If we are what we Google, then Google Hot Trends — an hourly rundown of search terms "that experience sudden surges in popularity"—is the Web's best cultural barometer. Here's a sampling of today's top searches. (Rankings on Hot Trends list current as of 9 a.m.)
No. 2: "TV tropes." The joke of today's installment of XKCD, a popular Web comic , rests on the addictive properties of tvtropes.org . Tvtropes is a sprawling wiki cataloging the various hackneyed devices TV writers use to advance plot and outline characters while instilling in viewers the warm glow of expectations fulfilled. Some examples: The Childhood Memory Demolition Team tears down main character's quaint childhood home and replaces it with a parking lot, and the Erudite Stoner "is always a font of wisdom despite the fact that they're completely fried from years of drug abuse."
No. 14: "Jackson 3." Today the British tabloid the Sun is reporting that Joe Jackson wants M.J.'s kids—Prince Michael, 12; Paris, 11; and Prince Michael II, aka "Blanket," 7—to tour the world as the Jackson 3 next year. In other Jackson news, LaToya Jackson is claiming Michael was murdered: "Michael was worth well over a billion in music publishing assets and somebody killed him for that. He was worth more dead than alive."
No. 35: "Shawshank Redemption." A spike in searches for the 1994 film stems from the sentencing last week of two prisoners who pulled off a great escape , Shawshank style. In 2007, Otis Blunt and Jose Epinosa broke out of the Union County Jail by digging through the concrete walls of their cells, hiding the holes under pinup photos. It took almost 20 hours for authorities to notice the vanished duo, who were captured four weeks later in Mexico City.