Guess it's time for a quick manga roundup again! Recently I've read Hikaru no Go Vol 7, which is definitely interesting, but lately it hasn't held my interest as intensely as before. I think it should either pick up the pace with Hikaru's progress, or maybe start another subplot or two. Anyway, maybe it's just a mid-series lull. Genshiken Vol 6 was funny enough to read in a single sitting, and I'm really wondering how the story will change since a few of the characters have graduated. I think Sasahara's sister is hilarious, so I hope she keeps showing up. I'm also in the middle of Phoenix Vol 7, which is downright huge and magnificent! Finally, I started reading the Azumanga Daioh manga, mainly because I had a Borders coupon that I had to use, but I'm so glad I picked it up! Of course, I love the anime, but the manga is charming in a totally different way! Almost the entire thing is written in small four-panel strips, so it ends up feeling like reading Peanuts to me. It's fun to see the source for a lot of the gags in the anime, but of course there are lots of fun strips that are totally new to me. It's the perfect anime to read for five minutes before you have to leave the house or something - I'm definitely getting the whole series!
I decided it was about time I watched something in English for a change, so I rented this recent adaptation of Shakespeare's play, featuring a big name cast with Al Pacino as Shylock and Jeremy Irons as Antonio. I know this particular play really well, since I did a project on it in college, so I was really interested in seeing this film, plus I almost always enjoy movies of Shakespeare's works. I missed it when it came to the theater, but it was just as effective at home. While the original play is considered a comedy, the movie definitely takes a dramatic look at the plot, focusing both on the religious conflict and the gruesomeness of the possible outcome (if you don't remember, Antonio owes Shylock a literal "pound of flesh"!). I love how the movie takes its time with the dialogue, which is a great luxury that you don't usually see on stage. Even if it makes the movie longer, it really makes the speech sound natural, especially in Pacino's longer speeches, which are extremely emotional. The eventual courtroom scene is downright frightening, with Antonio fainting at the sight of the scales to weight his flesh, and then being tied up for the actual cutting! The drama completely outweighs the humor of the judge being a woman in disguise, making the final scenes between the lovers seem almost tacked on. I guess I thought the whole thing was a little too heavy, although I definitely enjoyed the film. It was nice to enjoy Shakespeare again and remember my college studies!
I haven't said much about my band The Greatest American Heroes lately, but rest assured that we've been playing our usual gigs and having fun! For anyone who doesn't know, our singer Dana moved to Washington, DC for a new job, but our longtime fan and pal Kirk stepped in immediately and is doing a great job - he has lots of theater experience so he's definitely a blast on stage. In the past few weeks we've played a couple of gigs away from our Carousel Lounge home base. We were the 4th band in a showcase at Trophy's, which turned out to be really cool (especially since we had a sound guy - it's always nice to use someone else's PA), and last week we played a fun early show at Brentwood Tavern. Even though it was an outdoor stage in Austin's July heat, it wasn't so bad in the shade. Brentwood has tons of outdoor tables and little "park" with a swing set, so lots of folks bring their kids, making the scene was pretty lively. Last night we played our regular monthly show at the Carousel, which started out pretty bleak crowd-wise, but our regular fans (yes, we do have them!) started showing up and by the second set there were lots of folks there and plenty of dancing, too. Everyone in the band was playing well, too! I have to admit that when the crowd energy is low, I have a hard time doing my best in a show, but for some reason I was ready to jam and I tried all sorts of fills that I wouldn't normally do - it was cool to get lost in the music! There was a moment during the show where I suddenly really appreciated being able to play music with my pals - it's a great feeling!
I first heard about Hinoi Team when I downloaded the video of their song Sticky Tricky and Bang (hilarious title!) - it was so funny and peppy that I had to see more! Thankfully the band has had enough releases to put out a kind of greatest hits CD, so that's what I decided to try. Super Euro Party not only has a CD with 15 songs, but also a DVD with 13 videos! Hinoi Team sings super-energetic Eurobeat-style songs, and most of the videos are simply the girls doing Para Para routines. This was my first time to actually watch entire Para Para songs, and I have to say that even though it's goofy, the complex moves can be pretty cool. Each video has the girls decked out in cute outfits and dancing away, often along with Koriki Choshu, who is a Japanese comedian - he's a chunky guy in short shorts who dances along and says funny things during the songs. Yes, it's completely bizarre, but it can be hilarious! He's especially good in Night of Fire, where he's like an angry, fire-breathing monster who the girls battle with magical powers! I really like the band's first video Ike Ike, but I think King Kong is the best, with its tropical setting and dresses made of flowers. The DVD has some bonus material with each band member, doing things like making a scrapbook, cooking and so on. Even though the CD has to be taken in small doses (it's fun to listen to in the car, but you have to be in a hyper mood first!), I still enjoy it. It definitely reminds me of a lot of early DDR music!
I feel like all I'm writing about is Japanese and Japan-related stuff lately, but what can I say - it's just what I'm really into right now! None of my other interests have changed, but everything comes in waves for me. Anyway, I've done some great studying recently, and I'm especially proud that I'm finally really grasping verb conjugation better than ever before. When I was taking classes at ACC, I really only conjugated by memorizing various forms, which was enough to get me through tests, but now I finally understand the formulas and patterns so I can conjugate any verb on my own. Mikie-san gave me a list of all the verbs on the JLPT Level 4 that I'll be taking, so I've been conjugating those like crazy, and it really helps! It feels really good to be learning the "right" way instead of the lazy way. I'm also making myself write in my Japanese journal more often for Kazki, and it's amazing how much he can teach me from my short paragraphs. My journal has also been a help with Mikie-san, since we used it for conversation topics this week (and she even corrected my typos). I will finally be able to register for the JLPT next week, which will be exciting! Then I will probably step up my efforts with JLPT sample tests and kanji study. It's all so fun, even though it can be hard work sometimes. I guess I just like being a student!
Since I try to see just about every animated movie that comes out, I had seen the trailer for Monster House so many times that I was definitely excited about seeing it. My pal Melinda and I saw it in 3D, and it was lots of spooky fun! The plot is really clever (but not too much of a mystery to figure out) and the story is full of exciting moments - I definitely would have been freaked out to see this when I was little, but it has a great intensity like an old Twilight Zone episode. As you know, the plot is about a house that is possessed so it's actually alive (and hungry!), and the design of the house and how it moves is really well done. I actually liked the design of most of the characters, though I think they could have gone even more cartoony (along the lines of The Incredibles). I've read that they used motion capture, which really does create some convincing body animation (the scene of the arcade geek playing a video game is a great example), but the speaking synchronization was a little funny - like the mouth couldn't really articulate properly. Sometimes the line of sight seemed to be off, too, but I'm getting too picky! The main thing is that the movie was thrilling! Seeing it in 3D added quite a bit, and was used mainly to immerse the audience in the environment (much like it was used in Chicken Little), rather than for cheesy effects. This movie would have been so much better to see in October, since the story takes place on Halloween, but I'm glad I didn't have to wait until then to see this fun movie.
Last night my dad (head of Quality Assurance for WEBmikey) called me because my site was completely different! He was worried because he didn't know what he was seeing, but I soon guessed that he was seeing a domain placeholder page - my hosting provider hadn't renewed my domain name. I was kind of upset, since it's weird for something you've been writing for six years to be unavailable on the web - it's funny how this silly website is a part of me now. It was probably down for about 12 hours, mostly at night. Anyway, I sent a support request to my provider, and it's all straightened out now (if it weren't, you wouldn't be reading this). I guess there was something wrong in their billing system that wasn't putting the order through, even though I paid for it. I was worried that someone might buy my domain name from under my nose, but now I've learned that there's a 30-day period where it's locked after expiration, so that's really wasn't a concern. I'm just glad to have WEBmikey back again (and my dad is, too)!
I used to be a lot more enthusiastic about the Extinct Attractions Club, but I still have a few DVDs that I bought from them that I haven't got around to watching. I used to be so starved for Disney park video that I would buy every DVD they made as soon as it was released! Of course, I'm still a Disney park maniac, but now I'm a little more picky about what I watch. Frankly, there have been several Extinct Attractions DVDs that were just too amateur for my taste, even though I still really believe in what the club is doing to preserve park history. Anyway, I finally watched The Haunted Mansion Story Part 2 this weekend, which focuses on Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris. Since I've never been on the attraction, this was a really interesting documentary, and thankfully the interview portions were well done (hurray for actually using a tripod!). The ride-throughs were pretty dismal, though, but I know it's impossible to capture dark attractions like that with consumer video equipment. I think the funniest thing to me is that Jeff Burke, an extremely talented Imagineer who designed Phantom Manor, is so long-winded - I can't believe how his sentences ramble! Anyway, I really enjoyed the DVD, and it's nice to see the Extinct Attractions Club do such great work!
I did my usual weekly grocery shopping today (which doesn't take long when you're buying mostly frozen dinners!), and a couple of my pet peeves sprouted up. First, I hate to get a lazy bagger who doesn't think certain items deserve a bag. This mostly happens with six-packs of beer, but today he didn't even bag my Kleenex and toilet paper! The whole point of those plastic bags is that you can grab lots of them at one time because of the handles, but if those big items don't get a bag, that makes it harder for me to get them in the house. I guess I don't care enough to say anything, but those non-baggers are totally slacking, if you ask me. Second, I'm always amazed at what people do with their shopping carts in the parking lot. They park them on curbs, prop them on landscaping, or leave them smack in the middle of a parking space - anything at all except for walking them a few feet into the designated cart spot! I make a point of always putting my cart in the right place, just because I don't want to look as lazy as people who don't. It really is crazy - it seems like life would be so smoother if people just thought about more than themselves for a few minutes! OK, that's it for the griping. I really don't let this stuff bother me, but I needed something to write about today!
I've been having fun lately watching lots of Morning Musume video, mostly TV shows with interviews, which is great Japanese practice! It's amazing how much is available on the web, and my new favorite site for getting this stuff is DJ Waffles! Of course, there's plenty of low quality stuff on YouTube, and a million things I could try to grab with BitTorrent, but truthfully I'm too lazy and impatient - I just want simple download links. DJ Waffles provides exactly that, and he's got tons of stuff, including recent promotional appearances and older TV shows! I've really been enjoying the Hello Pro Hour, which is like a casual conversation between a couple of Hello! Project artists, along with unplugged versions of a couple songs, making it so obvious that Risa has a fantastic voice and Sayumi definitely does not (but she looks cute trying!). It's also hilarious to see Abe Natsumi embarrassed about her ancient age of 24! Anyway, it's been tons of fun collecting this stuff and it's so cool that it's all available. I promise there has been more to life than Jpop lately, but I'm definitely going through a phase!
I've finished my second complete Japanese dorama and I'm definitely getting hooked! Just what I need, another obsession that requires hours and hours of free time! This time I watched all 11 episodes of Star no Koi (which Mikie-san loaned to me), and it was a wonderful, heart-warming show. The plot is about Sousuke (that name is so popular!), a regular guy who works at a ham sales office (you definitely learn a lot about exotic hams in this show) who accidently meets Hikaruko, a famous actress. Through all kinds of coincidences, they end up seeing a lot of each other - he falls in love since he's just been dumped by a childhood romance (and that fact that Hikaruko is gorgeous), and she slowly falls in love with him since she's lived a sheltered star's life since childhood and he is full of appreciation for the simple things in life. There are tons of funny scenes (I especially enjoy seeing everyone getting tipsy at the izakaya), but all kinds of emotional moments, too - I cried much more than I did when I watched Nanisama! There are wonderful messages here about following your dreams and breaking down imaginary barriers that are encouraging to hear, so I really loved this series. I have to say that the last episode is pretty hokey (it uses a "future flash-ahead" that's kind of silly), but it's still great. Now I'm ready to tackle some of the shows that Barron gave me!
While I'm desperately waiting for some new DDR games to come out (it looks like Dance Factory has been delayed for a month, and DDR Supernova is still several months away), I've been trying out a new way to exercise for the past two mornings. Since I'm working on watching Sailor Moon SuperS, which has something like a million episodes, I've just been running in place and periodically doing jumping jacks for a whole 30 minute episode, which helps me work up a nice sweat. Since I'm watching the show, it makes me forget about how long I've been running, but I can still alter what I'm doing based on the show (I always do 10 jumping jacks during Sailor Moon's Moon Gorgeous Meditation attack, for example). Hopefully I can keep this us so I can stay healthy and keep consuming anime at the same time! I'd still rather be playing DDR, though - I can't wait for the new games. Thank goodness they fixed the arrow order controversy in Dance Factory - that would have been a disaster if they had released it with the up and down arrows swapped. Maybe that's what the extra month delay is for?
One of my DVD-buying diseases is once I start a series, I just have to get the whole thing. I knew this would be interesting when I started buying Ren & Stimpy on DVD, since the final seasons were pretty lousy after John Kricfalusi was completely out of the picture. Well, I've finally finished these cartoons, and I'm kind of glad it's over (though there were a few good ones that I was happy to see). Everything on this set was produced by the Games studio, not Spumco, so the commentary is especially fascinating, since in many cases the artists are talking about cartoons they had no involvement with. It's a blast to listen to John cringe over some of the particularly bad ones! There are a few cases where a single episode will have two commentaries - one by Spumco guys and another by Games guys, and it's amazing to hear the differences in opinion! I kind of like Double Header (that has Ren & Stimpy sewn together!) and Ren's Brain (with Stimpy as a brain surgeon), just because the premise of their plots really reminds me of some of great early season cartoons. It's hard to describe just what's missing from the bad episodes - there's definitely a loss of animation quality, but I think the main thing is the plots just seem to run until their time is up and then end with hardly any resolution or punch line! Oh well, I'm still glad I have these to complete my set, although now I'll have to get the most recent episodes produced for Spike TV!
Sorry for the short break in WEBmikey posting! I was visiting my parents in Oklahoma City, and even though I had my iBook with me, I was in total relaxation mode, so I didn't do any writing or any Japanese study either! It was a wonderful long weekend, though - I always have fun with my parents, and I always gain a few pounds, too. This time Mom made some of the best homemade potato chips on the planet (to go with a burger, of course), and I also had my favorite meal of salmon patties, too. I gave Dad my old Nintendo DS plus some new games for an early birthday present, and we had lots of fun playing wirelessly using DS Download Play, which is so impressive and cool (True Swing Golf is a great golf game, by the way)! Besides going to the movies, we also went to the Remington Park casino and played tons of slot machines together - we managed to have a great time for about three hours without going totally broke. Speaking of gambling, I bought Mom some extra lottery tickets to go along with her usual bunch, so she got to do tons of scratching and won a few bucks, too. Dad and I also got to watch a really bad movie called The Monster That Challenged the World, which is a pretty bold title for a silly story about prehistoric sea slugs!
I'm late in mentioning it, but I had a great time a couple of weekends ago celebrating my pal Tom's birthday! By coincidence, the day he chose to celebrate fell on the same day as some other fun events. First, Chris & Eliza had a little pool party to celebrate the "grand reopening" of their pool after tons of dollars of repair work, so we all got to swim and have some great food together. Then that evening, my pal Francis and his band (featuring Chris) had their second gig at the Saxon Pub, so we went out to see the show, which sounded really great (since the sound guy there is so good). After the show, a few of us went to Kerbey Lane for a late snack, which was a nice end to a day of hanging out together. To continue the party, we took Tom to the Alamo Drafthouse the next day to see the Hindi rip-off of Superman (including effects shots stolen from the US movie!) in Foleyvision (which means all of the music, sound-effects, and dialogue are live). Tom had a nice birthday weekend!
I really enjoyed the original Pirates of the Caribbean, and since I saw it with my parents way back in 2003, it was nice to see the sequel with them, even though I had to wait a week after opening day! Dead Man's Chest definitely isn't as good as Curse of the Black Pearl, but it's still a fantastic summer movie with tons of excitement. The plot involves an interesting combination of the legends of Davy Jones, the Flying Dutchman, and even the mythological Kraken, with the heroes and villains all after the same objective for different reasons. Of course, there are some excellent effects, mostly with Davy Jones and his crew, who are all made up of various mutations of sea life - the designs are really creative, cool, and creepy! As far as references to the Disneyland attraction, there are only a few this time, but I liked how the location of the voodoo witch's house looked a lot like the swampy beginning to the ride. Actually, there are more references to the original movie than the ride, since tons of characters are back in this film - many more than I expected! There's plenty of clever battle choreography, but I wish there had been a little more character interaction and less battle at times. Compared to the first movie, there are actually very few lines, and certainly less funny one-liners from Jack Sparrow (though his character is just as funny as ever). Since the third movie is coming out next year, this movie ends with a huge cliffhanger (and don't forget to sit through the credits for a funny bonus scene!). I'm hoping the final movie brings back a little more wit from the first movie, but Dead Man's Chest is still an excellent Disney film!
As usual, I'm still studying hard to learn Japanese, since it's pretty much my number one interest right now (I've even been hearing and speaking Japanese in my dreams every now and then)! Of course, sometimes I go through periods of frustration, and I start to wonder why I just can't cross that imaginary border into some sort of comfortable understanding. I was a little discouraged the other day, so I started to read a bunch of forum messages on JapanesePod101, and it made me feel a little better because lots of people feel like I do. It's fairly easy to get a certain point in language learning, and then the hard work really pours on, it seems. Tonight I had a good lesson with Kazki-san, though - just like anything else, I think attitude is really important! I've got to stay positive and stick with it! Speaking of JapanesePod101, I've been listening to their excellent podcast in my car all the time, and I've really learned a lot - I really like their upbeat excitement! Besides that, I'm realizing even more that one of the best things I can do is write in Japanese, since that's the only way I can "talk" to study, and I'm finally starting to nail some basic conjugation that I've always faked my way through before. Mikie-san and I studied some Morning Musume lyrics and came across tons of conjugations that I need to learn, so there's plenty for me to study. Ganbarimasu!
Musume Dokyu! is a short little show (an episode is about 5 minutes or so) that features someone from Morning Musume, or various other groups from Hello! Project (the production company behind several Japanese girl groups). I saw a few segments from this show on online, but I wanted to try out a DVD anyway, since it's fun to sit back in front of the TV and try to follow the Japanese! Of course, there aren't any subtitles, but most of the time that makes it more fun for me (and every now and then I'll look up something I've heard and learn a new word). There are a lot of fun episodes on this DVD! My favorite has Tanaka Reina gathering water in a mountain setting, and then using the water to make soba noodles from scratch (she keeps cutting the noodles too thick and saying "Soba janai!"). We get to see Michishige Sayumi kind of babysit a bunch of kids who ask her questions, Kamei Eri does some meditation and makes candies, and Takahashi Ai walks around looking at flowers and puppies (and she's terrible at disc golf). Some other episodes have girls from Berryz Koubou and Biyuden, and both of these have cooking segments (definitely my first time to see a live fish put on a grill!). I really like watching these shows - of course, the girls are super cute, and it's interesting to see them being themselves in regular situations. I'll definitely be watching more of this series!
Full Metal Panic was such a great anime because it had a wonderful balance of drama and humor, switching between exciting battle scenes and silly high school semi-romantic situations. Fumoffu focuses entirely on the antics, telling short stories that supposedly happened while Sousuke was undercover as a high school student to protect Kaname, and so far it's a lot of fun! I actually saw the first episode on my very first NewType sampler DVD, but at that time I hadn't watched the original Full Metal Panic, so I had to see all of it to appreciate this show. I'm glad I did, because now Fumoffu is twice as funny, and it's cool that it fills in the cracks and shows more of the daily craziness (as well as more of the developing feelings between Kaname and Sousuke). Some of the episodes are divided into two short stories, with simple plots like Sousuke blowing up his locker when someone puts a love letter in it, or a high-speed chase to get Kaname's homework turned in on time. The funniest scenes are when Sousuke pulls a gun since he just has no concept that carrying a gun isn't normal (since a military childhood is all he knows) - he even shoots up a video game screen because he runs out of ammo in the game! I hope some of the future episodes focus on Kaname's friends, and hopefully some of Sousuke's fellow soldiers, too (I'm sure they will get Tessa in somehow). Fumoffu is a cool idea for a series, so I'm going to enjoy it!
July is already a third over and I completely forgot to make a mix this month! So, here's my overdue Ten Cool Tunes for July. Just like last month, my listening habits have been almost 100% Jpop, so I went through my iTunes library to find some older favorites to put together (I had to leave Morning Musume's single in there, since I've probably listened to it about 150 times recently!). Actually, I was pretty surprised that the iTunes Music Store has so few of these tracks available, but I'm sure you can find them from other sources if you want. Kids in America (probably my favorite 80s pop song) kicks things off, and then the feel lightens up a little to settle into the 6/8 goodness of Gordon's Gardenparty, and then things steadily stay up-beat, making room for Spin Around (Josie & the Pussycats is the best soundtrack for the worst movie combination that I know of!) and one of Shone Knife's best covers.
07.2006 iMix (Song / Album / Artist)
07.2006 iMix (Song / Album / Artist)
- Kids in America / Singles Collections 1981-1993 / Kim Wilde
- The Sun Always Shines on TV / Closer / Milk Inc.
- Puffy de Ramba / An Illustrated History / Puffy AmiYumi
- Gordon's Gardenparty / Life / The Cardigans
- Roam / Cosmic Thing / The B-52s
- Sexy Boy ~Soyokaze ni Yorisotte~ / CD Single / Morning Musume
- Stars / Goodbye / Dubstar
- Erica America / Good Humor / Saint Etienne
- Spin Around / Original Soundtrack / Josie & the Pussycats
- Daydream Believer / Happy Hour / Shonen Knife
I'm a big fan of the original Superman movies, so I was thrilled to see Superman Returns, mainly because this film is designed to continue that series! It takes place after Superman II (which means we can forget the terrible III and IV), and really keeps the spirit of those films! The opening credits sequence uses the same flying words, the same incredible theme music plays, and even the acting (for the most part) seems to pay tribute to the original actors. Even though they have their own style, Brandon Routh and Kevin Spacey both kind of do impressions of Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman, and they are great. I wasn't really thrilled with Kate Bosworth, but she was just fine. The plot is interesting, and smartly makes use of the Fortress of Solitude (which Lex saw in Superman II) and Lex's desire for real estate (which was the same scheme in Superman I). The idea of Superman being off in space for five years is a little weird, but they had to give Lois time to have a child somehow! The special effects are well-done without taking over the movie, so the characters have some room to act, but unfortunately there were never really any moments that generated real emotion. I was mostly excited by all the references to the previous movies and comic books - details like the Kryptonite from Addis Ababa and Superman's Action Comics pose make geeks like me happy. Overall I was really impressed - it's always nice to see a superhero movie that doesn't mess everything up!
I think I study too many Japanese learning aids at one time, but I just can't help myself when I see a new book that looks intriguing. This one seemed really interesting, and flipping through it I saw lots of examples of various concepts that I had run across recently, so I bought it. Right now all I can say is I'm glad it's over - it was really difficult to finish! It starts out nicely with a few sentence structures, but then suddenly goes completely nuts. This book claims to be beginner to intermediate level, but I have lots of complaints! First, the progression of the book seems really random - nothing seems to build on previous concepts. It seems the author just gathered lots of things that people have trouble with and jammed them all into one book. Individually these could be useful, but they definitely don't flow (which makes the title kind of ironic!). Next, kanji is used full-blast with no furigana, which forces you to read romaji all the time, which we all know is a bad thing. Finally, the sample sentences are ridicuously difficult! I can't even begin to tell you how ludicrous they are, so I have to give an actual example. "Recently the piles of litter along the roads have become a problem, so people in the neighborhood have met together to start a cleaning campaign." Oh yeah, I was trying to say that in conversation just the other day (yeah, right). Maybe someday I will look back at this book and enjoy it, but right now I'm happy to move on to something else!
My pal Tom and I decided to go see Nacho Libre on the 4th of July since it was raining, but neither of us enjoyed the movie very much. Jack Black is a hilarious comedian (they showed one his music videos before the film that was twice as funny as the movie!), but he just can't be himself in this weird role. The story is about a monk at a run-down rural orphanage who dreams of being a wrestler, and finally lives his dream (both to raise money for the kids and to impress a nun). One day when he's in town, he's attacked by a wild street guy, who ends up being his new friend and wrestling partner. Even though the settings are vastly different, this movie feels just like Napoleon Dynamite (but not as funny!). Maybe it's because the wild guy reminds me of Pedro with his dry humor. Of course, there are long sequences of wrestling, but each of these went on too long and made me sleepy. There are definitely some funny moments, mainly when the dialogue contains phrases that seem really out of place for hispanic holy men, and of course there are fart jokes (which usually means they were added in because the editors were desperately trying for a laugh). I think this movie would be fun on late night cable - in the middle of the day, it just made me want to see School of Rock again to remind me that Jack's a funny guy!
I haven't written a manga roundup in a little while, but it's definitely that time again since I've finished about eight new volumes recently! I read a blurb about Ninin ga Shinobuden in NewType, and since I was craving some more light, funny stuff, I decided to order it (for some reason, they don't carry this publisher at my Barnes & Noble). I really enjoyed it - it's got a lot of Dr. Slump type humor (with awesome cultural references), but definitely has a Ranma feel (no crazy transformations, though - maybe Shinobu just reminds me of Shampoo!). I also started xxxHolic, since I had heard so much about it, and I've never read a Clamp manga before (even though I'm a big fan of the Chobits anime). It took a chapter or two to interest me, but the sub-plot about getting rid of bad habits was really intriguing. Death Note Vol 6 was incredible, and it looks like the tangent with the new "corporate" Kira is going to end, which is great! Monster Vol 3 keeps the story chilling - I can never put it down once I start reading. It's definitely getting a Kung-Fu kind of storyline, with the gifted surgeon, wanted by the police but tracking down a killer, wandering from town to town saving strangers - he even has a sidekick now. I''s Vol 8, Midori Days Vol 6, and Gacha Gacha Vol 4 were all good, and Dr. Slump Vol 8 was just as fun as always. It's a good thing I bought a new small bookshelf for all this stuff - I'm sure it will be overflowing by the end of the year!
My friend Tom and I had never seen a Gilbert & Sullivan production before, so we decided to go see the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin's HMS Pinafore. I don't think anything can really prepare you for one of these shows - all I had seen before were countless parodies of the various songs (including Stewie singing the the best HMS song on Family Guy), but the reality is that the actual show is so bizarre that it's exactly like the parody! HMS Pinafore tells the simple story of a lowly sailor who's in love with the captain's daughter, but their love isn't "proper" because they are in different social classes. Hardly anything happens in the plot - just some wooing, a failed attempt at eloping, and a sudden revealing of a secret that makes everything turn out happily. The holes are filled with song after song, and each song is filled with mountains of lyrics, all written with wry British wit. The rhymes are really quite remarkable, and lots of fun to listen to (although the slower numbers were a little boring). The cast was really good, mainly because it was obvious that they were all Gilbert & Sullivan fans who were having a wonderful time! It was great that they had a live mini-orchestra, too, which I didn't expect (since the production was in a high-school auditorium). It was a packed show, with a huge number of senior citizens, so there's definitely a bunch of Austinites who love this stuff! I'm glad we went to see it, and I wouldn't mind checking out another show sometime.
I did it! Today I faced my fears and went to the doctor for a full physical, after nearly 15 years of putting it off. Of course, I was nervous, but I spent the weekend distracting myself so I wouldn't think about it too much. Last night I really wanted a beer, but I had to fast for my blood test! My new doctor and his nurse couldn't have been nicer, and they did just about everything you can imagine to me. They checked lung capacity, hearing, vital signs, and I even had an EKG - and yes, I had my first prostate exam, which thankfully was really fast! I had a tetanus booster shot, which was really quick, and then it was finally time for my blood test, which was my biggest worry. I think I got one of the best blood guys around, because he distracted me by talking the whole time and it was over before I knew it. I know thousands of people have this stuff done everyday, but it was a big deal for me, so I'm feeling proud! I think the Asahi I'm drinking tonight even tastes better, too.
My Nintendo DS game collection keeps growing, because there are always cool games coming out that fit my style. I love puzzle and thinking games, so I had to get Big Brain Academy. You might think that it's similar to Brain Age, but there are really quite different, and each is fun in its own way. Big Brain Academy has 15 kinds of puzzle games (unless there are more I haven't unlocked yet) where you try to solve as many questions as possible in a certain amount of time. Based on how many you solve (and how many you miss), the little professor character gives you the "weight" of your brain. You can also take a combined test that picks five games at random and gives you a combined brain weight and grade. Unfortunately, I can only score a C+ so far, but I've only been playing a little while! The puzzles are grouped into categories (my favorite is Memorize and my least favorite is Compute) and you can practice them as much as you want to try to get different medals (bronze, silver or gold). The graphics are really cute and very colorful, and while the whole game uses the touch screen, there is no handwriting recognition, which is kind of nice. The concept behind each of the puzzles is easy to figure out, but some of them can get tough once you get in the upper levels, especially since the clock is ticking! Big Brain Academy is a fantastic game to play when you have a spare five minutes here and there - it's quick, fun, and it's nice to improve your problem solving skills!
Today I took my pal Melinda to see the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for her birthday. I love going to the circus every year, and since I buy my tickets the moment they become available, I get the good seats right in front of the center ring! We went early to see the "animal compound" (not a very nice way to put it, but oh well) and to walk around the rings for the pre-show. The pre-show seemed way more crowded this year than it has been before, but it was still fun. The show started right off with the double human cannonball, which I thought would be the finale! The excellent clown/acrobat Bello was back this year - I saw him a few years ago and I'm still really impressed with his performance! There were tons of cool acts, but I like the ones that really make me nervous, like seeing an elephant walk over a bunch of girls lying on the ground! I think my favorite was the high wire act, since the performers had a cool attitude, like they were really having fun. There was a near fall (the band even stopped for a second!), which was pretty exciting! It also looked like some zebras were going to break loose and run away, but I'm sure it was no big deal. The whole show was tons of fun, and I got my giant program just like I always do. I ate way too much cotton candy, but that's just part of the circus experience!