This Mental Floss trivia quiz will give your mind a bit of a workout, unless you're a hockey savant. I got all but five, which isn't bad ... even though I'm kicking myself for missing the St. Louis Blues!
I have a reputation for being a trivia buff, and that was in place well before the appearances I used to make on Crosstalk on CBC’s Radio Noon.
I was an early adopter of Trivial Pursuit (and played it like a blood sport, on occasion), cut my teeth on Reach For The Top (I went to Gonzaga, where we actually trained for those matches) and always look forward to an annual competition between local companies and employers that raises money for a St. John’s school.
“It must be nice to have a head full of useless knowledge” is one of the snippier things that’s been said to me over the years.
Well, instead of “useless,” I would call it general knowledge, and I’d go a little further, too. Being good at trivia, in my mind, means you’re good at paying attention. Details are important in life, and trivia is where the detail-minded can romp and play.
I think people confuse “trivia” with “trivial,” and to me they’re entirely different things. Trivial may mean meaningless, but trivia is exactly about meaning, and about learning and being curious.
This week, some sites I like for feeding this cat’s curiosity habit.
Mental Floss This magazine comes to our house courtesy of a recurring gift subscription from my wife, but the website is a routine stop, too. Where else can you take an invigorating quiz, read up on a celebrity who just died, learn some ancient yet lurid details from mythology and have a chuckle about a funny fact or two? Right here. It’s obsessed with lists, embraces the high-minded and low-brow, and knows how to laugh at itself. The blogs are my starting point. Dive in.
Today I Found Out How boring – and, yes, meaningless – life would be if we didn’t or couldn’t learn at least one new thing every day. Today I Found Out has that sense of wonder that comes from learning a new bit of knowledge, whether it’s Halloween lore or the morbid, murderous history of actor Woody Harrelson’s father.
Unnecessary Knowledge One slice of human history - or natural history and such – is served up at a time, with a cartoon character as your guide. Want more? Tap the “generate” key on top, or just hit the R key. You’re welcome to submit your own, but the owners approve what the public gets to see.
Wise Geek Who are the Generation Y kids? How can warts be treated? What are those fava beans that Hannibal Lecter liked so much? These are some of the questions that Wise Geek aims to answer, often to plain-as-day subject matter that some people may nonetheless need explained. The downside? It’s overpeppered with word ads, which is most annoying.
Junk Worth Knowing Yes, I know I said only a few paragraphs ago that I discount those who sniff at trivia as being trivial. But I also nod with fellow trivia types who self-deprecatingly joke about the chase for random bits of information. That is, junk … worth knowing, as this site puts it. The sad thing? This site hasn’t been updated since early 2009. The good thing? There’s still a ton to read, and learn about.
List of misconceptions Napoleon wasn’t that short, the Plymouth Rock Pilgrims didn’t wear buckles and steeple hats and the Great Wall of China wasn’t visible during the moon landing. From Wikipedia, a list of other fallacies and misunderstandings that have continued to prevail. (And who doesn’t just love being the pedant at the dining table who constantly corrects others?)
Misconception Junction Still need more? Here’s a site that focuses not just on gaining knowledge, but on correcting errors. Which, after all, is an essential part of the pedantic lifestyle!
Are there sites I should know about? Get in touch, and check out my blog for miscellaneous things I find during the course of the week.
From Paint Your Wagon to Unforgiven to Million-Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood has had quite the career. Test yourself at this CBC trivia quiz; I got (ahem) 10 out of 10, although I was assisted by luck on two of them.
How well do you know your Simpsons character? Not just the easy ones, either. This Simpsons quiz will be fun for Springfield fans: you have 63 faces to identify, and 10 minutes in which to do it. I was relieved - having watched the show steadily for years - to get them all right. Have fun.
With David Letterman & co. back on the air (to varying degrees of success; Letterman has his writers back, too, and the difference between strike-bound shows is obvious), CBC.ca's arts page offers late-night television as its latest quiz. Tune in here.
On Friday, on Radio Noon's Crosstalk Trivia, host Chris O'Neill-Yates and I did a show about misheard lyrics. [Well, part of a show. A network news special on the Conrad Black verdict pre-empted the first half-hour.] To recognize just a few of the doozies that we heard about on-air - or via e-mails solicited via Facebook and this blog - here is a playlist built on lyrics that weren't quite heard correctly:
Deep Purple: Smoke on the Water. If I've counted correctly, six people either misheard the chorus for this FM staple themselves, "knew a friend" who did (a familiar phrase) or were aware of it. Instead of "Smoke on the fire/ Fire in the sky" - easy enough, you'd think - people heard something like "Slow talkin' Walter/ Fire engine guy." A popular variation: "Slow motion Walter." Poor Walter.
The Beach Boys: Help Me, Rhonda. From Peter Cowan - a bright young man working with CBC Radio in Happy Valley-Goose Bay - one of the lines that got a big laugh. The opening line actually is, "Well, since she put me down, I've been out doin' in my head." Peter passed in this variation: "Since you put me down, there's been owls puking in my bed."
The Beatles: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. A whole bunch of people either misheard this one, or knew someone else who did ... Instead of "a girl with kaleidoscope eyes," the misheard lyric was "a girl with colitis goes by." Makes about as much sense.
Cornershop: Brimful of Asha. Andrew Davidson phoned in all the way from Toronto to chat up the Norman Cook (a.k.a. Fatboy Slim) remix of this English tune, which was a big hit a decade or so ago. The problem? He didn't know the chorus at all, which indeed made it hard while he was teaching it to a group of non-English-speaking kids at an international school in Switzerland. So he improvised, and just sang some gibberish. Years later, Andrew learned the chorus: "Everyone needs a bosom for a pillow." Which, incidentally, Bob Hallett of Great Big Sea has cited as one of his favourite lyrics. (And a trivia point: Ben Ayres, half of Cornershop, was born in St. John's in 1968.)
Steve Miller Band: Jet Airliner. I received two notes about the chorus of Jet Airliner. Heidi Quinn knew a classmate in high school who would sing: "Guido, Jed & Lionel, don't carry me too far away." My colleague Rick Barnes told me he knew of bands that would be asked to play "Big Old Jam in the Line-up."
That's just a sample. We got so many, indeed, I'm inclined to revive the theme in the months to come. Stay tuned. In the meantime, click on the Saturday Playlists link below to see other posts in this queue.
This week on Crosstalk Trivia on CBC's Radio Noon from St. John's, we're all about the mondegreens ... that is, the song lyrics that we didn't quite hear correctly. If you thought Creedence Clearwater Revival were singing about a "bathroom on the right" in Bad Moon Rising, you're far alone.
Tune in Friday afternoon after the 1:30 news (that's Nfld time) on your radio, and if you're living away from Newfoundland and Labrador, you can tune us in here over the web. Call in if you like, and yes, we take long-distance calls!
Host Chris O'Neill-Yates and I have plenty of examples already. Here's a story my wife told me about.
In 1982, when she was taking a summer break between university semesters, she was visiting a friend in England. One evening, while they were watching Top of the Pops or some other music show, they saw the song I've Never Been to Me being performed. If you're not familiar with it; it's no big loss ... although it is really funny in a mawkish kind of way. It got its comeuppance, and then some, with Hugo Weaving in the opening minutes of the Australian drag comedy The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. (Click here to watch it.)
Anyway, Martha's friend's mother entered the room while the song was playing, and when the chorus was sung, she said something to the effect of, "How silly ... who would feel sad about never having been to Leeds!"
Got a story? Leave it here in the comments, e-mail it to me (johngushue at gmail.com) or call in to the show. Cheers.
Dot Dot Dot is Morse code for the letter 'S,' the full message Guglielmo Marconi claimed to have received atop Signal Hill in St. John's in 1901. It ushered in the age of telecommunications. My maternal grandfather worked as a telegraph operator for Canadian Marconi on Signal Hill for many years.
As well, I have a habit of overusing the ellipsis when I write ... as frequent readers might notice.