12.31.2007

Star Trek / The Key Collection Vol 1 : 3 of 5

This was the first book I got for Christmas this year, and it was so much fun to read that I finished it before I left Oklahoma City! I've been a Star Trek fan since I was super-young, and I used to love reading these old cheesy comic book adventures of the Enterprise crew (I even remember buying a big book of them at a Star Trek convention with Dad!). This volume contains eight stories that were originally published from 1967 (when the show was still on) through 1970, but even though they could easily be compared to the series itself, they still have all kinds of hilarious errors! Scotty has blonde hair, the Transporter is called the Teleportation Chamber, and of course the Enterprise has huge rocket flames coming out of the engines. I love these goofy mistakes, but on top of that, these are really enjoyable plots, too! My favorite in this volume is called Invasion of the City Builders, about a society that's been taken over by machines that continuously build city after city, threatening to cover the entire planet. The artwork definitely has a classic charm (Kirk and Spock are drawn very well), and the dialogue has some truly incredible exclamations that are simply priceless ("Suffering solar showers!" comes to mind). All of the original covers are included as well, which featured great production stills from the actual TV show, and I swear I can remember some of them exactly. Reading stuff like this is so much fun for me, not only because I'm still a Star Trek fan, but also because I love reliving my childhood!

12.30.2007

Manga Mentions 12.07

These mini-reviews are a little late, since I finished these five volumes before the Christmas holiday, but I need to write about these now before I start reading new ones! Monster Vol 9 continues this incredible series with some dramatic action in a big library fire, as Tenma finally tries to take down Johan, while Johan's sister starts to put it all together. This volume also includes a reproduction of the mysterious children's book, which is pretty creepy! After all the suspense, Dr. Slump Vol 13 provided some great humor, featuring Caramel Boy 004 (renamed Obotchaman), who looks like Astro Boy and falls in love with Arale! It's totally hilarious, but I wish there had been more of Senbei's usual hentai antics. To my surprise, To Terra Vol 3 was the end of the series (I had no idea it was so short), but the finale was awesome with some massive space battles and interesting ends for the main characters Keith and Jomy. Overall, the story was a little weird, but I still enjoyed it, so I might check out more of Takemiya's work. Kaze Hikaru Vol 7 was fantastic as always, introducing me to more Japanese history (such as the huge battle and resulting fire in Kyoto known as kinmon no hen), as well as keeping the emotion going with a new romance for Vice Captain Yamanami (who's new lover happens to know Sei's secret!). Finally, I''s Vol 15 brought this long romance series to an end with a stalker confrontation, as well as tying up loose ends with the girl next door, but after reading this story for so long, I thought the finale was a little rushed, and it took no less than a coma for Ichitaka and Iori to finally get together!

12.29.2007

I Am Legend : 3 of 5

I didn't expect to be seeing this film, but Mom & Dad are Will Smith fans, so we decided to see a third movie together while I was in Oklahoma City. I Am Legend is based on the same book that inspired The Omega Man with Charlton Heston, which was a pretty cool (yet goofy) movie, so I already knew the basic plot idea, but this time around things are much more intense and serious. The main character (just about the only character, actually) is a military scientist who is immune to a terrible virus (caused by an engineered cure for cancer), now living alone in New York City trying to find a cure. He spends his days driving around the abandoned streets, breaking into empty stores and homes to take what he needs, and hiding at night with his canine companion, since the virus has turned everyone else into light-sensitive zombies! The zombies are the worst part of the movie, actually, since they are all CG and definitely show it. The tone of the movie is serious and played as reality, so I wish they would have just used extras in make-up, since the zombies end up looking like a video game. But putting the effects aside, the story is really told well, using just enough flashbacks to keep the audience informed, and it does a great job of showing both the strength and vulnerability of Will (especially as we watch him start to go crazy). I enjoyed the small details such as Times Square ads for movies we haven't heard of yet, $6.00 gasoline prices, and even Will's obsession with Bob Marley, which is a nice thread running through the film. The ending seemed a little tacked on (and had to stoop to narration to make everything clear), but overall the pacing was great. It's certainly not a feel-good holiday film, but definitely a cool near-future action movie!

12.28.2007

Christmas wrap-up

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! I'm back in Austin now, trying to get used to reality again, but I'm still enjoying that Christmas afterglow from the past few days. Before Christmas, we finished the jigsaw puzzle (which was really cool looking!), made another trip to the casino, and enjoyed a nice candlelight service at Mom & Dad's church, which was so nice. On Christmas Eve, my parents finished opening their gifts from me, then we watched A Christmas Story (which we do every year) and laughed at Ralphie's pink bunny suit for the 100th time. The next morning, I got to open up my incredible pile of gifts - I got so many DVDs this year that when I was packing them in my bag it looked like I had robbed Best Buy! I also got a special surprise gift - a wonderful figurine of Mickey Mouse with Santa! After the gift unwrapping, I got to watch the Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade on Dad's new HDTV, and it looked spectacular! The entire holiday was fantastic, which makes it even more difficult to get back to my everyday routine, but I think I'm finally coming around. I'm already looking forward to Christmas 2008, though!

View photos: Christmas 2007
View photos: Visit to Pops

12.23.2007

Picross DS / Nintendo DS : 5 of 5

This was my first Christmas gift of the year, as well as the first of many new DS games, and I've played it every single day since I unwrapped it! I've always enjoyed puzzle games on my DS, especially when they are as unique as this one - I'm definitely glad all the positive reviews I read were so right. The puzzles in Picross DS are called nonograms (which of course I didn't know until writing this!) that I can only describe as "Sudoku with pixels", since the goal is to fill in the appropriate pixels in a grid using logic clues. Picross DS has different modes of difficulty, each divided into many levels, and I love how the levels are arranged in picture themes (such as animals, sea creatures, flying things, and so on). If you solve a puzzle within the time limit (which can be difficult since filling in an incorrect pixel adds penalty time), the picture transforms into an animated color version that looks like cool 8-bit video game graphics! I've been solving three or four puzzles a day during my vacation, so I'm up to 15x15 grids, which are displayed on the DS top screen in full, but zoomed on the lower screen. Once you get used to the interface it works very well, although I sometimes make a mistake by pressing the wrong direction! I'm still unlocking puzzles, so there's enough pictures to keep me playing for a very long time (and I think I can download additional puzzles from the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection!). Picross DS is extremely addictive and fun, so if you enjoy this game genre, I hope you got it for Christmas, too!

12.22.2007

Happy PJ Day!

Did you know today was PJ Day? I hope everyone enjoyed spending all day in their pajamas like Dad and I did! Each holiday season we always take a day to stay at home all day in our PJs, and today was the day since it was snowy outside. We started the day with Mom's magnificent Eggs Benedict (my favorite breakfast!), and then spent most of the day working on a jigsaw puzzle (another yearly tradition). This year I bought one called Famous Flying Machines, and even though I thought it would be kind of easy, it was actually tough - we only finished about half of it, so I hope we can finish it in the next few days. Dinner was Mom's incredible spaghetti with homemade sauce, plus pecan pie and pipe smoking!

Last night we watched 15 years of Christmas home movies, talking through the whole thing, laughing at our young looks, and of course, drooling over all the cool toys that I could sell for thousands of dollars if I had them today! I really miss my Six Million Dollar Man stuff, Star Trek figures, Micronauts (I miss you, Baron Karza!), and Star Wars merchandise (including the Death Star playset, that I just recently saw on sale for over $7000!

12.21.2007

National Treasure / Book of Secrets : 4 of 5

The second movie my parents and I went to see during my holiday visit was this fun sequel to the original National Treasure, which I really enjoyed a few years ago, and I'm glad to say that I had just as much fun watching this new story! While I think the puzzles were a little cooler and more complex in the original film, I still really enjoyed following all the clues this time around. My favorite thing about these movies is that I end up learning some actual history, and within minutes I discovered there's more than one Statue of Liberty (which I never knew), as well as the history of the Resolute Desks (that I had never even heard of before!). Both of these movies are kind of like an Indiana Jones adventure taking place in modern cities, but after Nicolas Cage and his pals find their way into the secret caves at Mount Rushmore, the tone of the movie changes, but it's still really exciting and interesting. I thought the bad guy's motive was a little shaky, too, but it doesn't really matter, since once the story begins it keeps a nice momentum going. Overall, I think National Treasure is a nice series for Disney, since it maintains the spirit of adventure found in lots of early Disney live action films, as well as Walt's love for America and its history. The next movie has definitely been setup, so I'm looking forward to finding out about Page 47!

12.20.2007

Holiday fizz

Welcome to the Christmas report, part two! My parents and I usually do the same fun things each year during my visit, but this year we went on a new adventure. We drove to a Pops, a fun restaurant on historic Route 66 that has over 500 kinds of soda available! The building is really unique, both inside (where they have thousands of soda bottles on shelves all over the walls) and out (where there's a humongous soda bottle monument complete with bendy straw!). We had a nice lunch and bought some souvenirs, and tried four kinds of yummy soda. We've also been continuing our casino visits, both at Remington Park (where I enjoyed the Alien movie themed game) and at Riverwind again. Mom discovered a game called Pistol Packin' Penny, and she and Dad both turned their pennies into some nice cash! I always get Mom & Dad some DVD games at Christmas, so in the evenings we've been playing Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader and 1 vs 100, which are both really fun. But I think the biggest gift hit so far is a set of giant refrigerator magnets that let Mom build a huge snowman on the fridge! As always, Christmas with my parents is definitely a time of sheer relaxation and joy!

12.19.2007

Music Moments

It's time for five more mini music reviews, featuring a little Disney, a little Christmas, and some Jpop, of course! I'll start with Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland, which is an amazing soundtrack re-recording that's only available via iTunes. I never realized that Disney made these studio recreations, but the sound quality and arrangements are fantastic compared to the original movie score. I actually prefer Kathryn Beaumont's cute English voice over Darlene Gillespie's, but she did a fine job (I think she was the most talented classic Mouseketeer)!

After finishing up every last episode of Sailor Moon recently, I really wanted to have all the cheesy songs in my collection, so I was happy to discover Sailor Moon Super Best, which includes all the themes and other numbers from all seasons of the show. Some of these are actually cool ballads in a retro kind of way, especially if you appreciate the 70's style horns and strings (so different from anime soundtracks today!). But most importantly, I'll always enjoy singing Moonlight Densetsu!

Each year I always buy myself a new holiday album, and this year I was persuaded by an iTunes sale to get Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics, featuring all of the South Park characters butchering classic Christmas carols as well as other songs that simply set a new standard for holiday irreverence! This CD is totally hilarious if you have an extremely open-minded sense of humor, and I have to admit that I love singing along with everyone's favorite magical Christmas poo!

Now on to Jpop! I had to buy Morning Musume's All Singles Complete collection, even though I already had all of these songs on other albums, just because the concept and packaging was so cool, and it's worth it to me to have all of these songs in order on a nice CD set (which has been playing in my car for weeks now!). The bonus DVD, where each member chooses their favorite concert performance, has some great older footage that I hadn't seen before, but why did so many of them have to pick Do It Now? Maybe they just like holding the microphones upside down for the rap!

Finally, I really like Morning Musume's new single Mikan, even though it's a pretty big jump stylistically from their previous two singles, but I guess it's time for a peppy, anime theme-ish song. I definitely enjoy the lyrics and the cool little piano licks, as well as Reina's lines in the final chorus (I thought it was funny when she mentioned them on Five Stars!). The video is lots of fun, too, but I have to say that I'm not a fan of eye reflection effects, and the little squares on their eyeballs make everyone look like robots!

12.18.2007

The Golden Compass : 3 of 5

Before I saw this movie, I knew nothing about the book trilogy, and I only knew a brief overview of the church/atheism controversy, so I went to the theater simply looking for a fantasy adventure to enjoy with my parents. I think that's the best way to enjoy this movie - if you're looking for some nice effects, great child acting, and some cool battles, then you'll like The Golden Compass. I actually got pretty caught up in trying to figure out this alternate universe! Although it's bizarre, the idea of everyone's souls being out the outside of their bodies, represented by animals, is fascinating, and it was cool to see how everyone's animal reflected their personality and even mood (plus I'm sure it was a huge challenge for the CG department to add so many animals to every scene!). It was also amazing to see the animals vanish in a burst of light when a human was killed in combat. I thought the ice bears were really well done - I could feel their weight when they were bounding through the snow. Ian McKellen provides a great voice performance (though for some reason I kept thinking he sounded like Patrick Stewart), and Dakota Blue Richards is a wonderful new child actress who really does a fine job filled with emotion and excitement. The Golden Compass certainly isn't the best fantasy film in recent years, but it's a fun movie for holiday relaxing (if you don't get caught up in all the controversy hype). I'm sure I'll be seeing the sequel in a few years!

12.17.2007

Indiana Jones and the Christmas Jackpot

It's time for the official Christmas report, part one! I made it to Oklahoma City with no weather problems, enjoying the convenience of my dirt-cheap, non-stop ExpressJet flight (highly recommended!), and Mom & Dad greeted me at the airport with my usual tin of Christmas cookies to get the holidays rolling! The first major order of business was hooking up a new HDTV, my big gift to my parents this season, and I'm happy to say that Dad is already a 16:9 junkie. So far we've been to the movies together, and today we had fun at Riverwind Casino playing the slot machines. We were almost ready to leave, and I decided to just play a few bucks on a cool Indiana Jones slot machine, and suddenly I hit the Ark of the Covenant progressive bonus, so I won about $400! What an awesome surprise Christmas present - I was amazed! Speaking of presents, we've also been opening a gift every night like we always do, so I've been having fun playing a new Nintendo DS game and reading a new book. Of course, I'm also eating Mom's delicious cooking and goodies, drinking beer and scotch, and generally having a blast thinking of nothing but holiday happiness!

12.16.2007

Morning Musume Tanjo 10 Nen Kinentai Concert Tour 2007 Natsu / Thank You My Dearest : 3 of 5

I pretty much ordered this DVD as a reflex, and then suddenly remembered that even though I've enjoyed the singles by this special 10th anniversary group, I'm not a total fan of the line-up. I love Nacchi and Gaki-san, but I don't care for Maki and Koharu is just a little too much for me. But I decided to just enjoy the show, and it was pretty enjoyable! I was wondering how a group with only two singles would fill the time, and the answer is by singing lots of old classic Morning Musume tunes (definitely appropriate since they are an anniversary group). They opened with Morning Coffee and continued with several other ancient hits that were all great since the older songs have such nice harmonies and counter-melodies (sung really well by Maki). Everyone took the stage to do solos and duets, and even though Koharu had to do yet another anime tune, at least it was a ballad (she always sings like she's spitting out the words, so it was nice to hear her calm down for once). Risa and Kaori really showed her up with their duet, though, trading harmonies and performing with style. Near the end of the show everyone did a particularly great rendition of Daite Hold On Me (everyone was super-smooth on the rap section), plus a pretty nutty version of Love Machine. It seemed like didn't start having fun together until the end of the show, which says to me that this selection of members really doesn't work chemistry-wise (but at least they sound nice). Overall, seeing a five member group in a small venue was a great change of pace, and if you happen to be a fan of one or more of these gals, you'll definitely enjoy the show.

12.15.2007

Fa la la la la

At last, Christmas vacation is here! Yesterday was my last day of work until after Christmas, and last night was my last band gig for the year, so now I feel totally free! Later today I'll be flying to Oklahoma City to visit Mom & Dad in Christmas Paradise, and I can't wait. It looked like there was going to be a lot of snow to worry about, but so far the airport isn't reporting delays, so I think I'm OK! I'm definitely feeling the Christmas spirit now - I watched most of It's a Wonderful Life this week, and I watched the brand new Disney Holiday Magic show on the Travel Channel at lunch yesterday, which was really fun. I'm sure they will repeat it over and over, so be sure to watch it if you're a Disney fan! Of course, I'll have my trusty MacBook while I'm on vacation, so I'll still be writing a few WEBmikey posts when I'm not opening presents. Countdown to eating Mom's Christmas cookies: less than 9 hours!

12.14.2007

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice For All / Nintendo DS : 4 of 5

The original Phoenix Wright was the most addicting game I've ever played, and this sequel was definitely intriguing and tons of fun, but I kept getting distracted and taking breaks. But since I'm pretty sure Santa will be bringing me the next game in the series, I've been stealing every free moment to play, and now it's finished! Justice For All has all the same elements and lots of characters from the original game, but also introduces some new devices, namely the Psyche-Lock. When I first read about these I thought they would be confusing, but actually they are a pretty straightforward extension to the game play (even though their mystical nature stretched the tone of the game a little). Phoenix's new major rival is Franziska Von Karma, the tough daughter of one of the prosecutors from the first game, and she's pretty funny (and intimidating) with her whip cracks and attitude (although her dialogue gets a little ridiculous)! I definitely enjoyed the addition of Pearl, a cute little girl from a small village (and Maya's cousin) who provides the means to breaking Psyche-Locks with her special stone (it definitely sounds a lot less like a courtroom drama and more like a fantasy game when you try to describe it!). There are four cases this time around, ranging from a quick introduction case, to a bizarre circus murder, to the unbelievably huge final case with the special twist of Maya being kidnapped! I was hoping for a little more interaction (like the search for blood stains in the original game), but there was only one similar instance of sweeping for bugs. Overall, this is another fantastic "must play" game for the Nintendo DS, just as innovative and fun as the original, and I'm hoping this series continues for a long time!

12.13.2007

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya / Vol 3 : 3 of 5

The third DVD in this series went by even faster than the first two, since there are only three episodes! The first episode is almost too weird to be comprehensible, and was probably my least favorite so far. Haruhi designs the SOS Brigade logo, which somehow wakes-up another "thought entity" (or something that Yuki barely explains), and they end up having to battle with a monster version of the computer kid that Haruhi blackmailed earlier in the series. After that there's a two-part story where everyone takes a little vacation on a secluded island, which ends up turning into a murder mystery. The plot is pretty interesting, but it all boils down to trying to keep Haruhi from getting bored, since if she's bored she will think something into existence! Besides the typical "bikinis at the beach" anime scene, this story also featured a really weird technique for reenacting the murder - it was shot in live action and displayed with various filter effects, which looks cool, but still kind of jarring in the middle of the show. The bonus features include more footage of Aya Hinano (the voice of Haruhi), who is super-cute in her photo session and signing books for fans, but to tell the truth, I still have yet to see why this show has become so popular! So many people have declared this anime one of the best, but right now I don't see it. It's definitely fun and I enjoy it, but I'm not getting a huge emotional charge out of it or anything. Oh well, at least it's fun to keep up with the phenomenon, so bring on the next DVD (after Christmas, of course)!

12.11.2007

Superman/Batman Vol 2 / Supergirl : 3 of 5

I like reading a good graphic novel every now and then, but this was an unexpected purchase! Since I kind of forced my pals to buy this as part of a scavenger hunt for my Christmas video (it's a long story...), I bought it from them and finally took the time to read it. This is a collection of several issues of the Superman/Batman comic series, telling the story of Supergirl's "re-introduction" to the DC Universe (I really didn't know about her part in Crisis on Infinite Earths, but the introduction filled me in). The story is really well-told, using some interesting dual narration via the thoughts of both Superman and Batman - this is a great device that really added a lot of insight into these characters, which is tough to do with icons that everyone knows so well. Wonder Woman is thrown in as well (since Kara needs some Amazonian training), and the big villian is Darkseid, meaning a good deal of the action takes place in Apokolips. Unfortunately, the transition from a story about trust and family to an action tale is way too rushed - I kept flipping back in the book to see if I had missed a page! Still, there's some good action, and plenty of cool Batman moments, as well as "Superman gets really mad" (which always has to happen in epic stories like this), but ultimately it seems like it was too easy to defeat Darkseid. The artwork is really nice, even though I wasn't too thrilled with Superman's ultra-square jaw (it looks good on Batman, but not on Clark!). I'm not really complaining, though - I enjoyed reading this book, and it makes me think I should pick up graphic novels like this more often!

12.10.2007

Fred Claus : 3 of 5

Even though I enjoyed the quirky trailer for this movie over a year ago, I wasn't planning on seeing it due to all the bad things I had heard about it. But I was kind of in the mood for a holiday movie, and my pal Melinda asked me to go, so I figured I would just try to enjoy it, fully expecting to be giving it my not-so-good "2" or even "1" rating. But while I was at the theater, I was definitely surprised to find myself laughing out loud and even feeling plenty of holiday spirit! Fred Claus starts with the interesting idea that Santa Claus has an older brother, and then quickly explains that when someone becomes a Saint (as in Saint Nicholas), their entire family freezes in time, which explains why Santa's brother can be living in modern day Chicago! Fred goes to the North Pole because he wants to borrow some money, and we get to see just how dysfunctional the Claus family is, along with the workshop, all the elves, and Santa's hot blonde secretary who just happens to be normal sized. Unfortunately, Santa's operation is being checked out by an efficiency expert, and Fred doesn't make things any easier! Lots of things are predictable - it's obvious that Fred is going to have to deliver the toys, and it's easy to figure out that Kevin Spacey (the efficiency expert) was a bad kid who just needs some Santa love, but I still enjoyed the crazy plot! Best of all, they even managed to get some holiday emotion out of me, especially when all the elves gather around a giant snowglobe to magically watch the whole world open their Christmas presents - a nice idea and well done! If you love Christmas movies, ignore the bad ratings and check out Fred Claus while there's still time (or just wait for it to be on TV next year)!

12.09.2007

Hello! Project 2007 Summer 10th Anniversary Dai Kanshasai - Hello Pro Natsu Matsuri : 4 of 5

I used to be a little overwhelmed by these giant concerts that gather the entire Hello! Project arsenal on one stage, but now I look forward to them and enjoy how they combine all the groups in interesting ways (although it is a little crazy when so many performers are out dancing at once - full Jpop sensory overload!). This concert was a blast to watch, since it had some unique Morning Musume moments, such as Jun Jun and Rin Rin's performing debut on Onna Ni Sachi Are, and they were fantastic! Their introduction was super cute, although I'm already starting to groan at the language jokes. Jun Jun seems kind of like a giant when they are all dancing together, but that gives her a nice edge that she doesn't have when they aren't singing. After watching some boring Koharu lip syncing and surviving some ugly butterfly wing costumes, it was awesome to see Yossie and Konkon perform with Ongaku Gatas! All of the "mix and match" numbers were cool, and Reina seemed to be particularly enjoying herself and all the attention. I really enjoyed seeing the under-used but totally cool Ayaka in Dance and Chance, but nothing can top Sayumi's performance of Momoiro Kataomoi, which was hands-down some of the best ultra-cute camera-hamming ever! The entire price of the DVD is worth it just to see Sayu say the opening "Iku yo!" (I just about fell out of my chair), and it's so much fun to see her get some spotlight time! The end of the concert has a nice moment where they bring back former Morning Musume members for a few songs, which is a pretty incredible considering it was the hard work of these gals 10 years ago that made it possible for me to enjoy this concert today! On top of all this entertainment, this is actually a two-DVD set (since the show is so long), so the second DVD had plenty of room for backstage footage. This was definitely an incredible concert experience!

12.08.2007

Embarrassing reading

I'm really getting into holiday mode, which means relaxing a little more and enjoying things like reading! I've been catching up on some actual books lately, but of course I'm still reading manga, too. Besides the regular volumes I like, I'm still a faithful subscriber to Shojo Beat - my embarrassing little pleasure! Every month I enjoy finding what happens in all the stories (and I definitely skip over the girly beauty tips!) - I still haven't forgiven them for getting rid of Nana, but the current line-up is pretty good. The best by far is Honey & Clover, which always makes me laugh at the antics of these crazy art school characters, and I think Crimson Hero is pretty inspiring. I didn't like Vampire Knight at first, but it's starting to grow on me! I know that I'm supposed to be reading Shonen Jump since I'm a guy, but I can't help it if I'd rather read emotional stories instead of all that ninja crap! Now if I could only read it on a train, it would feel more like Japan - maybe when Austin light rail opens I'll have to give it a try!

Talking about manga reminds me of anime, and I recently enjoyed the full-length Black Jack movie on the Sci-Fi Channel! Black Jack is one of Osamu Tezuka's characters that I'd like to know more about, but he's just barely been available in the US, so I was surprised this movie was on. The dub was terrible, of course, but the plot and the animation were pretty nice! I wish the movie was more about why Black Jack became a renegade surgeon and his relationship to Pinoko, but it was still cool to watch anyway.

12.07.2007

Pals in love

With all the holiday stuff going on and babies popping out everywhere, I'm late in mentioning other big news about my pals! Jonathan and Anne Marie are engaged! Jonathan broke the news to the gang at our last Greatest American Heroes gig, and we're all super happy for them. Anne Marie is definitely a cool gal, always dancing at our band gigs, and she was certainly a fearless actress in my Christmas video (thanks to director Ernesto's creative genius!). No news on a wedding date, but you can be sure it will be a major event of 2008!

12.06.2007

Star PEZ

One of the segments in my Christmas video project this year was a little spoof of classic Star Wars scenes acted out by PEZ dispensers! I love Star Wars (of course), and I have so many PEZ actors waiting to perform, so it was really easy to make. Since not all of the characters I needed are available as PEZ, I had to use a few stand-ins. Where else can you see Fred Flintstone as Han Solo or Santa Claus as Obi-Wan Kenobi? My favorite sequence to shoot was the cantina scene, since I could have gone all day picking out weird looking PEZ creatures from my collection! I also had fun printing out various backgrounds to shoot against. Watch for the thrilling lightsaber duel (and please ignore when my hand creeps into the frame)! Enjoy!

Watch video: Star PEZ

Here comes Emiliano!

Last night my pals Chris & Eliza had a surprise delivery! Baby Emiliano decided it was time get out of that tummy, so he was born a few days early. Amazingly, Eliza was just at my place cooking pizza for my video screening only about 12 hours earlier! Since the birth was originally scheduled for Friday, all of Chris & Eliza's relatives were coming during the week, including Eliza's sister Laura, who flew in from New York last night. Since Chris & Eliza were a little busy at the time, I picked up Laura at the airport (which turned out to be around 12:45 AM due to flight delays), and then we went straight to the hospital. I was totally stunned at seeing a four-hour old baby, weighing around 6.5 pounds! Normally I'm kind of scared of babies under about two years old, but Eliza really wanted me to hold him (since I'm Uncle Mikey now), and once I got used to it, it was so sweet (check out nervous, excited Mikey). I couldn't believe I was feeling little feet wiggling around and watching him yawn, when just the night before he was all cramped up in Eliza's belly! It was a magical night, and I'm so glad I could be a small part of it (plus I got to scoop the web with a couple iPhone photos)! Congratulations to Chris & Eliza! Welcome to the world, Emiliano! Just wait until you see Disneyland!

12.05.2007

Laughter for Christmas

Yesterday was the official world premiere of my Christmas video for 2007! It was a really fun evening with all my pals, and everyone really enjoyed watching it! This year's video was a totally new experience, since I shot all new footage (rather than using clips from the past year) and decided to turn the whole thing into a kind of variety show. So, this year's project included a reality game show, two fake movie trailers, a horror movie (written and directed by my pal Ernesto), a documentary, a silent movie, and two music videos (and the whole thing clocks in at 1.5 hours)! I loved watching everyone laughing and enjoying themselves - hearing that laughter is an amazing moment that keeps me making these videos each year!

View photos: Christmas Screening 2007

Test preparation can be fun

Besides studying and test taking, I had a blast in Los Angeles last weekend! Dae was an incredible host as always, and it was great to see my pal Ernesto again for the first time since he moved from Austin. We had a huge lunch at the famous Canter's Deli, then saw a musical based on Burt Bacharach's famous tunes, and later went back to Dae's to watch my annual Christmas video project. Dae cooked up a bunch of appetizers, and we all had so much fun watching the DVD. I was really glad that Ernesto enjoyed the way I edited his horror film project, and it was cool to be able to watch it with my LA pals in person! After that, Dae's band had a gig to play, so Ernesto and I got to see the Highball Five for the first time! It was a great show (they even let me sit in on a tune!), and the band sounds awesome! Our pal Jerry was also there, so we got to talk about the amazing work he's doing, which is always incredible to me. The next day after the test, we immediately duplicated last year's post-test fun by going to the same bar for a few beers, then we walked around in Santa Monica and had a nice dinner. Taking a tough test is definitely a lot easier when you get to spend time with such cool friends!

View photos: Highball Five Gig

12.04.2007

Tadaima!

I'm back from Los Angeles and the JLPT Level 3 test is over! Overall the exam was difficult, but I feel like I did well. I think the best thing about the experience was it clearly showed me how to re-focus my studies. For example, I think I spent too much time on grammar and not enough time on vocabulary. Even though I drilled myself on the 700 Level 3 vocabulary words several times, I didn't really learn them all, and of course they chose to use a few words that I didn't remember (but now I will never forget them!). I'm glad I went over the tests for the previous three years, though, because I was able to recognize how certain questions were structured, especially in the Reading Comprehension section. Listen Comprehension was crazy (as expected), but I'm hoping I made some good guesses! When I get my test results at the end of February, I'll be sure to post them here. Of course, after the exam, my mind was racing with all the things that confused me, but now I actually feel more energetic about studying, and I'm ready to really gain some ground in 2008!