Thursday, December 01, 2005

Six Degrees of Laziness

Often when I finish watching an old movie on VHS or DVD, I want to look on IMDB for who the actors are that I can't name and what else they've been in. Between sitting down at the computer, though, and actually looking for that info, I often spend a few minutes looking at blogs and whatnot. Stuff that doesn't require any typing.

Somehow, I often find—while leaning forward on my desk, chin on my left hand, left elbow on my desk, and the right hand occupied simply with a little mouse movement and clicking—it seems easier, and certainly more interesting, to just follow chains of collaboration to find the film in question. Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

For what it's worth, Wikipedia, after attributing the name of the game to a pun drawing on the near-rhyme with Six Degrees of Separation, has this to say about use of the name when Kevin Bacon isn't actually part of the chain:
The game has expanded to become more about linking two film actors than just one actor to Kevin Bacon. The name is still retained, however, because it has been shown that Bacon is a common link member in a chain.
Meanwhile, Patrick Reynolds at the Oracle of Bacon points out that Kevin Bacon is by no means the most common link member in such chains. A Bacon Number is the number of steps it takes to link some other actor to Kevin Bacon. Bacon himself has a zero. Anyone who was in a film with him has a Bacon Number of 1. Reynolds, a computer scientist at Duke University, calculated the Bacon Number of every single damn person in the Internet Movie Database and then came up with their equivalent number (Connery Number, Turturro Number, etc.) for each other. All 800,000 of them. Sheesh. And then he used that data to determine who's the most linkable person in the IMDB. (Most linkable, not most likable. He's useless to us there.) The Center of the Hollywood Universe, as he calls it.

Turns out Kevin Bacon isn't even in the top 1000. So despite Wikipedia's claim, I'm gonna have to say there's a thousand reasons that the name's just retained because the rhyme makes it fun.

If over a thousand actors have average Themselves Numbers under 3, just think how many have average numbers within 6. In light of that, it makes the game rather more interesting to use actors from different eras.

Back in the spring, I found myself connecting Tom Green to Humphrey Bogart. And the next day Haley Joel Osment to Fatty Arbuckle.

Anyway, last night when I wanted to know who the female lead was in the old Jeff Bridges movie I watched the other night and where I saw her before, I clicked from a bookmark onto the IMDB homepage and saw it was Woody Allen's birthday. Woody Allen was in The Curse of the Jade Scorpion with Helen Hunt, who was in Twister with Philip Seymour Hoffman, who, of course, was in The Big Lebowski with Jeff Bridges.

Forget just six degrees. If you include the explanation of all this, it has an absurdly high Laziness Number, compared to just typing into the search box "Tron."

The female lead, by the way, was Cindy Morgan and where I saw her before was nowhere.


Blogger hapless_jockey said...

i've always considered my Bacon number 1, and there are probably a few women who would corroborate that.

not to butter my own bacon or anything.

12:58 PM  
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