Though the Internet gets a bad rap for advancing the careers of people who don’t deserve it — Antoine Dodson, Rebecca Black, et al — it’s also the best artistic meritocracy the world has ever seen. As a reminder that there are funny and talented people making amazing things every day, we interviewed a few Internet personalities whose Tumblrs you should read.
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
What is it? A collection of invented dictionary definitions of emotions that are complex and specific, yet totally recognizable. updated weekly-ish.
Who makes it? John Koenig, a graphic designer. “I’m a Minnesotan — I don’t talk easily about my emotions,” he says. “But put a name to it and that’s different.”
How’d he think of that? “I was watching the end credits of ‘Saturday Night Live,’ and it was so bad that I tried to capture the feeling of watching the credits of ‘Saturday Night Live.’” The word? “Dimanché.” He has about 400 drafts of potential entries going at any given time and adds the titles last.
Why is it awesome? The definitions are short but heartfelt and seem drawn from real (and possibly painful) experiences. This is the Tumblr version of literary fiction.
Who should avoid it? Anyone who doesn’t like to think too hard about the nuance of human emotion, or who gets apoplectic with rage when trying to parse weird compound words.
What is it? A photo blog that captures New Yorkers reading on the subway and tries to identify the books in which they’re engrossed. Updated frequently.
Who makes it? Photographer and inveterate subway rider Ourit Ben-Haïm.
How’d she think of that? She took a picture of a person with a book (she doesn’t remember which one) on the train one day. Her friends encouraged her to start collecting photos of people reading underground. Now she gets regular missives from those who read her blog, sharing their reactions. “There’s something so beautiful about people that they feel the need to share their response,” she says. “The next time a song or something moves me, I want to write to the author.”
Why is it awesome? It combines the voyeuristic appeal of a street-photography blog with the warm fuzzies that accompany seeing strangers reading the books you love.
Who should avoid it? Anyone who doesn’t read or who would judge others’ reading material. “It’s not for lack of opportunity that I haven’t posted anyone reading ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’” Ben-Haïm says. “I just don’t want to include it because I know that the second I post it, it’ll be pounced on as a joke, and I don’t want to do that to my subject.”
Better Book Titles
What is it? Recognizable book covers with new, more-truthful titles. Updated every few days.
Who makes it? Dan Wilbur, a stand-up comedian who studied classics in college.
How’d he think of that? Wilbur realized while playing video games that “Assassin’s Creed II” was a stupid name for the historical adventure and that “Strangle the Pope” would sell a lot more copies. He switched his focus to books because (he thought) nobody was making good book jokes on the Internet.
Why is it awesome? Far from being disrespectful of classic literature, Wilbur’s new titles make the books more accessible. “Oedipus the King” is way more intimidating than “How I Met Your Mother.”
Who should avoid it? People who are going to use the new titles as cheat sheets for not reading the books. Wilbur’s book, “How Not to Read: Harnessing the Power of a Literature-Free Life,” out in September, addresses that.
What is it? An exhaustive list of the various kinds of people who irritate the author. Updates irregularly but has a long backlog if you’re bored some afternoon.
Who makes it? An anthropology professor who writes under the pseudonym Wireless G.
How’d he think of that? G liked the idea of describing a person and not commenting on whether the behavior was annoying or not. “If you’re in on the joke,” he says, “you get that these are obnoxious things that people do.”
Why is it awesome? People Who depends on the author being able to pinpoint exactly what it is about a seemingly innocuous behavior that makes it the worst thing ever.
Who should avoid it? People who are irritating and whose feelings are easily hurt when someone points that out.
Things Could Be Worse
What is it? Drawings of small, fantastical sad things, with the occasional “Sadness Reprieve.” Updated Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
Who makes it? Benjamin Dewey, comic-book illustrator and art-school graduate.
How’d he think of that? In art school, he created a little mechanized box for an enameling class. “It was called ‘Tragedy #13: Death at Sea,’” he says. “It had little ghosty-looking people bobbing up and down behind enameled waves, with enameled sharks.” He translated the concept of one-scene tragedies for the Internet as comics — “snackable content,” as he puts it.
Why is it awesome? Dewey’s sepia-toned ink drawings are a sidelong glance at everyone who gets heartsick over abandoned teddy bears in the street. We’re lucky we’re not trapped in a pseudo-Victorian universe getting chased by angry bees, he reminds us. And he’s right.
Who should avoid it? Anyone who will be incapacitated with misery at the thought of a Sasquatch in existential crisis.
What is it? Ads, slightly doctored to express the loneliness of the people reading them. Updated daily.
Who makes it? Three ad copywriters who escape the inane cheerfulness of actual advertising for a few minutes by making everyone else feel sad inside.
How’d they think of that? Contributor Chris Sheldon saw a Starbucks bag reading “Let’s remember why we go together so well.” He made a few edits (“Let’s remember why we went together so well”) and an incredibly melancholy blog was born.
Why is it awesome? You know how “Mad Men” makes you feel incredibly alone and sad while making all sorts of deep statements about our culture of consumerism and how we sell products disguised as happiness? It takes 45 minutes to watch an episode of “Mad Men” and three seconds to get the same feeling from Depressed Copywriters.
Who should avoid it? Anyone who might spiral into depression if reminded that we’ll all die alone.