Well, this column cheered up a relative of mine who was going through a very difficult time, so I'm pleased with it. Never underestimate the value of being a clown.
(My parents are so proud)
I bow to no man in my thirst for useless knowledge. What others refer to as idling, or even being lazy, I understand as valuable time well spent. How much less would my life be if I didn’t know important things, such as that 93% of Americans eat pizza once a month, or that Barack Obama’s middle name is Hussein (no relation, folks!), or even which Baldwin brother is a born again Christian (bringing undoubted new pathos to The Usual Suspects). And yet, somehow, it’s not enough. Blogs were designed for people like me. All those slightly deranged sorts who in the days of yore would have had the good sense to hide in a shed amid mountains of scrawled notes and old biscuit tins, can now, (indeed, have been for some time) ramble endlessly into the yawning black hole of public access that is WordPress/Blogger/Movable Type/Typepad/etc/etc/etc.
It’s a beautiful thing, but it’s not all good news. I’m here to tell you that a working knowledge of obscure television references and fashion trends ’97-’07 (I gave up the moment ‘neon’ and ‘abstract geometrical pattern’ met ‘hoodie’) is the Occam’s Razor that cuts both ways. It’s certainly been little help with parenting, although if either of my little darlings suddenly need to create an authentic costume for a ‘90’s themed costume party or are stuck navigating a crossword based entirely around a Star Wars theme, then daddy is going to prove very useful indeed, which will be a blessing as by that stage they’ll probably have seen through every other aspect of what I like to think of as a freestyle approach to parenting.
But as I grow older, I’ve become concerned that my thirst for irrelevant knowledge may in fact be pushing useful information, like how to drive a car, tie shoelaces, manage a budget or open doors, out of my brain. It’s possible that knowing all Alfred Hitchcock’s hidden cameos in his films may have edged out more practical things, like how to respond to the question: ‘How flexible can you be regarding working hours?’ as I was asked by a recruiter for a well-known search engine that isn’t Yahoo!
The answer should of course be: ‘As flexible as a gymnast made out of elastic, steroids and hope’, not: ‘Um, well… I finish at five, right?’ Goodbye glittering web career… But then it strikes me that perhaps my role in life is to act as a walking, talking cautionary tale for my children and their friends, of the dangers of too much time spent doing absolutely nothing of consequence. Doubtless they’ll all go off and do complicated jobs that require concentration and focus, then late at night they’ll sit down next to their children and tell them the dark tale of old Grandpa Cunningham, who could name all the actors who played Batman, but who eventually starved to death because he forgot how to open a fridge door.
I tell my wife and children that this is why it’s a good thing that I, like Bill Watterson’s Calvin, am a mine of useless information. They give me looks that I cheerfully choose to interpret as ‘Crazy old Dad, he’s so witty’. I think about my future career as a tinkerer on Wikipedia, wearing three pairs of socks on my hands and living in a shed in the back garden while my wife frantically grows hedges around me to hide the shame of it all. Life is good, I think. Later, I will wonder how exactly this whole shoelace thing works.
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