Friday, September 21, 2007

Trivial Pursuits

The pursuit of knowledge is a wonderful thing. This constant, insatiable drive to learn, achieve and better ourselves is what’s caused humans to go from lion fodder on the Serengeti to sole dominators of the Earth. The list of human achievements is staggering. People always go on about animals, but animals are rubbish. All they do is shit, shag and sleep.

Humans have created art, philosophy, maths, science, architecture, we’ve fired each other into space for fuck’s sake! I say ‘humans’, but in actual fact it’s the few gifted individuals in every generation. Those revolutionary minds that can unlock the simple beauty behind the great mysteries of the universe. Meanwhile the rest of us lag behind and use their innovations to access porn and blow each other up in even more elaborate ways.

The great works of those who stand on the shoulders of giants are unattainable for most of us mere mortals, so instead we have another way to consol ourselves and feel more intelligent than we actually are: trivia. Trivia is the diluted form of years of hard work and research, distilled and bottled into interesting nuggets that make us simpletons go, ‘Ooh, what an interesting quirky fact about the world we live in’.

And it’s bloody brilliant. Like most people I hoard trivia. Any fact or figure about anything in the world that is vaguely curious goes straight in the trivia bank. Universities don’t do degree programmes in Trivia Studies, which is a shame because it’d be freaking soopoib.

The only factor getting in the way of this happening is the sad fact that trivia is absolutely sodding useless. It’s a real kick in the knackers because I spend all my time filling my head with trivia instead of apparently useful stuff like academic work, an up to date knowledge of my finances and where I keep my passport.

However, whilst trivia may be useless for practical things like earning money and proceeding in life, for recreational purposes it’s perhaps the most useful social tool we mortals have. What conversation is complete without someone dropping in some sparkly pearl of wisdom along the lines of how King Harold’s nickname was Bluetooth (actual fact)?

Mentioning little titbits of information about a wide variety of topics is a good way to start conversation and also create a complete intellectual façade to hide your lack of any substantial knowledge. It must be an attention span thing. My tiny little brain can’t concentrate on things long enough. The people who discovered that sperm have a sense of smell did so after many years of research, blood, sweat, and various other bodily fluids. And in mere seconds I’m able to take that fact and pass it off as something I know. Which must be annoying as hell to the people that put all the work in.

Unfortunately, as with every kind of uninformed oral communication, there’s a hell of a lot of bullshit to be found in the trivia field. When I first watched QI it almost destroyed me. With reckless care and abandon Stephen Fry ridiculed and rubbished trivia that I had previously held as common life-truths. Undeniable facts about the nature of things. Lies. All lies! Now it’s compulsive viewing for trivia fans, it really is quite interesting.

The daddy of all trivia shows though is Mastermind. It’s the Premier Leage for the trivia professionals. Those precious few who truly have made trivia their lives. The pioneers, pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved. They can be spotted in the pub quizzes, the teams who always seem to be there and always seem to double your point score, humbling your own aspirations of trivia skill. They are the renegades, the heroes of pointless knowledge. If only they’d get a real job. I mean, I suppose you could survive for a while on free beer and cash prizes, especially if you stick to a strict eight hour training schedule on pub quiz machines, but that just doesn’t seem healthy…

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