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Oct. 2, 7p. The artist who installed giant eyeball sculptures in Chicago and St. Louis and created a 30-foot fiberglass image of a weary Paul...   
Oct. 2, 7p. The UNLV Wind Orchestra presents this magnificent piece led by conductor Thomas G. Leslie and featuring a guest performance by Palo...   
Oct. 3, 5-11p. This month’s theme is “12 Months and Mythology,” in celebration of First Friday’s 12th anniversary! There...   

Wellness center, bird's-eye views
by Heidi Kyser & Scott Dickensheets | posted September 30, 2014


Margot switches on the fans, cranks up the music and — right off the bat — has us stand up on our pedals. “All right, let’s get going with a hill-climb!” she yells, smiling. It’s only 6 in the morning, but I’m game. Who can resist an energetic Canadian swim team member who plays French disco for spin class? Not me, that’s for sure. Maybe it’s the endorphins talking, but I love everything about UNLV’s Student Recreation and Wellness Center, the humongous gym and health clinic on the south side of campus near the Thomas and Mack. Most people I tell this didn’t realize it before: For $25 a month (no signup fee, no contract) nonstudent community members can get a membership that gives them unlimited access to the SRWC’s recreational facilities, like the natatorium where I swim once a week, and classes, like Margot’s 6 a.m. indoor cycling. I’ve belonged to several gyms in my life, including the two main corporate-owned ones here in Vegas, and none has come close to UNLV’s on size (184,000 square feet), amenities, cleanliness and variety of classes, equipment and facilities (racquetball courts, indoor running track, relaxation room!). It’s almost enough to make a person want to enroll, in which case, he'd get all that wellness for free. C’est pas vrai! — Heidi Kyser


I love a good cautionary note — it’s the wary optimist in me — and so, amid recent hagiographic RJ headlines about upswings in homebuilding, and a general belief that the real-estate biz is coming back, I sometimes dial up the work of photographer Michael Light ( Specifically, the portfolios of aerial shots titled “Lake Las Vegas” and “Black Mountain.” Both were sites of frenzied, environmentally destructive, upscale homebuilding — stalled by the recession “at exactly the point where (Las Vegas’) aspirational excesses were most baroque and unfettered.” And ugly. If the tacky McMansions of Lake Las Vegas appear grotesquely out of place, thanks to an eye-in-the-sky perspective that puts the development in its larger environmental context, the Black Mountain sites are worse. The desert mountainsides there look injured — scraped, pummeled, terraformed — the lack of any built housing making the damage that much starker. To his credit as an artist, Light “finds beauty and empathy amid a visual vertigo of speculation, overreach and environmental delusion.” It’s something to keep in mind as the metronome of growth begins to pick up again. As it happens, Light’s work will make for an even handier reminder come Oct. 31, when it these portfolios will appear in book form, Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain (the quotes above are drawn from descriptions of the book). A great coffee-table gift for the wary optimist in your life. — Scott Dickensheets 





by Bridget Lowe | posted September 24, 2014

Your green Arcadian hills do not interest me.
The bird-bright eyes of every bird cared for,
the way it is promised, the way it is written,
everyone fat on their share of sun and seed.

But I don’t see you in the dark streak of a cat
crossing the street or the regal skunk in summer’s heat
that strolls the sidewalk after dark, stopping to look at me
before moving on to its home under a neighbor’s porch,
pushing its black-white weight through the latticework.

I don’t see you in a head of lettuce, decapitated
and wet at the grocery store, singing in Orphic dissonance.
I look at your trees and see the night my mind rose up
and left the body’s bed, the skin of the moon
in your teeth.

I begged you to make the mule of my mind
come back. Do you remember what you said?
Nothing. And in the silence after that—
my head without my body, singing on the riverbed.


Bridget Lowe is the author of the book of poetry At the Autopsy of Vaslav Nijinsky (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Best American Poetry, Boston Review, The New Republic, Parnassus, and in the forthcoming anthology 12 Women. She lives in Kansas City.
She reads her work 7p Sept. 25 at UNLV's Greenspun Hall Auditorium as part of Black Mountain Institute's Emerging Writers Series.


'Cookies change the world'
by Heidi Kyser | posted September 23, 2014

If you like your Girl Scout cookies gourmet style, you’ll want to be at Dessert Before Dinner this Saturday, September 27, at Caesars Palace. While mingling, sipping cocktails and bidding in the silent auction, event attendees get to sample desserts that local chefs will make in a baking competition based on a Girl Scout cookie. Dinner follows, along with inspirational speeches by local women of note, all of which raises money for Girls Scouts of Southern Nevada.

It’s Liz Ortenburger’s second time hosting the event as CEO. In advance of her major annual fundraiser, the scout-in-chief talked to Desert Companion about her vision for the local organization and, of course, cookies. 

You came to Las Vegas for the top job at Girls Scouts of Southern Nevada in September 2013. What drew you to the position?

I’d been with Girl Scouts in the early part of my career, then went back to graduate school, and then was with the YMCA. I felt I was ready to step into the CEO seat and use what I’d learned in graduate school and put into practice at the Y to take an organization to another place.

What place is that?

Our traditional model has been two to three adults taking on groups of 10-15 girls. It’s a 250-300 hour time commitment, which is difficult for a working parent to handle. We looked at the model and asked how we could make it work in today’s terms. As a mom, when I’m signing my kids up for programs, the first question I ask is, when and where. We couldn’t answer that for Girl Scouts, so we had to spread out the volunteer work and then identify a time and place where programs could happen for your daughter.

And you’ve added an emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), right?

In our 103 years, we have updated our program many times. The program we focus on now has STEM as one of five parts of the core curriculum. It makes sense not only for our world that our girls live in, but for the girls as well. These are topics girls can take and, in an all-girl environment, practice, really dig into and investigate, and develop further. … We ran a STEM-focused day camp this summer, and they built hovercrafts out of balloons and CDs. It’s incredible to see their minds come alive while exploring an advanced technology and seeing how it could work on a larger scale.

What’s your favorite part about Dessert Before Dinner?

I think any CEO would be remiss if she didn’t say dollars to support the great work her organization is doing in the community. But the really exciting piece for me is to see folks who don’t associate things like STEM with Girl Scouts learn about all the different things that we do.

You mean you’re not just cookie sales?

That’s a big part of what we do, but it’s the cornerstone of a larger financial literacy curriculum. … My kids are in soccer. I pay for that. Girl Scouts have the opportunity to fund their way and do amazing things with the dollars they raise. This year, a girl used her product sale money and community donations to go to Mexico and build a sustainable drinking water system in a rural town. That is changing the world.  Cookies are the foundation for that to happen.

For information about or tickets to Dessert Before Dinner, visit or call 702-932-1910. 


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