Thursday, July 29, 2004

Run, Freedom, Run

This 1976 "Classic" from The Straight Dope intrigues me. It's not the kind of question that requires the research skills of a full-time syndicated columnist (or even a well-stocked library) any more; anyone can look up Joe Twerp on the IMDB. It's easy to take that kind of thing for granted, but just stop and think about the difficulty of such a task thirty years ago. There'd be contacting the studio itself, dealing with secondary or tertiary sources such as film histories or critiques, all to find out a sliver of information about the career of one amusingly-named bit player from the mid-'30s. (The Cecil Adams of yore seems also to have missed that Joe Twerp was born Joseph Boyes.) If I have a point here, I guess it's something about the democratization of information; no longer does looking up an obscure fact require the services of a gatekeeper such as a scholar or reference librarian (or even a newspaper carrying a random Q&A column), necessarily. That's by no means news. But every so often it just hits me - this used to be really hard to do. I use Opera, and have an IMDB search field above the windowtab pane at all times. I can and do use it frequently; the research of Joe Twerp, such as it is, takes thirty seconds at most. How many hours went into giving an incomplete answer in 1976?

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