WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The Foie Gras Fountain is in Conference Room B

The free lunches and self-replenishing pantries of New York’s start-ups can occasionally bring to mind Cockaigne, the mythical medieval land where cakes grew on trees, meat pies rained from the sky and fish leaped from rivers to roast themselves and fly directly into waiting mouths. In one 13th-century French epic poem, “Huon de Bordeaux,” a paradisiacal river restores health and youth to all who drink from it. Today’s version? Coconut water.
The New York Times

Dear Employees:

We hope you’ve been enjoying the caviar station next to the copy center. As we complete our fourteenth round of venture capital funding, we are pleased to announce some additional workplace perks, to be added to the list outlined in the brochure you received during your month-long orientation at Nirvana All-Inclusive Beach Resort. We trust that you still have the brochure, since, like all of our corporate literature, it is made of gold.

Our on-site massage therapists will now be available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays. They will be joined by skilled aromatherapists, who will be able to customize the scent of your cubicle, along with audiotherapists, who will produce mood-relaxing nature sounds, live, with the power of their own voices. Please select your preferred natural environment when you next log on to our Intranet.

We’ve been told that the free housecleaning services we provide are not comprehensive enough to rid you of all your domestic worries and allow you to focus completely on your job. We want to make you feel like the office is an oasis — a magical land where mundane concerns disappear and Greek yogurt is plentiful. In addition to washing, ironing, and mending your clothes, our cleaners will be organizing your closets, selecting art for your walls, and cleaning out your refrigerators. They will also be selling your house, since why do you need it when you live at work?

Aside from the free haircuts we already offer in the lobby, personal groomers will be available to trim beards, apply makeup, replace your teeth with lower-maintenance implants, or perform basic outpatient surgical procedures, including the implantation of devices that will deliver low doses of caffeine, enabling you to keep working longer. In our new gym and spa, you may utilize the services of a free personal trainer, yoga instructor, or biogenetic engineer, who can turn back the clock on your aging cells and eliminate the need for sleep. Who’s up for a 3 a.m. meeting? There will be bagels.

There are free movie tickets in a dispenser outside the People Management office, along with complimentary admission vouchers to nearby skate parks, climbing walls, and ski slopes, all of which we own and allow you to fully multitask. Yes, that’s a workstation over by the water slide. We’re also proud to reveal our brand-new high-tech toilets. We’ll be analyzing all of your excretions and using the collected data to provide even better perks in the future. Are you getting enough fiber? We’ll be coming around with chocolate-covered prunes this afternoon.

The free matchmaking services we provide have led to dozens of marriages, performed for free on-site, yielding couples aligned with our corporate mission. Take your honeymoon on us, at our satellite office in the Caribbean, equipped with the newest videoconferencing equipment and — don’t worry — plenty of Greek yogurt. Our procreation bonuses and on-site child care allow you to start a family without leaving the workforce. Our pet-friendly offices will soon be filled with a variety of cuddly, easy-to-trust animals. Don’t worry, they aren’t watching you and reporting your activities to management. At least not yet.

Enjoy some more cookies from our friends at Stepford Drone Bakery. They’re delicious, and proven to suppress the hormones that might lead you to rebel. Could we trouble you to take a deep breath? You might feel a slight pinch. Don’t worry, you’ll wake up soon, and there will be a chef standing over you, offering you a lobster roll. How about a free T-shirt?

Cheers,
Your Vice-President of Cost-Benefit Analysis, Workplace Fun Division

Next Story — A Toddler’s Guide to the Perfect Vacation
Currently Reading - A Toddler’s Guide to the Perfect Vacation

A Toddler’s Guide to the Perfect Vacation

Vacations can be tough, I know. You see your parents packing your clothes into a suitcase and at first you think your whole world is about to change — new house, new family, maybe this is just what happens every summer, right? After all, you were only in your last place for nine months.

But then you hear them talking, and you realize they’re coming too. And, okay, that’s a good news, bad news kind of thing. Because maybe you would have gotten some totally awesome new parents who only buy the milk that has the chocolate in it and who are totally cool with giving you your own iPhone. But you also could have gotten people like those parents you saw in the playground, who didn’t really know how to push their kid in the swing. It was really sad. Poor kid.

Anyway, so you figure out you’re all going somewhere new for a few days, and, sure, that’s kind of scary, but think about it this way: sometimes it’s not so bad to get a break from the everyday routine. Enough of all that playing, sleeping, and eating — everyone can use a few days to scream all day, cry all night, and smear your poop all over the walls, if you know what I mean. (And what I mean is smearing your poop all over the walls.)

You need some time to let out your stress, release all of those pent-up emotions, be the toddler that nature intended. And when better to do all this than when your parents are off from work, want to relax, accidentally brought the wrong size diapers, and were forced to give a security deposit for the vacation house you’re renting?

(I know, who willingly hands over a security deposit when you have an uncontrollable toddler along for the trip? Sometimes parents can be so silly.)

So here are some tips for making your family vacation into a trip you’re going to remember, at least until you get to the age where you form permanent memories and your first couple of years disappear entirely from your brain, making your parents wonder why they bothered to expend all that money and energy!

1 — Hate the long car ride? Break it up into dozens and dozens of smaller trips!

Sure, your parents may be planning on doing that seven-hour ride from Pittsburgh to Chicago without stopping — but, wow, did they forget that you can’t even sit still in your high chair for the time it takes them to cut the crusts off your grilled cheese sandwich? (And no, for the last time, I don’t want the white cheese, just the orange cheese — and I don’t like bread anymore — and, you know what, I’m actually not even in the mood for lunch at all now that I think about it.)

They may not want to stop, but there are a lot of things you can do to turn that one, long, boring ride into seventy-four much, much shorter, excitement-filled, “quick, get into the exit lane or I’m divorcing you” panics. And I’m talking about stuff beyond just screaming as loud as any human has ever screamed before, which I know can get old after the first hour or two.

Like eating all of the food they brought for you, as quickly as you can — and then, well, they’ll either need to stop for more food… or to clean you, themselves, and the car seat.

Or, if you wiggle just the right way, you can loosen that diaper enough to wet yourself — and then they’re going to have no choice.

Even better, right before you leave for the trip, go grab your potty seat — yes, the potty seat you’ve been ignoring for weeks — and pretend to sit on it. Just to give them some hope you’ve figured this all out. And then leak through every diaper they put you in. It’s just more fun that way.

2 — A hotel room is only five minutes from becoming an exciting new playground

So you’ve finally let your parents get to the intended destination — but that doesn’t have to mean the fun ends. Yes, hotel rooms can be stifling, with their limited number of rolls of toilet paper to unravel and the small selection of remote controls. But that just gives you a chance to be creative.

Who says the pillows on the bed can’t be piled up to help you reach the top shelf of the closet, where you can pull down an ironing board and use it to make a just-waiting-for-your-head-to-crack-open slide from the sink into the bathtub?

Oh, wait, your parents said no? Come on, when did you begin taking no for an answer? Just start tearing pages out of the Bible in the top drawer of the nightstand and I bet they’ll get distracted long enough to give you the chance to climb on top of the air conditioner and start swinging from the curtain rod.

3 — The best way to get out of a museum is through the window

No one actually wants to go to museums — not even your parents. They’d like you to think they’re the kind of people who enjoy this boring stuff, but you know that left to their own devices they’d just be on the couch watching terrible reality television while inhaling a pint of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream they keep telling you is poisonous for kids (it’s not!).

They’re just waiting for you to save them from the stultifying exhibit on the history of patios, or all those sculptures that look like piles of dirty gray Play-Doh. They will thank you for trying to crawl out the window, I promise. Or at least I think I promise. And you might even set off an alarm — which is a bonus, of course.

4 — Hate the tour? Lead the tour!

Here’s a secret: no matter where a tour guide wants to take you, if you start walking somewhere else, someone is going to follow! (Or, if not, you’re going to have a whole different kind of adventure….) Don’t let yourself be limited by arrows, signs, lighted pathways, or peer pressure from your parents to quiet down and act like a civilized human being. If the nature preserve didn’t want kids to wander aimlessly through the forest, they would have cut down all the trees.

5 —Try new foods… or don’t!

Look, for some — maybe your parents, maybe not — one of the best things about going on vacation is the food. Trying new things, eating at fancy restaurants, or just gorging on ice cream four times a day. Some parents will encourage you to try new things, too. Others will plan for you to stick to the same things you love (or at least tolerate) at home. Either way, one of the best ways to make your vacation a great one is to completely subvert your parents’ expectations and make them scramble in response.

Did they bring bags and bags of your favorite cheese crackers? Then maybe all you want is to steal bone marrow and foie gras off the plates of every other diner in the expensive Paris bistro.

Or maybe you have the kind of parents who think it would be fun to put you in a high chair and hope you’ll try some sushi. Then, for you, it’s the specific brand of raisins that they only sell in the store near home — and nowhere else — or you’re not going to eat a bite. Demands like that are what keep your parents on their toes, and make life interesting — so don’t give in, no matter how many toys they try to bribe you with.


I can’t promise that these tips will make your parents stop forcibly attacking you with sunscreen — chief scourge of toddlers everywhere — but they should be able to turn even the most unfortunate vacation (Gettysburg? Why in the world would a two-year-old want to see Gettysburg?) into a perfect experience that you may only remember until next Tuesday, but your parents will never forget. Happy Travels!


If you like this piece, please click to recommend — thanks!

Next Story — It’s Not About Christmas, it’s Just About a Tree
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It’s Not About Christmas, it’s Just About a Tree

When a Jewish grandmother decides her Jewish grandson could be a little less Jewish


There are worse things when you have a baby than having a mother who was an elementary school teacher and spent her career acquiring and hoarding hundreds of children’s books. I remember helping her fill out monthly book club forms when I was a kid, picking the bonus books she would get as a reward for persuading her students to buy. I remember being dragged to warehouse sales at one publisher’s outlet store, where $5 bought you an empty cardboard box you could fill with whatever books and toys you could make fit, and $40 bought you eight of those boxes, a full trunk and back seat, and the realization when you got home that in the rush to grab faster than the other teachers, you had ended up with six copies of The Berenstain Bears Get Lost in a Cave (spoiler: they find their way out).

So it was no surprise after Micah was born that my mom showed up with a shopping bag filled with books, with the promise (threat?) of many more to come. Good books, bad books, activity books (“Is he ready for activity books?” she asked. “No, he’s three days old. His activities are eating and sleeping.” “But soon.” “Sure.”), books with companion fabric animals, and books that smelled like the cardboard boxes they had spent decades living in. I didn’t realize until having a baby just how many children’s books are about animals with psychological problems. Angry ants, anxious rats, sheep with low self-esteem, bears with body dysmorphic disorder. “I found this great book about cows,” she’d tell me. “I’ll bring it next time.”

“And I also found a couple of really beautiful books about Christmas.”


The rest of the conversation might have gone this way:

“That’s nice. You should give them to someone who celebrates Christmas.”

“You’re right. I should.”


Of course, if that was the rest of the conversation, I wouldn’t have any reason to write this piece.


“That’s nice. You should give them to someone who celebrates Christmas.”

“Come on, what’s wrong with books about Christmas?”

“We don’t need books about Christmas. We’re Jewish.”

“So?”

“So we don’t celebrate Christmas.”

“It’s not really a religious holiday.”

“No, I think it is.”

“One of the books is really just about a tree.”

“A Christmas tree.”

“It’s still a tree.”

“And the other one is about Jesus, but what’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing’s wrong with it, except that given a practically infinite number of children’s books, why do we need to read him books about holidays we don’t celebrate?”

“He should know about Christmas.”

“It’s hard not to.”

“Don’t you want him to be well-rounded?”

“I’m not sure reading about Christmas would make him well-rounded.”

“It’s a beautiful book.”

“I’m sure it is. So give it to someone who actually celebrates Christmas.”

“It’s too nice to give away.”

“It’s not a big deal. We’d just rather read him books about holidays we do celebrate.”

“Jewish books.”

“Sure.”

“They’re probably boring.”

“Maybe.”

“What about books about Valentine’s Day?”

“Valentine’s Day is fine.”

“It’s not a Jewish holiday.”

“It’s okay.”

“Easter?”

“No.”

“It’s not even about Jesus. It’s about eggs.”

“We don’t need books about Easter.”

“I bet if it was in Hebrew, you’d want it.”

“I don’t think there are too many children’s books about Easter written in Hebrew, but I also don’t think we want those.”

“You’re being very closed-minded.”

“There’s just no reason to read him books about celebrating holidays we don’t celebrate.”

“You said he got a book about Canada.”

“Canada is a country, not a religion.”

“So? You’re not Canadian.”

“Just give the books away. It’s fine.”

“I’m not just going to give books away.”

“You could give them away in the spirit of Christmas.”

“I don’t think Christmas is about giving nice books like these away to strangers.”

“Then what is it about?”

“According to this one book, it’s really just about a tree.”


In conclusion, my mother wishes you a Merry Tree Holiday, especially if you’re Canadian.

Next Story — Son, my smartphone isn’t actually attached to my hand
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photo by davelawler (flickr/creative commons)

Son, my smartphone isn’t actually attached to my hand

A letter to my month-old child

Dear Son,

I know you’re still getting used to this world, and everything is brand new. Your eyes are just beginning to focus and see the things and people around you. I have some news that’s going to seem confusing, but I wanted to tell you now, before too much time passes. My smartphone — the very device on which I’m writing this letter, in between candid photos I’m trying to snap every time your face contorts into something that looks a tiny bit like a smile — is not actually attached to my body, but is in fact something I am able to let go of, even though you’ve never seen me do that.

I’m sure you can understand that a lot of the time, my smartphone is a really useful thing to be holding while your mommy and I are taking care of you. See, you’re often sleeping, and as fascinating as it is to watch you sleep, I also like checking my e-mail, reading people’s status updates on Facebook, and finding coupon codes to help us save up to 20 percent on diapers, wipes, and other things I never expected to be spending so much money on. Like blankets. You have a lot of blankets.

It’s also nice to be able to instantly read frightening message board posts that sort of but don’t quite answer every question I have about your care. Are the hiccups dangerous? JunkieMama426, loyal community poster on BabyCenter, thinks they might be, and that’s good enough to scare me into forty-five more minutes of research. How else could I read abstracts of journal articles I don’t understand while also swaddling you in one of your many blankets, if I weren’t constantly holding my smartphone?

Oh, I think that was a half-smile. Or gas. If it was a smile, can you do it again? I paused my game of Letterpress and switched back to the camera app, so I’m ready. I’m zoomed in right on your face, so this would be a great time to half-smile again. No, no, half-smile, not nostril flare. Don’t worry, we’ll practice when you’re awake. Oh, no, the clicking of the shutter sound just woke you up. I keep meaning to see if there’s a way to turn the camera sound off without muting the phone. I should Google that. Good thing I have my phone right here, so I can do that now.

I hope you stop darting your eyes away from mine. I just read an article in the New York Times saying that could be a sign of autism. I read it while changing your diaper. I used to be able to maintain eye contact, I promise. Don’t learn from me. Just because my eyes keep switching between your face and this video on YouTube of a baby I don’t even know doing something that isn’t even that cute doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep looking at me. I need you to keep looking at me so I get a good picture to send to your grandparents. Oh, I think your grandparents are calling. I guess I’ll finish catching up on missed tweets a little bit later. Don’t worry, I can easily scroll through Twitter while I burp you.

Yes, my left hand looks like a mirror image of my right one, just like yours, even though you’ve never seen it when it’s not holding my smartphone. And, yes, even though you won’t fully understand object permanence for months (according to an article I read while giving you a bath), I should by my age understand that if I put my phone down, it won’t disappear, and it will still be there after you go to sleep. All of my e-mails will still be there, everyone’s Facebook status updates will still be there, and I will still be able to watch a video of a laughing turtle.

What did parents do before smartphones? I don’t know. Maybe I should Google that question and see what JunkieMama426 thinks. Oh, you’re reaching for the phone? You want to check your e-mail, too? Sorry, no screen time until you’re two. It’ll prevent you from becoming too distracted. Wait, where did I put your blanket? Whatever, I’ll just order you yet another one from Amazon. Done, it’ll be here tomorrow.

I love you, and you look adorable through this Instagram filter. Don’t move. Okay, now move, because I think it’s a bad thing if you’re not moving. I should Google that. Okay, good, you made a move. Terrific. And so did my Letterpress opponent, so I should probably get back to that.

Sweet dreams,
Daddy

Next Story — All your memes are belong to us
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Such meme. Very wow. (Illustration by Harry Malt for The Washington Post)

All your memes are belong to us

The top 25 memes of the web’s first 25 years

By Gene Park, Adriana Usero and Chris Rukan

For more of The Web at 25, visit The Washington Post.

Memes didn’t begin with the Web, but you’d be forgiven for thinking so. The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins coined the term in his 1976 book, “The Selfish Gene,” to describe something that already existed. A meme, from the Greek “mimeme” (to imitate) was “a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation.” This encompassed phenomena from Martin Luther’s “95 Theses” to the famous graffiti drawing “Kilroy Was Here,” which dates to the beginning of World War II.

But the Web has proved to be the most fertile ground, and the site Know Your Meme has confirmed more than 2,600 of them. Below, 25 definitive memes from the Web’s first 25 years.

[1] Dancing Baby

1996: Considered the granddaddy of Internet memes, the baby shuffling to Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” filled inboxes and prime-time airwaves, appearing in several episodes of “Ally McBeal.” The file was originally included with early 3D software. LucasFilm developers modified it before it was widely shared, and it was finally compressed into one of the first GIFs.

[2] Hampster Dance

1998: Proving that GIFs were meant for stardom, a Canadian art student made a webpage with 392 hamster GIFs as a tribute to her pet rodent. The infectious soundtrack was a sped-up, looped version of “Whistle Stop” by Roger Miller.

[3] Peanut Butter Jelly Time

2001: A Flash animation featuring an 8-bit dancing banana, “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” became an Internet phenomenon in the early 2000s. The catchy song was written and performed by the Buckwheat Boyz, a rap group.

[4] All Your Base Are Belong to Us

2001: A meme that would echo across the gaming community for years to come, “All your base are belong to us” originated in a cut scene in the Japanese video game “Zero Wing.” The poorly translated quote has persisted as an Internet catchphrase.

[5] Star Wars Kid

2002: Arguably the first victim of large-scale cyberbullying, Ghyslain Raza unwillingly became a meme based on a video of him swinging a golf ball retriever as a weapon, reminiscent of Darth Maul in “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.” It was an early sign that Internet privacy was not guaranteed for anyone.

[6] Spongmonkeys

2003: Before they became spokesthings for Quiznos, two singing Spongmonkeys catapulted to viral stardom after being featured in a newsletter for b3ta, an early link- and image-sharing site. Their opening line: “We like the moon.”

[7] Numa Numa

2004: The eyebrow lift. The arm pumping when the beat drops. The song (by Moldovan boy band O-Zone). Gary Brolsma, sitting at his desk, showed us all what it means to “dance like no one’s watching.”

[8] O RLY

2005: Originating on the community site 4chan, the wide-eyed owl was used to show sarcasm, becoming a precursor to other reaction memes.

[9] Chuck Norris Facts

2005: Chuck Norris was the Internet’s first “most interesting man in the world,” crowned the avatar for mythical men with impossible strength, attitude and swagger. “There is no theory of evolution,” as one “fact” says. “Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris allows to live.”

[10] I Can Has Cheezburger?

2007: Animal-based memes are a dime a dozen, but the “I Can Has Cheezburger” blog, whose mascot is a surprised, hungry British shorthair cat, brought them into the mainstream. The blog was created by Eric Nakagawa and Kari Unebasami.

Rickroll and Deal With It collide to form an uber-meme

[11] Rickroll

2007: Before there was clickbait, there was the Rickroll. Popularized on 4chan, the gag — springing a Rick Astley video on an unsuspecting victim — has appeared during a session of the Oregon legislature and even on the White House’s Twitter feed.

[12] Success Kid

2007: Based on a photo that Sammy Griner’s mother, Laney, posted to Flickr when he was 11 months old, the meme describes something that goes better than expected. In 2015, Sammy’s fame helped his family raise more than $100,000 to offset the costs of a kidney transplant for his father, Justin.

[13] Dramatic Chipmunk

2007: A simple, five-second video clip of a chipmunk — ahem, actually a prairie dog — suddenly turning its head, from the Japanese TV show “Hello Morning.” The maneuver is set to an exaggerated bit of music from 1974’s “Young Frankenstein.”

[14] Philosoraptor

2008: This portmanteau meme was an early example of an “advice animal,” depicting the vicious dinosaur deep in introspection, and pondering wordplay and life’s general paradoxes.

[15] Deal With It

2010: In this GIF, sunglasses slide onto a smug canine’s face. It was around as an emoticon on the SomethingAwful forums for a while, then became a meme when the site Dump.fm held a contest encouraging users to create their own versions, with sunglasses sliding onto various faces and objects.

[16] Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife

2010: “So y’all need to hide your kids, hide your wife and hide your husband ’cause they’re raping everybody out here,” Antoine Dodson emphatically told a TV reporter after an intruder attempted to assault his sister. The clip spread quickly on YouTube, leading to Auto-Tuned versions and remixes.

Nyanyanyanyanyanyanyare you going insane yet?

[17] Nyan Cat

2011: The combination of an animated 8-bit cat (originally dubbed “Pop-Tart Cat”) with the insanely catchy tune “Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya!” blew up on YouTube, becoming the site’s fifth-most-viewed video of 2011 and inspiring fan illustrations, designs and games.

[18] Ermahgerd

2012: Originally uploaded as “Gersberms . . . mah fravrit berks” and later “BERKS!,” the text superimposed on this meme mimics the garbled speech of a person with a retainer.

[19] Bad Luck Brian

2012: Takes goofy yearbook photo. Gets face plastered all over the Internet. His real name is Kyle Craven, and he’s Internet famous thanks to his friend Ian Davies, who uploaded the photo to Reddit with the text “Takes driving test . . . gets first DUI.”

[20] Grumpy Cat

2012: The original photo of Tardar Sauce (that’s her name) racked up 1 million views on Imgur in its first two days. The meme has since spawned books, a comic book, an endorsement deal with Friskies cat food and a made-for-TV Christmas movie, “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever,” with Aubrey Plaza voicing Grumpy Cat.

[21] Ridiculously Photogenic Guy

2012: Uploaded to Reddit on April 3, the photo of the handsome runner quickly garnered 40,000 upvotes. Derivatives include Ridiculously Photogenic Metalhead, Ridiculously Photogenic Syrian Rebel, Ridiculously Photogenic Prisoner and Ridiculously Photogenic Running Back.

[22] Doge

2013: In February 2010, a kindergarten teacher in Japan uploaded pictures of Kabosu, her adopted shiba inu, to her personal blog, and a meme was born. It usually features broken English phrases in the comic sans font, representing an inner monologue.

[23] Crying Michael Jordan

2014: The basketball great got a little emotional during his 2009 Hall of Fame induction speech. Around 2014, meme-makers started using an Associated Press photo, superimposing Jordan’s face over failures of all sorts.

[24] Ice Bucket Challenge

2014: While the origins of this one are unclear — people have been doing cold-water challenges for years — the results weren’t. The ALS Association raised more than $100 million in a month, compared with $2.8 million over the same period the previous year.

[25] Left Shark

2015: During the Super Bowl XLIX halftime show, Katy Perry performed with two dancing sharks. One shark stuck to the routine. The other, well, did his own thing — and became an Internet sensation.

And if you’re not over memes like the Internet isn’t over Harambe, we’ve compiled a Spotify meme-themed playlist for you to follow and take with you on the go.

Did we miss your favorite internet meme? Tell us about it — and why it’s so great — in the comments.

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