Agony blogs

Everyman

Here begynneth a treatyse how þe hye Fader of Heven sendeth dethe to somon every creature to come and gyve acounte of theyr lyves in this worlde, and is in maner of an amorall blogge. So might the 15th-century classic Everyman begin, were it rewritten for the 21st-century internet. And why not? This is the age of the anonymous Every(wo)man: the troll, the hacker, the file sharer, the Wikipedia editor, the YouTuber. It makes sense that a culture obsessed with celebrities would find an anti-hero in Every(wo)man, whose touching or deplorable exploits are celebrated in dozens if not hundreds of highly popular blogs and websites. Consider:

  • FMyLife
    The ultimate agony column, minus the helpful advice part: anonymous readers submit brief vignettes illustrating their personal misery, and other anonymous readers get to vote either “i agree, your life is f****ed” or “you deserved that one.” Such interactivity, whether through voting or commenting, is of course a key contributor to the popularity of Every(wo)man blogs.
  • Post Secret
    One of the classiest blogs in this list. Not only is the concept itself brilliant — get people to send anonymous postcards containing some secret or confession — but the culture that has grown up around the blog encourages creativity. Many of the postcards are objects of beauty, lending pathos to their often sordid contents.
  • FOUND Magazine
    Another high-quality site, which is actually just the online appendage to an old-fashioned, tree-flesh magazine, showcasing “love letters, birthday cards, kids’ homework, to-do lists, ticket stubs, poetry on napkins, telephone bills, doodles — anything that gives a glimpse into someone else’s life.”
  • Stall Wall Poetry
    This is a really well-done blog, with a photo and transcription of each graffito (or exchange of graffiti), the exact location (including a Google map), and a brief comment from the blogger. Very occasionally, some of the graffiti does rise to the level of poetry, but most of it seems fairly tame, perhaps because it tends to be from Canada.
  • Overheard in the Office
  • Overheard in New York
  • Overheard Everywhere
    These are sister blogs. (There’s also an “Overheard on the Beach,” but who cares about that? Actually, one Overheard blog would’ve been plenty.) Again, most content is submitted by readers, but I find it a little disappointing: if these sites are any indication, most people don’t have much of an ear for the surreal. But sometimes the merely cute almost suffices:

    Young ice cream customer: I’m going to get a large sundae.
    Competitive young ice cream customer: Oh, yeah? I once had a sundae that was so big it was…it was… (thinks about it) up to the top of Jesus!

  • Best of Craigslist
  • You Suck at Craigslist
  • Fun with Craigslist
    Ah, Craigslist — no doubt a treasure-trove for future cultural historians. It’s kind of telling that there really isn’t much difference between the first collection and the second: the worst of Craigslist is the best of Craigslist. The author of the last blog isn’t content merely to showcase found disasters, but actually elicits new trainwrecks by responding to Craigslist ads in a crank-call fashion: pro-active schadenfreude.
  • Fail Blog
    The hugely popular blog devoted to failure of all kinds. Lowbrow fun — except when it’s too painful to watch, and you start to wonder just where the humor was supposed to lie and what the hell is wrong with us that we can take such pleasure in the failures of others. There seem to be a lot of niche-specific failure blogs out there, too, such as:
  • Cake Wrecks
    “When professional cakes go horribly, hilariously wrong.”
  • PhotoshopDisasters
  • Bad Parking

The failure blogs of most interest to me as a writer are those that focus on various kinds of found texts.

  • Passive-Aggressive Notes
    We laugh nervously. The anonymous authors of passive-agressive notes seem uncomfortably familiar.
  • Crummy Church Signs
    Decades before Twitter came along, there were church signboards with movable letters. The young and hip don’t have a monopoly on shallowness, thank Whomever. But not all the signs are crummy, either: “REMEMBER YOU ARE DUST,” says one. Hell, I remember that everytime I visit Fail Blog.
  • Vanity Plates: Creepiness in 8 Characters or Less
    What to make of someone whose licence plate reads CORPSE, or BIRTH, or simply WHY? This site is chock full of unintended writing prompts for poets and fiction writers alike.
  • texts from last night
    Text messages sent under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or sleep deprivation: a wonderful concept for a blog. Authors are identified by area code, and messages are presented out of context to increase their universal appeal, according to the About page. Samples of text-message wisdom include: “the best thing about dollar beer night is beer is only a dollar” and “i just thanked the atm machine for giving me cash.”
  • Engrish Funny
    The statement in the sidebar seems a little defensive: “Remain clam. I am a licensed Asian-American who has spend 14-years lived all over Asia. Please. Just enjoy.” Most of the bad English on the site is simply the result of poor machine translations, of course; it’s the fact that it was posted in public that makes it funny, like the sign in a Japanese supermarket that reads “Hand Shredded Ass Meat.”
  • The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks
  • Apostrophe Abuse
  • Apostrophe Catastrophes
  • Literally, a Web Log
    Blogs devoted entirely to documenting a single annoying grammatical faux pas can be hit-or-miss in the humor department. Of the foregoing, only the last one really does it for me. The use of literally to mean figuratively was funny when Ambrose Bierce pilloried it a hundred years ago in Write it Right, and it’s still funny today. It’s not the mistake of a poorly educated person, as unnecessary quotation marks or a poorly placed apostrophe tends to be; it’s the mark of someone who’s full of shit and doesn’t know it. And in that category also we might also include:
  • Banned for Life
    “Tom Mangan’s collection of reviled news media cliches” (except that, as the sidebar admits, the content is in fact reader-generated). I want to like this blog, but the total lack of links to sources makes that difficult.
  • The Perplexicon
    “Intentional misspellings of brands, trademarks, and companies.” As soon as we leave Every(wo)man behind, the humor fades. For those who were expecting some sort of moral here, a la the original Everyman, I guess that’ll have to do.
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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

13 Comments


  1. The fact that there are two blogs devoted to apostrophe misuse makes me feel I’ll never walk alone, though of course , the possessive of “it” is the most ubiquitous (container?).

    Reply

    1. Well, I can almost see where people are coming from when they surrunder to the impulse to put an apostrophe in “its” — but if we were to change the accepted practice there, for consistency’s sake we’d also have to start writing “hi’s” and “her’s.” And that’s just wrong.

      Reply

  2. Nice collection! I was familiar with only a few of those. Post Secret is my Sunday-morning religion. It depesses the hell out of me sometimes, though. If not for the mean-spirited contents of some of the cards, then for Frank leaving the post-office stickers in place… “This routing bar code is more ironic than you…”

    Reply

    1. Yes, these kind of blogs can be very depressing. I worry about people who are too enthusiastic about them.

      Reply

  3. thanks for posting these! I didn’t know of most of these either. I hope nobody misses this great Cake Wrecks post from January –
    http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/2009/01/you-say-redneck-like-its-bad-thing.html

    a couple others:

    http://themondaycowboy.blogspot.com/
    the Monday Cowboy is worth a visit, but one gets the gist pretty immediately.

    http://awkwardfamilyphotos.com/
    a recent favorite, and pretty self-explanatory.

    but gosh Dave, when am I going to get a chance to check them all out? I mean, like, how do you do it? Sometime’s I feel like, “OK, I’ve checked my feeds. Now can I go play?”

    Reply

    1. Hey, those are some good finds! Looks like you have plenty of spare time to me.

      (You put that errant apostrophe in “sometimes” just to drive Susan crazy, didn’t you?)

      Reply

  4. Thanks for helping me waste another few hours of my life. smile

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  5. Exceptionally great! A comparison of the “Overheard” posts confirms the knowledge that New York all by itself is as interesting as everywhere else together. However, the eavesdropped snippet that made me laugh most was on “Everywhere” — the “inner cracker.”

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  6. Those who like “Engrish Funny” may also enjoy this classic, little-known 20th century novel (which I haven’t read, but I know everything!).

    Reply

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Richard. And I’m glad you enjoyed the links!

      Reply

  7. Now I remember why I refrained myself from visiting your blog too often — I spent a good deal of time opening all those links! I enjoyed some of them immensely — thank you!

    Reply

    1. Maybe I should change the blog’s tagline to: “Browse at your own risk.” Then again, that’s true of a lot of the blogs I visit, your own sometimes included!

      Reply

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