June 16, 2005

Mousetrap - 7

Survival of the funniest
Darwin Awards
The subject of many an internet forward, the Darwin Awards are part of internet lore. They started as fictional postings on Usenet, as far back as 1985. Online veterans will remember the story of the thief killed by the vending machine he was trying to rob, and the car with the jet-assisted take off. Both turned out to be untrue (see “urban legends” - see next website), but the term Darwin Awards stuck. The idea behind it is simple. Darwin Awards are darkly humourous tip of the hat to Charles Darwin. They “honour” people who improve the human gene pool by removing themselves from it in a spectacularly stupid manner. They are usually awarded posthumously – naturally – except in cases where “recipients” manage to sterilise themselves, ensuring that their genes don’t get passed on. Hours and hours of enjoyment in the archives. And yes, they’re all true stories. One of the conditions are that stories must be independently verifiable.

Heard it on the grapevine
The AFU & Urban Legends Archive
What is an Urban Legend? Briefly, it is a funny or gory - preferably both - story or anecdote that appears seemingly from nowhere, and the takes on a life of its own, spreading spontaneously (the internet and the “Fw:” button help). They are usually apocryphal, but not necessarily. Oh yes, they’re not necessarily urban either. And what’s AFU? It stands for the newsgroup, alt.folklore.urban, of which the site is a direct descendant. AFU is a newsgroup “devoted to the discussion and debunking of urban legends and other related issues.” The site categorises ULs neatly, and is a good place check not just for amusement but also as a way to check on things you hear about before you breathlessly pass them on.

What you don’t need to know
Uncyclopedia
A parody of the Wikipedia (covered in a previous column), this wiki is supposed to be about satire, but winds up being knee-slappingly funny in its own right. As the site describes itself, it is an “encyclopedia full of misinformation and utter lies. It's sort of like Congress or Parliament. Unlike Congress or Parliament, however, we do have a sense of humor.” It doesn’t just laugh at the Wikipedia (on whose pages it originated, early this year), but also at itself. Try looking up the pages on Bombay, India or the indeed, the entry for Wikipedia. [Warning: the language can be, ahem, uninhibited. Not for the kiddies.]

On the road
Wooster Collective
Named after a street in Soho, New York, the Wooster collective showcases street art from all over the world. (Makes one wonder why we can’t get some of our ugly city walls painted by artists rather than let them be defaced with politicians’ slogans and advertisements.) There are huge amounts of eye-candy in the centre panel, done blog-style, with regular updates, and if that wasn’t enough, the sidebars are a veritable treasure trove.

Blog of the week
Streets, walls and the world at large
And while on street art, let me introduce you to this blogger (disclosure: she’s a friend), who has very few words for you. What she does have is wonderful pictures from around the world of, well, streets and walls. Downside: she posts infrequently. Must get her company to send her globetrotting some more. Er, can I carry your bags for you, Nandini?

This column explores the wilder, wackier, weirder corners of the world wide web. Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Mail inthemousetrap@indiatimes.com.

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 17th June 2005.

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