For some reason, it seems as if not enough questions by other people were added to the F5 question generator, so this week’s is once again mine:
Did you know? Most of us have a list of funny little facts in our heads that we relish knowing. We sometimes tell them to other people, or put them in essays or posts in our blogs. Some people even make up “facts” and tell them to other people with a smug sense of “you didn’t know that, did you?” What are your five favorite little-known facts? (And are they true, or made up?)
- The Taiping Rebellion and everything involved in it. This is the subject of a long-poem I’ve still not quit writing, though I’m taking time off from it until my novel is finished. This crazy, bizarre, insane quasi-Christian rebellion that happened in mid-19th-century China is just so weird, and I know so many little details about it, that I love to talk about it. I never make anything up about it when I talk about it, though of course I take a couple of liberties with my poetical version of what happened.
- There’s nothing so modern about modern rock: most popular music today relies on the use of medieval structures. This is actually true: I can’t remember the Medieval French name of the structure, whether it was virelai or simply “chanson” or something else, but that old familiar verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure, and even the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge structure, all hearken back almost a thousand years. I like to point out this fact when people talk about how imaginative and progressive certain kinds of music is (including pop and rock). Some people seem to think buying a new synthesizer is a kind of creativity. It seems to me the only people who’ve done anything truly interesting with structure work in jazz, in composition, or in electronic music (especially in ambient music).
- There’s evidence that when you learn a foreign language over a certain age, your brain has to bootstrap the information via the part of the brain in which the mother tongue is “stored,” which is why it’s harder for older people to acquire and maintain foreign language facility. This is a little sketchy, a half-memory based on a TV documentary I saw once. I’m not sure exactly what the news was, but it was something to do with the fact that in late-acquired second-language speakers, brain activity was going on in two areas during speech in the second-language: the regular spot where it always happens in the mother tongue, and also in a surrounding zone where activity only happens when they are speaking a second language. Supposedly, according to the study, this showed why language acquisition and use over a certain age is harder. I don’t remember how conclusive the study was, and I could never cite anything, but I do remember the story being reported on mainstream news in the early 90s. I suppose it’s checkable, but I am lazy.
- Chocolate, in large doses, can kill a dog. I learned this on a mailing list a long time ago, and I always make sure to tell people I know who get dogs, because not everybody knows this. I’ve seen people feeding dogs chocolate out of tenderness for their “cute” pets, especially in Korea.
- I’ve read Confucius. Have you? Sure, I read it in translation, while here I think people feel as if, if you’ve not read it in Chinese, you’ve not read it. Still, it kills me to be able to quote Confucius to Koreans and be met with blank stares. For all the claims that Korean society is Confucian, I have to respond with skepticism. It’s certainly a hierarchical society, a partiarchal one (in a way I think Westerners my age can’t even imagine exists until they experience it), and the notion of duty is somewhat reflective of a historical influence of Confucius’ ideas, but I can’t claim that more than remnant effects of Confucius’ philosophy have any effect on Korea. It seems to me Confucianism is just an excuse for patriarchy, corruption, copping-out-via-deferral, and a lot of other stuff like that. It makes me imagine what a Judeo-Christian society would look like, once it hit the point in history where nobody actually read the Bible or Torah anymore. Quite an interesting thought.
There are tons of other little facts that come to mind which I like to tout as proofs of my knowledge and wisdom, but of course none of them come to mind. This is normal, I usually only think of them in useful contexts, on good days, or too late, on the bad days. But anyway, these should give you a sense of me at my most Cliff Clavenesque moments.
Please check out others’ answers in the Friday Fivers pulldown menu to the right.