40 Years Ago this year: I Didn’t See This Coming

A little over 40 years ago this year I completed my last semester of high school in 1974 at Murray High School in Murray, Utah. In many respects, it seems like just yesterday, but then there are other pieces that make it seem like it was ages ago. I am amazed at how quickly 40 years has passed!

David 40 years after graduating high school in 1974

David 40 years after graduating high school in 1974

The year 1974 marked a new direction for me and my life as I took many avenues towards the location where I am now, 40 years later. I had no idea in 1974 what the next five years of my life would bring me and how that five years of my life would have a profound impact on the direction and course that the rest of my life has taken me.

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David Kravetz 1974 shortly before graduation

Graduation from Murray High School in Utah in 1974

Graduation from Murray High School in Utah in 1974

Within a year of my graduation I had gotten a new full-time job and I was traveling quite a bit for Alta Distributing, which was a record and tape rack jobber. This began to fulfill my wanderlust of being able to travel on the road while at the same time fulfilling my joy in music.

One year after high school while working for Alta Distributing

One year after high school while working for Alta Distributing

During my senior year of high school I had begun learning about the Mormon church. Most of my friends during my senior year were LDS members and all lived in my general neighborhood. They were amazing examples to me and treated me like a brother which was a defining note in terms of my eventually joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in January 1975.

Hanging with a couple of my friends from high school

Hanging with a couple of my friends from high school (Brett Davies & Scott Brown)

My graduation in May 1974 marked an unusual event for me as it was the only time in all of my school years that both my stepmother Marjorie and my stepfather Joe attended a school event of mine together. One or the other had, on occasion, been to one of my band concerts or other events, but never had both of them shown up together at any of my events until my graduation. The fact that they attended my graduation is absolutely a fond memory for me. I can even remember the steakhouse that they took me out to after graduation that night for my graduation dinner.

A rare photo of my step father Joe Kravetz and my step mother Marge - ca. 1978

A rare photo of my step father Joe Kravetz and my step mother Marge – ca. 1978

Within a year of my graduation I was kicked out of the house for my following the teachings of the Mormon church. Over the years my relationship with my step parents had bounced up and down.  Though never terrible, there was never that real close feeling of being part of a truly connected family. I can’t blame either Marjorie or Joe, as they had many troubles in their lives. They had troubles between each other and then they had the challenges of trying to raise a pretty much dysfunctional family.

Another rare photo - the only known complete family photo of all of the Kravetz Clan - ca. 1978

Another rare photo – the only known complete family photo of all of the Kravetz Clan – ca. 1978

The year 1974 also created memories in relationship to the music that was popular back then as well as some of the movies during that period. There was a great hit by Bachman Turner Overdrive called “Taking Care of Business” which had become popular in 1974 and has remained one of my theme songs throughout my life. Disco began making its moves in 1974 as well and I was (and continue to be) fond of that music genre to this day.

The Hobbit - I was addicted to Tolkien by the end of 1974

The Hobbit – I was addicted to Tolkien by the end of 1974

It was during the spring of 1974 that I had my first dabbling into J.R.R. Tolkien works. I had to read “The Hobbit” in my English class that spring and I don’t believe that I had ever become so engrossed in a book as I did with “The Hobbit” in 1974. Soon thereafter, and also during that semester in school, I read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. Needless to say, I was enthralled by the Lord of the Rings and by J.R.R. Tolkien’s other writings. Even back then, despite the great advances in movie technology, I had to wait over 30 years for the first real Lord of the Rings movie to appear. Interestingly enough, at that time the musical group Chicago had released their sixth album and one of the songs on the album was “Wishing You Were Here“. I listened to that album many many times in 1974 and many of them were down in my deep dark bedroom that had no windows as I read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Even today when I hear that song, as I did back then, it makes me think of Bilbo Baggins wishing Gandalf were there in the lonely cave as he was being chased by Gollum.

Rock Concert shot from 1975 in Salt Lake City

Rock Concert shot from 1975 in Salt Lake City – Neil Diamond

I had my first ventures into arena rock concerts in 1974, attending shows such as Loggins and Messina, the Doobie Brothers, America and Billy Joel. That year Elton John released his album Yellow Brick Road and had a tour associated with it, including one stop at the University of Utah’s arena. I was able to attend that show, and it turned out to be one of my most memorable concerts of all time. It was also in 1974 that I saw a group called Steppenwolf perform in Salt Lake City. At that time the lead guitarist was named Bobby Cochran. Little did I know back then that 35 years later I would be friends with that same Bobby Cochran and would be traveling with him as he performed with Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours. I am grateful to be friends with Bobby, who is a guy and an amazing guitarist.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the time that I have spent with him in our travels.

John Kaye of Steppenwolf in Salt Lake City, 1975

John Kaye of Steppenwolf in Salt Lake City, 1975

Bobby Cochran, then with Steppenwolf in 1975

Bobby Cochran, then with Steppenwolf in 1975

Here I am with Bobby Cochran in 2011

Here I am with Bobby Cochran in 2011

As my schooling in 1974 came to an end, I had become a fairly accomplished saxophone player on both the tenor and baritone saxophones. I was taking lessons from a  well-known jazz musician at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. I actually had dreams of joining a band very similar to Chicago or Blood, Sweat and Tears, and practiced my heart out to do so.

I played the Baritone Sax all through high school

I played the Baritone Sax all through high school

Here I am in 1973 with the Bozeman High School Jazz Band

Here I am in 1973 with the Bozeman High School Jazz Band

But, at that time, little did I know, that my life would change dramatically upon being baptized into the LDS (Mormon) Church. My dreams of becoming a professional rock musician faded away. Within a year from my baptism in January 1975, I was called on a mission and went to serve the church in Nagoya, Japan.

Serving as a missionary in Fuji, Japan 1978

Serving as a missionary in Fuji, Japan 1978

Even on my mission I loved to write and have fun

Even on my mission I loved to write and have fun

That two years of my life in Japan ultimately changed the entire direction of my life. After serving from 1976 to 1978, and upon my return to the states, I have spent a good part of the last 35 years involved in full-time work with Japanese-related businesses and even returned to Japan for four years with my family in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Thanks to my time as a missionary I worked in Japan.  Here I am with then British Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe and Oita Prefecture Mayor Morihiko Hiramatsu

Thanks to my time as a missionary I worked in Japan. Here I am with then British Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe and Oita Prefecture Mayor Morihiko Hiramatsu

I spent three days with Olympic Gold Medalist Nadia Comaneci during her visit to Kyushu in 1990

I spent three days with Olympic Gold Medalist Nadia Comaneci during her visit to Kyushu in 1990

Indeed, Japan is an integral part of my life now and something that did not even occur to me as a senior in high school 40 years ago.

Indeed, Japanese culture is a deep part of my life.  I have the Samurai spirit!

Indeed, Japanese culture is a deep part of my life. I have the Samurai spirit!

Upon my return from Japan, I initially attended Brigham Young University and it was there that my met my eternal sweetheart Julianne Bateman. Just a little over five years after my graduation from high school I was married to her and my life once again took a whole new wonderful direction for me as I began a family of my own. In about one month (as I write this) I will celebrate my 35th anniversary with this wonderful woman!

An early photo of Julianne and me shortly after our engagement in 1979.  Notice...no moustache!

An early photo of Julianne and me shortly after our engagement in 1979. Notice…no mustache!

Our Wedding Photo 1979 - we celebrate 35 years in July 2014

Our Wedding Photo 1979 – we celebrate 35 years in July 2014

I Married Up!!

I Married Up!!

Julianne and David in 2011 in Lexington, KY.  I love this photo

Julianne and David in 2011 in Lexington, KY. I love this photo

As a senior in high school I had not even had a girlfriend. In fact, I didn’t even have my first kiss until I was already graduated in the summer of 1974. There is no doubt that I had hidden crushes on a couple of cute girls in high school, but between my insecurity in dealing with girls and the fact that I was not a member the Mormon church, I had a few hurdles in front of me that kept me from getting anywhere with any of them. I certainly was not a shy person. I never have been. But I was really scared to death to ask any girls out on a date because I was afraid of rejection. Ironically, in my later years, probably about five years ago, I had occasion to visit Salt Lake City.  During that visit I was able to drop by and see one of the girls that I had a crush on and had become friends with through church. She has had a difficult life as she has struggled through a couple of marriages, but is still the sweet girl that I knew back in the mid-1970s. I told her at the time of my visit that I had a crush on her in high school. She told me that she knew that, and wondered why I had never asked her out on a date. She told me that she would have most certainly gone out with me on a date back then. Oh well, we both went our directions and I am very happily married to my wonderful sweetheart and she too seems to be happy in her current situation.

The first photo I ever saw of my natural father Joe Laurienzo.  I did not even know of him until 1974.  I saw this in 1975

The first photo I ever saw of my natural father Joe Laurienzo. I did not even know of him until 1974. I saw this in 1975

Another major discovery from 1974 was my finding out who my birth father was. That too was a life-changing experience for me. I had been disenfranchised from my natural mother for many years, and as an 18-year-old I had decided that it was time for me to reach out to her. Fortunately for me, in 1975 I was able to contact my real father and speak to him on the phone, which I did a couple of times. I am grateful for that experience as I never got to meet him. When we moved to Kentucky in 1992, I was finally close enough to Cleveland to try, but by the time I had an opportunity, he had already passed away…in fact, it had only been two weeks prior to my plans to go up there. Nonetheless, over the last few years I have grown very close to my Laurienzo sisters and brother in Cleveland as a result. I have also visited my father’s grave.

David with most of his Laurienzo siblings

David with most of his Laurienzo siblings

Visiting my natural father's grave in Cleveland, OH

Visiting my natural father’s grave in Cleveland, OH

Seeing my natural mother Orene (aka Jennierose Lavendar) in 1976

Seeing my natural mother Orene (aka Jennierose Lavendar) in 1976

Finally, as I think back on this 40 years since 1974,  I must openly say that I have been very, very blessed. I still have friendships from 40 years ago that mean a great deal to me. During that 40 years I have ventured overseas numerous times, I have had wonderful experiences with jobs, I have met people from all over the world, I have been married and had five wonderful children and now nine grandchildren.

My wife and children in 2009

My wife and children in 2009

Hanging with my grandchildren in 2012

Hanging with my grandchildren in 2012

I have been blessed to be able to develop a number of skills that I never imagined I would have back then (indeed, some of them, such as internet work and web design were completely unimaginable since they didn’t yet exist!!).  Some of the skills I have acquired over the years include the ability to write, photography, travel, singing and music, the ability to make friends wherever I go. And yes, I have become friends with rock stars and have actually toured with a band (Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours).  I still am associated with that band, so even my high school dream of being in a band partially came true.

Singing on stage with Antsy McClain in 2007

Singing on stage with Antsy McClain in 2007

On tour with Antsy McClain in San Francisco around 2005

On tour with Antsy McClain in San Francisco around 2005

On a boat Island Hopping in the Philippines

On a boat Island Hopping in the Philippines 2006

Visiting Kyoto, Japan in 1987

Visiting Kyoto, Japan in 1987

It is amazing how one’s life can take so many turns and go in a direction that one could never dream of as an 18-year-old graduate of high school.

Visiting the Tulum ruins in Mexico

Visiting the Tulum ruins in Mexico

Visiting NYC in 1990

Visiting NYC in 1990

Life is truly awesome! But it’s only getting better!

Life is Awesome but only getting better 40 years after graduating high school

Life is Awesome but only getting better 40 years after graduating high school

 

My Rock and Roll Fantasy Trip

Rock n Roll FantasyJourneyLast night I had a vision of a Rock and Roll Fantasy Trip.  I would Head East on a Journey across America. I consulted with my friends the Doobie Brothers and the Pointer Sisters as to what I should use to take the trip. After they told me the Cars were not the best choice, I was determined not to go on Blind Faith and ride some Government Mule. Instead, I hopped into my REO Speedwagon and made my way to Kansas. It was like a magic carpet ride when I rolled down the highway with my Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Unfortunately I was pulled over by the Police who thought I was driving like I was on a Highway to Hell.  They thought I had some Outlaws with me.

On the Highway to Hell

On the Highway to Hell

KansasREO_4878Along the way I saw all sorts of Animals and Buggles, which the Pure Prairie League advised me to watch for. Indeed, I saw Eagles, a Camel, a few Yardbirds, some Beatles, Scorpions, a Whitesnake, Byrds, and even saw some Zombies, but the best thing was being able to see the Monkees.  I was really shocked when a Def Leppard ran by chasing a Steppenwolf!!!

The_animalschicago-logoI headed through Black Oak Arkansas and then, after passing through St. Louis, where I saw the Archies, who let me drive their Rose Royce, I headed north in the fast lane to Chicago with a quick roll by Bay City in Michigan. I had to avoid Kentucky because I was afraid of the Kentucky Headhunters.

Driving the Rose Royce

Driving the Rose Royce like a Bay City Roller

Black Oak Arkansas - High on the HogRose_Royce_IIBayCity Roller

On the way I stopped by Alice’s Restaurant to have a bite to eat. I ordered a Sugarloaf of Bread with some Pearl Jam that was made with Cranberries and Raspberries. I was then given my Aha moment when they served me some Vanilla Fudge on a dish of Moby Grape and Electric Prunes. After a cup of Vanilla Ice my Strawberry Alarm Clock let me know it was time to be movin’ on.

SugarloafBreadI continued to Boston in a Fabulous Thunderbird so I could see Paul Revere and the Raiders. Instead, I saw the Damn Yankees using Styx to shoot down a Led Zeppelin and a Jefferson Starship. Being a Sunday, it truly seemed like a Black Sabbath.

Fabulous ThunderbirdsBostonI didn’t want to Rush, but I decided it might be better to take a trip to Europe or Asia. But first, Guess Who I saw in Boston? Yes, it was the Electric Light Orchestra and I got to see them at the Culture Club. And then, someone told me, but I don’t remember Who, that when I am in Asia I should see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  That was a definite Yes!! He then said OK Go!

OKGO_LOGO_tallAsiaI joined my friends the Traveling Wilburys and we caught a ride on the Wings of a Jefferson Airplane, which was built by Mike and the Mechanics at the Aerosmith factory. We made our way across the Deep Purple skies to Asia. The flight had an amazing meal with some Meatloaf, Korn, Black-Eyed Peas and a side of Hot Tuna covered with Red Hot Chili Peppers.  The dessert was yummy too.  We had some Cake covered in Cream, Peaches & Herb and then had a small Humble Pie. When we finally landed we saw people Smashing Pumpkins on the Rare Earth.  Then I saw an Insane Clown Posse being chased by some Fine Young Cannibals. But it was the 10,000 Maniacs that made me realize I had to get out and begin running down a dream in Europe.

MeatLoafKorneurope-logoUnfortunately I had a Foreigner and some Bad Company on this leg of the trip and apparently they were going to join a Blue Oyster Cult and attend the Creedence Clearwater Revival which was headed up by the Pink Floyd himself!!

Pink%20Floyd-Badges-bQueen-LogoAll I wanted to do in Europe was visit the Queen, but someone misunderstood and they sent me to see the Queens of the Stone Age as well as Queensryche….but King Crimson introduced me to the Kings of Leon and their son Prince.  The Royal Guardsman were snooping around the whole day and made me feel like a bunch of Rolling Stones with Simple Minds. I am sure U2 would feel this way!!  I was out of it like a Tired Pony and decided to look for some Motels, but all I saw were Faces involved in a Quiet Riot and I really did feel the noise. I had to get out of that place but was warned that there were Village People there and They Might Be Giants.  Fortunately, all I saw was a Gentle Giant.

Gentle GiantI had to get back to the USA and so I found the B-52s for the trip, but they didn’t give me a ticket to ride. After my Rage Against the Machine to protect against the Imagine Dragons, we headed for the Beautiful South where I could meet the Beach Boys, though one of them had a Badfinger that left them in Dire Straits.

Beautiful Southvelvet-underground-logo-designWhen I finally got back to where I once belonged,  I got a chance to ride on the Velvet Underground to meet the big shots of the Tijuana Brass.  As a Flock of Seagulls flew by, I turned on the Tubes to see the Talking Heads.  They talked of my trip and said it took a lot of Spirit and noted that I really had a Heart. And thus, my Dashboard Confession is that this truly ended up being a Green Day for it became my Rock and Roll Fantasy….and I won’t get fooled again.

Image converted using ifftoanySpirit

The World of Humor and Self Help: I’m Awesome, but Getting Better

Awesome, but Getting Better

I’m Awesome, but Getting Better….

….And here is why…..

Humorists Keep Me Alive
Groucho Marx Swami Beyondanada Antsy McClain

I have always loved humor. It always makes me feel better.  There are studies that argue strongly that happiness and laughter are natural immune boosters (see this one). In fact, before you continue with this post, enjoy the following video from Belgium entitled “Merci!” produced and directed by Christine Rabbette in 2003.  If this doesn’t give you a chuckle and keep you smiling for a while nothing will. The man laughing in the video is Belgian comic Jan Hammeneker. I love this piece!!

Though always one for fun, I have always sought for laugh inducement, whether it be Dr. Demento in the early 1970s to the Blues Brothers or Steve Martin comedies in the movies and TV.  One of my favorite “immune boosters” is the Marx Brothers.  I was first introduced to them in the 1970s and totally embraced the world of Punnishment (using puns…). Then in the 1980s I got to embrace FUNdamentalism via the great Swami Beyondananda. Finally in the 1990s I got to Enjoy the Ride of the Way Cool World of Singer/Songwriter/Humorist/Artist/Author Antsy McClain. I have never looked back since and humor keeps me alive, happy and well.

The Marx Brothers – I’d Never Join a Club That Would Have Me as a Member

The Marx Brothers

The Marx Brothers

I was officially introduced to the Marx Brothers and their antics while I was a senior at Murray High School in Utah. Like many others my age I had grown up watching the Three Stooges on TV and had seen some Laurel and Hardy shows and had even seen some of the Marx Brothers skits (and all about slapstick).  But the real impact happened when I joined my friends at the Blue Mouse Theater in downtown Salt Lake City (which closed around 1987). This arts-centric theater showed a number of old movies, hosted the Rocky Horror Picture Show, etc.  During 1974 they hosted a number of Marx Brothers movies on the big screen.  We went and had a blast.  In fact, though already a good punster, my punning skill level zoomed to new heights after watching Groucho Marx and his verbal antics.  To this day I have been known to repeat many of his famous one-liners such as the following:

  • I have a mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it
  • Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana
  • Whatever it is, I’m against it
  • I would never join a club that would have me as a member
  • While in my pajamas I shot an elephant.  What it was doing in my pajamas I’ll never know.

Click here to visit a great page of Groucho’s one-liners.  And even more are here!

Then there is my favorite quote from Chico Marx in “A Night at the Opera.” It’s a scene where they are discussing terms of a contract.  This is one of my all time favorites!!

The contract scene between Driftwood (Groucho) and Fiorello (Chico) (“the party of the first part …”) is telling of my kind of humor (and have used the punch line myriads of times:

Fiorello: Hey, wait, wait. What does this say here, this thing here?
Driftwood: Oh, that? Oh, that’s the usual clause that’s in every contract. That just says, uh, it says, uh, if any of the parties participating in this contract are shown not to be in their right mind, the entire agreement is automatically nullified.
Fiorello: Well, I don’t know…
Driftwood: It’s all right. That’s, that’s in every contract. That’s, that’s what they call a sanity clause.
Fiorello: Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! You can’t fool me. There ain’t no Sanity Clause!

Here is the actual video clip:

Swami Beyondanda – Take Humor Seriously, and Seriousness Humorously

Swami Beyondananda

Swami Beyondananda

In the 1980s I was introduced to a book entitled “Driving Your Own Karma: Swami Beyondananda’s Tour Guide to Enlightenment ” by Swami Beyondanda. My step dad had it and thought I would enjoy it.  This book had me in stitches from the first page, but I was also impressed about the “self-help” content intertwined with it.  The Swami uses puns and humor to actually work towards this self help. It was my first venture into FUN-da-Mentalism where the effort is on more FUN and less mental.  Or, as the Swami says on his site: He has “held forth on topics such as “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sects” (“… unbridled sects can lead to unwanted misconceptions …”), “Teach Your Dog to Heal” (“… being around friendly canines generates healthy hormones called puptides …”), “Tantrum Yoga” (“… the latest rage on the path to ire consciousness”), and “Be There Now, Swami’s ultimate take on bi-location” (“… the first time I stepped outside my body, I was beside myself with excitement …”).

DrivingYourKarmaThe Swami is the alter ego of Steve Bhaerman, an internationally known author, humorist, and workshop leader. For the past 23 years, he has written and performed as Swami Beyondananda, the “Cosmic Comic.” Swami’s comedy has been called “irreverently uplifting” and has been described both as “comedy disguised as wisdom” and “wisdom disguised as comedy.” One of his many mantras is “It’s time to take humor seriously, and seriousness humorously.”

Steve Bhaerman

Steve Bhaerman

The Swami teaches the ancient art of “Foo Ling” — where people use laughter as a tool to enlighten up their own lives, and the lives of those around them. And one of the best ways to multiply healing laughter is to celebrate those moments when laughter leads to a breakthrough — what the Swami calls moments of “Fool-Realization“.

DuckSoup In a play on the Marx Brothers’ movie “Duck Soup” (this was the movie with the oft parodied mirror scene and see Lucy and Harpo Marx do it ) coupled with the 1990s “Chicken Soup for the Soul” and other Chicken Soup books (now over 200 titles) by success guru Jack Canfield and Inspirational speaker Mark Victor Hansen, the Swami teaches in “Duck Soup for the Soul” that we can alter our own reality (and the reality of those around us) by Making Fools of ourselves, putting levity over gravity, remembering to Tell-A-Vision, being Esteem-Generators, and Committing Random Acts of Comedy and Beautiful Nonsense.

Antsy McClain – Welcome to the Trailer Park

Antsy McClain

Antsy McClain

I first met Antsy McClain (this is his stage name) in 1993 in Kentucky.  We worked together at an auto parts production plant as Japanese interpreters.  I was away from family, who stayed back in Arizona and Antsy too worked away from family on this limited time contract position. It was during this time that we discovered a shared love of humor and music.  It was soon after that Antsy had left the company and had coupled with a friend to form the “Trailer Park Troubadours,” a musical group with a bit of a goofy “schtick”.  Over the years I have worked with Antsy, managing his website, working concert shows, producing some of his videos, doing some of his photography (like the one above), sometimes touring and even singing with him on stage. (See my “History of the Troubs” for more on the group). Antsy is not only an amazing musician, but is a noted professional artist and has published a number of books.  If I die before he does, I want him singing at my funeral!!! Many of his earlier songs were quite funny, but over the years he has also developed some serious leaning, yet inspiring songs. One of the more humorous videos that I produced for him was that of “The Bathroom Songwriter (clink link below)

I did this for him in 2008 and have a number of his other videos on my YouTube Channel. Antsy’s unique humor and his famed “Antsyisms” have kept thousands of fans happy.  If I ever have a down day, I just need to pull out “Trailercana” or “Way Cool World” and may day is brightened.

Roger McFuddleton's Pet Grudge by Antsy McClain

Roger McFuddleton’s Pet Grudge by Antsy McClain

But music is not his only forte.  He has produced books such as the Pet Grudge picture book above, which is a delightful story of a man with a Pet Grudge that eventually gets too big. Won’t tell the ending…would ruin the story for you.  And then, almost mirroring Swami Beyondanada, in 2012 Antsy published “Resisting Enlightenment in 12 Easy Steps: A Guide to Making Mistakes

Resisting Enlightenment in 12 Easy Steps

Resisting Enlightenment in 12 Easy Steps by Antsy McClain

Between Antsy’s music, art and writing, he helps us to learn about “another code of living – the Aluminum Rule: Thou Shalt Enjoy the Ride”, he helps men learn that the three most important words they can say to their wife are “I Married Up” and teaches us that “a burden is small ’til you feed it” and so we need to “Let the Little Things Go.”  His amazing use of double entendre in his songs mixed with some humor and inspirational thought has endeared him to 1000s who now call themselves “Flamingoheads.”   He always can sing “A Happy Song” to make me happy.

laughter_medicineSo, I try to take my laughter pills every day to keep me smiling, reduce stress and even help others around me have a brighter day. This is what keeps me “Awesome, but getting better”

Jolly Sumoflam

Jolly Sumoflam

If Swami Beyondanda can don a funny colored wig, so can I……

Sumoflam's Alter Ego

Sumoflam’s Alter Ego – always smiling!

I Love Trivia!

I am always in pursuit of trivia…all that useless knowledge makes for great and fun conversation. Trivia is (or are) unimportant (or “trivial”) items, especially of information. Usually these are unimportant facts that everybody has stored somewhere at the back of the brain and are useful in conversation or in games.

Jeopardy!_1974It all started for me in the 1960s when I would catch the television trivia show “Jeopardy“, which got its start in the 1960s and continues as a popular show today.  I loved that the material for the questions covered a wide variety of topics (including history and current events, the sciences, the arts, popular culture, literature, and languages),and that there were also pun-laden titles (many of which refer to the standard subjects), wordplay categories, and even entire sets of categories with a common theme.

Trivial Pursuit

Always in pursuit of Trivia!

I have always been a fan of trivia.  I can remember reading the newspaper daily in the 1970s and 1980s…I wanted to see the L.M. Boyd column, which was chock full of trivia.  Here is an example (L.M. Boyd Selections)

“It’s only a coincidence that “nasa” in Hebrew means “to go up.”

Readers_Digest_LogoWhen I was young I also loved to read through the Reader’s Digest. The jokes and funny stories were a blast, but the magazine always had a tons of little trivia tidbits.  Even today on their online site you can find trivia quizzes, such as this “Great State Nicknames” quiz (which by the way, I got a 100% correct on!!).  As trivia became more popular, other magazines began using it.

Paul Harvey

Paul Harvey

One cannot have a discussion about trivia without including the trivia master of AM Radio…Paul Harvey. Known for his conservative and sometimes opinion-laden news stories on ABC radio for decades, he later produced an interesting Trivia type of radio series known as The Rest of the Story, which can be described as a blend of mystery and history. It premiered on May 10, 1976 and quickly grew to six broadcasts a week, and continued until Harvey’s death in 2009. The Rest of the Story series was written and produced by the broadcaster’s son, Paul Harvey, Jr., from its outset and for its thirty-three year duration. Harvey and his radio network stated that the stories in that series, although entertaining, were completely true. True or not, they were always interesting and his listeners, including me, would wait for his “And now, the rest of the story” portion — this was the trivial meat of the broadcast.

FactoidAlso in the 1970s, media had grasped this trivia concept full force and was including it in news reports. In 1973 the novelist/columnist Norman Mailer was attributed with the creation of a new word from his biography of Marilyn Monroe.  The term was “factoid” and it was defined as a questionable or spurious statement presented as a fact, but without supporting evidence. The word can also be used to describe a particularly insignificant or novel fact, in the absence of much relevant context.  Many magazines and TV news shows now have their little Factoids. (Now there is a piece of Trivia you probably didn’t know!!)

One of many Uncle John's Bathroom Reader titles

One of many Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader titles

Through the years I have enjoyed the “Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader” books too. The first edition, simply titled Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, was released in 1987 with little fanfare, but to Uncle John’s delight, people loved it…and they wanted more. So the following year the “Bathroom Readers Institute” (BRI) released a second edition, and then one after that, and another, and another. In the early 2000s, when Uncle John decided to expand the line beyond those annual “Big John” editions, the series hit the big time. Now there are Bathroom Readers for kids, plus books that cover single subjects such as horses, hockey, history, Texas, quotations, puzzles, baseball, music, Minnesota, Hollywood, Christmas, cats, dogs, golf, New Jersey, trivia quizzes, and loads more.  I don’t have them all, but I have probably read eight or nine different versions!

DUH! - The Stupid History of the Human Race

DUH! – The Stupid History of the Human Race

There are dozens of Trivia books out there, but they have one thread in common…fun and useless trivia.

Antique Archaeology

Antique Archaeology, home the History Channel’s “American Pickers

Then there are the TV shows that come full of trivia. The History Channel features American Pickers and Pawn Stars, both of which always provide history of the things they are showing and also have some nice Trivia breaks in each show. Many shows have trivia pieces in them now so we can always learn something totally useless if we want.

Trivial Pursuit

Trivial Pursuit

In 1982 the board game Trivial Pursuit hit stores. If you have lived in a cave and never heard of this game, the object of the game is to move around the board by correctly answering trivia questions. Questions are split into six categories, with each one having its own color to identify itself; in the classic version of Trivial Pursuit, the Genus edition, these are Geography (blue), Entertainment (pink), History (yellow), Arts & Literature (brown), Science & Nature (green), and Sports & Leisure (orange). Since 1982 there have been dozens of versions of the game, with numerous themes.  The fun for this in my mind has been the thousands of trivia-filled cards that come with the games.  We have taken them on trips and just read through them for fun.  Amazing facts and information have been gathered!!

TriviaWith the widespread growth of the internet in the past couple of decades, there has also been an explosion in Trivia Web Sites and Trivia Apps for mobile devices.  In fact, there are likely trivia sites for every theme imaginable.  A couple of my favorites:

mental_floss – This evolved from the Magazine of the same name (which I believe may have gotten the name from Swami Beyondanda)  Regardless, the magazine has a massive factoid and trivia filled website and blog, has produced its own game called “Split Decision” and has produced a number of books.

Roadside America – My favorite travel site on the web, it is also filled with trivia and useless (but fun) quirkyness. With over 10,000 offbeat sites in the United States featured on their Website, many of them include a brief history of the quirky and strange places, like the Museum of Clean (in Idaho), the Mustard Museum (in Wisconsin), the world’s biggest twine ball (or all five of them), etc.

But there are many more. One person has compiled a list of 100 “Best of Web” Trivia websites. But there are other lists as well.

wikipediaPerhaps my FAVORITE site of choice for all trivial pursuits of both useful and useless knowledge is Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, the site a collaboratively edited, multilingual, free Internet encyclopedia supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Wikipedia’s 30 million articles in 287 languages, including over 4.3 million in the English Wikipedia, are written collaboratively by volunteers around the world. And this is where I have my fun….here are a few examples

  • When in church we may sing a hymn and I am curious about the composer and his/her background.  I pull out the iPhone, look them up in a Google search and click on the Wikipedia link. VOILA! There is now a whole bunch of detail and many links to other documents.
  • Many evenings I watch television for a couple of hours before bed.  As I see the actors I can look them up on Wikipedia and then typically IMDB (a large data base about movies, TV and the industry).  It is here that we can find out about they kinds of jobs an actor may have had before becoming famous or what obscure movie they may have been in early in their career.
  • I may see something interesting on TV, in a magazine or elsewhere.  Wikipedia will most likely have the details (after a Google search of course).

Google and Wikipedia are my friends — they constantly feed my mind.