A Winter For All Seasoned

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Laying in the snow
Aside from my little whirlwind trip to Las Vegas, life has been pretty normal around here. I'm behind in my website stuff, I'm behind in my reading, projects, shaving. The usual. That's why it's nice to celebrate winter a little bit - there's nothing much unusual to do, otherwise. Now, perhaps some of you, especially on the other side of the world, if I still have anyone reading from over there, think it crazy to venture into sub-zero temperatures for no reason other than to be outside. Perhaps. But winter's a part of life here in Saskatchewan, so we might as well have some fun with it!

Skiing is lots of fun too
Generally, when we used to have running skidoos, or rather, snowmobiles, that was a staple of a healthy winter diet. We have these little Yamaha Snowscoots that aren't very powerful but are a lot of fun in the snow, just enough power to zip along and just shy a bit that it can require talent and weight to not get stuck. Of course, if you do get stuck, they're light enough that it's no big deal. Usually. Other winter fun revolves around skiing, whether downhill or cross country. Neither of my skis for either fit me any longer, and while I did plan to go to Blackstrap - a manmade hill built to bring downhill skiing to Saskatoon and allow us to host the Jeux Canada Games (NOTE: Contrary to the urban myth, Blackstrap is NOT built out of garbage) - the weather didn't cooperate. Which was too bad, because as you can probably guess from that photo, there was plenty of powder.

Toboggan Jumping Madness
Thankfully, John came to the rescue with a tobogganing party. In fact, two of them. It was in the valley behind his house, and we dug out trails, built jumps, and also attempted a bobsled track. Both were a lot of fun. The jumps were great and the weather was beautiful. The first one I brought out my sister, little cousin, and camera, so you can see for yourself. Afterwards, there was hot chocolate and marshmallows, and John did up some hot dogs. The second party was fun too, no younger ones or cameras, and Dan, Amanada, Trinity, and Sheri came out too. The sky was perfect, you could see tonnes of stars, and over the rise on the other side of the valley, lights from the nearby potash mine lit the sky like northern lights.

Hot Chocolate is Served
Anyway, there's may not be much going on here, but the weather has been pretty great most of this winter, and now things are warming up to the point that a jacket is optional for some brief outdoor stuff. If nothing else, the sun is shining, spring is coming, and I think most of us here are looking forward to that. Now, without further ado, photos from the great toboggan party of '06.

<Winter Photos>


Beer & Floating into Las Vegas

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Early morning departure
It was still dark Sunday morning, the clock read 5 AM, and I awoke from my three hour snooze relatively easily considering. The shower did wonders, and within 17 minutes I was back in my room, dressed, and photographing my alarm clock. It seemed appropriate to kick off a trip to the city that never sleeps (or is that New York?) with little to no sleep myself, and I was quite excited to get there. The six of us - my parents, grandma, Nicole, Shawn (the bar manager), and myself - made it to the airport just in time and soon were flying south to Minneapolis and then Las Vegas.

Oh my goodness, look who it is! Run!

I will say one thing on the combination of excitement and lack of sleep. Giddyness ensues. I think we were all a little giddy, and at one point even the emergency procedures in the airline's seat pocket was hilarious to me. In particular, one drawing showing a guy about to slide down while the people on the ground below look like they are terrified/shocked to see him coming down at them and some run for their lives while others are frozen in fear and the guy hovers mid-air ala William Shatner in Family Guy. Anyway, the image of hilarity is there on the right. Like I say, giddy.

The strip
The snow in Minneapolis and also Saskatoon delayed our arrival in Las Vegas a little, but we arrived by 2:00 and were soon in a limo that was waiting for us (finally, one of those people with signs was waiting for me!) off to the MGM Grand. The airport was surprisingly close to the airport, so it was a short limo ride, but that's hardly the point. We were soon at our hotel and then looking around. We checked out New York, New York and walked around the area a little bit and it was soon dinner time. The buffet was pricey but good, probably the best buffet I've ever had which admittedly isn't saying much, but it was good, truly. I really liked their mashed potato bar, and of course they had lots of dessert and everything else.

New York, New York by night
We went out for a stroll along the strip again that night, my dad, Shawn, Nicole, and myself, and it was even more impressive. The lights of the city lived up to expectiations, that much is certain. The Bellagio was certainly the highlight in my mind, especially the amazing fountain in front of it. There's a video of it at the bottom of the page. Aside from the fountain, the interior was amazing. Just beautiful, ritzy, all the things I'd expected from Vegas, but even more so. We also looked through some of the shops at the ridiculously expensive stuff in Caesar's Palace, mostly looking at stuff for Nicole, purses, shoes, and so on. She didn't get anything, and I wouldn't have either, but it was interesting to see.

I retired to the blackjack table with my dad that night and some of the others were out in the lounge. My aunt and cousins were also in town, so they had some drinks. I did pretty well at the blackjack table, I think by the end I was up almost $300, but it wouldn't last long. I was too tired as I was the only one who hadn't slept on the plane, so I didn't stay for drinks with everyone, but went off to sleep.

Hoover Dam was amazing
The next day, I'd wanted to rent a car and drive out to see the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam, but the Grand Canyon is pretty far, and so while the girls went shopping, we headed out to Hoover Dam... in a limo. What a way to go! The trip was fun, we had a little 'spirit' in the back and of course the dam itself was impressive. A monstrous wall of concrete holding back who-knows-how-much water. You really can't get a sense of the size of it from photographs, but I tried my best. It was well worth taking a trip out to see it, and now I actually want to do more reading to see how they built it. Just amazing. The geography around there was really cool too, desert hills and canyons and so I didn't feel bad at all about missing the grand canyon. You know, especially since we were travelling in style. The rest of the day, there's very little to tell about, we had dinner, we gambled some more, I went from being up $300 to down that much, and we all had some fun.

Ka was an amazing show, I highly recommend it
Finally, Tuesday, the reason we were there: the food & beverage show. Or rather, the beverage & food show. It was in the cavernous Las Vegas convention centre and we spent the whole day seeing only half the show. There were a lot of neat ideas and it was intersting to see what's coming up in the beverage and bar end of things. Of course, with all the free samples of various concoctions, it could get a person into a lot of trouble, but we were certainly okay. Tequila being as popular as it is down there, I was saved from a lot of sampling thanks to my boycott of said liquid. That night, we all went out and saw Ka, a Cirque du Soleil production that was just incredible. The amount of talent these guys have, not to mention the production, just, wow. Stages spun in mid air frenzies, stood vertically for wild cliff escapes and battles, churned like the sea, and innumerable other unimaginable things. I can safely say without further qualification that you've never seen anything like this.

Ooh, back bar
We went out later that night to a club in the MGM, a rather crummy club, called Tabu. The doorman was a complete T$#^()#$*SDFG and we certainly had to fight to get ourselves in. Jeff from Overdrive was there, and certainly helped. Once in, it was fun enough. A little dancing, drinking, and Shawn completely hilarious, it was good in spite of itself, mostly because of our own company. There was a girl in a blue shirt, a dance with a silver-fox, a couple from California that toppled, and various other schenanigans.

The girls did some shopping
Finally, our last day in Vegas, us boys went back to the beverage & food show while the girls went shopping, and then afterwards, my dad went to get Nicole tickets for Celine Dion while Shawn & I also went shopping and looked at some of the hotels. I got myself a couple shirts (which Shawn naturally saw and was so impressed that he got similar ones himself) and a pair of jeans, only to return and discover my mom had also procured a few shirts and a jacket for me, so pretty much, I have a new wardrobe. At least I came home with something, Vegas stole more of my money that night, and I had what may be described as the rawest burger I've ever had, which I largely blame on Shawn. Though to his credit, he noticed before I did.

Anyway, Las Vegas was far more fun than I expected, and the strip extended far longer than I thought. We boarded the plane for snowy Saskatchewan on Thursday and arrived home safe, sound, and thoroughly inspected by Customs. It was a fast-paced trip but lots of fun, and somewhere I'd certainly return again, even if only to see more shows like Ka or spend a day watching the fountain at the Bellagio. Now, if I will do my best to do so from here.

<Las Vegas Photos>


I Say Controller

Friday, March 03, 2006

The other day I went to see Controller, Controller and You Say Party, We Say Die! with Johnny boy at the local university venue. Controller Controller had been here many times before, and perhaps YSPWSD had too, but in any case I'd never seen them. In fact, while I'd heard of them, I'd not actually heard them until a few months ago when I started listening to the CBC Radio 3 Podcast. Speaking of podcasts, I'm actually going to discontinue my own podcast before I get it started, I have enough on my plate already. But I'm still happy to introduce people to bands as requested. The FrankBlack.Net one, incidentally, is going strong. And, speaking of the CBC Podcast, the free single of the week (at least on the Canadian iTunes) is The Old Soul song River of Daughters. I LOVE this song, so go and grab it (free!) before it's too late. I think I'm going to buy their album actually, but I have to go to NewMusicCanada and check them out. Anyway, on with the show!

Well, first the opener. Spotty performance at best. I won't specify his name, mostly because I don't remember, but it was generally a decent beat with a bunch of noise and incongruous elements layered so high on top that King Kong wouldn't have ascended to the top of that pile. There were moments of goodness, but they were almost always ruined. I didn't mind the downbeat "Interpolishness" of his voice, but John was not impressed. There were points where he finished the song and nobody - I mean not a single person - realized he was finished for about 15 seconds after. He was aware of this, of course, but the show must go on. His last song was actually pretty good for the most part, there were parts I genuinely enjoyed. Out of pity I almost went up to him after his set to tell him this, but for the fact that he was on the wrong side of the all-ages boundry and I didn't feel like digging out my ID.

The bad thing was that this was supposed to be The Meligrove Band, who I was actually kind of looking forward to seeing, in spite of their emo look/leanings. I mean, really! Still, I'd heard their song, Planets Conspire, and if I was going to see Controller Controller anyway I certainly wouldn't mind seeing them. Apparently they're not touring now, though. Probably either fighting about which one gets to be 'the moody one' on their next batch of PR photos. OK, maybe I'm being unnecessarily harsh, but you should see some of their press photos.

Next up was YSPWSD, who were excellent. They stole the show, I think, which is not a slight on Controller Controller, but their sound was great and they have a tonne of energy and good riffs. Their music just conveyed itself really well there. They had a DVD recording crew with them too, and I bet that some of the material will find its way in, just a great sound and a good crowd for a Tuesday night. I don't think I'd like them on CD, but I'll definitely see them next time they're live. I suppose I'll try to find a few tracks and see if I want to buy them. I'm listening to Midnight Snack as I write this and quite enjoying it, so who knows.

Finally, Controller Controller. It was the singer's birthday, and YSPWSD came on stage with a big cake, which, if I may say, was delicious. But then, who doesn't like chocolate cake? And moreover, since when do I not like something with sugar? She shared the cake with us which was cool anyway. Their sound wasn't too great, however, prompting John and I to decide they were probably better on CD. But they were energetic, having a good time, and still fun to watch. Given that it was Tuesday night, we didn't hang around for the encore, but I think we were the only ones that left.

Anyway, not much else to say. I'm heading to Vegas next week so I'm sure to have some pictures and stories of disinterest on here when I get back. See you soon.