Thursday, October 28, 2010

How the internet can make you famous—
Squib of the Day, October 28th, 2010

"The first known photograph of a human being—taken by Louis Daguerre in 1838—has been brought to light this week by Robert Krulwich, at his NPR blog, thanks to the keen observation of a blogger named Hokumburg. Check out the whole story at NPR. What an incredible find!"
Digital Photographer Magazine, [Emphasis added. The link to this we have somehow misplaced. We will find it and update this piece later.]

If you googled "first photograph of a human" any time before Monday morning before 8, Hokumburg time, you'd probably find—once you got past Wikipedia—some history of photography blog where you'd find the daguerreotype to the right. If you google the same phrase today, odds are you'll end up in Hokumburg.

More than likely, if you are reading this post, you arrived here via NPR and
Robert Krulwich's extremely flattering blog piece about The Goombah and our writing about that photograph in particular. In the first few days since the Krulwich post the Goombah, which normally has fewer than 100 subscribers, received (according to the probably-misleading counter supplied by our host) 20,000 "hits." And, of course, we were full of ourselves and hard to live with as befits anyone during their fifteen minutes of fame. But the numbers, as we anticipated, began to drop off yesterday and by around 4 p.m. we had 6,000 hits for the day. Still a very respectable number for a publication like this, and far beyond our wildest expectations.

Then around 5 p.m. Yahoo picked picked up the "story" and proclaimed it "news" and somehow, in the mind of many of the Yahoos, it's gotten twisted into "The Hokumburg Goombah has discovered the oldest photograph of a human being." Yahoo is big, folks (not that big means good—no offense, but we suspect the 20,000 who came from NPR are more likely to stay here a while), and when we got home after running errands, visiting a sick friend, and getting dinner, and we checked the counter [yes, it has come to that, we are ashamed to admit], we discovered that we had received nearly a quarter-of-a-million hits in little over two hours!

It would take us ten years to read all the emails and comments.

The Archaeological Review, The History Network, The Atlantic, Blogs and publications around the world are featuring the Goombah as if this discovery is a major event in the history of...of...major events! (We're exaggerating, but, as regular subscribers know, that's what we do best)

No, it's not the lead on Katie Couric (not yet anyway), but this news story has gone viral in a small way. Here it is in . You don't read Chinese? How about Turkish? Spanish? I don't even know what language this is. Or . And what's twitter? Hebrew? Arabic? Aramaic?There are thousands of these things out there, and there will be a hundred thousand more as the day goes on, now that Yahoo has taken up the cause.

So this morning we figured that some of our readers—especially those who know us to have been asked to leave Hokumburg High (some would crudely say "expelled") well before our time and have trouble imagining that we could discover two clean socks in the morning, much less a photograph of such import—would like to hear the exciting story of how we found it and became famous, in case they want to become famous too and get the best table down at the Tick Tock Tavern (the one near the window with the two-by-four splint duct-taped to one leg).

Here's the secret: We found it on Wikipedia.

Or maybe we googled something like "old photographs," we can't remember for sure.

So there you have it. I hope that answers all your questions. We're now in negotiations with a publishing house to write a book about our exciting exploits, which is sure to be made into a major motion picture [thinking George Clooney could play you know who].

Sorry we can't write more, Hokumbahts. But we're working on our Nobel Prize acceptance speech (they do give one for finding important stuff on the internet, right?). And then we're off to make our next major discovery. Maybe see you at the Tick Tock later. Look for us at the table near the window.

And of course you can buy us a round—we haven't let fame got to our heads.


Now where's that damn Wikipedia url?....

For the record, Hokumburg is a town, not anyone's name that we know of. We have no clue what a Goombah is.


sarah sedano said...

Exactly, it's amazing when a story is picked up on yahoo or google and it's spreads like wildfire. Sometimes unlike this one a situation isn't even true and is picked up and not even checked.

Anonymous said...

Where in the world is Gig Thurmond?
I did a search for Gig Thurmond on Wikipedia but the only Thurmond that showed up was Strom. Sorry Gig, you're not there yet but it might not be long now. As a fellow flunkie from Hokumberg High I congratulate you on your new found fame and glory. What really deserves congratulations though is the site itself. it's fabulous.

Bob Bourgeois

SarahR said...

Wow...who could have thought that fame was just a picture away. Soon you will be like the Kardashian girls, with your own reality series and all. Well, maybe not quite like the Kardashian's, but you get the picture. I love your style of writing. Quite entertaining.

Anonymous said...

The known word, the one that obviously means Paris, is the same in your Turkish site and in both of the unknown language sites. Probably all 3 are Turkish.


They love their Goombah in Turkey. And hey, Bob! Wouldn't ya know: Now that I'm famous you show up. You still living in that old place in Gumm Crick. I'm still in Hokumburg a couple blocks north of the micro-brewery. I was just thinking the other day of back when we would skip school and play poker and smoke cigarettes under the old milk wood—good times.
You see, no matter how famous I get, I will always remember the little people I stepped on on the way up.
Remember my old next-door neighbor, Dave? He's back in Missouri again a couple hours north of here working for one of the Goombah competitors. But I don't hold it against him. Gotta eat. We should meet up for a Hokumbrew some day soon. And thanks for the very kind words.

Anonymous said...

Nice blog :)
- NPR reader who stayed to poke around for a bit

Anonymous said...

goombah=mushroom creature from mario

Anonymous said...

All the sites mentioned with unknown languages are turkish two news portals and one blog. the tweet is hebrew.


I think of goombah as one of those catch-all words, like grommet. My dad used "grommet" a variety of ways... "Knock it off, you little grommets!" and "Don't make me come in there and haul you back by the grommet!" I think I was about 30 when I finally found out what a grommet is.

- Reader who originally came for the old photo, but stuck around for the goombah.

Anonymous said...

Here's the link to the NPR story:

Anonymous said...

Here is a better post with all photo and film firsts in one place. It is from 2009, so the humble post here is correct this is not a new discovery. Here is the link:


Thanks, man.
Unfortunately this "humble post" was reprinted in its entirety by the History News Network and then a bunch of others as far away as India under the title of "How the Hokumburg Goombah Blog Found the Oldest Human Photographed," which just confuses things more and is pretty much the opposite of what we were trying to say.
The internet seems to have a mind of its own. No matter how much we protest that we didn't discover squat, it keeps insisting we did.


ha ha.... found your link on Yahoo... Like your sense of a story. My mom is from RI, of Italian descent, and she always said a goombah is the same as a dago or wop... - in other words - other Italians.. I grew up calling my family and friends "goombahs". I always thought it was a term of affection.


Whew! That's a relief!

Anonymous said...

"Not a new discovery" indeed. Beaumont Newhall's book declared it to be the oldest image of a human back in 1937.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick report from over here in Gumm Creek which, by the way, never seems to rise too often but man ol' man when it does grab the shovels and the sandbags. Yep, we're still holding down the fort over here in that ramshackle old barn of a house. Anyway, I could sure use a Hokumbrew or two and now that your famous, your buying.

Barbara Shallue said...

That's so funny - I thought the photo looked familiar and now I'm pretty sure I saw the original at the Ransom Center on the UT Campus last year. Kudos to you on all the fame and fortune (as in blog hits!) though!


Thanks Barbara. I have no idea where the original is, but you're probably right.

And Bob, I'm not famous anymore, that was yesterday—a lifetime ago in the virtual world. But I can spring for a couple of Hokumbrews. We should meet sometime down at the micro brewery—the one Phyllis's nephew, the lawyer who supports the local college radio station over in Fulp City, started on Southwest in the old abandoned Krogers. I'll be down at the Gateway tomorrow for the big doings, but other than that I can make it any time. I'd give you my email here, but I'm afraid some of those neo-Confederates and blitzkrieg reenactors we picked up back when we were famous (those were the days) would start sending me pictures of Michele Bachman kissing W. again, and that photo gives me heebie jeebies.

Anonymous said...

This image is flipped horizontally. The real image should be flipped back right to left. Check it on Google earth, it cant be correct as Blvd Temple has no such bend. If you flip it, it fits. Its the part running nw to Republique from the Bastille, about half way up. Bon soir from Paris.

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