Disneyland live music

I've still been editing old vacation video every now and then, and I've been enjoying spitting things up into "short subject" clips. It turns out I have lots of footage of the various live music at Disneyland, so I thought I'd mention my latest YouTube videos here (even though I uploaded them some time ago). I remember really enjoying the All-American College Band, which is made up each year of fantastic student musicians from across the country. Their big band arrangements of classic Disney tunes are creative and full of energy, even if their director is really silly to watch! I've only caught the Bayou Brass a couple times, but I really like their sound (and I wish I could try out that ultra-portable drum kit - the whole thing is on wheels!). The Dapper Dans are always fun to watch, and even though the audio quality of my video isn't that great, it was fun to capture someone's birthday with a great Mickey Mouse impression thrown in! I've already linked to my Royal Street Bachelors video here on WEBmikey, but I'm including it again since we're talking about Disneyland bands. I never miss the Bachelors when I visit - their guitarist has been playing there as long as I can remember, and I've even overheard him mention that he knew Walt!

Watch video: All-American College Band
Watch video: Bayou Brass
Watch video: Dapper Dans
Watch video: Royal Street Bachelors


Star Trek view screens

Another bit of nostalgia I discovered over Christmas was the view screen cards from my Star Trek Enterprise Bridge playset for my Mego Star Trek action figures. My Star Trek figures were some of my favorite toys (back before Star Wars toys took over), which is why I've been enjoying buying the new reproductions recently! The bridge playset, which I got for Christmas back in 1975, was mostly vinyl-covered cardboard for the walls, along with some plastic consoles and the captain's chair, plus the cool Transporter feature that was pretty ingenious. It's hard to explain, but you could spin a figure around in a chamber and push a red button to make them "disappear" or a green button to bring them back!

The view screen had two pegs that you could use to hang a card to represent what the crew was seeing on their latest adventure, and even though my playset is long gone, for some reason I saved a couple of these two-sided cards. The quality of the artwork is downright appalling, but I never gave it a second thought back in 1975!

Actually, the same toy company making the reproduction figures is coming out with a reproduction bridge playset very soon. I wasn't planning on buying it, since it requires a lot of display space, but every time I look at the picture the temptation is overwhelming!

View photos: Mego Enterprise View Screen Cards


The Muppet Show / Season Three : 4 of 5

This year's Christmas DVD sets are disappearing one by one, and my latest accomplishment is finishing this four-DVD set of The Muppet Show! I've enjoyed watching this series for the past couple years, and it's amazing how little I actually remember from when it was on the air, making it even more fun to experience. By the time this season rolled around, you can tell the show was a success, making it easy to get bigger name guest stars, as well as stage huge finale numbers with cool sets! It's always fun to see how stars like Rachel Welch, Liberace, Alice Cooper, and even Sylvester Stallone interact with the Muppets, as well as the unique unexpected plots that happen. In Loretta Lynn's show, the entire episode is moved to a train station, with completely new sets (and even an entirely re-shot opening theme) including a hand car for Kermit and Gonzo to ride (with some nice full-body Muppet work). There's even an all Robin Hood episode with Lynn Redgrave! This season also introduces some new characters like Gladys, the lady who works in the stage cafeteria (and one of the ugliest Muppets ever made!), and Annie Sue, another female pig who becomes a rival for Miss Piggy. Unfortunately, my favorite feature from the first season DVD set is still missing - I would have loved to see these shows with a trivia track. However, there's a pretty amazing black & white show from 1970 where Jim Henson himself shows how many of the Muppets work (including two-man characters like Rowlf the Dog), as well as a recent 10-minute documentary. While I'm not the kind of Muppet fan that craves to see a particular episode when the moment strikes, I still love taking in an entire season and marveling at the Muppet talent!


Men-Dol : 3 of 5

Although there are several more "serious" Japanese dramas I'd like to watch, I kind of stumbled upon Men-Dol because of my recent AKB48 fandom, since the subbed episodes were available on Hello!Online where I download my other Jpop shows. I was interested in the show since the main characters are three of the most popular AKB48 girls (including Haruna Kojima, who also had a part in Gokusen 3), but I had no idea I was in for the craziest, raciest, silliest series I've seen so far! Men-Dol (which is short for Ikemen Idol, something like "hot guy idol") is about three girls who want to become pop stars, but never make it past their auditions. They accidently get mixed up in a Yakuza crime and dress up as boys to escape, which somehow leads them to a lesbian entertainment agent who decides they should have a career as a boy band. It's just as bizarre as it sounds, but everything is played for light-hearted laughs even though the subject matter is often a little taboo! There are several bizarre romances going on - a cute female singer falls for one of the "boys" (often leading to awkward kisses), and a guy record executive is so confused by his feelings for one of the "boys" that he thinks he's becoming gay. This show makes every effort to tantalize the audience with scenes of the girls in their pajamas or getting spanked by their dominatrix agent, but even though it's a little raunchy, it's all in good fun! Don't worry, the usual Japanese drama morals about friendship and following your dreams are also all over the place. Men-Dol is only a 30-minute show, but each episode has nice production values (not a low budget show) and great theme music (by AKB48, of course). This drama is definitely a wild ride and completely unlike any other show I've watched, but it was a laugh-filled blast!


Godzilla vs Space Godzilla : 2 of 5

I took a long break from working my way through the entire Godzilla movie series, so I was pretty excited to get back into the Heisei era with Godzilla vs Space Godzilla, originally released in 1994. Unfortunately, this movie is semi-famous for being one of the worst of the series, and I have to say I agree for the most part, although I still had a great time watching Godzilla do his thing again (even though I had to endure it in English on this DVD)! The big enemy this time around was created by Godzilla's cells that somehow got into space (as speculated by scientists with clips from other Godzilla movies) and possibly went through a black hole, creating a Godzilla-ish creature with giant crystals on his back. The characters (including the now regular ESP girl Miki) all work for G-Force, the government-run Godzilla task force, and while at first they are trying to kill Godzilla with a huge mecha called Mogera (or at least control him via an ESP amplifier), eventually they realize (with the help of Mothra's small ladies) they need Godzilla to have any chance of getting rid of Space Godzilla and saving the earth. While most of the special effects are nice, a lot of the scenes that should have been shot with miniatures have been cheated with matte work. The animation effects of Mogera's various weapons and Space Godzilla's mighty beam are really well done, but unfortunately 90% of the kaiju battles involve only beam firing, when I would much rather see some tooth and claw action! But while this movie definitely has its faults, I still really enjoyed getting back into the series, and I'm looking forward to watching the next movie (which I'll review separately) included on this double-feature DVD!


Superman: The Animated Series Vol 2 : 4 of 5

It's interesting to look at the style of superhero animation today and trace its origin back to Warner Bros. groundbreaking work on both the Batman and Superman animated series. As I was watching this second volume (which I had to get since I enjoyed the first volume so much), it surprised me when I realized these shows were produced back in 1992 with traditional cel animation (no CGI at all), yet they look as fresh and exciting as the current DC-based shows I watch today (although the occasional scratch shows up every now and then). The big star of this DVD set is the three-part episode World's Finest, which teams up Superman and Batman for the first time in the series. Not only is the story intelligent, well-paced, and fascinating, but the animation work is simply amazing for the 1990s (animated in Japan by TMS Entertainment). This set also includes great stories such as Brave New Metropolis (with an evil Superman in an alternate future) and The Late Mr. Kent (a nice murder mystery tucked neatly into a single episode), plus a full assortment of villains, including the first appearances of Bizarro and Mr. Mxyzptlk. Unfortunately, they really skimped with the audio commentaries on this set, but it was kind of fun to watch the "video commentary" which features the show's creators actually sitting in front of a TV so you can watch their reactions. There's also a documentary on Superman's villains, but it's almost too short to count as a feature! But of course, the show itself is the important thing, and I completely enjoyed experiencing these great episodes again. I'm looking forward to the next volume, which will be on this year's Christmas list if I don't buy it sooner!


Entertainment overload

Recently I've been kind of overwhelmed with all the things that are available for me to watch. Normally I think I do an OK job of balancing my activities so I don't spend too many hours in front of the TV, but it seems like there are so many sources screaming at me for attention lately! If you add in the fact that I have an addiction to finishing things (so I often force myself to watch a series to completion even if I don't like it that much), then it becomes pretty tricky.

First, there are regular TV shows that I record on TiVo, but this isn't too bad since I only care about a few current prime-time shows and some cartoons. Next, there's Apple TV, which I use to keep up with several fun video podcasts, as well as tons of Japanese TV shows and music videos that I download. I can also use Boxee on Apple TV to watch lots of great shows on Hulu. On top of that, I'm excited about the DVD sets I got for Christmas, and when I start watching one I can't wait to see it all so I can start the next one! Finally, I like to watch a Netflix DVD fairly regularly to keep my queue flowing. But the last straw that's breaking the TV camel's back is Netflix's Watch Instantly on TiVo, because not only am I enjoying series that I missed when they were broadcast, but I feel compelled to watch even semi-crappy movies just because they are available!

Last Saturday I watched so much TV all day that I felt like a blob, so the next day I stayed away from it most of the day and caught up on some reading. The world is definitely changing so just about anything you want to watch is ready to see with no waiting, but now I'm going to have to change with the world - just because it's all available "right now" doesn't mean I have to watch it "right now"!


Death Note Vol 8 : 3 of 5

I'm still enjoying watching this great anime series in Japanese on DVD, even though I've already seen the whole thing dubbed in English on Cartoon Network (and read the entire manga, of course). There are some big jumps in time to move the plot along, but the major events have to do with the Shinigami Sidoh's arrival, Light's failed plan against Mello that leads to the death of his dad, and the introduction of Mikami to take over as the new operating Kira. Since I know the story so well, I tried to focus on little details, such as Sidoh's love of chocolate (much like Ryuk's craving for apples), as well as the cool animation used when Near stops the angry mob by raining cash on them (the texture mapping on each bill is pretty incredible). Seeing Light's dad on his death bed and knowing that he dies without ever realizing that Light is Kira makes for a really dramatic scene, and one of the strengths of this anime is always getting moments like this right! I really enjoyed the background story for Mikami, played out with some self-narration by the character and revealing plausible reasons why someone could be so disturbed (and come to the same moral conclusions as Light). This DVD has the same old interviews with the dubbing talent, which included the voice artist who originally dubbed the voice of Shampoo in Ranma 1/2! I used to have a huge cartoon crush on Shampoo, so it was shocking to find out her voice came from such a boring looking person. I'm definitely ready for the next DVD, which I think is the final volume of the anime!


Intellivision memories

Dad and I have always had fun together with technology, which includes home video games. When I was really young, I remember we owned some kind of dedicated Pong TV game that we played together, but our gaming history really started with the Intellivision console by Mattel, sometime in the early 80s. Unlike other kids, I never had to talk my dad into wanting to buy a home video game, since he was just as into the advertising hype as I was! Of course, we had to decide between Atari and Mattel, but since the Intellivision came bundled with Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack and Dad has always loved gambling and card games, Mattel was the clear winner (and I didn't really care since Dad was buying!).

We used to stay at my Grandmother's apartment in Waco each year during Thanksgiving, and while we were there Dad and I would always go shopping together. One year Dad decided this was the perfect opportunity to buy an Intellivision! We were concerned about Grandmother's old TV and how the games would look on it, but since we wanted to play it immediately so badly, Dad just decided, "What the heck, we'll buy her a new TV, too!" It was so much fun getting back to Grandmother's (and surprising Mom with our big spending), hooking up the console, and seeing that Blackjack dealer rendered in giant pixels on the TV! Of course, we thought it was the best thing ever, and over the years we played lots of games together.

Dad loves to get excited about something and buy everything in sight (his current passion is iPhone apps), so it wasn't long before we had tons of cartridges (I'm amazed at some of the titles we owned, but I'm sure Dad found them on sale and couldn't resist!). We even bought the Intellivoice module, which allowed us to play the first speaking games for the home market (we loved B-17 Bomber, and still laugh about the voice saying "Watch out for flak! That was close!" to this day). Eventually we got our Atari 800 computer and I got into programming while Dad got into computer gaming, so the good ol' Intellivision went into the closet, but I'll always be nostalgic about those great games!

Recently Dad was doing some decluttering and stumbled upon all of our old Intellivision cartridges, neatly stored in cases with the original instruction manuals and controller keypad overlays (which helped you remember some obscure buttons in more complex games). The actual Intellivision console is still missing (possibly in the attic somewhere), but it was really fun to look over the games themselves. I decided the overlays had such cool retro graphics that it would be fun to scan them all, so here's my contribution to online game history. Most of these overlays are available on the cool Intellivision Lives website (highly recommended), but Dad and I had a few that I haven't seen online elsewhere!

View photos: Intellivision Overlays


The New Frontier Vol 1 : 5 of 5

After thoroughly enjoying Justice League: The New Frontier animated movie on DVD, I simply had to read the source comic books, so I got The New Frontier (collected into a two volume series) for Christmas! It's been fantastic to experience scenes from the DVD in their original form (demonstrating how closely the animation follows the story), as well as entirely new segments that are completely fascinating (such as scenes featuring the Challengers of the Unknown and John Henry, or the included faux magazine article that reminded me of the same technique used in Watchmen). I also enjoyed how an identical scene can have different nuances depending on the medium - for example, the Martian Manhunter's internal dialogue while he watches TV to learn human culture is unique to the reading experience, but in both the DVD and the comic book this scene still works beautifully. The artwork is stunning with an incredible retro style (I love seeing the 40s and 50s fashion and hairstyles, and all of the women are drawn so cool!), and the panel layout is extremely effective, with almost every page presented as three horizontal panels, giving the artist lots of room and a cinematic widescreen look! The great artwork also extends to the covers gallery, each of which would look great hanging on the wall. Finally, the epic story is so creative, and beautifully blends together lots of subplots, locations, and enough hero name-dropping to make you want to read every story of the DC universe. I'm not going to waste any time getting into Volume 2!


Step Brothers : 3 of 5

This is yet another Will Ferrell movie that I skipped at the theater, but since his films haven't been that great lately I think I made the right choice. But actually, Step Brothers is ten times as funny as his other recent movies like Semi-Pro, and I'm happy to say that I had a lot of laughs watching this on DVD. The story is about Dale and Brennan, two 40 year old guys who live at home with their single parents, and end up becoming step brothers when their parents get married. Most of the movie is just scene after scene of regular situations that would happen between two boys who first hate each other and then become friends, but seeing grown men act out these situations is pretty funny. It's easy to see from the movie (and proven by the bonus deleted scenes on the DVD) that Will and John C. Reilly ad-lib their way through almost every segment, and it's almost more fun watching them enjoying themselves as actors than getting into the actual result. Eventually their antics cause their parents to divorce, so the boys decide to grow up, and this part of the movie gets a little long and boring. But thankfully, there's a hilarious finale with Will Ferrell singing a romantic opera aria that causes each character to imagine a short fantasy scene, and these are all funny. I liked the mini-message of "Don't lose your dinosaur" (which describes me pretty well!), and the Hong Kong-style playground fight at the end was awesome (especially the John Woo doves). Just don't pay too much attention to the middle of the movie, and I'm sure you'll enjoy Step Brothers, too.


Gran Torino : 4 of 5

I'm almost certain I would never have seen this film if I hadn't been invited with my pals, but I ended up really enjoying it, and it was nice to watch a "serious" movie again for a change. Gran Torino is about a Korean War veteran who has become a grumbly old man (his first dialogue in the film can only be described as a growl), living in a neighborhood that has become inhabited mostly by Hmong immigrants. Clint Eastwood's character is a product of his time, and during the course of the movie he spouts every racial slur known to man (and several I had never even heard), which becomes hilarious even though it's uncomfortable to hear at first! Clint's character seems like an elderly Dirty Harry at the beginning (with the guns to prove it), but becomes truly human as he befriends and helps his neighbors in their struggle against local gangs. There are lots of funny and warm moments in the story, but also some horrific plot turns that eventually bring the story to a close. Clint did a fantastic job, and I also enjoyed the performances of the young persistent priest, as well as the Hmong girl who lives next door who isn't scared to talk to Clint. My pals that saw the movie with me thought some of the acting of the minor characters was bad, but I never noticed it - I guess I was just wrapped up in the story. I completely expected to be pretty bored by Gran Torino, but it turned out to be a really interesting movie with a compelling plot, and it deserves the box office success it's having right now - I'm glad I saw it!


Austin Symphony / Garrick Ohlsson : 4 of 5

It's an amazing feeling when there's a melody you've known forever, and suddenly you're presented with the original source for the first time. That was my experience listening to the third movement of Rachmaninoff's 2nd Symphony, beautifully performed by the Austin Symphony! I really enjoyed the entire work - although the first movement seemed a little rambling, I was really drawn into the syncopated rhythms of the second, the famous emotional phrases of the third, as well as the excitement of the fourth. The Rachmaninoff symphony was a fantastic finale to an evening of Russian composers, starting with a gentle intro piece by Mussorgsky (incredibly quiet for an opening work) and followed by a Dvorak piano concerto featuring guest performer Garrick Ohlsson. He was really interesting to watch, since his body remained relatively still while his hands effortlessly flew over Dvorak's romantic full chords and chromatic runs. The orchestra was reduced quite a bit for this piece, which made the piano more prominent, though I missed all of the absent horns. After the concerto, Garrick Ohlsson decided to play a short "bonus" work not on the program (an easily-recognized Rachmaninoff piece), which was generous and unexpected! I usually go to the symphony alone, but this evening my pals Matt & Kumiko went with me, and it was fun talking about the music and seeing their reactions to everything (they were especially impressed with their first visit to the Long Center)! As always, the symphony was a wonderful experience, and I've been introduced to some wonderful works that I hope to hear again sometime.


Value of the mundane

I'm only a casual fan of Jpop artist Shoko Nakagawa (or Shokotan to her fans), but I still have lots of her songs in my library, and I like to watch her music videos (I saw her Shiny Gate video many times since the "idol olympics" premise was genius!). Shokotan is kind of a hero to the otaku world since she's open about how much she loves anime, manga, video games, and all kinds of geeky stuff, and I think that's pretty cool. This week I read an article about her and her lifestyle that's been getting attention on several websites, and it ends with a fantastic quote that's surprisingly meaningful:
We only have a limited life. You don't know how many more pictures you can draw. You don't know how many more songs you can sing. You don't know how many more times you can play with your cat. You don't know how many video games you can complete while you're alive.
Lots of people (myself included) sometimes feel guilty for enjoying "mundane" things, since they think they should always be trying to fulfill some lofty cause. But I think you can also have a full life just by finding things that make you happy and diving into them! Most of WEBmikey is just ramblings about all the media I consume, but I'm not ashamed of it - I love all the things I write about, and experiencing these things makes me happy (and since I think happiness can affect others around you, there's even a kind of purpose to it). For me, if I'm really enjoying something, there's no such thing as wasting time, so I'm going to continue to be like Shokotan and fill my life with things I enjoy!


Looney Tunes / Golden Collection Vol 6 : 4 of 5

For the past six years, the first DVD set I've watched from my Christmas gifts has been the Looney Tunes Golden Collection. Unfortunately, this sixth volume marks the end of series, so I'm going to be so lost next year! As usual, this four-DVD set is pretty amazing and totally fun to watch, although it felt a little skimpy in the bonus features department compared to previous volumes. The first disc features an all-star collection, including Hare Trigger, the first appearance of Yosemite Sam! The second disc is all wartime cartoons, which are pretty interesting considering their low distribution, but even more fascinating in the light of animation history. Who knew that Herr Meets Hare contains the first time Bugs should have turned left at Albuquerque, plus the original Wagner idea for What's Opera Doc? Amazing! The third disc is filled with black & white Bosko shorts, plus some Foxy & Roxy cartoons (which always amaze me since they are totally Mickey & Minnie with bushy tails!). The last disc has some great one-shot cartoons, including the extra long Horton Hatches the Egg, plus a few favorites from my childhood (I've always loved Rocket-Bye Baby for some reason). My favorite commenter this time is Greg Ford, who always brings lots of energy and laughter, but I can't believe they only provided commentary for two cartoons per disc this time - I wanted much more! Other features include some truly horrendous TV specials (but it's nice to have them for historical completeness), plus a fantastic Mel Blanc biography filled with lots of information I never knew (such as all the non-Warner Bros. characters he voiced, like Barney Rubble!). Overall, this is an incredible collection (as expected), and the entire 24 disc series is an awesome jewel in my DVD collection!


Laugh along with Batman

Although Warner Bros. will never top the equisite Batman Animated Series, I'm always interested in new shows that attempt to re-invent Batman in a fresh way. The latest Batman series to appear on Cartoon Network is The Brave and the Bold, and I have to say that I'm enjoying the heck out of it! Rather than continuing with the dark, moody side of the Dark Knight, this series goes back to Batman's campier days, with tons of corny banter and ridiculous situations that are far from normal (such as adventures in space or fighting dinosaurs). Each episode is also a different team-up with semi-obscure characters, and I love seeing who they will feature next! I've really enjoyed seeing heroes like Blue Beetle, Red Tornado, Green Arrow, and even Plastic Man (and the villians they battle tend to be on the weirdo side also). The overall style is pretty retro, with lots of thick black outlines (and Batman's profile really shows off that chin), funny episode titles (that always end with an exclamation mark!), and an awesome jazz score. While most of the episodes are full-on action and laughs, I was surprised by the excellent emotional flashbacks in the Christmas episode, which gave me even more respect for the series. It also looks fantastic in HD, which I saw at my parents house since they have Cartoon Network in HD (I hope it comes to Austin soon)! The Brave and the Bold is a truly fun and campy take on the Caped Crusader, and I'm definitely hooked!


Neves / Nintendo DS : 4 of 5

It's time for the first review from this year's Christmas presents! Although I've already been enjoying books and DVDs, I've been playing my Nintendo DS like crazy thanks to this fun puzzle game. Neves (don't ask me how to pronounce it, but it's the word "seven" backwards!) is an excellent rendition of the classic tangram game, where you try to organize seven shapes into a predefined pattern. Each shape can be rotated and flipped, so there are countless ways to put the pieces together. I've been learning some strategy pretty quickly, such as figuring out where the largest pieces go (since they have fewer possible positions), but sometimes I will look at a puzzle and it seems completely impossible! If I get stuck, I just move on to another one, and often when I come back to it I'll solve it right away. Each of the puzzles looks vaguely like some object, so they are organized into categories like numbers, alphabet (including some Japanese characters), animals, people and so on. You can play in different modes with restrictions on time and number of moves, but I'm just working my way through the regular mode for now. I've completed hundreds of puzzles, and it says I'm 57% finished with the game, which just drives my obsession to get to 100%! My only complaint with Neves is the background music, which gets so old after awhile - thank goodness you can turn it off which you solve a puzzle, but you still have to hear it while you select your next challenge. It's really fun to be obsessed with a puzzle game, and it feels good to be improving as I play it!


The Tale of Despereaux : 3 of 5

My movie pal Melinda and I went to see The Tale of Despereaux for our first animated film of the year, and we were both pretty surprised at the kind of movie it turned out to be. There was definitely a lot to enjoy, including some interesting animation and shot compositions, as well as a relatively complex plot with lots of characters to keep track of, but these same elements made it difficult for the audience of children to get through it all. Although there are certainly some fun action sequences, there are also huge stretches in the story where nothing much happens except for narration, and it was funny to hear all the kids start squirming and whining at the same time. The visual look of the movie is quite drab (since continuous cloudy weather plays a part in the story), but the mice are very cute with a nice level of characterization and realism. I didn't enjoy the human characters as much - some of them were OK (like Princess Pea), but the supporting humans seems really unfinished to me (and the servant girl looked way too much like ogre Fiona from Shrek!). This movie has a huge cast of celebrity voice actors (including Dustin Hoffman, who unfortunately wasn't half as good as his great performance in Kung Fu Panda) - so many, in fact, that some of their talent is wasted in tiny roles, and their salaries could probably have been better spent on the animation! I guess I'm sounding pretty negative about The Tale of Despereaux, but the fact is that I enjoyed watching it and I actually liked the quirky, bizarre plot with all its strange pacing. It was great to start another new year of animated fun!


Superman Chronicles / Vol 2 : 3 of 5

Even though I was really into reading these DC Chronicles series recently, lately I've been craving more up-to-date stories. But since I had already bought this followup volume to the first Superman Chronicles book, I took it with me on my flight home for Christmas, and I ended up reading most of it at the hotel bar while I was stuck in Dallas! I think my captive situation made me really enjoy this collection of Superman stories from 1939, back when Clark Kent worked for the Daily Star and Lois hardly showed up in the plot (except to tell Clark how much she hates him). Since Superman couldn't fly at this point, it was really interesting to see something as simple as being pushed out a window presented as a tense scene - he even hitches a ride on an airplane during one story! It's also hilarious to see Superman use Batman-style fear tactics, saying things like "You saw me crush steel - shall I now give you a demonstration of what I can do to your arm?" Besides wrecking shady casinos, crooked orphanages, and helping out a has-been boxer, the only real recurring villain is the Ultra Humanite, a mad scientist who looks pretty Luthor-ish to me (although his baldness keeps changing with the inconsistent artwork). The Humanite has a way of coming back from "certain death" in each story, even to the point of having his brain implanted in a woman's body! I'm sure I'll have the urge to continue reading the Superman Chronicles in the future, but for now I've got lots of great Christmas gifts to read, so it's going to be a long hiatus.


Bye bye blahs

Each year at the beginning of January I seem to get a little case of post-holiday blahs, and it takes me a while to get fully adjusted to regular life again. This year was kind of strange with New Year's Day being on Thursday, which made Friday seem like a one-day work week, and since all of my free time has been spent in holiday-ish leisure (watching Looney Tunes and eating Christmas candy!), so far reality doesn't feel real. I guess I just like holding on to the holidays, when I know I need to squarely face the new year. Going to church today helped, and I've had a nice weekend of LEGO building which was lots of fun. But speaking of holidays, I should mention the great gifts I received from my pals! Dae and Ernesto created an amazing CD of original tunes and standards that I've been listening to a lot, and my pal Melinda gave me a cool personalized Mickey Mouse watch and a new shirt. Matt & Kumiko treated me to a gourmet feast event at the Alamo Drafthouse on New Year's Eve, Ryan sent me a nice Arizona Highways calendar to hang in my office, and Chris & Eliza gave me Wii pajamas (hilarious and awesome)! I'm so thankful for all my pals and the years of friendship they've given me. I'm sure by the end of this weekend these blahs will be long gone!


Tinker Bell : 3 of 5

I have to admit that I was completely skeptical about this new movie about Tinker Bell, Peter Pan's constant companion and Disneyland's official mascot, and I was pretty sure that I would have plenty of bad things to say about it. I wasn't sure Tink's transition to CG would work, and I was appalled when I first heard that Tink was going to have an actual voice, but I felt a little better when I heard John Lasseter was involved. Now that I've finally seen the DVD, I'm happy to say that Disney actually pulled it off - they made an entertaining story about a classic character, and even though Tink has been re-invented somewhat, they didn't do anything to disrespect the character (and I didn't even roll my eyes!). The best parts of this new story come at the beginning, where we get to see the "birth" of Tinker Bell (born from a baby's first laugh and awakening in Never Land), as well as other one-of-a-kind scenes like when she designs her classic outfit and puts up her hair in her signature hairdo for the first time! The world of Pixie Hollow is actually really interesting, and Disney has developed a great mythology about the different kinds of fairies and what they do (Tinker Bell is a "Tinker", of course). The story is about Tink's efforts to be a different kind of fairy so she can go to the Mainland (the real world), and there were some really funny scenes where the new fairy characters try to teach her different skills. I have to spoil the end a little bit to say that when Tink delivers the music box she repaired to a little girl who turns out to be baby Wendy, I had a little tear in my eye, which is a huge compliment from me for a direct-to-DVD feature! Animation-wise, I'm glad they got Tink's chubby cheeks right, though at times I think they slimmed her down a little too much (Tink is known for her hips!). It was a great experience to be so surprised by this DVD, and I'm really looking forward to seeing Tink's further adventures in Pixie Hollow!


Another yearly reflection

When I wake up on January 1st each year, I immediately want to spend some time thinking about whatever I was thinking about this day of the previous year! So just like I did last year, it's time for me to take a look at how I did with my resolutions and goals during 2008. Last January I thought about five goal areas to focus on, and in each of them I had successes and failures.

I think I will remember 2008 as the year when I truly embraced the idea of a Simple/Frugal life, and I totally kicked butt with this goal! I did every decluttering project I could dream up, both physical and digital, and even learned to detach from owning things to the point where I could sell some Disney merchandise on eBay. I took every step I could to reduce bills (including ditching my land line phone and getting new insurance), and dramatically shrunk my media purchasing by catching up on the unwatched/unread items I own. The "think twice before buying" motto has helped me all year!

For most of the year I didn't make any real progress in the Health/Fitness area, since my body is pretty much the same as it has been all year long. However, for the last couple months of the year I have finally had a huge breakthrough in avoiding evening pig-out foods (thanks to help from my parents), which will really help me keep this goal going in 2009. That's something to feel great about!

In the area of Creativity/Arts, I managed to see many more symphonies this year, but I wish I had gone to even more events (and I only darkened a museum door once!). At the end of year I made some nice progress in editing old family video footage, but I completely ignored my goal of improving my video skills with new software - maybe I can hit that one in 2009!

One of my goal areas for the past several years has been Japanese Study, and in 2008 I spent most of the year going to tutoring lessons, and finishing up other study methods like Rosetta Stone and several books. It was definitely a good year, but recently I re-prioritized my life and decided to take a Japanese break. However, now I'm excited about light studying with iKnow, so Japanese is (and always will be) a fun obsession for me.

Finally, I'm so lazy about buying large Home Purchases that I have to make it a goal to force me to do it! In 2008 I finally made the switch to HDTV, re-designed my computer workspace with simple tables, and rewarded my rear with a new rocking recliner and comfy couch.

I'm always positive about facing a new year, and I think I can work towards my goals with even more energy in 2009! Of course, I'm going to focus on many of these same areas with only a little tweaking here and there, so please check back one year from today to see how it went!