Warning: This interview is not for the faint of heart nor the terminally serious. For those who share their sense of humor and love of nature, however, it presents an excellent opportunity to learn a little more about Andrew and Benny Bleiman aka the Fabulous Flying Bleiman Brothers. Andrew and Benny blog at Zooillogix, subtitled with the ever-helpful advice, “Don’t stick your fingers in the cage.” Andrew also blogs at Zooborns.
If you’d like to read a couple of their favorite posts, check out the Interview with Dr. Justin O. Schmidt – creator of the Schmidt Sting Pain Index and Introducing Erotic Falconry. [editor's note: yes, it is what it sounds like. You've been warned.]
Tell us about Zooillogix
Zooillogix brings you the latest and greatest news from the bizarre world of zoology, including behavioral research, new species discoveries, and updates on Andrew’s “World’s Largest Shot Glass Collection.” The site is delivered with an overdose of irreverence “targeted to juvenile senses of humor.” Benny would like to add that Zooillogix is also the hottest place on the net for sexy Jewish singles to mingle, chat, or enjoy a little discreet fun… [editor's note: this claim has not been independently verified].
Why do you blog? What got you started?
Andrew: I work in software. Benny owns a bar. We’d both rather be thinking about bizarre zoology. Having a blog gives us both an excuse to look at animal news all day without creeping out my boss and coworkers or Benny’s bar patrons. More importantly, blogging lets me pursue an ill-defined passion that is not a component of my professional life and would probably drive away close friends in my personal life. On a side note, I think “blogging” is a terrible term for what we do. I think the industry term “sloppy reporting” would be much more appropriate.
Benny: Since childhood we’ve been obsessed with little known animals. The internet was the easiest way to spread our zoological knowledge to a mass audience. I think our mom and five to seven other daily visitors would agree that we have roundly succeeded.
How did you pick the name of your blog?
Benny: We’re so happy you asked that question. Andrew and I have always been huge fans of mind puzzles and, in particular, anagrams. It doesn’t take Will Shortz to realize that if you rearrange the letters in “Zooillogix”, you can spell “Xaogiloozil,” the town in Guangdong Province where I expect to buy my wife.
What’s unique or different about your blog?
Andrew: We are the only website with “Zoo” and “X” in the URL that is appropriate for individuals under the age of 18.
Did you expect you would have this many readers?
Andrew: Just the other day, we were asking our mom about this. “Mom,” we said, “we can’t believe that you read Zooillogix almost every day.” So the answer is no, we didn’t know that she’d read it so much.
To what do you attribute your popularity?
Benny: There is a parasite that can inhabit rats that alters their brain chemistry and actually makes them crave the smell of feline urine, rather than fearing it. Because the infected rats seek out cat urine, they have a higher chance of being eaten by a cat, which in turn allows the parasite to infect the cat where it reproduces in the cat’s gut. We have a feeling that our popularity has similar mechanisms.
What other social networking tools do you use and why?
Andrew: People can follow Zooillogix on Twitter and Friendfeed by searching and connecting to “ableiman.” There is also a Facebook Group. Both Twitter (via Tweetfeed) and Friendfeed also post blog updates to my Facebook profile, where some of my four friends might see it, which is nice. The Facebook Group itself is fairly useless. I recommend a Facebook Page (the new option) for its future utility though, although that too is limited at the moment. On a side note, Fidjet is fun. Nothing that hasn’t been done before but for me it’s like crack.
What have you learned from blogging and other social networking?
Benny: Social networking sites like Hot or Not have taught me that I am definitely not hot. More like a 2 than a 5, like I had hoped. Blogging has taught me that my grammar is terrible and most spammers are Romanian.
What’s the payoff for the time it takes to use all this new technology?
Andrew: The payoff is sharing an interest with like minded people, learning and making friends while you inform. Or more accurately, the payoff is about $300 a month in advertising revenue.
Benny: I’d have to say the chicks.
Easy to tell which one of you works in marketing and which of you owns a bar. What do you like/dislike?
Likes: Artichokes, zoo and aquarium shot glasses, and my wife, Lillian.
Dislikes: Lots of things… house centipedes, the PT Cruiser, and eczema are some of them.
I meant about blogging. Never mind. If you had it to do over, would you start a blog?
Benny: I’d like to answer this one, if I can, Andrew… Maybe.
Has blogging changed how you think about nature?
Andrew: Given that we strive to deliver timely zoology news, we spend a lot of time reading scientific journals. However, we also find stories in the mainstream news. Oftentimes, the news reports are totally inaccurate but make for great stories. As a rule for example, anything published in Britain by a news outlet other than the BBC is probably at best inaccurate and just as often, simply not true. On the other hand, we too are translating scientific research into stories non-scientists enjoy. So now I think about nature in two steps: #1 – the complex biology at work in even the simplest organisms and #2 – how I can turn that science into a raunchy animal sex post that will appeal to 20 year old college kids.
Benny: Have you ever looked up at the sky at night and thought that maybe stars are just cells or, like, atoms or something in some really big giant’s body and when he looks up at the stars, he’s just seeing a bunch of cells or atoms that are in an even bigger giant’s body? Crazy, right?
Do you feel you’re part of a community with other nature bloggers?
Andrew: We are part of a literal community of science bloggers that Seed Media has generously put together for profit called ScienceBlogs. But we also collaborate with nature bloggers from around the world, usually when they correct us for making some stupid mistake in one of our posts.
Benny: Yeah, they’re a bunch of nerds.
Any words of wisdom for new nature bloggers?
Benny: If you get arrested by local cops, keep your goddamned mouth closed and ask for your lawyer. If you get jacked by the feds, however, you’re already screwed; by the time they pick you up, they’ve got wiretaps, witnesses and all of your records subpoenaed. You might as well cooperate.
Andrew: This is probably going to go against the grain in the blog community, but I think a lot of blogs fail to attract a big audience because the editors don’t think about what their readers really want to read. If you’re writing a blog just for yourself or close friends and family, then that’s nothing to worry about. But if you want build something serious, don’t intersperse your crustacean blog with pictures of your new baby or pet cat, Mr. Fluffernutter. Your readers don’t give a crap.
Anything else you’d like me to ask you–Benny: Look, I know my rights. I’d like to speak to my lawyer now, please. or that you’d like to volunteer without–Benny: Lawyer, please. being asked? Benny: Lawyer.
Benny would like to remind readers that if they would like to do the brothers’ work for them, they can send suggestions to zooillogix [at] gmail.com.