Rhetorical Research

Carol H’s Review: While researching “internet rabbit hole GPS device” I came to a site stating simply: “You have reached the end of the Internet. Turn around and go back.” 

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My pledge

When I started Living with Ethel, with the intent to share my writing, I vowed I would apply the highest quality of research, sculpting a perfect masterpiece for each of my weekly blog posts.  This fierce commitment lasted throughout the entire first week of blogging.   Carefully crafting one story every Tuesday was more of a challenge than I anticipated and my fact-finding investigations devolved into a fairly low standard of research with minimal quality assurance protocols.  My dedicated team of guest editors usually let me know when I have used the wrong word but rarely call me out on my sketchy research.  Perhaps they do not realize just how much of a burden I place on myself to create an accurate, cutting edge piece of literature.  Which, of course, gives me a lot of license.

What constitutes my personal (though mostly useless) body of knowledge is considerable because I have been a life-long reader.  So, when I am able to drop phrases such a “Kuomintang government” and “syphilitic pustules” into conversations, people stare at me with wonder.  How does she know about That?  I find it difficult to read everything though.  There are gaps in my vocabulary and general knowledge, especially when subjects are current.  Research is that funny thing I do when I need to know more. 

A little piece of myself

Someone recently taught me how to (and why to) clear my computer’s browser history.  This task makes me sad.  I love my browser history!  It’s chock full of the tidbits of my curiosity.  It’s a catalog of where my mind roamed while whittling a bit of prose about how I might be compared to a pioneer woman or searching for the best word to describe the essence of solid waste disposal.  Recently clearing out my browser history, I reminisced about my interests via the internet with such gems as these:

panning for goldsynonyms for token
Zombie storearmy camels Texas ships of the desert
CVS receipt scarfAsheville chef beats Bobby Flay
cake pan sizeschores for pioneer women
Cake or DeathHow to get the cent symbol in Word
Red Queen

I’m always learning and sometimes just goofing off because I’m my own boss and often have time to kill while waiting for my tea to brew.  Sadly, I routinely get lost, hopping from website to website, tumbling down the virtual rabbit hole and end up admiring the Red Queen when I meant to be looking up the definition of effluvium.  My finger gets a workout clicking the X’s until I can return from whence I came.  Whence is a word; I looked it up by clicking the little Merriam Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus icon I so conveniently placed on my Google home page.  I won’t say that I am tech savvy, but being able to place that resource right at my fingertips is a godsend; also a boon, a blessing and a windfall, but never a scourge.  I wouldn’t stand for that!

Wealth

My mind, that internal circus, is relentlessly flinging ideas my way and almost always at the most inconvenient times.  One morning, at 5 a.m., as I shuffled my way to the bathroom, I suddenly decided to read all the books my mother banned from my middle school reading list.  This stirred up the need to know just what those titles may have been.  Circus timing being what it is, I’ve learned to keep a pen and pad of paper next to my bed for just such discommoding bursts of thought.  I jotted myself a note, as I aimed my body back toward the bed, to look up the 1968 bestseller list at a more suitable hour of the day.

Come a more suitable hour of the day, I am perched at the dining room table with a cup of chai, reading about ways to get your dog to stop barking and clicking recipes for homemade dog biscuits before I remember to go back to my bedroom to see what notes I left for myself.  Looking for a specific thing, such as what books were the most popular in 1968, is a fairly straightforward item of research.  One would think.

Too much stuff!

 A few clicks later I had, on my hot little screen, a NY Times list of the best-selling titles for 1968, by month.  As often happens, I’ve gotten way more information than I wanted.  I attempted a few ways to narrow my search by asking for the top 10.  Then I went back to narrow my search a bit more. Best-selling is not the same as best or most popular because the first is based on sales and the second is based on opinion.  And here lies the conundrum of doing Google research:  I often just grab at something, anything from the massive amount of information in front of me just to get my research finished and translated into the telling of my own experience.  It may not be the most appropriate information for my needs.  In this case, my eyes clamped on the Publisher’s Weekly list for best-selling fiction and I then copied it for my 1968 reading requirement reference.  Later, I wished I had gone for a more opinion-based list.  It turns out Myra Breckenridge was not Gore Vidal’s finest work.

Clothing woes

My favorite bit of research and probably my finest effort, facts-wise, was for the piece I wrote on pockets.  One need only type “wardrobe sexism” into Google to pull up the Feminist Clothing Manifesto (I just named all the stuff about clothing and inequality of standards of dress ever written) to find this is a subject which rankles all the thinking women of this earth.  There was a lot of steam emanating from my computer screen.  I was simply annoyed about a lack of pockets in women’s clothing, yet that topic was just a fraction of the grievances in a long history of pissed-off-ed-ness re wearable cloth.

I spent hours combing through the issues about discrimination in dress codes, the evolution of propriety concerning what parts of the female body must be covered influenced by the sexual mores of an era, the social, religious and political ramifications of what one wears on the head as well as needs-based dressing and pockets of sedition.  I even found a poem about revolutionary pockets.  I read a lot about pockets.  More than I ever thought possible.  I could see why ye rulers of olde thought that reading was a danger to their power.  It still is.  Hours of pocket info aside, reading is eye opening (or eye closing if you are doing it late into the night) and the knowledge gleaned from it turns the wheels of progress.  I’m so glad corsets are no longer in fashion.  Is Spanx the new girdle?  Seems I have more reading to do.

The Kingdom of Norta?

In the meantime, I’ll continue my penchant for snap research, looking into the basics of interpreting your dog’s body language, the best-selling attributes of carpeting and why nudity is not socially acceptable.  I’m getting much better at narrowing down the options and spending less time roaming around in whatever spiral I’ve allowed myself to get into.  One of these days I may even remember to use the back arrow instead of the X.  Then I won’t have to start over on every search that begins with taxidermy supplies and winds up in the Kingdom of Norta.

Unrepentant,

Cheryl

Guest Editor Carol H. knows the internal circus is a relentless flinger rather than an occasional tosser of ideas.  It can be said that her editing is free-ranging and exquisitely entertaining. 

6 Comments

  1. I can certainly relate!

  2. no matter what lands on your blog-i am still reading and enjoying.

  3. Ruth Elliott Klein

    The wild internet search! I love the right-click on a word and up pops a definition!! I can relate! Happy writing!!

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