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