3.30.2009

Mystere madness!

I'm back from my Las Vegas vacation with Mom & Dad, which was memorable in many ways, but the craziest time of all happened when we saw the Cirque du Soleil production of Mystere at Treasure Island! We had front row center seats for the show, but I had no idea there's a special "role" for each performance - which turned out to be me. Mystere's theme is birth, so one of the comedy aspects of the show is a big baby, who begins by bouncing a huge ball. He bounced the ball right at my parents and me, but it got stuck at the end of the stage, so when he started to cry, I got up and rolled the ball back to him (with the theater spotlights right on me). He seemed to like that, so he bounced it back to me, and I rolled it back again. Then suddenly he started laughing and called me "Papa", holding his arms out for a big hug! He gestured for me to come up on stage to hug him - I was totally nervous, but just decided to go with it, and as soon as I stepped on stage, he squirted me with his giant baby bottle! I thought that was the end of the joke, but it was just the beginning!

Later on in the show, the big baby crawled out on a high platform with a big flashlight, and pretty soon, he was shining it right on me, calling me Papa and giggling. I just held my arms up and smiled, and now it was pretty much established that the guy in the front row (me!) was definitely Papa. Now I kind of expected something else would happen later, but I had no idea I was totally going to be in the show!

A little later, the baby came out riding a golf cart in the aisle that separates the top and bottom seat sections - as soon as I saw that the cart had two seats, I thought to myself, "He's coming for me!" Sure enough, he stopped and started calling for Papa and the spotlight went on me, so I had to run up the stairs and get in the cart. He immediately took off at full speed, so I just held on with one hand and waved to the audience with the other! Suddenly, we went through a huge cloud of smoke and then we were backstage. It was so surreal to come out of that fog and be surrounded by performers in their bright costumes, stretching and getting ready for their next act - it was like a weird dream! Right away I was led to a spot with a huge diaper on the floor with two yellow feet for me to stand on, and in two-seconds I had been dressed like a baby, complete with bonnet and bottle. I got back in the cart and the big baby drove me around the stage in front of everyone. There were other performers everywhere, the music was pounding, there was smoke and lights, and through it all I could see Mom & Dad laughing and waving at me while I sucked on my nipple!

Next we drove off-stage and the big baby (in his adult voice) called out "Part two!" I got out of the cart and they told me to pretend to push it (while it was being driven slowly) like we had been in a wreck. So I got behind the cart and exaggerated my leg movements as we went around the stage again, with smoke pouring out of the cart (to show we had "crashed") around me. Finally we were backstage again, and another person helped me out of my costume, and then an usher directed me back to my seat, where I could breathe again and enjoy the rest of the show! About 10 minutes later, the usher ran back and handed me a photo that had been secretly snapped from a camera on the golf cart! At about 1:16 in this video trailer, you can see the big baby in the cart, just to get an idea of what the show was like!

The whole experience was totally amazing - everyone was really nice to me and made sure I knew what was going to happen, and it was a complete rush to actually be on stage at a sold-out Cirque du Soleil performance, even in a giant diaper! When we were leaving Treasure Island, a bunch of girls (who were in Vegas celebrating a birthday) recognized me and yelled, "There's Papa!" and even wanted their picture taken with me, so I guess I had a fan club for one night. If anyone would like their Pampers signed, just let me know!

3.26.2009

The Phantom of the Opera : 3 of 5

When I saw this movie version of the musical back in 2005, I enjoyed it enough to put this DVD on my Amazon Wish List, and then completely forgot all about it. But when Amazon had a $5 dollar sale recently, I decided to finally pick it up (I was originally going to get the Special Edition for the bonus material, but for five bucks I was willing to settle for the no-frills version). Even though I have lots of mixed feelings about Phantom (I like the whole horror and opera angle, but the cheese gets a little thick at times), this movie is probably the best way to experience the story, and I actually really enjoyed watching it again on DVD! I like seeing musicals as movies because they add so much that can't be done on stage, like camera moves that swoop into the catacombs below the opera house, seamless mid-song transitions from rehearsal to opening night, and black & white childhood flashbacks. Emmy Rossum was still amazing to see and hear, and I'm surprised she hasn't done much since this movie (I can't believe she's in Dragonball Evolution - what a career move!). My favorite song is still Point of No Return, but as usual, watching this movie means committing to at least three days of hearing these melodies in your head! Something about this music is both inviting and diabolical at the same time - you have been warned! It's kind of ironic that I watched this movie recently, since I'll be staying at the Venetian in Las Vegas this weekend, where they play Phantom music non-stop in the halls!

3.25.2009

Death Note : 3 of 5

Even though the Death Note live action movies are probably my least favorite medium for telling this excellent story, I still had a pretty good time seeing this first film in the theater last year. I was disappointed they decided to screen the dubbed version, though, so I decided to add this Viz Pictures release to my collection, and I enjoyed it much more in Japanese! In addition to the major departures from the manga version, such as Light's girlfriend Shiori who plays such an important role in the movie, it was fun to notice subtle changes that worked really well. I thought it was a great idea for FBI agent Raye's fiance to follow him onto the train where Light tricks him into killing the other agents, since it gives more substance to her obsession with defeating Kira. I also thought the brief moment where Raye sees the shinigami Ryuk outside of the train was brilliant, since he was just touching a piece of the note! Overlooking some of the semi-goofy acting by the actor playing Light, at least the filmmakers managed to convey a deeper sense of evil for the character - it's pretty amazing when Ryuk actually says Light is worse than a shinigami! The entire hidden camera investigation sequence is painfully slow, but thankfully things really pick up in the finale, and I'm looking forward to checking out the sequel soon (which is also now available on DVD). The bonus material on the DVD is fairly interesting, but it's buried in some of the worst menus I've ever seen (which are supposed to be cool, no doubt!). I would definitely recommend the manga or anime over this movie as a first Death Note experience, but for the established fan this movie is an interesting take on the story!

3.24.2009

Kodomo no ranchi

About a week ago, I was having dinner with my pals Matt & Kumiko, and I mentioned that I had often seen tako-san wieners in anime and manga and on Japanese cooking shows, and I always wanted to eat some. (Tako is octopus in Japanese, so if you cut part of a little wiener to make "legs", it looks like a little octopus.) Kumiko started thinking about all of the typical foods that Japanese kids eat for lunch, and soon Matt & Kumiko invited me over for a kiddie feast! Kumiko and her friend Naoko made 11 different items, and Matt and I got to help out, too. It was really fun to eat lots of new things, and afterwards Matt made everyone a giant ice cream parfait (another common Japanese thing you see all the time in anime)! It was a delicious afternoon, and I'm really touched that Matt & Kumiko would do such a nice thing to satisfy my tako-san curiosity!

View photos: Japanese Kids Lunch

Monsters vs Aliens : 3 of 5

When my pal Melinda and I saw the sneak preview of Race to Witch Mountain, they handed us free passes to see an early showing of this movie, which means I get to post this review before the release date, just like a real critic. Although Dreamworks never reaches the depth of emotion in a typical Pixar film, they can certainly make an entertaining movie, and Monsters vs Aliens is totally fun! If you're a fan of giant monster movies, you will especially enjoy this film, and I wouldn't be surprised if the filmmakers are kaiju fans, since a few of the scenes really have the feel of a good Godzilla battle (especially the knock-out sequence involving the Golden Gate Bridge!). Actually, some of the best background modeling work is in the San Francisco cityscape, which looks amazing (and it's always fun to see a familiar place in a giant monster movie). I was happy with all the character designs, and although I didn't notice any animation technology breakthroughs in this movie, I was mesmerized by the awesome transparency effects on B.O.B., especially seeing that eyeball suspended in his gooey head in profile shots. All of the action is really cool, but judging from the miniature voices I heard in the theater saying "I want to go home", there may be a few moments that went a little overboard in intensity (but they are definitely short and the kiddos perked up soon!). I really enjoyed the voice work, especially Stephen Colbert as the president (although the character design didn't completely fit), and his big moment making first contact with the giant alien robot is hilarious. I wouldn't call Monsters vs Aliens a "must see" film, but it's definitely good for a nice afternoon of animated action!

3.22.2009

Animaniacs Vol 2 : 4 of 5

Yesterday I finished up the second season of Animaniacs, another great DVD set from my Christmas stash! It took me several days to watch all five DVDs, but I really enjoyed this 1993 season, which includes a few of my favorite moments from the series. Bubba Bo Bob Brain is definitely the best Pinky and the Brain episode ever, since it so accurately parodies country music (with lots of celebrity cameos), and the awesome Video Review is great because it's a modern version of the classic "living book covers" shorts, only set in a video rental store (it even has a fun Star Wars reference)! Lots of super-short segments occur in this season, too - Dot's Poetry Corner is always pretty funny, but Good Idea/Bad Idea often falls flat. There are quite a few shows with longer stories this time, parodying everything from Moby Dick and Dracula to A Christmas Carol (there are two nice Christmas episodes at the end of the season). There's also a rare Minerva Mink segment, who was such a hottie character that the network made them cut her career short (too bad!). As usual, I also had fun paying attention to details like the re-use of classic Warner Bros. musical cues in the score, and some cool techniques like the crazy upward angle background art used in Pinky and the Brain. Unfortunately, there's only one bonus feature on this set, an interesting 30-minute writers panel of 15 people who worked on the show. It's great to hear them all say it was the most creative job they ever had, and their memories of the artistic freedom on the show certainly explain why Animaniacs is still popular today. Now that I've got the first season and second season in my collection, I suppose I'll have to go for the third season when Christmas rolls around again!

3.21.2009

Manga Mentions 3.09

Video Girl Ai Vol 10: It's time for another variety-less Manga Mentions, since I'm trying to finish or catch up with a couple specific series. Video Girl Ai, which started out so wonderfully, has become drawn-out and semi-boring, but since I can't make myself abandon anything, I just want to get it over with! Moemi becomes surprisingly controlling in this volume (an interesting twist for her otherwise angelic character), and Ai spends some time with Takashi, but overall the plot doesn't move much.

Video Girl Ai Vol 11: As if we needed another delay in the main plot, this volume focuses on Natsumi (sick in the hospital) and her old boyfriend, which serves as a way for Ai and Takashi to help out. The subplot isn't that bad, but it definitely seems like poor timing, although it does give Ai a reason to get back with Yota. Oh well, this series can't go on for much longer!

Nodame Cantabile Vol 13: On the other hand, I still can't get enough of Nodame Cantabile, so I don't care how long this series lasts! I decided to read three volumes in a row so I could get caught up with the translated publishing schedule, so now I'll have to wait a few months for each new volume to come out, which will allow me to branch out in my manga reading! In this Christmas-time volume, Chiaki gets a job conducting an orchestra filled with awful players, and the Chinese pianist Rui returns to shake things up.

Nodame Cantabile Vol 14: Chiaki continues to have problems with his orchestra, while everyone else focuses on their final exams. There are some cute and funny moments as Nodame gets stressed out, but of course she gets a good grade (just barely!). The musical notes focus on traditional instruments this time - I always learn new facts from this manga!

Nodame Cantabile Vol 15: Nodame plays a recital for a rich Mozart fan, decked out in full costume with a wig! Although you would think illustrations of someone playing piano would get boring, the recital scene is amazing, with tons of information about each piece Nodame plays and lots of audience reactions - it really makes you want to be there listening! There are also a couple touching scenes where stoic Chiaki reveals he really does love Nodame, but now I have to wait until July for the next volume!

3.19.2009

Honey and Clover : 4 of 5

It's completely obvious that I'm a Honey and Clover fan, since I always look forward to reading the original manga in Shojo Beat and I totally enjoyed watching the TV drama as well. So I had to get this DVD sight unseen, since I knew I would love the story, and I already have most of Viz Pictures US releases of Japanese films. It was a good choice, since I really enjoyed watching these wonderful characters again - you would think seeing the same story told over and over would get boring, but noticing the differences in construction and emphasis is so much fun! The tone of this movie is a bit more down-to-earth than the TV drama (similar to the way the Densha Otoko movie isn't as crazy as the TV drama), and the casting is really well done. Takemoto is a bit more athletic (which makes sense for his long bike trip), and Hagumi is much younger looking (which you would expect from the way she's drawn in the manga). Yamada is absolutely wonderful, and the way her love triangle is portrayed is just beautiful - it's so bittersweet to see a relationship that just isn't going to happen, even though the feelings of love remain. While the manga often gets poetic with Takemoto's narration, the movie uses sparse narration from several different characters, which is a good way to get into their thoughts in the limited amount of time the movie allows (even though I'm normally not a fan of narration). One strange touch is the appearance of a cat in a few scenes that seems to be animated in a rough, charcoal style - I haven't really thought much about what it represents, but maybe it has something to do with the art student theme or following dreams. Although a few plot points are a little rushed, I thought they did a great job of honoring the feel of the original. I love Honey and Clover, and this film version is wonderful as a unique expression of this great story.

3.18.2009

The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland : 3 of 5

Sometimes being a Disneyland fanatic can be tough, especially when new books about the park are released. My initial reaction is to buy them all, but it's becoming more and more difficult to read anything with park facts that I haven't heard a hundred times before! But since I've already collected the other cool books in the Imagineering Field Guide series, I decided I had to have the Disneyland edition as well. As I expected, almost all of it was stuff I've already read, but of course it's still fun to get a refresher course. But I was still able to dig out a few trivia gems to add to my collection, such as the Notre Dame cathedral spire on Sleeping Beauty Castle (I always wondered why that one looked different!), and the reason Christopher Robin doesn't appear in the Winnie the Pooh ride is because it's located in Critter Country! I also didn't really know that the outside track on the Alice in Wonderland attraction wasn't added until the 1983 Fantasyland makeover, or that the ship masts on the roofs of buildings in New Orleans Square are meant to imply a port in the distance (cool stuff!). I really appreciated the up-to-date material, too, which covers the recent changes in Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion, and even mentions the brand new Mark VII Monorail. Like the other books in this series, the artwork is nice, but way too small to really enjoy (there were some great Tiki Room concepts that I would love to see close-up!). If your brain isn't already stuffed with a million Disneyland facts like mine, then I would definitely buy this book right away and soak it up! But even if you're already an expert, I'd still consider the Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland just to support this nice series of books.

3.17.2009

Race to Witch Mountain : 3 of 5

When I was young, I completely ate up the original Witch Mountain movies, since I loved seeing kids from outer space with amazing powers, so those films have a lot of nostalgic value for me. But I didn't mind at all when I saw that Disney was going to re-invent this movie for today's audience, and I was lucky enough to get to see it at a free sneak preview with my pal Melinda! Race to Witch Mountain takes the basic idea of alien kids trying to get back to their spaceship, but that's about the only thing similar (unless you count the Winnebago, which doesn't get to fly, unfortunately), since the plot has been completely re-created as an all out action movie. But even car chases, military conspiracy and Vegas nightlife can't keep this from feeling like a Disney movie, which is a good thing, in my opinion - it's completely action-packed and light-hearted (without being stupid) at the same time. The Rock does a fine job as the taxi driver who becomes the kids' protector, and the kids themselves are excellent (even though they have to talk in contraction-less robot dialogue most of the time). The girl is especially cool - I remembered her role in Bridge to Terebithia and I think she has a nice career ahead of her. It was fun to see the actors who originally played the kids appear in small roles - I noticed their names during the opening credits and expected them to have two-second walk-ons, but I was impressed that they actually gave them some lines! I really enjoyed the special effects, too, which are mostly concentrated near the end of the movie while the kids' spaceship is actually flying (sometimes a simple saucer design is just right!). I'd recommend this movie to just about anyone, since it's a fun action story that won't put anyone to sleep. I'm glad Disney is getting some more mileage out of my childhood memories!

3.15.2009

Dae & Mikey's Disneyland Day

I took my Kodak Zi6 that I got for Christmas with me on my recent trip to Los Angeles, so I could experiment a little with shooting in HD at Disneyland! It was super convenient to have it in my pocket ready to go, and it was really fun to think about how to compose shots in a 16:9 frame. But mostly, my pal Dae and I used it to pass the time in line for rides (even though we had such short wait times) by interviewing each other. I used my Zi6, and Dae used the movie mode on his Canon camera, and by the end of the day we had about 20 minutes of the most lame and silly video ever shot. But it was still a blast to edit them together, add a little music, insert some effects and titles, and create my first HD work in iMovie (although the clips from Dae's camera are still SD). For some reason, YouTube messed up the first five seconds (it's gray when it should be black), but it takes forever to upload so I'm just living with it. I also decided to try Vimeo since they kind of specialize in HD. There's nothing particularly funny or interesting about this video (unless you know Dae or me, which will make it kind of hilarious), but it reminded me that editing is fun and I need to do more of it!

Watch video: Disneyland Day on YouTube
Watch video: Disneyland Day on Vimeo

3.14.2009

Star Wars: The Clone Wars / Special Edition : 4 of 5

Although I wasn't completely blow away by The Clone Wars when it was released in the theater, since then I've become a huge fan of the series on Cartoon Network, which made it essential for me to add this DVD to my Star Wars collection! Now that I can see the direction the TV series is taking, it was fun to watch this movie again and consider it as one long episode of the show, and I enjoyed noticing details that I had missed before (such as the awesome World War II style nose art on the troop transport ships and Obi-Wan calling Ventress "Darling"). I had even forgotten that the Twilight, Anakin's ship that appears regularly in the series, was stolen from Tatooine in the film! The commentary track is really fascinating, revealing all kinds of trivia (my favorite fact being that Yularen, who often appears on the show, is actually a character seen in Episode IV!). The bonus disc is fantastic, with materials that really dig into the entire first season of the series, including focus on individual episodes and how they are constructed as mini-movies (with lots of involvement by George Lucas himself). It was great to learn that many designs for ships and settings are taken from ideas that didn't make it into the movies (including awesome Ralph McQuarrie designs), and I loved the discussion about clone personalities and how they take on the aspects of their Jedi trainers. The voice actor segment was better than expected, and I enjoyed the composer's quick analysis of the chords used in Asohka's theme (which made it interesting to follow the score more closely). The deleted scenes included are almost fully rendered (meaning they were cut at the last minute!), and watching Anakin and Ventress battle on the back of a raging Rancor was pretty awesome! The best thing about The Clone Wars series and this film is that there's no doubting this is an authentic Star Wars experience, and this DVD made that completely clear!

3.12.2009

Godzilla 2000 : 3 of 5

My goal of watching every Godzilla movie in order is starting to come to an end, since this is the first film in the Millennium series (which was released in 1999 in Japan). It's also the only Godzilla movie that I actually saw at the theater, and according to my super-short review, I thought it was pretty cool even without the sprawling Godzilla history that I'm aware of now! Godzilla 2000 is full of good things and bad things, but overall it's not one of those Godzilla movies that you immediately want to watch over again. The special effects are really good for the most part, although I'm not a big fan of Godzilla's redesign, which is much too spiky and toothy for my taste (though he does look awesome when lit by search lights!). The enemy this time is an alien force looking for Godzilla's regenerative DNA, which means Godzilla gets to fight a flying silver CG spaceship most of the time, until it finally transforms into the kaiju called Orga for the big final battle, which is definitely the highlight of the film. Regardless of how I feel about the suit, the Godzilla suit acting is fantastic, especially when he stops to "power up" to let a huge beam fly by flinging his head. The end of the fight is one of the weirdest kaiju scenes on film, since Orga attempts to swallow Godzilla whole! As far as the human characters go, I really liked the father and daughter who run the Godzilla Prediction Network, except for the hilarious final line of the film, "Godzilla is inside each one of us" (I remember dying laughing in the theater, too). Although this DVD only includes the dubbed version, it actually has a surprisingly fascinating commentary track with the US producer and editing team. I'm looking forward to the next film of the Millennium series!

3.10.2009

Speed Racer: Mach Go Go Go : 4 of 5

Although I've been a Speed Racer fan for as long as I can remember, I had never read the original manga version of the series, so when I saw this box set was available, it went on my Christmas list right away! This really is a beautiful edition, including two hardcover books (over 600 pages together!) in a fantastic slipcase, making this the most extravagant manga I own. Most of the pages are black and white (thankfully in their original left to right order), although there are a few color covers of the early 60s issues (in Japanese) that look really cool. There's a fairly interesting introduction by Peter Fernandez, famous for voicing Speed and helping to bring anime to the US, but unfortunately no other background material about the manga itself. However, the stories are a total blast to read, with some covering classic episodes of the show almost exactly, and some completely new adventures to enjoy. The Mach 5 has several more features that were new to me, such as hydrofoil mode, jets, wings, radar, and even automatic spare tires! Some of the original Japanese dialogue is interesting in this translation, with dramatic lines for Speed like "Let me die in the Mach 5!", and he even chews out some striking auto workers with "You call yourselves Japanese acting like this?" My favorite story was Secret of the Golden Arrow, one of the longest plots with lots of action and interesting scenes with Racer X. And speaking of Racer X, the manga actually ends with the touching reunion of Rex Racer with his family! I was totally shocked when it happened, but it was great to see those tears rolling down Speed's cheeks as he hugs his long lost big brother. I had so much fun reading this manga set, and I definitely recommend it to fans of the anime and all the nostalgia that goes along with it!

3.09.2009

Death Note Vol 9 : 4 of 5

After watching nine DVDs with 37 total episodes, I've finally finished the anime version of Death Note, and it was incredible. Of course, I had already read the entire manga series, and even watched the whole anime on Cartoon Network, but I still rented all the DVDs so I could hear the original Japanese voice work, which was awesome. Actually, I've enjoyed all the incarnations of Death Note I've experienced (manga, anime, live action), because the story is so good that it's interesting to see it interpreted in different ways. But getting back to the anime, this final DVD contains the last five episodes, starting with Near's all-out challenge to Kira for a final showdown. It's fascinating to watch every subtle move of the notebook and the various tampering going on, especially when you know the outcome of the plot beforehand! The animation does an incredible job of portraying some incredibly emotional moments, including the sad end of Takada, Matsuda's explosion when he realizes his "hero" Light has been evil all along, and of course the dramatic death of Light/Kira (which is a bit different from the manga, but probably designed to generate a bit more sympathy, and I can appreciate both versions). The final warehouse scene is stretched to two entire episodes, which are for the most part characters standing and delivering dialogue, but the animators somehow transformed these scenes into a riveting experience! As usual, there are some voice actor interviews included, but I really wish there was some behind-the-scenes material about the animation itself. It's nice to finish this anime series, and even though it was tough waiting for each volume to be released, the anticipation was kind of fun!

3.08.2009

Paul Blart: Mall Cop : 2 of 5

I never dreamed I would actually see this movie after watching the trailer, but my pal Melinda and I just needed something to see, so we ended up going. It was an OK movie with a few laughs, but I was definitely expecting something with a little more full-on comedy. Instead, this movie wants to be part comedy, part romance, part action film, and part sad commentary on eating disorders! The idea of an overly gung-ho mall cop is definitely a good one, and it's fun to see Paul riding his Segway and taking pride in being a "security officer". Then the lonely romance angle comes in, which seems more depressing than inspiring, followed quickly by the weirdest crime plot ever - taking over an entire mall in order to run around and get credit card codes. I also found it completely bizarre that the bad guy gang seemed to made up of Cirque du Soleil rejects, since they are constantly being overly-acrobatic - leaping over displays, sliding down escalators, and zipping through the mall on bikes and skateboards. I lot of the smaller parts are really strange, too - the constantly shirtless Indian ex-boyfriend that keeps calling Paul's borrowed cell phone was downright creepy! I guess it's fair to say that the movie wasn't really boring, so I had a pretty good time in theater, but I can easily say I wouldn't watch it again or recommend it to anyone. Someone else should make a really good, really funny mall cop movie so we can all forget about this one!

3.07.2009

Fun times last weekend

It's already the weekend, but I haven't mentioned all the fun things that happened last weekend! Casa del Swanko played two gigs, which strangely enough were both our worst and best ever. The first one was the bad one, because not only did Steve's keyboard electronically freak-out and go out of key every two seconds, but I forgot my hi-hat clutch, so my poor left leg was just working all night doing nothing. But the next gig was somehow magical, and we played our very best - I had recently tuned my kit and got to enjoy the new richer sound! I also got to see a cool program of traditional Japanese dance, emceed by my pal Kumiko! She did a great job describing each of the dances, which included everything from small girls to beautiful geisha style numbers. Finally, Anne-Marie threw a surprise birthday party for Jonathan, and it was a blast to hang out with everyone to celebrate our pal! I spent a little too much time taking pictures of Emiliano, but how can you resist a one-year old playing drums?

View photos: Jonathan's Birthday 2009

3.05.2009

Welcome to Macintosh : 4 of 5

Since I've been a Mac fan from my college days and I love following Apple history and lore (such as the incredible Revolution in the Valley), I knew I would enjoy this independent 2008 documentary, and I was thrilled to find it available from Netflix even though it seems to be a self-distributed release. Welcome to Macintosh is filled with fascinating interviews, featuring tons of legendary Apple employees and lots of interesting folks who embody Macintosh mania, all put together into a really well-produced and edited production, given its limited budget. Some of the "stars" include Andy Hertzfeld (author of Revolution in the Valley), who is just about the most likeable and brilliant software engineer you could ever meet, and Guy Kawasaki, who everyone knows as the first Mac evangelist (and is still a highly active voice today). Along with the former employees, there's a guy who has literally 100s of old Macs littering his home (talk about hoarding!), along with early computer store owners, an Apple I replica maker, and authors of various Apple books. It was really to cool to see so much original Apple hardware and software, too, which made me feel nostalgic for my days of developing for System 7! By far the most hilarious interview is with Jim Reekes, who gave us the foundations of everything we take for granted about sound and QuickTime today. It's so much fun to watch him talk over a couple beers about playing the classic startup sound that we all know, as well as get bitter over his original ideas for iTunes that never came to fruition until he left the company! The DVD has a cool menu structure and lots of bonus material, including uncut extended interviews with everyone. I really enjoyed Welcome to Macintosh, which gave me awesome feelings of how far Apple has come and why I enjoy using their products so much!

3.03.2009

Three Small Things 3.3.09

I have three Apple-related things to mention, which have nothing to do with Apple's cool new hardware releases today (although I really want to snag a new iMac now!). The first is that I have finally discovered the joy of video playlists on my Apple TV! When I first got my Apple TV, I remembered I wished this feature was possible, but then when it was included in the latest update I forgot about it. The reason it's so great is that now I can make a playlist of a ton of Jpop videos, kick it off, then sit back and enjoy my own personal MTV (with better music and cuter girls). I download and watch at least 5 or 10 new videos every week, then save the best ones that I know I will want to watch again, so now I can watch a whole series of my favorites with one click!

Recently I was poking around for some new wallpaper for my iPhone, and I suddenly got the idea to try one of my scanned Intellivision overlays. The result is pretty cool, since you can just about size the images perfectly (with just a little cut off vertically), which makes it look like I have cool retro game buttons on my iPhone all the time. I've been using Space Battle lately, and now whenever I unlock my phone I have the urge to click Return to Base!

Although I love getting up early, I've been really bad at making it happen for the past couple months. I think I've decided my alarm clock sound is completely unbearable (I actually dreamed it was a dentist's drill once), so I hate setting it. Last night I suddenly got a clue and realized I should just use my iPhone alarm clock, since I have lots of beautiful soothing ringtones that I bought from iRingPro. Today my new pleasant alarm woke me up on time and I had a great morning!

3.02.2009

OCD volume

It doesn't surprise me that I have a few OCD tendencies, since I've become super fastidious after years of living alone. I like all my things "just so" and if something is out of place I have to fix it right away (in fact, after my cleaning service comes by, I have to go around the whole condo straightening up my knick-knacks)! I think one of my weirdest things has to do with the TV volume, which apparently developed soon after I got my HDTV, since when I adjust the volume I can see it displayed on-screen. For whatever reason, I have decided one certain numbers that are "OK" and the rest are "not OK" (it sounds just as funny to me as it does to you!). Numbers that end with 0, 2, 5, and 8 are allowed. I guess I basically like even numbers, but I also like 5 because it seems like a symmetric middle, and then I throw out 4 and 6 because they are too close to 5. Sometimes when a show is too soft on something like volume 22, but a little too loud on 25, I'll just make myself listen to it on 22 or 25 because I just don't like it to be on 23 or 24! Maybe this is the weirdest thing about me, or maybe it's the first in a new career of OCD weirdness. I can't wait to find out! Excuse me, I have to go make sure my refrigerator magnets are pointing the right direction.

3.01.2009

Scott Pilgrim Vol 5 : 4 of 5

After I finished the previous volumes of Scott Pilgrim, it seemed to take forever for this one to come out, but the wait was totally worth it! I still love this quirky little series, and I read this volume cover to cover on my recent flight home from Los Angeles, laughing my head off all the way. It took no time at all to get reacquainted with all the characters, and soon I was rooting for Scott to defeat the next set of Ramona's evil ex-boyfriends. There were tons of little jokes this time that really cracked me up, like Scott's gay ex-roommate Wallace's text messages, and of course Scott's battles with the twins' robots were all funny. The tequila scene with Scott, Ramona and Kim is great, but the story actually gets semi-serious when the plot turns to Ramona's secret past with Gideon, which ends up leaving this volume with a massive cliff-hanger (and I have no idea how many months I'll have to wait for the next volume!). It would have been nice to have a little more Knives Chau in the story (but she still plays an important part), but I have to say that this volume is one of the best yet, since it's totally hilarious and touching at the same time. It's amazing to me how Bryan lee O'Malley can stretch this cartoonish (yet totally artistic) style to produce something like a wordless love scene that's just as romantic and awesome as anything you could see in a movie. By the way, the metallic glowing cover on this volume is totally cool, too. Hurry up, Volume 6 - I don't know how long I can wait!