Friday, December 14, 2007

Strawberry jam stains and the Tree of Knowledge

WHEN I WENT LOOKING, desperately I might add, for the Tree of Knowledge, I found it among some mouldy bread, smeared with strawberry jam, in a local dumpster.
Before you call in the guys in the white coats, let me assure you, I don't think I'm in need of an instant brain scan. Right, Nurse Goody Two Shoes?
There really is a connection between that 'Tree, ' being buried in a dumpster bin and jam-covered manna.
Before you fall asleep with the details, the 'Tree' came in seven volumes of knowledge as in the Encyclopedia Britannica -- Vol. I: A-Bib to VIII: Piranha-Scurfy. So I'm missing a few, but what do you expect when you're heavily into my latest passion -- dumpster diving.
However, before you go blathering about it, particularly, to The Missus, just remember she's already warned me about bringing strays home, even the 'Tree.'
Actually, the reason I'm bringing up this so-called "sickness," is others have it and some have even made a mint such as Esquire magazine writer, A.J. Jacobs, who had his own 'Tree.' In fact, he read all 32 volumes of the Encyclopedia and put down his hilarious findings in something he calls: The Know-It-All: One Man's Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World (Simon & Schuster).
Now on a book site, the blurb claimed Jacobs' wife, Julie, stated, emphatically, that it was a "waste of time," and his so-called pals claimed he was "losing his mind." It had been tried before, for his father, a noted lawyer, failed in completing such a task.
However, the younger Jacobs had a distinct purpose and that was "to join Mensa, win a spot on Jeopardy! and absorb 33,000 pages of learning."
Jacobs, in sidestepping the publisher's p.r. dept., went straight for the laugh track or groan machine, in most cases.
"All the great figures of the 18th and 19th century had at least two simultaneous jobs, maybe more," he wrote, adding "My favorite was a woman named Virginia Woodhull, who was both a psychic and a stockbroker (a brilliant mix. Who wouldn't want to invest with her?)"
Mr. Know-It-All also coupled other occupations from his Encyclopedia-learning escapades such as lyrist/mollusk scientist. I'll have to look that one up.
Then he put forth a tall tale about the inventor(s) of the telephone. That would be Alexander Graham Bell, right?
Well, Jacobs had another take. Apparently, on the same day -- Feb. 14, 1876 -- Bell filed for the patent, a brilliant man, Elisha Gray, had the same idea, but for whatever reason Bell got the patent. That's a real bell-ringer.
Without further ado (don't you just hate that phrase), let's turn the pages of the A-Bib volume and find out about the aardvark cucumber (Cucumis humifructus) ... "The fruit is eaten by the aardvark, which, while burying its dung, unwittingly plants the seeds of the gourd." Aren't you glad, you asked?
And so what's a bib, or pout (Trisopterus, or Gadus, luscus)? A rather deep-bodied fish with a chin barbel, three close-set dorsal fins, and two close-set anal fins ... Though abundant, it is not sought as food.
Now, the Ol' Columnist has been known to devour fish by the boatload, but the bib won't be on my plate any time soon.
However, it's time to hide these seven volumes, for The Missus just walked through the door. Maybe, I should ask her how to get strawberry jam stains off these book covers. Then, maybe, I'll just forget about it, for now.
WELL, AT LEAST I HAVE A BEARD: Another one of Jacobs' so-called epistles happens to be The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Human Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible (also from Simon & Schuster). In pursuing the subject matter, he grows an (unruly) beard, vows to follow the Ten Commandments while avoiding the wearing of clothes made of mixed fibers. He also spent time tending sheep in the Israeli desert; playing a 10-string harp and sort of attempting to "stone adulterers."

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