Saturday, May 29, 2010
Dennis Hopper, the former chairman of the (hopefully just) mothballed Cinevegas Film Festival, died today. In his memory, we're re-issuing this episode from June 2006 featuring an interview with the legendary filmmaker and actor.
It was a really good conversation, bouncing around from his roles with James Dean and on "24" to his involvement with Cinevegas and his accomplished art career. You can listen download the episode by right-clicking on this link or click here and it'll just play. It's kind of fun vintage, opening as it does with our show's original theme music and featuring chatter from Miles and me about things like his low-carb diet and what MGM Mirage needed to do for the Monte Carlo.
The interview was recorded via Skype, though, and the sound quality isn't as good as how I do it now.
Friday, May 28, 2010
For the Petcast, we've got a spokesman from the AAA talking about their 750+-page travel guide for pet owners and then the manager of the Flamingo Las Vegas' Wildlife Habitat.
The Strip features a blockbuster, comic Paul Rodriguez laying waste to his performing home of The Tropicana and its execs. Yikes. Really.
Join us and fellow listeners in the chat room and see us on webcam. Or pick up the podcast later. Your call. I gotta go take my sister to Firefly now. Bye.
Until I started writing this post and moved that image to the top, I continued to think the new 60,000-square-foot spread that the Wynn folks build where the Strip porte-cochere for Encore Las Vegas once stood was known as the Switch Beach Club. Evidently, they've gone to Encore Beach Club and Surrender, an indoor-outdoor nightclub.
Whatever they're calling it, it opened today and already lots of douc...err, customers willing to pay $40 (for guys) and $30 (for babes) were lined up. There is, by the by, no discount if you're staying at Wynn or Encore. And the fancy cabanas, which I'll get to in a sec, can cost as much as $750 a day to rent. Recession schmecession, eh? (There's also no Asian Equation on the bar menu out there, a great, great scandal indeed.)
If you want to gorge yourself on images and video, I have a Flickr batch, as does Hunter Hillegas here, and the Wynn folks have posted a YouTube video. Anyhow, here are some of my pix as usual with my narrative and random thoughts.
...covers a lot of ground in showing off the place. That thing in the middle is some sort of shower apparatus with what's clearly a stripper pole in the middle. Hmm. The structure you're looking at was part of the old porte cochere, according to Hunter, who saw them move it. The Wynn publicity peeps actually didn't know that.
Under that structure is...
...gaming! And that means that if you say you want to play, they've gotta let you in -- and you gotta play. That's the law.
There are eight of those bungalows -- cabanas are evidently so Aughts -- and here's a view from one of their front porches. (There are also 26 cabanas.)
There are four bungalows each on two levels, and each has a balcony overlooking the Strip. If anyone actually walked north of Encore -- is there anything there that's not terrifying? -- that would be fun to observe. Instead, you get front-row views of the mocking half-built Echelon and empty never-to-rise Plaza. But here's a more flattering view:
Hi, Hunter! He and I were evidently the only media to ask for a preview tour of the place, one hour before its 11 a.m. opening. Beth Jinks from Bloomberg, with her enchanting British accent, was also present for a little while but "out of personal curiosity" and not to write about it.
Here's what it all looks like from the Strip:
Hate to say it, but it kinda has a little of the faux-olde San Fran look of this:
Here's something that that place sure doesn't have:
Ever wonder what sort of technology those bungalows that you and I will never be able to afford have? Here's the lighting switch panel for one:
Each bungalow has a full-service bathroom with sink, toilet and shower. But given the cost, this kill-joy admonishment over the potty seemed unfair to me:
This is Vegas! If I want to be lewd or invite my harem into the shower with me in a private bathroom that I'm spending a mint on, I should be allowed, no?
I found this piece of art on the back wall of that casino area a bit bold:
Hunter had far better images of the inside of Surrender than I did, but I did like this cracked-mirror shot of us that as very Lost-Flash-Sideway:
Hmm. Maybe the Encore Beach Club is the place we all created for ourselves so we could meet up in the afterlife but if that were so, where the hell were Smitty, Tim and Michele and Chuck Monster? [End of Lost geek-out.]
It's all very serpentine, very Original Sinesque in there, as Wynn designer Roger Thomas first revealed to me. So here's the snake version of that huge crystal dragon in Wazuzu:
The pillars all had these statues:
Alas, Switch is not gone or forgotten. In fact, the original gimmick restaurant, where the walls and ceiling change form every 20 minutes -- "Would you LOOK at those fucking curtains?" Smitty famously mocks -- now has a glass wall looking out on the pool. The place will be open for lunch and there's a poolside menu, too:
One reason I love previews is so we get moments and images like this, where the dudes are setting the drapery just right:
And I'm a big fan of one thing that did that has nothing to do with nightclubs or dayclubs or whatever else. They built a bridge from the Wynn parking garage to the Beach Club area that also allows access to the Encore casino.
That means no more walking halfway around the world to get from one side to the other. Yay.
Finally, I love odd signage and I have never seen the guy and gal in the bathroom icons...
...with swimsuits drawn on. Does the guy have his hands down the front or the back of his trunks?
Again, to see more, visit my Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/vegashappenshere.
Don't worry, this is a funny one and NOT another epic post dissembling the McClain-Manendo campaign drama. Promise.
Lost in this debate, I fear, is the fact that I'm OK with McClain hammering Mark Manendo on his alleged history of sexual harassment. That's politics. I don't like gay-baiting, I don't like political consultants who pretend they didn't realize they were gay-baiting when it's part of their usual artillery and I don't like mainstream newspapers allowing one of the state's most powerful Democrats to hide behind anonymity to circulate unproved rumors. Unlike Jon Ralston, I find that the antithesis of "super solid" journalism and he would, too, if it had been done by the R-J.
Anyhow, a pretty odd mailer landed in State Senate District 7 addressing the sexual harassment matter. It's perfectly fine, fair game. Here's what the front looked like:
Uh, who IS that woman? In fact, is it really a woman at all? And what does he or she have to do with any of this?
Here's the top of the back of the mailer:
There she is again! Her identity and relevance are never explained, and as you see the headline "Mark Manendo has a long history of preying on young women" is just below her. Is this what Grandmother McClain and her crack campaign team believe is a "young woman"?
Yeah, yeah. I'm sure it's just some clip art of some scold. But she or he occupies the nearly half of the front of this postcard! And, also, you're campaigning in a liberal Democratic district so isn't it, in a political sense, a good thing that "he's just not right"?
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Many of you have written concerned that I could be in legal jeopardy because I frequently quote from and link to stories and other features on the Las Vegas Review-Journal's website. The cause for alarm comes from some recent lawsuits filed by a company called Righthaven LLC defending the R-J's online copyrights.
In those cases, Righthaven, a for-profit entity assigned the R-J's copyrights, is suing MajorWager.Com, Henderson Re/Max realtor Matt Farnham, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington Inc., MoneyReign Inc., and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
To read this Las Vegas Sun piece on the matter, you'd have the impression these entities are in trouble for merely linking to the R-J website. I found that hard to imagine and, in fact, a little further checking shows that in each case they had republished stories from the site in substantial part or in whole, sometimes providing links and sometimes not.
Still, it seemed something was afoot and it seemed prudent to ask Review-Journal Publisher Sherman Frederick what was going on. Was the R-J, as Stiffs & Georges blogger David McKee put it, wish to secede from the Internet? Did they want to stop bloggers and others from sending readers to their website or to stifle online discussion of what's in the newspaper?
Frederick -- after saying he'd be writing about this very topic soon -- turned my questions over to R-J Legal Counsel Mark Hineuber. And while it was a private exchange, I feel like other bloggers need to know what I learned so as to protect themselves or resume feeling comfortable with what they've been doing.
At first, this freaked me out. I've got to sign some contract with them? WTF?
Allen Lichtenstein, the chief lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, was the one who calmed me down. That's interesting because Lichtenstein is defending some of the parties who have been sued. Nonetheless, he said that this procedure -- and even the contract -- was not unusual or onerous. [I'll forward the contract to anyone who wishes to see it, but I don't wish to bog down this post with it.]
I started to realize that Hinueber isn't talking about the sort of thing I -- or most bloggers -- do. VegasHappensHere.Com is not a clipping service; if I draw your attention to a story, I just say what I like or dislike about it and link to it, usually not including any of its content or certainly not much. If I excerpt passages, I do so to comment on them.
To be sure, I followed up with Hinueber with these questions:
2. If I excerpt paragraphs of an R-J story that I wish to point out to critique, will I be sued, as in this post where I quoted from a Thomas Mitchell column.
To which he answered:
Hinueber answered the question by not answering it, I think. He's saying he can't say much other than that lifting passages "liberally" aren't "fair use." That means they're fully aware of what "fair use" means, and it means that if I quote a paragraph of a story to not why it's well written or badly reported, that's not the same as just plopping a big wad of text on my site for no particular reason.
That's sensible. I have the same problem here; entire posts of this blog get picked up by other sites, often without credit or a link-back, and there's little I can do about it because I have no legal team to address it. But there's a right and a wrong way to do it, and the right way is to follow a little common sense.
The alternative, of course, would be devastating for the Review-Journal. If they sued people solely for providing links, nobody would ever be able to, say, Tweet a story. I'm not terribly impressed with their website or their online journalistic strategy, as you may have read a few times, but at the moment I can't say the R-J or this mysterious Righthaven outfit have done anything that should scare me about how I do this.
Fact is, I've also quoted from and/or linked to probably thousands of R-J stories on this blog, sometimes attacking the content viciously, and I've never heard from their legal folks. That's probably a good sign that they're not completely loony tunes and that my understanding of their view of the matter is correct.
A few modest proposals
By STEVE FRIESS
Now that we have several months of data showing that MGM Mirage’s $8.5 billion gambit on CityCenter has failed to move the needle on citywide visitation—let alone that it would help bump up 2010’s tourist numbers to a full 7 percent increase over 2009—perhaps it’s time to offer a little advice on how things can be better. After all, I interact on a daily basis with actual tourists and routinely check out MGM Mirage’s competition. So I have a few suggestions. They’re not groundbreaking ideas, but they’re commonsensical and, for the most part, not terribly expensive.
Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com
Except it turns out, Gray's done it before -- and was called out on it by gay activists at the time, too.
Four years ago, Gray ran the campaign of now-Treasurer Kate Marshall in a primary battle against fellow Democrat Geoffrey VanderPal, left. VanderPal is gay. Gray knew that. In the waning days of that campaign, Marshall sent out a mailer eerily similar to the one Gray sent for Kathy McClain last week in which, among other things, he compared the two candidates by noting that Marshall was in a stable, married relationship with children and VanderPal was single.
Nobody can dig up the precise wording, but again it struck many gays who read it as the same sort of code: Kate's a married hetero mom, VanderPal is not.
The best part: Gay activists called Gary Gray at the time and complained. They told him the code they read into that comparison and . . . he laughed at them! He was just pointing out that Marshall has a more stable life than VanderPal, that's all, he told those who spoke to him.
[Side note: I'm now hearing of a third instance of this. I've not confirmed it, but if I have three, that's a trend, right, Jon?]
Marshall, like McClain, is a full-throated ally of gay people. But just because you're an ally doesn't mean that you or your campaign won't sink to make a little subtle implication that might scrounge a few votes and otherwise (hopefully) go unnoticed. In the 2006 case, Marshall was already running away with the race, which she won by more than 40 points. So it wasn't even necessary, but Gray did it anyway.
When I confronted Gray about this language in his mailer for Grandmother McClain, he laughed at me, told me no gay people he knew took it that way -- even though his own close gay friend and Mount Charleston neighbor Bob Forbuss did -- and said that it was actually supposed to be code for the notion that opponent Mark Manendo is a sexual predator. That was nonsensical; that's not what being a 42-year-old unmarried Momma's boy has ever implied. Ralston bought it, though.
Now that we know Gray has used this marriage-and-kids idea before and has been called on it, what does it mean? Two things:
(a) He had already been told by gays that such language was code to them and criticism of lifestyle choices offended them, despite his claim that he'd never heard of anything so ridiculous.
(b) He didn't mean it to imply a history of illegal sexual harassment for VanderPal, so surely he also didn't mean it in that light for Manendo, either. It was a tactic he'd used before for the same purpose.
I spoke to VanderPal today. He now lives in Texas. He confirmed all this and added another wrinkle.
VanderPal was NOT single during the 2006 campaign. He was in a long-term relationship with his partner of at least three years. So Gray, in fact, punished VanderPal for not being married when, in fact, he couldn't be married because it was and still is not legal here. At the very least, he devalued VanderPal's same-sex relationship in a way quite unbecoming of a pro-gay-marriage Democrat.
As it happened, Manendo isn't single, either. He's had a girlfriend for more than four years. So what we conclude -- at best! -- is that Gray does not view as valid any relationship that is not sanctified by legal marriage and which has not produced children.
Guess who else haven't reproduced? Why, Gary Gray and his wife of 23 years, County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani. Does that, Gary, makes your wife less worthy of her office than a married mother who might run against her. Too personal? You started it.
The relevance of one's personal marital and familial status to the ability to serve in office well escapes me and is an especially weird argument coming from Democrats, who I always thought didn't wish to judge people's relationship choices or lack thereof. I could argue that being single and/or having no kids gives you more time to devote to public service and that Grandmother McClain might be distracted from her task of representing the district by all her matronly duties. I don't believe that, but it has more merit than the reverse.
This whole episode is proving very costly for McClain, but I've yet to see her or Gray apologize for the verbage. In not doing so, they're violating Ralston's Rule of Campaigning, which is that if you screw up, you don't keep digging yourself deeper in the hole.
Instead, check out what hits newstands tomorrow for 10,000+ GLBT readers in Vegas:
Here's a closer look at the good part:
That's pretty bad, especially since the majority of Vegas' gay bars -- where the Nightbeat has the bulk of its distribution -- are in Senate District 7. Commercial Center, where there are other bars and the Gay & Lesbian Community Center is located, is just a block outside of it.
On reflection, there's one more thing that's offensive about all this. Jon Ralston, in trying to protect his ability to decide for everyone else whether something is or isn't a real issue, decided to tell a long-oppressed minority group how they should feel about language they instinctively recognize from their history to be code. In defense of his turf, he decided it was absurd because he knows Gray is personally gay-friendly as is Grandmother McClain, and thus they get a pass from doing anything insensitive. Somehow the great pooh-bah of Vegas political journalism forgot just how ruthless politicians and their operatives can be; suddenly he thinks people in this realm have some code of scruples that wouldn't be crossed in the heat of a bitter campaign.
The matter of gay-baiting "never should have been raised," Ralston wrote in his email blast yesterday. That may show just how irrelevant and silly he views gay people; can you imagine him suggesting to the black or Jewish communities that they shouldn't feel a certain way about something that has offended them? It would never happen.
Put it this way: If Gray had asserted that a male candidate was "more stable" because he's married with kids and compared that unfavorably to an unmarried, motherless middle-aged female candidate, feminists would be rightfully outraged and Ralston would never tell them not to be. It would be obvious sexism. Gray's doing the reverse, suggesting that men should be married with kids or else they're flawed. That's sexism, too, and in these cases it carries the tinge of being heterosexist, too.
Ralston bought Gray's notion that the line was a precursor to a campaign against Manendo's alleged sexual harassment history. Jon didn't care that that made no sense, but now that Gray has a history of using this language for candidates who could be perceived to be gay, maybe he'll see it differently. I doubt it.
In the process, Ralston's missing a political sea change. This may be the first time the gay community in Nevada has been able to sway an election because of something that offended it. The pundit can try to protect his turf or he can acknowledge that McClain, via Gray, made a grave misstep that is helping show the first signs of muscle for a constituency that has heretofore been toothless. It's a coming-of-age moment, albeit one impossible to prove. You can be sure, however, that future candidates at least in this district will be much more careful and respectful.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Gosh, I'm so confused. Grandmother Kathy McClain, Manendo's opponent in this very bitter race, had written in her mailer that he was 42, never married and has lived with his mom for long periods of time. When asked what that was supposed to mean, the candidate told me she was a more stable person because of her marriage and her children. But now it seems that (a) Manendo lived with his mom to care for his dying father, (b) Manendo, who's actually 43, has been in a long-term relationship for several years and (c) McClain was a single mother when she was 43 and is so proud of that choice/situation that that's part of the heroism of her life story on her site.
Today, the Review-Journal picked up on this story with a piece by Ben Spillman that cited this blog and weighed the merits of whether McClain's May 17 mailer was gay-baiting.
And then Jon Ralston, who rabidly hates it when politically impactful issues develop that he has previously deemed unworthy, unloaded on me in his daily e-mail blast about the whole thing. Jon's the one who insisted that whether anyone actually barters for health care and whether GOP Senate candidate Sue Lowden actually meant for that to be her health care policy platform didn't matter, that her woes were as much about perception and a failure of damage control as anything else.
Well, so, too, is this Grandmother McClain's problem in this race. She and her campaign used language that everyone knows is code for a whisper campaign suggesting her opponent is gay. She did it in a district with a lot of gays, the district that produced David Parks. Whether she and her campaign manager, Gary Gray, meant it that way may be debatable -- the way they said they meant it makes no logical sense but Jon's good with papering over that as that it was "clumsy" -- but the impact of using those words has resonance.
That, Jon, is why this issue continues to fester. They did something politically stupid and potentially offensive and they've failed to respond to it in any serious way. It's tough, of course, because their explanation is ridiculous.
So it's not because I have some sort of sway over the Vegas gay community. Read this. I'm not that beloved. But I called out something that gay people are sensitive to and I was far from the only one who saw it. It's the equivalent of fried chicken and collard greens, Jon, and similar language has been used in countless campaigns for decades to subtly raise the gay issue. There's a history there, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.
Here's the part of Jon's screed I loved best:
But, Jon, I did speak to Gary Gray. You know what he did first? He laughed in my ear and claimed that "all of his gay friends" didn't see anything in it. That is, he attempted to make a journalist feel stupid even though I had already talked to several of HIS gay friends and they agreed with me. It's not a wise move to insult a reporter's intelligence and definitely not a move that would make that journalist believe much else Gray had to say.
The transom I simply cannot cross is how, in any circumstance whatsoever, the notion that someone is a 42-year-old single Momma's boy has ever been code for sexual predator. It's not. What then? It falls back to the first explanation, the one with common sense and history behind it.
Jon critiqued my notion that Las Vegas Sun reporter David McGrath Schwartz shouldn't have allowed his anonymous source to say Manendo has had sexual harassment issues every session in the most peculiar way:
Whoa. So journalists who cover the Legislature are aware that sexual harassment is rampant in the highest ranks of the government and not a single one has ever done a feature specifically on that?
Jon, I know who Schwartz's source was. If I do, you do as well, as this passage implies. And this person, who I'm not prepared to name yet, is as close to absolute power as Carson City gets. If you know of allegations of this nature against this person or anyone presently running for office, don't you think now is a good time to speak up, during an election cycle? And hey, don't let the fact that they're mere unproven, anonymous allegations stop ya. You sanction unproven, anonymous allegations being floated in the newspaper as "super solid" journalism, remember?
So here's the question: If you know the kettle is calling the pot black, do you as a journalist allow the kettle to do so with your protection even though the kettle is the far more powerful, far more significant player anyway? Jon rejects that there's even a valid journalistic discussion to be had on this.
And speaking of kettles, I just loved this zinger:
Jon, Jon, Jon. Really? It was your wont long before Las Vegas ever heard of me. The list of journos you've vivisected is legend and, truth be told, is what has emboldened me to do so as well. Is there really something wrong with calling out other reporters when their coverage is full of holes or allows questionable material to surface? I like Schwartz, but his Manendo-McClain piece -- and your own dissertation on same -- reminds me how clubby the media is with powerful legislators.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
But the piece by David McGrath Schwartz was odd, writing precisely what McClain's campaign manager, Gary Gray, has been trying to get the media to write without applying much in the way of little critical or logical thought. (It did, however, reference this blog.)
Recall that I found it weird that McClain sent out a May 17 mailer that took note of that fact that Manendo is 42, single and "has lived with his mother for long periods of time." That is well-known code for a whisper campaign suggesting Manendo is gay and, as I wrote last week, even prompted the group that issues endorsements based on GLBT issues to debate whether to pull their support of McClain. Gray has said he didn't know which may be true but, if so, reflects an ignorance of sexual identity politics that is, in and of itself, derelict.
Schwartz didn't bother with any of that, even though the tacit gay-bashing is the talk of the heavily gay district that is also the only one to ever have elected an openly gay person to anything in Nevada.
No, no such analysis. He also ignores the fact that the alternative explanation for that line on the mailer -- that Manendo may have a history of sexual harassing women -- makes absolutely no sense at all. Aren't you just dying to find out from McClain or Gray to explain when being a 42-year-old, single Momma's boy began being viewed as stereotypical of sexual harassers? Schwartz cares not. (He's 43, too, by the way.)
But the Sun piece does something even worse. It contains this:
“Every session there has been some type of incident with sexual harassment that leadership has to talk to him about,” said one senior Democrat, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “The problem is that no one is willing to take the next step and file a formal complaint.”
During the 2009 Legislature, Manendo was privately reprimanded by Democratic leadership for a comment he made to a state worker.
The worker declined to comment for this story, fearing repercussions if Manendo returns to Carson City in the Senate. But according to a number of sources with knowledge of the incident, Manendo told the woman in vulgar terms that he found sexual gratification in viewing photos of her.This is just really, really ugly stuff. It's so ugly, in fact, that McClain's campaign this afternoon started calling district residents and reading that damning anonymous quote to them in an automated message.
As a journalist, I love a juicy anonymous remark as much as the next guy. But this is such a grave allegation that I'm not sure it can be described as anything other than journalistic malpractice to allow it fly anonymously. If someone thinks there's this systematic a problem, they have to take responsibility for saying so. Schwartz can't get one SINGLE person amid his unspecified number of sources to step out of the shadows? The Las Vegas Sun is in the business of printing anonymous allegations of criminal activity -- which the accused cannot possibly disprove -- in the heat of a campaign this bitter and ignoring the political motivations of those who make them?
The worker who claims she was the subject of the untoward remark is especially baffling. She's already told everybody who will listen about it, but she's withholding her name because she's afraid Manendo may take revenge? Uh, hello. If Manendo actually did this, HE KNOWS HER NAME. Wouldn't she be safer from repercussions if her name were known so the public, the media and fellow lawmakers will know if something bad happens to her or her lobbying firm at Manendo's hand? Schwartz is oblivious to this spectacular logic fail, too.
Look, it's possible Manendo is a letch. Totally. But when a campaign begins this series of attacks by using irrelevant, gay-baiting language, it's hard not to think that really, they're so desperate they hope anything -- no matter how deceitful -- might save them. You know what I've not received from either Manendo or McClain? A mailer outlining how she'd address the budget crisis or how he'd improve education or anything else of substance.
One more thing. Grandmother McClain has said she believes she's more stable than Manendo because she's married with kids and grandkids. But guess what? According to her own bio, she was also single when she was 42. In fact, she was divorced and single until she was 50!
Gulp! What should we read into THAT?
Sunday, May 23, 2010
OK, I'm a long way from worrying about my resume, but the premise is precisely what happens to me often. Like right now. I need to write an important L.A. Weekly cover story but, lo and behold, I feel maybe I ought to blog first, then I'll get to it. I swear.
Then again, I've got plenty of time. Miles is at work today, so the most momentous TV event I've ever cared about -- the series finale of "Lost" -- must wait until he comes home from work at midnight or so. That means avoiding Twitter, e-mail, the Internet at large or even text messages beginning at 6 p.m. PT when the East Coast feed commences. Hopefully that gives me plenty of time to write without the distractions so brilliantly depicted in the comic, right? (By the way, check out my AOLNews piece on the emotional trauma for "Lost" superfans represented by the end of the series. Yes, it's mildly autobiographical.)
Before my radio silence, however, some interesting stuff in today's newspaper.
* I was in it. I'm the guy in the blue shirt in the front row at the Conservative Leadership Conference held at the M, seated next to Nevada News Bureau's Elizabeth Crum, see?
I had to scan this in because the Sun didn't post this image online. Not evident: The gruesome stack of used tissues courtesy of my Great Cold of 2010. Achoo. [I was there to do a piece for AOL News that I won't finish until tomorrow because the aforementioned L.A. Weekly assignment takes precedence. I did Tweet a lot from it, though, and those Tweets can be found via this #clc2010 hashtag.]
* Arnold M. Knightly has a fascinating Q-and-A with Robin Haffner-Matos, the longtime guru behind the Flamingo's Wildlife Habitat. I've chatted with her before -- she's the one who told me about gay pink flamingo couple Bubbles and Pink Floyd and the sexually ambiguous penguin Turnip for my 2004 L.A. Times travel piece on Vegas animal exhibits. Yet until reading Knightly's piece, it never occurred to me to book her on The Petcast, which I will try to do tomorrow.
* Many have emailed asking why I haven't either bashed Andy Rooney for his snark about the worthlessness of blackjack dealers or bashed whiny, defensive Las Vegans for being offended. The reason is that (a) Andy Rooney is an idiot and (b) Andy Rooney is irrelevant. So yes, he's wrong but no, nobody should really care what he says nor be surprised. If I had written about it, it would've come out something like what the R-J's Howard Stutz said today. So if you want to know what I think, read Howard's version. Can we move on now?
* Mike Weatherford of the R-J is not known for eviscerating specific people the way I make it a sport. But boy, he sure pulled Steve Wyrick apart limb by limb in his column. It's pretty brutal. And all true.
* My Petcast co-host and future Knight-Wallace Fellow Emily Richmond has the most relatable piece I've ever read on the pitfalls of the No Child Left Behind rules in today's Las Vegas Sun. She focuses on one well-loved, well-regarded principal who has done some excellent things for a low-performing, highly transient Vegas school but still is likely to lose her job because of test scores. It's a really readable piece with a great deal of national relevance -- this story could comfortably have run on the front page of The New York Times -- and I read all of it. My big complaint is that Emily's story occupied nearly four full pages of today's Sun and yet the print edition carried no clear photo of the subject of the 4,500-word opus. Not one! The leading image has her obscured by a spray of a hose and there's a distant, shadowed silhouette of her holding hands with two kids. The Web version has one image of her holding a baby buried in a slideshow. This is very, very odd. What makes Emily's piece so engaging and unusual is that she dissects the life and humanity of a specific educator instead of weighing us down in data and legalese. I'd rather have seen images of this principal talking to students, photos of her earlier career which is detailed in the piece, pictures of her family and home. That's why this is such a good piece, because we learn about an educator's whole life. Why not show that, too? Instead, we get loads of cute-kid pix which could be taken at any school anywhere in the world.
* Las Vegas Sun uberpundit Jon Ralston once again shouts against the wind with his perennial column exhorting people not to vote early because something might happen between now when early voting begins and June 8, the proper primary election day. This is a nearly annual, totally tired groan by Ralston. Yes, in some select cases last minute information can be important, namely in the case of all that scandal that burst on Jim Gibbons in the waning weeks of his campaign for Nevada governor in 2006. (Likely result, by the way: Gov. Dina Titus would have been thrown out of office this year instead of Rep. Dina Titus. Pick 'em!) But early voting now accounts for as much as 62 percent of all ballots cast and, more importantly, in almost every race ever, the results from early voting have failed to vary substantially from those who vote on Election Day. That is, when polls close on June 8 and votes are tabulated for early voting, the percentages probably won't budge for the rest of the night in almost every case. This may seem obvious since most voters now vote early, but it was also true in 1998 when I was a political reporter for the Review-Journal and early voting was still a Nevada novelty. Ralston's theoretically correct that voters should have all the information they can possibly have before voting, but in reality the final weeks of most campaigns are more likely to be full of misinformation, lies, hyperbole, histrionics and distortions than legitimate revelations. So it's six of one, half dozen of the other to me.
OK. Now time to write that story. Really. Or maybe I should go early vote? Oh, look, a butterfly!