4.30.2005

Astro Boy Vol 23 / Osamu Tezuka : 3 of 5

Say it isn't so! I've just finished the complete Astro Boy series - all 23 books. I can't believe it's over. What will I do without Tetsuwan Atom to keep me company in the pockets of spare time throughout the day? This last volume is filled with short, short stories (even shorter than the last volume!), plus one medium length tale. Most of these were published in the 80s in Shogaku Ninensei (Second Grader) magazine, so they are simple fun stories full of jokes (and really enjoyable to read!). There's an excellent afterword which explains the various attempts made in the past to publish all of Tezuka's Astro stories, and confirms that this set definitely includes all of it (which gives me a sense of accomplishment). It's interesting that Tezuka himself compiled everything, determined the order of the volumes (putting his favorite stories first), and drew all the wonderful introductions that I loved so much in the other books. I think my favorite story here is Giant Uran, where another scientist turns our little cutie into a huge version with Astro's special powers! The long story is called The Silver Tower, and includes a scene where Astro uses his ass-guns to shoot off his own arms so he can escape - where else can you see that kind of drama? Farewell, Astro! I'll have to start another manga series soon.

4.29.2005

The next level of geekiness

I've been to a couple fan conventions before - Dad took me to a Star Trek convention when I was younger, as well as a couple comic book conventions. I haven't been to any in my adult life, but recently I've enjoyed reading about anime conventions on blogs like Zannah's, and I've been fascinated with cosplay (short for "costume play", dressing up as your favorite characters) galleries on different sites. When I was reading NewType USA the other day, I noticed there was an anime convention coming up soon, and after I checked out the website, I decided I had to go! So, my pal Chris (who is so understanding of my addictions) and I are attending A-Kon 16 in Dallas at the beginning of June! I think it's going to be so much fun - I'm sure I will take hundred of photos of people in costume. I'm also psyched about the other activities like arcade rooms (hello, DDR!), J-pop video rooms, and of course a huge dealers room (where I will spend lots of money). They are also getting some J-pop artists together for a concert! Last year I think there were 8,000 attendees, so this will definitely be a crazy event. I can't wait!

4.28.2005

Almost a juror

Earlier this week I had my first jury duty experience. I was kind of excited when I was summoned to appear, since I was hoping for a simple civil case that would just give me a taste of the legal process. However, I almost had to be a part of a two-week criminal trial involving aggravated assault and organized crime! On the first day, I was picked from a crowd of 400 folks to be in a pool of 60 people for this case, so we all had to listen to presentations from both lawyers and answer questions (which is called voir dire). There was so much information to hear, and since this was a big case, the laywers really asked everyone lots of questions so they could pick good jurors. There was so much discussion that we had to come back for a second day! I was pretty scared by some of the stuff they hinted would be in the trial, so I mostly stayed quiet. Finally they announced the jury members, and I wasn't selected. Whew! I definitely would have done my duty as a citizen, but I would rather not have to hear the details of a violent crime. I hope the folks who are watching the trial right now make it through just fine!

4.27.2005

Hero : 4 of 5

I missed this amazing movie in the theater, but I recently read a great interview with the director Xhang Yimou in Giant Robot magazine, so I put this film at the top of my Netflix queue. Hero is the story of a warrior named Nameless and his quest to defeat a king, who will become the first Emperor of China. To gain access to the king, he must "pretend" to kill three deadly assassins who have made many attempts on the king's life, named Sky, Flying Snow, and Broken Sword (I love the names). First Nameless tells his stories to the King, then the King tells what he thinks really happened, and then the "true" stories are told. Everything in the movie is highly stylized, mainly with color. When Nameless tells his story, all costumes and sets are red, and the King's stories are filled with blue. The true stories are filled with white, and other side stories use green and yellow, too. Much of the martial arts scenes include wire work, where the opponents fly and jump in fantastic ways. There are truly amazing images that are unforgettable, such as a battle on the mirror-smooth surface of a lake, and another in a storm of bright golden leaves. Amazingly, there is hardly a drop of blood in the entire film, which seemed so tasteful to me. I could go on and on, but it's enough to say that Hero is one of the best films of this genre ever made.

4.26.2005

Mickeys and memorials

Sorry for the short break in WEBmikey posts recently - I was on a quick vacation with my parents in Washington DC! I've been taking Mom & Dad on a few fun trips a year, and since they hadn't been to DC in over 12 years, we thought it would be a nice city to visit together. We managed to take in just about every tourist location on the map (minus the art galleries), which included several things I hadn't seen before, such as the Capitol (my first time on the tour), the National Archives, and the World War II Memorial. We also were lucky to be in the city while the 75 InspEARations exhibit was on display - 75 different Mickey Mouse statues to celebrate Mickey's recent 75th birthday! I felt like I had a great sense of history on this trip, thinking about the actual places where I was standing and the amazing events that took place there. It was really cool to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, too! It was also nice visiting the Air & Space Museum with Dad, since he was able to identify nearly every plane there, plus tell me stories about so many of them he had actually flown in. Mom got to see things like the Hope Diamond and the First Ladies' dresses, and I got to see the original Apple computer, so there was something for everyone to enjoy. I loved riding the Metro, too - it was so much fun figuring out where to go and how to change trains and so on. It was definitely a wonderful four-day experience!

View photos: Washington DC 2005 Mickeys
View photos: Washington DC 2005 Air & Space
View photos: Washington DC 2005 Capitol
View photos: Washington DC 2005 Memorials
Watch video: Washington DC Vacation

4.25.2005

The Art of Finding Nemo / Mark Cotta Vaz : 4 of 5

A while back I went crazy buying Disney art books, and I "accidentally" bought so many at once that I got way behind in reading them! I've recently decided to make an effort to give them the attention they deserve, and I really enjoying plowing into this collection of pre-production art from Pixar's Finding Nemo. As always, I was completely amazed at the talent of the many artists represented in the book, and it gave me that inspiration to do more creative things with my free time. Unfortunately, there are zero production stills - I would love to see final frames of the film along with the artwork that led to them, but these books always err to one extreme or the other! With that complaint aside, I loved the book, especially the spectacular pastel work of Ralph Eggleston - I could look at his use of color all day, and seeing the rough edges of the pastel line makes it even more exciting to me. Simon Verela's giant (and extremely detailed) charcoals are wonderful, too - I wish I could see them in person (the forward mentions that lots of pre-production art decorates Pixar's headquarters, which shows they are firmly grounded in the man-made art of animation, even though it all ends up as pixels). John Lasseter mentions in the text that this is only the "approved" pre-production art - I can't imagine how many books they could fill with the rest!

4.20.2005

Sing 'n Learn Japanese 1 : 3 of 5

When my pals Matt & Kumiko visited Austin this year, I asked Kumiko about a million Japanese questions. She was nice enough to be a great teacher, and one of the things she taught me was a children's song about an elephant's nose, called Zoo-san. I did some searching on the web, because I didn't want to forget the song, and I found this interesting book and CD set on Amazon. This is a very simply-made book with lyrics (in both Romaji and kana, thankfully) to popular children's songs, along with a few illustrations, notes, and a small glossary. The CD contains each of the songs with and without vocals, and since these are really short songs, there are 23 songs to learn! These are definitely kiddie songs, such as translations of things I knew like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, but mostly traditional Japanese children's songs like Zoo-san (which has a second verse I didn't know about!). I've had so much fun singing along with the CD, and I've definitely learned some new language stuff by taking apart the lyrics to discover the grammar and vocabulary. Even though this isn't a high-quality production, I think it's a perfect way to learn through music. By the way, my favorite song is Umi (ocean), which has such beautiful lyrics that I can't believe it's a kid's song!

4.19.2005

The Incredibles : 5 of 5

I can't even begin to say how much I enjoyed watching The Incredibles again on DVD! I loved the movie in the theater, but I think I enjoyed it even more at home since I could focus and appreciate all the fantastic things about the film. I was totally sucked in by the scene where the missiles are chasing Helen's plane - the character acting is so dramatic! I also got such a kick out of moments such as Dash's giggle when he realizes he's running on water, not too mention the most creative end titles of practically all time. The bonus disc is packed with awesome materials. The usual deleted scenes that most DVDs include are really enhanced with long discussions (much longer than the scenes themselves) by Brad Bird explaining the evolution of the scene and its demise. Brad gets so worked up about everything - his energy is intense, just like a kid talking about some new toy or TV show (I think Brad is definitely Dash from the movie!). There are great looks at other production details, such as "acting room" videos (where the animators film themselves as reference material), producing animatics (which seems like such a fun job), and the scoring of the film (which I realized is full of 5/4 jazz, so I ordered the soundtrack right away). Of course, Boundin' and the new Jack-Jack Attack are also included, making this possibly the best Pixar DVD ever!

4.18.2005

More Sunday goodness

I did a few more fun things on Sunday. The Greatest American Heroes had a good rehearsal, and we worked up Rainbow Connection from The Muppet Movie. Our bassist Francis does a dead-on Kermit impression, and listening to him sing it was awesome! After rehearsal I went downtown with Chris & Eliza to see the finish of the MS 150, which is a two-day bike ride from Houston to Austin, and our pal Carlos did it! It was really cool seeing all the people there by the capitol building, cheering everyone on. This was Carlos' second achievement recently, since I also found out on the same day Kristin is pregnant! Congratulations, Kristin & Carlos! Later that evening, I met Chris & Ernesto at the Alamo Village for some beer, dinner, and movie action, bringing an end to another great weekend.

Sin City : 3 of 5

The main reason I wanted to see this movie is because it's always interesting to see how a comic book (in this case, a graphic novel) translates to film. I was familiar with Frank Miller's work way back from my early days of comic collecting, so even though I hadn't read the Sin City stories, I could see his style on the big screen right away. I've heard that Robert Rodriguez attempted to duplicate nearly every shot based on its corresponding panel in the comic, and it's definitely obvious - there are tons of profile shots that seem unexpected in a movie, but completely make sense when you understand you are watching a comic book. The movie is divided into three main stories which stand alone, but have some connections with characters and locations. The CG sets are really amazing, and it's quite easy to forget how the movie was made. Most of the film is black and white, but some color is added for emphasis (like a red dress or red shoes). Most of the blood (and there's a lot of it) is white, just like the comic. All of the actors do what they can with the dialogue, which reads better than it can be spoken, but I really enjoyed the performances (as well as the looks of gals like Miho!). This is definitely the most violent film I've seen, but I could handle it since I was caught up in the pen and ink look of the film.

4.17.2005

Weekend absorption

What could be better than a lazy Sunday morning? I just spent a couple hours sitting outside in the cool morning air, drinking coffee and finishing reading an issue of Newtype USA, which is really an awesome magazine. The only sounds were the birds singing and me giggling at the hilarious otaku-ness and page after page of terrific anime artwork. The magazine also comes with a DVD, so last night I got to watch two first episodes of some new shows I hadn't heard about, and Maburaho definitely looks like a winner to me (I've been a sucker for harem shows since Matt got me started on Tenchi Muyo!). Yesterday I did plenty of Japanese studying, and also had a great DDR session. I've switched back to DDRMAX on PS2, and my dance pad seems a little more responsive since I "modded" it last weekend (basically I opened it up and covered the entire inner surface with duct tape, based on a suggestion I read on DDR Freak). I also got some sun and listened to more podcasts, which is starting to become a habit for me. I just love absorbing media!

I recently got a summons to a jury selection, which hasn't happened to me before! Now that I live just over the border of Williamson County, I have to drive to Georgetown, which is about 30 minutes away (rather than downtown, which is only 15 minutes). Yesterday I made the drive so I'll know where to go when the time comes. I think it will be interesting to participate, as long as it's not a terrible murder or something. The first day is right after I get back from my upcoming trip, so I'm sure I'll mention more about the experience as things progress.

4.16.2005

Astro Boy Vol 22 : 3 of 5

I can't believe I'm coming to the end of the Astro Boy series of books! This volume actually has twelve short stories in it (some as short as a single page!), so Tezuka is definitely wrapping up this collection by gathering some pretty obscure tales. In a few of the stories, Astro is only a guest star, but the stories are still cool because you get to see some of Tezuka's other styles of drawing and story-telling. The first story Astro Returns is the longest, which describes how Astro is rescued and repaired after his tragic ending in the old TV series - variations of this same story were written by Tezuka several times, I think, but this one includes the creation of the Sphinx in Egypt! Some tales have screwball titles like Slippery Catfish in Imminent Danger, but I think my favorite might be You're Guilty, which is actually a Black Jack story (my first time to read this character). Astro appears as a real boy, so it's kind of like he's an actor playing a role. The last story called The End of Astro Boy is really amazing and dramatic, although Tezuka assures us in the intro notes that it's really not the end!

4.15.2005

Metric / Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? : 3 of 5

I'm a big fan of the iTunes Music Store, and I always take advantage of the free songs that you can download every Tuesday (usually two, sometimes three!). I always give them a listen even if I'm not a fan of the style, and usually I've never heard the band before. There have been a few free cuts that I listened to so much that I had to buy the album, and this is one of them. I don't know much about Metric, except that I loved Combat Baby so much that I wanted to hear more. They have a good sound with guitars and some synth leads, plus great female vocals (pretty much my favorite sound for a pop band). The CD has a good mix of rockers and moody ballads, and it's been standing up to the "how long can I keep it in the car" test! Some of the lyrics seem a little protesting, but I also could just be misunderstanding metaphors. Besides Combat Baby, the other stand out tunes for me are Wet Blanket, which has fantastically creative lyrics with great rhymes (sometimes several in one phrase), and Dead Disco, just because it's so straight ahead and cool (and I like the way she sings "Remodel!"). All in all, this is a very cool CD and a nice expansion of my usual iTunes mix!

4.14.2005

Midnight ROTS tickets

The Force was with me last night - I just happened to be up too late surfing, and I got an email from the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema that advance tickets for Star Wars Episode III: Return of the Sith just went on sale! I was thinking of waiting to get them on Fandango, but I decided I couldn't pass up this chance, so I bought eight tickets for me and my pals to the midnight show on May 18th (which is actually May 19th, opening day). I'm so psyched! We'll be seeing it at an entirely new Alamo, which was built from scratch to be an awesome theater with stadium seating, Dolby sound and so on (unlike the other Alamos, which are generally converted from old theaters). If you don't know about the Alamo theaters, they are movie theaters with skinny tables between the seats, so you can order complete meals (and beer!) while you watch the movie. (However, their website says that Lucas himself has declared they may not serve food during the showing, so they're going to serve during a little pre-show, which sounds cool.) When I woke up this morning, all the seats to our showing were already sold out, and just a few minutes ago, nearly all of the opening day showings are gone! I'm so glad that I scored the seats so my pals and I can see it together at the first possible showing. I'm so ready for Jedi action!

Fever Pitch : 2 of 5

This isn't the kind of movie I would normally see in the theater, but I don't mind a basic romantic comedy every now and then, and there wasn't much else my pal Melinda and I wanted to see. The story is about a Red Sox fanatic and his workaholic girlfriend, and that's about it - no huge twists or turns, except for the semi-ridiculous ending where she runs across the field avoiding security! Surprisingly, some of the scenes are really emotional - there was more drama than I expected, and Jimmy Fallon shows that he can stretch beyond Saturday Night Live comedy. Drew is same as always, although I think I was a little more annoyed at her sideways mouth talking - it's getting weirder as she gets older. It was fun seeing all the baseball scenes (even though I think the Red Sox are the ugliest team in baseball!), and there are plenty of shots of the big CITGO sign over Fenway Park, which I used to see on all the annual reports when I worked for them. I actually didn't know until the end of the movie that the plot is based on a Nick Hornby novel - I've read some of his stuff a long time ago, and I guess that explains the more balanced plot, rather than the goofball comedy I expected. Anyway, I didn't get bored, so it was a decent, unspectacular film.

4.13.2005

Raise Your Voice : 2 of 5

I think I might have been too embarrassed to see this in the theater (even though I survived The Lizzie McGuire Movie!), but even though this was a pretty lousy movie, I didn't mind spending 90 minutes looking at Hilary's cuteness. The plot of this film is basically Fame-like, with Hilary going off to a summer music school in Los Angeles, where everyone is too cool and too mean to her (except for her new boyfriend, of course). All of this happens after her brother dies in a car accident, so there is a dramatic feel to some of the scenes (although the bright headlight motif gets way overused). The worst part of the film is watching all of these child actors fake playing instruments! There's a giant outdoor jam scene where one guy starts playing guitar and about 50 students start to join in, hanging out of windows and so on - it's just as stupid as it sounds, and these kids are the worst fakers I've ever seen. In between all the stereotypes, there are a few good music numbers with Hilary singing (all songs that I've heard on her CDs), and it's fun to see scenes of LA and the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Actually, I think she does a decent job of acting, she's just stuck in a silly film (and I blame it all on her mom, who pulled her away from Disney!). Don't rent this movie unless you have an extreme need to feel like a teenager for awhile (which I do)!

4.12.2005

mc chris live!

I became an mc chris fan when I heard Fett's Vette at the end of Sealab 2021 on Cartoon Network. I checked out his website, downloaded his songs, and soon I was learning his hilarious and totally creative lyrics and rapping along. mc chris (he likes it lower-case) is an average white guy geek who just happens to be a bad-ass rapper - his songs are full of pop culture references (along with the usual rap attitude, swearing, and plenty of Rated R material) that only geeks like me can appreciate (Star Wars, comics, video games, you name it)! His music is totally unlike anything else I listen to, but I love it - I guess it's kind of a release since it's so over the top!

Anyway, last night I had the chance to see mc chris live at Emo's, and even though it made for a super-late Monday night, I had to go. My pal Chris went with me, and it was an amazing show! There was a huge line when we got there which really packed the place - I may have been the oldest guy there, but I think I pulled it off. There were kids there in all sorts of garb, but they all had signs of geekdom (lots of anime shirts), so even though I felt like a poser, I was among my people! (By the way, my favorite T-shirts were "Bitches & Sake" and "Unsweetened", written across some cutie's boobs, of course.) I actually found some other guy's pics from the show (with me in them) on the mc chris forum - check out the crowd!

There were two opening bands, Honeypot and Yuppie Pricks (who were so funny that we had to buy their CD), and then mc chris came on. He was short, pudgy, high-voiced, but totally cool, sporting his Star Wars stormtrooper jacket - the crowd went wild! He did all of his popular tunes, and tons of people were rapping along. It was kind of amazing, because there I was rapping all the words along with some other guy with about ten lip piercings - we probably have nothing else in common, but there we were, enjoying the show like pals! mc chris got the crowd to show their pride by screaming "Nerd power!" and getting us to sing the theme song to Aqua Teen Hunger Force (now that was a moment to remember). It's tough to describe how fun it was, but it was totally worth being sleepy all day!

4.11.2005

Pocky commercials work

After being completely mesmerized by the latest hilarious and entertaining Pocky commercials from Japan, I decided I should start making Japanese snack runs part of my weekly routine. I've been a Pocky fan since before I knew how to pronounce it properly (it's "poh-kee"), but I haven't tried all the many varieties until recently! There's a new (to me) spectacular green tea flavor, which is like green tea chocolate coating on a cookie-like stick (the regular Pocky is milk chocolate around a kind of pretzel stick). The green tea flavor is really yummy! Find an Asian market near you, buy some Pocky, then eat it while you watch those funny commercials. Anata mo watashi mo Pocky!

Louie's 106 : 4 of 5

I've been to Louie's many, many times, but I checked my archives and I've never given it a review, so here it goes. Last weekend I ate here with my pals Chris & Eliza, and we ordered off the tapas menu, which is definitely the way to go. They have a great variety of both hot and cold tapas, and we ordered about seven or eight of them to make a meal for three. You also get delicious bread, which made it a big meal! I love their asparagus, and their fresh mozzarella is quite amazing. When you order a bunch of tapas, they bring them out "family style" on one huge plate, so everyone can just pick around on them and eat whatever they like. We got a bottle of cheap Chilean Merlot, which was so-so tasting, but definitely worked as far as getting tipsy goes. The restaurant itself is at a great location downtown on 6th Street, but close to Congress so you're well out of the crazy bar scene. The inside is comfortable, with two levels of tables and bathrooms on a third lower level. I've always had a good meal here, and it's a fun place to go with friends if you're willing to blow a little dough (although when you buy tapas it becomes pretty reasonable!).

4.10.2005

Mikey's memory map

Totally old news by now, but Google Maps are really cool. They work with Safari now, and I've been using them a lot (since I tend to print out a map nearly every time I go somewhere!). I can't believe how crappy MapQuest looks next to Google Maps quality (besides, the MapQuest logo is so dumb - it looks like Flintstones font or something). Now that Google has added the truly incredible satellite view, everyone is creating "memory maps". If you remember the address of your childhood home, just type it in and you're suddenly transported back in time! If you grab the map image and combine it with the cool notes feature of Flickr, you can annotate your old stomping ground. Take a look at my childhood neighborhood - if you haven't seen Flickr notes before, just hover over the boxes I've drawn on the map and my notes will pop up. Good ol' Ladera Way looks exactly like I remember it!

Another "live" post

Live from Barnes & Noble, this is WEBmikey enjoying another nice weekend. Yesterday I walked Town Lake again, went grocery shopping, went to Asahi for fun Japanese snacks, sunbathed for almost two hours listening to the 3 Monkeys Radio podcast (from Japan!), then went out with my pals to see The Sinus Show Travoltathon (featuring some triple bare-butt jockstrap madness). This morning I did some reading, watched a DVD, and now I'm hanging out with my iBook. Almost every table is full here, so I'm taking advantage of my spot!

4.09.2005

Mangajin's Basic Japanese Through Comics : 3 of 5

For my study of Japanese, I think it's key to have a variety of study methods. So, I end up looking at the foreign language section of the bookstore all the time to see if anything looks new and fun. This book uses panels of all kinds of manga (Japanese comics), from adult dramas to kiddie stories, to illustrate various concepts of the language. For example, there are entire chapters devoted to the various uses of doomo or sumimasen, and other bizarre subjects such as how "baby talk" is expressed in Japanese! The concept seems like a good idea, but I don't think I really learned that much from the book (or at least, I don't think the method makes anything "stick" in my memory). Nothing is really presented in a progressive way of learning - it's more like a collection of semi-advanced discussions on the nuances of a particular idea. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy reading it, because it definitely was fun to read the detailed translations of the various manga (and they even translate sound effects!). I just think I would enjoy it more if I were already semi-fluent first ("Basic Japanese" really means "basic concepts presented in advanced style"). I actually bought this book and its sequel at the same time, so I'll see if the second volume can do a better job than this one.

4.08.2005

More phone wallpaper

I love digging through WEBmikey statistics! I can see all sorts of cool things, such as all the different searches that resulted in WEBmikey hits (I think I like these stats so much since I helped write the software for my company, Levelfield!). Recently I had a nice spike in activity because some folks discovered the wallpaper images that I created for my Motorola V505. Well, that prompted me to make some new ones for myself, and why not share them if that's what the public wants? Here are some cool wallpapers featuring Battlestar Galactica (the classic show), Teen Titans, and Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (the live-action series). I think these are better than my last set! You might notice that everything is kind of off-center to the right, and this is so the text on the phone that displays your carrier and the date won't get in the way of the image (as long as you justify it to the left rather than centered). Enjoy!

Cylon | Cylon Head | Starfire
Sailor Moon | Sailor Mercury | Sailor Mars
Sailor Jupiter | Sailor Venus

4.07.2005

So much coolness

Every so often I find myself completely overwhelmed by the amount of "stuff" I want to do. Most of it is just media that I want to consume - books I want to read, DVDs to watch, and CDs to listen to. There's also so many toys I want to buy and play with, video games, cool gadgets, and other random things I want to collect just because it's fun to buy stuff! Along with all of that, I want to keep learning Japanese using all sorts of methods (software, websites, books, and more), and I also want to keep doing video editing projects, and there are even more totally new things I'd like to try. Of course, I want to keep traveling and make regular Disney park visits, too! When I concentrate on all the things I want to do, I can't imagine ever being bored and I realize life is just so short. I know that none of these things I want will change the world, but a happy Mikey sends his goofy, positive smile into the world, and that's got to be worth something. Life is an amazing miracle, and I'm proud to be overwhelmed by it!

Kronos Quartet / Sun Rings : 4 of 5

I think I heard my first Kronos Quartet recording back in the OU listening lab, and I was soon hooked on their amazing variety of work (I have about ten of their CDs now!). I saw them perform live once in Tulsa, and it was really impressive watching them play incredibly complex works with precision. I decided to go to this concert at the last minute, so of course, I got a fantastic third-row seat (the advantage of going alone!), and I'm so glad I did. Sun Rings is a fascinating multimedia experience, using projected images and video along with a ten movement work by minimalist composer Terry Riley. The composition was actually funded in part by NASA, since it was inspired by actual recordings of sounds from space (captured using plasma wave receivers on the Voyager spacecraft as well as other missions). The strings are accompanied by a large vocal chorus on some movements, and most movements also feature sound samples (such as mission radio communications and the actual plasma recordings) that can be triggered by the performers by waving their hands over sensors on their music stands! The entire performance was mesmerizing - it was such a fast 90 minutes (with no intermission). I was once again amazed at the precise talent of the Kronos Quartet, and I definitely hope they record this piece!

4.06.2005

Hi Hi headache

I guess I should say something more about Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, since it's been on so long now that I've been watching a lot of repeats lately. I thought the idea for the show was kind of cool, since I'm already excited to see anything fresh with a Japanese touch, and I was already a Puffy fan (since my pal Barron got me hooked on them) with several CDs popping up on my iPod. The show was kind of a let-down at first, since the crazy episodes were just so frenetic - the first episode I watched kind of gave me a headache! I love the live segments with the real Ami and Yumi, and whenever a re-run shows up on TiVo, I always watch these parts again. The theme song is pretty cool, too, and the concert footage opening is nice. I think the little stories are getting better, at least the pacing is watchable, and they're getting a little more free with the Japanese dialog here and there (which is fun for me to figure out). The best thing they've done so far is include an actual Puffy video right in the middle of the show - it was totally unexpected, but so great! Despite my initial reaction, I guess I'll keep watching, since it can always get better.

4.05.2005

Walt Disney Treasures / The Complete Pluto Vol 1 : 4 of 5

Yippee! I've finished the latest wave of Walt Disney Treasures from Christmas! This last set was a good one, featuring tons of hilarious Pluto cartoon shorts. I guess I had never thought about it before, but Pluto cartoons are a lot like watching Road Runner, since there's rarely any dialogue (except for Pluto's hilarious "breathing" laugh, which always cracks me up). I had seen many of these shorts before (most on other DVDs I own), but it's still nice to have them in this collection where I can watch them chronologically. I was kind of amazed by how many girlfriends Pluto has - mostly Dachshunds, but also a Pekinese (and she has babies, too!). Also, Pluto was often teamed with a smaller version of himself, sometimes a son and sometimes a kid brother. My favorite Pluto short Bone Trouble is here also, which has the Hall of Mirrors sequence that's so clever and funny. Unfortunately the bonus material is pretty sparse for a two DVD set, but it does include an excellent interview with Andreas Deja where we get to watch him sketch Pluto from scratch. There are also some fun stills of Pluto strips from the Sunday comics, which you can actually read panel by panel. OK, I'm ready for the next wave of Walt Disney Treasures now!

4.04.2005

Thrice is nice

Back in my early days of programming the Mac, I got used to "triple-clicking", which selects an entire line of text (rather than a double-click, which selects a single word). I use it constantly when I'm writing WEBmikey, since I use BBEdit for typing and spell-checking before I post with Blogger. When I'm at work, it drives me crazy that I can't triple-click - I must do it a hundred times a day before I realize it just doesn't do anything on my PC! I want my triple-click!

Cozymel's : 3 of 5

Since this place opened up in the Arboretum a long time ago, I've driven past it hundreds of times. I thought about taking my parents there during their recent visit, since it looked kind of cool and Mom and I like to drink margaritas together. My parents and I didn't make it, but I ate there with my pal Melinda recently, and it was pretty good. I had my tried and true standard for Mexican restaurants - one crunchy beef taco and one cheese enchilada. I was really suprised that the enchilada was so spicy (I think it was the sauce) - I loved the taste, but it's a good thing my Dad didn't try it! The taco was really good, too - they have a choice of beef, which is great since I don't really like shredded beef in my Mexican food. The rice was nice, too - not Tex-Mex at all, and the beans were fine. The decor is pretty standard, but it seemed a little weird since the place was practically empty - it made the service fast, but I like things a little more hopping. The best thing was after dinner they bring you white chocolate and pecan "tamales". They're pretty small after you unwrap them, but tasty! I doubt I'll make an effort to go there again, but if any of my pals feel like trying it, I wouldn't mind eating there.

4.03.2005

Surprise email

Yesterday I got an email from Larry Pontius, the author of the fantastic book Waking Walt, thanking me for my WEBmikey review! Wow, I can't believe another book review generated a response - I must be famous. By the way, Larry Pontius is the former vice president of marketing for Disneyland and Walt Disney World, so he's just a little more famous than I am! Anyway, you're quite welcome, Larry! Of course, I definitely recommend this cool book to Disney fans everywhere, and even non-Disney mystery fans, too.

Jimi's Book of Japanese (Hiragana) / Peter Takahashi : 4 of 5

This is the first book of the Jimi series, designed exactly like the Katakana edition, which I thought was fantastic. Both books together are a great introduction to Japanese kana (in fact, they compliment each other so well that I think having both is essential). Since this is the original book, it introduces the characters that appear throughout the book, namely Jimi, Robotto-san, and Akiko, which is a fun way to get things started. Each page contains a giant kana that you can trace with your finger while reading it (and watching Jimi's mouth to help with the sound), along with a few vocabulary words. Most of these include a culture note by Robotto-san, and these really make the book interesting (there are many more culture notes in the Hiragana book than the Katakana book, which is wonderful!). There's a cool bonus section that labels the parts of the body, but unfortunately these pages are only in Romaji with no Hiragana! All of the illustrations are cute and have such an adorable Japanese style, which gives the book a cool flair. I'm hoping there will be more Jimi books, because I'm wondering how they will present compound kana, or maybe even beginning Kanji! Even if you already know your kana, these books are a fun addition to your Nihongo study library.

4.02.2005

Posting in the sunshine

Today's posts are coming to you live from Mozart's, a cool coffee shop right by the water with free wireless internet. I'm sitting outside in the fantastic weather, having a mid-day cappuccino and a bagel (I'm little worried about bird bombing, but I'll try my luck!). This morning I walked three miles around Town Lake, which was a beautiful experience - there's practically no wind, and the temperature is perfect. I got to watch ROTC guys and girls training, part of a baseball game, plenty of cute girls, and a nice field of wildflowers (here's a camera phone pic) - I also discovered that my favorite wildflower is called Indian Blanket, not Indian Paintbrush, like I thought. My iPod shuffle is totally awesome for walking - I got some new headphones that fit my ears better and they never popped out once. The weekend is such a marvelous invention, isn't it?

Walt Disney Treasures / The Mickey Mouse Club : 4 of 5

I got so many DVDs for Christmas that it's taking me quite a while to get through all these cool sets (especially since I try to keep my Netflix quotient up)! These DVDs contain the first week (five shows) of the original Mickey Mouse Club from 1955, and the shows are so much fun to watch. I love how each day had a different theme (like Fun with Music Day, Anything Can Happen Day, and even Circus Day), and I could definitely see how it could make the show something you just couldn't miss, especially if it was your favorite day! Although the actual commercials aren't included, there are short 10-second mentions of product sponsors which are really cool (I wonder what Sugar Jets tasted like?). There are some segments with the famous Wally Boag (from the early days of the Golden Horseshoe at Disneyland), but I didn't think he was that funny. The bonus features include interviews with surviving Mouseketeers, of course, filmed on the real Disney sound stage in front of the actual curtain from the show. There's also some cool color footage of the Mouseketeers at Disneyland's opening day, plus a color version of the opening animation that was never shown on TV. It was really nice watching these talented kids dance and sing, then hearing Jimmy tell everyone to help wash the dishes that night. Now I want to watch the second week!

4.01.2005

Thanks, Jimi!

Sometimes it pays to be a blogger! You may remember that I recently reviewed Jimi's Book of Japanese (the Katakana version), just because I've been in the habit of reviewing everything I touch for years now. A few weeks ago I got an email from PB&J Omnimedia, the publisher of the book - he had found my review on WEBmikey and asked if he could send me new copies of both the Katakana and the Hiragana (which I didn't have) books, signed by Yumie Toka, the illustrator! Besides being totally incredible, that's a fantastic thing for a publisher to do, so I hereby declare that anyone learning Japanese kana should pick up the Jimi's Book of Japanese series! I'm really enjoying having both books (review coming soon), and I thought it was cute how Yumie signed each book with arigatou in the appropriate kana for the book. WEBmikey sends a big arigatou right back!