1.31.2005

Rufus Wainwright / Poses : 4 of 5

My pal Dae is a master mix-maker, and usually sends me a great mix-CD every year around Christmas. The CD from 2003 included Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk by Rufus Wainwright, and it's been popping up on iTunes so much lately that I had to buy the whole album to see what Rufus was all about. This is an incredible CD, although the songs are sometimes so tragic that I can't keep it in the car for more than a few days in the row. Rufus writes terribly beautiful lyrics, mostly about lost love, mistakes in life, dealing with inner conflict, and simply surviving as a flawed human. His words are completely poetic, and they are combined with some of the best orchestration I've ever heard on a "pop" album - fantastic string arrangements and woodwinds combine with keyboards and guitar to produce theater-quality music (indeed, most of these songs sound like they could have been in modern Broadway shows). This is one of those rare CDs that I had to take the time to listen to completely in one sitting, following the lyrics in the liner notes. The cuts range from the hauntingly sad title track Poses to the upbeat (but still slightly dark) California. Dae picked out the best cut, of course, but I think The Tower of Learning is a close second. I'm definitely going to check out more of Rufus' work, as soon as I can handle the emotional strain!

1.30.2005

Watashi no tanjoobi desu!

I can't believe it's already my birthday again! I've now reached the age where I don't really want to say how old I am (but it's under 40!). I'm still 8-years-old inside, though, and that's where I'm staying. My parents bought me three fantastic gifts, which you'll hear about in future WEBmikey posts (the first is just below)! Last night my pals Chris and Eliza hosted a triple-birthday wine tasting party, and it was lots of fun! I got some great gifts, and the party was full of friends, food, and yummy wine (including a cool Japanese plum wine!). It's so nice to have wonderful friends!

View photos: Birthday Wine Tasting

Taiko Drum Master : 4 of 5

This awesome rhythm game from Japan finally made it to the US just before Christmas, so I decided to get it as one of my birthday presents from my parents. I knew this would be a fun game, but I never expected it to be so wonderful, mainly because the graphics and characters are so cute that it's criminal! The first time I started it up and the opening music and animation began, I swear I was laughing out loud for so long I couldn't even play (it's a funny little cartoon that has the characters of the game getting ready for a festival, all set to a funny Japanese song with subtitled lyrics). The game itself is like Dance Dance Revolution with a drum, and the drum controller itself is pretty cool. You have to hit either the head or rim of the drum, with one or two sticks simultaneously, based on icons that move right to left on-screen (while cartoon squid, dogs, and even takoyaki dance around!). The song selection is pretty good, featuring some US pop hits and a few anime themes, plus several classical music tracks, which are actually my favorite (you would be amazed at how fun it is to drum with the march from Carmen!). I've passed every song on the first two difficulty levels, but the next level will be tough. I'm ready for the challenge!

1.29.2005

In Good Company : 3 of 5

This was a really pleasant, touching movie with a nice story and a good moral, even if the ending came off a little silly. I really wanted to see this movie to peek at Scarlett Johansson again, since she was so fantastic in Lost in Translation. I was pretty amazed at how she played a younger woman - granted, she's quite young already, but her character in this movie really came across as that line between immaturity and young adult (living at home, moving into a dorm room, wearing pajama bottoms, and even her make up seemed a little "girlish"). Dennis Quaid is really an underrated actor, I think, since he makes every role convincing - it seems effortless for him. Topher Grace from That 70s Show is likeable, but I have a feeling he's going to end up playing the same character over and over again, or at least characters with the same quirks. The only thing I really didn't like was the "Teddy K" ending, especially his "worshiper" employee, since his character was so one-sided and sleezy it was unbelievable. It was also a little too convienient for the "bad guys" to lose their jobs in the end. However, I did appreciate that they left the lives of the main characters slightly open-ended - movies that leave the audience to invent what happened next always intrigue me.

1.28.2005

Waiting with my Palm

Tonight just as I pulled into my garage after work, I noticed one of my tires was going flat. Since I have a gig to play tonight, I had to get it fixed fast, so I immediately drove to NTB. There was no problem fixing it (stupid nail), but I had to wait over an hour since it was late in the day. Anyway, the purpose of this sob story is that while I was waiting, I got to read tons of stuff on my Palm, thanks to AvantGo! Way back when I first became a Palm addict, I loved having little web sites to read on my Palm, but when I switched back to Apple several years ago, I was sad because AvantGo doesn't support Macs, so I just gave up on it and life went on. Recently I found some free software called MAL Conduit - someone wrote their own AvantGo sync for the Mac, and it works beautifully (and the new AvantGo Palm browser is kick-ass, too)! It was really easy to set up, so now I've always got a full Palm of news stories, movie reviews, and lots of other stuff to keep me occupied. Thank goodness I discovered this before today, since it made waiting for my tire so much easier.

1.27.2005

The Four Agreements / Don Miguel Ruiz : 3 of 5

Years ago I used to read a lot of uplifting self-help books, but eventually seemed to grow out of them. Somehow I stumbled onto some interesting reviews of this book, so I added it to my Amazon Wish List, and my pals Kristin and Carlos ordered it for me (along with other great books) as a thank you for shooting their wedding reception video. Anyway, I enjoyed reading the book, although the overall tone was a little to simplistic for me (but then again, I think that's the idea of the philosophy). The agreements are "Be impeccable with your word", which has to do with truth and acceptance, "Don't take things personally", which means nothing is about you, "Don't make assumptions", which means every one lives their own life, and "Always do your best", which was by far my favorite chapter, since it talks about living in the moment, rather than the past or future. Since this is taught as Toltec wisdom, there is a lot of discussion of life as a dream, which ends up sounding like a cross between Buddhism and A Course in Miracles, which unfortunately is a little too New Age for my current state of mind. Still, this book gave me a lot to think about, and the constant references to living a childlike, open life really spoke to my heart.

1.26.2005

Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black & White Vol 2 : 4 of 5

I'm finally getting started on Wave 4 of the Walt Disney Treasures series, all of which I got for Christmas! Even though the tins are not quite as high quality as last year (the rear panel of information is stuck on with only a couple of globs of adhesive), the contents of the DVDs are fantastic, as usual. I think I enjoyed this volume of Mickey's older cartoon shorts better than the first, since there seems to be more cartoons from the 1930s here, which is my favorite period for Mickey. At last I've now seen When the Cat's Away, where Mickey is actually mouse-sized - it's really bizarre! There's plenty of Minnie, with lots of shots of the big patch sewn on her underwear, and in the 1920's she even had kind of a bra (guess she realized she didn't need one). It's fun to see Mickey making mischief in ways he would never do today, such as snapping Minnie's underpants while singing Pop Goes the Weasel. There's also some scenes of Pluto "talking", looking at the camera while a voice speaks his thoughts, which really took me by surprise. And even though Leonard Maltin makes a big deal out of the politically incorrect cartoons, almost all of them only contain less than a second of a black-face gag. These are priceless cartoons - I'm so glad to be able to watch them!

1.25.2005

Piano playing and shrink takes

I've been watching lots of old Disney cartoons lately (big surprise!), and something that always stands out for me in these vintage shorts is the care they took to animate playing piano realistically. I've seen so many modern cartoons where the character just randomly bangs on the keyboard, which is usually static (probably painted on the background). But in these old Disney cartoons, Mickey and Minnie are both accomplished pianists! Their hands actually hit the keyboard in the general octave the melody suggests, and the keys themselves actually animate, so you can see chords actually formed. Sometimes the hands move so realistically that I'd swear they were animating the actual musical phrase as it would be played in reality! It's fascinating to me that they would take the time to put so much detail into this, but maybe the audiences of the 1930's had so many more people that played piano at home for entertainment, that they had to be convincing. In any case, it's certainly enjoyable and really impressive to me!

Speaking of animation, I recently learned what a "shrink take" is (thanks to the commentary track on my Ren and Stimpy DVDs). I had heard the term before and never really found a good definition, but now that I've watched Ren do a good shrink take frame by frame, I can tell you! Just before a character is about to scream or do something where their head enlarges for comic effect, they draw the head super-small (which is the "shrink") for just a frame or two before. So, when the character's head goes from tiny to really big, the effect is even funnier. How's that for animation education?

1.24.2005

The Minpins / Roald Dahl : 4 of 5

I'm getting close to the end of my Roald Dahl journey, but I'm enjoying it to the last book. This was another Christmas gift, and I started reading it recently in bed before drifting off to sleep, and it made a wonderful bedtime story! The story is about Little Billy, who wanders into a nearby forest and is chased by a huge beast that blows giant clouds of red smoke. He climbs into the trees to avoid being eaten, and there he meets the Minpins - really tiny people who live inside the trees! Each tree is like a town or a city, with thousands of rooms inside where the Minpins live. Billy and the Minpins must work out a way to destroy the beast if Billy is ever to get home again! This is a large paperback book, unlike the other Dahl books I've been reading, and it's filled with absolutely fantastic color illustrations on every page. There are even some two-page spreads with just one amazing painting of whatever action is going on. The illustrations really add to the magic of the story - they were wonderful just to stare at and admire all the detail. Unlike the usual Dahl story, nothing really gross or gory happens, though the smoke-blowing beast is definitely scary. I would love to meet the Minpins and peek inside their tiny tree rooms!

1.23.2005

A real massage

I had my first real massage this morning - my pal Lisa is a massage therapist, and she gave me and hour on the house for working on a video project for her. In the past I've had short 15-minute chair massages, but this was an entirely new experience. She knows lots of modern massage techniques, and she gave me a combination of zero balancing, Trager (I have no idea if that's the spelling), and Thai foot massage. I completely turned into a relaxed noodle, started dreaming even though I didn't fall asleep, and forgot I had arms for awhile. I was amazed at how I felt - I'll definitely have to have another one some time! After the massage I had to get a few things at the grocery store on the way home, so I had to shop in my sweatpants. It was so tabloid-TV!

BoA / Listen to My Heart : 4 of 5

It seems like BoA, whom I discovered by almost randomly buying CDs in Japan, doesn't have very many full length albums. This was a 2002 release, but since I enjoyed her more recent CDs so much, I knew would like this one, too. Her music is a little bit different here - much more dance-oriented, I would say, with more use of electronics. Her drum machines are especially cool, though, with some really creative kick phrases! Her voice is wonderful as usual, and she uses a lot more falsetto (very Mariah Carey) in a few songs. The opening track, Listen to My Heart, completely hooked me from the start! There's also an English version of the same song on the CD, but unfortunately the remix on it is pretty boring compared to the Japanese version. My next favorite song is Amazing Kiss, which has a nice melody and is fun to hum along with (since I can't sing all the Japanese). There are more ballads here than on BoA's other CDs, but even though I'm calling them "ballads", they are still pretty busy rhythmically, so they're nothing like the beautiful Jewel Song from Valenti. This CD definitely feels right in the car, and it's a joy to crank it up on the highway - I wish there were more BoA music to buy!

1.22.2005

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Making of the Rankin/Bass Holiday Classic / Rick Goldschmidt : 4 of 5

Since Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has long been (and probably always will be) my favorite Christmas special, this was a book I simply had to read, making it a perfect Christmas gift! I started reading it during the holidays in Oklahoma City, and just recently finished it. The work of a true Rankin/Bass fan, this book is full of so much detail that some of it is even too much for me (such as the complete biographies and careers of some of the voice artists!). My favorite chapter was about the Animagic process, which to my surprise was completely handled by a Japanese studio! There are some fantastic pictures of the Japanese artists positioning the amazing hand-made figures, plus a fascinating diagram of Rudolph showing how he was articulated with wire and what materials were used. The majority of the book is the original first draft screenplay (presented photocopied, including margin notes), which is interesting since it contains unused song ideas, plus additional scenes (like avoiding ice mermaids when Rudolph, Hermie, and Yukon are floating on the ice!). It was also interesting to read about the changes made to the original broadcast version between 1964 and 1965. Now I can't wait to watch it again this Christmas!

1.21.2005

Bedtime reading

I've been taking steps to manage my free time a little better, since there are so many things I like to do! My trouble is giving all my hobbies equal time, so I'm trying to focus more and find new ways and times to do stuff. So now I'm reading in bed a little each night, but using my plain old flashlight just won't do. I love getting new gadgets for new obsessions, so I bought a LightWedge Booklight. I looked at several other standard booklights, but truthfully, I picked this one because it was so unique and cool. Light shines through a large plastic sheet that you place over the page of your book, so it seems to make the page itself glow! It's not perfect, since you have to pick it up and replace it when you turn the page, but I just think of it as a big bookmark (and I use it as one!). It feels very futuristic to be reading a glowing book in the dark!

1.20.2005

Elektra / Austin Lyric Opera : 3 of 5

After so many years of being an opera-goer, I'm used to seeing the usual "hits" over and over again. So, I was pretty excited to see something new - Strauss' Elektra. I knew the basic story from Greek Tragedy class in college. Elektra is a daughter of King Agamemnon, and her mother the queen (plus her new boyfriend) kill the King before the opera begins, leaving Elektra as a sorrowful crazy woman obsessed with revenge. Eventually her brother takes care of all the killing, so the opera ends with some bizarre bloodbath madness! The sets and staging were well done, but the opera itself didn't impress me too much. It's only a one act opera with no intermission - I couldn't believe it when it was over in two hours! Of course, two hours with no intermission can be rough for an opera, especially when the music is as dramatic as Strauss - there are very few memoriable melodies, but instead lots of intense emotional motifs presented with increasingly distressing harmonies. I did appreciate the size of the orchestra, though, and I liked hearing things like xylophones accenting different phrases. All of the performers were wonderful, but with no characters to really identify with or fall in love with, seeing Elektra was much more academic than cathartic for me.

1.19.2005

Zuckuss shocker!

Since my pal Matt is so interested in Zuckuss (and I've always thought the bounty hunters that Vader hired were a pretty cool bunch), I did a little digging and discovered a shocking fact! Since my knowledge of obscure Star Wars characters all came from Kenner (rather than the all the expanded universe books and things), I've been deceived! Kenner mixed up the names of Zuckuss and 4-LOM, two of the bounty hunters that stood together, and so the action figure called Zuckuss is actually a likeness of 4-LOM and vice-versa. Wow! Anyway, here are some great shots of the Zuckuss action figure (which is really 4-LOM), and you can read the official databank entry for 4-LOM to find out about the character that the Zuckuss figure looks like. My world is in ruins - time for bed!

1.18.2005

The Gnome-Mobile : 2 of 5

I added this cute little Disney film to my Netflix queue soon after watching Darby O'Gill and the Little People, since I was so impressed with the effects. Unfortunately, The Gnome-Mobile only includes a fraction of those effects - most of the time there are only two gnomes on-screen, unlike the amazing scenes in Darby O'Gill. It's still a fun movie, though - just nothing spectacular in any way. Walter Brennan does an amazing job in a dual role as both the millionaire grandfather and the old gnome, Knobby - his voice and mannerisms are so different that it's tough to tell it's the same person! The film also features the Mary Poppins kids (and they are even billed that way in the credits), and it's nice to see them a little older (the girl seems much more refined and the boy seems a little more awkward). After the kids break their grandpa out of the nut house, the big final number involves the sexy girl gnomes chasing around Knobby's son to be their husband. The whole thing is a little goofy and goes on a little long, but at least there are some more fun old-school effects to enjoy. I guess I was just expecting more, but I still enjoyed the movie!

1.17.2005

I'm a guest blogger!

Today I started a week of "guest blogging" on The Disney Blog, one of the best sources of daily Disney information that I read everyday. John Frost, who runs the blog, reads WEBmikey and knows about my Disney obsession, so he asked me to give it a try. I'm really excited to be writing to a much larger audience of Disney fans, and I hope I can post some semi-entertaining things. If you've clicked to WEBmikey from The Disney Blog, welcome! If you're already a WEBmikey reader, be sure to read The Disney Blog also for more more Mikey mayhem (you can tell my entries from the "Posted by" byline).

A long time ago, in a shoebox far, far away

I had a really busy and full weekend, since I did tons of furniture shopping, had lunch and played games at Dave & Busters, shot a video project for my pal Lisa, and saw an opera! I also found the time to give my long-neglected Star Wars figures a safe and cozy new home. Now each figure is bagged (it turns out the bags are much more convenient than the blister packs I ordered) and tucked away in some nice plastic storage containers. For the last 15 years they have been wrapped in Kleenex and stuffed in shoeboxes! I had so much fun bagging them, admiring the detail, enjoying all the little guns and accessories, and remembering the days when I actually made up adventures with these little guys. I'm glad I still have them in good condition after all these years!

1.16.2005

Firehouse Five Plus Two / At Disneyland : 4 of 5

I've listened to tracks from my Firehouse Five two-CD set hundreds of times now (since iTunes keeps playing them), but this CD has been on my Amazon Wish List since I first heard of the band, mainly because the reviews always made it sound so exciting. Now that I've finally bought it, I can say they were right - it's more fun to hear the band live! (If you don't already know, the Firehouse Five Plus Two was a jazz combo made up of Disney Studio guys, including two of the famous Nine Old Men.) This recording was made in 1962 at the Golden Horseshoe, right there in the middle of Frontierland. It's really fun to hear Ward Kimball announce the tunes and make jokes about being able to ride all the rides during their 15 minute break. Frank Thomas' piano is a little quiet in the mix, but he still sounds fantastic. The rest of the band does a fine job, too - being a drummer, I love listening to this kind of hot jazz and studying the drummer's technique (of course, not every kit includes an anvil!). There are some familiar tunes here, like Muskrat Ramble and Tiger Rag, but also some I hadn't heard like Ja-Da (and now it won't get out of my head)!

1.15.2005

The Ren & Stimpy Show / The First and Second Seasons Uncut : 5 of 5

I can remember being a Ren and Stimpy fan from the very beginning - I can even recall the commercials before the premiere (I was saying "What is it, man?" before it was a catch phrase!). I recorded lots of episodes on VHS, but of course I don't even have a VCR to watch them now. So, I was totally excited that these DVDs were finally being released, and really happy to get them for Christmas! There's been some controversy about calling these shows "uncut". Some episodes do have restored scenes that no one has seen before, but some other episodes are the Spike TV versions, which had some scenes shortened and commercial fade-outs inserted. Kind of a shame, but it's not too annoying to me. The shows themselves are awesome, and the commentary (which includes John K. himself) is hilarious (except for the guy who keeps laughing non-stop!). There's a short documentary that reveals that Stimpy's voice is an impression of Larry Fine from The Three Stooges - I had no idea, but now when I listen it's uncanny! (By the way, Ren is an impression of Peter Lorre, but everyone knows that.) It was so much fun watching these episodes again - I always fall out of my chair during The Boy Who Cried Rat when Ren comes out wearing Mickey Mouse's pants!

1.14.2005

Pillows, PEZ, and pods

Last night I went out shopping around (I've been getting out more in the evening lately) and bought some new bed pillows. Tonight will be the first sleep on them! I can't believe how skanky my old pillows were, since they're always in pillowcases, but then again, I've slept on them for about seven years now. I'm planning on getting a whole new set of bedclothes (isn't that a weird word) soon, once I can decide which too-expensive designer set to pick.

Today I went mall-walking at lunch, which felt really energetic (I walked pretty fast for about 30 minutes), then I tried my first Chick-Fil-A wrap (I had the chargrilled chicken). It was much tastier than I expected! The raspberry vinaigrette was a little gooey - kind of like pink paste, but not bad in small quantities. During my walk, I noticed there's a new bubble tea place! I've only had bubble tea once before (it was called "boba" when I tried it), but I was a little too drunk to appreciate it, so I hardly remember it. I need to go back to the mall to have some, so I can be like Zannah!

In case you haven't noticed, this is Mikey's PEZ month with the camera phone! Hope you're enjoying my Flickr pics - I'm having fun choosing which dispensers to photograph and making up themes. I've decided that my camera phone gets the best color when I shoot them in front of a dark grey background, so I'm using the box of my Jack Kerouac CD set.

My iPod photo has some totally kick-ass battery life! My old iPod would make it through one work day, but I had to be sure to charge it every night or I would be in trouble the next day. Not so with the iPod photo! I just went three work days straight, listening to it all day, except for lunch and bathroom breaks.

Mikey likes comments. No comments for many days. Please make Mikey happy.

1.13.2005

Hilary Duff: The Girl Can Rock : 3 of 5

Even though the title of this DVD is so lame, I still wanted to watch a Hilary concert since I think her music is pretty fun. Unfortunately, I think the title should have been "The Girl Can Lipsync". I tried to watch and listen very carefully to see if she was really singing, and unfortunately every vocal nuance is exactly the same as her album - usually in a live show the band tries a different arrangement or something, but no so here. Also, even though this is supposed to be a single concert, it's definitely combined footage from different shows, since the band's shirts keep changing (the lead guitarist's shirt even changes back and forth in the middle of a solo!). So why does this DVD get a 3 rating? Because I still had fun watching it and singing along - I like Hilary's dimples and watching her throw her hair around, and the bonus material has lots of evidence that she's still a geeky Lizzie McGuire-esque girl, rather than the pouty smug chick with too much mascara that her marketing engine is trying to get across. Watching this concert and seeing Hilary and her gang in the Los Angeles sun gave me those first longings for summer this year, so I'm glad I watched it.

1.12.2005

Bookstore cafes

I'm writing this posting from Borders, since I want to get out a little more on weeknight evenings. You would think I could do more writing and reading at home, but I'm finding it's fun to take my iBook with me, have some coffee, and focus on things. So far I've spent some time at Barnes & Noble and Borders, and even though Borders is a better bookstore, Barnes & Noble definitely is a better hang-out. Borders is a little too sterile, and the florescent light is really bugging me! I think after I study a little Nihongo I'm heading home. By the way, both places charge way too much for wireless internet, but if I make this a habit I might have to break down and pay.

After feeling some kinship with my fellow geeks in Starwoids, I decided to finally give my old Star Wars figures some TLC. I found a good price on action figure storage bags and blister containers at SmallJoes, so I ordered some of both since I'm not sure which I'll like best. They just arrived yesterday, so soon I'm going to enjoy bagging up Zuckuss, IG-88, and the rest of the boys (and Leia, too). I think I'll save the blisters for my valuable figures, like my Luke with telecoping lightsaber, direct from the infamous Early Bird Set!

1.11.2005

Chobits / Original Soundtrack 001 : 3 of 5

I guess I seem to be buying more anime soundtracks now, because after enjoying a show so much, I tend to miss it after I've watched it all. The Chobits music has been divided into several CDs for some reason, so I decided to start with the first one. There are only two vocal tracks - a remix of the opening song, Let Me Be With You, which is pretty cool (though I hope the original is on one of the other CDs), and the closing song from the first half of the series (the second half's "sad song" is my favorite, but I'm sure I'll get that later). All of the other songs have the following lyrics: "ba ba ba, doo doo doo, bop bop bow". No kidding, each song's melody is carried by male/female tight harmony bopping along together, and it sounds great! I think the music has a kind of 60s or British feel to it - it's just a lot of fun. Some of the tracks are introduced with a few words from Chi herself. Normally dialogue on a soundtrack bugs me, but in this case it's really short and cute, so it's OK (and I love to hear Chi say, "Hideki - atatakai. Chi - ureshii!"). Time to buy the next CD!

1.10.2005

Super Milk Chan's secret

I think Super Milk Chan is like Teletubbies for adults. I say this because Teletubbies were so popular for babies because they had a strict formula - after the tubbies yelled "Again! Again!", they did the same goofy skit exactly the same way! Super Milk Chan follows a completely set format, too, and I have to admit, it's a lot of fun knowing what's coming and saying all the catch phrases along with the characters (I haven't seen it in Japanese yet, but I'll be renting it soon). Here's the way each episode goes (more or less). This will sound absolutely ridiculous if you've never seen the show, but if you watch it you'll recognize it all!

  • Milk is watching TV with Tetsuko and Hanage (the TV shows they invent are hilarious!). The landlord comes by to try to collect the rent, and Milk fools him into going away.
  • The President calls, and Milk answers the phone with something like "Hello, Bank of Hokkaido - just kidding." After they start talking, Milk says, "The President?", to which the President says "Yes, this is definitely the President!"
  • Milk gets her mission and everyone goes to the King's Idea Laboratory for some gadget to help them. Testuko thinks "Somewhere in here is the daddy who made me! How dreamy!" (She's a robot, by the way.) After Dr. Eye Patch insults her, she thinks, "Please make him not be my daddy!"
  • Somewhere in there Hanage speaks to the audience after introducing himself, "This is the voice of Hanage's heart."
  • Milk completes her mission somehow, and then says "Let's go eat sushi or something!"
  • And of course, Milk shouts, "You dumbass!" every chance she gets.
  • 1.09.2005

    Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas : 4 of 5

    It was a little funny at first watching this DVD after the holidays, but I soon warmed up to it and now I wish it was Christmas again! Disney's first full-length CG production featuring the classic characters succeeds in many ways - I was completely entertained and spent most of the time grinning from ear to ear. It takes a little while to get used to seeing Mickey and the gang fully realized as 3D models (oh my gosh, the ears turn!), but generally everyone looks adorable and true to character (though I think Mickey and Minnie's brows were a little too rubbery). As with any kind of animated production, it's the stories that make this a great DVD! There are five tales starring our favorite pals, though they don't all get together until the end. There's an ice skating match between Minnie and Daisy (featuring alligators and hippos from Fantasia), a story about Huey, Duey, and Louie in Santa's workshop, a quick look at Christmas with Goofy, Max and his new girlfriend (which is far too short), an excellent and creative look at Donald's awesome temper, and then a wonderful Mickey and Pluto story, where Pluto runs away when Mickey gets mad at him! I liked the last story the best, but Mickey's always my favorite. My biggest laugh was seeing Minnie using a hair dryer to blow dry her ears, though! I can't wait to watch this again in 11 months!

    1.08.2005

    Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories : 3 of 5

    Believe it or not, this book was a birthday gift from last January (from my pal Eliza), but since it's a collection of lots of short stories, it was easy to read one every now and then, which spread things out quite a bit! I decided to finish it up since I have lots of books piling up, and it's definitely an enjoyable read (even if it's not Halloween). Roald Dahl was asked to gather the best ghost stories he could find to be filmed as a television series (which sadly never happened), and this book contains the best of the best ones he found. He writes a great introduction that talks about the essential elements of a good ghost story, and each of these tales definitely meet his criteria. Some stories are only a few pages, balanced out by some medium-length ones. I think my favorite was Ringing the Changes, because it has several spooky moments throughout, and at the end it leaves you wondering what really happened! Playmates is a good "ghost children" story (dead kids are always scary), and The Ghost of a Hand reminded me of the old movie The Beast with Five Fingers. Each story was worth reading (even though Dahl didn't write any of them!) - definitely a well-crafted spooky time!

    1.07.2005

    Learning the DDR cross-step

    You may find it hard to believe, but after several years of intense Dance Dance Revolution playing, there are still techniques I have yet to master! I've only just discovered the brilliance of the cross-step (which I read about on DDR Freak), and now that I'm learning it, a new world of DDR is opening to me. The cross-step involves moves where your right foot steps on left arrow and vice-versa, which is hard for me, since over the years my feet have trained themselves to always hit their designated arrow. For fast songs, it's essential to alternate feet as much as possible, hence the need for the cross-step. (To be technical, the patterns that scream for this are Left-Down-Right, Right-Down-Left, Left-Up-Right, and Right-Up-Left.) The really hard part is remembering that after the cross-step is over, your foot is now on the "wrong" arrow, so you have to wind your way out of it somehow. Now I have to take to heart Yoda's words, "You must unlearn what you have learned."

    I tried some instant udon noodles tonight, which is kind of like instant ramen, but with thick rubbery noodles. The noodles were great, but the seasoning packet was just short of yucky - kind of stinky, too. Guess I just need to go to Japanese restaurants more!

    1.06.2005

    The Phantom of the Opera : 3 of 5

    Most reviews I've read of this movie adaptation all boil down to how the critic feels about Weber's Broadway production - if they don't like the show, they don't like the movie, no matter how spectacular it is. I never thought I would fall into that trap, but I'm ashamed to say that the only reason I'm not giving this a 4 rating is because some of the songs are just so tedious! There are definitely some great melodies (that stick with you for days), but there's quite a bit of junk, too. Back to the film, though - this is a fantastic production, full of excellent effects and editing that make the subject matter even more interesting and exciting! I saw this with my pal Melinda, who is a big Phantom fan, and she pointed out several places where they changed things for the film, including moving the giant chandelier crash to much later in the story. As far as casting goes, I thought the Phantom was a little too young (since he supposedly has seen Christine grow up in the opera house) and definitely too suave, but let's talk about the best part of the movie: Emmy Rossum! This teenage angel is absolutely fantastic - definitely heart-melting material (especially during Point of No Return). Broadway fans will completely love this movie, but I don't think it has the appeal of a show like Chicago - I definitely enjoyed myself, though!

    1.05.2005

    Plug for a pal

    My pal Tom has been living in Uzbekistan (working with the Peace Corps) for the past two years. During his entire stay he has been keeping up a journal on the web with his experiences and adventures. You can read it all at Tom's WebWorld - everything from culture to TV shows to cotton picking to weird food! (Of course, there's much seriousness, too.)

    More site plugs

    Since I just plugged my pal's site, it's time for a quick list of some cool sites I've discovered recently:

  • MasaManiA is an amazing photo-filled look at Japanese culture from a Japanese guy who isn't ashamed to share his opinions on just about anything (definitely adult material - you have been warned!). He creates narrated photo journals which are sometimes hilarious, sometimes disturbing, but always fascinating. I love his photos of cosplay ("costume play") gatherings - seeing geeks who are proud to be geeks just warms my heart (the cute girls provide some warmth, too).
  • I had tons of book and record sets when I was a kiddie, so I was thrilled to discover Kiddie Records! They plan to release a new set of free vintage audio for each week of the year - these are ancient 78s and 45s, most of which I've never even heard of. I can't wait to listen to them all!
  • As usual, I love finding WEBmikey references and mentioning them, so I'm happy that Thomas Boutell cited WEBmikey in his LiveJournal (which reminded me just how cool the poetry experience of Young-Hae Chang is!).
  • 1.04.2005

    Starwoids : 3 of 5

    This documentary tells the story of Star Wars fans who waited in line 42 days to see Episode I: The Phantom Menace, both at the Chinese Theater and another smaller theater in Los Angeles. I read tons of bad reviews that said this movie was boring, but I decided to rent it anyway, since in 1999 I was obsessed with watching the live webcam of the Chinese Theater line. To me, it wasn't boring at all - I really enjoyed it! The filmmakers did a nice job of cutting between both lines, plus they put in lots of related stories about toy collectors, a priest who discusses the Force, and even someone who painted their car to look like an X-wing! This is definitely a low budget production, shot with digital video and using the same kinds of titles and transitions that anyone can do with iMovie, but I think that just added to the charm. I really liked seeing all the geeks having fun and forming a family in line - I would definitely take part in something like this if I could (the main "character" Daniel actually took a test to graduate from high school early so he could spend the month in line!). I expected to see some Jar Jar bashing, but there was none to be found. If you're a fan and can get past the terrible title, you should see this movie and support your own kind!

    1.03.2005

    What's on my fridge?

    Before Christmas, my pal Matt asked me to document the stuff that's stuck to my refrigerator. I decided this was a good time to use a cool Flickr feature that lets you attach notes to photos! So, take a look at my refrigerator and mouse over the different items to see what's there. Here's a brief list, too:

  • Some postcards from Matt & Kumiko in Japan
  • Lots of Disney postcards that no one sent me, but a few places I order merchandise from often stick them in the package as a bonus
  • Magnets of comic books, fine art, and PEZ
  • Some photo Christmas cards (which will come down soon)
  • My Japanese II report card, even though it's getting really old now!
  • Salon party

    My pal Dana (who sings with the Greatest American Heroes) had a cool "salon" party to kick off 2005. It was a fun talent show - everyone sang a song or played an instrument, and we just kept taking turns until we were out of material. Some of Dana's friends were fantastic singers - definitely Broadway quality! I brought my Disney karaoke CDs that I got last Christmas and everyone enjoyed my rendition of Disney tunes (especially imagining me as Ariel). The food was excellent, too - it was a wonderful evening!

    View photos: Dana's Salon

    1.02.2005

    Thunderbirds Are Go / Thunderbird 6 : 4 of 5

    I've finished my first set of Christmas DVDs, featuring the two Thunderbirds movies. I've been a fan of the series for a long time, and I've seen every television episode, but not the feature films, since they've only been available on DVD for a short while. It's a real treat to see 90 minute, wide-screen adventures of the fabulous International Rescue in action! In Thunderbirds Are Go, they really stretch the special effects budget with the huge spacecraft called Zero X, which is first sabotaged, then has to face giant rock snakes on Mars! There's an unbelievable dream sequence for Alan, where he dreams about going to a space nightclub with Lady Penelope (I think this is officially cheating on Tin Tin!). In Thunderbird 6, Brains designs a huge anti-gravity passenger vehicle called Airship One, and several of our heroes take the maiden voyage, which is sabotaged (again)! There are some awesome scenes set in different countries in this one, as well as tons of explosions, plus a cool Tiger Moth bi-plane (which was shot in live-action from a distance). There are a few great scenes of the Tracy family smoking and playing pool - those scenes are always a riot. Maybe I need to buy the entire series on DVD after enjoying these movies!

    1.01.2005

    WEBmikey's 2004

    Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu! Happy New Year 2005, everyone! The Greatest American Heroes rocked in the new year last night, and I've started the year right by watching Mickey Mouse kick off the Rose Parade. My pal Matt wrote such a touching summary of 2004 at Moon Station Foxtrot, so I thought I'd play copy-cat and try to hit WEBmikey's highlights. Enjoy!

  • I kept with my strict vacation schedule by visiting Disneyland (twice), Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Hollywood, LegoLand, SeaWorld, and Las Vegas (plus two trips to Oklahoma City to see my parents). I had tons of fun and saw amazing things at all these places!
  • This was a big year for upgrading toys. I bought an iMac, a new PC, a new Palm, a new iPod, plus a new camera phone! All of these get a workout on a daily basis.
  • I did a lot of video projects this year, such as pals' events like weddings and the marathon, but also ambitious projects like 9 La Cava Tales and Terrific Televsion Commercials (if you don't know about these productions, you don't really need to know)!
  • I was Best Man for Chris & Eliza's wedding, an historic event that will be remembered forever (not to mention the bachelor party!).
  • Muscially, I kept playing with both of my bands, the Greatest American Heroes and Stella, and I got to be a part of the live music for Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors, which was creative and fun!
  • I made an A in Japanese II, then continued my own study (I was too busy with all that other stuff to take Japanese III, but maybe I will in the Fall!).