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3:45pm on Sunday, 19th April, 2009:
This is my first time in Las Vegas, and because I've been at the conference the whole time so far my experience of it has been limited to the airport. the taxi ride to the hotel from the airport, the hotel, and the Hard Rock Café across the street where Damion Schubert took me for lunch on the first day.
Aghast at this huge hole in my education, last night Robert Rice took a bunch of us to one of the casinos (including Greg Boy and Brian Green, for whom he had done a similar thing in Minneapolis, except for the bit about the casino).
So, this is Las Vegas, which means that when you order a taxi for 7 people they send you one of these:
For some inexplicable reason, I have managed to reach the age of 49 without ever having been in a limo. I figured that inside they were probably like buses, where you have seats in rows.
They are not like buses:
The casino we were taken to was the Venetian, which is by all accounts an encapsulation of everything Las Vegas. It's not just a casino — it's a hotel, a shopping mall, a bunch of restaurants (we went to a Mexican one there, in the belief it was Italian), a set of nightclubs with suspiciously large numbers of scantily-clad women getting in for free (did I mention prostitution is legal in Nevada, by the way?), some bars and, yes, a monster of a casino. It was opulent, although not quite as detailed in its opulence as the real Venice:
It was crowded, too, but again, not quite as crushing as an attempt to cross the real Rialto can be (it took me half an hour once).
Here, I believe, is the Bridge of Sighs:
Here's Saint Mark's Square:
You may notice that both of those appear to be outside, with a mainly blue sky and some clouds. They're inside. That sky and those clouds are projected onto the roof, and they move around in a believable fashion. It's actually quite effective.
Here's the Grand Canal:
I did know that this hotel had its own Grand Canal. I guess I should have figured that it would also have motor-propelled gondolas that you can get a ride on, steered by gondoliers who sing.
There's a lot more to it than I took photos for. The security staff are dressed like Italian police officers, the prostitutes outside are dressed like cheap whores (but I suspect are anything but — we overheard one engaged in negotiation with a potential client, bouncing her boobs around with her hands and saying "Am I good? I'm good, baby!"), and there are slot machines everywhere except the taxi rank.
Yet despite the impression I may have given in this posting, I actually liked it. One thing that America does better than any other country is sincerity, and even though everything is fake in Las Vegas there's no attempt to pretend otherwise. You can just take it for what it is, which means any cynicism is misplaced.
Yes, I'd certainly come again. Well, so long as no-one breaks into my room and takes my stuff while I'm giving my keynote 45 minutes from now.
Referenced by Riverwalk.
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