Waiting for the Barbarians / Austin Lyric Opera : 4 of 5

It's always interesting to see a modern opera, especially since Austin Lyric Opera's performance of Philip Glass' Waiting for the Barbarians was actually the US premiere of this work! This opera was interesting for a number of reasons, but also incredibly dark and depressing (I saw it with my pal Jonathan, and we were both in a somber mood afterwards) due to the plot, based on a famous allegorical novel. The story is about a society where the military becomes so fearful of an impending barbarian invasion (which never comes), that they are allowed to torture and abuse people without restraint. Glass's music is definitely similar to his other works (which can be expected from one of the most well known minimalist composers), but it works well here to convey both terror and monotony. The stage settings were created almost entirely by a series of scrims and ingenious lighting, which allowed a scene to switch from the middle of the desert to the inside of a building in the blink of an eye. The performers were amazing, especially the Magistrate, who is the main character that almost makes this a one-man show. There's not a single negative thing I can say about this performance, except that this dark subject matter just isn't my cup of opera. However, this is still an important and fascinating work, and I'm glad to have seen the premiere!


(8 / 2) x (5 x 2)

Today is my birthday! I don't know why this particular birthday is such a milestone, but there's no getting around the fact that it seems like a big deal. It feels like a second "coming of age", I guess, but I can accept my new age knowing that it has nothing to do with the way I live my life! The day started with several email birthday greetings (including an amazingly generous gift from my pal Dae!), then my parents sang to me on the phone. I took the day off work and spent about five hours roaming around, starting with relaxing at Starbucks and reading manga. Next I shopped around in the mall for a long time and had some lunch, and finally took at look at Toys R Us and Wonko's (where I bought some cool little Speed Racer figures!). Back at home, I watched some DVDs, took a nap, and then my pal Melinda took me out for a nice dinner, where she gave me a personalized cake, a cool magnetic board decorated with Japanese kana, and a new game for my Nintendo Wii! The whole day turned out really special, and it's wonderful to have such great friends. I still have another celebration coming up this weekend, so it's not over yet!


Gokusen / Season 2 : 4 of 5

Since I've had so many things to watch lately, it's been a while since I took the time to enjoy a nice Japanese drama. Back in August, I was addicted to Gokusen Season 1, so I decided it was time to finally watch Gokusen Season 2! Most people seem to enjoy the second season more than the first, but it's not so clear-cut to me - I think both seasons are equally fantastic, but of course there's always something special about starting a show when you already know the established characters. Since most of the cast graduated from Yankumi's high school class in the last season, there's a new bunch of delinquents for her to tame (although Kuma from Season 1 shows up a lot, too). The hideous head teacher is back, but he's not the real enemy anymore - that job goes to the superintendent, who definitely makes you hate him with each evil smile! The series formula is pretty much the same, and Yankumi's fighting scenes are just as unconvincing, but the action doesn't really matter. The story still has the unbelievable power to twist your emotions around until you're forced to sit in front of the TV, laughing and crying, until Yankumi teaches these guys (and the audience) about life! I can always use some inspiring words about doing my best and living without regrets, and they might as well come from the beautiful Yankumi!


Miis in my Wii

If you haven't guessed from my Top Ten post, my replacement Nintendo Wii arrived this week, exactly on time just like Nintendo promised. I'm so glad that Nintendo customer service was efficient and took care of me, especially after I camped out for them! My new Wii is working great, and I'm really impressed with it! The whole concept of the Mii (little cartoon people you can create that represent yourself in the games) was strange to me when I read about it, but it quickly becomes one of the coolest features, especially since you can share your Miis with your friends. So, besides my WEBmikey Mii, I have my pals Chris and Barron, plus their families, wandering around in my Wii, which means when I play baseball, they are on my team, or when I play bowling, they are sitting in the background chatting and cheering for me. It's so amazing! (I also made Miis of Sayumi and Reina from Morning Musume, so they show up at the bowling alley sometimes, too.) The Wiimote continues to amaze me, especially after experiencing all the different ways it can be used while playing WarioWare Smooth Moves. I have a feeling the Wii is definitely going to force me to manage my time better!

My Wii wasn't the only good news this week! After years of trips to Reno, Vegas, and their local casino, my parents finally scored a big win! Every time they go to Riverwind Casino, they enter a daily drawing that increases over time, since you have to be present to win. This week, they picked Dad's name, so he won a significant four-figure cash prize! Mom and Dad were so excited, and I'm excited for them!


Manga Mentions 1.07

It's time for another Manga Mentions, since I'm continuing to follow too many series at once (it feels like I'm collecting comics again)! Death Note Vol 8 kept me intrigued with what seems to be the third arc of the story, and Near & Mello (successors to L and enemies of each other) are really creepy characters. I'm always amazed at the complexity of this manga, and I'm sure the original Japanese is unbelievably difficult! Dr. Slump Vol 11 was full of laughs as always, including the introduction of a second Gatchan, and a particularly funny story with X-ray glasses. I always look forward reading to Dr. Slump! The next three volumes are new titles for me (as if I need more to keep up with), starting with Suzuka Vol 1, which I've been tempted to try out for a while (based on some interesting reviews and cute cover artwork). The story is just OK so far, with a few ridiculous fan service scenes, but I"m going to read the next volume to see if the characters start developing a little more. Next I decided to read Video Girl Ai Vol 1, which is a much older manga by the creator of I''s (which I like so much), and it's definitely a similar story, except for the whole girl popping out of the video tape premise. You definitely know it's an old manga since there's no DVD technology yet! Finally, I read Black Jack Vol 2 (because I can't find Vol 1 anywhere, since it was translated around 1999), which is Osamu Tezuka's "two-fisted surgeon" character. The stories are pretty cool, with plenty of disgusting operation scenes and some scalpel-throwing action, as well as the usual intellectual, philosophical Tezuka undertones. I wish there were more translated stories!


Top Ten excuses for not blogging

It's been a long time since I've missed so many days of posting on WEBmikey, and I hope I can get my act together soon. So to continue my goofy Top Ten series, here's why there hasn't been anything new to read here lately. All of these are at least a tiny bit true, and I can think of many more reasons, but of course the real reason is that I'm lazy (shhh, don't tell anyone)!
  1. I'm still recovering from the Christmas fantasy world of cookies, Scotch, and relaxation. (OK, that excuse is a little too ridiculous even for me!)
  2. I'm struggling with an emotional spiral caused by so many days of no sunshine due to some crappy Austin weather (kind of true, but we've had a couple days of sun now).
  3. I'm fighting to grasp reality thrown off by the surrealism of being trapped in the house for days due to the recent ice storm.
  4. I forgot how to get up early to write, and sometimes I want to stay in bed if I'm having nice dreams!
  5. I feel obligated to the mountain of DVDs waiting for me to watch, and I can't let them down!
  6. I'm reading too much manga, since I can convince myself that it's part of my Japanese studies (as long as my studies include magical gender transformations).
  7. I can persuade myself far too easily that I should watch just one more episode of Gokusen 2.
  8. Staying up all night waiting to buy a Nintendo Wii has thrown off my internal sleep clock!
  9. It's too hard to focus on writing after playing Wii games for six hours straight.
  10. I'm too busy bracing myself for the midlife crisis that's just around the corner!


Wii adventure

Since I'm a Nintendo fan and I love innovative games, I wanted a Nintendo Wii almost as soon as I heard about them, but I decided to let the Christmas rush go by. Since then I was just hoping to buy one on Amazon, but after my pal Chris and I read all of the rumors about this weekend's Wii "re-launch", we decided to camp-out and try to get one. Here's my good news, bad news, good news story about my Wii adventure!

Chris and I decided to drive around and take a look at possible stores around 10:00 PM. The plan was to keep checking things out until a line formed, then get in the line. We expected this would happen sometime after midnight, but when we got to Circuit City, there were already two people planted in their chairs, with a cooler of drinks and a boom box! We sat in the car for a little bit, and a third camper showed up. So, we knew we had to stake our claim right away. After we setup our chairs, the five of us happened to notice that they had just posted a sign on the Circuit City door that said, "Number of Wiis at this store: 5". We couldn't believe it - only five Wiis were there, and there were already five of us waiting at 10:00 PM! So, we pretty much knew we were going to get one, and the wait began.

Overall, the wait was pretty fun. Even though it had been raining earlier, we didn't see a drop during the whole night. However, we did have to make through a 35-degree temperature night! We played some Mario Kart on Nintendo DS - one of the other guys had a DS, so we had some a nice three-way races. Our fellow campers were really nice guys - definitely crazy college students (so crazy that they did some insane shopping cart acrobatics in the parking lot), but nice enough to offer us drinks and conversation. The music from their boom box was a tremendous help - it was an all night dance party! Shawn & Bernadette drove by to visit us, and a cop stopped and chatted with us, too. I only had to pee once "in the wild", and then Starbucks opened at 6:00 AM. The worst hour was 3:00-4:00 AM, which I spent wrapped in a blanket up to my eyeballs. When the sun came up, it was fantastic! However, that's when all the other Wii-hopefuls came by, and we had to tell nearly 100 people that the store only had five (and show them the sign), which got pretty old! But at 10:00 AM, after our 12-hour wait, we got our Wiis! We went back to Chris' house and hooked his up right away, then had a blast playing Wii Sports, especially baseball and boxing! Then I went home and zonked out.

Later in the evening I got up to play with my Wii, and had fun for about an hour playing with the internet features. But when I tried to load the Wii Sports disc, it made terrible whining, grinding noises, and the disc became stuck in the Wii! I think the slot loading mechanism was just faulty, but it basically meant my hard-earned Wii was a dud. I tried to stay cool, though, and I called Nintendo right away. Almost immediately they offered to send me a new one via their replacement program, and I should have it in just a few days. So, the final happy ending to my story will be when the new Wii arrives, but regardless of my little setback, I enjoyed the camping experience, and I know I'm going to love my Wii!


Target: Earth revisited

I've decided to go back to some old video clips that I've posted here on WEBmikey over the years and re-edit them for YouTube and Google Video, since it's just more convenient having things in one spot. I also plan on making more short clips out of camera videos and other things I've taken that I didn't have anything to do with before (or because I didn't have space to host them!). You might remember that I posted my old 8mm film called Target: Earth way back in 2001, and now I've given it this new treatment, with a special bonus! Previously this was a silent film, but back in 1979 when I made it, I remember making a cassette tape with sound effects (mostly me making explosions with my voice) and using the Imperial Attack music from the Star Wars soundtrack. So, I've added "professional" quality sound to my childhood masterpiece for your enjoyment. Now I feel like George Lucas did tweaking the Special Edition films!

Watch video: Target Earth


Touch Detective / Nintendo DS : 3 of 5

I've started to enjoy mystery games more than ever before, thanks to titles like the amazing Trace Memory and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. I like to think of them more as interactive novels, since you really just keep trying things until you follow the correct path that leads you to the one ending for the story. But this can be taken to an extreme, which is my only frustration with Touch Detective. There are plenty of times that the story won't progress just because you haven't made a certain character say a certain phrase in a certain location, which forces you to frantically try crazy things for the sake of the game, rather than by deductive reasoning. But enough minor complaints - I still really enjoyed this game! You play as Mackenzie, a girl detective with a pet mushroom creature who solves mysteries. The characters are really cute and funny, and the environments are colorful and unique - there's a 3D rendering style to everything, and some nice cut-scene illustrations, too. The setting is a bizarre fantasy world with cases about stealing dreams, a snow fairy in danger of melting, and treachery in a flea circus, mostly involving Mackenzie's silly friend Penelope. There's also a rival detective named Chloe who provides more craziness and help, and lots of other folks in the town you will get to know quickly. This game was addictive enough that I had to finish all four cases in a short time, and now I'll probably try some bonus missions. If you like mystery games even when they're goofy, you'll enjoy Touch Detective!


The Imagineering Field Guide to Epcot : 3 of 5

Since I'm taking a trip to Walt Disney World in a couple months, it was great timing to read this fun guide book that I got for Christmas! This is the second book in the Imagineering Field Guide series (I enjoyed the first Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom about a year ago), written by Disney's Imagineering staff to provide lots of details into the design and creation of the Walt Disney World parks. Just like the last book, it's printed in a tall, skinny map-book style, which is pretty convenient, but it means all of the photos and artwork are really small. Unfortunately, this book includes the first chapter of the last book almost verbatim, describing what Imagineering is, but I guess that's needed for Disney beginners! There's some nice background of Walt's original model city concept, but soon the book begins in-depth discussion of Future World East and West. There were some really interesting facts about how everything changes between the two halves, right down to the shapes of walkways and what kinds of plants are used in the landscape. The text is recent enough to cover various new attractions, even the Finding Nemo overlay of the Living Seas pavilion. The World Showcase section has lots of detail and design sketches, and definitely made me excited about exploring it again soon! While not as cool as the first field guide, this is a nice continuation of the series. It looks like Animal Kingdom will be next!


Trapped by the Winter Warlock

Austin weather has been terrible for the past few days and I'm definitely sick of it! This weekend it started with pretty much non-stop rain on Saturday, so I decided to stay inside. It wasn't too bad, since I caught up on things like doing my yearly full backup of all my computers, and a bunch of new manga came in the mail from Amazon for me to read. On Sunday, the temperature started dropping fast, and even though it wasn't icy yet, I was still concerned enough to stay inside, but it gave me lots of time to plan an upcoming trip to Walt Disney World. Thankfully Ernesto and Jonathan came by for pizza night, so I could remember what interaction with humans was like! On Monday morning, it was obvious that the ice was going to get bad, so I went into the office for the morning to be sure my computer was setup so I could work at home, and then after lunch I stayed at home where I could control my office computer via the magic of VPN and Remote Desktop. Today, everything was ice, with plenty of sleet and even some times of snow (which was pretty), so of course I worked from home all day, and I'm not even risking a walk to the mailbox, since I'm the world's worst ice-walker! Besides working, I've done lots of DVD watching, manga reading, and DS playing over the past few days, but I'm dying to see some sun and get out of the house. The only good side effect is that I've lost two more pounds I gained over Christmas because all I have in the house are Lean Cuisine dinners!


Shopgirl : 4 of 5

I read Steve Martin's novella Shopgirl back in 2001, and was impressed with the character development and writing style. I'm glad Steve finally made it into a movie, and while there are definitely lots of changes that were needed to bring this story to the screen, it definitely keeps the feel and message of the book. Claire Danes plays Mirabelle, who lives a lonely life working at the glove counter of a Beverly Hills department store, and she becomes the interest of two guys. Jeremy is a loveable loser, and Ray (played by Steve) is a weathly older man in his 50s. The characters all undergo major changes through their relationship, and the tone of the film really reminded me of Lost in Translation, making it easy to identify with everyone's restless feelings. I love the parallel structure of how Mirabelle inspires Jeremy to grow, while at the same time Ray inspires Mirabelle to change (in very different ways, of course). I enjoyed the haunting soundtrack (which really enhanced the emotional impact), and all of the shots of Los Angeles really showed Steve's fascination with the city. Really, the only thing I thought was unnecessary was a few moments of narration (by Steve) - I guess they gave a flavor of Steve's writing style in the book, but they really added nothing to the movie (in my opinion, narration like this almost never works). Shopgirl was definitely a nice movie to enjoy with a glass of wine on a dreary night!


Walt Disney's Legacy Collection / True Life Adventures Vol 1 : 4 of 5

I always get plenty of Disney DVDs for Christmas, so this year I received the first wave of the new Walt Disney's Legacy Collection - four DVD sets of the fantastic True Life Adventures! I've always loved these films, and I've been looking forward to their release for quite a while. I remember seeing some of these in grade school, and if you had told me then that I would watching these at home someday, I never would have believed it! This new collection has some nice innovative packaging, with a small "film reel canister" to hold the DVDs and an outer plastic package to hold the canister. Roy Disney does the main introduction, as well as some bonus material interviews and spots at Disney's Animal Kingdom. This first set includes four official True Life Adventures: White Wilderness (with the infamous lemings scene), Beaver Valley, Water Birds, and Prowlers of the Everglades. I watched two of these with Dad over the holidays, and we really enjoyed seeing them together. I love the narration by Winston Hibler - he wins Nerd of the Century when you see him, but his voice is perfect. The musical scoring is also fantastic, since these movies were scored exactly like an aninmated short, with tons of synchronization and humor. The time really flew by watching these films, and I'm really looking forward to enjoying the next three DVD sets!


Morning Musume Concert Tour 2006 Aki / Odore! Morning Curry : 4 of 5

I'm still getting caught up with Jpop DVDs, so today I finally got to watch Morning Musume's fall concert, and I really enjoyed it! While not quite as spectacular as some other concerts I've seen, it's definitely a solid show and super entertaining. Watching a concert with only eight members is actually really cool, since the video editors don't have to cut to another girl every two seconds - it's nice to be able to keep the shot on someone for an entire line of a song! I think this is also easier since the Budokan stage setup seems smaller this time, which is fine with me (though that place echoes way too much during the MC spots). The show opens with Odore! Morning Curry (big surprise), with everyone dressed in an Arabian theme - just as I was thinking it looked like Happy Summer Wedding, they sang it as the third song! After a few opening group numbers (including Sayumi singing most of Namida ga Tomaranai Houkago and looking oh so cute), everyone gets a solo or duet. Reina can definitely captivate everyone all by herself, though I think she should learn to wink her other eye for a change! Of course, everyone is together again for the finale and encore, and I counted about six costume changes (not including several individual outfits). This DVD has more bonus features than the other concerts, including a really funny video for Koi no Dance Site, which was as nice surprise. This is definitely another fun concert that I'll certainly enjoy watching again!


Four wheelin'

At last, my LEGO Ferrari F430 is complete! My missing wheel came in the mail today - it was in a nice little LEGO baggie with an apology letter. Even though it was a bummer to get a set with a missing piece, LEGO Customer Service really came through for me (for free!). It only took about 15 seconds to finish, since I just had to fit the tire over the wheel, snap on the hubcap, and pop it on the axle. The rolling action is really nice, too! The new LEGO catalog came in the mail at the same time (surprise, surprise), and now I'm drooling over several other sets (a few more Star Wars kits, as well as another huge Ferrari)! I'm probably going to be stuck inside all weekend because of rain, so I wish I had one of those sets right now.


Top Ten reasons I like Nintendo DS

It's time for another meaningless Top Ten list! It's no secret that I'm a Nintendo DS junkie, since I've become more addicted to it than any other gaming platform I've ever played. There's nothing new in this list that DS fans don't already know, but these are the things that come to mind when I think of my beloved Nintendo DS!
  1. Using dual screens (where the DS gets it name) is an amazing idea that seems strange at first, but allows for some great game designs that would be much more difficult or clumsy on a single screen. The screens are beautiful, bright and crisp on the DS Lite!
  2. Touch screen gaming is the only way to play! I would much rather intuitively tap and drag than learn lots of confusing button combinations. The touch screen is just so natural, and I can't imaging using anything else.
  3. Lots of DS games have excellent music which plays in stereo. The built-in speakers are OK, but using headphones really brings out some high quality sound!
  4. If you play for hour or so a day like I do, it seems like the battery lasts forever! There's a great indicator light that give you plenty of warning when you need to charge, and recharging is a snap.
  5. The DS Lite is such a nice, convenient size that can go anywhere. It hardly takes up any room in my carry-on bag when I fly, which is when my DS gets a real workout.
  6. Wireless play is really incredible, especially the innovation that both players don't need to buy the same game in most cases, thanks to Download Play! It couldn't be easier to get a game started, and playing together is lots of fun (my Dad and I can vouch for that!). Playing over Wi-Fi is cool, too!
  7. The DS is super-popular in Japan, which means there are tons of incredible games that never see US shelves - but the DS is a region-free device! I love ordering Japanese games and increasing my language skills, and there are tons of education titles available, too.
  8. For me, the Japanese aspects of the DS make it even more exciting, since it's fun to be hooked into something so popular in current Japanese culture. The DS is heavily promoted in Japan, and it seems there are always new hilarious commercials coming out, which are ready to watch on Nintendo's Japanese website.
  9. Now we get to the good stuff, which is the incredible game selection! Innovative, unusual, character-driven and hilarious games are what the DS is all about, which is fantastic when you aren't a fan of the same old sports or shooter games. I especially love puzzle games (including adventure and mystery), and there are tons of them for the DS!
  10. Finally, the Nintendo DS is the only hand-held platform that can really make rhythm games (my favorite kind of game) feasible and fun! There are lots of these style games available from Japan, and I can't begin to add up the hours I've spent enjoying them! It's definitely true that games make the platform - so take a look at some past WEBmikey DS game reviews and convince yourself to join the DS revolution.


Future language

I noticed recently that I sometimes talk about my "mouse hand" and my "keyboard hand", rather than saying right and left, since I'm almost always in front of a computer. It got me thinking that it would be funny if this terminology became part of human language, to the point where the words "right" and "left" were forgotten! Maybe we would say things like, "Go straight for a couple blocks, then hang a mouse, and you'll see the store on the keyboard side of the street." Of course, by the time that happens computer interfaces won't even need these peripherals, and there will be long articles in Wikipedia explaining the archaic origins of these terms.


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest / Special Edition : 4 of 5

This two-DVD set was another one of my Christmas gifts, which was definitely essential since I enjoyed the movie so much in the theater! Since I've already reviewed the film itself (which was lots of fun to watch again), I'll talk about the fascinating bonus disc full of interesting material. It's certainly jam packed with fascinating segments and much longer than I expected! After watching the first 45-minute overview (which is usually the most you get), I was really surprised to see still another hour long documentary! Lots of information was really new to me, like the fact that the actors really did go upside-down for some of the "wheel fight", and I was shocked to see how close the movie was to being completely pulled since the budget was so out of hand, mainly because of the difficulty of the filming locations such as the island of Dominica, which could barely support the huge film-making effort, as well as delays and damage from hurricanes! There's a nice feature that dissects every piece of Jack Sparrow's costume that was particularly interesting since it all had to be re-created exactly for this movie (almost nothing was saved from the first movie since they didn't expect to be making a sequel!). Finally, there has to be discussion of the new animatronics in the Disneyland attraction, with some nice shots of Imagineers walking around in the ride and touching things (which always makes me shudder!). This is definitely a great presentation of a fun movie, and I'm ready for the third film!


Return to the Planet of the Apes / Animated Series : 3 of 5

I can barely remember seeing an episode or two of this show during Saturday morning cartoons, but since I'm officially an Apes fan, I got this two DVD set for Christmas. This show definitely falls into the "so bad it's good" category, but I really enjoyed watching all 13 episodes (which is how far the show got before cancellation). The interesting thing about the series is that for the most part, the stories are really good! The plot features a new group of astronauts and a much more advanced Ape City, and has some nice twists such as the Underdwellers (the Forbidden Zone folks from Beneath the Planet of the Apes) worshipping Judy (the girl astronaut) and calling her "Oo-sa" since they found a statue of her labeled "USA". There's also several episodes involving a restored World War II fighter plane as the apes and humans fight for control. However, it's amazing how low budget the animation is - the drawings aren't horrendous, but 90% of the scenes are frozen poses with moving mouths, or incredibly long pans across static backgrounds! There's plenty of bad puns of course, like "William Apespeare", and often the apes themselves refer to the place they live as "the Planet of the Apes", which is hilarious! Oh, and since this is Saturday morning, they had to throw in a giant dragon creature, plus a King Kong for it to battle with! Regardless of the silliness, I really had a blast watching this show, and I wish there were more episodes for me to see!


Disneyland home movies

Back in August, I tried out my first YouTube video of Rod Miller playing piano at Disneyland. It's been about five months since then, so it's finally time for another in a series of WEBmikey Clips! This time I decided to put together some old home movies that my Dad shot during some of my very first trips to Disneyland. It's amazing to see how the park looked in the late 1960s and early 1970s! There's some nice Peoplemover footage, two rides on the original Submarine Voyage, and a good view of the Disneyland parking lot where Disney's California Adventure sits today. You can also see I was too scared to ride the Haunted Mansion back then (how embarrassing)! As I've said before, one of the reasons I love Disneyland is that I've shared it with so many members of my family who have now passed away, and this video is a treasure to me for that reason, too. Since these old home movies are silent, I used the old Monorail theme music, which seemed to fit the time frame of this gleaming Tomorrowland. I've decided that Blip.tv is kind of a pain, so I'm sticking with the big video providers, YouTube and Google Video. Enjoy it in the format of your choice (and here's a reminder link to my first video, also)!

Watch video: Disneyland Home Movies
Watch video: Rod Miller on Main Street


Vermillion Pleasure Night Vol 3 : 3 of 5

I'm guessing this is the final volume of this series, since there's actually only one episode of the TV show, but the rest of the DVD contains The Color of Life, which was a "greatest hits" collection of sketches from the show that was released as a movie in Japan. The movie has some of the best Oh! Mikey segments, but most of the other scenes are re-runs from the last two volumes (there are even sketches in the movie from the included episode, which feels like cheating to me!). Putting all that aside, this volume does contain some hilarious new stuff, including more Zombie Family episodes and a return to the Enka style version of Midnight Cooking, which is so great. There's also a final One Point English lesson to enjoy, featuring the raciest phrase yet - you'll have to watch to find out what it is! As a bonus feature, the DVD also includes a live show (which was an in-store promo for the soundtrack CD) that has some nice effects using projection on a scrim in front of the performers, and they even use the Fuccon mannequins on-stage! Overall, this is my least favorite volume of the series, but I'm glad I watched them all to enjoy some unusual culture and have a few bizarre laughs.


Top Ten reasons Planet of the Apes is cool

I recently read that blog posts with any kind of Top Ten list get lots of web traffic, so I thought I would start making up some Top Tens of my own. It's kind of a fun way to talk about stuff, and if Letterman can get away with it every night, WEBmikey can give it a shot every now and then! So, here's my Top Ten reasons that I'm an ape fan.
  1. Five awesome movies make a great marathon viewing session! The original Planet of the Apes is certainly the best, then Beneath the Planet of the Apes gets really freaky, then Escape from the Planet of the Apes introduces some comedy, then Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is a little chilling, and finally Battle for the Planet of the Apes is full of great low-budget action.
  2. In addition to the movies, there's the TV series (which used to be on just before my bedtime), the animated series (which I'm watching on DVD), and several comic books, too. Oh yeah, there was also the Tim Burton movie, but I'm not counting it!
  3. For 1969, the make-up was absolutely amazing! I've seen the movies many, many times, and I still think it's a great design.
  4. Where else can you see bloody violence, half-naked people, and hear Charlton Heston say "Damn you all to hell!" in a Rated G movie? It's true - Planet of the Apes is Rated G, just like the Disney animated features!
  5. Speaking of half-naked people, Nova definitely knows how to wear an animal skin!
  6. My favorite scene in Escape from the Planet of the Apes is when Zera gets drunk on champagne, which she calls "grape juice plus".
  7. The classic Mego action figures were so much fun! I had lots of apes and some playsets that definitely saw a lot of action.
  8. When I was growing up, my parents and I would go to a restaurant/arcade that had one of the original movie props outside. It was a huge wagon that the apes used to capture humans, and I thought it was amazing to see it in person!
  9. Seeing the half-buried Statue of Liberty (suggested by Rod Serling) is a twist ending that no other film will ever top!
  10. Any saga that contains a time loop paradox is totally cool! Cornelius and Zera travel back in time and give birth to Caesar, who starts the ape rebellion in the first place. Pure genius!


Disney Dossiers / Jeff Kurtti : 4 of 5

I always add a few big Disney books to my Christmas list each year, and Santa always comes through with the goods! Almost anything by Jeff Kurtti is guaranteed to be well-designed and entertaining, and Disney Dossiers is no exception. The premise is that each page is a studio file about a famous Disney character, containing information and photos that you would need if you were to "hire" them for something, which is a little silly. It really doesn't matter though, because there's plenty of beautiful artwork to enjoy, along with some basic facts and filmography notes. There's nothing earth-shattering here for serious fans (although I did learn for the first time that Lilo's last name is Pelekai), but it's still fun to peruse everything and enjoy the vast history of Disney characters. Each file is part of a general group, such as Royalty, Cats, Dogs, and Villains are even divided into an "Extra-Evil" category! Of course, 150-plus pages isn't enough to cover all Disney characters, so it's interesting to see who didn't make it (of course, there's only one from Atlantis!). I really enjoyed taking this book in, so I think it's a nice addition to anyone's "beautiful Disney book" library.


Hello! Project 2006 Summer / Wonderful Hearts Land : 4 of 5

It's easy to see how much Jpop catching up I need to do, since I've only just now watched the big summer concert! This was one of my first combined Hello! Project shows to see (including almost all of the current groups), so it was interesting to watch various "team-ups" of girls you would generally never expect to see together, often doing other artists' songs. I liked seeing Reina (along with girls from Berryz Koubou and C-ute) doing Suki Sugite Baka Mitai, and Ai-chan did a great job duplicating Ayaya's Good Bye Natsuo dance. The arena where the show was shot is totally huge, and sometimes there were just too many girls and costume changes to count! Of course, most of the DVD is dedicated to the dual graduation of Konkon and Mako-chan, which is filled with tears. It's amazing how seeing Morning Musume on so many shows really makes you feel like you know them, so you can't help but cry along! This was Koharu's first good-bye, and she couldn't keep it together at all. As always, Yossie seems like such a perfect leader at these occasions, which makes me sad at the latest news of her upcoming graduation (Mikitty should be fine, but she seems a little emotionally detached to me). The finale is a huge number combining The Peace and Sexy Boy (which is a pretty weird combination), ending a really entertaining (and historic for fans) concert!


Wheel on the way

My last LEGO set was the Batmobile, and since I enjoyed building it so much, I decided it would be fun to build more cars. So, my impulse buy for New Year's weekend was the LEGO Ferrari F430 (it's not as big or complex as the Batmobile, but it was the best car set that Toys R Us had in the store!). I worked on it bit by bit during the weekend and decided to finish it up on New Year's Day, and I was completely shocked to discover that it only had three wheels! It had four tires and four hubcaps, but only three wheel pieces. Thankfully, the car has built in "auto-shocks" that can be extended, so it was sturdy enough to put all the cool decals on. Anyway, I checked out the LEGO Customer Service website and I was really impressed. Each LEGO piece has an ID number (listed in the back of the instruction book), and they have a special place where you can request missing parts by this number (and it confirms by showing a picture of the piece and the set and everything!). Their policy is to send out missing parts immediately for free, totally trusting the customer, which is fantastic! So, I should be getting an envelope with my missing wheel in the mail in a few days. I'm totally impressed with LEGO as a company and as my latest toy obsession!


Hello Morning Theater Vol 7 : 3 of 5

Because of all the holiday activities and vacation, I haven't written anything about Jpop recently, but of course I've still been buying things, and now it's time to get reviewing for 2007! Still moving backwards through these comedy sketch DVDs, Volume 7 features several new sets and situations for the Hello! Project girls, including inside the police station, the hospital, and school classroom (as well as the other familiar sets). At first I was a little disappointed, since this DVD starts off a little slow - it just wasn't as funny as the other ones I've watched. But about half-way through I was laughing out loud, so things definitely pick up, especially at the expense of the poor Ganko family! I was rolling on the floor when they first showed the school classroom desks - the rich girl has a huge ornate wood one, the regular students have normal desks, and the poor Ganko kids have wooden crates on the floor! There's also a fun scene where the Ganko family goes to a fancy restaurant - I guess the whole premise is a little mean, but it's still hilarious! Everyone does an amazing job at comedy acting (with a a few moments of cracking up, of course), which made the included Making Of segment really interesting (much better than the bloopers included on the other DVDs) - it was cool to see everyone putting on their crazy costumes backstage. I suppose I'll give Volume 6 a try soon!