January 30, 2014

Things you only think about because of the internet.

I just Googled "history of the towel." Got to an article called "The History of the Towel":
The towel was a very important part of Turkish social life and continues to be so.  Originally, it had many uses such as, for the ceremonial bath of a bride before her wedding and for important occasions later in life.  Of course, the hamam also has had an undeniable relationship with these towels, as had the royalty of the Ottoman Empire. The towel would still be a drab piece of cloth were it not for the the intercession of the Ottomans in the 17th century.  Especially, thanks must go to the women in the palace that pushed their weavers to make more and more exquisite pieces.  They brought style, design and flair to towels....
Read the whole thing. My point isn't suddenly we must learn the history of the towel, it's that I reached a point this morning where I asked myself "What's the history of the towel?" and I expended 5 seconds of my life getting to an answer. Why? Because there's a towel on the floor — recently (not that recently) used to dry off a dog that rolled in the snow — and, instead of picking up the towel — as we did in the olden days — or thinking about picking up the towel — in the manner of more recent times — I'm free-associating about towels, in the jumble of my other random thoughts, which are set to perpetual tumble, powered by the continual availability of the spark of satisfaction that comes from Googling something and getting an answer.


There's a Wikipedia article "Towel," though sadly the history section needs more work:
The invention of the towel was associated, at least apocryphally, with the city of Bursa in Turkey. The city is still noted for the production of "Turkish towels."

In Middle Ages archeological studies, "... closely held personal items included the ever present knife and a towel."

In early 2011, hotels started using towels with washable embedded RFID tags.
The cultural section is little better. It too has only has 3 items. Can you guess what they are?

1. Towelie from "South Park," misspelled as "Toweleyey," for some reason. (Maybe somebody was high on computer duster.).

2. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," which apparently says that a towel is "about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have." (The internet confirms the existence of "Towel Day.")

3. The "Terrible Towel," that Pittsburgh Steelers thing.

Surely, there's more.

(I think of the David Sedaris book "Naked," in which towels figure prominently in 2  different essays (the family mystery about who's wiping himself with the family's dark brown towels and the one about the visit to the nudist camp where the importance of bringing your own towels is repeatedly stressed). )

19 comments:

Hazy Dave said...

This is side 5. Follow along in your book and repeat after me as we learn three new words in Turkish. Towel... Bath... Border. May I see your passport, please?

Tibore said...

Yeah, it's sometimes crazy what you can find on the net. But it's not all encompassing; I've many times found zilch that was applicable to a given search. The 'net doesn't have everything.

Really, the 'net's so ubiquitous and integrated with life (at least my life) nowadays that I don't view it as it's own entity for info. I only think of "The Internet" in conjunction with things like saying that something uncovered merely proves "Internet Rule 34". It's reached the point where non-'net sources of info get the disclaimer when I talk about them.

Tibore said...

And yeah, regarding the THGTTG: Don't panic.

;)

rhhardin said...

Here lies wrapt in forty thousand towels
The only proof that Caroline had bowels.

- Pope, epitaph for Queen Caroline

madAsHell said...

Try googling the history of Obama, and behold the multitude of answers. You have the latitude to select the outcome that suits you.

Skyler said...

I think the towel would still exist and it would still be occasionally ornamented with or without the Turks.

Clayton Hennesey said...

I'm pumped that Google can now do all my remembering for me.

MayBee said...

People don't have to spend much time wondering anymore.

Kirk said...

You spend 5 seconds of your life and get an answer to your question of "what?". I've spent 61 years of life asking "why?" and even Google won't give me an answer.

I imagine they're working on that.

Wilbur said...

There was a Simpsons episode dedicated to the history of Moe Szylack's bar rag throughout the ages.

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

The world owes a huge debt of gratitude to the Turks for this innovative use of fabric - a planetary first.

And to imagine and serve a market niche for special purpose bath and after-bath cloths - the mind staggers.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that this aspect of modern technology that Ann points out here is maybe underappreciated. I find myself Googling a couple things a day, just to satisfy my curiosity. Used to be that you would have to go down to the library and dig through the encyclopedia there, and then maybe branch off into the books there. Now? Usually, I will go to one of my computers to satisfy this sort of question, but also use my iPad and iPhone, and, indeed, as long as I have cell or Internet access, I can, and do, look stuff up this way.

The flip side though is that I also don't bother memorizing much any more, because it is so easy to look it up. This drives my partner crazy, as she doesn't use computers, but does memorize very well. So, she asks where an actor in a series also acted, and I have no clue, until I track it down with Google.

Also, I find myself looking up far more when I am doing research for filing a patent application for someone. Used to be that I would just take the clients' disclosure. Now, I try to understand the underlying technology. Result is that I am probably slower, but my work may be better.

RecChief said...

Wouldn't it have been easier to just say, "Meade! pick up the towel when you are done drying the dog." ?

I got there from this quote:
"Because there's a towel on the floor — recently (not that recently) used to dry off a dog that rolled in the snow — and, instead of picking up the towel — as we did in the olden days — or thinking about picking up the towel.... "

Emphasis mine

Bruce Hayden said...

As an indication of this problem, I was reading another of Ann's posts this morning, and Shirley Temple was mentioned in reference to the peacocks in the SOTU speech this week. And, remembering that she had been political, looked her up on Wikipedia via Google. Turns out that she had run for the House, but lost, but still was active politically after that, most recently as United States Ambassador to Czechoslovakia under George H.W. Bush (41).

Rocketeer said...

Towels? Pffffft. I use a strigil.

Oddie said...

" and, instead of picking up the towel — as we did in the olden days — or thinking about picking up the towel — in the manner of more recent times —"

Love it.

Foobarista said...

True towel researchers will insist that you go to a proper research library and canvass the peer-reviewed history of the subject. The internet is for wimps.

What's next? You may actually read wikipedia!?

stlcdr said...

You may know the towel, but do you understand the towel?

We are richer, today, for you have brought [linked] this knowledge for us. But what value have you sown? You have pointed the way to a feast of peas, arugula [or even asparagus], but placed before use we push aside these veggies on our plate and demand; 'what's for desert?'

Strelnikov said...

How soon did Towelie come up in your research?