General Douglas MacArthur & Turkey Wraps From CostcoFriday, May 06, 2011
|General Douglas MacArthur wades ashore during initial landings at Leyte, Philippine Islands, 10/1944, ARC Identifier 531424 / Local Identifier 111-SC-407101, Item from Record Group 111: Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, 1860 - 1982|
Had this event happened more recently, in our era of 24 hour news there would be blogs questioning if that was indeed MacArthur or his double who got his ankles wet. They would be discussing what brand shirt he was wearing and why it was he was not smoking his corn cob pipe. There might have been theories that MacArthur was showing solidarity to the American tobacco industry and that he was doing his part to make sure that GIs had their tobacco ration. They might have even been questioning if it was indeed correct for an US Army General to be wearing aviator sun glasses.
On Monday night I read in my NY Times the details of the scene in the Situation Room at the White House during the evening of the US Navy Seals raid on Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. I had to stop to marvel at the fact that the NY Times had this detail:
On Sunday, White House officials canceled all West Wing tours so unsuspecting tourists and visiting celebrities wouldn’t accidentally run into all the high-level national security officials holed up in the Situation Room all afternoon monitoring the feeds they were getting from Mr. Panetta. A staffer went to Costco and came back with a mix of provisions — turkey pita wraps, cold shrimp, potato chips, soda.
On Tuesday night I was looking for the paper to show Rosemary this startlingly banal detail of the Costco turkey wraps. I could not find it so I keyed into Google: turkey wrap, Costco, Situation Room.
You can see that a screen capture of the Goggle search produced many results on the money!
With the complete takeover of Google and Wikipedia as search engines for facts and (sometimes) knowledge I have been pondering how my life has changed. I still have a Canadian Oxford Dictionary by my bedside table. If there is some word in whatever book I am reading that I don’t know I immediately look it up. But sometimes, when I want to check on some historical fact mentioned in a book I put on my slippers and go downstairs to my computer and Google it.
Since 1986 we have amassed quite a collection of the best gardening books that money can buy. Of that collection there are now fewer than 10 that I ever consult. Google is quicker and easier most times. If I want to read about gardening in an essay form I will opt for the many books of the late Christopher Lloyd but if I want to know what are the growing instructions for Smyrnium perfoliatum I go on line. If I want to look at what roses I might want to buy this late spring I will consult my Peter Beales Classic Roses. There is nothing like a nice thick book on my lap in bed for something like this.
One aspect of Google is that it reflects the increasing of a uniformity of knowledge that comes from globalization.
Just about anybody interested in photography will know of Henri Cartier-Bresson and his pioneering contribution to the “decisive moment” in street photography. Fewer might know of the excellence of his contemporary, Mexican photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo. But how many know of Hécor García, born in 1923 but very much alive?
I know of Héctor García simply because a friend from Mexico gave me a book of his photographs. I believe that just about every country must have at least one photographer of such caliber and who is only known in the country of birth. Google can find Héctor García if you know of his prior existence. The quality of García's photographs is comparable with that of Cartier-Bresson and yet, outside of Mexico (and perhaps even in Mexico) this master is unknown.
What I can say that is an improvement over the dictionary is that laziness would often prevent me from looking up that word. Now with the availability of the computer or a tablet book device with hypertext search of word meanings one has no excuse for ignorance.
But as I watch the occasional CNN broadcast and the level of detail (what kind of dog accompanied the SEALS?) I come to realize that 24 hours news has a limit. I am not interested in knowing what President Obama had as a snack in the Situation room.
Would you believe that bloggers and commentators immediately noticed there was no Costco in DC and so put forward this scenario: Someone on his way from the CIA to the Situation Room was called and asked to stop over at Costco for the snacks. Since Hilary Clinton might be on her way to becoming a diabetic perhaps he was asked to bring some diet soda.
As far as I am concerned all I need to know is that General MacArthur did indeed return. And I don't want to know what he had for lunch.