Sun, 08 Apr 2001

Web spawns grammatical errors and wacky fads

By Vishnu K. Mahmud

JAKARTA (JP): During one of my sojourns in a Ratu Plaza game center, I found one user constantly spamming the network battlegrounds with the words "All your base are belong to us". After I tossed in two hand grenades and virtually blasted him with my MP5, I approached the purveyor of bad grammar to see what the fuss was about. He just grinned and told me to check out a web site, which brought me face to face with the latest web fad.

A web fad can be an amusing as well as annoying subject. It starts off small and end up with 75 percent of the planet knowing all about it. It usually spreads via e-mail, with messages along the lines of "Have you seen this site? It is hilarious!" As more and more people become aware of it, it somehow enters our daily lives. It reaches critical mass when editors and cartoonist start writing about it. And usually, it never goes away.

Last year, Mahir Cagri, a young Turkish accordion player, became an unwitting web celebrity after an anonymous hacker took his personal homepage and reposted it after making various "improvements". The new site, complete with the original photographs of him (Mahir playing the accordion, Mahir at the beach), invited women from all over the world to come visit him. The words "I kiss you" and Mahir's bad grammatical English were prominent throughout the site.

Within days, the site was swamped and Mahir suddenly received hundreds of e-mails, photos and "kisses". The existence of the homepage spread like wildfire, prompting international coverage, in both TV and print media, which drove more traffic to the site.

Mahir became such a cult figure that he was invited to present an award at the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences' "Webby" Awards last year in San Francisco. His new web site,, chronicles his travels (he actually came to Indonesia once but misspelled it "Indenosia"), his hopes for world peace ("WHY war 'THINK' kids. You all brothers and sisters") and news (he just signed an album deal with EMI Records playing, you guessed it, an accordion).

Another fad that began online was the dancing baby. The animation of a 3D baby dancing to hip-hop tunes was first popular on the web. It was later brought on to television to drive Ally McBeal crazy.

Once it appeared there, everyone wanted to see it online. Burning Pixel Productions (, the company who made the demo animation, became famous. And more variations of the theme began to filter out (baby driving a motorcycle, baby is drunk, etc) flooding the world even more! Copycats began to enter the net, with the Dancing Hamster ( leading the charge.

"All your base are belong to us" turns out to be a statement from an old Sega Genesis Video Game called Zero Wing. The original Japanese game was so poorly translated (and was actually released in the U.S.) it brought tears to my eyes. To get an idea on how bad the U.S. version was, here's a transcript:

Captain: What happen?

Mechanic: Someone set up us the bomb.

Operator: We get signal.

Captain: What!

Operator: Main screen turn on. (The Alien leader, CATS, appear)

Captain: It's you!!

CATS: How are you gentlemen!! All your base are belong to us. You are on the way to destruction.

Captain: What you say?

CATS: You have no chance to survive make your time. Ha ha ha...

This must have riled someone so much that they took the time to doctor photographs displaying the words "All your base are belong to us".

The words can be seen appearing at a McDonalds, with former US Vice President Al Gore, on the Space Shuttle, highway signs and cigarette boxes (under the Surgeon General's warning) to name a few. Another person took it a step further and made a rather hypnotic music video (with techno music) playing the animation and doctored photos. You can check it out if you like at

Doctoring photographs is not easy, says Captain Horatio Hornblower (not his real name), the Jakarta International School student who spammed the network game. He spent 4 hours trying to merge the words seamlessly into a photograph. Why, I asked him. He just grinned.

So what is the point of all this? There probably isn't any. All I know is that someone has way too much time on their hands and created something that probably would not make the world a better place. The words "All your base are belong to us" have already entered the world conscience as I have seen them used on, in Newsweek, and various magazines, both electronic and hardcopy. Used, not written about. It now basically means "You loser, I own you!"

Why am I writing about it? Just to make sure that you are aware of what these words mean, in case you see them. And you will. Internet fads usually burn out after a while but can return with a vengeance when some poor soul bumps into it and begins to spread the word to his or her friends, scattering it around the world again like e-mail viruses. And if you have time on your hands, maybe you can start one and be as famous as Mahir. I think I'll spread the word about my collection of singing potatoes. (