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Daft Hands

By Shamus
on Thursday Mar 6, 2008
Filed under:


I’ve always thought of posting memes as the lowest form of blogging. A meme is a viral idea. Once something is classified as a meme it’s already popular, which means you are, by definition, telling people about something they’ve probably already seen. I try to keep that sort of business to a minimum. My writing is already in a rut so deep I’d need mountain climbing gear to escape it. You could probably replace me with an automated script that denounced all new PC Games as trash, all new graphics technology as rubbish, and then at regular intervals decried the lack of PC games. I doubt anyone would even notice.

The last thing I need to do is augment my predictable subject matter with links to stuff you saw five weeks ago on a site bigger than mine, back before the whole thing became Old News. I know this because every time I post those sorts of links I get people telling as much. (Because, when it comes to viral data, there is nothing people love to share more than the fact that you’re not living up to their expectations.)

Having said that, this meme fascinates me:

Some guy wrote words, and parts of words, all over his hands, and then revealed the words through various gestures in time to a techno song. What makes people think of doing this sort of stuff? It doesn’t matter. The results are interesting:

The production quality is not impressive. I think the song is captured via open mic, which sounds just awful. The lighting is a bit dim, and nothing happens for the first fifty seconds. It doesn’t matter. The thing has 15.5 million views and a thousand imitators. Some are better than others. Like this one:

Again: Distracting background, crooked camera, dim lighting, open air mic, etc. I point this out not because I think could do any better, but because the movie is a success in spite of these things. It’s clever and required a certain degree of talent and practice to pull off. (Particularly once the song speeds up around 1:30. How hard is it to be able to match each other’s limbs up to form those words while wearing those dang boxes on their heads? They certainly went out of their way to make things hard on themselves.)

Careful with this next one. Bad language.

This one is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Better production values. They are cheating though, since they use special effects to put the words on the hands. (They have to, as the lyrics are too numerous to fit.) It’s more enjoyable to watch in some ways, but I believe that if this movie had been posted first it never would have become a sensation. It’s only interesting because it’s a well-polished variation on an established theme.

Comments (31)

  1. mark says:

    I agree, that last one was awesome, but I’ve seen daft hands before, and even have the original video embedded on my myspace page…

  2. David says:

    I think Twenty Sided is a pretty cool guy. Eh plays gaems and doesn’t afraid of anything.

    (Sorry about this. You mention memes and this is what happens.)

  3. Thijs says:

    I learn most of this stuff from your site shamus, so please keep posting stuff like this, it opens up another world :D

    by the way, I think the ‘daft bros’ clip is the best adaptation available :P

  4. thebigkr says:

    I vote 2nd video as the best :D

  5. Luke Maciak says:

    Shamus, I love shooting down family members and friends when they email me some million year old meme that is they just discovered. I usually send them a short reply that pretty much says:

    LOL! This was great. I remember that I laughed my ass off when I first saw it 4 years ago. Thanks for the memories.

    I think the practice of claiming a meme is old, is in fact the oldest meme in existence. So don’t worry about it.

  6. Luke Maciak says:

    Also obligatory:

    Hey, im the original maker of the Daft Hands!, I posted that video on http://www.thatvideosite.com on October 10, 2006 and then last posted it on youtube. Please remove the video now or state that i am the maker. Thank You

  7. THOR says:

    So funny: just last night my wife sent me the middle video on YT ’cause I love Discovery by Daft Punk. I wasn’t impressed until they really started going at it like Shamus said.

    Glad you shared it; spread the Daft!

  8. ReluctantDM says:

    You don’t just say “hey here’s a cool meme” though. You talk about it. Surprisingly refreshing. Plus I hadn’t seen this one before (oddly enough) and girls dancing with boxes on their heads will always win me over. :)

  9. Rason says:

    I’ve seen Daft hands before, but the other two were nice finds that I hadn’t seen before. I don’t know about everyone else, but your blog is the only one I read, so unless stuff like this get posted here, I’d never know about it, so I appreciate it when you do post ‘old news’.

  10. Avaz says:

    Daft Hands was one of those viral sensations when it was released and it, as you note, spawned numerous imitators.

    The other two are new to me and I still enjoyed it. Of course, being a Daft Punk fan in the first place, I was fine listening to just the music, even if the performance wasn’t spot on the entire time.:)

  11. Shawn says:

    I never get tired of those.

    It helps that the middle part of Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger is probably my favorite 45 seconds in the history of music.

  12. Kanthalion says:

    I’m with Thijs, this is where I usually hear about the memes, I guess I’m even more behind the times than you, Shamus. I also agree with ReluctantDM in that you don’t just post the meme, you talk about it as well.

  13. Davesnot says:

    Nope.. new to me… I still would rather watch Roller Coaster Bowling… which I think I’ll go do now..


  14. MSchmahl says:

    So how long before you release Shamus-bot?

    Seriously, though, I really enjoy your blog.

  15. Shawn says:

    Also, god do I hate Kanye’s song. I normally like Kanye West, but whenever he sat down and said “Hey I should take something totally awesome, and then slow it down and add a shitty drumbeat and then rant arhythmically over it, that will make it way better!” he should have been beaten repeatedly about the head and shoulders.

  16. Donald K. says:

    Ha! I’d seen Daft Hands, but not the other two. The one with the girls was pretty cool.

    Also, thanks for those other links Shawn. That last one was pretty impressive.

    Commenting on the things you post makes a world of difference. It goes from ‘Hay neat thing I saw!’ to something that’s actually worth reading.

  17. Turgid Bolk says:

    Shawn: “It helps that the middle part of Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger is probably my favorite 45 seconds in the history of music.”

    Definetely. I appreciate the videos and discussion, Shamus, and I would read even if I had seen it before.

    (Btw, your wavaters aren’t showing up for me at the moment.)

  18. Kotenku says:

    This chick has gotten away with FLIPPING 15.5 MILLION PEOPLE THE BIRD?

    She’s a hero. Possibly mine, if I weren’t a closet misogynist.

    Furthermore: Give those girls a recording deal, or pay them some phat cash for the idea and get some professionals for videos.

  19. ArchU says:

    #6 Luke Maciak: n00b! 5h4mus pwns j00! XD

    Heheh, you silly ^_^

  20. Dana says:

    For me, the main thing to remember is that a lot of people still seem to act, more than anything, like “status-oriented apes”. That programming is pretty basic, and few people seem to have thrown it off to any large degree (especially here on the internet, where the average age is likely 15 :>).

    In “cyberspace”, where no one can see (or will believe) how much money you have, how cool your car is, or even how good-looking you might be (is that really YOUR photograph?), being “hip” or “up-to-date” seems to be the biggest “status-grasper”. So everyone rushes in to claim how bored they are by what you are generously trying to share with them, in order to assert “top internet status” (or dominance).

    But apes will always fling poop like that – no way to stop them really – and the less vocal of us likely HAVEN’T seen what you have seen fit to share. Which is why we keep coming back.

    And if we have seen something before (which inevitably happens sometimes), we won’t feel compelled to BRAG about the fact that we have already seen it (and put you down for not automatically knowing that and somehow magically limiting the content to first-time viewers). We will just switch back to whatever we were doing before and wait for the next Shamus gem, thankful for the momentary distraction nonetheless. ;)

  21. Rubes says:

    Should I be embarrassed that I’ve neither seen nor heard of it before?

  22. rekres says:

    “I doubt anyone would even notice.”

    Notice what? Eh?

  23. Huckleberry says:

    Shamus, I think your question is really interesting and well worth thinking about a lot more.

    My first thoughts would be that there are (at least) two aspects to the “daft hands” video that may fascinate people:

    (1) How you can create connections between otherwise unconnected words just because of our writing system (such like “hour”-“our” in the video). This way we seem to uncover “hidden” relations in our language that might help us to understand the “true” meaning of words better. I think part of this is also why people like anagrams, crossword puzzles etymologies etc.

    (2) How the movement to the music is motivated not just by rhythm, but also by the lyrics: the hands are seen, I think, as “dancing” (which could be mildly amusing in itself), but that their movements are additionally also driven by the words that they create — and thus the movements are more deliberate and make more sense than “just” dancing.

    What may be at the bottom of this is that we like to understand how things are motivated, and the stronger this motivation is, the better. Hence also, very broadly, our fascination with conspiracy theories. Ok, I’ll stop now. *puts tin-foil hat on*

  24. Rebecca says:

    Dude, Shamus – “a techno song”? a techno song? Also, “a guy”? Those look like girls’s hands to me.

    Anyway, Daft Punk’s “music video” for the album from which “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” comes is actually an 1 1/2 long anime movie, with no dialogue and just a few sound effects. It’s called Interstella 5555.

  25. Shamus says:

    Rebecca: I’m an old man here, so I’m not really up on all the current taxonomy used for electronic music. So if I was supposed to call it post-punk downtempo electronica synth fusion or somesuch, then I’m afraid I’m a lost cause.

    Look at the fingernails on the hands. I’ve never seen a woman with fingernails like that. It’s possible, I admit, but they look masculine ot me.

  26. It’s not just the fingernails. If those are a woman’s hands then (a) she has very hair arms; and (b) a very masculine haircut (it comes into frame briefly later in the video).

    I also don’t know why Rebecca objects to Daft Punk being referred to as a techno group. They are a techno group.


  27. Kris says:

    I simply assume that mass amounts of alcohol is always involved in the ‘concept’ stage of virals like this.

  28. ArchU says:

    #26 Shamus & #27 Justin Alexander: DP composes electronica, typically of some dance or ambience type…you could say that it’s borderline techno ^_~

  29. Maldeus says:

    Just found this while trawling through the archives. Daft Bodies annoys me for two reasons. First, the way they dance when there aren’t any lyrics. I realize the Daft Hands video did something similar, but it was even bigger a mistake in Bodies than in Hands. In Hands, at least, he was just bouncing them up and down and crossing them over each other without revealing any words. In Bodies, they actually dance, revealing several of the words as they do so, which hurts the overall effect.

    Second is the robot heads. Why? What’s their purpose, exactly? As far as I can tell, they accomplish four things, any one of which could be the intended purpose.

    1) They make the dancers appear similar to robots. They do perform robot-like dance moves at certain points in the video (including the Robot). But they undermine this by very obviously being human dancers from the neck down. If they originally planned to have whole robot costumes, but later found them too difficult to produce or dance in, they should have scrapped the whole costume instead of just everything but the head.

    2) They render the dancers anonymous. But they could’ve done so much more elegantly by putting bars over their eyes, pixelating the face, or by wearing a mask (some blank Rorschach kind of thing would probably have worked well).

    3) They render the dancers faceless (perhaps because they wanted both bodies to be seen as unintelligent parts of a single intelligent entity, like the hands from the original video). Again, a mask would’ve been more elegant.

    4) They cause people on the internet to wonder why they’ve done the dance with giant boxes on their heads. In which case…Uh, good job.

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