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Music maker shares a taste of her talent
by Heidi Kyser | posted April 17, 2014

Kayla Quijano is one of the four stars in our Kid's Got Talent feature from the April 2014 special family issue of Desert Companion. Hear the K.O. Knudson 6th-grader play a traditional Italian tarantella on her cello in this video, shot March 2014.

 

Read about Kayla and the other kids -- a golfer, painter and math whiz -- here.


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Pat Mulroy's next office? In a water think tank
by Heidi Kyser | posted April 15, 2014

Pat Mulroy has announced her next move, and it’s not in real estate development or politics, as her career trajectory led some to predict. The former general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority has accepted a dual role with UNLV’s Brookings Mountain West, where she’ll spend 60 percent of her time, and the Desert Research Institute, where she’ll spend the other 40 percent.

Mulroy will concentrate on water policy development and research, an area in which she gained deep expertise during her quarter-century at the Water Authority. Both DRI and UNLV are partners in a Governor’s Office of Economic Development project to create a Nevada Center of Excellence in hydrologic sciences. At DRI, Mulroy will hold the Maki Distinguished Faculty Associate position, leading a water resources and technology program, which will feed into the Center of Excellence. At Brookings Mountain West, she'll be a senior fellow for climate adaptation and environmental policy, focusing on challenges that the Southwest U.S. is facing. She'll also be a senior fellow in Brookings' Washington, D.C.-based Metropolitan Policy Program, contributing her expertise to national policy-making.


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The Fear is free and there's no charge for the Loathing, either
by Scott Dickensheets | posted April 14, 2014

No point mentioning those bats, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough.

Now you can see them, too, right there at your work desk — click here to read Part 1 of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as it ran in Rolling Stone magazine. As unruly as its creator, legendary madman Hunter S. Thompson, this 23,000-word howl of comic despair has apparently hopped the Stone's firewall and is running loose. (Lock up your drugs!) At its heart a demented, physical eulogy for the fading freedoms of the '60s in the age of Nixon Rising — a subtext that might've lost some of its mojo by now — it's still a hoot to read, "hot, fast and exciting," as writer John Irsfeld once put it, from its infamous opening scenes in the Mojave desert to its hallucinatory visions of Vegas. (Though not everyone agrees. Another Vegas-associated writer, Dave Hickey, writes about Fear and Loathing in his latest essay collection, Pirates and Farmers.* "So, even now, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas feels feverish, famished by amphetamines and genuinely afraid of itself. … Hunter's Vegas tastes like sucking pennies.")

Click now and read for yourself.

*Full, and possibly excessive disclosure: A version of Hickey's essay ran in the Las Vegas Weekly when I edited it.


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From the book machine
by Scott Dickensheets | posted April 10, 2014

Book machine

Among the readerly wonders of the Inspire News Cafe — along with the selection of magazines it can be hard to find in Vegas — there sits the Espresso Book Machine Z-2000. Okay, there's no "Z-2000" in its name; I mentally add that because, for someone who's spent his life gathering books the normal way — "forgetting" to return them to libraries — there's an indelibly futuristic quality to the notion of  whipping one up with the push of a button, like a smoothie. You select a book from the menu, pay the appropriate amount, and watch the darned thing assemble the volume for you right there. It's one of the technology-driven changes shaking up the previously staid world of book-delivery, along with e-books and who knows what else. It won't be long until we're vaping Dickens.

But what, we wondered, are people actually printing out on the Espresso Book Machine? After all, there are millions of books available, from classics in the public domain to volumes made available by publishers willing to try this new avenue of distribution. Are there any trends?

Says Drew Cohen, co-operator of the machine (with partner Scott Seeley), "The majority of our print business has been self-publishing, rather than purchases from the commercial catalogue." No surprise, I suppose, and not just because Generation Selfie is ascendant now — for writers of any vintage loitering outside publishing's traditional farm system, their pile of rejection slips growing, it must be encouraging to finally be able to hold an actual physical copy of your book, to give it to friends, to (maybe!) sell a few copies, to mail some to reluctant book-review editors.

Which isn't to say there haven't been sales from the commercial catalogue, and, as it happens, among those there is a curious trend.

"This makes sense," Cohen says, "given that we're sandwiched between mixology bars — among the commercial books, we've discovered that cocktail books have been some of the most popular. We've sold multiples of Just Cocktails: A Bartender's Guide, a gem originally compiled and edited by W.C. Whitfield in 1939. It has lots of goofy illustrations. And then The Café Royal Cocktail Book, originally of 1937, has closely followed. Used copies of these books sell for over $50, so they are great examples of the sort of thing you can find for much cheaper on the Machine. One of our bartenders at Inspire actually bought 10 copies of Just Cocktails in one go."

So, Drew, what are your top three sellers

"Our top 3 sellers: (1) Just Cocktails: A Bartender's Guide; (2) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass; (3) The Café Royal Cocktail Book."

If you're like me, you're thinking, I really SHOULD return Alice in Wonderland to the library. But also, I wonder what other books I can finally get my hands on.


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Desert vs. climate change: Fight!
by Andrew Kiraly | posted April 9, 2014
Trees, trees, trees. Everyone is crazy about trees. Okay, I get it. They’re these big, green, leafy things that look pretty, create shade and attract birds and picnickers. They grow fruit — it’s like a vending machine provided by Mother Nature! — and even their blood can be tasty on pancakes. They’re also often affectionately cited as an effective Band-Aid for global climate change, as trees — provided they’re in the right location, such as the equator — sponge up carbon emissions and generate moisture, which in turn helps spawn clouds that act like big reflective windowshades, making for an overall cooling effect. You go, trees. 
 
Intuitively, you might think it follows that desert — really, if you think about it, the anti-tree — has nothing positive whatsoever to contribute to putting the brakes on global climate change. Deserts just kind of sit around and be all hot and dusty, right? Not necessarily. A new study that considers some research done in our own backyard has found that arid deserts act as sinks or traps for carbon emissions, absorbing a significant amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. From an NBC story on the study:
The findings indicate that these arid ecosystems are "significant, previously unrecognized sinks" for atmospheric carbon dioxide, Evans and colleagues write in a paper published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.
 
Analysis of the data indicates that desert ecosystems may increase their carbon uptake in the future to account for 15 to 28 percent of the carbon currently being absorbed by land surfaces. Overall, according to the paper, rising carbon dioxide levels may increase the uptake by arid land enough to account for 4 to 8 percent of current emissions.
 
The team found that most of the carbon was being taken up by soil microbes that surround the roots of plants. In contrast, forest ecosystems tend to store carbon in the plants themselves.
That’s the good news — that is, uh, if there is any good news in this. The bad news, of course, is that the rapidly accelerating rate of carbon emissions almost renders the sponging effect of deserts — and perhaps even trees — largely moot. 
The effect is "unlikely to ever be as large with gradually increasing carbon dioxide," noted Field, who runs a project where similar enrichment experiments are conducted on a grassland ecosystem. Field is also the lead author of a new Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change report warning that the risks of climate change are rapidly accelerating.
 
"It is worth noting that, although the sink in this experiment is significant, it is … about tenfold less than typical sinks in young forested ecosystems not exposed to elevated carbon dioxide," Field said, adding that "the bottom line is that deserts will not save us from climate change."

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How to turn a science geek into a rock star
by Heidi Kyser | posted April 7, 2014

As U.C. San Diego research scientist Albert Yu Min Lin walked out of a Sandy Searles Miller Academy classroom that had been converted into a science fair space, one fifth-grade girl, who’d just presented her project to Lin, turned to another and whisper-yelled, “He patted my shoulder! Did you see?” The other girl, upon learning from a teacher that Lin would be staying to interact with students some more after lunch, threw her hands in the air and squealed, “This is the best Thursday ever!”

What does it take to get elementary-school kids as excited about a scientist as you would expect them to be about One Direction? Here’s a step-by-step guide, based on what I observed at Sandy Miller on Thursday, March 27:

1. Enlist the help of a relevant institution, such as DRI, which has the means and mission to promote scientific inquiry in the community. DRI named Lin its 2014 Nevada Medalist, an award acknowledging extraordinary contributions in science, and helped the school integrate Lin’s research into its curriculum. Lin’s visit to Sandy Miller coincided with his trip to Las Vegas for the awards dinner.

2. Pick someone like Dr. Lin, a National Geographic explorer whose Indiana Jones-like passion for adventure and discovery make him an appealing figure to kids. When he walked into the multipurpose room filled with first- through fifth-graders that morning, they jumped to their feet and welcomed him with thundering applause. “Who here is a scientist?” he bellowed into a mic, once the kids were seated. Every hand shot into the air.

3. Weave your hero’s work through every lesson. At Sandy Miller, students learned history through the life of Genghis Khan, for whose tomb Lin has been searching for several years; they learned geography and language by studying Khan’s tribe and homeland in Mongolia; they learned science by reading about and watching videos of Lin’s high-tech exploration of the area where he believed the tomb was located.

4. Bring it to life. Sandy Miller students did several hands-on projects building on or replicating Lin’s Genghis Khan work. They staged a mock trial of the 13th-century Asian imperialist, accusing him posthumously of crimes against humanity (he was found guilty); did an archaeological dig on school grounds to see what “artifacts” turned up; learned how to fly a small drone, one example of the technology used in Lin’s quest; and invented tools they believed could help further Lin’s work (one, a crawling robot designed to enter tight spaces and take pictures, was the brainchild of the girl who got so excited about Lin’s praise).

5. Top it all off with a big bash. By the time Lin arrived at Sandy Miller, kids there had been learning about him and Genghis Khan for more than two months. They’d prepared for Lin’s arrival by arranging the science fair, making bulletin-board presentations of the trial and so on. They’d written questions to ask him about his work (Q: “At what age did you start caring about Genghis Khan?” A: “Around your age, actually.”). As teachers tried to usher classes out of the multipurpose room following the assembly, several kids dawdled, still hoping for a chance to get their question in.

“I have been blown away by this school,” Lin told them, “because of your attitude toward science. In all this state, this is the best place I’ve been.”


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Run, tortoise, run!
by By Heidi Kyser | posted April 1, 2014

The Nevada desert tortoise faces contemporary foes that are apparently – given the rapid rate of their recent decline in numbers – more daunting than the meat-eating sharks and egg-poaching seabirds that have preyed on their aquatic relatives for 65 million years. For instance: cattle ranchers and solar arrays.

Adding to the fracas over Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy’s refusal to pay for, or vacate, BLM land on which his cattle graze, the Center for Biological Diversity has filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue several federal agencies if they don’t kick Bundy’s herd off the land. The reason? The cows are hogging all the grass. “As they emerge form their winter sleep,” writes an outraged Rob Mrowka, “[the tortoises] are finding their much-needed food consumed by cattle.”

As if that weren’t bad enough, the explosion of solar development in the Mojave Desert is not just driving tortoises out of the natural habitat; it’s also killing them, writes Peter Laufer for High Country News. He says the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System at the California-Nevada border has claimed “several score desert tortoises” as its victims, and that if solar development continues at its current pace, it could wipe out the venerable Gopherus agassizii.

The problem seems to be part apathy, part money. Federal funding for programs to protect the tortoise, once the poster-boy of Mojave conservation efforts, dried up along with development during the recession. The BLM’s Desert Tortoise Conservation Center is scheduled to close in December of this year “due to funding issues,” according to a statement on its website.

One bit of good news: The Las Vegas Springs Preserve is getting a tortoise habitat later this year. The planned 65-acre area may not be enough to reverse the havoc wreaked on the species by development and outdoor recreation, and it won’t be an adoption or drop-off site for wayward tortoises (for that, see the Tortoise Group). But it could, at least, provide some much-needed public awareness. 


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Nevada grad schools under the microscope
by Heidi Kyser | posted March 24, 2014

UNLV’s communications office recently trumpeted the seven university programs – business administration, civil engineering, earth sciences, fine arts, law, nursing and sociology – that broke the top 100 in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Grad Schools rankings. Kudos, UNLV!

But wait… there’s more. The full ranking is broken up into several categories and a multitude of sub-categories, some of which go well beyond a top 100. This beast of an analysis, encompassing more than 1,300 programs in all, deserves a closer look, especially considering UNLV’s current push for Tier 1 status, which relies heavily on strong graduate schools with robust research programs.

For instance, UNLV touted its part-time MBA program as being ranked 94th (that’s out of 208 total, whose rankings are published). It’s worth noting that Lee Business School doesn’t offer a full-time program, so the university isn’t included among the 104 of those ranked by U.S. News.

It’s also useful to put the rankings in some context. It would be too labor-intensive to do a full comparison between UNLV and all its out-of-state comparables, such as Arizona State University and Colorado State University. But to start the conversation, here’s a snapshot of how UNLV stacks up against UNR in some main categories analyzed by U.S. News.

·      Business

o   Part-time: UNLV, 94; UNR not ranked (out of 208)

·      Education: UNLV, 147; UNR, 135 (out of 181)

·      Engineering: UNLV not ranked; UNR, 129 (out of 140)

·      Fine arts: UNLV, 93; UNR, 187 (out of 206)

·      Health

o   Nursing: UNLV, 99; UNR, 193 (out of 442)

o   Social Work: UNLV, 130; UNR, 148 (out of 200)

o   Physical Therapy: UNLV, 121; UNR not ranked (out of 172)

·      Law: UNLV, 83; UNR not ranked (out of 146)

·      Medicine: University of Nevada School of Medicine (listed as being in Reno) not ranked  (out of 82)

·      Public Affairs: UNLV, 121; UNR not ranked (out of 166)

·      Sciences

o   Biological: UNLV, 188; UNR, 175 (out of 224)

o   Chemistry: UNLV not ranked; UNR, 131 (out of 148)

o   Earth Sciences: UNLV, 88; UNR, 69, (out of 117)

o   Physics: UNLV not ranked; UNR, 131 (out of 142)

·      Social Sciences

o   English – UNLV, 113; UNR, 125 (out of 134)

o   Psychology – UNLV, 141; UNR, 132 (out of 214)

o   Sociology – UNLV, 94; UNR not ranked (out of 94)

 

This isn’t a comprehensive list. It doesn’t, for example, include sub-specialties, such as civil engineering, in which UNLV was ranked 99 out of 140, because there are simply too many of them. And some programs (e.g., computer science, economics, math, pharmacy, political science) are omitted because neither school was ranked.

On that note, a cursory review of the report indicates Nevada has far to go in making its graduate STEM education competitive on a national level. If our economic diversification requires a skilled science and technology workforce, as many business developers and economists would have us believe, then that would be a good place to start making improvements.


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Green mind
by Andrew Kiraly | posted March 18, 2014
If you ignore the current weather — brute, swooping shears of wind that are turning the hair of the public into hopeless clown frizz — you might have noticed that, otherwise, it’s feeling kinda springy of late. (Yeah, what was up with that 80-degree thing happening the other day? What was up with that sweating thing I was doing in my car? What was up with the sudden neck-tan?) Spring means it’s time to start thinking about getting your garden back in gear. Which means it’s also time for our semi-annual Desert Companion on Tour event at Plant World, featuring Norm Schilling of Schilling Horticulture sharing his wisdom, insight and heartwarming tales of yard-based adventures! Join us 9:30 a.m. Saturday, March 22 at Plant World Nursery on 5301 W. Charleston Blvd.! Coffee! Cookies! Fellow gardeners!
 
Typically, we gab for a while about spring planting tips, common gardening conundrums and Norm’s favorite plants, after which we take questions from the audience. But, hey, doesn’t hurt to ask ahead of time: What’s on your plants’ minds? We’re open to questions and topic ideas, so feel free to share them in the tiny Facebook-sanctioned box below!

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Five fine (non-boozy) Irish contributions to Vegas
by By Heidi Kyser | posted March 17, 2014

The Irish contribute more to Southern Nevada culture than brews and pubs. Yes, they contribute those, too. But if, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, you’re interested in consuming more than green beer, here are some good starting points:

Dancing: At least three schools — Scoil Rince Ni Riada Irish Dance, Sharon Lynn’s Celtic Crown and Carrolier Academy of Irish Dance – teach the spry step made famous by Michael Flatley. Who needs a river? Just dance!

Music: There is Celtic/Irish music to be taken in locally beyond high-profile bands such as Sin E Ri Ra (the house band for Nine Fine Irishmen in New York New York). They encompass a variety of styles, from Killian’s Angels’ energetic rock to the classical bagpiping of Chris Weidner (see him play on a hill above Las Vegas here). Search/book local Irish and Celtic acts at GigSalad.com.

People: Irish expats, you are not alone. See InterNations’ Irish Las Vegas page to search others of your kind. Or you could go straight to the Irish American Club of Las Vegas or the Las Vegas Celtic Society. For a more historical perspective, check out Michael Green’s chapter, “The Irish,” in the 2010 book More Peoples of Las Vegas.

Rugby!: We have our very own band of tough guys in short-shorts, the Las Vegas Irish RFC (although, judging from its photo stream, the style du jour dictates a hem-dropping under-garment). On its Facebook page, the group says it welcomes all players, as well as those interested in learning.

St. Baldrick’s: This global fight against childhood cancer has a Las Vegas edition, which takes place at McMullan’s Irish Pub (okay, so this one’s indirectly boozy). It’s currently ranked third by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, with 568 participants raising $419,887.


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The friend next door
by Heidi Kyser | posted March 14, 2014

Stop whining about people in Las Vegas being isolated behind their cinderblock walls and cast-iron gates, and start getting to know the folks on your own street! Such is the mandate of Nextdoor.com, a private, online social network for discrete clusters of homes throughout the country.

I signed up my downtown neighborhood, Crestview Estates, and am anxiously awaiting someone else to join, so we can start sharing dentist and restaurant recommendations, worrying over each other’s safety and gossiping about whose dog barks too much. The process is pretty easy — all that’s required beyond the usual profile information is some knowledge of your neighborhood’s boundaries and an ability to use a basic mapping tool.

I did stumble at first, though, believing my home to be in Marycrest. When I logged on, however, I gave my address and was invited to create a new neighborhood. My address, it seems, is two streets outside the “official” border of Marycrest, which someone else had already created.

This led me to wonder: Who determines the neighborhoods? If mine’s up for grabs, can I name it Heidiland? Or what if I disagree with whoever created Marycrest and want to redraw his boundary to include me?

I called up Frank DeFrancesco, a Nextdoor field organizer, who cleared things up. When someone creates a new neighborhood, he and other Nextdoor worker bees contact them to make sure they’re doing what works for best for everyone involved.

“We use city maps, historical data and talk to users,” DeFrancesco said. “In the downtown area, we try to make sure we get the neighborhoods exactly correct. I just met with someone yesterday from Huntridge Park. They’re set up, John S. Park is set up, Marycrest is set up ...”

He’s the one who told me I’m actually in Crestview Estates, not Marycrest, and suggested I use some street-specific information at VeryVintageVegas.com to delineate my new domain. Indeed, as soon as I was done, I got a friendly confirmation e-mail from DeFrancesco’s team. (He also suggested using the “help” button for other problems like those I had.)

Another thing set off some alarm bells during the setup process: numerous prompts to give up e-mail addresses of friends and neighbors, bringing others into the fold. DeFrancesco assured me this is only to increase participation (not having members defeats the purpose of a social network), and that the company does not share private information with third parties.

“We don’t want to sell lists to outside parties, have pop-up ads or anything annoying,” he said. “We want it to keep it private. When you sign up, you can’t even see what people in other neighborhoods are talking about, only in your own.”

So ... how will the company make money? DeFrancesco says it’s venture-capital funded to start, but eventually may include a business directory in which neighborhood shops and markets would pay to be listed.

The service recently launched in the top 40 cities in the U.S., and DeFrancesco says Las Vegas has been a little slow on the uptake. Some 100 local neighborhoods are registered out of a possible 400; Summerlin, Desert Shores and Scotch 80s are among the most active users.

 


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Home tweet home
by Andrew Kiraly | posted March 7, 2014

Remember homes? Yeah, those were the boxy things we lived in before 2008, when the economicocalypse swept us all away to Sad Poverty Island on a shrieking wave of robo-signed foreclosures. Okay, the housing crisis is no joking matter, especially given that Nevada is still holding on to its dubious No. 1 trophy in the foreclosure category, and that thousands of Nevada homeowners are still struggling to hold on to their pads. The state launched a program, Home Again Nevada, to help them do just that — as well fix their credit and modify their loans. Funded by the robosigning lawsuit settlement, the free program is basically a one-stop Q&A call-in center where troubled homeowners can find out what kind of non-scammy programs are out there to help. (I just called and, yes, an actual nice human answers, just bursting with helpfulness.)

This evening, though, the Nevada attorney general’s office is trying a decidedly more contemporary way to interface with the public — a Twitter town hall that happens tonight from 6-7p. All you have to do is tweet your question with the hashtag #AskHomeAgain — and social media-savvy housing counselors and credit experts with the Home Again Nevada program will shoot you back an answer. If you’re old school and need to hear a human voice at the other end of your primal howl of frustration, you can always call Home Again Nevada directly at 1-855-457-4638. Like I said, yeah, actual nice humans.


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Downtown of the future
by Heidi Kyser | posted March 5, 2014

A new City of Las Vegas website shows just how great things will be when you’re downtown ... a few months or years from now. Called Your Downtown, it’s a compendium of infrastructure construction projects scheduled in the city's core. It’s as straightforward as it is useful, giving succinct names, locations, descriptions and durations of bike lane improvements, median upgrades, sidewalk infills and the like. A keyed, color-coded map summarizes everything tidily

In case you’re wondering – no, other Las Vegas neighborhoods don’t get the same treatment. Why is downtown singled out? Over the next 3-5 years, a majority of downtown streets will be revamped, said Jorge Cervantes, Las Vegas’ executive director of community development. With the area’s redevelopment in full bloom, and concerts, parades, fun-runs and other cultural events going on constantly, the city needed a way to communicate construction plans with business owners and event planners. Cervantes hopes the site will help all those involved work together to avoid headaches before they happen.

For now, there’s no way for the public to comment, ask questions or give tips about scheduled projects on the site, but Cervantes said his office would explore adding a feedback mechanism. As for other neighborhoods, they will soon get an interactive Google-type map showing capital improvements detailed in pop-up boxes. Now, if the city can get to work on an app that fixes potholes ...


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Snap it up
by Andrew Kiraly | posted March 4, 2014

Hello! The Desert Companion "Focus on Nevada" photo contest website is now open for your photo-uploading, contest-entering pleasure. This is our second annual contest — and even saying that feels weird, because, frankly, we had little idea of what to expect when we did the first one last year. In an age when the Internet serves as this vast, unsleeping factory constantly churning out images and memes -- which are as rapidly consumed as they are produced -- would the idea of a contest seem somehow out of touch with the tempo of modern life, anachronistic, retrograde? And one whose results appear primarily in print? We shrugged and hit the launch button.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2013 smartphone entry, "Pool," by Ginger Bruner

Well, any unspoken reservations or nervousness we had utterly vaporized when the entries started rolling in -- more than 1,500 total! -- and we began sifting through virtual piles of amazing images, from I-know-breathtaking-is-a-cliche-but-I-really-did-lose-my-breath Nevada landscapes to startlingly fresh portraits of the people of Las Vegas.

2013 honorable mention, professional, "Cowboys," by Antonio Gomez

This year, we're adjusting the recipe just a bit -- you'll notice when you visit the website. Instead of categorizing by skill level (professional, semi-pro, amateur, etc.), we're instead categorizing by theme -- landscapes, people, artistic, etc.; see the website for the complete list of categories. Entrants will still enter their skill level, but this time around, it'll serve more as a piece of wonky supplemental info along the lines of camera type, lens specs, and stuff like that. However, we kept the smartphone category, since it is, really, the de facto everyday imaging devices that's always at hand for creating ad hoc digital eye-candy. (Until we all begin shuffling through the streets as Google Glass zombies.)

2013 second-place winner, semi-pro, "CityCenter," by Susan Link

Also this year, we're empaneling (I always wanted to use that word!) a, uh, panel of judges to winnow the work. As yet unempaneled (!), the judges will include photographers, designers, artists and just people we think have really good taste. Watch the website for updates on the judges and the prizes!

Okay, enough blather. Send us your photos! The deadline is May 5. If you have any questions or the contest website explodes in your face, email us at editor@desertcompanion.com.


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Vape virgin
by Heidi Kyser | posted February 27, 2014

 

In Desert Companion's March issue, due out any moment — stake out your favorite Jamba Juice or Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf now! — staff writer Heidi Kyser examines vaping, also known as e-cigarettes, the buzzy alternative to smoking. (Vape lounges are puffing up everywhere.) As part of her research she tried it herself. Her account:

I examine the guy across the counter from me at Las Vegas Vape Lounge — bad teeth, double-aught ear gauges, trucker cap reading, “I (heart) Haters” — and chicken out.

“No, thanks,” I say, declining his offer to let me try vaping, no charge.

Massive intrepid-reporter fail. I blame the guy, Matt, for springing this on me unexpectedly. It’s my first day reporting a story on e-cigarettes and my first time in a vape lounge, period. I was only planning to check out the scene … not get crazy with the nicotine.

The real reason, though, is my reputation as a health-conscious vegetarian, recreational cyclist and part-time yoga teacher. What would my students and biking buddies (not to mention my nieces and nephews on Facebook) say if they saw a pillar of clean living such as me sucking up a bunch of nasty chemicals?

They’d be less shocked than my friends from L.A., that’s for sure. Unlike most people, I gave up vices when I moved to Las Vegas, rather than making a second career of them. Going out late, overeating and -drinking, smoking, sleeping late — some people associate such excesses with Sin City. For me, they conjure up visions of West Hollywood.

Still, I’m a professional. After a couple weeks of stewing in the fog of e-cigarettes, I face facts: My story won’t be complete until I see what all the fuss is about for myself. So, I carefully plan my foray into vaping. I track down a spot favored by Yelpers, Yosi Vapor Lounge, which is credited with being newbie-friendly. And I recruit Desert Companion photographer Brent Holmes to come along, which is both comforting and mortifying. My smoking will be memorialized in pictures, but at least I won’t be going in the place alone.

Following a crash-course in vape devices and accessories, Yosi’s head of social media, Alan Phu, asks if I’m ready to give it a try. Sure, I say. Hook me up.

As I muster my resolve and straighten my hair for the camera, he explains that he’ll be loading a variable voltage unit, the favored model for beginners (mechanical mods are for aficianados). Based on my preference for fruit flavors, he’ll go with an apricot-flavored juice.

“What’s the nicotine content?” I ask.

“Zero,” he says.

What? I feel a whiff of indignation — not because I won’t experience the effects of the drug, but because I can tell Phu thinks I’m not up to it.

“We always give nonsmokers zero-percent samples,” he explains. Okay, that makes sense; if I’m not a nicotine user anyway, then I won’t know the difference. The insulted part of me gives way to the health nut, and I breathe a sigh of relief.

Then comes the actual puff. Phu shows me how to moisten the coil, sets the device on 4.2 out of 5 and tells me to take a big drag – but not too big. I obey, and velvety steam rolls down my throat, warming my upper chest. I get a split-second taste of apricot streudel, and exhale. Brent fires off click after click as I take a second drag, then a third.

That’s when the hint of chemical burn hits my throat. Something smells funny — like apricots soaked in lighter fluid. Phu says I might not have gotten enough juice in the coil. He examines the vape, asking if I want to try again. No, I’m all set. We thank him, gather our equipment and head out.

The burn in my throat worsens over the afternoon and doesn’t finally dissipate for a couple of days. And that’s not the only reason I won’t vape again. Having given it a try, I sort of get the appeal, but it doesn’t seem justified by the cost.

Maybe I’m too old or too healthy. Maybe I’m just cheap. Either way, vaping won’t be the vice that ruins my virtuous Vegas reputation.


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When art is kids' stuff
by Andrew Kiraly | posted February 20, 2014
When is the right time to start exposing your kid to art? My completely unfounded and suspect advice: short of rubbing a Francis Bacon against your distended, baby-rich belly, it’s never too early. Alas, Las Vegas can be a difficult place for putting kids in front of art. First Friday suggests itself as an obvious opportunity ... but then you imagine the terrifying prospect of watching your little one being whisked away on a human Jordan River of hipster beards and Stella bottles. Preview Thursday? Perhaps, though it's happily developed more of an adult, connoisseurish vibe. And sure, there are countless finger-painting and clay-pounding courses out there. But what about something with a bit more ... artsiness? It’s a question worth asking, particularly as urban Las Vegas repopulates with people who presumably value arts, culture and community. Ostensibly, those people would want to spoon into their offspring some kid-friendly portions of the same.
 
Here’s a promising entry: Toddler Tours at UNLV’s Barrick Museum. It’s part read-along, part art-gazing and part activity hour. Barrick staff read Lucy Micklethwait's book “I Spy Shapes in Art,” employing Brian Porray’s large collage work, “-(\DARKHOR5E/)-” to lead kids in a shape-hunting exercise. (And if you’ve seen this collage, there are a lot of shapes going on.) Then, kids and parents are cut loose to make their own collages from an assortment of pre-cut shapes. It happens 1p on the second Saturday of every month at Barrick.
 
(And if you’re feeling ambitious and you think you’ve got a budding Matisse on your hands, you can always check out Barrick’s current exhibit, “Art for Art’s Sake,” on display through April 26, as well.)

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An offer he didn't refuse
by Scott Dickensheets | posted February 11, 2014

It’s always nice to see a bit of reverse brain-drain when a talented person actually returns to Las Vegas. It's like an intellectual return-flow credit that helps balance all the smart people who’ve left for good. That’ll happen later this month when my old pal Geoff Schumacher comes back to his longtime home to become the Mob Museum’s director of content development, a newly created position.

Need a memory prod? Geoff was a longtime journalist in Southern Nevada — at the Las Vegas Sun; as the editor and later publisher of Las Vegas CityLife (where he hired me as editor), as well as other Stephens Media niche publications. You might remember him as a rare voice-of-reason columnist in the paper’s op-ed cuckoo’s nest, back when it was really squawking. He wrote a definitive volume of local history, Sun, Sin & Suburbia: The History of Modern Las Vegas, and a comprehensive account of Howard Hughes’ Vegas years, Howard Hughes: Power, Paranoia & Palace Intrigue. In 2011, Geoff left to run Stephens’ newspapers in Iowa. But just when he thought he was out for good, Vegas is bringing him back, this time to indulge his love of Vegas history.

So, aside from trying on mob-style nicknames — I picture him weighing “Baby Face” Schumacher against “Pretty Boy” Schumacher — what will he do as director of content development? “The contents of the museum were assembled and fashioned into the current exhibits by expert contractors brought in before the museum's opening,” he explains. “They did a fantastic job, but here we are two years later, and it's time to think about how the museum will evolve going forward. It can't remain static. So one of my key jobs will be to come up with new exhibits and take the lead in determining how new stories will be told in the museum.” He’ll also work on the museum’s website, public events, educational materials and the acquisition and verification of new items for display.

“It’s not that different, really,” he says of the switch to mob scholarship from newspapering, his career for 25 years. “I still will be writing, editing, telling stories. Accuracy remains an essential tenet of this work. I will delve even deeper into history than I was before.”

"We are delighted that Geoff Schumacher is returning to Las Vegas to join The Mob Museum," says Executive Director and CEO Jonathan Ullman. "Geoff will bring a wealth of knowledge, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to a newly created position leading the development of content for our onsite and online experiences. Geoff is a scholar and an expert storyteller, both of which will translate perfectly into the museum environment."

Says Mob Museum board member and historian Michael Green: “We hired him for his looks.” (Sounds like a vote for “Pretty Boy”! Adds Green, "At least he isn't Scarface.")

Seriously, though, “Geoff has an incredible knowledge of the area’s history, and that includes the roles played by law enforcement and organized crime not just in Southern Nevada, but everywhere else," Green says. "His journalism background means that he knows how to communicate with the public — and that's so important to what a museum like this one does.

"It's also great that he's coming home.”


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A seedy idea that just might roll
by Andrew Kiraly | posted February 10, 2014
Sure, robots are going to revolutionize labor, commerce, war, agriculture and industry but, admit it, a lot of us are just looking forward to having a sentient Furby butler that’ll fold all our laundry and make perfect coq au vin. Perhaps our default posture as consumers spoiled by the cult of convenience (“But what can robots do for me?”) and the media’s enshrinement of Silicon Valley as some geek oracle of truth and beauty cloud the abiding fact that technology can, like, solve big problems
 
Now, we’ve seen all-terrain horse robots, creepy disembodied mouthbots, even test models of the Amazon Prime Air delivery drone (aaah! convenience from above!), and they all, each in their own way, are simultaneously cute and chilling. But — to put a common-good, collective first-person spin on things — what can robots do for us? You know, on a scale of global impact and improving the lives of millions? Enter a robot conceived around that familiar trope of Wild West films and "Road Runner" cartoons: the Tumbleweed. Developed by Shlomi Mir, the Tumbleweed is a passive, wind-blown robot designed to spread seeds in order to halt erosion and combat desertification.
Instead of using solar panels or generators to create electricity to power motors (inherently inefficient), the round shape of the Tumbleweed and the arrangement of the sails allow it to catch the wind and roll in any direction at great speed. While in motion, a kinetic generator produces enough energy to power the onboard computer, sensors, and motor.
 
Like a hot air balloon, the Rover cannot control its exact path, but can decide when to move with the wind and when to wait for it to blow in a favorable direction. When it reaches an area suitable for planting, it releases the correct type of seeds.
The fact that it looks like an umbrella from the future in a cool cybernetic exoskeleton is no accident: the Tumbleweed is a relatively simple, light machine that uses the wind to power itself. The visual shout-out to that prickly, rolling icon of the desert is a pleasing bonus. Mir continues to pursue development of the Tumbleweed as a tool to fight the agricultural ravages of desertification — and, who knows, given our own region’s chronic drought woes, the Tumbleweed might someday find a reason to roll to work in our own backyard

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The outsider syndrome
by Heidi Kyser | posted February 6, 2014

Dear Las Vegas,

It’s been 10 years (officially, as of Feb. 1), since I moved here. When will I fit in? I’ve learned the difference between Lake Mead Boulevard and Lake Mead Parkway. I’ve been here long enough to own an underwater house and remember when First Friday was still cool. But, somehow, I still stick out.

Please help,

Heidi

***

Dear Heidi,

Given the high turnover, you’re not the first to suffer from Las Vegas Outsider Syndrome. To help those in your situation, I’ve developed the following checklist. According to local custom, you have another 10 years — the time by which one becomes an honorary native — to complete each item.

Good luck!

Las Vegas

  • Learn the stealth way in and out of every parking garage on the Strip.
  • Adopt a story about “opening” one of the landmark hotels, to tell when it gets imploded. (Remember, simply having been inside the hotel, in some professional capacity, within a week of its opening date qualifies.)
  • Cultivate strong opinions about policy, but refuse to openly embrace any political party.
  • Remember: Rebels basketball, good; Rebels football, bad.
  • Dress like an Angeleno ... from a year ago.
  • Correct a know-it-all visitor or East Coast columnist on this point: Bugsy Siegel didn’t “make” Las Vegas or The Strip; Meyer Lansky did.
  • Feign reverence for the Double Down Saloon as the greatest dive bar on Earth.
  • Complain about the need for better public transportation, but drive your car to the convenience store on the corner.
  • Recall a subdivision as a place where you used to ride your bike when — of course — “there was nothing out there but desert.”

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Biking back to the roots
by Heidi Kyser | posted February 3, 2014

The RTC’s annual cycle-fest, Viva Bike Vegas, is on hold for 2014. Long-distance road bikers will have to get their century fixes somewhere other than Las Vegas – at least for the time being. But, in the long run, this may not be such a bad thing.

The ride originated with the Las Vegas Valley Bicycle Club, a community-minded band of bicyclers who devote as much time to advocacy as to spin class. The RTC got involved as a headline sponsor for the club’s Las Vegas Century, and then, in 2008, took over organizing the ride itself. Change ensued – much of it meant to raise the event’s profile. Over the years, the transportation agency changed the name to Viva Bike Vegas, staged it on The Strip, added varying distances (ranging from 17 to 100-plus miles), moved the date to coincide with cycling-industry trade show Interbike, persuaded big-name professional cyclists and bike brands to participate, and enlisted Zappos.com as a platinum sponsor.

It worked. The event grew from a few hundred locals to several thousand people from all over the world. Last year, Outside Magazine picked it as one of the top 10 gran fondos (“big rides”) in the U.S.

But did this make it better? Depends whom you ask. Out-of-town cyclists, who saw the event as an excuse for a trip to Sin City, have expressed disappointment at its postponement. Many local riders, on the other hand, say they won’t miss the overcrowded, overpriced scene that Viva Bike Vegas had become.

I finished the full-distance ride in 2012, my first and only Viva Bike Vegas. When my riding buddies asked if I’d tackle it again last year, I declined, opting instead for a women-only century in Northern Utah. Compared to similar rides I’ve done in Central and Southern California, Viva Bike Vegas is a great route – challenging and picturesque – and the event is well-organized. I simply prefer not having to elbow my way through a scrum of newbies on a major tourist thoroughfare in order to break through to the good stuff.

The RTC says it will shift its focus this year to “community cycling activities and initiatives, including several smaller rides throughout the year.” It doesn’t mention motivation, but, regardless of what’s going on behind the scenes, the end result is the same: a return to the ride’s roots. Here’s hoping the community will embrace the renewed locals focus as enthusiastically as visitors jumped into the gran fondo fray.


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A drop of things to come
by Heidi Kyser | posted January 29, 2014

Buried in President Obama’s 12-page State of the Union Address were these few lines: “But we have to act with more urgency – because a changing climate is already harming Western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods. That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air.”

This bit likely went unnoticed by most Americans, who are more concerned (justifiably) about the minimum wage, unemployment insurance and other issues the president raised that directly affect their livelihoods. But the POTUS’ nod to the water shortage in cities like Las Vegas caps a wave of attention to the crisis, a few drops of which have hit me already this year.

First, there was Michael Wines’ Jan. 5 piece in the New York Times, which spelled out – in for-dummies style – the growing gap between supply and demand of Colorado River water, with particular attention to the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s role in bridging that gap. Then, this week, came High Country News editor Jonathan Thompson’s more nuanced look at how real live Southern Nevadans experience (or ignore, as the case may be) our vexed relationship with H2O. And now, the State of the Union mention.

At the risk of sounding like an alarmist … oh, wait! I don’t have to sound the alarm; I’ll just quote Kenneth G. Ladd, interim director of the Nevada Center of Excellence on hydrological sciences, who told me over coffee last week, “Water is the next oil.”

If Ladd turns out to be right, you can bet our drought will get more than a half-paragraph in future presidents’ speeches. And, like the more pressing problems that Obama delegated to Congress last night, its solution will require much more than an executive order. New standards on carbon pollution may help brake the runaway train of climate change, but they won’t add a drop of the liquid gold we’ve already lost from Lake Mead.


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What ever happened to the Veterans Memorial park?
by David McKee | posted January 22, 2014

It's Saturday afternoon and Heritage Park is deserted, save for a custodian. Three picnic tables sit empty, as does a pockmarked jungle gym. The only sounds are a distant siren and the rustling of the wind in the fronds of the palm trees. Stashed behind the Mormon Fort and the Natural History Museum, Heritage Park seems forgotten. Will anyone care if it's razed to make room for an oversized war memorial? That would be the much-delayed Las Vegas Veterans Memorial, a large-scale tribute to America’s fighting men and women — a war memorial that’s been through a few skirmishes of its own.
 
The origins of the Veterans Memorial go back to November 2006, when the City of Las Vegas closed Huntridge Park, following a fatal altercation between two homeless men. The next month, gadfly Peter “Chris” Christoff pitched to the City Council that it be converted to a veterans’ memorial. (Much to the disappointment of Kasey Baker, who was behind the park’s whimsical, award-winning 2003 redesign.) Then-Mayor Oscar Goodman and then-Councilman Gary Reese were quickly on board with the idea, while then-Congresswoman Shelley Berkley demurred. In March of 2009, former American Shooters President Michael Millett threw American Shooters’ support behind the memorial, along with that of Performance FORCE Concepts (no longer connected with the project). In three months, four designs — chosen from 200 submissions — were brought before city officialdom. The selection committee, Las Vegas Arts Commission and the city chose the most representational design of the group, by artist Douwe Blumberg. It included 14 larger-than-life military statues representing various American wars. Goodman expressed the hope that it would be ready by Veterans Day, 2011 – excessive optimism, as it turned out: The City Council threw a monkey wrench into Blumberg’s plans when it opted to relocate the memorial to Heritage Park, where it would cover 1.5 acres. This was done to address a lack of parking near Huntridge, as well as other public-access issues. 
 
But since the shift, the waiting game continues. In August 2011, new American Shooters President Mick Catron was targeting February 2014 for completion of the monument. Blumberg thinks the end of 2014 is more likely and Catron representative Scott Tihano says both “We’re on schedule” and “We’re projecting fall/winter of 2015. We’ve got about five [statues] that have been cast,” with three that are at the foundry. 
 
“We are probably halfway done,” says Blumberg. “My original schedule called for it to be complete by the end of summer.” Of course, the park will also have to be landscaped, which is outside Blumberg’s remit. However, he expects some “practical differences” in the overall shape, even though the message will remain the same. 
 
What has never remained the same is the cost. Originally it was posited at $800,000, later settling into the $1.2 million-$1.4 million range. “Part of it is our utter inexperience at fundraising. There is a major learning curve,” says American Shooters Marketing Manager Jeremy Ng. What he thought would be a $2.5 million capital campaign has escalated. “I don’t think anybody is going to call a $5 million fundraising campaign an easy endeavor. We have not done this when there’s not been a recession.”
 
Tihano allows that fundraising is “certainly slower than we want.” He minimizes the cost – “a little over $5 million” – by saying it includes the value of the land which has been donated to American Shooters (and will, in time, be re-gifted to the City of Las Vegas), plus in-kind donations. He pegs the hard cost as $2.2 million, including a “buffer” for inflation.
 
A further monkey wrench in the works may be yet another relocation of the monument. “The group that’s putting this together would prefer to have it be directly on Las Vegas Boulevard,” says City Councilman Steve Ross. “We’re not unhappy with the locations that we have,” adds Catron, but he wants higher visibility for the memorial. “There may be some opportunity for site movement.” Indeed, if the Las Vegas 51s relocate to Summerlin, Ross foresees a scenario whereby — as the Cashman Field land is repurposed — the Veterans Memorial migrates to Las Vegas Boulevard. Indeed, the Las Vegas Veterans Memorial is proving to be a moving monument — but perhaps not in the way anybody intended. 
 

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R-J: Less is more! more! more!
by Andrew Kiraly | posted January 16, 2014

Today, in the dank, forbidding well that is usually the Review-Journal editorial section, there's a sunny-side-up editorial -- or maybe more like a happytorial! -- painting a smiley face on the latest round of layoffs that have ravaged the paper since the installation of new CEO Ed Moss. Outtake:

The Las Vegas Review-Journal today announced a sweeping staff reorganization aimed at improving coverage of several topics, including news, sports, features, politics, opinion, entertainment and betting.

We’ll have more reporters on the street covering things people care most about. We’ll provide more expertise and more hard-hitting content by going in-depth in some areas while adopting a more efficient production process.

In the days and weeks ahead, readers will notice changes in most sections of the Review-Journal, as well as improvements in online content. R-J online will become much more aggressive in coverage of betting, politics and Las Vegas entertainment.

It's one of the more aggressively enthusiastic -- nearly manically recitative -- manifestations of the usual corporate "we'll do more with less" mantra-chanting that typically follows a round of bloodletting. But, gotta say, amid all the blushing bromides, there are some indications of some actual thoughtful rechanneling of resources to something like (dreaded bizspeak cliché incoming) ... a leaner and meaner, reporter-focused operation? Could be. Assuming they're not just making stuff from play-pretend bonkersland, there's this:

Local government: Henderson and North Las Vegas: In addition to community news provided by the View newspapers, each of the suburban cities will receive more coverage from Review-Journal reporters.

Education: The Review-Journal now has two reporters assigned to this important beat.

Courts: Family Court has been rocked by scandal in recent months. Our two full-time court reporters will be joined by a third, who will focus on the most important trials and issues from the courts beat.

Transportation: One reporter will be assigned to a consolidated beat, which will include McCarran International Airport, issues related to taxis, the Regional Transportation Commission and Nevada Department of Transportation. The reporter on this beat also will write the Review-Journal’s popular Road Warrior commuter Q&A column.

And more flexibility with features:

Readers of the print edition will notice the biggest difference on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Going forward, those sections will not be dedicated to food and entertainment exclusively and instead will feature stories of all types.

Some things will remain the same. We plan to keep the Friday Neon magazine and the Monday Health section, and to keep popular columns in familiar places. But the topics covered on other days will be less regimented.

More, more, more! Of course, they don't talk about what'll be missing, which should quickly become apparent in the coming months. It's easy to read this and hop on the "leaner and meaner" flight to kumbayaville. But you have to wonder whether what we're seeing is not an evolution of the R-J, but a specific signal shift in a broader devolution in local media. With all the chatter in this dispatch about a renewed focus on news, in-depth stories and a refreshed commitment to features -- and a vow to make more frequent splashes on the Internet with news in a "blog-style format" (ah, the endearing fogeyisms of the R-J...), it almost sounds like the R-J is becoming ... hmmmm ... well, what the Las Vegas Sun morphed into in 2005 after the rejiggering of the JOA led to its insertion in the R-J -- instantly boosting its circulation, removing the onus of being an info-grind daily, allowing a focus on deep newsgathering, and ushering in an all-too-brief Sun renaissance that led to its 2009 Pulitzer -- that is, not a well-staffed, well-funded newspaper of record, but maybe something slightly less -- and interesting kind of less, but still less. The other part of that devolution is, of course, the looming and increasingly likely scenario that the Sun may just relaunch as a weekly paper. More with less, maybe, but that more is, well, less.

 

 

 


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Meet the new water boss
by Heidi Kyser | posted January 15, 2014

Before he began speaking at the breakfast meeting of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance on Tuesday, John Entsminger took a drink. He said he had a cold, but the real reason for the sip was the subsequent Marco Rubio joke — a much-needed ice-breaker for Entsminger’s first public appearance since the Clark County Commissioners’ Jan. 7 vote dubbing him Pat Mulroy’s replacement as general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Mulroy’s careful grooming of Entsminger showed in both his close adherence to her agenda and his skillful avoidance of the Big Questions.

He began by reminding the audience that, when demand outstrips supply — as is the case with the thirst of Colorado River Basin dwellers and the river’s flow — there are only three things to do: use less, acquire more and/or make delivery more efficient.

For the first option, conservation, the Water Authority will continue to take aim at lawns, Entsminger said. While rural areas pour their Colorado River water allotments on alfalfa and pasture grass, municipalities dump theirs on fescue and Kentucky bluegrass. Turf, then, is low-hanging fruit in Las Vegas conservation efforts. As for acquiring more water, Entsminger hastily affirmed the continued existence of the “in-state project” (known alternatively as the “water grab”), which would pipe water from the basin and range land of Central and Eastern Nevada south to greater Las Vegas. And making delivery of the water more efficient is the purpose of the Authority’s facilities projects, such as the third intake into Lake Mead that’s under construction.

Entsminger didn’t offer insight into the wrenches recently thrown in his tidy three-wheeled gears. In December, for instance, opponents of the water pipeline won a court victory, when a Nevada district judge overturned the state engineer’s approval of SNWA’s plan. The month before, contractors working on the third intake asked the Authority’s board for funds to get it through a 13-month construction delay.

Of course, as any city dweller who’s had her subway commute rerouted during road improvements will tell you, surprises are in the DNA of public works projects. That’s not the juicy part of what Entsminger left out. This is: If snow-melt from the Rockies hits worst-case-scenario projections,  declines in the water levels at Lakes Mead and Powell could trigger emergency measures among Colorado River Basin states (read: water rationing) within the next few years. What would these emergency measures look like? How would they be implemented here in Southern Nevada?

In a crisis situation, all bets are usually off. It’s safe to assume Entsminger’s three-pronged approach to supply and demand would take a back seat to some fast and furious negotiating with his counterparts in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. That’s when we’d see what the new water boss is really made of.


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Your last, "best" chance
by Andrew Kiraly | posted January 6, 2014

It's the last day to vote in our Desert Companion Best of the City 2014 Readers' Poll — so put on your voting hat, or get your voting finger ready, or do whatever you do when you take online polls — and share your thoughts on what you think is the best of the city.

What's the best pizza? The best hair salon? The best pizza served by a hair salon? Take our quick, easy, alarmingly fun poll and tell us.

We'll share readers' picks in the February Desert Companion. Best of all, three lucky survey-takers will win a share of $500 in dining certificates for great grub at some fine local restaurants.

Don't delay — the polls close today. Vote now!


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Tell Desert Companion what's best -- you could be a winner!
by Andrew Kiraly | posted December 4, 2013
Who’s got the best pizza in town? What’s the best park? Where’s the best yoga studio? Tell us what YOU think is best in our 2014 Desert Companion Best of the City Readers’ Poll. It’s fun! It’s fast! It’s easy! It’s filled with exclamation points! And you may just win dinner on us!
 
Take our online poll now to tell us what’s best — from dining and drinking to arts and culture to shopping and leisure. Best of all, you’ll be entered to win a dining certificate worth up to $300 at a great local restaurant. 
 
Take the survey now! Don’t delay! The deadline is January 6. Happy besting!

 


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A different kind of photo opportunity
by Lisa Kelly | posted October 21, 2013

Join us as we kick off the Desert Companion Photo Exhibit on Tour at Green Valley Library on November 7 from 6pm – 8pm. Come out and enjoy complimentary coffee and cookies, great company, all while you feast your eyes on the fabulous photography. 

The photo showcase event features eye-catching photos from the recent Desert Companion "Focus on Nevada" Photo Contest and brilliant photography from Desert Companion past and present. We had such a great response, we're taking the show on the road. The first stop for our photo showcase is the Green Valley Library. Come out and enjoy the exhibit anytime between November 1 – December 31 during regular business hours at the Green Valley Library!


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Before you pick up that rake, listen to this man
by Andrew Kiraly | posted September 17, 2013
Whether you're a hardcore green thumb or a casual gardener, you'll want to join us 9:30 a.m. Sept. 21 at Plant World for our next Desert Companion on Tour event. We'll be talking to horticulture expert Norm Schilling, who'll share expert tips on fall planting, yard care and how to prune like a pro. 
 
Got a tough gardening question or just want to get some sound advice on great options for fall planting? Come on out, enjoy complimentary coffee, nice weather and take in the infinite, chlorophyll-rich wisdom of Nevada Public Radio "Desert Bloom" commentator Norm Schilling. 
 
It happens at Plant World Nursery (5301 W. Charleston Blvd., 878-9485, plantworldnursery.com) 9:30 a.m. Saturday, September 21.

 


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Too much (Vegas!) TV
by Lissa Townsend Rodgers | posted September 9, 2013
It’s a sure bet your favorite TV show has done its “Vegas” turn. Check out the latest issue for our roundup of classic “Vegas” episodes of everything from “The Twilight Zone” to “Charlie’s Angels” to “The Family Guy” to ... well, fitting them all in was harder than watching a “Silver Spoons” marathon. Here are two we couldn’t wedge in: When Kojak came to town — well, by phone, anyway — and when Vegas appeared in “Crime Story.” 
 
Kojak
“A House of Prayer, a Den of Thieves,” Season 3, Episode 13
Original airdate: December 14, 1975
This one opens with a gloriously authentic tracking shot of vintage Fremont Street, from the old big-topped Plaza to the parabolic Mint. We eagerly await the iconic shot of a lollipop-sucking Telly Savalas rolling through Caesar’s, but it does not come. Indeed, Kojak literally phones in most of his role from a NYC office – which wouldn’t be odd if it weren’t for the fact that they did bother to get footage of him at McCarran Airport.
 
The actual star here is Vincent Gardenia as an ex-Metro detective who’s an old buddy of Kojak’s. This show was obviously intended as potential spinoff fodder: Gardenia’s crotchety detective comes complete with two sidekicks – a wisecracking cocktail waitress and beleaguered pit boss who help — as well as an adorable nephew. The title begs to be attached to a true crime novel or prog rock album and the plot is a bit of a mishmash of counterfeiters, murders and ripping of the collection plate at an evangelist’s revival meeting. But it’s soaked in Vegas atmosphere, from waking up beside a dice clock to 103 degree temperatures to watching washed-up comics audition in the big room. As a guy in drag swings upside down from a trapeze while playing a bass fiddle, Gardenia smiles, sighs and says, “Sometimes this town makes the rest of the world seem very sane.”
 
Crime Story
“The Battle of Las Vegas,” Season 1, Episode 17
Original airdate: February 6, 1987
This Michael Mann-produced drama told the story of a cop and his mobster nemesis, set in a pink-and-turquoise eighties version of the early sixties. At the end of season one, several episodes moved the narrative from Chicago to Las Vegas as the outfit closed in on controlling the Lucky Star Casino. The Versailles Room may be ersatz, but that really is the El Cortez marquee glowing in the background and the opening is a symphony of glowing downtown neon and shining Cadillac tailfins.
 
“The Battle of Las  Vegas” refers to mobster Anthony Denison’s attempt to take over the resort workers’ union, and the attempts of cop Dennis Farina — back when only his sideburns were gray — to stop him. As you can imagine, things become heated and whenever a union president gets run over in a back alley, you can see as plain as the whitewall tracks on his back that it wasn’t no accident. A crucial role is played by punk rock icon Lee Ving as a corrupt union executive, having secret meetings and giving crazy speeches in a pompadour and shiny suit — directed to or not, he comes off an awful lot like Robert DeNiro. Crime Story was known for its interesting cameos and in the next episode, Debbie Harry pops up as the most expensive hooker in Vegas – not singing, but alternately imperious, bratty, seductive and frightened enough to be alluring without her siren’s act.
 

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What's your favorite photo? Vote now!
by Andrew Kiraly | posted June 11, 2013
When you’re done oohing and aahing over our June photo issue, take a moment to vote for your favorite photo entry in our "Focus on Nevada" contest. Visit our “Readers’ Choice” ballot online, where we feature the winners as well as honorable mentions we couldn’t cram into the magazine. Voting is free, easy and fun, and you’ll be entered to win a $100 dining certificate at a great Vegas restaurant. Just visit desertcompanion.com/photocontest/vote and start clicking. Voting ends June 30.
 
The photographer with the most votes wins eternal glory — and a $100 gift card to contest sponsors B&C Camera. Get clicking!
 

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An exhibit that'll make you say, "Ah! My eyes!" (in a good way)
by Andrew Kiraly | posted May 21, 2013

Love great photography? We have an eyeful for you! Join us 6 p.m. June 6 at ALIOS Gallery on Main Street. We’ll showcase the winners and finalists of Desert Companion’s “Focus on Nevada” photo contest, give out great prizes — and show off our favorite shots from past issues of the magazine. And don't forget to pick up our June issue to see the fine work of all the contest winners and finalists!

Oh — and don’t forget to vote in our bonus “Readers’ Choice” ballot online, where we feature the winners as well as honorable mentions we couldn’t cram into the magazine. Voting is free, easy and fun, and you’ll be entered to win a $100 dining certificate at a great Vegas restaurant. Just visit desertcompanion.com/photocontest/vote and start clicking. 

 

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Woof! And the winner is ...
by Andrew Kiraly | posted May 13, 2013

... Tilly! Tilly is a labradoodle who took top honors in Desert Companion and The District's Next Top Dog contest May 9. After an endless pageant of utterly heart-melting furry cuteness -- to the tune of more than 300 canine entrants -- Tilly took home the grand prize after wowing judges with her perky personality and furry charms. See the pics from the event here -- and congrats to everyone who entered. Also thanks to Carol Riback and Vicki Callahan of the Vegas Valley Dog Obedience Club, who shared eye-opening tips on maintaining a well-behaved pet. 


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Don't toss it -- recycle it with us!
by | posted April 9, 2013

Spring is fast approaching -- and that means spring cleaning! The office needs to be decluttered, the garage needs some attention, the recycle bins are overflowing.

Don't worry -- we're here to help! Join Nevada Public Radio and Desert Companion on Saturday, April 27 from 8 a.m. to noon for our bi-annual recycle event. Get more info at the link below.

http://www.desertcompanion.com/dcontour/index_recycle.cfm


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Some of Norm's favorite plants
by Andrew Kiraly | posted March 26, 2013

In case you missed our recent event with KNPR’s "Desert Bloom" commentator and Desert Companion contributor Norm Schilling, here are some of his favorite plants over which he waxed so rhapsodic. Make your spring planting a snap with these desert-friendly, butterfly-attracting, water-efficient, beautifulness-emanating plants!


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Our new neighbor, a slender giantess
by By Andrew Kiraly | posted October 20, 2010



If you haven't seen the freshly unveiled Colorado River Bridge, certainly do -- it's a slender giantess to the Hoover Dam's brawn, a stretch of serene Helvetica in a visual environs marked by bold fonts and spidery serifs everywhere. On that note, be sure to check out our full read on the bridge's architecture in the November issue of Desert Companion. (Don't worry. Our Colorado River Bridge think-hunk is penned by someone far more knowledgeable than me.)



I tagged along with Desert Companion Art Director Chris Smith this morning on a 6 a.m. trek to take photos of the bridge. Not the best day for a shoot: Shocks of rain slapping at us in what was less dawn than a mere shift in the gloom, but the drapes of wet did make for a vibrant, glossy, apocalyptic mood -- which was only helped along by the slick crunch and smack of small rock slides as ridges gave way to aggressive rivulets. Strangely, the water below looked as still as slate:



Dawn eventually broke like it should -- aggressively and without fanfare -- and even I couldn't resist whipping out the cell phone camera for some shots:



Dwarving around the bridge like that only whets your appetite, though, to see it up close and really take its measure. Which leads to perhaps my sole complaint about the Colorado River Bridge, that supple and functional diversion: It's a pretty bridge at just about any angle, but not necessarily at any distance. Its energy is strangely robbed when you drive it, as sizable abutments on either side make next to impossible any vastness-gazing from the car.

Why, you might even forget you're on a bridge and momentarily give in to the illusion you're on some forsaken sliver of the 215 -- little else but you and the blur of asphalt and concrete. It's ironic that a place with such placeness exposes a lack of it in perhaps its most vital part.
 


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The city had Circle Park right the first time
by By Andrew Kiraly | posted October 15, 2010



Oh, one thing I didn't have a chance to yammer about at Oct. 13's fine "Urban Vibe" panel.

Circle Park. Oh, Circle Park -- you shuttered little island brimming with potential urban energy. You source of endless headaches to a sometimes unimaginative city. You unwitting experiment in blending downtown redevelopment with less enlightened policies concerning, say, oh, the homeless.

I suppose the good news is that Circle Park will reopen in 2011. The not-so-good news is that it seems the park's rebirth as a veteran's memorial smacks of a somewhat cynical, somewhat lazy end-run around truly addressing the park's place in its urban environs -- its immediate, noisy, lively, untidy urban environs.

I'm all for public spaces that honor the sacrifices of America's men and women in the armed forces -- spaces of quiet reflection. Circle Park is not that public space. An island parklet surrounded by the constant whoosh of traffic, heavily used strip malls, set in the broader context of a historic neighborhood? The park should absorb and respond to those vibrations.

That's why I loved Kasey Baker's award-winning original design, realized in 2003. It was unserious and engaging, and reflected the restless energy of the area. (The only thing missing: skywalks on either side to make it even more welcoming.) Now she's an implicit object of blame for having created a park that through some unidentified design flaw -- whoops! -- let the homeless in.

Too bad, because the city had it right the first time.


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Did I mention the Twitter thing?
by By Andrew Kiraly | posted October 15, 2010

Did I mention? Did I mention you should follow us on Twitter? Did I mention you can just click that button down there on the right and, just like that, receive a dose of 140-character cultural 'n' community Desert Companion content goodness directly to your medulla oblongata? Did I mention it's free? Did I mention it's fun? Did I mention it contains no artificial colors? Did I mention that side effects may include sudden bouts of euphoria and deep personal satisfaction, knowing that you're part of a community of folks who care about Southern Nevada and want to make it a better place to live? Did I mention that part? Did I?


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Let's talk about downtown
by Andrew Kiraly | posted October 12, 2010



When I was a younger pup, downtown was where I'd skateboard (slipping beneath the gate at my alma mater, Las Vegas High School, and shredding the ooops-hope-those-aren't-historic-planters), play endless matches of Mortal Kombat (at the former 7-Eleven on Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard) and be violently ragdolled among moshing froths to NOFX (at the Huntridge Theater).

Nowadays: Art! Culture! Martinis! More martinis! As I've (reluctantly) grown up, downtown has too.

Downtown's maturity -- and its growing pains -- are the topic of tomorrow's Symphony Park Lecture Series panel, "The Urban Vibe," 5 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Fifth Street School Auditorium, 401 S. Fourth St. You should come.

I'll be on the panel with an esteemed bunch of culture mavens, including Jennifer Cornthwaite of Emergency Arts and The Beat Coffeehouse, Jennifer Henry of FlockFlockFlock, James P. Reza of Globe Salon, and Desert Companion's very own John Curtas.

Wine at 5, discussion at 6. Rumors grow of an after-type thang at The Beat. See you there.
 


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'Wicked' at the Smith Center: Is six weeks enough?
by Heidi Kyser | posted September 29, 2010

He's 4 feet 10 inches tall, 80 pounds and all of 8 years old, but he' s trouble, as I would only realize a couple hours after meeting Zachary Murray.

"'Wicked' is my favorite show. Or maybe my second favorite, after 'Shrek,'" he told me, as he wiped the tartar sauce off a crab cake during the cocktail hour preceding the Sept. 28 preview of "Wicked" at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. When I asked him what he liked about the show, his hazel eyes lit up: "It's such a great story! Haven't you seen it?"

No, I haven't. And I may never get to, at least here in Vegas, thanks to Zach and the legions of other Las Vegas kids marking their calendars for the phenomenally popular show's Aug. 29, 2012, opening at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts downtown.

See, the show's only running six weeks here. At the announced eight performances per week in the 2,050-seat Reynolds Hall, that's 98,400 tickets total (including comps and season tickets) for all the Zachs out there -- not to mention their parents, like Tanya Murray, who said she was so excited to finally be able to see at home some of the many Broadway shows she and her family have taken in during their annual trips to New York.

For them, the Smith Center landing "Wicked" fulfills the venue's promise to culture-hungry Las Vegans: a place where locals can see adult as well as family-friendly theater performances in their original formats (2 1/2-hour shows like "Wicked" on the Strip are typically trimmed to 90 minutes).

That promise is driven home by one of the debut performances scheduled at the Smith Center. Earlier this month, President Myron Martin announced a series of educational concerts for Clark County School District students following the venue's March 2012 opening.

That's right about the time tickets for "Wicked" will be going on sale.

Which raises the question -- actually asked of Martin and the show's producer David Stone by an audience member at last evening's preview: Is six weeks enough?

"We had a long discussion about that, and we decided it was important for us to do it off-Strip for people who live here, even if we only get it for six weeks," Martin said.

Stone's answer: "We do sell out quickly. In Washington, D.C., we sold out in six hours, and some people were not happy. So, make sure you get your tickets early."

If I should miss that six-hour window, I know one person who will undoubtedly have seats. The only question is, will Zachary Murray sell me his?
 


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Desert Companion travels to Pahrump, emerges with awards, fireworks burns
by Andrew Kiraly | posted September 20, 2010

The smoke from the illegal fireworks has cleared, and Desert Companion has emerged triumphant from the Nevada Press Association's 2010 Better Magazine Awards, held Sept. 18 in Pahrump at the perhaps inauspiciously named Pahrump Nugget. Desert Companion walked away with nine awards in seven categories, including three first-place awards and multiple wins in two categories.

The biggies:

- First place for Best Investigative or In-depth Story or Series, for Phil Hagen and Erika Pope's comprehensive and thought-provoking "25 Reasons for Art Optimism."

- First place for Best Illustration. That would be Joseph Ciardiello's illustration of Elvis in our story about Elvis' Vegas years (a fine piece for which writer Geoff Schumacher won a third-place award for Best Feature Story). Aaron McKinney garnered a third place in Best Illustration for his masterful comic illustration of Harry Reid.

- First place for Best Portrait, awarded to Aaron Mayes for his moody portrait of writer Maile Chapman. (Or maybe it was this playful one of the lovably insane writer Alissa Nutting). Desert Companion Art Director Chris Smith won third place in the category for his multiple-exposure portrait of artist Brian Porray.

We also took second place for Best Explanatory Journalism, for our lively analysis of what makes the valley's coolest buildings so cool, as well as a second place award for Best Multiple Feature Photos for Aaron Mayes' stunning photo essay on Chinatown.


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A Halting and Incomplete Report from the Las Vegas Epicurean Affair Written in a Sort of Blissful Gastronomic Hangover
by Andrew Kiraly | posted September 10, 2010

My stomach is finally starting to deflate into some acceptable semblance of normal-stomachitude after an utterly prodigal night of noshing and drinking at the Palazzo Sept. 9. Yes, I hit foodiefest the Las Vegas Epicurean Affair, held at the Palazzo Pools, a beautiful outdoor space that was either enhanced or diminished by go-go dancers skoozling their hams atop pedestals (I still can't decide).

But the food. Oh. The food. Wait. Actually, first: the drinks. Oh, the drinks. Anyone who knows me can attest that I'm not one to turn down a snort of, ahem, [children-safe air-quotes] adult beverage but, man, an hour into the Epicurean Affair, I was flapping my hand in a feeble "Please, no, I will die!" gesture to proffered trays of sweet, soul-numbing, glittering alcohol. But whether it was Laguna Champagne Bar's incredible elderflower concoction or the caramel martinis I vaguely remember lapping up or Canyon Ranch's refreshalicious watermelon rum shooters or LAVO's cups of pomegranate vodka bliss, I propose they rename this thing the Slurpicurean Affair.

Of course, the gourmet noshables -- small bites upon small bites -- on offer were no less mind-blowing. Highlights from last night:

- Okay. I think I'm going to hire a tailor for a custom-made ninja outfit. Then I will put it on, break into Hash House A Go Go under cover of darkness, and steal their recipe for their chocolate and peanut butter bread pudding. It is nothing less than a pure glob of heaven, if heaven were globby and then scooped onto a plate.

- SushiSamba served up the same yellowtail tacos they peddled at last month's Carnival of Cuisine. And you know what? I certainly don't mind. In fact, I don't mind so much I encourage them to peddle these crispy bites directly into my mouth every month in an event I'm calling the Carnival of My Hungry Gnasher.

- Wolfgang Puck's Postrio served a delectable deconstructed slider. Next to that, Puck's CUT served a glistening slablet of maple-glazed pork belly. I could have pinballed between those two booths all night until hustled out by grim, truncheon-wielding security guards.

- Nobu offered up addictive jalapeno-inflected sashimi and . . . was it generously sauced black cod so incredibly tender that it flaked under my mere gaze? I think it was. Frankly, I couldn't hear the nice woman trying to describe it to me over my own somewhat feral peals of anticipatory delight.

- At this point, I gave up taking notes because my hand started shaking uncontrollably due to recurring flavorgasms rolling over my body in successive waves of culinary bliss. One mental note branded on my mind, however: I will be back. Oh. I will.
 


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On the Occasion of the Arrest of Paris Hilton and Cy Waits, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Slightly Revises Its TV Ad Campaign
by Andrew Kiraly | posted September 1, 2010

IMAGE: Sweeping, slow-motion view of attractive young people dancing in a nightclub.

BACKGROUND MUSIC: Thumping house track.

SEDUCTIVE FEMALE VOICE-OVER: The music. The cocktails. The sexy women. The hot men. The anything-goes atmosphere. Las Vegas is your place to party. To cut loose. To get wild. To let it all hang out.

IMAGE: Close-up of a young woman and young man dancing. She offers him a white pill. He expresses shock and dismay -- until she holds up a harmless box of breath mints. They both laugh.

SEDUCTIVE FEMALE VOICE-OVER: Las Vegas. Your place to party. To live a little. Play a little. Sin a little. But not too much. In a safe, responsible, drug-free environment.

IMAGE: In a dark corner of the club, a shady-looking character in sunglasses flashes a vial of cocaine at an attractive young woman. She shakes her head, emphatically signaling "No." Two large security guards appear out of nowhere to lift the shady-looking character off his feet and hustle him out of the club.

SEDUCTIVE FEMALE VOICE-OVER: Las Vegas. Where anything goes. Where you can stay up all night. Thrill your senses. Pursue forbidden adventures. But only if you're 21 or older. All in a completely drug-free environment. In full compliance with the Nevada Revised Statutes and the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

IMAGE: Young man at nightclub bar, glumly slurping the last of his vodka tonic, looking bored.

SEDUCTIVE FEMALE VOICE-OVER: Las Vegas nightlife. Naughty. Wild. Uninhibited. Unless by "uninhibited" you mean drugs. Come party with us. Let it all go. Unless the "it" you're "letting go" is a fat rail of Bolivian marching powder. What's Bolivian marching powder? Frankly, I don't know and I don't want to know. Or a massive, head-scouring bong rip in the back seat of an Escalade. Come on. Hit the town. Catch the buzz. Feel the high. A natural, adrenaline high, not a chemically induced one that can have both short- and long-term adverse effects on your health. Those kind of highs are bad. Come sin with us and make your wildest fantasies come true.

IMAGE: A nun dancing with a DEA agent.

SEDUCTIVE FEMALE VOICE-OVER: Vegas. No rules. No inhibitions. Vegas. No prohibitions. Aside from federal drug laws and local statutes. It's Sin City. The way you like it. The way you want it. The way you need it. Vegas. Where your secret desires come to life. But with certain rules in place, such as rigid ordinances making prostitution illegal in Clark County.

IMAGE: Entire dance floor filled with nuns and DEA agents dancing.

SEDUCTIVE FEMALE VOICE-OVER: Vegas. They call us Sin City for a reason. Come get a taste. Take a hit. One try and you'll be hooked. Metaphorically speaking. Come be bad with us. Not "bad" bad, as in the way drugs are bad, but "bad" meaning sort of innocuously irresponsible every once in a while. Vegas. Come play. Come sin. Break all the rules. Certain restrictions apply.


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Other, lesser-known stipulations in Gov. Jim Gibbons' divorce decree
by Andrew Kiraly | posted July 21, 2010

- Dawn gets Chateau Beauvais living room set, Fairmont Bonaparte dining collection; Jim gets giant inflatable Corona bottle

- Jim to get sole custody of Xbox 360 and recently purchased copy of Guitar Hero 3: Warriors of Rock

- Jim to retain ownership of all political memorabilia, including baby seal skull scrimshawed by Grover Norquist

- Jim to retain custody of all Lunchables, Gogurt and Fruit Roll-Ups

- Both parties agree not to talk publicly about that 2008 Christmas party when Jim drank a whole bottle of peppermint schnapps and ate the fake beard off the hired Santa's face.

- Longtime pet companion Zimbles the cat to be divided equally among divorcing parties

- Upon final dissolution of marriage, Jim to be sedated, tagged and relocated to Stillwater Wildlife Refuge in western Nevada, where he will be monitored indefinitely


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"Welcome to the Fremont Street Experience Free Speech Zone" Pamphlet
by Andrew Kiraly | posted July 9, 2010

Welcome to the Fremont Street Experience Free Speech Zone!

This select area has been provided to you as a courtesy of the Fremont Street Experience LLC to allow you to exercise your First Amendment rights. We at the Fremont Street Experience value your expression, and recognize that free speech is a fundamental cornerstone of a free and open society when restricted to certain geographic areas Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. PST.

We hope you enjoy your free speech today in the Fremont Street Experience Free Speech Zone. We ask that you follow these simple guidelines to keep the Fremont Street Experience a safe and pleasant environment for all.

- Religious tracts and signs are acceptable forms of expression in the Free Speech Zone. However, for the comfort of our guests, we respectfully ask that depictions of Hell and eternal damnation be rendered in good taste and in a manner palatable to families with children. ACCEPTABLE: Cartoon devils. UNACCEPTABLE: Images of wailing people in flames being torn limb from limb by winged demons wielding pitchforks and scythes. ALSO UNACCEPTABLE: Skeletons, dragons, skeletons riding dragons, towering walls of merciless fire, ravening swarms of locusts feeding on the flesh of the wicked. ALSO UNACCEPTABLE: Lava.

- If you are a strolling saxophonist who performs Kenny G songs in a torturous cycle of screeching cacophony, use the Free Speech Zone at your own risk. While the Fremont Street Experience can ensure your freedom of expression, we CANNOT guarantee that you will be safe from, say, a rain of rocks angrily thrown by enraged passersby.

- Be advised that the Free Speech Zone's $20 entry fee is payable with cash only. And remember to join us on select Free Speech Celebration Nights, when you are automatically entered for a chance to win an immediate taxi ride home.

- When expressing your free speech in the Free Speech Zone, for your own safety, please refrain from touching the electrified, barbed-wire Free Speech Zone fence.

- Please do not shout, scream or chant slogans in the Free Speech Zone, as this tends to provoke the Free Speech Zone guard dogs.

- Please do not attempt to remove, alter or damage your yellow Free Speech Zone Identification Number arm band.

- Finally, please avoid unnecessarily or excessively "free" free speech in the Free Speech Zone. What constitutes "unnecessarily or excessively 'free' free speech" is the sole and exclusive discretion of Fremont Street Experience LLC.

(Note to our valued Fremont Street Experience guests: Do not confuse the Free Speech Zone with the Pants-Free Zone. That is a featured room at a nearby downtown adult entertainment establishment, and is not related to or endorsed by the Fremont Street Experience.)

Thank you,

The Fremont Street Experience


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Vegas Valley Book Festival announces gigantic, big-name authors
by Andrew Kiraly | posted June 30, 2010

The Vegas Valley Book Festival, that annual bash dedicated to those interactive multimedia things printed on dead trees -- books, we think they're called -- just announced the two keynote speakers bookending the event that takes place Nov. 3-7 at the Historic Fifth Street School.

Kicking off the festival Nov. 3 is author T.C. Boyle, author of 20 novels, including The Road to Wellville and World's End, and more than 100 short stories. (One of my faves is his short story collection, If The River Was Whiskey, a veritable compendium of writerly technique.) Closing it out is Dennis Lehane, best known for gritty, searching crime thrillers, particularly Mystic River and Shutter Island.

Other things in the works I'm hearing a lot of buzz about: the festival's ever-burgeoning Comic Book Festival and "Feasting on Words - A Celebration of Food and Literature." The early word is that one celebrity chef Rick Moonen has something tasty in store for both food- and book-lovers. Check out the bookfest's website for more info.


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