Saturday, January 27, 2007

don't you wanna be a brainiac too?

I'm not so sure that i do, at least not if you're defining "brainiac" by the terms of the trivia-buffs encountered in Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs by Ken Jennings the greatest champion in Jeopardy! history (so far). Jennings, as you may or may not remember, spent six months in a 75-game winning streak on the game show Jeopardy!. Brainiac isn't so much a behind the scenes account of his Jeopardy! experience(s) (although there is a bit of that in here) as it is an exploration of the world of trivia.
Although i found the material somewhat interesting i found the author just the teensiest annoying and the book did drag somewhat toward the end. Jennings humor seemed to often miss his mark (though i'm not sure he knew it) and some of his objects were a bit too near to my heart, for instance:
when the Brooklyn public library system announced in 1946 that it would no longer help patrons answer radio quizzes (due to the success of such programs as Ask Me Another! and Break the Bank) "In some cases, [quiz questions] have resulted in actual impairment of morale," the head librarian sniffed."
"He then returned to his various important card-catalog-related duties.*"
"Salt Lake City's bar scene not being exactly what you would call "hopping."*
"Maybe now I can stop being Ken Jennings, nerd folk icon, and just be Ken Jennings, nerd, like I was before. I have finally, as they say in drama classes and twelve-step programs, achieved closure."*
*These are the direct Jennings quotes that for some reason or other hit a particular nerve with me, i'm not sure why, perhaps if he were funnier, perhaps if her were a little more familiar with his subject (for instance: we librarians do much more than card-cataloging~we do much in the service of trivia information~very little of which was mentioned here~ahem; i have lived in Salt Lake City and have spent a good deal of time in its bar/club scene as well as many other cities Mr. Mormon Boy, and though it may not be QUITE as hopping as some, it is not all that bad and since you self-confessedly have little experience in such areas i think you really should not base your opinion on the going urban legend; though i'm sure they speak of closure in twelve-step programs they never spoke of it in ANY of the MANY drama classes I attended (nor were any of my drama experiences similar to anything you describe~NOT that i'm taking anything in this book personally~REALLY. ☺
(boy that was a bit of a rant wasn't it?)
Sometimes i watch the trivia shows like Jeorpardy!, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, 1 vs. 100 and such, and think, oh i could totally do that (i totally need the money, i am so in debt, and that seems SO VERY APPEALING). After reading this book i realized i am really not a trivia buff, for the most part i do not enjoy reading lists of various facts and figures and memorizing them (although i do like leafing through the new Guinness Book of World Records when it comes in~i no longer read the whole thing obsessively like i did when i was a kid, and i also enjoy books of lists and the like) most of the reason that i can answer many of those questions (and certainly not all of them) comes from my actual READING background (why imagine that). Jennings had mentioned that many players of college quiz challenges would sometimes develop an interest in classical music or literature because of the facts they were memorizing about those subjects. I tend to remember the little factoids because of my wide and eclectic reading interests and having been blessed with the ability to retain minute details easily (especially now that i'm making myself blog about each book i read.) Jennings is quick to point out that there are many different kinds and levels of intelligence and that the ability to memorize trivia is not ALWAYS a good gauge of either of those, but that it can exercise those brain muscles.
Brainiac is an interesting read, and Jennings does have his moments (regardless of how i may sound here~i must admit he IS humble~and he even has his moments of witticism). The rest is just stuff and nonsense.

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