Thus ends another three-day holiday weekend that went by all too quickly. A heck of a lot happened, though looking back at it, it doesn’t seem like I really accomplished anything. Hmmm.

My sister, Tori, is back from her mission in Thailand. She brought with her some cool native clothing - beautiful custom suits she got for like $30US. She also had the usual stories of shady marketplace dealings… where you choose what you want from a catalog, the vendor calls someone on a cell phone, and a few minutes later a taxi mysteriously drives up and drops off your “order.” Or, looking at pets, someone will come over and show you that they have a very tiny monkey hidden in their fanny pack and if you want it, they’ll sell it to you and tell you how to smuggle it into the US. Pretty unbelieveable.

I saw Star Wars - Episode II again this weekend since Jenn hadn’t seen it. I thought it was still pretty decent the second time around, but Jenn wasn’t too impressed. She’s not a big sci-fi fan, either, though, so take it with a grain of salt. I was stoked to see the trailer for the new James Bond movie, though, and I look forward to that. Love the Bond.

Sunday was quite the ordeal. Went to church with my parents at 1:00p so I could hear Tori speak (she’s become quite a good speaker, too… I was very impressed). By 3:00p I was at a “barbecue” at Jenn’s cousin’s house, though there wasn’t any [fresh] food, so I didn’t actually get to eat lunch until 4:00p when I went to Burgerville. Much as I love Jenn, the all-too-frequent family gatherings are a little much for me. I’m not a big-crowd-people-person. Anyway, by 5:00p Jenn and I were back at my parents’ house for Tori’s “welcome back” open house. I think three people showed up by 7:00p, so we left. Rented American Beauty since Jenn hadn’t seen it (and, might I add, Mena Suvari’s hot), then went to bed.

Monday was errand day. Did the laundry, yadda, yadda, yadda. Rented Vanilla Sky and… not sure what to say about that one. I suppose I didn’t guess the ending, but it played out so confusing that it was hard to stay focused and watch the movie. You have to see it to understand it. (I can’t figure out why Tom Cruise would take Penelope Cruz over the way hotter and classier Nicole Kidman, but that’s another discussion entirely.)

That’s about it. Woke up this morning way too exhausted and haven’t really been able to concentrate on work all day. I’ve got stuff to do, I just don’t wanna do it.

Oh, I saw the latest InStyle has my girl, Sarah Michelle Gellar, on the cover. She’s pretty great, but she’s ruining her career with movies like Simply Irresistable and Scooby Doo. If she could pick a decent role, I think she could make something out of herself. Then again, she is dating Freddie Prinze, Jr., so I can’t say much for her taste in guys, either.

movies comments edit

Well.

Let me begin by saying I thought this latest installment of Star Wars was (pardon the bad space humor) light years better than Episode I. Episode I was not one of those movies where I could plant my butt on the sofa one Sunday afternoon and just feel the need to watch it. It takes a mood. Episode I was not a “stand-alone” movie - if you hadn’t seen any other Star Wars movie, it would probably not make a lot of sense because it requires the context of the original trilogy.

Episode II, on the other hand, stood alone pretty well. While it helped a lot to know where things were going a la the original trilogy, if you just sat down and watched it, you wouldn’t be disappointed. There was good action, good special effects, and a pretty decent story.

Now, all of that said, Episode II in no way compared to any of the original three; even Return of the Jedi, which I felt was probably the weakest of the bunch, would show up on my list before this one. And here’s why:

In the original three, sure, there was a political battle going on and that’s the whole reason everyone was fighting against the Death Star and all that jazz. But the politics, for the most part, were secondary to the overall general “good-versus-evil” story. A very simple plot, good characters, good script, and everything falls neatly into place. With these recent installments, Lucas seems to be focusing heavily on the politics of things. There’s a lot of discussion about/around/in the Senate, and while that’s interesting for a while, I guess when I come into a Star Wars movie, I wanna see the equivalent of a space-age Western movie, which is exactly what the original three were. These latest seem more like.. like the extended version of Dune. I liked Dune, but I liked it for what it was - I went in expecting politics, and that’s what it was about. Star Wars, that’s not what I expect, but that’s what I’m getting.

It doesn’t help things that, in general, the dialogue was pretty bad and Hayden Christiansen as Anakin was the most wooden acting I’ve seen since Pinocchio. I don’t know if that’s the script’s fault, the director’s fault, or Christiansen’s, but I blame Lucas (seeing as how he’s writer and director).

That was the bad stuff.

The good stuff: Natalie Portman, always a pleasure to watch onscreen, finally starts taking on a Leia-like presence. We start to see the relationship development between Amidala and Anakin, which is cool. We get to see Anakin getting arrogant and impatient, getting his hate on and taking on his Darth Vader airs. We get to see how Boba Fett came about, which I thought was very cool. Samuel L. Jackson - ‘nuff said on that. I think his lightsaber was the one that said “Bad Mother Fucker” on it. And last, but very certainly not least (in fact, probably best in my mind), we get to see Yoda really throw down and show us what being a Jedi Master is all about. I could probably watch the Yoda scene over and over and never get tired of it.

Oh, and Episode II moves along way faster than Episode I, which is an exceptionally good thing.

Does the good outweigh the bad? Mostly. I think they could have done way better with it, especially given that almost every actor in the world would love to be in a Star Wars movie and they pick this Christiansen kid I’ve never heard of. I mean, for example, the kid they chose to play Harry Potter looks like Harry should look, sounds like Harry should sound and acts like Harry should act. Christiansen did none of those things for Anakin. But this one does fill in a lot of gaps in the Star Wars saga and you do get to see a lot of the cool Jedi stuff that we haven’t seen before, and it did move along fairly well and keep me entertained.

So I’d say, uh, 7.5 out of 10. I liked it, but given the choice between seeing this one or Spider-Man again, I’d probably go Spider-Man.

auto, home comments edit

Okay, maybe not California Highway Patrol. More like “paint chips.” As in, “I found yet another chip out of the paint on my car that needs to be touched up.” This totals three. I did the touch up on two of them, and I think I need to give a little more attention to one of those (it looks… okay… but not the best). I found the third yesterday, and it’s about the size of a pencil eraser. Guess what I’ll be doing this weekend?!

I called the body shop I usually go to in these cases and they said they’d just be doing the same thing I’m going to be doing - touch up by hand - unless I want them to actually repaint the whole panel. Which I don’t. It’d cost me roughly $45 to get them to fix it, so I may as well do it myself, since it sounds pretty hit-and-miss anyway. And, if all else fails, I can always go in and have them touch up my touch up.

What a big pain. How come they don’t make, like, indestructible paint? Or, better yet, cast the car in the appropriate color metal to begin with, so that the color is actually part of the body? Or at least mold the plastic bumpers in the proper color so they don’t chip. (I haven’t had any bumper problems, but that’s still a good idea.) Maybe I’ll call someone and suggest that.

Anyway.

I’ve found a place that carries my cocktail table and will sell it to me and ship it out here for a grand total of about $565, which is cheaper than the base price anywhere else has offered it at. I’m going to do some last minute calling and we’ll see if someone out here can price match that. I doubt it. I talked to a local dealer and the problem is twofold: First, they don’t normally carry that table, which means it’s a special order; Second, the table weighs 90 pounds, so it’s going to kill me in freight. I don’t know how this other place is doing it, but if I can save the $100+, I’m going to do it.

home comments edit

While on the flight to Vegas, I found, in the Skymall catalog, this really cool cocktail table with a clock face under the glass top.

Now, I’ve had quite a time trying to find a table that I like enough to buy and put in my living room. I did, once, a long time ago at The Bombay Company, but it was on clearance (presumedly because it was discontinued) and I have never seen it since. Now that I’ve found this one, I’m latching on, and I’m gonna buy it. The problem is price.

See, Skymall’s got it for $599, which I don’t think includes shipping. I’ve called around locally and I’ve heard prices that range from $670 to $800. I’m pretty sure the Skymall price doesn’t count shipping, which I’m sure is what’s going to kill me off since the table weighs like 90 pounds. We’ll see what happens.

On another note, I’ve got tickets via my work to see the new Star Wars movie. I’ll be going on Thursday at 10. Seems the company has rented out two theater rooms to see this thing, which is cool. I’m doing my best not to get my hopes up. Folks have said it’s better than Episode I, but I’ll wait to pass judgment.

activities comments edit

Well, I’ve returned from my long-awaited and well-loved vacation to Vegas, and let me tell you, it was the bomb. Jenn and I saw so much stuff down there, it was incredible. Here’s the edited play-by-play for those interested:

Day One: Tuesday, May 14

Our flight left at 7:20a, so we got up at like 4:00a in order to get ready, get to the MAX station, get to the airport, and get processed for the flight. Jenn got chosen for a random bag search, so she got to take off her shoes and let the people at the security checkpoint inspect all of her stuff. I got through without a hitch.

The plane left on time (Southwest is pretty good about that) and we arrived in Vegas around 9:25a. Picked up our Alamo rental and we were off for Paris.

Paris Las Vegas is, by far, my favorite place on the Strip. The atmosphere in there is just so cool… I can’t really claim authenticity, since I’ve never been to the real Paris, but as far as I’m concerned, Paris Las Vegas is how the real Paris is. The artistry in there, the attention to detail, all of it is just fantastic.

We got a corner room with a little private entry, which was neat except for the fact it was at the end of the 14 mile long hallway. The room itself was beautiful and had everything you’d want; you didn’t have to ask for a hair dryer, iron, or any of that because it was all already there. I think the highest praise I could give the place is that I felt comfortable walking around on the carpet in bare feet, which I won’t normally do in hotels.

Most of the first day was walking around and looking at stuff. We ran around to the casinos in the immediate vicinity: Caesar’s Palace (and the Forum Shops), Bellagio, Mirage, and Treasure Island, as well as taking in the Paris sights. Jenn hadn’t seen the Bellagio yet, nor the Paris, so we had a lot of fun looking through those.

We made a quick stop at the Star Trek exhibit at the Las Vegas Hilton, but since Jenn’s not into Star Trek and I’d seen it before, we didn’t stay long.

We rode the “Race for Atlantis” IMAX ride at Caesar’s and had a good time with that. I’d been on it before, but it was just as fun this time around. Jenn had a good time, too.

Ate at the Hard Rock Cafe and checked out the Hard Rock Hotel, which is sort of like a big meat market. Nice place to visit, but I think I like the Paris better.

We also watched a fountain show out front of the Bellagio (free shows that start every half hour) around the noon timeframe. It was cool.

Around 11:00p, we went up to the top of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris and were able to watch a Bellagio fountain show from up there, which was very beautiful. They played Elton John’s “Your Song,” which was especially cool because Jenn and I both love the movie Moulin Rouge and that song played a significant part in it. I took some pretty good pictures of that show; maybe I’ll scan them and stick them up here.

Day Two: Wednesday, May 15

Wednesday was probably our busiest day from a walking standpoint. We pretty much covered all the other casinos that we didn’t get to on Tuesday - the MGM Grand, Luxor, New York New York, Bally’s, and the Aladdin. We also went to the M&M store and the Coca-Cola store on the strip.

At the Coke store, we got to drink a Vanilla Coke on the day they were released. That was pretty cool.

The best part of Wednesday happened when we got to the Luxor. First, we rode the “Search for the Obelisk” motion simulator ride which was fun. Jenn liked it, too, but it did thrash us around a lot.

After that, though… it was time to see the Blue Man come out.

Blue Man Group, which plays at the Luxor, is one of the coolest shows I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen Cirque du Soleil (a couple of different productions from them), Stomp, Siegfried and Roy, and many other similar stage productions… but the Blue Man Group is a whole experience unto itself.

It combines a little of the industrial/tribal music sort of thing (a la “Stomp”) with an extremely innovative stage and lighting show that really can’t be described; it has to be seen. Throw in some comedy and a bit of audience participation and stir. The results are unbelieveable.

I won’t ruin all of it for you or drone on about how cool this part or that part was. I will tell you my favorite part: At the end of the show, they start playing a remix of KLF’s “Last Train to Trancentral” (which happens to be my favorite song of theirs; from the White Room album) that contains some of the signature Blue Man instrumentation. During this, these tubes come down from the ceiling of the auditorium and start making these humming noises (imagine a hall of Gregorian Monks), then start spinning around. The black light on them makes them shine in different colors. The Blue Men run to the back of the auditorium, where there are these huge rolls of crepe paper (about the width of toilet paper) and they start unrolling this stuff onto the audience. The guy in the back row hands it to the guy in front of him, and so on. Eventually the whole crowd is passing this paper over their heads as fast as they can and everyone’s covered in it.

We sat in the front row, so we turned around to face a tsunami of this paper coming down on us. About three or four minutes into the song, I could put my arms straight over my head and not reach the top of the paper. The whole time, the song is thumping its techno beat and the crowd is screaming.

It’s the best party I’ve ever been to.

After the show, the Blue Men and their band come out and greet the audience, and if you bring your camera with you, you can get your picture with them. We, fortunately, had brought our camera, so I have a picture with a Blue Man and the band. I also got a Blue Man to kiss my ticket so I have blue lip prints on it. (Note: The paint never dries; it’s like an oil paint of some nature. I’m working on coating it with an acrylic fixative, but let me tell you - those were a bear to cart home.)

Day Three: Thursday, May 16

We covered the last of the casinos on Thursday (Mandalay Bay, The Venetian, and The Excalibur).

At The Venetian, Jenn and I took a gondola ride outside. It was a beautiful day and we had a wonderful gondolier named Natallino who was just hilarious. He sang us a nice song and took a couple of pictures of us during the ride. If you happen to go to The Venetian, ask for this guy. He was awesome.

We rode the Manhattan Express Roller Coaster at the New York New York and got totally thrashed around. My shoulders are still bruised, but it was really fun. Jenn liked that one, too.

At Mandalay Bay, though… well… First, it’s a beautiful place. A wonderful resort with a great pool setup (wave pool, a river ride, etc.), but the parking and the layout were very confusing. I wanted to see the cool griffin statues they have out front, but we walked so much trying to find the way out that we ended up giving up, going to ride the roller coaster at New York, and coming back to the Mandalay.

We also took some more time to explore the Paris and do our shopping. I probably spent a good $200 on shirts, art, and trinkets from Paris. We decided we’re going to redo our living room decor in a Paris theme. It’ll go well with the Moulin Rouge posters.

Oh, and we ate at our first In-N-Out Burger. So good. I can’t wait for them to come to Portland.

Day Four: Friday, May 17

We got up reasonably early (5:30a?) and got our stuff together and checked out of the Paris. On the way back to return the rental car, we stopped at the Excalibur and bought some extra tasty Krispy Kreme donuts.

We made it through the security checkpoint without incident this time and got to the gate for our flight early enough to hang out and eat our donuts.

The downside to this airport stop is that we got there just in time for the stupid television to announce who was voted off of Survivor (Sean) after we had been so careful not to talk to anyone or watch the show, hoping to save it until we got home. Oh well. It was exciting anyway.

Our plane left at 9:25a and we got back into Portland around 11:30a. Not too bad.

All in all, this was a really rockin’ vacation. I got away from work (which was the whole point), I only lost $30 gambling (mostly slots; I’m not a gambler), and Jenn and I got to see and do a lot of stuff that we wouldn’t normally get to. I call that a success. Next time we go to Vegas, I’m going to try not to walk around so much (my feet hurt so bad), but I always say that. Either way, I’ll definitely be staying at the Paris.

I think the next vacation needs to be somewhere restful, like Maui. Somewhere I can just plunk down next to the water and not have to do anything.

Oh, and no, I didn’t see Star Wars. I am not in that big of a hurry to (especially if it’s anything like Episode I). I’m going with the gang from work on Thursday, I think, and then will probably go with Jenn this weekend.