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Posts Tagged ‘Die Hard

“Trivia is a fact without a home”*…

What makes for a good trivia question? There are some common-sense requirements. It should be clearly written, accurate, and gettable for at least some people. (Acceptable degrees of difficulty vary.) It must be properly “pinned” to its answer, meaning that there are no correct responses other than those the questioner is seeking. (This can be trickier than you might think.) In the opinion of Shayne Bushfield, the creator and sole full-time employee of LearnedLeague, an online trivia community that he has run since 1997, people should recognize the answer to the question as something worth knowing, as having a degree of importance. “Trivia is not the right word for it,” he told me recently. “Because trivia technically means trivial, or not worth knowing, and it’s the opposite.”

The idea that the answers to trivia questions are worth knowing is a matter of some debate, and has been more or less since trivia itself was born. The pop-culture pastime of quizzing one another on a variety of subjects as a kind of game is fundamentally a phenomenon of the past hundred years or so: its first appearance as a fad seems to date to 1927, when “Ask Me Another! The Question Book” was published. As the “Jeopardy!” champion Ken Jennings notes in his book “Brainiac,” “Ask Me Another” was written by “two out-of-work Amherst alumni” living in Manhattan, who “were shocked to find that, despite their fancy new diplomas and broad liberal educations, the job world wasn’t beating a path to their door.” Their book was a hit, and newspapers began running quiz columns, a follow-up of sorts to the national crossword craze of a couple of years before. Quiz shows came to radio and television about a decade later. But none of these games were called trivia until a pair of Columbia undergraduates, in the mid-sixties, shared their version of the game, first in the school’s Daily Spectator and later in their own popular quiz book, which really did prize the trivial: the name of the Lone Ranger’s nephew, the name of the snake that appeared in “We’re No Angels,” and so on. This version of trivia was all about the stuff one had read, listened to, or watched as a kid, and its appeal, according to one of the Columbia pair, was concentrated among “young adults who on the one hand realize they have misspent their youth and yet, on the other hand, do not want to let go of it.” The purpose of playing, he explained, was experiencing the feeling produced when an answer finally came to you, “an effect similar to the one that might be induced by a pacifier.”

Presumably, it has always been satisfying to know things, but the particular pleasure of trivia seems to depend on two relatively recent developments: the constant relaying of new information (i.e., mass media) and the mass production of people who learn a lot of things they don’t really need to know. (College attendance began steadily rising in the nineteen-twenties, before booming after the Second World War.) It is sometimes asked whether the popularity of trivia will diminish in the age of Google and Siri, but those earlier developments have only accelerated, and trivia seems, if anything, more popular than ever. In contrast to the mindless ease of looking up the answer to a question online, there’s a gratifying friction in pulling a nearly forgotten fact from your own very analog brain…

The quietly oppositional delight of knowing things you don’t need to know: “The Pleasures of LearnedLeague and the Spirit of Trivia.”

Don Rittner

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As we revel in the rarefied, we might celebrate the answer to a tough trivia question: today is the birthday of John McClane, the protagonist of the Die Hard films; he was “born” on this date in 1955.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 23, 2021 at 1:01 am

“The worst gift I was given came when I got out of rehab that Christmas; a bottle of wine. It was delicious.”*…

 

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(Roughly) Daily is headed, after this post, into it’s annual Holiday hiatus; regular service will resume on or around January 2.  So, with best wishes for the New Year, these practical tips for dealing with some of the exigencies of the season…

 

A chemistry-themed spice rack [pictured above]: This one really knocks it out of the park. It’s designed to go on the counter, first of all, and it’s fragile, so if you have badly-behaved cats you’re going to have to stress about them shattering all or part of it. In order to use it, people have to conscientiously funnel bulk spices into teeny tiny flasks, which is a pain in the ass. Nine of the thirteen containers are test tubes with curved bottoms so you can’t put them down on the counter and have them stand upright. They have corks as tops so you need two hands to open them and there’s no shaker. Finally — this is really the icing on the cake — they come with cute chemistry-themed labels but while they look like chemical formulas they’re super wrong, like “Salt” is “Sa” instead of NaCl, so if your recipient is a chemist, it is guaranteed to annoy the hell out of them. This is bulky, difficult to use, difficult to store, and also just stupid for its intended purpose…

Just one of the handy tips in Naomi Kritzer‘s “Gifts for People You Hate, 2019.”

And lest one forget oneself, here’s all one needs to know to make a Christmas cinema classic an integral part of one’s own celebration: step-by-step instructions on “How to make your own Die Hard Christmas tree ornament.”

Die Hard

* Craig Ferguson

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As we check things off the list, we might recall that it was on this date in 1946 that Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life premiered.  Featuring Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a small town banker who has given up his dreams to help others, and whose imminent suicide on Christmas Eve elicits the intervention of his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers).  Clarence shows George all the lives he has touched, and how different life in his community of Bedford Falls would have been had George never been born.

The film disappointed at the box office on its release; but it was nominated for five Academy Awards, and has gone on to become a classic, recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American films ever made,

Its_A_Wonderful_Life_Movie_Poster source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 20, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho”*…

 

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Ok, enough bickering and fighting. Let’s settle this once and for all in the only way I know how – going into a topic in way too much detail.

As we prepare to enter the year 32 ADH (a.k.a. After Die Hard), the world is gripped by a constantly nagging question.

No, it’s not “Why does everyone call Hans Gruber and his gang ‘terrorists’ when they were clearly bank robbers?”

Today we’re going to use data to answer the question “Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?”

Along the way, we’re going to test Die Hard’s Christmas bona fides against all movies in US cinemas for the past thirty years, using a variety of methods…

Stephen Follows tackles a perennial poser: “Using data to determine if Die Hard is a Christmas movie.”

[Image above: source… which also weighs in on the Die Hard question.]

* Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), reading what John McClane (Bruce Willis) had written on a dead terrorist’s shirt

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As we just say Yippie-Ki-Yay, we might recall that it was on this date that Phileas Fogg completed his circumnavigation of the globe in Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days.  (As the book was published in 1873, the putative year of the journey was 1871 or 1872.)

In 1888 American journalist Nellie Bly convinced her editor to let her attempt the feat.  She completed her round-the-world journey in 72 daysShe completed her round-the-world journey in 72 days.

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First edition of Verne’s tale

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Your correspondent is headed into his annual Holiday hiatus; Regular service will resume on or around January 2…  Meantime, many thanks to all for reading– and Happy Holidays!

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 21, 2018 at 1:01 am

Lucha Libre!…

Mike Powell and Juergen Horn are living a peripatetic dream…

We’re lucky enough to have jobs that don’t require a steady address and since we both love traveling, we’ve decided to see the world… slowly. Always being tourists would get lame, but eternal newcomers? We can live with that. So, our plan is to move to an interesting new city, once every three months. About 91 days.

They are currently in La Paz, and are documenting their stay– from the Valley of the Moon to the inmate-run prison, San Pedro—  on their blog, for91days.com.  The highlight of the visit (at least for your correspondent) is their visit to the the local wrestling palace…

We recently attended the famous Lucha Libre at a sports facility in El Alto. Bolivians are wild for wrestling; posters of famous American wrestlers are everywhere, and you can’t go a block in La Paz without seeing seeing it on a curbside television set. Bolivia doesn’t have a professional league on the same level as the USA’s WWE, but El Alto’s Sunday afternoon Lucha Libre makes a solid substitute….

Rayo Azteco, Hombre Lobo, Mr. Atlas and Commando fought and provided plenty of fun, but the show really got going once the cholitas* were introduced. Alicia Flores was the first to enter, dressed in traditional garb, dancing around the ring to the delight of the fans. Her opponent was a guy, her assistant was a midget woman and, once the fight got going, none of them held back. Face-slapping, ball-grabbing, midget-stomping, high-flying action. It was awesome. At one point, after throwing the guy against the ropes, Alicia lifted her skirt in his face, knocking him to the canvas in shock.

The evening’s highlight was the Cholita vs. Cholita main event: Jenifer Two-Face against La Loca. No one has ever so completely owned her nickname as La Loca. This woman was crazy. As soon as the fight started, it got out of control. La Loca threw Jenifer over the barriers, into the foreigners section. Then she hopped over herself, grabbing coke bottles and spraying them over the crowd, howling like a beast. She kept at it, throwing chairs into the crowd and smashing Jenifer’s face into the bleachers just a meter away from us. Jenifer was a game fighter and brought the match back into the ring, but La Loca was just too loca. Soon enough, foreign objects had entered the melee, and the (fake) blood began to fly. With a little help from the evil ref, La Loca eventually pinned her opponent and exited the arena to the boos, whistles and shocked applause of the crowd.

* “Cholita” was coined by colonialist Spaniards as a denigration of the Andean population– in this feminine form, Andean women– but has since been adopted by the very people it was meant to injure.

 

As we practice our pins, we might recall that it was on this date in 1988 that Die Hard premiered.  Directed by John McTiernan with the precision of a Hong Kong action film, Die Hard was a huge hit; building on lead Bruce Willis’ wise-cracking TV (Moonlighting) persona, and on the precedent of Mel Gibson’s half of the “buddy duo” in the prior year’s hit, Lethal Weapon, it cemented the place of the funny, flawed hero in Hollywood action pictures.  Die Hard introduced American audiences to Alan Rickman… and, of course, made an A-List star of Bruce Willis.

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