Pity the University of Miami freshman who picked this morning to crap out a research paper, and the Miami Herald journalist trying to write about whichever moderately famous person dies today. Wikipedia has gone dark! The site is protesting the SOPA legislation that most sane people realize would shackle the Internet and force an Amish lifestyle upon the nation.
Riptide supports Wikipedia's protest -- no, seriously, write to South Florida's legislators -- but we also feel for that hungover freshman who's desperately wondering what in hell the Defenestration of Prague was all about. So we put together a list of your best Wikipedia alternatives for the day.
photo by DrJunge via Wikimedia Commons
There was a time not so very long ago when families bought bookshelf-clogging reams of cheaply bound leather books that reeked of dust and moths. Because if you didn't, the encyclopedia salesmen warned, your kids would be tiny, ignorant cavemen children who would grow up slobbering on themselves and working at the dirt factory.
Somewhere in Miami, someone's abuela still has a bookshelf full of Britannicas that haven't been cracked open since 1974. Yes, they still state that Yugoslavia is a nation, but for your history paper, they should do the trick.
It's a little-known fact in the 305, but the Miami-Dade Public Library system is actually meant to be used for more than just covertly surfing TMZ from the back-corner computers and for checking out the latest DVDs of True Blood.
Actually, the Coral Gables branch has almost the full archives of the Miami Herald available on microfiche, which is awesome because you can feel like a detective in a '70s thriller while you whirl through the old headlines until you find the story that proves the oil tycoon indeed killed his wife.
There were a couple of decades between when folks still bought 72 tons' worth of paperbound encyclopedias and when Wikipedia really took off, and in those years the diligent researcher relied on Encarta.
The software was essentially just like Wikipedia, except its knowledge lived in a haphazard stack of CDs that inevitably ended up leaning precariously in a disorganized tower next to your monitor, mixing willy-nilly with the latest Limp Bizkit tracks you stole off Napster and burned onto a disc.
photo by Marg via Wikimedia Commons
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The elderly are basically walking Wikipedias full of very selectively remembered information. They're great!
Sure, you'll have to sit through rambling stories about the '42 Dodgers, Fanny Brice, and life during the Johnson administration before you get an answer to your question -- an answer that 50 percent of the time will be completely false -- but asking old people random questions is much more satisfying than typing it into Wikipedia anyway.