View blog reactions Waiting for Speedway Fowler: April 2006

Sunday, April 30, 2006


Where Your TV is Headed

Picture this:

It's 2010. The year we make contact.

Okay... not really. Nothing that profound has happened. Instead, let's simply take a look at a few minutes in your life.

You come home from work. You're dragging a little because traffic was a nightmare because they're still working on the Route 146 interchange, though The Powers That Be assure us it will only be another year or so. You grab a quick supper with the family and then you all relax in the Media Room. You're enjoying your new 110" set that's one of the great wave of inexpensive solid state OLED sets made in Bangladesh. You got it for half the price of your previous DLP set and it's twice as large. You think you'd like to watch a new episode of "Star Trek: The Original Series". It's getting great reviews and the computer animations of Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew are so photo-realistic they're indistinguishable from the original three seasons of the show that were taped back in the 1960's. The only way to tell the difference is that with the current crop of episodes, the special effects are much better, though some fans say that detracts from the series. Your spouse has an idea. She'd like to watch an American Idol-type of competition, only featuring singers strictly from southern New England. You do a quick search and find there are four different series that fit that description. Your daughter can't wait for the latest episode of "Uxbridge", the hot new teen drama that chronicles the lives, loves, suburban angst and ridiculous good looks of the denizens of the Blackstone Valley. Your son is interested in checking out the travel show he made with his friends.

Guess what? You end up watching all those programs. All at the same time. All on the same set.

That's what the future holds. People are doing it now. Creating their own content. Creating their own television shows. Right now its called video podcasting or vlogging, and it's only in its infancy. Five years down the line this will be the mainstream. The technology is already here. CGI Animation is just a few years from creating human features that are indistinguishable from real life. A group of fans working out of a former gas station in Plattsburgh, NY are already making their own Star Trek episodes with quality comparable to the original series. Steve Garfield, a Boston vlogger, does "The Carol and Steve Show", with episodes chronicling his life with his wife and their adventures. And every day more and more people are grabbing cameras, learning editing basics on their computers and going out and creating the shows they want to see.

And yes, we'll be able to watch all those shows at the same time. Monitors have already been developed that let viewers watch two things at once, depending on where they are sitting.

It should be VERY interesting.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Get Ready for Paco

If you haven't heard of Paco, you will soon.

Paco is the street name for a cheap, powerful drug that is becoming the scourge of South America. It's a chemical byproduct, a leftover that is created when Andean coca leaves are turned into a paste. It used to be that paco was thrown in the trash at drug labs, but at one point dealers discovered it could be sold in the slums of Argentina and Chile, to the poorest of the poor, people who normally wouldn't be considered viable drug customers.

Paco is smoked, rather than sniffed, and psychologists say it causes lasting physical and cognitive damage. The health ministry in Buenos Aires says paco can cause death in less than six months of use. Paco goes for about 30 cents a dose, which will give the user an intense two-minute high.

The drug has become one of the biggest problems in cities like BA and Santiago, where it's now likened to the the crack epidemic that hit America in the 80's. In one month, provincial police in Argentina seized 7,000 doses of paco in 19 different raids. Four years ago, the drug was completely unknown. Now police say it's spreading from the slums to the middle- and upper-class neighborhoods. And Argentinian officials says its arrival in the United States is an inevitability.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Meanwhile, Back at Club Hunthurst

I've been back for 24 hours and I am choking and coughing again. I coughed the first two days in Nevada, but by the third day my cough was gone. I thought one of the best things about Vegas was the desert air. Even in the middle of the city, the air is very fresh.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Speaking of The Devil, Did I mention JD was there?

I realize in reviewing the previous post that I might be giving the impression that I've had a terrible time in Vegas. That's not true. There have been a number of highlights on this trip:

- running into Fat Joe while walking down The Strip
- catching the Las Vegas 51's AAA baseball game at Cashman Stadium.
- Stopping by "The Happiest Place on Earth", the Double-Down Saloon.
- Seminars that I thought would be boring, that actually turned out pretty cool. David Lawrence is one of the seminar leaders. He comes off as arrogant as you'd expect, but he's consistently listenable.
- In-n-Out Burger
- Checking out the Vegas skyline at night from the roof of the Rio Hotel while listening to JD's stories about his co-workers in L.A.

The one thing I disliked the most was the constant spending on cabs. I would rent a cheap car next time.


I'm Living for Giving the Devil His Due (More Thoughts on Las Vegas)

I don't understand Vegas. The city is an American icon and it certainly deserves that status - how can the fastest-growing city in the country arise from the empty desert in just 75 years and NOT become a thing of wonder? But what I don't understand is Vegas' status as a pop culture Holy Land. Other than its history, what is interesting about Las Vegas? What is exotic? What is compelling? The casinos are all essentially the same, with only the window dressing of vague themes differentiating them. Hey. Pirates. Yeah. Inside, you see the same endless rows of slot machines and gaming tables, the same ancient people waiting to die, the same bored and sweaty pit bosses standing there marking the hours till payday, making mental notes to later regret not having gone to electrician school.

The most interesting thing I saw inside any of the casinos was a bank of slot machines modelled on the 60's sit-com "That Girl", twenty identical slots with Marlo Thomas winking and waving at you, and that was interesting only because of the sheer WTF Factor.

The hands-down biggest star in this city is a guy you've never heard of: Danny Gans, who headlines at the Mirage and who apparently combines what the kindest reviews call "more or less accurate" celebrity impressions with old-fashioned proselytizing. Here's George Burns! Now Jimmy Stewart! Jesus Loves You! Don't forget to tip your stripper! You'd think such a bizarre dichotomy would be fascinating, but actually it's just comes off as bland. If there is any flavor in Las Vegas, I couldn't find it. Maybe it died with Dan Tanna.

Vegas has become middlebrow America and middlebrow America has become Vegas. The pneumatics of the strip shows pale in the face of the everyday boob jobs of suburbia. The flashy cars don't elicit much notice because we see wilder creations on cable TV, coming out of custom shops in places like Poughkeepsie. The stars who play here no longer even have kitsch value going for them... Louie Anderson? Wayne Brady? And thanks to Britney Spears innate genius at making vague whorishness trendy, it's now almost impossible to play Spot The Hooker at casino bars.

Vegas is like the mall... only with more ashtrays.


Burn Out the Day, Burn Out the Night

What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.

And I'm guessing that's because it's just not all that interesting.

Vegas is fascinating in it's own way, but not nearly as much as you'd expect. As I leave here, the one impression I'm left with is a levelling blandness. How can Vegas still be selling itself as Sin City when there's the Internet now? There's nothing here that can't be trumped by something you'd be able to find online. I read a newspaper article about an Indiana woman who's one wish was to be tortured to death, so she went online and found a guy willing to do it. How can Howie Mandell compete with that? All the gaming tables are the same, all the acres of slots are the same, all the buffets are the same. There's no thrill here, because the very action of mass-marketing a thrill destroys it. There's no danger here, unless you count the occasional menacing gang, and that's something you can find anywhere. The only thing slightly intriguing about this place is looking around you at all the casinos, all the hotels, and all the tract neighborhoods stretching away to the horizon and knowing, at some point, all the water will go away. At that point, maybe Vegas really will get interesting.

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