My Brain Needs to go on a Diet. By Trevor Plumbly

I’ve got a computer that can filter out unwanted rubbish and a sign on my letter box shielding me from junk mail, but when it comes to useless information it seems that I’m just not capable of rejecting it. Those that promote interest in this sort of stuff (pushers) call it trivia, but it’s reaching the point that ‘brain spam’ would be a more honest description. The amount of information that I don’t really need to absorb is pretty scary.

It came to my notice this week that the great Thomas Edison once electrocuted an elephant. True! Next time you flick on the light switch spare a thought for Topsy. She was part of a circus at Coney Island where apparently she had killed three of her trainers, one of whom had tried to feed her lighted cigarettes. The original plan was to hang her, but the American SPCA thought that might be a bit cruel, so in 1903, Thomas Edison offered to solve the problem. He was anxious to prove that electrocution was quicker and more efficient than hanging. On 4 January, in front of a thousand plus crowd, Topsy was given a last meal of poisoned carrots, wired up and zapped with 6,600 volts. Mercifully she died in seconds, unlike some of Edison’s death row clients.

At this point, brain spam tempts one to delve into the murky world of bungled executions (there are plenty of them), but that’s for the real addicts. I like to regard myself as more of a recreational user. Logic tells me that all this crap is taking up valuable space in the old thinking closet, with little chance of most of it ever being used in conventional conversation. For instance, if you opened the dialogue at a dinner party by recalling that the composer Anton Bruckner was so obsessed with numbers that, prior to being committed to an asylum, he was discovered on a beach attempting to count grains of sand, fellow guests would probably assume that you’d gone stark-bollocking mad and find an excuse to leave early. So you have to wait until the conversation turns to suit your particular bombshell: for instance, if the topic were America you could probably stun them with the fact that, apart from the lyrics in the song, ‘the Swanee River’ doesn’t actually exist. Sport? Try this little gem: in 1936 the English rugby team defeated the New Zealand All Blacks 13-0; the English star player was a 20 year old Russian, Prince Alexander Obolensky, whose match-day breakfast consisted of oysters and champagne. Wine? How about ‘Henri Jayer, Richebourg Grand Cru’ at 11,823 $US the most expensive non-investment wine. I’ve got oodles of this sort of stuff sloshing around in the upper cavity, mainly unused. I don’t get invited out much anymore which is a shame, because there must be dozens of people out there who don’t realise that the late Michael Jackson’s pet leopard died recently or that the Darwin Award Society has broadened its criteria to include self-sterilisation. On the other hand, they might just be on a better diet.

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