Introducing . . . what? 

It is more than possible now, it has become common for people who want to possess an air of cultivation and sophistication, to browse books like those in the Rough Guide series or the For Beginners, Introducing, or Oxford's Very Short Introductions, in order to acquire enough familiarity with their subjects to converse. These same people have also learned to mine the internet at sites like Wikipedia and the All Music Guide in order to shore up their fragments into a more or less convincing fa├žade.

Being one of these people myself, I feel ambivalent about the behavior. On one side, any effort to acquire knowledge deserves some respect. On another side, such knowledge more often resembles crib sheets than it does anything else. It's a bunch of names to check and associations to make, and further associations sort of lose their importance, once you complete your initial set.

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