring the doorbell of Mr. Horse, and he goes into a big spooky dialogue (which ends with a poor walrus whispering, "Call the police!" - you just have to see it to know what the heck I'm talking about). Anyway, they inserted a commercial right in the middle of this scene - total blasphemy! Stop spoiling my Ren & Stimpy, Spike TV!

    Johnny English : 2 of 5

    Rowan Atkinson can be a pretty funny guy (I used to love the original Mr. Bean skits), but his schtick is getting a bit old. In spite of that, Johnny English is fairly entertaining - I had to watch it in a couple sessions, since it got a little boring in the middle, but I still managed to laugh out loud a few times. No need to go into plot details - Johnny is the worst secret agent possible, up against John Malcovich as a Frenchman who wants to be King of England. There should have been more gadget jokes, if you ask me (of course, they got a car ejector seat in there, which I saw coming a mile away), but there were some great scenes - especially when Johnny pulls down the pants of the Archbishop of Canterbury on international television! Crawling up the sewer pipe and getting pooped on was definitely going to far, and so was the silly romance with Natalie Imbruglia (though I liked the close-ups on her eyes). Anyway, the movie is only 88 minutes, so at least I didn't waste too much time and got a few giggles out of it.