Mind games

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Trivia is a highly valued commodity in our culture. Just think of all the pastimes that revolve around it: “Jeopardy,” trivia nights at bars, Trivial Pursuit, um…yeah. Regardless, I firmly believe that we prize random facts if for no other reason than to satisfy the basic desire within us to impress the people we want to impress with the unexpected party trick that we know. For example, who Mary Queen of Scots was sleeping with in 1565 (Lord Darnley). Further evidence of this cultural pastime is the proliferation of quiz sites on the Interwebs.

The very best of which is perhaps Sporcle, a site that hosts (and posts) what it calls “mentally stimulating diversions.” Sporcle has got some nerd stuff, some pop culture stuff, some history stuff, some basic knowledge stuff. It’s a site that can quiz you on whether you are average, below average, or above average, when it comes to the facts your brain contains. Of course, the possible number of facts for your brain to contain is infinite, so Sporcle posts new quizzes every day, just to keep you on your toes. For example, in the more esoteric department, you can quiz yourself on people who have won the Grammy for Best New Artist, on Famous Fivesomes, on the States of Germany, Famous Sidekicks, or French Open Tennis Champs. In the basic knowledge department, you can quiz yourself on state capitals, countries of the world, the Periodic Table, and “The Simpsons.”

Never fear, however, if you are stupider according to Sporcle than you think you are (as I have found that I am): You can always practice. If you get stuck, Sporcle will give you the answers and you can take the test again another day. Then, before you know it, you will be the proud knower of all the Cereal Mascots you could ever want to know.

 

 

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Mind games

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Every day I seem to realize anew that people are crazy. Every day this elicits from me some comment to some person along the lines of “People are crazy,” “It blows my mind how crazy people are,” or “How do people walk around all day inside these brains? They’re crazy!” Inevitably, my companion accepts these statements as fact and contributes a comment of her own along those same lines. The blog Swallowing the Camel is something of an extended ode to such everyday insanity.

The blog describes itself as taking on the mission of “examining hoaxes, scams, schemes, bizarre ideas, bogus products, disinformation, misinformation, impractical jokes, literary fraud and anything else that smells bad.” I mean, I read some of this stuff and I have enough justification to call people crazy every day for the rest of this life and my next life and the life after that. For example, new stories about the real-life Thelma and Louise, a biography of an “anti-gravity pioneer,” evil reptiles who rape people and give them cancer…

The crowning achievement of the site is its list of “The World’s Weirdest/Stupidest Conspiracy Theories.” The blog is anonymous, so I have no idea what qualifications this person has to judge what is weirder than what, but I’m really in no position to judge. Among my favorites? “Stephen King killed John Lennon.” “George H.W. Bush was really George Scherff Sr., a Nazi sent to destroy America as a teenager and adopted by Prescott Bush.” “The early Middle Ages…never occurred. Everything that supposedly happened during those years was either a misunderstanding, an event from a different era, or an outright lie—Charlemagne, for instance, is a fictional figure.”

Crazy, right? Or am I just being all “glass half empty”? Maybe I should feign delight and say instead, “Ah, the power of our imaginations!”

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