10.31.2005

Shake your antennae

Wow, this weekend was really packed full of fun stuff to mention here! I guess we'll start on Thursday when I got a mysterious UPS package. A long time ago I signed up on Pipe Show Online, just because it looked kind of interesting, and because of that, they sent me a box of tobacco samples - about 30 different 1.5 ounce pouches! That's at least worth a couple bucks a piece, so that's a really hefty "free sample"! I'll never smoke it all, but I'll have fun trying out a new kind with each bowl (I smoke my pipe about twice a week in the Fall and Winter, but hardly at all the rest of the year.)

Next up is Greatest American Heroes news, starting with our annual Halloween gig at the Carousel Lounge. It was pretty fun this year, especially since we had matching TV-head costumes! They were pretty comfortable as far as costumes go, and we actually kept them on for both sets. It was kind of fun shaking the antennae around - it made me feel like I had long hair or something! On Saturday morning, the Heroes went to Figment Studios to record four tracks for our singer Dana's new solo album. The recording session was one of the best I've ever experienced - the studio was awesome and we really had fun. The engineer really understood how I like my drums to sound, too! I can't wait to hear the CD in a month or so.

View photos: TV-heads

On Saturday night there was a baby shower for my pals Kristin & Carlos, since their little girl Sofia is just about ready to get out of Kristin's tummy by any means possible! Just like every party at Chris & Eliza's, it was a really fun time with tons of friends (and lots of other faces!). And yes, one of the gifts was the "sausage-maker" (the thing that turns dirty diapers into little sausage-like links), so now I can say that bizarre device has made an appearance at every single baby shower I've attended.

View photos: Sofia's baby shower

10.30.2005

Nintendogs retirement

As much as I enjoy it, I guess I can't play Nintendogs every single day for the rest of my life! So, I set a goal for myself and Virtual Stanze, and I'm happy to say that we met the challenge. My goal was to save up $5000 in prize money from contests so I could buy the fancy Japanese tatami room to live in. It was pretty cool to go to the interior decorator and pay, but then I was surprised because the game made me wait two days for the remodeling to be finished! But now my "place" looks really cool, and they even have the sound of water running outside along with the familiar plunk of the shishi odoshi! I want to put Stanze in the doggie hotel for her "retirement", but I'll have to buy another puppy first, since the game won't let you put your only puppy in the hotel. Maybe sometime I'll visit her again! Anyway, it's sure been fun training Virtual Stanze! I tried to take some photos of Stanze wearing some funny hats - it's definitely not easy to photograph the screen, but here they are anyway!

While I'm talking about Nintendogs, here's my best game tip! When you're out for a walk, you usually pass by a few gifts just sitting in the street (not marked on the map), but it took me awhile to figure out how to get them. I like to run my dog to make the walk faster, so when you're running, watch the little icon dog on the neighborhood map. When you see it "pause" (even though you are still running), let go of the leash right away - that means something is coming! When you see the gift start to go by, yank back on the leash to turn your dog around so the gift is in their face, and it's yours! I've found some cool stuff this way! Be careful, though, because the same map pause happens when you're going to pass some garbage, and you don't want your dog to munch on that!

On Friday I participated in a cool Nintendogs virtual event, just because I thought it was kind of cool and innovative. I took my DS to my local GameStop, and hooked up using Bark Mode to their demo DS, where I met Haylie Duff's (HIlary's sister) dog, and she gave me a special gift of star-shaped sunglasses (along with a voice message that played over and over). No big deal, but I thought it was very cool that Nintendo can do a virtual give-away at almost no cost, yet Nintendogs players actually feel like they got something unique, since there's no other way to find that item in the game. Wow!

10.29.2005

Kikaida Vol 8 : 4 of 5

I can't believe I only have one more DVD to go of this cool series! Now I've finally seen the ultimate villian, Hakaida! It's sad that he shows up with only about 10 episodes to go, because he would have been cool throughout the whole show. Just like Kikaida, he has a human form (named Saburo), and he always shows up with a haunting whistle (instead of Jiro's soulful guitar). He also has two theme songs, and they are included in a karaoke feature on the DVD. Hakaida's big secret is that he's actually a cyborg - he's an android with Dr. Komyoji's brain! The doctor's body is preserved at DARK's hideout, and poor Jiro doesn't know what to do, because he doesn't want to damage Komyoji's brain. There are some episodes on this volume that are almost all battle, which is cool because Kikaida seems to have learned some new techniques, such as Galactic Hurricane, where he flies circles around his opponent while he kicks and punches! There's also some serious drama, because Masaru is convinced that Jiro has turned evil and killed his father (the doctor), so Jiro has to convince him he didn't and win back Masaru's trust (which returns with plenty of little boy tears). This DVD also has a cool interactive diagram of Kikaida's circuitry! How will I go on after watching the last volume?

10.28.2005

Wallace & Gromit / Curse of the Were-Rabbit : 3 of 5

Since I have to see every animated feature to show my support of the art form, I had to see this Wallace & Gromit movie! I've seen a few of the other Wallace & Gromit films before, so I'm kind of a fan, but then again, I like just about anything filmed with stop-motion animation. In this movie, our heroes are kind of like a rabbit capture service, hired to protect everyone's prize vegetables for an upcoming contest. Wallace is always inventing, of course, and his ideas lead to the creation of the Were-Rabbit, a huge hoppity beast! I thought the plot twists and action sequences were especially good, and the design of the miniature sets was just amazing. Since this is true clay-mation (as opposed to the wireframe puppets of Corpse Bride), the motion has a jittery feel to it, but that just adds to the charm of the technique. The character designs are hilarious, since everyone has big teeth and tall, skinny heads, and the bunnies (hundreds of them!) look really cute bouncing around, even though they aren't really fluffy (the Were-Rabbit himself does have real fur, though!). Gromit steals the show, since his emotions and feelings seem even more evident even though his character doesn't have a voice. This was a really fun semi-Halloween movie, and I'm glad DreamWorks got it into the theater.

10.27.2005

Itsumo manga o yonde imasu

I guess it's time for another manga update! Sometimes I feel like I could read manga all the time - there's just something about it that's relaxing and really fun. It's easy to have a book with me and read a few pages here and there, or in bed before I go to sleep, but it's even better to spend a full hour enjoying a story or two. I love getting to know the characters and wondering what's going to happen next! Anyway, since I last wrote what I've been reading, I've continued with more volumes of I''s, Dr. Slump, Nausicaa, Genshiken, and Hikaru no Go (which is still my favorite, and I was going crazy waiting for Volume 5 to come out!). I've also started a couple more that I saw in a manga sampler - Gacha Gacha (a hilarious story about a dual personality girl), and Midori Days (which is the weirdest story ever, about a guy who's right hand transforms into a living girl - I'm not making this up!). It's great to browse the big manga shelf at Barnes & Noble, because there's always (without fail) a kid or two camped out on the floor reading all the latest stories. It's nice to know I'm not alone in my addiction!

10.26.2005

Trace Memory / Nintendo DS : 3 of 5

I usually don't have the patience for adventure games, because I tend to get stuck on some puzzle which puts an end to my interest (or I end up reading a cheat book!). Trace Memory seemed really intriguing, though, because the images I had seen looked so cool, since all of the characters are drawn anime-style. I had also heard from my pal Barron that the game was easy to navigate, and more like "reading a novel" than puzzling through a difficult game. I ended up buying it a few weeks ago, and recently I finished it! I really enjoyed the experience, and Barron was right - the game definitely directs you, so you can't really go the wrong way. You do have to solve several puzzles, some of which are really interesting, and make great use of the DS touch screen and dual screen features! (Sorry for the spoiler, but I thought it was amazing that you had to "close" the DS to simulate pressing an ink stamp on paper!) The plot is pretty intense, since you play a girl who witnessed her mother's murder at a young age, and during the game you're wandering around Blood Edward Island looking for your father whom you haven't seen in years. There's a parallel plot involving a ghost that you meet and befriend, but I wish the two plots had been more connected. My only real complaint is that the game won't let you pick up any object until you already know what to do with it! Otherwise, this is a fairly simple, yet really enjoyable, mystery adventure, filled with great illustrations and music - it's lots of fun!

10.25.2005

Halloween happens

Last weekend I went to a really cool Halloween party at Mark & Melissa's house (I met Mark at Chris' bachelor party) - it was pretty amazing! They totally went all out decorating their house, starting with a graveyard in the front yard, and continuing into every room of the house. Almost every wall was covered in garbage bags to keep it dark and scary, and there were black lights and a smoke machine, too. They even had some ghouls on strings that were motorized to fly over everyone's heads! Upstairs was a disgusting dismembered corpse with lots of blood - no room was left untouched! There were lots of cool couples costumes, like a bee with her bee-keeper, and the Pope with a pregnant nun, and my gang looked pretty funny, too (Jonathan was the Turban Cowboy, Chris & Eliza were tourists, and I was something like a "hell clown"). The pictures don't do justice to the decorations, since they looked so cool in the dark and black lights, but enjoy taking a peek at the madness anyway!

View photos: Halloween party

Speaking of Halloween, the Greatest American Heroes will be playing our usual Halloween show at the Carousel Lounge this Friday (October 28th)! Chris did an awesome illustration on our website for this special event, so be sure to check it out!

10.24.2005

Lonely Planet Japanese Phrasebook : 3 of 5

A foreign language phrase book isn't exactly something you read cover to cover, but I actually did skim through each page of this unique book, since it's definitely "modern" in its selection of phrases! I love to browse the Japanese language section each time I'm in a book store, and I was attracted to the cool color-coded layout of this book. After flipping through it a while, I decided I had to get it just because it was so funny. Along with the usual sections on taking trains and ordering food, this book has sections on sex and drugs (it makes you wonder what Lonely Planet expects their readers do be doing when they travel)! It's really funny to read translations for "I take mushrooms occasionally" and "You're just using me for sex." Joking aside, there's definitely some good stuff to learn here, but I don't like their use of non-standard Romanization. They always try to write things as they are pronounced, so they use des instead of desu, which drives me crazy. If you're just looking for a general phrasebook, I don't think I would recommend this one, since it's just a little bizarre, but if you're a semi-serious student looking for interesting phrases that don't often appear in other study materials, this is the book for you!

10.23.2005

Azumanga Daioh Vol 4 : 4 of 5

This show is like magic - it can cure any mood, make me laugh, and feel happy to be alive and living like a kid! The animation is simple, yet so cute, and the Japanese voice work is just priceless. In this volume, the girls continue with their second year of school, so we get to see the many of the activities we saw in the prior year, such as the sports festival and the culture festival. I loved seeing Kaorin, the supporting character who has a crush on Sakaki, get to compete with her in the three-legged race - she was so happy she could explode! The girls decided to do another "cute animal" theme this year for culture fest, so they had a little cafe where they wore kitty hats, and little Chiyo-chan dressed up as a penguin (so now I have a direct reference to one of the skits I saw at A-Kon!). It was really cool to see some stories about Yomi, since they haven't really focused on her before. She is constantly watching her weight and trying diets, even though she seems to have it together. In one episode she gets a fever, so she has to stay home while the rest of the gang goes to an amusement park - taihen! There's also a story about the teachers - I love watching them get drunk and talk about life together. I'm definitely considering owning this set, since I could watch them all again!

10.22.2005

Cool on the inside

As usual, my weekend is just flying by! This morning I got a haircut and did the grocery shopping, and then I spent quite a while online taking care of almost all of my Christmas shopping! I always order a bunch of gifts for my parents and ship them to their house where they wait in their shipping boxes. Then when I fly home to Oklahoma City, I wrap them all so they can open them for Christmas. I also finished putting together my Christmas list for Santa - he orders all my gifts from Amazon so I can open them in Oklahoma City, too! Next I read an entire book on the new iMovie, since I'll be starting a big project soon. For the same reason, I also beefed up my PowerMac RAM this week - I installed an additional two gig! I was totally impressed by the design of the inside of the PowerMac case - it was so easy to open up (no tools, and not a single screw), and everything was so perfect in there that I almost took my own pictures (but you can look at Apple's image instead)! I love it that Apple cares about how everything looks, inside and out. It took about two minutes to open, install, and close! Tonight I've got a Halloween party to go to, so there should be some crazy costume pictures available in the near future.

10.21.2005

Serenity : 3 of 5

In case anyone is already screaming at my rating, let me first say that I haven't seen even 30 seconds of the Firefly series (I hadn't even heard of it until this movie came out!), and when I first saw the lame trailer for Serenity, I was really put off. I decided I had to see it, though, because my pals Shelly and Chris both gave it rave reviews (as well as most folks on Metacritic). So, I went with Chris (and my pal Francis, too), and had a great time. Serenity is a great science fiction adventure film, with some really exciting battles and some cool CG effects. Chris filled me in on the backstory, and I thought it was really creative - I loved hearing them swear in Chinese and seeing all the kana on computer displays and things. However, I have to say I felt no emotional attachment to any of the characters since the plot moved so fast. I think with the foundation of the series it would be a completely different experience (and definitely is for Chris), but for me, seeing a main character die that has only said about 15 lines doesn't mean anything! My only other complaint is that all of the characters seemed a little too cocky - there were so many wise-ass one-liners flying that it seemed like an old Stan Lee scripted comic book. All that said, I definitely enjoyed the movie and thought it was cool - just far from the phenomenon that the fans say it is.

10.20.2005

Couch dreams

I've been staying up late the past few nights - I still feel energetic up until midnight since I'm still living on Disneyland time! Then suddenly I get tired and zonk out quickly, which means it's even easier than usual to fall asleep on the couch. Last night I slept on the couch so soundly that I didn't even budge until 8:00 AM today! I also had three really weird dream episodes (kind of connected together), and they were each bizarre enough for me to remember them:
  • First, my ex-wife (whom I rarely dream about) moved in with me like a roommate, and I was getting freaked out by little things like the house being messy and my toothbrush not being where it was supposed to be!
  • Next, I was taking care of Dolly, my pals Chris & Eliza's dog, and I opened the door and she ran out. I went running after her, and there were lots of other dogs in the street. I grabbed her and walked back, when I got home I realized I had the wrong dog!
  • Finally, after these other things happened, I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror, only to see that I had chicken pox (again)! They were all over my face, and some were huge bumps!
None of these episodes were upsetting, but they sure were weird. Feel free to leave your interpretations!

10.19.2005

Corpse Bride / Original Soundtrack : 3 of 5

I was so excited after I saw Corpse Bride in the theater that I went straight to Best Buy to get the soundtrack, and I've listened to it over and over in my car since then. It definitely gets old after several hearings, but it's still fantastic music in all respects. The vocal numbers are really funny, but I wish there were more than four of them. Of course, Remains of the Day is the best, where Bonejangles (sung by Danny Elfman) tells the story of the bride. He definitely sounds like Jack Skellington when he sings, and actually, the more you listen the more you realize that the entire soundtrack is very close to The Nightmare Before Christmas. That's not really a bad thing, but it is interesting that the "funny" numbers are in the same jazzy style as the Oogie Boogie songs. Anyway, I love the haunting melodies that you can think of as Victor's theme and Emily's theme. I was hoping that a full piano version of Victor's piano solo would be included, because it's absolutely wonderful, but unfortunately it gets interrupted just as it did in the movie. The end of the CD includes several extra versions of Ball & Socket Lounge Music, and they are all really cool background tracks with that quirky Elfman spooky/funny feel to them. I think it's time for me to move on to another CD, but I'm going to enjoy hearing these tracks popping up on iTunes.

10.18.2005

Kill Bill Vol 2 : 2 of 5

I guess I only rented this movie because I had to, even though I wasn't really that impressed with Kill Bill Vol 1. The good news is that Vol 2 is quite a bit different then Vol 1, and the bad news is that different doesn't mean better. I know Tarantino is a great filmmaker, but this just boils down to another director having fun for himself without really trying to be entertaining (I know, that's blasphemy to a lot of fans!). I thought the whole story was way too long, and I can't stand the cheesy chapter titles and action movie music. I guess I'm not a connoisseur of the genre, so I can't really appreciate what's going on here. I thought the black mamba waiting in the bag of cash was really cool and a nice surprise, but long scenes like the wedding massacre flashback were just kind of boring (and I could totally snooze every time Bill opens his mouth). The martial arts training scenes were OK, and definitely needed to explain how the Bride could punch her way out of being buried alive, but the big finale scenes were just kind of weird to me. Even though Bill is finally killed, it's just too bizarre thinking of the Bride as a mom without really explaining that she killed her daughter's dad. Anyway, it's over now, so I can get back to Disney movies and anime!

10.17.2005

Three days at Disneyland

My latest Disney adventure was totally amazing! It was fun to have my pal Melinda along, since she's a fellow Disney maniac, and Dae was a fantastic host, full of energy and able to survive 14-hour days of theme park madness. The parks were much busier than I expected, since usually October has fairly light crowds - I guess the 50th anniversary is keeping people in the park! Even though it was crowded, we still managed to ride just about every single thing that moves in both Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure, as well as enjoy the live music, shopping, and tons of food. Seeing the new parade and fireworks were a priority, so we snagged a front row spot an hour before parade (which means I got lots of personal waves from the performers!), as well as a prime fireworks viewing spot an hour and a half beforehand! Everything was worth the wait - I think the new fireworks were my favorite experience. All of us really enjoyed having lunch with the Disney princesses, too. We got some personal photo time with Cinderella, Belle, Jasmine, Snow White, and Ariel, and they were all knock-outs! As a big bonus, California Screamin' re-opened while we were there (after being closed for several weeks) - our timing was perfect. Even though this trip was only three months after my previous one, everything was still fresh - I guess I really can't get enough Disneyland.

View photos: Pals & princesses
View photos: Around the parks

10.16.2005

Maburaho Vol 3 : 3 of 5

It's fun to be watching an anime series as it's actually being released on DVD, since it makes me wait a little longer between each volume, so there's lots of anticipation for the next one to come out! This volume starts out a little lame, but gets very emotional near the end, which is how I like my shoujo. These episodes involve the girls trying different techniques to increase Kazuki's spell count, since he only has three more uses before he turns to ash (which is how it goes in this crazy world). They take him to a special hot spring resort, where there's plenty of fan service (of course!), but then they end up playing a baseball game with a bunch of evil spirits! After that silly story, the next one involves the story of a student who recently died, and the all solve the mystery and heal a special tree together. Then things get pretty cool - Yuna encounters a magic virus that creates an evil double of her, full of mischief (she beats the whole class in a tournament of strip janken)! Kazuki has to use his magic to defeat the evil Yuna (which brings his count to two!), but unfortunately the real Yuna contracts the virus, which starts seriously threatening her health. There are some really touching moments as the other girls try to convince Kazuki not to use his magic to save her, but of course, he's too kind-hearted to listen. So, at the very end, we find out that Kazuki is now a ghost! What could possibly happen next?

10.12.2005

Nihongo dake!

Last night I had my best Japanese tutoring session so far! Kazuki and I decided we would speak only Japanese for 45 minutes straight - no going back to English to ask questions or explain things at all. I figured we might make it 30 minutes before my brain totally gave up, but it actually went really well! We started talking about playing in bands, and he was actually able to explain to me the difference in words for "music" (which I knew) and "written music" (which I had never heard before), so I even learned new vocabulary without English help. Kazuki was great at figuring out ways to explain things using the Japanese vocabulary I already know, and it was totally a blast. For whatever reason, I feel cool when I'm speaking Japanese, so having a long conversation like that made me feel great! Before I knew it, we had talked 50 minutes! Then we went over the fuzzy areas we encountered in English, and I took some new vocabulary notes. Anyway, it was the best practicing I've done, and I'm excited we're going to try it again next week!

WEBmikey will be taking a brief posting break since I'm off to Disneyland again for three days of adventure! I can't wait to ride Space Mountain again, and everything else, too! I was just there in July, but I'm just as excited as ever. This time I'll be going to both parks, and having a great time with my pals Dae and Melinda. Bye for now, everyone!

10.11.2005

Cinderella / Platinum Edition : 5 of 5

Watching this latest Disney Platinum Edition DVD is kind of bittersweet. It's wonderful because I haven't seen Cinderella in years, but it's a little sad because with this DVD I now own every Disney animated feature (of course, now I can watch them all in order with no gaps!). This really is a beautiful film, filled with spectacular animation that looks both realistic (for Cinderella, the Prince, and the stepmother) as well as cartoony and hilarious (for Lucifer the cat and Cinderella's mice friends). The effects are amazing, too, especially for Cinderella's transformation (which Walt called his favorite piece of animation ever). Like the other Platinum Editions, this is a two disc set, and while the first DVD only has a music video with the Disney Channel kids and a really silly EPSN feature (which takes Disney synergy a little too far!), the second DVD is a true treasure! The documentary feature is 40 minutes long, and it's one of the best I've seen. Maybe it focuses on music too much over animation, but since Cinderella was such a musical smash, that makes sense. The real jewel is a segment on Disney's Nine Old Men (all of whom worked on Cinderella!), in which lots of today's animation heroes gather at the same restaurant Walt used to take his boys to and talk about the art form. It's so fascinating to hear comments from both the past and present - all of them fascinating. Yes, there are some really worthless bonus features, too - please don't watch the Princess Pajama Jam! I could go on and on about this wonderful DVD, so don't hesitate to buy this fantastic set!

10.10.2005

The power of Disneyland

The Angels did it! It was so cool to see my favorite team win the Division Series against the New York Yankees (which was even cooler since I got to see them beat the Yankees with my pal Dae earlier this year)! I could say it was because I was wearing my Angels cap tonight, but the real reason is they were playing just a few miles away from Disneyland! They will always be the Anaheim Angels to me! Good luck with the next series, Halos!

Opera neighbors

I've had the same season tickets to Austin Lyric Opera for several years now, which means I always sit in the same seat, season after season. Of course, there are other season ticket holders around me, so I end up with the same "neighbors" all the time, too. Since I'm pretty quiet with strangers, I never talk to these people, but I always like listening in on their conversations. Right behind me are two large ladies who always talk up a storm. They love to read the program and pronounce character names with foreign accents, and I think they must be living on easy street, since I'll hear them say things like "Oh, I just don't feel like going to Europe this year. Well, maybe I'll go at Christmas." Next to me is a quiet Clark Kent kind of guy who always shows up about 30 seconds before the curtain goes up, and then without fail he snoozes through most of the performance! I can't fault him much, since I've been there myself - it's just so easy to nod your head when you're in the dark listening to soothing music (which is why I usually take a little nap before going to the opera). Still, it's pretty funny to see his head sink deeper and deeper, and then pop back up to watch some more (and this happens over and over). See, going to the opera can be fun for a variety of reasons!

Il Trovatore / Austin Lyric Opera : 3 of 5

The new opera season has started with a nice production of Verdi's Il Trovatore (The Troubadour), which most people probably know from the famous Anvil Chorus. It also has one of the more complicated plots in opera, since the audience has to understand the history of the former Count and the Gypsy witch (I think it all makes sense if you pay attention!). Verdi has some truly wonderful arias in this opera, and they were skillfully delivered by the wonderful singers in this production, all of whom were great actors, too. I was interested to see what ALO would do for a set, since they were planning to borrow the set from New Orleans Opera, which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. They did they best they could, I suppose, with a simple platform and stairs, along with a dual curtain effect that used lighting and projections to signify changes in scene. Unfortunately, it just didn't work for me, and I felt the production was really missing something, since the fantastic costumes were such a stark contrast! At times the effect was nice though, especially at the end where the entire stage was bright blood red as the gypsy tells the Count he's just killed his brother! Overall, I really enjoyed the opera - I just wish I had been overwhelmed by it.

10.09.2005

Suitei Shojo / 17's Heaven : 3 of 5

This is another cool Japanese girl band that I saw on Bento Beat Box just before I went to Japan, so I decided I would get their latest CD to check them out. I was hoping that the video I saw (which had a cool spy music feel to it) would be on this CD, but it wasn't, but that's not a big deal. Actually, I was kind of surprised that their music was more mature than I expected for a couple of teenage girls, but that may be because they have done several anime themes that have serious overtones, I suppose. Unfortunately, the first track on the CD is the worst, which was disappointing when I first popped it in my car CD player! It gets much better after that, however, and Chewing Girl is a cute song with a nice feel. Even though the CD only has eight songs, it still takes a while to really let the good stuff out, which happens with the sixth song (I can read the katakana, but I can't make sense of it!), because it brings out some acoustic guitar with an uplifting ballad sound. Then Neverland (I can read that katakana!) is super fast and fun, with a really amazing guitar solo (it may be a keyboard, but it's a neato sound whatever it is!). I think sometime I should check out the girls' earlier album (which was called Sixteen, of course), but I'm glad I bought this one anyway!

10.08.2005

Sappy happy

Since I was kind of bummed by the lack of sun yesterday, I decided to give myself and extra dose today by walking around Town Lake! The temperature was in the 70s, the sky was blue, and the sun was shining, and the more I soaked it in, the better I felt. I love listening to my iPod shuffle while I walk, and while I was listening, a new song came on that I hadn't heard before (since I always download the free Tuesday tracks from the iTunes Music Store). The song is called Sooner or Later by Michael Tolcher, and even though I don't know a thing about the artist, I know I love this song! I had to listen to it three times in a row, because the lyrics were just so cool and uplifting, especially the line, "Find something to make you smile". That's exactly what I did by enjoying the nice weather, getting some exercise, and enjoying lots of other little things I was seeing (such as collies, cute girls, and a freshly manicured baseball field). Now I'm feeling spectacular! So, I know this is such a sappy way to be happy, full of unicorns and rainbows, but sometimes that's just the thing I need to keep loving life. Speaking of rainbows, Scott caught a pretty nice one, and here's how it was made!

Baby Acapulco : 3 of 5

Mom is a margarita fan (and so am I), so I usually try to take my parents to a new margarita place when they visit. I've only been to the Baby A's off of I-35 a couple of times, but since they opened a new location close by (in the same building where Bahama Breeze used to be), I thought it would be fun. We went during Friday happy hour, so the margaritas were fantastic for the cheap price! There were tons of folks outside, and it looks like they have built additional decks to hold everyone. Inside the decor is pretty much the same as it used to be, with tons of tropical colors. They don't have the usual combo I like to get when I eat Mexican food (one enchilada and one crispy taco), but Dad and I split a taco plate and an enchilada plate, so we got exactly what we wanted, and Mom had her usual taco salad (although it was way bigger than she's used to!). I think the Tex-Mex flavor is better at Chuy's, but the spice level was right for Dad (which means hardly any). We decided to order sopapillas for dessert (since Mom & Dad are used to getting them for free at their local restaurant), and they were really delicious, since they come with a couple of scoops of cinnamon-vanilla ice cream! It was a great meal, and the drinks were definitely nice for the amazing price!

10.07.2005

Disney on the way

Today was the first really dreary day of Fall for Austin. The temperature was in the 50s and there were clouds all day, and I think it really affected my mood. Of course, I'm glad the weekend is here, and next week will be a short one for me since I'm going to Disneyland again! This time my pal Melinda will be making the trip, too, and Dae is our gracious host who gets to experience three more days of Disneyland this year! I think I have everything scheduled for this trip, including getting good spots for the parade and fireworks (that I skipped in July), so it's going to be magical, as usual.

Speaking of Disney, the final batch of 50th anniversary collectibles were released this week (actually a few days early!) on DisneyShopping, and since they are all Fantasyland attractions, I wanted to buy them all! I settled for two great pieces - the Casey Jr. Circus Train engine and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride car replicas! They both look amazing! Casey Jr. is one of my favorite Disneyland rides, so I've been wondering how the collectible would look. I can't wait to get them and start snapping some photos! New shelves are priority one for new furniture next year, because I'm totally out of room in the Disney museum I call home!

10.06.2005

Sherlock's : 3 of 5

I always try to find a few new places to eat when my parents visit, so I decided to give Sherlock's a try while they were here (since I had seen the sign peeking out over 183 for a long time!). I really liked the atmosphere right away - of course, it's decorated just like you would imagine a stereotypical English pub would be, but I thought they did a great job combining lots of dark wood with stone-looking walls. They have a pretty good selection of beers on tap, including Boddingtons, which is just about my favorite English beer (I've loved it since tasting it in the United Kingdom pavilion at Epcot!), and I don't think very many spots in Austin have it available. Dad and I had fish and chips, which were really tasty, and they have a lunch portion which turned out to be just the right size. Mom had a turkey, bacon and Swiss sandwich, plus a salad, and it looked pretty good, too. It was kind of empty while we were there - I think it might be fun some evening to see it full of people drinking and having a good time. I definitely enjoyed this little "slice of Epcot", so I wouldn't mind going back for another pint!

10.05.2005

Kikaida Vol 7 : 3 of 5

Lots of big events happen in this volume of Kikaida, which means the big story must be in the home stretch! There are nine DVDs in the series, so I guess it's about time that Mitsuko and Masaru finally find out that that their father Dr. Komyoji is alive. After so many episodes of just missing him, I was pretty amazed when they finally found him and rescued him from the terrible DARK Destructoid Black Crow! Kikaida has to upgrade his powers to fight this one, and now he can shoot beams that he calls "Kikaida Spark!" Some other highlights include some of the cheesiest underwater scenes you can imagine when Kikaida goes after Gold Octopus, and there's also several flying scenes, including Kikaida riding through the air on his Sidemachine (which is what he calls his special motorcycle). The funniest episode ever features Black Spiny Anteater, who actually has a "daughter" robot named Tiny Spiny (I'm not kidding!). Tiny makes friends with a little orphan girl and wants to be human, so she ends up helping Kikaida, but eventually meets a tragic end. At the end of this DVD they start hinting at Kikaida's new ultimate enemy, which my pal Dae remembers as being really cool, so I can't wait to have the time to watch the next volume!

10.04.2005

Dedicated Mikey

Last night I was pretty sleepy at 11:00, but before I went to bed I thought I would check out a new Dashboard widget on my Power Mac. Suddenly I ended up surfing until 1:00, so I slept a little late and didn't get to exercise this morning. At lunch I had to come up with some sentences for Japanese tutoring tomorrow, but my mind was blank, so I translated the first few pages of Peter Rabbit (I'll bet Kazuki is going to roll his eyes!). After work I caught up on exercise by playing DDR for a full hour without stopping (I'm trying to save up enough points to buy a new outfit for Alice!), and then I went to Barnes & Noble since I had lots of Japanese typing to do. What I mean is that I take tons of notes while I study with Rosetta Stone or YesJapan, and then later I use iFlash to make cards that I can study. Anyway, I was way behind, so to avoid distractions, I got out of the house, ordered a giant coffee, and typed vocabulary for two hours! It was kind of fun to be out with lots of other studying folks, and now I'm caught up on the typing.

DDR Extreme 2 / PS2 : 5 of 5

I usually don't review a video game until I've played it for weeks, but I just have to write about this fantastic new Dance Dance Revolution mix! It couldn't have come at a better time, since I've been playing my older mixes so often that I was getting desperate for new tunes. So far I am simply loving this new release - there so much new stuff to mention! I guess the biggest new addition is the revamped Mission Mode, which gives you various dancing challenges progressively, and they get mapped into a kind of chart. Playing this mode unlocks items that appear in the new Shop (things like special songs, dancing courses, and new outfits for characters), and then you "buy" these items with points you earn from playing the game! It's insanely fun, and it makes you want to play on and on (I got in three hours the day I bought the game)! There are tons of characters (basically everyone from all other mixes), and the graphics are slightly updated with more cool close-ups (although the shading on Alice's face makes it look like she has beard stubble!). There are about 70 songs altogether, with only a few classic repeats from past mixes (not counting new remixes of songs), and several of them are my favorites from the arcade (I love the goofy ones like Speed Over Beethoven). The whole game just feels totally polished, and I'm going to play it until my legs fall off! Let's DDR!

10.03.2005

Corpse Bride : 5 of 5

I'm a big fan of stop-motion animation, and I loved The Nightmare Before Christmas, so of course I knew I was going to enjoy Corpse Bride. I just didn't realize how fantastic it was going to be! The quality of animation and the look of the film is so spectacular that I originally thought it was computer-generated when I first saw the trailer (I think a lot of people were mistaken, too!). Everything is just so perfectly constructed and shot (using digital cameras, rather than film!), that the movie becomes a surrealist illustration brought to life. The character design is completely wonderful - so creative and original, including characters with huge hair-dos, giant noses and chins, super skinny and ridiculously large, and each design fits the character's personality perfectly! I thought it was cool how the "land of the living" was almost 100% grey tones, while the "land of the dead" had lots of color and lighting! Besides being a technical marvel, the story is really good, too, about a clumsy young man who "accidently" marries a corpse and is thrust into a crazy world of skeletons and creepy creatures. I also have to say that the Danny Elfman music is perfect, and the songs are really fun (everything is extremely reminiscent of The Nightmare Before Christmas, but you can't fault him for being consistent). This is definitely a movie I can't wait to buy on DVD, and it will be fun to watch every year before Halloween!

10.02.2005

Parents and pals

Today I have a couple of photo sets for you! First, I finally posted some pictures of my parents that I took during their recent visit. I love the shots taken at Main Event, especially watching Mom & Dad play air hockey! Last night I went to Shawn's birthday party, so you can check out the fun goings-on from that event, too. I got to play DDR Ultramix (the Xbox version) for the first time! It was a blast watching everyone try it out and learn how to play. It was a fun party - I got to talk to lots of folks that I've only chatted with quickly before, so it was really cool!

View photos: Parents in Austin
View photos: Shawn's birthday party

Here's a little WEBmikey fame - someone noticed my PEZ collection photos on Flickr, and they used some of them (plus my little PEZ essay) in a web magazine called Practically Creative. It's always fun to be noticed!

Just in case you notice my posting schedule is a little off, Blogger seems to be wonky since yesterday and won't publish properly (so I'm posting this by hand!). Hope they get it fixed quickly!

10.01.2005

Popcorn and PEZ

The weekend is off to a great start! Last night the Greatest American Heroes played our monthly gig at the Carousel Lounge, and we polished off some old tunes that we haven't performed in quite awhile, plus added Diff'rent Strokes, which was lots of fun. This morning I got up super-early to do laundry, run through some Japanese vocabulary, and had bacon and eggs for breakfast (after playing 45 minutes of DDR, of course)! Later I saw a movie with Melinda, and there was a kids birthday party going on in the theater, so some parent had about fifty small bags of popcorn for everyone. He actually had too many, so he walked up the aisle handing them out, and we got some free popcorn (which was nice since I hadn't eaten lunch!). Then I did a bunch of shopping, and I stopped by Barnes & Noble to use a 25% off deal that ended this weekend (I got another DVD set that will take me forever to watch!), then grabbed a Jamba Juice and did my grocery shopping. I started to watch some TV and decided it was nap time, and wow, I really conked out! I have to leave for a party in less than an hour!

Another thing I did today was order some more PEZ display racks! I got a bunch of new dispensers from my favorite PEZ shop, Canada Candy Connection, and I'm just about out of room on my famous "wall of PEZ". I've been using the excellent racks made by John Thompson for years, and I definitely recommend them (plus, hanging them with Elfa shelving is awesome!). I had been wondering if he was thinking of making special racks for the mini-PEZ dispensers that are so popular in Japan, and when I looked at this website I was excited to see that he has them available now! I can't wait to get them, since my mini-PEZ have been tough to display so far!