The noble animal Man for his amusement smokes his pipe–the Hawk balances about the clouds–that is the only difference of their leisures. This it is that makes the Amusement of Life–to a speculative Mind.
–John Keats, Letters
And she said, we are all just prisoners here of our own device. . .
–Eagles, “Hotel California”
A huge room crowded with hundreds of slot machines produces a peculiar sound, like Philip Glass on Quaaludes. I recognized it, after awhile, as a kind of music, quite distinct from the sounds the people in the room were making, of far greater magnitude and yet unobtrusive unless attended to, like a great elemental sound, but thoroughly and obviously synthetic when approached and examined, tuneless and yet somehow orderly, like a dust devil or a cloud.
Not a habitue of casinos–my last foray had been fifteen or so years before, under peculiar circumstances–I was mildly surprised at how familar the scene was. The machines had changed a little; they looked more futuristic and more obviously computerized than the last slots I had seen; they still had slots, but there was little if anything left of the machine these devices evolved from. Beyond that, it was as if I had never left this room, though I had never been in this particular establishment before. The people were exactly the same: intent but distracted, staring at the whirling ideograms the slots deployed; they seemed semi-comatose and yet thoroughly alert to some inner vision of which the screens before them were the projection. As John Keats said of a stoat encountered a field: “The creature has a purpose and his eyes are bright with it.”