Thursday, September 23, 2010


live and in the Tacoma Dome!

My love for Cirque is everlasting and undying, but honestly I feel as though I idealized this show. Perhaps because it was the first show which I had any memento of, perhaps because I was so young when I first saw it, perhaps because I have grown up listening to its music, perhaps because it was and is and will always be ingrained in my mind in a way little else can be.

Alright. So I idealize it. Isn't that the nature of adoration?

For the sake of a bit of history, Alegría was seen for the first time in 1994, performed a decade after the birth of Cirque du Soleil itself. Alegría was proceeded by: La Magie Continue, We Reinvent the Circus, Nouvelle Expérience, Fascination, Saltimbanco, and Mystère. Of these, only Saltimbanco and Mystère are still performed. Even in the face of such previous and enduring excellence, this 1994 newcomer stands up for itself.

Alegría professes itself to be "a baroque ode to the energy, grace and power of youth," and I can believe it. The show speaks to lineage, the old and the new, and the dichotomies of black and white, secure power and endangering risk. And frankly, overall, it's a sensory wonder.

I think what stayed with me the longest, besides the music, was the appearance of the characters. I never forgot the White Lady, as I remember her, or The White Singer as she is called in the official literature.

And she was not the only one; I recalled fragments of the costumes and characters from when I first saw them, and that in and of itself attests to the sheer beauty of this production. I remember parts of Alegría more vividly than I recall my childhood trips to Disney parks. But enough reminiscing.

Alegría in the Tacoma Dome was wonderful. I was a little sad they didn't fit the Big Top, or, if you prefer to be all fancy, the Grand Chapiteau, inside the Dome, but who am I to split hairs? The stage, lighting, MUSIC [especially the music] were spot on. There's just a quality that Alegría's music has which makes it both chilling and enthralling. I've never been able to escape it. Alongside the costumes, the music is my favorite part.

I think these factors are what redeemed the second viewing of this show for me. Since, quite naturally I would argue, nothing can ever live up to the idealized Alegría of my childhood and my dreams, in a way it had to be redeemed. Some of the acts were not quite so impressive to me the second time around, especially when stood up next to the far more recent KOOZÄ! (2007), which some of you might recall I saw last summer. But my discomfort was not in that I wasn't quite impressed or enthralled "enough" - but instead that KOOZÄ! seemed to loom in and even usurp Alegría's place in my heart. But not to fear - the Coup of the Circuses never took place. After all, Alegría had seniority and the fact that I debated at all attests to how well it has withstood the test of time.

Both of these shows have wonderful messages, which is always an important aspect of my appreciation of productions such as these. To me, KOOZÄ! is a call to embrace what some might call childishness, to be sensitive to mysticism and the unknown and to strike out in the world unafraid of inventing that world as one goes along; Alegría on the other hand is a testament to that youth, a celebration of things new and fresh while still embracing what has been. I realize now that I love both these shows so much because they walk hand in hand.

But as all of you know, I can go on about the things I care for the most for days, and none of you want that.
For those of you who are so inclined, seek out Alegría. It has the best clowning I have ever seen, some of the best music and costumes, and, as a bonus, one of my favorite acts of all time: the Flying Man.

I will leave you, then, with this:
I see a spark of life shining
I hear a young minstrel sing
Beautiful roaring scream
Of joy and sorrow,
So extreme
There is a love in me raging
A joyous,
Magical feeling...

Also! Credit must be given where it is due! I made use of this lovely timeline posted by a fellow blogger! Thank you ever so much for your marvelous compilation of Cirque materials!

The Dimes

live and in concert at Portland's Muddy Boot Festival!

I had wanted to see The Dimes desperately for over a year, and finally I was given the opportunity! Based in the Vancouver-Portland (Washington-Oregon) area, The Dimes have a flair for history and a good ear for indie pop/folk fusion. Last May they were recognized on NPR when their track Save Me, Clara was made song of the day. If it strikes your fancy you can read the honorary blurb by Barbara Mitchell, The Dimes: A Gentle Plea To An Angel Of Mercy.

The band is composed of Johnny Clay, Pierre Kaiser, Ryan Johnston, Jake Rahner, Kelly Masigat, Tucker Jackson and potentially several others, as they are quite happily prone to including family members and guest stars for various performance purposes. They are self-proclaimed college-campus-playing veterans, and have since moved on to higher prospects including the Crystal Ballroom [my personal favorite venue in all of Portland].

I think one of my favorite parts about the music they make is how very historical the lyrics are. For sake of example, Save Me, Clara is about Clara Barton, a nurse who tended the wounded during the Civil War and who later went on to found the American Red Cross. However, even though this is the case, the references made by the songs do not in any way make them inaccessible: you don't need to know that Clara is Clara Barton to enjoy the song. On their facebook page, the members of the band credit their song ideas to some 1930s era newspapers they found under the kitchen floorboards of a Victorian house they're renovating. (May I take a moment to say, how flippin' cool is that?!) But beyond having excellent lyrics, their sound is wonderfully balanced. I have a soft spot for their multi-harmony vocals, epitomized in their track Emmie Devine. And still beyond that, their sound translates from recording to live and in person very gracefully indeed. Hearing Emmie Devine live nearly reduced me to tears in the very best sense.

So if you haven't heard their work yet, Go Forth, blog readers, and be victorious!

Visit The Dimes on...
Their Homepage

PS - This review is EXCEEDINGLY LATE. I APOLOGIZE. College decided to happen, so I'm really quite behind with this whole reviewing business. I will catch up as soon as I may (despite the fact that the holidays are well on their way)!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Clockwork Man

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, I have purchased and played a computer game. Get your shocked and potentially appalled reactions out now.

The Clockwork Man, courtesy of Total Eclipse games, is what is called a “Hidden Object” or “Seek and Find” game. Basically, you are presented with a room full of objects. Usually entirely spontaneous objects. You are also presented with a list for every room of things you are to find amongst the mess presented you. You click on each object to collect it, and then you move on. In some cases there are other puzzles, like solving a combination box, fixing a boiler, using multiple items to patch a pipe, things like that. In short, gameplay is very basic.

I will own that I have never played a “seek and find” game before, and that it came off as rather childish to me in the realm of gameplay. I finished the entire adventure in a single sitting. Perhaps I am just used to things like The Legend of Zelda, but I honestly hoped the game would be longer. I even could have dealt with the endless screens of “find these random things even when it doesn’t make much sense to” if only the story kept going. My hopes were raised about mid-game with the advent of the puzzle-box. The idea was that every line of tiles you were presented had a kind of “key” – and you had to transform the symbols not to match, but to match with a rotation or change made to it presented in a single static tile. That may have been a terrible description on what the puzzle calls for as far as nonsensicality, but it was the first – and last – puzzle that actually had me going. I was excited after that, anticipating other more difficult puzzles, but the rest were simply not up to snuff. I also held out for the bonus “free play” option, hoping that there would be puzzles to be had there, as well, that something would be different. Instead what I found was more cluttered rooms and lists. To be fair I haven’t yet re-played the adventure, which, according to a message at the end of the first play through, is entirely different. I would hope that means the puzzles as well, but what with how the game played out, I doubt it.

On another note, what was up to snuff was the design. The characters, while expressively and proportionally appearing straight out of an online fashion doll generator, had great concepts. I liked the costumes especially. It was the backgrounds and objects themselves where the artistry showed. Even amongst the clutter the gameplay called for, the rooms and backgrounds were beautifully rendered. My other favorite part art-wise was the cut scenes. They had an old charcoal-on-teastained-parchment look, and the characters looked more natural.

The writing itself was passing fair, but, sadly, the voice acting completely destroyed its potential nuances and intricacies. The largest complaint I had was that the text presented in the dialog boxes didn’t match the audio, but only for one single character. As for the rest, they matched, but half the accents attempted were grating. The main character’s British drifted in and out of badness and the only French character, well...he wasn’t quite French. However, while the voice acting left something to be desired, I enjoyed the plot itself. While simple and short, Miranda Calomy and her eccentric yet well-known inventor Grandfather were endearing. The concept for The Clockwork Man himself was excellent – he was arguably the prettiest part of the game – and the use of the Mayan temple buried in the jungle added some nice spice to it. I had hoped the game would continue after the jungle adventure with the concept put forth in the prologue, of Miranda attending University, but alas, the story ended there. Or did it?

The Clockwork Man already has a sequel, which can be purchased via download here, or, you know, snail mail for half price here. It appears to be a straight-up sequel, but judging by the video, the interface and puzzle-play have both improved, the backgrounds are less insanely cluttered, AND (WHAAT?) the characters look to have improved design-wise! [Hooray for ladies in trousers!] The voices appear to be the same. Damn.

However, my dearest ladies and gentlemen, the point remains thus: even though I complained about this game up and down the town, I simply could not stop playing it. For a glorious three (maybe four) hours, it consumed my life. I only wish the gloriousness had lasted longer.

The Clockwork Man: The Hidden World, Here I Come!

Steam on.

Official Clockwork Man Website


Kick-Ass, which recently hit the DVD release, is the perfect descriptor for itself. It was KICK. ASS. Bold, double underlined, and in red. For good measure.

It had everything a gritty urban adventure needed, from the cocaine dealers to the tattooed gang bangers, and everything a superhero movie needed, from deep dark comic book pasts to big guns. Especially the big guns.

But in the end, there were a few things that really surprised me. First was the casting. What a star-stud. Mark Strong as Frank D’Amico was brilliant. After his recent appearance in Sherlock Holmes as Lord Blackwood, I am not at all surprised that film makers are chomping at the bit to see more of him. I realize in both movies he had some kind of distinguishing physical feature on his face to make him stand out: Lord Blackwood had his off-kilter tooth (dare I say snaggletooth?) and Frank had a very unique pseudo-circular scar a little above the bridge of his forehead on the left side. It’s little things like that just make my day. Then of course there was Nicholas Cage. I’ve never thought that he was badass before. Honestly, I’ve never been a big Cage fan. Even in National Treasure (which I do have a bit of a guilty pleasure for) I thought he was mediocre at best. But this…I dunno. There was a kind of charm to his performance of vigilantism in this film. And then there’s Kick-Ass. Aaron Johnson was wonderful. With his talent I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of him, [especially with those cheekbones, not gonna lie,] but the shocking thing is how much we may have seen of him already. I personally did not recognize the transition between The Thief Lord’s Prosper and Kick-Ass’ Dave Lizewski. In singing his praises as Dave/Kick-Ass, his voice-crack was hilarious, and his momentary imitation gay voice was priceless. I laughed so hard because I honestly believed it. Oh gracious me. But my absolute favorite, for writing, for design, for physicality, for performance, was definitely Chloe Moretz’s Hit Girl. She was so darling when not in costume, and she was definitely the most badass in costume. I mean, what more could you ask for? Purple hair, classic Robin mask, combat boots, tartan skirt, more weapons than can even be imagined, and a mouth like a sailor. She was GREAT. Quite a performance for a girl of 13, too. Can’t wait to see her again.

One aspect of this film which caught me off guard with its quality was the soundtrack. I’m out to find it, it was so good. [Note: this is a huge compliment. I usually only go after the instrumental soundtracks. Like Clint Mansell’s score for The Fountain. It’s scrumptious.] There were so many times that my dad and I reacted with “Oh, I know this song!!” that it added a new level to the whole experience. The best by far was when they broke out a remix of the beginning of 3 Doors Down’s Kryptonite and led it right into Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation. Seriously. It’s like chocolate milk and kahlua: it just works.

The visuals of this film I could rant about for days. The strobe-light fight scene was definitely one of the best. The use of sight-through-news broadcast, or youtube video, or security camera, or teddy-cam, all of it was great. The direct references to comic books were also great when it’s a film about super heroes outside of the comic books, as well. That little visual self-reference was satisfied-nod-worthy.
But all in all? Basically? This thing was a hit, and it shocked me. It’s not that I doubted its ability to rock the house, I just never expected it to become my new favorite film.

Well. Since I enjoyed that so much, I guess it’s time to finally go and watch Kill Bill Vol. II.

In the words of my new favorite superhero, show’s over, motherf*****s.