Stupid Tuesday questions, Freedom 90 edition

Christy Turlington.  Linda Evangelista.  Naomi Campbell.  Cindy Crawford.  Tatjana Patitz.  Claudia Schiffer.  Yasmeen Ghauri.  Elaine Irwin.  Karen Mulder.  Niki Taylor.

That list is from memory (with a few spellings checked after I got it completed.)1-Vogue.100thAnniversary

(I even got the spellings right.)

When I was in high school, I worked in a bookstore.  More specifically, I worked in a bookstore that was slowly dying.  It had once been a thriving business (I have memories of going there as a small child and sitting happily in their children’s section, leafing through the selections), but by the time I got the job its best days were long gone, as was the case for a lot of the merchants in that shopping center.  We didn’t get a whole lot of customers many days.

On the one hand, this was sad.  I really liked that store, and it was depressing to watch its slow lurch toward decrepitude and eventual shuttering.  On the other hand, it was a perfect job for me.  I could sit there and get my studying done, with plenty of time to spare.

And there was plenty of time to spare.  In a store full of reading material, much of it replenished on a weekly basis when the various magazine shipments came in.  Lots and lots and lots of them.  I would start at one end of the shelf and work my way to the other, after which I had a nice pile of stuff to peruse in the hours to come.

This was when I got hooked on comic books, an interest that would eventually wane in the middle of medical school some years later.  But I read everything.  News and general interest and entertainment and fitness and fashion.  Lots and lots of fashion magazines.

It was during this time that American Vogue published its 100th issue.  To celebrate this momentous milestone, it assembled the top ten supermodels to pose together for the cover.  (This being the early 90s, supermodels were an actual thing.)  That cover photo was the most captivating, coruscating piece of tinfoil for the magpie in my soul.  It appealed to the completist in me (top ten! all of them!) and the absolute sucker that I am for glamour.  Thenceforth I would look for them as I paged through the various photo shoots and advertisements in Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar.

[Brief aside: Of all of them, Christy Turlington was one of the most prominent in terms of how often I saw her face.  Years later, the Better Half and I were sitting one night in the little French bistro around the corner from our apartment in New York and in she strolled with her husband and some other guy.  They sat two tables away.  Allow me to correct anyone who thinks models aren’t really all that beautiful in real life.  Christy Turlington is ridiculously beautiful.  And even though we didn’t speak a word to her, we now refer to her as Our Close Personal Friend Christy Turlington.]

Over twenty years later, I can still name all ten from memory.

I remark on this for two reasons:

1) That is deeply, ludicrously gay.  Between yesterday’s post and today’s, this is apparently one of my “flame on!” weeks.  Kathy Shaidle would have a field day.

2)  That little bit of cognitive flotsam may be the most idiotic, useless fact I know, seemingly cemented forever somewhere in my limbic system.  Being able to name the top ten supermodels of 1992 is a life skill so stupid as to be almost profound.

So that’s this week’s Question (though I suspect I may have asked a similar one at some time in the past) — what is the single most utterly worthless thing you know?  What occupies space in your gray matter that’s almost embarrassing for its presence?  What can you scarcely believe you have retained?

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72 thoughts on “Stupid Tuesday questions, Freedom 90 edition

  1. Probably something record-related. I have a friend that can perfectly recall Rolling Stone letter grades for many albums released in the 80’s and 90’s (and I have checked his work).

    I never worked in a bookstore, but I worked in the mall from the time I was 18 until I was 24 or so, and I would spend most breaks and lunches at the bookstore. I would read entire long novels there, a few pages per break.

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  2. Tough question.

    I sort of consider myself to be a failed academic/artist and somewhat successful lawyer. I’m also exactly the type of person for whom a small liberal arts college education was designed for. Happiness is a course catalogue. Hence I have a lot of knowledge in the arts and humanities and such. This tends to impress/intimidate people. On a second date with one woman last year, we went to the Legion of Honor/Fine Arts Museum in SF and she was kind of wowed by that I could recall minor Greek myths by heart. Not the major stories but Endymion and Selene.

    I’m also a firm believer in education for the sake of education and have rather strong and unpopular opinions about the over practicalization/vocationalization of college/university education. I’m a bit baffled by 18 year olds who choose to study very practical subjects like marketing, accounting, business, supply side management. Don’t they have any passions or interests? Does English class just fill them with tears of boredom? On the other hand, maybe they were more practical than me and are more easily employable.

    So I get into a lot of debates where people tell me that studying the arts and humanities is a privilege and only for the rich and look at me like a lording aristocrat. Others have told me that they could study and read on their own and did not need English 101 or the seminar table. While I know a lot of people who are wealthy enough to be “independently employed in the arts”, I also had a lot of friends in college and grad school who grew up nearly destitute and still managed to study the arts and humanities in undergrad and beyond.

    In short, I guess a lot of people would say that my entire arts and humanities background is largely worthless but I strongly disagree.

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    • I not only know about Endymion and Selene, I know that Tithonus ends up as a cricket.

      Greek mythology is another area where I have a preposterous recall of useless facts, but those at least have some vague cultural resonance. It is unlikely that I will ever recognize a reference to Karen Mulder in a sonnet.

      If you disagree that something is worthless, then it doesn’t count. It has to be something that you know and that you recognize yourself as being patently without any value whatsoever.

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    • Recalling minor myths is just part of the job description for a friend of mine.

      You’ve never heard someone wax poetic about finding loopholes and little accounting tricks… It’s, actually, kinda fun to see someone passionate about something so prosaic.

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    • you assume marketing isn’t fun, bro. (it is!)

      i alphabetize my albums and then place them in chronological order. and can do this 90% from memory. including lps and eps released in the same year from the same artist.

      my big hang up is how to handle side projects – do you stick with your alpha order or do some side projects contain so much of one artist (e.g. bonny prince billy / palace music) that it’s simply an extension of their body of work and thus goes in chronologically. i am not really sure how to do this best yet, despite being at it for a few decades now.

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      • it’s simply an extension of their body of work and thus goes in chronologically.

        Good god man, project name is inviolate; it is atomic, and cannot be split! That way lies madness!

        But I feel your pain. Which is why I sometimes append side projects after whatever I consider the “main” or parent project. Which violates alpha (and could theoretically violate chronology, depending on which releases I own, though in practice I don’t believe this has ever occurred). Can also be problematic for collaborations.

        The real question is, are you 100% alpha/chron, or do you separate genres taxonomically (I do: ex. my electronic stuff is separate from pop/rock, but many dance/disco type bands are judgement calls, and may go under either pop/rock or electronic, mostly depending on amount of vocals and how the vocals are treated)?

        I may have mentioned that I used to use a custom system known only to me (though my wife got it), but past a certain size it got way too unwieldy to maintain.

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      • “Marketing is only fun when you use 9-11 footage in it.”

        this from the person who cannot possibly stop trying to make pittsburgh happen, no matter the topic?


        i can’t do separation by genre, in part because the categories are too capricious to use. ok so figure you go

        electronic > idm > glitch

        ?

        or is it electronic > glitch > idm to separate out stuff like oval who are probably more properly understood as experimental/annoying.

        however, i do separate broadly by genre with my digital collection, most of which is my cds ripped to flac or (these days) bought directly from the artist (preferably in flac.) but it’s kind of a nonsensical separation, with electronic being divided into “ambient”, “classic”, “spazz”, “technoid” and “what”. (e.g. eno is ambient; autechre is classic; venetian snares is spazz, speedy j is technoid and coil is what)

        it’s a sticky issue, to be sure.

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      • Oh man, I used to get that crazy in my custom system…and I’d use hybrids as links (like, Pole could function as a bridge between a section of “glitch” and one of “dub”). But now, broadly, ambient, IDM, glitch, techno, electro, etc. are just all together alpha by artist under the “electronic” side of the shelves.

        I haven’t messed much with classification on the digital side.

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      • i think there’s a case to be made that too broad a classification system (rock / electronic / pop) is useless as a sorting system, especially with hybrids. where does genghis tron go? what about, i dunno, cluster? etc.

        i once accidentally bored the living life out of this poor friend of a friend on this topic many a year ago (the issue at hand was the gescom minidisc; did it get sorted differently because it was a pain in the butt size-wise? or due to format? etc.) and he finally got up the courage to ask where his gorillaz cds would go. i said “that’s easy – the trash”.

        in my defense i was very drunk. but also in my defense, gorillaz.

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      • Yeah, but you have to balance the utility of the sort, against the physical realities of the space. If you’ve allocated x amount of space to, say, glitch, and you overrun your glitch space, you not only have to rearrange glitch, but whatever neighboring genres have to have their borders redrawn to accommodate glitch overflow. And after a certain point, that gets tedious.

        The broader the classification, the more forgiving its internal space allocation requirements are, which means less time spent rearranging (fun in a small to medium size collection, but in a large one, more trouble than it’s worth – like moving house every couple months).

        But yeah, even as broad as I have it now, stuff still gets screwy. Drone-y stuff primarily produced using guitars? Probably under rock. Produced primarily using synths? Probably under electronic.

        Who would be able to tell the difference between them, or care, besides me? Probably nobody.

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      • Yeah, basically (well, CD’s too, so plastics as well) .

        Too many genres means too many space allocation requirement variables to track on the fly, and offers too many decision points, resulting in too much time spent agonizing over proper filing.

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      • “But yeah, even as broad as I have it now, stuff still gets screwy. Drone-y stuff primarily produced using guitars? Probably under rock. Produced primarily using synths? Probably under electronic.”

        yeah but what do you do with the pansonic/charlamagne palestine mort aux vaches cd? it’s both! :)

        i used to tell my wife (who does not understand this, though she orgs books by period, then author, non-chron) that my musical taxonomy was actually an attempt to approximate my relation to the creative mind manifested as artifacts in the physical world. and the rearrangement of these artifacts was a one sided dialogue comprised of emotional and aesthetic reactions filtered through a verbal mesh.

        she asked if i was stoned.

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  3. what is the single most utterly worthless thing you know?

    This is my answer to many of your questions, but how much time ya got? Let’s start with the Civil War, the 30 Years War, and World War One, and move on from there. It’s not for nothing that my girlfriend jokingly calls me Cliff Clavin.

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  4. When the Giants (very, very stupidly) traded Jack Clark to the Cardinals in 1985, in return they got Jose Uribe, David Green, Dave LaPoint, and Gary Rajsiche.

    I can also, for any Beatles song, tell you which album it was on (if any) in both the US and the UK (e.g I Saw Her Standing There: Please Please Me in the UK, Meet The Beatles in the US.)

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  5. I remember far too many useless sports moments. Does anyone remember the time Joe Orsulak tried to dig a ball out of the corner in a windy Shea stadium and ended up with a handful of papers which he then tried to fire into the infield only to have the papers fly back in his face? Because I do. Vividly.

    I’m also convinced that every real life situated can be related to either “The Simpsons” or “Seinfeld”. And I try to prove this. Constantly.

    Did you know that the ‘dot’ atop the lowercase i and j is called a tittle? I did.

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  6. I’m no longer a Trekkie, but I was as a kid, and I can still remember the actual titles of all the classic series episodes.

    I tend to remember everything about music I’ve really listened to, even I’ve I’ve only really listened to it once… not just the artist or composer or lyrics (if there are any), but base lines, drum fills, counter melodies, chord progressions, etc. I have been told this is unusual.

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  7. This is one of those things where getting a grownup job has really cramped my style.

    D&D, Pro Wrestling, Batman… I used to be able to rattle off trivia like hit dice, undercards, and bit players.

    Sadly, I’ve become a collector who never cracks the case of the stuff he buys.

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  8. Hrmm.

    I can recite the first 18 lines of the General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales by heart….in Middle English.

    It was a required task for senior year English back in HS… and I’d rather not admit to how many years ago that was. I also remember parts of Hamlet which I was required to memorize.

    But the Middle English is truly useless.

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  9. FYI – that issue was the 100th “Anniversary” issue.

    I look at knowing the supermodels names as a victory that my memory is still intact…..

    Sadly, My knowledge bleeds from 100th issue to all of the big moments back then…..the george michael videos, all of the episodes of style with elsa klench or cindy on MTV and even Fashion Television………

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  10. I remember enough of the APL programming language to still write code for the 25-year-old toy interpreter that I’ve ported to whatever computer is on my desk (and even a toy interpreter on 32-bit hardware can do non-toy things). And enough of the vagaries of 25-year-old C to do the porting. Although, since the wife has said I should order a Nexus 7 in honor of the impending 60th birthday and Christmas, and there are C compilers and terminal windows for Android, I suppose I get the chance to be the world’s only Android APL\11 user. So maybe it’s not so worthless….

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  11. I used to resent and find useless all the biochem / molecular bio knowledge I’d accumulated (mostly because it shoved other far more interesting things out of my brain). But I’ve actually been able to help students better a couple of times in the last few years, because of it, so I’m not sure I have an answer to your question anymore. I tend to forget things quickly if I don’t have a reason to remember them.

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  12. Jingles. Oh the horror of Jingles. I have an abominable memory but if you set something to a tune I’ll remember it for eternity.
    “If you’re a person on the go write down this number,
    it’s the key to travelling quick,
    it’s Casino Taxi’s number,
    429-6666
    or 425-6666”

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  13. I am such a font of useless knowledge that it’s hard to pick just one thing. But off the top of my head, I’d go with this one, if only because I’ve known about it since I was a small child:

    Spiro Agnew, Nixon’s veep, can have the letters in his name re-arranged to spell “grow a penis”.

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  14. I thought of one! I know the difference between a Derby and Oxford shoe is where the eyelet tabs are placed. In an Oxford, they are under the vamp. On a Derby shoe, they are on top of the vamp.

    All this would do is make me a character in a modern-day comedy of manners. “My god! Did you see he was wearing Derbies! The Holiday kafeklatch clearly called for Oxfords.”

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