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14 Regular People Who Became Memes

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You never know when your 15 minutes of fame might happen: you could star in a popular YouTube video, model for a frequently seen stock photo, or just happen to get noticed at your after school job. After Twitter user @auscalem posted a candid shot of "Alex from Target" last fall, the image went viral and the unsuspecting, 16-year-old employee became an Internet sensation. Alex's transition to the big time wasn't totally smooth sailing, but half a year later, he's embraced his newfound fame and is currently pursuing an acting career. ("I've been auditioning for movies and TV shows and stuff," he recently told J-14.) He turned out okay and so, for the most part, have the people-turned-memes below.

1. College Freshman

As a first-semester freshman, Griffin Kiritsy agreed to do an interview for Reader’s Digest, complete with a photo shoot on the UNH campus. “No big deal,” he said. “I can pose for a few snapshots.” The images ended up in other, pretty dry articles about freshman life and college finances. Then the Reddit community got their hands on the one that will forever be known as College Freshman, the inept and ill-informed young adult who is almost always killed while attempting new things on campus. In a Reddit chat, Kiritsy admitted that many of the memes mimicked his first year of college, saying “the laundry jokes, the bragging about parties I went to, and all of the dying ones happened to me.” He also reports that being a meme hasn’t had any real negative effects on his life: “I plan on being the College Freshman until ... I die.”

2. Suburban Mom

Carly Phillips is a romance novelist and mother of two kids (and a few pets). In May 2011, her author photo was appropriated for the Sheltering Suburban Mom series … a fact she only learned last year, thanks to a Redditor who posted a link on her Facebook fan page. When someone explained to her that her image was used to make jokes about uptight, hypocritical, and sometimes racist suburban mothers, Philips says her “initial reaction was horror and fury and hurt.” After she was told that the joke wasn’t about her, but about overly protective moms who don’t practice what they preach, Phillips said she felt a bit better about the whole thing. “I never want anyone who sees it to think that I, the real mom/person ... believes any of that stuff, especially the derogatory, inflammatory, prejudiced things in there.”

3. Skeptical Baby

In November 2011, Dave, Rhiannon, and their son Mason took a trip to the Museum of Natural Sciences, where they had some family photos taken by photographer Jarod Knoten. They came out so well that Dave posted one to Reddit. Within hours, Dave’s son Mason was the star of his very own meme. Skeptical Baby just can’t believe the things people with object permanence have to say about anything. The joke usually follows the “You mean to tell me…” format, but there are a few variations.

4. Sheltered College Freshman

Kerin Portillo is a model who lives in Bogota, Colombia. She was featured in a series of iStockphoto images portraying students in a library. A crop of one of these original pictures is the template for Sheltered College Freshman, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like.

Generally the captions are based on misunderstood slang and sexual innuendo, but occasionally they just reflect the surprise an eighteen-year-old might have at finding out how life actually works. A counter series called Sheltered No More features another shot of Portillo, this time seated at a bar in a red dress, which portray her as SCF’s polar opposite. Portillo participated in a Q and A on Reddit; she said that her Internet fame led to many more modeling opportunities in stock photos. 

5. Senior Freshman

Nola Ochs graduated from Fort Hays State University at the age of 95, setting a Guinness World Record and earning herself some coverage on most major media outlets. She went on to earn a masters in Liberal Studies at the age of 98, graduating alongside her own granddaughter. A picture of Ochs in class (captioned “Raises hand / ‘As a mother…’”) appeared on Quickmeme in July 2011. Since then, the world’s oldest college graduate has been Senior Freshman, an elderly woman who’s eager to learn but also intimately familiar with the last couple hundred years of history. (Like College Freshman, she often dies while participating in class.) To date, Ochs—who is now 103—has not commented on her Internet stardom and she is (probably) not on Twitter.

6. Success Kid

Little Sammy Griner wasn’t yet a year old in August 2007 when his mother, photographer Laney Griner, snapped a picture of him on the beach with a handful of sand. She titled it “Why I oughta…” on Flickr, and by January 2008 the picture was making the rounds on MySpace with the caption I Hate Sandcastles. It traveled all the way to a Russian Photoshop thread before finding its way to Advice Animals as Success Kid in January 2011. (For Success Kid, everything goes better than expected.) The image of Sammy is so popular that Virgin Media purchased rights to use it on billboards in the UK, and it later appeared in a commerical for Vitamin Water. Here he is at age 5:

7. Too Damn High

If your rent is too damn high, Jimmy McMillan is your guy. Or he would be, if you were a voting resident of New York in 2010, when McMillan was running for governor. His appearance at the Gubernatorial Debate that year was uploaded to YouTube, and that’s when the web discovered Rent is Too Damn High, the name of McMillan’s political party and meme, based on his oft-repeated catchphrase. Captions almost always follow the “X is too damn high!” format, but variations featuring words which rhyme with “high” tend to be popular, as well—“The end is too damn nigh,” for example.

Since becoming Reddit famous and bolstered by his presidential run (sadly, he did not make it on to any of the state's ballots), McMillan has spent his time singing with Occupy protesters, hanging out on campuses, and being parodied on Saturday Night Live. Sometimes he reminds people that the rent is too damn high. He attempted to run for governor again in New York's 2014 election but did not succeed. 

8. Hipster Barista

Dustin Mattson has placed in both regional and national barista competitions. He’s also the face of Hipster Barista, the haughty connoisseur of java and things that are not yet cool. Because it comes at the expense of respect for his career, Mattson isn’t exactly excited about his minor internet celebrity, as he revealed in an interview with Eater.com: “If anyone were to see me and my coworkers' work in the café, they'd see that it doesn't quite match up to most of the jokes made against the ‘Hipster Barista.’”

9. Ridiculously Photogenic Guy

Zeddie Watkins Little is a good-looking guy. But the shot taken during the 2012 Cooper River Bridge Run by computer programmer and self-taught photographer Will King, was a “total fluke,” Little says. After the photo took Reddit by storm, Little chatted with readers about his status as Internet celebrity. He admitted that he didn't hate the whole thing: “I have to say, I really enjoy being part of such a good joke.” He also showed up on Good Morning America with Will King to tell the story.

10. Skateboarding Professor

“Walking sucks, so I get there on my wheels.” That’s how Dr. Thomas Winter, a professor at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, explains why the skateboard is his preferred mode of transportation. While he says there’s nothing remarkable about the way he gets around campus, the Internet begs to differ. After Redditor tr0llzor posted a picture of the 68-year-old rolling to class, a meme was born. Winter admits that he finds the image captions’ "contemporary slang" confusing, and is further confused by the idea of memes in general—in an interview with Mashable, the professor thought he was being asked about Richard Dawkins’ genetic memes. He retired from his position in spring 2013. 

11. Angry Hipster Girl

It started a couple of years ago with a Halloween costume: “Birkenstocks with wool socks, jean shorts, tie-dye crop top, braided band in my hair and a prescription pair of glasses... It seemed only appropriate to grab a quick and silly shot of my costume before going out to party. The next day I posted it on Facebook and Flickr, and then forgot about it.” Kate Killet’s friend eventually forwarded a link to Quickmeme, asking if the picture was her. It was.

Since being branded Angry Hipster Girl, Kate says she’s been recognized by “lots of friends of friends and randoms I haven't talked to in years,” but hasn’t been approached by strangers about her memedom. Should you find yourself in the same situation, she has a bit of advice: “Enjoy your internet 5 minutes. Don't get mad or offended, the internet loves you. And turn off your Twitter and Facebook notifications, cus you'll get roughly a million.”

(Kate's official internet reveal is thanks to mental_floss reader Jenny Serwylo, who outed her friend in the comments of my earlier post.)

12. Baby Godfather

The image that started the Baby Godfather meme, which is exactly what it sounds like, was taken at a wedding in 2010. Redditor timekeepsgoing posted the picture of his son with a request to Photoshop the intimidating little guy into scenes from The Godfather. Timekeepsgoing keeps a scrapbook of the best images for his son.

13. Friendzone Johnny

Just about everyone has felt the pang of unrequited love, but almost no one has to live through it while the Internet laughs. Johnny Solis is the exception. In January 2012, he showed up at midnight to his friend Lizz’s house with flowers to wish her a happy birthday. She took a picture, posted it to Facebook with the caption “I am so blessed to have such great friends. Thank you sososoo much Jonathon!” Within hours, it was shared on Reddit and Quickmeme. The next day, Johnny identified himself on Reddit and did a Q&A in a bodybuilding forum. Later, he and Lizz changed their Facebook statuses to “married to” each other, but Johnny revealed that this was just a tactic to “get people off [their] backs.”

Though Johnny and Lizz apparently never got together, he seems to be taking the ordeal in stride, saying that becoming a meme makes him happy because “I became famous and more girls are talking to me.”

14. Vancouver Riot Kiss

Canadians are famously well-mannered, but after the Canucks lost to the Bruins in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, our neighbors to the north took to the streets to wreak havoc. Caught in the mayhem, Alexandra Thomas was knocked to the ground by shield-wielding riot police. Her boyfriend, Scott Jones, swooped in to comfort her; the kiss was caught by a photographer and on video from several angles, most of which included fire and riot police in the frame. The smooching couple were subsequently Photoshopped into scenes of extreme danger or inappropriateness, or in the background of other famous kissing scenes. There doesn't seem to be any information about where, or even if, the couple still kisses today.

Portions of this post appeared in 2012.

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8 Tricks to Help Your Cat and Dog to Get Along
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When people aren’t debating whether cats or dogs are more intelligent, they’re equating them as mortal foes. That’s a stereotype that both cat expert Jackson Galaxy, host of the Animal Planet show My Cat From Hell, and certified dog trainer Zoe Sandor want to break.

Typically, cats are aloof and easily startled, while dogs are gregarious and territorial. This doesn't mean, however, that they can't share the same space—they're just going to need your help. “If cats and dogs are brought up together in a positive, loving, encouraging environment, they’re going to be friends,” Galaxy tells Mental Floss. “Or at the very least, they’ll tolerate each other.”

The duo has teamed up in a new Animal Planet series, Cat Vs. Dog, which airs on Saturdays at 10 p.m. The show chronicles their efforts to help pet owners establish long-lasting peace—if not perfect harmony—among cats and dogs. (Yes, it’s possible.) Gleaned from both TV and off-camera experiences, here are eight tips Galaxy and Sandor say will help improve household relations between Fido and Fluffy.

1. TAKE PERSONALITY—NOT BREED—INTO ACCOUNT.

Contrary to popular belief, certain breeds of cats and dogs don't typically get along better than others. According to Galaxy and Sandor, it’s more important to take their personalities and energy levels into account. If a dog is aggressive and territorial, it won’t be a good fit in a household with a skittish cat. In contrast, an aging dog would hate sharing his space with a rambunctious kitten.

If two animals don’t end up being a personality match, have a backup plan, or consider setting up a household arrangement that keeps them separated for the long term. And if you’re adopting a pet, do your homework and ask its previous owners or shelter if it’s lived with other animals before, or gets along with them.

2. TRAIN YOUR DOG.

To set your dog up for success with cats, teach it to control its impulses, Sandor says. Does it leap across the kitchen when someone drops a cookie, or go on high alert when it sees a squeaky toy? If so, it probably won’t be great with cats right off the bat, since it will likely jump up whenever it spots a feline.

Hold off Fido's face time with Fluffy until the former is trained to stay put. And even then, keep a leash handy during the first several cat-dog meetings.

3. GIVE A CAT ITS OWN TERRITORY BEFORE IT MEETS A DOG.

Cats need a protected space—a “base camp” of sorts—that’s just theirs, Galaxy says. Make this refuge off-limits to the dog, but create safe spaces around the house, too. This way, the cat can confidently navigate shared territory without trouble from its canine sibling.

Since cats are natural climbers, Galaxy recommends taking advantage of your home’s vertical space. Buy tall cat trees, install shelves, or place a cat bed atop a bookcase. This allows your cat to observe the dog from a safe distance, or cross a room without touching the floor.

And while you’re at it, keep dogs away from the litter box. Cats should feel safe while doing their business, plus dogs sometimes (ew) like to snack on cat feces, a bad habit that can cause your pooch to contract intestinal parasites. These worms can cause a slew of health problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and anemia.

Baby gates work in a pinch, but since some dogs are escape artists, prepare for worst-case scenarios by keeping the litter box uncovered and in an open space. That way, the cat won’t be cornered and trapped mid-squat.

4. EXERCISE YOUR DOG'S BODY AND MIND.

“People exercise their dogs probably 20 percent of what they should really be doing,” Sandor says. “It’s really important that their energy is released somewhere else so that they have the ability to slow down their brains and really control themselves when they’re around kitties.”

Dogs also need lots of stimulation. Receiving it in a controlled manner makes them less likely to satisfy it by, say, chasing a cat. For this, Sandor recommends toys, herding-type activities, lure coursing, and high-intensity trick training.

“Instead of just taking a walk, stop and do a sit five times on every block,” she says. “And do direction changes three times on every block, or speed changes two times. It’s about unleashing their herding instincts and prey drive in an appropriate way.”

If you don’t have time for any of these activities, Zoe recommends hiring a dog walker, or enrolling in doggy daycare.

5. LET CATS AND DOGS FOLLOW THEIR NOSES.

In Galaxy's new book, Total Cat Mojo, he says it’s a smart idea to let cats and dogs sniff each other’s bedding and toys before a face-to-face introduction. This way, they can satisfy their curiosity and avoid potential turf battles.

6. PLAN THE FIRST CAT/DOG MEETING CAREFULLY.

Just like humans, cats and dogs have just one good chance to make a great first impression. Luckily, they both love food, which might ultimately help them love each other.

Schedule the first cat-dog meeting during mealtime, but keep the dog on a leash and both animals on opposite sides of a closed door. They won’t see each other, but they will smell each other while chowing down on their respective foods. They’ll begin to associate this smell with food, thus “making it a good thing,” Galaxy says.

Do this every mealtime for several weeks, before slowly introducing visual simulation. Continue feeding the cat and dog separately, but on either side of a dog gate or screen, before finally removing it all together. By this point, “they’re eating side-by-side, pretty much ignoring each other,” Galaxy says. For safety’s sake, continue keeping the dog on a leash until you’re confident it’s safe to take it off (and even then, exercise caution).

7. KEEP THEIR FOOD AND TOYS SEPARATE.

After you've successfully ingratiated the cat and dog using feeding exercises, keep their food bowls separate. “A cat will walk up to the dog bowl—either while the dog’s eating, or in the vicinity—and try to eat out of it,” Galaxy says. “The dog just goes to town on them. You can’t assume that your dog isn’t food-protective or resource-protective.”

To prevent these disastrous mealtime encounters, schedule regular mealtimes for your pets (no free feeding!) and place the bowls in separate areas of the house, or the cat’s dish up on a table or another high spot.

Also, keep a close eye on the cat’s toys—competition over toys can also prompt fighting. “Dogs tend to get really into catnip,” Galaxy says. “My dog loves catnip a whole lot more than my cats do.”

8. CONSIDER RAISING A DOG AND CAT TOGETHER (IF YOU CAN).

Socializing these animals at a young age can be easier than introducing them as adults—pups are easily trainable “sponges” that soak up new information and situations, Sandor says. Plus, dogs are less confident and smaller at this stage in life, allowing the cat to “assume its rightful position at the top of the hierarchy,” she adds.

Remain watchful, though, to ensure everything goes smoothly—especially when the dog hits its rambunctious “teenage” stage before becoming a full-grown dog.

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Animals
10 Juicy Facts About Sea Apples

They're both gorgeous and grotesque. Sea apples, a type of marine invertebrate, have dazzling purple, yellow, and blue color schemes streaking across their bodies. But some of their habits are rather R-rated. Here’s what you should know about these weird little creatures.

1. THEY’RE SEA CUCUMBERS.

The world’s oceans are home to more than 1200 species of sea cucumber. Like sand dollars and starfish, sea cucumbers are echinoderms: brainless, spineless marine animals with skin-covered shells and a complex network of internal hydraulics that enables them to get around. Sea cucumbers can thrive in a range of oceanic habitats, from Arctic depths to tropical reefs. They're a fascinating group with colorful popular names, like the “burnt hot dog sea cucumber” (Holothuria edulis) and the sea pig (Scotoplanes globosa), a scavenger that’s been described as a “living vacuum cleaner.”

2. THEY'RE NATIVE TO THE WESTERN PACIFIC OCEAN.

Sea apples have oval-shaped bodies and belong to the genus Pseudocolochirus and genus Paracacumaria. The animals are indigenous to the western Pacific, where they can be found shuffling across the ocean floor in shallow, coastal waters. Many different types are kept in captivity, but two species, Pseudocolochirus violaceus and Pseudocolochirus axiologus, have proven especially popular with aquarium hobbyists. Both species reside along the coastlines of Australia and Southeast Asia.

3. THEY EAT WITH MUCUS-COVERED TENTACLES.

Sea cucumbers, the ocean's sanitation crew, eat by swallowing plankton, algae, and sandy detritus at one end of their bodies and then expelling clean, fresh sand out their other end. Sea apples use a different technique. A ring of mucus-covered tentacles around a sea apple's mouth snares floating bits of food, popping each bit into its mouth one at a time. In the process, the tentacles are covered with a fresh coat of sticky mucus, and the whole cycle repeats.

4. THEY’RE ACTIVE AT NIGHT.

Sea apples' waving appendages can look delicious to predatory fish, so the echinoderms minimize the risk of attracting unwanted attention by doing most of their feeding at night. When those tentacles aren’t in use, they’re retracted into the body.

5. THE MOVE ON TUBULAR FEET.

The rows of yellow protuberances running along the sides of this specimen are its feet. They allow sea apples to latch onto rocks and other hard surfaces while feeding. And if one of these feet gets severed, it can grow back.

6. SOME FISH HANG OUT IN SEA APPLES' BUTTS.

Sea apples are poisonous, but a few marine freeloaders capitalize on this very quality. Some small fish have evolved to live inside the invertebrates' digestive tracts, mooching off the sea apples' meals and using their bodies for shelter. In a gross twist of evolution, fish gain entry through the back door, an orifice called the cloaca. In addition expelling waste, the cloaca absorbs fresh oxygen, meaning that sea apples/cucumbers essentially breathe through their anuses.

7. WHEN THREATENED, SEA APPLES CAN EXPAND.

Most full-grown adult sea apples are around 3 to 8 inches long, but they can make themselves look twice as big if they need to escape a threat. By pulling extra water into their bodies, some can grow to the size of a volleyball, according to Advanced Aquarist. After puffing up, they can float on the current and away from danger. Some aquarists might mistake the robust display as a sign of optimum health, but it's usually a reaction to stress.

8. THEY CAN EXPEL THEIR OWN GUTS.

Sea apples use their vibrant appearance to broadcast that they’re packing a dangerous toxin. But to really scare off predators, they puke up some of their own innards. When an attacker gets too close, sea apples can expel various organs through their orifices, and some simultaneously unleash a cloud of the poison holothurin. In an aquarium, the holothurin doesn’t disperse as widely as it would in the sea, and it's been known to wipe out entire fish tanks.

9. SEA APPLES LAY TOXIC EGGS.

These invertebrates reproduce sexually; females release eggs that are later fertilized by clouds of sperm emitted by the males. As many saltwater aquarium keepers know all too well, sea apple eggs are not suitable fish snacks—because they’re poisonous. Scientists have observed that, in Pseudocolochirus violaceus at least, the eggs develop into small, barrel-shaped larvae within two weeks of fertilization.

10. THEY'RE NOT EASILY CONFUSED WITH THIS TREE SPECIES.

Syzgium grande is a coastal tree native to Southeast Asia whose informal name is "sea apple." When fully grown, they can stand more than 140 feet tall. Once a year, it produces attractive clusters of fuzzy white flowers and round green fruits, perhaps prompting its comparison to an apple tree.

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