Playlist 9 -- Trivia, Heads, Ween, 1908

In honor of the top item on this week's playlist, I'm footnoting several trivia tests throughout the blog. You can find the answers at the end.

Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs by Ken Jennings.
This book, published in 2006, follows the Jeopardy champ's long run on the show, which would be fascinating in and of itself. But Jennings also gives a history of trivia and the interesting characters who build their world around it. There's the early radio quiz shows and the Canadians who created Trivial Pursuit, which leads to the sad story of Fred Worth (1). And Jennings fills the book with the trivia nuggets that are footnoted throughout the book -- with answers at the end of each chapter (Hence the reason for this week's post footnotes). A fun, captivating read. Jennings is a very good writer, has a keen wit and never takes himself too seriously. I look forward to his trivia almanac, which should arrive in stores next week.

If you liked this book, here are some other things you may enjoy.

-- Ken Jennings blog.
Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive ScrabblePlayers by Stefan Fatsis.
The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs.

Sedano Show Blog -- Politicians and Athletes.
So, have you wondered which athletes the current slate of presidential candidates are most like? Of course not. But Jorge Sedano, host of a sports talk show on Miami's 790 AM has. And he blogged about it in his latest post. Very interesting. Probably the only time the names John McCain and Allen Iverson will ever reside in the same sentence. A couple dead-on selections -- Huckabee as Kurt Warner and Hillary as Alex Rodriguez. Here's my suggestion. (Note. Although I say this, you need to know that I have a lot of respect for Dennis Kucinich, so while it's a cheap shot, it's one done with love). Anyway, how about Dennis Kucinich as Eddie Gaedel? (2)

The Name of this B
and is Talking Heads. Talking Heads.
I'm not a big fan of live albums. But this one is a killer. It covers two specific time periods 77-79 and 80-81, an era that I consider the band's peak -- before Jonathan Demme, big suits and heavy MTV video rotation. In fact, if you only have one Talking Heads album, I suggest that this one be it. It captures the vibrancy, funkiness and, yes, weirdness that doesn't reveal itself as much on their studio albums. The second disc, covering the later period, has an expanded band, which includes the inventive Adrian Belew on guitar.

La Cucaracha.
Speaking of weirdness. Just like the Ween boys themselves, this CD, their first in a few years, is all over the map. Gene and Dean go from the mariachi garage rock of "Fiesta" to the smooth jazz/R&B vibe of "Your Party." But the album's high point is the 10-minute epic "Woman and Man" that builds into a jam that sounds right off of Santana's first album, which has that memorable title.(3) And it all comes with Ween's craziness and sophomoric humor. Don't take it from me -- even the Lord listed it as his 12th favorite album of the year. [FYI -- Don't click the previous link or listen to La Cucaracha if you're easily offended.]

Other songs I was digging this past week ...
-- The Treasure (Take One), Stephen Stills, Manassas. Stephen and the band rock on this song.
-- Cloudscape, Phillip Glass, Koyaanisqatsi. I don't know why, but this haunted me this past week.
-- Won't Be Home, Rhett Miller, At the Fez 2001 (bootleg). Rhett Miller is a great songwriter, love hearing the Old 97s tunes stripped down.
--Anyone Else But You, Moldy Peaches, Moldy Peaches. The original version of the catchy tune all over the movie Juno.

Smithsonian Magazine article on "1908."
Want to know how fascinating 1908 was? It started with the first ever ball-drop in Times Square. The Wright brothers made major advancements in flying. Adm. Robert Peary set out for the North Pole, while some other guy(4) claimed to have already reached it. Disposable razors and vacuum cleaners made their debuts. The telegraph hinted at a future of wireless communication. In a 14-month voyage, the Navy showed its might, but made friends around the world at the same time. All of this is captured in Jim Rasenberger's engaging article.

FYI -- You need to get the January issue to read the article. The link only goes to a Web piece about the article, but interesting nonetheless.

One final note
A big thank you for the reminders about some books that I accidentally left off my list of favorites read in 2007. The list has been updated.

1. Fred Worth wrote numerous trivia books and sued the makers of Trivial Pursuit. Even though almost 30% of the questions in the original board game came from Worth's books, he lost his suit. Read Jennings' book to find out how "Philip Columbo" played a role in this story.
2. Eddie Gaedel was the dwarf who was famous for his one plate appearance in a major league baseball game in 1951. What was his number? You'll have to read this week's Wikipedia link to find out.
3. Easy one. Santana's first album was named "Santana."
4. Dr. Frederick Cook claimed to reach the North Pole before Adm. Robert Peary.