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Thursday, May 19, 2011

The beginning and the end of plankdom

By the time you get to read this, if you can be bothered, planking will be a relic of the usual range of youthful enterprises, so I’ll get cracking before the phenomenon disappears from sight altogether (that’s next week). It will disappear not because there aren’t enough young chaps willing to play an upbeat version of ‘chicken’ or ‘dare’, perhaps in the guise of some form of futuristic spiritual fulfilment, but because planking has now been discovered by people no-one of that age wants to know. Parents and tabloid reporters – oldies like that.

    It will thus meet the fate of all things past their coolness use-by date, and some other way of doing exactly the same thing will come into vogue – tempting fate or trying to grab a corner of next-age nirvana, or both. In real life, this can end up at the pointy end of Darwinism.

    In her lovely blog, ZMKC discovered an ‘expert’ who spoke of planking as 'mediating the self'. Quite understandably, she seemed almost as unsure of what this phrase meant as to whether the expert had any idea what he was talking about. No, I’ll rephrase that. I’m pretty sure she knows full well he doesn’t have a clue, but that's for her to say.

    For mine, the only vaguely interesting thing about planking is where it started, not how it fractured and took off at so many tangents that you may as well use the term for lying down in the middle of the highway, or screaming down that same highway at 200kph fully laden with alcohol, six friends and an unshakable conviction about your own immortality, or sitting in a wobbly pyramid with a brick poised on the top.

    The reality is that planking evolved from 'gaming', when players discovered that in a lot of games, the very edges of the screen could be ‘safe’ from attack by anyone or anything in the game. As long as you didn’t go over the edge and off the screen altogether, that thin 'plank' round the edge was a resting place where you could get your breath back or work out a new strategy before you jumped back into the game.

    In other words, it was a 'cheat' that you could exploit, a perfectly safe place in terms of the game, though if you weren’t careful and missed that thin strip around the edge, you could well go over it, into game oblivion.

    And so the gamer’s term for it came into more common usage, and became synonymous with daring manoeuvres that could end in real rather than virtual disaster. Once translated into human action, the ante was upped. Gamers simply had to restart the game or maybe lose a ‘life’ when the planking manoeuvre failed. But others confused the boundary between virtual death on the screen and the end of their real-life sojourn on the planet.

    Please don’t come up with pseudo-philosophical explanations for the stuff we’re having to suffer at the moment. I’ve seen most of them. In many ways it’s just the same as taking the risk of jumping in at the deep end of the swimming pool, and maybe taking a sliver off the gene pool at the same time.

    Can we move on now please?

Disclaimer: I am not a ‘gamer’ but I do have a very intelligent stepson now old enough to vote who has played for five sixths of his life on every platform known to gamedom, and I’d back his knowledge of such things against anyone’s. But don’t blame him for anything above. He’s just as likely to have a different opinion!


  1. I was just about to ask how on earth you knew, when you supplied the answer. Handy things, stepsons.

  2. It's probably news to plankton that some humans have purloined their domain name, and at the same time exhibited the collective intelligence of an an entire layer of floating life.

    Ah, humans, ain't they wonderful?

  3. Ha! Very good comment.... slightly cynical perhaps! I guess in the end it comes down to the fact that each generation tries to define itself uniquely, by doing pretty much the same thing.


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