A Weekly Offering of This n That

Rainy Day is my alter ego. She is the little angel that sits on one shoulder and whispers in my ear to forgo that 6" piece of triple chocolate fudge with the four scoops of ice cream on it; she is also the little devil who sits on my other shoulder and convinces me that I can eat just one bite of each and be satisfied, and then laughs with such great abandon when in fact, I eat the whole thing, she falls off my shoulder. Mostly, Rainy Day helps me see the humor in living and, mostly, she encourages me down the right path. Not necessarily the straight and narrow one (how fun is that?) but the path that offers the most adventure and fun.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Things That Rainy Day Misses - Footnotes


Remember footnotes?  Those notes in tiny print under a black line at the bottom of the page?  What happened to them?  Where did they go?  Did they get tired of hanging onto the black line and slide off the page to be eaten by the dust bunnies under the bed?

            Rainy Day reads a lot of nonfiction, and she reads it for enjoyment as much as to learn, and because she reads everything, she reads the footnotes.

            When they were at the bottom of the page, it was easy to glance down and see if the author added something worth reading, or merely a reference bibliography.  A quick glance and it was either read, or ignored, and then back to the rest of the story.  Mere seconds required.  Nano seconds.  

            Footnotes now only exist when Rainy Day (Mary Roach and John Man) type them.  And if Rainy Day writes them, she already knows what they say and she doesn’t need to glance to the bottom of the page, except to proof.

            Now, someone in his infinite wisdom – probably someone who isn’t a ‘true reader’ – has changed the publishing of books.  Footnotes are passé.  They are old fashioned.  Nota non grata.  They ain’t used no more.  They have become the red headed orphan. Why?

            The best answer Rainy Day has found is a slam to all who are not working in academia.  Footnotes have migrated to endnotes for the sole reason (so she's been told) because people found them irritating and in the way, and no one but academes read them anyway, so why not put them in the back, out of the way, allowing the text to flow more beautifully.  Say what? 

            In an era when the mantra seems to be ‘time is money,' and more and more items are put on the market to tout the saving of time – pocket computers, electronic dictionaries, wireless phones, wireless computers (and wireless brains?) – all geared to save one time, books have devolved into endnotes.

           While it’s true Rainy Day may have more time than money, she still has lots of books to read, quilts to make, things to do, and people to see.  She must spend her time as wisely as she spends her money.  Time, like money, is not to frivolously twitter away on endeavors of questionable quality.  Like endnotes.

            Now, instead of one bookmark, and mere seconds to scan a footnote to determine whether it’s something to read or not, Rainy Day must flip to the back of the book and find the endnotes.  She now needs two bookmarks (She actually read one book that required three bookmarks.  She admits, it was a textbook of sorts, so some silliness could be expected).  Every time Rainy Day comes to one of the small, superscript numbers in the text, she must now stop reading, disrupt the flow, hold her place, go to the back, scan until she finds the matching number, and determine whether or not to read the note.  Then she must go back to the book.  This process no longer takes mere seconds. 

            Admittedly, some authors are kind enough to use endnotes as bibliography notes, with no text – a quick scan and Rainy Day can tell she doesn't need to keep up the flipping and flapping of pages.  And sometimes, she can scan down the notes and make a mental note that she doesn't need to check them until she gets to number 347.  But too often, there is good stuff in the notes that she doesn't want to miss. 

            And chapter endnotes.  Oy veh! Rainy Day hopes the person who came up with notes at the end of the chapter spends eternity flipping through pages trying to quickly find the end of the chapter.  Eternity is a long time.  He may get his just rewards.  (Rainy Day hopes he sits next to the person who invented white baby shoes, and spends his eternity polishing them.)

            Furthermore, Rainy Day doesn't believe the argument that paper is saved any more than she believes that nonacademic readers aren’t interested in footnotes.

            Alright, perhaps had she learned to enjoy reading while sitting in a chair, possibly at a table, endnotes might not hold the dire amounts of frustration they currently do.  Yes, Rainy Day learned to read sitting in a chair at a desk, but for pure enjoyment, her favorite way to read a book is stretched out on her back in bed.  Or on the sofa.  Or maybe a hammock.  And, at her age, she has earned the right to read where she wants to.  If it’s technical, or job related, she reads at her desk.  But Rainy Day doesn’t have a job any more.  She's retired.

            Footnotes.  One of many things that quietly slipped into the history box labeled “The good old days” of which Rainy Day is more and more convinced does exist -- someplace.

            And yes, she reads cereal boxes.

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