Blathering About Nothing: a word from our CEO

(This speech was given recently by the CEO of Blathering About Nothing Industries™ at the annual Blogs Taking Up Space (BTUS) Awards)*

Here at Blathering About Nothing we are proud to consistently offer our readers unbeatable value for money. Independent reviews consistently rate the blatherings of our team in the top 10% of all blatherings about nothing worldwide. What’s more, despite what the title may suggest, we don’t restrict ourselves to blathering only about nothing. Sometimes we blather about something.

Blathering about Nothing is the central mission of our company, and one which all employees are required to pledge allegiance to. To reinforce our goal, every Monday morning, to start the week, we all stand in a circle and do 5 minutes of star jumps, followed by 5 minutes of Blathering Time. A timer is set, and off we go – all blathering at once. It’s a great team building exercise, as well as a good way to get the old brain juice going. Staff can use the opportunity to test out an idea, since everyone else is blathering at the same time and no-one can really hear what anyone else is saying. It’s a lot of fun, and afterwards we all go for coffee.

We are very proud of our team’s hard work, which fills about 90% of our pages with blatherings about nothing on a consistent basis. We do also allocate a small amount of space to other activities, such as pondering the trivial, questioning the banal, investigating the ridiculous and even hypothesising about the inane. Ultimately, our central mission is to blather about nothing, and our strategic plan recognises the difficulties we face in achieving this goal, and acknowledges that occasionally we may have to blather about something, in which case we are mindful to ensure that it’s done in the most superficial way possible.

When this blog first began, it was titled It Keeps Me Wondering, a name chosen to signify a spirit of exploration (and/or an unwillingness to be tied down to any particular subject matter). Although the name has changed, those of us behind the scenes still oversee the It Keeps Me Wondering Laboratories™, which were set up for the purpose of scientific and philosophical exploration into, well, basically anything that regular laboratories won’t touch with a 10 foot pole. We may blather about nothing, but our research into our subject matter is rigorous. Sometimes we look at Wikipedia and a second site, to verify the facts.

Our ongoing explorations are crucial, because they provide us with the content, ie, the nothing, about which we then blather.

The team behind It Keeps Me Wondering Laboratories™ are highly skilled researchers with varying backgrounds. Some are scientists, some philosophers, some journalists, and one has hopes of one day opening a second-hand bookshop with a coffee bar. The mixture of skills, experience and knowledge on our team ensures that the highest quality reportage reaches your inbox once every week. (or thereabouts – it’s a loose deadline). We encourage our team to take every opportunity, while employed here, to think outside the box. Our exploratory laboratories follow the classical (Greek) model: there is little distinction made between a philosopher or a scientist, as long as they can turn in an article at least once every year.

To show how serious we are about breaking down the barriers between science, philosophy and journalism, we require all staff to wear a white lab coat, grow a large bushy moustache*, and carry a clipboard in one hand and a recording device in the other. That way, if you bump into one of our staff in the corridor, it’s impossible to tell if he or she is a scientist, philosopher or journalist.

One of our staff on the job.

One of our dedicated staff on the job.

Pic: Neatorama

Reports by our team have frequently been ahead of global research in their field. In some cases, our team of thinkers have achieved outstanding results in areas that mainstream science/philosophy has not yet thought of. (The downfall is that sometimes it can be difficult to know how to target the PR release, and whether to send news of our findings to CSIRO, NASA, or Gardening Weekly.)

Examples of our cutting edge results can be seen in reports such as When Cats Do Starjumps,  A Really Brief History of Time, and the follow-up to that report, Forgotten Again, Poor Cockroaches. Not to mention our infamous  2-part investigation into the dangers of yoga mats, which caused outrage when the issue of dangerous yoga mats was taken up on A Current Affair. There was also our shocking exposé on The Behaviour of Socks, which won the prestigious Literary Laundry Workers Journal award for best application of scientific theory in an essay about laundry. That plaque hangs proudly above the staff washing machine.

Our team is always on the look out for new topics, particularly for any conundrums that have not yet been solved by the world of science or philosophy. These top minds work round the clock, (on a rotating roster of course – our Workplace Health and Safety policies are above reproach), always alert, and always on the look out for possible new subject matter worth further investigation.

So on behalf of my team of hard working researchers, I thank you all for this award. We will continue to do our work so that the world may benefit from our blathering.

Suggestions for future topics may be written on a scrap of paper and dropped in the hat we are passing around amongst the audience now.

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*imaginary awards

*staff who can’t grow a bushy moustache are supplied with a stick-on moustache such as this one.

moustache1

I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

Part of the fun of a blog is that you get to observe a little snippet of what search terms people all over the world are typing into their internet browsers. It’s an insight into what really occupies people’s minds when they should be doing other things.

Take that young  investment banker over there, hair in a tight pony tail, and an extra large cafe latte next to her computer, typing away madly. Is she calculating how much interest her client’s investments are going to make? No, she’s typing “Nietzsche moustache” into her search engine (it’s in the top 50 search terms on my blog). Or that policeman, hunched at a desktop computer, frowning with concentration and typing with his index fingers. Is it an incident report that he is painfully inputting into his computer? No, he’s just typed “Nigella Lawson ears” into his browser. (that term has been searched for multiple times).

Sometimes it’s the mere fact that certain silly terms come up multiple times that is amusing. Who knew so many people were interested in cockroach costumes, dangerous yoga mats, rhino eyes, medieval beheadings, or “nick cave fake moustaches”? Not to mention Air Supply, which I won’t do, since I’ve mentioned them plenty of times before.

Then of course there are the terms that come up one time only, terms that are as unique and individual as the little grain of sand person who wrote them. Eg:

Jimble box jellyfish

rhino stumbling

horse moustache

please don’t piss on our heads and tell it’s raining (sic)

don’t feed the cockroaches

men crying on planes

avocado eyes

existentialism distracted by angst *

fuzzle webcams

are you lonely then call a meeting **

pregnant lady doing yoga and got stuck

how do I stop bleeding naturally on my amputated finger ***

being framed for hacking into facebook and my ip comes up help!!!!!

It’s a little bit mind boggling to wonder what was going on in some of those people’s heads. Or in some cases, hands.

For all the giggles I might get from the above, there are also some sad little snippets of other people’s lives, as evidenced by what they are searching for. For example:

don’t depend on anyone because even your shadow leaves you when you’re in darkness

why did my brother died suddenly (sic)

my mind has so much sadness what to do

my healthy brother suddenly stopped breathing and died

why my brother died

It is sobering, to be reminded of the sadness in the world, and that there are people out there feeling so much despair that they hope to find comfort by typing their feelings into a search engine.

Yet perhaps that in itself is not as sad as it seems. There can be comfort in knowing that other people have been through, or are going through, the same thing as you are. In this age of instant and accessible communications, that is actually one of the positive functions that so many personal blogs and websites can achieve. Sometimes you don’t want to talk to the people around you about how you feel, especially when they are not feeling the same way.

So, to those who were searching “why my brother died” – I’m so sorry for your loss.

I imagine that perhaps, like me, you hoped to hear from other people who had gone through the same thing. Perhaps, like me, you even held a deluded hope that you’d eventually locate an answer that proved that he hadn’t died at all. Or that announced that death is not as final as what we are always hearing.

But he’s been gone for 7  months now, and I haven’t found that answer yet.

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*existentialism distracted by angst – an intriguing notion that certainly distracted me!

**be bored instead of lonely

*** I’m no first aid expert but I’d suggest that wrapping it up tightly and calling an ambulance would be more effective than using your amputated stump to type first aid questions into a computer!

Air Supply v. Yoga Mat – who will win?

On the front page of my blog, there is a race going on! It’s the race for most frequently read post, and at the moment the contenders for top positionYoga Mat - 3 views are a post about Air Supply, and a post about a yoga mat. Proving that there is no accounting for peoples’ interests, I guess. An exploration of why Air Supply cried on planes, or an in-depth investigation into the dangers of using yoga mats? You be the judge.

I enjoyed writing both those posts, but have to admit my personal favourite is the post on Air Supply, so I’m secretly pleased when I see it on top of the list. I know the reality is that most people must land on it by accident when searching for “Air Supply” and they probably look at it for .0001 of a second before going back to the Google search to find something sensible about Air Supply,  but so what? Isn’t that part of the fun of having a blog? There  is nothing to stop me imagining that 100s of people have read and enjoyed it. I can pretend I have a loyal following of 100s of regular readers if I want to – no-one else is going to be harmed in the process!

Also on the front page of my blog is a list of recently written posts. This lists a maximum of 15 “recently written” posts.  As I usually only manage to write about one post a week, or less, this list is actually a snapshot of what, in the last 15 or so weeks of my life, struck me as being worth writing about. 15 weeks – that’s more than a quarter of a year that’s flashed by, summed up by a quick glance over that “recently published” list.  Looking over it, I see that the last quarter of my year has been marked by posts about Black Holes, the Beastie Boy Bandit, tea bags, and cockroaches. Hmmm.

Because this list is updated every time I publish a new post, I usually check what post is currently at the bottom of that “recently published” list, because that one is going to disappear completely off the home page when I publish a new post.

Ah, cruel and fickle fate! One moment “recently published”, the next moment, with the mere click of a button,  relegated to the ancient past, only to be accessed via a search through “categories” or when someone accidentally stumbles across it when googling “my parents are out and harry potter comes into my house at night.”*  Once the link to the post is gone from the home page list, it seems to my technically illiterate mind that the entire post has vanished from the 3-dimensional world that I live in, and gone into a parallel universe known as “cyber space”. There, it is trapped in a sort of twilight zone from which it can never escape, and where it will only ever be read by the odd person who accidentally steps into the wardrobe, so to speak.**(Apologies to anyone who is actually technically literate. Although I imagine if you are technically literate, you probably don’t even read this blog in the first place, so forget I said that.)

Air Supply - 3 Views

I guess that, like anyone who tries to do anything creative, I feel a bit of affection, or even some probably misplaced pride, in posts that I enjoyed writing and thought were successful. (By successful I mean that I’m happy with them, not necessarily that they had more views than any other post – in some cases it’s totally the opposite!)  So what I’m getting at is, I’m kind of reluctant to force them into obscurity by making them disappear from the front page. If I publish this post, then the post that will disappear is another favourite post, called 1982 Out of the Blue. It didn’t get many views – I felt like it deserved more. Is it time to banish it forever to the twilight zone?

Well, if you are reading this…..then I guess it’s time was up!

*

* someone actually did search the phrase “my parents are out and harry potter comes into my house at night” and land on my blog – no idea how!

**That’s a reference to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, just in case you couldn’t work out where the hell the wardrobe came into the process. It was kind of taking the place of a search engine in my poorly constructed metaphor. If you are still confused, don’t worry, we all are.

Yoga mats and other potentially life threatening items, Part 2

Warning: Highly dangerous if not used correctly.

Right, so – back to the yoga mat. What yoga mat? Come on, keep up! The yoga mat I posted about here a few days ago. Yes, that dangerous product I bought so flippantly, not realising what a minefield of potentially fatal injuries it could lead to!

This post has come about because I was so taken aback at all the warnings on the box for such a seemingly benign item as a yoga mat.  Here are some (but not all) of them, word for word, as marked on the yoga mat box. Please note – the exclamation marks are not added by me for extra drama – they were in the original warnings.

Warning! Important! Remember to read the instructions below before using the product!

Wow! Remember – this is a yoga mat!

Until now, I had assumed that some products, e.g, a pair of pants, a book, or a yoga mat, didn’t require instruction manuals, because people buy them already knowing what to do with them, through the wisdom handed down from generation to generation. Eg, parents show their children how to put their legs through their pants and pull them up, teachers teach kids how to read, and, well, what is there to know about how to use a yoga mat?

Of course, normally I abhore instruction manuals – they are boring, and usually confusing – but this warning struck me as so ridiculous that I was intrigued enough to continue reading, to find out what warnings could possibly come with a yoga mat!

Well, my friends, it was the following:

A Yoga mat, apparently, according to a Wikimedia search. This one looks a little bit more dangerous than the one above.

Do not use if pregnant.

You know, when I was pregnant, I was cautious about products that were known to be unsafe to take during pregnancy: alcohol, cigarettes, soft cheeses, salamis, and anything with the artificial sweetener Aspartyme in it.

Of course, I also avoided other things that would be considered dangerous to do during pregnancy – such as tightrope walking, speed skating, or climbing up a ladder to fix the roofing, but I tend to avoid those kinds of activities even when not pregnant. As a naturally clumsy person, I am constantly in danger of injury from items most people consider fairly harmless, such as wine glasses that I smash, and innocent doorways that I bump into, so there is no need for me to test fate by balancing along the guttering on a plank, when 8 months pregnant.

But, to get back to the yoga mat –  even I, clumsy as I am, felt pretty safe using one of these things! If warnings like this need to be put on yoga mats, I can only assume that this is to cover the manufacturer against any risk of litigation if a pregnant woman should go into labour during a yoga lesson and then try to sue the manufacturer of her yoga mat!?

I mean, what is the worst a yoga mat could do to a pregnant woman? Facilitate her lying down and becoming so relaxed that she can’t lift her heavily pregnant body back up off it again? So what?? Have a snooze!!!! You’ll need all the rest you can get!

Always work out in a safe environment wearing appropriate training gear.

Well this is smart. They’ve caught me out here, because now I guess that if I put on high heels and a tight fitting dress, take my yoga mat under my arm and prance on down to the Grand Prix track, place my mat on the track and do a downward dog as the cars come around the bend, and end up being injured as a result – I can’t sue the makers of the mat for being negligent, because they put this warning on the box?

Damn that warning. It had seemed like a flawless plan.

Stop your exercise immediately if feeling faint or dizzy.

Very wise. Stop your exercise. My life’s philosophy. I suggest this first off, in any situation where anyone feels faint or dizzy. Sit down, take some slow breaths, and eat a Mars Bar. Or why not let’s order some fish and chips, and get a few beers to go with that?  If still feeling faint, have a lie down – but –  NOT ON THE YOGA MAT!!!! Are you mad??? That could be construed as recklessly endangering your life!

Before use, check for wear or damage to the product. Do not use if your product is worn or damaged.

Under this warning there is actually a phone number to call if your yoga mat looks worn or damaged. Can you believe this? I doubt that atom bombs come with as many warnings, instructions and phone numbers for back up service as this yoga mat does!

What could go wrong if there is a hole in my yoga mat?  Perhaps my finger might get stuck it when I’m doing the child’s pose, and next thing I know I’ll be tangled up in the mat, doing the straightjacket pose.

Help! I didn’t read the instructions, and now look at me!!

This is not a toy. Keep out of reach of children.

Wow, this warning was well placed, as otherwise I would have offered the yoga mat to my 11 year old daughter to play with.

I suspect that in reply she would have looked at me with the condescending contempt that such an offer would rightly deserve. Er, hello…does it play songs from Glee? No? Does it come from Smiggle with a matching stapler and pencil case? No? Can you download the Angry Bird app onto it? No? Then it’s boring.

This child is in no danger of playing with a yoga mat.

Exercises should be done in a SLOW and CONTROLLED manner.

Don’t worry, that’s the only way I do them.

Yoga mats and other potentially life threatening items – Part 1

A historical relic dating back to the ‘really old days’.

Back in the really old days – I mean a long time ago, way, way, back…..oh, come on, make an effort with your imagination, I’m not talking about before you could get internet on your mobile phone,  I’m talking about way back in medieval times. Right?

Ok, so: way back then, there was no such thing as advertising as we now know it. Yes, it’s true. In those long ago days, now called the Prehysteric era, people did not get to read ridiculous claims plastered across their products. That is also because, in those long ago days, they didn’t have packaged products! I know, right?

Believe it or not, back in the Dark Ages, if they wanted milk on their Bircher muesli, they had to get up out of their Jason Recliner (known in those days as a sack, or if you had the luxury version, a pile of sweet-smelling hay), trudge out to something called a field, slosh through a lot of poo, and get milk by squeezing the warm, pink teats on a smelly, farting, milk-generating receptacle known as a “cow”.

Getting milk in the old days: opening a carton is so much easier

If they wanted a poached egg for their ceasar salad, they had to get up again from the comfort of their lounge room (known in those days as the dirt floor of the one-roomed hut where the whole family slept, ate and had their annual bath, along with the cows), and enter a smelly enclosure full of poo, and cackling, pecking, egg-producing-creatures known as chickens.

If they wanted to watch the latest series of Underbelly on dvd, it wasn’t out yet, so they had to make do with trudging through a lot of poo to the local village square and watching a beheading instead. Which made do just as well.

To sum up, back then there was a lot of poo, but no advertising.

One of the reasons that the advertising industry had not really taken off yet at this point was that very few people could actually read. That’s why they had town criers, who walked around announcing things that today we would find out on Twitter – eg, that the farmer is having a closing down sale and his entire crop of strawberries can now be purchased for the one-time-only price of just three eggs and two pots of honey; that the cow fell down the well, or that a local celebrity checked into the detox clinic, known back then as a “convent”.

In these long ago days, another thing that did not yet exist was the notion of public liability, and fear of being subject to litigation when someone else has an accident on your property or using a product that you manufactured. So another thing they missed out on back then was having warnings plastered all over everything. Which is ironic, when you think about the level of danger in the life of the average person back in the Dark Ages, compared to the current era, otherwise known as the Fairy Lights Age.

They could have done with a few warnings to increase their life expectancy back then. Imagine:  “Hamm the Bucher, Fyenest Cut of Beefe. Warnyng: Dyesease may develope if meate is kepte at roome tempratyre for six mynthes. No responsyblity ys taken if thou shoude experience illness or death.”  Or, “Dr Ghoul, Surgeon. Warnyng: amputatyne of gangrenouse lymbs shalle be dyne wythout anaesthetic and may render thee fainte or even deade from incredyble paine. ALSO: It shall be dyne with an unsterylysed blayde, and therefore will moste lykely cause infectyon and deathe. ALSO: thyre is a risk of bleedynge to deathe as we hyve no means of stopping bleedynge.

Pray thee, sygne below to yndemnyfy the doctor of responsybylity yn the case of such outcyme.”

A beheading, captured on Medieval CCTV 

Ah yes, life was a bit of a gamble in those days, eh?

Whizz forward 1000 years or so, to 2011. BAM!  Our edible products can be refrigerated, infections can be treated with antibiotics that make amputations far less likely to be required, but in any case, any surgery in a Western country these days is done in sterile conditions under general anaesthetic. Our life expectancies have doubled.

Our modern, safe, well-cushioned lives are chock full of packaged products, and, on almost all of them, claims about the positive effects that the product will produce in you and/or your life, counter-balanced by over-the-top health and safety warnings, come crashing together in a particularly modern mix of overblown expectation about how perfect life SHOULD be, coupled with anxiety about the dangers of every little goddam thing.

It’s not a huge leap to see that as symbolic of life in a modern consumerist society. On the one hand, we all strive to achieve everything we are told we should be able to achieve (basically “anything we want”) and on the other, the very advertising and imagery that reinforces that supposedly democratic message also undermines our confidence by reminding us how far we fall short of the ideal.

That’s how this consumerist culture perpetuates itself – by ensuring that people feel enough anxiety to always need to buy/work/earn/invest/save more.

Anyway, I have taken an unusual route to get to this point. Because, believe it or not, this post was inspired by the packaging on a yoga mat I bought the other day! You would not believe the ridiculous mixture of claims and warnings that one harmless (or so you may naively think!!) yoga mat had plastered all over it. (Well, all over the packaging it came in).

So, I had a different goal in mind when I started out, but instead of ending up upside down in a supported shoulder stand, I’ve accidentally done a flip-flop (not a common yoga move) and landed in an anti-consumerist rant. So I’ll park this post here, as it’s already long enough.

Stay tuned for part 2, when we discover what dangers lurk beneath, (as well as above and within) the innocuous looking yoga mat. Mwah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

PS – I wonder how many posts one yoga mat can inspire.*

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*Manufacturer’s disclaimer: The yoga mat is not intended to be the inspiration for creative writing, and the manufacturers make no guarantees about the quality (or quantity) of any creative writing inspired by the yoga mat.  

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