That conference was interminable, purgatorial, stultifying, and every other word you can think of that suggests length, pain, and shit. There were some good things about it, though. One of them was that the night before I went, the F-word finally succeeded in persuading me to watch Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist, which I'd heretofore avoided because I had to watch Stealing Beauty in a third year Italian cinema class and it had made me want to vomit, like aspartame. Although Bertolucci also did that nice film with Thandie Newton, right? Anyways, The Conformist was brilliant. It was about - wait for it - conforming.
I only had time to watch the first half before having to go to bed for an early morning start, and it played on my mind for the whole two days until I got back last night and watched the rest. Part of the reason it played on my mind, besides the strength of the images and structure, was that, obviously, it was a fucking advertising conference which I attended, full of people who really seem to enjoy the motivational speakers who encourage them to do the inhuman things they're doing. To use people the way they do. To reassure them their choices are the right ones and all they need to do to enjoy them more is to live through them better. The emotion was abstract because I had accepted the Belgium job, but it remained distressing and depressing that everyone there had to have known on some level, despite six or seven spazzy motivational speakers telling us how to get in touch with our authentic selves, how deeply we betray any sort of authentic self by treating perceptions of people's attention like commodities. Treating media users like idiots and treating their clients like idiots.
I've been thinking about it and I'm pretty sure I'm not just projecting a personal antipathy to the advertising industry on to the rest of the world; I'm pretty sure you can't treat thousands or millions of users and clients like that while remaining fully human. But I bet most of the attendees weren't deeply spiritually wounded or anything - just a bunch of arts grads who floated into the industry, more or less like me, except into the sales bits my company is trying to flip us into now. Because we live in a society that congratulates that sort of career enough to make it attractive. Mussolini's Italy? Not quite - Via always runs late.
So anyways, that was one good thing about the conference; the way it gave The Conformist a nice context. Another good thing was that we went to the racetrack on Monday, and I discovered I really like horse racing. Not that it matters because I'm not going back. I felt bad for the animals and I'm not stupid enough to believe with 100% of my head I can keep winning money because there really is a science or some such shit to this. But it was very, very exciting.