11.30.2006

Power-less

Today I decided to pretend to be Amish for a couple hours, since I had two power outages today! This morning I was up early to work on some things, and since it was garbage day I moved my car out of the garage so I could put out the garbage can. Right after that, everything went dark with an hour before I had to go to work! So, I just did another Japanese test by candlelight (and scored 98%). Since my car was already out, I didn't have to worry about not being able to open the garage. At lunchtime, I ran a couple errands and came home, and the power was back to normal. So, I popped a Lean Cuisine into the microwave, and about 30 seconds later there was another outage! So, I had to eat yogurt instead, and I worked on my Christmas cards and read some magazines. I called work to tell them I would be late, since my car was trapped in the garage this time (since I don't know to detach the opener!), and finally everything came back on an hour later. What a crazy day for electricity!

11.29.2006

Cool Christmas cards

Every holiday season I always enjoy picking out Christmas cards. I only send out about 30, so it's not that much of a chore, and it's fun deciding which ones to buy. For some reason, I really like cards that are smaller than the standard size - something like note card size is nice. This year I found a cool set that not only was a nice size, but each card is a popup work of art! It's a set called Christmas Alphabet Cards which has 26 different amazing designs in a nice metal tin (and I got a great deal at Barnes & Noble with my discount). It was cool to open each one and watch trees, snowflakes, candles, doves, and every other Christmas symbol you can imagine appear before my eyes! It's going to be fun deciding who gets each design and sending them out, and I can keep the tin to put Christmasy things in. I definitely recommend this set if you like to send something unique for your holiday greetings!

11.28.2006

Study week

In a few short days I'll finally be taking the JLPT in Los Angeles, so I've been setting aside lots of time this week to get some final studying in. Mostly I'm just re-taking the Level 4 tests from 2004 and 2005, and so far I've been doing well! My latest scores (for portions of the test) are 100% (for kanji, which is pretty easy in a multiple choice situation), 88% (for particles, which always drive me crazy), and 95% (for grammar and reading comprehension). Later this week I'll use my CDs to practice listening comprehension a little more, and then I think I'll be ready! When I get back from LA and it's all over, I'm going to be so excited about my upcoming Christmas vacation! The timing of the test is a little weird, but it will make relaxing at Christmas even more relaxing.

On a completely unrelated topic, I finally posted some photos of the last LEGO set I built, the Batmobile! This was an incredibly satisfying set, since it was fun to see how the working gears fit together (since the turbines and engines spin as the wheels roll), and the final car is really sturdy and solid. I had to backtrack a little bit after getting lost in all those black bricks, but it was worth it!

View photos: LEGO Batmobile

11.27.2006

Gatchaman / Collection 9 : 5 of 5

I can't believe I've finished all 105 episodes of this anime classic - it seems like I was only just recently excited about buying the first DVD set, and now I have nine of them on my shelf! I was filled with anticipation when I started the first disc, but then I was surprised that these episodes didn't really lead up to the big ending - they were the typical plots that could have fit anywhere in the series (but still great!). But the second disc delivered completely, quickly getting into Joe's tragic health problem, the big mystery secret behind the identity of Berg Katse, and the ultimate Galactor plot (orchestrated by Leader X, double-crossing Katse!) to destroy the world! Along the way there's plenty of emotion for everyone, even though a couple of the episodes are a little goofy (especially when Galactor tries to convince Ken that he's awakened 20 years in the future). You've got to love a mecha with a name like Grape Bomber, and there's also a cool giant catfish to battle, too! The bonus disc has some interesting material on the various releases of the series in Japan, as well as a great list of the various Science Ninja techniques, but also has a real snooze-fest with the American voice actors, who just bore me to tears (sorry, ADV!). Gatchaman has been so much fun to watch - nothing else can capture the drama and excitement of 70s anime for me!

11.26.2006

Amazon emails

It's no secret that I do a lot of shopping at Amazon. I like using them as my giant superstore that has nearly everything, and the gift certificates I get from using my Amazon VISA can't be beat. So, I don't mind getting Amazon marketing emails, which usually use their recommendations feature to suggest cool things based on stuff in my Wish List or past purchases. Every now and then, the results are pretty hilarious, though! Here's one I got recently:
We've noticed that customers who have expressed interest in Star Wars Episode IV have also ordered Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton Film Collections on DVD.
Finally, millions of Star Wars fans can admit that they secretly love Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton! What a relief!

11.25.2006

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King / Special Extended Edition : 5 of 5

I've just completed a major milestone in Operation DVD Catch-Up by finishing this massive four DVD set, which I've been watching for the past few days as breaks between video editing sessions. I absolutely loved the previous two Extended Editions, and Return of the King is no exception, although I will say that this extended cut seems just slightly more disjointed than the other two. Besides enjoying an over four-hour long movie, the two discs of bonus material are simply amazing, containing the same quality of incredible documentaries as the previous releases. For some reason, I really enjoyed the segment on costume design, and was impressed by all the intricate detail that never even shows on film - Ian McClellan comments that there's absolutely no reason to create all that detail, except to make the actors' feel that it's real (and I'm sure the Tolkien devotion of most of the staff didn't hurt either). I also found myself getting miffed at Peter Jackson as everyone went on and on about how he continued to make changes that kept all departments (effects, sound, even scoring) working all hours until the last possible moment. Sure, the result is fantastic, but you eventually have to call it finished! Watching four DVDs is quite a journey, and I feel like I've been to Mordor and back, but now that it's over, I have the strange urge to watch Fellowship of the Ring over again!

11.24.2006

Soup and pudding

Yesterday was another incredible Thanksgiving dinner at Chris & Eliza's, who always work so hard to cook an incredible feast for our happy group of pals. This year we were joined by Baby Sofia (along with parents Kristin & Carlos, of course), who is growing up so fast, and I had a great time crawling on the floor to get some fun pictures of her. The meal was fantastic, with two special bookends - Eliza made a delicious butternut squash soup (because I am always raving about her past soups) to get things started, and Bernadette made some excellent banana pudding, which is one of my favorite desserts! It was nice to get stuffed and sit around listening to music, or watching Baby Einstein via Chris' new 40-inch LCD HDTV. The whole day made me happy and thankful to have such great friends, and gave me the energy I'll need to finish my Christmas video project!

View photos: Thanksgiving 2006

11.23.2006

Thanksgiving morning

Happy Thanksgiving! This morning I got up early, talked with Mom & Dad on the phone, then watched the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with my pal Tom, who came over with some breakfast for us. This year's parade was a little low-key because of the rain and winds (it was strange to see the balloons flying with their feet practically dragging), but it was still wonderful to watch as always! I knew there was going to be a new Snoopy balloon, which was pretty cool, but I was surprised by the new Pikachu balloon, which was my favorite of the parade. The pose was really cute and active (much better than the old one), and I loved how they made his electric cheeks light up! (I can't find any photos of the new one yet, but this is what the old Pikachu looked like.) The worst balloon was Humpty Dumpty, which has such a terrible pose - it looks like just his butt flying down the street, since his face is tipped over so far. Watching the parade was a great start to my Thanksgiving holiday, and I'll be feasting with my pals soon!

11.22.2006

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe : 5 of 5

I'm still making a valiant effort to watch old DVDs before the Christmas gifts start rolling in, and it was great to see The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe again (which I bought so long ago). Of course, the movie itself was fantastic (as I've said before), and it was fun to watch it with the special Narnia Fun Facts on, which pop-up at various times during the story with trivia about CS Lewis and Narnia in general. I enjoyed all the material on the bonus DVD, mainly because I learned so many new details about the movie. Did you know the carvings on the wardrobe itself tell the story of the first book, The Magician's Nephew? I didn't even realize that Jadis wears Aslan's shorn mane into battle, either! The behind the scenes coverage was nice, too - it was interesting that they shot the film in continuity, and used different techniques to get genuine reactions from the children (Lucy was blindfolded so when she first steps into the snowy woods of Narnia, it's really the first time she has seen it). There are several nice documentaries of different lengths, but unfortunately the biography of CS Lewis is unbelievably short. Watching this movie again really makes me want to continue with the books (I only got halfway in my re-reading), and now I want the next Narnia movie to be released quickly!

11.21.2006

Ringo ga ikutsu desu ka?

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) is just around the corner! Lately I've been so busy with Christmas stuff that I haven't really been studying, but I'm reserving lots of time next week to take the sample tests again. Tonight I had a lesson with Mikie, and we concentrated on some sample listening comprehension questions. She read a script from one of my study books, while I listened and answered the questions in the same way I will during the actual test. I was really happy that I got almost all of them right! There were a few words I didn't know, but I was able to guess from the context, so I feel good about it. I need to watch out for tricky math questions ("I bought ten apples. Yesterday three friends at one each, and today I ate two. How many apples do I have?"), because my translating ends up falling behind and I miss the next important detail in the question! After Thanksgiving weekend is over, I'll be ready to really study again - I'm looking forward to the feeling of accomplishment!

11.20.2006

Madame Butterfly / Austin Lyric Opera : 5 of 5

As this opera ended, I commented to my pal Melinda (who went with me) that this was one of the best performances I've ever seen. At the same time I was thinking, I'll bet I said that the last time I saw this opera performed! Thanks to a much older (and shorter) WEBmikey review, I see I was right, so maybe I just really enjoy this Puccini masterpiece! From what I remember, this production was far more amazing, however. The set with it's Japanese sliding doors was wonderful, especially the large painting of the sea and mountains that seemed to change color with the time of day, thanks to the incredible lighting (which really impressed me during the long interlude between Acts 2 and 3). The singing was wonderful, although Pinkerton's tenor didn't project very well - I enjoyed the voice of Sharpless much more. But it was Jee Hyun Lim as Butterfly who completely impressed me in every way - not only was her soprano fantastic, but she was definitely one of the best actresses I've seen in opera in a long time! Her delicate movements, her joy at seeing Pinkerton's ship in the harbor, her tragic death - everything was full of emotion that completely won me over. A performance like that can make me forget that I know the story, and start hoping that somehow Butterfly's dream of love can come true!

11.19.2006

Mastuura Aya / X3 : 5 of 5

After falling in love with the video for The Last Night on Mastuura Aya's Single V Clips, I absolutely had to buy the song. Rather than getting the CD single, I decided to just buy the whole CD that includes The Last Night, and I've really enjoyed it - I even think it's better overall than her Best 1 CD! So, now I can listen to The Last Night whenever I want, and it's definitely one of my favorite songs now. I just like sad ballads sometimes, and the lyrics and melody are so beautiful - my heart melts everytime I hear "Fuyu ga hajimaru". The rest of the CD includes several other hits like Good Bye Natsuo and Ne-e? (which means now I've bought that song about four times!), but I was also excited to hear a few other familiar tunes that I knew from seeing them performed on shows like Hello Pro Hour. There's something about the way Ayaya sings Kanousei no Michi that I really like - in fact, her voice is becoming one of my favorites more and more each day. Unfortunately, there's a horrific remix of Yeah! Meccha Holiday that is completely out of place, but I can forget about that blunder by looking at the amazing cover photography, featuring three lovely Aya's in various styles. Even though this is kind of an old CD, it's one of my favorite Jpop purchases in quite a while!

11.17.2006

Manga Mentions 11.06 Part 2

It's already time for another Manga Mentions post, since I've finished five more volumes of fun stuff (since I've been reading to escape reality when I should be working on all the stuff I have to do from yesterday's post)! I finished xxxHolic Vol 6 and Vol 7, and every time I read it I'm glad I started this series (which was just on a whim during a lull between other releases). So many of the stories introduce me to cool Japanese superstitions and legends, which of course are all real in the manga world. The style of the artwork is really beautiful, and I typically read these cover to cover quickly since I can't help myself! I discovered yet another manga version of Densha Otoko, this time called Train Man: A Shojo Manga, which tells the whole story in one volume. I have to say this is my least favorite of the three versions, but it was still kind of fun seeing another take on the story. Kaze Hikaru Vol 2 was really enjoyable, even though I'm still just re-reading chapters from Shojo Beat - I'm hoping the next volume will get into some new plot twists. Finally, I''s Vol 10 finally allows Ichitaka and Iori to confess their love, but everything goes downhill from there (just what I expect from a high school soap opera). This volume has some great artwork of Tokyo at night during Christmas time, and I can't help enjoying this over-emotional plot, even if 90% of the dialogue is in thought balloons!

11.16.2006

Holiday crunch

My calendar looks like a battlefield! This weekend I'll be in Waco for pre-Thanksgiving with Mom & Dad, so I've been planning out the next few weeks, and I can't believe how busy I am. First, I'm working on my annual "Christmas project", since I have a tradition now of making some kind of video for my pals, and I've been a bad Mikey (which means I waited way too long to get started this year)! Next, I'm traveling to Los Angeles in a couple weeks to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and on top of that, I have a couple band gigs coming up in the next few weeks, too. It's all going to work out somehow - it always does! I've started listening to Christmas music, and thankfully I've already finished my Christmas shopping. Ho ho ho! (That's either Christmas cheer or nervous laughter - I'm not sure yet...)

11.15.2006

Pocahontas / 10th Anniversary Edition : 4 of 5

I had recently watched Pocahontas just before this DVD came out, so it's taken me forever to actually take the time to enjoy this special edition, but since I've been catching-up on lots of Disney DVDs lately, I made the time. As always, it was wonderful to see such a Disney masterpiece again. Even though Pocahontas often gets criticized as the start of Disney's recent animation slump, I still think it's full of fantastic emotion, music, and beautiful animation. I've always loved the initial meeting of Pocahontas and John Smith, and this time I was really amazed at how skillfully she's animated as she sneaks out onto the rocks - those are some incredible movements! This special edition includes the song If I Never Knew You, which was cut from the theatrical release, and I really enjoyed it. The animation was already complete, so the scene only looks slightly different from the rest of the film (it's just rendered a little too clearly to match the older artwork). The song really adds a lot to the movie, especially during the short reprise at the end of the film. The bonus DVD includes an old documentary that was made for laserdisc, but the content is still fresh and interesting (narrated by the girl who voiced Pocahontas, who is seriously gorgeous). Tons of still libraries are included as well, and thankfully there are several model sheet close-ups that are always interesting to me. I had a great time revisiting this Disney classic!

11.14.2006

The Fast and the Furious / Tokyo Drift : 2 of 5

I haven't seen any of the other Fast and the Furious movies, but when I saw the trailer for this one, I thought it would be fun to see Tokyo scenery and some cool drift racing (which I learned to appreciate from Initial D). I missed it in the theater, but I think it was kind of more fun to watch on DVD at home anyway, since I could laugh at loud at some of the bad acting and goofy situations. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the movie, though - the action scenes are definitely cool, especially the big chase scene through traffic and right through Shibuya's famous intersection (although it was interesting to learn later that Tokyo itself was completely computer-generated during car scenes!). Of course, there are plenty of stupid gaijin moments that are all too predictable, but those are offset by some funny lines such as "Why don't you fine a nice Japanese girl like all the other white guys?" I was really pleased with myself that I spotted the actress who played Rei in my beloved Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon - she's in several scenes, but doesn't have a single line! This is definitely a fun action movie with some nice Japanese flair thrown in (even if some of it is fake), so check it out if you're looking for some low-IQ fun.

11.13.2006

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan : 3 of 5

I'm one of the few who haven't seen a single Borat segment - I don't know how I completely missed them, but I never would have even known about Borat if my pal Chris wasn't always talking about him. In fact, I probably wouldn't even have heard of Kazakhstan if my pal Tom hadn't done his Peace Corps work in Uzbekistan next door. Anyway, the trailer for this movie looked great, so I went with my pals Ernesto and Jonathan, and we all laughed our heads off! Generally I'm very sensitive about humor involving racism, but for some reason, when it reaches the point of being so outrageous that it's impossible to mistake it as genuine, I think it can be hilarious. The fact that Borat can say some of the unbelievable things he does with straight face is pretty amazing - you will either laugh it off, or be terribly offended. If you can get past all of that, the movie weaves together several different segments nicely by turning the story into a road trip, with the ultimate goal of meeting Pamela Anderson. Part of the fun is figuring out what's scripted and what's spontaneous, and believe me, most of it seems real! If you're looking for a few big laughs (or if you're hoping to see nude men wrestling), then Borat should be just what you need.

11.12.2006

Lady and the Tramp / Platinum Edition : 4 of 5

Yes, I'm incredibly late watching this DVD, but this weekend I made some time to really enjoy this heartwarming classic again, as well as all the amazing bonus material. Lady and the Tramp was the first animated feature in CinemaScope, and every time I watch it I'm surprised at just how wide it is, which makes the backgrounds so spectacular. I'm always amazed at the beauty of these paintings, and every time the scene changes (frequently!) I think about the hours of hand-painting that went into each one. I've never really liked Lady's voice (I wish it were more pure and girlish), but that doesn't stop me from crying during the romantic moments with the Tramp. The bonus disc starts off with a great hour-long documentary that spins the movie as a tribute to Walt's nostalgia for his boyhood home of Marceline. There are lots of great interviews, and they even touch on the subject of what happened between sunset and sunrise after that famous spaghetti dinner (which makes the neighbor dogs' proposals much more interesting!). There's a great segment on storyboards and film making in general (including discussions of their use in other genres such as Hitchcock movies), and the well-known Disney TV show episodes that discuss the movie (and several times walk through the entire plot, giving away the whole story!). Lady and the Tramp is always a joy to watch (even if it doesn't move me as much as other Disney classics), so once again these Platinum Editions are entirely welcome!

11.11.2006

A musical day

Today the Ernesto Marquez Sextet put in a full day at the studio recording for our first CD (basically a five song demo). We decided to try The Brain Machine after a great recommendation from another musician friend (and a nice special price), and every went incredibly smoothly! The band was really prepared, and Ernesto really outdid himself with some fantastic arrangements and horn lines for himself and Jonathan. Bernadette really sold the vocals, Steve sparkled on the keyboard, Chris was amazing on bass, and I had fun playing a combination of my drum kit with some of the studio's higher quality equipment. Tomorrow everything will be mixed, and we're all looking forward to hearing the result! After a great day at the studio, I've been relaxing with some manga (yes, more manga!) and Scotch - I wonder if that's a popular combination anywhere other than my house?

11.10.2006

Manga Mentions 11.06 Part 1

No matter how busy I get, I still find time to keep up with my manga reading - seems like addictions always take priority! Anyway, I've decided that I'll make a quick WEBmikey manga post each time I finish another five volumes, just to keep things current with what kind of stuff I'm enjoying. So, welcome to the first Manga Mentions post! Besides enjoying the first volumes of two Densha Otoko series, I also finished Osamu Tezuka's Phoenix Vol 8 in record time, which was the second half of the Civil War chapter. This particular story was incredible as always, and now I can't decide which half of the saga I like better - the Japanese historical stories or the futuristic ones! Speaking of historical manga, I've read Kaze Hikaru Vol 1, which is about the famous Shisengumi, where a young girl pretends to be a guy to avenge her family. I started reading this every month in Shojo Beat, but then they dumped the series! Thankfully I can still get the collected volumes and see what happens (but I'm starting over at the beginning anyway). Midori Days Vol 8 finishes the complete series, which turned out to be really special, regardless of it's completely crazy subject, and Hikaru no Go Vol 8 continues with more action-packed Go matches (yes, that's a little sarcastic). This used to be my favorite series, but lately it's become a little dry, although I'm convinced things will get more exciting once Hikaru gets to face Akira again!

11.09.2006

Flushed Away : 4 of 5

It's great to see Aardman Animation bringing their claymation expertise to the CG world, and it's really an amazing combination. Aardman has developed software that gives their work the feel of real claymation (most obvious in the mouth movements), and of course the character designs all have that signature Wallace & Gromit look. The story is about Roddy, a pet rat who gets flushed into the sewer, where he finds a complete miniature London (creatively built of all kinds of scrap parts) full of sewer rats and their frog enemies. Along the way he meets Rita, who has a crazy boat that she uses to navigate the sewer waters kind of like a pirate. All of the voice acting is well done and the characters are really likeable (even the bad guys), but the slugs steal the show! Yes, there are little slugs everywhere (after all, this is a sewer) who show up from time to time and sing appropriate tunes in hilarious harmony. The pacing of the movie is really well-done, focusing nicely on character development (for Roddy and Rita), and finally revealing the evil frog plot at just the right time. I definitely couldn't count the number of laugh-out-loud moments, which were well-divided between visual jokes and clever dialogue. All in all, it was incredibly fun to see another great Aardman movie produced in a new medium, and I hope it's successful enough to keep the ball rolling.

11.08.2006

Magnetica / Nintendo DS : 4 of 5

I'm a sucker for puzzle games of almost any kind, especially if they look really cool, so I was ready to try Magnetica the moment I saw a few screen shots. I've read that this is a just a variation of a similar puzzle game, but it's definitely new to me! Basically, colored balls snake their way down a pathway, and the object is to fling other balls at the chain to keep them from reaching the end of the path, since groups of the same color go away. The "magnetic" idea comes into play because balls of the same color attract each other, so you can force portions of the chain to retreat if you plan things correctly. This all happens really fast, of course, but it's fun and addictive - at first it seemed nearly impossible, but soon I got the hang of it and started really enjoying myself. There's a basic Challenge Mode, where you have to complete 99 levels in a row, and also a Quest Mode, where you complete successive games, each with different pathway patterns and so on. Finally, there's a Puzzle Mode with specific mental challenges that really take some thinking. I really like the look of the game - it may be simple to animate colored balls, but the playfields have a cool metallic look. The music is nice, too, and doesn't get annoying (even when you are attempting to finish the same level over and over and over). Any game that makes me want to keep on playing it "one more time" is great, and that's a nice description of Magnetica.

11.07.2006

The Little Mermaid / Platinum Edition : 5 of 5

Of course, I bought this DVD on the day it was released, but I only recently watched it, and of course, it was sheer joy to see such a spectacular Disney animated feature again! There's not much more I can say about one of my favorite movies of all time, except that I'm always breathless during certain moments when Ariel is animated absolutely perfectly, such as when she's singing on top of the rock, or when Eric wakes up to see her backlit face, or when she turns over during Part of Your World and her hair effortlessly floats down at half-speed. OK, I could go on and on! Since this is a Platinum Edition, the bonus features are amazing! There's a nice 45-minute documentary that really highlights how this movie saved Disney animation from its mini "dark ages", and it definitely made me realize how the combination of talent and timing created such a miracle. There are also mini-documentaries about effects animation (with some awesome scenes of the animation archive, which I always love to see) and Hans Christian Andersen, plus a beautiful short of The Little Match Girl, which may be the quickest way to cry in under seven minutes. My favorite bonus feature is the inclusion of a virtual theme park attraction, which was actually developed by Imagineer Tony Baxter and others to be a real ride (and it would have been so cool!). Overall, this is a fantastic DVD set of an incredible movie, so it's pretty close to perfect!

11.06.2006

Gatchaman / Collection 8 : 4 of 5

I can't believe that this epic anime series is almost over - there's only one more Gatchaman collection to go! I really enjoyed this set of episodes, since the plots seem to be getting more dramatic leading up to what I hope to be a spectacular finale. The biggest edge-of-your-seat action occurs when Galactor actually succeeds in a full-scale attack on the Crescent Coral Base, eventually leaving the Science Ninja Team homeless! This story takes a few episodes to complete, and each one was full of excitement. The Berg Katse mystery is almost revealed, too - I actually don't know what the big secret is, but I'm pretty sure he's a shape-shifter of some kind (I know I could dig up the answer somewhere, but it's more fun waiting to find out!). There are plenty of emotional episodes in this set, too - Ken is getting more and more discouraged with life in general since Galactor always comes back, and Jinpei has a cute first-love romance (with a surprising accidental shower peeking scene), but realizes that as long as he's a Science Ninja, there's no room for anyone in his life (poor Jinpei). The coolest mecha this time around could be the giant crayfish (giant claws!), or possibly the line of cop cars that form into a huge Mothra-looking caterpillar. Overall, this was an amazing set, and all of the episodes flew by - I can't wait to get my hands on Collection 9 (but then I will be sad when it's over)!

11.05.2006

Morning Musume no Musical / Morning Town : 3 of 5

Since I had never scene a Morning Musume musical before, I got this DVD without really knowing what to expect - it was really fun to watch, though! This is a full stage production from 2002, live on stage with a cool rotating set, plenty of costumes, tons of acting and dialogue, and of course, lots and lots of singing (although the songs are strangely short most of the time). There are two acts, each with a different story, although both of them are a little hokey and involve restaurants! The first one is about Abe's dream to have her own cake shop, and her friends help her convince her mean father by means of a crazy bake-off (yes, that's really the plot). The second act is about a burger joint, where Konno is the clumsy employee who wins in the end because of her kindness to strangers. Both of these acts actually have some emotional scenes, and the girls really do perform well - they often have long conversations that really seem natural, considering all the lines they had to learn. I really liked Konno's character the best, and she has a nice love duet with Goto Maki (who is the only girl playing a guy). Overall, the show music isn't that great, but when it's all over there's a bonus Morning Musume concert of the usual hits. There's a quick behind-the-scenes segment that highlights how nervous everyone was - it definitely made me appreciate all the hard work and rehearsal that went into a show like this!

11.04.2006

Clubhouse Games: 5 of 5

I heard about this game several months ago when I was searching for new Nintendo DS puzzle games, so I've been waiting quite awhile for this one. I like to play quick card games on my Palm, so I thought it would be cool to have a collection of them for my DS, too. But soon after I started playing, I discovered that Clubhouse Games is so much more than I hoped for! This little cartridge has over 40 games on it, including lots of fun card games (of course), but also board games like chess and checkers, and also simple action games like bowling and billiards! The selection of games is really amazing, and it's fun to learn entirely new games (which is easy since the full rules for every game are included on-screen). Just about every little diversion game you can imagine is here, plus games that are "similar" (meaning knock-offs!) to other popular games. Besides having all these fun games available to play, there are also other extremely addictive ways to enjoy them by playing the Stamp and Mission modes. I absolutely love Stamp mode, which makes you play each game a certain number of times to earn stamps before you can continue to the next one, which is a great way to experience everything that's available. Mission mode has some difficult tasks to complete that unlock various icons in the game for some additional challenge. The graphics are really rich and fun (though these games aren't very fancy by nature), even though things seem a little small sometimes. For someone like me, Clubhouse Games is a Nintendo DS essential!

11.03.2006

DS is master

I really like posting something on WEBmikey everyday, but I have to confess that sometimes I get lazy, which means I end up skipping a day or two and then "cheating" by back-posting to the days I missed. I'm only mentioning it now because I'm making up for three-days of missed posts (including this one)! What happened to that time? Nintendo DS happened, that's what! I recently took advantage of a great 3-for-2 sale on video games at Toys-R-Us, and the games I ordered arrived on Halloween night. Since then I've been playing in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening, completely neglecting everything else - I'm a total addict when I have some new games. I've been playing Star Fox Command, Magnetica, and Clubhouse Games, which are all really fun. I never dreamed I would be so obsessed with Clubhouse Games, but the "Stamp Mode" has really sucked me in, since I love to work through things sequentially toward a finish. Yesterday I forced myself to go without playing so I could catch-up on life a little, and I'm going to try to at least vary my activities today. Then I can get in some solid playing time guilt-free!

11.02.2006

LEGO bounty hunter

My new LEGO love is still going strong, so it's about time that I posted these long overdue photos of my third project, Boba Fett's Slave One ship. This is a fantastic set, since the design of the ship itself is so fascinating, which means there are tons of cool custom LEGO parts to put together. They really went all out with features, too, since there are great hidden missiles and a kind of rubber-tipped dart that actually fires, too! The Minifigs are cool, especially IG-88, who is made of non-Minifig parts. This is a really solid ship, too, so when you pick it up to watch the wings swing into position you don't have to worry about it falling apart (unlike the Star Destroyer, which is extremely fragile). In other LEGO news, I recently built the incredible Batmobile, which may have been my favorite set to date (so you'll have to wait for photos of that one)! I have no idea what set I should buy next, but I think I better figure out where to put these in my house first!

View photos: LEGO Slave One

11.01.2006

Robot Vol 2 : 4 of 5

After being so impressed with Robot Volume 1, I decided I'm going to have to collect this series of super manga/graphic novels, so I got the second book in the series right away (although it appears that Volumes 3 and 4 are going to be harder to find, so we'll see what happens). This book is just as beautiful as the first, filled with many continuations from the same artists who contributed before along with several entirely new pieces. I think Volume 1 had a few more brilliant segments, but this volume is certainly fantastic and kept my complete attention, so overall I enjoyed it even more! I would say there's a little less adult content this time, but what remains is a bit more intense. It's tough to pick single stories to mention, but I really enjoyed Delicious Adventures, which is about three young ants (who happen to look exactly like young human schoolgirls) venturing out of the anthill into the real world, and Sedouka, which is a fascinating continuing story with amazing traditional Asian art scenery and costumes. There's also another "storybook" tale called Eventyr that I really enjoyed, as well as several pages throughout the book that just require long moments of viewing to really appreciate. This experimental series is such a great idea - it's amazing to see manga artists stretch out into unexplored medium and genre!