On going kind of viral

Over Memorial Day weekend we drove from Utah to Montana and back, 10 hours each way, to visit my brother’s family. We had a great time even though the visit had to end with the apology “I’m sorry my dog killed your chicken.” I grew up sleeping during long drives, but most of our five kids are road trip insomniacs. (Number four once made it from Atlanta to SLC without sleeping a wink in the car. It was super fun for everyone.)

On this trip the second-born passed her time making lip sync videos. She showed her favorite to her mom during the last 30 minutes of the drive. My wife has a great laugh and I couldn’t help but laugh at her laugh as I drove along the normally humorless Interstate 15.

I watched it that night and then sent it to my family. My brother said, “Wow!!! Prepare to have it go viral.” I got her permission and then posted it to my Facebook the next morning. Here it is:

Within a few hours it was spreading quickly among my sizable extended family. I have a lot of cousins, but before long I could tell that more than just my cousins were watching. Facebook view counts are easier to come by than YouTube views because of the auto-play feature — everyone who scrolls past it in their feed counts as a view. But comments and shares indicated that a lot of people could relate to being trapped in a van with oblivious family members, kept sane only by the music you love.

KSL was the first news outlet to contact me. They did a great little article (“2-4-6-0-Fun!”) called
Have You Seen This? Utah teen makes hilarious ‘Les Mis’ video during family road trip.

It was locked in an intense popularity battle with the story of a moose giving birth in the Lowe’s parking lot and then took over the #1 spot for a day or two.

Most popular

Their Facebook post was shared over a thousand times.

KSL TV 5 Facebook post

KUTV came next. They didn’t contact me, but an editor with the amazing name of Cimaron Neugebauer, wrote up a small article based on the limited details in my Facebook post: Utah teen makes epic Les Misérables lip sync video on 10-hour road trip.

KUTV 2 updated

My wife and I were endlessly entertained by the overwhelmingly positive comments. Seriously, there were only like four jerks out of thousands of comments, which is a new experience for me on the Internet. A KSL commenter expressed her surprise as well that Utahans were actually being civil about a KSL story on Facebook.

Utahns being nice
Utahans being nice

Here are a few of my favorites:

Parents can’t resist giving each other online advice, so we had one mom who took the time to let us know she would prefer it if our kids had spent all 20 hours gazing out the window:

Critical mom

And another mom whose watchful eye would never have let this activity go on unnoticed:

another mom comment

A reporter with the Idaho Statesmen contacted me and posted a short article on their website. A few minutes later they figured out that my dad is an Idaho state senator and quickly added a local spin to it: Video by Idaho senate leader’s granddaughter goes viral.

Idaho Senator

This is where the trolls started to come out but they were few in number, at least. It was difficult not to feed them.

After about a week views reached 200,000 on Facebook and the pace slowed. Then Deseret News picked it up for their UTubers feature: Utah teen makes ‘Les Miserables’ music video during 10-hour drive. They linked to the YouTube version instead of Facebook and pushed it to about 6,000 views.

DN updated

Some more attention came from Familyshare.com – Girl takes the internet by storm with her hilarious rendition of ‘Les Mis’

And it even made a minor appearance on reddit.

The video is now two weeks old and its 15 minutes of fame are just about over. It never approached the view counts of cute puppy videos and my daughter is still unrecognized in public. Ellen never called. The Les Miserables Broadway Facebook page liked the video but didn’t call us with free tickets and airfare. But it was pretty fun while it lasted and I’m happy it brought at least a few minutes of joy to most people who saw it.

I spent entirely too much time on Facebook over the past 15 days and need a social media cleanse now. Maybe a long road trip.

Galta Monkey Temple

The first time I went to India, in 2008, I picked up the paper and read about monkeys that were raiding villages and stealing food and medicine. I’m pretty sure I read that they were stealing human babies, too, although now that I try to find an article online about it I’m having a rough time finding a reliable source. Jet lag was pretty bad that first visit, so maybe I invented that part or I was reading the Indian National Enquirer.

32nd Milestone Hotel
32nd Milestone Hotel

I was staying at the 32nd Milestone Hotel in Gurgaon, a few miles from New Delhi. As I settled into bed, a leopard gecko scurried up the wall. On my way back from breakfast in the morning, two monkeys were blocking the hotel entrance until someone chased them off with a broom. That’s when I knew I would be back to visit often.

Monkey god Hanuman
Monkey god Hanuman

Monkeys are fed and protected at temples dedicated to Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god. One of the most famous of these is Galta Ji in Jaipur, a few hours’ drive southwest of New Delhi. National Geographic has a series called Rebel Monkeys (Monkey Thieves in some countries) about the troop of 60ish rhesus macaques that live at Galta and maraud Jaipur.

We had trouble finding it — there were no tourist signs (which was great because we were the only tourists there) — but our driver asked a guy on a motorcycle who led us there several miles through the rain. Better than GPS.

Monkey oversees camera rules at Galta
Monkey oversees camera rules at Galta

We bought a bag of peanuts at the entrance and paid 200 rupees (about $4) to be able to use our cameras. The buildings were cool and there were a few monkeys wandering around. It was pretty ok, but not amazing.

Then, we heard a bell ring.

Suddenly, dozens of monkeys appeared from the rocks surrounding the area and rushed down the hill. It was feeding time. The priests distributed fresh fruits and vegetables as monkeys lined the steps and chomped away.

They mostly ignored us as our camera shutters clicked furiously. Once the fresh food was gone, some of the monkeys would pull on our pant legs to get peanuts from us.

Monkey grabs pant leg to get more treats
Monkey grabs pant leg to get more treats

It was exhilarating, a highlight of my time there. The monkeys were very accustomed to humans, so I don’t think it was much more dangerous than a petting zoo, but it felt like they could go King Louie on us at any moment, which added to the excitement.

Photo gallery –