Sunday, February 13, 2005

Return of the king

The king being me, of course. Or not.

We had a great time in Las Vegas these past few days. I didn't do a whole lot of gambling, partially to do other things and partially because it was plenty fun watching Rachel do it for both of us. She loves the roulette, as we discovered.

We went to see Penn & Teller on Wednesday night, and that was really fun. What's great about those two is that they don't have that pretentious "magic" schtick. They tell you up front that they are lying to you, and that everything they do will be a trick. They don't take themselves so seriously, like your Lance Burtons or your David Copperfields. And in two cases, they just plain demonstrated how the trick was done. While their libertarian politics -- thankfully not present in the show -- can be occasionally grating to progressives, it is refreshing to see entertainers, magicians at that, promoting skepticism and rationality rather than mysticism and bunk. That's also why I usually enjoy their Showtime program Bullshit! After the show the audience got to meet them, and I asked Teller when Bullshit! would have new episodes. March, in case you were wondering.

Thursday night we saw Blue Man Group, who put on an incredible show. They were a lot better than the Intel ads of a few years ago would suggest. The special effects were nifty, but what I really enjoyed was the music, which ranged from psychadelic rock through techno/house/dance, all usually including bombastic drum beats played on various pieces of plumbing.

In a moment of "serious" art, I definitely liked the Monet exhibit at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. I think impressionists like Monet and especially Renoir do some of the art I appreciate the most. It's not hyper-realistc, which takes a great deal of talent but often lacks style. It's not abstract, which exudes style but in many cases requires neither skill nor talent. I don't really like the post-modern idea of art being entirely subjective, as if it didn't matter what the artist wanted to say, only what you feel about it. Impressionism and similar styles are all about communication in the way that good art should be. It is indeed about what you feel, but it is directed feeling. It is hard to look at an impressionistic painting and not get what the artist was trying to say with it. Monet speaks across the century since his work was created. I have a feeling that in a hundred years most people will look at twentieth-century "modern" art and say the same thing most people say today: "So it's a red square/splatter/line, what's the point?"

Anyway, it was a nice trip, and we didn't waste nearly as much money as we could have. When you're talking about Las Vegas, that's the most one could possible ask for.

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