We chatted about the shortest song the other day Short Music and the music industry (which of course raises the question of what defines a song) and that got us thinking about other shortest stuff:

The Shortest concert – imagine various folks playing one note and taking a bow and the crowd going wild.  The rock duo the White Stripes reacted to preconcert hubbub about a free secret concert by planning the shortest concert, then announcing a one note free concert a few hours before the “real” paid event, and then fulfilling that concert by playing, reportedly, a single C sharp.  Loyal fans, who were in on the joke, were thrilled, and after viewing the video,  (below), one expects that no one asked for their money back.

The Shortest poem – much debate here, said by some to be Aram Saroyan’s poem “lighght” (that’s it),  raising the issue of what, exactly, defines a poem.  His poem uses some word play here – supposedly, “Lighght” is a doubling of the silent “gh” of the word light, drawings out the length of the word, in an attempt to create a sense of space. This all got Aram in a little hot water (or publicity) when he received $500 from the fledgling National Endowment for the Arts when the poem was anthologized in one of their publications.   Conservatives, such as Representative William Scherle and Senator Jesse Helms, objected at the per-word amount of the award, complaining that the word was not a real poem and was not even spelled correctly. For ones that don’t use made up words, a personal favorite makes a nice runner up:

Ode to a Goldfish
Oh Wet Pet.

The shortest theoretically possible Monopoly game – Scientists can weigh in on the shortest length of time (an attosecond) or distance (the Planck length), and I guess we’ll have to take their word for it.  Everyone, however, can take a position on the recent claim of the world’s shortest theoretically possible Monopoly game – assuming that all the dice rolls fall the right way, two folks, it is argued, could play a game that lasted twenty-one seconds – here’s how they argue it could go:

Player 1, Turn 1:

Roll: 6-6, Lands on: Electric Company
Action: None, Doubles therefore roll again

Roll: 6-6, Lands on: Illinois Avenue
Action: None, Doubles therefore roll again

Roll: 4-5, Lands on: Community Chest “Bank error in your favor, Collect $200″
Action: Collects $200 (now has $1700)

Player 2, Turn 1:

Roll: 2-2, Lands on: Income Tax
Action: Pay $200 (now has $1300), Doubles therefore rolls again

Roll: 5-6, Lands on: Pennsylvania Rail Road
Action: None

Player 1, Turn 2:

Roll: 2-2, Lands on: Park Place
Action: Purchase ($350, now has $1350), Doubles therefore rolls again

Roll: 1-1, Lands on: Boardwalk
Action: Purchase ($400, now has $950), Doubles therefore rolls again

Roll: 3-1, Lands on Baltic Avenue
Action: Collect $200 for passing GO (now has $1150), Purchase 3 houses for Boardwalk, 2 for Park Place ($1000, now has $150)

Player 2, Turn 2:

Roll: 3-4, Lands on: Chance, “Advance to Boardwalk”
Action: Advance to Boardwalk, Rent is $1400, only has $1300 = Bankrupt


They created a video simulation of the game and then the arguing started – both points of view, “there must be a shorter version” and “you’re understanding the rules incorrectly” were taken.  Most  of the detractors’ variants other came up with what strikes me as an attempt to arrive at the same place with slightly different approaches, the goal being to bankrupt one of the players in the shortest possible time.  For those among us who loathe the game, this might be something to hope for, but like the man who bowls a “300”, one could also feel a little cheated.

All this begs the question, – shortest, longest, “why do we care?”  The title Guinness World Records remains one of the most world’s most popular books (way below the Bible and Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book, but about the same as Twilight, 100 million copies) for a reason – we like extremes.  I’m guessing that we also like to have a accounting of what can be known; it gives us some stability in an otherwise confusing and unpredictable world full of the imponderable: “Could God microwave a burrito so hot that even He couldn’t eat it?” or  “Why is Justin Bieber so popular?”.

White Stripes One Note Show – St Johns Newfoundland

The Shortest Possible Game of Monopoly: 21 Seconds


Shortest Possible Game of Monopoly