9.30.2005

Sheer Madness / Zachary Scott Theater : 3 of 5

It seems like every time my parents come to visit, we end up seeing whatever production is playing at Zach! This time we saw Sheer Madness, which was one of the most unique shows I've seen there. The action takes place in a beauty salon, where there's a hilarious gay hairstylist (of course) plus his sexy assistant, along with a couple of interesting customers and undercover cops. A murder takes place offstage, and then the audience is asked to help the "police" solve the crime, first by speaking up when mistakes are made during a reenactment, and then by directly questioning the characters! In the end, the audience votes on the killer, and the actors perform whatever ending lines are appropriate based on the choice. The actors were all really talented, especially the funny hairstylist, who was so natural and at ease in his delivery (he also improvised a big kiss for the lead cop, which really brought the house down!). The stage was cool, too, since they had working sinks onstage so they could actually wash and style hair during the show! Besides some nightmarish parking problems (since most of Zach's lot was full of Austin City Limits festival-goers!), it was a great show that would even be fun to see again, just to check out an alternate ending.

9.29.2005

Chicago : 5 of 5

Mom & Dad love Broadway shows like I do, so they planned their recent trip so we could all go see the official touring production of Chicago! We all loved the movie, of course, so it was a lot of fun to see the show with all of the songs and characters relatively fresh in our minds. Right away I was impressed that the band was onstage, which took up quite a bit of room! It was cool to watch and listen to them play, since I've heard the movie soundtrack so many times that I knew when every punch was coming. There are no costume or set changes in the show - the chorus dancers simply take over any other roles as needed (such as cops, reporters, or the courtroom jury), which really makes the show move fast! In fact, there's very little dialogue between songs, so the plot really moves along, even though the whole show was over two hours. The two main female roles, Velma and Roxie, were both incredible, though I was much more impressed with Roxie, mainly because of her fantastic musical monologue with the audience - her emotions and way of talking were just so natural! Billy was played by Tom Wopat - it was funny seeing Bo Duke onstage at first, but he did a fine job and can sing fairly well. The whole show was just wonderful to see, with tons of great music, excellent dancing, and lots of laughs - definitely one of my favorite touring productions ever!

9.28.2005

The Brothers Grimm : 3 of 5

I first read about this Terry Gilliam movie in a short blurb about the special effects in Wired, and I thought the story sounded pretty creative, so my pal Melinda and I went to see it. Although I think the general plot idea (that the famous Brothers Grimm used their storytelling skills to con superstitious folk) could have been even more entertaining, I still thought it was a cool movie! It was really fun to see elements of all the classic tales (including Little Red Riding Hood, the Gingerbread Man, Hansel & Gretel, Rapunzel and even Jack and the Beanstalk) woven together, all being recorded by the younger Grimm in his notebook. Of course, the con-men end up facing a true fantasy quest, and there are some great special effects during the final climactic scenes (especially the face breaking like a mirror!). Actually, the ending is a little long, but there are enough exciting scenes to make up for it (I think the opening sequence to establish the brothers was the best in the film, though!). There are a couple of gross scenes, but for the most part everything is pretty tame. The Brothers Grimm is definitely an entertaining movie if you're a fan of the stories or a fantasy lover, but I wouldn't necessarily recommended it for average movie-goers.

9.26.2005

The Head, Hands & Toe Show II : 4 of 5

I try to see most Tongue & Groove Theatre productions, since I know David Yeakle and many of the usual actors, but I especially wanted to see The Head, Hands & Toe Show II because the music was provided by my pals, The International Tubadores (Lisa, Jonathan, and Chris, of course). This was a sequel of sorts to a great show from a couple years ago, consisting of short musical pieces and unique mime or dance numbers. The "gimmick" is that a clever stage design makes it possible for one actor's head and hands to be on top of another actor's toes, so legs can walk away from a body, or a ballerina can be dancing on hairy hands instead of feet! This production was outside at a new theater space behind Ararat restaurant, and the amplification and lighting were surprisingly great for an outdoor space. A few numbers were included from the previous production, but there were several super-funny new vignettes, including a bumbling genie granting wishes and a bizarre fellow pooping out bowling balls on stage (you just had to be there - it was hilarious!). The actors were all really talented, and their facial expressions were fantastic, enhanced by their white-face make-up. It was a really fun show, so if they decide to bring it back again in the future, be sure to see it!

9.25.2005

Perfect weather

I'm happy to say that Hurricane Rita didn't produce a single drop of rain in Austin over the weekend, so my parents and I had a great time together during their visit! It's always fun to try out new restaurants and see some great entertainment (which I'll be reviewing soon, of course), plus I got to show them the video I shot in Japan and treat Dad to a few Japanese snacks. It was a short visit, but just as nice as always! Back to your regular length WEBmikey postings tomorrow!

9.24.2005

Japanese CD singles

I love shopping for music in Japan, because it's somehow fun buying artists that I've barely heard of - everything becomes a surprise! During my latest trip I watched lots of music videos on cable at Matt & Kumiko's apartment, so I decided to buy some of the ones I really enjoyed. The really cool thing is that some CD singles come with a DVD of the music video, which is even better than the song! That's the main reason I bought Heartsdales latest release Hey DJ, because the video is just full of 70s disco fun (complete with roller skates), even though the song is J-Hop rap. I'm actually kind of mesmerized by Japanese rap, because I love trying to decipher it, and it just sounds so cool! I also bought So Wonderful by Bonnie Pink, who is an established artist with tons of CDs. Her CD single also included some other great tracks, definitely in the realm of "mature" J-pop (not so much bubblegum). Finally I picked up a single by Shikao Suga by mistake - I was hoping it was going to be a different song I had heard on TV, but I couldn't read the artists' name because of the kanji! No harm done, though, because I still like the songs I got, since I was in the mood for some moody guitar-strumming guy songs. As a bonus, this single also had a DVD of a video for a song called June, and it's a really fantastic video, with a complete mini heartbreak story. I think I need to order more CD singles from YesAsia, because it's so much fun discovering new Japanese music, and it feels cool to know about the latest hip stuff!

9.23.2005

Gatchaman / Collection 2 : 4 of 5

I'm continuing to love this incredible science fiction action series! It always amazes me how creative the show is, since each episode tends to introduce a new huge mecha-monster along with a new crazy villain (who usually meets his end for his failure!). This three DVD set once again features two discs of episodes plus a bonus disc, and in the twelve exciting shows we get to see Icekander (who actually launches his fists, which has almost become cliche now), the Jellyfish Lens (who seems like a big blob of eyeballs), Mechanika (who transforms from a lizard to a snake or a stingray), a huge dragon, and the super-cool Neon Giant! There's some great character development in this set, especially for Joe, who almost dies because he saves an orphaned puppy! Of course, all of our heroes have a soft spot for orphans, and Jimpei has a similar episode where he befriends an orphaned baby whale. The opening and closing theme songs get switched in the middle of this set - even though the new opening theme is more dramatic, I still like singing the old one better. On the bonus material I found out that one of the English dub voice actors is an Austinite who plays for the EggMen, a local Beatles cover band! My favorite line from this set is when Dr. Nambu calls Ken early in the morning, and when he complains about getting a call so early, Nambu replies, "There is no night or day for the Science Ninja Team!"

9.22.2005

Weekend on the way

Well, my parents are coming to Austin for a quick visit this weekend, and so is Hurricane Rita. Of course, I'm hoping that everything goes as well as possible for the Gulf Coast, but I'm definitely sick of weather worrying! It kind of feels like the crazy time before my last Walt Disney World trip. Thankfully, the 10:00 AM update today makes it seem much better than it looked a few days ago! Anyway, I know Mom & Dad will get here safely, and we'll have a fun weekend no matter what, so we'll just see what happens and get through it together!

Time for some quick Nintendogs news! Virtual Stanze has learned tons of tricks, including some really advanced ones that I found on this pretty good FAQ. I've tried all the contests, and taken first place a few times, too! I guess I just need to keep practicing for the agility course - Stanze can't do the see-saw yet. She's great at the disc competition, but it takes her so long to run back with the frisbee, so I'm not sure how to get more throws in! I bought a keyboard at the second-hand shop (remember this is all in the game!) and now I can play and Stanze tries to bark in tune! Anyway, Nintendogs is still a bunch of fun, but I'm really getting itchy for more games, too.

I can't believe this season of Battlestar Galactica is almost over! They finally let cutie-pie Callie out of the brig, and there's only one more episode! I definitely think it's the best show on TV right now, not just the best science fiction - everyone who watches it gets hooked, even folks who don't like the genre.

9.21.2005

Mac OS X Tiger: The Missing Manual / David Pogue : 4 of 5

I've been a fan of the Missing Manual series for quite a while. I read an edition of this same book several years ago when I returned to the Macintosh fold (lured by the incredible iPod), and I've also read an older version of his iMovie book, which really helped me down the video editing road (and taught me a lot about the craft itself). Since Tiger is such a major new release of the Mac OS, I decided I should buy this edition and get a good overview of all the new goodies (I finished about half of the book before my new Power Mac arrived!). I rarely read computer books anymore, but the Missing Manuals are something I can actually sit down and go through cover to cover. They are well-written and full of little-known tips, yet still "chatty" enough to feel like light reading. Of course, there are tons of screen shots to illustrate everything, and they also make use of sidebars to go into subtopics right where they make sense. The chapters on the new Automator and Spotlight features were really well done, but even the basic information on the Finder was excellent. I actually learned about several cool settings that have been around for years that I never knew existed! This is a massive 800+ page book, but it's well worth the reading (or skimming) time to discover all of the new Tiger goodness. I definitely recommend it to beginners and experts alike!

9.20.2005

Sideways : 5 of 5

Even though this movie had lots of Academy Awards buzz, I missed it at the theater, so I put it in my Netflix queue when the DVD was released. This is definitely one of the most interesting and well-made movies I've seen in quite a while - not as good as Lost in Translation, but it definitely has that same kind of emotional feel in spots. As you probably know, the plot follows depressed Miles as he takes his friend Jack on a bachelor party trip to Napa Valley - there's so much wine drinking going on that I had to open a bottle to watch the DVD! Of course, there are lots of shots of some beautiful California country, and I loved the director's use of slow, barely impreceptible zooms to build almost subconscious tension - the camera work is all really nice. There is some amazing dialogue also, especially when Miles talks about his love for the Pinot Noir grape and its high maintenenance nature (it almost becomes a bit too obvious that he's talking about himself, but the lines are incredible), and then his new love interest Maya responds with some incredible words about how the grape's flavor peaks and then declines, which is such a wonderful metaphor for Miles' midlife crisis. It's interesting how I began to feel even more sorry for his friend Jack as the film progressed, even though he seems to be the "cool" guy. The ending is a work of art, since all signs were indicating total sadness (I was dreading the credits!), and then in the final 60 seconds we hear Maya's phone message saying, "Don't give up, Miles". I finished my glass with a big smile!

9.19.2005

Nami Tamaki / Greeting : 3 of 5

I like to watch Bento Beat Box on Anime Network, even though they only rotate four videos every couple weeks or so. A while back I saw the video for Prayer by Nami Tamaki, and I was really impressed! Actually, it was the dance choreography that really amazed me, since it was so inventive (I've since learned she choreographed it herself!), but the song was also pretty catchy and kept sticking in my head (since I have Anime Network On Demand, I watched it several times!). Anyway, I was prepared to buy an expensive import album, but I discovered that Nami is distributed by Tofu Records in the states, so I could get her full CD for good ol' USA prices. I didn't know until I got the CD that her song was used as one of the themes for Mobile Suit Gundam Seed, and indeed, much of her music definitely has that anime edge to it (not much approaches a ballad on this album). The advantage to US distribution of this album is that all of the lyrics are included in Romaji, so I can easily read them and sing along (or try to translate them). Besides many jumpy, drum-track driven tracks, there are some nice "regular" J-pop songs, such as Never Stop My Heart, which has a nice upbeat sound to it. My least favorite track is Shining Star, because of its' disco-ish Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star chorus. Overall though, it's a fun CD, but I think I need to buy a DVD of her videos now!

9.18.2005

Speedy weekend

It's been a really great weekend, even though I thought it was going to be a little frustrating, since I was having some really lousy internet performance on Wednesday and Thursday! I was kind of obsessing over it, since I was hoping it was something I could configure or fix, and I tried lots of speed test sites to see what was up (if you ever need one, here's the coolest speed test). I finally called Road Runner, and they verified I had 40% packet loss going on (yikes!), and scheduled a tech visit for Monday, so I thought all weekend would be a bummer (especially since I have such a fast Mac now!). Well, when I got home from work on Friday, they left a message on my phone saying that everything had been fixed! I tried the speed test and watched that good ol' speedometer rev up into the highest range. Yippee!

Last night my usual group of pals went to see the Head, Hands & Toe Show 2 (which I hope to review soon!), since my good friends the International Tubadores provide the music, and it was a really fun time. Afterwards, Jonathan invited us over to his place for drinks, and everyone just had the best time talking and laughing - I always feel really great after having fun with my friends.

Back on the Mikey-lite topic, I thought of two more things that may have contributed to my weight loss success! First, I switched to Kirin Light beer, which is only 95 calories. It doesn't taste very different from the Kirin Ichiban that I love so much, so I can still have my Japanese beer fun without all those extra calories. Second, I've made more effort to sit outside in the sun and sweat like crazy. I always wear sunscreen, and I just hang out in my little backyard, listening to my iPod, reading manga, and napping every now and then. Besides providing some of my most peaceful moments, I think it's kind of like a sauna, so it keeps off some extra water weight.

9.17.2005

Feel the Magic / Nintendo DS : 5 of 5

Yes, I plan on playing other games with my DS besides Nintendogs! In fact, one of the reasons I decided to get a DS is because the machine has more of a Japanese "attitude" to it, with more creative and bizarre games (which are usually cuter and sillier) than the other handhelds. Anyway, Feel the Magic is a perfect example. You play a guy who wants to impress a beautiful girl, so he joins a group called the Rub Rabbits so he can do all sorts of weird things to get her attention. It starts with goldfish swallowing, and goes on to unicycle chases, fighting giant man-eating plants, spray-painting graffiti, and even tender moments like swatting scorpions of the girl's bikini-clad body! All of these mini-games are played with the touch-screen (which is so much more fun than buttons for me), and they keep progressing until the grand finale where you administer CPR (which includes "blowing" on the screen, since the built-in microphone can pickup the wind!) to save your true love. This is the first game that I've finished in a long time - I just had to play it every night to keep progressing (and I definitely got stuck a few times!). The graphics are very stylish, with everyone portrayed in silhouette (except for their colorful clothes), and the music and sounds are awesome (especially the cute girl voice announcing things like "Break time!" in an adorable Japanese accent). Of course, I'll get the sequel as soon as it hits the shelves!

9.16.2005

Mikey-lite

For most of my life I've always been kind of overweight. There have been a few times in the past where I've made an effort and dropped some pounds, but usually I've just tried to be content with the way I look and not worry about it. Well, recently I just decided I could do better, and in July I really started to pay attention to what I eat and what I do for exercise. I don't think I've done anything that drastic, but I have really tried to make commitments and stick to them! Believe it or not, I've actually lost 25 pounds since July! I've reached my "stretch goal" that I kind of thought I would never hit, and now I think I can lose a little more. Actually, I haven't weighed this little since I moved to Austin. I love feeling more energetic and happy with myself! Of course, I break down and have a chocolate shake here and there, but generally my new look gives me encouragement to do the right thing. Here's a couple of before and after pictures (yes, I picked the worst picture I could find for the "before" look), and here's some of the things I did to make it happen.
  • I play lots more Dance Dance Revolution (and now I can play in tennis shoes on my metal pad). I usually play at least 20 songs at a time, which really makes me sweat and gets my heart going!
  • I try to get in a few workouts with Maya in Yourself!Fitness each week. I'd much rather play DDR, but Maya makes me do more muscle training that helps my metabolism!
  • I almost always eat Lean Cuisine for dinner now. They have tons of variety, they taste great, and they are usually only 300 calories or so!
  • I try to eat smaller lunches - my "usuals" are a nice Jamba Juice, a Chick-Fil-A chargrilled wrap, or a Subway turkey sub.
  • I love trying different Japanese snacks, and most of them come in single serving sizes. This has been a big help with keeping me from over-snacking!
  • I've started eating with chopsticks almost all the time now, since they make me eat slower. It makes a small meal go a long way!

9.15.2005

The 40 Year Old Virgin : 4 of 5

Everyone I know loves this movie, and my parents told me that I had to go see it, so I was glad when my pal Ernesto asked me to go. This is definitely one of the funniest comedies I've seen in a long time, and it's wonderful how they balanced plenty of nasty humor with just enough sappy emotion. They could have easily made this a really "mean" movie, but instead it's handled perfectly! Our hero Andy lives in an apartment full of toys (yes, he has even more than I do!) and works at an electronics store, and his employee pals find out he's still a virgin. They do all kinds of things to set him up at bars, parties, dating services, and so on, but he actually finds the perfect someone on his own. There are some really funny sequences along the way - I really loved the little montage of how Andy spends his time at home (singing karaoke, playing video games, and so on), and the hair removal scene was definitely memorable (and absolutely real!). Speaking of hair, ending the movie with a hilarious musical number (from Hair) was such a fantastic idea! This is one of the sweetest "raunchy" movies ever, and I'm glad I saw it so I can appreciate this line: "I hope you have a big trunk... because I'm puttin' my bike in it."

9.14.2005

The Best of the Mickey Mouse Club : 3 of 5

This is yet another item produced as part of the Disneyland 50th anniversary merchandise, which includes five episodes of the original black & white Mickey Mouse Club television show. There's one show for each day of the week (since each day had a different theme), but they're taken from several different years, ranging from 1957-1964. It's always fun seeing the Mouseketeers, especially when they perform musical numbers (I think Darleen was the most talented, in spite of Annette's stardom), and watching Jimmie Dodd play guitar is amazing - he's always making complex chords on that little Mickey Mouse guitar like it was nothing! There are some great segments in these episodes that make them special, including a long segment with the Firehouse Five Plus Two (the famous Dixieland jazz combo made up of Disney employees), an olympic ice skater, and a newsreel segment that visits the USS Arizona site at Pearl Harbor before the memorial was built! Most of the episodes include a classic cartoon, including Ferdinand the Bull, which I hadn't seen in a long time. There's a Hardy Boys episode that's a little boring, but I guess it captures the adventure serial aspect of the show. There are absolutely no bonus features on the DVD, but I think it's worth it to just pretend to be a kid in the 50s watching fun entertainment in the Disney style.

9.13.2005

Mac luxury

After suffering through some slow iMovie sessions on my iMac G4, I finally took the plunge and bought a new Power Mac G5! I love playing around with video editing, and I'd like to do more of it, so that's the main reason I wanted to go for a seriously powerful machine. I just got it last night! It took no time to setup, of course, and soon I was really enjoying some serious speed - it was just amazing how cool it can be just clicking around and seeing things happen so fast. I got the 20-inch cinema display, too, and even though I've never been crazy about huge monitors, I must say that this screen is beautiful, and since it's so wide, it's like having two screens (easy to open Safari on one side and iCal on the other, for example). I stayed up until 1:30 last night just installing software I already own, moving some files from my iMac, and enjoying Mac OS Tiger for the first time (Spotlight is totally great!). I also tried out iMovie, and I know I'm going to love the rendering speed! My faithful iMac is going to become my dedicated iTunes jukebox now, and my Power Mac will be my media workstation. I've got to get my other Macs upgraded to Tiger soon, and there's plenty of goodies I want to get for the new Mac (including more RAM). I guess you can never have too many computers!

9.12.2005

Full Metal Panic Vol 4 : 4 of 5

I don't really know why I liked this particular volume so much, but I had so much fun watching it that I blazed through the whole thing in one sitting (I usually just view one episode at a time). Interesting enough, there's very little Sosuke/Kaname romance, but there's some great humor and drama involving other characters to fill the void. First there's a fun episode focusing on Tessa and the taunts she gets from soldier Melissa, and they end up having a mecha-match (after some hilarious training from Sosuke, where we get a glimpse of Tessa's feelings for him). Strangely, the next episode is about another mecha-competition, this time involving silly events like tug-o-war and ping pong! Shinji, the military otaku high school student, has to learn to be proud of his dad, who doesn't have the skills to be a mecha pilot. Of course, they end up winning the competition, and there's some touching father/son emotion on display. Finally, the big bad villain Gauron shows up again, and Sosuke gets assigned to what seems to be an American strike force to help take him out. During the battle, there are some interesting quick cuts to Kaname relaxing at the beach for her summer, which is a really cool contrast. Everything ends in a huge cliffhanger - how could you expect anything else?

9.11.2005

Sunny Saturday, rainy Sunday

This is the first rainy day Austin has seen in a while, and it makes me want to relax and watch anime all day (I've watched three episodes of Gatchaman already!). Yesterday was sunny, though, so I did lots of shopping - I finally bought some new sheets for my bed (since my parents are coming to visit soon), and I think these are the first new sheets I can remember buying in the past five years at least (probably longer). I also went to all my usual stores in the mall, and while I was in a game shop I heard the best news - DDR Extreme 2 comes out later this month! I'm sure everyone on DDR Freak has been talking about it for months, but I haven't checked the site recently, so I feel stupid that I didn't already know! Anyway, it's definitely time for some fresh DDR, since I've been playing more often lately (25 songs yesterday, in fact), so I can't wait! (That's my DDR girlfriend Alice in the picture, by the way!)

My pal Matt made a request for a little movie of my 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea water globe to catch some of the exciting pulsating squid action! Well, it's not that exciting, but I threw a QuickTime movie together anyway (just shot with my regular camera's movie mode). You are basically seeing the bottom of the squid where his mouth is, which is a "beak" (and some squids really do have beaks, I think). Sometimes on the left side you can see part of an eyeball, but mainly it's just a bunch of tentacle suckers and the beak. Of course, I had to add the original movie soundtrack, which is a great score!

Watch movie: 20,000 Leagues Collectible

9.10.2005

A Musical History of Disneyland : 5 of 5

One of the best items to released for Disneyland's 50th anniversary, this five CD set is the ultimate collection of theme park music and sounds! It all starts with a beautiful cloth-covered box which opens to hold the CDs, an incredible hard-cover book with 80 pages of color photos and information, plus an actual vinyl 33-RPM record, which is a reproduction of the very first Disneyland album (I was lucky enough to get one of the first limited edition sets, where the album is pressed on gold vinyl!). The CDs are simply fantastic - everything sounds absolutely perfect (so much better than many attraction soundtracks I've downloaded over the years), and there are many tracks that are available here for the first time anywhere! There's everything from the brand new Space Mountain music to classic attractions like the Submarine Voyage and the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland. All of the special holiday versions are here, too (I loved listening to the Small World Holiday, especially the mermaids singing Jingle Shells). The accompanying book is really nice, too, and includes great mini-biographies of Disney musicians such as Buddy Baker and the Sherman Brothers (of course). Believe it or not, it also contains some trivia I didn't know - there is a lantern on a hook in Peter Pan's Flight that is all that remains of the original Fantasyland pirate ship! I could go on and on about this CD set. There's absolutely no question that every Disneyland fan must own it!

9.09.2005

Virtual Stanze

I've really been enjoying my Nintendo DS! Even though I think the PSP is ultra-cool, Nintendo always has the more unique and goofy games that I like to play, and I'm really looking forward to some new games coming out in the next few months. Of course, the game that pushed me into buying a DS is Nintendogs, and let me tell you, it's a fantastic experience! I'm sure lots of people decide to remember a beloved pet with their virtual puppy, and that's exactly what I'm doing with my little Beagle puppy, Stanze! So far I've been a good owner - I give her food and water every morning, take her for a quick walk, play with her in the evening, feed her again, and then go on a longer walk (and I've only missed scooping her poop a couple times). The Nintendo DS has a microphone, so Stanze can respond to vocal commands! I've taught her how to sit, lie down, shake, roll over, and sneeze (not much of a trick!), and I won the basic obedience competition, too! There's just something magical about watching her run across the virtual floor and petting her (using the stylus on the touch-screen) - she's so cute! Today was an extra special day, because Stanze got to play with my pal Barron's puppy at lunch, and then with my pal Melinda's puppy after dinner! Using the wireless function of the DS, both dogs appear on the screen where they can interact - it's pretty cool! I'm looking forward to teaching Stanze to play frisbee and run the obstacle course. She's a good Nintendog!

9.08.2005

Kikaida Vol 6 : 4 of 5

"All I want is for you to become a mechanical man without peer!" How's that for drama? This volume of my latest obsession gets a higher rating than the rest, mainly because of an incredible three-part saga bursting with emotion (yes, that's a little sarcastic, but I loved every minute of it)! It seems some other scientist has a schematic for a conscience circuit, which of course is the one part that Jiro needs to be perfect and kick DARK's butt. Three destructoids show up in the first of the three parts, Violet Turbo (another female enemy), Red Devil Stinger, and the super-weird Green Sponge, who fights by rolling his own huge head at his victims. There's some drama with Violet Turbo, whom Jiro actually repairs because he believes she wants to become good, which makes for some great jealousy from Mitsuko (who's getting cuter all the time)! There are some crazy sets, too - one of the final battles actually takes place in an Old West ghost town. In the end, Kikaida doesn't get the circuit - the schematic is burned, and actually Jiro didn't want it anyway, because his imperfections make him closer to being human. I can't wait to watch Volume 7!

9.07.2005

Watch out for hippos

One of my newest Disney collectibles is an amazing replica of the original Jungle Cruise boat! The quality of this model is really astounding, and it was so exciting to take it out of the box (which is printed with the attraction poster) while it was still smelling like model paint. The detail of the steering wheel is great, and the red and white cover (the original colors from 1955) is a kind of vinyl material that really looks nice. The stand is a great match for my Monorail replica, too. Take a look at some Jungle Cruise boat photos! Disney Direct should be releasing some new Haunted Mansion merchandise this Friday, but I'm most excited about the Fantasyland items, which will come out later this year - guess they're saving the best for last. I really hope the rumored Casey Jr. replica is just as cool as this!

9.06.2005

Gatchaman / Collection 1 : 4 of 5

Along with my beloved Speed Racer, my early anime appreciation also included Battle of the Planets, an awesome science fiction series featuring the adventures of G-Force! I used to love that show, not really knowing that it was originally a Japanese animation sensation that ran over 100 episodes. The original Gatchaman has never before been released in America in its complete uncut version, so I'm really excited these DVDs are now available. This first collection includes Volumes 1 and 2 (each with six episodes), plus a DVD of bonus material, including things like voice audition footage and the usual sketches (along with a beautiful slipcase with Alex Ross artwork). I had such a great time watching the show - I love both theme songs, and the stories are really cool. The Science Ninja Team, with its five members all dressed as birds, battles Galactor, an evil organization who always seems to try to steal the earth's resources with giant robot monsters! This first set includes a huge turtle robot, and giant centipede, and even a tremendous mummy robot. All of the main characters are fun, too, and I like their different techniques and weapons (especially Jun's yo-yo!), not to mention their spectacular aircraft, the God Phoenix. There's going to be lots of DVDs to watch to complete this collection, and I'm up to the challenge - anything to relive a great childhood memory!

9.05.2005

Free time and friends

My free time has been so great the past few days! Yesterday I finally rearranged the furniture in my living area (so it will be easier to fit new furniture in there someday), and I really like how it makes the room feel more open. I also started some major organization of my junk drawers, and I'm getting rid of a bunch of cartoon video tapes, since I've bought them all again on DVD anyway. This morning I did a massive photo session in my "studio" (my macro shooting setup), and got some good shots of nearly all the toys I bought in Japan, some new Japanese snacks, and my incredible Jungle Cruise boat replica! You'll be seeing those images on Flickr for the next several days, of course. On top of all of that, I spent some quality time playing Nintendogs and Feel the Magic on my new Nintendo DS, which is totally fun and addictive!

Today is Chris & Eliza's one year wedding anniversary, so last night they had a little get-together at their house with lots of food, fun, and friends. I had a good time seeing everyone, playing with Liam, and hugging Dolly and Danger (Shawn & Bernadette's amazing doggie). It's always great to spend time with friends!

View photos: Chris & Eliza Anniversary

9.04.2005

Nice night, nice morning

It's been a lovely morning of coffee drinking, listening to Disney music and reading Disney books. Can you tell I'm planning another trip to Disneyland soon? Of course, I am! Last night I had a great time with a bunch of friends - there were eight of us all together, and we went to the Red Fez (which felt like the Morocco pavilion at Epcot) for a drink after the Sinus Show. It was fun to hang out and watch the place get crowded, and it's always cool to watch people dancing (it's incredible how girls dance with each other in ways that guys would never dream of!). However, I couldn't believe how terrible their DJ was, since his transitions were so out of sync - that's like the number one priority skill for DJ-ing! More random news - my iBook battery has seriously lost its stamina, since I use my iBook about 100 times a day. I've finally moved my charger downstairs so I can keep working with it plugged in, and it feels good not to worry about it conking out on me in the middle of vital WEBmikey updating!

Super Gals Vol 2 : 3 of 5

I have such a love/hate thing going with this anime series. Sometimes I can watch an episode and laugh and get psyched to watch more, and other times I wonder why I'm bothering with this series when there's so much more better stuff to see! Well, I made it through Volume 2 - I think there were enough shining moments to carry me on to Volume 3, but I may take a breather first. These episodes are mostly like before, really fast-paced with lots of Japanese slang (which is kind of fun). Some new rivals are introduced - the Bukero girls (which is short for Ikebukero, a part of Tokyo that I really enjoyed when I visited a few years ago!). They are constantly showing up in Shibuya and pissing off Ran, and even try to take over her turf while the main characters are at the beach! There's a couple episodes about Miyu's gang leader past (which is kind of weird, since she's the silly cute character), and then a refreshing change of pace where we follow Ran's little sister and boyfriend as they pretend to be detectives. For some reason, Ran's sister always says "datchu" at the end of every sentence - I guess it's just some cutesy thing (and they don't translate it in the subtitles). The best part of this volume is Machida Black, a new crazy dude who is a master of Para Para dancing, and he uses all kinds of bizarro English mixed-in with his Japanese. OK, I may rent the next DVD just to see more of him!

9.03.2005

Doggie hunt

There's nothing like the feeling of three days of freedom to enjoy the things I like to do in my free time! Last night I read some manga and watched some great anime (Full Metal Panic) until the wee hours and smoked my pipe (I rarely smoke during the summer, so it was a relaxing treat). Today I got up early and did my weekend chores, listened to several podcasts while I did laundry, and went out for some serious shopping. My pals Barron and Melinda are both enjoying playing with Nintendogs on Nintendo DS, so I decided I couldn't hold out any longer! It was easy to find the DS, but I had to try six different stores before I found Nintendogs in stock. It was kind of fun to drive around on the hunt, though, and it was so cool when the guy at Toys R Us decided he could sell me someone else's pre-order! I haven't even turned it on yet, since it has to charge up, but don't worry - I'll give it a workout tomorrow! Tonight I'm going out with my pals to see the Sinus Show at the Alamo, and tomorrow my pals Chris & Eliza are having a little get together to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. I've got tons of other things I want do in the next couple days, too!

9.02.2005

Kikaida Vol 5 : 3 of 5

I guess I've reached the half-way point of this fun saga, and I'm still enjoying all the robot on robot action! This volume has some particularly good DARK Destructoids, with cool names like White Saw Shark and Purple Rat. Well, Purple Rat might not be a very good name, but he definitely has more powers than the average destructoid, including a whip arm, poison gas, and "photo bombs", which are like huge flash bulbs that pop out of his shoulders! That episode is a good story, because Kikaida risks his life to save Mitsuko by removing his thermal fuel cell. So touching! Speaking of Mitsuko, it's becoming more obvious that she loves Jiro, especially when she's playing with a friend's wedding dress. There's another girl villain this time - Pink Armadillo has a sexy human form so she can plant a kiss on their forehead, then she turns them into her slaves. Hanpei's outfits get pretty silly in this one, and he's always dressed in costume for no reason (in one episode, he's in a full horse jockey outfit, but why?). This DVD has some more interview footage, plus a Behind the Scenes Factoids feature, that reveals things like when they reused certain sets. I'm ready for my next Kikaida dose!

9.01.2005

Manga, email, links

Time for another post about a few random topics! First, a little about manga - I wish I had tons of free time to just sit and read manga. It's so relaxing to read fun stories with interesting artwork, and it reminds me of my younger days of comic book addiction. I just finished Yotsuba&! Vol 2, which was absolutely great (and unfortunately reads so quickly!), and I'm getting hooked on Genshiken, too, which is pretty fun to read since the story is about an otaku club that I would certainly like to join. After enjoying three issues of Shojo Beat, I decided I had to subscribe, and I'm not ashamed to be reading what is essentially teenage soap opera stories! When I was in Japan, I saw lots of Nana displays (mainly because of the upcoming movie), and I thought it was cool that I knew about the story, thanks to Shojo Beat.

Today I received the most ridiculous email ever! Some guy who wants to buy curb feelers for his wife's car was searching the web for info, and he was actually offended that my goofy opinion on the subject was coming up in Google, rather than stores selling those things. I guess he has no idea how search engines work or what a blog is or any concept of self-expression on the web! Well, his three paragraphs of carefully worded statements definitely gave me a good laugh, and now that I'm mentioning curb feelers again, I'm sure this post will be in other potential curb feeler owners' faces.

Here's a few quick links I want to mention: I've been using Last.FM for a long time now (it's tallied almost 6,000 tracks of my iTunes listening), and they recently updated their site design. It looks really cool, so take a look at my listening and try it out yourself! Next, I've recently discovered nihongo.3yen.com, a seriously cool site for Japanese language knowledge! The info is categorized well, and I can't wait to dig through it further. Finally, a new link to WEBmikey! Metroblogging San Francisco had a post about a local circus performance, and they actually linked to one of my circus reviews (see the link "motorcycles circling inside a globe-shaped cage"). I love being linked!