Another Page: ‘The Big Book of Amazing Facts’

What, you were expecting Shakespeare?

As much as any book I can think of, this one explains why I am the peculiar way I am. I received it when I was 10 or 11 years old — a Christmas gift, perhaps? — and spent the next few years wearing out its pages and filling my cranial capacity with interesting, if not terribly useful, scraps of knowledge.

I learned about palindromes (“A man, a plan, a canal — Panama”).

I learned the word pneumonoultramicroscropicsilicovolcanoconiosis, which I didn’t have to look up to post here.

I learned about an African tribe whose members spat at each other in greeting.

When my friend Lisa Simon posted on Facebook a few weeks ago that the first basketball game used peach baskets and the ball had to be retrieved from the bottom of the basket after each score, I knew that, too. It was in The Big Book of Amazing Facts.

Concurrent with all of this, I was also reading and memorizing almanacs, which has led to a fun but steadily eroding party trick. I’ve memorized the birth years and death years of many celebrities, but the information is good only up to about 1985 (when I abandoned almanacs and began a largely futile pursuit of girls). Thus, I can tell you with great confidence that John Wayne (Marion Morrison) was born in 1907 and died in 1979. In the case of someone with a more recent death date — say, Bob Hope (Leslie Townes) — I can cough up the year of birth (1903) but am clueless on the year of death, as it happened post-1985. (Actually, now that I look it up, I should be able to remember that Bob Hope was 100 years old when he died in 2003.)

In any case, should you find yourself wondering why I didn’t remember your birthday or anniversary or my own phone number, please don’t blame me. Blame The Big Book of Amazing Facts.


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One Response

  1. Wow. Almanacs? Celebrity birthdays and ages? Pursuit of girls who preferred Duran Duran to us?

    You and I were living parallel lives.

    May 11, 2011 at 8:20 am