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Starts With A Bang

Weekend Diversion: Norway vs. Kenya

The greatest international internet meme war dates back to 2005. Many brave pixels were wounded.

“I didn’t know any successful actors in Kenya, so I felt like I could get away with going to college to study film more easily than I could with saying, ‘I want to be an actor.’ That’s what I did.” –Lupita Nyong’o

But long before Lupita Nyong’o became a wonderful success, or even before Barack Obama was elevated to national prominence, Kenya was most well-known around the internet for a flash video that took the world (and our hearts) by storm in 2005: Only In Kenya! (YouTube versions below.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=en3PZ09fue8

Now, like many viral, early flash videos, this one had all the hallmarks of brilliance:

  • a repetitive, catchy soundtrack that looped,
  • some ridiculous, memorable and funny animations, and
  • a handful of throwaway jokes that maybe were the best parts of the entire video!

This led to a number of tributes, re-enactments and spoofs, of course. Some of my favorites are the remixed animation (that correctly points out that there are no tigers in Kenya)…

The live re-enactment of the video, complete with awesome costuming…

And the unforgettably adorable video of Japanese children singing it, while acting it out with hand gestures and body movements that would put any adult to shame.

But I know what you’re thinking.

What about Norway?!

Yes, the song told us to “forget Norway,” but what an unfairly maligned country!

Image credit: screenshot from the original flash video at http://www.weebls-stuff.com/songs/kenya/.

What did Norway ever do to Kenya to warrant being peed on by Kenya? (Okay, there was actually one terrible example, but that was much later!)

Well, the Kenya video may have gone viral and then slowly died down in popularity, fading into relative obscurity by today.

Image credit: Google Trends / KnowYourMeme, via http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/only-in-kenya.

But something that was never popular was mentions of both Norway and Kenya, with (I’m pretty sure) the only interest outside of Kenya — which might account for most of this — coming from me in the United States.

Image credit: me, screenshotted from Google Trends.

But why would I be so interested? Because there was a totally under-popularized video that is hilarious where two Norwegians actually made a flash video response, about why Norway is better than Kenya!

It didn’t exist anywhere on YouTube (and the video/audio sync was pretty bad), so I did my best to sync it up and posted it; have a listen.

And while this video might not ever truly “make it” the same way the Kenya video did, at least it gets its own Japanese elementary school classroom singing about it!

I honestly don’t know which country I’d like better, but I am completely confident that we need more internet videos of countries bashing and taunting one another for no reason.

Travel the Universe with astrophysicist Ethan Siegel. Subscribers will get the newsletter every Saturday. All aboard!

Is that too much to ask for? (Note: Kenya and Norway are actually friends and allies with one another, and should be.)

I hope this entertained you as much as it did me, and if not, at least you ought to join me tomorrow (and all of next week) for more wonders and joys of the Universe!


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