A few weeks back I happened to mention Thunderbirds to a friend of mine.
‘Oh, Gerry,’ he said. ‘I did some work for him, back when I was in the UK.’
Makes that friend of mine one degree of separation from the late director, Gerry Anderson. Small world.
The actual game is linking actors in less than six steps, via movies they’ve been in, to Kevin Bacon. Another friend suggested calling them ‘rashers’, as in bacon but also Bacon. The game works in real life, too. For instance, two of my regular readers, each independently, are two ‘rashers’ from Neil Armstrong, and I bet there are connections other readers have that I don’t know about.
In New Zealand, we’re all meant to be two degrees apart by default, and one of our phone companies calls itself ‘Two Degrees’ for that reason. Actually it’s not true, it’s more like three or four, even within miniscule communities such as the New Zealand history field or writing. Personally, I’ve got fewer ‘rashers’ to Gerry Anderson.
In any case, it’s difficult to test empirically. I’ve seen figures such as an actual ‘degree of separation’ between any two random people on the planet (let’s call it the ‘Bacon Number’) of 6.6. However, I suspect this is true only within similar cultures. That’s because ‘degrees of Bacon’ pivot on ‘connectors’. One individual opens up a network of others.
Trouble is, knowing that I am connected to another Joe Blow by 6.6 links – someone I don’t know, will never meet, and whose life is as ordinary as mine – isn’t all that interesting – which is why the game’s usually played by figuring out your chain ‘o links to somebody famous. ‘I danced with a woman who danced with a man who danced with a woman who danced with the Prince of Wales’. Total strangers, in other words – by definition, nobody has direct connection beyond the first link. But it shows us how human society is linked, which is pretty interesting.
And it’s kinda fun. Can you link yourself to Kevin Bacon via people you can link to (however indirectly) who’ve appeared in movies? Here’s the tool http://oracleofbacon.org/
I can do it in five ‘rashers’. An immediate family member had an actress friend who starred in an early ’70s British horror movie with Christopher Lee, who was in Airport ’77 with John Kerry, who was in Frost/Nixon with…Kevin Bacon. For me the coolest part of this link is it puts me six degrees from everybody in Apollo 13, which was one awesome film.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014
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