Pop culture sneaks up on me all the time. It’s a lot like that stock scene from a horror movie: a woman in a nightdress is in the bathroom, about to wash her face, when she thinks she hears something. She goes into the other room and looks around anxiously, the music swells – oh, what a relief! The dog just tipped over his dish! She goes back into the bathroom and begins to wash her face, only to look up and see the killer in the mirror, directly behind her. That’s how pop culture usually happens to me, except the “false alarm” sound is Wacky Wanda having a breakdown in the hallway and the killer is a Justin Bieber bobblehead. (The nightgown is accurate.)
So, I’m being intentionally vague about What Exactly My Shitty Temp Job Is, because it would be extremely inconvenient to be fired at the moment. Broadly, it involves testing mobile phone apps to see if they work. It doesn’t matter if they’re crappy or not – that’s a different department – but they have to “sort of work.” Now, until recently, I also tested them for general offensiveness (they clearly did not go over my resume too carefully), but that’s gone to another department now too.
[UPDATE LOL JUST GOT LAID OFF TEN MINUTES AFTER WRITING THIS POST REPEAT LOL]
So, one day very shortly after I’d started working there, I had a mobile phone app that was full of Polish comics. I had to translate them “by hand,” meaning typing what was on the screen into Google Translate on the computer. The swears were, hilariously, in English a lot of the time, so there was a lot of “wdzlwzldwdlzw FUCK wdzrlzdswl v TIT wldzdlsrmt.” The universal language, or something.
I was FASCINATED by these comics. They were all strange and full of non sequiturs, and since I was only getting a rough translation they were especially mysterious. I was especially fascinated by this one:
Google doesn’t know what “yyy” means but the rest of it is roughly:
“Do you know where Iza lives?”
“Next to Agatha.”
“And where does Agatha live?”
“Next to Iza.”
“And where do Iza and Agatha live?”
“Next to each other.”
I think you can probably just puzzle out the English.
I was (and remain) absolutely fascinated by this, and thought I had this secret window into the Polish mind or something. I wanted to know more about this odd world, where tiny blonde women approach red-haired women with massive Slavic jaws and aggressive yellow post-Soviet tits for help with directions, and the red-haired post-Soviet-titted women are so obstructive that they literally cause the smaller women to become deformed.
I wanted to know where the background photo was taken. I wanted to know why the artist decided that Soviet Tits should be making that exact curled-finger gesture in the third panel. I wanted to know if yellow eyeshadow is all the rage in Krakow. I wanted to know if Agatha and Iza hired Soviet Tits to frustrate Little Blonde, who is a bill collector or something. I wanted “Fuck Yea” to appear in foot-high red letters every time I succeeded. I was ready to go back to school and design my own major, “Figure Out This Fucking Cartoon.”
I showed it to Giant Camel:
“See, I think if I can just figure this out, I can understand the Polish mind, and then maybe that will help me understand the Russian mind, and then… not to oversell this, but I think if I figure out this comic I might be able to bring about world peace. No pressure.”
“Chris, do you understand that this is a rage comic, a fairly common internet meme?”
“… It is not. It is the Rosetta Stone of eastern Europe.”
“Remember lolcats? This is what those people moved on to.”
“But… but I was going to save the world!”
“Well, sorry. Hey, when’s dinner?”
This disappointment had the side effect of making me fascinated with rage comics. I don’t understand them at all. It’s like that one concept in school you never quite got:
“And so to diagram that sentence, the gerund phrase goes on crow’s feet…”
“See, a cotangent repeats and is not bound between negative one and one…”
“The supply curve…”
GAH. If rage comics were a person, they would be a drunk Vanuatuan woman I met once. All yelling at each other in our mutually bad French, I’m making sure there’s nothing between me and the door…
I Wikipedia’d them and, allegedly, some people are using them to teach English, “because the expressions are so recognizeable.” Bullcorn, bullcorn, bullcorn. Some people may well be using them to teach English, but they’re doing it to be able to say xX LOL RAGECOMIX IN CLASS LOL Xx, not because they help.
This face, according to internet, is called “me gusta.”
- The man in the moon has just eaten a bad fig
- An overweight ghost
- Sean Payton watching a losing game
- Anyone remotely pleased by, about or on behalf of anything
I’ll grant that this face looks irritated, but is that the only emotion you want your ESL students to be able to communicate? “Aujourd’hui, je me sens, uh… irritated, aggravated, annoyed, piqued, dismayed, frustrated, world-weary.”
I think this is supposed to be schadenfreude. Have fun explaining that to a roomful of Somali immigrants. Also, this is clearly not schadenfreude, but the smirking, hungry face of Death.
I’ll close by saying that, in preparation for this post, I had to find the original comic online, which took forever. I needed to translate a lot of the website interface, and in looking for help with Polish words I found a website that listed “Polish names, names of the months, and common causes of death.” Oh, those merry Poles.
Oh, and here’s what they think about breakfast: