Saturday, March 30, 2013

March 2013 Scavenger Hunt: Las Vegas, U.S.A.

A scavenger hunt had me scouring Las Vegas, U.S.A. for photos!

A Famous Sign for a Fabulous City

At the end of last month
I was viewing one of my favorite blogs,
Ivan's A Normandy Kitchen,
and I discovered his entry 
in a photography scavenger hunt.


It looked like a fun thing to do, 
so I explored a brand new and inviting blog,
Jill's Made with Love,
and I learned how easy it is to participate.
Just capture a list of 12 specific images for the month 
and post them at the end of the month.


So here we go with my results!

Scavenger Hunt March 2013

1.  Green ...
A Vendor's Cart on Fremont Street, Las Vegas

2.  Three ...
Three Zipliners on Fremont Street, Las Vegas

3.  A Person in Uniform ...
A Deal Too Good to Resist:
Two for the Price of One!
Buskers Superman and Elvis Take a Break 
on Fremont Street, Las Vegas

4.  Bubbles ...
Bubbles in a Giant Glass
East Fremont Street, Las Vegas

5.  Shoes ...
Neon Shoe from the Old Silver Slipper Casino, Las Vegas

6.  Toys ...
Expensive Toys on Fremont Street
1962 Thunderbird, June 2009

7.  A Gate ...
Golden Gate Casino Neon Sign
Fremont Street, Las Vegas

8.  Eggs ...
A Goose Lays Golden Eggs
on Fremont Street

9.  Dessert ...
A Vintage Dessert:  Deep Fried Twinkies

10.  Water ...
Caesars Palace Fountains at Night
On the Strip, Las Vegas

11.  Bridge ...
A Bridge at the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Bellagio, Las Vegas Strip

12.  Empty ...
Poolside at the Mirage
Empty ~ but Not for Long!
Las Vegas Strip

Now for next month's list!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Calgary Book Club: Will Ferguson's "419"

You never know what you'll get roped into 
when you visit the sibs!

Like hosting your sister's book club 
while she is still wonky 
from anesthesia and post-operative drugs.

"Don't worry!  
All you will have to do is uncork the wine," 
says the patient-to-be, Barb.
"I'll join you for the discussion, if I feel up to it."
"And get reading the book:
419 by Will Ferguson,"
says a second sister, Donnie.

I google it to discover that 419 
is the 2012 winner of the $50,000 
Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Book Club Read

Did I mention 
that it was a Canadian author book club?
That Barnes & Noble didn't have it in its system?
That I sat through a five hour layover in Las Vegas 
to save $400 on my plane fare 419-less?

419-less in Las Vegas

Did I mention 
that I had to burn through 393 pages 
after my sister's operation 
and before the book club meeting the next evening?
That it killed me to fly through a great book
unable to savor the spare beauty of its writing
and to read for plot?
That I'm reading it again for sheer pleasure?

A Third Sister, Bertie, 
Grading in the Hospital Cafeteria ~ Not Reading

The title 419 refers to an article 
in the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud.  
The book is built around Nigerian 419 email scams 
where victims are taken for money
in an advance fee fraud.
This type of confidence fraud 
dates as far back as Elizabethan times.

419 Fraud Poster

A victim is sent a letter, now an email, 
soliciting help for someone who is in trouble.
In its simplest form, 
the victim sends the scammer money to help 
in return for more money 
once the person in trouble is rescued.
The scammer gains the confidence of the victim
to extract as much money as possible from his target.

The Internet allows 419 scammers 
to fish in a worldwide pool to hook a vicim.

Routing Paths on a Portion of the Internet

The characters and settings make this book come alive.
From Calgary, Canada, 
"a cold city, exhaling steam . . ."

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Map of Western Canada
Featuring Calgary

. . . to Lagos, Nigeria, 
"a honeycombed hive kicked open."

Lagos, Nigeria

Long after the details of 419 have faded,
the characters in this story will remain vivid to me.

In Calgary there is the Curtis family:
Henry, his wife, and their adult children
Laura and Warren.

Henry is a retired teacher, 
currently employed as a part-time watchman.
He falls victim to a Nigerian 419 scam
with tragic consequences for his family and himself.

Mrs. Curtis withdraws, Warren blusters,
and Laura decides to do something about it.

A single, lonely, and sheltered
copyright editor who works at home in her condo
in Calgary's Northill (in the book) Centre shopping mall,
Laura steps way outside her comfort zone
to attempt to right the wrongs 
that have been inflicted on her family.

North Hill Centre, Calgary 

Murtala Mohammed International Airport
Lagos, Nigeria

In Nigeria there are three main characters,
one unforgettable crime boss,
and a number of minor characters.

Amina is a young pregnant girl of the Sahel
who emerges from a sub-Saharan sandstorm
and walks to a perilous future
to escape a more perilous past.

                          Women of the Sahel Washing Dishes                   The Sahel, Africa

Winston is a smart and educated young Nigerian
with few prospects for a successful future
who is drawn into a criminal cartel
because of his computer savvy.

A Street in Lagos, Nigeria

Nnamdi, the character who haunts me,
is the son of a fisherman
who leaves the ecological devastation
encompassing his village in the Niger Delta
for a chance at a more prosperous future.

File:COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Vissers met hun vangst in de Niger rivier nabij Mopti TMnr 20016798.jpg     

Fishermen on the Niger Delta


          Niger Delta                                             Port Harcourt, Niger Delta

And that one unforgettable crime boss?
the ruthless head of a criminal cartel
whose power spreads
from his base on Lagos Island
throughout his impoverished 
and politically destabilized nation.

 Lagos Island, Nigeria

419 weaves the strands of the characters' lives 
into a sprawling, complex story 
that highlights the contradictions 
of opportunity, finance, and culture 
between the wealthy, oil-dependant West
and the desperately poor, oil-producing Nigeria.

The novel does explore the serious 
human rights and environmental degradation problems
that are the consequence of the complicity
of multinational oil companies 
and corrupt military regimes in Nigeria.

To me, this is even more fascinating
than the novel's main plot centered on 419 scams.
Much can be found on-line about the history 

Oil Pipeline Sabotage, Nigeria 

Because I had to leave 419 behind in Calgary,
I scanned a number of reviews to get details correct.
I quickly discovered that there is 
a wide divergence of opinion about 419.
One critic dislikes what another likes and vice versa.

I found the novel informative, enjoyable, 
and well worth the time I have invested in it.
I will not easily forget 419
and I will read more of Will Ferguson's work.

My thanks to Donnie's and Barb's fellow book club members
for introducing me to a great Canadian read 
and for welcoming me into their gathering.
The food, wine, conversation, and friendship
was warm and memorable. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Vegas Still Surprises Me!

Even after decades of visiting, 
frenetic Las Vegas still surprises me!
I was just toddling along Fremont Street
in the heart of downtown 
when I stumbled across this 
earlier this month!

Heart Attack Grill
Fremont Street
Las Vegas

May I never qualify for a free meal here!

 Over 350 lb or 160 kg Eats for Free!

A Menu to Die For

This must be 
the ultimate American
hamburger restaurant!

How about a
Double Bypass Burger
and Flatliner Fries?

Now this establishment scared the hell out of me!
Like, seriously, 
do you think I was going to get on a scale
and weigh myself publicly?

Not Likely!

Terry assured me that the scale 
was at least 30 or 40 pounds off!

Fascination and Temptation

I know this establishment has garnered 
a little criticism and controversy;
but, it takes very good care of its patients.

Yes, patients!
When you go inside,
a "nurse" takes your "prescription"
and wraps a tag around your wrist 
to show what you have ordered.
Even better!
A "doctor" will examine you with a stethoscope!

How can you miss?
With a menu like this?
(Pat and Orlin have been catching!
Too many rhymes I have been matching!)

Heart Attack Grill's Menu

Let's order!
What's your pleasure?

Single, double, triple, 
or quadruple Bypass Burger
with bacon, cheese, and, oh good,
veggies (onion and tomato)!
With all the pure lard-fried
Flatliner Fries you can eat!

Make mine a quadruple!
Count them:
9,982 calories!
4 half-pound patties
20 strips of bacon        
8 slices of American cheese,
1 tomato,
1/2 red onion
1 bun coated with lard
 Slathered with HAG's unique sauce!

And to drink?
Beer? Tequila?
Butter-fat Shake:
vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry?
Definitely chocolate ~
No ~ wait!

Make mine a Fat Bastard wine
delivered in my own novelty syringe!

And Terry will have a shot of J├Ągermeister
in his own novelty syringe!
(Just kidding, Honey!)

Self-Portrait of Me (Lower Right)

And for dessert?
Absolutely a candy cigarette!
I haven't had one of those in forever!

Remember These?

Whew ~ I'm glad they don't allow real smoking
when I'm trying to chow down all that grub!

This hospital-themed breastaurant delivers what it promises.
It's motto is Taste Worth Dying For.

The first HAG was built in 2005 
in Chandler, Arizona. 
Founder Jon Basso's focus for HAG was
"nutritional pornography" ~
food "so bad for you it's shocking."

It's unofficial spokesman and frequent customer,
Blair River, died at 29 of flu-related pneumonia in 2011.
This "Gentle Giant" was extremely obese. 
The Vegas Heart Attack Grill opened October 2011.
Since then some unsettling events have happened (Wikipedia):

* 2/2012 ~ A customer suffered an apparent heart attack 
                   while eating a Triple Bypass Burger and was taken 
                   to the hospital.

* 4/2012 ~ A woman drinking, smoking, and eating a Double  
                  Bypass Burger fell unconscious.

* 2/2013 ~ A second unofficial spokesman and daily customer,
                  John Alleman, died of an apparent heart attack 
                  in front of the restaurant while waiting for a bus.  
                  He was 52, but not obese.

Promises!  Promises!

I've heard that you can eat anything in moderation,
so I'm tempted to eat there 
when I return to Fremont Street in two months.

But the problem is 
that the Heart Attack Grill has promised 
a ride in a wheelchair to your car,  
pushed by your "personal nurse," 
if you eat a Triple or Quadruple Bypass Burger 
by yourself.

That would be halfway down Fremont Street
to my car in the Four Queen's Valet Lot.

Fremont Street
Four Queens on the Left

If they gave me a cute "personal doctor"
for that wheelchair ride,
I just might do it!

You've gotta love Las Vegas!