Who's Counting: Google Made Surreal

It doesn't seem too difficult to develop new (or modify existing) fiction writing and search engine software to produce such a story, whose dream-like nature would constitute a kind of surreal, cartoonish week-in-review for a fantasy tabloid. There are countless possible stories. Here is a very brief example that only makes minimal sense only if you know to what the 10 queries above refer. (Check Google if you're interested.)

Nascar drivers racing round and round at the Daytona 500 morph into a swarm of canines prancing about the Westminster Dog Show. Some of the dogs begin to snarl and path-breaking journalist and gun enthusiast Hunter S Thompson jumps out of the viewing stands and starts shooting at them. Then Keanu Reeves in his new film role as John Constantine strides onto the infield looking confused as he tries to discern whether Thompson is an angel or a demon. It doesn't help that the public address system is simultaneously playing Gary Brolsma's Internet hit, the "Numa Numa" song, American Idol reject William Hung's song and Bobby Darin's "Beyond the Sea." The latter's widow, Sandra Dee, or maybe just her ghost, joins Constantine in the infield of the dog show and further confuses him. Just then the music stops cold and Constantine's cell phone rings piercingly. He answers it and it's Paris Hilton expressing her regrets about putting his private number on her hacked phone. Reeves accepts her apology and congratulates her for appearing on the cover of US Weekly. Then he announces to the hushed Westminster audience that he's chosen the dog that will be "best in show." It turns out to be a bald lap dog accompanied into the field by Talon news reporter Jeff Gannon, who asks Reeves how he deals with all the Hollywood actors who are out of touch with reality.

When they're good, Oulipo's artificially constrained stories can be stimulating. When they're not, the outlandish juxtapositions are simply tiresome. In any case, it's a little frightening that the "Top 10" mishmash above isn't much screwier than the real news stories from which it was constructed.

Finally, you no doubt have noted that this whole piece, by not referring to Thompson by his usual sobriquet, does not contain a single instance of the last letter of the alphabet.

-- Professor of mathematics at Temple University, John Allen Paulos is the author of best-selling books, including "Innumeracy" and "A Mathematician Plays the Stock Market." His "Who's Counting?" column on ABCNEWS.com appears the first weekend of every month.

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