Saturday, July 05, 2014

Returned from Vegas Vacation

Been awhile. Last fall I started back to school to get a Master's in Library Science. Then early this year, I got a full-time job. I had been working part-time on the weekends for my old employer, The News & Observer, putting in 20+ hours on Fridays and Saturdays in addition to going to school.  The full-time job is with the book conservation company, The HF Group. The pay is considerably less, but the hours plus not having to commute to Raleigh every weekend evens it out. However, between going to work 40 hours a week AND going to school puts a strain on time and sanity. Doing a session of summer school even moreso.

Thankfully, I got a brief break by not going to second summer school session. My wife and I went to Las Vegas for a week, to meet up with her sister and kids on vacation from Alaska. I like to scope out local comic stores, but was limited by not knowing the city. The ones closest to The Strip even seemed a couple of blocks off, thus not easily accessible when you're hoofing it most of the time in over a hundred degree weather. Although the heat is not too bad considering the low humidity. Eighty-five degrees with high humidity in NC can sap your strength more than the dry desert heat.

I had pretty much given up going to a comic store when we took a bus down to the Freemont Street district and stumbled upon Jesse James Celestial Comics store almost immediately off the bus. Apparently, it is a fairly new store and most of the comic selection is geared towards current and recent stuff. I was mainly looking for a copy of Alan Davis'  "Savage Hulk" which just came out and once I found where the actual "this week's" comics were, I was set.

What was cool about the store is that up front and center as you enter is a table of comics featuring female characters as leads. Also at the front and to the side are the comics suitable for children. When my niece of 12 came in, she found the section immediately. The young woman running the store was extremely helpful, aiding in selecting various comics that would interest her. My niece ended up leaving with more comics than I did, several issues of "Princeless", a trade collecting the first story as well as a collection of the Power-Puff Girls. The employee also tried to help my 16 y.o. nephew pick out a suitable horror comic, but I feel he was feeling a bit "too cool" to be seen reading comics even when its something like "Hellblazer" or "30 Days of Night".

Also while in town, saw a couple of Cirque du Soleil shows. It was my first experience with their shows. I am not a big Michael Jackson fan, but he is of my generation and hard not to have associations with his music and certain ages and times of my life. The "Michael Jackson: One" show is absolutely amazing though.  The storyline/setting is a bit surreal, that some of Jackson's artifacts are being held by some kind of aliens and you have four stowaway kids who over the course of the show each comes across one of the artifacts (his glasses, glove, shoes, jacket) and are transformed into greater versions of themselves against a backdrop of some of his most popular songs ad a few of his more philosophical ones. The dancing/acrobatics are incredible and the effects amazing. Especially when the performers interact with holograms of a singing Michael Jackson on stage. The only thing that bothered me was the near deification/sanctification of Jackson. The message of the narrative through the dancing and music is positive, but it also lifts the singer up as something much larger than life and more than he was.

The second Cirque show we aw was Ka. Like "One",there is a story narrative, told through pantomime and music. The story is a fantasy where a pair of twins, a brother and sister, are at a celebration which is attacked by a rival nation of pirates. In trying to escape by boat, they are separated and the ship is also attacked and half the group is stranded. Each sibling discovers new dangers, allies and finds love before being re-united.

The show is aimed more at families with children, my niece loved it and talked about it for days and had a bit of a crush on the bad guy of the story. Again, there were some wonderful effects especially in the movement of the stage that moved and rotated. In addition to the boat is a flying machine and a large wheel with cages containing prisoners that spins.  The man-sized crab costume was very convincing considering it being a stage production. Much of the humor is aimed at the young, some almost slap-stick in nature. Although, the woman on the other side of my wife apparently does not get out much or she simply still has the wide-eyed wonder and humor of a child. She laughed at each appropriate part, ooh-ed and ahh-ed at each wonder and gasped at each twist. I pride myself on having maintained my sense of fun and wonder, able to enjoy animated children movies like "Up", "Bolt", etc and I enjoyed this show. Just not quite as much as this woman. The one chief let-down in the show came near the end. After so many great acrobatic and dance segments moving the story alone as well as the expensive sets, costumes and effects, the climactic battle is not done live on stage but projected against the vertical stage. The projection was fuzzy and hard to make out, although this may have been partly because we had otherwise good seats close to the stage. It felt like they finally ran out of money and/or time and had to wrap things up quickly

To bring this a bit on topic for this blog, the shows reinforced my opinion that Hollywood and current comic creators really just do not get it when it comes to superheroes. Both of these shows  These shows are bringing in large numbers celebrating wonder and colorful costumes and action. Hollywood directors, the companies and their defenders would have us believe that people won't take colorful costumes seriously, that they are not realistic. Yet, these shows celebrate that. The Olympics and sporting events attract millions with their players wearing colorful outfits that make them easily distinguishable from others also in colorful outfits. The Michael Jackson show basically had four kids becoming superheroes through Michael Jackson artifacts. It's the creators and fans that are embarrassed to be seen enjoying reading or working on superheroes that are actually out of touch with the larger populace.