November, 2007

Dennis Hopper says get your film on!

November 28th, 2007

This week, the CineVegas Film Festival announced confirmed dates for both submissions to the annual event and for the festival itself, as well as launched a new online film contest.

The 10th version of CineVegas, held again at Brenden Theatres inside the Palms Casino Resort, runs from June 12 – 21, 2008. Submissions are being accepted at from Dec. 1, 2007 – March 15, 2008. That means you have about three months to finish your epic masterpiece, aspiring filmmakers.

If you think your vacation videos merit film festival screenings, then you might want to submit your original travel film–up to five minutes long–to the “Trip Takes” online film contest, co-presented by CineVegas and Conde Nast Traveler. The submissions will be judged both by an online audience and a jury of experts, including CV Creative Advisory Board chair Dennis Hopper. Top prize is $5,000 cash and the top five finalists will have their films shown at the festival. For rules or to submit a film, visit

For that matter, get all the info on CineVegas at

Another night Freakin’ the Frog with your Ex

November 25th, 2007

The parking lot at the Freakin’ Frog (4700 S. Maryland Parkway) last night was nearly full–not necessarily a surprise for a Saturday night at the only viable live music establishment on the parkway these days. But it was hard to say exactly why it was packed. Was it the football game on the projection screens? The draw of Big Friendly Corporation? Opening band Chemical Ex? Or just a bunch of UNLV students needing their selections from the 700-plus beer catalog?

Either way, the Frog was pretty well populated–every table full, patrons at the bar shoulder-to-shoulder. There was actually a doorman checking IDs. Of course, he made a point of telling me he didn’t need to see my ID, making some offhand comment referring to my, um, advanced age. (I’m sure the kid wasn’t old enough to get in the bar six months ago anyway, so … there …)

It was about 10:30 p.m. and no bands had played yet. Chemical Ex was barely starting its soundcheck, with the always-able Tommy Marth controlling the boards. My friends and I managed to find four seats at a long table in the center of the room.

Chemical Ex is a local band fronted by a youngish girl singer/guitarist named Maryam Haddad. Apparently, this was the first live show the band has played in about a year. Browsing the band’s MySpace page ( if you’re curious), it seems that year was spent changing members … often.

From the start of the quartet’s set, I was wincing. Chemical Ex plays this safe, boring maudlin pop-rock (sorry, ladies, there is nothing “indie” about it, save for your lack of a record deal) that sounds more like The Corrs or Sixpence None the Richer than anything else. I could deal with that, if the band offered more by way of performance. Haddad is an attractive young woman. But she has no stage presence and doesn’t use her lithe body to do much more than hold down the floor. For example, during one song in particular, “More”–the only truly groovy and rocking song of Chemical Ex’s set–Haddad is unencumbered by a guitar. It’s a perfect time for her to writhe, dance, tease, whatever–show some expressive emotion, connect with the audience. But no. She stood there, swaying a little bit and … that’s it.

The rest of the band–including Love Pentagon’s
Marites Velasquez on bass–doesn’t do much to engage the audience either. They’re all adequate musicians, and the songs would work well on a soccer-mom station such as Mix 94.1-FM. But there is nothing urgent or immediate about the band, its music or the performance.

Earlier yesterday, I finished reading Reckless Road, a photo-heavy bio of Guns N’ Roses following the band from its earliest days up to the release of Appetite for Destruction. And after enduring Chemical Ex, I couldn’t help but think about how defused rock music has become since GNR’s debut 20 years ago. Yes, it might be cliche for a band to be living in squalor, doing drugs and bringing strippers on stage at every performance. But it was all terribly exciting and dangerous.

After I first read Henry Rollins’ Get In The Van about 10 or 11 years ago, I felt that my life was, in comparison, woefully inadequate. My band toured nowhere, I continued working my shitty job instead of following my heart and dreams, I felt like I was running with my car in neutral. That was a wholly different experience from the communal debauchery of GNR’s early days, especially from Rollins’ loner, straightedge perspective, but it still felt very real, very earnest.

But bands such as Chemical Ex have no such rawness, no such energy, no such soul. Oh sure, Haddad might be pouring out her little heart into those lyrics of hers, but if she is, I’m not convinced. Neither will anyone else be.

Give a toy, get a warm fuzzy feeling. Or else.

November 20th, 2007

The music KLUC 98.5-FM might not be up your alley—unless your alley is paved with Christina Aguilera, 50 Cent and Beyonce—but every year during the holidays, the station’s morning DJ team joins up with HELP of Southern Nevada for its annual Chet Buchanan & The Morning Zoo Toy Drive. For the ninth year, Buchanan will live atop a 30-foot scaffolding for the duration of the drive, from Nov. 29 to Dec. 10, this time in the parking lot of Nevada Power’s main office on West Sahara Avenue between Jones Boulevard and Torrey Pines Drive.

Last year, the drive collected enough toys to fill 14 tractor-trailers. Those donations were then distributed to needy children via more than 30 Southern Nevada charities.

If you want to help, drop off new, unused and unwrapped toys to the KLUC set-up at the aforementioned Nevada Power parking lot anytime during the toy drive. When you’re buying yourself a new game for your Xbox, think about the kids that have nothing and pick ‘em up something nice, too, you greedy bastards.

A little bit of comedy, a little bit of tragedy at Caesars Palace

November 17th, 2007

For the uninitiated, I live about a mile from the center of the Las Vegas Strip. That means when I have to attend an event taking place on or near that famous four-mile stretch of road, I usually don’t mind too much. It’s a five-minute drive to the back entrance of a property’s parking garage, especially if it’s on my side of the Strip (for you non-Las Vegans, the Strip essentially divides our fair city in half, east and west).

The Comedy Festival has been taking over Caesars Palace since Wednesday or Thursday, HBO bringing together a number of the world’s top comics for four or five days of funny business. A good amount of heavyweights are here–Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Ellen DeGeneres, Eddie Izzard, Kevin James–as well as, um, some second-stringers and past-their-primers.

Being the media whore I am, I made sure I scored a few review tickets to a few of the performances this weekend, and tonight, I ventured over to Caesars’ Collosseum to check out the aforementioned Mr. Rock. (That sounds funny; read it aloud: “MISTER ROCK.” I picture some white dude in ripped jeans, a sleeveless Bon Jovi jersey and a glorious mullet, as opposed to the actual Mr. Rock, who is a skinny, well-dressed black man. Maybe this is why no one calls him “Mr. Rock.” Man, my tangents go on waaay too long.)

As mohawk-rocking journalist Al Mancini concurred, Rock’s performance was about 75 percent funny, which is pretty good for anyone, especially comedians like Rock who have used the same shtick most of their careers (in his case, of course, it’s race jokes). The Collosseum was well-packed, unlike the last time I was there for a Comedy Festival event, 2006’s Triumph the Insult Comic Dog show, which really should have been held in one of the ballrooms at the casino. It took about a good 20 minutes for the aisles to clear up after the show before I could even get out of my row of seats (hereafter known as “The Media Nosebleed Section”).

However, I should have seen what was next: The Caesars Palace parking garage debacle. Last time I was at Caesars for a big event, it was the Human Rights Campaign’s annual charity gala. However, there must have been another show/event letting out about the same time, because I found myself in my car stuck on the sixth or seventh floor of the behemoth parking garage, sitting unmoving for about a half-hour. My next destination was Krave, where the gala’s afterparty was being held. I pulled out of the line of cars, parked, and just walked to the gay club, which is only about two or three blocks from Caesars on the Strip.

Well, sure enough, the same thing happened after Chris Rock let out. After sitting in my car for another half-hour of pure boredom and frustration on the seventh floor of the garage, I parked, and decided to either a) grab some food at Caesars or b) hoof it home and come back for my car the next day. I walked back into Caesars, had a quick chat with the aforementioned Mancini and his wife, then decided to go with plan b.

As I mentioned at the start of this ramble, I live only about a mile from the Strip. In most cities, walking a mile isn’t so bad. In Las Vegas, however, it’s nearly unheard of to walk anywhere, let alone walk a mile somewhere. While I did consider grabbing a bus if one came along, it wasn’t until I was already a block from my apartment that one came rumbling down Flamingo Road heading east. The walk was nice; the weather has been about as perfect as it ever gets here, and at nearly 2 a.m., I had some quiet time with my thoughts for once.

However, Caesars Palace really needs to do something about the parking situation. A few years ago, they expanded the five-story garage to eight or nine stories, but the engineering geniuses neglected to incorporate such ground-breaking concepts as logic or common sense into its design. If every time a show at the Collosseum lets out, the situation is that bad (and I’m guessing it is, and I’m guessing between Elton John, Jerry Seinfeld and Celine Dion in that massive showroom, it’s often), then Caesars (or, I guess, Harrah’s, the parent company) needs to do SOMETHING to allow for better flow of traffic and/or another exit option in that garage.

Of course, I’m going back there tonight (well, actually, I’m going back there in a few minutes, to retrieve my car) for Eddie Izzard. But I think this time, I’m going to either a) leave the car at home or b) park across the street.

Making “Noise” to raise the dead at Aruba Hotel

November 15th, 2007

This Friday you could do whatever typical Vegas drinking/clubbing/sex toy partying thing it is you normally do to inaugurate your weekend … OR you could immerse yourself in something really sexy: CULTURE.

“Noise” — the semi-regular live painting/music/hippie fest held inside the Aruba Hotel’s Thunderbird Lounge (1215 Las Vegas Blvd. S.) — is hosting a special, themed event, “Day of the Dead,” this Friday night at 10 p.m. Yes, it’s two weeks after the actual dia le los muertos. Whatever, don’t get technical.

There will be spoken word, a drum circle, live music by The Experimental Freakshow with The Touch, and art by a whole slew of folks, including Gina Quaranto, Jada Fire and Katlyn Breene. There will also be a special slide show/altar set up to honor dead loved ones, featuring images submitted by “Noise” attendees.

The “Noise” people are also asking for canned food and sleeping bag donations for Las Vegas Peace Project and Project Purpose.

Oh, yes, and I’m sure you can drink and fornicate and whatever else you enjoy doing as well. Well, save the fornication for AFTER the event. Maybe get a room at the Aruba. I highly recommend it.

And a thanks to Chris Snethen for linking to my Killers rant from yesterday on his excellent blog, The Vig. Hope that Sam’s Town taste washes out soon.

Things I’ve learned about Google AdSense and AdWords …

November 14th, 2007

For those of you not paying attention (and, I gather, it’s most of you, not because you don’t pay attention, but because this blog’s content is so awesome you are overwhelmed), there are banner and text ads floating somewhere in the sidebars and occasionally in the entries of this fine weblog. Those ads come courtesy of Google’s AdSense, which pays you revenue based on click-thrus on "relevant" ads you place on your website.

I have AdSense ads running on a few of my web ventures, including VEGASinsight, my personal site ( and, obviously, this blog. Those ads are delivered through Google’s AdWords program, which is basically the flipside of AdSense: You pay X amount of dollars per month to X amount of ad impressions on AdSense network websites (such as, um, this one). So, if for example, you place an ad using AdWords targeting the keywords "Las Vegas," chances are your ad, based on the content in my blog or website, will show up.

I am also an AdWords user, though for financial reasons, I have temporarily suspended the service. It works pretty well though: In addition to popping up in high-profile places such as MySpace, the ads also show up as results when someone does a Google search for, say, "Downtown Las Vegas" or "Las Vegas indie rock." You get the idea. Using AdWords probably increased my VEGASinsight traffic by about double, but my return on the ads just didn’t justify the cost.

AdSense tracks ad performance through "channels" — which allows me to tell which placements, color schemes, etc. work more effectively. Sadly, I did not really catch on to the full power of channels until the last few months, so the first nine months or so of ad revenue do me no good in regard to figuring out which ad placements on which sites worked best.

Bear in mind, I haven’t received a dime from Google yet, because AdSense doesn’t pay out until you’ve reached $100 in revenue, and after nearly a year, I’ve only hit about $65. And I was, for a few months, putting out $30 each month for AdWords. Do the math. Not that the goal of these websites is to make a profit. But there are operating costs–hosting, registration, mailing lists, etc.–and at the least, I’d like to cover those so I can keep a resource such as VEGASinsight up and running.

The best thing I have determined after studying my AdSense reports is that the service’s "referral" ads–which allow you to pick and choose specific products and services to advertise on your sites–have not earned me one thin dime. Now, while having them up on the websites isn’t taking away anything from the other ads, they’re not helping. So I might spend my next designated web updating period killing all the referral ads. I’m not sure how smart that is, but basic math tells me that 100 percent of zero is zero, so there you go.

If you’d like a humorous take on these services and the "free stuff" offer I received from Google, check out this video:

Dusting off The Killers’ new CD at Tao

November 14th, 2007

I have a love-hate relationship with The Killers. I loved Hot Fuss, despite whatever middling review I gave it in the Las Vegas Weekly. That disc lived in my car for a long time. But I was very disappointed with Sam’s Town, probably because the band’s drastic change in sound seemed forced, not organic as I think they expected it to appear. The sophomore songs did grow on me after seeing them performed live a few times, but I still do not have Sam’s Town and that’s fine.

What’s odd is that the band’s B-sides, bonus tracks and unreleased songs in the interim seem to be my favorites. I have a collection of gems such as “Where Is She” and “Where the White Boys Dance” that always seemed, to me, more worthy than half the material on Sam’s Town.

Well, now The Killers have released Sawdust, a collection of those rarities, B-sides and other stuff sitting around the band’s vault. And, after listening to a song I’d not previously heard (the Sam’s Town bonus track “All the Pretty Face”), my belief that this material is much more favorable to my ears is reinforced.

If you’d like to discover for yourself and live in Las Vegas, head to Tao inside the Venetian at 11 p.m. tonight, where Vinyl Wednesdays is hosting a release party for Sawdust. The MADaM crew is giving away copies of the disc and other Killers swag, the Bargain DJ Collective is spinning and there will be local art. So your only excuse for not going is because your mom said “no.”

Could something like the Writers Guild strike happen in Las Vegas?

November 8th, 2007

The Writers Guild of America strike is gaining steam and support, especially after this morning’s showing of solidarity by so-called "show runners"–the writer-producers behind such addictive hit TV shows as "Lost" and "The Office." The Los Angeles Times reports that "100 or so writer-producers of some of TV’s highest-rated programs ratcheted up the pressure on the studios and producers."

This is a sharp change from the last major WGA strike in 1988, when show runners continued to work, causing a rift with the striking writers and appearing as nothing more than studio lackeys. However, with the writer-producers joining the WGA picket line, Hollywood’s production machine is grinding to a halt even faster than initially predicted, effects of which will become painfully obvious to regular TV viewers by as early as next week (daily shows such as "The Tonight Show" and Bill Maher’s program already have gone into reruns).

Unlike Las Vegas, Los Angeles–despite current appearances–is not a one-industry town. However, what happens in L.A. affects an industry nationwide, and viewers globally. Were such a strike to happen in Sin City, where effectively all casinos were forced to shut down, the exact inverse effect would be felt. Sure, a number of American’s vacation plans might change, but the result would ape that overused Vegas slogan, "What happens here, stays here."

And what would "happen" here would be the total shut-down of life as we know it in Las Vegas. Think about it: How many tangential industries seemingly unrelated to gaming and hospitality would be negatively affected by such a city-wide strike? For one, the media and nightlife production company for which I work would be immediately impacted: If the casinos shut down, their nightclub revenue evaporates, our advertisers pull ads, our magazines can’t pay for themselves. Our nightlife photography website will have no new photos to add since the clubs in the casinos are closed; and all the club advertisers on that site likewise disappear. Our nightclub VIP service stops business, immediately.

It would go beyond that–without the hundreds of thousands of casino employees working, local retail takes a dive. Without the tourists, even the high-end retail on the Strip suffers. The impact would be immeasurable.

According to the International Herald Tribune, the last time the Las Vegas Culinary Union–which represents about 60,000 casino, hospitality, hospital and airport employees in Vegas–organized a citywide strike was in 1984, which lasted for 67 days. There currently exists no union for casino workers such as dealers (though that could change, according to this Las Vegas Sun article), one day there could be, and one day the joining of forces could cause tremendous havoc in Sin City.

For now, we’re safe–the last potential Culinary strike, prompted a few months ago, mainly because of Downtown casinos, was averted by successful talks at the negotiating table. But as Hollywood has proven, things can change at the drop of a hat.

The Walls Belong to Alan Ket

November 6th, 2007

Alain KetSo it’s nowhere near Las Vegas, but since we feel a certain kinship with New York City, I’m going to share a little about the upcoming “The Walls Belong to Us 2” benefit being held on Thursday, Nov. 8 at 55DSL (281 LaFayette St.) in SoHo from 7 – 9 p.m. It’s the second in a series of art benefits held to raise money for the legal defense fund of Alain “Ket” Maridueña, the legendary NYC graffiti artist, author and activist who was arrested and charged with graffiti-related crimes in three of New York’s five boroughs.

On Sept. 10, Ket plead guilty in a Brooklyn court to one count of second-degree
criminal mischief—a felony—for painting a train in Brooklyn last March. The artist was given a three-year suspended sentence, plus an order to pay $3,000 in restitution. As well, Maridueña will paint a mural as commissioned by the District Attorney’s office.

The art benefit at 55DSL will feature an open bar, music by DJ Soul and new artwork by such street-born artists as Shepard Fairey, Rolo, Grotesk, Daze and Mario Pena.

If you live in or plan to be in the NYC area, you can RSVP for the event at Suggested donation is $20. Online auction of the art opens on Thursday at More info can be found at

Downtown Las Vegas — not just for hookers and crackheads … mostly

November 2nd, 2007

Occasionally — or maybe more often, but outside of this insider’s perspective — Las Vegas’ art scene actually makes itself visible outside of the monthly ruckus that is First Friday. Yesterday was one such day, where the axes of the universe aligned to draw moderate interest to downtown, both in the beleaguered Arts District and the now neon-lit Entertainment District.

Over at Marty Walsh’s Trifecta Gallery (inside the Arts Factory, 103 E. Charleston Blvd.), Eric Joyner was on hand for the opening reception of his new show, “A Twist of Fate.” There were (of course) donuts on hand for the donuts-and-robots-themed show. I made it over there with perfect timing: after the crowds (well, assuming there were crowds) left, but before Joyner left. We had a nice conversation about his art, my robot tattoo and how his mother basically bribed him into attending church with donuts.

Jerry Misko’s Smoke & Chanel Around the corner (OK, technically around three corners and about half a mile south) at Rick Dominguez and Cindy Funkhouser’s Fallout gallery (1551 S. Commerce St.), most of the same crowd that attended Joyner’s reception showed up for the opening of Jerry Misko’s new exhibit, “Smoke & Chanel.” Yes, it was more of Misko’s signature paintings of neon signs. But damn, no one paints neon signs with more vibrancy or compositional creativity than Jerry Misko. Now, if only I could ever afford one of his damn pieces.

Though your faithful blogger did not make it over there, the Downtown Cocktail Room (111 Las Vegas Blvd. S.) hosted an opening party for the Vegas Valley Book Festival, which runs this weekend, partially in concurrence with First Friday, which–oh look at that–runs tonight from 6 – 10 p.m. in the Arts District. There are some pretty cool readings, workshops and events taking place for this year’s Book Festival–follow the link above to find out more.

And don’t forget, among all the other First Friday nonsense and above-mentioned shows, “Wanksy” opens at Art Bar (1511 S. Main St.) tonight, presumably during the same time frame as all other First Friday nonsense. Look for the 16-foot “Wanksy” spray-painted on the side of the bar’s lime green exterior. Want more info? You should totally click here to read a certain awesome preview of the show and comments from the artists.