I spent four nights in Las Ve­gas while at re:In­ven­t. The city’s day­time as­pect is kind of flat and low-contrast be­cause who cares what it looks like then? Pho­tog­ra­phers there come out like vam­pires af­ter dark. I took along the lu­di­crous “Achromat” lens for the spark­lies, so got ’em if ya want ’em. Al­so hotel, mu­sic, and venue rec­om­men­da­tions you won’t want to mis­s.

Let’s start with the spark­lies.

Vegas streetlights, sparklified
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South Las Vegas Boulevard, sparklified
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Vegas, The Flamingo, sparklified

That lens sure is fun. Not to men­tion the ef­fect when you tell your table-mates you brought along your Las Ve­gas Lens and pull a whole lot of tubu­lar gleam­ing brass out of your bag.

The Bel­la­gio & its foun­tain · Veter­ans of the strip may won­der how this pic­ture came to be. Re­flec­tions in a win­dow were in­volved.

Bellagio and its neighbors

The first time I’ve stayed there, and I think I’ll go back. The rooms are nowhere near as glam as in recent-Strip joints like the Wynn or Ari­a, but things pret­ty well just work, the casi­no is less sprawly, and it’s kind of in the mid­dle of things, and then there’s that view if you pay up for a Foun­tains room.

Bellagio fountain

That pic­ture is an out­take from a two-minute video shot from my 20th-floor room, with faint tin­ny sound. Tak­en with the Pix­el 2 and re­al­ly not bad; note how the vi­bra­tion con­trol squash­es the ef­fect of my chron­i­cal­ly shaky hand­s. Warn­ing: It’s 124 MB! The full-size 4K ver­sion, which looks glo­ri­ous on my 15" reti­na screen, is 710 MB; yow.

That pic­ture doesn’t re­al­ly cap­ture the scale of the thing; here we are down on the street watch­ing the watch­er­s.

People watching the Bellagio fountain

Sit­ting at the desk in my room work­ing on my speech, I was amused by the fountain-maintenance pro­cess. They could do bet­ter, be­cause ev­ery time I’ve watched the foun­tain, there’ve been an­noy­ing im­per­fec­tion­s: jets that don’t jet, lights that stay dark.

Fixing the Bellagio fountain

I’d like to see some­one get am­bi­tious with the foun­tain mu­sic, maybe some­thing by Phil Glass or *gasp* a rock & roll piece. That wouldn’t be very Ve­gas I guess.

Dou­bling Down with the Bas­tards · That would be Thee Swank Bas­tard­s, a surf-guitar band, play­ing at the Dou­ble Down Saloon, lo­cat­ed not that close to the Strip. They of­fered a cou­ple hours of pure plea­sure.

Thee Swank Bastards at the Double Down Saloon
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Thee Swank Bastards at the Double Down Saloon

The wom­an play­ing bass in the first pic­ture spent most of the night in show­girl mod­e; her cos­tume, es­pe­cial­ly the gloves, was fab­u­lous, and she threw in some taste­ful striptease. She and the band were hav­ing nearly-infinite fun and the stan­dard of surf-guitar play­ing was im­pec­ca­ble. You can loathe America’s pol­i­tics and many of its cul­tur­al tropes, but no oth­er na­tion comes close at the pure joy­ful ec­stat­ic mad­ness of low-rent rock&roll; a tip of my hat across the bor­der.

The Bas­tards leav­ened their set with ap­palling, filthy, dumb jokes when­ev­er they stopped play­ing. The on­ly one I re­mem­ber is “What’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween Je­sus and a pic­ture of Jesus?” “You on­ly need one nail for the picture.”

As for the Dou­ble Down, it’s uh, sin­cere. A whole lot of tat­toos and beards and ripped tight­s. The big sign on the wall says “Shut Up And Drink”, the one on the bar with em­bed­ded pok­er ma­chines says “Shut Up And Gamble”. We thought about or­der­ing the ba­con mar­tini, but no­body did. The Bas­tards play the Dou­ble Down the last Wed­nes­day of ev­ery mon­th, and if you’re in Ve­gas I rec­om­mend drop­ping by.

Peo­ple, watch­ing · (The peo­ple are more in­ter­est­ing af­ter dark, too.)

Guy in a bar in a casino

Watch­ing his phone In a swanky casi­no bar.

In the Double Down Saloon audience

Watch­ing the band at the Dou­ble Down.

Watching the numbers

Watch­ing the num­ber­s.

I ac­tu­al­ly still don’t like Ve­gas very much. My cam­era does though, but it on­ly comes out at night.

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December 01, 2017
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