Thursday, June 21, 2007

Prize apart

The conference dinner and awards in Poland was a masterclass in the surreal. It was held in a castle some fifty minutes from the city centre. I was hoping for ramparts, but it was actually a mansion house built by a randy old bugger to house one of his mistresses – one of fifty shag pads he built throughout Poland, each one installed with an ensuite mistress.

For reasons unclear, the host chose a didactic style and rather than explain what was going on in the entertainment, chose to tell us what we were feeling. Therefore we were subject to a mechanistic dance of men shaving women’s legs, and of women dancing with a human head in a bucket, all without a word of introduction or explanation. However, when it came to the prize giving we were told that ‘this is an emotional moment for all of us’. A useful cue.

Two special awards were presented, again without real explanation. Firstly to the Polish (the main conference sponsor took a special version of the special award) and then to the Chinese. Nope, I didn’t get it either.

The main award took about an hour to present with each of the nine judging levels, eight judges and seven finalists being explained or called onto the stage in minute detail. Each finalist had a promotional video which was often a more generic TV advert than anything to do with the actual award contestant. Then there was a little vignette played out where the main judge searched his pockets pretending to have lost his envelope which he also did when presenting the Polish and Chinese awards earlier. Oh the hilarity.

With the envelope eventually found, the thirty-five people on stage and everyone checking their watches in gasping anticipation of the announcement, the host and main judge decided, in a pique of autism, to cut the proceedings to get everyone on stage more neatly arranged. Judges on the left, finalists on the right. In groups. Much confused shuffling and bowing ensued. A jazz band, which obscured most of the screen, played a groove in the background.

Eventually the announcement was made, and it was a major shock to hear the prize was shared between the growing economic superpower that it would be good to sidle up to: China and the host nation who had many influential dignitaries in attendance: Poland. Perhaps it was no irony that one of the graphics contained the typo ‘Price winners’; one speculates, what price the winners might have paid.

The evening closed with the serving of plates of what looked like entrĂ©es and a laser show with the loudest soundsystem I’ve ever heard. Nobody quite explained what the diplodocus or birthday cake had to do with the presentation, but at the time it seemed somehow wholly appropriate.


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