5.31.2006

I am the real WEBmikey

The story behind why this site is called WEBmikey (and why some of my friends and co-workers call me WEBmikey) is semi-interesting. Throughout my life I've gone by most variations of my name (such as Michael or Mike), but when I started working at Works (where I met some of my best pals), I also truly started my Childhood Mikey phase, so I started signing some emails as "Mikey". The more I did it, the more it stuck, and I liked it when people called me Mikey! About that time I got excited about starting a website (commonly called "vanity sites" back in 2000, before blogging was a household word!), so I did a domain search for something with Mikey in it, and one of the suggestions was "webmikey". It sounded kind of cool, and I thought it would be a nice online persona, so I went with it (adopting my unusual caps and lower-case because I wanted it to look HTML-ish). After I started the site and sent my friends an email, the next day I was hearing "Hey WEBmikey!" in the halls, and now I really like it!

Strangely enough, now I want to be the only WEBmikey! I love Googling "webmikey" to find references to me and my site, but it bugs me that there are a few more webmikeys out there. I find three pretty often: someone registered at Overstock Auctions (but not selling anything), someone using Magnolia to tag their bookmarks, and someone who posts on the Philippine Macintosh Users Group boards. I think those last two might be the same person (at least they are a Mac user!). I kind of feel like signing up for every new web service I find just so I can "protect" my precious online name! I just signed up on MySpace today, just because it's becoming such a phenomenon and everyone in the world is on it, and thankfully I'm the first WEBmikey!

れんしゅう

すうねん まえ ぼく は ポケモン の ファン だった。 にほんご が わからなかった ので、えいご で アニメ を みた。 すべて の ポケモン の なまえ を しって いた けど、ひゃくごじっぴき しか いなかった。 いま さんびゃっぴき いじょう も いる!
さいきん ニンテンドー DS で ポケモン の ゲーム を して いる。 また キャラクター を みる の が なつかしい。

5.30.2006

Tokyo Godfathers : 4 of 5

I'm definitely a fan of Satoshi Kon, since I really enjoyed his work in Millennium Actress and other films, and I'm impressed with his ideas of how animation can be used effectively. Tokyo Godfathers is a fantastic story that could have easily been told in live action, yet seeing it through animation brings a certain quality that actually makes the plot seem more real! It's about a trio of homeless people, including a middle-aged bum, a kind transvestite, and a teenage runaway. On Christmas night, they find an abandoned baby, and decide to care for it while they search Tokyo for the child's mother. As they go on this strange quest, they actually become a kind of family and grow closer. The characterization is incredible, and the film's pacing is perfect - there's just enough time given to present a backstory for each person, so we realize that each of them is running from past mistakes (and each of them will find their way back to their past in the end!). The backgrounds are masterpieces of detailed artwork, showing all sides of Tokyo, from gleaming lights in the cold air to back alleys full of trash. The character animation is quite realistic, with just enough cartoon-esque emotions to add to the occasional outburst. The last third of the story is filled with some amazing reunions, and even though they are half-expected, they still happen in unexpected ways. Satoshi Kon is an incredible storyteller, and seeing this movie makes me want to explore his other work!

れんしゅう

ぼく の ともだち の デーイ は よっかかん ぼく の うち に とまった。 いろいろ な こと を いっしょ に やった。 ぼくたち は たべすぎて、 おさけ も のみすぎた。 いっしょ に いる と、いつも たのしかった。
さいご の ばん ぼくたち は 「Spider House」へ いった。 コーヒー を のんで、「Scrabble」で あそんだ。 ぐうぜん、 かずきさん と あった。 「ぼく は べんきょう しない と だめ だ!」と おもった!

5.29.2006

More fun with Dae

My pal Dae went back home to Los Angeles today, after spending an incredibly full four days here in Austin! Besides all the fun things I mentioned briefly before, we also wandered around the Zilker Botanical Garden, saw a movie, enjoyed the incredible Combo Mahalo at Flipnotics, invented "One-Hand One-Base Drunken Wiffle Ball" at Kirk's BBQ, and wrapped things up with a nice evening of Scrabble at Spider House. Dae got to relive tons of his favorite Austin memories, as well as eat all of his favorite foods. I'm glad I could pay him back for all of the Disneyland trips he's endured with me!

View photos: Dae's visit

5.28.2006

The Da Vinci Code : 3 of 5

While my pal Dae was here visiting, we decided to go see a movie with Ernesto, so the obvious choice was The Da Vinci Code. I haven't read the book, so it was kind of fun seeing the various clues and puzzles being solved without knowing the final outcome, though some things definitely seemed to move too quickly (Dae and some other friends of mine have read the novel, and say that it's more interesting to see things unfold slowly). I didn't have any issues with the "controversial" subject matter, so for me it was just an interesting treasure hunt. Unfortunately, that's all it was - for a long movie, it's amazing how little character development there is! The worst case of all is the main character played by Tom Hanks, who becomes little more than a narrator or tour guide on the adventure. We have no real window into his life at all, except for a cliched claustrophobia that really adds nothing to the plot. That's really my only problem with the movie - it's like the big mystery was written first, and then a few characters were stuck in at the last minute. I still had a good time at the theater, though - I really enjoyed the long discussion at Ian McKellen's home, and I think Audry Tautou has one of the cutest noses in all of cinema. It was good to see a blockbuster with my pals, and now I can talk intelligently about the big secrets when they inevitably come up in conversation!

5.27.2006

Picture of the Morning Musume 2 / Single M Clips : 4 of 5

After watching their third DVD collection of music videos so many times, I decided I simply had to have more! Even though I've listened to Morning Musume for a long time, they are kind of a new obsession for me (yes, I'm falling into their clutches!), so it's fun to "go back in time" by watching the earlier videos in this second collection. It's interesting to me to see how much attention Maki Goto used to get in this era - based on the face time alone it seems she was the favorite (and has a huge fan base now from the number of websites out there). The DVD begins with I Wish, which has a super long storybook introduction, and features everyone in different costumes of people in town (like a cop, a hot dog salesman, and so on), which really makes it a big production. It was really cool to see Renai Revolution 21 again, since it was the very first Morning Musume video I ever watched, when my pal Matt showed me an MPEG of it years ago. I was amazed then, and it's still cool now - definitely one of those dance numbers that makes you want to imitate it! The Peace is a great video, but totally hilarious since the girls are sailor janitors dancing around tons of urinals (which all light up in a big disco ending)! Sou Da We're Alive has some fun dancing (and the costumes even include purses!), and Do It Now shows us a "secret headquarters" the girls go to (accessible by card reader!) with hit albums on the wall and costume vaults. It's all great fun, and there's a short making of segment as a bonus. I always feel cheerful after watching Morning Musume!

5.26.2006

Big time playing

I only have time for a quick WEBmikey post today, since my pal Dae from Los Angeles is in town for the Memorial Day weekend! It seems like we've already done a million things in the first 24 hours. We've been to the Continental Club, had dinner at Guerro's, stopped by a couple more bars, hung out in the UT Student Union, went shopping and played DDR on the Drag, visited the new Blanton Museum of Art, played trivia at Dave & Buster's, and hung out at the mall and had some ice cream! We just took a quick nap (we are old dudes after all), and then it's off to BBQ for dinner and a Greatest American Heroes gig. Woo hoo!

5.25.2006

Howl's Moving Castle : 5 of 5

I have a bad habit of buying new DVDs when they're released, and then taking forever to actually watch them! Unfortunately, that's the case with the last batch of Disney-released Miyazaki films, but now I've finally managed to enjoy Howl's Moving Castle again (I was definitely inspired to watch it after enjoying Princess Mononoke so much recently). I really loved this movie at the theater, but after watching it again on DVD I can honestly say I understand it much more. The plot is definitely semi-complex in places, and the pacing isn't even (it starts off leisurely and speeds up drastically at the end), but taking the time to watch it at home with no distractions definitely helped me appreciate what's going on. I love how the movie begins in a pseudo-European world, with no explanation or backstory, and you can instantly accept the setting. Suddenly, Sophie is walking on air with Howl, escaping from evil blob men, and it's all animated so convincingly that it feels real! I love Miyazaki's choices in animation - the movement of the castle is shown in detail, which becomes so believable on its huge bird-like legs, but then for the transformation of Sophie to an old woman, he has it happen off screen (which makes it more mysterious, in a way). The DVD has a great segment where Miyazaki comes to Pixar to visit John Lassater, and he talks a bit at the screening of the English dub to Pixar employees. As usual, I haven't watched the dub, but I'm thankful that Studio Ghibli has allowed Disney to release these masterpieces in the US!

5.24.2006

Haunted Mansion stories

I've been reading the Haunted Mansion comic book by SLG Publishing, and it's really great! Each issue is full of stories by different artists based on the classic Disney attraction. I just finished the third issue, and I've definitely been impressed by all the great ideas they've come up with inspired by various details of the ride. There have been stories about the graveyard caretaker, his dog, the ballroom ghosts, and a long continuing tale about Master Gracey that even ties in with Pirates of the Caribbean! I missed the second issue at my local shop, so I just ordered the second and third issues from their website, and the service was great (I also got their new Tron comic book, which is starting off nicely)! All of these Haunted Mansion tales make me wish that the recent changes to the Disneyland attraction didn't make the story so clear (since now we know about Constance the bride and all her murdered husbands) - I think the fact that it was open to interpretation was a nice mystery that made stories like these possible. I'm sure I will enjoy meeting Constance on my next Disneyland trip, but I'll still be remembering all the other alternate story possibilities, too.

5.23.2006

Kumi Koda / Best (Second Session) : 4 of 5

I love buying greatest hits compilations to get familiar with an artist, so I thought I would buy this set since I really enjoyed Kumi Koda's CD single of Butterfly. But truthfully, the main reason I had to buy this CD is that it came with two DVDs - the first one contains 12 music videos, and the second is a complete two hour live concert (I'm totally amazed by the entertainment value of this set)! The videos are great - provocative, to be sure, since Kumi seems to like wearing outlandish costumes and make-up, but it's so much fun seeing what she'll wear next. There's a series of videos that involve three guys sitting around telling girl stories, which are then acted out in the song, and it makes a nice progression. The video for Birthday Eve is hilarious, with Kumi baking a cake for her sweetie, but actually he's a masked wrestler, so it doesn't quite work out. The concert is amazing - Kumi is super-comfortable and full of energy (I actually have no idea how she can keep it going), dancing through each number and sounding great. At the end she even cries after being moved by the audience response! The CD is full of hit songs (of course), and there are plenty of them that I've been listening to a lot lately. The bonus track of her singing A Whole New World from Aladdin is interesting (being a Disney freak), but the tempo is so slow! I think this set is fantastic, and I've already ordered the First Session set, which has even more videos.

5.22.2006

れんしゅう

きょう は ほんや で これ を かいて いる。 いま は ひるやすみ だ。 けさ しごと は とても いそがしかった! やっぱり やすみ は いい なあ。
しごと の まえ セーラームーン の DVD を みて、ちょっと さんぽ した。 そして、かんじ を べんきょう した。
きょう の はなし は つまらない です ね!

Double the fun

Saturday was definitely party day, since I had two to attend, and the last one ended up being a true marathon! Eliza's graduation party was really nice, with excellent lunch food and great conversation with friends. Carlos & Kristin hosted the fun occasion, and baby Sofia was an angel as usual! It was fun to see both Chris & Eliza's parents, too, since I hadn't seen them since their wedding. After that party, I took a quick nap, then headed out to Ernesto's birthday pub crawl, which included the Draught House, Billy's, Ginny's Little Longhorn, Lala's, and Common Interest, where we tried to get on the stage for karaoke, but we didn't get there until too late. But we didn't let that stop us - we just headed over to Austin Karaoke and got a room at about 2:30 (along with some tacos and more beer), and it was 5:00 AM before we knew it! Everyone had an awesome time, and I even got to butcher a Morning Musume song. Most importantly, Ernesto had a blast!

View photos: Eliza's graduation party
View photos: Ernesto's birthday pub crawl

5.21.2006

れんしゅう

きのう は わたし の ともだち の アーネスト の たんじょうび でした。 かれ の パーテイー は 「pub crawl」でした。 よる の はちじ に さいしょ の バー に いきました。 いちじかん ごと に ちがう バー へ いきました。
ごぜん にじ に みんな で カラオケ に いきました。 わたしたち は あさ の ごじ まで うたいました! わたし は モーニング むすめ の うた を うたって みた けど、ひらがな が はやすぎました。

Over the Hedge : 4 of 5

This is definitely the kind of movie that makes me happy to own a few shares of DreamWorks stock! Sure, it's yet another talking animal film, but this one has a lot of heart, nice character designs (for the animals, anyway), and tons of laugh-out-loud moments, without being overly contemporary. The story is about a bunch of hibernating animals who wake up in the Spring to find a giant suburban development has been built while they slept. Of course, they have no idea what is is, but RJ the raccoon is there to show them how to steal food (and settle his personal debt with a hungry bear). I really enjoyed the different characters and their voice acting, even from actors I don't really care for. I'm not a Bruce Willis fan, but he actually "acted" for the part of RJ, making me forget who was doing the acting. I also can't stand Wanda Sykes, but she was perfect as Stella the skunk! At first I didn't really care for Hammy the squirrel (it seems too easy and tired to do a hyper-speed kind of character), but he turned out to be downright hilarious, and even provides the film's funniest moment, when he moves so fast that the world "freezes" around him. It's a fantastic bit of animation, without dialogue, and I was falling out of my chair laughing just watching it! My only complaint is the design of the human characters was a little creepy - if they had just gone a little more cartoony they could have satisfied me. But I can't complain for long, since I laughed more in this movie than anything I've seen in months!

5.20.2006

れんしゅう

きのう の よる わたし は ともだち の メリンダ と いっしょ に えいがかん へ いきました。 「Over the Hedge」を みました。 おもしろかった です! いつも ぼく は アニメ の えいが を みて います。
「Over the Hedge」の はなし は はなして いる どうぶつ が たべもの を ぬすみます。 えいがかん の なか の みんな が わらって いました!

Triple congratulations

This is a big week for shout-outs to family and friends! First, my parents celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary this week, and they're happier than ever together. Next, my pal Eliza is graduating from her graduate studies at the University of Texas, so she can officially be a school principal (she's already an assistant principal, and I'll bet she gets to be a big boss soon). Because of Eliza, I seem to know tons of school teachers, but it's really weird that I'm friends with a principal - it's so "grown-up"! Finally, this is my pal Ernesto's birthday weekend, so we'll all be living it up tonight in his honor. WEBmikey readers probably don't know that Ernesto broke his arm recently while roller-skating, but he's been doing great and healing nicely (although I'm sure he's dying to play sax again). So, here's to my cool pals and their accomplishments!

5.19.2006

Gatchaman / Collection 6 : 4 of 5

Another twelve episodes of Gatchaman full of fun and action, and I'm still loving the show (and now that I've finally caught up with the ADV Films release schedule, I have longer to wait for the next volume!). It seems like every set has at least one truly stand-out episode, and this time the God Phoenix (the Science Ninja Team's fighter, with four mini-mechas for the team members) is finally destroyed! It's a pretty dramatic moment, but of course, the International Science Organization builds a new one, so the Phoenix rises from the ashes - this time with more weapons! (It's pretty amazing that all this time they had no weapons except those wimpy bird missiles that never did any damage, no matter how much Joe wanted to fire them.) Another big moment is when they find out that Berg Katse isn't the real leader of Galactor - now they know about Leader X! The usual hilarious moments are here for your enjoyment, too, including a fight against baseball warriors, a fashion show staring Jun, and a big battle on roller skates, featuring the exciting ninja skating "bird whip" technique! There are some particularly gruesome deaths on this set, too, mainly in the brain stealing episode - I'm sure those scenes never made it into Battle of the Planets in the US. The bonus disc is the same old thing, and the voice actor interview is completely annoying this time, but I still like buying these sets for the cool art on the sleeve box. I can't wait to continue the saga!

5.18.2006

Efficiency for weirdos

The other day at work I needed a new highlighter, which made me stop to think about the wacky (yet efficient for me!) method I have developed for keeping track of all the stuff I need to do. I'm pretty busy all day at the office, so when someone asks me to do something, I have to record it somehow or I will definitely forget it! Over the past several years I just fell into a pattern of prioritizing things, however strange it may be.
  • If someone asks me to do something that I know needs to be done the same day, I write it on a Post-It note. I usually just stick it on my notebook or scratch sheet (see below), but when it's done, I toss it. For some reason I like bright blue or green Post-Its (I have weird work superstitions!).
  • Things that need to be done "soon" go on my scratch sheet. I have a drawer full of used printer paper, and I always keep a couple sheets on my desk. One is for random scribbles, and the other is for listing things I'll be working on in the next few days or weeks. When I finish something, I mark through it with a highlighter. I like using a highlighter because I can still read what I did! The highlighter must be pink! I have no idea why, but my brain knows that when the whole page is pink, then it's all done and I can toss it.
  • Long-term jobs go in my notebook, which I also use for planning how I'm going to make those jobs happen. I always use 9.5 x 6 inch size, spiral bound, and use them until every page is full. I keep these notebooks like an archive, since sometimes the things I figure out in them become useful later. It takes about a year to use a whole notebook (of course, I go through many scratch sheets in that same year!).
  • Finally, every few months I go through my notebook and type up a kind of project list of all the big things that haven't been done (usually major projects or ideas that just didn't ever get to the "top"). This is the only task list I keep electronically, and I still print it out so I can refer to it on paper!
So, all I need to be efficient is a pink highlighter, blue or green Post-Its, a 9.5 x 6 spiral notebook, and a stack of used printer paper. Now that's hi-tech!

5.17.2006

Pokemon Trozei / Nintendo DS : 3 of 5

My favorite kind of game is easy to learn, but stays fun after lots of playing, and Pokemon Trozei definitely has those qualities! I was interested in this game before it came out, but after reading some so-so reviews I held off a while, but I had to use some Best Buy Reward Zone money, so I finally got it. Even though I'm actively playing a couple of other DS games, this one has still been getting a ton of attention (sometimes for up to an hour straight, which leaves me seeing little Pokemon heads whenever I close my eyes)! The puzzle aspect is really simple - you just slide rows of Pokemon to match four faces vertically or horizontally, which "captures" them. After you make a capture with four in a row, you can quickly make one with three in a row, and then two, so you can get multiple captures really quickly. All of this is under a time limit, and you have to worry about the playing field filling up (like Tetris). There's a story mode that provides a Pokemon background to the whole thing, and it's kind of fun infiltrating "storage facilities" to gather the Pokemon that the villains have captured, culminating in really hard boss levels where the bad guys mess with your game while you play! The graphics are pretty cool (I love the little iconic Pokemon faces), and the background music is a really nice techno soundtrack. I'm not too psyched about the cartoon quality of the characters in the story, but they still have a fun Powerpuff Girls look to them. I definitely want to keep playing to work on my list of Pokemon (I have about 30% of the possible ones so far), and I've got to beat all the bosses, too!

5.16.2006

れんしゅう

きのう の よる わたし と ジョナサン は「Elephant Room」に いきました。 わたしたち は かずきさん と かれ の ともだち と あいました。 げつようび は ジャズ ジャム だ から、あたらしい ミュージシャン が おおかった です。 ちょっと ださかった なあ。
でも、わたし は よっぽらって いた から、たのしかった です。 じかい は おんがく が もっと よく なる と いい なあ!

Buying media from Japan

I've been buying lots of CDs and DVDs from Japan lately, which can get expensive, but it's fun! Media is generally more expensive in Japan to start with, so there are rarely any price bargains, but I still like to shop around to compare online stores. I've really only played with a few places so far, but I thought I would give them a quick run-down in case anyone else is buying stuff from Japan. By the way, there are several online shops that sell other general merchandise, but I'm really just talking about media here.
  • Amazon (USA): If the thing you want is available as an export, you can always pay big bucks for it from good ol' Amazon. I've done this a couple times, but only when I had some gift certificates from my Amazon VISA, since it's not surprising to see a CD shoot up to $40 bucks this way.
  • Amazon Japan: Amazon in Japan does ship internationally, so it's definitely possible to order directly from them. Finding the item you want can be fun, since everything is in Japanese (time to sound out that crazy Katakana), but the checkout process is pretty easy, and most of it can be displayed in English. All the prices are in yen, but you can definitely get an idea of what you're spending. There are no free international shipping deals - the shipping price isn't terrible, but when I did checkout comparisons with some other sites, the overall price seemed to be more, so I haven't actually placed on order with them yet.
  • CDJapan: This site is in English, but unfortunately has a lame design that makes checkout a little weird and searching a little confusing at times. However, they seem to have more in-stock than anyone so far, especially older items, so I guess their source has a larger warehouse or something. Their pricing is a little less expensive, too, but their shipping can be high-priced if you want to track your package. I've ordered from them several times using the cheapest air mail shipping, and everything was fine.
  • YesAsia: This is definitely the most professional site with nearly everything you could ever want to buy, but I have noticed that they tend to be out of things that aren't hot anymore. Everything is in English and very Amazon-like, but sometimes it can drive you crazy if you're searching for Japanese items and accidentally end up in the Chinese or Korean sections. The best possible thing about YesAsia is they actually do have free shipping if you spend $25! However, their prices are a little higher on everything, so truthfully the grand total often comes out the same as CDJapan, for example. My biggest complaint is that their "packing" time can get ridiculous - sometimes up to a week or more before the package even ships. What takes them so long?
Since there's no clear winner, I tend to switch back and forth between YesAsia (for convenience) and CDJapan (for in-stock items). I should try some other stores sometime, because I know I'm going to keep buying CDs and DVDs!

5.15.2006

Brain Age / Nintendo DS : 3 of 5

I bought Brain Age soon after it was released, which was an easy decision since it's been a super-popular seller in Japan, and it's priced at only $20! I've been playing it almost everyday since then, and I really like it, but it's not something that I really crave or can't wait to play, like other games I've been obsessed with. The idea is that by working puzzles you can "exercise" your brain just like any other muscle, and each day you can take a serious of three tests which are used to compute the "age" of your brain (with 20 being the best or "youngest" brain). There are lots of interesting puzzles, from rapid-fire math problems to word memory, and of course the infamous Stroop Test, where you are shown the word "Black" written in yellow letters (for example), so you have to say "Yellow" (which can get really difficult at times!). Obviously, the game uses the DS microphone as well as the touch screen for handwriting recognition (but that can be a little rough at times, especially because I have to un-train myself from writing Palm style!). Each day you can practice lots of different mini-games, but I don't really enjoy all of them (Speed Counting is just silly if you ask me). There are also tons of Sudoku puzzles built-in, and I've been playing those like crazy, even though I think the Sudoku game on my Palm is a little better. Overall though, Brain Age is a fun mini-obsession to play with, and I definitely think it's improving my basic math skills! By the way, my brain is only 27 years old, which is a pretty good score for a geezer like me.

5.14.2006

Skating and bouncing

Saturday was full of fun! The day started with Disney on Ice, which my pal Melinda and I had been looking forward to for quite a while. I was able to get the tickets really early and get front row, and we had a great time at the show. The plot was really creative - the Incredibles family is spending a day at the Magic Kingdom, and Syndrome shows up and kidnaps Mickey & Minnie! There are lots of attractions reenacted on ice, including the Haunted Mansion (which was the best) and Pirates of the Caribbean (it was hilarious to see Mickey & Minnie behind bars in the famous "dog with keys" scene, but so sad!). The whole show was really cool, with only one exception - all the kids under twelve got Incredibles bracelets with light-up buttons, and we didn't get them (even when I asked). Meanies!

Later that evening, my pal Bernadette had her 30th birthday party, which was celebrated with karaoke, DDR, and a giant moon walk (bounce house, or whatever you want to call it)! It was a lot of fun bouncing (and exhausting), and I got to play a lot of DDR as the designated demonstrator. The highlight of the evening was after midnight when lots of the girls put on formal dresses and did some bouncing! It was too dark for good photos, but I have some great night-shot video (which will someday be a slow-motion masterpiece).

View photos: Bernadette's birthday

5.13.2006

Genshiken Vol 1 : 4 of 5

I've been reading the Genshiken manga from the beginning (six volumes so far), but I wasn't sure how I would react to the anime. Even though most anime are based on popular manga, this is the first time I've read one and then watched the other, so I didn't know if it would be weird already knowing the story and so on. I'm happy to say that I love the anime, and it's even better seeing the manga characters come to life, and hearing voices that seem to match the ones I've been imagining while I read! Genshiken is about a school club that focuses on anime, manga, and video games, so it's basically the story of some otaku banding together to support each other. The whole thing really has a great attitude of having the determination to live life as you want, and to be proud of it, which is a geek's dream, if you ask me. The anime is very true to the manga, and actually includes the make-believe anime that the characters in the story are fans of (an anime inside an anime), called Kujibiki Unbalance (there's actually an entire episode with a theme song and everything as a bonus feature on the DVD). I really like how the story is focusing on Sasahara, especially the use of his internal dialogue, as he struggles to accept the Genshiken as his friends and "people". The segments with Kousaka and Saki are fantastic, and they include some hilarious narration as Saki keeps getting romantically snubbed when Kousaka needs to be at the next big otaku event. The story, animation, and voice work are all there, so I'm definitely excited about watching this entire series!

5.12.2006

Princess Mononoke : 5 of 5

Just like tons of American fans of Miyazaki, the first of his films that I saw was Princess Mononoke, and it blew me away. I can still remember seeing it in the theater and being so impressed! Since then, I've seen all the Studio Ghibli productions that I can, and I've bought almost everything on DVD, but for some reason, I had never bought Princess Mononoke! The other day I got talking about it at work, and that really stirred up my interest again, so I ordered it right away (pretty cheap on Overstock.com). I can't believe I waited so long to buy it - it's such an amazing movie! I had forgotten most of the plot, but I remembered several scenes shot for shot. The characters are really interesting, especially San and Ashitaka, of course (and I love how they both stay true to themselves, avoiding the obvious possible romance ending). I think the women working at the iron works are funny - I love the scene where Ashitaka works the bellows for them. There's not enough positive ways to praise the animation (with only a hint of CG!), but I have to say the Yakul has the most convincing animal movement of just about any movie I've seen. The pacing of the story is amazing, too - it has several highs and lows, but always keeps building the excitement to keep things moving forward. I'm so glad that I finally own the DVD and got to watch this movie again!

5.11.2006

Little things

Today was a great day for lots of little reasons, probably starting with the beautiful sunny weather! At first I was dreading the morning, because I had to take my car for maintenance. Last week I was forced into driving on some newly-paved road, fresh with tar and gravel, since they put it down across both entrances to my condos at lunchtime. It was gross, and soon afterwards my car was making horrible scraping noises, which had me worried, so I took it in. It turned out to be just a bunch of gravel caught up in the wheels (no damage, just noisy), and they only charged me $45 to take the wheels off and get it all out! While they were working on the car, I had my iBook with me, and now they have free wireless in the waiting room, so I even had fun waiting.

At lunch I enjoyed the nice weather by sitting in the sun and reading manga. The latest volume of I''s just came out, and it was so great that I finished the whole thing - I could easily read several volumes in a row of that story! It's just a funny high school romance, but it's always full of twists and turns and embarrassing moments. After work I caught the last couple hours of sun by sitting outside, listening to my iPod shuffle, drinking a beer, and reading NewType, and I even smoked a nice cigar that my pal Dave gave me while he was here. It's almost always the little things that make up a nice day!

れんしゅう

きょう は わたし の くるま を せいびして もらう ため に はやく おきました。 まちながら インターネット を サーフ して、コーヒー を のみました。 だいきん は やすかった から、おどろきました。
ひるやすみ に うち へ いって、まんが を よみました。 いい てんき だった から、そと で よみました。

5.10.2006

Initial D : 3 of 5

Although I haven't read the manga or watched the anime, I've heard enough about Initial D that I wanted to rent this DVD, which is a live action movie of the hit story. The weirdest thing about this movie is that it's a Chinese film, even though Initial D is a Japanese story set in Japan! On top of that, there are three audio tracks on the DVD (two Chinese and one English), and none of them seemed to actually match the actors' speaking, which was incredibly frustrating (the English voice acting was terrible, so I just had to make do with Chinese). Putting the voices aside, the visuals are incredibly cool! The subject of the moving is "drift racing", which is a style of nearly constant "power slide" movement, meaning curves are the name of the game. The story involves the son of a famous racer who becomes an expert, since he has to deliver tofu up and down a curvy mountain road every night (the montage of his father telling his son's story is really cool). The film is full of racing footage - at least 60% of the movie is racing! The camera work is great, though, and it's always exciting. There are some cool anime-style camera moves, too, where the point of view starts behind a moving car and then moves all the way through the back window and out the windshield. Some of the acting is great, but some is pretty bad - I actually didn't care for the main character, but the father was really great, and the girlfriend was cute, too. I would have enjoyed it more if the vocal track was better, but Initial D is still a pretty cool movie!

5.09.2006

No beer festival

Another fun thing I did this weekend was checking out Satsuki Matsuri, which is a little May festival put together by JASGA (the Japan-America Society of Greater Austin). I don't know much about the organization, but I've wanted to go to one of their events for a while, so I asked Barron, who's been a bachelor with Koa while Mariko and Bay are in Japan. We had a good time, but it was mostly because Koa was lots of fun. The festival had too many people crowded into small areas, so it was tough to really see anything. There were some vendors with snacks and other food, and then some dance and martial arts demonstrations. We ate some snacks and ice cream, but how can they call it a festival without beer? The best part was just spending time with Barron and Koa - Koa was really friendly and let me carry him a little bit, too, and he totally perked up when I sang some of the Japanese kids songs I know! It was really neat to see the Zilker Botanical Gardens again, too - I hadn't been there in years!

View photos: Satsuki Matsuri

5.08.2006

Thank You for Smoking : 4 of 5

My pal Ernesto and I saw the trailer for this film together a while back, and it looked totally hilarious, so we decided to see if the trailer was truthful. It definitely was - this is a really smart, semi-intellectual, and really funny movie (which is a rare combination, I would say!). The story is about the best "spin man" for the tobacco industry (played well by Aaron Eckhart), who has the job of convincing the media that smoking is a choice. The public pretty much sees him as the devil, but he is brilliant in the way he can smooth-talk anyone into changing their opinion. Many of the lines that make you think are about this very topic, usually in conversations with his son, whom he teaches how to BS on an essay, and how you can always be "right" if you argue properly. Katie Holmes plays a supposedly seductive (I would say semi-seductive) reporter who nearly ruins his career, so there's a nice arc in what at first seems to be an episodic plot. There are hundreds of one-liners and laugh-out-loud moments, many of which give you the guilty pleasure of "should I be laughing at this?", but they're the kind of jokes that make you giggle and wonder at the same time. No industry escapes satire, including the Hollywood film industry, especially with Rob Lowe's totally bizarre Asian-overdosed producer role, who only sleeps on Sunday. From the fantastic opening titles spoofing cigarette labels, to the great choices in music, and right up to the closing narrative, this is the kind of movie that I wish were made more often!

5.07.2006

Free comics and apes, too

Wow, this weekend went by fast! I usually try to fit too many "chores" into my weekends, but these week I spent more time having fun, which was nice. The whole weekend is too much to talk about in one post, so I'll just start by saying I hope everyone had a nice Free Comic Book Day! I went to two different comic book shops (Dragon's Lair and Thor's Hammer), since they sometimes have a limit on the number of free titles you can pick up, but by the time I got to the second store, most everything was gone, so I didn't get the manga samplers this year. But that's OK, since I still got five cool comics for free (I've only read the Superman/Batman story so far, and it was excellent, so I'm going to start checking out that title!). Speaking of comics, I also got the latest issue of Revolution on the Planet of the Apes, which is an incredible new mini-series published by a Mr. Comics in Canada. The plot is fantastic, taking place right after Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (the 4th film), and it's stirred up my ape-mania once again. I especially like the idea that Caesar has a "conflicted timeline", since he was conceived in the future and born in the past - cool stuff!

5.06.2006

The Wild : 2 of 5

Yesterday, the purchase of Pixar by Disney was made official, and not a moment too soon! Thankfully, The Wild wasn't really produced in-house by Disney, but it's still a shame that such a disjointed movie has the Disney name on it. It's not all bad, though - my pal Melinda and I still had a great time watching it, but both of us were amazed at the last few scenes in the film. It looks like the crew said, "Whoops! We're about to run out of film, and we haven't put the cute pop dance number in yet!" I really enjoyed the fur animation - all of the characters have it, and the texture is really nice without ruining the design of the characters, which isn't the best, but definitely not bad (though sometimes the walk-cycles looked a little weird - they had a hovering effect that bugged me). My favorite interaction is between Benny the squirrel and his true-love, Bridget the giraffe - it's a funny idea, and it comes across pretty well. The plot begins exactly like Madagascar (but not quite as funny), and the scenes of New York City look really cool - but shouldn't there be some people in Times Square? Everything goes crazy from there, especially since the main villains in the film worship Nigel the koala because they found a talking stuffed animal of him! The Wild is definitely an OK film, but with so many better animated features out recently or on the way, unfortunately I think it's best that it's soon forgotten.

5.05.2006

Scoop on Mego

Every Friday I always look forward to reading Scoop, a really cool email newsletter about collecting and all the geeky stuff I enjoy. My favorite section includes some amazing auction prices for things that recently sold, and often includes PEZ, comic books, or Star Wars figures. Recently there have been several cool Mego action figures, which makes me so nostalgic! I used to play with Mego figures nearly everyday - I had lots of super-heroes (I used to love the Teen Titans, way back when they were nothing like the Teen Titans show today!), Planet of the Apes figures, and of course, Star Trek figures. I've always loved the original Star Trek, and the toys were so much fun, especially the Enterprise Bridge set with it's awesome Transporter simulator. In today's newsletter, they reported that one of the figures I had, the Mugato (an alien guy), went for over $1,400 bucks! Mine wouldn't have been in the package, but it still would be cool to have it. At least I have some home movies of me playing with them at Christmas!

5.04.2006

Girls Bravo Vol 2 : 2 of 5

I kind of feel like I'm wasting my time with this series, but then something really funny will happen and I'll remember why I'm watching it! I also hate starting something without finishing it, so I guess I'll keep renting this show. Following the usual formula for harem anime, these episodes introduce a few more girls to hang out and bug poor Yukinari. Koyomi is kind of a cop from Seiren (the land of women that's somehow accessible through pools of water, such as bathtubs), and she's sent by Miharu's older sister to bring her back. It's kind of sad when Miharu actually does go back (temporarily), and there are some nice little musical interludes with no dialog, just semi-romantic montage (which was a great break from the usual craziness of the show). The next new girl is Tomo, because these shows always have a baby girl, too. She's in some funny scenes where everyone tries to act super kawaii in order to get a man (their mission is to bring one back for Miharu's sister on Seiren), because they all do some cosplay and attract some real winners (who are definite fans of Tomo's youth). The last episode is totally goofy - Miharu drinks some booze that somehow creates clones of her, and they threaten to eat every scrap of food in town. It's almost too silly to be funny! As long as I space this show out with some better, meatier anime, I think I'll survive this series!

5.03.2006

Open topic

In my high school English class (maybe it was middle school!), we had to write in notebooks every day, using whatever topic was written on the board. Every now and then the teacher would write "open topic" so we could write about whatever we wanted, and that was always my favorite. Once before class started, when the teacher was out of the room, I erased the topic from the chalkboard and wrote "open topic" instead, and by the time she got back everyone was already writing, so she couldn't change it! Anyway, here's my open topic, since all I have are little tidbits to write.
  • My pals from Tulsa, Dave & Jill, were in Austin last week, and we had a great time catching up! Dave played me some of his new songs (Dave is a great singer/songwriter and one my guitar buddies from the Mod Mikey days), and they bought me dinner at Sushi Sake, too (we all loved the Yoshi roll, although every time I eat it I feel like I'm eating a Nintendo character!).
  • Thanks to Cult of Pop for linking to my recent Japanese music video DVD reviews! It's always a cool feeling when someone finds my site, and Cult of Pop looks like a fun source of J-Pop info.
  • After living my life as a Mac OS Stickies junkie for years, I've switched my "life organization" software to Mori. It's very simple and elegant, gives me lots of control and capability, and still fulfills the basic task of keeping lots of little "notes to self" in one electronic place so I won't lose them. I don't know what I would do without it!

5.02.2006

Gatchaman / Collection 5 : 5 of 5

This is another incredible DVD set of original Gatchaman episodes, taking the series up through episode 60 - this is a long series, and I'm loving all of it! This set definitely deserves my top rating, since it gets deeper into the characters than anything previously, mainly in an incredible three-part tale that finally reveals the secret of Red Impulse (which I had figured out anyway). Galactor's scheme is pretty incredible, involving the Van Allen Belt of asteroids and devastating destruction, which prompts Red Impulse, after he finally reveals to Ken that he's his father, to make the ultimate sacrifice to safe Earth. It's pretty dramatic, and it's interesting to see how Ken's character changes after his father's death - he becomes really bitter (of course), and it takes several more episodes for him to calm down! There's also an unrelated dramatic scene where Jun freaks out because her childhood friend has turned evil, and Joe has to slap her to snap her out of it - totally unexpected! Don't worry, there's definitely some of the usual humor to go along with the serious stuff. There's actually a huge mecha Buddha in one episode (a nice match for the mecha Jesus that was in a previous set!), and there are some funny scenes with Jun playing guitar in a band, plus a quick shower scene for Ryu (yikes!). The combination of action, adventure, humor, and real emotional development is what makes Gatchaman so compelling - I'm so glad there are so many more episodes to come!

5.01.2006

Ten Cool Tunes 05.2006

Continuing my new Ten Cool Tunes idea, here's my mix for May. There's not too much here I would call "recent", except for the We Are Scientists cut (I can't stop listening to that band!). As far as a mix goes, this one doesn't really flow well, but it's a good sampling of tunes that I've been craving recently. The only theme I can find is that most of these songs have a cool guitar sound, but other than that, the mood swings between light-hearted songs and angry songs is pretty weird. Almost all of these are on the iTunes Music Store, so take a look!

05.2006 iMix (Song / Album / Artist)
  • I.O.U. / Old World Underground / Metric
  • Is That Love / East Side Story / Squeeze
  • The Great Escape / With Love and Squalor / We Are Scientists
  • Planet Tokyo / Nice / Puffy AmiYumi
  • Laisse Tomber les Filles / Chick Habit / April March
  • Hazy Shade of Winter / Greatest Hits / The Bangles
  • Single / Walking Wounded / Everything But The Girl
  • Pretty Pink Ribbon / Comfort Eagle / Cake
  • Rent A Cop / Super D / Ben Folds
  • Beautiful Day / All That You Can't Leave Behind / U2