Archive for the ‘casinos’ Category

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WHAT A LUCKY MAN I WAS-EMERSON AND LAKE ON TOUR

May 22, 2010

 The original Moog Synth

Many moons ago when vinyl reigned and concerts cost $6.50 for a ticket that included at least one opening act, a complex fusion of classical, jazz, rock, and modern mash-ups emerged that sold out stadiums and arenas. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer were back there in the late sixties merging Bartok, Bernstein, Brubeck, and Beethoven into a style of rock that few could come close to duplicating. They were considered one of the ultimate “supergroups” selling over 40 million albums.

The concert at the Las Vegas Hilton tonight was in an intimate setting of less than 800 seats and billed as Emerson and Lake-no Palmer would be present. As many know Greg Lake was also a member of King Crimson in its heyday with Robert Fripp and Bill Bruford, but that’s another story. The monstrous nine foot stack of oscillators complete with old rotary potentiometers from the “Apollo 8” era stood tall beside a Hammond B-3 with hundreds of 1/4 phone patch cords to audio adaptations such as now defunct terms as envelopes, sawtooth waveforms, graphic filters, porting and expansion controls, and others too obscure to mention. Unlike the relics usually brought onstage just for show by other bands, this monstrosity was fully functional and used to palpitate your aorta and buzz your sphincter as Keith Emerson dialed his way to the sounds of yesteryear that encompassed the lowest lows and the highest highs.

The stage setting was at “Manticore” recording studio with just the two of them playing to tracks already laid down, talking about each piece, how it was conceived and the little bits of trivia surrounding each. With the “unplugged” atmosphere the talents of these men became more than apparent as each note could be heard precisely without the echoing of a vast stadium turning magnificent runs into a dopplerish muck of indistinguishable muddiness.

“From the Beginning,” was the first song. It was clear Lake (62 years-old) was up to the task. Emerson’s different arrangements kept it all fresh. They wasted no time going into King Crimson’s “I Talk To The Wind,” which was a beautiful rendition. After a chat about Lake throwing stones across a lake drawing inspiration for the next song “Take A Pebble” began and morphed into what amounted to the first side of Tarkus. There was one point in the show when Emerson (65 years-old) paid tribute to Brubeck’s Rondo from his old group “The Nice” years but changed the 9/8 time signature to 4/4 and included “America” from West Side Story, The Phantom of the Opera theme-played backwards from the other side of his keyboards, Rondo of course, and then slid into a the sound of the legendary organist Jimmy Smith’s B-3 groove.

They opened up the concert for questions from the audience and there were more than a few chuckles about their breakups and egos. For the record, Lake declared, “to be passionate about one’s music requires strength of conviction and the band never argued about anything but the music, which if we all are passionate is a healthy thing. Don’t forget we were together constantly over ten years and needed to take a break from the touring and recording together. There was no ill will, ever.”

The “studio engineer” mixed the drum, bass, percussion, and layered tracks from a “recording booth” behind them and all in all it was a magical evening. Would Carl Palmer have made a big difference? Yes, but then the entire show would have been louder, less intimate, and the showcasing of these incredible musicians would not have been in the forefront.

They ended the show and came back for an encore with “What A Lucky Man He Was.” I was the lucky one to be there to hear their top ten hit that blared through the radio speakers of my car while driving through the youthful nights. The backstory on that song was that Lake had written it when he was 13 years-old and when they recorded their first album they needed one last song to finish it. Lake played it for Emerson who wasn’t impressed with it but told Lake to go ahead a lay some tracks down. When Emerson returned, the brand new monstrous Moog had been setup in the studio and Emerson began to improvise to “Lucky Man” not knowing that Lake had the recording button on….hence the infamous solo captured on the first take and forever associated with that old folksy song electrifying it and propelling it into the top ten.

The most amazing thing is that they have yet to be included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “When I look at some of the other people who’ve been inducted, there should be a place for the contribution that ELP and King Crimson made to the world of modern music,” Lake said. “Why ignore that absolutely stark reality, you know?”

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Las Vegas-CitiCenter Design

February 11, 2010

CitiCenter in Las Vegas is an 8 billion dollar sprawing complex that has and is still under construction. Three towers opened by New Year’s 2010 and I toured the area that is banking on the futuristic architecture and design to draw a new generation of tourists. Here are some pictures taken one afternoon. The above shot is a picture of a tiled floor from a balcony.

The spired entrance to Aria.

The monorail between towers.

Reflection of a tower within a tower.

Part of a massive waterfall.

A full wall advertisement in the Crystals Mall.

Crystals in the Crystals Mall

Steps detail

Partial front view as it is impossible to get all of CitiCenter in one picture.

Claes Olderburg’s Eraser

Ceiling detail.

Floral strip in Crystals Mall

Mandarin Tower

Showroom detail.

Water tornado garden.

Underside Restaurant detail.

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WELL THE WEATHER OUTSIDE IS FRIGHTFUL……

December 15, 2008

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IT’S SNOWING IN VEGAS! 

HERE ARE SOME PICTURES FROM ACAPULCO TO WARM YOU UP!

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THAT OLD MAN RIVER KEEPS FLOATIN’ ALONG

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LIFE’S A BEACH

ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET

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THE OTHER SHOE

October 10, 2008

 

UNCLE SAM WANTS YOUR MORTGAGE PAYMENT ON TIME!

We here in Las Vegas are in the top five areas of foreclosure, sub-prime, and abandonment of what was high-priced housing.  It looked like we might dodge a bullet with the employment opportunities of the new construction of MGM-Mirage’s City Center, Boyd Gaming’s Echelon, and Steve Wynn’s Encore among other large projects.  MGM’s project got snagged-up in a financing problem but is now on track and Encore is getting ready to open as well.  Boyd Gaming cancelled Echelon until further notice and the unemployment rate is now over 8% here-a record never seen in Vegas before. 

These problems resonate beyond Vegas-throughout the country and the world.  The deleveraging of trillons of dollars locked up in real estate losses sends stock sales scorching the indexes as the cash needed to unwind and divest indiscriminately throws out both the baby and the bath water.  So you ask, “Why bring this up, Nick, don’t you think we are already depressed enough for the next 20 years?”  Well, here comes the back end of the problem that no one has addressed yet.

If the government sets up a mortgage relief fund to bail out homeowners, the government is the holder of the note or mortgage.  If the people who are obligated to pay that mortgage lose their jobs or simply walk away from the home, unlike a normal foreclosure where the city and state still assess taxes (and the new buyer or mortgage holder must pay them)-Uncle Sam does not pay taxes.  Let me repeat that: Uncle Sam does not pay taxes, no way no how, zilch, zero, verkact, nada, nothing.  Ergo, if this phenomena continues in a downward spiral, tax bases will erode even further than they have now and less money will flow into state and city government, and even at the federal level as people lose jobs. 

I hope we don’t get to that point, but if we do, Newton’s Third Law of action and reaction (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton’s_laws_of_motion) will show itself in full force.  Printing money will go into hyperdrive (Not that is hasn’t now) and it could take many years to heal these wounds.  Hopefully, it will not get that far, and my red flag isn’t relevant, but right now…………

I am a part of it, as you are, as we are all together………………..see how they fly like pigs in the sky see how they run. 

We will get through this as well!

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I SEE DEAD CELEBRITIES….

September 27, 2008

On the 56th floor of The Palms Casino on Flamingo Road, the Ghostbar has become the ultra-slick social spot for celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Ashlee Simpson, the Kardashian family, Mario Andretti, Kid Rock or Pam (never at the same time), Avril Lavigne and more.  The modern furniture outside and the incredible view of the city from all points is breathtaking.  If that’s not enough, walk over and stand on the glass floor and look 55 stories straight down.  It’s a rush whether you’ve had a few or not.  The fun part is you, yes little old you, can go there and hang with your friends and enjoy yourselves drinking the special “Ghostini” to prepare you for an enchanting experience. 

The name of the joint derives from the ceiling over the lounge by the bar, that has an intended ghostly appearance.  You might see Bruce Willis or Halley Joel Osment without a ‘sixth sense.’  It’s a hip place that fills up on the weekend so if you are not into crowds go during the week, however the ‘stars’ come out at night and one will never know who you will see.  Across the street, the Rio’s Voodoo lounge was the hotspot years ago, but the change in ownership years ago turned a hot property with many firsts (first dance club, first wine bar, first ‘Show in the Sky,’ and many others) into a ho-hum sorta place.  The Palms is the new hot spot, but no matter where you go here in Vegas, there are so many deals with vouchers for food, gaming, and hundreds of dollars for return trips, the time to come here is now while they are discounting everything because of the credit crunch.  Just go online to Vegas.com and they are all there. If you’re in for a vacation no matter what the economy is doing, this is the place for value for your dollar.  And one last word; if it really is the end of the world, well this is the place to party into oblivion.  Hopefully, it will just be fun and worth the trip without the angst of reality.

It the words of Jeff Spicoli;   Party on, Dudes!

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A Real Tropicana Folly

August 22, 2008

 

The Nevada Gaming Commission on Thursday gave unanimous approval for the Columbia Sussex Corporation to hand over operational control of bankrupt Tropicana Entertainment to a four-person board eliminating the owner William Yung III from all operations and ownership status and while the new board members undergo investigation for licensing in Nevada. Chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, Pete Bernhard said, “This particular structure at this particular time under these particular circumstances justify us approving (this deal),” “It’s not something we would do with any company at any time that’s in financial distress.”

So, I ask why would you do it at all?  The owner chased after the stock bidding up beyond $50 a share when no fool would have bought it for more than $35 a share, and then leveraged everything, laid off thousands of workers, pissed off the Culinary Union, and then defied the New Jersey Casino Control Commission by not setting up internal audit structuring that is required by New Jersey law. 

All of this stupidity, directed by Mr. Yung himself, fell back into his lap when the Commission declined to give him a permanent license and placed the casino in the hands of a conservator while waiting for bidders.  At this point with the credit crunch they may have a very long wait for someone to want to pony-up 3 billion dollars for someone to buy an aging casino in New Jersey while Pennsylvania is opening up huge gaming halls and cannibalizing New Jersey’s gambling business.

While all this is happening, less than enlightened journalists in Las Vegas are writing articles about how the big bad New Jersey Control Commission is practically communistic in their decision, regardless of the fact that Casinos were created under a referendum in 1978 that included in its charter – one of the purposes for allowance of those casinos – the purpose of the creation of employment for New Jersey residents.  Nevada could care less about that, the employment-at-will laws and the disregard for the working class has long been ingrained in the once small circle of millionaires, and now billion-dollar multi-national corporations with mostly the same management personnel, that rule the roost here.  One particular journalist even stated that if a casino wants to allow it’s toilets to overflow and its rooms to be dirty then that is their choice.  That had to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen or heard.  The business of this state reflects the image of this state, whether it is in New Jersey or Nevada, California-if you allow shitty operators to run shitty businesses, then you get a shitty perception of what your state stands for and allows.  Then this guy who actually gets paid to write this crap, states he thinks the Culinary Union is sabotaging the Tropicana and bedbugs were “planted” by those horrible union employees (statements the owner and management originally made).  And you wonder why this guy lost his license there?

So, here in Nevada where the good old boys are still the good old boys, Scott Butera a very good executive that I know from my days at Donald Trump’s Empire in Atlantic City, is placed in charge with this new board that has ex-communicated the owner.  Why is this happening I must ask?  Why is this hotel getting special treatment here in Nevada when it is so upside down, the sale of all the assets could not come near what Yung paid for the Tropicana Corporation.  In this supposed laissez-faire atmosphere here in Nevada (for employees at least) , why are we allowing an inept operator/owner to give up his ownership and control and stand in the corner on “time out” while someone else bails him out for all his stupidity?  Since when have we become a socialistic business state?  Hypocrisy abounds between those that have, and those that have not in the city of Las Vegas and the State of Nevada.  I’m happy those that are still at the Trop here and in AC still have jobs-and each person doing the work of three people – but the reality is they would be better off allowing someone to buy the places for thirty cents on the dollar, knock this one here in Vegas down eventually and make room for a world class resort, something this state should demand of every casino project. 

Scott should know that, Donald paid the bondholders thirty-three cents on the dollar when he went bankrupt back in the nineties in the days of Ivana and Marla and out-of-control Trump Taj Mahal executives that spent his money like sailors on shore leave.  And by the way, he paid that thirty-three cents on the dollar in notes that would convert to stock in 5 years, and I believe over 120 businesses went bankrupt on the deal, some that had been in business for over 30 years.  He forgot to read his own first book “The Art of the Deal” and then Steve Wynn did almost the exact same thing years later allowing a shrewd Kirk Kirkorian to create the comglomerate MGM-Mirage.  Buy low, sell high………you have to sell high to make it work though, not buy high.

There’s no tellin’ what varmints get away with here in the ole’ West……let‘s not even talk about that fancy 10 billion dollar water pipeline that’s gonna suck out the North’s underground water for Vegas yet……………..Whoa Nelly!  Talk to the Knappster! (George Knapp Vegas’ investigative reporter par excellence) He’ll give you an earful on that subject better than I could.

 

-Should have taken a left, what was I thinking?-James Reed (leader of the Donner Party)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Welcome to Las Vegas, You’re On Your Own

July 16, 2008

We have the seventh busiest airport in the world here in Las Vegas and what began as a small terminal with portable steel stairs has evolved into a giant morass of four major terminals with more to be built.  In this expansion the McCarran Airport Director, Randall Walker has been surrounded with controversy concerning inappropriate criminal land dealings (“I wasn’t informed to them and had no knowledge of them”); questionable vendor awards with connections to Las Vegas officials for businesses inside the airport;  and other business dealings that have failed to sully his reputation.  His most memorable legacy will be the complete idiocy, stupidity, and incompetence of the construction of roads and signage leading to and from this airport that will guarantee that you will do the “airport loop” at least once until you finally get the reckless courage to take on the cabs and buses that will cut you off before you can make an intelligent decision to have to move four, yes that’s four lanes to get into a correct lane for either Departures or Arrivals.  Then that’s no guarantee that you will be in the correct lane for very long. 

If you are picking someone up, be mindful that if you follow the signs you will end up in long term parking, have to go all the way through the long term parking garage with your ticket, proceed to the exit where you explain to the attendant, who has heard this story a hundred thousand times and just opens the gate for you to drive back to the chaos of switch-crossings and death-defying maneuvering without even acknowledging your existence.

If you are heading to Departures be mindful that you will hit a concrete embankment if you proceed by the signage so stay right (but not too far right) drive close to, but without actually plowing into the bridge, and if you miss the Departures turnout, it will then take you out of the airport’s frustrating confusing circuitous route and drop you out on Tropicana Avenue if you don’t get in the correct lane in less than 3.5 seconds after you finally get four lanes over fighting those cabs and buses that are doing 50 miles an hour on a 25 mile an hour roadway blocking your every move to do so. Got all that?  Did you remember to carry the one?

The pure arrogance of Mr. Walker, who by the way is the brother-in-law of Henderson’s Mayor James Gibson (he doesn’t want anyone to know that, I’m sure) is his statement years ago in the press that read “The roads weren’t built for residents, they were built for tourists who use the cabs and buses, and the cabs and buses know which way to go.”  My last statement is simply, Mr. Randall Walker as you begin to prepare to go to work for a private company that did millions of dollars of work for McCarran Airport and now will be a part of the new airport being planned in Ivanpah near Primm, where you will undoubtedly screw that system completely up; we residents here in Las Vegas know as “the cabs and buses know where to go,” where you should go as well.  And it’s much hotter there than Vegas in August with no hope of a monsoon or fall weather.   Ahh, arrogance always induces pride before the fall.  Don’t let a bus run you over.