Net Worth: Memorable Web discoveries help bolster 2009

Friday, January 1, 2010

While Americans are spending most of December obsessing over what gifts to give, journalists occupy their time mulling over what awards to bestow.

Best this. Top that. The year’s top 10 blanks.

Believe me, I’m no exception to this practice. I love compiling a juicy year-end list. Arbitrarily judging something is part of life’s little joys.

Some might consider this a specious pursuit. (Like Woody Allen says in “Annie Hall”: “What’s with all these awards? They’re always giving out awards. Best Fascist Dictator: Adolf Hitler.”) But considering I have this Internet column as my go-to platform, I thought I’d utilize the first column of the new decade to discuss my favorite Web finds covered here during 2009:

• Speaking of fascist dictators ... although Adolf Hitler was never known for his sense of humor, Der Führer suddenly became the rage in comedic circles. A premise more than an actual site, Hitler Reacts is the term given to a bevy of often hilarious videos (posted primarily on YouTube) that utilize a key scene from the 2004 German film “Downfall” to make his ranting seem directed at a contemporary event through the use of subtitles. From “Hitler finds out Sarah Palin resigns” to “Hitler gets banned from Wikipedia.”

Ugliest Tattoos provides a photo gallery of catastrophic “what were they thinking?” ink that litters the bodies of the clueless, the crass and the crazed. Whether it’s Gumby being crucified or David Carradine being auto-erotic asphyxiated, no idea proves too crappy to be permanently carved on one’s body.

• Those who take pride in the purity of language will be amused and/or troubled by Unnecessary Quotes. The site scours the world for signage, postings and advertisements in which adding such punctuation somehow changes the meaning. It’s definitely “worth” a “look.”

• The bygone pleasure of album artwork is given new life on the Web through Sleeveface. A term that means to “obscure or augment any part of your body with a record sleeve to cause an illusion,” the site encourages users to take photos of themselves while they (or an accomplice) holds up the image. Endlessly amusing, Sleeveface is the only thing around that can make a Uriah Heep album seem innovative.

Bluntcard unites garish colors and whitebread illustrations from Eisenhower-era magazine ads with typically R-rated modern sentiments. Rarely has an e-card been so amusing. My favorite of the moment shows two prim adolescent girls with the caption, “Can you shut the (expletive) up about vampires?”

• Despite what Kanye West might claim, the best video of the year came courtesy of a Japanese trio named Sour. The band’s single “Hibi no Neiro” (easily found on YouTube) was made by asking fans from around the world to film themselves at their home or work computers using MacBook Pro Webcams. These images were combined into a “crowdsourced” music video. The result is a bewildering display of choreography and creativity.

• The setup: Drunk History creator Derek Waters and director Jeremy Konner head to a friend’s house, get them intoxicated, then film them recounting a historical event. The twist: They then recruit actors such as Michael Cera and Jack Black to dramatize the action while the typically “fuzzy” commentary continues in the background. Any scenario in which Danny McBride (“Pineapple Express”) gets to portray George Washington must be savored.

• “Your happy childhood ends here!” claims the tagline of Kindertrauma. The site exhibits reviews, stories, artwork and testimonials meant to remind users of “all the things you once tried so hard to forget.” Most intriguing is a Name That Trauma feature, which allows folks to describe a disturbing childhood memory — typically inspired by something that was glimpsed once on TV — so fellow readers can help uncover the source material.

After I revealed a few of the elementary school era ones that really stuck with me, readers confided all kinds of harrowing pop culture memories of former times. There’s nothing more satisfying than knowing that at some point during the year Net Worth has creeped people out.

— Entertainment editor Jon Niccum explores facets of pop culture that have established a unique niche on the Internet in Net Worth. He can be reached at 832-7178.