Wikipedia’s Larry Sanger Page Is Unimpressive

Larry SangerBefore getting to the birthdays, we need to stop and note that this is a different kind of birthday. Sixty-eight years ago, the nuclear age started. That happened in the form of Trinity, the first nuclear explosion in the history of the world. I’m not keen on the nuclear age, but I am especially depressed about the role that the United States played in it. The small sliver of goodness is that it is an excellent example of “American know-how” combined with “government will” solving a very difficult problem. But that is a very small sliver indeed compared to all the harm that was done. It was not necessary to drop the two bombs on Japan. Now it seems very clear that the whole purpose was to show the USSR what we could do, and we didn’t care about the hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians we killed in the name of sending that “message.” I tend to think that our genocide of the native peoples in America throughout the 19th century is worse; but Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a close second. And 68 years ago, it all started in a real way.

It is a good day for artists. One of the great painters of the High Renaissance Andrea del Sarto was born on this day in 1486. The English sculptor Joseph Wilton was born in 1722. English painter Joshua Reynoldswas born in 1723. And the great French painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot was born in 1796.

The founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy was born in 1821. God must have been looking out for her health, because she lived to be 89. She was clearly a freak, but I have a great deal of respect for people who take their religion seriously. What really pisses me off is the modern fashion of faux spirituality. I know people who don’t accept Darwin’s theory of natural selection. These opinions are based upon the fact that their pastors have told them that natural selection is incompatible with the Bible. But they don’t doubt all the medical advances that have come about from the the theory that they assume is wrong. These people are willing to accept all the good things that science provides them, but the moment that science requires the smallest rethink of their religious beliefs, they balk at it. If you really think God is so great, let him cure your disease. And don’t be like modern Christian Scientists who run to the doctor with a broken leg as if God can cure cancer but can’t manage to set a broken bone. If you believe, then believe and live with the consequences!

The great and tragic baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson was born in 1887. I don’t know if he was guilty or not. But I think MLB is a hypocritical organization. They allowed some truly vile men to both play and enter the Hall of Fame. For example: Ty Cobb. The truth is that Jackson is one of the great players and he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. The idea that MLB or any professional sporting organization is made up of anything but a bunch of assholes and often even monsters is preposterous. Of course, the fact that I think professional sports is just a bunch of bullshit probably makes my opinion less important than it could be.

Modern classical composer Goffredo Petrassi was born in 1904. His music is very difficult—so difficult that I find most of it impossible to enjoy. But here is a short choir piece that is among his most accessible:

Popcorn king Orville Redenbacher was born in 1907. And they still use him in some of their commercials. Creepy! Hollywood beauty and a damned good actor Barbara Stanwyck was also born in 1907, but died 5 years before Orville. And Dancing legend (And quite a good actor!) Ginger Rogers was born in 1911. Here she is with Fred Astaire in Swing Time. Remember: she’s doing all that in one take with three-inch heals:

The first ever Jewish Miss America (perhaps not coincidentally in 1945), Bess Myerson is 89 today. Representative Barbara Lee is 67. As usual, I have a reason for listing politicians. There is lots nice to say about her, but she’s here today because she was the only person in Congress who voted against the Afghanistan War. And that really says something because a number of good people voted for it, even though at the time it seemed pretty obvious that the country was just lashing out rather than responding appropriately to 9/11. The founder of the band The Police, Stewart Copeland is 61. Screenwriter Tony Kushner is 57. Great poker player and by all accounts horrible human being, Phil Hellmuth is 49. Will Ferrell is 46. Look, none of my friends like him (that’s an understatement), but I’m just going to say it: he is a comedic genius. There are a number of his films that I didn’t like, but it isn’t because of him. I find him funny as hell. I especially recommend the much maligned Semi-Pro. I love that film. Here is one of his many brilliant Old Milwaukee Beer commercials:

The day, however, belongs to Wikipedia founder Larry Sanger who is 45 today. I have more problems with Wikipedia than most people, but it is still a great thing that makes the internet a much better research tool. And in particular, it is responsible for about 80% of all the research that I do for these birthday posts. I always thought he would have more hair, but now that I see him, I think he’s just perfect.

Happy birthday Larry Sanger!

0 thoughts on “Wikipedia’s Larry Sanger Page Is Unimpressive

  1. Will Ferrell’s movie are often (always?) pretty lowbrow, which is a shame; he can do so much more. But they usually have one or two memorable bits in them. There one one scene in "Talladega Nights" where he was leading grace at the table, praying not to Jesus but to "baby Jesus," that had me almost peeing myself. I don’t recall any of the rest of the movie, but that was a great scene.

    I suppose he can come off a bit creepy to some people, the way Phil;Hartman did; they both effortlessly became so many different characters, it’s almost inhuman. But, damn, is he funny. I remember seeing his first performance on "SNL" and he just jumped out right away.

    I think what stands out for me is how Ferrell uses his physical size. He’s a big man, and capable of bellowing loudly as an aggressor. He can use his size for gentler humor, too, playing characters that are childishly innocent or childishly idiotic, and the joke comes from seeing a large adult behave like that.

    He’d be wonderful in a biopic of Lyndon Johnson, who was quite the bully full of Texas humor — or maybe Huey Long, who could yell with the best of them. Someday I hope Ferrell gets a part like that, that uses his comic and his acting chops.

    I remember my mom hated Steve Martin from the silly, broad comedies he was in — particularly "The Jerk." Then she saw "Roxanne," and realized that Martin was physically graceful and highly intelligent — he’d been playing oafs in those earlier moves, he wasn’t one himself. She became a huge fan, and loved his sadist dentist in "Little Shop" especially.

    Ferrell’s never had that kind of role yet, one which shows off his brains as well as his humor. He has in some ads and skits, but never in a full movie (not one I’ve seen, I haven’t see them all.) Here’s hoping.

    (If a nicer God had made me a funny actor, that "Old Malwaukee" ad is about the only kind of commercial I’d ever consent to be in. Great stuff.)

    My major complaint with Wikipedia is the references are too random. Ideally, if I looked up, say, the Gulf Of Tonkin incident, I’d find references to the most established works on the matter and the most relevant recent historical scholarship. If I read a book about it, that’s precisely what the endnotes would contain. So Wikipedia isn’t as good a jumping-off point for further reading as a quality book. (It’s references are sometimes to major works and sometimes to obscure websites.)

    An an online encyclopedia, however, it’s great. Think of when you flipped through encyclopedias as a kid. You didn’t want references to academic sources. You wanted quick info on stuff. And you hyperlinked all over the damn thing (just like the internal links are some of the most fun stuff at Wikipedia.) You might read a bit on monkeys because you saw one at the zoo. Then you’d learn that there are monkeys in the Amazon. Then you’d read about the Amazon, and then maybe about Brazil. Eventually you’d find some topic which so piqued your interest that you’ve have your parents help you find a library book about it.

    That’s what Wikipedia’s great for, just like an old encyclopedia. Also for refreshing your memory on stuff very quickly (did that happen in 1885 or 1886?) And all the useless info webnerds have collected for a while. Want to stream the episode where Spock got horny, but you have no idea what it’s called? Which album by that one band has that one song you like of theirs? It’s all on Wiki.

    It could be better, but it could be a for-profit site that had implicit corporate values and be much, much worse. Incidentally I saw a bit of a TV show where Stephen Fry met Sanger for a few minutes (the show was beneath Fry’s talents) and Sanger came off quite well. He seems to be more devoted to his job than to his personal fame, which is admirable. Ideally he will get to spend some time in the afterlife taking the cloud flight down to Purgatory and poking the Facebook founder with a a cattle prod.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *