Beautiful Randomness

5 Sep 07

They’re falling like dominoes!

I’m 30-odd pages into Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure, which is, I would say, the third book I have recently read which could fall under the category of sort-of-travel-style-book-written-by-a-comedian-which-is-about-a-great-adventure-arising-out-of-a-moment-of-arbitrary-randomness. The first two books were…

Yes Man, by Danny Wallace.


One Hit Wonderland, by Tony Hawks.

Both poignantly entertaining, humorous and inspiring – as is, thus far, Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure.

To what, you may wonder, am I referring, when I say, “They’re falling like dominoes”…? I speak of those odd little life-affirming coincidences, which seem to sometimes occur in clumps, one after the other, in an apparently meaningful sequence. It all began last night… (at least, the latest clump did)…

* * *

My girlfriend, a photographer, asked if I would help her to brainstorm a question she had been asked to answer by her “creative business mentor” (or something), which was along the lines of…

Where could your photography be?

(it may have been worded in a more business-y way, but you get the gist)

Amongst numerous other possibilities, she mentioned that her photographs could be sold at Spitalfields Market… and lo and behold, as I was reading Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure on the train to work this morning, he suggests to someone he has met through a website on photographs of women and dogs (no, not those sorts of photographs), that he may be able to find more of such imagery at Spitalfields Market… so Spitalfields Market! And photographs! Furthermore, although I am sworn to secrecy regarding the details, the name of the man who is the author of said website is the same as that of a significant personage relating to another photographic project my other half is involved in, which also arised as a highly significant topic of conversation yesterday. This, in itself, would have been enough to make me go hmm, as indeed it did, and it resulted in me picking up the phone and relating such to my significant other. But that was not all!

When I got to work, I decided (randomly) to look at the website of the publishers of Dave Gorman’s Googlewack Adventure ( …!) – and what should they be advertising on the home page, but…

One Red Paperclip, by Kyle MacDonald

…of which Random House says is…

One man’s attempts to trade a paperclip for a house… A global adventure in the style of Dave Gorman and Danny Wallace…

…Dave Gorman! Danny Wallace! Blimey!

* * *

But what does it all mean?

Well… although I do unashamedly proclaim a belief in at least the possibility of all sorts of mystical and otherworldly gubbins, I feel that what is at the core of all the above is the value and beauty of randomness. In another book I have recently read – the novel The Traveller, by John Twelve Hawks – the freedom-fighting so-called “Harlequins” are taught to “cultivate randomness” in order to make themselves as invisible as possible in the all-seeing eyes of the “Vast Machine”. In this case, then, randomness is used to escape. Danny Wallace, Tony Hawks and Dave Gorman, however, use randomness in the arguably more positive cause of seeking… seeking adventure, excitement, fascination. They will have an arbitrary bet or a seemingly meaningless snippet of conversation in a pub, over a pint and some Scampi Nik-Naks (or something), which one would normally expect to lead to nothing, or more beer and Scampi Nik-Naks, but, these people being what they are, who they are, it doesn’t just lead to more beer and Scampi Nik-Naks, but rather it becomes an obsession, a desire, an insatiable urge to follow through what has been discussed or betted upon, which then leads to an enthralling and amusing adventure, the relating of which is available on for £9.99 (or thereabouts).

Arbitrariness… randomness…

We are told, in our careers, in magazines that promote success and achievement, that we must be focused. That we must have a plan, draw spider diagrams, devise spreadsheets, charts and tables. Through these means, we will accomplish things, move upwards, climb that greasy pole. Anything we set our minds to can be achieved through a sequence of stepping stones, A can lead to B can lead to C and finally to the pinnacle of Z (which sounds better if you say it with the American pronunciation of “Zee”). But if we are so single-mindedly set on ascending a particular ladder, what of all the other ladders which we are not even aware of the existence of? And furthermore, how can we even become aware of those ladders if they are in no way connected to our “Plan”?

The above triumvirate of comedians/writers have found the answers to these questions. Focus is necessary, but if we want our lives to be full, rich and interesting, we are focussing on the wrong things. We need to focus on the things which at first it may seem utterly pointless to focus on. 30-odd pages into Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure, two such things have already been suggested…


  1. Try and find unique combinations of words on the Internet.

  2. Collect photos of women and dogs.


Whereas Danny Wallace, in Yes Man, decided to say Yes! to everything.

And Tony Hawks, in One Hit Wonderland, decided to have a hit record in Albania.

Utterly random. Utterly arbitrary. And yet utterly inspiring. Which has led me to ask the question… what utterly random and utterly arbitrary pursuit can I take up, which it is hoped will result in a fascinating and life-affirming quest of self-discovery?

As always, any suggestions and comments will be gratefully received! 🙂


Websites to Look at…

    …and anything else totally random, arbitrary and pointless.



3 comments on “Beautiful Randomness

  1. I’m not sure if this post is valuable or invaluable. Which is it?
    I am tempted by the red paperclip but I am prevaricating. I’ll mull over before throwing more money at Amazon. My pile of unread delicacies is growing on the dining-room table.

    I am all for randomness. If you haven’t read John Fowles book, The Magus, then it’s high time you did. It’s absolutely bursting at the seams with randomness.

    Randomness is unappreciated. There are those that like to think they have more control than they really do. Now we can control some things and not others. Choosing your parents, which century you are born in, and which country you inhabit is quite easy. But where to go on holiday is quite another matter. You sort of just end up there.

    About 15 years ago I was having a spot of woman trouble. Office romance, if you must know. I went to work one Friday in an agitated state. I just wanted to get away. That night I was on an airplane to Mexico. I just went downstairs and bought a ticket. I found myself, quite randomly in a cheap hotel room with giant iguanas outside the room, and a cockroach the size on an elephant behind the mirror. I came back after three days. I found out that Mexican’s don’t speak French, and French was the only other language I learned. See randomness is everywhere.

    I am intrigued by the notion of your girlfriend having a creative business mentor. This is because I have just been engaged by a SlowDownNow reader to become her creative coach. I didn’t go looking for it. It was quite random, and seems to be working well.

    I enjoy reading your stuff. You have a way with words. I particularly like, “This, in itself, would have been enough to make me go hmm…” It made me laugh.

  2. By invaluable or valuable I meant your post not my response. I am glad I cleared that one up.

  3. pepsoid says:

    Thanks once again for your comments! I know how busy you are for a slow person, so they are always appreciated. 😉

    Speaking of book piles, I shall add The Magus to mine. I think my dad has read this one, so I might ask him what it was like. I feel I must clarify that the “book pile” of which I speak is, in the very large part, virtual, in the sense that it is a mental list of books-I-endeavour-to-read-or-at-least-seriously-consider-reading-before-I-shuffle-off-this-mortal-coil. Within the depths of which I include the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy (which I have just discovered was never actually intended as a trilogy, but just turned out that way), all the Harry Potters (or at least as many of them as I can get through without getting bored), some Terry Pratchetts (ditto re Harry Potter), more stuff by Danny Wallace, Tony Hawks and Dave Gorman, Frankenstein, a few of the recent Stephen Kings which I’ve missed (used to be a *Big Fan*, along with James Herbert, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, et al, but decided I should fill my head with more than just horror stories), some more Stephen Baxter (a sci-fi author I have recently discovered, who manages to successfully merge that rare combination of intelligence, poignance and entertainment), and… erm… other stuff.

    I could do with not working, really! 🙂

    Back to randomness… After posting the above, my girlfriend told me how the meeting had gone with her creative business mentor. In short, it went well, partly due to the fact said mentor expressed a little bafflement at how she has managed to turn an actual profit within the short period of time she has thus far been trading, especially considering that she doesn’t, in the wider sense of the term, have a “Plan” – she generally prefers the approach of “Going With the Flow,” which is somewhat similar to my A-leading-to-B-leading-to-C-leading-to-Z… so the proof of the pudding and all that! 🙂

    Randomness is indeed unappreciated. It seems to be such a dominant force in the Modern Western World we that need to be *in control* – which, of course, we will never truly be, as entropy is the predominant force in the universe. Chaos does, indeed, rule! It is only through embracing this can we achieve our (as it were) “salvation”…

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