Quick, strike while the web meme's still cool.
Here are the official rules and dance moves to make your own version of the "Harlem Shake" video craze that's been oscillating through the Internet for the past couple of weeks:
1. There are no official rules and dance moves.
2. Unofficially, don a motorcycle helmet or some form of identity-concealing headgear: a giant lemon, a Nixon mask, a horse head, whatever's on hand because you may not want future employers to see this.
3. Cue "Harlem Shake," the heavy-beat electronic cut from New York-based DJ Baauer, and engage in pelvic thrusts in the direction of your webcam, repeatedly, with the speed and vigor to potentially throw out your back.
4. In a blink and a quick video smash cut, bring in all your friends. Then totally wig out! For about 30 seconds, have everybody shake what their mamas gave 'em, flailing seemingly boneless bodies like Gumby or Elaine from Seinfeld.
Now upload it all to YouTube and you're instantly part of something so viral, so virulent it's become a full-blown pandemic and the CDC should get involved. They probably have, and already made their own video.
(Be advised, the hosts on the Today Show did it on live TV on Valentine morning. If the fad is not dead yet, a "shaking" Al Roker may have killed it.)
Step aside, PSY
Whether it's a flashdance in the pan or the craze of the century, the Shake has jolted South Korea's PSY "Gangnam Style" video -- with its more than a billion Internet views -- into the oblivion of SO last month. And cats playing piano? Prehistoric.
In a post earlier this week, YouTube trends manager Kevin Allocca said they've logged more than 44 million views on the 12,000-plus Harlem Shake vids uploaded so far, with more popping up every day. We've seen everything from random college kids and baseball teams to grandmas and soldiers and even the folks at Buzzfeed, Facebook (sans Zuck) and Google, incorporating things like giant gingerbread men, penguins and Sumo wrestlers. Local guy, 22-year-old Hank Rao of San Rafael, did a version with his two octogenarian grandmothers, which got them all on CNN and Today.
"It was hilarious," Rao told the Marin Independent Journal this week. "I thought I might as well make my own since my grandparents are a little bit crazy and love dancing."
The Harlem Shake name comes from a dance move back in the '80s that started in New York's Harlem and spread to music videos of the day. It made a comeback in 2011 as the title of the cut produced by Baauer. Then at the end of January, four dudes in various unitards and masks posted a video under the vlogger name Filthy Frank in what is now considered -- in official Harlem Shake cannon -- the production that launched a thousand more vids. "Though it was another user named SunnyCoastSkate who then established the form we've become familiar with: the jump cut, the helmet, etc.," Allocca said.
How the heck does this kind of Internet contagion happen? Alex Debelov, CEO of Virool, a San Francisco firm that basically helps people promote their YouTube videos, says everybody thinks their video is so fantastic it'll go viral on it's own.
"But it really doesn't happen like that any more," he said. "There's so much content now -- 1.5 million videos are uploaded to YouTube every single day. Something like Harlem happens when somebody like Jimmy Kimmel or sites like reddit picks it up, showcases it, tweets it out," he said. "Then it goes crazy."
The video is also really short. A quick-hit, 30-seconds of silliness means people can consume dozens on lunch breaks alone and not feel too much guilt.
Debelov noted that his firm has not made its own Harlem Shake video. Yet.
"The meme (of the Shake) is very easy to participate in -- all you need is some basic video editing skills and a group of people who are game to participate. A motorcycle helmet helps too," said Oliver Wang, a music/pop-culture writer and scholar based in Southern California who has written for NPR and the Oakland Tribune. "But the impact, the payoff, is fun and pleasurable to watch," he said. "I think the meme-ness has partially to do with the pleasures of dancing yourself silly but doing so in a way here where being silly is the point."
Some purists and killjoys dispute that the craze is a "dance" at all, much less anything resembling the original Harlem Shake, which combined a little side-to-side shoulder shimmy with some shaking of the forearms.
But the various parodies' 44 million views -- and the meme's impending doom, thanks to Al Roker -- make that kind of a moot point.
Contact Angela Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org, read her Sunday Give 'Em Hill column, or follow her on Twitter @giveemhill.