Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wikipedia v. Crack

Three hours ago, I accidentally hit the Wikipedia bookmark instead of the NYT bookmark...

someday, Kathy's going to come home from a trip and find my dessicated mummy slumped over this computer. And on the screen will be the Wikipedia article about some obscure species of hummingbird, or flax cultivation, or the hydraulic principle. Or maybe she won't; I could live a long time off my fat.

I got hit in the eye with today's lead article and I was a goner, sucked into links about Scientology and Operation Snow White and E-meters and the New Religion Movement and the biographies of a couple different academics labeled "cult apologists" by their critics.

I don't know how I ever did research without Wikipedia. Badly and half-assed, I suppose. I promise you that the first time I read History of the Peloponnesian War I didn't look up the name of every single obscure tribe, city, region of Greece and ruler. I have this time, though.

But....

if you look up Boetia you get sucked into the article on Thebes, and then the Cadmus fable, from there to Linear B Mycenaean characters and then (being the cheery guy I am) the Late Bronze Age Collapse.

It's a sickness, I know. But what did they think was going to happen when they started giving away information for free? It's not my fault, it's my enablers. They don't even make me go to the library to score the stuff, anymore...

of course, once you're hooked, you need more, and bigger. It is apparently impossible to score Arnold Toynbee's 12 volume A Study of History anymore. The best Amazon can do is a two volume abridgement (of a 12 volume set! What'd they do, cut out 5 of every 6 words?).

So I'm thinking... Google scholar. I think I can handle the strong stuff.