Short Takes on the News

America is thinking with its collective stomach again.

As I write this, the top search on Google–in fact, the only search with enough activity to make it to the Hot Searches page–is for information on a Hot Pocket recall.

I like a fresh-from-the-oven* chunk of processed food-like substance as much as the next guy**, but really people, is this the most important thing going on in the world today?

* Forget the microwave. A nuked Hot Pocket is a flabby, vaguely disgusting thing. A baked Hot Pocket may still be vaguely disgusting, but at least it has a crispy crust.

** I should probably get a new fact-checker. I don’t even know who this “next guy” is, but sales figures strongly suggest that he likes Hot Pockets considerably more than I do.

Yesterday’s top search was for information on the winning Powerball lottery ticket. Somebody in California is getting $425 million. That’s before taxes, naturally; if they go for the lump payment, the after tax amount is likely to be closer to $4.25*. Let me go on record here and officially announce that I am not the winner. Darn it.

* Do the math, Beth. $100 million is closer to $4.25 than to $425,000,000. See, I do know a little about taxes…

What I find most interesting about the lottery being the top search is its margin of victory over the next most common searches.. It beat out Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp by 2:1; ditto for Olympic figure skater Gracie Gold and for Olympic hockey.

I find this sort of heartening. Really. I’ve complained in the past about Americans’ search fascination with sports, scandal, and sex, so it’s rather pleasant to see them taking such a strong interest in someone else’s good fortune. (I have to believe that the majority of those million-plus searches were not people trying to find out whether they had won. Have to. I’m probably wrong with that belief, but if I need to maintain some illusions about humanity in order to live with them.)

Looking further down the list, we see America’s usual obsessions creeping in. We’ve already mentioned the Olympics, which some people consider to be sports (the rest of us think of them as more of an exercise in politically-themed performance art). Then there’s Ray Rice allegedly beating his fiancee, which qualifies as both sports and scandal. No, not sports like that. Ray Rice plays football–or at least he has up until now. It remains to be seen whether his employer (the Baltimore Ravens) will follow the example set by the New England Patriots in the Aaron Hernandez case last year and terminate Rice’s contract if he’s indicted.

Hmm. Olympic figure skater Ashley Wagner finished ninth in the search standings. Presumably her sixth-place standing in the competion makes her less than half as interesting as fellow American Gracie Gold’s fourth place. There’s clearly an exponential factor at work here: Polina Edmunds’ seventh place wasn’t even enough for her to crack Google’s top twenty.

Late update: There’s now a second search in today’s Hot Searches list: Olympic figure skater Mao Asada has made the list, trading on both sports and scandal: former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshior Mori, now chairman of the organizing committee for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics publicly criticized Asada’s ability in the wake of her 16th place finish.

Americans are still more interested in Hot Pockets, however. A triumph of the stomach?

2 thoughts on “Short Takes on the News

  1. After having read this, I watched Jon Stewart’s show. He had the text and recording of the Hot Pockets recall, and when they came to the part about the pockets containing “a small amount of recalled beef,” Stewart (who was, of course, munching on a Hot Pocket), spit out the contents of his mouth and followed up with “Beef?! It contained BEEF? I thought it contained, well, the contents of people’s pockets.” You had to be there, with Stewart.


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