27 May 2007

LOLcats and ponies

David McRaney over at I Can Has Cheeseburger offers a surprisingly thoughtful analysis of LOLcats, digging into why the web is rife with running gags like this.

All of this churns at a rapid pace and evolves with each new generation. Eventually, something like the lolcats comes along and splinters the whole language schema into a new branch where all new in jokes, references and acceptable formats are born.

Lolcats are image macros featuring cats captioned with a specific form of language, one with no definitive label as of yet. I’ve seen it referred to as Kittahh and Kitteh before, but nothing has stuck. A clinical term, kitty pidgin, has also been coined because there seems to be some sort of order to the way sentences are constructed. The language may also derive from Meowchat, an IRC group who used to use similar diction when pretending to be cats online.

The phrase is usually white text with a solid black outline, and the grammar is consistently awful, as if the cat was trying to speak English but just couldn’t get the conjugation right.

Hmmnn. I see LOLcats as a daughter to the immortal “all your base are belong to us.”

My own personal favourite running web gag is left blogistan's pony. The root is Belle Waring's post If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride—A Pony! DeLong calls it the Best Weblog Post Ever.

You see, wishes are totally free. It's like when you can't decide whether to daydream about being a famous Hollywood star or having amazing magical powers. Why not—be a famous Hollywood star with amazing magical powers! Along these lines, John has developed an infallible way to improve any public policy wishes. You just wish for the thing, plus, wish that everyone would have their own pony! So, in Chafetz' case, he should not only wish that Bush would say a lot of good things about democracy-building and fighting terrorism in a speech written for him by a smart person, he should also wish that Bush should actually mean the things he says and enact policies which reflect this, and he should wish that everyone gets a pony. See?

Add in an old joke:

Worried that their son was too optimistic, the parents of a little boy took him to a psychiatrist. Trying to dampen the boy’s spirits, the psychiatrist showed him into a room piled high with nothing but horse manure. Yet instead of displaying distaste, the little boy clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to all fours, and began digging.

“What do you think you’re doing?” the psychiatrist asked.

“With all this manure,” the little boy replied, beaming, “there must be a pony in here somewhere.”

That link attributes the joke as Ronald Reagan's favourite — in which he takes the lesson to be that it's good to be as optimistic as the little boy.

Left blogistan uses the pony to make the opposite point, invoking it as a metaphor for the right treating wishful thinking as serious policy analysis. Iraq is often cast as the room full of manure which Iraq war hawks want to keep digging through, looking for a pony. Heck, John McCain has repeated the metaphor himself, in so many words, saying his support for more military commitment is him “digging for a pony here.”

Bloggers' pony posts are often illustrated with cute or creepy-cute ponies, especially by Atrios, these days associated with the President's ever-falling position in polls.

The true master of this ongoing joke is The Editors at The Poor Man, who has renamed the blog the Poor Man Institute for Freedom, Democracy, and a Pony, writing posts like this one worried about the crisis of Peak Pony, what with all of the ponies people are wishing for these days.

1 comment:

d a r k c h i l d e said...

Awwwwww....you used the DUNECAT! I love the DUNECAT. [smile]