Saturday, December 20, 2008


The secret affinity between gambling and the desert: the intensity of gambling reinforced by the presence of the a privileged, immemorial space, where things lose their shadow, where money loses its value, and where the extreme rarity of traces of what signals to us there leads men to seek the instantaneity of wealth. - Jean Baudrillard

French philosopher Jean Baudrillard wrote about Las Vegas as less of a real American town, and more of a hyperreal experience. It came into existence out of nothing. It shouldn't exist, given the landscape in which it is set, and yet it does. It takes you to sanitized versions of the middle east, urban cities, long lost empires. "Better" than the real thing, Las Vegas takes you along the canals of Venice without the summer stench. It allows you to walk down the cobblestone streets of Paris without dodging those insanely fast French drivers. And the whole time, you could have a cocktail in your hand. Seriously, if your glass is plastic, you could probably super glue it to your hand for the weekend and stay constantly loaded. I mean, it's a place where this exists:
And people pay to see it.

I don't think I like Vegas because it allows me a better experience than I would have at any of those foreign lands. I like it because everything is so contrived that you could not possibly mistake it for the real world, and so the fantasy of a vacation -of being removed from your everyday existence in a transcendent way-is easier to acheive. Kind of like a very primitive holodeck, excuse my nerd reference.

If I'm not mistaken, Baudrillard would argue that we use hyperreal places like Las Vegas to convince ourselves that our real lives are "not contrived" and governed by laws of nature that are completely unchangeable (implication? Our real lives are just as much a fantasy we've constructed).

It is such a weird place.

As much as I enjoy the fakeness of Las Vegas, I also go out of my way to find the realness too. Our plan for tomorrow is to visit the ruins of the Moulin Rouge casino, formerly the first integrated casino in Las Vegas. It's current status makes me sad, but I want to see it. It's existence is proof that as much as Las Vegas lives to serve, there have always been things larger than the almighty dollar. Racism, the fascination with youth and glamour, the need to erase a less than perfect exterior by banishing the "unsightly" to the outskirts of town, all of these things have taken precedence one time or another.

We also plan to see the Neon Boneyard, proof that Las Vegas tries to forget its past. I have already seen the Atomic Testing Museum, which is proof that Las Vegas likes to reinvent its past. A whole museum devoted to the idea that Atomic testing was good and courageous. And that things like this:

were just a hoot.

It's a multi-layered attraction I have for this place. But I gotta go now, or I'll be too tired to enjoy it tomorrow.

See y'all in a few days!

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