Wikipedia and the Internet just killed 244-year-old Encyclopaedia Britannica
By Drew Olanoff.
Do you remember a simpler time when there were no computers with Internet service full of information? You actually had to leave the house and go to a library to check out one of those Encyclopedias. If you were lucky enough, and had the money, your parents might purchase a set of books from Encyclopaedia Britannica to enrich your learning experience.
Encyclopedias still exist, but as the Internet has taken over everything that we do, the need for them is gone. To that end, Encyclopaedia Britannica has announced that after 244 years of doing business it is going out of print, according to a report by Media Decoder.
To be completely honest, these print dinosaurs have been out of style since the Internet was born, which is about fifteen years now. I’m not quite sure what has taken the company so long to realize that it was losing money by continuing to print books, but either way, the time has come to say goodbye.
The company will continue to focus on its website, but that might be a lost cause already given that Wikipedia has become the go-to source for information, especially when you Google something that interests you.
Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. had this to say about the end of an era:
It’s a rite of passage in this new era. Some people will feel sad about it and nostalgic about it. But we have a better tool now. The Web site is continuously updated, it’s much more expansive and it has multimedia.
The last set of books will feature an update for the year 2010. I will always remember the Encylopedia fondly, but will not miss how much they weigh or how quickly they’re outdated. Still though, it’s crazy to think that generations to come will never get to see one unless they visit a museum.
He is the only man trusted by the militants to retrieve their dead fighters killed in battle with Nato and Afghan forces. He also returns the bodies of soldiers killed in Taliban-held territory.
Over the past six years, he has ferried scores and scores of corpses between the government and the militants as the war has worsened. And he has buried many others that went unclaimed.
Mr Hakim, with his long white beard, white turban and baggy shalwar kameez, knows what the waiting and grief is like for relatives of the dead – he too has experienced the despair of waiting to get bodies of loved ones back. His two sons and a son-in-law were killed by Taliban insurgents and Mr Hakim had to wait 14 long, painful days to get their bodies. Now he is first to hear from Taliban commanders looking for their dead.
To help him in his task, the Taliban have given him a letter allowing him to travel between government-controlled areas and Taliban-held territory.
After Mr Hakim gets a call from the Taliban, he visits the provincial morgue – if a dead Taliban fighter is there, he puts the body in a yellow taxi wagon and takes it to the insurgents.
Mr Hakim, 65, says the local Taliban first asked him nearly six years ago to help retrieve the body of one of their comrades.
He showed the district authorities his volunteer member card for the Afghan Red Crescent – the local counterpart to the ICRC – and then he was given the body.
Soon after, local authorities in Kandahar’s Zheray district asked him to retrieve the bodies of five pro-government forces who had been killed on the battle field. The Taliban let him do so. After that, he became trusted by both sides.
“In total so far I have retrieved 250 bodies – 127 were Taliban, 28 civilians and the rest were on the government side,” says Mr Hakim, who is also known as Malik Kako. Malik is the name traditionally given to an elder who has a great deal of autonomy in a village or district. Mr Hakim says he is trusted by both sides, has letters from both and thus he can travel easily.
Both Nato-led troops and Afghan forces bring dead Taliban fighters to Mirwais public hospital in Kandahar. The bodies are kept in the morgue’s refrigerator for up to two months.
“If no-one claims a body, then I bury it in a cemetery in Zheray district,” says Mr Hakim.
But what if relatives of dead Taliban contact him months later? Mr Hakim has a solution. He uses his mobile phone camera to take photos of the dead bodies before he buries them. He says he is looking to record things like eye and hair colour, clothes, watches, rings. Scars or other distinctive marks on the face or body can also help relatives identify a body later on.
“If someone is looking for a missing person or a dead body, they contact me, I show them the photos I take on my mobile phone and compare it with the photo they have. If they match, then I take them right to the grave where they are buried,” he says.
The ICRC now keeps a file for every dead body that goes unclaimed and employs a photographer to take photos of some of the bodies, he says.
On two occasions, photos he has taken have matched those held by families looking for a missing relative.
Abdul Hakim says he has buried nearly 35 Taliban who were killed in Kandahar city and had no families.
Mohammad Aslam, the man in charge of Mirwais hospital morgue, says only the Afghan police know which of the bodies at the morgue belong to the Taliban and which are civilians.
“The police tell us which bodies belong to Taliban. We don’t know. We keep them in the refrigerator. If anyone brings a letter from the police headquarters, we hand over the body, be it a family member with a letter or anyone else,” Mr Aslam said.
Dead Taliban are kept in the same morgue as the bodies of Afghan forces or civilians killed by the Taliban. But the difference is in discharging the body from the hospital. A family member of a civilian or a policeman or soldier has to sign before they are given the body, but for a Taliban body it is Abdul Hakim who signs.
He claims he was even once called by a district chief to help recover the bodies of three American soldiers from a Taliban-controlled area.
“I contacted the Taliban, they agreed and I went with them to a heavily mined area and collected the three American bodies, handed them over to the district chief and he later transferred the bodies to the foreign forces,” he says.
Pain of waiting
Mr Hakim’s own tale is tragic. His two sons and a son in-law were driving a water tanker en route to Shawali Kot district when they were attacked by Taliban and killed.
He says he knows the pain of waiting and that is why he helps people to get to see the bodies of their loves who have died. Mr Hakim says once he had to retrieve 14 Taliban bodies in a single day.
He says every dead body deserves a respectful burial. It is a religious duty of everybody to help families find their loved ones, dead or alive.
Afghanistan has experienced 35 years of war and conflict.
The country has many similar untold stories, stories that no one has written, no one has told, no one has heard.
Saturday’s hero Mohammad Amir received a muted welcome when he batted the next day (the day after spot fixing news broke out). Photograph: Gareth Copley/PA
Sport is about stories. The reason no one cared when Matt Le Tissier used his autobiography to confess spot-fixing was because his story was over. The heartbreak of Mohammad Amir being implicated in the Pakistan spot-fixing scandal is of course that his story was only just beginning, and even old hands instinctively romanticise the narrative of sport. For how many tens of millions of cricket fans did Nasser Hussain speak on Sunday morning, when he admitted his immediate thought on hearing of the allegations was “please don’t let it be the young lad”?
We can’t help but see sport like this, which is why fixing lends itself so evocatively to fiction. In the Godfather Part II, the Chicago Black Sox scandal serves as a character note for the mesmerically amoral Hyman Roth, who declares: “I’ve loved baseball ever since Arnold Rothstein fixed the world series”. Rothstein was the mafia gambler on whom Fitzgerald based the minor character of Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby, who is casually introduced to the narrator as “the man who fixed the World’s Series.”
“The idea staggered me,” the narrator relates. “It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people – with the single mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe. ‘How did he happen to do that?’ I asked after a minute. ‘He just saw the opportunity’,” is Gatsby’s affectless reply.
Perhaps inevitably, taking poetic licence with sport fixing doesn’t limit itself to art. Even in the realm of reality, fact tends to blur with fiction. There is no contemporaneous record of the words “Say it ain’t so, Joe” ever being uttered, though that has not stopped the supposed child’s inquiry of the disgraced Shoeless Joe Jackson having passed into legend.
Despite the intense public attention on the grand jury investigation into the eight White Sox players accused of throwing the 1919 World Series, the only report that resembles the story was featured in a single Minnesota paper, which claimed Jackson emerged from the courthouse into a crowd of “several hundred youngsters, aged from 6 to 16”. (Very cinematic.) According to the paper’s account, “one urchin stepped up to the outfielder, and, grabbing his coat sleeve, said: ‘It ain’t true, is it Joe?’ ‘Yes kid, I’m afraid it is,’ Jackson replied. The boys opened a path for the ball player and stood in silence as he passed out of sight. ‘Well, I’d never have thought it,’ sighed the lad.” Forgive the cynicism, but I can’t help suspecting that sleeve-tugging urchin was about as real as the convenient “onlookers” and “close pals” that populate today’s tabloid stories.
Yet though it may not be literally true, the youngster’s tragic disillusionment has echoed down the years because it carries a psychological truth. Into this canon of truths literal and psychological we may induct the News of the World’s revelation that Mazhar Majeed, the alleged middleman of this latest scam, roused the teenage Mohammad Amir out of his bed on the eve of a Test match, and called the young prodigy a “fucker”, before informing him his instructions would keep till morning anyway. It is the sort of detail that if it hadn’t happened, one would have had to make up.
One piece of Shoeless Joe testimony that is undeniable, because it appears on the stenographer’s record, has the player’s wife finding out about his involvement when a team-mate entered their hotel room and threw $5,000 on the bed. “She felt awful bad about it,” reveals Jackson, “and cried about it for a while.”
I first read that years ago, and ever since have had the most vivid picture of a scene, imagining Katie Jackson staring at the bundle of money and crying for the loss of the hero she married. All surmise, of course. She was probably crying out of fear he’d be caught – but our imaginations fill the gaps. We instinctively map narratives onto what we see and hear because we want – need – to experience sport as a story.
A melee of co-dependent and antagonistic people will have to decide whether they want Pakistan’s current story to have the scorched-earth ending of a Shakespearean tragedy, where none of the main characters are left standing, or whether a more modern tale of redemption is possible. For me, sport will be better if a way is found for Mohammad Amir to go on to take 600 Test wickets as a symbol of reformation. You don’t have to be soft hearted or “soft on crime” to wish for this. You just have to dream of seeing the second act.