At Franschhoek Literary Festival, Ndumiso Ngcobo and I hatched this killer plot that we would mention each other in our columns on the same week, orchestrate some kind of weird intertextuality vibe. At the time it felt like a genius plan, and it would have been if we hadn’t both muddled up our deadline dates and ended up posting our columns a week apart. Intertextuality sa voet!
We were also talking about maybe doing a radio show together too, but with our luck, chances are he’ll be waiting for me at 5fm and I’ll pitch up at 702.
Love being your neighbour, Ndum. You rock. xxx
Here’s yesterday’s column:
A MILLION MILES FROM NORMAL – By Paige Nick
It’s not easy having a column that appears one page after the funny guy in the newspaper. I imagine it’s how actresses feel when they have to walk the red carpet behind Charlize Theron, or speakers who have to go to the mic straight after Trevor Noah.
A few weeks ago I was having a drink with my newspaper neighbour, Ndumiso Ngcobo, at the Franschhoek Literary Festival, and I asked him how he decides what to write about every week. It turns out he has the same strategy as me. No flipping clue. Quote, unquote.
It seems that the topics come to us from everywhere; while we’re in the shower, in a meeting, driving, or while we’re hanging out in dodgy bars, or on Twitter (same thing, only sans the alcohol).
But this week I decided to be slightly more proactive about finding my topic. I thought I’d find out what people want to read about the most, and then pander to that instead. So I got busy finding out what the most visited websites are. Kind of like taking the world’s temperature, to see how sick it is today.
My hunt took me where everyone goes when they want to read up on something, Wikipedia. It’s the sixth most popular website on the internet (Google being number one). English Wikipedia has over 4 million articles, 30 million pages and 19 million users. Basically, it knows everything.
They also collate a weekly list of their top articles, which is how I know that Justin Bieber is the 6th most popular subject on the internet over the last three years. Too bad, he could be number 1, I’m still not writing about him.
I also discovered that in 2009 ‘Twilight’ scored just below ‘anal sex’ in Wikipedia’s most popular searches. I want to write about that, but I’m not sure which angle to take. Both are a pain in the ass.
In 2010, one of the most popular Wikipedia home page articles was on wife selling. An ancient English practice for ending marriages. Instead of going through the agony and expense of divorce in the 17th century, husbands would just take their wives to the market, parade them around and then auction them off to the highest bidder.
I’m not sure what it says about us as a human race that this is such a high traffic article. It got more hits on the day it appeared on the Wiki homepage, than those of Elvis, Jackie Chan and Brad Pitt. But less than John Lennon. Phew, there is a God, but it’s Barrack Obama, he got the second most hits.
Wife selling was closely followed by an article on Gropecunt Lane, a street found in English towns and cities during the Middle Ages, when streets were named after the economic activities taking place there. So one can assume it was either a big red light district or where all the law firms were. Yes yes, it’s a cheap joke, but I’m more likely to write about Gropecunt Lane than ‘The Earth’, which also gets a surprising amount of hits every year. I kind of wonder what it is people want to know about it. Are they lost?
Cat anatomy is another big seller, of course, while surprisingly dog anatomy doesn’t appear anywhere on the list. Do dogs not have bones?
To be honest, I felt a little sad that what we’re researching is so vapid. I’m not sure what I expected, but you would have thought we would have more questions about topics such as splicing the atom, or opera. I felt marginally better when I went over to some of the other language Wikipedia’s. The most visited page on Japanese Wiki is a list of adult movie actresses, the top German article is about cul de sac streets, and the top Italian article is about the show, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’.
Although, perhaps I should be grateful that the world only wants to read about nonsense, porn and cats, since that’s what I write about already.