Good morning. Thank you for joining me. It’s wonderful that so many of you have made the journey to be with us today here at the Hollywood Bowl. My name is His Holiness The Honourable Sergeant-Major Professor Lord Sir Elbert Louche, KBE, QC (Retired). I hope you agree that the trip to Los Angeles has been worth it, and I’d like to confirm at the outset that we are unable to reimburse your air fares.
All seventeen thousand of us in attendance today know the reason we are here: the dawn of another year is the time when we reflect on another twelve months’ progress on Pouring Beans. 2023 was a difficult year for everyone, what with Simply Red choosing to deposit a new album on the unsuspecting general public and Germany winning the coveted European Karate Championships. We all felt the hammer blow of those events, and as the months wore on, we all found ourselves searching for meaning in a world that often felt like a cold, nihilistic void.
Nonetheless, the people who steward this website have vowed, on pain of death, to provide the world with regular posts of a mildly diverting nature along with lukewarm badinage in the ensuing comments. They keenly feel, on a daily basis, the weight of humanity’s expectations upon their shoulders. We look to them to uphold their duties in good times and bad.
My colleagues and I have been away this year on a sabbatical, helping indigenous tribes in the upper Amazon basin to weave new types of hat, but we left an intern back at the office who was tasked with printing out the whole of the Beans from 2023 so we could look at it when we got back.
On our return, we initially opened disciplinary proceedings against Toby, until he explained to us that the meagre stack of printouts was actually the complete Beans from 2023 and not, as I had angrily assumed, a result of his feckless incompetence. It turns out that the precarious state we reported last year has turned into a precarious ongoing situation.
In terms of posts, the Beans has held steady, with 102 new posts in 2023, an increase of one on the previous year and the third highest annual total ever. Healthy posting levels are being maintained, which is a good thing both for the turnover of eye-catching content on the front page, and more generally for the global economy. You can see this for yourself in the following graph, which has been manufactured from some overpriced mahogany matchsticks that I trimmed to size with a junior hacksaw.
The grounds for concern are really in the comments section. In 2023, 954 new comments were posted, a significant fall from the previous year and the second worst year on record for inane repartee. Only 2014 saw fewer comments posted, and we have now fallen to little more than half the comment levels seen in the website’s 2018 heyday. I have made the following graph in soothing shades of mauve and lilac, but it remains extremely chilling.
Those of you who have attended at least one previous State of the Beans Address will find little to surprise you as we turn to the performance of individual Beans members.
|Ian produced 48 posts in the last year, two more than the year before, matching his personal best. He earned 12 beans as a result, the sixth consecutive year he has made a clean sweep. Nasa have announced that a really cool-looking galaxy will be named after him.
|Chris also published 48 posts last year, matching his 2022 score and also earning him the maximum score of 12 beans. It is his second clean sweep in a row. The British Government have launched a consultation on renaming Heathrow Airport in his honour, or at least using a picture of him doing a thumbs up as its logo.
|Kev made six new posts in 2023, equalling his 2022 score, and making it another joint second worst year ever. His posts were successfully grouped to earn him two beans. Mark Drakeford, the outgoing Welsh first minister, reportedly pinched the bridge of his nose and let out a prolonged sigh upon hearing this news.
It is, in summary, a confusing picture. On the one hand posting levels are being maintained year-on-year, which suggests a healthy level of activity, but on the other the same people who are apparently well-motivated to write posts for each other to read are not bothering to talk to each other in the comments section. Early results from our research indicates that most posts are made in the final days of each month, suggesting that the motivating factor is the Bean Counter. My team are now investigating whether Beans members can be motivated to post more comments by similar means, such as the administration of electric shocks or the kidnap and torture of close relatives.
For now, though, we have our first draw: in light of their identical post counts and bean counts, Chris and Ian are joint winners of the Beans this year. Since the prize this year is a vintage MGB sports car, it has been cut in half so that both winners get an equal share of the prize. Chris has been awarded the driver’s side, so he can play with the steering wheel, while Ian gets the passenger side with a roomy glove box.
Kev’s performance was not nearly good enough to win the Beans this year, but it was at least no worse than last year’s, and as a result we have decided not to issue too severe a punishment. Instead we have simply downgraded his home internet connection to dial-up for the next twelve months.
I wish you all a joyful and productive new year on the Beans, and I remind you all to turn up and post some comments more often. If you don’t then by this time next year I’ll have nothing to count. Thank you.