Friday, August 27, 2010


Sorry, peeps, but Emily and I will be departing bright and early on Saturday to begin The Great Petcast Road Trip, which will transport Emily and her schnauzer Archie (right) from Las Vegas to Ann Arbor, Mich., so she can begin her prestigious nine-month journalism fellowship at University of Michigan.

We'll both be Tweeting -- Emily is @ThePetcast, I'm @TheStripPodcast -- and I'll certainly blog when I hit the three new state capitals I've not visited, Cheyenne, Lincoln and Des Moines. Emily has the trip all planned out, so I'm excited to see what else she's going in store. She did send me this image of her shopping cart prepping for the trip...

...and I think we're going to be just fine.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pictorial: Vegas Utility Boxes


It is often said that when you get away from the Strip, suburban Las Vegas lacks the panache and glamor of the destination that bears its name. Oh, there's a wacky piece of 1970s architecture or intriguing historic houses, and realtors Jack LeVine and Roberta LaRocca spend many a blog post showing them and discussing them.

But in my part of town, about four or five miles east of The Strip's core, there's one odd form of public art that really, truly reminds us we're not in Phoenix or Tucson, both of which would otherwise be easy to imagine.

That, above, is a utility box. It is found at the northeast corner of Eastern and Desert Inn, right outside a Starbucks. Forever, I thought it was an actual TV. Then I realized it was a mural but I didn't put it together until I noticed these:

I really don't know whose art it is or whose idea it is. But that is, indeed, the Wayner (top in blue) and Gladys Knight (top in orange), Young Blue Eyes (middle in blue), the Nevada flag (middle, foreground) and Sammy Davis Jr. (bottom). The Sinatra and Gladys box is the same; the Sammy and Wayner boxes are the same. They're also on the north side of Desert Inn a few blocks east (I think) of the Frank Rosenthal box.

I wish I'd shot clearer images of the other sides, not sure why I didn't. I believe that's an African-American man and a baby in the second image behind the Nevada flag and I just don't recall what the yellow image was in the top image.

Are there more of these around the city? Anyone know who the artist is? I'm fascinated, but not fascinated enough at this very moment to make some calls on it. Let's see if someone can say.

UPDATE #1: Reader/Listener Gary (@SocialMediaGary) from New York spotted this. Evidently, there just was a new contest on to paint the utility boxes in the historic West Las Vegas region. So this must be an earlier version of that. The difference is that the ones in my region seem to all be by the same artist and all have an Old Vegas theme to them. According to this video, the new round does not.

UPDATE #2: Artist Suzanne Hackett-Morgan wrote me on Facebook: "Hey...those TVs (there's more than one) are mine! It featured local tv shows from different eras: The Frank Rosenthal Show, Count Cool Rider and Miss Cinderella. The Nate Tannenbaum box was the big one in the middle but it got plowed into... by a car and Nevada Energy (nee NV Power) wouldn't agree to let us repaint it. Patrick Gaffey at Winchester was the brains behind the whole project which featured a bunch of us local brush swishers: K.D. Matheson, Marty Walsh, Susanne Forestieri, Anthony (forgot his last name), Erin Stellmon, Jose Bellver, Jorge Catoni, and Shan Michael Evans. I'm glad you thought it was a real guy crossed the street when I was working on another one and said "I'm gonna grab me that free tv."

This week's LVW Col: The Nutty Prognosticator

It's that time of year, so I figured it was time to check back in with the irascible Jerry Lewis. I hadn't interviewed him since 2007 when, you might recall, his then-publicist set off a firestorm by trying to charge me $20,000 for an hour's conversation with the MDA Telethon icon. Here's the 2007 column that came of that. (I got both interviews for free.) Audio of the new chat will be played on the next episode of the podcast -- and it's really good stuff -- but for now, here's the LVW column that came out of it. -sf

The &#@*! Strip

Jerry Lewis gets blunt about the evolution of Las Vegas

“You cannot keep putting up hotels with 3,000 rooms and expect not to smother one another. They will suffocate one another to the degree that 20 years from today, they will not be in business. Talk to me in 20 years.”

That was the comic Jerry Lewis, and I thought he was a little nuts when he said this. It wasn’t 20 years ago, of course. Sadly, it didn’t take nearly that long for his miserable prophecy to begin to prove true.

He made this remark to me in August 2007. At the time, I argued back that the gaming numbers and visitation continued to rise. Listening back on that conversation is painful now, looking around at what’s happening to unemployment, hotel room rates and more.

Lewis couldn’t have known that the mischief of Wall Street would cause something that would become known as the subprime mortgage meltdown, which rendered our property worthless and bankrupted millions of potential Vegas customers. Yet this week when I went back for another helping of Lewis as he prepares for the 45th Labor Day Telethon to raise another $61 million or so for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, I listened a little less dismissively.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

From Veganism To Reindeer Steak

Within two days, I've spanned pretty much the entire culinary spectrum on AOL News.

First, of course, was my report on Wynn Resorts' new vegan gambit, which I also covered on this blog last week.

Then, today, Rudolph is on the menu! My trip to Alaska was a failure as far as dealing effectively with the private family drama that drew me there, but I did, as usual, find myself a story to share with the Lower 48.

I caught a piece by Jeff Richardson of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner about a study by the University of Alaska at Fairbanks' Reindeer Research Program to determine whether consumers will buy reindeer as steak and at what prices. (See, Ms. Neff, there are many values to reading a printed newspaper that have nothing to do with who's up and down in an election.)

Important stuff? Probably not. But it did give me the unique opportunity to open my story with this:

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (Aug. 25) -- Ever watch "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and think, "I wonder what that little guy would taste like on the grill?"

I admit I did taste a little reindeer. No, not the cute ones I photographed from the UAF farm. They're still alive and well ... for now.

No, I spotted an egg dish with "reindeer sausage" on the menu of the diner we ate at the night we arrived in Fairbanks. While it was tasty and spicy, UAF researcher George Aguilar told me that kick probably was thanks to spices and not Prancer as "reindeer sausage" tends to have less than 10 percent reindeer meat. The rest of pork and beef, he said. He does, however, wax rhapsodic about the taste of a good Blitzen burger:

"It's a high-protein, low-fat, super-tender, high-mineral meat. As far as quality, it's tender, really tender. It's one of the most tender meats in the world. All the fat is on the outside of the animal, so you don't get marbling. It has a sweet taste. It doesn't have a gamey taste."

Mmmm. That and the fava bean puree at Alex sounds like a winner.

This story also took me inside the intriguing world of the reindeer-for-Christmas-events industry, which I suspect is a topic for The Petcast soon. They're apparently really nice pets for folks with a little property and Kyle Wilson of Rocky Hill Reindeer Leasing in Knoxville, Tenn., says he gets $3,000 each providing them for church groups or Christmas tree farms from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

Wilson doesn't see a big reindeer steak market anytime soon:

"More than anything else, it's not politically correct to eat Rudolph. We who have them, rent them or show them, we get the warm-and-fuzzy thing going on, and the furthest thing from your mind is eating one of them. In the Lower 48, we have it for Christmas, but we don't eat it for Christmas."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Fake "Watchdog" Stops Watching

I've hinted over the past year or so at my dismay at a website called LVJournalReview.Com, a project wholly owned and operated by the Nevada Democratic Party but which purports to be a check on bias in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

It infuriates me because, of course, I believe that media criticism is incredibly important and useful but that taking cheap shots on a daily basis is neither productive nor mature. Nothing written over there is in any way constructive or helpful to the journalists on the beat -- nor is it intended to be! -- because the site is so blindly, arrogantly, personally and instinctively disgusted by what's in the R-J that there's no chance that they can say anything remotely viewed as fair.

The vast majority of what I've seen on this site has been overanalysis and out-of-context musings that proscribe the worst motives to even the most banal, unimportant writings about politics in the paper. It is never, ever balanced out with a pat on the back for anything -- is it actually possible that every single writer at the R-J gets everything wrong for hateful reasons every single time? -- and there's never any acknowledgment that the Review-Journal does, in fact, play it very down-the-middle when it comes to positioning of stories and its choice of national news.

Now I know why. The woman behind this site doesn't, uh, actually read the newspaper.

In a triumphant post today that essentially negates credibility for any future commentary if any credibility actually existed to begin with, the site's operator Erin Neff announces she's canceled home delivery of the Review-Journal because...

"It's just not worth dumping the physical paper into the recycle bin largely unread each day."

You get that? She's been running a website dedicated to an allegedly valid critique of the local paper but she doesn't even take the rubberband off it most of the time. So all she knows about are the pieces she opts to read online or that her liberal pals point her to. She has no context whatsoever -- and hasn't for a while -- of the rest of that which makes up a newspaper.

Is it any surprise to see this result there, then?

So a little bit about Erin. She was, for five years, a liberal columnist for the R-J. She took a buyout in 2008. After she did so, she whined to Norm Clarke that she had to leave on principle after the publisher didn't let her re-endorse Barack Obama the day before the election. (It is common for newspapers to stop running endorsements a couple days before an election and that horrible right-wing rag The New York Times doesn't let columnists directly endorse candidates for president at all.) To the paper's credit, they let Norm write the story of the disgruntled ex-columnist and her complaint.

Look, I'm not saying everybody must read the printed version of the local newspaper. I do and will as long as there is one, but that's me. It's fine if people choose to drop their subscriptions and start reading what's available online. That's the way of the world, and that's one reason I've been so intensely critical of the R-J's uterly idiotic Internet approach. If they don't get better at that, they'll be a world of trouble, people will lose their jobs and this community will be less informed.

But. If you're out there writing a blog solely and specifically about a certain publication, you need to read it. All of it. In every format it exists but particularly in print, where a litany of decisions are made that can be judged, put in context and understood.

Otherwise, don't bother. You're not helping anyone and, in fact, you're perpetrating at least as much misinformation as the publication you so hate.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Righthaven Provides Wiggle Room, Re: Angle

I got Righthaven LLC chief Steve Gibson on the phone today to find out when he's going to sue Sharron Angle for lifting entire Review-Journal articles for months and, frequently, not even providing bylines or links.

It was an educational conversation.

His answer was that he would "have to take a look at it," but when I asked for his email to send him some links, he declined to provide it and told me: "I don't have time to review every case I receive a call about. I'm not going to do a spot evaluation. I can't do due diligence on alleged infringments and then give you an impromptu response to those alleged infringements."

Huh. I'd think they'd be really worried about this one. I mean, they've gone and sued very, very small websites with tiny, valueless audiences. Here we've got a case of the site of the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, which undoubtedly receives thousands of page views every day. It's an extremely high-profile case and the potential damages are probably among the highest Righthaven could seek. It would also generate national news, which is great for Righthaven, no?

Gibson also said he doesn't "talk about infringing matters that we don't pursue," which means they're using discretion after all. And I can totally see Sherm Frederick, never a paragon of consistency or logic, instructing him to lay off Angle to avoid generating embarrassing headlines for the candidate. Would Sherm do the same for Harry Reid? Duh. Of course not.

"There are probably millions if not billions of infringements we won't be able to address," Gibson told me. "It doesn't weaken our position at all. ... Two wrongs don't make a right. Two infringers doesn't make an innocent infringer."

Gibson continued to trumpet the fact that his firm hasn't been ideologically driven. But that's precisely why this is the perfect test case, isn't it?

"You've seen Righthaven make claims against left-wing sites, right-wing sites. Rightaven has even been tied to the Obama Administration. [Some on the Web] believe because I'm from Chicago, because of the background I have and the fact that we went after some right-leaning sites, somehow I'm doing this at the behest of Barack Obama. We're going to displease a lot of people because we do not discriminate on politics or what have you."

Fascinating. I tried to get him to explain, then, how he decides who to sue and who not to sue. He kept talking about how that's proprietary and that he may soon have competitors in this space. But he did say this:

"I can tell you this much. We have an automated search matrix that generates a tremendous amount of reviewable content, an absolutely tremendous amunt of reviewable content. ... I just can't be in the business of commenting on every possible infringment. I wouldn't get anything done."

After the interview was over, by the by, he asked me out to lunch so he can earn me as a client. In fact, he asked me in the beginning of the interview, too. In the beginning I redirected us to what I wanted to discuss, and at the end I tried to explain how inappropriate that question was given that I'm covering this situation and his company as a journalist.

He didn't understand.

Will the R-J Sue Sharron Angle?

Now the fun starts.

As you may know, the Review-Journal has turned over copyrights on its articles to Righthaven LLC to sue dozens of websites and organizations for damages for reposting entire or large swaths of R-J stories. I have supported this effort as an innovative approach to protecting media copyrights, writing a Las Vegas Weekly column and appearing on KNPR to defend the practice.

That doesn't mean I mind watching publisher Sherm Frederick and editor Thomas Mitchell -- both full-throated Sharron Angle supporters and Ahab-like Harry Reid haters on an order unbecoming people who wish their newspaper's coverage to be respected -- wander into a political pickle.

Y'see, based on their own statements and those of Righthaven chief Steven Gibson, they now have absolutely no choice. They must sue Sharron Angle. For damages.

Check this out.

The Angle campaign today posted 845 of the 1,651 words in Laura Myers' Sunday story. That's more than half of it. It would be fun to see how many readers on SharronAngle.Com were so compelled by this brilliant piece to hop over to the full article; I'm betting not many.

But wait, there's more!

The campaign posted the entirety of an August 13 piece in the R-J about new poll results...

...and an Aug. 9 Glenn Cook column on the campaign...

...and an Aug. 6 editorial about the race...

...and on and on. There are several more examples, dating all the way back to a June 9 story about her primary win, see?

I post all these screenshots to help the Righthaven folks in their litigation, seeing how the Angle folks may soon pull all of this down after this post appears. That really doesn't matter to Righthaven's stated modus operandi, though; thousands of readers have seen these stories on SharronAngle.Com and not ReviewJournal.Com; that's a clear loss of the eyeballs that translate into advertising revenue.

The Righthaven approach is to sue first, ask questions later and Gibson has been proud of not taking an ideological slant in which sites they attack. This means even if Angle takes these down, they still must sue her and pursue damages. And the lawsuit has fascinating potential: They could subpoena the web traffic data for a major political candidate's site, something I don't believe journalists have ever been privy to. C'mon, Thomas "Open Records" Mitchell! You can get that for us!

What Righthaven cannot do is send a friendly, "Hey, that ain't cool, take it down" note because they've established that they don't do that. And, again, I'm OK with that. Scare the crap out of 'em, even the cat blogger. You're hard-core badass. Don't soften up now!

By the way, when I first inquired about the R-J's policy earlier this year as the lawsuits began landing, I was told I would remain in bounds with the R-J policy if I used the material under "fair use" -- that is, I was excerpting pieces for legitimate commentary -- or if I provided a headline and the first paragraph or two of a story, with a link.

You know, like this:

Angle's campaign has done neither and has been flouting the R-J's copyrights for more than two months now.

Righthaven must sue. It took effort to find the cat blogger, but this one was on a major candidate's site, there in plain sight. If they don't sue Angle, they provide dozens of infringers with a clear example of the company's inconsistency in defending its copyright. And there goes the whole enterprise, right there.

The Show is UP: Blooperpalooza!

In honor of our fifth anniversary as podcasters, Miles and I drew back the curtains so those who don't listen live can hear the nutty stuff that goes on before I edit this thing. Enjoy. Click on the date below to listen or right-click to download and listen at your leisure or subscribe via iTunes or Zune.

Aug. 22: Our FIFTH Anniversary Blooperpalooza!
SPECIAL REISSUE: The 2008 Blooper Show

Fights! Celeb Outtakes! Singing! It’s been FIVE years! Five years of brilliant, revealing interviews, witty banter and… oh, who are we kidding? It’s been five years of fuckups, stumbles, confusion, arguments and a whole lot of fucking cursewords. But most of that is behind the scenes except for once a year when Steve edits together the best outtakes and we revel in how badly we do this job. If you’re in the chat room weekly, you’ve heard most of this, but if not, this is your shot. Some of this is new, though, including outtakes with Jon Voight, Steve Wynn, Englebert Humperdinck, Daniel Negreanu and others. We’re blowing out show this week – no tourist tip, no interviews – so sit back, relax and enjoy the circus.

In banter: Madonna for $1 billion, veganism at Wynn and hula hoops on "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me."


Robin Leach writes of Madonna’s possible $1 billion Caesars deal, and Norm Clarke explains why it doesn't add up
Veganism, it’s what’s for dinner at Wynn Resorts
Al Mancini of CityLife provided a full list of Wynn eatery vegan dishes
Steve’s AOL News piece on the Hula Hoop ban
The full, very funny 6-minute Vegas segment from “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me”
Our last blooper show, in 2008