Thursday, March 29, 2012

A True Legend: I Don't Like Mondays

Before the Columbine School Massacre (1999, Littleton, Colorado, U.S.A.), The Ecole Polytechnique Massacre (1989, Montreal, Quebec, Canada), and Virginia Tech Massacre (2007, Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A.), there was Brenda Ann Spencer. It was Miss Spencer who said, "I don't like Mondays" as part of her response when asked by authorities why she opened fire with a .22 calibre rifle upon a school yard populated with Elementary level children. The horrific event happened long before the Columbine, Canadian Polytechnics school and Virginia Tech shootings, on January 29th, 1979. Miss Spencer was 16 years old. The San Diego, California, school-yard that Spencer riddled with bullets was the Grover Cleveland Elementary School.

As the news was breaking on this incident many decades ago, songwriter Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats read about it from a telex report via WRAS, the Georgia State University campus radio station. He was doing an interview at WRAS and was sitting beside a telex machine, so he couldn't help but see the news as it came through. This event so moved Geldof - with its senselessness and the "I don't like Mondays" explanation that he wrote a song related to the shooting. He has explained that he tried to write an equally senseless song for a senseless event, rather than try to exploit the event. In fact, the song wasn't intended to be hyped or promoted heavily and was meant to be a B-side cut, however, The Boomtown Rats began playing it and crowds liked it, and after its release, became a top ten hit. The song was on the Billboard Charts for four weeks, summer 1979.

The Boomtown Rats, "I Don't Like Mondays" - a Live performance, Dominion Theatre in London UK, 1985:

Some lyrics from the 3rd verse:

"And all the playing's stopped in the playground now
She wants to play with the toys awhile
And school's out early and soon we'll be learning
And the lesson today is how to die [...]"

The chorus has background singers asking repeatedly, "Tell me why?"
and Geldof anwering, "I don't like Mondays."

Here's one of the breaking news articles from 1979:
The Milwaukee Journal - Jan 29, 1979 - Page 4 "Sniping Suspect Had a Grim Goal."

Miss Spencer caused the death of two people and injured 9 more, of whom 8 were children. Custodian Michael Suchar and the school's Principal, Burton Wragg died from Spencer's armed assault. Suchar died while trying to pull the school Principle away to safety.

Spencer was tried in the court of law as an adult because her crimes were so awful and severe. She pleaded guilty for murder on two counts and of assault with a deadly weapon. She received the penalty of 25 years to life in prison, and became eligible for parole in 1993.

Don't worry - Spencer is still locked up. At parole hearings, since 1993, she has been denied four times. She's not eligible to sit in front of officials to ask for her freedom again now until 2019. Her last parole hearing was in August 2009.

I found some decent documentary vids on youtube about the Cleveland Elementary School shooting and Brenda Ann Spencer.

Part one shows some clips from TV that were aired on the day of the shootings and shows interviews of some people in the San Diego community who remember the shooting, the victims - including Pricipal Wragg's family. These interviews are a contrast to Brenda Ann Spencer's mother in the filmwork. Part 1 of 5 below:

More details of the school shooting. Eye-witnesses and survivors recall what happened on January 29, 1979 at the schoolyard of Cleveland Elementary School. Part 2 of 5 Below:

Part 3 of 5 Below:

Part 4 of 5 Below:

Part 5 of 5 Below:

This was obviously filmed prior to Spencer's August 2009 parole board hearing because in the film, someone says her case will be heard in 2009, four years or within four years of the time in the documentary. Spencer did NOT get released in August of 2009. She still resides in Chino, California at the California Institution For Women.

Although this story of the Grover Cleveland Elementary School Shooting is from the past and is legendary in proportion - containing mystery and with a history that is hard to believe and take in - this is no urban legend. This one really did happen...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What is a meme?

Perhaps you've been hearing the term, "meme" around and are wondering what it means. I just used a popular meme in the last post, so it's time to explain "meme," beyond casual mention and instead of simply spreading a meme (Chuck Norris Facts meme) further online.

First off, if you've been pronouncing this word as "maim" because of the way it looks, don't worry - I did for a while when I first started seeing the word, too. I had to correct myself to pronounce it properly as, "Meem."

Basically, a meme is an idea or symbol that circulates through culture(s) in a similar manner as a virus. Memes are viral. (I mentioned in a previous post that memes are often inside urban legends... some urban legends are viral, spreading like a virus). So if you imagine how a flu spreads, you'll understand how quickly concepts/ideas and symbols spread, only with a meme, an abstract thing spreads. With a flu virus, an actual living organism spreads - a physical entity. With memes, the symbols, ideas and concepts - the abstract details are infectious.

Where a physical (flu, for example) virus is limited to physical contact in order to spread, replicate, extend outward and infect multiple times, a meme can probably spread even faster than a flu virus because it can be spread faster than we can walk, touch each other, physically infect each other. Sure, memes contained inside urban legends and urban legends themselves will spread in a similar way as a flu virus if we gather people together for story-telling sessions; each group who hears the meme/legend can walk away from one session and begin another elsewhere with different people and thus spread the meme/legend. This, however, is a rather slow way to physically pass memes, urban legends, a flu virus.

Internet memes spread much more rapidly because they aren't confined to a fully physical environment. One meme can spread to thousands, even millions of internet users from a single source and be delivered electronically in a split second.

Powerful stuff, eh?

Richard Dawkins is credited with coining the word and definition of "meme," and has explained that we need to think of memes in the way we think about genes in order to properly talk about, understand and mentally process the "behaviours" of memes. Discussion about memes is relatively new in society and the study of this information is called memetics. Basically, in 1976, in the book, The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, memes are introduced as units of cultural transmission analogous to the gene.

Features/possibilities of a meme:
  • it can replicate
  • it can spread quickly
  • it is not limited to most physical barriers for transmission
  • it is a pattern
  • it has causal agency (produces an effect/responsible for events or results)
  • it can propagate

Memes are pretty powerful units!

Pro/Con about meme units:
  • pro - entertainment value can reach a large audience (ie: Chuck Norris Facts)
  • pro - can be used to send positive concepts out into society on a mass scale
  • con - can be used to send negative concepts out on a mass scale
  • pro and con - media can spread negative or positive concepts on a mass scale
  • pro and con - memes can 'cycle' ie: have a birth, active time and death
  • con - these can be misused, misinterpreted, some memes can be invented, controlled to a large extent (in beginning stages)
  • debatable tidbit: many researchers are still discussing the where and whyfor aspects of memes. It is possible that memes continue to circulate while they are "needed" in society and then "die off" when society doesn't need them anymore.

I personally agree with the last tidbit above because I am familiar with urban legends, how they spread, why some of them (not all but some) exist and often - why they exist in one place but not another.

With urban legends, they seem to "stay alive" and circulate in a society that needs the urban legend(s), needs to perpetuate a story, needs to vent out fears and anxieties, etc. Urban legends have a purpose in society - even if many people think most urban legends are just junk, made up stories, fiction, etc (I will always argue that urban legends are NEVER entirely fictitious - in the least, there is something symbolic about an important truth/fear inside each urban legend). In the same way, I do believe that every meme in circulation is active because it is needed and is serving some purpose (not always a good/positive purpose, but a purpose nonetheless).

Check out Dr. Ray Scott Percival's lecture on memes (according to Richard Dawkins' theories):
Part 1 of 3

Part 2 of 3

Part 3 of 3

Each vid is of reasonable length, just under ten minutes long per video.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

It's TRUE! Chuck Norris is a Bad-Ass

More of a meme than urban legend, the Chuck Norris is so tough/tougher than anything stories, video clips and such are perfect for copy pasta (copying and pasting all over the net - forums, blogs, facebook status spots, etc).

The Chuck Norris stuff is meme pasting that I really enjoy - probably because I like Chuck Norris a fair bit as a celebrity.

Meme bits are related to urban legends (memes are basically INSIDE OF urban legends) but are a whole separate type of message entity all on their own - however - they're closely enough related that they deserve a spot on this blog!

Since I haven't written much on memes but have definitely studied on them (even "truly studied them" as in - at University level courses) and know that they're EVERYWHERE, I figured the best meme topic to post about FIRST - is one of my favourites - Chuck Norris!

People already know Chuck is a bad-ass tough guy. In the movies, he always plays a bad butt character, a TOUGH GUY. In real life, Chuck actually IZZZZZZ A Tough Guy. He really DID serve in the American Air Force and he really IS a martial arts expert. Among his acting roles, he played a Texas Ranger, Sergeant Cordell Walker, who believes in an old code of conduct that is considered a really firm and dedicated TOUGH GUY code... the code of the Old West (cowboy/ranger and settler code - tough stuff for sure) and his character Sgt. Walker was a Marine before becoming a Texas Ranger.

Chuck Norris World of Warcraft Commercial:

Now, I think one of the reasons why Norris memes are so powerful, spread so fast, and are so wide-spread is because as a tough guy, capable of difficult stunts and physical acts and such, Norris IS THE REAL DEAL and not just some actor or total pretender. Most actors in tough guy roles are physically fit and taught how to act in the roles they play from working out at the gym and job-shadowing or reading about a character/job position or field of work. Chuck Norris, I'm sure, does some of the same but he's the real deal. He knows what military is like, what martial arts are (various types, too) - and has even founded his own school of martial arts (find it by going to ufaf .org), and is an active and very outspoken philanthropist (funds for marginalized and sick kids, veteran supports, United Way spokesperson, Make A Wish Foundation spokesperson, much more).

All of Mr. Norris' acting feats appear to have real-life counterparts:

Acting/Real Life

  • Texas Ranger/military/Air Force experience
  • Martial Arts movies/martial arts experience and founding of a MA School
  • Often good guy badass/philanthropist in real life

Although his experience in military is Air Force experience, and his Texas Ranger character was a role on a television series, people have thought highly enough of Mr. Norris to have made him an honorary Marine (2007 - Source) and an honorary Texas Ranger (2010 - Source).

All that said, the memes that float around about Chuck Norris are cool because they often emphasize his positive traits. Not all memes (I will argue most memes do NOT) do this! Of course, the memes and statements are almost all hyperbole (exaggeration) of the most dramatic variety, but they're awesome, in my opinion. They command attention because, if they were toned down, they could be imagined to be true when related to Chuck Norris - or - if toned down, nobody's opinion of Norris as a Tough Guy would change in the least.

For example: Chuck Norris does not open doors. The doors have the common courtesy to open for him.

The above statements are found on the "Chuck Norris Facts" site (a site housing hundreds of memes and statements about Norris - mostly memes but also with some factual information on-site about Norris). While a number of memes are designed to cause reactions containing detrimental ridicule of the subject, many of the Chuck Norris memes do not cause this reaction.

Here are a few nice (and mostly postive) ones:

Need I say more?


Update: Back After a Long Break

It is quite likely that some people thought the Goatman, The Bunnyman, a couple of Black Eyed Kids or even a Werewolf got me in 2011 because I didn't post to this blog all year. My last post was about Santa in 2010.

I know many are shaking their heads. I am, too!

I just didn't do much writing at all in 2011 past February or so. In part, this is because I was involved in a new research project from around March 2011 'til end-year. The project was with marginalized and homeless people, so I felt very committed to the project and let my writing, articles and blogs fall by the wayside.

Although that work has led me to another, separate research project (and some related opportunities), I'm only taking on what I can handle this year so that I can get back to online stuff. Yikes - my online income from content is almost NIL, however, my earnings from PTR/PTC programs are UP. As for the latter, it's just a matter of logging in, viewing ads, logging off, without having to interact much or create content, so I'm sure this is why I managed to continue to create an income through these sources.

The big Panda change was something I know little about as I was mostly out of commission for content creation all of last year. Many online buddies have let me know that the Panda stuff is also a reason why many online incomes from writing have lowered - and my online writing friends have seen a decrease in earnings during certain times in 2011, too, even though they were present and active, creating hoardes of content all year long.

Anyhow - excuses (good ones, if you ask me) aside... rather - explanations aside, I changed the looks of the blog and will be posting regularly from now on, even if just to do a quick review of a friend's article and even if my posts aren't about researching scary urban legends (my reviews will still be on similar content, so will fit with the theme). For some topics, it takes quite a lot of time to do research, so I will have to be careful about my schedule/time online in order to post regularly as well as keep with my off-line commitments.

I don't know how I managed to pick up a few more followers in 2011 when I wasn't even posting but I'm not going to complain about this!

I must say I'm very grateful to the folks over at the Best of all Topics site for keeping my link on their sidebar tho' I was very inactive on this blog. I will definitely pull my socks up and post regularly. Hopefully, I'll manage to project a topic/article that will be worthy of mention over at the site mentioned above but for now, I'll end this explanation post so that I can get on to the good stuff: tracking down urban legend info!

Thanks for your patience, all!