The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'memes'
Russian singer Eduard Khil has died at the age of 77, following a stroke. Khil is apparently well known in Russia, though attained belated fame outside of Russia when a musical number he performed on Soviet television in the 1970s, in which he sung nonsense lyrics in a rich baritone over luxuriantly loungy background music, but above all with an infectious sense of good cheer, ended up on YouTube and became a meme. The song's original title was apparently “I Am So Happy to Finally Be Back Home” (in Russian, of course), though it was changed by the censors and replaced with the immortal words “Trololololo lololo lololo, hahahahaha!”, which probably contributed much to its global appeal some decades later.
Khil lived to see his song belatedly become an internet sensation, and was even filmed commenting on covers of it from all over the world; one partial parody of this song was performed by the German actor Christoph Waltz on television.
Internet memes (once described, perhaps unkindly, as "like in-jokes for people who don't have friends") aren't purely an American or Anglosphere phenomenon. Cracked has a list of seven quite peculiar internet memes from foreign countries.
The Russians have two entries: PhotoExtreme is an offshoot of live-action role-playing games, as one would expect in the sort of hardcore place that Russia is fabled to be. In this meme, one person comes up with a bizarre scenario, and others act it out, take photos and post them online. The scenarios are acted out in public, without anybody being informed in advance, so bystanders are likely to be confronted with surreal, often violent (ontologically, if not literally) spectacles.
The other Russian meme is a more innocuous one, not unlike LOLCats, which originated from a rather naïve American drawing of a bear, and involves photoshopping said drawing into images. In Sweden, meanwhile, they do something similar with an image of a guy with a horse's head; this meme is named "Snel Hest" ("Nice Horse") and often involves horse-related puns. Meanwhile, the French go in for sarcastically 'shopping their self-aggrandising president Sarkozy into various historical scenes (it seems to be akin to the "Al Gore invented the Internet" meme of the 1990s) and in Australia, a video of a racist bogan chick went viral (the great Australian public doesn't really go for highly conceptual, it seems). The Kenyans, meanwhile, have a supercool tough-guy hero named Makmende, whose name comes from a mangling of Clint Eastwood's famous line "make my day".
Did you ever wonder where that musical riff used in popular songs to signify the Far East (typically China or sometimes Japan; think Kung Fu Fighting/Hong Kong Phooey/International Karate) came from? this guy did, and did a fair amount of research:
Anyway, the author of the site, Martin Nilsson, has compiled evidence of the Oriental Riff and its earlier predecessors going as far back as 1847.
The little ditty above is what I call "the musical cliché figure signifying the Far East."
I would venture that a majority of music-culturally aware people would agree that there is such thing as "the stereotypical Chinese (or more generally Asian) riff." Most of them would also agree that the "canonical" form of it is the one notated above, typically instrumented with some kind of squeaky wind instruments playing in a pitch at least higher than middle C, and with some ticking-sounding rhythm instrument underlining the rhythm.
The LA Times tracks down Rick Astley, asks him about the unexpected second act of his 1980s pop career, this time as an internet meme. Astley seems quite cool about it:
“Listen, I just think it’s bizarre and funny. My main consideration is that my daughter doesn’t get embarrassed about it.”
The New York Times, has published its seventh annual Year in Ideas, containing 79 hot memes from 2007, including:
- Community urinalysis:
Sure enough, when Field’s team tested a mere teaspoonful of water from a sewage plant — which it ultimately did in many American cities — the sample revealed the presence of 11 different drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamine.
Because it allows for sampling on a daily basis, community urinalysis can track a drug epidemic in real time, showing the police and doctors how the popularity of a particular drug is waxing or waning. For instance, Field says that the use of methamphetamine was constant from day to day — because “once you’re hooked, you’re hooked” — whereas the usage of cocaine sometimes peaked on weekends.
- The "Height Tax":
Should we tax tall workers at a higher rate than their shorter peers? The answer — yes — “follows inexorably” from reigning academic theories of taxation, argues Greg Mankiw, an economics professor at Harvard (and former chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers), in a working paper first circulated in April.
- Prison Poker:
In April 2003 the Pentagon created decks of playing cards to be given to soldiers, all featuring wanted members of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle. When he heard this, Special Agent Tommy Ray, a state law officer in Polk County, Fla., got inspired. Two years later, he made his own deck of cards, each bearing information about a different local criminal case that had gone cold. He distributed the decks in the Polk County jail. His hunch was that prisoners would gossip about the cases during card games, and somehow clues or breaks would emerge and make their way to the authorities. The plan worked.
- The Unadapted Theatrical Adaptation:
Collins mounted a production of “The Great Gatsby” without cutting a single word. “Gatz,” which refers to Jay Gatsby’s original name, is the most faithful version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book ever produced. The more-than-six-hour-long drama begins silently in a dismal contemporary office in which white-collar employees go through the motions of their seemingly ordinary days. But when one character has trouble with his computer, he picks up a well-worn paperback copy of “Gatsby” and starts to read aloud. Before long, this office drone evolves rather seamlessly into Nick Carraway, the narrator of the book, and his fellow employees morph into Jazz Age denizens of high society New York, re-enacting the book’s famously flamboyant parties while interjecting lines of dialogue.
And then there are concepts such as Braille tattoos, the "cat lady" conundrum, Craigslist vengeance, the edible cocktail, criminal recycling, vegansexuality, weapon-proof school gear, and genetic-profile-based social networking; not to mention the Gomboc, an inanimate three-dimensional object which can only stand on one side and rights itself if placed any other way.
(via Boing Boing)
Pink Tentacle, an English-language Japanese blog, has a list of the top 60 Japanese buzzwords of 2007:
30. Dried-fish woman [himono onna - 干物女]: Himono onna (”dried-fish woman”) is an expression used in the movie Hotaru No Hikari to describe the main character, a woman in her 20s who has renounced the pursuit of romance. She spends her evenings reading manga and drinking at home alone, and she spends her weekends lazing around in bed. She’s a dried-fish woman.
32. The power of insensitivity [donkanryoku - 鈍感力]: Made popular by Donkanryoku (The Power of Insensitivity), a best-selling book written by popular novelist Junichi Watanabe, this expression means something like “thick skin” and refers to the ability to live in a relaxed manner without getting worked up over the little things.
35. Tetsuko [鉄子]: The unhealthy obsession with trains has long been a predominantly male pursuit, but the numbers of female train otaku — known as “Tetsuko” — are on the rise. [More]
40. Dark website [yami site - 闇サイト]: Yami sites (”dark websites”) are online networking sites where people can take out hit contracts on others, make illegal transactions (drugs, fake bank accounts, hacked cellphones, prostitution, etc.), and meet suicide partners. Japan has seen a recent rise in the number of murders arranged through these web-based hotbeds of criminal activity.
55. Factory moe [koujou moe - 工場萌え]: This year saw a mini-boom in the off-the-wall genre of factory moe photo books focusing on the functional beauty of large-scale industrial plants.
(via Boing Boing)
In 2005, Olia Lialina wrote A Vernacular Web, a survey of the culture of amateur web design some years ago, cataloguing ubiquitous pheonomena like starry backgrounds, "Under Construction" signs, rainbow horizontal rules and animated "Mail Me" graphics. Now, she has returned to the subject with a look at how things have changed over the past few years in the world of non-professional web pages:
Home pages no longer exist. Instead, there are other genres: accounts, profiles, journals, personal spaces, channels, blogs and homes. I’d like to pay special attention to the latter ones.
If you look at the most viewed layouts on MySpace, you’ll notice that most of them have a big picture as a background, which repeats itself horizontally and vertically. This back-to-1996 design flaw is now forever linked to Web and amateur users, and nobody cares about eliminating it – neither services nor users themselves.
Firstly, glitter became a trademark of today’s amateur aesthetics, and I’m certain that in the future sparkly graphics will become a symbol of our times, like “Under Construction” signs for the 90’s. Glitter is everywhere (in the universe of user-generated pages), it has become a meta category. It has absorbed all other categories of ready-made graphics – people, animals, buttons, sex graphics.
Starry backgrounds represented the future, a touching relationship with the medium of tomorrow. Glitter decorates the web of today, routine and taken-for-granted.Lialina also mentions the ubiquity of cat-themed graphics on the web of today (LOLCats and "Kitten Of The Day"), though declines to go into it, or theorise about the idiosyncratic phraseology and typography used in LOL* graphics.
Via Substitute, another piece about high-definition TV (HDTV), and in particular, about how the resolution is so good that it brings out every wrinkle, blemish and imperfection on celebrities' faces. I've also heard it claimed that the spread of HDTV will drive the development and adoption of new make-up technologies (ultra-fine nanomaterial cosmetics sprayed on with high-precision airbrushes or what have you), to allow those celebrities to keep looking perfect under the HDTV camera's harsh scrutiny.
Though, when one thinks about it, this sounds suspicious. Is HDTV really more detailed than the 35mm film that is shown in multiplexes? This is unlikely; when film is digitised for processing, each frame measures something like 3,000 pixels across; if HDTV exceeds this, a consumer HDTV set would have a higher resolution than the best computer monitor on the market (and this includes those used by graphic professionals). Not to mention that HDTV production would depend on digital video cameras at the very bleeding edge of the technology.
I suspect that the various stories about HDTV being so good that it shows you every pore on a celebrity's previously perfect-looking face is a sneaky piece of viral marketing, designed by some agency to spread buzz about this expensive new technology. It's a well-crafted piece, tapping into fascination with celebrities and the desire to see them brought down to earth and stripped of their seemingly superhuman perfection. And HDTV is going to need a lot of help in getting off the ground (and recouping investment); with passive TV viewership declining as more people seek out more interactive technologies, the number of people ready to invest in HDTV (which is, essentially, the same deal as regular TV, only with better image quality) off the bat isn't great.
The latest pop hit in Japan is the corporate anthem of a small demolition firm; the punk-edged Nihon Break Kogyo anthem, a world away from traditional corporate propaganda, has become a cult favourite among teenagers. The firm has started selling CDs of it, and two karaoke distributors have picked it up.
We will destroy houses. We will destroy bridges. We will destroy buildings. To the east, to the west, run, run, Nihon Break Kogyo.
The song, which is written by a 32-year old aspiring musician who goes by the name of Manzo, has also become a big hit on the internet. According to one review on Amazon, the internet retailer: The lyrics have an enormous impact. Maybe this song is more radical and aggressive than songs created by mediocre punk rock bands.
A Flash-animated video for the song (replete with masked heroes and giant robot!) may be found here; the sound quality is rather poor, mind you. (via Graham)
After looking around LiveJournal a bit, it occurred to me that someone could easily do a LiveJournal Bingo game.
Look at your "friends of friends" page and tick off any of the following you find there:
- South Park-style goth/raver/hipster user icon
- anime user icon
- Photographs of cats
- "Which ___ are you" test
- "personality" test whose outcome is based entirely on user's name
- 3 or more people doing the same bogus test
- "Current music: Radiohead"
- Sexual compatibility test results
- Discussion of romantic situation involving 4 or more people
- IRC/MSN chat transcript that's two or more pages long
Have I missed anything?
You are so indie it hurts. You hang out with the coolest people in your city. It doesn't even bother you that none of them know your name. You know lots of bands personally, you know a couple of guys from We Hate The Mainstream Records, and you blag your way into getting almost everything for free. That fanzine you write gives you extra kudos. You probably don't even care that non-scenesters think you're a pretentious fuck.
Which is rather amusing, if totally, er, mostly incorrect. (Shut up, Graham.)
Anyway, writing a blog is apparently nowhere near as cool or indie as writing a photocopied zine, because blogs don't have the cachet of the scarcity/obscurity factor. (cf: mp3.com sites vs. 7" split singles. Any suburban bogan can put something on the web, but only the hippest of hipsters actually have stylishly crappy-looking bits of photocopied paper with twee-looking drawings on the front in all the right shops.)