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Virtual infidelity, virtual spy
Oolong was a bunny in Japan with an unusual talent: He could balance almost anything on his head. His owner discovered this on May 24, 1999, and began taking pictures of his pet’s “head performance”, with an increasingly remarkable array of household objects perched atop Oolong’s head. He posted all the pictures on a web site; several of them are archived here.
In an interesting example of the Mahir-esque chaos dynamics of online popularity, the site was small and unvisited for four years, save by the owner and his small group of friends. One day a blogger from Syberpunk — a blog devoted to “quirky Japanese culture” — stumbled across the site, was utterly amused, and decided to keep it a secret, too. He sent pictures of Oolong to all his friends, but wouldn’t say where he got them. Then one day, as he writes, he accidentally posted a link to the Oolong site. It was the Patient-Zero moment: Delighted hipsters began excitedly forwarding the link to their friends, and millions of visitors swarmed over to check it out. Rarely is it possible to so precisely identify the moment when a Net meme is born.
Sadly, many people started emailing Oolong’s owner to accuse him of cruelty to animals, while others wrote Onionesque paeans to his subversive genius. Interestingly, both reactions annoyed the owner, and he wrote a public letter, including this rather sweet passage:
Oolong is so calm and patient — he never gets angry when I take pictures of him. When I put various objects on his head, he stays still for a minute. This is just a result of an intimate relationship between me and Oolong. The main theme of my site is not to show these ‘headperformance’ links, and it’s not my hope to propagandize nothing but the strangeness of his headperformance over the world. Oolong’s headperformance — many foreigners seem to feel it ‘crazy’, but Japanese people feel it just cute and funny. It is the difference of international feeling.
One could probably get a cultural-studies master’s thesis outta this one. Unfortunately, Oolong passed away in January.
(Thanks to Culture Raven for this one!)
I'm Clive Thompson, a writer on science, technology, and culture. This blog collects bits of offbeat research I'm running into, and musings thereon.
Currently, I'm a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. I also write for Fast Company and Wired magazine's web site, among other places. Email or AOL IM me (pomeranian99) to say hi or send in something strange!
May 20, 2011 » 02:28 PM
From Christopher Kennedy’s very droll book “Neitzsche’s Horse”.
July 28, 2010 » 07:35 AM
“Wr” - S
July 06, 2010 » 10:05 AM
My Xbox broke, and I was trying to Google some possible technical solutions, when I noticed that Google appears to be encouraging me to make a typo. I suppose it’s possible that Google’s algorithms know that typing “wont” instead of “won’t” would produce better results.
June 29, 2010 » 05:00 PM
On the other hand, when I tried the test for multitasking, I was pretty abysmal. I performed worse than people who identify themselves as heavy multitaskers, and those who identify as low multitaskers.
June 29, 2010 » 04:58 PM
I finally got around to trying out the interactive “test your distractability and multitasking” page at the New York Times, which they put up alongside their story earlier this month about how computer distractions are eroding our lives.
According to the test, I guess I have good focus — I’m not very distractable!
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