8.26.2011

Disney Die-Cast Attractions Collection

Several years ago (around 2005), Disney made a series of toys called the Die-Cast Attractions Collection, only available at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. They were really cool die-cast metal versions of the various attraction vehicles, usually with some fun characters siting inside and enjoying the ride! Since I absolutely love the classic DIsney attractions, I started buying these as a way to commemorate my many visits to the Disney parks, but soon I become obsessed with finding the complete set, so I started hunting on eBay and other places online. Besides attraction vehicles, I soon discovered they also made parade floats (mostly cars from the old Stars and Motor Cars Parade at Disney's Hollywood Studios), and they even made a few deluxe vehicles with more detail (such as the Main Street Fire Engine and the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad engine) with nice plastic display cases included. Back when I was buying these, I reached a point where I thought I had them all, and after doing a little research I think that's true (minus a few specialty items), thanks to a website I found with an overview of the whole collection (scroll about halfway down). Lately I have been taking snapshots of these with Instagram (also available in a Flickr set), and it's been so much fun to think about riding the Matterhorn Bobsleds, the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, and of course all of the Fantasyland dark rides! These toys seem to be fairly rare now, and I've seen some being sold for ten times what I originally paid. I'm proud to have this series in my Toy Museum!

8.12.2011

Sideshow Planet of the Apes figures

After collecting all of the Medicom Planet of the Apes Ultra Detail Figures, I didn't think there were any Apes toys left for me to pursue, but recently I stumbled upon some great prices for the Sideshow 12-inch Planet of the Apes figures! I kind of have a knack for discovering toys soon after they are out of production, so I can find decent prices before the collector's market has really heated up, and this definitely seems to be the case with these figures. First I ordered a Zira figure at a price I couldn't pass up, and I was amazed at the detail of the sculpt, which not only captures the spirit of the character, but even looks like Kim Hunter in makeup! Next I found a good price for Dr. Zaius and Taylor in his ANSA astronaut uniform, and eventually found a Cornelius (which seems to be in demand) at a price I was willing to pay. All of these figures have incredible articulation, beautiful cloth costumes, tons of cool accessories (Cornelius even comes with the doll that says "Mama" from his archeological dig in the Forbidden Zone), and even wonderful stands with the movie logo! I recently snagged the Mutant Leader from Beneath the Planet of the Apes (complete with removable face so you can see his deformity), and I'm thinking about getting Brent soon. I would love to add General Ursus to my collection, but since not as many of this figure (along with a few other characters) were produced, he's pretty expensive. I'm keeping my eyes open, though! All of these tall figures look spectacular in my Toy Museum, and as always it's fun to express my fandom by collecting cool toys from one of my favorite movie series!

8.11.2011

All aboard the LEGO train

LEGO City Set #7938 Passenger TrainMy LEGO addiction is still going strong, and lately I've been obsessed with LEGO trains! I had been thinking about getting a set for quite some time, but when I saw them in action at Brick Fiesta (a local LEGO convention that was fantastic) I was hooked. By some great timing, my parents hit a slot machine jackpot and decided to share the wealth with lucky me, so it was easy to buy the semi-expensive Passenger Train set (7938). This is a wonderful starter set, since it comes with all the electronics you need to get a train moving: a motor, a battery box to power it, an IR receiver, and a remote control, which wirelessly controls the train. I really enjoyed building the engine and other cars, hooking up the track (plus the small passenger platform), and watching my new train in action! I was so excited that I made a short video of it. A few days later I was at the LEGO Store and spotted the Train Station set (7937), so I added that to my track and enjoyed watching the train go under the pedestrian walkway. Now I wanted to get more track, but I soon realized that LEGO has replaced their old curved track with "flexible track", which most enthusiasts agree is inferior to the original. So, I started hunting around on eBay for standard track and eventually ordered some (the market for LEGO train track seems huge), plus some Switching Tracks (7895) and a Level Crossing (7936)! I even bought some nice thick foam mats so I wouldn't have to build my layout directly on the carpet in my Toy Museum, and I studied a bunch of track layout designs until I found one I really liked, which happened to be the Double Loop! I can't really explain it, but it's so much fun to run my train with the remote control, making it go around the outer loop, switch into the inner loop, then reverse it back onto the outer loop again. Now I want to add a few small buildings around my track, and I really want to get a second engine so I can watch two trains running at once and try to make them exchange loops!

6.11.2011

Oha Suta

Although I've watched it off and on for quite a while, recently I've been totally addicted to Oha Suta, a Japanese kids show that airs live everyday in Tokyo (the name is kind of an abbreviation of "Good Morning Studio"). The show is hosted by Koichi Yamadera (Yama-chan), who is a famous voice actor in anime and American movies dubbed into Japanese, and he rides around on a Segway in the most colorful, crazy set you've ever seen, containing everything from moving toy trains and Pokemon to candy walls right out of Hansel and Gretel. Each day he is joined by a different cute girl or two who announce different segments with even more silly characters. Sometimes it's a guy showing off new yo-yo tricks, or a sketch artist who draws funny scenes, or the Nazo Nazo guy (my favorite), who presents Japanese word puzzles and sings a funny victory song when they are solved. Sometimes there are video segments of different grade schools and their activities (like sports groups or choirs), and of course everyday they give the Ogenki Tenki weather report (with moving anime characters all over the map!). Some of the regular girls have Jpop connections (which is how I discovered the show), such as Koharu Kusumi (former Morning Musume, and much more suited to Oha Suta in my opinion) and Saki Ogawa (current member of S/mileage), who does baton twirling tricks and an insect segment where she has to touch a big beetle or something (and usually ends up crying!). Almost every episode is filled with promotions for new toys and manga, and I really enjoy seeing demonstrations of the new popular things that Japanese kiddies are into now. Each Oha Suta episode is only 15-20 minutes (with commercials removed), and it's always hilarious and often teaches me some Japanese, so I love watching it before I go to work!

5.17.2011

Magic happens

I just got back from five incredible days at Walt Disney World with my Disney pal Melinda, and once again, we had an absolutely wonderful time! As usual, we were amazingly lucky with our timing, and so many things just "worked out" better than expected. My mom says I have a "Disney star" watching over me to reward my sincere fandom, and even though I do a lot of planning before I go, I'm beginning to think it's true! We literally experienced every attraction we planned to see, plus a few more as a bonus! There were far too many amazing things to mention here all at once, but here's a few of the highlights.

Magic Kingdom: The new themed area on Main Street to meet Mickey is great, and when I saw Mickey and Minnie were there together, I was totally holding back the tears! The new graveyard themed queue of the Haunted Mansion is frightfully fun (not to mention the new interactive hitchhiking ghosts), and even though we had a bit of rain in the middle of the day, it cleared up before the Main Street Electrical Parade (with revamped and new floats) at night. The most magical event of all was lunch at Cinderella's Royal Table (inside the castle), which is one of the most difficult restaurants to book. I lucked into a reservation since the windows were supposed to be covered for refurbishing, but when we walked in, they were totally open to bright sunlit views of Fantasyland. Not only that, but we even got a window table!

Epcot: The Flower and Garden Festival really added a whole new dimension to the park with so many beautiful topiaries and displays to discover! We also got to experience the Sum of all Thrills, a new "industrial arm" attraction that lets you design your own thrill ride and experience it - difficult to describe, but awesome!

Animal Kingdom: Besides riding everything and seeing the big shows, we got to encounter DeVine (an exotic plant performer who blends into the jungle) up close, and follow the parade through most of the park!

Hollywood Studios: This is the big one! Thanks to constant updates from StarToursLive, we were able to ride the brand new re-imagined Star Tours attraction during a special preview, before the official opening on May 20th! It was just too good to be true, since we got to ride it three times and experience several of the random planets and events (there are 54 combinations you can experience). Plus, we somehow hit the Fantasmic jackpot again and got to view the show from the third row! It was so cool seeing the character floats go by on the water directly in front of us!

View photos: Walt Disney World 2011
Watch video: Walt Disney World Highlights

5.06.2011

Pizza Planet Truck

LEGO Toy Story 3 Pizza Planet Delivery SetSince I'm getting excited about going to Walt Disney World next week, I've been gravitating towards Disney choices in music, DVDs, and even LEGO sets! I only recently discovered they make a set of the famous Pizza Planet truck, which was part of the original Toy Story and has since made a cameo appearance in every other Pixar movie except for The Incredibles. Being a huge Pixar fan, I had to get this set, which I needed to order online since for some reason it's not even available at my local LEGO Store. Even though it's only 224 pieces, the Pizza Planet truck is a beauty! There are quite a few unique custom pieces (like windows and curved body parts) that made this a really fun build, and I love the custom printed graphics (no decals) for the Pizza Planet logo on the working doors. There's even a "YO" brick (the middle of the Toyota logo) for the back of the truck! Of course this set includes great rubber tires, and they even added a "pizza launcher" feature that shoots little round pizzas from the front of the truck! The minifigs are really custom as well (I'm sure Disney required LEGO to create accurate representations of their characters), including Buzz Lightyear (who even has little wings), Hamm (with removable cork), one of the Claw aliens, and even Rex the dinosaur! You can actually get all four figures into the truck, although the process is so crazy (mainly because of Rex's tail) that they actually had to explain how to do it in the instruction book. I had a lot of fun celebrating my Disney happiness by building this cool set. I only have a few automobiles in my LEGO collection, so it's nice to see this Pixar classic on my toy shelf!

5.01.2011

Technic Rescue Helicopter

LEGO Technic Rescue Helicopter 8068Last weekend I was checking out Toys R Us (as I often do) and decided to take advantage of a LEGO sale, so I got a couple new sets. One of them was the fairly new Technic Rescue Helicopter, which was a really fun and interesting build. Technic parts are very different from traditional LEGO bricks (although they work together nicely), since they are mainly girders and tubes with small connector pieces to lock them together. Several of my other sets have contained a few Technic parts, but the Rescue Helicopter is my first complete set of the Technic line. Technic sets are also considered a little advanced, since they usually have working gears and other moving parts, so even though this set was only 408 pieces, it took me much longer than expected to finish, which is great! The helicopter has working landing gear (with real rubber tires of course), and a really cool gear system that spins the main and tail rotors just by turning a knob on the side. The color scheme is really cool, and the decals look fantastic (although I prefer it when LEGO actually prints on the parts so you don't have to apply stickers). The instructions include complete steps to build two quite different styles of helicopters, so maybe someday I'll take it apart and try the other one!

4.30.2011

Hikaru no Go

Hikaru No Go, Vol. 1: The Go Masters DescentI don't even remember where I first heard about Hikaru no Go, but I started reading the manga back in 2005 since the artwork is so crisp and fantastic (by the same artist who drew the incredibly popular Death Note). The story really surprised me, since you would never think a plot that involves endless scenes of people playing an ancient board game would be exciting, yet somehow the story is compelling! Hikaru Shindo is a young middle school kid who is shadowed by the ghost of a Go master from Japan's Heian period, Fujiwara no Sai. Kind of like a genie in a bottle, Sai has been trapped for 1,000 years waiting for the chance to play Go again, which he does through Hikaru (who is the only person who can see or hear Sai). Of course, when a young kid is suddenly the best Go player around, he attracts all kinds of attention from Go enthusiasts, including the child prodigy Akira Toya, who becomes his rival. The story progresses from school club tournaments to international professional matches, and there's lots of intrigue and plenty of fun characters. It's impossible not to learn quite a bit about the game of Go on the way, since every single game is shown with detailed board illustrations that are fully examined and approved by actual Go experts! Unfortunately, I think the manga series went a bit too long (which happens all too often), but the 23rd and final volume is finally being released in English soon, and I can't wait to read it! At the same time, I've started watching the anime version of the story (which is 75 episodes long) and I really like it. I was amazed to see it available on Netflix streaming in Japanese with subtitles (definitely a rarity), and I love enjoying the roots of the plot again that first pulled me in so many years ago. It's definitely over-dramatic seeing these kids scream and cry over their matches, but I love the intensity of the show, as well as the detailed look into this aspect of Japanese culture!

4.15.2011

Geek timing

Tron: The Original Classic (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)I was just enjoying the original TRON on Blu-ray (which looks fantastic!) and thinking to myself how lucky I am to have been born at "just the right time" to experience all the things that I love geeking out about. I was born in 1967, so my childhood years were filled with fantastic experiences such as Saturday morning cartoons (a phenomenon which sadly doesn't exist now), comic books, and trips to Disneyland (which began my Disney fan career). I was the perfect age to enjoy all of the incredible 1970s science fiction on TV and in movies (everything from Planet of the Apes to Space: 1999 to the Six Million Dollar Man and even the original Star Trek in reruns), and I was able to relive these adventures everyday thanks to all of the wonderful toys of that era (mostly Mego action figures). I was ten years old when Star Wars hit the theater, which was just perfect timing to fill me with excitement and wonder that still makes me happy today. I think the most amazing thing about being a 1970s childhood geek is that there are so many of us in the world, all trying to recapture those precious days. There are countless toys being made now just for this market, so I can once again buy reproduction action figures and toys that I once played with and feel that great emotion all over again! Even all the recent movies seem to be made just for me: tons of superhero films, remakes of classic sci-fi and fantasy, and so many sequels/prequels (like TRON: Legacy and the upcoming Rise of the Planet of the Apes). I absolutely love being who I am and being the target market for all of this coolness. I wouldn't trade my childhood for anything, and thanks to the efforts of grown-up 1970s kids who know what I want to buy and experience and enjoy, I certainly don't have to!

4.13.2011

Pixar art books

The Art of Toy Story 3Almost every recent animated feature has a corresponding "art book", which is usually a large hard-cover volume filled with mostly pre-production artwork from the making of the film. I have quite a few Disney art books in my library, but recently I have been collecting art books for all of Pixar's animated masterpieces. I got three of them for Christmas, and have bought a few more since then, and it's so inspiring and relaxing to sit back and stare at the amazing work that goes into creating these movies. Pixar art books are especially interesting since the films are digitally animated, but most of the designs are born in hand-drawn sketches and full-blown paintings. I just finished The Art of Toy Story 3, which contained much more text than average, and I really enjoyed reading it and studying the artwork! It's fascinating to see various characters and concepts that didn't make it into the final film, and I love studying details that are only on screen for a short time (like all of the cool posters and stickers in Andy's room). For a long time now I've been astounded at the concept of the "color script", which is like a color storyboard used to plot out the emotional journey of a film via palette choices and lighting, and this book definitely kept me interested in the subject! In fact, the work of Dice Tsutsumi (who was in charge of the color script) is just incredible, capturing the essence of every scene in beautiful rough paintings, and I'm just blown away at his talent (of course, that admiration goes the same for everyone at Pixar). I have a couple more Pixar art books on my shelf that I haven't read yet, and I can't wait to dig into them!

4.06.2011

Las Vegas 2011

Another year, another fun family trip to Las Vegas! Once again we stayed at the Venetian (our home away from home), which is so familiar by now that we can navigate our way around easily, and even remembered a short cut to the casino. Speaking of the casino, it was also really obvious that the Venetian has the best mix of modern slot machines that we like to play, so we spent a lot of time right there in our "home base" casino. We really enjoyed some new social gaming experiences also, especially playing American Idol slots with some nice Canadian ladies that became Mom's new friends. I thought the coolest looking machine was the latest in the series of Star Wars slots called Droid Hunt. I tweeted about it during the trip, and the artist who did the graphics for the game actually responded! Of course we saw our minimum of three shows. The first one was The Price is Right Live, which was simple and inexpensive, but it was really fun to see the classic sets and games in real life! Next was Cirque du Soleil's Viva Elvis, which was full of fantastic energy and great music, including some awesome remixes and arrangements. It's hard not to compare it to The Beatles: Love (since they both tell a performer's story), so I have to say I liked Love a little more since it was "high concept", while Viva Elvis was much more about singing and dancing, but spectacular nonetheless! Finally we saw Disney's The Lion King, which was just as amazing as the Broadway version, and our second row seats gave us a perfect view of the powerful emotion in the songs (which made me tear up a couple times). Our entire vacation was a blast, and I only lost 25% of the money I was prepared to lose!

View photos: Las Vegas 2011

3.27.2011

Chobits manga

Chobits, Volume 1 (v. 1)Back in 2004 when I was really starting to go anime crazy, I fell in love with a series called Chobits. I was intrigued with the idea of a world where personal computers were built in the form of people, I laughed at the slightly pervy situations, and I swooned over the heartwarming dialogue of Chi, an adorable computer who falls in love with Hideki. I rented all of the DVDs so I could watch every episode in Japanese, bought a couple soundtrack CDs (that I still listen to), and even picked up a Chi figure at an anime convention. Years later I even bought a DVD box set of the series and enjoyed watching the whole thing again! Recently I was digging through PaperBack Swap (since I have so many credits burning a whole in my pocket), and I realized that I could get all eight volumes of the original manga in a snap for free! It's always interesting to compare manga and anime and discover the differences, which were surprisingly few in the case of Chobits. There were a few short manga scenes that had been extended into complete anime episodes, and the ending was a little different, but in general the plot was the same. Actually, the manga made some of the confusing aspects of the story much clearer to me! Of course, I still found myself crying while I read the last volume and Chi and Hideki finally confess their love. The artwork (by the CLAMP group) is beautiful and frilly to the N-th degree, and now I really want to watch the anime again!

3.26.2011

Godzilla-mania

A Critical History and Filmography of Toho's Godzilla Series, 2d ed.My Godzilla fandom has been at an all-time high lately, since I just completed my DVD collection of all 28 Godzilla movies in the original Japanese! I always loved watching giant monster (kaiju) movies on TV as a kid, but my adult interest really began a few years ago with the incredible DVD releases by Classic Media. Those "scholarly" DVDs really opened my eyes to the art of the kaiju film, as well as exposing me to how much better these movies are in Japanese. After buying all the Classic Media releases, I rented every other film (with the exception of a couple movies that were never released on DVD in the US, which I bought after searching the web for various sources). After watching all 28 movies (and completing my Godzilla review index), I thought my interest would fade, but then I received A Critical History and Filmography of Toho's Godzilla Series for Christmas. This fantastic book has a detailed chapter on almost every movie, and as I read the synopsis of each plot, I immediately wanted to watch them again! Since my favorite Godzilla movies are the Showa era films (1954-1975), I decided I would buy these on DVD, which didn't take long since I had several already. But then I couldn't stop, so I moved on to the Heisei era (1984-1995). I decided I didn't want to get any American DVDs that didn't include the Japanese audio, so I stumbled upon a great site called SumoGorilla that has these rare Japanese language versions available. Finally, I finished buying the few films of the Millennium era (1999-2004), so I was able to complete my dream Godzilla DVD collection!

You would think that would be enough, but I simultaneously started getting hooked on kaiju toys, thanks to the incredibly detailed Revoltech figures made by Kaiyodo in Japan! These are some of the most detailed and accurate toys I've ever seen, so I had to buy Godzilla's friends and enemies like Mothra, Anguirus, Rodan, Gigan, and even an awesome maser cannon (the iconic weapon used against Godzilla in most of the films). I've also bought lots of Bandai figures, starting with the ones available in the US (you can still find them at Toys R Us) and later ordering some imports from Japan. The Bandai figures are really simple with only a few joints, but they still look incredible on my toy shelf! Finally, although I already have a couple CDs of Godzilla movie soundtracks, I just ordered a CD of more theme songs, plus another filled with sound effects. I have no idea why I want a CD of a bunch of kaiju roars and growls, but I can't help myself!

3.19.2011

Samurai 7

Samurai 7: Box Set (Viridian Collection)Although I much prefer watching anime in Japanese, the convenience of having so many shows available on Netflix streaming has lured me into watching a few complete series in English! Recently I finished all 26 episodes of Samurai 7, which I've often heard discussed as an amazing anime, since it's a sci-fi/steampunk version of Kurosawa's classic Seven Samurai. Unfortunately (and even unbelievably) I've never seen Seven Samurai (although I plan to remedy this situation soon!), but I still really enjoyed the interesting characters and fascinating settings combining traditional Japanese culture (like rice farming) with incredible technology. In fact, one of the samurai named Kikuchiyo is himself a mechanical man, lumbering around with incredible strength and even blowing steam when he exerts himself! He's definitely the comedic character of the group, but I really loved the emotion between him and Komachi, one of the little girls of the village they are protecting. From what I've read of the original movie, Samurai 7 really expands upon the plot to fill out all those episodes (and manages to drag a little towards the middle), but the entire arc of the series was quite satisfying. Of course the many fighting scenes are incredible (I always love seeing swordsmen going up against huge flying machines), and the soundtrack is great since it primarily uses traditional Japanese instrumentation (shakuhachi, koto, and so on). As expected, the English dub had some terrible voice choices and lots of moments that made me cringe, but I won't complain too much about it!

3.17.2011

Instagram

I love taking and sharing digital photos, but over the years my perfectionism and my laziness have been in a constant battle, especially when it comes to shooting my toys. Recently I started becoming aware of activities that had become habitual for me that were in reality hindering enjoyable experiences (which is why I stopped blogging for so long), and taking toy photos is a great example because of this perfectionism/laziness conflict. The solution for me was Instagram, the insanely popular social camera app for iOS. The iPhone 4 camera is really nice with decent macro capability, but still not flawless enough to make me completely happy "as is". However, when you make these photos artistic by using Instagram's cool filters, they become passably creative! Combine that with the ease of sharing these photos on Facebook, and you definitely have a winner. I have been trying out new styles of shooting, often using very low light and holding a flashlight to get certain effects, and then choosing the best crazy filter to enhance the look. I've also started photographing some of my vintage Kenner Star Wars action figures on weekends, and adding the previous week's images to my Flickr photostream. Since my pictures also get posted on Instagram's own servers, it's nice to receive some comments from other fellow Instagrammers. This also allows them to be accessed by their new API, which has been put to great use on Instagrid!

3.16.2011

Exploring TRON

Tron: BetrayalI'm pretty happy about the way Disney's TRON universe has been expanding lately! I saw the original film back in 1982 when I was first learning computer programming, and I remember getting so excited not only because it was a cool movie, but also because I understood some of the silly technology jokes. Of course, I was thrilled when I first heard about TRON: Legacy, and had a fantastic time seeing it twice in the theater (though I wish I would have gone one more time). I've listened to the soundtrack many, many times (I was already a Daft Punk fan, so I love it), and I've pre-ordered both films on Blu-ray. Unfortunately the new toys don't excite me that much, though I did buy a great set of Japanese Kubrick figures of the original Tron and Sark. I also decided to check out TRON: Betrayal, a really cool graphic novel that covers Flynn's creation of CLU, the birth of the Isomorphs, and the beginnings of the Grid's downfall. The artwork is really great (lots of beautiful neon effects) and the plot is well-constructed (and I guess it's "official", since this is a Disney Press book). I can't wait for the new animated series TRON: Uprising to begin (the trailer looks pretty awesome), and I'm definitely hopeful for future TRON films, especially since there's a great teaser called TRON: The Next Day which even features RAM from the original movie!

3.15.2011

The Spectacular Spider-Man

Spectacular Spider-Man: Complete First SeasonA few weeks ago I decided to start watching The Spectacular Spider-Man on Netflix, since I completely blew off this series back when it was on the air in 2008. I wasn't too thrilled with the human character design (totally round eyes and an obvious attempt to look anime-ish), but now that I've given the show a second chance, I'm completely into it! The plots are surprisingly complex, weaving together elements from the original comic book, the live-action movie trilogy, and even the Ultimate Spider-Man re-imagined books (which I'm currently reading). Although the animation style isn't my favorite, I can't deny that the action sequences are really exciting, and it's great to see a full arsenal of Spidey villains (not only the usual suspects like Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus, but even guys like Mysterio and Kraven the Hunter), who are nicely tied into a larger scheme involving some mastermind criminal! The voice acting isn't bad either, which really helps establish Peter's inner dialogue as he worries about Aunt May and tries to choose between Gwen, Mary Jane, and even Liz. Netflix only has the first season available for streaming, but thankfully I can rent the second season (which I just started watching) on DVD. Unfortunately, the series was cancelled before a third season could be produced, which is really a shame. I'm glad I decided to take another look at this show!

3.14.2011

Marvel Masterworks

The Avengers, Vol. 1 (Marvel Masterworks)During my decluttering frenzy of the past few years, I decided I wouldn't buy any more individual comic books, focusing only on trade paperbacks (collections of several issues in a single book) instead. Since then I've enjoyed all kinds of stories, but my favorite thing has been experiencing the original beginnings of classic superheroes that are so well-known today. It's funny how my comic loyalties have flip-flopped between DC and Marvel over the years, but lately I've kind of been on a Marvel kick (probably due to the Iron Man movies and getting into the Ultimate universe, thanks to PaperBack Swap). I decided it would be cool to check out the first volumes of a few titles in the Marvel Masterworks series. Each book presents ten original issues reproduced in glorious color, and the quality looks amazing to me. I loved reading the first issues of the Fantastic Four, and now I'm enjoying The Avengers! These old 1960s comics are such a treat, not only because they have spectacular artwork by legends like Jack Kirby (along with refreshingly simple panel layouts), but also because the dialogue and villains are so cheesy, thanks to Stan Lee (the more ridiculous the better, I say)! It's cool to think that these heroes that are such a mainstream part of pop culture today came from such humble beginnings.

3.13.2011

Jazz evening

Last night I played with a jazz trio (my pals Steve on keyboard and Jack on bass) at a nice wedding party held at Steiner Ranch Steakhouse. I haven't had the opportunity to play much jazz lately, so I really enjoyed myself! Recently I've been looking for creative outlets, so I decided to really pay attention to the music and stay in the moment, and it was a wonderful experience. We did lots of trading fours, which was interesting since for the most part were playing quietly for dinner music, so it was cool to figure out ways to solo with brushes without overwhelming guest conversations.

I played with Steve and Jack several years ago in our jazz band called Stella, which made the evening a little nostalgic. The folks at the wedding definitely enjoyed the music, and it was nice to see some old folks singing along with the standards were playing. Steiner Ranch Steakhouse has a spectacular view of the lake that looked beautiful at sunset, and although we had to play while everyone else was digging into steaks, the staff made up for it by treating us with fantastic Scotch (Oban and Lagavulin, my favorite). Oh yeah, we got paid, too!