In the news · Trivia

Trivia, quizzing and a sense of purpose

On the BBC2 quiz show “Only Connect” at the start of the year there was a brief exchange between the host, Victoria Coren Mitchell, and one of the team captains about having a sense of purpose. The episode was broadcast on 1 January and it has played on my mind ever since, enough to make me transcribe what was said. The exchange was prompted by a mention of Elon Musk (founder of the electric car company Tesla) and went as follows.

Victoria Coren Mitchell: Elon Musk, the man who believes, according to an interview, that we probably live in a computer simulation. If we were inside a computer simulation would we be able to work out that we were?

John Howe, captain of the Snake Charmers: But if we’re in a computer simulation we might have a sense of purpose.

VCM: My word, that’s nihilistic. Do you not feel that you have a sense of purpose?

JH: No.

VCM: Is that why you play quizzes?

JH: Yes

VCM: It can be like that. I feel like that about Crosswords. It gives meaning and order to the universe. On this gloomy note let’s move on to the next question …

Trivia and quiz questions occupy my mind a lot, as the 61 items in my Trivia category suggest, but I have never thought of them as giving life a sense of purpose. Maybe I should, and maybe they do. Thinking about Trivia has, at the very least, changed my approach to news stories, and to the piles of newspapers that still accumulate surprisingly quickly even though I no longer buy a daily paper. I now flick through old papers quicker than ever before. I still read the articles that I’m interested in, or set them aside to read later, but I also apply a quizzer’s filter to the other pages, and to news stories on the radio and TV. Is there any information there that is likely to come up in a quiz? If not, move on.

This week, the kind of things that I have learnt, and which might come up again in quizzes, include Kendrick Lamar’s album “DAMN” winning the Pulitzer Prize for Music and the death of the queen’s corgi Willow. Willow was the last corgi descended from Susan, a gift to the then Princess Elizabeth on her 18th birthday. The royal family has also kept “dorgis”, which are a cross between a corgi and a dachshund. You can imagine the kind of questions that these news stories might prompt in future:

  1. Whose album, “DAMN”, was the first rap record to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music?
  2. What breed of dog was Willow, the queen’s pet who died in April 2018?
  3. What was the name of Kendrick Lamar’s album which won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Music?
  4. A “dorgi” is a cross between a corgi and what other breed of dog?

The answers to these four questions are in the paragraph that preceded them but in case you skimmed through it and don’t want to scroll back to find them, here they are:

  1. Kendrick Lamar
  2. Corgi
  3. “DAMN”
  4. Dachshund

Over the last few weeks I have been drafting some rather lengthy Trivia pieces, covering a year’s worth of Pop Master questions and recent series of “Tenable” and “Who Dares Wins”. They have become a little unwieldy and need trimming and finalizing. I see that a whole month went by, up to 11 April, without any additions to my Trivia category. Maybe this piece will inspire to me to complete those drafts, with a sense of purpose.




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