Rumblings, Ruminations, and Retrospectives

Musings from the mind of the Beast.

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My Hockey Sh!t List

My Hockey Sh!t List

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m one of those hockey junkies that needs it to live, like blood, or oxygen. I have some great loves in hockey and some all-time favorites; Gretzky will always be my favorite player ever. The Detroit Red Wings will always be my favorite team. I’m totally immersed in the return and rebirth of our own Winnipeg Jets.

But, as I have some great favorites, I have some things in hockey that I depise with as much passion as the things I really love in hockey.

And here’s my Top 5:


#1: The Toronto Maple Leafs

Why, you ask? Yes, I know they’re a Canadian team, but when you’ve grown up in small-town Manitoba and one of the three channels you got on TV was CBC and your hockey was limited to Hockey Night In Canada for nearly 20 years, you get sick and tired of the CBC’s constant shoving of the Maple Laughs down our throats pretty quick. That, combined with the TSN’s (aka Toronto Sports Network) doing the same thing as well in recent years, and my Maple Leafs Suffrage-Meter has peaked out, nay, exploded, and I’ve had quite enough.

Oh yeah, and they suck.

They suck so much, their name has been taken OFF the Stanley Cup because they haven’t come close to it in almost 45 years.

It’s a shame, too, that Nazim Kadri and James Reimer (OPTIMUS REIM!!) got stuck in such a shitty organzination. The only times I watch Leafs games is if I get to enjoy my Wings whipping their asses, or if the Jets happen to be playing them.

#2 The Montreal Canadiens

Why? See #1 above. The only reason they get the #2 spot and aren’t tied for #1 with The Bugs is that they have P. K. Subban. PK is AWESOME. Finally, a talented kid that has the guts to stand up to the vets and play like he can every night. Love his attitude, and he’s fun to watch.

#3 Philadelphia Flyers Fans

Screw you, you bunch of disrespectful assholes for booing the Canadian National Anthem at the 2012 Winter Classic. The least classy fans in the NHL.

#4 NHL Officials

Normally, I’ve been a proponent of the officials in the NHL. They’ve done pretty excellent work, raising their game over the past several years from the mess that we had in the 90’s and early 2000’s.

But what in the HELL is happening this year? I have never seen such inconsistent application of the rules in the NHL, not only from official to official, but by the SAME official in the SAME GAME! One guy mows an opponent over from behind, and gets a penalty. Awesome! Next period, another guy mows an opponent over from behind, and there’s no call.

Blatant, blatant, obvious, calls are being missed. Calls SO bad that my mom, who really doesn’t even watch hockey since I stopped playing nearly 20 years ago, could make these calls. Things happening right in front of an official that are not being called. And to think, this is why they put TWO officials on the ice in the first place!

Come on, folls. You really need to sharpen up.

#5 Daniel Carcillo

Nah, he doesn’t deserve his own logo.

The guy gets suspended for an unreal *10TH* time for boarding an Edmonton Oilers player. $775,000 for 11 points and 82 PIM – almost two minor penalties per game so far this year? I’m glad he’s on a one year deal and maybe not only Chicago will not re-sign him for next year, but the rest of the league will smarten up and no one else will sign him either.

So there you go. The Top 5 Craptastic Things About The NHL right now.

If the list changes I’ll update it, but for now, there you are!

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What Happens In Vegas…

… gets plastered all over the internet for everyone to see.

Rather than spend hours writing a ginormous blog post about our Vegas trip, we thought we’d show you instead. We spent days wandering up and down the Strip, checking out the various hotels and casinos, catching shows, hitting up Fremont street, and of course, taking hundreds of photos.

So, grab a beverage or two, sit back, and (hopefully) enjoy the videos!

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GO JETS GO!

FINALLY…. I HAVE GONE BACK… TO AN NHL GAME!

It’s been 16 years since I’ve last seen a live, regular season NHL game.

Sure, I went to one of the exhibition games when the Phoenix Coyotes played the Edmonton Oilers here in town a few years ago, but that was exhibition. Not since October 15, 1995, when the Detroit Red Wings came to down and played to a 5-5 OT draw had I seen a regular season game.

Tonight, November 17th, 2011, that all changed. The Winnipeg Jets made their return to the NHL this season, and even though I didn’t purchase season tickets, I was fortunate enough to be drawn in the public ticket lottery to purchase tickets for one of six November games, and since Alexander Ovechkin was coming to town with the Washington Capitals, why not take the chance to see one of the best as I cheered on the Jets?

All I’ve heard through the first bunch of home games this year from fans, family, and friends who’ve attended is that it’s not just watching a hockey game, it’s an experience. Even though we have a smaller arena at 15,000 seats, I’ve been told it’s LOUD. The fans are crazy. The city has been bitten hard by the NHL bug, and we’re all just happy to have the game back in town.

So, I prepared for that. I’m like the fans I’ve heard talking… “So what if they lose? The NHL is back, baby!”

Stephanie and I got to the game and took our seats – excellent seats, by the way, first and second row in the middle level. Yup, we sat one behind the other, because there’s so few tickets available to the public, so pickin’s were slim. But at least we got to sit together. As the teams stepped onto the ice for the start of the game, man, you could FEEL it. When the announcer bellowed out “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome… YOUR… WINNIPEG JETS!!” the place… just… went… NUTS. It was awesome!

From even before the opening faceoff, when during the national anthem the crowd SHOUTED out the words “TRUE NORTH!” during the “true North strong and free” in Oh Canada, the crowd, all 15,000 strong, was in to every single moment. From cheering and letting out huge “OHHHHHHH!’s” every time a Jet laid a hit, made a good shot, or came up with a close play around the net, to cheering good saves by our goaltender or nice offensive plays, to giving the officials shit for questionable calls, to booing the absolute HELL out of Alexander Ovechkin, the crowd was HOT.

And to sidebar about Ovechkin… well, I lost a lot of respect for him tonight. Love or hate him, the guy is an amazing offensive player, but that’s ALL he does. When he’s on the ice, he doesn’t play defense. He just cherry picks in the high slot or the blue line waiting to take off with the puck. If he gets hit, he cries about it. He will start shit and get both teams in a scrum, but then he’ll turn and skate away from it all. When he’s losing or getting mad, he gets all upset. There was one play where he got his stick lifted by a Jet, and he thought there should have been a slashing penalty called on the play. The play continued on, and he left the ice. *Half a period later*, when the second was over, he came back on the ice and straight to the official to bitch about it, but the ref would have nothing of it and even demonstrated to Ovy how the Jet was just trying to lift his stick. It was awful. And that’s a bit sad, since he’s so talented and I was a fan of his, but now after watching him play for a full game and not just seeing highlights of greatness on TV, I have to say that he’s a big whiny bitch and I really don’t care for that all that much.

Anyway, back to the game and the crowd.

OH. MY. GOD… when the Jets scored a goal – when they lit the lamp 4 times during the game, the response from the crowd can only be described as an ERUPTION. It was that nuts. I found myself LEAPING out of my seat when we scored, it was that awesome.

It goes without saying, the fans in this city are hockey fans, and they are Jets fans. The crowds are amazing, and to be part of 15,000 people screaming “GO JETS GO” at the top of our lungs all in unison is just something that has to be experienced. It’s incredible. If you get a chance to go, don’t even worry about winning or losing. Just go and be part of that atmospshere. It is simply INSANE.

As for the team itself, we’re a young team that’s starting to come together. We have a lot of offensive talent. We have a fantastic goaltending core with starter Ondrej Pavelic and backup Chris Mason. I will even go so far as to call Pavelic an elite goaltender. He is that good. He’s solid, he moves side to side very well, his positioning allows him to stop pucks he can’t see and has no business stopping, and has great reflexes and ability under pressure. Our defense is solid. If this team can stay together for three or four years, we could seriously have a playoff team that makes the second and third rounds.

We do have to fix a couple things though. As a team, we have to take the body more. We don’t finish a lot of checks, and spend a lot of time skating with people and trying to play the puck, swinging our sticks at them or poke-checking instead of just playing physical game and then taking the puck after we’ve taken the man out. The other thing we need to correct defensively is making deadly cross-ice passes, or trying to make a long pass up the middle. We end up turning the puck over more often than we do making the play, and that is *extremely* costly in our own end.

If we can correct those two major issues, the smaller things will iron themselves out as this team grows and some of the younger players get some more experience. Bfyuglien and Enstrom are solid D-men, while Flood and Oduya show signs of excellent play as well. Up front, Nik Antropov is an offensive force, while Glass, Wellwood, Wheeler, and Slater all are young guys playing well and will become excellent players with more experience. Evander Kane is simply exciting to watch, and at 20 years old, is poised to be a superstar with the right supporting staff, and that staff is growing right in front of our eyes.

This team is going to finish well this season, and in 3 or 4 years, could very well be a force in the NHL. I can’t wait to see it happen. What a fun night of NHL hockey! I can’t wait to go back! Some pics are below!

 

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The Greatest Thing Ever

It’s fitting that this post, the greatest thing ever, was posted from the greatest smartphone operating system ever, Windows Phone 7.

Ok, enough fanboyism, because Norko won’t let me hear the end of it.

Imagine this, if you will…

*may contain horrible reproductions of the Scottish accent (YOU try it in print!) and may also contain some cursin’.

A bunch of Scottish sheep herders are sitting around one day, a few too many pints have been consumed, and they’re bored. All the chores are done, the dogs have been trained, and the sheep have all been tended to.

So one guy up and says Ach, wee Willie, what do yeh think we should doooo this evenin’?

And Wille replies, I haven’t got the faaaayn-test of ideas, Andrew. I’m just happy the beer is flowin’.

Suddenly a third guy replies… I’ve got it Sonny Jim… we’re gonna play Pong with the fuckin’ sheep.

I shit you not. Ok, well, I’m not sure that’s exactly how the conversation went. I may have taken some creative license there, but as The Rock says, I guaran-damn-TEE that there is Pong being played. With sheep.

And that’s not even all. Just watch the video. There is even more greatness within.

You can thank me later.

*no sheep were harmed in the making of this video. I think.

http://www.wimp.com/sheeplight

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Changing My Tune

When it comes to sports, and especially hockey, I’ve always been pretty opinionated. I’ve followed the NHL as far back as I can possibly remember. I used to have hockey cards pinned up on the kitchen wall. I used to know the name of every player in the league, what team they played on, and their stats for the last several years.

As a hockey fan, I’ve always been a Wayne Gretzky, Detroit Red Wings, and Edmonton Oilers fan.

Maybe you’ve heard the buzz around Winnipeg lately, you might have figured out we used to (and now once again) have this little NHL team called the Winnipeg Jets.

So, people used to ask me… why aren’t the Jets your favorite team? You should support your local team! You’re a traitor if you don’t like your local team!

Well, sorry to disappoint everyone, but back then, the Jets sucked. They got whipped from pillar to post by Mr. Gretzky and the Oilers on a yearly basis, and never came close to a Stanley Cup.

Now, it’s 15 years later. The NHL has returned to Winnipeg. And, you know something?

I’m really cheering for this team.

Win or lose, I’m a Winnipeg Jets fan.

I was originally one of the skeptics. I used all the same old excuses. Tickets are going to be too expensive. We didn’t support the Jets before, so why would we now? They’re just going to leave again.

The return of the Jets to Winnipeg has become the talk of Canada, even North America in hockey circles. The work that Mr. Chipman and Mr. Thompson, along with all of True North, has been phenomenal, and the buzz that has gripped this city is nothing short of unbelieveable.

And I’m caught up in it 120%.

It doesn’t matter if they’re called the Jets. It doesn’t matter if the logo has changed.

NHL hockey is back in town.

I follow some hockey players on Twitter, and all of the transplanted Atlanta Thrashers that are now Winnipeg Jets have been nothing short of excited to be here, stoked to play hockey in Winnipeg, and have carried themselves with a whole ton of class. Especially Evander Kane, who is now officially my favorite Winnipeg Jet.

Don’t worry, Mr. Gretzky. You’re always going to be my favorite player of all time. Don’t worry, Detroit Red Wings, you’re still my favorite team.

But, you’re going to have to move over, because the Winnipeg Jets have claimed one of the spots in my hockey heart.

I support my local team.

Winnipeg Jets Logo

I’m a Winnipeg Jets fan.

GO JETS GO!

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More Than Meets The Eye

AKA: my Transformers: Dark Of The Moon review!

Stephanie and I went to see the third installment of the Michael Bay Transformers movie franchise last night. After the first two, I’ve been eagerly awaiting this final movie, as it’s been touted as the “end of the trilogy”, and I wanted to see what Michael Bay and Co. had come up with.

But, before I let you know what I thought of everything, I have to issue the following SPOILER ALERT!

That’s a HUGE spoiler!

Actually, here’s the REAL spoiler alert!

I will discuss the plot in DETAIL, so if you haven’t seen the movie, it’s time to stop reading this post and go back to Facebook or Twitter or whatever it is you do on the internet. It’s ok. I won’t judge.

All I have to say is YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

Ok, still with me? Good. Let’s go!

I intially thought the title of the movie was a little odd, and that perhaps Michael Bay and Co. were on some serious Pink Floyd-esque drugs when this was thought of, but it’s actually quite relevant.

Transformers: DOTM opens with the story behind the space race leading up to the Apollo moon landing of 1969. But the TWIST is, is that the purpose of the moon landing wasn’t really to put a man on the moon and for the Americans to beat the Russians into space. Once Neil Armstrong steps foot on the moon and does his iconic “one small step for man” line and does a quick report for the world media, NASA cuts everything over to a secure channel and we discover the real reason for the moon landing: an alien ship was tracked years ago as crashing on the moon, and the space race is all about finding out what that ship is about!

I thought this was an AWESOME tie-in back to the very first Transformers movie, where the teaser trailers showed a robotic form attacking one of the remote surveillance devices roaming the moon. There is also excellent use of original footage from the 60’s to tie all this together.

But back to the story. Once the Apollo landing team reaches the HUGE ship, we discover a whole bunch of dead robots on board, but we focus on one in particular. After the moon landing team leaves, the robot’s eye sparks to life: it’s alive!

Fast-forward to present day, and we find our hero from the past two movies, Sam Witwicky being woken up by the smolderingly gorgeous Rosie Huntington-Whitely, who, while beautiful in her own right, just isn’t Megan Fox. We find out Sam has finished college and is having trouble finding a job, which is upsetting for him. He has a medal of honor from the President, but can’t land work. We follow Sam on a few job interviews, before landing a job at a large firm. He has a couple of encounters with the big boss of the company, as well as with one of the VP’s (played by Ken Jeong from the Hangover series) who has been investigating the Transformers and has information related to the moon landing and what really happened there.

Rosie works for a company headed by Patrick Dempsey’s character Dylan, and he and Sam instantly collide. Sam is jealous of Dempsey’s wealth, fearing that Rosie will leave Sam for Dylan because he has everything that Sam can’t provide.

In the meantime, the US military and the Autobots have been working together, protecting the Earth from any remaining Decepticons after their defeat in the second movie. There’s energon (the lifeblood of the Transformers) detectors all over the Earth that allow the Autobots to find any Decepticons and crush them. Since there’s been no Decepticon activity in some time, the Autobots have started helping the military with their own operations across the planet, but soon enough, there’s energon signatures detected in Russia. The Autobots and NEST team (US Military) head to Russia to check out Chernobyl, the site of the energon, and get in a battle with the Decepticons, which the Autobots win, and come home with a piece of Autobot technology.

We get our first sight of none other than Shockwave here, and he looks AWESOME!

Back where Sam works, The Decepticon Laserbeak attacks the firm to try and retrieve the information, but the VP passes it to Sam, who escapes and tries to inform the Autobots. Sam wants to help out, but he’s being blocked by the government. The military won’t allow him to come in, and Sam tries to run through the blockade with his POS car, but it’s smashed. Sam then invokes his relationship with the Autobots, and Bumblebee comes out to escort Sam in. There’s a great line in here where Sam is asked about his car, and as Bumblebee transforms back into car mode to take Sam and Carly away, Sam says “THAT’S my car.”

Once all the information is given to the Autobots, combined with the fact that the piece of technology recovered in Russia is from an ancient Autobot ship called The Ark, Optimus Prime is PISSED OFF that he didn’t know about this, that the government would withold information from him, specificallY THIS information: there’s Autobot technology in that ship on the moon, designed by the previous Autobot leader Sentinel Prime, Optimus’ mentor.

The tie-in to The Ark is tremendous, and I love the shout out to the original Transformers universe. In the original Transformers, The Ark was a massive ship that the Autobots used to flee their home planet of Cybertron during the civil war. The Aubots realized they could stay and fight the war, but their planet would be ultimately ravaged, so rather than stay and fight, they evacuated Cybertron in an effort to save it. The ship was followed by the Decepticons and attacked, and ultimately crash landed into Mount Everest on Earth, where it and the Transformers laid dormant for four million years before being reactivated.

Essentially the same storyline is followed here (YAY CONTINUITY!!), but instead of The Ark crash-landing into the Earth, it crash landed into the dark side of the Moon instead (movie title explained!), and was the entire REAL basis for the space race. Both the USA and Russia wanted to find out what that ship was all about and confirm for all time that we were definitely not alone in the universe.

The Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, HAUL ASS to the moon to investigate the downed Ark, and once inside, discover all the dead Autobots, but manage to find the one robot who’s still there. The one that opened his eye earlier. It’s none other than Sentinel Prime! As he’s taken from the ship to bring back to the Autobot/NEST base on Earth for repair, an object slips from his hand. We find this object is one of a network of hundreds of them, that, when brought together, is about creating a giant space bridge, a massive transporter, if you will. In the wrong hands, the Decepticon hands, the transporter could be used to bring in reinforcements and weapons which would allow them to turn the tide in the war and defeat the Autobots, taking over Earth in the process. Sam also contacts Agent Simmons, who assisted the Autobots in the last movie, and pulls him out of retirement to lend his expertise to the situation.

A mysterious truck is seen roaming around, and it transforms… it’s MEGATRON! He’s alive! He’s holed up in the desert with a few Decepticon forces, biding their time until the moment is right…

As Sentinel Prime is repaired and revived, we know he has the last 5 of the objects on the Ark. What we find out here is that the Decepticons raided the Ark some time ago, and took the rest of the objects needed to create the space bridge. The Autobots, with Sentinel Prime, (who has an AWESOME alt-mode, BTW) head out to try to take back the rest of the objects required for the space bridge, only to run into a Decepticon ambush, as they go after Sentinel Prime! The Autobot team high-tails it back to base with Sam informing the base to protect Sentinel Prime at all costs. He’s the key!

As the team returns to base, it’s a SWERVE!!! and Sentinel Prime goes BALLISTIC, wrecking the base and KILLING IRONHIDE in the process! HEEL TURN!! Sentinel goes on a rampage and steals the remaining 5 objects recovered from the Ark, and announces that in order to save their home planet of Cybertron, he had to do the only thing he could: make a deal with the Decepticons!! In the melee, Sam and Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whitely) have their first real fight. They have a function to go to, but Sam doesn’t want to go. Carly can’t get out of it, and wants Sam to come. Sam chooses instead to stay and help the Autobots, and Carly takes off and heads to the function. Sam’s parents make an appearance as well, and talk about the fight/break up. They tell Sam of a story where they had a huge fight, and Sam’s dad wouldn’t give up on her, and searched all over until he found her, and they got back together. They tell Sam that if he truly loves Carly, that he can’t let her go.

Sentinel Prime escapes with the remaining objects and reunites with the Decepticons as they put the master plan into action. The Decepticon team has scattered all over the earth, taking the objects with them, with the plan to make a co-ordinated launch and activate the space bridge! The master plan: use the space bridge to transport new Decepticon soldiers to Earth to enslave the human race, and then transport CYBERTRON ITSELF to Earth, and use the human slaves to return their ravaged planet back to glory!

The Decepticons successfully open the space bridge, and a FLOOD of new Decepticon warriors, ships, and beings in all kinds of configurations come through the bridge, and the faction literally LAY WASTE to the city of Chicago! The sky is FILLED with Decepticons blowing the city to CRAP! Soldiers on the ground hunt remaining Autobots, and mercilessly slaughter civilians! The US military tries to get in there, but the Deecepticons easily dispatch them.

In the meantime, the US government has exiled the Autobots. Since the desertion by Sentinel Prime, the Autobots can’t be trusted, and they need to leave. The Autobot team says their goodbyes to Sam, and then blast off in the Autobot ship they used to get to the moon earlier. It’s linked with a decomissioned space shuttle to help them leave, and the Autobots are gone. Once the ship blasts off, the shuttle seperates and comes back to Earth as the Autobot ship hurtles into space, where it’s then attacked by Starscream who BLOWS THE SHIP OUT OF THE SKY, and all the Autobots are dead!

Sam’s attention turns to doing everything he can to find Carly. Sam finds former military member Sergeant Epps, who agrees to help Sam get into the city, as well as to try and fight the Decepticons. He has to find Carly and make sure she’s ok. Epps thinks he’s crazy to go into such a war zone, but the team tries anyway. Through an epic fire fight, office towers collapsing, and some great action, Sam finds Carly, only to be ambushed by Dylan, who’s abducted Carly and aligned himself with the Decepticons! In the New World Order, the Decepticons will need a human to interface with Earth, and Dylan would rather be in that position than that of a slave! Dylan attaches a Deception in the form of a watch to Sam, and this Decepticon will monitor Sam’s every movement, thought, and action, and transmit that back to Dylan and the Decepticons. The watch has been programmed to cause Sam unbearable pain if Sam even THINKS of trying to find help.

And that’s it. The war is over. Cybertron is nearing Earth’s atmosphere. Chicago is destroyed. The small US military team still presses on though, fighting to take back the city. They make some inroads, but the Decepticons hold them off. Sam and Carly are eventually rescued, though, and there’s a great scene with Carly and an extremely injured Megatron about how Megatron is ready to reclaim leadership of the Decepticons and rule Earth AND Cybertron, but Carly points out how Sentinel Prime is the one in control, with all the power, with all the technology, and Megatron will be nothing more than Sentinel’s BITCH. YES!!

The US Military sucessfully manages to damage the master object that runs the space bridge, and stops Cybertron’s approach to Earth, just as the AUTOBOTS RETURN!! The fight goes EPIC, and some Autobots are captured and start to be executed! Bumblebee is next on the list, but OPTIMUS F’N PRIME makes a HUGE return and the SHIT. IS. ON!!!  The Autobot team fights, but it’s Optimus Prime, with some AWESOME new armor and jet upgrades, comes ROARING back into the fight and slaughters half of the Decepticon team, before heading to hunt down Sentinel Prime! The rest of the Autobots dispatch the Decepticons as Optimus confronts Sentinel, and the whole plan is laid out as the two battle, with Optimus trying to talk Sentinel down, even as the have a wicked scrap. Sentinel injures Optimus Prime, tearing off his arm, and as Sentinel Prime goes to kill Optimus, it’s MEGATRON that intervenes, realizing that if Sentinel kills Optimus, he truly WILL be Sentinel’s bitch, and stops Sentinel! They fight for a moment, before Optimus recovers and executes Sentinel! Optimus and Megatron then get it on, and Optimus Prime TEARS MEGATRON’S SKULL AND SPINE OUT OF HIS BODY, slaying Megatron!

It’s over! The war is now truly over! The Autobots are victorious!

Overall thoughts on the movie:

Plot: This plot was much stronger than that of TF2: Revenge Of The Fallen. I’d say the actual plot of TF3, and the way it was all put together, was probably the best of the series. The first Transformers movie was very strong as well, but TF3 had a lot more layers and pieces that all had to come together. They did pretty well in that regard, and made for a pretty enjoyable storyline.

We also lost most, if not all of the real goofy comedy that plagued the second movie. No robot testicles, no peeing on things, and no robot leg humping. These are all good things. There were a couple lines thrown in here and there, but it wasn’t insulting.

I thought early on, there were some unnecessary pieces to the plot: Sam’s job search, the love triangle forming between Sam, Rosie, and Dylan, and other things, but they came together as the layers and pieces of the puzzle all connected and deliverd a solid story.

Characters: This movie was obviously focused on: the US Military/NEST, Sentinel Prime, and Optimus Prime, in that order. That’s not necessarily a good thing. I can see how it fit into the story, but this movie is called Transformers, and those characters should be focused on first and foremost. I was stoked to see Sentinel Prime in the movie. Shockwave showing up was awesome, but he got very little screen time. Major characters like Megatron (save for a couple minutes at the end), Soundwave, Starscream, Bumblebee (yes, even him), Ratchet and Ironhide were relegated to the background and had very minor roles, and that, I don’t think, was the best decision.

I really think this applies most to Megatron and Starscream, who are usually the focus of the Decepticon leadership and have major roles in any battle. With Starscream, they gave him a huge feather in his cap when he was the one that swooped in and assaulted and destroyed the Autobot ship, leading us to believe that the Autobots were all destroyed after they were exiled. But, it wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t comfortable. The same with Megatron. The Transformers war is really an epic battle between Megatron and Optimus Prime, with armies at their sides, but they are always the focus. It’s understandable that Megatron took a secondary role while he was recovering from his injuries suffered in the last movie (a third of his head was blasted off!) and you could even see tiny repair bots inside his head constantly trying to repair the damage. There was a nice touch to him having his head and face hidden with a large shroud, and it was logically explained why Megatron was in the place he was in, but it was obviously Sentinel Prime that was in charge, and that took some getting used to. There was a flare at the end of the movie where the old Megatron showed up, but it was short-lived and he was torn to shreds by Optimus Prime.

On the plus side, we lost the Twins (Skids and Mudflap), and this was the return of Optimus Prime as a tremendous, awesome, BAD. ASS. He was the inspirational leader when he needed to be, but was also compassionate and merciful when it counted, all true to the original character. But we also saw another side; angry and fired up, which was AWESOME.

Visuals: What can I say? It was a Michael Bay movie. There were giant robots blowing shit up. They laid waste to each other and an entire city. What more do you want? I think the 3D was a little lackluster, but it didn’t take away from the stunning visuals and CGI work done to put a movie like this together. Unreal.

Overall: Transformers: Dark of the Moon gets 3.5 out of 5 stars. Very solid. Had the movie done two things; focus more on the Transformers instead of the humans, and give the historically major players bigger roles, this could have easily been a 4 or 4.5 out of stars. GO SEE IT!

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Me? On iTunes? You Bet!

Alright everyone, I need to make an announcement.

*stands up and addresses the crowd*

My name is Jarret, and I’m a pro wrestling fan. I have been for an awful long time.

I watch wrestling on television. I’ve participated in fantasy wrestling federations where we role-play as wrestling characters and developed our own wrestling tv shows. I’ve been to many live professional wrestling events, and for a while, I wanted to BE a pro wrestler, and even started training to do just that.

<begin plug>I own a professional wrestling web site that amalgamates wrestling and mixed martial arts news from around the world, and the site also features an awesome message board with a fun community.

Make sure you check out A1-Wrestling.com!<end plug>

A few months ago, some members of the site and I began a new project. We were going to venture into the world of digital media and internet content, and such was born the A1-Wrestling.com PODCAST.

Each week, myself and four friends from the web site get together over Skype, and we talk primarily about the world of pro wrestling. What happened over the last week? What do we think is going to happen in upcoming storylines and shows? We dissect the art of pro wrestling. Our most recent episode delved deep into the art of the wrestling promo. The trash talk. The interview. We played clips of our favorite promos and talked about why we loved them.

But we don’t just talk pro wrestling. We have an awesome Buy Or Sell segment, we talk tech, gaming, current news, pop culture, and anything else that comes to mind.

But now, the whole point of this post.

I’m pleased to announce that you can find the A1-Wrestling.com Podcast on iTunes! Check out the iTunes store to subscribe for free, or check out our iTunes web page, or the A1-Wrestling.com Podcast page to stream the podcasts in your browser.

Announcement Part 2: The A1-Wrestling.com Podcast, in just a few short months, has already reached over 5,000 downloads!

Thanks for all your support! You can be part of the podcast! Leave us a voicemail at 206-338-2228, email us at a1wrestlingpodcast@gmail.com!

If you’d like to join us as a special guest, we record the podcast Tuesday evenings at approximately 10 PM, and is available Wednesday afternoons for downloads. You can hit me up on Skype @ octopusprime99 and join in on the fun!

By

Let Me Hear You Scream

Alternately: A date with Ozzy Osbourne

I’ve been on a pretty good streak the last couple weeks. On the 13th, I got a phone call to tell me that I’d won a draw to be one of the first 25 in line to see The Dog Whisperer himself, Cesar Millan, in a meet in greet on the 15th. On the 14th, it was Cesar’s seminar (more on that coming up), and on the 15th, Stephanie and I got to meet him!

Then on the 17th, I got an email from the folks at LiveNation, informing me that I’d won a pair of tickets to see none other than the Prince of F**king Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne on the 20th! The seats turned out to be awesome – row 10, in the first available section to the left of the stage. What a view!

The show opened with a montage video of Ozzy replacing several popular characters in film and television. Ozzy “took over” the roles of the lead character in Avatar, Jersey Shore, Iron Man (him taking off the Iron Man mask and proclaiming “I AM IRON MAN!” was CLASSIC), among others, including the wildly popular Twilight series.

The line of the night came from a scene in one of the Twilight movies where a female character (I haven’t seen the films or read the books) tells Ozzy’s rendition of the main character “You’re a vampire!”, to which Ozzy responds “A vampire? Vampires are pussies. I’m the Prince of Fucking Darkness!”

I’m not the hugest Ozzy fan, though he’s brought us some classic tunes that I really enjoy. I found a whole new respect for him when him and his family appeared on “The Osbournes”, where we got an inside look into his life and career. He’s gone through an awful lot, and seeing him overcome a lot of it is nothing short of awesome.

Back to the concert; I have to be honest. Ozzy is 61 years old. He’s not a spring chicken any more. He can’t move the way he used to. Actually, he’s been reduced to a pretty fast shuffle back and forth across the stage. He needs a teleprompter to make sure he doesn’t forget the lyrics. He can’t hit every note he used to.

But you know, it doesn’t really matter.

Ozzy has a new, young band behind him, and WOW, these guys are AWESOME. I wasn’t thrilled with the bass guitar players’ sound, but the guy can go. The drummer hits like a freaking monster. The guitar player? WHOA. The guy RIPS it up. I thought that during his extended solo, he’s maybe not as naturally musically inclined as other master guitar players, but there’s absolutely no doubt that when this guy straps on that guitar, he gets down to BUSINESS, business is all about rocking as hard as he possibly can. The guy can PLAY.

Ozzy and Co. SCORCHED through two and a half hours of great music, featuring classics from his time with Black Sabbath and his own solo career, as well as material from his latest album, including the smash single “Let Me Hear You Scream” (which, coincidentally, is the title of this blog post. See what I did there?).

The set included songs such as “Iron Man”, “Mama, I’m Coming Home”, “Crazy Train”, “Fairies Wear Boots”, “Mr. Crowley”, “Bark At The Moon”, “No More Tears”, “I Don’t Want to Change the World”, “Fire In The Sky”, “Shot In The Dark”, “Suicide Solution”, among others.

As per usual at a rock concert these days, the band was loud, there was a bunch of pyro explosions, and one of the cool things was that Ozzy had this giant hose next to him on stage, and every once in a while, he’d pick this hose up and unleash this MASSIVE torrent of foam all over the crowd (and the security guards in front of him!), quite often deliberately spraying himself as well. It was hilarious to see that every time Ozzy used the foam, a crew member would come roaring out from off-stage with a squeegee to wipe down the teleprompter so Ozzy could see the upcoming lyrics!

Here’s some pics shamelessly plucked from the web to better illustrate this, cause words just can’t do it justice:

Pretty awesome!

Throw in a sold out crowd and the prerequisite hot drunk chicks next to us, and this was a pretty fun event. Thanks to LiveNation and Twitter for the free tix! We’d seen Ozzy before when he was here at the old Winnipeg Arena, but we were waaaaaay at the back, and the experience wasn’t nearly as awesome as this one was.

Thanks Ozzy and gang for a great show!

By

Life In The Center of The Universe

Or, “Our Quick Excursion to Toronto”.

I used the phrase “Center of the Universe” to describe Toronto because that’s the way most of us in the West of this great country feel about Toronto; they get everything, the government caters to them, we’ve been assaulted with FAR too many Maple Leaf games on CBC… everything in this country seems to revolve around Toronto, or at least, that’s the way it feels sometimes.

Didn’t feel like that when we traveled there, though.

Stephanie and I went to Toronto for what turned out to be three really fun-filled days from the 15th to the 17th of July. Just a quick break, a reason to get out and do something.

Who am I kidding? We went because I’m a giant geek and I wanted to go to TransformersCon. We just added a couple extra days and did stuff that didn’t center around what *I* wanted to do. :)

We left super early on Thursday morning (the 15th); our plane took off at 5:45 AM, so that brought about the now-ingrained custom, well, now, tradition, of Stephanie and I rushing to do everything at the VERY last moment the night before we left, getting two hours of sleep, and then stumbling to the airport.

Thankfully, some brilliant human invented web check-in, so we checked in a day ahead of time, and showed up at the airport with boarding passes already in hand. All we had to do was check our bags and get abused by airport security before getting on the plane.

The flight was great – it’s awesome now that we’ve lost all this weight (crossed the 80 pound mark today!) and airplane seats are SO much more comfortable! After landing in Toronto around 8:45 AM, we headed over to pick up our rental car.

I’m wondering at this point if these guys ever get anything right.

We get to the rental desk inside the airport, and the guy can’t find our reservation (we booked through Air Miles). Finally, he finds it after a few minutes, and says our car is waiting. We take our papers over to the parkade where the cars are, and the car we were assigned was already given to someone else.

So now, while I’m waiting for another car, I have to endure an East Indian gentlemen (who I’m sure is otherwise a very nice man) screaming at the desk clerk because he was apparently given the wrong price, yet he was given all the paperwork and just didn’t understand. I think the guy wanted a SUV, and ended up leaving with his family in a Dodge Charger because of the mix up.

And did I mention the young woman, with her husband and baby, desperately trying to pick up their reservation, but didn’t have her drivers’ license with her? No ID, no rent-y, sister.

So, we were supposed to get the Charger, but the lovely East Indian man drove off with it.

Wait a minute, that doesn’t sound quite right.

I don’t mean anything by it, really.

So now I’m waiting for another car. We end up with a Ford Fusion.

I’m deathly allergic to Ford.

Something about them breaking down and leaving me stranded. We load our suitcases up into the trunk (which was quite spacious, I might add. You could store several bodies in there comfortably. Something to keep in mind next time work pisses me off) and get into the car, which was actually quite nice. None of my allergies were kicking in.

Where to? Let’s go to the hotel and check in.

So, off we go. We’re confident. Stephanie has a map and is doing a fantastic job at navigating. She’s bound and determined we’re not going to get lost. (Unlike last time I drove in Toronto, where I somehow ended up on the QEW and in Mississauga.) Stephanie plots a course and lays it in, and I take the helm and we’re off. Everything checks out. We pass all the correct streets. I don’t turn off onto any major freeways.

A few minutes later, something’s not right.

“We’re on the 401,” I say.

“How the hell did that happen?” asks Stephanie.

A giant feeling of deja vu kicks in, and 15 minutes later, we’re nowhere NEAR where we should be.

Our hotel was back beside the airport.

I get us turned around after being stuck in traffic for almost an hour (damned closed roads!), and find a familiar street. Stephanie plots us back to the hotel, and we get there around 11 AM.

Check-in is at 3 PM.

Dammit.

So, let’s go downtown and meet our co-workers for lunch. We hop back in the car, and Stephanie plots another course. We’re perfect this time, and make it downtown smoothly. But on the way and navigating we’re all “that street looks familiar” and “so does this one”.

Turns out that when we got “lost” (and I use quotes cause we weren’t really lost, we just took the scenic route), we were about two minutes from where we’re going now. We just drove in one gigantic circle.

Figures.

We finally get downtown and park at a subway station, and take the subway deep into downtown. My first ever subway ride. We meet Adeel and Steve from our Toronto office (Adeel used to work with me here in Winnipeg) and Steve takes us to the Friar and Firkin, an English pub. The food was tremendous (even though it was just pub fare), and talking with Adeel and Steve was a fun time. On the way back to the Toronto office to meet everyone, I got a great picture (forthcoming) of the CTV building with a truck sticking out the side of it a couple floors up.

Back to the office to some other co-workers, and then it was off to the Hockey Hall of Fame. I’d finally get to go here and spend more than 45 minutes there. On the way there, we got a free ice-cream sandwich from in front of Union Station.  We went through the whole building in a few hours, and saw everything from the net filled with 802 pucks (Gretzky’s goal record), to the double-sized Gretzky exhibit, to a ton of Red Wings stuff both new and old, international hockey exhibits, to a live game where I played goal and had virtual Messier and Gretzky shooting at me.

Stopped all five shots, by the way.

Then we went over and walked through the Montreal Canadiens dressing room, and checked out the stalls of all the greats like Lafleur, Roy, Geoffrion, Richard, and the like. I even sat down at Roy’s stall and put on his goalie pads. That was pretty cool.

And no HHOF trip would be complete without a trip upstairs to see the Stanley Cup. We’ve seen it before, but ya just gotta do it, you know? I took extreme close up pics of all the Edmonton Oilers’ engravings. Neat-o. Heck, even Steph liked it.

From there, it was off again on foot (in 32 degrees C) to the CN Tower. What else can you say about it? It’s tall. Really tall. We got the full pass, and went to the Look Out, the Glass Floor, and the Sky Pod. You can get all the heights from the web site, but I think the observation deck is like 1,100 ft up. What a view of the city. Amazing. One level down is the glass floor, which – you guessed it – is a glass floor. You can stand on it (or lay on it, or jump up and down on it) and see right to the ground. Now THAT’S a view you’re not going to forget. It’s a little intimidating to begin with, but you soon get used to it, and it offers quite the perspective. Then it was up another 300+ feet to the Sky Pod, and the view just gets better. I remember looking down next door into the SkyDome (or Rogers Center, currently) and seeing the crew prepping the building for the upcoming soccer exhibition, and the vehicles in there looked like ants. Tiny ants.

After checking out the CN Tower store, we decided just to walk around downtown. Picked up another ice cream sandwich (free, of course), and ended up at East Side Mario’s, one of Stephanie’s all-time favorite restaurants. The food was good, but the server was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so that took away from the experience a little bit, but it was still enjoyable. A little more walking around and then back to the hotel and lovely air conditioning with a chance to rest our feet, and sleep.

On the way into the hotel, I dropped my suitcase, and I jammed the pull-out handle you use when you’re rolling the thing around. This presents a problem for the flight home.

Friday brought about a slightly-later-start-than-we-wanted, but at least we got up in time for the free continental breakfast! Then it was off to Toronto Zoo. Stephanie had been there before, but I was going for the first time. Now, we’re getting used to the place and driving there was much easier.

We get to the Zoo around noon, and get to exploring. We jump on the ZooMobile, a giant multi-seat and multi-section golf cart, complete with tour guide that drives you around on a tour of the zoo. The zoo is broken up into pods, and each pod deals with animals from a different geographical region of the world. You can either stay on the ZooMobile for the entire tour, or you can get off at a particular pod, walk around that area, and then come back and catch a different ZooMobile that will take you to the next pod. Explore that pod, and then jump back on to head to the next one. It’s very efficient and allows you to see a lot of the zoo in a short amount of time.

The enclosures/exhibits are so much bigger than what we have here in Winnipeg. It’s like our zoo is a Lego model and theirs is the real deal. It’s incredible how big this place is. And they’ve got everything, from cats to sea creatures to insects to jungle animals.

Lions and tigers and bears! OH MY!

I’ve seen a lot of these animals at the Winnipeg Zoo as well as the Minneapolis Zoo, so I’ll touch on the highlights, but the first thing we saw was a giraffe. A GIRAFFE! What a way to start the day off!

I’ve seen giraffes on TV and in documentaries, of course, but it’s NOTHING like seeing one from less than 50 feet away. These things are MASSIVE! Gorgeous, gorgeous creatures. We saw rhinos, red pandas, macaques, cheetahs, Komodo dragons, I mean, sheesh, it’s a zoo, but there’s some cool stuff here. The gorillas were awesome.

We’ve seen the gorillas before, actually. We used to watch a show called Zoo Diaries on Animal Planet, and it featured animals from the Toronto and San Diego zoos, so we saw a bunch of these animals live that we originally saw on TV, and the gorillas were a mainstay of the TV program, so to see them up close and personal was very cool.

We toured the zoo for about 4 and a half hours before hitting up the gift shop and heading out.

Stephanie again does a great job at plotting a course to our next destination, a subway station near downtown where we’re going to meet up with Rebecca and Mark. Rebecca is an old friend of Stephanie’s, and we decide to take a walk through the Greek area and find a restaurant to eat at. The two are very fun to talk to and hang out with, and after a great dinner, we walk up and down the streets just exploring. We stop at a book store where we find Rebecca’s recent work published in a few magazines (she’s a writer – check out her site here). Rebecca is extremely talented and I enjoy her work.

Following dinner and walking, we hit up the Stone Cold Creamery for some FANTASTIC ice cream. Sorry Jason, I know it’s not on the approved list, but hell, I’m on vacation! All said, it was a very fun day, some time spent with good folks, and some good food.

We drive back to the hotel, but we kind of stay off the main drags; except for Bloor, the “fashion” area. Only on this street, can you find Winners across the street from Prada.

Tremendous.

We drive through an area dedicated to what seems like auto repair. There’s lots of small “areas” like this (well, not auto repair, but small sections devoted to a particular segment of society) on the way back to the hotel. It’s great to see that all these small businesses are open at midnight on a Friday night – the bay door to one garage was open, and we saw a team of guys underneath a car trying to get it fixed – when businesses here close at dinner time, unless they’re a restaurant/fast food/pizza place, bar, gas station, Walmart, or Shopper’s.

Saturday brings the aforementioned TFCon, and if this place isn’t the last great bastion of geekery on this planet, I don’t know what is. We went to check out the dealer floor, with me looking to score some rare Transformer that’s been the object of my geeky desire since childhood. This dealer floor was HUGE, and it was crowded. We’ve been to ComicCons and stuff before, but at those the floor is divided up with geekery from all fandoms spread around; sports, comics, toys, movies, the works.

This place was ALL Transformers.

I think my brain exploded at least 7 and a half times.

After working the room and seeing what was out there, I picked up an original Predaking which is like #2 on my Holy Grail of Transfomers list, so I was a happy camper. I also got a print from Lil Formers artist Matt Moylan.  Stephanie picked up an awesome Superman t-shirt (the vendor sold shirts for EVERYTHING), and a tiny Optimus Prime pin, so it was win-win all around.

From there, it was off to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM),but not before we stopped to shop at My Pet Boutique to pick up some treats for the fuzzies, and then we stopped for some photo ops and street hot dog (which was fantastic!).

The ROM is cool. Enough said. There’s a really great exhibition on China’s Terracotta Warriors that will have you looking at them all day if you’ll let them. There’s all kinds of artifacts from 2,200 years ago, and the Warriors themselves are amazing. If you’re going to go, spend the extra $7 to see it. It’s awesome.

From there, we went to check out the DINOSAURS!! HOLY SHIT! These things are huge, amazing, awesome, huge, and crazy all rolled into one. Did mention they’re HUGE? Some of them are partial recreations, but there’s a lot of REAL dinosaur stuff from millions of years ago right here in North America. VERY cool, and an awesome exhibit.

We also checked out the bat cave, bird area, Saumrai exhibit, the Greek exhibit, and some other stuff, before we met up with Rebecca again, and this time it was off to Chinatown for food and exploring.

Chinatown is this: lots of Chinese signs, markets, import business, and restaurants. It’s actually much more, but it’s a LOT of these things. And it’s awesome. Only in Chinatown can you walk down the sidewalk and find a cooked goose with his head still attached looking down at you OUTSIDE.

We passed a place selling suitcases on the way to the restaurant. Note to self: check this out on the way back.

We go and eat at one of Rebecca and Mark’s favorite places, and the food – even though I stuck to chicken balls and fried rice – was excellent. A lot more fun conversations were had, and then we picked up and walked around a bit before I bought an orange and black suitcase for $25. Problem solved!

We jumped on a streetcar (also my first time!), which, unfortunately, Rebecca is deathly allergic to like me with Fords. But, she toughed it out like  a Champ, and we went back to the subway station to get back to our car to get back to the airport.

We JUST made it to the airport in time after returning our Fusion (which I now would probably buy if it were just a LITTLE bigger), only to find out our plane has been delayed for an hour and a half due to lightning storms in Montreal. While we’re waiting for the plane, a couple of teenage girls were entertaining us by running, skipping, jumping, and whatever else the wrong way down the moving walkway. Good times.

Thanks to the delay, we got back home around 1 AM-ish. It was another good flight home, although there was a little turbulence because of all the storms.

After about 20 hours of walking around various parts of Toronto and a real late flight, we slept in on Sunday. :)

As usual, I’ll get pics up when I can. I know you’re all still waiting for pics from Vegas, but I’m almost there. Just getting everything organized/cropped/presentable, and then I’ll post everything.

By

Welcome Back: Vegas: Day 4

What-a-do, everybody?

Welcome back to the blog, and Happy New Year to y’all. I hope everyone had an excellent holiday season, and we’re all healthy and happy. I know we’re all a few pounds heavier thanks to all the massive amounts of food! Mmmm… Aunt Elvie’s meatballs!!

So, where were we? Oh yeah… Vegas. Day 4 of 5. This was going to be our last full day in Vegas, so we had a lot planned. The weather continues to be awesome. Should have pulled out the shorts while I could!

Hmm. Maybe not a good idea. The sheer whiteness of my legs would have blinded half of Vegas. Never mind the Strip full of Neon.

We started the day inside the MGM Grand, where they have something called CSI Experience.

Here’s a little tip. If you’re a fan of CSI – any version – and you’re in Vegas, this is something you HAVE to check out.

Once we bought our tickets (I was a little confused; was this a show?), we were taken downstairs into the bowels of the place by a lovely (wink wink, nudge nudge) young lady dressed up in full CSI gear, and we’re made CSI Agents. Unfortunately, we didn’t get our own flak jackets, side arms, and awesome investigator kit full of goodies like you see on the show. I always wanted my own fingerprint paper, black light, and handcuffs.

Don’t you “Oooooooooh” me! Get your minds out of the gutter!

Anywho, we’re signed up and made Agents, and we get a choice of what crime scene we want to try and solve. We have a choice of three – one where a car has been driven into a house, one where a body has been found in a dumpster, and one where human remains are found in the desert.

Steph and I chose the one where the car has been found smashed through the front of the house, since there’s tons of blood, and we’ve always been interested in the way the show explains the mechanics of blood spatter, so we’re in.

Once we’ve chosen our case, we’re taken through to an empty room with a video screen in it, and we get to see a short video. We’re getting our own personal pep talk from our supervisor, none other than Gil Grissom himself! I guess this place was made a year or two ago, since the Grissom character is no longer on the show, which is a shame, since he was the most interesting.

But, I digress.

Once we get our welcome message, instructions/reminders, and heads up from Grissom, we’re taken into another room where our crime scene is. I thought it might be a video/still frame, or a display, or something, but they’ve ACTUALLY RECREATED the crime scene in full life sized detail. There’s A CAR smashed through a wall in someone’s living room! This is so cool!

Steph and I are being awesome agents, documenting everything we see, noting fingerprints, the way the car was wrecked, the scatter of the debris throughout the living room, family pictures giving information, footprints, and of course, all the blood you might find at a real accident where someone’s wrecked a car through the front wall of a house at a real high speed and been killed.

Once we’re done collecting/documenting evidence, we head off into the back, where they have several actual labs set up for each crime scene. I was channeling my inner Grissom, and we had fingerprints identified, footprints scanned, blood work done, toxicology panels done, dirt samples and hair samples evaluated, and each lab pieced together part of the story and led us down the path to finding the suspect and pinning the evidence to him. We didn’t get to physically *handle* evidence, but it was all built into their computer programs. Very well done.

When all the labs were completed and we thought we’d figured out what happened, we went to file our final report and submit who we thought did it. Steph and I were both correct, and once again Grissom came on and told us what a fabulous job we’d done. The whole story, complete with how the scene happened, was played for us after we solved it, and now we understood how it all came together. We fired in our email addresses, where we could have our very own CSI diplomas emailed to us!

Take THAT, over-educated and highly-paid crime scene investigators!

After a grueling morning solving crimes and proving our highly elevated brain power, we spent some time in the CSI store and picked up some memorabilia. From there, we went shopping at the CBS store – fitting, since CSI airs on CBS. I thought maybe I could pick up some Craig Ferguson merchandise, but alas, they all had their heads up their asses – no Ferguson stuff to be had! I was denied my replica snake mug! Steph managed to pick up her very own Survivor buff and a couple other things, and after a stop at the Harley Davidson store, we thought we’d take a break and grab a bite to eat as it was close to lunch time.

We found this sandwich shop near to the CSI area, and went in for a snack. The place was called “‘wich craft”, and let me tell ya, they’re working SOME kind of voodoo at that place, since it was packed, and they must have some powerful magic to accomplish that with two sodas, sandwiches, and soups costing close to $35. It’s like they have this magical aura that sucks people into opening their wallets and throwing everything down for their food, which wasn’t really even all that good.

Note to y’all visiting MGM Grand: AVOID ‘wich craft!

After being worked over by their spell, we left the sandwich shop and went back to the hotel to drop off our purchases, before heading to the Mirage to spend the rest of the day there, and we headed straight to Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden.

This place is so cool. You come through the gate, and there’s this grand walkway with bridges through the trees and over water – all very beautiful, and you come through at the end to the dolphin area.

There’s a large man-made pond, and we arrived just at the end of a “show”, where the dolphins would have been doing all the flips and jumps and tricks and all, so we just watched them swimming for a while, and being trained to do some actions by their handlers. Dolphins are mega-cute, so while we didn’t get a show, it was very cool just to watch them swim, play for their handlers, make sounds, and generally have a good time. It even looks like they smile when they’re getting fed or rewarded for a job well done.

For a quick moment, I felt like jumping out of my chair and recreating the scene from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective where he leaps into the pool and does his Star Trek impressions.

Not only would that have gotten me arrested, I would have been soaking wet.

From there, it was off down the path into the trees, and we came across an enclosure filled with alpacas. If you don’t know what an alpaca is, it’s basically like a smaller, furrier version of a camel. There were three or four of them lounging around in the sun, really not doing much but being kept company by a robin.

Moving on past the alpacas, it was time for what we came for.

The big cats.

The first enclosure had a black panther perched high in a resting area, but it’s face was in full view, and I got a tremendous shot of it. Thank you zoom lens!

One enclosure had Siegfried and Roy’s signature, the white tiger. The animal was huge, and gorgeous. It walked around, really not caring too much about the people crowded around to see it, but DAMN, it was a big cat. Again, there will be pictures coming later.

Moving on, we got about two feet away from a long, high, mesh fence, where both a female and male LION were in their enclosure. The female was pretty tired, so she didn’t do much at all other than lie there, but the boy… oh BOY… when he was walking the fence, he was literally three feet away from us. He was HUGE. Like XBOX. A big, flowing mane like Fabio, and a roar like you’ve never heard. This lion’s roar REVERBERATED through the small forest, and you could hear him way back at the dolphin pond just like he was standing right beside you. I’m sure we’ve all heard a lion roar on TV at one time, or we’ve seen any MGM film begin/end with the lion roaring, but there’s nothing.. AND THE ROCK MEANS… NOTHING… that compares to a gigantic male lion roar live and in the flesh – three feet away from you. You shake and shiver from your head right down to your toes and all parts in between. If that fence wasn’t there, I surely would have needed a new pair of pants. Wow. Simply amazing. Gorgeous, gorgeous animals.

Around the corner from the big scary lions were the highlight of the Garden: two teeny white tiger cubs! Everyone there practically DIED of cuteness. They were sleeping when we got there (great photos!), but the handlers woke them up, and they started to play a bit. Think about it. Tiny, little, cute, itty bitty tigers. Playing like house cats. We got to ask the handlers questions about their time with them, how they’re raised, and got stories about their experiences. It was an awesome experience.

On the way out of the Secret Garden, there was one more tiger enclosure, with 5 – count ‘em – 5 tigers.

Discovery Channel Sidebar: In watching recent documentaries on tigers – cause we do that, as we’re obsessed with big cats – researchers were surprised to see that tigers remain functioning as a family unit throughout their lives. It was previously believed that tigers were a very autonomous animal, preferring to be alone, but this research clearly showed the male tigers returning to the pack after long trips patrolling and defending their territory, when they were thought to have abandoned the pack altogether.

Back to the story. So we get to this enclosure with 5 tigers – both white and Siberian tigers are in there – and they’re all sleeping in a giant pile, curled up like a mound of puppies. Yup, they sure look pretty lonely to me! How cute is that? Anywho, the flashbulbs start going off by the dozens. I’ve never seen anything like that before. Absolutely adorable.

It’s time to leave the Secret Garden, so we stop at the gift shop on the way out – well, Steph did, and I went back to watch the dolphins – and Steph picked up some goodies, as well as some pictures. On the way in, there’s a spot where you get photographed against a green screen, and then the folks at the Garden put that photo into a pre-made scene, so it looks like you’re standing in the rainforest amongst the tigers, or any number of other different scenes. We picked that up as well, and headed back inside the Mirage, where we were to meet our friend Karen, as well as Karen’s mom and dad, Hans and Jan, who were in Vegas the same time as we were.

Why was that, you may ask? Well, that’s for a completely separate blog entry, which may require a whole lot of wobbly pops before I get the cajones to write.

Anyways, we meet the Schweitzer clan and head over to B. B. King’s restaurant and club for some down home southern cooking. I took a few of photos inside the bar, and we ordered our drinks. I don’t remember what everyone had to eat, but it was all very delicious. I had some Cajun chicken pasta, but the other thing I remember was Jan ordering a rather large baked potato.

The waiter described it as the size of a small baby.

I must stop and tell you here, that this baked potato was the single largest baked potato I have ever seen. Huge. Covered in enough bacon, sour cream, green onion, and butter to create a mid-sized gooey fortress, this was the absolute Queen Mother, the flagship of all baked potatoes. When she saw this thing carried out by six large muscular men (ok, I made that part up) and placed in front of her, I swear Jan’s eyes jumped out of her head, and right THROUGH her glasses into the butter. Her jaw was somewhere at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Get the picture now? It WAS the size of a small baby!

Needless to say, Jan didn’t finish the baked potato from hell, but we all had a great time, exchanged Vegas stories, and especially talked about what was coming next, after dinner.

Terry. Fator.

We all had tickets to see the winner of the second season of America’s Got Talent, and if you haven’t seen this guy, go on to YouTube, find a DVD, scour the internet and your TV, because this guy is MONEY.

But before Terry, the Schweitzer’s and Stephanie went out front of the Mirage to catch the 7 PM performance of the Mirage volcano, a tourist attraction that’s a simulation of a volcano put to music. We’ve got video of it. I, meanwhile, was, um, occupied, so I didn’t go, but the video was great. Steph says it was fantastic, so take her word for it.

On to Terry Fator. If you haven’t seen him, picture this. He’s a guy that not only sings his own stuff, but he does drop dead impersonations of music legends such as Louis Armstrong, Sonny Bono, Aaron Neville, Justin Timberlake, Elvis Presley, Garth Brooks, The Pussycat Dolls, and a whole lot more. He’s called the Human Jukebox.

And he does it all… with his mouth SHUT.

Yup. He does it while performing ventriloquism. Words just don’t describe this guy’s ability. And does it all around a comedy act, to boot. So we head to the show, we have great seats, and settle in for what’s bound to be a night of unreal entertainment.

To open things up, Terry’s DJ fires the crowd up with music, and does a version of the evolution of dance, where he strings together all the different dance moves from the 40’s and 50’s right up until today. It’s a great act.

Then Terry himself comes on, and I mean, this guy’s humble as apple pie. He’s been on the road for 26 years before he got his big break, and he tells us all that if we’ve got cameras, use ‘em. Take all the pictures you want to. If you brought your video camera, please don’t record the ENTIRE show, but feel free to record some clips as souvenirs. NO ONE does that. NO. ONE.

Yeah, we got some clips. If you can’t wait to see them, you can always check out Terry’s official home page, where there are some clips:

http://www.terryfator.com/videos.html

Almost two hours later, we’ve been through the comedy and musical ringer, and like Jan’s jaw at dinner, ours were all on the floor in amazement – when they were busy laughing our asses off at how funny this guy is. Terry also did a sincere, honorable tribute to all those in the crowd that have been or are currently in the military, and following the show, he announced that he would be outside to have pictures taken and sign autographs, and wouldn’t leave until each and every one of us that wanted one, would get one.

So we waited about 30 minutes in line, got to meet Terry, get a picture taken, and got his new DVD and got it autographed.

Good times, good times.

What to do next? Well, B. B. King’s is – go figure – a BLUES bar, so we thought we’d all go back and have a drink there and listen to some tunes. The Schweitzers went ahead to get a seat as Steph and I were busy meeting Terry, and I got back to the bar ahead of Steph, as she went to pick up the actual picture we had taken, and I found Jan with her head buried in her hands at the table. I thought she was just hammered, but then I heard the band start playing their next song. It was an incredibly bad version of some song by Akon, and we couldn’t stand it. We lasted long enough in the bar to have a drink after we stood in line for over half an hour, but that was about it. Oh yeah, Steph had some cheesecake or something, but that band cleared us out of the bar faster than a giant fart.

Jan asked the management why there wasn’t any blues band, but it turns out the main band had issues/was sick/couldn’t make it, so these guys filled in.

BAD CHOICE.

So, it was kind of a sour end to an otherwise fantastic day in Vegas, but fun was had by all. Well, everyone except for my back, who at this time was calling me every name in the book, and some that hadn’t even been invented yet.

Oh well. Back to the hotel room to crash!

Next: Vegas: The Voyage Home