A meme with health benefits


Planking, which reached its pinnacle in July 2011, was seemingly fading from cultural consciousness, abandoned for more serious concerns such as teapotting, batmanning, and queening. The National Planking Association blog had been inactive since July of 2013, and what was once a flourishing community of photo fadders was now absent, finding other performative actions to occupy their time.

That is, until recently. Now it seems that planking has re-emerged in perhaps one of the least memey areas of contemporary culture — FITNESS!  Apparently, you can Plank Your Way to Better Abs.

A Google Search for “Planking Exercise” returns 445,000 results, while “Planking Meme” returns 500,000. It is interesting to note that the “plank exercise” predates “planking” the meme. But, it seems that the “plank exercise” has gone through some rebranding since the emergence of the meme.  That said, the histories of the meme — which arose out of either playing dead with origins in South Korea, or from the Lying Down Game from England — is confused. The term planking itself comes from Australia.


Though there are similarities between planking the meme and planking the exercise, there are substantial differences.  The image at the top of the page, which is in fact a Sims avatar planking, demonstrates the positioning for the meme. The image to the left is related to the exercise. As you can see the positionings are quite different. So, it would seem that adding the -ing at the end of plank for the name of the exercise is an effect of the meme’s presence in contemporary culture.

The procedures differ as well.

Here are The Official Rules of Planking:

  1.  You must always lay face down, ensuring your face remains expressionless for the duration of the Plank.
  2. Your legs must remain straight, and together with toes pointed.
  3. Your arms must be placed by your side, held straight and fingers pointed.
  4. You must make it known that you are Planking. Saying ‘I am Planking’ usually get this across. Sternly announcing it will ensure a good result.
  5. Your safety should always be considered. Properly thought through Planking procedures should always go to plan. Never put your self at undue risk.
  6. Every Plank that is captured must be named.

Here for the Planking Exercise:

  1. Begin in the plank position with your forearms and toes on the floor.
  2. Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
  3. Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
  4. Hold this position for 10 seconds to start.
  5. Over time work up to 30, 45 or 60 seconds.

A demonstration of the planking exercise.

From the perspective of a memester or photo fadder, these fitness folks are just doing it wrong. Much closer to the procedure of the meme, are acts of prostration. Sans the necessity to naming and capturing the performative act. Still, this brings up questions of (emptied) religiosity in both the meme and the exercise.


Iterative Adentification


We can define iterative adentification as a process of almost self-perpetuating reincorporation without recuperation. With image macro memes, the first order is to substitute content with context. The context may remain the same, but the content has been altered to produce, at times an increase in severity, to play at an irony that  still maintains, if not requires an understanding of the original context of the appropriated image. We can take the Condescending Wonka image macro as a an example. Yes, Willy Wonka, at least in Gene Wilder’s portrayal of the character, is smug,  sarcastic and condescending to his invited guests.

creepyWhat occurs in the meme is an inflation of this attitude that distances itself from the original content through substitution. It is interesting to note that in the scene from which the source image of the meme is lifted, the character of Willy Wonka is neither sarcastic or condescending; in fact, the image comes from a scene in which Wonka demonstrates both humility and pride around the invention of the “everlasting gobstopper” mechanism.

That said, it should be noted that the Condescending Wonka meme is in fact a second order variation of an earlier meme — Creepy Wonka — which did maintain a more direct, albeit vulgar connection to the content of the appropriated scene.  In the scene from the film, Wonka is about to reveal the machine that makes the “everlasting gobstopper.” When his guests ask what the machine does, Wonka asks in return, “Would you like to see?”  The Creepy Wonka meme took advantage of this provocation, replacing the actual verbiage from the scene with the text, “Close the door. I’ll show my my [sic] fudge packing machine.” Though this macro is the first to use the image, and does have a more direct link to its source material, it is the Condescending Wonka meme, the second order meme as it were, that transformed macro to meme.

condeWe could be tempted to chalk up the success of Condescending Wonka to a reduction in scatological content, but there are plenty of successful image macro memes that are at least as vulgar. Perhaps then, the success of Condscending Wonka is based on a different kind of rhetorical transfer. To understand the context of the Condescending Wonka meme, one must have an understanding not just of an individual instance in the film, but a more generalized understanding of Wilder’s portrayal of the character. Where the Creepy Wonka meme plays rather simply at a momentary perverse condition, Condescending Wonka allows the attitude of the character to operate as a sublimated vehicle for humorously couched insolence.



Born out of an original already steeped in banal sentimentality (be its usage ironic, calumniatory, nostalgic or fauxstalgic), the elevated source as image meme is introduced into a messy process of replication through variation, becoming zombie … It is the offspring of zombies that makes a meme a meme. Eventually, however, like all big (image) banks, through amateur investment in the status of the meme as meme, the viral*ity of the source, its patterns and rhetorical fabric begin to fade, its model growing less productive.

What was once so revolutionary in the original combination of source and caption
now devolves and decays, becoming heavy
with the corrosive simple sugars of workaday affect.

In effect, the effectiveness of the original rhetorical model as measured through its popular replication, variation, and dissemination, its

valence ultimately becomes its downfall.

The pedestrian moves on.

Saunteristic Pariticipation

A certain Saunterism can be observed in network activity.  We may call this form of production content, continuum, or condition… We may call it into question. Saunteristic Pariticipation moves virality toward the commonplace — as intermutual aspiration… Ignoring the time honored rule, “In [posting], you must kill all your dawdlings.”

Case1 (dawdling): You Tube returns 19,400 results for Boring Vlog (sept.29.2012). The boring vlog as a form is not always boring, but in most cases is tedious. There is a sort of ethical indifference for the patience of the viewer. Subjected to, sometimes fascinated by a lethargic percolation of lukewarm drift through inconsequentialities complete with an affective yawn. Some are made in sequence – boring vlog #1, #2, #3, etc. This signals a level of formal intentionality; as such,the boring vlog is reducible as genre, brand, or channel.

Case2 (dawdling):Poor Willy Wonka!! To witness his cascade into buffoonery… But what of the dawdling on this object (as the caption is the subject)? There are over 127,217 advice animal-like Wonka images online. The formula for the captions is a top caption in the form of a condescending, rhetorical question and a bottom caption providing an insulting compliment. The redundancy and repetition of production (same image, same rhetoric) is a necessary condition to the construction of potential meme; or infact defines them. Though there are many different types of memes using this method, the rhetorical condition vary macro to macro – LOLcats being a common example.

Justin Bieber and the Wild Kidz, yo!

I haven’t been posting much lately, working in other directions, but something happened this week that brought me back to the pedestrionic path… Namely, and I am sure many of you have seen this already… Justin Bieber’s Restaurant Piss-capade.

TMZ was first to break this story, if that’s what you want to call it, since the video is obviously shot from the mobile of one of his cohort, co-conspirators, best-buddies… One of the self-proclaimed Wild Kidz, as stated in the video clip.
The video, which documents (or at least implies) that Bieber and his entourage entered the kitchen of the restaurant in search of a toilet… Not finding one conveniently located directly in their path, and with Bieber about to wet himself, good ol’ Justin whips it out and relieves himself in a mop bucket.

We swagger, man! You know? This is just a little walk to piss.
Yes, of course “swagger” justifies this action!
I am certain that the other patrons of the restaurant will forgive you pissing where their food is being prepared … based upon your supreme swagger!

That’s the coolest spot to piss. You know, you’ll forever remember that.
Yes, of course if there is anything I would not want to forget it would have to be the honor of being in the presence of Justin Bieber while he urinates.

You’re not gonna remember him pissing in the restroom. Like, everybody does that.
Uh, yes, most civilized people do use the restroom for these purposes. And, I still wonder what makes Justin Bieber relieving himself a memorable act? Is this a “brush with fame” story one would want to tell their grandkids?

I will stop here for a moment, because I want to consider something else about this video….
Apparently he is not one of the Wild Kidz, but is his association with Bieber or with the restaurant?  Either way this is a bit problematic. If his association is with Bieber — a handler, a publicist, or a much needed chaperone — some level of intervention might have been a good idea. If he works for the restaurant — a manager, a maitre’d, a partner — it might be time to call the health department.
That said, if he is a publicist, and considering that Bieber has his back to the camera as he (supposedly) urinates, this might just be one big stunt. The guys does seem to be looking at the camera as if to make sure everything is captured… And, he is the only person with a view of the act itself. Then again, he maybe a handler and his position at the base of the stairs is strategic — to block staff from putting a stop to the whole thing.

Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of the video is the political commentry Bieber offers as the video ends… Armed with a spray bottle of window cleaner, Beiber inexplicably attacks a picture of Bill Clinton tacked to a bulletin board, while his cohort woops it up, screaming “Wild Kidz, wooooooo!!!” as a sort of verbal tagging. Huh?

Sean O’Neal from A.V. Club offers an explanation for these actions, proclaiming (albeit ironically) That Justin Bieber is a serious artist, connecting the piss-capade to Duchamp, reading his closing defacing of Clinton as a political gesture, “The symbolism is clear: Bill Clinton, his reputation once stained by his own swagger, has been absolved and abluted by time; once again the Whitewater rolls right off of him, the weak, directionless spray of a feckless idiot.”

Though this interpretation is interesting, it perhaps misses more troubling issues that may have lead to the incident. Over at Holy Taco Ian Fortey spectulates that Bieber may in fact be suffering from Overactive Bladder — ” Imagine how he’d suffer if he was unable to pee when he needed to.”  or, perhaps suffering from Macular Degeneration and couldn’t tell it wasn’t a toilet.  Though these are significant health concerns, and at least the first would make the act forgivable at some level, most of the comments attempting to justify the actions address his faultlessness in any and everything…

twJB2 twJB1


Returning to one of the quotes mentioned above: You’re not gonna remember him pissing in the restroom. Like, everybody does that.

I can practically imagine an escalation from this…. An army of true Beliebers outdoing each other….  evnetually the quote above replaced with:
You’re not gonna remember him pissing in the mop bucket. Like, everybody does that.
At the moment, all I can think or say, is a quote from the very end of the video:

TMZ Twtter comments

Justin Bieber takes seriously artistic piss in a mop bucket, offers political commentary on Bill Clinton (A.V. Club)

7 Possible Reasons Justin Bieber Pissed in that Bucket (Holy Taco)