Thursday, February 26, 2004

Tentative agreement reached in supermarket strike. The union apparently gave in to the demand for a two-tiered pay structure, as well as paying for more health benefits. Too bad.
David Byrne has a new CD coming out for Nonesuch Records. Look Into the Eyeball was amazing, and so I'm very excited to hear this. I hope he tours the states again to promote it.

While at the Nonesuch site, I noticed a link to Randy Newman's NPR broadcast for the Creators at Carnegie series. I haven't listened to it yet, but I'm sure it's worth it. The whole series sounds promising; Bill Frisell will be on the next installment, March 5th, and the site says the Kronos Quartet is upcoming.

Just the other day, I was lamenting the loss of my Master Shake air freshener, which I neglected to remove when I traded in my old car. I'm hoping maybe I can get a new one if I attend this Adult Swim screening at SDSU next month. Could be lame, but even that would be fun in a way. Odd to have this in San Diego a few months before Comic-Con. I remember attending a screening of Mystery Science Theater 3000 at the Science Theater in Balboa Park. I believe there were about 6 people in attendance, including my group. And the other people seemed to have no idea what the hell they were watching. But still it was a fun time.

I skipped out of my last class yesterday (how uncharacteristic of me) and went to Viejas. Won $60. Had a nice run at Omaha, I forgot just how badly people play that game at the low limits. They can find a reason to play just about any hand. One embarassing hand, I bet the set I flopped, then bet into a raiser when I made a full house on the turn. I show my hand at the showdown, turns out I had a pair of 7s, not the pair of 8s I thought I had. Luckily a 7 came on the river, so I ended up making a full house after all, and still won the pot. But I looked like a jackass, betting strongly with two pair. I left soon after that. But I did alright, and got a nice refresher about Omaha. Unlike stud, they usually have a good selection of Omaha games going, and its easier to make money at the low limits because people make more, and more costly, mistakes. Though I can't really talk, with my forgetting if I had 7s or 8s. I went on Wednesday because of a promotion they have every Wednesday at Viejas, where if anytime during the 24-hour period a jackpot is hit in the poker room (stud low and Omaha mini-jackpot not included), everyone playing poker receives $100. I thought the poker room would be busy because of this, but I was wrong. When I got there around noon, there were a fair number of tables going, about 10 or 12, due to players staying after the morning tournament, but not long after I took my seat, there were only 6 tables going. Which means the odds of hitting a jackpot somewhere weren't that much better than being involved in it myself, and considering I haven't seen a poker jackpot in probably over two years, its hard to get too excited over the promotion. But it's better than a kick in the head, I suppose.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Ralph Nader is running for president. I voted for him last time around (in 1996, too), but this time, there's no way. Nader ran in 2000 to prove that he couldn't be taken for granted, and his pathetic showing only proved that he can be. I doubt he'll get even 1% this time through, and all he's doing is tarnishing his reputation even more, and hurting the image of his worthwhile public interest organizations in the process. I guess he really is just an egotist. What a disappointment.

Besides, I can't vote for the same loser three elections running. If I'm going that route, might as well sign up with Larouche.

Tonight was the final episode of The Surreal Life 2. I've watched and enjoyed the series, but I must say it failed to live up to my high expectations. The friendship that blossomed between Ron Jeremy and Tammy Faye was fun to watch, as were Vanilla Ice's frequent meltdowns. And even Trishelle from The Real World: Las Vegas grew on me, or at least was entertaining to watch. But it just didn't quite click. And Tracy Bingham never stopped being annoying, from coming in like a prima donna, to her constant hypocrisy in dealing with Ron Jeremy, to her arguing her position for animal rights while wearing a leather cowboy hat. My Sunday nights will be a bit more empty now that the show is over, but at least I can watch Arrested Development when it airs, instead of taping it for the next day. AI, as the young people have taken to calling it, wasn't on tonight, incidentally. I hope Fox doesn't plan to treat it like they treat just about every other quality show they air, and do whatever they can to make sure it's cancelled.
I saw Touching the Void on Thursday. I was unsure what I would think, afraid the reenactments might be tacky, but hopeful that the cinematography would be impressive. As it turns out, the reenactments were quite well done, but the cinematography didn't stand out too much from previous mountain documentaries I have seen. Which is a good thing, it turns out. While I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to shoot, for the most part, the terrain doesn't overcome the story of these two men struggling for their lives. There were some quite impressive shots, but ultimately it wasn't what the movie was about. I must add, the most disturbing thing about that evening was seeing that Landmark is now showing 6 trailers before their film. Good God.

Friday I saw Macbeth at the Sledgehammer Theatre. Macbeth isn't one of my favorites, but I thought it was a good performance, if not outstanding in any respect. Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were mediocre, and only the actor who played Duncan (among other parts) really stood out, as did the actress playing Banquo, I suppose. But like everything I've seen at the Sledgehammer, the staging and direction were strong, and I enjoyed myself.

Last night, I went to Viejas. Lost $85 playing Hold 'em (I'm learning the game...thanks to the World Poker Tour, it's now more popular than ever, and the wait for a higher-limit stud game gets longer and longer, it seems, so I need something to do while I wait) and broke even at Stud. I played Stud with what I think I can honestly say is the most repulsive man I've ever seen. For a little while, I thought it was the ugliest woman I'd ever seen, but eventually I figured it out. Really just disturbing to be sitting anywhere near him, as he sat in his shorty-shorts with a huge paunch threatening to cause an obscene avalanche. A porter asked a question, whether he was done with his drink or something, and he got offended, said he thought the guy was queer. As if any human being could desire to touch him. And he was just a crude, nasty person, and drank about $40 worth of liquor while I was at the table. I would have liked to play longer as he got drunker, but my mother invited herself along with me and wanted to go home. I was one card away from winning about $6500, when I had an A-2-3-4 of diamonds, and T.K. made a higher straight flush. But no 5 of diamonds on the river. So I left that table even. But I did have a nice meal, got some practice at Hold 'em (I lost almost all of the $85 on one hand, two top pair against a set, in a kill pot) and cashed in a $10 in players club credits coupon they had sent me. Had an okay time, considering I lost.

I'll Tell You What I'd Do If I Was Gay.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

A nice, frank interview with Randy Newman.

I enrolled in classes for the next quarter today. Post-Victorian Literature (Stevenson to Kipling), Tolstoy, and Vampire Chic Cinema (no course description provided). A decent schedule, and unlike this quarter, the classes offered will help me advance towards graduation at least a little. Though the vampire class is a night class (but only meets once a week) and doesn't really help me out, so we'll see if I stick with that.

Played hookey from my science class yesterday, went to the zoo and watched the otters and the arctic diving ducks. Until the rain drove me out.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Dean withdraws. Oh, well. Guess I'll have to toss my support behind Edwards.

Arnold speaks out on gay marriage licences. Seems pretty open and shut that the marriages are illegal, but it is fun to watch conservatives freak out. Maybe it'll be a wake-up call to the next conservative Southern judge who decides to put the Ten Commandments in his court and refuse to listen to the courts that tell him he can't. If the Right-Wing Christians seem to think the pagan culture is so stacked against him, you'd think they'd want to be sure that the pagans aren't encouraged to flaunt the law.

I watched Castle in the Sky last night. Let me just say James Van Der Beek should not be dubbing Japanese animation. Fortunately, the DVD has the original soundtrack as well, so I could listen to that. Of course, nothing could be as bad as Billy Bob Thornton in Princess Mononoke, whom actually made me think Minnie Driver wasn't that bad. Anyway, I didn't really think Castle in the Sky was as good as most Miyazaki films, but still enjoyable. The characters just didn't have much depth, girl falls from sky, runs away from bad guys, boy helps. The lone robot tending to the garden was pretty cool, though.

Been reading a bit of Krazy Kat lately. Funny stuff.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

So anyway, Vegas was fun. I had to attend a midterm Monday morning (I ended up with a B), and then pack (I forgot to get my luggage out of storage until after it was locked down Sunday night), and hit the bank, so I didn't hit the road until close to 11:30. The drive wasn't too bad, traffic was light, but the wind around the pass was real bad, to the point that it was difficult to control the car. Stopped in Torrance for lunch, and could barely open the car door into the wind. It was cold in the desert, mid 50s, and when I stopped for gas (Barstow, if memory serves), I went for my jacket, and realized I forgot it (I was wearing it when I packed, so somehow in the two minutes before I left the house, I took off my jacket and forgot it). Knowing it would be cold in Vegas, that was disappointing. But I made good time, was in my room by 4:30. I took a shower and a nap, and then went down and lost a fair amount of cash playing blackjack at Bally's, where I was staying. Had their buffet, which was disappointing, except for some excellent ribs, and decent bananas foster (probably would've been better, except that I got there right before closing, and all they had left was sugar-free vanilla ice cream). Played at the tables with some german woman; the dealer and I entertained her with stories of cheating dealers. And I, fatigued, hit a hard 17 on accident. But I won a little bit back at the end, so I suppose staying up gambling to 4 AM was a good plan.

Tuesday I played a bit at Paris, ended up down a little, then walked all the way to the Stardust, checking out the construction on Wynn's new casino along the way (coming right along). Played at the Stardust about three hours, won a small amount. The place was uncharacteristically jumping, because of a blackjack tournament, apparently. Ate their buffet, which I've never had before. It was actually very good for the price (it was comped for me, but if you're paying, its not a bad deal). Played at the Flamingo on my way back, lost a ton, then won it all back, with a small profit. Then I had Paris' buffet for dinner. Second time I'd eaten there, not as amazing as I remembered, but still quite good. Made-to-order crepes and seafood buillabaise were the best things. One disappointing change since I last dined there, the bananas foster was no longer made to order, and instead of the premium ice cream one would expect from a $30 buffet, they only had frozen yogurt. I still ate it and enjoyed it very much, but still it's sad that the desserts at Paris' buffet pale in comparison to those at my local home-town casino, at only about 2/3 the price (I think Barona's might be the best buffet I've ever had). I still think Paris is one of the better buffets in Vegas, but it still is debatable whether rich French food is the best thing for an all-you-can-eat restaurant. But again, it was free for me, and having a comp, I was allowed to cut to the front of the line, which gives one a feeling of power.

I gambled a bit after dinner, lost a bit, and then took my seat for Jubilee, Bally's showgirl spectacular. I'd never seen a real Las Vegas showgirl show, so it was quite a treat. I had a great seat, first row in the theatre seating, behind the dinner tables in the front. Level with the stage. Unfortunately, there were occasional things above the audience, and I had a bad vantage point for that. The show opened with a woman directly above me, and from my perspective, her nipples looked like lug nuts, and it was comfortably warm in the theater. The show was quite a spectacle, lots of topless women, some not topless, dancing, men singing. I enjoyed picking out the women who were actually pretending to sing, rather than just half-assedly flapping their gums in rhythm to the music. I puzzled a bit over why the tons of naked women were not slightly erotic. I had some theories, the most likely that the women, with their feathered outfits and huge headdresses, resemble the women in '50s stag films too much, and so its like being aroused by women long dead, even though, it being live entertainment, one knows by definition they are not dead old women. I still haven't puzzled out why they felt the need to use topless showgirls to tell bible stories, but nevertheless they did, the tale of Samson and Delilah being the first big production number in the show. Samson didn't have much hair, which was puzzling. Later, they told the story of the Titanic, but now the showgirls had tops on, out of respect for the dead. (Apparently the philistines were crushed long enough ago that their story could be told with nudity). On deck, however, the guests were dressed more like they were on a showboat on the Mississip' than on an atlantic ocean liner. I also didn't understand why the drunken floozy from the Captain's ball was later wandering the boiler room, and yet still found her way to a lifeboat. In addition to these big set pieces, there were other numbers, a nice medley of Cole Porter tunes (a favorite of mine), as well as Gershwin, and some other variety acts, the contortionists being the only act I really enjoyed. It was a long two hours at times, but I was glad I went. Sort of thing I could never sit through outside of Vegas, but it really puts one's Vegas vacation into the proper perspective. And I was impressed by the spectacle of it all, a huge cast, elaborate sets and all. And a showgirl fell down (I was looking the other way, but turned my head when I saw people pointing, and just caught her pulling herself back up). So a fun time was had by all.

Gambling late into the night at Bally's again, ended up a little bit, but still down a lot for the trip. But I felt like I was slowly pulling myself up by my bootstraps (which, in retrospect, was probably setting myself up for trouble on Wednesday). I got up around 9:45 and took care of my bill. I can take some consolation, thinking about my losses, that my room and all my expenses were taken care of, I never had to spend money on anything while I was in Vegas. Meals, show tickets, room, incidentals, all taken care off. And I still have a $30 balance in my comp account, apparently. Before leaving, I had the breakfast buffet at Paris (the line pass was a real godsend, as it looked like the wait for a table was close to thirty minutes). I'd never had the buffet there for breakfast, and it was quite good. The highlight was the fresh waffles, which I topped with berries and a very gently-whipped cream. They had made-to-order seafood omlettes, a wide selection of smoked fishes, lots of pasteries, and some other, richer, food, which I avoided (cheese blintzes, for instance). I'm not a big breakfast person, and much of the food was a bit too heavy, but I'd say the waffles and berries alone were well worth it.

On my way out of town, I hit Green Valley Ranch. Not a good idea. Blackjack went well for about an hour, then it got ugly, fast. I played with a blind woman who is going to be on the World Blackjack Tour. Premieres in March on the Game Show Network, which I don't get, but I have a friend who does. Rumor had it they were going to film it at Barona, but apparently this round was at Mohegan Sun. Perhaps a future episode will be at Barona. She was contractually forbidden from saying how she did. Later, two seperate women would both get very annoyed at me for hitting a soft 18 against a 10. In case you're interested, that is the correct play, and most people play it correctly. Yet the first woman was incredibly annoyed with me, and was downright hostile, which is fine by me, because it gives me some consolation when the dealer makes a hand, knowing she loses money, too. One can't control one's feelings, but you can at least make an effort not to take out your frustration at losing on others; no one put a gun to your head and made you gamble. So she annoyed me. The other woman wasn't as bad, it was just somewhat funny, the way she asked me, "Do you realize you hit an 18?" as though it was the most shocking thing she'd ever seen. Apparently, she wasn't at Bally's when I saw the guy take insurance, then surrender his bet (for those not up on blackjack, this means the 2/3 of the time when the dealer didn't have a natural 21, he would be guaranteed to lose his entire bet). But she wasn't actually hostile to me for hitting it, seemed more to pity me than anything. To cut to the chase, blackjack at the Ranch wasn't friendly, and I realized I had to hit the road soon, so I decided to move to video poker, try to hit a quick royal flush and get out of the hole. Turned out to be a bad idea. Earned enough on my players card to get some pizza comped for an early dinner before leaving vegas, but ended up deep, deep in the hole. But I figure my comps were worth about $500-700, depending on the going rate for hotel rooms that week. And I had fun, so I got a good vacation at a decent rate, all things considered.

I joined Friendster. Feel like a heel, but that's okay. If you wanna be my buddy, just let me know.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Some nice songs by the Tiger Lillies to download. I have a bit of a headache, so I'll wait to write about Vegas; hopefully, I'll get something up this weekend. Let's just say it wasn't pretty.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Check out Randy Newman's reports from his European tour, here and here.

Probably won't post again until I get back from Vegas, so wish me luck!

Freaks and Geeks is coming out on DVD. If you're made of money, you can buy the deluxe edition from the Freaks and Geeks website for $120. Unless I win it really big in Vegas, though, I think I'll stick to the standard edition.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Looking for something else, I just happened to stumble upon this web site for Kaser software, the maker of Sherlock, a shareware game I've been playing for probably at least 10 years. Never did register it, since I had no way of knowing if the contact info in the game was still valid (this was before web pages), but maybe I'll buy the new version or one of his other games and show my financial support.
I've fallen behind in posting to this blog, I'm afraid, so I'll just do a quick catch-up post and then move on. Since I last wrote, I attended two concerts at UCLA, Randy Newman on Friday and Shock and Awe, a loving tribute to Randy Newman, the next night. Randy Newman was in fine form, and for an encore performed "Laugh and Be Happy," which he has never performed in public before. I met him after the show, which is always exciting, but I never have anything to say, so I wonder what the point is sometimes. The next night, Shock and All, was inferior to the real thing, as I knew it would be. But I enjoyed it. Rip Torn was just awful, forgetting the words to "Political Science," and there were quite a few other low moments, but it was a different take on his music. Vic Chesnutt, Jimmy Fallon, Stan Ridgeway, Van Dyke Parks, and Jack Shit had some of the better moments of the night. And it was much more efficient than similar events in the past, such as the Harry Smith Project I saw at the same theater, Royce Hall, a few years back. So I must say I enjoyed my Randy Newman weekend.

I've seen two movies recently, Big Fish and The Fog of War. I enjoyed The Fog of War, though I understand some of the criticism. What surprised me is how much, in a film that consists to a very large degree of nothing but close-ups of McNamara's face, how much the film becomes a documentary detached from his baggage. Occasionally he'll say something, like when he compares himself to a Quaker who immolated himself in front of his office, or when he explains how shocked Kennedy and McNamara were when Diem was assasinated, and like a slap in the face you remember who you're watching. But I thought it made an interesting case, and if McNamara in the end is perhaps more sympathetic than he should be, what does it matter? There are larger issues to fret over than, "Is McNamara a good man or a bad man?"

On the other hand, I did not enjoy Big Fish very much. It was nice to look at from time to time, but felt hollow from the start. I felt my time would have been better served if I watched that Twilight Zone where the town's biggest liar gets abducted by aliens, and no one believes him, but no one cares because true or not, its a great yarn. Big Fish is basically the same thing, but with a manipulative tear-jerker ending.

So I've seen a few things in the last two weeks or whatever its been, but mostly my time has been devoted to school or wasting time. Oh, and playing Final Fantasy X-2 a bit, but I think I've already mentioned that. I'm ditching school next Wednesday, so I can go to Vegas. This quarter is proving to be unremarkable. I was fretting the schedule, which has me stuck on campus with a lot of time between classes. I mentioned that one upside of a five-hour break is, if I need to do something, I can always leave campus and go do it. So that's what I end up doing about every day. I was here Wednesday because I had a mid-term to prepare for, and I'm here today because I'm trying to get in the habit and there's nothing I really need to do, but it seems like I can always find some nitpicky thing I need to do, so I end up doubling the amount of gas I use up, or end up ditching my afternoon class. But so far, the quarter is going well. And two nights in Vegas should help me unwind a bit, I've been a bit nervous and anxious lately, for undefined reasons. Just think I need to get away. Should be fun.