Noir Naïfs, Junking Up, and the New Strip
NORMAN M. KLEIN
Just beyond New York New York, the visitor to Las Vegas enters a zone of unknowing. The sidewalk gets as gritty and nondescript as the industrial edge of Puebla, Mexico. These gritty patches are important clues. In Puebla, factories and body shops encircle the baroque city center, grim reminders of a colonial tradition still in force. Wealth is shipped away, leaving zones of unknowing next to the glamorous eighteenth-century Zo´calo and belle e´poque department stores. Vegas is also part of a colonial tradition, the American West, where mining companies and now gaming corporations ship profits out of state, leaving rough patches just beyond the glamour.
Indeed, the grander the illusion, the more dysfunction it hides. Otherwise, why try so hard? As part of my eccentric research into mass culture, I have been walking through (and clicking or sitting through) every special effects environment I can find, from action “ride” movies, to video games, to the Ringstrasse in Vienna and the Zo´calo in Puebla. In each of these, I have spotted zones of unknowing like the rubble along the Las Vegas Strip. The grit in these lost patches is easier to “read” than the finished product only meters away. The seam indicates where the process is uneven. Despite all the enchantment, this economy is continually in drift. On the surface, back at New York New York, there is order—the themed space, the sparkling gimmicks. But beneath that order is a neurotic struggle to industrialize desire. After all, what is a gambler's “impulse”? It is a fractionalized turn of the head—so brief, but so