The Internet isn’t the world, though it’s easy to forget when it’s all that stands between you and workday boredom. But the web is more than just distraction; for many, it’s our primary source of news, entertainment, social interaction, and pictures of kitties. It’s also a fickle beast with a short memory and an even shorter attention span, as surfers collectively click over to the next meme-of-the-moment before that online viral video has even finished loading. Even the most robust RSS feed can’t capture all the bits of news, humor, and Internet ephemera that go zipping by on their way to virtual obscurity. The A.V. Club is here to help sort it all out with Trending Topics, which looks back at the web week that was and rounds up what the Internet was talking about while you were busy with real life.
Stephen Colbert is no stranger to stunts, both political and self-promotional, but the Internet hivemind seems to be planning his latest one for him. Following a post on user-submitted news site Reddit calling for a Colbert-helmed satirical rally to counter Glenn Beck’s distressingly popular “Restoring Honor” shitshow, the “Restoring Truthiness” movement was born, giving the Internet a humorous-yet-ultimately-pointless cause the likes of which haven’t been seen since Team Coco. Logos were designed, Facebook groups were created, a Twitter/Google-bomb operation was organized, and finally this week, Colbert responded to the campaign on his show.
Colbert’s “wait-and-see” non-response combined with Jon Stewart’s ambiguous announcement-of-an-announcement seems to goose the odds in favor of this rally actually happening, but colbertrally.com isn’t taking any chances, organizing its own “God’s flyover” in the form of paper cranes and Beanie Baby geese sent to Stewart and Colbert. Since the Internet has already provided the idea, the buzz, and even the easy-to-remember date—10-10-10—it seems the least the Colbert Report and Daily Show producers can do is organize a little 100,000-person rally. Really, how hard can it be? Congressman Jason Chaffetz has even offered up a venue via his Twitter, though it’s a little less inspiring than the proposed site of the National Mall in DC:
If you used Google at all this week—and of course you did, because at this point, using Google is secondary in importance only to breathing—you may have noticed some of the company’s signature logo hijinks on display. Google’s holiday “doodles” have been part of its brand identity since 2000—they’re all compiled here—so this is nothing new, but Wednesday and Thursday’s doodles got people talking. Sure, the kinetic, mouse-driven dots that made up Tuesday’s logo and the text-driven colorization of Wednesday’s were notable for their interactivity, but that isn’t unprecedented—remember the Pac-Man anniversary doodle? What really got tech-heads’ propeller beanies spinning was the fact that, for the first time, the logos didn’t seem to be tied to any holiday or anniversary, and Google was keeping uncharacteristically mum about their significance. This kicked off a round of the Internet’s favorite pastime: speculation.
Of course, any secret having to do with an Internet search engine can’t be that clandestine (or, frankly, that interesting), and the answer to this little riddle turns out to be appropriately mundane: The logos were dropping hints about Wednesday’s Google Event held in San Francisco, where the search-engine juggernaut announced all the new ways it would be making your daily hunt for porn more dynamic. The big news turned out to be Google Instant, which provides streaming results as you type, more advanced predictive auto-complete, and the ability to view suggested results without clicking them individually. According to Google, this will save users a whopping two to five seconds per search—provided you aren’t actually looking for porn, as it filters out pornography and its less-fun brethren, violence and hate speech. For that stuff, you’ll have to move your cursor all the way over to the “Search” button and actually click it and wait for a page to load and UGH, it’s like being in the Stone Ages! That’s the price you pay, pervert.
Tweeting without a net
Most celebrities and public figures use Twitter purposefully, taking advantage of the perceived familiarity the service offers fans in order to promote their projects and maintain their public persona. Even stars who man the keyboard themselves rather than handing it off to a publicist (or, more likely, an intern) have generally gone through some sort of “social media training” that teaches them how to keep teenage girls squealing or earn thousands of dollars for a sponsored ad disguised as a personal message. But some celebrities occasionally go rogue, confident in their ability to operate without a filter, and as we saw this week, the results can be hilarious, surprising, and/or embarrassing.
Kanye West got some new competition this week for the title of Most Absurdly Loquacious Celebrity Twitterer, but he isn’t going down without a fight. In late August, rapper 50 Cent apparently wrested control of his Twitter account from his management, and began a stream of profane, frequently hilarious musing that’s continued unabated since. Compare Fiddy’s tweets pre-emancipation:
to what’s coming down the pipeline now:
But Fiddy’s true inauguration as the Internet’s newest Twitter Laureate came this week with the unveiling of his very own tribute account, @English50Cent, which translates the rapper’s, er, colloquial take on the English language into grammatically sound tweets that get the message across more clearly, if not accurately:
Not to be outdone at his own game, Kanye made a surprising move on his own Twitter feed last weekend by offering up a rambling apology to Taylor Swift for his stage invasion at the 2009 VMAs. Over the course of 72 tweets fired off in under two hours—which you can read compiled into letter form here—West finally arrived at his point:
Who knows what brought on West’s sudden bout of honesty/humility—surely nothing so crass as the fact that he has an album coming out soon and a performance on the VMAs this weekend—but it’s obvious what inspired another, less charitable recent rant from Louis C.K.: booze. C.K. usually stays professional and removed on his Twitter, sticking to show announcements and promos for Louie, but on September 1, fueled by airplane rum-and-Cokes and his signature quiet rage, C.K. spewed forth a stream of profane, offensive (and, unfortunately, not particularly funny) Tweets targeted mainly at Sarah Palin. But you’d never know it now looking at C.K.’s Twitter page, which has been scrubbed clean of the offending text and is back to PR-friendly self-promotion. Of course, there’s no such thing as a deleted Tweet—the Library of Congress is watching, Louis!—and a quick (two to five seconds faster!) Googling turns up the rant if you want to see it. Or, considering C.K. pulled this exact same stunt back in May, you could just wait a couple of months until the next time he gets bored on a plane.
Epic Mail Fail
If you don’t already know about 4chan.org’s notorious troll-breeding ground, /b/, I’m not going to explain it to you, because the last person who tried to do that wound up the target of the nihilist message board’s retaliatory mischief. So-called “/b/tards” have made a habit out of going after targets large and small who incur their wrath, from pre-teen vloggers to Sarah Palin to the Church Of Scientology. But in spite of their anarchist tendencies, /b/tards have always displayed a soft spot for the cute and cuddly—4chan is also the birthplace of LOLCats, after all—which explains their recent bouts of vigilante justice toward the woman who threw a kitten in a dumpster and the girl who was filmed tossing puppies in a river. That affinity for the adorable underdog apparently extends to lonely nonagenarians, as evidenced by /b/’s latest campaign, inspired by a photo of a flyer seeking birthday party guests.
However, without an obvious villain—how do you attack lonesomeness?—4channers were forced to take a different route and do something nice for a change. The call went out to help give this man (whom some enterprising /b/tard identified as World War II vet William J. Lashua) the birthday of his long life via “Operation Epic Mail.” The plan was to mail birthday cards—thankfully screened to weed out offensive content—make phone calls, and bring the man cake and booze to liven up his pathetic little party. Except it turns out Lashua’s patheticness was slightly overestimated: According to a post on Reddit from his grandson, the flyer was misinterpreted, and the father of seven has plenty of family and friends to keep him company without your creepy Internet pandering. But once released, a meme cannot be contained, and Lashua was inundated with unnecessary, but not unwelcome, Internet goodwill. According to a report from one attendee, the birthday booty tallied up to “50 bouquets of flowers, 20 cakes,
countless cards,” and several UPS and USPS trucks full of good intentions. And since /b/tards don’t like to leave the hate-nurturing glow of their computer screens for long, the fear of a tiny American Legion hall in Ashburnham, Massachusetts being overrun with dorks from the Internet proved to be unfounded: Only nine randos showed up, including four young girls who posed with Lashua for a photo that will probably get slapped with a Pedobear and posted on /b/ before you’re done reading this sentence.
Tumblr insta-blogs sprout up faster than desperate publishers can offer them book deals, capturing a moment in meme history before the next hybrid of ’80s nostalgia, weird foodstuffs, and adorable animals comes along. Catch these while they’re still relevant:
- Stv Slv and ABX—better known as Chicago mash-up masters The Hood Internet—take on a different sort of musical mish-mosh with Album Tacos, which explores all the different ways a taco can be incorporated into an existing album cover. Why? Because it’s the Internet, and that’s how we do things here.
- Don Draper cried on last Sunday’s Mad Men, and by Monday, a new meme was born: Sad Don Draper. Don’t tell Sad Keanu he’s been replaced… you know how he gets.
- It isn’t a Tumblr, but as far as single-serving sites go, Unhearit is just the right combination of pointless and useful, providing a random catchy tune to replace whatever catchy tune has been running through your head all day. They’re just chintzy MIDI versions, but when you’ve had “Menomena” running on a loop for five hours, you take what you can get.
Each week, Trending Topics provides a website that’s ideal for wasting company time or putting off that term paper. Enjoy!
Letters Of Note has been around for a while, enough time for it to build up a substantial archive to keep armchair anthropologists entertained for hours. Every day, Letters Of Note posts a scan of a letter, postcard, or other correspondence to and/or from famous and notable names, ranging from quaint, friendly missives (a letter from Campbell’s Soup to Andy Warhol wishing him success and gifting him with a case of tomato soup) to expletive-filled rants (Hunter S. Thompson chewing out a studio executive over the film adaptation of The Rum Diary).
Play us out
A little visual web candy to end the week on a high note.
If you don’t know about it, now is a good time to get familiar with StoryCorps, which has recently begun integrating its first-person radio-storytelling series into nicely animated online shorts. Since there are few better ambassadors for the power of the first-person anecdote than Studs Terkel, a conversation with the famed oral historian is a great entrance point into this project, which is hugely wide-ranging: More than 30,000 interviews have been recorded since 2003.
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