Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Strip/Petcast are LIVE today

Sorry for the delayed notice, folks, but I've been carshopping and IT SUCKS.

Anyhow, The Strip is live at noon PT and The Petcast is live at 1 p.m. PT at LVRocks.Com. This week's Strip guest is longtime Strip magician Rick Thomas.

Then, on The Petcast, we'll chat first with Dr. Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University. Then we're hear from Alan Zimmelman, vice president of ITEX.Com, the nation's largest barter exchange, on how pet owners can barter -- yes, Sue Lowden haters, barter -- for vet care and other services.

Join us live at LVRocks.Com to listen live, see us via webcam and join us in the chat. You can also listen via mobile device. Or you wait for the podcast version, of course, and subscribe via iTunes or Zune to The Petcast or to The Strip in iTunes or Zune.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

This week's LVW Col: the R-J Copyright Suits

While the rest of the media takes cheap shots derived from their ideological or personal differences, I present the other way on the R-J lawsuit drama for this week's Las Vegas Weekly. And bravo for the Weekly for letting me do it, given the blood feud between its owner and Sherm Frederick. Read on. -sf

Defending the R-J’s copyright suits

Sherm Frederick is right.

Stew in that for a moment. I know, it’s hard to digest. You can’t imagine how difficult it is for me to write. But the publisher of the Review-Journal and president of Stephens Media has hit on something that may, in fact, help clean up the freewheeling world of Internet intellectual property theft.

Frederick has tasked a company called Righthaven to file dozens of lawsuits against website owners who lift and post entire or huge passages of R-J stories without authorization. Righthaven buys the copyright from Stephens Media, then pursues damages. While some site proprietors claim all they did was link to the R-J’s website, most of the evidence in court filings indicate they reproduced entire articles.

That, you see, is called stealing. And while those who dislike the R-J’s editorial views or feel personally assaulted are crying that they’re Davids being extorted by Goliath, the fact is I’ve got no more right to steal from Walmart than I do from your sister’s crafts shop.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: Tony Curtis Illness Cost A Role

Legendary actor Tony Curtis will make a full recovery from his breathing-difficulty episode, but reports by TMZ.Com and others cost the 85-year-old actor his first film part in years, his wife complained.

Jill Curtis told me today that Curtis is now in a rehab center after being hospitalized three weeks ago because of an asthma-like attack at a CostCo. It's a symptom of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the result of decades of smoking, she said. He was in a hospital for two weeks and in the rehab center for a week, and Mrs. Curtis expects him to remain there for two more weeks.

"This happens sometimes and it was serious but he has to deal with it," she said. "He was able to talk a little bit today. He's 85, they just want to keep a close eye on him. gone through this before. He's not been asked to walk yet, they're just taking it slow with him. ... He should make a full recovery. We're know we have a long road ahead. He'll be back to doing the things he does soon."

The illness could not have come at a worse time for the Academy Award-nominated actor and Henderson resident, given that he was expected next month to shoot scenes for the Sigourney Weaver film "Vamps," a satire by "Clueless" director Amy Heckerling. Tony Curtis had even done wardrobe fittings, his wife said. He did a bit part in an independent flick in 2008 but this would've been his first Hollywood picture in many years.

"He was very excited about it but unfortunately, TMZ and National Enquirer got false information and before we could say anything, they dropped him," Curtis said. "There were rumors that he had passed away."

I can't find any reference to Curtis' possible death from any legitimate news source. In fact, this overly optimistic TMZ report says he'll "be released soon" which was not true unless "soon" equals five weeks of care.

Anyhow, could he have really done the role, given his rehab?

"He probably would have been able to," his wife said. "That's why we didn't want to say anything but the damage is done. We just move on."

This is a great moment to trot back out this classic shot of the Curtises with me and my pal Amy at a fundraiser in 2009. Yeah, I can see the vampire-flick potential.

Pictorial: Holly's Backstage World

Last week, I went backstage at Peepshow for a piece I'm working on and hung out for a little while with this blog's very own pin-up, Holly Madison. While I was in her dressing room, I shot a bunch of photos because the place had all sorts of tchotchkes and wall, uh, art. It is quite colorful.

All my pix can be found in this Flickr set, but here are some of the highlights. That, above, is Holly about to glue on her false lashes.

I also learned while I was there that Holly's under contract through the end of December and sales for Peepshow have improved with the success of her new reality show, Holly's World. So various reports of the show's demise have been exaggerated, again.

Her famous dogs weren't with her, but when they are, here's where they chill:

The door...

...and her bobblehead, pez and some boobs:

Check out the Flickr set to see the sheep-humping art, the Peepshow Prayer and more.

Monday, July 26, 2010

This week's LVW col: Expand?!?

Here's this week's LVW col. -sf

Michael Gaughan’s solution to the recession:
Expand the South Point



True confessions time: I pretty much never think about the South Point Casino. We don’t live anywhere near it, I’ve never noticed anything that interested me on the entertainment schedule and I can’t say readers have ever asked about it. I don’t mention it in my travel writing and it’s possible that the last time I was there was for a 2006 interview with Jerry Lewis—made famous when his publicist was fired for trying to charge me $20,000 to speak to him.

It’s just one of those seemingly bland locals spots, off on its own, doing its own thing, and that thing hasn’t been all that compelling.

That is, not until its owner, the plaid-wearin’, big-belt-buckle-sportin’ Michael Gaughan, did what nobody else does these days: He expanded.

Uh, dude? Haven’t ya heard about the recession?

“Well, cutting back hasn’t worked,” Gaughan said on Monday, which, coincidentally, was the day Nevada’s unemployment rate hit an all-time high of 14.2 percent. “I decided to try something new. I got tired of hearing about everybody cutting back.”

Truth be told, this expansion wouldn’t normally stop the presses.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Review-Journal Editor Flips!

On Friday, Review-Journal editor Tom Mitchell had a brief blog post in which he took note of the fact that a Vegas-based company is upset to have been included in a controversial database that the Washington Post published online this week. The Post did a three-part series about the huge intelligence and homeland security apparatus in DC and created a searchable way to learn what companies are doing what for the feds.

The end of that blog post included this snark:

The Post said it obtained its information from publicly available sources. I guess terrorists prefer someone aggregate the data for them.

This struck me as strange because Mitchell spends most of his Sunday columns arguing for the values of open government and a free media. He's a zealot on those points, in fact, and he earns my loyal readership for that. Now he's buying the line that the Post is helping Al Qaeda?

So here's the weirder thing: By today, Mitchell had evidently reverted to form. His Sunday column is headlined "A 'right to know' only if we can show a 'need'?" and it argued, as he usually does, that more information is almost always better. He used two examples, one a Jeff German report that showed the security cameras at the Vegas courthouse were blocked by shrubs and stuff, and that very Washington Post project that has been under such fire all over the conservative blogosphere as somehow aiding and abetting the terrorists. You know, the very smark Mitchell concluded his blog post with just two days ago.

Mitchell cited in the column the same notice to the public posted on the website of the Vegas company in the Post database, DownRange Global Solutions, which called the Post "a treasonous organization [that] should be viewed as a danger to the national security of this country."

This time, though, Mitchell offers this conclusion:

On the other hand, the taxpayers now have some idea that they are funding a massive bureaucracy hidden behind a veil of secrecy with no possible way to determine whether it is effective, whether it is capable of preventing anything or what it costs.

So on Friday morning, the guy thought the Post was helpful to terrorists, but by Friday afternoon when he would have filed his Sunday column, Mitchell realized that the Post had helped expose a redundant and expensive system.

Umm, OK.

* * *

P.S. You know how I love to mock the R-J's idiotic website and complain that they almost never link to anything off their site the way most publications do? Well, I just realized something: They also don't even link from one story to another on their own site. None of the links above provide links to the other work of the paper that would help the reader know more about what they're writing about. Another job for the crack team run by Al Gibes after he figures out how to provide video that can be embedded. Which is to say, never.

How Dan Choi's Reid Protest Went Awry

Here's what actually happened on Saturday at Netroots: Ousted openly gay Army Lt. Dan Choi had moderator Joan McCarter give Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid his West Point ring, his discharge papers and two letters that Reid had written vowing to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell by the end of 2009.

It was meant, Choi told me before it happened, to embarrass Reid, to expose the Nevada Democrat to the liberal crowd as having failed to fulfill his promise. Choi received his discharge papers on Thursday, a year after he came out on The Rachel Maddow Show in defiance of DADT.

And yet, here is how what happened between Choi and Reid was reported by CBS News:

Before Reid began to answer questions from the conference audience today, the discussion moderator handed him Choi's West Point ring as a gift. Reid expressed his gratitude but said he could not accept the gift.

"He earned his ring," Reid said. "I'm going to give it back to him."

Choi joined Reid on stage and gave the majority leader a hug. Audience members shouted at Reid to keep the ring until "don't ask, don't tell" is repealed.

"When the bill's signed, I'll keep it safely and then give it back to him," he said.

And by Talking Points Memo:

Choi, discharged this week under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, hopped onto the stage during Reid's Netroots Nation speech and gave Reid his discharge paperwork. The two agreed that Reid would hang onto the ring until the repeal is passed and the new law of the land. Choi also gave Reid letters containing the original promise the Clinton-era policy would be repealed in 2009.

And the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

Choi jumped onstage to give Reid a hug and his West Point class ring. Reid said he would return it after Obama signs away "don't ask, don't tell."

And on and on it went across the media.

So how did an effort to embarrass Reid turn into something of an emotional triumph for him? Let's go to the videotape:

As you can see, both the R-J and TPM had factual mistakes, TPM being the oddest because they provided this YouTube (that's where I got found it!) and showed their own readers that Choi never gave Reid the ring or papers at all.

But McCarter got choked up and didn't make a point of the fact that the letters she was handing him included not just the discharge papers but also those from Reid to Choi that contained broken promises. And Reid also misunderstood the point of his receiving the ring -- he became emotional about it because he thought it was a gift, a symbolic gesture to embolden Reid to get the DADT job done. It was actually supposed to be the equivalent of a divorcee giving her wedding ring back to her husband, see.

Yet when Reid went all I'm-not-worthy and tried to give it back to Choi, there was so much noise and clatter (not heard quite as well on the video) that there was no way to successfully clarify for Reid that he had actually been dissed, not honored. McCarter made no effort to fix the confusion, either. And then Reid announces that, OK, he'll keep it until he could return it after DADT ends, and the audience erupted in admiration and emotion.

There was nothing left for Choi to do at that point but to hop on stage, embrace Reid's gesture and hope it would actually mean something. But make no mistake he's still pissed, telling me for AOL News afterward: "I find it very difficult to understand any kind of senator or leader who would make a promise to the LGBT community and, because of whatever fears are latent inside of this person running for re-election or unable to show the leadership to manifest the American promise, we're still getting fired."

Why does this matter? Well, earlier this week on my Facebook page, debate ensued over whether the stopping-traffic-on-the-Strip stunt that Choi and his friends at GetEQUAL executed on Tuesday was an effective or appropriate form of protest. It caused mayhem for motorists on a very hot day and could easily have turned many of them against the cause in the process.

Except you know what? The message was loud and clear. It was unambiguous, the media reported it exactly as it was intended and it provided striking visuals. Mission accomplished.

Choi's protest at Netroots on Saturday? Not so much. It was nuanced and complex, it was so easily misinterpreted that even the person Choi wanted to embarrass didn't get it. And in the end, the media got this warm moment of Reid and Choi embracing, and the idea of boiling into a soundbite everything I've written here was absolutely impossible. Mission failed.

There is another example of protesters being too clever by half at the same session Saturday. Four Hispanic activists donned black graduation caps and gowns and stood in the front row as Reid answered questions about immigration reform, which he has also not managed to advance in any meaningful way. The students wanted to call Reid's attention to support for the DREAM Act, which provides a path to citizenship or permanent residency for undocumented students who came to the US as minors, graduated high school and have lived here for 5 years.

I have yet to read a mainstream media account other than my own about that protest. It was just too subtle. Reid didn't even react to it -- it's possible he didn't even notice -- and the press found it far to confusing to summarize even if they understood it at all.

What would have worked? Well -- and I'm not recommending these, just making an observation here -- some really raucous shouting. Someone rushing the stage. Something dramatic and visual and unambiguous. All of that would have gotten the point onto the evening news loud and clear. And, yeah, it would have pissed off a lot of people at the event.

But in a way, Saturday was a useful lesson in the art of protest. These didn't work. At first I blamed the media, but when I realized I was about the only one in the MSM who got it right, it dawned on me that it wasn't my colleagues' faults. Had I not been forewarned by sources of what was about to take place and why, I probably would have interpreted it very similarly.

Choi-Reid photo credit: Queerty.Com