amidst all the hysteria about white powder, unguarded bridges and the deadly terror of opening your mail, it's nice to know that at least a few people have put aside time for purely mindless entertainment.As little as nine weeks ago, my e-mail in-box was flooded with stupid Net jokes, pranks, Flash parodies and online games about goats, George W. and Mariah Carey's breakdown.
For people who spend way too much time online, there is no greater way to blow a few hours than clicking through pages and pages of stoopid Flash cartoons that people wasted even more time creating. Ever wonder who would win a wrestling match between Britney Spears and Bill Clinton? Wage your own battle at www.robrob8.com/games/miniclips/britneybrawl.asp.
Post-September 11, the obnoxious parodies and crass jokes didn't stop, but their tone changed. The off-colour, occasionally offensive humour remained, but there was a focus now.
The avalanche of anti-Osama bin Laden games, pictures and jokes circulating online is stunning, but even more astonishing is how quickly they sprang up. It's as though in the hours after the terrorist attacks, programmers with a twisted sense of humour simply went from making elaborate online putting games to figuring out how to make a fake movie about Ted Koppel interviewing a gibberish-spouting bin Laden.
As the tone of sites like www.fuckusama.com suggests, serious debate about war and terrorism isn't exactly the focus here. The full two pages of bin Laden parodies collected on the Newgrounds Web site (www.newgrounds.com/collections/osama.html) range from remarkably complex and relatively harmless shoot-'em-up games where you attack the man with cruise missiles and nail guns to shockingly xenophobic, anti-Arab garbage.
It's all worth a look, if only to see how far people are willing to go to get a laugh. But in a way, a lot of these shocking and unfunny parodies simply miss the point.
What was so great about most of the pre-9/11 Net jokes was their mindlessness. They weren't meant to be high art or even vaguely serious. Cross that line and you come dangerously close to the undisguised racism that marks message boards and chat sites, particularly in the wake of September's events.
Maybe that's why people responded so strongly to the link that kept popping up in in-boxes last week.
In a bit of sound-manipulating wizardry that was as brilliant as it was obvious, someone took the rhythm from the Strokes song Hard To Explain and pasted Christina Aguilera's vocals from Genie In A Bottle over top. The result, called A Stroke Of Genius and posted at www.thedr.freeserve.co.uk, was forwarded around the world in a matter of hours and became something of a minor radio sensation in England.
Cut-ups and homemade song parodies are nothing new online -- go to a file-sharing system like www.musiccity.com and enter "vs" into the search engine -- but the reaction to this one was impressive.
People's joy at hearing something so mindlessly funny obviously has plenty to do with how well the splice job was done, but it's also a flashback to how dumb and inconsequential Net jokes and games could be before mid-September. People were waiting for a good joke like this. Sadly, they're few and far between these days.