Thursday, November 13, 2008

Downside of the Internet

Bad for one's memory, the net. In the old days, if you needed to look something up, you went to the bookshelf, dug out the volume of the encyclopedia or the dictionary you needed, flipped through the pages, then read the relevant entry. 

If it wasn't enough, you trucked on down to the library and did more research. 

If you still needed more, you found an expert, called him or her on the phone, or bought them coffee and asked questions until you heard what you needed.

With the web at your fingertips and Google a default in the header on both my browsers, research is made too easy. If you already know how to look stuff up, you just have to be specific in your search terms. Since you can't really trust every site you see on the net, you do what the reporters are supposed to do -- you cross-reference items until you get three sources that agree, and preferably from "official" sites directly connected to the subject at hand.
FBI, CIA, the city of Jakarta, they all have websites. Wikipedia is useful, but you have to vet it, there are people with axes to grind and others who are simply poor scholars. 

If you need artwork for your header and you have developed a niggle with regard to copyright, then all you need do is add terms such as "image" and "public domain," and start your search there. (Not every image that comes up will be public domain, by the by, but you can winnow the search thus.)

I woke up in the middle of the night with a set of song lyrics grinding through my brain, from the song "And When I Die." I could hear the singer, the instruments, remembered most of the words, but the name of the group slipped my mind. Song was from the late sixties, so the fact that I had anything about it at all is remarkable, given Robin Williams' line: If you can remember the sixties, you weren't there ...

Couldn't recall the name of the band. It was right on the tip of my mind, but not coming to the fore. Oh, well, no problem. When I got up, I could google the lyrics. Who needs memory when the net has a billion pages?

As it happened, I arose, got my coffee, sat down, and while I was running through the lyrics in my head and getting ready to google, that song brought to mind another tune, "Spinning Wheel," which in turn called up "Go Down Gamblin'," and bam! I remembered -- Blood, Sweat & Tears.

(This was a group that, over the years, had roughly nine hundred and fifteen musicians in it and might still be out there for all I know. )

Don't get me wrong, I use the net for research frequently, and to a writer, it is a gift, but if you are sitting on a panel somewhere and somebody asks you a question and you don't have your laptop or iPhone handy, your expertise might be found wanting ...

1 comment:

Edwin Voskamp said...

I love And when I die, the Blood, Sweat & Tears version that is, especially the longer one with the piano solo and the horse clipclopping sounds. And I never got used to the peter, Paul & Mary version. Written by a seventeen year old ...

Whether or not Blood, Sweat & Tears still exists, depends on your view: the band, with some founding members even, still tours, but me, I love the sound of David Clayton-Thomas, who's left the band more times than I can remember, the last time a few years back.

David was the singer who recorded "And When I Die" and "Spinning Wheel" (he also wrote "Spinning Wheel" and "Lucretia MacEvil"). He recorded both my favorites of theirs "You've Made Me So Very Happy" and "And When I Die"), and lovely ones like "Hi De Ho." They also did the music for The Owl and The Pussycat, with Barbra Streisand (swearing and nude) and George Segal.

Sorry for that rammbling reminiscence: with CCR, BS&T is one of my favorite bands, being introduced to both by my uncle barely into my teens. I had BS&T 1 through 4 on vinyl, and now on CD.