Thursday, February 13, 2014

Practical Purposes

What my fascination with statistics and general trivia is, I have no idea (as I have no idea of the why or how of so many things I do), other than that they have no practical purpose. If you ask me, there 's already far too much "practical" in this world. Too often, practical isn't much fun. Knowing, for example,  that this is my 915th blog...which I know only because Blogger provides the information...has no practical purpose, but it's a fun fact. Each blog, the "Word Count" option on my computer tells me, averages somewhere around 800 words. This comes out to 732,000 words, give or take, which is a lot of words no matter how you look at it. I am not equating quantity with quality, of course. As anyone who has read my blogs with a fair degree of regularity can attest, I have a tendency to careen wildly from pillar to post within the course of any given blog.

The fact of my being so easily distracted is evidenced in the space between this sentence and the preceding one. I wanted to use the word "caroom", to describe bouncing wildly from place to place, but when I typed it I got a squiggly red line beneath it to indicate it was misspelled. So I then spent five minutes trying to find out how to spell it and have deduced there apparently is no such word. Of course there is such a word! I've used it all my life. My paranoia nods knowingly, saying "See? It's all part of the plot to drive you bonkers!"...which sent me running back to the dictionary to find the origin of the word "bonkers"("origin unknown"). It's endless.

I also currently have another 30 begun-blogs which I've never gotten around to finishing. Some of them I might, others I probably won't.

When I have an idea for a blog, I don't do much planning out...another of the little curses which have plagued my life...and just start typing, only to find myself, a couple of paragraphs in, running out of steam, starting to wander off in other directions, or realizing that it wasn't such a good idea after all. Most people would just throw them out. But as I work so hard to try to prove, I'm not most people.

I'm fascinated by statistics from annual rainfall in the Gobi desert over the past 50 years to the number of stories in the world's tallest building.

So what if so much of what I'm fascinated by is little more than trivia and of little practical use?  I love trivia. As I've mentioned before, in one or more of my blogs, I've never lost a game of Trivial Pursuits (thank God they don't have an "All Sports" edition, or I'd be doomed). I can quote you the opening lines of radio shows from the 1940s and 50s ("...dive with a roar into the 2 1/2 mile tunnel that burrows beneath the glitter and swank of Park Avenue, and then: Grand Central Station, crossroads of a million private lives; a gigantic stage on which are played a thousand dramas daily" or the opening to "Our Gal Sunday": "...The story that asks the question, can a girl from a small town in the west find happiness with England's richest, most handsome lord, Lord Henry Brinthrop?"

Or I can remember songs like WW1's "Hello, Central, give me Heaven, 'Cause My Daddy's There," or the post Civil War Confederate song, "Furl the Banner." I can tell you the last song played by the Titanic's band as the ship went down....not "Nearer, My God, to Thee" but the protestant hymn, "Autumn." I can remember long ago movie stars like Anna Mae Wong and Billy Burke and Lash LaRue.

I can tell you how many people died in Chicago's Iroquois Theater fire on December 30, 1903 (602), and who was appearing on stage at the time (Eddie Foy).

But can I follow the simplest of directions, practical directions, for anything...anything involved with technology or moving parts? Would I ever willingly buy any product that says, on the box, "Some Assembly Required"? Don't be silly.

The problem with the concept of "practical purposes," for me, again, lies in the word "practical." I don't recall that word's ever having been applied to me. But who cares. Did you know that the average snowfall for Antarctica is about 2 inches a year? Is knowing that practical? No. But I think it's fun.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (


Kage Alan said...

My husband believes that technology is practical. I do not. He sat in the airport lounge in France surfing the internet on his phone while I sat there trying to figure out why I couldn't.

We did the same thing in the Dublin airport lounge. He surfed the internet and I couldn't figure out how.

We have the SAME phone!

Katy said...

Practical is never as much fun or as interesting. What fun would a dinner party be with a table full of practical people? Not very, I would think.