When I was a kid, my parents put vast amounts of money in the pockets of the newspaper industry. On Sundays, especially, we had little to no excuse for not being well-informed; we’d get the Gary Post-Tribune and the Hammond Times delivered to our door, dad would walk to the store to buy the Sunday Chicago Tribune, and the next day, we’d get the Sunday Indianapolis Star in the mail. This was in addition to the daily deliveries of all of the above minus the Chi Trib.
My siblings and I were never subjected to quizzes by mom and dad on what we learned from all those papers. I think they wanted to spare themselves from five different interpretations of that week’s “Peanuts” comic strip.
(Although now that I think about it, a little news quiz competition in our house might’ve been fun; just think, we could’ve had some little reward at stake for winning. We maybe could’ve called it the “Stu-litzer Prize.”
Now that I think about it even further, I might’ve been able to corral that prize on a regular basis, as long as the topics in question revolved around trivia. Because my favorite thing to read, once I reached the age where “Peanuts” wasn’t my favorite thing to read, was a column by a guy named L.M. Boyd.
L. M. Boyd wrote a nationally syndicated column that has been described by one prominent writer as “something Don Stuart would write.” (It’s true, you might say I’m quite personally close to the prominent writer who said that.)
You see, Boyd’s column was a random collection of miscellany, trivia, and amusing facts. It had a grip on my imagination that I can still palpably recall to this day, mainly because it left newsprint ink stains on my imagination. I mean to tell you, that grip was tight!
I would read his column and then sit and wonder, “How does he learn all this stuff?” (I found out just today that Boyd once described his technique as “the same one a pig uses hunting truffles.” Whatever that means.) “What does ‘L. M.’ stand for?” (I found out just today: Louis Malcolm.) “Could I ever earn boodles of moolah doing what he does?” (I found out just today. According to Republican editor Kevin Green, the answer is, “Uhhh, no way.”)
Now I don’t think that I ever stored any of Boyd’s factoids away for future reference like the guy who posted an online comment to Boyd’s obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle (Boyd died in 2007). This fella said it was only because of L. M. Boyd that he knows the 1972 defense budget of the nation of Andorra: $5.
Isn’t that amazing? Not the $5 Andorran defense budget, but that this reader recalled that item 35 years later! (I’m imagining his wife rolling her eyes when he tells people Andorra’s 1972 defense budget at parties, and then asking him somewhat sharply why he “can’t remember their (stinking) wedding anniversary?!”
Incidentally, one reminiscence I read of Boyd included a comment from a physics professor at Cal-Berkeley, who said Boyd’s column was “interesting, and accurate.” Followed immediately by a comment from a guy who edited Boyd’s column for many years, who said Boyd wasn’t always accurate.” There’s something disconcerting here; shouldn’t parents whose kids are studying physics at Cal-Berkeley worry if they’re under the tutelage of guy who relies on a trivia column for accurate information?
But even more disconcerting, if accuracy is important in a trivia column, is Kevin Green scoffing at me earning boodles of L. M. Boyd-like moolah because he thinks I’m not accurate?!?!
Well, try this on for size! Here’s an L. M. Boyd-like tidbit (the miscellaneous fact that actually spurred this entire column in the first place) AND it is indisputably accurate: The guy from the “Men’s Wearhouse” TV commercials, the one who says, “You’re gonna like the way you look. I guarantee it,” is starting to look exactly like “The Most Interesting Man in the World” from the Dos Equis beer commercials!
Just as L. M. Boyd did during his column-writing career, I had this item fact-checked by my wife, who verified that it proves that I watch waaaaay too much TV. But she did concede it was an interesting enough observation to earn me a reward; unfortunately, it’s the “Stupid-litzer Prize.”