Welcome to the fifth annual Boring Conference


Simmy Richman
Saturday 02 May 2015 21:20
The annual Boring Conference celebrates “very specific people talking about very specific things”
The annual Boring Conference celebrates “very specific people talking about very specific things”

Always a dull moment

It has been five long years now, so it has probably not escaped your attention that there is a rather major event at the end of this week. I’m talking, of course, about the fifth annual Boring Conference (middle right, see boringconference.com for details), which, in the words of its organiser James Ward, celebrates “very specific people talking about very specific things”.

Highlights this year include a lecture on text panels in museums, an examination of the art of the “mountweazel” (whereby fictitious entries are added to dictionaries and encyclopedias to entrap those who might “borrow” their information) and a celebration of camping out on motorway slip-road roundabouts by the scriptwriter who writes for Veep Andy Riley.

Is there a danger, I ask Ward, that the Boring Conference might be becoming a little bit interesting? “I hope not,” he says. “And even when people talk about interesting back alleys of human experience, my own ineptitude and lack of organisational skills mean there will always be lulls, technical problems and moments when no one knows what’s happening on the day.”

But isn’t there a case that, in the very week that Ed Miliband stated his aim to become the first politician to “under-promise and over-deliver”, the Boring Conference could do just that? “No,” insists Ward. “We prefer to think of what we do as under-promising and then barely delivering.”

Read it and reap

It is not enough, these days, to simply read books. As Andy Quinn, the head of events at Foyles puts it, “There is now a huge appetite for activities surrounded by reading, storytelling events and opportunities for readers to meet their favourite authors.” To that end, the London- and Bristol-based bookshop has just announced its first “Summer of Fun” (25 July to 30 August, full details soon here) for young readers, with events that include a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, the opportunity to build a Star Wars droid and a crafts event with the Aardman animations team (though what those last two have to do with reading books is beyond me).

And it’s not just young people getting in on the act. The novelist Lloyd Shepherd and his friend Tim Wright have just set up The Riddle of the Sands Adventure Club, and plan to re-enact the classic spy novel’s plot in real time. “The aim is to be on the same places on the same day as the book’s protaganist, Carruthers,” says Shepherd.

“The story takes place from 23 September to 26 October but this isn’t a project where we’ll be dressed in tweed,” he says. “Our aim is to have our own adventure and to meet people we wouldn’t usually meet through the means of the book. Along the way, we hope to make an antiquated novel which we both love exciting and interesting again.” To help crowdfund the project and receive a copy of the resulting book, see here.

The bait escape

Talking of books, last week the wits of Twitter decided to play a game around the hashtag “clickbaitbooks” that imagined what book titles would look like if they had to use the same devices as websites in order to get people to read them.

Here are a few of my favourites: “Nine Shocking Ways to Kill a Mockingbird (Number Seven Will Surprise You)”; “Get a Bikini Body in Five Days by Following this Caterpillar’s Diet”; “You Will Not Believe What Gregor Samsa Found Himself Transformed Into”; “What Happens After This Boy Asks For More Will Blow Your Mind” and “Predators Hate Him! Mouse Fends Off Gruffalo With This One Weird Trick”.

Judgment day

Bodybuilder, actor, Governor of California … Arnold Schwarzenegger is known for many things but it’s probably fair to say that a sense of humour is not one of them.

Last week, during an Ask Me Anything with Timothy Ferriss (“this generation’s self-help guru”, The New Yorker), one person posted the following question to the author of The Four-Hour Workweek and The Four-Hour Body: “You recently interviewed Arnold Schwarzenegger. What question do you wish you could still ask him that you may have forgotten last time?”

Quick as a flash, Arnie was online to answer the questions that Ferriss did not have the time to fit in to his initial interview. He ended by taking the following pop at Ferriss: “It was fantastic to have you at the poker tournament, even though you lost brutally. I know everything happens for you in fours, but I didn’t know you take it so seriously you wanted to get knocked out in four minutes.”

No rhyme or reason

Another in a regular series of limericks based on recent events:

How poor Ed must wish he could rip up,

That note Cam kept using to whip up

The ‘Question Time’ crowd,

But that’s just not allowed,

And neither’s one more little slip up.


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