my first facebook meme was also my first elvis meme

Es­ti­mated reading time is 5 min­utes.

BEING A DENIZEN OF FACEBOOK WORLD—es­pe­cially as an es­cape from the writing of the posts re­quired for three blog and working on a first novel (fi­nally!)I run across count­less im­ages where someone has taken a photo and over­laid text. Most of these im­ages seem to be ei­ther hu­morous or po­lit­ical, and often both. I call these im­ages jaypeg posters, but they’re more com­monly called In­ternet or Face­book memes. 1

I am un­com­fort­able calling them memes, but I’m def­i­nitely in the mi­nority and so might as well ca­pit­u­late to the masses now as later. An why am I uncomfortable?

“A meme is an idea, be­havior, or style that spreads from person to person within a cul­ture. A meme acts as a unit for car­rying cul­tural ideas, sym­bols, or prac­tices that can be trans­mitted from one mind to an­other through writing, speech, ges­tures, rit­uals, or other im­itable phe­nomena with a mim­icked theme.

Sup­porters of the con­cept re­gard memes as cul­tural ana­logues to genes in that they self-replicate, mu­tate, and re­spond to the se­lec­tive pres­sures that cause cells and or­gan­isms to mu­tate and evolve.” 2


The word meme was coined as a con­cept for the dis­cus­sion of evo­lu­tionary prin­ci­ples in ex­plaining the spread of ideas and cul­tural phe­nomena through melodies, catch-phrases, and fashion.


I first read about the con­cept of the meme (and it is pro­nounced meem) in the con­text of com­puter data and in­tel­li­gence, but it has passed into pop­ular use as a ref­er­ence to widely dis­trib­uted poster-like im­ages on the Internet—especially on so­cial media sites like Facebook.

I haven’t a clue as to what the most widely dis­trib­uted memes on Face­book are nor do I care. I know that cats are used in many memes and sports, so I found two here that I re­spond to. Both have made the rounds for years and have prob­ably be seen by mil­lions of people . . .



Great image: this photo of a cat al­most de­mands that we an­thro­po­mor­phize and read dis­taste and tru­cu­lence and an adamant at­ti­tude about some­thing into it. The image’s cre­ator saw a cur­mud­geon al­most proud of her surly at­ti­tude be­cause, well, she knows she’s right, damn it!



Base­ball fans tire of hearing non-fans ex­press their ig­no­rance through the tired ob­ser­va­tion that “it’s boring”that “nothing ever hap­pens.” This meme’s cre­ator took a kindly if con­de­scending at­ti­tude to the game’s naysayers with a smart, at­trac­tive image and an ef­fec­tive use of ty­pog­raphy. 3

Combinations of photo and text 

Of course, com­bi­na­tions of photo and text have been used in com­mer­cial ad­ver­tising for al­most a hun­dred years. I first be­came aware of a re­lated type of photo ma­nip­u­la­tion with Harvey Kurtzman’s Help! mag­a­zine. Pub­lished in the early ’60s as a rival to Mad Magazine—for whom Kurtzman had been the orig­inal ed­itor and writer and all-around in­spi­ra­tion in the early ’50s—these comic-book-like sto­ries using a black and white photo with comic book cap­tion bal­loons were known as fumetti.

I had as­sumed that these memes were la­bo­ri­ously cre­ated by people at home using Pho­to­shop or GIMP. I had no real in­terest in de­voting time and en­ergy to such a project. Someone alerted me to the fact that there are web­sites that allow anyone to create a meme within min­utes! I used IMG Flips’ Meme Gen­er­ator, which they bill as “the fastest meme gen­er­ator on the planet.”

It took a few min­utes to figure it out and a few min­utes to pro­duce my first meme. The most dif­fi­cult part of the op­er­a­tion is choosing the sizes of the im­ages and ex­per­i­menting with how they look on Facebook.



The third meme that I cre­ated was the first that I posted and it was po­lit­ical (of course). My second meme was also the second that I posted and it was aimed squarely at record col­lec­tors. I found an ap­pro­priate image of Little Richard’s first album (Spe­cialty SP-100, 1957) and added the text: all caps on top, upper and low­er­case on the bottom. This was my first rock & roll meme but it’s text was lifted from the first meme that I had cre­ated but not yet used . . .



My first Face­book meme was also my first Elvis meme (nat­u­rally) and I went with this great shot. Elvis was so damned fit and hand­some for his re­turn to live per­for­mance in Las Vegas during July and Au­gust 1969. There were many photos taken during his press con­fer­ence at the In­ter­na­tional Hotel (Au­gust 1), where he looked like some­thing out of a Jane Austen novel with the high stiff collar and the red scarf.

My ini­tial idea was a pic­ture of Elvis ser­e­nading the basset hound on the Steve Allen tele­vi­sion show in July 1956. Then I thought I’d go with some­thing in color and a little later. From 1967 through 1970, he went through sev­eral ‘looks,’ trying to find him­self in at­tire suit­ably his and of the period.

From 1971 through the rest of his life, photos of Elvis on stage were less dy­namic and there­fore less in­ter­esting to me. Also, 1971 more or less marks the be­gin­ning of the era once dep­re­cat­ingly re­ferred to as the “Jump­suit Years,” a term now em­braced by many fans. Decades later, I re­main in­ured to those images . . .



FEATURED IMAGE: There are many photos from the press con­fer­ence held at the In­ter­na­tional Hotel on Au­gust 1, 1969, but few of the color photos were large enough to be used for this article’s header image. No problem, as I find the black & white photos of Mr Presley usu­ally make for more ar­resting headers for anyway. Like this one!



1   My re­cent con­ver­sion to Dunning-Krugerism has made dealing with the denser denizens of that world easier and more man­age­able and en­joy­able. But that’s an­other story for an­other time (and an­other blog site).

2   The word meme is a short­ening of mimeme from An­cient Greek and means “im­i­tated thing” or “to im­i­tate.” It was coined by British evo­lu­tionary bi­ol­o­gist Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene (1976) as a con­cept for dis­cus­sion of evo­lu­tionary prin­ci­ples in ex­plaining the spread of ideas and cul­tural phe­nomena. Ex­am­ples of memes given in the book in­cluded melodies, catch-phrases, fashion, and the tech­nology of building arches. (Wikipedia)

3   When I launched my first web/blogsite Neal Umphred Dot Com, I in­tended to write a bit more about base­ball but have not been as ex­cited about the sport as I had thought I would be. I find that I re­main peeved that the players and owners al­lowed the Steroid Era to occur; the ex­tra­or­di­nary achieve­ments of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are for­ever tainted for me. That and the lack­luster per­for­mance of my two fav­erave teams, the Phillies and the Mariners have left me unmotivated . . .


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