Another birthday, another sappy post

There's no need to be clever or sly about it. Today I'm a 43 year old guy! I've already received some wonderful gifts and wishes, but since my celebrating is continuing all weekend, I'll write about all that after it's over. Today I just want to get reflective, so bear with me!

Birthdays are a lot like New Years for me, since they always make me want to think about life. Right now when I look at what I've got, I'm incredibly thankful for my family, my friends, my job, and all the things in this world that have been put here for me to enjoy! I really don't mind getting older (except for the wear and tear on this body I'm living in), since it's taken me all of these years to realize who I am. I may not be totally content with everything I see, but when I step outside of myself I kind of understand what it takes to keep me going, what will bring me joy, and what kinds of mistakes I'm going to make, so I can try to steer myself on the best path (when I follow my own advice). In the past, I spent a lot of time worrying that I didn't have a huge, world-changing purpose in life, but I've come to believe that my reason for being here is to live peacefully and happily, with the hope that people who know me will find a way to do the same. If I can cause one friend to smile for just a moment, I think I've fulfilled my "mission". All of the things I've been doing with myself lately (getting healthy, focusing on my state of mind) will selfishly keep me around to enjoy this world a little longer, but that also gives me more time to help others enjoy life. Wow, that was a little loftier than I intended, but I guess that's what happens when you turn 43!


Hanging PEZ on Elfa

Recently I've received a few questions about my PEZ display method, so here's a little more info to make things clear. I've been really happy with this idea, so I'm happy to share!

Racks: For as long as I've collected PEZ, I've used John Thompson's excellent PEZ display racks. I don't think he currently has a website, but please contact him by email for pricing. These racks are pre-drilled with holes for hanging, and they are quite easy to hang by themselves with two little nails (I used this method when I first started collecting). If you're OK with lining up lots of little nails on your wall, then you definitely don't need to read further. However, someday you might want to move some shelves around, which is why I decided to try another way to hang them.

Elfa: My solution was to use the Elfa system, but without Elfa shelves! Since Elfa is sold piece by piece, it's easy to buy or order just what you need from the Container Store. The minimum you will need is one horizontal hanging bar and two vertical uprights (I have several sets of these now, but I have a lot of PEZ!). The final piece of the puzzle is how to hang the PEZ racks on the Elfa uprights.

S-hooks: The answer is to get a package of S-hooks from any hardware store. I don't even know what these are normally used for, but they are basically just a little piece of metal bent in the shape of an "S". One end of the "S" goes into the slot on the Elfa upright, and the other end goes into the PEZ rack. I had to bend the hooks a little bit (to stretch out the "S"), but this was easy with pliers.

The advantage of this method is I can move whole racks of PEZ up and down the uprights to anywhere I want, which is great if you are reorganizing your collection. You can also space them far apart or really close to make more room. And since the Elfa uprights have perfectly aligned slots, you know your shelves are always level and perfectly aligned with each other! I've posted a couple photos on Flickr to help visualize this method. Have fun displaying your PEZ, everyone!

View photos: PEZ on Elfa


New dance pad, old games

One of my birthday gifts from my parents this year is the latest version of RedOctane's Ignition Dance Pad, which can plug into just about any game console you want, including the Wii and PS2. It's been way over a year since I even turned on my PS2 (in fact, I was considering getting rid of it this year), and I didn't even have a dance pad that would work with it, since all of my old ones had worn out and went in the garbage can. But now I have a single awesome dance pad that I can use with both machines, and I'm really surprised at how much I'm enjoying the old PS2 games! I love playing Endless Mode (I desperately wish the Wii games had this feature), and the older mixes have such great music!

Enjoying these older games made me think about my Dance Dance Revolution "career" (I've written about this before, but a brief recap won't hurt!). It all started in 2000 when I saw people playing in an arcade in Japan, soon followed by my first ever attempt at a mall arcade in Oklahoma City, which led to me buying the PS2 just so I could play at home. Soon after that I got a Japanese PSOne so I could buy import mixes (since the US releases were kind of appalling), and started trying different dance pads. I've probably owned five or six different RedOctane pads, including the latest Ignition that I'm using now. Over the years I've tried lots of DDR knock-off games, but nothing can match the feel of the real thing, so I always buy new editions of the game the moment Konami releases them!

It's kind of amazing to me that I've been playing DDR around 10 years, and although I sometimes take a break for a few weeks, I always return to it as a form of exercise and general fun. I like the nostalgic feeling I get when I play these PS2 games and hear old songs (I remember spending hours trying to pass Afronova, which I just cleared this morning with no trouble at all), and I'm looking forward to keeping up with new Wii games as well!


Keeping my mind happy

Lately I've been thinking about the importance of mental focus, and how it relates to the principle of being "in the moment" (meaning the present, not thinking about the past or future). My mind likes to wander and think about other things rather than what I'm actually doing, and there are certain activities that make this obvious. When I play Dance Dance Revolution, obviously I have to give my full attention to the step patterns, how to shift my weight, and so on, and after years of practice I can generally get through anything the game can throw at me. But if my mind wanders to thinking about what I'm going to have for breakfast (for example), I will definitely miss a step. It's amazing, since DDR becomes a kind of instant feedback - I know immediately when my mind is focused on the present moment and when it's not! This also happens with simple things like flossing. When my brain wanders off I can't remember if I have done the bottom or top teeth yet, so I have to do them again!

On the other hand, when I'm taking a walk I love to think about other things. Sometimes I try "walking meditation" (where I only focus on the walk and try to empty my mind), but usually when I walk my mind opens up and suddenly remembers all kinds of things and gets lots of great ideas (this happens in the shower, too)! In this case, the challenge is to remember these thoughts until the walk is over and I can write them down! I usually have to come up with a silly mnemonic so I don't forget. In general, I truly cherish the luxury of mental focus, which is one of the reasons I love my alone time where I can shut out all external influences if I want. Giving my mind room to breathe helps keep me sane and relaxed!


Morning Musume Yomiuri Land East Live 2009 : 3 of 5

It already seems like forever since the Platinum 9 Disco DVD was released, so I'm glad Morning Musume decided to release this minor concert to tide me over until the Nine Smile DVD comes out! This is a short but sweet event that was held last year in October to commemorate the release of the All Singles Coupling Collection, performed outdoors on a nice sunny day at Yomiuri Land amusement park. It's a unique concert, since all the girls wear cute trendy street clothes (cool baseball caps) and seem really casual and relaxed. Rather than starting off with a song like a normal show, they begin with 20 minutes of introductions and revealing the results of a survey for favorite coupling (B-side) songs. Yowamushi actually took 5th place, so Sayumi and Gaki-san (who sing that particular duet) go nuts and jump around! The concert itself is really fun, although the camera work isn't nearly as good as a typical Morning Musume DVD. It was a hot day, so the girls take a few water breaks and do some sweating! Gaki-san takes the award for "most into it", since she just tears it up with energetic singing and dancing. Sayumi looks cute as ever, plus her shirt keeps slipping off her shoulder which is a nice bonus! Along with several of the favorite coupling songs, Sexy Boy ~Soyokaze ni Yorisotte~ is included, which I loved not only because they seem to leave it out of their more recent shows, but also because that was the single that first drove me to "extreme" Morning Musume fandom. Along with the concert, there are three minutes of bonus footage showing things like rehearsal and a brief fan handshake event. Although I loved the DVD, overall I can't say it's a must buy, unless you are a devoted fan like me who always buys Morning Musume DVDs without hesitation!


Thinking ahead

This round of decluttering, reducing, and getting minimalist (one of my 2010 goals) is moving right along, and it's really rewarding and even fun to get rid of more unused items and re-organize what's left to use the free space in new ways. This weekend I made some huge changes (huge in my eyes, anyway), and had to deal with a few emotions that made me think about how I feel about "things".

Sometimes when I cut deep into something like my wardrobe, I'm left staring at a giant pile of clothes to take to Goodwill. I'm completely convinced in my decision, since I haven't worn any of those things in ages, but I can't help thinking I'm staring at a pile of wasted money. But what I need to realize is that I did get some use and value out of those clothes (for a time), and after I donate them other people will benefit from my purchases. When I think about it that way, it's easy to stand behind my clothes decisions (plus I love all the room in my closet now!).

The situation is a little more difficult when it comes to collectibles. I have a few items that I bought in the heat of the moment, which are really cool pieces, but truthfully now they are more of a burden. They aren't really the kind of knick-knacks I would take to Goodwill (plus they seem too valuable to give away), and I don't want to go the eBay route since I would really worry about safe shipping (since most of these are delicate and easily breakable, not to mention heavy!). I don't really mind being "stuck" with these items (I still like them), but this feeling definitely made me come up with a new rule for buying collectibles. Before I buy something, I'm going to start seriously thinking ahead, along the lines of "Will I really want to dedicate shelf space to this item in five years?" Or alternately, "Is this item cheap enough that I'll be OK with tossing it or giving it away when I lose interest?" I think this is a valuable lesson, and I'm happy this decluttering process taught it to me.


Essential Godzilla / Marvel Essentials : 4 of 5

One of the strangest incarnations of Godzilla was the 1977 Marvel Comics series that transplanted my favorite Japanese kaiju into the Marvel Universe of characters. I remember buying several issues of this comic back in my childhood, so it's nice to have all 24 issues collected here in one book (although it's a shame not seeing them in color, but that's how the Essentials series stays so cheap). This saga is certainly unique and bizarre because of the American landmarks and superhero guest stars. Godzilla gets to stomp up famous places like the Alaskan Pipeline, Las Vegas (including the Hoover Dam), the Grand Canyon, and even comes close to knocking over the Empire State Building, and must face the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the Champions, and of course S.H.I.E.L.D., who pursues him throughout the story. Of course, there are a few Japanese scientists along for consultation, and they build a giant samurai mecha called Red Ronin, who knows that Godzilla isn't evil at heart, and helps him defeat another set of giant monsters from space. Obviously, this series is filled with every science fiction and superhero cliche you can imagine, right down to the hilariously melodramatic narration (and there's a lot of it when the main character can only roar!). But the plot sometimes crosses the line into ridiculous territory, especially when Godzilla is shrunk to lizard-size and has to fight an ordinary sewer rat, then later grows to man-size and is disguised in a coat and hat! The artwork is pretty cool, and I like the way Godzilla is drawn, as well as the 70s Jack Kirby-ish look that all of the human characters have. I had so much fun reading a new issue every morning, and now I'm going to miss enjoying these crazy adventures of the King of the Monsters!


Five guys hit Los Angeles

For the past few days I've been in Los Angeles vacationing with my pals Jonathan, Matt, Dae and Ernesto! It's pretty rare for all of us to be together, but it worked out this time since I was taking Jonathan on his first Disneyland visit, and Matt received his plane ticket to come along as a Christmas gift! Even though there was some pretty awful rain during the trip, we still had plenty of nice weather, too, and nothing could stop us from having a fantastic time.

We started off by browsing the Farmers Market and having a nice breakfast, then headed to Will Rogers State Historic Park to tour the ranch house and hike up to Inspiration Point (great view of the city). After stopping on PCH for a nice sunset, the drunken debauchery began with beer, martinis at Musso & Franks (where we had a great time talking with Manny the legendary bartender), whiskey, and eventually ended up with flaming margaritas and Mexican food. The next morning we were in hangover recovery mode, but we had enough energy for a cool tour of the Egyptian, a classic movie palace that Grauman built before the famous Chinese Theater. After the tour it started raining a little, so I talked the guys into seeing Dumbo at the El Capitan (we loved the organist and of course I cried during Baby Mine). That night we gorged on incredible sushi in Little Tokyo, and we got to drive through the iconic 2nd Street Tunnel used in Blade Runner!

The next day we had lunch in Pasadena at the Pie'n Burger (Ernesto's all-time favorite) and tried to see some horse racing at Santa Anita, but it was rained out. Luckily, Ernesto's sister Eileen who works at the Los Angeles Cathedral offered to give us a tour, which was a perfect thing to do on a rainy day! The cathedral was amazing (she even took us inside the organ works), and when we finished the sun was out again. Finally, we had a quick dinner and then rented a rehearsal studio for three hours of jazz jamming, using Ernesto's beautiful horn arrangements that he had written for the occasion.

The last day was reserved for Disneyland, and I had lots of fun spouting trivia to enhance Jonathan's first visit. The weather was great for the morning and evening, but in the middle of the day there was a downpour that flooded Frontierland and even overflowed the Jungle Cruise. We got to ride the Matterhorn twice in a row in the rain, which is a surreal experience, and for the rest of the day, the lines were totally non-existent. I had never seen absolutely zero wait for Space Mountain before! We had an amazing Disney day ending with Filet Mignon at Blue Bayou and then drinks by the Grand Californian fireplace.

It took forever to decide which of my 400 photos to share, but I think I picked a good selection in three Flickr sets. In addition, Matt has started to post lots of great shots as well (including the timer shot on this post), so enjoy!

View photos: Los Angeles 2010
View photos: Los Angeles Cathedral
View photos: Disneyland 2010
View photos: Matt's Los Angeles


Essential Momusu sites

Being a serious Morning Musume fan demands a daily intake of Hello! Project news and media, but thankfully there are some incredible sites out there that make it so easy! Any fan will already know all about these sites, but I figured I would mention them out of sincere appreciation, and maybe some newbie fan will discover a new source of addiction!

Hello!Online is the mothership of Hello! Project sites, mostly because of their incredible torrent tracker, where the huge fan base makes available just about every Morning Musume TV appearance that hits the air. I also enjoy their news updates and the forums, and especially the Picboard, where you can quickly find thousands of images of your favorite member (I have to admit I check the Sayumi Picboard just about daily!).

Hello!SayuNii is an incredibly well-designed site that has quickly become my favorite source of Hello! Project news. It seems they always have the latest info the very instant it becomes available, including everything from new CD/DVD releases to Oricon charts.

Sayumin.org is the ultimate source for Hello! Project radio shows, and I use this site constantly to listen to Sayumi's Konya mo Usachan Peace and Reina's Five Stars every week! I love trying to understand the Japanese, hearing their cute voices, and seeing what songs they choose to play. This amazing service fetches all of the radio programs so you can listen to them via simple links, and it was built by a generous fan in Oslo, Norway!

Finally, although I don't use it daily, ProjectHello.com is an invaluable source of Japanese lyrics and English translations. They have everything back to the beginning of Hello! Project time, and although it takes a while for new releases to hit the site, I'm sure I've accessed their Morning Musume lyrics at least a thousand times!


More stuff out the door

I don't have much else to write about, so I guess I'll blab about decluttering progress a little more! I finished purging my book collection (which involved three trips to Goodwill), and picked up some metal bookends to keep things from falling over (since the shelves now have empty space that wasn't there before!). I really like the way it looks, and now I have shelves free to hold my Jpop DVDs and CDs, which I've decided I no longer want downstairs (since a bunch of media almost always looks cluttered no matter how you organize it).

Speaking of CDs, this is the year that I'm totally finished with them! For some reason I couldn't stop buying physical CDs, immediately ripping them and storing them, never to be seen again - that's definitely going to stop. I have a million caseless CDs now that I have to get rid of, which are next to impossible to sell since no one will resell a CD without the inserts, so I'm testing out Glyde, which is a pretty cool site that allows CD-only (no inserts) sales. It seems great, but I have a feeling no one is going to buy anything. I'm going to give it a month - if nothing sells, I'll look for another route to get rid of these coasters. (I could use SwapaCD, which works with PaperBack Swap, but I totally do not need a bunch of credits for more stuff, not even DVDs or books!)

I decluttered my Twitter a bit by unfollowing blog-only tweets (since I usually have already seen those blog posts in Google Reader), and I tightened up my toy shelves a little to get all my Planet of the Apes stuff in the same place. Today I'm dropping off a few bags of clothes as I strive for a minimal wardrobe!


Animaniacs Vol 3 : 4 of 5

For the past few years I've enjoyed these great DVD sets with Wakko, Yakko and Dot, and I've just finished all five DVDs of this volume of Animaniacs! I've been a fan of these "modern Looney Tunes" for quite a while, but it seems like I appreciate them more each time I see them. This set includes the last few of the original 65 episodes, followed by four really lame episodes (almost all filler), but then returning to hilarious material, some of which I don't remember watching before! There are some brilliant stand-out segments, such as the caricature of William Shatner singing karaoke, the "newly discovered" black & white Warner Bros cartoon from 1929, a fantastic Power Rangers spoof, Pinky and the Brain doing their own dialogue recording in the studio, and one delicious Minerva Mink spot (hubba hubba). One of the best episodes is the 65th Anniversary Special, which presents a funny fake animation history, complete with interviews with animators, classic Warner Bros characters, and lots of Termite Terrace in-jokes. Of course, the whole set can't be perfect, so there are a few parts that were real snoozers for me. I don't think Katie Ka-Boom is funny at all, and there are a few too many Goodfeathers segments for my taste (I would rather see more Slappy Squirrel instead). As usual, the music is downright incredible, from the scores that would make Carl Stalling proud to the wonderful original songs that seem like they would be impossible to sing (I love the earthquake song!). Only one disc in the set has bonus features, which are a couple of documentaries about music composition and character development. Both of these are pretty interesting, though the quality (especially their low recording volume) could use some work. Time sure flies when you're watching Animaniacs, and I can't believe that all five DVDs of this set went by so quickly! I desperately want to see the final episodes of the show, so I really hope Warner Bros makes the fans happy and releases Volume 4!


Once : 3 of 5

I had never heard of this independent film, but one of my co-workers recently loaned me the DVD, probably because she knows I like musicals. I wouldn't really call Once a musical in the technical sense (it is filled with songs, but the characters don't sing them as dialogue), but the music is still original and wonderful. The plot is really simple, about a singer/songwriter living in Ireland and missing his girlfriend in London, who becomes friends with a Czech girl who plays piano, and also happens to be apart from her husband. Honestly, the movie begins rather dull, and I was really annoyed at the handheld camera work that was probably meant to look like a documentary, but instead comes across as cheap. But it didn't take long for me to really appreciate the characters and see how their friendship and feelings help each other past difficult situations in life. It's plain to see they love each other, but rather than let that love tear apart their lives, they use it to inspire courage in each other to do the right thing, which is beautiful. Because the story involves songwriting and recording studio sessions, there's a lot of music to listen to, with poetic lyrics (that often add insight into the characters) sung in harmony with excellent guitar/piano arrangements. Although I can't say I would want to watch Once more than once, I still really enjoyed seeing a brilliant film about how life is wonderful in all situations, and it was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon with a happy tear in my eye.


Manga Mentions 1.10

Appleseed Vol 4: I really enjoyed this last volume (although there are some other bonus material books available) of Shirow Masamune's Appleseed, even though the plot is pretty complex and full of political espionage. There's some good insight into Deunan's character (and she loses an eye!) and some fantastic hand-to-hand fight choreography, but I'm most impressed with the incredible artwork and detailed scenes of large, futuristic urban areas!

Black Jack Vol 3: This is such a great manga for morning reading, since the stories are the perfect length! I realized that the timeline is a little out of order at times, since Pinoko's age doesn't seem right, but I'm not sure if that's how they were published or just collected in this volume (I don't care either way!). My favorite chapter this time is when Black Jack operates on himself in the middle of Australia while dingoes are chomping at his portable sterile surgical bubble!

Nana Vol 5: There's a reason why Nana is such a popular manga, and that's because it's so easy to get wrapped up in the characters and their emotional lives! Nana and Ren get back together and Hachiko (the cute Nana) hooks up with Takumi, though she has feelings for Yasu and Nobu at the same time. It doesn't matter that I already know the plot, because when I finish one volume I can't wait to start the next one!

Nana Vol 6: The emotional drama gets even deeper in this volume, since Nobu confesses his love to Hachiko, who is still hopelessly addicted to Takumi. The point of view narration is so wonderful in this manga, and I loved Hachiko's explanation about her relationship with Takumi and how they understand (and intensify) each other's weakness. Since Nana is staying with Ren now, this is a sad time for poor Hachiko.

Mahoromatic Vol 1: Although I didn't really want to start a new series, I couldn't resist getting this one for free from PaperBack Swap, especially since I really fell in love with the anime on DVD years ago. It was lots of fun reliving all the hilarious scenes, since it seems the anime was taken almost word-for-word from the manga. Mahoro is so cute, so I'm afraid I'm getting sucked in to reading the whole series!


Looking at LEGO

A few days ago I decided to use a cool website called Brickset to keep track of my growing LEGO collection, and I was kind of surprised that I already have 21 sets! I can still remember buying the Star Wars X-Wing on a whim, which was the beginning of my adult LEGO renaissance, and being amazed at the incredible design (especially the gears and rubber bands that allow the wings to change position). Of course, some of these sets are gifts from my pals and family, but I’ve done a nice job of collecting sets all by myself! Right now all of them are still assembled and on display in my Toy Museum, but eventually I’m going to have to take some apart and either store them or give them away. The first to go will be the Ferrari F430, which I only got since I wanted to build a car for the first time, and the Star Destroyer, which is the most flimsy set I own, regardless of its coolness. I’m always keeping my eye open for new sets (especially Star Wars vehicles), but I think this year I would love to get into LEGO Mindstorms. It’s an expensive investment, but the idea is that I would continually re-use the set to build new robotic projects, since there are so many plans on the web and in books ready to take on (I don’t really have the urge to create anything myself, but I love following directions). Hopefully I won’t go too LEGO crazy this year and eat up all of my museum shelf space!


Reducing begins

I've started my 2010 reducing/decluttering and it's a really good feeling! The first thing I committed to is trying to reduce "surface items" by one each day. For example, I use my toaster about once a month tops, so there's no need for it to be on my countertop all year long. Now it's tucked away in a cabinet, ready when I need it, and there's more open space on my counter (and open space makes me happy!). I'm also moving some collectibles into my Toy Museum (which is the one room that's an exception to all my minimalist goals), so my living area is transforming a little more each day.

I'm also going through my garage containers to lighten them as much as possible. I started with my college/writing box, which is full of journals that I want to keep, but each journal had tons of empty pages (I used to switch notebooks a lot). There was no need to store all that blank paper, so I tore and cut it all out (keeping the rest of the journal intact). I also organized all loose papers in that box and put them in labeled manila envelopes.

Last night I started on a deep reduction of my bookshelves, because even though I chopped them down quite a bit last time, they were still packed with stuff I will never look at again. I've made a huge pile of books to give away, and rather than taking them to Half Price Books and waiting an hour to make $2.00 (seriously!), I'm just going to donate them to Goodwill. Since there are so many, I'm going to fill a container and make daily drop-offs until they are gone. Now I get to organize my bookshelves into genres even better than before, and I have tons of room for the inevitable new purchases!


Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party 3 / Nintendo Wii : 4 of 5

It's amazing how long I've been playing Dance Dance Revolution, first in the arcade, then on my Japanese PSOne and US PlayStation 2, and finally on my Nintendo Wii with the Hottest Party series. I wasn't very impressed with the first release, but Konami really improved the game with Hottest Party 2 (which I really enjoyed, although I completely forgot to write a review). Now I've been playing Hottest Party 3 daily since Santa brought the game for Christmas, and it's definitely my favorite Wii DDR yet! Konami kept the things I liked about Hottest Party 2, hid some of the things I didn't like (I could care less about using the Wiimote for hand motions), and generally made it easier and more fun to play classic DDR. The song selection is really good this time, with a nice set of 80s dance hits (including everything from Duran Duran to Depeche Mode) and lots of anime-style pop, plus some very cool long medleys from Hottest Party 1 and 2 (which you have to unlock). Speaking of unlocking things, Tournament Mode is the way it's done in this release, and thankfully it's a fun mode that didn't force me to play in ways I don't like (I only had to use gimmicks for one song). While most gamers are never impressed with DDR graphics, I think Hottest Party 3 has made some fantastic improvements with a new user interface that shows CD album art, plus some wonderful cut scenes of the cute dancers that show when you hit certain combos (or end your combo, which shows your character hang their head in shame). While the songs are playing, the animated dance moves are really geared toward the song (rather than just random dancing), so the characters play air guitar at appropriate times and camera angles switch on emphasized beats, for example. Jun is my favorite character (with many kimono colors to choose from), but since so many of the songs include the actual music video, I wish I could see her dance more often. There are lots of other modes I haven't tried, including a weird balance board hip-wiggling game, but I'm content with the dance pad (unfortunately, Konami makes you buy yet another dance pad with the game, though they will probably release a game-only version months later). I'm so glad DDR is still popular enough for Konami to create new releases, and I hope someday I'll be playing Hottest Party 10!


Godzilla review index

I've had Godzilla on the brain lately, since I'm reading the old Marvel Comics Godzilla series from the 1970s, I bought six new Godzilla toys at the anime convention this weekend, and I re-watched Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster with my pal Matt last night. It was great to see it again, but I realized that the awesome animated fire effect when Ghidorah hatches from the egg swayed my whole opinion of the movie! Then I thought I should read my own review, and that made me realize that it would nice to have a complete chronological list of my Godzilla reviews on WEBmikey. Of course, you can find them with tags and searches, but I want to see them together by release date, so for my own satisfaction (and possible usefulness to other Godzilla fans), here's my review index.


Ikkicon goings-on

This weekend I started off the new year with a bang by going to Ikkicon, an anime convention right here in Austin! Matt & Kumiko went with me, and we met Kimberly (fellow manga/anime maniac) & Mark to enjoy the craziness together. The convention was a first for Matt & Kumiko, and I had a great time watching their reactions, plus it was fun to see Matt so excited about taking photos of all the costumes. (Check out his totally professional shots, much better than mine!) Speaking of cosplay, I was amazed at the ratio of costumed to non-costumed fans - it almost made plain-clothes fans like us seem out of place. There were fantastic costumes from so many genres (anime, manga, video games, and other animated films like 9, which were my favorite costumes of all), and since Kimberly is much more of an expert than I am, it was great having her around to tell us who all the characters were. I ended up buying a total of six Godzilla figures in the dealers room (I even haggled a tiny bit for a better price!), we checked out the lame Maid Cafe (pretty disappointing), watched the Ikki Idol competition (which would have been great with a little organization), and enjoyed the big cosplay competition, which was thankfully structured as a quick-moving fashion show. Though Ikkicon was nothing like A-Kon or Anime Expo, it was still tons of fun, especially since it's great seeing geeks like me of all ages reveling in their common obsessions and enjoying being all together!

View photos: Ikkicon 2010


Looking forward to 2010

Happy New Year, everyone! Nearly every holiday season has the same pattern for me: get excited about Christmas, have a spectacular Christmas, feel sad that Christmas is over, become contemplative about the past year and the year to come, and finally turn my mood around by settling on some goals for the new year. Some people might dread and avoid making resolutions (I used to be that way, too), but it really gets me excited about life. Here's what I'm going to focus on in 2010!

Reduce: I want to continue to change my attitude about possessions and keep striving to live a simple, frugal and minimalist life. I've made huge progress in this area over the past few years, but I can keep going in lots of different ways. I want to keep reducing clothes, books, media, and even collectibles (in some cases) until I'm left with essential and useful things that bring me happiness. I really believe that "outer order contributes to inner calm", and I'm going to live that way. Don't worry, I'm more interested in the look of a minimalist home than the famous photo of Steve Jobs in his empty house, although that image is inspiring!

Learn: For the past year I've been taking a break from "formal" Japanese study with a tutor, but I've been really diligent about spending an hour a day using some excellent websites to keep studying on my own. In 2010 the Japanese Language Proficiency Test is being restructured to include a new level (N3) that is a perfect progression from my previous tests, so I'm going to spend the year preparing for the JLPT and pass it in December!

Create: I've decided to keep a personal "one sentence journal" this year, just to record things for myself that I wouldn't write on WEBmikey. I also want to give my creative projects from 2009 another shot, so I'll use my video editing skills and even get a simple (free) app out for the iPhone.

Improve: I couldn't think of a one word verb to say "be healthy", so this means I want to continue improving my health by eating right and enjoying life, and maybe lose a little more weight.

Upgrade: This is just one of those "reminder" categories to make sure I finally buy a Blu-ray player this year, as well as migrate from my Apple TV to a Mac Mini as my "Jpop media center".