Distance on Wikipedia: The Philosophical Orbits of Hulk Hogan and Alf

At some point, it’s happened to pretty much all of us: You go to Wikipedia trying to settle an argument and find out what level of Thetanhood Tom Cruise is on these days, and 3 hours later you’re scrolling down the list of Cryptids and thinking “Hmmm, Montauk Monster. Sounds interesting.” It’s this incredible system of interlinking that can make Wikipedia so addictive, and it’s so easy to take trains of thought down utterly random tracks that I was a little surprised to learn that there’s a very consistent pattern in the chaos. If you follow that pattern, the Montauk Monster, and almost every other page for that matter, leads you sooner or later, to Philosophy.

The Montauk Monster, in all it’s philosophical glory.

The method is simple.  You go to any Wikipedia page and click the first non-italicized, non-parenthetical link, then repeat on the next page, and in most cases you’ll wind up at Philosophy in between 1 and 30 steps. Lists and extremely specific articles can take longer- the longest known chain to Philosophy is 1845 steps from a List of state leaders in 2011. Occasionally, a list will lead to a loop or a blank page that never brings you to philosophy, but the method works for 95% of all Wiki pages it’s been tested on. The pattern was first revealed in 2008, when someone posted a page about it on Wikipedia itself. Last year, creativeandcritical.net built a script for quickly testing links and storing statistics. And then today, somebody on one of Wired’s twitter feeds mentioned the phenomenon, and after a little investigation and experimentation with the script, I was hooked.

And, since every investigation needs a starting point, I chose to start with the high water mark of the 1980’s, and maybe when it’s all said and done, American Culture as a whole.  I myself wouldn’t say that for sure yet, but if you believe, as an awful lot of people seem to, that the country’s heading in the wrong direction, well, then this is what you’re fighting to preserve:

Did you know Andre the Giant is only 18 short steps away from Philosophy? The trail starts at French People, leads through Power and Authority, and then finally winds up where they almost all do, at Philosophy.  Well, it seems like 18 short steps until you learn that Hulk Hogan is only 16 steps away, but he is a REAL AMERICAN afterall, and it seems fitting that he would walk a slightly shorter path to glory than the man he once hoisted upon his shoulders and then threw down to usher in the era of Gordon Gekko (11 steps), Ibuprofen (10 steps) and Alf (16 steps). It also seems fitting in some way that the Hulkster, “Terry” Hogan, rests in the same distant orbit of Philosophy as Alf.  And this doesn’t even address Jesse “The Body” Ventura, who’s path from announcing that clip to Minnesota Governor (13 years), is ever so slightly shorter than his Wikipedia path to Philosophy (14 steps).

Sometimes there’s an appropriateness to the paths themselves.  On Alf’s own personal journey to the ways of philosophy, he passes through the pages of both Art and Human Behavior, which seems like an ironic statement on 80’s pop culture if ever there was one.  Last time I saw Mariah Carey she was, sure enough, both Singing and an Organism.  Those are also two Facts you can Experience at one of her shows.  But not everyone’s path to philosophical stardom runs as smoothly as Mimi’s 14 steps, though of course she hasn’t cured as many fevers as Ibuprofen or slept with Catherine Zeta-Jones as many times as the man who played Gordon Gekko has.

Sometimes the path detours in unexpected ways- if you wanted to riff on failure and loss with Steve Bartman, Alex S. Gozalez and the Chicago Cubs, think again, all three follow the same path where you wind up bouncing from Baseball to Grass and Flowering Plants before you finally loop around to the Philosophy finish line.  That finish line for all three is 20 links later, which in the unkindest cut of all, is the same number of steps away as the World Series.  Hmmm.  Maybe the system DOES work every time.

If you want to play around with the script yourself, the link is http://creativeandcritical.net/xkcdwiki/

A Week In Groin Related Violence

Juan Carlos Navarro’s Testicles present: The Ascension

If scientists had the time, by now they would have concluded that somewhere on Earth, somebody gets punched in the dick every 11 and a half seconds. I’m no mathematician, but that equals a pretty staggering amount of crotch violence on a weekly basis. But this week was a good one for blows to the genital area, and two in particular stood out from the crowd. Were they the most important dick hits that happened this week? Who knows? As anyone who’s been hit there can tell you, the crotch shot that matters the most is always the one that just happened to you.

Sometimes a punch to the dick is just a punch to the dick- immediate and painful, but ultimately meaningless beyond the moment. And sometimes there is a larger, more metaphorical meaning that lurks beyond, where a broken heart hides in the shadow of swollen balls.

The first type happened to Spain’s Juan Carlos Navarro in the waning seconds of his team’s win over France in the quarterfinals of the Olympic basketball tournament. Nick Batum ran in at full speed, fist balled, and used all of his momentum and leverage to deliver an overhand haymaker to Navarro’s groin that caused the largest shockwave since the Krakatoa explosion of 1884. When asked about it after the game, Batum was still angry, and very candid: “I wanted to give him a reason to flop.”

It should be noted that basketball is the easiest sport in which it’s possible to hit an opponent in the crotch with disguised intent, as Rajon Rondo once demonstrated on Anderson Varejao.

A casual glance would tell you that Rondo was just trying to save the ball and the groin shot was unintentional, but keep in mind this is a guy who routinely hits teammates in stride from 25 feet with behind the back passes at full speed- he knew damn well where that ball was going when he threw it.

Batum’s punch was so deliberate and intentional it immediately went viral in the traditional way, by actual word of mouth, which is now usually reserved for those moments which unnerve or offend our sensibilities so much that we can’t bear to have our feelings about them bared on Facebook. Plenty of people made jokes about Ron Poppo getting his face gnawed off, and plenty of people felt very sympathetic and earnestly bad for him, but not too many from either camp were willing to have their comments on the subject left out there for posterity.

This is all to say that the shot was so pointless and savage that there was something shocking about it, but not in any sort of lasting sense. For better or worse, it’s a simple fact that alot of people carry a taboo about discussing their own or other people’s sex organs in public forums, regardless of the reason. Not only that, but unlike Ron Poppo and his face, Juan Carlos Navarro still has his dick and balls, and when they re-descend from his body it won’t be long at all before he’s back to working his Spanish fly on the groupies that I can only assume must flock around a reasonably good looking European former NBA player.

The other telling crotch shot of the week was actually a double-dick punch, by two young siblings at Friday’s Cubs/Reds game. The camera rests on them for just a few seconds while they playfully fight in the bleachers, but that’s enough time for them to trade crotch shots in between grappling. Deadspin was there with the obvious angle, that being a Cubs fan goes hand in hand with getting punched in the balls. And sure, two kids playing in the stands and punching each other in the groin seems like a funny demonstration of that, plus the Rockwell-esque timelessness of the image of sibling rivalry makes it instantly identifiable. But isn’t the point of having a brother supposed to be that there’s someone else there to watch out for you- someone who shares your blood and background, someone who never, under any circumstances, should deliver an intentional shot to your sensitivities?

The real wrinkle, the subtlety that’s being missed here, is that something about the Cubs seems to breed in the psyche a willingness to punch people you love and supposedly trust in the groin. What’s worse is that there is usually a laugh and a wink involved, and an assumption that you or your victim stick around to be a willing recipient for the next shot.

The impact of the blow Navarro recieved will ultimately be brief, and nobody assumes that Nick Batum is going to be a serial dick puncher from here on out. His overhand right flew on the wings of a moment of frustration and anger, and when it landed, it elicited a collective gasp, but it’s nothing that’s going to keep anyone up at night.  But for those two young Cubs fans, and for the millions of others out there, those few seconds are a window into the lifetimes of both giving and recieving shots to the groin that await them.