06 November 2007

Paper won't refuse ink, you know...

Wikipedia impressed me yesterday. I was just checking a couple of things about Guy Fawkes, and wound up reading about the Hampton Court Conference of 1604, when Catholic hopes that James would abandon the Elizabethan persecution were dashed. Anyway, after ten lines or so on the first session of the conference, the entire second session is summed up in a wonderfully absurd fashion:
'The second meeting was much different than the first, in that it occurred second.'
Isn't that priceless? I wish there were more articles like that on Wikipedia. Mind, the Brother came across another beauty the other evening, as we were watching The Day of the Jackal, a film that has somehow bypassed me over the years. Here goes:
'Despite being heavily promoted, and being based on a very successful novel, the film was a box-office failure. It did, however, make Edward Fox into a star, even though many speculated that the film's lack of an established star (with Michael Caine having lobbied for the lead role) was the reason for its lack of success. However, it is now widely considered to be one of the greatest films of all time.'
I love the last line. It doesn't even have a demand for a citation appended. I imagine this has something to do with the opinion being so widely-heldas not to require require citation. Yes, that must be it. Oddly, it doesn't feature in Wikipedia's own page about films considered the greatest ever. I wonder why. Hmmm.

All of which reminds me: a friend of mine recently shocked his students by showing them why Wikipedia is no more than a useful starting point for research, not something to be relied upon, let alone plagiarised. He picked a couple of marvellous former Wikipedia entries - yes, they've long been removed - to show them the kind of things that can make it onto everyone's favourite D.I.Y. encyclopedia.

Firstly, he showed them a questionable passage that used to feature in the Transport section on Maastricht:
Antipodean Express Elevator; It is a little known fact that the Netherlands is linked to the South Pacific by a direct elevator running through the Earth's core. One end of the 11,000 km shaft is located in a pub toilet in central Maastricht, and the other emerges behind a telegraph pole at Shorncliffe station in suburban Brisbane, Australia.

Opened in 1974 as a means of quickly spreading rumours, bad news and urgent Nigerian investment opportunities, the elevator remains the swiftest means of transport in the world. A one-way trip takes just under three and a half hours, with the lift car travelling at two and a half times the speed of sound. The car was designed to carry up to 800 kg of bills, reposession notices and P45s, leavened with a sprinking of bad cheques and divorce papers and topped with the odd food scare or bird flu panic. So it just goes to show, proverbs are true. Bad news travels faster than anything else on earth. And when the wind changes, your face *will* get stuck like that.

As the elevator was eventually rendered obsolete in this regard by the growth of teh Internets, its secretive owners decided to begin accepting passengers. The lift car is now fitted with six seats. As it uses the Earth's own gravity for propulsion, along with a large rubber band at each end to speed up the launch, there are no fuel costs and the fare has remained very reasonable at one immortal soul. This does not have to be your own, but must be delivered in person before boarding.

Current chairman of the Board of Directors, reigning Prince of Darkness Beelzebub XIV von Battenberg-Sachertorte, wishes all travellers a safe journey and thanks them for choosing to fly Wikipedia. You will find parachutes in the liferaft.

If only.

As if that weren't impressive enough, he then lured them to a fine description of one Jade Goody:
Dame Professor Jade Cerisa Lorraine Goody (born June 5, 1981) is a British academic and writer who specialises in the fields of nuclear physics, chemistry, Ancient Greek mythology, astronomy and 19th century Russian literature. She gained a first class honours degree at Balliol College, Oxford University and had earned her doctorate by the age of 23, for a groundbreaking thesis on interplanetary dust.

She is a two-time winner of the Nobel prize (in literature and physics), an honorary fellow of Harvard University, a Dame Commander of the British Empire and a recipient of the Legion d'Honneur and the Congressional Gold Medal. She has written over 100 books and articles and is fluent in at least 18 languages, including French, Spanish, German, Greek, Arabic, Latin, Cantonese, Hindi, Aramaic and Russian. Goody is considered to be one of history's great thinkers, on a par with Isaac Newton, Leonardo Da Vinci and Albert Einstein. She was also voted the sexiest woman in the world by FHM readers in 2006.

Whatever about the Maastricht elevator, I'm really not convinced this is entirely accurate. For starters, surely she didn't study at Balliol?

On the other hand, though, would anyone be so stupid as to lie about having done that? What sort of person would do such a thing? I mean, it could be checked easily, couldn't it? It really doesn't take much, after all, to pull the matriculation records from stacks in the Bodleian.

I don't know. I guess if she says so, that should be good enough for mere mortals like us.

I'd tell you my friend's third example, but I don't want to spoil his party piece.


Rebecca said...

The best one I have ever seen was the article on Cheryl Tweedy of girls aloud fame the read:
Cheryl Ann Cole, (née Tweedy) (born 30 June 1983) is an English singer and member of the girl group Girls Aloud. She is married to the Chelsea and England footballer Ashley Cole, the marriage is one of convience as Cole is a homosexual and Tweedy is a racist.

Martin said...

Here's another little gem, from the entry on Socrates:

Rock Star Career
After philosophizing for a while, Socrates decided that he was tired of constantly asking questions in response to other questions. Consequently, he decided to form his own rock group, the Socratic Four, which consisted of Aristotle on the drums, Plato on bass, Euclid on lead guitar, and Socrates himself on vocals. The group actually became very successful, touring Greece for about 2 years, and earning god-like status in Athens. At one point, there were plans for a huge mega-concert on Mount Olympus to celebrate the band. However, these plans were cut short when Plato abruptly left the band, citing philosophical differences with Socrates as the major reason for breakup. After the demise of the Socratic Four, Socrates continued to tour with a backup band, performing vocals for the Four's greatest hits.