Thursday, March 19, 2009

Swallowed up by the internet

"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page."

I found this quote on a bookmark, attributed to St. Augustine, and liked it. I thought I'd include it on my blog, and in a fit of compulsive behavior, I thought I should know more about this St. Augustine fellow before I quoted him. While not intending to procrastinate (do I ever?) it sent me up the garden e-path and down slippery virtual slopes with little satisfaction.

First Wikipedia. Seems that there are three St. Augustine's. I decided on another strategy: find the quote, note the attribution and deduce which St. Augustine was so wise.

I've viewed, today, while I could perhaps have been doing something more productive, about a dozen sites that purport to be authorities on quotes. I tried searching for the above quote, and another recent favorite: "write drunk, edit sober" which I recently saw attributed to Hemingway, but a google search reveals Mark Twain to be another source. And while I found nothing on these two excellent philosophies, I made a survey of a number of websites, which I share..... links to a number of useful resources, including dictionaries, thesauri, encyclopedias, and a huge range of complete original sources, ranging from the Bhagavad-Gita to Cicero to W.E.B. DuBois. The selection seems to be restricted by the expiration of copyright: for example, the most recent non-fiction anthology they offer is Modern Essays, edited in 1921! Similarly, there are gaps: F. Scott Fitzgerald is represented only by This Side of Paradise. Nonetheless a rich resource, but it didn't resolve my question. was cluttered and clumsy. I was quickly put off after a few failed searches.

I decided to try a control quote, something more universally recognized. At I searched for "to be or not to be" and the site utterly failed me. A blank window appeared, without explanation, within the website's graphic framework. Useless.

Yahoo offered a directory of quote sites. sounded promising! But again, no luck. It came up with vast quantities of quotes related by one or two random words, from such unlikely sources as "Family Guy" and "Grey's Anatomy." Pass.'re for sale! No. Way., part of the empire. Lots of lists, curated by a single guide, no search function. Pass.

In conclusion, I cannot substantiate that the above quote was by St. Augustine, much less which St. Augustine, nor do I know whether it was Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway or another who wrote drunk and edited sober. While some of these rejected sites may offer better results with some in-depth study, hey! this is the internet. I want it fast and easy. I was sorely disappointed

I did find a few resources I'll return to:, while it failed in this hunt, seemed to be very useful, including such valuable resources as Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, and the potential of endless reading if I ever end up on a deserted island with only a single website. is the Internet public library! That rings my bells. There's a subheading: librarians' Internet index: websites you can trust. Hallelujah. And apparently we can submit questions to reference librarians. Perhaps they can substantiate my quotes. I'll be returning to this one. has nothing to do with quotes, but it is super cool. Seven volumes and searchable, with detailed explanations of how all kinds of things are made: tires, temporary tattoos, holograms, coins. Another bookmark.

Granted, this is about neither food nor travel, but about the travails of writing and especially fact-checking. If anyone has a reliable resource for verifying quotes, please! Share it with me. And I promise to return to my intended topics on my next post.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Escape to Carmel Valley

Sometimes travel isn't measured by the distance or the time spent, but by the sense of escape attained. That's what Saturday was like for me.

An author speaking at the Carmel Valley Village library caught my eye, so at 9 AM I embarked on a gorgeous drive, heading south from my parent's house near Monterey over the Laureles Grade and into Carmel Valley. It was clear and warm, with sculpted clouds accentuating the far-flung landscape. Looking at a map, I realized that Carmel Valley Road runs roughly parallel to Highway One: the two roads embrace Los Padres National Forest, so I was viewing the back of the coast range, the back side of Big Sur. No wonder it was fabulous. Winter rains have left the grasslands brilliantly verdant and wildflowers are beginning to bloom. An orchard of still-dormant, gnarled mossy trees rose above a blanket of mustard flowers. Rugged mountains (yes! over 4,500 feet) soared up from the valley floor, a patchwork of oak and scrubland and rock and meadow.

It reminded me of Malibu: the wild terrain tamed by a few roads, the panoramic views, the multi-million dollar homes. It seems like the immense wealth actually does infuse the air out there--I could smell it and taste it. Wineries, horses, tennis courts, and those palacial houses, scattered in the wilderness. Vanity vineyards--small residential plots of grapes--dot the terrain. A store displayed statuary of a massive scale: marble columns, enormous fountains, carved animals.

All the rampant wealth notwithstanding, it's a place of rapturous beauty on a spring day. After the library event, I strolled, I had a coffee, I popped into a few stores and then concluded with... a spontaneous photo safari! Mix is a store with a couple of acres devoted to large-scale imports for the garden from Southeast Asia. After a recent photography workshop, I was eager to try some of my new tricks on their photogenic merchandise.

An hour of photography, half an hour from home, was a low-budget vacation. It was the sense of leisure, more than the activities, that I carved out of a pedestrian Saturday morning that left me feeling refreshed and transported, having had a brief window into the lives of folks just over the hill, in a destination predictably embraced by the Beautiful People.