More Ask Roger Anything questions from Chris:
How do you explain to your daughter how to vet sources?
It must be from an example. Just recently, my daughter said, of a tabloid cover in the supermarket, “Cher isn’t really dying, is she?” We watch a couple of news networks, plus Comedy Central, not every day, but often enough, so she can clearly see that shows often offer different emphases.
In your opinion, is Wikipedia a reliable source?
Depends on the topic, and the compiler. There’s an old cliche about a newspaper providing perfect information for topics I know nothing about, but less so for things with which I am familiar. I recently linked to the Wikipedia for the band Blotto, and I noticed that it NEVER mentioned the band members’ actual names. This was a failing.
Some posts are frozen in amber, perfectly accurate as of November 2013, e.g., but not so much today. Whereas other posts are updated regularly to reflect new music released or films made. Deaths are often, but not always, caught.
I specifically remember that back in 2004 or 2005, I corrected a mention that the next Presidential election would be in 2007, when, of course, it was 2008.
Still, when I’m doing research for a topic about which I know nothing, Wikipedia can be very useful, ESPECIALLY the links to the various footnotes.
What’s one area of scientific research that you think we should be funding more (other than medicine and climate change)?
Well, climate change is huge and would include the potential for everything from island nations flooding to the future loss of the maple syrup industry from the continental United States. Once you’ve eliminated climate change and medicine, what I think you have left is space exploration. It has very often answered many questions for answers here on earth, including those two topics.
What’s been the most surprising world change in your lifetime?
Communication, for good and for ill. You make friends on Facebook with people around the world, you have fights with total strangers on Facebook, often about really stupid stuff. You text your friends, while you ignore those physically around you.
I’ve been the guy reading the newspaper, maybe only a dozen years ago, and someone, as often as not, would comment on a story, or maybe just quietly read over my shoulder. Or I’d read over someone else’s shoulder. Those electronic devices don’t seem to open one up to one’s immediate environment, even as one can learn about the most recent terrorism in Turkey.
The Internet allows for more information, but also misinformation, disinformation, satire, lies. We can see Arab Spring or police misconduct, but also LOL cats and Stare-down Sammy, which got 34 million views on Facebook, and was shown on the CBS morning news; I thought it was a waste of air time.
There have been conspiracy theories for a long time, but they can propagate far more freely these days. Even objective facts will be disputed, and as a person dealing with, ideally, objective information, this can be both frustrating and exhausting. (See also my answer about Google.)
I’ve actually had this conversation about an article someone read. (I’m a librarian; a variation of this happens a LOT.)
Her: Is it true?
Me: Where did the information come from?
Me: But what was the ORIGINAL SOURCE of the information?
Her: I TOLD you, Facebook!
Who is your favorite president and why?
Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was rich and rather pompous and arrogant. His ailment thought to be polio at the time, but now believed to be Guillain-Barre syndrome, humbled him, and made him a champion for those less well off. And he had a great partner in Eleanor, with whom he seemed to have achieved an understanding regarding his infidelity.
He was imperfect, the Japanese internment being chief among his failures. But he initiated a lot of useful programs, some of which are around today, such as Social Security and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
I do, though, have affection for Chester A. Arthur, a product of the spoils system who became a reformer for civil service.
Tom the Mayor queried:
What is your Favorite Beatles song?
The last time I made a list, it was 3. Help 2 Got To Get You Into My Life 1 Tomorrow Never Knows. Re: TNK, I recently saw Paul, Ringo, and Georges Harrison and Martin discuss its intricacies. But Help! is something I can sing with my daughter.
What is your Favorite Aretha Franklin Song?
The last time I made a list, it was 4. (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone 3. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman 2. Sweet Bitter Love (1966). 1. Respect
Of course, Respect is a great cover. Since You’ve Been Gone has always been a favorite because it stifled deejays. But Sweet Bitter Love was in a quartet (or more) of songs that I played when romance went south.
What is your Favorite Joni Mitchell song?
The last time I made a list, it was 2. A Case of You 1. River. River reminds me of my late friend Donna George. But the poetry of A Case of You touches me too.