Daily News
September 20, 2012

Awesome Dogs
Fantastic Memes
Gangnam Style
Awesome Dogs

--- Devoted dog guards Navy SEAL's coffin---

August 26, 2011
UVM: 31,660,000

The heartbreaking image of loyal Labrador Hawkeye lying forlornly in front of the coffin of Jon Tumlinson, 35, has made its way around the world since it was posted on Facebook by Tumlinson's cousin.

Petty Officer Tumlinson was one of 38 killed when his helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan early this month.

"I took this picture and that was my view throughout the entire funeral. I couldn't not take a picture," Lisa Tumilson told US television network ABC News.

"It took several attempts since every time I wasn't crying and could focus on taking it, there was a SEAL at the microphone and I didn't want to take a picture with them for security and respect reasons. Our family is devastated to say the least."

Hawkeye led his family down the aisle into the funeral service in Rockford, Iowa, and followed his friend Scott Nichols as he rose to deliver a eulogy, television network MSNBC reported.

The dog then heaved a sigh and dropped down on the ground in front of Petty Officer Tumilson's casket as the speech started and more than about 1500 mourners watched on.

"If J.T. had known he was going to be shot down when going to the aid of others, he would have went anyway," his friend Boe Nankivel said at the service.

Mr Nichols will now look after Hawkeye, television station KTLA said.

A total of 38 people died when the CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down on August 6 in the eastern province of Wardak, including seven Afghan troops and an interpreter.

Thirty US troops died, including 17 SEALs and five other navy sailors assigned to the SEAL unit.

The attack represented the most deadly incident for US and NATO forces since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001.

--- Dog sits by owner’s grave for six years---

By Matt Roper
September 13, 2012
UVM: 2,160,000

A FAITHFUL dog has refused to move from his master’s grave for SIX YEARS, a family claims.

German Shepherd pet Capitan ran away after his owner Miguel Guzman died in 2006.

A week later Mr Guzman’s family went to pay their respects at his tomb and found the heartbroken hound sitting there, howling.

Since then the grieving dog has rarely left the spot at the cemetery.

Mr Guzman bought Capitan as a present for his 13-year-old son Damian in 2005 but died suddenly in March the next year.

When his family returned from the funeral Capitan was gone.

Mr Guzman’s widow Vernonica was today reported as saying: “We searched for him but he had vanished. We thought he must have got run over and died.

“The following Sunday we went to the cemetery and Damian recognised his pet. Capitan came up to us, barking and wailing, as if he were crying.

“We had never taken him to the cemetery so it is a mystery how he managed to find the place.

“We went back the next Sunday and he was there again. This time, he followed us home and spent a bit of time with us, but then went back to the cemetery before it started getting dark.

“I don’t think he wanted to leave Miguel on his own at night.”

Cemetery director Hector Baccega remembers the day he first saw the dog.

He said: “He turned up here one day, all on his own, and started wandering all around the cemetery until he eventually found the tomb of his master.

“During the day he sometimes has a walk around the cemetery, but always rushes back to the grave. And every day, at six o’clock sharp, he lies down on top of the grave and stays there all night.”

Mr Baccega said staff at the cemetery in Villa Carlos Paz, central Argentina are now feeding and taking care of Capitan.

Mr Guzman’s son Damian said: “I’ve tried to bring Capitan home several times, but he always comes straight back to the cemetery. I think he’s going to be there until he dies too. He’s looking after my dad.”

Capitan follows in the tracks of Hachiko, an Akita dog which is said to have waited at a Tokyo train station for its master to return each day for nine years from May 1925, following owner Hidesaburo Ueno’s death at work.

The most famous tale of a dog’s devotion beyond the grave is Greyfriars Bobby — a Skye Terrier which allegedly spent 14 years guarding the Edinburgh grave of John Gray, dying itself in January 1872.

A statue and commemorative fountain were built at the southern end of the George IV Bridge.

Several books and films have been based on Bobby’s life, but recent Cardiff University research claims Bobby was a publicity stunt by local businesses to drum up tourist revenue...using TWO trained dogs to ‘stand guard’ in the graveyard!

--- Dog Saves Other Injured Dog Lying On A Highway (VIDEO)---

January 11, 2010
UVM: 3,130,000

Check out an amazing video of a dog saving another dog that had been hit by a car on the highway. The heroic canine runs into traffic and drags the severely injured dog out of harm's way. Rather unbelievable.

Fantastic Memes

--- Internet Fame Is Cruel Mistress for a Dancer of the Numa Numa---

February 26, 2005
UVM: 325,930,000

There was a time when embarrassing talents were a purely private matter. If you could sing "The Star Spangled Banner" in the voice of Daffy Duck, no one but your friends and family would ever have to know.

But with the Internet, humiliation - like everything else - has now gone public. Upload a video of yourself playing flute with your nose or dancing in your underwear, and people from Toledo to Turkmenistan can watch.

Here, then, is the cautionary tale of Gary Brolsma, 19, amateur videographer and guy from New Jersey, who made the grave mistake of placing on the Internet a brief clip of himself dancing along to a Romanian pop song. Even in the bathroom mirror, Mr. Brolsma's performance could only be described as earnest but painful.

His story suggests that the quaint days when cultural trinkets, like celebrity sex tapes, were passed around like novels in Soviet Russia are over. It says a little something of the lightning speed at which fame is made these days.

To begin at the beginning:

Mr. Brolsma, a pudgy guy from Saddle Brook, made a video of himself this fall performing a lip-synced version of "Dragostea Din Tei," a Romanian pop tune, which roughly translates to "Love From the Linden Trees." He not only mouthed the words, he bounced along in what he called the "Numa Numa Dance" - an arm-flailing, eyebrow-cocked performance executed without ever once leaving the chair.

In December, the Web site newgrounds.com, a clearinghouse for online videos and animation, placed a link to Mr. Brolsma on its home page and, soon, there was a river of attention. "Good Morning America" came calling and he appeared. CNN and VH1 broadcast the clip. Parodists tried their own Numa Numa dances online. By yesterday, the Brolsma rendition of "Love From the Linden Trees" had attracted nearly two million hits on the original Web site alone.

The video can be seen here.

It was just as Diane Sawyer said on her television program: "Who knows where this will lead?"

Nowhere, apparently. For, in Mr. Brolsma's case, the river became a flood.

He has now sought refuge from his fame in his family's small house on a gritty street in Saddle Brook. He has stopped taking phone calls from the news media, including The New York Times. He canceled an appearance on NBC's "Today." According to his relatives, he mopes around the house.

What's worse is that no one seems to understand.

"I said, 'Gary this is your one chance to be famous - embrace it,' " said Corey Dzielinski, who has known Mr. Brolsma since the fifth grade. Gary Brolsma is not the first guy to rocket out of anonymity on a starship of embarrassment. There was William Hung, the Hong Kong-born "American Idol" reject, who sang and danced so poorly he became a household name. There was Ghyslain Raza, the teenage Québécois, who taped himself in a mock light-saber duel and is now known as the Star Wars Kid.

In July 2003, Mr. Raza's parents went so far as to sue four of his classmates, claiming they had placed the clip of him online without permission. "Ghyslain had to endure and still endures today, harassment and derision," according to the lawsuit, first reported in The Globe and Mail of Toronto.

Mr. Brolsma has no plans to sue, his family said - mainly because he would have to sue himself. In fact, they wish he would bask a little in his celebrity.

"I don't know what's wrong with him," his grandfather, Kalman Telkes, a Hungarian immigrant, said the other day while taking out the trash.

The question remains why two million people would want to watch a doughy guy in glasses wave his arms around online to a Romanian pop song.

"It definitely has to be something different," said Tom Fulp, president and Webmaster of newgrounds.com.

"It's really time and place."

"The Numa Numa dance," he said, sounding impressed. "You see it and you kind of impulsively have to send it to your friends."

There is no way to pinpoint the fancy of the Internet, but in an effort to gauge Mr. Brolsma's allure, the Numa Numa dance was shown to a classroom of eighth graders at Saddle Brook Middle School - the same middle school that he attended, in fact.

The students' reactions ranged from envious to unimpressed. "That's stupid," one of them said. "What else does he do?" a second asked. A third was a bit more generous: "I should make a video and become famous."

The teacher, Susan Sommer, remembered Mr. Brolsma. He was a quiet kid, she said, with a good sense of humor and a flair for technology.

"Whenever there were computer problems, Gary and Corey would fix them for the school," she said.

His friends say Mr. Brolsma has always had a creative side. He used to make satirical Prozac commercials on cassette tapes, for instance. He used to publish a newspaper with print so small you couldn't read it with the naked eye.

"He was always very out there - he's always been ambitious," said Frank Gallo, a former classmate. "And he's a big guy, but he's never been ashamed."

Another friend, Randal Reiman, said: "I've heard a lot of people say it's not that impressive - it doesn't have talent. But I say, Who cares?"

These days, Mr. Brolsma shuttles between the house and his job at Staples, his family said. He is distraught, embarrassed. His grandmother, Margaret Telkes, quoted him as saying, just the other day, "I want this to end."

And yet the work lives on. Mr. Fulp, the Webmaster, continues to receive online homages to the Numa Numa dance. The most recent showed what seemed to be a class of computer students singing in Romanian and, in unison, waving their hands.

Mr. Reiman figures the larger world has finally caught on to Gary Brolsma.

"He's been entertaining us for years," he said, "so it's kind of like the rest of the world is realizing that Gary can make you smile."

--- 'Star Wars Kid' Gets Bucks From Blogs---

By Leander Kahney
May 9, 2003
UVM: 2,280,000

A couple of webloggers are raising money for an unfortunate teenager humiliated worldwide after a private video of his energetic lightsaber moves was leaked to the Net.

Webloggers Andy Baio and Jish Mukerji launched a fundraiser Friday for the young man they call the "Star Wars Kid," whose home video has been downloaded millions of times and watched by people all over the world.

The video shows a lone, overweight teenager fighting a mock battle with a broomstick lightsaber. In the two-minute video, the teenager twirls the broomstick ever more energetically while generating his own lightsaber sound effects. The video, which is obviously not for public consumption, is amusing and excruciating.


Excerpt from Star Wars Kid Remix by Bryan Dube.

Baio and Mukerji, who linked to their video from their weblogs, identify the Star Wars Kid as a 15-year-old French Canadian named Ghyslain. Because Ghyslain is a minor, the pair is protecting his identity. Ghyslain couldn't be reached for comment.

By Friday afternoon, the webloggers' fund had received more than 100 individual donations totaling nearly $1,000. The pair also has received donations of software and a T-shirt. They plan to buy Ghyslain an
Apple iPod and some accessories.

"He's given us a lot of amusement, so we thought we should do something for him," explained Mukerji. "There's been a lot of sympathy donations. A lot of people see a little bit of themselves in him. We've all done the same thing. Maybe it was the Saturday Night Fever thing. We've all done it."

According to Baio's website, the video was secretly recorded by Ghyslain at his school's A/V lab, only to be discovered by some kids at school who digitized it and uploaded it to the Kazaa file-sharing network.

"It only took two weeks for the video to spread around the world," Baio wrote.

In late April, an edited version of the video, which added music, video and sound effects, was created by Raven Software's Bryan Dube, according to Baio.

"A week later, both videos were linked on every major gaming- and technology-related website, forum, and chat room online," Baio said.

It's impossible to say how many times the videos were downloaded from Kazaa and countless websites, but Baio claims 1.1 million downloads from his site alone, a total of 2.3 terabytes of data.

"Most people who had it up on their sites had to take it down rather quickly because their hosts choked," said Mukerji.

Mukerji, a biologist who lives in San Francisco, said Ghyslain is well aware that his video was distributed around the world. Mukerji telephoned Ghyslain last week and posted a transcript of the conversation on his site.

"He's a young guy," said Mukerji. "He has self-confidence issues. Obviously, the video didn't help, but hopefully the donations will."

Mukerji said the fundraiser was prompted partly by guilt at laughing at Ghyslain, partly by geek sympathy.

The other weblogger, Baio, said, "I thought he deserved better. This video was uploaded to humiliate an awkward and overweight computer geek. But the truth is, he's not too different than many of us (were) in 10th grade. I was furious at the hypocritical comments being posted to my site ... all these geeks and dorks were trashing one of their own.... I'm hoping he records a sequel."

In a comment on Baio's site, someone identifying himself as Kevin wrote, "I just hope that Ghyslain knows that a lot of us laughed at the video because we were just like him in high school, and we turned out okay and now can laugh at ourselves."

"He shouldn't feel badly about the video," Kevin continues. "We've all done goofy stuff like that. I'm glad that I was 15 in the pre-Web era, that's for sure -- some stupid thing I'd done would have made it online for sure."

As Kevin notes, thousands of people who have done stupid things have been humiliated by material posted online by friends, relatives, co-workers and, especially, ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends.

There are myriad examples of photographs on the Net of naked ex-lovers, drunken grooms and passed-out sorority girls.

Parodies of MasterCard's "priceless" ads -- which list all the things that can be bought with a credit card but emphasize life's experiences as "priceless" -- have proven to be one of the most popular formats.

Most "priceless" parodies feature a picture of some unfortunate person with mock ad copy. For example, a picture of an unconscious, half-naked drunk, reads: "A night out drinking: $50; A porno magazine: $4.95; A roll of tissue paper: $0.50; A picture of yourself on the Internet passed out drunk with your pants down to your knees after having wanked off: Priceless."

Many collections of MasterCard parodies, such as those at Rec.Humor.Funny, were forced offline under threat of legal action from the company's lawyers. However, a Google search for MasterCard Parody yields dozens of examples.

"Painfully embarrassing behavior is a characteristic component of an entire class of viral media," said Joshua Schachter, editor of the popular Memepool community weblog. "Consider Mahir, psycho ex-girlfriend, MasterCard parody ads, so on and so forth. That kind of thing is pretty much the meat and potatoes of the Everything/Nothing crowd, and there are lots and lots of those."

Somewhat akin to weblogs, Everything/Nothing websites are run by individuals and can be about everything or nothing, hence the name. Stileproject, Ernie's House of WhoopAss and ilovebacon.com, are examples.

Drew Curtis, who runs the wildly popular Fark website, which has linked to dozens of examples, said embarrassing pictures are constantly posted to the site's forums and are a never-ending source of amusement.

Curtis said a fairly recent video titled Terrible Mr. G is the latest "meme" rapidly gaining in popularity. Likely shot without the knowledge of the subject, the video documents the frustration of playing a combat computer game like Counter-Strike.

The soundtrack -- a series of groans, foul language and invective -- also has been dubbed to techno.

"There's this guy swearing like a sailor," Curtis said. "It's pretty darn funny."

--- Hilarious Hiker Guy FREAKS OUT Over Full Double Rainbow (VIDEO)---

By Katla McGlynn
July 4, 2010
UVM: 3,130,000

This guy really likes rainbows. I mean REALLY likes them. Then again, if I was some hiker dude (probably on mushrooms) and I saw a FULL DOUBLE rainbow, I'd probably enter crazypants mode as well. Watch as YouTube user Hungrybear9562 (amazing) goes through an intense emotional cycle, starting with "Woahs" and "Oh my Gods" and leading to crying, laughing, and wistfully asking the sky, "WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?" It's so hilariously awkward that by the end of the 3 minutes you'll be laughing and crying along with him.

--- Chocolate Rain goes huge---

By Garth Montgomery
August 1, 2007
http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/chocolate-rain-goes-huge/story-fna7dq6e-1111114084723The song Chocolate Rain is a piano driven piece with a cheesy drum loop playing beneath Zonday’s curious vocals that sound like a man much older than the young artist.

The YouTube hit has captured the world’s imagination with its home made quality clip that includes Zonday singing and captions to explain that he moves his head away from the mic to breath in.

Over four minutes and 52 seconds, the piano riff and drum loop don’t change and retain a hypnotic quality which has put the song on the verge of an Internet Zietgeist shared by luminaries such as Star Wars kid and Mahir.

The song has reached such prominence online that it has now created a cottage industry of backlash, tribute and spin offs.

There were 4280 YouTube videos related to Chocolate Rain at the time of publishing. See here for more on the best of Chocolate Rain remixes.

But Tay Zonday claims to be no joke. His YouTube profile bills him as a “singer-songwriter-vocalist” capable of doing any range of musical styles.

“I might do anything. No style is off limits.”

The 25 year-old adds that his deep voice is real and not faked, and he has made a number of his songs available in MP3 format and video.

Zonday’s recent popularity been so overwhelming that he warns he can “only respond to a small fraction” of the messages he now gets.

Here’s the original. Go here for the equally entertaining spin offs.

Gangnam Style

--- Will Justin Bieber Turn Korea's Gangnam Style Into The Next Viral Call Me Maybe?---

By Anthony Wing Kosner
August 30, 2012
UVM: 135,180,000

Think Samsung is the only big internet story from South Korea right now? How about a hilarious hip hop star who can claim T-Pain, Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Nelly Furtado and Justin Bieber as fans?

Meet Psy (aka Jae-Sang Park), the 34-year-old Korean-born, BU and Berklee educated, empresario behind the recent pop mega-hit “Gangnam Style.” The song, kind of a Korean version of LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem, is a masterful pop confection. The title refers to the ritziest neighborhood in Seoul, the American version would be Beverly Hills, perhaps?

The YouTube video has been viewed more than 77 million times as of this post, fueled both by its own propulsive, and convulsive, jocularity—and by a series of high-profile celebrity tweets:

Even though the whole point of the song is to skewer the consumerist materialism of Korea’s 1% (see this ponderous piece in the Atlantic, if you want to over think the “subversive” nature of this good-natured critique), the entire
Apple-traumatized nation seems to be enjoying the international attention. It is a rare bit of Western pop embracing Asian pop. Fans in Manila were clearly juiced when Nelly Furtado covered Gangnam Style in a recent concert there:

The biggest rumors around the song concern a meeting with Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun on a recent trip by Psy to the States. Latinos Post cites a Korea Herald report that, “Although no details have been made public regarding what went on in that meeting, the Korean press has offered much speculation as of late regarding the possible outcome, with rumors including collaboration between Psy and Justin Bieber to Braun purchasing the rights to produce a remake of ‘Gangnam Style’.” The significance with Bieber is huge considering that his tweet about “Call Me Maybe,” (“possibly the catchiest song I’ve ever heard lol”) led to the complete explosion of Carly Rae Jepsen’s career (she’s now opening for Bieber on tour.)

The Boston Globe interviewed Psy on that trip. Although a big star in Korea, this is his first exposure here. ‘‘The thing is, I have special visuals. I’m not like [a] normal entertainer [when it comes to visuals],’’ Psy told the Globe. ‘‘That’s why when I dance it looks different. I have a different body, different shape, different visuals.” He clearly revels in his individuality even as his character plays at affluent conformity. “A guy who has bulging ideas rather than muscles,” as he says in the song. “In Korea they’re celebrating me because I didn’t try anything. I didn’t promote, I didn’t target anything about going overseas,’’ he said. ‘‘It just happened like this with YouTube and Twitter. I think those two feed me.’’

YouTube and Twitter have fed him, indeed, and “Gangnam Style” is a great argument for the efficiency of that combination for viral promotion. Although just a fraction of Facebook‘s size, Twitter has disproportionate currency for opinion makers, especially entertainers.

And the coded density of hip hop lyrics has prepared pop fans for a hit song whose words they can’t understand (Rap Genius is a useful decoder ring). Oh, wait, there are three English words in the song, ‘‘Hey, sexy lady.’’ What more do you need?

OK, OK, here are the full lyrics, courtesy of Rap Genius (no annotations yet, so jump in and earn Rap IQ):

Explain Oppa is Gangnam style

Gangnam style

A girl who is warm and humane during the day

A classy girl who know how to enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee

A girl whose heart gets hotter when night comes

A girl with that kind of twist

I’m a guy

A guy who is as warm as you during the day

A guy who one-shots his coffee before it even cools down

A guy whose heart bursts when night comes

That kind of guy

Beautiful, loveable

Yes you, hey, yes you, hey

Beautiful, loveable

Yes you, hey, yes you, hey

Now let’s go until the end

Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style

Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style

Oppa is Gangnam style

Eh- Sexy Lady, Oppa is Gangnam style

Eh- Sexy Lady oh oh oh oh

A girl who looks quiet but plays when she plays

A girl who puts her hair down when the right time comes

A girl who covers herself but is more sexy than a girl who bares it all

A sensible girl like that

I’m a guy

A guy who seems calm but plays when he plays

A guy who goes completely crazy when the right time comes

A guy who has bulging ideas rather than muscles

That kind of guy

Beautiful, loveable

Yes you, hey, yes you, hey

Beautiful, loveable

Yes you, hey, yes you, hey

Now let’s go until the end

Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style

Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style

Oppa is Gangnam style

Eh- Sexy Lady, Oppa is Gangnam style

Eh- Sexy Lady oh oh oh oh

On top of the running man is the flying man, baby baby

I’m a man who knows a thing or two

On top of the running man is the flying man, baby baby

I’m a man who knows a thing or two

You know what I’m saying

Oppa is Gangnam style

Eh- Sexy Lady, Oppa is Gangnam style

Eh- Sexy Lady oh oh oh oh

Bonus Round: Here are a bunch of the best mashups and parodies, none as good, though, as the original, plus a couple of shareable graphics.

Off-key but really funny “Nerdy Style”:

Nikki Minaj “Starships”/”Gangnam Style” mashup:

Break It Down With Gangnam Style Tuts:

Gordon Mack Baseball parody:

Chicago parody:

University of Oregon Ducks parody:

--- Even North Korea Is Making 'Gangnam Style' Videos---

By Joshua Berlinger
September 20, 2012
UVM: 118,400,000

North Korea apparently just payed homage to its cultural and political rival south of the 38th parallel, releasing a "Gangnam fever" style video on the official government website Uriminzokkiri.

"Gangnam Style" is a highly successful pop video by the South Korean rapper PSY. It's become a huge international hit, even though it was designed to mock the stylings of residents of Gangnam, a wealthy district of Seoul.

North Korea's parody of "Gangnam Style" appears to have a different target, however, aiming at South Korean politician rather than Seoul street style. For those of you who don't speak Korean, here's how CNN's K.J. Kwon and Jethro Mullen describe the video:

The North Korean video starts with a picture showing a person apparently in the midst of performing the world famous horse dance from "Gangnam Style." The face stuck on the dancing figure is that of Park Geun-hye, the candidate for the governing Saenuri Party in the upcoming South Korean presidential election.

The video goes on to mockingly evoke Park's support for the past actions of her father, Park Jung-hee, South Korea's former dictator whose legacy still divides the nation.

While the video is (strangely) not available on North Korea's official YouTube account yet, we found another rip of the video which is embedded below.

--- Gangnam Style, Dissected: The Subversive Message Within South Korea's Music Video Sensation---

By Max Fisher
August 23, 2012
UVM: 2,370,000

Beneath the catchy dance beat and hilarious scenes of Seoul's poshest neighborhood, there might be a subtle message about wealth, class, and value in South Korean society.

Park Jaesang is an unlikely poster boy for South Korea's youth-obsessed, highly lucrative, and famously vacuous pop music. Park, who performs as Psy (short for psycho), is a relatively ancient 34, has been busted for marijuana and for avoiding the country's mandatory military service, and is not particularly good-looking. His first album got him fined for "inappropriate content" and the second was banned. He's mainstream in the way that South Korea's monolithically corporate media demands of its stars, who typically appear regularly on TV variety and even game shows, but as a harlequin, a performer known for his parodies, outrageous costumes, and jokey concerts. Still, there's a long history of fools and court jesters as society's most cutting social critics, and he might be one of them.

Now, Park has succeeded where the K-Pop entertainment-industrial-complex and its superstars have failed so many times before: he's made it in America. The opening track on his sixth album, "Gangnam Style" (watch it at right), has earned 49 million hits on YouTube since its mid-July release, but the viral spread was just the start.

The American rapper T-Pain was retweeted 2,400 times when he wrote "Words cannot even describe how amazing this video is." Pop stars expressed admiration. Billboard is extolling his commercial viability; Justin Bieber's manager is allegedly interested. The Wall Street Journal posted "5 Must-See" response videos. On Monday, a worker at L.A.'s Dodger stadium noticed Park in the stands and played "Gangnam Style" over the stadium P.A. system as excited baseball fans spontaneously reproduced Park's distinct dance in the video. "I have to admit I've watched it about 15 times," said a CNN anchor. "Of course, no one here in the U.S. has any idea what Psy is rapping about."

I certainly didn't, beyond the basics: Gangnam is a tony Seoul neighborhood, and Park's "Gangnam Style" video lampoons its self-importance and ostentatious wealth, with Psy playing a clownish caricature of a Gangnam man. That alone makes it practically operatic compared to most K-Pop. But I spoke with two regular observers of Korean culture to find out what I was missing, and it turns out that the video is rich with subtle references that, along with the song itself, suggest a subtext with a surprisingly subversive message about class and wealth in contemporary South Korean society. That message would be awfully mild by American standards -- this is no "Born in the U.S.A." -- but South Korea is a very different place, and it's a big deal that even this gentle social satire is breaking records on Korean pop charts long dominated by cotton candy.

"Korea has not had a long history of nuanced satire," Adrian Hong, a Korean-American consultant whose wide travels make him an oft-quoted observer of Korean issues, said of South Korea's pop culture. "In fact, when you asked me about the satire element, I was super skeptical. I don't expect much from K-Pop to begin with, so the first 50 times I heard this, I was just like, 'Allright, whatever.' I sat down to look at it and thought, 'Actually, there's some nuance here.'"

One of the first things Hong pointed to in explaining the video's subtext was, believe it or not, South Korea's sky-high credit card debt rate. In 2010, the average household carried credit card debt worth a staggering 155 percent of their disposable income (for comparison, the U.S. average just before the sub-prime crisis was 138 percent). There are nearly five credit cards for every adult. South Koreans have been living on credit since the mid-1990s, first because their country's amazing growth made borrowing seem safe, and then in the late 1990s when the government encouraged private spending to climb out of the Asian financial crisis. The emphasis on heavy spending, coupled with the country's truly astounding, two-generation growth from agrarian poverty to economic powerhouse, have engendered the country with an emphasis on hard work and on aspirationalism, as well as the materialism that can sometimes follow.

Gangnam, Hong said, is a symbol of that aspect of South Korean culture. The neighborhood is the home of some of South Korea's biggest brands, as well as $84 billion of its wealth, as of 2010. That's seven percent of the entire country's GDP in an area of just 15 square miles. A place of the most conspicuous consumption, you might call it the embodiment of South Korea's one percent. "The neighborhood in Gangnam is not just a nice town or nice neighborhood. The kids that he's talking about are not Silicon Valley self-made millionaires. They're overwhelmingly trust-fund babies and princelings," he explained.

This skewering of the Gangnam life can be easy to miss for non-Korean. Psy boasts that he's a real man who drinks a whole cup of coffee in one gulp, for example, insisting he wants a women who drinks coffee. "I think some of you may be wondering why he's making such a big deal out of coffee, but it's not your ordinary coffee," U.S.-based Korean blogger Jea Kim wrote at her site, My Dear Korea. (Her English-subtitled translation of the video is at right.) "In Korea, there's a joke poking fun at women who eat 2,000-won (about $2) ramen for lunch and then spend 6,000 won on Starbucks coffee." They're called Doenjangnyeo, or "soybean paste women" for their propensity to crimp on essentials so they can over-spend on conspicuous luxuries, of which coffee is, believe it or not, one of the most common. "The number of coffee shops has gone up tremendously, particularly in Gangnam," Hong said. "Coffee shops have become the place where people go to be seen and spend ridiculous amounts of money."

The video is "a satire about Gangnam itself but also it's about how people outside Gangnam pursue their dream to be one of those Gangnam residents without even realizing what it really means," Kim explained to me when I got in touch with her. Koreans "really wanted to be one of them," but she says that feeling is changing, and "Gangnam Style" captures people's ambivalence.

"Koreans have been kind of caught up in this spending to look wealthy, and Gangnam has really been the leading edge of that," Hong said. "I think a lot of what [Psy] is pointing out is how silly that is. The whole video is about him thinking he's a hotshot but then realizing he's just, you know, at a children's playground, or thinking he's playing polo or something and realizes he's on a merry-go-round."

"Human society is so hollow, and even while filming I felt pathetic." Psy hits all the symbols of Gangnam opulence, but each turns out to be something much more modest, as if suggesting that Gangnam-style wealth is not as fabulous as it might seem. We think he's at a beach in the opening shot, but it turns out to be a sandy playground. He visits a sauna not with big-shot businessmen but with mobsters, Kim points out, and dances not in a nightclub but on a bus of middle-aged tourists. He meets his love interest in the subway. Kim thinks that Psy's strut though a parking garage, two models at his side as trash and snow fly at them, is meant as a nod to the common rap-video trope of the star walking down a red carpet covered in confetti. "I think he's pointing out the ridiculousness of the materialism," Hong said.

(If you're wondering about the bizarre episodes in the elevator and with the red sports car, as I was, it turns out that those are probably just excuses for a couple of cameos by TV personalities, which is apparently common in South Korean music videos.)

None of this commentary is particularly overt, which is actually what could make "Gangnam Style" so subversive. Social commentary is just not really done in mainstream Korean pop music, Hong explained. "The most they'll do is poke fun at themselves a little bit. It's really been limited." But Psy "is really mainstreaming it, and he's doing it in a way that maybe not everybody quite realizes." Park Jaesang isn't just unusual because of his age, appearance, and style; he writes his own songs and choreographs his own videos, which is unheard of in K-Pop. But it's more than that. Maybe not coincidentally, he attended both Boston University and the Berklee College of Music, graduating from the latter. His exposure to American music's penchant for social commentary, and the time spent abroad that may have given him a new perspective on his home country, could inform his apparently somewhat critical take on South Korean society.

Of course, it's just a music video, and a silly one at that. Does it really have to be about anything more complicated? "If I hadn't seen that behind-the-scenes, I would have said he's just poking fun at himself," Hong said of the official making-of video, which is embedded at right. It's mostly of Park or Psy having fun on set, but at one point he pauses in filming. "Human society is so hollow, and even while filming I felt pathetic. Each frame by frame was hollow," he sighs, apparently deadly serious. It's a jarring moment to see the musician drop his clownish demeanor and reveal the darker feelings behind this lighthearted-seeming song. Although, Hong noted, "hollow" doesn't capture it: "It's a word that's a mixture or shallow or hollow or vain," he explained.

Kim seemed to feel the same way about the video, though it's so cheery on the surface. "He was satirizing more than just this one neighborhood," she told me. On her blog, she suggested the video portrayed the Gangnam area, a symbol of South Korea's national aspirations for prosperity and status, as "nothing but materialistic and about people who are chasing rainbows." Pretty heavy for a viral pop hit.

"I think it all ties back to the same thing: the pursuit of materialism, the pursuit of form over function," Hong said. "Koreans made extraordinary gains as a country, in terms of GDP and everything else, but that growth has not been equitable. I think the young people are finally realizing that. There's a genuine backlash. ... You're seeing a huge amount of resentment from youth about their economic circumstances." Even if Psy wasn't specifically nodding to this when he wrote the song and shot the video, it's part of the contemporary South Korean society that he inhabits. "The context is all of these tensions going on where Koreans are realizing where they're at, how they got there, what they need to do to move forward."

It's difficult to imagine that much of this could be apparent to non-Koreans, which Kim told me is why she decided to write it up on her blog. "I thought people outside Korea might take it just as another funny music video. So I wanted to explain what's behind [it] and the song." Still, is it possible that the video could have caught on for reasons beyond just its admittedly catchy beat and hilarious visuals? After all, Korean pop really does not seem to typically do well in the U.S., and this has gotten enormous. "It's kind of the first genuine pop-culture crossover from Korea," Hong said, noting it's "more in the American style." Maybe it's possible that, even if the specific nods to the quirks of this Seoul neighborhood couldn't possibly cross over, and even if the lyrics are nonsense to non-Korean speakers, there's something about obviously skewering the ostentatiously rich that just might resonate in today's America.

Whatever the case, Koreans seem to be proud of their first big musical export to the U.S., Hong said, noting that the Korean media has meticulously covered the video's tremendous reception here. "Koreans are definitely talking about it and pointing to it as a source of national pride." Maybe there's something relatable about Gangnam style.

--- 'Gangnam Style' lifeguards: Mayor calls for review of firings---

By Amanda Covarrubias
September 19, 2012
UVM: 19,550,000

El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero has called for an independent review into the firing of 13 lifeguards and their manager after they wore city uniforms to film a dance video in the city pool.

Their spoof, "Lifeguard Style," a spinoff of "Gangnam Style," the viral hit by South Korean rapper Psy, attracted global attention to the city of nearly 114,000 people. at At a packed meeting of about 300 people, supporters pleaded with City Council members Tuesday night to give the lifeguards their jobs back.

But Quintero and other city leaders said they didn't want to rush making a decision. The goal of a review, the mayor said, would be to get a "clear sense of what took place so this doesn't happen again. At the end of the day, our brand as a city has taken a big hit. We want to make sure we treat our employees with respect and dignity."

On their way home, many of the lifeguards who participated in the video posted on YouTube in August said they were not surprised.

"They need to review their policies and procedures because their policies are so vague," said Michael Roa, who came up with the idea for the spoof.

But after "tremendous feedback" from around the world, including more than 12,000 signatures collected for an online petition to save the lifeguards' jobs, he said "the public deserves a response as soon as possible."

So far, Councilman Bart Patel is the only city official to speak out in favor of the former employees.

Others, such as Councilwoman Vicky Martinez, said she wasn't ready to make decision on the matter. The review, she noted, is "necessary so this council can really come to an understanding of everything that's come to past. We want to move forward with our community in a positive manner. This isn't just affecting the 14 [lifeguards], but the whole community."

Jane Myring, 70, born and raised in El Monte, led the chorus of folks eager to see the college-age lifeguards regain their positions. During Tuesday's council meeting, as a bank of TV cameras zoomed in on her as the first speaker, she said, "We do dumb things and we don't think about it. ... I'm concerned for their professional life," adding she didn't want their chances of getting future employment at risk.

Other supporters talked about their sons and daughters who love going to the El Monte Aquatic Center. Cashiers are now trained for three days, then sent into the water to teach kids, replacing the lifeguards, according to Gabriel Gonzalez, the former pool manager.

He said he recently had a job interview, and "the first thing they asked me about was the El Monte situation. It's going to follow me wherever I go."

Yvonne Tam, a UC Santa Barbara student and former lifeguard, said she and her co-workers used the video "to finish off the summer with a fun activity we all could participate in."

Most of the fired lifeguards have won multiple awards from the same managers who let them go, including "Instructor of the Year" and "Rookie of the Year," she said.

Xavier Hermosillo, a political consultant from Los Angeles who has worked with El Monte leaders, said that after the firings he "immediately suggested they hire them back, pending an investigation."

"The city is the laughingstock of the nation," he said. "I told them, 'Be fair. Do the right thing.'"

Council members would not be pushed. Quintero promised that the review would focus on social media guidelines and steps involved in hiring and terminating staff. He did not detail how much time such an investigation would take.

"I have lived in El Monte my whole life, and for the first time ever, I'm ashamed of my city," said Angela Rodriguez, who along with her husband owns Flash Graphix, a printing and design firm.

Civic boosters should have used the video, with nearly 1.5 million YouTube views, for promotion, and they should "be proud" of the lifeguards, "instead of condemning them," she said.

"These employees were doing good, clean fun," said Sabrina Rodriguez, a senior at El Monte High School.

Gonzalez, the former lifeguard manager, is her cheerleading coach, and she and the squad came out Tuesday night, rooting loudly for him.

"He has devoted his whole life to us, and to fire these 14 amazing leaders is wrong," she said. "Absolutely wrong because you're leaving us youths with no one to look up to."

--- Psy Performs ‘Gangnam Style’ on ‘Ellen,’ Has No Idea Who Drake Is---

By Scott Shetler
September 20, 2012
UVM: 500,000

Korean pop star Psy continues to take over the world with his ‘Gangnam Style’ smash. This week, as he visited ‘Ellen’ to perform the song live, it was revealed that he didn’t recognize Drake when the Canadian rapper approached him at the MTV Video Music Awards.

XXL quotes Psy describing his encounter with Drizzy at the award show: “I was at the VMA and I was sitting down at the chair, and someone asked me, ‘Hey, how much your music video cost? Hey, who wrote the track?’ I said, ‘I wrote the track,’ and he said, ‘Oh, yeah? Wow.’ But I didn’t recognize who he was. And then suddenly when they announced, ‘The winner is Drake,’ and then he stands up, and he walks away. I was like, ‘Oh! Is that Drake?’ So Drake asked me something and I was like, ‘Who is he?’ Am I nuts? So after he came back, I said, ‘Oh, Drake, I’m so sorry.’”

The Korean star lived up to his “Dress classy and dance cheesy” mantra by showing up to ‘Ellen’ to perform the full song, just one week after he stopped by the show to teach Britney Spears how to do the ‘Gangnam’ dance. He danced with about a dozen backup dancers and rode his invisible horse into the audience, where the entire crowd bounced along.

After his previous performance on the ‘Today’ show, ‘Gangnam Style’ shot up this week from No. 64 to No. 11 on the singles chart and shows no signs of slowing down. While the track seems like a novelty hit, industry insiders believe Psy is no flash in the pan. He has been a K-Pop star for more than a decade, and Justin Bieber‘s manager, Scooter Braun, recently signed Psy to an American record deal.