Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Kevin Bacon's Ghost in the Machine

My brain has a tendency to go on epic journeys right around 1pm if I'm not careful. Careful meaning well-caffeinated and completely distracted: If I'm not surrounded by 30 crying babies, a homeless person cage-fighting against ghosts and a fair amount of Emo music blaring out of a sub woofer next to my head then I'm not going to get shit done. This afternoon was no different, except for the fact that I was in a quiet coffee house in the ass-end of nowhere.

No homeless people yelling at pigeons.

No Fallout Boy warbling out of a blown-out amp in the background.

Not even an ADHD adolescent screaming about his girlfriend... Obama... His car... The metaphysical implications of Fight Club... Ooh look, that kid has a Yo-Yo. Yo-Yo's are awesome.

None of that. Just me, alone with my thoughts.... And a hangover.

This lead, inevitably, to an afternoon of me ignoring my Inbox, wondering who's phone kept ringing (it was mine) and stumbling into the morass of distraction that is Google and all of its radiating roots, tentacles, sewage pipes and mole burrows. If one is not careful google web searches can inexorably lead to a downward spiral of button-clicking that eventually ends with a purchase of bootleg X-Files DVDs from Malaysia or reading about the metaphysical implications of watching The Wiggles while bloated on Mescaline and Yerba Mate on some Norwegian teenager's blog (don't ask). If one is, say, seriously hung-over, not properly caffeinated and prone to left-clicking on anything that has bright colors or nifty catch-phrases this can lead to some epic Aboriginal Internet walkabouts.

Enter 55 ways to have "fun" with google and enter Phillip Lenssen ( Phillip Lenssen spent so much time on his computer, caffeinated, high or otherwise, that he decided to categorize and publish different games that he came up with using Google's web-search tool. After much perusing of the list of 55 ways to have "fun" I have come away with an impression of Phil that while benign, is not at all favorable. Once you have read a few of the different ways that he has "fun", a few things need to be re-assessed and accounted for. First off, you need to use a slide-rule when accounting for differentiating opinions of what "fun" is.

Some people B.A.S.E. jump:

Some people chase wheels of cheese down hills (watch for the poor bastard at the 25 second mark):

or better yet even ride large phallic trees in fits of epic Japanese weirdness:

Apparently, Phil comes up with overly complex ways to create mischief, mayhem and attain a higher-consciousness via Google. He is like your crazy uncle that shows up at Thanksgiving reeking of Patchouli and "sage" and tries to get everyone to join in the fun of a rousing poetry slam while there is a 60 inch plasma screen mounted on the wall behind him showing re-runs of American Gladiators. And by "your" I mean "my friend Brent McDowell's" and by "poetry slam" I mean "knife fight". Needles to say, Phil's ideas of web-fun come off as the wooden choo-choo-train in the F.A.O Schwartz web universe.

Some of them are interesting: type "Life, the Universe and Everything" into the Google calculator and the answer you get back is "42". I know, you're either staring blankly at your screen right now wondering what the fuck I am jabbering about, or you're smirking to yourself because you actually read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy back in 7th grade. Either way, this little google Easter Egg, while entertaining/confusing, is not the basis for a chapter in a book, much less even a footnote on some graffiti in the bathroom of your local masonic temple.

Some of are a bit forced: Phil plays the six-degrees of Kevin Bacon game via google, trying to find out whether or not Kevin Bacon is the true center of the Hollywood Universe. Apparently Phil has never heard of or The Oracle of Bacon ( If I had to venture a guess I'm pretty sure that Phil could also come up with a great way for me to make coffee using a jet-engine, 12 virgin dwarfs and the Tibetan Book of the Dead but I think I'll stick with the old fashioned hot water and steeping technique.

And some, well, some just defy reason. One of the games is entitled "The Shortest Google Search", wherein the player tries to "find the shortest Google search that doesn't return any results, using only the letters a-z (no Umlaut or accented characters) and the numbers 0-9". Um, yeah, let me get right on that, right after I start randomly flipping through the yellow pages and patronizing establishments that I blindly point at but before I spend a week only eating foods that contain the letter "Q". Mmmmm, Quinoa.

After about an hour of slogging around through this website and only a mild fever to show for it I decided to abort my search for higher consciousness via google and its permutations. Thanks Phil, but no thanks. I'll get my entertainment spoon-fed to me by the likes of YouTube and, or, better yet, a well thought out book with characters, a plot and, nay, even creative metaphors, similes and turns of phrase, not from some net head with too much time on his hands and a myopic view of "fun". Besides, I've got things to do and hangover cures to web-search.

As I backed out of my self-created google-cocoon my head began to clear. Had I found the cure to the common hangover? Was spending an hour or two researching nonsense will my brain stitched itself back together really responsible for my feeling of euphoria, that all was right with the world? The wonderful Seattle weather had turned nature's palette from a dull graphite to a wonderfully bright and dazzling charcoal gray, middle-aged women with toddlers had begun to occupy the adjoining booths in the cafe, unable to keep pacifiers in their mouths and unfazed by the falsetto pitches of their screaming. Even a panhandler outside had even begun to shout at a mailbox. All was right with the world, and all it took was burying my head in the google sand and listening to ebb and flow of the web tide... Telling me tales of high adventure.

"Kevin Bacon! What is best in life?"
"To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women."


  1. Strong out the gates! But can he keep up the furious stroke rating? Only time will tell ...

  2. Didn't need a by-line anywhere to know who the author of this is after about three sentences... I can only hope that there is a great deal of self-conscious irony in "I'll get my entertainment... [from] a well thought out book with characters, a plot and, nay, even creative metaphors, similes and turns of phrase, not from some net head with too much time on his hands and a myopic view of 'fun'"?