Saturday, May 21, 2011

Birdy Bin Laden Is Dead, We Think

Justice has been done. We got Birdy Bin Laden. Probably.

The other day I posted about this bird in the neighbor's tree that was dive-bombing to frighten -- but not attack -- our dogs. Here's the YouTube video again:

We heard many theories as to this bird's aggression, from an innate hatred for our way of life to the possible defense of an unseen nearby nest to a campaign to force us to accept the 1967 neighborhood boundaries, as impractical as that may be. It's so hard to get inside the mind of a deranged mockingbird and, frankly, offensive to suggest that we are at fault for any of this ugliness.

Actually, we have no idea what happened to him. All we know is that after the YouTube video went up, he stopped bothering us altogether. And then yesterday, he was lying in state on our sidewalk with no visible injuries. It is possible a rogue vigilante took care of it in some stealth way. Or maybe he was actually swooping low because he wasn't well and was trying to tell us something. We'll never know. That's what he gets for coming to this country and never learning our language.

To head off any nascent conspiracy theories, however, we are releasing the pictures of the corpse.

We actually don't know for certain that this is the same bird as there was no DNA evidence available and, as racist as this may sound, they all look pretty much alike.

In accordance with the American practice of disposing of terrorists, though, I took him from the sidewalk in a Smith's lunch meat baggie...

...and wrapped him in a white Scott's paper towel shroud.

Our region of the world lacking an ocean and not wishing to make a scene at the Bellagio fountains or risk clogging our toilet, we laid Birdy Bin Laden in a grave by some rose bushes like so:

Let's hope it doesn't rain too hard any time soon, is all.

Lest you find this cruel and perhaps unconstitutional, I assure you we were all pretty broken up about it. Just look at the faces of the mourners, who take no joy in the demise of their nemesis:

Don't judge them! We all grieve in our own way.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Vegas Media's Mobile Troubles

UPDATE: As of Friday morning, the RJ had turned off its mobile redirect function, presumably to fix it. So far, neither KSNV nor KLAS have made any changes.

So the Review-Journal now has a mobile site for smart phones in so-called "beta" form. This was as promised by Michael Hengel, the new editor, in my interview last month. Great.

Except there's one itsy bitsy problem, as Hunter Hillegas first pointed out to me and has blogged: It doesn't work.

Watch what happens. Say I see their columnist, Steve Sebelius, tweet links stories like so:

And say I am intrigued by Brian Sandoval's secret plan to raise taxes or must know whether the DoJ will indict John Ensign. I click on those links and I get...

...nothing relevant. I'm directed to the main menu for the R-J's mobile site. If you're lucky enough that the story you're after is still atop the pile, you win! If not, bummer! This also happens when you get a full story link, so it's not a function of the shortened URLs on Twitter. Try it. It's fun! And renders the mobile thing worthless.

Now, it would be all too easy to just beat up on the R-J, as Jon Ralston is congenitally inclined. But his own TV station has exactly the same problem. It's funny, too, because Ralston apologized via Twitter for a "bad link" to video of the mayoral debate he hosted yesterday...

...but it's not the link that's the problem. It's that MyNews3.Com's mobile site forces everyone on a smartphone here:

In fact, none of the Vegas MSM mobile sites work quite right. Channel 8, KLAS-TV, has the same R-J and KSNV issue where you end up here...

...rather than on the story you're seeking. In fact, Channel 8's mobile landing is so busy, you don't even see any headlines, much less the one you want to find. It's nice that you can get the "classic" version, but you still end up on the front page, not at the story someone told you on Twitter or via email was worth your attention. By the time I'm there, I don't care anymore and I leave. Fail.

KTNV is better. Someone sends you a link to a specific story and, lo and behold, you are rerouted to that story:

My problem with KTNV, however, is that you don't get a link or any obvious way of watching the report. It's on the proper website, but not readily available on the mobile version. At the very bottom, there is this...

...but if you click on video, you get the general video menu of stories. Seeing how these are TV stations, you'd think they'd want you to see the TV version of the report.

Fox 5 is the only one that doesn't have a mobile site, but at least you end up on the right page with the right story and all the rest of the content they provide including the video.

Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Sun has a problem of its own that's similar to KTNV's. Yes, you end up being re-routed to the story you're trying to find. But that's it. Yesterday, for instance, Ralston reported that Mayor Oscar Goodman had sent out a self-congratulatory and thinly veiled Carolyn campaign flier at taxpayer expense. So I go to the link on my iPhone and I see Ralston inform me in his final sentence... see the mailer "at right." And I looked. All I saw was my coffee cup. It wasn't there. Granted, they have a fix for that; you can switch to the normal site and it takes you to the correct story with all the content. But why should I have to do that? Why can't I find the link to the document a journalist wants to show me wherever I land?

I haven't poked around yet in the TV stations' smart phone applications. (Neither newspaper has one yet, although Hengel made it sound like the R-J would debut its any minute now.) That's worthwhile, and I'll take a look soon.

But it's also not relevant to this topic. The idea of a mobile site is to make it easier for people to see the content they're seeking in a format conducive to the device on which they seek it. If you're not going directly to the story you want, if you can't see the video or the important illustrations and attachments that come along with it, you've failed.

Come on, guys. I'm heading outta town. Let's hope when I get where I'm going, I'll be able to keep up without having to try this hard. Or is that what you're trying to sabotage?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Strip is LIVE Tonight @ 8pm PT

Oscar Goodman may be working overtime to ensure his wife replaces him as the official face of Vegas, but it's been a heckuva lot easier for the city's unofficial mascot, Holly Madison, to spread her fame among her minions. Her longtime personal assistant, Angel Porrino, is now a star in the new Caesars Palace hit "Absinthe" and her best gay boyfriend, "Peepshow" singing star Josh Strickland, recently landed atop iTunes with his first single. And, to hear them tell it, they owe a huge debt to one particular former Hugh Hefner girlfriend.

On this week's show, I spoke to both of Holly's proteges about their new endeavors, plastic surgery, backstage dramas, reality TV and much more.

We'll get started at 8 p.m. playing the Strickland interview until Miles is home and ready to do the proper show. Join us at to watch us and chat with other listeners. If you can't I'll try getting the podcast out as quickly as I can, so you can subscribe to The Strip (it's free!) in iTunes or Zune to get the latest show and various specials.

VIDEO: The Bird That Terrorizes My Dogs

Explain this? Anyone?

Monday, May 16, 2011

More Proof Sahara Closer Sam Nazarian Is Full Of Sh*t

The Las Vegas Sun turned its entire section today into a Sahara tribute, complete with John Katsilometes sleeping over for the final nights. And that's nice. But buried deep in the eight-page commemoration was owner Sam Nazarian's baloney and pastrami about his plans for the property. Here's what he told Kats:

The bones and history of the Sahara are worth preserving. What we want to create is a resort that is as charming as it is elegant, that reflects the new era of Las Vegas while honoring its history.

And, evidently, that's ALL he had to say or surely Kats would have told us.

That that's the extent of Nazarian's remarks is bizarre and telling because, allegedly, he has a much more specific super-secret plan that, for reasons that can only be clear to him, he chose not to share with the solace-needing Las Vegas readership.

You see, this is an excerpt from a stunningly idiotic and obsequious L.A. Times piece on him five weeks ago:

A month ago, industry observers thought that even the bullish Nazarian wasn't immune to the ravages of the recession when he announced plans to shut down the iconic Sahara Hotel in Vegas, acquired in 2007 for an estimated $300 million. At the time, Nazarian would not comment on the closure, but he now says the plan from the beginning was to close the hotel for renovation. He said he was committed to reopening it in 2014 as an SLS Las Vegas, with six restaurants and two nightclubs.

"We've spent $30 million in design development drives; we're shovel-ready," said Nazarian, who formed his company in 2002 with proceeds from real estate investments as well as a wireless telecommunications company he sold. "If we were admitting defeat we would have admitted it."

So in April, he was telling the LA media that he's "shovel-ready" with a new scheme that will be open in 2014 with six restaurants and two nightclubs. Why, exactly, would he not tell Kats the same thing? Why would he suddenly be so vague when speaking to the local press? (Also, as an aside that tells you just how lost the L.A. Times was on this one, what industry observers thought Nazarian's Sahara had not succumbed to the ravages of the economy?!?)

Mayor Monster of VegasTripping nailed it in his blog post on that inane article, and it bears repeating:

Where's the public release of mouthwatering renderings? Where's the facts and figures? Who is the architect of record? Where's the big press conference with suited bozos carrying silver shovels and SLS branded chrome hard hats? What about the presentation before Clark County Planning Commission? Where's the press release touting where the money to build this - $3,4,5,6 Billion dollars? - is coming from? Is it possible to destroy and cart away Sahara and build a gigantic new place in 3 years? Where's the SLS Vegas website, with countdown clock, construction cam and sultry photos arranged in a sexy, 'this should be your life' kinda way?

It doesn't exist. None of it. Like nearly everything Sam Nazarian and SBE have said about their goings on in Las Vegas, this is all a magic trick.

The speculation is Nazarian is puffing himself up in advance of an IPO for his nightclub conglomerate. What he -- like his new BFF Jim Murren before him -- seems to forget is that whatever he says now will be measured against . . . what actually takes place. So when 2014 rolls around and the tumbleweeds continue to blow -- and why would any bank put up the billions necessary with so much decay in that neighborhood? -- we'll know.

Odds are good by then he'll feed the L.A. Times some further malarkey, believing that that, too, won't ever make its way across the Mojave.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Carolyn Goodman's Contextual Problems

There is a very troubling pattern emerging with Las Vegas mayoral front runner Carolyn Goodman that came up last Wednesday when I moderated the forum for the Lambda business group with both candidates and again tonight: Mrs. Goodman is not capable of admitting when she's wrong or unclear. She touts her own fallibility, but then when she actually must answer for her own prior remarks, she blames the media or the audience, not herself.

It's a time-worn politician's trick, but as Sharron Angle and Mitt Romney have more recently learned, it's losing its efficacy because, more often than not, there's VIDEO or AUDIO recordings.

At the Lambda event, I revisited the issue of the DREAM Act and Mrs. Goodman complained that what was gleaned from that discussion about her ignorance about it and her understanding of its history was untrue and "taken out of context." And yet I had transcribed the conversation verbatim and posted the entire audio for everyone to hear specifically to avoid such a claim.

Now, tonight, Carolyn Goodman did it again during a live televised debate moderated by Steve Sebelius and Jonathan Humbert on KLAS Channel 8. Here's an exchange between Sebelius and Goodman:

Sebelius: Speaking at the Lambda business lunch last week, you said if you were gay and you wanted to marry your partner, you would move to state where gay marriage is already legal. My question is, why should somebody have to do that? Why shouldn’t somebody have be able to marry the person they love and stay in the city that they love?

Goodman: Okay, were you there?

Sebelius: I was not.

Goodman: It was taken a little out of context whoever wrote it down. I was answering some questions. My words were, if there was some urgency, I totally support of the domestic partnerships. In fact it was the city and the council in 2008, or, oh, wrong, eight years ago, passed the ordinance so, um, that those of the same [sic] who would have it legalized and have the opportunity to share in those things. From a legal standpoint I'm 1,000% in support of that. The question that was asked of me was about lobbying going forward -- [muddled chatter I'm not even sure how to transcribe] -- my sense was, if there’s an urgency. I’m all about individual rights. There’s nobody stronger about individual rights than myself. Anybody should have the right to their own lives. And if there’s an urgency for some reason to get married, it is not legal in the state of Nevada. So what I said was were I in that situation, I would go to another state where it was legal but I would still come back here because in my heart and soul, I would feel as though I was legally married. Taken out of context, it’s a little different.

Now, compare that to what actually happened. This was the exchange from Wednesday. You can hear it on this audio recording or watch it on this YouTube video:

If you don't want to watch or listen, here was the very first exchange between us:

Friess: Do you support legalized same-sex marriage?

Goodman: I support domestic partnerships for sure. I support the collective voice, and I support the laws of our state. But were I in your situation and it were important to me, until the state's legislative body hears your voice, were I in your situation, I would be going to a state right now that legalizes a marriage of same sex individuals.

So here's the thing. I didn't believe then nor now that Mrs. Goodman was saying she wants gay couples to move away. Even in the moment, I knew what she was saying, which is what she clarified in her response to Sebelius, because the alternative reading was simply ridiculous and mean-spirited. Her explanation of her remarks makes a certain sense -- and a certain nonsense as I'll get to in a moment -- and her position of being pro-DPs but against gay marriage is still the same as what President Obama and Sen. Harry Reid profess.

But there are two other things here:

(a) Nothing was taken out of context. It was badly articulated. This is clearly the fault of the speaker. Mrs. Goodman should have said, "I'm sorry, I wasn't clear, that didn't come out right," etc. Instead, this woman who claims to be a non-politician, behaved as politicians love to, imagining they can bend time and history simply by saying the blue sky is purple.

(b) She wasn't being truthful on other details, either. She wasn't answering "some" questions; she was answering the very first question. Also, I didn't ask her a thing about "lobbying."

Look, Carolyn Goodman is probably not a homophobe. There is a way that she talks about all of this -- her lack of modern vocabulary makes it a wonder she doesn't use the word "homosexual" -- that makes it clear she just doesn't know very much about the topic. Yes, that's troubling given that she's likely to be the next mayor, but being ignorant is not the same as being a hater.

I suspect that were a set of gay activists to sit down with her in a non-pressurized circumstance and explain to her what exactly the issues were, she may have a different view. It is clear that she simply doesn't get it, doesn't know that going to another state to marry does nothing for couples who live here, that a Nevada domestic partnership does not give a gay couple Social Security benefits or enable a man to keep his non-citizen spouse in the U.S. or any number of other details that make federal marriage equality important to those who want it.

I also suspect that there are plenty of Jews, including her own rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom, who could explain to her that religious teachings -- which she has cited as her opposition to same-sex marriage -- have evolved since she was young. In 2006, the overlords of Conservative Judaism endorsed same-sex unions and the ordination of openly gay clergy. So she is actually not in step with her own faith. When she was young, very few girls had Bat Mitzvahs. Her daughter had one and, from what she told me, the FBI spied on it because of the mobsters who attended. So times change.

Carolyn Goodman may be teachable on this stuff and, in fact, has come a long way from my first interview with her in March when she didn't even understand why gays needed domestic partnerships.

So I'm not troubled by her statements because I know lots of Jewish grandmas like her. I had two, in fact, until I came out and fell in love and they figured out how to square their desire for my happiness with whatever they had been told decades before.

But her knee-jerk willingness to be dishonest about her own prior comments should alarm even her. She must have watched politicians her whole life do that, as we all have, and hated it. She'd be more human, more reasonable, more sympathetic if she could resist that instinct and offered up more humility.

Odds are good she's going to have to make many, many more public statements in the future. It would be nice if we didn't have to take them with grains of salt.

Sahara's Short, Humdrum, Dry-Eyed Goodbye

On Friday night, I emailed my Las Vegas Weekly editors my idea for my next column, which I proposed to be a look at how little emotion has been stirred up by Monday's closure of the venerable Sahara.

Then, today as I read the Sun and Review-Journal's somewhat perfunctory coverage in the newspaper of this seemingly momentous event, I realized that's not really going to be much of an original thought by Thursday when the next issue of the magazine comes out. In fact, it's a measure of how little anyone seems to really care that it won't even worthwhile to meditate on why very few people seem to really care.

I do have a theory though: Old Vegas nostalgia is mostly just talk.

In fact, I suspect the last great moment for the Sahara already happened on Friday when they handed out free tickets and then drew from a drum the names of 63 people who each received $500 that was left over in the casino's progressive slot jackpot. Well, the 63rd winner actually got $507, but whatever. Here's my losing ticket:

...and the drum...

...and the last time this casino will be quite this packed, including on Monday afternoon.

There were very few nostalgists there, just lots of people who heard they had a shot at some free money and better-than-usual odds. Even our waitress at the NASCAR Cafe seemed dispassionate, although she also has a job at the Pink Taco at the Hard Rock waiting for her at least through the summer.

The newspapers felt similarly on auto-pilot, with Norm Clarke documenting the usual recollections of famous Sahara guests and performers and Howard Stutz giving voice to the obligatory longtime employee. But then there also was Stutz visiting with ex-owner Paul Lowden who isn't sorry to see it close and Mike Weatherford being uncharacteristically tart and snarky with this:

If the 860 seats from that theater are put up for sale, I recommend those from the balcony, which have never been touched by a butt.

Ouch. Over at the Sun, all we got in print on this Closing Eve Sunday was publisher Brian Greenspun offering some choice memories and then bemoaning the place's decline. He concluded:

I have missed the Sahara for a very long time.

What strikes me here, though, is how often I hear people whine about missing the Old Vegas and the classic haunts, blah blah blah. Here we have a pretty gen-u-ine Old Vegas article, and it's going bye-bye with a great big collective shrug. Not a single podcast listener or blog reader said they were making a special trip for one last drop-in, as many did for the Stardust and a few did for the Frontier.

What's more, unlike other demises -- the Aladdin, Stardust, Frontier, Dunes and Sands among them -- there's no actual plan for replacing the place. Very few take Sam Nazarian's recent blather that something new will replace it by 2014 seriously. Both Greenspun and Lowden reference this closure as a necessary passage to some sort of "progress," but nobody actually thinks that there's anything to rise in its place before, say, Lake Mead runs out of water.

On Friday night, we went over to see this weird cash giveaway thing. Just before that was over, Twitter follower Kara70 asked me: "Will you stick around after the drawings? Do you think there'll be a stampede out the doors afterwards?"

If there was any sincere regret over the Sahara's demise, people would've stuck around after the drawing ended around 7:30 pm. They would have soaked in the lore, appreciated the waning hours. And yet...

...they didn't.