The entire show has taken a huge lurch downward (or upward, depending on your perspective) with the opening today of the Adult Video conference in the expo center at the Sands. The porn stars and other assorted sleazeballs began arriving last night and the corridor that connects the Venetian to the Sands has now taken on the atmosphere of a circus with armies of geeks colliding with armies of freaks. I’ve seen more ridiculously huge fake tits in the last half hour than I’ve seen in my entire life. I was drinking my lunch at Pinot at the Venetian when I saw a midget leather boy riding on the shoulders of a blonde giantess; they were strolling toward the casino. Or maybe that’s the after-effects of the peyote from last night.
The psychedelics were obtained at a Nokia cocktail reception and began to kick in just as I arrived for an outrageously swank dinner at Aureole in Mandalay Bay with a group of PR women from San Francisco who seemed to be convinced that I’m actually a journalist and might even write about their awful clients. The wine flowed and we all ordered lobster but when mine arrived I was really starting to get off on the peyote and I freaked out and just sat there staring at it. The poor flacks tried to talk about their clients for a while but then someone steered the conversation quickly downward and we spent the rest of the evening drunkenly discussing such things as shockers, blumpkins, balloon knots, leather cheerios and angry dolphins, the last of which one of the ladies was kind enough to perform for us. She was convincing in a way that led me to believe she’d had real-life experience.
Dinner led to gambling, in this case craps at Mandalay Bay. After an hour of that I was up nearly a thousand dollars and then all of us, hacks and flacks, piled into Albert’s minivan cab and we gambled our way through the Bellagio, Caesars and the MGM Grand while doing tequila shots. Was approached by a call girl and declined her offer but paid her one hundred dollars to talk to me for fifteen minutes and bring me luck. She told me she’d flown in from Vancouver for the show. Turns out hookers from all over North America travel in for CES, and some of the ladies make more in this one week than they make in two months of ordinary work. I asked this woman how many johns she would see by time the show was up. She told me. The number was terrifying.
The last thing I remember I was playing blackjack and losing badly. I woke up in my room this morning, but have no idea how I got there. Worse yet, I’d lost my shoes. I called Albert, gave him my size, and thirty minutes later he returned with a pair of Nike sneakers that almost fit.
What else? The show itself is awful. Nothing, and I mean nothing, worth seeing. I ran into Moshe this morning and he’s shell-shocked by the constant screaming awful music that’s blasting everywhere, indoors and outdoors, without any way to find relief. He says the only time he’s ever seen this before was in Israeli prisons where they used loud music to torture prisoners. He says no human can stand more than a day of this. Yet here we all are, more than a hundred and fifty thousand of us, staggering around like zombies after three days of abuse.
The Asians have been especially hard hit. They’re dropping like flies. Koreans are strewn around the hallways passed out in the same blue suits they’ve had on since arriving on Sunday. I’ve been told that a great number of them do not even bother to rent rooms and instead simply sleep in their booths. Or in hallways. They’re everywhere. It’s like Dawn of the Dead. In the press room the guys from Gizmodo have been playing terrible jokes on passed-out foreigners, putting their hands in bowls of warm water, taking pictures of them holding rude signs, putting lipstick on them — not cool.
I realized this morning as I staggered through the show floor with my head spinning that the show itself is a metaphor for the future of the digital home — and guess what? The future is not a place you’re going to want to visit. The future, in fact, is going to be a fucking nightmare, a total clusterfuck with everybody from Nokia to Seagate to Comcast to Verizon to Microsoft to Netgear launching overlapping products and overlapping services and everyone claiming they’re going to bring all of the zillions of pieces together into some kind of magical coherent whole.
Everybody talks about how you’re going to just move from one screen to another and take all your phone calls and data and videos and music with you wherever you go. The reality is that everybody is pushing only pieces of the puzzle, just ingredients in what is looking more and more like a highly fucked up stew. Hodgepodge city. Everyone agrees that physical media — DVDs and CDs — are dead, and battles like SACD v. DVD-A and Blu-ray v. HD-DVD are pointless. Everyone agrees that electronic distribution is the future. But nobody can figure out how the fuck this is going to happen.
The whole situation is crying out for someone to come in and make sense of it the way Apple made sense of digital music with iTunes and iPods. Lesson there was simple: People will give up freedom and sign away their souls if you can make a system that works. Whoever figures this one out is going to make a holy shitload of money.
Our Apple spies have been working the floor hard and shutting down anyone who’s showing iPod accessories without permission. Caught some grumbling about this in the Mandalay Bay casino last night. Took photos of the complainers with my iPhone and we can ID them when I get back.
Highlight of the show for me is that someone — I won’t say who — has been going around the show floor with a hidden device that shuts off TV screens. They’re standing in the crowd, blasting displays and befuddling the booth idiots. The perps film themselves doing this and are compiling a movie. I’ve seen some of the raw footage. It’s amazing. Bam goes the screen at a gamer booth. Bam goes the screen at a Motorola press conference. Bam-bam-bam goes an entire wall in the Panasonic booth, thirty screens snapping to black. Best thing I’ve seen here.