Last week, I was thumbing through a little book my daughter-in-law gave me for Christmas a few years back. I remember her telling me, “I saw this and it reminded me so much of you.” I could tell it was a book, and as I tore into it, I remember thinking it would be something titled The World’s Best Father-in- Law, or maybe Favorite Cowboys of the 1940s. Nope. I found myself holding a copy of Don Voorhees’ The Indispensable Book of Useless Information. A blurb on the cover read, “Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more useless – it does.”
And when she saw that, it reminded her of me? I’m not real sure what she was trying to tell me.
Anyway, I was half-heartedly thumbing through this little book while at the same time half-heartedly watching news on one of the cable channels. As is usually the case, the president was mentioned on TV, ironically, just as my thumb stopped thumbing on a page in the book regarding some totally useless information regarding some other people who have held that office in the past.
For example, according to Voorhees, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself,” he had borrowed/or stolen it from Francis Bacon, who 400 years earlier, wrote, “Nothing is to be feared, but fear itself.” And 2000 years before President John F. Kennedy took credit for “Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country,” the same words had been written by Cicero.
And all this business about the number of wives certain presidents may have had, sort of pales in comparison to what Andrew Jackson did. According to this book, he married a bigamist. Seems his wife Rachel already had a legal husband when “Old Hickory” said “I do.” Rachel must have been a real beauty, though, because, according to this little book, Jackson fought 13 duels defending her honor.
Another totally useless bit of information about a president that Voorhees lists is that John Calhoun was the first president to ever resign from office. He did so to become a senator.
I can’t deny I enjoyed reading all the little tidbits in this book about former presidents, along with a bunch of other interesting –but yes, totally useless – information, like the fact that North Korea’s one-time leader Kim Jong-il loved movies and had a collection of more than 20,000 films. His favorite movie was Godzilla.
And after reading that American chickens lay 76 billion eggs each year, that elms and oaks are the trees most frequently struck by lightning, and the face on the Statue of Liberty is larger than Abe Lincoln’s face on Mt. Rushmore, I think I better understand my daughter-in-law’s thinking. I’ll bet she just figured that since I am constantly looking for something to write about, I am so clever that I can use a bunch of this useless stuff in one of my columns.
Yeah, that’s it. Now if I could just figure out how to do that.