Being the OCD sort of guy I am, I often check the Real Change website at the end of the month to see what draws the most hits. Month after month and year after year, the three most popular articles are nearly always the same. They have enduring appeal, and say something, I think, about who we are as a people.
Virtual Girl is always number one. Without fail. This is an interview with science fiction writer Amy Thompson that we did in September 2000. In February, Virtual Girl drew 2,491 visitors. Virtual Girl also happens to be a PC-based desktop stripper application that has many popular spin-offs.
My favorite description was this, for Active Dancers: "They say hi in the morning, remind you of your appointments and dance and strip for you whenever you want them to. The desktop version is free and unlimited. Active Dancer free strippers basically live on the toolbar and when you activate them you can enjoy each strip dancer whenever you want while using your computer normally. Active Dancer includes dozens of different girls all stripping and caressing themselves on your PC desktop."
Wow. A stripper who lives in my toolbar.
The second most popular Real Change destination is equally pathetic. This would be Bleeding for Dollars, a story published in May 2001 about selling plasma to survive. Every few weeks or so I get an email, usually from Texas, from some poor bastard looking for the nearest plasma center. The search terms that bring people to this article are all variations of "sell blood plasma." This lagged well behind Virtual Girl last month at 824 visits.
Thus far, our website seems a popular destination for people who, in one way or another, have hit bottom. But number three offers a thin ray of hope.
Steinbeck's Call To Action is about faith and anger, and the definition and redefinition of family as people struggle to cope with forces larger than themselves. I'm not sure when this was written, but the author puts the number of homeless people in Seattle at 2,500, so I'm guessing 1996 or so. That number now is more like 8,000.
It's a beautiful essay, and at a respectable 453 visits last month, more than one lit prof has seen fit to send students its way.
I sometimes wonder what this says about us, and whether other websites with deep content have similar experiences. If website hit patterns wind up being a sort of an I-Ching of the human condition. If you put any collection of 1,000 random articles up, would you get roughly 65% of visitors looking for sex, 21% for quick money, and 14% for a reason to go on living?
Let's hope not.