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Offbeat – 04 April 2013

I’m adding emoticons to my list of very important inventions. I’m sure historians can’t be bothered with the emotional quality of communication, but I really think they are incredibly important.

Hagfish slime. It’s the next big thing in fashion and apparel, according to BBC. When the suckers get bitten, the hagfishes exude slime which suffocates predators.
According to the report when the slime is dried out it becomes nice and silky. The applications are as a replacement for tight-fitting spandex and nylon, if they can get the critters to produce enough slime. If you asked yourself what sort of a person collects and dries out hagfish slime, award yourself 50 points and a Noddy badge.
In my imagination I look ahead and see some or other ripped athlete or anorexically svelte model posing in a tasteful ensemble made from prehistoric fish mucus. Listen carefully. Somewhere in the distance you can hear Jean-Paul Gaultier shrieking. Personally, I think I’ll stick with my baggy fit retro nylon, if not for the sake of my body shape then to maintain my sanity.
Invention has been orphaned. Its mother, Necessity, seems to have rolled over and quietly died, although there weren’t any obituaries, no state funeral, and media comment has been thin on the ground.
Sometimes things get to the point of ridiculous. I feel the urge to mention sports fans who watch the repetition of leagues year after year, and the endless exchange of points, but I mentioned invention, so I’m just going to have to stick with it.
Invention is supposed to be a totally great and life-enhancing endeavour: something that changes everything for the better unless you are in the arms industry, and have a sudden idea for a technological means to bring lasting peace to the rambunctious Middle East.
For me, the greatest inventions are the alphabet, which means I don’t have to pay someone to tell me a story orally, and the bread slicing machine, because I always make a total hash of it with a bread knife. I could mention quite a few others that are important on a global scale, but those two are personally important to me.
Let’s take stock of what we are getting now. Endless variants on the same form of the tablet computer. Did I forget to mention the new car model that comes with a built in vacuum cleaner? Are you excited yet. No some of you may be jumping up and down in the back of the class, shouting, “But what about genetic medicine and alteration?”
Please sit down and be cool for a couple of decades, until we get to see the downside of that. Then, and only then, will we know if we have opened Pandora’s Box. As it stands now, the genetically altered plants that withstand horrendous weedkillers seem to have done little other than lead to a better breed of weeds that are more capable of withstanding said horrendous weedkillers.
What about the impending return of the watch as reinvented by Apple and various other large companies. Surely we just spent the last decade getting rid of the things? Why bring them back now? Anything else that springs to mind?
What about emoticons? I am sure billions of the things are used every day. There’s an invention that millions of people behind computers and mobile phones use every day as a substitute for body language and facial expressions. Writing has become very prosaic, and it seems almost obscene to say something like, “I’m incredibly happy!”
I’m adding emoticons to my list of very important inventions. I’m sure historians can’t be bothered with the emotional quality of communication, but I really think they are incredibly important. Perhaps if politicians and diplomats used them in their communication, emotional understanding of high-level dialogue would be better understood, and there would be less surprises as wars burst out over pent-up frustrations. If George W. Bush had sent Saddam Hussein an angry emoticon, things might have turned out very different in the Middle East.
There are too many people trying to sell ideas that aren’t fresh, and not enough attention is paid to the little ideas that really change lives. Somewhere out there, I’m sure there’s someone with a really good idea that will go entirely unnoticed.

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