Historical insight into Trivia
The Lawrentian, February 7, 1975.
The study of the obscure has always been one of man's obsessions. From the King lists of the Egyptians to the New York telephone directory, humans have been cataloging useless data in an irrational flurry that has lasted for centuries.
But where did it all start? Swedish anthropologist Sphilt Knöckers offers his hypothesis; "Man is a social animal, therefore he rationalizes his actions through art. This art is manifest in all types of human nature, such as table manners. When we first discovered Hawaiian man in 1897 we were convinced that this was the true link between Homo Sapiens and common table catsup. Further research, proved us wrong."
The riddle of the Sphinx was perhaps the first true Trivia question. The curious stone image has asked its queer conundrum for ages. Its translation is: "The pause that refreshes." Bedouin bandits took this as an open invitation to rifle the nearby pyramids. But to the Greeks this had a special meaning. In his "Ramblings on Triangles," Pythagoras summed it up: "Well me and the guys were, uh, you know, drinking hemlock and exchanging togas when Pisaritus the Skinny says, 'hey, why don't we check out the new tragedy at the Orpheum'..."
In Rome, for years Cicero was ostracized for his offensive collection of Hannibal jokes. With a rousing 290 to 3, the Centuriate Council of 100 voted to seal Cicero's mouth with a live bird in it. Cruel but fair justice was the Centuriate's forte.
By the Dark Ages those who could still read were either very old or needed glasses. In monasteries throughout France monks with bald heads and smelly feet burnt the midnight oil all day translating the Bible into Esperanto. Their thankless labors were never recognized by Pope Innocent III as he died of the Plague shortly after converting to Zoroastrianism.
In the 18th century people in the know were all reading Diderot's Encyclopedia for the message in between the lines. The message was, "What are you doing, you moron, are you trying to ruin your eyes?" Great minds from all over Europe contributed to this first scientific collection of knowledge. The laundry lists of King Tut, the density of mud, the discovery of children, and other hard hitting articles aroused in the philosophers such excitement that the original press run of six sold briskly (some are still available if you act now).
When in the 1870s the typewriter was invented, the study of the obscure took a giant step forward. Correspondence between trivial minds increased even more sharply when the ribbon and the keyboard were introduced. Writers grappled with such questions as; When will John Foster Dulles be born? While right and leftist economists hotly debated which one really was the "invisible hand" of Adam Smith.
Trivials, Slavophiles, and Presbyterians alike delighted with the announcement that Kerensky had escaped the Bolsheviks and was safely installed in Dayton, Ohio as a Duncan yo-yo champ. But thus optimism was swiftly washed away when, in 1922, Washington published the text of the Franco-Chevy alliance, the direct results of which were better mileage and an extension of the Maginot Line to Detroit.
Turning to America; though it is generally acknowledged that Calvin Coolidge had all the charisma of a potato, it must be admitted that he was a lousy president. This however, didn't stop him from exercising his power over everything within his sphere. Dogs, children, and furniture all suffered from his adenoidal wrath. When Coolidge died (shortly before taking office) real trivia died with him.
A couple of notes on the 10th Annual Midwest Trivia Contest from Ali-Ak Basim and the Flatfoot Melody Boys. Wisconsin Bell has been marvelously cooperative with the Trivia staff in providing most every building in the Fox Valley with a telephone. The Rumanian Army is here to see that they are used. Stan Cola has been kind enough to provide trivia staff and all the volunteer workers (that means you guys) with an endless supply of their tuna flavored product (it's hard to get rid of). Their oft quoted motto is: "You like it... it's not too crazy about you." We don't even have to advertise their product though it comes in easy no pour bottles and is available wherever fine furniture polish is sold. And remember, if you don't drink it, it'll stunt your growth.