Ashley Richards

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Shrek the Hermit Sheep Shorn

April 28th, 2004 Posted in Madness

After 6 years living at 1500m in the wilds of New Zealand’s mountains, Shrek the Hermit Sheep has come home only to be robbed of his 27 kg fleece he worked so hard to grow.

thumb.fot10704281447.new_zealand_sheep_fot107.jpgIf you haven’t heard, in the land where sheep outnumber people by 10 to 1, it’s big news when a fugitive sheep has been caught. Named after the patron saint of big ugly things, Shrek the merino sheep was shorn live on national television. How embarassing for poor Shrek. He could hardly stand after losing 27kg worth of wool in under 20 minutes!

What’s great is that the owner is auctioning Shrek’s wool for a kids’ charity. Although unless you know how to spin it into yarn, I don’t know what you’d do with it. And they’re auctioning some one-of-a-kind red jackets. Sir Edmund Hillary and the director of Shrek 2, a kiwi, have been giving the same jackets.

Hmm…so Shrek the sheep was found and shorn less than a month before the release of Shrek 2. A publicity stunt? A way to tie Shrek to New Zealand’s LOTR film success. My conspiracy senses are tingling. ;-)

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Shrek getting shorn. Don’t worry, he’s not dead.

Link to AP News story

This is Vegas – Part 2

April 26th, 2004 Posted in Stuff

Now enough with the complaining about how Vegas didn’t live up to my expectations, and on with all the fun I had.

We arrive on Friday evening at the airport where you can get your bags, get your car and get your room all in one place. I highly recommend checking in at the airport if you’re staying at the MGM Grand, especially if you’re arriving for the weekend along with a thousand other people. You get all the paperwork done before you leave the airport and don’t have to deal with tipping 5 different bell hops when you arrive at the hotel, especially when you only have a backpack or carry-on bags.

Then we were off to the Paris to engorge ourselves on good food and decadent desserts. The portions were HUGE! I ordered the fish. Yes, I know, fish in the middle of a desert? Anyway it was good but it was like they gave me one whole side of the halibut. Luckily we only ordered one side dish. And the dessert. The dessert! Rich, creamy chocolate mousse – yum, yum-yum-yum. I highly recommend the deserts. You’re in Vegas. No one will bat an eye if you order a dinner consisting of various desserts.

So then it was on to “O”. If you try to book tickets and they only have partial view seats, take them. They’re cheap and you don’t miss anything. You mentally block out the railing once the show begins. I’m a Cirque du Soleil fan, so I loved the show. I’ve read reviews by some that they didn’t like it because it was too much of a circus. That is what it’s supposed to be like. So if you don’t like circuses or you can’t get into “artsy-fartsy” stuff, then skip it.

Skip the Venetian shopping and head straight to the Forum. I didn’t see much that I would like to browse at the Venetian, except for Sephora located on the Strip not in the hotel. The Forum has more stores that you would actually buy things at, unlike the Venetian, which is home to the infamous gaudy emporium where Michael Jackson went on a shopping spree. And the Forum has a Shūz store (a shoe store for those who haven’t been to Europe) and a Stuart Weitzman store (the Tiffany of shoes) – enough said.

I loved the people watching you can do too. Sit at the bar in the casino and watch the vacant faces of slot machine gamblers comparing those to the expressions of those at the tables. And while walking along the Strip we heard some of the most precious comments, such as the baby boomer taking a photo of the Siegfried & Roy statue saying “Can’t stand that they’re gay, but that’s the way it works.” Then he went on to say how much he loved the show. Vegas is a land of contrasts.

Vegas is all about hyperbole – in it’s architecture, layout, people and reputation. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This is Vegas – Part 1

April 21st, 2004 Posted in Stuff

What comes to mind when you think of Vegas? The Strip with it’s parade of casinos, bright lights, the clang of slot machines, high rollers flanked by half clad women, drunken monkey business, girly shows, escorts and Elvis ? That’s what I always thought of Vegas. Or you think of new Vegas with it’s extreme makeover face lift that caters to families with it’s kids clubs, circuses, family shows, and carnival-esque attractions. Well, it doesn’t quite live up to either well-crafted image.

Brendon and I headed down to Vegas for the Cirque du Soleil “O” show, a Phish concert, and a weekend of debauchery; well as much as two straight, married kids can have without getting divorced or thrown in jail. So you can guess we scratched half of those old Vegas clich├ęs off the list, and went with the new Vegas to-do list. You don’t have to sin to enjoy Vegas nowadays, right? I think the jury is still out on that one.

I will have to say right off the bat that Vegas needs to learn something from Disney. Everyone who visits Disney gets a moment with Mickey. Now who is Vegas’ equivalent to Mickey? Elvis. Some would argue that it’s showgirl, a celebrity sighting or winning money, but I prefer Elvis. And I did not have my Elvis moment. First of all the only “Elvis” that Brendon and I saw was this atrocious looking, dancing Asian mannequin dressed up as “Elvis the Mason” way out at the Hoover Dam. Second of all, the only other Elvis to be seen were people on the strip wearing the fake Elvis sunglasses/sideburns get up. I guess if I want to have my Elvis moment I need to plan my next trip during the Elvis convention. But did have a celebrity moment – Jessica Simpson was shopping at Bebe in the Venetian.

Another misconception that I had from all the movies and CSI was that the hotels/casinos would be right on top of each other. One or two are right next to each other, but the rest are pretty spaced out and require about a 5 minute walk to get from one to the next. So it was no surprise to see the enormously long queues for taxis outside every hotel. But being the city girl that I am, I wasn’t going to take a taxi just to get to a few blocks down the road. And I have the gaping red blisters to prove it.

As for the smut and family atmospheres, there was neither extreme and only a smattering of each. Most of the smut was confined to the escort flyers that were being passed out on the street corners and the random escort billboard. And the family atmosphere was almost tongue in cheek. You could go shopping, but majority of the stores are for adults. And most likely the other mall patrons are drunk and sucking back a margarita. Or you could go to the circus, but even that is on too late and is a bit too sophisticated for kids to enjoy. God help the parent that takes their teenager to Zumanity. But with the kids clubs aside, all other kid attractions like the arcades and roller coasters are really for the child inside the adult. They have to be, otherwise they’d be unused the majority of the time.

So this dichotomy in perception and reality of Vegas raises the question for me, are we as writers required to portray a setting exactly as it is, or are we allowed the creative freedom to warp it into what we want it to be? You could argue it either way. There are excellent creative works out there based in settings where the author has never been, and I’m not talking about speculative fiction here. And you know that those authors had to be very creative to imagine what their setting is like. But to some extent it has to be real. You can’t have the Eiffel Tower next door to the Louvre (spelling of this museum by the way is not in the MSWord dictionary). But if I need to have a boulangerie just down the road from either of those places then I should have the creative freedom to do so. I suppose it all depends on what your main goal is – inform or entertain. You can have a mix of both, should have a mix of both, but in the end a work of fiction has to entertain in order to be successful.

So I suppose one thing that I got out of Vegas, seeing as I didn’t win any money, is that I should try to remain true to the atmosphere or wherever I’m setting my story. And when going to a city that’s been built up in my mind by movies and television, I should take it all in with a grain of salt. Because by the time I get around to visiting, it sure isn’t going to be anything like what I thought it was going to be.

Next time I’m there I’ll be armed with sneakers to avoid major blisters from all the walking. I’ll check out a “tribute show” to get my moment with Elvis. And I’ll take in a traditional Vegas show.

Now what did I like about Vegas? That’s for my next blog entry.

Inspiration Point

April 13th, 2004 Posted in Writing

People always say that inspiration can come in the strangest of places. Well last week I had it in probably one of the most uninspirational places you can get, the California DMV.

Brendon had to take his road test to get his driver’s license. Yes, even if you have a license in Canada you have to take the road test, because Canada is a foreign country. Silly in that the roads and rules are the same, but those are the rules. So since I’m the official licensed driver of the family at this point, I had to drive to and be present for Brendon’s road test. Even though he still had his BC license and could legally drive home after failing the test, which he didn’t. So I gave up my morning to hang out at the DMV.

Between the crying babies, the robotic recording shouting off relief in the form of numbers for the next impatiently waiting person, and the overwhelming sense of frustration permeating the air, I somehow got inspired. Several plot forwarding events jumped into my head. One right after another. Boom. Boom. Boom. The ideas had nothing to do with what was going on in the room, except for one thing. They all had to do with conflict. And those of us who have experienced a day at the California DMV, there is much conflict to be found there.

Conflict is what keeps you interested in a story. If the characters have nothing to worry about, then it’s most likely you’ll wind up writing a rather dull story about happy people. If it wasn’t for conflict, shows like Survivor, the Real World, and the Apprentice wouldn’t be popular. Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series, said that she’s always trying to think up of hot water that she can throw her characters into.

Well, seems I’ve found my inspiration point for whenever I’m having writers block. I’ll just head on over to the DMV and hang out there for the day. With all the arguments and a general atmosphere of malaise, it’s no wonder it inspires hot water for my characters.