Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Leaving Las Vegas

On our last day in Las Vegas, we had to take a bus that left our hotel at 7 a.m., which was very early. I slept one and a half hour during the night, but my friends just skipped sleeping altogether.

We had JAL Pack tickets, which meant that a cute Japanese girl came and picked us up at our hotel and showed us which desk at the airport to check in at etc. One of my friends thought she was great, so he wanted to take a photo with her before we left. At the airport in LA there was an older, slightly overweight, man who helped us in the same way. I asked my friend if he wanted me to take a photo of him and this guy too, but he said that would not be necessary, haha.

I bought something that was a lot of fruits pulverized in a mixer and the mixed with yogurt for breakfast. As with most food in America, you got way more food than you needed. It was pretty good, though, and probably very healthy.

In the airplane, we got "okayu", kind of like rice porridge. Basically it is overcooked rice, with slight to no flavor. Here they had added some leek, shrimp, and ginger to give it a faint hint of flavor. Okayu is no bad, but I have never seen it in an airplane before.

On our way back to Narita airport outside Tokyo, we took a few weird turnarounds. It looks like the pilot is drunk, but I guess we arrived at a time where we could not get a landing slot immediately or something like that.

When leaving the plane, I noticed that someone was flying with a dog. The dog was just sitting around in the cabin. I have never seen a dog in a plane like that before. Mostly you see pets in small carry-on cages.

When leaving the hotel you did not have to do anything at all to check out. You did not even have to return the keys. So I now have a hotel key at home.

How to be popular in Las Vegas: selfie stick

One of my friends brought a selfie-stick to Las Vegas. When we were trying to take a photo of all five of us on the last night, a group of three American girls thought it was funny that we had a selfie stick so they said: "Let's photobomb the guys with the selfie stick" and jumped into our photo. With the result above.

The owner of the selfie stick thought this was funny, so after we took a photo with just the five of us, he had me translate for him when we talked some more to the girls. He asked if he could take a photo with just one of them, and she said "sure".

The other two then complained that they felt left out now that only their popular friend was being photographed. I said I would take a photo of them instead, and they seemed very happy about that, haha.

Another day when we were walking around and my friend was using his selfie stick to get a higher view and a better angle of things in front of him, lots of people also thought it was funny with the selfie stick (in fact, every time he had it out, people thought it was funny). Some people snuck in behind us to try to join our selfie, but since my friend was in fact taking photos of things in front of us, they were confused and disappointed. When I explained this, my friend flipped the camera and we took a selfie together with these people too.

America = pizza

For my last dinner in Las Vegas I wanted to try American pizza. There was a place called "New York pizza" in our hotel, so I went there. I saw something that looked more like a loaf of bread than a pizza, which seemed interesting. I wanted to try some more "standard" stuff too, so I ended up with a slice of pizza with spicy sausage and mushrooms, and one rolled up thing with ham and cheese.

Both of these were great. Junk food, but good. Both were also surprisingly large, so this was much more food than I needed. My friends were not interested in pizza, so they had already left to go gamble their money away in the casino instead, so no help from them.

I was a little surprised that you got a plastic container with extra tomato sauce to add as you pleased. This sauce was also very good, but neither in Sweden nor in Japan have I received extra tomato sauce. In Japan you get Tabasco when you order pizza, because Japanese people for some reason believe that pizza is supposed to be very spicy food. In Sweden you get shredded cabbage with vinegar, which is some weird Scandinavian pizza tradition.

Fantasy show

The last night in Las Vegas, my friends wanted to go see some "traditional Las Vegas style" show, meaning lots of dancing women in light clothing. We looked up what was available, and found one show that claimed to have more than 100 women working, and that even did some magical illusions. Sadly, this show was already sold out. We found another one that was not sold out, but ranked as one of the better shows and that had more than just dancing around topless.

We got some pretty good seats for the "Fantasy: the biggest tease on the Strip" (a clever title). It was more entertaining than I had expected. It had lots of girls taking off their clothes and/or dancing, and they were pretty good. It also had a singer, who was really good. There were other types of performances too, one girl did a quite impressive pole dance show, and one girl did very impressive acrobatics while dangling in curtains near the ceiling (similar to what we had seen at Cirque du Soleil earlier). There was also a very funny comedian, who also did really funny impressions of various famous people. He was great.

The singer, with a great and powerful voice
The acrobat
The pole dancer
The comedian

After the show you could buy various things in their shop. One of the things they recommended was a calendar full with photos of the girls in the show. At first, no one seemed to be about to buy anything. One of my friends said: "Of course no one buys a calendar now. It is already March!"... I am not sure he understands the point of their calendar, haha. I then went over and bought a calendar. They all signed their names on their photos, and you could take photos of your own of the girls that had been performing that night too.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cirque du Soleil: Ka

After seeing six different magic shows, we also went to see one of the many Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas. We saw "Ka", which is very highly ranked by Asians (I am told that "O" is most popular overall). It also happened to be conveniently located in the same hotel that we were staying in.

We had tickets in the middle of the sixth row, which was expensive but great. When they shot fire, which they did a lot in the beginning, it was pretty hot were we sat. We had a great view of everything.

The show was great too, of course. Very impressive. I have previously seen the Cirque du Soleil show Kooza in Tokyo, which was also great. Now I want to see more of their shows, so if I go to Vegas again, I guess I will go see O.

Penn & Teller

One of the acts that I had on my "must see" list was Penn & Teller. We had great tickets in the middle of the row at the tenth row or so. Before the show, you could go up on stage and take a look at a wooden box and write your name on an envelope. I inspected the box and it did not seem to have any suspicious parts, it just looked like a big box.

When the show was about to start, a guy came in and closed the box and then tipped it over. A few seconds later, Teller came out of the box. That was a very impressive way to start off.

We got to see a bunch of their famous tricks. I like the trick where they record a movie with a spectator's cell phone and the phone ends up inside a fish that had been strapped under a chair of a guy sitting behind me. They also did the bullet catch, of course, and a nail gun thing I like, and Teller's beautiful coins and goldfish routine.

They also did a lot of stuff I had never seen before. There were several times when we were all very surprised at the punchline of the trick. (This is pretty rare, if you do magic you can mostly predict what is going to happen when other people do magic.) They were very very good. They were also very funny. I laughed a lot.

After the show, they were also very friendly. Both Penn and Teller waited around outside the theater and you could take photos with them and ask them to sign things. I bought a deck of cards that they sell on my way in, and they kindly signed it for me after the show.

I had very high expectations when going in to Penn & Teller, and the lived up to all of it. A very good show.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Nathan Burton, funny illusions, many illusions

One of my friends who has been in Las Vegas before suggested we could go and see Nathan Burton in the afternoon. He had seen the show before and said it was good. We got tickets in the middle of the audience, which was a good place to sit.

The show was very funny. The show is called "Comedy Illusions", and the pure number of illusions they performed was astounding, haha. They also had very funny presentation ideas for standard illusions, so it was much more entertaining than illusion shows usually are.

There was a short segment were another magician did a short close up magic performance too. He was seated very far from us so we could not see him, but they had a camera on him and showed what was going on on a big screen too, so we could see that.

The screen was used before the show started too. When you entered the theater they took a photo of you, and when your photo was on the screen you were asked to make as much noise as you could. The noisiest group would win a trip to Las Vegas. Groups with many members of course tended to be much noisier than groups of two or three. We entered so late that they never got to our photo. In the end, the screen said that since everyone is already in Las Vegas, no one would actually win anything in this competition.

I thought the show was so funny that I bought a DVD with Nathan Burton and his team performing the same or similar illusions on TV and in other places. He signed the DVD for me too. And I also ended up buying the photo of us entering the theater.

This show was the greatest positive surprise. I had not heard of Nathan Burton before, but the show was very funny. Definitely recommended.

Jonas on stage in Las Vegas, with Jan Rouven!

Jan Rouven and me, after the show

After we saw David Copperfield, me and one of my friends who performs lots of illusions in Sapporo jogged to the next casino to see Jan Rouven and his show "Illusions". The show won awards like "best illusion show" a while back. It was full of big illusions and escape artist things.

We got seats on the first row, but in the far left corner. The usher came up to us and said that since the center seats were free, would we like to move there? Yes we would. We ended up sitting close enough that you could almost reach the stage with your foot by straightening out your leg. We were so close that at times you could even see some things that you were not supposed to see...

My foot did not quite reach the stage when sitting down

The illusions were nice. We got to see many famous illusions. My friend said that he had wanted to see the huge drill (drilling through Jan Rouven); he had never seen the giant drill live before. I like the substitution trunk, which I have seen many others perform too, but here they had people holding on to the hands of the person inside the trunk which made it a little nicer than normal. The other illusions were fun too.

While a long line of people waited to take a photo with Jan Rouven, I took a photo with one of his assistants.

To get some spectator interaction and going with the escape artist theme (there were straight jacket escapes and water torture escapes etc.), Jan Rouven also did a Russian roulette kind of thing. He had a big knife that he asked people in the audience to touch and check if it was a real knife. He gave it to a few people and then to me. It looked and felt like a real knife to me, and when I tried to return it to him he said that I did not have to return the knife, I could just come up on stage with him.

He also had a girl from another table come up on stage. There were five plates of wood, one which had a hollowed out space to put the knife, with the pointy end up. The girl covered all the plates with paper bags, so you could not see where the knife was. She then shuffled the order of the plates, so no one except her knew were the knife was. Then Jan Rouven had me say if I thought the knife was under bag X and when I said no he smashed his hand down on the bag, crushing it. Luckily, the knife was not there.

We kept going like that until there were only two bags left. Then I was told to hold one hand above each of the remaining bags. He also asked me to raise the hand where I felt something. I raised my right hand, and he then pushed my left hand down and crushed the bag under my left hand using my hand. We then lifted the other bag and there was the knife.

Everyone, including me, started applauding. Jan Rouven told me that since we did this mainly using my intuition, I should not applaud, I should be bowing, haha. So I did.

When he spoke to me during the show, I did not really come up with anything funny to say. After returning to my seat, all these great ideas came to me though... When he asked me for my name, he said that it sounded like a name from northern Europe and asked me where I was from. I just answered "Sweden", but it would probably have been better to say "Japan". Things like that... Oh well, at least I have now been on stage in Las Vegas, more or less doing magic.

After the show was over, Jan Rouven and some of his assistants were in the shop next door. There you could buy small magic sets that he sells, and t-shirts or other goods. I went there and took a photo together with him. He also signed a flyer for me. He asked me if I was a magician too. He said it was the way I took my applause on stage that made him suspect that. I guess people who do other types of performances (say, playing the violin) would also be good at that, so I guess the real reason may have been the way I dress or most likely the way I react (or not react) to magic, haha.

He was really nice, and the show was fun too.