All I Know

Me, the noted encyclopedia author

When I was growing up, a Proper home had a set of encyclopedia volumes, otherwise you had to resort to using the one in the library. There were salesmen and purchasing plans and that sort of thing. Since I had a bunch of older siblings and lived in a Proper home, we already had a set, but all the hoop-la surrounding whether you Did or Didn’t have a set left me with some low level angst about having to furnish my Proper home someday. I felt the same way about matched luggage.

But no more. We all have Wikipedia now, and it’s FREE [1][2]! I haven’t made up my mind about the veracity of a democratized reference work, but we’ll tackle that one another day.

I guess everyone that has the ability to log in has used Wikipedia, but it works because an awful lot of people provide content to the thing. My involvement in providing started not with a bang: I noted that a hyperlink in the Cyrano de Bergerac article happened to point to the wrong place. So I fixed it.[3]

I had a more substantial contribution concerning the pronunciation of one of our former Governor’s names. The campus of state buildings where I work has a building named for Clyde Hoey [4]; it is common for us in the course of our work to refer to the buildings by name. I was annoyed so many of the employees pronounced it HOO-ee rather than HO-ee, and I set out to prove them wrong with documentation. I didn’t find any, but I did find a live-agent help with the Department of Archives who located a source. I was wrong about the pronunciation; I took the time to add the information to Wikipedia.

Sooo the other day I was watching The Killing Fields again, for the first time in maybe 20 years. As I watched along, I checked out different facts on IMDB, and noted that it was nominated for the academy award in the category of adapted screenplay, which prompted the question, “adapted from what?”

After Googling, the first stop was the Wikipedia entry on the film, which at the time made no reference to the source material. It did note that a book has been made from the movie.

Other articles form the “Killing Fields” search that didn’t answer the question:

Hm, think we need different search terms. “Killing Fields Movie Source” produced one usable link: A Lehigh University then-undergraduate (1999) that asserts that the movie is based on a Sydney Schanberg story in the New York Times Magazine entitled “The Death and Life of Dith Pran: A Story of Cambodia.” There’s not a hyperlink anywhere in the article, so let’s search again on “The Death and Life of Dith Pran”.

Eureka, here’s the original review of the movie from the New York Times, stating that the movie is in fact based on Schanberg’s article [5]. That’s good enough for me.

Funny how it took so long to find it, and that an assertion by an undergraduate was the critical path.

So now, to update Wikipedia. I stated that the movie is based on the magazine article and cited the times story as the source.

The Killing Fields entry in Wikipedia says it wants to be edited. I agree, and might tackle that one day, but my earlier experience reading up on the information about the Cyrano de Bergerac article [6] demonstrated to me that such seemingly innocent efforts can get awfully involved [7]. I’m not sure I have the bandwidth for that.

In the end, my interest was in reading up on the source material for The Killing Fields. There is an abundance of information on Dith Pran and the intertwined fellow Cambodian Haing S. Ngor, with copious reference to the actual killing fields here.

[1] Before Wikipedia, relief for my angst might have been provided by Encarta, an early attempt by Microsoft to rewrite the history of the universe help us out. But it went away in 2008 (wikipedia)
[2] Before we leave the golden age of encyclopediae, it should be noted that my brother really is a noted encyclopedia author, to the extent that he was asked at least once and probably several times to provide a few hundred words on one of his areas of expertise. And that was a long time ago.
[3] All your contributions are cataloged in Wikipedia, but they can be subsequently overwritten or deleted by others.
[4] Clyde Hoey was the 59th governor of North Carolina beginning in the late 1930s. It is said that for the duration of his time in office, he walked the few blocks from the governor’s mansion to Edenton Street Methodist Church each Sunday to teach the Men’s Bible class. In the ensuing years the Men’s Bible class has merged with other classes; now in the Cokesbury-Isley class, the portrait of Governor Hoey is displayed beside a portrait of my mother, each for their contributions as Sunday School teachers.
[5] But not the article itself! The only reliable method to reach that is to go to the New York Times (Magazine) page and search on Dith Pran. The link that appears in the last paragraph of this post will also work. The article requires pay to download. I do not know the precise relationship between the article and the book by the same name and author.
[6] The information about the article is meta-data, by the way. I never dreamed that word would come into common parlance.
[7] I direct your attention to the spat about whether or not the historical figure Cyrano was homosexual or not.

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