Lewis Carroll had Alice tumble into Wonderland via a rabbit hole, tossing her into a madcap, fantastical, occasionally disturbing journey in the company of anthropomorphized mice, playing cards, flamingos, dodos, shrubbery, and the rabbit. She wakes, shakes off the imminent beheading per the queen’s fiat, and presumably lives reasonably untraumatized until her further adventures are begun by walking through a looking-glass.
The contemporary rabbit hole opens as we click our way to a site, find an associated next site, and the next, and the next, and so on. In the same fashion that Netflix, Hulu, DVRs, and a growing company of aggregators allow binge-viewing, once we begin hopping from site-to-site, hours, days, weeks are lost somewhere between L.L. Bean and the 1964 World’s Fair (Corona Ash Dump converted into Flushing Meadows Corona Park – you could look it up).
Brief sidebar on binge viewing: My wife and I found ourselves compelled to watch Jack Bauer waterboard dangerous characters for weeks at a time, essentially watching all 24 episodes of 24 in something like thirty hours. Slightly abashed, we confessed our obsession to a friend who had the next two seasons at hand and could feed our addiction. His experience with the series was more dramatic than ours in that he had been so caught up in hour 14 that he failed to notice that his car had been stolen from the driveway adjoining the room in which he sat.
In the spirit of adventure, taking courage from Alice and countless others who have dropped into the hole, I plan to pick a site at random and see where it takes me, allowing myself only thirty minutes of rabbit time.
How about Orson Welles? Why not? Welles is certainly worth a few minutes of idle perusing.
Hmmm. the site offers a side-trip to Crime and Scandal, pretty much have to follow that one. Lots to choose from here, but I’m dropping into 8 Would-be Presidential Assassins and find that Richard Lawrence, an unhinged Englishman who believed himself cheated of his right to take the British throne attacked Andrew Jackson in the Capitol Building. His gun misfired twice, allowing Jackson time to beat Lawrence to the ground with his cane.
There has been some talk of Jackson recently as the current campaign has some similarities with Jackson’s populist following and the election of an outsider to the White House. I trust Wikipedia (and support it as well) so here we go.
Ok, what’s up with Jackson? Ouch! Turns out that in 1824, he ran for office against John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay, received a plurality of popular and electoral votes but failed to get a majority, which deadlock sent the election to the House of Representatives who chose Adams, demonstrating what Jackson called a “corrupt bargain” between Adams and Clay. Jackson determined not be robbed again, as a result of which his followers founded what was to become the Democratic Party, drove hard in 1828 and helped Jackson win in a landslide.
That’s the connection I was looking for, but the sidenote is that apparently in the heat of the campaign, an Adams supporter accused Jackson’s wife, Rachel, of having committed bigamy in marrying Jackson. Although the charge was true, Jackson blamed Rachel’s death of a heart attack on the slur cast upon his wife’s honor. Rachel died two weeks before Jackson took office. So, of course, I wanted to know more about bigamy.
A quick look at the site reveals that for the most part, bigamy and polygamy are illegal. No surprise there, except that in Egypt, the situation is more complex. Apparently in Egypt, polygamy is fine if the first wife agrees to the situation. Obviously, then, time to go to Egypt, but outside of the limited purview of Wikipedia.
Egypt is the largest Arab country, and despite the many enticements of an Egyptian rabbit hole, I want to check my understanding of what exactly is meant by the term Arab.
If you have landed in beingarab.com, you know know that Arabians are not defined by ethnicity but by being people who live in the Arabic world. This is the sort of circular definition that annoys me, but, recognizing my own shortcomings as a person, I stick with the site until it identifies Arab cuisine as Lebanese cuisine, schwarma as the most famous Arab snack and baklawa as the favorite sweet.
Where to now? The pull of schwarma is obvious, but the hummus laden nod to Lebanon and the similarity of baklawah and baklava pulled me in two directions.
I chose baklawa, landed on baklava, and immediately to a site describing Lebanese food. Huzzah! Two-for-one. And yet … the blogger’s rhapsody about baklawa takes a curiously personal turn almost from the start.
“The role baklawa plays in the repertoire of the Lebanese home cook is formidable. Most every Lebanese woman of my parents’ generation makes her baklawa for special occasions, especially Christmas. We swoon over baklawa to such a degree that it’s like our little pet, our little coosa. We call it our baklawi (bit-LAY-wee), just like you might call me Maureenie, or my sister Pegsie, or your mother Mommy.”
Huh? Our little pet? Our little coosa?
Coosa is a sweet summer squash, and calling a child or pet “coosa” is comparable to calling the same “pumpkin”, so there’s that.
And, down the rabbit hole I go, not in search of other herbaceous vines but looking for pet names given children. Using absolutely no discrimination, I tag the first site on the list.
Here we go again.
Beginning with pumpkin butter, the list includes, bunny, honey bunny, then veers to quinoa, cheese weasel, and cookie ears and countless others of dubious origin.
My 30 minutes are up, my curiosity reasonably completely extinguished (I lost it somewhere near Baby Cakes), and the rabbit hole now ready for sealing. Time to power down, and yet… my own batch of names affectionately tossed around is crowding out my plans to take another crack at the novel stalled somewhere in the fifth chapter.
It doesn’t take much to remind me of my three kids, each of which deserves a far better tag than that I came up with in their formative years. A few of the worst pop up immediately; I shrivel, I baste myself with shame, I cringe. Toot Snoot? Puffle? Tiger Toes? Really?
The pain is too great. I think I need to search for “affirmations” just to get back to reasonable self-acceptance.