Planking: The Organization of Random Humor

Planking, otherwise known as “The lying down game”, has evidently been around for a while but I just learned about it.  It’s totally absurd (a guaranteed hit with me) and involves lying down on one’s face in random, incongruous, often public places, and then holding a prescribed, rigid position with arms pressed against one’s sides, legs and torso stiff and straight, and fingers and toes pointed.

All very crisp and gymnastic, with just a hint of narcolepsy.

Eventually, players started taking pictures and posting them on Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and blogs, after which the game evolved into an internet fad.  A competitive element crept in…participants attempting to one-up each other with increasingly creative choices in locale, composition, theme, and scale of danger…which inevitably led to a couple of arrests and at least one tragic death.

Overall though, it’s another splendid example of the new, broad-based, spontaneous organizational power of the internet, a phenomenon that fascinates me.  (Think Arab Spring and flash mobs.)  There’s something about the way this group-mind communication spreads that vaguely reminds me of those huge flocks of birds all flying in unison, or the big schools of fish which turn and flash simultaneously.  I wonder if we humans are wired with a latent gene, too, directing us to coordinate and move together across vast numbers, but it wasn’t until the internet came along that this gene could finally “turn on.”

In any case, the comedy in play with this game is a mix of farce, slapstick, and nonsensism.  (Yes, there really is such a thing.  Look it up.)  And me?  I just call it delightful.

Here are a few of my favorite examples set to “One potato, Two potato…”  Enjoy.

One plank:

Two plank:

Three plank:


Beer plank:

Wedding plank:

Fast food:


Pole plank:

Fridge plank:

Chopper plank:


Sand plank:

Water plank:

Air plank:


Still haven’t had enough?  Well, just a few more then.  (But after this you’ll have to go to for satisfaction.)

Here’s the “For godsakes let’s keep a sense of humor men…” plank:

A couple of dead-pan bactrian comedians getting in on the game:

My arch enemy (oh if only…):

And an imaginative, not to mention bath-averse, dog:

Last but not least, here’s something from the country that came up with the fabulous name, Planking. It’s a newscast from Australia with a report on the phenomenon.  Those Aussies…I tell ya.  I really, really love their sense of humor.

(Planking has a Facebook page and a Wikipedia site.  People post their planking photos just about anywhere on the web and then various websites compile “best of’s”.  These particular photos came from Geekosystem’s The 65 Best Planking Pictures From Around the World.) 

copyright Dia Osborn 2011

Crisis in Paris: How Modern Telecommunication Technologies Saved The Day

Remember this?  Anyone?  Anyone?

(image by Stromcarlson)

Our daughter is in Europe as part of her post-college graduation celebration.  Should be wonderful, no?  Well, we all thought so during the six months of planning involved, but unfortunately the trip hit the rocks on the three-stage plane ride to Spain.

Beautiful Child of our Hearts planned all along to travel with a good friend who has a mild anxiety disorder.  This didn’t seem to pose a problem because, up until boarding the plane, Friend had always managed it successfully with meds.  However, all that changed with the prospect of hurtling approximately 12,000 miles through the sky in a giant toothpaste tube.  In spite of everything her pharmaceutical interventions had to offer, Friend still collapsed and wound up crying for the almost seventeen hours it took to get to Madrid.  Things were somewhat better on land, but by the time the two of them limped into Paris, Friend was experiencing a full-blown meltdown.  It was at this point we received the phone call alerting us to the fact that we now had a mental health/medical crisis on our hands.

Enter:  The godsend of modern telecommunication technologies.

I don’t remember now the exact sequence involved, but at the crescendo of the next three hours of crisis management we had myself in Boise, my sister in Seville, my wife-in-law in southern California, my nephew in southern France, Friend’s (frantic) father somewhere else here in Idaho, an airline phone representative who was God only knows where in the world, and of course our two, inexperienced travelers in a tiny, internet cafe/closet in Paris, all tied together by an intricate web of technology, working on the common goal of getting this fragile, at-risk, woman-child safely home.

Even in the midst of the major stress involved I was struck by how amazing it was; the bewildering complexity of communication taking place.  This was so not the world I grew up in.

We utilized telecommunications capabilities provided by Skype, Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, Telefónica, France Telecom, a couple of land-line phone providers, and whoever the telecommunications company is in Estonia.  There was a staggering array of computer and hand-held device makers involved as we all furiously worked online; talking to the girls, researching various train schedules and flight options, and firing notes and links off to one another through email and instant messaging capabilities.

Now, I’ve seen all the commercials.  I know that what we were doing barely scratched the surface of the mind-boggling communication possibilities available in today’s world.  But it was still amazing and miraculous and wonder-filled to me.  Twenty-seven years ago when I made my first trip to Europe, the only way to communicate en-route was with collect calls on an ancient system of randomly placed pay phones. Today’s situation would have been far more difficult (and terrifying) to negotiate back then.

My father-in-law regularly bemoans the way technology is taking over the world.  He feels that it’s gobbling up increasingly large chunks of our lives, smothering so many of the old pleasures that used to nourish our hearts and minds.  He thinks people should spend less time in front of a screen and instead get out in nature more, talk to each other more, read and attend lectures and go dancing more.  And he’s not wrong.  One of the modern disciplines we all need to develop is getting up out of the chair and walking away of our own volition.

That said, my daughter and her friend would have been in a lot more trouble than they were without all the advantages that have also come to us through technological developments.  There’s an old proverb that says something like Everything is both a blessing and a curse.  I think it’s always our job to reap the blessings while keeping an eagle eye out for the curses.

Long story short, together we found a way to get Friend onto a plane, out of Paris and…a mere twenty hours or so later…safely back home again.  Beautiful Child stayed behind in Paris, a little scared but stubbornly determined to see the city of her dreams anyway.  But finally, a bad case of bed bugs drove her out of the hostel in France and down to her aunt’s house in Seville for help with the infestation.  (A whole ‘nother episode of fiasco that deserves it’s own post.)  C’est la vie, no?

copyright Dia Osborn 2011