Paul Farhi: Remembering Patrick Swayze, Pop Trivia and Gender, More

Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 15, 2009; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Paul Farhi was online Tuesday, Sept. 15, at 1 p.m. ET to talk about the latest news and topical issues in the pop culture world of TV, radio, movies and trends.

Today: Is it just us, or do men have a much better grasp of pop trivia--musical groups, song lyrics, TV shows, movie plots, historical dates, etc.--than women? If so (you tell us), what does this say about men and women? Plus, those new old Beatles recordings: What's the big deal?


Paul Farhi: Greetings, all, and c'mon in and set a spell....Okay, something I've wondered about: Are men and women's brains wired differently when it comes to the acquisition, retention and retrieval of junk pop trivia? I realize this gets us into very dicey territory, and I apologize in advance for the following, um, broad generalizations, but: Many of the men I know can remember movie titles, song lyrics, historical dates, teams and players, statistics-- the flotsam and jetsam of superficial data. Women? Not as good at it, I think. Superficial support for my theory: The 10 biggest money winners on TV game shows (which test reflexes, admittedly as much as trivia knowledge) have been men. Men have won 18 of the past 21 "Jeopardy!" tournaments of champions (heck, women have made it into the top 3 only eight times out of 63). I'm not pretending that this is research or science, just a clue perhaps to something larger. And let me lapse further into stereotype: Women, on the other hand, seem to have a far greater "emotional" intelligence than men. They remember names, personal details, conversational details, interactions of various kinds generally better than the men I know (well, I'll speak for myself--certainly a lot better than me).

Two questions about this: Is this even true, as a general observation (obviously there are exceptions)? And if true, what, if anything, does it say about us? Just wonderin;.

On another matter entirely: I bought the "remastered" version of "Abbey Road" this past weekend (as a Baby Boomer, I'm required to) and, pardon my stupidity, but what am I supposed to hear? The songs sounded clean and crisp all right, and it's always been an all-time great album. But to my ears, it sounded like, um, "Abbey Road." Is there something I'm missing? Is there something new in these versions? As the lovely Mrs. Station Break said, it's good to have those songs around on CD. But, of course, they've BEEN around before. Maybe I should be buying "Sgt. Pepper's" for the full never-heard-it-that-way-before effect. Or maybe I should save the next 12 bucks altogether. Help me out here.

One more thing: Although that Shales fellow covered some of this ground in his chat in the previous hour, your thoughts on Jay Leno's debut are also most welcome here.

One more one more thing (man, busy day): Patrick Swayze, RIP. Two things I liked about Swayze: 1) He had one of the longest running and (apparently happy) marriages in "Hollywood"-- almost 35 years, which was most of his life; 2) He didn't take himself all that seriously. His Saturday Night Live "Chippendale's Tryout" skit with Chris Farley (catch it on YouTube) is arguably one of the funniest SNL skits of all time. Would never have worked if Swayze hadn't been willing to satirize his own Swayze-ness.

Okay, lots to chew on. Let's go to the phones...


Bowie is from Mars, Bananrama is from Venus: I'm guessing the prompt asking if men know pop culture best was really meant to be a conversation starter. I won't treat you like a common Internet troll.

I'm a lady, thank you very much, and I know pop culture, but I don't know everything. If I'm talking with men and the conversation turns to sci fi or sports, it's just not my thing. They usually can't keep up with me on books and art, but that's me specifically.

Paul Farhi: Yes, sports. Women tend to blanch and defer when it comes up in Trivial Pursuit. Got to be well rounded in the useless knowledge game!


Pop Trivia: That reminds me of how some baseball fans have an incredible memory for statistics. It's possible that women tend to look more at "big picture" concepts versus trivia. I don't know enough about brain research to know if male and female brains are indeed wired differently, and if so, whether upbringing has any influence on brain development. I would be leery of automatically assuming either nature or nurture as the cause. Anyone want to volunteer for an experiment where Paul would teach them pop trivia?

Paul Farhi: Was just reading in Newsweek about a new book called "Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps--and What We Can Do About It." The basic thesis, it seems, is that brain research on infants is very shaky, even inconclusive and wrong, and that upbringing and culture--"nurture"--tend to force children to our cultural norms for boys and for girls. Intriguing.


Men and Pop Trivia: Many men have a monomaniacal obsession with triva (who played rhythm guitar on the Shadow's 1966 recording of "Here Comes the Night?") as if the trivia had some intrinsic value in itself and knowing the trivia somehow bonded them with all the other men.

Women tend to obsess over more practical things: preparing meals, children, family, and making sure their trivia saturated husbands remember to change their underwear once in a while.

Or maybe it's just that men have too much testosterone lying around and are driven to burn it off in random pursuits.

Paul Farhi: Haha! But let us not put down trivia. As, I think, the legendary Ken Jennings said, all knowledge is connected. So knowing who played rhythm guitar on "Here Comes the Night" might lead you to something more profound (not sure what that would be, but it COULD).

And of course, "Here Comes the Night" was done by the Trogs. EVERYONE knows that (just kidding).


Purcellville, Va.: Just wondering: If 1969 was the Summer of Love, will 2009 go down as the Summer of Heckling? I'm thinking of the town hall meetings, the "you lie!" incident, and Kanye's interruption of the MTV Awards presentation.

Paul Farhi: Nice! You could be a Style reporter or editor. We love identifying trends. Or "trends."


It's true: Pretty simple, really: the fairer sex uses its brainpower to overanalyze everything, and we use ours to think about sex, sports, and other vital topics.

Paul Farhi: Let's keep the stereotyping to a minimum. Or at least try to make this something other than an encore of "Defending the Caveman."


It's Education: Paul,

I study education and gender, and what you're talking about comes a lot from how boys and girls are socialized, and how they're taught to behave. Without necessarily realizing it, schools teach boys and girls to value different kinds of intelligence and expression.

It's not that one group is better than the other at memory or emotional intelligence, it's that those are gendered ideas in our culture in a self-perpetuating way. This isn't a good thing, because it restricts a lot of people. Teachers (and parents) don't even realize what they're doing, because they're just going along with societal goals. Those goals, and their outcomes, need to be questioned.

Paul Farhi: I think that's what "Pink Brain" argues (not sure; I just read ABOUT it, not IT). But I'm not so certain about the destructive part. We need each other's strengths, not just one genders' alone. You got skills, I got skills, we all got 'em. Now put 'em together and stir.


RIP, Patrick Swayze: Paul, a few thoughts on Patrick Swayze's passing. He always seem to present himself as a fairly level-headed down to earth guy, which was rare in Hollywood. It made him likeable, even if he wasn't always a "star."

I always believe his career was hampered because he didn't have a great follow up move in line after "Dirty Dancing." I remember hearing women talking about him as they left the theater after seeing that movie, and he was pretty much the most desired man on the planet at that time.

In the old Hollywood, they would have quickly cranked out another movie that copied "Dirty Dancing" and let him do that "hot bad boy who can dance and can be turned into a good boy by the right woman" act again. Instead, it takes so long to make movies now that he had two other movies already made and set to come out after "Dirty Dancing" and neither was any good. It wasn't until "Ghost" a couple of years later that he found another good role. Definitely hurt his career.

But he did leave us with one of the great guilty pleasure movies of all time: "Roadhouse." Seriously, who hasn't watched that thing about 10 times? It's like tucking into a pint of ice cream: bad but good, all at the same time.

Paul Farhi: Yes, "Roadhouse." Wonderful cheese. Somewhat less cheesy, and thus not nearly as satisfying: "Point Break." Surfing bank robbers wearing Nixon masks. How could a movie like that go wrong?


Washington, D.C.: Female here. When I was in the seventh grade, my class played Trivial Pursuit or a knockoff of it. The question was, "What is the House that Babe Ruth built?" I stood up and said, "Yankee Stadium." "Wrong." Horrified, I sat down and immediately stood back up. I then said, "Shea Stadium?" "Right!" This travesty has been burned in my memory for nearly two decades.

Paul Farhi: Ha! We salute you, D.C. In your honor, we're ringing the bell that signifies a correct answer on game shows since the beginning of time!


Get Off My Lawn!: To Purcellville, VA: The Summer of Love was 1967, not 1969.

Paul Farhi: See? Don't mess with someone's trivia.


Chantilly VA: Come on Paul, it's the Troggs, not the Trogs. Are you wearing your skirt today?

Paul Farhi: Oh, sorry. The correct phrasing is, "WHO are the Troggs?" I'm going to have to take all of your cash, Chantilly.


Nosy Parker: My favorite line in Patrick Swayze's NYT obit comes at the very end:

Patrick Swayze, Star of 'Dirty Dancing,' Dies at 57

He also expressed concern about the dangers of Hollywood superficiality. "One of the reasons I bought my ranch was because I didn't want to hear the hype," he told The A.P. in 1985, referring to his horse ranch in the San Gabriel Mountains. He added, "Your horses don't lie to you."

Paul Farhi: Nice. I guess the way to survive in H'wood is to move away from it.


Point Break. Surfing bank robbers wearing Nixon masks. How could a movie like that go wrong? : Answer: Keanu Reeves.

Paul Farhi: Well, there is, and was, that....


Men v Women: Maybe it's just that women prefer knowledge (which, by my definition, is defined by how useful it is) versus trivia (which is more like useless data points).

I say this knowing that I have never, ever lost at Trivial Pursuit, and I'm a woman.

Paul Farhi: Fair enough. But how did women get that way? And why aren't more men that way? (Frankly, lots of men ARE that way; we DO value practical knowledge. It's just *different* practical knowledge, I guess).


Do men have more knowledge of pop culture?: Short answer: no.

Long answer: Men and women talk about it differently and consume it differently. So if a man assumes that women don't know as much about pop culture as them, it's simply because women don't engage in the same kinds of conversations as men, and that particular man thinks that male-dominated conversations and consumption is the only type out there.

An example: During Battlestar Galactica's run, male geeks might sit down and talk about the latest episode with each other, how cool all the explosions are, what they think will happen in the next episode. Female geeks, on the other hand, would write fan fiction and discuss the gender- and race-related subtext in a given plot or story (for instance, President Roslin's staunchly pro-life stance, what it means in the BSG universe, and what it means in the larger context). Now, exchange Battlestar Galactica (either the original or the new one!) for just about any other TV show, movie, band or musician (yes, that sounds weird, but it's true), and you'll see the trend retained throughout.

We also know a lot about sports. And politics. Y'all just don't like to talk to us about it, or at least you don't like to talk about it without condescendingly "explaining" things that we already know. Just because you don't realize a separate conversation is going on, that doesn't mean it ain't happening.

Paul Farhi: Oh, man. Is this Mrs. Station Break? Because this sounds awfully familiar to me. And I'm not really disagreeing, eitehr.


Benz it Like Beckham: Those intrusive promos all over the TV screen are no more annoying that seeing the Mercedes "driving" all over this Web site

Paul Farhi: Far be it for me to diss an advertiser (I have a mortgage, you know), but advertising people talk about "intrusiveness" as if it's a good thing. As in, "Our campaign for Client X was one of most intrusive on cable TV." Oh. Great.


PIttsburgh: I'm a female who's always excelled at trivia games (including the sports and science categories). Does this mean that I'm, uh, less than totally feminine? FWIW, in school in the '60s the "compliment" I often received from teachers and classmates was that I "think like a boy" (arrrrgghhh!).

Paul Farhi: See, this very posting tells us about society's expectations for us as men and women. It's entirely possible that these social pressures, often invisible and taken for granted, create hugely self-fulfilling prophecies--we become what people want us to become.


The Airless Cubicle: But it may occur here, just as in other gelatinous substances, that an impression will vibrate throughout the brain, and send waves into other parts of it. In cases of this sort, although the immediate impression may fade out quickly, it does modify the cerebral mass; for the paths it makes there may remain, and become so many avenues through which the impression may be reproduced if they ever get excited again. And its liability to reproduction will depend of course upon the variety of these paths and upon the frequency with which they are used. Each path is in fact an associated process, the number of these associates becoming thus to a great degree a substitute for the independent tenacity of the original impression. As I have elsewhere written: Each of the associates is a hook to which it bangs, a means to fish it up when sunk below the surface. Together they form a network of attachments by which it is woven into the entire tissue of our thought. The 'secret of a good memory' is thus the secret of forming diverse and multiple associations with every fact we care to retain. ...

But, if our ability to recollect a thing be so largely a matter of its associations with other things which thus becomes its cues, an important p├Ždagogic consequence follows. There can be no improvement of the general or elementary faculty of memory: there can only be improvement of our memory for special systems of associated things; and this latter improvement is due to the way in which the things in question are woven into association with each other in the mind. Intricately or profoundly woven, they are held: disconnected, they tend to drop out just in proportion as the native brain retentiveness is poor....

We have, then, not so much a faculty of memory as many faculties of memory. We have as many as we have systems of objects habitually thought of in connection with each other. A given object is held in the memory by the associates it has acquired within its own system exclusively. Learning the facts of another system will in no wise help it to stay in the mind, for the simple reason that it has no 'cues' within that other system.

-- William James, "Talks to Teachers", Chapter 12, "Memory" And then, Bill James invented advanced baseball statistics.

Paul Farhi: William James, c'mon down! Show me another chat that does William James AND Patrick Swayze. Thanks (I think), Airless...


Testostero, NE: I think this boils down to winning. When someone says "who was the drummer for..." and you know, you can win. When you remember someone's birthday, and show up with a thoughtful gift, well, it's not really about you.

Paul Farhi: I think you're on to something. Men are instinctively competitive and aggressive. Trivia is competitive (and occasionally it can get aggressive in the one-upsmanshipness of it all). Ergo, displays of trivia knowledge are sublimated aggression.*

* Do you think I could write an entire Psych 101 term paper out of this theory, which just occured to me?


Fayetteville, N.C.: Female here, I almost never lose when playing Trivial Pursuit. Those rare instances?? I lost to my mother. Maybe the ability to retain trivia is a genetic trait?

Paul Farhi: No, I have a different explanation: Age makes you better at trivia. Because: You've lived through different eras and therefore have a longer memory for events in those eras. Me, I'm still doing okay in knowledge of what younger people like and know, but younger people can't really touch me with stuff I grew up with. I bet your mom just has a really good memory.


Gaithersburg, MD: The Troggs did "Here Comes the Night"? I thought it was Van Morrison's group Them, who took it to #24 on the Billboard chart in 1965; they had a top 40 followup, "Mystic Eyes", that hit #33 before Van went solo.

(And yes, I'm a man.)

Paul Farhi: Oh, dang. I'm going to have to take away one of the colored plastic pie wedges from my game piece....


Houston: What are you listening to Abbey Road with? Apparently (I'm told) that the remaster gives you a brighter sound, etc., etc., but I think that you might lose a lot of that if you're listening to it with iPod headphones...but that's just me.

Paul Farhi: I'm listening with a fairly crummy (but perfectly adequate) stereo-radio, with a little CD player, in the kitchen. Not exactly Carnegie Hall equipment or acoustics, but it has proven just fine in the past. For example, I bought the "Love" album a few years ago. Sounded lovely on that player.


Avenge me!: Lost in the retros on Swayze is "Red Dawn." So what if it's a Milius-fueled commie-shoot-out; it adheres to the Stanton-Walsh Rule faithfully, and was one of the few non-Hughes brat-pack movies that was actually good.

Paul Farhi: Watch-able hogwash, yes. I'm not sure that the average American teenager today could take on the Soviet Army and win. But that was the 1980s. Maybe American teenagers were better military tacticians back then.


State College, PA: To combine a couple of threads here:

Last night my husband came home and I said to him, "Nobody puts baby in a corner." He looked at me blankly and said, "Huh?" He didn't recognize the pop culture/Patrick Swayze reference (also hadn't heard of Swayze's death). He's -terrible- at remembering most pop culture trivia (although can tell you just about anything about AC/DC, trains, firefighting, science, politics, and history).

On the other hand, I remember all kinds of details about all kinds of subjects. I'm also an editor and writer, so my natural inclination for trivia has been reinforced by my profession. As a result, nobody will play Trivial Pursuit with me anymore. Seriously.

Paul Farhi: Y'know, that's another aspect to this: Maybe your line of work affects your exposure to, and retention of, trivia. Of course, that could be effect rather than cause--the reason you got into your line of work in the first place was your facility with collecting and managing stray facts.

And is everyone on this chat a Trivial Pursuit champ? My producer suggests we should organize a tournament for you all...


Falls Church,Va.: Memory can be very specialized. It always amazes me that my wife can remember the outfit she was wearing on any special occasion going back years. I can barely remember what I wore at our wedding.

Paul Farhi: Don't tell my wife this, but I'm like you. Names, faces, personal dates, etc.--not good at it. She is. This is why she has been promoted to Senior Vice President of Community Relations for our family.


Pushing 50: A couple of months ago the missus and I were invited to play Trivial Pursuit -- '80s Edition with some kids (30-year-olds) down the street. We crushed them. Nothing like living through the horror to make you remember.

Paul Farhi: Unfair! The Trivial Pursuit Commission is going to revoke your pie wedges...


The Troggs' big hit...: ...was "Wild Thing" (you make my heart sing, you make evvv'rything groooo-vie).

Paul Farhi: To review: William James, Patrick Swayze, the Troggs. Beat that, Weingarten!


Alexandria, Va.: You may be onto something re: trivia. I'm a 46-year-old woman and always beat my husband at trivia games. I answer far more questions than he does when we're watching Jeopardy too. But I'm also much more of a sports fan than he is! Not the stereotypical female in that aspect. He likes to say "I'll give you $100 if you can tell me who sings this song." I almost never know, though I know the words to the song.

RIP Patrick Swayze. The Chippendales skit, "Dirty Dancing," and "Point Break" will not be forgotten by me! We'll miss ya Bodhi.

Paul Farhi: Great but fairly useless iPod app: The thing that can tell you the name of the song being played at any time. It somehow "hears" the ambient sounds, checks a database of recordings, then spits the title back at you. You'll never have to remember a song title again.


No: No, men aren't instinctively competitive and aggressive. Some men are. Some women are too. But men are sure as shootin TOLD to be competitive and aggressive, and women are told not to be.

Paul Farhi: Excellent distinction, yes.


West Coast: Back in the early '90s, I was a writer for TV Guide. I was surrounded by people with an encyclopedic knowledge of every show since time began, down to the level of "who was man No. 2-at-bus-stop in Linda Evans's first mini-series" (not a real question, for those racking their brains). While the women were just as knowledgeable, they were less likely to get competitive and lord their trivia prowess over the guys. We don't get into fights or feel superior for knowing who voiced a certain character in season X of "Futurama." It was Dan Castellaneta, right?

Paul Farhi: You know, this raises the question about what's acceptable as trivia. Completely obscure knowledge--"Who was the winningest lefthand pitcher in the Pacific Coast League in 1955?--doesn't seem right. Somewhat more generalized knowledge--"Who won the AL Cy Young Award in 1973?"--seems somehow "fairer."


sorry, no.: Paul Farhi: I think you're on to something. Men are instinctively competitive and aggressive.

Um, what Williams sister threatened to shove a tennis ball down a judge's throat? Girls are competitive and aggressive too.

Paul Farhi: As I said when I started this, these are (again, apologies) broad generalizations. Just about every observation about human behavior is on a continuum, a sliding scale, a spectrum...


BAH: Please. It's just a stereotype. 25 year year old female here. I love trivia, always have. I love it more than my fiance does. I might know more about a certain category over another, but trivia is trivia regardless of the category.

By the way I love sci fi.

Paul Farhi: Sure. Now we get into the nature of being a trivia "expert." Can one really be said to be an "expert" if one has glaring, categorical voids in one's knowledge? I mean, if you don't know sports, or history, or science or Potent Potables, you can't really be any good, can you?


Coming around again: Aaand Patrick Swayze was in "Red Dawn" with Charlie Sheen who was in "Major League" and had "Wild Thing" as his coming-in-from-the-bullpen song. And I'm female.

Paul Farhi: Oh, excellent! You win a big, big prize for that! Johnny, tell her what she's won!


Old Town Alexandria: Male politicians have great memories for names, faces, personal details of not just about gender.

Paul Farhi: Yes, comes with that territory, doesn't it? You have to be good at that. Total trivia here: Remember the scene in the movie "The Seduction of Joe Tynan," where Alan Alda, playing some kind of politician, is faking his familiarity with a constituent? The whole time he's talking on the phone, his aide is pulling index cards with the caller's family members, business, etc. Kind of funny...What, you don't remember that? And you call yourselves trivia experts?!


Fairfax, Va.: Swayze and his wife had been married for 34 years.

Paul Farhi: Yeah. Gotta like that. Almost Newman-Woodward or Tandy-Cronyn that way.


Bethesda: When I was a teenaged girl in the '80s, I bought my mom the special edition of Trivial Pursuit that focused on the '50s/'60s (I forget what it was called), which had been her teen era and about which she is a pop culture expert. And I beat her. She never played it again. I feel bad about that -- I really should have let her win, but I was (still am?) far too competitive to throw a game.

Paul Farhi: That's pretty amazing. But it occurs to me that we may be giving "Trivial Pursuit" far too much credit as the definitive test of pop-trivia knowledge. Anything better?


Cliton, VA: Sorry the reissues sound awful on CD, Paul. The original LPs or the MFSLs on a good turntable like a Linn with a Conrad Johnson pre and power amp tube powered of course playing through Magnepan MG20's sound the best. My $15k CD player by Esoteric with these new Beatle reissues just doesn't compare.

Paul Farhi: I'm not replacing my audio equipment to listen to a $12 CD (and, I know, no one buys CDs anymore). My kitchen stereo should be good enough...


Alexandria, VA: Has anyone also noted a difference in women's vs. men's ability to remember faces? For some unknown reason, I'm able to see someone in a movie or on TV and remember what else he/she's been in, but my husband can't remember. He always asks what someone's been in before, and I can always pull the answer. I don't need no IMDB!

Paul Farhi: Yes, I've noticed that from time to time. It always amazed me when a friend (usually female) could recite some actor's resume from scratch. I just chalked it up to girly-girl obsessiveness about a particular hearththrob. But it really did go beyond that, too.


Old Blue in Exile: Now you're makin' me crazy! 1955 Pacific Coast League Pitching Leaders

Paul Farhi: Haha! Strong pull. This may be the lasting legacy of the internet--it makes every trivia question instantly answerable.


Swift Kick: Paul :

Do you have any advice for the next awards winner who gets interrupted ? Is there something Taylor Swift could have said or should have done to reclaim the moment ? I'm thinking pepper spray in Kayne's face might have been nice but not sure how it would play in middle America.

Paul Farhi: Don't you think Kanye has taken his lumps enough for his boorishness? If you weren't aware of the "controversy" over his rudeness, you would have thought he'd killed a guy or something, based on the seriousness of his interview with Leno last night. Hey, chill out--it's just the Video Music Awards. It's not like it's important or anything.


The Airless Cubicle: Alan Alda, in that scene, was using what used to be called a "Farley file," created by an adviser to President Roosevelt.

Paul Farhi: Wow! Really? Yet another strong pull. Thanks, AC...


Takoma Park, Md.: Paul, trust me, the collegiate quiz bowl circuit and pop culture offshoot, TRASH, (Testing Recall About Strange Happenings) are overwhelmingly male. Among other things, women have more productive things to do with their time.

Paul Farhi: Probably true on the bar trivia scene, too. But are we forgetting reflexes? All of these games (Trivial Pursuit excepted) require fast reactions, not just knowledge. Men may have a physical advantage in this over women.


Denver: Was I the only person who saw (and loved) Patrick Swayze in the hockey movie Youngblood, with Rob Lowe? I also had the soundtrack--on cassette, natch.

Paul Farhi: Yes. You, and everyone in Canada.

_______________________ Pink Brain, Blue Brain: Claims of sex differences fall apart. ( Pink Brain, Blue Brain: Claims of sex differences fall apart. (

Paul Farhi: Thanks for late link...


South Park, Colo.: What will it take for this show to cement itself as one of the great predictors of future idiocy. First it predict Mel Gibson would go off the Anti-Semitic deep end. Then it hit it out of the park with the episode on Kayne West. It probably has the best pop culture commentary on TV.

Paul Farhi: Well, I love "South Park," but weren't both of those shows AFTER Gibson and West's first brushes with idiocy? So, it wasn't predicting much, just riffing on what was. One of the underappreciated things about "South Park," I think, is how fast they get stuff on the air. Animation used to take months and months. "South Park's" turnaround is a matter of days (of course, it's not the most beautifully animated show on the air, but that's another story).


Old Blue in Exile, again: Paul, I'm guessing you didn't check the link. There's nothing there yet -- the page is still under construction. THAT's what's making me crazy, not being able to find the factoid!

Paul Farhi: Oh. Sorry. But surely you can find that useless data somewhere else. Try the Google machine again.


Arlington, VA: As a woman, and a five-time Jeopardy champion, I don't think women are any less likely to remember trivia. My experience with Jeopardy, specifically, is that men tend to be much more risk-taking when it comes to betting. I would have never bet everything I had, even I knew I knew the question. Men do it all the time.

Paul Farhi: Hey, a genuine, certified, battle-tested trivia expert! Right here on the chat. Thanks for weighing in, Arlington. And a very fine point--"Jeopardy!" takes more than knowledge, more than reflexes. It takes strategy, too.


Kanye Stunt: When's the last time a bunch of old people like us spent 30 seconds talking about the VMA's? This was intentional, and effective, and good for them for doing what they do--which is promote MTV.

Paul Farhi: Well, I don't know about your old people, but we old people have talked about them before because something outrageous seems to happen at the VMAs every year. Wasn't that the show at which Madonna kissed Britney and Christina? That's just off the top o' my head; I could swear there were other stunts, too...

_______________________ Red Munger led the PCL in 1955.

The Pacific Coast League: a statistical history, 1903-1957 By Dennis Snelling

Paul Farhi: The internet, she provides!


Albany, NY: That gift for remembering people and connections is cultivated by politicians because it's so valuable for them.

My wife is in charge of our familial relations -- she knows better than I do which one of my mother's aunts is married to which of my uncles, and which ones are related to my grandmother by blood and which are related by marriage.

But I think we remember things because of the associations for which we use them. Like politicians, wives and mothers are more likely to be expected to remember family relations. Some jobs require you to make cultural associations (TV critic, musician, bookstore clerk, video clerk, librarian, casting agent, etc.) because people are going to ask you, "What was that movie with the guy who wore the hat, and it was all about how it wasn't his hat, and he was in it with the girl who was later the sister in the movie (not the TV show) of 'Ferris Bueller'?" These people are going to need pop culture associations.

Guys also need to remember sports info because sports is the lingua franca of the US male -- it's how men who don't know each other can enter a conversation. ("Who was better, Montana or Unitas?")

Paul Farhi: I do agree with your last point about sports; men (particularly strangers) can be so tentative and awkward in conversation that sports is the go-to subject. As for being "expected" to remember family relationships, that's just one of those cultural pressures that shape us. From a personal standpoint, I know I don't worry about remembering stuff that I know my wife knows and really cares about.


Silver Spring, Md.: I think I must be an exception to your rule, Paul. I'm full of stupid, useless pop culture trivia and I'm a 38 year old female. It's not like I try to remember this stuff. It just sticks with me.

Having said that, I will say that when I make some kind of obscure pop culture reference, it's usually the men that get it. I often find myself trying to explain the reference to other women and usually end up giving up after a few quizzical expressions.

Paul Farhi: Oh, I hate that. It's like explaining a joke. It just feels so tiresome, and makes the "explainer" seem pompous and know-it-all-y. Which, of course, they might be.


PCL: Red Munger was the winningest pitcher in 1955 (.742 winning percentage), but he was right-handed. P.S. I'm a female, and I did look it up.

Paul Farhi: [Sound of buzzer!] Oh, sorry. We said LEFThander. I'm going to take all of your earnings. But we have lovely parting gifts. Johnny, tell her what she's walking away with...


Washington, D.C.: In terms of winning percentage, Bud Daley of Sacramento was the best lefty in 1955.

Paul Farhi: I thank you. And I'm sure Mr. Daley does, too (and stop acting all cool, like you didn't look that up).


Nosy Parker: Based on last night's show (not to mention 17 years of "Tonight"), I'd describe Jay Leno's show as the TV equivalent comfort food. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it's well-made.

Paul Farhi: I wrote down the following adjectives to describe it: "Uneven," "familiar," "comfortable" and "mediocre." I like my comfort food to be better, I guess.


Summer of Heckling: Don't forget Serena Williams at the US Open, either.

Paul Farhi: Did we forget her? Of course. She belongs on the heckle list.


The KOTH is dead- long live the KOTH: P-Far- the series finale of "King of the Hill" was even better than I expected. Bobby and Hank finding common ground was probably one of the best ways to end the run; loved the speedway announcer cameo in the meat comp., and having Chuck Mangione do the Star Spangled Banner really tied a ribbon on it. My one question is why did Fox wait until the beginning of the season to air the finale, rather than at the end of last season?

Paul Farhi: Ah, yes. Thanks for mentioning that. We could not let "King of the Hill" bow out without throwing some love its way. Not sure on the sequence of episodes there, but it was a satisfying conclusion. And after 13 seasons on the air, TV (or certainly the internet) will never be without a "KOTH" re-run.


Guys and pop culture:: My husband can remember every fact about every major sport, but he's completely incapable of following movies and TV shows. I hate going to movies with him because he's always pestering me with questions. Oh, and history facts? Forget about it. I recently explained to him what the Apartheid was. So, sports, yes, he's got me beat. Oh and music. Everything else I'm the expert in.

Paul Farhi: Oh, a specialist, eh? No respect for that from here. Anyone can dig into a subject and become an "expert" in it (random fact: Dr. Joyce Brothers first came to prominence on TV as a game-show contestant specializing in trivia about...boxing). When we say "trivia expert" we're talking broad but shallow knowledge about a lot of things.


Paul Farhi: Well, on that note...Thanks for the great chat today, everyone. You are all of supremely eclectic minds (no, no, that's a GOOD thing). We'll plan our campaign for world domination of Trivial Pursuit at another time. In the meantime, have a good week. We'll find some new things to hash out next week. In the meantime, regards to all!...Paul.


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