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click opera
February 2010
Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 11:47 am
Click Opera hits and misses of 2009

It's become an annual ritual, a jolly Humpersonian meta-binge; on the last day of the year (or thereabouts) we delve back into the last twelve months of Click Opera, seeing what got people commenting and what saw them fall silent as the grave. So how controversial -- or unspeakable -- did 2009 get?

Click Opera Selects The Greatest Cultural Figure! scored a whomping 545 comments. This quest to "discover the greatest cultural figure who has ever existed, according to me, as determined by you" was January's -- and 2009's -- biggest hitter. Readers submitted Google Fight-style name-pairs (PLATO / LAURIE ANDERSON) and I decided which cultural figure won. At midnight, Berlin time, a winner was declared: Bertolt Brecht. This intellectual beauty contest parallels November's A judgment of Paris, but with accusations of political bias instead of charges of sexism. IT WERE A STITCH-UP, GUV! HE KNEW WHO HE LIKED ALL ALONG!

January's least commented entry was Art decade, a sort of CV of my art career in the noughties which has since proved very useful to me (I mailed a lecture agency the link yesterday) but apparently bored you pants-less.

Israel -- acting before the new administration takes power in the US -- is killing children in Gaza. In Citizen student I describe a series of under-reported sit-ins at British universities and art schools in solidarity with the people trapped and bombarded in Gaza; the British students are asking their institutions to provide free scholarships to Palestinians. You wouldn't think this would be too controversial, but the first comment is from an Israeli reader: "It is time to throw you out of my reading and out of my mind."

As usual, it's my art career which raises the fewest comments in February. Notes from Eindhoven, which talks about an Unreliable Tour Guide appearance in Holland and a German Public Radio documentary about me gets a paltry 4 comments.


The biggest story in March (115 comments) is Raise your spirit, level your society! It's about The Spirit Level, a book which dares to state that inequality is bad for us. "The most equal societies studied in the book turn out to be Scandinavia and Japan. The least equal -- pyramided by thirty years of Thatcherite and Reaganomic "incentivization" -- are Britain, the USA and Portugal. As Lynsey Hanley points out in her review of The Spirit Level, there is now a 30-year male life expectancy gap between central Glasgow and parts of southern England."

Meanwhile, a tiny two comments greet my parish-notes-type announcement that I'm lecturing at KHiO art school in Oslo.

April's biggest excitement is caused by the Brooklyn hipster grifter, a confidence trickster who preys on hipsters with an Asian fetish. Did Beatnik Grifter Play On Loathsome Hipster Negro Fetish? begins with an article about the grifter on the Jezebel blog entitled Did "Hipster Grifter" Play On Loathsome Hipster Asian Fetish? then does a thought-experment on it by substituting "Negro" for "Asian", revealing how weirdly acceptable racial prejudice still is the US in 2009 (as long as it's Asians, not blacks).

The least-commented entry in April is about a Motto book fair, skater-artist Ed Templeton, Nieves, a bunch of interesting Japanese artists, and a new video for my song The Cooper o' Fife. You philistines!

In May I'm in New York, dressed as a kabuki stagehand, doing art stuff with Aki Sasamoto. The big blog entry that month is The angry ape, which looks at what happens to Americans -- people reputedly given to maverick ways and deeply opposed to government, bureaucracy and regulation -- when they don a uniform. Clue: it's something very masculine. The angry ape provides the perfect counterpoint to last week's Overwhelmed by milk, about cute feminine authority figures in Japan.

The entry that has you dumbfounded with indifference is A stagehand is born, which is about... my art show. You had to be there, I guess.


In June an Air France airliner disappears over the Atlantic and I tell you about my Fear of flying. The topic edges out Michael Jackson's death and a bitch about Japan hands to become the month's most-commented; many of you are afraid of flying too, it seems.

June's least-commented article is again about art and design: a feature on Dexter Sinister's documents opera at the ICA. Well, at least the indifference isn't just to my art activities!


There's a way to get people interested in art topics, and that's to give them a political dimension. The homeless are ahead of us is about Hideaki Takamatsu's book of coffeetable fashion snaps of Street People, and seeks to rehabilitate the homeless -- not by giving them homes, but by giving them respect. An argument develops in the comments section about whether respect, per se, helps. I say it does; later in the year I'll contradict myself when I argue that the PC stance of "respect" is tokenistic and an opt-out from the real political work to be done. I do change my mind, you know!

You're left most silent, in July, by a visit to art bookstore Pro-qm and the death of Pina Bausch, an entry even Twit Opera (the Click-satirical Twitter feed, which some kind of basic decency is beginning to undermine at this point) can't find a way to poke fun at.

Misleading breeding stats are the new skull-measurement, says the most-commented August entry, which takes another pop at those regular Click Opera foes, the hysterical "Eurabians" who say (mostly on YouTube, which they threaten to swamp with their fast-breeding hysterical comments) that Muslims are "swamping" Europe, bringing their "alien" values with them, and readying themselves to "subordinate" us beneath a scimitar of vivid storybook tyranny. Pshaw, by Allah!

Least-notable, for commenters, are an entry about Hisae's appearance as Penquo at Staalplaat Working Space, plus a follow-up about The Hashimoto Experiment, a piece of plant-quackery seen in the 1979 documentary The Secret Life of Plants.

September is a quiet and nigglingly negative month at Click Opera; the biggest comments come when I announce in Clickswansong that the blog will end on February 10th, 2010.

I'm spending the month reading in public from my new novel, The Book of Jokes, which has just come out in French. Curiosities on film is the least-commented entry of the month; it's a video of me reading from Le Livre des Blagues at the Société de Curiosités in Paris. Since books are what I hope to replace Click Opera with, the ringing silence that greets this reading is a kind of "Bon voyage and good riddance!" from my online readers.

A few pales beyonded examines the limits of free speech, and delves into the familiar Click Opera point that tolerance is useless if it's only tolerance of things we already agree with. The world is reeling, this month, from the repercussions of the Polanski arrest and an appearance, in the UK, of National Front politician Nick Griffin on Question Time. A reviewer in a British paper declares my novel "unpalatable", and my Paris friends tell me they wish they'd been raped by Polanski. Meanwhile, I hunt in vain for early Nabokov novels in British bookshops. Basically, this entry is about a growing gap between the way I think and talk when I'm with friends, and the kind of arguments I have to trot out in the comments area of Click Opera to appease or battle people with what Lewis Carroll called "anglo-saxon attitudes".

The month's least-commented entry is an annoucement that I'm signing books in Paris.

Talking of anglo-saxon attitudes -- notably, PC political reflexes getting in the way of the appreciation of beauty -- the noisiest entry in November is the beauty contest, A judgment of Paris. I honestly didn't expect it to be so controversial, and some of you didn't expect the old Indian lady below to win (others "knew it all along"). The entry beat off (so to speak) strong contenders in the form of I had a dream where I hung out with Momus and Everything you know isn't a panda, a delirious prediction of the memes and themes of the decade to come.

In December I'm in Japan, but the month's biggest entry is a battle between the Islamophobes and Islamophiles, or between the proponents of good and bad difference: Ban the minaret! looks at a foolish Swiss decision to ban the building of new mosque minarets in the land of holy cheese and feathered clocks. Alain Badiou is on my side!

True to form, deafening silence greets an entry reporting what I really do, and really love doing: giving an unreliable tour of Yusuke Mashiba's exhibition at NOW IDeA gallery in Tokyo. Ah well, you had to be there, I guess!


J.D. Casten
Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 03:35 am (UTC)
Awe! Shucks...

I think many, if not most, commenters here dig your art, or we wouldn’t be here at all… announcements etc, just aren’t as interactively inviting as polemics, contests, etc—you’ve inspired my own creativity, as well as my intellect… thanks!:


H. Duck
Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 03:57 am (UTC)

You did have to be there, and why not? Installation art doesn't work on the internet. I think you should hold this post upside-down - the less of the (usually toxic, hate-filled or trollish) comments you get, the greater a success the entry should be considered.

Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 07:44 am (UTC)

anglo-saxon silence is golden

ReplyThread Parent

Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 04:09 am (UTC)

I only started reading this a few months ago. Its a fun process. And you (nick) are the one making it fun (well a big part). I do get a bit tired when the main thread gets too deep into theory or back and forths with ideas....

the balance between the stupid (some of which where mine),,, and thoughtful comments is part of what makes it fun. And momus's tiredless attention to both.

great variety of topics, good debates, I like that your not afraid to post stuff that might not fuel debate.

and I like this...

Basically, this entry is about a growing gap between the way I think and talk when I'm with friends, and the kind of arguments I have to trot out in the comments area of Click Opera to appease or battle people with what Lewis Carroll called "anglo-saxon attitudes".

a open and even keel response to dealing with the 'public'... in general... it's a rare thing.

so the year when by quick as usual.

best wishes to all in the next.


Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 05:45 am (UTC)

Hi Momus,

Two weeks ago, your music changed my life. I hope you hear that a lot.

I found you through the Wikipedia entry on Georges Bataille and have been reading back through Click Opera and the essays on your website. I'm quite young (21) so I found the post (and the comments) pertaining to your diary entry from 1980 fascinating.

Also, I really enjoyed The Book of Jokes, which I was surprised to find as an employee-featured book at the Barnes and Noble here in Burlington, Vermont. (I'm from the flat land, not of Flanders, but of Western Nevada, and it's harder to find good books--or, at least, obscure books--out there.)

I'll miss Click Opera, but I'm greatly looking forward to any future projects you might create. Especially fiction.

Jess Robinson

Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 06:52 am (UTC)

I always feel so guilty about those least commented entries.

ADDITIONALLY I STILL FEEL GUILTY ABOUT VOLUNTEERING TO DO AN OTTO SPOOKY FLASH ANIMATION FOR YOU IN 2005 AND NOT DOING IT (along with most of the other people who volunteered I guess). I will make it up to you someday. Somehow.


Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 09:58 am (UTC)

A reviewer in a British paper declares my novel "unpalatable", and my Paris friends tell me they wish they'd been raped by Polanski. Meanwhile, I hunt in vain for early Nabokov novels in British bookshops. Basically, this entry is about a growing gap between the way I think and talk when I'm with friends, and the kind of arguments I have to trot out in the comments area of Click Opera to appease or battle people with what Lewis Carroll called "anglo-saxon attitudes".

This, for me, was the most interesting part of the above entry.

Oh well, this probably won't be an Anglo-Saxon century. Then again, it might not even be a human century. Various permutations of the 'natural' reclamation of land that has taken place around Chernobyl might begin to remind us of our very lowly place in the cosmos. And we'll be free to kick savagely all those with Anglo-Saxon attitudes who got us into this mess in the first place through their pig-headed need to control everything.

Er... that was a digression.

Is this, by any chance, your last post?

If so, good luck with the writing career. Writers and writing are underrated. With the English language spiralling into illiterate incoherence before our very eyes on the Internet and elsewhere, anyone who commits beautiful English to print is a hero, though, I am afraid to say, pretty much a despised hero in this world of brutish, inverted snobberies.

Anyway, hope the New Year is good for you.


A ploddingly loyal though often weary fan and reader.


Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 10:15 am (UTC)


will you continue to host click opera after february? if yes, what do you imagine it will actually happen to its virtual files? will you archive it, will it be accessible?

i've discovered your blog in 2009 but i often read articles from previous years and i search your blog on google for specific references, mostly to check if you talked about this artist, philosopher, etc (for example it was interesting to search what you had said about rudolf steiner or rinko kawauchi or joseph beuys)
joshua (from paris)

Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 11:13 am (UTC)

The archives will stay online indefinitely. It would be nice for the best bits to be edited into a book (blook?) eventually, but nothing can really replace the original presentation with pictures and comments and the daily rhythm. Of course, that can't really endure either; the web is organic, and links and pictures wither quite quickly.

ReplyThread Parent

Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 01:47 pm (UTC)

well, you should ask a good designer (like me for example) to make a book out of the archives, i'm certain there is a way to archive the low-res images, broken links & images, and also a good way to archive the comments. It could be a pretty cool book! Hope it'll exist some day!

ReplyThread Parent

Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 10:28 am (UTC)

It's been one of your best years and, after dipping out for a while, irritated beyond reason by some of your regular positions, I found myself coming back, learning to enjoy the fact that you regularly pissed me off, but pissed me off in a challenging and productive way!

As for one of the topics above, I think you give the English - with your reference to "anglo-saxon" - too much credit. This has been the last hundred years or so of American economic, military and cultural domination. The American elite is far from being exclusively anglo-saxon and certainly hasn't derived the majority of its attitudes and tactics from England. There is an exclusively American take on Empire and power. However, I'm not against the gist of what you say and if you were to talk about, say, "anglophone attitudes" I'd be far more likely to agree with you.

Of course as all of us but a few American zealots (and the British government) can see, American domination of the world is coming to an end, and more rapidly than any of us could have anticipated, I think. Its death throes may yet prove to be the death of all of us.

And, finally, the subject of the increasingly hysterical "Anons" of which I am now one. After giving up my blog I considered, for a while, creating a new identity for comments, but finally went over to Anon status as anything other than a genuine ID seemed a bit of a cop out. A genuine ID, because of the way I earn my living, is impossible. I found it both liberating and a bit unnerving. I'm more direct as an Anon (no, not direct, rude) and less tolerant. I seem to get into more arguments. I think the ideas I've expressed - and how I express them - have grown coarser and less nuanced. It's taught me a lesson. Better find a new identity to hang my comments on, before I end up sounding even more like a troll than I already do.

Happily I haven't yet become one of those passive aggressive types that hangs around the place, always asking you in an ever so concerned way about your health, career, or love life, offering advice that damns in a tone of patient disappointment ... I fucking hate them (see what I mean about ruder?).

Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 11:07 am (UTC)

I'm always intrigued by statements like "because of the way I earn my living I can't tell you who I am". I imagine it must be Prince Charles or the Procurator Fiscal writing. (Wait, Prince Charles doesn't earn his living!)

Something suggests you might be the author of Twit Opera, in which case I think Iknow your name. Well, I wrote it down somewhere on my computer in a document entitled "probable twit opera author" or something, but I don't have access to it now.

Anyway, happy new year, whoever you are. I like intelligent people.

ReplyThread Parent

Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 11:44 am (UTC)

Ah, nothing as exciting as that. I've obviously made it sound too dramatic. I'm just sufficiently high up in an area close enough to government to make having an opinion that isn't an official "line" an impossibility for the moment. I'm probably paranoid and no one gives a damn, or would even find me lurking here, but hey ho, I'm good at what I do and, at least in the short term, I'd like to ensure that I keep doing it. When circumstances change I promise to be gobby and brazen!

And no, afraid Twit Opera wasn't mine. In fact I wasn't even aware of it until it was almost done and dusted.

Happy new year to you too.

ReplyThread Parent

Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 01:00 pm (UTC)

How did you find out who Twit Opera was (if it wasn't you, that is)?

ReplyThread Parent
Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 01:39 pm (UTC)

Because the author handed me the account, which gave me access to his Twitter home page, and therefore to the posts of his friends and followers. And a figure emerged amongst the friends of his friends which fitted the picture he gave me of himself in emails. Anyway, I don't intend to reveal who I think he is, because he doesn't want that. He took control of Twit Opera after I'd been using it myself as a shell account for reading friends' pages with protected feeds. I changed the photo because I didn't like friending people naked, and at that point he re-took Twit Opera and changed the picture back, perhaps feeling I'd reneged on my promise to leave the account unaltered.

ReplyThread Parent

Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 03:54 pm (UTC)
least popular entries

Specualting for myself and imagined others, the sort of ultra-literary gallery art that this blog usually features feels quite played out, even moldy. I think the attitude now is more approving of art that is closer to design, that provides a visceral pleasure in some way. Your readers are probably totally prepared to accept gallery whisperings/tour guidings or other actions as capital A art, and I think without the frisson of that debate, work of that type falls a bit flat. No doubt there is some aesthetic oomph in person that perhaps doesn't carry over to the blog? Anyway, that's how I explain the hiatus of disinterest that conceptual art seems to usher in.

Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 04:03 pm (UTC)
Re: least popular entries

All I know is that people tend to respond to my art performances with slightly surprised smiles. They seem amused and refreshed in person.

Happy 2010, by the way -- this is my first comment of the year, I'm just back from gongs and sacred sake at Tennoji temple.

ReplyThread Parent
Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 04:08 pm (UTC)
Re: least popular entries

Oh, still 2009 in LJ-land! It's 2010 here in Japan, though. Greetings from THE FUTURE.

ReplyThread Parent

Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 04:51 pm (UTC)
Re: least popular entries

Thanks and happy new year from the past.

ReplyThread Parent
Thu, Dec. 31st, 2009 05:46 pm (UTC)
Year of the Coyote

We are in the pre New Year preparations mode. I have to tape Ko haku for viewing later this evening and make some mochi. We had planned to go to Toronto's Centre Island for the ringing of a temple bell, but the event was canceled due to presence of a wild coyote in the area.

Happy New Year

ReplyThread Parent