Mon Jul 05 1999 18:38: I learned this in English. There are these things called life records, which are put together by historians. A life record of someone is a compendium of absolutely everything that is known about that person's coming and goings and life and writings, indexed by day. Milton's life record is about twelve volumes. Shakespeare's is a lot thinner because we don't know much about his life. But you get the idea. Everything avaliable in historical records, right down to what someone ate on a particular date, is in the life record under the appropriate date.
Fine. But I'm starting to think that you can't simultaneously condone this and condemn those obsessive web pages that gather all information related in any way to, eg., Mr. Belvedere. Imagine the historical value of a really good life record of just some random French guy in the 14th century. Or, to move my analogy forward, an exhaustive, obsessive list and analysis of every gig played by some 1890s vaudevillian.
The better we document our culture, the easier it will be for future historians to make sense of our craziness. Obsessives, as we know, are only too happy to document minutae, and historians are paid to wade through minutae later on to discover the ones that turn out to be important or interesting. It's a perfect match. The only problem is that obsessives are not the people to turn to for objective reporting of events. But that's hardly a new problem for historians.