he writes books

Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.


Sun 03

Dirt is Good. Dirt is Good. Dirt is Good.

What Max Reckons Today is an important day of celebration in Australia; it’s National Dirt is Good Day. No, really, it is. Now, I know, if you live in New Zealand, you’re wrinkling your forehead and going, “Wait a minute, Max, Dirt is Good Day was a few weeks ago,” and if you’re Turkish or Pakistani it was last year, but that’s not important; those are just funny little international differences, like how it’s currently Autumn in the Southern Hemisphere and New Zealanders celebrate Christmas on the last Tuesday of February.

National Dirt is Good Day is sponsored by OMO, a washing detergent made by Unilever, and by “sponsored” I mean “invented.” Apparently you don’t have to be a government to go around inventing national days of celebration; anybody can do it. So Unilever has decided we need one in celebration of dirt. Here’s why:

Years of scientific study by child health experts shows that playing outdoors is an essential part of a child’s learning and development.

Getting dirty through constructive play is how children learn and express their creativity. It also helps them to stay healthy by encouraging them to exercise and bolstering their immune systems.

I dunno, it seems like this makes just as much sense without the phrase “Getting dirty through”. It seems like they inserted that fairly arbitrarily. But no, no, I’m not one to argue with unsourced “years of scientific study.” I should just be grateful that private enterprise has stepped in to deliver this crucial health message.

I clicked through the web site to find out how I could celebrate Dirt is Good Day at home—I don’t have any kids, but since it’s such a significant occasion, maybe I could pinch somebody else’s. The first couple of recommended activities seem interesting enough, but the further you go down the list, the more they seem to be basically, “Take one child, roll him around in the mud, and wash his clothes with OMO.”

The second-last one is “Mud Splatters”: its ingredients are (a) water balloons (b) mud and (c) paper. You’re meant to insert (b) into (a) and throw it at (c), marveling at “the amazing effects on the paper as the mud splatters.” There is no mention of the possibility of kids turning their attention to the amazing effects of mud splattering on other objects, including each other. Which seems like the logical progression to me, but apparently to Unilever it would be a surprising and unexpected development.

The final recommended activity is “Mud Pie.” The description is quite detailed, but I’ll summarize it for you: get a big pile of mud and try to make your parents eat it.

At the very bottom of that web page, in black text on a blue background, I noticed this:

Safety Note: Ensure children do not play with dirt that may have been contaminated by animals. Ensure that children do not put dirt or dirty hands in their mouths. Potting mix is dangerous as it contains a potentially harmful bacteria, do not use. Ensure any cuts are covered. Wash hands afterwards.

Wow! I always get a warm, fuzzy feeling when corporations take an interest in my personal wellbeing, but tucking away a safety warning where nobody will see it as part of a campaign to make children play in dirt is extra special. Maybe they should call it National Dirt is Good So Long as It Isn’t Contaminated by Animals and You Don’t Put it in Your Mouth and Wash Afterwards and Cover any Cuts and For God’s Sake Don’t Go Near the Potting Mix Day.

But it’s been a big success for Unilever, with consumers apparently embracing the message of: “No Stains. No Learning.” (An earlier draft, I’m guessing, is, “No Stains? Bad parent! Bad!”) So surely it’s just a matter of time before other companies jump on the bandwagon. There could be ExxonMobil National Go For a Long, Aimless Drive Day, or AT&T National Just Check Your Relatives Are Still Okay Day. Because they care about us, you know?


This is where site members post comments. If you're not a member, you can join here. There are all kinds of benefits, including moral superiority!

Tom Hurst (#1186)

Location: Marketing
Quote: "Now with blue bits."
Posted: 5253 days ago

I am the first.

Do dirt farmers farm dirt?

Jamie (#111)

Location: Auckland
Quote: "Anyone still spelling "internet" with a capital "I" is probably struggling with the complexities of their new-fangled electric typewriter."
Posted: 5253 days ago

Hey Max

Thanks for pointing out that we celebrate Christmas on the last Tuesday of February here in New Zealand. Not a lot of people know this, and my overseas Christmas cards always arrive too early.

Having Christmas on the last Tuesday of February means that we can make better use of Boxing day sales.

Interestingly, if a leap day (February 29th) is a Tuesday, then NZ Christmas is celebrated on February 22nd. This happened in 2000, and will happen again in 2028.

Ben (#314)

Location: Ottawa, Canada
Posted: 5253 days ago

This is why I enjoy your novels and this website so much. You can take any type of event, situation, phenomenon, etc... that scares the living shit out of me and turn it into something hilarious.

Tom Hurst (#1186)

Location: Marketing
Quote: "Now with blue bits."
Posted: 5253 days ago

Now I hear what you are saying and I agree that this is insulting/funny to most reasonable people. Sure the kiddies should not be victims of dead head parents and maybe on that level it is irresponsible

But I pose this question; do we need to look after the 'unreasonable people'?

In my moneyed, private schooled, Liberal voting, puppies aren't cute view the 'unreasonable' are fair game and should be exploited.

We are not the victim of sociological structures it is our construct. If someone submits to reasonable marketing messages then that is their choice, their money is good.

Tom Hurst (#1186)

Location: Marketing
Quote: "Now with blue bits."
Posted: 5253 days ago

Did I mention I'm a marketer?

Ben (#314)

Location: Ottawa, Canada
Posted: 5253 days ago

You didn't have to.

shabooty (#637)

Location: D.C./V.A/M.D.
Quote: "I will shake your foundation. I will shake the f**cking rafters. Nobody'll be the same -Danny Bonaduce ....& go visit my blog @:"
Posted: 5253 days ago

this has the makings for a great southpark episode (well if there was an aussy made southpark)

Dan (#579)

Location: Shanghai, China
Quote: ""Scio me nihil scire.""
Posted: 5252 days ago

Max, just finished reading Syrup, I had to order it via air mail to China, but let me just tell you, it is P I M P brother. Man, I can't get enough of you, and I thereby forgive you for making me sad, for which reason I cannot remember. Once again, my comment completely out of context with your post, that is my style. You have thereby provoked me into pursuing a career of marketing. Cheers

John Doe (#797)

Location: Live from Omicron Persei 8
Quote: "You're just jealous because the little voices only talk to me."
Posted: 5252 days ago

If we're on the subject, I'd like to note that I've decided for some time now that marketing/advertising _will_ be my next career line. I've been a programmer in the security field for a couple of years now, and I'm rather good at it, but I see it as a must to change career paths every few years.

I'll also note that I totally agree with Tom's views about exploiting the uninformed, simple-minded herd. Everyone's been doing it since forever. And the way things are going, they're not going to get any wiser anytime soon.

In regards to the blog entry at hand, I'd add that I've always been intrigued by the "Solvent abuse can kill instantly!" warnings on Adidas deodorants.

M. Chase (#1211)

Location: Michigan, USA
Posted: 5252 days ago

Addendum: In parts of Nevada, Iraq, and Kazakstan parents should should discourage kids from using glowing dirts as well.

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 5252 days ago

Mon. 4 April 2005

It's my first day back from spring break, and Jeff has already started to spread rumors about me. He says me and Nicole hooked up in Florida. That is only partially true.
Gosh!! I hate him:(!

Also, Max barry has no right to dis dirt day. I think it is a very good holiday and people should promote the use of dirt in their everyday lives. I love dirt!

NOTE: I made up all of the things above, do not listen to anything that I say I hate myself! Meh...

to be concluded...

Back to the future...


Emily (#609)

Location: New York
Quote: "When in doubt, fuck it. When not in doubt, get in doubt!"
Posted: 5252 days ago

Wow, that is amusing. And I thought Columbus Day was silly.

It sounds kind of like a big corporate conspiracy. DIRT IS GOOD. OMO IS BETTER. APPLY THEM IMMEDIATELY AFTER ONE ANOTHER. REPEAT.

By the way, in my ongoing struggle to promote Jennifer Government in my uncultured school, I mentioned it today and received about thirteen blank stares. It was sad. I shall have to take more drastic measures. ;-)


Christopher Taylor (#1215)

Location: Melbourne
Quote: "Batshit insane."
Posted: 5251 days ago

I saw this advertised on the TV. Apparently Sunrise are running a competition attached to it. The prize is ten tons of dirt, delievered to your front door step. I wonder if you can sue them if your kid plays in it and ends up catching some of that harmful bacteria.

Tom Hurst (#1186)

Location: Marketing
Quote: "Now with blue bits."
Posted: 5250 days ago

It would depend on the terms and conditions of the promotion. I am sure they would indemnify OMO to some extent. Efectively, you enter the competition you accept full responsibilty for the prize etc but this wouldn't be a complete indemnity. OMO would have to demonstrate a reasonable duty of care in sourcing the dirt, which actually wouldn't be that difficult.

I would suggest that OMO would also run a similar indemnity with the dirt supplier meaning that even though OMO could be sued and pay damages they would then seek costs from the dirt supplier.

In the end OMO may suffer a bad PR outcome but would be financially protected on all outcomes - unless the dirt suppplier goes bankrupt and cannot cover any possible damages awarded against OMO for a breach of care.

Ariel (#1199)

Location: California
Quote: "I will show you fear in a handful of dust (T.S. Eliot)"
Posted: 5249 days ago

I have to admit I haven't read this post yet, but I am a soil scientist, so rock on.

Coolet (#37)

Location: Goshen, Indiana
Quote: "Man who goes to bed with itchy bum, wakes up with smelly finger."
Posted: 5247 days ago

Oh...funny..*claps hands*

Picto (#64)

Location: United Kingdom
Quote: "Who is more foolish, the child afraid of the dark or the man afraid of the light? - Maurice Freehill"
Posted: 5245 days ago

"There is no mention of the possibility of kids turning their attention to the amazing effects of mud splattering on other objects, including each other."


Stick! Government (#1499)

Location: Edmonton ,Alberta, Canada
Quote: ""Hmm, #1499, cool, I took financial management, i always round off. But, thats actually kinda cool, having the last number in the 1400's."
Posted: 5127 days ago

The ExxonMobil "National Go On a Long Aimless Drive Day" Thats awesome man. Yeah that was the dumbest thing ive seen in a while, this Dirt is Good day. Like, if we had a day off for every stupid "national holiday" no one would ever work, the world would fall into economic and social collapse, all because were too busy flinging scores of mud at each other. It is funny though, the whole "Dirt is good day". I admit that the first couple activities arent that bad. But yeah, afterwards the webmasters were like, "k, we have two ideas down, what next? 'oh, well lets rehash old ideas, like mud pies and finger painting, that's two more, we now have four ideas'. 'Good arthmetic btw'. 'Thank you'." Also i realise i think i put the apostrophies in the wrong spots, i always get confused if its before or after the period.

Comments are now closed for this post.

Built on Blosxom