8.30.2007

Flickr accomplished

I had planned on mentioning this morning that I recently finished moving all of my 2004 photos from Kodak Gallery to Flickr, but I've been so obsessed with this project for the past few nights that I'm happy to report I'm now completely finished with the whole thing! That's right, during the past few weeks I moved over nearly 200 albums of memories, and now everything is in one place on Flickr, nicely tagged and ready to enjoy! My Flickr counts are seriously huge now, since I have over 11,000 photos and more than 250 sets. I love being able to browse around and see pictures that I haven't viewed in quite a while since Kodak Gallery was so clunky. I've really been into setting little personal goals for myself lately, and finishing this one makes me feel really great!

8.29.2007

Two kinds of Disney classics

Last week I enjoyed two different kinds of Disney movies, and became a big fan of both of them all over again! My pal Matt and I went to see Tron on the big screen at the Paramount Theater, which was projected in spectacular 70MM (the first time in Austin). I've been a Tron fan since I saw it opening day with Mom back in 1982, but Matt could barely remember the storyline, so it was great seeing his reactions to all the funny techno-speak, as well as the entire audience's appreciation of the amazing visuals. We decided to watch the DVD documentary afterwards, and I was amazed again at the work involved to make the film!

On Sunday night, Jonathan and Matt came over for the usual TV watching, but surprisingly Jonathan asked if we could watch Lady and the Tramp! Of course, I would never turn down the chance to host a Disney screening, and I had a great time introducing the film with a bunch of background and trivia (and even a discussion of the animation process), and I think it enhanced the guy's enjoyment of the movie! We even stopped a few times to admire a Claude Coats background or some Frank Thomas genius character animation. I really enjoyed it, and I hope we might take a look at some other Disney classics sometime (which is definitely easy when you have all the animated features in your DVD library!).

8.27.2007

Mr. Bean's Holiday : 3 of 5

I was pretty surprised when I saw a second Mr. Bean movie was being released, and I never expected to go see it, but my pal Melinda and I couldn't think of anything else to watch. I'm glad I went to see it, especially since it's supposed to be the last time Rowan Atkinson plays the character, and it was actually really funny. Mr. Bean wins a trip to France, ends up accidentally kind of kidnapping a boy, and eventually ends up at the Cannes film festival helping a young actress (who is totally cute) become famous! Of course, lots of crazy things happen on the way in typical Mr. Bean style, and there are plenty of hilarious moments. I really enjoyed watching him pretend to eat oysters (and dumping them in a woman's purse), and his lip syncing of the opera aria O Mio Bambino Caro is absolutely fantastic! Unfortunately, there's a huge lull in the middle of the movie, when Bean is kind of alone and having a really rough time, but after a few boring moments the film really picks up at the end, with a great finale that even includes an incredible parody of art films (with some great comedy from Willem Dafoe). As usual, there's not much dialogue since Bean doesn't really speak, and most of the other characters are speaking French, but the lack of language makes it even funnier, I think. Mr. Bean's Holiday certainly isn't a must-see movie, but I definitely had some nice laughs and enjoyed some beautiful European scenery!

8.25.2007

Mikey's Mansion Mania

Remember my Disneyland Home Movies video that suddenly became semi-popular on YouTube? Well, the views just keep on coming, and now it's been watched over 18,000 times! My dad is a pretty famous camera man now, so maybe he should get an agent or something! I also mentioned a while back that I was contacted by DoomBuggies.com (the most amazing Haunted Mansion website ever) to use part of my video that shows some vintage exterior of the Mansion (and coincidentally, shows me throwing a fit since was too scared to go in). I just discovered that my video is now on the site, and I'm so proud and happy to give something to the Disney fan community! The video appears at the end of the History section of the site, way down near the bottom of the page - Mom and I look so nice! (This image is how the video appears, so visit the site to watch it!) I can't help feeling a little web-famous now, and thinking about Disneyland is really making me excited about going again later this year!

Mikey's pals news

It's time for a brief news update on WEBmikey's pals (even though some of this news is getting old)! In our top story, Bernadette gave birth to baby Miles, and she and Shawn are doing great and swimming in diapers, I'm sure! I'm looking forward to taking my first photos of the little guy when I meet him sometime. Next up, the High Ball Five (my pal Dae's new band in Los Angeles) has released some fantastic music on their website, proving Dae hasn't forgotten how to play guitar since the Day Jobs days! Definitely give them a listen. Finally, Chris is the first of my crowd to own an iPhone, and I'm insanely jealous. It works great, looks great, and I'm definitely buying one in November!

Cable savings

I've had HBO and Cinemax on my Time Warner Cable plan for as long as I can remember, mainly because back in the days before Netflix (and before I was watching so many Japanese shows and DVD sets) that was the best way to catch movies when I missed them in the theater. But recently I realized that the only thing I ever watched was The Sopranos, which is over now, and anything else I would ever want to see comes out on DVD or on the web just a few months after broadcast (it's amazing how TV watching has changed that way). So, I decided to save a few dollars and cancel my premium channels. I kept putting off the phone call, because I expected a hard sale to keep the programming, but I got a super nice person on the phone. She said that besides removing the channels, she would adjust my bill to the "current rate". I had been a customer so long (of all three services - cable TV, internet, and phone) that rates have changed since I signed up, and of course they don't let you pay less unless you ask about it. So, when she re-computed my rate, my bill was $70 less a month! I was amazed! Of course, I'm totally psyched that I'm going to save that money, but think of all the months that I paid "extra" just because I've been a customer so long. What a way to reward loyalty! Anyway, I'm just happy to be paying less now, and it feels great to get rid of yet another thing I don't really use.

8.23.2007

Superbad : 3 of 5

Imagine your favorite 80s teenager movie, about high school kids trying to be cool, get drunk, and get the girls, and then add in a huge dose of modern raunchiness and sarcasm, and you come up with Superbad! That's definitely not a negative comment - this movie is hilarious! I was just amazed at how many times these kids can drop an F-bomb in an average sentence, but there's no doubt that the script is incredibly funny. There are even some fairly long segments of Tarantino-esque dialogue, but the actors are so good and the lines are so genuine that they completely make it work. There's nothing special about the plot (get the booze, get the girls), but the supporting characters really make the movie, especially the two cops who like to have a few beers and practice shooting at stop signs! They make friends with McLovin (which is the fake ID name of one of the boys), and their adventures are the best part of the movie. There's a minor message about accepting each other as best friends, with an unexpected tense argument scene that I didn't really think was necessary, but most of the movie is non-stop craziness. Superbad is absolutely jam-packed with hysterical lines that you really want to remember to use with your friends, but there are so many of them that it's impossible to recall more than one or two when you leave the theater (I'll definitely rent it on DVD to check them out again). If you're looking for an incredibly funny movie (and you can handle some truly crude humor), check out Superbad and laugh until your Coke comes out your nose!

8.22.2007

Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination

This weekend my pal Chris and I drove to Fort Worth to see Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. This is a traveling exhibit of original Star Wars models, props and costumes, presented along with kid-friendly activities to learn about the possible science behind all the Star Wars technology. I knew the exhibit would be cool, since I heard they had the original full-size landspeeder and a Yoda puppet on display, but I was completely amazed by how incredible the exhibit was! There were several rooms, each packed with fantastic treasures of Star Wars history, and I simply went crazy to see it all right in front of me. I was especially excited about the rebel blockade runner (the Tantive IV) from A New Hope, since that's the first ship ever seen in a Star Wars film. The model was huge and detailed - it's incredible that it's been preserved so well for 30 years! I also really got excited about various hand-held props, such as Han's portable scanner on Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back, because they are burned so well into my memory that it was awesome to study them up close. The three piece Darth Vader helmet from the end of Return of the Sith was beautiful in person, and I was even impressed by Leia's costume from A New Hope, just because it still exists (all of the items from A New Hope were my favorites, since I instantly felt 10 years old again). Of course, there was so much more, including a massive Millennium Falcon, plenty of lightsabers and blasters, and even Luke's training remote. It was definitely worth the drive to Fort Worth (and thanks to Chris for driving!), so if you get a chance to see this exhibit, don't miss it!

View photos: Star Wars Exhibit

Remote Ryan

Last week my pal Ryan, who also works with me, moved to Arizona, so Chris, Barron and I took him to lunch to send him off. All four of us met when we worked together at Works.com, but even though that was years ago and we've all been at new companies, we stayed good friends, which is one of the amazing things that can happen with the internet! We had lunch at Third Base since Ryan likes sports bars, and we gave him some gift cards and other goodies, so it was a fun time. Now Ryan is already in Arizona, and he's still going to be working with me online, which is pretty cool! I'll definitely miss him in the office, but we'll still be typing to each other all the time.

View photos: Ryan's Good Bye Lunch

8.19.2007

Sailor Moon Movie Collection : 4 of 5

There are three Sailor Moon movies (each going along with a particular season of the show), and I actually rented each of these way back in 2000, but since I bought this semi-bootleg set quite a while ago, I decided to watch them again just to finish off my recent marathon! Each movie is barely over an hour, but they all have nice stories with a little more character insight than an average episode of the show. Sailor Moon R reveals some of Mamoru's childhood with a flower-loving alien, and Sailor Moon S (my favorite of the three) focuses on Luna the cat, who falls in love with an astronomer. The story sounds crazy, but it's really emotional and touching (especially when she gets her wish to become human just for a moment!). Sailor Moon Super S has a pretty weird plot about stealing children to power a black hole (focusing on Chibi-Moon just like the same season of the series), but at least the rest of the Sailor Soldiers appear (I like their cool attacks, especially Sailor Pluto's "Dead Scream"). Now that I've watched all of these again, I'm actually getting the urge to take on the live-action Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon all over again! Tasukete!

8.18.2007

Manga Mentions 8.07

Today's Manga Mentions begins with an amazing ending! Death Note Vol 12 is the finale to the huge story of Light Yagami, and it's been a great story overall (although the battle against L was much better than against Near and Mellow). I think it's difficult to end a plot about an anti-hero, but this volume certainly delivers (although it's mostly huge Sherlock Holmes style explanations of how both sides tricked each other). Next, I enjoyed Nodame Cantabile Vol 2, which introduces some fun new characters, including a gay percussionist and a genius German conductor who likes to scam on his girl students (these characters appeared in the Nintendo DS game, which makes much more sense now!). To finish off this set of five manga, I blazed through some shoujo, starting with Video Girl Ai Vol 5, where Ai is living with Yota again but doesn't have her memories back yet, and the troubles with Nobuko continue. Gacha Gacha: The Next Revolution Vol 3 was actually pretty boring, even though a new little sister character (who looks like a boy, of course) was introduced. Finally, Suzuka Vol 4 gets serious with some interesting character development between Akitsuki and Suzuka, which is a complete turn-around from all the crazy fan service in the earlier volumes, and Honoka-chan is definitely getting into the love triangle now, which is great since I like her more than the title character so far! I promise my next five volumes will be more than just high school romances!

8.17.2007

Hairspray : 5 of 5

Although Hairspray has become a Broadway classic, somehow I've completely missed out on this show, so I really didn't know anything about the show. But since I love musicals, I knew I had to see this movie, and now I'm a fan! The music is absolutely fantastic, full of upbeat numbers that kept my toes tapping and my hands drumming through the entire movie right there in the theater, and the performances are pretty amazing. I can't imagine anyone as perfect as Nikki Blonsky for the role of Tracy - she's exploding with energy that makes you cheer for her all the way. Thankfully my pal Melinda was with me to explain that the role of Edna is always played by a man, or I would have been constantly wondering why in the world John Travolta was shaking those big fake boobs around! He does a pretty good job - he manages to be funny, but his singing voice seems really weak when he's trying to sound female. All of the other performances are fantastic, and I always love seeing Broadway production numbers done on film where they can change scenes instantly between lines of a song (which was fantastic on I Can Hear the Bells). The scenes on the Corny Collins Show were hilarious, too, doing a great spoof of perfect plastic kids, right down to a Mickey Mouse Club style role call. In addition to enjoying all of the sheer talent, I also loved the story, since I always like plots where the underdog wins out in the end. I had a fantastic time watching Hairspray, and now I'm certain I won't miss any future opportunities to see it on stage!

8.16.2007

Dad's birthday

Today is Dad's birthday! I'm really thankful to have such youthful parents, and I'm glad we've been on so many adventures together, with many more to come! I'm still in the middle of migrating literally thousands of photos to Flickr, and last weekend I went "carpal-crazy" and finished all of 2002 (40 different parties, trips and other events!), and I'm well on my way into 2003 now. It's been great taking the time to see old photos again, and there are plenty of my parents to enjoy. So, to celebrate my dad's birthday, take a look at my Dad-tag photos (and there are many more Parents-tag photos, since I usually take pictures of them together). Happy Birthday, Dad! (Sorry for putting your craziest picture on this post, taken at Epcot!)

Matsuura Aya / Concert Tour 2006 Spring Otona no Namida : 4 of 5

It's been quite a while since I've enjoyed a Hello! Project concert, and this Ayaya concert from last year was a great way to get back in the swing! I think Aya is probably the most talented H!P performer, combining cuteness, genuine beauty, and an amazing voice into one package (though I could say the same about Abe Natsumi), and she definitely shows it off in this fantastic concert, which took place on her 20th birthday. The show begins with lots of high energy songs (backed up by Country Musume) that look simply exhausting, but the concert soon takes a huge turn - Aya performs several of her hits with solo piano and string quartet, and the results are incredible! She even sings most of Love Namida Iro completely acapella, matching the key perfectly when the instruments join in. I counted five costume changes, ranging from her beautiful blue dress to a simple T-shirt and jeans (but with her spectacular dimples and smile, Aya would look good in anything!). My only complaint with this concert is that the MC segments are much too long - it's good to hear her speak about her birthday and life and everything, but when you combine that with the Country Musume girls chiming in, sometimes you have to wait through 20 minutes of talking to get to the next song! The encore has a really bizarre surprise, when Aya decides to plant her face into her birthday cake and sing the last few songs with icing all over her face. I definitely wasn't expecting that! I really enjoyed this concert, and the beautiful string/piano arrangements make this a performance that I plan on watching again soon!

8.15.2007

Stardust : 2 of 5

Since I'm generally a movie lover who finds a way to enjoy practically everything, I sometimes think something's wrong with me when my opinion goes against the crowd. But even though most critics (as well as my pal Matt and his visiting friends) enjoyed Stardust, I just found myself wishing for it to end! In the style of The Princess Bride (which I wasn't too crazy about either), this is a semi-serious fantasy adventure with a huge dose of farce added in, and that's my main problem with it. I love totally goofy movies, and I love fantasy movies, but when they are mixed together it just seems unfaithful to both genres. I'm completely fine with jokes and comedy relief, but seeing De Niro prance around as a gay pirate while I'm supposed to be concerned with the rest of the plot is just too much. I would much rather have seen the entire film as farce (in an Airplane style)! That's enough of my ranting, but I have to mention a few other annoyances. There was far too much CGI simply for the sake of CGI (crazy camera sweeps that really didn't add to the excitement), and the final battle at the end of the movie was way too long (every time it seemed it was over, there was always "one more thing" to sit through). As far as good things to say, some of the funny scenes were genuinely funny, and the production is generally well made. Truthfully, I can't think of anything else good to say - WEBmikey just has to be a rebel on this one!

8.14.2007

Cinderella 3: A Twist in Time : 3 of 5

Since Cinderella 2 has gone down in history as the worst DVD sequel ever made (I can't even believe I gave it a 2 rating!), I probably wouldn't have taken the time to watch this DVD, but my pal Melinda (who is a Cinderella fan) loaned it to me, and this sequel is actually pretty entertaining! This time around the story team realized that you just can't have a story that takes place after "happily ever after", so in this plot the evil stepmother steals Fairy Godmother's magic wand and turns back time to the day after the ball. Using the magic wand, she makes the slipper fit on Anastasia's (one of the step-sisters) big foot, and even changes the prince's memories so he thinks he was dancing with her! There are lots of exciting moments as Cinderella and the mice try to get the wand back to fix everything, and some great humor, too (right down to the clinking sound of Anastasia walking around with one glass slipper on!). The songs aren't that special, and the story has a couple weird sections (mainly the prince actually understanding the talking mice, which is bizarre to me), but overall it's a fun idea. The animation is a pretty inconsistent - some scenes really look nice (such as Cinderella's expressions while she's being banished on the ship), while others are flat and awful. Of course, there are no documentary features here, just a really long and tedious game (but I played it anyway!). Now that Disney has made major changes with DisneyToon Studios, I can't imagine we will see many more of these DVD sequels, so it's nice that this one isn't too bad!

8.13.2007

Marie Antoinette : 4 of 5

When I first saw the cool teaser trailer for this movie, I really wanted to catch it at the theater, since I'm such a big fan of Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, but somehow I completely missed it. Thankfully I remembered to rent the DVD, and I really enjoyed he film! It's amazing how such a completely different kind of movie can have the same feel as Sofia's other work, but she pulls it off really well. I knew almost nothing about the history of the real Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution, so the story was really interesting to me, and I can definitely see why it was appealing to the director, since it's about a girl stuck in an unfamiliar world (she was originally from Austria) at the wrong time. While the entire movie is shot in France in the actual places these people once lived, the movie still has some wonderful modern touches to make these characters come to life for today's audiences (like me), such as brighter color palettes, some modern language touches (no heavy French accents), and most of all, the incredible soundtrack (which I must buy immediately!), filled with punk-ish pop hits that really convey the party lifestyle that Marie participated in. One of the best examples is the masked ball scene, where everyone is dancing to Siouxsie and the Banshees in their period costumes, yet it completely works, since the audience would have no sense of the decadence if they were rocking out to a harpsichord! Although it didn't have the same impact on me as Lost in Translation, I still completely enjoyed this movie, and I'm looking forward to Sofia's next project.

8.12.2007

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

I've finally finished all of the True Life Adventures DVD sets, and this last set was a fantastic way to end the series! The first disc contains two feature length films, starting with Secrets of Life, which focuses mainly on flowers and bugs, so there's lots of time-lapse and incredible macro photography. There's a fantastic long sequence about bees, showing everything from gathering pollen to making wax and honey, and even two potential queens fighting it out. Speaking of fighting, there's a long ant battle that's downright terrifying! Next is the only True Life Fantasy that Disney ever made, a story about a pine squirrel named Perri. The story came from a book by the author of Bambi (a real life Bambi even makes an appearance), but everything is shot with live animals, both in the wild and on set. Disney does an incredible job of imposing emotions (such as sadness, excitement, and even a little romance) on Perri the squirrel and all the other characters, using beautiful music and even choral songs. The technique is really incredible, and it's amazing that the photographers could spend three years getting all the right shots to complete their plot! The second DVD contains Nature's Half Acre (a True Life Adventures short), as well as loads of fascinating bonus material, including lots of behind the scenes footage of the making of Perri. There's also a couple of Disney TV shows with Walt talking about True Life Adventures in general and photographic techniques, plus a nice biography of Winston Hibler, famous for being the voice of the True Life Adventures, but also master of tons of other studio jobs (he even wrote the opening speech for Disneyland!). All four of these DVD sets were a joy to watch, and I've learned a lot about nature while being entertained!

8.11.2007

Ralph McQuarrie concept figures

Even though I'm proud that I still have all of my original Star Wars figures, I pretty much stopped collecting them soon after Return of the Jedi was released (although I bought a couple more for fun while I was excited about Revenge of the Sith). But when I heard about the special 30th anniversary Ralph McQuarrie concept designs, I was really intrigued! I used to have this incredible portfolio of Ralph McQuarrie concept paintings way back in 1977, and even though my 10-year-old brain had no idea why everything looked so different, I still spent hours admiring them, so I've had an appreciation for these concept designs for a long time! I decided to buy the concept C-3PO and R2-D2 set that was available at Celebration, but then I quickly realized there were going to be a lot more of these figures, and now I've been trapped into a new collection! Since all of these include a special collector's coin and interesting packaging, I'm actually not going to open them (I definitely want to rip them open to take better photos, but I'm holding back this time!). So far I have the concept droids, Luke (with his gas mask!), Stormtrooper (with lightsaber and shield!), Chewbacca (definitely scary), Boba Fett, plus the Obi-Wan and Yoda set. These figures are pretty limited, so some places are charging up to $35 bucks just to pre-order these guys! I just have to keep my eyes open and stay lucky to keep this collection going. I have to admit it's fun to have something new to track down!

View photos: Ralph McQuarrie concept figures

8.10.2007

Party weekends

In addition to all the old photos I've been migrating, I have some new photos, too! My pals threw a couple of parties recently, and I was there to capture the action. First, Jonathan & Anne Marie returned from a four-week trip to Europe, so they showed everyone their great photos and movies, accompanied by great food and Jonathan's top-notch drink-mixing. The next weekend, Chris & Eliza had a pool party BBQ to officially announce the name of their baby-on-the-way, and they even picked the middle name by popular vote! The official name is Emiliano Gabriel, so now we can stop calling him Optimus Prime. It was great to get together with everyone and think about how all of our friendships are the same, even though we keep on changing (especially with three pregnant gals in attendance)!

View photos: Europe Party
View photos: Baby Naming BBQ

8.09.2007

Sailor Stars : 4 of 5

I've finally finished watching every episode of Sailor Stars, the 5th season of Sailor Moon, and it only took me a year since I finished Sailor Moon Super S! This season was particularly fun and interesting, and now that I've seen it I can understand why it was never released in the US market, since the story involves lots of gender-bending. The plot is still a great one, though, starting off with a mini-arc about another encounter with their old enemy Queen Neherenia (quickly resolved in about six episodes), and next switching into the main story involving the new villain Lady Galaxia and the new heroes, the Sailor Starlights (who are actually girl Sailor Soldiers, but turn into boy pop idols when they aren't fighting enemies!). The best element of the story is that Mamoru is out of the picture most of the time, so Usagi gets to have a tentative, uncomfortable, and sweet romance with Seiya, one of the Starlights. Their scenes together are really emotional, even if we know all along that Usagi and Mamoru will end up together in the end. The middle of the series gets into a typical Sailor Moon formula (an enemy tries to steal a Star Seed from someone, which turns them into a monster, which the Sailor Soldiers defeat), but I kind of like the repetitive consistency. It's great to see all of the Sailor Solders together (even Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and Saturn), and of course, the crazy attack names get better and better - Sailor Moon's main attack is now "Starlight Honeymoon Therapy Kiss!" and one of the Starlights attacks with "Star Gentle Uterus!" (I swear I am not making this up!). So now I've seen all the Sailor Moon there is to see (though I'm going to watch the three movies again since I bought that set, too), and I'm still a fan!

Migration mania

If anyone is keeping track of my growing Flickr photostream, I've finished moving all of my Kodak Gallery albums from 2000 and 2001 over, and I'm well on my way into 2002. Even though this is a tedious task, it's fun to actually look at all of these photos again, seeing all my pals looking thinner/thicker with more/less hair, and laughing at some of the silly photo titles I used to come up with. I've definitely learned that less is more - no one (including me) wants to look through sets of over 50 shots! I think it's best to choose around 30 of the best photos, which seems to be the right number to really enjoy an event. But I'm still moving everything over to preserve the past, of course. The KFMP (Kodak to Flickr Migration Project) continues!

Metropolis : 4 of 5

I think it's cool that Austin's Paramount Theater always shows classic movies during the summer, even though I haven't been to one in ages (the last time was to see the original Godzilla!). Last weekend my pal Matt invited me to see the 1927 silent science fiction masterpiece Metropolis, and although we both predicted we would nap a little, we ended up being completely enthralled by the movie! I've seen Metropolis at least twice before, but it truthfully felt like this was the first time I actually understood and enjoyed the movie. I think this was because the version we saw contained helpful descriptions of missing scenes from the movie (the film is so old that about a quarter of it is completely lost, yet it still runs over two hours!). The special effects are absolutely spectacular for 1927 - I can't even comprehend all the tricks they had to do to accomplish such amazing scenes. The detailed miniatures of the futuristic city itself are awe-inspiring (complete with moving traffic, trains, and planes), and of course, the design of the Machine Man is classic (definitely an influence on C-3PO's design). Everything about the movie pushed the limits of film, from the huge sets to the thousands of extras, and certainly the budget, which nearly bankrupted the studio - it cost around $200 million in adjusted dollars! I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing this classic movie, and I'm glad I can finally appreciate it now.

8.06.2007

JLPT 2007 signup

I've officially registered for the 2007 Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level 3! It's pretty exciting to actually be signed up, even though it only took me two minutes to register online. I think this year is going to be much smoother, since I'll be familar with the testing location on the USC campus and how the whole process works. Unfortunately, I didn't study at all this weekend, but I'm hoping to make up for lost time really soon! It's time to really get serious about focusing my studies on the test itself, and I'm looking forward to it. December 2nd is coming up fast!

8.05.2007

Chewie's autograph

This week I was talking about Star Wars with my pal Ryan (as we often do) and marveling over the actual Chewbacca head that went up for auction this weekend starting at $80,000, and it made me remember meeting Peter Mayhew at A-Kon last year. He was a really nice guy and was willing to talk for a couple minutes even though there was a line of fans waiting. I realized that even though I got his autograph, I never scanned it to share with everyone, so I dug it out of my souvenir bin yesterday (I knew right where it was thanks to all of my organizing!). And so, here you go (click the image for the large Flickr version)! It may not be a valuable movie prop, but it's still a fun piece of my Star Wars collection.

8.03.2007

My network is extreme

Way back when I first entered the world of wireless, I bought an SMC router, since at the time I read it was a good choice when using both PCs and Macs together. It's worked great for many years, but a few weeks ago I started noticing that my download speed was getting slower and slower, both wireless and even wired! I finally ran some tests, and realized that my router was freaking out somehow and causing my speed to be about a 10th of what it should be (I couldn't believe what I had been missing when I plugged the net directly into my Power Mac!). So, I just decided it was time to upgrade, and since I only have Macs now, I went for the amazing AirPort Extreme Base Station, Apple's own cool wireless router. I just hooked it up yesterday, and I'm back to full speed again! The design of the router is really nice (of course), since it's small, sleek, and white with no giant antennae, and I really like the configuration application, which is much more "Apple" than a browser-based solution. I'm also using the router to share my printer, which is really convenient for printing from my MacBook, since it's always available on my home network. And on top of that, my wireless connection is much faster with the new "n" specification. I'm definitely excited about it - it's like discovering broadband all over again!

Ultraman Series One / Vol 2 : 4 of 5

This DVD set finishes off the original classic series from 1966-67 in all its rubber suit glory, and even though I had a great time watching the first DVD set, I enjoyed these episodes even more! I think the monster fighting scenes are a little longer, and they definitely involve more destruction with better special effects. For example, a few of the creatures have a really convincing fire breath (which must have been dangerous to film!), and Ultraman himself gets to use many more weapons (I especially like the Ultra Slash, which is like a spinning saw blade!). Once again, I still feel sorry for the monsters, since they always meet a violent end - one of them is even blown into a million chunks of monster meat this time! Several episodes feature unusual settings - there are battles underwater, in the midst of snowy mountains, and even in outer space (with some cool space station docking effects). Near the end of the series, the episodes get even sillier than usual, almost like a new writing team was hired, but things definitely get serious for the final episode, where Ultraman actually loses and has to be rescued by another being from Nebula M78. Both Hayata and Ultraman are allowed to live after they are separated, and we get to see the big red ball from the first episode flying away to the Land of Light (with the Science Patrol on the ground screaming their goodbyes). Speaking of the Science Patrol, there was much more characterization in this set, even for goofball Ide, who fights off being depressed about their constant monster fighting. This was a fantastic series (best watched in Japanese, of course!), and I'd love to get into more Ultraman in the future!