Saturday, December 15, 2012

On the road again: Las Vegas, day 2

I logged a lot of rack time last night, which was great.  I also woke up every hour coughing and wheezing, which was less great.  Still, the time in bed had to help.

Brunch today was at the delightful Bouchon, where we all ate entirely too much and left feeling distended and sated.  From there, we headed to the Hard Rock for The Ultimate Fighter 16 finale.  As it turned out, the time on the tickets was when the doors opened, not when the fights started, so we spent more time there than was necessary, but we amused ourselves with conversation and the superb people watching. 

We even had time for a few happy snaps, such as this one of Kyle with the UFC "ring girls."

As always, click on an image for a larger version.

The fight card was excellent, with almost all of them finishes and very few boring rounds.  We had excellent, cage-side seats, so the MMA celebrity viewing was superb. 

Afterward, we cabbed to the Bellagio for a little sightseeing, dinner at Fix, and dessert gelato.  Here's Sarah in front of the hotel's enormous Christmas tree.

A long day, but a good one.  Now, I see if I can sleep.

Friday, December 14, 2012

On the road again: Las Vegas, day 1

The cold I've been unsuccessfully fighting threw me to the ground last night and started beating on me.  My nose is like a faucet, and it and my lips look like someone took sandpaper to them.  So, I did the only smart thing:  slept four hours and got on planes for the whole day!  Shrewd, I am, shrewd.

The flights were good, though.  I dozed a lot on the first and worked for most of the second.  First class is always a treat and makes every flight better.

After we secured our room, we hung out a bit as I worked, then ate a decent Italian dinner at one of the many restaurants here in the hotel.

I'm too tired to write more, so I'll leave you with this photo of one of the many understated Christmas scenes the hotel and its shops have created.

When it comes to subtlety, you can't beat Las Vegas.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Running out of headroom for the tree

The spot where we put our Christmas tree is quite open and under the highest part of a high ceiling, so we usually aim to get a tall tree.

This year, we definitely succeeded.  To give a sense of scale, Scott (left and looking unhappy) and Aidan (right) are 5'10" and 6' tall, respectively.  They're holding onto the tree so they can crowd into the photo.  (That they are out of focus is entirely my fault.)

Click on the image to see a bigger picture.

Bagging the tree to make it easier to put on top of the van was a challenging process that took half a dozen of us. 

Next week, the decorating!

Tomorrow, though, the Vegas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A sure-to-be-bad movie I have to see

Long-time readers may recall that I'm a big fan of the 1984 Walter Hill cult film, Streets of Fire.  If you've never heard of it, check out this incredibly dated trailer, forgive it its weaknesses, and then go watch the movie. 

Sadly, you can't buy this one in Blu-Ray, but deal with the sorrow and watch it anyway.

Now, a completely different director, Albert Pyun, has made a sort of spiritual sequel to this 28-year-old movie, Road To Hell.  The IMBD entry for the film lists it as a 2008 piece, but this article says it won nine awards, including Best Picture, at the recent PollyGrind film festival.  As this trailer demonstrates, the movie is almost sure to be bad.

I don't care.  I have to see it.  Jim Steinman's back on board for music, the plot again makes no sense, and the visuals look weirder (and worse) than the original. 

Yup, I have to see it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Why is this shoe on the table at Jaleo?

You have to wonder.

(Click on it to see a larger version.)

We did, but we didn't worry about it for long, because the croquetas in the paper in the shoe were so amazingly good that their container didn't matter.

I'm sure Jose Andres meant something by it; I just don't know what.

Perhaps we'll eat there again this coming weekend, when I will be back in Vegas.  I have to hope so.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Killing Them Softly

I know many folks who have praised this film, and in some ways I can see their point.  It is a character-driven movie with genuinely interesting, if in every case unlikable, characters.  It doesn't given an inch in its relentless pursuit of its political agenda or its dedication to unflinchingly and accurately portraying its sorry characters.  Director and writer Andrew Dominik gets great performances from every single actor in it.  Brad Pitt, Scott McNairy, James Gandolfini, and Ben Mendelsohn are hard to take your eyes off in even the most routine moments.  The movie is even interesting, in a watching-the-inevitable-collapse sort of way. 

It's also a step up from Dominik's previous work, the seven-day-long, excruciatingly dull failure of atmosphere over everything else, The Assassination of Jesse James by the who gives a fuck will this fucking movie ever fucking end? 

All that said, Killing Them Softly is ultimately as empty and predictable and telegraphed an empty work as the worst Adam Sandler flick. 

Yes, these are mean, petty people walking mean, petty streets.  Yes, they're all screwing each other even as an invisible overarching corporation is screwing them.  Yes, we get the analogy with America; how could we not, given that Dominik has TVs and billboards screaming his message in almost every shot?  What we don't get is any sense of suspense, or even a hint that someone in the film might gain redemption, or any reason to care.

If you enjoy Dominik's camera work, which I wavered between liking and finding so ham-handed as to be annoying, then check this movie out.  If you feel like spending time with some genuinely bad and stupid people, head to the theater.

Otherwise, give Killing Them Softly a pass. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lee Child on creating suspense

If you don't know the Jack Reacher novels of Lee Child, you should.  Entertaining, fun, and always page-turning reads, these books keep you moving forward like no other.  Child has published seventeen of them so far, and the franchise still has plenty of legs.  Plus, the first movie based on one of his books, Jack Reacher, which comes from the novel, One Shot, debuts December 21.  (I'll comment later on whether the relatively short Tom Cruise manages to pull off the role of the 6'5" Reacher, but I certainly have my doubts.)  Child's writing has many strengths, but chief above them is how much they keep you reading. 

Kyle pointed me to this New York Times article from Child, in which he tackles the question of how to create suspense.  I won't attempt to summarize what he explains in relatively short order, but if you're at all interested in writing suspenseful books or understanding how they work, I recommend you check it out.

I am greatly interested in a secondary aspect of the article, which is that we so often ask the wrong question.  More on that in another post. 


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