Smith: What are my big ideas? |

Smith: What are my big ideas?

Throughout the day I have big ideas.

Except that they aren’t all big, and some of them may not even qualify as “ideas” — sometimes they’re just a random assortment of words or puns or weird lists or a jumble of letters that don’t actually spell anything in English, yet I put them all in the same place — the big idea file.

Some of these Big Ideas eventually go on to become columns (like the one you’re reading now) or jokes in columns (like the one coming up) or 800-page manually typed manifestos ready to be poorly photocopied and mailed off to various strategic locations. (End joke.) But sometimes they just sit there in that file, forgotten, abandoned, neglected, festering. Yes, they fester. Nothing so heartbreaking as a festering pun.

Occasionally I clean out the Big Idea File, cobbling together this mishmash of randomness in a way that has surprising amounts of coherence and entertainment value. Today is such a day. But it’s even more than that. As this month marks my 19th anniversary of writing this column, today I’m not just skimming off the top of this file — I’m going to include what I have room for, and the rest gets tossed. For good. Drag to trash, empty trash. It’s the Big Idea Beginning My 20th Year Blowout Column. Everything must go, leaving me with a big-idea blank slate.

I feel confident that you share my excitement.

Item: “When spelling out words, make sure you go backwards.” Here’s an interesting little tidbit that I’m certain meant so very much at one point in my life. Enough to whip out a notebook and write it down. But as I look at it now only one thing comes to mind — don’t paint without proper ventilation.

Item: People/things for whom iPhoto’s “Faces” face-recognition feature has mistaken me:

My grandmother.

Two different non-blood-related nieces.

Guy from my high school yearbook whom I don’t know.

Some guy at my brother’s wedding.

Some girl at my brother’s wedding.

My ear.

A cartoon picture of Jesus.

A guy I know who I’m pretty sure looks nothing like I do, but happens also to be named Barry.

Item: “My nose always runs when I eat.” These words were spoken to me by my father, while eating, after I’d just spent about 10 minutes telling him what I thought was both a fantastical and poignant true story about an incident that I’d just gone through. I was even crying a bit, such was the emotional depth of my tale. When I finished he commented that, as it says above, his nose always runs when he eats. And that was it. That’s all he said. So we just continued eating in silence — except for the sound of his nose running, which was surprisingly loud. Finally I pulled my notebook from my pocket and wrote, “My nose always runs when I eat.”

My dad asked what I’d just written down.

“Nothing,” I replied. “Just an idea.”

Item: “People whose humor I otherwise had the same sense of with.” I keep “grammar check” turned off on my word-processing program because I tend to think sentences like the one above would send it into an override mode that actually makes your computer explode. (It’s a documented fact that Microsoft possesses technology that does this, though not on purpose.) And I write sentences like that quite often. I think I may even talk like that at times. I’ve kept this particular sentence around in the Big Idea File for years just to remind myself of my inability to grasp my native language. And yes, I realize that it’s technically an incomplete sentence. It’s worse than I thought.

Item: “Don’t rub a bar of soap against your head. The soap will wedge under the hair follicles and cause them to eventually break. If you don’t have shampoo and must use regular soap to wash your hair, lather it in your hand first.” I learned this in fifth-grade science class, and at this point it’s the only thing I actually remember learning in a grade school classroom. And by now it’s almost completely useless. Thanks a lot, school.

Item: For years, each time I wrote the word “obsession,” I truly agonized over whether it was one S or two. Turns out there’s three. It’s worse than I thought.

Barry Smith’s column appears Mondays.


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