PR's Blog

April 27, 2010

UConn Rave

Filed under: Uncategorized — perryrobbin @ 3:40 pm

Facebook’s use as an organizational tool is sometimes overlooked. People tend to focus more on status updates and wall posts, but the event function can lead to big-time results. Case in point: UCONN RAVE 5/2/10. If last semester’s event is any indication, the rave on May 2 will be one of the biggest gatherings of students all year.

Last semester's rave

While the attending/maybe/not categories on Facebook are definitely not responses set in stone, over 4,800 people say they are attending, about 1/4 of UConn’s total student population (although it is hard to determine the invitees that do or don’t go to UConn, a cursory look at the guest list shows that the majority are UConn students).

The only thing that would make this rave better than the last one? No Joey Homza, who sounds like he could be on speed, about to cry, or both, in this rather self-centered video about the rave last semester.


April 6, 2010

Local Memes: Russell’s Mom (part 2)

Filed under: Uncategorized — perryrobbin @ 5:00 pm

After laying the groundwork in part 1, I started thinking about what actually makes Russell’s mom a meme. If you define the meme as most of Rosemary’s Facebook output, then the concepts of variation and replication play an important part. Rosemary’s Facebook posts often concern UConn sports teams and her family, all in her own unique style. These topics, and other recurring elements like the Maya doll and her propensity for Daisy Dukes, give followers of the meme a sort of touchstone, but the actual content changes with each post. Because people know what to expect from her, there is a sense of familiarity and a sense of anticipation.

Maya the Husky doll makes another appearance

I think the most important factor in the Rosemary meme is the replication and spread of her Facebook postings. While most were introduced to her via Russell’s wall and then her own Facebook page, she has not been content to just stay there. Originally, we were the ones who went to her wall or Russell’s wall to see her latest post. Now, she has started posting in a few of the Facebook groups we use for classes, like our own class page and the group about college gambling used in one of Professor Dufresne’s classes. That her post on the gambling group’s wall seems to be directed to Russell (not a member of that class) and not the group adds to the meme.

Another recurring element, the UConn christmas tree (recently put in the front yard to 'let people know the women are playing')

The key to the Rosemary meme has been it’s proliferation. While her overall output has been at turns humorous and engrossing, the most endearing part has been her slow, steady spread into the Facebook lives of her followers.

And let’s not get into the whole psychic powers thing. Or these two new finds.

April 1, 2010

Local Memes: Russell’s Mom (Part 1)

Filed under: Uncategorized — perryrobbin @ 2:19 pm

Facebook connects people to things they would never encounter otherwise. It can create small-scale memes that still flourish because of ease of access. Russell’s mom Rosemary is a prolific Facebook user and does not privacy protect her wall from being viewed by people who aren’t her friends. Since the first time I saw her post on Russell’s wall, with her frequent, idiosyncratic “LOL”s and exultations of the Huskies and her son, I knew that her Facebook page would be a source of mirth (and memes) for myself and others who know Russell.

Rosemary's oft-recurring lucky husky doll, Maya

The first thing that really got my attention about Rosemary’s page was her choice of profile picture. While it is now the husky doll pictured above, it was a fire truck for a few months. Why a fire truck, you ask? Russell said she used it because she liked the picture. It must have been a family thing, because Russell’s father and brother used pictures of tractors for their profiles at the time.

The truck in question

This of course led to a meme being created, the Kate Monohan fire truck (a.k.a. the Monotruck)

Rosemary "LOL"ed at this

The fire truck was only the tip of the iceberg. A short time later, Maya made her first appearance and those of us who would frequently check her page found she had posted a number of videos. Foremost among these is this gem (I can’t emphasize the word “gem” enough here) featuring Russell’s dad Bob performing a short melody (a combination of an original composition and the Johnny Russell country standard “Rednecks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer”), Rosemary speaking a sort of cat language to her pets and this immortal exchange:

Bob: “Hun, how come you got two, two handkerchiefs in your pocket?”

Rosemary: “I don’t know…”

Bob: “One to wipe and one to blow with!” *Laughter*

Bob and Rosemary chillin' with John Deere

I’ve covered a lot of ground so far, so join me here next Tuesday as I move on from just talking about Russell’s mom to talking about Russell’s mom AND how Facebook makes meme creation among small groups easy.

March 30, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — perryrobbin @ 1:56 pm

Brevity is often a necessity on the Internet. The meme “tl;dr,” which stands for “too long; didn’t read,” is a notable example of this. Used whenever someone writes a comment, story, blog post, message board post or anything else that loses the attention of the reader, tl;dr lets the author know that they have failed at least one person with their work.

Sometimes it is used simply for a humorous effect. Either way, tl;dr says a lot about how people process the information they gather on the Internet. While space is not ever at a premium on the Internet, that lack of limitations can lead to material that has a very low informational content. One of the reasons Twitter is so popular may easily be that people are forced to put a lot of information into only 140 characters.

A very related meme is “cool story bro,” which says the same thing to a post that is more personal, yet at the same time, still very boring.

March 25, 2010

Andre the Giant: Does He Really Have a Posse?

Filed under: Uncategorized — perryrobbin @ 2:14 pm

Andre the Giant (real name Andre Roussimoff, a.k.a. Monster Eiffel Tower, Jean Ferre, Giant Machine and The Butcher) is the source behind one of the most popular “real-life” memes, created by artist Shepard Fairey– “Andre the Giant Has a Posse/OBEY.”

The irreverence that is so often associated with a successful meme is easily visible in the sticker below. Thousands of these went up in and around Philadelphia, New York and Providence (Where Fairey went to art school), starting in 1989. This was a sort of pre-internet viral campaign, although the monetization of the meme didn’t happen until years later and the message was oblique.

This meme has been successful for a number of reasons. One is that it is inclusive – if you were putting up Andre stickers, you were part of the posse. And you were often “sticking it to the man,” so to speak, vandalizing property . Another is the respect and adoration that people (at least me) had for Andre, the 8th Wonder of the World.

The most important reason in this meme’s success is probably its customizability. The concept is broad enough and subversive enough where anyone, or thing, could conceivably be made into a similar sticker.

Tony Danza, He's So BOSSY

This meme even inspired me and my friends to make a few stickers in the same vein. While the “Poop Milkshake Has a Posse” sticker might be a little too bleak and gross to post here (as would the “Captain Boner” and “I Like to Eat Garbage (It’s a Lifestyle Choice)” stickers), this sticker of my roommate’s stepfather on a trip to China illustrates my point – these stickers are totally adaptable (and can be made into anyone’s inside joke), which makes them so popular.

March 23, 2010

Massive Memes

Filed under: Uncategorized — perryrobbin @ 1:57 pm

Memes, Internet memes especially, are often like inside jokes. Part of their popularity stems from other people not knowing about them, the element of exclusion makes them more exciting. Memes often start and stay in a specific group. When they enter the larger consciousness, part of the new/interesting/cool/different factor can be lost, especially for the group that nurtured the meme.

Sometimes though, even the people who started the meme probably want it to go away forever:


Memes can occasionally gain strength from their size and popularity. Facebook theme days, for example, become more effective as more people participate. The oldest one I remember is Talk Like A Pirate Day, and they have branched off from there. Some are jokes and/or references to other media, like the upcoming Harry Potter Status Day (which gained 5,000+ followers from midnight last night till 9:30 this morning). Some express sympathy, like status days for Iranian protesters over the summer and victims of the Haitian earthquake this winter.

Status days are work as large memes because they provide a lot of room for individual participation. While the sentiment or theme is set in stone, the actual expression of those concepts isn’t. Their overall purpose is to share in a theme and not much else, which makes room for people to express themselves. And, they are much more interactive than any dancing baby.

February 25, 2010

Hash Tagging

Filed under: Uncategorized — perryrobbin @ 3:08 pm

One of the keys of a meme is its ability to mutate. Depending on the meme’s format, this can mean adding text to a picture, re-cutting a video or adding your own personal touch to a verbally-spread meme.

One of the things I really like about hashtags on Twitter is when they are used to start open-ended sentences or otherwise leave a blank for people to fill in. #tosavemoney and #thingswewantback are basically invitations for people to add meaning to the tagged phrase. #tosavemoney has over 700 new tweets in the five minutes since I opened the search page for it. #thingswewantback has had over 600 in the same time.

These work as memes in two parts: the boilerplate text that defines the meme coming in front, giving everyone who participates a ground rule on what to do, and people’s personal mutations of the meme, which give the meme significance and individuality, coming after.

I particularly like this one, because it sort of subverts the whole concept of “things we want back.” Is the writer really longing for something that tasted bad at first, but he eventually got used to? Maybe. Sometimes, people like weird things for weird reasons.

It's... blue?

Personally, I thought Pepsi Blue sucked. I remember driving to Boston in high school with some friends, one of whom was drinking Pepsi Blue. This was only a short time after it came out. A few minutes into his first sampling of this new product, he turned pale, demanded the driver pull over, exited the car, and puked blue all over the grass by the side of the road.

I guess the point here is that hashtags work really well as a meme because they leave a void that has to be filled. This forces the meme to change constantly and helps it spread. A fair amount of hashtag memes are related to nostalgia, so they also rekindle warm and fuzzy, or in this case blue and puke-y, memories.

Also, I liked Crystal Pepsi better.


February 19, 2010

Shamrock Shakes

Filed under: Classics, Cute, Memes, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — perryrobbin @ 4:14 am
Can food be a meme? Certain foods, like apple pie for Americans, or marmite for Kiwis, have cultural significance that transcends the physical existence of the food and make it a symbol of a nation. Certainly “mom, baseball and apple pie” is an enduring, if well-used, meme. Foods that are unique to a state or area or country often serve as a stand-in or a symbol, they carry information about the country they come from. Say poutine and I immediately think La Belle Province (the restaurant and the actual province).

But what about a food that is mass-produced by a multi-national corporation on giant economies of scale? What about shamrock shakes?

Shamrock Shake

it's GREEN

These beauties come around once a year, from mid-February through St. Patrick’s Day, and have inspired a kind of love and devotion far and beyond what is normally extended to most fast food products. A plethora of fan tributes exist online, including fan recipes. One of the most impressive is a user-generated list of where shamrock shakes are available, so know where to get your fix.

Shamrock shakes also have a fictitious history and seasonal availability that feeds into the unique cult around them. Uncle O’Grimacey came to McDonaldland from Ireland to spread the love. The character has not been used recently, but is rumored to be making a comeback, possibly similar to the Burger King‘s re-emergence as a distinct character. Not being able to get shamrock shakes 11 months out of the year makes them that much more desirable.

Uncle O'Grimacey, purveyor of shamrock shakes

These examples provide convincing evidence that shamrock shakes, or the love of shamrock shakes, more specifically, are a meme– they represent a packet of information (the sensory experience of drinking one), this information is shared with others through various means and some of this information (not the actual recipe, but surely the memories associated with shamrock shakes and information about where to find them) mutates.

Parting Advice: Don’t mix peppermint schnapps and shamrock shakes. It sounds like a good time, but the sugary liquor just won’t blend with the milkshake and make a mess.

February 9, 2010

Jumping the Shark

Filed under: Uncategorized — perryrobbin @ 4:28 am

Simply put, something “jumps the shark” when it peaks and then starts losing cultural relevance. The actual reference, as you can see in the clip linked in the previous sentence, is to the beginning of season five of “Happy Days,” when the Cunninghams et al. take a trip to Hollywood. The Fonz, wearing his motorcycle jacket over his swim trunks, literally jumps over a shark to answer one of the series’ many challeges to his manhood.

Up to that point, “Happy Days” had focused on life in Milwaukee with the Fonz (Henry Winkler), Richie (Ron Howard) Cunningham, his family and his friends Potsie and Ralph Malph. Afterwards, the show drifted away from what made it a hit in the first place, depicting an idealized Midwest in the ’50s, into situations like Robin Williams playing an alien. While it remained a popular program through the early ’80s, subesequent seasons are not viewed with the same fondness and ratings never climbed back to their pre-shark jump levels.

Many good commercials, and especially Super Bowl commercials, strive to become a meme, to stop being advertisements and start being cultural information that reproduces throughout that culture. Do you remember Budweiser’s “Whassup?” commercials? I do, and so does whoever cared enough to upload the video onto YouTube from their VCR, no easy feat. This commerical came out when I was 13, eight years before I became of legal age to drink (and almost four years before the age when I actually started drinking).

This series of ads, including variations on the theme with yuppies and “Jersey guys,” became a catchphrase, a full-fledged meme, that had little to do with buying one domestic macro-brew beer over another. The ads, and moreso the word of mouth generated by them, promoted Budweiser’s product better than 30 seconds of science on Super Bowl Sunday explaining why Budweiser’s beer is fresher or has better ingredients than Coors and Miller.

All of this setup leads, of course, to T-Pain.

Budweiser’s “Autotune” ad during this year’s Super Bowl was possibly worth a chuckle (I didn’t) if you’re not already hoping for the death of autotune, if you haven’t seen autotune the news or the Slap Chop remix. Autotuning speech, besides lyrics, has become a meme, and has been a meme for a while. People already understand what autotune is, what it’s used for and the humor that can be had through autotuning. Succinctly, there is very little that is new in this ad.

Memes are, by definition, fresh. They reflect current cultural consciousness, regardless of what culture. Some memes last, but they eventually stop being relevant without any change. Budweiser made an ad with a gimmick that is already showing signs of use and facing a backlash. Autotuning is already jumping the shark. Starting off and already being behind isn’t much of a way to go, for making ads or for making memes.

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