What happens when you insert the word Geist into a World Wide Web search engine? Well, there's a brief pause and then Zzzt! You get a long list of Geists in something called descending matchability. The most frequent occurrence (other than the many German-language references) is Geist as an acronym for German Encyclopedic Internet Service Terminal, which is described in English as being "about work in the field of humanities and in the area of culture and cultural advancement in German-speaking countries."
Several more hits referred to a fellow named Robert Geist, apparently a computer scientist and theoretician on the faculty at Clemsen University, which is in South Carolina—a fact I had to look up elsewhere. His particular field is not evident, but his home page consists of a huge, unwatchable graphic, his resume and a list of other graphics he's designed. Most people named Geist who were found by the search engine are in scientific work. Is that a property of the medium, or the people who get listed on it, or the name Geist? Daniel Geist is on staff at the Washington University School of Medicine; Dr. Valerius Geist is a professor of environmental science at the University of Calgary (listed on the Great Canadian Scientists page); Jon Geist appears on a government page in connection with a handprint recognition system; Lois Geist is a doctor in the pulmonary diseases division, University of Iowa; Eric Geist is a seismologist; Hank Geist posts Netherlands weather reports on the Net, in Dutch; Betsy Geist at Antioch University is listed as part of WSD—Women's Studies Department; and Jim Geist is a "Quantum" member with links to economics, stocks, the CIA and the national speleological society, among other things. Al Geist is listed many times under the topic Parallel Virtual Machine (PVM) Project, which is described as "software that enables the computer user to define a networked heterogeneous collection of serial, parallel and vector computers to function as one large computer." Okay!
Not every Geist is a scientist or scholar. Kevin Eav, a 1995 University of Colorado grad, uses Geist as his handle on the Net. Sidney Geist wrote a book called Interpreting Cézanne. Bill Geist is a correspondent for the Sunday news on CBS. And let's not forget Chris "the Living Legend" Geist, whose entry on the Graffiti Wall Page reads simply: "RUSH IS RIGHT." Right. The most touching nonscientific Geist of all is Dustin Geist, a five-year-old kid involved in the Peace in Pictures Project. Dustin's caption reads: "Soldiers shaking hands because they don't want to fight any more."
Geist Avenue in Fairbanks, Alaska comes up a few times in curiously untraceable links. More traceable but still weird is a linkage of pages in the Indianapolis real estate market: the city has a grand-sounding neighbourhood called Geist Estates, located near the Geist Reservoir. Interested? A house there sells for $109,000 to $136,000 (U.$.). In the off-the-wall-entry department, the Geist search leads to a page called the Oregon Beer Trail, which is a long list of Oregon micro-breweries. A quick scan of it did not yield the Geist entry that must have been there, but I figure someone in Oregon is making Geist beer.
Another page compares the recent movie Clueless with Jane Austen's Emma: a character in the movie named Miss Geist (played by someone named Twink Caplan—whoa!) is said to resemble the Miss Taylor/Miss Weston character in Emma. You be the judge. Also to be found is a mention of Geist (that's it, just "Geist") as a customer of a company called Las Vegas Convention Connection. Is this something the editorial board should know about?
Last but not least, the search engine led to our very own Geist from different directions. Blood & Aphorisms: The Back Page lists Geist in its guide for writers. The Literature in Vancouver page includes Geist in its address-book-style listings. And on the home page for the University of Victoria Writing Department, both Geist and Stephen Osborne appear in a listing for the Harvey Southam diploma program (311 hits since July 28, 1995!). Actually, that wasn't the last. The search engine is a relentless creature that would have brought every last Cybergeist into my office, but I told it to stop at 200 hits. I wouldn't want the magazine to get too self-referential.