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.


author · Dad · software · colophon · rights

December 01, 2017
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