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News from our neighbors here at WordPress

April 11, 2008

I missed this.

From our own neighbors here at WordPress. See, one of the things we’ve been accustomed to seeing of late has been what I consider the discouraging popularity of bad websites. Of course, what this most likely means is that I’m just not hip. Indeed, many of you probably like the web phenomenon known as Lolcats.

For those of you that somehow do not know what they are, the best I can say is to not let it worry you. Actually, I’ll do one better. If you don’t know what the damn things are, stop reading this post right now. That’s right. Move on. Go find some porn, or something. Seriously. Preferably hardcore. Maybe take up a heroin habit while you’re at it. That way you’ll at least be doing something more productive than thinking about … well, the unspeakable horror that comes next.

For the rest of us, there’s a fact I mention occasionally to friends. It doesn’t often come up, but when it does I make no attempt to hide my contempt. See, when you have a WordPress blog, the information you see on your dashboard includes the day’s most-viewed blogs and blog entries. During the political season, CNN’s Political Ticker has, most days at least, topped this list. However, it is occasionally edged out, and on most days closely followed, by what I consider a plague on humanity: Lolcats.

Fine. There. I actually put the link in. I feel so dirty.

Now, some of you have probably seen this site before. If, however, I’ve managed the good fortune to frighten others into not clicking the link, most excellent. But that means an explanation is in order.

Okay, so you have an image of a cat. It ranges somewhere between cute, silly, stupid, and cruel. Run it through Photoshop or something like that and attach a stupid phrase that is at once badly spelled and grammatically suspect. You know, for that aura of authenticity. Like it’s a cat trying to say something. The freakin’ site is named “I Can Has Cheezburger?” for heaven’s sake. Right? So we all know what we’re dealing with, then? Please please please don’t make me go get one of these pictures and post it up here.

And then what happens is that people check in and leave comments. Hundreds of them. And that’s where the phenomenon gets downright creepy. These are adults, in most cases, carrying on conversations in lolspeak. In truth, I no longer think of Trekkies who actually learn to speak and write Klingon as strange. I mean, the challenge with Klingon is to become literate in a fake language. The challenge of lolspeak is to become illiterate in an existing language.

So here’s the joke, and it’s not very funny. I was telling a friend of mine about the Cheezburger site one day, how I was amazed that this could be so damn popular. And he replied, “I know all about lolcats. My mom sends me at least one a week.”

Head? Wall. Get to know one another.

So why am I complaining? Why am I railing on and on like a bitter stereotype while giving this pathetic site more than just the time of day? (After all, there’s no such thing as bad press, especially when people click the links to see.)

The answer, my friends, is simple: Because they got a book deal!

That’s right. They got a book deal.

So you know what that means, right? Soon enough, you’re going to walk into a bookstore and have these damn stupid cats staring right back at you. The prepackaged bestseller. And there will be calendars. And bookmarks. And don’t be surprised if one day you find yourself staring at a sticker on the back of some freak’s car.

A book deal.

That’s right. Lolcats gets a book deal.

Rather than being entirely negative, though, I admit I’m curious to see how well the concept translates to book form. I mean, page after page of lolcats? My daughter likes cats. She likes reading. Maybe … okay, maybe not. Part of the phenomenon, as my friend’s weekly lolcats email from his mother might suggest, is the internet itself. People seem to love sending one another really stupid emails. Even I get a few of them from time to time. And if chain emails and 419 scams weren’t bad enough … well, okay. I’ve been fortunate enough that nobody sends me lolcats.

But … what are they going to do? Tear out the pages and … oh, wait. Postcard books! Okay, that might work. The only requirement is that whatever note you scrawl on the back has to be written in lolspeak.

Brilliant. Genius. Okay, I admit, part of it is jealousy. I wish I was tasteless enough to invent a fad like that.

My disgust, perhaps, is something people can understand. Perhaps. Maybe. I hope. It just has to do with the strangeness of a book so openly based on the degradation of literacy. I suppose I should be thrilled that someone can get away with this. And, I suppose, someday I will be. But for now it’s just a reminder of how scary the times are getting. Remember: pop music isn’t genius. It’s popular in part because so much of it is simplistic or downright bad. People like things they can hum in the shower, and most of us can’t hum Chatham’s “Guitar Trio” or Beethoven’s Sixth. Well, lolcats are popular for the same reason: any moron with a computer can make a lolcat. And yet some publisher thinks they can convince people to put down money on a book full of the wretched things.

And they’re probably right.

I’ll stop now.

• • •

In other book news from the WordPress community, it seems that Stuff White People Like has also picked up a deal (with freaking Random House). And, if the murmurs are correct, the advance on that deal was a cool $300,000. And, you know, while I certainly won’t complain about it, I do wonder at the price. There is an old Gary Shandling joke about why the waitresses at Denny’s are all ugly, how if you complain that the food isn’t very good, the waitress will hold the plate up next to her face and ask, “How about now?” Yeah, yeah. It doesn’t translate well when I write it down like that. But trust me, it’s funny. Especially if you eat at Denny’s.

(Ye gads, how long has it been?)

Anyway, I digress. While the White People book probably doesn’t qualify as great literature, it certainly counts as a marketable idea, and Christian Lander certainly counts as literate. And, hey, compared to the lolcats book? It’s going to be genius. In case you’re wondering, the blog for Stuff White People Like frequently ranks at number three or four in the daily listings at WordPress.

So my congratulations and best wishes to Mr. Lander and his quest to improve the world’s understanding of white people. And, having said that, I suppose I can’t really be all that mad at the lolcats people. In the context of the soulless and exploitative, they really do come low on the list. So, while I reserve the right to curse them every time I encounter their damn book, yes, I suppose I can be happy for their success.

And, besides, the whole thing begs a question: Lolcats can get a deal? What the hell is my excuse?

-bd

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7 comments

  1. When I think of the enormous amount of $$$ being dished out to such intellectual wastelands, I’m reminded of the immortal words of Raymond Burr in Godzilla: “I fear for all humanity.”


  2. Hey … you watched Raymond Burr in Godzilla.

    Okay, okay. So did I. But at some point, are the differences between a Godzilla (even the ’98 Emmerich-directed atrocity starring Matthew Broderick) or a Rocky Horror Picture Show and a book full of lolcats really all that substantial? We justify the appeal of cult classics for a certain sense of irony. Godzilla because it’s campy and usually full of stereotype-affirming (or -defining) Japanese people. Rocky Horror because it’s campy, ironic for its contrast of perversion and naivete, and it features Susan Sarandon running around in her underwear and Peter Hinwood in that gold brief.

    Lolcats will be an enduring cultural icon because people will buy it.

    Irony seems to be getting a bit anemic these days. “Let them eat cake” was a despicable phrase in history, not something we should aspire to. And yet ….

    I don’t know. It does seem to me there’s a difference. But maybe not to the suits on the business end. After all, for them there’s no such thing as bad art unless it doesn’t sell.

    Then, well, it sucks.

    Oh, right. Fear for all humanity. Check.


  3. Thank you for the opportunity Athah me for the subject
    And sent to my

    Baaaaaaaaaai


  4. Wow. Indeed?

    Have you heard about Sweet Valley High?


  5. That’s a pretty horrible webpage, but nothing can compare to the horrors one experiences when visiting this fellow’s website…

    http://www.pixyland.org/


  6. Thanks, Ed. I’m now officially blind.


  7. I’d ask Gayle what part blinded her—the colors or the content—except for the fact that she’s blind now, and won’t see the note. Perhaps we can take up a collection.

    In the meantime, though, I would say it might be an idea to have a “find a bad website” contest, but I think Typhoid Edwin there already has it won. Those who haven’t read last week’s posting of “Sordid Tales” ….

    Anyway, it’s the post right before this one. Be warned, though.

    And, of course, I feel obliged to post this link.



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