Category Archives: entertainment

Vegas Revisited

Standard

Usually, the phrase “so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk” is a hyperbole. Not so on the Las Vegas Strip in the middle of July. I meant to bring an egg with me to try it out this time, but you know how tight TSA carry-on baggage regulations have gotten lately. And believe it or not, there’s nowhere on the Strip to actually buy a single egg unless it’s already cooked into a fifteen dollar frittata, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. It was hot.

Not that the heat was a surprise to Tracy, Regina, and I. This was, after all, our second July trip to Vegas, which made us experts of a sort, if there is a field of expertise that specializes solely in finding great places to eat and shop and indulge in innocent entertainment in a town built mostly around naughtiness.

I suppose we might have been a little naughty, if you count the sin of gluttony, because we ate, and we ate well. Hoo, boy, did we eat. We made a return visit to our favorite buffet of all time at the Bellagio, enjoyed sushi again (several times) at the site of my own maiden sushi experience, Ra, and together polished off four large boxes of gourmet chocolates from famous Ethel’s Chocolate Lounge (it was buy three get one free–what were we supposed to do?) Without a doubt, though, one of the gustatory highlights of the trip was lunch (courtesy of Regina’s wonderful husband, Chris, who paid the bill) at The Mesa Grill, a hotspot owned by celebrated chef Bobby Flay. I had the amazing Barbecued Lamb Cobb Salad and we ordered and split three desserts that defy the powers of my usual catalog of adjectives. This morning I got on the scale to tally up the damage and was pleasantly surprised to see that I didn’t gain a pound! I guess all that toiling up and down hot Vegas sidewalks had its rewards, after all.

We stayed at the luxurious (and I don’t use that adjective lightly) Venetian hotel, possibly the most pampering place in which I have ever parked a suitcase. With big fluffy robes and slippers, fresh flowers in the bathroom, three flat screen televisions (including one you could watch while stretching out full length in the enormous tub), and a panoramic view of the Strip out of our picture window, our deluxe suite made me feel like the rock star I always wanted to be.

And, of course, we shopped. It didn’t seem to matter that everything cost half again as much as it would at home. It was only Vacation Money, after all, so it flowed rather more freely than the real kind. The kids’ favorite purchase of mine was the dice-shaped lollipops I brought home for them. As of this writing, they’ve sucked most of the dots off, and are working diligently at making the rest disappear as well.

Oh, and I’m sorry to disappoint you gambling teetotalers out there, but I did take my turn at the penny slot machine. I lost a whole dollar! At one point, I was up to a dollar forty; I just knew I should have cashed out then. So much for my plan to pay off our student loans with my ill-gotten gains.

I should mention that this lovely and relaxing girls getaway was only made possible by support from the troops at home, particularly Paul, who took my place as pancake-maker, tucker-inner, boo-boo-kisser, and all around nurturer in addition to performing his own duties as spider-killer, entertainment-coordinator, and transportation-provider. Thanks, babe. You totally rock! (And I don’t mean like Wayne Newton.)

***

Tracy, me, Regina:

The famous Bellagio fountains! I recorded this on my tiny purse cam, so please excuse the tinny sound and the Blair-Witch-esque camera work. I highly recommend seeing it in person:

It’s a Webkinz World

Standard

Two weeks ago, the Coach House Gifts store at the mall celebrated its highly anticipated Webkinz Extravaganza! Normally, this event would have passed under my radar, but my friend Kathy called me Sunday afternoon to make sure I knew that the ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ selection of Webkinz was running out. You see, up until that weekend, my kids (according to them) were the last two children in America without at least one of these fuzzy, endearing, cyber-savvy critters to call their own. I decided to take advantage of the sale and make two children happy for the price of one. Bargain parenting, I call it.

I dashed out to the mall that afternoon intending to snatch up the first two fuzzballs I encountered and get back in time for a robust round of power napping (What can I say? I’m a party animal!) First mistake. I should have known that, when presented with the manifest cuteness of five thousand different species of Webkinz, it would take me roughly an hour and a half of picking them up and putting them down and rubbing their fur and choosing first this one and then that one and changing my mind over and over and over again to decide which lucky beasties to take home with me. In the end, I picked out an elephant for Katie and a tiger for Caleb. And would you believe it: I actually felt bad leaving the rest of them behind. (Clearly Ganz has implanted some kind of brainwashing microchip in them to make them fly off the shelves so quickly.)

The reception I received at home would have made the conquering Attila green with envy. I was temporarily crowned mother of the year and showered with hugs and kisses for about seven seconds–the exact amount of time they were able to contain their anticipation before scampering off to the computer to formally “adopt” their new pets and embark on their maiden voyage into Webkinz World.

Webkinz World. I have to tell you, internets, it’s surprisingly cool. In Webkinz World, you can build your pet a house, furnish it, and invite friends’ pets over to play in it. You can feed your fuzzy friend delicious foods, dress him in dazzling threads, and take him to the doctor when he’s sick. If your pet is into exercise, you can take him to work out at a Webkinz health club, and if you just want to play, you can meet up with other Webkinz in a game room. The booming Webkinz economy runs on KinzCash, which you earn by picking up odd jobs at the Webkinz Employment Center, by answering educational trivia questions at Quizzy’s Corner, or by playing games in the Webkinz Arcade.

And here comes the confession: I love playing in the Webkinz Arcade. I love Cash Cow and Picnic and Operation Gumball. But my favorite game is called Home Before Dark, a timed brain teaser in which you have to rotate pieces of a maze into place in order to create a path for trapped Webkinz to get back to their houses before the sun goes down. I accidentally played it for two and a half hours the other day when I meant to be doing housework. Oops.

And that’s my other confession. I secretly log onto my kids’ Webkinz accounts to play arcade games while they’re gone. I don’t think they’d like it if they knew, but I can’t help it. I suppose now I have to stop making fun of Kathy for buying herself her own Webkinz.

I think I might start with a Cheeky Monkey…

Cloverfield: a Review

Standard

*Spoiler Alert* There are spoilers ahead. Lots of them. If you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read any further. I mean it. Don’t even glance down there, because you will inevitably see something that you didn’t want to know, and all through the whole movie you’ll be wondering when that part is going to happen, sitting on the edge of your seat thinking, “Is this it? No, no, I bet this is it coming up…” etc. No fun. Suffice it to say, I liked this movie. A lot. And if you are my cinematic kindred spirit, so will you.

Cloverfield

Just like that, it was over. Abruptly. Paul and I sat there for a stunned second, just breathing in and out and trying to stop the room from spinning, before I leaned over to him and whispered in his ear: “I think…I think I loved it.”

Not everyone did, though. Just a few seats down the row from us, a couple in their forties got up in what was very clearly a huff and stomped off down the stairs. In their wake, the man left these words echoing in the strangely quiet theater: “Well, that was a waste of time.”

It’s been a long while since I’ve seen a movie that provoked such vastly polarized reactions. How delightful!

Cloverfield, a small budget monster movie, careens through one thrill after another over its eighty-four minute run time. It incorporates the single handheld-camera technique we’ve seen elsewhere (see The Blair Witch Project), and the effect is incredibly visceral and engaging.

Here’s the setup: We’re watching an unedited videotape, recovered by the government from the site of some event that’s been codenamed simply “Cloverfield”. The video opens with a few minutes of silly morning-after pillow talk between some guy (Rob) and some girl (Beth), and then suddenly cuts away to a group of twenty-something young professionals who are throwing a surprise goodbye party for one of their own: Rob just got a new job and is moving to Japan. Rob’s best friend, a lovable dope named Hud, is enlisted as amateur videographer of the party and given the assignment of recording goodbye messages from all of Rob’s buddies. As events unfold, Hud keeps the camera rolling, giving us a front row seat for the seriously unsettling action to come. Unfortunately, the camera belongs to Rob himself, and the night’s events are being recorded over a previous taping of Rob and Beth at Coney Island, a fact established by small snippets of that happier day which break through cuts in the tape at intervals throughout the movie. By the time of the party, something has obviously separated Rob and Beth, and a passionate argument ends in Beth leaving the party early and Rob and his brother Jason having a heart-to-heart talk on the fire escape. Here’s where the true theme of the movie is expressed for the first time, when Jason says, “Forget the world, and hang on to the people you care about the most.”

And then reality shatters and New York starts shaking apart like some badly made toy.

Cloverfield isn’t like other monster movies. There’s no explanation of where the monster comes from or why it’s angry (and believe me; it’s definitely hacked off about something.) The protagonists aren’t packing Uzis and concocting heroic plans to save the world. They’re just trying to survive. And we, the viewers, are along for the ride. We only know what they know. We only see what they see. So when a relatively quiet city street suddenly explodes with screaming artillery rounds and otherworldly roaring, we are caught in the crossfire, too, sharing the small group’s sense of panic and terror. When they’re standing in the abandoned subway station, trying to decide between running down the blacked out subway tunnels or taking their chances up top with the big monster, we honestly don’t know which way they should go. And even though the military-types don’t tell us exactly what’s happening to our friend Marlena as a result of the mini-monster-spider bite she got, we deduce that it’s nothing good by the way they drag her off behind that quarantine curtain just before we get the hazy, silhouetted visual of her body contorting and swelling in a way that bodies just aren’t meant to contort or swell.

It’s chaos: glorious, terrible chaos.

So I guess this is the part where I say, “Go see Cloverfield! You’ll love it!” But considering the wide range of opinions I’ve heard, that might be a little disingenuous. Instead I’ll say, “Go see Cloverfield! You’ll love it! Or maybe you’ll hate it.”

You might get dizzy. Sit in the back half of the theater; it helps. Maybe it’s part of belonging to the YouTube, camera phone generation, but the jumpy camera work didn’t really bother me. Rather, it added to the illusion that I was there, on the ground, watching this unbelievable thing happen all around me. And that sense of authenticity was only enhanced by another noticeable perk of seeing it in the theater, with its state-of-the-art Dolby surround sound: I could feel every roar, every stomp, every earth-shattering explosion vibrating through my seat.

I should also tell you that if you like your story endings happy, fully explained, and tied up with a neat little bow, you might be disappointed. This film leaves you with a lot of unanswered questions. Some of the answers can be found or guessed at by exploring the online materials that were part of the viral marketing of the movie, but a few of the plot threads were left completely flapping in the wind. Unlike many people, I appreciate that.

Paul and I discussed the movie all the way home, and in the end, we decided it isn’t so much a monster movie as it is a love story. Two people overcoming obstacles to find one another in this crazy world.

Except in this case, the obstacle in question is the size of a skyscraper, covered with deadly spider-like parasites, and wreaking havoc on a major American city.

Love conquers all, right?

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em

Standard

There is a fine line between being a Geek’s Wife and being an actual Geek.

Last night…I crossed over.

I attended my first ever LAN party.

LAN stands for Local Area Network, and “LAN party” is geek shorthand for hooking a bunch of computers together at the same site, allowing the geek owners of said computers to play computer games together over the network into the wee, wee hours of the morning.

So last night, Paul and I packed up our computers, spare network cables, and assorted snacks, and set out for the home of our friends, Ryan and Regina, fellow World of Warcraft addicts and all around fun people. We brought movies and sleeping bags for the kids, who camped out in the next room while we crossed the plains and mountains of Azeroth, completing quests and fighting the Horde.

Now here I sit, the Morning After: stringy hair, yesterday’s clothes, jalapeno chip breath, and a Diet Coke hangover (there won’t be any pictures on this post, by the way.) I’m exhausted, rumpled, and grubby, and all I can think about is how cool it is that I got 146,000 xp (experience points, to the uninitiated) in one night and conquered six of the eight Maraudon bosses in a single run.

If that doesn’t make me a bona fide Geek, I don’t know what will.

Date or No Date?

Standard

As the busy, frugal parents of two young children, Paul and I have had to get creative when it comes to spending time together. Thankfully, we have family living in town, so we do get to do the standard movie/dinner/parking thing every so often. But in between times, we’ve learned to embrace the moments how and when they come along.

What do you think? Can we count any of these as actual dates?:

*Instant Messaging each other sweet nothings from across the living room.

*Taking the kids out for burgers and playland time so we can talk and do origami together.

*Meeting each other in a fictitious online world (where, by the way, I assume the form of a perfectly-proportioned six foot tall elf maiden) to battle orcs, dragons, and trolls side by side.

*Writing notes to each other in sidewalk chalk on our front porch.

*Walking around Costco trying all the free samples and taking turns in the demo massage chair, pretending we might actually buy it.

*Picking out cards for each other at the grocery store, reading them, and then leaving them there.

*Doing housework together (because there’s nothing more attractive than a man loading the dishwasher.)

*Laying in bed talking way longer than we should be up.

*Tag team grocery shopping.

*Blissfully collapsing on the couch under Willie Ford to watch a movie while the little whirlwinds that are our children rearrange the furniture and dump out every single toy they own.

*Scrabble.