Verbally Described: Memes
Season 0, Episode 1
Eulogy for Longcat - Episode Notes
Know Your Meme Longcat: https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/longcat
Know Your Meme tacgnoL: https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/tacgnol
@CapacityLung’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/CapacityLung/status/1307595393929285632?s=20
Interviewee: Savannah Jubic
Host: Wesley Lethem
Mixing, Engineering: Sound Service
Notes: On September 20th, Longcat died. This wasn’t supposed to be my first podcast episode but it’s the first one you’re going to get. RIP in peace Longcat
Longcat died yesterday.. Do you remember Longcat
Not really… No
Get out of here
Get out of here!
I can’t remember it!
The meme! That’s longcat
I’ve seen that, I don’t know if that would have ever come to mind
You didn’t know it was called longcat?
All cats are long cats
That’s very true
This is Verbally Described memes, a podcast series where I investigate and critically analyze memes, their history, their function, and their position in society. We’ll take a look at memes up close and personal while also stopping to check out the mile high view.
My name is Wesley Lethem and I’ve grown up online. This feels like AA, but being born in the early 90s, going online has defined who I am and has fundamentally changed my experience growing up. And longcat, had a lot to do with that.
I wasn’t planning on starting out my podcast with a eulogy, but yesterday Longcat the meme legend died. At 18 years old. For those of you who don’t know Longcat is an image of a person holding up a white shorthair cat. There is a racing poster, wood paneling in the background, a banner with japanese characters on it. All in all a pretty typically living room. But what is exceptional about this cat is that it is VERY long. Most likely it’s just due to how the cat is held with hands cusping it’s upper shoulders and letting the rest of its body drape downward. But given that, people were inspired to create photoshops and an entire mythology surrounding this cat that just got posted online.
In doing research for this episode, I found out a lot of things. Well first and foremost, Longcat's name isn’t longcat, it’s Nobiko. And even knowing that information honestly it’s going to be really hard for me to think of Longcat as anything but Longcat. I know longcat almost more so out of the derivations that came out of the photo than the photo itself. Come to think of it, it’s kind of crazy to think how many times I’ve actually just seen the original image, unaltered.
If I compare that to how many times I’ve seen cartoon depictions of Longcat, Longcat stretched to increase that lengthy body, Longcat photoshopped into a cityscape hovering down from the heavens like some ineffable deity, it’s astounding. But that’s how memes go, don’t they? It’s the evolution and modification of what gets posted online that really defines what memes are, at least from my point of view.
The Longcat meme came about in the heyday and massive expansion of memes about cats, or lolcats. And while lolcats as a topic is much too broad to cover in this episode, Longcat was one of the defining icons of this era of proto-internet memes. I remember threads on image boards like 4chan where people would break up Longcat into different pictures, continuously posting and reposting the middle section in order to extend the length of Longcat to fill entire pages, each new post adding some other photoshopped addition of internet culture ephemera.
And while "nostalgic" is far from the first word that comes to mind when I think about image boards like 4chan, it does come to mind for Longcat. There’s something so wholesome and endearing about finding an entire community of people online who could share this adoration that you had for an image of a particularly long cat. I loved when I got home from middle school, logged into the family computer, and could see some new Longcat photoshop alongside ceiling cat and the other early meme icons hosted on content aggregators like FunnyJunk.com.
There was one particular photo posted on Friday Febuary 23rd, 2007 on 4chan’s random board, /b/. A quick aside, I don’t recommend anyone go to this place, as it’s a vile swamp. One that I’m unfortunately familiar with and spent a considerable amount of time on before I truly understood and made a conscious decision to never frequent again. But there is no denying that out of the repulsive and fascinating primordial goo that is 4chan, most early internet memes evolved. And because of it being the origin of the content I was seeing, content that was stolen and reposted on the aggregator sites, it was an extremely tantalizing destination on the internet. But, more on that in a future episode.
Back to this thread, Friday February 23rd 2007 the text “In a few hours, the prophecy will be complete” was posted by anon. The text references the coming Saturday, or as it was known in the mid-2000s online, Caturday. A holy day filled with observational posting of cute and funny cats. Along with this text was an image that depicted a cityscape, with Longcat on the right shown as if it was descending from the heavens with angelic glow, photoshopped to be thousands of feet tall. On the left, was a shadowy counterpart to Longcat, tacgnoL replete with jet black fur, waspy black tendrils and smoke seeping out of this evil being.
This post was the genesis of what was later known as, Catnarok. This was a saga that pitted Longcat against tacgnoL as was the benevolent deity who endeavored to protect the world from the wanton destruction of it’s black, malevolent, counterpart in every way. Tacgnol is Longcat spelled backwards, by the way, something that reads a bit easier in text as the L is maintained as the capital letter.
Catnarok was an exceptional time for content creation. It synthesized all of the contemporaneous memes into one mythology. An example of this would be an image of the default desktop background for Windows XP, with ceiling cat photoshopped in the sky, stating that Catnarok is nigh with a response being in the form of the O RLY owl in the bottom left.
Longcat, Nobiko, meant a lot to millions of people, me included. Way more than her kitty cat brain could ever comprehend. In reality, she was xx cm long but in our hearts, and through memes she extends on to this day.
In the show notes I’ve included links to the Blog Know Your Meme’s pages on Longcat and tacgnoL if you want to learn more. Much love and thanks go out to everyone who listened. This episode was produced by Sound Service. Narration support from Savannah Jubic. Music provided by Kevin McLeod and Manu. I’m going to be producing several more minisodes like this one in the run up to a full season, I hope you listen all the way through.
Luminous Rain by Kevin MacLeod
Blippy Trance by Kevin MacLeod
Cryptic Sorrow by Kevin MacLeod
Longcat by Manu Lyrics:
Wishing on a dream that seems far off
Hoping it will come today
Into the starlit night...
Foolish dreamers turn their gaze
Waiting on a shooting star....
But..., what if that star is not to come?
Will their dreams fade to nothing?
When the horizon darkens most
We all need to believe there is hope
Is an angel watching closely over me?
Can there be a guiding light I've yet to see?
I know my heart should guide me but,
There's a hole within my soul
What will fill this emptiness inside of me?
Am I to be satisfied without knowing?
I wish, then, for a chance to see
Now all I need (desperately....)
Is my... star to come?