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NOVEMBER 2014
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Take 5
Nov. 5, 12, 19, 26, 10p. Paul Mattingly (Second City) and Matt Donnelly (former writer for Penn & Teller) offer up improv at its finest. You...   
Nov. 12 & 26, 8p. Long-form improv in an intimate setting, so close to the Strip you can taste it. Come early to participate in improv games...   
Through Nov. 26. A selection of work in every genre: painting, textiles, digital, photography, sculpture, printmaking and mixed-media by some of...   
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How Vegas ate Reno's lunch
by Geoff Schumacher | posted November 25, 2014
Many states have two major cities. California has Los Angeles and San Francisco. Missouri has St. Louis and Kansas City. Tennessee has Nashville and Memphis. And in most cases, the cities are quite different historically, economically and culturally.
 
A glance at Nevada’s two major cities, Reno and Las Vegas, might suggest an anomaly — that they are, in fact, quite similar. But in a new book, longtime UNLV history professor Gene Moehring argues that this is not the case.
 
In Reno, Las Vegas, and the Strip: A Tale of Three Cities (University of Nevada Press), Moehring compares and contrasts the development histories of Reno and Las Vegas to explain how and why Las Vegas surpassed Reno to become the nation’s undisputed gambling capital.
 
There are several reasons, most of them rooted in an underlying cultural distinction: Reno saw rapid growth as hurting quality of life, while Las Vegas saw rapid growth as improving quality of life. Moehring quotes Carl Abbott, a prominent historian of the urban West, to the effect that Reno saw its community more as a “residential environment” while Las Vegas saw itself more as an “economic machine.”
 
Over the years, Reno politicians and residents have battled the growth forces much more aggressively than has happened in Las Vegas. The result has been slower and more labored development of Reno’s gambling and tourism infrastructure. And while Reno studied, cogitated and fought, Las Vegas bulldozed, built and populated what has become a valley of megaresorts and 2 million people.
 
Certainly, Reno’s predominant “managed growth” mindset has left some pondering how things could have gone differently for the Truckee Meadows. If it had embraced a sprawling casino strip of its own, outside the cramped downtown, perhaps its resort industry could have grown bigger and more competitive. If local battles had not delayed the construction of Interstate 80 by several years, perhaps it could have drawn more tourists. If it had built hotel rooms and convention facilities sooner, maybe it would have kept pace with Las Vegas.
 
“The missed opportunities are probably what upset Reno-area boosters such as Jud Allen the most,” Moehring writes. “Whereas Las Vegas gamers exploited every chance that came along, much like a wily card player in a game of gin rummy, Reno’s leaders missed their share of opportunities.”
 
For example, in the late 1970s, Disney developed an elaborate proposal to build a wilderness theme park in the Sierra. The project likely would have attracted thousands of families for outdoor adventures, and Reno would have been the main economic beneficiary. Government agencies and environmentalists opposed the project, but Reno officials did little to advocate for it.
 
Of course, most Reno residents are unlikely to perseverate on questions of what could have been, because they never wanted their city to become more like Las Vegas. Reno has always been more concerned about its reputation than Las Vegas. Buttressed by a history and identity that long preceded Nevada’s legalization of gambling in 1931, its residents never wanted to live in a “sin city” or grow into a metropolis.
 
Despite their differences, Reno and Las Vegas have mirrored each other recently in the area of downtown revitalization. Both cities have seen considerable success by mining the opportunity in remnants of their railroad origins.
 
In Las Vegas, the city took over Union Pacific’s abandoned 61-acre rail yard. An array of businesses and cultural institutions has sprung up in what is now called Symphony Park, highlighted by the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
 
In Reno, the catalyst was the massive ReTRAC project. A huge two-mile trench was dug so that trains could move through the downtown area without interfering with street-level business. As an added benefit, the project created 120 acres of land for new downtown development.
 
Reno also has taken much better advantage of its greatest asset: the Truckee River. Where once the city turned its back on the river coursing through the central city, the Truckee today is an integral part of the downtown experience. Swimming, kayaking and fishing are popular summertime pursuits at the Truckee River Whitewater Park, which is surrounded by restaurants, shops, art galleries and theaters.
 
In the wake of the Great Recession, both Las Vegas and Reno are seeking a more diversified economy. Reno has had more success thus far, attracting substantial investments by tech industry leaders such as Apple and Tesla. But if history is any guide, when Las Vegas gets its chances to diversify, it will do so on a larger scale than Reno could imagine — or desire. 


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River mysteries and new friends
by Heidi Kyser and Andrew Kiraly | posted November 24, 2014

River riddle

“I have run these canyons for six million years,” begins a stunning video by photographer, writer and filmmaker Pete McBride. Titled,“The Colorado River – the Most Endangered River in America 2013,” the piece is written as a first-person riddle, with cryptic lines read alternately by female (Amy Beatie) and male (Duke Beardsley) narrators. McBride lays hints like, “I am not the strongest or largest, but I am the hardest-working” over aerial shots that showcase the Colorado’s aesthetic and utilitarian wonders — Utah farmland to Grand Canyon. And it’s presentation with a point: “Use me wisely, and I will sustain you. Use me like you have, and I will break.” McBride has taken nonprofit American Rivers’ designation of the Colorado as the country’s most endangered waterway and created a powerful homage to a natural resource whose strength is being tested. Although the designation came more than a year ago, current events — such as last week’s announcement that Southern Nevada may need a third pump to suck water from Lake Mead’s dead pool in order to sustain the population going forward — demonstrate its unfortunately persistent relevance. — Heidi Kyser

 

Friendsgiving

When Thanksgiving rolls around, what do the strays do? The people without a deep bench of family or network of local meat-world friends cultivated over decades, the luxury of the longtimer — you know, a significant wedge of the Southern Nevada population? They do Friendsgiving.

As distinct from the family-centric Thanksgiving — with its humming emotional background radiation of co-produced dramas, conflicts, triumphs and shames that can reallllly sour a promising party vibe — Friendsgiving is a holiday gathering of strays and singles. And in Las Vegas, a city of strays and free radicals, I’d argue that freewheeling, ad hoc Friendsgiving is a tradition much more relevant to the Vegas experience than forking awkwardly at mom’s walnut stuffing while Uncle Bill regales you with his recent medical history. At Friendsgiving, superficial connections make for deep festivity: We’re not gathering here out of obligation, forced to scootch around our ungainly backstories (the breakup, the accident, the job they think you still have) over bean casserole; we want to be here, and this is the story. Thus the guy inexplicably, you know, just hanging out in overalls and Rollerblades, and your new friends chasing whiskey shots with pickle juice (“It makes it like it never happened!”), and people with otherwise not even a residue of interest in boxing loudly betting a fancy-schmancy dinner on the Pacquiao/Algieri fight as it blorps out, digitized and chunky, from some sketchy graynet streaming service. What is this Amaro Montenegro stuff? Tastes like grapefruit. Whose flaphat is this on my head? Whose cigarettes are these and can I have one? Who are these people? They’re your new friends; give thanks for them. — Andrew Kiraly



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Game of bones
by Scott Dickensheets | posted November 21, 2014

 

Skeleton dude!

You see the strangest things through partially opened doors, this one at the CSN Charleston campus.



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