The Three Musketeers : 4 of 5

I pre-ordered this DVD so I would get it on the day it was released, but I've only just had a chance to watch it today! Most people don't realize that there has never been a Disney feature-length film starring Mickey, Donald and Goofy together (plenty of short cartoons, but no actual movie) - until now. I guess a direct-to-DVD release counts, though I wish they would have released this to the big screen. Our three pals play royal janitors in 17th century France, who are called to be Musketeers to protect Princess Minnie. Of course, Pete is the bad guy, and the fast-paced, action-packed story is filled with funny music (composed by putting hilarious lyrics to classical melodies that everyone knows)! There are lots of funny gags, including sudden costume changes from their Musketeer garb into their classic costumes, plus the idea that no one understands what Donald is saying is really funny. I'm becoming a big fan of DisneyToon Studios, because they are creating some downright entertaining stuff and keeping 2D animation alive! I think they did a great job of capturing the feel of the 30s and 40s shorts in a longer story format, and it was great to see Mickey, Donald and Goofy (and everyone else) together in a creative story!


Mahoromatic: Automatic Maiden / Original Soundtrack : 3 of 5

I've actually never bought an anime soundtrack before, but I enjoyed Mahoromatic so much, that I thought it would be fun to hear the cool songs again (from the first season of the series). This CD has tons of short tracks on it, but of course the best are the opening and closing songs, which are longer versions than heard in the show. On the Way Home, the opening song, is so wonderful - I really like the cute voice that sings it, and the images of Mahoro staring out the window of the train at sunset always come back to me. The closing Mahoro de Mambo is catchy and hilarious, and nearly impossible for me to try to sing, but I love it! The other tracks switch between really fun, light-hearted background music and serious "battle" music. The titles are pretty unusual, such as Grade 8 Division 4 Everyone, but most of the tracks are great. As a bonus, there are vocal tracks of Mahoro wishing you good morning, good night, and even counting down three minutes until your ramen noodles are done!


Disney on Ice / Monsters, Inc. : 5 of 5

This was only my second Disney on Ice show - my first featured scenes from The Jungle Book, Tarzan and The Lion King. I loved that show, but I think I enjoyed this one even more! When I heard they were doing Monsters, Inc. on ice, I was curious how they could make the wacky designs of the various creatures work. Well, all I can say is they did it! When you see an 8-foot tall Sully and a big green Mike skating around, you know they've accomplished translating these great characters into amazing costumes. Almost every character is here, from all the obscure monsters on the Scare Floor, to the huge slug Roz and the even bigger crab-like boss of the company (I think someone must have been "driving" him around like a mini-float). The show goes through the entire plot, including nearly all the dialogue track from the actual movie. A few extra dance numbers are added, such as a bizarre yet cool sequence where a bunch of girls and acrobatic guys dance to Winter Wonderland (they left out the Yeti to make room). Some of the extra music choices are a surprise - a song from Chicago and even Mr. Roboto by Styx! Mickey and the gang made an appearance, too, and I had a great time waving to them.

View photos: Monsters on Ice


Dirty Beasts / Roald Dahl : 3 of 5

Another one of the short Dahl books, this one is full of funny rhyming poetry about all kinds of mean animals (although the title sounds a little nasty!). For some reason, this is a larger format book - about magazine size. Each poem has great color illustrations and takes up a page or two. I had a lot of fun reading these out loud, and I'm sure kids would love to hear them! All of the poems are kind of scary and funny at the same time - I'll bet a few of them would have stuck in my head in when I was little, but some kids just like to be scared, I guess. Lots of them have to do with being eaten - a pig eats a farmer, a crocodile eats some kids with mustard, and even an anteater eats an "aunt"! There's a hilarious flying cow poem, too, and you can imagine the last illustration on that one (I was pretty surprised they drew it)! Most of Dahl's books have some sort of verse in them, so it was fun to real a whole book of his clever rhymes.


Enjoying Sailor Moon

I've been a closet Sailor Moon fan since I got hooked on it a few years ago when some station was showing it super-early in the morning right when I woke up. I had read a lot about Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon - a live-action version of the anime currently showing in Japan (and just about to finish the series), so I found some VCDs of the show on eBay and snatched them up (over 40 episodes!). I am totally thrilled to be watching this show for so many reasons! I like the Sailor Moon story (which is pretty interesting in spite of the ridiculous parts), I like hearing Japanese and figuring out phrases, I like the cheesy CG special effects (pretty much on par with the Power Rangers shows), I like the cool theme song, and I like watching cute Japanese girls (can't blame me for that!). On top of that, and here comes the weird part, I find the show strangely inspirational. The Sailor Scouts are always "doing their best" and fighting through tough circumstances, and I admire that attitude. I've had some busy weeks lately, and seeing a few episodes of this show has helped to lift my mood. Ganbarimasu!


The Vicar of Nibbleswicke / Roald Dahl : 3 of 5

This really short story (only 40 pages, with a large color illustration on each page among the huge type) was written in the last months of Dahl's life, but it has some incredibly funny moments! It's about a priest who develops "selective dyslexia" (the proceeds of the book even went to the Dyslexia Institute) when he becomes nervous about his new parish - he starts to say just a few words in his sentences backwards. You can imagine all the hilarious situations - only Dahl would figure out that "knits" backwards is "stink"! The best scene is when he tells the congregation not to park in front of the church, and of course, "park" becomes "krap"! (I completely burst out laughing when I read this part!) The illustrations are nice and the whole book is in color (much the same format as The Enormous Crocodile), but I wish it had taken me longer than seven minutes to finish. Still, I like these short books, too!


Lost in Translation / Original Soundtrack : 5 of 5

You already know that I completely love this movie, so I had to get the soundtrack which adds so much emotion to an already fantastic film. A good portion of the tracks on this CD are original compositions written especially for the movie, and they fit certain scenes and situations so well (for example, the track Ikebana just evokes images of flower arranging for me). There are a few contemporary tracks by bands such as My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus & Mary Chain, which I normally wouldn't have a desire to listen to, but in the context of the soundtrack, they are just essential (I have no idea how they make guitar distortion so incredibly full!). There's one cool song in Japanese, Kaze Wo Atsumete, which has a wonderfully laid-back feel that's fun to sing along with. Listening to this CD in the car is a treat - even though most of it is semi-ambient, it just makes my mind work in different ways, causing me to look at clouds and trees with deeper feeling, all accompanied by some fantastically interesting music. (Don't forget to listen to Bill Murray sing karaoke on the hidden track!)


Napoleon Dynamite : 3 of 5

I hadn't even heard of this film when my pal Chris showed me the trailer, so we decided to go this weekend. If you're a geek like me, you tend to like movies about geeks, but Napoleon Dynamite takes geek to a whole new level. It's really a bizarre movie, and hard to describe, because there really isn't a single "normal" character in it. Napoleon is a strange lanky kid who wears unicorn T-shirts, draws "ligers" (combination of a lion and a tiger), and closes his eyes when he talks. He lives at home with his weird brother, who spends all day chatting online with his girlfriend, and when their grandmother takes a spill on her dune buggy, their disturbing uncle, who desperately wants to live in 1982, stays with them (told you it was strange!). There really isn't much of a plot - just Napoleon having adventures with his friends Pedro (who shaves his head when he gets hot and has to wear a wig) and Deb (who takes glamor shots in her basement). The typical "popular gal" at school is played by Hilary Duff's sister Haylie, but she doesn't get much screen time. There's plenty of funny moments to keep you laughing, but most of the time I was just floored by the weirdness of what I was watching!


Devoted to Disney

The latest issue of Disney Magazine has an article on Tony Baxter, one of Disney's Imagineers who designed many of the more recent attractions at Disneyland, and it includes some incredible photos of his completely custom-designed house. It looks like a cross between a gothic mansion and a medieval castle, and it's absolutely filled with Disney memorabilia, including a ride vehicle from Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, sitting in his TV room (which has a giant plasma screen embedded in the wall above a fireplace, of course)! There are built-in shelves everywhere, all containing Disney knick-knacks, most of which are one of a kind, historical items. I wish I could take a tour!

Speaking of Disney fans, I watched a cool show on the Travel Channel that followed several families and friends on their day at Walt Disney World. One of the groups was three single gals, and the ring leader was Joslyn. They had some interview snippets where she talked about how Disney is a part of her everyday life, and they showed some video of her house, with Disney pictures on the walls - she even had a shelf of die-cast ride vehicles just like me! She was cute, professional, and a Disney maniac - I think she should move to Austin!


Phoenix: Karma / Osamu Tezuka : 5 of 5

This latest tale in the Phoenix series (actually the fifth story) is considered by many to be the best of the whole set, and I can definitely see why. The story is set in 8th century Japan and tells how the lives of Gao, a thief and murderer who becomes a Buddhist priest, and Akanemaru, the famous sculptor of the Great Buddha at Nara, intertwine and affect each other. The story is masterfully crafted (with almost no humorous interjections), with tons of emotion and fantastic pacing - it was tough for me to not read it all at once, but I wanted to make it last! The Phoenix herself only appears in visions to the two men, but she shows glimpses into other volumes of the story (both past and future). Since I've read a little bit about Buddhism (while studying Beat poetry), I was fascinated to see that this story explains Buddhist philosophy better than anything else I've read! The artwork is beautiful, featuring many of Tezuka's reproductions of ancient Japanese art and culture. I simply can't say enough about this book - it certainly blows away the last volume, which was already wonderful! I'm going to go crazy waiting for the next one.


Happy commitment!

It's been a year since my pals Jonathan & Lisa had their first commitment ceremony, and since they've decided to have one yearly, last weekend was the big day. This year had a Hawaiian theme, since they recently returned from a Hawaii trip, so we all took turns stringing flowers (using an authentic lei needle) to make leis for both of them. Both Jonathan's and Lisa's mothers were able to attend this time, which made it extra special for everybody, and to top it all off, Jonathan made Mai Tais (deeelicious!). It was a wonderful afternoon with my friends, and I'm so proud to be a part of such a cool group of people. Congratulations, Jonathan & Lisa!

View photos: Commitment Ceremony 2004


Morning Musume / Best Vol 1 : 4 of 5

I first heard of Morning Musume during my first trip to Japan, and my pal Barron gave me some trading cards and a cool mouse pad featuring the smiling faces of these 10 ultra-cute girls. That's right, Morning Musume is a pop group of 10 teenagers, kind of like a Japanese girl Menudo (when they grow up, they leave to form other bands and new girls take over). Later, my pal Matt showed me a hilarious (but strangely compelling) video for Love Revolution, and I was totally hooked. I found this CD for a good price during an import sale, and I've listened to it several hundred times (at least). Of course, I only know enough Japanese to understand a phrase or two now and then, but the songs are incredibly upbeat and cute! I think they manage to get a "Yay!" and a few "Oooh Oooh!" in each and every track, even the ballads. Some of the melodies are actually pretty cool, and there are a couple of semi-hip hop tunes that kind of groovy. All I know is I like it, and I'm looking forward to buying Volume 2 (which I hear is even better) soon!


Emergency groceries

It's definitely true that you shouldn't go grocery shopping when you're hungry, but I had absolutely no food in the house so I decided to make a late evening trip. I ended up with a few things I never buy, like Kraft Easy Mac and Mother's Macaroon cookies (both of which were for dinner). Yum! Definitely not that nutritious, but it's pretty cool that you can make an orange macaroni and cheese dinner without milk or butter, though.

I should have said Happy Birthday to my dad in yesterday's post! No worries, I still got him a card and gift on time.


Good while it lasted

Tonight I ate some Pop Secret Crispy Glazed microwave caramel corn. I remember seeing the commercials and thinking, "What a cool microwave innovation!" Well, it's definitely not as good as the real thing (I'll always remember getting caramel corn with my dad while shopping at the mall), but it's not too bad either. The bag is really heavy because of all the goo in there ready to heat up, and the directions make a big deal about hot it gets - you even have to handle the bag with a potholder! The result is a great break from the usual microwave popcorn, and I love how some of it sticks together (kind of like the popcorn balls my grandma used to make). Plus the entire house smells like caramel for hours!

News flash! I was just looking for a picture to go with this post when I read (here's the press release) that this product has been "voluntarily recalled"! I guess that caramel goo is hotter than I thought! Man, I don't know if I can go back to the regular stuff now.


Searching for the Heroes

Every now and then I like searching for references to my bands on the web, and I found an amazing page with lots of photos from a past Greatest American Heroes gig! The author is Chance McCoy - she's a Texas Rollergirl and has a cool website. She was there when the Heroes played with Jerm Pollet (of Mr. Sinus fame), and even got a great photo of Jerm and me (which I had no idea was taken).

Visit site

I watched another episode of Justice League Unlimited, and I figured out what bugs me about the music. The guitars sound too much like the Flash Gordon soundtrack by Queen, using those high-pitched harmonies in the melody (like a lot of Queen guitar solos). I think the Flash Gordon soundtrack is cool, but it doesn't fit with the dramatic feel of Justice League Unlimited - the former music (more traditionally orchestrated) was way better in my opinion.


Good show, bad show

I was a big fan of the animated series Justice League on Cartoon Network, and after the awesome show finale, I had big expectations for the show's successor, Justice League Unlimited. I finally got around to watching the first episode on TiVo, and I'm totally impressed! The opening scenes of the huge orbiting spaceport filled with hundreds of heroes (plus lots of "civilians" doing the mundane work - I wonder if Bruce Wayne pays them?) really got things off to a great start. It seems like each episode will focus on a small team of heroes, so I'm hoping we'll get to cycle through a bunch of cool superfolks. This episode featured Green Lantern (from the previous series), Green Arrow, Supergirl (cute and snotty), and some dude made of energy named Captain Atom. It was fun to see a disjointed team interact and fight a monster in China! The only I don't like is the new music - way to groovy to keep the intensity of the action going.

On the other hand, the last Teen Titans episode I saw was the worst ever! This one was about some alternate universe Robin (named Larry) who pops into the Titans' world and turns everything into goofy crayon drawings. There was almost nothing good about this one (except maybe Beast Boy talking backwards, which was kind of funny). I hope this lousy episode was just a fluke (but at least Justice League Unlimited will keep me happy)!


The Enormous Crocodile / Roald Dahl : 3 of 5

Most of the Dahl books left for me to read are really short ones (though I do still have a couple long ones yet to read), and The Enormous Crocodile is a perfect example. It's shorter than the average Dr. Seuss book, but still rather entertaining, due to the excellent color illustrations on every page. The story is about a huge crocodile (big surprise) who decides to leave the jungle to find some kids to eat. Along the way he brags to the other jungle animals, and so when he tries to fool the kids with his clever tricks, he's thwarted by the friendly hippo, monkey, bird, and elephant. The ending is really abrupt, but I guess that's to be expected. There are a few funny Dahl rhymes when the crocodile sings about how he loves the taste of children - I'm always happy to read some of his funny poetry! Guess I need to order another Dahl book soon.


Getting in character

In case you were looking for another example of my Disney insanity, I just watched a two-DVD set of Disney character training videos! These were produced in the mid-70s to show Cast Members how to put on the costumes, how to act like the character, ways to interact with people and so on. They are totally fascinating! Each one includes a little history of the character, and lots of scenes of the character working with kids in Disneyland (so there are lots of great park shots showing things that are gone now, like Skull Rock and the Pirate Ship, plus the Skyway!). They make a big deal out of not talking, except for the "face characters" (and in Snow White's case, they even have an example of how she should talk). Some of the details are unusual - did you know there is a specific order when the Seven Dwarfs walk single file? I think playing Mowgli from The Jungle Book would have to be the most embarrassing - you just run around in red underwear! And the Tigger tail looks uncomfortable, since it straps to your back - it looks pretty heavy!


A visit from Dae

Last weekend my pal Dae flew in from Los Angeles for a visit. We had a great time running around town and doing stuff with Ernesto, Chris, Jonathan and the rest of the gang. When he went home on Sunday, I was pretty tired and completely full of food (from two BBQ dinners and IHOP for breakfast), but it was worth it! Here's some of the fun highlights:

  • We walked eight miles (according to SportBrain) around the UT campus and visited one of Dae's old colleagues. The chemical engineering building was cool - tons of papers tacked on the walls and bookshelves full of the latest issues of Polymer magazine! We also went to some campus museums and saw some dinosaur bones, then played some frisbee in Zilker Park (close enough to watch bikinis at Barton Springs!).

  • We rented a pontoon boat and drove around Lake Travis (one of Dae's favorite activities), stopping to swim and eat some junk food. After the lake we ate some BBQ and took a two hour nap!

  • My jazz combo Stella had a gig while Dae was here, so Dae borrowed a guitar from Chris and sat in on a few songs. Ernesto sat in on his sax, so it was a Day Jobs mini-reunion! Chris played a song with us, too - it was one of the most fun Stella gigs ever.

    View photos: Dae's Visit 2004
  • 8.10.2004

    Astro Boy Vol 13 : 4 of 5

    This was a particularly good Astro Boy volume because 90% of it is one long story called Zoloman's Jewels, about a strange "organic" robot who rises up out of a lake to search for a precious stone called the Teardrop of Serius. Astro is joined by three other cool robots to help protect the stone - Tezuka was so imaginative when it comes to thinking up different kinds of robots! I especially liked one who carries a bag of different noses that he snaps on for tools and weapons. The story takes a bizarre turn when we discover that the stone is a miniature world! Astro and Dr. Ochanomizu are shrunk down, and in their adventures on the world, the Doctor is killed - I couldn't believe it! (Nothing to worry about, though - of course!) After this great long story, there are a couple of short ones, including a touching tale about a robot who is built to lie to his dying mother. At the very end is a brief history of Tezuka's first Astro ideas and works - I always enjoy when he draws himself talking to the audience, so I'm glad they included these pages in this volume!


    Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen : 2 of 5

    I think Lindsay Lohan, who seems to be Disney's current teen-gal of the moment, is a pretty good actress. Her comic timing is great (as she showed in Freaky Friday), and in this movie we get to see that she's not a bad singer and dancer, too. Unfortunately, this particular film just didn't have any sparkle for me. Lindsay plays a New York gal who moves to New Jersey and tells some lies to make new friends and seem interesting, and then the story becomes The Boy Who Cried Wolf when her dream of meeting her rock star idol comes true and no one believes her. A rock production of My Fair Lady is thrown in for good measure, along with the typical bitchy girl, who is actually so mean that I got sick of watching her! Disney tries to make this a "dreams come true" movie, but there's just no depth to the characters - maybe there were too many pop hits in the background to distract me. On the plus side, it's still a fast-paced movie that's fairly fun, and Lindsay's tops get tighter and tighter in each scene. She's a little too Peppermint Patty to be as cute as Hilary, but I'll have to admit she probably has a little more real talent. Now they just need to give her some better movies to make!


    Lilo & Stitch: Collected Stories from the Film's Creators : 5 of 5

    When I first saw this book on Amazon, I didn't even realize it was part of the usual Disney art book series. It's certainly the most unusual of the art books I've read so far, but I enjoyed it just as much as the best of them! The book is divided into several chapters, each written by one of the folks who worked on Lilo & Stitch, and each of them tell a story about their experiences working on the movie. In many cases, they don't even talk much about the film itself, but instead tell a funny anecdote or a favorite memory that helped them come up with an idea, but all of them write in a very personal style that feels like they're talking to you over coffee. Of course, every page is filled with beautiful artwork - the ratio of production stills to backgrounds and sketches is perfect, since the truly amazing watercolor backgrounds of the movie really deserve to shine! The story sketches are fantastic, too, with most of them drawn by the story's creators - it's fascinating how the look of the film was clearly defined so early into the process of making the film. Rather than the usual huge hardback, this book is just a large format paperback, but the quality of the paper really makes the colors pop! I completely enjoyed this unusual way to present a Disney art book - I'm going to re-watch the movie as soon as I can!


    Battle Athletes Victory Vol 7 : 3 of 5

    Well, the Great Competition is finally over, and I'm sure no one who's watched this anime was surprised that the next Cosmo Beauty is Akari! This volume was a little shorter than the others with only three episodes, but they were really good ones (by the way, I like how this series puts all the episodes together like one long movie - better than watching the opening and closing credits over and over!). First, Akari and Kris put away those mean butch girls in the semi-finals (where they play a cool kind of 3D air hockey) - the whole message of enjoying sports is the theme, rather than agonizing over a brutal competition. Akari and Kris start communicating with a kind of telepathy, and grow closer together than ever. Then there is a big shockwave at University Satellite, and they have to postpone the finals to repair the track! Kris has to break her faith (some moon religion) to compete, and the big 10 second 100 meter dash fills an entire episode. Kris reveals she has to go back to the moon to become a priestess, so Akari loses another "girlfriend". There's only one more DVD left, which promises to be an entirely new plot for the last four episodes. I sure hope the other girls come back for the end!


    American Idol / PlayStation 2 : 2 of 5

    I bought this game on a whim for a few reasons. It was really cheap, it claimed to be playable with a dance mat, and it helped me get free shipping on an Amazon order (I buy lots of stuff for that reason alone!). I've only played through the whole game a few times, and it's kind of fun, but there's one major complaint that gives it a low rating for me. The dance mat works fine, and I can even get used to the unusual way steps are displayed, but what I hate is that "extra" steps are penalized! I couldn't believe it. In Dance Dance Revolution, extra steps don't matter, as long as you hit the right steps. With the American Idol system, you have to stand still when you aren't stepping, which is boring and hard to do on a dance mat. Well, with that aside, there are good points to the game. Of course, you play through the whole show, from auditions to heats to the studio and then to the final. You get to hear all the goofy comments (by CG versions of Simon and the others) and see a few live clips. The music you dance/sing to is really great - they did a good job getting songs everyone knows and likes! The really funny thing is that the "dancing" controls your skill of singing. When you make good steps, the voice is on pitch, but when you mess up, the singing is awful! I spend most of the game cracking up at the bad singing - it's really funny! I'm sure I would play much more often if they got that stepping system right.


    Jedi Quest 9: The False Peace / Jude Watson : 3 of 5

    As the Jedi Quest series continues, Anakin gets closer and closer to Palpatine (and we all know he's the future Emperor!). In this story there are several scenes where they're alone together, and the author does a great job of getting Palpatine to plant the seeds of uncertainty that will later push him to the Dark Side! This particular plot is pretty good, although it has several dead-ends that are kind of frustrating. There are tons of characters to keep track of - both from the movies and previous books in the series, including the main villains (Granta Omega and Jenna Zan Arbor), who we've been chasing through almost the whole set of books. My favorite part of the story is a huge battle in the senate chamber - since we've seen that giant set in the films, it's easy to imagine it full of seeker droids and Jedi Knights hopping from pod to pod to protect the senators! There's also a scene in Dexter's Diner, which we saw in these books before it was featured in Attack of the Clones, and most of the book takes place on Coruscant. Near the end there is the first hint of a huge evil plot - I have a feeling these books are going to draw to a close soon (but not too soon, I hope)!


    Good bye, slow PC

    I recently got a new PC to replace my ancient Pentium II 350 Mhz. Even though I'm completely satisfied with my iMac and iBook, it's nice to have a Windows PC around for the odd website or software that needs a PC (I've been using Microsoft Money for years - I just don't like Quicken!). I got a really great deal on a Dell Dimension 4600 (you can constantly find great deals on Got Apex), and it arrived quickly. Now I have a nice peppy PC with a LCD monitor and I can balance my finances faster that ever before - I can also check out the special computer features on my Disney DVDs, since most of them are Windows only! When I hooked everything up I was really impressed with how well Mac OS X works with Windows XP - I can print to my printer that's hooked up to my iMac, and even share iTunes music with ease. Now I have to get rid of my antique PC, since my loft is full of computers!

    Wishes / Walt Disney World : 3 of 5

    I think it's cool how Disney produces CDs for park fans. It's nice to be able to watch a parade or a fireworks show, and then take home the music (some of which is composed just for that event). This time, I bought the CD first! Wishes is the current fireworks spectacular at Walt Disney World, which I'll be seeing in less than two months! I had read that the soundtrack was really cool, which prompted me to order it, and it's definitely good. As expected, this is a skillful blend of classic Disney tunes from just about every animated feature, but what makes this soundtrack different is the use of character voices. Jiminy Cricket narrates and tries to convince us that wishes really come true, and then tons of other characters tell us what they wish for. The Blue Fairy shows up at the finale (after the villains are dispatched, of course), and we learn that our hearts of full of wishes, which are the true magic in the world. OK, I'm convinced! It's a short CD, but I'm glad I have it - it will be even more fun to listen to after I've seen the show!


    Astro Boy Vol 12 : 3 of 5

    This book has another great round of Astro Boy adventures, that I read slowly over time (usually in the bathroom, the traditional Astro Boy reading place). There are four stories here, starting with a long one called Roboids (who are some weird life form that want to study Earth and destroy all the regular robots!). There's a cool guest-star robot named Box who has a few special powers that he can use only once, and after he uses them all, he'll be destroyed. Some of the powers are pretty goofy, like shooting out his eyeballs like missiles (which leaves him blind!), but I still liked the concept anyway. Astro discovers how to teleport to the Roboid ship and makes friends with a little Roboid boy, but then has a final confrontation with the boy's father, the Roboid commander! The next story is a short murder mystery, and then there's a weird one called Youth Gas that features Astro's brother, Cobalt - they even have to fight (since they are in rival schools)! Astro pretends to be destroyed and later shows up as a robo-Ninja. The final story is pretty goofy, but fun - all the robots go crazy because they are receiving TV signals from another planet as dreams. There are no Tezuka cameos in this volume, unfortunately.


    Visiting Shamu

    Last weekend I spent a day at SeaWorld San Antonio with my pal Melinda. I hadn't been to a marine park since I visited SeaWorld San Diego a million years ago on a business trip, so it was cool to see some great animal shows again! The Shamu show is absolutely amazing, just because these huge beasts are so beautiful and graceful in spite of their size. Watching the trainers swim with them made me want to jump in (of course, the temperature in the 90s was also a factor). Besides some other cool shows, we also rode most of the rides, including the Steel Eel, so I can now say I've ridden a hypercoaster (I think the definition is pretty hazy, but it might have something to do with the 150-foot drop and 65 MPH speed)! SeaWorld definitely doesn't compare to a Disney park, but it was a great 10 hour day of shows, rides and sun!

    View photos: SeaWorld 2004

    Meco / The Best of Meco : 4 of 5

    Back when I was raking in the Star Wars figures and wearing an R2-D2 necklace, a guy named Meco Menardo was jumping on the disco bandwagon by jazzing up movie soundtracks with plenty of horns and bass. I had at least three albums that I can remember, and I listened to them over and over (in fact, I remember practicing my drums by playing with these tunes, when I should have been working on my double-stroke roll!). I recently stumbled upon this collection at the iTunes Music Store, and I just had to get it. As soon as I heard those TIE fighters scream and Chewie growl, the memories came flooding back! There are several Star Wars tunes here, like Cantina Band, the Imperial March, and even the cool Asteroid Field music, but my favorite is the giant Star Wars medley - it's over 15 minutes long (and that's a long time to hear a disco beat!). This CD also includes the awesome themes from Star Trek and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, plus The Wizard of Oz! The middle of the album has several original compositions - some are vaguely interesting, but they don't compare to the genius (can disco be genius?) of those great soundtracks!


    Hoping for more

    After finishing the art book, I watched The Hunchback of Notre Dame again, and was once again amazed at the beauty of the artwork and animation. Every since Disney announced they wouldn't be making any more 2D animated features, I always feel a little sad when I watch a great movie like this one. I know that 3D animation can be amazing, and that the storytelling is what really makes a great picture, but I just can't help feeling what a great loss it will be if no more films like this are actually made! I tried to imagine how some of the scenes would look in computer generated style, and right now I can't see how they could capture the same magic. There's just something about seeing all those drawings move, and realizing the humanity behind the visuals - there something so compelling about it! I truly hope that Disney will make an exception to their new "rule" in the future.

    The Art of The Hunchback of Notre Dame / Stephen Rebello : 5 of 5

    Now this is what a Disney art book should be like! The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of my favorite "modern" Disney movies, so I'm glad this book really does it justice. This is a nice huge book (even bigger than the book for Tarzan!) simply filled to overflowing with fantastic production art, storyboards, and other development pieces. It includes some excellent multi-page spreads, including some that fold out to make a full four-page layout (one contains a semi-complete storyboard sequence for the song Hellfire, which is simply fascinating to study). However, what really makes this book soar is the text - the author has really taken the time to tell not only how the movie was made, but he goes into great detail about Victor Hugo's original novel (with lots of quotations, too). Nearly every decision the artists made is backed up by its inspiration from the original Hugo text. There's even historical discussions to explain major concepts, such as gypsies and the Feast of Fools (I had no idea it was a real event!). I can't wait to watch the movie again after finishing this amazing book - it's always nice to see a wonderful movie again with a new sense of appreciation!