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Notes and Reflections on Books and Media

by Hannah Leitheiser

Killing Time

Player Piano

Kurt Vonnegut




'Dodge turned his back and grinned hospitably at the Shah. "Two bedrooms, living room with dining alcove, bath, and kitchen, the furniture was designed after an exhaustive national survey of furniture likes and dislikes. Simplified planning and production all the way round."

"Now, if you'll follow me into the kitchen," said Doctor Dodge, leaving Wanda and Edgar behind, "you'll see the radar range. Cooks by high frequency, and cooks the inside of whatever's being cooked as fast as the outside. Cooks anything in a matter of seconds, with perfect control....And this is the ultrasonic dishwasher and clothes-washer," said Dodge. "High-frequency sound passing through the water strips dirt and grease off anything in a matter of seconds. Dip in, take out, bingo!"

"The Shah would like to know why she has to do everything so quickly...What is it she has to do, that she mustn't waste any time on these things?"

"Live!" said Doctor Dodge expansively. "Live! Get a little fun out of life."

"I see," said the interpreter coldly. He turned to Wanda. "And how is it you live and get so much fun out of life?"

Wanda blushed and looked down at the floor. "Oh, television," she murmured. "Watch that a lot, don't we, Ed? And I spend a lot of time with the kids, little Delores and young Edgar, Jr. You know. Things."

"Where are the children now?" asked Khashdrahr.

"Over at the neighbors' place, the Glocks, watching television, I expect."' - Player piano, Kurt Vonnegut, 1952 [edited for brevity]


Player Piano's setting is a future where most things are done by machines. I don't think I take the idea, though, that humans doing the work of machines adds irreplaceable meaning to life. I mean, I can't say if everyone is given the freedom to not have to clock in for a job (or beg for food), their lives will blossom into flowers of self-actualization, but I'd take the odds.

I think some TV-watching is done to de-stress after work.