Planking Fad Bridges the Species Gap

Self-taught squirrel planks for the cameras.

While following up on the responses to my comments on other people’s blogs, I noticed that someone who replied to one of my comments made an intriguing observation that compelled me to check out his blog, his response to my comment being “U Funny”.

His blog entry, “When Your Dog Is Too Cool for You“, caught my eye. It shows a photo of his dog “planking”. For those of you who don’t know what planking is, Wikipedia says it better than I could…

Planking or the lying down game is an activity consisting of lying face down in an unusual or incongruous location. The hands must touch the sides of the body and having a photograph of the participant taken and posted on the internet is an integral part of the game. Players compete to find the most unusual and original location in which to play. The term planking refers to mimicking a wooden plank.”

Aren’t you glad I grabbed a quote from Wikipedia? If I tried to explain it in my own words, you’d be reading into next week!

The photo I saw at punchiesmanifesto.com reminded me that I have seen non-primate planking with my own personal eyes and have the photos to prove it! For anatomical reasons, some non-humans have a tough time meeting Wikipedia’s stringent criterion of having one’s arms touch one’s sides without sustaining debilitating rotator-cuff injuries that would sideline them from their lawn digging activities for weeks. Likewise, it seems prejudicial to discount this rodential behaviour as not being true planking because squirrels don’t post photos of themselves on the internet. If you can find an ISP that will take their monthly fees in acorns, let me know and I’ll pass the information along to the squirrels. The squirrels don’t seem to care much about being in the spotlight — for them it seems more like a case of “art for art’s sake”.

"Chip" showing his world-class (according to official rodent rules) planking form.

My photos are of wild, feral squirrels that dig up Mrs. HoaiPhai’s flower bulbs… these are not pet squirrels that I bought off of eBay from a Chinese Squirrel Circus or anything. I did not train them to engage in this activity nor did I have to travel far to find these examples of squirrel planking — all these photos were shot from within two meters of my back door.

Archive photo from April 2008 of squirrel limbering up prior to plank training.

The really shocking thing about this is that planking within human societies only began to catch on worldwide in 2011, although according to the Wikipedia article Tom Green claims to have invented the activity (if you can call laying perfectly still an activity) as early as 1994. My neighbourhood squirrels have been doing it since at least 2008, long before any human in Southern Ontario began doing it. I don’t know… maybe the local squirrels are watching Freddie Got Fingered late at night in their nests.

My now-deceased mom’s black Scottish terrier was doing this in the 1980s, edging out Tom Green’s dubious claim by a good five years, and Angus was a strictly indoor dog that only went out on closely supervised leashed walks when my brother went over to visit Mom.

I have a funny feeling that reptiles, such as turtles, have been planking for millions of years so you young people who think you’re so “hip” or “with it” or whatever the expression is nowadays should pull up your pants, get off the sidewalk, and try again. You’re not doing anything new.

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About HoaiPhai

I'm up late digging up the dirt. View all posts by HoaiPhai

20 responses to “Planking Fad Bridges the Species Gap

  • The Hook

    That’s a wel-trained squirrel! Great post!

  • elmediat

    Excellent post. You built a well reasoned argument one plank at a time. If I may, I would like to point out that the photographic evidence may also demonstrate a metaphysical truth. This particular squirrel’s behaviour suggests past life memory, either as a flying squirrel, a sky-diver, or play-mate pin-up model. The last possibility would explain its propensity for posing for a photographer.

    • HoaiPhai

      I thank you for bringing up metaphysics. I mentioned my mother’s dog Angus because he was always supervised on his trips outdoors and had little chance to communicate with other creatures about the then nascent art of planking so either he thought it up independently, or he was tuned into some cosmic vibe that carried the mystic wisdom of the planking plane to him. My apologies for not being clearer about this within the body of the post. As for your theory about squirrels’ past life memories of being play-mate pin-up models, I am actually in the first stages of planning a photographic essay of wildlife caught in compromising positions. The planned exposé will be called something like When Animals Go Bad or, perhaps, The Other Side of Wildlife.

  • The Hobbler

    Although your pictures are cute, I can’t help wondering if that is what the guy who wrote “when-your-dog-is-too-cool-for-you” might have been referring to: which is cooler, the photographer or subject of photography? I mean, really, how much time do you have on your hands? 😉 (I must admit that is the same question my husband asks whenever I blog though…us poor misunderstood artists)

    • HoaiPhai

      I am reluctant to speak for another but I feel that it took much longer for his dog to independently develop the dicipline of canine planking and perfecting his/her technique than it took Punchie to snap a shot of the phenomenon and write a paragraph or two on the event. That being said, my own wife thinks I spent too much time helping Punchie bring news of an activity we humans can share with our flea-prone friends to a waiting world. I tend to disagree with her. I think that you and I should champion a movement to have Blog Control listed as a form of spousal abuse!

      • The Hobbler

        I think you are right about the “spousal abuse” thing…although, if we got that movement going; our spouses would probably start their own “mentioning me in their blog abuse” movement.

      • HoaiPhai

        Maybe mentioning spouses would be OK if they try to limit our blogging timein the same way the truth is a legal defense against slander, defamation, and libel suits!

  • Ape No. 1

    I am jealous of your hipster forest friends. The middle photo is quite a magnificent shot and closely resembles, in pose but not dimensions, a luxurious bear rug from a time when men had real facial hair and smelt of pipe smoke constantly.

    • HoaiPhai

      I wholely agree! I thought of looking for a photo I seem to remember of a bear planking in the presence of former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt but I thought that it would be poor form to break an American story when I myself am Canadian by bith, by citizenship, by residency, and by cholesterol level. I also agree that the young men of today have lost touch with what is truly masculine. Surely real facial hair, and lots of it, and a pipe-smoke aroma is more along the lines of what the fairer sex finds manly than the whole-body shaving and the pong of “Axe” the young men of today subject the ladies. Let’s you and I open a Tweed Club and get the ball rolling toward a more manly society of men.

  • :Punchie

    Doesn’t everything in mankind trace back to “Freddy Got Fingered”?

    It’s like the squashed butterfly at the end of Bradbury’s SOUND OF THUNDER…

    • HoaiPhai

      It’s been a while since I’ve seen it and now I’m much more in tune with the world so I must watch it again. I will resist temptation to “chapter ahead” to my favourite scene… the one where Freddy delivers a nice lady’s baby.

  • Hippie Cahier

    Maybe it should be called ‘squirreling’.

    Cuidado: I did not check Urban Dictionary to see if that is actually obscene slang. I hope not.

    • HoaiPhai

      As a life-long infomaniac, your comment compelled me to check that authority’s definitions for “squirreling” beyond the usual usage of “squirreling away”, of which I was already familiar. Some of the meanings were not pretty. That being said, “planking” has another definition too, or it did when I was in high school, but I’m not sure ppeople still use that expression today. Unfortunately, I never got to plank anyone until a couple of years after leaving high school… I guess my school district was a signatory to some ceasefire in the sexual revolution of the 70s.

  • japecake

    Something something nuts something something something something.

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