Friday, July 14, 2006

A first: votes from Phoon fans on a submitted photo

A guy uploaded a photo of "a Phoon on a mule". I liked the concept. It reminded me of the police officer on the horse. The top half of the guy looked fine: good arm shapes. But the bottom half of the guy wasn't right: the mule was headed toward the camera, thus making the guy's lower half face the camera. He was not truly sideways to the camera--rule #1--but perhaps fans would find the photo "interesting enough to bend the rules."

At the time that I wrote this entry, I had a Phoons newsletter subscription list and it occurred to me to ask that list of folks what they thought. I mentioned to them what I described above.

Four out of the group interacted with me. I've included their (edited) replies here.

Two main reasons I don't like this Phoon very much:

1. It is not a sideways perspective, as you say. It is close, but the "interest value" is not there. And it is not really up to your high standards, which is the major strength of

2. The Straddle Phoon. I hate it. It just creeps me out for some reason! The police officer on the horse doesn't bother me as much, and I think it is because of the angle. The sideways angle doesn't seem as creepy as the front view.

Glad to be a part of the inaugural opinion-seeking e-mail.

Keep your expectations high, and I vote no on the horse.

No way that should be allowed, it is not photographed at the right angle and he is not posing for it right at all. It stinks.

(From me) Are there other photos, by chance, that have rubbed you the wrong way for whatever reason, that you wish weren't on the site?

There are some photos that I do not care for that much, but I figure once they are on the site they should be left there. I would hate to think someone saying to a friend check my photo out and it being gone. People take things too personal sometimes, especially Phoon Photos.

The horse is looking away. Does that improve it? :)

I think you're right about not including it. But you could have a "didn't make the cut" category and let people vote on whether or not any of those should be allowed into the regular gallery.

Tough one. I think the setting is pretty (nice colors, interesting situation and background... where was this picture taken?), but I did notice how his body faces the camera. Probably it should be put in "phoonlike", unless it's his first picture or for some other special reason.

Yes, this reminds me how much I want to implement a rating system so that fans can have their say in which ones are their favorites and which ones they collectively say are not as impressive. (Which reminds me what someone said to me once: "50% of graduating doctors were in the bottom half of their class.")

I had informed the submitter that the legs were wrong but that I wanted to hear what others thought. He replied that he was okay with whatever decision. And I did end up deciding to not use the photo.

Thanks to all for their input! Good to hear the variety of thoughts out there. I've observed similar "extremes" before: there are those that might want just about anything Phoon-like to end up on the site ("Hey, they were joining in the spirit of Phoons! Reward them!) and those who want as many people to Phoon while still meeting the fundamental requirements of pose quality and interest in location ("Hey, if the Phoon is what ties everything together, they've got to put the effort into getting that part right!").

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Who can compete with those guys?

With the excellence in photos like these, I wonder how many people are inclined to just "give up" on phooning?!

(And it cracks me up that the left one was Anders' idea and his
hiking buddy did the pose. I imagine the conversation going like this: "Hey, Magnus, I've got a great idea. See that mountain top over there? Why don't you go over there and phoon for me? I'll just wait here. Hey--and do it right. I don't want to have to send you twice...")

I remember when Brandon submitted a flurry of Phooner wrote in and semi-joked that they giving up on phooning for a while, now that they'd seen what Brandon was submitting.

So I quickly reassured them, as I'll reassure you: gorgeous photos from Utah, another regular don't stop! Hey, even *I* have given up the notion of trying to keep up with them. If they have amazing, stunning Phoon pics, great! We all get to enjoy those. Sure, we just don't have access to the amazing places they do (and I'm not sure I have the energy!). But don't forget the reverse: you and I have access to weird objects and beautiful locations that they don't. I was glad they kept phooning. It's been fun to see what they've come up with.

There is stuff around you that is Phoon-worthy. You may have forgotten about it because you grew up with it or it's so familiar to locals that you don't think others would care. Think about it again with "Phoon eyes." For example, I like how Lisa showed off the Maytag headquarters in Iowa. Who else has one of those nearby! One of these days, I want to go find a Phoon-worthy spot at Google's headquarters. It's only 20 minutes away. (You haven't heard of Google? Just google them to learn more.)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Rising to the occasion

"Am I supposed to get up on something for my Phoon picture
to be accepted?" No, there is no such requirement.

"Is it more interesting if I'm up on something?" Hmm. I suppose that depends on what the thing is.

It was funny to me when good friends John and Gretchen told me that seeing the slab of concrete on which they're standing is what motivated them to Phoon in front of this beautiful cathedral. That illustrated the common misconception that phooning is somehow tied to being up on something.

With that said, there are things that seem to call out, "Phoon on me!" The better examples of "up on something" photos are the Had to Phoon on it ones.

It is often true that climbing up onto something in the view would be more interesting to everyone's eye than just Phooning next to it. And there are always those who will take this idea to the extreme.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Letters from Phoon fans

Which arm should be forward?

I wanted to ask you about something that has been troubling me for quite a while. Should the forward arm be on the OPPOSITE side of the back-stretching leg or the SAME side? I have seen both styles and want to know which is correct. For example: opposite versus same side. In my mind the phoon pose is a frozen movement; the phooner appears to be running by. This is why, in my mind, phooners standing on a leg with a bent knee (observation wall) look better than those standing with a straight knee (big ship). --Göran L.

I have done both styles. And when I look back, I see that I did more (or only) same same-side Phoons when I started!) Both ways are okay.

The pose came first (in both styles) and the description came later. The description is simply a way of making the strange pose sound tolerable to a new viewer. "Oh, I can do that silly pose because I look like a stylish runner" is better than "You expect me to look like a crash-landing albatross? No way!"

Since almost all human beings (as opposed to, for example, hippopotami and porcupines, I believe) are non-amblers, one would expect that most Phoons would be of the "opposite" style. Though I have not done a proper statistical analysis, a quick sampling suggests that the overwhelming majority of the Phoons are using the "same side" style. But the fact that one appears more "natural" does not necessarily mean that it is "better". One could argue that the the unnatural one looks more funny. So my question to you, as the undisputable authority in the area, is: Do you have a lateral preference, or are they equally good?

Both ways can result in a great Phoon pose. No preference there. However, I do have other preferences reflected in the evolution of the Phoon pose (compare my original poses with my latest poses to see the differences). It is better to not look at the camera and to not smile (but that is not a requirement). (Compare my original poses and my current ones and you will see that I have changed in this way.) It is better to show distinctly bent limbs in an athletic or energetic pose, rather than a pose that looks like the person is bored and has little energy or did not try to look as good as other phooners on the web site. There's also the matter of balance. Try phooning both ways and you might find it easier to keep your balance one way instead of the other.

What a pain it would be if there were actually a rule on this. Imagine trying to tell a group of phooners, "no, the other arm forward, no, the other leg back". It's easiest to just say "either way" and let them join in the fun and refine their pose as they do more Phoons in the future.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

From one hilltop to the world: the Phoons phenomenon

Am I amazed at the worldwide reach of phooning? Of course!

Consider the simple beginning of phooning. When I was 19 in 1980 and phooned for a photo while atop a glacier, I was definitely not thinking, "Hey, maybe I can someday get other people to do this, too!" No, I was merely being silly for a handful of family photos. I looked forward to Mom developing the photos after the summer trip so I could laugh at myself when we went through all of the photos. I had no intention of continuing to do that pose after the trip.

In contrast, consider where phooning is now. Complete strangers from around the world repeat my actions from childhood: they stand in a particular pose and take a photo, knowing that they are doing a pose called a Phoon and hoping that their photo will become part of the art piece known as People of different countries and languages use "phoon" on their web sites and blogs. People phoon for photos that they never send in to (even though they are brilliant photos and I wish they would!). See for yourself: on Google, search for "phoons" or "phooning" or "phooned"; try adding "blog" to a search to see how many people talk about it. And search for "phoon" or "phoons".

Am I amazed? Absolutely! How lucky and delighted I am that people go to amazing places around the world and take photos and send them to me for me and others to enjoy! Okay, occasionally, it is clear that someone just hopes to see himself on; he sends an uninteresting closeup of himself phooning in a room. But the majority of submissions now show that phooners are serious about this art. They "get it": they work hard to find interesting new locations and to do the pose right. They praise the best works of others, sometimes with a tone of competition. (Until this blog, you probably wouldn't have known that because I don't discuss it on the site and have not implemented a rating system--a topic worth its own blog entry.)

So how did I get from a phoon on a glacier to a web site devoted to thousands of Phoon photos from people around the world that may have nothing more in common that an interest in surprising each other with their new Phoons in new places?

In 1999, I was on an overnight business trip. I wandered around an upscale mall in Newport Beach, California. My silly poses from my summer trip nearly 20 years earlier came to mind, and I thought it would be fun to do that pose again. And that is when I took the Bloomingdale's photo that got me phooning again. Part of my motivation was this fairly new thing called the internet. I had been creating web pages for a few years and it sounded like a fun idea to scan those old photos from 1980 and put them on the internet with my new 1999 photo and then try to talk others into taking their own Phoon photos and sending them to me.

My goal at the beginning was not quality: it was quantity. My marketing effort consisted of spamming family and friends and of posting invitations on photography, humor and travel discussion boards, doing what I could to present this bizarre world of phooning as if it were something worth checking out.

Hey, thanks to Google for snatching up the old discussion groups! They still have a record of some of those early marketing activities.

From the alt.humor board:
From: jdemail

Date: Thurs, Jun 8 2000 12:00 am

In 1980, a friend and I named a particular pose the "Phoon" (essentially looks like a running person frozen in time). That summer, I snuck the Phoon into various family vacation photos. Since then, I've talked others into doing that pose for photos. Now I've got 76 pictures FROM AROUND THE WORLD.

See for yourself (don't's all clean):


And note how the marketing worked: someone out there was looking for the site and someone else knew where to find it.

From the board:

From: Mitch Goodman
Date: Tues, Jun 5 2001 12:43 pm

I saw a site mentioned here a while back.

It showed people on one leg getting ready to run away.

I was called phoosh, or whoosh or something like that.

Anyone know the address??


From: Will Kitajo
Date: Tues, Jun 5 2001 11:41 pm

Phoons. I couldn't find it in my bookmarks, but a quick Google search turned it up: . Looks like he's registered the name and will be moving his site over shortly.

Will K.

You can see that I originally did not have a "" site. At the beginning, I simply had an obscure subdirectory that increasingly consumed the 10 MB of web space that came with Dad's (no longer existing) web account:

The biggest boost early on was definitely from Yahoo. I had submitted my website for inclusion in their Humor category. To my delight, the editors added it within a few weeks and even honored it with a Pick of the Week nomination and icon. (It is still there in the "short list" today. Pretty cool!) Picks of the Week were included in online newsletters that Yahoo emailed to subscribers around the world, instantly bringing a new worldwide audience to, especially since some of the recipients were other online services who passed on "new sites of interest" to their customers. I was increasingly receiving photos from around the world from people whom I had never met.

What an amazing thing to observe. The internet makes all the difference, bringing together people who share an interest in the simple fun of contributing and making others smile through a silly pose inserted in their photo, thus tying all photos together. All that started with a photo of a somewhat rebellious youngster atop a glacier in 1980 and my interest in 1999 in getting other people to likewise join in the rebellion. "Finally, a good reason to overcome your fears and appear in your travel photos again!"

It wasn't until 2003 that I made a key shift in my strategy: my goal was no longer quantity but quality, marking the next growth phase for And that is most definitely worth a blog entry of its own.

Why did I phoon the very first time?

As you read in the prior post, I had the word Phoon in my mind from high school summer camp. It was "reserved," in a way, for a body position.

The following summer (1980), I traveled with Mom, Dad and extended family. Occasionally, Mom, camera in hand, would call out for us to "wave at the camera!" My bad attitude was, "Is this to help others find us when we are showing the photos to others? Is this supposed to make us look friendly, or something?" I would have felt embarrassed to wave at the camera. So I chose instead to stand on one foot and spread out all my limbs, as illustrated in this summer photo . There, that's not as embarrassing! (Figure that out.) Have I changed my attitude about waving for a camera? Not really.

What I don't remember is when I first started calling that particular pose a Phoon. Initially, I was simply standing in a silly way for photos. But at some point, I decided to refer to this new pose as a Phoon and drop the connection to the other pose from summer camp. (Perhaps I should say "attempted to drop," since the old pose occasionally crept back into photos.)

Where did the word "Phoon" come from?

Oddly enough, "Phoon" was not originally paired with what you now know as a Phoon pose.

When I was in high school, a neighbor and his brother used to say "oon" to make each other laugh. (Why? I have no idea. Say anything enough times and it can start to sound odd or funny. You can probably think of words or sounds that amused you or others when you were children.)

The summer after high school, I worked at a summer camp. I met Peter who had just as bizarre and silly of a sense of humor as I did. I remembered a story from my sister's college days: there were a couple of guys who, when they saw each other, even at a great distance, would call out some word and then strike a particular pose. I wanted to do something similar with Peter.

In need of a silly sounding word, I chose "phoon," obviously influenced by my neighbors saying "oon." (So, no, "phoon" is not based on anything else such as buffoon or was completely just a funny sounding word rooted in another funny sounding word.)

Next, I needed a pose. But I did not choose what you now know as the Phoon. Instead, I chose the pose you see in the top part of this photo, with knee raised in front.

So, when Peter and I saw each other, we'd say "phoon" and quickly snap into that scrunched pose. And that is how I originally formed an association between the word "phoon" with a physical stance.

Can you help me find Peter? (Last name "Gross" perhaps?) Back in 1980, he was a teen, short, blonde hair, skinny guy. I have wished that he could see what has become of phooning. His family lived in Mt. Hermon, California, on the road facing the recreation field, and he worked on staff in the Ivy Dining Room.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Welcome to the Phoons blog

If you like and are hoping for behind-the-scenes details, you've come to the right place. If you're completely bored and ended up here by mindless clicking, keep reading.

What is is a collection of photos from around the world, all of which have one particular element in common: somewhere in the photo is at least one person doing the "Phoon" pose.

Sure, there is definitely the "silly" aspect to it. But these categories of photos may be a complete surprise to you:

To Life!
In Remembrance

If you only look at one or two photos, you won't "get it."

To begin to grasp what attracts people to the world of Phoons:

- visit any photo in the collection; don't worry about whether you like it or not

- look below the photo for the names of categories that that photo is in

- pick a category that sounds a little more interesting

- hmm...several photos in the same category; visit a few that look interesting

- again, look below the photo for the categories, and you'll probably find another category that sounds interesting to you

Other people tell me that what captures their attention (like needing to eat just one more potato chip) is wanting another surprise, wanting to see what different person will appear in what different location, often amazing or beautiful or funny locations. There is something amazing about seeing all of the different places that people want to do this pose. I have gotten to see places all around the world that I never heard of before, places that I will probably never visit--I get to enjoy "travel photos" from around the world!

This blog is a place where I can tell stories and give details that wouldn't necessarily fit on or would otherwise clutter

The kinds of things I want to discuss in this blog:

  • the origin of the pose and of the word "Phoon"
  • how this grew into a worldwide fad
  • how "interesting" is determined for a photo
  • how the categories are determined
  • the value and attraction of stories
  • a description of the process of dealing with uploaded photos
  • what my interaction is like with people who submit photos
  • the translators
  • your ideas--I want to talk about some things and get your response
  • about me--do I have a life or other interests?
  • the impact of Phoons on me and others
Thanks for visiting!