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kottke.org posts about memes

Gritty, the Philly Sports Messiah

posted by Tim Carmody   Dec 14, 2018

Gritty 01.jpg

Like any once-and-hopefully-future resident of the great city of Philadelphia, I’m entranced by Gritty, the new mascot for the Philadelphia Flyers. Now, full disclosure: the Flyers were not one of the teams I initially adopted when I moved to Philadelphia, because my hometown Detroit Red Wings were still great in 2002, and so I was all set, hockey-wise. I picked up the New York Rangers when I moved to New York in 2012, when Henrik Lundqvist was winning Vezinas and stunting on fools. But Gritty is sufficiently compelling that I might have to add the Flyers to the Eagles, Phillies, and Sixers, becoming a full Philadelphia sports fan.

Why is Gritty captivating the world? Is it because or despite of his muppet-like googly eyes and shaggy appearance? I mean, when you really dig into it, it’s not like there’s a whole lot there. But a sufficiently advanced cipher can become a multilayered text to the devout, and that’s what’s happened with Gritty. Fans turned what was briefly an object of ridicule into an icon of devotion. And a legend was born.

For a deeper look into the Gritty phenomenon, seek no further than The Ringer, the website that was designed from its origins in the late, beloved Grantland to get to the bottom of sports questions like this. Michael Baumann’s “The Monster In The Mirror” is insightful, and nearly exhaustive, in answering why people inside and outside of Philadelphia have taken to Gritty so strongly. It also doubles as a psychological profile of one of my favorite cities and their sports fans.

Some excerpts:

In the past two and a half months, Gritty has proven to be an overwhelming success as a mascot. More than that, he’s become a legitimate cultural phenomenon, a weird and scary avatar for a weird and scary time. He is all things to all people.

“Gritty is fairly appalling, pretty insurrectionary for a mascot, and I don’t think there’s any question that that’s our kind of symbol,” says Helen Gym, an at-large member of the Philadelphia City Council. “There’s nothing more Philly than being unapologetically yourself.”

And:

The Flyers, Raymond says, had long resisted the idea of creating a mascot, at the insistence of founding owner Ed Snider, whom Raymond calls “old-school.” The Flyers unveiled a furry mascot called Slapshot in 1976 but quickly shelved it, leaving the team without a mascot for more than 40 years. But after Snider’s death in 2016, the team’s marketing department pushed ownership to reconsider, Raymond says, and after overcoming so much institutional inertia, they weren’t going to be half-hearted about their new mascot.

One part of doing a mascot right, Raymond says, is sticking to the bit no matter what, rather than submitting the mascot to the public for approval, a lesson learned from the Sixers’ failed mascot vote in 2011. Philadelphians, and people on the internet in general, can sense uncertainty and will punish it.

On Gritty’s Hensonian roots:

Mascots are always at least a little silly and ridiculous because at their core, they’re created more for children than adults. Gritty is no exception. His hands squeak, and his belly button—which Raymond calls a “woobie”—is a brightly colored outie. The woobie, says Raymond, was the brainchild of Chris Pegg, who plays Rockey the Redbird for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds and is a mutual friend of Raymond and Flyers senior director of game presentation Anthony Gioia.

When the Flyers unveiled such a weird, menacing mascot, it brought to mind something Frank Oz said about his longtime collaborator and Muppets creator Jim Henson: “He thought it was fine to scare children. He didn’t think it was healthy for children to always feel safe.” According to Raymond, in any sufficiently large group of children, a mascot, even a familiar one, will make at least one of them cry. Not Gritty.

“I’d never seen a mascot rollout anywhere where I didn’t see at least one kid running, crying in terror, trying to grab on to their mother’s legs,” Raymond says of the Please Touch Museum rollout. “I didn’t see any of that [with Gritty]. The kids were dancing and hollering and calling for him to come over, but no kid looked terrified.”

And on Gritty’s additional incarnation as the subject and vehicle for leftist political memes:

Some Gritty memes, however, are not just funny or scary, but overtly political. Gym’s resolution addressed this issue head-on; “non-binary leftist icon” was one of the descriptions quoted in the resolution. The resolution itself goes on to praise Gritty for his status as a political symbol: “Gritty has been widely declared antifa, and was subject to attempted reclamation in the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal. It has been argued that he ‘conveys the absurdity and struggle of modern life under capitalism’ and that he represents a source of joyful comic respite in a time of societal upheaval.”…

“The great thing about memes—as ridiculous as this sounds—is they create an instant mass internet mobilization,” FWG says. “Memes can be used to perpetuate systematic oppression, or they can be used to burn down the prison-industrial system or talk about police brutality.”

This identity is independent from — this is to say, it has been thoroughly stolen from — Gritty’s original role as a corporate sports mascot.

There’s a danger to wrapping up one’s identity in anything one can’t control, whether it’s an artist, a sports team, or a fuzzy orange monster. And if Gritty played it safe, he’d stop being worth investing in; the reason Gritty is so popular is because he’s weird and unpredictable in a way that isn’t cultivated to be “edgy.” Fear of being let down might just be the price of trying to live with empathy in a society that frequently elevates the cruel. It’s worth thinking about something FWG said: that their Gritty is not the same thing as the Flyers mascot.

“I think that the spirit of Gritty will be fulfilled through the proletariat,” FWG says. “As the spirit of Gritty moves people, that’s how the people will act.”

This is serious business! But as Walter Benjamin wrote, in a time of crisis, the here-and-now becomes shot through with messianic time. Gritty recalls the Phillie Phanatic, Sesame Street’s muppets, and Blastaar from the Fantastic Four, but puts all of their energy to use in a sense of futurity, that hope for the future that sports fandom echoes, however dimly. To quote Benjamin again:

It is well-known that the Jews were forbidden to look into the future. The Torah and the prayers instructed them, by contrast, in remembrance. This disenchanted those who fell prey to the future, who sought advice from the soothsayers. For that reason the future did not, however, turn into a homogenous and empty time for the Jews. For in it every second was the narrow gate, through which the Messiah could enter.

It’s ridiculous to see Gritty, the googly-eyed, outie-bellybuttoned Philadelphia Flyers mascot, as a messianic figure of the revolutionary left. But is that any more ridiculous than everything else that is happening in our fucked-up present? No. No, it is not.

paul-klee-angelus-novus.jpg

Indiana Jones and Nuke the Fridge

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 19, 2008

Not so long ago, on May 24th, IMDB message board participant beachedblonde coined a new phrase: nuke the fridge. Here’s the definition from the Urban Dictionary…it’s roughly equivalent to jumping the shark:

A colloquialism used to delineate the precise moment at which a cinematic franchise has crossed over from remote plausibility to self parodying absurdity, usually indicating a low point in the series from which it is unlikely to recover. A reference to one of the opening scenes of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, in which the titular hero manages to avoid death by nuclear explosion by hiding inside a kitchen refrigerator.

Sample usage:

Man, when Peter Parker started doing the emo dance in Spider-Man 3, that franchise officially nuked the fridge.

Since then, things have progressed quickly. The original posting seems to have been deleted but the phrase caught on, infected other message boards and web sites, and is now a full-blown meme on the verge of nuking the fridge itself. Google currently returns close to 16,000 results for variations on the phrase. Some participants in the IMDB forums have already grown tired of the phrase’s repeated use. A Wikipedia page was created and has already been deleted (reason: “Protologism with no RELIABLE sources evidencing more than extremely limited usage”). A web site dedicated to the meme is available at nukingthefridge.com, not to be confused with the movie review blog at nukedthefridge.com. And of course, no meme these days is complete without the proper new media accoutrements: Facebook page, MySpace page, t-shirt, YouTube page, an auction to sell the domain name, and a post on a large-ish general interest blog way after the whole thing’s already played out. I only heard it for the first time an hour ago and I’m already sick of it. Memes seem to be spreading so rapidly now on the web that they burn out before they can properly establish themselves. It’ll be interesting to see if nuke the fridge makes it through this ultra-virulent phase and somehow slows down enough to jump to casual mainstream usage. (via cyn-c)

File this one under holy crap!

posted by Deron Bauman   Mar 08, 2008

File this one under holy crap!

It starts with clapclap, goes by way of waxy, has a via clusterflock, on to Kottke (who has a guest blogger, no less), then designing god Michael Beirut puts it in Design Observer’s column, bloggies like this one join suit….and…voila: “Hallelujah” is the number one song on iTunes. Awesome.

Jason responds:

I just checked, and sure enough, Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah is the #1 single on iTunes right now. Not sure it’s an exact cause and effect, but cool nonetheless.

Update: Jon writes:

I noticed the same thing and blogged a very similar post earlier today, but my guess is that the itunes ranking has more to do with the song being sung by the contestant on american idol this week and the judges subsequently mentioning their love for the buckley version — thus driving the american idol traffic to itunes. not that we aren’t the web of course but … .

It looks like humans are just as

posted by Deron Bauman   Mar 05, 2008

It looks like humans are just as capable of forming bonds with robots as they are with dogs. Perhaps the robot dogs will comfort us while we propagate memes for our machine overlords.

Speaking of memes, Susan Blackmore theorizes that

posted by Deron Bauman   Mar 04, 2008

Speaking of memes, Susan Blackmore theorizes that humans are just machines for propagating them.

Memes are using human brains as their copying machinery. So we need to understand the way human beings work.

&

Up until very recently in the world of memes, humans did all the varying and selecting. We had machines that copied — photocopiers, printing presses — but only very recently do we have artificial machines that also produce the variations, for example (software that) mixes up ideas and produces an essay or neural networks that produce new music and do the selecting. There are machines that will choose which music you listen to. It’s all shifting that way because evolution by natural selection is inevitable. There’s a shift to the machines doing all of that.

When asked what the future will look like, she says, “it will look like humans are just a minor thing on this planet with masses (of) silicon-based machinery using us to drag stuff out of the ground to build more machines.”

Good times.

Uncomfortable Goggle-Eyed Staring Silence Plus Finger Gesture Oddness Meme

posted by Choire Sicha   Jan 17, 2008

While you were having a life, this was taking place quite rapidly on the tubenets.

Nomination for the most useless new word

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2007

Nomination for the most useless new word of 2007: beme. A beme is a meme that spreads via blogs and those that create and spread them are called bemerz.

Richard Dawkins answers some questions from readers

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 06, 2006

Richard Dawkins answers some questions from readers of the Independent. “Terrible things have been done in the name of Christ, but all he ever taught was peace and love. What’s wrong with that?”

Five quotes

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 22, 2006

A quick meme I found on Rivers are Damp:

Go here and look through random quotes until you find five that you think reflect who you are or what you believe.

Here are my five:

The Internet is going to be switched

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 31, 2006

The Internet is going to be switched off tomorrow. What five things are you going to print out?

Vox’s Question of the Day

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 06, 2006

Six Apart recently launched a preview version of their new Vox blogging service. When you log in to Vox, one of the first things you notice on the front page is the Question of the Day followed by a quick posting box. Answer the question, press “continue”, and you’ve got yourself a blog post. I asked Six Apart president Mena Trott how the feature came about.

Jason: Everyone loves the Question of the Day feature on Vox. The QotD cleverly formalizes the memes that travel through LiveJournal and the blogosphere at large, making it OK for the kind of people who hate email joke forwards to participate collectively in something on a regular basis. Who is responsible for generating these questions? Are they recycled memes from LJ or do you have some meme genius working for 6A?

Mena: Question of the Day actually started in a design comp I did — meaning it hadn’t been specified in any product requirements docs. I was creating the Vox dashboard and realized that the one thing really missing from the page was a call to action. So, I tried to think what would be the one thing that would make me want to post and the Question of the Day made total sense.

You’re exactly correct in saying that we’re wanting to legitimize the behavior we’ve seen in email (forwards). It’s all about trying to figure out the behavior that would make my mom feel comfortable posting or make someone not feel overwhelmed by a big white posting box.

If you remember the Four Things meme that floated around a couple months ago, you’ll recall that this simple meme got people (like me) to post on their blogs after significant absences. We wanted to capture that sort of motivator.

And of course, LiveJournal is the inspiration for all of this.

As far as who creates the questions, we have a scratchpad that is generated by various members of the staff as well as suggestions that come in from our feedback forms. We’re still in such an early stage of Vox that these questions are evolving daily. One thing we’ve seen, however, is that the two topics that people most like to answer questions about are nostalgia (favorite childhood candy, childhood fears, etc…) and media-based (favorite movie, song that makes you happy, anything television).

Some questions, surprisingly bomb in an unexpected way. In April, I posed the question “If you had a time machine and could travel anywhere in time, where would you go and why?” It’s a difficult question for those who don’t obsess about time travel as much as I do. And, I have to admit, I made it question of the day since *I* had my own answer. Still, I’d love to try this one again now that more people are in Vox.

Thanks, Mena. Sometimes it’s these little things, tiny addictive hooks, that make the difference between a product taking off, and Vox’s QotD is a nice hook indeed. (Also, I’m totally with you on the time travel question.)

Update: Mena posted some more info about the QotD on Vox.

Wired looks at memes that haven’t taken

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 05, 2006

Wired looks at memes that haven’t taken off, like smart mobs and progress paradox.

From worst to first

posted by Jason Kottke   May 25, 2006

Lest we forget, Steven Frank reminds us that for quite a few years (which period roughly coincides with Steve Jobs’ absence from Apple), the Macintosh experience wasn’t all it could have been. In the midst of those dark times, I made a post about how frustrated I was with the Macintosh.

I’ve never seen a Mac that has run faster than its Wintel counterpart, despite the Macs’ faster chip architecture. My 486/66 with 8 megs of ram runs faster than this 300 mhz machine at times. From a productivity standpoint, I don’t get how people can claim that the Macintosh is a superior machine.

At my first web design job — at a company that used to sell and service Macintosh computers — they had Macs on all the desks. When I left a year and a half later, everyone had Dells running NT 4.0 instead; the difference in speed, stability, and price was not even close at that time. I didn’t use another Mac until I bought an iBook after the second coming of Jobs and the advent of OS X.

BTW, that Mac sucks post has become something of a meme on Slashdot. It’s been used to call out Java 1.4.2 fanatics, TI fanatics, SGI lava lamp fanatics, Apple laywers, Mac Mini hard drive performance, cat fanatics, Google fanatics, Amiga fanatics, Pittsburgh professors, Apple I fanatics, trolling losers, and so on.

Matt used MacSaber and his new MacBook

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2006

Matt used MacSaber and his new MacBook to recreate the Star Wars kid video. In related news, the Portland, Oregon area reported a huge nerdquake this afternoon.

Google Trend graph for “the” and “and”.

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2006

Google Trend graph for “the” and “and”. I would have expected them to be flatter.

Fun! See graphs for the popularity of

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2006

Fun! See graphs for the popularity of Google search results with Google Trends. Is the blog meme trend finally flattening out? And hey, I had a hand in shaping this one.

Four things

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 27, 2006

Caterina tagged me and it’s Friday, so what the hell?

Four jobs I’ve had:
1. Minimum wage worker, green bean canning factory
2. Tutor, in college physics
3. Web designer, for about 6 different companies
4. Blogger, kottke.org

Four movies I can watch over and over:
1. Ocean’s Eleven
2. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
3. The Day After Tomorrow
4. Finding Nemo

Four places I’ve lived:
1. Minneapolis
2. Rolla, MO
3. New York
4. San Francisco

Four TV shows I love:
1. Six Feet Under
2. Doctor Who (the original series)
3. Family Guy
4. Oh gosh, I dunno

Ten highly regarded and recommended TV shows that I’ve never watched a single minute of:[1]
1. 24
2. Lost
3. The Sopranos
4. Any reality TV show
5. Arrested Development
6. Battlestar Galactica
7. My Name is Earl
8. Deadwood
9. Desperate Housewives
10. The Wire

Four places I’ve vacationed:
1. Kauai, HI
2. Beijing
3. Paris
4. Rapid City, SD

Four of my favorite dishes:
1. Bologna sandwich
2. Soup dumplings
3. Cinnamon ice cream
4. Just about anything on a tasting menu

Four sites I visit daily:
1. google.com
2. flickr.com
3. robotwisdom.com
4. waxy.org

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. In a bathtub
2. On the beach
3. In space
4. Paris

Four bloggers I am tagging (but who won’t do it because they’re too old school…how’s that for a taunt?):
1. Meg Hourihan
2. Matt Haughey
3. Paul Bausch
4. Anil Dash

[1] I added this question because I was thinking about it the other day. I know, such a bad-ass rule-breaker.

This animation of a dancing baby is fun to watch

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 26, 2005

This animation of a dancing baby is fun to watch. Email this one to your friends!

This one guy tried to get the

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 26, 2005

This one guy tried to get the word “sweatshop” printed on his custom Nike shoes and Nike wouldn’t let him. “The Personal iD on my custom ZOOM XC USA running shoes was the word ‘sweatshop.’ Sweatshop is not: 1) another’s party’s trademark, 2) the name of an athlete, 3) blank, or 4) profanity. I choose the iD because I wanted to remember the toil and labor of the children that made my shoes. Could you please ship them to me immediately.”

The Hot or Not site lets you

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 26, 2005

The Hot or Not site lets you rate people’s pictures on a scale of 1 to 10. You can even upload your own picture to be rated.

Hahaha! Look at all those hampsters dancing

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 26, 2005

Hahaha! Look at all those hampsters dancing. Be sure to turn up the sound on this one!

Hilarious home page of a lonely Turkish

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 26, 2005

Hilarious home page of a lonely Turkish guy named Mahir who is seeking female companionship. “I kiss you!!!!”

A woman who was charged $250 for a

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 26, 2005

A woman who was charged $250 for a cookie recipe from Neiman-Marcus gets her revenge by emailing the recipe to everyone she knows. “So here it is, please pass it on to someone or else or run a few copies…I paid for it, so now you can have it for free!!!”

It’s the Really Big Button That Doesn’t Do Anything

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 26, 2005

It’s the Really Big Button That Doesn’t Do Anything. When you push it, it really doesn’t do much.

David Filo and Jerry Yang are organizing

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 26, 2005

David Filo and Jerry Yang are organizing the entire WWW into a hierarchical category system. They’ve named their site “Yahoo”.

The top ten web memes from the past ten years

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 22, 2005

The top ten web memes from the past ten years.

A long time ago…

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 06, 2005

As I was walking home this evening, a little girl was riding her bike in the middle of the street. She still had the training wheels on as she wobbled and struggled to peddle. It reminded me of when I was little and how badly I wanted a bicycle but couldn’t get one. My parents wouldn’t let me have a bike until I was 12; my mom was too afraid I’d hurt myself. I’d pass the bike section in the store and just look, having given up asking my parents about it long ago. I eventually did get one after much pleading and begging. Amazingly, getting my driver’s license at 16 and the subsequent borrowing of the family car passed without incident.

Daniel Engber, creator of Crying, While Eating,

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 24, 2005

Daniel Engber, creator of Crying, While Eating, on his experience making contagious media.

Interview with Jonah Peretti, director of Research

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 08, 2005

Interview with Jonah Peretti, director of Research and Development at Eyebeam.

The launch party for Eyebeam’s Contagious Media

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2005

The launch party for Eyebeam’s Contagious Media Showdown is tonight, 6:30pm.