Saturday, January 22, 2011

More Saturday Salon: Useless Information

That Book of Perfectly Useless information by Mitchell Symons is one of my favorite ways to waste time. When you're in a mood and don't feel like doing much and even reading something you've been meaning to read is just not in the cards, Symon's book might do the trick. I recommend this for those occasions when you're sitting around staring at the walls and wondering about the 'why of things'. If this won't cheer you up maybe you need to take a nap.

"There is much pleasure to be gotten from useless knowledge."
Bertrand Russell. You said it, Bertie.

Here are some excerpts from the book merely to give you an idea of the stuff you don't need to know or maybe don't even want to know, but what the heck it won't hurt to look.

Under the heading, Dumb Things People Have Said:

"Go back to Liverpool, Mr. Epstein, groups with guitars are out." (Dick Rowe of Decca [Records], rejecting the Beatles.)

"This picture is going to be one of the biggest white elephants of all time."
(Victor Fleming, the director of GONE WITH THE WIND, assessing its likely prospects at the box office.)

"I'm astounded by people who take eighteen years to write something. That's how long it took that guy to write MADAME BOVARY, and was that ever on a bestseller list?" (Sylvester Stallone)

"Come, come - why, they couldn't hit an elephant at this dist -" (John Sedgwick, American Civil War general, just before he was shot dead.

"Smoking kills. If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life,"
(Brooke Shields)

Under the heading, Classic Movies That Didn't Win A Single Oscar Among Them:

  • Bad Day at Black Rock
  • The Sixth Sense
  • The Elephant Man
  • Top Hat
  • Psycho
  • 12 Angry Men
  • The Caine Mutiny
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Rear Window
  • Amelie
  • Singing in the Rain
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • Dr. Strangelove
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Brief Encounter
  • The Great Escape
  • The Green Mile
  • The China Syndrome
  • Deliverance
  • It's A Wonderful Life
Under the heading, Classic Movies That Didn't Win a Single Oscar Nomination Among Them:

  • His Girl Friday
  • The Night of the Hunter
  • The 39 Steps
  • Sweet Smell of Success
  • Bringing Up Baby
  • The Searchers
  • Paths of Glory
  • The Lady Vanishes
Under the heading, Extraordinary Events That (Almost) Defy Explanation:

BABY LUCK. Some coincidences are just too extraordinary. In 1974 in Detroit, a baby fell out of a building fourteen stories up. Fortunately, it landed on a man named Joseph Figlock and so survived.

A year later, another baby fell from the same building and survived by falling on ...Joseph Figlock.

SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION. In 1938, Phyllis Newcombe, twenty-two, combusted spontaneously at a dance hall during a waltz. Many people witnessed this unexplained phenomenon, which has parallels with the combustion of a British pensioner, Euphemia Johnson, who died after suddenly bursting into fire during her afternoon tea.

Under the heading, Birds, Etc:

  • The longest recorded flight of a chicken is 13 seconds.
  • The most common bird in the world is the starling.
  • The average life span of parrot is 120 years.
  • The golden eagle can spot a rabbit from nearly 2 miles away.
  • Bats always turn left when leaving a cave.
  • Owls are the only birds that can see the color blue.
  • Condors can fly ten miles without flapping their wings.
Under the heading, History:

Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history: spades - King David; clubs - Alexander the Great; hearts - Charlemagne; diamonds - Julius Caesar.

Michelangelo's cook was illiterate, so he drew her a shopping list - which today is priceless.

Spiral staircases in medieval castles ran clockwise so that attacking knights climbing the stairs couldn't use their right hands - their sword hands - while the defending knights coming down could. And left-handed men, believed to descend from the devil, couldn't become knights.

The shortest war in history was between Zanzibar and England in 1896: Zanzibar surrendered after thirty-eight minutes.

Cleopatra wrote a book on cosmetics. One of the ingredients was burned mice.

Under the heading, Animals:

  • Besides humans, the only animal that can stand on its head is the elephant.
  • Nearly all polar bears are left handed.
  • The average rabbit takes 18 naps a day.
  • Cats have over 100 vocal sounds; dogs have only about 10.
  • Tigers have striped skin, not just striped fur.
  • A donkey will sink in quicksand, but a mule won't.
  • Of all the mammal species in the world, almost a quarter are bats.
  • Cats can't taste sweet food.
  • Deer sleep only five minutes a day.
Under the heading, Words:

Shakespeare invented more than 1700 words (including assassination and bump).

Zenith, tariff, sherbet, algebra, carafe, syrup, cotton, mattress and alcohol are all derived from Arabic.

The expression 'rule of thumb' derives from the old English law that said you couldn't beat your wife with anything wider than your thumb.

The word 'dude' was coined by Oscar Wilde and his friends. It is a combination of the words 'duds' and 'attitude'.

Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Simon Wiesenthal, Wolfgang Mozart, Robert Mitchum, Truman Capote and Chico Marx all have had photographic memories.

Turns out there are two more updates of the first book of Useless Information by Mitchell Symons: This Book of More Perfectly Useless Information and The Other Book of The Most Perfectly Useless Information.
Happy Reading!


  1. I find some of the facts anything but useless! Thanks for listing some of the fascinating information from this book, Yvette. You fid the most interesting books.

  2. Yes, I agree, some of the information is intriguing. But I went with the title of the book. ;) I don't know how I find these books either. Ha! I think they just seem to find me.

  3. You are just a research magnet! This information is fascinating, and not all useless. Now if I can figure out how to uitilize it in writing!

  4. Kathy: Yes, I am a walking encyclopedia of useless knowledge. Ha! You'll use it sometime. It all hangs around in the brain. :)


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