Sites of the Week

Samples from my website culture column for Tactic media's blog "Critical Mob" (2012)

“The idea that she was married still seemed like a great big joke, a fiction she was able to pull over her head like an oversize sweater.”  –Emma Straub,  Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures          ["Slaughterhouse 90210", Kreizman]

“The idea that she was married still seemed like a great big joke, a fiction she was able to pull over her head like an oversize sweater.”
–Emma Straub, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures

["Slaughterhouse 90210", Kreizman]

Making TV Literate with Slaughterhouse 90210

If you were looking for the pinnacle pomo blog, Maris Kreizman’s tumblr Slaughterhouse 90210 (previous title idea: “Full House of Mirth”) is as much a pop culture collision as its title, pushing together the high and low, The OCs Summer and Edith Wharton. For three years now, Brooklyn media junkie and former book editor Kreizman has been pairing television screenshots with contemporary fiction with the goal of getting books back into pop culture discussions. Based on the rampant re-blogging and huge three-year anniversary party at Housing Works this past March, it might actually be working.

On her tumblr Kreizman uses pictures to talk about the Big Picture, proving that quotes from literature can be that much more appealing and illuminating when attached to a TV screenshot. Each post features stills from shows like Mad MenBreaking BadParks and Recreation, and Seinfeld and then pulls quotes from authors like David Foster Wallace or Kurt Vonnegut to unearth a deeper meaning within the show. Although it might sound juvenile or even absurd to examine pop culture through a literary lens, Slaughterhouse 90210 does so without any irony whatsoever, celebrating the way both books and TV can make the audience feel–and giving word nerds something to laugh about.

Why not make your experience that much more mediated?

-Posted Sept. 20, 2012

Shrink Your Existential Angst to Comic Strip Size

Garfield Minus Garfield is exactly what it sounds like — a tumblr that literally excises the lasagna-inhaling cat from his own comic strip. But although the premise sounds simple — even absurd — Dan Walsh, creator of the site, tapped into a depth and despair one never thought a Sunday funny pager could have. Now a wildly popular webcomic and book, the site gets at a common human experience simply by cutting out the feline character.

Each post on “G-G” is a former Garfield strip completely unchanged, except for the notable absence of the eponymous character. By eliminating the beloved fat cat, Walsh gets the reader to focus on the previously neglected Jon Arbunkle. When before he was eclipsed by the cat’s one-liners, now Jon comes forward as the main character — and a deeply lonely and troubled one at that. As you scroll through the archives, it becomes clear that the comic offers a much darker humor when Jon no longer admits anxieties to his constant comical companion, but instead speaks to an unforgiving void, visually represented by empty strip squares. 

What some might call over-the-top-editing, Walsh describes as “a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb.” Either way, it’s a new way to laugh at an old comic, and to poke fun at a universal depression.

-Posted Oct. 18, 2012

Judge a Book by its Cover with "Better Book Titles" 

aka  Ulysses

aka Ulysses

For those of us who don’t have time to read the classics—or even their book jackets—Better Book Titles sifts through the massive page counts and thematic development for you, leaving you with just the essential message—such as The Great Gatsby’s crux: “Drink responsibly.”

Created in 2010, this lit nerd’s dream tumblr features recognizable book covers of bestsellers and classics, but updates them with a title that forms a blunt and outrageous summation of what the book is really about. Comedian-creator Dan Wilbur updates the site almost daily, offering you the meat of each story in one image that runs the gamut from comically simplistic synopses—James and the Giant Peach becomes “It’s OK if giant fruit kills your aunts as long as they were bitches”—to off-color jabs at the content—such as Elie Wiesel’s Night being renamed “Worst Family Trip.”

Although the site accepts reader submissions, such as one person’s take onThe Fountainhead—“Hate-Fucking and Architecture”—for the most part it comprises Wilbur’s self-proclaimed attempts to distill literature to its smallest, most ridiculous parts so that people will never have to read an entire book again. His new book, How Not to Read: Harnessing the Power of a Literature-Free Life, continues this tongue-in-cheek project of sparing people the work that comes with being able to reference the literary greats. 

Then again, maybe Wilbur’s alternative book titles will cause the opposite effect—because who wouldn’t want to read something called “Dude, Where’s My Cat?” (as opposed to the more cryptic The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles)?

-Posted Oct. 7, 2012

Rewrite the Headlines with "Newspaper Blackout"

Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon

For artist Austin Kleon, poring over the New York Times is more than just a matter of being a socially aware citizen—it’s a matter of poetry. With his tumblr, Newspaper Blackout, Kleon explores a new realm of poetry—a poetry of absence, so to speak—that involves writing by eliminating, or more specifically, by blacking out with a permanent marker. Having already landed two book deals and a line of art prints sold via online gallery 20x200 for his work, his site is not about self-promotion. Rather, he wishes to inspire his followers and fans to try their own newsprint poetry and submit the work to be published online.

Contributing is as simple as the formula found on the site: “Newspaper + marker = poetry.” Or at least, it’s almost as simple—some creativity is required. The idea is to go Hemingway all over a newspaper, blacking out unwanted words until a poem emerges from those left peeking out of the Sharpie stains. It may sound a little hokey, a remnant from the Beat Generation tactic of combining the “first thought, best thought” philosophy with automatic writing à la the Dadaists, but the results run the gamut from gorgeous and inspired to silly and eccentric.

Appropriately called blackout poetry or erasure poetry in the larger lit world, this method creates new text by eliminating the old text surrounding it—and it requires some detective work. Although it’s not so much about unearthing secret clues, it does require some sleuthing for those unobvious but beautiful phrases tucked between the neutral reporting. By selecting which words not to erase as opposed to which words to generate, blackout poetry somehow places just as much—if not more—emphasis on diction as more traditional poetry.

If you don’t feel like breathing in Sharpie fumes yourself, you can always scroll through the archives of redacted articles. Whether or not you can appreciate it as poetry, it is certainly a creative and intentional take on the word-search—or at the very least, beautifully minimalist black-and-white images.

-Posted Dec. 29, 2012

Poll the Internet's Sentimentality with "The Burning House"

The Burning House is a conceptual tumblr blog built around answering the question: “If your house was burning, what would you take with you?” Started in May 2012, the site now houses an impressive archive of user-submitted photos alongside explanatory lists of the items people hypothetically treasure enough to save from a fire. Each post shows an attractively arranged collection of items followed by the contributor’s name, age, location, occupation, and annotated list of items pictured. As the site’s description has it — “think of it as an interview condensed into one question.”

Although many of the photos suggest an emphasis on design rather than sentimentality, with vintage cameras, moleskine notebooks, and wooly knitted sweaters neatly arranged in some appealing geometric shape, the result is still like a more intimate Pinterest, sharing not just information bytes about yourself with the general public, but actual images of those things you value in life as well. The photos themselves feature everything from the logical take-aways (MacBook Pros, family photo albums, passports) to the unexpected (tacky ceramic mugs, drugstore mascara, dark chocolate), to the minimal and affected (a flask of whiskey, sketch pad, cigarettes)

Despite the site’s obvious interest in artistic arrangements and interesting combinations of artifacts, each post ultimately leaves you thinking about the items you care most about in life, and why. Whether it’s an assortment of Apple products or simply a picture of a husband and a wedding ring, what people choose to take with them in this conflict between the practical and the sentimental is a fascinating reflection on what it is to be a human in this consumerist society. Scroll through the archives for something in between aesthetic and philosophical profundity, or submit your own to-save-from-a-fire list yourself.

-Posted Jan. 7, 2013

Have Fun Fact-Checking with "[Citation Needed]"

Started in November 2009, [Citation Needed] is a blog that collects outrageously bad prose lifted from Wikipedia. The founders of the site, Josh Fruhliner and Conor Lastowka, have maintained the site these past four years, building up an impressive archive of unimpressive Wiki entries. Each post on the site includes a verbatim transcription of various Wikipedia entries along with an original source link so that you can verify that these ridiculous tidbits were really published. While many entries are unintended one-liners, like the description of the film House of Sand and Fog, which states succinctly: “Fog plays a major role in the film; Sand, not as much,” others are hilarious because of sheer length, which reveals how meticulously someone researched and detailed objects of no apparent importance. The site’s main appeal is the sheer variety of mistakes found from entry to entry, from significant factual errors and grammar flubs to straight up illogical explanations. While many posts appeal more to those who regard The Elements of Style as their personal Bible—for example, one entry calls out the syntactic ambiguity of the phrase “Free Ireland,” asking if it is “a syntactical entity a Republican call-to-arms or just an amazingly good deal”—other entries’ grammar mistakes or logical inconsistencies speak for themselves. Still other posts are comical not so much because of errors, but because of the pseudo-academic tone used to describe something utterly banal, like the entry on “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” which claims the song is controversial because of double entendres that refer “the title phrase to costume parties and to testicles.” Although the posts are hilarious in their own right, the fact that the entries were once written by real life, presumably literate people, makes the finds all the more hilarious. That, and the subjects these real life people wrote about of their own volition—like fact-checking the science of an episode of The Magic School Bus or fleshing out the rules of a pinky swear. As there are thousands of articles on Wikipedia, a volunteer-based site, there are inherently rampant errors, which explains how the site has 149 pages of material and counting. With so many absurd, obvious, and trivial descriptions to scroll through, the tumblr quickly gained a religious following of rebloggers and now has its own book for sale. Kill some time with the best of Wikipedia’s worst writing and relish in the fact that your communication skills aren’t as unsophisticated as you might have thought.

-Posted Feb. 27, 2013

Old-school Stargazing with "Awesome People Hanging Out Together"

Imagine a world where Pablo Picasso and Le Corbusier are modernist buddies, Patti Smith and William S. Burroughs lead the junky lifestyle in sepia living rooms, and great comics like Louis CK and Aubrey Plaza crack jokes together. Or, if you can’t imagine, the wildly day dream-friendly and self-explanatory tumblr blog, Awesome People Hanging Out Together lets you see it via photographs drawn from the depths of the Internet and various archives. Started by a 21-year old with a penchant for aesthetics, photography, and awesome people caught being awesome together in November 2010, the site now has over 100,000 followers.

Lucille Ball and Eleanor Roosevelt, Photo from "Awesome People Hanging Out"

Lucille Ball and Eleanor Roosevelt, Photo from "Awesome People Hanging Out"

With such a basic concept, one might think the blog would be repetitive, but there are many levels at work with each photo. For one, you get to ogle at celebrities in mostly casual settings but without the loud tabloid captions. More interesting, though, are the dynamics at work when straight-up celebs meet cultural, political, or religious figures—like provocateur Russell Brand with spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. The situations are equally captivating—there’s something surreal about seeing Dean Martin and John Wayne cook spaghetti together, or Meryl Streep show Hillary Clinton something on her iPhone. Other images on the site capture kindred spirits, those who made great contributions to the same field but who you never pictured together—Bill Nye the Science Guy with the Mythbusters, for example. Thinking about each pair as colleagues or rivals, wondering if one felt star-struck by the other, etc. adds a lot to what otherwise would just be an endless feed of poached photos.

Although scrolling through all the odd couples or, conversely those modern pairs who make too much sense together, the old-school classic stars are the most interesting. The site lets you envision a different era—you get to see its cultural signifiers that might have clashed in history books now hug in a black and white photo, like the visually boggling Mother Teresa and Princess Di combo, or the why-were-they-in-the-same-room coupling of Louis Armstrong and Niels Bohr. You learn about talks you never knew people gave, benefit show collaborations and the stolen backstage moments produced, friendships that simply look sparkling, attractive, and alive despite the initial shock of the pairing.

Travel through cultural history with these wonderful snapshots of celebrities running the range from literary big wigs to brash iconoclasts with Awesome People Hanging Out Together.

-Posted Dec. 22, 2012

The New Yorker Gets Less Oblique with "The Monkeys You Ordered"

Started in July 2010 by an anonymous dry wit, The Monkeys You Ordered recycles old New Yorker cartoons with reimagined captions of its own. But instead of trying to be clever or topical like most contestants to each issue’s contest, TMYO goes the literal route.

Each post on the site includes an old New Yorker cartoon plus a new caption that gets its humor from either explaining the scenario in a dry reportage tone of voice, or inserting probable dialogue into the mouths of the characters. For example, in one cartoon there are people sitting around a table for a business meeting, each with placid, congenial faces, except for one man who is holding a guitar and singing. The caption is simply: “Gary won’t shut the fuck up.”

Although the premise seems almost too straightforward to work, a lot of what makes each not-joke effectively a joke is imagining all the too-clever reader responses the cartoon originally received, and knowing that this literal caption is comical because it just isn’t trying so hard. What’s more, the literal captions heighten the surreal situations depicted, so that can simply laugh at the absurdity that’s already there, instead of reading someone’s swing-and-a-miss at a political joke.

Even though the site isn’t updated on even a weekly basis, there are enough posts in the archive to make scrolling more than worth your while. On occasion the site even hosts its own New Yorker Caption Contests to trump up faithful readers’ involvement and give the opportunity to hear other ironic voices. Interestingly enough, throughout all the hundreds of posts, the only times the jokes fall flat is when you can tell the author was trying to submit an actual New Yorker-type caption.

For many of the same reasons we find observational humor so hilarious, this tongue-in-cheek tumblr is an example of when less is more, and less is downright comical.

-Posted Jan. 29, 2013

False Advertising Becomes Farce with "Depressed Copywriter"

Started in May 2012, Depressed Copywriter is a tumblr composed of Instagrammed ads with words either excised, added, or a combination that yields a much darker, and more honest “advertisement” for life as a whole rather than just a product. Although it is called “Depressed Copywriter” in the singular, the blog is actually the product of a collaboration between Chris SheldonMariana OliveiraWhitney Ruef, and Tedd Wood — all clever copywriters who, given the content, very well may be depressed.

As written on the site, their “statement of purpose” is simply: “Every time I see an example of corporate happiness I can only see the reality of life. I can’t help myself anymore. I can’t stop rearranging their copy,” followed by a long Banksy quote that can be condensed to: “Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours…to take, re-arrange, and re-use.” Their more succinct tagline? Living in disappointment.

Each post on the site features an Instagram shot of a found advertisement that has been edited to deliver a satirical punch line, like: “You’re not a guitar hero. You are unemployed,” or “We’ve made made dandruff a non-issue. Now let’s do something about your crippling self-loathing.” Although most of the edited ads contain scathing criticism of modern society, others just get dark for dark’s sake, like one that says: “Paternity questions? You are a whore,” or another adjusted caption accompanying a picture of a mother holding her two Mott’s juice box-wielding kids that reads: “I know their life is sweeter without their father.”

Although most of the jokes are about failed careers, marriages, death, debt, and other issues of both material and emotional poverty, such topics only make sense given the very sociological platform of their critiques. Still, some jokes channel these common criticisms through product-specific cracks, like an ad for Bombay Sapphire that’s edited to say: “Infused with a midlife crisis,” playing off the likelihood that a sucker for gin martinis is middle-aged and anxiety-ridden. Additionally, after opening up the site to accept submissions from its faithfully cynical reader base, there have recently been more diverse revisions for the smirking at.

In a world so saturated in ads that we no longer stop to evaluate their messages, Depressed Copywriter causes us to stop and take a caustic, but refreshing look at our consumer-driven society’s values and cover-ups, making us laugh while we’re at it.

-Posted Feb. 5, 2013

Funnier than Fiction with "Onion-like Headlines in Real Life"

As we all know, The Onion is the nation’s most beloved satirical newspaper, whose online platform is constantly updated with headlines so hilarious you don’t even need to read the article to get the belly laugh they were hoping for. In its honor, this tumblr blog, Onion-like Headlines in Real Life, poaches headlines from various publications (the factual, journalism handbook-guided ones) that sound as though they could introduce a farcical article for the Onion, but are even funnier because they don’t.

Started in June 2011, the now-expansive site is devoted to collecting all those moments you’ve been reading a news article with open-mouthed incredulity, and highlighting the disconnect between the often sobering reality of the story and the hilariously truncated summary the press assigns it.

Each post is short and sweet, containing simply a word-for-word headline taken from an actual publication that contains a hyperlink to the original source. When read in succession, these impossibly real headlines offer the same dark humor as the Onion, plus a dash of bewilderment at the fact that it isn’t just satire. What makes the blog so enjoyable is seeing such bizarre headlines stripped of context, and knowing that hilarious bits like “With Foursquare Checkin, Curiosity Rover Aspires to Be “Mayor” of Mars” are purely descriptive, and were written without any irony whatsoever — that, and the overwhelming stranger-than-fiction quality each post possesses.

Not only are these headlines not the product of some professional comics, they aren’t even puntastic bits from New York Post or poorly researched pop sociology articles from Yahoo! News (although the gem: “Women look their worst at 3:30pm every day, survey claims” is). Headlines like “Russia emerges from two-week new year drinking binge” come from respected publications like the Guardian, and “Sun too round, say scientists” is from the Independent. After scrolling through the archives, it becomes almost as entertaining simply to see which publication each headline comes from as it is to read them alone, as the succinctness and diction is often at odds with the newspaper’s reputed caliber. Some are in fact so Onion-like that there is actual overlap—a post from the Wall Street Journal on February 8 was titled: “In (relatively) close call, asteroid will miss earth” — one week later the Onion itself published an article, “Asteroid narrowly misses earth”, in the American Voices section.

Totally hilarious and rebloggable, OHRL is a wonderful time-waster with an extensive archive thanks to the open call for submissions from its reader base. Check out the absurdity yourself — as the site says, this stuff is too true to be good.

-Posted Feb. 19, 2013

Facebook Folklore with "Fairytales for Twenty-Somethings"

After the countless television adaptations and Disney remakes, you’d think fairy tales couldn’t possibly stand another contemporary twist without becoming sterile, boring clichés. Meet Fairy Tales for Twenty-Somethings, a tumblr blog that cleverly incorporates the lingo of a young, urban millennial into the fabric of these time-tested vignettes.

Tim Manley, a 27-year-old New York City high school teacher created this satirical tumblr as a way to examine the human condition from the simple, familiar framework of a fairy tale while using more complex, but familiar terms. Each post features an image from a work of Grimm or other tale fit for Scheherezade accompanied by an explanatory anecdote. Instead of following the usual fairy tale tropes, though, Manley has the beloved characters return in totally modern, and therefore absurdly hilarious scenarios — Wendy returns from Neverland and has kids right away because “she was too fucking tired to do anything else,” a depressed Sleeping Beauty keeps refreshing her empty email inbox in hopes of receiving feedback on the photo blog she posted to Facebook, and Rumpelstiltskin lies about his height on his OkCupid profile.

Although it may seem like just another blog poking fun at the “plight” of the digitally-entrenched Gen Y demographic, FTTS does so with a traditionally concise and moralistic form of storytelling that offers a new — and nuanced — spin on the self-aware humor flooding the twitter- and tumblr-verse. 

-Posted Oct. 27, 2012

TV for Smart-Asses with "WTF Comcast"

For those of you who have ever flipped through Comcast’s On Demand choices and found yourself bewildered by the flippancy of the synopses, WTF Comcast has a whole slew of them for your amusement. As straightforward as any niche tumblr, the blog is simply a collection of pictures of TV screens containing the offending Comcast synopses, occasionally with some accompanying ironic observation from the site curator.

While the concept may sound a little boring (especially if you haven’t witnessed the absurdity yourself), the entries are hilarious for wildly different reasons. The majority of the posts get their humor from the incredibly succinct sum-up phrases used to close the synopses, like closing a synopsis of The Specialist with the line: “Tedious in the extreme,“ or summing up the entirety of Seinfeld with just one line: “Friends living in Manhattan obsess over little things.” However, others prove how bored — or possibly even drunk — the copywriter was, such as the internal dialogue seen in the description of an episode of Exes & Ohs that drips with bitterness: “What’s the best way to find out about a new girl? Interrogate her ex-boyfriend of course — I’m sure they’ll be open, honest, and partial (just like I am about my ex-the whore).”

Often the more sardonic descriptions are for obscure movies and TV shows (usually horror films or fluff dramedies) like calling The Burrowers “a masterpiece of the Cowboy/Carniverous Worm People genre”—the punch line being that no one watches these movies (and perhaps the copywriter didn’t expect anyone to read the description either). Others still contain such scathing criticism and thinly-veiled judgment of the film itself that it’s a wonder no one edited it, such as the opening sentence to the Ace Ventura: Pet Detective description: “Jim Carrey milks laughs from a one-joke premise in his star-making vehicle about a sleuth searching for a football team’s missing mascot.”

With such a wealth of casually sarcastic one-liners, it’s unfortunate that the site isn’t updated as frequently as it was when it began in 2009. Still, the archives offer a series of comical quick-reads that run the gamut from the typo-ridden to the tongue-in-cheek to the downright critical. Get a kick out of the blunt-but-true descriptions of popular and unpopular movies alike, and maybe look into future employment with Comcast’s copywriting department. 

-Posted March 5, 2013

Old School Music Sharing with Everyone's Mixtape

For lovers of music and nostalgia everywhere, Everyone’s Mixtape lets you recreate the romance of swapping mixtapes by creating your own online. Powered by YouTube, Soundcloud, and Vimeo, the app searches these browsers for the tunes you want to add to the “tape” – all you have to do is click, drag, and rearrange as you wish.

Although it is essentially a public dropbox for music, the site makes a point of being more than just a playlist. The track titles are displayed in high school-ish script and a cassette at the top of the page spins as the music plays to simulate that analog feeling. Out of respect for the art of the mixtape, the site gives you total control over the mix, offering different “tape” length options of 60, 90, and 120 minute increments – plus an infinite option, which kind of defeats the purpose of an old school tape, but hey, they’re accommodating.

Ironically, with Everyone’s Mixtape, you get a website glorifying pre-Internet music sharing while proving that digital streaming too has a social component. You sign in with Facebook or Google, and then can listen to, like, tweet, and otherwise share online every mix as easily as you make them – plus you can decide whether you want to “collaborate” with others (i.e., let them add to your playlist). If you don’t feel like making a tape at all, you can browse the archives for others’ creations, which run the gamut of mixes for certain genres, time periods, time-of-day periods, or general existential feelings.

-Posted Sept. 20, 2012

Find Your Author Alter-Ego with "I Write Like"

Have you ever wondered which famous author you wrote most like but would prefer a computer’s evaluation over your friends’ limited subjective evaluations? Thanks to Coding Robots, the same company that innovated a user-friendly journal app for Macs, there’s a statistical analysis tool that will tell you just that.

Aptly called I Write Like, the site features an addictive app that analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares the results to those of famous writers. All you have to do is copy and paste a sample of your writing –whether that be in the form of a blog post, journal entry, or short story-so long as there are at least a few paragraphs to generate the most reliable results, and then click “analyze.”

As it is essentially a word calculator, which is kind of an oxymoron, the analyzer isn’t the most reliable literary critic – for instance, it claimed an esteemed literary critic’s blog post sounded most like Dan Brown. Regardless, I Write Like provides nerdy entertainment and bragging opportunities that the site even facilitates by generating an “I Write Like” badge you can share with friends.

-Posted Sept. 20, 2012

Get Your Scathing Reality Check with "Dear Coquette"

For anyone seeking “shady advice from a raging bitch who has no business answering any of their questions,” advice tumblr blog Dear Coquette is the place to direct your vulnerability, at your own risk.

Started in 2009, Dear Coquette is the ultimate advice column catered to the reality TV-saturated ego-stroked generation of social media and pop culture junkies. Like any advice column, the entries are all responses to reader-generated problems ranging from the more innocent curiosities — like wanting a clever response to an OKCupid request — to the more weighty dilemmas, like having a friend in a domestic violence situation. What makes this public airing of grievances so refreshing, though, is the caliber of Coquette’s responses, which, although searing reality checks, always have a sagacity behind them. Although her tumblr disciples do most of the soul-baring, the appeal of the site is that “Coquette,” besides not offering her name, offers totally honest and unadulterated anecdotes about herself as well. After reading through some of these frank and fascinating Q & A sessions, you’re left with the feeling that both parties experienced some emotional growth, while having the opportunity to let go of some built-up tension. 

As the sheer enormity of posts can be overwhelming, the site lets you search through the archives by categories—random bits of advice, the hall of anti-fame, a few testimonials, etc.—or scroll through the entire, ever-lengthening feed of people bitching or being bitched-at. When you click on “all the past advice,” you can see the diversity of topics discussed, with each post announcing its theme in the subject line—such as “On coming off as racist,” “On snooping,” or “On mortality, babies, and pills.” One recurring post, titled “On Fun-Sized Advice,” features advice-as-punch lines, with people asking questions that often warrant a longer response than the biting and bite-sized rejoinders she offers—such as one guy who asked: “I have sociopathic tendencies. How do I change?” to which she replied: “Pretend you’re a good person.” At caustic-but-comic moments like these, one could get annoyed that she opts out of legitimately helping someone for the sake of humor, but that’s also what makes the site so readable.

An exhilaratingly honest take on human experience, Dear Coquette is the Girls of the Internet, addressing major common-to-all topics while ensuring that none of us take all the quotidian drudgery too seriously. Ask her a question, and get sassed in the best way possible.

-Posted Jan. 14, 2013

Relive Memorable Melees with "Great Showdowns"

If you’re a movie buff, artist, general fan of whimsy, or a child, chances are Great Showdowns is the tumblr for you.

Created by painter/illustrator/children’s book author Scott Campbell, Great Showdowns chronicles some of the greatest confrontations (or in some cases merely notable tensions) in film history. Campbell’s stated premise is that the world is driven by epic struggles—beginning with the clash between T. Rex and Triceratops or the Giant Squid and the Sperm Whale. All he strives to do is not so much make light of, but rather celebrate some of these struggles by featuring fictional and/or less grandiose showdowns as seen in movies—Chief Brody vs. a very large shark, John McClane vs. broken glass, etc.

Each post on the site includes playful watercolor depictions of conflict with the supposed antagonists often looking bizarrely docile or even downright friendly—or as Campbell described it, great showdowns wherein the antagonists “sort of enjoy that they are the great showdowns.” Although the majority of the original prints and paintings featured online come from sci-fi or horror movies, Campbell also draws inspiration from classics like John Hughes films—think Breakfast club gang vs. assistant principal Vernon or Lane vs. that creepy cartoon monster from the credits. Along with each picture comes either an accompanying quote from the movie, or an imagined quote, so that each one becomes a reimagined movie still that trumps up the sillier aspects of these great showdowns. For a colorful trip through film classics, check out the site’s archives or pick up the book in stores.

-Posted Nov. 22, 2012

Comical Commiserating with "Clients from Hell"

The now wildly popular story-swapping tumblr, Clients from Hell began in April 2009 with just a post per month, but has since expanded to multiple anecdotal posts per day. A sort of collaborative bitch fest, CFH collects anonymously contributed client horror stories from designers and freelancers all over the world as both a gesture of solidarity and a chance for comedy.

Although designers and freelancers certainly create a niche community, the kinds of dumb mistakes and ridiculous requests their clients make resemble the kinds of stupid people everyone has to deal with on a daily basis, regardless of profession. You don’t have to be a designer to appreciate the humor of this exchange: Client: “Do you charge?” Designer: “Yes.” Client: “Money?”

Most posts on the site consist of such exchanges whose absurdity reveals itself in the dialogue with no sarcastic commentary necessary. For example: Client: “You see there, where the text is black on white?” Designer: “Yep.” Client: “Could you increase the contrast there?” Designer: “No.” Client: “Just a little?” Me: “No.” Other posts are stand-alone quotes from the clients themselves, like: “Make it more subtle, but try to have it pop too,” or the ironically uncreative: “Use your creative ability to make this ad creative.”

Given the contributors, there are, of course, a great deal of nerdy jokes about color, typeface, and formatting, like the request to “make everything bold so it all stands out,” or “I don’t want dark grey. I am looking for more of a light black,” or “please create a minimal baroque font.” Even so, most people in this tech-savvy, digital age can appreciate a good crack about using Paint instead of Photoshop or not understanding how an email attachment works.

The site offers such an extensive archive of these humorous scenarios, like assuming you don’t have to pay a freelancer because wouldn’t they be called “paidlancers” if you did?, etc., that you’re bound to find something familiar, and therefore funny.

As we all know, one of the fundamentals of comedy is laughing at idiots, and Clients from Hell definitely has its share eligible morons.

-Posted Feb. 11, 2013

Enjoy Caps-Lock Laughs with "Animals Talking in All Caps"

Animals Talking in All Caps capitalizes (pun intended) on the well-known fact that people find pictures of animals amusing, especially when captions are involved. Make the captions all caps and vaguely pop culture-based and the blunt force of humor is increased.

Begun in July 2011 by a self-described lonely twenty-something alcoholic,ATIAC has since accrued quite the dedicated following of animal lovers, comedy nerds, and media junkies alike. Although you might associate a certain kind of goofy humor ala the BBC Walk on the Wild Side series with anything animal + anecdote-based, this tumblr has a more complex and caustic take on the internet culture’s animal obsession. While some posts match the image with the caption perfectly, others get their comedic effect from the absurd and arbitrary pairings—like one featuring an Alaskan king crab that isn’t gay, but would definitely hook up with Anderson Cooper, or a wolf with an internet addiction.

What perhaps began as one insomniac Google image searcher’s pastime has become a successful satire of run-of-the-mill scenarios made mockable by ridiculous-looking animals. With at least once-daily updates, the blog’s archives are now extensive, ranging from adorable baby hedgehogs suffering from hangovers to dolphins sassing their roommates about the cable bill. No matter the human concern, ATIAC has found an animal to make it laughable and a capital letter one-liner to ground it in pop culture references, from Carey Mulligan look-alikes to the best Applebee’s appetizers. Hey, if you don’t like a good Ikea joke, at least you get a bizarre animal pic out of the deal.

-Posted Nov. 22, 2012

Color in the Rhymes with "Jumbo Coloring and Rap Activity"

Take the name — Jumbo Coloring and Rap Activity — at face value: it’s a coloring book tumblr of rap artists, or as Houston rap legend and co-curator of the site explains it: “It’s like one of those coloring books that kids have, except way less boring.” As bizarre as it sounds, award-winning rapper Bun B and self-titled “tank top enthusiast” (i.e., hip-hop writer) Shea Serrano have tag teamed on this tumblr that gives grown-ups a chance to relive childhood while revisiting some great rap songs.

Each entry features a downloadable picture or activity along with the usual coloring book scenarios wherein you have to solve some character’s “problem” — like being blank — by coloring them in. The only difference is, they’re adapted to rap artists. For example, one reads: “It’s a nice day out and Lil Wayne wants to skate. Can you help him?” As a bonus, along with each empty outline of famous rappers from Drake to The Game comes a corresponding YouTube link to give you the perfect jam to listen to while you color.

However, not every picture is a traditional color-in-the-lines scenario — many posts switch up the format so that you can, say, draw on Drake’s eyebrows, do a Nicki by Numbers color template (she is one of rap’s “brightest characters” after all), or connect the dots on Tupac’s bandana. Now only six weeks old, the blog has already been featured in ComplexThe Washington Post, and Spin among other publications. As the site grows, it caters more and more to its followers — just in time for Halloween they made a Jay-Z pumpkin template, and for Thanksgiving they made a Kanye West card.

So print out a jpeg, bust out your crayons, and enter their coloring contest to win a J.Cole Dreamville t-shirt.

-Posted Dec. 1, 2012

The Best of the Worst with "The Worst Things for Sale"

For those of us who find infomercials strangely fascinating both for advertising tactics and the actual product they’re peddling, The Worst Things for Sale is the tumblr for you. Started by Drew, the mastermind behind the successful and highly entertaining webcomics Toothpaste for Dinner and Married to the Sea, the site does exactly what its name promises — it displays all the completely useless and illogical things you probably don’t know about, and maybe wish you didn’t.

With every post comes a picture of the most recent bizarre product Drew found out about plus accompanying description/commentary/tirade against rampant consumerism and the absurdities it creates. For example, he sardonically recommends the “Hidden Vision TV Mount” which suspends your flat screen from a crane-like arm attached to the wall — because who wouldn’t want constant fear of breaking your wall, breaking your TV, and/or death? Each image also links to an online provider such as Amazon, providing further entertainment because you can read product reviews from people who actually bought, for example, a “Wine Rack” — a bra with a plastic hose that allows you to drink wine on the sly…from inside your shirt.

Although most of the products’ ridiculousness is readily apparent, the corresponding captions wryly spell out just what makes them so superfluous, and thereby humorous. Some descriptions even imagine scenarios wherein you purchased the item, like, say, Torani’s bacon flavored coffee syrup, and the irony enforcer shows up and makes you drink enough coffee until you use up all the syrup and no longer find bacon-flavored things kitschy.

Take a break from your online holiday shopping to mock all the gadgets this culture of convenience and consumerism generates — and then go back to buying them.

-Posted Dec. 3, 2012

Comical Pop Culture Collision with "Kanye Wes Anderson"

Culturally relevant but otherwise totally irrelevant tumblr blog Kanye Wes Anderson mixes the twee cinematographic genius of Wes Anderson with the bold rhymes of Kanye West with strangely hilarious results. Started in August 2012 in the wake of buzz about Moonrise Kingdom, the blog has already accumulated quite the archive of pop culture near-non sequiturs.

Each post pairs a still from an Anderson film with capital letter Kanye lyrics superimposed over the scene to highlight just how perfectly bizarre the combination is. What were already comical or tragicomical situations in each film become even more ridiculous when you see, for example, Ash fromFantastic Mr. Fox in a superhero pose with the “Gold Digga” lyrics: “He got that ambition, baby, look in his eyes” framing him in the shot. Although the majority of the posts follow this format, a few reverse the concept so that you get a picture of Kanye West in horn-rimmed glasses alongside the Rushmore quote “I saved Latin. What did you ever do?”

Scroll through the image archives and thank the Internet gods for another superfluous yet pun-derful blog, and maybe even snag a Kanye Wes T-shirt while you’re at it.

-Posted Dec. 17, 2012