Elvis Costello has an album called "All This Useless Beauty." I know this because it is the one with his version of the song "The Other End of the Telescope." I really like that song.
This little piece of knowledge sits at the center of one of the countless spiderwebs of trivia in my mind.
I can tell you that Aimee Mann, a singer and songwriter who was lead singer of the group 'Til Tuesday, co-wrote the song with him and there is a version with her singing it. I can then tell you that Aimee Mann played one of the nihilists in the film "The Big Lebowski" and that 'Til Tuesday's biggest hit was the song "Voices Carry."
One of the other nihilists in "The Big Lebowski" was Peter Stormare, who is Swedish, although he often is cast as a German or Russian. He was the Cosmonaut in the movie "Armageddon," he played Satan in "Constantine," he put Steve Buschemi in the wood chipper in "Fargo," and he unpimped your auto in Volkswagen commercials.
On the other end, I can tell you Elvis Costello, along with Burt Bacharach, had a dual cameo in the second Austin Powers movie singing the song "I'll Never Fall in Love Again." Costello's song "Pump It Up" was used in the movie "PCU," which featured a cameo from George Clinton of Parliament Funkadelic. That movie features actor Jon Favreau, who is also a director, and who hosted a TV show called "Dinner for Five."
It seems like I've said a lot without really making a point, but the point is there. I have a mind chocked full of pop culture trivia, but it's really, really ... trivial. That's why I started with the album reference and why this week's column has the headline it does. It is just a lot of useless knowledge.
Friends have suggested I could conquer the world if I could only clear out all the piles of useless knowledge that I have strewn about in my head like so much clutter in the home of a hoarder.
Of course, there's always the dream of going on a trivia show like "Jeopardy!" or "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," and there's the side benefit of being able to author a trivia column, but beyond that there is little value to knowing these things.
I've sometimes tried to figure out just when it was in life that my mind got hard-wired to retain these bits of minutiae. Or maybe I was born this way.
By the way, "Born This Way" was the title song of Lady Gaga's second album. She was featured singing her song "Bad Romance" in one episode of the TV show "Gossip Girl," which stars Leighton Meester, who also has launched a singing career and can been seen in the movie "Country Strong."
And to think I was just going to write off all this knowledge as useless.
The topic of this week's trivia is useless information.
1. Who played Cosmo Kramer on the TV series "Seinfeld"?
2. What song was "Weird Al" Yankovic parodying in his 1980s-era song "Yoda"?
3. Who served as vice president under Jimmy Carter?
4. Who wrote "Siddhartha" and "Steppenwolf"?
5. Who played Marian Paroo in the 1962 film "The Music Man"?
6. How tall is the Gateway Arch?
7. What museum has the Grant Wood painting "American Gothic" in its collection?
8. What cartoonist does the comic strip "Doonesbury"?
9. What citrus fruit gives Earl Grey tea its flavor?
10. Who's life is the subject of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Evita"?
ANSWERS: 1. Michael Richards. 2. "Lola" by The Kinks. (Michael Richards and Weird Al were both in a movie called "UHF." 3. Walter Mondale. He later ran for president. 4. Hermann Hesse. 5. Shirley Jones. She also played the mother on "The Partridge Family," won an Academy Award for her role in "Elmer Gantry," and played Drew Carey's girlfriend for a few episodes of "The Drew Carey Show." 6. 630 feet. 7. The Art Institute of Chicago. It also houses "Song of the Lark" by Jules Breton and "Nighthawks" by Edward Hopper. 8. Garry Trudeau. He is married to television journalist Jane Pauley. 9. The Bergamot orange. 10. Eva Peron.
Shawn Clubb is managing editor of the Suburban Journals for St. Louis and St. Charles counties. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.