Sunday, December 2, 2012

Do People Enjoy Boredom?

It sounded like something cooked up by the Onion, the satirical magazine: a conference on boring topics. What began as something as a joke has caught on, according to a piece in, in England, where people have a distinctly different sense of humor than here in the U.S.

Mark O'Connell in his Slate article on Boring 2012 says that the young people who attended the recent London conference on such things as toast, supermarket self-service checkouts, and letterboxes, among other banal topics--presented in pedantic detail and dead seriousnes--became enjoyable, showing that people really like what is boring.

But it seems to me that what they like is a chance to laugh at the absurdity of scholarly presentations on mundane things from mustard to coffee mugs. At least I would, having sat through countless MLA presentations of abstract, jargon-filled papers that in their pomposity often put me to sleep. A paper on letterboxes might be preferable to one on Lacan.

Of course, good writers are taught that every topic is dull until someone finds the clever angle, the amusing or original perspective to use in developing the topic: this is the writer's or speaker's job--along with avoiding jargon and pretentious language.  So perhaps a long discourse on toast, complete with pictures of various degrees of toasted bread from the virtually untoasted to the mostly burned, might turn out to be interesting.

The conference was conceived by James Ward in 2010; he maintains a blog, "I Like Boring Things."  I'll have to check it out since I find the topic of boredom interesting psychologically and also find myself looking from time to time into certain obscure historical details.  This week I have been searching for the symbolic meaning of chairs. 

Maybe I will get invited to London to talk about what I discover. It actually sounds too interesting and not at all amusing--at least to me.

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