Friday, December 31, 2004
Any other resolutions? I suppose I'd like to make school a higher priority this year. And read more books for pleasure. But I figure physical fitness is a worthy goal to focus my self-improvement efforts towards. I guess I can resolve to not be so boring, but I don't really think you can do anything about that. I suppose I can say I'll stop buying more DVDs when I have so many I haven't watched, but I doubt I'll keep that one.
I drove up to the cemetery today. I meant to go Wednesday, that was the second anniversary of Dad dying, but I didn't. I figured I should go today, figuring it was a nice activity to end the year with, rather than starting the new year on a downer. It wasn't raining here when I left, so I got fairly soaked. My first stop was my mother's parents' graves. I knew roughly where they were, and saw the Christmas tree that my mom had said she put out on the graves earlier this month, so I went to where the tree was. But it wasn't their grave. It took me a minute, but I found their graves without too much trouble, but there was nothing on it but some leaves and flowery remains. And it occurs to me that the other woman's grave, which had several plants and flowers, was now bedecked with my grandparent's Christmas tree. Someone stole a tree from their grave. So I am outraged, but I didn't actually put the tree there, so I cannot say for sure that it is their tree. And I figured it was possible the wind blew it away and someone innocently returned it to the wrong grave (but could the wind have blown a potted christmas tree up-hill?). So I stood there a few minutes, debating if I should move the tree. Because if I was wrong, then I would be the one stealing from a grave. Not to mention the ill will this would breed in the plots. I finally decided that my grandparents feuded with their neighbors enough when they were alive, and I didn't want to start any trouble. So I left the tree. When I got to my dad's grave, it had a tree identical in its packaging, confirming my suspicion that mischief was afoot, but decided against going back and moving the tree. I think they pick up all the decorations after the first, anyway. Anyway, I paid my respects to my dad and my mom's parents. I have some family buried at Fort Roscranz, but Dad was the only one who could ever find their graves. Someday I should go find Aunt Millie (I think there's a directory somewhere).
You know, come to think about it, there were few if any flowers or plants or flags or pretty much anything on the hillside where my grandparents are, except on that one grave. I think they harvested all the booty and put it on their beloved wife and mother's grave. I smell a rat. Grrrr.
Thursday, December 30, 2004
Sunday, December 26, 2004
I saw The Incredibles Christmas night. Again went to the Pacific Trolley theatres, and again they were pretty slow. Unfortunately, it seems like they cut corners in the presentation of the film; it annoys me to see all these signs telling me that it is illegal and wrong to download digital quality bootleg films off the interent, and then put a subpar product on the screen. The sound in the auditorium I was in was pretty bad. But I suppose it wasn't any worse than any other theater around here. Some kids sitting nearby were a bit annoying, but not too bad, no one was screaming or anything, and considering it was a kid's movie, I put up with it with gentle good humor. The movie was okay, nothing special. Held my interest, at least. Mom had suggested we see Spanglish, which I have no interst in seeing, and then she suggested Meet the Fockers, which I wouldn't mind seeing, but I didn't think she wanted to see. So I suggested The Incredibles as something we both could enjoy, and we both did. I almost suggested The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, but my mom hated The Royal Tenenbaums, so I decided against that.
Incidentally, I watched about half the episodes of Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected, and while they do have a great cast and production values, I find it hard to recommend them. The stories which were featured on Alfred Hitchcock Presents were done better there (Jose Fererr is great, but he's no Peter Lorre), and those that weren't (or at least that I've never seen) were tales that were hardly unexpected. Especially when Dahl's introductory segment gives away the ending. Though sometimes this doesn't matter. Like in "Neck:" if you can't figure out Joan Collin's head is coming off, I feel for you, but it's still a lot of fun to watch, both for her and for her butler, played by John Gielgud. But I'd save your money for the Alfred Hitchcock Presents DVDs.
And in keeping with a theme, I'll point out that the first season of the original Twilight Zone comes out on DVD Tuesday. I believe every episode has already come out on DVD, but in "best of" sets of three or four episodes, without much in the way of extras. At full price, they were rather expensive for what you got, but I've gotten some real good deals on some of my favorite episodes; especially since the season DVDs were announced, the original DVDs have been steeply discounted at times, so that I believe I paid less than $5 a pop for some. The season one DVD is expensive (Amazon wants $80 or so), but seems a better value. But I doubt I'll buy it. I like the show, but I've seen them so often, I don't really feel a need to own them. I catch it on TV every once in awhile, and watch a few episodes during the annual marathon, and that suits me well. If I see it for under $50, though, I'll definately snatch it up.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
I probably have only two main complaints with the film. First, The Reptile Room gets short shrift, which is a shame, because it is probably the most cinematic of the first three books (though The Wide Window is suited to the screen, as well, and is doubtlessly the best portion of the movie). The whole first half of the film, in fact, feels rushed. And second, Sunny's dialogue was atrocious. The baby (twins) that played Sunny were fantastic, but her unintelligible words are translated via subtitles, which attempt to turn her into some sassy comic relief, the Poochy of the movie, if you will. Rather than thoughtful commentary on their prediciments, or bold condemnation of Olaf's deceitfulness, we get quotes like "She's the mayor of crazytown." Lets hope they tone that down if the rest of the series is filmed.
But overall, I liked the film. The look of the film was great, as was the soundtrack (by a Newman). Stay for the end credits, well worth it. I hope the rest of the books make it to the silver screen.
Monday, December 20, 2004
After opening gifts, we went out for breakfast, then I ventured out to the post office to mail some packages. That was hell. By the time I found out how much they cost, I had just given up, agreed to pay whatever they wanted. But at least I got them out.
We went to a 3:30 screening of A Series of Unfortunate Events at the Grossmont Trolley theaters. That place is dead, which is sad, since I can remember it was considered quite the fancy theater when it opened, and well into my young adulthood. I forget when exactly they expanded the Grossmont Center theaters, but I think I was at least in high school, if not college. In fact, I remember now running into someone from high school there, well after graduation. In fact, I believe I was working at the Village at the time, and that was at the theater's previous location, so it must be even more recent then I think. But now the trolley theater, neglected compared to the mall location up the hill, is almost as slow as the Cinerama 6. But it's not a bad theater, the auditoriums are fairly large. And it was nice not to have to deal with mall traffic. I'll comment on the movie later today, if I have time (I liked it).
We then went out to dinner. Mom had suggested sushi, and asked me to select a place, so I selected Sui Shin, a sushi place I'd only been to once, but liked very much. We went down to Hillcrest, only to find they had gone out of business. Of course, being in Hillcrest and looking for a sushi restaurant only leaves one with about fifty choices, but Mom still got all worked up, what will we do, and so on. But rather then eat in Hillcrest (which seemed pretty jumping, so parking and getting into a restaurant might have been an issue), we went to Chef Taka's on El Cajon Blvd., right by our house. I'd been there before, and enjoyed it, though it was a bit expensive, mainly because I got suckered into something expensive each time. But again I was really impressed with it, and by sticking to the basics, found it reasonably priced. Michelle and Eric are a bit more on the sushi snob end of the spectrum, and they both seemed impressed. So all was well in the end.
We concluded the evening watching some DVDs that were gifted that morning. Elf was okay, too fluffy to really be hated, but I don't understand why Michelle raves about it so. We watched a best of Will Ferrell DVD, which had its moments, but I think they really do a poor job putting those DVDs together. The menus leave you in the dark about what sketch you are about to see (sometimes you can deduce that from the extreme close-ups provided, but often you cannot), and the actual choices seem odd at times. But Charles Nelson Reilly on Inside the Actor's Studio will silence the toughest critic. I just wish they would release older material. Like best of DVDs for the original cast members, or what I would really love, a compilation of short films that appeared on the show, especially, again, from early episodes. The Albert Brooks films, and the original Folksmen sketch that later gave birth to A Mighty Wind. That would rock.
So Michelle and Eric are back home, now. Eric's sister recently had a caesarian section, and the incision got infected, so that is putting a bit of a damper on the holiday plans up there, but she is doing a bit better, and I think is supposed to be home soon. And down here, I keep forgetting Christmas isn't over for everyone else, yet. Though a trip to the post office today reminded me. I still need to pick up a few little gifts for people, but mostly, I'm just waiting for the new year. That's one advantage of having Christmas early--this feels like the longest Christmas vacation from school I've ever had.
Friday, December 17, 2004
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Speaking of Katz, did I mention how awesome the Home Movies DVD is? I think I might have, so I won't go on too much. But the shows, of course, are awesome, and the clips of "Home Movies" made my the crew are hilarious. I think I've watched "Baby Pranks" a couple dozen times. That kid really wants that milk.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Last night, I watched a couple episodes from Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected. I bought it, again, because I got a good price (20% off Deep Discount DVD's already low low prices), and because I was curious about anything with Dahl's name attached. I was suprised to see the pilot episode was "Man From the South," better known as that episode from Alfred Hitchcock Presents where Peter Lorre makes a wager with Steve McQueen. I was unaware Dahl had written for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but looking over the episodes of Tales of the Unexpected, I see he actually wrote quite a few (or at least had quite a few short stories adapted by the show, I'm not sure which). Including "Lamb to the Slaughter," a rather infamous episode. The episodes I watched were pretty good, though you can't top Lorre's version of "Man From the South," which also includes one little flourish near the end, my favorite part of the story (I won't give it away here), that apprently was added to Dahl's version. The other episode I watched, "Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat," was also apparently an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but I don't recall seeing it. But I will assume I did see it, and assume that's why I was able to see the ending from a mile away. Still entertaining, and featured Julie Harris (they got a real all-star cast for the TV show). I'll be better able to say if I recommend this after watching more episodes, but seeing as Alfred Hitchcock Presents is not yet available on DVD (a few episodes are included as extras in boxed sets of Hitchcock movies), this is a good way to get some classic stories in another form.
Friday, December 10, 2004
Thursday, December 09, 2004
My sister and brother-in-law will be down here the weekend after next, and we'll be going to see the movie. Watching the clip on the CD-ROM and everything I've seen so far, I'm unsure if the movie will be good or not. Could go either way.
Friday, December 03, 2004
Anyway, one hope I had was, that the bird would survive my care. It's about 15 years old, by my recollection, my mother claims we got it closer to 20 years ago. In any event, an old bird. Gave me quite a scare earlier in the week, Monday or Tuesday, when I came home and didn't see a bird, but it turns out he was just at the bottom of his cage, where he'd been hanging out recently. So I wasn't alarmed when I got home from taking Tanner for a walk, and saw no bird, but when I went to give it new thistle, I found a dead bird at the bottom of the cage. So I called my mom and told her what happened, and the bird is now lying in state in the garage, in a check box, waiting for my mom to fly in for the funeral. Feel bad for the poor guy, but it's probably for the best, seeing as the life of a caged bird seems incredibly depressing. Not to mention the hygiene issues with keeping a bird in the kitchen. I found the rice cooker quite disgusting when I got it out from the cabinet beneath Big Al's cage (the bird was named after a Nascar star).
So that sucks. I can assure you I will be keeping a very close eye on my Mom's beta for these last 48-hours.
Monday, November 22, 2004
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
I left for Vegas Friday afternoon, and had an uneventful drive, making pretty good time for a Friday. My sister and brother-in-law were flying in, so I had a few hours by myself to check in to the hotel and gamble. I was staying at Bally's, and hoped to get a room upgrade upon check-in. This seemed to confuse the clerk for some reason (I would think that happens quite often), but she was helpful and got me a junior suite. Not really a suite, in my view, just a larger room, with a few extra amenities (the refrigerator came in handy), including a nice chaise lounge. But it was a nice room, with a nice view. Being in the north tower, any view of the strip will be obstructed by the other tower, but we had a nice view, right between Paris and the south tower of Bally's, of the Eiffel Tower, which was quite sharp around sunset. The bathroom was a bit small, and the walls seemed a bit thin (I've never noticed this at Bally's before), but overall I was happy with the room. A nice plus, the room wasn't ready when I checked in, so I gambled a bit while I waited for housekeeping to put a rush on it, and won a nice chunk of change. So the upgrade actually made me money.
I was on my own for dinner, so I walked down to O'Shaes to eat at the Subway. My credit card was declined, which was a bit embarassing (fraud hold due to suspicious activity), but the food was fine. I ate half there and was bringing the other half back to my room, when I heard an announcement coming from within Barbary Coast announcing that Big Elvis was taking the stage. I had heard very glowing reviews of his show, though it sounded a bit odd to me, but figured I would duck in and watch a few minutes of the preeminent morbidly obese Elvis impersonator/illegitimate child in all of Vegas. I ended up watching the entire show, and had a blast. He doesn't dance much, but compensates with lots of audience interaction, and even invites people to rush the stage mid-show to get their picture taken with him. He takes requests, and does sound a lot like Elvis. And this show is completely free. I think he could become a new Vegas tradition for me (the old tradition was shrimp cocktail at the Golden Gate as I listened to the piano, but I haven't done that in at least six trips).
Michelle and Eric arrived around 9, and met me at Bally's, where I was playing blackjack (and winning a bit). They wanted to walk the strip, so we went down to the Venetian. The tables were too full, so I played nickle slots with them. I hit one for about $250, then played it down to about $200 on some nearby video poker. They didn't fare as well. I'd been in the Venetian before, but never really walked around it, and was impressed by how nice it is. The blackjack game seemed fair, as well (I always thought their double-deck tables had perpetual $100 minimums, but I saw a packed $25 minimum table). I felt a bit out of place amid the well-dressed Europeans, but I could see playing here again sometime. Michelle and Eric decided to play a bit at O'Shaes, so I walked back to Bally's and played there and at Paris until the wee hours, winning a very nice sum of money before going to bed.
The next day, Michelle and Eric were going to a wedding, so I had most of the day to myself. But we did have breakfast together, at the Paris buffet. I had a comp for all three of us, which usually means we don't have to wait in line. But the hostess said that, unless we had a line pass, we did. So Michelle and Eric got in line while I went to seek out a line pass from a pit boss. While I did that, the hostess reported that the wait was over 45 minutes, at it would no longer be breakfast by the time we were seated. Fortunately, I got a line pass with no difficulties, so we didn't have to wait. My sister said a highlight of the trip was cutting to the front of the line and looking at the dirty looks we received (I avoid eye contact, but was told the guy behind me was livid to have a kid in a dirty T-shirt cut in front of him). So that saved us a lot of time, and meant we were seated before the switch from breakfast to lunch, so we could sample from both. I wasn't very hungry, but had plenty of food nonetheless. The waffles were quite good. They both enjoyed the crepes, but the line was long and I wasn't hungry enough to down one. Enjoyed the lox and bagels, and the bouillabase from the lunch menu. Dessert, as always, was the big disappointment, but for a breakfast buffet, that's understandable.
While Michelle and Eric were at the wedding, my project was to go to the half-price ticket places and see if I could get them tickets to Star Trek: The Experience (I've done it twice in the last two years or so, and decided to sit this one out--though it is great fun). The one closest to Bally's had tickets, so I waited in a reasonable line there and got two tickets. The half-price places are great, especially if there isn't one particular show you want to see. They had a great selection on a Saturday, including tickets for O, Celine Dion, and some other high-profile shows at 10% off (not half-price, but a great deal for shows that often sell out weeks in advance).
So I gambled for the rest of the day, and played at the Hilton while my siblings enjoyed the Star Trek attraction. My luck turned sour, but I managed to stay up slightly for the trip. I even managed a stop at the Spa at Bally's to use their fitness facility. $12 to run on a crappy treadmill for 20 minutes. I had enough on my player's card to cover it, but still. I was very underwhelmed...I guess they didn't want you to confuse them with Bally's Total Fitness. But I was proud of myself for trying to exercise, though with the poor diet and unhospitable climate of a Vegas vacation, I was not performing my best. The next morning, we had lunch at Paris, and JJ's Boulangerie. Their lunch specials are fantastic and really reasonably priced. $5.99 got me a stuffed croissant with soup and a soda. Again and again, I am really impressed with the food values at Paris, especially compared to other casual dining options on the strip.
Michelle and Eric found a friend who was going to the airport at the same time as them, so around noon Sunday I was on my own. I was spending two more nights in town, staying at the Las Vegas Hilton for the first time. But first, I stopped by the Stardust, for my injection of Vegas class. Now that the Horseshoe has been ruined and gambling downtown has actually gotten worse than the strip (except for the lower limits, and I suppose looser comps for low-rollers, I don't see what downtown has going for it anymore), the Stardust, for the time being, is the best source of Vegas nostalgia around. I fear for the future--rumors abound of major changes at the Stardust once the Wynn Casino opens across the street. I had a great streak at the blackjack table, and had lunch at their coffee shop (not bad...good onion rings). It was raining a bit when I got there, but must have really came down hard while I was gambling, because when I came out, the parking lot was flooded. Of course, this is the time I forget where I parked, so I had to wander in the rain, my feet getting soaking wet (the problem with wearing old running shoes is the venilation of the shoe allows the rain right in), before finally finding my car and debating if I could drive out of the lot. My brakes got wet , but I made it through the puddle, with a newfound respect for the danger of flash flooding in Vegas, even right on the strip. It wasn't raining too hard, but I decided it was worth it to use the valet at the Hilton, to be right by the front desk, the sooner to get out of my wet socks.
My room was in, if memory serves, the east tower, the farthest from the front desk. I was on the 17th floor, in a room right by the elevator. The room was adequate in its layout, a bit on the small side. The bathroom in particular felt cramped, though that was mostly due to the oversized bathtub. The bathroom floor was wet when I checked in, which vexed me, as did a piece of garbage sitting on the counter. The beds (I requested a single but they only had doubles) were comfortable, and the rooms had a sort of bay window, though the curtains didn't open far enough to take advantage of it. So I had a view of both the Stratosphere and, if I forced the curtain opened, the mountains (the curtains don't open all the way for your own protection, I assume, from the prying eyes of your neighbor at their bay window). I wasn't blown away by the room, and would later grow more and more disgusted by it, starting with the first time the elevator chimed, and I realized how thin the walls were. The elevator, the ice machine, and conversations in the adjoining room could all be heard in my room as though they were eminating from the bed next to mine. And then there was the squeal that would periodically emit from somewhere. I thought it was the air conditioning at first, but I eventually decided it was most likely a plumbing issue (to be fair, the air conditioning was actually quite quiet, and set at a reasonable temperature...which might be the problem; maybe other hotels have the same thin walls, but the blast of the air conditioner drones it out). I very nearly demanded a new room, but I don't like to make waves, and rightly concluded that I wouldn't be spending much time in the room.
The Hilton has some good games, but you wouldn't know it from my luck there this trip. One night, I was down a lot, and was down to my last chip, when I proceded to win about 20 hands in a row, for a spectacular comeback, which only served to keep my losses only slightly disturbing. So while I could have left Sunday and been a small winner, I ended up a pretty big loser, thanks mostly to the Hilton. But they still offer a good game, and I'll probably be back, the crappy room I had there being the one wildcard. I lost enough there that my host picked up all my expenses, so I'm hoping I'll get some good offers in the mail from them (I hear they're pretty good about sending out concert tickets to big losers such as myself).
In another effort to get good mail offers, I drove out to Lake Las Vegas, where Casino Montelago has been known to send out real good deals for the Ritz-Carlton out there, and I would enjoy the opportunity to stay at a 5-Diamond resort sometime, especially if I could do it for under $100. So when the weather cleared up on Monday, I decided to drive out and see the sights. It took me over an hour to get there, mainly because I didn't really know the best way to get there from the Hilton; if I'd taken the Boulder Highway instead of surface streets, it would have saved me a lot of time. It was really quite beautiful out there, and I would relish the chance to stay there sometime and take advantage of the hiking trails and stargazing and other programs the Ritz-Carlton puts on. And I put in a good deal of action at the casino, so I should get some good mail from them (I don't believe they comp the Ritz, but they have been known to send out $99/night deals). Too bad I didn't win anything. The table games stink, but the video poker was good.
But mostly I spent my time at the Hilton, losing my shirt at the tables, and enjoying some decent grub. The buffet was quite good, not a whole lot of variety, but what they had was first-rate. I had hoped to have sushi one night, but the sushi place was dark Mondays (even though it is part of Benihana's, which was open). Breakfast at the coffee shop was okay, though the lox and scrambled eggs had too much onion. Again, my only complaint with the Hilton was with the room. Which is a shame, because I had hoped to make the Hilton my new home, once Bally's and Paris get taken over by Harrah's. Guess I'll stick to Green Valley Ranch, or maybe see how the new Planet-Hollywood-owned Alladin turns out.
So to recap: Lost a lot in Vegas this time around, but got to act like a high roller in front of my kin, and saw Big Elvis for the first time. And next time I'm at the Hilton, I'll ask for a room away from the elevator.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Sunday, October 31, 2004
Though in my defense, I have made progress in getting back into my exercise routine. My foot finally feels better, so that is no longer a barrier. My overall leg strength and cardio fitness has gone way downhill, and I'm having to start out slowly to regain my strength without a new injury. But I've been getting in my goal of four workouts a week, and have even been getting some strength training in at the gym. I've been doing two runs a week at the gym on a treadmill, and spending 30 minutes or so lifting weights. I hate treadmills, but it takes a little stress off my legs, and makes it easier to allot the time for the weights. I ran one 5K recently, the Chancellor's Challenge, and came in at 25:30, barely an improvement from when I first ran the same race two years ago (though I suppose it is now my PR, since my race times were all lost with the old computer). Started out too fast, and walked much of the last mile. But no worries, I was just happy to take part. And it does help my mental outlook a bit to be active again, but the fact remains, I've really been overwhelmed by my own inertia lately. Though at least my laziness has enabled me to advance a bit in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (the new one looks pretty good, but I'll probably wait for the price to come down).
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
The lesson in all this? I'm not sure how my computer got infected, but I am never using Internet Explorer again. Viva FireFox!
Friday, October 01, 2004
Tonight American Casino aired the episode dealing with the death of Michael Tata. I thought it was a well-done episode, classy and in keeping with the series. He always bugged me on the show, but watching his co-workers grieve, I felt a little emotional. Not since the fireman who won the prize on that reality-show-cum-murder-mystery died on 9/11 has a reality-show death been so powerfully felt.
I haven't written here much lately, but can't think of much to say. Except for a fun little family spat, but I don't feel like going into that; we decided that our branch of the family is just washing our hands of the matter. Right now my attention is focused on school, and I have also resumed my running schedule, not without some foot pain, but not nearly as bad or as persistent as before, so I hope not to be sidelined again. The Chancellor's Challenge is coming up this month. Last year, I missed a chance to beat the Chancellor (now UC President) because I had a cold; this year I might not be in shape enough to beat the new Chancellor (or the old one, who will return for the event), but I'll try my best.
Saturday, September 25, 2004
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Thursday, September 16, 2004
I left for Vegas Monday morning. As I mentioned, I got my oil changed over the weekend, so that my car would be prepared for the drive. When I stopped in Temecula for gas, I figured I should check the oil, make sure they filled it up all the way. I open the hood, when I discover they failed to replace the oil cap. Oil was all over the engine and the underside of the hood. So I had to find a Kragen and buy a new oil cap. So that pissed me off; I guess I won't be going back to Evans Tire after all. Other than that, the drive was plesant enough; I listened to Peggy Lee, Johnny Cash, and the Urinetown soundtrack on the way to Vegas.
Checked in to Green Valley Ranch around 2:45, and found my room about as nice as I remembered them being. Unfortunatley, construction of the new wing of the hotel blocked my view. But I still consider Green Valley Ranch the nicest hotel I've stayed in. Big room, big bathroom, very comfortable bed. A comfortable plush chair by the window (maybe they could improve on this, with a small couch or something in the king-size rooms). Coffee maker, robes in the room, iron and ironing board, all that jazz. Very nice place to stay. For free, how can I complain?
Well, turns out free isn't exactly free. I've stayed here several times in comped rooms, and this trip, for the first time, was charged a $5.99 resort fee for each night. They've been charging this fee to guests for some time, but apparently they just changed their policy and now charge guests in comped rooms the fee, as well as paying guests. So that pissed me off. Not so much the six bucks, but the fact that I only found out about the fee when I checked my room charges on the television, and saw the fee charged there. If it had been revealed when I made my reservation, I wouldn't have cared ($6 total charge for a room as nice as Green Valley Ranch's is a pretty sweet deal), but to have it sprung on me was aggravating, and will discourage me from staying there again. I filled out a comment card with stern comments about the new fee policy, I'm sure that will make a difference.
But allow me to stop complaining about the fee for a moment; I shouldn't really bitch about that when they did give me a $100 resort credit. Since I didn't feel like getting a facial at the spa, I saved the credit for dining during my stay. Had their buffet for dinner the first night. Didn't care for it; maybe if you're more of a meat and potatoes guy than myself, you'd like it (it's reasonably priced), but it didn't have anything I particularly enjoyed. Ribs were okay. But when the only food really of note in the buffet is the spaghetti squash, that can't be a good sign. The Italian restaurant, Il Fornaio, was much better. I had it for lunch the next day, and really enjoyed the tuna salad appetizer, easily the best thing I ate all trip. The pasta wasn't as exciting, but was still pretty good. I've found that whenever I eat at fancy Italian restaurants, the appetizers are always more exciting than the main pasta dishes. But I was very happy with the food and the service, and the total bill before tip only came to about $20, not too bad a deal for up-scale Italian. I had China Spice for dinner; not bad, but not particularly stand-out. The crab rangoon wasn't bad, and the lemon chicken wasn't bad; a bit bland, but I prefer that to the overly sweet lemon chicken you usually find. I had tempura bananas for dessert, a nice way to finish off a meal. Again, fairly reasonably priced, compared to other slightly up-scale Chinese restaurants in Vegas, but I prefer the cheap Chinese food back home; I would recommend you go for the sushi place next door instead. Expensive, but pretty good. I would have eaten there, but wanted to try as many new restaurants as I could. The Original Pancake House was pretty good, a bit expensive for breakfast. I had the blueberry pancakes; I was disappointed by the meager amount of blueberry compote served with them, but since there was no way I could finish all the pancakes anyway, the point was moot. Anyway, I managed to eat pretty good this trip, and all it cost me was the $5.99 resort fee. So I shouldn't complain.
Gambling-wise, the trip went okay. I won a fair amount right away, then got creamed the last night. Was playing with a delightful woman, drunk on grasshoppers, losing an obscene amount of money. Once stood pat on a total of 6; I'm sure the casino loves her. But she was really annoying me, so I should have just left, but instead I kept playing, and got creamed. I drove out to the Las Vegas Hilton late at night and tried to win it back, but they also cleaned my clock. Fortunately, I had some good luck the next morning, and won most of my original investment back. Got a pair of treys, split them, ended up spliting to four hands, and doubling down on one of those hands, with a substantial bet out, and the dealer bust. So that was pretty sweet. I was very close to getting back into the black, but had to hit the road. The drive back wasn't too bad, I was in the desert still at five, so I missed rush hour, more or less, and only had to contend with fairly light traffic once I got to around Escondido. Pink Martini, Magnetic Fields, and Randy Newman accomanied the drive home. And so now I've been home a day or two, and I'm already chomping at the bit to go back (though it looks like I won't be back until November). I actually found an invitation to go back to Green Valley Ranch on my birthday, for the Halloween weekend. They invited me for a slot tournament, and they are also having a costume contest for $5,000. Unfortunately I don't have enough lead time (and don't think I'd be able to go to Vegas that weekend, anyway), because I think I could win with my costume of Evel Knievel from an alternate universe where he didn't make it over the fountain at Caesar's Palace--just get a jumpsuit like Evel's, and have part of the fountain sticking out of your stomach. I think it's a real winner. Maybe next year.
Saturday, September 11, 2004
Friday, September 10, 2004
Of course, about 45 seconds after I type that, Dementieva has a double-break point opportunity. So I guess I should stop jinxing the poor players. A good match, however you look at it, though.
Thursday, September 09, 2004
Of course, none of this will most likely influence my willingness to ride the monorail. I will be very reluctant to drive underneath it in the future, however. So I guess this could actually be good for their ridership.
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
I did enjoy watching the U.S. Open while at the gym. I got on the treadmill when Davenport was serving for match point, set the timer for twenty minutes. The match almost took that long to conclude, with I believe 9 deuces. Really good game, though. I'm watching right now as Capriati tries to carry out a remarkable comeback, serving for match now, also. I'm not a huge Capriati fan, but still it's an amazing thing to watch.
Sunday, September 05, 2004
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
I had thought I had a Criterion DVD of Suspicioin, so I went to their website to confirm this (turns out I was thinking of Notorious--confused Ingrid Bergman with a cup of coffee for Joan Fontaine with a glass of milk). While there, I noticed The Bank Dick is going out of print. DVD Empire has it for about $20, the cheapest price I could find from a merchant listing it as in stock. Free shipping if you order 3 or more DVDs, so check out their $8.99 Universal DVDs sale.
And while I'm on the subject of DVDs, I should mention I finally got around to watching Bubba Ho-Tep last night. The movie was just okay, not up to all the hype, but the audio commentary by "Elvis" heightened the experience ten-fold. Very funny stuff.
Friday, August 27, 2004
I booked a room in Vegas for just a few weeks away. Staying at Green Valley Ranch. A little miffed about my treatment by my host last visit, but my up-front comps should cover all my needs this trip, so no worries about needing to speak to my host. In the past, when I've stayed at Green Valley Ranch I've barely left the casino, but this trip, I think I'll venture forth a little bit, maybe stop by the Hilton and play there and the Strip (via the monorail...just hoping this doesn't happen to me).
Speaking of gambling, I'd planned to go play poker this evening, but I got busy doing stuff, and decided it was too late. Long drive, and then a long wait for a seat on a Friday night. So now I'm bored. Lots of reading piling up, Summer is almost over, but I don't feel like reading any more tonight.
Thursday, August 26, 2004
Monday, August 23, 2004
I worked Sunday, and missed the Women's Marathon. A shame about Radcliffe, but at least she has her world record to fall back on.
Saturday, August 21, 2004
The drive to Vegas went quite well. No real traffic to speak of, and even with two stops, made it in right about five hours. Listened to Shakira and Bob Newhart, an odd combination, I will admit. A cold front was moving in, so it wasn't even that unbearably hot, for those mountain passes where they advise turning off one's a/c. Checked in at Paris, and found our room on the 21st floor. Not much of a view, looked out at some timeshares, with the mountains on the side. Hoped maybe I'd get to watch a thunderstorm in the mountains sometime during the trip, but never saw any. Certainly a very nice room, but I still think I prefer Bally's. The room was big enough, but on the small side for a luxury resort. The armoire was a nice touch. Nicer bathroom than Bally's, with separate tub and shower. No separate water closet, but the toilet was set back in a slightly recessed nook, intended I suppose to give the illusion of privacy. Yet it wasn't set back nearly far enough, so that when one sat on the toilet, one couldn't help but watch oneself crapping in the full-length mirror on the door. Not an attractive sight. But they give you bath gel as well as the standard toiletries, the beds were comfortable, and housekeeping kept things tidy. Water pressure is usually the final arbiter for me in judging a room, but since my foot is bandaged and I don't feel like dealing with garbage bags, I've been taking baths. But the tub was spacious, and reasonably easy to enter and exit without dampening my left foot. So all in all, a good room, but considering it is newer and more expensive than Bally's, I think Bally's wins in the comparison (to be fair, I've only had queen beds at Paris, and king beds at Bally's, so maybe it is somewhat an apples-to-oranges comparison).
Overall, the service at Paris is pretty good. I did have one complaint with how the marketing department took care of me and my comped show tickets. The offer I was staying on was for two free nights in the hotel and two tickets to see We Will Rock You, their new musical based on the songs of Queen. First, when I called a few months ago and made the reservations, they tried to book me on some other offer I'd received, and I had to practically argue with the woman on the phone that I'd rather have two show tickets valued at $200+ rather than some food credit or whatever she was pushing. But I got it straightened out with her eventually, and reserved two tickets for the second night I was there. When I checked in, nothing was said about the tickets until I asked, and the front desk directed me to a line at the ticket office. I wait in line, and they have no record of the tickets. After fumbling with the computer awhile, she figures out that it was a comp offer from a room package, and tells me those tickets aren't available until the day of the show, so I should come back around noon the next day. So I do, no line this time, but still no show tickets. The clerk I spoke to this time was quite helpful, telling me that I need to actually call marketing from the hotel and tell them I want to get the tickets that were reserved for me. Seemed odd, but I was glad that the third person I talked to knew what to do. So I called marketing, she said I had tickets reserved for the 7:00 show, and she'd put them right in, and to check the ticket booth a half-hour later. I check about twenty minutes later, and they aren't there yet. Which is okay, so I leave and come back a few hours later, a bit of a line-up again, and again no tickets. The manager comes out, calls marketing, and goes in the back, and comes out again with my tickets. It seems that marketing never got me my tickets until the ticket office called them. It was all a minor inconvenience, but just seems odd, in that I assume most of the people staying in Paris on comps who play at my level or above received the same and similar offers, and how hard should it be to redeem it? Was the marketing person about to put it in the computer, when she spotted a bee in her office, and had to spend the rest of the afternoon trying to shoo it out a window? That's my theory. What stinks about the matter, though, is that I had rather bad seats, and I think if they had gotten my tickets in at the proper time, I would have had much better seats, since I think they lock up good seats for VIPs until the afternoon of the show. So all in all, I was a little annoyed. I was going to complain, but I would be complaining to the ticket booth staff, who did everything they could to help me, and not marketing that dropped the ball. So I just let it go. Like I said, the tickets cost over $100 with the entertainment tax, so I shouldn't bitch about having to jump through a few hoops for two tickets.
So I got my tickets and saw the 7:00 show of We Will Rock You on Wednesday. The show opened on Monday, so I was one of the first to see it, which is exciting. I was looking forward to it, though also nervous, whether it would be a travesty or a loving tribute. I must say I was disappointed in it, but still felt it had a lot going for it, and certainly by no means hated it. For the first half-hour or so, I did think it was awful, but it improved markedly in the second half. I knew very little about the plot, and was a bit chagrined that the story blatantly ripped off from the classic Aerosmith video game Revolution X, though with less blood. It's the future, and real rock has been replaced by computer-programmed pop pablum called, of course, GaGa. And our hero is Galileo Figaro ("Bohemian Rhapsody" surfaces in fragments as a sacred texts of the inevitable rebellion), a dreamer who channels snippets of rock lyrics (apparently with no filters--everything from "Who put the bob in the bop-shu-bop" to "Who let the dogs out?") and therefore in the only one who can revive rock and roll. The musical, in other words, postulates the novel notion that rock and roll, as it were, will never die. Or die and then come back, like Jesus.
We Will Rock You uses this message of the primacy of rock to attack pop culture, in particular American Idol, which makes it unfortunate that some of the more over-produced numbers sound exactly like a Queen cover on American Idol. It criticizes pop culture, yet jumps at any opportunity to appropriate it for a hackneyed joke. I'll avoid a minor spoiler, and just say one joke that actually was amusing, stemming from the fragments of our culture that made it to the future without context, was unfortunately repeated about a dozen times until the humor was long gone.
But perhaps I'm being too harsh. Musically, the production was pretty good, if a bit over-produced at times. The band was good, as were the on-stage talent. A few numbers involving the whole company were a bit muddled, "Radio GaGa" in particular (which was almost a blessing, as I nearly missed the fact that they changed the lyrics to insert a lame reference to the internet). But "It's a Kind of Magic" just really came together well, early in the show, and was the first hint the show might have some life in it. Unfortunately, the staging of this one, with dancers in some lame "futuristic" uniform, and with the Killer Queen and Khashoggi twirling slowly on some platform, gesticulating wildly as if their spinning was supposed to be a thrilling sight. Sorry, but twirling does not a spectacle make. And it closes strongly, with "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions" ending the show. "Bohemian Rhapsody" is tacked on to the end, which is odd, since they seemed to be building to it, then decide that "We Are the Champions" is a more logical closer. But I suppose it's better to throw "Rhapsody" in as a sort of encore then to stretch the story even more to accommodate it.
Let's see, what else to complain about. "Under Pressure" is tacked on in a truncated version, just to advance the plot a little and bring the two love interests together, and seemed a bit too perky. They used, I believe, "No One But You" for a moving musical tribute to musicians who died young. A good choice, and of course it's vital to acknowledge Mercury's passing somewhere in the show, but the decision to also acknowledge practically every other musician who ever died made it feel more calculated and manipulative, offering something for everyone. The musical's casual equating of Freddie Mercury and Elvis is also questionable, no offense to Mr. Mercury. On the plus side, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," "I Want it All," and "Seven Seas of Rhye" were all well-done, and the unnecessary references to the Paris Casino thrown into the show didn't do much damage. To summarize, there were lots of problems I had with the show, but musically it was fairly sound, and hopefully will improve with time (it opened on Monday, though I understand this is the London cast, at least in the major roles, so I don't know if that's an excuse). If I paid $100 for a seat, I'd be very disappointed, but for free, it's worth seeing.
Most of my time on the Strip, I never left the Paris/Bally's complex (both because of my foot, and because I like to gamble there). So I ate there a lot. The buffet at Paris was good as usual. I had it for breakfast my last morning at Paris, and wasn't very hungry, but after eating one plateful of food, already felt I'd justified the price. The crepes later were just icing on the cake. It is also the first time I ever saw Nutella at a buffet. But the best meal I had was at the Paris coffee shop, Le Café Île St. Louis. I'd often heard it described as over-priced, and after seeing how over-priced Bally's coffee shop was, I had concerns. But for the quality, I found it remarkably reasonable. Sandwiches for about eight dollars, with generous portions, and plenty of both American and French entrees at under fifteen dollars. Chad had the French Dip (I suppose that marginally fits the casino theme), and could barely eat half. I had Coquilles St. Jacques, and it was wonderful. I'd never had it before, and thought the potatoes were a garnish, but it was actually served on top like a pot pie crust, sort of. But it was delicious, and more then made up for skipping the Paris buffet for dinner and never getting their delicious bouillabaisse. I had a banana split for dessert, which was quite big and good, though it only had chocolate sauce, and no fruit toppings, save the banana. The service was great, and though it was a bit noisy being right by the casino, it had a nice atmosphere. I made fun of what they call outdoor seating, which is seating underneath the canopy painted on the ceiling of the casino, but it actually did have some of the charm of actually eating al fresco. I'd highly recommend it, though the wait for a table can be long (I had a line pass, fortunately).
I spent two nights there, then spent one night at the Fremont. I believe the last time I stayed there, I said I would never stay their again, but this time, I mean it. Unlike last time, there was nothing horribly wrong with my room, it was just small and cramped, and the air conditioning was noisy. I was on the tenth floor, with a view of a parking garage. I only stayed there because my friend wanted to stay downtown. I gambled about a half-hour before I decided I'd had enough of that and drove back to the strip. Downtown is okay for low-rollers, but I think even those with a modest budget can get some good treatment on the strip. I was surprised by how many comps my friend got, just playing Pai Gow and some slots for fairly reasonable stakes. Downtown has some old-school charm, but a lot of it just stinks. I do regret that I never got around to watching the new Fremont Street Experience light show, or getting a $0.99 shrimp cocktail at the Golden Gate, but I don't think Downtown has much to offer me anymore.
I won't bore you with all the details of my gambling. I'll just say I lost money, but not an unreasonable amount. I lost a ton my last night at Paris, when I gambled until 4 AM, just digging the hole deeper and deeper. That session is the reason why I didn't leave a winner, and so I learned a lesson, not to throw good money after bad, and accept a modest loss rather then going broke. But the Stardust was very good to me, as was the Las Vegas Hilton. It was the second time I gambled at the Hilton, and I enjoyed it, and found comps reasonable to get. I didn't consciously gamble there with this in mind, but I realized later it could be good to get in their good graces; if Harrah's merger with Caesars goes through, and they ruin Caesars properties as I'm sure they will, I'll need a new place to gamble. I hear good things about the Las Vegas Hilton, and the new owners seem to be doing a good job of improving the place. There were some real characters gambling there. And the monorail makes it a much more convenient location than it used to be. I could certainly do worse.
So all-in-all, it was a good trip. I lost money, but I saw a show, ate some fine meals, came to realize that Downtown blows, and realized that as long as the other members of your party understand that you came to gamble, going to Vegas with someone isn't too bad. I'm going back in November, though I'd love to work out a quick trip before that.
Monday, August 16, 2004
I leave for Vegas in the morning. Two nights at Paris, one night downtown at the Fremont. Hope my room at the Fremont isn't as shitty as last time, but hey, free is free. This is my third trip in about as many months, and hopefully I can keep the winning streak going. And I have tickets to see We Will Rock You, which has the potential to be either great or awful, either, as it were, the champion or a big disgrace. This is the first time I've been to Vegas with someone in awhile, which kind of sucks. I don't really enjoy having someone cramping my style while I'm at my real job. Not to mention someone else draining my comp balance at the casinos with their pesky demands for food and stuff. And the need to find mutually-agreeable music for the desert drive. I figure Shakira is pretty crowd-pleasing, as is my Bob Newhart compilation CD. But regardless, I'll be in Vegas in less than 24 hours, so I can't complain about anything.
Saturday, August 14, 2004
Friday, August 13, 2004
Even more highly recommended is How's Your News? I'd heard nothing but good things about this, and I figured it was something I had to see, but I had my qualms. Can sending a group of retarded people cross-country to do man-on-the-street interviews possibly be in good taste? An "as seen on Howard Stern" sticker on the package was hardly comforting. But once you've seen it, questions of it's tastefulness seems to evaporate. Watching the film, one can clearly see the evolution of this project, from films made at Camp Jabberwocky for their personal enjoyment, to a short film shuttled around film festivals, to the finished product. Even with a somewhat larger budget (meaning they got an RV instead of a Volkswagon bus), it still feels like a home movie, and watching it feels, not like an act of voyeurism, but like being admitted into an extended family. I was made uncomfortable at times, when the members of the How's Your News team with the most difficulty communicating vocally are put into awkward interview positions (and it's supposed to make you feel a bit uncomfortable at times, as the liner notes note, "confusion, awkward moments and humor are important parts of living with a disability"). But ultimately, it's clear that they are getting as much enjoyment from the How's Your News experience as anyone, and as Larry takes in the vista of the Grand Canyon or enjoys the dancing of passers-by at Venice Beach, one can't argue this isn't a valuable experience for him.
Ultimately, it's hard to explain what this movie is. But it isn't exploitation, and at the same time, it isn't the Pollyanna-ish, disabled-people-are-just-like-you-and-me message Hollywood likes to package, just in time for Oscar season. As one blogger notes about Camp Jabberwocky, "No one pretends that the campers are just like the rest of us. The campers are who they are. But for much of their lives, they've been treated as less than what they are...." And this film, like the camp, lets them be exactly who they are. And you really, really need to see this film.
Thursday, August 12, 2004
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Monday, August 09, 2004
Sunday, August 08, 2004
So much to read this summer, and I haven't gotten through nearly as much as I hoped. And now I got it in my head to read Don Quixote, which will be rather time-consuming, so I'm trying to get through a few essential reads before that. And I hope to re-read the Series of Unfortunate Events books before the new one comes out. And, as ever, the stack of magazines in my room now requires its own sherpa.
Thursday, August 05, 2004
It is stunning the dramatic drop in class in the clientele of Sycuan versus the other casinos in town. We're not talking about Western-level clientele, but some real freaks are easily found. Unlike previous visits, no one tried to sell me anything (I always enjoy trying to decide if they need money to gamble or need money for meth), so maybe they're classing up the joint. Played blackjack for an hour or so, won a small amount of cash, just enough to make it worth my time. They do have an okay blackjack game, not the best in town, but good enough. If they did something about the parking, it might be worth the occasional visit, but as things stand now...I guess it depends if they send me some good offers in the mail or not.