Favorite time-wasting websites
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Like a lot of my fellow readers, I frequently visit The A.V. Club when I really should be working. So I was wondering, what are the websites A.V. Club staffers visit when they’re looking to get their procrastination on? —Matt (“teh dude”)
Wait, is this where we admit how little work we actually do here? Sounds dangerous to me. Also dangerous, but more in an embarrassment kind of way: Admitting that my No. 1 take-a-break site is still (ulp) LiveJournal. Seriously. It isn’t what it used to be back in its heyday—there was a time when most of my real-life friends were active there—but it’s still my go-to site for keeping track of the lives of a handful of out-of-state friends, and a few artists and creators I like but haven’t ever met. And I use it as a makeshift RSS reader to alert me to updates on a bunch of irregularly appearing and also pleasantly time-wasting webcomics, like Something Positive, XKCD, Hark! A Vagrant, and MegaTokyo.
Most of my other wasting-time-at-work sites are also irregularly updating humor sites I aggregate through an actual RSS reader, sites that regularly cough up small nuggets of entertainment that won’t draw me in and waste half the day. For instance, Cake Wrecks, FailBlog, and Picture Is Unrelated. These are all really so-so diversions that I enjoy but could easily live without. By far my favorite, though, is Not Always Right, a complication of horrible experiences with customers who are generally stupid, hostile, or both. More than anything, that site makes me glad I have a decent job and I don’t work retail any more. Which reminds me, I should get back to work.
That’s easy: the gossip site ohnotheydidn’t. (Like Tasha’s addiction, it’s also a LiveJournal blog.) It’s like heroin. It’s updated frequently, so it’s perfect for wasting time. I like that it’s user-generated, so in addition to the usual Michael Jackson/Brangelina/Britney Spears whatnot, you’ll find news on smaller, more esoteric, sometimes even nerdy items from the entertainment world. The gossip (and the immediacy of it) is only half the pleasure, though: You must be approved to be a commenter, so the comments section can sometimes be more amusing than the posts themselves—I’ll occasionally click on an item that’s of no interest to me at all if I see there are a ton of comments on it, just to see what’s up. Of course there are stans and trolls and flame-wars, and sometimes the LJ-speak can get a little annoying, but at least you’ll never see any “FIRST!!!’s” (let alone threats of canceraids). It’s not perfect (the Michael Jackson coverage has been a bit intense) but I like the relative purity of it—there’s no advertising—and compared to a lot of other similar sites out there (the AVC not withstanding), the commenters and contributors seem to have more heart, soul, and brain tissue.
I must be the only person in the world who feels guilty for not reading (or watching) The Onion more at work. I do read the Onion extensively, but it offers such a bountiful cornucopia of hilariosity every day that it’s hard to read it all the way through the way I did back in ’95, when I would count down the minutes until rough-hewn delivery men would deliver the paper to Madison Area Technical College each week, solely for my benefit. Thank God I can watch The Onion News Network on my iPod. That has induced many a giggle-spree on public transportation; it’s a good thing I have no shame, or that might be a little embarrassing.
I also visit a lot of hip-hop sites. Two personal favorites are Nah Right, where I download all sorts of amazing (and not-so-amazing) tracks and mix-tapes, and Support Online Hip Hop, where I go for attitude, snarky blogs, gossip, and breaking news. Otherwise, I’m very much a media-world cliché, in that I spend a lot of time at Romenesko’s Media News (to find out which of my colleagues is out of a job that day), the Internet Movie Database, (which has some of the world’s most deliciously stupid celeb news via its News From WENN feature) and Movie City News. Oh, and I’ve just found out about this thing called Twitter that allows me to not-so-furtively keep tabs on A.V. Club writers and commenters, and also glean the deep thoughts of Ashton Kutcher on an hourly basis. And CNN.com. They’ve got some news there that you can read and junk. As a news-gathering operation, they aren’t in the same ballpark as The Onion, The Daily Show, or The Colbert Report, but they’re not half bad, all things considered.
Most of my workday is devoted to staring at large blocks of text, looking for errant commas and awkward clauses. Anyone who’s ever copyedited for long periods of time knows that it can quickly drive you crazy if you don’t break up the barrage of black-and-white text every now and then. So in order to keep myself sane(ish) at work, I have a stable of Internet distractions to turn my attention to for a few minutes every couple of hours. It’s amazing how far a little celebrity gossip or pictures of puppies can go to keeping the homicidal-crazies away.
Pop-culture lady-blog Jezebel usually earns multiple visits a day, as does the only celebrity-gossip site that matters, the delightfully twisted, tangential Dlisted. Videogum is another favorite, not so much for the videos—which I don’t always have time to watch at work, or have already seen—but for editor Gabe Delahaye, whose writing makes me laugh out loud more than just about anyone on the Internet, with the possible exception of his recently departed co-editor, Lindsay Robertson of Lindsayism, and Rich Juzwiak of FourFour, two other frequently visited sites on the blogroll. I used to visit Cute Overload obsessively—I’m pretty sure the near-daily links I used to IM Josh are responsibly for his current fandom—but since I invested in the CO desk calendar, I can usually get my kitty/puppy/bunny fix just by turning my head a few inches. If that doesn’t work, the Tumblr page Fuckyeahanimalswithcasts is usually good for a couple of squees. Lastly, the hypnotic violin music and plinking bell sound effects of the simple mouse-agility Flash game Winterbells is the time-suck to end all time-sucks. Warning: only to be used in the most extreme cases of time-wasting.
Print news outlets come and go, but a website, as they say, is forever. So here’s hoping Geekologie is around to entertain my workdays for years to come. I check it in the morning when I wake up; I check it when I go to bed; I check it after long naps. I love it. Not only is the writing consistently hilarious—especially the headlines (I just laughed at my desk at “Do Or Do Not, There Is No Try: Geekologie Reader Spots Yoda Shaggin’ Wagon”)—but the subject matter appeals to my desperate need for the following things:
- People dressed up like characters from The Legend Of Zelda
- Stuff made out of Legos
- Fan-fiction videos about Super Mario Bros. and The Legend Of Zelda
- News about a kid who drank gasoline to be more like a Transformer
- Where to buy an iPhone case that looks like a Game Boy (success!)
- Many other things that live up to the site’s subtitle, “Gadgets, Gizmos, And Awesome”
- The Legend Of Zelda
Modesty prevents me from mentioning any of the other sites I write for, as well as pimping the absurd themed hash-tag humor with which I pollute my Twitter account daily, much to my friends’ chagrin. So it’s back to some old standards: Wikipedia, where you can hatch a new obsession daily; Girls Are Pretty, which maintains an amazingly consistent level of humor given its one-joke format and incredible Internet longevity; the Dugout, the perfect website for people who love both baseball and geek jokes; the Comics Curmudgeon, a daily takedown of the ridiculous continued existence of the newspaper comics page; and whatever comes up when I do a search for “metal videos” on YouTube. Of course, because I am a terrible person, I also spend lots of time reading the electronic scribblings of morons in the comments sections at places like IMDB, Yahoo! Answers, and Town Hall. Luckily, those places have a monopoly on Internet stupidity, so I never have to see it anywhere else, especially in the comments sections here.
Man, I thought I wasted a lot of time at work, but if these lists are any indication, that raw spot on my nose is from an overabundance of grindstone. My default click-over from whatever Google Doc I’m pecking away at is Ravelry, the massive yarn-and-fiber social network whose forums I stalk, and whose user-supplied catalog of gorgeous handcrafted garments, adorable amigurumi, and inexplicable body-part models I peruse obsessively. It’s members-only, so suck on it, haters! (Although membership is free and instantaneous. Welcome!) Whenever I need hours of reading material that has nothing to do with theology, higher-education administration, or popular culture, I read through the archives of Gene Weingarten’s humor chat and Carolyn Hax’s advice chat on the Washington Post site. And I’m years behind in my blog reading, so there’s always an escape via trivia master Ken Jennings, or information-design guru Edward Tufte, or comics historian Jerry Beck. Urban-legend authority Snopes.com posts at least a couple hours’ worth of new information weekly, and will send you a handy e-mail update from which you can follow the rabbit trails wherever they lead. Techmeister Kevin Kelly and his crew shine the spotlight on well-designed and useful items at the magisterial Cool Tools archive. And professional packaging noticer Paul Lukas dissects all the sports-uniform trends you never thought you needed to know at Uni Watch. If you must leave the avclub.com domain, there are a few gems scattered about the webs.
My RSS feed—managed by NetNewsWire, which I adore—keeps firing little info-bites and entertainment nuggets at me all day. I don’t deviate much from my fellow Clubbers in what’s on my feed: I like FailBlog and The Comics Curmudgeon and Achewood, and I grab news and insights from an array of movie/music/TV sites, including /Film, Cinematical, Movieline, SpoutBlog, The Live Feed, Z On TV, Pop Candy, Pitchfork, Spin, Medialoper, and The Vulture. Nothing surprising there. So rather than pointing to those, I’ll point to a few sites that I rely on for more than quick-hits. One is The Comics Reporter, which, along with Journalista!, offers a good round-up of comics news and opinions, and can send me down a trail of related stories and comics scans that’ll keep me occupied far longer than they should. Similarly, I often drop whatever I’m doing when Andrew Sullivan’s Atlantic blog The Daily Dish has a new item up (which happens about 40 times a day). Sullivan is an articulate, opinionated guy whom I agree with roughly 60 percent of the time, but what I like best about the Dish is that he allows space for reasonable dissenting voices, while ruthlessly singling out and skewering commentators who are lowering the political discourse on the right and the left. The continued success of Sullivan’s blog gives me hope for the future of the media, the web, and this country.
Hmm, let’s see if I can keep this PG-13… In those rare moments that I’m feeling lazy and avoiding work (really, that happens, like, once every 10 years), I love to wander over to some of my favorite speculative-fiction blogs and websites, particularly Matt Staggs’ omnivorous Enter The Octopus, the great new weird-fiction site Brain Harvest, and the exhaustive Tor.com, which has expanded far beyond a mere mouthpiece for the imprint’s own publicity to include lots of geeky pop-culture coverage. On the music side of things, 7 Inch Punk is one of the best mp3 blogs going, spotlighting insanely rare 45s from all regions and eras of punk. Oh, and I need zombies like zombies need brains—which is why Cory Casciato’s undead roundup The Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse is on my list.
Usually, if I’m putting something off, I’m reading comments on The A.V. Club, but that never lasts for more than a few minutes. At my old job, I used to kill lots of time poking around online, but that stopped when I started working here four years ago. There just isn’t time. My Safari “top sites” list is all boring and work-related: IMDB, AllMusic, the AP Stylebook online, Pollstar, The A.V. Club, and Decider sites. Most of my other web surfing is still related to my job, and I don’t “surf” so much as “look at my RSS reader.” You know, come to think of it, I don’t spend much time online for pleasure. Even when I’m home, I try to avoid my computer, because I’m on it all goddamn day at work.
You’re all fired. All of you. I’ve got an RSS feed I neglect daily just to stay on top of all your nonsensical ramblings. That said, I do occasionally make it over to the revived Movieline, which began well by rescuing the writers from the editorially liquidated Defamer, then got a nitro injection of awesome by bringing in departing Defamer founder Mark Lisanti, who’s unfailingly hilarious. Also, I’m fortunate in that part of my job is staying on top of what’s happening in entertainment news, so any Internet-surfing that falls under that category isn’t really slacking. Right?