Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Here's to another New Year. Let's hope 2009 to be a more peaceful,
prosperous and healthy one. We all sure could use it.

Wir wünschen allen einen guten Rutsch ins Neue Jahr.

Laßt uns auf ein mehr friedliches, erfolgreiches und gesundes
Jahr 2009 hoffen. Wir könnten es wirklich gut gebrauchen.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

December in Vegas

Here are just a few snippets from our life here in Las Vegas.

At home in our kitchen, Christmas cards over the fireplace
and our view of the snow-capped Spring Mountain Range.

This is the first thing I see most mornings through our kitchen window.

Strolling along the Las Vegas "Strip."

The atrium of the new Encore casino.

Planet Hollywood Resort on the "Strip," with the
Planet Dailys restaurant, the casino floor and the new facade.

The Christmas display inside the Conservatory of the Bellagio.

Happy Holidays and Season's Greetings to all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays

Fröhliche Weihnachten

Joyeux Noël

Feliz Navidad

Happy Hanukkah

Joyous Yule

Boas Festas

God Jul

Mele Kalikimaka

Христос рождается

کریسمس مبارک

Friday, December 19, 2008

Curse these tree huggers!

Damn environmentalists! Now they have managed to even fuck up Christmas.

And global warming my ass too. Snow in the desert? Oh, the irony. Got my flight booked on Hawaiian Airlines to get me out of this arctic hell called Vegas.

Danke schön, mein Hasi. You made my day :) Oh, just to make sure...I'm being sarcastic here. Nowadays one never knows how people react to harmless little jokes. Whatever, I've been condemned to hell by all these religious wingnuts anyway. At least there will be no snow, right?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

More on snow, theater and...Tom Cruise?

Below are a couple more photos from the snow storm that blew through Las Vegas yesterday. It snowed for quite a long time and covered most of the city, which is unusual for Las Vegas. And as predicted, the evening rush hour traffic was complete chaos. The list of traffic incidents reported by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department was long. But luckily, George and I weren’t tied up in some traffic mess on our way home.

These are not sights usually seen in Las Vegas.

This is Pueblo Park, where George and I usually
walk and jog.

Someone is obviously in denial. This is Vegas, damn it!

"Sahara" Avenue and "snow," a cowboy on a bike,
dreary looking
Las Vegas. Contradictions, anyone?
All the above photos by
Las Vegas Review-Journal

Last Saturday evening we saw the staging of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest” at UNLV’s Nevada Conservatory Theatre. Yes, there’s real theater in Sin City. There are several theaters in fact. See, there’s more to Las Vegas than just white tigers, showgirls and a million Cirque du Soleil shows at every street corner. Okay, okay, we know. It’s not Broadway or the West End, but we take whatever we can.

The performance of the play was just delightful. Although it ran almost three hours and played out in three acts with two intermissions, if was most enjoyable. The parts of the snobbishly high society characters were portrayed with an ever so slightly but delicious exaggeration. Which indeed was perfectly fitting for this kind of setting. Along with the overstated British accents, Victorian outfits and everything that came with it.

One of the highlights however...or shall we say two...were both intermissions. During these normally dull moments of inactivity on stage, the very creative minds of this production came up with very whimsical ways to make these dull moments rather entertaining. Several actors, whom portrayed the butler and servants in the play, were also in charge of changing the sets between the three acts. These actors, still in character and wearing their butler suit and servant uniforms, were moving and carrying props and items in ways as if they were in fact working inside Buckingham Palace. Everything was done in such particular and specific manner, being very proper and “British,” as if it were in fact the era of Victorian England. And all the while, it was never forgotten to bestow the honor to the Queen herself. At the end of every set change, these “servants” would always pay their respects by bowing towards an enlarged cutout of a portrait of Queen Victoria herself. A hilarious ritual which turned these intermissions into little show vignettes within a show. It truly was a highly entertaining evening.

Last Tuesday evening we attended a free screening of Tom Cruise’s new movie “Valkyrie.” Now, before you roll your eyes and make stupid Scientology jokes, we have to say that this film was good and so was Tom Cruise’s performance. We don’t care much for Tom Cruise as a person. Childishly jumping around on Oprah’s couch or mocking people needing medication to relief depression comes to mind when thinking of him. But as an actor he is actually good for the most part.

Since I grew up in Germany, there is a certain interest in films depicting German history. Specifically the more controversial subject like the Nazi reign, its horrendous impact around the world and the aftermath. I won’t go much into the film’s story if you don’t know much about that particular history. Let’s just say it deals with a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

George and I liked the film. There was a feel of authenticity to which I could relate to and appreciated. That some of filming took place in Germany obviously helped too. However, why Cruise cannot even try to attempt to have some kind of an accent is beyond me. Listening to a Nazi officer speaking with an American accent is just odd. Especially when most other actors are either British or German and all speak proper high English.

Yet, Tom Cruise took the time and effort to speak some German sentences in the beginning of the film. And may I say, his pronunciation was astoundingly good. The German language is one of the hardest to learn. In particular for English-speaking people.

But the whole accent thing can be overlooked. The film overall is good and that’s more important. Though there were few flaws and some liberties were taken in historical chronologies. The German press is in general not very forgiving when it comes to Hollywood. Moreover if Hollywood takes on German history. One of today’s reviews in a German newspaper admitted that while it’s not a masterpiece, it’s still a good film.

Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (left)
is played by Tom Cruise in the film "Valkyrie."

It takes a lot for German film critics to say that. About a Hollywood movie, no less. Starring Tom Cruise.

Apparently he’s still a “Top Gun” after all.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Snow Day in Vegas

Yup, that's right. It snowed in Las Vegas today. Not that it never ever happened before. But today the white stuff came down pretty heavy and it snowed for several hours. That's quite impressive, considering that it rarely snows here. And if it does it usually only lasts a very short time and the snow never sticks on the ground.

It never gets boring in this town. for the drivers in Las Vegas. It's already a challenge if only one drop of rain hits the pavement. The drive home should proof very interesting.


All photos taken from the Las Vegas Sun

Thursday, December 4, 2008

News from Planet Vegas

Here's something different for a change. Our local newspaper isn't all that great and somewhat provincial and very conservative. It's alright though if one likes to get updated on local happenings and events.

However, today's edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal included some interesting photos. The left one shows a typical Las Vegas "Strip" shot with the new Encore Hotel & Casino, which is about to open soon. I'm just a sucker for evening city shots and I love the colors. The middle photo is my favorite. It shows a great night shot of the construction of the new Hoover Dam bridge. There's something almost alien about it. I like the photo on the right with the cowboy and the horses for its composition.

Which also reminds me that the National Finals Rodeo is coming to town. Let all them bulls loose. And them cowboys with their Stetsons, bigger-than-life belt buckles and way too tight jeans. Yee-haw!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving with Rover and Cal

George and I spent this long Thanksgiving holiday weekend in Los Angeles. Our friends Rover and Cal invited us to their annual Thanksgiving potluck at their amazing home. We also stayed with them for the rest of the weekend. Please feel free to click on the following photos to see them enlarged.

We stopped in Victorville on our way to L.A. to gas up the car and enjoyed a little ice cream.

It was raining in Los Angeles just before we arrived. These are the leftover storm clouds over El Cajon Pass.

Invited guests brought an array of different foods, desserts and drinks for the Thanksgiving potluck. About 20 people sat around a beautiful appointed banquet table and feasted on delicious pumpkin soups, salads, turkey, dressing, casseroles and other delectable dishes. The list of a variety of foods went on and on. There was lots of laughter, singing and lively conversations. Rover and Cal’s friends are a very eclectic group of people, living a bohemian way of life. Since almost everyone is either an artist, performer or musician, this wonderfully intellectual group is full of live and knows how to celebrate.

Rover and little Connor provided the right beat and joined James on the piano for some sing-along.

James is giving little Connor some advice how to make some noise.

The kitchen always provides some conversation fodder.

Cal and Thomas are relaxing after an amazing Thanksgiving feast.

The following day started with a scrumptious breakfast, cooked by our most gracious host Rover. Around noon George and I were heading towards the Pacific to spend the afternoon in Santa Monica. The partly clouded sky casted a spectacular scenery over the ocean. What a dramatic background. Every once in a while the sun would peek through the clouds and dip the Palisades into this amazing light.

George always enjoys our walks along the Pacific Palisades in Santa Monica.

Along the Pacific Palisades.

And there was actually some sun as well. This is L.A. after all. Quick, get the camera. Smile and say Cheese!

After a nice and simple dinner at Coogies on Santa Monica Boulevard, we took our time driving through Beverly Hills and West Hollywood toward our final destination in downtown L.A., the Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center to see this:

The Tony Award winning musical made a stop in L.A. on its national tour.

The Music Center in downtown Los Angeles with the Walt Disney Concert Hall, George with the Ahmanson Theatre in the background and the Dance Door bronze sculpture.

George and I at the Music Center Plaza.

We bought tickets a while ago to see the award-winning musical “Spring Awakening.” We always loved the songs, but to see the whole play unfold and perform live on stage was amazing. What a great cast. George and I are so glad we were able to see it.

Saturday turned out to be the most perfect day. Sunny, no clouds and with spring-like temperatures. We invited Rover and Cal to come with us and George’s brother Thomas to Six Flag’s Magic Mountain. Before we were all ready to head on over to ride some of the greatest and craziest roller coasters on this planet, Rover had to make a stop at the Pasadena High School Theater where he was preparing the sets for the upcoming performance of “The Crucible.” Since Rover comes from a theater background, he’s lending his expertise to build the stage props and will help the kids learn how to set up the stage and the lighting.

On stage with Rover and Cal, inspecting the progress of the set for the play at the high school theater.

Some of the old and newer rollercoasters at Six Flag's Magic Mountain.

Impressions of the "X-2" rollercoaster, the world's first 4th dimension thrill ride.

Cal, Thomas, Rover and George impatiently waiting in line to finally get on the "X-2" ride.

The "Viper" with multiple drops, twists, loops and corkscrews.

After hours of being twirled, swung and looped around on these crazy coasters at Magic Mountain, we decided to have a dinner at one of those last remaining old-fashioned hamburger stands in Pasadena, called “The Hat.” Junk food at its finest. The best Pastrami Burgers, grilled Cheeseburgers and Tuna Salad Sandwiches one can think of. With a mountain of Chili Cheese Fries, Onion Rings and Jalapeños. And of course buckets of sodas. We don’t eat like this very often, but when we do we really enjoy this. And boy...did it taste good.

Then we were off to Hollywood to see this:

The marquees of the historic El Capitan movie palace and the relatively new Disney's Soda Fountain & Studio Store.

We purchased tickets early on to see the newest Disney flick “Bolt” at one of our most favorite movie palaces of a by-gone era, the El Capitan. Before the movie, Disney had a little Broadway-esque Christmas show which was performed live on stage. As expected from Disney, it was corny and cheesy but very cute. The computer-animated feature “Bolt” was presented in digital 3-D, which made the film that more special. We all loved the film. It was very well executed, really funny and the Hamster character Rhino was just downright hilarious. We can highly recommend this film.

As all good things eventually come to an end, so did our little Thanksgiving excursion. Late Sunday morning we were on our way again back home to Las Vegas. What a great time we had. Even more so thanks to Rover and Cal.

We always do with these two.