Winning the (Essay) Lottery

December 11, 2012 § Leave a comment


Bad news, Brevity fans.  You aren’t going to win the lottery**, a fact made clear in Eric LeMay’s addictive essay in Diagram 11.5 and in Hannah Ensor’s appreciation of LeMay’s essay found on the Essay Daily Advent Calendar.  Here is Ensor on LeMay’s essay (which is indeed a Flash essay, but of a different kind):

LOSING THE LOTTERY … does some fancy interactive computer stuff alongside more classic essay things. It starts by asking you to choose six numbers from among floating gray lottery balls. Once you do, you enter the essay: split into two parts, the essay sections (49 in all and, besides the first, randomly presented) on the left and on the right a computer-generated simulation of lottery results: using the six numbers you chose, it simulates winnings and costs based on buying a hundred $1 Ohio Classic Lotto tickets every second. Which, for the record, would be a lot of lottery tickets. … The essay itself, or rather its 48 sections after the first, are presented in random order, making for 14,106,722,264,245,500,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible sequences. I like the order I first read them in. I obviously never got that order again, still and each time I’m pretty convinced that this is the best order: the one I’m reading them in now. The fact remains that I can’t even comprehend of the number 14,106,722,264,245,500,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Do you know how you would say this out loud? And, I mean, even if you knew the right word, how would you say this out loud and mean it?  … I think I like this essay in large part because it’s perfect for my little tiny attention span. Each section is a paragraph, at most 100 words or so, that ends. And then I’m on to the next one. Also: look over to the right! Have I won yet? Reading, reading, another second ticks by and I’ve “bought” another hundred lottery tickets. Good news: I’ve won $1,876. Bad news: I’ve spent $19,372. This is crazy!

You truly have to see it to fully understand. Read the Ensor appreciation here, and then by all means jump over to and read Eric LeMay’s interactive, addictive, dynamic essay. You might just get lucky!

** But if we are wrong, and you do win the lottery, here’s A WONDERFUL IDEA.

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