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:
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.”
- 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.