Friday, December 30, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Honestly, my mind is still racing to catch up. I haven't devoured a book the way I devoured The Hunger Games since right before fall quarter, the exhausting two-day stint wherein I completed both Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and Brom's The Child Thief.

There are a few reasons this parallel came as a surprise. I admit that at first I was a little resistant to reading The Hunger Games, though with 20/20 hindsight it was a foolish reaction. On some level I feared a sort of fiction-following rebound. In the gaping hole that the cinematic conclusion Harry Potter left behind in addition with the fact that the last piece of the Twilight saga is nearly at hand, part of me wondered if the fanatical attention given to Hunger Games wasn't just to fill the massive media vacuum both franchises have and will inevitably leave behind. To some extent I think the Hunger Games film is meant to do just that, but more on that front later.

This resistance was tough to shake, especially when I opened the book and was immediately confronted with not only first-person but also present tense narrative. I have close to no conception why, but either of these on their own is enough to shut me down to a fiction book, let alone both in tandem. As I said, I couldn't tell you why, though if asked I suppose I would answer that something in the cadence of it feels all wrong ninety percent of the time. That being said, just how hooked I was, and in such a short amount of time, is a testament to Suzanne Collins' sheer mastery.

The massive hooks throughout the book, and possibly the best aspect of Collins' writing, consist of tremendous amounts of suspense coupled with extremely visual, imaginative prose. It's little wonder the movie companies couldn't wait to sink their claws into it - turning this into a storyboard would be a piece of cake. Paring it down to the length of a single film? Maybe not so much.

***Now we enter the potential Spoiler zone. Read on at your own risk***

On the subject of the trailer, having watched it now that I'm in the know I completely understand all my friends and acquaintances who claim they're already bracing themselves for disappointment. The casting all along the board seems all wrong, Katniss seems hopelessly toned down, and the visual look of what the audience gets from the meager two minutes of trailer seems listing far off-course from the look and feel of the book. Danger! Here there be monsters!

Which of course comes back to the whole 'divorce the book and the movie so that you don't get mad' business.

My other reservations lie in how self-sufficient this first volume is. Not for a second did the conception even enter my mind that the entire games would be over and dealt with in the first novel. The suspense throughout its entirety was insane - the driving plot to stay alive, to kill or be killed, to keep up a farce in order to earn food and water - but what does that leave? The only remnant from the first novel which will inevitably carry over to the subsequent two is the love-triangle which is hardly even a triangle. I congratulate Collins on the portrayal of a girl who is confused and doesn't know what she wants, thinks, or feels - that she "can't explain how things are...because [she] doesn't know [her]self" (373). But is that really enough to go on for two more books, after the whirl, desperation and brutality of the games? It teeters dangerously close to that media vacuum I mentioned before - worse, the teen-romance portion of the vacuum that verges on the inane. I can only hope this'll be incorporated into that hindsight 20/20 bit.

In all I have my doubts, clearly, but I'm determined to reserve judgment. Suzanne Collins has impressed me once, and done a thorough job of it. I am more than willing to believe that she can do it again.

Interested in purchase? Say no more.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


It's been a while! In light of the fact, this might seem a bit more like a ramble than anything else. Or maybe a list. I'm not really sure.

Had the wonderful opportunity to see both The Santaland Diaries at Portland Center Stage and The Dimes at the Kennedy School. Both were fun, but The Dimes were phenomenal. If you haven't checked them out yet, shame on you. Go do so. However, the adventures for today were:

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

EXCELLENT. I was far more impressed with this film than I expected to be. Not to say that I had any doubt it'd be decent, only that I can't honestly say which film could be called "better," even with the first having the advantage of being, well, first. Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. give a grand show as expected, and the addition of the lovely Noomi Rapace as Madam Simza and the excellent Stephen Fry as Mycroft worked wonders. However, Jared Harris as the supremely chilling Professor James Moriarty must, inevitably, take the cake.

While diehard Conan Doyle fans will take issue with some of the choices, I think they are inevitably justified by the structure of the Holmes Adventures in the first place: they are only episodes. Yes, we are told that Sherlock goes away to become a beekeeper somewhere for his retirement, but that doesn't mean we are privy to every case - each story is open ended. That isn't to say that anything goes, necessarily, but this film has many nice touches, including the preservation of that openness which characterizes the serialized adventures. So, diehard or not, please go see this film. It's absolutely lovely.

Check it out on IMBd.


The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

It is the reason I am currently unable to sleep.
In retrospect, I have no idea why I didn't think of blogging a Skyward Sword diary. It would have been so much fun! And caused me to be even more sleep deprived than I already am, but whatever. In interest of not spoiling it for anyone, watch out for warnings.

First of all, the controls are great. Yes, the wiimote doesn't always respond correctly, but that's to be expected, really, especially when you're swinging it wildly, shouting "NO, HORIZONTAL SLASH, YOU--" etc. etc. Other than this slight (but predictable) setback, the only control issue is that the wiimote/nunchuck combination required drains batteries extremely quickly. Get thee some rechargables or Zelda fans will destroy the environment all by themselves!!

Gameplay is great. Everything about it that I was reluctant about - stamina gauge and upgrades, mostly - have been incorporated smoothly. Even the upgrade system (which normally makes me shudder under the brunt of never-ending RPG that usually goes with said function) is fantastic. The only mechanic which could have been improved was the controls for the musical instrument. There are no Ocarina-style command patterns needed, the game just identifies which song you've learned that goes with the location you're in and, essentially, plays it for you. A slight setback, in light of the rest of the game, but a bit of a let-down, nonetheless.

The story is great. After all, it is a prequel to the ENTIRE series, so I expected they'd have to come up with something good. There are plenty of little things (and big things!) to make long-time Zelda fans drop their jaws or throw up their hands in combined frustration and elation. This is coupled with a non-stereotypical Zelda main villain with a flair for the theatrical: the diamond theme was a nice touch in light of that. (SPOILER: A villain who, I hear through the grapevine, doesn't turn into a raging psychopath at the end, like Zant did.)

But the best is possibly the ART. This game is gorgeous and I can't even do it justice. So here. Have some concept paintings. (WARNING: snarky captions might be considered spoilers by some parties.)

Epona?! What happened to you?

I swear, if you tongue my ear one more time...

All in all? This game is completely addictive. Not recommended for young children or pregnant women.

Also, for those of you who have played/are working on it: the trials. Isn't it appropriate that the things you have to find in the Silent Realms are called "tears"? After all, when you're playing those parts you're CRYING THE WHOLE TIME.

But, massive time-challenge stress aside, this is a great game. If you want to check out official stuff, take a look at the website.

That's all for now, folks - I've got to get back to saving the world.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rant and a Half

A preface: this quarter, I'm taking English 313, Theory and Criticism. Not only is the class sufficiently oblique and vague for the nature of its title, there are some interesting participants.

Today, we were discussing Plato's Ion and, more relevantly, Arthur C. Danto's Dangerous Art, published in Demetrio Paparoni's volume Eretica: The Transcendent and the Profane in Contemporary Art (173-201).

Danto's essay, or at least what I was able to grok from it, had to do with art, censorship, politics, and how they're all tied up together. What I found most interesting was his assertion of a rather curious conundrum: whether or not censorship is in place, art is assaulted, and if the state of censorship changes, art is assaulted again.

His best example on the side of change was a passage about Rock Music in the Soviet Union in light of Glasnost. Rock, he tells us, was dangerous and underground due to censorship and was therefore powerful. When Glasnost was put into place, that necessity, therefore the danger, and therefore the power of Rock n' Roll evaporated. "To legitimize rock is therefore to rob it of its form and hence its meaning:" he writes, "an officially condoned rock is precisely rock that the state has conquered" (176). So art under censorship is powerful and the transition to transparency destroyed that meaning, that function. The same, I am sure, could be argued for a change in the opposite direction.

Likewise, his example of art under censorship was in context of the Soviet Union, but before glasnost. Focusing on Literature, his main argument was that, since everything was considered a potential threat, both author and audience had to examine what wasn't said, rather than what was said: that the skill of reading between the lines, or "deep reading," as Danto terms it, was the only way to get a message across.

He then goes on to analyze what I will term, in reference to him, 'free' art. His assertion - which he drives home over and over again - is that to put art on a pedestal is actually to put it in a prison: that in a country where expression is free, the label "art" derives the work of all its danger, significance, function and power. The idea is that no matter how offensive or controversial a piece or its content is, it can immediately be waved away with the phrase, "Oh, it's art." He credits this to Plato himself, who originated the idea that anything material at all is only a copy of an idea, therefore imperfect, therefore not real. And since art is a copy of life and therefore a copy of a copy, it is doubly un-real. And naturally, anything unreal can't do real damage. So what is its significance? For Danto, the state of 'free' art means art which is not free at all: art which has been stripped of its meaning entirely.

In light of all this, the class was discussing what could have contributed to this phenomenon of powerless art. Guy#1 speculated that the availability of materials through the internet could have contributed, especially where music is involved. He brought up how anything can be cut, sampled, mixed, and posted without need of a studio, rights, regulations, any of it. Our professor reacted by asking if we thought this process had taken the political nature out of music. Guy#2 jumped on that question, talking up and down about how music wasn't worth it any more, that it had been drained of meaning by the internet, that it no longer had a message.

If my brain was't full of snot due to my Bronchitis I just might have sworn.

Item one: How do you possibly think that free access and distribution of music could have the capacity to hinder meaning? Distribution has nothing to do with content at all. Some of the best music in my library (The Dimes, to name one) is readily available on the internet and that doesn't affect their content in the slightest. Hell, most of their early music was written and recorded separately through use of digital microphones on their personal computers and they sound fantastic, both on CD and in real life. Musicians out there have plenty to say, regardless of whether they're as popular as can be or in your back yard (Decemberists, Abney Park, Lady GaGa, Jessie J, Green Day, Airborne Toxic Event, Rebecca Drysdale, just to name a few.) And guess what? That long list can all be got through the internet.

Item two: Now that we've established that music can still have meaning, what kind of logic do you have to use to think the internet is detrimental to that meaning? There is a lovely interview - that's right, available right here on YouTube - by Neil Gaiman discussing the benefit of advertising through the internet. While it's a little off topic, the point is the same. Your work reaches more people in less time through use of the internet. Over the internet, any message aimed at any audience is bound to reach hundreds if not thousands more people than would ever encounter it if it weren't on the web. Hell, we can jack that number up to millions provided the item goes viral. If that isn't sufficient evidence, the Oregonian ran an article last year about an author who, after being repeatedly rejected by publishing companies, decided to cut out the middleman and self-publish for, you guessed it, the e-book market. Her readership (as well as her bank account) jumped up immediately. Through clever web marketing, she's now significantly contributing to her family's expenses with her art.

Item three: Nothing exists in a vacuum. Early on in Dangerous Art, Danto proposes as a thesis that "our art and our political reality are made for one another; that each, one might say, is the same set of symbolic forms differently embodied" (175-6). In that light, how could it be possible that music isn't political? Just because we don't have an heir to Zack de la Roca's approach of up close and personal confrontation of what I might even dare to call "the system" doesn't mean that music inherently has no political meaning.

Item four: Perhaps most importantly, art as a whole, including music, is what you as an audience make of it. This is reached by what I now regard as fact: that artist's intent in inherently less important than audience interpretation. There is such a thing as interpretation without grounds, however, once someone makes something and puts it into the world, they are no longer there to mollycoddle it or justify it. It's on its own, becomes its own entity. If you as a viewer or listener assume that music is dead and has no meaning, you'll be proven right every time by grace of the stale interpretations of your perfectly closed mind. This is a two-way street, of course, and you can find sunshine and rainbows in pretty much anything if you look hard enough.

The point is, please be discerning, and perhaps give music as a whole another listen.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Double Whammy

Two books in two days, BAM!
And did I mention I finished Sherlock Holmes? No? Oh. Well then.

Sherlock is awesome. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is awesome. Look into it.

Book no. 1: The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman.

Suffice it to say that my initial response to The Graveyard Book was:
"The Graveyard Book is over and done -
one of the best I've ever read -
and now that day is long past gone
I'm ready to sleep like the dead."
Reading fiction, especially children's-to-young-adult fiction, doesn't usually inspire me to write poetry, let alone rhyming lines, let alone at three o'clock in the morning.

Get thee to a bookstore. NOW.
Especially if you have a love of ghost stories. Gaiman is a wizard, I swear.

However, the volume that currently consumes my thoughts is none other than
Book no. 2, Brom's latest work: The Child Thief.

Do you, dear reader, recall how the 2003 film version of Peter Pan, starring Jeremy Sumpter (Peter) and Jason Isaacs (Hook), sought to re-inject some of the darkness of faery back into the tale which had been inevitably candy-coated through mediums like Disney? Brom's retelling of J.M. Barrie's classic novel gives that film a cold, back-handed, lip-splitting slap to the face.

This overhaul begins in modern New York, in Brooklyn, steeped in its drugs, thug violence, and urban brutality and desperation. Cue Peter, the Child Thief, ready to tempt his newly-found runaways into the Mist and out of this world, into one which is different in every way and yet equally cruel. Welcome to Avalon.

Like Brom's other works, The Child Thief is impossibly dark. In a way, rightfully so. Brom invites his audience to re-examine J.M. Barrie's own Peter, the first Peter, the true Peter. Brom quotes Barrie's novel, “The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out; but at this time there were six of them, counting the twins as two.” And if that was't enough, he found another gem: ""I forget them after I kill them," he (Peter) replied carelessly.”

Personally, I had forgotten those lines. In light of them, the world of The Child Thief seems a logical, even a natural, inference to make. And while Brom's Peter occasionally shows the flippancy and the childishness that might excuse his predecessor - for surely a child would not understand death, not really, not the way an adult would - he has no excuses. He asks for none. He kills and has been killing all his long, ageless life.

Which brings me to a word of caution: this book is graphic. Terribly graphic. The kind of graphic that should never be translated into visual representations of any kind. If you can't take the thought of glistening entrails being anywhere other than inside one's body, close the book, put it back on the shelf, this one's not for you. (For the record, the language is also vulgar as hell.) Furthermore, whether or not your are opposed to the language, the portrayal, the violence, anything, this is the kind of book that once you're hooked, you're sunk, it's over, goodnight. The novel is 480 pages long. I read more than half of it today and forgot to eat. That hasn't happened to me before.

And yet, as much as it - as he - is terrifying, Brom's words and Peter's winning nature are enchanting. I found myself hoping, wishing for a reason for all the brutality, for the battles and the senselessness, and at first I thought there was. But Brom has a way of bringing out the painfully human in things which are portrayed as superhuman: of tearing away all artifice and illusion, of standing the most charismatic leader beside the most corrupt tyrant and stripping them both down to nothing more than greed, and lust, and grit, and pain. Identical. And, for some reason, it's impossible not to watch.

As harsh as I am toward Brom's Peterbird, I have to admit, he did a marvelous job in crafting him. The only spoiler I will give is a phrase used throughout the book: "...because Peter's smile is a most contagious thing." Sociopath or not, kidnapper or not, Peter is charismatic as hell. I fought with the concept of his faults all through the novel, wanting to make him into the simple hero minds like Disney's made him into, to make him into a person who was good, and only good. It wasn't possible. And that's okay. If I'd been a runaway, I'd only have had one answer, and it was the same, beginning of the novel to its end:

"I go willingly."

So if you have a mind, and a strong stomach, and perhaps even a touch of dark humor about you, pick up The Child Thief. But beware: it's not like you remember it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Red Riding Hood

starring Amanda Seyfried as Red (Valerie) and directed by Catherine Hardwicke. Wait, you say, Catherine Hardwicke? The director of Twilight?

Yes, folks. The director of Twilight.

My first reaction when seeing the trailer and knowing this fact was "Why, world? Why didn't you let it be Tim Burton?"

In spite of this, I tried very hard not to judge it based solely on the choice of director. My dad might tell you otherwise, having watched the movie with me (sorry, dad!), but I really did try. It didn't work incredibly well. Too much of the film was just too predictable.

First, the introduction was trying too hard to be Twilight. The establishing shots of foggy, groggy, Pacific North-West style rolling forest hills could have been cut and pasted from Hardwicke's aforementioned project. Second, the acting, barring only miss Seyfried (by grace of her portraying a young lady with a million times more grace and dexterity than Kristen Stewart's Bella - then again, it doesn't take much), was pretty atrocious. I also bar Gary Oldman from this judgment, who I hope was paid extremely well in compensation for the terrible accent he had to put on. Last, and most important, was the severe incongruousness.

The setting (temporal): the village where the story plays out is one where Red/Valerie is arranged to marry the Blacksmith (Henry), as she will have a much more secure financial life with him, rather than with the woodcutter she loves (Peter). The houses are what you would imagine: simple, wooden, rustic. The costuming hints at a period piece while deftly side-stepping any real temporal commitment. When Gary Oldman (Father Solomon, who also happens to be the only character with a costume which could potentially be dated) appears on the scene, his thick pseudo-German accent would hint that they are somewhere in Europe. As he and his entourage arrive on horseback and the village, if it is truly as isolated as is professed by our heroine and narrator, would almost certainly not know of a Werewolf specialist from overseas, I have to conclude that they are somewhere at least on the same continent. All of the other actors speak with American accents.

The setting (physical): I said village, right? Rustic, scenic, isolated. The aforementioned costuming throws logic to the winds and the peasants of this community dress in fine, bright fabrics. There is an array of colors, from bright blue to bright yellow, and in hues that simple folk of their bent would almost certainly be unable to afford or make. What use would they have of a forest-green work shirt, let alone finery, when Red tells us in the very beginning that the rest of the world doesn't even know her village's name? (Thanks to IMDb's lovely reminder, I can also gripe about the glass windows, which only the rich could afford.) Back to the clothes. To give credit where it is due, I understand that this is meant to be a fantasy and that these kind of things can, and do, slide. But aesthetically speaking, to have a dingier, grittier village would have lent all the more visual power and command to Red's beautiful cloak, which was much more realistic: while it was bright red, as promised, it was coarse-woven and a gift from Red's granny. It seemed just as it should be.

So ultimately I forgive the costumes. What I can't quite forgive, as this is a period piece, was that Peter's hair was clearly moussed. Not only was this a serious affront in the period piece category, it made him an Edward-wannabe and, similar to the effect it had on Robert Pattinson, took away practically all of Shiloh Fernandez's attractiveness. And, for those of you who are interested, I don't know if you've looked at other pictures of him, but he is SMOKIN'. So seriously, I don't know what they were thinking with the hair gel. I can only hope that, in spite of bad hair choices, we'll see more of him in better-directed, better-written movies.

And now to give credit where it really is due. The cinematography was quite good. It didn't make up for the writing, but there were some extremely lovely moments, especially Red's hallucination-scenes wherein her cloak gets much longer and is usually being blown around in the wind as she walks through untouched snow. SO visually appealing. So kudos to the crew for that.

I will also own that the Wolf was meticulously animated. While I still prefer Van Helsing's man-wolf, the oversized, lean Wolf of Red Riding Hood ranks right up there with the best. I may even place it as my second-favorite werewolf design in film. (Perhaps third, with American Werewolf in London holding an honorary second place.)

The next credit-award is possibly what shocked me most of all: I actually didn't predict who the Wolf was. It distracted me even from the poor acting for almost the entire second half of the film. There are some false threads and enough ambiguity that the reveal was refreshing. I won't spoil that part, just in case anyone wants to find out on their own.

What amused me the most about this film, however, was the blatant murder-mystery-game feeling the whole production had. Gary Oldman literally said something to the effect of "Bar the entrances. No-one leaves!" I burst out laughing.

My conclusion is that someone got drunk, played The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow, watched Twilight, and spat out "I HAVE A WONDERFUL IDEA."

Tim Burton, Danny Elfman, you make me mourn what this movie could have been.

Red on IMDb
Red's YouTube Trailer
The best game in Existence: The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow and its two expansions, New Moon and The Village!

The Decemberists

Live and in concert at McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon!

Oh my goodness gracious sakes alive.

(If the above did not convey shock and awe, please insert it here.)

Not to knock them. Not at all. But they were so much better in concert than I ever could have dreamed they would be. Singer and frontman Colin Meloy was spot-on, the whole band sounded tight, Peter Buck appeared to play for a song (who, they told us, was actually a sprite that lives in the Troutdale woods, appearing to perform with musicians when they play music of an appropriate bent: "that's how REM found him," Colin said), and Jenny Conlee played the whole show, despite her ongoing battle with breast cancer. The sound quality: excellent. The set: brilliant, pulled from every album, varied, and wonderful. The energy: perfect.

It was the kind of show that induces a blissed-out buzz, a buzz that only leaves you when you're utterly exhausted and then leaves you exhausted for the next whole day.

There were a few perks in particular to this show. One of them was one of the most powerful messages I have ever seen conveyed on a stage. In talking about how grateful they were that Jenny could be there to perform with them, not only did Colin lead the entire crowd in a little healing magic/positive thought - we all put our hands in the air, said "ooooOOOO, aaaAAAAA, KAZAM!" and she looked down at herself shocked as though we'd cured her; "that'll do it, right?" said Colin - but he went on to explain their merch campaign. They've designed shirts and buttons (not available online) that read "Team Jenny" printed along the side of an accordion: all the proceeds go to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. As though that wasn't poignant enough, Colin went on: "We're going to play a song for Jenny, now. It's called This is Why We Fight." I had to work hard not to burst into tears. For those of you who aren't complete Decemberists fanatics, the lyrics to This is Why We Fight's chorus go: "This is why/why we fight/why we lie awake,/ this is why/why we fight:/so when we die/we will die/with our arms unbound!/This is why/this is why we fight/come hell." It also has an incredibly powerful music video to go with it.

My personal favorite perk of the evening, however, was that they fearlessly played their longest tracks: as part of encore number one (of three!) they played most, if not all, of The Tain, an eighteen-minute track! And, to top it off, as their second to last song of the night, they played my personal and all-time favorite, The Mariner's Revenge Song. Yes, folks. I danced the interpretive whale dance to the best of my ability and screamed like a dying sailor being eaten by a whale. In public. In my defense the latter part was by instruction. The whole crowd screamed and oh, what a sound we made. The video of the entire song (NOT MY DANCE, thank heaven), is pending on the YouTube. Their last song of the night, one of their very finest, was June Hymn, and though the drunk in front of us kept screaming at the most inopportune times during it, it was a beautiful performance nonetheless.

It also turns out that not only are The Decemberists basically King and court of Portlandia, they are some of the most creative people I have ever had the fortune to stumble across. Check out their website, their collaboration with The Impossible Project, The Impossible Project's homepage, and the site for Colin and his wife, Carson Ellis', novel Wildwood for details.

The (excellent) Openers:
Okkervil River
Point Juncture, WA


Was just like I hoped it would be. It would be an ideal double-feature with Constantine, Van Helsing, Underworld, or even Legion for optimum levels of ass kicking, badassery, and supernatural crap of some denomination.

Paul Bettany: perfect, I only wish they'd have let him keep his glorious British accent.

Karl Urban: perfect in every way. Put a gold star on the black hat.

Maggie Q: could have participated in the badassery more, but had her moment and so I am satisfied.

Cam Gigandet: had his good moments, his bad moments: if only they'd have let him actually tan rather than giving him the Jersey treatment!

The Vampires: one of the most original vampire concepts this side of Western Media in the last decade. Perhaps longer.

The design: superb. I've no idea how much the design for the film looks like the designs from the original korean graphic novels (serialized in the states by the juggernaut Tokyopop), but here's a list of everything that I can judge went into the aesthetics for the movie: Assassin's Creed for the costumes of the Priests/Priestesses (Paul Bettany especially), super turbo mega awesome motorcycles a la FFVII Advent Children, futuristic Cowboys/space western/twisted western, steam power meets Blade Runner cyber-city, windswept post-apocalypse desert, enough conducting explosions to orchestral music to make V proud, blood gore violence and, of course, who could forget? a fight on top of a moving train.

In short: BRILLIANT.

Go watch it.


Just to clear the air, Inkdeath, the conclusion of Cornelia Funke's Inkworld trilogy, made book two, which I looked at as a literary difficulty, all better. It may have even made it worthwhile. Maybe.

Perseverance. :P

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Inkspell, by Cornelia Funke

I regret to announce loud and clear that this book will never live up to its predecessor. Even though I can hardly remember the details of where this story began in Inkheart, what I can say for absolute certainty is that I never had mixed feelings about its quality. Regrettably, I can't say the same for Inkspell.

There is one thing I will take the time to say in praise of Ms. Funke, however: that she knows how to write characters. In fact, I think that she knows how to write them so well that it becomes unnerving in there somewhere. And, like how her own Fenoglio always laments that he can only write sad or cruel characters, the ones that Funke writes the best are the ones you wish you could reach through the pages to strangle yourself, being too impatient to wait for the other characters to do it for you. In considering the possibility, it could be that I am only so angry about this story at the moment because of these characters and their sheer abundance: yes, a few of the cruel ones have gotten their comeuppance, but what of the ones who are left? I don't want to use names for fear of spoilers, but what of those who are not cruel and simple, but the ones who are proud, obstinate, who seem to willfully fill themselves with ignorance?

And that exactly is what I'm talking about. Funke is a truly effective writer because normally characters don't make me half so angry.

As I stated before, Inkspell struggles to hold its own against Inkheart - and frankly, how could it not, with sheer nostalgia on the side of the latter? But there are other things as well. It took me longer to be drawn in to Inkspell - it took me two summers to force my way through it, which is uncommonly odd. The plot doesn't start picking up and getting really exciting until the middle of the book at least, and it leaves off in the least conclusive place a book can.

Naturally, this is to guarantee that fools such as I will go out and buy Inkdeath. Which of course I will, probably tomorrow.

So, business as usual, Cornelia Funke is fabulous, though I sincerely hope that Inkdeath holds more promise than this last chapter in the tale of the Inkworld, for the sake of not only my love of her work, but also to spare you another angry post.

Goodnight, all, and for those of you who observe, Happy Almost-Fourth of July.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Adele: Rolling in the Deep

I couldn't help but feature the music video for Rolling in the Deep.

The visuals confused me the first time I saw it. I'm not confused any more.
To go with a song of heartbreak and the desire for revenge, we are given a stunning compilation of images, visual translations of the kind of sorrow which can only be felt in abstraction and are therefore abstract. And those abstractions are all beautiful in their raw intensity.

There is so much I could analyze and infer from this video - from the separation of her and the drummer, the motions of her hands - but I'll let you do that on your own today.

Monday, June 6, 2011

30 Days of Night, Dark Days, and Return to Barrow, by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith

Remember this?

Yeah. Sadly, so do I.

Once upon an age ago I saw the film 30 Days of Night. Released in 2007 and directed by David Slade, it was first and foremost a bloodbath set in the month-long darkness of, you guessed it, Barrow, Alaska. At least writer Steve Niles was one of the screenplay artists. In spite of this fact, the film adaption falls very short from the comic which, I confess, surprised me.

Let me note before moving on that the only thing which was up to snuff for the film adaption was the level of gore. This movie - and these comics - are not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. They are gruesome, brutal, and exactly with the kind of mindlessness which comes under attack for influencing and encouraging violence in society. The movie is the closest I have ever come to those genres of films dedicated to violence and graphic visuals for the sake of both, and hopefully it will stay that way. Luckily the comic world is, though not at first glance, slightly more complex.

The first thing I must praise is the artwork. The film adaption of vampires, rather like Buffy vampires, have distorted faces, but in a less "vampire" way and more "alien" way:

See what I mean? I understand the choice of distorting the eyes - it could even be said to make sense. The vampires in the comic are visually distorted in much more disturbing ways - like in the mouth area - but the truth of the matter is that all the characters in the comic series are distorted. The style is cacophonous, noisy, it could even be said to be sloppy. It took some getting used to, to say the least. But an indistinct style is, perhaps, better for something so gory: what would otherwise be shown in glistening visceral detail is translated to the obscure and abstract the majority of the time.

What shocked me most, other than how much I warmed up to this erratic visual style, was the appearance of plot! [Gasp! Real plot?! No!] It nearly took the addition of the second volume, Dark Days to appear fully, but it indeed exists! There is one especially plot-inducing character in the first volume, I will concede, but I'd rather not spoil it. He's pretty fabulous, for a gory, grey-skinned bloodsucker.

Back to the wasteland of sequels, Dark Days shocked me immensely in that I believe it was better than its predecessor. Its premise was predictable, but overall I think it is a decent addition to the body of vampire literature the world has to offer. Likewise, volume three, Return to Barrow, while deceptively rerun-ish at the outset turns out to have a lovely little twist at the end. I highly recommend them, despite their horrid gore.

Also, fun fact: there was also a movie made of Dark Days. I am actually disappointed to find that Steve Niles is once again a participant in the production of the screenplay, because based on the trailer, this piece of cinema was dredged up from lesser origins. Having just read the comic it professes to be based on, I don't typically take it to be a good sign when I can, while watching, say the word "wrong" repeatedly in response to what the characters are saying. However, I reserve full judgment until the day I master my gag reflex enough to actually watch it.

If you're curious, here are some links for the films and the books alike. Happy hunting!

30 Days of Night (Comic)
30 Days of Night (Film)
Dark Days (Comic)
Dark Days (Film)
Return to Barrow (Comic)

Also, a Wiki page which details the various extensions of the original trilogy!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Pinky Spud and the Unwitting Felons on Holiday: Vegas, Baby!

Day 4: When it Rains, it Pours

Broken photos. Get used to it for a while. Sorry there's only one for this entry.

…as we say in Bree! [/LotR].

And oh it did. Literally, by the end of the night.

The day opened much as it did yesterday. I woke up at 5:00 AM again, saw a much less spectacular sky, and again I rolled over and went back to bed. Over Starbucks and Mad Zeppelin! We discussed the dastardly and treacherous deeds for the day, and while my traitors took the spoils, we decided to finish up our morning caffeine fix and head to the far-flung end of the strip to the Stratosphere hotel and tower. Vaguely reminiscent of the Seattle Space Needle, the Stratosphere is cited as the tallest free-standing observation tower in the United States, clocking in at a whopping 1,149 ft. But more important is the Stratosphere SkyJump, a not-quite free fall of 855 feet. (Which translates to the following: I was traveling at 42 mph vertically and downward for 835 feet: that last 20 the machine slowed me down for controlled impact.) It was, in a word, epic. [video, if I can get the link to work] (Note the attempted graceful descent and then the fail-landing. My knees gave out; they were shaking from all the hardcore that had just gone down.)

After that we treated ourselves to lunch at the Top of the World restaurant, which, like the Space Needle, is a restaurant which slowly rotates, giving the customer a full three hundred and sixty degree view of the city over the course of an hour and twenty minutes. It’s also home to the most delicious lobster-brie-cheddar grilled cheese sandwich and tomato bisque I’ve ever had in my LIFE. One of the perks includes fancy signs mounted on the walls which read: “SkyJumpers may go by during dinner. Feel free to wave.”

Next we rushed back to the hotel to spend a few precious minutes by the pool only to have the weather turn. Also, the Luxor claims that one pool is heated. I call bull on that crap. I fully acknowledge that the idea of a swimming pool in Vegas is to cool off, not warm up, but seriously people? In the off season, some temp control could be awesome. So much for getting a tan. So I moseyed back upstairs and got all dolled up for O at the Bellagio!

Richard Corliss of Time magazine once concluded, “O is forever.” After seeing it live, after having waited to do so for years, I completely understand what the hype is about. O is beautiful. O is elemental. Most of all, O is human. Though I say this about every Cirque show – that it speaks to things which are real, but in a language fantastic and so far from the everyday monotony twenty-first century life can achieve – O took it to an entirely new level. Perhaps it was that the main character began as an audience-member, planted to look like a tourist and pulled into Cirque’s world only to become a castaway, awash on the shores of his own subconscious. Perhaps it was simply this character’s quality as an everyday person, extraordinary in his quest to return the handkerchief of a sylph, but unsure and occasionally even trepid in his methods of achieving it. Furthermore, the show referenced its own dream-like quality very directly in the very end of the show. But, like a good punchline or a particularly delicious plot twist, that is something which I simply cannot spoil for you.

What I can tell you, however, is that there more was passion in this show than I feel like I’ve seen for a long time. The Fan-Dancer and the Flamenco-Beau/Grave-Riser were particularly great side-characters. The Fan Dancer was perhaps the best example. He had his solo and moved like he meant it, and as he finished the first sequence, he cried to a largely non-responsive audience, “Where is your SPIRIT!?” I cheered, and so did the people around me.

I feel like some of the raw energy, or perhaps the blood and sweat connection between the performer and the viewer, is lost in such huge venues, which is regrettable. O could not be achieved without the technological wizardry which makes the shifting, draining, sinking stage possible, and yet the spirit of the big top is not quite carried to the audience. The same happened with Mystère. The audience felt more removed, less bated-breath and clutched programs. Perhaps I’m alone in this sensation, who knows? But I can tell you that O is indeed forever, and I would recommend it just as highly as I would my other favorites. It’s on par with Koozå, with Varekai, even, dare I say, with Alegría. For those of you who have read my entry on Alegría, my most nostalgic show, you know what that means. For those of you who have not, I will say this: it is one of the most visually stunning, daring, and innovative performances I have ever witnessed, and I firmly believe that it will remain that way. From the moment the curtain pulled back, I was breathless and near tears.

So, dear readers, if you dare, visit and take a gander at the O trailer. It’s worth it, and that show, this whole trip, was the best birthday present I think I have ever received.

I would end on that note, but I have one last gory detail before the tale of these four days is done: strangely, the majority of the Bellagio restaurants close at 10:00 or 10:30 PM. How weird is that in the city that never sleeps? However, it resulted in the lovely discovery of Noodles, a small restaurant tucked away in the back with some of the best Chinese and Thai food I’ve ever had. Bon appétit.

After that late night meal it began to rain. It ushered us back to our rooms to pack, and rejoined us on the ground in Portland today. And that, my dears, cover to cover, is the end.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pinky Spud and the Unwitting Felons on Holiday: Vegas, Baby!

Day 3: Retreat! Hell!

Broken photos?! Still??
Yeah, yeah. I'm on it.

Where even to begin? The sunrise is as good a place as any. I distinctly remember waking up in the neighborhood of 5:15 in the morning entangled in my headphones cable, turning over to investigate, and in doing so being confronted by the strangest sky. I sat up, looked straight at a rising, pumpkin-orange sun, and had the foresight to jot down the phrase “tangerine and key lime sunrise” before completely zonking out again, but not quite enough foresight to grab the camera sitting next to my bed and take a picture of it. Lame.

Once I was actually conscious breakfast proceedings began with Starbucks and Mad Zeppelin! (which was soundly won by my mom). After that victory, we high-tailed it to Mandalay Bay and their Shark Reef Aquarium. It, happily, was home to a Komodo Dragon AND a healthy Python, as well as some of the prettiest piranhas ever witnessed. The best, though, was probably the octopus just due to the fact that he was swimming all over the place. Every other octopus I’ve ever seen since I was young enough to be scared of them has always been hiding and perfectly still. This guy was goin’ crazy. [photo]

After adventures in Sharkington, we broke out the rental car (whut?!), and headed to MGM. Where there are lots of lions. Like this one. [photo] But more importantly, there is the lion habitat, which, much to my happiness, is harm-free and humane. And oh lawd are they fat and happy. I mean look at her. Can that even be comfortable unless one is totally pampered? [photo] [photo] In fact, there was so much lion-ness going around, that I became a lion! [photo]

(No. I did not purchase that hat.)

Next we parked at Paris, breezing through it and taking a shortcut through the Sugar Factory in order to get, that’s right, THE PHOTO. [photo]
Courtesy of my mom <3 So the idea is that you have a fancy holder for your lollipop, right? But even better, it comes with a little plastic case-dome-thing so that you can wrap it up and save it for later. And it’s fancy. MOVING ON.

We popped back into the Bellagio for some Cirque shopping, including some birthday presents for some of my favorite people… The best discovery of the day next to the moment I saw a book of Cirque sheet music for piano, vocals, and guitar (EEP!) was the umbrella rotunda, yet another décor choice which endeared the Bellagio to me. [photo]

Next we headed over to the vicinity of Caesar’s Palace and made the terrible decision of stopping in at Serendipity 3 for “coffee and sweets.” I would like to note that serendipity is defined as “ser•en•dip•i•ty [ser-uhn-dip-i-tee] –noun aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. 2.good fortune; luck: the serendipity of getting the first job she applied for” ( In our case, this is hardly accurate. While everything was delicious, it arrived with the kind of fanfare that can only be responded to with “oh NO.” The sundae I ordered, the ‘Lookie Lookie Gimme Cookie sundae,’ could have fed a small nation and was NOT on the “for two” part of the menu. My parents also ordered something to share, which could have fed at least a district or two. This is not to say that the presentation was not spectacular, or that the quality was poor, only that the portions were HULKING and far too much for any of us to handle. Hot damn if all of the designs for the store weren’t adorable, though. [photo]

After suffering minor cardiac arrest and getting stomach pumps, we trekked to Caesar’s Palace, which is gorgeous, but the most confusing, labyrinthine structure we’ve been in yet. There were replicas of classical works everywhere, and after questing to find our way OUT of the Forum Shops, we quested for the Apollo Belvedere copy I’d glimpsed from the car on Sunday. We found him, passing the Winged Nike of Samothrace and Caesar Augustus along the way. [photo]

But we weren’t finished yet. It was barely evening and after all this is Vegas, so heading back wasn’t on the list yet. We schlepped (our word of the day) down to a place called Rave Motion Pictures and watched Battle: Los Angeles. It was actually much better than I expected it to be. Then again, it has Michelle Rodriguez as a tough chick. And aliens. Go see it. Or at least the trailer.

And that, other than bad hotel salads, was the end of the day. Now I have to recharge my mental and physical batteries, an effort I plan on pursuing well into tomorrow next to the pool (weather-gods willing), and get ready for Cirque du Soleil’s O. Sleep tight, all.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pinky Spud and the Unwitting Felons on Holiday: Vegas, Baby!

Day 2: Steady as She Goes, Captain

Yes, Photos are still broken. Please refer to the following!

Preface: OOOHHH WHAAAT A BEAUTIFUUUL MOOOORNING! OOOHHH WHAAAT A BEAUTIFUUUL DAAAAAAY!! No thunderheads as of yet, but who knows. Sitting here watching the wind change directions (a la American flag in the parking lot far below) makes me think the possibility is still there. Other than that the sun is shining, and the clouds are fluffy, white, high-velocity cotton balls streaking their way toward the strip. Far out over the mountains more clouds sit, seemingly motionless, with a hulking, grey-stained front moving up over and behind them. But should we talk about the weather? Should we talk about the government? [/R.E.M.] Coffee and breakfast time.

Over 13 hours later: Oh what a day. In so many ways.

To start we went down to The Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, which currently has its home in The Luxor. I can’t properly conjure words to describe how cool it was. At the beginning of the exhibit, each attendee is handed a boarding pass with a name and basic history on it. I was given the pass of Mrs. Wilhelm “Elna” Strom, and “I” was accompanied by my daughter Selma and my brother, Ernst Ulrik Persson. As we entered we were told to keep these people – as they were indeed real – in mind, and that at the end of the exhibit there would be lists of names: lists telling us whether the passenger we became survived. Elna was in steerage, as was the passenger my mom adopted: we promptly voiced our predictions of our imminent demise in the colorful language we tend to prefer. But we’d a ways to go yet: there were hundreds of artifacts to admire and dozens of stories to read accompanying them. The crowning jewel of both was the Big Piece, which, if you don’t know what that is, go look it up. It’s seriously cool. Here, I’ll give you a head start. The end of the exhibit came suddenly, and there the wall sat. While my parents’ passengers miraculously survived and Elna’s brother Ernst escaped with his life, I/Elna, along with Selma, died in the catastrophe. The adoption of a passenger was a poignant and moving choice, and to whoever thought of it, I salute you.

Next we wandered, ending up in the Excalibur, which is connected to the Luxor via underground moving walkway. We had every intention of buying tickets to Tournament of Kings, a Medieval Times-like affair for those of you who have been to the Disneyland area, but their only off day, naturally, was the day we intended to buy tickets for. We made up for it by playing some skee-ball in the Fun Dungeon arcade and subsequently winning a stuffed unicorn. That was pretty triumphant.

After cruising back to the Luxor for showers, etc. we took to the strip (via rental car, convenient-o!) and made it to Treasure Island. It appears to be under renovations in the front, so everything that identifies it as piratical is rather covered up, which was a minor disappointment. On the other hand, I personally was too pumped about the impending Cirque-tacular goodness to mind all that much. We cruised a bit, killed some time, sat down really early, met the man who drummed for Michael Jackson for thirty years (no joke, he signed a pass to the premiere of This Is It for my mom and told us that he’s going to drum for the Cirque show dedicated to the King of Pop, The Immortal), and the show began.

Like every Cirque show, Mystère was an extravaganza of music, color, light, and movement. What fascinated me the most was that my very first thoughts when it all began ran along organic lines – that this was a jungle of fantastical beings with a hint of magic. All this remained true, but as the stage began moving and changing and the fog rolled out the world of Mystère gained an industrial core, the organic driven by the mechanic. Similarly, while the creatures were indeed fantastical and were wild and free, the two I am tempted to call the Red King (in official terms, the Red Bird) and the Yellow Knave (the Yellow Chicken) seemed to be jungle royalty as much as the darling pets of the Puppeteer/Announcer (Moha-Samedi). In this world driven by brass there existed both the green light of the growing world as well as the red light of fire or furnaces.

But enough of impressions and poetry. The question everyone seems to ask about Cirque shows is “so what was it about?” A photo lady roving the crowd before the show began was asked just this, and she deftly responded, “I don’t know. By the end of it, you’ll tell me.” I think this is the best answer anyone can give, because each Cirque show, whether pseudo-linear like Varekai or timeless like Alegría, means something different for each viewer. My mind spun the show into the dream of the young girl who appeared near the beginning, pet snail in tow, and her sleeping-subconscious creativity gives life and breath to the wild jungle of the industrial world which blossoms all around her. Other people will tell you differently. If you’ve seen Mystère, please comment. Tell me your version of the story.

After Cirque we popped across the strip to The Venetian, which comes in as a close second to the Bellagio for my favorite Vegas location. The interior of the building is modeled to look like high noon in beautiful Venice, complete with gondola rides, restaurants, and shops. [photo] Each building, we were told by our own excellent gondola-navigator David, was modeled directly after an actual building in Venice. The exterior I guarantee was modeled after the Doge’s Palace. [photo] Once we attained our goal of a gondola ride, a much-anticipated event (may I also note that David was pleasant, a soccer fan, born and raised in Madrid, Spain, funny, and had an exquisite singing voice), we made a b-line for Canaletto, Ristorante Veneto, which was modeled to look as though one is dining under open Venetian sky. It was shockingly five-star worthy, with excellent service, and some of the best Italian food I have ever consumed. (The Cannelloni de Pollo was FANTASTIC.) Their espresso was, of course, spot-on.

With that we wandered, slowly, but with our noses pointed home all the same. Not that I passed up the opportunity to demonstrate the awesomeness of the Luxor. [photosphinx] [photopyramid] As for the weather, the wind appears to have finally died, and though there was no thunder or dramatic storm to clear the atmos, we are allegedly due for some much-needed sun very soon. Here’s hoping it’s tomorrow – there’s a swimming pool calling my name. Goodnight, or Goodmorrow, all, and I’ll see you on the flipside.

Pinky Spud and the Unwitting Felons on Holiday: Vegas, Baby!

Day 1: The Eighteen Hour Tour

DISCLAIMER!! My photos are broken. Stupid new Facebook photo layout confusing me. Sorry, all. I'll do my best to get those to you embedded soon. Soon meaning when my tech support isn't sound asleep and when it's not 2:00 in the morning. For now, check them out here.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am indeed in Las Vegas, Nevada and yes indeed I have been awake for more than eighteen straight hours and with only three caffeinated beverages, gods help me. The journey began from my local airport in the land of Cascadia, and Vegas is only a hop skip and a jump from there (especially in comparison to my last vacation flight, a return journey of three terminals and a total of fourteen grueling hours).

The day opened in Cascadia, however, with a slight fiasco. Amidst thoughts of underwear which appear as bits of the constitution for the people reading the body scanners, I was pulled aside so that my over-full carryon could be wanded. Guess who forgot to leave her Swiss Army Knife at home? Insert appropriate facepalm or deaddesk here, please. Did you hurt yourself? No? Good. Moving on.

When said hop skip and turbulent jump were safely over and after finding our rental car, we cruised the strip. What an experience. Being a full supporter of local, small businesses and sustainable goods, Las Vegas felt like a long way from home, and I loved it. The lights, the glamour, even the grit – there’s something so very human about this city, and at the same time something so inaccessible it becomes almost ridiculous. But this is philosophical I-have-no-brain-juices talk. Let’s get to the juicy stuff.

Post-witnessing the hustle and bustle from afar we cruised our way to the Luxor, usually referred to as the “Egyptian” or “Tut” hotel. But once inside, and after seeing the view of it at night lit up, it feels more like something out of the 1994 film Stargate than an Egyptian tomb. Sure there’s a larger than life Sphinx and Anubises, Pharaohs, and hieroglyphics everywhere, but there are also glyphs that are clearly not Egyptian and a few statues that even seem to directly reference the aforementioned film: . I love it. And then there’s the fact that it’s hollow inside, filled up with a veritable city you can look down on from every floor. [insert photo here] There are also some interesting – if slightly unexpected – exhibits here in the hotel, mainly Bodyworks and an exhibit with artifacts from the Titanic: we hope to hit those tomorrow, as the weather is supposed to take a turn for the foul and badass and whip up a thunderstorm.

After checking in and discovering our room – which is only accessible by DIAGONAL elevator, whut?! – we ate terrible buffet food and hit the strip. We strolled our way past Excalibur and New York New York, peeping in to shops (like the four-story tall m&ms store!) and casinos, avoiding the latter for the density of cigarette smoke present, discovering a few gems along the way. Next we marveled at the façade of the Monte Carlo where I nearly stepped off the curb into an idling bus only to turn around and discover a coworker of mine from campus with his girlfriend, both waving enthusiastically. My jaw hit my chest. It was one of the best moments of the day. In retrospect, I wish that I’d been skilled enough to snap a picture of them. After all, I did have the camera out.

Remember those gems I mentioned? Those come next. In one of the many shopping-mall style buildings (the Crystal Shops, I think), we first came across a frames shop (the name escapes me) that was not full of reproductions, oh no. It was instead full to brimming with vintage frames dating from 1910 onward, with their most expensive pieces – at over two thousand bucks a pop – in a fancy safe at the back, the kind with gold and silver scrollwork and old lettering painted on the front. Not only did I get to try on retro frames from the 50s, the salesperson, who was extremely friendly and knowledgeable, showed me to their earliest pieces. Round frames from 1910? That I can try on? Be still, my beating heart!! She then insisted on showing me the WWII aviator frames in the safe, one pair of which she INSISTED I try on. I about fainted I was so excited. If you’re interested, check out their website [link/broken]. But that’s only half the fun. The other shop – which had a store front entirely made of old sewing machines [photo] was AllSaints. Never have I seen a ‘high fashion’ style which so suited my sensibilities, barring only perhaps Skingraft. AllSaints was retro and funky in a fusion, slapped-together with straps and leather and buckles and frogs kind of way, and I quailed at the prices. I think it’s time to hit the goodwill and tear things apart to make them into something chic.

After that slight misadventure we headed to what has become my favorite hotel as of yet – the Bellagio. Speaking of fainting, oh lordie. It’s beautiful. And I mean that in the sincerest way that I possibly can. Not only is there a spectacular ceiling in the lobby a la Portland glass artist Dale Chihuly [photo], there is a garden room. It’s indescribable, almost surreal to find in a place like Vegas. The flowers are real and vibrantly fragrant, there’s a greenhouse which plays home to butterflies, and to top it off there is not only a ferris wheel, there’s a carousel. Neither of which you can ride, sadly, but it’s an incredibly soothing room. Of course the Bellagio is also the hotel which houses Cirque du Soleil’s O, a show we’ll see later this week. I am BESIDE myself. The hotel is also home to the exquisite work of Richard MacDonald, who models his awe-inspiring sculptures off of Cirque performers. Check it out, they’re gorgeous. I’m a particular fan of Blind Faith [photo].
We stuck around to watch the Bellagio’s famous waterworks as well, which was definitely worth it. Next we were off to Paris and the copy of the Eiffel Tower, or, as they call it, the Eiffel Tour. So clever! [/sarcasm]. The ride to the top in the glass-plated, bronze-riveted, vaguely Steamy, triangular elevator was pretty exciting, and the view was beautiful. Now if only I hadn’t accidentally brought the Bellingham wind to the desert with me…

(Also, what is WITH these crazy elevators? Triangular, people!!)

We continued cruising after that, moving down the strip to the Sugar Factory, which broke my will. The walls are lined with photos of celebrities toting their lollipops, and I gave in. They’re just so sparkly…you’ll see what I mean after I get my coveted photo in front of the store.

After that we hit New York New York again, this time for the roller coaster. It was shockingly legit. I had to ride it twice. There was some great anti-gravity (g-force?) action, and I think the photo snapped by the automatic station says it all: [photo/coming soon, when I have a scanner!]

Finally, we hi-tailed it to the Hard Rock café, where we had the best service we received all day and I personally consumed one of the best burgers on the planet (I am convinced) while rocking out to wonders ranging from David Bowie’s China Girl and Queen’s Find Me Somebody to Love to Avenged Sevenfold, Everclear, and Pink.

The last misadventure on the eighteen hour tour was a misplaced tram, but we ended up back in the Luxor eventually, and who really minds a Vegas scenic route? Now it’s far too late, or early, the city is lit up outside the Luxor and the city bounds are distinctly marked where the nothingness of the desert begins. And, while Las Vegas is the city that never sleeps, I can’t quite keep up with that standard. So, for tomorrow, pray for thunder over the Luxor, and I’ll see you at Treasure Island for Cirque’s Mystère.