02/06/2013

“Wanna Go To A Strip Club? We Got A Special Going On; Beauty And The Geek… Not That You’re Some Kind Of Fucking Geek Or Anything Like That” : Las Vegas & CES 2013

by Matthew Hawkins

Man, it’s been exactly a month since last checking in. Just goes to show how busy 2013 has been thus far!

And because it’s still a new year, I’m going to try and stick to the resolution I make each and every time, and that’s to have somewhat manageable sized update. Which is why, instead of covering everything that’s happened over the past month or so, I’m just concentrate on…

Las Vegas. So, how was it? Well, more than anything, I was blown away by how stunningly accurate the various depictions of the place, from movies and TV shows, all honestly were. It was equal parts bizarrely fascinating and morbidly depressing. Actually, it wasn’t always equal. Far from it.

After spending an entire week at the place, was expecting to come back home with a ton of wacky Vegas. But alas, was mostly busy with the reason why I was there in the first place: the 2013 Consumer Electronic Show. Actually, not so much busy, but overwhelmed. Will get to that in a bit (and I do have at least one anecdote).

But first; almost immediately after touching ground, and realizing that there are slot machines everywhere, and how everything costs a goddamn fortune, I quickly checked into my hotel and took a cab to where the rest of the TechRadar crew was, to get down to business. Work, on day one, took place here…

Day one was actually day zero, aka the day before CES officially kicked off, which meant covering pressers. Nothing terribly exciting to report here. Once those were finally done and over with, had some down time to play around with, before a shindig in the evening, so I decided to explore.

As I would quickly learn, there are opportunities to gamble everywhere. This is the casino that was just around the corner from the press area…

Here’s a fun fact I also discovered early on: people don’t like it when you take pictures of them gambling. On my first day, almost got kicked out of a casino because of this picture…

Thankfully, the elderly are the exception to that rule; though most were too busy throwing away their pensions to even notice me. Also, in this case, the Michael Jackson game was pretty engrossing…

Speaking of old, most casinos were a jarring mishmash of classic gambling staples ….

And their modern equivalents (which a lot like Beatmania)…

The one thing that never failed to impress me was the architecture of most hotels/casinos…

While some were quite magnificent, others were quite cheesy…

Even funnier was how things were randomly clumped together…

Sorry, but it’s every visiting New Yorker’s job to point and laugh at this sight…

Say hello everybody to “Killer”…

A partial view of the Las Vega strip, way at the southern end, looking north…

You know what I dig a lot, but which you never see around here in NYC, and which therefore got me super excited? Palm tress. Why? I’m pretty sure it’s Sega AM2′s doing…

So my first night in Vegas was spent at this pre-CES party that had all these vendors who, for whatever reason, didn’t have a booth at the show proper. And, funny enough, that’s where I came across the coolest piece of tech from the entire week: the Oculus Rift…

It’s that Kickstarter funded VR headset that you may have heard about. All I can say is that it is quite simply the God’s honest future of video games. Without question, end of story. It’s basically the Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Holodeck, version 0.001. Even now I can’t get over how amazing the experience was. And this coming from a dude who could care less about virtual reality, or did.

Most amazing part is how I didn’t instantly vomit all over the place in the very first instant! Granted, it is supremely perplexing and disorienting at first. It’s almost like you’re learning to walk for the very first time. But eventually I was able to get the hang of things, and was simply amazed by how I was walking around this virtual environment, and able to look around, with a total free range of motion.

Unfortunately, the Asian part of me eventually kicked in. Still, I hung in there for a good ten minutes, which was much more than I had expected (it usually takes far less time for me to start feeling dizzy with most FPSs). The funny thing is how it has a different effect on different people; some people, like those who never suffer from motion sickness, can’t handle more than ten seconds (like Mike, apparently).

Another highlight of the party was the abundance of tiny hamburgers, tiny hot dogs, and tiny pizzas. Hey, I love finger foods! Also tater tots. Lots and lots of tater tots…

The next day was CES proper and, I have to say… speaking as who considers himself a vet of conventions… I was completely taken aback (and at times, flat out flummoxed) by how massive the entire thing was. It’s like San Diego Comic Con, yet somehow bigger.

So, was there any cool stuff? Well, I mostly stuck to the things my editor ordered me to report on, and thustly had precious little opportunity to really explore on my own. And when the chance did arrive, there was so much sensory overload that my brain basically shut down. Anyone familiar with all my other show reports should know already that this was highly unusual for me!

I did come across a lot of stuff that could be considered cool by some. Like the 4K TVs that made their debut at the show. But, sorry, I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between them and your “average” HD display…

Also, those familiar with my TechRadar output is well aware of how cell phones are my jam. Was really looking forward to groping some sexy new Android handsets, especially since (like so many around these parts) I’m suffering from iPhone/iOS fatigue.

Yet there honestly wasn’t anything: no Galaxy S4 as hoped. Hell, even BlackBerry and their new devices were total no-shows. The best thing going was the latest from Sony. Can say I’m the biggest fan of their Xperia line…

Again, there was so much stuff to process that I almost couldn’t handle it. Making matters much worse (and which was easily the worst part of the entire show) is how I had to cover all these Windows 8 laptops that were impossible to make heads or tails of.

The lowest point was at the Intel booth, where I got pissed at a rep who got pissed at me for pointing out how silly it was that he couldn’t figure out how to use Windows 8 (which, sorry, is kinda insane). At least they had this cool looking tree in which all the foliage was made out of Windows laptops, and that was pretty cool…

The end of day one was the TechRadar after party. It took place at a swanky hotel, which is a bit silly to say, since every hotel in Vegas is swanky. Actually, it took place at a club within a hotel; here’s the ceiling that everyone starred at while waiting to get inside (though since I was staff, I didn’t have to actually wait)…

The club itself was some cheesy Asian fusion type of deal, a weird hodgepodge of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. One could easily describe the entire city as just one big, goofy jumble of “things” as well…

Due to it being such a hot ticket, the doors were closed fairly early on, and Mike plus other pals weren’t able to make it in. So I ended up getting drinks at the bar (which was open, at least for myself), and taking them outside. Best part is how no one cared. Granted, we weren’t technically out in the streets, but even then, it would not have been an issue. Pretty much everyone drinks and smokes, all over the place. No one give’s a rat’s ass. It truly is Disneyland for adults.

Speaking of, and for those wondering: no I did not go to any strip clubs, despite having plenty of opportunities to do so. Like after the party; I declined on joining a bunch of folk who wanted to keep the night going. Afterwards, a colleague who was part of the action told me how he ended up accidentally blowing almost two grand at one such place. Holy sh*t indeed. Not that I would ever dare part ways with that much money… which would have been a big issue.

I hate to knock Vegas, but my biggest irk was how aggressive everyone was. Walking down the street, people are literally yelling at you to go to whatever strip club that they shill for. Like the one dude’s attempt at courting me, whose line kicked off this entry. At least that guy was somewhat funny; others, including some working the show… I’m talking about security guards, bartenders, even the people that were supposed to give information… were just flat out dicks.

It makes sense I guess; the entire city is built around being an alpha male, so that mindset naturally permeates everywhere. Though that wasn’t the only reason why I was skittish about exploring the city, well into the night, as I had planned on. Another issue was how my hotel was relatively far away from the strip (arrangements were made pretty late in the game, and it was the best I could get). Which meant, unless I wanted to blow an additional $40 a day on cabs (and I didn’t), I couldn’t drop my stuff off at the end of the day, i.e. my laptop, before going back out for adventures.

Not that I was afraid that I was going to get into any trouble, but my entire life is on it. Plus a MacBook Pro does get kinda heavy after about 15 hours. Ultimately, having my laptop on my at all times was somewhat essential, since I plenty of work to do in the evenings as well, which also allowed me to explore the fantastic architecture that was one definite highlight of the trip…

One after show soiree took place at Caesar’s Palace, which legitimately blew me away the most. This sounds so cheesy, but walking towards the entrance, alongside many others, really felt as if I was in Rome circa 100 BC!

Got to watch two Korean Starcraft players going at it, check out a 1TB flash drive that costs like a thousand dollars or something like that, and admire this super teeny-tiny PC. Much like the 4K TV pic from above, I wish I had something to give a sense of scale…

Also, the finger foods they served were insanely delicious. Anyhow, was so swept up by the spirit of Vegas at that point (was also mighty drunk at the time), that I decided to actually give throwing my money away a shot as well. I chose the following slot machine…

Why? Take a closer look…

Was totally confused. Even if I wasn’t inebriated, I would have had no idea as to what did what. But hey, at least I made some money (by lining up all squirrels, I think)…

Back to one other not so pleasant thing about Vegas: Carrot Top pretty much owns the place…

Yet another thing from the trip that I was upset over? I really wanted to see Wayne Newton live, and wouldn’t you know, the one time I’m in his neck of the woods, the guy’s not there and instead performing in Atlantic City! Also wanted to see Penn & Teller, and despite the fact that they were performing in my hotel, I couldn’t go. Again, due to my schedule. Which is why, when I heard of Tablet Man, I had to check this guy out…

And I did…

Other highlights from the show floor includes this tiny robot on a tiny bike…

And this rather large wooden drawing model on a not as tiny bike…

Back to robots; one of my favorite finds was this little robotic Android that is programmed and controlled on the fly by any Android device, of course. As well as with iOS…

CES isn’t just about hardware, but software as well. Get this: Vocaloids are finally coming to the US!

So there was this guy, who I wanted to take a picture of, but i also didn’t want to indulge him either, so I chose instead to take a pic from behind, as he was chatting with Elvis (would later find out that the dude in question is someone who goes around calling himself Sir Gaga, real named Gary Fisher)…

Perhaps my biggest disappointment of the entire trip was how I was not able to check out the one arcade everyone told me about, Insert Coin(s). Unfortunately it was too far away, and otherwise, there were no arcades elsewhere, period. So I simply walked up and down the strip, hoping to run into “something”…

… I really wish I had gotten the chance to see Cook. E. Jar. As well as this guy (okay, maybe not)…

The Bellagio Fountains was certainly a sight to behold. If you think this is a beautiful, imagine the water dancing to the tune of “Proud To Be An American” I had a hard time taking picture, due to the water that was pouring from my eyes…

Once CES 2013 wrapped up, it was time for the big dinner with coworkers before heading home. Which was at Planet Hollywood; got there a bit early, hoping to check out some movie memorabilia. Cuz you’d think such a place would have such stuff, right? Nope. At least I was able to run into the throngs of Miss Teen USA participants who were in town (as soon as one event ends, like CES, something else takes its place; alongside the beauty pageant, you also had the porn convention, lol) and waiting in line for some stage show that was happening, one starring Ice T’s wife, Coco (again, lol).

I wanted to ask how they kept their little crowns in place, but A) I’m sure every douche, dork, and Harry asks them that, every single day, and B) each had a handler, to deal with said miscreants. At the very least, was again reminded of how I have very particular tastes in women, and how it does not line up with middle America. I certainly have a type, and they all live in New York City (certain parts at least), Los Angeles (again, not across the board), and Portland (maybe Austin too). And for anyone thinking I’m a creep for eyeballing teenage girls, A) with all that make up, they all looked mid 30s, and B) I still have a thing for Hermione.

While waiting at the hotel bar for everyone else to arrive, it dawned on me … and this is my last complaint, I swear to God… how horrible the go-go dancing is in Vegas. Not that I’m some connoisseur, but I’ve soon way better (I know a really good place, in Park Slope of all places, but that’s neither here nor there). Anyhow, dinner was served and it was awesome. As well as hella expensive; thankfully, the company took care of the bill. Was tempted to make my final night in Vegas an all nighter, but because I had an early flight back home in the morning, opted to head back to the hotel at a reasonable hour…

Yet I was restless, so I decided to check out the casino that was downstairs, mostly for some more stuff to Instagram. Since taking pics of people at the craps table got me in hot water once before, I decided to explore the far end of the casino, which was pretty much deserted (it was 3:30AM after-all). It was there that I noticed a pair of eyes fixated on me…

And because I had a dollar just burning a hole in my pocket, I decided to gamble once again. I also had plenty of options; hardly anyone was playing any of the slot machines that was surrounding me. The one I decided upon was awesome because it was tailor made for cheap-ass, mister no pennies like myself; one could break down the dollar into ten cent bets, insuring much crank pulling.

So I’m sitting there, watching the barrels roll till they stopped, and making them roll again, like a total idiot, when a woman came up to me. Not just any woman, but a prostitute. She asked: “Want some company tonight?”

And I simply replied with: “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Was expecting her to just move along with no fuss or muss, like when you decline a stripper’s offer for a lap dance at a strip club. But no, she just stood there, staring at me, with a mixture of confusion and disgust. After about ten seconds… ten very long and awkward seconds… she eventually moved on. And, because I apparently had at least the look of confusion on my face as well, a hotel employee (or at least a guy dressed as one) came up to me and quietly screamed…

“Hey kid, what are you doing here? You want to play the slots? Well play the slots OVER THERE, with everyone else. Because, if you’re sitting here, by your lonesome self, you know what that tells me, and others? THAT YOUR’RE LOOKING FOR SOME PUSSY. And if that ain’t what you’re here for, THEN GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE.”

And with that, I put all my remaining money on one last spin, which was sixty cents, and I was indeed outta there…

So yeah, guess that for me was Vegas for me in a nut shell? Guess that’s it for now; next time I’ll go over what’s been happening since, as well as some stuff to look forward to, as well as… an album review! Till tomorrow (maybe, hopefully).

Previous post:

Next post: