Monday, January 7, 2008

Eight eight eight eight

When I was a kid, I had a cheap green paperback, probably picked up at a library sale somewhere, called Salted Peanuts. It was 100 pages or so of what we now call factoids -- little nuggets of interesting or surprising information. Although I can't recall any of them off the top of my head thirty years on, I'll bet that some of the random information stuffed in the crannies of my brain originated in its pages. I read it over and over. (On its Amazon page, a reviewer shares some of the less PC entries: "A housewife can order a left-handed measuring cup if she so desires," "An Eskimo and his wife can build an igloo in an hour," "Over 85 percent of Negros are Southern Baptist," etc. I wondered where I got that Eskimo igloo-building estimate I've always used as a rule of thumb.)

The other day, Noel received an advance copy of Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac in the mail. Just before bedtime, I cracked it open and took a look.

And then 45 minutes later, after several "just one mores," we reluctantly closed it and went to sleep.

If you like cleverly constructed quizzes full of random yet fascinating information -- and if you don't, sir, you are no friend of mine -- then you need to buy this squarish doorstop as soon as it is released, one week from today. Ken Jennings (our virtual best friend and all-around right-thinking person) has two or three trivia quizzes for every single day of the year. Just through January 6, we got:
  • Match this movie with the milestone it represents in film history (first featuring Dolby sound? first edited on the Avid digital platform?).
  • Take a book, movie, or TV show titled with first names, change it to the character's last names -- now see if you can name the work (e.g. "DeFazio and Feeney").
  • Name the only two Republican presidents who ascended to the Oval Office after serving two full terms as vice president.
... and so on, for page after addicting page -- the title of this post alludes to the 8,888 questions promised on the cover. (I mention the last bullet point because I am hopeless at understanding anything related to the succession of presidents, as well as at puzzling out what year something must have happened in history, so Noel had a good chuckle at my expense as I tried to narrow it down. Also I hope I am remembering correctly that there were only two. Please check my work.)

I always remember the little blurb on the back of that tattered paperback that explained the title. Salted peanuts, it said, are something you can't have just one of; you find yourself reaching for another, and another, and another. Restricting ourselves to one day's allotment of these quizzes at a time is going to be like passing up another handful of salted peanuts.


Eric Grubbs said...

The first two sentences in this post sound like one of those "Ask the AV Club" questions. Or is that just me?

katie j. said...

I'm now craving trivia and salted peanuts. Darn it.

Adam Villani said...

I actually grabbed some salted cashews halfway through reading this.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Years and years ago when a college prof. I had lamented that without reading the classics, what would be people have in common, what would they talk about? Even then, in the pre-internet stone age I thought, well, um, media and popular culture. It seemed so obvious to me and yet he was genuinely distraught.
The problem with the writer's strike is that it sucks most of the quality out of pop culture.