Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Altered Carbon (TV 2018, Review)

I read Altered Carbon, the book by Richard Morgan, several years ago and enjoyed it a lot. Detective or Noir is not my favorite genre, but Morgan's future has a new twist that makes the slog for clues a bit more interesting than usual. The twist is, in the future, everyone is fitted with a recorder in the back of their neck, a 'stack' that encodes sufficient information that if they're killed, the stack can be used to reboot them with all their memories intact in a new body, called a 'sleeve'.

There's a few rules about resleeving. It's a long time since I read the book, but in the series these include the fairly obvious rule that if the death involves blunt trauma to the back of the neck and the stack is damaged, you're really dead. If your religion is on file as not permitting resleeving, you're dead (even if you are a witness to a murder). No coming back. Also if you're really rich, you can have your information beamed to a remote storage site at intervals, and in that case, even if your stack is damaged during your death, you can be rebooted with your memory current up to the time of the last back-up. It's not stated why every person on earth and beyond can have a stack but only a few billionaires can have a back-up. But, moving briskly along, there are also rules about sleeves, such as how you obtain a vacant body to be resleeved in.

A combination of these rules gives us Takeshi Kovacs, our hero, who was a freedom fighter in a doomed revolution and was sentenced to being shelved for hundreds of years, suddenly and confusedly rebooted in a sleeve that has a history - and though the history is unknown to him, it causes him plenty problems. Another combination of rules means that an ultra-rich guy who was killed and restored to a clone sleeve from a back-up is motivated find out who did it. The death was just before his routine back-up, meaning he has a 23 hour gap in his rebooted memory. It was he, Bancroft, who had Kovacs resleeved to solve this mystery, and he knows Kovacs will agree to work for him, because otherwise Kovacs will have to go back into storage to live out his sentence. (I never found out what was so bad about this sort of death sentence, since ultimately it seems quite likely you'll be resleeved and in theory you don't suffer in the meantime.)

There I'll cut it short, not because I'm avoiding spoilers but because the series really, really Netflix long and you have to give up typing sometime.

It's a bit of a curate's egg. I'll come to some good parts in a minute, but first the problems. It's very derivative. The visuals are so close to Blade Runner that you expect Taffey Lewis or the electron micrograph lady to pop up at any moment. To me this was more familiar than grating, but jeez, get your own crapsack future in future, Netflix. Some other parts are eye-rollingly cliche. The detective-Kovacs gets his clues from the part of town I've always called The Zone. You know The Zone, it's in 90% of SF movies. It's the bustling part of town where the Whores With Hearts of Gold live, along with dealers in drugs called things like Ice and Spice, everyone who is on the run, The Boss, strippers, the people who run Cage Fight arenas, with added gang members Quant. Suff. to make up the rest of the crowd. (The Zone is always crowded.) Kovacs is also dogged by a loud, Hispanic, female police officer who ends up being his love interest, and her loud, happy, gregarious ethnic family. Both of these pegged the cliche meter every time they were on screen. Acting was very good, mind. It was just the writing.

All of the segments suffered from something that to me suggests careless or cheap film-making. There's a convention in film where the camera does a close-up on a person who is speaking to a second person, and after the line is finished there's a cut where the two conversationalists are seen in the same shot, so you can see the second person's reaction to the speech without getting confused about what's just happened. In a well-shot movie the speaking person's pose and facial expression as they finish their line is absolutely identical to their pose and expression as the two-shot begins because this is the way a movie signals 'no time has passed since the end of the line'. If the director is in a hurry the close-up expression and the two-shot expression don't quite match. This happened time and time again in Altered Carbon.

And then the sexual violence. Oh my FSM, the sexual violence. The directors must have decided that since they don't actually die, as in become non-existent (with exceptions), then showing naked women dying, as in being cut-up, torn apart, raped and so forth, but not actually shuffling off the mortal coil, is absolutely OK television. The vast majority of this is with naked or partly-clothed women, though in the interests of variety there's a scene where a heterosexual couple fight to the death in a cage match and an approximately fifteen hour sequence where Kovacs's consciousness is uploaded somewhere that's not against the rules for some reason I didn't catch, and Kovacs's consciousness in its imaginary but evidently pain-equipped virtual body is tortured to death over and over again. If you've always wanted to see a movie where the spy/detective is actually dismembered and burned to death by the bad guy, you've come to the right place. Oh, and just when you think you've got out of The Zone, there's a new round of even more repulsive violence against women. (Two kids who are murdered earlier are not shown on screen, so I guess Netflix does have a Standards & Practices Dept. keeping an eye on things somewhere.)

What Altered Carbon got right: The story. It's fast paced and enthralling. Maybe even a bit too fast paced and enthralling, judging by the way they felt it necessary to info-dump at the end. The AI hotel was very well done. The hotel himself, Poe, was a wonderful character and one I was really invested in. I enjoyed meeting his other AI buddies for the short time they were on screen as well. I also liked the bad guy, Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy). He managed to manifest the spirit of the more crazy Roman Emperors, without ever chewing the scenery. (His son (Antonio Marziale) did a good impression of a meek and damaged Emperor's son, as well.) Another well-done aspect was the blithe acceptance of the sleeving process. In one case, a married couple who have been separated for years are lovingly and joyfully reunited when Kovacs purchases a new sleeve for the wife's stack. But Kovacs could only find a male sleeve in the time he had available. The husband's reaction, a very short oh-so-this-is-what-you-look-like-now followed by unequivocal love, and the male-bodied-wife's continuation of what must have been her previous mannerisms and speech patterns is perfectly acted. What to our eyes is a very strange occurrence is just another Tuesday to the people of the time.

This brings me to the dealie that caused the biggest stir on social media prior to the premiere - the 'whitewashing' of Takeshi Kovacs. When I first heard that Kovacs was to be played by a white man, I was completely unmoved, as this is what happens in the book. In the event, young Kovacs is played by Will Yun Lee (not very Japanese - he's Korean) and the resurrected Kovacs is played by Joel Kinnaman (even more not very Japanese, and in my opinion a bit large, hairy and Caucasian for the role). It doesn't cosmically-speaking matter, however. It's the future, and Kovacs is from a non-earth planet with names from two very different origin cultures. It did prove to be a bit more whitewashy than in the book, though, as in text media the character can think his way through the confusion due to his new body on the page where you can feel it. In film, all you can see is the skin, and Kinnaman is pretty white. No conflict or dilemma over his new identity is visible. But I loved it when the married couple got back together and by transference, I'm going to love it that Kovacs is alive again even if the sleeve isn't to his liking.

Oh, and Max Headroom (Matt Frewer) does a glorious bit part.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

New Year's Eve 1968 - all star rock show

French TV show - New Year 1968, featuring The Who, The Small Faces, The Troggs, Pink Floyd, Joe Cocker and Fleetwood Mac in their prime of life.  And more - 90 minutes worth. A couple of them are lip-syncing, but not all.

French band The Variations are killing it here.

Thanks to uploader Peter Marshall.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Weightless Rave achievement unlocked

Yesterday was the first roadster to Mars AND [very important] the first weightless Dubstep rave.

Courtesy of ESA. 
"ESA astronauts Pedro Duque and Jean-Francois Clervoy joined a Zero-G flight with a difference with BigCityBeats. On board the flight were some of the world's biggest DJs.
The flight took place on 7 February 2018, departing from Frankfurt Airport. The flight took place on the Novespace A310 normally used for ESA's parabolic flight campaigns and astronaut training."

Sad Freemasons are sad

The Freemasons in London are worried that their lodge in the UK parliament coupled with their secret secretiveness is leading people to believe something secret is going on. The BBC had one on yesterday and he went on for five minutes about how they were just a bunch of lads who like to have a larf and they had open days and weren't secret at all.

The Beeb guy asked him to demonstrate the secret handshake and he said no. The Beeb guy asked if that was because it was a secret and the guy said no, it wasn't a secret, it was just that he'd promised God never to reveal it to anyone.

Anyway, the guy said Freemasons were all right because they'd raised 33 million pounds for charity last year. He kept saying it. Thirty three. Thirty three. Thirty three. I thought, "You're not helping your case about not having secret codes here, matey."

Anyway, today they released the memo attached about how everybody is mean to them and they're the last people it's okay to discriminate against etc.

Hard Sun (TV thriller, review)

I watched cop show procedural/thriller/science fiction can't-make-its-mind-up show Hard Sun on the BBC over the past few days.

Six episodes of Season One - will there be a season two?

The set up: Two British cops, one with Dark Past Type A and one with Dark Past Type B, team up together to fight crime. One doesn't know the other one has been assigned by The Powers That Be (Type X: law enforcement) to spy on him in re: his dark past. Wait! There's more. The Earth is going to be burned to a crisp in 5 years!

Cue Bowie song. No, literally, cue the Bowie Song 'Five Years'. It starts playing.

Anyway, MI5 know the planet is doomed in exactly five years. The rest of humanity doesn't know. Our cops accidentally get hold of an MI5 flash drive that shows what's going to happen and proves it. If this news gets out, people will panic and law and order will go to pieces. The Powers That Be Type B, MI5, want the flash drive back and are prepared to kill for it. Which they do. A lot of people die gruesomely, or get beaten up or their throats slashed or lobotomized with an ice pick or whatever in very detailed fashion in this show.

So our intrepid PC Plods get to spy on each other, have affairs, have dark pasts, family they want to protect, and a MacGuffin. Much like any other Watching The Detectives program over the last half-century. Where does the Five Years subplot fit in?

It seeps in as a quiet leak. The news gets out in the first episode, but MI5 go on Twitter and say it's a hoax and everybody believes that except for one nutcase per week who cracks under the strain, each of whom is coincidentally assigned to our detectives to chase down. So that's that. It's a cheap crazy-psychopath plot generator.

Except, every episode, MI5 is still tying up our DCI's kids and threatening to kill our anti-hero plod friends if they don't give back the flash drive. I don't know why! [1]

I watched all six episodes and never found out if 
a) it was a good idea or not to tell everybody the world was ending in five years, since as Bowie said, it would drive people nuts 
b) why they didn't upload the flash drive to Google Docs or Dropbox and give the original back to TPTB Type B so they'd stop threatening their families while they figured a) out or 
c) why they didn't stop being policemen and retire to the Costa Brava for five years of as much fun as possible with their kids until everyone gets fried.

There is a twist ending which is quite funny. Someone's an unreliable narrator and it's not either of our two LEO protags. But I wouldn't say it's worth watching four or so hours for a ten second chortle in the last few minutes.

[1] It's possible that they need it back in order to stop anyone discovering $twist_ending, but since we don't discover that until the end either - and it's not explicit even then - it's not a good payoff for four hours of wtf?

Saturday, February 03, 2018

It's About Time: Review of Nigel Kneale's The Stone Tape and Wyrd Signal's Podcast review

Sean and Lucy discuss the landmark sci-fi/horror teleplay: Nigel Kneale's 'The Stone Tape' talking about Derrida, Marx, H.P. Lovecraft, M.R. James, ancient aliens and occult media, in this inaugural t

I did see Nigel Kneale's The Stone Tape on its first run - unlike other faves of the hauntology crowd like Whistle and I'll Come To You and Children of the Stones. I think everyone who saw this back on Christmas Day, 1972  is hah hah hah hah haunted by it - particularly those of us who were kids - so it's good to have it brought up by later watchers and discussed. 
For those who haven't seen it, it is about a division of a company which is trying to develop a hi-fi, long lasting recording medium. They are relocated to a research facility in an old house. They encounter a ghost and eventually realize that one way to describe the ghost is as a recording that is held in the very stones of the house and played back not on instruments (which do not detect it) but directly inside the minds of sensitive people. This gives them an idea for a device-free playback - the Killer App! They study the phenomenon but accidentally 'wipe' the recording. But the stone tape is a palimpsest. Under the very traditional ghost is another recording, of a very ancient thing indeed.
I rewatched The Stone Tape before writing this, and some other points came to mind, both about the program and the podcast. In no particular order: 
A number of reviewers, including this podcast team, find the recording research division of the company to be unredeemed bastards who are racist, sexist and not very sympathetic protagonists. However, I think it's obvious that they are written this way on purpose. It's not that Nigel Kneale thought they were nice guys. The men are supposed to be bastards, and Peter, the boss, is a complete c*nt. It isn't "the way things were in the seventies" so much as a study in company politics. That's one reason why the language is so racist (and boy is it racist). They are quite as nasty about their absent colleague, the washing machine researcher, after all. 
The sole woman in the team, Jill, is a bit willochy but the initial set up is designed to show that she is 'sensitive' both emotionally and psychically, and almost all the men are, literally, 'insensitive' - racist, sexist, out to win one for their team whatever collateral damage may ensue.  It may be overdone but I don't think it is done as unconscious sexism on Kneale's part. 
The boss, Peter, is having an affair with Jill, the company computer programmer. He talks to his wife back home while Jill is on in earshot his bed at the research facility, and forget's his kid's horse's name and has to be reminded. Later, when he's rejected Jill as too emotional, he sends her away on a month's leave, and Jill can see, as she leaves, that his secretary is waiting in the background with drinks - he next affair starting up already. He's an unpleasant man, and played perfectly.
Some reviewers also mention a lot of shouting. There is a lot of shouting. Some of it is because it's filmed in an actual stone house before there were good mics for this sort of thing, and some of it is because the actors are trying to shout over the sound of actual working teletype terminals, for no adequately explored reason. And a major reason is that the stone tape is activated by vibration, so there has to be a lot of noise before the ghost appears each time. (Also the cast is a bit shouty.)
Nigel Kneale's pet subjects abound. Like Quatermass and the Pit, the premise is that something in the very ground beneath our feet is throwing up a memory that we are forced to observe and ultimately to relive. It's easy to see why Stone Tape is a fave of the Psychogeographers and their flaneur friends. 
It had never occurred to me before that their rival for the company's research money is a washing machine developer, i.e. someone whose job it is to get the traces of past use OUT of things. He's always shown with dyed hands, because he hasn't yet succeeded. One imagines that his job description, devising a machine to keep the colors that are wanted without also keeping the stains that are unwanted remnants of the past, is the same as Peter's job description.
Kneale keeps to storytelling basics here with some twinning and opposites. There are two ghosts, two affairs, two programmers (with opposite sensitivities), a death and a premonition of death. 
One thing that I wouldn't have picked up on in 1972 is that the barmaid, who had spoken to a 'colored boy' (an American GI) about the house during war said that he'd complained there was a 'guppy - or was it a duppy?' 'Duppy' is a West Indian word for a malevolent spirit and I'm surprised Nigel Kneale knew the word then - the Bob Marley song was not released until next year. 

The Wyrd Signal podcast team (in their very first podcast!) give a good recap and then go on to discuss several things I hadn't thought of in regards to how the film is put together and the concept of deep time. Mark (for it is he) Fisher's name turns up again, along with Derrida, and the word 'hegemony' is repeated several times.
The following is an observation, not a criticism of the podcast: One of the weirdest things about time (not sure if Derrida covered this one) is that quite a lot of it has happened to me. A great deal less of it has happened to the podcasters, who are Generation Z (i.e. younger than millennials). At first, hearing them describe the 70s made me feel as though I had lived through an aberration, and I was complicit in an excursion from normal human behavior, and as though I had to re-examine mine and everyone else's behavior in the light of the podcasters' withering criticism of the 70s.
Then one of the podcasters said this remarkable thing: "And there have been some parapsychological experiments of asking the spirits to make an imprint on to a blank, erm, er, reel of magnetic tape or blank, erm, a phot - er, a photo tape I want to say? A photo reel, the tape one would put into an old camera before we had digital cameras."
And at that point I realized that no MP3s, stone tapes, nor any recording medium could adequately capture a previous time in a way that makes it accessible to someone who wasn't there. I 'know' the 70s in a way these podcasters never will, but they can think they do because they have access to the tapes.
It's a "film" by the way. A "film" camera.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Jack White: Corporation (audio of album track)

New Jack White song premiered today: Corporation.

It's an electric piano surfin' bass groove that takes it to the bridge and throws it off.

Too much funky Clavinet for me, but it's likely a grower. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Las Vegas Trip 4/4 - more pictures

Mandalay Bay gryphon

Mandalay Bay lion (I guess)

Mandalay Bay Old Moulmein Pagoda Looking Lazy at the Sea (or facsimile thereof)

Luxor Ram-headed sphinxes (pretty good copy of original)

Luxor Sphinx, who is a bit too masculine and Caucasian for the job if you ask me

Wynn and its walkways (some working)


Sigfrid and Roy memorial

Mirage and its volcano-cum-fountain

Ballardian drained swimming pools, with rare rainwater addition
"Hey, Google" was the mantra of CES this year

A selkie statue at Caesars

The older casinos were more fun, weren't they?
Though this is pretty fun too
The tip of the strip (panorama) -Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur, New York


Posts in this series:

Las Vegas Trip, 3/4

The Flamingo

Flamingo puts its foot down

The second expedition was to see how the growing tip of the strip was getting on. I bought a monorail ticket and rode up and down it a couple of times to see where it went, which is from SLS (whatever that is, near the Stratosphere), to Westgate, the Convention Center, and then up the back alley behind the strip to MGM Grand. (It seems to go to fewer places than it used to, but maybe that’s just me.) Then I took it back to MGM and walked to Luxor and Mandalay Bay.

Mandalay Bay is now sadly famous for last year’s mass shooting incident and during the coverage of that I’d got the impression that it was in the middle of things. It’s not, it’s still right at the very end of the strip with nothing beyond it and nothing opposite it. I checked out some locations on the exterior for an upcoming fiction story, walked back towards Excalibur, realized there was an elevated railway, got on that back to Mandalay Bay and back again to Excalibur. (It’s quite a boring El, so this was even less exciting than it sounds.) There’s a little homeless city by the overpasses there, which I navigated to get back across the road and eventually to the Flamingo. Which was great; it’s an old-style casino with old-style attractions like a) giant flamingo statues b) flamingos c) a black swan d) feral showgirls hanging around outside in full feathers and e) a buffet.

Showgirls ignoring me because I aged out of the gullible customer age bracket

As far as I can tell, the feeding cycle of an escalator is to
eat a showgirl, hork up a pellet of feathers and then
shut down for 12 hours to digest

The escalators are called "thyssen" which is the Yorkshire
dialect word for "yourself", so these nameplates
doubled as a sort of friendly affirmation

Real life flamingos at the Flamingo

A black swan at the Flamingo

Speaking of buffets, the $10 days are long over. (Elan Sleazebaggano has changed his name to the less recognizably punterish Elan Sel'sabagno since then, and presumably does not hang out in casinos any longer.) I spent $43 on a brunch at Caesars Palace that was quite nice but I mean forty three dollars, and $23 (or something) at another one that was terrible. Bacon and eggs and muffins only, and they cleared my place when I got up for some seconds so I came back to find someone else sitting there. (She was very nice about it.) I did have a great meal at the Beijing Noodle Co. one evening and a very nice Thai meal at somewhere in a strip mall whose name escapes me.

Carp at the Flamingo, with tell-tale reflections

In other exciting escapades, I took a trip on the High Roller, a 550-foot tall observation wheel and took some photos of Treasure Island’s galleons for reference in the aforementioned fiction story. On the last day, we moved from Caesars to the Westgate, which used to be the Hilton, but seems to have had a troubled history since the Elvis days. Anything that’s more than a few feet away from the strip itself seems to have a hard time of it. Elvis himself was commemorated in a statue in the registration area, and in many photos about the hotel, as were other old timey Vegas champions.

Elvis in effigy

Gordon Ramsey is big in Vegas; his signpost appears to be
the Mad Cod's Amulet

Elvis in my hotel room

One other thing I noticed about the modern Vegas is the voices that tell you what to do – announcements, elevators, voice-overs, video recordings playing in the pods on the High Roller and so forth – are almost all young American males, rather than the soothing female slightly electronic tones you expect from your phone and airport walkways. There’s a hint of vocal fry. I think the reasoning behind it is that Vegas is really a very laddish (as the British say) town. It’s very much a drinking, sporting, gambling destination that attracts small gangs of young males. “Gangs” is probably the wrong word. “Bachelor parties of young males” may be a better collective noun. For such bachelors, the slightly submissive, domesticated Siri or Alexa would not be sufficiently hooky to engage their interest. The YouTube-star young male voices provide a much better come-on under the circumstances.

The High Roller

On the High Roller

View from the High Roller


I didn’t find the trip as exciting as that first time more than 20 years ago, and some of it is because Vegas has changed and some of it because I’ve changed. It’s quite noticeable – the young men handing out flyers to nightclubs, invites to meet scantily-clad ladies and half-off (scam) tickets to performances neatly ignored me as if I wasn’t there, which I wasn’t, in their eyes, as the 18-40 demographic is pretty much all that counts. And they’re right, of course. I had no interest in blowing hundreds of dollars a night, and it was clearly obvious. Mind you, if they want me to spend more money, they could fix some of the escalators so I could get to the casino floors.


New York and the MGM lion

Rameses and some more ram-headed sphinxes at Luxor

Posts in this series:

Las Vegas Trip, 2/4

I made a couple of forays outside the Caesars area. Firstly, since I was with people who had meetings at CES, I had a chance to take their stretch Hummer to my first stop, the Mob Museum. The mere existence of stretch Hummers still surprises and delights me (see Sizzler, above) and as it was daylight, once inside I was able to see how the magic is done. (Dark carpet, flat black paint, disco balls, plasma balls, or maybe just a loop of a plasma ball on a screen – wasn’t close enough to tell - and a very longitudinal sound system.)

The interior of a stretch limo Hummer. Now you know.

The Mob Museum was very interesting and surprisingly up-front about the Mob basis of Las Vegas. Put simply, modern Las Vegas is here because of two things – the gambling (which also attracted the Mafia) and the building of the Hoover Dam, which brought in thousands of male workers without family support. Both contingencies are fascinating, and a third reason for its fame is even more arresting - the hundred or so open-air nuclear explosions of the fifties and the thousands of government employees this brought in.

The Mob Museum’s exhibits and films cover the continental US, not just Vegas, and I admit, this not being my area of expertise, many of the names were only familiar to me through movies. Donnie Brasco. Untouchables. G-Men. Al Capone. St Valentine’s Day Massacre.

The Mob Museum

The museum is close by Fremont Street, which was the buzzingest part of Vegas when I first went but is now a sort of muddy tide pool left by the southbound outrushing wave. I remember getting an amazing abstract space-landscape painting here, painted by a young man who used spray-paint cans on a sheet of cardboard just lying on the concrete, employing the edges of other paintings and can lids to mask and shape the paint. (I saw him, or possibly his son, on the street by Cinq this time, now using a turntable at elbow height and with a respirator mask for protection, still doing similar paintings.)

1999 painting by that guy, whose
name I can't make out.
Sorry about cell-phone photo/glare.

It was uncharacteristically raining in Vegas this day, and that was how I learned that the canopy over Fremont Street is not actually waterproof. Apart from the old-style casinos - Four Queens, Binions, Golden Nugget - there was little going on except a flock of Russian women who hand you a sachet of something, maybe moisturizer, and while you are trying to work out what to do with it, engage you in conversation designed to work up to selling you something. I never found out what because after I rudely extricated myself from the first woman’s clutches, I managed to stay out of range of all the others. It does boast a Walgreens (they’re everywhere in Vegas) which had a rain-proof poncho for sale. (They apparently had two umbrellas under the counter but since they had lost their price tags, they couldn’t sell those to me.)

4 Queens in the rain,  useless canopy above

I’d made up my mind to walk from Fremont Street back to Caesars before I realized it was raining, and once I had the poncho, I went ahead and did it.

Stratosphere in the rain

North Vegas signage

More north Vegas signage

It was very cold, and wet, and not a nice part of town. It was six and a half miles back to Caesars, which gave me plenty of time to observe that the storm drains in Vegas are not built for downpours, so sheets of water several inches deep cover the sides of roads for several feet in. This means that troll-ol-ol drivers can play at splashing you by driving through them (since the sidewalks are wide enough to avoid the splash you can usually laugh along with these little teasers) but it also means you can’t avoid the flow whenever you cross a side-street. My Payless Shoe Sores shoes are So Cal designs, strictly not for use in damp conditions. They seemed to suck water inside by some sort of instep-driven pumping action and then not let any of it out again. Probably could come in useful in the Third World, but as shoes qua shoes, not at all useful.

The Circus Circus clown is watching me float down here

Posts in this series:

Las Vegas Trip 1/4

Boy, Las Vegas has changed.

Or I have.

Or both.

Another glimpse at the supports underlying
the machine

I first went to Las Vegas in the mid-nineties. I thought it was the greatest thing ever. I like to see what goes into making a spectacle. What goes on underneath Disneyland or in a projection room or why a graphic artist chooses whatever style they use. Vegas, with its Big Top circus, Treasure Island galleon battles, dancing fountains and real centurions and Roman serving girls, was a must-see.

Treasure Island galleon, current trip

Treasure Island white galleon, current trip

Treasure Island has partially rebranded
itself as "ti". 

This is the sort of thing I came to photograph -
These stairs lead underwater to the white galleon. Food
for fictional thought.

At that time, the nineties, Vegas was hurting. It was sleazy, it was cheap, and it was tawdry. This is a great combination for a tourist. For instance, you’d get those $10 all-you-can-eat brunches, which were laid on because the casino was terrified that, if you didn’t get breakfast, you’d get up, go outside, see the sun and then be overcome with a desire to rethink your life like Elan Sleazebaggano in Attack of the Clones and never go back to the casino floor.

Isn't this where Elan Sleazebaggano hung out? Something something pari-mutuel racing.
(Of course, being new to America then, all all-you-can-eat experiences were marvels to me. Back then, when I discovered Sizzler I thought it was the Best Thing Ever, and boy, when I first encountered a Dollar Store, I think I bought one of everything in it, because everything was so danged cheap. In England, we had been using Viz’s Salad Thief on our single trips to the salad bar.)

A salad thief

The last few times I’ve visited Vegas, it’s been rich and powerful and the gigantic buildings and inlaid marble floors are a testimony to how much money they can ease out of punters’ pockets. (Though for some reason half the escalators don’t work.) I remember around 2007 being regretfully(?) told that a restaurant was fully booked for the evening, which I suspect was because we were not wearing formal clothes rather than there’d been a sudden run on Prime Rib dinners. The sleazy dive had gone upscale. The last time I was here was 2010, when Hyundai Hyundai was a new car and we made the trip to see my favorite band, though at that time I only managed to take in the Dead Weather, Paris Hotel, Nobu and a finishing flourish of Them Crooked Vultures.

Cosmopolitan's a bit eerie in the rain

Since then Vegas hasn’t had another of its sudden dai kaiju-like growth spurts. One hotel, the Cosmopolitan, was new this trip and there were several deep pits that presumably will be buildings soon, and one almost built giant fortress but the growth tip of the Strip is still maxed out at Mandalay Bay, currently facing nothing much across the way. The previous high-water mark, the almost lunatic folly of the Luxor pyramid and hotel, is still there but looking a little dusty as the sand has blown across it (as it has the original pyramids and original Luxor in Egypt, over rather more years). The aging vertex of Vegas didn’t matter as this time we didn’t stay at the meristematic end of the Strip, but at Caesars Palace.

Caesar in his palace

The centurions and serving girls were not in evidence this time, alas, but there were a number of shops inside where one could buy a jacket or a watch for several thousand dollars. Caesars is also well-suited for trips outside, if you can find a way out, since it is in the middle of the Strip and close by the Flamingo, Cinq, Harrah’s and Bellagio. Being near these means you are also near the rather sad monorail that runs behind the strip, to and from the Convention Center.

Monorail terminus

Linq. The bright thing on the right is a display sign at Caesars.
Linq, with the right-hand display showing a Caesars' column.
It's quite mindbending as you walk past it.


Caesars statuary

There's something about classical statue women in showgirl outfits
that isn't right. Their bodies are a bit too athletic, I think. (Pictures in our hotel room.)

Lucky sugar ducky

Trump Tower is kept behind bars for some reason

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