Sunday, June 12, 2005

Searching for a truth

If I may wax prosaic for the moment – I occasionally check to see who's linking to my sight and how. There are numerous referrals from Google searches, predictably ones related to limericks or Limerick. I gather that many of those visitors are disappointed by the lack of bawdy verse or Irish pride and rush right off to search for nude photos of the Irish tenors or the like.

Though I am a fan of the "traditional" limerick in all its anatomical depravity (Edward Lear, despite how it sounds, focused strictly on nonsense rhymes, however) and my maternal grandmother was born in Ireland (Mayo, not Limerick; hence an intense loathing for Miracle Whip, except when applied in one of those depraved limericks); I have chosen to save such efforts for private audiences of 200 to 300 of my closest friends, while stoned out of my head at a Lyle Lovett concert, perhaps. Those desperate for something more lewd might still find one or two examples buried on the Savant's old website.

So I wasn't surprised yesterday to find that someone had found my blog through a Google search. What caught my attention was the choice of search terms: "savant" "godzilla" "strawberry." Why would someone choose this particular set of words? Had they found my limerick on Prince Charles' wedding (Live and let Di) so memorable yet forgotten to bookmark my site? Not likely! Maybe they were looking for a letter to Marilyn vos Savant concerning the most efficient path for a Japanese monster to take through the berry patch resulting in the greatest destruction? Or possibly it was just one of those word puzzles people like to send her? And what is it that possesses people to send those inane questions to the self-professed know-it-all of Parade magazine? Oh yeah, asked and answered.

What was even more astonishing was that in addition to the Limerick Savant's link (#1 on the search list), there were 176 other hits for that combination of search terms! Now I know that my associations can at times be as loose as Jethro's last tooth (my grandmother might have said "as a Dublin whore"), but I hadn't counted on there being that much disorder in the net world. Fortunately (or not) most of the links were pretty mundane. There were several for toys (the Marilyn vos Savant doll?); a few related to baseball (I get Darryl Strawberry, but Godzilla? Must be Jose Canseco.); and a number were people's mp3 playlists (no accounting for tastes there).

But stranger than all of the above was the link to an interview with Daniel Johnston on his Rejected Unknown website. I loved the title immediately and I was intrigued by the story of this artist/singer/songwriter. The interview, it appears, took place in a psychiatric hospital and elsewhere on the site they reveal that Mr. Johnston suffers from Bi-polar Disorder (sometimes referred to as Manic Depression). I don't know if that is relevant and I am usually put off by such references, since I work with mental health consumers in the job that actually pays and I know all too well the impact of stigma. I think it can occur in reverse when so-called "outsider artists" are marveled at as some sort of performing primates (this I also find distasteful) who, were it not for their special talent, would be relegated to the society's back alleys. "Outcast Art" might be a more appropriate term.

Mr. Johnston and his songs, however, have been embraced by the music community, a motley crowd as it is; and, though it is hard to judge all the possible motivations in play, there seems to be a genuine appreciation of the innocent and direct quality of his music and lyrics. I am reminded by this apparent naïve worldview of another artist, Henry Darger, who's work was only uncovered after his death. I had the good fortune to see a show of the work at the Art Institute of Chicago several years ago. It was fascinating and imaginative stuff. Darger is the subject of a wonderful recent documentary, "In the Realms of the Unreal" which I highly recommend. Both of these men seem to share an obsessive need to create and were highly prolific in that regard. I can admire that kind of dedication, having experienced the competing demands that infringe on my desire to blog.

Now I am probably the last individual on the planet to have "discovered" Daniel Johnston; since covers of his songs have been done by the likes of Beck, Death Cab for Cutie, and Tom Waits, and Matt Groening is a big fan of his paintings and drawings. But I am intrigued by the fact that the juxtaposition of three unlikely word companions led me down this road. It makes me believe that there is a whole world of Googling by free association that awaits me out there. Who knows what wonders I might discover with the likes of "sphincter," "plum" and "radial tire" in combination!

Still, "savant," "godzilla," and "strawberry?" Who was that masked Googler; and what were they searching for?

No comments: