One of my favorite things to do in my free time is to go down the Wikipedia rabbit hole, that journey into the research underworld that all of use have fallen victim to, at one time or another. I have made a game out of this, which is very similar to the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, which itself emerged as a kind of pre-meme meme based on an idea popularized in John Guare’s play Six Degrees of Separation. In “Sixipedia,” one decides on two completely different subjects to connect within six Wikipedia link clicks. Going to the first article does not count, so you will view seven articles at most, including the starting one.
The rules? Using the “find” command to search through the article is prohibited, as is using the links from the “references” tab found at the bottom of Wikipedia pages. Using the back button is also verboten; once you click onto an article, you must continue from there. I constantly play this with my friends over Skype. We talk each other through what we are clicking and tell each other what we learn along the way. (Thank you, Aimee Martinez, for challenging me to connect the Crusades to cupcakes.)
I hope it’s not too critical of me to say that in the past, I have not had the best history teachers, and it was oddly nice to learn what I missed out on. In case you are not familiar with the Crusades, as I was, they were a bunch of wars led by Catholics, the first starting in 1095 and the last ending in 1291. The desired outcome was the claiming of the “Holy Land,” the Holy Land being Israel and its close neighbors.
In the Crusades article, I learned about one of the Popes of the time, Pope Martin IV, who was French. Pope Martin IV planned a huge crusade, but, to his dismay, all his ships and knights were destroyed before they could reach their destination, which was the Latin Empire of the East, left behind by the Fourth Crusade. I figured that, through France, I could find pastries of some sort that connected to cupcakes, so on I went.
I did not spend very much time going through France because it is a gruellingly long article, and I knew exactly what I was looking for. Luckily, the rules of this game do not forbid you from using the table of contents, so I went straight to Culture: Cuisine. And, there, among other toothsome French treats, I found exactly what I was looking for: a beautiful picture of multicolored macarons and a link to the corresponding article.
I was immediately greeted with the sub-caption, “Not to be confused with Macaroon or Macaroni.” My immediate reaction was, “Macaroni! Who would confuse a little dessert with a pasta?” They do have similar pronunciations, I suppose.
I have always pronounced the word macaron “mah-kah-ron,” which is the French pronunciation. A sort of pet-peeve of mine is when people call the macaron a “macaroon,” because that is an entirely different treat, a little almond/coconut cake. However, I was pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong. I love being proven wrong. It is the little things. The word balloon translates from the French “ballon,” which is the same as how we Americans pronounce the French “macaron” as macaroon. Balloon, ballon, macaroon, macaron. Try saying that ten times fast. So, I have now learned to accept both pronunciations. If you are ever in Old Town, Pasadena, I would highly suggest the macaron shop Lette. Though expensive, they are worth every penny. As I said, it’s the little things! I also discovered that they sell macarons at McDonald’s in France. I wonder how they would compare to the fancy ones…
I continued on to granulated sugar (sucrose), because I figured I might find frosting there, but I was greeted with a pretty disappointing article, in terms of my desired destiny of reaching cupcakes. This article mostly talked about types of sugars, production, and, well, tooth decay. The dentist is always watching. I realized, then, that I only had 2 clicks left to arrive at cupcakes; the next article I chose would have to have a link to cupcakes. With a sweat on my brow, I fervently searched the article until: Desserts.
I hit the jackpot when it comes to The Rabbit Hole. So, finally, satisfactorily, and triumphantly, I used my last click to go from desserts to cupcakes. In exactly six clicks, I made it from the Crusades to cupcakes. I can not tell you how satisfying it is to complete one of these, and how much I learned along the way—I only scratched the surface of my discoveries.
In case you’d like to try some of your own Wikipedia adventures, here are some suggestions:
- Easy: guacamole to pea soup
- Medium: George W. Bush to John Lennon
- Hard: The White House to kilt
- Nearly Impossible, But Possible: vampires to golf balls