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(photo:Vitor Sá - Virgu/Flickr)

I enjoyed Nicholson Baker’s essay about Wikipedia (a warning: in his discussion of Wikipedia vandalism, he quotes some profane language) in The New York Review of Books. He notes the astonishing fact that 1500 articles are deleted from Wikipedia every day, and there are warring factions of deletionists and inclusionists battling each other all the time.

Baker has often written about his worry that overlooked but wonderful things are disappearing from the world. He once said in an interview, “It makes me unhappy when certain things change or things are superceded… my nine year old daughter’s personality… Card catalogues; things too. Jiffy Pop right now feels imperiled. I always think, thank God it’s still hanging there, even though people don’t really buy it for the popcorn anymore — maybe they never did — but now it’s a nostalgia item.” (If I knew more about Wikipedia, I would edit the page on Jiffy Pop to include Baker’s anxiety about its continued survival.)

It made me think of St. Irenaeus, whom John O’Donohue quoted on our most recent show. A second century bishop of the Christian church, he helped delete a lot of early Scripture from the canon, including all the writing of the Gnostics. But when it came to choosing which of the several testaments to the life of Jesus was the right one, he gave up his deletionist tendencies and became an inclusionist. It was due in part to him that the New Testament included four gospels instead of just one.

(photo: slworking2/Flickr)


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3 Comments

I love this post. It puts me in mind of the story of Postum, a grain beverage and coffee subsitute that was invented by C.W. Post at the end of the 19th century and has been favored by various religious groups including 7thh Day Adventists and Mormons for generations. Postum was recently discontinued, adding it to the world of deleted items Rob writes about. I developed a taste for Postum many years ago because I had a friend who liked to drink it in the evening with lots of honey and half n half. Now, alas, no more.

I have a vague recollection of Postum, but a somewhat more vivid recollection of fender skirts, curb-feelers, and percolators. Percolators (especially the range top variety) were enchanting because they focused your attention to the color of the coffee being belched into the glass top and the wonderful sound they made. It was a Maxwell House tune, wasn't it?

Kind of interesting to have this topic a few skips after the "Simplify" topic... maybe we want lots of choices, substantial and trivial, so that we each can pick and choose- simplification but not enforced simplification- ? And then there's the business of what's trivial and what's substantial- Jiffy Pop? Kosher food? Natural fabrics? Headscarves? Symbols and substance and chchchange...

(ps I didn't know Jiffy Pop was still around- for me it's my sister & I laughing & watching TV together 40 years ago)

apples