Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Guilty pleasures vol. seven: Wikipedia

That I had already begun drafting this post when I casually tweeted about men excusing themselves to go see a man about a horse plays so beautifully into this guilty pleasure that I am obliged to mention it.

Because it didn't take long for someone out there in the land of responses to post a Wiki entry explaining the history of men, horses, dogs, seeing a man, and the act of relieving one's self. The link filled me with a sense of validation. To any who doubt my assertion, behold. Men really do say they gotta go see a man about a horse when they have to take a leak. 'Tis true. It says so on WIKI!

As if anyone should believe it just because some anonymous contributor entered it into Wiki.

No. Yes. Cut it out! Damn. Okay. I admit it: I cannot resist Wikipedia.

Imagine this: I am vacuous before my blinking cursor with only a formless idea languishing in my miserable brain. Eventually, I migrate to the Google text box. A few keystrokes later, Andy Capp's Hot Fries ride the Wikipedia train from Vague Memory Depot to the Station of Undeniable Relevance. Rasa von Werder transforms from a nebulous cartoon character to a copiously notable human being.

Yes Erin, there really is a connection between octopuses, the Zamboni machine and a man named Al.

Then the next hundred and fifty hours are mine and mine alone to cross check and verify, for therein lies my Wiki conundrum: Wikipedia gleefully offers these glittering jewels, but trusting them is a fool's game.

Oh despicable admission. Oh woeful lament. Oh godless plight! 

So goes the dubious love affair between Erin O'Brien, Girl Writer, and her seductively unreliable source. For the record, I've been kissing and telling on Wiki for quite a while. And if you decide to go slumming around over there, be careful. There's no telling who you might run into.

* * *


Kirk said...

I once had a boss who excused himself by saying he had to see a man about a horse. He also said, "I've got to water the lawn". OK, one of those had to do with standing up, and the other with sitting down. Can you guess which is which?

As for Wikipedia, I tend to be skeptical when it's about political figures, as I once read in the entry about Barack Obama that he was a communist. It didn't stay that way, but still. When it's away from politics, I have no reason to doubt it. Especially when it's obscure stuff. I mean, why should it lie about Jean Harlow's birthplace? Who cares? (Well, actually, I do, since I once looked it up.)

Ashton King said...

One of my coworkers excused himself not too long ago by saying, "I gotta go drain my lizard."

I love Wikipedia. It's a great starting point.

Anonymous said...

Erin--On the east side, at least, its "See a man about a dawwwg"...

Mrs. C said...

Being one of those rascally and unrepentant animals known as the "public school teacher," my comment may take some by surprise, but I'm ever game:

I endorse Wikipedia for my students' use as a source for material on their various research projects.

There, I said it.

Here's the thing: It is our prime directive when it comes to teaching research process in the secondary grades to equip kids with the necessary skillz to answer a question through others' authority without plagiarizing. Mission secondary (though, ultimately no less important) is to help kids figure out how to evaluate sources so that they can have some measure of confidence in the answers at which they arrive.

If I exclude ANY potential source of source matter, I undermine my kids' ability to exercise their evaluatory muscles, and that could come to bite them somewhere down the path.

And, seriously, Wikipedia is waaaay right waaaay more often than it's even a tiny bit wrong (No, John Lennon was NOT an American guitarist and songwriter).

I JUST read a study that showed that Wikipedia and a print encyclopedia (Brittanica? can't remember that just now!) were equally right (and, therefore, equally wrong) in an equal number of entry searches--4 errors were found in each.

So, wiki on, Dear Hostess; you've the endorsment of this reprobate teacher.

John Venlet said...

This article about a novelist of the United States born in the 1960s is a stub.

Dang, Erin, you need to encourage someone to "stub" that Wiki entry out.

Anonymous said...

It took it a day to enter my consciousness but I'm pretty sure I wound up here after linking from J'OB/LLV Wiki. As I recall our humble hostess had endeavored to make some corrections there without much success.


Anonymous said...

Comedian Daniel Tosh ENCOURAGES fans to post on his Wiki entry, the more fantastical the better as far as he's concerned. THAT'S the spirit....

Anonymous said...

Speaking of linking...Seems you've got another Alabamian lurking around here EO'B. I'd call Homeland Security were I you.


Erin O'Brien said...

Mrs. C's got it: as long as you recognize Wiki as unreliable, you're ok. It is a great starting point but you have to verify Every Thing You See There.

As for my Wiki page, I get quite a bit of traffic from it. Even though it's got some outdated info, I just leave it alone. Que sera ...

Here are some of the more enduring internet falsehoods about my brother John:

-That Cage wore John's Rolex during the filming of "Leaving Las Vegas."

-That John appeared in a 1970 film version of "Scrooge."

-That production of LLV was underway at the time of John's death.

Mrs. C said...

My favorite wiki-puke is the "fact" that a widely-reviled plagiarist was a student in my colleague's journalism class...I LOL all over the effing place every. single. time. that comes up in discussion.

Hey, do youse know about the endangered tree octopus? Check it out at

Even though the site is very, very old in interwebs time, it has not yet gone [truly] viral or meme'd out, and so it remains a really good source for me to test my students' evaluatory chops. Unfortunately, Wikipedia gets THAT one right in the very first line, so I suspect that it's only a matter of time before the youth of America are hip to the scene...*sigh*

Anonymous said...

Just curious if you know the where and when on the first pic...I'm guessing somewhere in Canada circa 1973...

Erin O'Brien said...

No idea, MR, but I think you're probably right.