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Being right, and being interesting - click opera
February 2010
 
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Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 08:10 am
Being right, and being interesting

On Wednesday I took the train to Schloss Wiesenburg, a 12th century castle about 90 minutes down the tracks from Berlin. The composer David Woodard is currently enjoying a residency there, writing a book about the failed utopia of Nueva Germania.



The schloss towers, literally, over a hamlet of 500 people -- quite the smallest community I've visited in some time. There are only two hostelries in town, and no taxi -- a fact which hit home when David and I managed to miss one, two, then three Berlin-bound trains from the tiny station. We ended up tramping up and down the muddy forest track that links the station to the castle most of the evening -- under shockingly bright stars sometimes, in snow blizzards the rest.



Finally, there was nothing for it: I spent the night in the Presidential Suite, overlooking the schloss' impressive gardens.



Conversation ranged from Demeter (Greek goddess of fertility) to the "sex guru" Osho. I managed to get back to Berlin on Thursday in time for a meeting with writer Ingo Niermann and his friend, the artist David Lieske. In Wohnzimmer we talked about people who want to be right, and people who want to be interesting, and how they're often at cross purposes. Ingo shocked me by saying he wanted to be both!



People who want to be right: Responsible, logical, consistent, Anglo-Saxon in their fear of contradiction and paradox and vagueness, people who want to be right will argue and fight, because what's right must win, of course. They're likely to claim that "objectivity" is on their side. They're unlikely to be relativists. They're interested in power. They think the ethical is more important than the aesthetic. They believe in justice, order, consensus, unity. While uninterested in statistics and methodologies, they remain convinced that things can be proven and quantified, and believe that this is important. Theirs is the realm of non-fiction.

People who want to be interesting: Irresponsible provocateurs, flamboyant intellectual dandies, artists, dreamers. For them, truth is strategic, contextual, conditional. For instance, if everyone believes one thing, it becomes important to challenge that belief and to assert the suppressed truth of the opposite point of view. The suppressed truth will have a temporary power precisely because it's been hidden from view. There will be a rushing "return of the repressed". But soon afterwards the status quo, the doxa, will reassert itself, and the people who want to be interesting will have to move on to new terrain, and look for new suppressed truths to express. Life, for them, is a constant quest to stave off boredom. They don't care whether they're right in any enduring sense (they don't even believe that's possible). What matters is to challenge, to arouse, to provoke, to entertain, to stimulate, to open up new vistas, new avenues of consideration -- even forbidden ones. Theirs is the realm of speculation, of fiction.



What's so interesting about Ingo -- co-founder of Redesigndeutschland, author of books like Umbauland: Ten German Visions, and a leading campaigner for the Great Necro-Pyramid -- is that his genre is speculative non-fiction, which combines an interest in the interesting with a quest for actuality, for rightness, for the making of fact. Perhaps nothing can be truly interesting unless it -- at the very least -- aspires to become right, real and true.

89CommentReply

microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 07:59 am (UTC)

I don't want to be interesting, I already am interesting. Fuck you!


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 09:05 am (UTC)

Interestingness is above all a relationship between the (potentially) interesting and the (potentially) interested. It therefore requires communication, compatibility, and strategies of charm, seduction and humility.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 09:52 am (UTC)

This classification is pure Momus gold. "Let's see, how can I put a load of derogative descriptions that have no internal connection whatsoever except that they denote things I don't like in one class, and a description of how I see myself (boy, aren't I creative!) into the other? Oh, shoot, I like statistics (even if I don't know how to compute it), so I'll just excise this from class A, no one will notice."

der.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 10:12 am (UTC)

I think you've misread this a bit, der. I wasn't excising the statistics from the column of the Right, and I certainly wasn't trying to reclaim it for the Interesting. No, statistics has to remain in the Right column. (The Interesting prefer scenarios.)

Rather, I was qualifying or detailing how the Right would seek to use statistics. Glancingly, rather than deeply. Because the more deeply you go into statistics, into the methodology of statistics, the more you become a formalist and a relativist. And that's something those who wish to be Right hate. It pulls the carpet out from under their quest.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 09:54 am (UTC)

You think you want to be interesting, Momus, but in fact you want to be right. Your cultural commentary posts always seem like lessons from on high. They're statements, rather than dialogues. I've never seen you change your mind as a result of anything said in the comments section.

The Texas Tosser


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 10:29 am (UTC)

My sentiment exactly. What really irks me about the posts here is how they present statements (quite often interesting ones) that would need more support than is given as uncontestable facts (as "Right"), and then when contradictions are pointed out, the Aesthetics Card is played ("I want to be interesting, it's all rhetorics, etc.) and the comment thread is left to die.

der.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 10:05 am (UTC)

"Here's me in a chateau. Oh, and yesterday I talked to an artist, a writer and a musician. Not that I have anything 'interesting' to say about them, or indeed anything to say about them at all - that would merely muddy the take-home message which is 'Momus hangs with an arty crowd'. And finally, let me share with you a spurious binary that makes me look good."

David Kamp was right!


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 10:18 am (UTC)

A far better critique would be:

"He calls David Kamp a snob for attending Long Island dinner parties, then ends the week in the Presidential Suite of a 12th century Schloss deep in the Brandenburg forests!"

But of course that would be a hypocrisy argument, and, as you probably guessed, I am readying an argument as we speak which will prove -- for now, if not once and for all -- that hypocrisy is the most shallow criticism known to man. It's just another word for "stimulating dialectical complexity".


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bonsai_human
Bonsai Human
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 10:15 am (UTC)

People who want to be interesting are invariably dull, sheep like graphic designers called Chris.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 10:36 am (UTC)
no show

i have a friend whose changed her name and started acting distant since returning from pune and joining up with the osho tribe...what conclusions did you come to about this guru ?....have you ever tried yoga , meditation?


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 10:50 am (UTC)

truth is strategic? so you're delibarately trying to make your readers cringe at every sentence? god, this is depressing, and quite frankly a load of old bollocks


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 11:17 am (UTC)

For those who are more concerned to be interesting than to be right, truth is strategic -- what's true is always true only in relation to what is currently believed, and may be the opposite of it. Things might be true, in other words, only because they're currently disbelieved, or sublimated, or undervalued. This kind of truth value is contextual, contingent, relative.

Edited at 2008-03-28 11:24 am (UTC)


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 11:29 am (UTC)

This explains nicely why that one line reference to (not even a review of) this blog triggered that monstrous reply recently: the person called your blog (and by extension, you) "boring", which in your world must be the worst thing one can say.

Go on, say something outrageous! You're not boring!

der.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 11:37 am (UTC)

But you'll notice that I didn't shout "This blog is interesting, fuck off!" Instead, I looked at the relationship between the two parties. Kamp was being paid to review a blog he'd never normally look at. We were people who'd struggle to find common interests at a dinner party.

My focus couldn't be on anything integral, because I don't believe there is such a thing as "integrally interesting". Interestingness is a relationship. Now, this also relates to the pointless skirmishing that tends to happen in the Comments section. If it takes two to get some interestingness going, it also takes two to get some boringness going. What's more, exactly the same thing can strike some as interesting and others as boring. So it's pretty pointless for those bored by the kind of things I write and show here to keep trying to convince me of the error of my ways. It's not an error -- there is no such thing as error, there's just personal incompatibility. And there probably is a blog out there you'll enjoy because you're compatible with it.

Unless, of course, what you enjoy is precisely being incompatible with this blog?


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 12:38 pm (UTC)

Momus, one important aspect of being interesting is the ability to surprise. And by that standard, your blog has indeed become boring. Your reponse to almost any subject is just so predictable now. The moment I read that blog book review in the NYT, I thought: "Momus is going to turn that throw-away half a line of criticism into some bloated blog entry, in which he googles the author, exposes him as the anti-Momus, throws in some criticism of the NYT, New York itself, and probably America too as good measure."

True, your choice of subject matter can be quirky. But your attitude towards it is stodgily dependable. And the look-at-me subtext of everything gets very tedious. I mean, at least try a week without posting a photo of yourself! And do you really think people want to look at 100 of your holiday snaps? Blog-as-dinner-with-boring-relatives!


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 01:16 pm (UTC)

Momus's views aren't developing and evolving. They're ossifying. But what can you expect? He's not twenty-five. He's almost fifty! Momus's world view is interesting enough, but once you've got it, you've got it.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 12:56 pm (UTC)

Where are the fanboys / -girls? I'm starting to feel sorry for the Moms. Fanboys / -girls, please come out of hiding and say how much you love Momus, how interesting you find him and how much he has changed your outlook on x, and how much more interesting your outlook on x now is.

der.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 01:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Wandering Through the Mark Brandenburg

Well, that's a lovely example of exactly what I was saying about truth being contextual and strategic. When a pretty innocuous entry about some meetings with artists gets hammered with so many curdled, sour comments, whatever truth there might have been in the attacks is quickly exhausted. The suppressed -- and therefore powerful -- truth, the coming truth, the called-for truth becomes a positive, open, friendly response. And when one comes, the grey ghosts vanish as if through a cobwebby window, to haunt some other part of the internet.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 01:19 pm (UTC)
Wandering Through the Mark Brandenburg

thanks for the tip - will have to wend my way to wiesenburg now that spring has sprung across our sandy plain. another brandenburgensian burg you might enjoy visiting - schloss neuhardenburg

http://www.schlossneuhardenberg.de/home.html?L=1

as far as being right or being interesting...my daily challenge is simply to remain interested.

william thirteen
http://www.squirm.com


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 01:29 pm (UTC)

I think there are two Ders, and they are friends.

Also they are friends with this Texas Tosser.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 01:31 pm (UTC)

And I think they like statistics.

But the mathematical ones. Not the Popular Culture ones.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 01:33 pm (UTC)

Maybe they don't like Momus, neither?


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 01:35 pm (UTC)

They are boring. But they don't seem to fit into your catalogue of reasons. So you are wrong.

Also you are boring a lot.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 01:37 pm (UTC)

Maybe you could show more videos and slideshows? People like that.

And maybe Ders and Tosser will go away if there are no statistics.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 01:57 pm (UTC)

You think if I just published poetry here about artists and castles and things they'd go? Maybe I could do exactly the same entries, but rhymed and metred?


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