Info-Depleted? Here’s Help Fast

“Oh, my gosh!” my husband exclaims, watching a 1970s episode of The Doris Day Show. “That’s the same actor who played in M*A*S*H. What was his name?”

By now, we both know that for me it’s a rhetorical question. My only M*A*S*H answer is “Alan Alda,” and it is always wrong.

Within 13 to 17 seconds, he will figure out – unaided – that the answer is McLean Stevenson. And gosh darn, he was also once a guest star on Hollywood Squares.

It could be that our brains are wired differently. His Jeopardy-level system is designed to pick up the name of that obscure British actor who played a nerdy bartender with a bowtie back in the ‘50s. Mine is programmed to recall – vaguely – seeing a TV show once where there was a bar.

Whatever the reason, this humbling info gap extends to the arts, astronomy, sports and beyond.

I’d like to think that I’m not alone – that there are others who would not recall – or never knew – that Diego Rivera’s wife was named Frida, that it takes 246.04 Earth years for Pluto to orbit the sun or that Buddy Ryan created the 46 defense for the Chicago Bears. But up until now, I was not quite sure.

Reassurance finally came on a bookshelf at the chiropractor’s office: 30-Second Philosophies: The 50 Most Thought-provoking Philosophies, Each Explained in Half a Minute.

I was thrilled to think that others had speed-read and fast-forwarded through books, TVs and movies without retaining a thing. Or maybe they were just too busy changing oil with one hand and folding laundry with the other.

For whatever reason, they, like me, they had arrived mid-life without a suitcase full of information they could tap for brilliant conversation at a moment’s notice. There are 30-second books for mythology and scientific theories, religion and math, politics and psychology, and even quantum theory. Wow.

Although a few info-maniac Amazon reviewers have offered negative reviews (the summary of Nietszche was reportedly slightly off), most have raved. As one reviewer put it, “Every reader needs to be well armed at the dinner party of today.”

I have to confess that the thought of all this knowledge circulating at a dinner party gives me chills. It was enough that I had to scavenge for a not-too-scruffy wine bag for the hostess. Now I have to thumb through some 30-second philosophies on the way to the car so I can drop Kant’s Categorical Imperative as a discussion-starter while I’m eating my salad.

Movies seemed easier, and voila! I discovered Film in Five Seconds: Over 150 Great Movie Moments – In Moments! Here, the authors offer pictorial icons of movie plots. These, they promise, will give you the gist “in no more time than it takes to set the washing machine, delete some spam or get dumped.”

Unfortunately, the book is populated with puzzling images of machine guns and animals and religious symbols.

“I don’t get it,” I told my husband, who immediately responded with Bambi! Schindler’s List! The Blues Brothers!

I haven’t given up on Film entirely. Somewhere, I’m sure, is a tent, an arm in a sling and a makeshift operating room, to which I will shout Alan Alda!

Meanwhile, I’ll stick to safe dinner conversation starters, such as “What do you like to do when you are not attending dinner parties?” Thirty minutes later, with absolutely no further effort – or words – from me, I suspect I’ll become a brilliant conversationalist.

Copyright 2016 Pat Snyder





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