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International Internet Memes

Memes are ideas that gain life as they race around the internet. Anything observed, done, or created that makes people laugh or pay attention can be a meme, especially if they want to share it and build upon the idea. We've covered plenty of memes here at mental_floss, but that's only scratching the surface of the memes that pop up, proliferate, and die under our English-speaking radar. Yes, the same things happen in different forms in different languages, and luckily there are enough multilingual web publishers to give us a glimpse into those non-English memes, even if they don't catch on in the English-speaking world. Let's take a look at some of them, both old and new.

China: Dogs Wearing Pantyhose

You had to have laughed when you saw Dogs Wearing Pantyhose last week. The Chinese meme took off like wildfire after Weibo user Ulatang uploaded this picture of his dogs dressed in pantyhose. The sight was so ridiculous that others had to try it immediately, and uploaded more and more pictures. Dogs don't seem to mind, as the hose are not all that tight, and fluffy fur fills them out to a "womanly" shape. You can see more pictures here.  

Germany: The Bielefeld Conspiracy

German internet users started the Bielefeld Conspiracy (Die Bielefeld Verschwörung) in 1994 as a satire of conspiracy theorists. The idea is that the German town of Bielefeld does not really exist -as other towns do- but is an illusion cooked up by a secret government agency to cover up something nefarious. The original story was conceived by University of Kiel student Achim Held and a friend. The reasoning normally goes like this

Do you know anybody from Bielefeld?
Have you ever been to Bielefeld?
Do you know anybody who has ever been to Bielefeld?

Most answer no, but if someone answers yes to any of the questions, he is immediately suspected of being part of the conspiracy. The truth is, Bielefeld is a perfectly normal town of 300,000 people. The conspiracy was so bothersome to Bielefeld's city officials that they sent a rebuttal to the national press in 1999 insisting that Bielefeld is real. Unfortunately, it was published on April first, leading many to disbelieve it. In 2010, a group of students made a film based on the conspiracy. When the conspiracy theory is shared with forums that are unfamiliar with it, the reactions range from "Ha ha" to "It's a joke? That's what they WANT you think…" 

Kenya: Makmende

Not too long before the internet went global, the word "Makmende" became a slang term in Kenya that loosely translates to "badass." The word originated from the 1983 Dirty Harry movie Sudden Impact, in which Harry Callahan says the iconic line. "Go ahead, make my day." The name came to mean the toughest hero ever, even if he didn't exist, sort of like the mythic internet Chuck Norris, who has little relation to the actor or his roles. A sample of the jokes:

“After platinum, albums go Makmende”

“They once made a makmende toilet paper, but there was a problem: It wouldn’t take sh%t from anybody!!!”

“Makmende hangs his clothes on a safaricom line and when they dry he stores them in a flashdisk!”

Then in 2009, the character was given a face in a music video for the song “Ha-He” by Just A Band. The meme went wildly viral in Kenya, spawning multiple websites and image memes, such as this 10,000 shilling note.

Just A Band talks about their viral success in a video at CNN. And Makmende eventually got a page on English Wikipedia.

Russia: Preved Medved

Image by DeviantART member AlphaPrimeDX.

Preved Medved (ПРЕВЕД МЕДВЕД) translates to "hello bear," although the image is usually called "surprise bear" in English. The image meme (NSFW) was derived from the John Lurie watercolor titled Bear Surprise (NSFW), in which a bear surprises a couple having sex in the great outdoors. In 2006, Russians adopted the image for a variety of comic uses on the internet. Any situation can be improved with a surprise bear! In the 2008 Russian elections, the bear was doodled on many ballots, as a play on words because Dmitry Medvedev ran (and was elected) president. One of my favorite iterations is this crocheted Preved Medved.

Russia: Hardcore Chelyabinsk

A long-running joke in Russia is that the men of Chelyabinsk are hardcore: tough and cool under pressure, because life is hard in that industrial city. This came to light for the rest of us after the recent meteor in Chelyabinsk was recorded by numerous dashcams. We saw videos of an unknown flying object and a huge explosion, while the drivers sat in silence or muttered something in a calm manner. Just an everyday event? No, it was the famous Chelyabinsk demeanor. Watch a video example of men in Chelyabinsk having fun. Some Russian image macros give us the idea that Chelyabinsk women and even animals are pretty hardcore, too.

Japan: Mr. Baby

Sometimes memes cross international lines before they blow up into something big years later. In 2000, Allen Rout posted a picture of his baby son Stephen on his personal blog. Then sometime in 2004, the photo was used as the basis of an image meme on a forum in Japan. "Mr. Baby" (Aka-san) was Photoshopped and remixed into every conceivable setting, comic, and scenario. Stephen Rout turns 13 this year, and bears little resemblance to the image macros of his baby face that still circulate occasionally in Japan. The family, who discovered the meme in 2010, isn't bothered by it, as the jokes were all in fun.     

Japan: Mid-air Images

More recently, images from Japan have been circulating featuring two new memes that both take advantage of high-speed camera shots of participants jumping. Dragon Ball attack photos recreate battles from the Dragon Ball manga series, seemingly preferred by groups of girls. See more pictures here.

Quidditch photos are made by groups of boys recreating the game from the Harry Potter series, riding brooms through the air.

This is just a brief overview. If you have a favorite meme from a non-English speaking country, old or new, please let us know about it in the comments.

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Big Questions
What Could the Repeal of Net Neutrality Mean for Internet Users?
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What could the repeal of net neutrality mean for the average American internet user?

Zouhair Belkoura:

The imminent repeal of net neutrality could have implications for Americans beyond the Internet’s stratification, increased costs to consumers, and hindered access to content for all. Net neutrality’s repeal is a threat to the Internet’s democracy—the greatest information equalizer of our time.

With net neutrality’s repeal, ISPs could be selective about the content and pricing packages they make available. Portugal is a good example of what a country looks like without net neutrality

What people may not realize is that a repeal of net neutrality would also give ISPs the ability to throttle people’s Internet traffic. Customers won’t likely have visibility into what traffic is being throttled, and it could substantially slow down people’s Internet connections.

What happens when this type of friction is introduced to the system? The Internet—the greatest collective trove of information in the world—could gradually be starved. People who experience slower Internet speeds may get frustrated and stop seeking out their favorite sites. People may also lose the ability to make choices about the content they want to see and the knowledge they seek.

Inflated pricing, less access to knowledge, and slower connections aren’t the only impact a net neutrality repeal might have. People’s personal privacy and corporations’ security may suffer, too. Many people use virtual private networks to protect their privacy. VPNs keep people’s Internet browsing activities invisible to their ISPs and others who may track them. They also help them obscure their location and encrypt online transactions to keep personal data secure. When people have the privacy that VPNs afford, they can access information freely without worrying about being watched, judged, or having their browsing activity bought and sold by third-party advertisers.

Virtual private networks are also a vital tool for businesses that want to keep their company data private and secure. Employees are often required by their employers to connect to a VPN whenever they are offsite and working remotely.

Even the best VPNs can slow down individuals' Internet connections, because they create an encrypted tunnel to protect and secure personal data. If people want to protect their personal privacy or company’s security with a VPN [they] also must contend with ISP throttling; it’s conceivable that net neutrality’s repeal could undermine people’s freedom to protect their online safety. It could also render the protection a VPN offers to individuals and companies obsolete.

Speed has always been a defining characteristic of the Internet’s accessibility and its power. Net neutrality’s repeal promises to subvert this trait. It would compromise both people's and companies’ ability to secure their personal data and keep their browsing and purchasing activities private. When people don’t have privacy, they can’t feel safe. When they don’t feel safe, they can’t live freely. That’s not a world anyone, let alone Americans, want to live in.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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This Just In
For $61, You Can Become a Co-Owner of This 13th-Century French Castle
Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images
Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images

A cultural heritage restoration site recently invited people to buy a French castle for as little as $61. The only catch? You'll be co-owning it with thousands of other donors. Now thousands of shareholders are responsible for the fate of the Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers in western France, and there's still room for more people to participate.

According to Mashable, the dilapidated structure has a rich history. Since its construction in the 13th century, the castle has been invaded by foreign forces, looted, renovated, and devastated by a fire. Friends of Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers, a small foundation formed in 2016 in an effort to conserve the overgrown property, want to see the castle restored to its former glory.

Thanks to a crowdfunding collaboration with the cultural heritage restoration platform Dartagnans, the group is closer than ever to realizing its mission. More than 9000 web users have contributed €51 ($61) or more to the campaign to “adopt” Mothe-Chandeniers. Now that the original €500,000 goal has been fulfilled, the property’s new owners are responsible for deciding what to do with their purchase.

“We intend to create a dedicated platform that will allow each owner to monitor the progress of works, events, project proposals and build a real collaborative and participatory project,” the campaign page reads. “To make an abandoned ruin a collective work is the best way to protect it over time.”

Even though the initial goal has been met, Dartagnans will continue accepting funds for the project through December 25. Money collected between now and then will be used to pay for various fees related to the purchase of the site, and new donors will be added to the growing list of owners.

The shareholders will be among the first to see the cleared-out site during an initial visit next spring. The rest of the public will have to wait until it’s fully restored to see the final product.

[h/t Mashable]

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