I wish I could afford/had time to travel more, but it’s almost always good to be home. I’m glad that at this late point in life, I finally got a chance to see Las Vegas. It was as advertised, and not, although complaining about false advertising in a city where everything is fake, from the smiles to the boobs to the hospitality — that’s like complaining about the weather. It’s just the way it is. Deal.
What I liked: The glorious absurdity of the place. That you could get a drink anywhere, at any time of day. The look of the MGM Grand lion at sunset:
Fremont Street. Hoover Dam. The dancing waters at the Bellagio:
Watching Kate play “Anarchy in the U.K.” to an audience of prisoners on Guitar Hero in the arcade at Bally’s:
Among other things. What I didn’t like: The way the maps lie. (“Across the street” means “half a mile away.”) The way the old business model — everything’s cheap as long as you don’t mind seedy — has given way to one in which nothing is cheap, but it’s still most of the way to seedy, just the high-gloss, breast-implant variety of seedy. Great restaurants, but frightfully expensive. Fancy hotels, crammed with people gawking at the fanciness. Like the Bellagio lobby ceiling:
Finally, I grew weary of being nickel-and-dimed. It’s true you can do anything in Vegas, at any hour of the day or night, but it’ll cost you. Everyone has a hand in your pocket, and every inch of the place is designed to empty them as quickly and efficiently as possible. For instance: Someone told me I wouldn’t be able to take Kate into a casino, and so I’d be doing a lot of detouring. Scoff. You can take kids into casinos all you want. (According to law, they can’t “loiter” there.) We walked past more slot machine and blackjack tables than we did fat people. You have to walk through the casino to get anywhere. (They have slot machines in daycare centers, I am certain.) Add-on fees are everywhere; our friends Clark and Aimee were charged a daily fee at their hotel for, no kidding, electricity. A simple ATM withdrawal — from a bank’s machine, not one of those private things — costs $5. I know that staff works for tips, but by the third day, all the forelock-tugging grew wearisome. My last act of defiance was to stiff the valet at our hotel as we were checking out; I had no small bills, and damn if I was going to give him a tenner for putting my suitcase into a taxi. Sorry, bub.
Filmapalooza was OK, a little thin, but the talk by Jason Reitman was quite enjoyable:
I asked him about shooting in Detroit. He said if Detroit could do for the city what it did for its airport, it would have no problems whatsoever. From a visual perspective, he’s right. He talked a little about subject and theme, although he called it “location and the deeper thing.” “Thank You for Smoking” was about a lobbyist for a vile industry, but the deeper thing was freedom of choice. “Juno” was about teen pregnancy, but it was really about innocence and growing up.
Everything I need to know about writing I already learned in the newspaper business.
And the NAB show, the National Association of Broadcasters, the show to which Filmapalooza adhered, was a wonder. Acres and acres and acres of whiz-bang doo-dads, lights and cameras and action and software. Everyone’s showing a 3D television rig — no thanks, anyway — but the thing I found most interesting was the big thing in budget filmmaking: Shooting on a single-lens reflex still camera. This guy showed this film, shot entirely on a Canon 5D. You need a lot of SD cards, but who cares when you can carry your whole rig in one hard-side suitcase?
I almost bought one of these at a 30 percent discount, and still might. I have until tomorrow to decide. It all depends on how my tax refund shakes out.
And now we are home. Green and cool and blessed humidity. What did I miss when I was gone?
She-Who wants a bendy straw. And you’d better provide one. No, two.
Gene Weingarten won a second Pulitzer? His long-time editor explains how it happened.
The cilantro/soap thing, explained.
On to taxes.