It’s easy to overlook them. The Skinner-box button-pushers, watching the wheels roll and roll. Surrounded by a ‘paradise’ that still leaves them wanting — and thinking they’ll find it like this.
Vegas was a mixed bag. I guess I’d always seen so many glamorous photos and film shots, even the ones that tried to be ‘gritty’ still managed to put a sort of mythic gleam over everything.
But it’s not mythic. It’s plastic. It’s the progeny of a one-night stand between the Magic Kingdom and TGI Friday’s. Inescapable throngs of flip-flopped, booze-soaked denizens, eyes bugged wide by the promise of … what? I’m not even sure. Entertainment, certainly, but another flavor invades the way saccharine crowds and leaves a film over any other flavor. Luxury, perhaps. Richness of the kind that first comes to mind when someone says “rich”: Trumpism mixed with Hollywood ersatz.
I don’t mean to be so down on it. Really. I’m a big fan of decadent, crazy, outrageous kitsch. But this somehow was so overwhelming, it wasn’t even kitsch. (Definitely not camp.) Now I understand why U2 filmed the video for “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” here so many years ago — and that was before it was injected with virtual-reality steroids.
The conference was terrific (except for having trouble escaping the waves of noise and humanity to have a decent conversation). I’m amazed the team made it come together as well as they did given the circumstances.
Fortunately, most of the time was much happier than I’m letting on here. Check out my iasummit2007 Flickr stream.
For the record: I know plenty of people enjoy Vegas a great deal, and they have fun gambling and seeing shows and everything, and I think that’s actually really great. Some of my family enjoy doing it from time to time, and they seem to always come back smiling. I think it just hit me in a strange way on this trip — but I’m always like that; if there’s a silver lining I’ll find a cloud. I just can’t help noticing the souls that seem to be a little lost, a little vacant behind the marquee-reflecting eyes. But hey, that’s just me.
3 thoughts on “Vegas Lingers”
I had a spare day in Vegas after the conference and planned on at least looking at some of the hotels. But in the end it was too much. I went outlet shopping then went to the airport early so I could sit in the bar and do some work.
I hope I never have to set foot in Vegas again.
An excellent write-up. Sadly, as I was getting ready to say good-bye to Vegas for good, I got an invite to come back for free in a few weeks. I am interested in the people and the content around the invite, but I wish it was somewhere else.
I never figured Las Vegas to live down to my low expectations, but it some how did. Having low expectations usually adds a bit of positive glow to things.
On the last day of the conference I was walking through Caesarâ€™s after eating at one of their restaurants and it hit me. I did not like Las Vegas but I was not sure why. It wasn’t just the zombies at the slot machines (real zombies would have been more full of life than these folks). It wasn’t just the clearly artificial world created by the mega casinos.
The thing that hit me was the insidious combination of artifice and greed intentionally designed to wring the money out of everyone that visits Las Vegas. It is packaged as liberating. The promise is to free ourselves from convention, from moral standards, from the constraints that hold us back from some strange ideal that combines moral laxity, material wealth, and fame.
It is artifice designed to seduce.
That is the kicker. Prime example for me was the ring of slot machines surrounding a platform holding a Mercedes. The slot machines formed a wall around the car and the clear message was that the path to get this car is through these machines because you will never get one of these on your own.
I will never go to Vegas again unless I have no choice in the matter.
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