Is Data Fact?

by Leonard Bishop

Leonard Bishop

Leonard Bishop

People ask writers, “Where’d you get all the information you use?” The obvious response is, “Research.” The question to ask the writer is: “What do you do with all the information you gain from research and never use?” Nothing! You just never use it. It begins as bright buds in your mind, and eventually withers to lay in your unconscious like weeds.

Of what value is knowing that bullfighting – corrida de toros-  originated as a religious ritual? It was a fertility rite conducted by the ancients who depended upon the animal for food. Does anyone care that Alexander Pushkin, “the Shakespeare of Russia,” had 1/8 African blood? Or that articulate parrots have been given minimum legal recognition in court testimonies? And that a cardinal once paid 100 crowns for a parrot because he could recite the apostles Creed?

A writer‘s memory retains the cast-offs of information and it layers his mind like soggy warts. I wrote a novel about a nun. Because it was about a Catholic, I had to research bingo games. They originated in the early 1500’s and are attributed to a nobleman, Benedetto Gentile,of Genoa. The word “bingo” was a slang term for Brandy.

I also found out that hogs were, in fact, useful to the old-time sailing ships. They were kept aboard as emergency compasses. If a vessel lost sight of land, a hog was dumped into the sea. Instinctively, the hog would lead them to land. Which led me to learning that it was Gen. Sheridan, who said, “If I owned Texas and hell, I would rent out Texas and live in hell.” Which led to learning that infants cough while still in their mother’s womb.

After writing three or four novels that demand research, you wish there were a mental Roto-Rooter to use on your mind. Whirr and grrr, and in a few moments you’re all cleaned out of nonsense you once believed was urgently significant. Like that the last words of George Wilhelm Hegel, the philosopher, were: “Only one man ever understood me. And he didn’t understand me.” Go any deeper than that and you’ll fall out of your head.

I know hundreds of conundrums. When at a dull party, I state a few, and people believe I am interesting. Example: “The reason why the lobster blushed red was because it saw the salad dressing.” Or “Something no one wishes to have, yet no one wants to lose, is a bald head.” And this: “A railway engine never sits down because it has a tender behind.” If my conundrums fizzle, I can always shift into palindromes- (a word or sentence that reads the same forward or backwards). Rather than the simplistic “Madam, I’m Adam”, I would cite “A man, a plan, a canal-Panama!” Or “Egad, a base tone denotes a bad age.” Then switch to some Latin: “Signa, te, signa: temere me tangis et angis.” (You touch and torment me in vain) Knowing that is as valuable as the hair left in your palm.

This information you collect and then work to forget, is often brought back by casual associations. You’re buying a pound of uncut salami and glance at the price. The numbers immediately remind you of Eratosthenes’ Sieve–a system of screening out the prime numbers from a sequence of whole numbers. Which brings to mind that triskaidekaphobia defines the fear of the number, 13. Keeping these facts is as valuable as saving discarded apple cores.

You can always tell a one or two-book writer by how he uses this informational gibberish to fuel his ego at a gathering.

A writer uses a conglomerate of research books. Some he owns, others he locates in the library or delete borrows from other writers. I have books on the origin of the meaning of fingernails, smoking pipes, curtains, weather vanes, tea leaf reading. The study of noses and ears for insight into character, the philosophy of hairstyles, and the place of breasts in history. I have books on the language and slang of foreign nations, the ancient practice of anesthesiology, and the hidden meaning of insect names. I am up to my omphalos (belly button) and steatopygous (fat rump) in books.

If I had the patience and staff that the writer, Irving Wallace, had I would bring all this wanton trivia together into another The People’s Almanac as he did. For right now I’ll settle for turning this data in a small column.

© 2013 the estate of Leonard Bishop

(first published April 20, 1986 the Manhattan Mercury)

For an enjoyable take on using research from one of Leonard’s former students, Donna Gillespie, see Research: A Burden or a Writer’s Best Friend

 

Normal
0

false
false
false

EN-US
X-NONE
X-NONE

Is data fact? 

          by Leonard Bishop

 

People ask writers, “Where’d you get all the information you use?” The obvious response is, “Research.” The question to ask the writer is: “What do you do with all the information you gain from research and never use?” Nothing! You just never use it. It begins as bright buds in your mind, and eventually withers to lay in your unconscious like weeds.

 

Of what value is knowing that bullfighting – corrida de toros-  originated as a religious ritual? It was a fertility rite conducted by the ancients who depended upon the animal for food. Does anyone care that Alexander Pushkin, “the Shakespeare of Russia,” had 1/8 African blood? Or that articulate parrots have been given minimum legal recognition in court testimonies? And that a cardinal once paid 100 crowns for a parrot because he could recite the apostles Creed?

 

A writer‘s memory retains the cast-offs of information and it layers his mind like soggy warts. I wrote a novel about a nun. Because it was about a Catholic, I had to research bingo games. They originated in the early 1500’s and are attributed to a nobleman, Benedetto Gentile,of Genoa. The word “bingo” was a slang term for Brandy.

 

I also found out that hogs were, in fact, useful to the old-time sailing ships. They were kept aboard as emergency compasses. If a vessel lost sight of land, a hog was dumped into the sea. Instinctively, the hog would lead them to land. Which led me to learning that it was Gen. Sheridan, who said, “If I owned Texas and hell, I would rent out Texas and live in hell.” Which led to learning that infants cough while still in their mother’s womb.

 

After writing three or four novels that demand research you wish there were a mental Roto-Rooter to use on your mind. Whirr and grrr, and in a few moments your all cleaned out of nonsense you once believed was urgently significant. Like that the last words of George Wilhelm Hegel, the philosopher, were: “Only one man ever understood me. And he didn’t understand me.” Go any deeper than that and you’ll fall out of your head.

 

I know hundreds of conundrums. When at a dull party, I state a few, and people believe I am interesting. Example: “The reason why the lobster blushed red was because it saw the salad dressing.” Or “Something no one wishes to have, yet no one wants to lose, is a bald head.” And this: “A railway engine never sits down because it has a tender behind.” If my conundrums fizzle, I can always shift into palindromes- (a word or sentence that reads the same forward or backwards). Rather than the simplistic “Madam, I’m Adam”, I would cite “A man, a plan, a canal-Panama!” Or “Egad, a base tone denotes a bad age.” Then switch to some Latin: “Signa, te, signa: temere me tangis et angis.” (You touch and torment me in vain) Knowing that is as valuable as the hair left in your calm.

 

This information you collect and then work to forget, is often brought back by casual associations. You’re buying a pound of uncut salami and glance at the price. The numbers immediately remind you of Eratosthenes’ Sieve–a system of screening out the prime numbers from a sequence of whole numbers. Which brings to mind that triskaidekaphobia defines the fear of the number, 13. Keeping these facts is as valuable as saving discarded apple cores.

 

You can always tell a one or two-book writer by how he uses this informational gibberish to fuel his ego at a gathering.

 

A writer uses a conglomerate of research books. Some he owns, others he locates in the library or delete borrows from other writers. I have books on the origin of the meaning of fingernails, smoking pipes, curtains, weathervanes, tea leaf reading. The study of noses and ears for insight into character, the philosophy of hairstyles, and the place of breasts in history. I have books on the language and slang of foreign nations, the ancient practice of anesthesiology, and the hidden meaning of insect names. I am up to my omphalos (belly button) and steatopygous (fat rump) in books.

 

If I had the patience and staff that the writer, Irving Wallace, had I would bring all this wanton trivia together into another The People’s Almanac as he did. For right now I’ll settle for turning this data in a small column.

 

copyright the estate of Leonard Bishop

(first published April 20, 1986 the Manhattan Mercury)

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-qformat:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”;
mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast;
mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;}

Advertisements
This entry was posted in History, humor, Inspiration, Writing, writing a novel and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s