Thursday, December 31, 2015

Bally's Grand Bazaar Shops

When I stayed at Bally's Hotel & Casino in 2014, the hotel was in the midst of constructing their Grand Bazaar Shops at the Las Vegas Strip entrance.
The artist's concept drawings looked so exciting that I decided to take advantage of a free-room offer this past December so I could check it out. 
You know what? Maybe it's because I went during the daytime, but it's no big deal; it hasn't got anything special that would classify it as an attraction. The little shops are the usual small mall shops, nothing that would draw me in. Plus the storefront designs are pretty sterile with hardly any character.
When I was in the Honolulu Jaycees and we put on the annual 50th State Fair, E.K. Fernandez Shows president Kane (KAH-nay) Fernandez explained the difference between "entertainment" and an "attraction." The first keeps attendees occupied while at the fair, the other actually draws people to the fair.
Sad to say, the Grand Bazaar Shops are entertainment, not an attraction. And not great entertainment either. People were just walking past the shops; I never saw anyone actually buying anything.
Take a look for yourself and see how empty the area is:

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Colorado Kid (Stephen King)

A confession: Although I’m a big fan of the American Movie Classics (AMC) Channel's Haven, I never read this novel on which it’s based. That is, until a few weeks ago, as the series was finally coming to a close.

The book's setting and characterizations are very different from the TV series. The Colorado Kid story, for example, is narrated by two crusty old small-town Tinnock Village, Maine, newspapermen — Vince Teague and Dave Bowie. In the TV series, Vince and Dave are journalist/publisher brothers.

Haven's principal protagonists — Audrey Parker (Emily Rose), Nathan Wuornos (Lucas Bryant), and Duke Crocker (Eric Balfour) — are absent in the book, as are the supernatural "troubles" that plague the town's residents. Colorado Kid lawman George Wuornos is Nathan's father in Haven.

Stephanie McCann works for The Weekly Islander, Vince's and Dave's newspaper. It's a typical small-town journal, whose page-one stories include such earth-shaking news as a car's parking brake failing and the car rolling into a fire hydrant, releasing a gusher.

Stephanie gets the two talking about unsolved mysteries, including one about the April 1980 discovery of an unidentified dead man, later dubbed the "Colorado kid." He'd been found slumped back against a litter basket at Hammock Beach on Moose-Lookit Island.

It's theorized he choked on a piece of meat, which in turn precipitated a stroke (or maybe it was the other way around). Thanks to some intuitive conclusions and accurate assumptions, he's identified a year and a half later as James Cogan.

But then questions arise: How'd he have coffee at a Starbucks, when the company didn't expand out of Seattle until the early 2000's? How'd he get from Denver, where he was last seen, to Jan's Wharfside Cafè in Maine where he was next seen just three-and-a-half hours later? What do a Russian 10-ruble coin and a pack of cigarettes have to do with anything? And then, even if he did arrange the frantic, theme-sensitive, to the second, and expensive transcontinental odyssey, why?

It's much more complicated than the questions indicate. As Stephanie notes, "It's like trying to ride a bike across a tightrope that isn't there."

Was he murdered? Ah now, that's the $64,000 question. But we'll never know, because it's Vince's and Dave's story (and now Stephanie's) and they're not going to give it to us to solve. Maybe that's why I felt a little incomplete and out of sorts when I put my iPad Air down.

Stephen King's novel is relatively inexpensive ($4.99) and available for immediate download from's Kindle Store. That sure beats the 38 bucks or so one has to shell out for a hardcover edition; and there's no delivery charge.

My Verdict: 4 out of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Published by Hard Case Crime, 2005
ISBN 978-0-8439-5584-2

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Random Musings 28

Technology hardly supports religion, right? But if tech isn’t religion, they why are people always praying to their cell phones?

* * * * *

If politics is the second oldest profession and prostitution is the first, how can you tell the difference between the two?

* * * * *

Does the proliferation of phone cameras lessen the incidence of spotting UFOs?

* * * * *

How come the fast-food restaurants like Burger King, Wendy’s, McDonalds don’t sell hot dogs? Are they being snobbish?

* * * * *

If you sink slowly into quicksand, it gives you lots of time to think about why they named it that. Right?


Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Late-Arriving Christmas Gift

Always ... ALWAYS ... read the directions first
before trying out your new Christmas present!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Wishing all of you (and yours) a very Merry Christmas!

Let me share Yuletide pictures taken in Las Vegas last year at the Golden Nugget, and this year at the Bellagio's Giardini Garden Store:

Merry Christmas, y'all!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

Kriss Kringle (Richard Attenborough) and Susan Elizabeth Walker (Mara Wilson)
It's modern-day New York City and Cole's is the sponsor of the Thanksgiving Day parade (Macy's declined to participate in this remake, which explains the "Cole's" name change).

Kriss Kringle (Richard Attenborough), who claims to be the real Santa Claus, calls out a drunken Santa – Tony Falacchi (Jack McGee) – on the sleigh float, much to the surprise of Dorey Walker (Elizabeth Perkins), director of special projects for Cole's Department Store.

When the drunken Santa falls off the sleigh, Dorey recruits Kriss, who works out just fine. Dorey's wise little 6-year-old daughter, Susan Elizabeth (Mara Wilson) is a little sad this Christmas, worried that her mom's job may be in jeopardy (two banks just rescued Cole's from a hostile takeover); and, she knows that Santa's not real.

Dorsey's neighbor, lawyer Bryan Bedford (Dylan McDermott), is in love with her, but despite his and Susan's gentle hints (okay, Susan's are anything but gentle), Dorey keeps holding out.

Kriss dons his own Santa suit and takes his place in the Cory's Santa chair. But he truly wants to help, so he sends some kids' moms to Bargain Village, who offers the same thing for much less money. An appreciative mother (Allison Janney), tells Dorey's boss, Donald Shellhammer (Simon Jones), that Kris made her a customer for life because he puts customers before sales.

Donald latches on to the concept and sells it to C.F. Cole (William Windom), who loves the idea. That angers Victor Landberg (Joss Ackland, uncredited), who owns a competitor store and wants to buy out Cole's. He scolds his people – Jack Duff (James Remar) and Alberta Leonard (Jane Leeves) – for not thinking of it first.

Jack and Alberta try to derail Cole's by hiring Kriss away. No dice. So Jack changes his strategy and talks to an embittered Tony Falacchi, the drunken Santa. Falacchi's a pretty nasty guy and sets out to undermine Kriss' special bond with children.

Unbeliever Susan watches Kriss at work and begins to come around. That bothers unbeliever Dorey. So Kriss makes a test case out of the two and tries to make them believers. Susan asks him for a house, a brother and a dad. That's what it will take for him to prove that Santa's real.

Bryan proposes to Dorey and gets turned down flat. Then, something bad happens and the next thing you know, Kriss is on trial for assault and battery, a segment featuring two great actors: J. T. Walsh as hard-hearted prosecutor Ed Collins, and Robert Prosky as Judge Henry Harper, whose grandson talked to Kriss in the movie's prologue.

If you've seen the earlier version of Miracle on 34th Street, then you generally know what happens next. If not, then you're just going to have to see the movie for yourself, and have your faith in the Christmas Miracle renewed. You'll need some tissue.

Mara Wilson is as perfect in the role of Susan Elizabeth Walker as Natalie Wood was in the 1947 version. And Richard Attenborough is such a believable Santa Claus. The 1994 remake is almost as good as the old version.

There are some mighty fine Christmas songs performed in the sound track by some mighty famous singers: "Jingle Bells" by Natalie Cole, "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" by Dionne Warwick, "Santa Claus Is Back in Town" by Elvis Presley, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Kenny G, "Joy to the World" by Aretha Franklin and the FAME Freedom Choir, "Song for a Winter's Night" by Sarah McLachlan, and "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" by Ray Charles.

This is the second theatrical version of Miracle on 34th Street (the first, in 1947, starred Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn) and the fourth overall if television movies are included.

Grade: A-
Christmas, drama, fantasy, Remake, romance

Quotations I like from the film:

"Sure. That's the end of the parade anyway. There's nothing else to see except guys cleaning up horse poop. And THAT doesn't thrill me at all." – Susan Walker (Mara Wilson)
"Truth is one of the most important things in the world ... to know the truth and to always be truthful with others, and more importantly, with yourself. And believing in myths and fantasies just makes you ... unhappy." – Dorey Walker (Elizabeth Perkins)
"If you can't believe, if you can't accept anything on faith, then you're doomed for life." – Kriss Kringle (Richard Attenborough)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Corral Almost Gave Me the Boot

When I got off the monorail ride from Bally's to the MGM Grand on my recent Vegas sojourn, I saw a lot of signs calling attention to the Boot Barn Christmas Corral at MGM's Conference Center.

Apparently, it was the MGM's homage to the National Finals Rodeo that was in town.
I decided to go to the sale, but about 10 minutes after I started walking from the casino to the Corral venue, I almost  skid to a stop in my walking shoes and turned around.
It was an incredibly long walk. But I hate to give up after investing so much time and energy in the effort.
So I kept on going, and going, and going, bumping into one sign after another with directional arrows directing me around corners, down long hallways, outside, and back inside again.
Well, instead of more jabber-complaints about my sore feet, let's just say I finally made it there.
If I were a boot-wearing man, I'd have been in boot heaven. But I'm not, and it wasn't (for me, anyway). Still it was a mighty interesting limping stroll I took around the exhibition hall, snapping away with my camera.
Here, look:
Actually, the best part was reaching the other end of the room, where the lovely young country singer, Kylie Frey, was performing on stage before a small audience. I took a seat, not just because my legs were pooped out, but because she was very good.
Despite not being an avid country music fan, I hung around for the rest of her set, looking up information on her on my mobile phone.
I was impressed to learn that her most recent recording — "Rodeo Man" — hit #25 on the Texas Regional Charts:
"Hey, Rodeo Man! I ain't the rope you hold in the palm of your hand; You can't hold on and let go when you feel the need; When you're done chasing buckles, won't you ride on home to me?"
In front of the stage was a roped off area where fake cowboys and cowgirls (adults and kids) were practicing their roping skills on sliding plastic calves.
That was a totally incongruous scene — a beautiful young woman singing her heart out to a bunch of pooped-out seniors, with the young people throwing noosed ropes at plastic cows.
Oh well, Ms. Frey's performance (and the free red Boot Barn plastic cup they gave me when I entered) was worth the long walk.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Very First U.S. Christmas Stamps

From My Collection
 Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2015

The NFR Cowboy Christmas Gift Show

The Christmas Cowboy Gift Show held in conjunction with the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas was so big this year that they moved it from the Las Vegas Convention Center North Hall to the much larger South Hall.
I'm telling you, it was a jaw-dropper to stand just inside the entrance and take in the view down the hall. Everything down at the other end of the center aisle became microscopic and blurry to these old eyes.
Each row breaking left or right from the center aisle sported giant booths of everything western, country, and cowboy that you can ever imagine. Check out these few pictures from the dozens upon dozens that I took (even of booths that specifically forbade picture-taking ... er, sorry about that):

On the way back to my hotel, the nice cabbie told me that the Sahara Convention Center housed the overflow of vendors. The overflow?!?!? Apparently, smaller vendors who can't get into the main show set up there. I never knew that.
Did I want to be dropped off there? Oh hell no! My feet were killing me.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Burning Questions of Christmas

And finally, doesn’t comic artist/author Tim Rickard know how to spell “Santa Claus”?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Palazzo Lobby and Atrium

As soon as I've seen all there is to see at the Bellagio, I scoot on over to the Palazzo Hotel to check out their lobby and atrium waterfall displays.

They weren't very spectacular this year. Thematically, they centered around golden wire sculptures of reindeer, which weren't as awesome as last year's snow-white winter peacocks. Still, one has to appreciate all the work that went into the displays.

Wanna see? Here you go:

An addition that proved refreshing was their complimentary iced water – cucumber and orange-flavored. Pretty thoughtful of them. How’d they know I was winter-parched?

Will love to see what they plan for next year.