Just realized that we were out of the country when the whole Rebecca Black “Friday” thing hit its peak, so I’ve never heard it and don’t know a thing about her — except that everyone HATES the song. How long can I remain oblivious to this soul-crippling crapulence?
Christian dollar stores: cheap religious crap to further dilute and devalue your faith! Jesus would be…disappointed.
I love how even their design is budget, in an extreme way. Ugly as sin! And now that I really look at them, I notice they’re nearly identical in layout. Fascinating!
Our first visit to Reno was…interesting. It started off with a promising flight on Horizon Air, which happens to serve free beer and wine. Tragedy struck when Critter spilled an entire cup of red wine (a nasty, gasoline-tasting Syrah) onto both of us, drenching my shorts and his pants. It was kind of funny, though, because we both reeked like a couple of winos by the end of the flight. Of course we didn’t have time to change our pants before the hotel shuttle came, so that meant we also reeked like winos while riding the shuttle to the airport, during check-in, etc. Nice way to start a weekend of boozing and gambling!
Next, we discovered that everything the visitor reviews (on those travel sites) said was true: Reno hotels love to confirm you for one thing and then switch you to another for the same price, hoping you won’t notice. Many, many reviews said this, so the day before our trip Critter called our hotel (the Eldorado) to verify that yes, we did indeed have a Luxury room reserved on the 17th floor. However, when we reached the counter, the girl gave us a Deluxe room instead. It also should have been cheaper, but she quoted the same price as the Luxury. Aha! Hesitantly we accepted, because we were so tired and wine-stinky that we didn’t want to make a fuss just yet — we thought we’d check out the room first. It was just odd, you see, because earlier he overheard the desk attendant next to us tell another couple that there were “no more Deluxe rooms left”, so she gave them a Luxury room. Um, what did we just get, then? (Answer: screwed over.) The room was all right, but eventually our stubbornness kicked in and we went back down and asked for the room they had originally confirmed for us, just on principle. And we got it. The view from our new room was quite nice, being on the 23rd floor vs. the 10th floor of the other room. We could see the mountains in the daytime, so we were OK with that. Reno does have a lot of beautiful mountains around it.
Anyway, once settled in our room we noticed a small black platform sitting on the corner of the main cabinet. It had a dozen bottles of drinks and other snacks lined up on it, and a sign on the front said “ITEMS REMOVED ARE INSTANTLY CHARGED TO YOUR GUEST FOLIO.” You mean they’ll know if we move one of these bottles from the platform? Sure enough, we saw the platform was plugged into the wall, so it definitely had sensors on it. Wow, that’s kind of…draconian, don’t you think? What if you bumped the platform on accident and knocked something over…how hard would it be to get that removed from your bill? We were careful not to have to find out. The mini bar was the same way: rigged to charge items to your room bill if anything was touched. Jesus.
We spent Friday wandering around, seeing what that little area of Reno was like. Basically it was depressing! The area was virtually empty, a ghost town. One entire block was made up of a high-rise of condos, which looked brand-new and completely emty. Across the street from that: empty, decaying buildings, some of them former hotels and/or casinos. Who would buy an expensive condo there? A very nice 12-screen theater complex was located nearby, though, so we took the opportunity to catch “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” (which was excellent) that afternoon. But otherwise, we just wandered around, played slots, ate, drank. Even the casinos were mostly lifeless.
Granted, we only saw the “casino district” of Reno and a few blocks of the area around it, but what we saw had a empty, desolate feeling—like the place was ready and waiting for throngs of people who just never showed up. One bright spot was the 5 Star Saloon, which is Reno’s oldest gay bar. It’s very laid-back and friendly, with nice bartenders and good music. The crowd was mixed and the drinks were strong, so we had a great time there.
Another thing we noticed is that casinos there are overrun with security people. You can barely turn around without bumping into a guard or other official-looking type with a badge and a radio. Even the elevators to the rooms are guarded closely by badged minions who won’t let you into an elevator without seeing your room key. This isn’t unusual actually, as we’ve seen them do this in Vegas, but was unusual was how aggressive they were at micromanaging every step of the whole pushing button/entering elevator/closing door process. We weren’t even allowed to press Up button ourselves! Also, when roaming the area around the casinos (even several blocks away) we saw signs everywhere telling us we were on security cameras. And sure enough, a quick glance around shows that the entire area is blanketed by CCTV. Does Reno have a huge crime problem or something? On one hand we felt pretty safe wherever we went, but on the other hand it made us feel a little paranoid about even crossing the street.
Friday night we decided to try out a fancy-shmancy Italian restaurant (La Strada) that all the reviewers were gassing about, supposedly an award-winning place to eat. Well, we weren’t impressed! First off, the hostess led us to the very back of the building, past many empty tables in the quieter front part of the restaurant. She seated us right next to two tables of horrifically loud and obnoxious old folks who were tipsy on wine and shouting/cackling at each other. Lovely, how romantic!
I noticed on the way in that the few people seated up front were dressed nicely, while we were dressed down (t-shirts and shorts). Could that have been it? A bit later they tried to do the same thing to another straight couple, and the woman was having none of it and made the hostess seat them up front. Next time I’ll do the same.
Our entrees took ages to arrive, despite the place being mostly empty. My salmon was unexceptional, served atop vegetables which were swimming in nearly half an inch of oil. Sorry, but I don’t think this is “traditional northern Italian cooking.” $25 for that! Critter had the lamb chops, which were good but also drenched in oil, as were all the veggies on his plate. Can’t remember the cost of that but I’m sure it was close to $30. Why all the oil?? We’ve been to many highly-rated Italian restaurants and none of them were as oil-happy as this. The food wasn’t terrible, just…unimpressive. Maybe we should have tried the pasta instead.
On Saturday we noticed that there were a lot more people milling about, so maybe Reno really comes to life on the weekends. We decided to take the free bus up to the University of Nevada to visit the planetarium and watch a short film about Saturn in the dome-shaped theater there. It was interesting, but not mind-blowing. After that we just farted around until 8pm when we went to see Cyndi Lauper do her blues concert, which was pretty damn good. This was the whole point of our trip, actually, and it made all the other stuff worth it!
After the show we fixed some cheapo drinks in our room (trying to save some money at this point) and headed back to the 5 Star Saloon. We drank and danced for a couple of hours, it was a lot of fun. Unfortunately Critter shook his booty a little too hard and ripped the front of his shorts!
Sunday morning we left our bags at the front desk and basically just walked around and gambled for five hours until our airport shuttle showed up at 5pm. Critter won $500 and I won $125, both playing the Wheel of Fortune penny slots, so that basically paid for our room and covered what we had already spent on gambling, so it pretty much evened out. Nice! If there’s one thing you can do a lot of in Reno, it’s gambling.
We did have one last fiasco before leaving. We saw an internet kiosk that said “Surf the web! Print your boarding pass! Blah-blah-blah!” So we decided to give the boarding pass thing a try, since it was $1 for 3 minutes or something like that. The first sign of trouble was when we tried to print our passes and a Windows “add printer” box popped up, asking us to install a printer. Uh-oh. So after about 10 minutes on the phone with their customer service, we found out that the damn kiosk didn’t even have a printer in it! They said we can only print boarding passes in the Business Center, even though the kiosk has big loud signs saying to print them there. Jesus. How many other people have put their money into this thing and been misled? So we found the Business Center and ended up pumping dollar after dollar into the goddamn thing because it claimed we hadn’t put in enough money to print all the pages, and of course the passes are accompanied by full-page ads which added to the page count… It was a nightmare. By the end I was yelling four-letter names at the PC but we finally got our passes printed and got the hell out of there. It was a fitting end to a somewhat frustrating trip.
So, the verdict on Reno? I don’t think we’ll ever go back. I know I can’t judge it fairly based on one weekend in the casino district, but that’s all I have to go on, and frankly that’s where most visitors end up going, right? The area was just empty, in more ways than one. Look at Fremont Street in Las Vegas — it’s rich with history and character and cheesiness. Reno had none of that, it was more like “Look! You can gamble here! Look, restaurants! Look! Spend your money! Hey, over here!” It just didn’t seem to have its own spirit or whatever. Along with the police-state atmosphere, the shady room-swapping, and the ripoff kiosks, we left feeling glad to leave without looking back. If we ever do go back to Reno, it will be to move on to Lake Tahoe and see what’s over there…
After all that, I do have to say that everyone there was friendly and helpful. We didn’t run into one snotty waiter or attendant, not one asshole bartender or security person. Even the gal who drove the shuttle to the hotel that first night was friendly and chatty, giving us lots of useful info about what to do and where to eat, etc. She was great, and it’s not something you’d ever experience here in Seattle! We did notice, though, that both she and the bartender talked about wanting to move away from Reno, to Portland or somewhere else in the Pacific Northwest. I wonder how many other people would like to get out of that place.
A while back this magazine arrived in the mail. I noticed that something seemed…odd. Then it hit me: the model’s head doesn’t look right! It’s too big, it’s positioned wrong, and the skin tone & lighting don’t match the rest of the photo at all.
Let’s have a closer look, shall we?
I immediately looked inside at the masthead to see if they had a blurb about the photo, and here’s what it had to say:
So this photographer apparently thought the body was great but the head was all wrong. “I didn’t really have to direct her; she had this great, easy energy.” Well who needs direction when you can just swap out the head later? At least, that’s the way it looks to me. And if this really is the same model’s head, why is it all messed-up like that? Was the body shot outdoors and the face shot in the studio? Why??
I know this happens all the time in fashion magazines, but come on — this is Budget Travel, not Vanity Fair. If you’re going to do this kind of thing, at least do it right.
I was as wowed by “Avatar” as everyone else, but the one big problem I had with it was the 3-D. It really didn’t add much to the film for me. My imagination is good enough that I can immerse myself in a film without having to wear a pair of plastic glasses, thank you very much! It also made the colorful, lush CGI environments look dark and muddy. I had the same regrets after watching Pixar’s “Up” in 3-D — it sucked the visuals dry.
This is why I’ve sworn that I’ll never see another movie in 3-D. I just can’t do it. The whole thing is simply a gimmick to raise ticket prices while giving you a mediocre “experience” with muted, drowned-out colors and a merely passable 3-D effect. To me it’s a huge distraction from the film, so until they can do this without the need for glasses, I’m out.
Besides, once a movie like “Jackass 3-D” comes out, doesn’t that pretty much signal the end of the fad? The Consumerist seems to think so.
When the blue-skinned do-gooder hippies of Avatar were unleashed on movie screens last December, nearly three quarters of its opening weekend revenue came from people watching it in 3D. Since then, just about every major action or animated movie has been released in 3D, but often to diminishing results.
I read The Da Vinci Code years ago, before the film but after it was a huge hit, and thought it was a decent story based on a subjects I had already read a lot about (the Christ bloodline and other conspiracy theories). Angels and Demons was slightly better, I thought, not exactly “classic literature” but a fun and ridiculous story nonetheless. I didn’t think at the time that the writing was particularly awful — I was more interested in devouring the story which may have made me more forgiving. Later, I began reading about what a bad writer Dan Brown is, and the examples many people cited were indeed awfully-written. I figured the next time I read one of his books, I’d pay closer attention!
So after recently finishing The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, which is a cracking good detective thriller, I decided to give Dan Brown’s latest book a go. Not surprisingly, the difference between the two authors is staggering.
Now that I’ve finished The Lost Symbol, I’m starting to notice a pattern to Dan Brown’s last three books (now known as the Robert Langdon series, which indicates more are on the way). Here’s how they tend to go:
- It starts with a gruesome death.
- A giant conspiracy is teased: a cold fusion bomb, the Templars, the Masons.
- A self-tormented, evil freak is introduced. He’s hairless, albino, covered in tattoos, obsessed with the occult, whatever.
- Robert Langdon teams up with some detective or sciency chick. They’re chased from place to place, usually churches, museums, or historical landmarks.
- Langdon cracks some codes, makes some wildly improbable connections, uncovers new mysteries…and solves those, too.
- The evil freak character fucks with them along the way, eventually revealing that he’s working for some shadowy master.
- The shadowy master ends up being someone Langdon trusts completely. Langdon feels betrayed and pissed off. (Brown actually doesn’t repeat this one in Symbol, but he goes down that path nearly to the end.)
- The master is revealed to all, the lingering mysteries are solved, the crisis is averted, the end.
So that’s Brown’s usual formula. While reading his latest book, however, some things about his writing (and the story itself) jumped right out at me, so maybe he’s made some changes in his “style.”
First off, he started using italics…a lot! He began with italicizing a characters’ thoughts, which is fine, but then he started getting fancy. The book is positively littered with entire sentences in italics (usually in their own paragraphs) which really didn’t need to be. He was trying to add a lot of gravity to these phrases, but when nearly every page contains one it loses its punch.
It’s incredibly irritating to read.
The next thing I noticed is that whenever one of his characters has some sort of shock or discovery, they think, My God! Over and over again. There is easily a dozen instances of My God! in this book. Oh, and it’s in italics, did you notice?
I sure did. Every goddamn time.
The third thing I discovered while reading this book is that the hero, Robert Langdon, is completely clueless. He’s a world-renowned expert on symbology, cracking ancient codes, and unraveling history’s mysteries. So why is it that he does absolutely nothing for 95% of this book except be pulled from one place to another by other characters and gasp in unbelieving shock (My God!) at the secrets they reveal to him? This is the guy who discovered the bloodline of Jesus and unraveled the secrets of the Templars/Illuminati/etc. — and he’s refusing to believe all the Masonic mysteries being revealed to him in this book? “That’s a myth, that’s not possible! No way, I can’t believe that!”
Christ, what an asshole.
There are other silly things about Brown’s writing, like the overuse of nonessential facts and tidbits (he so earnestly wants to impress us), all of which has already been written about on better blogs than this, but I don’t let those bother me quite as much as this other stuff. The Lost Symbol is an OK story, utterly ridiculous but still kind of fun. I only kept reading to see how he wrapped it up, and it was slightly disappointing. (Without giving too much away, let’s just say he pulled a “Battlestar Galactica.” If you’ve seen how that series ends, you know exactly what I mean.) Six years of writing and this is all he came up with?
In the end I was just glad I didn’t actually buy it — I checked it out from my local library as an ebook for my Nook. Now I have to wonder what he has in mind for his next masterpiece. He’s already done the big conspiracies, so what’s left? The JFK assassination, maybe? That might be interesting.