Category: Entertainment

I Was There When Vegas Came Back

What I Saw in Sin City

I went to Las Vegas last week, spending four nights at the iconic Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas. I spent Tuesday evening walking from the Nugget to the Strat, where I surveyed Vegas from 100 stories high for two hours.

The next morning, I covered five miles of downtown Las Vegas on foot, covering huge swaths of area.

On Thursday, I walked the length of the Strip, clocking in over 32,000 steps.

I took a two-hour bus tour and talked with the guide. I talked with Uber drivers. I chatted with all sorts of workers, from a farmers market vendor a half-mile north of Fremont Street to bartenders who make those frozen concoctions along the Strip.

I made notes. I came home and surfed the web. I bounced observations off my traveling companion (wife).

I then put all this into a giant blender and poured out these observations.

Primary Observation: Vegas is Back

Vegas, economists say, got hit the hardest among major cities. Nevada casinos alone saw revenues drop $6 billion in 2020. Vegas’ lucrative convention business was shut down. The reverberation through everything—other tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants—has been devastating.

I could see it Tuesday evening when Marie and I walked 2.1 miles from the Golden Nugget to the Stratosphere. We marveled at the ghost town feeling. After we left the Fremont Street area (which had plenty of people, but not crowds), we didn’t come across a single pedestrian until we got a few blocks from the Strat. The uber-cool Art District was empty . . . I mean, zero people. (The Art District isn’t terribly popular, but to see no customers or tourists over the course of about 20 minutes of walking?)

Once we got to the Strat, there were … Read the rest

Three Things We Know About the Amazon LOTR Series

Photo by Jeff Finley on Unsplash

As long as I’m “on a Tolkien kick,” I might as well mention that the Amazon series is apparently delayed due to COVID.

People were estimating a 2021 release date, but now it appears it’ll be late 2021 or early 2022.

In the course of looking for that information, I learned a few things that encourage me.

One, Legolas will not be in it.

Whew. Legolas wasn’t in The Silmarillion, either the main body of the took that covered the First Age of Middle Earth, or in its expansive appendices that give an overview of the Second Age and early Third Age of Middle Earth.

But he wasn’t in The Hobbit, either, but that didn’t prevent Peter Jackson (“the Whore,” as he’s known among Tolkien diehards . . . who is not involved in the series, thank goodness) from destroying the three-part movie version with Legolas and the elves.

Second, the series is definitely going to cover the Second Age. When I wrote this piece, people were thinking that was the case, but it has supposedly been confirmed by Amazon. I suspect my conjecture and analysis in that piece will also be confirmed.

Third, the show will go on for at least two seasons. It is written to go for five seasons, but I guess Amazon has committed to only two seasons so far. I don’t pretend to understand mini-series, but I’m assuming Amazon wants to see how it does before contracting itself to seasons 3, 4, and 5. Given that the Second Age lasts for over 3,400 years, I would think there’s enough material for five seasons (and then some).

Read the rest

Driving the Chicks Crazy with Your Spiritual Life

Johnny Cash’s Tennessee Flat-Top Box

In 1961, Johnny Cash recorded Tennessee Flat-Top Box, an intoxicatingly-charming song about a dark-haired youngster who played guitar in a small Texas town cabriolet. He cared for nothing in life, except playing his guitar: “He couldn’t ride or wrangle, and he didn’t care to make a dime, but give him his guitar, and he’d be happy all the time.”

A guy like would be scorned for many reasons in our society. Jocks wouldn’t like his athletic inability. Career men wouldn’t like his refusal to get a job and make money. A culture obsessed with a frenzied array of activities would disdain his lack of diversity.

Of course, he might gain respect for his relentless effort to succeed with his guitar, like Olympic athletes who are admired every four years for the sacrifice they make to a single sport.

But I doubt the dark-haired boy concentrated on his guitar to gain respect or admiration. Such base self-love would gut the charm of the song. The boy loved playing his guitar, whether or not he got paid, whether or not he would be famous for it. Hence he played in a small Texas cabriolet. Constantly, lovingly.

And was real good at it.

He mesmerized the girls who came from all over (from the border of Texas to Austin) to hear him play. They would hock their jewelry to get money for the trip, then come to the cabriolet, “snapping fingers, tapping toes, and begging him don’t stop.” One day he disappeared and showed up later on television, playing on the hit parade.

The dark-haired boy played for the love of playing the Tennessee flat-top box guitar. He eventually made money at it, but that wasn’t his goal, judging from the absorbing message sent by the lyrics and … Read the rest

The Continuing Crisis and The Week that Perished

The best lead columnist of all time is Emmett Tyrrell, who wrote “The Continuing Crisis” for The American Spectator for years.

I read the column while I was in high school, always being careful to put the magazine back in my dad’s stack before he got home from work. In the 1990s, I got my own subscription. I always read “Ben Stein’s Diary” first, then “The Continuing Crisis.”

Both columns are back, I discovered yesterday. You just need a subscription . . . to the tune of $10.99 per month.

I was bummed at that. I was hoping it would be $20 a year, but no: $132 per year. As I mentioned in this column, the paywall online publications vary wildly in price and content. I’m afraid The American Spectator ranks pretty low in this regard.

It’s too bad. I gotta believe Tyrrell is still brilliantly funny, and Stein’s reflections on his days in Hollywood are always fascinating. He gave Jimmy Kimmel his first big break on Win Ben Stein’s Money (to be accurate, I assume Comedy Central hired Kimmel, but I gotta believe Stein had some involvement). I still remember Stein writing that Kimmel had more talent in his little finger than most people have in their body and that he would make it big someday.

He was right.

I just wonder if he weeps at how Kimmel went woke. I know I do.

Taki Magazine’s “The Week that Perished” isn’t as good as “The Continuing Crisis,” but it’s in the same ballpark.

And its most-recent entry is one of the finest over the past couple of months. A run-down of its story points:

The woke’s disregard for property rights and public statues, then their outrage when one of their own gets smashed.

Last week, a large ceramic

Read the rest

Listening to Podcasts at Oxford in 1374 and Kansas in 1974

Why do we love those conversational podcasts?

If you were a student at a medieval university, you listened to lectures.

And listened and listened and listened to lectures, often more than ten hours a day.

But they weren’t like lectures at today’s universities, where hundreds of students sit in a hall and listen to a professor deliver a monologue.

The medieval morning lectures were like that, but come afternoon, the lectures morphed into dialogue. The professor would assert a position, a graduate assistant would field questions or objections posed by undergraduates, and discussion ensued. At the end, the professor would summarize that afternoon’s conversation.

It was the “Scholastic disputation.”

Each session was meant to unfold knowledge gradually, as informed and inquisitive minds rubbed against one another, sharpening each other in the process, like knives rubbing against a whetstone.

Kansas: Early 1970s

The disputation, like everything else Scholastic, evaporated over the centuries and gave way to the mass lecture hall, with one professor doing all the talking.

In the 1970s, three professors at the University of Kansas brought back the disputation.

The three professors were John Senior, Frank Nelick, and Dennis Quinn, and they led the Integrated Humanities Program, a program dedicated to the wild notion of restoring a sense of beauty and poetic knowledge in its students.

The Program had a lot of facets (e.g., waltzes, star-gazing, great books), but its centerpiece may have been conversations among the three professors with the students watching.

The following description of these highly-popular sessions is taken from Fr. Francis Bethel’s John Senior and the Restoration of Realism.

The 80-minute classes were neither planned nor rehearsed. They weren’t even mentally prepared beforehand. Said Quinn in an interview:

We didn’t plan the lectures. We had lunch together before class started and on the way

Read the rest

Give Gloria! The Neo-Garage Rock Movement

My son turned me onto a musical movement that I’m not sure even has its own name

A music revival took place from about 2000 to 2015 that didn’t even have a name.

Which is fitting, its eponymous grandfather wasn’t given a name either, until after it had concluded.

In the 1960s, a rock genre came out of thousands of garages across America. They played Them’s “Gloria” and simple chords with heavy beats.

From Dallas: Sam the Sham & the Pharoah’s “Wooly Bully.

Union City, Indiana: The McCoy’s “Hang on Sloopy.

Los Angeles: The Standell’s “Dirty Water” (I never figured out why a LA band wrote a tribute to the city of Boston.)

Saginaw, Michigan: Question Mark and the Mysterians’ “96 Tears” (poor lead singer Rudy Martinez changed his legal name to “Question Mark” in anticipation of more success, but none came).

Pittsburgh: Tommy James and the Shondell’s “Hanky Panky.”

All these groups and innumerable bands that sounded like them weren’t given an identity until the early 1970s, when they were remembered as “garage rock bands.” (If you want to see the definitive, if expansive, garage band playlist, see the 165-hour compilation “Underground Garage Nuggets” by The Vault on Spotify, which includes nine versions of “Gloria,” including one in French.)

A similar thing happened earlier this century. I call it “neo-garage rock,” but I don’t think anyone else is. It’s part of the “garage rock revival” in general, but that phrase includes a lot of other stuff, like a new punk movement.

Fortunately, my son turned me onto this genre a few years ago. I started playing it for one of my drinking friends (both of us are in our fifties and don’t care for new music in general). He asked, “Where are you finding this stuff? It’s great.”

I … Read the rest

McConaughey on His Way to Rome?

Recommended: Joe Rogan’s engaging interview with Matthew McConaughey

Delightful interview from Austin, Texas, with Matthew McConaughey at the Joe Rogan Show. I listened to it yesterday while using my new nifty leaf mulcher to create some great winter beds for my garden (the mulcher is great, but (i) it eats the whipping string pretty fast, and (ii) it goes a lot slower if the leaves are wet).

McConaughey has always struck me as a genuinely decent guy, and this interview confirmed it. He has no problem confirming his Christian faith and I’m pretty sure he’s right-of-center politically. How right? I don’t know.

But what really grabbed me: his prayer life. He says he spends time getting in touch with himself every morning, then he “bookends” it in the evening by doing a review of his day. He does the review, he says, right before he does his prayers.

Wow. The guy is doing the Examen. He didn’t call it that, but that’s clearly what he’s doing.

I love seeing Catholic practices erupt into pop culture like that. I call it “Accidental Catholicism.”

I swear, Ryan Holiday is creating an entire cottage industry out of re-packaging Catholic spiritual practices under the name of “Stoicism” (check out these Stoic medallions that he’s selling . . . the guy is really clever).

Here’s the thing: If we Catholics have the truth, or the nearest we can come to the truth on this earth, then we are all sitting on a goldmine of marketing possibilities. We all ought to be developing Stoic medallions and making money from them. Doing well while doing good . . . and tithing the proceeds.

Anyway, McConaughey appears to be a guy who has said, “Look. I made it big. I’m famous. I have money. It’s time … Read the rest

The Flopping Men Who Play Soccer

And Miscellaneous Other Matters

I guess I really, really don’t like soccer

Look, I couldn’t care less about soccer. I agree with Colin Cowherd’s observation that, if you live on a dirt road with chickens running around, kicking a ball is probably pretty cool, but this is America. We have money; we have wealth.

Readers of TDE understand that I don’t think such wealth is an unequivocally good thing, but it does do one thing: it gives us a lot of options. We don’t need to resign ourselves to kicking a ball and we definitely don’t need to resign ourselves to watching others kick a ball, so I’ll opt for those games that cost a lot more money: baseball, hockey, and football (basketball doesn’t).

I also detest the outrageous flopping that soccer features. Again, I (proudly) don’t know much about it, but I gotta believe the flopping is a result of nanny officiating, which in turn stems from mandates from league officials who prize safety and health to the exclusion of all else (maybe we oughtta make soccer the official sport of the COVID generation).

So, it’s not like there’s much that would prompt me to hold soccer in much lower regard, but this story did it: Phoenix Rising FC Player Suspended For Homophobic Slur: USL.

That wasn’t surprising, of course. You can’t say “f***ot” or “f’ng f**” or any other (oh so) clever derivation anymore without severe reprisals. The same would happen in the NFL. Heck, with Roger “The Human Virtue Signal” Goodell, such a thing would probably get you a Pete Rose ban.

But I like to think the guys in the NFL are too busy kneeling and wouldn’t stoop to tattling, like these women did: 

Martin was issued a red card at the end of the

Read the rest