Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Let Me Google That for You

"What did you you do to get answers to questions before the internet?", the boy asked on Reddit.
I had to think about it. What did we do before the answers to casual questions were available on our telephones and on the internets?
Sense memory recalls a shattering teen trauma as my entire family turned against me during a game of scattegories when i claimed "Ashanti" as a language that started with the letter "A".
"No such language! No points!", they shouted. My Dad was always the leader of these intellectual witch hunts. He has always been appallingly smug about what he considers to be cutting edge knowledge, and having smelled blood in the water, my brother and mother quickly went in for the kill. My dad made one of those jokes that only dads find amusing and are repeated throughout the years in the vain hope that the time has finally come for dad humor. "Armand Ashanti" was the Hi-larious joke my dad still proudly claims as having been forged in the furnaces of his wit, on the spot, as a win was ripped from my grasp. To his credit, and in defense of the LaMont family intellect, my dad has a keen eye for geopolitics and cultural affairs.  In 1997 my father identified the Taliban as the number one most serious issue facing the world. Untrue for the time, though eerily prophetic, i'll admit. Nonetheless, his dismissal of the charming Twi/Ashanti tongue would not stand.
I would have to turn to the crappy  Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia set my family depended on to validate my answer. I knew it was a sub-par source, but it was the only reference my family would buy into since my Mother has an inherent distrust of anything Anglo-Germanic, and the Encyclopedia Britannica fell squarely into that category. Had an Encyclopedia Hispanica or Franca been available, my mother would have enshrined it in our study. Such was the limit of fact finding in the otherwise literate household i grew up in. Niger-Congolese tribal languages of Ghana being deemed unimportant by Messrs. Funk and Wagnall, I suffered the "Armand Ashanti" joke in silent humiliation for YEARS, because the internet did not exist.
Equally traumatic is the memory of having recently emigrated to the US from Mexico and clinging to the nuggets of English language culture. Star Wars was of course spoken fluently in the LaMont household before we moved to the US, and Disney, surely.  The relatable pop culture references ended there since English language cartoons and programs in Mexico were a hodgepodge of syndicated  American, English, Canadian, and Australian shows along with reruns of long gone US sitcoms like the Love Boat, Dallas and Dukes of Hazzard.
I was greeted by the cruel taunts and disbeleif of dismissive 2nd graders as I brought up Skippy: The Bush Kangaroo , Rocket Robin Hood , and the unbeleivably strange Odisea Burbujas.  As the years passed, i would wonder whether my memories of these shows were even real, or if they were strange fever dreams of my childhood. It was the internet that restored my memories long after i had dismissed these actual shows as figments of my overactive imagination.
So to answer the lad's question, we lived in darkness. We lived in an uncertainty that could only be validated  through exhaustive research not immediately available. So many questions would go unanswered. So many arguments would remain unresolved.
Even today, the memory of the unknowing darkness is so present that perfectly reasonable people will ask questions while sitting at a desk, in front of , or while holding a powerful device with access to answers and details on that answer. People continue to purposely remain in the dark rather than take the simple step of  asking the handy device in front of them.
That is why THIS has become one of my favorite sites with which to respond to easily answerable questions.
A pointed, short, elegant and snarky way to remind people that we have the shared knowledge of humanity at our fingertips. No longer need we live in darkness, no longer need the Ashanti language be ignored and no longer will Odisea Burbujas exist in my nightmares.

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