The Internet isn’t the world, though it’s easy to forget that when it’s the only thing standing 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.
Short and sweet
A lot of the web videos that get the Internet buzzing are creatively suspect, to say the least: Yes, that girl’s awesome “magic” trick or that baby who loves eating chili and jamming to dubstep are funny, but they didn’t require much effort beyond “turn on the camera, upload to YouTube.” But the Internet is also an ideal forum for creatives whose vision goes beyond “do something stupid in front of the camera and hope it goes viral.” Animation in particular has been expanding its online niche in recent years—thanks in large part to the development of high-definition-video hosting—turning the Internet into a sort of never-ending short-film festival. The last month or so has seen some excellent original animated short films getting online play—such as Daniel Kanemoto’s insta-popular fan-made opening credits for AMC’s The Walking Dead—so let’s do a quick roundup of some highlights.
• German animator Sascha Geddert uploaded “Fallen” several months back, but its allegory of an anthropomorphized meteorite learning the “biggest lesson in life” on its way to Earth didn’t really, ahem, hit the Internet until this week. Maybe it has something to do with that asteroid that’s hurtling toward us right now. (Don’t worry, it won’t reach Earth until 2098, at which point it’ll burn up in the atmosphere, and whatever’s left will be no bigger than a chihuahua’s head.) Geddert’s meteorite is much less menacing, though; heck, it’s downright cute.
• The hero of “8Bits” isn’t nearly as adorable, but there’s some seriously ass-kicking animation going on in this short from a group of French artists calling themselves 8BCrew (Valere Amirault, Jean Delaunay, Sarah Laufer, Benjamin Mattern)… not to mention serious ass-kicking in general. The short’s concept is a little abstract—a boxer-shorts-clad hero fights for 8-bit freedom in a decadent 3-D world—but its blending of retro gaming motifs and stylized 3-D animation should be gamer catnip. Even if hit combos and Duke Nukem references don’t get your ones and zeros processing, “8Bits” is mighty nice to look at, and exciting to boot. (This clip is rated “M” for intense violence and strong language.)
• “Salesman Pete” is the work of a group of students who dropped out of French animation school Supinfocom to “do this short our own way.” They’ve been posting character mock-ups, in-progress shots, and a trailer online throughout the process (they’re here, for those who can read French); the final product was released on September 20. The story is a little muddled—something about a magic stone that changes anything into seafood—but it’s rendered in an eye-catching style that’s reminiscent of both The Incredibles and the work of John Kricfalusi.
• And if that Walking Dead sequence piqued your interest, now’s a good time to revisit (or visit for the first time) Daniel Kanemoto’s 12-minute short “Articles Of War,” which he posted online earlier this year after it made the festival rounds in 2009.
Everything is a remix
There’s also something to be said for putting a new spin on pre-existing content. After all, when you get down to it, everything is a remix.
The Internet loves colliding bits and pieces of pop culture to create wonderful new bits and pieces. T-Pain plus viral video equals Auto-Tune The News. Old movie posters plus Saul Bass equals unsheets. Tom Selleck plus sandwiches equals Selleck Waterfall Sandwich. Hell, even Twitter is getting remixed: Kanye West’s rambling Tweets plus the words “Liz Lemon” (read in the voice of Tracy Jordan) equals Kanye Jordan. The slippery concept of intellectual property gets even slipperier in the anarchical world of the Internet, leading to hundreds of thousands of crappy YouTube “fan trailers” and parody songs/videos. But there’s some gold in them thar hills. Observe some recent examples of online musical re-imaginings that work:
• In case you weren’t aware, Family Matters nostalgia is so hot right now. The only way to make it cooler would be to somehow combine it with some of that shaggy, lo-fi indie rock the kids today all love so much. Oh, wait a minute:
• Cee-Lo Green’s “Fuck You” is one of the year’s most adored singles, particularly on the Internet, where its chorus isn’t buffed down to an FCC-friendly “Forget You.” And as illustrated above, people love their 8-bit video-game nostalgia. Put ’em together and whaddaya got? “Inverse Phase - F___ed 6502,” of course:
• Sometimes a full-on re-imagining isn’t even necessary; cherry-picking and recombining elements into mash-ups and supercuts can result in something greater than the sum of its parts. DJ Earworm’s “United States Of Pop 2009” megamix, for example, manages to find some signs of life in the vast wasteland of the Top 40. Norwegian Recycling produces similar pop-heavy mega-mash-ups; his latest, “Miracles,” succeeds in spite of overlooking the Internet’s favorite miracle-related song.
Smells like Google is evil
Sure, Google’s new instant-search feature is great if you can’t spare that extra two to five seconds per search; it isn’t so great, however, if you want to, say, look up the 1961 film Babes In Toyland, or search for the latest news on Barenaked Ladies. (Then again, if you’re looking for news on Barenaked Ladies, it’s probably 1998 and Google hasn’t been invented yet, so you’re really out of luck.) When instant search debuted, Google admitted that certain words were excluded from the live-streaming results, forcing users to actually click a button if they wanted to search for those terms. It’s no big deal, really, unless you spend a lot of time looking for porn, and are too lazy to install a search field in your browser window. However, it does make you wonder what terms are Too Hot For Google.
Hacker website 2600.com wondered too, and set about compiling the “Google Blacklist,” which reveals just how puritanical—and sometimes arbitrary—the restrictions are. Granted, terms like “Lolita,” “Twinkie,” and “teen” definitely turn up in NSFW content, but they’re fairly innocuous in and of themselves. It’s also interesting to see where in the search term the blacklist kicks in: Search for “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and Google will chug right along with you until you get to that second “e” in “teen,” confirming that you are not, in fact, searching for its top suggestion: “Smells like team spirit.” Similarly, searching for Dan Savage’s Savage Love column is A-okay until you start typing “love,” therefore proving that Google hates love. (But don’t try searching for “Google is evil,” because—you guessed it—it’s blacklisted.) Even stranger are the cases of Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson, both of whose names are blacklisted, presumably because they had sex tapes. Kim Kardashian, on the other hand, seems to have transcended this designation.
Then there’s the strange case of the word “are.” From 2600:
“If you stick ‘are’ after the following words, the blacklist kicks in: Jews, Christians, Catholics, born-again Christians, evangelical Christians, atheists, Muslims, blacks, Italians, Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese, Germans, Arabs, French. The blacklist does NOT kick in when these words are entered before ‘are’: terrorists, scientologists, agnostics, seventh day Adventists, Jehovah’s witnesses, Mormons, protestants, evangelists, Pentecostalists, Columbians, Panamanians, Iranians, Iraqis, Koreans, Persians, Turks.”
This means that Google instant will happily inform you that “Koreans are annoying” (the first hit for “Koreans are”), but not that “New Mexicans are struggling to pay for housing” (the first hit for “Mexicans are”).
It’s important to note that Google isn’t censoring searches. As Mashable explains, the blacklist is a byproduct of the same algorithm Google uses for its auto-complete feature, which draws on data from previous searches.
“When results fail to appear after you’ve typed ‘lesbian’ or ‘butt,’ it’s not because the results are being censored. Google is struggling to prevent the text of offensive searches users have made in the past… from jumping up in front of you when you’re looking for something innocuous.
Since countless users may have followed the word lesbian with ‘porn,’ generating results inappropriate for children, Google’s algorithm has decided not to immediately throw 20 links to lesbian porn sites in your face when you type ‘lesbian,’ even if that’s the most common search based on the algorithmic data.”
So you see, it isn’t Google’s fault you can’t search for “Smells Like Teen Spirit”… it’s the fault of all those sickos over the years who have searched for “Smells like teen pussy,” or something to that effect. Which makes Google Blacklist an intriguing glance into the world’s collective perverseness: apparently enough people are using the search term “get my sister” to find inappropriate content that Google has had to remove it from instant search. (Apparently back in the Bad Old Days, “how do I get my sister to sleep with me” was a common enough search that it was one of Google’s suggested searches.) See, you guys, this is why we can’t have nice things.
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:
As the creators of Successories and the Hang In There Kitten know, few things inspire us to keep trudging through our humdrum lives better than motivational posters. Every Day Posters takes that concept one step further, compiling posters that mimic concert flyers and movie one-sheets in celebration of normal daily activities like taking the trash out (“with special guest Netflix Disc In The Mail”) and singing in the shower (“amateurs welcome”).
Each week, Trending Topics provides a website that’s ideal for wasting company time or putting off that term paper. Enjoy!
Play us out
A little visual web candy to end the week on a high note.
Continuing this week’s unofficial retro-gamer theme, here’s a complete history of the Soviet Union, arranged to the melody of Tetris and set to some very cool visuals. Prepare to have “I am the man who arranges the blocks” going through your head for the rest of the day.
Got a tip on a recent Internet trend? Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.